christmas gift ideas

those who know me know that i am not a fan of christmas, especially in the u.s. i don’t like being around the over-consumption particularly of items that are completely unnecessary while other people around the world struggle to find food and shelter. i put up with it because christmas is important to my grandma and it makes her happy. but for those of you who feel the need to buy gifts here are a few ideas that would help people in palestine so at least you are buying gifts while also supporting palestinian people:

canaan fair trade has lovely olive oil and other organic products like olives, za’atar, almonds, and couscous from jenin. they also use some of their profits to support scholarships for palestinian students at universities like an najah where i teach.

there is also zaytoun olive oil that you can buy, which is another fair trade cooperative project helping palestinian farmers.

in the u.k. there is the olive cooperative, which i don’t know much about, but it seems like a legitimate option as well for palestinian food products as well as embroidery, olive wood trinkets, armenian pottery, and various other items.

it is important to check such websites/organizations out before you purchase items even if they seem like they are palestinian because as the boycott campaign reminds us, looks can be deceiving:

As we did this time last year, we are obliged to point out that one of the products promoted by CAT sits oddly among the many items it sells on behalf of disadvantaged people around the world. We refer to Peace Oil – an Israeli product marketed with the claim that it helps peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. The conflict in Israel/Palestine has a particular resonance for most caring people at Christmas time, and the desire to contribute to a peaceful solution is extremely powerful. However, the conflict will only be resolved by Israel ending its occupation and settlement of Palestinian land, and ending the economic strangulation of Palestinians which results from its occupation policies.

the guardian newspaper had a piece on this so-called peace oil last year which shows the importance of why one must do proper research before buying what one may think is a fair trade palestinian product:

“As an Israeli-based product, albeit with some Palestinian input, Peace Oil faces none of these limitations,” the groups said in a joint statement.

“We hope that the Charities Advisory Trust will take this on board and, at the very least, promote fairly traded Palestinian oil from Zaytoun alongside Peace Oil.

“Until this happens we would urge those who want to give olive oil as a ‘good gift’ to choose Zaytoun in preference.”

Olive oil, the backbone of the Palestinian Authority’s agricultural economy, is a vital source of income for tens of thousands of farmers and their families, 67% of whom live below the poverty line.

Palestinian olive oil producers have faced enormous difficulties as Israeli authorities have confiscated or denied access to land, uprooted ancient trees, and controlled water resources. The building of the security barrier has cut off some farmers from their olive groves. Once the wall is completed, 10% of the West Bank will fall on the Israeli side of the barrier.

Zaytoun was established in 2004 to ease access to western markets for Palestinian farmers in the West Bank.

Heather Gardner, a Zaytoun director, said Cat was misleading the public in promoting Peace Oil as a product that encourages peaceful cooperation.

“The fact that Arabs are employed in making Peace Oil is not anything different from the status quo, as Israelis use Arab labour as a matter of course,” she said.

She also criticised Peace Oil for its lack of transparency about where the oil is sourced and what the profits are used for. Zaytoun, a member of the International Fair Trade Association, is audited by a Swiss company.

Activists also question the claim that funds from Peace Oil will be used to promote a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis. One activist, who preferred to remain anonymous, was scathing about the product.

“It’s a total con,” the activist said. “Peace Oil is using peace to obfuscate the lack of justice for Palestinians in the conflict. It is misleading people of goodwill who want to do something for peace.”

for people who wish to buy other palestinian products like books, music, and films you can checkout the palestine online store.

also, jackie salloum’s brilliant film slingshot hip hop just released a cd soundtrack and her website is also offering cds of p.r., abeer, and dam’s music.

for those in canada who wish to buy books and such locally, please stay away from chapters and indigo in keeping with the boycott campaign:

On Thursday 21 December 2006, activists in Toronto and Montreal officially announced the launch of a boycott campaign against Chapters and Indigo Bookstores. The campaign demands an end to the financial support offered by the majority owners of Chapters and Indigo to Heseg­ the Foundation for Lone Soldiers, a program of financial support for former ‘lone soldiers’ in the Israeli military.

for those of you who can forgo the need to consume i recommend a donation to the middle east children’s alliance whose work is unparalleled in the u.s. in terms of support for palestinian refugees and getting aid into gaza.

likewise electronic intifada’s reporting is unparalleled in english language content on palestine. like public radio (i mean real public radio like pacifica not the government/corporate sponsored npr) they only receive funds from its readers and they are asking for your help:

Our goal is to raise $65,000 from individuals by January. It’s a big challenge for us, but a tiny amount when you compare it to the budgets of major media organizations. Please consider making a donation now to ensure that our uncensored coverage of Palestine, Israel and the Middle East continues in 2009. Your donation is tax-deductible if you are a US taxpayer.

We don’t have major corporations backing us up, and we won’t get a government bailout, so we rely on reader support to stay strong and independent. Please help us to keep the light shining on Palestine.



finally, i received this email today requesting funds to help people in gaza with a link to a video that i’ll paste in at the bottom of this post:

Dear Friends,

“When I see 1.4 million trapped in a situation of collective punishment, without rights, I have to raise that, and I will go on raising it.” These are the words of Mary Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Ireland, who was one of the few outsiders permitted to enter the Gaza Strip in November. She told the BBC on November 4th that it was “almost unbelievable that the world doesn’t care while this is happening…Their whole civilization has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating.”

Since Israel tightened its closure of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, eighty percent of Gaza’s residents have been pushed beneath the poverty line. More than 50,000 children are seriously malnourished, with half of those under the age of two suffering from anemia. Gaza’s only power plant has been functioning at less than 50 percent of its capacity due to fuel cuts, water is polluted, the sewage system has broken down, medications are in short supply and more than a million people have been dependent on daily emergency assistance. More than 250 patients had died after being denied permits to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.

Conditions deteriorated still further in early November when Israel slammed the door shut on even emergency fuel and food supplies. On November 14, the UN announced it had to suspend the distribution of food to 750,000 people in Gaza’s refugee camps because “our warehouses are effectively empty.”

The Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip is not just killing the spirit and sometimes the lives of Gazans, half of whom are children. It is also destroying all hopes for a peaceful future in the region.

Studies carried out by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP), founded by Dr. Eyad el-Sarraj in 1990, show a frightening rise in trauma, as children fall victim to night terrors, loss of appetite, insomnia, and symptoms of panic and aggression. Adults are suffering from panic disorders, depression and psychosomatic disorders as they struggle to cope with the deeply inhuman situation. Former US president Jimmy Carter was right to call the siege “an atrocity, a crime, an abomination.”

The staff of GCMHP has moved into high gear in its efforts to help the people of Gaza overcome the psychological effects of the violence that surrounds them, and confront the all-pervasive despair and depression.

Please let them know they are not alone. You can help the GCMHP alleviate the psychological suffering of the Palestinian people by writing a check to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, and sending it and your contact information to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, PO Box 495, Boston, MA 02112.

The Gaza Mental Health Foundation, Inc. was established in 2001 to raise funds in the United States to support the critically important work being carried out by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Your donations, which are fully tax-deductible to the extent provided by the IRS Code, are forwarded in their entirety to the GCMHP. You can find out more about the Gaza Mental Health Foundation by visiting our website,

This moving YouTube video will give you a closer look at what the people of the Gaza Strip are facing while much of the world is standing silently by.

Thank you for your generosity and for choosing to take a stand against the collective punishment of the people of the Gaza Strip.

Dr. Nancy Murray
Gaza Mental Health Foundation, Inc.

eyad el-sarraj, founder and president of the gaza community mental health program had an op-ed in the los angeles times this morning. while you’re shopping for christmas presents and forgetting about gaza because of the media fatigue that has died because of the subject (though never on electronic intifada, which is why you should donate to them NOW) it would be worthwhile stopping to think what the eid al adha holiday has just been like for palestinians and what daily life is like for them more generally:

At the Erez checkpoint, where I left Gaza along with four other medical patients, Israeli soldiers spoke through loudspeakers and looked down at us through cameras. “Open your bag,” one shouted. When the woman in front of me asked a question, the soldier ordered her to take everything out of her suitcase. She was humiliated as she had to hold even her underwear up to the camera. I was made to walk through the X-ray machine three times, even though I told the soldiers it was dangerous because of my medical condition. The soldiers seemed intent not only to determine that we were not bombers but to shame us. What good can come of exercising such domineering power over medical patients?

When one of the soldiers approached us, he was grinning and carrying a huge machine gun across his massive body. I thought that he must feel the power of his muscles and his gun as well as my weakness, with my frail body and my obedience to his orders. But the psychiatrist in me could not escape the question, “Who is frightened?” — because I was not. I was angry, but not afraid.

On my way back to Gaza, I decided to buy some little plants with flowers to bring home. A soldier shouted at me: “Flowers are not allowed.”

The best hope at the moment for the region is that Barack Obama and American politicians will veer away from knee-jerk support for Israel’s actions against Palestinians in favor of evenhanded policies that recognize that Palestinians have a right to freedom, to travel, to healthcare and even to simple daily pleasures like freely carrying flowers home.


5 thoughts on “christmas gift ideas

  1. 1. Nice ideas.

    2. Is your blog SNOWING?!

    3. I love the stuff in the Palestine Online Store, but sadly, I placed an order over the summer that never arrived…I sent a few emails but nothing came of it. Won’t order from there again.

  2. yup my blog is snowing! 🙂

    if your stuff didn’t arrive from palestine online store you should email haithem. he’s very good and helpful and i’m sure would correct such a problem instantly. i’ve ordered numerous times from them and never had a problem!

  3. I’ll give it another shot – is there a specific email address or just the one on the site (I did email that one, albeit only once)?

    Love the snow 🙂

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