NEWS

SUMMER 2016

The Long, Hard Road Out of Gaza
Safaa El-Derawi, MECA Water Engineer and Gaza Project Coordinator
Background: Palestinians in Gaza have suffered under an Israeli blockade since 2006. There are only two border crossings
for people, both of which are heavily restricted: the crossing
north of Gaza, managed by Israeli authorities; and the southern
crossing, which Egyptian authorities have kept under near-constant closure. New Israeli regulations allow Gaza residents to
go through the West Bank to Jordan but they are forbidden from
stopping in the West Bank; they must get permits from Jordan
and Israel; and they must stay abroad for one year before they
can return to Gaza.
“Gaza: The world’s largest outdoor prison.” We always hear
these words, but no one knows how painful it is until they try to
get out. Many patients die while waiting to travel for medical
treatment. The dreams of students crash on the crossing gate.
Families wait and wait for the moment they can hug again.
During my undergraduate years, I studied very hard and I
took additional classes in English so that I would be qualified
for an advanced degree. I did everything I could to get a scholarship and achieve my ambition of getting a Master’s Degree
abroad, despite all
the warnings that
traveling outside
Gaza was impossible. I applied for
a scholarship to
earn a degree in
water management
in Australia. I met
all the requirements. It was so
difficult to wait so
long just to know if
I was on the “short
list.” I whispered to
myself all the time:
“I am very close to
my dream.”
I made it to
the short list and
I was supposed to
have an interview
in Ramallah (West

I whispered to myself:
“I am very close to my
dream.”

Safaa El-Derawi

CREDIT: Ezz Zanoun/Al Jazeera

Families waiting to leave Gaza through Egypt.
Bank) like the other Palestinian students. But, of course, Israel
won’t allow someone who lives in Gaza to enter the West Bank.
I had my interview over the phone, all the time worrying if the
connection would fail. And then I waited some more.
I cannot describe my feelings at the moment I received the
news that I got the scholarship to study in Australia. But, again,
people told me that I should expect the worst. They reminded
me that almost no one is getting out either through the Egyptian
side or the Israeli side. Once I started to apply for the permits I
needed to travel, I began to feel hopeless.
Five months ago, I registered to leave through Egypt. My
number was 12531 and the total number of people who are even
allowed to register is 30,000. Since then, the Egyptians opened
the boarder only two times. Now, my plan is to go to Jordan
and fly from there to Australia, hopefully in time to begin the
program. But, first, I must get a special permit from Jordan as a
condition to travel through the Israeli crossing. I have tried three
times and I have gotten rejected three times.
I will never give up on my dreams, but, it seems, there are so
many gaps between my dreams and my reality.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: MECA just received the news
that Safaa was able to leave Gaza and has arrived in
Jordan. She will travel from there to Australia in time
to begin her Master’s program.

Dear Friends,
I wanted to write something for this newsletter about
Muhammad Ali and his commitment to justice in the U.S.
and around the world. Instead we’re reprinting this beautiful essay by author, activist and friend Susan Abulhawa.
She says everything I wanted to say and more.
Barbara Lubin

The Greatest
Was a Black Man
who Supported
Palestinians
By Susan Abulhawa

I watched and listened, often with tears, as Muhammad Ali was eulogized. I cried when the service opened with a reading from the Quran,
because it was the first time in the history of the United States that a recitation of the Quran was read and heard in reverence on major national
American television networks. I thought, even in death, he is a revolutionary.
Although some spoke of his life as a radical revolutionary, it seemed
almost tangential to the overarching message that Ali was a beloved champion boxer, the greatest there was. Of course, he was that. Yet, I couldn’t
help but recall the words of Cornel West, who has spoken of the “Santa
Clausification” of Dr. Martin Luther King. With the exception of two or three
speakers, it felt as if Muhammad Ali’s legacy was undergoing a similar softening and rounding of the edges of his life, the Santa Clausification of
Muhammad Ali.
So much of Muhammad Ali was left unsaid and untouched at his funeral service. A critical part of him, mostly ignored, is that he was an organic and public intellectual. He spoke truth to power. His words, ideas,
actions and positions changed the world.
He is one of the few intellectuals whose production of knowledge
was accessible to the masses in such a way that it provoked immediate
thought. He was instrumental in spurring moral evolution and moral advancement among whole generations, worldwide.
Muhammad Ali visiting a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon
in the 1970s.

2 MECA NEWS

His refusal to be drafted, saying “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger”
became an anthem of critical thought and introspection, especially among
black men facing the draft.
Thousands of miles away, the Vietnamese heard him, too, and, as a
result, often refused to fight or kill black US soldiers during the Vietnam
War. Ali was an instigator of brotherhood and the political establishment,
as well as mainstream media, tried to destroy him for it.
So, it seemed incongruous with his legacy to witness moments in the
funeral service that seemed like campaigns for Hillary Clinton.
Ali was one of the few and first notable Americans to voice unqualified
support for Palestinians in our struggle against Zionism’s settler-colonial
project in Palestine.
Many of those who got up to praise and eulogize him would be
among the first to persecute a contemporary athlete if he/she would dare
to embark on the moral path Ali walked decades ago when he went to a
Palestinian refugee camp and said openly, “I declare support for the Palestinian liberation struggle.”
In fact, the current political establishment is doing exactly that with
unfolding anti-BDS (the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions
campaign) legislation.
Were an athlete today to criticize Israel as Ali did, he or she may well
find his or her name on an emerging anti-BDS blacklist.
No one at his funeral mentioned this, with the exception, perhaps, of
Rabbi Lerner in his general statement about injustice to Palestinians.
In fact, Billy Crystal’s eulogy probably made people believe that Ali
was a supporter of Israel because they apparently raised money for some
program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Had he wanted to give an honest reflection of Ali, that would be the
point where Billy Crystal should have noted that Muhammad Ali was an
unabashed supporter of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli colonialism, including the annexation of Jerusalem. But he didn’t, and I believe it
was an intentional omission.
Ali’s insistence on morality, however unpopular; his defense of justice, however obscure; his defiance of power, whatever the personal cost;
and his ability to communicate his positions clearly and convincingly in a
language grounded in integrity, honor and principle, are all among the
hallmarks of a transforming public intellectual. He was all that.
He touched us all in different ways, but touched us nonetheless.
His influence on my life was profound. I never met or spoke to him,
but his presence in my thoughts feels personal, almost intimate.
Incredibly, there are millions who feel as I do. He performed that miracle of taking residence in the hearts of people he had never met, millions
of us.
And though he was indeed “The People’s Champ”
who gave of himself to all peoples, especially the oppressed, Muhammad Ali was a black man, produced by
blackness, in all that entails of 400 years of raw and human struggle.
As a public intellectual, athlete and revolutionary,
he belongs to the legacy of the people from whence he
came. The Prettiest and the Greatest, was in fact, a proud,
principled and defiant black man in America.
Susan Abulhawa is an international bestselling novelist, poet, and essayist. Her latest novel, The Blue
Between Sky and Water (2015), is translated into 26
languages. She is also the founder of Playgrounds for
Palestine.
Her books are available at www.ShopPalestine.org

CREDIT: Palestine Writing Workshop

Your MECA

Palestine Writing Workshop
Gets Kids Excited
about Books

CREDIT: MECA

DOLLAR$
at WORK

New Preschool in Gaza

Last fall, MECA supported a project to promote reading
in schools in the West Bank city of Nablus and nearby refugee
camps. The Palestine Writing Workshop (PWW) brought books
into high schools, read and discussed them with the students; created small mobile libraries, brought writers to visit; and formed
ongoing book clubs. For younger children, interactive storytelling and puppet shows honed their listening skills and gave them
a sense of how much fun reading can be.
The Palestine Writing Workshop began in 2009 with one
writing workshop. Since then, PWW’s vision and its range of
activities have just kept growing, filling a huge gap in Palestinian schools, where classes are overcrowded, the emphasis is
on memorization, and there is no art, music or creative writing
instruction.
PWW has become a literacy resource for people throughout
Palestine—bringing the skills and the rewards of reading and
writing to thousands. Last year, in addition to the Nablus project, MECA made it possible for published writer and PWW staff
Maya Abu al-Hayyat to provide training for our partner centers
in Gaza on teaching creative writing to children (via Skype).
MECA is now supporting PWW’s “We Love Reading” project—publishing new Arabic books for kids of different ages and
doing workshops with mothers about reading aloud to their children.

The Middle East Children’s Alliance currently supports several projects in Gaza, including psychosocial support for children; workshops for parents covering nutrition, health, water hygiene, and psychological distress; clean, safe water for schools
(Maia Project); kindergartens and libraries; food and medical
aid, plus warm clothes and home weather protection; and training for all MECA partner centers on working with children who
have experienced trauma.
Last year, at the request of the Sanabel Women’s Association, MECA helped start a preschool/kindergarten for the families in Al-Heker, an impoverished, rural community in central
Gaza. Sanabel has developed farming, embroidery, sewing, and
catering projects that generate income for women and their families.
The mothers of young children working at Sanabel projects or elsewhere in the community badly needed a place and a
program for their children. There are no public kindergartens in
Palestine and very little affordable childcare or preschool. The
Sanabel kindergarten was established with funding from MECA.
MECA Gaza Projects Coordinator Safaa El-Derawi reports,
“The main goal of this project is to provide a safe environment
for children to develop in healthy ways. In addition, the project provides four jobs for women, and fees are affordable for
the families.” Safaa goes on to describe the positive impact the
program has had on the children, including a traumatized little
girl named Haya: “She is a four-year-old child. She
was suffering from speech problems, isolation and fear.
In partnership between her teacher and a psychologist
through various ways of intervention, she started to get
better. The greatest moment was when she called her
mother ‘Mum’ for the first time.”
Above: Last year, at the request of the Sanabel Women’s
Association, MECA helped start a preschool/kindergarten for
the community.
Above left: PWW storyteller.

CREDIT: Palestine Writing Workshop

Left: PWW book clubs: Schoolchildren read, think and write
about books.
MECA NEWS 3

Ilan Pappe on
“Why Palestine Is Still the Issue”
Palestine is still the issue because the settler colonialist logic
of elimination and dehumanization is still at work daily against
the Palestinian people. And everyone who has experienced settler colonialism in the past, or who thinks about it, can see in
Palestine a place where this logic it can be tackled, rejected and
replaced by humanization.

MECA &
Alliance Graphics
Artist Create
Mural with High
School Students

Palestine is still the issue because it is connected to Islamophobia. The fear and the hatred of Muslims simply because they
are Muslims is the major tool by which Israel associates terrorism with Palestinians to stifle any proper discussion about Israel,
Zionism, and Palestine in the U.S. We are witnessing again and
again the attempt to associate violence that is carried out by desperate people in Europe with justification for the state violence
that Israel exercises against the Palestinians.
Palestine is still the issue because it is also an issue of social
justice. Struggles for social justice are struggles against doubletalk, against hypocrisy against exceptionalism, against deception. The whole discourse that pretends to improve people’s lives
but actually destroys them is exemplified in Palestine on a daily
basis. That is why people all over world see their own struggles
so strongly connected to the struggle for peace and justice in
Palestine.

Above: Ilan Pappe with MECA Director Barbara Lubin and supporter
Hassan Fouda
Right : MECA Art Director Jos Sances worked with Palestinian artists and
refugee youth to create a mural depicting their traditions and history.
4 MECA NEWS

CREDIT: Jos

Berkeley High students decided to portray their support for “Black Lives
Matter” and the massive student walkout that followed the library incident.
The Middle East Children’s Alliance and our screen-printing
business Alliance Graphics have had a long relationship with the
Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA), one of Berkeley High
School’s six “learning communities.”
Each year, the seniors at AHA undertake a public art project. MECA Art Director Jos Sances volunteered to work with
the students and their teacher Miriam Stahl last spring to create
a mural using his innovative technique of transferring electronic
images to ceramic tile. When messages appeared on the computers in Berkeley High’s library threatening the lives of Black
students, the students decided to portray their support for “Black
Lives Matter” and the massive student walkout that followed the
library incident.
Student reporter Angie Fike writes in the Berkeley High
Jacket: “This is the first mural to be added to the BHS campus
CREDIT: Nancy Ippolito
since the 1930s. Given that
it is made of sturdy tiles and
durable materials, it will
likely last on the BHS campus for many decades.” ‘My
hopes are that it is a reminder
to future generations of how
our school will never tolerate
the kind of hate that was expressed in November,’ said
student Sachi Moran. ‘It’s
there to remind students of
what they’ve done, and what
they are capable of continuing to do to stand up against
white supremacy.’”

Alameda County Declares
“Palestine Cultural Day”
Last Spring, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors made this proclamation at a packed meeting:

CREDIT:
______________

“Our peaceful group led by three children and a baby wasn’t even able to
get through the door. They refused to hear our message and receive the
letter signed by 25,000 people,” said Renda Dabit, a Palestinian-American
mother who joined the delegation with her young son.

Kids Tell Carlos Santana:
“Stand with Palestinian
Children. Boycott Israel!”
In June, a delegation of MECA parents and kids, along with
Jewish Voice for Peace members delivered a petition signed by
25,000 people, urging musician Carlos Santana to respect the
Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel and cancel his
upcoming concert in Tel Aviv.
Since several requests for an appointment had been ignored,
we decided to go to Santana’s Milagro Foundation, which says
it “benefits underserved and vulnerable children around the
world.” Milagro staff refused to open the door and closed the
blinds. We left a copy of the petition outside.
MECA Director Barbara Lubin makes Santana’s contradiction and our demand clear: “Palestinian children are suffering
under Israeli military occupation and apartheid policies. These
children deserve Carlos Santana’s attention and support. Just a
few miles from the Tel Aviv concert hall, there are Palestinian
children whose homes were demolished by Israeli bulldozers
and bombs, who have no clean water to drink, and who are suffering in Israeli jails. We call on Carlos Santana to cancel his
upcoming concert in Israel to demonstrate his support for Palestinian children’s basic rights.”
Since 2005, when Palestinians issued the call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, modeled after the similar
campaign targeting Apartheid South Africa, hundreds of artists
from around the world have refused to perform in Israel until
Palestinian human rights are respected. They include Lauryn
Hill, Roger Waters, Boots Riley, Talib Kweli, Elvis Costello, Sinéad O’Connor and many more. Much more at www.bdsmovement.net.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT PROCLAIMED that this
Board of Supervisors, County of Alameda, State of
California does hereby proclaim May 15, 2016 as Palestinian Cultural Day and recognizes the contributions
of the local Palestinian population to Alameda County
residents and communities.
Here is an excerpt of AROC (Arab Resource and Organizing
Committee) Executive Director Lara Kiswani’s powerful acceptance speech:
“As Palestinians in the US, we see this step as not simply an
act of recognition, but also an expression of your commitment to
hear our community concerns, value our experiences and contributions, and to take a stand for social and racial justice. We are
living in a time where Arabs, Muslims, and particularly Palestinians, are criminalized, marginalized and often made invisible.
We understand this experience as part of a long history of racism
and violence that has impacted people of color and poor people
all across the world … And we ask you to challenge the inequity,
segregation, and militarism that saturate our cities from Ferguson, to Jerusalem to Oakland.”

CREDIT: AROC

Nabil Wahbeh (Northern California Friends of Sabeel), Lara Kiswani
(AROC), Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, Barbara Lubin (Middle
East Children’s Alliance)
MECA NEWS 5

Your MECA

DOLLAR$ Scholarship Students

at WORK

In the last academic year, MECA awarded a record 166 university scholarships to students in Palestine, thanks to the Elly
Jaensch Memorial Scholarship, ConnectHer, SacramentoBethlehem Sister City Project, the Daniele and Christoph Berglar-Stiftung Foundation, and dozens of other MECA supporters. We’d
like to introduce you to two of the students:
Dalia is a second year art student at Al-Aqsa University in
Gaza. Her father died four years ago and it hit Dalia very hard.
In many ways, she and her family are still grieving. He was the
sole breadwinner, so their economic situation has become much
worse.
“I have felt so sad losing my father and my life became more
difficult. I didn’t expect to be able to complete my university
degree. Studying at the university has made me strong and independent and it has helped me to overcome extreme sadness, so
I am grateful for the MECA scholarship. My mother has always
given me a lot of encouragement. She says education is the best
thing. I love art–ceramics, painting and drawing on glass. My
dream is to open a big gallery of my work to show the whole
world that we appreciate life, beauty and peace.”
Nadia Saqr is a 22-year-old, divorced mother with one small
child. She is working toward a degree in physical therapy at AlAzhar University. Despite living in difficult conditions with her
extended family, she aims high in her studies and her ambitions.

Nadia Saqr is a 22-year-old,
divorced mother with one
small child. She is working
toward a degree in
physical therapy at
Al-Azhar University.
“I believe that education is the best way to
change my life for the
better and, not only that,
it will improve things for
my family. In Gaza many
factors make it difficult
to do well at university. I
sometimes have to miss
lectures because I cannot
afford to pay for transport and I cannot buy all
the books that I need. We
often have no electricity
for many hours. And the
CREDIT: MECA
attacks on Gaza during
the summer of 2014 caused psychological problems, as well as
physical damage. I did not expect to stay alive. I want to graduate with a good degree and then get part-time work so I can go
on to do graduate studies. I want to develop my skills in English
and I want to take some leadership and youth courses. I will also
continue to use my skills as a volunteer, helping people. This
scholarship changed my life.”

Dalia: “My dream is to open
a big gallery of my work to
show the whole world that
we appreciate life, beauty
and peace.”
100% of every purchase you make aids
Palestinian children and families.

CREDIT: MECA

Dalia is a second year art student at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.
6 MECA NEWS

www.shoppalestine.org

“Joining Hands”
with Women in Palestine
By Cathy Shields and Mona Halaby
Following a MECA delegation to Palestine/Israel in 2002,
a small group of women in the Bay Area came together to support the economic self-help efforts in solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation; we call ourselves Joining Hands.
Struck by the beautiful handicrafts in the souqs (marketplaces),
we created the first Annual Palestinian Crafts Bazaar in 2003,
featuring embroidery from Beit Jala, olive wood products from
Bethlehem, pottery from Hebron, scarves and jewelry from Jerusalem, rugs from Samoa Village, olive oil from Ramallah, and
more. All proceeds from the sale benefit Palestinian crafts people
and workers’ co-operatives. and has become an annual event in
Berkeley that people look forward to each year.
Joining Hands continues to explore new ways of supporting
programs for the women and children in Palestine. Our most recent project was a series of cooking classes taught by Palestinian
women, celebrating the delicious cuisine of the region. Proceeds

from these classes went to MECA to support the ongoing work
of mothers and grandmothers in Masara, a small village near
Bethlehem. Several years ago, they decided to feed the children
at their local school healthy food that they prepare each morning. For many children, this is the best meal of their day. Joining
Hands welcomes the support and involvement of women who
enjoy working together to raise money in solidarity with our sisters and the children in Palestine. We hope you’ll save the date
for this year’s Palestinian Bazaar on December 3rd and 4th, and
that you’ll look for our announcements of events on MECA’s
website.

Save the Date! Joining Hands’ & MECA’s

13th Annual Palestinian
Holiday Crafts Bazaar!
December 3rd and 4th, 2016

The late Alice Nashashibi at the first Palestinian Bazaar 2003, in one small
room in Berkeley Friends Meetinghouse.

MECA NEWS 7

NEWS
SUMMER 2016

MECA Events
Coming Up!

Thursday November 17, 7pm

Tuesday October 18, 7pm,
in Berkeley: Electronic
Intifada Co-Founder

Ali Abunimah!

First Congregational Church
of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way

in Oakland: Human rights lawyer/
activist/professor Noura Erekat!
First Congregational Church of Oakland,
2501 Harrison Street

March, 2017, Shoruq Children’s
Dance Troupe from Dheisheh Refugee

Camp!

Three week U.S. tour. More info coming soon.