Middle East Children’s Alliance

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Torturing & Jailing Palestinian Children Ziad Abbas,
By MECA Staff Although I have been living far from Palestine for a few years and I am now in my forties, I still have nightmares about the Israeli army invading my house when I was a child and about the first time I was tortured. This is the reality most Palestinian former prisoners live with for the rest of our lives. When I was a child, friends my age who were arrested before me said they “saw the stars at noon.” This was a saying we had. You can’t see the stars at noon when the sun is shining. But when children are under torture, especially when they are beaten in the head, they see a flash, even when they are blindfolded. This is what we called seeing the stars at noon. I was arrested the first time with a few other children when I was 14 years old. Our hands were cuffed behind our backs and our eyes were blindfolded. The soldiers were beating us. I heard the screaming, and I was screaming, too. I fell down and someone took my hands and made me stand. Suddenly a huge hand slapped me in my face. I felt dizzy and I saw the flash. I fell down on my shoulder. It was very painful and then I blacked out. The minute I woke up, even though I was under torture, I shouted to my friends, “I saw the stars, I saw the stars!” Later, it became a joke among us: “He saw the stars, he saw the stars.” I didn’t realize that those stars come back and visit you the rest of your life. About 500-700 children are arrested by the Israeli occupation every year, according to Defense for Children International-Palestine. These children face a policy designed to kill their spirit and shut them down. It targets them physically and psychologically. The impact is planned from the first moment of arrest. Typically, children wake up in the middle of the night to hear solA teacher tries to protect a student as soldiers tried to arrest him. Credit: Youth Against Settlements Credit: Defense of Children International Artist unknown

diers yelling and knocking violently on the doors of their houses. They take them from the house and the child finds himself alone among a large group of soldiers. According to Mohammed, a 15-year-old boy in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan: It was very painful. My hands were handcuffed behind my back and I was blindfolded. I was beaten by the soldiers everywhere on my body. I felt the pain everywhere. I was thrown in the floor of the military jeep and the soldier’s boots were kicking me everywhere. I felt I was bleeding but I didn’t know where. When they get to jail, the children are interrogated—usually by professional interrogators and sometimes by random guards. Young age doesn’t protect them from psychological torture, either. Sometimes they throw children in isolation cells for days and sometimes weeks; sometimes they are handcuffed and kept in a small closet; sometimes they tie their hands and legs to a chair and leave them for hours, forcing them to soil themselves. International human rights reports, including UN reports, express their concern about this situation, which is documented in thousands of pictures and hours of video footage. But none of this has stopped the Israelis from continuing to arrest, torture, and hold Palestinian children. In the “hot” areas, like the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, the city of Hebron, and in refu-

Torture & Jailing of Palestinian Children, Continued on page 3

Letter from Barbara
by Barbara Lubin Co-Founder and Director
Dear Friend, I was a young mother, draft counselor, and anti-war activist when the US was dropping napalm and Agent Orange on the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia more than forty years ago. Today, as a result of this massive toxic exposure, large numbers of children are still being born with severe physical and intellectual disabilities, and people of all ages suffer from a host of cancers. Chemical weapons are horrible. And the US uses them. Most recently (as far as we know) in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. In his speech about possible US intervention in Syria, Obama said, “These weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant.” But drones, cruise missiles, and artillery shells do not make this distinction either. Even economic sanctions, the so-called “diplomatic option,” were responsible for the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five from 1991 to 2003, and now deprive millions of Iranians of medicine and basic necessities. The point is not that US policy is completely hypocritical. Everyone knows that. After all, the US provided the white phosphorous Israel used on the people of Gaza—causing horrific, deadly burns and contaminating scarce water sources. Thanks to public and congressional opposition, the Obama administration has—at least, for now—agreed not to bomb Syria. But “all options are still on the table,” and so the question is, can US military intervention in Syria do anything to stop, reduce or prevent the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Syria? The answer is no. After 25 years on the ground on the ground in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, MECA knows better than most the true cost of war on the lives of children. Increased warfare will further destroy the health and well-being of children throughout the Middle East.

Credit: Cynthia Marcopulos

Torture & Jailing of Palestinian Children, Continued from page 1 gee camps close to checkpoints or Israeli settlements, settlers add another layer of torture by harassing, dehumanizing, and even shooting Palestinian children. The Israelis use laws that target only Palestinian children to legitimize their actions. Youth are sent to military courts, which often convict and sentence them to prison, sometimes for years. People who experience torture in Israeli prisons and jails continue to feel the pain even after they are released. Especially for children, the pain and suffering of imprisonment doesn’t end the moment you are released. It might continue to follow you the rest of your life. One mother described the effect on her child: My son is facing a hard time sleeping at night. He was a strong boy before. Right now at night he feels scared and sometimes he wakes up screaming because of his nightmares about the torture. The jailers, they don’t just torture our kids, but they kill their spirit and they traumatize them. My child is changed totally. According to Khader Rasras, executive director and clinical psychologist at the Palestinian Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, these children have often difficulty returning to school. Nightmares can lead to loss of concentration and difficulty focusing and planning. He explained further: Fear and anxiety make children who have experienced torture and abuse in detention hyper-vigilant. They will constantly be looking over their shoulders, out the window, and around them— worried that the soldiers will come for them again. At the Middle East Children’s Alliance, we urge the international community and organizations to put an end to the suffering of Palestinian children. In addition, we act by supporting organizations on the ground that try to reduce the impact of jail.
For more about the arrest and abuse of Palestinian children, come hear representatives from Defense of International-Palestine in Berkeley on October 17—see back page for details.

My Home Is Now my Jail
Silwan partner brings school and support to children under house arrest

Credit: Øystein Nedrebø

MECA stands against any US bombardment of Syria and the ongoing and overwhelming military presence that the US maintains in the region.

Credit: Øystein Nedrebø An estimated one million Syrian children have been forced to leave their homes, becoming refugees in neighboring countries. Two million more are displaced inside Syria country, where their lives are in constant danger.
I am so thankful for all the people who stood up to stop US intervention. We have to keep that pressure on and push for actions the will resolve the conflict and stop the terrible suffering, including: • The immediate cessation of all sales of weapons to the region, most importantly by the US, France, UK, Russia and China, who produce and sell the vast majority of the world’s weapons. • Increased humanitarian aid and medical care for people in the midst of the conflict and for refugees. • The guarantee of the right to return for all refugees throughout the Middle East Last Spring, I visited the Shatila Refugee Camp in Lebanon, a sixty-five-year-old crowded, decrepit Palestinian refugee camp near Beirut. It has now become “home” to tens of thousands of Syrians, Iraqis and Palestinians fleeing Syria. I saw the long lines of desperate mothers trying to get milk for their children and other basic necessities. The Middle East Children’s Alliance sent two emergency medical shipments and provided direct support for programs for Syrian women and children who fled to Lebanon. We plan to send more aid in the coming months, knowing that with or without US attacks, the humanitarian crisis will continue to grow. An immediate ceasefire, not US bombardment, is the only solution. Let’s do all we can to make that happen and ease the suffering in the meantime. Sincerely,

The number of Palestinian children under house arrest has increased in the past few years, especially in East Jerusalem and the neighborhood of Silwan, where MECA has been working in partnership with the Madaa Creative Center for several years. Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and employs a variety of ways to terrorize Palestinian residents and force them out as part of a plan to “Judaize the city.” In Silwan, Israeli police, security forces and border agents use laws, regulations and military orders to confiscate homes, destroy businesses and arrest people almost daily. Meanwhile, nearby settlers and their private security personnel attack and harass residents as they wish. Children in Silwan are especially vulnerable. Hundreds of small children, some as young as six, and teenagers have been arrested, interrogated without a parent or lawyer present; detained, beaten and sent to prison or placed on house arrest. Children under house arrest are forbidden from stepping outside their homes, even to attend school (another violation of international law). Suhaib, 14, under house arrest for six months says, It’s worse than jail. In jail you are far away from your regular life, but at home you can look out the window and see other children playing but you can’t go. You can’t go with your family to shop or for a holiday celebration. You see the freedom but you are not allowed to access it. It is very hard and very painful to be jailed in your home. The whole family is punished with house arrest. If the child violates the rules, the family has to pay a very high fine, the equivalent of $3,000-5,000. In other words, the Israelis make the parents the jailers and the child a prisoner of the home, as part of a collective punishment policy. The Madaa Silwan Creative Center in the Silwan has taken the initiative to organize educational and psychological support for children who are under house arrest or who missed school because they were in jail. For almost a year, MECA has been supporting Madaa’s tutors who visit children every day in theirMy Home is Now My Jail, Continued on page 6

A Syrian refugee father and daughter live in Shatila refugee camp after fleeing a suburb of Aleppo. They brought nothing with them. Credit: Liam Maloney Photography

The Betrayal of Helen Thomas
By Barbara Lubin and Danny Muller
When the news spread through Washington this past July that the unwavering, pioneering journalist Helen Thomas had died, there must have been a collective sigh of relief throughout the halls of Washington. News articles and obituaries are obligatorily mentioning her retirement over political remarks about Palestine and Israel. They all will and should celebrate her trail-blazing career as a journalist and author. And now that she has died, it has become politically correct to re-embrace her, because now Helen is safe. She will not be asking the uncomfortable questions any more, questions that made lying politicians squirm, as they stared dumbfounded back at her, always surprised at freedom of the press in action, at a woman who did not know her place. for going on strike with her colleagues at the Washington Daily News. She faced decades of abuse because she was opinionated, she would not back down, and she was a woman. In later years, it was shocking to see how George Bush and Barrack Obama addressed her, ageism in presidential clothing, as if she was a child to be tolerated but dismissed and chuckled at; a minor nuisance who did not know her place, a relic that they just needed to pander to for a minute, so they could get back to the Big Lie.

Lyndon Johnson, if it wasn’t for the Vietnam War. His War on Poverty was an incredible achievement. But the Vietnam war haunted him.”) Helen was the consummate journalist even in her own living room, peppering us both with questions, unflinchingly taking it all in. She moved seamlessly from talking about her Detroit childhood to her trip to China on Air Force One with Richard Nixon, always seeing the interconnectedness of the past and how it influences the present. When asked about our work in the Middle East, we hesitated at first to answer fully about what we witnessed during the ongoing Israeli occupation, and the Iraq wars. She appeared so very concerned about the experiences of children in these places, and was visibly troubled by what she knew. Helen was so clearly empathetic to the plight of children, those living in refugee camps, those incarcerated, those who are suffering, that it seemed unfair to burden her further with eyewitness accounts after all she had recently been through. But her curiosity and questions were no match for us, and like always, Helen asked the questions she wanted. A few nights later, over tea, apple martinis and a full-course dinner, Helen continued her line of questioning. She was very interested in the work of the organization we work with, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, and pledged to speak in San Francisco at a benefit for humanitarian aid for children in Palestine. Unfortunately, Helen’s physical health soon deteriorated further, preventing her from making the 3000-mile flight. But the time we spent with Helen Thomas stayed with us, and we were troubled that she was never able to come speak at an event, because we wanted to see her celebrated by the thousands of people we knew who respected her, loved her, and were horrified by how she had been treated and forced into exile; even by some close friends and MECA supporters. Two years later, immediately after the “Operation Pillar of Defense” the eight day bombing of Gaza by Israel where 158 Palestinians were killed, 30 of them children, we crossed the Erez crossing from Israel into Gaza City. A week after we had arrived, we were out in the early morning hours conversing with journalists and other internationals. The topic of the Arab Spring and the role of social media were hot topics of discussion. A young Palestinian journalist, who had recently completed her studies in London, returned to Gaza months earlier to cover human rights issues for an online news website written in English, and stated to us that she wanted to be the next Helen Thomas. Another journalist responded to her by saying, “Oh, you mean because of her comments on Palestine.” “No, that is not why. There are two things that will change the world,” she said, “Media and women, and I am both. “ This is Helen Thomas’ legacy. This is proof that the uncomfortable questions will continue to be asked. That is what Helen wanted. Accountability of the powerful, and a fearless press in search of the truth.

This is why we have created The First Annual Helen Thomas Scholarship to be awarded to a Palestinian woman studying journalism. And to honor women like Helen Thomas: fearless women who challenge empire and live life unintimidated by authority and power. Barbara Lubin is the founder and Executive Director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance. Danny Muller has worked with the Middle East Children’s Alliance in Iraq and Palestine since MECA and Voices in the Wilderness were breaking the economic sanctions against Iraq in the 1990’s. He is a war tax resister and war abolitionist.

Helen Thomas was ambushed for being Anti Zionist, and as Ralph Nader wrote, “the evisceration was launched by two pro-Israeli war hawks, Ari Fleischer and Lanny Davis. Fleischer was George W. Bush’s press secretary who bridled under Helen Thomas’s questioning regarding the horrors of the Bush-Cheney war crimes and illeBut in Helen’s final years, there was gal torture. His job was not to answer little celebration of her career and her this uppity woman but to deflect, avoid courage, as former friends, coworkers and cover up for his bosses. Davis was and many in Washington jumped on the designated defender whenever the bandwagon resolutely condemning Clinton got into hot water. As journalher for comments made in a hit piece ist Paul Jay pointed out, he is now a that took brief comments out of conWashington lobbyist whose clients text. Perhaps most appallingly, Presiinclude the cruel corporate junta that dent Obama took time from spying on Helen Thomas, UPI Washington Reporter, overthrew the elected president of one half of the world and bombing the at work in the White House Honduras.” If one followed her caother half to state that her resignation Credit: Bettmann/Corbis reer, especially in the last decade, she was “the right decision.” had upset the status quo repeatedly In a world where politicians like George Bush, Dick Cheney and by asking about the deaths of civilians in America’s wars, the Rahm Emmanuel are celebrated for their reputations for exple- unholy alliance with Israel and their unspoken nuclear arsenal, tive laden tirades, can we really pretend that Helen’s comments and the way we hide the face of war. Powerful people wanted were so shocking or offensive that they were worthy of forced her silenced and used a 30-second video snippet to try and erase retirement? In a world where we hear the daily drivel from pres- seven decades of integrity and public service. idents promoting wars of madness with lies and straight faces, So you can imagine how honored we were when in the fall of how did we let such vitriol rain down on her? 2010, we were invited to meet at length with Helen. Mutual Helen Thomas did more to challenge the war from the back row friends had put us in touch and she welcomed us to join her at of the White House press corps (where she was relegated for her home. She graciously received us, and spoke for hours about three years after criticizing George Bush in 2003) than any em- a dizzying array of topics. Her mind was incredibly sharp, havbedded journalist did on the front lines who lay in bed with the ing absorbed a number of daily papers that day, and numerous military in Iraq. She stood for a journalistic integrity that was books on current events were neatly stacked, bookmarked and not welcome in an all- encompassing corporate- media-congres- referenced throughout our conversation. Incredibly open to any sional complex. In the beginning of her career, she was fired question, (Who was the best president? “It would have been

The Middle East Children’s Alliance will further the legacy of Helen Thomas through the First Annual Helen Thomas Memorial Scholarship, to provide a full university scholarship to a woman in Palestine to pursue a career in journalism. You can make a contribution, go to: www.mecaforpeace.org/helen

“I don’t think a tough question is disrespectful. I say. ´Mr. President...´ I say, ´Thank you.´ What else do you want? The presidential news conference is the only forum in our society where a president can be questioned. If he’s not questioned, he can rule by edict; by government order. He can be a monarch. He can be a dictator, and who is to find out? No. He should be questioned and he should always be able to willingly reply and answer to all questions because these aren’t our questions. They’re the people’s questions.” Credit: americanswhotellthetruth.org



My Home Is Now my Jail
Continued from page 3
May 2013: Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem, reported that the Israeli Police placed 11-year-old Saif Roweidi under house arrest after violently interrogating him for several hours. Credit: Saed Bannoura

Your MECA Dollars at Work
New Playgrounds in Old Villages
MECA is very excited to continue our work with Riwaq Center for Architectural Conservation and their “50 Villages Project” to restore historic buildings and revitalize public spaces in Palestine. This year, we helped Riwaq build three new playgrounds serving children in West Bank villages. And we are already working on plans for two more in villages where families are fighting to stay on their lands in the face of illegal Israeli settlement expansion. The first new playground in ‘Abwein village, outside of Ramallah, is a fun and enchanting maze of playground structures nestled into some of the ruins from ‘Abwein’s historic center. Many families have moved out of this area of the village in recent years and Riwaq’s rehabilitation work on homes and community centers—along with these great play areas—are part of bringing life back to the neighborhood. The second playground is in a small village called Nisf Jbeil close to Nablus and is part of the village’s first kindergarten! The kindergarten will be run by a local fair trade women’s cooperative. In the afternoons and weekends, when the kindergarten is closed, all the children of the village can come to climb, slide, and swing. The third playground in Beit ‘Ur, west of Ramallah, is also part of a local kindergarten run by a women’s organization. In all of its projects, Riwaq emphasizes local materials and trains workers in both restoration and new building. Each project creates immediate job opportunities as well as the possibility of long-term employment. For Riwaq, conservation and historic restoration are not about creating museum pieces— they are tools for social and economic advancement, creating spaces where contemporary communities can thrive.

to go to the soccer field.

Fortunately, Madaa’s program has resulted in improvement when children have regular classes at home and regular visSocial workers and psychologists also visit its from mental health workers. the children regularly because they feel These students, when they are angry about being trapped in their house. House arrest is particularly hard on family relationships because off house arrest and return to school, are usually able to the parents have been forced to play the role of jailer to their catch up. This compares with last year, when many chilchildren. Children under house arrest often have trouble focus- dren under house arrest didn’t return to school afterwards. ing because they can’t go outside or get any exercise. Ali says he was about to leave school because of the trouble he was facing in most subjects and because he was trauThe first time Ali was arrested, he was 11 years old. He was matized. But the program helped him catch up and stay in beaten by the soldiers and held for hours. Later, when he school. His parents don’t feel alone—they feel supported was 13, he was arrested and put under house arrest, where by the community because of Madaa’s involvement. he remains today. The soldiers or the police come to check at random hours of night or in the morning. Despite this success, Madaa faces challenges. The number of children on house arrest is increasing and the organizaAli used to be a soccer player. He loves the game. Stuck at tion’s capacity is limited. Ideally, the program would conhome, he fears he’s losing his ability to play. He fights with tinue even after the children are off house arrest; the Israehis brothers and parents, and he’s angry most of the time. lis still harass the children afterwards and many of them The word he hates now is haram [“forbidden” in Arabic]. have ongoing psychological and educational issues as well. His family uses this word a lot because he is forbidden to MECA is currently the only funder for this project. go to school, forbidden to go the cultural center, forbidden
homes, to teach reading, math, and other subjects.

Yes! I want to help protect the health, lives and future of children in the Middle East. Here is my tax-deductible contribution to MECA’s 25th Anniversary Campaign:
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Coming Up!

Children’s Rights in Palestine & U.S. as a Dishonest Broker
DEFENSE OF CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL – PALESTINE the leading international children’s rights organization in Palestine. JOSH RUEBNER, Advocacy Director for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, will speak about his new book Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker IsraeliPalestinian Peace. $10 suggested donation, free to students. Co-sponsored by Law Students for Justice in Palestine


With Laila El-Haddad author of Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between and Maggie Schmitt, writer, researcher, translator, educator, and social activist Richly illustrated winner of a 2013 Gourmand Cookbook Award! Event includes stories, book-signing—and bite-sized treats from the book’s recipes!

Park Day School

Annual Holiday Bazaar December 7th & 8th!

360 – 42nd Street, Oakland

MECA/Alliance Graphics Office, 1101 8th St. Berkeley

$10, $15, $20 Tickets: Choose your contribution to MECA’s work! For more info on both events: www.mecaforpeace.org!

(off 42nd between Broadway & Shafter)

Mark your calendar now for MECA’s annual sale of traditional Palestinian embroidery, glass, jewelry, olive wood, ceramics, honey, soaps and lotions—and much more. The sale provides income for craftspeople, especially women, who struggle every day under Israeli occupation to protect and care for their families. Gorgeous clothes, housewares and decorative items from Turkey and Lebanon, too. You can also shop online at: