i had lunch today with a lovely young woman from my university. it’s interesting that a lot of people here in palestine who know i’ve lived in lebanon seek me out. they want email addresses, and now that it is legal to call, phone numbers of my palestinian friends in lebanon. they want to connect virtually since it is still illegal for them to connect face-to-face, unless they go to jordan.
i was struck that though we only recently met she began to tell me horrifying stories. none prompted. none fished for. memories of being forced to be a human shield for the israeli terrorist forces (itf) when they came to her house to to kidnap her brothers. they only wanted one, but didn’t know which one so they kidnapped all of them. but as they searched her home, they beat her with their guns and forced her to stand in front of them around the house, inside and out, as they searched it. if someone tried to shoot, she would have been shot instead. this is a typical practice here, by the way. here is one example of this in nablus:
i think it is impossible to find anyone here in palestine who doesn’t have a story like this. it’s so normal for me to hear them. and tellingly i was told immediately after this story today that “this is normal here.” but it shouldn’t be. young people, especially, grow up only knowing this sort of daily invasion, and having their siblings, and often parents kidnapped in the middle of the night, and are forced to live without them in their home. when this is your everyday experience it becomes “normal.” but it isn’t normal.
i cannot recall what i said in response exactly, but somehow over the course of our two hour conversation in the end she told me that i gave her hope. it’s strange. i hear that a lot. when people ask me what i think they tell me that i give them hope. i find it odd because i’m not usually feeling too hopeful these days. but in honor of her i’m going to devote the rest of this blog entry to hopeful news. and the first such story is one i woke up to this morning of a libyan ship that is coming to gaza filled with relief supplies:
Official Libyan sources reported on Tuesday that a Libyan ship left the Zowwara port, west of the Lybian capital, Tripoli, and is currently heading to the Gaza Strip carrying humanitarian aid. The ship is expected to reach Gaza in five days.
The sources added that the ship, the first Arab ship challenging the Israeli siege, carries on board Palestinian and international activists and more than 3000 tons containing a variety of food products.
Palestinian Legislator, head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, Jamal El Khodary, confirmed that the ship already left the Libyan port heading to Gaza.
El Khodary added that the ship carries aid donated by the Libyan people and the government in order to provide humanitarian assistance to the residents of the impoverished Gaza Strip.
He also said that this ship is one of a series of ships that will be sailing to Gaza if this ship succeeds in reaching the Gaza coast.
“This ship is a practical measure against the siege” El Khodary said, “It is not for media consumption”.
He called on all Arab states to actively participate in breaking the Israeli siege as the situation reached a very critical level and added that “actual steps and measures should be taken in order to save the lives of the residents”.
at my alma mater, the university of cincinnati, when noni darwish, the islamophobic, neo-con came to speak, a variety of groups organized in solidarity to protest her talk:
At UC, Darwish’s arguments raised ranged from the paranoid (Muslims are trying to bring the U.S. under sharia law) to the anti-historical (U.S. imperialism played no role in establishing dictatorships in the Middle East).
The audience wasn’t willing to stand for it, and interruptions were frequent. Darwish’s was so offensive that the president of Chabad, Jonathan Dress, was obliged to deliver a written apology that was printed in the UC newspaper: “As a believer of the Jewish faith and a student of the University of Cincinnati, I offer my apologies to the Muslim community and anyone else who was hurt by the words delivered in the presentation.”
Students mobilized to protest Darwish’s speech in advance. As soon as the Muslim American Society (MAS) and Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) members learned of the appearance, Chabad was asked to replace Darwish.
When these calls were dismissed (by both Chabad and UC Student Affairs), several groups, including the MAS, CAN, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the International Socialist Organization (ISO), formed a coalition called Students United Against Hate.
Outside the building where Darwish spoke, protesters rallied–some wore t-shirts silk-screened by CAN with the message “Being Muslim is Not a Crime.” Inside, many people held up paddles saying “That’s racist!” after Darwish’s offensive remarks.
The box for audience members to submit questions was filled with copies of the same ones to hamper the moderators from censoring critical questions. As a result, the question-and-answer session had to be opened up to the audience. As a result, Darwish was hammered by requests to cite her sources and told off by a white woman married to a Muslim man.
The silver lining to this event was the discussion that took place afterward. Around one-third of the audience (30 to 40 people) moved to another building to continue a discussion chaired by CAN and the ISO, where students could express their feelings about the talk. “I think she underestimated us,” one person said. “We’re students. We think every day.”
The presidents of both Chabad and the MSA were there, and they agreed with the general sentiment for intercultural understanding. Despite her best efforts, Darwish did more to unite the student body than divide it.
there is good news from lubnan as well today:
The CTBTO has been signed by 180 countries, but to come into effect it still needs ratification by nine key holdouts including China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.
Supporters of the treaty, which was concluded in 1996, hope ratifications will start rolling in once U.S. president-elect Barack Obama, who supports the CTBTO, takes office on January 20.
and more good news from lubnan–particularly because it shows that activist pressure works:
The Lebanese government will use television to gain maximum attention for its plan to abolish the death penalty, giving one station the first right to question Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar about the details of an abolition bill which will be eventually presented to parliament.
“In the coming weeks, the minister will unveil the draft law on a TV station which has been granted exclusive broadcasting rights,” the office of the justice ministry told IPS. The ministry refused to discuss the proposed law until this interview has been granted. No official date has been set for the parliamentary debate.
News of plans to abolish the death penalty was first made public on Oct. 10, the World Day against the Death Penalty.
On the same day, Najjar informed the cabinet of the details. A brief official press statement said then that the proposal was to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment with hard labour.
Abolishing the death penalty was in line with Lebanon’s religious and humanitarian values, as well as its legal culture, Najjar said at the time.
“Preventive measures are more effective than the death penalty in reducing crime,” he said.
The abolition bill comes after years of campaigning by anti-death penalty activists.
palestinians are continuing their creative ways of resistance in gaza, this time using car batteries to fuel the power plant:
He said the Palestinians had requested permission from Israel to import the special batteries used at the plant. But it was unclear if and when the batteries will arrive.
and using a milder form rhetoric than that of united nations general assembly president miguel d’escoto brockmann’s statement earlier this week in which he called israel’s policies toward palestinians apartheid, came today from china:
also in palestine journalists are taking action against the zionist regime ban on allowing foreign journalists into gaza:
“We believe the Israeli government has an obligation to keep the Gaza border open to international journalists,” says Steven Gutkin, the FPA Chairman and Jerusalem bureau chief of Associated Press. “The foreign media serve as the world’s window into Gaza and it’s essential that we be allowed in.”
and in spite of the fact that the egyptian regime continues to allow people in gaza to suffer, palestinians in gaza refuse to submit and are organizing protests at the border:
The officers were deployed around the crossing point — the sole Gaza frontier post which bypasses Israel — “to deal with any possible violence by Palestinian demonstrators,” a security official told AFP.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been gathering on the Gaza side of the border crossing since Saturday, demanding the crossing be opened for the sick to receive medical attention and for Muslim pilgrims to travel to Saudi Arabia.
A demonstration by Palestinian women was due to take place later on Monday, the official said.
and…some iraqi antiquities that americans allowed to be looted from iraqi museums have been discovered in dubai:
The objects, believed to be between 5,000 and 1,000 years old, will be displayed to the press today but officials declined to indicate beforehand how they were intercepted.
Hundreds of Iraqi archaeological sites have been looted since the US-led invasion in 2003, causing untold damage to the country’s heritage. The illegal trade in looted artefacts, thought to be worth tens of millions of dollars a year, has been driven deep underground in recent years as a number of countries have tightened restrictions on their sale.
so that is my attempt at sharing good news for today. i know there is a lot of horrible news today too, from here and elsewhere. but for today i’m going to keep it at that.