on courage and cowardice

Although I was apprehensive at first, I am enjoying the conversation classes I’m teaching at An Najah University. I was not very happy when I first found my schedule changed, mostly because I’m not a language teacher and I have no experience teaching such classes. But my friend Diya helped me immensely with a textbook and syllabus and I’m finding that such a class is actually quite delightful. This class is wonderful because it enables discussions on many topics and after class students seem to want to have tea/coffee with me in the cafeteria, which leads to more interesting discussions, sharing of stories, of news.

In class today the chapter we talked about had to do with names: why people are named what they are named, the stories behind these names, the meaning of names. In Arabic, of course, this is a no brainer in many ways because names here tend to have meanings and people know the stories behind their names. (I, for instance, have an original name that means absolutely nothing in any sense, except after I changed my name in 1997 to honor my mother and her family after her 1992 death.) In class today students had many stories about where their names came from and why they were chosen. We also talked about American Islamophobia and the ways in which people fixate on Barack Hussein Obama’s name as a racist way to discredit him.

But it was after class when six students invited me to have tea/coffee with them that conversations became more complex, stories became more meaningful. They are not all Nabulsi; some are from Jenin and Qalqilia, but because of the checkpoints they must rent an apartment here where they stay during the week. One of them shared story with us not of her name, but rather the story of her life (though the meaning of her name is related to a miracle described in the Qur’an, which is quite relevant once you hear this story). I mean that quite literally; I mean that she is supposed to be dead. My student told me that when she was 3 months old Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) came to her home and her brother was holding her in his arms. The ITF soldier grabbed her from her brother’s arms and threw her in the air. It was the instinctual power of her mother that catapulted her into the air to catch her baby daughter. It is her mother’s instantaneous response that kept my student alive and blessed me with her delightful presence in my classroom today. I am grateful to her mother.

Some stories my students shared with me came from last night. The area next to my neighborhood, called Makhfiyeh, received a “visit” from the ITF last night at 10 PM until 12 midnight or so. They shot and injured one boy, and carried on with their shooting and grenade throwing for two hours. There doesn’t seem to be any news link to this right now; if there is one later I will post it.

But there is some news today that is worth posting and quoting at length. You should see my earlier posts over the past couple of days about Condoleeza Rice’s visit to Palestine for background on this. In a nutshell, she performed the usual song and dance about illegal Israeli settlements. But now U.S. tax breaks will benefit these illegal settlers:

While US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been pressuring Israel to stop the expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, the US government has, at the same time, been offering tax breaks to US-based organizations who engage in settlement expansion.

This news comes from a report produced by Reuters news agency, which conducted an investigation of the tax records of 13 US-based non-profit organizations whose stated goal is to expand Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. The news agency found that these organizations have raised more than $35 million in the last five years alone.

When Reuters asked a State Department spokesman about the inconsistency, he stated that the tax breaks were in a different government department, and thus were not the concern of the Department of State. The spokesman added, “Regarding U.S. policy on settlements, it’s clear, it’s the right policy to try to help bring about a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.”

As for the ‘charities’, they say their focus is on humanitarian concerns. But the money raised in the U.S. by the groups all goes to the development and expansion of the Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land in the West Bank, which Palestinians say are crippling every aspect of their lives.

Israel has never defined its borders since the state was created on historic Palestine in 1948, and Israeli immigrants have continually expanded the territory of the state with settlements, further encroaching onto what is left of Palestine, particularly in the 15 years since the Oslo Accords.

One of the groups, known as ‘The Hebron Fund’, encouraged donations to renovate a building in Hebron, in the southern West Bank, that was illegally occupied by Jewish settlers last year. The Fund advertised on their website, “Dozens of new families can now come live in Hebron — only if we renovate this building quickly!”

The head of the Hebron Fund did acknowledge that this is in contradiction to current US policy in the region, but stated, “The U.S. government has no right to use political considerations when judging humanitarian and non-profit needs.” But while settler groups in the US contend that their mission is somehow humanitarian, Palestinians describe the horrors of living under a military occupation that is in place to protect and expand the Israeli colonies, and say these US groups, and the US government, are complicit in their oppression.

This is why when government officials in the U.S. and Israel and Zionists in general speak you cannot trust a word that comes out of their mouth. Clearly, as those of us who live here or have spent time here know, not only will the U.S. government not stop the building and expanding of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands–it will assist them in doing so financially. I know that the U.S. government is morally bankrupt. Clearly it is also cowardly and spineless as it continues to hide historic and current reality in the most scheming and duplicitous ways possible.

By the way, whatever happened to that fear American Jews had about dual loyalty? Can they be charged and imprisoned for this? Just curious.


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