Green in the City

It has been eight years since I spent the summer in Cairo and this is my first visit back. There has been a lot that has changed here, uprising not withstanding (see Jadaliyya on Egypt’s recent past, especially herehere, and here). Given that I am merely a visitor here, and a foreigner at that, it is not my place to write about the political scene in Egypt. Others (linked to above) are doing that better than I can.

Instead I have been doing my part to help the Egyptian economy, which has suffered from less tourist traffic since the uprising. The number of craft shops seems to have doubled or tripled since 2004. And the kinds of crafts being sold in the city or in the souq seems to have changed, too. Either that or I am merely noticing different types of objects. I am especially in love with the Berber embroidery and drafts from Siwa, which I would get on the bus and visit (there are some amazing ecolodges there) if it were not so hot outside. And because it is Ramadan there are additional craft fairs around the city at night, such as the one I went to a couple of weeks ago at Darb 1718.

The other thing that has been most striking to me over the past couple of weeks is al-Azhar Park. The park is built in the heart of a poor community in old, Islamic Cairo not far from Khan Khalili market. Although the arial shot above makes it seem like the park is an oasis in a midst of a concrete jungle, much of Cairo is actually pretty Green. If you drive along the Nile, for example, it is incredibly lush. Spending the last couple of years in Beirut, and Amman before that, I had forgotten how much I miss green spaces. There are very few public parks in Beirut for picnicking or for children to swing or play football. Although Ba’albek does have quite a lovely park where you can do those things.

At the entrance of al-Azhar Park you see a beautiful fountain, which children play in. The park does have an entrance fee (the equivalent of about $1), but if you are one of the families who live in the area you get in for about $.25. As a result, it the grass is filled with families having picnic iftar dinners while children run around on the playground. There is also a year-round souq and a Ramadan outdoor souq with beautiful crafts for sale.

 

It is refreshing to see such a wide, open space in the center of an urban metropolis. The weather is cooler there, the people seem happy, and the energy is amazing. I walked around the perimeter of the park last weekend right around iftar began (this hour of the day is not ideal for photography, but the images should give readers a small slice of what it looks like).

The park is also filled with beautiful landscaping, gardens (plant names are identified in Arabic and English on placards). There are restaurants and cafes and an amphitheater hosting terrific music.

My first weekend here I saw Oumeima el Khalil (photograph above) and last weekend I went to Dina el Wadidi’s concert. Wadidi sings in a band that fuses the incredible sounds of the accordion, violin, piano, and tabla (also bass and electric guitar, which unfortunately drown out the other beautiful sounds). One of the many people sitting around me filming the concert on their cell phones posted one of the songs on Youtube:

As I enjoyed the park I wondered about its construction. I thought about the people in Beirut who are working for greening the city. Every time I look at the enormous port I imagine how beautiful it would be as a green park with football fields, playgrounds for children, and areas for families to picnic. But, of course, this is Solidere territory (the best article on the history and context of how Solidere ruined downtown Beirut see Saree Makdisi’s articles here and here). The contrast between the once public space, albeit not green, of downtown Beirut and the public space of al-Azhar Park is striking in many ways (although similar kinds of encroachments on downtown Cairo were part of Mubarak’s re-imagining of the city). Whereas Solidere wants to keep poor people out, al-Azhar at least appears to be working to make all families able to access its space. Poor people may not be able to afford to buy crafts or eat at the restaurants, but for under $1 they can picnic and their children have a place to run around and play.

If only it were that simple.  I did a little research to see how this park was created. A foreign corporation, the Aga Khan Trust, financed the construction of this park. I was told by an Egyptian friend that the fees that one pays when entering go to that corporation for about thirty years before Egyptians may retain control over their own park (reminds me of the Suez Canal and the British). The microfinance division of Aga Khan collaborates with USAID on a number of projects, including one in Aswan, Egypt (they also have a numer of projects in Afghanistan and elsewhere in collaboration with USAID). It is unclear what role USAID has had in the building of al-Azhar Park. But there are some indications that they played a role. One document says, for example, that through the American Research Center, that USAID funded a part of a project in the park, but it doesn’t specify what. Another article suggests that USAID, along with the Ford Foundation, helped to fund part of the municipal underground water beneath the park.

Of course all this transpired under the Mubarak regime. Indeed, Suzanne Mubarak was apparently quite the champion of the park. It’s not yet clear to me how much of the park has been funded with USAID. But even a dime from that entity spells danger. But I am not at all surprised. This is what USAID does best: it appears to be a lovely gift from the Americans to the Egyptians (or the Haitians or the Palestinians), but in reality it is a mechanism of domination and control. This is why ALBA nations recently pledged to kick out USAID from their countries in a bold anti-imperialist move.

Egypt has been controlled by USAID since Sadat’s treacherous signing of the Camp David Accords in 1979, which gave Egyptians back the Sinai Peninsula (though not military control over it) and sold out the Palestinians. In exchange for this agreement, Egyptian people began to receive funds and imports from the United States. But it is not so simple.

Jason Hickel explains how this works in the most important sector, the agricultural sector:

To push along the process of neoliberal reform, USAid has given $200 million each year to the Egyptian government in handouts to encourage “continuing reduction in tariffs” and the privatisation of 314 government-owned companies. Furthermore, USAid devotes some 25 per cent of its budget to a special Commodity Import Programme designed to help Egypt buy American-made goods and reinforce bilateral trade.

Programmes like these have proven to be devastating for many Egyptians: they tend to undercut local manufactures, encourage foreign monopolies, concentrate wealth in the hands of political cronies and ultimately contribute to unemployment, which (depending on the measure used) has risen to 25 per cent in recent years and reaches as high as 30 per cent among the young.

Some of the most extreme neoliberal measures have been directed at Egypt’s agriculture sector. As a condition for development aid, USAid has required Egypt to shift its formidable agricultural capacity away from staple foods and toward export crops such as cotton, grapes and strawberries in order to generate foreign currency to pay off its burgeoning debt to the US.

According to Columbia University professor, Timothy Mitchell, USAid first began to facilitate this process in the 1980s through its Agricultural Mechanisation Project, which was designed to develop the productive capacity of Egyptian export agriculture by financing the purchase of American machinery.

In the end – despite USAid’s projections to the contrary – the programme did very little to help common farmers. Instead, it disproportionately benefitted the few large landholders who could afford to take out the loans, while slashing the demand for agricultural labour and causing rural wages to plummet.

To propel the transformation to export-led agriculture, USAid forced the Egyptian government to heavily tax the production of staples by local farmers and to eliminate subsidies on essential consumer goods like sugar, cooking oil and dairy products in order to make room for competition from American and other foreign companies.

To ameliorate the resulting food gap, USAid’s so-called “Food for Peace” programme provided billions of dollars of loans for Egypt to import subsidised grain from the US, which only further undercut local farmers. The result of all of this “agricultural reform” was an unprecedented spike in food prices which made livelihoods increasingly precarious and forced much of the workforce to accept degrading and dehumanising labour conditions. The widespread social frustrations that resulted from these reforms helped spark the 2011 uprising.

Similar forms of neoliberal shock therapy been applied to the public services sector. USAid has aggressively pushed for so-called “cost-recovery” mechanisms, a euphemism for transforming public healthcare and education into private, fee-based institutions. Indeed, USAid typically spends nearly half of its health and education budgets – more than $100-million per year – on privatisation measures.

This has been fantastic for multinational medical companies, as it translates into greater dependence on imported drugs and equipment. For Egyptians, however, privatisation means having to pay large sums on healthcare and education. Mitchell shows that such expenditures – as a percentage of household income – now rank at the second and third highest in the world, respectively.

To make matters worse, Mitchell also demonstrates that USAid’s cuts to public service budgets have forced the wage rates of workers in hospitals and schools below the rate of inflation, causing deep income deficits among working-class households.

These destructive, pro-corporate policies get obscured by the rhetoric that USAid deploys. According to its website, USAid claims to have helped Egypt become a “success story in economic development”, citing “improvements” in the quality of education and – amazingly – “the administration of justice” (a shocking contradiction, given that the US actively funded Mubarak’s repressive military apparatus and its widespread human rights abuses).

Egypt’s vigorous market liberalisation programme has attracted foreign investment and boosted GDP growth, but these gains have only benefited the very rich, while the country’s bottom quintiles have seen their portion of the economic pie shrink significantly over the same period.

This one aspect of American control over Egyptian society since the 1980s–in other words since Camp David–gives one a sense of why USAID is so dangerous and also provides context over the ongoing uprising in Egypt.  Additionally, and a reason why USAID is associated with the CIA in most of the global south, is because there is often a relationship between NGOs and USAID. This relationship may be predominantly financial, but it is one that can be used to foment unrest, one reason why a few months ago Egyptians also considered removing USAID.

This issue of funding and the way it is used to control people is a huge problem, especially for those who have amazing ideas that they want to make tangible. Creating a park is an amazing thing to do for a community. But whether it is a park or a farm, one has to weigh the funding of such projects with societal control by outside corporations, foundations, or governments that have an agenda. There is no easy answer to this. But there is a reason why Henry Kissinger, who negotiated Camp David for Carter, famously said, “If you control oil, you control nations. If you control food, you control people.”

hip hop solidarity

here are two inspiring rap songs showing solidarity with palestinians and against colonialism, imperialism and military occupation more generally. the first comes from the palestine education project and the second from rebel diaz:

also check out this interview between minister of information jr and mutulu olugbala, otherwise known to the world as m1 of dead prez in the san francisco bay view news:

M1: See, we going in backwards order. I was in Cairo before we went to Scandinavia, so I want to correct you on that. But we will go straight there in this conversation. What happened before we went on our last trip to Scandinavia, I took a trip into the so-called Middle East, which actually was a term that was created: “the Middle East.” It wasn’t real at all.

M.O.I. JR: What’s the original name, or what is some of the indigenous names for that area? Africa, right?

M1: Yeah, it’s Africa. That’s Northern Africa. Right now, today, they would say that Egypt is Arab. And if anything, it is Arab colonized, of course. But it is definitely Africa. Even that area just above it, where we are talking about, the Middle East, which was basically named that by Henry Kissinger. He gave “the Middle East” the name “the Middle East.” So I was basically in that area.

I started out in Cairo to meet up with an organization called “Existence is Resistance” with Sister Nancy, Fatima and Brotha Aamon. They were hooked up underneath this caravan that was led by a man named George Galloway. What we ended up doing was trying to mount some form of resistance to the Israeli brand of imperialism that was putting a chokehold onto Gaza. So what I ended up doing was joining this caravan, which was making its second attempt to go from Cairo into Gaza, and penetrate the border and stop the siege against the Palestinian people.

So I was informed about this mission by a group of Palestinian organizers, activists and revolutionaries inside the U.S. Like I said, some of the names like Nancy Mansour, Shadia Mansour and other cultural artists who had performed and raised money to support the end of the oppression of the imperialist siege that was happening against the people of the Gaza Strip.

So after doing this work with other cultural artists like Rebel Diaz and Immortal Technique, I was invited to go and take a trip and help to bring some of those resources that had been amassed through donations and whatever people were able to give. I was asked to go and be a part of a caravan that would deliver it. So that is how I ended up in Cairo which became a huge…I mean I journaled it.

Anybody who wants to know where to get it, go to dead prez.com and there’s some other sites like Globalgrind.com (blockreportradio.com and sfbayview.com) that carried the blog or report that I had written, and I had even done some reports back with some of my colleagues in New York who were on the trip with me, like Councilman Charles Barron, a former Black Panther, political leader, activist on the New York City scene, representative of East New York, who was also on the trip as well and, like everybody knows, Cynthia McKinney, who has been developing a relationship to expose the Israeli genocide, which is really what it is, against Palestinian people. And as a courageous fighter in these times, and I am so impressed and so motivated by her spirit in that time too. So those are some of the people that I have been able to report back about. I’m going to continue to report, like we are reporting now, and I could go on, man.

M.O.I. JR: It’s not too many Black people that have made it from the United States, I should say from our Movement, and that are representatives of our Movement that have went to Gaza and spoke on it. Can you speak a little bit about what did you see?

M1: From the border, from Rafa, I was able to see the Israeli controlled Egyptian police who enforced the embargo against Gaza. I saw them form a chain link fence around the border itself, just so that the people who were on the outside of the border who belong inside Palestine, who were the brothers and sisters and daughters, mothers and fathers of people who were in there that had been trapped since the siege locked down the borders, who haven’t been able to get into their homes for months.

They were outside banging on the gates as our bus drove in, and the police formed a chain linked fence to stop them from entering with us as we were entering the immigration zone. As we were able to break through immigration, there were 200 people who were a part of this caravan, the caravan that would bring the resources that was led by Parliament member George Galloway in England, who, like I said previously, led one mission like this one previous to the one I was on, in which 20 or so people had broken through the border to help with some relief as well.

So my first look onto Gaza was welcoming faces, happy faces, joy, jubilant people who knew we were there and had been waiting for days, and who wouldn’t give up hope, just the way we wouldn’t give up hope that we could break through the border and be able to break bread and have a meeting with our comrades on the other side.

So as soon as we got in, I saw of course families reuniting, but I was also able to see the government in action, the government of Hamas was present. I was able to see how those forces are, in leadership. And how that happened, and how our buses were led to the hotel which is the place where we would sit down for the 24 hours that we were allowed to be in there.

As the next day opened, I was able to see a lot of the Israeli destruction from the F-16 Expander Missiles and bombs full of depleted uranium that they drop on the people, that will obviously have long term effects on the Gaza community. I was able to see bombed masjids, or mosques. I was able to see bombed out school buildings, elementary school buildings and government offices.

We were able to be brought into a world of a direct threat from imperialist American-made missiles. It was saddening. It was terrifying. It reminded me much of the communities that we live in – dilapidated Brownsville and the forgotten nooks and crannies in South Central Los Angeles or in Ohio, in Cleveland, or in Kensington in Philadelphia. It felt like the same oppression with the more ever-nearing threat of a bomb exploding in the name of imperialism right in front of your eyes.

The walls were tattooed or muraled with graffiti, with Arafat insignias. You know the support from other organizations, not only Hamas, who was the leadership there, but Fatah who is also the Palestinian representative of the West Bank and other parts of Palestine, who also want to see a freedom for the Palestinian people.

Even people who had been bombed out of their homes, I still saw hope in their eyes. I saw beautiful people. I saw beautiful architecture or what once was architecture, a great coastline with beautiful beaches where even though they had been living in war torn, bombed out areas for the last months of their life with no income or outgoing supplies like gas and food and clothes and the basic needs which we were attempting to bring, they were still able to be resilient.

So that’s some of what I was able to see in Gaza. Like I said, it was because of the pressure of the Egyptian government and Israel in collusion, we were only granted 24 hours to be inside that border and to do the work that we had done, which was to bring the numerous wheelchairs and buckets and school supplies or whatever we could bring with our hands across the border to assist some people who are under the same attack and have the same enemy that I have.

Don’t miss M1’s “24 hours in Gaza.” And get ready for his historic speaking tour Sept. 23-29, “From the Ghetto to Gaza” – seven events in seven days in East and West Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Sonoma, San Jose and Santa Cruz to benefit BlockReportRadio.com and SFBayView.com. Contact Minister of Information JR at blockreportradio[at]gmail.com or the SF Bay View at (415) 671-0789 for more information. Learn more about M-1 and dead prez and their latest album, “Pulse of the People,” at www.deadprez.com and www.myspace.com/m1rbg.

against anniversaries

mother-palestine-ror

i’ve been reading various articles and blog posts about the anniversary of the massacre of the palestinian refugee camp shatila and the surrounding neighborhood of sabra (no, sabra is not a refugee camp, but many palestinians live there). pulse media and falasteenyia both had nice posts on the subject. ma’an news posted a reflective piece on the zionist-kata’eb massacre of palestinians in 1982:

“That is the old Israeli watchtower and entrance to Sabra,” a man on the street pointed, standing in front of the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camps. Below the tower, quarantined like a civil war time capsule, were the camps left to fend for themselves on the outskirts of Beirut.

No more than 20 meters past the former Israeli watchtower, in an empty lot, is the memorial for the victims of the 1982 Lebanon Civil War massacre. Camp residents say the site was once a mass grave for the slain. The memorial was a single-track dirt path linking a series of billboards with images of the dead.

The massacre’s perpetrators were of the predominantly Christian Phalange party: supplied, supported and supervised by onlooking Israeli soldiers.

The Phalangist pogrom was clear. What was not, however, was the extent of the crime. At the time of the massacre, the Director of Israeli Military Intelligence said that between the days of September 16 and 18, 1982, a minimum of 700 “terrorists” had been killed. Yet, reporter for the Independent Robert Fisk wrote in his book, Pity the Nation, “Phalangist officers I knew in east Beirut told me that at least 2,000 ‘terrorists’ — women as well as men — had been killed in Chatila.” The real number, according to Fisk, is thought to be higher.

Leaving the mass grave memorial and moving into the open-air market of the Sabra camp, a bullet-ridden wall stands separating a camp dump from its market. In all likelihood the half-block dumping ground was once on the fringes of the camp, but not anymore. The camp had no urban planner, so it grew until the market fully encircled the awful collection of stench, sewage and a sore reminder that nobody really intended to be living in the Sabra camp some sixty years after the Nakba, the Palestinian exodus of 1948.

At the far end of the bullet-chafed wall stood a child of about ten years, a refugee. With little hesitation he immersed himself into the filthy heap, heaving his woven sack of valued rubbish over the rotting mounds. For all the archetypes of the poverty-ridden Palestinian refugee that exists in a foreigner’s consciousness, this is surely it. There was to be no school for this boy. No passport, no rights and no state.

Beyond the heap hung layers of political propaganda posters: A keffiyehed militant with the bold letters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine plastered next to a green-tinted portrait of Hamas’ founder Sheik Yassin with the party logo “Martyrs of Freedom & Victory;” a weathered PLO poster of Arafat; even one of a masked fighter on a tank, clutching a Kalashnikov with the brand of Islamic Jihad. And the posters were not just of Palestinian parties, but of the Lebanese Amal and Hezbollah as well. As a nearby shopkeeper who sold Hezbollah DVD’s put it, “The camp is mixed now… mixed with Palestinians and [Lebanese] Shias… United by resistance…”

Despite appearances, however, inside the Lebanese Army’s encirclement of the camp a surprisingly calm business-as-usual air prevailed. The streets weren’t crowded, but populated. The buyers, the sellers, and of course the children, were everywhere, looking to relieve the gnawing boredom of a lifetime’s confinement to the camp. “We are not allowed to leave [the camps],” one of the sellers said, “No papers.”

United resistance aside, the camp was in shambles. Everything the Lebanese government might do in Sabra and Shatila—urban planning, paving streets, coordinating an electrical grid, sewage—was left to the Palestinian residents. At the beginning, however, the camp played host to the bigwigs of the Palestinian leadership in the Palestine Liberation Organization, who organized camp life and connected the residents to the Palestinian struggle.

The powerful PLO, back in 1982, provided the motive of the massacre’s perpetrators, the Christian Phalange militia, who sought to take revenge against PLO leaders—which had in fact already fled Lebanon—for the alleged assassination of the Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel. But the only people who remained in the camps that summer of 1982 were unarmed Palestinians.

What happened at Sabra and Shatila is still considered the bloodiest single event in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is also among the most egregious and underreported aspects of the Palestinian calamity to date.

On the anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, 16 September, the issue of the refugees and the right of return reaches again for the surface of Palestinian politics. With the newly-charged peace process being pushed by the United States, and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s recently released strategy to establish Palestinian state in two years, the issue of returnees has been subsumed by talk of settlements in the West Bank.

American efforts, and Fayyad’s plan focus more on securing infrastructure and borders than focusing on the estimated 500,000 refugees without rights in Lebanon, or the hundreds of thousands of others in Jordan, Syria, Iraq and in the Gulf.

Palestinians in the camps have a precarious relationship with the current peace initiatives, particularly the older generation who still recall the villages they fled in 1948 and 1967.

“Sure I would support Obama’s plan,” an old man reflects on the US President’s push for a two-state solution. “But what kind of solution is it? I have nothing in this West Bank… it would make me a foreigner in my own land… I would only go back to my village. And I don’t even know what is there now.”

He picks up an old hatchet from his coffee table and continues, “They [the Zionists] chased us and hit us on the head with these. I left my small village near Acre [Akko] because of it.”

ah yes the selling out of the palestinian refugees like those in shatila who everyone loves to remember on occasions such as this one, but who never fight for their rights (read: fayyed among others). but a different piece in ma’an news was a bit more interesting–about george mitchell’s visit to lebanon which coincided with the anniversary of the massacre:

Palestinian refugees were the top of US Special Envoy George Mitchell’s list during a 20 minute sit down with Lebanon’s President Michel Suliman Wednesday, the day marking the 27th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

Michell told Suleiman that Lebanon, whose Phalangist faction 27-years earlier entered two Palestinian refugee camps and slaughtered thousands of civilians with Israeli support, would not bear the brunt of the refugee issue.

“US efforts toward peace would not come at the expense of Lebanon,” a statement from Suleiman’s office said following the meeting. Mitchell made no comment.

The two discussed the latest developments in Mitchell’s pursuit to halt Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and, according to the Lebanese press, stressed “continuous US support and aid to Lebanon on all levels and in all areas.”

Suleiman reportedly told Mitchell that all Lebanese factions refused the option of naturalizing Palestinian refugees “on the basis of the constitution.” He also stressed his desire that Israel retreat from its occupation of Lebanese lands.

what i find especially disturbing about all of this is how everyone remembers the anniversary of the sabra and shatila massacre but no one seems to remember the destruction of nahr el bared refugee camp. it is rather convenient that mitchell and his lebanese cohorts discussed palestinian refugees, but of course did not reveal any tangible information about their right of return. for palestinian from nahr el bared this right of return is now two-fold: first to their camp and then to palestine. if only that first step could be eliminated and they could return home immediately.

this is why i am feeling like i am against anniversaries. anniversaries, ideally, should be a time when you reflect upon the person/people/event. it should make you act in a way that honors that memory. the only real way to honor the memory of the massacre in 1982 or the destruction of nahr el bared in 2007 is to fight for the right of return for palestinian refugees. but no one is talking about that. nor are they talking about reconstructing narh el bared. except a few people. my friend matthew cassel attended the protest in trablus the other day and took this photography among others:

image by matthew cassel
image by matthew cassel

my dear friend rania never forgets and she linked to an article in al akhbar today on the subject:

بين الحفاظ على الآثار في الجزء القديم من مخيم نهر البارد وطمرها، تُعلّق حياة 35 ألف لاجئ فلسطيني كانوا يظنّون في فترة سابقة، قبل الحرب تحديداً، أنّها حياة مستمرّة.. على بؤسها. ربما، يجدر بهؤلاء المتروكين لحالهم الانتظار بعد، ريثما يتخذ مجلس شورى الدولة قراره النهائي المستند إلى مطالعات الدولة اللبنانية والتيار الوطني الحر ووزارة المال المكلفة بتمويل تكاليف طمر الآثار

راجانا حمية

كان من المفترض أن يُقفل مجلس شورى الدولة، اليوم، أبوابه أمام المطالعات القانونية المتعلقة بالطعن بقرار إيقاف طمر الآثار في البارد القديم. فقد أجّل محامي النائب ميشال عون، وليد داغر، تقديم مطالعة يحدد فيها صفة النائب عون كمستدعٍ إلى الاثنين المقبل. ويعود سبب التأجيل إلى رغبته في ضم رد التيار على مطالعتين تقدمت بهما وزارة المال في 18 آب الماضي والدولة اللبنانية في 21 منه، وتبلّغ بهما داغر في العاشر من الجاري.

وحسب المحامي داغر، تطالب هاتان المطالعتان مجلس شورى الدولة بالرجوع عن قرار إيقاف الطمر، استناداً إلى «المعطيات التي تفيد بأن طمر الآثار تم وفقاً للمعايير الدولية». وأكثر من ذلك، تستند الوزارتان في مطالعتيهما إلى «اعتبار صفة عون ومصلحته لا تتطابقان مع شروط المادة 77 من نظام مجلس الشورى». وهي المادة التي تنص على أنه «يفترض لوقف تنفيذ القرار المطعون فيه أن تكون المراجعة مرتكزة على أسباب جدية ومهمة وأن يكون الضرر المتذرَّع به ضرراً بليغاً».

طعن داغر بالمطالعتين، سلفاً، حتى قبل التقديم إلى مجلس الشورى، لأنه «لو لم يكن لعون صفة مباشرة لما كان مجلس شورى الدولة قد أوقف قرار الحكومة، كما إن الضرر لحق به كمواطن ذلك أن الآثار ليست ملكاً عاماً، بل هي ملك إنساني». لا يكتفي داغر بهذه الحجة، بل يستند إلى الاجتهاد القانوني الصادر عام 2000، والذي «لا يشترط لتوفر المصلحة أن يكون المدعي صاحب حق مباشر».

من تظاهرات طرابلس، الناس باتت لا تصدق موضوع الآثار (عبد الكافي الصمد)من تظاهرات طرابلس، الناس باتت لا تصدق موضوع الآثار (عبد الكافي الصمد)إذاً، من المفترض أن يتقدم داغر صباح الاثنين المقبل بمطالعتين: أولى تتعلق بتحديد صفة عون كمستدعٍ، والتي حددها داغر بصفة مواطن، وثانية يرد بها قانونياً على مطالعتي المال والدولة. بعد ذلك كله، يقوم مجلس الشورى بمطابقة الصفة والمصلحة قبل إصدار القرار المتوقع في 13 تشرين الأول المقبل.. و«ربما قبل هذا التاريخ، إذا لم تتطابق الصفة والمصلحة مع شروط المادة 77، بحيث يصار إلى إبطال القرار فوراً»، حسبما يرجّح رئيس مجلس الشورى القاضي شكري صادر.

لكن، إذا فاز عون بصفته والمصلحة، ينتقل أعضاء مجلس الشورى إلى «الأساس»، الذي يتعلق بدراسة مطالعتي عون المتضمنة مبررات الحفاظ على آثار البارد، والحكومة اللبنانية التي تشرح فيها موجبات الإعمار. ويحصر رئيس لجنة الحوار اللبناني الفلسطيني خليل مكاوي هذه الموجبات بثلاثة «تعهّد الدولة بإعادة المخيم كما كان والتزامات الحكومة تجاه المجتمع الدولي والدول المانحة، إضافة إلى الحفاظ على الأمن القومي».

إما استكمال طمر الآثار بحسب المعايير الدولية وإما إيقاف الإعمار «واستملاك الأراضي

إذاً، يتعلق مصير المخيم القديم بالمطالعتين المذكورتين، فإما استكمال طمر الآثار بحسب المعايير الدولية، كما يرجح مكاوي، وإما إيقاف الإعمار «واستملاك الأراضي القائم عليها المخيم الجديد وبعض ما حواليه»، كما جاء في بيان لجنة الدراسات في التيار الوطني الحر الأسبوع الماضي. غير أن ما تعوّل عليه لجنة الدراسات يواجه بعض الرفض من جهتين: الأولى فلسطينية، إذ يخاف هؤلاء من ضياع حقوقهم، وخصوصاً أن غالبية البيوت مسجّلة باسمهم، وأن ببعض تحايل (قبل صدور قانون التملك اللبناني عام 2001)، والثانية غالبية الأقطاب السياسية التي ترى في استملاك أراضٍ جديدة بداية مشروع التوطين.

ما بين المطالعتين، يضيع سكان المخيم القديم. يتساءل هؤلاء عن سبب إثارة هذه القضية الآن بالذات، تزامناً مع بدء إعادة الإعمار. يخاف الأهالي من أن تتكرر تجربة المخيمات المسحولة هنا في البارد. خوفهم هذا يدفعهم إلى «الهلوسة» في بعض الأحيان، إذ يذهب البعض إلى القول إنه «لا وجود للآثار بدليل أن الأعمدة هي قنوات صرف صحي مركبينا جدودنا اعتبروها رومانية، وبعض الفخارات من إيام أبوي». يستند الرجل في تكهناته إلى أن الحفر التي قام بها المهندسون من مديرية الآثار لم تتعدّ الثمانين سنتمتراً، «فكيف ستكون المدينة على هذا العمق؟».

يستغرب آخرون، ومنهم لطفي محمد الحاج، عضو الهيئة الأهلية لإعادة إعمار البارد، سبب التفات الدولة اللبنانية إلى هذه الآثارات رغم أنها هي التي أتت باللاجئين إلى تلة البارد رغم معرفتها بوجود الآثارات منذ العشرينيات من القرن الماضي. ويستغرب الحاج أيضاً سبب الاهتمام «الذي لا مثيل له»، على الرغم من «أن الآثار المحيطة بنا مهملة»، ويعطي مثالاً على قوله: «مثلاً، قلعة حكمون على جنب المخيم عاملينا مزرعة بقر وتلة عرقة وغيرها». لا يحتاج الرجل إلى أكثر من رؤية منزله مجدداً، ويطالب مجلس الشورى بالعودة عن قرار الإيقاف، مبرراً مطالبته بالقول: «احنا هون مش سوليدير، هون ناس ساكنة ما عادت تحمل تهجير». أكثر من ذلك، يضيف أبو خالد فريجي، أحد سكان القديم: «إحنا رمينا البارود لنساعد الجيش، اليوم ما عدنا قادرين ما نحمل البارودة».

مقابل هذه التعليقات للأهالي، يضع بعض الأطراف القضية في خانة التجاذبات السياسية. هذا ما يقوله المسؤول عن ملف إعادة إعمار البارد مروان عبد العال. ولئن كان لا حول ولا قوة من إدخال الفلسطيني بهذا التجاذب، يسأل عبد العال: «لماذا لم تُرسل فرق للتنقيب عن الآثار منذ تسعين عاماً؟ وليش الرسائل ما بتوصل إلا من صندوق بريدنا؟».

البراكسات التي يعيش فيها السكانالبراكسات التي يعيش فيها السكانيؤمن عبد العال بقداسة الآثار. وهي، من وجهة نظره تضاهي قداسة هوية الفلسطيني. لكن، السؤال الكبير الذي لا بد منه هنا هو «أنه إحنا مش آثار؟ ما بنمثل خصوصية؟ مش ولاد نكبة عمرها 61 عاماً وإلنا هويتنا كما الآثار؟ أكثر من ذلك، يسأل عضو الجبهة الشعبية في البارد سمير اللوباني: «ما هو الثمن السياسي الذي يجب أن يدفعه الفلسطيني من أجل إعادة البارد؟

لكن، كل هذا لن يأتي بنتيجة. فالنتيجة الوحيدة في مجلس شورى الدولة، وبانتظار صدور القرار، يعمل الفلسطينيون على رفع سقف الاحتجاجات الجماهيرية، وخصوصاً أنه لا يحق لهم مثل «أهل الفقيد» تقديم مطالعة قانونية، كونهم جهة غير معترف بها في القانون اللبناني. يضاف إلى ذلك أن الأونروا أيضاً لا تستطيع تقديم مطالعة قانونية لمجلس شورى الدولة، لذلك تعمل على إعداد مطالعة تشرح فيها موجبات الإعمار للحكومة اللبنانية فقط.

بالعودة إلى سير عملية الإعمار في البارد، كانت شركة «الجهاد» المتعهدة من قبل الأونروا قد طمرت في الرزمة الأولى حيث وجدت الآثار موقعين من أصل 5 مواقع قبل أن تثار القضية. وتلفت الناطقة الرسمية باسم الأونروا هدى الترك إلى «أننا انتهينا من تنظيف 95% من الركام، باستثناء جزء من الرزمة 2 وآخر من الرزمة 4». وأكدت أن الأونروا لا يمكنها الإعمار إلا بالتسلسل، أي من الرزمة 1، «والعملية متوقفة الآن بانتظار قرار مجلس شورى الدولة».

there is also a new article about the situation in nahr el bared in as-safir newspaper:

جهاد بزي
يستطيع المخيم أن يكون من شقين،
أو أن نبحث عن قطعة أرض بديلة للمخيم..
لكن لا نستطيع أن نجد ارتوزيا في مكان آخر.
الجنرال ميشال عون
(17 حزيران 2009)

في مخيم نهر البارد مدينتان.

المدينة الأولى بقايا أثرية اكتشفت تحت أنقاض المخيم القديم الذي سُحق بالكامل. هذه البقايا اسمها أرتوزيا. يستميت العونيون في الدفاع عنها، وقد رفعوا طعناً إلى مجلس الشورى جمّد إثره طمر آثار المدينة المكتشفة، ريثما يتخذ قراره. ولجنة الدراسات العونية لا تنفك تصدر بيانات بلغة أكاديمية رصينة تعلّل فيها أسباب دفاعها عن المدينة وتدفع عن نفسها تهمة العنصرية وتشدد على أنها ضد التوطين.

المدينة الثانية هي مدينة «البركسات». هي النقيض التام لكل الآثارات على وجه الأرض. هي صناديق «عصرية» من حديد وبلاستيك وإسفنج، وغيرها من المواد المثيرة لغثيان عالم الآثار إذا سقط مكبره عليها. وعلى العكس من القلاع والاعمدة والمدرجات الخالدة خلود الآلهة، فإن مدينة البركسات بلا أعمدة ولا فخامة ولا تاريخ، وهندستها رتيبة ومقيتة.

وهي عرضة للتلف أسرع بمليون مرة من مدينة أرتوزيا. عناصر الطبيعة الجميلة، الشمس والمياه والهواء، هي أوبئة دائمة تفتك بالمدينة الهشة المقامة على عجل لإيواء النازحين في بلاد لجوئهم.

هناك فارق أساسي بين المدينتين: البركسات مأهولة. ارتوزيا غير مأهولة. وأن نقول إنها مأهولة، فلأننا قررنا، كلبنانيين، مواجهة الإرهاب بطريقة فريدة من نوعها، هللت لها قوى سياسية شرسة في «حبها» للفلسطينيين، وتغاضت عنها قوى أخرى كانت قد نادت يوماً بأن المخيم خط أحمر. تلك الحرب ستبقى، بأي حال، «إنجازاً ناصعاً» في تاريخنا اللبناني، وإن طُمرت خطاياها بكل ما فيها كرمى لعناوين كبيرة وفارغة.

وأن نقول إن البركسات مأهولة منذ نحو سنتين. أن يضطر لاجئون، قصمنا ظهورهم سياسياً واجتماعياً واقتصادياً، إلى حياة منسية كهذه التي يعيشونها في علب الصفيح المكتظة تتساقط الصراصير من أسقفها الاسفنج المبقورة بسبب الحرارة والمياه، أو تنبت الجرذان من أرضها، أو تصير مستنقعات وحول عند كل مطر. أن يضطر لاجئون سحقنا حيواتهم إلى يوميات طويلة في هذه المجمعات الحديدية الأقرب إلى مجمعات عزل المصابين بأمراض معدية قاتلة. أن تضطر عيون اطفالهم إلى العتمة ليل نهار وانفاسهم إلى الرطوبة وآفاقهم إلى ممرات ضــيقة خانقة. وأن يضطر الفلسطينــي إلى هــذه العقوبة المستمرة عليه لذنب ليس ذنبه، فإنه عــيب هائــل يتدلى من عنق لبنان جرســاً فاضحاً يرن كيفــما هزّ هذا البلد عنقه.

أما أن يقال للفلســطيني إن أرتــوزيا أهم من الأرض التي ولد عليها، وإن علــيه أن يبـحث عن مكان آخر يقيم عليه مخيمه، فهذا يفوق خيال الكوابيس التي يراها.

ثمة افتقاد تام لحس إنساني بسيط: المكان، مهما كان مؤقتاً، له قيمة رمزية ترتبط بقيمة المجتمع الذي يقيم فيه منذ ستين سنة. هم لاجئون لكنهم ليسوا بضاعة يمكن وضعها في أي مكان، بانتظار شحنها إلى فلسطين. المثل قاسٍ، لكنه الاقرب إلى المنطق الذي تتعاطى به الغالبية اللبنانية العظمى مع الشأن الفلسطيني. هناك سخرية مرّة في أن يضطر الواحد إلى الشرح بأن المخيم الفلسطيني ليس نزهة كشفية بين أحراج الصنوبر، تقام وتفك ثم تنتقل إلى مكان جديد. المخيمات الفلسطينية هي مثل مدننا وقرانا وأحيائنا. مثل حي السلم والحمرا والاشرفية والرابية. قد نكرهها وقد نحبها، لكن فيها شكّلنا ذكرياتنا وتفاصيلنا وأحزاننا وافراحنا. وإذا كان الفلسطيني يعيش في مؤقت مفتوح، فهذا لا يعني أن حقائبه موضبة طوال الوقت. هذا لا يعني أنه بلا ذاكرة. من السخرية المرّة تذكير لجنة الدراسات وغيرها، بأن الفلسطينيين مثلنا، نحن اللبنانيين أحفاد الأرتوزيين العظام.

وكما لا يحق لأحد أن ينقّلنا كيفما شاء، لا يحق لنا أن ننقلهم كيفما شئنا. معادلة بسيطة.

ثم..
إذا كانت إعادة الإعمار بهذا الحجم من التعقيد، وإذا كان هناك خلاف حتى على اسم المخيم الجديد من البارد حدا بالجيش اللبناني إلى أن «يأمل» من الإعلام تسميته بالبقعة المحيطة بالمخيم، فأين سيجد الفلسطينيون النازحون مخيماً آخر؟ فلتنكب لجنة الدراسات العونية على درس فكرة الجنرال وجعلها حجر أساس لدراسة متكاملة تلحظ موقع المخيم الجديد على أرض لبنان، ومساحته وكيفية استئجاره أو تملكه للبدء بإعادة الإعمار بسرعة كي ينتقل الفلسطينيون إليه. وربما على اللجنة زيارة البركسات والنزول في غرفها لأيام تستفتي خلالها رأي المنكوبين فرداً فرداً بموقع جديد للمخيم. كما ينبغي عليها لاحقاً أخذ موافقة جيرانهم الجدد من اللبنانيين. هذا جهد يمكن للجنة الدراسات أن تقوم به بالطبع، لما يعرف عنها من عمق وقدرة. غير أن الفلسطينيين ليسوا قضية اللجنة. قضيتها أرتوزيا.

المصائب تأتي دفعة واحدة. نزلت على المخيم فدمرته، ثم صعدت من أسفله، فزادت على معوقات إعماره معوّقاً جديداً. الأولوية الآن هي في طمر مدينة البركسات، وهذه لن تطمر إلا إذا طمرت آثار ارتوزيا، بغض النظر عن أي أهمية لها. من أقل حقوق فلسطينيي مخيم نهر البارد على هذا البلد هو ألا يجعلهم ينتظرون أكثر. بقاء الفلسطينيين على حالهم هناك جريمة بحق الانسانية واللبنانيين، وليس طمر ارتوزيا هو «الجريمة بحق الإنسانية والشعب اللبناني» كما قالت لجنة الدراسات.

أما أرتوزيا العونية فيمكن لها أن تنتظر. يكفيها فخراً أنها أثبتت عمق تجذرها في الأرض اللبنانية وعنادها وتحديها للزمن. هي خالدة وشامخة شموخ الجبال والأرز. ولا شك بأنها ستطلع من بين الركام ثانية، يوم يغادر الفلسطينيون هذه البلاد التي لا تفعل منذ عقود إلا معاقبتهم على وجودهم القسري فيها.

جهاد بزي

of course, it is not surprising that al akhbar and as safir would publish articles on nahr el bared. these are the only two newspapers who have consistently covered the story. that can be counted on. not just because it is an anniversary, but because it matters. but who else will cover the refugees from nahr e bared and their rights? their right of return. and i’m thinking not only of the people i care about from nahr el bared and other camps in lebanon who want to return to their original villages, but also dear friends in falasteen who want to return to their villages. this summer when we did the al awda camp with kids from deheishe refugee camp, two of the kids who i adore returned home and produced a new rap song (here is my post on taking them to beit ‘itab, which i did for a second time after the camp). the song includes hisham’s grandfather at the beginning, talking about their village of beit ‘itab. here is a description of their song and a link to the mp3 file you can listen to:

Badluck Rappers – اغنية جديدة بعنوان ” رحلة لبلادي ” تحكي قصة كل لاجئ فلسطيني

Badluck Rappers – اغنية جديدة بعنوان
تم نشر إغنية مؤخراً من فرقة الـ Badluck Rapperz من قلب مخيم دهيشه , بيت لحم
بعنوان رحلة لبلادي تحكي قصة كل لاجئ فلسطيني عايش داخل و خارج فلسطين ,
وتعودنا نسمع اغاني كثيرة عن اللاجئين من الفرقة لانها من قلب المخيمات , اكبر المخيمات
الفلسطينية للاجئين داخل فلسطين , واكتر اشي بميز الاغنية , بدايتها الجميلة المختارة
الي ببداها لاجئ فلسطيني بحكي قصة قريته الهاجر منها

الكل يسمع الاغنية , يقيمها , ويترك تعليق

Read more: http://www.palrap.net/PalRap/263/Badluck_Rappers_Witn_New_Track_Called_Re7la_La_Blady.html#ixzz0RWCnqv9L

i do not need an anniversary to make me think about the people i love in shatila, nahr el bared or deheishe refugee camps. i do not need an anniversary to make me remember their right of return. i think about it every day and hope that the work and writing i do, in some small way, advances that right. but i’m also thinking about the palestinian refugees who were in iraq and who i tried to help when they were displaced yet again in jordan in al ruweished refugee camp. they have all been resettled in third countries, a fact that does not negate their right of return to palestine. at the time friends i worked with tried to get the u.s. to take them in to no avail. now it seems my home state of california is granting refuge to some palestinians from iraq as patrik jonsson writes in the christian science monitor:

The State Department confirmed today that as many as 1,350 Iraqi Palestinians – once the well-treated guests of Saddam Hussein and now at outs with much of Iraqi society – will be resettled in the US, mostly in southern California, starting this fall.

It will be the largest-ever resettlement of Palestinian refugees into the US – and welcome news to the Palestinians who fled to Iraq after 1948 but who have had a tough time since Mr. Hussein was deposed in 2003. Targeted by Iraqi Shiites, the mostly-Sunni Palestinians have spent recent years in one of the region’s roughest refugee camps, Al Waleed, near Iraq’s border with Syria.

“Really for the first time, the United States is recognizing a Palestinian refugee population that could be admitted to the US as part of a resettlement program,” says Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch in Washington.

Given the US’s past reluctance to resettle Palestinians – it accepted just seven Palestinians in 2007 and nine in 2008 – the effort could ruffle some diplomatic feathers.

For many in the State Department and international community, the resettlement is part of a moral imperative the US has to clean up the refugee crisis created by invading Iraq. The US has already stepped up resettlement of Iraqis, some who have struggled to adjust to life in America.

al awda is asking for people to help with their resettlement:

The US government has approved most of the population of Al-Waleed Palestinian refugee camp for resettlement as refugees in the US in the coming year. For more information see http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0708/p02s04-usgn.html and http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/06/2009618161946158577.html

The first Palestinian family of the year from Al-Waleed will be arriving in San Diego on Wednesday September 16, 2009. This family, as with all the refugees who will be relocated to the US from Al-Waleed, will arrive with essentially nothing. Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, is therefore conducting an urgent fund raising campaign to help all the Palestinian refugees arriving in the US soon with their transition to a new life in this country.

BACKGROUND

An estimated 19,000 Palestinians, out of an initial population of 34,000, fled Iraq since the American invasion in 2003. Of these refugees, approximately 2500 have been stranded, under very harsh conditions, some for more than five years, in three camps, Al-Tanaf, Al-Waleed and Al-Hol. These camps are located in the middle of the desert far from any population centers. Al-Tanaf camp is located in no-man’s land on the borders between Iraq and Syria. Al-Waleed is located on the Iraqi side of the border with Syria, and Al-Hol is located in Syria in the Hasaka region. The camp residents had fled largely from Baghdad due to harassment, threats of deportation, abuse by the media, arbitrary detention, torture and murder by organized death squads. They thus became refugees again, originally as a result of the Zionist theft and colonial occupation of Palestine beginning in 1948. Some became refugees also when they were expelled from Kuwait in 1991 by the US-backed Kuwaiti government. Now, after years of waiting, many of the refugees stranded in the camps on the borders of Iraq are being relocated largely to Europe and the US, which continues to occupy Iraq to this day.

The first Palestinian family from Al-Waleed this year will be arriving in San Diego on September 16, 2009, a few days before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with 1350 more Palestinians to follow in the months ahead. According to the Christian Science Monitor most of these will be resettled in Southern California and possibly Pennsylvania and Omaha.

ACTION

Al-Awda is asking all its activists, members and supporters to contribute to help our sisters and brothers in their move to the US.

Please donate today!

Address your tax-deductible donation via check or money order to: Al-Awda, PRRC, PO Box 131352, Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA – Please note on the memo line of the check “Palestinians from Iraq”

Alternatively, please donate online using your credit card. Go to http://www.al-awda.org/donate.html and follow the simple instructions. Please indicate that your donation is for “Palestinians from Iraq” with your submission.

Drop off locations

We will also need furniture, cars, computers, tv’s, clothes, toys for the kids etc. The following are the current drop off locations:

General:
8531 Wellsford pl # f, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Te: 562-693-1600 Tel: 323-350-0000

For Clothes:
1773 West Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, CA 92801

For Southern California residents, an emergency meeting is being called for Sunday September 13, 2009 starting at 2 PM at the Al-Awda Center, 2734 Loker Avenue West Suite K, in Carlsbad CA 92010.

Our sisters and brothers need all the help they can get after having suffered from the death squads in Baghdad, and more than five years stranded in the camps. We need our people to feel at home as much as possible. We can not disappoint them.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROUS SUPPORT

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
Tel: 760-918-9441
Fax: 760-918-9442
E-mail: info[at]al-awda.org
WWW: http://al-awda.org

on palestinian rappers

three great new stories on palestinian rappers and how hip hop culture is used as a mode of resistance:

first: from a dear friend in bourj al barajneh refugee camp in lebanon. yassin and mohammed are originally from akka and are rapping until and for their right of return:

then ayman mohyeldin is reporting for al jazeera on breakdancers in gaza:

then eva bartlett has a piece on palestinian rappers in gaza:

In a backstreet open-air café in Gaza late at night, Khaled Harara from the Black Unit Band starts to talk about rap.

A phone call interrupts him. “Oh my god, it’s my dad, he will kill me because I’m not home yet.” Not quite the tough image one conjures of rappers.

After assuring his father he’s giving an interview, he’s ok to stay.

But that interruption brings up something he wants people to understand better: rap doesn’t have to be what the corporate market makes it to be. “We are trying to show people that hip-hop can be good; it doesn’t have to be about sex and drugs. We are returning rap to its old roots, talking about real issues.”

His friend Ayman Mughames from Palestinian Rapperz joins him.

“When we started in 2002, our message was to show the real life in Palestine and especially in Gaza,” Mughames says. “We talk about cases, things that must be talked about: the Israeli occupation, the siege on Gaza, the Israeli wars on Gaza, Palestinian unity.

“Rapping is our way of resisting. We need people to resist not only by weapons, but by words too.”

Palestinian Rapperz (P.R.) joined the ‘new’ generation of rappers like Harara’s Black Unit Band. Under the umbrella Palestinian Unit, the group now comprises P.R., Black Unit, and supporting musicians and break-dancers from the Water Band and Camps Breakerz.

“That’s what we wish for, Palestinian unity,” says Mughames, playing on the group’s name.

The two speak some of the many difficulties they face as rappers in Gaza.

“People don’t understand what rap is, they think it’s some negative Western influence, like we’re forgetting our culture,” Harara says. “But we are mixing Palestinian tradition and patriotism with rap. It’s our way of reaching youths inside and outside of Palestine.”

They admit that a part of the problem lies with other rappers in Gaza who don’t hold the same ideals.

“There are some bad rappers. Their behaviour is bad, so then they reflect badly on rap in general,” says Harara. “But we try to teach youths what rap is really about, and how it can be used for the Palestinian cause.”

Harara goes on to explain their work with Gaza’s youths.

“Recently we established a hip-hop school. Many of the younger generation had come to us saying ‘we want to learn to rap’, so we opened a school.”

Mughames, considered Gaza’s old-school rapper, is emphatic about the benefits.

“It’s good for youths. They have nothing to do in Gaza. We teach them concrete skills: how to make good lyrics, how to set the lyrics to the beat, how to control their voices…how to be a good rapper.”

Harara adds, “Our school is free. And it’s actually very important, because these kids might otherwise end up going to the bad rappers and learning bad ideas.”

Aside from public perception, most of their problems are due to the Israeli- led siege on Gaza, imposed shortly after Hamas was elected in early 2006, but severely tightened in June 2007 after Hamas took control of Gaza.

“Equipment is a serious problem,” says Mughames. “If we want to give a concert, we need speakers, microphones…they aren’t easily available in Gaza.”

“There’s only really one good DJ in Gaza, with his own equipment. He charges between 200 to 500 dollars per show. We can’t afford that,” Harara says.

Producing an album is not easy either.

“Since we don’t have equipment, and the recording studio is too expensive, we try to cut albums in the most simple way, using a laptop mixer programme and recording in our home,” says Harara.

New York based Palestinian-Syrian film-maker Jackie Reem Salloum produced the documentary ‘Slingshot Hip Hop’ last year featuring Palestinian rap artists in Palestine and Israel, among them the Palestinian Rapperz.

“The slingshot movie was released, we got the invitation to attend the opening, we got the visas, but we couldn’t get out of Gaza,” Ayman Mughames recalls.

There are limits at home as well. “We want to go to the camps where people who lost their homes in the Israeli war are living. We want to give concerts for the orphans,” Harara says.

But for now, the rappers concentrate on what is viable. “We can’t make concerts, can’t leave Gaza. We are limited in what we can do. So we focus on the school and making more songs,” says Harara.

Like the one on the Israeli war on Gaza (’23 Days’), patriotic songs (‘My City’), and love songs too (‘Take Me Away’).

Much of the music is in some way a plea for unity among Palestinian parties. The rappers speak again and again of the need for Palestinians to come together and face their common enemy: the Israeli occupation, siege, and denial of basic rights.

One song goes: “Palestine forgive me, I can’t shut up about everybody who steals you, trades you/You’re like a supermarket, people get more rich by you.”

The songs are all in Arabic. “It’s our language and we are proud of it. And we can express subtleties and nuances in Arabic that aren’t possible for us in English,” Mughames says.

Despite the many constraints, the Palestinian Unit has been able to perform now and then.

“We had a concert at Rachad Shawa (the Gaza cultural centre) a few weeks go, sponsored by Mercy Corps,” says Mughames. “The audience were mixed…guys, girls, even conservative types.”

“There were about 6,000 people, and they didn’t know what to expect,” recalls Harara. “And when we started rapping, they were shocked, because we were rapping, and there was the band playing, and the break- dancers…People were amazed.”

In December this year the next Viva Palestina convoy is due to enter Gaza with humanitarian aid. Mughames and Harara expect Palestinian rappers from outside of Gaza to be in the convoy.

“We’re going to give a concert on January 1,” says a hopeful Harara.

on deleting madonna & other boycott news

although i tried to work it out so that my internet would be up and running by the time i got back to jordan, that has not turned out to be the case. i have tried two different companies here–one kuwaiti, one jordanian–and neither gives me a singal. the third and fourth option, well that’s my next post so you’ll have to wait to read about that. but all this is to day that for the next couple of weeks in particular, if you want to follow boycott news you should follow the u.s. campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel site via your news readers and twitter. many of you know that i also do that website; given that internet cafe time is challenging during ramadan (don’t forget to boycott those zionist terrorist colonist dates! ) for a number of reasons, on days when i can only manage a couple of hours that’s the blog i’ll be updating first.

but while i am on the subject of boycott i have a confession to make. since i was about fourteen years old i have had a secret love of madonna’s music. not all of it. not all of the time. but it was one of my closeted guilty pleasures in life. (i don’t have many.) over the past few years, enabled by the invention of mp3s and also the fact that i move so much, i no longer have any cds, just mp3 files of music i like (most of which is political). so, when macy gray had her event with the zionist terrorist colonist consolate in los angeles last year, i deleted her from my computer. likewise i did the same for madonna a few weeks ago. and here’s why:

1. During Monday’s whitewashing concert appearance in Tel-Aviv, Madonna made empty references to peace, before wrapping herself in the Israeli flag:

“I truly believe that Israel is the energy center of the world. And I also believe that if we can all live together in harmony in this place, then we can live in peace all over the world.”

Meanwhile in Gaza on Monday, fishermen were attacked by Israel “Defense” Forces for…fishing. Apparently, they failed to live “in harmony” well enough.

here is the above-referenced appalling video (if you can hold your cookies…) :

2. Any political malaise that she may have risked evoking among Israelis dissipated when she was handed an Israeli flag by one fan. Madonna used it to make her final parade on the stage draping herself in Israel’s national blue-and-white colours and displaying where her sympathies lie.

There was certainly none of the controversy she had aroused on her previous two stops, in Romania and Bulgaria.

In Sofia, the Orthodox clergy berated her for showing disrespect to Christianity. In Bucharest, she was booed for criticising discrimination against the Roma (gypsies) of Eastern Europe.

Midway through the show, breaking away from the carefully scripted performance, Madonna expressed her deep affection for Israel: “I shouldn’t have stayed so long away,” she told the adoring crowd. Her last concert here was in 1993.

The 51-year-old entertainer has long claimed a special bond with the Jewish state. For more than a decade, she’s been flirting with the Kabbalah, the essence of Jewish mysticism, and has even adopted a Hebrew name, Esther.

In the run-up to the first of her two shows, Israeli radio stations played Madonna hits round the clock. On Army Radio, a DJ quipped, “Tonight, Aunt Esther is playing at Yarkon Park.”

Brought up as a Roman Catholic, Madonna wrote in advance of her Israeli tour in an article for Israel’s best-selling newspaper, Yediot Achronot, that the study of Kabbalah helps her understand life better.

3. Madonna is reportedly spending the Sabbath eve at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home.

Y-Net reported Friday that Madonna will light the sabbath candles and will spend time with Netanyahu’s children at the official residence in Jerusalem.

The pop singer, who sold out two Tel Aviv concerts, this week toured Jerusalem’s Old City and Tsfat, the seat of Jewish mysticism in northern Israel.

and this is why i’m psyched about artists against apartheid’s new propabanda site (basically a s^(* list of musicians who don’t abide by the boycott):

The artists listed here have committed to performing in Apartheid Israel, in disregard of the Cultural Boycott of the State’s ongoing human rights violations, apartheid rule, and expropriation of land from indigenous inhabitants.

To cover its extreme racism, massacres, and flagrant violations of Human Rights and International Law, the Zionist State of Israel relies heavily on propaganda “Branding Efforts”, spending Millions of Dollars per year on public relations campaigns, and encouraging “whitewashing” events such as concerts by these International Artists:

Leonard Cohen
Sponsor: Israel Discount Bank (which also finances settlements on stolen Palestinian land)

MGMT

Madonna

Faith No More

Dinosaur Jr.

Lady Gaga

Kaiser Chiefs

Calexico

Depeche Mode

Pet Shop Boys

Macy Gray

Suzanne Vega

Steve Vai

These artists may be drawn by extraordinarily high performance fees, or the desire to “sing for peace”. However, the cultural effect of their appearance is to assist the Israeli ministries in their efforts to normalize of Israeli Apartheid, while disregarding the non-violent struggle for equal rights and justice in Palestine-Israel.

If you are an artist interested in coordinating with the non-violent resistance to colonialism and apartheid, please refer to the Guidelines for Applying the International Cultural Boycott of Israel recommended by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) before booking your tour.

i can proudly say i do not have a single mp3 song with any of the above apartheid supporting musicians.

and, the other big story on the boycott news front–with those adhering to it and respecting it, that is–is about the toronto film festival:

The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation

An Open Letter to the Toronto International Film Festival:

September 2, 2009

As members of the Canadian and international film, culture and media arts communities, we are deeply disturbed by the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to host a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv. We protest that TIFF, whether intentionally or not, has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine.

In 2008, the Israeli government and Canadian partners Sidney Greenberg of Astral Media, David Asper of Canwest Global Communications and Joel Reitman of MIJO Corporation launched “Brand Israel,” a million dollar media and advertising campaign aimed at changing Canadian perceptions of Israel. Brand Israel would take the focus off Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its aggressive wars, and refocus it on achievements in medicine, science and culture. An article in Canadian Jewish News quotes Israeli consul general Amir Gissin as saying that Toronto would be the test city for a promotion that could then be deployed around the world. According to Gissin, the culmination of the campaign would be a major Israeli presence at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. (Andy Levy-Alzenkopf, “Brand Israel set to launch in GTA,” Canadian Jewish News, August 28, 2008.)

In 2009, TIFF announced that it would inaugurate its new City to City program with a focus on Tel Aviv. According to program notes by Festival co-director and City to City programmer Cameron Bailey, “The ten films in this year’s City to City programme will showcase the complex currents running through today’s Tel Aviv. Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2009, Tel Aviv is a young, dynamic city that, like Toronto, celebrates its diversity.”

The emphasis on ‘diversity’ in City to City is empty given the absence of Palestinian filmmakers in the program. Furthermore, what this description does not say is that Tel Aviv is built on destroyed Palestinian villages, and that the city of Jaffa, Palestine’s main cultural hub until 1948, was annexed to Tel Aviv after the mass exiling of the Palestinian population. This program ignores the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories or who have been dispersed to other countries, including Canada. Looking at modern, sophisticated Tel Aviv without also considering the city’s past and the realities of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, would be like rhapsodizing about the beauty and elegant lifestyles in white-only Cape Town or Johannesburg during apartheid without acknowledging the corresponding black townships of Khayelitsha and Soweto.

We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF. However, especially in the wake of this year’s brutal assault on Gaza, we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of what South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann have all characterized as an apartheid regime.

This letter was drafted by the following ad hoc committee:

Udi Aloni, filmmaker, Israel; Elle Flanders, filmmaker, Canada; Richard Fung, video artist, Canada; John Greyson, filmmaker, Canada; Naomi Klein, writer and filmmaker, Canada; Kathy Wazana, filmmaker, Canada; Cynthia Wright, writer and academic, Canada; b h Yael, film and video artist, Canada

Endorsed by:

Ahmad Abdalla, Filmmaker, Egypt

Hany Abu-Assad, Filmmaker, Palestine

Mark Achbar, Filmmaker, Canada

Zackie Achmat, AIDS activist, South Africa

Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, Filmmaker, Jerusalem

Anthony Arnove, Publisher and Producer, USA

Ruba Atiyeh, Documentary Director, Lebanon

Joslyn Barnes, Writer and Producer, USA

John Berger, Author, France

Dionne Brand, Poet/Writer, Canada

Judith Butler, Professor, USA

David Byrne, Musician, USA

Noam Chomsky, Professor, USA

Guy Davidi Director, Israel

Na-iem Dollie, Journalist/Writer, South Africa

Igor Drljaca, Filmmaker, Canada

Eve Ensler, Playwright, Author, USA

Eyal Eithcowich, Director, Israel

Sophie Fiennes, Filmmaker, UK

Peter Fitting, Professor, Canada

Jane Fonda, Actor and Author, USA

Danny Glover, Filmmaker and Actor, USA

Noam Gonick, Director, Canada

Malcolm Guy, Filmmaker, Canada

Mike Hoolboom, Filmmaker, Canada

Annemarie Jacir, Filmmaker, Palestine

Fredric Jameson, Literary Critic, USA

Juliano Mer Khamis, Filmmaker, Jenin/Haifa

Bonnie Sherr Klein Filmmaker, Canada

Paul Laverty, Producer, UK

Min Sook Lee, Filmmaker, Canada

Paul Lee, Filmmaker, Canada

Yael Lerer, publisher, Tel Aviv

Jack Lewis, Filmmaker, South Africa

Ken Loach, Filmmaker, UK

Arab Lotfi, Filmmaker, Egypt/Lebanon

Kyo Maclear, Author, Toronto

Mahmood Mamdani, Professor, USA

Fatima Mawas, Filmmaker, Australia

Tessa McWatt, Author, Canada and UK

Cornelius Moore, Film Distributor, USA

Yousry Nasrallah, Director, Egypt

Rebecca O’Brien, Producer, UK

Pratibha Parmar, Producer/Director, UK

Jeremy Pikser, Screenwriter, USA

John Pilger, Filmmaker, UK

Shai Carmeli Pollak, Filmmaker, Israel

Ian Iqbal Rashid, Filmmaker, Canada

Judy Rebick, Professor, Canada

David Reeb, Artist, Tel Aviv

B. Ruby Rich, Critic and Professor, USA

Wallace Shawn, Playwright, Actor, USA

Eyal Sivan, Filmmaker and Scholar, Paris/London/Sderot

Elia Suleiman, Fimmlaker, Nazareth/Paris/New York

Eran Torbiner, Filmmaker, Israel

Alice Walker, Writer, USA

Thomas Waugh, Professor, Canada

Howard Zinn, Writer, USA

Slavoj Zizek, Professor, Slovenia

and if you want a real treat check out an amazing artist and musician who has an amazing vision and history. here is an interview with the incomparable harry belefonte and avi lewis on al jazeera’s fault lines:

groundhog day in palestine

it has been difficult for me to keep up with news and such since i’ve been in amrika. between taking care of my grandma and packing more stuff of my own to ship and running around getting stuff for friends i have been really wiped out. i love spending time with my grandma, but it is exhausting. it has also been interesting getting to know her nurse, a single mother of two from el salvador. she is one of so many refugees who come to the united states because of the horrific war crimes committed by the u.s. in her country of origin. but there are members of her family who stayed behind and so they maintain a farm filled with wholesome, healthy food the likes of which is rare here. intermittently, i’ve scanned the headlines back in palestine. but i haven’t had much time to really read them until today. in some ways sometimes i wonder: what is the point? following the news in palestine is somewhat like groundhog day. it’s like reliving the same nightmare over and over again every single day. and confronting the news about palestine and the u.s. role in the ongoing colonization and ethnic cleansing there reminds me of yet another reason of why i hate my country. i’m going to respond to some of the main events that have been going on over the past couple of weeks, but i’ll be breaking down the posts by place or theme–not because they are unconnected (i.e., gaza, the west bank, or 1948 palestine), but because there is too much to cover in one post.

what continues unabated in palestine is the kidnapping of palestinians as political prisoners in zionist terrorist colonists’ nightly invasions, the siege on gaza, the selling of palestinian land in 1948 palestine, and of course the ongoing ethnic cleansing and annexation of palestinian land and homes everywhere and anywhere. supposedly the u.s. has been “pressuring” the zionist entity, but in reality i don’t see it happening. sans sanctions it will never happen. but the story of the ethnic cleansing of sheikh jarrah in al quds is the story that has made the headlines even in amrika. on sunday, august 2nd palestinian families were forcibly removed from homes they have owned since 1956 as sherine tadros reported on al jazeera:

notice in the above video tadros tells us that the zionist terrorist colonists have decided that the neighborhood of sheikh jarrah is now “israel.” of course, this is the same thing they have done for 61+ years. this is merely the latest example of it. according to the bbc the zionist terrorist colonist supreme court sanctioned this action of land theft:

Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the eviction, following a complex 37-year legal battle during which Israeli courts upheld a claim that the land is Jewish-owned. Jewish groups want to build homes for settlers in the area.

and, of course, its prime minister supports land theft and colonization as the bbc continues:

“Our sovereignty over it is unquestionable,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month.

“We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and buy [homes] anywhere in Jerusalem.”

The BBC’s Tim Franks in Jerusalem says the houses are in what is probably the most contested city on earth and the diplomatic ripples from the evictions will spread.

The UN said the 53 people evicted comprised nine families belonging to the Hanoun and al-Ghawi extended families.

The legal battle over the site has been complex.

Jordan, which occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem after the creation of Israel in 1948, and the UN housed several Palestinian families on the plot of land.

But Israeli courts have since upheld a Jewish association’s claim that the site was owned by Jews before that, and their demand for rent that the Palestinian families have refused to pay.

Palestinian and left-wing Israeli organisations say Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs cannot, in the same way, make effective ownership claims to land dating back to before 1948 through the Israeli court system.

There are an estimated 250,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and 200,000 Jews.

i find the supreme court’s usage of the term “owned” interesting. if land ownership is the thing that the court is upholding–colonial as the court is–then why not see if the court honors all land ownership documents. of course, i am referring to real land ownership documents, not those manufactured by jewish zionist colonists who terrorize palestinians out of their beds and homes. for example, ilene prusher’s article about this latest ethnic cleansing episode reveals that the hanoun family is from haifa:

In 1956, 28 Palestinian families who were refugees from Israel after 1948 were resettled in Sheikh Jarrah as part of an UN project to assist people made homeless in the war. The Hanoun family, who say they are originally from Haifa, was one of the recipients – and Maher Hanoun, Nadia’s husband, was born in the house.

what would be truly amazing if the hanoun family could move their struggle over their rights to their land and house to one that says: okay, your colonial court says that land ownership and title deeds are what counts as entitlement to land and homes. therefore, here is my title deed and key to my house in haifa. i want it back now. fighting in these terms could lead to a precedent that would allow all palestinians to return to their land and homes because, of course, they are the legal rightful owners. imagining such a scenario is, of course, absurd as it would never happen. because zionist terrorist colonist courts care only about jews (albeit white jews more than brown jews). and short of a mass conversion of palestinians to judaism i don’t think that they will be granted the same status in those courts. and so the hanoun and al ghawi families are sleeping on the street. homeless again. refugees again. here is jacky rowland’s report on al jazeera post-house theft:

there was also a longer report, with more context, on the real news:

maher hanoun envisioned that zionist terrorist colonists would come to his aid and thus wrote a public letter to them inviting them to join in his fight to take his home back. and maybe a few will show up. but who among them will fight to destroy the so-called jewish state and make sure the land goes back to its rightful owners so that palestinian refugees may finally return to their homes? gideon levy, for instance, recognizes the court decision and wonders about his own house on stolen land, though, of course, he certainly is not ready to give it back to its rightful owner:

We should perhaps thank the court for its scandalous ruling, which not only sparked a justifiable international wave of protest against Israel, but also revealed its true face. “There are judges in Jerusalem,” as Menachem Begin said, and they have made it official: apartheid. Ownership rights are for Jews alone.

The distance between Sheikh Jarrah and Sheikh Munis has been shortened in one fell swoop. Those who contend that Jews must be given back their property cannot in the same breath deny the Palestinians’ property rights because of their national origin. It’s true that a system of strict laws and regulations denies the Palestinians what it allows the Jews, but all reasonable Israelis must now ask themselves if this is the system of justice and the law of the “Jewish” state they want to live in.

It is impossible to ignore the injustices of 1948 while hundreds of thousands of refugees rot in the camps. No agreement will hold water without a solution to their plight, which is more feasible than Israel’s strident scaremongers suggest. But rulings like the current one make it harder to distinguish clearly between Sheikh Jarrah and Sheikh Munis, between the conquest of 1948 and the conquests of 1967. My house stands on land stolen by force, and it is the obligation of Israel and the world to redress the injustice without creating injustice and new dislocation. My house stands on land that was stolen, but the whole world has recognized the Jews’ right to establish their state there. At the same time, no country in the world has recognized Israel’s right to conquer Sheikh Jarrah as well.

In my morning musings on the way to the pool, I sometimes think about the land’s original owners. I long for the day when Israel takes moral and material responsibility for the injustice done to them. Now, because of the court ruling, my right to continue to swim here may also be in doubt.

and this is the problem i have with normalization in any context. unless those you are normalizing with have committed themselves to the destruction of the jewish state, including relinquishing of land that is stolen (i.e., all of historic palestine), what is the point. in the end they want to keep what they stole. and the americans, who also, of course, live on stolen land support land theft and colonization in palestine, but like to use language that feigns concern:

The United States and the European Union hit out Monday at Israel for evicting Palestinian families from east Jerusalem, warning that such moves endangered the Middle East peace process.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the international condemnation, labelling the evictions “deeply regrettable” and “provocative” and accusing Israel of failing to live up to its international obligations under existing peace initiatives.

“I have said before that the eviction of families and demolition of homes in east Jerusalem is not in keeping with Israeli obligations,” Clinton told reporters at a Washington press conference alongside Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh.

“And I urge the government of Israel and municipal officials to refrain from such provocative actions.”

and it gets worse when the u.s. comes in to the picture. for instance former presidential candidate mike huckabee shared his views on the rights of indigenous palestinians as reported in imemc:

Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that former Arkansas governor, Mike Hukabee, who is visiting Israel in support of illegal Israeli settlements and illegal annexation of Palestinian lands, stated that establishing a Palestinian State in what he described as the “Middle of Jewish Homeland” is unrealistic.

Hukabee is conducting a three-day tour in Israel and met with dozens of fundamental settler leaders and members of Knesset.

He arrived in Israel on Sunday and visited illegal settlements in East Jerusalem on Monday. He also visited the Maaleh Adumin illegal settlement bloc.

in any case, there is a petition you can sign to support palestinian families in al quds at the stand up for jerusalem website. there are also a number of reports, photographs, and videos there you can look through to learn more about ethnic cleansing in palestine.

but any notion that anything will change from the colonists in charge–the zionists or the americans–was made clear by the u.s. state department:

State Department spokesperson Robert Wood has stated that it’s much too early for the U.S. to put economic pressure on Israel to cooperate with the ban on settlement construction.

He has also stated that the focus now was on dialogue, and working toward a peaceful resolution. In addition, the new Israeli ambassador to the U.S. has denied claims of existing tension between the two nations over discussions on settlement issues. The U.S. has demanded that Israel stop the building of settlements and does not distinguish East Jerusalem from the West Bank, condemning all settlement activity there. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has continued his settlement campaign, ignoring the calls of the U.S., the European Union, and Russia to halt settlement development.

sanctions are the only way to exert pressure on the zionist terrorist colonists to stop stealing land and forcing more palestinians to become refugees multiple times over. it should happen with government money, but it should also happen in the form of cracking down on american non profits that fund these colonies and land confiscation as reported recently in ha’aretz (thanks tam tam):

American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, a nonprofit organization that sends millions of shekels worth of donations to Israel every year for clearly political purposes, such as buying Arab properties in East Jerusalem, is registered in the United States as an organization that funds educational institutes in Israel.

The U.S. tax code enables nonprofits to receive tax-exempt status if they engage in educational, charitable, religious or scientific activity. However, such organizations are forbidden to engage in any political activity. The latter is broadly defined as any action, even the promotion of certain ideas, that could have a political impact.

Financing land purchases in East Jerusalem would, therefore, seem to violate the organization’s tax-exempt status.

Daniel Luria, chief fund-raiser for Ateret Cohanim in Israel, told Haaretz Sunday that the American organization’s registration as an educational entity stemmed from tax considerations.

“We are an umbrella organization that engages in redeeming land,” he said. “Our [fund-raising] activity in New York goes solely toward land redemption.”

Although Ateret Cohanim also operates a yeshiva, Ateret Yerushalayim, in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, fund-raising for the yeshiva is handled by a different organization: American Friends of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim.”

American Friends of Ateret Cohanim was founded in New York in 1987. Like all tax-exempt organizations, it must file detailed annual returns with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. An examination of them reveals that the organization describes its “primary exempt purpose” as: “[to] provide funding for higher educational institutes in Israel.”

“That’s because of the tax issue,” Luria said, explaining that due to American law, the American Friends organization “has to be connected in some fashion with educational matters.”

He also estimated that 60 percent of Ateret Cohanim’s money is raised in the U.S.

The Friends organization’s most recent return, filed in 2008 for fiscal 2007, shows that it raised $2.1 million in donations that year. Of this, $1.6 million was transferred to Ateret Cohanim in Israel.

The remainder was used to cover administrative overhead, including fund-raising expenses and an $80,000 salary for Shoshana Hikind, the American organization’s vice president and de facto director, whose husband Dov is a New York state assemblyman and well-known supporter of the Israeli right.

The organization also raised substantial sums in previous years: $1.3 million in 2006, $900,000 in 2005 and about $2 million in 2004.

By comparison, American Friends of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim raised only $189,000 in 2007.

In its IRS returns, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim said its purpose is to “promote,” “publicize” and “raise funds for” Ateret Cohanim institutions in Israel. These institutions, it continued, “encourage and promote study and observance of Jewish religious traditions and culture.”

one of the places ateret cohanim is actively working to steal homes and land is in the al bustan neighborhood of al quds, just a couple of miles from sheikh jarrah who received new eviction and house demolition orders a few days after the al ghawi and hanoun families became refugees again:

Eight Palestinians were injured from attacks by Israeli forces who were delivering house demolition orders in the Al-Bustan neighborhood in East Jerusalem on Wednesday.

The Israeli police had come to the area to hand out five new demolition orders, on top of the 90 already existing demolition orders.

Residents that wanted to confront the Israeli police were dispersed with the use of tear gas.The police also seized the ID card of a member of the Al-Bustan Committee, a popular organization that aims to peacefully oppose the house demolitions in the area.

and more annexation and land theft is happening in beit iksa:

The Israeli Authorities annexed the Palestinian village of Beit Iksa by placing it on the map west of the Annexation Wall, and considered it part of Jerusalem. The decision means that the village would be isolated from the West Bank.

The decision comes in contradiction with a decision issued by the Israeli government in 2006 in which it decided not to annex the village.

Implementing the decision means that some 3000 Palestinians would be allowed to enter Israel without any permits, but would also be isolated from the West Bank.

and if you are wondering who is controlling all of this colony expansion and land theft, look no further than the zionist entity’s regime as leigh baldwin reported for afp:

Israel has handed control over much of a key Palestinian area in annexed east Jerusalem to hardline settler groups in a creeping takeover kept away from public scrutiny, a report by an activist group said on Thursday.

Government bodies have transferred both private Palestinian property and national parks in the Silwan neighbourhood outside the walls of the Old City to the settler organisation Elad, said Ir Amim, a non-profit group specialising in Jerusalem issues.

“It was done in the dark, in flagrant violation of the rules of good government and in some cases in violation of the law, without open and official decisions by the government or Knesset and without public discussion, inquiry or scrutiny,” said the report entitled “Shady Dealings in Silwan.”

Elad is dedicated to expanding Jewish ownership in Arab areas of east Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 and annexed in a move not recognised by the international community.

In Silwan, Elad has acted as an arm of the government for the past 20 years to gain control over a quarter of the land along its main thoroughfare, Wadi Hilweh or City of David.

“Silwan is a keystone to a sweeping and systematic process whose aim is to gain control of the Palestinian territories that surround the Old City, to cut the Old City off from the urban fabric of east Jerusalem and to connect it to Jewish settlement blocs” in the northeast, it said.

and it is not just in al quds. land is being stolen from palestinians near nablus, too:

Dozens of armed extremist Israeli settlers, enjoying Israeli army protection, illegally annexed on Friday morning 40 Dunams of Palestinian lands south of Nablus, in the northern part of the West Bank.

Dr. Ghassan Douglas, in charge of settlements file in the northern part of the West Bank said that dozens of settlers, driving vehicles carrying iron and wires, took over Palestinian lands and started fencing them.

Israeli soldiers stationed at the nearby Huwwara military roadblock, did not interfere while the settlers illegally annexed the Palestinian orchards and installed the fence around them.

and it is still continuing, this time in ya’abd–this is from today’s imemc:

The Israeli military handed over on Tuesday a military order confiscating 28 Acres of farm lands near Ya’abd village in northern west Bank.

Waled Abadi, the Mayer of Ya’abd, tolled IEMMC that the order was delivered to him today by the military. He added that all the land are owned by farmers from the village and located close to the Shakid Israeli settlement nearby. Abadi added that the military order says that the land will be used by the military for security purposes but the order is not clear whether the military will used or the settlers.
category

supposedly there is now american “pressure,” though of course not sanctions, which will put a six month freeze on colony expansion, but i suspect this will last about a day:

In a bid to gain US support for its large-scale takeover of Palestinian land in the West Bank, the Israeli government says that it will put a temporary hold on new settlement construction.

The “moratorium” will be in effect for the next six months, in which time the Israeli Prime Minister says he hopes to gain international support for Israel’s takeover of East Jerusalem and parts of the Palestinian territory known as the West Bank.

High-level officials in the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed that the Israeli government will engage in a “waiting” period in order to convince the US that Israel is committed to peace. Netanyahu left for Europe on Monday, and he is expected to meet with the US Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, while he is there. Mitchell has called for a one-year freeze on settlement construction, but Israeli officials say they are hoping the six-month “moratorium” will be sufficient.

if you watch this report from al jazeera by mike hanna you can get an idea of precisely why these colonies will continue to expand no matter what the u.s. says. hanna is reporting from an outpost colony, adam, near qalandia, although there are hundreds more like it all over the west bank:

to get an idea of what the average zionist terrorist colonist on the stolen palestinian street thinks watch this video by antony lowenstein and joseph dana:

notice all of the american accents in that video above. this is just one of the many marks of colonialism: these people are not from there. they do not belong there. they must leave.

and it’s not just because of the new colonialism. this colonialism and land theft has been going on for 122+ years. just like maher hanoun originally hails from haifa and has a right to return there, so too is the story for 7.2 million palestinian refugees who are denied the right to their land and homes while the zionist jews colonizing the land can buy and sell the stolen property. there was a great story in the san francisco chronicle a few weeks ago by timothy crawley that makes these connections between the current and ongoing nakba:

Walk down what was formerly Al-Borj Street in Haifa, Israel, and you might catch sight of an old Jerusalem-stone building with arched doorways and windows cemented-over and a large Re/Max (an international real estate franchise) banner draped across the front. The house belongs to the Kanafani family, most of whom are living in exile in Lebanon but some of whom are now living as far away from home as San Francisco.

Defined as “absentee property” under Israeli law, the house is one of thousands of properties owned by Palestinian refugees who were forced from their lands by Jewish militias or fled during the war of 1948, in what would be remembered as the Palestinian “Nakba” – the Catastrophe. The Israeli Absentee Property Law of 1950 established the Custodian of Absentee Property to safeguard these homes until a resolution would be reached regarding the right of Palestinian refugees to return.

For-sale signs have now appeared on dozens of these buildings across the state, and many have already been sold to private owners, frustrating the refugees’ legal right to recover their homes. A grave breach of international law, Israel’s sales of Palestinian homes is severing the refugees’ connection to the land – the linchpin for negotiations in their right of return to their homeland.

For displaced Palestinians, however, this phase of the Nakba is not limited to these illegal land sales by Israel. Eleven new unlawful settler outposts were established last week in the West Bank, undermining Israeli credibility in their discussions with the United States to freeze settlement expansion. Furthermore, a complete settlement freeze is unlikely as Israeli leaders claim that some construction is too far along to be halted, entitling the settlers to further entrench themselves upon Palestinian property.

Nor is the continuing Nakba limited to those living in the occupied Palestinian territories or refugees in exile abroad unable to return home. Internally displaced Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Negev Desert are building shacks from scrap metal adjacent to their previous homes that were demolished by Israeli bulldozers. Demolition orders have been issued by the state for entire villages to make room for new Jewish towns.

The evacuation of the villages and the demolition of Bedouin homes represent the next step in the historical process of forcible displacement of Palestinian Arabs in favor of Jewish residents.

The Kanafani family loses a home in Haifa; lands in the West Bank including East Jerusalem are further colonized; and Bedouin citizens of Israel are displaced yet again. The Nakba did not just happen in 1948. It is continuing for thousands of Palestinians who are systematically denied their basic rights to property, housing, employment – and their right to live at peace in their own homes.

Peace will remain elusive so long as Israel’s approach to Palestinian refugees is to erase them from history; when Palestinian property in the West Bank continues to be expropriated and developed for Israel; or when Palestinian families must be uprooted and their homes demolished because they are not Jews. The pressure of the Obama administration on the Israeli government must not wane. Beyond the call to freeze all settlement activity, President Obama should insist on equal rights for Palestinians, and oppose discriminatory Israeli policies that only prolong the Nakba.

for some legal background on this stephen lendman’s article in dissident voices offers an overview of the so-called “legal” maneuvering that the zionist terrorist colonist entity does in order to make “legal” what would otherwise be considered theft in any other context. this decades long struggle has recently been addressed in the guardian by philosopher slavoj žižek who illustrates how this recent colonization connects to the one since 1948:

In the last months of 2008, when the attacks of illegal West Bank settlers on Palestinian farmers became a regular daily occurrence, the state of Israel tried to contain these excesses (the supreme court ordered the evacuation of some settlements) but, as many observers have noted, such measures are half-hearted, countered by the long-term politics of Israel, which violates the international treaties it has signed. The response of the illegal settlers to the Israeli authorities is “We are doing the same thing as you, just more openly, so what right do you have to condemn us?” And the state’s reply is basically “Be patient, and don’t rush too much. We are doing what you want, just in a more moderate and acceptable way.”

The same story has been repeated since 1949: Israel accepts the peace conditions proposed by the international community, counting on the fact that the peace plan will not work. The illegal settlers sometimes sound like Brunhilde from the last act of Wagner’s Walküre – reproaching Wotan and saying that, by counteracting his explicit order and protecting Siegmund, she was only realising Wotan’s own true desire, which he was forced to renounce under external pressure. In the same way the settlers know they are realising their own state’s true desire.

While condemning the violent excesses of “illegal” settlements, the state of Israel promotes new “legal” building on the West Bank, and continues to strangle the Palestinian economy. A look at the changing map of East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians are gradually encircled and their living area sliced, tells it all. The condemnation of anti-Palestinian violence not carried out by the state blurs the true problem of state violence; the condemnation of illegal settlements blurs the illegality of the legal ones.

Therein resides the two-facedness of the much-praised non-biased “honesty” of the Israeli supreme court: by occasionally passing judgment in favour of the dispossessed Palestinians, proclaiming their eviction illegal, it guarantees the legality of the remaining majority of cases.

Taking all this into account in no way implies sympathy for inexcusable terrorist acts. On the contrary, it provides the only ground from which one can condemn the terrorist attacks without hypocrisy.

a recent bbc report also addresses the issues that palestinians in 1948 palestine face with respect to their demolished homes and the restrictions they are faced with living in a state where only jews have rights. here is the first chunk of the report:

Sami Salameh has taken me to what used to be his home before the Israeli authorities flattened it.

Metal rods and slices of skirting board are all that’s left, among an expanse of sun-scorched wild grass.

He has brought along some photographs and kicks the earth as he shows them to me. The wiry 65-year-old man is angry and emotional.

“When the house collapsed so did my dreams,” he says.

He insists this plot of earth belonged to his family dating back to Ottoman times. But Israel has claimed it as state land. He is not allowed to build here now.

Mr Salameh’s new home is in the Arab town of Majdal Krum, in northern Israel. It’s illegally built, as is the whole neighbourhood.

His family of 14 lives in three rooms. The sewage system is poor.

Mr Salameh’s wife, Ashi, tells me the atmosphere in the house is listless and depressed.

He blames their birthright – living as Arabs in the Jewish state of Israel, he says.

“I lost everything when they demolished my house. If I had equal rights, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Jewish communities get building permits easily. They have electricity, water, sewage, street lights and parks. How come they live like that and we don’t?”

Just outside Mr Salameh’s home, a group of boys plays football in the street. Their identity, like his, is complex.

They are Israeli but also Arab. Their families stayed put in Israel after its war of independence 60 years ago.

Israel’s Basic Law says all its citizens are equal, but Israeli Arabs say some Israelis are more equal than others.

Neighbouring the town is the leafy, affluent, self-proclaimed Zionist village of Manof.

It is one of the growing predominantly Jewish communities encouraged in the north by Israeli governments since the late 1970s.

and the always brilliant jonathan cook’s recent article in electronic intifada addresses yet other cases of palestinian refugees’ land being sold out from under them because they have no rights, no access to their land:

Amin Muhammad Ali, a 74-year-old refugee from a destroyed Palestinian village in northern Israel, says he only feels truly at peace when he stands among his ancestors’ graves.

The cemetery, surrounded on all sides by Jewish homes and farms, is a small time capsule, transporting Muhammad Ali — known to everyone as Abu Arab — back to the days when this place was known by an Arabic name, Saffuriya, rather than its current Hebrew name, Tzipori.

Unlike most of the Palestinian refugees forced outside Israel’s borders by the 1948 war that led to the creation of the Jewish state, Abu Arab and his family fled nearby, to a neighborhood of Nazareth.

Refused the right to return to his childhood home, which was razed along with the rest of Saffuriya, he watched as the fields once owned by his parents were slowly taken over by Jewish immigrants, mostly from eastern Europe. Today only Saffuriya’s cemetery remains untouched.

Despite the loss of their village, the 4,500 refugees from Saffuriya and their descendants have clung to one hope: that the Jewish newcomers could not buy their land, only lease it temporarily from the state.

According to international law, Israel holds the property of more than four million Palestinian refugees in custodianship, until a final peace deal determines whether some or all of them will be allowed back to their 400-plus destroyed Palestinian villages or are compensated for their loss.

But last week, in a violation of international law and the refugees’ property rights that went unnoticed both inside Israel and abroad, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, forced through a revolutionary land reform.

The new law begins a process of creeping privatization of much of Israel’s developed land, including refugee property, said Oren Yiftachel, a geographer at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva.

Netanyahu and the bill’s supporters argue that the law will cut out a whole level of state bureaucracy, make land transactions simpler and more efficient and cut house prices.

In practice, it will mean that the 200 Jewish families of Tzipori will be able to buy their homes, including a new cluster of bungalows that is being completed on land next to the cemetery that belonged to Abu Arab’s parents.

The privatization of Tzipori’s refugee land will remove it from the control of an official known as the Custodian of Absentee Property, who is supposed to safeguard it for the refugees.

“Now the refugees will no longer have a single address — Israel — for our claims,” said Abu Arab. “We will have to make our case individually against many hundreds of thousands of private homeowners.”

He added: “Israel is like a thief who wants to hide his loot. Instead of putting the stolen goods in one box, he moves it to 700 different boxes so it cannot be found.”

Netanyahu was given a rough ride by Israeli legislators over the reform, though concern about the refugees’ rights was not among the reasons for their protests.

Last month, he had to pull the bill at the last minute as its defeat threatened to bring down the government. He forced it through on a second attempt last week but only after he had warned his coalition partners that they would be dismissed if they voted against it.

A broad coalition of opposition had formed to what was seen as a reversal of a central tenet of Zionism: that the territory Israel acquired in 1948 exists for the benefit not of Israelis but of Jews around the world.

In that spirit, Israel’s founders nationalized not only the refugees’ property but also vast swathes of land they confiscated from the remaining Palestinian minority who gained citizenship and now comprise a fifth of the population. By the 1970s, 93 percent of Israel’s territory was in the hands of the state.

The disquiet provoked by Netanyahu’s privatization came from a variety of sources: the religious right believes the law contravenes a Biblical injunction not to sell land promised by God; environmentalists are concerned that developers will tear apart the Israeli countryside; and Zionists publicly fear that oil-rich sheikhs from the Gulf will buy up the country.

Arguments from the Palestinian minority’s leaders against the reform, meanwhile, were ignored — until Hizballah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, added his voice at the weekend. In a statement, he warned that the law “validates and perpetuates the crime of land and property theft from the Palestinian refugees of the 1948 Nakba.”

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer from the Adalah legal center for Israel’s Palestinian minority, said the law had been carefully drafted to ensure that foreigners, including wealthy sheikhs, cannot buy land inside Israel.

“Only Israeli citizens and anyone who can come to Israel under the Law of Return — that is, any Jew — can buy the lands on offer, so no ‘foreigner’ will be eligible.”

Another provision in the law means that even internal refugees like Abu Arab, who has Israeli citizenship, will be prevented from buying back land that rightfully belongs to them, Bishara said.

“As is the case now in terms of leasing land,” she explained, “admissibility to buy land in rural communities like Tzipori will be determined by a selection committee whose job it will be to frustrate applications from Arab citizens.”

Supporters of the law have still had to allay the Jewish opposition’s concerns. Netanyahu has repeatedly claimed that only a tiny proportion of Israeli territory — about four percent — is up for privatization.

But, according to Yiftachel, who lobbied against the reform, that means about half of Israel’s developed land will be available for purchase over the next few years. And he suspects privatization will not stop there.

“Once this red line has been crossed, there is nothing to stop the government passing another law next year approving the privatization of the rest of the developed areas,” he said.

Bishara said among the first refugee properties that would be put on the market were those in Israel’s cities, such as Jaffa, Acre, Tiberias, Haifa and Lod, followed by homes in many of the destroyed villages like Saffuriya.

She said Adalah was already preparing an appeal to the high court on behalf of the refugees, and if unsuccessful would then take the matter to international courts.

Adalah has received inquiries from hundreds of Palestinian refugees from around the world asking what they can do to stop Israel selling their properties.

“Many of them expressed an interest in suing Israel,” she said.

and if you really want to see an inspiring and inspired creative representation of this struggle of palestinian refugees who continue to fight for the right of return watch this amazing rap music video (featuring two dear friends of mine in the spoken oral history portions) by invincible, suheill nafar of dam, and abeer called “people not places.” the lyrics are below after the video.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Prepare for take off
Touch down Ben-Gurion

This references Ben-Gurion International Airport, named after Israel’s first Prime Minister.
Strict search make sure nobody enters with bombs
Blue white flags
For the Birthright Tour I’m on

Birthright Israel is a program that grants any Jewish youth a free 10-day tour of Israel. These tours encourage participants to believe that they, as Jews, have an exclusive “birthright” to Palestine.

Learn more about Birthright Israel by watching the “Definitions” video.
Never mention three villages the airport is on

More than 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed during the creation of the state of Israel. See All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 by Walid Khalidi (Institute for Palestine Studies).
Recent history buried
But it speaks through the sand
All Jews: Law of Return

Israel’s Law of Return guarantees access to and citizenship in Israel to all Jews throughout the world–no matter whether they have ever been there, have family there, or whether they want this right. Palestinian refugees who were expelled during the creation of Israel are denied the right to return.

Learn more about the Law of Return by watching the “Definitions” interview video.
I don’t seem to understand
“A land without a people for people without a land”?

Zionist ideology promotes the idea that Palestine was “a land without a people for people without a land,” thereby denying the very existence of the indigenous Palestinian population, and masking the harm done by Jewish colonization.

Learn more by watching the “Definitions” interview video.
But I see a man standing with a key and a deed in his hand
First stop: museum of the Holocaust

Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust is located only a stones throw from the destroyed Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, site of one of the most notorious massacres of Palestinians in the 1948 war. Yad Vashem recently fired an instructor who compared the trauma of Jewish Holocaust survivors with the trauma experienced by the Palestinian people.
Walkin outside—in the distance—saw a ghost throwing a Molotov

Deir Yassin was a Palestinian village near Jerusalem. It was depopulated after a massacre of around 107 of its residents on April 9, 1948 by Zionist paramilitaries from the Irgun and Stern Gang. More info.
Houses burnt with kerosene
Mass graves
Couldn’t bear the scene
It wasn’t a pogrom—it was the ruins of Deir Yassin
Next stop: shopping at the Kenyon Malcha

The Kenyon Malcha is a shopping mall in Jerusalem whose name was stolen from the destroyed Palestinian village Al-Malha.
Built it on the back of the town Al-Malha

Watch a tour of the remains of Al-Malha, led by Zochrot, a group of Israeli citizens working to raise awareness of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948.
Wishing we could call it its name
Uphauled by the change
And now a mall full of chains
Is all that remains

This line is a reference to the book All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 by Walid Khalidi (Institute for Palestine Studies).

HOOK:
My Ima misses people not places
Has she seen the towns with names in Arabic the Hebrew replaces?
The policies are evil and racist, deceitful and heinous
You’l never be a peaceful state with legal displacement

[Abeer – translated from Arabic]
Remember the names of our cities before you came and replaced it
Remember and tell me how am I supposed not to miss a nation living within us?

This line is inspired by a famous Palestinian saying, “Most people live in a nation, we have a nation living within us.”

At the Wailing Wall I’m rollin a wish
Then stick it in between the hole in the bricks
I’m feelin more than melancholy
This used to be the Moroccan quarter

On the evening of 10 June 1967, several hundred residents of the Moroccan Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem were given two hours notice to vacate their homes. Those who refused the orders were forcefully evicted from their places of residence, as bulldozers and floodlights were mobilized to raze the area. So suddenly came this dictate that one woman from the quarter who did not hear the calls to vacate was buried alive beneath the rubble that evening. Her body was found the next morning under the ruins of her home.

To learn more, see “The Moroccan Quarter: A History of the Present” by Thomas Abowd (Jerusalem Quarterly issue 7).
Until we stopped em short and
Now their grandkids is the ones that’s throwing rocks at borders
I aint one to play and I don’t pray often
So I’m AWOL’n

Invincible applied to refuse her Israeli military service in 2004. The process for her was rather simple because she was living in the U.S. But most refusers in Israel face jail time or worse. More info.
While you making native sons
Feel like a stranger in they own land like James Baldwin
This aint about a Qur’an or a synagogue or Mosque or Torah
The colonizer break it into acres and dunums

One of the early strategies of Zionist colonization was to buy up Palestinian land and displace the current residents. Most of this land was purchased from non-Palestinian absentee landlords.

The word “dunums” used in the song refers to a unit of land measurement used in Palestine.
Erasing the culture
Changed Haifa to Chaifa
Changed Yaffa to Yaffo

Zionists have not only stolen Palestinian land, but have appropriated and Hebrewized the Arab names of these cities and villages
The old city left to haunt
Hummus pronounced chumoos, we ate in a restaurant

This refers to the Hebrew pronunciation of Hummus, the tasty mashed chickpea dip. As stated by Israeli food critic Gil Hovav to the BBC, “Humous is Arabic. Falafel, our national dish, our national Israeli dish, is completely Arabic and this salad that we call an Israeli Salad, actually it’s an Arab salad, Palestinian salad. So, we sort of robbed them of everything.”
Next hit the discotheque
Yes we on the list of guests
Palestinians cant get in
Its blatant disrespect
Cops stop em for speakin they language
Its dangerous
To repeat it when
With history we disconnect

[Suhell Nafar (DAM) – translated from Arabic]
My life is like a flight from an Israeli airport
It means that you’ll never see me with pink

At Ben-Gurion Airport, pink stickers represent low security.
And I know that I’m 1 but they say that I’m 5

At Ben-Gurion Airport, 1 represents low security and 5 represents high security
They’re dying to talk talk to me
So the security wait in the entrance
Suddenly the whole airport flew and it became Tel Aviv airport
Even though its in Lydd

Ben-Gurion International Airport is promoted as being located in Tel Aviv, but is actually in Lydd
Dig the land of Lydd and you’ll see resistance
Go to the houses you’ll see hopelessness
The streets are called Tzahal and Hertzl

Tzahal is the Hebrew acronym for the Israeli Defense Forces. Hertzl is the founder of Zionist political ideology.
Not Salahadin

Salahadin led Islamic opposition to European crusaders in 12th century. More info.
Khen el Helu

Khen el Helu is the name of an ancient ruins site in Lydd. This line is a double entendre because “helu” is the Arabic word for “sweet.”
Became sour
A place for junkies and addicts
The carpets of the Dahamash Mosque
Is covering the wound that is still bleeding

Israeli fighters massacred Palestinians in 1948 in the Dahamash Mosque in Lydd. There are still blood stains on the floor.
Yehud Lod

Yehud Lod is a Jewish Settlement being built in the middle of Lydd in order to ensure a large Jewish population in that city.
Another project that drives you crazy
And its not the first and its not the last
We’re an ocean and the Zionist project is a ship
We’re rowing with the right and the left wing straight to the waterfall
When they fall the Holy Land will stop being a hell land

HOOK

200 year old olive trees
Uprooted the groves
To build a wall
Now their future enclosed
Settlements spreading like cancer and toxic sewage polluted the roads

In the Palestinian village of Artas, located southeast of Bethlehem, for example, the Israeli military has uprooted apricot and walnut trees in order to build a sewage channel that will pipe in raw sewage collected from four nearby Israeli settlements. More info.
Now full of checkpoints
I superimpose the truth and it shows
Village ruins overgrown with planted trees
Who’d have thought the “desert blooms” and Tu Bishvat

Israel celebrates that it has “made the desert bloom.” But forest-planting has played a role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Forests in the Negev Desert have been planted to restrict Bedouin herding. Palestinians’ olive trees, an important source of fruit and oil, have been cut down and replaced by pine and cypress trees.

After the 1948 war, forests were planted on the sites of abandoned Arab villages whose inhabitants left or were expelled from their homes. These forests, planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), erase the traces of the Arab presence prior to 1948 and cover up the demolition of Arab villages. In 2008, in response to pressure by the Israeli Nakba commemoration organization Zochrot, the JNF announced that historical information plaques erected in JNF parks and forests will cite the names of the Arab villages formerly located there.

“Tu Bishvat,” referenced in the song, is the Jewish Holiday considered “New Year of the Trees.” In Israel, this holiday is used as a time for mass tree plantings. Invincible was born close to the time of this holiday and was given the birth name Ilana, which translates as “Tree.” More info.
I cant believe
This aint environmental
Disguising lies, extincting lives like manatees
Callin it a transfer? Please—
More like a catastrophe!
Birthright tours recruiting em, confuse em into moving in
Claim its only names and words but denying the root of them
Power been abusing it
Our past never excusing them
60 years since 48 and 40 since Jerusalem
My boy Shadi wanted to visit it so badly
He lied he’s diabetic to see it for five seconds

A friend of Invincible’s, who lives in Deheisheh Refugee Camp, told her that although he is only a 10 minute drive from Jerusalem (Al Quds in Arabic), he has only ever visited the city for a few hours. To do this he had to use a faked medical emergency card for diabetes to be allowed to cross the Israeli military checkpoint.
One Nine Four ruled the courts in the case

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 asserts the right of refugees to return to their homes:

“Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.” More info.
Mom, you can’t disconnect a people from the importance of place

HOOK

action alert: protest amnesty international & leonard cohen

this is from an open letter from pacbi (palestinian academic & cultural boycott of israel) in response to amnesty international’s support of leonard cohen’s ignoring the boycott. below is an action alert where you can protest this as well as more analysis of this issue:

The following open letter was sent to Amnesty International USA by the The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) on 30 July 2009.

In May, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) called on singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen to heed the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel and avoid complicity with Israel’s violations of international law by cancelling his planned September concert in Israel, particularly in view of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza earlier this year. Sadly, according to a 28 July article in the Jerusalem Post, Amnesty International USA has agreed to cooperate with Cohen in dealing with Israel on the basis of business as usual. Amnesty International USA will serve as sponsor of a new fund that will whitewash the money raised at Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for “peace.” Being one of the world’s strongest proponents of human rights and international law, you shall thus be subverting a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights principles. We call on you to be true to your values and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel.

The Jerusalem Post report indicates that Cohen and his public relations staff, having been criticized for trying to normalize Israel’s occupation and apartheid, are trying to whitewash the concert in Israel by using Amnesty International USA’s good name. According to the article, “All of the net proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s 24 September concert at Ramat Gan Stadium will be earmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinian organizations that are working toward conciliation,” and the fund will be “sponsored by Amnesty.” Curt Goering, the senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA, told the Jerusalem Post that, “We saw this as an exciting opportunity with potential to recognize, support and pay tribute to the Israelis and Palestinians who have been working for peace and human rights amid a difficult environment and insurmountable odds. I see our participation as complementary to what we do, even though this initiative is different from Amnesty’s ongoing work.”

Why we are calling on Amnesty to withdraw from the project

By supporting Cohen’s concert in Israel, Amnesty International is actively undermining a particularly successful effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s occupation and other violations of international law and human rights principles. We find this position by Amnesty particularly frustrating and puzzling given your call for an arms embargo against Israel following its atrocities in Gaza earlier this year, which your organization described as constituting war crimes.

Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa. Profits earned through violations of human rights and international law are tainted and should not be accepted by any morally consistent human rights organization, particularly when this money is intended to be used to whitewash the very violations behind those profits.

Furthermore, your Israeli partners in this venture actively hinder efforts to achieve a just peace. The Peres Center for Peace, with its multi-million dollar annual budget and fifteen million dollar building, is listed incongruously by the Jerusalem Post as both a beneficiary of the fund and a member of the new fund’s board of trustees. The Peres Center has been denounced by leading Palestinian civil society organizations for promoting joint Palestinian-Israeli projects that are “neither effective in bringing about reconciliation, nor desirable” and that enhance “Israeli institutional reputation and legitimacy, without restoring justice to Palestinians, in the face of continued Israeli Government violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian human rights, including breaches of the Geneva Conventions.” A columnist in Israel’s daily newspaper Haaretz called the Peres Center patronizing and colonial, explaining that “Efforts are being made to train the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel, to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews.”

Your other indirect partner in this project, according to the Jerusalem Post, is Israel Discount Bank, a key sponsor of the Cohen concert. Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, reports that the Israel Discount Bank has branches in the settlements of Beitar Illit and Maale Adumim, has financed construction in the settlements of Har Homa, Beitar llit and Maale Adumim, and is a major shareholder in a factory in a settlement. Amnesty hardly needs any reminder that all Israeli colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory are not only illegal under international law but are considered war crimes in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Your intention to indirectly partner with a bank that profits from the occupation and to oversee a fund that uses some of that legally and morally stained money contradicts Amnesty’s founding principles and commitment to human rights.

The latest attempt by the Cohen team to find an alternative Palestinian fig leaf has also failed. The only Palestinian organization falsely reported in the Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in this project, the Palestinian Happy Child Center, has confirmed that it is not taking part. There is no Palestinian organization participating in this whitewash.

Background on the boycott

With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Endorsed by nearly sixty Palestinian cultural and civil society organizations and inspired by the South African anti-apartheid boycotts, PACBI calls on “the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.” These Palestinian calls have inspired a growing international boycott movement which gained added momentum following Israel’s assault on Gaza last winter.

In April, the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and over 100 Israelis called on Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned September concert in Israel. Protests against Cohen’s plans to play in Israel were then held at Cohen’s concerts in New York, Boston, Ottawa and Belfast, among other cities. Feeling the rising heat of the protests, Cohen tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to “balance” his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert. The Palestinian group that was supposed to host the Ramallah event cancelled its invitation to Cohen after realizing the adverse effects this would have on the boycott movement, which is widely supported by Palestinians. Reflecting the general mood in Palestinian society against any claimed symmetry between the occupying power and the people under occupation, a 12 July PACBI statement explained, “Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel’s colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel. PACBI has always rejected any attempt to ‘balance’ concerts or other artistic events in Israel — conscious acts of complicity in Israel’s violation of international law and human rights — with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

For all the above reasons, we strongly urge you to distance Amnesty International from this discredited project and its tainted money.

Signed:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, American Jews for a Just Peace (US), Boycott from Within (Israel), British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Jews Against the Occupation-NYC, New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI), Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK), US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel.

now TAKE ACTION:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and groups around the world have been calling for months for musician Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned September concert in Israel. With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Many dignitaries signed the “No Reason to Celebrate” pledge and refused to participate in any artistic or literary event during Israel’s year-long 60th anniversary celebrations.

Feeling the heat of the protests, Cohen and his PR staff tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to “balance” his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert and any claimed symmetry between the occupying power and the people under occupation.

Now Cohen and his PR staff are trying to whitewash the concert in Israel by using Amnesty International USA’s good name. According to a July 28th article in the Jerusalem Post, Amnesty International USA will serve as sponsor of a new fund. The fund will launder the money raised at Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for “peace.”

In response, sixteen groups and coalitions issued a July 30th Open Letter to Amnesty International calling on Amnesty to be true to its values and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel. The groups noted that by supporting Cohen’s concert, Amnesty International is undermining a successful effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s occupation and other violations of international law and human rights principles. Amnesty International also is partnering in the initiative with Israeli institutions that undermine peace, including a bank directly involved in supporting Israeli settlement construction. The only alleged Palestinian partner has announced it is not taking part.

TAKE ACTION

Please email Amnesty International, calling on Amnesty to withdraw from support for Cohen’s concert. Amnesty International is recognized by many as defending human rights worldwide, so please be respectful and courteous in your message.

You can write and email your own letter, or use the sample letter below and email it, or send an editable form letter from here. For reference, here is the full Open Letter to Amnesty International.

If you send your own email, please email your letter to:

lcox[at]aiusa.org, cgoering[at]aiusa.org, ZJanmohamed[at]aiusa.org, ikhan[at]amnesty.org, msmart[at]amnesty.org, ccordone[at]amnesty.org, drovera[at]amnesty.org

-Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
-Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
-Zahir Janmohamed, Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA
-Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary General
-Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International (UK) Senior Director
-Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International (UK) Middle East Director, Research and Regional Programs
-Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International (UK) Researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories)

If you email your own letter, please cc it to: noamnesty4israeliapartheidat]gmail.com so that we can keep track of the responses.

SAMPLE LETTER TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Dear Amnesty International,

I hold Amnesty International’s worldwide work for human rights and international law in high esteem. For this reason, I was very troubled to learn that Amnesty International has agreed to manage a fund that will disburse the proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s planned concert in Israel in September. I call on Amnesty International to be true to your values, distance yourself from efforts to normalize Israel’s occupation and apartheid, and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel.

By supporting Cohen’s concert, Amnesty International will be subverting the worldwide movement to boycott Israel, a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights principles. Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting tainted funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa.

Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Many dignitaries signed the “No Reason to Celebrate” pledge and refused to participate in any artistic or literary event during Israel’s year-long 60th anniversary celebrations.

In his protest resignation from Amnesty International over this issue, Irish author and composer, Raymond Deane, wrote: “By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.”

Furthermore, the Israeli partners in the concert, the Peres Center for Peace and Israel Discount Bank, actively hinder efforts to achieve a just peace. A columnist in Israel’s Ha’aretz Daily called the Peres Center for Peace patronizing and colonial organization that is in the business of training “the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel.” According to research by Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, Israel Discount Bank is deeply involved in supporting Israel’s settlement enterprise. Israeli settlements violate the very tenets of international law that Amnesty International works to uphold.

Finally, the only Palestinian organization falsely reported in the July 28th Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in this project, the Palestinian Happy Child Center, has confirmed that it is not taking part. There is no Palestinian organization participating in this whitewash.

Thank you for your attention to this vital human rights issue. I look forward to learning of Amnesty International’s withdrawal of its support for the Leonard Cohen concert in Israel.

Sincerely,
Your name

here is some more background information on leonard cohen from pulse media:

Artist, writer and activist, and friend of PULSE, Tali Shapiro on Leonard Cohen and Amnesty International.

I always talk about Israeli pacifists and their inability to see the barriers they place on the Palestinian road to justice, dignity, and human rights. Today I’d like to talk about a much more appalling occurrence; Amnesty International supporting Leonard Cohen’s breach of the boycott of Israel.

The Leonard Cohen Myth

Personally, it’s hard for me to understand the disillusionment of pro-Palestinian Leonard Cohen fans. In the history of his involvement with Israel, Cohen has always sided with Israel, or made statements of officially taking no sides, when his side was rather obvious:

I don’t want to speak of wars or sides … Personal process is one thing, it’s blood, it’s the identification one feels with their roots and their origins. The militarism I practice as a person and a writer is another thing. … I don’t wish to speak about war.

In case I’m misconstruing my information, I’ll repeat the quote I’ve embedded on my front page and have, personally, had no choice but to live by:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmund Tutu)

In Cohen’s most recent history, he is consistent. He refuses to take a side, thus siding with the oppressor. Cohen has received a letter from many organizations (originated with PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel), asking him not to preform in Israel. As response, typically trying to balance out a situation in which balance is not there to be found, Cohen decided to preform for the Palestinian Prisoners‘ Club Society. The Society declined to entertain Cohen’s notions of equality:

We are now pleased to announce that we have received confirmation from the Palestinian Prisoners‘ Club Society that they will not be hosting Leonard Cohen in Ramallah. A strong consensus has emerged among all parties concerned that Cohen is not welcome in Ramallah as long as he insists on performing in Tel Aviv, even though it had been claimed that Cohen would dedicate his concert in Palestine to the cause of Palestinian prisoners. Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel‘s colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel.

The Problem with the International Centrist

As if all this wasn’t enough, Cohen was dead-set on clearing his conscious:

All of the net proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s September 24 concert at Ramat Gan Stadium will be earmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinian organizations that are working toward conciliation…

The above quote is taken from non-other than the very-Zionist Jerusalem Post. Here’s another quote from the same article:

Attempting to maneuver through the barbed wire of both Israeli and US tax laws to enable the organizations to benefit from the concert, Kory realized that an intermediary neutral vehicle would be required to facilitate the financial funneling. He approached Amnesty International for advice, and the concept of a special fund was raised.

In other words, trooper Cohen maneuvered through the barbed wire with the assistance of the Amnesty International brigade. How poetic. How utterly embarrassing for Amnesty International to be portrayed favorably by the Jerusalem Post.

I understand big groups like Amnesty International have to be diplomatic and must exercise impartiality, and quite frankly I respect the ability to do so. However, being diplomatic doesn’t mean endorsing pseudo-diplomatic initiatives, especially when they are completely avoidable, as in the case of Leonard Cohen.

To refrain from repeating myself, here’s my own attempt at diplomacy, that I sent to Amnesty International (at the event of a response, I will update):

Hello Amnesty International,

I’m a big supporter of Amnesty International and a regular donation contributor. As an Israeli citizen- who opposes the occupation and violence wreaked by my government, army and countrymen on the Palestinian people, and supports the international movement to boycott Israel- I am appalled that Amnesty USA might break the boycott efforts. The international community has set the terms for the Palestinian struggle and rightfully made it clear that no violence will be tolerated. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has done a wonderful job in stating the terms of the BDS campaign- I don’t have to tell you what a huge commitment to a long-term strategy of non-violence that is. Terms which seem very fair and have been accepted around the world as the guidelines for this world-wide initiative.

When Leonard Cohen decided to come to Israel, PACBI made themselves clear, once again, that it is unacceptable, under the guidelines of a cultural boycott. As I’m sure you know, Cohen tried to appease PACBI by scheduling a show in Ramallah, which PACBI rejected. There is no need to be balanced in a situation that balance doesn’t occur. Had Cohen canceled in Israel he would have been making a meaningful statement and propelled the boycott movement by sheer power of his fame. Performing in both Israel and the Occupied Territories is a wishy-washy peace-faking statement, the kind that Israeli “peace” groups have been making, in order to stroke their own sensibilities, meanwhile marginalizing the other organizations (Palestinian, Israeli and International), who believe in the importance of keeping one’s stand, when it comes to the BDS initiative. “Peace” is a word that has lost all meaning in Israel, we demand human rights instead.

To find that Amnesty International might support this damaging endeavor is shocking, for me, but I take it you decided upon it with the best of intentions. Since I don’t expect you to understand the inner workings of the Israeli Center-Left and its psychological motives, I urge you to consider simple facts: Leonard Cohen preforming in Israel breaches the cultural boycott and normalizes the occupation. This is not something that should be supported by Amnesty International. It is morally wrong and diplomatically wrong. The boycott movement must stick to a standard of “no business as usual”, in order to be effective. I urge you to reconsider.

Awaiting your reply,
Tali Shapiro

What’s Wrong with Balance?

If some of you are wondering how donating the proceeds of the concert to both Israeli and Palestinian organizations is a “damaging endeavor”, here’s PACBI’s words:

PACBI has always rejected any attempt to “balance” concerts or other artistic events in Israel–conscious acts of complicity in Israel‘s violation of international law and human rights–with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory. Such attempts at “parity” not only immorally equate the oppressor with the oppressed, taking a neutral position on the oppression (thereby siding with the oppressor, as Desmond Tutu famously said); they also are an insult to the Palestinian people, as they assume that we are naive enough to accept such token shows of “solidarity” that are solely intended to cover up grave acts of collusion in whitewashing Israel‘s crimes. Those sincerely interested in defending Palestinian rights and taking a moral and courageous stance against the Israeli occupation and apartheid should not play Israel, period. That is the minimum form of solidarity Palestinian civil society has called for.

And some wonderful words from Irish composer and novelist Raymond Deane:

What could any reasonable person have against “programs for peace”?… By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.

In my words: I’ve long covered the problematic programs and people that dare call themselves “peacemakers”. I’m thought of as the extreme of the extreme, in Israel, but if asking for unconditional human rights is extreme, then I am a proud extremists. Many on the self-proclaimed Left are easy to spot, their key phrase is:

They deserve human rights/freedom/their own country, but…

This “but” is a fearful one, rooted in a deeply ingrained and denied racism. The people who say this are well aware of Israel’s crimes- past and present, and yet still afraid of what may happen, once we let the “two legged beasts” out of their cage, whether they call Palestinians that, or not. In my journey of discovering the truth behind Israel, I’ve realized some things are not negotiable. That is human rights and as a result, this boycott.

Learning from the Cohen/Amnesty Debacle

As the Zionist propaganda machine goes into overdrive, we may find new claims, resulting in the Cohen/Amnesty debacle. For now, Israelis are generally unaware of the international boycott against their state, already underway. Last time I observed any mention of this in the mainstream media was during Cast Lead, when Channel 10 aired the typically condescending and ignorant Before you boycott Israel! video. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this article in their archives.) Nothing more responsible than your main stream media instilling blind confidence in you, when an international boycott of your country is rapidly developing.

I can’t predict the creativity of the Zionist mind, but I’m expecting that when the boycott is finally made clear to Israelis, the first rebuttals will be that nothing is enough for those “demanding” Palestinians, and even when the “reasonable” and “unbiassed” offer to give a little to both sides is made, they still “demand the whole arm”. These kinds of underhanded remarks are exactly why I decided to document the Cohen/Amnesty incident.

There should be no questions as to what the boycott’s goals or guidelines are. Some areas are unclear to many, and these cases should be studied. But to those who are unclear, I direct you again to PACBI, who are the Palestinian voice on the issue of the boycott, and have articulated their terms thoroughly. When in doubt, contrast and compare your specific case to their statements. Implementing a boycott on Israel isn’t as hard as Zionist propaganda would like you to think. The best way to deal with the occupation army is to arm yourself with knowledge.

and one more letter/analysis from pulse media:

Renowned Irish composer and novelist Raymond Deane on the reasons why he has chosen to resign from Amnesty International. We encourage readers to follow Deane’s example.

When I first – and belatedly – began fretting about human rights and political injustice in the wake of the 1990-91 Gulf War, I joined Amnesty International and started writing letters and cards to political prisoners and to a variety of Embassies.

Although I was subsequently drawn deeply into activism of a more explicitly political nature – particularly on the Israel/Palestine issue – I retained my Amnesty membership out of residual respect for the organisation, but also because I wished to be in a position to say “as an Amnesty member myself, I completely disagree with the organisation’s stance on…” (fill in the dots as appropriate).

On 30th July I read the “Open Letter to Amnesty International” from 10 admirable organisations involved in seeking justice for the Palestinian people, ranging from PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) through the UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign to the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. This letter was prompted by Amnesty’s decision to sponsor “a new fund that will whitewash the money raised at [Leonard] Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for ‘peace.’”

What could any reasonable person have against “programs for peace”? Well, one answer is that these include the Peres Center for Peace, described by the Israeli paper Ha’aretz as a “patronizing and colonial” organization that trains “the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and… to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews”, and the Israel Discount Bank, which has branches in three illegal Jewish settlements and hence functions in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Another answer is even simpler: Leonard Cohen should heed the call from the oppressed Palestinian people not to perform in Israel until that state dismantles its apartheid structures and complies with international law and international humanitarian law, ends the occupation and colonisation of Palestinian territories, and concedes the inalienable Palestinian right of return. By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.

I was one of the organizers of the protests held outside Leonard Cohen’s four recent Dublin concerts (19th, 20th, 22nd, 23d July) in which we called upon the singer not to perform in Tel Aviv, using the text of his 1960s classic “Please don’t pass me by” to deliver a demand for solidarity and engagement with the Palestinian people and against their oppressor, the Zionist Israeli state.

I used to be a Cohen fan. Should Cohen continue with his plan to perform in Israel on 24th September next, I shall consign my Cohen albums to the charity shop, although I’ll do so with considerable grief and disillusionment. It is with similar feelings that today I have sent the following message to the Irish branch of Amnesty International:

To whom it conferns: I am terminating my membership of Amnesty. The last straw has been Amnesty’s decision to support a cynical scheme dreamt up by Leonard Cohen’s PR department to whitewash the fact that he is ignoring the call from Palestinian civil society to respect the cultural boycott of Israel. While I respect Amnesty’s policy of not supporting particular political positions and not itself participating in boycott campaigns, on this occasion it is actively supporting actions that undermine a boycott campaign supported by the Palestinians themselves, and doing so by lending support to Israeli organisations the raison d’etre of which is to seek “conciliation” without an end to oppression.

Sincerely – Raymond Deane.

now it is your turn!

on refugees & idps

today is world refugee day. there are 42 million refugees world-wide. there are also 7.6 million palestinian refugees, who are not included in the numbers that the united nations high commission for refugees (unhcr) uses because palestinian refugees fall under the united nations relief and works agency (unrwa) which means something different in terms of protection as well as repatriation. legal scholar susan akram explains the basic legal context that define all refugees under international law and explains the different principles guiding palestinians from other refugees:

A number of international instruments affect the status of Palestinians as refugees and as stateless persons: the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) and its 1967 Protocol (Refugee Protocol); the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; and the 1961 Convention on the Elimination or Reduction of Statelessness. There are also three international organizations whose activities affect the international legal rights of Palestinian refugees: the United Nations Conciliation Commission on Palestine (UNCCP); the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Because of the unique circumstances of the original and continued expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and lands, Palestinians in the diaspora may be stateless persons, refugees or both. (The legal definitions of these terms, as well as the manner in which they are applied to Palestinians, will be discussed below.) As such they should be entitled to the internationally guaranteed rights offered other stateless persons or refugees in the world.

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is the most important treaty affecting Palestinian human rights in most of the areas of the world where they find themselves. It is also the primary international instrument governing the rights of refugees and the obligations of states towards them. This Convention, and its 1967 Protocol, incorporate the most widely accepted and applied definition of a refugee, and establish minimum guarantees of protection towards such refugees by state parties. The Refugee Convention and Protocol incorporate two essential state obligations: the application of the now universally accepted definition of “refugee” which appears in Article 1A(2) of the Convention, and the obligatory norm of non-refoulement, which appears in Article 33.1 of the Convention. The principle of non-refoulement requires that a state not return a refugee to a place where his/her life or freedom would be threatened. It is important to note that nowhere in the Refugee Convention or Protocol, nor in any other international human rights instrument, is there an obligation on any state to gratn the status of political asylum or any more permanent status than non-refoulement.

The simple recognition that an individual meets the criteria of a “refugee” as defined in the Convention, however, triggers significant state obligations towards them, not the least of which is the obligation of non-refoulement. The Convention requires states to grant refugees a number of rights which Palestinians are often denied, including: identity papers (Article 27); travel documents (Article 28); freedom from unnecessary restrictions on movement (Article 26); freedom from restrictions on employment (Articles 17 and 18); basic housing (Article 21); welfare (Article 23); education (Article 22); labour and social security rights (Article 24); and freedom of religion (Article 4). It also makes them eligible for more permanent forms of relief such as residence and citizenship, subject to the discretion of the granting state.

The Convention and Protocol define a “refugee” as:

[a person who], owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence is a result of such events, is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

This author contends that the Convention Article 1A(2) definition was never intended to, and does not, apply to Palestinians for several reasons. First, as UN delegates involved with drafting the Refugee Convention pointed out: “[T]he obstacle to the repatriation was not dissatisfaction with their homeland, but the fact that a Member of the United Nations was preventing their return.” Second, the Palestinians as an entire group had already suffered persecution by virtue of their massive expulsion from their homeland for one or more of the grounds enumerated in the definition. Thus, they were given special recognition as a group, or category, and not subject to the individualized refugee definition. Third, the delegates dealt with Palestinians as de facto refugees, referring in a general way to those who were defined by the relief agencies at the time (UNRPR and later UNRWA), but not limiting the term “refugee” to those Palestinians who were in need of relief. Although they did not specifically define them as such, the delegates were referring to Palestinian refugees as persons normally residing in Palestine before 15 May 1948, who lost their homes or livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict. For these and other reasons (discussed below, the delegates drafted a separate provision–Article ID–in the Refugee Convention that applies solely to Palestinian refugees.

Refugee Convention Article 1D states:

This Convention shall not apply to persons who are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance.

When such protection or assistance has ceased for any reason, without the position of such persons being definitively settled in accordance with the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, these persons shall ipso facto be entitled to the benefits of this Convention.

Although Palestinian refugees are not specifically mentioned in this provision, it is evident from both the drafting history and the interrelationship of Article 1D with three other instruments that Palestinians are the only group to which the Article applies. The most important reasons for drawing this conclusion are that, first, the drafting history of the provisions clearly reflects that the only refugee population discussed in relation to Article 1D was the Palestinians. Second, one of the paramount concerns of the drafters of the Refugee Convention was that the wished to determine the precise groups of refugees to which the Convention would apply, so they could decide the extent to which the signatory states could accept the refugee burden. There is no indication that Article 1D was drafted with any different intention–that is, with an open-ended reference to other groups of refugees not contemplated by the United Nations at the time. (The universal application of the Refugee Convention definition is a later development with the entry into force of the Refugee Protocol.) Third, there was only one group of refugees considered to be in need of international protection at the time of drafting Article 1D that was receiving “from other organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance,” and that was the Palestinians. Fourth, the interrelationship of the mandates of the United Nations agencies relevant to the needs of Palestinian refugees indicates that these are the agencies referred to by the language of Article 1D. These mandates are reflected in the Statute of the UNHCR, the Regulations governing UNRWA, and UN Resolution 194 establishing the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP).

The UNHCR Statute, paragraph 7(c) provides that “the competence of the High Commissioner…shall not extend to a person…who continues to receive from other organs or agencies of the United Nations protection or assistance.” The “other agencies of the United Nations” originally referred to both UNRWA and the UNCCP. The significance of the language in these provisions lies primarily in the distinction between “protection” and “assistance,” which are substantially different concepts in refugee law. UNRWA’s mandate is solely one of providing assistance to refugees’ basic daily needs by way of food, clothing, and shelter. In contrast, UNHCR’s mandate, in tandem with the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention, establishes a far more comprehensive scheme of protection for refugees qualifying under the Refugee Convention. This regime guarantees to refugees the rights embodied in international human rights conventions, and mandates the UNHCR to represent refugees, including intervening with states on their behalf, to ensure such protections to them. Aside from the distinction between the mandates of UNRWA and UNHCR, the refugee definition applicable to Palestinians is different from and far narrower under UNRWA Regulations than the Refugee Convention definition. Consistent with its assistance mandate, UNRWA applies a refugee definition that relates solely to persons from Palestine meeting certain criteria who are “in need” of such assistance.” (Susan Akram, “Palestinian Refugee Rights under International Law” in Nasser Aruri’s Palestinian Refugees: The Right of Return. London: Pluto Press, 2001. 166-169)

2003 unrwa map of palestinian refugee camps
2003 unrwa map of palestinian refugee camps

i realize that the above-quoted passage is rather long, and for some perhaps tedious. but international law, and refugee law more particularly, is complicated. and i think it is important to remember the specificity of the case of palestinian refugees not only because it is world refugee day today, but also because palestinian refugees, unlike the rest of the world’s refugees, do not have an united nations body or agency fighting for their rights as do all other agencies. it was set up like this from the beginning as akram makes clear: unrwa provides assistance, unhcr provides protection and advocacy. this tremendous failing on the part of the united nations means that palestinians have yet another hurdle to face when fighting for their right of return unlike the rest of the world’s refugees. moreover, as a protest in nablus today against unrwa illustrates, unrwa often does not even meet the needs of the refugees it is supposed to be assisting. this is why one can read only one statement for world refugee day on unrwa’s website today in which you will see vapid remarks made by bani ki moon in which he says nothing about the right of return or any political rights of refugees more generally. of course they have organizations like badil, which tirelessly fights for the right of return, but badil does not have the power and weight of the international community behind it, though they do, of course, have the weight of international law behind their work. here is badil’s statement to commemorate world refugee day today:

Statistics released by UN agencies on the occasion of the 2009 World Refugee Day testify to the fact that Palestinian refugees are the largest and longest standing refugee population world wide. They lack access to just solutions and
reparations, including return, because Israel and western governments continue to deny or belittle the scope of the problem and make no effort to respect and implement relevant international law and best practice.

According to a forthcoming Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons for the years 2007-2008 produced by Badil, at least 7.6 million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced since 1948 as a consequence of Israel’s systematic policies and practices of colonization, occupation and apartheid. That figure represents 71 percent of the entire worldwide population of 10.6 million Palestinians. Only 28.7 percent of all Palestinians have never been displaced from their homes.

The great majority of the displaced (6.2 million people – 81.5 percent) are Palestinian refugees of 1948 (the Nakba), who were ethnically cleansed in order to make space for the state of Israel and their descendants. This figure includes 4.7 million Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations (UNRWA) at the end of 2008. The second major group (940,000 – 12.5%) are Palestinian refugees of 1967, who were displaced during the 1967 Arab-Israel war and their descendants.

More attention and concern should be given to the phenomenon of forced displacement of Palestinians because it is ongoing.

Steadily growing populations of internally displaced Palestinians (IDPs) are the result of ongoing forced displacement in Israel (approximately 335,000 IDPs since 1948) and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967 (approximately 120,000 IDPs since 1967). Badil’s Survey identifies a set of distinct, systematic and widespread Israeli policies and practices which induce ongoing forced displacement among the indigenous Palestinian population, including deportation and revocation of residency rights, house demolition, land confiscation, construction and expansion of Jewish-only settlements, closure and segregation, as well
as threats to life and physical safety as a result of military operations and harassment by racist Jewish non-state actors. Israeli
governments implement these policies and practices in order to change the demographic composition of certain areas (“Judaization”) and the entire country for the purpose of colonization.

Data about the scope of ongoing forced displacement of Palestinians is illustrative and indicative, because there is no singular institution or agency mandated and resourced to ensure systematic and sustained monitoring and documentation. The total number of persons displaced in 2007 – 2008 is unknown. UN agencies, however, confirm that 100,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in the occupied Gaza Strip at during Israel’s military operation at the end of the year; that 198 communities in the OPT currently face forced displacement; and that 60,000 Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem are at risk of having their home demolished by Israel.

The Palestinian refugee question has remained unresolved and forced displacement continues, because Western governments and international organizations have been complicit in Israel’s illegal policy and practice of population transfer and have failed to protect the Palestinian people. Indicators of the severe gaps existing in the protection of Palestinian refugees and IDPs are seen in the recent crises in Iraq – where thousands of Palestinian refugees became stranded on the Jordanian/Syrian and Iraqi borders, Lebanon – where 27,000 Palestinians refugees of the Naher al-Bared camp are still waiting to return to their 2007 destroyed camp, and Gaza – where over 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 100,000 displaced, most of them 1948 refugees).

On this World Refugees Day, Badil calls upon all those concerned with justice, human rights and peace to:

Challenge Israel’s racist notion of the “Jewish state” and immediately halt its practices of displacement, dispossession and colonization; Strengthen the global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in order to ensure that Israel other states become accountable to international law and respect their obligations; Improve the mechanism of international protection so that all Palestinians receive effective protection from, during and after forced displacement, including the right to return as part of durable solutions and reparation; Ensure that the Palestinian refugee question is treated in accordance with international law and UN resolutions in future peace negotiations, including return and reparation.

 A map of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp with the different areas marked.
A map of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp with the different areas marked.

the situation facing palestinian refugees who lived in nahr el bared refugee camp in lebanon is an excellent example of how unrwa fails the palestinian refugees it is supposed to protect. the crisis of nahr el bared is a microcosm of palestinian refugees in general who have become refugees multiple times over and who are often refugees and idps at the same time. the camp (see map above) continues to be controlled by the lebanese army and the majority of the original 31,000 inhabitants have not been allowed to return–let alone return to their homes in palestine. ray smith’s recent report on the situation of the camp from electronic lebanon is below:

Nahr al-Bared camp consists of an “old” and a “new” camp. The original or “old” refugee camp was established in 1949 on a piece of land 16 kilometers north of the Lebanese city of Tripoli. In 1950, the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) started to provide its services to the camp’s residents. Over the years, population density in Nahr al- Bared rose drastically while refugees who could afford it, left the boundaries of the official camp and settled in its immediate vicinity. This area is now referred to as the “new camp” or the “adjacent area” and belongs to the Lebanese municipalities of Muhammara and Bhannine. While the residents of the new camp benefit from UNRWA’s education, health, relief and social services, the agency has no mandate for the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure and houses in this area.

Since the fighting in the camp ended nearly two years ago, most of the so-called “old camp” has been bulldozed and reconstruction is set to begin within the next month. Along the perimeter of the old camp however the ruins of more than 200 houses are still standing. They’re under the sole control of the Lebanese army, which still prevents residents from returning.

In October 2007, approximately one month after the Lebanese army declared victory, the first wave of refugees was allowed back into parts of the new camp. In the following months, the army gradually withdrew from the new camp and returned the houses and ruins to their former residents. However, the handover wasn’t complete. At least 250 houses in the new camp, adjacent to the old camp, remain sealed off by barbed wire, controlled by the Lebanese army and inaccessible to its residents. These areas are now referred to as the “Prime Areas,” known among the refugees under the Arabized term primaat. They consist of A’-, B’-, C’- and E’-Prime.

Adnan, who declined to give his family name, works in a small shop in the Corniche neighborhood, adjacent to area E’. He has been waiting for the handover of the area by the army. “They tell you, ‘Next week, next month.’ But nothing happens. They say, ‘We first have to remove the bombs and the rubble, then we let people in.’ These are empty words. Nobody is honest. They constantly lie to us,” Adnan complained.

Temporary housing serves as the makeshift office of the Nahr al-Bared Reconstruction Commission for Civil Action and Studies (NBRC), a grassroots committee heavily involved in the planning of the reconstruction of the old camp. Abu Ali Mawed, an active member of the NBRC, owns one of the 120 buildings in area E and has been waiting for its handover for 21 months. “The army once more says they’ll open the primaat, but first [the army] will need to [clear] them [of] unexploded ordnance devices and rubble. Where have the parties responsible for this work been in the past two years? Let us be honest: This area could be de-mined and cleared within just under a month!”

Ismael Sheikh Hassan, a volunteer architect and planner with the NBRC, said, “The main reason for the delays is the army. They haven’t taken the decision at command level to allow people to return until last month.”

Since the end of May, things have seemed to finally move forward. On 19 May, an UNRWA contractor started clearing rubble in area B’ and de- mining teams took up their work. UNRWA wrote in its weekly update on 3 June that its contractor had finished clearing rubble in areas B’ and C’. In a meeting among the Lebanese army, Nahr al-Bared’s Popular Committee, Palestinian parties and UNRWA on 2 June, the army announced its intention to allow the return of the residents of these two areas within two or three days. As of 7 June however the promise hadn’t been delivered.

Sheikh Hassan explained that the suspension was mainly due to delays in de-mining procedures and those related to miscommunication among the various structures of the Lebanese army. He expected them to open areas B’ and C’ in a few days. There are 40 houses in B’ and 60 buildings in C’ to be handed over. On 11 June, UNRWA announced that they were told by the Lebanese army that the handover of B’ and C’ would take place mid-month.

The army’s procedures have raised doubts. Abu Ali Mawed, the reconstruction commission member, asked, “How could they allow people last year to return to their burnt, looted and destroyed homes to save some of their belongings, if there were still vast amounts of unexploded ordnance lying around? They should have de-mined the area before letting people in. In the primaat, many houses aren’t completely destroyed, which facilitates de-mining. I suppose that the unexploded ordinance have already been cleared and de-mining is only used as an excuse for further delaying the handover.”

According to UNRWA, the army and the Popular Committee will be responsible for announcing and coordinating the schedules and logistics of families returning to the Prime Areas.

Nidal Abdelal of the Palestinian political faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine shook his head: “So far, neither the Popular Committee nor UNRWA understand why the army doesn’t hand the primaat over so people can return. The Lebanese army sets dates [but doesn’t deliver]; this has happened four or fives times. And until today, minor problems in the details constantly prevent them from handing over the primaat.”

Abdelal points out that the persistent delays of the handover dates cause skepticism and worries among the refugees. “They even call UNRWA and the Popular Committee liars,” he says. “They tell people a date, then they postpone it. Then they set another date and again postpone it. In the end, the army controls the primaat and is responsible for their handover. They should eventually hand the areas over to UNRWA and the Popular Committee and let people return.”

Another camp resident, Abu Ali Mawed, compared the situation of displaced residents of Nahr al-Bared to that of southern Lebanese displaced during the summer war of 2006: “Israel dropped about one million cluster bombs in the south, but people could immediately return to their homes [once] the war was over. Why have we for two years not been allowed to return to our houses? … We asked these questions to the government, army representatives and politicians many times, but never got clear answers. They kept giving us lame excuses that were far from convincing.”

Besides the upcoming handover of areas B’ and C’, further questions need to be answered. For example: What will happen to the houses in the primaat once they’re accessible? These houses were assessed and will be stabilized and rehabilitated. If this isn’t possible and their owners agree, they’ll be torn down. An anonymous source with UNRWA believes that only a few homeowners will agree to the total destruction of their homes because other landlords have experienced that the Lebanese government doesn’t sign building permits for Palestinians to build in the new camp.

Currently unscheduled is the handover of areas A’ and E’. Sheikh Hassan of the NBRC says there’s speculation “that those areas will be opening in the upcoming months. However, there are no guarantees on this. E’ will definitely be opened first. A’ will be opened last.” Access to E’ seems to depend on the rubble removal and de-mining process in the adjacent two sectors of the old camp, because they’re still heavily contaminated with unexploded ordnance. According to Nidal Ayyub of UNRWA, the Lebanese army so far has “no plan to open [area] A’.”

However, the Lebanese army did have plans for the construction of an army base in Nahr al-Bared. On 16 January, the Lebanese cabinet decided to establish a naval base in the camp as well. Both plans concern mainly areas A’ and E’ and the coastal strip along the old camp. Just months ago, fierce protest to these plans was voiced by the camp’s residents and the government has reportedly dropped its plans. However, only when the Lebanese army finally makes clear its intentions for the handover of the remaining parts of the camp will residents’ worries be dispelled — or their fears for the future of Nahr al-Bared confirmed.

of course palestinian refugees are not the only refugees in the world today, although they are the one refugee population who has been denied their right to return home for the longest period of time. below is a map from the le monde newspaper in 2007 of refugees world wide. while the map is outdated, the general patterns and trends regionally have not changed all that much with the exception of the tremendous recent idp populations in sri lanka and pakistan.

le monde 2007 map of refugees world wide
le monde 2007 map of refugees world wide

an over view of the global refugee crisis by antónio guterres, the un high commissioner for refugees is as follows, but it should be remembered that last year’s report to which guterres refers to does not include recent statistics about idps in pakistan and tamils in sri lanka:

As we mark World Refugee Day on June 20, the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stands at more than 42 million, including 16 million refugees outside their countries and 26 million others displaced internally.

This overall total reflects global displacement figures compiled at the end of 2008. But the number has already grown substantially since the beginning of this year with more large displacements in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia totaling well over 2.3 million people. And there are more worrisome signs on the horizon.

While some displacement situations are short-lived, others can take years and even decades to resolve. At present, for example, UNHCR counts 29 different groups of 25,000 or more refugees in 22 nations who have been in exile for five years or longer. This means that nearly 6 million refugees are living in limbo, with no solutions in sight. Millions more internally displaced people (IDPs) also are unable to go home in places like Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

In addition to prolonged conflict and the increasingly protracted nature of displacement, we are also seeing a decline in the number of refugees and internally displaced people going home. In 2008, about 2 million people were able to repatriate, but that was a sharp drop from the year before. Refugee repatriation (604,000) was down 17 percent in 2008, while IDP returns (1.4 million) dropped by 34 percent. It was the second-lowest repatriation total in 15 years and the decline in part reflects deteriorating security conditions, namely in Afghanistan and Sudan.

In 2008, we also saw a 28 percent increase in the number of asylum seekers making individual claims, to 839,000. South Africa (207,000) was the largest single recipient of individual asylum claims, followed by the United States (49,600), France (35,400) and Sudan (35,100).

The global economic crisis, gaping disparities between North and South, growing xenophobia, climate change, the relentless outbreak of new conflicts and the intractability of old ones all threaten to exacerbate this already massive displacement problem. We and our humanitarian partners are struggling to ensure that these uprooted people and the countries hosting them get the help they need and deserve.

Some 80 percent of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people are in developing nations, underscoring the disproportionate burden carried by those least able to afford it as well as the need for more international support. It also puts into proper perspective alarmist claims by populist politicians and media that some industrialised nations are being “flooded” by asylum seekers. Most people forced to flee their homes because of conflict or persecution remain within their own countries and regions in the developing world.

Major refugee-hosting nations in 2008 included Pakistan (1.8 million); Syria (1.1 million); Iran (980,000); Germany (582,700), Jordan (500,400); Chad (330,500); Tanzania (321,900); and Kenya (320,600). Major countries of origin for refugees included Afghanistan (2.8 million) and Iraq (1.9 million), which together account for 45 percent of all UNHCR refugees. Others were Somalia (561,000); Sudan (419,000); Colombia (374,000), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (368,000). Nearly all of these countries are in the developing world.

Unfortunately, however, we cannot say that generosity and wealth are proportional to each other. As conflicts drag on with no political solutions, the pressure on many of these poor countries is nearing the breaking point. They need more international help now. Without it, UNHCR and other aid agencies will be forced to continue making heartbreaking decisions on which necessities must be denied to uprooted families.

Of the global total of uprooted people in 2008, UNHCR cares for 25 million, including a record 14.4 million internally displaced people — up from 13.7million in 2007 — and 10.5 million refugees. The other 4.7 million refugees are Palestinians under the mandate of the UN Relief and Works Agency.

Although international law distinguishes between refugees, who are protected under the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the internally displaced, who are not, such distinctions are absurd to those who have been forced from their homes and who have lost everything. Uprooted people are equally deserving of help whether they have crossed an international border or not. That is why UNHCR is working with other UN agencies to jointly provide the internally displaced with the help they need, just as we do for refugees.

My agency’s caseload of internally displaced has more than doubled since 2005. Displaced populations include Colombia, some 3 million; Iraq 2.6 million; Sudan’s Darfur region, more than 2 million; Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1.5 million; Somalia 1.3 million. Other increases in displacement in 2008 were in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Georgia, Yemen.

of course most of the above conflicts that create refugee or idp problems can be blamed on covert or overt occupation, wars, and proxy wars initiated or fomented by the united states. but the united states continues to drag its feet with respect to its responsibilities related to refugees, in large part because of either covert operations shielded by proxy fighters or by installing puppet regimes in places like pakistan and afghanistan so that the u.s. can relinquish its responsibilities under international law. two reports on al jazeera today highlight twin poles that many refugees face: return to their homeland or resettle in a third country. most refugees are not able to make such choices, but these reports highlight the difficulties that refugees face in either scenario. the first report is by yvonne ndege who reports on burundi refugees returning home and the challenges they face with respect to their land being occupied by their compatriots because of the government’s take over and re-distribution of the land:

the second report is by nazanine moshiri who reports on difficulties facing afghan refugees resettled in the united kingdom:

in honor of these and all refugees who have the right to determine their own fate–whether reclaiming their rights to return to their homeland or resettling in a third country, here is the amazing suheir hammad’s “on refugees” accompanied by dj k-salaam:

here are hammad’s lyrics:

Of Refuge and Language”

I do not wish
To place words in living mouths
Or bury the dead dishonorably

I am not deaf to cries escaping shelters
That citizens are not refugees
Refugees are not Americans

I will not use language
One way or another
To accommodate my comfort

I will not look away

All I know is this

No peoples ever choose to claim status of dispossessed
No peoples want pity above compassion
No enslaved peoples ever called themselves slaves

What do we pledge allegiance to?
A government that leaves its old
To die of thirst surrounded by water
Is a foreign government

People who are streaming
Illiterate into paperwork
Have long ago been abandoned

I think of coded language
And all that words carry on their backs

I think of how it is always the poor
Who are tagged and boxed with labels
Not of their own choosing

I think of my grandparents
And how some called them refugees
Others called them non-existent
They called themselves landless
Which means homeless

Before the hurricane
No tents were prepared for the fleeing
Because Americans do not live in tents
Tents are for Haiti for Bosnia for Rwanda

Refugees are the rest of the world

Those left to defend their human decency
Against conditions the rich keep their animals from
Those who have too many children
Those who always have open hands and empty bellies
Those whose numbers are massive
Those who seek refuge
From nature’s currents and man’s resources

Those who are forgotten in the mean times

Those who remember

Ahmad from Guinea makes my falafel sandwich and says
So this is your country

Yes Amadou this my country
And these my people

Evacuated as if criminal
Rescued by neighbors
Shot by soldiers

Adamant they belong

The rest of the world can now see
What I have seen

Do not look away

The rest of the world lives here too
In America

and for those who feel inspired to take action today who are in the united states i encourage you to take action against trader joe’s as a part of the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement that is fighting for the right of palestinian refugees to return to their land:

On Saturday, June 20, activists will gather at Trader Joe’s in different cities to demand that the company stop carrying Israeli goods such as Israeli Couscous, Dorot frozen herbs, as well as Pastures of Eden Feta cheese. A letter was sent to Trader Joe’s on June 6, 2009 but no response has been received yet. More than 200 individuals and organizations signed the letter. Note that we are not calling for a boycott of Trader Joe’s.

Join us in this nationwide action! Plan one in your local community!

on not forgetting gaza

sara roy has a really important article this week aptly entitled “the peril of forgetting gaza”:

The recent meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu generated speculation over the future relationship between America and Israel, and a potentially changed U.S. policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Analysts on the right and left are commenting on a new, tougher American policy characterized by strengthened U.S. demands on Israel. However, beneath the diplomatic choreography lies an agonizing reality that received only brief comment from Obama and silence from Netanyahu: The ongoing devastation of the people of Gaza.

Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution, its once productive population transformed into one of aid-dependent paupers. This context is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Gaza’s subjection began long before Israel’s recent war against it.. The Israeli occupation—now largely forgotten or denied by the international community—has devastated Gaza’s economy and people, especially since 2006. Although economic restrictions actually increased before Hamas’ electoral victory in January 2006, the deepened sanction regime and siege subsequently imposed by Israel and the international community, and later intensified in June 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza, has all but destroyed the local economy. If there has been a pronounced theme among the many Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals who I have interviewed in the last three years, it was the fear of damage to Gaza’s society and economy so profound that billions of dollars and generations of people would be required to address it—a fear that has now been realized.

After Israel’s December assault, Gaza’s already compromised conditions have become virtually unlivable. Livelihoods, homes, and public infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed on a scale that even the Israel Defense Forces admitted was indefensible. In Gaza today, there is no private sector to speak of and no industry. 80 percent of Gaza’s agricultural crops were destroyed and Israel continues to snipe at farmers attempting to plant and tend fields near the well-fenced and patrolled border. Most productive activity has been extinguished.

One powerful expression of Gaza’s economic demise—and the Gazans’ indomitable will to provide for themselves and their families—is its burgeoning tunnel economy that emerged long ago in response to the siege. Thousands of Palestinians are now employed digging tunnels into Egypt—around 1,000 tunnels are reported to exist although not all are operational. According to local economists, 90 percent of economic activity in Gaza—once considered a lower middle-income economy (along with the West Bank)—is presently devoted to smuggling.

Today, 96 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs. According to the World Food Programme, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. Yet, despite a 22 March decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of May 10, at best meeting 23 percent of required need.

Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006. According to the Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, Gazans still are denied many commodities (a policy in effect long before the December assault): Building materials (including wood for windows and doors), electrical appliances (such as refrigerators and washing machines), spare parts for cars and machines, fabrics, threads, needles, candles, matches, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses, musical instruments, books, tea, coffee, sausages, semolina, chocolate, sesame seeds, nuts, milk products in large packages, most baking products, light bulbs, crayons, clothing, and shoes.

Given these constraints, among many others—including the internal disarray of the Palestinian leadership—one wonders how the reconstruction to which Obama referred will be possible. There is no question that people must be helped immediately. Programs aimed at alleviating suffering and reinstating some semblance of normalcy are ongoing, but at a scale shaped entirely by the extreme limitations on the availability of goods. In this context of repressive occupation and heightened restriction, what does it mean to reconstruct Gaza? How is it possible under such conditions to empower people and build sustainable and resilient institutions able to withstand expected external shocks? Without an immediate end to Israel’s blockade and the resumption of trade and the movement of people outside the prison that Gaza has long been, the current crisis will grow massively more acute. Unless the U.S. administration is willing to exert real pressure on Israel for implementation—and the indications thus far suggest they are not—little will change. Not surprisingly, despite international pledges of $5.2 billion for Gaza’s reconstruction, Palestinians there are now rebuilding their homes using mud.

Recently, I spoke with some friends in Gaza and the conversations were profoundly disturbing. My friends spoke of the deeply felt absence of any source of protection—personal, communal or institutional. There is little in society that possesses legitimacy and there is a fading consensus on rules and an eroding understanding of what they are for. Trauma and grief overwhelm the landscape despite expressions of resilience. The feeling of abandonment among people appears complete, understood perhaps in their growing inability to identify with any sense of possibility. The most striking was this comment: “It is no longer the occupation or even the war that consumes us but the realization of our own irrelevance.”

What possible benefit can be derived from an increasingly impoverished, unhealthy, densely crowded, and furious Gaza alongside Israel? Gaza’s terrible injustice not only threatens Israeli and regional security, but it undermines America’s credibility, alienating our claim to democratic practice and the rule of law.

If Palestinians are continually denied what we want and demand for ourselves—an ordinary life, dignity, livelihood, safety, and a place where they can raise their children—and are forced, yet again, to face the destruction of their families, then the inevitable outcome will be greater and more extreme violence across all factions, both old and increasingly new. What looms is no less than the loss of entire generation of Palestinians. And if this happens—perhaps it already has—we shall all bear the cost.

for an innovative and brilliant visual representation of what roy is talking about check out this new video on the topography and architecture of the savaging of gaza with music by checkpoint 303 called “cartografiando gaza”:

of course palestinians are not forgetting gaza. palestinians are actively working to file lawsuits in various contexts for the most recent onslaught of savagery against gaza:

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), based in Gaza, stated that Palestinian lawyers have prepared 936 lawsuits against the Israeli army for committing war crimes against the Palestinians during the Israeli war on Gaza.

The German weekly, Der Spiegel, published a report on Saturday stating that the PCHR collected testimonies and conducted filed investigations to document the Israeli violations.

Some of the documented incidents are about children who were shot by the army at close range, entire families killed after being buried under the ruble of their homes, incidents regarding women burnt by Israel’s white phosphorus shells, and several other violations.

The Der Spiegel stated that the PCHR is trying to have the cases submitted to the National Court in Madrid.

The Israeli army and Israel’s leadership claim that the so-called internal investigation Israel carried out revealed that the army did not intentionally harm Palestinian civilians during the war which began on December 27, 2008, and ended in January 18, 2009.

and there are others who care enough to pursue leagal proceedings outside the zionist entity where such a trial will get a fair hearing, although the zionist entity is doing its best to obstruct such a process as sharon weill and valentina azarov reported in electronic intifada:

Currently, the fate of one of the only remaining venues that offers a redress mechanism for Palestinians is at stake. It is one that can bring accountability of Israeli officials and decision-makers who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The amendment of universal jurisdiction laws, often incommensurably restricting access to these mechanisms, is at variance with the effect of certain crimes on humanity as a whole, on which the notion of universal jurisdiction is premised. The pressure exerted on the Spanish government to amend its law is an example of the regrettable phenomenon of the weakening of international law at the price of the individual.

On 22 July 2002, around midnight, an Israeli Air Force plane dropped a one-ton bomb on Gaza City’s al-Daraj neighborhood, one of the most densely-populated residential areas in the world. The military objective of this operation was to target and kill Hamas’ former military leader in the Gaza Strip, Salah Shehadeh, who at that time was in his house with his family. As a result of the operation, Shehadeh and 14 civilians were killed, most of them children and infants, and 150 persons were injured, about half of them severely. Houses in the vicinity were either destroyed or damaged. Seven members of the Matar family, whose neighboring house was totally destroyed, were among the casualties.

More than six years later, in Madrid, just a few days after Israel’s most recent invasion of Gaza ended, Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles decided to open a criminal investigation on the basis of universal jurisdiction against seven Israeli political and military officials who were alleged to have committed a war crime — and possibly a crime against humanity — in the course of that operation. The officials included Dan Halutz, then Commander of the Israeli Air Forces; Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, then Israeli Defense Minister; Moshe Yaalon, then Israeli army Chief of Staff; Doron Almog, then Southern Commander of the Israeli army; Giora Eiland, then Head of the Israeli National Security Council; Michael Herzog, then Military Secretary to the Israeli Defense Ministry; and Abraham Dichter, then Director of the General Security Services.

Although the allegations in the action referred only to war crimes, the court stated that the facts could amount to more serious crimes than what was initially claimed — namely, crimes against humanity. This preliminary legal assessment motivated the legal team to work toward basing a new charge. The lawyers announced that they would redouble their efforts to demonstrate that the al-Daraj bombing was part of a policy of “widespread and systematic” attacks directed against a civilian population, fitting the definition of a crime against humanity.

As the request for Israel to provide information on the existence of any judicial proceedings concerning the military operation was not answered and the state expressed its unwillingness to cooperate with the legal team, the Spanish court thereby ruled that the investigation be conducted by the Spanish jurisdiction. On the same day the decision concerning the commencement of the investigation was rendered, Israeli officials sent a 400-page document to the Spanish legal team, stating that the facts of the complaint regarding the operation were subject to proceedings in Israel, and therefore the Spanish court should have declined to exercise jurisdiction.

but the savaging of gaza has never ended, not only because of the closure and the siege, but also because the israeli terrorist forces continue to attack gaza as they did this week from the sea:

Palestinian sources in Gaza reported on Tuesday morning that Israeli Navy ships and infantry brigades conducted a limited offensive in the Gaza Strip. During the attack several armored vehicles and military bulldozers uprooted farmland and destroyed hothouses.

An area of about 400m surrounding the military base at the Kerem Shalom Crossing was flattened, transformed into free fire zone.

Israeli navy gunships shelled Palestinian fishing boats in the northern and southern parts of the Gaza Strip; fishing boats were damaged , but there were no reported injuries. Dozens of fishermen were turned back due to the navy’s threats.

and the israeli terrorist forces also attacked gaza by land this week:

Israeli soldiers fired on Thursday night several shells at a number of Palestinian homes, east of Beit Hanoun, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

Local sources reported that soldiers stationed at the northeastern border fired rounds of live ammunition and a number of shells at an open area east of Beit Hanoun. No damage or injuries were reported.

On Thursday evening, Israeli soldiers shelled several homes in Al Fahareen Area, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Several residents were treated for shock.

meanwhile the zionist terrorist colonist regime this week made it easier for them to continue its savage attacks on palestinians in gaza:

The Israeli ministerial council decided to give the army “a free hand” to retaliate to any cease fired violation carried out by Palestinians armed groups in the Gaza Strip.

The cabinet decided to hold Hamas responsible for any deterioration in the security situation, and decided to give the Israeli army a free hand to retaliate and to carry out limited offensives.

Israeli sources that Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, adopted this position.

He also held talks on the possibility of opening the crossing terminals in Gaza especially amidst the American and International pressure.

Netanyahu’s office said that the Israeli cabinet discussed the methods that would ease the suffering of the Palestinian in Gaza without harming Israel’s security interests.

the notion that the zionist entity is trying to ease the suffering of palestinians in gaza is laughable, especially when you look at reports that calculate its policies about food it will and will not allow into gaza–and especially the way they calculate it to make sure palestinians are always already on the brink of starvation as reported in ha’aretz:

The policy is not fixed, but continually subject to change, explains a COGAT official. Thus, about two months ago, the COGAT officials allowed pumpkins and carrots into Gaza, reversing a ban that had been in place for many months. The entry of “delicacies” such as cherries, kiwi, green almonds, pomegranates and chocolate is expressly prohibited. As is halvah, too, most of the time. Sources involved in COGAT’s work say that those at the highest levels, including acting coordinator Amos Gilad, monitor the food brought into Gaza on a daily basis and personally approve the entry of any kind of fruit, vegetable or processed food product requested by the Palestinians. At one of the unit’s meetings, Colonel Oded Iterman, a COGAT officer, explained the policy as follows: “We don’t want Gilad Shalit’s captors to be munching Bamba [a popular Israeli snack food] right over his head.”

The “Red Lines” document explains: “In order to make basic living in Gaza possible, the deputy defense minister approved the entry into the Gaza Strip of 106 trucks with humanitarian products, 77 of which are basic food products. The entry of wheat and animal feed was also permitted via the aggregates conveyor belt outside the Karni terminal.”

After four pages filled with detailed charts of the number of grams and calories of every type of food to be permitted for consumption by Gaza residents (broken down by gender and age), comes this recommendation: “It is necessary to deal with the international community and the Palestinian Health Ministry to provide nutritional supplements (only some of the flour in Gaza is enriched) and to provide education about proper nutrition.” Printed in large letters at the end of the document is this admonition: “The stability of the humanitarian effort is critical for the prevention of the development of malnutrition.”

but there are those who are resisting this siege and savagery. the free gaza movement is preparing for another action called “right to read” which they describe as follows:

In partnership with Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, the Free Gaza Movement (FG) is launching its “Right to Read” campaign which will use the FG boats to deliver textbooks and other educational supplies to universities throughout the occupied Gaza Strip.

This is not a charitable endeavor. Rather it is an act of solidarity and resistance to Israel’s choke-hold on Gaza and attempt to deny Palestinians education. According to UNWRA, Israel’s blockade restricts ink, paper, and other learning materials from entering into Gaza.

Our campaign invites individuals to join us at a person-to-person level by contributing one or more books to our shipment as an expression of resistance to the blockade. This effort also allows institutions around the world to support Palestinians’ right to education by donating new and used copies of textbooks to be delivered by the Free Gaza Movement to universities in the Gaza Strip.

We invite you to participate in this expression of resistance to the blockade. Specifically, you can donate funds to purchase books (and/or help offset shipping costs to Cyprus) or you can send new and used books directly for inclusion on an upcoming voyage. While all books are welcomed, we have already received a wish list from the universities in Gaza of books that are most in need.

To review the wish list and get more details on how to contribute to the “Right to Read” campaign, please visit <freegaza.org/right-to-read?lang=en>. Our first shipment will be sent on FG’s Summer of Hope July voyage to Gaza.

Education is a right — a right that has been denied to Gaza’s most precious resource, its young people. Free Gaza is committed to breaking this siege. We welcome people of goodwill, such as yourself, to join us in this campaign.

For more information:

Dina Kennedy: dkennedy [at] freegaza.org
Darlene Wallach: darlene [at] freegaza.org
www.freegaza.org

and of course there is good old fashioned palestinian hip hop resistance as jordan flaherty discovered on his recent trip to gaza:

For Ayman, making music is a form of resistance to war and occupation and also a tool to communicate the reality of life in Palestine. “Most of our lyrics are about the occupation,” he tells me. “Lately we’ve also started singing about the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. Any problem, it needs to be written about.” Rapper Chuck D, from the group Public Enemy, once called rap music the CNN for Black America. For Ayman and his friends, music is their weapon to break media silence. “Most of the world believes we are the terrorists,” he says. “And the media is closed to us, so we get our message out through Hip-Hop.”

One of the first acts to take the stage was a duo called Black Unit Band. Mohammed Wafy, one of the two singers, displays the innocent charm of a teen pop star as he jumps from the stage and into the audience. Tall and skinny with a shock of black hair, Mohammed is 18 and looks younger. Khaled Harara, the other singer (and Mohammed’s next door neighbor) is a few years older and several pounds heavier, but no less energetic on stage.

As the evening progressed, the energy in the room continued to rise. The next act featured six members from two combined groups (DA MCs, and RG, for Revolutionary Guys) now collectively called DARG Team. The crowd was up on their feet, many of them singing along as the performers displayed a range of lyrical stylings.

In Mohammed Wafy’s apartment, the performers waited anxiously for the results of the contest. The call came in on Ayman’s cell phone. Putting it on speaker, everyone listened as the results were announced: DARG team had come in first place, and Black Unit had placed third. There were no hurt feelings apparent for those that didn’t win — for these young performers, every victory is a shared victory. DARG members will now go on to Denmark to produce an album (if they can get out of Gaza).

Fadi Bakhet, a studious and slightly preppy looking Afro-Palestinian in wire-rimmed glasses, is DARG’s manager, and also the brother of one of the members. As the night continued, the gathering moved to his apartment. They celebrated the successful show, which also fell on the last day of exams for many students, and the laughing and conversation continued late into the night. The next day was hot and sunny, and thousands of Gazans gathered on the beach to swim and relax by the Mediterranean.

if you click on the link above to flaherty’s story, you can find links to the various bands as well as videos of a few of the groups he mentioned on youtube. here is one of those video clips from one of my favorite palestinian rap groups p.r. or palestinian rapperz:

a not-so-funny thing happened on the way home from suheir hammad’s poetry reading… (UPDATED)

the extraordinary poet suheir hammad reading in ramallah
the extraordinary poet suheir hammad reading in ramallah

today the palestine festival of literature split up into two groups during the day, one going to the arab american university of jenin and the freedom theatre in jenin refugee camp and the other group to birzeit university. the organizers have been tweeting about their activities and posted photos today of the checkpoints where they were held up on their way to jenin here and here. the conference organizers blogged about their afternoon on their website. i had wanted them to come to an najah university to do a workshop, but our semester was out of sync with their program as we are finished with classes now and the rest of the universities are still in finals so it is easier for them to organize such workshops or readings on campus. still, it is frustrating because so little comes into the nablus prison whereas birzeit always has access to such cultural events and activities. the conference organizers promised that next year an najah would be included.

but the public event this evening was what i had been waiting for: suheir hammad. she started with “what i will” and then read a new poem for mahmoud darwish, “daddy” and “this is to certify,” followed by her series of poems about the recent savagery in gaza. i had forgotten that i had a tape recorder with me so it was during this second set on gaza that i began recording. below are the mp3 files for people who want to hear her read. i can’t believe i’m saying this, but this is the first time that i’ve had the opportunity to see her read her work live. it amazes me because i’m so in love with her words–if i had to choose food or air or her poetry, i would choose her poetry. hands down. and i often carry her book breaking poems in my purse because she fills my soul with inspiration and gives me the strength to continue with my work. i was so jealous when tam tam got to see her read in washington dc a couple of months ago, but i realize now how amazing it was to see her read here in palestine, on her soil, in her land. she was absolutely brilliant. extraordinary. powerful. and, of course, the audience was mesmerized by her. in the third mp3 file below you can listen to her read poems from her latest book, breaking poems. she asked me for a copy of her book yesterday and i warned her that it was filled with writing and notes everywhere, but she wanted to see it. i gave her the copy and she read from it tonight; you can hear her talking about my red pen at the beginning of the audio file. i could go on forever about how moving she was tonight (indeed the chapter for my new book on hammad’s poetry is about 80 pages)–particularly when she read the poems about gaza. she was so stirred and emotive and i so wished that she could perform this work in gaza for the people of gaza, too. if only al jazeera had filmed tonight.

here is a video from the festival organizers of hammad’s poem “this is to certify”:

here are the audio files i recorded:

listen to suheir hammad’s gaza poems

listen to suheir hammad’s “break is this”

listen to suheir hammad’s breaking poems

listen to suheir hammad’s “ma ba3rif aktob bil arabi”

khalil sakakini center in ramallah
khalil sakakini center in ramallah

for those who would like to hear and read hammad’s poetry in arabic, the final file above is a poem she read in arabic tonight. the festival organizers also gave out copies of a book to everyone that translates a piece of work by all the writers who are here into arabic. here is hammad’s poem about gaza that was translated for the volume; i typed it up for readers who want to read her work in translation.

سهير حماد

غزة

ترجمة محمد خليل

معجزة عظيمة حدثت هنا
عيد الأضواء
رصاص ينهمر على الأطفال
جيش يولم على رؤيا
لا أعرف شيئآ تحت الشمس فوق الجدران لا أحد يذكر شيئآ
على البعض أن يموتوا ملتحفين بئغطية منقوشة بزهور البترول
لا تغطية

جئت إلى هرمجدون يومية
سلم ترك دون اعتناء
ست شمعات تحرق بيتا
حصان مقيد إلى الدخان
على البعض أن يموتوا ليرسلوا إشارة
صرخة على مجرى نهر ذكرى أطول من فترات العمر
الأحياء يريدون أن يمونوا في بلادهم

لا أبواد مفتوحة لابحار مفتوحة لا
أيدي مفتوحة أيدي مليئة بالقلوب خمس بنات في لفافات بيضاء

كل يوم جهاد
كل يوم الإيمان يغلب الخوف
كل يوم مرآة من نار
الأ حياء يريدون أن يموتوا مع أسرهم

الفتاة تفقد ذراعيها وأخوها يجمع السلاح
على البعض أن يموتوا لأنهم لم يموتوا

أطفال على أرض مستشفى أم بجانب
هم الأب مذهولا هذه أسرتي
خذلتهم هذه هي أسرتي لم
أرفع رؤوسهم دفنتهم
أسرتي ماذا أفعل الأن أسرتي خبر
سمك شعب واحد قطّع إربا

هنا ظمئ يسرق الحياة
هنا جوع شتاء داخل شتاء

على الدعض أن يمرترا ليئتوا دالخلاص
جئت لنهاية زمن دائما موجود

المرأة فقدت أدويها أطفالها وتصرخ
أختي فقدن أختي أريد أن أموت
عينا أختي كانت عسلا صوتها
لا أستطيع أن أواجه هذا فقط ربي فقت ربي أختي

قتلوا الأطباء ضربوا المدارس قصفوا القوافل
الجرحي يموتون الموتي يدفنون في ثلاث
ساعات الناس يصلون معا و يلعنون الناس
يحزنون عاليا و في هدوء دائما عاليا ليس بما يكفي

على البعض أن يموتوا لأنهم كاموا قريبين من هنا
على البعض أن يموتوا لأنه مكتوب

لا الجيش لا يعتذر أبدا لم
يعتذر السلطة تطارد جمعية من ورق
الاحتلال يستقر يزداد عمقا

معجزة عظيمة هنا
الأحياء يموتون والمونى يحيون

عيد الأضواء
شريط أرض تشتعل به الحرائق
البحر مرآة النار

رصاص يسقط فوق الأطفال
رؤوسهم تتدحرج من فوق أكنافهم وتتساقط على الطريق
نحلاتهم تدور في أيدي

جيش يولم على رؤيا
يدفع بالمستقبل نحو التاريخ
يحمل المشاعل إلى جوف النساء

after hammad’s reading the musical group sama’ from the edward said national conservatory of music played for us. they were really amazing to listen to. it was a lovely evening of performances all around, though i do wish hammad had gone on for hours and hours.

sama' music group from the edward said national conservatory of music
sama’ music group from the edward said national conservatory of music

after the event my friends and i had to head down to beit lahem. there were no more services as the last one left at 8:30 and it was around 10 at this point. we found a taxi who agreed to drive us home. we got all the way to the container checkpoint without a problem. there were already two taxis pulled over for who knows how long when we arrived. private cars were going through without even being stopped. but we were pulled over. all of us had to give the israeli terrorist colonist soldier, who does not even appear to be old enough to grow peach fuzz on his face, our id cards. he came back and wanted to question me about where exactly i’m from. i refused to answer. i got bitchy. and when he said something about being here–can’t recall the exact phrasing–i said, “well, you don’t belong here. this is not your land” or something to that effect. this led to almost 1.5 hours of harassment. not from this boy, however. no. he called over the israeli terrorist colonist commander of the checkpoint who is, apparently, a 26 year old man named doodoo (i don’t know if this is his real name or not, but i wonder if he knows this is the english word american children use for s*&^). when one of my friends saw who he was she got nervous as she had seen this same israeli terrorist colonist soldier “doodoo” beat up an old woman before. we all agreed that we’d keep quiet, but it was clear that he wanted to start something. so he asked us if we had something to say to him. we just all said we wanted to go home. he kept egging me on until it was clear that he wanted me to repeat what i had said to the other guy. so i did. he became enraged. he started yelling and said that the driver had to go back to ramallah and that we could not go home. he started to separate us and pull us away from the car to talk to each of us privately. i kept saying that i was the one he had a problem with and that he should let them continue on and make me stay. why should they be punished for my words?

container checkpoint, abu dis palestine 11 pm
container checkpoint, abu dis palestine 11 pm

after about an hour they all got their huwiyyas back, but he kept my passport. unfortunately, my friends refused to leave without me. for me i could have gone to a friend’s house in abu dis or i could have gone to al quds–i had options. they did not. there is one way home to beit lahem and it is this road. the argument continued to get heated–he kept getting more angry, though none of us ever raised our voices at any point. we just said things he didn’t like. it was clear that he is a loose cannon. at one point he started screaming about how he lost someone who is like a brother and that the israeli terrorist colonists lose their fellow terrorist colonists all the time and we (he meant palestinians) don’t know what that feels like and that we never lose anyone–not nearly in the numbers he seems to think. i said something, can’t recall what (my friend recorded a lot of this conversation so i will post it tomorrow) and it led him to deciding that i was going to have to go to shin bet. i’m not sure what my friend said when she got pulled aside with this raging lunatic, but whatever it was he decided that i could have my passport back and we could leave. 1.5 hours later.

for the record i normally don’t get bitchy with soldiers when i have palestinian friends in the car. and this is precisely why: because they should not be made to be punished for my actions, which they inevitably will be. at the same time i just find it so impossible to deal with these israeli terrorist colonists and just jump when they say jump–or even worse respond by asking how high? i cannot treat these altercations as normal as part of life even though they are just that. palestinians are the most patient people i’ve ever met in my life and i cannot for a minute fathom having to grow up and live with this as somehow “normal.”

today was liberation day in lebanon when hezbollah liberated most of the south from israeli terrorist occupying forces (see matthew’s awesome photographs from today’s rally–i’m so jealous!). (syrian news published the transcript of sayyed hassan nasrallah’s speech tonight and also his analysis of it.) one of the many reasons i love hezbollah. but i cannot help but think when will we see the same liberation here and in syria and in the remaining villages in lebanon? we need hezbollah to stop this madness. there is literally no other resistance in existence that has the capability, the steadfastness, the cohesion.

our taxi driver and the israeli terrorist commander of container checkpoint
our taxi driver and the israeli terrorist commander of container checkpoint