on why coca cola should be boycotted (and no pepsi, etc. is not any better)

there was a great article about bds by sousan hammad in counterpunch last month, which begins with a great fanon quote and engages in an important analysis of the psychological complications involved when trying to educate palestinians about bds:

“An underdeveloped people must prove, by its fighting power, its ability to set itself up as a nation, and by the purity of every one of its acts, that it is, even to the smallest detail, the most lucid, the most self-controlled people.”

–Frantz Fanon, “A Dying Colonialism”

There is an echoing sentiment here in Ramallah that Israeli milk is more “tasteful” and “nutritious” than Palestinian milk. The same goes for wine, apples, dates, juice, and just about everything else…except for maybe olives. In fact, Palestinian shopkeepers even stock Israeli-made milk at the front of their store while Palestinian milk sits in a far-to-reach crate collecting dust in the corner.

Palestinians do this for two reasons: one is they truly believe their senses, the other, and possibly more understanding, is because selling Israeli products yield a much higher profit.

A recent study by the Swiss Development Center, an organization that aims to promote Palestinian products, found that Palestinians within the higher socioeconomic strata tend to buy more Israeli goods than those in the lower strata. In French colonial-Martinique, mothers would sing to their children in French instead of their native language because it was more “civilized” to speak the colonizer’s language.

Appropriating the colonialist brand seems to imply prestige – a product, perhaps, of the inferiority complex – but if you push this aside as a psychological epiphenomenon that is a result of colonialism and consider the economic dependency Palestinians are forced to live with, one way to overcome the subjugation of the colonialist-settler (thus racist and discriminatory) policies would be to boycott Israeli products. Besides forcing Palestinians to consume their own products, it would promote and develop a domestic industry and manufactured goods. If it takes a pyramid to list all the nutritional benefits of Palestinian produce, then onward with the label! Whatever it may be, the Palestinians must ascertain that they can have a functioning society without being indebted to Israel.

This is, essentially, what the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is about. Using Apartheid South Africa as a model, a coalition of Palestinian groups felt compelled to combat Israel’s economic power over Palestine, and, in 2005 the BDS movement was created.

Besides placing political pressure on corporations to divest from Israel, BDS focuses strongly on its consumer boycott efforts, which according to the BDS website, is to put “pressure on companies whose exports are linked to some of the most evident aspects of the Israeli occupation and apartheid.”

One of the many campaigns of BDS is to target stores that sell Israeli products and persuade them to stop stocking them. While much of the campaign is based on Israel’s exports to the West, activists here in the West Bank also try to deter Palestinian shopkeepers from selling produce that is grown in Israeli settlements. (Again, these yield more profit for Palestinians.) It is highly unlikely, though, that Palestinians will collectively and instantaneously dump their Israeli products for Palestinian manufactured goods and produce because an activist tells them so. They want to know if there is proof of sustainability.

A BDS Victory

Enter the story of Veolia and the light rail.

In 1902, Theodore Herzl wrote in his book, Altneuland, that the future of Jerusalem would be made of “modern neighborhoods with electric lines, tree-lined boulevards” and that Jerusalem would become “a metropolis of the 20th century”.

Materialized a century later as the Jerusalem light rail project, the father of Zionism’s idea of an electric-lined-boulevard is halfway in construction. When, and if, completed, the light rail will conveniently accommodate Jewish-Israelis, connecting West Jerusalem to Jewish settlements. The light rail travels through Palestinian neighborhoods, but makes no stops and as one Israeli blogger put it “…all the windows have been reinforced to be resistant to stones and Molotov cocktails.”

But officials are now facing a major setback: In June, Ha’aretz reported that Veolia, a French transportation company that was to operate the light rail post-construction, abandoned the project because of the “political pressure” it was facing: a direct implication of the BDS “Derail Veolia and Alstom Campaign”.

Said an exultant Omar Barghouti, a BDS founding member:

“Veolia’s reported intention to withdraw from the illegal JLR project gives the BDS movement an important victory: success in applying concerted, intensive pressure on a company that is complicit in the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, enough to compel it to withdraw from an illegal project. This may well usher in a new era of corporate accountability, whereby companies that are profiting from Israel’s illegal colonial and racist regime over the indigenous people of Palestine will start to pay a real price in profits and image for their collusion.”

The pressure from human rights activists and lawyers throughout Europe battered Veolia, costing it multiple contracts – a loss that amounted to more than $7 billion. From Stockholm to Bordeaux, companies dumped Veolia on account of its stake in a project that violates international law. Veolia, along with Alstom – the engineering enterprise behind the light rail – were taken to a French court by Association France-Palestine Solidarité along with attorneys from the PLO legal counsel. AFPS filed the complaint against Alstom and Veolia in 2007, arguing that the 8.3-mile project violates international law since East Jerusalem is not sovereign Israeli territory. “Our main argument is that the light rail project is intended to serve illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and thus it’s part of illegal settlement infrastructure and by being involved in project, the French companies are violating international law,” says Azem Bishara, an attorney with the Negotiation Support Unit in Ramallah.

When the Arab League organized a boycott of Israel after its colonization of Palestine in 1948, Arab countries refused to deal with Israel by boycotting their products, services and even refusing to allow Israelis into their country. Lebanon and Syria are the only countries that allegedly adhere to the boycott today, as they have yet to sign trade agreements with Israel. The Israeli Chamber of Commerce reported Israel was losing an average of 10 percent in export revenue per year when the boycott was in its prime. This spearheaded the fight by the American Jewish Committee to pressure Congress to pass an anti-boycott legislation. In 1977, then-President Jimmy Carter, who now advocates the window-dressing of Palestinian national independence, signed a law that would impose a fine on American companies that cooperated with the boycott.

It seems safe to assume that this legislative effort by AJC indicated that it, at least, believed the Arab League boycott was having some effect.

Although it was with similar calculations and campaigning that U.S. and European companies pulled out of South Africa over 20 years ago, how do we know companies like Veolia won’t be targeted by anti-boycott Israeli investors? Whether or not Veolia goes through with its withdrawal, the question remains: is it really a victory? And how can an effective boycott promote economic independence so that Palestinian milk will no longer have to be in the dustbin of stores? These are questions the boycott campaign has to confront.

one of the products that is not mentioned in the above article is coca cola, which many palestinians insist is palestinian because the owner of the franchise is palestinian (zahi khoury) and because they bottle it in al bireh, which i’ve written about before. coca cola is one of the most evil companies in the world for so many reasons. but i was delighted to discover a wonderful critique of sonallah ibrahim’s novel the committee. ever since i read his novel zaat i became enamored with his politics and his writing style. i have been dying to read this novel for a while now and finally got around to it this week. (my form of escapism and procrastination all rolled into one delightful novel.) the egyptian narrator of the novel, who is under investigation by an anonymous, foreign, non-Arabic speaking committee described as “consist[ing] entirely of officers, some of whom sometimes wear civilian clothes, or it consists of civilians, some of whom sometimes wear military uniforms,” (111) to whom he reveals the following:

Since its advent, Coca-Cola has been linked with the major trends of the age, sometimes sharing to a large extent in their formation. The American pharmacist Pemberton synthesized it in Atlanta, famous as the capital of Georgia, the birthplace of the American president Carter and of the notorious Ku Klux Klan. This was during 1886, the very year in which the famous Statue of Liberty, that symbol of the New World, was completed.

As for the bottle, it was one product of an American “war of liberation.” Having vanquished the Indians, the United States plunged into the Spanish-American War in Cuba, which ended in 1899, with the proclamation of “independence” for Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. An American soldier, who, coincidentally, had the same name as the great American philosopher of the preceding century, Benjamin Franklin, saw a bottle of a carbonated beverage made from banana syrup. On returning home, he obtained bottling rights for a new product. The bottle’s shape varied until it finally stabilized in the universally recognized form of “a girl with an hourglass figure.”

It may have been Coca-Cola that first shattered the traditional image of the ad, previously a mere description of a product. Thus it laid the cornerstone of that towering structure, that leading art of the age, namely, advertising. Certainly, it broke the long-standing illusion of a relationship between thirst and heat through the slogan: “Thirst knows no season.” It was ahead of its time in the use of radio and neon for advertisements. it sponsored television shows, produced films, and backed new international stars and idols such as actors, the Beatles, and the pioneers of rock and roll, the twist, and pop.

Coca-Cola went through two world wars and emerged from them victorious. It sold five billion bottles during the seven years of World War II. Then it slipped into Europe under the wing of the Marshall Plan, which backed the war-weakened European currencies by means of American products and loans.

It then took its place as a leading consumer product along with Ford cars, Parker pens, Ronson lighters, but still kept its finger on the pulse of today’s ever-changing world. With the advent of the great age of installment plans, and neighbor competing with neighbor for the newest model car with the largest trunk, capable of holding enough groceries to fill the largest fridge, Coca-Cola marketed the family-sized bottle, the “Maxi.”

When the United States cooperated in a new “war of liberation” in Korea, Coca-Cola created the tin can, in order to parachute Coke to the troops. The image of an American opening a can with his teeth has become a symbol of manhood and bravery. However, the can’s importance is not limited to this image or the way in which it displaced the bottle during the subsequent Vietnam War, but is outweighed by something more significant. It inaugurated the age of the “empty”: a container to be discarded after its contents have been consumed.

Without doubt, the success of Coca-Cola goes back primarily to the excellence of the organizational structure it pioneered: the pyramid. The original company comprises the tip, and the independent bottlers and distributors come below it, forming the base. At first, this unique structure enabled it to obtain the necessary financing to saturate the American market. Later, it helped the company avoid Roosevelt’s campaign against monopolies and finally allowed Coca-Cola to infiltrate the world. In opening world markets, the company relied on establishing independent franchises headed by well-known local capitalists in every country. This practice produced astounding results. Most strikingly, the American bottle came to symbolize indigenous nationalism. (19-22)

coca-cola is a metaphor for colonialism, corruption, and consumption in the novel. and he shows precisely how deviously coca-cola (like all foreign franchises of american products) works to make people think that it is somehow “indigenous” because the product is produced locally. even though that product always has to send proceeds home to the u.s., and then, of course, they send them directly back to the zionist entity for investment (see post i linked to earlier on this). ibrahim shows how coca-cola came to invade egypt later in the novel:

As you have learned, your honors, this bottle entered our country at the end of the ’40s and beginning of the ’50s under the aegis of the vast advertising campaign that facilitated its spread to even the most remote villages and hamlets. Coca-Cola became a household word.

After the revolution, Coca-Cola’s popularity soon began to wane. I found out that the Doctor, among other factors, was responsible. To wit, he tried to compete by using a local beverage destined to succeed only for a short while.

However, the crushing blow fell at the beginning of the ’60s, when the Arab governmental agencies boycotting Israel discovered that Coca-Cola had given the Israelis bottling rights. As a result, Coca-Cola was blacklisted and barred from Arab countries. The market was wide open for the Doctor. (73-74)

ibrahim’s narrator gets even more specific in his indictment of coca-cola towards the end of the novel:

Many obscure phenomena are linked to the evolution of this well-known beverage.

For example, I read of a far-reaching crusade launched in 1970 in the United States over the mis-treatment of a quarter million migrant workers on farms controlled by Coca-Cola. I mean farms, not factories. This crusade spread to television and from there to Congress. Senator Walter Mondale, at that time a member of the Committee for Migrant Workers, summoned the president of Coca-Cola to answer officially, before the United States Senate, the accusations leveled against Coca-Cola.

Not three years later, the president of Coca-Cola participated in selecting that same Mondale for membership in the Trilateral Commission I told you about in our first meeting. Then he selected him as vice president to President Carter.

At the same time as Coca-Cola was accused of the theft of a handful of dollars from its workers, we read that it dedicated vast sums for charitable and cultural works ranging from an entire university budget to an important prize for artistic and literary creativity. It also presented a huge grant to the Brooklyn Museum in 1977 to rescue Egyptian pharaonic antiquities from collapse.

Coca-Cola, according to statistics for 1978, distributes two hundred million bottles of soft drinks daily throughout the world, leaving tap water as its only rival. So, now we see it sponsoring projects for the desalinization of sea water, relying on the Aqua Chem Company that I bought a few years ago, in 1970 to be precise.

These contradictions confused me, so I did several studies on Coca-Cola. Its policy was to remain committed to the two basic principles set down by its great founders. The first principle was to make every participant in the Coca-Cola enterprise rich and happy. The second was to restrict its energies to creating a single commodity: the well-known bottle.

But the winds of change that blew in the early ’60s forced a choice between the principles. In order not to sacrifice the first, Coca-Cola preferred to diversify its products. It began by producing other types of carbonated beverages, then extended its interests to farming peanuts, coffee, and tea. It had extensive holdings int hat same state of Georgia where it was founded. its farms neighbored those of the American president Carter, which perhaps was behind its involvement in public affairs, both domestic and international, and thus its policy of diversification grew all out of proportion.

Obviously, this policy couldn’t help but be successful. In this regard, it is sufficient to mention the return of the familiar bottle to both China and Egypt through the initiative in both countries of brave patriots, who acted on their principles.

However, this success produced a strange phenomenon. With modern methods and lower production costs gained by relying on poorly paid migrant workers, Coca-Cola became the largest producer of fresh fruit in the Western world. But, sadly, it found itself forced to dump a large portion of the yield into the sea to keep the world market from collapsing.

There was no solution to this problem except to continue diversifying. Coca-Cola exploited its great assets and expertise in the field of agriculture by sponsoring many nutritional programs in underdeveloped countries, among them a project to farm legumes in Abou Dhabi, undertaken by its subsidiary, Aqua Chem. Likewise, it extensively researched the production of drinks rich in proteins and other nutrients, thereby compensating consumers for the surpluses it had been forced to dump in the ocean. (124-127)

there is so much more to the novel, but i especially love the extended commentary on the evil, insidious inner workings of coke. and, of course, which was one of the first companies to move into occupied iraq and occupied afghanistan? coca cola. here is an article on coca cola’s war profiteering in afghanistan from 2006:

Coca-Cola has returned to war-torn Afghanistan with a gleaming $25m factory, calling the country a ‘missing link’ in its international business.

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai opened the 60,000sq-metre Coca-Cola bottling plant in capital city Kabul, more than a decade after civil war forced the soft drinks group out of the country.

It is a controversial and risky move for Coca-Cola at a time when violence directed against NATO forces in the country, including American soldiers, appears in danger of spiralling out of control.

Coca-Cola’s Kabul plant will be operated under franchise by local businessman Habib Gulzar, and is expected to focus on core carbonated soft drink brands such as Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite. Bottled water could be added in the future.

Selcuk Erden, president of Coca-Cola’s Southern Eurasia division, which will oversee Afghanistan, said: “Afghanistan was the missing link in our geography and we were following this country very carefully.”

The group said the country had the potential to be a strong emerging market for its drinks.

Critics have suggested Coca-Cola is not what Afghans really need right now.

Afghanistan is ranked as the fifth poorest country in the world by the United Nations. “The depth of poverty in Afghanistan is reflected consistently in all human development indicators, revealing a mosaic of a nation in need of sustained assistance,” a recent UN development report says.

and here is an article on coca cola’s war profiteering in iraq from the guardian by rory carroll:

Coca-Cola has returned to Iraq after an absence of nearly four decades, triggering a cola war in a lucrative but potentially hostile market.

Coke ended its 37-year exile last week by setting up a joint-venture bottling company to compete with Pepsi for 26 million consumers.

The upsides for Coke include a thirst-inducing climate and burgeoning Islamic conservatism which has banned beer and other alcoholic drinks in much of the country.

The downsides, besides Pepsi’s head start, are a raging insurgency and banditry which threaten supply routes, and a perception that Coca-Cola is linked to Israel and “American Zionists”.

Coke withdrew from Iraq in 1968 when the Arab League declared a boycott because of business ties to Israel, leaving Pepsi to dominate the Middle East market for soft drinks. The boycott ended in 1991, but sanctions and wars kept Coke out of Iraq.

After a trickle of Coca-Cola imports from neighbouring countries, the company is attempting a proper comeback by launching a joint venture with a Turkish company, Efes Invest, and its Iraqi partner HMBS, which will reportedly bottle the Coke in Dubai and distribute it across Iraq.

“A local bottling company will employ local people to do this,” a Coca-Cola spokesman said yesterday. “This happens in most of the 200 countries in which we operate around the world, despite the perception of us as an American company.”

The response in Baghdad yesterday was mixed. One drink wholesaler, Abbas Salih, said the initiative was doomed. “Coca-Cola does business with those who are shooting our brothers in Palestine,” he said. “How can we drink it?”

when i was searching for material on why coca cola is evil i stumbled upon this great article from 2004 that i had never found that encapsulates the numerous reasons why one should boycott coca cola by mohammed mesbahi, which is long, but well worth the read for its variety of issues (health, environmental, political, etc.):

Coca Cola was invented in the United States in 1886 as a medicine, rather than a drink, to stimulate the brain and the nervous system, from a mixture of coca leaves and kola nuts, sweetened with sugar, hence the name Coca Cola. It was not until 1893 that Coca Cola was sold and promoted as a drink. Gradually the cocaine was eliminated, but in order to maintain the stimulant effect caffeine was substituted.

Phosphoric acid (0.055%) is now added to increase the fizziness and zingy taste. This gives the drink a pH of 2.8, making it almost as acidic as lemon juice (pH 2.2), which is why more sugar has to be added in order for it to taste sweet. Weak acidic solutions will dissolve the calcium in teeth over a period of time and will also interfere with calcium metabolism. This is especially of concern to post-menopausal women, who are already have a tendency towards osteoporosis.

Stimulants and sugar are habit forming, and Coca Cola contains large quantities of both. It is now sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is a simple carbohydrate.

Carbohydrates are divided into two broad categories:

simple carbohydrates,

e.g. glucose,

fructose (fruit sugar),

lactose (milk sugar),

sucrose (table sugar) etc.

complex carbohydrates,

e.g. starch


High fructose corn syrup is produced by processing corn starch to yield glucose and then processing the glucose to produce a high proportion (80%) of fructose. This is not natural fructose, as found in fruit, since fruit usually contains 50% fructose, 50% glucose and is absorbed into the blood stream slowly, because the fruit also contains high levels of fibre. The fructose in high fructose corn syrup is absorbed into the body rapidly and transformed into glucose by the liver. There is currently some concern surrounding the consumption of high levels of fructose because it seems to interfere with copper metabolism and with the formation of collagen and elastin, essential components of the growing body.

When we eat (or drink) a high dose of sugar (sucrose, glucose or fructose) our blood glucose level rises suddenly, producing a feeling of elation. However high blood glucose levels also stimulate the pancreas to release insulin, which causes the glucose to be removed from the blood stream and converted into fat. This results in low blood sugar, low energy, irritability and low mood. At this point, we crave the feeling of elation associated with the sugar. This is why soft drinks are habit forming.

When, on the other hand, we eat complex carbohydrates, such as potatoes, bread, pasta, rice etc., the body breaks down these complex molecules gradually, over a period of several hours, into molecules of glucose. This glucose is released into the blood stream gradually, thus maintaining blood glucose at the level required by the body and brain for proper functioning.

Putting high quantities of sugar into drinks is an insidious way of introducing calories into people. People eating a chocolate bar are aware that they are consuming something fattening. People, especially children, consuming the same amount of calories in a drink are not. Regular consumption of drinks containing high levels of sugar lead to a gradual build up of stored fat and contribute to the rising levels of obesity in the West. Over-consumption of sugar causes over-stimulation of the pancreas. Over a period of many years, the pancreas loses its ability to produce adequate quantities of insulin. This leads to late-onset diabetes. Levels of late-onset diabetes have been rising steadily in the West over the past century.

Coca Cola, one of the world’s largest corporations, worth about ninety five billion dollars, owes much of its success to the massive marketing and advertising used to promote the product. It became a corporation early in the twentieth century and immediately began an aggressive advertising campaign throughout the US. The corporation used some advertising techniques of dubious morality, including funding the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry and suppressing a World Health Organisation Report on healthy eating. The report stated that soft drink consumption contributed to obesity. But possibly the policy which caused the most public outrage was that of paying schools to sell Coca Cola in vending machines. The corporation realised that if they could sell Coca Cola to children, by the time they finished school they would become confirmed Coca Cola drinkers and would continue to buy the drink for the rest of their lives. This strategy was so successful that Coca Cola rapidly became the most popular drink in the US.

Long before the US market had become saturated, the corporation decided to target the next place with money to spend on drinks, i.e. Europe, where they now sell thirty percent of their product. Vending machines in schools soon became common place, despite opposition from concerned parents and teachers. Under-funded state schools found it difficult to refuse the money offered by Coca Cola.

The imposition of permanent advertising in schools, in the form of vending machines, certainly justifies a boycott, and indeed some schools have organised them, in protest against the Corporation’s monopoly of products sold in school vending machines. Groups at Universities in the US and the UK are also running boycotts in protest against Coke’s human rights abuses. Berkeley, New York University, Harvard, Yale, Rutgers, Macalister and University College Dublin all have ongoing boycotts.

Coca Cola has a history of human rights abuse. “It is a fact that the soft drinks giant from Atlanta, Georgia collaborated with the Nazi-regime throughout its reign from 1933 – 1945 and sold countless millions of bottled beverages to Hitler’s Germany.” From Coca-Cola Goes to War, Jones E and Ritzman F.

While the corporation, back in the USA, was promoting Coca Cola as a morale booster for the US troops, their German representative, Max Keith was sponsoring Nazi events, including the 1936 Olympics and situating advertisements close to Nazi leaders at rallies. Sales of Coke in Germany went from zero in 1929 to 4 million cases in 1939. Coke became the most popular drink in Germany and in 1944 the company sold 2 million cases. When the Nazis began their invasions of Italy, France, Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium and Norway Walter Oppenhof, Coca Cola’s German company lawyer, and Max Keith were employed by the Nazis’ Office of Enemy Property. They travelled with Nazi troops and were responsible for setting up Nazi Coca-Cola factories in expropriated soft drinks plants in countries occupied by the Nazis. They staffed these factories with kidnapped civilians. (See: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CLASS/AM483_95/projects/coke/coke.html ).

But Coca Cola’s association with fascist regimes is not confined to world war history.

In the 1970s workers at Coca Cola bottling factories in Guatemala were killed, in the 1980s Coke supported the Apartheid system in South Africa and in the 1990s they supported the brutal Abacha regime in Nigeria.

Currently SINAL TRAINAL, the Colombian workers’ union is promoting a world wide boycott in order to raise awareness of the intimidation, torture, kidnapping, illegal detention and murder of workers in the Coca Cola bottling plants in Colombia.

On the other side of the world, in several South Indian states, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu, boycotts have been running for years, despite police repression, in protest against Coca Cola’s excessive water consumption, pollution of local wells and destruction of agriculture. The Corporation’s bottling factories have been pumping water from boreholes at such a rate that they have dried up the underground aquifers. They have also been distributing the sludge produced by the factory as fertilizer. It is true that this sludge does contain substances which fertilize the soil, but Exeter University analysed it for the Kerala Pollution Control Board and found that it contained dangerously high levels of toxic metals, including cadmium. These toxic metals leach into the ground water and are taken up by crops and therefore ingested by the local population. After the BBC aired a programme about this, Coca Cola was forced to stop dumping their toxic waste on the local population, but nothing was done to clean up the already polluted environment. The protest and boycott in India continue.

The Coca Cola Corporation owns four of the world’s most popular five soft drinks: Coca Cola, diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite.

Over the past five years, Coca Cola Corporation has realised that, as water resources dwindle worldwide, even more money can be made from selling bottled water. Their sales of water are growing exponentially. Brands include Bonaqua, Dasani (US) Kinley (India), Mount Franklin (Australia) Malvern (UK) and Ciel (Mexico), but soft drinks still account for 85% of their market (at the moment). They plan to expand massively in the bottled water market but most of their advertising will go into promotion of soft drinks. Soon Coca Cola, Pepsi and Nestle will be the three main corporations selling bottled water, an iniquitous market, often depriving people of their local source of spring water, and selling it back to them at unaffordable prices.

Max Keiser, investment activist, and Zak Goldsmith, editor of the Ecologist, have formed a partnership to target Coca Cola by bringing down the value of its shares. Keiser has developed a system for measuring a corporation’s vulnerability to a boycott. He calls it the Karmabanque (KbQ) Index. The KbQ index 2004 tracks the share price of high-performing but socially and environmentally irresponsible corporations, assuming their shares had been sold short on the 1 January 2004. A short sale is a bet that a trader makes that a company’s share price will fall. The further the company’s share price falls, the more money the trader makes. Selling short stocks hurts corporations because it deflates their share price. The KbQ rating determines where a company appears in the index, and combines the amount of dissent directed at a company and its boycott vulnerability ratio (BVR). A company’s BVR indicates how susceptible its stock price is to a consumer boycott. In order to work out a corporation’s vulnerability, its market capitalization should be divided by trailing annual sales. Currently, ExxonMobil’s BVR is close to $1, whereas Coca-Cola’s is closer to $5. In other words the Coca Cola Corporation is five times more vulnerable to a boycott than ExxonMobil.

Coca Cola’s appalling human rights record, combined with its high boycott vulnerability ratio make it the ideal target for a boycott. This is why Max Keiser and Zak Goldsmith have decided to launch a hedge fund, which will be used to buy Coca Cola shares. They will then sell the shares for less than they bought them for, which will bring down their value on the international stock market. They are relying on the continuing boycott of Coca Cola products to bring the share price down still further. They will then buy the shares at a lower price than they sold them for and sell them again for even less. All profits from this venture will be donated to the victims of Coca Cola in countries such as India and Colombia.

Max Keiser and Zak Goldsmith say that for every 1,000 new boycotters, they will increase the size of the hedge fund by £5000. Goldsmith’s Ecologist Magazine will publicize the boycott and audit, track and publish the results. Keiser recommends that pressure groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth should decide what to boycott according to their Boycott Vulnerability Ratio.

There has been a history of Coca Cola boycotts in many parts of the world. But this is the first time that an investor has become actively involved in a world wide Coca Cola boycott. Max Keiser and Zak Goldsmith deserve our support. There is every reason to hope that they will succeed in bringing down the market value of Coca Cola, but for that they need more people and organisations to join the boycott.

dividing and ruling until there is no one left to divide, nothing left to rule

more and more in my daily life here, my conversations with students and friends, and my observation of the political situation around me that if something is not done soon, if there is not significant unity (among the people, i mean, not in terms of political parties that meet no one’s needs) and resistance palestinians will be removed to jordan. jordan would be the palestinian state that the zionists have always been pushing for. i have posted here in other posts videos of them saying that “palestine is jordan.” they don’t make any secret about this. the thing is that all of their crimes are so patently obvious, written about in the memoirs of israeli terrorists’ from david ben-gurion to ariel sharon. and they widely announce their criminal acts in their media. and there are of course many historians who have documented these crimes: crimes of massacre, of land theft, of ethnic cleansing.

i’ve been reading jonathan cook’s brilliant new book disappearing palestine and one of the many things he documents here are the ways in which patterns of colonialism and its controlling regimes were first in place in 1948 palestine later became the practice in 1967 palestine. he quotes raja shehdeh’s memoir, palestinian walks, who made an important observation about the fact that palestinians in the 1967 territories should have taken their cue and learned their lessons from their kin in 1948 palestine:

They would tell us: “You don’t know a thing about Israel. We can tell you what is coming: land expropriations, biased zoning that will strangle your towns, and unfair taxation that will impoverish you.” And we would look with condescension at them and think they had lived for so long under Israel that they had become colonized unable to think beyond their narrow claustrophobic reality. (83)

cook documents this reality in the aftermath of an nakba and an naksa. one of the first colonial bits of business the zionists had to attend to given that they did not succeed in ethnically cleansing all of historic palestine was to figure out how to control the population:

Israel worked quickly to “de-Palestinianize” the minority, who were officially referred to as either “the minorities” or as “Israeli Arabs.” State policy was to encourage group identification at the sectarian and ethnic levels–in a classic strategy of divide and rule–by accentuating communal differences. In 1949, for example, the Education Ministry was advised to “emphasize and develop the contradictions” between the Druze, Christian and Muslim populations to diminish their Arab and Palestinian identities. (31)

these were the first steps of divide and rule, common to all colonial regimes. the second step was no more unique:

Severe restrictions on the minority’s freedom of movement did offer many benefits, however, even if most were unrelated to security. Any danger of relations developing between Palestinian and Jewish populations could be averted by isolating the minority; expulsions of Palestinians from areas intended for Jewish settlement were made easier; Palestinian workers could be prevented from competing for jobs with Jewish workers; and the minority’s votes could be bought by the governing party through its powers of patronage. But the two most important benefits to the state related to land. First, by exploiting the need of travel permits to work and see family, the military government was able to recruit an extensive network of informers and collaborators who helped in altering the authorities to attempts by the external refugees to “infiltrate” and return to their villages. And second, having confined most Palestinian citizens to their communities, the military government was able to carry out unopposed the confiscation of large tracts of outlying farming land. (36)

you get the picture? palestinians in 1948 palestine have lived in these bantustans for 61 years. they have lived through the imprisonment inside ghettos, while their land continued to be confiscated. they have lived through this system of huge numbers of its population becoming collaborators with the israeli terrorists. this has been the blueprint for the west bank and gaza as well. but also, like in 1948, israeli terrorists wanted to ethnically cleanse the west bank and gaza as they had done in 1948 palestine. during an naksa there were 250,000–1/4 of the population in the west bank and gaza–fled in terror. cook cites the israeli terrorists who planned this ethnic cleansing as they had done consistently over the decades:

A quarter of a century later, the president of Israel, Chaim Herzog, admitted that he had secretly organized the expulsion of 200,000 Palestinians as the first military governor of the West Bank. Men aged between 20 and 70 were rounded up and put on buses to take them to the border with Jordan. In a separate interview, Uzi Narkiss, who was in charge of the Central Command in 1967, alluded to the same, or related expulsions: “The number began with 600 and 700 persons a day, and then it began to decline until it reached a few scores, and after two or three months the operation stopped. (51)

through much of the book cook traces the developments of various strains of zionist thinking in the zionist entity’s regime. one of the issues they went back and forth on, with essentially the same results in practice, was whether they wanted “separation” (= apartheid) or “transfer” (= ethnic cleansing). of course in the end they have done both. but always in the most surreptitious ways possible so as not to upset the international community, to always make it seem as if they have a veneer of abiding by international law, all the while behaving criminally at every level. and we can see the seeds of forcing all palestinians into jordan and egypt respectively–which remain in israeli terrorist discourse–in the blueprint for what they wanted to do–and did–with their newly conquered territories of palestine in 1967. we can see this on the economic level (which is why boycott is essential) and we can see this on the level of land and people. cook lays out the roots of moshe dayan and yigal allon’s plans for the region starting with allon:

Agricultural settlements “camouflaged as military strongpoints” would be erected on the annexed land, while the Palestinians inside their enclaves would live autonomously under what Allon called “home rule.” He argued that “the integration of civilian settlement in the defense plan, especially for outlying locales and the vulnerable regions, will provide the state with permanent advance outlooks.” The settlers could stop a surprise attack or at least “delay the enemy’s progress until the army takes control of the situation.” The result would be “the Whole Land of Israel strategically and a Jewish state demographically.”

Moshe Dayan, the defense minister, proposed an alternative strategy: Israel would take control of the mountain ridge above the Jordan Valley, the spine of the West Bank and the location of its water aquifers and major cities, creating five large army bases next to which would be built civilian settlements connected to Israel by roads. The two nationalities–Israelis and Palestinians–would live side by side, connected to different countries, with the Palestinians remaining Jordanian citizens. The goal of Dayan’s plan, unlike Allon’s, was to break up the continuity of Palestinian areas so that the inhabitants would never be in a position to unite and demand independence. Then, he hoped, Israel would be able to win over the Palestinians by offering them employment servicing the economy of the settlements, or, as he expressed it, “bind[ing] the two economies so that it will be difficult to separate them again.” Over the next decades the settlement project would draw on both plans for inspiration. (57-58)

what is laid out above is essentially what happened in 1948 palestine as well. the way that colonies were built as well as the way that palestinians their were prevented from having their own economy so that they were forced into a service sector serving the colonial regime, though not in some ways as much as in other colonial regimes. partially this is because continual plans of expulsion have always been on the devious minds of israeli terrorists, for instance cook cites the prime minister levi eshkol after 1967 to force palestinians to be expelled to iraq and jordan (59). dayan, also worried about the demographic bomb of palestinians because of the people living in the newly conquered territory, had a solution called “creeping annexation.” here is cook explaining this plan:

The solution, in Defence Minister Dayan’s view, was “creeping annexation.” If it was carried outwith enough stealth, the illegality of Israel’s actions under international law would go unnoticed and the army would also have the time and room to “thin out” the Palestinian population. As Dayan observed in the early 1970s, creeping annexation would give the Palestinians a blunt message:

You shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave–and we will see where this process leads…In five years we may have 200,000 less people–and that is a matter of enormous importance.


just as the quoted bit from raja shehdeh’s memoir above points out the warning from palestinians in 1948 to palestinians in 1967, slowly but surely the same schemes emerged here. under the euphemism of “civilian administration,” for instance, which is really the colonial military administration for the west bank, the zionists have been able to control palestinian life in every imaginable way just as they had done previously in 1948 palestine:

In this way, the Civil Administration was able to control and manage the details of Palestinian life, such as seizing most of the West Bank’s substantial water resources; restricting the import and export of agricultural produce to favour Israeli producers by creating a captive Palestinian market; banning political meetings and the publication of newspapers to prevent dissent; holding Palestinians without trial in “administrative detention”; levying special taxes, the proceeds of which are unaccounted for but impoverish Palestinian society; and withholding money from organizations Israel defines as hostile, also exploited as a way to retard the emergence of civil society. Much like the earlier military rule inside Israel, the immediate benefit to Israel of these controls was to recruit a large class of Palestinian collaborators who depended on favours from the military administration to survive the deprivations of occupation. (63)

these are more ways in which israeli terrorists seek to divide the palestinian people. they do it physically by eroding the continuity of the territory and they do it by dividing the people on a social level so as to erode trust and defy unity. meanwhile the fact that the zionist entity is unified when it comes to devising ways to remove palestinians from the land, oftentimes through economic means (again: boycott! need i say it again?) through an apartheid system:

Shmuel Toledanao, a former Labor Party government adviser on Arab affairs, observed in 1977: “All the economic positions in this country are filled by Jews, the Jews control all the banks, all the corporations. In politics and the Histadrut, they have all the power.” (103)

of course, the zionist entity’s support for apartheid stretches way back, which cook documents including their cooperation on nuclear arms (funnily enough barack obama only ever seems to mention the possibility of iran obtaining nuclear weapons in the region without ever acknowledging that the zionist entity is the only one to already have them on hand). cook explains the recent evolution of apartheid thinking, planning, and acting in the israeli terrorist regime as well:

Apartheid’s abiding influence on Sharon’s thinking was explained by Avi Primor, vice-president of Tel Aviv University, in September 2002. He noted that Sharon and his generation of generals had always harboured an especial fondness for South Africa’s solution to its own demographic problem: a series of sham black homelands known as Bantustans. In these small homelands, termed “independent states” by white South Africans, the country’s black population was supposed to exercise its political and civil rights. Writing two ears after Camp David, when construction of the wall was just beginning, Primor argued that Israel was intending to establish, in line with apartheid policies, a set of bogus homelands for the Palestinians:

A process is under way establishing a “Palestinian state” limited to the Palestinian cities, a “state” comprised of a number of separate, sovereign-less enclaves, with no resources for self-sustenance. The territories of the West Bank and Gaza remain in Israeli hands, and its Palestinian residents are being turned into “citizens” of that “foreign country.”

Primor was not alone in noting Sharon’s affection for the Bantustans. The influential journalist Akiva Eldar reported that Sharon had long dreamt of an independent state of “Hamastan” in Gaza. “In his house, they called it a bantustan, after the South African protectorates designed to perpetuate apartheid.” Eldar pointed out that Massimo D’Alema recalled a meeting a few years before Sharon was elected prime minister in which he confided that the Bantustan model was the right one for the Palestinians. What appealed to him was the fact that the Bantustans were designed not only to separate the white minority from the black majority to the latter’s detriment, but also to divide the blacks from each other, isolating them in a series of separate and potentially antagonistic “states.” Following Camp David, Eldwar added, the Israeli leadership had agreed on a programme to cantonize the Palestinians, breaking up the putative Palestinian state into a series of disconnected ghettoes:

Alongside the severance of Gaza from the West Bank, a policy now called “isolation,” the Sharon-Peres government and the Olmert-Peres government that succeeded it carried out the bantustan program in the West Bank. The Jordan Valley was separated from the rest of the West Bank; the south was severed from the north; and all three areas were severed from East Jerusalem. The “two states for two peoples” plan gave way to a “five states for two peoples” plan: one contiguous state, surrounded by settlement blocs for Israel, and four isolated enclaves for Palestinians. (105-106)

the map i posted the other day, which you can see below or by clicking this link, shows that these plans have largely been successful. in other words there are these islands in which palestinians are separated from one another, from their land, from any possibility of uniting and meeting and organizing successful resistance strategies. but, of course, they need help enforcing that in these little walled in ghettos in which we live. this is, of course, the job of the palestinian authority. here is what cook has to say about how this evolved as yet another mechanism of colonial divide and rule:

Israel derived a major benefit from Arafat’s presence in the territories. In his new role as head of the Palestinian Authority he represented only a fraction of the Palestinian population: those living int he West Bank and Gaza. His other role, as head of the PLO, in which he represented all Palestinians, including those inside Israel and in the refugee camps of the Middle East, was fatally compromised by his return on Israel’s terms. Using the Oslo process, Israel successfully marginalized the question of justice for the entire Palestinian people by concentrating on the far more limited question of justice for Palestinians living under direct occupation.

His power entirely dependent on Israeli goodwill, Arafat’s task as leader of the Palestinian Authority would soon become clear: to enforce Israel’s security in the West Bank and Gaza, just as dozens of other Arab rulers had done before in their own territories on behalf of Western colonial powers. He was, in essence, Israel’s security contractor. (111)

we know what happens inside 1948 palestine when palestinian leaders refuse to do the dirty work of israeli terrorists: they get expelled. azmi bishara is exhibit a on this one. but there are countless others, less famous, less discussed. cook also discusses the ways in which the pa became further fragmented through the entrance of the united states as another layer of colonialism in palestine–a kind of neocolonialism here–that actively created further fragmentation between fatah and hamas. the u.s.-israeli terrorist boycott of the democratically elected hamas government and the infighting it created was what they both hoped would lead to a civil war here as cook explains:

A leaked report from Alvaro de Soto, the retiring UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, highlighted the American mood as Hamas and Fatah prepared to meet in Mecca over forging a national unity government:

The US clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas, so much so that, a week before Mecca, the US envoy [David Welch] declared twice in an envoys meeting in Washington how much “I like this violence,” referring to the near-civil war that was erupting in Gaza in which civilians were being regularly killed and injured because “it means that other Palestinians are resisting Hamas.”

In June 2007 the unity government collapsed when Hamas launched what it claimed was a pre-emptive strike in Gaza against a coup planned by forces loyal to Fatah strongman, Mohammed Dahlan. According to Hamas, Dahlan, who had been cultivated by US officials for several years, was plotting with Washington to overthrow the elected government. Hamas was widely condemned for its violent actions, though six months later its claims that it had foiled a Fatah coup were finally confirmed. Drawing on official US documents, an article in Vanity Fair revealed that the White House had been conspiring with Hamas to topple the Hamas government. (113-114)

so the divide and rule has been increasingly cultivated not only by the zionist entity, but also by its partner in crime, the u.s. but while they are actively working towards these facts on the ground that separate palestinian people, they are also still conspiring to figure out methods of mass expulsion. on the one hand the geography of little ghettos across all historic palestine, where palestinians are locked inside, this is not enough for the israeli terrorists. thus, cook cites yet another renewed plan to expel palestinians to jordan:

Reuven Pedatzur, a leading scholar on Israel’s strategic policies in the Middle East, noted similar developments in summer 2007. He reported that senior figures in the Jordanian regime were considering a “confederation” between Jordan and the Palestinians. If Israel agreed to the creation of a Palestinian state, they argued, the two neighbours could be run by a federal government presided over by the Jordanian king. Joint security services would also come under the control of the federal government–a move designed to placate both Israeli and Jordanian concerns about the creation of a Palestinian army on their doorsteps. Pedatzur pointed out that a former Jordanian prime minister, Abdel Salaam Majali, apparently with the blessing of the late Hussein’s son, King Abdullah, had been sounding out support in the US for a plan. Amman was reported to have shown renewed interest because it feared that the simmering tensions between Fatah and Hamas might eventually spill over into Jordan: either parallel struggles might develop inside its own borders among the Palestinian population there or fighting int he West Bank might lead to a large exodus of refugees pouring across the Jordan River. (119)

whether palestinian refugees have yet another exodus or not, this plan is clearly one designed to remove any possibility of palestinians receiving any form of justice on their land, on their terms. once again we have jordan conspiring about the status of palestinians with the zionists and their partners in crime behind the backs of palestinians. in the meantime, because of palestinians being forced into their isolated bantustan ghettos they are mostly prohibited from working inside the zionist entity as they used to do. no longer a slave labor market for the zionists they are now merely a captive market (again: boycott!):

But Israel’s other main economic relationship with the Palestinians has not been shed so easily. Until very recently Israel continued to rely heavily on the economic benefits of exporting its goods and produce to a captive market of nearly 4 million Palestinians under occupation. In 2006, for example, some 6 percent of all Israel’s exports–excluding diamonds–went to the territories, a trade worth some $2 billion, making the Palestinian Authority Israel’s second biggest customer after the United States. According to Ilan Eshel, head of the Israeli Fruit Growers’ Association, 10 per cent of all Israeli fruit was exported to Gaza, usually third-class produce that could not be sold elsewhere. (123)

all of these economic, social, and political divisions have the same constant effect whether expulsion or separation. they all work towards the same colonial goal of the zionist entity: to remove palestinians from their land, to make it impossible to ever have any semblance of a state, even if that state were the west bank (but, of course, the west bank is only a small fraction of palestine). there is much more in his book, i strongly recommend this and all of cook’s books. interestingly, on al jazeera’s “inside story” yesterday kamal santamaria addressed some of these issues with his guests, particularly my colleague abdul sattar qassem (he also had an israeli terrorist professor named gerald steinberg and an egyptian man hassan issa who seems to be in cahoots with the zionist). santamaria is a good interviewer, but abdul sattar is especially worth watching and listening to as always.

what you see in the above program is abdul sattar giving you some sense of the fact that there is no state possible, no state in existence. he says what we have is a palestinian “entity.” or more accurately entities given the bantustanization of palestine. moreover, those who have been following the words of israeli terrorist in chief benyamin netanyahu know that rather than talking about a palestinian state now he talks about a palestinian economy (review above for what that will mean for palestinians: in short a captive market). this is the reality. and this reality must be dealt with in a way that alters the discourse so people cannot be deluded into wasting their time on any more bogus so-called “peace processes” which invariably create more of the same apartheid and expulsion of palestinian land and people respectively.

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…

again and again (as opposed to the zionist mantra “never again”)

Palestinian children attend their first day of class in over a month inside a tent erected beside the ruins of their destroyed school in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. (Wissam Nassar, Maan Images)
Palestinian children attend their first day of class in over a month inside a tent erected beside the ruins of their destroyed school in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. (Wissam Nassar, Maan Images)

i spent the better part of the last couple of days copy editing a new report for badil entitled “ending forced displacement in the occupied palestinian territory: response assessment to situations of internal displacement in the opt; towards the implementation of a comprehensive, predicable and accountable response to situations of internal displacement.” the issue of internally displaced people (idps) in palestine is a really important subject and one that does not get enough attention. this is also a really complicated subject because many times those who are displaced are already refugees, registered with unrwa. there are so many layers of multiple displacements in palestine–and also in 1948 palestine, in gaza, in the west bank, in lebanon, in iraq, in jordan, in syria. there are so many layers of ethnic cleansing and forced displacement that the words we normally use to describe these forced migrations are no longer adequate. the word refugee/idp applied to palestinians who were ethnically cleansed from palestine, who then lived in tel al-za’atar refugee camp in lebanon and those who survived the massacre there by the lebanese forces in 1976 moved to nahr el bared refugee camp in lebanon, who were then assaulted by the lebanese army in 2007 and most of whom, until now are still displaced. likewise most of the palestinians in gaza are refugees who are now idps as well because of the recent israeli terrorist massacre in gaza; some of these people were also idps more than once before. we need a new word for this perpetual state of seeking refuge, this perpetual state of fleeing massacres. again and again and again.

two of the areas discussed in the report i edited are in gaza. the first is um al nasser and the second is al shoka. i haven’t really read many reports about these areas during the recent siege. many of the palestinians living in these two areas were refugees in 1948 and many of them are bedouin. in um al nasser 2,500 people come from yibna and rubin in 1948 palestine. they were displaced within the gaza strip in the 1990s by the palestinian authority so they could build a housing project called sheikh zayed for needy families. they were removed to a dangerous and unsanitary area near jabaliya refugee camp where they live in the line of fire of israeli terrorists on a regular basis as well as sewage run off from the beit lahiya treatment plant. they live through regular, nightly incursions by israeli terrorists. in 2007 due to the flooding of an emergency basin 1,450 people were displaced yet again.

al shoka is an area in gaza in which many bedouins from bir saba’ were forcibly removed during an nakba. 12,00 palestinians live in al shoka and 79% of them are refugees. during the july war in 2006 israeli terrorists invaded al shoka and ordered the eviction of the people who live there. yet again. the israeli terrorists told them that they had to leave or they would be shot. 3,433 people were forced to seek refuge in unrwa schools in rafah. al shoka was invaded 3 times that month. 17 people, including 5 children, were murdered. many of these families included farmers and 1,500 dunums of their farmland was demolished by israeli terrorists. olive groves, grapes, and almond trees were uprooted. 50 greenhouses were destroyed and 15 were damaged. and, during the invasion, 280 of their homes were destroyed. all but 21 of those houses belonged to refugees. yet again.

in response to the war in 2006 there was familiar rhetoric from john ging and the then-head of the united nations kofi annan:

“The [UN] Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said there is a need for accountability for the IDF’s actions, particularly those against civilians. We on the ground are saying that the cost to civilians, the death, the destruction of livelihoods, is massive. The question is there – is this proportionate?” asked Ging.

in the current context this was all i could find about al shoka:

UNRWA reopened two PHC centres. Three out of 18 remain closed: the Elshouka and Zaitoun centres were closed after IDF instructed people living in an adjacent building to evacuate prior to bombardment, while a centre in Beit Hanoun was closed due to being in a high risk area.

and this is all i could find on um al nasser, from save the children:

The agency delivered food parcels containing two-week supplies for households of up to ten people in Khan Younis, Middle Camp and Rafah in the south. In the north, 100 families in the Bedouin camp of Um Al Nasser received 100 food parcels.

Donkey carts were used to deliver food parcels in Um Al Nasser because truck drivers were afraid to venture to the area in their vehicles.

i’m sure as testimonies are collected stories about the families’ multiple displacements from al shoka and um al nasser will emerge. stories are always surfacing about palestinian forced exile and multiple displacements, like this one by sumia ibrahim in electronic intifada:

“We wanted the Arab troops to fight so we could return to our home in Jaffa and return to our lives. We saw Arab troops around and we would ask them, ‘Why are you here? Why aren’t you fighting?’ They responded, ‘We don’t have the orders to fight.’ We would see Arab troops spending their whole days at the public baths, so we used to have a rhyme that went ‘There aren’t orders for the battlefield, but there are orders for the bath.'” Tata smiles briefly then adds soberly, “We realized this wouldn’t be over quickly.”

“We stayed for two months in Nablus. We decided for our family’s safety, for our daughters, we had to leave the country until we got it back. Your grandfather was working for an English pharmaceutical company called Evans, in the advertising department. They had a branch in Baghdad too. He arranged to transfer his position to Baghdad. He had a friend in Iraq in the Foreign Ministry, a man who sent him translated articles for free gave us Iraqi passports. So we tied all of our things up on the top of a taxi and drove to Amman. It was very expensive, it cost us 40 dinars. From Amman we went to Baghdad.”

“On our way to Baghdad we saw many pick up trucks with Palestinian refugees in the back. They were coming from villages that had been massacred or destroyed, taken by Iraqi troops to Baghdad. They traveled all that way under the hot sun, with nothing above them to provide shade. I would see them throwing up out of the back of the trucks, getting sick from the heat. They were taken to ‘Tobchee,’ a neighborhood with government housing, and received assistance from the Iraqi government.” Tata explained that these refugees, the ones that were able to resettle in Iraq, were the lucky ones.

Many Palestinians ended up in refugee camps in squalid circumstances, both “internally” in what came to be known as the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and externally in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Many Palestinian refugees faced hostility from their government hosts, but in some countries such as Lebanon, they held and still hold practically no rights amid systematic policies of discrimination towards refugees.

Tata begins to describe the hardships her family faced as refugees in a foreign country. “At first, when we got to Baghdad, we stayed in the best hotel. It was paid for by Evans. But after that, things didn’t work out with their branch in Baghdad. They paid your grandfather two months salary then let him go. We were very worried. But he heard from other Palestinians that Arab Bank was opening a branch in Baghdad. He got a job there as a teller for a very low wage. His manager loaned him money to support his family. Eventually he was promoted to be a manager.”

“Your grandfather started working as a translator as well, translating books and articles from English to Arabic. He was always working. He worked two or three jobs to support us all. He got very sick. He was tired all the time and complained of pain, but he still had to work.” Tata explained that he grew up as a farmer in a small Palestinian village, Budrus, and spent his entire life engaged in relentless hard work in an attempt to advance his family’s circumstances.

Upon visiting Budrus in 2006, I was told stories of my grandfather’s determination for advancement. He used to place his feet in a pot of icy water, I was told, to keep himself alert as he studied. He used to stand on a chair with his head in a noose that hung from the ceiling while he studied through the night, motivating himself not fall asleep. “He was a great man,” people exclaimed to me. With his father, he built the first girls’ school in the village and went door to door convincing parents to allow their daughters to go to school. He also walked miles daily to a nearby town in order to attend high school, and taught himself to be proficient in English. I understood his desire for upward mobility upon seeing the house that he spent his early childhood in. He lived in a small, cobbled stone structure, the first floor of which was a stable that housed animals and the second floor of which was used for residence. It was entirely empty except for a hole in the wall where blankets were stored.

Tata recalls how my grandfather dreamed of building a large home in Baghdad for all of his children and their families, dreamed of meals together filled with enthusiastic conversation and laughter. Yet this dream died with the rise of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, and the beginning of what would be an eight year war with Iran, sending many in the family to live elsewhere. This double displacement weighed on him and Tata.

“We had to leave Palestine,” Tata said, “then our family began leaving Iraq. We were spread across the world. Your grandfather was tired. He used to come home and say ‘I just want to go back to Palestine and die there.’ He would say, ‘maybe one day my children will be able to go back.’ He died wishing to return.”

it is difficult to get such stories out to the mainstream media in the west. israeli terrorist propaganda wields too much power as avi shlaim points out:

Over the last four weeks the powerful Israeli propaganda machine has been churning out lie after lie about Hamas in order to excuse its own inexcusable onslaught. Israel stopped journalists going into Gaza, preventing any independent reporting on the war crimes its forces were committing. Truth is usually the first casualty in war. Gaza was not even a war in the conventional sense of the word; it was one-sided carnage.

and it works, unfortunately, in the united kingdom where the bbc is proving itself to be so completely tied to zionists that it refuses, still, to air a charity advertisement for the disasters emergency committee (dec):

The BBC came under renewed pressure yesterday to broadcast an emergency appeal for Gaza on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) after it received more than 10,000 complaints about its refusal to show the film.

today sky news joined the zionist media ranks with the bbc in refusing to air the commercial:

Sky News today joined the BBC in refusing to broadcast an emergency appeal for Gaza as the corporation faced renewed pressure from the public and MPs to show the film.

John Ryley, head of Sky News, said screening the appeal, by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), would compromise the network’s impartiality.

for those of you who buy into the argument that they are trying to be “neutral” here is just one example of their hypocrisy as jinan bastaki explains:

Unfortunately, the BBC’s claims do not hold in the least. In 2006, the BBC broadcast an appeal for Darfur and Chad, stating at the beginning that the UN had deemed it the worst humanitarian crisis and concluding that “The crisis is by no means over, the violence in Darfur showing no sign of reaching an end, many people remain uprooted and reliant on international aid.” In 2008, the BBC’s Congo Appeal introduction stated that “Imagine being in such fear of your life that you have no choice but to leave home, uproot your family and flee.” Strange that no one thought that this would risk the BBC’s impartiality. Like Darfur and Chad, Gaza is a man-made catastrophe in which civilians are bearing the brunt of the hostilities. Making their situation even more precarious, Palestinians in Gaza are living under a strangling blockade and are not allowed to leave even for medical treatment.

you can watch the commercial on the guardian’s website.
clearly all british media doesn’t serve the zionist master.

but of course in spite of all this you can still donate to dec via their website and show the bbc and sky news that they cannot keep us from supporting palestinians and delivering humanitarian aid to palestinians in gaza.


there are protests around the u.k. targeting the bbc in any case. i suspect sky news will be next. and cambridge university is the next british institution to launch a blog to chronicle their occupation of their university in solidarity with the palestinians in gaza.

in the u.s. the cbs news program 60 minutes aired a segment with correspondent bob simon on palestine, and although it focuses on the west bank, it gives you a glimpse into some of the overall context, though it does not discuss palestinian refugees at all. it shows the current problem of forced displacement and ethnic cleansing through house demolition and it shows you the rhetoric of israeli terrorists boasting about their desire to continue their ethnic cleansing project:

the above film also gives you some idea of the sort of siege that people in nablus experience, especially those families whose homes are commandeered by israeli terrorists. meanwhile in nablus ma’an news posted an article today about the suspected culprit in the bombing of my colleague abdel sattar qasim’s car the other day:

A previously unknown Palestinian group calling itself the “Gaza Martyrs Brigades” claimed on Monday to have vandalized and destroyed the car of An-Najah professor of political science Abed As-Sattar Qasim….

The group released a statement describing Dr Qasim as a “mouthpiece for the Iranian and the Syrian regimes.”

The statement accused the professor of “urging students to stage a coup against the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and against members of the Palestine Liberation Organization.” The statement further alleged that Qasim “calls on Hamas affiliates to assault Fatah loyalists in the Gaza Strip.”

The unknown group then threatened “Hamas figures in Nablus,” saying that if they remain silent towards the attacks on Fatah affiliates in the Gaza Strip, they will be considered partners in the attacks.

this article makes no sense, really, if you know the context. as i mentioned yesterday, abdel sattar identifies as someone who is independent of political parties. this is what makes him so amazing: he supports things that even hamas doesn’t support given their rhetoric about the two-state khara solution. he is anti-normalization and refuses to recognize the israeli terrorist state, something that at times hamas has seemed wiling to do, though thankfully they haven’t yet. but the other thing is that the journalist, samer huwairah, who put abdel sattar on camera the other night, which may have triggered the car bombing, is now in a palestinian authority jail:

Members of the preventive security apparatus in the West Bank, loyal to former PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, on Sunday detained Samer Khuwaira, the correspondent of the Quds TV channel in Nablus.

Relatives of the reporter said that that the preventive security elements arrived at the channel’s office in Nablus on Thursday and questioned Khuwaira on his work and his channel and left.

However, on Saturday the preventive security summoned Khuwaira to its headquarters and he did not return since then.

but there is good news today that i must report as always with rania in mind. first, the economic downturn in the u.s. is affecting caterpillar as 20,000 jobs will be cut. the reason why this is good news is that there has been a boycott campaign against caterpillar for several years now as they are the company producing the bulldozers that destroy palestinian homes and farmlands again and again and again.

in other boycott news a group of canadian professors have joined the boycott campaign and issued a statement:

We are a group of teachers and employees at Quebec colleges and universities who stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and with the people of Gaza who have suffered through the Israeli siege as targets of Israel’s brutal military attack. It will take more than ceasefires to bring a just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel. We are acting in response to an appeal for support issued January 2, 2009 by the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees. In the wake of the Israeli bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza, the Federation of Unions has urged academics around the world to support a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

and some israeli professors are doing a micro-protest to keep a leading israeli terrorist from teaching on their campus:

Professors at Tel Aviv University are protesting a decision to appoint Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch as a lecturer for the Faculty of Law.

The objections come in the wake of a recent story published in Haaretz about Sharvit-Baruch, who heads the Israel Defense Forces international law division.

The report said that under Sharvit-Baruch’s command, IDF legal experts legitimized strikes involving Gaza civilians, including the bombardment of the Gaza police course closing ceremony.

Sharvit-Baruch is planning on retiring from the army in the coming months and is scheduled to teach at the university’s law department next semester.

also adalah new york is spearheading an economic boycott of israel campaign and they’ve got a lovely flyer you can dowload and a list of companies to boycott.

and today inside higher education finally published something about the boycott campaign, though of course, they had to waste space with zionists whining about academic freedom for israeli terrorists:

The movement to boycott Israeli academic institutions has largely been centered in Britain (where in 2007 the University and College Union dropped the call). In response to the conflict in Gaza, calls for academic boycotts have crossed the Atlantic, surfacing first in Ontario, and now in the United States.

okay enough for today. i must sleep for a few hours before i get up to teach again…

christmas gift ideas

those who know me know that i am not a fan of christmas, especially in the u.s. i don’t like being around the over-consumption particularly of items that are completely unnecessary while other people around the world struggle to find food and shelter. i put up with it because christmas is important to my grandma and it makes her happy. but for those of you who feel the need to buy gifts here are a few ideas that would help people in palestine so at least you are buying gifts while also supporting palestinian people:

canaan fair trade has lovely olive oil and other organic products like olives, za’atar, almonds, and couscous from jenin. they also use some of their profits to support scholarships for palestinian students at universities like an najah where i teach.

there is also zaytoun olive oil that you can buy, which is another fair trade cooperative project helping palestinian farmers.

in the u.k. there is the olive cooperative, which i don’t know much about, but it seems like a legitimate option as well for palestinian food products as well as embroidery, olive wood trinkets, armenian pottery, and various other items.

it is important to check such websites/organizations out before you purchase items even if they seem like they are palestinian because as the boycott campaign reminds us, looks can be deceiving:

As we did this time last year, we are obliged to point out that one of the products promoted by CAT sits oddly among the many items it sells on behalf of disadvantaged people around the world. We refer to Peace Oil – an Israeli product marketed with the claim that it helps peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. The conflict in Israel/Palestine has a particular resonance for most caring people at Christmas time, and the desire to contribute to a peaceful solution is extremely powerful. However, the conflict will only be resolved by Israel ending its occupation and settlement of Palestinian land, and ending the economic strangulation of Palestinians which results from its occupation policies.

the guardian newspaper had a piece on this so-called peace oil last year which shows the importance of why one must do proper research before buying what one may think is a fair trade palestinian product:

“As an Israeli-based product, albeit with some Palestinian input, Peace Oil faces none of these limitations,” the groups said in a joint statement.

“We hope that the Charities Advisory Trust will take this on board and, at the very least, promote fairly traded Palestinian oil from Zaytoun alongside Peace Oil.

“Until this happens we would urge those who want to give olive oil as a ‘good gift’ to choose Zaytoun in preference.”

Olive oil, the backbone of the Palestinian Authority’s agricultural economy, is a vital source of income for tens of thousands of farmers and their families, 67% of whom live below the poverty line.

Palestinian olive oil producers have faced enormous difficulties as Israeli authorities have confiscated or denied access to land, uprooted ancient trees, and controlled water resources. The building of the security barrier has cut off some farmers from their olive groves. Once the wall is completed, 10% of the West Bank will fall on the Israeli side of the barrier.

Zaytoun was established in 2004 to ease access to western markets for Palestinian farmers in the West Bank.

Heather Gardner, a Zaytoun director, said Cat was misleading the public in promoting Peace Oil as a product that encourages peaceful cooperation.

“The fact that Arabs are employed in making Peace Oil is not anything different from the status quo, as Israelis use Arab labour as a matter of course,” she said.

She also criticised Peace Oil for its lack of transparency about where the oil is sourced and what the profits are used for. Zaytoun, a member of the International Fair Trade Association, is audited by a Swiss company.

Activists also question the claim that funds from Peace Oil will be used to promote a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis. One activist, who preferred to remain anonymous, was scathing about the product.

“It’s a total con,” the activist said. “Peace Oil is using peace to obfuscate the lack of justice for Palestinians in the conflict. It is misleading people of goodwill who want to do something for peace.”

for people who wish to buy other palestinian products like books, music, and films you can checkout the palestine online store.

also, jackie salloum’s brilliant film slingshot hip hop just released a cd soundtrack and her website is also offering cds of p.r., abeer, and dam’s music.

for those in canada who wish to buy books and such locally, please stay away from chapters and indigo in keeping with the boycott campaign:

On Thursday 21 December 2006, activists in Toronto and Montreal officially announced the launch of a boycott campaign against Chapters and Indigo Bookstores. The campaign demands an end to the financial support offered by the majority owners of Chapters and Indigo to Heseg­ the Foundation for Lone Soldiers, a program of financial support for former ‘lone soldiers’ in the Israeli military.

for those of you who can forgo the need to consume i recommend a donation to the middle east children’s alliance whose work is unparalleled in the u.s. in terms of support for palestinian refugees and getting aid into gaza.

likewise electronic intifada’s reporting is unparalleled in english language content on palestine. like public radio (i mean real public radio like pacifica not the government/corporate sponsored npr) they only receive funds from its readers and they are asking for your help:

Our goal is to raise $65,000 from individuals by January. It’s a big challenge for us, but a tiny amount when you compare it to the budgets of major media organizations. Please consider making a donation now to ensure that our uncensored coverage of Palestine, Israel and the Middle East continues in 2009. Your donation is tax-deductible if you are a US taxpayer.

We don’t have major corporations backing us up, and we won’t get a government bailout, so we rely on reader support to stay strong and independent. Please help us to keep the light shining on Palestine.



finally, i received this email today requesting funds to help people in gaza with a link to a video that i’ll paste in at the bottom of this post:

Dear Friends,

“When I see 1.4 million trapped in a situation of collective punishment, without rights, I have to raise that, and I will go on raising it.” These are the words of Mary Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Ireland, who was one of the few outsiders permitted to enter the Gaza Strip in November. She told the BBC on November 4th that it was “almost unbelievable that the world doesn’t care while this is happening…Their whole civilization has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating.”

Since Israel tightened its closure of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, eighty percent of Gaza’s residents have been pushed beneath the poverty line. More than 50,000 children are seriously malnourished, with half of those under the age of two suffering from anemia. Gaza’s only power plant has been functioning at less than 50 percent of its capacity due to fuel cuts, water is polluted, the sewage system has broken down, medications are in short supply and more than a million people have been dependent on daily emergency assistance. More than 250 patients had died after being denied permits to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.

Conditions deteriorated still further in early November when Israel slammed the door shut on even emergency fuel and food supplies. On November 14, the UN announced it had to suspend the distribution of food to 750,000 people in Gaza’s refugee camps because “our warehouses are effectively empty.”

The Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip is not just killing the spirit and sometimes the lives of Gazans, half of whom are children. It is also destroying all hopes for a peaceful future in the region.

Studies carried out by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP), founded by Dr. Eyad el-Sarraj in 1990, show a frightening rise in trauma, as children fall victim to night terrors, loss of appetite, insomnia, and symptoms of panic and aggression. Adults are suffering from panic disorders, depression and psychosomatic disorders as they struggle to cope with the deeply inhuman situation. Former US president Jimmy Carter was right to call the siege “an atrocity, a crime, an abomination.”

The staff of GCMHP has moved into high gear in its efforts to help the people of Gaza overcome the psychological effects of the violence that surrounds them, and confront the all-pervasive despair and depression.

Please let them know they are not alone. You can help the GCMHP alleviate the psychological suffering of the Palestinian people by writing a check to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, and sending it and your contact information to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, PO Box 495, Boston, MA 02112.

The Gaza Mental Health Foundation, Inc. was established in 2001 to raise funds in the United States to support the critically important work being carried out by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Your donations, which are fully tax-deductible to the extent provided by the IRS Code, are forwarded in their entirety to the GCMHP. You can find out more about the Gaza Mental Health Foundation by visiting our website, www.gazamentalhealth.org/

This moving YouTube video will give you a closer look at what the people of the Gaza Strip are facing while much of the world is standing silently by.

Thank you for your generosity and for choosing to take a stand against the collective punishment of the people of the Gaza Strip.

Dr. Nancy Murray
Gaza Mental Health Foundation, Inc.

eyad el-sarraj, founder and president of the gaza community mental health program had an op-ed in the los angeles times this morning. while you’re shopping for christmas presents and forgetting about gaza because of the media fatigue that has died because of the subject (though never on electronic intifada, which is why you should donate to them NOW) it would be worthwhile stopping to think what the eid al adha holiday has just been like for palestinians and what daily life is like for them more generally:

At the Erez checkpoint, where I left Gaza along with four other medical patients, Israeli soldiers spoke through loudspeakers and looked down at us through cameras. “Open your bag,” one shouted. When the woman in front of me asked a question, the soldier ordered her to take everything out of her suitcase. She was humiliated as she had to hold even her underwear up to the camera. I was made to walk through the X-ray machine three times, even though I told the soldiers it was dangerous because of my medical condition. The soldiers seemed intent not only to determine that we were not bombers but to shame us. What good can come of exercising such domineering power over medical patients?

When one of the soldiers approached us, he was grinning and carrying a huge machine gun across his massive body. I thought that he must feel the power of his muscles and his gun as well as my weakness, with my frail body and my obedience to his orders. But the psychiatrist in me could not escape the question, “Who is frightened?” — because I was not. I was angry, but not afraid.

On my way back to Gaza, I decided to buy some little plants with flowers to bring home. A soldier shouted at me: “Flowers are not allowed.”

The best hope at the moment for the region is that Barack Obama and American politicians will veer away from knee-jerk support for Israel’s actions against Palestinians in favor of evenhanded policies that recognize that Palestinians have a right to freedom, to travel, to healthcare and even to simple daily pleasures like freely carrying flowers home.

gaza déjà vu

I was just glancing through my posts from the beginning of this year–in January. I was recalling the teach-in on Gaza we did at Boise State University around that same time. I was recalling the images I watched on television and read in the newspapers about Gaza earlier this year. Here is one such report from Al Jazeera on January 21, 2008:

This is what we can expect yet again in Gaza if things do not change soon. 70% of Gaza is experiencing a blackout now:

Seventy percent of the Gaza Strip is blacked out on Sunday night after Israel blocked deliveries fuel for Gaza’s power plant for the fifth consecutive day, a high-ranking Palestinian energy official said.

Kan’an Ubeid, the deputy chief of the Palestinian Energy Authority said in a press conference in Gaza that in addition to the shutdown of the diesel-fueled power plant, the electric network bringing in power from Israel collapsed due to the increased pressure on the system.

Ubeid said that as a part of its strict blockade, Israel is also preventing the import of equipment and spare parts, including generators, cables, meters and wires, needed to repair the power lines bringing electricity from Israel.

He said that a lack of cooking gas forced residents living in areas supplied with power by Israel relied on electric heading more, increasing the pressure on the network.

The lack of spare parts also means that repairs cannot be made to generators powering hospitals and other key infrastructure. The main generator at the European Hospital in Khan Younis has already shut down, as has the backup generator at Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the Strip’s largest medical center.

The power cuts also mean that local water utilities cannot pump water with sufficient pressure, meaning that high rise buildings are without water.

And it’s not just the lack of fuel. It’s also the lack of medicine (and recall that fuel is needed to allow hospitals to function properly):

Chief of emergency and ambulance department at the Hamas-run health ministry, announced on Sunday that the Israeli occupation authorities denied today access to Gaza of 15 trucks, loaded with medicine.

Abu Hasanin said that the Israeli authorities, at the Karni crossing, to the east of Gaza city, prevented the entry of the said shipment, in a time the Strip lacks more than 300 medicines.

“The health conditions are increasingly deteriorated with the continuation of the Israeli closure of border crossings for the past two weeks”, Abu Hasanin added.

He further explained that since November of this year, the Israeli blockade on Gaza has led to the death of 270 patients, who are in need of urgent medical care, and that more that 400 others with chronic diseases have been denied exist for referral at hospitals , out side of Gaza.

And food is expected to run out shortly as well:

The Gaza Strip will run out of basic supplies of food in the next few days if Israel or Egypt does not ease a strict eleven-day blockade of the territory, a senior Palestinian official warned on Sunday.

De facto Minister of National Economy Ziyad Thatha said, “There is a food and humanitarian crisis [in] the Gaza Strip where crossings have been closed for the eleventh day.

As a result of this cycle of siege and closure Palestinians are facing malnourishment:

“The Israeli blockade of Gaza has led to a steady rise in chronic malnutrition among the 1.5 million people living in the strip, according to a leaked report from the Red Cross,” The Independent reported.

“It chronicles the ‘devastating’ effect of the siege that Israel imposed after Hamas seized control in June 2007 and notes that the dramatic fall in living standards has triggered a shift in diet that will damage the long-term health of those living in Gaza and has led to alarming deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and vitamin D.

For those Palestinians attempting to fish in the Mediterranean Sea for their food, they can expect to be fired upon by Israeli Terrorist Forces in the Sea:

Palestinians are also still bombarded by Israeli missile strikes against the imprisoned population of Gaza:

A second Israeli air strike was carried out in the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The first strike killed four activists and was precipitated by the launch of homemade projectiles into the western Negev by Palestinian activists.

The day saw four separate rounds of projectiles launched at Israeli targets by Palestinian military factions. No Israeli injuries were reported.

John Ging, director of UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), explains the human cost of this siege:

Since the cease-fire went into place this summer, Ging said, fewer supplies have passed through the crossing than did in the beginning of 2006, when the western Negev suffered incessant Qassam rocket fire.

“Why? There is no need to explain the security challenges here. We are always told that we must ensure security arrangements, and we accepted that,” he said. “But no one has explained to me the security reason behind the closure of every crossing. The crossings have tremendously sophisticated security devices. No one can pass with an explosives belt or weapon without being detected.”

“Explain to me why people who present no security threat are not authorized to work in Israel as in the past. I ask the Israelis, why don’t you allow the entry of cement, even during the cease-fire, so we can build new schools and reduce the crowdedness in classrooms?”

The Erez and Rafah crossings are open, Ging noted, but only for certain individuals such as the ill, business people and politicians. Senior Hamas officials may leave the Strip through the Rafah crossing, and individuals linked to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah may leave through Erez.

“One illegal action does not justify another. Where else is the UN under embargo? Where else is food aid subordinated to such severe restrictions?” Ging asked.

“Why close it for certain people and open it for others? That’s why so many people call it collective punishment. It’s not only illegal and inhuman, but also ineffective. It only empowers the extremists.”

And yet people wonder why Palestinians continue–as is their right under international law–their resistance against military bombardment and the siege:

In a Sunday statement spokesperson of the Al-Quds Brigades Abu Ahmad said Israel had failed to respect the 19 June ceasefire agreement and called for it to be canned.

“It is unbelievable that when Palestinian factions fire homemade projectiles at Israel in response to Israeli atrocities, everybody intervenes and ask for self-restraint, meanwhile the enemy kills and assassinates us and unfortunately nobody comments,” Abu Ahmad said.

I’m repeating myself. Again and again. I would love one day to not have to share the same stories of suffering in Gaza. I would love for the refugees in Gaza to have the right of return to their homes. The right of Gazans to farm and fish their land. I would prefer not to experience this sort of déjà vu. But maybe I would rather experience the sort of déjà vu that Tam Tam experiences? 😉


(Note: This post, especially the photographs, is dedicated to three dear friends who love, appreciate, and desire Arab food most in the world: Baha’a, Rami, and Tamara.)

Working full time on several projects every day (teaching, writing, studying Arabic, activism) over the past several years has meant that some things I just cannot include into my schedule. One of those things, unfortunately, is cooking (because when I used to cook I was pretty good). For the most part living in Palestine, Jordan, or Lebanon it’s fairly easy to find staples in my diet at various small shops and markets so that I can have well-balanced meals. But during Ramadan I have had to get creative about what I can buy and when. Much of the hummus that one can find in Nablus markets seems to be Israeli so I cannot buy it. But I let my patience hold out and I was rewarded. I had no idea that a very famous local hummus chef was directly across the street from my university. I left my office about 5:30 pm the other night so I could go home and have my iftar for the day. As I was walking down the street a bit, searching for a taxi, I saw a bunch of men standing in line waiting for…hummus. The shop (see photo above) has no sign on it (which is probably why I’ve walked by it many times without noticing it), but it’s called Rami’s Hummus. And Rami has been making hummus for people for 27 years, following in his father’s footsteps. He learned how to make it at the age of 7.

The pictures above show Rami making his hummus that so many men gather around waiting for every night, especially during Ramadan, it seems. The hummus is delicious and all the happy customers swear by it and say it’s the best in Nablus, if not in Palestine. Of course, in keeping with the boycott I asked about where the ingredients come from. All of them are بلادي and mostly from Jenin except for the sesame seeds used to make the tahina, which is made in Palestine; the sesame seeds, however, come from Ethiopia and not from the Zionist state. I found it interesting to hear that the one non-Palestinian ingredient came from Ethiopia, and especially interesting that this item was a seed. I had just read an article about the increasing famine and its consequences in Ethiopia in which families are resorting to eating their seeds prior to planting them to ward of hunger:

Martne Harja had prepared her three-quarter hectare piece of land at Galcha Seke village in Wolayita zone of Ethiopia’s Southern Region for the planting season, but her seven children found themselves without food after the rains failed.

“I did not have any other option but to eat the 25kg of haricot bean seed that I had saved from last year,” she said. “I readied my land to plant when the rain came again [but] I knew I would not be able to get any seeds.”

It was the first time in her life that she had eaten her seeds without planting them. Martne is, however, not alone. According to aid workers, many Ethiopian farmers resorted to eating their seeds after unprecedented heavy rains followed by drought last season.

Reading stories like this during Ramadan, I think, can be helpful, especially when you are fasting. I think it is important to remember that there are people who are hungry–starving even–every day. They don’t have a choice about whether or not they get to see another meal or not.

Here people do struggle with making enough money that one can purchase basic necessities like food from. Here is a brief story from Jenin that shows the plight of Palestinians with respect to scrimping for money to buy food:

Hazim, a Palestinian Authority (PA) employee in Jenin showed us the grocery list he was carrying in his pocket and put his other hand on his head, wondering where he would get the money to buy even basic needs. “What shall I do now?” he said, “the month has just started and I’m still waiting for the salary to buy things I need. I don’t think of buying more than that since my salary only covers basic needs, how would I, when Ramadan means higher prices than all other days?” Hazim says that during a normal month, he waits and waits for his salary from the cash-strapped PA. When his check finally arrives, he spends it all on the necessities of life. If there is a wedding in his family, he goes into debt. He said he also went into debt to pay school expenses for his five children.

Here is yet another story about the economic situation and its relationship to people providing their families with basic necessities in Tulkarem:

The price of food is soaring, unemployment is rising, and many ordinary families are struggling to pay supplies and tuituion for the new school year along with food and other expenses for Ramadan. Contributing to the economic stagnation is Israel’s network of checkpoints, walls, roadblocks and other forms of closure. In Tulkarem, and throughout the West Bank, the Palestinian economy is barely coping with these physical impediments. The UN counts 29 such closures in the Tulkarem area alone. Because of these, goods cannot be moved to market, and workers cannot reach their workplaces. Na’il Abdul-Jawwad is an average Palestinian. His monthly salary is 130 shekels, or about 35 dollars. He cares for a family of ten with his meager earnings. He said that his salary could never cover his family’s needs, especially what is required to send his children to school. He complained that prices have risen sharply.

While these two stories are just from Tulkarem or Jenin, the same can be said all over Palestine. The struggle is the same. That said, going down to the old city market this morning after Friday prayer I found it bustling with Ramadan supplies going quickly. In fact, I took a stroll around the old city to just enjoy the atmosphere. When I returned to buy my iftar supplies many fresh items were already gone (and this as only about 1PM).

And in spite of the economic issues that plague most families here, Palestinian generosity is at a premium. In fact, the first night I went to Rami’s Hummus shop to buy some of his amazing hummus, one of the men standing in line with me refused to let me pay for it. He bought my first batch for me. I argued, but to no avail. Likewise, two taxi drivers this week, both from Balata refugee camp, refused to take my money when they drove me home after work. And Jawal (my mobile phone company) seems to have given out extra minutes or credits to its users this month. Ramadan tends to carry a different energy with it–a heightened sense of gratitude perhaps. And this in spite of the fact that people are hungry, often, hot, and sleepy during this month. I can hear this every night from my apartment as I listen to families laughing over their dinner, their children playing outside our building, and the dancing and singing to the tabla that I am enjoying each night.

The pictures that pepper this blog post are mostly from the various people I buy my produce from. Some of these people sell the same products all year long; others sell certain items only during Ramadan, or more of certain items only during Ramadan. Fresh and dried dates, for instance, which are pictured above, from Eriha. These dates are the most amazing dates I’ve ever had in my life. Even the dried dates are incredibly fresh, soft, like butter. They melt in your mouth. I have never had dates that tasted so good–not from Egypt, not from Saudi Arabia, not from anywhere.

There are lots of little shops in the old city of Nablus selling various Ramadan food items; there are also a number of people selling and making treats on carts that they put in front of shops or that they move around the old city. Some of the Ramadan sweets that I took pictures of (see above) are on such carts in the middle of the old city streets.

There are also people squeezing fresh juice on carts (like the pomegranate juice pictured above), as well as tamil hind and lemonade juices, which they then bottle or bag for you to take home for iftar. The pomegranate juice, however, much to my dismay seems to only be squeezed from Israeli pomegranates (you can see the sticker on the fruit in the photograph above if you look closely), thus I will be spending a fall without one of my favorite fruits. I suppose that means no sawdat dajaj either?

And speaking of boycott, I will also definitely not be eating any oranges or drinking any orange juice while I’m living here, it seems. All of the oranges I found here in Nablus are coming from Yaffa in 1948 Palestine. In other words, all of these oranges are coming from the orange groves that the Zionists stole and now use to market the formerly Palestinian crops. It is especially sad to see such boxes of oranges here. It feels like rubbing salt into a wound to see stolen Palestinian oranges being cultivated and sold by Israelis every day.

And anyway I wonder just how good those oranges are anymore if Israelis had their hands on them. I hear many stories from friends who come from small farming villages about the difference in taste, quality, and health between Israeli-grown and Palestinian-grown produce. One reason seems to be an Israeli penchant for pesticides and GMOs like their American farming friends (who also destroyed an ingenious agricultural system when they destroyed all of the various Native American tribal lands and people). But I have heard even more disturbing news, though this is only through friends so I cannot confirm it. It seems that Israelis have been pushing their genetically modified seeds on to some Palestinian farmers. This means that the farming and produce here could dramatically change over the course of time. However, the same friend told me that there are older village women who are maintaining the traditional, historic, pure Palestinian بلادي seeds and making sure that they are not corrupted or polluted by mixing with the kind that the Israelis are pushing. It makes me think of the situation in Iraq with Monsanto forcing its seeds on Iraqi farmers. Though this is particularly damaging as Monsanto, which is, to be sure, doing this globally has particular consequences as once you accept their seeds you’re forever bound to using them.

My last picture here is one of my favorites. These boys sell me my bread every couple of days. They are very cute and sweet and love to chat. But look closely at this Nabulsi bread. It is very different than the normal Arabic bread one finds in the rest of Palestine. And it is a hundred times more delicious and fresh tasting. I adore this bread and will find a way to bring some to Lubnan next time I go.

For now, Ramadan Karim, with 1.5 hours to go until iftar.