Jewish Peace Activist Fights For Palestinian Rights

cecilie-surasky.jpgSusan notes: This story by Cecilie Surasky, the Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), came to me by email. JVP is an American Jewish organization whose core principle is full equality between Palestinians and Israelis.

Sursaky, the granddaughter of Zionist Socialist activists, joined JVP in 2003 as part of a Ford Foundation human rights fellowship; she has extensive experience in social justice communications and advocacy.

She and her analyses of Israel-Palestine politics have appeared in numerous media outlets around the world. She is the founder of Muzzlewatch, JVP's blog documenting efforts to silence open debate about Israel-Palestine policy.

The story touched my heart...

It was the last place in the world I expected to see Barbie's smiling face emblazoned on the front of a children's notebook.
It was a hot day in June, and as we traveled along a bumpy, dusty road in the south of Gaza, I thought how eerily quiet it was compared to the last time I had been here, when we were taunted by the whizzing sounds of small military drones following our every move.
Suddenly, our van arrived at a farmhouse where we were welcomed by a father and beekeeper wearing a flowing white robe. His name was Mohammed Shurrab. On his desk lay a stack of children's notebooks, each with an image of a Barbie doll on the cover.
Just months before, during Israel's attack on Gaza, Mohammed and his two sons waited for a lull in the fighting so they could flee to join the rest of their family. They weren't far from the farmhouse when they came under a hail of bullets from Israeli soldiers. All of them were shot...

Mohammed's 28-year-old son Kassab, an engineer, was killed immediately. Mohammed called various radio stations to ask for help from an ambulance while he held his other son, Ibrahim, while he shivered. It was nearly 24 hours before the Israeli military allowed an ambulance to come through. By then, Ibrahim, 18, had already bled to death in Mohammed's arms.
Mohammed Shurrab, who spoke like a poet and had Shakespeare and James Joyce on his bookshelf, explained how he came out to the farmhouse each day to be alone, to write in longhand in the notebooks about his sons-- how much he missed them, how much he loved them, and, I'd imagine, how angry he was about how they died.
He channeled that unspeakable sorrow into the only notebooks he could find while living under an extended blockade meant to punish 1.5 million Gazans for the election of Hamas. And he told his story to people like me who might then convey it to you in hopes that it would not happen again.
The bombing of Gaza started one year ago today. And every time I tuck my own son into bed, I think of Mohammed Shurrab, and the other parents like him who I met in Gaza, in Silwan in East Jerusalem, in South Hebron in the West Bank.
I think about the Israeli soldiers sent to Gaza and Hebron, some taught to hate, most simply armed and scared, the responsibility for enforcing occupation on their young shoulders; and the people in the south of Israel fleeing to shelters every time they hear the air raid sirens warning of Qassam rockets.
I think about the Gazan mothers who had nowhere else to go, who clutched their children in apartment hallways each night as bombs fell overhead-- and I remember the deliberate destruction of Gaza's factories, schools, hospitals and administrative buildings that I saw with my own eyes.

In the next few days, in an effort to call the world's attention to the continuing disaster in Gaza, over thirteen hundred people from 42 countries, including many JVP supporters, will arrive in Egypt and Israel to participate in the Gaza Freedom March on December 31. The Egyptian government is threatening to pull the plug on the march.

We've mobilized supporters to pressure them to let marchers through. But no matter what happens at the border -- like you, like everyone in the march, we at Jewish Voice for Peace won't forget, we won't deny, and we won't desert. 
These are the reasons why my work with Jewish Voice for Peace is the most important work I have ever done in my life, why JVP's work is so unique, so powerful. In just over a decade, JVP has gone from a small, all-volunteer group that met in members' living rooms to an organization with nearly 100,000 online activists; chapters in existence or starting in cities across the country; and an impressive board and advisory board of activists, thinkers and writers.
From the Shministim to the Toronto International Film Festival to the campaigns to free Mohammed Othman and Ezra Nawi, to supporting the Goldstone report, we've led or have been substantially involved in many of this year's major efforts to fight Israel's occupation; to counteract the silencing of dissent; and to resist the growing crackdown on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Jewish Voice for Peace is the only major American Jewish organization whose core principle is full equality between Palestinians and Israelis. And the need for a strong, Jewish organization that follows its principles and supports nonviolent activism here and in Israel/Palestine is more important than ever.
This is a critical moment: while the right-wing backlash against JVP and those we work with is more vicious than ever before, we know it's because we've never before seen such an opening for change. We must grow our organization and our reach now.
We will not let you down. We will not let Israel and Palestine down – and we will not let the suffering of  Mohammed Shurrab and other parents such as him be in vain.

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