Dear Friends of the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute,
As I stand with the Palestinian residents of South Hebron, using our bodies to block bulldozers from destroying homes, we feel like we are on a different planet. The nonviolent Palestinian movement for justice is mostly ignored, and even many progressive people and organizations in the U.S. remain silent. But thanks to your contributions, we can depend on the solidarity of the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, which has always recognized the importance of supporting active nonviolence in a violent world.
We may feel isolated in the South Hebron Hills, or Jerusalem or Bil’in or Gaza, as we encounter walls, barricades, bulldozers, brutal soldiers and angry settlers, week after week. But the Muste Institute connects us to a broader movement for social justice: to grassroots organizing around the world, to counter recruitment work in the U.S., to efforts to stop the war in Iraq, end the death penalty, expand labor organizing, defend immigrant rights, and so much more.
None of this work would be possible without your contributions, and I hope you will take a moment today to donate the largest amount you can to the Muste Institute.
Nonviolence has a long history in Palestine, but recently it has gained strength, thanks in part to the active support of the Muste Institute. Over the past few years, nonviolent resistance to Israel’s Apartheid Wall has spread to village after village in the Bethlehem area. The creativity with which Palestinians have learned to confront the Israeli military system of roadblocks and checkpoints has been a marvel.
In September 2007, after nearly three years of weekly nonviolent protests, the village of Bil’in in the West Bank won its case in the Israeli Supreme Court; the Israeli military was ordered to move the route of the Wall so that it no longer cuts the village in half. This past February, more than 50,000 people joined hands in the streets of Gaza and held signs protesting the ongoing siege there. In March Palestinian and Israeli nonviolence activists who came together in Silwan, near the Old City district of East Jerusalem, succeeded in halting land “excavations” – funded by right wing extremists— which were causing serious structural damage to Palestinian homes and infrastructure.
The A. J. Muste Memorial Institute has been an integral part of this work. Its International Nonviolence Training Fund helped several Palestinian-led organizations spread the principles and practice of nonviolent action. The group I work with, the Palestine Solidarity Project got started with a Muste Institute grant in 2006. A second grant to the project in 2007, from the training fund, helped residents of the South Hebron Hills develop and improve nonviolent strategies to defend their homes from demolition. Holy Land Trust, based in Bethlehem, has used Muste Institute grants to provide nonviolence “trainings for trainers” to Palestinian students and activists. Holy Land Trust now has a core group of more than 40 Palestinian nonviolence trainers – just a few years ago, they had to bring trainers in from elsewhere. Muste Institute funding also helped the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement carry out a summer nonviolence training for youth.
Other Muste grants have supported the Bil’in community's nonviolent organizing, and the Israeli group Gush Shalom, which works to end the Israeli occupation and defend Palestinian rights. The Muste Institute sponsors the International Solidarity Movement's nonviolent intervention against the wall and against home demolition, and its efforts to educate people in the U.S. about what is happening here.
At a time when many foundations are afraid to make grants for grassroots nonviolent organizing in Palestine, the Muste Institute’s enthusiastic and consistent support has allowed Palestinian, Israeli and international activists to expand the use of nonviolent strategies on our path to a free and peaceful Middle East. For many of us, the Muste Institute has been our only source of institutional funding. Without this backing, the Palestine Solidarity Project and other organizations committed to nonviolence in Palestine would not have been able to mobilize as effectively as we have.
The Muste Institute can’t do this important work without your contributions. The Institute relies on your support to continue its domestic and international grant making and sponsorship programs, its publications about nonviolence, and its subsidizing of office space for activist groups in New York City.
Every donation you make to the Muste Institute encourages activists like me to continue our nonviolent organizing work in Palestine, or in Colombia, or in Tennessee, California or Rhode Island, or anywhere else in the world. Your support gives us hope for a brighter future. I urge you to continue and, if possible, to increase your contributions at this critical moment. To contribute now using a secure online website, click here.
P.S. If you are receiving an “economic stimulus” rebate check from the IRS, please consider stimulating the movement for social and economic justice by donating these funds to the Muste Institute. As always, your contributions to the Muste Institute are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.