Thursday, November 23, 2006

News from Gaza: Our Co-Conspirators are Back on the Job!

When Mark and I served with the International Solidarity Movement in December 2001, one of our colleagues with whom we were most impressed was a priest with the Michigan Peace Teams called Peter. I have to confess--although we are consensus freaks, we occasionally were a tad annoyed with MPT's insistence on circling up for decision-making whilst the IDF was literally bearing down on our necks. However, I must concede, this often so confounded the IDF it ended up protecting people and buying more time. Who knew?

Well, bless him, Father Peter is back at it again, with Sister Mary Gondeck. Story follows. A happy Thankstaking Day story, at last. Check it out and be inspired. V.

To see a photo of Peter and Mary (that's funny) paste this address in your browser:

The following is used under rules of fair use. All copyright remains with the author and newspaper.

Palestinian Islamic militants host US priest, nun
Charles Levinson
November 22, 2006

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip -- Palestinian militants hosted an unlikely ally in their Gaza home Wednesday: a priest and a nun who came from the American heartland to stand as human shields against Israeli airstrikes.

"We're here just trying to get the word out about the suffering the people are enduring under the occupation," said Father Peter Dougherty, a Roman Catholic priest from Lansing, Michigan, the same sleepy Midwestern capital where controversial rights activist Malcolm X grew up.

Dougherty and Sister Mary Ellen Gondeck, a nun, are from the Michigan Peace Team, Christian do-gooders who before coming to Gaza fought for the rights of the Mayan Indians in southern Mexico and against US hate groups.

Now, during a month-long tour of the Palestinian territories, the elderly believers have brought their message of piety and peace to the cycle of violence that spurs on the decades-old Middle East conflict.

They have picked olives with Palestinians in the West Bank and protected Palestinian schoolchildren from hostile, rock-throwing Jewish settlers.

They joined the ranks of human shields who swarmed to the home of a local militant leader in Gaza earlier this week after a midnight phone call from the Israeli army warned inhabitants to leave before warplanes leveled the home.

Israel was forced to call off the raid after hundreds of civilians and militants, including those from the armed wing of the ruling Islamist movement Hamas, swarmed to the building in the northern Gaza Strip.

"We're protecting this house to keep it from being destroyed," says Dougherty, sitting cross-legged on the roof, surrounded by members of the Baroud family, their friends and neighbors.

"It's a wonderful nonviolent action," Dougherty continues. "Under international law it is wrong to use collective punishment and throw families out of their homes."

Their show of solidarity is presenting a face of Uncle Sam that Palestinians rarely see, rather than the United States vetoing pro-Palestinian UN resolutions and supplying Israel with the F16 jets and Apache helicopters that rain destruction down on Palestinian cities.

"This confirms to us that there are Americans for peace," says militant Wael Baroud, whose home has so far been spared by the mass of civilians who flocked to protect it. "We respect and appreciate the American people who come visit us and stand in solidarity with our suffering."

Dougherty, 72, and Godeck, 65, drink tea and communicate in hand gestures and smiles with their hosts who speak little English.

They coddle young Palestinian babies in their laps and listen to tales of Palestinian woe. They are gray haired and indignant.

These God-fearing pacifists rallied in the makeshift rooftop salon of the militant from the Popular Resistance Committees, one of Gaza's most hardline groups and among three factions responsible for the abduction of an Israeli soldier last summer.

A leading US-based human rights group earlier Wednesday urged Palestinian armed groups not to endanger civilian lives by encouraging human shields.

"There is no excuse for calling civilians to the scene of a planned attack," said Sarah Leah Whitson from the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Godeck, the nun, says that it is Israeli violations of international law that have forced Palestinians to turn to violence. "I think Palestinians are such a gentle people," she says.


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