on labeling food

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last week i went to the downtown amman souq to go grocery shopping. i wanted some fresh fruits and vegetables and i loathe supermarkets. i thought that i mind find the market to be free of foreign goods, but i was wrong. and worse: much of the foreign imports were unmarked. i did find a few products to have stickers–such as watermelon from syria, bananas from saudi arabia, and apples from the united states (photos below). but buying local proved to be very difficult. even one of the main products of jordan–olive oil–was no where to be found. but i did find regional olive oil from syria, so that was fine with me. apparently, friends who are in the know tell me that big jordanian olive oil producers seeking to get rich are exporting their olive oil to the u.s. and the zionist entity in lieu of leaving enough around for local consumption.

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but when i shop i’m also always looking to see what is there from the zionist entity. i couldn’t find any stickers or anything that looked like it might be from there. although i am told that “luxury” items like kiwis and mangoes are the sorts of products that tend to come from there. i did not see anything nor did anyone offer that as the place of origin when i inquired about where un-stickered fruits and vegetables came from. but that was last week. things have changed since then. i wrote about a major jordanian protest at the ministry of agriculture recently where people here were protesting the fact that produce from the zionist entity was unlabeled and so no one knew what to boycott at the market. well, that has all changed. on wednesday, jordan made a new law saying that fruits and vegetables from the zionist entity must be labeled. a small step towards victory:

أكد وزير الزراعة المهندس سعيد المصري على قرار الوزارة القاضي بإلزام التجار المتعاملين مع إسرائيل بتبيان بلد المنشأ، وذلك بتدوين كلمة “منتج إسرائيلي” على المحاصيل الزراعية المستوردة من الدولة العبرية.

ويأتي قرار الوزارة للحيلولة دون التغرير بالمواطن ببيعه منتجات إسرائيلية على أن منشأها محلي أو دولة أخرى، وبحيث يكون المستهلك حرا باختياره، إما “الشراء أو المقاطعة”.

وأكد الوزير بأن من يخالف القرار سيتعرض”لعقوبات مشددة”، وبأن هناك إجراءات مشددة من قبل الأجهزة الرقابية على المستوردين ومنافذ بيع الخضروات لإلزامها بوضع بيان منشأ البضاعة والمعلومات الخاصة بها، كما ستجري ملاحقة التجار الذين يقومون بإخفاء بلد المنشأ على الخضروات والفاكهة بهدف بيعها وترويجها بشكل غير قانوني.

وقد أفاد مدير عام اتحاد المزارعين محمود العوران بأن الإجراء يصب كذلك في صالح حماية المزارع الأردني، ذلك أن استيراد الخضروات والفواكه الإسرائيلية من شأنه أن يؤثر سلبا على المزارعين الذين يعانون أصلا من ظروف صعبة بسبب تكلفة الإنتاج والقروض.

يذكر أن وزير الزراعة كان قد أكد عدم قدرته على إلغاء الاستيراد من إسرائيل، لوجود “اتفاقية تجارة بينية” وقعتها المملكة معهم، ووقف الاستيراد يرتب عليها التزامات حيث تعد المملكة جزءا من منظمة التجارة العالمية.

وصرح الوزير “لا أملك صلاحية منع الاستيراد من أية دولة معترف بها أو بيننا وبينها اتفاقيات”، لكنه أشار بأن الوزارة تمنع استيراد أية منتجات يكون مصدرها” المستوطنات الإسرائيلية”.

وكانت المملكة قد استوردت نحو 1488 طنا من الخضروات و442 طنا من الفاكهة الإسرائيلية خلال النصف الأول من 2009، مقابل 4300 طن خضروات و260 طنا من الفاكهة في 2008 و 11 ألف طن خضروات و5400 طن فاكهة عام 2007.

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but still, i wanted to see where the fruit and vegetables being imported from the zionist entity are. so i went to carrefour–france’s version of walmart–near my house to see if they label fruits and vegetables, particularly from the zionist entity. apparently, in france, they were the target of the boycotters who went did a terrific de-shelving campaign a few months ago. but at the carrefour in amman there seems to be no indication of any zionist products. not only that: this is the first store i’ve seen where all the produce is labeled with good-sized signs above each item (see below). so shoppers know exactly what they are buying and where it is from. now i need to check and see if other markets have this. and, i cannot wait to see the first stickers on fruits and veggies saying that they are from the zionist entity. so i will be on the lookout for that.

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this focus here on buying local, which is something i always do wherever i live, is something that i want to do as a tactic (and hopefully part of a national campaign at some point…) to boycott items from the zionist entity while also supporting jordanian farmers. and while i’m at it avoiding buying american products would be good, too. the farmers in jordan, especially in the ghor or the jordan valley, are under siege from all sides it seems. they are often under attack from the zionists who make demands such as not allowing them to use natural fertilizer, and then, because of zionist collaboration with the government here, they have forced the farmers to buy american fertilizer. it’s a handy triad of imposing foreign rule over the farmers, the people who deserve our respect the most for their hard work and for feeding us even when it can barely bring them enough cash to feed their families. because of all these foreign agricultural imports in jordan the farmers are getting paid a pittance, but then the mark up at the supermarket is high, so that they farmers receive the least amount of money for their hard work in producing the fruits and vegetables in the first place.

but it doesn’t stop there. the devil is in jordan too. by that, i mean, of course, monsanto. here is the scant bit of information they provide on their website about their operations here:

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although monsanto doesn’t say much about what they are doing in jordan, of course, we know they are up to their old tricks here (i’ve written about them elsewhere). like everywhere else they work around the world, they deceive farmers into using their seeds, to which only monsanto “owns” as they treat it as if it were intellectual property. and then the farmers cannot re-harvest their seeds. thus, they are forced to keep buying seeds from the monsanto people each year. it is a never-ending cycle. it is reminds me of a drug dealer-druggie relationship. or perhaps monsanto is just like a cockroach: something that you can never get rid of no matter how hard you try to exterminate it.

but it is not just monsanto who harms the farmers here. it is also usaid. i’ve quoted my dear friend rami zurayk’s long article on the dangers of usaid before. for those who haven’t read it yet, it is strongly advised to understand why there are many of us who refuse to have anything to do with it. it turns out that usaid has been doing its best to intervene in jordanian farming here. a friend was at an international conference here in amman that focused on environmental and agricultural issues in jordan. this was a conference for the farmers and the people who support them. for conservationists and people who actively work to help–local, activist people not foreign imperialists trying to intervene. but a man named john smith-sreen showed up and spoke on behalf of usaid at the end. no one who organized the conference knew he was going to be here and he was not welcomed by those in attendance (which was made abundantly clear to him). why? because he was from usaid in the office of water resources and environment. rather than say anything about the way in which agriculture is suffering because zionists steal water and because of the 1994 “peace” agreement with the zionist entity jordanians must cooperate economically by doing things like importing produce from zionist terrorist colonists and how these things affect jordanian farmers, instead this smith-sreen person decided to tell the audience that there should not be any agriculture in jordan any longer. and this is one of usaid’s tactics. they do things like destroy the agriculture so they can force its produce on foreign markets. and this is one of many reasons why they are so dangerous.

and usaid just creeps in all over the place–even in places where you’d least expect it. last month i noticed in jo magazine an add for souk jara, an outdoor craft and food fair that goes on throughout the summer in amman. the ad had a list of sponsors at the bottom and one of them was usiad (see photo below):

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jordan times reported their sponsorship too, but last night when i went there to help my friends out with their booth i did not see any such usaid logo on the entrance sign:

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hopefully the souk jara organizers realized what a colossal mistake they made by allowing usaid to sponsor their already successful weekly market. it will be a beautiful day when entities like usaid, monsanto, and the zionist entity no longer exist. until then, the struggle must go on.

shopping in la

my time in la has been taken up by running far too many errands. i’ve been both picking up stuff i haven’t been able to buy in palestine because i couldn’t find any local versions of products, like underwear, and also grocery shopping. but everywhere i go i am confronted by products from the zionist entity such as this underwear pictured below:

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driving down the street one is confronted by things like the zionist entity’s bank leumi on ventura boulevard:

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i went with my friend lisa to a liquor store in burbank, owned by an armenian man, who sold only one brand of arak–from the zionist entity. he made a point to tell me that he won’t sell any turkish products, but he didn’t seem to see the parallels with respect to the one brand of arak he sold:

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at amir’s felafel shop, the closest such restaurant to my grandma’s house, they sell a few products from the zionist entity. if memory serves me correctly, the owner is from yemen. they have snacks and 2 kinds of juice from the zionist entity:

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and whole foods, like trader joe’s, sells something called “israeli couscous” (what on earth is that? when did couscous get coopted by the zionist entity? and for the record the boise co-op sells something under the same name):

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whole foods can be redeemed a tad bit, however, because they are carrying palestinian olive oil (check out palestine video’s blog this week for some cnn footage on the palestinian olive harvest):

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and jon’s supermarket in van nuys has not one but 2 kinds of palestinian cheese! one from nablus and one from akka (they also sell labneh and lebanese beer):

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on another note in little tehran the i-love-the-shah iranian shops all have the “where’s my vote” green bracelets prominently displayed at checkout counters and in shop windows:

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of course the solution to the problem of zionist products infiltrating the market place is to buy local. and the best place to do that is the hollywood farmer’s market. i went with my friend ian today and here are some of the beautiful fruits and vegetables available from family farmers in california:

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one of the stands at the farmer’s market sold dates from a california town i’d never heard of before: mecca, california. apparently, this town is named mecca because they imported date palm trees from mecca, saudi arabia. since then they have varieties from iraq and iran in mecca, california, too. they sell all sorts of date varieties there–including fresh dates, which are amazingly good. not as good as jericho dates, but pretty good:

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one last food item. i was teaching someone to make za’atar this past week. he wanted to see where it came from and he happened to look at the wikipedia page for za’atar. apparently, the zionist colonist terrorist entity also has stolen za’atar. here is what they say (check out the photograph of “israeli za’atar” too by clicking on the link below):

Za’atar has been used along with other spiced salts as a staple in Arab cuisine from medieval times to the present.

Za’atar has historical significance for Palestinians. For instance, in Politics of Food (2004), Lien and Nerlich explain how “Tastes, smells, plants and food are the anchors of memory, invoking a much wider context,” noting that for Palestinian refugees, plants serve as signifiers of the house, village, and region from which they hailed.

For Israeli Jews, za’atar used to be an exotic treat associated with visits to Arab bakeries. Today, commercial production of the plant in Israel has made it “an integral element in Israeli cuisine.” Some Israeli companies market it commercially as “hyssop” or “holy hyssop”; however, Hyssopus officinalis is never found in the wild in Israel, whereas Origanum vulgare is extremely common. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “wild hyssop” was on the verge of extinction due to over-harvesting and it was declared a protected species in 1977. The law “is considered almost anti-Arab” by Arab citizens of Israel who have picked wild herbs like za’atar for hundreds of years, learning from their ancestors how to preserve the yield of future years. A 2006 Israeli military order led to the confiscation of some za’atar from West Bank Palestinians at checkpoints.

for a reminder of why the boycott is necessary, here is omar barghouti and sid shnaid in electronic intifada last week:

There is a growing understanding of the fundamental issues that drive the crisis: the occupation of Palestinian land by Zionist Jews claiming a right to do so by virtue of an alleged historical-Biblical entitlement; the expulsion of masses of Palestinians from their homeland — first by Zionist militias and, later, the state of Israel — at the time of Israel’s establishment; the legalized and institutionalized discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the ongoing military occupation and colonization of Palestinian and other Arab lands conquered in 1967.

As a result, a long-overdue determination has arisen in the ranks of civil society around the world, a determination to take concrete steps to generate tactics and strategies to bring a satisfactory resolution to this ongoing crisis by addressing its root causes. One of the most important manifestations of this new determination is the rise of an international movement endorsing the nonviolent, morally-consistent, universalist strategy of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel to compel it to comply with international law and human rights principles. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa was one of the key inspirations behind this fast spreading movement.

As expected, the prevailing Zionist response to this development has been a vitriolic denunciation of the individuals and organizations involved and a sustained attempt to bully them into silence. This usually involves an ascription of anti-Semitism as the motive for such action. In April of this year, however, when Independent Jewish Voices Canada joined the growing number of organizations endorsing BDS to promote a just peace based on international law, the Zionist establishment chose to ignore the development — presumably because the fact that it was Jews endorsing the strategy strongly challenged the false notion of a monolithic Jewish voice in support of Zionism and Israel. From the Zionists’ perspective, engaging IJV on the subject would focus increased attention on the underlying substantive issues and neutralize their most powerful tools: brow beating and intimidation.

Unfortunately for Israel’s unquestioning supporters, however, the support for BDS continues to grow. It has recently surfaced that, consistent with its long tradition of engaging on matters of social justice, the United Church of Canada (UCC) plans to debate its own version of a BDS resolution at its national conference, set for Kelowna, British Columbia in August. As expected, Zionist organizations have aimed their big guns at the UCC, attributing all sorts of vile motives to it for even considering such a resolution. We appeal to the UCC to ignore the thinly-veiled smear campaign and to join this global movement in the pursuit of sustainable peace based on freedom, equality and universal justice.

on palestinian livelihood and land (and those who destroy both)

yesterday on al jazeera nour odeh reported on zaytoun olive oil, a fair trade palestinian olive oil company that is exported to the west. buying palestinian olive oil is an important way to buycott, meaning making conscious choices not to support major companies that support the zionist entity while also supporting palestinians here is her report:

i have a section of links to the right with various methods of buycott that you can learn about, including zaytoun olive oil.

odeh’s report mentions that last year over one million palestinian olive trees were uprooted, destroyed by israeli terrorists. sometimes the uprooting is malicious, and other times it is to steal more land to build jewish-only roads and colonies on palestinian land. one of the reasons for the increase of olive trees destroyed–an essential aspect of palestinian livelihood–is because illegal colony construction has increased as ha’aretz reports:

West Bank construction has been accelerating for several months, putting Israel on a collision course with a U.S. administration taking a hard line on settlement expansion.

A new outpost, new roads, and other building projects have raced ahead in and around the settlements, often without legal permits, producing the biggest construction drive since 2003, according to Dror Etkes of the Israeli advocacy group Yesh Din. That group monitors construction in the West Bank.

The construction, which has sped up even more since Benjamin Netanyahu’s government took office this spring, is to be a main issues in U.S. President Barack Obama’s meeting with Netanyahu at mid-month.

Vice President Joe Biden called on Israel on Tuesday to stop building in the settlements and to dismantle existing illegal outposts. However, left-wing groups monitoring events in the territories say the construction has accelerated in recent months, not halted.

Examples include the following:

Construction in outposts: Between Talmon and Nahliel, west of Ramallah, a stone house and another structure have been built without a permit, next to a vineyard set up by settlers a year and a half ago. The Israel Defense Forces’ civil administration has recently issued an order to stop the project.

Illegal construction has been carried out on Palestinian land at the outposts Mitzpeh Ahiya and Adei-Ad, north of Ramallah. A mobile home has been set in an outpost near Susia south of Hebron. An outpost that was vacated near Hebron has been reinstated.

Construction east of the separation fence: New houses have been built in the Eli settlement, Rechelim, Ma’aleh Michmash and Kochav Hashahar (north and east of Ramallah). In addition, a neighborhood has been built in Na’ale, and there are at least 10 houses in Halamish and new houses in Talmon (all west of Ramallah).

Construction west of the planned fence route: Land has been prepared for building in the Kedar settlement, and 30 houses have been built in Ma’aleh Shomron. There is also a new neighborhood in both the Elkana and Zofim settlements.

Road construction and farmland: This has gone on near the Bracha settlement south of Nablus, near Tapuach, in the Eli and Shiloh area and in the Amona and Elazar settlements.

The accelerated construction stems mainly from the reduced supervision of events in the territories in the last stages of the Olmert government, while Netanyahu’s right-wing government, part of which supports the construction, hasn’t begun to address the issue.

The settlers also took advantage of the public and media attention’s focus on Gaza during the IDF offensive in January to continue the settlements and outposts’ expansion in the territories.

Israel is officially committed to the promise made by former prime minister Ariel Sharon to the Bush administration to evacuate all illegal outposts built after March 2001. But evacuations have been carried out languidly and with long intervals.

and in al quds a secret report was just released and ha’aretz reported on it showing the ways in which colonists and the israeli terrorist government act as one body to steal land and ethnically cleanse palestinians from their land:

The government and settler organizations are working to surround the Old City of Jerusalem with nine national parks, pathways and sites, drastically altering the status quo in the city. The secret plan was assigned to the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA).

In a report presented to former prime minister Ehud Olmert on September 11 last year, the JDA described the purpose of the project as “to create a sequence of parks surrounding the Old City,” all in the aspiration “to strengthen Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”

The program, sponsored by the Prime Minister’s Office and the mayor of Jerusalem, is secret and did not engage in any form of public discussion.

According to an analysis by Ir Amim, a non-profit organization dedicated to Jerusalem issues that impact on Israeli and Palestinians which exposed this detailed, confidential government plan, the motivation is to create Israeli hegemony over the area around the Old City, “inspired by extreme right-wing ideology.”

“This program integrates with statutory program 11555, approved by the Jerusalem municipality in November 2007, designed to accelerate development [to six housing units per dunam, or some 24 units per acre] in one of the most important archaeological sites in Israel. The array of escalators, cable cars and tunnels included in the plan portend blatant signs of a biblical playground populated by settler organizations,” which the organization says will be carried out by ousting Palestinian residents.

Ir Amim charges that by exposing the existence of the program the public is granted, “for the first time, a comprehensive view of how the government and settlers, working as one body, are creating a “biblical” territorial reign which connects Armon Hanatziv and Silwan in the south, Ras al-Amud and the Mount of Olives in the east, and Sheikh Jarra in the north, by connecting all of the land east of E-1.”

while these colonies go up at an alarming pace, palestinians in gaza cannot build homes because basic items like cement continue to be banned. but once again palestinians in gaza are proving how steadfast and resourceful they are by building houses with mud (zeina awad had an awesome bit on this on al jazeera the other day, but it looks like they are not going to post it on youtube). eva bartlett reported on this for electronic intifada:

Jihad al-Shaar is pleased with his mud-brick house in the Moraj district of Gaza. The 80-square meter home is a basic one-story, two-bedroom design, with a small kitchen, bathroom and sitting room, made mostly with mud and straw.

“My wife and our four daughters and I were living with family, but it was overcrowded, impossible. We knew we had to build a home of our own,” Shaar said. “We waited over two years for cement but because of the siege there is none available. What could we do, wait forever?”

So he decided to do it with mud.

Building earthen structures like bread ovens and small animal pens is a technique many Palestinians are familiar with, but extending the method to houses isn’t a notion that has taken hold in Gaza.

Jihad al-Shaar got the idea from his travels in Asia and the Middle East. “I traveled in Bangladesh, India, Yemen, Turkey … they all use some similar technique of building houses from earth. All you need is clay, sand and some straw.” These he mixed with water, and poured into brick moulds that were left in the sun to dry for three days. Good enough to build a fine house with.

While some Gaza residents speak of shame at the way life has “gone backwards” with the siege — using cooking oil in cars, wood fires for cooking, and horse and donkey carts for transportation — Shaar is proud of his clay home.

“In the winter it is warm, and in the summer it will be cool. There’s no problem with leaking, and this type of house will last a lifetime,” he says. “And it was cheap to build. A house this size made of cement would cost around $16,000 at least. This one, because it was made with simple, local materials cost just $3,000.”

Prior to Israel’s crippling siege on Gaza cement would have cost 20 shekels (about $5) a bag. Now, with cement among the many banned items, what does make it into Gaza through tunnels under the Egypt border costs ten times as much.

The $3,000 Shaar spent was mostly on support metal and on the flakes of straw used in the mud bricks as a strengthening agent. The metal bits, formerly just over 1,000 shekels a ton, are now quadrupled in price, which contribute to making an otherwise cheap building process still somewhat pricey.

Straw abounds, but due to the siege it is more often used as animal fodder, rendering it more precious and driving the price up. Clay and sand, found all over Gaza, must still be transported to the building site.

khawaja

deir rafat, palestine
deir rafat, palestine

saturday late afternoon my friends from deheishe refugee camp headed out of the west bank, illegally, of course, to 1948 palestine. we felt that it was important to spend يوم الأرض (land day) in 1948 palestine in the places where the massacre took place in 1976. of course we would like to attend the demonstrations here tomorrow, but traveling with palestinians who are not permitted to travel freely in their land means that we cannot go to places which will have a heavy military presence. we started our journey as we always do driving by two of my friends’ villages, which are just a few kilometers from their refugee camp. one of my friends wanted to spend some time in her village, deir rafat, so we drove inside. the first thing you see when you drive up the road at the entrance to her village is an old palestinian house, which israeli colonists now use as a drug rehabilitation center. we drove into the valley to the area where her family’s house used to be before israeli terrorists destroyed it. this area of the valley is not inhabited by israeli terrorists like the homes and land above on the hilltops. this area is inhabited now by bedouin shepherds who used to live in the naqab and areas near gaza. they were forcibly removed from their land several times before settling here. my friend from the village spent some time talking to one of the older bedouin men who was living there and he was very interesting. he invited us into his tent, next to his house, for tea before we left and we talked for a while. he told us his story and about his life in deir rafat. he used an unusual word to describe the israeli colonists occupying his land and hers: karawa (which seems to be a turkish word, an old word, meaning foreigner or stranger although tam tam and hala say it means pasha…though that is definitely not the context in which it was used). he used this word to talk about the jews and the british who colonized the land here.

bedouin shepherds in deir rafat
bedouin shepherds in deir rafat

we walked around the ruins of the destroyed houses in the valley, which are adjacent to the homes where the bedouin families live. i kept thinking what it must feel like to be an internally displaced person in your own country and at the same time be living on the land that belongs to others for whom it is illegal to even visit. i wonder what it feels like to wake up and see these ruins every morning knowing that these families live just a few kilometers away from their homes and have been fighting for decades to return to their land. it is striking to think about this, especially in contrast to another village, zakariya just a few kilometers closer to beit lahem from this village, where a number of my friends are originally from. the people who live there are entirely israeli colonists who are living on stolen land. but in the center of this village is a palestinian mosque (albeit one with an israeli terrorist flag on top of the minaret). there are still a number of palestinian homes still standing in that village, all of which were stolen by israeli colonists who live inside. but the mosque is different: it is at the center of the village. it is a symbol of those people not belonging there. that they are foreign. is it really possible to live in such a state of denial?

ruins of deir rafat
ruins of deir rafat

after deir rafat it was getting dark so we headed straight for nasra where our other friend is from. we got to her house and were fed an amazing meal of mlukhiyya, which of course made me very sad that baha’a was not with us. i started thinking about baha’a and thinking that he and one of my friends here would make a lovely couple. we started imagining a movement that we would call زواج العودة whereby we could create marriages with refugees outside palestine and those inside and help them to return through marriage. the only problem is that such a project would involve palestinians returning to the west bank, which is likely not their original village or city, which would not equal their right of return (and this would certainly be true of baha’a who is from yaffa). we spent the evening with my friend’s family and then woke up and headed out to saffuriyya, a village only a few miles from nasra. i had been wanting to see this village for a while now because thousands of palestinians from this village who fled during an nakba in 1948 wound up in nasra (and many are in refugee camps in lebanon). i love that these internally displaced people (idps) have consistently fought for their right to return to their villages alongside palestinian refugees who live in camps until now.

judaizied sign for saffuriyya, palestine
judaizied sign for saffuriyya, palestine

i was also interested in going to the village because i am a fan of a palestinian poet, taha muhammad ali, who is one of the palestinians from saffuriyya who lives in nasra until now. there is a beautiful anthology of his poetry entitled so what that has been translated into english, however this volume was a project that included translators/editors who are zionists and their offensive introduction is deeply troubling as well as ahistorical (they talk about the “idf” destroying his village: there was no “idf” in 1948; there were only jewish terrorist gangs which later became what the israeli colonists call the “idf” and what i call israeli terrorist forces). in any case, here is one of his poems, called “Exodus,” that i love, which i think is appropriate for land day as well as for our visit today and for asserting the rights of palestinian idps:

The street is empty
as a monk’s memory,
and faces explode in the flames
like acorns–
and the dead crowd the horizon
and doorways.
No vein can bleed
more than it already has,
no scream will rise
higher than it’s already risen.
We will not leave!

Everyone outside is waiting
for the trucks and the cars
loaded with honey and hostages.
We will not leave!
The shields of light are breaking apart
before the rout and the siege;
outside, everyone wants us to leave.
But we will not leave!

Ivory white brides
behind their veils
slowly walk in captivity’s glare, waiting,
and everyone outside wants us to leave,
but we will not leave!

The big guns pound the jujube groves,
destroying the dreams of the violets,
extinguishing bread, killing the salt,
unleashing thirst
and parching lips and souls.
And everyone outside is saying:
“What are we waiting for?
Warmth we’re denied,
the air itself has been seized!
Why aren’t we leaving?”
Masks fill the pulpits and brothels,
the places of ablution.
Masks cross-eyed with utter amazement;
they do not believe what is now so clear,
and fall, astonished,
writhing like worms, or tongues.
We will not leave!

Are we in the inside only to leave?
Leaving is just for the masks,
for pulpits and conventions.
Leaving is just
for the siege-that-comes-from-within,
the siege that comes from the Bedouin’s loins,
the siege of the brethren
tarnished by the taste of the blade
and the stink of crows.
We will not leave!

Outside they’re blocking the exits
and offering their blessings to the impostor,
praying, petitioning
Almighty God for our deaths.

one of the many checkpoints in saffuriyya
one of the many checkpoints in saffuriyya

we drove the 5 minutes it took to get to saffuriya and found not only signs judaizing the place–literally changing its name in arabic as well as in english as a part of the zionist project of erasing and ethnically cleansing palestinian existence here. once you enter the village there is a fork in the road. my friend from nasra told us to go to the left. we were confronted by a number of other signs, which my friend translated for us (growing up in 1948 palestine means she is trilingual). one of the signs said something to the effect of “this land belongs to the jews.” there were other signs about this being a national park (what israeli colonists often do with destroyed palestinian villages). the road to the left took us to a checkpoint with a gate, which we were able to get through. the entire area was just a series of israeli colonists’ houses with no trace of any old palestinian houses so we drove out of the imprisoned compound and decided to drive up the other side to the “national park.”

saffuriyya, palestine
saffuriyya, palestine

we drove up the road where we saw so many beautiful wildflowers and an amazing scenic landscape. at the end of the road was yet another checkpoint of sorts. this one was a ticket booth. apparently, if you want to visit saffuriyya you must pay 15 NIS (around $5). what is so outrageous about this is that this land is stolen. palestinians wanting to visit this land, which belongs to them must pay money to enter. i really wonder: if i decide to take over a jewish house in haifa tomorrow (which, of course, would really be a palestinian house) and started charging money for people to enter would that fly? of course, we did not pay one damn shekel and we did not enter that area, where we are told there are ruins of palestinian homes. we chose instead to walk along the fields and enjoy the land, the flowers, the air, the sky. but as we were walking around i noticed some people picnicking. the older woman was wearing hijab (a very helpful identity marker in 1948 palestine) so i asked her if she was from saffuriya. and she is. she was there with her husband, daughter, and grandchildren. they had been in the fields picking fresh za’atar and other herbs and flowers from their land that they were forcibly removed from in 1948. this, too, is something highly “illegal” here: if you are caught picking such things from your land you are fined 5,000 NIS ($1,400).

this is where one pays to enter one's own stolen land in saffuriyya
this is where one pays to enter one's own stolen land in saffuriyya

the family we spoke to told us that we should go back inside that checkpoint/gate on the other side of saffuriya because we would be able to see some old palestinian homes and a church if we drove further inside. we decided to go back. we came upon the church first and drove up the hill where we had an amazing view of the other side of the village, including a mosque we could see down below. it was sunday and there were some palestinian teenagers in the park area out in front of the church. we said hello to them and had a brief conversation, but it was a most disturbing one. one girl said, for instance “إسرائيل حلوى”. this is the level of internalized colonialism and brainwashing that we are dealing with her among some of the youth inside 1948 palestine. they think that the israeli colonists who murder, destroy, and steal from them are “beautiful” or “sweet.” this is, of course, not true of all palestinians here, my friend from nasra, for instance is nothing like that. but this was most disturbing. we left immediately after that and went down to try to find the mosque only to find yet another gated checkpoint and a sign that called it a “jewish” site belonging to some rabbi. we chose another road instead where we found a couple of palestinian homes that remained.

(apparently) "stolen" saffuri za'atar from saffuri land belonging to saffuris
view of palestinian mosque in saffuriyya
view of palestinian mosque in saffuriyya
palestinian home in saffuriyya
palestinian home in saffuriyya

after we left saffuriyya we drove north to sakhnin, the palestinian city made famous for its resistance which we commemorate on land day. we drove into the center of the city where we found a cemetery with a monument to the martyrs of yom al ard (i will be writing about this more tomorrow on land day itself but the link at the top of the post will give you a bit of an entry point on the subject). the monument itself is quite beautiful and moving, but i was disturbed when i read the signature of the sculptors on it: it was a normalization project between a palestinian and an israeli terrorist. i find this difficult to stomach. for me the lesson of such events is that israeli colonists will never stop stealing land and murdering palestinians. the lesson is to continue resistance not to make nice with your killers. not to forgive or forget because they will always repeat their crimes. we have evidence.

martyrs of yom al ard in sakhnin, palestine
martyrs of yom al ard in sakhnin, palestine
martyrs of land day memorial, sakhnin
martyrs of land day memorial, sakhnin
martyrs of land day memorial, sakhnin
martyrs of land day memorial, sakhnin
palestinian home in sakhnin, palestine
palestinian home in sakhnin, palestine

after sakhnin we continued driving into the next village, ‘arraba, which also has its martyrs’ memorial on the same road, though it is not only for land day. they, too, have their share of land day martyrs, but the list of name dates back to the palestinian strike in 1936. this is also the town where aseel asleh was murdered by israeli terrorists.
aseel was in seeds of khara (otherwise known as seeds of peace, a american zionist organization dedicated to using soft power to make palestinian submit to israeli colonization even further than they already are forced to do). yet another reminder: trying to normalize or make “peace” with the warmonger colonists occupying this land will never work. whether you normalize or not they will murder you. the lesson we should take from this, since they will murder regardless, is take the bullet standing up and fighting for your rights to stay on your land, to return to your land, rather than dying on your knees begging for “peace.”

martyrs memorial in 'arraba, palestine
martyrs memorial in 'arraba, palestine
'arrabe martyrs memorial
'arrabe martyrs memorial

after ‘arrabe we drove to the next village, deir hana, because we heard that this is the site of the land day protest tomorrow, which we want to go to but cannot. we drove around the village a bit and found old palestinian homes at the top of the mountain. a man saw us wandering around taking photographs of those homes and invited us to his house. his wife was busy baking bread for their family (which was a bit shocking because she must have made at least 30 pieces of khoobiz baladi while we were standing there). she gave us some bread to eat, which was totally amazing, and they gave us some fresh olive oil to dip it in, which was also incredible. afterward her husband took us into a part of their house to show us around. it was like a museum of palestinian culture: all over the walls were various agricultural and cultural tools palestinians have used over the centuries and in the center of the room was an enormous, old olive oil press. it was amazing to have stumbled upon this family and to see all of this, but it was sad to hear that the only people who come up there to visit the area and to see his museum are israeli colonists (likely in search of more cultural artifacts or cultural objects to steal). in any case, i bought some olive oil from him before we left to give to my friend’s mom. and then we headed back towards nasra. and now it is 3 am so i’m going to sleep. more on yom al ard bokra. tisbah 3la watan to all my palestinian friends who cannot be here to commemorate land day.

palestinian home in deir hana
palestinian home in deir hana
khoobiz baladi in deir hana
khoobiz baladi in deir hana
palestinian olive oil press in deir hana, palestine
palestinian olive oil press in deir hana, palestine

get out of your chair and boycott

move over women’s history month…march has a new and improved form of educational and activist energy to it now. as march is now boycott divestment and sanctions (bds) month. read below to see how you can participate:

Join the US Campaign and our allies around the world in a month of action supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel’s military occupation. March offers many opportunities for action, including Israeli Apartheid Week (March 1-8), Rachel Corrie Remembrance Day (March 16) and Global BDS Action Day (March 30). We also urgently need to support Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine’s recent victory winning campus divestment from Israeli Apartheid.

Two weeks ago, Hampshire College announced that it was divesting from a mutual fund which has holdings in six corporations that support Israel’s military occupation. Now Hampshire’s administration is caving to pressure from Alan Dershowitz and trying to reinvest in two of these corporations – Motorola and Terex. Write to Hampshire College’s President, Ralph Hexter, and tell him to stand strong for divestment. Click here to send him an email! Click here to organize locally for our national boycott of Motorola.

Israeli Apartheid Week: March 1-8

Educate your community about the apartheid conditions in Israel/Palestine and come together to take action for justice. Learn more about our anti-apartheid framework by clicking here. Find out what other US Campaign groups are doing to observe Israeli Apartheid Week by clicking here, or click here to post your own events.

Rachel Corrie Remembrance Day: March 16

Honor the life and legacy of Rachel Corrie, a young American peace activist who was killed by an Israeli soldier who ran her over with a Caterpillar bulldozer. Celebrate Rachel’s life by continuing her struggle for justice for the people of Gaza and an end to home demolitions. Click here to learn more about Rachel Corrie Day. Find out what other US Campaign groups are doing to remember Rachel Corrie by clicking here, or click here to post your own event.

Global BDS Action Day: March 30

The World Social Forum has called for a Global BDS Action Day to coincide with Palestinian Land Day – the annual commemoration of the 1976 Israeli massacre of Palestinians struggling against land expropriation in the Galilee. Take action to isolate the corporations supporting the continued expropriation of Palestinian land and occupation of Palestinian people. Find out what other US Campaign groups are doing on Global BDS Action Day by clicking here, or click here to post your own event.

Action Ideas

1) Support Divestment at Hampshire College

Send an email to the Hampshire College president asking him to insist on truly socially responsible investment, including divesting from Motorola and Terex, two corporations which directly profit from human rights abuses and violations of international law.

2) Become a local Hang Up On Motorola Organizer

Help grow the BDS movement by joining over 200 groups and individuals around the country in boycotting Motorola until it stops supporting Israel’s military occupation. Click here to sign our pledge not to buy Motorola products until Moto respects Palestinian human rights. Learn more about the Hang Up On Motorola boycott by clicking here or click here to order your own organizing kit. You can also join our Motorola Facebook group by clicking here.

3) Start a Divestment Campaign

Show corporations that profiting from human rights abuses and apartheid are never acceptable. Learn more about divesting from Caterpillar and other corporations supporting Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. Click here for general divestment information.

4) Support Coordinated Shareholder Meeting Action

March Is Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions

Make a tax-deductible donation to support our activities around the Motorola and Caterpillar shareholder meetings. We have an inside-outside strategy for both shareholder meetings that will include advertising, media outreach, and introducing shareholder resolutions focusing on human rights. Make these plans reality – click here to support the US Campaign’s BDS campaigns.

of course an important component of boycotting is buycotting, which is why i have a section of links in the sidebar of ways to get around products from or supporting the zionist entity. and it seems that in the united kingdom buycotting palestinian olive oil is taking off:

In an unintended consequence of Israel’s offensive in Gaza last month, sales of Palestinian olive oil in Britain are soaring, importers have said.

The devastating conflict, in which 1,300 Palestinians were killed, has prompted a surge in demand for the product in apparent sympathy for the Palestinians. Equal Exchange, a seller of Fairtrade products, reported a threefold increase in sales of olive oil from the West Bank in January compared with a year ago.

“We have run out of one-litre bottles and we expect sales to double to 400 tonnes this year compared to 2008,” said Barry Murdoch, the sales director of Equal Exchange.

The company Zaytoun, also established to sell Palestinian olive oil in the UK, reported a fourfold rise in sales last month instead of the usual post-Christmas lull. Zaytoun, established by two Britons, Heather Masoud and Cathi Pawson, takes its name from the Arabic word for olive.

and the sports boycott is still trying to rear its head, but unfortunately, there are still too many inconsistencies. nevertheless, at least there are some repercussions from protesting and pressure:

The Davis Cup match between Sweden and Israel will go ahead as planned — without spectators in the southern city of Malmo — after an attempt to move the venue to Stockholm fell through.

Swedish organizers on Tuesday cited security concerns for the closed-door policy because anti-Israeli demonstrations are expected during the best-of-five series on March 6-8. But the volley of words between the two Swedish cities, which comes after the United Arab Emirates stopped an Israeli player from a tennis tournament in Dubai, has an unmistakable political dimension.

however, it seems that dubai has lost its nerve with respect to a consistent policy in line with boycott:

Only vigilant spectators would have spotted the armed guards, the absence of any Arabs among the line judges and the fact that the umpire was barred from mentioning the nationality of the surprisingly unflustered player in the dark Fila tennis shirt, Andy Ram.

It was 28-year-old Ram’s nationality that made this match far from ordinary. His appearance in Dubai, the first ever by an Israeli, would have been unthinkable just a week ago when his compatriot Shahar Peer was barred from entering the United Arab Emirates in a decision that provoked an international storm of outrage.

The tight security was part of an apparent attempt by the organisers to justify their earlier, much-criticised decision – for which they were fined a record $300,000 by the Women’s Tennis Association. The UAE authorities had claimed Peer was denied a visa for fear of antagonising fans following the recent attacks in Gaza.

the palestinian futball association, in keeping with palestinian civil society, is asking for the sports boycott to take hold:

In a statement today Jibril Rajoub, the head of Palestinian Football Association, has stated that the international community should boycott Israeli athletes, as long as Israel does not allow the Palestinian sports movement to function normally. He noted that Israeli authorities have hindered travels of Palestinian athletes to take part in functions.

“There is a need for the international community to review its policies towards Israel. No Israeli sportsperson should be hosted if Israel does not agree to free Palestinian sport from suppression and injustice,” said Rajoub.

on the academic front we have a new american college seeking to divest from the zionist entity, haverford college. here is their statement, created by haverford alumni:

We, the undersigned alumni and associates of Haverford College, deplore the ongoing atrocities and injustices committed by the State of Israel against Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. Acknowledging that Haverford’s divestment from South Africa had a positive impact on ending apartheid, we demand that Haverford College divest fully from any entity that contributes to or supports the apartheid in Israel/Palestine. Divestment targets include:

* U.S. companies doing business in Israel;
* companies that manufacture or sell military equipment used by Israel;
* Israeli companies;
* any other holdings that financially support or sustain Israeli state sponsored apartheid.

In solidarity with those living under an unjust occupation, we pledge to continue this campaign until Haverford acts in accord with its Quaker tradition and invests in peace.

meanwhile in canada students continue to face stiff penalties for their anti-israel apartheid week activities (read below to see what you can do to help):

Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University (SAIA York) received notice of a 30-day suspension, a $1000 fine and an individual fine of $250 for the student signatory for the group. In explaining these measures, York University administration cites a demonstration organized in solidarity with students in Gaza, stating that “your club actively participated in a rally in Vari Hall on February 12, using various sound amplification devices and other noise making instruments.”

The University alleges that ‘sound amplification’ disrupted classes but fails to note that SAIA York quickly moved the rally away from Vari Hall in order to deliver a letter to the University administration. It should also be noted that the maximum monetary penalty has been imposed by the administration without following the verification process outlined in the university’s “Student Code of Conduct”. In doing so, the administration has violated its own procedures. Furthermore, the university has repeatedly failed to respond numerous complaints filed by SAIA members and their community allies over racist and sexist commentary directed at them by members of pro-Israel advocacy organizations present on that day

These discriminatory and punitive measures come a week prior to the scheduled launch of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) at York University on March 3-8 (www.apartheidweek.org). Pro-Israel organizations have applied immense, coordinated and nation-wide pressure to shut down IAW, including placing full-page advertisements in national newspapers calling on universities to prevent IAW from occurring. The repressive activities of the York administration must be clearly seen in this light.

It is shocking to see university administrations respond to these racist calls to stifle free speech and student organizing around Israeli Apartheid. At Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, university administrations have banned the IAW poster. At the University of Toronto, University President David Naylor has recently been exposed through a Freedom of Information Request to have personally been involved in shutting down a Palestine solidarity event on campus. [see the articles listed below for further detail on this repression].

The attempt by the pro Israel organizations to prevent IAW from occurring is full confirmation that the debate against Israeli Apartheid has been won. In the wake of Israel’s massacres in Gaza, student and public opinion is clearly on the side of justice. Israel is now understood as an apartheid state and the only response of pro-Israel organizations is to harass and repress student organizing. They will fail.

** Please email and phone the following individuals in protest against these repressive measures.

Robert J. Tiffin (Vice President Students)
rjtiffin [at] yorku.ca
+1 416 736 5955

Mamdouh Shoukri (University President)
mshoukri [at] yorku.ca
+1 416 736 5200

** Further Links:

1) Carleton Students Against Israeli Apartheid
http://carleton.saia.ca

2) Exposed: University of Toronto suppresses pro-Palestinian activism
By Lisa Schofield, February 18, 2009
http://www.rabble.ca/news/exposed-university-toronto-suppressed-pro-palestinian-activism

3) Academic Freedom Threatened in Ontario Universities
By Margaret Aziza Pappano
http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/bullet187.html

4) Israeli Apartheid Week Schedule
http://www.apartheidweek.org

Sample letter to send to York University administration (mshoukri [at] yorku.ca, rjtiffin [at] yorku.ca):

President Mamdouh Shoukri,
Vice President Robert Tiffin,

I was shocked and appalled to learn that the student group, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) was penalized for holding a demonstration on campus in solidarity with the students in Gaza. One would expect that an academic institution like York University would condemn the destruction of Palestinian academic institutions by the Israeli army. Instead, York University is banning protest, and penalizing students for demonstrating against such crimes.

It is a shame that an institution which is built on the principle of freedom of expression, and that the senior administration which is entrusted with upholding freedom of speech, are restricting speech and penalizing students engaged in legitimate protest. This reflects badly on York University’s reputation.

It seems that York University is bowing under the pressure by external pro-Israel advocacy groups who are working hard to silence any voice that supports the Palestinian cause. It is sad to see that the administration is not providing protection to the students expressing their views and feelings against Israel’s crimes.

I strongly urge you to reconsider your problematic position and cancel the fines. I also strongly urge you to uphold the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom, and to allow students to express themselves freely without the influence of external pro-Israel lobbying groups. This is your duty even if you do not agree with views expressed.

Sincerely yours,

[——-]

meanwhile on the other side of the atlantic, another university is occupied for divestment & boycott!:

Our demands are as follows:

1. That the University of Plymouth issue a statement condemning the recent and continuing atrocities perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza strip. The University should officially denounce the attacks on civilians, the systematic obstruction of humanitarian aid and the targeting of academic institutions, hospitals, places of worship and international peace keeping facilities.

2. That the University of Plymouth cease to invest directly or indirectly in companies complicit in human rights abuses in the Gaza strip and internationally.

3. That no Israeli goods or goods produced by companies that have directly funded the State of Israel be sold on campus.

4. That the University of Plymouth provide complete financial scholarships for six students from Gaza University which has been bombed by the Israeli military.

5. That any surplus educational resources available to the University of Plymouth are provided to Gaza University and that the shipping of these resources be fully paid for by the University of Plymouth.

6. That there be no legal, financial, or academic measures taken against anyone involved in or supporting the occupation. All those involved will be guaranteed free movement in and out of the occupied space, with open access to electricity and internet.

We await your response to organise a formal meeting between delegates of our occupation and with university management to negotiate these demands.

To keep up with things as they progress, check out our blog at: http://plymouthunioccupation.blogspot.com/

For more information, email plymouthunioccupation [at] gmail.com

stephen lendman has an article out that details at length why the terrorist state of israel should be boycotted. it begins as follows (click link to read the rest):

Enough is enough. After 61 years of Palestinian slaughter, displacement, occupation, oppression, and international dismissiveness and complicity, global action is essential. Israel must be held accountable. World leaders won’t do it, so grassroots movements must lead the way.

In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote: “The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure – in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation.”

In July 2008, 21 South African activists, including ANC members, visited Israel and Occupied Palestine. Their conclusion was unanimous. Israel is far worse than apartheid as former Deputy Minister of Health and current MP Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge explained:

“What I see here is worse than what we experienced – the absolute control of people’s lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw….racist ideology is also reinforced by religion, which was not the case in South Africa.”

Sunday Times editor, Mondli Makhanya, went further: “When you observe from afar you know that things are bad, but you do not know how bad. Nothing can prepare you for the evil we have seen here. It is worse, worse, worse than everything we endured. The level of apartheid, the racism and the brutality are worse than the worst period of apartheid.”

enough choices/reasons to get up off your asses and do something?

escape from fatahlandia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

breakdown over gaza

i’ve had an exhausting day and i don’t know if i am capable of being coherent right now, but i’ll give it a shot. i spent the day with a friend at amman ahliyya university in salt. i lectured in her class on feminist theory where i read suheir hammad poems about gaza and asked them to discuss her poems in relation to the theory they had been reading. it was so refreshing to be on this campus–to see so many students wearing kuffiyas, to see hear only music by musicians like marcel khalife or ahmed qabour in the cafeteria (and no pop music!), to see posters everywhere about not only relief work students and faculty are organizing, but also a boycott campaign of american products in jordan. mish ma’oul! but it is true and here is their beautiful boycott poster i saw all over campus:

stop

it was amazing to spend the day with people who are active or who have been re-activated by the situation and to hear all that they are doing. there is another on-going, daily sit-in in amman, though i did not know about it until today and it was too late for me to go. but here is how my friend described it:

i went to the sit-in yesterday and it was truly an inspiring and even historical event the likes of which jordan has not seen! they have been meeting there every day, all day and night since the beginning of the invasion and people flow in and out all day but one night there was about 200. they have put up a big tent (AND secured a license to do this – another first!), with smaller tents all over, flags and palestinian art on canvas everywhere, in the back there are rows of “grave stones”, there is a big “GAZA” made out of some flammable material which they light up at night so you can see if from the air, plus there are small fires everywhere since its get quite cold at night – inside the tent, there is much nationalist chanting, some poetry reading, some speeches, all peaceful, but very vocal and united.

i learned about this as i was in a taxi on my way to the airport to head to beirut. last night was another night with too little sleep. and i arrived at the airport with extremely heavy bags filled with gifts for palestinian friends in lebanon who are not allowed to go to palestine because they are refugees and their land is occupied by israeli terrorists who are busy bombing gaza. i have a variety of gifts, including a ton of nabulsi soap which in the quantity that i had made the bags ketir heavy. but i also had some olive oil from nablus. apparently, this is forbidden to bring on the plane. when the security at the airport started hassling me about it i had a breakdown. the lack of sleep and food and watching the horror of israeli terrorism and the lack of concern among the world leaders to do one f^%$#@! thing about it just unleashed a flood of rage and tears that was really uncontrollable. it was this combination of feelings about what is happening in gaza and the fact that my friends cannot go home and i was going to be forbidden from bringing them gifts from their homeland? i refused to let them take the olive oil. they wanted to check with my airline. but the problem was that i flew middle east airlines, lebanon’s national air carrier. and their counter was only a few meters away. i did not want them to see all these palestinian items in my bags as if they thought i had been there i wouldn’t be allowed to go to lebanon. it was very tense and extremely frustrating, but in the end they let me keep the oil.

but the sadness that this incident sparked stayed with me on the plane. once the lights were out i just started crying uncontrollably again. looking out the window as we took off i couldn’t help but think about what this same sky, what this same airspace meant for the people of gaza. where israeli terrorists were flying just about a hundred kilometers away, dropping bombs on palestinians in gaza. and then again when i saw rania in the crowd at the airport waiting to pick me up the tears came again.

so i’m back in beirut. saw friends tonight for a little while. i didn’t really want to go out, but two friends were here visiting family who are going back to canada in the morning so i went to see them for a couple of hours. and once again i’m overwhelmed by all the news that i missed about what is going on in gaza today. i will catch up readers tomorrow on some of the stories that i think are important and interesting, but here are a few to hold you over.

al jazeera covering the funerals of the dead palestinians who israeli terrorists murdered while they were seeking shelter in united nations schools:

here is footage of israeli terrorists attacking united nations schools in gaza:

and here is the toll of the israeli terrorist siege thus far: 700 martyrs, 30% of whom are children, and 3,100 injured.

Israeli warplanes killed three Palestinian civilians on Wednesday afternoon during what Israel had earlier declared to be a unilateral three hour halt in its attacks on Gaza.

Israel had announced that it would halt attacks between 1:00pm and 4:00pm on Wednesday afternoon to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Medics at Kamal Udwan Hospital confirmed that three sisters were killed by Israeli fire in the east of Jabaliya Refugee Camp. The sisters were identified as two-year-old Amal, four-year-old Su’ad and six-year-old Samar. Others were injured, medics said.

Meanwhile, Ma’an’s Gaza correspondent reported back that early on Wednesday evening Israeli warplanes struck a car in Beit Lahiya, killing the four Palestinians inside.

Medical officials report that 682 Gazans have been killed since the Israeli war on Gaza began 12 days ago. More than 3,000 have been injured.

Among the dead are an estimated 185 children and 41 women.

Jabaliya was the location of an Israeli artillery attack on Tuesday that killed 45 Palestinians who had taken shelter in a UN school.

Meanwhile, Red Cross teams managed to enter the Zaytoun neighborhood of southern Gaza City, which has witnessed intense fighting in the last 24 hours. Rescue workers removed two more bodies from the rubble of a house destroyed by Israeli warplanes, where more than 20 members of the same were feared dead. The removal of these bodies means 10 members of the Samuni family have been confirmed killed.

The Israeli warplanes also targeted a house related to Abu Muhadi family in An-Nuseirat, in the central Gaza Strip and four other houses at the borders in the southern city of Rafah, killing an elderly man.

a note: there was a 3 hour truce today, and supposedly this “lull” will be employed between 1-4 pm for the next few days. but what you may not know is that during this so-called brief “truce,” israeli terrorists did not stop their bombardment of palestinians in gaza. they murdered 3 sisters in beit lahiya and in the first few minutes of this they continued their airstrikes. and, israeli terrorists targeted another united nations school today:

The United Nations’ top official in the Gaza Strip said on Wednesday that there were absolutely no armed men inside the UN school in Jabaliya that was the target of an Israeli attack that left 47 dead.

“I can tell you categorically that there was no militant activity in that school at the time of that tragedy,” said John Ging, the director of operations of UNRWA in Gaza, speaking to Al-Jazeera.

Meanwhile, the death toll in the school shelling rose to 45 as wounded victims died in hospitals. Tens of thousands attended a funeral procession for the dead.

Ging also told the Australian newspaper The Age, “We have established beyond any doubt that the school was not being used by any militants.”

“They were innocent people,” said Ging, adding that around 350 Palestinians had taken shelter in the school after fleeing invading Israeli forces. The shelling of the Al-Fakhoura School was deadliest single attack on Gaza since Israel began its air bombardment 12 days ago.

Ging’s comments contradicted claims made by the Israeli military that Hamas gunmen had fired a mortar shell from the school. In a statement released on Tuesday night, the Israeli military confirmed that it had shelled the school.

The United Nations also says it provided Israel with the GPS coordinates of all its facilities in the Gaza Strip long before the current war began ten days ago.

Three other UN facilities, including schools and a health center, also came under attack by Israeli forces on Monday and Tuesday, killing at least three.

According to UN statistics, some 14,000 people have taken refuge in UNRWA installations across the Gaza Strip.

more updates bokra, but until then check the links on the sidebar under “gaza” for updates on blogs, news sites, etc.

and before i go one final thought for the day. yesterday my dear friend who i was staying with in amman, who is palestinian, has a seven-year-old son who asked me the other day about whether israelis come to amman. i said yes, but as tourists. he asked me if these are the same people he is seeing murdering so many palestinian children on television. i had to lie and say no. a year ago we had a similar conversation–after he had overheard me telling his parents stories about how israelis terrorize palestinians in the west bank. he was afraid, at the time, that they would come to jordan to kidnap and kill palestinians next. so i knew where this was going and i lied. i said, no, those israeli terrorists do not come to amman. but here is an interesting difference between there and here. another dear friend i saw tonight who has a son only a few years older than my other friend’s son wrote some sort of school assignment that was in the form of a letter to santa claus asking for some sort of christmas wish. what did this lovely young boy wish for? for sayyed hassan nasrallah to do something to those israeli terrorists. NOW!

christmas gift ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TO DONATE BY CREDIT CARD:
https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=10090

TO DONATE BY PAYPAL OR CHECK:
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article2162.shtml

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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,
Dr. Nancy Murray
President
Gaza Mental Health Foundation, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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