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2009 SPRING 2 0 1 0

Year in Review

ABOVE: MECA Director Barbara Lubin purchased and delivered a mobile intensive care
unit with funds from Firedoll Foundation, Lee & Gund Fund, and individual MECA
supporters. Credit: Sharon Wallace

LEFT: Kids at “Let the Children Play & Heal,” psycho-social support program run by MECA
partner Afaq Jadeeda Association.
Credit: Barbara Lubin

Dear Friends and Supporters,


It’s a little difficult to write about MECA’s accomplishments for 2009, when Kentucky, Oregon, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and elsewhere put on benefits
it was such a devastating year for the children of Palestine. More than 300 for MECA that raised thousands of dollars for emergency aid to Gaza. Samia
children were killed in the December-January attacks on Gaza. Tens of thou- Ahmad and the Precious Heritage of Palestine in Florida found MECA through
sands of children were injured, many now have permanent disabilities with a Facebook friend and organized a concert that raised $21,000. This generous
little chance of getting the prostheses, rehabilitation services and medical outpouring enabled us to send emergency aid and support ongoing programs
care they will need. Israel’s use of DIME weapons and white phosphorous for children and families in Gaza.
on the civilian population of Gaza is nearly certain to cause a major cancer
epidemic in the coming years. Meanwhile, so many children are still home- While Gaza was the main focus of our attention and our work, the Occupa-
less and deprived of food, clean water, health care and education because of tion of the West Bank ground on as usual with killing, imprisonment, land
Israel’s siege. Thousands witnessed firsthand the deaths of parents, siblings, theft, unrestrained settler violence, and the constant disruption of education,
and friends. Essentially every child in Gaza is traumatized. health care and all aspects of daily life. MECA’s work there went on as well,
supporting multiple children’s, youth and women’s programs throughout the
While the magnitude of the devastation in Gaza is enormous, the Middle East West Bank.
Children’s Alliance was able to make a difference in the lives of thousands of
children and their families, as we have for nearly twenty-two years—thanks As you read this report, I hope you’ll share with us a sense of satisfaction in
to the out pouring of support from so many long-time supporters, along knowing that, together, we made a difference in the lives of so many people
with new people whose concern and outrage lead them to MECA last year. who were—and still are—struggling every day just to survive.
We received more than 1,000 contributions during Israel’s three-week war on
the people of Gaza, a third from first-time donors. A group of Bay Area poets In Solidarity,
organized a reading that raised $4,000, while groups in Chicago, Honolulu, Barbara, Deborah, Josie, Penny, Sophia, and Ziad
MECA Staff, Berkeley, California
Children drinking water cleaned by one of
Emergency Aid to Gaza
the purification and desalinization units In January 2009 Director Barbara Lubin and Gaza Projects Di-
MECA provided.
rector Dr. Mona El-Farra flew to Cairo during the brutal Israeli
Credit: Afaq Jadeeda Association
attacks to meet a four-ton shipment of medicine and medical
supplies coming from Europe that MECA had arranged months
before. This in-kind shipment, valued at $1.6 million, was deliv-
ered to the Palestine Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip who
then distributed it to local hospitals and clinics. While in Cairo
Barbara and Mona purchased and delivered more than seven
In 2007 and 2008, tons of powdered milk, fortified children’s cereal, a mobile
MECA provided intensive care unit, wheelchairs, and surgical instruments—
funds for the instal- as well as a full truckload of art and school supplies. During the
lation of water purifi- bombardment and invasion, MECA sent funds to our partner or-
cation units and fau- ganization, Afaq Jadeeda Association to buy and distribute food,
cets in Bureij Boys blankets, and plastic sheets to cover broken windows.
School and Nuseirat
Girls School in central In June, MECA organized a group in the Bay Area to raise funds
Gaza, in response to for the Viva Palestina-US, a convoy led by British MP George
a special request from the schoolchildren. In September 2009, Galloway to bring aid and worldwide attention to the siege of
MECA launched the Maia Project, a long-term initiative to ad- Gaza. MECA and the Viva Palestina Bay Area Committee raised
dress one of the most harmful features of the Israeli Occupa- $75,000 for vehicles and medical aid. Barbara and long-time
tion and the blockade of Gaza: The systematic deprivation of volunteer Dan Muller traveled to Gaza in July 2009 with the
clean, safe drinking water. Since its founding in 1948, Israel has convoy and visited MECA projects in Gaza.
appropriated water and water sources for Jewish citizens inside
Israel and, later, for illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank Making Life Better
and Gaza. Israel prohibits Palestinians from getting the mate-
rials, fuel, and permits they need to maintain and expand Pal-
for Children and
estinian water systems; military attacks predictably—and often Youth
deliberately—destroy wells, water tanks, pipes, treatment plants, MECA has partnerships with sev-
and sewage systems. In Gaza, especially, the water quality is un- eral grassroots organizations in Pal-
safe and the quantity is inadequate. Our partner, Afaq Jadeeda estine that address children’s basic
Association coordinates the Maia Project installations in Gaza. needs and offer them opportunities
The initial response to the Maia Project has been very encourag- to play, learn and envision a bet-
ing, and, by the end of 2009, MECA provided funds for clean ter future. MECA also works with
drinking water systems in two kindergartens and three large the US organization Playgrounds
elementary and middle schools in Gaza. MECA’s goal is to for Palestine to build playgrounds
provide the funds for fifteen more units this year. in Palestinian refugee camps in
Lebanon and Syria. In 2009, playgrounds were constructed in
Ein El-Hilweh, Lebanon and Neirab Refugee Camp, Syria.
ABOVE: Young dancer from Dheisheh Refugee Camp. Credit: Josie Shields-Stromsness
BELOW RIGHT: Palestinian children at Ein El-Hilweh Refugee Camp in Lebanon eagerly await the
completion of their new playground. Credit: ANERA
BELOW CENTER: Kids at the exhibit of art created by children in the “Let the Children Play & Heal”
psycho-social support program in Gaza. Credit: Dan Muller

ABOVE: Barbara receives MECA’s


four-tons medical shipment in Cairo
that was delivered to the Red Crescent
Society of the Gaza Strip and distributed
to hospitals and clinics.
Credit: Sharon Wallace
2 MECA NEWS
Education
MECA provided funds to Ibdaa Cultural Center in Dheisheh
Refugee Camp for a wide range of programs for children, wom-
and Action
en and youth, including:
MECA works to build
• Transportation, rental fees for fields and gyms, upgrading
greater understanding of
equipment, and stipends for trainers for two football (soccer),
the lives of children in the
one volleyball team, and three basketball teams; uniforms and
Middle East and to inspire
warm-up suits for one of the boys’ football teams
people to action through a
• Renovation of the income-generating guesthouse, and jars of
variety of educational and
olives and honey for sale
cultural activities.
• Recreational activities and competitions for children during the
Eid holidays In February 2009 MECA held an event with
• Development of a new show for the youth dance troupe that Iraqi feminist Nadje Al-Ali, who spoke about
performs regularly in Palestine, other Middle East countries, and her book “What Kind of Liberation? Women
In 2009 MECA:
Europe, including, recording music, stipends for a choreogra- and the Occupation of Iraq”
pher and scriptwriter, costumes, and electronic equipment • Held events with Palestinian author, commentator and activ-
• Website hosting and development, English teachers, and a sum- ist Ali Abunimah, Iraqi feminist scholar Nadje Al-Ali, activists
mer camp for youth from five Palestinian community centers Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, UK Parliament member and
in the West Bank founder of Viva Palestina George Galloway, journalists Leila
Al-Arian and Chris Hedges, and Noam Chomsky
Right after the January 2009 Israeli assault on Gaza, Afaq • Organized speaking tours for Director Barbara Lubin and As-
Jadeeda Association launched “Let the Children Play & Heal” sociate Director Ziad Abbas, with engagements at schools, uni-
to help children and families cope with the psychological af- versities, community organizations, and conferences in dozens
termath of the war on Gaza. Throughout the year, MECA has of US cities
provided support for this extraordinary program that has reached • Gave interviews to the media about the situation for children in
tens of thousands of children. Staff and trained volunteers work the Middle East, and particularly in Gaza
with children in schools and community centers. Dancing, sing- • Maintained a blog of staff writing from Palestine and helped
ing, art, drama and story-telling activities give children opportu- publish articles by MECA volunteers and participants in MECA
nities to express themselves and get support from other children partner programs in Gaza
and adults. A psychologist is on hand to identify and refer chil- • Helped organize protests and donated T-shirts and banners for a
dren for counseling. Mothers get training on how to help their San Francisco demonstration calling for an end to Israeli attacks
children and extended family cope with trauma; and pamphlets on Gaza
with advice for parents are distributed throughout Gaza. • Made donations to the Arab Film Fes-
tival and Golden Thread Produc-
In 2009, MECA also provided funds for: tions to bring film and theatre
• Hospital expenses for children being treated by a team of Aus- from and about the Middle
tralian volunteer surgeons at Al-Awda Hospital, Gaza City East to the US public
• Supported conferences on
• Media equipment for youth training, and puppets for the chil- the US role in Palestine,
dren’s program at Al-Assria Children’s Library in Jabalia Refu- and on strategies for
gee Camp, Gaza holding Israel ac-
• Educational activities at Rawdat El-Zuhur Elementary School countable for war
in East Jerusalem crimes
• Sent one staff mem-
• A new bus for Afaq Jadeeda’s kindergarten, Gaza ber and
one volunteer to participate in
Viva Palestina-US in July and
two staff members to participate
in the Gaza Freedom March in December 2009
• Provided funds to Break the Silence Mural Project for a col-
Children arrive at Afaq laborative mural in Olympia, Washington connecting US and
Jadeeda’s summer camp,
July 2009.
Palestinian artists and organizations.
Credit: Danny Muller

2009 Year in Review MECA NEWS 3


University Scholarships
In addition to supporting pre-schools, kindergartens, libraries rial Scholarship Fund and the Tree of Life Scholarship Fund. We
and other educational programs in Palestine, MECA provides also provided scholarships for two students studying at universi-
financial assistance to Palestinian university students. Our schol- ties in the United States through the Ramzy Halaby Education
arship funds enable talented and ambitious high school gradu- Fund. Now that all five students in the US have graduated, con-
ates to obtain degrees, and the tributions to this Fund will also go
skills to make important contri- to students in Palestine.
butions to their communities and
Ramzy Halaby Education Fund scholar-
their country.
ship recipients Keyan Dawoud at her
graduation from San Francisco State
In 2009 MECA provided full or University and Ahmed Al-Ghrouz
partial scholarships for 100 stu- graduating from University of New
dents at eleven universities in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip
through the Elly Jaensch Memo-
Mexico

2009
Credit: S. Smith Patrick Year in Review

Ziad Abbas Since he came to the US, Ziad


has become a strong and eloquent
joins MECA Staff in advocate for Palestinian rights
in a new cultural context—skill-
2009 fully using humor and personal
experiences to bridge cultural and
language gaps. He says, “I face
The Middle East Children’s Alliance is thrilled some difficulties raising aware-
that our long-time colleague from Palestine, ness about Palestine among peo-
Ziad Abbas, joined the MECA staff in Berkeley ple in the US. Many people don’t
as Associate Director in 2009. Ziad is a journal- know what is going on because
ist and co-founder of the Ibdaa Cultural Center the mass media is biased. I count
in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine. He has a lot on the new generations who
worked on many documentary films about the are aware of the ways to get the
Middle East and has a Masters in Social Justice correct information. And when I
and International Relations from the School of speak to people--especially young
International Training in Vermont. Ziad was people—they want to know. They
Ziad Abbas at an Israeli national park overlooking the want to understand what is hap
born and raised in Dheisheh Refugee Camp in area from which his family was expelled in 1948
the West Bank, after his parents were expelled Credit: Deborah Agre pening in Palestine and the Middle
from their original villages of Zakariya and East and they can easily make the
Jerash during the Nakba in 1948. He often says, “I was born in a connections between marginalized people in different coun-
refugee camp and I am struggling not to die in a refugee camp.” tries.”

Ziad represents MECA in a wide variety of settings, including Ziad has a keen ability to draw parallels between international
in local and national anti-war and Palestine rights coalitions, to human rights and social justice issues here in the US--making
US and international funders, and in the Arab-American and connections to organizations and individuals working on issues
Arab immigrant communities. He regularly gives presentations such as criminal justice, Hurricane Katrina displacement, immi-
at universities, schools and to community groups around the grants’ and indigenous rights. Ziad has an unwavering commit-
country about Palestinian refugees, political prisoners, youth en- ment to making sure people can advocate on their own behalf,
gagement, media and MECA’s work. He organizes and provides and to helping them gain the tools to do so. He actively encour-
trainings for groups traveling to Palestine, such as the 2009 in- ages and supports the leadership of women, youth, and refu-
digenous youth delegation, and for volunteers placed at our part- gees—challenging those who attempt to designate themselves as
ner organizations in Palestine. Ziad plays a key role in develop- spokespeople for others.
ing new areas of work and partnerships with community groups
in Palestine and communicating with them about the progress of When asked about living in the US, Ziad responded, smiling,
projects MECA supports. “First of all, I love being able to drive around in my car any-
where, anytime without checkpoints, soldiers, or permits. It’s
Ziad Abbas, continued on page 6
4 MECA NEWS
of the year I would wake up at 3am to the sound of heavy traffic
as Palestinians from all over the southern West Bank lined up to
go to work in Jerusalem. I never knew seven miles could be such
Josie Shields-Stromsness, MECA Program Director a long commute.

I have often spent weeks, or even months, at a time in Palestine My US passport lets me circumvent these obstacles and for me
but 2009 was my first year of really living there. People often going to Jerusalem was just a matter of a 20-minute bus ride.
ask me what my life is like but I can rarely find an adequate Many times during the year I delivered visa applications and let-
response. I think through my last few days and find life can be ters from friends and MECA partners who are not allowed to
mundane there. I spend much of my days on a computer and reach this part of Palestine. It was always a sensitive trip because
could really be anywhere in the world. But then there are days or so many people would have loved the opportunity to walk the
moments when something happens that is so absurd and upset- streets of the Old City in Jerusalem again, to go to dinner at a
ting that it could only be Palestine. relative or friend’s home, or to buy fresh bread from a bakery
near Damascus Gate. I could deliver papers and bring back this
bread but I could not give them these experiences that the Israeli
occupation had taken away.

In the summer I had the opportunity to use my privilege to help


out with a summer camp for Palestinian refugee children whose
families are from 40 different villages in what is now Israel. At
7am the children piled into the back of the bus while I sat in the
front seat with my blonde hair down and a big smile ready for
the Israeli soldiers who had the power to let us pass or to send
us back. Months later I don’t know if I have found the words for
this moment. I felt at once gross for flaunting my white skin and
blonde hair and playing into a deeply racist, colonial mentality
and also excited to be able to ease the trip for these children who
had never seen their lands.

The five-day camp was full of emotion for me and even more
so for the children. Each day we hiked through woods planted
by the Jewish National Fund to cover up the remains of some
of their villages. We also drove into Israeli towns built on top of
“I had the opportunity to help out with a summer camp for Palestinian
refugee children whose families are from 40 different villages in what is My Year in Palestine, continued on page 6
now Israel.” Credit: Mohammed Alqassas
Life in occupied Palestine meant meeting families in Jerusalem
who had been thrown out of their homes by Israeli settlers, pass-
ing through three military checkpoints just to reach the nearest
movie theater, and constantly fearing for the safety of family
members and friends. But there is another, equally powerful side
of life here, and that is the strength of community that I saw and
was welcomed into as I sat around tables of 10, 20 and even 30
people, danced all night at weddings, and laughed constantly and
defiantly.

My home is just across the street from Dheisheh Refugee Camp


in the Bethlehem District. It is seven miles away from Jerusa-
lem, less than the full length of the Bay Bridge, a distance that
thousands of people cross daily. But for Palestinians living in the
West Bank it is an almost uncrossable divide. Each person needs
a permit from Israeli military authorities. If a permit is granted
then one needs to pass through a highly militarized checkpoint The remains of a home in Beit Jibreen, the original village of one of the
with hand scans and a series of metal detectors, remote con- children on our trip. Credit: Mohammed Alqassas
trolled gates, and x-ray machines for purses, shoes, etc. When I
lived near the Bethlehem-Jerusalem checkpoint in the beginning
MECA NEWS 5
Howard Zinn
August 24, 1922 - January 27, 2010
By Barbara Lubin, MECA Director
Hearing about the beloved wife. Both of them made themselves available to me
death of Howard Zinn during that difficult period.
a few weeks ago, I
thought about my Howard came to the Bay Area many times to help raise much
friendship with him needed money to help the children of Palestine. His last visit
over the years, and was in 2006 when MECA produced a reading of “Voices of a
his relationship with Peoples History of the United States” with Howard, his long-
the world. He will be time close friend Alice Walker, Mos Def and other talented
remembered by all of artists.
us in so many ways.
Howard Zinn was an activist, a teacher, a filmmaker, a writer, a
Howard Zinn taught man with a great sense of humor but most of all Howard made
a whole generation of all of us think. He made us see that through understanding the
young people how to history of slavery, poverty, and the struggle for civil rights in
rethink how we look this country, we were better equipped to stand up and fight for
at and understand the justice here at home and in the rest of the world. Howard Zinn
ABOVE: 1994 event poster. Howard Zinn was
history of our coun- made us all better people and we will miss him terribly.
one of MECA’s earliest supporters, coming to
the Bay Area four times from 1992 to 2006 to try with his book, “A
do fundraising events. Peoples History of the On his last day of teaching at Boston University, Howard Zinn
United States,” which ended class 30 minutes early so he could join a picket line in
is now standard reading in many high schools and colleges support of an on-campus nurses’ strike, and urged the 500 stu-
across the country. dents attending his lecture to come along. A hundred did.

When the Middle East Children’s Alliance was under investiga- “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White
tion by the government for two years, it was Howard I would House, but who is sitting in—and who is marching outside
call late into the night for guidance and friendship. When How- the White House, pushing for change.” — Howard Zinn
ard was not there I would talk sometimes for hours to Roz, his

My Year in Palestine, continued from page 5


more of their villages and found Palestinian houses, mosques, My year in Palestine was an opportunity to watch, to learn, and
and graveyards tucked in between new townhouses. The chil- sometimes even to contribute. It was a pleasure to see so much
dren were made to feel unwelcome visitors on their own lands. of MECA’s work first-hand and to begin developing new and
Together they dreamed and talked through what it would be like stronger relationships on many levels.
one day when they got back what was rightfully theirs.

My year ended with the Gaza Freedom March. I met Barbara and Ziad Abbas, continued from page 4
1400 other activists from around the world in Cairo. We had mo-
amazing to me. And I love taking a shower every day because
ments of extreme frustration at not being able to break the siege
for the first time in my life there is always water coming out of
of Gaza and also moments of extreme hope as we demonstrated
the faucet.” About working for Palestinian rights in the US, he
for Palestinian rights and cheered the Cairo Declaration, which
says, “People here are very busy all the time. You have to fight
laid out a framework for international solidarity with Palestine
for their attention. It takes something very big and horrible--like
against Israeli apartheid. For a full year I tried to get from the
last year’s war on Gaza--to make people take a stand. And then
West Bank to Gaza. I could make local phone calls to our Project
you have to get them to see that there is a war on the people of
Director in Gaza, and to youth and staff at our partner centers,
Palestine every day and they’re paying for it with their taxes.
but Israel prevented us from meeting in person throughout the
People in this country don’t have the things they need because
year. Now, Egypt, supporting the siege from the south, was keep-
this money is going to wars and occupation.” He added, “We in
ing me out again—along with the other international activists,
MECA are like a bridge. People can come to us to learn what is
and an unknown number of Palestinians trying to return home.
going on in Palestine and even go there and see the situation.
And then we help them to see the connections with their own
lives and to do solidarity work in a much deeper, stronger way.”
6 MECA NEWS
Remembering Dennis Brutus there is struggle against injustice. Uniquely courageous,
consistent and principled, Brutus bridged the global and
local, politics and culture, class and race, the old and the
young…”

[Exile] by Dennis Brutus

Exile, exile
You are a bitter word
I eat you with my bread
I drink you with my tea
Dennis Brutus in 2003 You are the bitter word
Credit: Matthew Bradley
That makes the world bitter to me
Dennis Brutus, November 28, 1924 –December 26, 2009 was
The stars look down
a world-renowned poet, a South African leader in the Anti-
They see the world
Apartheid movement, and an ex-political prisoner. He led the
successful fight to get South Africa banned from the Olympics They see a place
in 1970. Dennis spoke often of the parallels he saw between Is- Where I cannot be
rael’s system of oppression and South Africa’s former regime.
He was a good friend and astute advisor to MECA. When Exile, exile
the “Palestinian Call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions You are a bitter word
Against Israel” was issued in 2005, Dennis came out from I eat you with my bread
Pittsburgh, PA where he was teaching, to meet with Bay Area I drink you with my tea
activists at the MECA office. From him we learned many of Exile, exile
the strategies and lessons of the South African anti-apartheid You make the start bitter to me
movement and ways to apply that history in our Palestine
solidarity work. As Patrick Bond wrote in the Monthly Re- Published in “We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon”
view, “The memory of Dennis Brutus will remain everywhere edited by Kamal Boullata and Kathy Engel.

A Life-Saving Gift for the Children


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them opportunities to learn, play and envision a better future.
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MECA NEWS 7
1101 8th. St. Berkeley, Ca 94710

Ali Abunimah was among the 1,400 activists


from around the world who gathered in Cairo last
month for the Gaza Freedom March.

author of
One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse,
and Electronic Intifada co-founder
speaking on
“How We Can Complete the Gaza Freedom March”
Online: www.brownpapertickets.com
or by phone:1-800-838-3006