Monday, December 25, 2017

On Celebrating Kwanzaa

Courtesy of L.A. Progressive

For me and 18 million other Americans, another holiday starts the day after Christmas: Kwanzaa, a seven-day celebration from December 26th – January 1st. Created by Maulana Karenga in 1966, Kwanzaa is a non-religious, Pan-African and African-American holiday that means “first fruits” in Swahili. It was first celebrated during the turbulent 1960s to build community for African-Americans, but, as Lee Standberry writes, Kwanzaa can be practiced by anyone who shares its values:
“Kwanzaa has always been about the celebration of values that transcend through racial boundaries. The seven principles of unity, self-determination, collective  work/responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith; find purchase in the mind and hearts of everyone. These principles reinforce the  concept of community – in a community – not just African-American ones.”
There is variation in the practice of Kwanzaa, but one central activity is gathering with family each evening to reflect upon one of the seven principles (Nguzo Saba).
Another part of the Kwanzaa celebration is to display a candle holder (Kinara) surrounded by fruit and other symbols of harvest, history, unity, love, and commitment.  One candle is lit each evening of Kwanzaa to correspond with one of the seven principles.
We would live in a more loving world if everyone embraced Kwanzaa values, and this week of reflection can serve as an antidote to the personal and national toll of the hate-basedTrump presidency.
If you are white and want to celebrate this glorious holiday, be cognizant of the fine line between cultural appropriation and appreciation. White privilege too often leads “whites” to assume that everything is for us, a “privilege” that comes at the cost of our humanity.
I follow two simple rules when I practice Kwanzaa: 1) Do so privately, and 2) step back.
My first rule is to celebrate Kwanzaa is with family members in the privacy of my home (or the home of someone who celebrates the holiday) so as not to take “ownership” of it in a public space.
My second rule is to step back and play only a minor role as a participant in the evening ceremony if African/African-American people are present. Akilah Bolden-Monifa writes about the importance of people who are not African/African-American to step back in Kwanzaa celebrations:
“When invited, I go to cultural and religious celebrations that are not part of my cultural or religious heritage. I participate in a way that is comfortable for my host and for me. It would be arrogant of me, a non-Jew, to dominate a Seder or Hanukkah celebration, for example. People who are not of African descent should approach Kwanzaa with the same attitude.”
Ican’t think of a better way to bring in 2018 than to learn more about the history of the people who built the Capitol Building, the White House, the U.S. economy, and the world economy, while reflecting upon unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, collective economics, purpose, creativity, and faith with loved ones.
Happy Kwanzaa!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

NGO Action News December 15, 2015

Dear friends, 
This week's NGO Action News has just been published. The newsletter summarizes activities undertaken or planned by civil society organisations across the globe as well as UN action on the question of Palestine over the week. Please feel free to inform us about your activities and publications by emailing us at and to forward this newsletter to your supporters. We welcome your organization's contributions, questions or comments. 
Best wishes,
Division for Palestinian Rights
Department of Political Affairs
United Nations

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·        On 9 December, United Cities and Local Government (UCLG), at its World Council meeting in Hangzhou (China), reaffirmed the supremacy of international law to stabilize international relations, put an end to conflictand maintain the special status of Jerusalem.
Middle East
·        On 15 December, Gush Shalom and other groups organized a demonstration in Jerusalem under the theme “Jerusalem is the Capital to both Peoples: Palestinians and Israelis March Together in Protest and Hope”.
·        On 14 December, Addameer reported an increase in arrests by Israeli security forces operating in the West Bank as well as raids conducted on Palestinian university campuses.
·        On 12 December, the Palestinian Human Rights OrganizationsCouncil (PHROC) issued a statement, calling on EU Member States to respect the legal status of Jerusalem and abide by their obligations under international law.
·        On 12 December, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research published the results of an opinion poll conducted in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from 7 to 10 December.
·        To mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December, Al-Haq released a short video providing a snapshot of human rights violations in the OPT through the example of life in the village of Nabi Samwil, located in the Jerusalem Governorate, in Area C of the West Bank. The organization called upon individuals and States to consider ways to realize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in the world,including for Palestinians in the OPT, within Israel and in the Diaspora.
·        On 10 December, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) published its annual “SituationReport: The State of Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied PalestinianTerritories”.
·        On 10 December, AlMezan Center for Human Rights held the specialized workshop “Violence in Classrooms: The Reasons and the Solutions”. Participants included the Parent’s Council of UNRWA schools, UNICEF, OCHA and Defense for Children International (DCI)-Palestine.
·        Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights posted on their website's joint statements on the question of Jerusalem by Arab civil society organizations.
·        On 5 December, B’Tselem published a new report “Maiden Israel: Exploiting Palestinian Land for Treatment of Israeli Waste”.
·        As part of a project implemented in partnership with EuroMed Women, on 2 December, Miftah-The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue & Democracy organized a meeting to discuss ways forward to strengthen the representation of youth and women in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
North America
·        On 11 December, CARE urged the U.S. Government not to overlook the humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza amid the decision to move the U.S.embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The organization expressed concern that the decision would create a new obstacle to resolving a conflict that had resulted in Palestinian families living as refugees for the last 70 years.
·        On 5 December, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) criticized that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital violated the prohibition of the acquisition of territory by force and the duty of States not to recognize an unlawful situation.
·        Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has compiled on its website the statements issued by its members following the U.S.recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Further statements  on the question of Jerusalem by faith-based and other organizations are available on the Palestine Portal.
·        On 14 December, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) wrote a letter to the British Foreign Office, requesting its urgent action to prevent the forcible eviction of the inhabitants of three Palestinian West Bank communities (Umm al-Jamal, Ein al-Hilweh and Jabal al-Baba). On 5 December, LPHR published a briefing on forcible transfer which coincided with the parliamentary debate on the effect of Israeli demolitions on Palestinian communities, held on 6 December.
·        On 13 December, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned that the U.S. declaration on Jerusalem may have far-reaching consequences for its humanitarian work to protect the rights of Palestinians and prevent their forcible displacement.
·        On 8 December, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) expressed concern that Israeli policies and practices in East Jerusalem were creating a coercive environment, forcing Palestinians out of the city. MAP called on the British Government to redouble efforts to ensure a just peace, based on accountability for all violations of international humanitarian law in East Jerusalem.
United Nations
·        On 14 December, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met to discuss diplomatic action to reaffirm the status of Jerusalem under international law and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. In addition,the Chair of the Committee drew attention to UNRWA’s current funding shortfall and launched an urgent appeal to donors to close the gap.
·        On 11 December, UNRWA published a video message by its Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl, assuring Palestine refugees that despite the challenging financial situation, services would continue without interruption until the end of 2017. Supporting Palestine refugees was not a matter of charity, he stated,but of rights, respect, hope and dignity.
·        On 11 December, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, launched events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, highlighting current challenges and UNESCO’s contribution. The statement delivered by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the occasion is available online.
·        The Verbatim Record of the UN Security Council emergency meeting on the situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian question, held on 8 December, is available online.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

NGO Action News

·         Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church restated its vision of a shared Jerusalem, as a city of peace and reconciliation, expressing concern that the decision “risks emboldening further Israeli settlements on Palestinian land and further displacement of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.”

·         Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund (NIF), a partnership of North Americans, Israelis, Europeans and Australians committed to promoting equality and democracy in Israel, stated that “international recognition of Jerusalem’s status has always hinged on a successful resolution to the conflict, as part of a negotiated, final status peace agreement. Doing so outside of that context severally damages prospects for a negotiated peace agreement.”

·         Citing resolution 2334 (2016), Pax Christi International requested the UN Security Council, inter alia, to reaffirm in the emergency meeting of 8 December that it would not recognize any changes to the 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.

·         The World Council of Churches (WCC) called on the U.S. Administration to reconsider its  position on Jerusalem and to exert its maximum efforts in promoting renewed negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis for a genuine, just and sustainable peace.

Middle East 
·         Al-Haq called on the UN General Assembly to convene an Emergency Special Session and to seek from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) an Advisory Opinion on “the question of Israel’s annexation, colonization and apartheid.”  Al-Haq further called on UN bodies and regional organizations to ensure that sanctions are placed on Israel.

·         Criticizing the decision, Issam Younis, general director of Al Mezan Center for Human Rightscalled on the international community to oppose the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to work on an “international law-based engagement in the conflict that prioritizes ending impunity and allowing justice to prevail.”

·         B’Tselem noted that no unilateral announcement or embassy relocation could change the fact hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lived under occupation in Jerusalem, deprived of their political rights. “This is the reality that must change,”the organization stated.

·         Ir Amim expressed concern that the decision would embolden Israeli policy makers proposing to unilaterally redraw the boundaries of Jerusalem and alter its demographic balance. “If realized, these proposals would result in the transfer of approximately 120,000 Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the de facto annexation of some 140,000 settlers from the adjacent major settlement blocs,” Ir Amim remarked.

·         Drawing a comparison to the Balfour Declaration, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) issued the position paper “A Grant of Recognition from those who do not own to those who do not deserve”, setting out recommendations for action to the Palestinian leadership, the international community and civil society.

·         Peace Now expressed concern that in the current context, a unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital risked undermining chances for peace. The group stated that “the only way to make Jerusalem universally recognized as the legitimate capital of Israel is through a two states agreement in which the Palestinians establish their own capital (Al-Quds) in East Jerusalem.”

·         The Open Letter by Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem of 6 December to U.S. President Trump is available on the website of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF). The latter also issued a statement, concluding that “Jerusalem is for all.”

North America
·         Nadia Hijab, executive director of Al-Shabaka – The Palestinian Policy Network published an analysis, weighing options for Palestinians after President Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem.

·         Amnesty International USA stated that the decision showed disregard for human rights violations linked to Israeli annexation policies and undermined the international rule of law.

·         Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East (CJPME) issued a statement, opposing the presence of foreign Embassies in Jerusalem.

·         Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a coalition of 27 national church denominations and organizations, warned that the decision would undermine trust and make the resumption of negotiations more difficult, if not impossible.

·         The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has launched an Action Alert, calling on citizens to raise with their elected representatives their concerns about plans to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

·         Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) cautioned that the decision would endorse “Israeli policies of dispossession and forcible transfer, harming the rights and lives of Palestinians and crushing any hope for a peace based on equality and freedom for everyone in the region.”

·         Expressing concern about the President’s change of U.S. policy,  J Street called on Members of Congress and Jewish communal leaders concerned about Israel’s security not to support it.

·         The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights noted that the move was contrary to international law, the consensus of the international community and decades of U.S. foreign policy.

·         Daniel Levy, President of the U.S. Middle East Project, analyzed the implications of President’s Trump decision in The National Interest.

Latin America
·         The Federación Palestina de Chile issued a statement, calling on the Government of Chile to oppose the unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. A statement by the Confederación Palestina de América Latina y del Caribe(COPLAC) is also available online.

·         Cités Unies France and its Réseau de Coopération Décentralisée pour la Palestine (RCDP), the French section of the Global Network of Cities, Local and Regional Governments (UCLG), stressed that France had a pivotal role to play in efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East and a full recognition of the State of Palestine.  RCDP is inviting participation in a project to support Palestinian youth in Jerusalem.

·         The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) updated the British Parliament on recent developments, providing a fact sheet regarding the status of Jerusalem under international law, relevant UN resolutions and current conditions in the city.

·         Expressing support for Palestinian rights, the Jewish Socialists Group announced its participation in the “Hands Off Jerusalem” demonstration scheduled to take place in London on 8 December, organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and other groups.

·         The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network issued a statement, calling on the Government to stay with the international consensus and keep the Australian Embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv.

United Nations
·         On 8 December, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. In his briefing to the Council, Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, reiterated that Jerusalem remains a final status issue for which a comprehensive, just and lasting solution must be achieved through negotiations between the parties, and on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions and mutual agreements, and urged the international community to fulfil its historic responsibility to support the parties in achieving peace and a comprehensive agreement.

·         In a statement issued on 7 December, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People(CEIRPP) strongly urged the Government of the United States of America to rescind its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

·         Stressing that there is no alternative to the two-state solution, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated on 6 December that he would do everything in his power to support a return to meaningful negotiations and the realization of a lasting peace for both peoples.

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