Rochester Area Youth Rally For Peace in the Middle East

WHO: Rochester area youth

WHAT: Rally for Peace in the Middle East

WHEN: 4:00 PM on Thursday, January 9th, 2020

WHERE: Federal Building (100 State St., Rochester, NY)


Hridesh Singh | [email protected] | (585) 975-9591

Alyssa Hoadley | [email protected] | (585) 469-5143

Rochester Area Youth Rally For Peace in the Middle East

    Local youth activists, supported by local organizations, will hold a rally for “Peace in the Middle East” on Thursday, January 9th, 2020 outside of 100 State St., Rochester, NY. The rally comes in response to U.S. President Donald Trump approving the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and deploying over 3,500 U.S. troops to the region earlier this week.

    In addition to calling for the immediate recall of the recently deployed troops, the student organizers call on Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-NY), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to support the legislation submitted by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that pushes to block any funding for a war with Iran. These students view that a war with Iran would put thousands of American and Iranian lives at risk and further destabilize the region already fraught with violence.

Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World by Naomi Klein

‘The connection between water and heat stress and conflict is a recurring, intensifying pattern: all along the aridity line you see places marked by drought, water scarcity, scorching temperatures and military conflict – from Libya to Palestine, to some of the bloodiest battlefields in Afghanistan and Pakistan.’ Naomi Klein delivered the annual Edward Said London Lecture, from which this essay is adapted. You can watch the lecture on the LRB website too.

Read the original, or listen to the podcast, at the London Review of Books. Below are the first few paragraphs.

Edward Said was no tree-hugger. Descended from traders, artisans and professionals, he once described himself as ‘an extreme case of an urban Palestinian whose relationship to the land is basically metaphorical’. In After the Last Sky, his meditation on the photographs of Jean Mohr, he explored the most intimate aspects of Palestinian lives, from hospitality to sports to home décor. The tiniest detail – the placing of a picture frame, the defiant posture of a child – provoked a torrent of insight from Said. Yet when confronted with images of Palestinian farmers – tending their flocks, working the fields – the specificity suddenly evaporated. Which crops were being cultivated? What was the state of the soil? The availability of water? Nothing was forthcoming. ‘I continue to perceive a population of poor, suffering, occasionally colourful peasants, unchanging and collective,’ Said confessed. This perception was ‘mythic’, he acknowledged – yet it remained.

If farming was another world for Said, those who devoted their lives to matters like air and water pollution appear to have inhabited another planet. Speaking to his colleague Rob Nixon, he once described environmentalism as ‘the indulgence of spoiled tree-huggers who lack a proper cause’. But the environmental challenges of the Middle East are impossible to ignore for anyone immersed, as Said was, in its geopolitics. This is a region intensely vulnerable to heat and water stress, to sea-level rise and to desertification. A recent paper in Nature Climate Change predicts that, unless we radically lower emissions and lower them fast, large parts of the Middle East will likely ‘experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans’ by the end of this century. And that’s about as blunt as climate scientists get. Yet environmental issues in the region still tend to be treated as afterthoughts, or luxury causes. The reason is not ignorance, or indifference. It’s just bandwidth. Climate change is a grave threat but the most frightening impacts are in the medium term. And in the short term, there are always far more pressing threats to contend with: military occupation, air assault, systemic discrimination, embargo. Nothing can compete with that – nor should it attempt to try.

There are other reasons why environmentalism might have looked like a bourgeois playground to Said. The Israeli state has long coated its nation-building project in a green veneer – it was a key part of the Zionist ‘back to the land’ pioneer ethos. And in this context trees, specifically, have been among the most potent weapons of land grabbing and occupation. It’s not only the countless olive and pistachio trees that have been uprooted to make way for settlements and Israeli-only roads. It’s also the sprawling pine and eucalyptus forests that have been planted over those orchards, as well as over Palestinian villages, most notoriously by the Jewish National Fund, which, under its slogan ‘Turning the Desert Green’, boasts of having planted 250 million trees in Israel since 1901, many of them non-native to the region. In publicity materials, the JNF bills itself as just another green NGO, concerned with forest and water management, parks and recreation. It also happens to be the largest private landowner in the state of Israel, and despite a number of complicated legal challenges, it still refuses to lease or sell land to non-Jews.

I grew up in a Jewish community where every occasion – births and deaths, Mother’s Day, bar mitzvahs – was marked with the proud purchase of a JNF tree in the person’s honour. It wasn’t until adulthood that I began to understand that those feel-good faraway conifers, certificates for which papered the walls of my Montreal elementary school, were not benign – not just something to plant and later hug. In fact these trees are among the most glaring symbols of Israel’s system of official discrimination – the one that must be dismantled if peaceful co-existence is to become possible.

The JNF is an extreme and recent example of what some call ‘green colonialism’. But the phenomenon is hardly new, nor is it unique to Israel. There is a long and painful history in the Americas of beautiful pieces of wilderness being turned into conservation parks – and then that designation being used to prevent Indigenous people from accessing their ancestral territories to hunt and fish, or simply to live. It has happened again and again. A contemporary version of this phenomenon is the carbon offset. Indigenous people from Brazil to Uganda are finding that some of the most aggressive land grabbing is being done by conservation organisations. A forest is suddenly rebranded a carbon offset and is put off-limits to its traditional inhabitants. As a result, the carbon offset market has created a whole new class of ‘green’ human rights abuses, with farmers and Indigenous people being physically attacked by park rangers or private security when they try to access these lands. Said’s comment about tree-huggers should be seen in this context.

Read the rest, or listen to the podcast, at the London Review of Books


In March of 2015, the Cassel’s, working with American Friends Service Committee and Defense for Children International Palestine, traveled to the West Bank to record the stories of four youth who experienced detention by Israeli Defense Forces. From these recordings, Amr Kawji and Nawal Musleh developed the film Detaining Dreams. This presentation will explore what occurs to these youth after “the knock on the door by the IDF.

For more information on this campaign please visit­dreams/

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

2:00­ 4:00 pm
Islamic Center of Rochester, 727 Westfall Road Rochester, NY 14620

Speakers: John and Joyce Cassel, volunteers with the World Council of Churches’ Accompaniment Program in Palestine (EAPPI).

Sponsors: Christians Witnessing for Palestine; Islamic Center of Rochester

Contact: Ron Johnson: Email (585) 967­4946

Witness Palestine Film Series Press Release 2013

WPFS 2013 flier

About the Witness Palestine Film Series

The Witness Palestine Film Series grew from the experiences of individuals in the Rochester area who traveled to the Middle East and were moved by what they saw and heard. The films being screened this year were selected from over 50 documentaries and narrative films. These are compelling films which illustrate the realities on the ground in both the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.

A group of diverse panelists, most with firsthand experience of the conflict, will lead discussions after each screening.

Witness Palestine Film Series – Schedule for 2013

Sunday, September 8: 5 Broken Cameras [2012 Academy Award Nominee]

Monday, September 9:  The Law in These Parts

Sunday, September 15:  Jerusalem: The East Side Story

Sunday, September 15:  Follow the Money

Monday, September 16:  The People and the Olive

Sunday, September 22:  Two-Sided Story

Monday, September 23: Going Against the Grain [at St. John Fisher College]

More about the Films

5 Broken Cameras – September 8 at 2:00 pm

The documentary is a deeply personal, first-hand account of life and non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village located next to Israeli settlements (Google map). Filmed by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, Gibreel, the film was co-directed by Burnat and Guy Davidi, an Israeli filmmaker.

Structured in chapters around the destruction of each one of Burnat’s five cameras, the filmmakers’ collaboration follows one family’s evolution over five years of village upheaval. As the years pass in front of the camera, we witness Gibreel grow from a newborn baby into a young boy who observes the world unfolding around him with the astute powers of perception that only children possess. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost in this cinematic diary and unparalleled record of life in the West Bank.

The Law in These Parts – September 9 at 6:45 pm

What is legal and what is just? The wide gap between the two is explored meticulously by this Israeli investigation of the legal structure created after the 1967 Six Days War, specifically to treat the West Bank and Gaza Strip as occupied territories.

Speaking with some of Israel’s most respected lawyers and judges – men who helped to craft and later interpret these laws – filmmaker Ra’anan Alexandrowicz asks tough, pointed questions and gets even tougher answers. He asks his subjects to consider the consequences of their actions in a highly politicized environment. This documentary takes the position that unjust laws create unjust realities. Laws that everyone admits are not perfect but are the best that can be done under difficult circumstances may result in tragedy for everyone: both the judges and the judged.

Winner of the Best Documentary Award at the Sundance and Jerusalem Film Festivals.

Jerusalem … The East Side Story – September 15 at 2:00 pm

“When the stones of Jerusalem become more holy than its people, doesn’t it lose its holiness?” It’s a question well worth reflecting upon.

Jerusalem…The East Side Story is an informative film that wrestles with this very question as it reveals the policies that aim to Judaize the city and control Palestinian demographic growth. The resulting collective punishment is part of a larger scheme to pressure Palestinians into submission or flight.

This documentary squeezes nearly one hundred years of history into an hour or so of cinema. It mainly exposes the past forty years of Israeli military occupation policies in East Jerusalem and their devastating impact on the city and its peoples. Before taking on each issue, historical context is presented through archival footage: from the United Nations hall (1947) with the General Assembly Resolution 181 to partition Palestine; the battles in Jerusalem (1967), which ended with Israel militarily occupying all of East Jerusalem; and Palestinian refugees streaming over the border to Jordan in order to flee the fighting.

The intention of the documentary is to bring the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence to light. Director Mohammed Alatar hopes and prays that people will realize today’s bitter reality in Jerusalem and do what it takes to bring peace to this troubled city.


Follow the Money (Short) – September 15 at 3:00 pm

In this Foreign Correspondent report from the Australian Broadcasting Company, multiple sides of the boycott question are introduced and explored. As reporter Eric Campbell states,

“Thirty years ago the world was boycotting South Africa to end apartheid. Today, there’s a growing push to boycott Israel to end the occupation. It’s a controversial movement that often likens democratic Israel to an apartheid regime, but with the peace process at a standstill, Palestinians are looking at new ways to fight.”

Listen to different sides of the issue as Campbell interviews Palestinian activist Cairo Arafat, Sodastream CEO Daniel Birnbaum, and others.

Hear from Knesset member Alex Miller about an Israeli law which bans Israelis from supporting any boycotts, and listen to Knesset member Ahmad Tibi who openly challenges the same law by supporting a boycott of products made in West Bank settlements.

The People and the Olive – September 16 at 6:45 pm

What do olive trees mean to Palestinian farmers? Olives are their livelihood, their source of sustenance and the way they root themselves, historically and spiritually, to the land. But Palestinians are denied access to nearly 30 percent of their beloved olive trees in the West Bank as they struggle to live under Israeli military occupation. How do they persevere? And what should the international community understand about Palestinian olive farmers, who love their land and harvest it every season to feed their families — just as farmers across the world do?

In response, filmmaker Aaron Dennis and journalist Jacob Wheeler created an inspiring film to highlight the plight of the Palestinians. Together, they documented The Run Across Palestine in February 2012, an effort by six Americans to run 129 miles in five days across the West Bank, in order to raise awareness about the struggles of Palestinian fair trade olive farmers, and replant uprooted olive trees. The run transcended the daily news stories and addressed the visible and hidden impacts from the loss of traditional farmlands for the individual farmers and their families, and bridged cultures along the way.

“They planted so we ate. Now we plant so they eat. Past generations planted these trees that we’re eating from and are supporting our lives, and we plant trees for our future generations to support their lives.”
— Palestine Fair Trade Association founder Nasser Abufarha

Two-Sided Story – September 22 at 2:00 pm

The film follows an encounter group of 27 Palestinians and Israelis – bereaved families, Orthodox Jews and religious Muslims, settlers, ex-soldiers in the Israeli army, ex security prisoners, kibbutz members, second generation holocaust survivors, non-violent activists, and more.

Outside the room, participants may be considered enemies. Inside the room, participants are asked to not try to convince each other and to offer an insight into their inner world. They share their personal experiences along with historical and political interpretation to key events in the conflict: The Nakba, the Holocaust, Occupation, bereavement, suicide bombing, Israeli army, the separation wall, etc.

Not only does the viewer have the opportunity to listen and understand, but the viewer comes along for the ride as participants bring each other into their homes and local neighborhoods as they work to overcome their differences with each other.

Will their differences remain irreconcilable, or will they begin to accept the reality that their colleagues express?

Going Against the Grain – September 23 at 12:30 pm [St. John Fisher College] [free]

This documentary focuses on writer and journalist Gideon Levy, someone who evokes strong emotions from fellow Israelis. He has made weekly visits, over the past three decades, to the occupied Palestinian territories, describing what he sees – plainly and without propaganda. For some Israelis, he is seen as a brave disseminator of the truth. But many others condemn him as a propagandist for Hamas. And his columns for the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper have made him, arguably, one of the most hated men in Israel.

“When I joined Haaretz newspaper, I started to visit the occupied territories,” Levy says. “I immediately realized this was what I wanted to do; to understand the brutality and inhumanity of the Israeli occupation.”

“I figured out three things. First, this was the biggest drama facing the state of Israel. Second, this story was not being covered by the Israeli media. And third, this was going to be my life mission – to report about the Israeli occupation to Israeli readers who did not want to know what was really happening there.”

Over the years, Levy’s stories have shed light on the realities Palestinians face on a daily basis.

This Al Jazeera World Report, “Going Against the Grain”, follows Levy on one of his assignments in Hebron, and meets some of the ordinary Palestinians whose lives he has described in his regular column for Haaretz.


The organizing committee includes activists involved in interfaith dialogue and international solidarity work as well as local filmmakers.  Witness Palestine originated from Christians Witnessing for Palestine, an informal group with members from several Rochester, NY churches.

More Information

Tickets: $8

For more information on the Witness Palestine Film Series please visit:  or Witness Palestine (Rochester) on Facebook

The Second Annual Witness Palestine Film Series


 Six programs, seven films; each program includes a panel discussion.

Venue: The Little or St. John Fisher College Dates: September 8-23, 2013

  1. 5 Broken Cameras: A first-hand account of life and non-violent resistance in Bil’in, West Bank
  2. Going Against the Grain: Follows Haaretz reporter Gideon Levy on one of his assignments in Hebron
  3. Jerusalem … The East Side Story (focuses on policies that aim to Judaize Jerusalem and control Palestinian demographic growth) and
    Follow the Money (introduces and explorers multiple sides of the boycott question)
  4. The Law in These Parts: The filmmaker interviews those responsible for the legal structure created to treat the West Bank and Gaza as occupied territories
  5. The People and the Olive: Describes a run across the West Bank organized to highlight the plight of Palestinians
  6. Two Sided Story: Follows bereaved Palestinians and Israelis who discuss their similarities and differences

For more details, please follow the above links or visit

Open letter to my Representative, Senators, President Obama, and John Kerry.

You are well aware of the many United Nations General Assembly resolutions calling for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, a withdrawal by Israel from all occupied territories, a condemnation of settlements in the West Bank, and the need to respect the rights of Palestinians and their right to self-determination as an indispensable element in the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.  At every turn my country has defied and oppose these necessary steps to arriving at a just peace.  A nation that considers itself a modern democracy and a law abiding nation finds it convenient to ignore international consent and resolutions.

I had a chance to visit the West Bank several years ago.  It is obvious and you must know that this is apartheid.   Check points and restriction of movement everywhere, perhaps 220 settlements on Palestine land with more being planned, inability for Palestinians to access their fields due to the wall and other separation barriers, continued theft of land in Bilin and many other Palestine towns, shooting and jailing of peaceful demonstrators, continued home demolitions, “laws” banning Palestinians from building new homes or drilling wells for water.

So my questions to you is how would you like  to be a Palestinian living in the West Bank?  Should your land and human rights and free movement to your fields and olive trees and the water under your property be respected and honored?   Are we not all part of a suffering human race that needs to learn respect and compassion for each other if we collectively wish to survive and flourish.

It is time for the United ‘States to truly respect other nations and their citizens and become an honest broker, respecting both Israel`s and Palestine`s right to exist and help end the occupation which makes a just peace impossible.

Peter R. Mitchell