The first half of 2011 has been momentous. We watch from afar in solidarity as people in the Middle East take to the streets with hope and courage, risking their very lives as they demand greater freedom, democracy, and accountability from their leaders.
I did not have the good fortune to meet Rachel Corrie, but as a new board member at the foundation, and a faculty member at The Evergreen State College which Rachel attended, I often wonder what she would have said about this Arab Spring. In 2003, she wrote to her mother Cindy in an email from Rafah,
I think freedom for Palestine could be an incredible source of hope to people struggling all over the world. I think it could also be an incredible inspiration to Arab people in the Middle East, who are struggling under undemocratic regimes which the US supports …
Rachel’s words draw attention to the interconnected political realities of the region, such that pro-democracy movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Syria, and Yemen, make it increasingly difficult for both Arab leaders and the international community to continue to suppress the liberatory aspirations of the people of Palestine.
This coming September, the Palestinian unity government plans to appeal for statehood at the United Nations Security Council, and, if it declares its intention for independence, it will need the support of international civil society to mobilize allies en masse. Today, 106 member countries of the UN officially recognize the state of Palestine; the United States is the only nation among the worldís most populous nations not to do so.
We are acutely aware of the moment of opening and opportunity offered by this Arab Spring – an opportunity for us as US citizens, to support these ongoing efforts to bring peace and justice to the region. As Mark LeVine, professor of history at UC Irvine, states,
The people of the Arab world have begun to do their part. What is necessary now is for citizens in the West to join the fray by taking on their militarized and finance-dominated governments with the same passion as their counterparts from Tunisia to Bahrain have taken on their autocratic systems…
To this end, we share with you our news of on-going projects and plans, inviting you to join the movement calling for a just and peaceful US foreign policy.
In May, RCF representatives attended the Move Over AIPAC conference in Washington DC which coincided with the annual conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Council. Hundreds of demonstrators captured the attention of national media at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out the prospect of a sovereign Palestinian state in his address to the US Congress.
In late June, we helped send off representative members of our community in Olympia on two delegations to Palestine. Richard Lopez, local musician and father of five, joined 50 Americans on the US boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope. The ship’s cargo consisted of over 3000 letters from US citizens to the people of Gaza.
In a second effort, RCF board member Andrew Meyer joined Dr. Susan Greene, Alicia Martinson, Hilary Hacker, and others for the Olympia Rafah Solidarity Mural Project’s MAIA Mural Project, the Gaza installment of The Tale of Two Cities. Delegates travelled at the invitation of Gaza civil society organizations to paint murals on water purification units installed by the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) at local kindergartens and schools, one of which was funded by the Rachel Corrie Foundation.
In August, we plan to continue efforts to promote community development in Gaza by supporting the fourth annual Ramadan Soccer Tournament. This year we would like to thank KinderUSA for their generous contribution.
We are beholden to you, our friends across the states, and ask you to remember the plight of those in Palestine who have bleak prospects for a future under occupation, as we seek your help in our ongoing efforts. We are excited to launch a new monthly giving program that will help us build a foundation of sustainable support. Even a small monthly gift will help us fund our projects throughout the year. Become a monthly donor by visiting our website.
In closing, we thank and celebrate Maya, Zora, Kyra, and Elizabeth, our interns from The Evergreen State College. We are inspired by their spirited commitment to social justice and acknowledge the integral role they have played in all that we have accomplished from Peace Works to this very newsletter!
Salaam, Shalom, Peace,
Board of Directors