Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kathy Kelly speaks in Woodstock

Kathy Kelly spoke to a large group of people this Thursday, March 29 at the Woodstock Community Center. The title of her talk was "Eyewitness to War, Witness to Peace: Reflections on the US war in Iraq and the ongoing Middle East conflict." Having visited Iraq 24 times in the past ten years, Ms. Kelly gave a uniquely personal face to the suffering of civilians in the war zone. Her stories were both harrowing and very moving, and several in the audience expressed a desire to do more to end the occupation of Iraq. The presentation concluded with a plan to stage a sit-in in Hillary Clinton's office in Albany.

The talk was sponsored by a new group, the Middle East Crisis Response ( Donations were accepted for Kathy Kelly's work in the Middle East.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kathy Kelly on Activist Radio

It was a privilege to have Kathy Kelly on Activist Radio today. If you didn't hear her tonight in Staatsburg, go to and click on Mar. 28.

I put a picture of Kathy and Gary in the studio (thanks, Tarak).


Friday, March 16, 2007

Norma Musih

Norma Musih from Zochrot spoke recently about Israeli efforts find the truth about Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948. Thanks, David, for the pictures.

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, author of "Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle," spoke on Wednesday, March 7 at the Woodstock Community Center. His talk entitled "Is It Apartheid?" prompted a lively but courteous debate on the morality of ethnic cleansing in occupied Palestine. Dr. Qumsiyeh described how the 450,000 Jewish "settlers" in the West Bank have made the two state solution impossible. Several Jewish members of the audience spoke of their own inner conflicts when presented with the obvious racism of the occupation. The talk was sponsored by the Middle East Crisis Response.

Paula Silbey at the UU in Poughkeepsie

Eyewitness Palestine
Sunday, Feb. 25 starting at 3:00 PM
at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
67 So. Randolph Ave., Poughkeepsie

Paula Silbey, a resident of the Hudson Valley, joined International Women's Peace Service ( and made two trips to Palestine in 2006. Her talk focuses on daily life, the hardships of Israeli occupation, and the conflict she experienced as an American Jew. But her presentation is full of pictures of Palestinian children, and there is an underlying hope that people of conscience can find a better way.

Mohammed Khatib and Feryal Abu Haikal

Mohammed Khatib and Feryal Abu Haikal, both from the West Bank, spoke on Friday, February 9 at the New Paltz United Methodist Church. Feryal, headmistress at the Kortuba School in the heart of Hebron's old city, showed pictures of the daily assaults against her students by the Israeli settlers. Mohammed, Secretary of Bil'in's Village Council, spoke of nonviolent resistance to racism directed at Palestinians in their own land. The event was sponsored by a new group, The Middle East Crisis Response (

Hudson Valley Resident Visits Palestine

An Ulster County resident with family in Israel, Paula spent several weeks in the fall and spring of 2006, working with the International Women's Peace Service. She described the constant harassment that average Palestinians go through to harvest their olives and to maintain a normal life. "Apartheid in South Africa," she explained, "never had one road for blacks and one for whites as does the West Bank."

Local Vigils

Vigil in Woodstock in the fall of '06

Vigil in Rosendale in the summer of '06

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Local Art for Rachel Corrie

To read the article, double click on pictures or see text below (thanks, Judith)

The Barrytown Gazette (March 2007)

Vol. 1 Number 1 Editor: Henry Christopher (845) 633-3264

Doris Soroko fights for the rights of Palestinians in Israel

Photo: Ms. Soroko sets up “Occupation Ain’t Kosher” sign in her front yard, so that traffic on River Rd. in Barrytown can get the message

River Rd., Barrytown, NY — Doris Soroko’s home on River Rd. has one of those million dollar views city folks dream of when they look for their second home in the countryside … vast, rolling fields and forest with the majestic Catskill Mountains rising up to seemingly stunning heights. The lighting at different times of day can take your breath away.

Ms. Soroko could spend her days in a rocking chair on her porch, reading a book, or just gazing dreamily at the beauty before her.

But she usually is found indoors at her computer, putting in long hours searching through the web for stories and facts detailing the long suffering of the Palestinian people in Israel, which she sends to friends.

Tied to a tree in her front yard with barbed wired, is a large sign which reads, “Occupation Ain’t Kosher,” expressing her outrage at the callous and often inhumane ways in which the Israeli government treats the Palestinians, with the aid, she says, of the US government.

The most visible sign of this abuse of the Palestinians she says, is the wall Israel has been building around the West Bank, which Ms. Soroko calls the “Apartheid Wall.”

“It’s a land grab, because they are putting it on occupied territory.

They are cutting off the Palestinians from their farms. Imagine if I owned the field across the way with almond, apricot and olive trees, and suddenly the Israeli government puts up this wall between my house and farm. In some places it’s four stories high. It’s a monstrosity,” she says.

Stacks of printed material from the web and other sources are piled high on tables and chairs in her living room. One pamphlet tells the sad and tragic story of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American human rights worker who was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer. She was trying to stop the Israeli army from destroying the home of a Palestinian doctor and his family in the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

Ms. Soroko lived in Israel in the 1950s where she studied Hebrew and worked at a kibbutz. She married the late Igal Mossinsohn, Israeli writer and playwright.

Mossinsohn was beloved in Israel for writing children’s adventure stories. But it was his play, “Casablan” which most impressed her for its depiction of intolerance and snobbery within the Jewish community between the European and Middle Eastern Jews.

Ms. Soroko wrote the poem below in 2003 a month after Rachel Corrie was killed:


Do not bend your knees before the bulldozer

Baby, cuz his heart’s been turned by zeal and burnt by brutishness

And his mind is made by jack-knives spin-split into territory

His mid is made — instead of created by thought, by reason, by logic

His mind’s been made up for him

like a bed in an army barracks

Inspection — looks good, yes sir

Please don’t look under the carpet…

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Seeking New Israeli Settlers, Synagogue Draws Protesters

The New York Times

A real estate fair in Teaneck, N.J., seeking Americans to buy homes in the West Bank met some opposition.


Published: February 26, 2007

TEANECK, N.J., Feb. 25 — As several dozen people screamed at one another across West Englewood Avenue on Sunday, waving Palestinian flags, Israeli flags and clenched fists, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky stood inside Bnai Yeshurun synagogue, smiling. He proclaimed the day a success.

Hundreds of Jewish families from New York and New Jersey had just gathered at a real estate fair at the synagogue that was anything but typical.

It was an attempt by an Israeli group to entice American Jews to buy and perhaps move into moderately priced homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Homes that the buyers did not want to live in would be rented to Jewish settlers.

“We’re fulfilling a biblical commandment,” Rabbi Pruzansky said in an interview after the fair. “God commanded us to settle the land of Israel. This is a very natural step,”

“There is an ideological motivation, but we also believe we might be able to attract prudent investors,” he said.

Under the 2003 “road map” to peace drawn up by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, Israel agreed to halt all settlement growth in the West Bank and the Palestinians agreed to disarm militant groups there.

But the plan stalled shortly after it was introduced. The Israeli government has argued that normal population growth in existing settlements should be acceptable.

The United States calls West Bank settlements obstacles to peace, since they are on land the Palestinians hope to turn into their state.

“Peace is an illusion already,” Rabbi Pruzansky said. “By having Jews live there, we are strengthening the land, adding a safeguard.”

The Israeli government has all but cut off money for new homes, forcing those who support the settlements’ growth to look elsewhere for financing — including to Jews in the United States, who would own the homes from afar.

The real estate fair was criticized by pro-Palestinian groups and by Amnesty International. Protesters gathered across the street from the synagogue, hurling chants of “Racists, racists, racists.”

“The major point in our minds was that we saw this as an event that was racist in its very nature,” said Samer Khalaf, a member of the executive board of the New Jersey Chapter of the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

“That’s what, in essence, we were protesting — that you have a group taking land away from Palestinians, Muslims and Christians and giving it to Jewish people from all over the world.”

Aliza Herbst represented the Israeli housing group, the Amana Settlement Movement, which held the fair and which would build the homes and rent them to settlers.

She said the homes would be built on land owned by the Israeli government that is designated for settlement.

Yitz Stern, a member of the Bnai Yeshurun congregation who attended the fair, said he and his wife had been thinking for years about moving to Israel, but until yesterday’s presentation they thought they could not afford to do so.

“Living in Jerusalem proper has become very cost-prohibitive,” he said. “I’m a normal middle-class guy, and I don’t have that kind of money.”

According to Ms. Herbst, homes in some West Bank settlements cost only $117,000. Mr. Stern said, “I know from our friends, acquaintances and neighbors that there are many people that are looking to have a piece of the rock in Israel.”

The fair’s organizers “made a seriously compelling argument for buying a home there,” he said, adding, “I’m going to think about it.”

Mr. Stern said he believed that the contested land was part of Israel and that Jews had a God-given right to it.

“I can see why some would be upset, but if we’re talking about these physical developments, I don’t see anyone being displaced, and if that’s the case I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Rabbi Pruzansky said he was pleased with the way the fair turned out. Asked if the protest had soured it, he said, “I think what they did was give us some free publicity.”

Meddling in Foreign Policy

New Jersey

Letters to the Editor NY Times
Published: March 4, 2007

It’s exactly what Israel and the Palestinians do not need at this volatile time. We are talking about the attempt at a New Jersey synagogue to interest American Jews in putting up money for new or existing homes in Israeli settlements on the West Bank and perhaps moving there themselves.

Last weekend, Bnai Yeshurun synagogue in Teaneck sponsored a real estate fair by an Israeli group that attracted about 250 people from the New York-New Jersey area. It also brought dozens of angry demonstrators screaming at those who attended the fair.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, spiritual leader of the synagogue, portrayed the effort to encourage investment as a fulfillment of God’s commandment to Jews “to settle the land of Israel.” But expansion of the settlements is also a major obstacle to securing peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The anger in Teaneck was little more than a taste of the hostility the settlements provoke among Palestinians, who see the land as their own. Israel has occupied the territory since capturing it in the 1967 war.

The international, United States-backed road map for peace calls for a freeze on Israeli settlement activity coupled with a Palestinian renunciation of violence. Obviously, the Palestinians have not delivered on their part, but further expansion of the Israeli settlements would only worsen the situation.