Notes on Palestine

Cornel West and James Zogby engages an intense debate on Palestine being included in Democratic Party platform.

Click to Watch

The spirit of Nelson Mandela goes to Palestine.  The Free South Africa Movement becomes present in the apartheid State of Israel.

Click to read

 This is a interesting commentary that appears in Tikkun Magazine.  A Jewish leader rethinks his position on Israel.  A thoughtful piece that illustrates the evolution on this issue.

Click here to Read

On Global African Bill Fletcher talks with Rev. Hagler about the Pope’s visit, Rev. Hagler’s disinvite from Rochester, New York and the situation in Burkina Faso.

(Click here to view)

An Article from the United Church of Christ News on Rev. Hagler’s Rochester speaking Engagement.

(Read the UCC News Article)

The article from Mondoweiss that reported on Rev. Hagler’s dis-invitation from Rochester.

(Read the article by clicking here)

Many thanks to Jewish Voice for Peace for their support in Rochester and across the country.

(Read JVP reporting on my speech in Rochester)

UCC Votes For Divestment, Boycott Of Companies That Profit From Occupation Of Palestinian Territories

(Read More Here)

Archbishop Desmond Tutu urges the United Church of Christ to pass its resolution to Boycott and Divest from supporting the occupation of Palestine.

(Read More Here)

A Dynamic Read from a Recent Black Youthful Delegation

Since I traveled to Palestine last January 2014 there have been a number of Black delegations going there to investigate for themselves.  One of the Brothers with us last January has a dynamic blog and highlights one such delegation.  February 25 marked a horrific anniversary in Hebron and that was a massacre carried our in the Mosque where Abraham is considered to be buried.  Read the story by clicking here.

Since My Trip Last January 2014

Many things have happened in the public discourse, on the ground in Palestine/Israel and within the faith community. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is picking up steam.  The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to join in with the movement last Summer.  The United Church of Christ has passed numerous resolutions and will vote on one in the Summer of 2015.  We have had discussions in church.  The war in Gaza broke out after escalating violence between Jewish settlers and Palestinians.  One of the things that causes me grief is that our news on the issues of Palestine/Israel are always so biased towards Israel and leaves out tremendous historical references that the US population ends up being sympathetic towards Israel because of limited facts and faulty assertions by those who appear to be objective but are not.  For example during the recent Gaza conflict the Netanyahu government kept making reference to “terror tunnels,” while conveniently leaving out the fact that there had been an absolute blockade of Gaza by sea, air and land carried out by Israel.  This siege had been in effect for seven years, and the network of tunnels that were built up over time smuggled food, medicine, building supplies, and other necessities including weaponry, and therefore are considered by many to have been “survival tunnels.” The words that are used often hide the facts.  For example, the recent brutal attack against worshippers and Rabbis in a synagogue in Jerusalem was very shocking and horrifying and the violence cannot be excused or justified; but there is a context where on October 30, 2014 Israel’s military barred worshippers from the second holiest site for Muslims, the “Dome of the Rock.”  Jewish settlers are trying to worship on the site in an effort to seize all of Jerusalem including its holy sites.  One provocation leads to another, and the cycle of violence continues to spiral out of control.  You cannot condemn Palestinians without condemnation for Israeli leaders who relish in inflaming the situation because as they inflame it Israel can continue to be the aggressor and oppressor while playing the victim!  Or another thing to think about is how can a Jewish, Christian or Muslim state ever be a democracy?  By the very definition of being Jewish, Christian or Muslim it leaves out of the equation those people who may not be of those faith perspectives.  We should be trying to nurture pluralism and not diminish it.  Please be open minded as the media reports the so-called news; read between the lines; and ask yourself whether what is being presented stands up to reason and logic.

Reverend Hagler is in Palestine

Rev. Hagler is traveling in Palestine from January 3 until January 13, 2014.  The mission of the journey is to learn more about the Palestinian struggle and to offer insights to the dynamics and nuances of the struggle that is going on there.  The first day was spent in East Jerusalem (East Jerusalem is Palestinian and West is Israeli with the Israeli confiscating property in East Jerusalem) meeting with resistance organizations to the occupation.  This page will share snippets of interviews and sights.

One of the things to get use to is the subtle methods of dispossession that is being experienced by Palestinians.  It is done in such a way by the Israeli government that it appears on the surface to be done under the guise of the law.  But the law is something difficult to overcome when legal protections apply to Israelis but not to Palestinians.  For example, Israelis are allowed to produce an unverifiable claim on the land, and those claims are upheld in court and when that happens police and soldiers arrive to remove Palestinians from their homes and to give those homes to Israelis.  There is no recourse available for Palestinians.  One of the groups we visited with was a group that continues to produce films about the resistance to Israeli occupation and thuggery.  One such film is “My Neighbourhood,” and shows the aggression of Israeli “settlers,” and the merciless dynamic that Palestinians endure. Click here to see the film.

Some of the producers of the film are pictured here:

The young man in the film is taller and older but he is working with his neighbors and family to preserve and protect his community.  He is also a word artist and a video clip is below of him reciting outside of his home.

January 6, 2014 Was Orthodox Christmas Eve

It is pretty amazing to be in Bethlehem on Orthodox Christmas Eve.  The town of Bethlehem was alive with anticipation and excitement.  The Patriarch of the Orthodox church was due in town to begin the celebrations of Christmas. In this town known as the site of the birth of Christ there was no other place to be on such an auspicious occasion.  But the first thing we were met coming from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was a “so-called” security gate that we had to pass through and the larger than life “so-called” security wall.  The wall that surrounds Bethlehem reminds you of the wall surrounding a prison.  There are sniper towers and at times barbed wire on top of the wall, and you quickly get the feeling that you are locked in a prison yard rather than in a scared place.  The people in the “little town of Bethlehem” are in a open air prison by any definition.  It is a prison imposed on them by the Israeli government limiting movement out of the town, and controlling resources like water, access to hospitals, and employment.  Still there is a spirit of resistance to the wall of shame, the indignity that it causes, and the difficult life that it imposes.  All along the wall there are signs of resistance, hope, challenge, and the will to over come this wall of shame and genocide.  Below are some pictures, thoughts and slogans Palestinians and supporters have placed on the wall.

In the afternoon we went to the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem.  There are houses there, so do not get the image in your minds of tents, but the area is tight and small, consisting of a series of alleyways and homes on top of one another.  But the streets are alive with the sounds of children; the games of children; and the amazing resiliency that is captured by the spirit of children.  Though we were in the refugee camp of Aida we went to a private home for lunch.  In The house of Islam we found a collective of women working with special needs children, and demonstrating the hospitality of a people who really knows what hospitality should look and feel like.  Over conversation and delicious food we were filled to continue seeing the camp and the many people and faces that wanted us to see and understand.  It is truly shameful, sinful, and illegal what the Israeli government has wrought here.  It reminded me of what I know of the Warsaw Ghettos in World War II, but the difference is that these are Palestinians and their oppressors are Israelis.  How easy it seems to do to others what was done to you, yet there is no excuse or justification.

Orthodox Christmas Day – January 7, 2014

We traveled in and around Bethlehem, and more precisely to Beit Jala where the agricultural lands are being threatened because of the Separation Wall.  As we drove we saw expansive terrace farms; farms on the hillside where olive trees and other kinds of fruit trees have been grown for centuries.  I listened to stories of farmers who have had their lands confiscated or seriously limited by the construction of the wall which serves no real purpose but to separate farmers from their livelihoods and to frustrate the existence of families.  From the Cremisan Valley we went to the adjacent town of Walajeh and met with Mr. Abu Nidal whose family had been farming in this area for as far back as he can remember and whose stories of presence on this land stretches back into the midst of time.  However Mr. Nidal’s land was confiscated because of the Separation Wall and he is separated from his ancestral land.  Not only is he separated from his ancestral lands, but the graves of his parents lie on the other side of the designation for the Separation Wall.  In a rare compromise, but with little victory the Israeli Government as provided a small walking tunnel so that Mr. Nidal can visit from time to time his parents graves.  When one listens to the callous ways in which land is taken and the kinds of exclusionary rules that Palestinians live under it is not too hard to understand that the small concession of a tunnel to visit graves can be revoked at any time.  Mr. Nidal, though he is facing great difficult showed to us wonderful and warm hospitality by making lunch for us in his home.  It was powerful to see such welcome and grace under such hostile pressure.  See a story about Mr. Abu Nidal.

 If anyone at this point who does not understand that the Separation Wall separates Palestinian from Israeli, Palestinians from their lands, and even Palestinians from their homes the idea of apartness is truly confirmed with White license plates for the Palestinians that restrict their movement in the country, and Yellow license plates for Israelis who can go anywhere that they choose. At age 16 all Palestinians are required to register for an identification cards and that card restricts accessibility and movement.  Furthermore there are roads and by-pass roads for Israelis ONLY, and glaring signs that warn Israelis about going onto certain roads and neighborhoods at risk of danger to their lives.  This red sign speaks to the world in prejudicial language that “Palestinians are dangerous” and therefore what the Israeli government wants you to believe that any oppression against Palestinians is justified.



That evening, tired and reflective I walked from the hotel to Manger Square to witness some of the remaining lights and sights of Orthodox Christmas.

January 9, 2014 We are now in Ramallah

In Ramallah we met with numbers of people and groups.  One group was “Love in the Time of Apartheid.”  This group is engaged in pointing out the discriminatory laws in Israel pertaining to marriage and couples being able to live together.  Since the occupation is all about land and borders and the issues of marriage becomes a “cross-border” event and often couples are prevented from marrying because of the lost of residency cards or the family property being viewed as abandoned and therefore confiscated.  You can read more about their activities by clicking here.

We also met with the BDS movement of Palestine.  “BDS” means “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.”  It advocates putting economic pressure on Israel and the occupation by boycotting goods, services, and businesses that advances the sad legacy of occupation here in this Holy but defiled land.  I have here a 20 minute discussion by the BDS movement in Palestine and you are invited to listen in. You can also learn more about the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement by clicking here.

January 11, 2014 – African Refugee Rally in Tel Aviv

It was truly interesting to me to see so many African faces concentrated in the neighborhood of South Tel Aviv.  When I was here last in 1974 there was not a Black face to be seen.  Today this neighborhood is teeming with people from Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia.  Each of these groups have come from war torn countries seeking asylum, but the Israeli government arrests and holds them trying to figure out what to do with the growing ranks.  Since I have been here the Africans have been engaged in massive street demonstrations and marches decrying the conditions that they are facing in Israel.  They have been on strike for the last seven days.  As I arrived this morning I saw a Coptic priest making his rounds in Levinsky park to one gathered cluster after another.  He prayed with the people and he preached to the people.  It seems that the churches have joined in with the strike cancelling Christmas services in order to march, minister, and stand in solidarity with the people.  There are upwards of 40,000 African refugees in this neighborhood facing the same plight as Palestinians of being brutalized and relegated to non-personhood by the Israeli government.

There are many things that I want to share with you, but I will not while I am still in this place.  As I prepare to return home I am engaged in packing, praying, and as I journey home my heart and spirit will be with the people of Plymouth and Reston as you share in the Lord’s day.  It has been an enlightening and also difficult trip.  Things are not good in the Holy Land.  There is tremendous suffering; great humiliation being meted out to Palestinians and Africans; and there are assaults being carried out officially and unofficially everyday.  In the memory of Nelson Mandala we must work to end this apartheid and fascism.

The Mosque in Hebron

The Ibrahim Mosque or the Mosque of Abraham is a place in the village of Hebron where tradition says the Patriarch Abraham is buried along with Isaac.  It is a beautiful mosque; very aesthetically pleasing.  It is located just outside the old city’s marketplace.  The town would be a lovely representation of the old world if it were not for abundant and menacing Israeli military presence.  The serenity of the mosque also masks the horrifying history that now is part of this town and mosque.  In 1994 a “Israeli” settler from one of the right-wing groups made his way into the mosque and killed 29 people and wounded over 100.  (Click here for more information on the attack).   As a consequence half of the mosque was converted into a synagogue and the presence of the military is to guard the so-called “settlers” who have moved deeply into Palestinian territory where “settlers” carry out attacks against Palestinians on almost a daily basis.  I have prepared a short video tape that shows the inside of the mosque.

 

As Our delegation returns home and process the impact of the sights and sounds of being in Palestine the spirits of each who were a part of the delegation continue to evaluate what their eyes saw and hearts experienced.  I can say that it was a talented group of individuals on our delegation that challenged each of us to see things with the expressions and gifts that members of the delegation possessed.  One of these individuals who shared in the experience along with me was Jasiri X, a word artist who put his experiences to music and lyrics.  I would like to share his newly released video with you.

Ferrari Sheppard was also on our delegation, and he is an incredible writer, deep thinker and is very perceptive in his understanding of the issues that people experience and feel.  Brother Sheppard has shared an important piece on his experience in Palestine.  You can read it by clicking here.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. led the delegation that I participated in to Palestine.  He was interviewed on the Tavis Smiley Show.

13 thoughts on “Notes on Palestine

  1. Reverend Hagler,
    Your account of your travels to Bethlehem are heart-wrenching and intelligent. I received a very clear picture of the ghettos and the people of Palestine. A few years ago, in my mind this would seem unfathomable. Hopefully you will make some inroads. I don’t blame the Israeli people as much as I blame the government. They have no conscience. I am sure that the Palestinians would be willing to live peacefully in an autonomous state with no retribution. The Israelis fear only what is due them(karma) but I think all the Palestinians want is to live in peace. It really sounds like a prison and I can see how just witnessing that could totally deflate your energy. God bless you again for your efforts. I truly sincerely mean that. Peace be with you, Kimberley

    1. I listened to the Roundtable discussion and it was very enlightening. I can really appreciate the efforts of the BDS and I can see where they are very viable. As I was listening I was thinking about how dormant this world has been in the wake of this tragedy in the Holy Land. Sixty years is a long time.
      As the tape went on there was more mention of the solidarity from trade unions in both South Africa and Brazil. That really caused me to smile . In my heart I was smiling. I know you are getting ready to head back today (Saturday). Have a safe trip and God bless you. You will be in my prayers until you arrive safely at home. I will see you in church on the last Sunday of January. Sincerely, Kimberley

  2. To watch you follow your heart to do God’s will for your life is itself inspirational. I am
    so proud of your ability to have this experience which I have only heard and read about.
    It appears to me that Palestinian desolation and oppression are reminiscent of U.S.
    slavery and subsequent tactics of justification for the inhumane regard and treatment
    of fellow humans who really are members of the one human family. May God help us to
    show the love we profess to possess and forgive our haughty arrogance toward others
    for whatever insignificant reasons we create. II Chronicles 7:14 deserves our immediate
    study and sincere application – every single one of us with no exceptions.
    May God bless you in the application of your new discoveries, Rev. Hagler.

  3. Rev. G, I look forward to your report back about your trip to Palestine; all the more reason we should pull back together our beloved Palestine Work Group, start meeting regularly again and have the solidarity with Palestine conference sometime in 2014.

    I look forward to all of us organizing a powerful, engaging, courageous conference.

    “For a zionist-free Palestine!” 🙂

    1. It’s amazing Rev. Hagler that they allowed you to film inside the mosque! I would like to hear more about it when we meet again. Peace, Kimberley

  4. I am really astounded at the brutality. Wow. I knew it was bad but this film really brings it home. How can this go on in modern society totally unchecked. Look at the institutions who are entrusted to protect us. Where are they? I don’t know any other
    country that exercises this kind of brutality daily during peacetime and its happening in the Holy Land. We have got to put pressure on our elected officials and Congress to do something. You heard the State of the Union address by our President of our undying loyalty towards Israel!!???!!

  5. Hola! I’ve been reading your site for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the good work!

  6. Rev. Graylan. Thank you so much for teaching us humanity and standing by the right side, the Palestinians. I am motivated and inspired by what you write. Please keep up the great work.

    Best Regards,
    JD

  7. I am deeply saddened, as one of your Jewish neighbors that you do not accurately report the situation in Israel and the Palestinians Authority. First, Gaza is not under a total blockade. Goods and food come in from Israel, and Gazans are allowed to seek medical care in Israel. Second, the separation barrier (some wall, mostly fence) went up in response to the horrifying suicide attacks against Israeli civilians – more than 1100 were killed between 2000-2005, see http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Terrorism/victims.html.
    That you give a “yes but” justification to the rabbis massacred last November is nauseating. I can assure you that Al-Aqsa on the Temple Mount is usually open and only closed if there’s fear of a riot. You should also know that the Arab press issues “Al-Aqsa is in danger” stories when Jews go up to the Temple Mount, where they are not allowed to pray, BTW. Can you imagine what it feels like to not be able to pray in Bethlehem?

    Please, get your facts straight. Please be honest with your self too. You hate Jews. Even if some of your best friends are Jews, you still hate them. Anyone of faith who can excuse the killing of spiritual leaders of another faith hates members of that faith.

    1. Dear Kelly:
      I know the difficulty in seeing with open eyes particularly in a charged arena. People have been attacked for challenging Israel and its treatment of Palestnians. These tactics have thwarted open and productive discourse. I certainly remember when people were attacked for challenging South Africa. I pray that eyes will be opened and we might all recognize humanity and the need for justice. However justice is not found by denying that injustice exist. You assertion about my hatred does not warrant a response.

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