on the nukes

there was great news coming from the united nations the other day, but like the goldstone report, unless there’s teeth to back it up it will fall by the wayside. it seems that finally the united nations is not going to treat the zionist entity with kid gloves any more when it comes to their war crimes and when it comes to their nuclear arsenal. or, this could just be mere hot air. that remains to be seen. in any case, here is what al jazeera reported:

The UN nuclear assembly has called for Israel to open its nuclear facilities to UN inspection and sign up to the non-proliferation treaty.

The resolution, which was passed narrowly on Friday, marked a surprise victory for Arab states and others who have pushed for the move for the last 18 years.

The non-binding resolution voiced concern about “Israeli nuclear capabilities” and urged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, to tackle the issue.

Israel vowed it would not co-operate, saying the measure singled it out while many of its neighbours remained hostile to its existence.

“Israel will not co-operate in any matter with this resolution which is only aiming at reinforcing political hostilities and lines of division in the Middle East region,” said David Danieli, the chief Israeli delegate.

‘Glorious moment’

Israel is one of only three countries worldwide – along with India and Pakistan – outside the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and is widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal.

It has never confirmed nor denied that it has nuclear weapons.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the Iranian ambassador, whose country’s disputed nuclear programme is under IAEA investigation, said the vote was a “glorious moment” and “a triumph for the oppressed nation of Palestine”.

Speaking later to Al Jazeera, Soltanieh said: “All like-minded, peace-loving countries have always called for a resolution to take measures to push Israel to stop their nuclear weapon programme and adhere to the NPT and put every nuclear installation under the IAEA.

“All countries in the Middle East are party to the NPT – the only non-party is Israel … the resolution was addressed to the only non-participatory [state] in the Middle East.

Tehran was one of the 21 countries sponsoring the measure.

Iran absorbed a setback later when its bid to make legally binding a 1991 resolution banning attacks on nuclear sites failed to win a consensus from the bloc of Non-Aligned Movement developing nations and so was not brought up for a vote.

UN Security Council members Russia and China backed the Israel resolution, passed by a 49-45 margin by the IAEA’s annual member states gathering. There were 16 abstentions.

Western states said it was unfair and counterproductive to isolate one member state and that an IAEA resolution passed on Thursday, which urged all Middle East nations including Israel to foreswear atomic bombs, made Friday’s proposal unnecessary.

Western backing

Before the vote, Glyn Davies, the US ambassador, said the resolution was “redundant … such an approach is highly politicised and does not address the complexities at play regarding crucial nuclear-related issues in the Middle East”.

Canada tried to block a vote on the floor with a “no-action motion”, a procedural manoeuvre that prevailed in 2007 and 2008, but lost by an eight-vote margin.

Diplomats from the non-aligned movement of developing nations said times had changed with the advent of the US administration of Barack Obama, the US president.

“People and countries are bolder now, willing to call a spade a spade. You cannot hide or ignore the truth, the double standards, of Israel’s nuclear capability forever,” the Reuters news agency quoted one diplomat as saying.

“The new US administration has certainly helped this thinking with its commitment to universal nuclear disarmament and nuclear weapons-free zones.”

The non-binding measure was last voted on in 1991, when IAEA membership was much smaller, and passed by 39-31.

the next step should be to force the united states to submit to the iaea as well. and then to destroy all of these nuclear weapons for the potential threat they pose as well as for the environmental and health consequences for those who live in the midst of these weapons. and, of course, as a part of the ongoing genocide of american indians, the united states has made sure that such weapons are placed closes to american indian reservations and communities. brenda norrell has an interesting article in counterpunch on the subject:

When Paul Zimmerman writes in his new book about the Rio Puerco and the Four Corners, he calls out the names of the cancers and gives voice to the poisoned places and streams. Zimmerman is not just writing empty words.

Zimmerman writes of the national sacrifice area that the mainstream media and the spin doctors would have everyone forget, where the corners of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado meet, in his new book, A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science.

“A report in 1972 by the National Academy of Science suggested that the Four Corners area be designated a ‘national sacrifice area,” he writes.

Then, too, he writes of the Rio Puerco, the wash that flowed near my home when I lived in Houck, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation in the 1980s. The radioactive water flowed from the Churck Rock, N.M., tailings spill on down to Sanders, where non-Indians were also dying of cancer, and it flowed by New Lands, Nahata Dziil Chapter, where Navajos were relocated from their homes on Black Mesa. They moved there from communities like Dinnebeto. Some elderly Navajos died there in New Lands, not just from the new cancers, but from broken hearts.

Zimmerman points out there was plenty of evidence of cancers from Cold War uranium mining and radioactive tailings left behind, but few studies were commissioned to document it. In the early 1980s, I asked the Indian Health Service about the rates of death around the uranium mines and power plants. No studies were ever conducted, according to the IHS press officer. I was shocked. Fresh out of graduate school with a master’s degree in health for developing nations, I really could not believe it.

This week, Zimmerman released a chapter of his new book to aid the struggles of Indigenous Peoples, after reading about the Havasupai Gathering to Halt Uranium Mining in the Grand Canyon.

As I read his chapter, I am flooded with memories, memories of people dying, radioactive rocks and the deception and censorship that continues on the Navajo Nation.

In the 1990s, USA Today asked me to report on the uranium tailings and deaths at Red Valley and Cove near Shiprock, N.M. In every home I visited, at least one Navajo had cancer and their family members had died of cancer. In some homes, every family member had cancer. In one home, an eighty-year-old Navajo woman looked at the huge rocks that her home was made of. She said some men came with a Geiger counter and told her the rocks were extremely radioactive. Then, on another day, I walked beside the radioactive rocks strewn in Gilbert Badoni’s backyard near Shiprock.

The dust we breathed at Red Valley and Cove was radioactive. When the Dine’ (Navajo) in the south and Dene in the north mined uranium without protective clothing, the US and Canada knew they were sending Native American miners to their deaths.

“Declassified documents from the atomic weapons and energy program in the United States confirm that official secret talks on the health hazards of uranium mining were discussed both in Washington and Ottawa. In 1932, even before the Manhattan Project, the Department of Mines in Canada published studies of the mine at Port Radium, warning of the hazard of radon inhalation and ‘the dangers from inhalation of radioactive dust.’ Blood studies of miners confirmed that breathing air with even small amounts of radon was detrimental to health,” Zimmerman writes.

When I moved to the Navajo Nation in 1979, I was a nutrition educator with the Navajo Hopi WIC Program. I had no intention of becoming a news reporter or an activist. Later in the 1980s, as a news reporter, I reported on Peabody Coal and its claim that it was not damaging the land or aquifer on Black Mesa.

Louise Benally, resisting relocation at Big Mountain said, “These big corporations lie you know.”

No, I didn’t know that then. But I know that now.

Earl Tulley, Navajo from Blue Gap, said something that changed my life. Tulley told me about the multi-national corporations, how they seize the land and resources of Indigenous Peoples, not just on the Navajo Nation, but around the world.

But it wasn’t until I covered federal court in Prescott, Arizona, as a stringer for Associated Press, that I learned of how it all continues. Covering the Earth First! trial in the 90s, I realized that federal judges and federal prosecutors are on the same team. The FBI can manipulate and manufacture evidence, even drive people to a so-called crime if the guys don’t have a ride.

During the federal trial of former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald, it became obvious: If you are an American Indian, you can forget about justice. Later, during the trials of American Indian activists it was clear: Federal prosecutors can just write a script and send people to prison.

There are parts of the American justice system concealed from most people: Distorted facts and planted evidence. News reporters seldom learn of the witnesses who receive federal plea agreements and lie on the witness stand. Few people except news reporters, ever sit through these long, and tediously dull at times, federal trials which can go on for months.

A three month trial of American Indians, or environmentalists, will smash any romantic myth about justice for all in the US court system. The bias and politics embedded within the justice system, and the back door deals of Congressmen with the corporations who bankroll them, seldom make the evening news.

Arizona Sen. John McCain and company brought about the so-called Navajo Hopi land dispute, which was actually a sweetheart deal for Peabody Coal mining on Black Mesa. When they emerged from the back door deals, they swiftly went out to throw candy to Native Americans in the parades, claiming they were the best friends of Indian country. Money is the reason the Navajo Nation Council went along with coal mining on Black Mesa. The revenues from coal mines, power plants and oil and gas wells pay the salaries and expense accounts of the Navajo councilmen and Navajo President.

While I was on Mount Graham in Arizona at the Sacred Run, I learned of another part of the story. I learned about Skull and Bones, the Yale secret society. Former San Carlos Apache Councilman Raleigh Thompson told me of the meeting with Skull and Bones. Thompson was there. Thompson told how the Skull and Bones members, including President George HW Bush’s brother Jonathan Bush and an attorney, tried to silence the San Carlos Apache leaders. The San Carlos Apaches were seeking the return of Geronimo’s skull, during meetings in New York in the 1980s. Geronimo had asked to be buried in the mountains on San Carlos.

The more I read from the book Secrets of the Tomb, the more it became obvious that the Skull and Bones members weren’t just seizing money. Their desire was for power. They wanted world domination.

So, now years later, I see the Skull and Bones Society rear its head again in the Desert Rock power plant deal on the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners, protested by Navajos living on the land in the longstanding protest Dooda Desert Rock. Follow the money at Sithe Global and it leads back to Blackstone and a member of Skull and Bones.

Skull and Bones members controlled production of the first atomic bomb, according to Alexandra Robbins, author of Secrets of the Tomb. Zimmerman writes of this time, “The Manhattan Project is inaugurated, physicists are secretly recruited, clandestine outposts spring up in the wilderness, and a fevered race against time ensues to transform abstract theories into a deliverable weapon.”

The proposed Desert Rock power plant would be in the Four Corners, the same “national sacrifice area,” where the Cold War uranium mines, coal mines, power plants and oil and gas wells are already polluting and causing disease and death. The air, land and water are contaminated and the region is desecrated. It is the Navajos sacred place of origin, Dinetah, a fact voiced by Bahe Katenay, Navajo from Big Mountain, and censored.

Navajos at Big Mountain, and the Mohawk grandmothers who write Mohawk Nation News, make it clear: The government initiated tribal councils are puppets of the US and Canadian governments.

Several years before Dan Evehema passed to the Spirit World, relaxing on his couch after protesting in the rain backhoes and development on Hopiland, at the age of 104, he shared truth, speaking through a translator.

Evehema said the Hopi Sinom never authorized or recognized the establishment of the Hopi Tribal Council, a puppet of the US government.

In the early Twentieth Century, Hopi were imprisoned at Alcatraz for refusing to cooperate with the US. In the latter part of the century, when the threat of forced relocation of Navajos was great, traditional Hopi, including Evehema and Thomas Banyacya, stood with and supported Navajos at Big Mountain. Mainstream reporters don’t like to report these facts, since it deflates their superficial coverage, based on corporate press releases.

As I was being censored out of the news business (at least the type that results in a paycheck) Louise Benally of Big Mountain once again revealed the truth of the times. When she compared the war in Iraq to the Longest Walk of Navajos to Bosque Redondo, she spoke of the oppression and deceptions of the US colonizers, comparing the torture and starvation of this death walk to what the US was doing in Iraq. Benally was censored.

It was more than just a censored story. It was a statement of the times we live in: Hush words too profound to be written. The times had come full circle. Indian people once oppressed by US colonizers were now serving as US soldiers for US colonizers, killing other Indigenous Peoples. Victims had become perpetrators.

During much of the Twentieth Century, Indian children in the US, Canada and Australia were kidnapped. Stolen from their parents, these children were placed in boarding schools. In Canada, the residential schools were run by churches. In all three countries, young children were routinely abused, sexually abused and even murdered.

On the Longest Walk in 2008, while broadcasting across America, we saw the marsh at Haskell in Kansas. Here, there are unmarked graves of the children who never came home. At Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, we read the tombstones in the rows of tiny graves, the names of the children who never came home.

In the US, Canada and Australia, children were forbidden to speak their Native tongue, which carried their songs and ceremonies. Indian children were beaten, locked in cellars, tortured and raped. Many died of pneumonia, malnutrition and broken hearts. Some were shot trying to escape.

At Muscowequan Catholic residential school in Lestock, Saskatchewan, Canada, a young girl was raped by a priest. When she gave birth, the baby was thrown into the furnace and burned alive in front of child survivor Irene Favel (http://www.hiddenfromhistory.org/ .)

In the US, the young boys who survived were militarized, made into US soldiers. Zimmerman writes that Australia, like Canada and US, carried out a holocaust of Aboriginal peoples. “What occurred in Australia is a mirror image of the holocaust visited on Native Americans. When the British claimed sovereignty over Australia, they commenced a 200 year campaign of dispossession, oppression, subjugation and genocide of Aboriginal peoples.”

Indigenous Peoples around the world targeted by uranium mining, including the Dene in the north, linked to Dine’ (Navajo) in the south by the common root of the Athabascan language. From the Dine’ and Dene and around the earth to Australia, there was a recipe for death for Indigenous Peoples by the power mongers.

The US policy of seizing the land and destroying the air, water and soil is clear in Nevada and Utah. While Western Shoshone fight the nuclear dump on their territory at Yucca Mountain in what is known as Nevada, Goshutes at Skull Valley in Utah are neighbors with US biological and chemical weapons testing.

Zimmerman writes, “Dugway Proving Ground has tested VX nerve gas, leading in 1968 to the ‘accidental’ killing of 6,400 sheep grazing in Skull Valley, whose toxic carcasses were then buried on the reservation without the tribe’s knowledge, let alone approval. The US Army stores half its chemical weapon stockpile nearby, and is burning it in an incinerator prone to leaks; jets from Hill Air Force Base drop bombs on Wendover Bombing Range, and fighter crashes and misfired missiles have struck nearby. Tribal members’ health is undoubtedly adversely impacted by this alphabet soup of toxins.”

Zimmerman makes it clear that the genocide of Indigenous Peoples was not an accident. Indigenous People were targeted with death by uranium mining and nuclear dumping. Indian people were targeted with destruction that would carry on for generations, both in their genetic matter and in their soil, air and water.

One ingredient in the recipe for death is division: Divide and control the people and the land. This is what is happening at the southern and northern borders on Indian lands. Just as the US continues the war in Iraq and Afghanistan for war profiteers and politics, the racism-fueled US border hysteria results in billions for border wall builders, security companies and private prisons.

It comes as no surprise that the Israeli defense contractor responsible for the Apartheid Wall in Palestine, Elbit Systems, was subcontracted by Boeing Co. to work on the spy towers on the US/Mexico border. Militarized borders mean dollars, oppression and power.

The US Border Patrol agents harass Indian people at the US borders, even murder people of color on the border at point blank range. More often than not, the murdering border agents walk away free from the courts.

Meanwhile, the US under the guise of homeland security, seizes a long strip of land — the US/Mexico corridor from California to Texas –including that of the Lipan Apache in Texas. As Indigenous Peoples in the south are pushed off their lands, corn fields seized by corporations, they walk north to survive, many dying in the Southwest desert.

Another ingredient in US genocide in Indian country is internal political division and turmoil: Distract the people with political turmoil, to make it easier to steal their water and land rights. If that doesn’t work, put them in prison. In Central and South America, the mining companies have added another step: Assassinate them.

The US made sure that Latin countries were able to carry out torture and assassinations by training leaders and military personnel at the School of the Americas. Even Chiquita Bananas admitted in court that they hired assassins to kill anyone who opposed the company, including Indigenous Peoples and farmers, in Colombia.

So, when Zimmerman writes of uranium and the sacrifices of Indigenous Peoples, those are not just empty words. They are words that mark the graves, words that name the cancers, words that mark the rivers and words that give rise to names.

To give voice to a name is to break the silence.

divide and rule at work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

aqraba shepherds
aqraba shepherds

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

elementary school in aqraba
elementary school in aqraba

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

palestinian home in aqraba
palestinian home in aqraba

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

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

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

mosque in aqraba
mosque in aqraba

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

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

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

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

anas home in aqraba
anas home in aqraba

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

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

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

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

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

escape from fatahlandia


shortly after i got to my office this morning students started coming in and asking me if we had class this afternoon. they told me that there was going to be a prisoner solidarity “celebration” and that classes would be canceled. i walked over to the secretary’s office to double check this. she said that the vice president asked faculty to hold classes if the students were there and to cancel classes if they did not show up. so i repeated this all day to students who asked and encouraged them to attend the rally for the prisoners. then, about a few minutes before my last class, i received an sms message from ma’an news stating that the nablus rally was a fatah rally. not only that: it had nothing to do with prisoners. it was all about fatah. just fatah. no one mentioned this little detail to me at any point in the day. here is what ma’an posted on their website:

More than 100,000 supporters of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) staged a demonstration in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday, as Palestinian unity talks began in Cairo.

One elderly Fatah supporter named Abu Abdallah wept with joy at the sight of the three kilometer-long march: Fatah is back, the PLO is back and the revolution is back as well.”

Speaking to the assembled crowds, the Palestinian Authority (PA) governor of Nablus, Jamal Muheisin, warned that if negotiations with Israel fail, Fatah will return to armed struggle.

“He is wrong who thinks that negotiations are the only choice for Fatah. On the contrary, all possibilities are open, including armed struggle as long as we seek peace and others do not.”

the photograph above was ma’an’s image of the rally today. not one of the gaza solidarity protests in nablus had even 1/10 of this sort of support. it seems i am living in a little fatah universe. in my university. in this city. it is endlessly depressing and disappointing. it has not been posted online yet, but there was a piece on al jazeera today documenting the torture of palestinian prisoners by the palestinian authority in its jails. al haq had a representative on who has been working on this and there was a survivor of the torture who spoke as well. if it becomes available i will post it.

to escape from this current world of fatah-land that i seem to be living in, i have been reading rosemary sayigh’s amazing book the palestinians: from peasants to revolutionaries, which came out in a new edition last year. the book was originally published in 1979 and like much of her amazing work is based on oral history that she does in palestinian refugee camps in lebanon. what makes this particular book so important is that the oral history interviews were conducted in the 1970s at a time when palestinian refugees were still alive and when there were refugees who could remember what life was like before the british-zionist theft of their land. it offers insight into other forms of division that pre-date the current political divisions between fatah and hamas. and it shows how layers of colonialism created the conditions for these divisions. one of the most significant ways in which this happened was with the introduction of capitalist colonialism by the british and the zionists, which differed from previous forms of colonialism in palestine:

From time immemorial the peasants of Palestine had formed the tax and conscript basis of successive occupations: Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Ottoman, and now British. With the expulsion of the Turks in World War I, and the occupation by the British, Palestine finally entered the trade circuit of the capitalist world, becoming fully exposed to the changes summed up in the word “modernization.” Palestine’s indigenous precapitalist economy continued to exist side by side with the separate Zionist economy (with its unique mingling of socialist ideology and capitalist funding), and as in all cases of colonialism, the indigenous economy subsidized the invading one, besides providing the tax basis to finance its own occupation. Although the incipient Palestinian bourgeoisie suffered in its development from the more advanced organization and technical skill of Zionist enterprise and labour, it also benefited from increased trade, and from employment in the British administration. It was the interests of the fellaheen that were more directly threatened by Zionist colonialism. This was because, while Zionist land purchase put an ever growing pressure on the supply of land, the Zionist boycott of Arab labour cut off alternative sources of income, whether in agriculture or industry. Thus the oppression of the peasant class changed under the Mandate from the type produced by Arab/Ottoman feudalism to a colonial type somewhat similar to that of Algeria or South Africa. (21)

one of the reasons for sayigh’s comparison with algeria has to do with the ways in which french colonists, like the zionist colonists in palestine, forced peasants off of the most cultivatable land. the villages tended to be self-sufficient, which enabled them to live independently:

Although Palestine had long been an exporter of high quality agricultural products (mainly grains, olive oil, soap, sesame, and citrus fruit), the development of cash crops and market farming was restricted mainly to a few areas near the cities, at least until the World War II boom in the price of agricultural products towards the end of the Mandate. Cash crops were mainly financed and traded by city merchants through long-standing arrangements with particular villages, leaving the mass peasants close to a subsistence economy. Rather than markets, the primary aim of peasant agriculture was subsistence and the payment of taxes and debts. The extent to which the bulk of peasant production stayed out of the markets can be gauged by the fact that, as late as 1930, only 20 per cent of the total wheat crop and 14 per cent of the barley crop were marketed (23).

what this meant for palestinian fellahin who resisted the new foreign invaders colonizing their land is that they could strike for as long as 6 months because the village met all of their needs in terms of what they planted, the animals they kept. sayigh compares this to egyptian villages which were not self-sufficient at that time and depended upon cities to trade grain, fruits, and vegetables. and while the ottomans, like the british, taxed palestinians, the method the british used was far more severe:

Most English histories of Palestine dwell on the evils of tax farming and point to its abolition early in the Mandate as a sign of progress. But from the peasant viewpoint British tax collection, though more honest, was more oppressive. The tithe was a fixed percentage of the wheat crop only, and though the tax farmers squeezed the peasants to the maximum, they had no interest in making them bankrupt, or forcing them off the land. The peasants’ debts carried over from one year to the next, and from one generation to the next, and carried no threat of eviction. Under the British, however, all peasant property, not just their wheat crop, was taken as a basis of tax evaluation, including fruit trees, houses, “even our chickens.” Not only was British assessment more thorough, but taxes were now collected with the help of troops, whereas in Turkish times it was rare that the provincial governor had enough troops at his disposal to terrorize the villages (26).

the problem was exacerbated by other british policies in palestine as one of sayigh’s interviewees, a man from the village of sa’sa near safad explains:

“I remember that in Sa’sa, which was famous for its olives, grapes, and figs, the peasants produced thousands of kilos of figs each year. But there was no market. The British wouldn’t encourage the selling of this good quality fruit, or help to pack it or export it. It was hard for the peasant to market his crop himself because the roads between the villages and cities were bad. And after the peasant had harvested his wheat, the British would bring in cheap wheat by ship from Australia, and sell it in Haifa at 1/2 a piastre a kilo, knowing that the peasants could not sell at this price. It was British policy towards the peasants that they should always stay poor” (26).

this british colonial policy resembles the american imperial policy in much of the world in the way that it imposes its wheat and other agricultural items on countries, like lebanon for example, in ways that prevent farmers there from cultivating its own wheat. this creates a dependency on the united states that is damaging to the livelihood of the farmers, the villages, the people in general.

one way the fellaheen resisted early on to these pressures on their agricultural life was by agitating for schools in their villages. so much of what the interviews sayigh includes reveal about all aspects of life is the sense of solidarity among palestinian villagers, including striking against british-zionist policies, armed resistance, and demanding education to diversify their economies. another man from sa’sa whom she interviews shares his memory about this:

“I entered school when I was seven. We had one teacher, from Nablus, and though the schoolroom could hardly take 30 people, there used to be not less than 150 children. It went to the end of fourth elementary. Later they brought a second and a third teacher, but for secondary classes students had to go to the city. I remember how our families used to go every day to the qaimaqam and his assistant to struggle for education for their children. They wanted to add classes to our school–four were not enough. They wanted English lessons. The villagers gathered as one hand in this struggle for schools, because the peasant nature is co-operative. So after a great while we got the fifth and sixth classes, and the school was enlarged, and the nucleus of a girls’ school was set up” (33).

solidarity and collectivity among villagers extended to resistance to land sales for those fellaheen who did not own the land they farmed and lived on:

Peasant landlessness started before the Mandate with single sales of large areas of land by the Ottoman Administration and by non-Palestinian owners. These sales, many of which included whole villages, confronted the peasants with their first experience of legal eviction, something which had never been a part of the fellaheen fate. It is striking that their immediate, spontaneous response was violent resistance–a resistance which found, however, no echo in other segments of Palestinian society (36).

importantly, it is because of this resistance that jewish colonists owned so little land even by 1946:

By 1926, only 4 per cent of all land (including state land) was Jewish-owned, and it took another eight years for this figure to reach 5 per cent. By the end of 1946, the last year for which official figures exist, it had not gone beyond 6 percent. Peasant resistance to land sales is abundantly clear in these figures. (36-38)

so this is all context–a bit of an idea about how the british-zionist colonial project disrupted the lives of the majority of the palestinians, the fellaheen, most of whom became refugees in 1948 when they were forcibly removed from their land. but other ways palestinians, especially the fellaheen, were affected by british-zionist colonialism in palestine was by the age-old tactic of divide and conquer. sayigh chronicles the way that the british started this process of coopting elite members of palestinian urban society to create this phenomenon, especially to help the british squash the fellaheen resistance:

Over and over again, the Palestinian notables earned the praise of the British authorities for their help in controlling the “mob.” In May 1921, the mayors of Jerusalem, Tulkarem and Jaffa, the muftis of Acre and Safad, and Qadi of Jerusalem, all received British decorations for their “services in Palestine” (51-52).

when sayigh discusses one of the most important resistance leaders in palestine, sheikh qassam, she does so in a way that reveals the reality of resistance to colonialism showing that it was not the elites and notables leading the resistance:

It was symptomatic of the distance between the political and militant wings of the nationalist movement that when the first guerrilla leader, Sheikh Qassam, was killed soon after his call to armed struggle in 1935, none of the leading national figures attended his funeral. none of the military leaders of the 1936 Rebellion were from the ruling class. Few anecdotes give a clearer picture of the incapacity of the Palestinian traditional leaders for serious struggle thant he one told by a “former intelligence officer” to the author of a study on the 1936 Rebellion. A group of bedouin gathered in Beersheba telephoned to the Mufti asking what action they should take in support of the uprising that was beginning to spread through the country in the wake of the killing of the District Commissioner for Galilee. The Mufti’s reply to them was to do whatever they thought fit, and though this reply may have been due to knowledge that his telephone was tapped, all accounts of the Rebellion and the six months’ strike that preceded it make it clear that the people of Palestine led their leadership, not vice versa. (52)

these are just a few insights from sayigh’s first chapter. there is so much more to say, to share, but people should get a copy and read it for themselves. i think the way she tells the historical narrative–from the point of view of the people, the masses–is so much more valuable and meaningful to me than the histories i read about the elites, the leaders–the elites and the leaders who always fail their people. who always get corrupted by power and greed. just like howard zinn’s books detailing the people’s histories of the united states, sayigh gives us insight into the people’s history of palestine. and it gives us insight to earlier divisions, divisions that certainly led to the complete and total colonization of every square inch of palestine. but when i read about the work of the fellaheen and the resistance in pre-1948 palestine, in spite of the differences and struggles between the fellaheen and the people in the cities, for instance, i cannot help but think about the situation today. the divisions may be different, but the effect is the same. palestinians in power then, as now, become corrupted, become coopted. they serve the interests of the colonial masters. the people suffer, the masses suffer. i wish that we could see the same sort of energy like labor strikes and resistance to those in power in the pa and in the u.s. and in the zionist entity all over again, this time with steadfastness and cohesion.

this is what i do when i get frustrated here. i retreat into history. i fantasize about different outcomes. i think about what could have happened if only. what would have happened if only. if only…