On Rape

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One of the things I miss most about Beirut is the women of Nasawiya.  I miss their spirit and energy. I miss the way they run their organization in a grassroots fashion in the purest sense of the word. Anyone who has a project or an issue they want to work on they do it.  From the Anti-Racism Movement (which has a special focus on migrant domestic workers) to supporting refugees, Palestinian Syrian, and Sudanese, to standing in solidarity with Spinney’s workers on strike. There is such breadth in the way they connect feminism to other causes, something generally lacking in American feminist organizing.

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Yesterday the women of Nasawiya were on my mind as I attended my first protest in India. There has been a lot in the media locally and internationally about rape here and I received an email from Vimochana, a local feminist organization that there would be a demonstration against sexual assault and to demand a change in the way the legal system handles rape cases. The initial impetus for this protest was the outrage many people in India feel about the gang rape of a twenty-three-year old student in Delhi who was gang raped for almost an hour on a bus before being thrown onto the road and left to die. This was last week. This week a fifteen-year-old girl was raped in a grocery store near her home here in Bangalore.

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In the announcement for the protest these statistics about rape in Bangalore were shared:

97 cases were the registered rape cases in 2011 in Bangalore city which means 7 women victims each month. If the hundreds of cases of molestation, abductions of women, child sexual abuse, harassment and abuse on the streets/ auto rickshaws / buses or other public spaces in the city are counted then by any standard, living and working in the city is truly a daily hazard for women and children.  The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics for 2011 said Bangalore ranks fourth among cities of the country in recorded rape cases.

The numbers seem low by American standards, or even global standards. But the situation here seems shocking and most people are talking about it. Of course as is always the case with rape, it is underreported so statistics can only tell so much of the story. Regardless of the numbers, the stories, the fact that it happens at all and afterwards when women usually blamed, exacerbates and enflames the situation even for those not directly involved in the sexual assault.

I arrived at the protest a bit early and it seemed that a different organization, Women’s Voice, already had a protest underway. This consisted of women speaking to an audience of, largely women, sitting down and listening and at times called to chant in response. Since they were all speaking in Kannada I don’t know what they were saying, but a journalist near me, who was waiting for the second protest like me, mentioned that this was a bit orchestrated. She said that the organization bussed in women to put on a show. I’m not sure whether this is the case or not. But their protest was certainly lively, including the burning of a scarecrow-rapist in effigy.

The second protest began under the banner of Women in Black India and it seems that this group had various people involved, including a lot of students. In both cases the demands are similar wanting to change the legal system, sensitize the police force, stop the rape examination (which involves a woman being subjected to a doctor placing two fingers into her vagina to see whether or not she is used to sexual intercourse) among other things.

Here are some more essays/editorials on the Indian rape cases:

From Madness to Civilization

Change Hearts, Not Laws

Fight We Must

India: Hundreds of Men Accused of Sexual Assault Stand for Election

And here is a report on the Delhi protest the other day:

A Bit of Beirut in Bangalore

One of the first things I noticed driving around Bangalore is the way in which all the foreign-owned shops resemble those one would find in Hamra. In particular, the store Vero Modo/Jack Jones, since the time I first moved to Beirut in 2006, multiplied like rabbits along Hamra Street. It isn’t that bad here yet, but here is what one creative genius imagined Hamra Street might look like in the future if things continue at this pace. I hope it is not what is in store for Bangalore.

Below are more photographs of more foreign shops that one can find in Bangalore and in Beirut. Most were taken at high-end malls. The set of interior/night time shots were taken at a place called UB City, which used to be a brewery factory. But it was transformed into this luxury mall that reminds me of Solidere in Beirut a great deal. In some ways it is even worse in the sense that it is structurally inhibiting and challenging for people to just wander in and walk around. Thus, it keeps out people for whom the mall is out of their league. It also reminded me quite a bit of the malls in Las Vegas. Anyone wanting excellent context for the damage that Solidere caused to Beirut society should read Saree Makdisi’s article on the topic. I cannot find a similar kind of analysis of UB City or the gentrification of Bangalore. However, the article below hints at some context:

The current joke is that the only buildings to remain unscathed by the onslaught may be Vidhana Soudha, the building that houses the legislature, and UB City, a complex that is a hideous combination of the Empire State Building and Internet kitsch, built by a liquor baron….

The new IT prosperity has created a young, energetic, educated, and wealthy working class, transforming Bangalore into a consumer’s paradise of shopping malls and office complexes with glass-fronted exteriors. The insatiable demand for “good English” has renewed the anxiety that Kannada may die out in the city.

The scary part of what is written above is not only the bit about gentrification and the way it changes the urban landscape. (I’m reading Sarah Schulman’s brilliant The Gentrification of the Mind at present and offers interesting ways to connect the methods of gentrifying urban and mental landscapes.) I’ve been collecting photographs on Kannada architecture that shows how the outskirts of Bangalore have shifted from village to city; I’ll post those soon. But I am equally worried about the dangers of a people losing their language, especially to the imperial language of English. I saw an interesting film this past weekend that touches on some of these themes. The film, English Vinglish, features a protagonist who is ridiculed by her family for not knowing the English language. Here is a trailer:

My favorite scene in the above clip is when she goes to pick up her American visa and the American sitting behind the counter asks how she’ll survive in the U.S. without knowing English; the retort by his colleague is brilliant (at the end of the clip): “the same way you survive in our country without learning Hindi.”

One last piece of Bangalore that, unfortunately, resembles Beirut. It is the presence of G4S, which I saw this morning for the first time. Here is a bit about what G4S is and why there is a boycott campaign against them:

G4S is a British-Danish private security company that provides services and equipment to Israeli prisons, checkpoints, the Apartheid Wall and the Israeli police.

In 2007, G4S signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide security systems and other services for major Israeli prisons. G4S provides systems for the Ketziot and Megiddo prisons, which hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel. Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier.

In Beirut I see G4S everywhere from the security at office buildings to friends’ apartments. Here is a bit about their role in Lebanon:

The scale of the work G4S do in Lebanon is unclear, with even Bawab saying he didn’t know exactly what they did in the country. But the head of a rival private security firm says they have “a couple of hundred guys” in the country, and it is not uncommon to see men in clothes with the company’s logo guarding private companies in Beirut’s Hamra.

Al-Akhbar discovered that the firm carried out a security review for the country’s preeminent university, the American University of Beirut. The 60-page confidential document details potential improvements that could be made to security and recommends that G4S operatives take over the running of the university’s security.

Back in Beirut

The plan was to write another couple of blog entries about Cairo, but the photographs that would have amplified the story are being held hostage on my computer that won’t let me log on any more. So for now I’m just reporting that I arrived back in Beirut, for a brief week, before returning to the U.S. for a visit (see speaking link above for dates of my upcoming speaking engagements in California). The plan was almost interrupted when the airport road into Beirut was shut down the night before I left. Here is a video from Al Jazeera:

I found it all a bit odd, especially because of the U.S. embassy warning that As’ad AbuKhalil posted on his blog just two days earlier:

“The U.S. Embassy has received reports of an increased possibility of attacks against U.S. citizens in Lebanon.  Possible threats include kidnapping, the potential for an upsurge in violence, the escalation of family or neighborhood disputes, as well as U.S. citizens being the target of terrorist attacks in Lebanon. U.S. Embassy personnel remain under strict travel restrictions, and all U.S. citizens are urged to take additional security precautions.”  I would love to see the sources for those reports, would you not?  And don’t you like the reference to “escalation of family or neighborhood disputes”??

It is almost as if the Americans were predicting the attacks. Of course, the kidnapping predicted is not at all targeting Americans, although it should given the logic being used (it is targeting Syrians who are against the Asad regime in Syria as well as regional powers assisting them like Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia). It certainly makes me wonder what role the Americans are playing Syria and Lebanon right now.

These kidnappings are not the work of militias or political parties. They are the work of Lebanese families seeking revenge for their family members  who have been kidnapped in Syria. But it got quite out of hand the other night with journalists–even those on the same political side–were beaten up. Fortunately things seem to have calmed down now, but there are still threats about what may happen after Eid in the coming days.

Here is some more writing on the topic

“Al-Moqdad Republic” in al-Akhbar

“Armed Lebanese Kidnap 11 Syrians” in al-Akhbar

“Second Turkish Citizen Kidnapped” in al-Akhbar

“Families of Kidnapped Lebanese in Syria Cut Off Access to Airport in Beirut” in Jadaliyya

And for the humorous take on all this, check out this new Twitter account, Moqdaddy.

taking the struggle into our own hands

ann’s recent post on pulse media reminded me of the beirut-based “never before campaign,” which is one of the most inspirational collectives i’ve seen recently. their videos are amazing and remind us of why resistance is so necessary. they have one new video and two more that must have slipped passed me in the last month or so. here are all three (and here are the others which i blogged about when they were first uploaded on to youtube click here and here).

these videos do such an excellent job of exposing zionist propaganda and revealing the reality on the ground for palestinians. they are really brilliant. and this is the sort of energy that beirut and the people i love there feed my soul. one of my dear friends, rami, often keeps me grounded when we talk about the anti-colonial struggle in this region. these are some words he sent me a few months ago that i return to when i want to be reminded of this struggle in larger terms:

1. We know we are right because we read the facts objectively and dispassionately

2. We also know that the road is long and arduous and that the struggle is difficult

3. We also know that we-I mean our class- are irrelevant, and that the real struggle is between the rulers and the ruled

4. We know which side we are on.

And this is what gives us the desire to wake up, what makes our souls tremble, what replaces food and water and sleep. As for the others, the Mitchells, the Obamas, we should NEVER expect anything from them. NEVER.

exactly. and this goes for those who support or put their faith in such people, too. because those people are part of the colonial/imperial regional problem in the first place. and this goes for those who continue to think that normalization with zionist colonist terrorists will somehow benefit palestinians. as the above videos make clear: there is no partner for so-called “peace.” even the other day when there was a so-called protest against the law criminalizing the commemoration of an nakba, only about 40 zionist colonists showed up. there was an equally abysmal number of americans protesting the “israel day parade” in new york city the other day as mondoweiss reported. in any case, i choose not to put my energy into collaborating with such people, i think there are bigger fish to fry.

but there are others who we can expect to continue this struggle and who are doing just that: palestinian refugees. rami almeghari recently published an interview in electronic intifada with abdullah al-hourani and here is what he had to say about continuing the struggle:

RA: As a veteran Palestinian politician and a refugee, what do you say to upcoming refugee generations?

AH: I would like to apologize to these generations because we failed to achieve any results after these prolonged years of the Nakba [catastrophe], but I would like to emphasize that we have succeeded to keep our people steadfast on their lands and persistent in seeking their inalienable rights. Also, we have succeeded in maintaining the Palestinian identity and convincing the international community that there is a Palestinian people and there are rights for this people, and we succeeded in gaining the recognition of more than 100 countries for our rights. Even though we have not achieved those rights we kept those rights alive. The next generations should continue the struggle and achieve what we have failed to realize.

of course, the struggle is not just about palestine. it is regional. and in iraq dahr jamail has been reporting on increasing iraqi resistance to american imperialism and occupation of their land, which is, tellingly, connected to the salaries of the sahwa, the u.s. method of coopting iraqis away from resistance:

At least 20 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq in May, the most since last September, along with more than 50 wounded. Iraqi casualties are, as usual – and in both categories – at least ten times that number.

Attacks against US forces are once again on the rise in places like Baghdad and Fallujah, where the Iraqi resistance was fiercest before so many of them joined the Sahwa (Sons of Iraq, also referred to as Awakening Councils), and began taking payments from the US military in exchange for halting attacks against the occupiers and agreeing to join the fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq. In early April I wrote a column for this website that illustrated how ongoing Iraqi government and US military attacks against the Sahwa, coupled with broken promises of the Sahwa being incorporated into the government security apparatus or given civilian jobs, would likely lead to an exodus from the Sahwa and a return to the resistance.

Slowly, but surely, we are seeing that occur. While US liaison Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer has called this idea, along with the ongoing controversy from the Iraqi government – led by US-pawn Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki – not paying most of the Sahwa members, while continuing government arrests of and attacks on Sahwa members “overblown,” this does not change reality. Let us recall the telling words of the reporter Caud Cockburn, father of journalist Patrick Cockburn, “Never believe anything until it’s officially denied.”

Not surprisingly, in direct contradiction to Kulmayer’s comment, the Sahwa have warned the Iraqi government not to disregard its commitments to the fighters as far as providing them jobs and payment. On May 28, the independent Saudi-owned United Kingdom-based newspaper, al-Hayat, reported:

“A number of the leaders of the awakening councils called on the Iraqi government to honor its commitments towards the members of the awakening councils by paying their salaries which are three months late. They warned that their fighters might rebel against the government if their demands for their financial rights continue to be disregarded which might have an adverse effect on the security situation. Sheikh Masari al-Dulaymi, one of the leaders of the council in Falahat al-Taji to the north of Baghdad, announced that the committee supervising the national reconciliation process warned the leaders of the councils in and around Baghdad that their salaries would be paid and that a form of cooperation will be agreed upon with the tribes to preserve the security in Baghdad.”

The paper added that al-Dulaymi also pointed out that many council fighters abandoned their duties in protecting their areas because of the delays in receiving their salaries, and “we don’t want the crisis to grow any worse because the council members already distrust government promises.” Al-Hayat also reported that Sheikh Khaled Yassine al-Janabi, a leader of the council in al-Latifiyah in southern Baghdad, warned that the “government’s disregard for the issue of the councils and their demands will have an adverse effect on the security situation.”

Simultaneously, the Iraqi Resistance, whose ranks are growing with disenfranchised Sahwa along with other Iraqis joining for the usual reasons: their countrymen and women being detained, tortured, and raped by occupation forces and their Iraqi collaborators, the destroyed infrastructure and the suffering that accompanies this, among a myriad of other reasons (like the fact that one in four Iraqis lives in poverty), are, at least verbally, preparing to resume full operations.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that a commander in the Iraqi Resistance, who is also a member of the currently besieged Sahwa, said, “If we hear from the Americans they are not capable of supporting us … within six hours we are going to establish our groups to fight against the corrupt government. There will be a war in Baghdad.”

indeed there is a lot to resist in iraq as jeremy scahill reports given the rise on mercenaries in iraq and in afghanistan:

According to new statistics released by the Pentagon, with Barack Obama as commander in chief, there has been a 23% increase in the number of “Private Security Contractors” working for the Department of Defense in Iraq in the second quarter of 2009 and a 29% increase in Afghanistan, which “correlates to the build up of forces” in the country. These numbers relate explicitly to DoD security contractors. Companies like Blackwater and its successor Triple Canopy work on State Department contracts and it is unclear if these contractors are included in the over-all statistics. This means, the number of individual “security” contractors could be quite higher, as could the scope of their expansion.

Overall, contractors (armed and unarmed) now make up approximately 50% of the “total force in Centcom AOR [Area of Responsibility].” This means there are a whopping 242,657 contractors working on these two US wars. These statistics come from two reports just released by Gary J. Motsek, the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Program Support): “Contractor Support of U.S. Operations in USCENTCOM AOR, IRAQ, and Afghanistan and “Operational Contract Support, ‘State of the Union.’”

a parallel american imperial project in the region is right here in the west bank of palestine under the command of american lieutenant general keith dayton who recently delivered a lecture at the washington institute in which he laid out the so-called security apparatus he is building in palestine:

The U.S. administration and Congress provided an additional $75 million last year, bringing to $161 million that the USSC has been able to invest in the future of peace between Israel and Palestinians through improved security. So what have we done? At the risk of boring you, we did it in four major areas. First: Train and equip. Although we work closely with the Presidential Guard even now, we have focused on transforming the Palestinian national security forces into a Palestinian gendarmerie—an organized police force or police units, as it were— to reinforce the work being done by the civilian police advised by the European Union.

The training is a four-month program at the Jordan International Police Training Center—we abbreviate it as JIPTC for short—outside of Amman. It features a U.S.-Jordanian police training cadre and a U.S.-developed curriculum that is heavy on human rights, proper use of force, riot control, and how to handle civil disturbances. The training is also focused on unit cohesion and leadership.

Now, you might ask, why Jordan? The answer is pretty simple. The Palestinians wanted to train in the region, but they wanted to be away from clan, family, and political influences. The Israelis trust the Jordanians, and the Jordanians were anxious to help. Our equipping is all nonlethal and it is fully coordinated with both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Make sure you understand that. We don’t provide anything to the Palestinians unless it has been thoroughly coordinated with the state of Israel and they agree to it. Sometimes this process drives me crazy—I had a lot more hair when I started—but nevertheless, we make it work.

We don’t give out any guns or bullets. The equipment ranges from vehicles to socks. We have also graduated, now, three battalions—an average of five hundred men each—from JIPTC and another battalion is currently in training.The graduates have also been extensively schooled by the Jordanians, who have really stepped up to this task, on loyalty to the Palestinian flag and the Palestinian people.

of course, it is clear from recent events in qalqilia this week that the palestinian police do have bullets. but dayton must remind us that only zionist terrorists are allowed to be supplied not just with bullets, but with cluster bombs, apache helicopters, f16s, and lots of other material to aid them in their massacres. but palestinians get socks. not bullets.

mel frykberg reported for ips on the incident of the american-zionist-palestinian collaborationist authority’s attack on two palestinian men in qalqilia, which, of course, can be considered the work of dayton’s so-called “training”:

A bloody gun battle broke out Sunday morning in the northern West Bank town of Qalqilia between a group of Hamas gunmen and security forces from the Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Authority (PA).

The PA had tried to arrest and flush out a group of Hamas gunmen who were hiding in a building in the northern city, just over an hour’s drive north-west of Ramallah.

The exchange of gunfire left two Hamas members and three PA police officers dead. The owner of the building where the Hamas fighters had taken refuge also succumbed to his wounds.

The PA placed Qalqilia under curfew as they searched for additional gunmen in the areas surrounding the building where the clash had taken place.

Palestinian security forces were put on a state of high alert with throngs of soldiers and jeeps surrounding PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s government compound, the Muqata, in Ramallah.

Each side blamed the other for instigating the violence. According to the PA, the Hamas men had refused to surrender or identify themselves, and had opened fire on PA forces first.

However, Hamas spokesmen said the cornered men only returned fire after the PA men refused to back off.

indeed the palestinian information center rightly views this incident as a collaborationist one and highlights the severe, criminal problems of american military involvement in palestine:

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stated Sunday that the assassination of two Qassam fighters in Qalqiliya is a translation of earlier remarks made by former PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in Washington about his commitment to the roadmap plan that criminalizes the resistance against the Israeli occupation.

In a statement to the Aqsa satellite channel, spokesman Abu Zuhri charged that Abbas’s security apparatuses try to repeat the Gaza experience in the West Bank, highlighting that his Movement would study its options for dealing with this crime.

For its part, the Palestinian government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya held Abbas fully responsible for the consequences of the Qalqiliya crime, considering that the assassination of Qassam fighters Mohamed Al-Samman and Mohamed Yassin is natural extension of the crimes committed by the PA security apparatuses against the Palestinian resistance in Al-Khalil.

The PLC’s presidency also held Abbas as well as his unconstitutional government and security leaders responsible for the repercussions of this “heinous crime”, stressing that it is high treason against the Palestinian people and a stab at the back of the Arab and Muslim nation.

In a statement received by the PIC, the PLC warned that this crime which was committed at the behest of Abbas and US officer Keith Dayton cannot be tolerated or goes without punishment.

it is this collaborationist regime that is leading some palestinians to call for dual resistance against the zionist entity and its collaborating palestinian authority partners:

A Palestinian civilian and five security officials – three from the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority security services and two from Hamas’ military wing – were killed in clashes between the two groups in this West Bank city Sunday, as Damascus-based Hamas spokesman Talal Nasser called on Palestinians to fight the PA as though they were fighting the Israeli occupation.

Ismail Radwan, a top Hamas official in Gaza, called on members of the Hamas military wing in the West Bank not to surrender to PA forces and to defend themselves against the aggression of the security services.

turning point 3

i’m wondering what the first two turning points were. the last few days i’ve heard war games in the sky above beit lahem. all day long i’ve heard ominous war planes testing out the zionist entity’s doomsday scenario. here is an al jazeera report on the “defense” strategy it is testing, though for those of us here we know better; this is clearly a test for its next offensive strike:

Turning Point 3 comes just two weeks after the Israeli air force wrapped up a four-day exercise testing its ability to defend against strikes from Syria and Iran.

Israel believes Iran is developing nuclear weapons and has not ruled out a military strike on the country in response.

Iran says its nuclear programme is only for energy production.

Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem correspondent, said that while Israel claims that the drill has “no special significance”, it is likely to be seen in the context of “Israel’s sabre-rattling towards Iran and also towards other neighbouring Arab countries”.

“It was only a couple of weeks ago that Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu was in Washington and he was really pushing the question of Iran and its perceived nuclear threat really to the top of the agenda of his talks with President [Barack] Obama,” she said.

“So, although Israel is saying that this is a defensive drill and it is really practising its ability to defend its civilians against attack from outside, inevitably it has to be interpreted by Israel’s Arab neighbours – and indeed the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank – as a warning, a not so subtle warning of Israel’s offensive capacities to strike should these circumstances arise.”

al jazeera’s “inside story” with kamahl santamaria had a discussion of this series of tests this week and its effect on the various regional players who will be subjected to these weapons in the zionist entity’s next attack:

of course any such impending war must be understood as a joint u.s.-zionist war on the palestinians, lebanese, syrians, iranians in the region given that the obama administration promises to continue funding and supplying the zionist terrorist army as saed bannoura reports:

Robert Wood, US State Department deputy spokesperson, stated Monday that he would not comment on the Times report regarding intentions of the Obama administration to condition its support to Israel with freezing the settlements, but added that the US would maintain its support to Israel in the United Nations.

Wood stated that President Barack Obama and his administration are clear in their stance that all parties involved in the Middle East Peace Process should maintain their obligations to ensure successful peace talks.

He also said that the United States has long worked to ensure that Israel receives what he described as “fair treatment” in the United Nations, and that his country will continue doing so.

Wood further said that Israel is a close friend and ally to the United States, and that the US will remain committed to Israel’s security.

ghassan bannoura reported that there were war sirens going off in 1948 palestine, although here in beit sahour we can only hear the planes overhead. while the zionist entity maintains that this is about “defense” there are many of us who see this as aggression:

According to the Israeli military, the training exercise is meant to prepare the Israeli military and the entire population for a regional war. Sergio Yanni, an Israeli political analyst, told IMEMC the exercise is aimed for butting Israelis in a state of fear.

“The People In Israel after the war in Lebanon and in Gaza don’t buy so much anymore the question that there is a real threat on Israel, there is a big discussion over how much the army should be budgeted, the objective of this drill is for internal propaganda to make people feel that Israel is in a situation of war, we can’t exclude a possible attack on Lebanon or Gaza in the near future this is a permanent question.” Sergio Yanni said.

The exercise comes in the midst of increasing Israeli rhetoric against Iran, and a statement just last week by the Israeli military that the Lebanese Hezbollah group now has possession of more rockets than it did before the 2006 war- although that statement was not backed up with any evidence.

The drill also includes training in how to repress the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza and inside Israel during the three-front scenario. Faouzi Barhum, spokesman of the ruling Hamas party in Gaza told IMEMC via phone that the exercise is a form of attack.

“At first this military exercise could be considered as an attack, because it is to show the military criminal machine that killed children in Gaza and Lebanon, those drills could become a war at any time, because we expect everything from the occupation, it is clear that the division and state of salience among the Arabs have encouraged the Zionist regime of doing this military exercise.” Barhum told IMEMC.

al jazeera reports how this is perceived by others in the region as the zionist entity rationalizes its desire for perpetual justification for war and aggression:

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Beersheva, where some of the drills were taking place, said there has been criticism from rights groups inside Israel about the exercises.

“They say it is all part of the militarisation of Israeli society and a way to perpetuate the idea of an ongoing war and ongoing fight that Israel is carrying out against the rest of the world,” she said.

“This has been subject to a lot of criticism because it in some way justifies Israel’s brutal force and the security measures it takes against the Palestinians.”

Israel began its national drills in the aftermath of the July-August 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, which revealed major weaknesses in how Israel dealt with the rocket attacks on its territory.

This year’s exercise comes just days before Lebanon holds a closely-fought election that could see the Hezbollah-led opposition become the new government.

The drills will also coincide with a regional tour by Barack Obama, the US president.

Israel is under pressure from the US to accept a Palestinian state, but it has also voiced fears of a strong Hezbollah in Lebanon and a strong Hamas in Gaza.

Alastair Crooke, director of the Conflict Forum in Beirut, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that there is a sense in the Arab world that Israel is looking toward the right for new solutions to its security concerns.

“It’s the sense of unwillingness for many Israeli leaders to see a Palestinian state pushed on it, at a time when Hamas is strong and when Hezbollah may be getting stronger, When America may be talking to Syria and talking to Iran at the same time,” he said.

“This leaves policy makers in Israel quite nervous and looking for ways to change the political paradigm in a way that will advance the Israeli sense of security.”

and, of course, given that the zionist entity is an apartheid regime, it is the colonists have access to bomb shelters and sirens; palestinians in 1948 palestine, for the most part, do not as saed bannoura reports:

A study conducted and released by the “Mubadarah” Israeli-Arab Rights group, revealed that 70% of the Arabs living in northern Israel do not have shelters or safe rooms, and the 25% of them do not have emergency sirens.

The reported also revealed that 80% of the Arab villages in Israel are not equipped to handle any crisis situation; this includes any sort of military escalation, missile strikes or even a natural disaster Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported.

Haaretz added that 75% of the residents of Nazareth, the largest Arab city in the country, have no access to private shelters, and the 99% of the residents of the Arava area do not have any access to shelters.

The report found that in many of the Arab communities included in the study, the safest places were schools, although they are not built to function as shelters.

It also revealed that in most of the mixed cities, where Arabs and Israelis live, Arab neighborhoods are not equipped to face emergency situations.

The study was conducted as Israel’s so-called Home Front Command of the Israeli military conducted a nation-wide week-long drill to test Israel’s readiness for war or catastrophe.

Part of the drill was testing 2300 sirens and also included requesting to citizens to hide in secure rooms for 10 minutes.

and, of course, it is not just the planning for its next war that is in our midst. it is the ongoing war, particularly the zionist terrorist army’s war against palestinians in gaza as saed bannoura reports about palestinian injuries today:

The Al Aqsa brigades, the armed wing of Fateh movement, reported that two of its fighters were wounded on Wednesday at dawn during clashes with Israeli forces near the Al Hawouz area, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

The brigades added that the two injured fighters were moved to a local hospital.

It stated that its fighters clashes with Israeli forces operating in northern Gaza, and added that the fighters will counter all Israeli assaults and will retaliate to “the ongoing Israeli crimes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”.

The brigades also claimed responsibility for firing thee RPG shells, on Tuesday evening, at a number of Israeli tanks located near the Gaza border.

it is not only palestinian people who are attacked with american-made weapons in the hands of zionist terrorist colonists. it is also palestinian land which is under attack, land which under normal circumstances would provide the food to sustain palestinian people in gaza. erin cunningham’s report in the christian science monitor on the ever-enlarging so-called “buffer zone” inside the gaza strip affects palestinian farmers from producing food and is a part of the on-going savaging of gaza:

Farmers and their families have been displaced, too afraid to return to their fields, while international humanitarian organizations are unable to make an assessment of the needs and damages of the area in the aftermath of the assault.

“We haven’t been able to visit this area. No organization has,” says Mohammed al-Shattali, project manager for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in the Gaza Strip.

“The war increased the amount of land destroyed, particularly in the border areas, and the farmers can’t replant anything because it’s too dangerous,” he says. “The Israeli soldiers, they shoot at everything – dogs, sheep. They are very tense.”

An Israeli-imposed buffer zone in the already narrow enclave was established more than a decade ago to thwart attacks by Palestinian militants, who use the border areas to launch homemade rockets at Israeli towns or dig tunnels to carry out attacks against IDF troops stationed at the border.

But what was previously just a sliver of fortified land on the strip’s northern and eastern perimeters now, in the aftermath of Israel’s January offensive in the territory, swallows roughly 30 percent of Gaza’s arable farmland, according to the FAO.

It stretches as deep as 1.25 miles inside Gaza’s territory in the north and half a mile in the east, despite the 300-meter figure declared on the leaflets, the organization says. Gaza is just 25 miles long and slightly more than six miles wide.

you can see how this affects palestinian farmers on the blog farming under fire and here is a video encapsulating the experience of palestinians under attack by zionist terrorists every day:

but of course these war planes flying above our head, creating a kind of psychological terrorism for people living in palestine who have to hear this throughout the day, are not yet flying over our neighbors in lebanon and syria. nevertheless the fact that the last month or so has seen an extraordinary number of zionist spies in lebanon raises questions about things to come. al jazeera reported on more spies arrested this week:

Lebanon has charged four people with collaborating with Israel, raising to 23 the number of suspected spies who have been charged in the last few months, a court official has said.

Saqr Saqr, the military prosecutor charged the four men on Saturday with providing Israel with information about civilian and military positions and political figures.

General Jean Kahwaji, the Lebanese army commander, vowed to continue the crackdown against Israeli spies in a speech to troops on Saturday, Lebanon’s state news agency reported.

and now as ma’an news reports even an egyptian man has been arrested in lebanon because he has been helping his zionist colonist terrorist friends by spying on them in lebanon:

Lebanon has charged nine more people with spying for Israel, raising the number of formally accused collaborators to 35.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported on Tuesday that military prosecutor Saqr Saqr charged the nine with collaboration and giving information to Israel about military and civilian installations and political figures, according to AP.

Separately, an Egyptian man and a Lebanese have been arrested for spying, security sources told AP.

mossad’s collaborators & loot

in the last couple of months the lebanese media has been reporting a number of cases of discovering and arresting spies for the zionist entity. here is a report from may third in an nahar:

Lebanese authorities have arrested 3 more people on suspicion of spying for Israel, taking to 10 the number of alleged spies arrested since January, a security official said on Sunday.

The unidentified suspects were arrested in the village of Habboush in central south Lebanon “and initial indication shows that they were spying for Israel,” the official said.

Two Lebanese men and a Palestinian were arrested on April 25 also on suspicion of spying for Israel and were linked by the authorities to a retired general security officer arrested for spying earlier that month.

Former Brig. Gen. Adib al-Aalam was arrested along with his wife Hayat Saloumi and nephew Joseph Al-Aalam and charged in April with espionage — a charge that carries the death sentence.

The three are accused of informing Israel about Lebanese and Syrian military and civilian sites “with the aim of facilitating Israeli attacks,” a judicial official said last month.

Aalam was arrested at his office near Beirut on April 14 along with his wife. He ran a housekeeping service which he allegedly used as a front to spy for Israel.

A 10th suspect, Marwan Fakih, was arrested in south Lebanon in February.

here is another one from an nahar the following day, may 4th:

Lebanese authorities have arrested six more people on suspicion of spying for Israel, taking to 16 the number of suspected spies arrested since January, an army spokesman told AFP.

The latest arrests include a policeman and his wife, who were taken into custody late on Sunday in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

On Sunday, three suspects were arrested in the village of Habboush in south Lebanon “and initial indications show that they were spying for Israel,” a security official said.

and this is from an nahar on may 9th:

The number of Israel-linked cells that security forces discovered in the past two months rose to six as head of the Internal Security Forces, Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi said the ISF made the strongest security strike against the Mossad.

Pan-Arab daily al-Hayat said that 17 people were arrested in the past two months for allegedly spying for Israel. The latest arrests were made on Friday when police seized five people in the south. Mahmoud Ahmed Shehab and his brother Hussein were arrested in the town of Ghaziyeh. Authorities also arrested Mouna Qandil, Hussein’s wife.

Later in the day, police seized two brothers who hail from Bint Jbeil. One of the siblings lives in the town of Qana. They were identified as Shawkat and Hussein Abbas.

“The ISF moved in the past two years to an advanced stage in its confrontation against Mossad cells and networks” after improving technological means and receiving funding to build a device to pursue alleged spies, Rifi told As Safir newspaper in remarks published Saturday.

“Six months following the implementation of our plan we were able to arrest an agent who confessed to having ties with Israel. But we didn’t speak out about him at the time because we assumed that the device is not sufficient and we shouldn’t brag about it before laying our hands on the remaining members of the cell,” Rifi added.

He said security forces began pursuing and dismantling spy rings after Israel decided to improve the function of these cells beginning this year.

“We cooperated with the security of the resistance (Hizbullah),” Rifi told As Safir, adding that seizing Adib al-Alam, a retired general charged with spying for Israel last month along with his wife and his nephew, “was an important factor in finding other cells and networks.”

“We were able to make the strongest security strike against the Israeli Mossad,” Rifi stressed.

A security source told As Safir that the ISF in cooperation with the army intelligence and Hizbullah’s security was able through the Alam network to discover the other cells.

“We monitored the activities of several people since early 2007 …. And later on we were able to unveil the Israeli intelligence system in Lebanon,” he added.

Al-Hayat quoted sources close to the arrests as saying that all networks uncovered until now, including the Alam cell, function in the same way and use the same techniques to observe, monitor and photograph specific locations.

The discovery of the Alam cell’s communication means also facilitated the arrest of other networks, particularly that each ring has a limited number of members.

Israeli officials refused to comment on the arrests. “It is not our practice to comment on these sorts of allegations when they arise, not in this case, not in any case,” government spokesman Mark Regev said.

Pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat also quoted a former Mossad official as saying the silence is “very natural.”

“What shall we say? If (we say) they are our agents we would be acting like (Hizbullah leader Sayyed) Hassan Nasrallah who admitted that the leader of the terrorist cell in Egypt belongs to Hizbullah … If we deny … we would anger former agents” whom we had exposed in the past, the ex-Mossad official told the newspaper.

and here is my favorite part–the evidence–as reported by clayton swisher on al jazeera:

i hope that this leads the rafiq al harri tribunal on a different path: looking south instead of east for the culprit of that and other assassinations in the past few years in lebanon.

letters from prisons

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the other day a friend told me about a museum devoted to palestinian political prisoners at al quds university at abu dis. another friend who was at dinner with us at the time and who attends that university as an m.a. student had not heard of this museum. we decided to go there saturday morning before her classes and on my way home. we got off the service and walked onto campus. i didn’t know what to expect. i thought maybe a few rooms in a building. but what we found was something far more extravagant. the abu jihad museum for the prisoners movement affairs, as it is officially called, is in a huge, rather funky looking building on the southern edge of campus. if you look closely at the shot of it above you’ll notice you can see the apartheid wall imprisoning the prisoners’ museum and the rest of abu dis. the building itself and the museum inside is really quite striking in the interesting aesthetic it uses to to tell the story of palestinian political prisoners. there is a sign in the lobby that states the funding for this museum came from the state of kuwait and the arab fund for economic and social development. while i think the museum is rather amazing and tells a necessary story in the palestinian experience, i wonder just how much this museum cost to build and if that money couldn’t have been better spent in another sector of palestinian society (perhaps on prisoners themselves?).

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as you walk inside you notice that the interior is made to look like a prison with bars for doors and windows within the museum space in several locations. but at the same time the space gives off a sense of freedom in the way large windows allow lots of light inside. first you see various photographs of israeli terrorist prisons and detention centers and a map, as pictured above, showing where all the various prisons are located. there are other photographs of israeli terrorists in uniform beating palestinians and then an artistic display of paintings showing the various common forms of torture used in israeli terrorists’ prisons. at each point in the exhibit there are explanations with history and context about each aspect of prisoners’ lives.

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there are exhibits on martyrs, on old prisoners, on the longest serving prisoners (the two profiled, have thankfully been released in the last year and i can proudly say i was at their welcome party in beirut and nablus respectively: samir quntar and said al ‘atabeh), on female prisoners, on solidarity between palestinian political prisoners and others (notably bobbie sands in ireland), on hunger strikes in prison, on prisoners’ education, on prisoners’ letter writing, on prisoners’ artwork.

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one of my favorite parts of the exhibit was the letters. i posted a photograph here of what some of them look like, but there were so many more displayed. you can see how small and meticulous the handwriting has to be. and you can see the capsules in the other photograph that the prisoners have to make in order to smuggle messages and letters out of the prisons. it reminded me of a scene in fateh azzam, ismail dabbagh, ‘abed ju’beh, and nidal khatib’s play ansar: a true story from an israeli military detention center (which can be found in salma khadra jayyusi’s anthology short arabic plays, which i have been teaching in my drama class. there is a scene with kifah gets zahran a present and kifah asks zahran to write a letter home for him because he doesn’t know how. this is a really beautiful part of the play because it initiates the scenes where we see palestinians starting to create schools in the various prison tents to educate one another on everything from hebrew to palestinian history. but when zahran writes the letter we see how space and size become an issue:

KIFAH: Now listen, Zahran, you write what I’m just going to tell you in brackets, so no one will read it except Mayss, understand? Tell her to tell Khulud that I miss her very, very, very much. Make sure you write “very” three times.

Zahran: There’s not much space to write all that, Kifah.

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but another favorite part of mine was to see the various aspects of education in the exhibit. from a number of paintings and drawings that depicted prisoners as reading books to cases with books written by prisoners or read by prisoners this was a reminder of what the prison used to be in palestine: the university. scene twelve of the play ansar represents this rather well through a series of vignettes showing students attending various lectures and some of these vignettes are staged so that the lectures are delivered simultaneously and we are plopped into the middle of such lectures as in the ninth such vignette:

The two following monologues are delivered simultaneously, the impression being of lectures going on at the same time in two different tents.

PRISONER 1: For example, in the tenth century Palestine was an exporter of olives, raisins and carob as well as silk and cotton textiles. Jerusalem especially was famous for cheese, apples, bananas, mirrors, lamps and even needles. Yes, needles!

PRISONER 2: ‘Asqalan, Dahriyyeh and others were always detention centers, during the time of the British, then the Jordanians followed suit, and now the Israelis. Here, Ketziot, was also a detention center during British days, and they used to call it ‘Oja Hafeer. My grandfather, God rest his soul, was a prisoner there in ’46.

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i just finished reading another novel this weekend by john berger called from a to x: a story in letters. berger is a writer whose book ways of seeing many graduate students in english studies are required to read. but i had not really thought much about his more creative writing until my friend jamelie turned me on to his essays hold everything dear last year. he has a number of essays in it about palestine and lebanon and it’s quite moving and beautiful. berger was one of the people to lead the way for a cultural boycott of the zionist entity three years ago in a statement that was published on electronic intifada:

“There is a fragile ceasefire in Lebanon, albeit daily violated by Israeli overflights. Meanwhile the day to day brutality of the Israeli army in Gaza and the West Bank continues. Ten Palestinians are killed for every Israeli death; more than 200, many of them children, have been killed since the summer. UN resolutions are flouted, human rights violated as Palestinian land is stolen, houses demolished and crops destroyed. For archbishop Desmond Tutu, as for the Jewish (former ANC military commander presently South African minister of security), Ronnie Kasrils, the situation of the Palestinians is worse than that of black South Africans under apartheid. Meantime Western governments refer to Israel’s ‘legitimate right’ of self-defence, and continue to supply weaponry.

The challenge of apartheid was fought better. The non-violent international response to apartheid was a campaign of boycott, divestment, and, finally UN imposed sanctions which enabled the regime to change without terrible bloodshed. Today Palestinians teachers, writers, film-makers and non-governmental organisations have called for a comparable academic and cultural boycott of Israel as offering another path to a just peace. This call has been endorsed internationally by university teachers in many European countries, by film-makers and architects, and by some brave Israeli dissidents. It is now time for others to join the campaign as Primo Levi asked: If not now, when?

We call on creative writers and artists to support our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues by endorsing the boycott call. Read the Palestinian call (www.pacbi.org).

Don’t visit, exhibit or perform in Israel!”

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more recently, berger produced a video of himself reading ghassan kanafani’s “letter from gaza,” which qui qui wrote about last december on kababfest. the video was played at the zapatistas’ conference in mexico and was published on their website and qui qui published the full text of kanafani’s “letter from gaza” on kabobfest as well.

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interestingly berger’s new novel is also about letters. and it is also about prisoners. the book is dedicated to kanafani, which is what made me buy the book in the first place when i found it in al quds a few months ago. but the book is not about palestine. in fact, it is unclear where exactly the novel is set. there are all sorts of confusing location and identity markers in the novel. for instance the “a” stands for a’ida, an arabic name, of a a woman whose lover, xavier, standing in for “x” in the title, is in prison. the name xavier has basque origins. the letters are not dated, so not fixed in a particular time period. nor do they appear chronologically in the novel. and the letters are only from a’ida to xavier–there are none from him to her. but there are notes he left to a’ida on the backs of these letters that do locate the story in a particular time frame–the present. for example, he scrawls a note about hugo chavez on the back of one such letter:

“After almost 200 years we can say that the USA was designed to fill the entire world with poverty–whilst giving it the name of Freedom. The United States empire is the greatest threat which exists in the world today…” Chavez, Moscow, 27/07/2006 (44)

another such note from xavier places him ideologically and chronologically:

IMF WB GATT WTO NAFTA FTAA–their acronymns gag language, as their actions stifle the world.(70)

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the novel is beautiful and moving, lyrical and striking. i love that you cannot place it precisely in the world because it means that in many ways this story of a political prisoner and resistance is one that is the same everywhere when one fights for liberation of one’s land. we cannot place a’ida even who calls her beloved at once habibi and mi guapo among other terms of endearment from various languages. but here are some of my favorite passages from the novel that speak to the commonality and specificity of place and struggle across the world. the italics indicate xavier’s notes and the rest is from a’ida’s letters.

I love your secrecy. It’s your candour. Two F16s have passed over flying low. Because they can’t break our secrets, the try to break our eardrums. I love your secrecy. Let me tell you what I can see at this moment.

Crammed windowsills, clotheslines, TV satellite dishes, some chairs propped against a chimney stack, two bird cages, a dozen improvised tiny terraces with their innumerable pots for plants and their saucers for cats. if I can stand up I can smell mint and molokhiyya. Cables, telephone and electric, looping in every conceivable direction and every month sagging more.Eduardo still carries his bicycle up three flights of stairs and padlocks it to a cable by his chimney. (29)

One by one the birds appeared; they didn’t fly into the tree, they appeared on its branches like prayers. Gassan’s house was destroyed by a missile, aimed, they claim at a hide-out! The birds perched there on the branches of the apple tree like answers, answers to questions which have no words. Watching the birds, I finally cried.

Gassan wasn’t there when his house was destroyed. He had gone to the market and was playing cards with some cronies. When he heard the news, he foundered and fell to the floor, making no sound.

The next day I accompanied him to the ruin. There were several epicenters where everything had been reduced to dust, surrounded by tiny fragments. Except for pipes and wires no recognisable objects remained. Everything which had been assembled during a lifetime had gone without trace, had lost its name. An amnesia not of the mind but of the tangible. (120)

The poor are collectively unseizable. They are not only the majority on the planet, they are everywhere, and the smallest event somehow refers to them. Consequently the activity of the rich is the building of walls–walls of concrete, of electronic surveillance, of missile barrages, minefields, armed frontiers, media misinformation, and finally the wall of money to separate financial speculation from production. Only 3% of financial speculation and exchange concerns production. I love you. (149)

My phone rang and there was Yasmina’s clipped voice–finches chirp quickly like this when their tree is at risk–telling me that an Apache had been circling above the old tobacco factory in the Abor district, where seven of ours were hiding, and that the neighbouring women–and other women too–were preparing to form a human shield around the factory and on its roof, to prevent them shelling it. I told her I would come.

I put down the telephone and stood still, yet it was as if I was running. Cool air was striking my forehead. Something of mine–but not my body, maybe my name A’ida–was running, swerving, soaring, plummeting and becoming impossible to sight or get aim on. Perhaps a released bird has this sensation. A kind of limpidity.

I’m not going to send you this letter, yet I want to tell you what we did the other day. Perhaps you won’t read it until we are both dead, no, the dead don’t read. The dead are what remains from what has been written. Much of what is written is reduced to ashes. The dead are all there in the words that stay.

By the time I got there, twenty women, waving white headscarves, were installed on the flat roof. The factory has three floors–like your prison. At ground level, lines of women with their backs to the wall, surrounded the entire building. No tanks or jeeps or Humvee yet to be seen. So I walked from the road across the wasteland to join them. Some of the women I recognised, others I didn’t. We touched and looked at one another silently, to confirm what we shared, what we had in common. Our one chance was to become a single body for as long as we stood there and refused to budge.

We heard the Apache returning. It was flying slowly and low to frighten and observe us, its four-bladed rotor blackmailing the air below to hold it up. We heard the familiar Apache growl, the growl of them deciding and us rushing for shelter to hide–but not today. We could see the two Hellfire missiles tucked under its armpits. We could see the pilot and his gunner. We could see the mini-guns pointing at us.

Before the ruined mountain, before the abandoned factory, which was used as a makeshift hospital during the dysentery epidemic four years ago, some of us were likely to die. Each of us, I think, was frightened but not for herself. (167-168)

Each new death prepares us for something–of course for our own deaths–mine not yours, nothing could prepare me for yours, I’ll sit on the earth, your head in my lap, their cluster bombs exploding, and I will refuse your death. Each new death also prepares us for a carnival, a carnival held under their very noses, and about which they can do f*&% all, not even with their Predator Drones. I’m thinking of how they shot Manda. (174)

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there is so much more that is beautiful and amazing about this novel. i strongly recommend it. but i will leave you with berger himself speaking about palestinian prisoners among other things in a beautiful, eloquent fashion:

on nonviolence or where is the palestinian gandhi?

khalil bendib
khalil bendib

a couple of days ago my friend huwaida arraf published an op ed in the seattle times that raised an important issue for americans: the age old question of wondering where palestinian “gandhis” are. it is a problematic question for many reasons not the least of which is that there are many as she explains:

We Palestinians are often asked where the Palestinian Gandhi is and urged to adopt nonviolent methods in our struggle for freedom from Israeli military rule. On April 17, an Israeli soldier killed my good friend Bassem Abu Rahme at a nonviolent demonstration against Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land. Bassem was one of many Palestinian Gandhis.

One month prior, at another demonstration against land confiscation, Israeli soldiers fired a tear-gas canister at the head of nonviolent American peace activist Tristan Anderson from California. Tristan underwent surgery to remove part of his frontal lobe and is still lying unconscious in an Israeli hospital. In 2003, the Israeli military plowed down American peace activist Rachel Corrie with a Caterpillar bulldozer as she tried to protect a civilian home from demolition in Gaza. Shortly thereafter, an Israeli sniper shot British peace activist Tom Hurndall as he rescued Palestinian children from Israeli gunfire. He lay in a coma for nine months before he died.

rory mccarthy wrote about the murder of bassem abu rahme yesterday in the guardian as well in the context of the weekly nonviolent protests in bil’in village, though mccarthy’s judgmental tone at palestinians who throw stones at israeli terrorists lobbing american-made tear gas canisters (produced at the new jersey based u.s. federal laboratories) and rubber-coated steel bullets at palestinians is problematic:

Friday’s demonstration lasted around three hours. The crowd repeatedly surged towards the fence, then retreated under clouds of teargas. The military sounded a constant, high-pitched siren, interspersed with warnings in Arabic and Hebrew: “Go back. You with the flag, go back” and, incongruously, in English: “You are entering a naval vessel exclusion zone. Reverse course immediately.”

The Bil’in demonstration was always intended to be non-violent, although on Friday, as is often the case, there were half a dozen younger, angrier men lobbing stones at the soldiers with slingshots. The Israeli military, for its part, fires teargas, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets and sometimes live ammunition at the crowd.

There have long been Palestinian advocates of non-violence, but they were drowned out by the militancy of the second intifada, the uprising that began in late 2000 and erupted into waves of appalling suicide bombings.

Eyad Burnat, 36, has spent long hours in discussions with the young men of Bil’in, a small village of fewer than 2,000, convincing them of the merits of “civil grassroots resistance”.

there are so many problems with these various critiques of palestinians, usually made by foreigners, about palestinians’ right to armed resistance. for one thing the question that never goes away that huwaida asks–where is the palestinian gandhi–is completely ahistorical. indians did not win independence solely based on nonviolent resistance. there was a long history of armed resistance against the british before gandhi took center stage as radhika sainath explains in the electronic intifada:

In Gaza, Palestinians have once again been blamed for their own deaths. The British made a similar argument 151 years ago when they killed thousands of Indian civilians — 1,200 in a single village — in response to the largest anti-colonial uprising of the 19th century. If Israel truly desires peace with the Palestinians and safety for its citizens, it should look back to one of the greatest, and misunderstood, independence movements in history.

Most people believe India won its independence from the British exclusively through Gandhi’s famous strategy of nonviolence. They’re wrong; armed resistance has deep roots in India. During the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, also known as the First War of Independence, Hindus and Muslims serving in the infantry for the British East Indian Company revolted against the British Empire, killing British officers and civilians alike. While the majority of these cavalrymen were Hindu, Muslims also partook in the rebellion. These Muslim fighters called themselves “jihadis” and even “suicide ghazis.”

The British quashed the revolt, but for the next 90 years Indian violence, even terrorism, in response continued. In the early 20th century, Indian militants, frustrated with the Congress party — the party of Gandhi and Nehru — regularly resorted to acts of violence to overthrow the British. Official government reports note 210 “revolutionary outrages” and at least 1,000 “terrorists” involved in more than 101 attempted attacks between 1906 and 1917 in the state of Bengal alone (see Peter Heehs, “Terrorism in India During the Freedom Struggle,” The Historian, 22 March 1993). One young revolutionary, Bhagat Singh, later referred to as “Shaheed” Bhagat Singh, bombed the Legislative Assembly in 1929.

On the other hand, Palestinians are usually portrayed in Israel and the West as exclusively militants or terrorists. Yet Palestinians have a vibrant, albeit unsuccessful, history of nonviolent resistance. In 1936, the Palestinians maintained a six-month general strike, the beginning of what became known as the Great Arab Revolt. The British retaliated by declaring martial law, jailing and killing large numbers of Palestinians, and destroying numerous Palestinian homes. The revolt lasted for three years and was the largest and longest anti-colonial uprising in the British Empire.

all of this is making me think of rachel corrie, perhaps because i am teaching her play, my name is rachel corrie, in my drama class. to be sure, i taught fateh azzam’s ansar: the true story of an israeli military detention center and el funoun’s from haifa to beirut and beyond first so that my students had an opportunity to read and consider palestinian theatre first. i do not approve of people just privileging the white man’s perspective, as it were, over palestinians’ perspectives. and my students, until this semester, have never encountered drama written and produced by palestinians so this was important for me to do. but i also think reading corrie’s play is useful for a number of reasons not the least of which is its context as a play that was censored in the united states and the context of the international action revolving around boycotting caterpillar in relation to corrie’s death as well as so many palestinians who have died at the hands of american-made caterpillar d-9 bulldozers and whose homes have been destroyed as well. more on that shortly. but i want to first share a part of a monologue from the play that is supposed to be an email that corrie sends home to her mother who, at the time, had asked her about palestinian violence and whose email seemed to be alluding to that age-old question about the palestinian gandhi:

So when someone says that any act of Palestinian violence justifies Israel’s actions not only do I question that logic in light of international law and the right of people to legitimate armed struggle in defence of their land and their families; not only do I question that logic in light of the fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits collective punishment, prohibits the transfer of an occupying country’s population into an occupied area, prohibits the expropriation of water resources and the destruction of civilian infrastructure such as farms; not only do I question that logic in light of the notion that fifty-year-old Russian guns and homemade explosives can have any impact on the activities of one of the world’s largest militaries, backed by the world’s only superpower, I also question that logic on the basis of common sense.

If any of us had our lives and our welfare completely strangled and lived with children in a shrinking place where we knew that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at any moment with no means of economic survival and our houses demolished; if they came and destroyed all the greenhouses that we’d been cultivating for the last however long do you not think, in a similar situation, most people would defend themselves the best they could?

You asked me about non-violent resistance, and I mentioned the first intifada. The vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance. (48)

unfortunately, organizations like human rights watch feed into this point of view by alternately perpetuating the idea that palestinians do not have a right to armed resistance or by suggesting that there is somehow an equal playing field for palestinians resisting israeli colonialism.

in an article in electronic intifada from a few years ago, jonathan cook offers an important critique of human rights watch, one that he repeats in his amazing book disappearing palestine. the article is a critique of a report by human rights watch denying palestinians the right to non-violent resistance by women and children congregating in large numbers around buildings suspected of being targets of israeli terrorism in order to prevent the bombardment. here is cook’s critique of human rights watch’s denial of palestinian resistance–whether armed or nonviolent:

In language that would have made George Orwell shudder, one of the world’s leading organisations for the protection of human rights ignored the continuing violation of the Palestinians’ right to security and a roof over their heads and argued instead: “There is no excuse for calling [Palestinian] civilians to the scene of a planned [Israeli] attack. Whether or not the home is a legitimate military target, knowingly asking civilians to stand in harm’s way is unlawful.”

On HRW’s interpretation, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela would be war criminals. There is good reason to believe that this reading of international law is wrong, if not Kafkaesque. Popular and peaceful resistance to the oppressive policies of occupying powers and autocratic rulers, in India and South Africa for example, has always been, by its very nature, a risky venture in which civilians are liable to be killed or injured. Responsibility for those deaths must fall on those doing the oppressing, not those resisting, particularly when they are employing nonviolent means. On HRW’s interpretation, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela would be war criminals.

cook goes on to provide some advice to human rights watch and some context for why their reports are so often biased in favor of the colonizing apartheid zionist entity. he thinks about this in terms of priorities, context, and like corrie, common sense:

Priorities: Every day HRW has to choose which of the many abuses of international law taking place around the world it highlights. It manages to record only a tiny fraction of them. The assumption of many outsiders may be that it focuses on only the most egregious examples. That would be wrong.

The simple truth is that the worse a state’s track record on human rights, the easier ride it gets, relatively speaking, from human rights organisations. That is both because, if abuses are repeated often enough, they become so commonplace as to go unremarked, and because, if the abuses are wide-ranging and systematic, only a small number of the offences will be noted.

Israel, unlike the Palestinians, benefits in both these respects.

Context: The actions of Palestinians occur in a context in which all of their rights are already under the control of their occupier, Israel, and can be violated at its whim. This means that it is problematic, from a human rights perspective, to place the weight of culpability on the Palestinians without laying far greater weight at the same time on the situation to which the Palestinians are reacting.

Here is an example. HRW and other human rights organisations have taken the Palestinians to task for the extrajudicial killings of those suspected of collaborating with the Israeli security forces.

Although it is blindingly obvious that the lynching of an alleged collaborator is a violation of that person’s fundamental right to life, HRW’s position of simply blaming the Palestinians for this practice raises two critical problems.

First, it fudges the issue of accountability.

In the case of a “targeted assassination”, Israel’s version of extrajudicial killing, we have an address to hold accountable: the apparatus of a state in the forms of the Israeli army which carried out the murder and the Israeli politicians who approved it. (These officials are also responsible for the bystanders who are invariably killed along with the target.)

Palestinians carrying out a lynching are committing a crime punishable under ordinary domestic law; while the Israeli army carrying out a “targeted assassination” is committing state terrorism, which must be tried in the court of world opinion. But unless it can be shown that the lynchings are planned and coordinated at a high level, a human rights organisation cannot apply the same standards by which it judges a state to a crowd of Palestinians, people gripped by anger and the thirst for revenge. The two are not equivalent and cannot be held to account in the same way.

Second, HRW’s position ignores the context in which the lynching takes place.

The Palestinian resistance to occupation has failed to realise its goals mainly because of Israel’s extensive network of collaborators, individuals who have usually been terrorised by threats to themselves or their family and/or by torture into “co-operating” with Israel’s occupation forces.

The great majority of planned attacks are foiled because one member of the team is collaborating with Israel. He or she not only sabotages the attack but often also gives Israel the information it needs to kill the leaders of the resistance (as well as bystanders). Collaborators, though common in the West Bank and Gaza, are much despised — and for good reason. They make the goal of national liberation impossible.

Palestinians have been struggling to find ways to make collaboration less appealing. When the Israeli army is threatening to jail your son, or refusing a permit for your wife to receive the hospital treatment she needs, you may agree to do terrible things. Armed groups and many ordinary Palestinians countenance the lynchings because they are seen as a counterweight to Israel’s own powerful techniques of intimidation — a deterrence, even if a largely unsuccessful one.

In issuing a report on the extra-judicial killing of Palestinian collaborators, therefore, groups like HRW have a duty to highlight first and with much greater emphasis the responsibility of Israel and its decades-long occupation for the lynchings, as the context in which Palestinians are forced to mimic the barbarity of those oppressing them to stand any chance of defeating them.

The press release denouncing the Palestinians for choosing collectively and peacefully to resist house demolitions, while not concentrating on the violations committed by Israel in destroying the houses and using military forms of intimidation and punishment against civilians, is a travesty for this very same reason.

Common sense: And finally human rights organisations must never abandon common sense, the connecting thread of our humanity, when making judgments about where their priorities lie.

In the past few months Gaza has sunk into a humanitarian disaster engineered by Israel and the international community. What has been HRW’s response? It is worth examining its most recent reports, those on the front page of the Mideast section of its website last week, when the latest press release was issued. Four stories relate to Israel and Palestine.

Three criticise Palestinian militants and the wider society in various ways: for encouraging the use of “human shields”, for firing home-made rockets into Israel, and for failing to protect women from domestic violence. One report mildly rebukes Israel, urging the government to ensure that the army properly investigates the reasons for the shelling that killed 19 Palestinian inhabitants of Beit Hanoun.

This shameful imbalance, both in the number of reports being issued against each party and in terms of the failure to hold accountable the side committing the far greater abuses of human rights, has become the HRW’s standard procedure in Israel-Palestine.

But in its latest release, on human shields, HRW plumbs new depths, stripping Palestinians of the right to organise nonviolent forms of resistance and seek new ways of showing solidarity in the face of illegal occupation. In short, HRW treats the people of Gaza as mere rats in a laboratory — the Israeli army’s view of them — to be experimented on at will.

HRW’s priorities in Israel-Palestine prove it has lost its moral bearings.

i think that cook’s analysis is important as human rights watch has done little to change its ways in the past few years. for one thing human rights watch is repeating this phenomenon with its latest report on hamas warning them to stop killings and torture. but if you read the report, which i refuse to quote here, you see none of the above critiques taken into consideration (and for the record i know that people at human rights watch do read cook’s writing). there is no context, no common sense, and no sense of priorities. in the midst of massive, daily human rights violations against palestinians by israeli terrorists, human rights watch chooses to write about this. moreover, if they used their reports in a way that would push for palestinians to liberate their land and achieve a just freedom this issue could hopefully solve itself.

for instance, what makes one become a collaborator in the first place–the origin of the issue in the human rights watch report on hamas. israeli terrorists force palestinians into positions of collaboration for many reasons: to get out of prison, to see a loved one in prison, to go to al quds to pray, to go to an israeli terrorist hospital, to travel to jordan, to access your land, to keep your house from being demolished. many of these things can be arranged–albeit temporarily–by agreeing to become a collaborator. on al jazeera ayman mohyeldin reported on one of these recent phenomenons of fishermen in gaza being recruited and pressured by israeli terrorists to become collaborators:

still the question for me that persists is why human rights watch chooses to focus on a palestinian so-called violation without contextualizing it and at the expense of the daily violations against palestinians by the zionist entity. one of those violations is collective punishment–oftentimes in the form of punitive house demolitions as marian houk explains in electronic intifada:

According to ICAHD, “house demolitions are clearly a case of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law, in particular Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949).”

In the year 2000, Ir Amim reported, there were only nine house demolitions in East Jerusalem — after “then-Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek announced that he would refrain from most demolitions in East Jerusalem, saying in effect that it was not right to punish people for building illegally when they were not permitted to build legally.” However, Ir Amim says, “there are in excess of 1,500 outstanding judicial demolition orders that have been issued but not yet executed … these orders never expire, and tens of thousands of residents in East Jerusalem live in perpetual fear that they may awake to the sound of bulldozers on any given morning. Consequently … every demolition understandably evokes widespread fear throughout East Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem’s new mayor, Nir Barakat, has vowed to carry out home demolition orders vigorously, under the guise of implementing the “rule of law.”

According to B’Tselem, some 688 Palestinian houses were demolished in East Jerusalem alone between 1999 and 2008, the majority by the Jerusalem municipality, the rest by the Israeli Ministry of Interior. At least another 207 Palestinian homes were destroyed in East Jerusalem between 1988 and 1998 — and three years of data are missing for that decade.

Thousands of Palestinian homes have also been demolished in Gaza, although Israel claims this in most cases this was done for reasons of “military necessity.” In addition, 4,000 buildings were destroyed (and tens of thousands damaged) in various operations before and after Israel’s unilateral “disengagement” from Gaza, including during the recent invasion.

The Jerusalem Post recently reported that the Israeli army was very pleased with the performance of unmanned D-9 bulldozers that were used in the Gaza Strip during the closing days of the Gaza invasion. D-9s are huge machines built by the Caterpillar Corporation and then armored by Israeli Military Industries. It was reported in 2003 that work was beginning on the development of a version that can be operated unmanned by remote control — but their use has never previously been confirmed and an Israeli army spokesperson stated to this reporter that “its general policy is not to discuss the type of weapons we used.”

During her recent visit to the region, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was widely quoted as saying that demolition and eviction orders were “unhelpful.” But she was speaking about pending demolition and eviction orders issued against hundreds of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem — 88 in the Silwan neighborhood alone, just outside the walls of the Old City in East Jerusalem, to make way for what one Israeli lawyer who defends Palestinian rights called a “Jewish theme park.”

caterpillar bulldozer in the mikfiyya neighborhood of nablus
caterpillar bulldozer in the mikfiyya neighborhood of nablus

a related issue to all of this is the nonviolent boycott campaign targeting a number of companies, including caterpillar. the stop caterpillar campaign asks people to not buy caterpillar products, to divest from them among other activities because of the way this company profits as a result of destroying palestinian homes and murdering palestinian people. yet i always find it strange how prevalent caterpillar bulldozers are in palestine. the photograph above i took while i walked to school yesterday, but i could have taken it in any number of locations around the west bank of palestine. and it is not just the bulldozer itself. it is the clothes, too.

caterpillar shoes for sale in the old city of nablus
caterpillar shoes for sale in the old city of nablus

the photograph above, like the bulldozer itself, is ubiquitous here in palestine. i could have taken that same photo in any clothing shop anywhere around palestine. and this is frustrating. but it seems to me that the reason for this disconnection is part branding and part unconsciousness about connecting the dots. my students, for instance, yesterday know the clothes as “cat” but the bulldozers as “caterpillar” and thus don’t connect the two, even though the logo is the same. but also even though students see the caterpillar d9 bulldozers on television and know what they do to palestinian people and houses they don’t connect this with their own practices, with boycott. it is strange for me that they cannot see the irony in the fact that the same bulldozer company vehicles that destroy palestinian lives every day are also used to build palestinian homes, which will likely, one day be destroyed by yet another caterpillar bulldozer.

this is, of course, only one of many human rights violations that palestinians must live with on a daily basis. there are rarely any international reports on such violations, for many of the reasons cook makes clear. but there is a great desire to resist by any means necessary: both armed resistance and nonviolent resistance. the two exist together in any struggle for liberation whether india or south africa. but what i want to know is while westerners persist in asking ad nauseum “where is the palestinian gandhi?” why don’t they ask where is the zionist f.w. de klerk?

on gaza’s jailers

if we really want to be honest about why gaza is a prison and why palestinians are trapped inside then we must not only look at the primary culprit–the zionist entity–but also their partners in crime: egypt and the united states. we all know about the u.s., of course, because it supplies all the weapons to the israeli terrorists so that they may murder palestinians every day. but what of the egyptians. the egyptians who account for at least 1/4 of the jailers of gaza given their control over the rafah border. physicians for human rights and gisha published a report this week on the closure of rafah and the damage it does to palestinians in gaza which reads in part:

However, in the year between the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (June 2006) and the Hamas takeover of the internal government in Gaza (June 2007), Israel kept Rafah Crossing closed 85% of the time; since June 2007, Rafah Crossing has been closed permanently, except for random and limited openings by Egypt, which meet only 3% of the needs of the residents of the Gaza Strip to enter and leave.

The closure of Rafah has severe implications for the residents of the Gaza Strip, including preventing access to health care services that are not available in Gaza, preventing access to opportunities for academic studies or employment abroad or in the West Bank, forcing long separations of family members on either side of the border, causing fatal damage to commerce and business, and creating a growing feeling among residents of the Gaza Strip that they are enclosed, isolated and trapped. The closure, of course, means a real inability to leave the Gaza Strip, even under circumstances of mortal danger.

of course, i do not agree with their assessment, that any palestinians are to blame for its closure. i reject any statement that blames the victim. and here we see the limits of so-called israeli human rights agencies. but i do think it is necessary for us to include egypt in the equation as they do. on monday two more palestinians died as a result of this closure because they were not allowed to leave for medical treatment:

Two Palestinian patients were reported dead on Monday in the Gaza strip due to the Israeli continued siege.

Both women needed treatment outside the coastal region but the Israeli military did not allow them to leave Gaza, local sources reported.

Doctors said that Somod Akkash, 17, and Fatma Al Shandi, 66, died on Monday midday In Gaza City hospital. They added that hundreds of patients are in critical conditions due to the Israeli 22 month long siege and not allowing patients to leave Gaza for treatment.

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza announced that with those two patients dead today the number of patients due to the ongoing Israeli siege on the costal region has reached 320.

but they also could have left through rafah had egypt and their israeli terrorist partners allowed them to. and egypt and its israeli terrorist partners are not only responsible for keeping people trapped inside, of course. they are responsible for denying palestinians the right to go home as well. of course the situation of laila el haddad last week, who egyptian authorities refused to allow out of the airport after 27 hours of detention there, is case in point. she is finally back in the u.s., amazingly enough, and wrote a long and eloquent blog entry entitled “i was born palestinian,” about it which i will quote in its entirety because i think it needs to be read by all:

“Its not very comfortable in there is it?” said the stony faced official, cigarette smoke forming a haze around his gleaming oval head.

“Its OK. We’re fine” i replied wearily, delirious after being awake for a straight period of 30 hours.
“You could be in there for days you know. For weeks. Indefinitely. “So, tell me, you are taking a plane tomorrow morning to the US?”

****
It was our journey home that began with the standard packing frenzy: squeezing everything precious and dear and useful into two suitcases that would be our sustenance for the course of 3 months.

The trips to the outdoor recreation store- in preparation for what I anticipated to be a long and tortuous journey across Rafah Crossing to Gaza. The inspect repellent; the mosquito netting; the water purifier; the potty toppers for my kids ad the granola bars and portion sized peanut butter cups. This time, I wanted to be ready, I thought to myself-just in case I got stuck at the Crossing. The Crossing. My presumptuousness is like a dull hit to the back of my head now.

In addition to all the packing of suitcases, we were also packing up our house- my husband was finishing up his residency at Duke University and set to start a medical fellowship at Johns Hopkins in July. In the meantime, we were “closing shop”, putting our things in storage, selling the rest, and heading overseas: me to Gaza, he to Lebanon to visit his family; and eventually I was too meet him there (assuming i could get into Gaza, and the, assuming I could get out). Yassine is a third-generation Palestinian refugee from the village of Waarit al-Siris in nothern historic Palestine; he was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon and holds a Laizze Passe for Palestinian refugees. Israel denies him return to his own home- or even to the home of his spouse in Gaza. So when we go overseas, we often go our separate ways; we cannot live legally, as a unit, as a family, in our own homes.

I hold a Palestinian Authority passport. It replaced the “temporary two-year Jordanian passport for Gaza residents” that we held until the Oslo Accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the mid ’90s, which itself replaced the Egyptian travel documents we held before that. A progression in a long line of stateless documentation.

It is a passport that allows no passage. A passport that denied me entry to my own home. This is its purpose: to mark me, brand me, so that I am easily identified and cast aside without questions; it is convenient for those giving the orders. It is a system for the collective identification of those with no identity.

***

We finished packing as much as we could of the house, leaving the rest to Yassine who was to leave a week after us, and drove 4 hours to Washington to spend a few day sat my brother’s house before we took off.

First, we headed to the the Egyptian embassy.

Last year, my parents were visiting us from Gaza City when Rafah was sealed hermetically. They attempted to fly back to Egypt to wait for the border to open- but were now allowed to board the plane in Washington. “Palestinians cannot fly to Egypt now without a visa, new rules” the airline personnel explained, “and no visas can be issued until Rafah is open” added the Egyptian embassy official. They were in a conundrum, aggravated by the fact that their US stay entry stamp had reach passed its six-month limit. Eventually, they got around the issue by obtaining an Egyptian tourist visa, made easier by their old age, which they used to wait in Egypt for one month until Rafah Crossing opened again.

I did not want to repeat their ordeal, so I called the embassy this time, which assured me the protocol had changed: now, it was only Palestinian men who were not allowed to fly to or enter Egypt. Women were, and would get their visa at the Egyptian port of destination. I was given a signed and dated letter (April 6, 2009) by the consul to take with me in case I encountered any problems: “The Consular Section of the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt hereby confirms that women, who are residents of the Gaza Strip, and who hold passports issued by the Palestinian Authority are required to get their visa to enter Egypt at Egyptian ports and NOT at the various Egyptian consulates in the United States on their way to the Gaza Strip for the purpose of reaching their destination (i.e. Gaza Strip)” it read.

With letter and bags in hand, we took off, worried only about the possibility of entering Gaza- the thought of being able to enter Egypt never crossing my mind.

2 long-haul flights and one 7 hour transit later, we made it. I knew the routine by heart. Upon our arrival, I was quick to hit the bank to buy the $15 visa stamps for Yousuf and Noor’s American passports and exchange some dollars into Egyptian pounds. I figured it would help pass the time while the lines got shorter.

I then went and filled out my entry cards-an officer came and filled them out with me seeing my hands were full, a daypack on my back, Noor strapped to my chest in a carrier, Yousuf in my hand…

we then submitted our passports, things seemed to be going smoothly. Just then the officer explained he needed to run something by his superior. “You have a Palestinian passport; Rafah crossing is closed…”

“I promise it will just be 5 minutes” he assured me. But that’s all i needed to hear. I knew I was in for a long wait. It was at this point I yanked out my laptop and began to tweet and blog about my experience (full progression of tweets here courtesy Hootsbuddy). At first I thought it would simply help pass the time; it developed into a way to pool resources together that could help me; and ended as a public awareness campaign.

****
The faces were different each time. 3 or four different rooms and hallways to navigate down. They refused to give names and the answers they gave were always in the form of cryptic questions.

The first explained I would not be allowed entry into Egypt because Palestinians without permanent residency abroad are not allowed in; and besides- Rafah Crossing is closed he said (my response: so open it?). I was told I was to be deported to the UK first. “But I had no British visa” I explained. I was ordered to agree to get on the next flight. I refused-I didn’t come all this way to turn back.

I was escorted to the “extended transit terminal”. It was empty at first, save for a south Asian man in tightly buckled jeans and a small duffel bag that spent the good part of our time there there in a deep sleep. During the day the hall would fill up with locally deported passengers- from villages of cities across Egypt, and we would move our things to the upper waiting area.

Most of the time was spent in this waiting area with low level guards who knew nothing and could do nothing.

At different intervals, a frustrated Yousuf would approach them angrily about “why they wouldn’t let him go see his seedo and tete?” and why “they put cockroaches on the floor”. When we first arrived, he asked if these were the “yahood”, his only experiences with extended closure, delay, and denial of entry being at the hands of the Israeli soldiers and government. “No, but why don’t you ask them why they are are allowed through to sunbathe and we aren’t to our own homes?”

“Rabina kbeer” came the response, signifying impotence. God is great.

There was very little time I was given access to anyone who had any authority. I seemed to be called in whenever the new person on duty arrived, when they were scheduled for their thrice daily interrogation and intimidation, their shooting and crying.

Officers came and went as shifts began and ended. But our status was always the same. Our “problem”, our case, our issue was always the same. We remained, sitting on our chairs, with our papers and documents in hand, waiting, and no one the better.

Always waiting. For this is what the Palestinian does: we wait. For an answer to be given, for a question to be asked; for a marriage proposal to be made, for a divorce to be finalized; for a border to open, for a permit to be issued; for a war to end; for a war to begin; for a child to be born; for one to die a martyr; for retirement or a new job; for exile to a better place and for return to the only place that knows us; for our prisoners to come home; for our home to no longer be prisons; for our children to be free; for freedom from a time when we no longer have to wait.

We waited for the next shift as we were instructed by those who made their own instructions. Funny how when you need to pass the time, the time does not pass.

“You need to speak with whose in charge-and their shift starts at 10 am”. So we pass the night and wait until 10. “Well by the time they really get started its more like noon”. So we wait till noon. “Well the real work isn’t until the evening”. And we wait until evening. Then the cycle starts again.

Every now and then the numberless phone would ring requesting me, and a somber voice would ask if I changed my mind. I insisted all I wanted to do was go home; that it was not that complicated.

“But Gaza is a special case, we all know that” I was told.

Special, as in expendable, not human, not entitled to rights special, I thought.

Unfamiliar faces that acted as though though I was a long-lost friend kept popping in and out to see me. As though I were an amnesiac in a penitentiary. They all kept asking the same cryptic question “so you are getting on a plane soon, right?”

First, a gentleman from the Palestinian representative’s office that someone else whose name I was meant to recognize sent. ” It’ll all be resolved within the hour” he promised confidently, before going on to tell me about his son who worked with Motorola in Florida;

“Helping Israeli drones do their job?”

“That’s right!” he beamed.

An hour came and went, and suddenly the issue was “irresolvable”, and I was “a journalist up to trouble”.

***

Friends and family in Egypt, the US, and Gaza, worked around the clock with me, calling in any favors they had, anyone they knew, doing anything they could to get some answers and let me through. But the answer was always the same: Amn il Dawla (State Security and Intelligence) says no, and they are the ultimate authorities. No one goes past them.

Later a second Palestinian representative came to see me.

“So you are not going on that second flight are you?”

“What are you talking about? Why does everyone speak to me in question form?”

“Answer the question”

“No, I came here to go to Gaza, not to return to the US”

“Ok that’s all I needed to know; there is a convoy of injured Palestinian with security clearance heading to the border with some space; we are trying to get you on there with them; 15 minutes and it’ll all be resolved, we just need clearance, its all over” he assured me.

Yousuf smashed another cockroach.

****
We were taken down a new hallway. A new room. A new face. The man behind the desk explained how he was losing sleep over my case, how I had the while airport working on it, ho he had a son Yousuf’s age; and then offered me an apple and a bottle of water and told me istaraya7i, to rest, a command I would hear again and again over the course of the 36 hours.

Is this man for real??? an apple and a bottle of water? I thought to myself, my eyes nearly popping out of my face.

“I don’t want your food. I don’t want to rest. I don’t want your sympathy. I JUST WANT TO GO HOME. To my country. To my parents. IS THAT TOO HARD TO UNDERSTAND?” I screamed, breaking my level-headed calm of the past 20 hours.

“Please don’t yell, just calm down, calm down, everyone outside will think I am treating you badly, c’mon, and besides its ‘ayb (disgraceful) not to accept the apple from me”.

“‘Ayb?? What’s ‘AYB is you denying my entry to my own home! And why should I be calm? This situation doesn’t call for calm; it makes no sense and neither should I!”

“C’mon lady don’t have a breakdown in front of your kids please. You know I have a kid your son’s age and its breaking my heart to do this, to see him in these conditions, to put him in the conditions, so please take the plane.”

“So don’t see me in these conditions! There’s a simple solution you know. LET ME GO HOME. Its not asking a lot is it?”

“Hey now look lady” he said, stiffening suddenly into bad cop, his helpless grimace disappeared.
“Rules are rules, you need a visa to get in here like any other country, can you go to Jordan without a visa?’

“Don’t play the rules game with me. I HAD APPROVAL FROM YOUR EMBASSY, FROM YOUR CONSUL GENERAL, to cross into Egypt and go to Gaza; and besides how else am I supposed to get into Gaza???” I shouted, frantically waving the stamped and signed document in front of him as though it were a magic wand.

“So sue him. Amn il Dawla supercedes the foreign ministry’s orders, he must have outdated protocol.”

“The letter was dated April 6, that is 2 days ago, how outdated could it be?? Look- if I could parachute into Gaza I would, trust me. With all do respect to your country, I’m not here to sight-see. Do you have a parachute for me? If I could sail there I would do that too, but last I check Israel was ramming and turning those boats back. Do you have another suggestions?

“What is it you want lady- do you want to just live in the airport? is that it? Because we have no problems letting you live here, really. We can set up a shelter for you. And no one will ever ask about you or know you exist. In any case you don’t have permanent residency abroad so our government policies say we can’t let a Palestinian who does not have permanent residency abroad”

“I have a US Visa- its expired but my extension of status document is valid until the end of June. and besides- what kind of illogical law is that? you aren’t allowing me back home if I don’t have permanent residency abroad?”

“I don’t read English please translate..”

“You see it says here that my status is valid until June 30, 2009”

“Good, so then we CAN deport you back to the US” he said, picking up the phone and giving a quick order for the Palestinian convoy of injured Palestinians heading to the Crossing to go on without me, my only hope of returning home dissipating before my eyes at the hands of a barely literate manipulative enforcer.

“You just said if i have permanent residency abroad I can go home, now you say I can’t, which is it??”

“I’m sorry you are refusing to go on the plane. Take her away please.”

We were ushered back to the extended waiting area, back to our roach ridden premises that had become our home, along with a newly arrived Luxembourgian and French couple and their two children who had failed to produce their passports and were being sent back home. Here I was, about to be deported away from home, over prepared, with my documents and signed papers, from consulates and universities and governments; and they, used to traveling passport-free the EU, being sent back home because they had only an ID card.

***

It wasn’t long before a new guard came to us, and request we follow him “to a more isolated room”. “It will be better for you- more private. All the African flights are arriving now with all their diseases, you don’t want to be here for that! It’ll get overcrowded and awful in here.”

Given the the well-wishes that preceded my last interrogation about the “uncomfortableness” I may endure, I somehow had a feeling where we were headed.

We were asked to bring all our luggage and escorted down a different hallway; this time we were asked to leave everything behind, and to give up our cameras, laptops, and mobile phones. We took our seats in the front of a tiny filthy room, where 17 other men (and one Indonesian woman was sleeping on the floor in the back, occasionally shouting out in the middle of her interrupted sleep) of varying nationalities were already waiting.

A brute man-, illiterate by his own admission, took charge of each of files, spontaneously blurting out vulgarities and ordering anyone who so much as whispered to shut the hell up or get sent to real prison; the room was referred to as “7abs”, or a cell; I can probably best describe it as the detention or holding room. a heady man with a protruding belly that seems at odds with his otherwise lanky body was the door guard.

Officer #1 divided up the room into regions: the 5 or so south Asians who were there for whatever reason-expired paperwork, illegal documentation- were referred to as “Pakistan” when their attention was needed; The snoozing, sleep-talking woman in the back was “Indonesia”; and the impeccably dressed Guinean businessman, fully decked in a sharp black suit and blue lined tie, was “Kenya” (despite his persistence please to the contrary). There was a group of Egyptian peasants with forged, fake, or wrongly filed Id cards and passports: a 54 year old man whose ID said he was born in 1990; another who left his ID in his village 5 hours away, and so on.

By this point, I had not slept in 27 hours, 40 if one were to count the plane ride. My patience and my energy were wearing thing. My children were filthy and tired and confused; Noor was crying. I tried to set her cot up, but a cell within a cell did not seem to her liking and she resisted, much as I did.

We took the opportunity to chat when officer #1 was away. “”So what did you do?” asked Kenya, the Guinean.

“I was born Palestinian” I replied. “Everyone in here is being deported back home for one reason or another right? I bet I am the only one being deported away from home; the only one denied entry to my home.”

Officer #1 returned, this time he asked me to come with him “with or without your kids”. I brought them along, not knowing what was next.

There was two steely-eyed men on either end of a relatively well-furnished room, once again inquiring about my “comfort” and ordering-in the form of a question- whether I was taking a flight that morning to the US.

Noor began making a fuss, bellowing at the top of her lungs and swatting anyone that approached her.

“She is stubborn. She takes after her mother I see” said the man.

Soon we were escorted back to the waiting area. I knew there was nothing more I could do. We waited for several more hours until my children exhausted themselves and fell asleep. I bathed them in the filthy bathroom sinks with freezing tap water and hand soap and arranged their quarters on the steel chairs of the waiting room, buzzing with what seemed like a thousand gnats. Thank God for the mosquito netting.

Eventually, dawn broke, and we were escorted by two guards to the ticket counter, our $2500 flights rerouted, and put on a plane back to Washington.

I noted on one of my tweets that I would be shocked if my children’s immune system survived this jolt. It didn’t.

My daughter vomited the whole flight to London as I slipped in and out of delirium, mumbling half Arabic half English phrases to the flustered but helpful Englishman sitting next to us. I thank him wherever he is for looking after us.

Whatever she had, Yousuf an eye caught in the coming days-along with an ear and throat infection.

Eventually, we reached Dulles Airport. I walked confidently to the booth when it was my turn.

What was I going to say? How do I explain this? The man took one look at my expired visa, and my departure stamps.

“How long have you been gone?”

“36 hours” I replied bluntly.

“Yes, I see that. Do you want to explain?”

“Sure. Egypt forbade me from returning to Gaza”.

“I don’t understand- they denied you entry to your own home?”

“I don’t either, and if I did, I wouldn’t be here.”

With that, I was given a a stamp and allowed back inside.

Now that we are warm; clothes; showered, rested and recovered from whatever awful virus we picked up in the bowels of Cairo airport, I keep thinking to myself: what more could I have done?

“The quintessential Palestinian experience,” historian Rashid Khalidi has written, “takes place at a border, an airport, a checkpoint: in short, at any one of those many modern barriers where identities are checked and verified.”

In this place, adds Robyn Creswell, “connection” turns out to be only another word for separation or quarantine: the loop of airports never ends, like Borges’s famous library. The cruelty of the Palestinian situation is that these purgatories are in no way extraordinary but rather the backdrop of daily existence.”

the egyptian collaboration with the zionist enemy is why many egyptian people refuse to normalize with israeli terrorists of any stripe in spite of its government’s normalizing policies. for instance, egyptians oppose a concert of israeli conductor daniel barenboim:

The concert, Barenboim’s first in Egypt, has ruffled feathers in intellectual circles, with music critic Amgad Mustafa describing the visit as “sneaky normalisation” with Israel.

But Egypt’s culture minister was quick to defend Barenboim’s visit.

“This conductor has attacked Israeli policies and there has even been a request to have him stripped of his citizenship,” Faruq Hosni told AFP.

The minister has himself said he opposed cultural normalisation with the Jewish State despite a 1979 peace deal between Egypt and Israel.

inviting barenboim also violates the cultural boycott campaign of israel. that boycott campaign is necessary in order to help fight for the liberation of palestine especially given the severe economic problems that the israeli-egyptian imprisonment of palestinians of gaza are suffering as sherine tadros reported for al jazeera:

but the collaboration between israeli terrorists and the egyptian government is even worse than this. or at least it is getting worse in the past week. the level of collaboration with the zionist enemy has reached new heights. now the egyptian police are murdering bedouins as ramattan news reported:

Egyptian police shot and killed a Bedouin in north Sinai on Saturday and seized munitions concealed in his truck believed to be destined for Gaza, Egyptian security official said.

“A Bedouin was shot and killed during an exchange of fire between police and armed men in north Sinai,” the official said.

Police in El-Arish ordered a truck to stop to be searched, but the driver tried to speed away only to crash into a police van.

Four Bedouin jumped out in attempt to get away on foot and one of them died in the shootout that ensued, the official added.

and it gets worse. now the egyptians are collaborating with israeli terrorists to completely sever gaza’s only lifeline to the outside world–where it gets everything from textbooks to toothpaste:

Egyptian sources reported that Egyptian security forces located and destroyed six tunnels along the border with the Gaza Strip.

The sources added that the tunnels were used for smuggling goods and other essentials to the Gaza Strip, where 1.5 million Palestinians have been living under strict siege for more than two years.

Sounds of explosions were heard across the border as the security forces wired the entrances of the tunnels detonating them.

The tunnels are located near the neighborhoods of Al Barazil and Al Salam, east of the Palestinian city of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

Egypt recently escalated its campaign against the tunnels entering into Gaza. Israel and Egypt say that the

and it gets even worse: now it is public that mossad, israel’s terrorist version of america’s cia, cooperates with the egyptian mukhabarat:

Lines separating warring camps in the region are becoming increasingly clearer as news emerged Monday that foreign intelligence services – including Israel’s Mossad – provided Egyptian authorities with intelligence that contributed to the uncovering of a Hezbollah-run terrorist ring and led to the arrest of dozens of suspects.

Meanwhile, Egyptian sources upped the tone of the charges against Hezbollah Monday by claiming that the aim of the underground activity was not limited to plans for terrorist attacks against tourist areas frequented by foreigners, but also against targets in the Suez canal.

Foreign intelligence services, including the Mossad and the CIA, contributed information to Egypt that led to the uncovering of the Hezbollah terror cell in that country, Philippe Vasset, editor of Intelligence Online told Haaretz.

and it gets far worse. is it really possible that the country that gave us gamal abdel nasser and his vision of arab unity and nationalism could stoop to this level so as to so identify with the white man, with the colonist, with the real terrorists so as to turn against his arab kin? is that really what the divide and rule of american-israeli terrorism has brought us to in this region? given the following report it would seem so:

The Egyptian press on Sunday slammed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as a war criminal who should be put on trial after he admitted that his militants in Cairo were helping Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Nasrallah said on Friday that a man Cairo is holding on suspicion of planning attacks is a member of his Lebanese Shiite fundamentalist group and was providing logistical help to Hamas, but denied seeking to destabilise Egypt.

“A criminal who knows no mercy” cried the blood-red headline in the state-owned Al-Gomhuria which reserved the whole of its front page for an editorial bashing Nasrallah, repeatedly referring to him as “Sheikh Monkey.”

“Sheikh Monkey, we will not allow you to belittle our judicial symbols, for you are a highway robber, a pure criminal who has killed his own people but we will not allow you to threaten the peace and security of Egypt,” editor Mohammed Ali Ibrahim wrote.

“You and your gang are terrorists and soon… the public prosecutor will issue details of an investigation into your terrorist organisation,” he said.

Al-Ahram newspaper, which is also state-owned, said Nasrallah’s admission that Hezbollah is operating in Egypt provided grounds for prosecution.

“The admission by (Nasrallah) of sending agents into Egypt… puts him at the forefront of accusations and requires dealing with him under Egyptian law, or international law and issuing an (Interpol) red notice for his arrest,” said editorial writer Ahmed Mussa.

“Egypt must start proceedings to try him in an international court. He has admitted to the crime. He must be handed to the Lebanese government as a war criminal,” Karam Gabr, editor of the pro-regime Rose Al-Yussef, told Egyptian television.

Egypt is holding 49 people with alleged links to Hezbollah accused of plotting “hostile operations” in Egypt, among them Sami Shihab, a Lebanese citizen.

In his speech on Friday, Nasrallah confirmed that Shihab was a member of Hezbollah and was working to help Hamas against Israel.

“If helping the Palestinians is a crime, I officially admit to my crime.”

Hezbollah, which is backed by Egypt’s regional rivals Iran and Syria, is a vocal supporter of Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza, and has lashed out at Egypt for closing its border crossing with the Palestinian enclave.

An Israeli cabinet minister said on Sunday that Nasrallah deserved to die.

“Nasrallah deserves death and I hope that those who know what to do with him will act and give him what he deserves,” said Transport Minister Yisrael Katz.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating war in Lebanon in 2006 which ended with Israel failing to achieve any of its aims.

this is what brainwashing looks like. that egyptian officials can be so duped by the west and their terrorist partners that they turn against the only leader in the region who is working to support palestinian resistance. if it were up to the mubarak regime, clearly palestinians would rot in hell. i saw a very disturbing episode of “inside story” with kamal santamaria on al jazeera the other night. i refuse to post it because santamaria hosted an egyptian on it who is allied with zionist terorrists and that information was not disclosed. though one comment made by this khalil al-anani made it quite clear: he actually said with a straight face that “no one is a better friend to the palestinians than egypt.” i kid you not. re-read laila’s blog entry above–which is notable because she published it not because this is not something that happens to palestinians every day. because it does. and she is clear about that. but in any case you can go to pulse media if you want to watch it. here is their assessment of the show:

The Egyptian government and the state media is frothing at the mouth over the revelation that Hizbullah had been trying to assist the besieged Gazans across the border which Egypt polices on Israel’s behalf. As usual, they were quick to resort to sectarian incitement invoking the inevitable ‘Persian’ plot. However, most Sunnis (here I would include myself) have nothing but admiration for Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and the resistance, and nothing but contempt for the Egyptian collaborationist government.

For those who don’t know the Egyptian panelist Khalil al-Anani is a ‘visiting fellow’ at the Israel lobby’s key propaganda institution the Saban Center for Middle East Policy (run by Martin Indyk, and underwritten by Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban).

oh, and if egypt is looking to reform itself you should look to lebanon for a lesson in how to behave with collaborators (though how would this work in egypt: could we imprison and interrogate the entire mubarak collaborating regime?):

The Lebanese internal security services stated on Tuesday that it had arrested a retired security officer, from Ramish town in southern Lebanon, on suspicion that he had acted as a spy spy for Israel for more than ten years.

The man arrested was identified as Adeeb A. Initial reports revealed that the man admitted to holding regular meetings with Israeli handlers in Europe, and that he confessed to collaborating with different Israeli intelligence departments for more than 10 years.

The Al Akhbar Lebanese newspaper said that, three months ago, Lebanese security had been monitoring the communications of a group of suspects who were thought to be collaborating with Israel by giving Israeli security information on activities in the north and east of Beirut, and in southern Lebanon.

Adeeb was detained and interrogated last Saturday. His wife, also believed to be a collaborator, was later arrested and interrogated, revealing new information.

and for those of you who missed hassan nasrallah’s amazing speech the other night and want reminding of what arab unity could look like if done in the name of resistance, justice, and helping to liberate palestine here is his captivating, powerful, mesmerizing speech in full (thanks tam tam!) :

this is what has got egypt all in a dither. this is what should make us all mobilize together.

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.