Comparing Malls

The first time I went to Ejipura and witnessed the displacement of the Dalit community by Maverick Holdings in collusion with the BBMP (Bangalore’s municipal authority), I couldn’t help compare the situation to what I have witnessed in Palestine. Recently UNRWA published a series of statistics on how Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes affects Palestinians (see a few of the charts below). Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.39 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.50 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.58 PMIn Palestine having Israelis bulldoze your home is quotidian.

It is rare to read news sources that monitor this, like al-Akhbar or Electronic Intifada, on any given day and not see news about home demolitions. It is a part of the ongoing nakba. Just this week al-Akhbar reported of two Palestinian homes being demolished in the West Bank. Here is a video of this most recent demolition. It looks quite similar to the demolitions taking place here in Bangalore.


Just as Palestinians steadfastly work toward their goal of returning home, and increasingly use boycott as a tactic to achieve this result, increasingly the residents of Ejipura are as well. In Ejipura this week there was a protest and there is a desire to boycott Garuda Mall as a strategy to achieve justice for the people so they may be granted the replacement homes they were promised by their government.

The root of the problem and the context differ, of course. In Palestine it is colonists uprooting indigenous people to steal land and build their colonies. Just this week 90 new homes have been approved for building in Jerusalem (for those who think that 50% of Jerusalem belongs to Jewish colonists this is what you call “East Jerusalem,” although for those who are anti-colonial Jerusalem has no dividing line). In 1948 Palestine the ongoing nakba continues as Israel continues to cleanse itself of Palestinians, especially in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the southern portion of the state.

But all of uprooting for the sake of a mall made me recall one of my dear friends’ villages, Malha, which is a neighborhood of Jerusalem. My friend is a refugee, although many of the original homes and a mosque (which seems to be used as a house by an Israeli Jewish colonist) remain. But on this land is also a large shopping mall.  Her uprooting was not for the creation of the mall, but its presence on her family’s land is disturbing nevertheless. Below are photographs I took of the mall as well as the beautiful, traditional stone Palestinian homes.

DSC00118 DSC00105 DSC00099


It may not be the same cause or the same context, but uprooting and homelessness whether for a land grab or a shopping center is immoral and must be resisted via boycott or other means necessary to achieve justice.

Here are a few more recent articles on Ejipura:

Ejipura Demolition: Hundreds of Protestors Court Arrest

Photostory: Ejipura Bulldozed

Maverick’s Project in Bangalore: Il-legalizing the Poor

Of a City of Pieces and the Importance of the Larger Community

The Relativity of Gratitude

Violence Continues Against EWS Residents, Activists Say

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.

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).

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


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


divide and rule at work

nablus district map (passia)
nablus district map (passia)

increasingly, i live days in a constant state of frustration here. part of it comes from teaching, like when i ask my students if they know what yom al ard is and not one of my 200 students can tell me the specifics of that date and why it should be commemorated every year. i spend my time reading palestinian history, much of it oral history, for the current chapter i’m writing. and much of what i read i share with my students. none of which they know. but this is not the most frustrating part because i know why the palestinian authority does not include such material in their curriculum. the frustrating part is that the more you read and know about palestinian history, the more you can see it playing out over and over and over again. 122 years of zionist land theft and murder. same methods, same acts. and i feel that not knowing this, not connecting to this, contributed to the zionist entity’s ability to constantly fragment palestinians. divide and rule is their m.o. like all colonists throughout history. i can’t help but think about it right now as so many villages and areas throughout palestine are in the process of becoming ethnically cleansed. yet again. some palestinians will be made refugees for a second or third time. others for the first. either way it is the same story. one of my students is from the village of aqraba, which has about 20 homes, 1 mosque, and 1 school slated for demolition. the two maps here–the first one from passia and the second one an israeli terrorist colonial map–show the areas around nablus and the intense colonization process affecting the families and their livelihood here.

israeli colonial map of its illegal settlements
israeli colonial map of its illegal settlements

but i want to think about this process of divide and rule here for a minute before i share my experience in aqraba today. because there are so many ways that colonists do this. they do it on the level of family, often religion, on the level of village, political affiliation, and through the recruitment of collaborators. some collaborators do their work in secrecy, and others do so in the form of a so-called government. but i want to think about it on the level of family. because it struck me today that these families in aqraba are all alone. no palestinians from other cities or villages have come in solidarity with them. no one is coming for friday prayer to pray in their mosque that is expected to be demolished by israeli terrorists, though this is not true for those palestinians in silwan whose homes are slated for destruction. but al quds is on the international stage. people report on it. people go there. people care about it. but as in 1948 the fellahin are on their own. they have no support from the people in the cities. this was true in 1948 and it is true today. i’ve written before about this disjuncture and divide and rule policy between urban and rural before. i want to talk about division on the micro level, on the family level. rosemary sayigh in her amazing book the palestinians: from peasants to revolutionaries shares one particular story from an nakba that resonates for me currently:

Survivors from the Deir Yaseen massacre (some of whom were driven in a triumphal procession round Jewish Jerusalem and then shot) gave chilling descriptions of individual atrocities to investigating Red Cross and British Mandate officials. The British investigator, Richard Catling, describes how difficult it was to persuade terrified and humiliated girls and women to describe what had been done to them, and others who did not survive:

I interviewed many of the women folk in order to glean some information on any atrocities committed in Deir Yaseen but the majority of those women are very shy and reluctant to relate their experiences especially in matters concerning sexual assault and they need great coaxing before they will divulge any information. The recording of statements is hampered also by the hysterical state of the women who often break down…whilst the statement is being recorded. There is, however, no doubt that many sexual atrocities were committed by the attacking Jews. Many young schoolgirls were raped and later slaughtered. Old women were also molested. One story is current concerning a case in which a young girl was literally torn in two. Many infants were also butchered and killed.

An atrocity particularly calculated to horrify Arab peasants was the cutting open of the womb of a nine months’ pregnant woman. This was the clearest of messages warning them that the Arab codes of war, according to which women, children and old people were protected, no longer held good in Palestine. Men now had to choose: their country or their family. It was through such methods that a people with a thirty-year history of resistance to British occupation and Zionist immigration were terrorized into flight.

the difference between area b and area c roads
the difference between area b and area c roads

what i think about when i read this passage is the structure of society: the family. when people have a family they act in ways to protect that family first. sometimes this is to protect them physically. sometimes economically. but the family comes first. sure families often raise their children to be in the resistance, but unfortunately in the west bank they are few and far between. but this idea that one must protect their family during an nakba in 1948 made palestinians have to make an unimaginable choice: their family or their county. and i feel like i am watching the same thing play again in front of my eyes. after i returned from aqraba today i called a few activist palestinian friends to see if they could help me organize a massive mobilization to aqraba for friday prayer. all of them were pessimistic. they think maybe i can fill a bus, but not more than that. they tell me that people are afraid of getting arrested, getting shot, having hospital bills as a result of getting shot. families in nablus don’t want their daughters to go because they worry about them more than their sons. and so there is no solidarity among palestinians. divide and rule is working. i can’t help but think if these same families will feel differently when it is their village or their house slated for destruction. because israeli terrorists will never stop. they won’t stop until they reach baghdad.

aqraba shepherds
aqraba shepherds

so as i posted over the last week, aqraba is scheduled to have several of its homes, one elementary school, and one mosque demolished by israeli terrorists. media reports have some discrepancies in them according to the families i spoke with today. reports say that there are only 6 houses scheduled to be demolished, but the families told me that 20 homes with 200 people living in them will be destroyed. the reports also say that this will happen on march 26th, but i was told today that this is the date for their day in the colonial court, not for the demolition itself. half of aqraba is in area c and half in area b. area b is administered by the palestinian authority, and area c, which comprises 59% of the west bank, is controlled by israeli terrorists (area c generally covers rural areas).

elementary school in aqraba
elementary school in aqraba

aqraba is about 20 km away from nablus and about 50 km from the apartheid wall, the wall that separates palestinians in 1948 palestine from palestinians in the west bank. the village center is located on a mountain top and its valley in the jordan valley. it is so close to jordan that palestinian cell phones don’t work here unless you want to pay the roaming rates as if you are in jordan. you know that you are coming into the area c part of the village as you drive down the mountain because the paved road stops and the dirt road begins. all of the people who live in aqraba, however, at one point owned and farmed land or grazed their livestock in this valley at one point in time. in fact, the story of the ethnic cleansing in aqraba does not begin in 2009. it begins in 1968. i heard time and time again today the same stories from different families. in 1968, shortly after the 1967 war or an naksa, hundreds of families fled from this village and went to jordan because they heard stories of massacres in neighboring villages. most of the families i met today have relatives living in palestinian refugee camps in jordan.

palestinian home in aqraba
palestinian home in aqraba

starting in 1968 israeli terrorists began confiscating aqraba’s land for military training. a few years later the first settlement on their land was built on a mountaintop overlooking the village. this settlement, gitit, which apparently has a website, makes no mention, of course, that they are on palestinian land. in fact, the word palestine is nowhere to be found on its website whatsoever. not surprising. they don’t mention, for instance, that part of their so-called love for the land and agriculture includes stealing aqraba’s land and removing the indigenous products of the village–fava beans, lentils, and wheat–and planting grapes instead. it is not surprising that they fail to mention the fact that palestinian shepherds die every year in aqraba because these illegal colonist terrorists murder them. there was a well publicized murder of one of these shepherds, but mostly they go unnoticed in the media. but this case, in september 2008 of 18 year old shepherd yahia ateya fahmi bani maneya, elicited some media attention (in contradistinction whenever foreigners come to palestine in solidarity with palestinians and s/he gets shot or murdered everyone knows their name forever, such is the racism of the media). shepherds in aqraba were under attack especially between 1975-1982 when they were routinely arrested and their sheep confiscated. it would cost them 10jds per sheep to get them back.

yousef nasrallah's unfinished home in aqraba
yousef nasrallah's unfinished home in aqraba

so aqraba has been under attack for decades. my student and the taxi driver who took us around have their stories, too. they both live on top of the mountain, but their families historically lived below and own land. my student’s family has land where they plant wheat, but they have not been allowed to access this land since the start of the second intifada. our driver told me that in 1974 his family was attacked by rockets, one of which hit their house. as a result they fled to the mountaintop and lost 30 dunums of land where israeli terrorist colonists now plant grapes. i heard again and again these stories from aqraba from different people of a constant internal and external displacement. of a constant state of refugeedom. from people fleeing in 1967 to a constant process of their land being confiscated and families having to move up to the top part of the village. it is the same story over and over again. ethnic cleansing. land theft. colonialism.

mosque in aqraba
mosque in aqraba

as we drove down into the valley of this village we came upon the school that is slated to be destroyed first. we saw shepherds grazing in the area as aqraba is famous for having some of the best land for animals to graze. the village is 250 years old and all of the homes in the valley document the longevity of the village. originally these families slept in the caves with their sheep next to their homes hundreds of years ago. then as they began building homes they did so next to these caves. as their families grew over the generations they added onto their homes. so you can see the evolution of their homes and of their lives quite easily. part of the issue of building houses for palestinians in area c, like in al quds, 1948 palestine, or anywhere else, is that they cannot obtain building permits. to give you an idea of the difficulty, here is what my passia diary has to say about this (quoted from arij):

Figures from Israeli Civil Admin. show that between 2000 and Sept. 2007, only 5.5% of Palestinian requests for building permits in Area C were approved (or 105 out of 1,890 applications). Forced to build without license, Palestinian construction became subject to house demolition: in the same period, 4,820 demolition orders were issued, 1,626 of which were executed. While Palestinians were denied building permits in Area C, Israeli settlements were granted them at an annual rate of 1,000 or a total of 6,945 between 2000-2006 (as compared to 95 permits for Palestinians in the same period!) (355)

fatima & maher anas' home
fatima & maher anas' home

after you drive past the school you see the mosque slightly down the road. this mosque is scheduled to be demolished too. as is the foundation of a house across the street. this house is owned by yousef nasrallah. he started building his house a year ago and the israeli terrorists immediately came and ordered him to stop. like so many in aqraba, he had to sell all his sheep and move to the top of the village. like so many before him since 1968. since then he has found no work. this is one of the primary issues for fellahin refugees for the last 61 years: how do you maintain a livelihood when your livelihood is tied to the land? his sister still lives on this land, though, up the road a bit, as does her husband’s brother and his two wives. their families–the anas family–has lived on this land for generations. and like most of the other families, many relatives fled in terror in 1967 and now live in zarqa refugee camp in jordan.

anas home in aqraba
anas home in aqraba

fatima anas welcomed us into her home and kept us busy consuming tea, coffee, and a special tea i’ve never had before made with this flower called بابونج which was absolutely amazing. i was asking my student if he thought it was better than tea with maramiyya and he said yes: he was right. fatima made us an amazing lunch, too, including the most incredible cheese i’ve ever tasted, which she makes herself. she told me that the reason she thinks that the house demolition orders were issued was really because the israeli terrorists want to build a road through their village to connect the surrounding israeli terrorist colonies: gitit, itamar, hamra, and yitzhar that surround their village. already there is a road running through their agricultural land that the israeli terrorists made, but it is a dirt road. and now they have spray painted some markings on rocks on that road indicating that this may indeed be the case.

homemade cheese from the anas family
homemade cheese from the anas family

their homes and their lives seem so removed from the consciousness of palestinians more generally. even the part of the paved road in area b was only put in two years ago, as well as electricity, by the palestinian authority. but mostly they are ignored. partially it is because the palestinian authority does not control area c. but this is also because the pa is a tool of the israeli terrorist regime and does not resist its colonial masters’ wishes. water remains a difficult issue for them, too. they have a well that they built which collects rain water, but they do not have a generator to pump the water into the tanks on top of their houses. so every day fatima has to go and carry buckets from the well to the house to fill it up by hand.

the rest of the photographs tell the story, i think. this latest chapter in the latest nakba in palestinian history. and the lessons of the past have not yet been learned. palestinian children are not taught it. and those who know it seem to think they cannot make a difference by resisting. that may be true. but it is clear from speaking to the anas family today that seeing some solidarity from their brothers and sisters in the area would certainly go a long way to helping them to remain steadfast. what is especially scary about this latest chapter is not just the families and their displacement, but it is quite clear that if their houses are indeed destroyed and they, too, have to move up to the top of the mountain, the generations of farmers and shepherds from aqraba will be no more. palestinians can sit idly by and think they cannot make a difference. or they can try. they can set up a tent here as in al quds. they can maintain a presence here and visit regularly on solidarity visits. or they can wait until it is their village, their house. this is why the lesson of yom al ard is so important: because palestinians in sakhnin resisted. and this is the message that needs to be both remembered and honored with the same sort of actions again and again. israeli terrorists will never give up. no one fighting for the rights of palestinians should either.

anas family's home
anas family's home
lubna & maram anas
lubna & maram anas
anas family water well
anas family water well
blue tank where water must be carried to from well
blue tank where water must be carried to from well
old anas family home
old anas family home
aqraba cave where families used to live
aqraba cave where families used to live
fava beans/ful in aqraba
fava beans/ful in aqraba

gaza blood on bush and obama’s hands


day 5. i woke up to the news of 70 more strikes from tuesday’s carnage. 385 dead and 1,720 injured, many critically injured will die because there is no more medicine. many are buried beneath the rubble, in the tunnels that israeli terrorists bombed with american-made weapons. many were buried before their bodies were counted. but as rania reminds us they have names and we cannot forget them, bury their names beneath the headlines:

Five sisters, aged two to seventeen, were killed in their home in Jabaliya refugee camp. Their mother, Samira Ba’lousha, had the heavy task of removing them from the rubble. These children—Jawaher, four, Dina, eight, Samar, twelve, Ikram, fifteen, and Tahrir, seventeen, were not firing rockets into Israel; they were sleeping in their beds. With space running out in the cemetery, the Ba’lousha children were forced to share their graves.

Nawal Al-Lad’a, a forty-year old mother, did not find the bodies of her two sons in the medical compound, so she left to look for her children amid the rubble.

When one of the mosques was attacked, one of 7, a child was killed. Ziad Abu Teir. He was 8.

Fatimah Salem, 53, lies in a coma in Al-Shifa hospital, torn apart by debris while at work for a local charity near the targeted prison in Gaza City. “My mother was not firing rockets at Israel,” said her son, Majed. (source: IRIN)

Luma, 4, and Haya, 6, two sisters from the Humdan family from Biet Hanaon. Targeted and killed by air Israeli missiles while attempting to leave their neighborhood on a donkey carriage

I’m trying to get more names of the martyrs, the killed and wounded Palestinians. It is important, at the very least, to know their names.

I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged
My roots
Were entrenched before the birth of time
And before the opening of the eras
Before the pines, and the olive trees
And before the grass grew

(excerpt from “Identity Card,” by Mahmoud Darwish)


the mood in nablus is not good. i forgot to mention this yesterday as my head is swimming with too much information right now, but a common refrain i heard among my students yesterday was that “palestinian blood is cheap.” there is a feeling that they are all alone. yesterday i posted an important video of sheren tadros reporting on al jazeera highlighting the fact that there is nowhere for palestinians in gaza to run to. but here, too, people feel that there is no one to go to for help. that their calls for ending this bloodbath fall on deaf ears. from the arab world, from the european union, from the united states (who is a full participant in this blood bath because it allows its weapons to be used to commit this massacre), from the united nations. we hear only the mild criticisms, never a demand or a show of force to stop this madness. the quiet statements of those whose shallow words suggest complicity not outrage. not a determination to stop the israeli terrorists. people in nablus are afraid to speak out, too, as there are a number of palestinians who have spoken out publicly in mosques and other public spaces and as a result the palestinian authority has put them in prison. enemies are every where. from within and from outside. one of the student activists at my university was chatting with me last night. she wants to erect a tent in downtown nablus in martyr’s square to have a public memorial for the martyrs of gaza; hamas and fatah leaders in the city couldn’t agree. so no tent. more silence. the same is true in nasra where palestinians were attacked by israeli terrorists for protesting the brutality in gaza.

but the main enemy here, aside from the obvious israeli terrorists, are their american partners in state terrorism. for some context here is a report from nick spicer on al jazeera yesterday showing all of the american-made materiel being used here by israeli terrorists that americans paid for with their tax dollars:

of course we can expect george bush to be silent as he has millions of iraqi, lebanese, afghan, and palestinians’ blood on his hands. barack obama showed his true colors when he started his u.s. presidential campaign, though people in hawai’i protested outside his home there yesterday. one writer observed yesterday that palestinians don’t get to have their 9/11: everywhere else when there is a massacre claim that they, too, now have their 9/11, but not palestinians. but the green party, the party which i voted for when i cast my ballot for president in favor of cynthia mckinney, spoke out yesterday against israeli terrorist war crimes. cynthia mckinney was on the boat yesterday that was shot at and rammed by israeli terrorist naval boats yesterday had this to say about american support for israeli terrorism in the black agenda report:

Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has called upon President-Elect Barack Obama to “please, say something about the humanitarian crisis that is being experienced by the Palestinian people, by the people of Gaza.” McKinney spoke to CNN news from the Lebanese city of Tyre, where she had debarked from the relief vessel Dignity after it was rammed on the high seas by an Israeli patrol boat, early Tuesday morning. Passengers also report the Israelis fired machine guns into the water near their ship….

“I would like to ask my former colleagues in the United States Congress to stop sending weapons of mass destruction around the world,” said McKinney, who was the Green Party’s presidential candidate in November. “As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, let us remember what he said. He said that the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. And guess what: we experienced a little bit of that violence, because the weapons that are being used by Israel are weapons that were supplied by the United States government.”

A CNN reporter who accompanied the passengers and crew of the Dignity confirmed that the boat “was sailing with full lights” when “one of the Israeli patrol boats, with no lights on, rammed the Dignity, hard.”

Israel blames the collision on the relief vessel.

Said McKinney: “Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front, once on the side…. What the Israelis are saying is outright disinformation.”

McKinney compared the Israeli action against the Dignity to the attack on a U.S. naval vessel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. “I recall that there was another boat that was attacked by Israelis, and it was the U.S.S Liberty.” Thirty-four crewmen died and 170 were wounded by fire from Israeli planes and torpedo boats. The Israelis claim it was a case of mistaken identity. “People would like to forget about the U.S.S. Liberty,” said McKinney, “but I haven’t forgotten about it and the people who were on that ship have not forgotten what happened to them.”


nora barrows-friedman on flashpoints, unlike all other u.s. news media outlets, continues its extensive coverage of the american-israeli terrorist project in gaza. the last two days have been excellent with many voices of people of gaza where you can hear the war going on, you can hear american apache helicopters and f16s dropping bombs on the people of gaza. as of this writing links to the audio files from the last two days are not posted, but if you click on the link for the podcast you can download episodes where you can hear sameh habib, safa joudeh, and caoimhe butterly who details being terrorized by israeli terrorist naval ships yesterday on their way to gaza by boat.

i finally heard from sameh habeeb. i had a mutual friend from gaza city go over to his house and make sure he was okay, thankfully he is. and he blogged yesterday updating us on the continuing humanitarian toll (though i recommend listening to him on flashpoints as well). here is what sameh had to say about the situation in gaza city yesterday:

On the midday of Tuesday, a new phase of the military operation started. F16s started to break the sound barrier of Gaza. Raids of sonic bombs occurred causing a trauma and panic atmosphere across Gaza residents.

The death toll has reached 390 with more than 1,700 injured, 2 hundreds are in critical conditions while there is a severe shortages in medicines. Medical sources announced a collapse in medical sector and Gaza hospitals. Muhamad El Khozndar a doctor at Al Sehfa’ hospital said on a local radio station that Gaza hospitals are no longer working properly. Bandaging stuff, medical tools, medical machines and general cleaning unavailable at the hospitals. Additionally, windows of the hospitals crashed due to a nearby bombings hit a mosque.

The early hours of Tuesday night witnessed a set of Israeli missiles west of Gaza City. Medical reports said a number of injured arrived to Al shifa’ hospital including some casualties. Many tanks shelled the norther eastern area of Gaza City.

It’s remarkable that humanitarian stage in Gaza is totally collapsed and disastrous as aspects life vanished. All oil derivatives of fuel, gasoline and cocking gas unavailable in Gaza due to a siege imposed two years ago. Bread, milk, rice, sugar, cooking oil are not available and what is inside Gaza is limited quantities stored at homes.

Add to that, it is very dangerous for people to leave their house in search of food supplies. Any mobile car, bicycle or walking persons turned to targets for Israeli military machine.


mohammad on kabobfest also has another report detailing the situation with his family in gaza whom he cannot see because he is in ramallah:

Again, my nightly call to my uncles in Gaza proved to be deeply uplifting. I made my first call to uncle Mahmoud. Our previous calls had not lasted for much longer than ten or fifteen minutes, but today he talked for almost an hour. Again, his voice was strong and defiant, even more than yesterday. He told me the Israeli’s seem to have run out of targets to pound, hitting the same ones over and over again during the day. The skies over Khan Younis were quiet, he said, and had been for more than half an hour. There literally were no more official buildings to destroy.

I asked him if he would mind, in the few hours a day that he had electricity, to type up some of his experiences so that I could share them with the world. He told me he understood what I wanted to do, but that he really had no desire to sit and write. He liked to keep himself busy, but he didn’t mind talking. I asked him if there were any shops open in the area. He said only a few small family stores would open, but supplies were fast dwindling. Sugar, he said, was gone. I asked him what they had had for dinner; rice and some chicken. His children were still suffering. His youngest son, Hosam, was wetting and defecating himself. Hanan, the three year old, had run to her dad when she heard the buzz of the Israeli drones, telling him she wanted to hide because she didn’t want the ‘zanana’ to bomb her. (Zanana is the term Palestinians give to these drones because of the continuous buzzing sound they make). He held her until she fell asleep. The children were still waking up hysterical in the night every time a missile hit nearby.

The thing that struck me most was how high Mahmoud’s morale was, especially considering the state he had been in two days earlier. He told me people understood that Israel wanted to destroy the spirit and will of the people, and that it was highly unlikely to end the killing any time soon. He said the graphic images of the dead and wounded don’t tell half the story; he visited one of the hospitals today and told me the injuries are horrific beyond description. Very few of the almost 2,000 wounded would ever recover. The pain is definitely there, but the people are caught between trying to mourn the dead of yesterday, living today and the idea of ground invasion tomorrow. He touched again on the topic of the 20 or so friends they had lost, telling me a lot of the men had been buried in Gaza City rather than their hometown of Khan Younis because they’d had to be buried en masse to make space in the hospital morgue. He tells me the current reality is that, with the unbearable amount of casualties, people are being buried without ceremony as quickly as half an hour after their bodies are found. It’s unreal, he said, that you can have breakfast with a friend and then find out he has already been buried half an hour later. Regardless, when victory means simply surviving the onslaught, he tells me many people are confident Israel cannot achieve any of its aims. Before I hung up my mom took the phone to speak to his wife and give her condolences on the death of her brother. He was 23 years old.

I talked to uncle Jasim next. He had just gotten power and was flipping through the channels to check the news. He was livid at the Egyptian regime and their staunch refusal to open the Rafah crossing despite the massacre and the decimated infrastructure. Jasim has never been by any means a supporter of Hamas, but he tells me the people are rallying around the movement and will never allow Israel to impose Mahmoud Abbas on them. We talked about the extended range of the rockets fired by the resistance. For the first time, they had hit what is now known as Kiryat Gat, and which, until my grandparents were ethnically cleansed from it in 1949 (i.e. a year AFTER Israel had won its so-called War of Independence) was known as al-Fallujah.

I asked him if the Israeli army was still sending out recorded messages to peoples phones threatening to bomb their houses. He laughed a little and said that everyone is getting them, several times a day. His neighbor lived in a squalid one-room structure and had gotten one on his cell phone. Jasim’s daughter Yaqeen had picked up the house phone today and heard one of the messages, and it had terrified her. I told him about the protests and show of solidarity across the world, and told him to keep his chin up and his morale high. Even Dubai had canceled all New Year’s celebrations. I reminded him that if Israel could not destroy the people’s spirits with the atrocities it had been committing over the past four days, it had already lost this war.

My final call was to my uncle Mohammad in Gaza City. I was hoping he would be at least as upbeat as Mahmoud, but he sounded completely worn out. He barely sleeps, usually staying up all night as the bombing continues unabated around him, while the cold comes in through the windows kept open to prevent them from shattering every time a missile hits. He told me last night had been especially tough, particularly the bombing of the Ministries Compound with thirteen missiles almost simultaneously. The Shams Sports Club is just down the street and was destroyed. Why would they destroy a sports club, he asked. How can the world really believe they’re only targeting militants?

He said they had just gotten power after an outage of almost 12 hours, and was following the news of a French proposal for an immediate ceasefire. The skies had been quiet for 20 minutes, he said. He was hopeful the ceasefire would come into effect. I told him to keep his morale up, but that it was very unlikely Israel would agree to a ceasefire. After all this bombing and killing, it had only managed to put more Israelis under the fire of Palestinian homemade rockets. Stopping now would be, in the eyes of the Israeli public, a huge failure. And with elections coming up and Israeli elections traditionally decided by Palestinian body counts, it makes no sense domestically for Israel to stop now.

I let him know of the deep censorship in the Israeli media regarding the massacre in Gaza, how very few images of the carnage and death have been broadcast. In this kind of media environment, it is easy to say why many Israelis seem to believe their airforce and navy are only attacking militants. Either way, he said, he would still hope for a ceasefire. He was worn out.

It is scary, but uplifting, to think that through such abnormal suffering, people with a cause will manage to rally and hold their spirits. I truly believe Israel cannot win this particular war; Zionism has no place for the possibility that people do not give up in the face of overwhelming military force, and that is why Israel has used its military might for decades in an attempt to cow Palestinian nationalism and crush the struggle for liberty. The solution was and will always be simple: end the colonization of Palestine, the denial of Palestinian rights, and the continued expulsion of the Palestinian people from their lands. People are quick to point out when Palestinians use the limited means they have at their disposal to attack Israel, but without addressing the historical injustice imposed on the Palestinian people that continues to define their existence and oppression, there can never be a peaceful solution.

Until then, Israel will continue to commit atrocities in an attempt to impose an impossible reality, and its victims will continue to fight back.


gaza blogger laila el haddad, who is currently in north carolina, writes about calling her parents who are trapped in the gaza prison (click on link below to read that part) and then writes hauntingly about what it means to be trapped in this prison of gaza while american-made bombs are dropped by israeli terrorists flying american-made f16s:


The rains of death continue to fall in Gaza. And silently, the world watches. And silently, governments plotted: how shall we make the thunder and clouds rain death on to Gaza?

It will all seem, at the end of the day, that this is somehow a response to something: rockets; broken truces; irreconcilability…

It is as though the situation were not only acceptable, but normal in the period prior to it all. As though a calm that provides no relief — political, economic, or otherwise — for Gaza’s stateless, occupied, besieged Palestinians were tenable. As though settlements did not continue to expand; walls did not continue to extend and choke lands and lives; families and friends were not dislocated; life was not paralyzed; people were not exterminated; borders were not sealed and food and light and fuel were in fair supply.

But it is the prisoners’ burden to bear: they broke the conditions of their incarceration. Nevertheless, there are concerns for the “humanitarian situation”: as long as they do not starve …

The warden improves the living conditions now and then, in varying degrees of relativity, but the prison doors remain sealed. And so when there are 20 hours of power outages in a row, the prisoners wish that they were only eight; or 10; and dream of the days of four.

My friend Safah Joudeh is also in Gaza city. She is a 27-year-old freelance journalist.

“At this point we don’t feel that it is Hamas being targeted, it’s the entire population of Gaza,” she says. “The strikes have been and I need to stress this, indiscriminate. They claim that the targets have been buildings and people that are Hamas-affiliated, but the employees in these buildings are public sector employees, not political activists … other targets include homes, mosques, the university, port, fishing boats, the fish market.”

No one has left their home since Saturday, she says.

“The streets were full of people the first day of the attacks, naturally. They were unexpected and came at a time when people were going about their daily business. The streets have been completely empty the past two days. People have closed up shop and trying to stay close to their families and loved ones. Many homes are without bread, the bakeries stopped working two days before the attack because of lack of fuel and flour.”

The small shop down the street from my parents’ home, next to the Kinz mosque where many of the Remal neighborhood’s affluent residents attend, opens for a little while after prayer. My father goes and gets whatever he can — while he can.

They have one package of bread left, but insist they are OK.

“Those with children are the ones who are truly suffering. Umm Ramadan’s grandchildren will only sleep in her arms now. They are wetting their pants again.”


dr. mona el farra, who is also a blogger, and who is now in england, writes about her home in gaza city from afar as well:

I’ve spoken to several of my fellow doctors in Gaza and each one of them is overwhelmed and demoralised. Even with all of their training, the material conditions in Gaza are preventing them from doing what they are capable of. They could have saved many more lives.

I remember how ambulance drivers were not allowed to reach the injured in previous military attacks on Gaza. Many lives could have been saved if the ambulances reached the injured at the right time. A few minutes can be the difference between life and death. I wonder whether we will hear reports like this again once the emergency situation is over and there is time for truth and reflection.

The first military air strikes struck at the exact time that schoolchildren make their way home. Where I live in Gaza City, several primary schools are very close to the police headquarters that were among the first targets. These horrifying facts explain the high number of women and children among the dead. Thirty children and nine women have been reported dead and another 130 children and 38 women injured.

I’ve spoken with friends and family in Gaza and my heart sank further with their firsthand accounts of the death and destruction.

On a personal level, I am mourning the loss of one of my cousins, Ibrahim Mahmoud El-Farra, aged 22. He was killed in the first attack on the presidential palace. F16 fighter planes fired three big missiles at the building. Neighbours tell me the ground shook and that the blast broke all the windows of my nearby apartment building.

My cousin, and an unknown number of other victims, is still under the rubble. The scale of destruction is too large for Gaza’s small number of rescue workers. They are slowly pulling body parts out of the rubble as Israeli airstrikes make more and more piles of rubble and people.

The number of reported deaths will increase in the next few days as more bodies are recovered and more of the seriously injured cases die because their serious but treatable wounds cannot be treated in Gaza.


what i am documenting here and have been documenting for the last five days is a catalog of war crimes of grievous violations of international humanitarian law, of the geneva convention. here is a recent statement sent to the united nations by various palestinian human rights organizations beseeching them to do something:

The following intervention was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council on 30 December 2008:

General Assembly to act under Resolution 377

Dear Member State of the UN Human Rights Council,

Representing the Palestinian human rights community, we write to you with an urgent request for intervention by the UN Human Rights Council to put an end to the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as a result of the Israeli occupying forces’ ongoing attacks on the Gaza Strip. At least 310 persons, including 37 children, have been killed and more than 1,000 Palestinians have been injured. The civilian population of the occupied Gaza Strip will inevitably continue to suffer heavy losses without the external intervention of the international community; this is confirmed by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s assertion that this is a “war to the bitter end.”

Grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention amounting to war crimes, have been committed, including, willful killing and the extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Furthermore, the continuing collective punishment of the Gaza Strip has left medical services unable to deal with the increasing number of victims.

As member States of the UN Human Rights Council, you were fully apprised of the human rights situation in the OPT, during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Israel earlier this month. The dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip was a dominant concern raised by States during the review. Despite recommendations to Israel concerning its obligation to improve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the capacity of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure to respond to the humanitarian needs of the population after days of bombardment has now reached breaking point. You have further been notified by Special Rapporteur Richard Falk of Israel’s failure to cooperate with his mandate and his call on “all Member States, as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations system, to move on an emergency basis not only to condemn Israel’s serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing real protection for the Palestinian people.”

We note that the Security Council has thus far failed to take concrete steps despite the gravity of the situation. However, General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto’s statement that “the time has come to take firm action if the UN does not want to be rightly accused of complicity by omission” offers a platform for concrete action that should be supported by the Human Rights Council.

It is our considered judgment that the only effective measure the UN Human Rights Council can take under these specific circumstances is to issue a resolution requesting the General Assembly to convene under GA Resolution 377, “Uniting for Peace,” with a view towards the imposition of collective measures against the Israeli Government. We urge this approach having duly considered the implications for the Human Rights Council as well as the human rights of the Palestinian people should Israel again impede or ignore the Council’s interventions. We believe that such a step would halt the escalation of civilian deaths, offer hope to civilians in despair over the political deadlock and ultimately serve the long-term interests of peace.

Sincere regards,

Palestinian Human Rights Community

Arab Association for Human Rights-HRA
Addameer Prisoners’ Support & Human Rights Association
Ad-Dameer Association for Human Rights
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights
Defence for Children International
Ensan Center for Democracy & Human Rights
Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)
Jerusalem Legal Aid & Human Rights Center (JLAC)
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, Musawa
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS)
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC)
Women’s Studies Center
The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations’ Network – PNGO


it is israel’s lies that perpetuate this bloody, devastating war on innocent gaza civilians. but the world watches, waits, says nothing, does nothing. my students’ words haunt me–that palestinian blood is cheap, that no one cares about them not even other arabs. what do we have to do to get people to care? should the people of gaza convert to judaism? would that make the world care? then they would be jewish and somehow they would count as human beings? maybe then the world would react swiftly and with determination?

too, i can’t help thinking about the political rationale here. of course as i write about all the time the two-state solution is bulls*&^, not possible, and entirely based on a fraudulent process that has consistently disempowered and dispossessed palestinians even more than before. but i have always thought that this process was more like a three state solution: gaza, 1948 palestine, and the west bank. but this utter devastation of gaza makes me feel like maybe they are working for a two state solution by wiping out gaza. if they wipe gaza off the face of the earth then the israeli terrorists can finish off their ethnic cleansing project in 1948 palestine (as i quoted tzipi livni stating last week that this is her intention) and then maybe palestinians can have the prison that is the west bank–22% of it that is. this is what seems to me to be the larger design on palestine right now by the zionist, terrorist, jewish state and its american collaborators.

looks good on paper…

on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the united nations declaration of human rights on 10 december 1948 dr. sami al arian had this to say:

As we approach the sixtieth anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, issued in December 1948, in the aftermath of a devastating world war, it is fitting to recall some of its essential promises to humanity. Its preamble recognized the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. It was an utter repudiation of the tremendous abuse and cruelty to which oppressed people throughout the world were subjected.

This declaration also emerged only months after the wholesale expulsion of the Palestinian people from their ancestral homeland. Yet, millions of Palestinians today are still denied justice, freedom, peace, and security – and consequently their human rights – after so many decades in exile or subjugation within their own homeland.

it is a bit ironic that when people talk about the history of this declaration they only remember what happened to europeans, to jews during world war ii when they search for a context to give this declaration meaning, to decide why such an agreement is important. perhaps it is not ironic. perhaps this is normal. this is what we have come to expect: that white people’s rights are always those that matter. it has always been people of the north over the people of the south.

there are 30 articles in this declaration–a declaration that looks good on paper, but because there has never been a mechanism to ensure that human rights are enforced, human rights are consistently violated. this is especially true here in palestine from before the signing of that declaration until today. when you read through the document it is quite clear that the zionist state has violated and continues to violate this document. i am not going to quote the entire document–you can click here to read it and you should–but i want to highlight a few that i have been thinking about over the course of my trip this week to 1948 palestine with friends of mine who are not legally allowed to travel there because they are palestinian refugees. here are a few that strike me as relevant:

Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

let’s take the first item. palestinians who live in the west bank and gaza cannot move freely in their own area let alone the rest of what is–and should be–their area: 1948 historic palestine. palestinians inside 1948 are also not entirely free with respect to freedom of movement. palestinian refugees who live inside israel–“present absentees” as israeli law refers to them–in particular are subjected to such restrictions. in driving around nasra this week we would pass signs for the village of saffuriyya each day. renamed tzippori it was a town of 4,500 palestinians and 55,000 dunums of land in 1948. most people fled to lubnan in 1948, but a few hundred stayed; they were later forced out and many moved to the neighboring nasra and their land was confiscated by the israelis. like many palestinian internal refugees they spend yom an nakba by going to their villages. in nasra there is a saffurian heritage society that continues to fight for their right to return. and after the israeli-kata’eb massacres in shatila refugee camp and the neighborhood of sabra they renamed a street in nasra “sabra and shatila street” (though i could not find it when i looked for it–i was told it has now been renamed once again). isabelle humphries’ essay “‘a muted sort of grief’: tales of refuge in nazareth 1948-2005)” in the anthology catastrophe remembered: palestine, israel and the internal refugees offers one such example of what happens when palestinian internal refugees visit their villages:

But visits by refugees are not trouble-free. As the Saffuriyyans were filming, police and security were called three times by today’s occupying Jewish residents. Refugees have been arrested trying to see where they used to live, or to visit a family grave. “One Romanian living here started accusing us of trying to set fire to his house. But when we talked further, I saw that it was not this that he was afraid of. Looking at us, he was afraid that we wanted to come and take back our homes.” (160)

while certainly palestinians from saffuriya fight for their right to return in israeli courts their rights are connected to the right of return held by people from saffuriya who are living in lebanon as well. nevertheless, these visits to their villages are often mired by these fears which in turn inhibit palestinian freedom of movement when it comes to returning to one’s village–especially when there are settlers living there.

marriage, too, is not a right that palestinians living in 1948 have free access to. my friend’s mother in nasra told me that palestinians in 1948 can marry whomever they want–including other arabs from other countries. she told me she knows a woman who is married to a syrian man, for example and they both live in 1948. but if one wants to marry a jordanian, for example, that spouse must prove that they have no palestinian blood–and they need to prove this going back 7 generations. it reminds me of the miscegenation laws in the u.s. before the supreme court case loving vs. virginia. but it is even more difficult for a palestinian from 1948 to marry a palestinian living in the west bank or gaza strip as nasra-based journalist jonathan cook points out:

Applications for family unification in Israel invariably come from Palestinians in the occupied territories who marry other Palestinians, often friends or relatives, with Israeli citizenship. One in five of Israel’s population is Palestinian by descent, a group, commonly referred to as Israeli Arabs, who managed to remain inside the Jewish state during the war of 1948 that established Israel.

As there is no principle of equality in Israeli law, human rights groups who challenged the government’s 2003 amendment were forced to argue instead that it violated the dignity of the families. Mixed Israeli and Palestinian couples are not only unable to live together inside Israel but they are also denied a married life in the occupied territories, from which Israeli citizens are banned under military regulations.

you can see the kafka-esque situation that palestinians are put in by being denied the right to marry.

and then, of course, there is the right to own property. or the lack thereof here. more than that: there is the lack of a right to get your property back once it has been confiscated by a colonial regime. this process began in earnest in 1950 with israel’s enactment of the “absentees’ property law.” nur masalha’s “present absentees and indigenous resistance,” also in the book catastrophe remembered, explains what this law means for palestinians:

Since 1948 Israel has enacted some thirty statutes that expropriated and transferred land from Palestinian citizens to state (Jewish) ownership. There is little doubt, however, that the major expropriations of lands belonging to Palestinians (internal and external refugees) were carried out under the Absentees’ Property Law, 1950. This statute was used after 1948 to transfer Palestinian properties to Jewish hands via the Custodian of Absentees’ Property, who subsequently transferred them to the Israeli Development Authority. The law was preceded by the Defence (Emergency) Regulations dealing with “absentees’ property.” On the face of it, the declared objective of the Absentees’ Property Law of 1950 was to “protect” the property of absentee owners, and to facilitate use of this property for the development of the Israeli economy and the state. In reality, however, under this law, with all its amendments, millions of dunums of Palestinian refugee land and billions of dollars’ worth of Arab property were seized by the state of Israel. (33)

just to be sure about the language and its legal meaning here, masalha defines absentee in relation to israeli law as follows:

Critical examination of this definition [of absentee] reveals that a person may be an “absentee” under the law, even though he was present in Israel when his property was deemed to have become “absentees’ property.” In other words, if a person was an “absentee” at any time between 29 November 1947 and 1 September 1948, his property becomes “absentees’ property,” whether he is still an absentee or not. (34)

to fight these laws palestinians in 1948 created an organization called the national association for the defence of the rights of the internally displaced (adrid). they have a manifesto and since they started in 1992 they have been working to organize palestinians inside 1948 to vocalize their rights–this was specifically in response to the way that palestinians inside 1948 felt that the so-called “peace process” underway in madrid was selling them out. here is the text of their manifesto:

Manifesto – National Committee for the Rights of the Internally Displaced

(First issued in 1992 and reconfirmed in the meeting convened at the Galilee Society, Shafa ‘Amr, 19-11-1999)

“As we enter the third millennium, the Palestinian refugee issue created by Zionist conspiracies and occupation institutions has remained unresolved. Fifty-one years after 1948 Nakba, Palestinians still live in exile and displaced in their homeland. Since the establishment of the Israeli state, achieved with the support of international Zionism and imperialist forces, consecutive Israeli governments have rejected our internationally legitimized right of return. These governments have continued to destroy our villages and desecrate our holy sites, and have transformed us from a people with land into a people without land. By means of ethnic legislation, they have confiscated our land, robbed our properties, changed the historical sites of our homeland, and built on the remains of our villages. Our people has struggled, during these long years, against Zionist policies and sacrificed for our legitimate right of return.

The 1991 Madrid Conference excluded reference to UN resolution 194, which emphasizes our right of return, and neglected the existence of the Palestinian Arab minority in the homeland. In response, internally displaced embarked on an initiative, in 1992, to gather and unify our struggle for the right of return to our villages and towns of origin.

A first popular meeting of the internally displaced at Qasr al-Salam/Tamra on 11-3-1995 resulted in the establishment of the National Committee for the Rights of the Internally Displaced Palestinians in Israel mandated “to follow up, and lead the struggle for return”. On 16-3-1995, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee adopted our cause and re-affirmed our right of return to our destroyed villages.

Since the 1993 Oslo Accords and the follow-up agreements, the terms of peace have been defined and spread by Israeli governments and their allies, terms which reject the implementation of collective Arab-Palestinians rights, especially the right of return. We internally displaced stand at the threshold to the third millennium, deeply concerned of a so-called final status solution which will cancel our rights. Aware of what might be cooked behind the scenes, and knowing that Barak’s “Nos” will not bring a just peace, we wish to re-affirm the following:

* We the some 250,000 internally displaced, part of the Palestinian Arab minority, citizens of this state, did not fall from the sky. We are not immigrants, but natives in our land. The Israeli government is not allowed – on ethical, moral, legal, and political grounds – to keep us displaced in our homeland, far from our towns and villages of origin. International law and principles protect our natural right of return.
* We warn the Israeli government not to neglect our issue and demand that our file be opened. We demand the cancellation of the Absentees’ Property Law which defines us as “Present Absentees”, as well as the cancellation of all other laws providing for ethnic discrimination, and to return the displaced to their homes.
* The National Committee demands to maintain the holy sites in all destroyed villages and to protect our historic sites.
* We call upon all political institutions, national parties, and our people to stand on our side.

As part of the entire Arab-Palestinian people, we wish to declare:

* The refugee issue is the heart of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
* The Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homeland and homes is a sacred right whose implementation must be based on UN Resolution 194.
* We warn of the consequences of conspiracies against Palestinian refugee rights, whether conducted openly or behind closed doors. We state with a loud voice that there will be no just solution without a solution of issue of the refugees and the internally displaced.”

i think it is important to understand people in 1948 in this context. last summer when nizar hassan showed his films in beirut so many of us were disturbed by the way he portrayed palestinians in 1948. i do not dismiss that there are certainly those who have assimilated, whose minds have been colonized. but that is not the whole story. yes, those people exist, and my friends in nasra bemoan the sort of 1948 palestinians who assimilate–who “try to be like israelis” to use her words. she means that they dress like them, behave like them, and some are even “choosing” to enter the israeli terrorist army. but those are the few. the many are those who feel like their voice isn’t heard in concert with palestinians fighting for their rights elsewhere. this is why it is so amazing to travel around 1948 with a group of friends who are from 1948 and who are refugees. to see these relationships and connections and the desire to fight together for those rights. to refuse to be separated by bulls*&^ laws and borders that enforce this separation.

there are so many layers to this story. one question that we constantly discussed while driving around looking for and stumbling upon palestinian ruins in what used to be palestinian villages is the question of why. why do the israelis keep these mosques, churches, homes, or ruins of these buildings? i mean, the bulldozed so much: why leave these reminders of their ethnic cleansing around for everyone to see? and what do israeli jews think of these physical reminders–particularly those who live in the palestinian homes now–homes that are so obviously palestinian. eitan bronstein offers somewhat of an answer in the book catastrophe remembered, though not one that is very satisfying:

During our first visit to al-Majdal we met a Jewish woman who sells burgers in a luxurious Arab building. Although the arches along the front of the building are an example of classical Arab architecture, the woman working there knew nothing about Arab al-Majdal. This total ignorance is common amongst many Jews, who know nothing of the Palestinian history of the country, even in relation to places in which they live. This typical attitude of ignorance is also reflected by the fact that the presence of al-Majdal in today’s city landscape is completely overlooked. A typical example of this Israeli attitude is found in the Museum of the History of Ashkelon, which was built inside what until 1948 used to be al-Majdal’s largest mosque. It is only reasonable to assume that a history museum would tell the story of al-Majdal, especially since it is located in a building that was central to al-Majdal. Yet there is no mention of the mosque in the museum. In one of the exhibitions there is a great deal about “the liberation of Ashkelon.”

In light of Edward Said’s seminal work on Orientalism, this Israeli denial of the Nakba–and of al-Majdal–can best be described as typical “Israeli Orientalism”: using the so-called “oriental” sites and scenery to give a place a feeling of aesthetics and authenticity, but without reference to the realities and lives of those Palestinians who had once lived in what became Israel and are now refugees scattered all over the world. The Israeli-Jewish domination of this space is symbolized by the keeping of the mosque of al-Majdal standing. This gives the impression that the place is ancient, deeply-rooted in the soil–even though the roots belong to people who no longer share this space; they simply remain faceless. (218-219)


these are questions i’ve wondered about lifta for some time now. lifta is a village that i think about often partially because it is so visible–there are so many palestinian homes remaining. just sitting there. beautiful villas. and shockingly no jews have confiscated them thus far. but that has recently changed. an organization called f.a.s.t.: foundation for achieving seamless territory has been working to save lifta. they have a specific website/blog they keep updated about their saving lifta project. there was a court case a few months ago and many palestinians from lifta showed up with their title deeds and keys to protest the fact that now there are actual plans and insurance has been purchased to confiscate this land. they did not win their court case. they will now begin renovating palestinian homes for the exclusive purpose of jews. moreover, a few months ago many of the people from lifta, who now live on french hill on the other side of al quds near hebrew university, were removed from their homes once more. why? because the zionists wanted to build new dorms for their students. here is one man from lifta telling the story about his home, a home that will soon find jews living in it in spite of the fact that he has papers attesting to the fact that it is legally his.

these are rights that have been violated continuously for sixty years. the un declaration of human rights shares a birthday with the palestinian nakba. and just as the declaration deserves to be implemented in a way that ensures it is carried out and that there are practical steps for those states that violate it, so too must palestinians be granted their rights and those who violate them must also suffer the consequences. otherwise international law will remain what it is: some quaint set of documents that look great on paper but are in reality meaningless.

i’m thinking about this too with respect to other violations of human rights by the zionist state. for instance, its detention of 11,000 political prisoners, including children. here is one such case about mohammad ahmad khalil balbol requires immediate action:

Mohammad was arrested from the family home in Bethlehem at 2:00 am on 25 July 2008. He was woken by the sound of an explosion as units of the Israeli army blew open the front door of the house.

Mohammad was immediately blindfolded and handcuffed by the soldiers and thrown on the floor. He was beaten four times on his back with the butt of a rifle, whilst a soldier shouted at him to tell them where a weapon was kept. He told the soldiers that he did not have a weapon. The soldier who beat him also threatened his family with abuse.

Mohammad was transferred to Etzion Interrogation and Detention Centre, near Bethlehem where he was kept for eight days without interrogation. After eight days, Mohammad was transferred to Ofer Prison where he was informed that he had been issued with a four month administrative detention order.

Mohammad was interrogated in Ofer Prison where his interrogator threatened him with a long prison term unless he became an informer for the Israeli authorities. Mohammad refused to become an informer and the interrogator then told him that he was accused of possessing weapons and belonging to Islamic Jihad, a banned organisation. The interrogator told him that there was a secret file on him.

On 6 August 2008, twelve days after being arrested, Mohammad saw his lawyer for the first time. He was taken before the administrative detention court in the Israeli military base at Ofer. The Israeli military judge ordered that Mohammad remain in administrative detention until 24 November 2008.

On 24 November 2008, Mohammad was issued with a second administrative detention order for six months. Mohammad is now likely to remain in prison until 24 May 2009. Mohammad has not been charged with any offence, or been given the benefit of a trial.

Background information

On 12 March 2008, Mohammad’s father was killed, along with three others, by an Israeli special unit in Bethlehem. The Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, investigated the circumstances of the killing and reported that in defiance of an Israeli High Court ruling, there was strong evidence to suggest that the operation was a targeted assassination.

Mohammad was then arrested by Israeli authorities on 16 April 2008 and taken to Mascobiyya Interrogation Centre and Prison in East Jerusalem (‘The Russian Compound”). He was interrogated and accused of being a member of Islamic Jihad but was released without charge on 7 May 2008, only to be arrested again on 25 July 2008.

Administrative detention

Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial and is often based on “secret evidence.” Israeli Military Order 1226 empowers military commanders to detain Palestinians, including children as young as 12, for up to six months if they have “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security require the detention.” The initial six month period can be extended by additional six-month periods indefinitely. This procedure denies the detainee the right to a fair trial and the ability to adequately challenge the basis of his or her detention.

There are currently at least 569 Palestinians being held by Israel without charge or trial in administrative detention, of which five are children, including two girls. For more information visit the DCI-Palestine website at Freedom Now.

Recommended action

Please send Urgent Appeals to the Israeli authorities urging them to:

* Immediately cease the practice of holding persons under the age of 18 in administrative detention; and

* Immediately and unconditionally release all persons currently held in administrative detention, or charge them with a recognisable criminal offence and promptly try them in a proper court of law with internationally accepted standards for a fair trial.

Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Street, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem, 91919, Israel
Fax: +972- 2-651 2631
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

Ehud Barak
Minister of Defence, Ministry of Defence,
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: +972 3 691 6940
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Justice, Fax: + 972 2 628 7757; + 972 2 628 8618

Attorney General, Fax: + 972 2 627 4481; + 972 2 628 5438; +972 2 530 3367

***Please inform DCI-Palestine if you receive any response to your appeals and quote the UA number at the top of this document – ria[at]

these are just a few reasons why it is important that the united nations take proactive steps to enforce the un declaration of human rights–not to mention its myriad resolutions that also go un-enforced. and why recent pressure from that body is welcomed. here is more pressure, though this seems to be far weaker than other such recent statements coming from that body:

The U.N. Human Rights Council called on Israel Tuesday to take nearly 100 measures, from lifting its blockade on Gaza to releasing Arab detainees.

The 47-member-state Council adopted its list of 99 recommendations by consensus at the end of a two-day review of Israel’s human rights record.

Under a new mechanism, known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the records of all United Nations member states are to be subjected to scrutiny every four years.

of course brockmann continues to be far stronger with respect to his rhetoric, but i still want to see some teeth behind what he says, some action to support what his words seem to promise. but today was yet another step in the right direction:

The President of the United Nations General Assembly tried to prevent Israel’s ambassador, Professor Gabriela Shalev, from speaking at a special commemorative plenary session marking 60 years since the UN adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, scheduled for Wednesday.

The General Assembly President, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, tried to cancel speeches that were to be given by representatives of the unofficial regional group known as “Western European and others,” after he learned that Israel’s ambassador was to represent the group as its rotating chairman.

equally important is the call to prosecute israelis for war crimes for the constant siege on gaza:

Palestinian legislator, head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege (PCAS), Jamal El Khodary, voiced support to the calls of UN expert, Professor Richard Falk, who called for immediate intervention to stop the ongoing Israeli violations in the Gaza Strip, and that Israeli political and military leaders, should be prosecuted in international courts for violating the international law and the Gaza siege.

Falk said that the International Criminal Court must investigate the situation in Gaza, and determine whether Israeli political and military leaders are should be convicted and prosecuted for violations of the international law.

In a press release on Wednesday, El Khodary said that the UN expert considered the Israeli polices parallel with “crimes against humanity”.

while this is certainly an important step in the right direction–if it comes to fruition–what i want to know is who will stop the israeli terrorist forces from their new promise to launch a full-scale invasion of gaza?

Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, stated on Wednesday that the Israeli army should carry a large-scaled military offensive in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for what she described as “the violation of the truce”.

The statements of Livni came during a meeting in Tel Aviv University on Tuesday morning. She also slammed the Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, as she said that Barak was calling for a truce while Hamas was firing homemade shells.

She claimed that this issue gives the impression that Israel recognizes Hamas.

Livni also said that Israel should not accept the Authority of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and should intensify its military operations in the coastal region.

She stated that when Israel accepted the truce, it wanted to create a temporary period of calm, and added that an extended truce or long term calm “harms the Israel strategic goal, empowers Hamas, and gives the impression that Israel recognizes the movement”.

On the ground, Israel already violated the truce, carried offensives, killed, wounded and kidnapped Palestinians, and kept the border crossings sealed in spite that the truce states that Israel should open the border terminals.

tellingly this is how the israelis mark the anniversary of the un declaration of human rights. i wonder what it is that israel’s propagandist was going to spin invasion as upholding human rights at the un…

tale of 2 nasras


well, not really. but there are two. one is the original one. the palestinian one. the other one is the colony built on top of nasra’s hill as zionist colonists always build on top of the hill so they have easier access to surveillance as well as offensive actions against palestinians.

nasra (also known as nazareth–you know, that town where jesus was from) is a town that is in a sort of valley/mountain area that is surrounded by mountains that lead into syria and lebanon if you keep driving north. this is where some of my friends’ families fled during an nakba in 1948, but compared to most areas far less palestinians fled nasra. but unlike a lot of areas in palestine this area as somewhat protected as david ben-gurion was worried about what the world’s christian community would say if they destroyed and expelled nasra. but most of the surrounding villages, of course, did face expulsion and destruction. many of those refugees fled to camps. others became internally displaced people in side 1948 palestine. many came to nasra. initially 20,000 internally displaced people (what the zionists called “present absentees”–don’t you just love their way with words?) fled from surrounding villages to nasra. some were able to return home some 7,000 found refuge in other villages nearby, and 5,000 remained in nasra.


one of the palestinians who was cut off from his nearby village, taha muhammad ‘ali, is a famous palestinian poet from saffuriyya. i saw signs for this village driving around today. his village is now a jewish colony called zipporia. here is one of his poems–“thrombosis in the veins of oil”–and like many of them it shows the steadfastness of survival:

When I was a child
I fell into the abyss
but didn’t die;
I drowned in the pond
when I was young,
but did not die;
and now, God help us—
one of my habits is running
into battalions of land mines
along the border,
as my songs
and the days of my youth
are dispersed:
here a flower,
there a scream;
and yet,
I do not die!

lower nasra is where i believe ‘ali still lives today. and it is also where my friend lives who i’ve come to visit. we are all staying at her grandma’s house which has a gorgeous view of the mountains and the valley. and this area is entirely palestinian. but my friend’s mother lives in nasra ilit (apparently ilit is the hebrew word for higher indicating their inclination to be above). this jewish population is not indigenous to the area and consists mostly of russian jews. it was established specifically to create a jewish presence in nasra. it kind of reminds me of those sniper towers looking over nablus. or the settlements surrounding nablus. the physicality of it is different, but it’s about domination all the same.


we spent the day at my friend’s mom’s house making ka’ak al eid (okay, well i was working/reading all day while my girlfriends all slaved in the kitchen). they made enough ka’ak to feed an army and the photographs here are of the process of their ka’ak making. and let me tell you it was delicious. as was the eid eve feast we had tonight of mafouf and kibbe that we later had at her grandparents’ house. but the living spaces and their differences are striking. at her mom’s house, for example, you see israeli terrorist soldiers walking home from “work” (read: terrorizing palestinians somewhere sometime today). you see jewish graffiti of stars of david scribbled on walls to mark their dominance. it doesn’t feel safe and it definitely feels different. it’s not like a settlement because there is more fluidity between the communities–the drive between houses is about five minutes–and obviously my friend’s family lives in both places. but one definitely feels safer than the other.


the ka’ak making took all day so this is mostly what we spent the day doing, talking, listening to music. it was a lovely afternoon. as we ate our eid eve feast the television was on in the background and we talked about the fact that there are 3 million people on hajj in mecca. imagine if each one only gave $1 zakat to gaza? or even better imagine if each one pressured their respective governments to do something about what is happening all over palestine? we also saw this tonight on al jazeera–a program called “lessons in conflict”. it is at once heart wrenching and infuriating. i recommend that you watch this and think about who you are affecting (yes you reader wherever you may be) by your complicity in the form of silence.

experiment in return

so i am loving watching these images on al jazeera of illegal israeli settlers being removed from their homes. i love watching this. it is a beautiful sight to see. but the problem is that these settlers are just going to be removed to some other part of palestine–albeit probably in 1948 palestine–where they will still be settlers. perhaps not regarded as “illegal’ by international law as most of the world regards those living in west bank cities like khalil. it would be better to move them back where they came from–to expel them. in any case, for now they’ve been “expelled” or “evicted” back to 1948 palestine:

Israeli riot police today dragged hundreds of militant Jewish settlers from a disputed house in the city of Hebron, in the first major such eviction on the West Bank for more than two years.

Security forces used teargas as they surrounded the three-storey property set on a hillside in a Palestinian district of Hebron. The settlers responded by throwing rocks and eggs.

It took the police about an hour to carry the more than 200 settlers from the house, each dragged away by teams of four officers. Around 20 people were injured, ambulance staff said, although most were not seriously hurt.


but what this report leaves out is that after they left the remaining illegal settlers–numbering in the thousands (see map above for demographics of illegal settlements in the west bank–who went on a rampage attacking palestinians violently until a couple of hours ago. in order to know this you must read palestinian media, apparently:

The evacuation touched off violent settler attacks across the West Bank.

Witnesses said that there are Palestinian families “who are besieged in their homes” that were set on fire by Israeli settlers, while the Israeli army prevented Palestinian medics from reaching the homes. Ten Palestinians were reported injured as a result of the army’s inaction.

Settlers have repeatedly attacked Palestinian homes in the city over the past few days. Prior to the evacuation, Israeli settlers fired randomly at Palestinian homes. Settlers set fire to two Palestinian homes and a store, later attacking a number of residents in the Wadi Hussein area of Hebron.

Haj Mohamad Abu Aisha, a resident of Tel Rumeida, said that settlers in the Ramaat Yesahi outpost chased children in the area and hurled stones at their homes. No injuries were reported there.

Mohamad Naser Ad-Din, a resident of the same area, said that dozens of settlers who were accompanied by the army attacked residents’ homes with tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets. Cases of inhalation injuries were reported.

A child identified as Amal Al-Muhtaseb sustained bruises, along with her father, Abed-Ar Ra’uf, when they were attacked by settlers near the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque. Settlers also set fire to a Palestinian fire vehicle that was on the scene in Hebron.

illegal settlers also decided to go on a rampage and attack palestinians near nablus tonight. elsewhere they continued their rampage in other ways:

Settlers graffitied racist slogans about Islam and the Muslim Prophet Mohammad on buildings in the West Bank villages of Azzun, An-Nabi Elyas, Kafr Laqif, Jinsafut, Immatin and Al-Funduq east of Qalqilia on Thursday.

an op-ed in ha’aretz today named this what it is: jewish terrorism.

It is difficult to fathom the way Israeli politics and society were seduced into turning a blind eye toward the growing Jewish terrorism. Ever since the heads of the Jewish underground were released as part of a shady deal, this trend, which was given the deceptive term “wayward weeds,” has continued. Under the hypocritical umbrella of “national unity” and the self-righteous threat of “a rift in the nation,” the rampaging has become the norm, a daily routine. The settlers utter profanities, spit, beat, sow ruin and destruction, while the army turns a blind eye in the best-case scenario and takes part in the worst.

while certainly the illegal settler violence is absolutely jewish terrorism, what the problem is with such naming is that it is done in ways that obfuscate the state terrorism of the israeli military, which also occurs on a daily basis. this, too, is terrorism. it’s state terrorism, but it is terrorism nonetheless. moreover, it makes a distinction between those who are called “settlers” and those who are not called settlers. but all israelis are settlers. they have colonized and continue to colonize palestine. this is settler colonialism like any other.

my dear friend sami last week talked to me about al kurd family in al quds. he feels that this should be the source of a new struggle here. for him it is like many people i know from al quds–they feel like they are forgotten in this struggle. like al quds is forgotten–particularly the people because it is looked at as a holy space rather than a place where real people live, where real people are from, where real people should be allowed to return to. but for me it isn’t and it shouldn’t be about al quds. i think that this struggle that is ongoing, the struggle of the al kurd family, should be used as symbolic of all palestinians not only in gaza and the west bank, but also of those in 1948 who face similar issues all the time with respect to not being allowed to build, to move, to own property in their own land. here is recent news about the al kurd family:

The Kurd family is again making news after being forcibly expelled from their home in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Now Um Kamal Al Kurd intends to return to her original home in West Jerusalem with a massive nonviolent action planned for Thursday.

Last month the family moved to a tent nearby which Israeli forces destroyed three times. It became a beacon of popular resistance with hundreds of people sitting-in in solidarity.

The father, Abu Kamal, died in a Jerusalem hospital after being evicted from the home he lived in since the 1950s when Jordan and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency created the neighborhood housing. The Kurd family was among thousands of East Jerusalem residents driven from their West Jerusalem homes by Zionists in 1948.

Um Kamal is working to return to her original home in West Jerusalem with the support of a group of activists from civil society and human rights organizations. On Thursday the Coalition for Jerusalem will demand her full return.

Today Um Kamal said that she has been expelled twice, and as such will return to her original home. The Coalition for Jerusalem wrote in a statement Wednesday, “Um Kamal Al Kurd was expelled by the Israeli occupying authorities for the second time at dawn on Thursday, 9 November 2008. The Israeli occupying forces were heavily armed and surrounded the Kurd family home in Sheikh Jarrah. They expelled the family from their home and this is the second time to expel the entire family. The first time was in 1948.”

The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood houses were built by the Jordan authority and the UNRWA to accommodate until return the 28 families who were taken from their homes in 1948. Among them are original residents of Jaffa, Ramle and West Jerusalem. Um Kamal Al Kurd says she will no longer wait for the implementation of United Nations Resolution 194, the Right of Return. She will go home now.

there is a petition you can sign to support the al kurd family on a website that has been named, appropriately, “thou shalt not steal.” and what is important, i think, about this solidarity for the al kurd family returning to the part of al quds that they originally come from is that is sets a precedent for the right of return. this is key. but i think it should be done with the mindset that we want this to be an action to be emulated by all palestinians, not just to benefit those in al quds.

the same is true for people in gaza, so many of whom are refugees. who are about to welcome eid al adha with no cooking gas. who are apparently only allowed to have 40 more trucks of goods inside gaza after days of closure. and now the banks have shut down because money seems to be forbidden as well. sameh habeeb has a beautiful piece in electronic intifada today describing what this feels like in gaza:

This writer asked an old friend of his, a young mother named Um Muhammad Abu Ouf, how her family has been affected by the siege. As darkness descended upon Gaza City’s Omar al-Muktar Street, she replied, “The siege has become a daily nightmare, day and night. Electricity cuts off and that frightens my 11-month-old infant. It makes conditions unsafe for him. Further, I’m trying to get some fortified food for him. I went to many stores and shops but in vain. I could not find any food nor necessary supplies for my son as there is a shortage of a lot of the basic products needed to care for infants, such as milk, diapers and so forth.”

Meanwhile, Nahed Deeb, who feared that famine looms near, was similarly frustrated: “We are slowly dying and no one is taking action. I lost my work eight years ago and I’m dependent on irregular aid. This is applicable to hundreds of thousands in normal circumstances. Nevertheless, poor people like me are no longer getting any kind of support.”

of course some people are trying to take action, but the zionist regime won’t allow ships in any longer, it would seem. though new ships are on their way and insha’allah they will be allowed in. fortunately, the united nations security council is taking up the issue of the zionists not allowing the libyan ship into gaza.

AND below you will find a very important petition to sign and send to the united nations to encourage them to act on the important naming of israel as an apartheid state and to call for official boycott, sanctions, and divestment. hopefully kicking israel out of the united nations for its hundreds of violations will shortly follow.

on history; or seeing the big picture

Yesterday I woke up early so that Saed and I could get to Ramallah before the Muwatin conference began. We had to leave extra early because the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) won’t let him drive through Huwara checkpoint, so we had to go at least 30 minutes in the opposite direction before we could cut back down to the main road to Ramallah. Fortunately because it was a Friday morning we were able to make it on time.

The Muwatin annual conference this year explored the theme of “Critical Readings in the History of the Palestinian National Struggle.” Many of the speakers were historians or those commenting on history in relation to the media or politics. It was good for me to attend this conference as the chapter of my book that I’m working on now deals with Palestinian history and as a result I’ve been constantly thinking about history in terms of methodology, strategy. Over the past two years my sense of the role history plays in my book has shifted. Initially it was broad. Later it became focused on the two touchstones of an nakba and haq al awda. At first I imagined that for my American audience utilizing solely the work of Israeli historians like Ilan Pappe would be more effective in terms of getting Americans to listen. But the writings of friends, whose work I respect deeply, cautioned me that to use only the history of the oppressors to tell the story of the oppressed is racist. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how right they are. Indeed, my whole book project on some level speaks to that as I’m arguing for supplanting the very narrow Zionist curriculum in the U.S. with a curriculum about Palestinians that would teach Americans about an nakba and al awda. I began to imagine growing up learning about Nazi Germany solely from the point of view of Adolf Hitler or of Nazis. Or I thought about what it would mean to learn about slavery only from the point of view of white slave owners. The facts, the truth, the narrative is, of course, quite different when you think about it in these ways. But yet another aspect of methodology emerged for me over the past month as friends shared with me a problem in the field of history more generally: the use of only English (or other European language) sources. My reliance upon Palestinian scholars like Rashid Khalidi, Lila Abu-Lughod, Joseph Massad, Yazid Sayigh, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, Walid Khalidi, Naseer Aruri, and Nur Masalha is insufficient. There are many Palestinian scholars whose work is written in Arabic and these sources are ignored by scholars on the subject. Writing, thinking, re-writing, re-thinking has been a process. As indeed the writing of history should be more generally. A constant questioning, wondering, searching, exploring. At the same time, and on another level, living here forces me to think about the consequences of history every day as I watch in amazement the horrors of what it means for history to repeat itself in the short and long term.

Such questions emerged at the Muwatin conference yesterday. The first speaker was Rashid Khalidi who essentially gave a talk based on the fourth chapter of his book The Iron Cage. He mentioned that it will be published in Arabic in a few months. I suspect many people in the audience have not read the English version given the discussion throughout the course of the day. Even though I’ve read it it was interesting to hear the discussion of it in this different context. Khalidi framed his talk, which opened the conference and therefore addressed an important theme of the conference, which is related to the need for us to heed the lessons of history. One of the ways one achieves these lessons is by narrating a history that includes criticism, introspection, comparison. And Khalidi’s book does all of these things really well. Indeed, his entire methodology embeds these practices into his examination of Palestinian history. For one thing he examines this history by comparing it to the histories of Arab nations to compare Palestinian society at different stages in relation to daily life as well as responses to European colonialism. Khalidi explains that to understand the harm done to Palestinians historically and to achieve a just solution one has to understand this history in its proper context:

However, achieving any serious understanding of this poignant conflict, which has for decades rent the Middle East and has had such a wide-reaching political and moral impact outside it, requires a broad comprehension of Palestinian history in its own terms, and in its own context, which includes, but cannot be subsumed by or subordinated to Jewish and Israeli history. (xxix-xxx)

And the work that Khalidi–as well as most of the speakers yesterday–shared highlights this methodological strategy. Khalidi spoke about resistance in the context of the Palestinian revolt of 1936-1939. He related it to later resistance contexts, including Palestinian resistance from Lebanon in the 1970s. Through this lecture he theorized about the nature of history and how it gets told. There is a tendency–I would argue for every nation–to render its history into the realm of hyperbole, especially when one deals with leaders; nations are so rarely wiling to question this mythologizing work. But the issue of Palestinian history is still so much more complicated as there is still no master narrative. There are bits and pieces of it, but far too many lacuna.

Another speaker at the conference was Nadim Rouhana who is a Palestinian from 1948 Palestine. He’s currently working on a book on right of return in Israeli discourse. Yesterday he spoke about history in relation to strategy for the future. For instance, he discussed this issue of whether or not Jews constitute a religion or a ethnic group, but of course either way neither category allows them to steal and colonize someone else’s land (for the record Judaism is a religion like any other; they are not an ethnic group and like every other religion there are people from many other ethnic groups who make up this religious group as a result of conversion). As a proponent of a one-state solution, Rouhana talked about strategy involved in how a one state solution might emerge given the existence of Zionist Jews. What does one do with them? Indeed, an important question especially given that Zionism is so deeply enmeshed in the project of ethnic cleansing; it has no relationship to any sort of anti-colonial or anti-imperial power structure that it fought against Rouhana asserted. And this ethnic cleansing has continued in Palestine for 60 years. In a critique of Bush’s failed Annapolis project Rouhana raises some very important questions about Palestinians from 1948 who get left out of the process:

We are referred to by leading Israeli politicians as a “demographic problem.” In response, many in Israel, including the deputy prime minister, are proposing land swaps: Palestinian land in the occupied territories with Israeli settlers on it would fall under Israel’s sovereignty, while land in Israel with Palestinian citizens would fall under Palestinian authority.

This may seem like an even trade. But there is one problem: no one asked us what we think of this solution. Imagine the hue and cry were a prominent American politician to propose redrawing the map of the United States so as to exclude as many Mexican-Americans as possible, for the explicit purpose of preserving white political power. Such a demagogue would rightly be denounced as a bigot. Yet this sort of hyper-segregation and ethnic supremacy is precisely what Israeli and American officials are considering for many Palestinian citizens of Israel — and hoping to coerce Palestinian leaders into accepting.

Looking across the Green Line, we realize that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has no mandate to negotiate a deal that will affect our future. We did not elect him. Why would we give up the rights we have battled to secure in our homeland to live inside an embryonic Palestine that we fear will be more like a bantustan than a sovereign state? Even if we put aside our attachment to our homeland, Israel has crushed the West Bank economy–to say nothing of Gaza’s–and imprisoned its people behind a barrier. There is little allure to life in such grim circumstances, especially since there is the real prospect of further Israeli sanctions, which could make a bad situation worse.

Rouhana raises not only interesting practical concerns, but also historical concerns. A great deal of Palestinian history is based upon particular areas in historic 1948 Palestine: Haifa, Yaffa, Akka, the Jaleel, and the half of Al Quds that is occupied. Certainly there is historic work on places like Nablus but in English so much of the writing focuses on these other areas. Certainly this is related to the fact that many of the Palestinian scholars who produce this important work come from these spaces that they or their family members were expelled from in 1948.

Some of what Rouhana discusses in the piece above makes me think about Jonathan Cook’s new book, Disappearing Palestine. I remembered this book when I woke up today. Especially its title because yesterday in what I think was the most provocative and compelling paper came from Esmail Nashif whose talk was entitled “History of Resistance and the Need to Resist History,” but the paper actually focused on the phenomenon of disappearance. When I first heard him use this word I thought immediately of the disappeared from Argentina. Especially because he was arguing that disappearance be used as a resistance strategy. It was hard to wrap my head around at first. I also thought of the Palestinian disappeared–those kidnapped from their homes every night who wind up in Israeli jails. But of course, he wasn’t arguing for this sort of disappearance. He was thinking about disappearance on a number of levels. Influenced by Gramsci and rejecting Hegel’s notion of the master/slave dialectic, he rejects this idea of Palestinians viewing themsleves in the role of the victim. And he sees much of the Palestinian resistance as re-action to various actions by the Zionist state. For Nashif disappearance is a way to break out of this cycle in which Palestinians become a shadow of the image of the slave, a shadow of neoliberalism. This shadow is related to how he sees Israelis trying to be like the Germans and Palestinians trying to be like the Israelis. To resist being a slave, to resist defining oneself in relation to the Other, the industry of the Other, to break these cycles. The context for this is in relation to the underground of the resistance movement when Palestinians disappear and then reappear. This gives Palestinians agency. To disappear and the figure out precisely how one re-appears.

Those who must reappear if we are to learn from history, to use history in a way that corrects injustices are, of course, Palestinian refugees. The one who spoke most lucidly about this subject yesterday was Musa Budeiri. And his talk made the most clear cut connections between the aspects of history that one must use to learn from the problems of history. Budeiri himself is a man who is subjected to the fact that not learning from history enables the Zionist state to continue its practices of ethnic cleansing by its process of rendering people illegal, taking their identity cards away, thus forcing them to be removed, ethnically cleansed from their homes:

However between May and August 1999, a serious incident happened: the Ministry of Interior of the Barak government withdrew the Identity Document of Musa Budeiri, a director of the Center of International Relations in Al-Quds University and a resident of East Jerusalem. Native of Jerusalem, his family has lived there for hundreds of years, under Ottoman, British and Jordanian rule. He was given a tourist visa, valid for four weeks, and was told that he would have to leave Jerusalem by August 22 — Musa Budeiri is one of thousands of other Palestinians in a similar situation. They all have the same problem: they are subject to the threat of being turned into ‘tourists’ in their birthplace. 2,200 Jerusalem ID cards of families (roughly 8,800 individuals) were confiscated between 1996 and May 1999 (according to the Israeli ministry of Interior)…

Budeiri argued about some of the problems with writing Palestinian history: the fact that much of the historical records are maintained in British and Israeli archives. That even many of the things one counts as Palestinian from the 1920s-1940s are actually inventions of British colonial institutions: money, passports, radio, newspapers, economy, education. He argues that the sort of narrative that has been used thus far to tell the story of Palestinian people is one that continues to give Palestinian elites legitimacy. He argues that we must look at the people in a Howard Zinn sort of fashion. For instance, if we want to talk about resistance, we need to be truthful about where it originated: Palestinian refugee camps. The idea of resistance did not start in the West Bank and Gaza or even 1948 in the 1960s. It started outside. The problem with not making this aspect of history central, and instead making a Palestinian history about the West Bank and Gaza, or even 1948, the centerpiece is that it gives legitimacy to the Palestinian Authority (PA). In turn, this emboldens the PA to sell away Palestinian refugees’ right of return in Oslo and all other agreements and negotiations since (perhaps the PA should be reminded of the conditions of Palestinians in Lebanon to move them to thinking differently?). The most important element of this line of thinking is that it copies the Zionist logic (a bit of an oxymoron, I know) who argue that all problems related to Palestinians stem from what happened in 1967. Zionists and their American and European allies use the word “occupation” to mean the West Bank and Gaza. They never use it as it is more accurately used, which is to mean all of 1948 Palestine. When I say occupation, for instance, I mean every inch of historical Palestine. But when the Zionists and their allies use this word and talk about 1967 borders they come from a point of view that suggests everything was okay before 1967 and that changing these borders to 1967 will solve all the problems. It won’t. And the arguments that emerged throughout the day yesterday–people wanting to defend this leader or that leader in history takes away from the overall point of the uses of history. It’s striking to see how people get so offended by what they deem to be borderline slander because Husseini or Arafat get critiqued for mistakes they made. I mean, can one learn from history if one does not look honestly at the mistakes of history–whether a few years ago or many decades ago?

What we need to return to is the formula that was born in the camps through culture and armed resistance that equated liberation of all historic Palestine with the right of return. This is the formula for justice. And here is what Budeiri himself argues with respect to rectifying history:

Events overcame the British Empire’s attempts to maintain its hold in Palestine. Partition was its retreat position. But Palestine was a tiny and distant asset, expendable in the service of the larger interests of the British Empire. Israel, a colonial warrior state assuming the role of regional power in an environment it deems dangerous and hostile, has transformed the region, and in doing so has transformed itself as well. While pursuing the path of ethnic cleansing, when and where it is possible, it cannot turn back whatever the cost. The only salvation for Israelis and Palestinians is for new forms of struggle that are based not on historical nostalgia or worn-out recipes, but on the realization that peace and a necessary modicum of justice can only come about on the basis of a shared homeland. The longer this notion takes to take hold, the costlier it is going to be. Partition was not a solution then and cannot be one now.

A question in relation to all of these historical problems and how to solve this that continues to permeate my thinking, especially when looking at the damage that normalization with Israelis causes Palestinians at every level, is this: Why is it that Palestinians must “negotiate” for what is rightfully, legally theirs? If someone were to steal my purse and I found it, I would take it back. It belongs to me. Palestine belongs to Palestinians. It’s not rocket science. It’s pretty simple and there is an historical record consisting of a variety of sources from land deeds to keys to UN resolutions. There are various modes of resistance that can be used to create this change. We can learn from other histories as well. For instance, I showed my students the film Amandla the other day, which is a film about the ways in which South Africans used music as an element of their resistance. The film is historical to be sure: it shows how music evolved from various modes of resistance, some of which was passive, some of which was religious, some of which was armed. This history is important, I think, as it is depicted in the film because it tells the story from the point of view of the people in a variety of contexts. Likewise, I kept thinking about Howard Zinn yesterday and how his method of narrating history through the voices of the people really revolutionized American history, especially as it told the stories of various marginalized groups and their various methods of resistance against the U.S. government’s colonialism and racism. There is so much Palestinian oral history already collected and it would be an amazing resource for Palestinians to begin a similar process here, I think. Too, one of the main issues people critiqued yesterday is the way that so much Palestinian history focuses on elites and some of their papers were challenging this by example and asking others to follow. I also think that one of the values of Zinn’s books is that it teaches us to see parallels from each struggle, to learn from those struggles, to be able to use what worked and understand why other methods failed. One thing I found striking yesterday: not one person mentioned the important work of Salman Abu Sitta. This is a man who understands how to use history to effectively seek justice for Palestinians. His goal of creating a new PLO that represents all Palestinians around the globe is essential and if we’re going to be talking about how to best use Palestinian history, I do believe his work must be a component of that narrative.

All of this food for thought was quite important in getting me energized with respect to thinking about my own work, its use value, and the struggle more generally. But the highlight of my day yesterday, I must say, was the fact that my dear friend Sami showed up to the conference and I got to spend the day with him. At lunch I was so humbled and honored that I not only got to catch up with Sami, but that I was able to break bread with Hossam Khoder, one of the Palestinian political prisoners who was released back in August. I blogged about attending the celebration of his release back in August, where I posted photographs of him as well. It is difficult to express how amazing it was to be sitting there among several former prisoners and seeing them eating in relative freedom (as free as one can be here), including my friend Sami who was actually in prison with Hossam.

At the end of the conference I was able to catch a ride back with some Nabulsis who were not staying for the second day as Saed did. We had such a lovely chat in the car on the way home and when we reached downtown Nablus I was invited out for knafe and more thought-provoking discussion with a journalist who worked until a few months ago, but the Zionist regime shut down the television station where he had worked for many years. So many stories like this of censorship, of imprisonment, of resistance. Stories that must be written down–not so much to create a master narrative. But I would hope for a people’s history of Palestine. One that moves people to remember, to resist, and to take back what is theirs. To break out of this cycle that takes Palestinians nowhere. To realize that normalization means the death of resistance, of justice.

american soldiers in palestine

Palestinian home in Bisan, 1948 Palestine, occupied by Israeli Jews
Palestinian home in Bisan, 1948 Palestine, occupied by Israeli Jews
I made it back home to Nablus today, through the Sheikh Hussein Bridge. This bridge is much quieter than Malak Hussein in the south as it is mostly for tourists. I was pleasantly surprised that most of my traveling companions today were not tourists, however. Most of them were Palestinians from 1948. Many of them were from Akka. I had a lovely chat with one woman who was 1 1/2 years old during an nakba. This woman, as well as the others I spoke with, were all very happy about the resistance emerging in 1948 Palestine. They spoke with joy when they talked about finally taking to the streets after decades of oppression they experience ever day, oppression that is rarely represented as it is not as visible as that in the West Bank and Gaza. It’s not something you can capture with a camera.

border checkpoint between 1948 Palestine and the West Bank
border checkpoint between 1948 Palestine and the West Bank
Everyone else made it through the bridge very quickly, but I was left by myself–not a pleasant or safe feeling. They wanted to look through all of my luggage. Normally this would not have been a tremendous ordeal, but today my mousse decided to explode in my suitcase and even though it was wrapped in a plastic bag, it drenched all of my books. So I had to spend time wiping them off. Already the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) were harassing me about my books. They wanted to know why I needed so many books, what these books were for, why I was reading such books (I had Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, Jonathan Cook, Ali Abunimah, Moutafa Bayoumi, Angela Davis, and Randall Robinson books in that bag). It must be difficult for Israelis to imagine someone having books given that they are clearly extraordinarily stupid. I’ll give another example of their stupidity: when I finally got to the booth where one gets a visa I was asked more questions, this time about what I am doing in “Israel” and if I have ever been to any Arab countries. And then she named them: Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. Of course, I said no, and she stamped my passport. But then I said: “Iran is not an Arab country.” And she said, “well in Israel it is.” I said, no Iranians don’t speak Arabic, they speak Farsi. They are Persian, not Arab.” She looked very confused. Maybe she’s also American.

Palestinian cucumber farm
Palestinian cucumber farm
I left the bridge and looked for my ride, but because the questioning and searching took so long he left. I found another driver, but it took me a while to find one who was Palestinian. I did, and he too is from Akka. The Israeli colonist taxi drivers couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t get in their cars. We drove through Bisan again and I got another shot (see photo above) of a Palestinian home now occupied by Israeli Jews as no Palestinians live there. They are among the 7.2 million Palestinian refugees forcibly removed from their homes in 1948. They live in refugee camps. They are waiting for their right to return. We drove through the “border” checkpoint, otherwise known as the 1967 Green Line (photo above), and then met up with my second driver from Nablus who was waiting for me. He was waiting beside a Palestinian cucumber farm and both drivers walked over and picked a few cucumbers for us to eat. I’ve never had such delicious or such fresh cucumbers in my life (see photos).

fresh, yummy Palestinian cucumbers
fresh, yummy Palestinian cucumbers
We got in the car and started driving towards Nablus and I managed to get a shot this time of one of the illegal Israeli settler farms with barbed wire. This is in sharp contrast to the open, free farms owned by Palestinians. Of course all the farms are technically owned by Palestinians, but the illegal Israeli settlers need the barbed wire because their farms and land is stolen.

illegal Israeli settler farm imprisoned with barbed wire
illegal Israeli settler farm imprisoned with barbed wire
We arrived at the first main checkpoint on the way to Nablus, which is called Hamra Checkpoint. It was quiet, given that it is Friday, and apparently it was lunch time as the ITF were busy eating instead of coming over to check our IDs and let us pass. They finally came over and the soldier turned out to be American. When he saw my passport he said it is forbidden for me to pass. I told him I live in Nablus and that this is the way for me to go home. I showed him my university ID card, too, and he took my papers to call the commander. After making us wait he said no, too. I asked this American Israeli soldier how he would like it if he was told he could not go home. He got very angry and made us leave. But really: do you know how infuriating it is to have a soldier who is obviously American telling me I can’t go home? I have been asked to come here by Palestinians. He is here in the role of thief and murderer and keeping people, mostly Palestinians, from moving freely in their own land. The injustice of this enraged me. But what is worse is that he gave me a reason why he couldn’t let me enter. He said, “we can’t guarantee your safety if you enter.” Oh really? Why might that be? Might that be because ITF like him enter in a murderous rage killing and kidnapping Palestinians in Nablus every night? I told him that if my safety is at risk he and his ilk are the only reasons.

Hamra Checkpoint, Israeli Terrorist Soldiers eating lunch
Hamra Checkpoint, Israeli Terrorist Soldiers eating lunch
We had to then drive the long way around to Huwara checkpoint–the southern entrance point of Nablus (we were at the northern point). We drove through yet another checkpoint at the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Efraim. Here too seemed to be the lunch break though it was another 30 minutes later. So all the Palestinian cars had to wait. When we drove up, the ITF picked up his gun, aimed it at us, and then held it there with his finger on the trigger until we pulled up. Here I got more questioning from yet another American Israeli soldier: “why do you want to go to Nablus?” “why would you want to live in Nablus of all places?” Asinine questions, which I would have liked to answer: because I like living in a city where in my normal daytime activities I don’t have to see a single Israeli.

American Israeli soldier who wouldn't let me pass Hamra Checkpoint
American Israeli soldier who wouldn't let me pass Hamra Checkpoint
We drove around the mountains and cut back up to Huwara checkpoint and just as we pulled up something was going down, but I’m not sure what. The checkpoint was closed. Soldiers were running around everywhere. It must not have been something too major, though, because about 30 minutes later it reopened. It’s amazing that I managed to get across the bridge, but was not able to get through a checkpoint to take me to my house in the simplest, most direct way. Instead, I spent an extra two hours in the car, and an extra 100 shekels driving around because an American Jew gets to decide who gets to go to a Palestinian city. This is one of the infuriating aspects of living in Palestine. This is one of the reasons that I don’t like leaving Nablus very much so as to avoid these situations. Of course, in the end this was really just an annoyance for me; had I been Palestinian all of this would have been far worse and is far worse every single day.

illegal Israeli settlement Beit Efraim
illegal Israeli settlement Beit Efraim

a little drive through some farmlands

Palestinian farm north of Nablus
Palestinian farm north of Nablus
Today felt like the first day of winter. I woke up and the sky was such a beautiful, periwinkle, moody color. The clouds were so rich and full of rain that they took up all the space around Nablus as they poured a soft rain into the streets. I love mornings like this, especially early in the morning before everyone wakes up, when the streets are still quiet. This is when my taxi came to get me to take me half way to the Sheikh Hussein Bridge in northern 1948 Palestine so I could cross into Jordan. It turns out my driver’s daughter is a student in the English department at An Najah, though she’s not in any of my classes. On the way out of Nablus he wanted to drive me by his house so we could get some tea for the road.

Palestinian farms north of Nablus
Palestinian farms north of Nablus

I started thinking about his kindness, his generosity with this simple gesture and it made me think about some comments I heard earlier this week from a student that has disturbed me since. I haven’t been able to write it down, let alone really say it out loud because it has bothered me so much. But I’m going to do it now because the racism emanating from the U.S. and from the Zionist state this last week has escalated and I do not like the way it spills over into Palestine. This is one export they should definitely keep to themselves. Anyway, the word that was said was “animal” and it was used to describe Palestinian refugees. I don’t think she knew entirely the implications of that word, or maybe she did. We had a long talk about it, but I still don’t think she understood. She kept trying to qualify, to back step. But the more she did the more I heard her sounding like a privileged white girl from an American suburb afraid of the inner city ghetto because it’s filled with Brown folks. The impetus is the same. But here it feels worse, oh so much worse. The political divisions among various Palestinian factions dominate the headlines. But what really disturbs me most are the divisions I hear from my students based on space–whether one is from a village, a refugee camp, a city. And then inside those spaces it is divided again this time by family name. All of this brings me back to the kindness of the driver. I find myself sometimes uncomfortable around this sort of expression of kindness because I really wonder if I am only privy to it because of my white skin, my privilege as a foreigner. Yet another dynamic courtesy of racism.

illegal Israeli checkpoint north of Nablus on way to 1948
illegal Israeli checkpoint north of Nablus on way to 1948

In any case, I had a lovely drive through a small, curvy, windy road headed north out of Nablus. I took these photographs of these beautiful farms all dotted along the landscape. There were beautiful streams and wadis which were obviously rich with water and they were yielding gorgeous crops. The farmers were out, working their land at this early hour. Their farms were open and wide on both sides of the so-called Green Line border. Palestinians trying to live as free as they can on their land as they work to feed the people of Palestine, or at least those who respect their hard labor enough to understand why their hard work is worth rewarding while those agriculture products coming from the Zionists are not.

Palestinians farming in 1948
Palestinians farming in 1948

These farmers pictured above from 1948 Palestine, on the other side of the border, were also similarly working their land. But what I was struck by, though I was not quick enough to photograph, is that the Zionist farms are surrounded by barbed wire. Everything about their lives imprisons them while they imprison Palestinians. They even have to jail their food. I took this last photograph of Palestinians farming as I changed taxis. My driver could only take me so far as his license plates won’t allow him to drive on the Jewish-only roads or into 1948 Palestine. So he made arrangements for me to have a man from Nasra meet us on the side of the road and he drove me to the bridge.

a lone Palestinian home in Bisan, 1948 Palestine
a lone Palestinian home in Bisan, 1948 Palestine

We drove through the Palestinian village Bisan, which the Zionists erased with some new name, which I forget. I found this one Palestinian house, pictured above, though mostly they were the usual Zionist architectural eye-sore structure that resembles American subdivisions: where all the houses look the same, all red roofs, all same shape. But of course erasing Palestinian villages and homes wouldn’t be complete if America’s McDonald’s didn’t also occupy that space too.

McDonald's replacing Palestinian homes in Bisan, 1948 Palestine
McDonald's replacing Palestinian homes in Bisan, 1948 Palestine

The Sheikh Hussein bridge was very close to Bisan. It was very quiet experience as opposed to the Malak Hussein bridge, which I much prefer. I did not like being among foreigners whose politics are likely questionable given the proximity to 1948, to Israeli tourists coming to Jordan. It did not feel safe among such people. No Palestinians around anywhere. Though I did watch the truck drivers waiting in the middle of the bridge (see below) waiting to pass under the Israeli Terrorist Forces’ watch tower. I wonder how long they have waited or will wait. I wonder how much food will rot while they are waiting.

goods blocked at the Jordanian border under watchful Israeli terrorist eyes
goods blocked at the Jordanian border under watchful Israeli terrorist eyes

I managed to get to Amman at a good hour enabling me to run errands and pick up things I haven’t been able to get for the last couple of months given that I haven’t found a non-Israeli version of them yet. I was struck by how mcuh of Amman has started looking like Beirut. Lots of shops and restaurants here that one sees in Beirut: Vero Modo, Cafe Najjar, Za’atar w’ Zeit, Promod. Not all of them are Lebanese, but they are all ubiquitous in Lebanon. I started wondering if perhaps the Jordanians are trying to become like the Lebanese. But I think they are getting it wrong. There are many amazing things about Lebanon, but the most beautiful pieces of Lebanon have yet to be replicated here in Jordan. One of those things is, of course, the resistance. A real resistance. Another is anti-normalization with the Zionist state. It would be far better to see Jordanians following that path than the one of this mindless consumption and consumerism. That is not Lebanon at its best.