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AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2002 CAMPAIGN UPDATE

Dear friends, As we write this Campaign Update for September, reports from the Occupied Palestinian Territories are grim and the region is full of foreboding and fears of impending war. The need to change US policy to prevent death and destruction in Palestine and Israel--and war in the region--impels us to redouble our efforts. Some good news: the Campaign is rapidly growing. We now have over 500 members-- individual and institutional-- and new members are signing on each day. Word of the Campaign has spread, through outreach and action alerts. We have been contacted by the United Nations to participate in the upcoming conference of civil society on Palestine. New resources are available on the web to support our work. And our congressional task force is actively looking for district coordinators--if you want to take on this task, please see below for more information.

CONGRESSIONAL TASK FORCE

(congress@endtheoccupation.org) Members have finalized the National Pledge for just peace in the Middle East--an organizing tool for Campaign groups nationwide to educate constituencies and demand that their elected officials change US policy. The Pledge has been piloted by Global Exchange at various events around the anniversary of September 11th. It will be posted on the web soon. The Congressional Task Force is calling for volunteers to become Congressional District Coordinators for the Campaign. The CDC is the primary link between community activists in local Congressional districts and the Campaign's nation-wide advocacy initiatives. If you are interested, information is available here. Several groups met with their Congressional Rep in their districts during August. Activists argued against plans to attack Iraq and called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. To support these efforts, we circulated--on August 21--Action Points on the urgent need for humanitarian assistance and an international protection force to protect civilians until the occupation was ended.

CORPORATE TASK FORCE

(corporations@endtheoccupation.org) Members are discussing with SUSTAIN ways in which we can help to facilitate a nationwide campaign to stop Caterpillar sales and technical support to Israel of the bulldozers being used to demolish Palestinian homes, build bypass roads, and other illegal acts. The CAT Campaign is an entry point to education Americans about the need to change the role of our Government and US Corporations. SUSTAIN (Stop US Tax-Funded Aid to Israel Now) has organized some creative direct action against Caterpillar, most recently a citizen’s arrest of Caterpillar CEOs--check it out on http://www.sustaincampaign.org.

RESOURCES

The following new materials has recently been added to the Campaign website: 1) Congressional Taskforce Materials New materials include a Congressional Report Card (compiled by Task Force co-chair Josh Ruebner ) which shows how your Rep has been voting, tips on how to engage your Rep, and a report from a member on their experiences in contact their Reps and candidates. 2) Corporate Taskforce Materials New material includes information to use in local campaigns to stop Caterpillar sales to Israel, based on the excellent brochure Martha Reese distributed at the Chicago conference in June, plus links to other resources and information sources.

UN CONFERENCE

The United Nations is organizing an International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People on 23 and 24 September. It’s theme: Ending the Occupation! The conference is being organized by the Division for Palestinian Rights of the UN Secretariat. Such conferences were organized during the 1980s and early 1990s. This is the first one for several years. The organizers expect some 200 participants from Europe, the Middle East and North America. Panels include: “the daily face of occupation”, “civil society and occupation,” “challenging the occupation,” and “ending the occupation.” The US Campaign has been asked to speak in the final session “ending the occupation” on “national and international campaigns to mobilize public opinion,” and to join the follow-up steering committee. We will circulate a summary after the meeting.

CONSTITUENCY OUTREACH

Nancy Murray has joined the Steering Committee to serve as liaison with member organizations. Working with Geoff, Nancy is building a page on the web with information and links to Campaign member groups. This will help groups network with each other across the US, as well as providing information to people who want to get involved in different states. Nancy is also working on a “How To” guideline for people who want to set up their own groups to promote just peace.

HUMAN RIGHTS

The US Campaign focuses on changing US policy, but many of our members are in touch with many groups supporting human rights on the ground. 1) Right to Education We have just received an appeal from Birzeit University to support the Palestinians’ right to education. The appeal can be found at the end of this message. If you want to sign the appeal, send an email to events@palestinecenter.org with “Birzeit” as the subject. The Palestine Center (formerly the Center for Policy Analysis in Palestine) has agreed to serve as the US base of the Birzeit Campaign. 2) Right to Shelter The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and the Jerusalem Center for Economic and Social Rights are working to rebuild demolished Palestinian homes. Donna Baranski of Just Peace Technologies is coordinating a Global Campaign to Rebuild Palestinian homes, calling on supporters of just peace to organize “house parties” in their homes to raise funds to rebuild Palestinian homes. Best wishes, The Steering Committee of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation ---===---===---===---===---===---===---===---===---===---===--

APPEAL--Education is a Right

Since its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, the Israeli army has deliberately targeted Palestinian universities, the student body, and faculty. These sanctuaries of higher education were seen as a potential threat to the Israeli occupation. As the first institution of higher education in Palestine, Birzeit University has been in the forefront in developing a treasured national resource--the human resource. With every part of Palestine under Israeli control, the human mind remained the only territory that Palestinians could use to launch their struggle for freedom. An educated Palestine is a thinking, productive, independent, and innovative population not willing to be subservient. Birzeit University offers a number of undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. It also offers two High Diplomas in Primary Healthcare and Gender, Law, and Development. During the 2001/2002 academic year, the student body numbered 5318 students with half the students being female. There are 276 faculty and 405 non-academic employees. As academics, students, educators, intellectuals, and individuals who value education and freedom, your support is needed to keep the doors of Birzeit University open to its students. Since March 2001, the academic life at Birzeit University has been severely disrupted and at times crippled by a hostile Israeli military checkpoint on the Ramallah-Birzeit road. This checkpoint serves no “security” purpose for Israel. Its function is to disrupt daily life, prevent students from reaching their classrooms, and is a trap for university students and faculty who in their pursuit of education are arrested, detained, physically assaulted, and sometimes killed. With the Israeli re-occupation of the Palestinian areas in June 2002, blanket curfews and increased checkpoints brought Palestinian academic life to a screeching halt. Birzeit University students and faculty along with the entire Palestinian civilian population are confined to their homes as the academic year passes by. Since its establishment as Birzeit College in 1942, Birzeit University has strived to promote excellence by providing quality academics, training, research, and community programs. The programs emphasize social awareness, democratic civic values, and sustainable development and are a major aspect of student life. This long-standing institution of higher education and excellence is on the verge of collapse. In its campaign to destroy Palestinian civil life and infrastructure, Israel has violated international humanitarian law with its collective punishment measures and the denial of a “protected civilian population under military occupation” from education. While some world leaders have allowed these violations to continue, the students and faculty of Birzeit University are confident that you will not. We must challenge this campaign to destroy Palestinian civil life and educational havens. We demand that Israel: 1. Lift the siege on the Palestinian areas and remove military checkpoints so that students and faculty have safe and unhindered access to Birzeit University and other institutions of education. 2. Abide by international humanitarian law and conventions which protect civilians under military occupation and guarantee their right to education, work, and medical care. The Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development (JFECD) is proud to have supported Birzeit University over the past decade in educating Palestine’s future. Through numerous scholarships, grants, and other contributions from generous, conscientious donors such as yourself, we have been an active part in building the foundation for a free and democratic Palestine. At this time we find ourselves writing to you again with an urgent request. We need your signature to keep the doors of Birzeit University open. By signing this appeal, you are endorsing your support in holding Israel accountable to the international laws and conventions mentioned above, as well as fostering an equitable future for Palestine and the continued work the country’s finest university. To sign on to the appeal, send an email to events@palestinecenter.org with “Birzeit” as the subject; include with your full name and location (i.e., John Smith, Deerfield, IL). Signatures will be collected and complied to a list which will be sent to government officials in the United States and Israel. Your support is appreciated. Please feel free to forward this appeal to all interested parties.