Vatican to Recognize Palestinian State

Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2014 with Presidents Shimon Peres of Israel, left, and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. (Credit Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

JODI RUDOREN and DIAA HADID, New York Times, MAY 13, 2015

JERUSALEM — The Vatican announced Wednesday that it would soon sign a treaty that includes recognition of the “state of Palestine,” lending significant symbolic weight to an intensifying Palestinian push for international support for sovereignty that bypasses the paralyzed negotiations with Israel.

Palestinian leaders celebrated the Holy See’s endorsement as particularly important, given the international stature of Pope Francis. For Israelis, it was an emotional blow, since Francis has deep relationships with Jews dating back decades, and Christians are critical backers of their enterprise.

“The Vatican is not just a state. The Vatican represents hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide, including Palestinians, and has vast moral significance,” said Husam Zomlot, a senior Palestinian foreign-affairs official.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was “disappointed” by the Vatican’s decision, and that the recognition would “not advance the peace process.” That echoed similar statements after a wave of European Parliamentary resolutions on Palestinian statehood last fall, but some Israeli analysts said the Vatican’s step hurt more.

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Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on Pro-Settlement Legislation Pending in Congress

Jewish Voice for Peace, April 23, 2015

WASHINGTON – Jewish Voice for Peace strongly opposes proposed trade legislation intended to institutionalize support for the Israeli occupation and attempt to criminalize non-violent human rights boycotts of Israel. Yesterday the Senate Finance Committee approved amended language to S.995, while a related bill (HR. 825) is pending in the House. This added language regarding boycotts of Israel, backed by AIPAC, comes in response to growing grassroots support in the United States and across the globe for using boycotts, divestment and sanctions tactics as tools to further justice, equality, and human rights for Palestinians.

If passed, the legislation would reverse the long standing US policy of opposing the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories by de facto recognizing all settlements as part of a “greater Israel.” The proposed legislation would also mandate US government actions to track and penalize commercial boycotts, a violation of constitutionally protected political speech.

From South Africa to the grape boycott to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) tactics have been essential tools used to create a more just society. Rabbi Joseph Berman, JVP’s Federal Policy Organizer noted that, “This legislation, which actually encourages illegal settlement building while strengthening the far right in Israel, shows that BDS is an increasingly powerful means to challenge Israel’s impunity when it comes to Palestinian rights. We urge Congress to reject this legislation.”

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US Lawmakers Quietly Advance Legislation to Penalize Boycott of Israel

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) chairs the Senate Finance Committee that passed the little-noticed amendment. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) chairs the Senate Finance Committee that passed the little-noticed amendment. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Little-noticed amendment was included in controversial Fast Track trade bill that just passed the Senate Finance Committee

Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams, April 23, 2015

U.S. lawmakers are quietly advancing legislation that would penalize international participation in the growing movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction (BDS) Israel for human rights abuses against Palestinians.

With little notice, anti-BDS directives were injected into the “Fast Track” legislation that passed the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday night, despite broad opposition to the bill, which gives the administration of President Barack Obama authority to ram though so-called “free trade” deals.

An amendment, included in the bill and sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), stipulates that, as a principle of trade negotiations, the U.S. should put pressure on other countries not to engage in BDS against Israel of any kind, including refusal to do business with settlements.

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Special Fundraising Appeal: Help Rafah Filmmaker Fida Qishta

Many of you may have met Fida Qishta, and seen her remarkable film Where Should the Birds Fly? when she visited Madison for the Friends of Sabeel conference last November and and the annual Rachel Corrie commemoration in March.

Fida has been admitted to a master’s program at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, beginning in the fall of 2015. She has received a substantial scholarship to help defray costs, but is still significantly short of the funds it will take to complete the program.

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is not able, as a charitable organization, to contribute funds to Fida for this purpose. However, we would like to ask our members, friends and supporters to consider donating so that she can continue to give voice to the people of Gaza and Palestine through film.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

My first day of fundraising went great. I have so many words to say, but only thank you from heart to heart is the best.

Total money raised in the first day of the campaign was $1,120. Now it’s $63,880 to go. This shows how much you care. Please keep your support — spreading the word around helps so much.

Thank you so much.
Fida Qishta

You can donate online at gofundme, or avoid fees by mailing a check to “Fida Qishta, Memo: School Fund” at:

    Fida Qishta
    39 West 105th Street, Apt 4
    New York, NY 10025

Obama Chief Of Staff: Israel’s 50-Year ‘Occupation’ Must End

“An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told the annual J Street conference. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Domenico Montanaro, NPR, March 23, 2015

Through his chief of staff, President Obama is strongly countering rhetoric from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a two-state, Israeli-Palestinian solution.

“An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state,” Denis McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff, said Monday at the annual conference of J Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel group.

He added, “President Obama still firmly believes what he said in Jerusalem two years ago—that peace is necessary, just, and possible. Peace is necessary because it is the only way to ensure that a secure State of Israel is both Jewish and democratic. Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely. That’s the truth.”

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