Panelists for the 2013 Film Series
Aaron Dennis is director of The People and the Olive. He founded Stone Hut Studios, which creates Internet videos for good-for-the-world causes, companies, and campaigns. He has worked across the globe to tell the stories of non-profits and humanitarian organizations. A graduate of the University of Michigan's Film Program, Dennis has been a part of several national PBS documentaries and specializes in filming, editing, and motion graphics. He'll participate with us through Skype.
Mazen Faraj was born, and still lives, in the Al-Deheishe refugee camp in Bethlehem, West Bank.
He became involved with the Parents Circle – Families Forum after an Israeli soldier shot his father. He said, ". . . the most difficult and traumatic experience in my life arrived, that was the murder of my 62 year old father as he was walking back with bags of grocery to our home. The Israeli soldiers shot him, and immediately he fell dead. When we heard of this and tried to go to the hospital, the Israeli army prevented us and said that we were under curfew. Imagine not being able to see your father one last time and to be prevented from giving him the farewell.
". . . many people find in revenge a way of expressing themselves, but never did I think of that. Not because I feared Jews or loved them, only because I believe in the justice of my cause and that violence can only bring violence, and that our cause as Palestinian people is a cause of freedom and legitimate rights.
"I know it is strange for people to see one message and one voice especially the voice of those who paid the highest price in this conflict; instead of going for the path of revenge we choose the path of reconciliation."
His father was six at the time of "Al-Naqba" in 1948. His family fled to the West Bank from their village of Ras Abu Amar, which was just west of Jerusalem. Faraj: "They were part of 700,000 refugees that were forced to leave their homes and found themselves in refugee camps throughout the West Bank, Gaza, and other Arab countries hoping to return to their homes after the war, which has not happened to this day."
Of life in the refugee camp, Maren Faraj said, "As 7 year old child, I began to ask why we live under these inhuman conditions. What is behind all the pain and suffering which we endure daily? What is the reason for us not having water most of the summer, or electricity in the winter? Why we have to be more than eighty pupils in each classroom in school? And why don't we have a playground to spend the joyful time of our childhood instead of spending it on the streets? Why are we deprived of the natural rights which every human in this world has the right to enjoy? Those are called human rights which are so distant from the Palestinian people."
Mazen Faraj will participate through Skype from Bethlehem.
Dan Fleshler, a writer and publicist based in New York City, is a Senior Advisor to Strategy XXI Partners, a strategic communications company. He is author of Transforming America's Israel Lobby – The Limits of Its Power and the Potential for Change. He has written numerous op-eds about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has represented a broad range of clients that need to communicate to the American Jewish community, including Israel Policy Forum, Givat Haviva Educational Foundation, Bar-Ilan University and the National Conference. He is a Board Member of Ameinu and Americans for Peace Now and is on the Advisory Committee of J Street.
He'll participate with us through Skype.
Ayelet Harel is executive director of the film we're screening: Two Sided Story. She is director of grants and projects at the Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF), an organization seeking to create connections between aggrieved Jewish and Arab individuals.
Ayelet was born in 1966, grew up in Holon near Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem. Her parents are educators – teachers and administrators in the Education Ministry, the Jewish Agency, and the Jewish National Fund.
Ayelet is a single mother of three young children. She is a bereaved sister. Her Brother, Yuval Harel, was killed in the War with Lebanon on 08/06/1982. Yuval was killed when his tank was hit directly by a missile in the refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh near Zidon. Yuval was at the age of 19 on his death. Ayelet was 16 at that time.
She joined the PCFF after a 20 year career as a TV and film producer. She was the Head of Production and Scheduling at Channel 2 TV, Israel's main broadcast, commercial channel, and a CEO of several private production companies. She has initiated, produced, and managed dozens of highly-rated programs and projects.
She will participate by Skype.
Jonathan Kuttab is a leading human rights lawyer in Israel and Palestine. Born in West Jerusalem, he graduated from Messiah College and the University of Virginia Law School. After practicing with a Wall Street law firm for several years, he returned to his homeland and co-founded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence, Al-Haq (lawyers and others who assist with human rights issues), and the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners. He also co-founded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence and the Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems (HURIDOCS). He is licensed to practice law in Palestine, Israel, and New York.
Jonathan Kuttab also is Chairman of the Board of Bethlehem Bible College and of the Holy Land Trust. He has written extensively on international human rights and humanitarian law in the Occupied Territories, including about the military order that is a subject of our film.
Gideon Levy is a columnist and a member of the editorial board for Haaretz, a major Israeli newspaper. Levy joined Haaretz in 1982, and spent four years as the newspaper's deputy editor. He is the author of the weekly Twilight Zone feature, which covers the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza over the last 25 years, as well as the writer of political editorials for the newspaper. Levy was the recipient of the Euro-Med Journalist Prize for 2008; the Leipzig Freedom Prize in 2001; the Israeli Journalists' Union Prize in 1997; and The Association of Human Rights in Israel Award for 1996.
He'll participate with us through Skype.
Robert Massoud will connect with our panel from Toronto were he founded:
Born in Jerusalem, he's a Palestinian-Canadian. He graduated from University of Toronto in Political Economy and consults independently in business strategy, communication, and marketing technology.
He was awarded YMCA Peace Medallion for Greater Toronto, which recognized his contributions to promoting greater understand of cultural and political realities surrounding Israel / Palestine through personal initiative and action.
The ultimate goal is to help create preconditions for peaceful solutions in Palestine-Israel by encouraging understanding and dialogue between Canadian Jews, Canadian Palestinians and other communities in Canadian society.
Through long experience in volunteerism, Massoud has learned that individuals wanting to bring about good and do good need concrete programs of actions to feel engaged and to be truly satisfied in their contribution. For most, what is missing in the field of Middle East peacemaking is a personal sense of effectiveness and hope for peace or even progress.
He'll participate with us through Skype from Toronto.
Pamela Olson lived in Ramallah for two years, during which she served as head writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor and as foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi's 2005 presidential campaign. She's published stories and articles in CounterPunch, Electronic Intifada, Israel's Occupation Magazine, The Stanford Magazine, and Mondoweiss.
In January of 2006 she moved to Washington, DC and worked at a Defense Department think tank to try to bring what she had learned to the halls of power -- an educational but disillusioning experience. In 2007 she left DC and wrote Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland.
Tom Pessah is an Israeli graduate student, completing his PhD in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is an active member of the Berkeley chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. He also attends the Hillel Hebrew hour regularly.
He'll participate with us through Skype from California.