in spite of everything, some sunshine

sunset in nablus
sunset in nablus

i am so hoping that spring is here early. the sun has been out every day and it has been a warm sun again. it feels amazing. i know we have a regional drought here, but we can have rain and sun at the same time. i spent the afternoon today at the yaffa cultural center in balata refugee camp. they asked me the other day to teach an english language tawjihi class so today was our first meeting. there are about 15 students in the class. about half boys and half girls. the girls seem to have a better command of the language than the boys, however. i noticed in the group that two girls, who were obviously sisters given their faces, looked familiar. the older of the two was helping to translate for the students who needed help. at the end of the class i asked them what their family name is and then i realized why they looked familiar. they are the daughters of hussam khader. i remember their faces from the day i went to welcome the political prisoners who were released from israeli colonialist prisons last august. i have met hussam a few times because we have mutual friends, but i haven’t seen his daughters since that day. after the class hussam and some other fathers were waiting in the office drinking tea and smoking cigarettes and i went in to join them.

hussam’s life is a typical story for many palestinians dedicated to liberating their land, especially refugees dedicated to that goal. he has been in and out of israeli colonial prisons for much of his adult life:

Hussam Khader, who was born on Dec. 8th 1961 in the Palestinian village Kofr Romman, graduated from the Najah University in Nablus in Business Management and Political Sciences. He became a member of the Fatah party, to which Yassir Arafat belongs, too, in 1978. Before the 1st Intifada he was already arrested 23 times by the Israeli occupation forces, detained for 10 years, as well as placed under house arrest for one year.

At the beginning of the 1st Intifada, he became one of the founders of several of the youth organisations (including in Balata Refugee Camp, of which he is a resident) that were to play a crucial part in the popular uprising. He was also involved in the Student Council of Najah University. On Jan. 1st 1988 he became the first activist to be deported from Palestine. After being wounded in a demonstration he was brought to South Lebanon by the Israeli occupation forces.

there are details about his so-called “trial” on the samoud website. an najah university also has a report on his case as he is an alumus. on the day of his most recent arrest in 2003 here is what happened:

Hussam Khader, an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), has been accused by Israeli authorities of “directing and financing terror in the Nablus area”. Khader is the second member of the PLC to be arrested, after Marwan Barghouti last April, and he has been held in the Peta Tikva detention camp since his arrest in Balata camp, near Nablus, on 17 March 2003.

Khader’s brother Ghassan said that the arrest took place at about 4am when Israeli soldiers broke down the door of his house and started shooting. “It was dark and bullets were flying everywhere, they even fired shots into the bathroom and the kitchen,” he said. “Everything was destroyed, it’s a miracle no one was killed.” Before reaching Hussam Khader’s house, the soldiers raided seven neighbouring homes. It later became clear, however, that Khader was the only man they were after. “They were shooting just to provoke us,” his brother said.

When the soldiers identified Khader, they pushed him against a wall, saying repeatedly that he was a terrorist and they were arresting him. All of his personal papers, his computer and files were confiscated. He was taken away in a military jeep, leaving behind his wife and three young children. His family has not been allowed to see him since.

he is not typical of fatah, i should point out:

Khader is one of several men in a younger generation of Fatah leaders who command support on the streets and who are pushing for major reform within the movement. He still rails against Fatah corruption, though it remains to be seen whether in the months ahead he can bring any significant change to a situation in stalemate. Since his release, thousands of supporters have descended on his small home in the Balata camp, in Nablus, to talk about the future at a time of deep division between the two leading Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, and deadlock in the peace negotiations.

“The situation has got worse because of the separation and fighting between Fatah and Hamas,” Khader said. “We don’t have a state yet, but we have two heads in this state and this will push us back to square one in our struggle. It’s a very, very dangerous point that we have reached.”

Khader was arrested at his home in March 2003 and convicted of being a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement that played a key role in the second intifada, and of helping fund the group through connections to Hizbullah and Iran. He was sentenced to seven years in jail but released after five and a half. It was his 24th time in an Israeli prison – he was first arrested at age 13 for taking part in a demonstration against the Israeli occupation.

but all of this is about hussam and who i really want to talk about is his daughter. i spent about an hour with her after the class. i was blown away by this young woman who, if she were a university student now, would far surpass all of the students i’ve taught at an najah thus far. like her father she grew up with the knowledge that education is a part of resistance. she is a stellar student, plays the violin, and wants to be a rapper. she attended a hip hop workshop in deheishe refugee camp last summer. she wrote some beautiful raps about her father, who was still in prison at the time. on the day of the final performance at the summer workshop she had to leave as they were allowed one of the rare prison visits–those visits that make families wake up at 4 am and if they are lucky get to see their loved ones for a couple of hours several hours later. so she brought her rap to the prison and performed it for her father and his friends instead, which is, i think, far more powerful and amazing. she asked me to help her translate the raps, which i am so delighted and eager to do. she’s completely proficient in english, but she wants help working out the rhythm of the raps to match the rhythm of the arabic.

amani also told me about her school life here. she’s a senior in high school and unlike the other students in my tawjihi english class, she doesn’t go to one of the unrwa schools. she goes to a private school in nablus. the stories she shared with me about her peers and their ideas of who refugees are were unreal. i mean, of course, i have been blogging for months now about the racism i witness here that is directed at refugees. but in her experience she also sees the ignorance that is at the core of this racism. for instance, she told me that there are many students in her school who think that refugees still live in tents. now this is just shocking because in the city of nablus itself, including balata, the camps are on main roads that everyone drives by. how you can think this is bizarre to me. she tells me that her peers think that she shouldn’t live in the camp because that is where the “bad people” live. this is how the racism here–even though it is intra-racial–functions just like in the u.s.: just because there may be a couple of “bad people” the entire camp population–or all the camps–get labeled as such. but there are no more “bad people” than in the city of nablus. and this is how americans often rationalize their racism against brown people who live in the inner cities; they say the same things to rationalize their racism by deciding that it is a place that is “unsafe” or that it is full of “criminals.” imagine that she has had to deal with this sort of discrimination while living through most of her girlhood with her father in prison. in prison for fighting for all palestinian rights–not just refugees. her father whom she calls her best friend. and it was so lovely to see them together, to see how loving they are, how close they are. it is visible. beautiful. this is the feeling of warmth that was far more powerful than the sunshine that emanated from the skies today. i feel so much more comfortable in the camps than i do elsewhere in palestine. i feel so grateful that i was asked to teach this class and that i will be spending more time there now.

my frustration about these divisions are numerous, but it often baffles me here because, as i have said before, unlike some other cities in palestine, it is not only the refugee camps that are invaded every night by israeli terrorists. here ordinary nabulsis are also regularly kidnapped as with today, including a student from my university:

Israeli forces arrested three Palestinians from Nablus and the neighboring villages of Salem and Beit Wazan on Saturday morning.

Thirty-two-year-old Imad Abu Eisha from Beit Wazan reported the detentions, saying Israeli forces stormed his village at 3:00am and ransacked several homes before arresting a 23-year-old girl identified as Rima Abu Eisha, a student at An-Najah National University in Nablus.

Local sources in the village of Salem east of Nablus told said Israeli forces arrested 24-year-old Ali Ishtayya from his home after they raided the village.

In Nablus, 22-year-old Abdullah Al-‘Ikir was seized on Asira Ash-Shamaliyya street after several Israeli military jeeps stormed the city.

and meanwhile in gaza israeli terrorists continue to attack palestinians with their american-made weapons:

Israeli forces launched an overnight airstrike on a carpentry workshop in the Jabalia refugee camp injuring six people Saturday morning.

Palestinian medical sources said the carpentry and several neighboring houses sustained severe damage and six people sustained mild to moderate wounds. They were all evacuated to hospital.

On Friday, a Palestinian was killed and two others injured as Israeli warplanes targeted a motorcycle in the southern Gaza Strip in the town of Abasan Al-Kabira, which east of Khan Younis.

and so the numbers keep rising, the numbers of the martyrs in gaza:

The death toll of the Gaza war reached 1,374 Friday as Egyptian medical sources announced the death of a Gazan woman injured during Israel’s 22-day offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Director of ambulance and emergency service in the Palestinian health ministry Muawiya Hassanain identified the victim as 24-year-old Nay Fayiz Hasan. She had been transferred to the Egyptian hospital mid-way through the war.

and those who remain in gaza are struggling to deal with its aftermath as mike kirsch reports on al jazeera:

but it is not just gaza where this ethnic cleansing project goes on. sometimes they do it with murder, sometimes with theft, sometimes with both. today they engaged in more theft of land in beit lahem:

About 300 Israeli settlers escorted by IOF troops and border guards invaded Friday several areas in the Artas village, south of Bethlehem, and set up several tents on these areas which are threatened with annexation.

This Israeli escalation came after Israeli bulldozers established 800-meter road linking the area of Khalat Al-Nahl in the village with the Efrat settlement built on the territory of several villages in the area including Artas and Khadr.

notice that israeli colonist terrorists and israeli terrorist forces work in cahoots here. they are one in the same. they all have blood on their hands. they all participate, daily, together in their murder-theft colonial project. for instance, palestinian fisherman continue to be fired upon in the waters of gaza:

Dr. Mohammed Al-Agha, the Palestinian agriculture minister in Gaza, has denounced the Israeli occupation forces’ continued shooting at Palestinian fisherman and their boats off the Gaza coasts.

Agha in a statement on Saturday said that the IOF gunboats on Saturday morning opened intensive fire at fishermen damaging ten fishing boats and scores of fishnets, which were left behind by the fishermen after they were forced to jump into sea.

gaza panorama
gaza panorama

i quoted a few weeks back someone from amnesty international saying that you cannot capture the devastation in gaza with a single camera lens because the destruction is so widespread. but someone managed to find a way to do this. the above photograph is from gaza panorama, but you must go to the website to see what photographer andreas lunde has done. it is a constant panorama of johr al deek in gaza in which you can use your mouse to move the image around. it is remarkable.

but what is most remarkable is the constant resiliency and ingenuity of palestinians in gaza. for instance, the community bakery created to meet people’s need for bread with few resources:

In a region where cooking gas is either non-existent or exorbitantly-priced, where firewood is scarce and burnables becoming scarcer, where electricity cuts occur regularly, and where bread is a staple food, people strive to find practical solutions to the bread crisis.

During Israel’s 3 weeks of brutal attacks on Gaza’s civilians, the bread crisis was heightened by 16 hour blackouts in the cities, complete blackouts in the majority of the Strip, and depleted wheat stocks. Those with flour handouts convoyed to the few places with electricity, including hospitals, to bake bread via a small, electric griddle.

likewise the tunnels or an amazing sign of resiliency and act of resistance given the never-ending blockade and siege on gaza as mohammed omer reports:

Tunnel owners earn $300 for each 100 pounds of goods smuggled in. (Smuggling animals for Gaza’s zoo can net up to $3,000 each!) With this revenue Abu Khaled supports 20 workers: diggers who do the dirty work, and runners who transport the goods.

As he separates bags of smuggled goods for distribution throughout the Strip, Abu Khaled points to his jeans. “These jeans I am wearing cost Egyptian pounds ($11), including the [Egyptian] merchant’s profit,” he explains, “but now I can sell them for 120 Israeli shekels ($34).”

Not only jeans, but shoes and underwear are brought through the tunnels and resold at high mark-ups. In addition, Abu Khaled notes, “We get medicine, gasoline, food, dried milk and monocycles” through the tunnels—which also serve as the conduit for sending money to merchants in Egypt to pay for the goods smuggled back into Gaza.

Islam frowns upon alcohol and drug use, although pharmaceuticals—even Viagra—continue to be smuggled in. According to Abu Khaled, Hamas police “control what we get in. Weapons and drugs are prohibited.” Rafah municipal officials confirm that they regulate tunnel operations, which they classify as an “investment project.”

In a society where the average family lives on $2 a day or less, tunnel work is a way out of poverty and a means to feed one’s family. Nader, a 20-year-old tunnel digger, admits he can make between $80 and $110 a day. “It depends on how many feet I dig in the ground,” the young man explains, adding that he usually spends 12 hours a day digging underground, in poorly ventilated conditions.

kathy kelly imagines what would happen if americans had to send its weapons of mass destruction to the zionist entity through a tunnel:

With the border crossing at Rafah now sealed again, people who want to obtain food, fuel, water, construction supplies and goods needed for everyday life will have to increasingly rely on the damaged tunnel industry to import these items from the Egyptian side of the border. Israel’s government says that Hamas could use the tunnels to import weapons, and weapons could kill innocent civilians, so the Israeli military has no choice but to bomb the neighborhood built up along the border, as they have been doing.

Suppose that the US weapon makers had to use a tunnel to deliver weapons to Israel. The US would have to build a mighty big tunnel to accommodate the weapons that Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Caterpillar have supplied to Israel. The size of such a tunnel would be an eighth wonder of the world, a Grand Canyon of a tunnel, an engineering feat of the ages.

Think of what would have to come through.

Imagine Boeing’s shipments to Israel traveling through an enormous underground tunnel, large enough to accommodate the wingspans of planes, sturdy enough to allow passage of trucks laden with missiles. According to the UK’s Indymedia Corporate Watch, 2009, Boeing has sent Israel 18 AH-64D Apache Longbow fighter helicopters, 63 Boeing F-15 Eagle fighter planes, 102 Boeing F-16 fighter planes, 42 Boeing AH-64 Apache fighter helicopters, F-16 Peace Marble II and III Aircraft, four Boeing 777s, and Arrow II interceptors, plus Israel Aircraft Industries-developed Arrow missiles, and Boeing AGM-114 D Longbow Hellfire missiles.

In September of last year, the US government approved the sale of 1,000 Boeing GBU-9 small diameter bombs to Israel, in a deal valued at up to $77 million.

Now that Israel has dropped so many of those bombs on Gaza, Boeing shareholders can count on more sales, more profits, if Israel buys new bombs from them. Perhaps there are more massacres in store. It would be important to maintain the tunnel carefully.

Raytheon, one of the largest US arms manufacturers, with annual revenues of around $20 billion, is one of Israel’s main suppliers of weapons. In September last year, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency approved the sale of Raytheon kits to upgrade Israel’s Patriot missile system at a cost of $164 million. Raytheon would also use the tunnel to bring in Bunker Buster bombs as well as Tomahawk and Patriot missiles.

Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest defense contractor by revenue, with reported sales in 2008 of $42.7 billion. Lockheed Martin’s products include the Hellfire precision-guided missile system, which has reportedly been used in the recent Gaza attacks. Israel also possesses 350 F-16 jets, some purchased from Lockheed Martin. Think of them coming through the largest tunnel in the world.

Maybe Caterpillar Inc. could help build such a tunnel. Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of construction (and destruction) equipment, with more than $30 billion in assets, holds Israel’s sole contract for the production of the D9 military bulldozer, specifically designed for use in invasions of built-up areas. The US government buys Caterpillar bulldozers and sends them to the Israeli army as part of its annual foreign military assistance package. Such sales are governed by the US Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of US military aid to “internal security” and “legitimate self defense” and prohibits its use against civilians.

Israel topples family houses with these bulldozers to make room for settlements. All too often, they topple them on the families inside. American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death standing between one of these bulldozers and a Palestinian doctor’s house in 2003.

yes, caterpillar. that company that barack obama–that president of change for koolaid drinkers out there–visited last week:

Over the objections of church groups, peace organizations and human rights activists, President Barack Obama decided to return to Illinois to visit the headquarters of the Caterpillar company, which for many years has violated international law, U.S. law and its own code of conduct in selling its D9 and D10 bulldozers to Israel.

In his speech on Thursday, Obama praised Caterpillar, saying “Your machines plow the farms that feed our families; build the towers that shape our skylines; lay the roads that connect our communities; power the trucks that deliver our goods.” He failed to mention that Caterpillar machines have been used to level homes, uproot olive orchards, build the illegal separation wall and, in some cases, kill innocent civilians, including a 23-year old American peace activist.

that same president who is continuing george bush’s legacy of bombing pakistan:

At least 27 people have been killed in a missile attack by an unmanned US drone in a tribal district of Pakistan, Pakistani officials have told Al Jazeera.

The raid destroyed a house in the northwestern town of Ladha, a base for Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban leader accused of plotting the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister of Pakistan, an official said.

2 thoughts on “in spite of everything, some sunshine

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