Friday, January 28, 2011

I went to an Arabic poetry reading tonight. It was down the street at Little Morocco restaurant. There was a guitarist, an oud player, an English poet, and an Arabic poet. They recited poems from their compilation, Meena. The following poem is by a Palestinian-American poet named Ibtesam Barakat. It made me think about all the people who hear Arabic and don't think of love.

Alphabets of My Life

Because I am both Arab and American, a mother with two alphabets, and I must not love one more than the other if they are both to grow up and love each other, as I speak English I must make a seat in my voice for Arabic. Like children, these two languages love to sit in my lap at the same time and paw at me for attention.

On the line, Arabic moves from right to left, and English moves from left to right. On the line, at times, outside in the world, it is a line of fire. But inside of me, all of the time, it is a line where the two languages walk forth, toward each other, like a bride and her beloved, a family of 28 letters on one side, and a family of 26 on the other. They move with a quickening in their hearts.

West tells the East; East tells the West: I have missed you. Come sit by me. I do. I do. I do. Teach me more about yourself. And when death comes, it does not part us, for the alphabet lives, for in your beginning there was the word, and in my beginning the angel instructed that I must read: iqra. iqra. iqra. were the first words. The zero of the Arabic numerals is the ring of eternity.
I got a very uplifting e-mail through NOLAPS today. It came from Mazin.

The last step in liberation of Palestine and the rest of humanity: Developing a winning attitude
Mazin Qumsiyeh

After I finished my last book on popular resistance in Palestine over the past 130 years, I became 100% sure that political Zionism will fail and that Palestinian refugees will return to their homes and lands. My certainty is based on the lessons of history in Palestine and lessons from similar struggles like South Africa, Vietnam, and Algeria. Some of the peculiarities that will be critical for our success are:

-The incredible and inspiring history of the local popular resistance: The subtitle of my book is "A history of hope and empowerment". Over 200 forms of popular resistance are practiced including a wide spectrum of what we call in Arabic Sumud. Resistance is the main thing that stood in the way of the Zionist project. Five and a half million Palestinians still live in the dreamed of "Eretz Yisrael".

-The logarithmic growth of the boycotts, divestments and sanctions movement. In five years alone (2005-2010), we achieved more than what we were able to achieve in BDS movements in South Africa from the 1950s to the 1980s.

-The unrest in in Algeria and Tunisia tell us that the era of backward selfish undemocratic Arab leadership will (and must) come to an end. There are tremendous intellectual resources in the Arab world that can then be unleashed to build a vibrant society (at levels of culture, economics, scientific, etc.)

-Despite the heavily censored/controlled mainstream media, people of good conscience were and are able to get the truth out and many of the myths of Zionism were demolished. The internet only accelerated this. The publication of the civil society call to action in 2005 and the Palestine Kairos document in 2009 has given tremendous push to activism around the world including in mainstream churches.

-The growth of International solidarity was unparalleled in history. Despite the attempts by the Israeli authorities to stop this international support by many methods (including refusing entry to many activists), the movement only grows stronger. We went from few hundreds to tens of thousands and from one ship to seven; and as many as 60 ships are coming to break the siege on Gaza later this year.

-We are very proud and persistent people. The thriving art and culture scene in Palestine and among Palestinian community in exile are a testament to this spirit of a people who seek life and refuse to be dehumanized. We do not and will not resort to the tactics of those who chose to be our enemies. From Dabka to good food to other cultural traditions, Palestine remained not only physically in our surroundings but deep in our hearts. We developed the most educated populace in the region.

In Palestine, these and many other reasons increase our certainty in the inevitability of a successful end to our decades of repression, colonization and occupation. We faced, almost alone, the best-organized, best-financed, most western-supported colonial enterprise in history. Rational human beings see that the spread of fundamentalism is only fostered when Israel is made an exception and is funded and protected while it flouts human rights and International law. Zionists act to control and manipulate and we must continue to calmly resist and refuse to be enslaved. We tell our stories with dignity and we explain why this racist/tribalistic system is harmful to all of humanity. We do it without hatred to any person but with anger and hatred at the inhuman actions of a deluded few who think they can get away with war crimes and crimes against humanity forever. People around the world increasingly see the reality and join our struggle. I talk and show reality in Bethlehem area to groups of visitors almost every day in Palestine. I get invitations to speak abroad frequently but I chose to limit such trips abroad because there is so much to do at home.

-We speak to diverse groups sometimes to the consternation of puritans on all sides. I spoke for example at colleges and schools in the US where the majority of students and faculty were Jewish (e.g. Brandeis, Manhattenville), I spoke at NATO defense college, at conservative Churches, at synagogues and Jewish community centers, at editorial board meetings of influential papers largely owned by Zionists, and we even spoke at a US Naval Academy. In the West Bank I spoke to visitors ranging from Church leaders, to US congressmen, to British Parliamentarians, to the US consular officers, and even to Israeli academics. Some people especially on the left balk at these events and some even openly criticized us for these kinds of engagements. But if we are willing to speak to Israeli soldiers telling them how they are committing war crimes by obeying orders and we manage to occasionally (though rarely) touch a cord in the heart of our direct oppressors, why can't we talk to all other human beings regardless of their background. It is counterproductive to imagine the worst in humanity; misjudge the trends in history; and insist that we can only talk to those we agree with or go with the flow. This is a losing attitude that relegates many on the left to holding signs at street corners without creatively thinking how do we get power. It also relegates those in power to complacency and corruption and mistrust of people. Many develop their diagnostic language (the corporate media is controlled, the Zionist lobby is too strong, the politics cannot change, power structures are what they are etc) but are not willing to seriously take action to make this world a better place.

In this year, we will be seven billion human beings on this earth. The distortions in many countries (including Italy and Israel/Palestine) of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer cannot and will not continue. Fear of change is what paralyzes many people. As others have pointed out, our biggest fear is not that we will fail but that for many human beings, the biggest fear is that we can be more successful than our wildest dreams. I believe indeed it is fear of success that keeps most people complacent. After all, for many if they really go seriously after their dreams (personal or collective) and succeed then it will show that the years they spent worrying and being afraid have indeed been only because of their lack of courage to change themselves.

Neurobiologists tell us that we humans only use a tiny fraction of our brain (we are told that geniuses use 1-2%). In the 1950s civil rights movement in the US, a common saying was "free your mind and your ass will follow". I think positive change always comes after people changed attitude in life to a positive direction. This is not only possible but it is imperative and inevitable. The more people realize this, the quicker we will get there. And we should all be working on the nature of the society to follow our inevitable win: one based on human rights and the rule of law not of military might and repression.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two of everything, even on Sundays

Times Picayune article from Friday, January 21, 2011
James Perry

In most American communities there are two of everything: two movie theaters, two malls, two of each type of school and two of most types of church. This is not a modern day Noahian tale; rather it is the lingering effect of de jure segregation.

In most cities, the segregative trend not only exists in places of worship, it is in America's churches, synagogues and mosques that the trend is most apparent. Dr. Martin Luther King famously lamented, "At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic. Nobody of honesty can overlook this."

Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches, however, in their destruction caused two churches to confront their roles in American segregation in a very real way. Grace Methodist, a 155-year-old African-American congregation, was rendered homeless when Katrina ravished its historic church located at Iberville and North Prieur. Mostly white First Methodist church, walking distance from Grace, got five feet of floodwaters. Further, its membership had waned from 1,200 to 700 pre-storm. In fact, in the days immediately after Katrina, as few as 30 people attended weekly Sunday service.

Neither church exists today. Instead, there is only First Grace United Methodist Church.
The two congregations overcame America's most persistent divider: race. They took the courageous step of forgoing their separate racial identities in favor of an integrated oneness. It was no easy task. First Methodist had a storied near-two-century history. And Grace Methodist, like so many black churches, had a key role in New Orleans' black political and civil rights communities. Merging the churches meant a perceived end to each of these valiant legacies in favor a new joint identity.

It also meant members had to address more corporeal matters, like whether the choir would continue with the more traditional and classical sound that First was accustomed to or the rhythmic soulful syncopation more common at Grace. Or what cooking style the new congregation would adopt at church dinners: Grace soul food or First's Italian and Irish comfort food. The questions and concerns were plentiful. But the congregation and its leaders stayed focused on unifying the churches, for before them lay a historic opportunity to recommit themselves to the tenets of their faith through racial integration. The final decision to unify was made in 2008.

I visited First Grace United Methodist for the first time in fall 2009. I've been a dozen or so times since then for community events and to Sunday service as a guest of friends who are members. I've never seen a church more reflective of New Orleans' diversity. Each time I have visited, the aisles overflowed with people of all races and ethnicities who had forged true bonds of friendship that easily shone through in both their actions and words.

This week, as we consider Dr. King's legacy, I invite you to consider whether integration is a component in your own life, at your place of worship, work, school and peer circles. I invite you to honor King's legacy by stepping out of your comfort zone. Spend some time making friends in a social environment where people who look like you are not the majority.

In fact, if you are free this Sunday, I know a church that would love to have you as a guest, in the spirit of commitment to faith and in the spirit of commitment to Dr. King's quest for racial integration in America.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"This is the proof of seriousness and determination on the Palestinian side."
Dov Weissglass
Chief political advisor to PM Ariel Sharon, on the newly published Palestinian negotiations documents (Ynet: January 24, 2011)

From Jewish Voice for Peace:
The recent release by Al Jazeera and the Guardian of some 16,000 documents related to nearly 20 years of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations sadly substantiates what Jewish Voice for Peace has said publicly for years- that the U.S. is not the neutral broker it claims to be.

The United States' unconditional support for Israel has helped to perpetuate the occupation by promoting endless negotiations that have enabled Israel to expand settlements while claiming to work towards peace.

Israel's lack of interest in ending the occupation and being a partner to peace is now nakedly revealed in documents which show its reaction to the Palestinian Authority's unprecedented concessions, shocking because they far exceed the requirements of international law. Israel offered an intransigent 'no' to every concession, with the U.S. looking on in approval.

There is a chance, however, for the Obama Administration to differentiate itself from the ineffectual American actions revealed in the leaked documents.

Palestinians and their supporters have put forth a key resolution on the Israel-Palestine conflict that is now before the UN Security Council. Largely echoing stated U.S. policy, the resolution embraces negotiations, endorses the creation of a Palestinian state, and demands an immediate halt to Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But even though the resolution echoes U.S. policy, President Obama is under heavy pressure to veto the UN resolution from forces in Washington who want to protect the Israeli occupation.

Jewish Voice for Peace-Urge U.S. Not to Veto Israeli Settlements Resolution

Americans for Peace Now-Stand for Peace. Prevent U.S. Veto of UN settlements resolution

U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation-Obama, We Know How to Help Cut the Deficit--End Military Aid to Israel

American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights-Sign the Petition to Urge Obama to Support UN Action Against Israeli Settlements

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Palestine Papers...

....are being leaked over the next few days. Here are a few hasty reactions....

1) Holy crap, the Palestinian Authority was willing to give up that much?! They said Israel could annex several illegal settlements, which would certainly compromise the territorial continuity of a "Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital." Now the PA says screw it. Israel can have what they've laid out in Jerusalem, if it means both parties can set that issue aside and proceed with the talks. This was a major concession.

Also, the PA offered that only 10,000 of the refugees would be allowed to return. This is a symbolic figure, and a pretty useless one at that, because it would surely be rejected by both sides. Israel says no refugees can return, and the refugees would never be satisfied with 10,000. What are they going to do, draw straws? And international law isn't worth diddly. So why did the PA sell out the refugees? I guess it hoped (in vain) that if it gave up more, and more, and more, that at some point Israel would accept an offer.

What compromise is the PA asking for? That Israel not annex Har Houma, Ma'aleh Adumim and Ariel. These settlements lie deeper inside the West Bank, and annexing them to Israel would render a the goal of achieving a territorially-continuous Palestinian state impossible. Israel won't dismantle the settlements or let them fall inside a Palestinian state. Condaleeza told Palestinian negotiators they were SOL if they expected either of those options.

2) The Israeli government rejected all of these concessions, and can we finally start talking about why?! Jerusalem is off the table. Refugees are off the table. But it seems more than happy to watch the immediate effect of the release of these Papers, which is that the Palestinians are pretty pissed off at the PA. Pardon the alliteration. So now Al Jazeera is being vandalized, there's more internal strife in the West Bank, Hamas is livid that Fateh (the PA) would bend over so far backwards for Israel, and the Israeli government shines the spotlight on the crazy Pallies while it goes about stealing their land.

Let's take the spotlight off the Palestinian Authority for a moment. The fact that these concessions were rejected further proves that the current Israeli government has no intention of ending the Occupation, but intends to annex all of its settlements and build more deeply inside the West Bank. In fact, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman just drew up a map of his idea of a future Palestinian State, which annexes all of Area C (60% of the West Bank) to Israel, leaving a handful of scattered Palestinian enclaves with no access to privately-owned land in Area C. And he'll throw in some roads for "continuity." This is the same man who said peace is impossible and whose deputy declared that the state of Facebook is more real than the state of Palestine.

This is the argument I find most tragic: The fact that the Palestinian Authority had to hide its offers from the general public means that they don't speak for the Palestinian people. If the people wouldn't approve, then the offers are illegitimate, and unacceptable. But the PA's loss of public esteem is convenient, and absolving for the Israeli government, which could say "well, we might have accepted these terms, but it looks like the Palestinian people themselves have rejected them."

The Palestinian Authority has been humiliated. The fact that it offered so much to Israel is humiliating. But the mainstream media will focus on the Palestinian backlash (oh just give the mic to Hamas...) instead of Israel's rejection. It will focus on the division of Palestinian power instead of settlements, demolitions, and the threat of almost complete annexation. It will focus on the PA's humiliation, without considering the humiliating parameters it's forced to operate within, or that to be an undesirable Palestinian in a Jewish state or one of 5 million stateless refugees, is, in essence, to live in a state of humiliation.

A few other nuggets:
-The then Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, repeatedly pressed in 2007-08 for the "transfer" of some of Israel's own Arab citizens into a future Palestinian state as part of a land-swap deal that would exchange Palestinian villages now in Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank

-Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state under George Bush, suggested in 2008 Palestinian refugees could be resettled in South America. "Maybe we will be able to find countries that can contribute in kind," she said. "Chile, Argentina, etc

-Livni told Palestinian negotiators in 2007 that she was against international law and insisted that it could not be included in terms of reference for the talks: "I was the minister of justice", she said. "But I am against law – international law in particular."
The Guardian


My talk at Loyola is scheduled for February 9th. I'm being sponsored by the Middle East Peace Studies Department, and catered by a local restaurant...? Yessss. I got a call the other day, though. We need to omit the word Occupation. So now it's Reflections on Non-Violent Resistance in Palestine. Honestly, the word Palestine is probably controversial enough, but I'm curious to see if people show up wondering what the hell Palestine is resisting....

I don't think I even have to say the word "occupation." I probably will, though.

My First Trip to Palestine

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This is the French group I traveled with for a few days....I will always remember their bravery and spirit, not to mention the power in numbers they brought to every demonstration....

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Give the Money Back (from J Street)

The new Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen seems to see nothing wrong with taking large campaign contributions from the most renowned funder of housing for Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods.

This notorious settlement funder -- Irving Moskowitz -- actively works to derail the chances for a two-state solution by funding Jewish settler housing in the middle of Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Days ago, Moskowitz’s handiwork made headlines with a demolition of the Shepherd’s Hotel in the East Jerusalem hot spot of Sheikh Jarrah.

The whole world – including the United States under many Presidents of both parties – has condemned and opposed his projects as obstacles to a two-state solution.

But the new Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is taking his money to support her campaigns? Give us a break.

With the two-state solution hanging by a thread, what a terrible signal it sends for an American political leader to be so cozy with a far-right political funder whose actions undermine the foreign policy of the United States and makes a two-state solution harder to achieve.

Click here to call on Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to return Moskowitz’s campaign contributions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thousands protested in Tel Aviv over the passing of legislation that will allow the government to target and investigate left-wing NGO's, and in response to the protest, Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari issued the following statement:

"Movements on the extreme left have proven that they are some of the people who would like to see the State of Israel destroyed. They are betraying the state and therefore there is no escape from taking steps against them. We will reveal that they are funded by enemy states and we will treat them like Hezbollah."

Israel Beiteinu issued a statement welcoming the Knesset’s decision:

“The committee is meant to examine the activities and funding for those groups that habitually support terrorist organizations, including open support for Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War and Hamas during Operation Cast Lead,” the statement read.

“It is the right and the obligation of the Israeli public to know that the majority of the false testimonies that were written in the Goldstone Report were handed over by these organizations, the same ones that handed over the names of IDF officers and encouraged legal actions against them, and their representatives have even been wandering for years in Israeli schools and tell the youth to evade military service,” the statement continued.

“These organizations do not really care about the state of human rights, a fact evidenced by the fact that they have never worked for the rights of women in Arab society, nor discussed the status of democracy in Saudi Arabia, a state that itself funds some of these organizations. The entire goal of these organizations is to deter the IDF in its struggle against terrorist organizations and to weaken the determination of soldiers to defend the citizens of Israel, and the Israeli Knesset has the obligation to fight against this,” Israel Beiteinu said.
Things that remind me of Palestine...

1) I saw this quote on a poster at my school:

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

I think the assumption here is that most people know there's a controversy, so the issue of where to stand is a little more in your face. A lot of people don't know why Palestine is controversial, so they aren't really standing anywhere. As such I can't always tell people "hey, this is my position." I usually have to explain what the positions are. So I'm comforted by King's message, but I still feel like an amoeba in the grand scheme of things.

I've also seen reading materials on Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement lying around the school library. I'll be going on the 7th grade trip this year--a Civil Rights Tour of the South.

2) At church yesterday, a few people came up to the podium and gave a few words about what Martin Luther King Jr.'s life meant to them. One man said that he was particularly struck by King's vision for equality not just for African Americans, but for all people. I'm going to follow through with my talk about Palestine next week. I couldn't bring myself to go to the podium because I don't have any memory of the man, but I want to tell the congregation next week that this is my contribution, my way of honoring King's work, by educating people about injustice and non-violent resistance in Palestine.

We shall live in peace
We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace someday...
Oh deep in my heart,
I do believe
That we shall overcome someday.

3)...And today was MLK Day. My fellow volunteers and I spent a few hours at Langston Hughes Elementary in Gentilly, painting murals and staining benches and helping out in the school's garden. We wore shirts with King's picture that said "Make it a Day On, Not a Day Off." After that we did some grocery shopping and a few people said they liked our shirts and the lady behind the deli smiled at me and said, "well, that's nice of you."

Lastly, Americans for Peace Now e-mailed out a petition to Hillary Clinton that asks her to support Israeli peace and human rights group as they fight to save democracy in Israel.

“On some positions cowardice asks the question, ‘is it safe?’
Expediency asks the question, ‘is it is politic?’
Vanity asks the question, ‘is it is popular?’
But conscience asks the question, ‘is it right?’

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

YouTube Removes Pro-Palestinian/Anti-Motorola Video

By Sarah Fenske, Mon., Dec. 27 2010
Two weeks ago, we told you about the local activists who busted out an anti-Motorola song-and-dance routine at the Best Buy and AT&T stores in suburban Brentwood -- and we posted a video of the performance. That video quickly drew more than 35,000 hits.

Last week, however, YouTube unceremoniously removed the video in question, saying it was subject to a copyright challenge by WMG (apparently, the Warner Music Group). See this link for the brief message from YouTube.

The group of activists who assembled the Brentwood flash mobs, the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, is now questioning the video's removal.

As organizer Colleen Kelly points out, there are close to 1,000 YouTube videos showing flash mob-type performances or other recreations of Lady Gaga songs. Those haven't been taken down -- courts have long recognized that parodies are not copyright violations.

"The STL-PSC is firmly convinced, as advised by legal representation, that the flash mob video does not infringe Warner Music Group's copyright, as it constitutes a 'fair use' of the song 'Telephone,' and parodies of songs are protected under a US Supreme Court decision in Cambell v. Acuff-Rose," the group said in a statement.

Adding to the intrigue: The Warner Music Group apparently doesn't represent either Gaga or Beyonce, who both perform in the original "Telephone" video. Beyonce is represented by Sony; Gaga, by BMI.

So why Warner Music Group? Not to get all conspiratorial, but the company does have a relationship with Motorola. And Motorola, of course, is perhaps the only corporate entity in the world that would be monitoring YouTube for anti-Motorola content.

"This video was getting a lot of attention," Kelly says.

As you can see from the link above, the group has now reposted the video at a different link -- basically daring YouTube to take that one down, too. Its attorney has also filed a formal challenge to YouTube's decision to censor, Kelly tells Daily RFT. Under the proscribed process, Warner Music Group has a few weeks to explain why the video needed to come down or risk having its veto overturned.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Can the European Union effectively take a stand against the Israeli Occupation while Obama remains silent? It looks like it's trying, but without U.S. support, any changes would be implemented at a glacial pace. It's too bad we're sitting on this report right here. And in the meantime...

Facts on the ground
Facts on the ground
Making...everyone else look like fools
With your facts on the ground

Full EU Envoy Report

A few key points...

3. EU policy regarding East Jerusalem is based on the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 242, notably the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by force. In accordance with international law, the EU regards East Jerusalem as occupied territory and has never recognised the Israeli 1980 Basic Law (Jerusalem, Capital of Israel) which annexed Jerusalem as Israel’s “complete and united” capital and modified the city’s municipal borders.

7. The demographic factor is a central element in Israeli policy. In 1967, Israel extended its jurisdiction over East Jerusalem. At the same time, by adding some 70 km² it redefined the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Today, some 924 000 people live within these municipal boundaries, of which around 30 percent are Palestinian. It has been a stated aim in official planning documents to prevent the Palestinian population from becoming more than 30 percent of the municipality’s total population. Successive Israeli governments have pursued a policy of transferring Jewish population into the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law.

23. The planning regime of the Jerusalem municipality remains a source of concern as it places severe restrictions on the building of Palestinian housing in East Jerusalem. Many Palestinians live under the threat of having their house demolished and being evicted, adding to the existing tensions. These restrictions result in a housing shortage in East Jerusalem and regular demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures.

24. According to the planning regime, 13 percent of the land in East Jerusalem is currently zoned for Palestinian construction (compared to 35 percent which is allocated for Israeli settlements). Only within this 13 percent, which is already densely built upon, Palestinians have the possibility of obtaining an Israeli-issued permit to build, repair or maintain their homes and livelihood-related structures. Administrative requirements, however, make it extremely difficult for Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem to obtain such permits. In addition, the procedures take several years and usually entail a prohibitive cost.

25. Over the past years Palestinians have received fewer than 200 building permits per year. Based on the population growth, permits for 1 500 housing units annually would be necessary to cover the housing needs.

26. As a consequence of the restrictive planning regime, there is an acute housing shortage in East Jerusalem. In addition, Palestinian houses are overcrowded and in a bad condition. The planning regime poses a difficult dilemma for Palestinian families: they have the choice between migrating outside the municipal area of Jerusalem (and losing their residency status) or building without the necessary building permit. According to UN OCHA, at least 32% of Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem lack such a permit, putting approximately 88 000 Palestinians at risk.

32. In June this year, the Israeli authorities invoked “breach of loyalty to the state of Israel” in order to withdraw the residency rights for three members of the Palestinian Legislative Council as well as for a former Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs.

34. The construction of the separation barrier in East Jerusalem, which started in 2002, continued throughout 2010. In the area around the Jerusalem municipality, the barrier measures around 168 kilometres, of which only 3 percent runs along the 1967 Green Line. The main reason behind this deviation is the integration of 12 Israeli settlements (and space for their future expansion).

Amnon Dankner - "I'm Ashamed of Being Israeli"

Ma’ariv - 7 January 2011

Amnon Dankner is an Israeli newspaper editor and author. He was the editor of the mass-circulation daily Ma’ariv for six years. In the 1970s, Dankner was the spokesman of the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Jewish Agency.

The following article is from the Hebrew Press translation service of the Israel News (Daily Summary of the Hebrew Media) for embassies and journalists. It was forwarded to Australians for Palestine by a supporter.

It was truly wonderful to spend the past few years without publicly expressing any opinions. I published stories in these pages every week in which even the finest minds could not find a connection with the stormy current affairs, and had a feeling that people changed their attitude towards me, and now harboured various degrees of animosity and hostility towards me not because of my opinions, but simply because I was generally an annoying person.

However, if I am denying myself the pleasure of writing a story this week and denying it to those of you who became accustomed to reading my stories here, and I am daring to stand up and voice an opinion and even voice it loudly and pound on the table once or twice—this is because I have felt lately that it has become shameful to be an Israeli, and a decent person must feel this shame and blush deeply and clear his throat and whisper to himself the question, what should we do, what should we do, for heaven’s sake, and perhaps even reach far-reaching conclusions.

Because it is fairly clear already that if our life here continues as it has been developing, then decent, moderate, balanced and humane people will not be able to live here. Before our eyes, with growing speed, Israeli society is changing, the political culture is changing, balances are disrupted and checks are tossed to the blazes, in the terrible wind that is blowing in our lives and quickly colouring them in darkening shades of black.

It seems that things that were bottled up in the Israeli soul, well hidden due to the shame, are suddenly erupting with a sense of release and capering in a disgraceful manner in full view. It is now permissible to be a racist, and permissible to take pride in it, and it is permissible to kick democracy and take pride in that, and it is permissible to cause injustice and exploitation and trample people’s rights, if the people in question are Arabs, and it is permissible to take pride in this too. There are MKs that engage in all this with great skill, and with smiles that cannot fail to send a shiver down one’s back. There are entire parties whose colour and music arouse shocking and horrific memories.

Sometimes I try to do the following exercise: To think that I went to sleep sometime in the 1980s or 1990s, and what I have been experiencing here recently is no more than a nightmare. After all, this cannot be. Not here. Not among Jews. And yet—it is happening.

When people comment on this venomously around the world, we object almost instinctively and say, no, that is too much already. It is only anti-Semitic hate propaganda. But with a hand on the heart — are we not becoming, from year to year, more and more like our monstrous caricature, which is drawn by our worst enemies? For really, where are we going? Think for yourselves, as unpleasant as this may be: Are we becoming more or less racist? More or less democratic? More or less decent? And alas, in our decline to brutality, within this terrible deterioration, if only we could at least take comfort in the fact that we were perhaps becoming worse and more contemptible, but also safer and better protected. But once again, with a hand on the heart: Is this true, or is it exactly the opposite?

For it is not only a disgrace to be an Israeli today, it is also deathly frightening. I have lived here for many years. In fact, I think I am already teetering on the verge of being defined as an old man, and I have never observed in those around me such a peculiar sense of real existential fear hidden under a thin veneer of complacent pleasure in the good life. The Israeli suppresses and suppresses the horrific images that tickle the bottom of his consciousness, and yet they rise to the surface.

Everyone knows that the next war will be waged mainly in our home front, and to a large degree will be decided there. Everyone knows that tens of thousands of missiles are aimed at this home front, just as everyone knows that it is completely unprepared for this kind of war. When the public is notified, on one hand, that it must re-equip itself with gas mask kits, and on the other hand, it is told that nearly half the population will have to manage without them, this certainly does not strengthen the confidence in the leaders of the establishment; in any case, one’s hair stands on end when recalling that in the past months they were engaged mainly in dirty infighting and various intrigues between the bureaus of the defence minister and the chief of staff.

When such a terrible war is expected, it is no reason for displays of defeatism – that is true. However, it should spur the government to make every reasonable effort to prevent the war and improve the state’s international standing and its strategic ties with the United States. But clearly, what is really happening is the opposite. It has been years since Israel’s standing in the world has been in such decline. It has been years since its relations with the US have been so poor. It has been years since there was such a complete freeze in what is known as the “peace process.”

Following the cliché that Israel has no foreign policy, only domestic policy, it would be accurate to say that a government such as the one in power, which relies on too many racist characters with fascist tendencies, who speak in a tone of thugs that are suddenly peering out from the worst pages of history — is being propelled by the tailwind of racist invective and fascist tendencies far from a path of political arrangements and towards the direction of aggressive and rigid entrenchment.

Another terrible thing is that the Israeli elite and intelligentsia has become weary in the face of all this, and it has long since thrown up its hands in despair. I am referring to its large mainstream, and not the extremist fringes that have long since become lost to us and intermingled with our worst enemies. This elite no longer mobilizes for any effort, not for petitions, not for rallies, not for demonstrations, not for protest vigils, not for sit-ins.

Conversely, for many years it has largely ceased to make a significant contribution to the state in the important area of enlisting in IDF field units. It lolls in the large cities and luxurious garden suburbs, and pins its hopes on one draft year after another of national-religious youth, Russian immigrants and residents of development towns and Ethiopians, to guard it in that army of theirs.

The Israeli elite and intelligentsia has not succeeded in producing any significant sign of life that would signal that they are willing to fight for the image of the state and society in Israel. Take, for example, the demonstrations being held in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem and in Bilin, near the separation fence. These are two acts of injustice and exploitation that are great and serious. Acts of injustice and exploitation on a Biblical scale. Acting in the way of Sodom towards helpless populations. Acts by which every decent person’s heart should be outraged.

But here, in the face of these things, the better part of Israeli society (and I am not referring here to political affiliation - in my eyes, decent right wingers should also object to all this) is not capable of producing large and impressive demonstrations of thousands and tens of thousands, or an impressive chorus of voices with compelling moral strength. Here and there, there are demonstrations of several hundred people at best, and the arena is left to activists from extremist streams, who lack legitimacy in Israeli society, and therefore their acts convince no one.

In Sheikh Jarrah, for those who do not recall exactly, we are talking in brief about the principle that property in East Jerusalem that was Jewish before the War of Independence, and has been inhabited by Arabs ever since, will be evacuated and returned to its Jewish owners, whereas property in West Jerusalem that was Arab before the War of Independence and has been inhabited by Jews ever since, will be property to which its Arab owners have no rights. Here is what a law of Sodom permits in a state of Sodom.

And in the same state, under the guise of security considerations, lands of Palestinian villages are confiscated for the purpose of building the fence, when the real plan is to build on the land a residential neighbourhood of a new ultra-Orthodox city, and when the High Court of Justice intervenes and orders that part of the land be returned to its owners (for Israel is Sodom with sudden flashes of justice), the authorities ignore it.

Cannot one fail to be ashamed of a state that does such things? Of a state whose laws enable such acts? Of a state in which such things pass with an indifferent reaction of an overwhelming majority of the public and an overwhelming majority of the elite and intelligentsia?

The terrible thing is that one cannot, with all fairness, fail to be grateful to the few people, some of them haters of Israel from around the world, some of them Israelis with opinions that are very far from reasonable, who keep the flame burning and remind us of our sins in their weekly demonstrations. I do not like them, and I am averse to the violent path that they sometimes employ, but they are there instead of all of us, in our place, we who are immersed in our hedonistic indolence and clinging to the last days of the great illusion.

All the fine things that we say about ourselves, all the correct things that we say about the conflict, shatter in the face of our actions, which join together greed and an appetite for land, arrogance and cruelty and stupidity and malice, and wickedness and discrimination and exploitation of the poor. How is it that there are so many terrible people, in high-placed and influential positions, who are capable of perpetrating these things? We are not talking about things that are done under pressure, in distress, under battle conditions, when the cannons are thundering, but rather decisions that are made in rooms in which the only noise heard is the whir of an air conditioner.

How is it, for example, that there are people who sat down and counted items that serve to pamper children and took them off the list of goods that it was permitted to bring into the Gaza Strip? They sat down and sorted candy and halva and toys, and who knows what else, and crossed out with a pen and marked an X and explained to us that it was important for toppling the Hamas regime, and we took these malicious idiots seriously and believed them, and after what happened with the Mavi Marmara we lifted the candy blockade and even permitted them to bring cilantro into the Gaza Strip, and no disaster happened except for the fact that we left a huge shame lying before the gates of Gaza, the shame of our own stupidity and malice.

And what is most terrible is that the lion’s share, the extremist, fulminating and wicked share of the stupidity and malice wears a kippa on its head, and is an observant Jew, and its ugly head surfaces in rabbis’ letters and murderous books and racist pamphlets and a rebbitzens’ letter and riots in Arab villages and neo-Nazi statements in the Knesset; and how infuriating is the position that is voiced all too often by one rabbi or another, who does us a great favour by disapproving of all this, on the grounds one does not have to say everything that one thinks. This means that it is permissible to think this way, it is all right, and only for fear of the evil eye should one be silent until the day comes when it will be permissible to speak already, and then we will be able to stick it to the Gentiles all the way.

I call this the most terrible thing, because for a person like me, who hoped for years that the national religious would sober up from the dream of the greater Land of Israel and the settlements, and that the ultra-Orthodox would stop emulating them in the insane nationalism that has adhered to them in the past decades—for a person like me, who feels a special affinity with this public due to the way he was raised and educated, the sense of despair upon seeing it drift into the ugliest realms of our life is particularly stinging.

This sense of despair is compounded by the assessment that Israeli society, due to demographic processes, is becoming increasingly religious, and this necessarily means — woe is the linkage! —increasingly nationalist and benighted, increasingly racist and venomous, increasingly violent and isolationist.

For a man of my age — who wasted significant portions of his life writing in the newspapers about these matters, and now sees that he did so due to a large amount of false hopes, illusions, wishful thinking and naïveté — what is happening now is a particularly bitter kind of sobering up. Seeing Israeli society quickly changing its face and taking on a form that you never thought you would see outside your nightmares — that makes the heart shrink. Starting to become ashamed of being an Israeli, and knowing with some degree of certainty that the shame will continue to grow, that is heartrendingly discouraging.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Israel Demolishes Homes and Classroom in West Bank Village

Guardian Article

"The Palestinians are not an innocent peaceful people whose land has been stolen by the evil Israelis. These are people who have tried over and over again together with their other Arab brethren to destroy Israel and, in their words, “to throw the Jews into the sea”....

My response:
Alright, this is a problem. There will never, I mean, NEVER be peace for Israel unless the Nakba is recognized. The refugees didn't abandon their homes, and no amount of violent retaliation justifies Israel's refusal to let them return. I understand why Israel is a special case, but the right to return to your own personal property is an international right, and Israel is not exempt by any means. Yes, this is a challenge to the implementation of Zionism. It does not mean I want to throw Israel into the sea. It means Israel needs to recognize its responsibility in creating the refugee situation and consequently, the problem of terrorism against Israel.

Secondly, I just got back from the West Bank, and Israel is without a doubt continuing a policy of ethnic cleansing. Remember when Sharon said "we'll make a pastrami sandwich out of them?"

"Yes, we'll insert a strip of Jewish settlements in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlements right across the West Bank, so that in 25 years' time, neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart."

Nothing has changed. When you drive from Area A to Area C, the highway signs turn back into Hebrew, to welcome Israeli settlers back to their suburbs. It's systematic, and it has nothing to do with security.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jumping back into the New Orleans life has been really weird. I keep telling people I haven't mentally unpacked from my trip, and I don't think I ever really will. I'm carrying it to school, to choir practice, to Saints games, and it only feels less heavy when I plop down on my bed and turn my computer on. For the last week I've been glued to news sites and blogs that talk about Bil'in, Jawaher, demonstrations, demolitions, settlements, Salam Fayyad, and the Knesset.

Three things I've been stewing over:

1) 7th grade history teacher: "Turn to the map on page 194." Today we're going to talk about the Cherokee Trail of Tears. I opened up to see the route that Native Americans were forced to walk after being removed from their homes and rounded up like cattle.

"Emerson writes in his third letter addressing President Van Buren stating that the removal of the Cherokee Nation would be an unjust and tragic act. Emerson believed that the President has a commitment to protect every inhabitant of the US. Emerson states that Van Buren will bring shame on the office of the Presidency and the entire country. Emerson affirmed that the Indian removal is “fraud and robbery”."
Northern Humanitarian Protest Over Cherokee Removal

2) I just joined the Symphonic Chorus of New Orleans. We're seeing a 121-page piece on war and peace. It's beautiful. And there's going to be a Muslim muezzin doing a call to prayer in the middle.

3) I'm giving a lecture at Loyola on my trip, with the help of Loyola's Middle East Peace Studies Department. Right now I'm brainstorming titles, pictures, and what the boundaries of my presentation are going to be. I don't want to preach to the choir, like George Galloway did to the Muslim Legal Fund benefit. I want to draw a diverse crowd. If we start advertising next week I think everything will be alright.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

EU envoys in 'East Jerusalem call'

Al Jazeera-Brussels urged to treat city's disputed part as future capital of Palestinian state, according to leaked report.

European Union envoys in the Middle East have urged Brussels to treat East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state and severely criticised Israeli polices there, according to a leaked report.

In the document, the heads of 25 European missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah recommend a range of actions to be taken in order to discourage Israel from continuing to "undermine" the status of the disputed part of the city.

Proposals in the document, a copy of which has been obtained by Al Jazeera, include dispatching EU observers to the scene of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, and a possible ban on EU entry for Israeli settlers deemed to have forcefully moved into Palestinian areas.

When the Messiah comes...

By Bradley Burston


When the Messiah comes, he will be without papers.

When the Messiah comes, he will be taken into a small room, off-white and chilled, with one gray metal chair at each side of a gray metal desk.

When the Messiah comes, he will be questioned by a junior officer of the Shin Bet, and by an official of the Interior Ministry, who got his job through his cousin, who is an inspector of ritual dietary observance at a cookie bakery and who got his job through his sister's father-in-law, third assistant to the deputy chair of the Shas party branch in Ramla.

When the Messiah comes, no one will know.

His donkey, which is white and is named Snowpea, will be impounded in a leaky underground police lot near the Lod railroad station. There will be no paperwork. By nightfall it will have disappeared, spirited into a closed truck by the lot's watchman, who after his shift will drive the donkey to a moshav. Money will change hands, and the donkey as well, four times, until it is sold by settlers to Palestinians some of whose ancestral land now lies inside the settlement fence.

When the Messiah comes, the first sign will be a gag order.

A coded report on a high-profile news website will be made to disappear. It will reappear on a blog in Seattle, and then in the Guardian. The government will delay response, finally issuing a statement ascribed to sources in Jerusalem, reading "We have no knowledge of this." The IDF, quoting an unnamed senior military official, will state that there is no evidence that a Messiah of any kind has come. It will later soften the denial, saying it is checking the report and directing reporters to the Defense Ministry, which turfs them to the Prime Minister's Office, which cannot be reached for comment.

When the Messiah comes, rabbis will treat him like Jesus.

They will brand him disloyal, diseased, Reform.

In wall posters, Sabbath sermons, ritual decrees and signed petitions, careful not to use his title, chief rabbis of cities and towns will warn of an existential threat to the essential Jewish character of the state. Under no circumstances are Jews to sell or rent homes or lots to someone like this. The rabbis' wives will vilify him as a carnal threat to Jewish girls.

The rabbis' declarations will divide the Jewish people and bring wrath and dishonor upon Israel. The rabbis will continue to draw large civil service salaries, as well as generous tips, in cash, goods and services under the table and off the books.

When the Messiah comes, the Right will crucify him. Im Tirzu will roll out ads and billboards showing him with a tail to go along with his horns. A blogger from Commentary will call him a whiny, petulant boob. In Maariv and the Jerusalem Post, seven columnists will all have at him in the same three day period. NGO Monitor will ask for donations to expose his sources of funding.

When the Messiah comes, the Occupation will end.

But before it does, a global social network led by the Republican Jewish Coalition, Fox News, The Zionist Organization of America and Daniel Pipes, will launch a campaign aimed at exposing the Messiah as a Muslim.

When the Messiah is crucified, the army will deny that he was even present at the time.

When the Messiah comes, an Israel political party whose voters are routinely denigrated by native-born Israelis as whores and non-Jews will propose legislation declaring him a delegitimizer of Israel and the army (over the crucifixion), a blasphemer of Zionism (for suggesting that the Palestinians were not the sole obstacles to peace), and rendering him ineligible for citizenship unless he signs a loyalty oath stating that even if Israel did practice crucifiction, it did so in a democratic and Jewish manner.

Aides to Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari, along with Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans, will take out a Facebook page headed "Mavet L' Mashiach" – Death to the Messiah.

When the Messiah comes, he will be granted refugee status by the United Nations as a legitimate seeker of asylum, but will be held at a detention camp in Israel's Area 51, near the perimeter of the Dimona nuclear reactor facility, where a judge will trick him into signing an illegible document, which will force his deportation to Chad.

By the time the messiah leaves the Jewish state, he'll be thrilled to go.

Monday, January 10, 2011

This is so vile.

Activists Confront Jerusalem City Councilman As Wing of Historic Hotel is Demolished

The settlement project is funded by Irving Moskowitz, a wealthy Jewish-American gambling magnate.

Mammoth Caterpillar and Volvo bulldozers were working on razing a wing of the hotel.

Defending the demolition in front of the press was Elisha Peleg, a Jerusalem City Council member who is part of the right-wing Likud Party. Peleg insisted that “Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel,” while international activists and Palestinian women yelled “this is stolen land,” “shame on you” and disrupted his interviews with the media. In front of the gates to the hotel stood Israeli police and private security guards carrying rifles.

I told Peleg that he was a shame to Jews around the world. He turned around and told me that journalists shouldn’t voice their own opinions and that there was nothing wrong with building for Jews.

Nothing wrong with building for Jews, except when you erase the non-Jewish history of a multi-cultural, multi-religious city. What a sad future Israel envisions for Jerusalem...
Entry 1: ‘I loved you once, I love you now anyway’
By Morad Fareed

I loved you once, I love you now anyway

We danced at a wedding once.

It wasn't always around flags on fire.

Palestine is Iraq is New Orleans.

Loss breeds ire.


We carried a groom on a chair once.

It wasn't always a coffin.

Your flag triangulates my wound.

I cry for us often.


We spoke to each other over coffee once.

It wasn't always necessary to scream.

Birmingham is Beirut is Bosnia.

We have a fucking dream.


We met each other on a field once.

It wasn't always to fight.

Darfur is Jenin is Auschwitz.

A life is a life.


We prayed for each other once.

It wasn't always so others may lose.

Your mother is my mother, dear brother.

I see hope in our family feud.


We wrote about our love once.

It wasn't always to eulogize.

For groves, for books, for tea, for her.

For your mistakes I’ll apologize.


We dreamed about a new life once.

It wasn't always in heaven.

It is now. It is here. Us. Try.

Leap to Re-imagine.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I've been doing a lot of news-reading and blog-hopping. A few things that stood out today....

( Stephen Walt-More on the Bilin Incident

The Israelis have kept the Palestinians under military occupation for nearly 44 years, while steadily seizing more and more land, and using their superior military power to stifle any form of resistance. This policy requires concealing what is really going on, and forces the IDF to work overtime to spin unpleasant realities. The problem is that the more you conceal things, the more corrosive it is to the body politic as a whole, and the more discredited you are when the truth comes to light. As it will.

MondoAwards Entry 5: Zionism's Call to Me--and My Answer

...Palestinians' freedom of movement and sometimes their very lives exist at the whim of frightened, bored, and sometimes unapologetically racist youths wielding automatic weapons.

There is an added burden on those of us who are Jewish to articulate a coherent position on Israel/Palestine. Whether we like it or not, Israel has conferred upon us certain privileges, and silence implies acquiescence. I think about how generations of white South Africans blithely enjoyed their racial entitlement without troubling themselves to consider the consequences on their victims. We all would like to believe that if we had been born into that environment, we would have refused the undeserved advantages of our skin color. Israel's cordial invitation to me to join their party founded on brute force oppression of another people is something I must not only decline but publicly renounce.

Protestor Death Shows IDF May Be Using Most Dangerous Type of Tear Gas

Jawaher Abu Rahmah was the sister of Bassem Abu Rahmah, who was killed in April 2009 when Israeli soldiers fired a tear-gas grenade at his chest at a demonstration at the fence in Bil'in. Ahmed Abu Rahmah has three surviving brothers; their father died five years ago.

"My entire family is ruined," he said on Sunday. "The whole house feels a sense of catastrophe." He said he bears no hatred toward Israelis. "They are people just like myself. We don't seek vengeance against Israel. We want the return of our lands, and the struggle won't end until our property is restored."

CommonDreams.Org-Israel's Deadly Tear Gas Made in USA

As long as the Israelis occupy the West Bank, though, they don't have the option of nonviolence. A military occupation is inherently an act of violence and it has to be maintained by violence.

CodePINK Action Alert

Today women’s and civic groups from across Israel and Palestine, along with European Union diplomats, Israeli Knesset members, international solidarity activists and press, flooded the village of Bil’in to mourn the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma, who was killed at a weekly demonstration against Israel’s land confiscations and separation wall on New Year's Eve when she was hit with tear gas fumes and collapsed.

Jawaher is only the most recent unarmed civilian killed or seriously injured by the tear gas purchased from Pennsylvania-based company Combined Systems Inc. and fired by the Israeli military. Jawaher’s brother Bassem was killed almost two years ago and two US citizens, Tristan Anderson and Emily Henochowicz, were injured last year, all of them directly hit by high-velocity tear gas canisters.

Take action with CODEPINK and our allies at Adalah-NY to stop the gas and the tears:

Sign our petition to executives at CSI and their investors telling them to stop selling to the Israeli military.

Combined Systems Inc. (CSI) is located in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, but the tear gas canisters it makes litter the villages of Palestinians thousands of miles away. The Israeli military is using CSI’s tear gas as a weapon as it tries to crush the growing movement of unarmed protest against Israel’s illegal confiscation of Palestinian land for Israeli settlements.

Even more disturbing, you as a US taxpayer are paying for at least some of the tear gas that Israel is shooting at Palestinian, Israeli and international protesters. In 2007 and 2008, the US State Department provided $1.85 million worth of "tear gasses and riot control agents" to Israel as part of the US's $3 billion in annual military aid to Israel. The peaceful movement for justice in Palestine will not be crushed. Today you can support this movement: Tell CSI to stop selling to the Israeli Military!

For Jawaher and her struggle for freedom and human rights,

Medea, Jean, Jodie, Nancy, Rae, and Tighe

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Chile just recognized Palestine.

Article in YNet News

There are some really nasty comments on YNet and JPost about Latin American countries being safe havens for Nazis. As if their only motivation for supporting Palestine is to throw Israel into the sea. Obviously, because that's all the Palestinians want to do. What a scary little bubble they must live in.

Thank you, Chile.

This is Haitham's newest video showing last Friday's protest, the first after Jawaher's death. Hundreds of protestors, Palestinians, Israelis and internationals showed up in solidarity, though many were denied entry into the village by temporary Israeli checkpoints. The military has now declared the area between Bil'in and the wall a "closed military zone" on Friday afternoons. At this protest they sprayed water mixed with tear gas.

NYT's Isabel Kershner-Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinian, 65, In His Bedroom

Seham-Some Thoughts on Omar, Jawaher and Isabel

The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make a criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. -- Malcolm X

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Post 100

I just got back into New Orleans. Wow.

I'm going to try to get the whole trip down this weekend, including pictures. From there, it's a big question mark. So much information, so much potential...I just have to sort it out and send it out. I'm excited to spend the whole weekend writing letters and articles and planning a speaking event. Till then, a decent night's sleep will suffice.

There's a popular movie called Morgan Ahmed Morgan (like Morjaan) that came out in 2007. Every time I told someone in Palestine my name they'd follow it with "Ahmed Morgan!" Even the little kids said it. I need to see this movie.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Some of the comments left about Jawaher's death in the Israeli media are pretty disturbing. Not just in their explicit racism, but in their embrace of the "don't know, don't care" mentality, like they have absolutely no interest in finding out what really happened. They say things like "the protests at Bil'in are extremely violent" and "stone throwers get what they deserve" and "the wall is serving its purpose." I wasn't aware of the term "Pallywood," a pro-Israel term referring to the Palestinian attempt to fabricate stories in order to deligitimize Israel. Jawaher's death has been thrown into this category, not just by ignorant bloggers, who spread rumors that she died by honor killing and was buried quickly to cover up the facts, but by the Israeli military as well.

There were inconsistencies. I'm still confused as to whether Jawaher was at the protest or not, but there's no confusion on the quantity and potency of the gas that was used, and how far it reached. But to exploit this confusion in order to conclude the people of Bil'in would use the death of their daughter as a political weapon is dehumanizing, and it's something I really can't stand after having spent five days with the Abu Rahma family.

IDF Pushes Claim that Palestinians lied about Jawaher Abu Rahma's Killing

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I used to view images like this very differently. Even after watching documentaries and doing some research on the Palestinian "cult of death" and martyrdom, I wasn't able to detach myself from the old stereotypes. Even as I stood watching Jaoaher's funeral procession, I wondered to myself, "Why are they waving Fateh flags? Why does her poster have a Fateh symbol on it? Why does her death have to be political? Why are they shouting Allahu Akbar? Are they not aware of how this looks? Is she really a martyr?"

There was this inner battle raging as I watched the procession, but even my limited knowledge of Bil'in and its people was enough to shed those old thoughts.

They're chanting about how they will continue their non-violent struggle for peace.

She supported Fateh, and their struggle was one and the same: Free Bil'in. Free Palestine.

It's easy to assume that all the photos of martyrs that are plastered all over Palestine (especially in Nablus) are of suicide bombers and violent resistors. I made the same assumption of Palestinian martyrdom. Now that I know that Jaoaher is considered a martyr, it makes me reconsider the faces on the posters. Now I'm hearing what people are telling me, that most of them were non-violent resistors, and were killed unjustly.

Anyways, here's my friend Haitham's video of the procession.

I spent the first two days of 2011 in Bil'in, watching the world respond to an event that happened right here. Talking to Jaoaher's family and my friends who handle the media that goes out from Bil'in, then reading articles that get it right and....not-so-right...has inspired me to go into journalism on the P/I conflict. Most of the articles say the same thing. Most disappointing, as usual, is the New York Times, and JPost has it's own slant, though it did a nice article on the protest in Tel Aviv...

Today a few reporters came to Bil'in from human rights groups in Israel, to talk to Jaoaher's relative who was with her from the moment she collapsed to the moment she died. It's too bad the Israeli military, with one of the best intelligence agencies in the world, can't bother to do the same. She must have had asthma. There was no exceptional use of tear gas. She was actually released from the hospital and died at home. Hmmmm, no.

NYTimes-Tear Gas Kills a Palestinian Protester

Mondoweiss-What Really Happened in Bil'in (and how the New York Times got it wrong)

Mondoweiss-Bilin Protester Dies of Asphyxiation Caused by Tear Gas Inhalation

Palestine News Network-Woman Dies of Tear Gas Suffocation in Bilin<---I contributed to this one :)

Haaretz-Bilin Protester Dies After Exposure to Tear Gas Shot by IDF

JPost-Palestinians Say Women Killed By Tear Gas in Bil'in Protest

Mondoweiss-Demonstratros Return Tear Gas Canister to US Ambassador

JPost-Article on Tel Aviv protest in response to Jaoaher's death

France 24-Lawyer Slams Israel Cover-Up of Tear Gas Death

For Jawaher and Bassem

Dear (insert name),
I'm sending this message from Bil'in, Palestine to urge you to join a growing international movement that holds Israel accountable for war crimes. Anyone who has visited this village will tell you that to know Bil'in is to love Bil'in, and to love Bil'in is to fight for it. The necessity for this fight is growing. Illegal settlements and the concrete "security" barrier are confiscating village land, soldiers use nights raids and arrests to terrorize the residents of Bil'in, including minors, and on New Years Eve Israeli soldiers fired tear gas around and behind hundreds of peaceful demonstrators. They used this gas in such volume that a local woman was asphyxiated, and she died the next morning.

Jawaher Abu Rahme happened to be the sister of Bassem Abu Rahme, who was shot in the chest by a tear gas canister in 2009, and killed. The village has mourned the loss of their friend Bassem sever since, and today they buried his sister beside him. My grief is heavy as I mourn for my friends' sister, daughter, cousin, niece, and friend, and for my own complicity in this tragedy. My tax dollars are contributing to all of it: the settlements, the wall, and the bulldozers that uproot the village's olive trees, some of which are thousands of years old. My tax dollars are equipping young Israeli soldiers with gun and gas canisters to be fueled by a militaristic ideology that exploits their youth, and their fear.

I had this crazy idea during the funeral procession this morning. I wanted to walk to the wall, where jeeps full of soldiers were nervously congregating, and invite a soldier to change out of his uniform and attend the burial as a plain-clothes Israeli. Like the Israelis who had attended the demonstration the day before and hugged their friends in Bil'in goodbye, calling them brother. Israelis who come every week and risk being shot by other Israelis, Israelis who are doing more to protect their country than their counterparts in uniform. These soldiers view the people of Bil'in as extremists, with no humanity and no entitlement to their land. Slowly but surely, the world is waking up to the reality of this occupation, and to the realization that our current relationship with Israel is not mutually beneficial, but mutually destructive. I urge you to stand with the pro-peace movement and the people of Palestine as we struggle together for peace and justice, someday, for Jawaher and Bassem.
The following statement has gone viral over Facebook and has been sent to us by several people. It was issued by a group called "Gaza Youth Breaks Out." When we contacted them for more information they sent this response, "We are a group of young people living in Gaza facing different kinds of violence everyday. We are looking for change in our country and trying to taste peace. we can't give you names bcz we are working undercover and we can't have meetings as well for our safety." The also sent ways you can support their work which we pasted after the statement.


Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom. We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalizing this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope. The final drop that made our hearts tremble with frustration and hopelessness happened 30rd November, when Hamas’ officers came to Sharek Youth Forum, a leading youth organization ( with their guns, lies and aggressiveness, throwing everybody outside, incarcerating some and prohibiting Sharek from working. A few days later, demonstrators in front of Sharek were beaten and some incarcerated. We are really living a nightmare inside a nightmare. It is difficult to find words for the pressure we are under. We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. They did not get rid of Hamas, as they intended, but they sure scared us forever and distributed post traumatic stress syndrome to everybody, as there was nowhere to run.

We are youth with heavy hearts. We carry in ourselves a heaviness so immense that it makes it difficult to us to enjoy the sunset. How to enjoy it when dark clouds paint the horizon and bleak memories run past our eyes every time we close them? We smile in order to hide the pain. We laugh in order to forget the war. We hope in order not to commit suicide here and now. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the earth. During the last years Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. We are a generation of young people used to face missiles, carrying what seems to be a impossible mission of living a normal and healthy life, and only barely tolerated by a massive organization that has spread in our society as a malicious cancer disease, causing mayhem and effectively killing all living cells, thoughts and dreams on its way as well as paralyzing people with its terror regime. Not to mention the prison we live in, a prison sustained by a so-called democratic country.

History is repeating itself in its most cruel way and nobody seems to care. We are scared. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even cant think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!

We do not want to hate, we do not want to feel all of this feelings, we do not want to be victims anymore. ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want!

We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask? We are a peace movement consistent of young people in Gaza and supporters elsewhere that will not rest until the truth about Gaza is known by everybody in this whole world and in such a degree that no more silent consent or loud indifference will be accepted.

This is the Gazan youth’s manifesto for change!

We will start by destroying the occupation that surrounds ourselves, we will break free from this mental incarceration and regain our dignity and self respect. We will carry our heads high even though we will face resistance. We will work day and night in order to change these miserable conditions we are living under. We will build dreams where we meet walls.

We only hope that you – yes, you reading this statement right now! – can support us. In order to find out how, please write on our wall or contact us directly:

We want to be free, we want to live, we want peace.


Pls consider supporting us by taking one or more of the following actions:

1) Promoting our manifesto by sharing it on your profile on Facebook
2) Sending an email to your friends asking them to like our page FB
3) Translating the manifesto to your language and sending it to us (we have it in English, Arabic, Hebrew, French, Portuguese, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Danish)
4) Sending the manifesto to journalists in your country
5) Making organizations in your countries that are concerned with the Palestinian issue and/or youth rights know about our existence
6) Posting links about violation of youth's rights in Gaza on our wall
7) Planning an event in your country about this issue and/or organizing for a skype conference, where we are able to talk with a group of youth, politicians or others outside Gaza
8) Suggesting us ideas for reaching out to a greater number of people

Part 1

After missing my flight out of Tel Aviv (who knew security there was especially tight?) I got over the shock of being grounded for five days with the promise of returning to Bil'in for their New Years Eve protest. I was running low on money, my phone was dead, and no one was expecting me. Good thing Bil'in is probably the most welcoming place in the world. New Orleans isn't far behind, but you still have to rely on Couch Surfer to find a place to stay.
I showed up in Bil'in, bags in tote, hair even blonder (I had to kill some time in Tel Aviv) and no plan in mind. The only thing I could think of was to head towards the wall in search of the demonstration. Within the minute I could taste the gas. No one around, still hundreds of meters away, but I could hear the pfft pfft and knew they were letting it rain down. I started to see small groups of protesters carrying flags, they got larger and larger, and more diverse. Turns out I was a little late. But something was still happening. An Israeli drum circle was going at it, and there were musicians scattered about with clarinets and saxophones. I did the protest dance for a little bit, getting closer, getting gassed, moving back, watching, getting closer....there were a lot more soldiers out today, but the protesters numbered in the hundreds. It would have been more but the IDF blocked off an entrance to the village, preventing buses and vans from entering.
Within minutes, I had my choice of places to stay.
Instead of spending New Years getting wasted in New Orleans, which, not gonna lie, I was pretty stoked for after two intense weeks in Palestine, I had a very chill New Years Eve in Bil'in with my friend Hamde, who took me around to different houses to talk to people, view some of the films being put together about Bil'in, and see the houses being built by his brothers for their new families. I talked to Hamde about his connection to Bil'in, how he left his job in Tel Aviv when his cousin Bassem was killed. Now he works with the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee as a photo-journalist. We rang in the new year with apple-flavored argeelah.
I went to bed contented, but couldn't sleep for hours because of the mosquitoes buzzing around my ear. I had to kill every last one of them. When Hamde knocked on the door at 9am, I told him to give me a few more hours. At 1pm, I wrenched myself out of bed and found Hamde napping next door. Five minutes later we were walking up the hill towards the village and that's when it began. A boy ran up and told Hamde something, he turned to me and said, "My cousin, the one who smelled the gas, she is died." He had mentioned her the night before, that she was in the hospital. We didn't expect this.