groundhog day in palestine

it has been difficult for me to keep up with news and such since i’ve been in amrika. between taking care of my grandma and packing more stuff of my own to ship and running around getting stuff for friends i have been really wiped out. i love spending time with my grandma, but it is exhausting. it has also been interesting getting to know her nurse, a single mother of two from el salvador. she is one of so many refugees who come to the united states because of the horrific war crimes committed by the u.s. in her country of origin. but there are members of her family who stayed behind and so they maintain a farm filled with wholesome, healthy food the likes of which is rare here. intermittently, i’ve scanned the headlines back in palestine. but i haven’t had much time to really read them until today. in some ways sometimes i wonder: what is the point? following the news in palestine is somewhat like groundhog day. it’s like reliving the same nightmare over and over again every single day. and confronting the news about palestine and the u.s. role in the ongoing colonization and ethnic cleansing there reminds me of yet another reason of why i hate my country. i’m going to respond to some of the main events that have been going on over the past couple of weeks, but i’ll be breaking down the posts by place or theme–not because they are unconnected (i.e., gaza, the west bank, or 1948 palestine), but because there is too much to cover in one post.

what continues unabated in palestine is the kidnapping of palestinians as political prisoners in zionist terrorist colonists’ nightly invasions, the siege on gaza, the selling of palestinian land in 1948 palestine, and of course the ongoing ethnic cleansing and annexation of palestinian land and homes everywhere and anywhere. supposedly the u.s. has been “pressuring” the zionist entity, but in reality i don’t see it happening. sans sanctions it will never happen. but the story of the ethnic cleansing of sheikh jarrah in al quds is the story that has made the headlines even in amrika. on sunday, august 2nd palestinian families were forcibly removed from homes they have owned since 1956 as sherine tadros reported on al jazeera:

notice in the above video tadros tells us that the zionist terrorist colonists have decided that the neighborhood of sheikh jarrah is now “israel.” of course, this is the same thing they have done for 61+ years. this is merely the latest example of it. according to the bbc the zionist terrorist colonist supreme court sanctioned this action of land theft:

Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the eviction, following a complex 37-year legal battle during which Israeli courts upheld a claim that the land is Jewish-owned. Jewish groups want to build homes for settlers in the area.

and, of course, its prime minister supports land theft and colonization as the bbc continues:

“Our sovereignty over it is unquestionable,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month.

“We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and buy [homes] anywhere in Jerusalem.”

The BBC’s Tim Franks in Jerusalem says the houses are in what is probably the most contested city on earth and the diplomatic ripples from the evictions will spread.

The UN said the 53 people evicted comprised nine families belonging to the Hanoun and al-Ghawi extended families.

The legal battle over the site has been complex.

Jordan, which occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem after the creation of Israel in 1948, and the UN housed several Palestinian families on the plot of land.

But Israeli courts have since upheld a Jewish association’s claim that the site was owned by Jews before that, and their demand for rent that the Palestinian families have refused to pay.

Palestinian and left-wing Israeli organisations say Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs cannot, in the same way, make effective ownership claims to land dating back to before 1948 through the Israeli court system.

There are an estimated 250,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and 200,000 Jews.

i find the supreme court’s usage of the term “owned” interesting. if land ownership is the thing that the court is upholding–colonial as the court is–then why not see if the court honors all land ownership documents. of course, i am referring to real land ownership documents, not those manufactured by jewish zionist colonists who terrorize palestinians out of their beds and homes. for example, ilene prusher’s article about this latest ethnic cleansing episode reveals that the hanoun family is from haifa:

In 1956, 28 Palestinian families who were refugees from Israel after 1948 were resettled in Sheikh Jarrah as part of an UN project to assist people made homeless in the war. The Hanoun family, who say they are originally from Haifa, was one of the recipients – and Maher Hanoun, Nadia’s husband, was born in the house.

what would be truly amazing if the hanoun family could move their struggle over their rights to their land and house to one that says: okay, your colonial court says that land ownership and title deeds are what counts as entitlement to land and homes. therefore, here is my title deed and key to my house in haifa. i want it back now. fighting in these terms could lead to a precedent that would allow all palestinians to return to their land and homes because, of course, they are the legal rightful owners. imagining such a scenario is, of course, absurd as it would never happen. because zionist terrorist colonist courts care only about jews (albeit white jews more than brown jews). and short of a mass conversion of palestinians to judaism i don’t think that they will be granted the same status in those courts. and so the hanoun and al ghawi families are sleeping on the street. homeless again. refugees again. here is jacky rowland’s report on al jazeera post-house theft:

there was also a longer report, with more context, on the real news:

maher hanoun envisioned that zionist terrorist colonists would come to his aid and thus wrote a public letter to them inviting them to join in his fight to take his home back. and maybe a few will show up. but who among them will fight to destroy the so-called jewish state and make sure the land goes back to its rightful owners so that palestinian refugees may finally return to their homes? gideon levy, for instance, recognizes the court decision and wonders about his own house on stolen land, though, of course, he certainly is not ready to give it back to its rightful owner:

We should perhaps thank the court for its scandalous ruling, which not only sparked a justifiable international wave of protest against Israel, but also revealed its true face. “There are judges in Jerusalem,” as Menachem Begin said, and they have made it official: apartheid. Ownership rights are for Jews alone.

The distance between Sheikh Jarrah and Sheikh Munis has been shortened in one fell swoop. Those who contend that Jews must be given back their property cannot in the same breath deny the Palestinians’ property rights because of their national origin. It’s true that a system of strict laws and regulations denies the Palestinians what it allows the Jews, but all reasonable Israelis must now ask themselves if this is the system of justice and the law of the “Jewish” state they want to live in.

It is impossible to ignore the injustices of 1948 while hundreds of thousands of refugees rot in the camps. No agreement will hold water without a solution to their plight, which is more feasible than Israel’s strident scaremongers suggest. But rulings like the current one make it harder to distinguish clearly between Sheikh Jarrah and Sheikh Munis, between the conquest of 1948 and the conquests of 1967. My house stands on land stolen by force, and it is the obligation of Israel and the world to redress the injustice without creating injustice and new dislocation. My house stands on land that was stolen, but the whole world has recognized the Jews’ right to establish their state there. At the same time, no country in the world has recognized Israel’s right to conquer Sheikh Jarrah as well.

In my morning musings on the way to the pool, I sometimes think about the land’s original owners. I long for the day when Israel takes moral and material responsibility for the injustice done to them. Now, because of the court ruling, my right to continue to swim here may also be in doubt.

and this is the problem i have with normalization in any context. unless those you are normalizing with have committed themselves to the destruction of the jewish state, including relinquishing of land that is stolen (i.e., all of historic palestine), what is the point. in the end they want to keep what they stole. and the americans, who also, of course, live on stolen land support land theft and colonization in palestine, but like to use language that feigns concern:

The United States and the European Union hit out Monday at Israel for evicting Palestinian families from east Jerusalem, warning that such moves endangered the Middle East peace process.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the international condemnation, labelling the evictions “deeply regrettable” and “provocative” and accusing Israel of failing to live up to its international obligations under existing peace initiatives.

“I have said before that the eviction of families and demolition of homes in east Jerusalem is not in keeping with Israeli obligations,” Clinton told reporters at a Washington press conference alongside Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh.

“And I urge the government of Israel and municipal officials to refrain from such provocative actions.”

and it gets worse when the u.s. comes in to the picture. for instance former presidential candidate mike huckabee shared his views on the rights of indigenous palestinians as reported in imemc:

Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that former Arkansas governor, Mike Hukabee, who is visiting Israel in support of illegal Israeli settlements and illegal annexation of Palestinian lands, stated that establishing a Palestinian State in what he described as the “Middle of Jewish Homeland” is unrealistic.

Hukabee is conducting a three-day tour in Israel and met with dozens of fundamental settler leaders and members of Knesset.

He arrived in Israel on Sunday and visited illegal settlements in East Jerusalem on Monday. He also visited the Maaleh Adumin illegal settlement bloc.

in any case, there is a petition you can sign to support palestinian families in al quds at the stand up for jerusalem website. there are also a number of reports, photographs, and videos there you can look through to learn more about ethnic cleansing in palestine.

but any notion that anything will change from the colonists in charge–the zionists or the americans–was made clear by the u.s. state department:

State Department spokesperson Robert Wood has stated that it’s much too early for the U.S. to put economic pressure on Israel to cooperate with the ban on settlement construction.

He has also stated that the focus now was on dialogue, and working toward a peaceful resolution. In addition, the new Israeli ambassador to the U.S. has denied claims of existing tension between the two nations over discussions on settlement issues. The U.S. has demanded that Israel stop the building of settlements and does not distinguish East Jerusalem from the West Bank, condemning all settlement activity there. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has continued his settlement campaign, ignoring the calls of the U.S., the European Union, and Russia to halt settlement development.

sanctions are the only way to exert pressure on the zionist terrorist colonists to stop stealing land and forcing more palestinians to become refugees multiple times over. it should happen with government money, but it should also happen in the form of cracking down on american non profits that fund these colonies and land confiscation as reported recently in ha’aretz (thanks tam tam):

American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, a nonprofit organization that sends millions of shekels worth of donations to Israel every year for clearly political purposes, such as buying Arab properties in East Jerusalem, is registered in the United States as an organization that funds educational institutes in Israel.

The U.S. tax code enables nonprofits to receive tax-exempt status if they engage in educational, charitable, religious or scientific activity. However, such organizations are forbidden to engage in any political activity. The latter is broadly defined as any action, even the promotion of certain ideas, that could have a political impact.

Financing land purchases in East Jerusalem would, therefore, seem to violate the organization’s tax-exempt status.

Daniel Luria, chief fund-raiser for Ateret Cohanim in Israel, told Haaretz Sunday that the American organization’s registration as an educational entity stemmed from tax considerations.

“We are an umbrella organization that engages in redeeming land,” he said. “Our [fund-raising] activity in New York goes solely toward land redemption.”

Although Ateret Cohanim also operates a yeshiva, Ateret Yerushalayim, in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, fund-raising for the yeshiva is handled by a different organization: American Friends of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim.”

American Friends of Ateret Cohanim was founded in New York in 1987. Like all tax-exempt organizations, it must file detailed annual returns with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. An examination of them reveals that the organization describes its “primary exempt purpose” as: “[to] provide funding for higher educational institutes in Israel.”

“That’s because of the tax issue,” Luria said, explaining that due to American law, the American Friends organization “has to be connected in some fashion with educational matters.”

He also estimated that 60 percent of Ateret Cohanim’s money is raised in the U.S.

The Friends organization’s most recent return, filed in 2008 for fiscal 2007, shows that it raised $2.1 million in donations that year. Of this, $1.6 million was transferred to Ateret Cohanim in Israel.

The remainder was used to cover administrative overhead, including fund-raising expenses and an $80,000 salary for Shoshana Hikind, the American organization’s vice president and de facto director, whose husband Dov is a New York state assemblyman and well-known supporter of the Israeli right.

The organization also raised substantial sums in previous years: $1.3 million in 2006, $900,000 in 2005 and about $2 million in 2004.

By comparison, American Friends of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim raised only $189,000 in 2007.

In its IRS returns, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim said its purpose is to “promote,” “publicize” and “raise funds for” Ateret Cohanim institutions in Israel. These institutions, it continued, “encourage and promote study and observance of Jewish religious traditions and culture.”

one of the places ateret cohanim is actively working to steal homes and land is in the al bustan neighborhood of al quds, just a couple of miles from sheikh jarrah who received new eviction and house demolition orders a few days after the al ghawi and hanoun families became refugees again:

Eight Palestinians were injured from attacks by Israeli forces who were delivering house demolition orders in the Al-Bustan neighborhood in East Jerusalem on Wednesday.

The Israeli police had come to the area to hand out five new demolition orders, on top of the 90 already existing demolition orders.

Residents that wanted to confront the Israeli police were dispersed with the use of tear gas.The police also seized the ID card of a member of the Al-Bustan Committee, a popular organization that aims to peacefully oppose the house demolitions in the area.

and more annexation and land theft is happening in beit iksa:

The Israeli Authorities annexed the Palestinian village of Beit Iksa by placing it on the map west of the Annexation Wall, and considered it part of Jerusalem. The decision means that the village would be isolated from the West Bank.

The decision comes in contradiction with a decision issued by the Israeli government in 2006 in which it decided not to annex the village.

Implementing the decision means that some 3000 Palestinians would be allowed to enter Israel without any permits, but would also be isolated from the West Bank.

and if you are wondering who is controlling all of this colony expansion and land theft, look no further than the zionist entity’s regime as leigh baldwin reported for afp:

Israel has handed control over much of a key Palestinian area in annexed east Jerusalem to hardline settler groups in a creeping takeover kept away from public scrutiny, a report by an activist group said on Thursday.

Government bodies have transferred both private Palestinian property and national parks in the Silwan neighbourhood outside the walls of the Old City to the settler organisation Elad, said Ir Amim, a non-profit group specialising in Jerusalem issues.

“It was done in the dark, in flagrant violation of the rules of good government and in some cases in violation of the law, without open and official decisions by the government or Knesset and without public discussion, inquiry or scrutiny,” said the report entitled “Shady Dealings in Silwan.”

Elad is dedicated to expanding Jewish ownership in Arab areas of east Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 and annexed in a move not recognised by the international community.

In Silwan, Elad has acted as an arm of the government for the past 20 years to gain control over a quarter of the land along its main thoroughfare, Wadi Hilweh or City of David.

“Silwan is a keystone to a sweeping and systematic process whose aim is to gain control of the Palestinian territories that surround the Old City, to cut the Old City off from the urban fabric of east Jerusalem and to connect it to Jewish settlement blocs” in the northeast, it said.

and it is not just in al quds. land is being stolen from palestinians near nablus, too:

Dozens of armed extremist Israeli settlers, enjoying Israeli army protection, illegally annexed on Friday morning 40 Dunams of Palestinian lands south of Nablus, in the northern part of the West Bank.

Dr. Ghassan Douglas, in charge of settlements file in the northern part of the West Bank said that dozens of settlers, driving vehicles carrying iron and wires, took over Palestinian lands and started fencing them.

Israeli soldiers stationed at the nearby Huwwara military roadblock, did not interfere while the settlers illegally annexed the Palestinian orchards and installed the fence around them.

and it is still continuing, this time in ya’abd–this is from today’s imemc:

The Israeli military handed over on Tuesday a military order confiscating 28 Acres of farm lands near Ya’abd village in northern west Bank.

Waled Abadi, the Mayer of Ya’abd, tolled IEMMC that the order was delivered to him today by the military. He added that all the land are owned by farmers from the village and located close to the Shakid Israeli settlement nearby. Abadi added that the military order says that the land will be used by the military for security purposes but the order is not clear whether the military will used or the settlers.
category

supposedly there is now american “pressure,” though of course not sanctions, which will put a six month freeze on colony expansion, but i suspect this will last about a day:

In a bid to gain US support for its large-scale takeover of Palestinian land in the West Bank, the Israeli government says that it will put a temporary hold on new settlement construction.

The “moratorium” will be in effect for the next six months, in which time the Israeli Prime Minister says he hopes to gain international support for Israel’s takeover of East Jerusalem and parts of the Palestinian territory known as the West Bank.

High-level officials in the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed that the Israeli government will engage in a “waiting” period in order to convince the US that Israel is committed to peace. Netanyahu left for Europe on Monday, and he is expected to meet with the US Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, while he is there. Mitchell has called for a one-year freeze on settlement construction, but Israeli officials say they are hoping the six-month “moratorium” will be sufficient.

if you watch this report from al jazeera by mike hanna you can get an idea of precisely why these colonies will continue to expand no matter what the u.s. says. hanna is reporting from an outpost colony, adam, near qalandia, although there are hundreds more like it all over the west bank:

to get an idea of what the average zionist terrorist colonist on the stolen palestinian street thinks watch this video by antony lowenstein and joseph dana:

notice all of the american accents in that video above. this is just one of the many marks of colonialism: these people are not from there. they do not belong there. they must leave.

and it’s not just because of the new colonialism. this colonialism and land theft has been going on for 122+ years. just like maher hanoun originally hails from haifa and has a right to return there, so too is the story for 7.2 million palestinian refugees who are denied the right to their land and homes while the zionist jews colonizing the land can buy and sell the stolen property. there was a great story in the san francisco chronicle a few weeks ago by timothy crawley that makes these connections between the current and ongoing nakba:

Walk down what was formerly Al-Borj Street in Haifa, Israel, and you might catch sight of an old Jerusalem-stone building with arched doorways and windows cemented-over and a large Re/Max (an international real estate franchise) banner draped across the front. The house belongs to the Kanafani family, most of whom are living in exile in Lebanon but some of whom are now living as far away from home as San Francisco.

Defined as “absentee property” under Israeli law, the house is one of thousands of properties owned by Palestinian refugees who were forced from their lands by Jewish militias or fled during the war of 1948, in what would be remembered as the Palestinian “Nakba” – the Catastrophe. The Israeli Absentee Property Law of 1950 established the Custodian of Absentee Property to safeguard these homes until a resolution would be reached regarding the right of Palestinian refugees to return.

For-sale signs have now appeared on dozens of these buildings across the state, and many have already been sold to private owners, frustrating the refugees’ legal right to recover their homes. A grave breach of international law, Israel’s sales of Palestinian homes is severing the refugees’ connection to the land – the linchpin for negotiations in their right of return to their homeland.

For displaced Palestinians, however, this phase of the Nakba is not limited to these illegal land sales by Israel. Eleven new unlawful settler outposts were established last week in the West Bank, undermining Israeli credibility in their discussions with the United States to freeze settlement expansion. Furthermore, a complete settlement freeze is unlikely as Israeli leaders claim that some construction is too far along to be halted, entitling the settlers to further entrench themselves upon Palestinian property.

Nor is the continuing Nakba limited to those living in the occupied Palestinian territories or refugees in exile abroad unable to return home. Internally displaced Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Negev Desert are building shacks from scrap metal adjacent to their previous homes that were demolished by Israeli bulldozers. Demolition orders have been issued by the state for entire villages to make room for new Jewish towns.

The evacuation of the villages and the demolition of Bedouin homes represent the next step in the historical process of forcible displacement of Palestinian Arabs in favor of Jewish residents.

The Kanafani family loses a home in Haifa; lands in the West Bank including East Jerusalem are further colonized; and Bedouin citizens of Israel are displaced yet again. The Nakba did not just happen in 1948. It is continuing for thousands of Palestinians who are systematically denied their basic rights to property, housing, employment – and their right to live at peace in their own homes.

Peace will remain elusive so long as Israel’s approach to Palestinian refugees is to erase them from history; when Palestinian property in the West Bank continues to be expropriated and developed for Israel; or when Palestinian families must be uprooted and their homes demolished because they are not Jews. The pressure of the Obama administration on the Israeli government must not wane. Beyond the call to freeze all settlement activity, President Obama should insist on equal rights for Palestinians, and oppose discriminatory Israeli policies that only prolong the Nakba.

for some legal background on this stephen lendman’s article in dissident voices offers an overview of the so-called “legal” maneuvering that the zionist terrorist colonist entity does in order to make “legal” what would otherwise be considered theft in any other context. this decades long struggle has recently been addressed in the guardian by philosopher slavoj žižek who illustrates how this recent colonization connects to the one since 1948:

In the last months of 2008, when the attacks of illegal West Bank settlers on Palestinian farmers became a regular daily occurrence, the state of Israel tried to contain these excesses (the supreme court ordered the evacuation of some settlements) but, as many observers have noted, such measures are half-hearted, countered by the long-term politics of Israel, which violates the international treaties it has signed. The response of the illegal settlers to the Israeli authorities is “We are doing the same thing as you, just more openly, so what right do you have to condemn us?” And the state’s reply is basically “Be patient, and don’t rush too much. We are doing what you want, just in a more moderate and acceptable way.”

The same story has been repeated since 1949: Israel accepts the peace conditions proposed by the international community, counting on the fact that the peace plan will not work. The illegal settlers sometimes sound like Brunhilde from the last act of Wagner’s Walküre – reproaching Wotan and saying that, by counteracting his explicit order and protecting Siegmund, she was only realising Wotan’s own true desire, which he was forced to renounce under external pressure. In the same way the settlers know they are realising their own state’s true desire.

While condemning the violent excesses of “illegal” settlements, the state of Israel promotes new “legal” building on the West Bank, and continues to strangle the Palestinian economy. A look at the changing map of East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians are gradually encircled and their living area sliced, tells it all. The condemnation of anti-Palestinian violence not carried out by the state blurs the true problem of state violence; the condemnation of illegal settlements blurs the illegality of the legal ones.

Therein resides the two-facedness of the much-praised non-biased “honesty” of the Israeli supreme court: by occasionally passing judgment in favour of the dispossessed Palestinians, proclaiming their eviction illegal, it guarantees the legality of the remaining majority of cases.

Taking all this into account in no way implies sympathy for inexcusable terrorist acts. On the contrary, it provides the only ground from which one can condemn the terrorist attacks without hypocrisy.

a recent bbc report also addresses the issues that palestinians in 1948 palestine face with respect to their demolished homes and the restrictions they are faced with living in a state where only jews have rights. here is the first chunk of the report:

Sami Salameh has taken me to what used to be his home before the Israeli authorities flattened it.

Metal rods and slices of skirting board are all that’s left, among an expanse of sun-scorched wild grass.

He has brought along some photographs and kicks the earth as he shows them to me. The wiry 65-year-old man is angry and emotional.

“When the house collapsed so did my dreams,” he says.

He insists this plot of earth belonged to his family dating back to Ottoman times. But Israel has claimed it as state land. He is not allowed to build here now.

Mr Salameh’s new home is in the Arab town of Majdal Krum, in northern Israel. It’s illegally built, as is the whole neighbourhood.

His family of 14 lives in three rooms. The sewage system is poor.

Mr Salameh’s wife, Ashi, tells me the atmosphere in the house is listless and depressed.

He blames their birthright – living as Arabs in the Jewish state of Israel, he says.

“I lost everything when they demolished my house. If I had equal rights, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Jewish communities get building permits easily. They have electricity, water, sewage, street lights and parks. How come they live like that and we don’t?”

Just outside Mr Salameh’s home, a group of boys plays football in the street. Their identity, like his, is complex.

They are Israeli but also Arab. Their families stayed put in Israel after its war of independence 60 years ago.

Israel’s Basic Law says all its citizens are equal, but Israeli Arabs say some Israelis are more equal than others.

Neighbouring the town is the leafy, affluent, self-proclaimed Zionist village of Manof.

It is one of the growing predominantly Jewish communities encouraged in the north by Israeli governments since the late 1970s.

and the always brilliant jonathan cook’s recent article in electronic intifada addresses yet other cases of palestinian refugees’ land being sold out from under them because they have no rights, no access to their land:

Amin Muhammad Ali, a 74-year-old refugee from a destroyed Palestinian village in northern Israel, says he only feels truly at peace when he stands among his ancestors’ graves.

The cemetery, surrounded on all sides by Jewish homes and farms, is a small time capsule, transporting Muhammad Ali — known to everyone as Abu Arab — back to the days when this place was known by an Arabic name, Saffuriya, rather than its current Hebrew name, Tzipori.

Unlike most of the Palestinian refugees forced outside Israel’s borders by the 1948 war that led to the creation of the Jewish state, Abu Arab and his family fled nearby, to a neighborhood of Nazareth.

Refused the right to return to his childhood home, which was razed along with the rest of Saffuriya, he watched as the fields once owned by his parents were slowly taken over by Jewish immigrants, mostly from eastern Europe. Today only Saffuriya’s cemetery remains untouched.

Despite the loss of their village, the 4,500 refugees from Saffuriya and their descendants have clung to one hope: that the Jewish newcomers could not buy their land, only lease it temporarily from the state.

According to international law, Israel holds the property of more than four million Palestinian refugees in custodianship, until a final peace deal determines whether some or all of them will be allowed back to their 400-plus destroyed Palestinian villages or are compensated for their loss.

But last week, in a violation of international law and the refugees’ property rights that went unnoticed both inside Israel and abroad, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, forced through a revolutionary land reform.

The new law begins a process of creeping privatization of much of Israel’s developed land, including refugee property, said Oren Yiftachel, a geographer at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva.

Netanyahu and the bill’s supporters argue that the law will cut out a whole level of state bureaucracy, make land transactions simpler and more efficient and cut house prices.

In practice, it will mean that the 200 Jewish families of Tzipori will be able to buy their homes, including a new cluster of bungalows that is being completed on land next to the cemetery that belonged to Abu Arab’s parents.

The privatization of Tzipori’s refugee land will remove it from the control of an official known as the Custodian of Absentee Property, who is supposed to safeguard it for the refugees.

“Now the refugees will no longer have a single address — Israel — for our claims,” said Abu Arab. “We will have to make our case individually against many hundreds of thousands of private homeowners.”

He added: “Israel is like a thief who wants to hide his loot. Instead of putting the stolen goods in one box, he moves it to 700 different boxes so it cannot be found.”

Netanyahu was given a rough ride by Israeli legislators over the reform, though concern about the refugees’ rights was not among the reasons for their protests.

Last month, he had to pull the bill at the last minute as its defeat threatened to bring down the government. He forced it through on a second attempt last week but only after he had warned his coalition partners that they would be dismissed if they voted against it.

A broad coalition of opposition had formed to what was seen as a reversal of a central tenet of Zionism: that the territory Israel acquired in 1948 exists for the benefit not of Israelis but of Jews around the world.

In that spirit, Israel’s founders nationalized not only the refugees’ property but also vast swathes of land they confiscated from the remaining Palestinian minority who gained citizenship and now comprise a fifth of the population. By the 1970s, 93 percent of Israel’s territory was in the hands of the state.

The disquiet provoked by Netanyahu’s privatization came from a variety of sources: the religious right believes the law contravenes a Biblical injunction not to sell land promised by God; environmentalists are concerned that developers will tear apart the Israeli countryside; and Zionists publicly fear that oil-rich sheikhs from the Gulf will buy up the country.

Arguments from the Palestinian minority’s leaders against the reform, meanwhile, were ignored — until Hizballah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, added his voice at the weekend. In a statement, he warned that the law “validates and perpetuates the crime of land and property theft from the Palestinian refugees of the 1948 Nakba.”

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer from the Adalah legal center for Israel’s Palestinian minority, said the law had been carefully drafted to ensure that foreigners, including wealthy sheikhs, cannot buy land inside Israel.

“Only Israeli citizens and anyone who can come to Israel under the Law of Return — that is, any Jew — can buy the lands on offer, so no ‘foreigner’ will be eligible.”

Another provision in the law means that even internal refugees like Abu Arab, who has Israeli citizenship, will be prevented from buying back land that rightfully belongs to them, Bishara said.

“As is the case now in terms of leasing land,” she explained, “admissibility to buy land in rural communities like Tzipori will be determined by a selection committee whose job it will be to frustrate applications from Arab citizens.”

Supporters of the law have still had to allay the Jewish opposition’s concerns. Netanyahu has repeatedly claimed that only a tiny proportion of Israeli territory — about four percent — is up for privatization.

But, according to Yiftachel, who lobbied against the reform, that means about half of Israel’s developed land will be available for purchase over the next few years. And he suspects privatization will not stop there.

“Once this red line has been crossed, there is nothing to stop the government passing another law next year approving the privatization of the rest of the developed areas,” he said.

Bishara said among the first refugee properties that would be put on the market were those in Israel’s cities, such as Jaffa, Acre, Tiberias, Haifa and Lod, followed by homes in many of the destroyed villages like Saffuriya.

She said Adalah was already preparing an appeal to the high court on behalf of the refugees, and if unsuccessful would then take the matter to international courts.

Adalah has received inquiries from hundreds of Palestinian refugees from around the world asking what they can do to stop Israel selling their properties.

“Many of them expressed an interest in suing Israel,” she said.

and if you really want to see an inspiring and inspired creative representation of this struggle of palestinian refugees who continue to fight for the right of return watch this amazing rap music video (featuring two dear friends of mine in the spoken oral history portions) by invincible, suheill nafar of dam, and abeer called “people not places.” the lyrics are below after the video.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Prepare for take off
Touch down Ben-Gurion

This references Ben-Gurion International Airport, named after Israel’s first Prime Minister.
Strict search make sure nobody enters with bombs
Blue white flags
For the Birthright Tour I’m on

Birthright Israel is a program that grants any Jewish youth a free 10-day tour of Israel. These tours encourage participants to believe that they, as Jews, have an exclusive “birthright” to Palestine.

Learn more about Birthright Israel by watching the “Definitions” video.
Never mention three villages the airport is on

More than 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed during the creation of the state of Israel. See All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 by Walid Khalidi (Institute for Palestine Studies).
Recent history buried
But it speaks through the sand
All Jews: Law of Return

Israel’s Law of Return guarantees access to and citizenship in Israel to all Jews throughout the world–no matter whether they have ever been there, have family there, or whether they want this right. Palestinian refugees who were expelled during the creation of Israel are denied the right to return.

Learn more about the Law of Return by watching the “Definitions” interview video.
I don’t seem to understand
“A land without a people for people without a land”?

Zionist ideology promotes the idea that Palestine was “a land without a people for people without a land,” thereby denying the very existence of the indigenous Palestinian population, and masking the harm done by Jewish colonization.

Learn more by watching the “Definitions” interview video.
But I see a man standing with a key and a deed in his hand
First stop: museum of the Holocaust

Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust is located only a stones throw from the destroyed Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, site of one of the most notorious massacres of Palestinians in the 1948 war. Yad Vashem recently fired an instructor who compared the trauma of Jewish Holocaust survivors with the trauma experienced by the Palestinian people.
Walkin outside—in the distance—saw a ghost throwing a Molotov

Deir Yassin was a Palestinian village near Jerusalem. It was depopulated after a massacre of around 107 of its residents on April 9, 1948 by Zionist paramilitaries from the Irgun and Stern Gang. More info.
Houses burnt with kerosene
Mass graves
Couldn’t bear the scene
It wasn’t a pogrom—it was the ruins of Deir Yassin
Next stop: shopping at the Kenyon Malcha

The Kenyon Malcha is a shopping mall in Jerusalem whose name was stolen from the destroyed Palestinian village Al-Malha.
Built it on the back of the town Al-Malha

Watch a tour of the remains of Al-Malha, led by Zochrot, a group of Israeli citizens working to raise awareness of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948.
Wishing we could call it its name
Uphauled by the change
And now a mall full of chains
Is all that remains

This line is a reference to the book All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 by Walid Khalidi (Institute for Palestine Studies).

HOOK:
My Ima misses people not places
Has she seen the towns with names in Arabic the Hebrew replaces?
The policies are evil and racist, deceitful and heinous
You’l never be a peaceful state with legal displacement

[Abeer – translated from Arabic]
Remember the names of our cities before you came and replaced it
Remember and tell me how am I supposed not to miss a nation living within us?

This line is inspired by a famous Palestinian saying, “Most people live in a nation, we have a nation living within us.”

At the Wailing Wall I’m rollin a wish
Then stick it in between the hole in the bricks
I’m feelin more than melancholy
This used to be the Moroccan quarter

On the evening of 10 June 1967, several hundred residents of the Moroccan Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem were given two hours notice to vacate their homes. Those who refused the orders were forcefully evicted from their places of residence, as bulldozers and floodlights were mobilized to raze the area. So suddenly came this dictate that one woman from the quarter who did not hear the calls to vacate was buried alive beneath the rubble that evening. Her body was found the next morning under the ruins of her home.

To learn more, see “The Moroccan Quarter: A History of the Present” by Thomas Abowd (Jerusalem Quarterly issue 7).
Until we stopped em short and
Now their grandkids is the ones that’s throwing rocks at borders
I aint one to play and I don’t pray often
So I’m AWOL’n

Invincible applied to refuse her Israeli military service in 2004. The process for her was rather simple because she was living in the U.S. But most refusers in Israel face jail time or worse. More info.
While you making native sons
Feel like a stranger in they own land like James Baldwin
This aint about a Qur’an or a synagogue or Mosque or Torah
The colonizer break it into acres and dunums

One of the early strategies of Zionist colonization was to buy up Palestinian land and displace the current residents. Most of this land was purchased from non-Palestinian absentee landlords.

The word “dunums” used in the song refers to a unit of land measurement used in Palestine.
Erasing the culture
Changed Haifa to Chaifa
Changed Yaffa to Yaffo

Zionists have not only stolen Palestinian land, but have appropriated and Hebrewized the Arab names of these cities and villages
The old city left to haunt
Hummus pronounced chumoos, we ate in a restaurant

This refers to the Hebrew pronunciation of Hummus, the tasty mashed chickpea dip. As stated by Israeli food critic Gil Hovav to the BBC, “Humous is Arabic. Falafel, our national dish, our national Israeli dish, is completely Arabic and this salad that we call an Israeli Salad, actually it’s an Arab salad, Palestinian salad. So, we sort of robbed them of everything.”
Next hit the discotheque
Yes we on the list of guests
Palestinians cant get in
Its blatant disrespect
Cops stop em for speakin they language
Its dangerous
To repeat it when
With history we disconnect

[Suhell Nafar (DAM) – translated from Arabic]
My life is like a flight from an Israeli airport
It means that you’ll never see me with pink

At Ben-Gurion Airport, pink stickers represent low security.
And I know that I’m 1 but they say that I’m 5

At Ben-Gurion Airport, 1 represents low security and 5 represents high security
They’re dying to talk talk to me
So the security wait in the entrance
Suddenly the whole airport flew and it became Tel Aviv airport
Even though its in Lydd

Ben-Gurion International Airport is promoted as being located in Tel Aviv, but is actually in Lydd
Dig the land of Lydd and you’ll see resistance
Go to the houses you’ll see hopelessness
The streets are called Tzahal and Hertzl

Tzahal is the Hebrew acronym for the Israeli Defense Forces. Hertzl is the founder of Zionist political ideology.
Not Salahadin

Salahadin led Islamic opposition to European crusaders in 12th century. More info.
Khen el Helu

Khen el Helu is the name of an ancient ruins site in Lydd. This line is a double entendre because “helu” is the Arabic word for “sweet.”
Became sour
A place for junkies and addicts
The carpets of the Dahamash Mosque
Is covering the wound that is still bleeding

Israeli fighters massacred Palestinians in 1948 in the Dahamash Mosque in Lydd. There are still blood stains on the floor.
Yehud Lod

Yehud Lod is a Jewish Settlement being built in the middle of Lydd in order to ensure a large Jewish population in that city.
Another project that drives you crazy
And its not the first and its not the last
We’re an ocean and the Zionist project is a ship
We’re rowing with the right and the left wing straight to the waterfall
When they fall the Holy Land will stop being a hell land

HOOK

200 year old olive trees
Uprooted the groves
To build a wall
Now their future enclosed
Settlements spreading like cancer and toxic sewage polluted the roads

In the Palestinian village of Artas, located southeast of Bethlehem, for example, the Israeli military has uprooted apricot and walnut trees in order to build a sewage channel that will pipe in raw sewage collected from four nearby Israeli settlements. More info.
Now full of checkpoints
I superimpose the truth and it shows
Village ruins overgrown with planted trees
Who’d have thought the “desert blooms” and Tu Bishvat

Israel celebrates that it has “made the desert bloom.” But forest-planting has played a role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Forests in the Negev Desert have been planted to restrict Bedouin herding. Palestinians’ olive trees, an important source of fruit and oil, have been cut down and replaced by pine and cypress trees.

After the 1948 war, forests were planted on the sites of abandoned Arab villages whose inhabitants left or were expelled from their homes. These forests, planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), erase the traces of the Arab presence prior to 1948 and cover up the demolition of Arab villages. In 2008, in response to pressure by the Israeli Nakba commemoration organization Zochrot, the JNF announced that historical information plaques erected in JNF parks and forests will cite the names of the Arab villages formerly located there.

“Tu Bishvat,” referenced in the song, is the Jewish Holiday considered “New Year of the Trees.” In Israel, this holiday is used as a time for mass tree plantings. Invincible was born close to the time of this holiday and was given the birth name Ilana, which translates as “Tree.” More info.
I cant believe
This aint environmental
Disguising lies, extincting lives like manatees
Callin it a transfer? Please—
More like a catastrophe!
Birthright tours recruiting em, confuse em into moving in
Claim its only names and words but denying the root of them
Power been abusing it
Our past never excusing them
60 years since 48 and 40 since Jerusalem
My boy Shadi wanted to visit it so badly
He lied he’s diabetic to see it for five seconds

A friend of Invincible’s, who lives in Deheisheh Refugee Camp, told her that although he is only a 10 minute drive from Jerusalem (Al Quds in Arabic), he has only ever visited the city for a few hours. To do this he had to use a faked medical emergency card for diabetes to be allowed to cross the Israeli military checkpoint.
One Nine Four ruled the courts in the case

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 asserts the right of refugees to return to their homes:

“Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.” More info.
Mom, you can’t disconnect a people from the importance of place

HOOK

مخيم العودة

i spent last week at summer camp. my dear friend at ibdaa cultural center in deheishe refugee camp has been organizing and planning for this all year. we’ve done these trips before when we take children under age 16, who do not yet have their identity cards, to their original villages in 1948 palestine. we spent the previous couple of weeks mapping the villages so as to have an idea where they were. deheishe refugee camp is unusual in that it has more villages represented in it than any other camp. there are over 46 villages represented in the camp today, although at one time it was 52. the villages are spread out, too, all the way from gaza to haifa (with respect to original palestinian districts and borders). we had 37 youth join the summer camp, broken down into three groups, and we spent the week with them touring their villages and conducting workshops on life before an nakba, the right of return, and how to use rap music as a form of resistance. each night before we closed down we had a huge reflection circle where the kids would share their thoughts about visiting their own villages and those of their friends. and, of course, it wouldn’t be a summer camp without kids running through the hallways playing soccer and drumming on the tabla into all hours of the night. it reminded me of abu mujahed’s summer camp i attended in lebanon for the kids from shatila refugee camp who were so happy to have a wide open space in which to play and exist in ba’albek a couple of years ago.

when we took kids to their villages before it was just one day and we had a small group on one bus. we didn’t hit nearly as many villages and it was just a one-time experience. this project is the beginning of a year-long project that will now begin the process of collecting oral history from the kids’ families as well as teaching them about their right of return. the hope is to help the youth feel connected to their history and to various forms of resistance that will facilitate the right of return. there is a fear that this generation is more attached to their refugee camp than to their villages and this project is one way of intervening in that. and i have hope that this will work. the week before camp friends of mine who had kids coming with us told us stories of how they came home excited from our meetings asking all sorts of questions, doing research on the internet about their villages, reading, and learning about where they come from. one friend of mine from zakariya told me that his son talked to his grandmother about their village and that he learned things from his mother he had not known before either. so it became a family enterprise, one that i hope and expect will continue throughout the year and then some. i had my own group in the camp that i took around in a car to cut down on costs. we went to the villages furthest away from the church that hosted us in 1948 palestine for the week. below is a series of photographs that i took in the villages and some brief reflections and context on the villages.

day one

we got a late start on our first day, partially because not only did i drive my own car, but i was also responsible for smuggling older youth and friends organizing the camp out of deheishe. i made several trips and we were all elated when we managed to get everyone out (in zionist terrorist colonist terms we were “infiltrators”). we also had a bit of a delay with the baker making manaqeesh for our lunch. after we finally got everyone into 1948 palestine we broke down into our groups and went to the villages. we used walid khalidi’s book all that remains and palestine remembered as our guides, as well as salman abu sitta’s the return journey: a guide to depopulated and present palestinian towns and villages and holy sites. these are great resources historically speaking, and each child received a folder with materials including copies of the related pages to their village. however, these are not great resources–except for abu sitta’s book–with respect to finding the remnants of the village which can be an enormous task. oftentimes you have to use these resources to find the zionist terrorist colony built on top of the ruins of the palestinian village, though this doesn’t work so well when the zionist terrorist colonists planted a forest over the village (with the help of americans, canadians, and the british). with that in mind we purchased gps systems for each group to mark the villages and the things we found in them. i am going to upload that information into google earth later this week or next week so we can begin to map palestinian villages on the map and aid other people wanting to find their villages.

our first village was قسطينة (qastina), which is in gaza. there is not much left of the village today. khalidi’s book, which was originally published in the early 1990s, shows an image of some rubble of former houses, but we were unable to find any. instead we found a number of zionist terrorist colonies on the land and a number of olive trees and cacti, though the olive trees were relatively new. in a number of villages last week i was awestruck by the ways in which the zionist terrorist colonists destroyed plants and trees only to replant them again later with the assistance of diaspora zionists. qastina used to have wheat, barley, sesame, beehives, and vineyards, but we found none of this. the depopulation of qastina is described by khalidi:

Qastina was occupied around 9 July 1948, shortly after teh end of the first truce, by the Giv’ati Brigade, when it advanced southwards into Egyptian-controlled territory. During the ten-day period between the two truces (8-18 July), the Brigade succeeded in seizing an area comprising at least sixteen villages, all of whose inhabitants were displaced. The residents of Qastina, like those of nearby al-Masmiyya, were probably driven south towards Gaza, rather than east to the Hebron area. Operational orders issued by Brigade commander Shim’on Avidan had called for civilians to be expelled; however, the inhabitants of this area fled almost as soon as the operation began, according to a later Israeli army report. The village had earlier been mentioned in Plan Dalet as one of the villages to be occupied by the Giv’ati Brigade. (131)

qastina, palestine
qastina, palestine
stones of qastina, palestine
stones of qastina, palestine

our second village was تل الترمس (tall al-tarmus), which is essentially across the street from qastina and suffered the same fate. we found a zionist terrorist colonist university as we entered the settlement and then a vast agricultural space which was filled with grapes and plums for the zionists’ agribusiness. we saw trucks of asian migrant workers, who have, in recent years, replaced the palestinian workers who have for the last few decades farmed their own land stolen by the zionists for just a few shekels a day. the vineyards and orchards were also new trees here, too. but we spent time here–as in all the villages–picking fruit, collecting stones and soil, to take home to older family members who are not allowed to visit their villages. khalidi on tall al-tarmus’ depopulation:

As the first truce of the war was winding down, Israeli forces on the southern front were planning a major push south of al-Ramla towards the Negev, which they called Operation An-Far (see Bil’in, Gaza District). Tall al-Tarmus probably fell early in this operation, around 9-10 July 1948, to the First Battalion of the Giv’ati Brigade. During this operation the villagers of Tall al-Tarmous may have been among a minority who were driven over an Israeli-held strip towards Gaza, rather than eastwards towards Hebron. (138)

zionist terrorist colonist university on the land of tell al-tarmus, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist university on the land of tell al-tarmus, palestine
asian migrant workers picking grapes in occupied tall al-tarmous, palestine
asian migrant workers picking grapes in occupied tall al-tarmous, palestine

the final village for our first day was قطرة (qatra). khalidi says that there was a school that remained and a few deserted houses, but the area that likely had those buildings before seems to no longer be there. we saw an area that we believed held such places before, but the ground was blackened and there were only piles of stones and tiles of palestinian flooring around it, and, of course, lots of cacti. on this first day i had younger kids with me and it seemed to me that they had a very distorted sense of space as a result of growing up in the refugee camp. their sense of area and space is compact and crowded. when i drove around to give the kids an idea of the vast area each of their villages covered they had a hard time conceptualizing it. in qatra there was a hill we climbed up where we could see a view of the land belonging to qatra and the girl from this village found it almost impossible to imagine that such a large area belonged to her village as did the other kids with respect to their villages. here is the story of qatra’s ethnic cleansing from khalidi:

The earliest report of Haganah military activity at Qatra was on 13 March 1948, when the Palestinian newspaper Filastin reported a shooting incident involving Arab fruit-pickers working in an orchard that left five workers wounded. A month later, a New York Times story indicated that Haganah squads moved into the police fortress at Qatra on 17 April, after its evacuation by the British.

Israeli historian Benny Morris states that unites of the Giv’ati Brigade surrounded the village on 6 May and demanded that the villagers hand over all their weapons. After that, Morris reports the following sequence of events: several dozen armed men tried to break out of the village but were stopped by the Haganah. The villagers handed over several rifles to the Giv’ati Brigade troops, who nevertheless proceeded to move into the village. After that, the soldiers began looting the village and one of them was shot dead by a villager. The Haganah arrested several villagers, and according to Morris, “within a few days, either intimidated the rest of the villagers into leaving or ordered them to leave.” The official Haganah account agrees that Qatra was occupied around this time, but cites the Alexandroni Brigade (probably erroneously) as the occupying force). (404)

zionist terrorist colony of qidron on the land of qatra, palestine
zionist terrorist colony of qidron on the land of qatra, palestine
playground for zionist terrorist colonist children in occupied qatra, palestine
playground for zionist terrorist colonist children in occupied qatra, palestine

day two

day two of camp was a bit of a deviation from visiting villages. we spent the morning in القدس (al quds) and the afternoon in يافا (yaffa). ideally we wanted to do this on the final day of camp, but we needed to take such a trip when we wouldn’t be confronted by lots of zionist terrorist colonists in the old city or at the beach and so we had to do it on the second day. anyone who has ever been to al quds can attest to the fact that keeping 37 youth together in the old city is quite a challenge. next year i want to buy them all neon orange shirts so we can keep track of them. the most difficult part was going to al aqsa because my friend who is a refugee, but who lives in the old city, guided us around and he didn’t know the kids. none of the other adults could go with him inside the mosque because our leaders from the camp were there illegally and zionist terrorist colonists have checkpoints surrounding the mosque and one cannot get in without passing through it with your id card. and our international volunteers could not get in because it happened to be prayer time. but i managed to get in, which is good because my friend needed help keeping the kids together, which was a challenge with only two adults (and this even though not all the kids wanted to go in for some odd reason).

the kids and leaders who waited outside the mosque for us stumbled upon the african community society which had its own summer camp in progress. they were singing and drumming and when we came out of the mosque we joined them. their website seems to be down for the moment, but here is what their brochure says about their work:

The African Community Society, AFS, is a Palestinian non-governmental non-profit society founded by the Afro-Palestinian community in Jerusalem in 1983. It is an offshoot of the Sudanese Welfare Club which was active between 1935-1967, the year when Israel occupied Jerusalem. It is also a revival of the African Youth Club, established in 1978 but forced to close in the mid-eighties due to financial difficulties.

african community society, old city, al quds, palestine
african community society, old city, al quds, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist private security in the old city, al quds, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist private security in the old city, al quds, palestine

just as my friend took us around al quds and gave the kids some historical context so too did another friend take us around yaffa, though this historical portion was a bit shorter as one of the reason for the trip was also to let the kids enjoy the beach for the day since they are forbidden from swimming in their own sea. the man who took us around is someone who i was put in touch with a couple of years ago. he is a history teacher and he knows a lot about refugees from yaffa and also about where various families’ homes are or were. he talked to us about the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the area, which was visible to us, particularly along the beach, as the zionist terrorist colonists were making way for a beach park. he told us that since 2007 497 palestinian families have had their homes demolished in yaffa. a report on this was released by the arab association for human rights in 1948 palestine detailing this practice and which reads in part:

“The war that began in 1948 to purge Jaffa of its Arab residents has never ended and continues to this day. In 1948 it was waged by force, and today they use legal and economic means. The state claims that these are the rules of the market, in full knowledge that they will work against the Arab population.” — Attorney Hisham Shabaita, a social activist and Jaffa resident

On 19 March 2007, Amidar Israel National Housing Company (Amidar) published a document entitled “A Review of the Stock of Squatted Properties in Jaffa — Interior Committee, Israel Knesset.” The document reviewed properties managed by the company in the Jaffa-Tel Aviv area. Section 5 noted that “the project includes a total of 497 squatters, constituting 16.8 percent of the total properties managed by Amidar.”

Section 5 of the document relates, in fact, to 497 orders received over the past 18 months by Palestinian families living in the Ajami and Jabaliya neighborhoods in Jaffa to vacate their homes or businesses. These homes are owned by the state and managed by Amidar in its name. The grounds for eviction range from “squatting” in the property to “building additions” to properties undertaken by the Palestinian tenants of these properties without approval from Amidar and without obtaining a permit from the planning and building authorities.

By law, eviction is permitted in such circumstances. Accordingly, the eviction orders may ostensibly seem to be a legitimate and lawful move by Amidar in response to legal violations by the tenants. Israeli law empowers a landlord letting his property to another — a status that applies to the relationship between the Palestinian tenants and Amidar — to demand the eviction of a tenant who has violated the law or the rental contract with the landlord. Squatting or building additions to the property without the approval of the landlord or the planning authorities are considered violations justifying the eviction of the tenant.

According to the Palestinian residents, however, the issuing of these orders actually reflects a desire to evict them from the neighborhood, which in recent years has become a magnet for wealthy Jewish buyers. They believe that the issuing of the eviction orders cannot be divorced from a process terms the “development of Jaffa” by the Tel Aviv Municipality. This process, which is currently at its peak, actually amounts to a plan to “judaize” Jaffa, i.e. to attract as many Jewish residents as possible to the area, which is currently perceived by the Jewish public as an “Arab” city — despite the fact that, in statistical terms, this is inaccurate.

as we walked from the city to the beach we walked along a rocky shore. but the rocks seemed to want to tell a story. if you look at my photograph below you will see an image of these rocks. many of them are little bits that have been molded together to form a larger rock. but those pieces making up that rock look like pieces from the rubble of people’s houses. too, we found a number of pieces of the famous palestinian painted tile floors among the rocks, which have been softened by the salt water. you can see one of them in the photograph below too–it is on the left and in shades of purple. but while i was contemplating this and listening to our guide share stories about what life is like when you try to teach palestinian history to youth in 1948 palestine, the kids were enjoying themselves swimming, playing in the sand, and running around on the beach. the day gave the kids an opportunity to be normal kids who can run around freely outside, something sorely missing in their lives and yet another reason to fight for the right of return. for whether these kids choose to live in their villages or not they have the right to go to the beach when they want or move freely throughout their country without risking jail for doing so.

after the evening’s reflections i made another trip to deheishe to do another smuggling run. this time a friend and her two small children. i did not get back to the church until 3 am for a number of reasons, but suffice it to say we managed to get yet another crew out.

wanna-be zionist terrorist colonists from the u.s. in occupied yaffa, palestine
wanna-be zionist terrorist colonists from the u.s. in occupied yaffa, palestine
destruction of palestinian homes in occupied yaffa, palestine
destruction of palestinian homes in occupied yaffa, palestine
destroying palestinian land for a beach park in occupied yaffa, palestine
destroying palestinian land for a beach park in occupied yaffa, palestine
if rocks could tell stories...notice the stone that used to be a tile in a palestinian home, yaffa beach, palestine
if rocks could tell stories…notice the stone that used to be a tile in a palestinian home, yaffa beach, palestine

day three

i slept in a bit on day three since i returned so late, but the friend who i brought back did not have that luxury as she had to do a workshop that morning on life before an nakba. she’s a drama teacher and did several interactive activities with the kids including getting them to act out life before an nakba and resistance to the zionist take over of their land. it was great as all the kids were highly engaged and had a great time drawing and acting. at the end they all wrote letters to their children and grandchildren about this history.

drawing from the life in palestine before an nakba workshop
drawing from the life in palestine before an nakba workshop
former palestinian school in occupied zakariya, palestine
former palestinian school in occupied zakariya, palestine
ruins of the palestinian village of beit jibrin
ruins of the palestinian village of beit jibrin

after the morning workshop i headed with my group back towards gaza. we drove past zakariya and beit jibrin on the way (see above photos), which is good as it gave the kids an idea of what villages look like when there are obvious structures from the road that show you it is a palestinian vilage. the first village was الفالوجة (falluja). when we did a test run of this village we had a difficult time figuring out where to look for remnants of it given that a huge zionist terrorist colonist army base occupies a huge chunk of the land today. but there was also a forest which i figured logically would have something from the village in it. but forests are difficult to navigate when looking for ruins. as we drove through we saw a tent in the distance. the kids thought it was a bunch of settlers camping, but as we drove closer we realized it was more of a permanent tent. and as luck would have it, we found it inhabited by a bedouin man from naqab. he got into the car with us and took us to the ruins of the mosque and a sheikh’s tomb next to it, which is a bit hard to make out. khalidi has quite a bit on the operation aimed at cleansing the village of its palestinian inhabitants, but here is a particularly revealing part of it:

Foreign Minister Moshe Sharrett personally reprimanded the Israeli army’s chief of staff for acts committed by the Israeli soldiers against the population. Sharrett said that in addition to overt violence, the Israeli army was busy conducting

a “whispering propaganda” campaign among the Arabs, threatening them with attacks and acts of vengeance by the army, which the civilian authorities will be powerless to prevent. There is no doubt that there is a calculated action aimed at increasing the number of those going to the Hebron Hills as if of their own free will, and if possible, to bring about the evacuation of the whole civilian population of [the pocket].

Israeli historian Benny Morris writes that the decision to cause the exodus of the “Faluja pocket” population was probably approved by the Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion. Subsequently Israeli officials feigned outrage at what had happened and misled the international community about Israeli actions. The director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Walter Eytan, told U.S. Ambassador James McDonald that Israel had broadcast “repeated reassuring notices” to the inhabitants to stay put; however, they acted “as if they smelled a rat” and abandoned their homes. (97)

entrance to the former palestinian village of falluja
entrance to the former palestinian village of falluja
ruins of a palestinian mosque in falluja
ruins of a palestinian mosque in falluja

after falluja we drove west towards المجدل (al majdal), a major palestinian city. one of the young little boys (i had young kids again this day) is from this city. the kids in this group were kind of quiet, likely because they were enough exhausted at this point that they slept in between villages and cities in the car. we arrived in al majdal and it was as overwhelming as a forest. this city of buildings, as opposed to the trees of villages like beit itab (below) made it extremely difficult to find anything. but i knew from ilan pappe’s the ethnic cleansing of palestine that at least a palestinian mosque still existed and it was now a bar/restaurant. we drove around for about 30-40 minutes searching for it. we were in and out of suburbs where we saw children the same age skateboarding carefree in the streets on this city’s stolen land. we saw children playing in the water on the beach while the little boy i had with me looked on in anger. this sweet little boy (who is the best tabla player i’ve ever heard) did not say one word while we drove through his city. the only sound i heard from him was that of a stone against a wall once we finally found the old city.

but i needed help finding the old city so i broke down and went into an american hotel in occupied majdal. the holiday inn there (coincidentally owned and operated by lev leviev’s africa-israel corporation that traffics in blood diamonds and is famous for building illegal settlements) happened to have a map of “ashkelon” on which there was an icon of the mosque in the city’s “art district” (zionist terrorist colonists like to make stolen palestinian buildings into artistic spaces, which i find a bit odd given that they are all about destruction and art is supposed to be about creation). it only took us a few minutes at that point to drive to theodor herzl street where the mosque is located (actually it’s at the intersection of theodor herzl and anne frank streets). there was not only a mosque (turned into a restaurant/bar as well as a museum of “ashkelon’s history”) but also a number of palestinian homes in varying states of destruction and decay. although the buildings in al majdal have not completely erased palestinian traces in this city, the map’s idea of a historical narrative has. here is how they mythologize the history of al majdal:

The old and the new meet in Ashkelon, one of the oldest cities in the world. For 4,000 years it played an important role in the ancient history of the East. Due to its location on the “Sea road” which runs along the coast from Egypt to Syria, the city’s history is filled with construction alternating with destruction as foreign conquests succeeded one another. The first mention of Ashkelon is in Egyptian writings from the 19th Century B.C.E. At the end of 13th Century B.C.E. it was conquered by the Philistines who arrived from the islands, and was considered one of their five principle cities. After the Israelites returned from Egypt, Ashkelon was to go to the tribe of Dan, but the Israelites were unable to conquer it from the Philistines…. In 734 B.C.E. Ashkelon surrendered to Assyrian rule, and during the Hellenistic period was an important center for Greek culture. Jews lived in Ashkelon during the Roman and Byzantine periods as well as during the period of Arab conquest. The community was annihilated in 1153 following the crusader conquest of the city. Ashkelon fell to Saladin in 1187 and was finally destroyed by Sultan Baibars in 1270, after which it was not reconstructed. The history of modern Ashkelon begins with the liberation of the town of Majdal by the Israel Defence Forces during the War of Independence.

notice how they fail to mention the foreign conquest that is the zionist entity. notice how they say the “israelites returned.” they really give irony a new meaning when they concoct their sense of history–they invert everything and the so-called “Arab conquest” is a case in point. their complete erasure between 1270 and 1948 is a glaring example as well. al majdal is not in khalidi’s book as he only covers 410 destroyed palestinian villages and there were 531. but there is a bit on the city’s history in marim shahin and george azar’s palestine: a guide. here is how their tourist book explains the more recent history of al majdal:

Majdal was founded in the 14th century during the rule of Baibars, who put an end to the wars over Askalan by destroying it and starting fresh with this inland city. Majdal served as a substitute for the people of Askalan. It was famous for producing cloth and clothing: its advanced weaving industry served much of southern Palestine, including Gaza and the Negev.

About 75 years ago Majdal was described as a “thriving town of some 8,000 souls, pleasantly surrounded by orchards and a well-stocked bazaar with several small factories, which wove cotton materials.” Today the city center is called “downtown” and the main attraction of Arab Majdal, the area around the mosque, has been turned into a flea market. The mosque itself has been turned into a museum, in which a few archeological finds from the city are housed. An interesting selection of photographs from the 1930s and early 1940s shows life in Arab Majdal, which was clearly different from what it is today.

Majdal had 11,000 homes when it was bombed by the Israelis in July 1948. By the time the military campaign was over, only 1,500 people were left in the city. They were herded into three city districts and by 1951 they had been evicted through a series of military and administrative security measures. Most of the refugees and their descendants live in the Gaza Strip refugee camps to this day. Majdal itself is a quarter in the Israeli city of Ashqelon. (405-406)

obviously, some of the refugees are in deheishe. and my little friend comes from one of those families. it was hard to get a sense of what he was thinking and feeling. but i learned that night that the previous day, while enjoying himself on the beach in yaffa, he was asked how he felt about being in yaffa. he was happy and expressed how much he enjoyed being there. and then he was asked if he would like to live in yaffa. and he was adamant: no. he wants to live in majdal. even at that point he had never seen majdal, but he knew in his soul that this is the place for him. and, of course, this is his right. his right of return. but watching him, in particular, out of the kids i was with reminded me of the various psychological ups and downs of this particular camp–from the joy of playing and being free on the beach or at the church to the realization of your own history and the struggle for your rights. this experience makes all of this tangible, but also possibly traumatizing. fortunately we have a great team of mental health workers at ibdaa who can help us deal with follow up issues to try to channel whatever trauma may come up into productive energy of the ongoing work we want to do.

palestinian mosaic floor in occupied al majdal, palestine
palestinian mosaic floor in occupied al majdal, palestine
theodor herzl street with palestinian mosque in background in occupied al majdal
theodor herzl street with palestinian mosque in background in occupied al majdal
destroyed palestinian home, al majdal
destroyed palestinian home, al majdal
palestinian mosque in al majdal used as restaurant/bar and museum
palestinian mosque in al majdal used as restaurant/bar and museum
zionist terrorist colonist museum in a palestinian mosque in al majdal
zionist terrorist colonist museum in a palestinian mosque in al majdal
destroyed palestinian home in al majdal
destroyed palestinian home in al majdal

day four

since we did not have time to cover all the villages prior to camp, a group of us woke up extra early this fourth day of camp to check out more precise locations and input them into the gps system. we spent two hours driving around to discover where عرتوف (artuf), عسلين (islin), إشوع (ishwa), صرعة (sara’a), بيت محسير (beit mahsir) might be located today. of course we had not counted on the fact that some of these villages had settlements on them which were occupied by zionist terrorist colonists who were also religious jews. as we drove around the colonies looking for traces of palestinian life not destroyed, we were chased out of beit mahsir, for example, because jews don’t drive on saturdays if they are religious. given that these are gated settlements with security, much like colonies in the west bank, we drove quickly out of the settlement because we had one palestinian with us who we had smuggled into 1948 palestine.

we returned back just in time to leave for the day’s trips. i had only made it to two villages the prior day because it took so much time to drive and then to look for the mosque in majdal. i felt so bad that the little boy from khulda did not get to see his village that day so i promised him i would take him first and i did just that.

خُلدة (khulda) is in the north in the ramla district and today is the hulda forest run by the jewish national fund. there are two palestinian houses on the land, one of which is used as a “herzl house” museum of sorts. it was closed so we could not see what was inside. when we arrived we were greeted with more myth making on the part of the zionist terrorist colonists who have stolen this land. there are also a settlement on the village land. here are some of the lies that the brochure by the jnf says about the site:

Following Herzl’s death in 1904 KKL-JNF initiated an Olive Tree Fund to raise monies for the purchase of land and the planting of olive trees. The lands of Hulda were placed at KKL-JNF’s disposal for the planting of groves in Herzl’s memory.

In 1909, an olive plantation was established at the site and a large residence built and named for Herzl…. During World War I, however, most of the workers fled or were evicted and farming died down. Those that stayed on faced both a severe water shortage and a locust plague that wreaked havoc on the plantation. After the war, groups of pioneers settled at Hulda, bringing with them the idea of forest cover for a barren land: “We’ll afforest, revive and settle the hills.”

…In the summer of 5689 (1929) bloody riots swept through the country, including the isolated farm. On the night of 28 of Av (3 September), Hulda’s residents came under heavy attack from local Arabs. Efrayim Chizhik, who had arrived at the site to help defend it, fell in battle. His sacrifice and dedication, like that of his sister, Sarah, were typical of the handful of pioneers who made possible the settlement enterprise in Eretz Israel.

Sarah Chizhik fell in the defense of Tel Hai in northern Israel–a battle that came to symbolize the stand of a few against many. Efrayim reached Hulda with former Shomer (Guard) Yaacov Abramson to find 16 young men, two women and two children there, and were later joined by some 20 members of the pre-state Jewish Haganah defense organization who set about fortifying the place.

But they could not withstand the thousands of rioters from nearby villages who attacked Hulda, surrounding the courtyard and setting fire to the large granary. As the defenders crawled back to Herzl House, Chizhik, who led the retreat, suffered a mortal wound. The farmhouse ws now under siege and, during the night, a contingent of British soldiers arrived and demanded that the Hulda occupants evacuate. There was no other choice. The farm was destroyed and the forest went up in flame. Once more, the farm was deserted and lay in ruins, this time for two years.

just like herzl is where zionism all began, so too the “forest” that bears his name on the land of what was once khulda. this above fabricated history, not unlike the one about al majdal, completely erases palestinians who had lived on the land of khulda for centuries. in contradistinction, here is what khalidi says about life before 1948 and the depopulation of the village:

The village was situated on a flat hilltop and overlooked wide areas on all four sides. Khulda lay close to a highway that connected Gaza with the al-Ramla-Jerusalem highway, and was linked by a network of secondary roads to al-Ramla and a number of major highways. It is identified with a locality that the Crusaders called Huldre. In 1596, Khulda was a village in the nahiya of Ramla (liwa‘ of Gaza) with a population of sixty-six. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat and barley, as well as on other types of produce, such as goats and beehives. [Edward] Robinson passed by the village in 1838; he described it as “large.” In the late nineteenth century, Khulda was described as a large village built of stone and mud and situated on the side of a hill. The village had a masonry well to the west. All of the people of Khulda were Muslims and maintained their own mosque. They drew water for domestic use from two wells, northeast of the village. They worked primarily in animal husbandry and rainfed agriculture, growing grain and small amounts of vegetables. In 1944/45 a total of 8,994 dunums was allotted to cereals; 9 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards.

On 6 April 1948, at the start of Operation Nachshon (see Bayt Naqquba, Jerusalem District), a Haganah battalion occupied Khulda along with neighboring Dayr Muhaysin. Khulda was systematically levelled with bulldozers on 20 April, two weeks after its capture. The History of the Haganah says only that the village was taken “without fighting.” Battles continued to rage around the village in later weeks, however, especiall yin the last week of May when an engagement around al-Latrun spread to the Khulda area, becoming what the press called “the biggest single clash of the war to date.” (389)

notice that even the reference to the haganah version of events doesn’t jive with the zionist jnf mythologizing. in any case, like many other villages we did not find too many old palestinian trees, but the kids found plenty of fruit to pack into bags to take home. this village was a bit tricky at first as when we arrived there were zionist terrorist soldiers in between the two palestinian houses. at first i wasn’t sure what was going on, but then i saw they were on a stage and they must have been acting, though that doesn’t mean they are not also soldiers since every zionist colonist is a terrorist in their terrorist forces for life. but they didn’t disturb us and we were able to look around the palestinian houses a bit.

theodor herzl house/national park (otherwise known as the palestinian village of khulda)
theodor herzl house/national park (otherwise known as the palestinian village of khulda)
zionist terrorist colonists invent a "history" to cover up their crimes in khulda, palestine
zionist terrorist colonists invent a \”history\” to cover up their crimes in khulda, palestine
palestinian house occupied by a theodor herzl museum in kulda, palestine
palestinian house occupied by a theodor herzl museum in kulda, palestine
palestinian file floor in the "herzl house" in occupied kulda
palestinian file floor in the \”herzl house\” in occupied kulda
zionist terrorist soldiers in occupied khulda, apparently acting
zionist terrorist soldiers in occupied khulda, apparently acting

the next village, also in the ramla district, صرفند العمار (sarafand al amar) i knew would be a bit more tricky. we had tested out this village previously, but after talking to some palestinians in ramla we learned that all was to be found there was one of the zionist terrorist regime’s largest military bases and a hospital. however, khalidi promises there are around six houses. we found at least one of them, or at least that is what he girl from the village believes. i just didn’t see the palestinian architectural style in the building so i’m not sure. but whatever we found it was on her land and it was fenced off as old palestinian homes often are. there were also a number of orange trees and other fruit trees that the kids collected fruit from. and let’s not forget the ford motor company and the mcdonald’s on her land with respect to the boycott campaign.

the story of the ethnic cleansing of sarafand al-amar is told by khalidi as follows:

On the morning of 2 January 1948, Arab workers at the large British army camp in Sarafand discovered twelve timed charges set to explode at noon, a time when they would have been lined up to collect their weekly wages. The Palestinian newspaper Filastin noted that none of the Jewish workers in the camp had reported to work that day, implying that they had been warned by Zionist groups responsible for the attack.

A party of Haganah sappers carried out a raid on Sarafand on 15 April 1948. The attackers penetrated “deep in Arab territory,” according to a New York Times report, and demolished a three-storey building. The British authorities stated that 16 people were killed and 12 wounded int he ruins of the building. A statement by the attackers charged that the building was used by militia forces led by Shaykh Hasan Salama, the Palestinian guerrilla commander of the Jaffa district, and that 39 people were killed in the raid.

As the British army evacuated Palestine in mid-May, it allowed Arab forces to take over the army camp, which covered about 500 acres. Israeli foreign minister Moshe Shertok (Sharett) was quoted by the New York Times as saying that Jewish institutions had purchased the camp, but that is was handed over to the Arabs nevertheless. According to the History of the War of Independence, the army outpost was handed over to Arab forces on 14 May. The “small, semi-regular” Arab unit positioned there was driven out five days later by a two-pronged attack from the southeast and north; the Arab unit’s defensive formation had been prepared only for an attack from the adjacent settlement of Rishon le-Tziyyon (to the west). The account adds that “the outpost fell into our hands without any casualties.” The Associated Press quoted unnamed Zionist sources as saying that they had made a profit of $2.5 million by capturing it. That was the sum they had reportedly offered (but never paid) for the former British camp. The same sources said that they were hoping to take advantage of the camps’ facilities to house 20,000 new Jewish immigrants.

Sarafand al-‘Amar was probably occupied during the night of 19-20 May 1948 by the Second Battalion of the Israeli army’s Giv’ati Brigade. That places the occupation ofthe village within the scope of Operation Barak, Giv’ati’s May offensive in the al-Ramla area (see al-Batani al-Gharbi, Gaza District). The residents of the village probably fled or were evicted at teh same time. (411-412)

ford motor company in occupied sarafand al 'amar, palestine
ford motor company in occupied sarafand al \’amar, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist army and air force base in occupied sarafand al 'amar, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist army and air force base in occupied sarafand al \’amar, palestine

the next village, one we also checked out last week, was one we couldn’t see evidence of either as it was in a jnf forest. but rather than go in the side we tested last week i drove around to the other side, which was a good thing. خربة القبيبه (khirbat al-qubeiba) didn’t have a ton of information on it on palestine remembered or in khalidi’s book which made things challenging. but the map was clear in abu sitta’s book. we heard somewhere that there might be an old palestinian home in or as a restaurant now so we pulled into a parking lot on the other side of the forest. we didn’t notice anything in the restaurant, but on our way there, on the top of the hill, we saw houses and we hiked up a hill to reach that area. the area we reached had a number of destroyed or partially destroyed palestinian homes. and a ton of old trees mixed in with the jnf planted trees in their attempt to cover up their crimes. it was an amazing discovery and the young boy from the village was pleased with what he found and with the bits of carob he collected from the village trees.

destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba
destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba
destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba
destroyed palestinian home in khirbat al qubeiba

the final village of the day was really far north in the district of haifa. صبارين (sabbarin) has two settlements on his land and vast fertile farmland. there is very little left to see here, however. what we found in this village were modern zionist terrorist colonist houses built in part with stones from old palestinian houses. there is no information in khalidi about the ethnic cleansing of the village, but pappe has a reference to it in relation to the area more generally:

Here, too, the Irgun contributed its share of the continued destruction of Palestine’s countryside. They completed the vengeful attack on the remaining villages in Marj Ibn Amir, while the British Mandate troops were still there: Sabbarin, Sindiyana, Barieka, Khubbeiza, and Umm al-Shauf. Some of the people in these villages fled under the heavy mortar fire of the attacking forces, while others who waved white flags signaling surrender were instantly exiled. In Sabbarin, the Irgun bandits, angered by the fact that they encountered some armed resistance, as punishment kept the women, old men and children confined for a few days within barbed wire–very much like the cages in which Palestinians today are kept for hours at checkpoints in the West Bank when they fail to present the right permits. Seven young Palestinian men found carrying arms were executed on the spot by Jewish troops, who then expelled the rest of the villagers to Umm al-Fahm, then not yet in Jewish hands. (108)

we found a number of fruit and vegetable orchards as well as olive groves on the land, some which seemed like they were the original trees. but it was disappointing to see so little remaining among the farms and settlements on the stolen land of sabbarin, especially after discovering the homes in khirbat al qubeiba. since these four villages took us so long and we were so far north we went to a felafel restaurant in the wadi ara’a area before heading back to the church.

zionist terrorist colonist house in occupied sabbarin, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist house in occupied sabbarin, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist house using the stones from old palestinian homes in occupied sabbarin
zionist terrorist colonist house using the stones from old palestinian homes in occupied sabbarin
occupied sabbarin, palestine
occupied sabbarin, palestine

i had to head back to deheishe to buy some more food (as i had to do a few nights that week so as not to buy food from zionist terrorist colonists). as we drove in through the checkpoint we noticed that on the 1948 side of the checkpoint that zionist terrorist army jeeps were pulling people over near al qabu and looking at papers as they were at the checkpoint. we decided to wait for a few hours before smuggling the next person in. we managed to get through, however, we were stopped by the police somewhere near beit natif, as were all the cars, for some sort of routine car check. amazingly we didn’t get caught there as they only wanted my papers. i had seen such a checkpoint outside zakariya when i came back at 3 am a couple of nights before, but i didn’t realize what it was at the time. one of our buses got pulled over with the kids at one point this week for the same thing. thank god no one got caught.

when we arrived back at the camp the kids were having a carnival of sorts. they started off with a palestinian trivia game about refugees and camps in the region. it was boys against girls (though i do not recall who won). there were also a number of camp games and what i think was the world’s first laban eating contest. there was lots of drumming and singing and i think it was a great way to end our last full night at the camp.

day five

the last day of camp had us setting off to see the villages rather early in the morning as we had afternoon workshops we had to get back for. we rearranged some of the villages after noticing some were occupied by orthodox jewish settlements and we didn’t want buses full of kids going in there on a saturday. so that meant i had to go back to two of those villages on the last day.

i started with بيت محسير (beit mahsir) which is not only huge, but also encompasses a forest, mountains, and a settlement. anyone who has ever driven on highway 1 from yaffa to al quds has seen two beit mahsir houses on the right-hand side of the road right after you pass by latrun (across from a gas station). but there are others on the top of the mountain inside the settlement. we tried first to drive into a forest from the highway to see if that is how to reach those houses on the highway, but we had no luck. so we went up to the colony and drove inside. there we saw palestinian houses mixed in with those built by zionist terrorist colonists. there were some we saw at a glance as the orthodox jews were still out and about on sunday and walked towards us as we tried to reach one area where we saw palestinian homes. on the way back to the next village we managed to see the homes from across the road, though i still do not know how to get behind them so as to get closer on foot.

there is quite an extensive history of beit mahsir in several sources, including khalidi, who says of the depopulation of the village:

Although the village was targeted for occupation during Operation Nachson (see Bayt Naqquba, Jerusalem District), in early April 1948, it was not taken until the first half of May. In the wake of Nachson, the Haganah launched a series of attacks in an attempt to widen their corridor to Jerusalem and capture the strategic al-Latrun salient. Bayt Mahsir fell during Operation Makkabi (see Khirbat Bayt Far, al-Ramla District) to the newly-formed Hare’el Brigade of the Palmach. The History of the Hagannah states that “this village was not occupied easily; but was attacked by Palmach troops for three nights, and it was not occupied until the morning of 11 May.” The account states merely that the occupiers found booty taken from Haganah military convoys ambushed in the area; no mention is made of the fate of the villagers. The New York Times reported that two commando battalions of the Palmach were involved in the thirty-six hour battle. After “tentative thrusts” on 9 May, the Sixth Palmach Battalion (some 400 to 500 men) seized strong points around the village at 11:00 PM that night. The Arab forces withdrew; that night, they launched a counterattack that lasted for two days. On 12 May, they claimed to have recaptured Bayt Mahsir, but their hold ont he village apparently was not firm.

The Arab Liberation Army’s (ALA) Qadisiyya Battalion was defending the village, and ALA commander Fawzi al-Qawuqji described the situation from the Arab side. On 9 May, he reported that they had “replled a violent Jewish attack on Bayt Mahsir aimed at opening the Jerusalem road.” The following day, the commanding officer at Bayt Mahsir, Lt. Col. Mahdi Salih, cabled to say that the situation was “critical.” Qawuqji sent one of two reserve battalions to the area, which helped to encircle a large detachment of Jewish forces in the area. On 11 May, these forces were said to be withdrawing and ALA units had captured the woods near the village. But on 12 May, Qawuqji informed the High Command that “Jewish forces coming from Jerusalem and outskirts succeeded in entering Bayt Mahsir thanks to the large reinforcements with all kinds of equipment which arrived constantly.” He indicates that the village was recovered the same day through artillery bombardment and a frontal attack. However, the recovery of the village ws probably short-lived. Soon afterwards, Bayt Mahsir was captured and systematically levelled after occupation, according to Israeli historian Benny Morris.

In late March, the New York Times reported that the village had been occupied briefly by British army units. Together with Ishwa’ and ‘Artuf, Bayt Mahsir had withstood a British assault following an Arab attack on the Jewish settlement of Hartuv nearby. (276-277)

entrance to the zionist terrorist colony of beit me'ir on the land of beit mahsir, palestine
entrance to the zionist terrorist colony of beit me\’ir on the land of beit mahsir, palestine
palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir
palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir
old palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir, palestine
old palestinian home in occupied beit mahsir, palestine

it is unfortunate, but for those youth whose villages are largely occupied by zionist terrorist colonists now spending much of the village trip is safer in a car than by foot. this was true with beit mahsir and also artuf, the next village we went to. عرتوف (artuf) was similar to beit mahsir in the sense that there are palestinian homes mixed in with the zionist terrorist colonist houses. but at the front gate of the settlement there is also a palestinian home which has a zionist terrorist colonist house annexed to the front of it.

here is what khalidi says about the ethnic cleansing of artuf:

It was not until mid-July that ‘Artuf (and a number of other villages in the Jerusalem area) was actually depopulated. It was occupied during the second phase of Operation Dani (see Abu al-Fadl, Al-Ramla District) by the Fourth Battalion of the Har’el Brigade. According to the History of the War of Independence and Israeli historian Benny Morris, this occurred during the night of 17-18 July 1948. The offensive is described by Morris as follows: “Much of the population of these villages…had left the area previously. Most of the remaining population fled with the approach of the Har’el columns and with the start of mortar brigades. The handful of people who remained at each site when the Israelis entered were expelled.” The Second Platoon of B Company (of the Fourth Battalion), armed with mortars and machine guns, first pushed out the inhabitants of nearby Ishwa’ and ‘Islin; then they moved toward ‘Artuf. Aiming their mortars at the police station west of ‘Artuf, they lobbed explosives at both the station and the village. This night time bombardment convinced the villagers to flee. This night-time bombardment convinced the villagers to flee. Most of them walked three miles up the slopes toward the village of Dayr al-Hawa, to the south east. The first Israeli troops to tenter the village, ont he day after its depopulation,w ere members of a platoon commanded by Rafael Eytan. (260)

entrance to zionist terrorist colony of nacham on the land of artuf, palestine
entrance to zionist terrorist colony of nacham on the land of artuf, palestine
zionist terrorist colonist's house built onto a palestinian house in artuf
zionist terrorist colonist\’s house built onto a palestinian house in artuf

البريج (al burayj) was even more difficult in some ways than the other villages with settlements on the land. this one had not only a colony, but also an enormous military base. we could see a watch tower in the distance (in one of the images below). just as there is not a great deal of evidence of palestinian life in al burayj, there is also not a lot of detail with respect to its depopulation. here is what khalidi says about it:

Al-Burayj was probably captured during the first phase of Operation ha-Har (see ‘Allar, Jerusalem District). The village fell some time between 19 and 24 October 1948, as Israeli forces moved to occupy a number of village in the southern part of the Jerusalem corridor. (282)

while there wasn’t too much of palestinian life there was an amazing orchard full of plums that we filled bags up with for the boy from burayj to take home and share with his family. but a number of the trees, for instance the olive trees, were newly planted and not palestinian olive trees, yet another example of how the zionist terrorist colonists constantly seek to destroy all forms of life.

zionist terrorist military base on the land of al burayj, palestine
zionist terrorist military base on the land of al burayj, palestine
they destroy olive trees too, here in al burayj (and then replant them with the help of diaspora zionists)
they destroy olive trees too, here in al burayj (and then replant them with the help of diaspora zionists)

the last village we visited on the trip i messed up big time. i read the map incorrectly. it seemed to me at the time that بيت عطاب (beit itab) was across the street from deir al-hawa. i studied the map again last night and realized that this was incorrect. where we were, it was still deir al-hawa. but these are the villages that were destroyed to make room for the american independence park that i wrote last week before i left for camp (see post below) so it is a bit challenging to figure out where the borders are. there is a settlement, nes harim on part of the village land, but this is only a small part of it. if i had gone a kilometer more and into the settlement we would have been in the right place. we would have seen a crusader castle and almond, carob, and olive trees, as well as cacti. there was already a group who visited beit itab, but one of the older youth leaders who i smuggled in illegally to 1948 palestine was from this village and he was with me on the day they went to his village so i wanted to take him. because it was so difficult to get him out i cannot stop kicking myself for f*&#$%) this up so royally. i was so excited that we had found a house and two wells that i guess i had hoped and imagined that we were in the right place. so the photos below are of دير الهوا (deir al hawa) instead.

in any case, here is what khalidi has to say about the ethnic cleansing of bayt itab:

Bayt ‘Itab was one of a string of villages in the Jerusalem corridor that was captured following the second truce of the war. Israeli historian Benny Morris writes that it was occupied on 21 October 1948, during Operation ha-Har (see ‘Allar, Jerusalem District). The operation was complimentary to Operation Yo’av (see Barbara, Gaza District), a simultaneous offensive o the southern front htat aimed at thrusting southwards into the Negev. (275)

palestinian home in deir al hawa (what i mistakenly thought was beit itab)
palestinian home in deir al hawa (what i mistakenly thought was beit itab)
palestinian well in deir al hawa
palestinian well in deir al hawa
entrance to deir al hawa, palestine
entrance to deir al hawa, palestine

we returned to camp for our final workshops–one on the legal issues related to the right of return and another on how to use hip hop as a method of communicating these narratives of an nakba and the right of return that the rap group dam conducted. then it was time for cleaning up the church, packing, and heading home, again in shifts, as i had to do separate smuggling trips. we all made it back safely, and have been catching up on sleep. but now we have a meeting in a bit for the next phase of the project.

right of return workshop
right of return workshop
dam workshop
dam workshop
haq al awda!
haq al awda!

on remembering deir yassin

today is the anniversary of the massacre of dier yassin. it is not the only massacre that jewish terrorists enacted upon palestinians during an nakba in 1948. not by far. nor is it the only time since 1948 that they have committed a massacre. one need only to look at gaza to know the answer to that question. but deir yassin is a touchstone for palestinians because of the symbolic nature of this particular massacre. it was widely publicized, including in newspapers like the new york times to spread terror among Palestinians so that they would flee their homes so jews could steal them and occupy them. here are the events according to the deir yassin remembered website that took place 61 years ago today:

Early in the morning of Friday, April 9, 1948, commandos of the Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin, and the Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a village with about 750 Palestinian residents. It was several weeks before the end of the British Mandate. The village lay outside of the area that the United Nations recommended be included in a future Jewish State. Deir Yassin had a peaceful reputation and was even said by a Jewish newspaper to have driven out some Arab militants. But it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and one plan, kept secret until years afterwards, called for it to be destroyed and the residents evacuated to make way for a small airfield that would supply the beleaguered Jewish residents of Jerusalem.

By noon over 100 people, half of them women and children, had been systematically murdered. Four commandos died at the hands of resisting Palestinians using old Mausers and muskets. Twenty-five male villagers were loaded into trucks, paraded through the Zakhron Yosef quarter in Jerusalem, and then taken to a stone quarry along the road between Givat Shaul and Deir Yassin and shot to death. The remaining residents were driven to Arab East Jerusalem.

That evening the Irgunists and the Sternists escorted a party of foreign correspondents to a house at Givat Shaul, a nearby Jewish settlement founded in 1906. Over tea and cookies they amplified the details of the operation and justified it, saying Deir Yassin had become a concentration point for Arabs, including Syrians and Iraqis, planning to attack the western suburbs of Jerusalem. They said that 25 members of the Haganah militia had reinforced the attack and claimed that an Arabic-speaking Jew had warned the villagers over a loudspeaker from an armored car. This was duly reported in The New York Times on April 10.

A final body count of 254 was reported by The New York Times on April 13, a day after they were finally buried. By then the leaders of the Haganah had distanced themselves from having participated in the attack and issued a statement denouncing the dissidents of Irgun and the Stern Gang, just as they had after the attack on the King David Hotel in July 1946. A 1987 study undertaken by Birzeit University’s Center for Research and Documentation of Palestinian Society found “the numbers of those killed does not exceed 120”.

The Haganah leaders admitted that the massacre “disgraced the cause of Jewish fighters and dishonored Jewish arms and the Jewish flag.” They played down the fact that their militia had reinforced the terrorists’ attack, even though they did not participate in the barbarism and looting during the subsequent “mopping up” operations.

They also played down the fact that, in Begin’s words, “Deir Yassin was captured with the knowledge of the Haganah and with the approval of its commander” as a part of its “plan for establishing an airfield.”

Ben Gurion even sent an apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But this horrific act served the future State of Israel well. According to Begin:

Arabs throughout the country, induced to believe wild tales of “Irgun butchery,” were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon developed into a maddened, uncontrollable stampede. The political and economic significance of this development can hardly be overestimated.

Of about 144 houses, 10 were dynamited. The cemetery was later bulldozed and, like hundreds of other Palestinian villages to follow, Deir Yassin was wiped off the map. By September, Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Poland, Rumania, and Slovakia were settled there over the objections of Martin Buber, Cecil Roth and other Jewish leaders, who believed that the site of the massacre should be left uninhabited. The center of the village was renamed Givat Shaul Bet. As Jerusalem expanded, the land of Deir Yassin became part of the city and is now known simply as the area between Givat Shaul and the settlement of Har Nof on the western slopes of the mountain.

einsteinletter041048

interestingly, the deir yassin website has posted a copy of a letter that albert einstein wrote (see above) the day after this massacre to a man seeking funding for more such terrorist attacks on palestinians. clearly, the man wrote to the wrong person:

Prior to the creation of the State of Israel, two Jewish terrorist groups were working to cleanse Palestine of its Arab inhabitants and its British occupiers. The more brutal of these groups was Lohamei Herut Yisrael (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) also known as the Stern Gang after its founder Avraham Stern.

Much of the financial support for these Jewish terrorists came from the United States. The Stern Gang received money collected under the more perfidious name, American Friends of the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel. Mr. Shepard Rifkin was the executive director after the UN Partition of Palestine and prior to the creation of Israel in May 1948.

Against his better judgment Rifkin solicited Albert Einstein to help the Stern Gang raise American money for arms to drive out the Arabs and help create a Jewish state. On April 10th, the day after the infamous massacre of Arabs at Deir Yassin, Einstein replied calling the Stern Gang terrorists and misled criminals.

but, of course, to really understand what happened it is important to listen to the survivors. to their oral history. here is a film featuring zeinab mohammad ismail attieh who tells you how she survived the massacre:

there are a few testimonies of survivors by people like abu yusef on a nakba site hosted by the khalil sakakini center in ramallah, here is abu yusef’s:

“(..)After the battle, the Jews took elderly men and women and youths, including 4 of my cousins and a nephew. They took them all. Women who had on them gold and money, were stripped of their gold. After the Jews removed their dead and wounded, they took the men to the quarry and sprayed them all with bullets.

(..)One woman had her son taken some 40 to 60 meters away from where she and the rest of the women stood by, and shot him dead. Then they brought Jewish kids to throw stones at his body. They later poured kerosene on his body and set it ablaze while the women watched from a distance. We later collected ourselves, & checked who was missing. At Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, we were gathered by the Arab Supreme Committee. Each of us was looking for a son, a daughter, a sister or a mother.

All men were busy fighting. Eyewitnesses were only women. The elderly men were told to remove the dead, both Arabs and Jews. They took the bodies of the Jews and left the Arab bodies until they later were thrown in a well in the village center.”

there are other such testimonies and more information on the palestine remembered website as well. of course, this website provides oral histories of many people who survived numerous massacres and whose villages were destroyed when their land became colonized by the zionist entity starting in 1948.

one of the prime terrorists involved in the terrorism of the villagers of deir yassin was, of course, menachem begin as a member of the terrorist irgun (just like rahm israel imanuel’s father). upon learning of begin’s visit to the united states on december 2, 1948 albert einstein, among others, wrote an open letter that was published in the new york times:

TO THE EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES:

Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our time is the Emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

The current visit of Menahem Begin, leader of this party to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American Support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents. Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement.

The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.

Attack on Arab Village

A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had Taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants – 240 men, women and children – and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan.

But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin. The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party. Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority.

Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their Stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model. During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for Not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute.

The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavors were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.

DISCREPANCIES SEEN

The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and His party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a “Leader State” is the goal.

In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has Refused to campaign against Begin’s efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.

The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.

ISIDORE ABRAMOWITZ,

HANNAH ARENDT,

ABRAHAM BRICK,

RABBI JESSURUN CARDOZO,

ALBERT EINSTEIN,

HERMAN EISEN, M.D.,

HAYIM FINEMAN,

M. GALLEN, M.D.,

H.H. HARRIS,

ZELIG S. HARRIS,

SIDNEY HOOK,

FRED KARUSH,

BRURIA KAUFMAN,

IRMA L. LINDHEIM,

NACHMAN MAJSEL,

SEYMOUR MELMAN,

MYER D. MENDELSON, M.D.,

HARRY M. ORLINSKY,

SAMUEL PITLICK,

FRITZ ROHRLICH,

LOUIS P. ROCKER,

RUTH SAGER,

ITZHAK SANKOWSKY, I.J.

SHOENBERG,

SAMUEL SHUMAN,

M. ZNGER,

IRMA WOLPE,

STEFAN WOLPE.

the main issue with deir yassin–the lesson from this historical even that we remember every year–that should never be forgotten and never forgiven–is that we should resist at all costs any attempt for continuing ethnic cleansing plans devised by the zionist entity. which has gone on for more than 61 years now. and it continues today. the way that palestinians are being terrorized off their lands by colonists and israeli terrorist soldiers alike is the same thing. maybe not as big, maybe not new york times headlines, but it is the same thing. it is a continuation of the same process. here is yet an example of that ethnic cleansing from al quds, with beautiful palestinians refusing to be terrorized into flight. instead they are steadfast and they will rebuild their houses again and again and again:

land day/يوم الأرض

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

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

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

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

taha muhammad ali
taha muhammad ali

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

um al fahm
um al fahm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and in the knesset (or not) :

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

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

in salfit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

yaffa for baha’a

dsc099981 i spent the morning in beit lahem because i had a meeting at badil and i was waiting for my friend to get back so we could take one more little trip. after the meeting i walked around the old city of beit lahem a bit and i saw santa claus walking around. i also saw many blow up santa decorations. i’m wondering when this american creation first came to palestine and began to decorate the streets of beit lahem (though i don’t recall seeing any santas in nasra interestingly enough). it did make me think of the opening scene of elia suleiman’s brilliant film divine intervention when we see santa running through nasra. i’m so sad that i cannot come down here for christmas to see what it is like. i cannot believe that i have to teach both christmas eve and christmas day. normally i could care less, but since i’m living here now i would love to experience christmas in beit lahem.

yaffa lighthouse and homes
yaffa lighthouse and homes

when my friend returned to beit lahem we ate some lunch (more food, more too much food, but yummy food that i cannot say no to nevertheless) at her house and then took off with her sister to yaffa. again, amazingly, we made it through the checkpoint. i wish i could do this with all my friends. but unfortunately i think the only way that it is possible for women to pass is to not wear hijab. i think that if there were men in my car or if women were wearing hijab we would get stopped, questioned, and thrown in jail.

moon over yaffa
moon over yaffa

we drove to yaffa for a few hours mostly because i wanted to get baha’a some soil from the city where his father’s family comes from. but also my friend’s sister had never been so we walked around a bit so she could see the city. we walked through the old city, along the corniche, and along the sea shore (i made baha’a a cocktail of yaffa sand and soil and shells). i saw in the distance that the lone former palestinian home on the beach, which was confiscated by zionist colonists and turned into a museum that celebrates jewish terrorism in the form of irgun. this is the same terrorist organization that rahm israel emanuel’s father worked with.

irgun museum in a palestinian home
irgun museum in a palestinian home

i knew the museum was there–i had read about it in ilan pappe’s book the ethnic cleansing of palestine, but i never walked over to it before to see it up close. it was night so it was closed, and i don’t know that i want to go inside. seeing it from the outside with its sign about “liberating yaffa” and its emblem map that shows zionism’s colonial desires for land between the mediterranean sea and the euphrates river was enough for me.

yaffa manhole cover pre-1948
yaffa manhole cover pre-1948

as we walked around it was interesting because we didn’t meet any palestinians from yaffa. but we saw dozens of families from um fahm. this is the village that i wrote about yesterday where zionist settlers will be staging a protest against the zionist regime’s pulling out jewish illegal settlers from khalil last week. as we walked around the city i managed to find the manhole cover again that i saw in 2005 that is pre-1948.

illegal israeli settlement in silwan
illegal israeli settlement in silwan

on our way home we stopped in silwan, a neighborhood of al quds, to pick up a friend so she could go home with us without risking being stopped at a checkpoint. her sister’s house there overlooks the valley and in the very dark picture above that i posted you can see a square building in the foreground. this is a palestinian building recently taken over by illegal israeli settlers. the road leading down to silwan is also peppered with these new illegal settlements. but unlike those deep in the west bank, these buildings are surrounded by palestinian homes and are isolated. sort of like those in beit zakariya that i posted yesterday, though in the opposite direction. but either way it is palestinians who are endangered by these increasing settlements not just because their homes are stolen, but also because these illegal settlers have quite a large arsenal with them. the photographs are difficult to see because it was night, but in the second one of silwan the fence that is in the foreground is what is being used to cordon off and confiscate these palestinian homes.

illegal israeli settlement in silwan
illegal israeli settlement in silwan

and so the ethnic cleansing continues. from yaffa to silawn. from 1948-2008. and we can see this rhetoric of ethnic cleansing–or in israeli parlance “transfer”–in the recent words of tzipi livni (whose family also hails from irgun):

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday that the creation of a Palestinian state would serve as a solution to national aspirations of Israel’s Arab citizens.

“Once a Palestinian state is established, I can come to the Palestinian citizens, whom we call Israeli Arabs, and say to them ‘you are citizens with equal rights, but the national solution for you is elsewhere,'” Livni was quoted by Army Radio as saying to students at a Tel Aviv high school.

“The idea is to maintain two states for two peoples, that is my path to a democratic nation,” she added.

i’m not sure what she means exactly, but it certainly sounds like transfer to me. sorta like the first one. the one that never stopped. here is a program that al jazeera aired during the anniversary of an nakba that is about yaffa. it is in four parts and actually there is a second half of it that focuses more on refugees from yaffa which you can find on you tube. but there is some historical context to the city i visited today for baha’a because i love him and he inspires me. i only wish i could have smuggled him inside palestine, too.

on apologies

So he did it. Rahm Israel Emanuel bowed to public pressure–or Barack Obama forced him to submit to that pressure. Either way he apologized to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). I posted a link to this ADC demand yesterday encouraging people to help build the pressure to force Emanuel to come clean on whether he shares his father’s racist remarks or not.

“Today, Representative Emanuel called Mary Rose Oakar, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, apologized on behalf of his family and offered to meet with representatives of the Arab-American community at an appropriate time in the future,” said Nick Papas, a spokesman for the congressman.

In the phone call, Congressman Emanuel said, “From the fullness of my heart, I personally apologize on behalf of my family and me. These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family.” During the phone call, Emanuel added, it is unacceptable to make remarks such as these against any ethnic or religious group.

ADC President Mary Rose Oakar said, “We cannot allow Arabs and Muslims to be portrayed in these unacceptable terms. I welcome Rahm’s apology and his pledge to meet with our Community. I also thank our members and friends who responded who expressed concern about this matter. ”

While I’m pleased to see Emanuel submit to the ADC and to Arab Americans and apologize for his father’s racism, it is not enough. I believe in forgiveness. I do. I think it is important. Thus, I think that apologies are important. But when it comes from a politician, especially with ties to Israeli terrorist organizations, I’m skeptical. Words are powerful, but actions are even more powerful. And this apology did not go far enough, nor did ADC’s demand. There should have also been a clear demand for Emanuel’s repudiation of his father’s participation in the Israeli terrorist Irgun militia as well as his own volunteer work in the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF). But those apologies were not requested, nor were they delivered.

Political apologies need to come with some evidence and substance that there are attempts being made to repair the damage of the past. This is why the U.S. Congress’ apology for slavery earlier this year was equally vapid. There were no reparations made in the form of financial payments for all the suffering the U.S. forced upon African Americans and Africans for four hundred years–suffering that continues today in the form of the prison industrial complex. Without real structural changes that repair this damage, slavery will continue to haunt the U.S. in its present forms as will its corollary, racism.

So too with Emanuel. Without clearly stating that he repudiates Irgun and the ITF and delinking himself from those terrorist entities and the suffering inflicted upon Palestinians as a result these are just words. Mark my words: we will soon see Emanuel in this new role as White House Chief of Staff advising Obama on continuing the suffering of Palestinians.

But while we’re on the subject of apologies, I think it is John McCain and Barack Obama who should be making public apologies for fanning the flames of racism against Arabs and Muslims over the past few months. Bill Quigley points to McCain as the one who should begin this process:

John McCain spent months fanning the fear-filled fires of folks scared of terrorists, socialists, and anti-Americanism in his campaign for President. On election night he made a fine concession speech and walked away — but the fires are still burning. John McCain apparently thought it was OK to turn fears on high for as long as possible to help his quest for the presidency. But he cannot now just expect the flames to turn off. He owes America an apology for running a terribly fear-mongering, knowingly false and divisive campaign….

Congressman Lewis warned them in October. “As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.”

Senator McCain was “offended,” seriously offended by Rep Lewis’ comments. “Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign.”

Maybe this is all just a coincidence since the election. Coincidence? I think not. John McCain owes this country a real and full apology for fanning the fires of fear. And he also owes John Lewis an apology.

While I concur that we need some formal apologies for participating in fanning the flames of racism from McCain–as well as Obama for his silence and complicity in this process–we also need some tangible actions that will demonstrate this behavior is entirely inappropriate and unacceptable and will not happen again in four years.

on the west wing

barack-obama-new-direction-fish Some months ago I came across an article in the Guardian that suggested some uncanny similarities between the fictional drama The West Wing and the Barack Obama election campaign. In the article it was noted that there was some synergy between the writers of the show and real-life political actors:

For what those West Wing fans stunned by the similarity between the fictitious Matthew Santos and the real-life Barack Obama have not known is that the resemblance is no coincidence. When the West Wing scriptwriters first devised their fictitious presidential candidate in the late summer of 2004, they modelled him in part on a young Illinois politician – not yet even a US senator – by the name of Barack Obama.

“I drew inspiration from him in drawing this character,” West Wing writer and producer Eli Attie told the Guardian. “When I had to write, Obama was just appearing on the national scene. He had done a great speech at the convention [which nominated John Kerry] and people were beginning to talk about him.”

Attie, who served as chief speechwriter to Al Gore during the ill-fated 2000 campaign and who wrote many of the key Santos episodes of the West Wing, put in a call to Obama aide David Axelrod.

There have been a number of other articles detailing the relationship between this television drama and real life of late. Some of them showing life imitating art and the vice versa. Here are a few examples:

The former and likely future president were introduced to the crowd by the actor Jimmy Smits, who played a successful ethnic minority candidate, a Latino, in TV show The West Wing. His character, the Democratic Texas congressman Matthew Santos, upset the odds by beating an older Republican senator to the White House. Obama thanked Smits from the podium, describing him as the “the most recent Democratic president”.

So what of the denouement? How did the fictional battle end? It was close, much closer than current polls predict for the 2008 race. There was talk of legal challenges to the tightest results and the entire election came down to two small states out west, Nevada and Oregon. But, at long last, both those states went for Santos – and the young challenger, whose bid for the White House once seemed impossible, ended election night as president-elect.

Is that how the real story will end next Tuesday? So far The West Wing has got so much right, even the show’s own writers say it’s “creepy”. Those writers did finally give their viewers a happy ending. There are many millions around the world who hope that, next week, the US electorate will do the same.

As President Bush did during the bailout talks, Jed Bartlet, the Democratic “West Wing” president played by Martin Sheen, brings both candidates to the White House for a briefing. Facing the prospect of deploying 150,000 American soldiers to Kazakhstan three weeks before the election, Vinick grumbles, “I can say goodbye to my tax cut.” He tells Santos, “Your education plan’s certainly off the table.”

Santos emerges victorious weeks later, but only after a grueling election night. Online, some “West Wing” fans are wondering whether the show will wind up forecasting the real-life result as well. In Britain, where the series remains popular in syndication, a recent headline on a blog carried by the newspaper The Telegraph declared: “Barack Obama will win: It’s all in ‘The West Wing.’ ”

Running against Matt Santos in The West Wing‘s election was Arnold Vinick. More by coincidence than design, he bears a striking similarity to John McCain. Played by Alan Alda, Vinick is a veteran Republican from out west, wise in the ways of Washington. A maverick on some issues, he is attractive to those in the centre ground.

“The McCain candidacy is very similar to the Vinick candidacy,” says Lawrence O’Donnell, who wrote the character. “They are good at appealing outside their own party. And that is actually one of their problems, within their own party, of Republicans not believing that they were Republican enough.”

Get ready for a new season of The West Wing. Right now we have two scripts ready and either would be a cracker. Want a pretty vice-president stopping traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue when she visits the boss? Or a black president with an equally stunning wife?

Addicts of the television series may ache to get more of Allison Janney and Richard Schiff scrambling to keep their commander-in-chief out of the political soup, but they were just actors, of course. But life in the real West Wing can be every bit as unhinged, emotional and exhausting. Just ask George Bush and Karl Rove. Or Dick Cheney and Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Even one of the actors on The West Wing, Richard Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler, drew a parallel:

What’s next President Bartlett on The West Wing often said that. Usually at the end of an episode when a thing had been solved or resolved or lost or won and it was, whatever the case, time to move on. We sometimes had spiralling crane shots from above pulling up and away as the mere mortals of government left below continued on their silly work.

There is even a video that altered the opening theme of the West Wing to show a cast of characters of the Obama campaign:

Most of these articles focus on the final two seasons of The West Wing. But because the focus is on the election campaign represented in those episodes there are other elements that get left out–perhaps the scariest form of life-imitating-art-imitating life is in this bizarre coincidence:

It was Oscar Wilde who said that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life”. History has vindicated Wildean wisdom. This week, the election of Barack Obama as US president has prompted many to talk about the prescience of The West Wing in scripting a charismatic, idealistic, minority Democratic presidential nominee trumping an experienced Republican maverick. Now Rahm Emanuel, the man who inspired the character of Josh Lyman, has been appointed White House chief of staff.

Like the president-elect, Emanuel is a Chicago native with a strong connection to the city’s political elite. Both have inspired characters on the television series The West Wing, with Emanuel providing the model for wunderkind aide Josh Lyman.

So what does Josh Lyman, played by Bradley Whitford, have to say about Palestine in the episodes? Well, there was a four-episode arc over the course of season five and six (all aired originally in 2004) that detailed the conflict between Palestinians and their Israeli occupiers. And there are a number of dialogues that are revealing of American points of view more generally in the sense of how entrenched Zionism is in U.S. foreign policy, but there are notable differences as well. The arc begins with an episode called “Gaza” in which three Congressmen head to Gaza for a fact-finding mission on which Donna Moss, Josh’s secretary accompanies them. She befriends an Irish photojournalist there who takes her to see “both sides” of the situation–illegal Israeli settlers (of course, not called illegal in the episode) and Palestinians living under occupation. The opening dialogue of this episode–set at a checkpoint that is supposed to resemble Erez, though from what I’ve seen on the other side it looks nothing like the monstrosity that is Erez–reveals the general callousness towards Palestinian refugees’ right to return in general, in spite of the lone American defending their rights:

Congressman DeSantos: “They’re a displaced population.”
Congressman Korb: “Displaced?! Palestinians moved what 15-20 miles? You ever move? I grew up in Dayton.”
Congressman DeSantos: “They’re still refugees.”
Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: “You know, after 50 years one option might be to get over it.”

Apparently, Congressman Korb doesn’t know the difference between making a choice to move somewhere new and doing so at the barrel of a gun. I guess by his logic Palestinian refugees made a “choice”; it was a choice between massacre or “moving” as he calls it. Shortly thereafter we witness the black Suburban carrying these men blow up in a car bomb and Donna is injured.

The episode does not move in a linear fashion and therefore we instantly move back in time to various moments over the past few days, moving up to the present moment of the bomb that completes the cycle. So we hear Donna narrating her emails to her boss Josh, which we later learn he is completely unable to listen to as you will later see. In one such email she explains how Palestinians in Gaza are provoked:

“These incursions are designed as provocations. Tanks roll in. This naturally excites resistance which then is used as a pretext for armed assault.”

But this is 2004–one year prior to Ariel Sharon’s unilateral pullout and subsequent and total siege of Gaza–so she pays far more attention to the points of view of illegal Israeli settlers in Gaza. And we never see her visiting one of the Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza.

After the bomb we see various scenes in the White House–in offices, in the Situation Room, where the fictional President Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, discusses his options, many of which are military in nature. In all of these conversations anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic rhetoric dominates, although there is usually one lone voice of “moderation” represented in one or two characters. Here is one of those discussions among the fictional President’s staff:

Will: “What’s going to be our response?”

Leo: “What do you think it should be?”

Will: “Regime change.”

CJ: “Take out the Chairman?”


Will: “He’s the impediment.”

Toby: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Leo: “Abba Ebban’s line.”

CJ: “The guy in Tel Aviv’s no picnic either.”

Leo: “The State’s convinced that nothing can happen until these two guys are gone.”

Will: “Israel’s not the problem.”

CJ: “Settlements, the Wall.”

Charlie: “Israel didn’t just blow Americans up.”

CJ: “I’m not saying there’s equivalence.”

Will: “Israelis don’t talk about driving Palestinians into the sea.”

Kate: “Some do.”

Will: “Oh, come on!”

CJ: “You never heard the phrase, ‘Greater Israel’?”

Leo: “Not from anyone serious.”

Kate: “One reason people say nothing can happen until these guys are gone is the feeling that both maybe stuck in old attitudes or assumptions. There was a time when Palestinians and all Arabs wanted to drive Jews into the sea, but some would argue that that time’s past.”

Will: “Listen to some Arab broadcasts.”

CJ: “Rabble rousing to distract their street.”

Kate: “I don’t think any truly credible Arab leader expects Israel’s demise anymore. Not even the Chairman.”

Leo: “Don’t bet on it.”

Kate: “Well, there’s a view that–”

Will: “Don’t keep saying some argue and there’s a view. Can we keep it restricted to your view?”

Kate: “Okay. Palestinians are no longer fighting to destroy the Jewish state. They’re fighting for a state of their own. A revolutionary struggle against an occupying force. And revolutionaries will outlast and out die occupiers every time.”

Will: “I don’t know if that’s simplistic or naive.”

Toby: “It’s tribal. It can’t be solved. It’s Hatfield and McCoy. There is no end.”

Aside from the cliche phrases such as the “Arab street” and the ridiculous perpetuation of the mythology about Palestinians missing opportunities, we do hear moderation in the voices of Kate and CJ. But they are discounted by the more domineering older and white male voices in the room. Of course absent Palestinian refugees in this conversation we hear nothing about the facts of Palestinian refugees being driven into the sea. Indeed, how do you think that Palestinians from Yaffa, Haifa, Akka, and many other coastal cities fled their homes and homeland between 1947-1948? In ships. In the sea. That’s how many of them got to Lebanon where they remain in Palestinian refugee camps until today.

The second episode of this arc, entitled “Memorial Day” was the cliffhanger for season five. There are funerals for the Americans and there are conversations between President Bartlett and a character called Chairman Nizar Farad (a sort of Yassir ‘Arafat character who is constantly called a “terrorist” by many characters on the program) played by Makram Khoury as well as with the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Shira Galit played by Natalia Nogulich. There are also the quotidian bombings of Gaza by the Israeli Terrorist Forces (though of course named with the official oxymoron Israeli Defense Forces). And, here art also imitates life when the episode tells–though not shows–the siege of Farad’s compound in Ramallah by the ITF. We see Bartlet weight the decision to send FA-18s to drop surface-to-air guided missiles into Gaza and weighing the possibility of anywhere between 15-50 civilian murders as retribution for the 3 Americans who died (because American lives are always more important than Palestinian lives). The American military personnel advising Bartlet want him to not only bomb Gaza but also a Palestinian refugee camp (and they have constant slippage here between a refugee camp and “terrorist training camp” in Syria they call Ein Hawa–is this supposed to be an allusion to Ein el Helwah refugee camp in Lebanon?) and Iran to boot.

The push and pull of this episode and the one that follows–the first of season six called “NSF Thurmont”–is weighing the choice of holding peace talks and bombing Palestinians. In one conversation among staffers about learning that there may be renewed peace talks we hear the usual Zionist mythology thinly alluded to as “Barak’s generous offer”:

Will: “The Israelis won’t get in a room with Farad again. I’m surprised the Prime Minister hasn’t already said so in about three different languages.”

CJ: “The President asked him not to.”

Will: “Farad doesn’t want a deal. Last time Israel offered up Gaza, 96% of the West Bank, half of Jerusalem, sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and the lead role in the Temple Beth-El Purim play. Farad walked way.”

But as Ali Abunimah makes clear in his important book One Country, “President Clinton and the Israeli government made a calculated decision and embarked on an orchestrated media campaign to blame the Palestinians generally and Arafat personally for the summit’s failure” (68). Abunimah, in contradistinction to the American media, sets the record straight about what actually happened there by quoting Robert Malley, a member of Clinton’s team at Camp David:

The Palestinians were arguing for the creation of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders, living alongside Israel. They accepted the notion of Israeli annexation of West Bank territory to accommodate settlement blocs. They accepted the principle of Israeli sovereignty over Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem–neighborhoods that were not part of Israel before the Six Day War in 1967. And, while they insisted on recognition of refugees’ right of return, they agreed that it should be implemented in a manner that protected Israel’s demographic and security interests by limiting the number of returnees. No other Arab party that has negotiated with Israel–not Anwar el-Sadat’s Egypt, not King Hussein’s Jordan, let alone Hafez al-Asad’s Syria–ever came close to even considering such compromises. (68-69)

Further, Abunimah tells us that the Israelis presented the same old map that gave Palestinians a “‘state’ in 76.6 percent of the West Bank, broken into pieces, with all the major settlements remaining in place under Israeli sovereignty” (69). And they made a counteroffer, which Barak rejected (notice how Americans all remember ‘Arafat rejecting it?). Abunimah explains:

In response to Israel’s map, the Palestinian team presented its own map that allowed 30 to 35 percent of the settlers to remain on 2.5 percent of the West Bank, which Israel could annex. the Israelis rejected this outright and came back with a counterproposal in which they increased their offer from 76.6 percent to 77.2 percent and insisted that at least 80 percent of the settlers remain in place. A senior Clinton adviser commented that Israelis were attempting to execute a ‘land grab.’ Israel also insisted on permanent control of Palestinian airspace and a long list of onerous ‘security’ arrangements that would rob the Palestinian state of any real independence from Israel and introduce enormous opportunities for delay and backsliding as had happened with the Oslo Accords. Israel’s proposals at Camp David barely deviated from the basic premises of the 1976 Allon plan” (70).

This mythology has rarely been corrected in the halls of Congress let alone the American media. And it informs far too many decisions as well as American preconceived notions about Palestinians. Some of those feelings are expressed in the West Wing as per the conversation above. And most characters, like most Americans, are far too quick to equate Palestinian with terrorist as we see the Josh Lyman character (you know–the one based on Rahm Israel Emanuel) in this conversation in a hospital waiting room in Germany where he argues with Donna’s new boyfriend, an Irish photojournalist:

Colin: “The Israelis are never going to meet with Farad. Why should they? They’ve got him surrounded in the West Bank. What’s Bartlet think they’re going to do? Knock on the door of his compound and say, ‘I’m so sorry about the tanks and stuff, but would you like to pop over to America and nice wee chat and sort this out.”

Josh: “Where are you from?”

Colin: “Belfast.”

Josh: “Yeah, you guys are really the model of how to work things out over there.”

Colin: “Yeah, we are actually.”

Josh: “The Israelis have every right to protect themselves from terrorists.”

Colin: “They’re an occupying force oppressing a people fighting for self rule.”

Josh: “They’re citizen-soldiers trying to keep their sisters from getting blown up on a bus.”

Colin: “You Jewish?”

Josh: “Why are you anti-Semitic?”

Colin: “Anyone who thinks the Palestinians have a point is anti-Semitic.”

Josh: “And anyone who thinks that Jews don’t after being chased and exiled and persecuted for centuries is either an idiot or a fool or probably both.”

This knee-jerk rush to equate Palestinians with terrorists and those who support Palestinians as anti-Semitic is disturbing here to say the least. But Colin’s curiosity about Josh’s religion is misguided, mostly because Josh’s point of view is just as much American as it is Jewish. But in spite of the majority of Bartlet’s staff preferring bombing Palestinians and Iranians and Syrians over peace talks, he manages to persevere and everyone in the White House finds themselves at Camp David by the end of this episode. Of course, as they begin their first meeting there Bartlet tells everyone he bombed the Ein Hawa camp in Syria–great way to start talking about peace?

The conversation between Ambassador Shira and Chairman Farad is particularly revealing on Palestinian refugees which takes place as the “peace process” continues in the final episode of the arc called “Birnam Wood”:

Farad: “A million Palestinians were expelled from their homes.”

Shira: “Closer to 700,000. And they weren’t expelled. They left after being urged by Arabs.”

Farad: “We were being terrorized by Zionist troops who were threatening to torch every Arab village in the Galilee.”

Shira: “If you had accepted the partition plan in 47 not a single would have become a refugee.”

Kate: “I’m sorry, if I might interrupt.”

Farad: “Palestinians were being massacred. Even Israeli historians admit this.”

Shira: “It was war. Only three years after the Holocaust. If we would have lost there wold have been another wholesale slaughter of Jews.”

Kate: “Mr. Chairman, Madame Ambassador, excuse me. It may be more productive to turn our attention to current problems rather than the events of 50 years ago.”

Farad: “If there is room for a million Russian Jews in Israel, why isn’t there room for Palestinians who simply wish to go home?”

Shira: “The Palestinians only became refugees when our Arab neighbors refused to accept them. 800,000 Jews were similarly expelled from Arab nations. 600,000 were resettled in Israel without compensation from Arab countries.”

Kate: “Madame Ambassador, you bring up the issue of compensation. Would Israel be prepared–”

Farad: “We are not asking for money. We want the right of return.”

Shira: “We can’t allow 3 million refugees the right to freely reenter.”

Farad: “Of course not. Since the 19th century Zionist leaders have advocated a transfer of Arabs out of Palestine.”

Shira: “We cannot accept a right of unlimited immigration.”

Kate: “Perhaps we should take a break.”

Shira: “If the Arab population had not been uprooted, no Jewish state could have arisen.”

Farad: “So it was alright for Palestine to be cleansed of its Native population to establish a Jewish state? We are prepared to sacrifice, but not to formalize our dispossession.”

Kate is supposed to be the “moderate” and “balanced” character here, though she isn’t if you really examine how she attempts to shut down important, though difficult, conversations. The battle here, as it often is, is over semantics. The Zionists are, as usual, trying to propagate their mythology that Palestinians “left” their homes even though this myth has been refuted by numerous historians as Farad points out. But Farad fails to point out other myths–like most of the Russian immigrants are actually Christian–probably because there was an American writing this script. But rather than get into the real historical arguments about 1948 and an nakba and its corollary the right of return, the Americans cut them off. Still, the Zionists get tripped up by their own language as when Shira says that they can’t allow them to “re-enter,” clearly indicating that they were originally there to begin with. And, too, as the conversation makes clear to me–though I wonder if it makes clear to the average American viewer–ethnic cleansing was necessary to create a Jewish state. With all the talk about Nazi Germany–which does get brought up ad nauseum in the episode as one might expect–no one seems to ask the question about these war crimes committed by Jewish terrorists like those in Irgun (read: Benjamin Emanuel, Rahm Israel Emanuel’s father). I refuted much of this propaganda in an earlier post if you want to weigh the propaganda versus the historical record.

While it may be true that some Americans watching this start to “get it” and understand that the real problem is not fighting for a state per se, but rather fighting to get Palestinian land back so that Palestinians can finally exercise their right of return, all of that seems to be elided by the Americans doing their best to persuade the Palestinians to consistently give up their rights. Throughout these two episodes on the “peace talks” we see Palestinians giving up more and more and Israelis constantly walking away from the table, refusing to even discuss concessions. Here is one example of this when Kate has a discussion with Farad that we are later told gets him to concede on the right of return:

Kate: “Mr. Chairmain I know how difficult it would be for you to even appear to be abandoning your principles, but it’s just not reasonable to ask the Israelis to allow an unlimited number of refugees to return.”

Farad: “I was born in the city of Safad. Do you know Safad? It’s in the mountains of the upper Galilee. I was eight years old when the British left. There were 52,000 Arabs in Safad. And only 1,300 Jews. Within a month the Hagana had taken over the city. My elder sister Amira was killed. The body of my brother Aziz was found hanging from a burned Cyprus tree. We fled to Syria, lived in tents, ate United Nations handouts and surplus American cheese. I still remember the view of the valley from the roof of our house. The smell of the pomegranates. The sound of children playing in our orchard. The home of my father, my aunts, my uncles they are now art galleries and bed and breakfasts. Will I get to go home, Ms. Harper?”

Kate: “No, sir, probably not. But is that worth not having any home at all?”

We don’t get the entire story of Safad here, but Safad, like all Palestinian towns and villages during the process of Jewish Zionists ethnically cleansing the land of Palestinians, Safad was attacked by Palestinian terrorists. There were several such organizations–not only Irgun. In Safad it was the Jewish terrorist gangs of Palmach and Hagana that forced the Palestinians to leave according to Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine:

In Safad there were 9500 Arabs and 2400 Jews. Most of the Jews were Ultra-Orthodox and had no interest at all in Zionism, let alone in fighting their Arab neighbors. This, and the relatively gradual way the Jewish takeover developed, may have given the eleven members of the local national committee the illusion that they would fare better than other urban centres. The committee was a fairly representative body that included the town’s notables, ulama (religious dignitaries), merchants, landowners and ex-activists from the 1936 Revolt, of which Safad had been a major centre. The false sense of security was reinforced by the relatively large presence of Arab volunteers in Safad, totaling more than 400, although only half of them were armed with rifles. Skirmishes in the town had begun in early January, triggered by an aggressive reconnaissance incursion by some Hagana members into the Palestinian neighborhoods and market. A charismatic Syrian officer, Ihasn Qam Ulmaz, held the defences against repeated attacks by the Hagana’s commando unit, the Palmach.

At first , these Palmach attacks were sporadic and ineffective, as its units focused their actions on the rural area around the town. But once they were through with the villages in Safad’s vicinity (described later in this chapter) they could concentrate fully on the town itself, on 29 April 1948. Unfortunately, for the people of Safad, at precisely the moment they needed him most, they lost the able Ulmaz. The volunteers army’s new commander in the Galilee, Adib Shishakly (to become one of Syria’s rulers in the 1950s) replaced him with one of the ALA’s more incompetent officers. However, it is doubtful whether even Ulmaz would have fared better in view of the imbalance of power: 1000 well-trained Palmach troops confronting 400 Arab volunteers, one of many local imbalances that show the falsity of the myth of a Jewish David facing an Arab Goliath in 1948. (97)

This historical reality–had it entered into the television show or even into real so-called peace negotiations–and so many others like it should wake people up to the fact that the fight is against a colonial rule which has no legitimacy.

Even when we see side conversations at Camp David among characters about the situation we see the racism emanating even among those who are think themselves “balanced” on the subject:

Josh: “He’s not gonna do it. Farad’s elevated being a victim into an art form. What?”

Toby: “Nothing.”

Josh: “Come on, you’re not starting to buy what he’s selling, too? He’s a terrorist.”

Toby: “With some legitimate grievances.”

Josh: “Please.”

Toby: “What? Now suddenly you’re Jewish? I don’t remember seeing you at temple.”

Josh: “1938 millions of men, women, and children were running for their lives from gas chambers in any country that would take them. And nobody would. Including America.”

Toby: “So they settled in the middle of a region that still believes in public stonings and harems? Palestinians are the Jews of the Arab world.”

Josh: “Even with the bombs Israel is the one place it’s okay to be Jewish.”

Toby: “And here.”

Josh: “German Jews in the 20s were mighty comfortable.”

Toby: “This isn’t Germany. This is America.”

Josh: “Home of the KKK.”

Toby: “Where you and I work in the White House to make sure the Justice Department rips their Jew-hating hoods off.”

As the quote from Pappe makes clear above–it is the Zionist Jews who are to blame for most of this. Josh fills in that gap a bit by acknowledging that if the U.S., among other countries, had let Jews in after World War II, much of this colonial history might have been eliminated. But the racism here–that it is the Palestinians who play the victim (what do you call shouting anti-Semitism every time someone cites a historical fact that shatters Zionist colonial mythology?) or Toby’s remark about all Arabs/Muslims/Palestinians which totally undercuts his remark about Palestinians being the real victims here–undercuts the larger argument while also showing what typical Americans under the influence of Zionism think.

In the end, the peace agreement is reached–or a “tentative” one as they name it. How do they surpass all the huge barriers, aside from bullying Palestinians to concede on every important issue? By promising to remove Israeli soldiers and replace them with American soldiers. What I want to know is this: why don’t we ever see Americans threatening Israelis with a full removal of this obscene amount of economic and military aid? Why isn’t that the thing that is used as a leverage point? Instead, this fictional show thinks the solution to the problem is to create an American occupation of Palestine complete. People here already are far too aware that Israel and the U.S. are one in the same when it comes to the occupation of Palestine. We all see the planes, the bullets, the military materiel. I’ve even posted a photograph of the boxes of those American-made shipments when we were under siege in Deheishe refugee camp last summer.

So does life imitate art or is it the other way around? Here are a couple of clips of Rahm Emanuel speaking, which I think are revealing. The first is a clip in which is notable for the way he says USIsrael as if it is one word. He literally collapses the two. The second is a speech he gave at a Seattle synagogue about Obama.

Interestingly, in that second clip Emanuel says that neither Bush nor McCain has been as good a friend to Israel as Obama would be (this is pre-election). Scary to think of that considering what Gideon Levy says in Ha’aretz today about what such a friendship with Bush has meant to the Zionist state: (thanks Tamara)

When we say that someone is a “friend of Israel” we mean a friend of the occupation, a believer in Israel’s self-armament, a fan of its language of strength and a supporter of all its regional delusions. When we say someone is a “friend of Israel” we mean someone who will give Israel a carte blanche for any violent adventure it desires, for rejecting peace and for building in the territories.

Israel’s greatest friend in the White House, outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush, was someone like that. There is no other country where this man, who brought a string of disasters down upon his own nation and the world, would receive any degree of prestige and respect. Only in Israel.

Only in Israel does the prime minister place George Bush’s portrait in his den, in his private home. Only in Israel does the prime minister travel to visit him in the White House.

That’s because Bush was a friend of Israel. Israel’s greatest friend. Bush let it embark on an unnecessary war in Lebanon. He did not prevent the construction of a single outpost. He may have encouraged Israel, in secret, to bomb Iran. He did not pressure Israel to move ahead with peace talks, he even held up negotiations with Syria, and he did not reproach Israel for its policy of targeted killings.

With friends like these…

change means: organize, organize, organize

Yesterday on Flashpoints JR & the Block Report featured an interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal, live from death row in Pennsylvania, to discuss the recent elections (or as JR calls them “selections”). Much of what both JR and Mumia said echoed Bill Fletcher and Ali Abunimah’s comments that I wrote about yesterday: that the response to this election should not be resting on one’s laurels, but to organize, organize, organize. JR and Mumia began by talking about a comment Fred Hampton, Jr. made the day before equating the election of Barack Obama to that of Nelson Mandela in South Africa whereby “nothing changed but the color of white people’s representative.” This was specifically in reference to the ways in which Mandela’s presidency meant no substantive change for poor people, for people living in ghettos, which represents large percentage of South African people. Thus, the fear is that given Obama’s silence until now on poverty in the U.S. the same could hold true now. Of course, that remains to be seen. But in order to prevent that from happening people invested in issues like poverty and homelessness need to organize and put pressure on the new government to ensure that doesn’t happen as Mumia said, “it depends on us. if people organize then they can make change.” Of course the two discussed the problems with education and the prison industrial complex (and you can click on the link above to listen to the entire interview), but I want to highlight the part of the interview about organizing because this is what is needed now. The situation of so many crucial issues is too urgent to wait and see.

JR: Some people in the revolutionary community feel that Obama being president is a setback because it will allow the establishment to deny that racism still exists in America. But the late great Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, said that: “neocolonialism is the last stage of capitalism.” What are your thoughts on the issue?

Mumia: People can’t take shortcuts to organize. Well, even with the Obama victory, if you recall the republican convention after the democratic convention, one of the best mocking lines that they used–and I remember specifically the former mayor of New York, Rudy Guiliani–they joked about Obama being a community organizer. Well, in point of fact he was a community organizer. And he used those skills to beat the hell out of anybody who was his opponent. No one expected him–I mean–I remember in 2007 no one expected him to beat Hillary Clinton. Hillary was going to be the next democratic nominee. No one expected this guy to beat ’em. And when you looked at the republican convention and how the polls changed after it everybody expected John McCain to be a stronger candidate coming out of the convention. But this was a community organizer so people who call themselves revolutionaries, who are organizers, who are activists and agitators: take the lesson about what community organizing really is. That’s talking to people, organizing people, and making change. I mean that’s where change really happens. You know, talking to real people, changing their minds, bringing them over, and organizing. Kwame Ture used to say every time you spoke to people you must say “organize, organize, organize.” I mean, he would beat that drum until it was deeply embedded in consciousness. He understood that unless people understood how to organize and then did that then there would be no change. I’m not just talking about political change. I’m talking about real, social change. so our people need to organize.

When JR asked Mumia who he would have voted for if he were not unjustly incarcerated in a federal penitentiary, Mumia said:

Mumia: I would probably have voted for Cynthia McKinney. I mean here was a true radical alternative. Here was a Black woman, who stood up very strongly in Congress against the Iraq war and against the PATRIOT Act, and against a lot of the repressive measures that her fellow democrats voted for. Well, because she stood up she was isolated by the democratic party. And really I think she suffered two electoral defeats because she was so outspoken. It was the Green Party that was a fit for her. And, you know, this was a Black woman. If a Black man is progress, a Black woman is real progress. But again, I mean, organize, organize, organize. We can’t understate the importance of organizing.

There are so many domestic and international issues that need to be organized around. There is certainly no shortage. But I think what this analysis and the analysis I posted yesterday shows us is that the lesson of this election is what Mumia also expressed in the interview: “the lesson we have to take–this is about a victory for community organizing not for change.” In other words, change doesn’t come while we sit back passively, we must actively participate in the process.

I was actually reading Kwame Ture’s book, Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokley Carmichael, today where he talks about his role as an agent of change when he worked in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). There is a part of the book where he shares the story of how SNCC came to support Palestinians. He provides some background first of his upbringing in New York when he worked with various youth Socialist and Communist groups:

Here I learned to sing “Hava Nageela” and to dance the hora. During the fifties, these young-left groups were unquestioningly pro-Zionist. Stalin had given arms to Zionist factions in 1948, and Israel was said to be progressive and socialist. End of story. There was no discussion at all of the rights of the Palestinian people. None. Not in those circles. So it never occurred to me then, that there might be another side to the story. (557)

In the early sixties Ture first read about Palestinian rights and resistance in Muhammad Speaks, the Nation of Islam newspaper. After the assassination of Malcolm X, SNCC began a study group on Palestine where they read and discussed a book a month, and not just from pro-Palestinian or anti-Zionist perspectives, as Ture details:

We also read the principal Zionists–Herzl, Ben-Gurion, Begin, documents from the Stern Gang, etc., etc. As a matter of fact, these Zionist ideologues provided the strongest evidence against Israeli policies by openly revealing the naked colonialist intention at the heart of the Zionist enterprise. That was my second surprise. The third, and this was the shocker, was discovering the close military, economic, and political alliance between the Israeli government and the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Now this was a real shock since I knew that during World War II, the Afrikaner nationalists had fervently supported the Third Reich and had cultivated close associations with and had even organized themselves along the lines of the German Nazi Party. (558)

Ture grounds his context for this SNCC reading group in one of its mantras, that “knowledge is power.” After two years with this group Ture became chair of SNCC and wanted to put that knowledge into action in some way, but then as now there were so many issues they faced: Vietnam War in addition to a host of issues affecting the Black Power movement. But his last act as chair was to write a position paper for internal distribution in SNCC. But the paper was leaked to the press and SNCC was subsequently labeled as anti-Israel, anti-Semitic. In retrospect Ture has some useful thoughts on that episode, especially in light of the way Obama failed to face the challenge of standing by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, or Rashid Khalidi. Ture says:

Look, when we took on white supremacy and the Klan, we were attacked. But we survived. We took on the president and the National Democratic Party and survived that. When we opposed the war and the draft, we were really attacked, but survived even that. But dare to open our mouths on Zionism? That one, you don’t mess with and survive. That was the lesson the Zionist thought police meant for us to learn in 1967. But we are still here. On this one, history will certainly be the judge. That, you can depend on. Since those (1967) events, I am proud to say that I have never ceased to speak out and work for justice for the Palestinian people. (561)

Ture’s work on this matter was not at the exclusion of other revolutionary struggles. It was connected to those struggles and a part of those struggles, whether fighting apartheid in South Africa or domestic issues in the U.S. And his understanding of all these issues came from first-hand experience as well as reading and discussing books on the subject. And he connected these issues through the rubric of imperialism or militarism or imprisonment depending on the set of issues he struggled against. Ture identifies his position as one of supporting human rights, justice, and international law. This was as important in 1967 as it is today. And what I think we can learn from people like Mumia or Ture is to connect issues related to revolutionary movements of change. Because whether we like it or not, just as the issue of apartheid in South Africa or in Palestine today was connected by the same cash flowing from the Zionist state and the U.S. among others, we can continue to trace the same economic, military, political supporters of issues that defy justice, international law, and human rights.

But we need to work for those goals–to learn about our issues, to educate others, and to fight for them. That is what brings change. Unfortunately, one of the disappointing things about Obama is that many seem to see the election of him as the end of their struggle. As if electing Obama is the change not what he promised to do. But Obama and change–these two words–are a bit odd together. I mean, if he can spend years listening to and befriending Palestinians in Chicago only to abandon them–and let them get viciously attacked in the most racist ways during the campaign without ever apologizing–for a staunch, hardlined approach embodied in Rahm Israel Emanuel. One of Obama’s campaign promises has been to end the war in Iraq. But I have always doubted this campaign pledge for a number of reasons. First, there are some sixteen permanent U.S. military bases there that I do not expect will be evacuated and expect will remain staffed with American military officials. Second, Obama has never spoken about the 150,000 mercenaries working for Blackwater or other private contractors. So even if he pulls out American troops that doesn’t mean that the occupation of Iraq will end. Moreover, Emmanuel himself said in January 2007 to the Washington Post that he wanted to “let this war go on for two more years so we can run against it again.” This was reported on The Real News today. And I wonder, does this sound like change?

Audre Lorde famously wrote, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” So to expect that someone embedded in the epitome of master’s house will bring change is misleading at best. And in the euphoria or disappointment of the election other issues that were on American ballots have largely gone under- or unreported, including by me. One of the reasons I wanted to vote when I was in the U.S. last month was not just to cast a ballot for Cynthia McKinney. It was also to vote on Proposition 8, which failed to pass, and unfortunately rendered gay marriage illegal in California. But in California gay rights activists are already taking to the streets and protesting as well as taking legal action to fight against this. They are organized and organizing. But how much more powerful would their organizing be if they worked in solidarity with other progressive groups? For instance, one of the targets of the protests yesterday was against the Mormon Church in Los Angeles, which actively campaigned to outlaw gay marriage. The Mormon Church, is by definition a Zionist church in its theology, and it hosts a university–Brigham Young University–on occupied land in occupied East Jerusalem. Imagine if we could get Palestinian activists to collaborate on this issue. But such collaboration has to come from genuine solidarity on both sides. And this is a tremendous failure in the U.S. as it is in much of the world. But it is strange to me nevertheless that many pro-Palestinian activists and gay rights activists alike voted for Obama because they believe he symbolized change for them and the issues they care about. And yet organizing together on the specific changes they want to see doesn’t seem to emerge unless the issue is somehow intensely personal, as in for lesbian and gay Palestinians living in California.

There are other ways in which organizers can work together for change and to encourage an Obama administration to take on issues related to human rights violations and struggles head on. For instance, 7.2 million Palestinian refugees remain the oldest refugee population that has not been resolved, in spite of UN Resolution 194 that states Palestinian refugees have a right to return to their homes. But there are other refugee populations and issues related to refugee issues that could work together for refugee rights in the U.S. One of the most constant refugee populations are the Congolese refugees, the result of a number of factors, not the least of which is U.S. meddling. Kambale Musavuli explains this context:

In reality, the source of the conflict in Congo for most of its history has been the scramble for its enormous wealth, not the internecine, ethnic bloodletting more commonly blamed. In the late 1990s, Congo was invaded twice by Rwanda and Uganda with the backing and support of the United States, as documented in the 2001 congressional hearings held by Reps. Cynthia McKinney and Tom Tancredo. It was these invasions that unleashed the tremendous suffering that exists in Congo today.

But it is not just history that needs to be re-examined. From copper, tin and cobalt to coltan – a mineral found in cell phones, video games and other gadgets we have come to rely on – American corporations stand to make millions at the expense of the people of Congo. Dan Rather’s recent report on Phoenix-based FreePort McMoRan’s odious contract in acquiring what many say is the world’s richest copper deposit is but a window into the systemic exploitation of Congo’s wealth.

As with colonialism in Palestine or in Congo there are multinational corporations that must be fought in order to change the lives of people on the ground, most importantly the lives of the refugees, or in the case of the Congo, the newly Internally Displaced People (IDPs). While the boycott against Israeli companies as well as American and European companies that heavily invest in the Zionist state is taking off, many of these companies and their desire to rape countries of their natural resources overlap. This requires solidarity, research, analysis, and then, yes, organizing. But I especially think that the situation between the Congo and Palestine is an interesting one. A journalist friend who spends a lot of time in the Congo has had some interesting conversations with Congolese people when they describe repeated incursions, invasions by Rwanda into the Congo. They claim that the Rwandans are trying to change the border, to steal land, and as a result Congolese people have spent the last decade as either refugees or IDPs related to this and larger regional wars. Here is a bit of context from Lenin’s Tomb:

The Rwandan ruling class, whose political expression is the Rwandan Patriotic Front, now simply depends upon the mineral resources of the Congo, as it lives well above the means that its own country’s resources could provide. The exploitation of Congolese resources is built into government policy and is directed by a component of their External Security Organization. There was no way they were going to accept being deprived of leverage in the Congo, and this was the main cause of the war that then erupted in 1998. Kabila successfully galvanised substantial layers of the population against his former allies, but his rhetoric verged on genocidal as he called on them to “erase the enemy”, lest they “become slaves to these little Tutsis”. The US, for its part, backed the alliance of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Banyamulenge in order to get a new regime more aligned to its own priorities, with the justification being that the Banyamulenge were merely engaged in a legitimate revolt, while Rwanda and Uganda were intervening to protect the security of their own borders. (A subsidiary justification was that sponsoring Rwanda and Uganda would help contain the Sudanese state). In fact, Rwandan and Ugandan forces had plotted the overthrow of Kabila and directed the first rebellions in Goma and Kinshasa that marked the beginning of the war, and they were decisive in founding the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), which unites a disparate array of forces around an inchoate programme.

Here is a report on the recent suffering in the Congo that was on Al Jazeera today as the negotiations get underway in Nairobi for some sort of resolution.

Likewise, militarization in general–and the political and economic structures that make militarization possible could also be usefully mobilized as one entity to fight American imperialist adventures. Regardless of what Obama promises, we don’t know what will be the reality whether in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or the U.S. military bases in 130 different countries around the world. Or the military “aid” the U.S. gives to the Zionist state and other states to enact gross human rights violations. We need resistance to these systems of power. We need to read, understand, and to not use Obama’s model of backing down to difficult subjects, difficult issues, because it may disturb the Israel lobby. Silence is complicity. The silence in the U.S., for instance, over the fact that we have regularly invaded and are ostensibly at war with Pakistan is sickening. Here is a visual representation of that reality:

War and invasion from this side of the Atlantic is viewed the same. Because we see where the military materiel comes from. We know who flies the drones, who shoots the missiles, who does the torturing. Even when one is blindfolded:

Israeli Television, Chanel 10, showed on Thursday a video footage taken by Israeli soldiers filming themselves humiliating a bound and blindfolded Palestinian man at a military roadblock in the occupied West Bank, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported.

In all the media buzz about Rahm Israel Emanuel he appears to have earned a nickname: Rahmbo. This does not bode well, nor does a blatantly racist statement by his terrorist father in the Jerusalem Post yesterday:

Emanuel, who served in the Clinton White House, has Israeli family and spent significant amounts of time in Israel. He now serves as the fourth-highest member of the House of Representatives, is known as a skilled political operator who helped engineer the gains the Democrats made in Congress in 2006.

In an interview with Ma’ariv, Emanuel’s father, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, said he was convinced that his son’s appointment would be good for Israel. “Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” he was quoted as saying. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”

Emanuel is the sort of person Ture was talking about–the sort who tar and feather those who speak about the reality of Israeli state terrorism every day against Palestinians. And like Ture said sometimes the Zionists themselves reveal the most about the reality of the situation as in these quotes from a Ha’aretz article today:

“Rep. Emanuel is also a good friend of Israel, coming from good Irgun stock, davening at an Orthodox synagogue, and sending his children to Jewish day schools,” Daroff concluded….

“Emanuel has deep Jewish roots and strong ties to the Jewish community. Emanuel, the son of an Israeli immigrant, has a proven commitment to Israel’s security and served as civilian volunteer on an Israeli military base during the Persian Gulf War of 1991,” the statement continued.

And here is one more confirmation about who Emanuel is and where he comes from (I don’t think I’ve seen any American newspaper use the word to accurately describe Emanuel’s father yet. I don’t expect to either.):

Emanuel’s father: An Israeli terrorist?

The appointment of Rahm Emanuel triggered widespread interest in Israel, the native country of his former Jewish underground fighter father.

The older Emanuel, a paediatrician born in Jerusalem, was a member of Irgun, the hard-line militant group which fought for Jewish independence until 1948. It was described as “terrorist” at the time by Britain. Mr Emanuel’s appointment could reassure Israel that Mr Obama will continue America’s close alliance. The Ynet news service quoted Michael Kotzin, a leader of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, as saying Mr Emanuel is a frequent attender at Israel-related events.

He co-sponsored a Bill defending Israel against a world court advisory opinion in 2004 criticising the route of the military’s separation barrier for cutting deep into the West Bank, and co-sponsored another Bill congratulating Israelis and Palestinians who work together for peace. He is credited with choreographing the famous handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn in 1993.

And one more disturbing bit of information about Emanuel, which deserves to be noted from the Wayne Madsen Report:

November 6, 2008 — Obama faced with security problem at outset of transition process
WMR has learned from informed U.S. intelligence sources that prospective Barack Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has an active FBI counter-intelligence file maintained on him. Emanuel’s rise to the Chief of Staff position may pose a significant security problem for President-elect Obama if the FBI insists on conducting the full background security investigation normally required for senior White House officials.

Questions about Emanuel’s links to the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, were allegedly so great that President Bill Clinton was forced to dismiss Emanuel from the White House staff in 1998. One of the FBI agents who discovered Emanuel’s dealings with Israeli intelligence was, according to our sources, the late FBI counter-terrorism Assistant Director John O’Neill. O’Neill retired after being set up in a smear operation involving a temporarily stolen brief case in 2001. O’Neill and another FBI agent who still works for the bureau and shall remain nameless at this point to protect him and his career discovered that Emanuel was heavily involved in the decision to place intern Monica Lewinsky close to President Clinton. O’Neill accepted the top security position for Kroll Associates at the World Trade Center. O’Neill was killed in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. WMR has also reported that O’Neill was a close friend of slain retired Houston CIA station chief Roland V. “Tony” Carnaby, who was similarly investigating Israeli intelligence operations in the Houston area when Houston police shot and killed him last April.

Emanuel reportedly had knowledge of Israeli intelligence penetration of White House communications systems and Lewinsky, in sworn testimony before the Office of Independent Counsel, stated: “He [Clinton] suspected that a foreign embassy [it is now known that embassy was that of Israel] was tapping his telephones, and he proposed cover stories.” Lewinsky continued, “If ever questioned, she should say that the two of them were just friends. If anyone ever asked about their phone sex, she should say that they knew their calls were being monitored all along, and the phone sex was just a put on.”

WMR has learned from U.S. intelligence sources that Emanuel was discovered to be part of a political intelligence and blackmail operation directed against Clinton by Israel’s Likud Party and Binyamin Netanyahu to sink Clinton’s proposed Middle East peace deal. We have also learned that the FBI investigation of Emanuel is part of a file code-named the “Mega file.” “Mega” is a reference to a top-level Mossad agent in the Reagan administration who was said to have run a number of Israeli agents, including U.S. Navy spy Jonathan Pollard.

Clearly, we have a lot of work to do. To investigate, to keep our eye on the ball. Alliances must be built. Connections must be made. And there is no time to sit back and just breathe.

time to analyze, mobilize, and organize

When I spoke with my students about the election this week one woman asked me, why did the Americans emphasize Barak Hussein Obama’s middle name so much–in an attempt to scare Americans into thinking he’s Muslim–when his first name is a Jewish one? Indeed. Those of us familiar with the work of Ehud Barak (it’s transliterated from the Hebrew in either case hence the different spellings) in carrying out his lethal siege in Gaza of late know all too well where this name comes from:

After the Israeli army carried its recent offensive against the Gaza Strip, killing seven Palestinians in one day, several resistance groups retaliated by firing a barrage of homemade shells against the Western Negev, Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak vowed further military offensives against the Gaza Strip.

And perhaps both Bara(c)ks are in good company. Clearly Obama made a decision to side with hardliners like the one in the Zionist state who terrorizes Palestinians every day and who promises more of the same. But I hadn’t known the origin of the name and found Juan Cole offering a useful definition of it as well as an interesting commentary on presidential names as derived from Semitic languages more generally:

Barack is a Semitic word meaning “to bless” as a verb or “blessing” as a noun. In its Hebrew form, barak, it is found all through the Bible. It first occurs in Genesis 1:22: “And God blessed (ḇāreḵə ) them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.”

Or, perhaps we can ask the question: why is it that while the media loved to harp on Obama’s middle name throughout the campaign in order to foment Islamophobia that they are largely excluding Rahm Israel Emanuel’s middle name when discussing his new position as White House Chief of Staff? Curious. No, not really.

But Emanuel continues to be a dangerous pick and as Ali Abunimah mentioned in the article I posted earlier today, he signals a more hardlined approach than George Bush especially when it comes to Palestine. Someone commented on Facebook and on my post that he didn’t serve in the army because he didn’t participate in combat. Here is what the Telegraph has to say about his “service” in the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF):

He took a break from politics during the 1991 Gulf War, volunteering as a mechanic on an army base in Israel. It was on his return that he joined the presidential primary campaign of Bill Clinton, then the Governor of Arkansas. It was to prove the move that launched his national political career.

From my point of view the fact that he 1) volunteered to serve the ITF and 2) that he did indeed serve them demonstrates where his commitments lie. Whatever daily war crimes were carried out during that time period he is complicit in. He facilitated the ITF in carrying out whatever missions they carried out in his work as a mechanic. That work likely enabled more tanks and jeeps to invade, kidnap, and murder Palestinians every day. Who do you think repaired the vehicle that came into Nablus today to kidnap a Palestinian?:

Undercover Israeli forces seized on Thursday an Islamic Jihad activist from a city street in Nablus, in the northern West Bank.

Eighteen-year-old Suhieb Al-Kharaz told Ma’an about the abduction of the man, who is his uncle.

“Undercover Israeli forces who were riding in a civilian vehicle loaded with furniture had stopped in front of a grocery which belongs to the Al-Kharaz family and arrested my uncle Mohammad Ziad Makawi Al-Kharaz, who is 42 years old, and withdrew shortly after without shooting.”

Moreover, would Obama appoint, say, a Pakistani American to such a position if that person had served in the Pakistani army?

Emanuel’s father, member of the Jewish Irgun terrorist organization, had this promise to make this morning in response to his son’s acceptance of the appointment:

Emanuel has close ties to Israel. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper, his father, Dr Benjamin Emanuel said the appointment would be a boon to the Jewish state.

“Obviously, he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” Dr. Emanuel said in the interview. He said that his son visits Tel Aviv most summers.

Moreover, for those myopic Americans who care only about domestic issues, Emanuel will not bode well for things like the economy, something many Americans reported as the driving factor in their choice of Obama in the voting booth:

Unfortunately, Emanuel is a militant advocate for free-trade policies; he was a point man in the White House in the fight to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement and similar deals that have been passionately opposed by the very labor, environmental and farm groups that were essential players in electing Obama. When he ran for Congress in 2002, major unions supported his Democratic primary opponent, former Illinois State Representative Nancy Kaszak.

Picking Emanuel would reassure Wall Street, but it won’t give much comfort to Main Street.

I don’t know enough about David Axelrod, Obama’s choice for his Senior Adviser, but if the rule of thumb that was applied to Obama throughout the campaign (i.e., guilt by association) is any indication it does not bode well:

Despite their very, uh, different personalities, Obama and Emanuel have one big thing in common: David Axelrod. Emanuel is one of Axelrod’s closest friends; Axelrod even signed the ketubah at Emanuel’s wedding.

And, like with Emanuel, it seems there are questions about Axelrod related to the economy:

Open question: What cut of $700 million did Axelrod & Co. take home? Hard to argue they didn’t earn the cut — whatever it is — but the figure could well be obscene.

There is more on Axelrod in this Alternet piece, though nothing clearly linking his beliefs or practices to the Zionist state. Yet anyway. That remains to be seen.

All of this has been tremendously disappointing and depressing to say the least. But listening to dear Nora’s always fabulous reporting on her Flashpoints show yesterday lifted my spirits tremendously because she played a song by a hip hop group that I had not yet heard of–the Welfare Poets–and the song she played is incredible. Here is the video of their song that she played, “Let it Be Known,” which features one of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s sermons at the end. I must say every time I hear him preach it makes me want to join his church. He is brilliant, inspiring, gifted.

By today there was also some good dialogue and discussion about what a President Obama will mean for the U.S. and for the rest of the world. On The Real News there is a good discussion with Bill Fletcher, Ralph Nader, and Tom Morris that has some useful strategies for organizers to keep them from falling in the trap of merely looking at Obama as a messianic figure. (Thanks Rania for sending me that!) And the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation today sent out an email asking people to do exactly what grassroots organizers must do right now–what Bill Fletcher says we should do right now: organize! For those who live in the U.S. here is what they are doing and a link to how you can get involved:

Tuesday’s election of Barack Obama as president showed how far we’ve come in this country since the days of Jim Crow, but we still have a long way to go to win ethnic equality in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. That’s why our first-ever national speaking tour, Separate Is Never Equal: Stories of Apartheid from South Africa and Palestine will focus on ending Israel’s racist hafradah (separation) policies.

Even though Tuesday’s election was a clear mandate against Bush’s failed foreign policies of militarism and imperialism, we don’t expect to win our fight for human rights and the application of international law on inauguration day.

At the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, we understand that politicians are often the last ones to get it. Policy change is always preceded by popular education and grassroots organizing. That’s why, together with Diana Buttu, a former legal advisor and spokesperson for the Palestinian negotiating team, and Rev. Eddie Makue, the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, we will take our message that apartheid was wrong for South Africans and is wrong for Palestinians directly to the American people starting Monday.

Just Foreign Policy is also mobilizing asking people to sign on to a letter asking Obama to create a just policy. You can sign the letter and also add your own issue to it to make it more personal–and more likely to be read by clicking on this link.

For those who want an idea of what you might add to that letter or how you might want to start organizing you should check out some of the analysis on Democracy Now! this morning. There was an excellent roundtable featuring Tariq Ali, Ali Abunimah, John Pilger, Mahmood Mamdani, Laura Carlsen, and Raed Jarrar. You can watch the episode below or read the transcript at this link. (Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a Youtube clip yet of John Pilger, but you can also watch the entire episode at Democracy Now!’s website).

Hopefully people feel motivated to ACT after watching, listening, reading here. I’ll post one more reminder from Abunimah that reiterates so many others today:

And I think that progressive people across this country, you know, instead of basking in the euphoria, need to pick themselves up today and start demanding that the Obama administration immediately end the siege of Gaza. It’s totally indefensible. It is a crime unprecedented in modern history that 1.5 million people are confined to a ghetto, starved, cut off from the world, threatened. This is indefensible, and there’s no excuse for it to continue even for a single day under a new administration. And we should be setting the standard very high, not accepting slight hints that in a few years’ time an Obama administration might accept a Palestinian state or might talk about one. The days for that are over. The situation is urgent, and we really need to see radical change. It’s not going to come from Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk; it’s only going to come from a groundswell demanding that the promises of change be kept.

Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner for top post

Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner for top post
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 5 November 2008

Senator Barack Obama greets Representative Rahm Emanuel at the Illinois Delegation party at Ye Olde Union Oyster, in Boston, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention 2004. (Tom Williams)

During the United States election campaign, racists and pro-Israel hardliners tried to make an issue out of President-elect Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein. Such people might take comfort in another middle name, that of Obama’s pick for White House Chief of Staff: Rahm Israel Emanuel.

Emanuel is Obama’s first high-level appointment and it’s one likely to disappointment those who hoped the president-elect would break with the George W. Bush Administration’s pro-Israel policies. White House Chief of Staff is often considered the most powerful office in the executive branch, next to the president. Obama has offered Emanuel the position according to Democratic party sources cited by media including Reuters and The New York Times. While Emanuel is expected to accept the post, that had not been confirmed by Wednesday evening the day after the election.

Rahm Emanuel was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1959, the son of Benjamin Emanuel, a pediatrician who helped smuggle weapons to the Irgun, the Zionist militia of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, in the 1940s. The Irgun carried out numerous terrorist attacks on Palestinian civilians including the bombing of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel in 1946.

Emanuel continued his father’s tradition of active support for Israel; during the 1991 Gulf War he volunteered to help maintain Israeli army vehicles near the Lebanon border when southern Lebanon was still occupied by Israeli forces.

As White House political director in the first Clinton administration, Emanuel orchestrated the famous 1993 signing ceremony of the “Declaration of Principles” between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Emanuel was elected to Congress representing a north Chicago district in 2002 and he is credited with a key role in delivering a Democratic majority in the 2006 mid-term elections. He has been a prominent supporter of neoliberal economic policies on free trade and welfare reform.

One of the most influential politicians and fundraisers in his party, Emanuel accompanied Obama to a meeting of AIPAC’s executive board just after the Illinois senator had addressed the pro-Israel lobby’s conference last June.

In Congress, Emanuel has been a consistent and vocal pro-Israel hardliner, sometimes more so than President Bush. In June 2003, for example, he signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of Israel. “We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of Israel for fighting acts of terror,” Emanuel, along with 33 other Democrats wrote to Bush. The letter said that Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian political leaders “was clearly justified as an application of Israel’s right to self-defense” (“Pelosi supports Israel’s attacks on Hamas group,” San Francisco Chronicle, 14 June 2003).

In July 2006, Emanuel was one of several members who called for the cancellation of a speech to Congress by visiting Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki because al-Maliki had criticized Israel’s bombing of Lebanon. Emanuel called the Lebanese and Palestinian governments “totalitarian entities with militias and terrorists acting as democracies” in a 19 July 2006 speech supporting a House resolution backing Israel’s bombing of both countries that caused thousands of civilian victims.

Emanuel has sometimes posed as a defender of Palestinian lives, though never from the constant Israeli violence that is responsible for the vast majority of deaths and injuries. On 14 June 2007 he wrote to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “on behalf of students in the Gaza Strip whose future is threatened by the ongoing fighting there” which he blamed on “the violence and militancy of their elders.” In fact, the fighting between members of Hamas and Fatah, which claimed dozens of lives, was the result of a failed scheme by US-backed militias to violently overthrow the elected Hamas-led national unity government. Emanuel’s letter urged Rice “to work with allies in the region, such as Egypt and Jordan, to either find a secure location in Gaza for these students, or to transport them to a neighboring country where they can study and take their exams in peace.” Palestinians often view such proposals as a pretext to permanently “transfer” them from their country, as many Israeli leaders have threatened. Emanuel has never said anything in support of millions of Palestinian children whose education has been disrupted by Israeli occupation, closures and blockades.

Emanuel has also used his position to explicitly push Israel’s interests in normalizing relations with Arab states and isolating Hamas. In 2006 he initiated a letter to President Bush opposing United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Dubai Ports World’s attempt to buy the management business of six US seaports. The letter, signed by dozens of other lawmakers, stated that “The UAE has pledged to provide financial support to the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority and openly participates in the Arab League boycott against Israel.” It argued that allowing the deal to go through “not only could place the safety and security of US ports at risk, but enhance the ability of the UAE to bolster the Hamas regime and its efforts to promote terrorism and violence against Israel” (“Dems Tie Israel, Ports,” Forward, 10 March 2006).

Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, told Fox News that picking Emanuel is “just another indication that despite the attempts to imply that Obama would somehow appoint the wrong person or listen to the wrong people when it comes to the US-Israel relationship … that was never true.”

Over the course of the campaign, Obama publicly distanced himself from friends and advisers suspected or accused of having “pro-Palestinian” sympathies. There are no early indications of a more balanced course.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli- Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).