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  • Water Poor Haiti Faces Floods

    After months of political turmoil, Haitians now face one more calamity. The Haiti Support Group today reports that hundreds of Haitians have died over the last few days in floods and landslides as torrential rains sweep the country.

    This news comes from a country where water shortage is a permanent way of life. The UK-based Center for Ecology and Hydrology places Haiti first on its list of the world's "Water Poor Countries." The list is based on a comparative statistical index of the population's access to clean water. Water is judged to be more scarce in Haiti than in Niger, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Malawi, the countries that follow Haiti on the list.

  • Rafah Nakba

    The following is a note from Heba Zayyan, the PR Officer at the Women's Affairs Center, one of GRI's partners in Gaza. For the fourth consecutive day, the Israeli Defense Forces have expanded their brutal military offensive in Rafah town and refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

    How can one's sanity accept what's happening now in Rafah? 120 houses at least were demolished whose habitants (200 families) are totally living in tents. It is another nakba in the Palestinians' life in the full meaning of the word. How far can one believe that people, secure in their homes at night are being called to leave without delay, not given time to collect some their belongings or even their ID cards? What's happening in Rafah carries the brutal barbarianism of the Israelis that's done in the name of protection of borders. How can we still believe in peace and democracy if people who demonstrate against the unexplainable Israeli violence, will get killed by heavy missiles? The first line of the demonstration was children who were enthusiastic and innocent enough to ahead the demonstration. Where are these children now? They are all uprooted from their dreams of a liberate state to be shattered into pieces.

  • Not the Peace we Dreamt of… a Message from Gaza

    The following is a note from Ahmed Sourani, director of External Relations for the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC). PARC is one of the most important players in the Palestinian agricultural sector focusing on rural development, environmental protection, and strengthening women's position in society in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the aftermath of the Likud Party's rejection of Ariel Sharon's plan for Israel to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, the IDF has stepped up its military actions in Gaza.

  • Haitian Youth Speak Out

    May 1st - International Workers Day was honored in many locations throughout Haiti. Thousands gathered in Port au Prince at the Champs de Mars, and almost a thousand gathered at the national training center of the Mouvman Peyizan Papay ( MPP) in Papay. All were present to celebrate but also to raise their voices and tell their transitional government, as well as the international community, about their hopes - about their needs - and what they are no longer willing to tolerate.

  • Another Countryside Is Possible

    Satellite internet on a mountainside in the heart of Haiti's Central Plateau - only one of the achievements, among many, of the Mouvman Peyizan Papay - The Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP). The oldest and best organized of Haiti's peasant organizations, the MPP, is celebrating International Worker's Day tomorrow with a large agricultural fair drawing peasants from various regional associations to celebrate and demonstrate what can be done when peasants put their heads together.

  • Pieces of the Puzzle

    Was the armed rebellion that helped drive President Aristide from office a ragtag group of poorly funded freelancers who couldn't get Washington to return their phone calls?

    While many (including some of our partners in Haiti and many of our friends in the U.S.) believe that Aristide's ouster was a carefully planned coup financed by the CIA, David Adams reports in the St. Petersburg Times that the rebel forces that swept the Haitian countryside and toppled the Lavalas government may have been "more Keystone Kops than White House-orchestrated covert operations."

  • Ni Rire, Ni Pleurer, Comprendre.

    During the brief day and a half since I arrived in Ayiti I have had 9 meetings with representatives of GRI partner organizations, journalists, and allied international development organizations.

    My head is spinning, but the richness of these exchanges with these tireless Haitian human rights and development activists is a necessary ingredient for understanding how progressive Haitians are living this difficult period of transition. While at the office of Institute Culturelle Karl Leveque, a member organization of POHDH ( The Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations) I happened to see the quotation that I used to entitle this journal entry - "ni rire, ni pleurer, comprendre" - loosely translated - "we must not celebrate, we must not cry , we must understand".

  • Signs of Hope for Human Rights in Haiti?

    The roots of impunity in Haiti stretch deep into the nation's past. If anything, the experience of the last ten years has shown just how difficult it is going to be to establish democratic principles and the rule of law there. That experience has clearly established that loosening the grip of impunity is going to take much more than the removal of one leader and the promotion of another.

    That said, we read today's news from Haiti with some sense of hope. Louis Jodel Chamblain, a convicted torturer and murderer and leader of the recent armed rebellion against Jean Bertrand Aristide has turned himself in to Haitian authorities. Of course it remains to be seen how long Chamblain will stay in jail for his crimes, but his surrender is a positive sign. Haiti's leading human rights organization has already put out a statement on this important development.

  • Terror and Counter-Terror

    After George Bush's press conference last night, terror and counter terror are on our minds. Those issues certainly came up a lot during Daniel and Jennifer's trip to Palestine. We thank you all for your many responses to their reflections on the trip. Keep your eye out for an upcoming photo essay on their trip, which will be announced here.

    We want to draw your attention to the release of a new report by the NGO trade association, Interaction. The report, entitled "Handbook on Counter-Terrorism Measures: What U.S. Nonprofits and Grantmakers Need to Know is a long overdue summary of the new legal restrictions on grantmaking and nonprofit activity, in general, since 9/11/01. Everyone involved in international grantmaking should certainly read it. We would certainly be happy to have your comments on the report.

    The Boston Globe published our own assessment of the political context of post-9/11 international grantmaking (especially in the Middle East). It gives more attention to the civil liberties issues surrounding the new regulatory environment. Both perspectives are important to keep in mind.

  • What Will be Left Behind If and When Israel Leaves Gaza?

    Jen and I have returned safely to the US. We apologize for the gap in keeping you posted on our travels. Experiences were simply too complex to quickly digest and days too exhausting to blog in the early hours of the morning. Thank you for all your comments and for accompanying us on our journey. We will continue with a few more entries this week, sent from the relatively calmer offices of Grassroots International.

  • Notes from a Program Visit to Palestine

    The following are some notes and stories from some of the places we saw and the people we met. These are just a few of the many scenes I go back to over and over again when I reflect on this trip.

    The Passion

    We were walking through the narrow streets of old city in Bethlehem with Fatima. She wanted to show us the cultural center that her uncle had opened just outside of Manger Square so we ducked into the building. Our friend pointed out the gardens, the galleries, the classrooms and finally the theater. The theater was offering nightly showings of The Passion of the Christ, the new, controversial film by Mel Gibson that details Jesus' final days. Although I have yet to see this film, I've heard from those that have seen it that it is incredibly bloody and gruesome, certainly not for the squeamish. Fatima, who had seen the film twice, confirmed this.

  • In Palestine: Conversations Around the Table and through the Bethlehem Streets

    I hope to return from Palestine/Israel a more compassionate and wiser person, although that remains to be seen. What is already written is that I will return much larger. Palestinian hospitality has been abundant bordering on excessive. Last night, a family took my colleague and I to dinner and the waiter did not rest until he'd placed on the table 24 small plates of hummous, tabouli, fatoush and various beet and eggplant salads. Other meals have been only slightly less modest. I thought I'd share with you some conversations had around the food, anise licquer, Arabic coffee wafting cardamom and a perpetual haze of cigarette smoke.

  • Palestine: In Their Own Words

    We returned a few hours ago from Bethlehem where we visited the Ibdaa Cultural Center in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp. Unfortunately, our visit was cut short by the news of a nearby shooting. A young man was shot and killed by the Israeli Defense Forces near Rachel's Tomb. The man was from Dheisheh. The news of his death spread rapidly throughout the camp and the Ibdaa Cultural Center, usually lively and filled with kids, was empty. Only the dance troupe remained in the building, practicing for an upcoming tour. The people were angry and were anticipating the arrival of Israeli troops. It seemed wise to leave.

    So, I'm exhausted after this day and rather than filling this page with my own thoughts, I decided to let the Palestinians tell a bit of their own story. I have pulled for you a number of quotes from people we've met. This is by no means meant to be a complete picture — it is intended solely to give you a flavor of some of what we are hearing.

  • Where Art Thou, International Law?

    Now I'm no expert on international law; please understand that. But even a layperson like myself begins to sense that when an Israeli soldiers beats a prisoner in full public view with complete impunity, there must be a law out there crying out to be implemented. The targeted assassination of Sheikh Yassin and the entire program of targeted assassinations similarly stinks of the same extra-judicial character.

    Just prior to arriving at a checkpoint yesterday, an armored military jeep sped by with its rear doors flung open. The doors were left open with apparent intent, so Palestinians waiting in line at the check point could watch and be intimidated by a young Israeli soldier smashing his steel shanked helmet into the head of a young Palestinian. (Another descriptor might be "head-butting" though this act was far too vicious and the environment far too tense for vernacular that conjures up play.) By the time I reached the checkpoint soldiers to hand over my documents for inspection, the beaten boy stood ten feet away with two other boys, legs spread wide, palms up against a fence. At least this had the appearance of an actual arrest proceeding. The soldier, a recent Russian immigrant, handed me back my passport, smiled and said both warmly and sternly, "be very careful here".

  • Business As Usual

    Jerusalem and the surrounding towns were again quiet today. Outside of Gaza, there has been relatively little reaction to Yassin's assassination. Certainly not the firestorm that some were expecting. The general atmosphere is still very tense and one can see evidence of flare-ups. As we crossed the El Ram checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem we saw the still smoldering remnants of fiery demonstrations. The smell of burning tires still lingered in the air. Later in the afternoon, we watched as about 20 youth threw stones and exchanged insults with 2 Israeli soldiers. The youth stood at a safe distance atop an embankment behind a barbed wire fence and the soldiers were standing below. Eventually the soldiers grew weary and fired their weapons into the air, letting the youth know that the game was over.

  • Jerusalem At First Glance

    From the airport we traveled swiftly to Jerusalem on a multi-laned highway on which only Israelis can travel. The road rivals its counterparts in the US, As we entered the West Bank, we noticed that between 50 — 500 meters of land on either side of this "bypass" road lay fallow. Though intricately terraced, for security purposes the Israelis prohibit cultivation of these plots. Olive trees can not harvested or vegetables grown. This prohibition might not make a tremendous difference if land was abundant, if the highways themselves did not constitute thousands of hectares of confiscated land, but as you probably know, close to 10 million Jews and Palestinians must share this tiny, contested land.

  • From Papaye to Palestine…

    On January 25, we decided to spend a couple of weeks using this journal as a way to focus on the crisis in Haiti, and GRI's work there. That crisis immediately took a dramatic turn that has made Haiti the dominant focus of our work ever since.

    Our work will remain very focused on Haiti, but the Grassroots Journal must take a turn toward another complex area of the world in which we are privileged to work. In keeping with its mission to share, whenever possible, our first hand experience of the work of our partners and the world around it, the Journal's attention now shifts to Palestine.

  • U.S. Connivance Alone…

    The people at provide some of the best information available on a wide range of human rights issues. Their page on Haiti is an incredible piece of research, but we believe that it could include a bit more reference to the views of those Haitian social change organizations that have opposed both ex-President Aristide and U.S. military intervention.

    We share here our letter to the creators of this excellent site: