October 17, 2012

Meeting with Sabeel: Women's Voices

by Laura Branca

On Monday, October 15, the DCI Delegation met with leaders of Sabeel: Ms Cedar Duaibis, who is one of the distinguished contributors to the Kairos Palestine document (the Christian Palestinians' word to the world about what is happening in Palestine) Ms. Salwa Duaibis, a passionate advocate at the Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), and attorney Gerard Horton, whose focus is on children prosecuted in the Israeli Military Court.

Sabeel is "an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology center and movement among Palestinian Christians started in 1993. Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on justice, peace, non-violence, liberation, and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. The word 'Sabeel" is Arabic for 'the way' and also a 'channel' or 'spring' of life-giving water. Sabeel also works to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns."

Cedar Duaibis gave us a truly riveting introduction to Sabeel's liberation theology and an analysis of the catastrophic impacts of the occupation on Palestinians in terms of the material loss of their property, the loss of their identity as a people connected to their land, a theological loss which has necessitated a new understanding of the scriptures through the eyes of the Palestinian people, and the renewal of a faith that supports their work for justice and their refusal to accept the disasters they are experiencing as their fate.

Salwa Duaibis is working tirelessly on behalf of Palestinian women who bear an unusually heavy burden under occupation. She wrote to us, following up on some of the most poignant and sobering information she shared with us during our conversation with Sabeel. Here, with deep appreciation, is her letter:

Dear All,

It was a real pleasure meeting you all at Sabeel yesterday afternoon. Thank you so much for listening so passionately and for taking the time to find out the truth about this troubled part of the world. It means a lot to us to have people like you. Please keep us in your prayers, we badly need it.

Yesterday I talked a little bit about the work I do with Palestinian women. I am pleased to let you know that today the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) released a new report - Women's Voices: Glimpses of Life Under Occupation.  The report seeks to illustrate some of the day-to-day challenges faced by Palestinians living under prolonged military occupation through the eyes of ordinary women who struggle, on a daily basis, to cope with an extraordinary situation. The report includes 14 testimonies from women who describe the sense of intimidation felt by their families due to repeated night-time raids in which soldiers break into their houses, and even their bedrooms, simply because they dare to assert their legitimate rights to self-determination.   The women also describe the sense of fear and insecurity they experience as a result of attacks by armed Israeli civilians who live in illegal settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Other women describe how Palestinian society living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip is coming under increasing pressure in the form of severe building restrictions and property destruction, an economic blockade and freedom of movement limitations which affect everything from where they can live, where they can study, and even who they can marry.

Also included in the report are two testimonies from Israeli soldiers, provided by the Israeli organisation, Breaking the Silence, that graphically illustrate the corrosive nature of Israel’s prolonged military occupation on everybody who comes in contact with it.  These are the stories that rarely make the headlines, but are nonetheless noteworthy because they are part-and-parcel of everyday life, and illustrate the practices and policies that have been implemented by the Israeli military and civilian authorities for nearly a half-century in a relentless effort to squeeze the Palestinian people into an ever shrinking space, whilst denying them their basic civil and political rights. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Best regards,

Salwa Duaibis
Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC)
International Advocacy Programme

Who Are the Delegates?

We have been asked to share who is on this important delegation.  Following are bios of the participants:

Dorothy Cotton Institute
Civil Rights Leaders Delegation to the West Bank

Dorothy Cotton: One of the most important unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement and close associate and colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a member of his executive staff and of his entourage to Oslo, Norway where he received the Nobel Peace Prize. For 12 years, she served as the Education Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, providing leadership for the Education Progam, a critical component of the SCLC 's overall strategy that helped ordinary people, learn their civil rights and craft courageous strategies for organizing communities and speaking truth to power. Ms. Cotton’s lifework based on the philosophy and practices of nonviolence, reconciliation and restoration, and leadership development, offers models for human rights education and transformative practice, upon which the Dorothy Cotton Institute builds.

Vincent Harding: Historian, activist, author, friend and colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Harding was a leader in the Civil Rights movement. He and his wife founded Mennonite House, an interracial community service center and retreat space for Civil Rights activists. They traveled throughout the South, working with organizations including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Congress of Racial Equality. He taught nonviolence, mentored activists, seeking pathways to racial reconciliation, justice and hope. Dr. Harding drafted several of Dr. King’s speeches including the groundbreaking Anti-Vietnam War speech, "A Time to Break Silence," which Dr. King delivered on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City, exactly a year before he was assassinated.

Dr. Clayborne Carson: Professor of History and Director, Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. In 1985, the late Coretta Scott King selected Dr. Carson to edit and publish the papers of Martin Luther King Jr. He has devoted his life to studying the life and teachings of Dr. King and the movements he inspired, producing six volumes of a definitive edition of King’s speeches, sermons, correspondence, publications and unpublished writings. Dr. Carson has written a play about Dr. King that has been translated into several languages. In 2010, Dr. Carson’s play about Dr. King was performed in Arabic in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank.

Richard Deats: A United Methodist Minister, worked for the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) from 1972 until his retirement in 2005 serving the organization in different capacities: executive secretary, director of interfaith activities, editor of Fellowship magazine and coordinator of communications.  He has taught nonviolence in over a dozen countries and has participated in peace efforts in several countries, including Iraq, Palestine, Burma, and the Philippines. Since his college days he has been active in the Civil Rights Movement.  He is the author of several books including Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Led Prophet.

Jeff Furman: Chair of the Ben & Jerry’s Corporate Board and trustee of the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation.  In these capacities he has led many of the company’s social mission initiatives. He is a long time community activist on issues of justice including workers rights, educational equity and environmental justice.  He is also on the Oakland Institute and Funders Network on Transforming the Global Economy boards.

Alan Gilbert: is a longstanding anti-war and anti-racist activist. He is a John Evans Professor of International Studies at the University of Denver, teaches seminars about non-violence and Socrates as a pioneer of civil disobedience.  He has written Marx's Politics:Communists and Citizens, Democratic Individuality, Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy?, and most recently, Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War of Independence, He also writes a blog. He lives with his wife Paula Bard and his son Sage in the mountains near Denver.

Robert L. Harris, Jr.: Vice Provost Emeritus, Director of the Africana Studies and Research Center, and Professor of African American History at Cornell University. Dr. Harris has been a Rockefeller Humanities Fellow at the State University of New York – Buffalo; W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Fellow at Harvard University; Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow; Rockefeller Research Fellow, and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow. He is a nationally renowned scholar of African American History and author of more than sixty published articles, book chapters, and dictionary entries.

Sara Hess: Social worker in non-profit and government services for children and family support for over 30 years, teacher, currently community activist working to prevent shale gas extraction (fracking) in NY. Lives in Ithaca, NY with partner, Jeff Furman.

Aljosie Aldrich Knight: A native of the African American community of Salisbury, N. C, has spent the past half century working in Africa and America on the vital tasks of bringing individuals and communities together across racial, cultural and national lines. She began her career  as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa in  1962.  Later she served  on the staff of the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta, GA,  and then worked for more than 25 years as a community activist  in  rural north Georgia communities.   She now travels across the country engaging  in conversations around the issue  of how we develop children and young people who can make significant contributions to the creation of a spiritually-grounded, compassionate  and just multicultural America.   Her passion for peace, justice, and building “a more perfect Union”  are fueled by her concerns for children throughout the world  as well as her own eight grandchildren.

Reverend Carolyn McKinstry: Life-long member of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Reverend McKinstry was present on September 15 1963, when white racists bombed the church killing four of her friends. As a teenager, she participated in mass meetings and rallies and was among thousands of students hosed by firemen during the 1963 marches. Rev. McKinstry has devoted her life to community service, serves on many community boards and is President of the Board of the Sixteenth Street Foundation.

Paula M. Rayman: Director of the Middle East Center for Peace, Development and Culture and Director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at University of Massachusetts Lowell where she is also a Full Professor of Sociology.  She is a Senior Fulbright Scholar focusing on the project “Beyond Coexistence" examining social and economic requirements for sustainable peace in the Israel/Palestine region.  Professor Rayman is an internationally recognized scholar on issues of nonviolence and social change, advancing women in Science and Technology arenas, and creation of healthy workplaces. Her numerous published works include, " Beyond the Bottom Line: The Search for Dignity at Work", “The Equity Equation", and " Nonviolent Action and Social Change"  She resides in Watertown, Massachusetts with her husband  and is a mother of two daughters and grandmother of two.

Alice Rothchild: Physician, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates; Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rothchild co-founded and co-chairs American Jews for a Just Peace (AJJP) – Boston and co-organized the AJJP Health and Human Rights Project. She is the author of Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience, is active in the Boston Workmen’s Circle and sings in its Yiddish chorus, A Besere Velt (A Better World).

Dr. James Turner:
Founder/Director of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Professor (Emeritus) of African and African American Studies at Cornell University since 1969. He has been engaged in international social justice issues for more than 30 years as chairperson of the North American delegation to the 6th Pan African Conference, national organizer of the anti-apartheid campaign, founding member of the board of directors of TransAfrica-African foreign policy lobby, co-convenor of the International Consortium for Peace in the Middle East.

Young Human Rights Leaders:

Rabbi Joseph Berman was ordained by the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College in 2010. An alumni of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, he serves an unaffiliated congregation outside of Boston. Rabbi Berman has spent a number of years living in Israel/Palestine, studying and working alongside the Palestinian and Israeli movement for peace, justice, and equality. He is currently the Chair of the Boston chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Rev. Lucas Johnson lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He serves on the National Council of the U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation, the International Committee of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the board of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.

Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou: author, documentary filmmaker, public intellectual, organizer, pastor and theologian. Considered one of the foremost religious leaders of his generation, Rev. Sekou is the founding Senior Minister of The Freedom Church of New York City. As an "International Ambassador" for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Rev. Sekou is a statesman for peace and justice throughout world. Recognizing his distinguished work as public scholar and intellectual, the Institute for Policy Studies, the nation's oldest multi-issue progressive think tank in Washington, D.C., appointed Rev. Sekou as the first Associate Fellow in Religion and Justice. nation's oldest multi-issue progressive think tank in Washington, D.C., appointed Rev. Sekou as the first Associate Fellow in Religion and Justice.

DCI Fellows:

Kirby Edmonds: Director of the Dorothy Cotton Institute and  managing partner of TFC Associates, a human relations training and consulting firm based in Ithaca, New York. Kirby is a management consultant, mediator and trainer with experience in the areas of team-building, supervisory issues, building and valuing diversity in the workplace, cultural competence as well as managing conflict and stress in the work environment. He helped design and facilitates “Talking Circles on Race and Racism” for the Multicultural Resource Center in Ithaca, and trained over thirty-five volunteer Talking Circle facilitators. Talking Circles promote racial understanding, healing and reconciliation.

Laura Ward Branca is a managing partner of Training for Change, With her partner, Kirby Edmonds, TFC provides consulting and customized interactive training to local, national and international organizations–business, unions, government, educational, not-for-profits and grassroots groups. Laura is the Board President of Moosewood, Inc. and has been a co-owner since 1980. She has co-authored nine of their twelve cookbooks. Bon Apetit Magazine named Moosewood “one of the thirteen most influential restaurants of the 20th Century.” Moosewood has a long history of supporting organizations committed to community service, health, education, social change and the arts.  Laura designs and leads the Multicultural Resource Center’s Talking Circles on Race and Racism and other safe, respectful dialogues on diversity and inclusion for the community, Cornell, Ithaca City School District, Tompkins County and City of Ithaca governments.

Margo Hittleman: Co-founder and Senior Fellow, Dorothy Cotton Institute, and co-founder and coordinator, Natural Leaders Initiative. Margo is an educator, writer, and community-builder who designs and leads programs on grassroots/civic leadership and leadership development; diversity and inclusion; human rights; social and organizational change; alliance-building, university-community and school-community partnerships, participatory action research; and evaluation. She is involved with many of DCI’s educational programs and  coordinates the DCI Research and Documentation Team. She grew up on Long Island, lived in Israel from 1979-1980, moved to Ithaca, N.Y. to go to college, and has lived there ever since. When she’s not working in the community, she and her partner grow most of their own fruit & vegetables on their “micro-farm” 10 miles outside Ithaca and dance as often as they can.
Trip Leaders:

Rabbi Brian Walt: DCI Palestinian/Israeli Nonviolence Project Fellow. Former executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights - North America. Rabbi, Congregation Tikkun v’Or, Ithaca, N.Y. Rabbi Walt is a life-long advocate of justice and peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He is Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia, PA, an activist synagogue founded in 1988. He has lived in Israel and has led several groups on trips to Israel and the West Bank.  He is the co-founder of Taanit Tzedek –Jewish Fast for Gaza.  Born in Cape Town, South Africa, he was a student activist in the anti Apartheid movement. He has also been involved in the Sanctuary movement, the National Religious Campaign against Torture, and campaigns for economic justice. 

Allie Perry: Board member Interfaith Peace Builders Project, Allie is the IFPB leader for the trip.  Allie is an ordained United Church of Christ minister, living in New Haven. Currently she is a lecturer in Pastoral Care and Psychology at Yale Divinity School and also a pastoral counselor with the Milford Pastoral Counseling Center.  Allie is the worship coordinator for Shalom United Church of Christ very small, low-budget, congregation committed to non-violence and peace and justice.  She serves on the board of the National Religious Campaign against Torture and the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty. Over the years she has been active in Central America solidarity work and disarmament.  She lives with her spouse, Charlie Pillsbury, and has four young adult step-children, one step-grandchild, and a dog. 

Documentary Filmmaker

donnie I. betts:  Over20 years of experience in theatre, film, radio and video.  He is the founding member of two theatre companies in Denver, has performed on Broadway and in many regional theatre productions and has directed over 25 stage productions.  Betts is an award winning filmmaker who directed, co-produced and acted in the documentary, “Dearfield, A Road Less Traveled, a film about an African-American town in Colorado. Betts has won numerous film and theatre directing awards.

Delegate Support

Marne O'Shae: Family medicine physician who will be accompanying the delegation. She graduated from Upstate Medical College and completed a family medicine residency at Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington, VT. She has been a practicing family medicine physician in Ithaca since 2003, where she met Dorothy Cotton and became her friend. She celebrates Dorothy's vision of the transformative power of community, especially through shared stories and song.