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

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

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

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

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

here are the audio files i recorded:

listen to suheir hammad’s gaza poems

listen to suheir hammad’s “break is this”

listen to suheir hammad’s breaking poems

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

khalil sakakini center in ramallah
khalil sakakini center in ramallah

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

سهير حماد

غزة

ترجمة محمد خليل

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

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

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

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

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

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

هنا ظمئ يسرق الحياة
هنا جوع شتاء داخل شتاء

على الدعض أن يمرترا ليئتوا دالخلاص
جئت لنهاية زمن دائما موجود

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

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

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

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

معجزة عظيمة هنا
الأحياء يموتون والمونى يحيون

عيد الأضواء
شريط أرض تشتعل به الحرائق
البحر مرآة النار

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

prisoners (of colonizers & collaborators alike)

i was rather shocked when this article by tim mcgirk from time magazine came across my news reader yesterday. it is a story about palestinian political prisoners through the vantage point of his family members left behind and the difficulty his young daughters have when visiting him in prison. here is how it begins:

Spending time with her dad requires that 6-year-old Jinan undertake a bizarre and arduous odyssey. Usually she travels alone, but last Monday, the Palestinian girl with the rosebud smile and bouncing energy was accompanied by her younger sisters Dania, 4, and Noor, 2, on the journey to the Israeli prison that holds her father.

At home in the beleaguered West Bank town of Qalqilya, as her mother dresses her before dawn in an almond-green blouse and jeans, Jinan asks the same question she always does: “Mommy, why does Daddy have to sleep on the Israeli side?” And her mother Salam Nazal comforts her by saying, “Because that’s where the best Palestinian men go to sleep, and your father is one of them.” The town, which has elected a Hamas mayor, is known as a center of Palestinian militancy, and Israeli security forces conduct raids there on average five times a week.

Salam cannot accompany her daughters because she is on an Israeli security watch list, although she has never learned why she’s on it. Her immediate family lives in Jordan, so she must put the girls on a bus bound for Chattah-Gilboa prison inside Israel and hope that one of the many Palestinian women on board will help Jinan wrangle her sisters. “I’m so worried about having them go without me,” says Salam, as she hoists her girls onto the bus, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). “But what can I do? This is their only chance to see their father.”

Ali Nazal, 35, who sold clothes from a cart in the streets, is one of more than 10,300 Palestinian detainees currently inside Israeli prisons. Although he has yet to be tried, Nazal has been behind bars for the past two years. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of possessing weapons and harboring a fugitive — charges the family insists are based on false evidence from anonymous informers working for the Israeli security services. Salam says no weapons were found in their home but says the Israeli military demolished it anyway. The Israelis maintain that Ali was an active member of a militant organization and part of a cell that had been planning a terrorist attack.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Ali and his fellow detainees should never have been transferred to prisons outside the occupied territories. But since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began in June 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have passed through Israeli jails. Nearly every Palestinian family has someone who was locked up in Israel at some point. Prison has become a rite of passage for rebellious teens and, for families seeking to visit detained loved ones, a nightmare of permits, checkpoints and body searches. It’s not an easy journey for an adult, much less three unaccompanied tots carrying their lunch in a Barbie backpack.

my dear friend nora barrows-friedman did a similar story about amani khader a few years ago on flashpoints. amani is the daughter of husam khader, who was recently released from prison (last august). you can listen to her interview by clicking this link. amani describes similar hurdles she had to endure when she went to visit her father in prison and she reads one of her amazing rap songs at the end of interview. i have a special affection for amani because i’ve been tutoring her in balata refugee camp this year. she is one of the brightest and most beautiful people i’ve ever met. i know that if she were at my university now she would surpass even the seniors in college, although she is only a senior in high school. clearly she gets much of this genius from her father, husam, who i was very pleased to read made an important statement that was reported in ma’an news today:

A high-ranking Fatah official on Thursday proposed holding presidential and legislative elections as an alternative to the “useless” Cairo dialogue so that Palestinians can choose between a program led by Fatah and resistance agenda claimed by Hamas but which it “does not practice.”

Husam Khader, a Fatah legislator within the Palestinian Legislative Council, said during a visit to Ma’an News Agency in the West Bank city of Bethlehem that “without agreeing on a decent election program between Fatah and Hamas that will specify the future of the Palestinians, these elections will not be held and the state of division that is supported by western parties and Israel will deepen.”

“Palestinians are qualified more than others for such a situation since there is a geographical barrier between the West Bank and Gaza, which is the [Israeli] occupation,” he added.

Concerning Palestinian President Mahmoud Abass upcoming visit to the United States, Khader downplayed the visit, saying that it will not lead to anything because “the US administration will just assure the promises of previous administrations toward a two-state solution.”

He demanded that President Abbas present a draft to US President Barack Obama dismantling the Palestinian Authority in exchange for a commitment to end popular resistance against Israel. “President Abbas should present this solution, which is the right one, because “the PA useless on the ground and is represented solely by the salary [for public employees] at the end of the month.”

Regarding whether or not Fatah’s sixth conference will go on as planned, he said it was “a big lie,” noting that “there are persons inside Fatah who are afraid of democracy more than the [Israeli] occupation, because they fear for their interests, and will obstruct holding a conference using weak excuses and deceiving the movement’s affiliates.”

my only beef with the above statement is husam’s bit about giving up resistance against the zionist entity. but i highly doubt that this is what he said or that he really means this. i would be shocked if that were true. but the idea that the palestinian collaborationist authority can continue on its path of collaboration and repression is finally penetrating even fatah circles. it is refreshing to say the least.

ben white’s article in electronic intifada today details much of the corruption and collaboration with the zionist entity and its criminal ally the united states. it discusses my friend abdel sattar al qassem and his most recent imprisonment in a palestinian jail. white’s article makes it clear why the sulta (salata) must go:

Last week, less than two weeks after I had talked with him in his an-Najah University faculty office, Abdel Sattar Qassem was arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security forces in Nablus, occupied West Bank.

Qassem is a 60-year-old professor of political science, and has been at an-Najah University since 1980. Imprisoned several times by the Israeli occupation, he is the author of dozens of books and papers, as well as hundreds of articles, on Palestinian politics and Islamic thought. But Qassem is also an eloquent and prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he has been arrested, and targeted by politically-motivated attacks, on a number of previous occasions.

The most recent of these was in January of this year, when his car was set alight. According to a news report from the Palestinian news agency, Ma’an, claim of responsibility was circulated by an unknown group who accused Qassem of being a “mouthpiece for the Iranian and the Syrian regimes.” As reported by Asharq al-Awsat, Qassem pointed out how the statement was a “hoax,” and thus a cover for individuals who did not want to openly identify themselves. The attack was condemned by a variety of public figures “in the harshest possible words,” according to Ma’an.

This time, the official line is that his arrest was a civil, criminal case, the result of litigation proceedings against Qassem by two figures within the PA’s security forces. The Palestinian Information Center reports that Qassem, who according to his family was arrested hours after he gave an interview to al-Aqsa TV to discuss the shooting of West Bank Hamas leader Hamid al-Bitawi, insists that the charges are groundless and politically motivated. Speaking to me on the telephone after his release, Qassem noted:

“It was evident that they didn’t want to arrest me on a political basis, so they decided to fabricate something against me. Last Thursday, in court, there were many lawyers trying to represent me, because they feel like this is a national issue. They see that this is intimidation, not a genuine civil case.”

The attempts to intimidate a critic of the Palestinian Authority into silence is disturbing, but is only one incident in a growing trend. The Ramallah-based political leadership, dominated by Fatah, and the PA security forces, are becoming increasingly authoritarian, encouraging a culture of militarized policing and a lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law. Now, nonviolent resistance leaders against the Israeli occupation like Sami Awad, based in Bethlehem, are saying that they “have to be ready to face any injustice even if caused by our own people, within the PA.”

One aspect of this phenomenon is an assault on the freedom of the press. Back in December of last year, the Ma’an news agency carried out an investigation into what it described as “an unprecedented campaign of censorship and intimidation against West Bank and Gaza Strip journalists,” carried out by the Palestinian Authority.

The report detailed how independent news agencies had become targets for “President Mahmoud Abbas’s security establishment, particularly the PA’s Office of the Attorney General.” The same month as Ma’an’s investigation, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate demanded that the PA release journalists from West Bank prisons, noting that “some journalists had been in prison for more than three months.”

Criticizing the PA, or even affording Hamas coverage, now seems enough to get on the blacklist, or become a target for the PA’s security apparatus. In fact, a Nablus-based journalist “found himself in a prison cell” in January for reporting the torching of Professor Qassem’s car, according to The Jerusalem Post. In February, the Post reported that “the PA’s crackdown on the local media was aimed at intimidating Palestinian reporters and stopping them from reporting about financial corruption and human rights violations by Abbas’s security forces.”

Another worrying trend in the PA-administered areas is an increasing militarization of civilian policing. During my recent visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, one of the first things several of my friends told me about was an energetic campaign by the PA to clamp down on car-related crime. There were now impromptu checkpoints thrown up on the main roads where drivers’ licenses were checked and the special permission required to drive Israeli yellow-plated cars was requested.

Nobody minded, in theory, increased efficiency in law enforcement; what was troubling was the way the PA forces were going about it. It can seem like a small thing, a friend told me, but “it’s this militarization, this way of asserting a kind of domination over the people.” Many complained of the disrespectful behavior of the gun-toting men checking the cars.

This focus on “law and order” has become a repeated theme in the last few years, particularly in cities like Nablus and Jenin. Just recently, in a fairly typical episode, Ma’an news agency reported that PA forces conducted a “sweep” in a village three kilometers from Nablus, arresting apparent “fugitives” and checking the registration of some 250 cars.

Consistent, genuine complaints about lawlessness and corruption in Nablus had already emerged in 2004-05, but it wasn’t until the end of 2007 that the current campaign was launched by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, appointed by Mahmoud Abbas, whose official term as PA president expired in January. Beginning in Nablus, the law and order drive was replicated in Jenin in the summer of 2008. Residents have undoubtedly welcomed the increased security, but the nature of the campaign — and the context — is not so straightforward.

For example, the PA’s infrastructure (largely destroyed by Israel in 2001-02) is completely ill-equipped. In April 2008 in Nablus, for example, Reuters reported that only 13 percent of the prison’s inmates had actually been convicted; the restrictions of occupation and the inadequacy of the PA’s legal system mean that many face a long wait before their guilt or innocence can be determined in a court of law.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues to invade PA-controlled areas, particularly at night, an arrangement which was actually a joint Palestinian-Israeli agreement. Moreover, while a weary Palestinian population is grateful for small economic upturns in their occupied cities, they are well aware that the PA’s law and order focus is a welcome part of Israel’s strategy in the West Bank; the BBC noted in December last year how the Israeli army was pleased with the “good job” Palestinian forces were doing.

One of the reasons for Israel’s complimentary report card is the extent to which PA forces have been arresting members of groups who oppose the official “peace process,” and in particular, detaining those who are either openly, or simply suspected, members and supporters of Hamas. According to the International Middle East Media Center, estimates give the number of detainees in Palestinian security forces’ custody at between 500 to 600, many of whom have had no trial.

The secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Saadat, himself a prisoner in an Israeli jail, noted just last week in a public statement that it was “impossible” for the PA “to demand freeing the detainees [from Israeli prisons] while the Palestinian prisons are full of prisoners jailed for resistance background or internal disputes.”

On 4 December of last year, Reuters reported on the claims being made of torture at the hands of Mahmoud Abbas’ Preventive Security forces and General Intelligence. The article cited Ghandi Rabei, a lawyer from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in Hebron, who told the news agency that “hundreds of civilians have been transferred to military courts without legal procedures in breach of Palestinian law and international norms.” The ICHR’s annual report for 2008 recorded 111 complaints of torture or mistreatment in detention in the West Bank, according to Agence France-Presse.

On 31 January, the British Daily Mail ran a story under the dramatic headline: “Financed by the British taxpayer, brutal torturers of the West Bank.” The paper reported how the British government’s Department for International Development had given 76 million British pounds in 2008 to the PA for what it called “security sector reform.” Once the figure is broken down, 3 million pounds went directly to the PA police, while “17 million [pounds] pays the salaries of the PA’s array of security organizations — including the Presidential Guard intelligence service and the feared Preventive Security Organization.”

One of the most important factors shaping these developments is the US strategy as directed on the ground by Lieutenant General Keith Dayton. Dayton started work with the Palestinian security forces at the end of 2005. While ostensibly charged with general reform of the PA security forces, it became apparent that the US was intent on building up Abbas-loyal PA forces in order to directly confront Hamas should the need arise.

Dayton’s plan involved giving the PA forces an increase in funding, manpower, training and weaponry. In October 2006, The New York Times reported that the US intended to expand Abbas’ Presidential Guard at a cost of $26 million. At the time, it was clear that any such plan — which also included “the transfer of thousands of guns from Egypt” to the Presidential Guard — would only go ahead with a “positive response from Israel,” according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, this “systematic effort to bolster Abbas and his Fatah loyalists to counter the political success of Hamas” suffered an embarrassing setback, of course, when Hamas forces easily triumphed over Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and thus “inherited thousands of guns, equipment and vehicles supplied by the United States.”

The only lesson learned, however, seems to have been that the US, Israel and the PA could ill-afford a similar debacle in the West Bank — and therefore Dayton’s work was to be intensified, rather than reconsidered. This, then, is what has been happening with increasing fervor in the West Bank in recent months.

On 27 February 2009, The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner wrote about the 1,600 Palestinians who “have been through American-financed courses in Jordan.” Dayton, the article said, “hopes to have a well-trained battalion based in each of eight West Bank cities” (plans to expand the program were also reported by Reuters this week). The Israelis, needless to say, are content to cooperate: an Israeli officer “inaugurated the firing range” at one of the US-funded Palestinian training camps.

Whether it is the “top brass” training provided by the US for Palestinian security officials in Ramallah, or the special “SWAT” team organized by Dayton, Salam Fayyad and the Jordanians, it is clear that the primary purpose of these forces is not neighborhood crime-busting. As the World Tribune reported in the case of the SWAT team, the “elite” forces can be used against “Hamas squads” and help “protect the PA.” As one critic put it, the PA’s security agencies in the West Bank are trained to “persecute resistance elements and provide Israel with intelligence with which to arrest or assassinate resistance leaders.”

Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, agrees that these training programs are more about internal suppression than “law and order”:

“If the senior officers who train them taught a respect for the rule of law, I’m sure we would feel that — but our feeling is completely different. I’m not saying they are training them how to torture people, but they don’t put any mechanism in place for monitoring these things. For political reasons, the Palestinians are trying to show that they are strong, that they are doing exactly what the others are asking them to do — this happened during [Yasser] Arafat’s time, and it’s also [happening] these days.”

If there was any doubt about the real purpose of these forces, one just needs to listen to Dayton himself. Dayton stressed to The Jerusalem Post in December that “the trainees are taught over and again that ‘you are not here to learn how to fight against the Israeli occupation.'” That’s why Dayton could affirm that he, the Israeli Ministry of Defense and his “IDF [Israeli army] colleagues” are of one mind: “something new is out there” and “it’s worth encouraging.”

It may not be new — one only has to go back to the mid-1990s to find something similar happening — but PA forces are certainly being encouraged to suppress dissent. While Israel was attacking Gaza in January, The Jerusalem Post described how the PA’s crackdown on the opposition in the West Bank was “being carried out in coordination with the IDF and under the supervision of US security experts.”

These were the very same police officers who had “received special training in Jordan and the West Bank as part of a security plan engineered by the US,” and were apparently reporting directly to Salam Fayyad. Israeli “security officials” “praised” Mahmoud Abbas’ “iron-fist policy” in the West Bank, reported The Jerusalem Post and “expressed satisfaction with the coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF and Shin Bet [Israel’s internal intelligence agency].” Sometimes, “Hamas members were detained by the IDF only hours after they were released from PA detention centers.”

So why have key elements within Fatah and the PA decided to go down this path? It seems like the Ramallah-based political and intelligence elite are primarily driven by fear; fear of losing their power and privileges, and fear of Hamas. More specifically, there is a real sense that Hamas’ popularity has not suffered any kind of significant fall since 2006, and if anything, has been consolidated or increased.

At the same time as Hamas has emerged intact and uncompromising from Israel’s recent Gaza onslaught, the Fatah-dominated PA has nothing to show for its strategy of softly-softly negotiations; just an entrenched, apartheid-like Israeli occupation. The “peace process” has brought Israel a degree of peace, but left the Palestinians trapped between Israel’s colonies and wall. The PA’s only card is that it continues to pay the salaries of thousands of desperate Palestinians — money that is only forthcoming from the international community with strings attached.

Meanwhile in Nablus, Professor Qassem, who is considering a run for president in the future as an independent, feels like the PA “is reflecting its inner crisis against the population”:

“So instead of going back to their own people they are trying to punish their own people. Why? Because there is Dayton, and the money of the donor countries, which they cannot sacrifice. If they want to go back to their own people, they will lose their salaries, and the situation in the West Bank will be similar to that in Gaza.”

This is a deal that was made many years ago, but it has meant that there is a class of political leaders in the PA who are seemingly eternally wedded to the idea that the international community is directing the peace process in good faith. For reasons of self-interest, they are desperate to keep the PA, and all the assumptions of Oslo, alive — even while sometimes admitting that in terms of obtaining basic Palestinian rights, there is, and will continue to be, nothing to show for meeting the “benchmarks” and “roadmaps.”

If the US/Jordanian-trained PA security forces are the “stick” in the West Bank, then the manipulation of foreign aid is the “carrot.” This is beyond the scope of this article, but it is worth mentioning in passing two recent Reuters reports on how “ventures backed by President Abbas’s allies have received loan guarantees, grants and agricultural assistance.”

At a critical moment for the Palestinian people, and the prospects for the region as a whole, it is arresting that many in the Palestinian leadership can sound like they are reading from Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s speech notes, when he said that “the path forward” lay in “security” for Israel, an “improved economy” for the Palestinians, and “stability for both,” as reported by The Jerusalem Post. As Shawan Jabarin said to me, “for political reasons you make a compromise and sacrifice human rights. This is what is going on these days.”

These are dangerous developments, something that Professor Qassem was quick to highlight in an interview with the Palestinian Information Center after his recent arrest: “Freedom of speech and expression is a paramount issue over which there can be no compromise … If we tolerate violations of our human rights and civil liberties, then we will be jeopardizing our future as a people.”

meanwhile palestine hits the world record today for having the world’s longest political prisoner behind bars of the zionist usurping entity:

Former political prisoner, researcher and specialist in detainees’ affairs, Abdul-Nasser Farawna, has revealed that detainee Na’el Barghouthi now spent 31years behind bars. He was kidnapped by Israeli forces on April 4th 1978.

Farawna said that Barghouthi and other detainees who have spent many years in Israeli prisons and detention facilities have became the symbols of steadfastness, resistance and determination. Their continued imprisonment proves the criminal and immoral nature of the Israeli occupation, the Quds Net reported.

He also said that Palestinian resistance factions should insist on his release and the release of all detainees who have spent so many years behind bars for resisting the occupation and fighting for their country.

On August 25, 2008, detainee Sa’id Al Ataba was released from an Israeli prison after he spent 31 years and 26 days behind bars.

Detainee Barghouthi, born in the central West Bank city of Ramallah in 1957, was kidnapped by the army on April 4, 1978, when he was only 21 years old. He was sentenced by an Israeli military court to one life-term.

for further context on these crimes of the zionist apartheid regime listen to one of nora’s latest interviews with our friend hazem jamjoum on flashpoints. it is an amazing discussion of the apartheid regime.

on the right to education

former president mahmud abbas poster @ entrance to my university today
former president mahmud abbas poster @ entrance to my university today

in palestine there is something called the right to education campaign. the strongest such campaign exists at birzeit university, the flagship palestinian university. the birzeit campaign is the only one with its own website that updates people on news related to the right to education on their campus, elsewhere around the country–including in 1948 palestine–and with respect to international solidarity with palestinians’ right to education.

the right to education is, in theory, the same on every palestinian university campus, but on some level the university administration is what ultimately enables a this campaign to have the freedom to actively work to freely or to limit its activities. dr. hanna nasir, who founded birzeit university in 1974, knew very well what the right to education meant given that he was exiled because he founded the first palestinian university. here is some of that context related to nasir and his institution:

This is how Israel “got” Dr. Hanna Nasir, president of the West Bank’s Bir Zeit University. He had been a prime target of the drive as early as 1972, when he developed Bir Zeit College into the first Arab university in Palestine. In the 1974 academic year, he had successfully calmed a student body grown restive over harsh Israeli occupation policies and physical interference by Israeli soldiers with campus life.

One midnight in November 1974, Israel struck. Seized by armed Israelis, Nasir was blindfolded, driven across the border into Lebanon and released in the darkness of night. His wife Tania (Tamari) Nasir was left behind with their three sons and one daughter to agonize about his whereabouts and safety. The Israeli army announced that Dr. Nasir had been expelled for promoting demonstrations against the Israeli occupation.

Hanna Nasir moved to Amman, Jordan, where his wife and children joined him when it became obvious that the Israeli authorities meant his expulsion to be permanent. He and his family are victims of a fixed Israeli policy aimed at ridding Palestine of all Palestinians and which, with natural increase, now counts between 2.6 and 3 million exiled victims.

Talking to the family last Easter in Amman, it seemed to me that the pain of being jerked from home and country had imbued the Nasirs with a gritty determination never to accept the fate to which Israel would consign the Palestinians. As an eloquent university president in exile, Hanna speaks often in the U.S. and Europe on the Palestinians, with special emphasis on the Israeli policy of denying them an education since the Palestinian intifada began in December 1987.

From the Bir Zeit University Liaison Office in Amman, Hanna Nasir carries on university administration, raises funds and talks on the Palestinian issue with fact-finding groups visiting the area. During his exile, Bir Zeit has continued to grow. A junior year was added to the curriculum in 1974, followed by the senior year in 1975. In 1978, a Faculty of Commerce and Economics was established, and in 1979 a Faculty of Engineering. The university became a member of both the Association of Arab Universities and the International Association of Universities in 1976.

In January 1988 Israel closed Bir Zeit University entirely, after a long campaign of harassment and acts of violence including shooting and killing of students, administrative detentions, deportations of students and staff, restrictions on receiving books and periodicals and frequent closures. A few weeks ago, after being closed for more than four years, Bir Zeit was allowed to re-open, but for only half of the normal student body of more than 2,000, of whom one-third are women.

nasir is no longer president of birzeit. nabeel kassis is currently birzeit’s president. under nasir’s guidance the right to education campaign and its relationship to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement flourished. while it both still exist and birzeit and both are still connected at birzeit, the support from the administration is not as strong.

at its core right to education is a program that documents violations of palestinian students and faculty members rights to education. on the campus level it works with student groups to give students the tools to speak about these issues locally and internationally. it gives students support with respect to giving them a context in which to explain their situation to an international audience. but right to education is not about telling students what to say nor is it about doing public relations work for a particular university. but most palestinians students as well as faculty members–even at normalizing institutions like al quds university–know that the solution to the massive violation of palestinians’ right to education (among so many other massive violations) is boycott, divestment, and sanctions (bds), which is why the right to education campaign around the country is tied to bds.

therefore, i found it very disturbing when a student at an najah university was invited to speak via video conference at a canadian university was told that s/he could not speak about bds by the right to education campaign on my campus. (the people in canada, by the way, were perfectly fine with the student speaking about bds and support it themselves.) here is what the student was told:

BDS is campaign for boycott and disinvestment in Israel and BDS uses a political frame work. R2E is a campaign for the right to education in Palestine. R2E uses a rights based frame work. It does not make sense for two separate campaigns to affiliate to each other.

when i first learned about this i was furious because the person who authored the above-quoted words is a foreigner. i advised the student that foreigners have no right to tell palestinians what they can and cannot say. ever. but the way this email note was phrased was curious to me. it was framed as if r2e (right to education) is a separate from bds. for me they are inextricable. how does one obtain human rights? one fights for them. one resists for them. one method of resistance is the boycott campaign. why else would students at birzeit and at an najah universities be fighting for the removal of israeli terrorist products from campus? birzeit students already achieved this. an najah is on the road to achieving this.

but historically, it is important to note, that birzeit university–a flagship university for bds and the right to education campaign–has never separated these two issues. even now under a new university president these two issues are connected as students help to guide and shape the campaign. because they know that the way to achieve all their rights–including the larger right of liberating their land from the river to the sea–is related to bds as well as armed resistance, cultural and educational resistance. here are a few statements from birzeit’s right to education campaign that shows how the students there see the interconnectedness between bds and the right to education:

In light of the ongoing massive Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in which over 1,200 people have been killed – over 1,000 (86%) of whom were civilian men, women and children – and where over 4,000 have been maimed and injured, the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University calls upon the international academic community, unions and students to show support and solidarity with the people of Gaza by calling upon their respective governments to impose immediate boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel until it abides by international human rights and humanitarian laws, dismantles its apartheid regime spanning both the occupied territories and Israel proper, and commits to pursuing a long-lasting, just peace.

here is a recent statement about the economic boycott:

IAW events for the past several days in the West Bank focused on strengthening the internal BDS movement and promoting Palestinian products. Considerable progress was made from March 4– 5 in moving the boycott forward in Palestinian universities. Students are not only working to institutionalize a boycott of Israeli goods inside the university, but also bringing the BDS call into their local shops and communities.

and here is a letter written by birzeit right to education students to students abroad supporting bds thanking them:

As students, you are best able to understand the struggle that we as Palestinian students living under occupation go through daily in our basic pursuit of education. Through the stance you have taken against the attacks on Gaza, you have showed us that we are not alone in our struggle for freedom and justice. You have broken the sense of isolation we feel when governments have remained silent as we are harassed and delayed at a checkpoint on the way to university, arrested for exercising our right to freedom of expression or mourn fellow students who were taken from us by the bullets of the Occupation.

We greatly appreciate your efforts and request that students worldwide take action in this way or in whichever way they can, to put pressure on their universities to take a stand for the universal values of education and to push towards the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel until it stops depriving us of our rights. Such non-violent campaigns on campus are the only way forward and they say to us and to the world that Israel’s policies of apartheid are not welcome in the world we want to live – a world which we, as students, will inherit, and also have the power to shape.

Birzeit University students would like to express particular solidarity with students of SOAS, who began this movement, Edinburgh University, and Leeds University, all of whom are twinned with our Student Council. We deeply appreciate your ongoing efforts in refusing to be silent in face of the ongoing barbarities and crimes carried out by the Israeli occupation against Palestinian students and teachers.

close up of posters around nablus of the leader of palestinian collaborationist authority
close up of posters around nablus of the leader of palestinian collaborationist authority

clearly, the students do an excellent job in framing the relationship between fighting for their rights–education as well as every other right–and bds. human rights are also political rights. and it is political to fight for such rights. to pretend that these things can be separated is at best naive and at worst ignorant. while part of my anger over attempting to silence student at my university for essentially saying the same thing as her peers down the road in birzeit is that it came from a foreigner. but i suspect that it is not entirely that foreigner’s doing (though i still hold that person responsible for not speaking up for students as i believe people working in universities should always do no matter where they are). part of is the fact that my university, from what i am told and from my own experiences with the administration, is controlled by fatah. and not just fatah, but the palestinian collaborationist authority. there is a history, here, too, however. an najah university has historically been seen as a site of resistance. for instance, the zionist anti-defamation league in the united states describes my university like this:

An-Najah University, in the West Bank city of Nablus, has been a flashpoint in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians since at least 1980, when violent anti-Israel protests led the Israeli military to close the school intermittently. Today the student council of An-Najah is known for its advocacy of anti-Israel violence and its recruitment of Palestinian college students into terrorist groups. The council, almost completely controlled by factions loyal to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah, glorifies suicide bombings and propagandizes for jihad against Israel. Hamas has described An-Najah as a “greenhouse for martyrs.”

in a 2004 interview with alaa hmedan, a representative of the islamic block of the student council at an najah university, alaa responded to these claims made by zionists and israeli terrorists about resistance at my university:

Q. Israeli websites and propagandists have made much of the Hamas/Jihad dominance of the Students’ Council, and have pointed to re-enactments of the militant attacks in Tel Aviv as evidence that An-Najah is a greenhouse for “terrorism”. How do you respond to this?

A. The University has the biggest number of students in Palestine. The first three guys killed in this Intifada were killed during a peaceful demonstration–Jehad al-Aloul, Zakaria Kilani, Fahed Aoudi. Students at An-Najah. This was before any “suicide” bombers went out from An-Najah. Who is the terrorist anyway? The defending peoples–defending lands and rights – or the occupation army, killing people.

Students acting. Similar to throwing stones. It’s a call to the world, a message, it helps. Demonstrates defense, these things happen throughout Palestine too.

Crucially, the Palestinians dislike bloodshed. We feel forced to live lives of bloodshed. The West neglects the fact that the battle is a defense against attack. And neglect.

while i understand why this context may make my university’s administration want to protect itself and its students from attacks by israeli terrorists i do not think that silencing students on bds is the way to do it. i don’t think that any logical palestinian can make the claim that there is a separation between human rights and politics. nor can i see how one could separate the right to education from bds in any reasonable or logical fashion. nor do i think that this will keep palestinians at my university protected. i’m not entirely sure how long this sort of pressure or rhetoric that silences students has been going on. but i do know that it has been this way all year here. and yet at least a dozen students have been killed and/or kidnapped by israeli terrorists this year in/from university dorms. i’m not sure what would make anyone think that separating politics from rights would change this scenario.

moreover, anyone looking at the recent united nations world conference against racism (durban 2), which is of course about human rights, can see quite clearly how political the fight for human rights can be. one fights for rights. part of that fight is political. it is necessarily this way. in all places. in all contexts. and students have a right to fight for their rights without university officials further squashing their rights by silencing them and compounding the problem. palestinian students have enough borders, barriers, prisons they must break out of on a daily basis. they shouldn’t have to deal with this in a space that should be dedicated to educating them for liberation on all levels.

theatre of the oppressed festival

tonight i took some of my students from my drama class to see theatre of the oppressed, which is currently touring palestine. although i’ve taught drama classes for years and taken students to see plays–in ghana, palestine, and in the united states–i’ve never had the opportunity to see theatre of the oppressed live. i’ve only read about it and been very intrigued by the idea of it. here is a bit about the concept and its founding:

Theatre of the Oppressed was born in 1971, in Brazil, under the very young form of Newspaper Theatre , with the specific goal of dealing with local problems – soon, it was used all over the country. Forum Theatre came into being in Peru, in 1973, as part of a Literacy Program; we thought it would be good only for South America– now it is practiced in more than 70 countries. Growing up, TO developed Invisible Theatre in Argentina, as political activity, and Image Theatre to establish dialogue among Indigenous Nations and Spanish descendants, in Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico… Now these forms are being used in all kinds of dialogues.

this is the second annual tour of theatre of the oppressed in palestine. there are several countries touring with their theatre troupes here: south africa, germany, bosnia & herzegovina, norway, sweden, and portugal. we saw the performance by house of azania today from south africa. they performed a piece called “who do you think you are?” which includes 8 interlinked acts, although we only saw 3 of them. given the way that theatre of the oppressed works i imagine that this is usual and given that they performed in nablus and had to return to ramallah tonight they had to leave before huwara checkpoint closed. they were performing oppression in a space of oppression after all.

theatre of the oppressed is unusual because the actors perform a scene that usually engages with a social problem of some kind. tonight they performed three such acts: one on ethnic cleansing, one on laborer’s rights, and one on xenophobia. the first one, on ethnic cleansing, was based on the group areas act, which later became the forced removal act, that forcibly removed black south africans from their land and their homes. here is a brief synopsis of that apartheid-era law:

The Apartheid Era was one of division and segregation based on the colour of one’s skin. The Group Areas Act of 1950 (Act No. 41 of 1950) was created on 27 April, the day that is today recognised as Freedom Day in the New South Africa. This act was created to split racial groups up into different residential areas of any given town or city.

The result of this act was that the best, most developed areas were reserved for the white people, while the blacks, Indians, and coloureds were assigned to the more rural outskirts of the major metropoles. 84% of the available land was granted to the white people, who made up only 15% of the total population. The 16% remaining land was then occupied by 80% of the population. This led to overcrowding, diseases, shortage of food and funds and a host of other problems. The areas assigned to the black people were dubbed the Tribal Homelands.

Once the areas were defined, anyone living in the “wrong” area was required to move, or else be forcibly removed. However, of the 3.5 million people who were required to leave the homes they had established for themselves, only 2% were white. And this group were moved to better areas than where they had been living.

Establishing the non-white areas on the outskirts of the metropole or city centre meant that they had to travel vast distances to get to work. But it also meant that they were isolated from basic amenities, such as hospitals, police stations and other emergency services. This created a sense of chaos in the homelands, an independent attempt at dealing with issues as they arose. This was dangerous for the residents, and led to many riots, outbreaks, and even deaths.

The only exceptions made were for non-whites who worked within the white suburbs, such as domestic workers. These workers were often required to stay on the white boss’ premises to avoid the daily commute and they were issued with special permission to allow for this. However, none of their family members were able to live with or even visit them. If they were found on the premises, they could be charged and imprisoned. This led to the splitting of many non-white families due to secular demands.

The assignment of areas to the black people was based on their tribal grouping, the record of which was often incorrect. The plan was that each homeland would eventually form a citizenship, so that blacks could no longer be considered citizens of South Africa, thereby relinquishing them of their rights and responsibilities. Between 1976 and 1981, four homelands were developed. The black people that had once occupied South Africa now needed a passport to cross the borders of their homelands into SA.

The Group Areas Act also stipulated that non-whites were not allowed to own or run businesses within the white areas. This limited their growth and financial development considerably, as they were only allowed to work in their townships and homelands. Even there, they could not usually afford major enterprises and would try to survive off small supply stores or basic services run from a shack.

of course this first sketch resonated quite well with a palestinian audience given the 122 years of zionist colonization making palestinians homeless and landless. one of the characters in this scene–the man playing the husband–tells his wife before the police bang on their door “they can’t take our houses from us. we’ve been here for generations.” sound familiar?

they performed the scene and then as with the style of theatre of the oppressed they performed it a second time immediately after. it is in the second performance that we see how augusto boal intended to use theatre for political ends. because in the second time an audience member is asked to yell “stop” at a moment when they want to join the actors on the stage in order to intervene in the problem. each scene is already set up in a way that there is a conflict–in this case between the family and the police–that is going around in circles and they cannot resolve. the audience member’s job is to solve the problem in some way by changing the action on stage. multiple audience members may join in and this was the case in most of their scenes tonight. a student from an najah university (not one of mine) got up on stage in this one and took over in the husband’s role because she felt he was being too passive. unlike his character–who in the end was willing to leave their house without much of a fight–she refused to leave the house and follow the colonist police officer’s orders. others eventually came up on stage taking on the role of neighbors who joined together to scare the police away and state that they would refuse to leave their homes and land. the first two pictures below are from this scene.

dsc00031

dsc00040

the second scene was about laborers in south africa–particularly miners in the gold and diamond mines that made white south africans so very wealthy. the employer in this scene was unhappy with the workers because they sang while they worked. one of my friends got up on stage in this scene and staged a sit in for workers rights (next two photos).

dsc00049

dsc00055

the final scene acted out was on xenophobia, which has been a big problem in south africa with respect to africans from neighboring countries moving to south africa and south africans feeling like their jobs are being taken, crime is increasing, diseases are spreading (americans should be familiar with this sort of racism especially as it is directed at mexicans). i found this to be a challenging piece for the audience here, however. the context is something that palestinians are not familiar with inside palestine. certainly palestinians have been on the receiving end of this whether as workers in the gulf or as refugees in places like lebanon banned from 72 different professions. but it is next to impossible for foreign workers to come here to work (my “work visa,” for instance, does not come from the palestinian authority, but from the israeli colonists and technically it is still a tourist visa, just a longer one on which they stamp the words “not permitted to work” ironically enough given that my university applied for it on my behalf). but two of my students got up and tried to intervene in this one. they did a great job, but i just think that the lack of context made this particular social problem a difficult one to engage with here (photos below).

dsc00067

dsc00077

land day/يوم الأرض

home in old city of nasra, palestine
home in old city of nasra, palestine

it was way too late by the time i finally got home from yom al ard to write anything coherent so i am now writing about land day the day after. we had decided that in addition to visiting the towns and villages where palestinians have resisted and been murdered for resiting further land theft we would spend time in the towns and villages of my friends. so we continued our land day journey today by spending the morning walking around downtown nasra, the city where one of my friends whom we were traveling with is from. we wanted to see if we could meet poet taha muhammad ali who owns a gift shop near the main church commemorating the city where jesus was from.

inside the old city of nasra, palestine
inside the old city of nasra, palestine

we found his shop rather easily because everyone knows where it is, including my friend’s grandparents. funnily enough while we were walking up the street to the store we bumped into her grandfather who was out doing some shopping. when we first arrived at the gift shop he was not there yet. so we looked around and found the usual disturbing juxtaposition of items one finds in tourist shops in palestine: kuffiyas next to israeli terrorist flags; all the monotheistic souvenirs; bracelets saying “i love israel” (but not “i love palestine” even in these shops which are all owned by palestinians); holy land tshirts next to “idf” (read: israeli terrorist forces) tshirts. his sons were working there so they were showing us stuff and we each bought a small item and then they told us to go walk around and come back in an hour or so and then we could meet him. we walked around the old city a bit and when we returned we found taha muhammad ali sitting in a chair next in the front of the store. we did not stay long, but we talked to him a bit about his poetry, about his flight from his village of saffuriyya to lebanon in 1948 and then back to find his village’s homes destroyed, and finally to nasra where he is waiting and fighting for his right to return to his village only a few kilometers away. his son showed us a new biography that an american has just written about him, which came out recently from yale university press called my happiness bears no relation to happiness: a poet’s life in the palestinian century. i hope she did a better and more respectful job with representing his life than the people who translated his volume of poetry, so what.

taha muhammad ali
taha muhammad ali

we drove south from nasra towards um al fahm because we wanted to be in a space that most closely resembles the resistance spirit of land day, although this was just a week or so ago. um al fahm means mother of coal as it is a village that used to produce a lot of coal for the area. we met up with other friends and ate lunch together in a sandwich shop overlooking the main road where the demonstration took place the other day. it is barely 1 km inside the city, which shows how unified and strong the town is when it comes to preventing israeli terrorists from invading their area.

um al fahm
um al fahm

after lunch we drove up the hill a bit to the um el fahem gallery, an art gallery that is really amazing. we were very lucky because their current exhibit is related to land day. it is called “memories of a place: the photographic history of wadi ‘ara, 1903-2008.” the photographs were amazing. it started off with various family photographs placed on a wall in a manner that you would see in a home of your typical grandparents: all the photographs in various frames, from various periods grouped around together. they also had various documents like diplomas and identity cards framed as well. then the exhibit continued in various rooms showing you the evolution of the city from pre-nakba until the present. it shows the fellaheen, the families, the land, the resistance. there were also various televisions set up showing old footage of um el fahem. one of the more striking and tragic photographs was the one of the village signing over its rights to israeli colonists who terrorized um el fahem into submitting in 1948-49. the exhibit was really powerful and amazing and has been curated as a book by mustafa kabha and guy raz. the link above also has more information about the gallery and the exhibit.

um el fahm signing truce papers with israeli terrorists in 1949
um el fahm signing truce papers with israeli terrorists in 1949
um al fahm
um al fahm

we headed back towards al quds after um al fahm because we wanted to make sure my other friend could see her village before it got dark. she did not know exactly where it was a she had only been there once about 10 years ago. each of my three friends towns/villages represent a different aspect of israeli colonialism: my friend from nasra whose family has remained on their land; my friend from deir rafat who is a refugee whose village destroyed, and whose village is inhabited by internally displaced bedouin and israeli colonists; my friend from malha whose village is mostly destroyed and contains such eyesores as a shopping mall and highways named after terrorists like menachem begin (whose irgun terrorist band attacked malha in march 1948.

israeli colonists' mall with american stores on the stolen land of malha
israeli colonists\’ mall with american stores on the stolen land of malha

my friend’s village still has a number of palestinian homes grouped together on the hill above that shopping mall, but the entire area surrounding it used to contain 300 palestinian homes until jewish terrorist gangs forced the people off of their land. malha, which is a neighborhood of al quds, formed as a village when many people from hijaz to yemen came to help salah el din force the crusaders off of palestinian land. there was a spring called ein yalo below where the sheep and the goats used to drink, but they brought too many insects to the spring so an older man from the village poured salt in the spring. after it became salty the village was known as malha.

malha mosque where israeli colonists now live inside
malha mosque where israeli colonists now live inside

malha is only a couple of kilometers away from deir yassin, where jewish terrorist gangs massacred palestinians on april 9, 1948. they were attacked on march 1st and then again on the 13-14 march in 1948 by irgun and palmach, and later hagana, the names of the terrorist gangs. the village maintained its defense, however, and there were some egyptians who helped them fight and defend their land. throughout this time period–from march through july–some palestinians fled to al quds or beit lahem, but they all kept coming back to harvest their land.

palestinian home in malha
palestinian home in malha
palestinian home in malha
palestinian home in malha
israeli colonists in the old city of al quds
israeli colonists in the old city of al quds

i wish i had the energy to describe how these histories, these experiences comprise land day and its meaning. it holds the essence of resistance and is a reminder not only that palestinian land continues to be confiscated, but also that they can and do resist. it is a reminder that this resistance must continue and must be unified to liberate the land. in an electronic intifada interview jonathan cook did with hatim kanaaneh to commemorate yom al ard yesterday, you can get an idea of what this day represents and the significance it still continues to hold for people here:

“Maybe its significance is surprising given the magnitude of other events in Palestinian history,” said Hatim Kanaaneh, 71, a doctor, who witnessed the military invasion of his village.

“But what makes Land Day resonate with Palestinians everywhere is that it was the first time Palestinians inside Israel stood together and successfully resisted Israel’s goal of confiscating their land.”

The confrontation took place between the army and a group usually referred to as “Israeli Arabs,” the small minority of Palestinians who managed to remain in their homes during the 1948 war that led to the founding of Israel. Today they number 1.2 million, or nearly one-fifth of Israel’s population.

“We were given citizenship by Israel, but have always been treated as an enemy, perceived of as a threat to the state’s Jewishness,” said Dr. Kanaaneh, who last year published his memoir, A Doctor in Galilee, which offers a rare account in English of Palestinian life inside Israel during the Land Day period….

“Government policy was explicitly to make the land Jewish — or Judaize it, as it was called,” Dr. Kanaaneh said.

The announcement in the mid-1970s of the confiscation of a further 2,000 hectares led to the creation of a new body, the National Committee for the Defense of Arab Lands, which provided a more assertive political leadership.

The minority’s decision to strike, Dr. Kanaaneh said, shocked the Israeli authorities, which were not used to challenges to official policy. “Both sides understood the significance of the strike. For the first time we were acting as a national minority, and Israel was very sensitive to anything that suggested we had a national identity or a unified agenda, especially over a key resource like land.”

Although the strike was strictly observed by Palestinians throughout Israel, the focus of the protest were three villages in the central Galilee that faced the loss of a large area of prime agricultural land: Arrabeh, Sakhnin and Deir Hanna.

The prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and his defense minster, Shimon Peres, acted on the eve of the strike.

“What was surprising was that they didn’t send in the police, as you’d expect when dealing with citizens of a country, but the army,” Dr. Kanaaneh said.

land day is important not only to palestinians in 1948 palestine but everywhere, as evidenced by the activities dear baha’a is organizing beirut, for example. here is what he said about the events in beirut for the palestine telegraph:

“The Student Forum is totally independent and the PFLP has no influence over it. The forum was initiated but not controlled by the PFLP.” said Ziad Oudeh, the general coordinator of the Student Forum and the main organizer of the event in Shatila Refugee Camp. The event started at 12:00pm with an exhibition of photos and drawings by refugee kids. “Our main goal is to educate people about Palestinian culture and traditions through art and music. We aim to bring back tradition to the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon. Although we are centered in Shatila Refugee Camp but we target all Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.” Oudeh assured.

People from different refugee camps and other Lebanese citizens started arriving in the next couple of hours. At 4:30pm, the musical event started with Mahmoud Darwish poetry reading while flute music was playing. The singing band of the PFLP followed the poetry and stressed on the Palestinian unity through their songs. After that the audience enjoyed Sabreen Lobbani, a solo 10 years old girl singer.

Then Al-Awdi (the return) troupe performed the Palestinian folkloric dance, Dabkeh. And finally, the event was ended with the Palestinian hip hop band from Burj Al-Barajneh refugee camp, I-Voice who performed songs about Palestinian refugees, the right of return and Gaza.

A hip hop band, participated in the action through a new style of music resistance.

“Rap is a tool of freedom of expression. We have a message to deliver through our music, a message of solidarity and unity. And a refugee camp is where we come from and refugees are the right audience. While rap might be considered an untraditional form of music, we try to make it more local and acceptable by singing in Arabic and about directly related to the Palestinian refugee community.” said Yassin and Mohammad from I-Voice.

here in palestine, particularly in the west bank, activities are more sparse. although we did see lovely photographs from friends of ours who were able to go to deir hanna’s protest yesterday because they were not “illegally” inside 1948. there were some activities in nablus, but not one of my 200 students at an najah university even knew what yom al ard was. this is one of the reasons why i canceled my classes and gave them all a homework assignment to find out what yom al ard is and why it is important. i wish that there was a strike protesting this across the country, though there were some demonstrations. of course i know why the palestinian authority won’t make this a national day of mourning or action: they are content with ramallah as constituting the palestinian state. but the rest of the people are not.

deir hana bayan for yom al ard
deir hana bayan for yom al ard

here are some things that palestinians did yesterday to commemorate yom al ard starting with the main protest in deir hanna (see bayan above):

Arab residents of Dir Hanna village, inside the Green Line, are planning to commemorate Land Day on Monday, to demand an end to apartheid and racism. The Protests will sweep through villages in the Galilee, and a number of Arab villages and cities.

The Higher Follow-up Committee announced Dir Hanna village as one of the main locations for the protest marking the 33rd anniversary of Land Day.

The Committee issued a statement calling for marking this day with greater determination and steadfastness especially while extremist parties are coming to power in Israel.

“It seems that racism and fascism became the center point of Israeli politics”, the Committee said in its release, “This year we will mark Land Day with steadfastness and determination to counter racism in Israel”.

The committee added that Israel increased its illegal attacks against Arab villages, demolished and is ongoing with demolishing more homes in the Negev, Jerusalem, and in Arab areas that Israel considers ‘unrecognized villages’.

“The Israeli attacks are targeting Arab and Bedouin villages, in the Negev and in mixed towns along the coast”, the committee said, “This is happening while incitement against the Arabs and Arab leaders is on the rise, while unemployment and poverty is gradually increasing due to Israeli apartheid polices”.

Furthermore, the Committee called on the Palestinian factions to end their difference and unite in order to counter the Israeli expansion plans in the Palestinian territories.

The committee also demanded prosecuting Israeli officials at international courts for war crimes against the Palestinians, especially the war crimes in Gaza, and for war crimes and collective punishment against the Palestinian political detainees in Israeli prisons.

and in the knesset (or not) :

Likud MK Reuven Rivlin is due to be elected Knesset speaker Monday afternoon, but Arab Knesset factions are objecting to the timing of the vote. On Monday the Arab sector commemorates Land Day, marking violent protests in 1976 over government land policies in which six Arabs were killed.

MKs from Arab factions are expected to be absent Monday from the vote, after failing to convince acting speaker Michael Eitan that it should be rescheduled to take place on Tuesday.

in salfit:

The Red Crescent hosted a Youth Council-organized day of planting trees and cleaning streets to mark the annual Land Day anniversary on Monday.

The coordinator of the Youth Council told Ma’an that the celebrations were a way to “keep reminding people that they have a land to be protected, and to be aware of what is going on in Jerusalem with the house demolitions.”

and via telephone, because palestinians are forcibly separated from one another:

Palestinian Knesset member Muhammad Barakah spoke to Beit Hanoun Land Day commemorators over the phone Monday, and encouraged them to continue their struggle for autonomy.

“We are struggling in a battle to prove our existence and to protect our confiscated lands,” Barakah told large crowds in the northern Gaza Strip town. He called for unity in the face of the latest Israeli policies to demolish homes in East Jerusalem and the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Coordinator of the local initiative Saber Az-Za’anin called on ralliers to “remember those people who sacrificed their souls defending the nation and the land in A`rrabeh, Sakhnin and other Galilee areas: Khadija Shawahneh, Raja Abu Rayya, Muhsen Taha, Khader Khalaileh, Kher Yasin and Ra’fat Zuhdy.”

this year, as i mentioned yesterday, bds is an important part of land day as you can see in this statement from the national committee in palestine:

Land Day this year takes on further significance in light of Israel’s atrocious war of aggression against the hermetically besieged Palestinian people in the occupied Gaza Strip. The more than 1,400 deaths, 5,000 injuries, and 14,000 homes damaged or destroyed are only the latest manifestation of the contempt with which Palestinian life is regarded by Israel. The silence of powerful world governments in the face of the massacre was yet another astounding failure of the “international community” to uphold international law and to hold Israel to account for persistently and gravely violating the most basic of international norms.

Indeed, all these forms of Israeli colonial and racist oppression could not have reached this critical level without the direct or indirect support and collusion of the United States, the European Union and many other countries, including several Arab regimes. The isolation of Israel through boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), as was done to apartheid South Africa, must become a top priority for anyone struggling for freedom, justice and the consistent application of international law and universal human rights principles.

For the martyrs of land day and the thousands of others who gave their lives for freedom, justice and self-determination, for the thousands imprisoned for their commitment to human dignity, for Gaza, for return, equality and freedom, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) calls on people of conscience around the world struggling against all forms of oppression to boycott Israel and divest from it and from companies profiting from its oppression until it fully abides by its obligations under international law and recognizes our inalienable rights on our land. We salute all the groups and individuals who heeded the call to organize BDS-related activities on this Global Day of Action for Palestine. With your support, we shall overcome.

why do we boycott? because we know it works!:

21% of Israeli exporters have been directly affected by the boycott movement since the beginning of 2009. So reports today (29 March) The Marker, a Hebrew-language economic newspaper.

This number is based on a poll of 90 Israeli exporters in fields such as high tech, metals, construction materials, chemistry, textile and foods. The poll was conducted in January-February 2009 by the Israeli Union of Industrialists.

The AIC is working to receive a copy of this poll, and will translated and distribute relevant sections of it in service of the global boycott movement.

the bds is an important piece for so many reasons, but so is resistance in general. we need to resist the continued land theft as well as get back palestinian stolen land. this is why i spent this weekend with my friends from deheishe refugee camp in their villages, on their land, and connecting with their history to continue to inspire them to keep up this fight, this struggle. this was my little strike, but we need far bigger strikes. much more resistance to seek the ultimate goal of liberating the land.

note: apologies for my incoherent self. after dinner last night i had to drive from al quds to nablus. it was late–10 pm or so when i left, i think. i went to beitiba checkpoint, which was supposed to be open completely with no soldiers. not only were there soldiers there, it had a brand new yellow metal gate. the soldiers said i could not go home. running out of battery on my phone, and gas in the car, i decided to try huwara checkpoint again. huwara had the same yellow, metal gate. apparently after midnight the checkpoints are closed, effectively sealing off the cities and villages as prisons. this way when the israeli terrorists invade every night they have a captive population they can murder and keep from fleeing (think gaza on a smaller scale). i was so exhausted by this point from driving and little sleep that i screamed at the soldiers reminding them that as an american i paid for those guns they were pointing at me and that if they didn’t let me go home to sleep in my bed i would sleep in the checkpoint itself. i’ve made this threat before, but to no avail. this time, for some reason, it worked. they didn’t even check my passport. they just let me through. but my exhaustion is related to this lack of sleep, which is related to the ridiculous hurdles and bulls*&^ rules (you will recall that my same yellow license plates were forbidden to enter nablus through huwara on thursday, but last night the reason i could not enter was because the checkpoint was closed) that they make up as they go along just to f*&^ with you.

revolution of the full

last night i was talking to a dear friend in deheishe refugee camp who said “we have a revolution of the full.” he meant that because palestinians have full bellies, meat in their refrigerators there is little resistance here in the west bank. it is an interesting theory to consider: if people resist and fight for their rights more when they don’t have enough to eat than when they do. it is a theory that palestinians in lebanon have uttered many times before, though not quite like this. we had been talking about the day i spent in aqraba. as i wrote last week, there are some nabulsi friends of mine who were organizing to come to aqraba yesterday to join the people in friday prayer. we connected with someone in an najah’s student council and someone in a leftist group called tanweer who was coordinating with the village so we could go and support them. my friends and i wrote a bayan and sent it to the others and at our meeting last week it seemed as if we were all on the same page. they promised at least 100 people would go (which is a paltry sum, i know), but in any case it would be symbolic. here was our bayan:

الساكت عن حقه شيطان أخرس

جماهير شعبنا المناضل,
إخوتنا المتضامنين معنا ومن جميع أنحاء العالم :-
مع استمرار الحكومات الإسرائيلية وإمعانها في سياساتها العنصرية تجاه الشعب الفلسطيني من قتل , وتهجير , وهدم , منذ أكثر من قرن والتي أدت إلى تهجير ثلاثة أرباع شعبنا الى مخيمات اللجوء واستشهاد وجراح مئات الآلاف بن أبناء وطننا .
تأبى الآلة العسكرية الآ أن تثبت السياسة الصهيونية التوسعية على عذابات الشعب الفلسطيني المناضل .
تنفذ الحكومة الإسرائيلية مخططا خطير على عدة مراحل, يستهدف هذه المرة قرية عقربا , وتجبر العديد من المزارعين على الخروج من أراضيهم التي تشكل مرتكز حياتهم ,تصادر عددا من المنازل وتهدد الأهالي بهدم 20 بيتا بالأضافه لمسجد ومدرسة القرية وذلك لإقامة طريق يصل بين المستعمرات الإسرائيلية ( يتسهار , اتمار , جتيت ) .
يبدو أن الحكومة الإسرائيلية توهمت بأن الشعب الفلسطيني قد عدم مقومات النضال,يخشى مواجهة إجراءاتها العنصرية بحق الإنسان والأرض الفلسطينية , مراهنة على عدم اهتمام المواطنين الفلسطينيين بآلام إخوانهم في كل مكان.
ان واجبنا الأخلاقي والوطني والديني يدفعنا إلى تلبية نداء أهالي قرية عقربا ليس بقلوبنا فحسب بل بالمشاركة الفعلية بالدفاع عن الأراضي والبيوت الفلسطينية المهددة بالمصادرة أو الهدم.
و نحن إذ نظهر تضامننا مع إخوتنا فان هذا نابع من أننا على يقين بأن منزلنا قريتنا و حياتنا معرضة لخطر المد الاستيطاني في وقت ما.
ولهذا ندعوكم للمشاركة بفعاليات التضامن مع أهالي قرية عقربا
يوم الجمعة الموافق 27/3/2009.

مشاركتكم , إفشال للمخطط الإسرائيلي الاستعماري العنصري.

نقطة التجمع دوار مدينة نابلس
الساعة التاسعة صباحا للانطلاق نحو القرية المهددة .

ليكن العلم الفلسطيني الراية التي توحدنا والخيمة التي تضمنا جميعا .
إخوانكم لجنة التنسيق الفصائلي وكافة المؤسسات والفعاليات الوطنية في محافظة نابلس.

المرفقات : خارطة مبسطه للقرى المهددة ومراكز التهديد.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor

Dear sister and Brothers:- For more than a century the Israeli government has continued to persist in its racist policies against the Palestinian people which led to displacement more than three-quarters of our people to refugee camps, the creation of martyrs and wounded hundreds of thousands others. The Israeli government is carrying out a dangerous plan. This time it is aimed the village of Aqraba where many farmers are being forced from of their land, the essence of their livelihood. They are confiscating a number of homes by threatening to demolish 20 houses including the village school and mosque in order to establish a road between the Israeli colonies (Yitzhar, Itamar, Getit).The Israeli government seems to be thinking that the Palestinian people have lost their resources to struggle, afraid to face its racist actions against humanity, betting on the people’s lack of attention to the pain of their brothers. We all have a national, moral, fair and humanitarian duty to respond to the people of the village of Aqraba, by appealing not only with our hearts, but also with our active participation to defend the Palestinian land and homes. As we show our solidarity with our brothers, we know for sure that next time our village and our lives will be massively threatened by these colonies’ expansion. For this we invite you to participate in the activities of solidarity and to Struggle with the people of the village of Aqraba.

Friday, the 27th of March 2009.

Your participation is step towards demolishing the colonial racist plans of Israel.

Gathering point, Nablus City Center At 9am then to move on towards the threatened village.

Let the Palestinian flag unify and gathering us all.

Your brothers of the Coordination Committee of all factional and national actors and institutions in Nablus

Annexes: a simplified map of the threatened villages and the centers of that threat

nablussoutheasternvillages-mashariq-al-bitawi-villages-page-2731-copy

the bayan was altered by the people we met with at tanweer as follows:

دعوه خاصه

اتحاد لجان العمل الزراعي و مجلس بلدي عقربا واللجنه المحليه للمقاومه الشعبية ان الاحتلال الصهيوني لا يزال ممعنا في سياسته التوسعيه الاستيطانيه العنصريه والتي لا تعرف حدودا ولا احتراما لايه قواننين دوليه ومشاعر انسانيه.ان ما يحدث اليوم في القدس الحبيبه وفي باقي المواقع وفي بلدتنا عقربا حيث سيتم هدم المنازل وتدمير ابار المياه وقطع الكهرباء وتفريغ الارض من ساكنيها فاننا نتشرف بدعوتكم لحضور مهرجان الصمود و التصدي المزمع عقده في بلده عقربا يوم الجمعه الموافق الساعه الوتاحده والنصف بعد الظهر لمكان مدرسه عقربا الثانويه للبنين حضوركم دعما لاهلكم في عقربا ورفضا لسياسة الاحتلال العنصري

Private invitation

The Agricultural Work Committees Union Aqraba Village Council and Local Committee of the popular resistance

At this time the Israeli occupation continues to move forward with its racist settlement expansion policy, which knows no limits
without taking any consideration of the human right to be free and safe on their own land and without honoring or respecting international law. What is happening today in our beloved Jerusalem is also happening in many other Palestinian sites like our Aqraba village. The racist apartheid regime will start it is campaign by demolishing a number of houses and cut the people off from their electricity to unload the land of its inhabitants. For all that and more, we proudly invitie you to attend the repel festival
that will take place on the threatened land of Aqraba village.

On Friday 27-3-2009 ,1:30 PM
Aqraba Secondary School for Boys
Your attending is a support for people Aqraba and rejection of the occupation racist policy

in the end my friends and i–a small group of about 6–decided to go ahead with our plans to go in the morning to join the people in friday prayer in the mosque that is threatened to be destroyed. we arrived and it seemed that the people from the valley–the area that is under threat–were had come up to the center of the village on the mountain above to join this so-called “festival.” (the word–المهرجان–sounds strange when translated into english in this context and other contexts like the festival of al awda organization in baddawi refugee camp in lebanon.) when we arrived it also seemed that the israeli terrorists knew what was up. in fact, all morning huwara checkpoint in nablus had been closed down and no one was allowed to pass. we had to go through beitiba checkpoint anyway because i had the yellow license plates and did not want to waste time figuring out if we could cross huwara and then spend an hour driving all the way around the other side. but when we arrived we were told that in aqraba’s valley the israeli terrorist soldiers were waiting for us. we spent the morning meeting people in this organization–the union of agrucultural working committees–which seems to do good, non-political party affiliated work. it is helping palestinians to resist by helping them access their lands and continue to farm it even when it is confiscated, even if it exists on the other side of the apartheid wall. apparently, the palestinian authority does not help them at all and does not like their work because they think that this organization wants to steal some power (“they think we want a piece of their cake” was the exact expression used). this is, for me, a sign that they are a group that deserves respect and is doing important work.

aqraba village center
aqraba village center

it was still unclear what was happening but then they wanted us to move to the school for the “festival.” after that we would go down to the village. so we walked over to the school. i had thought that at least we would be having this “festival” in the school that is threatened, but it wasn’t. when we arrived there were hundreds of chairs and a sound system set up. my friend remarked that this costs a lot of money. and all of a sudden it became clear what this “festival” would consist of: men from the village giving speeches. we obliged because if this is what the wanted to do, we were there to support them. but at the same time my nabulsi friends wanted to meet with the people in the valley and see for themselves what was happening and see how they could support them. we wound up waiting for a few hours. even the nabulsi tv crew that came along wound up having to leave because the story was not these speeches, but the people down below. we did wind up meeting a couple of people while we were waiting, however, who came to talk to us. they brought documents with them showing us the papers, over the years, that have been used to steal the land from the people of aqraba. one of them agreed to come speak in nablus about this: our thinking was if we could not bring nabulsis to aqraba, we would bring people from aqraba to nablus. one of these men also commented that he has had absolutely no support from the palestinian authority.

one of the documents about aqraba's land rights & confiscation
one of the documents about aqraba's land rights & confiscation

i did not end up staying for the speeches because after 5 hours of waiting i had to leave. i got to see the scouts marching in with their drums and flags (and thank god they were all only palestinian flags–no political party flags in sight). and i heard the opening speech and someone reciting from the qur’an (though i found it odd that they read something about musa when they could have read a sura about the land, about olive trees, about something that is actually related to the context).

scouts at aqraba school
scouts at aqraba school

during the 5 hours of waiting we had many discussions with the people in the village. some people kept focusing on the microscopic issues without relating the situation in aqraba to the global problem of land theft in palestine. and i was still fuming over saeb erekat’s statement the other day about his commitment to a “two state solution.” but that so-called palestinian “two state solution,” which is 3 state catastrophe (gaza, 1948, west bank), basically will mean that an ever decreasing part of the west bank will be palestine. but the west bank is a small fraction of palestine. i keep thinking if the erekats fo palestine get their way eventually ramallah will be palestine and that is it. or maybe not even that: maybe the israeli terrorists will finally have their way and all palestinians will be pushed into jordan.

aqraba boys next to olive trees to be planted in the valley
aqraba boys next to olive trees to be planted in the valley

i had been asked to give a speech yesterday and if i had been able to stay i would have said only this: that we must liberate the land. most of the time my mantra is the right of return. and it still is. but that right of return is connected to the land. it is not only about my friends in lebanon who demand and deserve their right to return: and return to their villages NOT to ramallah. but because the israeli terrorist regime is in the business of constantly creating new refugees i think we need to imagine a mantra that is more encompassing. i was thinking about the use of a mantra, too, not in the spiritual sense, but in a secular one. people who pray using a mantra do it to cleanse their mind. if people here had a political mantra that was something along the lines of “liberate the land” then maybe they could get rid of these other words that dominate their thinking: words like occupation and checkpoints and two states. liberating the land has always been the goal of refugees. maybe if we use this mantra to change thinking and then behavior we can renew that commitment.

and i thought about this last night as friends and i watched some old palestinian liberation organization (plo) films that i have from lebanon. the films are striking because no one talks about ramallah or two states: they all talk about exactly this–liberating the land. it is striking to hear this and to see the resistance fighters–especially the one film that i love because it shows the fidayeen and the lajaeen as connected. we see the fidayeen reading letters from refugee children thanking them for fighting for their right of return and for liberating their land. this is a history, these are images that my friends here have not seen before. of course, part of the reason is that most such films were destroyed when israeli terrorists bombed the plo archives in beirut in 1982. but the few remaining films need to be distributed and shared here as it not only shows a history, it can be used to point people in the right direction in the future.

and to be sure: i don’t think that people need to be starving in order to fight for their rights. but i do think it is telling that resistance in gaza and in lebanon have been far different than here in the west bank. at the same time if we look to um al fahm this week we can see that one need not be hungry for anything other than their rights in order to resist. i don’t think this idea about the fact that people are not hungry tells the whole story, but i do think that this forced separation makes it impossible for palestinians to be connected, to learn from one another, and to share each other’s strategies for liberating the land.

liberate the land. liberate the land. see it works…it is a good mantra, sa7?

model camps

dsc099991

after school today i went with a friend and a student to jenin refugee camp to see mohammad bakri in a one-man show called the opsimist, which is based on emile habiby’s novel. i have been wanting to take a field trip there with my drama class, but unfortunately they did not send the notification out until saturday so i was only able to find one student who could come at the last minute. the drive to jenin is always so beautiful because it is so green. it is the place where so much of palestine’s produce is grown. but today we also saw signs of spring on the drive there–little, lovely wildflowers growing among the olive trees. of course there were many checkpoints as well–flying and permanent. one of the flying checkpoints you can see in the photograph below. apparently there are two new flying checkpoints around nablus.

flying checkpoint outside nablus
flying checkpoint outside nablus

we arrived in jenin, grabbed some quick shwarma sandwiches and then headed over to the camp. we got a little tour of the freedom theater there and its related centers–a library and a multimedia center. this area of the camp is the “new camp,” meaning rebuilt after the israeli terrorists destroyed it in 2002. but more on that in a minute. i am very interested in the work that the freedom theater is doing. apparently it is doing great work on bridging the gap between the city of jenin and the camp. around 70% of the audience now comes from the city of jenin. i’m not sure what the stats are for tonight’s performance, but the audience was enormous. as we walked inside the theater we were directed to the left side of the audience (women on left, men on right). after we filled all the chairs (perhaps 200 seats?) then people streamed in and sat on the stairs. it was amazing to see such attendance for a theatrical performance (my friend beesan says that we would never have such an audience if it were at an najah university, for example). perhaps it was because mohammad bakri is a very famous palestinian actor and director. he also has a film on emile habiby, called since you left, which i have been unable to see yet, but he promised me a copy after the show. i want to show it to my students when we read habiby’s novel later this semester.

dsc000041

i think the theater work they do there is great. i’ve posted before about the theatrical and therapeutic ways they use therapy at the freedom theater. but i was very turned off by some things about the director of the center, juliano mer khamis, as one can see in his film arna’s children (you can click this link to watch it on google video, but i hate this film so i will not post it here). there are elements of normalization that i don’t like in it. and there is an odd gap in the film when mer khamis leaves jenin and the film never explains why. he explained why when he first screened this film in ramallah a few years ago, though i cannot now recall the specifics. but i do recall him saying that he served in the israeli terrorist army. the absence of this context renders the film a bit more disturbing for me. i also found it disturbing that there was an israeli colonist filming the play tonight. how is it that only 7 years after the israeli terrorist massacre that he is welcomed in the camp? very disturbing.

dsc00017

but the theater is very cool and the performance by bakri tonight was amazing. the play excerpts certain threads of habiby’s novel and just as in the novel he plays both saeeds. the stage was very sparse–just a couple of props and a bed in the center. he also included a number of palestinian songs and encouraged the audience to sing along with him, which they did with vigor. and there was also a lovely kind of call-and-response in his play at a number of different moments when he would say something inviting the audience to respond. it was really beautiful to see not only the performance but this particular audience’s interaction with the actor. even when someone’s cell phone rang and the rest of the audience made noises of disapproval, bakri had an exchange with the young man with the phone. but he seemed to be in character the entire time, even with such disruptions.

i’m sure that having bakri in the camp had special significance for the people from the camp in the audience as he is the director of the wonderful documentary, jenin, jenin. i strongly recommend it and will insert it here for people who wish to watch it as it is an important reminder of what israeli terrorists do whether in jenin or in gaza:

this film has an interesting history as israeli terrorists filed a lawsuit against bakri after he made the film. bakri has a website explaining this context:

The atrocities of the Israeli military have been documented outside the film by researchers and activists who entered the camp after the military lifted its blockade, and confirmed by Israeli soldiers themselves such as Moshe Nissim, who bragged to Yediot Aharonot about his use of an armored D-9 bulldozer to flatten homes in the refugee camp. “Jenin Jenin,” however, is distinguished by its focus on the direct experience and narratives of the Palestinian victims themselves, from young girls to old men, refugees from their own homes from which they were expelled in 1948, once again finding their homes destroyed, by the same enemy, over 54 years later.

However, since its initial release, “Jenin Jenin” has come under attack within the Israeli legal system. After the military invasion of Jenin, the sealing off of the city and its closure to reporters and human rights groups, the attack on this film has served as a mechanism for further silencing and delegitimizing the voices of the Palestinians of Jenin camp.

As a Palestinian Arab who holds Israeli citizenship, born and living within the areas of Palestine occupied in 1948, Bakri’s position as less than a second-class citizen living in an occupied land is visibly illustrated by the speed with which his artistic and cultural production has become subject to state censorship, control and legal attack. When first released, after only three screenings, Bakri’s film was banned by the Israeli Film Board in 2002, accused of being libelous and offensive for telling the unmediated stories of Palestinians.

When, in 2004, the Israeli High Court finally upheld its earlier overturn of the ban, it nevertheless joined the Film Board in labeling the film a “propagandistic lie,” illustrating its own basis in the racist structure of the state that is reliant on the rejection and silencing of Palestinian voices and Palestinian narrative, just as it is upon the dispossession of Palestinian people and the theft of Palestinian land, while providing the outward appearance of democracy and proper judicial process. Rather than focusing on Jenin as an internal issue to be resolved among Israeli voices – a debate among the occupiers – “Jenin Jenin” focused on the voices of Palestinians, placing itself, as an artistic creation of a Palestinian filmmaker in a state based on the denial of that very identity, outside the framework of “legitimate” expression.

anyone thinking of the massive media censorship in gaza should think about bakri’s case. it sheds so much light on why they don’t want you to know what is really going on. likewise, the lebanese army in 2007, when they invaded and destroyed nahr el bared refugee camp in lebanon is yet another stark parallel to jenin. i remember fouad siniora saying something that summer about how he wanted to re-build it as a “model camp.” at the time many palestinians from nahr el bared talked about something which seemed like a rumor or a conspiracy theory: but clearly they were right. they thought that the lebanese government was just looking for an excuse to destroy the camp so they could build a military base on its land (while 80% of the camp residents remain internally displaced and are not allowed to return home). i posted the open letter from the camp residents before, but i will link it here. and here is the map that set off the alarms:

nahr-el-bared

and here is what a recent article in afp reported about this so-called “model camp”:

A major reconstruction operation by the Lebanese authorities and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) is to kick off later this month to rebuild a “model camp,” according to the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), a government focal point in the reconstruction effort.

“The rebuilding plan is the result of a partnership between UNRWA, the Lebanese state and the Palestinian Authority,” said LPDC advisor Ziad Sayegh.

“We seek to build a model camp that would provide a minimum standard of decent living for the Palestinians under the state’s sovereignty and authority.”

UNRWA has appealed for 450 million dollars for the rebuilding, which is scheduled to be completed in around three years. So far it has raised around 120 million dollars.

“We do need more resources to rebuild the camp but that doesn’t mean we are not going ahead with it,” said Charlie Higgins, UNRWA’s project manager. “At a certain point in the middle of this year if we don’t receive any more resources or funding we will stop and the process will be delayed.”

He said UNRWA was appealing to different countries for additional funds.

“We are confident we’ll have this money but we have to show that we are actually moving ahead,” Higgins added.

A Lebanese naval base will be set up at the edge of the camp despite strong opposition from the resident refugees who view this as a “form of restriction” and point to the fact that the base would be located near schools.

“The base is necessary for monitoring all the northern coasts and combating trafficking… this is not a restriction,” said Sayegh.

He added that an army post and a police station will also be built inside the camp, along with health centres and schools.

“The police station will ensure law enforcement and protect the Palestinians,” he said “There will be no compromise on sovereign decisions.

“It will be a model camp in terms of services and quality of buildings and roads.”

when i heard siniora talk about this idea of a “model camp” two years ago it was in the context of jenin refugee camp. he said that he wanted to rebuild it like jenin was rebuilt. but i saw jenin refugee camp tonight. and it looks like a normal refugee camp with newer houses in it. the streets are still narrow. the homes are still small. and this is what the people of nahr el bared told me again and again that they want: they want to rebuild the camp exactly as it was before. but if you look at the map above clearly that is not possible. and their fear that they always talk about is the width of the streets. friends from nahr el bared want the same narrow roads because for them a wider road, for them, means easy access with army tanks. my friend beesan tonight happens to be the niece of one of the architects who rebuilt jenin refugee camp. there the families had agency and a role to play in how it was rebuilt. in nahr el bared they don’t. and it’s unclear as to what will happen when this military base is built on the ruins of peoples lives that were looted and destroyed by the lebanese army.

in spite of everything, some sunshine

sunset in nablus
sunset in nablus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gaza panorama
gaza panorama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think of what would have to come through.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

democracy?

by the most basic definition of democracy, the israeli terrorist state is not one:

a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives

here’s a hint: a state cannot be both jewish and democratic. it is an oxymoron. most of the news here right now is about the upcoming israeli terrorist elections. here is a report by mike hanna on al jazeera. pay close attention to what samieh jabbarin says in the interview:

i think that samieh is right that for a people who are relegated to fourth-class “citizenship” at best should absolutely boycott elections. as should palestinians in the west bank and gaza boycott palestinian elections here. it doesn’t matter whether or not there are democratic elections here–there are–but what matters is that having an elected body under occupation, under colonialism is not possible (same goes for iraq and afghanistan, too, of course). by definition it becomes a puppet regime serving the colonial forces–both the israeli and american terrorist regimes. this is why a dear friend of mine says that we need a dual-intifada: one against the palestinian authority and one against the zionist entity. here is what the always insightful joseph massad has to say in electronic intifada the other day:

West Bank-based Palestinian intellectuals, like their liberal counterparts across the Arab world, have been active in the last several years in demonizing Hamas as the force of darkness in the region. These intellectuals (among whom liberal secular Christians, sometimes referred to derisively in Ramallah circles as “the Christian Democratic Party,” are disproportionately represented) are mostly horrified that if Hamas came to power, it would ban alcohol. Assuming Hamas would enact such a regulation on the entire population were it to rule a liberated Palestine in some undetermined future, these intellectuals are the kind of intellectuals who prefer an assured collaborating dictatorship with a glass of scotch to a potentially resisting democracy without. This is not to say that Hamas will institute democratic governance necessarily; but if democratically elected, as it has been, it must be given the chance to demonstrate its commitments to democratic rule, which it now promises — something all these comprador intellectuals were willing to give to Fatah, and continue to extend to the movement after it established a dictatorship. Indeed, much of the repression that took place in the West Bank during the carnage in Gaza had been legitimized by the ongoing efforts of these intellectuals just as they previously legitimized the “peace process” launched by the Oslo Accords and during which Israel continued its massive colonization of Palestinian land while the PA suppressed any resistance. The scene in the West Bank, except for Hebron, was indeed a scandal. Arab capitals like Amman and Beirut, not to mention Palestinian cities and towns inside Israel, saw massive demonstrations that were at least a hundred times more numerous than the couple of thousands who tried to march in Ramallah but were beaten up by the goons of the Palestinian Collaborationist Authority (PCA).

Palestinians in the West Bank were watching Al-Jazeera instead of demonstrating in solidarity and refused to challenge Israel’s PCA agents who rule them. While the repression by the PCA and the Israeli occupation army is an important factor, the quiescence of the West Bank was also on account of the psychological warfare of demonizing Hamas to which the PCA and its cadre of comprador intellectuals have subjected the population for years. Moreover, the fact that a quarter of a million West Bankers work in the bureaucratic and security apparatus of the PCA and receive salaries which feed another three quarters of a million West Bankers, makes them fully dependent on the continuation of PCA rule to ensure their continued livelihood. This structural and material factor is indeed paramount in assessing the contemptible quiescence of West Bankers during the recent carnage in Gaza. Indeed, some of the staged Fatah participation in demonstrations in Ramallah (where the PCA women’s police beat up Hamas women demonstrators) included people who openly suggested that the demonstrators march by the Egyptian embassy in Ramallah to show support for Egyptian policies toward Gaza and Hamas.

The journey of West Bank liberal intellectuals, it seems has finally come to this: after being instrumental in selling out the rights of Palestinians in Israel to full equal citizenship by acquiescing to Israel’s demand to be recognized as a racist Jewish state, and the rights of the diaspora and refugees to return, they have now sold out the rights of Palestinians in Gaza to food and electricity, and all of this so that the West Bank can be ruled by a collaborationist authority that allows them open access to Johnny Walker Black Label (their drink of choice, although some have switched to Chivas more recently). In this context, how could Israel be anything but a friend and ally who is making sure Hamas will never get to ban whiskey?

In the meantime, the coming Israeli elections are being awaited with much trepidation. PCA strategies will be of course different depending on who wins. If Netanyahu wins, and he was the spoiler of PA rule and the Oslo understanding in 1996, Abbas can try to sound more nationalist in opposing Israeli practices in the hope that the Obama administration would support him against the Israeli right wing. The PCA hopes that Obama can put pressure on Netanyahu that he would not be able to in case Labor Party leader Ehud Barak wins. If Barak wins, then the PCA would be happy as they can go back to business as usual. As a close friend of the corrupt Clintons, Barak will also be a friend of his namesake in the Oval office, and Hillary Clinton will make sure that no pressure goes his way. Of course as far as the Palestinian people are concerned, it makes no difference who is at the helm of Israeli politics, a right-wing war criminal or a left-wing war criminal. As for those who still have hope in the Israeli public, the latter’s overwhelming support for the carnage in Gaza should put this to rest. If Germans spent the day on the beach when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, and Americans cheered in bars and at home the fireworks light show the US military put up over Baghdad while slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in 1991 and in 2003, Israeli Jews insisted on having front row seats on hills overlooking Gaza for a live show, cracking open champagne bottles and cheering the murder and maiming of thousands of civilians, more than half of whom were women and children.

The Obama government as well as the Israelis and the Arab regimes have only one game they are willing to play, and it is hardly original. Ignoring and delegitimizing Hamas is a repetition of the delegitimization of the PLO when it represented Palestinian interests in the 1960s, 1970s, and part of the 1980s. At the time, the Jordanian regime was entrusted by the Israelis and the Americans with speaking on behalf of West Bank Palestinians until the PLO pledged to be a servant of Israel and US interests and began to view both as friends, and not as enemies. While this strategy has worked superbly in ending the enmity between most Arab regimes and Israel, it has failed miserably in convincing most Arabs that Israel is not their enemy. Israel’s recent military victory in slaughtering defenseless Palestinian civilians and its losing the war against Hamas by failing to realize any of its military objectives have hardly endeared it or its Arab supporters to the Arab peoples at large or to Muslim regional powers who are not fully subservient to the US. The Israeli settler-colony might have become the friend of oppressive regimes across the region, but in doing so it has ensured the enmity of the majority of the peoples in whose midst it has chosen to implant itself.

for those who want to read massad’s article in arabic check out al akhbar: إسرائيل كعدوّ… كـصديق by جوزيف مسعد.

lest you think that racism and lesser-class citizenship is only something directed at palestinians in the so-called “democracy” of the israeli terrorist regime, think again. recall that first of all the zionist entity is a “jewish state” meaning that one must be jewish to have rights. many of you may be old enough to remember the 1980s when there was a big push in the u.s. to fund the airlifting of russian jews to the israeli terrorist state. what you were never told is that many of those people are actually christian. this was one of their devious tricks to up their demographics, to outnumber palestinians. and they exist in large numbers and are being courted by israeli terrorist candidates like avigdor lieberman who advocates further ethnic cleansing (“transfer” in zionist speak):

Liberman has also advocated the “transfer” of some Israeli Arab towns close to the West Bank to any future Palestinian state. He himself lives in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. “He’s the kind of leader we’ve been waiting for, he knows how to talk to Arabs in their own language, the language of force,” said one woman when Liberman took his talk-tough message to villages close to the Gaza border.

barnaby phillips shows some of this dynamic in his report on the election for al jazeera:

notice that phillips mentions lieberman’s position that one must swear allegiance to a jewish state or be stripped of his/her citizenship. can you imagine if we were talking about jews living in a muslim country in this context? can you imagine what the u.s. would do? if jews lived in a fascist muslim country to which they had to swear their loyalty to? and if not they would be ethnically cleansed? what would happen then do you think?

but all this is to suggest that somehow there are real choices in the israeli terrorist election that would make a difference in the lives of palestinians. and the truth is that it will be shades of worse or worst. just like americans deluded into thinking that obama/mccain would make a difference. it’s the same thing. for those who are occupied, who are oppressed: there are no choices. there is no one representing the side of the poor, the peasant, the disenfranchised.

gideon levy had an interesting op-ed piece in ha’aretz this week about the elections arguing that perhaps the worst candidate, rather than the worse candidates, would be better for palestinians:

Benjamin Netanyahu will apparently be Israel’s next prime minister. There is, however, something encouraging about that fact. Netanyahu’s election will free Israel from the burden of deception: If he can establish a right-wing government, the veil will be lifted and the nation’s true face revealed to its citizens and the rest of the world, including Arab countries. Together with the world, we will see which direction we are facing and who we really are. The masquerade that has gone on for several years will finally come to an end.

Netanyahu’s election is likely to bring the curtain down on the great fraud – the best show in town – the lie of “negotiations” and the injustice of the “peace process.” Israel consistently claimed these acts proved the nation was focused on peace and the end of the occupation. All the while, it did everything it could to further entrench the occupation and distance any chance of a potential agreement.

For 16 years, we have been enamored with the peace process. We talk and talk, babble and prattle, and generally feel great about ourselves; meanwhile the settlements expand endlessly and Israel turns to the use of force at every possible opportunity, aside from a unilateral disengagement which did nothing to advance the cause of peace.

With the election of a prime ministerial candidate who speaks of “economic peace,” the naked truth will finally emerge. If, however, Tzipi Livni or Ehud Barak are elected, the self-delusion will simply continue. Livni herself is enamored with futile, useless and cowardly negotiations, and Barak has long abandoned the brave efforts he made in the past. The election of either will only perpetuate the vacuum. The world, including Washington, will breathe a sigh of relief that for once, Israel has elected a leadership that will pursue peace. But there is no chance of that happening.

The record of each of these candidates, and the positions they have championed until now, proves that what has been will continue to be. Livni and Barak will rush to every photo opportunity with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan. The Americans and Europeans will be pleased, but nothing will come out of it other than the sowing of a few more illusions. We will move from war to war, uprising to uprising, settlement to settlement, and the world will continue to delude itself into thinking an agreement is within reach. Hamas will grow stronger, Abbas weaker and the last chance for peace will be irretrievably lost.

Netanyahu would offer something else. First, he is a faithful representative of an authentic “Israeli” view – an almost complete distrust of Arabs and the chance of reaching peace with them, mixed with condescension and dehumanization. Second, he will finally arouse the world’s rage towards us, including that of the new U.S. administration. Sadly, this may be the only chance for the kind of dramatic change that is needed.

The Palestinian Authority, another mendacious facade, will finally collapse, and Israel will face the non-partner it has wanted and sought all these years. The world may not rush to embrace Netanyahu as it would the “moderates” – Livni or Barak, who have led Israel to more unnecessary wars than Netanyahu, the “extremist” – while the real difference between them is almost non-existent.

Lifting the veil will lead to a crisis situation, which unfortunately is the only one that can bring about change. We must hope that both Kadima and Labor do not join a Netanyahu government (regrettably, another futile hope), as Israel’s exposure will then be that much starker. A government composed of Netanyahu, Shas and Avigdor Lieberman will not, of course, have to deal with an opposition of Netanyahu, Shas and Avigdor Lieberman, and may therefore behave differently once in power than one might expect. Have we mentioned Menachem Begin?

But even if Netanyahu is the same old Netanyahu, this will be an opportunity to place the right’s policies under the microscope. Let’s see him stand before Barack Obama and speak of the grotesque idea of “economic peace,” or wage foreign or security policies according to his stated positions. Let’s see him answer just what exactly his vision is for 20 to 30 years down the road.

In due course, his anticipated failure may just hasten an alternative route, on condition that Kadima and Labor do not join the government and bring us another year of fraud. The lemons may yet yield lemonade – maybe the establishment of a right-wing government will remove all of the masks for good. The alternative, known and expected by all, is far more ambiguous, dangerous and threatening.

So let Netanyahu win. There is no alternative at this point anyway.

this is sort of why i keep wishing john mccain had won the election. i would much prefer a clearer enemy in the white house than one everyone continues to see as an (fake) arbiter of change. here is what omar barghouti had to say about israeli terrorist elections a few years ago (still applies today):

A recent study of Israeli racism confirms this “moral degradation.” More than two thirds of Israeli Jews stated they would not live in the same building with Palestinian citizens of Israel, while 63% agreed with the statement that “Arabs are a security and demographic threat to the state.” Forty percent believed “the state needs to support the emigration of Arab citizens.” This general shift of Israeli public opinion to extreme right positions well explains the remarkable rise of Lieberman.

But one does not have to be Lieberman to be a racist, as Ha’aretz writer Gideon Levy notes. “The ‘peace’ proposed by Ehud Olmert is no less racist,” he argues, adding: “Lieberman wants to distance them from our borders, Olmert and his ilk want to distance them from our consciousness. Nobody is speaking about peace with them, nobody really wants it. Only one ambition unites everyone – to get rid of them, one way or another. Transfer or wall, ‘disengagement’ or ‘convergence’ – the point is that they should get out of our sight.”

this word “democracy” struck me today as i sat in on a seminar at an najah university. a group of students were practicing their debating skills in a role-playing exercise based on a couple of different themes. in each scenario one student was the zionist and the other the palestinian. the palestinian students playing the role of the zionist kept explaining about the “democracy” they supposedly have. and actually all the students who played the role of the zionist were quite good. they had their argument down pat (or their propaganda i should say). they knew all their arguments, because the propaganda is repeated like a broken record day in and day out, even on al jazeera. but for all the students playing their own part, the role of the palestinian, they could not come up with a single specific example to refute the claims of those playing the role of the zionist. i was not surprised because i know how little my own students know about their own history. i blame the u.s. and the israelis for this (for censoring palestinian textbooks) and i blame the palestinian authority for this (for self-censoring for fear of israeli-u.s. censorship). but i also blame the students themselves. there are many excellent palestinian historical documents in libraries and bookshops here, including at an najah university (in multiple languages). but the students do not take the responsibility to read on their own, to study, to learn the facts. in the end this means that all the arguments become circular. or it becomes a futile back-and-forth about who was here first or who kills more children. there is so much work to be done on so many levels to counter act this. and this is in the west bank. in 1948 palestine–where supposedly palestinians live in the “democratic” (read: terrorist) state of israel–palestinians are not even allowed to learn their history at all. all they get is the zionist narrative.

to understand the history–and the specificity of that history–is to be able to track the ways in which there have been multiple displacements, massacres, ethnic cleansings. to understand the history of political prisoners. the uprootedness. the depopulation policies that have always been present among zionist colonist terrorists. it is a way of connecting the past to the every day reality that affects all palestinians whether they are refugees outside or inside, 1948 palestinians, or palestinians living in gaza and the west bank. to understand this history is to give context to the current reality here:

14,000 homes, 68 government buildings, 31 NGOs destroyed leaving 600,000 tons of rubble in Gaza

Thousands of Palestinians are living in tented camps after Israel’s three-week assault on the Gaza Strip, hoping for a swift end to Israel’s blockade so they can rebuild their homes.

Aid workers said on Thursday at least 16,000 people have found temporary accommodation in 10 camps set up in districts laid to waste in a war that local medical officials said left around 1,300 Palestinians dead and more than 5,000 wounded.

But conditions are cramped, with several thousands of tents held up at border crossings from Israel into the Gaza Strip.

A total of 548 Palestinians are detained without trial in Israel, including 42 who have been held for over two years, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said on Thursday.

Among the Palestinians detained without trail, two have been held for four and a half years, B’Tselem said in its annual report.

Six of those detained without trial in December were minors, including two girls, the report said.

It said a total of 7,904 Palestinians were in Israeli custody at the end of December.

The report also said that by December 26 Israeli security forces last year killed 455 Palestinians, including 87 minors. It said at least 175 of those killed did not take part in the hostilities. Eighteen Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli troops were killed by Palestinians in the same period, the report said. The figures do not include casualties from the 22-day military offensive Israel launched in Gaza on December 27, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

Israeli occupation forces advanced into Fakhari area east of Khan Younis district, to the south of Gaza Strip, at an early hour on Saturday amidst indiscriminate shooting.

PIC reporter said that a number of IOF tanks and bulldozers advanced hundreds of meters in the area and bulldozed Palestinian cultivated lands.

and, of course, it is not just palestine. israeli terrorists love to invade lebanon regularly, too:

An Israeli army patrol on Thursday crossed into southern Lebanese territory, the state-run National News Agency said.

It said a 15-member patrol crossed the electronic fence into the border town of Blida and searched the area for more than 50 minutes before pulling out at around 10:00 am.

or the invasion of a lebanese ship in gaza territorial waters:

all of these israeli terrorist policies are cultivated in israeli terrorist universities by a wide variety of scholars in a range of disciplines, including philosophy (hint: this is why there is a need for the academic boycott of israel):

When senior Israel Defense Forces officers are asked about the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians during the fighting in the Gaza Strip, they almost all give the same answer: The use of massive force was designed to protect the lives of the soldiers, and when faced with a choice between protecting the lives of Israeli soldiers and those of enemy civilians under whose protection the Hamas terrorists are operating, the soldiers take precedence.

The IDF’s response to criticism does not sound improvised or argumentative. The army entered Gaza with the capacity to gauge with relatively high certainty the impact of fighting against terror in such a densely populated area. And it operated there not only with the backing of the legal opinion of the office of the Military Advocate General, but also on the basis of ethical theory, developed several years ago, that justifies its actions.

Prof. Asa Kasher of Tel Aviv University, an Israel Prize laureate in philosophy, is the philosopher who told the IDF that it was possible. In a recent interview with Haaretz Kasher said the army operated in accordance with a code of conduct developed about five years ago for fighting terrorism.

“The norms followed by the commanders in Gaza were generally appropriate,” Kasher said. In Kasher’s opinion there is no justification for endangering the lives of soldiers to avoid the killing of civilians who live in the vicinity of terrorists. According to Kasher, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi “has been very familiar with our principles from the time the first document was drafted in 2003 to the present.”

Kasher’s argument is that in an area such as the Gaza Strip in which the IDF does not have effective control the overriding principle guiding the commanders is achieving their military objectives. Next in priority is protecting soldiers’ lives, followed by avoiding injury to enemy civilians. In areas where Israel does have effective control, such as East Jerusalem, there is no justification for targeted killings in which civilians are also hit because Israel has the option of using routine policing procedures, such as arrests, that do not endanger innocent people.

Prof. Kasher has strong, long-standing ties with the army. He drafted the IDF ethical code of conduct in the mid-1990’s. In 2003 he and Maj. Gen Amos Yadlin, now the head of Military Intelligence, published an article entitled “The Ethical Fight Against Terror.” It justified the targeted assassination of terrorists, even at the price of hitting nearby Palestinian civilians. Subsequently Kasher, Yadlin, and a team that included IDF legal experts wrote a more comprehensive document on military ethics in fighting terror. Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, who was the IDF Chief of Staff at the time, did not make the document binding but Kasher says the ideas in the document were adopted in principle by Ya’alon and his successors. Kasher has presented them to IDF and Shin Bet security service personnel dozens of times.

this is also why we need student agitation on campuses across the world to help push for boycott, divestment, and sanctions as students have been doing successfully in various ways in the united kingdom:

A STUDENT sit-in at a Scottish university ended peacefully last night, after the university authorities agreed to cancel their contract with an Israeli water company.

The 40 students, led by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, occupied the foyer of Strathclyde University’s McCance building, to demand that it sever all links with Israeli organisations following the bombing of the Gaza Strip.

The students presented the university management with a list of demands, which included: the cancellation of a contract with Eden Springs, its main water cooler supplier; the severing of funding links with arms manufacturer BAE systems; the issuing of a statement condemning the Israeli action in Palestine last month; the creation of a scholarship programme for Palestinian students at Strathclyde; and a pledge of solidarity for the Islamic University of Gaza.

Students also asked that the university oppose Israeli academics who promote military research, to condemn the BBC for not showing the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Gaza appeal and to broadcast the appeal on campus as part of a fundraising day.

Following negotiations yesterday afternoon, agreement was reached on a number of points: the contract with Eden Spring would be cancelled, a scholarship programme would be established for Palestinian students and the DEC appeal would be broadcast on the campus.

finally such activism is spreading to the united states!:

Students from the University of Rochester and members of the local Rochester community will be occupying an academic building on campus tomorrow for peace and in solidarity with the people Gaza and in opposition to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the recent atrocities in Gaza. The action, organized by U of R Students for a Democratic Society (UR-SDS), will begin on the afternoon of Friday, February 6 and will last until the University of Rochester administration meets the demands put forward.

The demands are:

1. Divestment: We demand the University of Rochester to adopt the “UR-Peaceful Investing Initiative” which institutes a peaceful investment policy to the university’s endowment which includes divestment from corporations that manufacturer weapons and profit from war. (For example, the U of R invests in General Dynamics which manufactures weapons to maintain a 41-year occupation of the Palestinian territories and wars which slaughter Palestinian civilians by the 100s)

2. Humanitarian aid: We demand that the University of Rochester commit to a day of fundraising for humanitarian aid in Gaza within the next two weeks, as part of an ongoing commitment to provide financial support for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

3. Academic aid: We demand that the University of Rochester twin with the devastated Gaza University and provide the necessary academic aid (e.g., recycled computers, books, etc. ).

4. Scholarships: We demand that the University of Rochester grant a minimum of five scholarships to Palestinian students every year.

and this is also why we need many other aspects of the boycott to develop including a sports boycott…which it seems could be in the making soon as qui qui suggests today on kabobfest:

Yesterday night, the Israeli Maccabi Basketball team played against the Barca team (Barcelona), a game part of the EuroLeague 2009. It took place in Barcelona – Catalunya.

The Maccabi team is known for its support of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). Three of its players visited the soldiers at the Gaza border during the recent bloodshed against Palestinian civilians.

In a response to that, 9 people jumped onto the basketball court shouting pro-Palestinian slogans and carrying Palestinian flags before they were dragged out by “security” forces and the police. At the same time, the public was chanting “Palestine Palestine” while they applauded and lifted banners in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom. Many people waved Palestinian flags and booed the Israeli team.

in an email omar had this to say about it:

Barcelona basketball fans receive Maccabi Tel Aviv with dozens of Palestinian flags and a stunning chant: “Boycott Israel — Viva Palestine”!

After sports fans and activists in Turkey and New Zealand took action in support of a sports boycott of Israel, this very promising sports boycott movement has finally eached Europe, where it counts the most, starting from Barcelona, no less, a major European sports powerhouse! As many of you already know, Israeli teams compete in European championships as if Israel were part of Europe. Not different from academia, among other fields.

Finally, Israeli sports teams are facing what their South African predecessors had experienced in the 1980s. Could not have come at a more opportune time …

And for those who think that sports should not be “politicized” or that Israeli sports is about the nobility of athletics as an expression of humanity, a thorough examination of the Israeli sports scene will confirm that sports teams (particularly football and basketball teams and most of their fans) are no different from the mainstream in Israel: racist, colonial and every bit deserving of boycott.

here is the lovely video where you can watch this action (though i would personally prefer people NOT spend money on events where israeli terrorist athletes are competing… ):

some notes on censorship

nidal el khairy
nidal el khairy

it is kind of astounding what an impact an najah university has on the city of nablus. the city itself is one of the largest in palestine and yet when the students are not here so many shops and restaurants close down because there is no business. one of the board of trustees at the university died so the university was closed today and so did all the shops. one of the members of an najah university’s board of trustees died, a prominent nabulsi from the masri family, so the university shut down. and so did all the shops. it was strange being on campus and around campus today. it reminded me of when we had a strike last semester; it was like this then, too.

i have been busy working on the u.s. boycott campaign and the vigil (see below) that we are having sunday night in nablus and in many other cities around the world. hopefully more will be added soon. i hear rumors that boise, idaho is going to join our list of vigils! one of the associated activities with the vigil, aside from reading the names of the child martyrs is to read out loud some of the stories of the children who survived. here are some of those in english (sorry no translation yet):

Children’s survival stories in Gaza

Amira, 15 years old

Amira Qirm is from Tal El Hawa. She watched her father die outside their home. Right after that, she heard another shell land and kill her brother Ala’a, 14 years old, and her sister Ismat, 16 years old. Amira was injured in the attack, and spent three days semi-conscious and alone in a neighbour’s abandoned house before she was rescued. She has been flown to France for medical treatment and she faces a long recovery. She says her dream is to become a lawyer so she can “stand in court facing the Israelis for what they have done.”

* The Guardian, 23 January 2009

Essidi, 6 years old

6-year-old Essidi Sarzuhr was hit by Israeli bomb fragments when seven Israeli rockets hit the front of his house on Jan 7. The family lives in Sabra, Gaza. He was taken to Al-Shifa hospital’s Special Paediatric Department for treatment for extensive abdominal injuries and had undergone emergency lifesaving laparatomy and had a chest tube placed due to fragment injuries also of the chest.

* Account of Norwegian Doctors Mads Gilbert and Erick Fosse

Hosam, early teens

Hosam Hamdan, a boy in his early teens, still remains unconscious in Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital intensive care unit in a full body cast, after he was seriously wounded and his two sisters killed in an Israeli air strike in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip at the end of December 2008. Doctors are not sure if he will ever walk again.

* The Guardian, 31 December 2008

Sari, young child

Sari, a boy, was caught outside during the first bombing. “He trembled as he told us that he’d been on his way home from school in a taxi when there was a thundering blast. The driver stopped the car and ran for cover. The passengers scattered in all directions. Sari found himself running aimlessly. The explosions seemed to be chasing him, he said. Suddenly, he came upon people lying bleeding in the street” but it was too late to help them.

*Eyad el Sarraj, The Washington Post, January 3, 2009

Ayman, 15 years old

Ayman Najjar is trying to recover from severe burns in a hospital in Khan Younis, and his back is covered in thick dressings. His doctor says he is suffering from severe chemical burns. Ayman is from Khoza’a, a rural community east of Khan Younis. He and his sister were sitting under the stairs when a missile struck. Their grandfather, who was in the garden, was killed instantly. His sister Alaa, 16 years old, had been playing a game on her mobile phone when she was hit and died after hours of surgery.

* www.Rafahkid.net

Hagag Family

Sitting in his empty apartment, Anas doesn’t know if he will see his wife, Mounira, and two daughters and son ever again. “It feels as though as a piece of my heart has been torn out,” he said. Mounira, a Bosnian national, had survived 4 years of war in Bosnia, and had thought she could endure life in Gaza as well. But, Anas said, “three weeks of Israeli warfare in Gaza broke her – mentally” and she left to Cairo on the first bus out after the ceasefire. “I miss her terribly,” he says, “but I don’t blame her.”

* Al-Jazeera English

Al-Daya family

Fayez and Khitam Al Daya had brought together their children and their families into their home in the neighborhood of Zeitoun, Gaza City. On January 6, at 6am, an Israeli Apache plane bombed and destroyed the 4-storey home. All 30 members of the family were killed and buried under the rubble. 18 of those killed were children.

* Al Haq

Ibrahim Shurrab, 17 years old

On 16 January, 2009, at around 1.30 in the afternoon during the three-hour Israeli-declared lull in fighting, Ibrahim, his brother Kassab, 27 years old, and their father Mohammed, 64 years old, were in their car on their home from their farm. Kassab was shot by an Israeli solider4 in the chest, and died a few hours later. Mohammed was shot in the arm, and Ibrahim’s leg was wounded. Ibrahim and his father were stranded and the ambulances were unable to reach them. Mohammed spent hours trying to call the Red Cross and human rights organizations, but they were unable to help, and Ibrahim died at dawn the next morning.

* Al Haq

“Out of all the devastation I have seen so far, there is one story in particular that I think the world needs to hear. I met a mother who was at home with her ten children when Israeli soldiers entered the house. The soldiers told her she had to choose five of her children to “give as a gift to Israel.” As she screamed in horror they repeated the demand and told her she could choose or they would choose for her. Then these soldiers murdered five of her children in front of her.”

* Account of Barbara Lubin in Gaza City

these accounts are important to share not only at vigils, but in general. we need to be reminded of the survivors too, some of whom will never recover fully, will never be the same psychologically. and yet the bbc continues to censor the public service announcement from the disaster emergency committee, which is trying to raise money for gaza in the u.k. the image above by nidal el khairy is a brilliant piece responding to the way in which bbc is complicit in–and even participating in–the deaths of palestinians in gaza. muhammad idress ahmad has a really smart analysis of the bbc censorship on electronic intifada:

If there were no occupier and occupied in the conflict; no oppressor and oppressed, no state and stateless; then clearly assisting victims on one side would compromise “impartiality.” This view posits the Palestinian population as a whole as an adversary to the Israeli war machine. The BBC’s decision not to acknowledge the victims of the conflict is a function of its biased coverage. When it spent three weeks providing a completely distorted image of the slaughter carried out by one of the world’s mightiest militaries against a defenseless civilian population, it is unsurprising that it should fear viewers questioning how such a “balanced” conflict could produce so many victims. And if the Israelis are able to look after their own, why should the Palestinians need British assistance?

When there is no mention of the violent dispossession of the Palestinians, or of the occupation; no mention of the crippling siege, or of the daily torments of the oppressed, viewers would naturally find it hard to comprehend the reality. For if these truths were to be revealed, the policy of the British government would appear even less reasonable. As a state chartered body, however, the BBC is no more likely to antagonize the government as a politician in the government is to antagonize the Israel lobby. Indeed, the BBC’s director general Mark Thompson can hardly be described as a disinterested party: in 2005 he made a trip to Jerusalem where he met with Ariel Sharon in what was seen in Israel as an attempt to “build bridges” and “a ‘softening’ to the corporation’s unofficial editorial line on the Middle East.” Thompson, “a deeply religious man,” is “a Catholic, but his wife is Jewish, and he has a far greater regard for the Israeli cause than some of his predecessors” sources at the corporation told The Independent. Shortly afterwards Orla Guerin, an exceptionally courageous and honest journalist responsible for most of the corporation’s rare probing and hard-hitting reports, was sacked as the BBC’s Middle East correspondent and transferred to Africa in response to complaints from the Israeli government.

But this decision to refuse a charity appeal has consequences that go far beyond any of the BBC’s earlier failings: as the respected British MP Tony Benn put it, “people will die because of the BBC decision.” It is so blatantly unjust that the only question the BBC management might want to mull over is just how irreparable the damage from this controversy might be to its reputation. The organization that only days earlier was reporting with glee a letter by Chinese intellectuals boycotting their state media is today itself the subject of boycotts across Britain, not just by intellectuals, but by artists, scholars, citizens and even the International Atomic Energy Agency. Much like Pravda and Izvestia during the Cold War, today it is the BBC that has emerged as the most apposite metaphor for state propaganda.

and there is censorship in the u.s. as well. the u.s. campaign to end the occupation created a public service announcement for direct tv and they refused to air it.

Take Action: DIRECTV Censors Our Gaza Strip TV Ad

Thanks to a generous emergency grant from Cultures of Resistance, we produced a 30-second commercial about the U.S. role in Israel’s war on and siege of the Gaza Strip.

We thought, “What better way to bring this important information to the attention of people in the United States than to advertise nationally on DIRECTV?” the largest satellite television subscription service in the country.

After detailed discussions with DIRECTV, including agreement on rates, times, and network placements of the ad, when we gave them the final product, they abruptly decided not to do business with us.

This blatant act of censorship is preventing millions of U.S. households from learning the truth about our government’s crucial role in enabling Israel’s war on and siege of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

TAKE ACTION

1. Watch both an extended internet version and the original 30-second commercial below.

2. Contact DIRECTV to protest its act of censorship and demand that they accept our ad by clicking here.

3. Let all your friends know about this commercial and DIRECTV’s censorship of it by joining our Facebook group.

4. Make a tax-deductible contribution to the US Campaign so that we can purchase as much air time for this commercial as possible by clicking below on the icon.

5. Take action requested in the commercial and sign our open letter to President Obama calling upon him to cut of military aid to Israel by clicking here.

censorship is also prevalent in 1948 palestine as with palestinians wanting to commemorate the anniversary of george habash’s death:

About 30 demonstrators from the Israeli-Arab Abnaa elBalad Movement (Sons of the Land) rallied in Haifa yesterday in protest of a police decision to ban an open-air memorial service for George Habash, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The PFLP is considered a terrorist organization in Israel.

Mohammed Kanana, secretary general of the movement which organized the rally, told Haaretz he had not been surprised by the police decision.

“The Israel Police is famous for its oppression of the Arab public and for its opposition to lawful democratic activity,” he said. The event was supposed to be held in a Haifa theater yesterday, marking the first anniversary of Habash’s death. Among the invited speakers were Arab public figures, clergymen, and Habash’s relatives living in Israel.

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

and egypt is now collaborating with israeli terrorists in censoring the media by preventing them from broadcasting in gaza:

Egypt on Tuesday prevented two senior Al Jazeera journalists from entering the Gaza Strip through Rafah border, the London-based Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi reported on Wednesday.

The two, Ahmad Mansour and Ghassan Bin Jido, said that the Egyptian authorities did not provide an explanation for their decision, and that employees of other media outlets were allowed to cross into the besieged territory without delay.

During Operation Cast Lead last month, the network’s coverage of the events in Gaza was critical of Egypt’s opposition to Hamas. Mansour and Bin Jido are known for their favorable attitude toward the Palestinian “resistance movement,” as Hamas is known in the Arab world. They said they’d stay put until Egypt provides a “reasonable” explanation for their detention at the border.

and egypt is collaborating with israeli terrorists by destroying tunnels and creating a system of surveillance to prevent palestinians fro accessing basic needs through the tunnels along the rafah border:

The Egyptian government destroyed more tunnels along its borders with the tiny Gaza Strip that were used by Gazans to bring food and basic needs into their besieged Strip, Palestinian sources and eyewitnesses confirmed.

The Israeli occupation government destroyed nearly one-half of the tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border during its brutal war on Gaza last month, the sources added.

The Egyptian government also halted fuel supply to Gaza Strip, which aggravated the suffering of the Palestinian people there, especially that no fuel is being supplied to Gaza from the Israeli side.

Sensor cameras were also installed by the Egyptian security forces on top of high building to monitor the borders with help from American, German, and French experts with the aim to uncover and destroy all the tunnels.

matthew cassel
matthew cassel

matthew’s amazing photograph above of one of the tunnel workers is about these men as an essential part of resistance.

there are other forms of censorship like when the u.s. congress tries to call the united nations relief and works agency a terrorist organization (click link below to protest this outrageous resolution):

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) urges you to act quickly to oppose House Congressional Resolution 29 (H. Con. Res 29) which questions support for the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) and alleges its support for terror organizations. H. Con. Res. 29 has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. While the people of the Gaza Strip are suffering after years of occupation, blockade and weeks of war UNRWA deserves only steadfast American support and aid to alleviate the suffering in Gaza. The attempts to make UNRWA’s job harder and limit funding for the organization sends the message that the United States is actively seeking the continued deprivation of the Palestinian people.

Take action below by sending a prepared message to your representative. Eight representatives have co-sponsored this resolution and if your representative is one of them then you will be able to send them a message expressing your disagreement with the resolution. If they have not co-sponsored the resolution you will be able to send them a letter encouraging them not to support the resolution.

meanwhile barack obama–that president of hope and change for you koolaid drinkers out there–is censoring evidence of torture:

Two senior British judges have expressed their anger and surprise that President Barack Obama’s Government has put pressure on Britain to suppress evidence of torture in US custody.

Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones said they had been told that America had threatened to stop co-operating with Britain on intelligence matters if evidence were published suggesting that Binyam Mohammed, a British resident held at the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, had been tortured into confessing crimes.

and one news item that i bet won’t be getting a lot of air time in the u.s. is the one about obama’s home state of illinois investing in the terrorist state of israel:

The state of Illinois has just purchased $10 million in Israel bonds.

http://jta.org/news/article/2009/01/28/1002600/illinois-makes-big-israel-bon
ds-purchase

If you would like to point out to Illinois officials that, considering that Israel has just massacred over 1,300 Palestinians including over 400 children, and that Illinois should be considering divestment and boycott rather than investment, here’s some contact information.

Thanks,

-Rich

Contact Illinois Governor Pat Quinn
217-782-0244
Or 312-814-2121

http://www.standingupforillinois.org/contact/

Contact Illinois Senator Dick Durban
202-224-2152

http://durbin.senate.gov/contact.cfm

Contact Illinois Senator Roland W. Burris
202-224-2854
(no on-line contact for Burris found)

Illinois residents find your representatives in congress by district here:

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/findyourreps.xpd?state=IL

Please forward widely, especially to Illinois residents

as if you needed any, jonathan cook has some great reasons why you should not only contact the legislators above and tell them to stop investing in the terrorist israeli state but also to DIVEST from it altogether:

Extremist rabbis and their followers, bent on waging holy war against the Palestinians, are taking over the Israeli army by stealth, according to critics.

In a process one military historian has termed the rapid “theologization” of the Israeli army, there are now entire units of religious combat soldiers, many of them based in West Bank settlements. They answer to hardline rabbis who call for the establishment of a Greater Israel that includes the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Their influence in shaping the army’s goals and methods is starting to be felt, say observers, as more and more graduates from officer courses are also drawn from Israel’s religious extremist population.

“We have reached the point where a critical mass of religious soldiers is trying to negotiate with the army about how and for what purpose military force is employed on the battlefield,” said Yigal Levy, a political sociologist at the Open University who has written several books on the Israeli army.

The new atmosphere was evident in the “excessive force” used in the recent Gaza operation, Dr Levy said. More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed, a majority of them civilians, and thousands were injured as whole neighborhoods of Gaza were leveled.

“When soldiers, including secular ones, are imbued with theological ideas, it makes them less sensitive to human rights or the suffering of the other side.”

or how about this…benjamin netanyahu, a frontrunner in the upcoming israeli terrorist election, and leader of its likud party, represents a party that, like most israeli terrorists in general, thrive on total hypocrisy. as they are always already making claims about refusing to negotiate with hamas because of its charter or what borders it agrees to (always articulated with fabrications, mind you) here is what likud’s charter says in an article by frank barat in the palestine chronicle:

Everyone (politicians and corporate media leaders) accepted this without asking a few important questions. Which Israel should Hamas recognize? Israel has not yet stated what its international borders are. Should Hamas recognize the Israel of 1948? The Israel of 1967? The Israel of 2009 with its apartheid wall, settlements (settlements building raised by 60 percent in 2008, the year of the Annapolis “Peace Process”, according to a Peace Now report), second class Arab citizens and with East Jerusalem annexed?

Any astute observer could also have objected by reminding people that Hamas (through Haniyeh and Meshal) had said many times over that it was willing to accept Israel as a political entity on the 1967 borders. You do not have to look hard for this, it was stated in the Guardian, Washington Post, amongst others, meaning that Hamas was now in line with most of the international community, accepting a two-state solution.

Another issue came back again and again. The problem is Hamas’s Charter, we would hear. Whatever Meshal or Haniyeh were ready to accept, the Charter came back to haunt them every time.

But what about the Charter of the Likud Party. With Netanyahu and his right-wing party ready to take over, it is only fair to find out a bit more about them.

In the “Peace and Security” chapter of the Likud Party platform, a recent document (1999) it says initially that:

“Peace is a primary objective of the State of Israel. The Likud will strengthen the existing peace agreements with the Arab states and strive to achieve peace agreements with all of Israel’s neighbors with the aim of reaching a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

But then it says about settlements:

“The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”

Therefore annihilating the slightest chance of a two-state solution.

On Palestinian self-rule it says:

“The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river. The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel’s existence, security and national needs.”

Therefore annihilating any chance of seeing a Palestinian sovereign state.

On Jerusalem:

“Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem, including the plan to divide the city presented to the Knesset by the Arab factions and supported by many members of Labor and Meretz.”

Therefore annihilating any chance for future peace negotiations because east Jerusalem as capital of a future Palestinian state is non-negotiable for any Palestinian.

We have therefore established that the Likud party charter does not recognize Palestine and will not accept a sovereign Palestinian state. The soon-to-come non-recognition of Likud by the international community and an implemented blockade on Israel should therefore not come as a surprise for Israelis.

and as we speak the lebanese boat that was on its way to gaza has now been attacked by israeli terrorists at sea. my only hope is that lebanon–specifically hezbollah–sees this as an act of war and responds accordingly:

An Israeli gunboat late Wednesday intercepted a Lebanese ship carrying medical aid and other supplies bound for Gaza, said the organizer of the Lebanese delivery, Maan Bashour.

“The Brotherhood Ship was fired on by an Israeli military boat 32 kilometers off the coast of Gaza and they were asked to divert course,” said Bashour, and added that the ship remains in the water near the coast of Gaza.

i’m taking a couple of days off from blogging. for those who are looking to read, i strongly encourage you to check out the new issue of majdal, which i helped to edit. it’s got some terrific articles about israeli terrorists’ ongoing ethnic cleansing projects from the river to the sea. and, of course, there are many, many links in the sidebar for you to keep updated with.