against anniversaries

mother-palestine-ror

i’ve been reading various articles and blog posts about the anniversary of the massacre of the palestinian refugee camp shatila and the surrounding neighborhood of sabra (no, sabra is not a refugee camp, but many palestinians live there). pulse media and falasteenyia both had nice posts on the subject. ma’an news posted a reflective piece on the zionist-kata’eb massacre of palestinians in 1982:

“That is the old Israeli watchtower and entrance to Sabra,” a man on the street pointed, standing in front of the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camps. Below the tower, quarantined like a civil war time capsule, were the camps left to fend for themselves on the outskirts of Beirut.

No more than 20 meters past the former Israeli watchtower, in an empty lot, is the memorial for the victims of the 1982 Lebanon Civil War massacre. Camp residents say the site was once a mass grave for the slain. The memorial was a single-track dirt path linking a series of billboards with images of the dead.

The massacre’s perpetrators were of the predominantly Christian Phalange party: supplied, supported and supervised by onlooking Israeli soldiers.

The Phalangist pogrom was clear. What was not, however, was the extent of the crime. At the time of the massacre, the Director of Israeli Military Intelligence said that between the days of September 16 and 18, 1982, a minimum of 700 “terrorists” had been killed. Yet, reporter for the Independent Robert Fisk wrote in his book, Pity the Nation, “Phalangist officers I knew in east Beirut told me that at least 2,000 ‘terrorists’ — women as well as men — had been killed in Chatila.” The real number, according to Fisk, is thought to be higher.

Leaving the mass grave memorial and moving into the open-air market of the Sabra camp, a bullet-ridden wall stands separating a camp dump from its market. In all likelihood the half-block dumping ground was once on the fringes of the camp, but not anymore. The camp had no urban planner, so it grew until the market fully encircled the awful collection of stench, sewage and a sore reminder that nobody really intended to be living in the Sabra camp some sixty years after the Nakba, the Palestinian exodus of 1948.

At the far end of the bullet-chafed wall stood a child of about ten years, a refugee. With little hesitation he immersed himself into the filthy heap, heaving his woven sack of valued rubbish over the rotting mounds. For all the archetypes of the poverty-ridden Palestinian refugee that exists in a foreigner’s consciousness, this is surely it. There was to be no school for this boy. No passport, no rights and no state.

Beyond the heap hung layers of political propaganda posters: A keffiyehed militant with the bold letters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine plastered next to a green-tinted portrait of Hamas’ founder Sheik Yassin with the party logo “Martyrs of Freedom & Victory;” a weathered PLO poster of Arafat; even one of a masked fighter on a tank, clutching a Kalashnikov with the brand of Islamic Jihad. And the posters were not just of Palestinian parties, but of the Lebanese Amal and Hezbollah as well. As a nearby shopkeeper who sold Hezbollah DVD’s put it, “The camp is mixed now… mixed with Palestinians and [Lebanese] Shias… United by resistance…”

Despite appearances, however, inside the Lebanese Army’s encirclement of the camp a surprisingly calm business-as-usual air prevailed. The streets weren’t crowded, but populated. The buyers, the sellers, and of course the children, were everywhere, looking to relieve the gnawing boredom of a lifetime’s confinement to the camp. “We are not allowed to leave [the camps],” one of the sellers said, “No papers.”

United resistance aside, the camp was in shambles. Everything the Lebanese government might do in Sabra and Shatila—urban planning, paving streets, coordinating an electrical grid, sewage—was left to the Palestinian residents. At the beginning, however, the camp played host to the bigwigs of the Palestinian leadership in the Palestine Liberation Organization, who organized camp life and connected the residents to the Palestinian struggle.

The powerful PLO, back in 1982, provided the motive of the massacre’s perpetrators, the Christian Phalange militia, who sought to take revenge against PLO leaders—which had in fact already fled Lebanon—for the alleged assassination of the Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel. But the only people who remained in the camps that summer of 1982 were unarmed Palestinians.

What happened at Sabra and Shatila is still considered the bloodiest single event in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is also among the most egregious and underreported aspects of the Palestinian calamity to date.

On the anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, 16 September, the issue of the refugees and the right of return reaches again for the surface of Palestinian politics. With the newly-charged peace process being pushed by the United States, and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s recently released strategy to establish Palestinian state in two years, the issue of returnees has been subsumed by talk of settlements in the West Bank.

American efforts, and Fayyad’s plan focus more on securing infrastructure and borders than focusing on the estimated 500,000 refugees without rights in Lebanon, or the hundreds of thousands of others in Jordan, Syria, Iraq and in the Gulf.

Palestinians in the camps have a precarious relationship with the current peace initiatives, particularly the older generation who still recall the villages they fled in 1948 and 1967.

“Sure I would support Obama’s plan,” an old man reflects on the US President’s push for a two-state solution. “But what kind of solution is it? I have nothing in this West Bank… it would make me a foreigner in my own land… I would only go back to my village. And I don’t even know what is there now.”

He picks up an old hatchet from his coffee table and continues, “They [the Zionists] chased us and hit us on the head with these. I left my small village near Acre [Akko] because of it.”

ah yes the selling out of the palestinian refugees like those in shatila who everyone loves to remember on occasions such as this one, but who never fight for their rights (read: fayyed among others). but a different piece in ma’an news was a bit more interesting–about george mitchell’s visit to lebanon which coincided with the anniversary of the massacre:

Palestinian refugees were the top of US Special Envoy George Mitchell’s list during a 20 minute sit down with Lebanon’s President Michel Suliman Wednesday, the day marking the 27th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

Michell told Suleiman that Lebanon, whose Phalangist faction 27-years earlier entered two Palestinian refugee camps and slaughtered thousands of civilians with Israeli support, would not bear the brunt of the refugee issue.

“US efforts toward peace would not come at the expense of Lebanon,” a statement from Suleiman’s office said following the meeting. Mitchell made no comment.

The two discussed the latest developments in Mitchell’s pursuit to halt Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and, according to the Lebanese press, stressed “continuous US support and aid to Lebanon on all levels and in all areas.”

Suleiman reportedly told Mitchell that all Lebanese factions refused the option of naturalizing Palestinian refugees “on the basis of the constitution.” He also stressed his desire that Israel retreat from its occupation of Lebanese lands.

what i find especially disturbing about all of this is how everyone remembers the anniversary of the sabra and shatila massacre but no one seems to remember the destruction of nahr el bared refugee camp. it is rather convenient that mitchell and his lebanese cohorts discussed palestinian refugees, but of course did not reveal any tangible information about their right of return. for palestinian from nahr el bared this right of return is now two-fold: first to their camp and then to palestine. if only that first step could be eliminated and they could return home immediately.

this is why i am feeling like i am against anniversaries. anniversaries, ideally, should be a time when you reflect upon the person/people/event. it should make you act in a way that honors that memory. the only real way to honor the memory of the massacre in 1982 or the destruction of nahr el bared in 2007 is to fight for the right of return for palestinian refugees. but no one is talking about that. nor are they talking about reconstructing narh el bared. except a few people. my friend matthew cassel attended the protest in trablus the other day and took this photography among others:

image by matthew cassel
image by matthew cassel

my dear friend rania never forgets and she linked to an article in al akhbar today on the subject:

بين الحفاظ على الآثار في الجزء القديم من مخيم نهر البارد وطمرها، تُعلّق حياة 35 ألف لاجئ فلسطيني كانوا يظنّون في فترة سابقة، قبل الحرب تحديداً، أنّها حياة مستمرّة.. على بؤسها. ربما، يجدر بهؤلاء المتروكين لحالهم الانتظار بعد، ريثما يتخذ مجلس شورى الدولة قراره النهائي المستند إلى مطالعات الدولة اللبنانية والتيار الوطني الحر ووزارة المال المكلفة بتمويل تكاليف طمر الآثار

راجانا حمية

كان من المفترض أن يُقفل مجلس شورى الدولة، اليوم، أبوابه أمام المطالعات القانونية المتعلقة بالطعن بقرار إيقاف طمر الآثار في البارد القديم. فقد أجّل محامي النائب ميشال عون، وليد داغر، تقديم مطالعة يحدد فيها صفة النائب عون كمستدعٍ إلى الاثنين المقبل. ويعود سبب التأجيل إلى رغبته في ضم رد التيار على مطالعتين تقدمت بهما وزارة المال في 18 آب الماضي والدولة اللبنانية في 21 منه، وتبلّغ بهما داغر في العاشر من الجاري.

وحسب المحامي داغر، تطالب هاتان المطالعتان مجلس شورى الدولة بالرجوع عن قرار إيقاف الطمر، استناداً إلى «المعطيات التي تفيد بأن طمر الآثار تم وفقاً للمعايير الدولية». وأكثر من ذلك، تستند الوزارتان في مطالعتيهما إلى «اعتبار صفة عون ومصلحته لا تتطابقان مع شروط المادة 77 من نظام مجلس الشورى». وهي المادة التي تنص على أنه «يفترض لوقف تنفيذ القرار المطعون فيه أن تكون المراجعة مرتكزة على أسباب جدية ومهمة وأن يكون الضرر المتذرَّع به ضرراً بليغاً».

طعن داغر بالمطالعتين، سلفاً، حتى قبل التقديم إلى مجلس الشورى، لأنه «لو لم يكن لعون صفة مباشرة لما كان مجلس شورى الدولة قد أوقف قرار الحكومة، كما إن الضرر لحق به كمواطن ذلك أن الآثار ليست ملكاً عاماً، بل هي ملك إنساني». لا يكتفي داغر بهذه الحجة، بل يستند إلى الاجتهاد القانوني الصادر عام 2000، والذي «لا يشترط لتوفر المصلحة أن يكون المدعي صاحب حق مباشر».

من تظاهرات طرابلس، الناس باتت لا تصدق موضوع الآثار (عبد الكافي الصمد)من تظاهرات طرابلس، الناس باتت لا تصدق موضوع الآثار (عبد الكافي الصمد)إذاً، من المفترض أن يتقدم داغر صباح الاثنين المقبل بمطالعتين: أولى تتعلق بتحديد صفة عون كمستدعٍ، والتي حددها داغر بصفة مواطن، وثانية يرد بها قانونياً على مطالعتي المال والدولة. بعد ذلك كله، يقوم مجلس الشورى بمطابقة الصفة والمصلحة قبل إصدار القرار المتوقع في 13 تشرين الأول المقبل.. و«ربما قبل هذا التاريخ، إذا لم تتطابق الصفة والمصلحة مع شروط المادة 77، بحيث يصار إلى إبطال القرار فوراً»، حسبما يرجّح رئيس مجلس الشورى القاضي شكري صادر.

لكن، إذا فاز عون بصفته والمصلحة، ينتقل أعضاء مجلس الشورى إلى «الأساس»، الذي يتعلق بدراسة مطالعتي عون المتضمنة مبررات الحفاظ على آثار البارد، والحكومة اللبنانية التي تشرح فيها موجبات الإعمار. ويحصر رئيس لجنة الحوار اللبناني الفلسطيني خليل مكاوي هذه الموجبات بثلاثة «تعهّد الدولة بإعادة المخيم كما كان والتزامات الحكومة تجاه المجتمع الدولي والدول المانحة، إضافة إلى الحفاظ على الأمن القومي».

إما استكمال طمر الآثار بحسب المعايير الدولية وإما إيقاف الإعمار «واستملاك الأراضي

إذاً، يتعلق مصير المخيم القديم بالمطالعتين المذكورتين، فإما استكمال طمر الآثار بحسب المعايير الدولية، كما يرجح مكاوي، وإما إيقاف الإعمار «واستملاك الأراضي القائم عليها المخيم الجديد وبعض ما حواليه»، كما جاء في بيان لجنة الدراسات في التيار الوطني الحر الأسبوع الماضي. غير أن ما تعوّل عليه لجنة الدراسات يواجه بعض الرفض من جهتين: الأولى فلسطينية، إذ يخاف هؤلاء من ضياع حقوقهم، وخصوصاً أن غالبية البيوت مسجّلة باسمهم، وأن ببعض تحايل (قبل صدور قانون التملك اللبناني عام 2001)، والثانية غالبية الأقطاب السياسية التي ترى في استملاك أراضٍ جديدة بداية مشروع التوطين.

ما بين المطالعتين، يضيع سكان المخيم القديم. يتساءل هؤلاء عن سبب إثارة هذه القضية الآن بالذات، تزامناً مع بدء إعادة الإعمار. يخاف الأهالي من أن تتكرر تجربة المخيمات المسحولة هنا في البارد. خوفهم هذا يدفعهم إلى «الهلوسة» في بعض الأحيان، إذ يذهب البعض إلى القول إنه «لا وجود للآثار بدليل أن الأعمدة هي قنوات صرف صحي مركبينا جدودنا اعتبروها رومانية، وبعض الفخارات من إيام أبوي». يستند الرجل في تكهناته إلى أن الحفر التي قام بها المهندسون من مديرية الآثار لم تتعدّ الثمانين سنتمتراً، «فكيف ستكون المدينة على هذا العمق؟».

يستغرب آخرون، ومنهم لطفي محمد الحاج، عضو الهيئة الأهلية لإعادة إعمار البارد، سبب التفات الدولة اللبنانية إلى هذه الآثارات رغم أنها هي التي أتت باللاجئين إلى تلة البارد رغم معرفتها بوجود الآثارات منذ العشرينيات من القرن الماضي. ويستغرب الحاج أيضاً سبب الاهتمام «الذي لا مثيل له»، على الرغم من «أن الآثار المحيطة بنا مهملة»، ويعطي مثالاً على قوله: «مثلاً، قلعة حكمون على جنب المخيم عاملينا مزرعة بقر وتلة عرقة وغيرها». لا يحتاج الرجل إلى أكثر من رؤية منزله مجدداً، ويطالب مجلس الشورى بالعودة عن قرار الإيقاف، مبرراً مطالبته بالقول: «احنا هون مش سوليدير، هون ناس ساكنة ما عادت تحمل تهجير». أكثر من ذلك، يضيف أبو خالد فريجي، أحد سكان القديم: «إحنا رمينا البارود لنساعد الجيش، اليوم ما عدنا قادرين ما نحمل البارودة».

مقابل هذه التعليقات للأهالي، يضع بعض الأطراف القضية في خانة التجاذبات السياسية. هذا ما يقوله المسؤول عن ملف إعادة إعمار البارد مروان عبد العال. ولئن كان لا حول ولا قوة من إدخال الفلسطيني بهذا التجاذب، يسأل عبد العال: «لماذا لم تُرسل فرق للتنقيب عن الآثار منذ تسعين عاماً؟ وليش الرسائل ما بتوصل إلا من صندوق بريدنا؟».

البراكسات التي يعيش فيها السكانالبراكسات التي يعيش فيها السكانيؤمن عبد العال بقداسة الآثار. وهي، من وجهة نظره تضاهي قداسة هوية الفلسطيني. لكن، السؤال الكبير الذي لا بد منه هنا هو «أنه إحنا مش آثار؟ ما بنمثل خصوصية؟ مش ولاد نكبة عمرها 61 عاماً وإلنا هويتنا كما الآثار؟ أكثر من ذلك، يسأل عضو الجبهة الشعبية في البارد سمير اللوباني: «ما هو الثمن السياسي الذي يجب أن يدفعه الفلسطيني من أجل إعادة البارد؟

لكن، كل هذا لن يأتي بنتيجة. فالنتيجة الوحيدة في مجلس شورى الدولة، وبانتظار صدور القرار، يعمل الفلسطينيون على رفع سقف الاحتجاجات الجماهيرية، وخصوصاً أنه لا يحق لهم مثل «أهل الفقيد» تقديم مطالعة قانونية، كونهم جهة غير معترف بها في القانون اللبناني. يضاف إلى ذلك أن الأونروا أيضاً لا تستطيع تقديم مطالعة قانونية لمجلس شورى الدولة، لذلك تعمل على إعداد مطالعة تشرح فيها موجبات الإعمار للحكومة اللبنانية فقط.

بالعودة إلى سير عملية الإعمار في البارد، كانت شركة «الجهاد» المتعهدة من قبل الأونروا قد طمرت في الرزمة الأولى حيث وجدت الآثار موقعين من أصل 5 مواقع قبل أن تثار القضية. وتلفت الناطقة الرسمية باسم الأونروا هدى الترك إلى «أننا انتهينا من تنظيف 95% من الركام، باستثناء جزء من الرزمة 2 وآخر من الرزمة 4». وأكدت أن الأونروا لا يمكنها الإعمار إلا بالتسلسل، أي من الرزمة 1، «والعملية متوقفة الآن بانتظار قرار مجلس شورى الدولة».

there is also a new article about the situation in nahr el bared in as-safir newspaper:

جهاد بزي
يستطيع المخيم أن يكون من شقين،
أو أن نبحث عن قطعة أرض بديلة للمخيم..
لكن لا نستطيع أن نجد ارتوزيا في مكان آخر.
الجنرال ميشال عون
(17 حزيران 2009)

في مخيم نهر البارد مدينتان.

المدينة الأولى بقايا أثرية اكتشفت تحت أنقاض المخيم القديم الذي سُحق بالكامل. هذه البقايا اسمها أرتوزيا. يستميت العونيون في الدفاع عنها، وقد رفعوا طعناً إلى مجلس الشورى جمّد إثره طمر آثار المدينة المكتشفة، ريثما يتخذ قراره. ولجنة الدراسات العونية لا تنفك تصدر بيانات بلغة أكاديمية رصينة تعلّل فيها أسباب دفاعها عن المدينة وتدفع عن نفسها تهمة العنصرية وتشدد على أنها ضد التوطين.

المدينة الثانية هي مدينة «البركسات». هي النقيض التام لكل الآثارات على وجه الأرض. هي صناديق «عصرية» من حديد وبلاستيك وإسفنج، وغيرها من المواد المثيرة لغثيان عالم الآثار إذا سقط مكبره عليها. وعلى العكس من القلاع والاعمدة والمدرجات الخالدة خلود الآلهة، فإن مدينة البركسات بلا أعمدة ولا فخامة ولا تاريخ، وهندستها رتيبة ومقيتة.

وهي عرضة للتلف أسرع بمليون مرة من مدينة أرتوزيا. عناصر الطبيعة الجميلة، الشمس والمياه والهواء، هي أوبئة دائمة تفتك بالمدينة الهشة المقامة على عجل لإيواء النازحين في بلاد لجوئهم.

هناك فارق أساسي بين المدينتين: البركسات مأهولة. ارتوزيا غير مأهولة. وأن نقول إنها مأهولة، فلأننا قررنا، كلبنانيين، مواجهة الإرهاب بطريقة فريدة من نوعها، هللت لها قوى سياسية شرسة في «حبها» للفلسطينيين، وتغاضت عنها قوى أخرى كانت قد نادت يوماً بأن المخيم خط أحمر. تلك الحرب ستبقى، بأي حال، «إنجازاً ناصعاً» في تاريخنا اللبناني، وإن طُمرت خطاياها بكل ما فيها كرمى لعناوين كبيرة وفارغة.

وأن نقول إن البركسات مأهولة منذ نحو سنتين. أن يضطر لاجئون، قصمنا ظهورهم سياسياً واجتماعياً واقتصادياً، إلى حياة منسية كهذه التي يعيشونها في علب الصفيح المكتظة تتساقط الصراصير من أسقفها الاسفنج المبقورة بسبب الحرارة والمياه، أو تنبت الجرذان من أرضها، أو تصير مستنقعات وحول عند كل مطر. أن يضطر لاجئون سحقنا حيواتهم إلى يوميات طويلة في هذه المجمعات الحديدية الأقرب إلى مجمعات عزل المصابين بأمراض معدية قاتلة. أن تضطر عيون اطفالهم إلى العتمة ليل نهار وانفاسهم إلى الرطوبة وآفاقهم إلى ممرات ضــيقة خانقة. وأن يضطر الفلسطينــي إلى هــذه العقوبة المستمرة عليه لذنب ليس ذنبه، فإنه عــيب هائــل يتدلى من عنق لبنان جرســاً فاضحاً يرن كيفــما هزّ هذا البلد عنقه.

أما أن يقال للفلســطيني إن أرتــوزيا أهم من الأرض التي ولد عليها، وإن علــيه أن يبـحث عن مكان آخر يقيم عليه مخيمه، فهذا يفوق خيال الكوابيس التي يراها.

ثمة افتقاد تام لحس إنساني بسيط: المكان، مهما كان مؤقتاً، له قيمة رمزية ترتبط بقيمة المجتمع الذي يقيم فيه منذ ستين سنة. هم لاجئون لكنهم ليسوا بضاعة يمكن وضعها في أي مكان، بانتظار شحنها إلى فلسطين. المثل قاسٍ، لكنه الاقرب إلى المنطق الذي تتعاطى به الغالبية اللبنانية العظمى مع الشأن الفلسطيني. هناك سخرية مرّة في أن يضطر الواحد إلى الشرح بأن المخيم الفلسطيني ليس نزهة كشفية بين أحراج الصنوبر، تقام وتفك ثم تنتقل إلى مكان جديد. المخيمات الفلسطينية هي مثل مدننا وقرانا وأحيائنا. مثل حي السلم والحمرا والاشرفية والرابية. قد نكرهها وقد نحبها، لكن فيها شكّلنا ذكرياتنا وتفاصيلنا وأحزاننا وافراحنا. وإذا كان الفلسطيني يعيش في مؤقت مفتوح، فهذا لا يعني أن حقائبه موضبة طوال الوقت. هذا لا يعني أنه بلا ذاكرة. من السخرية المرّة تذكير لجنة الدراسات وغيرها، بأن الفلسطينيين مثلنا، نحن اللبنانيين أحفاد الأرتوزيين العظام.

وكما لا يحق لأحد أن ينقّلنا كيفما شاء، لا يحق لنا أن ننقلهم كيفما شئنا. معادلة بسيطة.

ثم..
إذا كانت إعادة الإعمار بهذا الحجم من التعقيد، وإذا كان هناك خلاف حتى على اسم المخيم الجديد من البارد حدا بالجيش اللبناني إلى أن «يأمل» من الإعلام تسميته بالبقعة المحيطة بالمخيم، فأين سيجد الفلسطينيون النازحون مخيماً آخر؟ فلتنكب لجنة الدراسات العونية على درس فكرة الجنرال وجعلها حجر أساس لدراسة متكاملة تلحظ موقع المخيم الجديد على أرض لبنان، ومساحته وكيفية استئجاره أو تملكه للبدء بإعادة الإعمار بسرعة كي ينتقل الفلسطينيون إليه. وربما على اللجنة زيارة البركسات والنزول في غرفها لأيام تستفتي خلالها رأي المنكوبين فرداً فرداً بموقع جديد للمخيم. كما ينبغي عليها لاحقاً أخذ موافقة جيرانهم الجدد من اللبنانيين. هذا جهد يمكن للجنة الدراسات أن تقوم به بالطبع، لما يعرف عنها من عمق وقدرة. غير أن الفلسطينيين ليسوا قضية اللجنة. قضيتها أرتوزيا.

المصائب تأتي دفعة واحدة. نزلت على المخيم فدمرته، ثم صعدت من أسفله، فزادت على معوقات إعماره معوّقاً جديداً. الأولوية الآن هي في طمر مدينة البركسات، وهذه لن تطمر إلا إذا طمرت آثار ارتوزيا، بغض النظر عن أي أهمية لها. من أقل حقوق فلسطينيي مخيم نهر البارد على هذا البلد هو ألا يجعلهم ينتظرون أكثر. بقاء الفلسطينيين على حالهم هناك جريمة بحق الانسانية واللبنانيين، وليس طمر ارتوزيا هو «الجريمة بحق الإنسانية والشعب اللبناني» كما قالت لجنة الدراسات.

أما أرتوزيا العونية فيمكن لها أن تنتظر. يكفيها فخراً أنها أثبتت عمق تجذرها في الأرض اللبنانية وعنادها وتحديها للزمن. هي خالدة وشامخة شموخ الجبال والأرز. ولا شك بأنها ستطلع من بين الركام ثانية، يوم يغادر الفلسطينيون هذه البلاد التي لا تفعل منذ عقود إلا معاقبتهم على وجودهم القسري فيها.

جهاد بزي

of course, it is not surprising that al akhbar and as safir would publish articles on nahr el bared. these are the only two newspapers who have consistently covered the story. that can be counted on. not just because it is an anniversary, but because it matters. but who else will cover the refugees from nahr e bared and their rights? their right of return. and i’m thinking not only of the people i care about from nahr el bared and other camps in lebanon who want to return to their original villages, but also dear friends in falasteen who want to return to their villages. this summer when we did the al awda camp with kids from deheishe refugee camp, two of the kids who i adore returned home and produced a new rap song (here is my post on taking them to beit ‘itab, which i did for a second time after the camp). the song includes hisham’s grandfather at the beginning, talking about their village of beit ‘itab. here is a description of their song and a link to the mp3 file you can listen to:

Badluck Rappers – اغنية جديدة بعنوان ” رحلة لبلادي ” تحكي قصة كل لاجئ فلسطيني

Badluck Rappers – اغنية جديدة بعنوان
تم نشر إغنية مؤخراً من فرقة الـ Badluck Rapperz من قلب مخيم دهيشه , بيت لحم
بعنوان رحلة لبلادي تحكي قصة كل لاجئ فلسطيني عايش داخل و خارج فلسطين ,
وتعودنا نسمع اغاني كثيرة عن اللاجئين من الفرقة لانها من قلب المخيمات , اكبر المخيمات
الفلسطينية للاجئين داخل فلسطين , واكتر اشي بميز الاغنية , بدايتها الجميلة المختارة
الي ببداها لاجئ فلسطيني بحكي قصة قريته الهاجر منها

الكل يسمع الاغنية , يقيمها , ويترك تعليق

Read more: http://www.palrap.net/PalRap/263/Badluck_Rappers_Witn_New_Track_Called_Re7la_La_Blady.html#ixzz0RWCnqv9L

i do not need an anniversary to make me think about the people i love in shatila, nahr el bared or deheishe refugee camps. i do not need an anniversary to make me remember their right of return. i think about it every day and hope that the work and writing i do, in some small way, advances that right. but i’m also thinking about the palestinian refugees who were in iraq and who i tried to help when they were displaced yet again in jordan in al ruweished refugee camp. they have all been resettled in third countries, a fact that does not negate their right of return to palestine. at the time friends i worked with tried to get the u.s. to take them in to no avail. now it seems my home state of california is granting refuge to some palestinians from iraq as patrik jonsson writes in the christian science monitor:

The State Department confirmed today that as many as 1,350 Iraqi Palestinians – once the well-treated guests of Saddam Hussein and now at outs with much of Iraqi society – will be resettled in the US, mostly in southern California, starting this fall.

It will be the largest-ever resettlement of Palestinian refugees into the US – and welcome news to the Palestinians who fled to Iraq after 1948 but who have had a tough time since Mr. Hussein was deposed in 2003. Targeted by Iraqi Shiites, the mostly-Sunni Palestinians have spent recent years in one of the region’s roughest refugee camps, Al Waleed, near Iraq’s border with Syria.

“Really for the first time, the United States is recognizing a Palestinian refugee population that could be admitted to the US as part of a resettlement program,” says Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch in Washington.

Given the US’s past reluctance to resettle Palestinians – it accepted just seven Palestinians in 2007 and nine in 2008 – the effort could ruffle some diplomatic feathers.

For many in the State Department and international community, the resettlement is part of a moral imperative the US has to clean up the refugee crisis created by invading Iraq. The US has already stepped up resettlement of Iraqis, some who have struggled to adjust to life in America.

al awda is asking for people to help with their resettlement:

The US government has approved most of the population of Al-Waleed Palestinian refugee camp for resettlement as refugees in the US in the coming year. For more information see http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0708/p02s04-usgn.html and http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/06/2009618161946158577.html

The first Palestinian family of the year from Al-Waleed will be arriving in San Diego on Wednesday September 16, 2009. This family, as with all the refugees who will be relocated to the US from Al-Waleed, will arrive with essentially nothing. Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, is therefore conducting an urgent fund raising campaign to help all the Palestinian refugees arriving in the US soon with their transition to a new life in this country.

BACKGROUND

An estimated 19,000 Palestinians, out of an initial population of 34,000, fled Iraq since the American invasion in 2003. Of these refugees, approximately 2500 have been stranded, under very harsh conditions, some for more than five years, in three camps, Al-Tanaf, Al-Waleed and Al-Hol. These camps are located in the middle of the desert far from any population centers. Al-Tanaf camp is located in no-man’s land on the borders between Iraq and Syria. Al-Waleed is located on the Iraqi side of the border with Syria, and Al-Hol is located in Syria in the Hasaka region. The camp residents had fled largely from Baghdad due to harassment, threats of deportation, abuse by the media, arbitrary detention, torture and murder by organized death squads. They thus became refugees again, originally as a result of the Zionist theft and colonial occupation of Palestine beginning in 1948. Some became refugees also when they were expelled from Kuwait in 1991 by the US-backed Kuwaiti government. Now, after years of waiting, many of the refugees stranded in the camps on the borders of Iraq are being relocated largely to Europe and the US, which continues to occupy Iraq to this day.

The first Palestinian family from Al-Waleed this year will be arriving in San Diego on September 16, 2009, a few days before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with 1350 more Palestinians to follow in the months ahead. According to the Christian Science Monitor most of these will be resettled in Southern California and possibly Pennsylvania and Omaha.

ACTION

Al-Awda is asking all its activists, members and supporters to contribute to help our sisters and brothers in their move to the US.

Please donate today!

Address your tax-deductible donation via check or money order to: Al-Awda, PRRC, PO Box 131352, Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA – Please note on the memo line of the check “Palestinians from Iraq”

Alternatively, please donate online using your credit card. Go to http://www.al-awda.org/donate.html and follow the simple instructions. Please indicate that your donation is for “Palestinians from Iraq” with your submission.

Drop off locations

We will also need furniture, cars, computers, tv’s, clothes, toys for the kids etc. The following are the current drop off locations:

General:
8531 Wellsford pl # f, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Te: 562-693-1600 Tel: 323-350-0000

For Clothes:
1773 West Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, CA 92801

For Southern California residents, an emergency meeting is being called for Sunday September 13, 2009 starting at 2 PM at the Al-Awda Center, 2734 Loker Avenue West Suite K, in Carlsbad CA 92010.

Our sisters and brothers need all the help they can get after having suffered from the death squads in Baghdad, and more than five years stranded in the camps. We need our people to feel at home as much as possible. We can not disappoint them.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROUS SUPPORT

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
Tel: 760-918-9441
Fax: 760-918-9442
E-mail: info[at]al-awda.org
WWW: http://al-awda.org

yes, boycott works.

a couple of weeks ago i posted about the campaign to write to amnesty international in order to get them to comply with the boycott and pull out their funding of a leonard cohen concert in the zionist entity. well, it worked. here is the official statement reporting this victory from the palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel:

Amnesty International has announced today that it will abstain from any involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert in Tel Aviv and will not be party to any fund that benefits from the concert‘s proceeds. A number of media accounts had reported that Amnesty International was to manage or otherwise partner in a fund created from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel that would be used to benefit Israeli and Palestinian groups. Amnesty International’s announcement today followed an international outcry over the human rights organization’s reported involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert fund, and an earlier international call for Cohen to boycott apartheid Israel.

Omar Barghouti from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) commented, “We welcome Amnesty International’s withdrawal from this ill-conceived project which is clearly intended to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and human rights. By abandoning the Leonard Cohen project in Tel Aviv, Amnesty International has dealt Cohen and his public relations team a severe blow, denying them the cover of the organization’s prestige and respectability.”

A statement confirming Amnesty‘s withdrawal has now been posted on the Amnesty International website.

boycott, divestment, and sanctions is picking up steam in british unions as well as asa winstanley reported in electronic intifada a couple of weeks ago:

The international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has won several important victories in recent months. At this summer’s trade union conferences in Britain, BDS activists have made significant progress.

While the campaign has been building momentum in unions globally since the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS, Israel’s winter invasion of Gaza has spurred several trade unions and union federations in Britain and Ireland to pass motions more explicitly in favor of BDS. Several are calling for BDS for the first time.

Tom Hickey, a member of the University and College Union’s (UCU) national executive committee, said, “The question of the moral rightness or wrongness [of BDS against Israel] has effectively already been decided.”

Although the Trade Union Congress (the British union federation) has not yet passed a BDS motion, affiliated unions have begun taking up the Palestinian call themselves. So far this summer, the public sector union PCS, the UCU and the Fire Brigades Union have all passed strong motions explicitly calling for a general policy of boycott of Israeli goods, divestment from Israeli companies and government sanctions against the state.

Unions such as public sector union UNISON, the National Union of Teachers, USDAW and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have this summer passed softer motions calling for elements of BDS. These are usually calls for a boycott of settlement goods, or for the government to suspend arms sales to Israel. The CWU and others have condemned the infamous 13 January 2008 statement of the Israeli trade union federation in support of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which read: “The Histadrut recognizes the urgent need for the State of Israel to operate against the command and control centers of the organizational terror network …”

In addition, a report has been circulating on the Internet that the rail workers’ union, the RMT, has reversed an earlier policy of “solidarity not boycott” and passed a motion in favor of some sort of BDS policy at their July Annual General Meeting. The official AGM report has yet to be released to the general public, but the RMT’s media office confirmed the report was probably accurate. However, they did not return calls for official confirmation in time for publication.

and folks in ann arbor are taking the bds campaign to their local city council making important arguments about americans funding apartheid in palestine (not to mention occupations and massacres in afghanistan, iraq, and pakistan) rather than using those funds to rebuild cities like detroit where a majority african americans live. palestine think tank posted a video of their city council hearing (and you can use this model to do the same at your municipal level):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

there is also good news about a british bank, blackrock, divesting from the africa-israel company (that has a horrific record of land theft as well as massacres in palestine as well as in africa, as the name indicates):

When the British Embassy in Tel Aviv was looking for new premises and was offered the opportunity of occupying a building owned by the investment company Africa-Israel Investments, the ambassador refrained. The reason was that the company was also responsible for settlements on the occupied West Bank. Africa-Israel Investments’ main owner is Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev.

Now the UK bank BlackRock has followed in the footsteps of the ambassador.

The bank was for a while the second largest shareholder in the Israeli investment company. Africa-Israel Investments is, among other things, in on the construction of the settlement Ma’aleh Adumim (above). The construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian territory is in conflict with international law.

It was Norwatch who this past spring revealed BlackRock’s investments in the controversial company and how private investors in Norway could invest in the project by means of the fund BlackRock Emerging Europe.

This was possible through Norwegian insurance company Storebrand, Norwegian-Swedish bank Skandiabanken, and the Norwegian-Danish Danica Pensjon.

But after all 3 banks have taken action, the British bank has now announced its divestment from the Israeli company. This must have happened sometime between June and August, possibly as late as this week.

“We have received confirmation from BlackRock that Africa-Israel Investments no longer is part of their portfolio,” Johnny Anderson, Information Manager of Skandiabanken, confirmed to Norwatch. The confirmation of the divestment was sent to Skandiabanken the day before yesterday, on 18 August.

“The way I interpret the e-mail I have received, Africa-Israel is no longer to be found in any of BlackRock’s funds,” Anderson said.

The e-mail from BlackRock to Skandiabanken was sent after the Swedish-Norwegian bank had approached BlackRock with regard to the controversial Israel involvement. That is the first time that Skandiabanken had contacted BlackRock about the case. Also the bank Danica Pensjon end of last week contacted BlackRock about the matter, confirmed Geir Wik, Sales and Marketing Director of Danica Pensjon to Norwatch yesterday.

and the big surprise was to open my local newspaper the other morning, the los angeles times, where i found a prominent op-ed from a zionist terrorist colonist advocating the boycott of the zionist entity. the article is generally good, though this professor, neve gordon, still believes in zionism and his right to be a colonist on palestinian land. but given that he came this far, perhaps an acknowledgment that he does not have a right to land that once belonged to palestinians who are now refugees will be forthcoming. here is the op-ed:

Israeli newspapers this summer are filled with angry articles about the push for an international boycott of Israel. Films have been withdrawn from Israeli film festivals, Leonard Cohen is under fire around the world for his decision to perform in Tel Aviv, and Oxfam has severed ties with a celebrity spokesperson, a British actress who also endorses cosmetics produced in the occupied territories. Clearly, the campaign to use the kind of tactics that helped put an end to the practice of apartheid in South Africa is gaining many followers around the world.

Not surprisingly, many Israelis — even peaceniks — aren’t signing on. A global boycott can’t help but contain echoes of anti-Semitism. It also brings up questions of a double standard (why not boycott China for its egregious violations of human rights?) and the seemingly contradictory position of approving a boycott of one’s own nation.

It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.

I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country’s future.

The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews — whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel — are citizens of the state of Israel.

The question that keeps me up at night, both as a parent and as a citizen, is how to ensure that my two children as well as the children of my Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime.

There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.

The first is the one-state solution: offering citizenship to all Palestinians and thus establishing a bi-national democracy within the entire area controlled by Israel. Given the demographics, this would amount to the demise of Israel as a Jewish state; for most Israeli Jews, it is anathema.

The second means of ending our apartheid is through the two-state solution, which entails Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (with possible one-for-one land swaps), the division of Jerusalem, and a recognition of the Palestinian right of return with the stipulation that only a limited number of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, while the rest can return to the new Palestinian state.

Geographically, the one-state solution appears much more feasible because Jews and Palestinians are already totally enmeshed; indeed, “on the ground,” the one-state solution (in an apartheid manifestation) is a reality.

Ideologically, the two-state solution is more realistic because fewer than 1% of Jews and only a minority of Palestinians support binationalism.

For now, despite the concrete difficulties, it makes more sense to alter the geographic realities than the ideological ones. If at some future date the two peoples decide to share a state, they can do so, but currently this is not something they want.

So if the two-state solution is the way to stop the apartheid state, then how does one achieve this goal?

I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer. Over the last three decades, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have dramatically increased their numbers. The myth of the united Jerusalem has led to the creation of an apartheid city where Palestinians aren’t citizens and lack basic services. The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost nonexistent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right.

It is therefore clear to me that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in Israel is through massive international pressure. The words and condemnations from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results, not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the occupied territories.

I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and has since garnered widespread support around the globe. The objective is to ensure that Israel respects its obligations under international law and that Palestinians are granted the right to self-determination.

In Bilbao, Spain, in 2008, a coalition of organizations from all over the world formulated the 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign meant to pressure Israel in a “gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity.” For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner. Along similar lines, artists who come to Israel in order to draw attention to the occupation are welcome, while those who just want to perform are not.

Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians — my two boys included — does not grow up in an apartheid regime.

nevertheless his op-ed is getting quite a bit of airtime in the zionist entity’s media. thus, yet another sign of their fear of how much the boycott campaign is working. there was one article in today’s ha’aretz in which the education minister slammed gordon. and los angeles jews seem to be foaming at the mouth as this second article in ha’aretz today shows that they want to boycott a university in the zionist entity (a win-win situation! ) there was yet another article responding to gordon’s piece in a zionist rag called the jewish journal, which takes the threats even further: to boycott he arabs.

gordon’s ben gurion university is no different than any other university in the zionist entity that participates in the production of knowledge that enables the colonization of palestine. recently soas authored a report on the extent of tel aviv university’s collaboration in the savaging of gaza (if you follow the link you can download the entire study):

As part of Tel Aviv’s centenary celebration, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London hosted a Tel Aviv University Special Lecture Series from January to March 2009.

Taking place in the midst of Israel’s war on Gaza — which had already mobilized SOAS students to organize a number of activities in solidarity with Gaza, including the first student occupation in the UK — students and a number of lecturers expressed their opposition to the lecture series.

The student union overwhelmingly passed a motion criticizing the lecture series’ attempt to whitewash Tel Aviv’s colonial past and present and called for the end of SOAS’s collaboration with Tel Aviv University (TAU) in hosting the series on the grounds of its role in giving key legal, technological and strategic support for maintaining and expanding Israel’s colonial occupation. The School’s Director, Professor Paul Webley, opposed the cancellation and defended the continuation of the lecture series by invoking a prerogative of freedom of speech and citing the pedagogic value of diversities of opinion. Conspicuously absent in the Director’s defense was any engagement with the nature and scope of TAU’s research portfolio.

In response to the director’s failure to acknowledge the serious implications of collaboration with TAU that undermined the reputation, integrity and fundamental ethical principles of SOAS, the SOAS Palestine Society prepared a briefing paper for him and the Governing Body outlining TAU’s intensive, purposive and open institutional contributions to the Israeli military. While the signatories of the briefing paper recognized the importance of freedom of speech, they were also keenly aware of the need to uphold the rights of the oppressed and expressed that no right reigns absolute over the fundamental right to life. It is precisely therefore that it is wholly untenable that partnerships with institutions facilitating, advocating and justifying ongoing war crimes can be legitimized with recourse to an ideal of academic freedom.

compare soas to harvard university’s invitation to a bona fide war criminal of the zionist entity last month as maryam monalisa gharavi and anat matar wrote in electronic intifada last month:

On 9 July Harvard University’s Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) invited Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, former Israeli military legal adviser, to their online Humanitarian Law and Policy Forum. The stated aim was to bring “objective” discussion to the principle of distinction in international humanitarian law, or what the forum organizers called “combat in civilian population centers and the failure of fighters to distinguish themselves from the civilian population.”

Although billed as a lecturer in the Law Faculty at Tel Aviv University — and therefore as a detached humanitarian law analyst — Colonel Sharvit-Baruch was in fact deeply involved in Israel’s three-week onslaught in Gaza in December and January, that counted its 1,505th victim found under rubble earlier this month. With the devastating operation condemned and mourned worldwide, many asked why a ranking member of an occupying army that flouts its legal obligations should herself receive safe havens at two major universities.

What troubled many of the 200 or so participants who “attended” the talk via a virtual chatroom was that Sharvit-Baruch was cut off from public or legal scrutiny as she relayed her PowerPoint presentation. Questions were posed by the moderators, sanitized of any critical content. Yet the indisputable fact is that the army for which Sharvit-Baruch worked has been accused by all major human rights organizations of committing war crimes in Gaza. Some wondered why Sharvit-Baruch was being given the opportunity to offer a carefully prepared presentation unchallenged in an academic setting, rather than giving testimony to a tribunal or inquiry such as that being conducted Judge Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist heading an independent fact-finding mission into human rights violations during Israel’s attack at the request of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Since the event organizers did not ask pointed questions about Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s actual role in Gaza, it is worth doing so here. As head of the International Law department (ILD) at the Israeli Military Advocate General’s office, Sharvit-Baruch is known for green-lighting the bombing of a police graduation ceremony in Gaza that killed dozens of civil policemen. This was no ordinary airstrike. It was premised on a legal sleight-of-hand: that even traffic cops in Gaza could be considered “legitimate targets” under international law. In a conversation with conscripts at a military prep academy in Israel, school director Danny Zamir noted, “I was terribly surprised by the enthusiasm surrounding the killing of the Gaza traffic police on the first day of the operation. They took out 180 traffic cops. As a pilot, I would have questioned that.”

Further, the Israeli army used heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of Gaza, against the UNRWA’s headquarters and a UN school in Beit Lahiya. As reported by Judge Goldstone, Gazans trying to relay their civilian status were also hit. Even though the Israeli military tried several times to deny its use, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on white phosphorous use in Gaza quotes an unnamed Israeli official: “at least one month before [white phosphorus] was used a legal team had been consulted on the implications.” HRW found that “in violation of the laws of war, the [Israeli army] generally failed to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian harm” and “used white phosphorus in an indiscriminate manner causing civilian death and injury.”

Such reckless disregard for the lives of civilians and pathological cover-ups of military operations are recognized by many Israelis within the system itself. According to one Israeli jurist speaking to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the ILD is considered “more militant than any other legal agency in Israel, and willing to adopt the most flexible interpretations of the law in order to justify the [Israel army’s] actions.” Although the ILD personnel “are now very proud of their influence upon the combat” in Gaza, human rights groups have stated that “residents weren’t advised then as to which places were safe, and the roads by which they fled were bombed and turned into death traps.”

One of the most indelible perspectives about Israel’s legal gymnastics to justify its actions comes from Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s predecessor, Daniel Reisner. “What is being done today is a revision of international law,” Reisner has said, “and if you do something long enough, the world will accept it. All of international law is built on that an act which is forbidden today can become permissible, if enough states do it.” In expressing how the ILD moves forward by turning back the pages of legal jurisdiction, Reisner says, “We invented the doctrine of the preemptive pinpoint strike, we had to promote it, and in the beginning there were protrusions which made it difficult to fit it easily into the mold of legality. Eight years later, it’s in the middle of the realm of legitimacy.”

Sharvit-Baruch herself explained her vision of international law at a presentation for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: “International law is developed according to practices. It changes based on what is happening in the field. These laws must be based on precedents, what already exists. There is flexibility in every law.” By this law of flexibility, the more aberrations of international law a state can legitimize, the more hoary actions it can continue to execute and justify.

Since the attack on Gaza, numerous testimonies of Israeli soldiers published in Israel, have corroborated the accounts of Palestinian witnesses and human rights organizations that serious war crimes were endemic.

Despite the blunt admissions of Israeli soldiers widely published in the Israeli press, it was clear from her calm presentation that Sharvit-Baruch and her cohort live in their own rhetorical universe where even language is assaulted. In the Colonel’s own terminology, non-existent vocabulary in international law such as “capacity builders” and “revolving doors” is coined to pass over accepted terms such as “civilians” and “non-combatants.” Like the US government’s “torture memo” authors — who in contrast to Israel’s were not uniformed ranking members of the army — the Israeli military attempted to reclassify a “civilian” in a manner making it easier to strip them of protections provided by international humanitarian law. “Architecture of words,” said one participant

Despite all this, by her own standards, Sharvit-Baruch and her team could not be faulted for their efficiency: in Gaza, banning all media from entering; assaulting the population with air missiles, sniper ground troops, and white phosphorus; condemning all criticism of military actions as contrary to state security; keeping a chin above the law; attaining a teaching position at Tel Aviv University and finally a prestigious opportunity to address Harvard students and faculty.

but in england they are far more advanced than the united states when it comes to responding to war crimes against palestinians. consider the new (albeit partial) arms embargo against the zionist entity as a penalty for its war crimes in gaza as ian black reported in the guardian:

Britain has revoked export licences for weapons on Israeli navy missile boats because of their use during the offensive against the Gaza Strip.

The licences apparently covered spare parts for guns on the Sa’ar 4.5 ships, which reportedly fired missiles and artillery shells into the Palestinian coastal territory during the three-week war, which started in late December.

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, shrugged off what he called one of “many embargoes”. The foreign office in London insisted the rare move did not constitute an embargo but was the application of normal UK and EU export licensing criteria. Still, it linked the decision directly to Operation Cast Lead – the Israeli codename for the attacks – and described it as similar to action taken against Russia and Georgia after their conflict last year.

A spokesman for Amnesty International, citing the “weight of evidence” that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, said: “It’s a step forward but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.”

Israel’s defence ministry made no comment but Lieberman told state radio: “We’ve had many embargoes in the past. This shouldn’t bother us.”

Israel gets the bulk of its military requirements from the US, more than 95% according to some estimates. The UK accounts for less than 1% or about £30m worth of exports a year.

but there is also more bds activism emanating from the zionist entity itself, particularly in the queer community as the monthly review zine reported today:

Contrary to the mediated attempt to describe Israel as a force of liberation and progress, we see objecting to apartheid Israel as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, including LGBTQ Palestinians. LGBTQ Palestinians are not going to be “saved” by a so-called gay-friendly Zionist state. Organized LGBTQ Palestinians reject the myth of Israel as an “oasis of tolerance.”

We are disturbed by the cynical manipulation of these deaths to bolster support for the Israeli state and its violent policies. When Israeli politicians say that this is an unprecedented level of violence, and promise to create safety for LGBTQ people in Israel, they are using the promise of safety to hide the violence and domination that is foundational to the Israeli state. When Zionist groups emphasize the growing gay nightlife in Tel Aviv, they are using the illusion of safety to draw support and funding to Israel from liberal queer and Jewish people around the world. We reject these lies, as well as the manipulation of our communities for profit and to increase military and political support for Israel.

Just as we reject the lie that Zionism is premised on the safety of Jews, we reject the lie that Israel prioritizes and values the safety of LGBTQ citizens of Israel. The safety Israel claims to extend to LGBTQ people is false; we do not accept an illusion of safety for some at the expense of self determination for others. No matter who Zionism claims to save or value, nothing can justify the targeting, suppression and oppression of the Palestinian people.

We call on LGBTQ communities to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli violence. Putting words into action, we call on LGBTQ communities across the world to endorse the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with full international law, including an immediate end to the occupation and colonization of Palestine, a dismantling of the wall, an end to war crimes against the people of Gaza, and for the Palestinian Right of Return.

Specifically, we call on these communities to boycott international LGBTQ events held inside of Israel; to abstain from touring Israel as is marketed to LGBTQ people — with the exception of solidarity visits to Palestine; and to counter and boycott the promotion of Israeli LGBTQ tourism, and Israeli cultural and academic events in the countries in which we reside — unless they are in clear and undivided solidarity with Palestine. By these actions, we show a commitment to justice and humanity consistent with our outrage against this hateful and deadly attack that occurred in Tel Aviv.

This statement was drafted by members of the following organizations:

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Toronto
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism

and

The following BDS activists from Israel:

Ayala Shani
Edo Medicks
Emily Schaeffer
Hamutal Erato
Leiser Peles
Liad Kantorowicz
Moran Livnat
Nitzan Aviv
Noa Abend
Rotem Biran
Roy Wagner
Segev (Lilach) Ben- David
Sonya Soloviov
Tal Shapira
Yossef/a Mekyton
Yossi Wolfson
Yotam Ben-David

these actions are all essential in promoting the reality that bds is the only thing that is breaking the zionist entity and that will continue to help it fall to its knees. faris giacaman’s brilliant piece in electronic intifada illustrates precisely why bds is the best mode of solidarity among activists who are against apartheid in palestine:

Upon finding out that I am Palestinian, many people I meet at college in the United States are eager to inform me of various activities that they have participated in that promote “coexistence” and “dialogue” between both sides of the “conflict,” no doubt expecting me to give a nod of approval. However, these efforts are harmful and undermine the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel — the only way of pressuring Israel to cease its violations of Palestinians’ rights.

When I was a high school student in Ramallah, one of the better known “people-to-people” initiatives, Seeds of Peace, often visited my school, asking students to join their program. Almost every year, they would send a few of my classmates to a summer camp in the US with a similar group of Israeli students. According to the Seeds of Peace website, at the camp they are taught “to develop empathy, respect, and confidence as well as leadership, communication and negotiation skills — all critical components that will facilitate peaceful coexistence for the next generation.” They paint quite a rosy picture, and most people in college are very surprised to hear that I think such activities are misguided at best, and immoral, at worst. Why on earth would I be against “coexistence,” they invariably ask?

During the last few years, there have been growing calls to bring to an end Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people through an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). One of the commonly-held objections to the boycott is that it is counter-productive, and that “dialogue” and “fostering coexistence” is much more constructive than boycotts.

With the beginning of the Oslo accords in 1993, there has been an entire industry that works toward bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in these “dialogue” groups. The stated purpose of such groups is the creating of understanding between “both sides of the conflict,” in order to “build bridges” and “overcome barriers.” However, the assumption that such activities will help facilitate peace is not only incorrect, but is actually morally lacking.

The presumption that dialogue is needed in order to achieve peace completely ignores the historical context of the situation in Palestine. It assumes that both sides have committed, more or less, an equal amount of atrocities against one another, and are equally culpable for the wrongs that have been done. It is assumed that not one side is either completely right or completely wrong, but that both sides have legitimate claims that should be addressed, and certain blind spots that must be overcome. Therefore, both sides must listen to the “other” point of view, in order to foster understanding and communication, which would presumably lead to “coexistence” or “reconciliation.”

Such an approach is deemed “balanced” or “moderate,” as if that is a good thing. However, the reality on the ground is vastly different than the “moderate” view of this so-called “conflict.” Even the word “conflict” is misleading, because it implies a dispute between two symmetric parties. The reality is not so; it is not a case of simple misunderstanding or mutual hatred which stands in the way of peace. The context of the situation in Israel/Palestine is that of colonialism, apartheid and racism, a situation in which there is an oppressor and an oppressed, a colonizer and a colonized.

In cases of colonialism and apartheid, history shows that colonial regimes do not relinquish power without popular struggle and resistance, or direct international pressure. It is a particularly naive view to assume that persuasion and “talking” will convince an oppressive system to give up its power.

The apartheid regime in South Africa, for instance, was ended after years of struggle with the vital aid of an international campaign of sanctions, divestments and boycotts. If one had suggested to the oppressed South Africans living in bantustans to try and understand the other point of view (i.e. the point of view of South African white supremacists), people would have laughed at such a ridiculous notion. Similarly, during the Indian struggle for emancipation from British colonial rule, Mahatma Gandhi would not have been venerated as a fighter for justice had he renounced satyagraha — “holding firmly to the truth,” his term for his nonviolent resistance movement — and instead advocated for dialogue with the occupying British colonialists in order to understand their side of the story.

Now, it is true that some white South Africans stood in solidarity with the oppressed black South Africans, and participated in the struggle against apartheid. And there were, to be sure, some British dissenters to their government’s colonial policies. But those supporters explicitly stood alongside the oppressed with the clear objective of ending oppression, of fighting the injustices perpetrated by their governments and representatives. Any joint gathering of both parties, therefore, can only be morally sound when the citizens of the oppressive state stand in solidarity with the members of the oppressed group, not under the banner of “dialogue” for the purpose of “understanding the other side of the story.” Dialogue is only acceptable when done for the purpose of further understanding the plight of the oppressed, not under the framework of having “both sides heard.”

It has been argued, however, by the Palestinian proponents of these dialogue groups, that such activities may be used as a tool — not to promote so-called “understanding,” — but to actually win over Israelis to the Palestinian struggle for justice, by persuading them or “having them recognize our humanity.”

However, this assumption is also naive. Unfortunately, most Israelis have fallen victim to the propaganda that the Zionist establishment and its many outlets feed them from a young age. Moreover, it will require a huge, concerted effort to counter this propaganda through persuasion. For example, most Israelis will not be convinced that their government has reached a level of criminality that warrants a call for boycott. Even if they are logically convinced of the brutalities of Israeli oppression, it will most likely not be enough to rouse them into any form of action against it. This has been proven to be true time and again, evident in the abject failure of such dialogue groups to form any comprehensive anti-occupation movement ever since their inception with the Oslo process. In reality, nothing short of sustained pressure — not persuasion — will make Israelis realize that Palestinian rights have to be rectified. That is the logic of the BDS movement, which is entirely opposed to the false logic of dialogue.

Based on an unpublished 2002 report by the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last October that “between 1993 and 2000 [alone], Western governments and foundations spent between $20 million and $25 million on the dialogue groups.” A subsequent wide-scale survey of Palestinians who participated in the dialogue groups revealed that this great expenditure failed to produce “a single peace activist on either side.” This affirms the belief among Palestinians that the entire enterprise is a waste of time and money.

The survey also revealed that the Palestinian participants were not fully representative of their society. Many participants tended to be “children or friends of high-ranking Palestinian officials or economic elites. Only seven percent of participants were refugee camp residents, even though they make up 16 percent of the Palestinian population.” The survey also found that 91 percent of Palestinian participants no longer maintained ties with Israelis they met. In addition, 93 percent were not approached with follow-up camp activity, and only five percent agreed the whole ordeal helped “promote peace culture and dialogue between participants.”

Despite the resounding failure of these dialogue projects, money continues to be invested in them. As Omar Barghouti, one of the founding members of the BDS movement in Palestine, explained in The Electronic Intifada, “there have been so many attempts at dialogue since 1993 … it became an industry — we call it the peace industry.”

This may be partly attributed to two factors. The dominant factor is the useful role such projects play in public relations. For example, the Seeds of Peace website boosts its legitimacy by featuring an impressive array of endorsements by popular politicians and authorities, such as Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George Mitchell, Shimon Peres, George Bush, Colin Powell and Tony Blair, amongst others. The second factor is the need of certain Israeli “leftists” and “liberals” to feel as if they are doing something admirable to “question themselves,” while in reality they take no substantive stand against the crimes that their government commits in their name. The politicians and Western governments continue to fund such projects, thereby bolstering their images as supporters of “coexistence,” and the “liberal” Israeli participants can exonerate themselves of any guilt by participating in the noble act of “fostering peace.” A symbiotic relationship, of sorts.

The lack of results from such initiatives is not surprising, as the stated objectives of dialogue and “coexistence” groups do not include convincing Israelis to help Palestinians gain the respect of their inalienable rights. The minimum requirement of recognizing Israel’s inherently oppressive nature is absent in these dialogue groups. Rather, these organizations operate under the dubious assumption that the “conflict” is very complex and multifaceted, where there are “two sides to every story,” and each narrative has certain valid claims as well as biases.

As the authoritative call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel makes plain, any joint Palestinian-Israeli activities — whether they be film screenings or summer camps — can only be acceptable when their stated objective is to end, protest, and/or raise awareness of the oppression of the Palestinians.

Any Israeli seeking to interact with Palestinians, with the clear objective of solidarity and helping them to end oppression, will be welcomed with open arms. Caution must be raised, however, when invitations are made to participate in a dialogue between “both sides” of the so-called “conflict.” Any call for a “balanced” discourse on this issue — where the motto “there are two sides to every story” is revered almost religiously — is intellectually and morally dishonest, and ignores the fact that, when it comes to cases of colonialism, apartheid, and oppression, there is no such thing as “balance.” The oppressor society, by and large, will not give up its privileges without pressure. This is why the BDS campaign is such an important instrument of change.

for those who feel inspired to carry on the bds campaign there is a new campaign to initiate. you can start with locating where wine from the zionist entity is sold, which is, of course, made from stolen grapes in from occupied palestine and syria:

Israel exports roughly $22 million dollars worth of wine a year, according to the Central Statistics Bureau.

Founded in 2002, the family-owned Pelter winery in the Golan Heights benefits from the cool climate and water-rich soil of the plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981 – a move rejected by the United Nations.

Sam Pelter, whose son Tal founded the winery after extensive wine-making studies in Australia, says he combines Australian techniques and technology with Golan grapes. His wines sell at $18-$50 a bottle and are sold in the United States and Europe.

Some 18-20 percent of Israeli wine comes from the Golan, according to wine critic Rogov, though wines made on disputed land can sometimes invite controversy.

Last December, Syria protested to UN leaders that Israel had distributed Golan wine as year-end holiday gifts to UN staff. In 2006, Israel complained that Sweden was labelling Golan wines as coming from Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.

Israeli settlers also make wine on Arab land in the West Bank, sometimes drawing boycotts by peace activists.

Political sensitivities have not stopped Pelter’s wines making a splash abroad.

سيارة العودة

"american independence park" map in occupied palestine

at camp al awda with kids from ibdaa cultural center at deheishe refugee camp a couple of weeks ago we realized, too late, that we made a big mistake with at least one of the villages we took the youth to. instead of taking kids to بيت عطاب (or beit ‘itab) we took them to deir al hawa instead. part of the mistake is somewhat understandable. although we were using salman abu sitta’s amazing book, the return journey, as our guide, it is extra challenging to find the remains of a palestinian village that was ethnically cleansed when one must do this in land that was forested over by the zionist terrorist colonists. this particular forest, “the american independence national park” contains at least twelve ethnically cleansed villages whose residents and their descendants now reside in deheishe refugee camp among other refugee camps. the map above is one that the zionist terrorist colonists give out at its information center of the so-called national park. the interesting thing about the map is that it identifies the names of several palestinian villages like beit ‘itab, however, it does not identify them as palestinian.

zionist terrorist colony on the land of beit itab
zionist terrorist colony on the land of beit itab

one of the ways one has to find palestinian villages that were ethnically cleansed is to look for the zionist terrorist colonies now occupying the land. and even in this national forest there are such colonies. one of them is nes harim, which is where we parked our car. i brought three youth back to the village who were the youth leaders we smuggled out to help us run the camp. because they are older than 15 years and already have identity cards it was especially dangerous for me to smuggle them out. too, it is far more difficult to smuggle out men and boys than women and girls. so we took a risk and did it one more time two days ago. we drove until we saw the sign for nes harim colony, which if you notice in the picture above has stickers over the arabic. this is a common phenomenon in historic palestine because the racist colonists actively work to conceal the arab character of this land. incidentally, jonathan cook reported for electronic intifada on a more official, state practice emerging that will remove the original arabic names from street signs altogether:

Thousands of road signs are the latest front in Israel’s battle to erase Arab heritage from much of the Holy Land.

Israel Katz, the transport minister, announced this week that signs on all major roads in Israel, East Jerusalem and possibly parts of the West Bank would be “standardized,” converting English and Arabic place names into straight transliterations of the Hebrew name.

Currently, road signs include the place name as it is traditionally rendered in all three languages.

Under the new scheme, the Arab identity of important Palestinian communities will be obscured: Jerusalem, or “al-Quds” in Arabic, will be Hebraized to “Yerushalayim”; Nazareth, or “al-Nasra” in Arabic, the city of Jesus’s childhood, will become “Natzrat”; and Jaffa, the port city after which Palestine’s oranges were named, will be “Yafo.”

Arab leaders are concerned that Katz’s plan offers a foretaste of the demand by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

On Wednesday, Mohammed Sabih, a senior official at the Arab League, called the initiative “racist and dangerous.”

“This decision comes in the framework of a series of steps in Israel aimed at implementing the ‘Jewish State’ slogan on the ground.”

Palestinians in Israel and Jerusalem, meanwhile, have responded with alarm to a policy they believe is designed to make them ever less visible.

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab legislator in the Israeli parliament, said: “Minister Katz is mistaken if he thinks that changing a few words can erase the existence of the Arab people or their connection to Israel.”

The transport ministry has made little effort to conceal the political motivation behind its policy of Hebraizing road signs.

In announcing the move on Monday, Katz, a hawkish member of Likud, Netanyahu’s right-wing party, said he objected to Palestinians using the names of communities that existed before Israel’s establishment in 1948.

“I will not allow that on our signs,” he said. “This government, and certainly this minister, will not allow anyone to turn Jewish Jerusalem into Palestinian al-Quds.”

Other Israeli officials have played down the political significance of Katz’s decision. A transport department spokesman, Yeshaayahu Ronen, said: “The lack of uniform spelling on signs has been a problem for those speaking foreign languages, citizens and tourists alike.”

while the racist nature of this new project of the zionist entity may seem new, it isn’t. there are many signs throughout 1948 palestine that only have hebrew, for instance. signs indicating the new zionist terrorist colonies where original palestinian villages used to be–like beit itab–only carry an arabic transliteration of the hebrew re-naming of the stolen land. so you can see the arabic in the sign pictured above peaking out from the other end of the sticker which shows the colony’s name not the palestinian village’s name.

pointing to "beit itab ruins" in arabic on zionist terrorist colonist sign (but no mention of palestine)

in beit ‘itab the layers of erasure are even more striking. there are signs all over this so-called national park indicating the various touristic things one should hike to and look at. while palestinian names are used (as in the photo above where the youth point to their village’s name in arabic), the zionist entity has done all it can to elide thousands of years of history on this land, a history which the buildings and trees eclipse. and indeed we saw many remains from a water well to fig trees to cacti and olive trees attesting to the palestinian presence on this land.

water well in beit itab
water well in beit itab
an intertwined grape and fig tree in beit itab
an intertwined grape and fig tree in beit itab

DSC00100

the photograph below and above shows one of the signs that is trying to erase palestinian people and their history from beit ‘itab. while it acknowledges that these ruins exist, and that they are relatively recent ruins–from the 1830s, a date which they get wrong–they mention only the crusaders (another foreign entity that occupied palestinian land) and not the people whose labor and love built the homes pictured here. reading walid khalidi’s all that remains gives us a far more accurate view of the village:

The village stood on a high mountain, overlooking some lower mountain peaks below. Its lands extended southwest as far as Wadi al-Maghara. Several springs around the village provided drinking and irrigation water. A secondary road linked Bayt ‘Itab to the Bayt Jibrin-Bethlehem road that ran about 3 km to the south. Bayt ‘Itab is identified with Enadab, which appears in the list of Palestinian towns that was compiled by the fourth century A.D. historian Eusebius.The Crusaders knew it as Bethahatap. Edward Robinson visited the village in 1838 and described its stone houses as solidly built. Several houses had two storeys, and in the center of the village were the ruins of a crusader castle. (274)

if you compare the sign to khalidi’s book, or even to robinson’s book, you will realize that the zionist terrorist colonists attempting to re-write history are using robinson’s dates as if to say the village begins when the white man comes and notices it exists (this is akin to saying christopher columbus “discovered” america). khalidi gives us a sense of what the people’s lives were like in that village as well, which of course, is not acknowledged by the zionist entity’s sign because that would be to admit there were not just homes and structures but real live people who built and lived in them:

In the late nineteenth century, Bayt ‘Itab was a village built of stone, perched on a rocky knoll that rose 60 to 100 feet above the surrounding hilly ridge. Its population in 1875 was approximately 700. The villagers, who were Muslim, cultivated olive trees on terraces to the north. A large cavern–eighteen feed wide and six feet high–ran beneath the houses. The original layout of the village was circular, but new construction to the southwest (along the road that led to the neighboring village of Sufla) gave it the shape of an arc. Most of its houses were built of stone. Agriculture was the main source of livelihood. The village lands were planted in grain, grapes, olive trees, and other fruit trees. In addition, the residents owned extensive areas on the coastal plain that also were planted in grain. During the [British] Mandate, some village lands were expropriated to make a large, government-owned woodland. The villagers also engaged in livestock breeding. Crops were rainfed and irrigated from springs. In 1944/45 a total of 1,400 dunums was allocated to cereals; 665 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards, of which 116 dunums were planted with olive trees The village contained the ruins of an old Crusader fortress. (275)

that is the life that the zionist terrorist colonists destroyed and here is what khalidi says about it:

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

the above, of course, is a militaristic description of an nakba experienced by the palestinians from beit ‘itab. merely addressing this history is in the process of being criminalized in the zionist entity’s usurping government:

Legislation that Israel’s Arab citizens fear could limit their freedom of speech came a step closer on Sunday to becoming law.

The bill, proposed by a legislator from the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, would withhold government money from any state-supported institutions that fund activity deemed detrimental to the state.

Such activity includes “rejecting Israel’s existence as the state of the Jewish people” and supporting “armed struggle or terrorist acts” against Israel.

A ministerial committee approved the bill, clearing the way for its presentation to parliament for future debate and voting.

zionist terrorist colonists erasing palestinians
zionist terrorist colonists erasing palestinians

to get to the village we had to hike quite a bit from the road where the entrance to the colony and park are. it took us about an hour and a half to climb up the mountain. it was super hot and we did not bring enough water with us and i think i had borderline heat stroke. at the top of the mountain the fruit on the fig trees was not quite ripe, but i tried to eat a few anyway just for the sake of getting something inside me to cool down. then i found a cactus with sabr fruit on it and decided i’d try that since it’s juicier. i broke one apart with a stone and then carefully tried to peel it back, trying to avoid any of the thorns. little did i know how difficult this would prove to be. not only did i get my hands covered in these hard-to-see little hairy thorns, but i also got them in my lips and on my tongue. this lasted until the next day. when we hiked back down the mountain we found one of the village springs where we drank the most amazing tasting water. i was so refreshed.

the ruins of beit itab
the ruins of beit itab
the ruins of beit itab
the ruins of beit itab

DSC00079

the palestinian houses that remain in beit ‘itab testify to the palestinian people, to their presence on this land, and to their right to return to it. this is why i take palestinian refugees to their land: to see it, to know it, to fight for their right to it. i wish i could have a full-time job doing this. i would make signs and paint them on the car saying سيارة العودة. i would spend all day doing this from all the refugee camps. we could make it a widespread movement to get palestinian teachers to circumvent the palestinian authority’s curriculum so that palestinians could actually learn their own history. they could use that history to fight for their rights. they could learn about their legal rights, think creatively about how to implement and take back what belongs to them.

DSC00082

DSC00085

DSC00087

a view from beit itab of the forested over palestinian villages
a view from beit itab of the forested over palestinian villages

the shebab wanted to go for a swim at the beach in yaffa after we finished exploring their village. we drove to the beach and saw the palestinian cemetery in yaffa, which is next to the so-called “peres peace center.” peres, of course, is a notorious war criminal and this center named after him is on stolen land. but the cemetery was striking. it shows how the zionist terrorist colonists will not even let palestinians rest in peace after they die. it was totally vandalized and not only were there very few headstones left in tact, many of the tombs themselves were destroyed. you could see some places where some palestinians have tried to put the pieces back together, but it is difficult to find any marked grave that contains all the information about who is buried there.

palestinian cemetery in yaffa with the so-called peres peace center behind
palestinian cemetery in yaffa with the so-called peres peace center behind
not even the palestinian dead are allowed to rest in peace
not even the palestinian dead are allowed to rest in peace

they swam and i watched the sunset. it was a glorious sunset. i took them to yaffa to swim, but i want to be clear that taking palestinian refugees to any place that is no occupied by the zionist entity is a political act for me to help them feel connected to their land and to fight to take it back. this is in contradistinction to the zionist terrorist colonists who stand and watch (and do nothing i might add) at checkpoints, otherwise known as machsom watch, and who think that all palestinians need or want is a “fun” day at the beach, even if that is the child’s own wish:

The Israeli peace organization Machsom Watch had plans to take 50 West Bank children to the sea, but Israeli army denies one of them the entry permit, citing “security reasons”.

Israeli media report that 15-year-old Ahmad’s only wish was to go to the sea, but that his permit request was turned down by the military. Ahmad lives in the West Bank village of Burin, close to the city of Nablus, and has never in his life even seen the sea. In his daily life Ahmad work as a bottled-water and candy vendor at Huwarra checkpoint. Machsom Watch is convinced that the army’s decision was made without explanation or reason and set away the army’s security reasons as nonsense. “This is a 15-year-old boy, what could he possibly do?” a source said. The organization said they have known the boy for many years now. “We can testify, beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has never been part of any security incident, including throwing stones,” according to the organization’s spokeswoman Raiya Yaron. Machsom Watch sent out a petition for Ahmed. The petition has since then touched the hearts of many, among them two famous Israeli actors. This is the third time Machsom Watch holds a day of recreational activities for around 50 Palestinian children and youth from the area of Nablus, in the northern West Bank. The plan is to take the children to the beach, where they will get the chance to swim in the sea for the first time in their lives after which they will return to the West Bank on the same day. Just like Ahmad, most children in and around Nablus have never been to the sea and state this as their biggest dream. When asked, nearly all, children say that swimming is their favorite hobby, only to admit immediately after, that they don’t even know how to swim.

yes, they should know how to swim and they should be free to swim in their sea whenever they want to. but the zionist terrorist colonists, including those in machsom watch, are occupying their land. but they want to relieve their guilty consciences or some such thing and so they seem to think that spending the day at the beach with palestinian children, which forces the children to normalize with their colonizing occupying terrorists.

sunset over yaffa, palestine
sunset over yaffa, palestine

and after all this we still had not eaten. so we got in the car and drove another 1.5 hours north to akka for some palestinian fish. we ate dinner and then went to another place to smoke argilla on the sea. and then we walked around the old city where i noticed new american and zionist terrorist colonizing schemes in the old city (see photos below).

we didn’t leave the old city until around 3 am. i drove all night and as we reached the checkpoint to come home the sun was rising and there was an amazingly beautiful layer of fog on the hilltop (see below). but the hardest part was taking the shebab home. while i think it is important, and i know that this trip was intensely meaningful to them, it kills me to have to take them back to the camp when their village exists. when so much of it remains unused. but, of course, their right of return is not just to their houses, but to the open space of their entire country. to the sea. to the borders–all the borders. but this is why i do this and why i believe and i hope and i will fight until my last breath for the right of return for all palestinian refugees.

sunrise over hanoun, palestine
sunrise over hanoun, palestine
deheishe refugee camp at 6 am
deheishe refugee camp at 6 am

prisons within prisons within prisons within prisons within prisons

holding an american passport, having the privilege of white skin, and living in palestine means that one needs to be conscious of these privileges and also use them strategically to support palestinians. the summer camp last week was one example of using my white privilege to help palestinian refugees learn about their villages and use that knowledge and experience to imagine how to fight for their right of return. i think this is urgent for this generation to be given as many tools as possible to fight for this right and to acquire knowledge from their elders and their own experiences as the risk of losing the generation that holds first-hand memories. one of the youth on the trip has an 89 year old grandfather who recalls acutely every last detail of his village beit ‘itab. part of the next phase of this project is to get the youth to record the oral histories of their elders as well as to use that history as another tool to fight for their right of return. i use the word “project” advisedly. it is not some little program that we are working on here that is temporary or fleeting. it is something that we are hoping to project into the future to help this generation realize their right of return. to break out of their prisons in the refugee camps, in their bantustan cities and villages. to take their land back.

i taught my indigenous american class last night in deheishe, in which some of the same youth from camp are students, and i started to worry a bit about the upcoming delegation. first, here is a description and a way you can support the project by donating to the middle east children’s alliance:

The Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine, the first-ever delegation of its kind, is scheduled for August 2009. Youth leaders from grassroots indigenous groups in the US, namely Seventh Native American Generation (SNAG) Magazine, Huaxtec, and Native students at Haskell University, will travel to Palestine at the invitation of five Palestinian youth centers. After more than two years of communicating through the internet, these young people will have the opportunity to learn firsthand from each other by sharing tools of empowerment and education.

The trip to Palestine is part of an ongoing process to connect the shared experiences of Indigenous peoples across the world, to build solidarity, justice and peace. The group will create print media, blogs, a Native/Palestinian music CD, video, photo essays, poetry and other forms of media to share their stories and involve their communities in building a national and international movement for indigenous rights.

i think that this project is hugely important as global indigenous solidarity is necessary. i think the youth can learn a lot from each other. at the same time one of the differences between indigenous youth in the americas and in palestine is time–a few hundred years difference. and i worry that the palestinian youth will look to the american indian youth and see this as their fate: four hundred years of living in refugee camps, of removal from their land, of imprisonment.

one of the more well known american indian political prisoners is up for parole again. leonard peltier, jeremy scahill reminds us, has the possibility of being released from prison in a couple of weeks:

“I AM but a common man, I am not a speaker but I have spoken. I am not all that tall, but I have stood up. I am not a philosopher or poet or a singer or any of those things that particularly inspire people, but the one thing that I am is the evidence that this country lied when they said there was justice for all… I am just a common man and I am evidence that the powers that put me here would like to sweep under the carpet. The same way they did all of our past leaders, warriors and people they massacred. Just as at Wounded Knee, the Fifth Cavalry sought its revenge for Custer’s loss and massacred some 300 Indian men women and children, then gave out 23 Medals of Honor and swept the evidence of their wrongdoing aside… I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in this prison. And I don’t want you to spend the rest of your life in some prison of the mind, heart or attitude. I want you to enjoy your life.

If nothing else give somebody a hug for me and say, ‘This is from Leonard.’”

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Leonard Peltier

NOTE: Read Leonard Peltier’s full June 26 statement. Peltier is up for parole on July 28. His supporters and friends have launched a letter-writing campaign to support his release from prison after 34 years.

americans, like their zionist allies, love to lock people and communities up in prisons. they have this, among other things, in common. there are over 11,000 palestinian political prisoners languishing in zionist terrorist colonist jails, among them are some more well-known political leaders and figures. last week the campaign to free ahmed sa’adat issued a letter calling for his release as well as all the other political prisoners:

Dear Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon;

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, call upon you to immediately take action in defense of the lives, health and rights of the over 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners held inside Israeli occupation jails. This number includes numerous elected members of Palestinian Legislative Council, among them Ahmad Sa’adat, General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Marwan al-Barghouthi, Fateh leader; Abdel-Aziz Dweik, Hamas leader and President of the Council, just freed after three years in prison, and dozens of other elected political leaders, in addition to thousands of other Palestinian activists, union members, community organizers, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

Palestinian prisoners suffer in conditions that violate international standards and norms, and are imprisoned because they refuse to accept a brutal occupation of their land and their people. Ahmad Sa’adat recently waged a nine-day hunger strike in protest of the policy of isolation and solitary confinement that has recently been escalated against Palestinian prisoners. Palestinian prisoners have been denied family visits, at times for years, denied access to all books and magazines, and denied even communication with their fellow prisoners in the isolation units. Palestinian prisoners, including Sa’adat, are currently denied necessary health care and medical treatment.

Palestinian prisoners are placed into isolation because they are national leaders and because the Palestinian prisoner movement has been an inspiration to all Palestinians and all who struggle for freedom. Ahmad Sa’adat’s hunger strike has sparked thousands of people around the world to appeal for his release, as a living example who symbolizes the steadfastness and strength of the Palestinian prisoners amid isolation and dire conditions, and it must compel all of those outside the prisons to act. Many Palestinian and international human rights and social justice organizations have called for the release of Sa’adat and to ensure the safety of his life and health, as well as for freedom and protection for all Palestinian prisoners.

The fate of these 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners is a fundamental issue of justice. Palestinians, in Palestine and in exile, are denied their rights – to return home, to self-determination, and to freedom, and those who seek to secure those rights are subject to imprisonment, whether within the open-air prisons of Gaza under siege or the walled-in West Bank, or the jails of the occupation. The silent, and at times, active, complicity of international agencies, particularly the United Nations, in the denial of Palestinian rights must not continue.

We call upon you to uphold your responsibilities and exert all pressure to end torture, cruel and inhuman treatment of Palestinian prisoners, and to free every Palestinian political prisoner from Israel’s occupation jails.

Sincerely,
http://www.freeahmadsaadat.org/
Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat

the number of palestinian political prisoners grows every month with the zionist terrorist forces’ nightly raids into palestinian refugee camps, villages and cities. here is a report on the month of june alone:

The Palestinian Ministry of Detainees reported that the Israeli army kidnapped more than 380 Palestinians in several parts of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem during the month of June.

The ministry added that the army also kidnapped four Egyptians in the Negev after claiming that they crossed the border and entered a military base.

Hundreds of Palestinian workers were also detained in the Green Line as the Israeli Police claimed they were working there without permits.

Riyadh Al Ashqar, head of the Media Department at the Ministry, stated that last month witnessed a significant escalation in Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and that the soldiers kidnapped sixteen fishermen.

He added that Israeli security personnel interrogated the fishermen and tried to blackmail them by telling them that they would be allowed to fish in Gaza’s territorial waters should they collaborate and spy for Israel in Gaza.

The minister added that, for the first time, soldiers detained a four-year old child, identified as Mohammad Mousa, after claiming that he hurled stones at police vehicles in Jerusalem. 31 residents, including three children below 12, were detained in Hizma village, near Jerusalem.

The army also kidnapped three women, and tortured one of them at the Atara roadblock, north of Ramallah.

The tortured woman was identified as Nahed Farhat, from Ramallah; the soldiers kicked her, dragged her on the ground and punched her before blindfolding and cuffing her, and took her to a detention facility.

Soldiers also broke into the home of female legislator, Dr. Mariam Saleh, searched the property and kidnapped her son Salah after kicking and punching him and his brother.

Troops confiscated the legislator’s mobile phone and some private documents.

In its report, the Ministry said that Israeli courts issued more than 220 administrative detention orders and imposed high fines on dozens of detainees.

Troops broke into several detention facilities, searched the rooms and attacked a number of detainees.

mohammed ballan compiled a list of some of the palestinian political prisoners’ names, which jasmin ramsey at pulse media reported. however, this is just a small fraction of their names, names that must be spoken, remembered, and the demand for their release must be fought for:

It is also imperative to note that these name are only roughly 200 names when in fact there are over 11, 000 in Israeli prisons. Unfortunately, there is no transparency, and the names of these prisoners remain elusive due to the nature of their imprisonment. No human rights organizations or governmental organizations have access to all of the names and identities of these Palestinians. Although they may be erased from our regular world, we will not forget their existence and let them run through the pages of history.

It should also be noted that of those Palestinians detained, only a minor proportion have actually committed acts of “terrorism” (as defined by Israeli law) or orchestrated attacks against the Israeli civilian and military infrastructure of occupation.

For some of the sources used to compile these names, please visit:

http://addameer.info/
http://sumoud.tao.ca/?q=
http://www.miftah.org/Doc/Factsheets/Miftah/English/Prisoners.pdf
http://palestinianprisoners.blogspot.com/

PALESTINIAN PRISONERS:

10,000 men, 1500 women, 500 children under 12 yrs old.

Mainstream media coverage, including Israeli/Arabic/Palestinian/Western news stations: 0.00 minutes, 0 news articles

Names (a mere fraction of them)

Abdullah Hussein Abdullah Odeh
Samah Abdullah
Muhammad Ouni Muhammad Daadou
Amin As’ad Mustafa Salim
Mahmoud Shukri Abd al-Karim Hamshari
Ali Kamal Hussein Abu Salim
Muhammad Saleem Shaheen
Azzam Yusuf Mahmoud Yasin
Roulan Tawfiq Abdullah Dighlis
Nahed Taysir Tawfiq Abu Diyak
Mu’in Mustafa Musa Feshafesha
Muhammad Bassam Tawfiq Walway
Muhammad Amin Ahmad Yunus
Nadel Khalil Ahmad ‘Aalouna
Adam Ghazzan Ahmad Harami
Khadeer Ali Muhammad Bisharat
Mahmoud Radwan Mahmoud Musleh
Samed Muhammd Hassan Asleem
Ehad Mansur Ibrahim Khleelya
Muhammad Saleh Suleyman Mardawi
Saleh ‘Amer Swey’ad S’aida
Amin Abd Muhammad ‘Arbash
George Ghabi Yusuf Bihnan
Ghassan Nu’man Mahmoud Taha
Jibr ‘Ouda Ali Mukhamra
Nitham Mustafa Sawafta
Samer Mahmoud Karim Haimouni
Ibrahim Muhammad Khalil Dababsa
Khalil Suleyman Khalil Jrouf
Ashraf Hussein Mahmoud Abu Ghlass
Tamer Badr Qubtan Abu ‘Arqoub
Muhammad Ibrahim Muhammad ‘Oud
Tawfiq Abd al-Qader Talib Omar
Ziyad Hassan Abd al-Jalil Kahla
Ayman Yaser Khalil ‘Amru
Imad ‘Ezat Muhammad Awlad Muhammad
Mustafa Sawafta
Muhammad Zuhdi Abd al-Rahman Mahfoudh
Muhammad Ahmad Abd Quttamsh
Amru Hassan Muhammad ‘Amru
Osama Muhammad Suleyman Sabateen
Najeh Yusuf Muhammad ‘Amru
Mu’mmar Muhammad Khalil Ta’amra
Ouda Ismail Muhammad Za’anouna
‘Asem Mahmoud Abd al-Rahim Salama
Amna Mouna
Bedran Abd al-Qader Ibrahim Badir
Ahmad Hassan Ahmad Shaqura
Amin Sarhi Salama Abu Mandil
Hussam Suleyman Mustafa ‘Arouq
Omar Mustafa Muhammad Omar
Fadi ‘Essam Sha’ban Saleem
Jum’a Qader ‘Atiya Abu Farha
Mundhir Mahmoud Muhammad Abu Zaghreet
Ala’ Rubhi Hussein Saleh
Muhammad ‘Ayed Muhammad Rub’i
Ghada Jasser
Nayef Ahmad Abd al-Fatah Butran
Khawla Zeitawi
Khaled Ramadan Tawfiq Ismail
Sa’di Mahmoud Hassan ‘Ouda
Ahmad Mahmod Muhammad Saleh
Haitham ‘Asmat Reja’i Zahran
Muhammad Ahmad Fraj Asleem
Asma’ Hussein
Samar Subaih
Bara’ Subaih
Fadi Husni ‘Oud Abu ‘Aoun
Abdullah Qa’dan Khidr Sa’ad
Mutleq Saleh Qassem Bani Jaber
Rasheed Muhammad Rasheed ‘Aql
Ahlam Jawhar
‘Isa Ahmad Amin Abu Eid
Murad ‘Ezzat Muhammad Qassem
Haitham Muhammad Ahmad Baradi’iya
Muhammad Ahmad Shehadeh Farhan
Muhannad Abd al-Fatah Mahmoud Hatataba
Suad Ghazal
Ahmad Mustafa Ali ‘Araj
Muhammad Ibrahim Muhammad Abu Jheesha
Ibrahim Mufleh Saleh Abu Jheesha
Muhammad Abd al-Karim Ismail Hameedan
Abdullah Hassan Ahmad Qandil
Muhammad Na’eim Nimr Muhammad
Manal Ghanem
Nor Ghanem
Khayri Nasr Yusuf Wahdan
‘Asem Ahmad Muhammad ‘Isa
Hani Mahmoud Hussein Taneena
Nadeem ‘Aoud Mahmoud Smara
Sa’ad al-Din Muhammad Abd al-Majid Hassoun
Muhammad Ibrahim Ismail Abu Ismail
Sana ‘Amer
Rafet Suleyman Hussein Radaideh
‘Ouni Yusuf Mahmoud Omar
Rasem Suleyman Abu Rayhan
Sameeh ‘Isa Abd al-Haroush
Ismail Hassan Ali Jabour
Jibril Hassan Hassan Jabour
Imad Yunus Suleyman Jabour
Tawfiq Ahmad Za’al Jabour
Arafat Mahmoud Muhammad Abd al-Aziz
Ayman Munir Tawfiq
Sa’eed Wajia Sa’eed Al-Outban
Na’el Saleh Abdullah Barghouti
Fakhri ‘Asfour Abdullah Al-Barghouti
Akram Abdulaziz Sa’eed Mansur
Muhammad Ibrahim Mahmoud Abu Ali
Fu’ad Qassem Aeafat Al-Razem
Ibrahim Fadl Nimr Jaber
Aseel Al-Hindi
Hassan Ali Nimr Salama
Uthman Ali Hamdan Musleh
Sami Khaled Salama Yunus
Karim Yusuf Fadl Yunus
Maher Abd al-Latif Abd al-Qader Yunus
Salim Ali Ibrahim Al-Kayl
Hafedh Nimr Muhammad Qundus
Majd Al-Kokhen
‘Isa Nimr Jibril Abdrabo
Muhammad Abd al-Rahim Sa’eed Mansur
Ahmad Fareed Muhammad Shehadeh
Muhammad Ibrahim Muhammad Nasr
Rafe’ Farhoud Mahmoud Kraja
Talal Yusuf Ahmad Abu Al-Kabash
Ziyad Mahmoud Muhammad Ghneimat
Mustafa ‘Amer Muhammad Ghneimat
Khalid Sa’adi Rashed Abu Shamt
Uthman Abdullah Mahmoud Bani Hussein
Heza’ Mahmoud Heza’ Al-Sa’adi
Bashir Suleyman Ahmad Al-Muqt
‘Asem Mahmoud Ahmad Wali
Seitan Nimr Nimr Wali
Sidqi Suleyman Ahmad Al-Muqt
Hani Badwi Muhammad Sa’eed Jaber
Muhammad Ahmad Abd al-Hamid Al-Tus
Nafidh Ahmad Talib Herz
Fayez Mutawwa’ Hmad Al-Khour
Azi Jum’a Muhammad Al-Nams
Ahmad Abdurrahman Hussein Abu Haseera
Muhammad Misbah Khalil ‘Ashour
Nour Al-Hashalamoun
Walid Nimr As’ad Diqqa
Muhammad Abd al-Hadi Muhammad Al-Husni
Tawfiq Ibrahim Muhammad Abdullah
Mustafa Mahmoud Musa Qar’ushi
Marian Saleh
Rashda Hamdan Muhammad Abu Mikh
Ibrahim Nayef Hamdan Abu Mikh
Ibrahim Abd al-Razeq Ahmad Beyadsa
Ibrahim Mustafa Ahmad Baroud
Ali Badr Ragheb Musulmani
Fawaz Qadhem Rashda Bukhtan
Khalid Ahmad Dawoud Muheisen
‘Asem Saleh Ali Jundal
Wasfa Ahmad Abd al-Qader Mansur
Aladdin Ahmad Reda Al-Baziyan
Ahmad Ali Hussein Abu Jaber
Abd al-Latif Ismail Ibrahim Shaqir
Afu Misbah Nufal Shaqir
Saleh Muhammad Yusuf Al-’Abd
Tareq Dawoud Mustafa Al-Hlees
Abd al-Nasser Dawoud Mustafa Al-Hlees
Ibrahim Hussein Ali ‘Elyan
SamirIbrahim Mahmoud Abu Ni’mah
Hazem Muhammad Sabra ‘Asilia
Hamza Nayef Hassan Zayed
Samer ‘Asem Salem Al-Mahroum
Abdurrahman Fadl Abdurrahman Al-Qeeq
Khaled Muttawa’ Muslim Al-Ja’eedi
Ahlam Al-Tamimi
Aziz Dweik
Maryam Saleh

part of the point of compiling a partial list of the names of palestinian political prisoners is related to the utter lack of media attention palestinian political prisoners get in the international media. last week when the free gaza movement’s boat was captured by zionist terrorist colonists and twenty one internationals were imprisoned, the media story focused on them because the media is not interested in covering the imprisonment of the indigenous fighting to free their land. in response, they produced this video about palestinian political prisoners and the 1.5 million palestinians imprisoned in gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison:

cynthia mckinney was one of those jailed by the zionist terrorist colonists and she wrote “letter from an israeli jail,” the title of which, of course, alludes to martin luther king’s “letter from a birmingham jail,” which reads in part:

But I’ve learned an interesting thing by being inside this prison. First of all, it’s incredibly black: populated mostly by Ethiopians who also had a dream … like my cellmates, one who is pregnant. They are all are in their twenties. They thought they were coming to the Holy Land. They had a dream that their lives would be better … The once proud, never colonized Ethiopia [has been thrown into] the back pocket of the United States, and become a place of torture, rendition, and occupation. Ethiopians must free their country because superpower politics [have] become more important than human rights and self-determination.

My cellmates came to the Holy Land so they could be free from the exigencies of superpower politics. They committed no crime except to have a dream. They came to Israel because they thought that Israel held promise for them. Their journey to Israel through Sudan and Egypt was arduous. I can only imagine what it must have been like for them. And it wasn’t cheap. Many of them represent their family’s best collective efforts for self-fulfilment. They made their way to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They got their yellow paper of identification. They got their certificate for police protection. They are refugees from tragedy, and they made it to Israel only after they arrived Israel told them “there is no UN in Israel.”

The police here have license to pick them up & suck them into the black hole of a farce for a justice system. These beautiful, industrious and proud women represent the hopes of entire families. The idea of Israel tricked them and the rest of us. In a widely propagandized slick marketing campaign, Israel represented itself as a place of refuge and safety for the world’s first Jews and Christian. I too believed that marketing and failed to look deeper.

The truth is that Israel lied to the world. Israel lied to the families of these young women. Israel lied to the women themselves who are now trapped in Ramle’s detention facility. And what are we to do? One of my cellmates cried today. She has been here for 6 months. As an American, crying with them is not enough. The policy of the United States must be better, and while we watch President Obama give 12.8 trillion dollars to the financial elite of the United States it ought now be clear that hope, change, and ‘yes we can’ were powerfully presented images of dignity and self-fulfilment, individually and nationally, that besieged people everywhere truly believed in.

It was a slick marketing campaign as slickly put to the world and to the voters of America as was Israel’s marketing to the world. It tricked all of us but, more tragically, these young women.

We must cast an informed vote about better candidates seeking to represent us. I have read and re-read Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s letter from a Birmingham jail. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that I too would one day have to do so. It is clear that taxpayers in Europe and the U.S. have a lot to atone for, for what they’ve done to others around the world.

What an irony! My son begins his law school program without me because I am in prison, in my own way trying to do my best, again, for other people’s children. Forgive me, my son. I guess I’m experiencing the harsh reality which is why people need dreams. [But] I’m lucky. I will leave this place. Has Israel become the place where dreams die?

Ask the people of Palestine. Ask the stream of black and Asian men whom I see being processed at Ramle. Ask the women on my cellblock. [Ask yourself:] what are you willing to do?

part of the context of those prisoners, who were refugees seeking asylum, mckinney writes about in her letter was reported on last week by irin news:

Some 15,000 mainly African asylum-seekers in Israel have put the regulatory, security and welfare response under strain, according to the Interior Ministry and UNHCR.

Israel does not have a refugee law, despite being a signatory to the 1951 refugee Convention.

However, regulations can allow asylum-seekers to work, and grant temporary protection and non-refoulement (a commitment not to force people back to where they came from).

About 200-300 asylum-seekers arrive each month, mainly overland from Egypt, according to the Immigration Authority and NGOs.

The UNHCR local office reports 14,766 asylum-seekers in Israel, while the Refugee Rights Forum (RRF – eight NGOs active in promoting the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers in Israel) suggests a number over 17,000.

The difference may in part be explained by the fact that UNHCR does not count asylum-seekers who are no longer in touch with them, according to William Tall, a UNHCR representative in Israel.

In the run-up to the handover of the RSD process to the Interior Ministry on 2 July, UNHCR has helped train 25 immigration officers who will begin work in July.

what happens with palestinian political prisoners–when internationals and asylum seekers are perhaps far from view–is something mckinney did not witness. in electronic intifada, jonathan cook reported on the most recent reports of the routine torture of palestinians, including youth, inside zionist terrorist colonist jails:

Despite the 1999 court ruling, a coalition of 14 Israeli human rights groups known as United Against Torture concluded in its latest annual report in November that Israeli detention facilities are still using torture systematically. Israeli doctors are also being relied on to treat the resulting injuries.

Last week, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) published a joint report examining hundreds of arrests in which Palestinians were bound in “distorted and unnatural” ways to inflict “pain and humiliation” amounting to torture.

The report noted instances where prisoners, including a pregnant woman and a dying man, were shackled while doctors carried out emergency procedures in a hospital.

According to the report, the doctors violated the Tokyo Declaration, the key code of medical ethics adopted by the WMA in 1975 that bans the use of cruel, humiliating or inhuman treatment by physicians.

Ishai Menuchin, the head of PCATI, said his group had been lobbying strenuously against Israeli doctors’ complicity in torture since it issued a report, “Ticking Bombs,” in 2007, arguing that torture was routine in Israel.

PCATI highlighted the testimonies of nine Palestinians who had been tortured by interrogators. The report also noted that in most cases Israeli physicians treating detainees “return their patients to additional rounds of torture, and remain silent.”

In June last year, PHR-I drew the IMA’s attention to two cases in which the attending doctor failed to report signs of torture on a Palestinian.

Anat Litvin of PHR-I told the IMA: “We believe that doctors are used by torturers as a safety net — take them out of the system and torture will be much more difficult to enact.”

The groups stepped up their pressure in February, writing to Avinoam Reches, the chairman of the IMA’s ethics committee. They demanded that his association investigate six cases of doctors who failed to report signs of torture.

In one case, a prison doctor, under pressure from interrogators, agreed to retract a written recommendation that a detainee be immediately hospitalized for treatment.

Reches promised to conduct an inquiry. However, last month the two human rights groups criticized him for failing to investigate their claims, accusing him of holding only “amicable and unofficial” conversations over the phone with a few of the doctors concerned.

“We have sent to the IMA many testimonies from victims of torture who were referred to doctors for treatment,” Dr. Menuchin said. “But the IMA has yet to do anything about it.

“A significant number of doctors in Israel, in detention facilities and public hospitals, know torture is taking place, but choose to avert their gaze.”

This month, Defence for Children International-Palestine Section issued a report on the torture of Palestinian children, noting that in several of the cases it cited, Israeli doctors had turned a blind eye. A boy of 14 who was beaten repeatedly on a broken arm reported the abuse to a doctor who, he said, replied only: “I had nothing to do with that.”

The report stated that the group “has not encountered a single case where an adult in a position of authority, such as a soldier, doctor, judicial officer or prison staff, has intervened on behalf of a child who was mistreated.”

Campaigners against Dr. Blachar’s appointment as the head of the WMA say its Israeli sister association’s inaction on torture is unsurprising given its chairman’s public stance.

Derek Summerfield of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “The IMA under Dr. Blachar is in collusion with the Israeli state policy of torture. Its role is to put a benign face on the occupation.”

Dr. Blachar told the Israeli website Ynet last week that such criticisms were “slanderous,” saying he and the IMA denounced all forms of torture.

The WMA, with nine million members in more than 80 countries, was established in 1947 as a response to the abuses sanctioned by German and Japanese doctors during the Second World War.

In 2007, the WMA’s general assembly called on doctors to document and report all cases of suspected torture.

the defence of children international advocates on behalf of the children who are arrested and tortured every month by zionist terrorist forces. here is a recent video they produced to illustrate their predicament:

dci’s most recent urgent action is for wa’ad arafat mustafa al-hidmy and below is information about how you can take more action on his behalf. he is but one child prisoner, but his situation is indicative of the hundreds of palestinian children languishing in zionist terrorist colonist prisons:

Name Wa’ad Arafat Mustafa al-Hidmy
Age at arrest 16
Occupation Student
Place of residence Surif, Hebron, Hebron, OPT
Date of arrest 28 April 2008
Charge No charge
Place of detention Ofer Prison

UPDATE: July 2009

21 September 2009 Possible release date
21 June 2009 Fifth administrative detention order (3 months)
26 March 2009 Fourth administrative detention order (3 months)
26 November 2008 Third administrative detention order (4 months)
27 August 2008 Second administrative detention order (3 months)
6 May 2008 First administrative detention order (4 months)
28 April 2008 Date of arrest

Background information

Wa’ad was arrested from the family home in the village of Surif, near Hebron in the West Bank, at 3:00am on 28 April 2008. He was asleep at the time and woke to the sound of Israeli soldiers banging on the front door.

The soldiers entered the house and after identifying Wa’ad, tied his hands behind his back with plastic cords and took him out of the house to a waiting jeep where he was blindfolded. Wa’ad was placed on the floor of the jeep and told to ‘shut-up’. During the drive to the settlement of Karmi Zur, soldiers in the back of the jeep placed their legs on Wa’ad’s body. On arrival at the settlement Wa’ad was asked some questions about his health before being transferred to Etzion Interrogation and Detention Centre, near Bethlehem. In an affidavit given to lawyers for DCI-Palestine in June 2009, Wa’ad recalls that: ‘I did not know why they were arresting me. I started to wonder whether I had done something wrong without knowing.’

Two days later, Wa’ad was transferred to Ofer Prison, near Ramallah, where he was interrogated by a policeman in blue uniform. During the interrogation the policeman told Wa’ad that he had been informed by a third person that Wa’ad had participated in a demonstration organised by Islamic Jihad, an organisation banned by the Israeli authorities. Wa’ad could not recall there being any demonstrations organised by Islamic Jihad where he lived during the previous year and that in any event, he had not participated in any of their demonstrations. Wa’ad recalls that the interrogation only lasted around five minutes.

Several days later a prison officer handed Wa’ad a document written in Hebrew and informed him that it was an administrative detention order for six months. Wa’ad recalls feeling depressed because ‘I was expecting to be released because I had not confessed to anything and I had not done anything.’ Two days later Wa’ad’s order was reviewed by the Administrative Detention Court and reduced to four months.

Months passed, and in August, three days before the expiry of the first order, a prison officer again handed Wa’ad a document written in Hebrew and informed him that he had been given a second administrative detention order for four months – ‘I became anxious, but felt helpless. I was expecting to be released after the expiry of the first order but this new order surprised me.’ Several days later the Court reviewed the second order and reduced it to three months.

Wa’ad recalls becoming nervous in the week before the expiry of the second order – ‘I was afraid that the order would be renewed again.’ Two days before the expiry date, Wa’ad was issued with a third administrative detention order for four months, which was confirmed by the Court.

‘I feel a great injustice because of this detention that, according to what I understood from the lawyer and judge, is based on confidential material. I do not know the real reason behind my detention because I cannot remember doing anything that would put the security of the state at risk.’

In March 2009, a few days before the expiry of his third order, Wa’ad was issued with a fourth administrative detention order, for four months, which was later reduced to three months by the Court – ‘I did not know what to do in such a situation. I became unstable and unsure when I would be released. Such a situation is driving me crazy.’

On 14 June 2009, nearly 14 months after his arrest, Wa’ad was visited for the first time by his parents. Up until this time, they had been denied a permit on unspecified security grounds, and only his younger siblings had been allowed to visit him. During the 40 minute visit, Wa’ad recalls telling his parents that he was ‘certain’ to be released on 25 June. However, on 21 June 2009, Wa’ad was issued with a fifth administrative detention order for three months – ‘now I am extremely depressed and do not know what to do.’

Wa’ad was imprisoned once before in September 2005 for throwing stones and Molotov cocktails and has a 20 year-old brother who is also being held in administrative detention in the Negev, inside Israel.

Wa’ad will lodge an appeal against the issue of his fifth administrative detention order.

Administrative detention

Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial and is often based on “secret evidence.” Israeli Military Order 1591 empowers military commanders to detain Palestinians, including children as young as 12, for up to six months if they have “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security require the detention.” The initial six month period can be extended by additional six-month periods indefinitely. This procedure denies the detainee the right to a fair trial and the ability to adequately challenge the basis of his or her detention.

There are currently at least 449 Palestinians being held by Israel without charge or trial in administrative detention, of which six were under 18 when they received their order. For more information visit the DCI-Palestine website at Freedom Now.

Recommended action

The detention of a child in these circumstances does not conform to Israel’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child or the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Please send Urgent Appeals to the Israeli authorities urging them to:

* Immediately cease the practice of holding persons under the age of 18 in administrative detention; and
* Immediately and unconditionally release Wa’ad from administrative detention, or charge him with a recognisable criminal offence and promptly try him in a proper court of law with internationally accepted standards for a fair trial. Any further action should take into consideration the fact that Wa’ad has now been detained without charge since April 2008.

Appeals to:

Prime Minister,
Office of the Prime Minister,
3 Kaplan Street, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem, 91919, Israel,
Fax: +972- 2-651 2631,
Email: rohm[at]pmo.gov.il, pm_eng[at]pmo.gov.il
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

Ehud Barak
Minister of Defence, Ministry of Defence,
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: +972 3 691 6940
Email: minister[at]mod.gov.il
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Justice, Fax: + 972 2 628 7757; + 972 2 628 8618

Attorney General, Fax: + 972 2 627 4481; + 972 2 628 5438; +972 2 530 3367

there are prisons within prisons within prisons in palestine because of the zionist terrorist colonists occupying palestinian land. and for those occupying palestine even a five-month-old baby is a threat who cannot be released from the prison that is gaza as was the case last week:

Israeli forces at the Erez crossing stopped a 5-month old baby from crossing into Israel. His mother and five-year old sister both had a permission to leave the Strip, so the 5-year old girl could receive medical treatment in Israel.

As Israeli troops refused the infant to enter Israel, the mother and both her children were forced to turn back home without receiving medical treatment and might be unable to receive another permission to enter Israel.The five-year old girl needed medical help in Israel, as doctors in Gaza were unable to diagnose why the girl has been suffering from chronic fevers.The mother decided to take her baby with her, because she didn’t know how long the treatment would take, assuming that a five-month old infant didn’t constitute any threat for the state of Israel.The permits the mother and her daughter received were only valid on Tuesday and they had a hospital appointment for Tuesday afternoon in the Al-Maqased hospital in Jerusalem.

palestinians in gaza are particularly trapped as are people like natalie abou shakra who has been trying to return home to lebanon, but has been having to confront the egyptian regime who is keeping her trapped inside the prison that is gaza. and for those palestinians from gaza who manage to leave and try to return, mohammed omer’s story is an example of what they will face upon trying to return home:

June 26, 2008 is a day I will never forget. For the events of that day irrevocably changed my life. That day I was detained, interrogated, strip searched, and tortured while attempting to return home from a European speaking tour, which culminated in independent American journalist Dahr Jamil and I sharing the Martha Gellhorn Journalism Prize in London — an award given to journalists who expose propaganda which often masks egregious human rights abuses.

I want to address the denials from Israel and the inaccurate reporting by a few journalists in addition to requesting state of Israel to acknowledge what it did to me, prosecute the members of the Shin Bet responsible for it and put in place procedures that protect other journalists from such treatment.

Since 2003, I’ve been the voice to the voiceless in the besieged Gaza Strip for a number of publications and news programs ranging from The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to the BBC and, Morgenbladet in Norway as well as Democracy Now! These stories exposed a carefully-crafted fiction continuing control and exploitation of five-million people. Their impact, coupled with the reporting of others served to change public opinion in the United States and Europe concerning the dynamics of Israel and its occupation of Palestine.

After receiving the Martha Gellhorn prize I returned home through the Allenby Bridge Crossing in the Occupied West Bank between Jordan and Israel. It was here I was detained, interrogated, and tortured for several hours by Shin Bet and border officers. When it appeared I may be close to death an ambulance was called to transport me to a hospital. From that day my life has been a year of continued medical treatments, pain — and a search for justice.

Lisa Dvir from the Israeli Airport Authority (IAA), the agency responsible for controlling Israel’s borders in an June 29th article by Mel Frykberg for the Inter Press Service stated, “the IAA was neither aware of Omer’s journalist credentials nor of his coordination.”

The statement is wholly inaccurate and impossible on two counts. First, because I’m Palestinian, I am unable to enter Israel or leave Gaza, even through the Rafah border with Egypt, without Israeli permission, something quite difficult to get. Each time I’ve left Gaza for speaking tours required substantial lobbying and political maneuvering by several governments. In 2006, it was the American governments who ultimately won my visa. In 2007 the Dutch Parliament invited me back to speak to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and in 2008 when it was announced I won the Martha Gellhorn Prize, several European countries requested Israel grant me a visa but it was MP Hans Van Baalen of the Netherlands who, with great efforts, secured and guaranteed my passage out of Gaza and Israel, as well as the return for both the 2007 and 2008 trips on the condition I travel and be escorted by members of the Dutch Embassy in Tel Aviv while within Israel or the occupied West Bank. Therefore I was under diplomatic escort with the full knowledge of the Israeli government when I arrived at Allenby on June 26th. In fact Israeli security had blocked my re-entry for four days, causing me to miss a family wedding and wait in Jordan.

Secondly Dvir’s claim that the IAA didn’t know I was a journalist is proved false by the actions of the Shin Bet and border police. During the interrogation an Israeli security personnel searching my belongings repeatedly asked ‘Where’s the money from the prize, Mohammed?’ The prize is only given to journalists. Not only were they fully aware I am a journalist. They knew exactly how much I received, for what and where.

Dvir further perjured herself when she claimed, “We would like to know who Omer spoke to in regard to receiving coordination to pass through Allenby. We offer journalists a special service when passing through our border crossings, and had we known about his arrival this would not have happened.” Her denial shocked a Dutch diplomat in Tel Aviv who had confirmed with the state permission for me to cross on June 26. Again, I was traveling under diplomatic escort and when I asked to phone the escort — waiting on the other side of the terminal — Shin Bet’s response was they knew and didn’t care.

While not admitting that the interrogation and torture took place, Divr then dismissed any actions by the Shin Bet as out of her department’s control: “I’m not aware of the events that followed his detention, and we are not responsible for the behavior of the Shin Bet.” But the Israeli Airport Authority, Divr’s department, like most port authorities, is responsible for border security and those who enforce that security in Israel are members of the army and the Shin Bet.

Unfortunately Dvir’s diversions were just the beginning. In the days following my detention and torture, the Israeli Government Press Office acknowledged that despite traveling under diplomatic escort I was searched “due to suspicion that he had been in contact with hostile elements and had been asked by them to deliver items to Judea and Samaria (Occupied West Bank).” This has been mentioned and quoted in different papers. Like everyone else entering, my bags were x-rayed and cleared multiple times excluding the possibility I was carrying some type of contraband. And I was traveling in the Dutch Embassy’s car directly to Erez crossing with Gaza , as communicated to the Israeli authorities. There was zero possibility of me delivering ‘items’ to anyone.

Confronted with the medical reports and injuries including bruised ribs Israeli officials told the BBC on July 1, 2008 that, “He lost balance and fell, for reasons unknown to us,” other officers suggest, “Mr. Omer had a nervous breakdown due to the high temperature.”

Despite the attempts at denials, the emergency medical technician who sat in the back of the ambulance with me reported, “We noted fingerprints on his neck and chest,” the type bruising caused by excessive force often used in forensics to identify an attacker.

When Associated Press reporter Karin Laub called me on my cell phone for an interview after my ordeal, I detailed how I was stripped and held at gunpoint. Her reply? “Go on,” she stated. “This is normal about what we hear happening at Ben Gurion Airport. It’s nothing new.”

Torture, strip searches and holding award winning journalists or any other human beings at gun point is normal at Israel ’s largest airport? Ms. Laub’s apathy continued. In her article for the Associated Press on June 29th she wrote that she interviewed “Dr. Husseini who claims there were no signs of physical trauma.”

There’s only one problem with this. This Dr. Husseini never treated me. The Minister of Health in Ramallah confirmed that Husseini never made any such statement to the AP reporter. For reasons known only to her, Ms. Laub appears to have fabricated this comment and purposely ignored the medical reports and the statements by the attending paramedics — counter to journalistic ethics and standards upheld by the Associated Press. Despite this, no independent investigation took place.

Meanwhile the Jerusalem correspondent for the Los Angles Times, Ashraf Khalil, conducted an investigation into my case and noted in his article on November 3, 2008, that my medical records describe: “Tenderness on the anterior part of the neck and upper back mainly along the right ribs moderate to severe pain,” and “by examination the scrotum due to pain varicocele (varicose veins in the spermatic cord) at left side detected and surgery was decided later.” Fevers and falls do not cause such distinctive marks. Kicks, punches and beatings do. Continuing Khalil explains that, “Paramedic Mahmoud Tararya arrived in a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance and said he found Omer semiconscious with bruises on his neck and chest. Tararya said Israeli security officers were asking Omer to sign “some sort of form written in Hebrew. The paramedic said he intervened, separated Omer from the soldiers and loaded him into the ambulance, where he remained semiconscious for most of the trip to a hospital.”

Khalil notes in his article that Richard Falk, the U.N. human rights official wrote to Verhagen, the Minster of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and stated: “I have checked out Mr. Omer’s credibility and narrative of events, and I find them fully credible and accurate.”

Recovering mentally and physically from torture and interrogation is far from easy. This should not happen to anyone. My objective is for my case to focus attention on universal human rights, the right of freedom of expression and freedom of movement. There are places in this world where these freedoms do not exist. Israel insists it is not one of those places, but both the government and the complicity of individual journalists in covering up what they did to me prove otherwise. Ironically, the day the Shin Bet chose to detain, interrogate and torture me — June 26 — is the date set aside by human rights groups as the International Day Against Torture.

the situation with gaza, while different from the west bank, 1948 palestine, and palestinian refugees outside of the region can be solved–indeed all of the above problems can be solved with the same solution: the right of return for palestinian refugees. when palestinian refugees are granted the right of return there will be no more problems with the zionst terrorist colonists putting palestinians in prison. there will be no more problems with them controlling the borders and torturing palestinians. this is what palestinians want and this boycott, divestment, and sanctions (bds) is one of the main methods they are using to seek this desired and long overlooked right. in the last month or two i’ve been trying to seek new signatures for the u.s. campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel. i had an email conversation with norman finkelstein, whose academic work i admire so much and whose work has been fundamental my own research project. he told me that he speaks about bds when he gives talks, but that he thinks ending the siege of gaza is more urgent. while i agree that the situation in gaza is urgent, i also think that the underlying core issue is the right of return given that the majority of the population in gaza are refugees for starters. ending the siege of gaza is necessary, but it is only a small part of the solving the problem. the larger issue is liberating palestinian land and fighting for the right of all palestinians to return to their homes and land. period. he asked me if i would help organize a protest in the west bank in coordination with his new year’s convergence on gaza and i told him that i would share the information, but that the people i know would rather energy be spent on bds and and right of return. and then i saw the new facebook group for the march and changed my mind. below is the image associated with the group:

n99488432247_4846

i do not know if norman helped to create this image or agreed to it. but this image is highly offensive to me. to me this image says that this march is about norman and not about the people of gaza who are featured only as silhouettes in the background below the white man who is the only subject featured prominently in this image. it reminded me of his talk in shatila refugee camp in lebanon a couple of years ago when he said, one the one hand, that it is up to palestinians to decide their own fate, but on the other hand that they should agree to a two-state solution and give up the right of return to their original homes and land. the people in the camp were incredibly irate as you might imagine. it seems that when norman was in gaza a couple of months ago at least some people had a similar reaction to his discourse as an activist, though not as a scholar. natalie abou shakra has two posts about this in relation to the march as well. the first one is entitled “the white man teaches the native”:

SO, did I not tell you about Mr. Finkelstein’s discovery of civil resistance and suddenly teaching the Palestinians… “how to fight”?
Off the record, Mr. Finkelstein: the first twenty years of the Palestinian struggle was a civil, non-violent resistance. After 1967, Palestinian civil resistance went hand in hand with armed struggle…
What a disappointment:

and here is her second post entitled “tarzan in africa”:

So, Norman Finkelstein visited the Gaza Strip around a month ago with the Code Pink delegation that came in via the Rafeh Crossing.

Norman Finkelstein in “my” opinion is an excellent researcher, his books on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are widely read…
But, when Norman Finkelstein visited Gaza, “I” [and many other Palestinian intellectuals and political analysts] were… dissapointed.

Norman Finkelstein spoke to Hamas officials in Gaza, and told them “what they have to do,” to… “turn down the rhetoric,” and accept the two-prison- oops- I mean the “two-state” solution.

Norman Finkelstein decided to call for a breaking of the siege by US citizens coming into Gaza marching to the Beit Hanoun Crossing [known as Erez Crossing on the Israeli side]. So, Norman Finkelstein comes to Gaza for… four days and he: takes on the leadership of the Palestinian civil resistance.

Now… don’t get me wrong. “We” welcome any initiative to break this medieval, hermetic siege on Gaza. I mean, if Norman Finkelstein is capable of organizing a march that can manage the oppressive, totalitarian, dictatorial Egyptian regime, open the Rafeh Crossing, break the Apartheid wall, then go to “Erez” to break the siege- we support him!

However, the siege is part of a political umbrella.

The BDS movement shows nowhere on the radar of Norman Finkelstein.

Norman Finkelstein did not show any support for the inalienable right of return for the six million refugees, the core of the… “conflict.”

Norman Finkelstein did not admit to the fact that the two-prison solution is a… racist solution, a 19th century idea which does NOT support the INALIENABLE right of return.

Norman Finkelstein: Israel is an occupation; it is the longest occupation the 20th century has witnessed, of the WB and GS, it is a colonization, and is an Apartheid; against the 1948 indigenous population, not to mention its Bantustanization of the GS and WB.
In the last genocidal war against the Palestinians, more than 93% of the Israeli citizens supported war crimes in Gaza. “Israel now looks very much like Germany in the 1930s” says Gideon Levy from Ha’aretz.

“I” mean: who supported a two state solution in Apartheid South Africa? A state for the Black and a state for the… White?
Norman Finkelstein must choose a side: with oppression or against oppression.

Uri Avnery, Peace Now, patronizingly will reply back saying he accepts the return of only… 20,000 refugees. He is anti-BDS and anti-ROR [right of return]. He is… a “leftist” Zionist… from when does the “left” accept a … religious state? [or state to begin with]. He is like the “master” who decides. “I” mean… am “I” stupid? How can a democratic state exist when it has a… religious identity?! I must be really stupid here Uri, I mean… for me not to understand your “democracy.”

Israel must transfer to a secular, democratic state a la South Africa.

Meaning: a state for ALL of its citizens disregarding gender, race or religion.

I mean… I am really dissapointed with Norman Finkelstein’s visit to Gaza.

As soon as PACBI was founded in 2004, the Knesset formed a committee which included Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu, with Uri Avnery behind the curtains, to counteract it.

The worst thing to hear right now is…”let the Palestinians decide what their fate will be.” Really? Was that the case with South Afica? The BDS and One Democratic state are UNIVERSALISTIC in their slogans: social justice, secularism, democracy…

In South Africa, no one said okay for Bantustans!

When Norman Finkelstein came forward after an ISM Gaza talk in the Commodore Hotel in the port area in Gaza, he said “gather up students from the US group, and let them get on the borders with cameras- let’s see if their [Israeli soldiers] are going to shoot when America is watching!”

Norman… you completely neglect the Palestinian civil resistance that existed since… 1936. Yes, I assure you. We, Arabs did have that going on. But, will the White man ever challenge his standards of “us”?

If Norman Finkelstein flirts with Zionism… then?

here is one of the many examples of why the situation in gaza needs to be dealt with in a way that recognizes the issue of the right of return that would help all palestinians in the long-term. abd al-rahman talakeh was arrested for “infiltrating” his own land, though he was born as a refugee in gaza. this news item illustrates the way in which prisoners, gaza, and the right of return is all connected and why the right of return is the only solution to all of the above problems:

A Palestinian from Gaza was indicted in an Israeli court on “terrorism” and “infiltration” charges Sunday, according to the country’s Prime Minister’s Office.

In a statement to Ma’an, Israel claimed that the Palestinian refugee, Abd Al-Rahman Talalkeh, was arrested in the Negev desert on 1 June after having left Gaza and entered Israel via the Sinai Peninsula.

He was indicted at a Beersheba court in the Negev, which was both the target of the alleged “infiltration” as well as the prior residence of 16,000 refugees who pre-Israel Zionist militants expelled to the An-Nuseirat camp in Gaza, where Talkalkeh was born in 1984.

Israel alleged that the young Palestinian said he received military training by the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, intended to establish “a terrorism infrastructure inside Israel,” and was well-versed on the use of a variety of weapons.

The Popular Resistance Committees did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

but the issue with norman finkelstein reminds me of why it is important to listen to those you work with so that you are not imposing your will on them, so that you are working in solidarity to help people realize their goals and rights and dreams. naomi klein, who has been speaking out on bds recently, including when she was just here also shows the limits of even those supporting boycott. although i also love her writing, i was quite disturbed when i saw her talking in bil’in and when she somehow managed to rationalize the fact that she was wearing shoes made in the zionist terrorist colonist regime. i mean, does one really need shoes that are identical to birkenstocks? is that really so hard to boycott? here she is rationalizing away:

unlike klein i think that boycott must be across the board. no exceptions. right of return. no exceptions. i wish that these white folks who are famous, who have a wider audience would get behind these two fundamentally important aspects of palestinian resistance. they have the power to influence so many people and i think that listening to refugees and to the larger civil society in palestine is the only way to act as foreigners, as white people who want to see rights realized in palestine. is that really too much to ask?

مخيم العودة

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

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

day one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

day two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

day three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

day four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

day five

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

zionist narratives of palestinian land

DSC00012

navigating palestine can be a difficult task given that the land has been so judaized so that villages are covered up with forests and colonies and the names altered so as to cover up the crimes committed by zionists over the years. one of the people who has eased this process is salman abu sitta whose book the return journey: a guide to the depopulated and present palestinian towns and villages and holy sites is an indispensable tool. this book, which has all the necessary place names in hebrew, arabic, and english maps palestinian villages onto a zionist colonist map to aid people in finding the remnants of palestinian villages as well as navigating zionist roads. this book, along with walid khalidi’s all that remains and the palestine remembered website, enable one to uncover these villages that one day palestinian refugees will return to. since i’ve spent the better part of this week driving around 1948 palestine mapping palestinian villages for a project i’m involved with i thought i’d share some of the more egregious things i’ve seen.

DSC00117

the map pictured at the top of this post is a page taken from the return journey. it is the page for my friend’s mother’s village, المغار or al maghar, which proved quite difficult to find nonetheless because of the colony of beyt el’azari on its land. there are a number of colonies in the area, or settlements, which even the zionist terrorist colonists call them inside 1948 palestine as this photograph below shows. this colony was also on the land or next to the land of al maghar as well as the village of qatra, which is next to al maghar. sometimes the zionist terrorist colonists make names that sound similar, which makes it a bit easier to find. but once you find the area the next task is to find remnants of palestinian life that the zionist terrorist colonists have covered up.

gederot settlement on the land of qatra
gederot settlement on the land of qatra

in this area in the ramla district of palestine there were a number of ways that palestinian life was covered up. for one thing, the orange groves that my friend’s mom always talks about were hidden from the road and locked up with a gate by zionists who seem to feel ashamed or fearful of having stolen these orange groves. thus the street is lined with trees they planted to make it more difficult to find them.

hidden orange groves in qatra
hidden orange groves in qatra

likewise there are checkpoints within these colonies, often gated, often with guards, to keep non colonists out. and oftentimes one can find a prison or army base inside as in these photographs here. sound familiar? is this any different than on the other side of the so-called “green line”? these are colonies too. or “settlements” as the zionist terrorist colonists call them and yet i don’t hear anyone talking about freezing these. nor do i hear them talking about removing any of these colonies. and yet for me they remain the major stumbling block as maintaining these settlements or colonies prevents the palestinian refugees from returning to their villages and their land.

DSC00127

DSC00126

one reason that these settlement colonies erase palestinian history is so that they can re-write it in a way that specifically asserts their own presence in palestine, which manipulates and perverts the historical record. the picture below is a perfect example of this. it is posted on the sea wall in yaffa and it says:

The fortified walls around Jaffa have been known since the Byzantine, Crusader, and Ottoman periods.

The part of the North-Western fortifications which were revealed here, protected the city from naval invasion by foreign armies and pirates.

This section of the wall is part of the sea wall formation revealed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, in the Jaffa port and to its North.

The North-Western sea-wall came out of use during the 19th century.

notice that the words palestine or palestinians are never mentioned in the text even though this is the population and place discussed in it. by omission and by asserting that one of the zionist colonist agencies is responsible for “revealing” the wall, they are implying that this is their wall.

DSC00157

sometimes when one is driving in 1948 palestine one is lucky and can see the old palestinian homes from the road as with the village of عجّور or ajjur. there is a colony on their land that is gated, and the big house in the photograph below is inhabited by zionist terrorist colonists, but one can see what remains of this village clearly from a main road.

ajjur village
ajjur village

in اللد or lydd, which is a city in which some palestinians still live–both those who are from lydd and internal refugees from other cities like yaffa who are not allowed to return to their homes, and where zionist terrorist colonists also live on palestinian land, one can see a prominent poster supporting the zionist terrorism of meir kahane’s kach movement (also known as the jewish defense league in the united states), which even the united states designates as a terrorist organization. one usually sees his poster around places like khalil, but he’s apparently popular in lydd, too.

pro-kach sign in lydd, palestine
pro-kach sign in lydd, palestine

in دير آبان or deir aban i found a zionist terrorist colonist’s restaurant on the land of the palestinian village with a ton of palestinian homes on the hill just above his establishment. i find it rather amazing that one can live among this living testimony to the fact that their presence here is only because of the ethnic cleansing that took place and continues to take place. there is no escaping it in villages like deir aban.

zionist colonist terrorist restaurant on the land of deir aban
zionist colonist terrorist restaurant on the land of deir aban

one of the most horrifying features of the ethnic cleansing of palestine is the jewish national fund’s park system that conceals palestinian villages. in the jerusalem area there is the begin national forest that covers up the villages of القبو or el qabu and رأس أبو عمار or ras abu ammar. and then there is the american independence park. this enormous park covers up the villages of خربة اللوز or khirbat el loz, صطاف or sataf, دير الشيخ or deir al sheikh, دير الهوا or deir al hawa, بيت عطاب or beit itab, and سفلى or sufla. there are a number of signs around the park showing who funded it–zionists like brandon and lily tartikoff–and others whose names i did not recognize. i posted one such sign below at the information center we stumbled upon today. that center had a ton of brochures and maps for the various parks. the one for the american independence park is so bold as to mark on it the villages of safla, deir al sheikh, beit itab, and safla. there is large hebrew version at the information center (see below) and a legend of items of note that correspond to it. in the numbers that correspond to palestinian destroyed villages they even mark them as such (see close up in hebrew of deir al sheikh below). here is what the brochure we found in english says:

American Independence Park stretches over some 30,000 dunums on the northwestern slopes of the Judean Mountains, along the road arteries forged by KKL-JNF from Mehasiya junction near Beit Shemesh to Bar Giora junction and from Bar Giora, Tzur Hadassah and the HaEla Valley. Mount Ya’ale ridge, Nahal Sorek nature preserve and the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv railway line are north of the park and the Sansan ridge to the south.

American Independence Park was made possible through the generosity of partners and friends of KKL-JNF in the United States. KKL-JNF began developing the park with the help of friends of JNF of America in 1976, to coincide with the bicentennial of American Independence and to mark the friendship between the two freedom-loving countries. The park was developed in an area planted with trees in the 1950s by new immigrant residents of the area and adjoining Beit Shemesh who arrived int he country with the establishment of the State of Israel.

certainly i don’t dispute the relations between the u.s. and the zionist entity, but what they have in common is not freedom, but colonialism. i would love to see what american indians think of such a name and the notion of “american independence” in this context in particular.

DSC00082

DSC00084

the palestinian village deir al sheikh as "historic site"
brought to you, in part, by...
brought to you, in part, by...

ilan pappe has an excellent chapter on the jewish national fund (jnf) parks in his book the ethnic cleansing of palestine entitled “the memoricide of the nakba. he says:

JNF parks do not only offer parking spaces, picnic areas, playgrounds and access to nature, but also incorporate visible items that tell a particular history: the ruins of a house, a fortress, orchards, cactuses (sabra), and so on. There are also many fig and almond trees. Most Israelis think these are “wild” figs or “wild” almonds, as they see them in full bloom, towards the end of winter, heralding the beauty of spring. But these fruit trees were planted and nurtured by human hands. Wherever almond and fig trees, or olive groves or clusters of cactuses are found, there once stood a Palestinian village: still blossoming afresh each year, these trees are all that remain. Near the now-uncultivated terraces, and under the picnic tables, and the European pine forests, there lie buried the houses and fields of the Palestinians whom Israeli troops expelled in 1948. However, guided only by these JNF signs, visitors will never realise that people used to live there–the Palestinians who now reside as refugees in the Occupied Territories, as second-rate citizens inside Israel, and as camp dwellers beyond Palestine’s border.

The true mission of the JNF, in other words, has been to conceal these visible remnants of Palestine not only by the trees it has planted over them, but also by the narratives it has created to deny their existence. Whether on the JNF website or in the parks themselves, the most sophisticated audio-visual equipment displays the official Zionist story, contextualizing any given location within the national meta-narrative of the Jewish people and Eretz Israel. This version continues to spout the familiar myths of the narrative–Palestine as an “empty” and “arid” land before the arrival of Zionism–that Zionism employs to supplant all history that contradicts its own invented Jewish past.

As Israel’s given “green lungs,” these recreational sites do not so much commemorate history as seek to totally erase it. Through the literature the JNF attaches to the items that are still visible from before 1948 a local history is intentionally denied. This is not part of a need to tell a different story in its own right, but is designed to annihilate all memory of the Palestinian villages that these “green lungs” have replaced. (228-229)

the jnf website that pappe refers to is particularly appalling. on first glance one might think that this is a site dedicated to ecology, the environment, and conservation if one did not understand the historical irony that led to the creation of these forests (and if you are a jew living in the west you likely have contributed to the creation of these forests every time someone planted a tree in your name). ironically pappe shows just how these forests run counter to any notion of environmental conservation:

The three aims of keeping the country Jewish, European-looking, and Green quickly fused into one. This is why forests throughout Israel today include only eleven per cent of indigenous species and why a mere ten per cent of all forests date from before 1948. At times, the original flora manages to return in surprising ways. Pine trees were planted not only over bulldozed houses, but also over fields and olive groves. In the new development town of Migdal Ha-Emek, for example, the JNF did its utmost to try and cover the ruins of the Palestinian village of Mujaydil, at the town’s eastern entrance, with rows of pine trees, not a proper forest in this case but just a small wood. Such “green lungs” can be found in many of Israel’s development towns that cover destroyed Palestinian villages (Tirat Hacarmel over Tirat Haifa, Qiryat Shemona over Khalsa, Ashkelon over Majdal, etc.). But this particular species failed to adapt to the local soil and, despite repeated treatment, disease kept afflicting the trees. Later visits by relatives of some of Mujaydial’s original villagers, revealed that some of the pine trees had literally split in two and how, in the middle of their broken trunks, olive trees had popped up in defiance of the alien flora planted over them fifty-six years ago. (227-228)

with respect to the parks in the areas of the district of al quds that i was visiting today, the jnf forests and their zionist narratives are explained by pappe as follows:

The JNF website here promises its visitors unique sites and special experiences in a forest whose historical remnants “testify to intensive agricultural activity.” More specifically, it highlights the various terraces one finds carved out along the western slopes: as in all other sites, these terraces are always “ancient”–even when they were shaped by Palestinian villagers less than two or three generations ago.

The last geographical site is the destroyed Palestinian village of Sataf, located in one of the most beautiful spots high up in the Jerusalem Mountains. The site’s greatest attraction, according to the JNF website, is the reconstruction it offers of “ancient” (kadum in Hebrew) agriculture–the adjective “ancient” is used for every single detail in this site: paths are “ancient,” steps are “ancient,” and so on. Sataf, in fact, was a Palestinian village expelled and mostly destroyed in 1948. For the JNF, the remains of the village are one more station visitors encounter on the intriguing walking tours it has set out for them within this “ancient site.” The mixture here of Palestinian terraces and the remains of four or five Palestinian buildings almost fully intact inspired the JNF to create a new concept, the “bustanof” (“bustan” plus “nof,” the Hebrew word for panorama, the English equivalent for which would probably be something like “bustaorama” or “orchard view”). The concept is wholly original to the JNF.

The bustans overlook some exquisite scenery and are popular with Jerusalem’s young professional class who come here to experience “ancient” and “biblical” ways of cultivating a plot of land that may even yield some “biblical” fruits and vegetables. Needless to say, these ancient ways are far from “biblical” but are Palestinian, as are the plots and the bustans and the place itself.

In Sataf the JNF promises the more adventurous visitors a “Secret Garden” and an “Elusive Spring,” two gems they can discover among terraces that are a “testimony to human habitation 6,000 years ago culminating in the period of the Second Temple.” This is not exactly how these terraces were described in 1949 when Jewish immigrants from Arab countries were sent to repopulate the Palestinian village and take over the houses that had remained standing. Only when these new settlers proved unmanageable did the JNF decide to turn the village into a tourist site.

At the time, in 1949, Israel’s naming committee searched for a biblical association for the place, but failed to find any connection to Jewish sources. They then hit upon the idea of associating the vineyard that surrounded the village with the vineyards mentioned int he biblical Psalms and Song of Songs. For a while they even invented a name for the place to suit their fancy, “Bikura”–the early fruit of the summer–but gave it up again as Israelis had already got used to the name Sataf.

The JNF website narrative and the information offered on the various boards set up at the locations themselves is also widely available elsewhere. There has always been a thriving literature in Israel catering for domestic tourism where ecological awareness, Zionist ideology and erasure of the past often go hand in hand. The encyclopedias, tourist guides and albums generated for the purpose appear even more popular and are in greater demand today than ever before. In this way, the JNF “ecologises” the crimes of 1948 in order for Israel to tell one narrative and erase another. As Walid Khalidi has put in his forceful style: “It is a platitude of historiography that the victors in war get away with both the loot and the version of events.”

Despite the deliberate airbrushing of history, the fate of the villages that lie buried under the recreational parks in Israel is intimately linked to the future of the Palestinian families who once lived there and who now, almost sixty years later, still reside in refugee camps and faraway diasporic communities. The solution of the Palestinian refugee problem remains the key to any just and lasting settlement of the conflict in Palestine: for closet to sixty years now the Palestinians have remained steadfast as a nation in their demand to have their legal rights acknowledged, above all their Right of Return, originally granted to them by the United Nations in 1948. They continue to confront an official Israeli policy of denial and anti-repatriation that seems only to have hardened over the same period. (232-234)

below are images of the village of sataf that i took today. anyone who knows anything about palestinian architecture knows that these stairs and homes are palestinian.

sataf, palestine
sataf, palestine

DSC00108

the final village we went to tonight was al walaja or الولجة . i have seen part of this village before as a checkpoint on my way home cuts the village into two as will the apartheid wall when it is completed. whenever i take this road home i see all of the old palestinian homes with zionist terrorist colonists picnicking and wading in the well, but palestinians from this village, of course, cannot do the same. they are refugees and not allowed on their land–even the side that is on the “west bank” side of the checkpoint. we were looking for another part of walaja today and perhaps we found it. we drove up a dirt road, which is usually the first indication that you’re heading towards a palestinian village. up the road we found a parking lot, which was rather crowded for dusk. we soon discovered that zionist terrorist colonists were celebrating a wedding on the ruins and blood of the villagers of walaja.

but this was par for the course. what we saw as we walked up the path was an entire recreated “roman village” on the ruins of a palestinian village. much as pappe explains above, this village tries to root zionists in this land by somehow connecting themselves to the romans and thus creating some bogus narrative of continuity. they had a section on agriculture, pottery, mosaics, baking bread, and it is all set up like those colonial villages we have in the united states to narrate away the ethnic cleansing and genocide american colonists did to the american indians. same story, same narrative, same methods of concealment. below you’ll see photographs of signs, fake donkeys and shepherds showing the methods of irrigation or farming, and “roman” agricultural tools on display. just when you think they cannot sink to new lows they invent new ways of erasing the past and trampling on palestinian history, rights, and people.

"roman site" on the palestinian village of walaja

DSC00116

fake donkey with shepherd
fake donkey with shepherd

DSC00138

DSC00150

archaeological dig site in the palestinian village of walaja
archaeological dig site in the palestinian village of walaja

on refugees & idps

today is world refugee day. there are 42 million refugees world-wide. there are also 7.6 million palestinian refugees, who are not included in the numbers that the united nations high commission for refugees (unhcr) uses because palestinian refugees fall under the united nations relief and works agency (unrwa) which means something different in terms of protection as well as repatriation. legal scholar susan akram explains the basic legal context that define all refugees under international law and explains the different principles guiding palestinians from other refugees:

A number of international instruments affect the status of Palestinians as refugees and as stateless persons: the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) and its 1967 Protocol (Refugee Protocol); the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; and the 1961 Convention on the Elimination or Reduction of Statelessness. There are also three international organizations whose activities affect the international legal rights of Palestinian refugees: the United Nations Conciliation Commission on Palestine (UNCCP); the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Because of the unique circumstances of the original and continued expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and lands, Palestinians in the diaspora may be stateless persons, refugees or both. (The legal definitions of these terms, as well as the manner in which they are applied to Palestinians, will be discussed below.) As such they should be entitled to the internationally guaranteed rights offered other stateless persons or refugees in the world.

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is the most important treaty affecting Palestinian human rights in most of the areas of the world where they find themselves. It is also the primary international instrument governing the rights of refugees and the obligations of states towards them. This Convention, and its 1967 Protocol, incorporate the most widely accepted and applied definition of a refugee, and establish minimum guarantees of protection towards such refugees by state parties. The Refugee Convention and Protocol incorporate two essential state obligations: the application of the now universally accepted definition of “refugee” which appears in Article 1A(2) of the Convention, and the obligatory norm of non-refoulement, which appears in Article 33.1 of the Convention. The principle of non-refoulement requires that a state not return a refugee to a place where his/her life or freedom would be threatened. It is important to note that nowhere in the Refugee Convention or Protocol, nor in any other international human rights instrument, is there an obligation on any state to gratn the status of political asylum or any more permanent status than non-refoulement.

The simple recognition that an individual meets the criteria of a “refugee” as defined in the Convention, however, triggers significant state obligations towards them, not the least of which is the obligation of non-refoulement. The Convention requires states to grant refugees a number of rights which Palestinians are often denied, including: identity papers (Article 27); travel documents (Article 28); freedom from unnecessary restrictions on movement (Article 26); freedom from restrictions on employment (Articles 17 and 18); basic housing (Article 21); welfare (Article 23); education (Article 22); labour and social security rights (Article 24); and freedom of religion (Article 4). It also makes them eligible for more permanent forms of relief such as residence and citizenship, subject to the discretion of the granting state.

The Convention and Protocol define a “refugee” as:

[a person who], owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence is a result of such events, is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

This author contends that the Convention Article 1A(2) definition was never intended to, and does not, apply to Palestinians for several reasons. First, as UN delegates involved with drafting the Refugee Convention pointed out: “[T]he obstacle to the repatriation was not dissatisfaction with their homeland, but the fact that a Member of the United Nations was preventing their return.” Second, the Palestinians as an entire group had already suffered persecution by virtue of their massive expulsion from their homeland for one or more of the grounds enumerated in the definition. Thus, they were given special recognition as a group, or category, and not subject to the individualized refugee definition. Third, the delegates dealt with Palestinians as de facto refugees, referring in a general way to those who were defined by the relief agencies at the time (UNRPR and later UNRWA), but not limiting the term “refugee” to those Palestinians who were in need of relief. Although they did not specifically define them as such, the delegates were referring to Palestinian refugees as persons normally residing in Palestine before 15 May 1948, who lost their homes or livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict. For these and other reasons (discussed below, the delegates drafted a separate provision–Article ID–in the Refugee Convention that applies solely to Palestinian refugees.

Refugee Convention Article 1D states:

This Convention shall not apply to persons who are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance.

When such protection or assistance has ceased for any reason, without the position of such persons being definitively settled in accordance with the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, these persons shall ipso facto be entitled to the benefits of this Convention.

Although Palestinian refugees are not specifically mentioned in this provision, it is evident from both the drafting history and the interrelationship of Article 1D with three other instruments that Palestinians are the only group to which the Article applies. The most important reasons for drawing this conclusion are that, first, the drafting history of the provisions clearly reflects that the only refugee population discussed in relation to Article 1D was the Palestinians. Second, one of the paramount concerns of the drafters of the Refugee Convention was that the wished to determine the precise groups of refugees to which the Convention would apply, so they could decide the extent to which the signatory states could accept the refugee burden. There is no indication that Article 1D was drafted with any different intention–that is, with an open-ended reference to other groups of refugees not contemplated by the United Nations at the time. (The universal application of the Refugee Convention definition is a later development with the entry into force of the Refugee Protocol.) Third, there was only one group of refugees considered to be in need of international protection at the time of drafting Article 1D that was receiving “from other organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance,” and that was the Palestinians. Fourth, the interrelationship of the mandates of the United Nations agencies relevant to the needs of Palestinian refugees indicates that these are the agencies referred to by the language of Article 1D. These mandates are reflected in the Statute of the UNHCR, the Regulations governing UNRWA, and UN Resolution 194 establishing the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP).

The UNHCR Statute, paragraph 7(c) provides that “the competence of the High Commissioner…shall not extend to a person…who continues to receive from other organs or agencies of the United Nations protection or assistance.” The “other agencies of the United Nations” originally referred to both UNRWA and the UNCCP. The significance of the language in these provisions lies primarily in the distinction between “protection” and “assistance,” which are substantially different concepts in refugee law. UNRWA’s mandate is solely one of providing assistance to refugees’ basic daily needs by way of food, clothing, and shelter. In contrast, UNHCR’s mandate, in tandem with the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention, establishes a far more comprehensive scheme of protection for refugees qualifying under the Refugee Convention. This regime guarantees to refugees the rights embodied in international human rights conventions, and mandates the UNHCR to represent refugees, including intervening with states on their behalf, to ensure such protections to them. Aside from the distinction between the mandates of UNRWA and UNHCR, the refugee definition applicable to Palestinians is different from and far narrower under UNRWA Regulations than the Refugee Convention definition. Consistent with its assistance mandate, UNRWA applies a refugee definition that relates solely to persons from Palestine meeting certain criteria who are “in need” of such assistance.” (Susan Akram, “Palestinian Refugee Rights under International Law” in Nasser Aruri’s Palestinian Refugees: The Right of Return. London: Pluto Press, 2001. 166-169)

2003 unrwa map of palestinian refugee camps
2003 unrwa map of palestinian refugee camps

i realize that the above-quoted passage is rather long, and for some perhaps tedious. but international law, and refugee law more particularly, is complicated. and i think it is important to remember the specificity of the case of palestinian refugees not only because it is world refugee day today, but also because palestinian refugees, unlike the rest of the world’s refugees, do not have an united nations body or agency fighting for their rights as do all other agencies. it was set up like this from the beginning as akram makes clear: unrwa provides assistance, unhcr provides protection and advocacy. this tremendous failing on the part of the united nations means that palestinians have yet another hurdle to face when fighting for their right of return unlike the rest of the world’s refugees. moreover, as a protest in nablus today against unrwa illustrates, unrwa often does not even meet the needs of the refugees it is supposed to be assisting. this is why one can read only one statement for world refugee day on unrwa’s website today in which you will see vapid remarks made by bani ki moon in which he says nothing about the right of return or any political rights of refugees more generally. of course they have organizations like badil, which tirelessly fights for the right of return, but badil does not have the power and weight of the international community behind it, though they do, of course, have the weight of international law behind their work. here is badil’s statement to commemorate world refugee day today:

Statistics released by UN agencies on the occasion of the 2009 World Refugee Day testify to the fact that Palestinian refugees are the largest and longest standing refugee population world wide. They lack access to just solutions and
reparations, including return, because Israel and western governments continue to deny or belittle the scope of the problem and make no effort to respect and implement relevant international law and best practice.

According to a forthcoming Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons for the years 2007-2008 produced by Badil, at least 7.6 million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced since 1948 as a consequence of Israel’s systematic policies and practices of colonization, occupation and apartheid. That figure represents 71 percent of the entire worldwide population of 10.6 million Palestinians. Only 28.7 percent of all Palestinians have never been displaced from their homes.

The great majority of the displaced (6.2 million people – 81.5 percent) are Palestinian refugees of 1948 (the Nakba), who were ethnically cleansed in order to make space for the state of Israel and their descendants. This figure includes 4.7 million Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations (UNRWA) at the end of 2008. The second major group (940,000 – 12.5%) are Palestinian refugees of 1967, who were displaced during the 1967 Arab-Israel war and their descendants.

More attention and concern should be given to the phenomenon of forced displacement of Palestinians because it is ongoing.

Steadily growing populations of internally displaced Palestinians (IDPs) are the result of ongoing forced displacement in Israel (approximately 335,000 IDPs since 1948) and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967 (approximately 120,000 IDPs since 1967). Badil’s Survey identifies a set of distinct, systematic and widespread Israeli policies and practices which induce ongoing forced displacement among the indigenous Palestinian population, including deportation and revocation of residency rights, house demolition, land confiscation, construction and expansion of Jewish-only settlements, closure and segregation, as well
as threats to life and physical safety as a result of military operations and harassment by racist Jewish non-state actors. Israeli
governments implement these policies and practices in order to change the demographic composition of certain areas (“Judaization”) and the entire country for the purpose of colonization.

Data about the scope of ongoing forced displacement of Palestinians is illustrative and indicative, because there is no singular institution or agency mandated and resourced to ensure systematic and sustained monitoring and documentation. The total number of persons displaced in 2007 – 2008 is unknown. UN agencies, however, confirm that 100,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in the occupied Gaza Strip at during Israel’s military operation at the end of the year; that 198 communities in the OPT currently face forced displacement; and that 60,000 Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem are at risk of having their home demolished by Israel.

The Palestinian refugee question has remained unresolved and forced displacement continues, because Western governments and international organizations have been complicit in Israel’s illegal policy and practice of population transfer and have failed to protect the Palestinian people. Indicators of the severe gaps existing in the protection of Palestinian refugees and IDPs are seen in the recent crises in Iraq – where thousands of Palestinian refugees became stranded on the Jordanian/Syrian and Iraqi borders, Lebanon – where 27,000 Palestinians refugees of the Naher al-Bared camp are still waiting to return to their 2007 destroyed camp, and Gaza – where over 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 100,000 displaced, most of them 1948 refugees).

On this World Refugees Day, Badil calls upon all those concerned with justice, human rights and peace to:

Challenge Israel’s racist notion of the “Jewish state” and immediately halt its practices of displacement, dispossession and colonization; Strengthen the global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in order to ensure that Israel other states become accountable to international law and respect their obligations; Improve the mechanism of international protection so that all Palestinians receive effective protection from, during and after forced displacement, including the right to return as part of durable solutions and reparation; Ensure that the Palestinian refugee question is treated in accordance with international law and UN resolutions in future peace negotiations, including return and reparation.

 A map of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp with the different areas marked.
A map of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp with the different areas marked.

the situation facing palestinian refugees who lived in nahr el bared refugee camp in lebanon is an excellent example of how unrwa fails the palestinian refugees it is supposed to protect. the crisis of nahr el bared is a microcosm of palestinian refugees in general who have become refugees multiple times over and who are often refugees and idps at the same time. the camp (see map above) continues to be controlled by the lebanese army and the majority of the original 31,000 inhabitants have not been allowed to return–let alone return to their homes in palestine. ray smith’s recent report on the situation of the camp from electronic lebanon is below:

Nahr al-Bared camp consists of an “old” and a “new” camp. The original or “old” refugee camp was established in 1949 on a piece of land 16 kilometers north of the Lebanese city of Tripoli. In 1950, the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) started to provide its services to the camp’s residents. Over the years, population density in Nahr al- Bared rose drastically while refugees who could afford it, left the boundaries of the official camp and settled in its immediate vicinity. This area is now referred to as the “new camp” or the “adjacent area” and belongs to the Lebanese municipalities of Muhammara and Bhannine. While the residents of the new camp benefit from UNRWA’s education, health, relief and social services, the agency has no mandate for the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure and houses in this area.

Since the fighting in the camp ended nearly two years ago, most of the so-called “old camp” has been bulldozed and reconstruction is set to begin within the next month. Along the perimeter of the old camp however the ruins of more than 200 houses are still standing. They’re under the sole control of the Lebanese army, which still prevents residents from returning.

In October 2007, approximately one month after the Lebanese army declared victory, the first wave of refugees was allowed back into parts of the new camp. In the following months, the army gradually withdrew from the new camp and returned the houses and ruins to their former residents. However, the handover wasn’t complete. At least 250 houses in the new camp, adjacent to the old camp, remain sealed off by barbed wire, controlled by the Lebanese army and inaccessible to its residents. These areas are now referred to as the “Prime Areas,” known among the refugees under the Arabized term primaat. They consist of A’-, B’-, C’- and E’-Prime.

Adnan, who declined to give his family name, works in a small shop in the Corniche neighborhood, adjacent to area E’. He has been waiting for the handover of the area by the army. “They tell you, ‘Next week, next month.’ But nothing happens. They say, ‘We first have to remove the bombs and the rubble, then we let people in.’ These are empty words. Nobody is honest. They constantly lie to us,” Adnan complained.

Temporary housing serves as the makeshift office of the Nahr al-Bared Reconstruction Commission for Civil Action and Studies (NBRC), a grassroots committee heavily involved in the planning of the reconstruction of the old camp. Abu Ali Mawed, an active member of the NBRC, owns one of the 120 buildings in area E and has been waiting for its handover for 21 months. “The army once more says they’ll open the primaat, but first [the army] will need to [clear] them [of] unexploded ordnance devices and rubble. Where have the parties responsible for this work been in the past two years? Let us be honest: This area could be de-mined and cleared within just under a month!”

Ismael Sheikh Hassan, a volunteer architect and planner with the NBRC, said, “The main reason for the delays is the army. They haven’t taken the decision at command level to allow people to return until last month.”

Since the end of May, things have seemed to finally move forward. On 19 May, an UNRWA contractor started clearing rubble in area B’ and de- mining teams took up their work. UNRWA wrote in its weekly update on 3 June that its contractor had finished clearing rubble in areas B’ and C’. In a meeting among the Lebanese army, Nahr al-Bared’s Popular Committee, Palestinian parties and UNRWA on 2 June, the army announced its intention to allow the return of the residents of these two areas within two or three days. As of 7 June however the promise hadn’t been delivered.

Sheikh Hassan explained that the suspension was mainly due to delays in de-mining procedures and those related to miscommunication among the various structures of the Lebanese army. He expected them to open areas B’ and C’ in a few days. There are 40 houses in B’ and 60 buildings in C’ to be handed over. On 11 June, UNRWA announced that they were told by the Lebanese army that the handover of B’ and C’ would take place mid-month.

The army’s procedures have raised doubts. Abu Ali Mawed, the reconstruction commission member, asked, “How could they allow people last year to return to their burnt, looted and destroyed homes to save some of their belongings, if there were still vast amounts of unexploded ordnance lying around? They should have de-mined the area before letting people in. In the primaat, many houses aren’t completely destroyed, which facilitates de-mining. I suppose that the unexploded ordinance have already been cleared and de-mining is only used as an excuse for further delaying the handover.”

According to UNRWA, the army and the Popular Committee will be responsible for announcing and coordinating the schedules and logistics of families returning to the Prime Areas.

Nidal Abdelal of the Palestinian political faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine shook his head: “So far, neither the Popular Committee nor UNRWA understand why the army doesn’t hand the primaat over so people can return. The Lebanese army sets dates [but doesn’t deliver]; this has happened four or fives times. And until today, minor problems in the details constantly prevent them from handing over the primaat.”

Abdelal points out that the persistent delays of the handover dates cause skepticism and worries among the refugees. “They even call UNRWA and the Popular Committee liars,” he says. “They tell people a date, then they postpone it. Then they set another date and again postpone it. In the end, the army controls the primaat and is responsible for their handover. They should eventually hand the areas over to UNRWA and the Popular Committee and let people return.”

Another camp resident, Abu Ali Mawed, compared the situation of displaced residents of Nahr al-Bared to that of southern Lebanese displaced during the summer war of 2006: “Israel dropped about one million cluster bombs in the south, but people could immediately return to their homes [once] the war was over. Why have we for two years not been allowed to return to our houses? … We asked these questions to the government, army representatives and politicians many times, but never got clear answers. They kept giving us lame excuses that were far from convincing.”

Besides the upcoming handover of areas B’ and C’, further questions need to be answered. For example: What will happen to the houses in the primaat once they’re accessible? These houses were assessed and will be stabilized and rehabilitated. If this isn’t possible and their owners agree, they’ll be torn down. An anonymous source with UNRWA believes that only a few homeowners will agree to the total destruction of their homes because other landlords have experienced that the Lebanese government doesn’t sign building permits for Palestinians to build in the new camp.

Currently unscheduled is the handover of areas A’ and E’. Sheikh Hassan of the NBRC says there’s speculation “that those areas will be opening in the upcoming months. However, there are no guarantees on this. E’ will definitely be opened first. A’ will be opened last.” Access to E’ seems to depend on the rubble removal and de-mining process in the adjacent two sectors of the old camp, because they’re still heavily contaminated with unexploded ordnance. According to Nidal Ayyub of UNRWA, the Lebanese army so far has “no plan to open [area] A’.”

However, the Lebanese army did have plans for the construction of an army base in Nahr al-Bared. On 16 January, the Lebanese cabinet decided to establish a naval base in the camp as well. Both plans concern mainly areas A’ and E’ and the coastal strip along the old camp. Just months ago, fierce protest to these plans was voiced by the camp’s residents and the government has reportedly dropped its plans. However, only when the Lebanese army finally makes clear its intentions for the handover of the remaining parts of the camp will residents’ worries be dispelled — or their fears for the future of Nahr al-Bared confirmed.

of course palestinian refugees are not the only refugees in the world today, although they are the one refugee population who has been denied their right to return home for the longest period of time. below is a map from the le monde newspaper in 2007 of refugees world wide. while the map is outdated, the general patterns and trends regionally have not changed all that much with the exception of the tremendous recent idp populations in sri lanka and pakistan.

le monde 2007 map of refugees world wide
le monde 2007 map of refugees world wide

an over view of the global refugee crisis by antónio guterres, the un high commissioner for refugees is as follows, but it should be remembered that last year’s report to which guterres refers to does not include recent statistics about idps in pakistan and tamils in sri lanka:

As we mark World Refugee Day on June 20, the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stands at more than 42 million, including 16 million refugees outside their countries and 26 million others displaced internally.

This overall total reflects global displacement figures compiled at the end of 2008. But the number has already grown substantially since the beginning of this year with more large displacements in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia totaling well over 2.3 million people. And there are more worrisome signs on the horizon.

While some displacement situations are short-lived, others can take years and even decades to resolve. At present, for example, UNHCR counts 29 different groups of 25,000 or more refugees in 22 nations who have been in exile for five years or longer. This means that nearly 6 million refugees are living in limbo, with no solutions in sight. Millions more internally displaced people (IDPs) also are unable to go home in places like Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

In addition to prolonged conflict and the increasingly protracted nature of displacement, we are also seeing a decline in the number of refugees and internally displaced people going home. In 2008, about 2 million people were able to repatriate, but that was a sharp drop from the year before. Refugee repatriation (604,000) was down 17 percent in 2008, while IDP returns (1.4 million) dropped by 34 percent. It was the second-lowest repatriation total in 15 years and the decline in part reflects deteriorating security conditions, namely in Afghanistan and Sudan.

In 2008, we also saw a 28 percent increase in the number of asylum seekers making individual claims, to 839,000. South Africa (207,000) was the largest single recipient of individual asylum claims, followed by the United States (49,600), France (35,400) and Sudan (35,100).

The global economic crisis, gaping disparities between North and South, growing xenophobia, climate change, the relentless outbreak of new conflicts and the intractability of old ones all threaten to exacerbate this already massive displacement problem. We and our humanitarian partners are struggling to ensure that these uprooted people and the countries hosting them get the help they need and deserve.

Some 80 percent of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people are in developing nations, underscoring the disproportionate burden carried by those least able to afford it as well as the need for more international support. It also puts into proper perspective alarmist claims by populist politicians and media that some industrialised nations are being “flooded” by asylum seekers. Most people forced to flee their homes because of conflict or persecution remain within their own countries and regions in the developing world.

Major refugee-hosting nations in 2008 included Pakistan (1.8 million); Syria (1.1 million); Iran (980,000); Germany (582,700), Jordan (500,400); Chad (330,500); Tanzania (321,900); and Kenya (320,600). Major countries of origin for refugees included Afghanistan (2.8 million) and Iraq (1.9 million), which together account for 45 percent of all UNHCR refugees. Others were Somalia (561,000); Sudan (419,000); Colombia (374,000), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (368,000). Nearly all of these countries are in the developing world.

Unfortunately, however, we cannot say that generosity and wealth are proportional to each other. As conflicts drag on with no political solutions, the pressure on many of these poor countries is nearing the breaking point. They need more international help now. Without it, UNHCR and other aid agencies will be forced to continue making heartbreaking decisions on which necessities must be denied to uprooted families.

Of the global total of uprooted people in 2008, UNHCR cares for 25 million, including a record 14.4 million internally displaced people — up from 13.7million in 2007 — and 10.5 million refugees. The other 4.7 million refugees are Palestinians under the mandate of the UN Relief and Works Agency.

Although international law distinguishes between refugees, who are protected under the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the internally displaced, who are not, such distinctions are absurd to those who have been forced from their homes and who have lost everything. Uprooted people are equally deserving of help whether they have crossed an international border or not. That is why UNHCR is working with other UN agencies to jointly provide the internally displaced with the help they need, just as we do for refugees.

My agency’s caseload of internally displaced has more than doubled since 2005. Displaced populations include Colombia, some 3 million; Iraq 2.6 million; Sudan’s Darfur region, more than 2 million; Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1.5 million; Somalia 1.3 million. Other increases in displacement in 2008 were in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Georgia, Yemen.

of course most of the above conflicts that create refugee or idp problems can be blamed on covert or overt occupation, wars, and proxy wars initiated or fomented by the united states. but the united states continues to drag its feet with respect to its responsibilities related to refugees, in large part because of either covert operations shielded by proxy fighters or by installing puppet regimes in places like pakistan and afghanistan so that the u.s. can relinquish its responsibilities under international law. two reports on al jazeera today highlight twin poles that many refugees face: return to their homeland or resettle in a third country. most refugees are not able to make such choices, but these reports highlight the difficulties that refugees face in either scenario. the first report is by yvonne ndege who reports on burundi refugees returning home and the challenges they face with respect to their land being occupied by their compatriots because of the government’s take over and re-distribution of the land:

the second report is by nazanine moshiri who reports on difficulties facing afghan refugees resettled in the united kingdom:

in honor of these and all refugees who have the right to determine their own fate–whether reclaiming their rights to return to their homeland or resettling in a third country, here is the amazing suheir hammad’s “on refugees” accompanied by dj k-salaam:

here are hammad’s lyrics:

Of Refuge and Language”

I do not wish
To place words in living mouths
Or bury the dead dishonorably

I am not deaf to cries escaping shelters
That citizens are not refugees
Refugees are not Americans

I will not use language
One way or another
To accommodate my comfort

I will not look away

All I know is this

No peoples ever choose to claim status of dispossessed
No peoples want pity above compassion
No enslaved peoples ever called themselves slaves

What do we pledge allegiance to?
A government that leaves its old
To die of thirst surrounded by water
Is a foreign government

People who are streaming
Illiterate into paperwork
Have long ago been abandoned

I think of coded language
And all that words carry on their backs

I think of how it is always the poor
Who are tagged and boxed with labels
Not of their own choosing

I think of my grandparents
And how some called them refugees
Others called them non-existent
They called themselves landless
Which means homeless

Before the hurricane
No tents were prepared for the fleeing
Because Americans do not live in tents
Tents are for Haiti for Bosnia for Rwanda

Refugees are the rest of the world

Those left to defend their human decency
Against conditions the rich keep their animals from
Those who have too many children
Those who always have open hands and empty bellies
Those whose numbers are massive
Those who seek refuge
From nature’s currents and man’s resources

Those who are forgotten in the mean times

Those who remember

Ahmad from Guinea makes my falafel sandwich and says
So this is your country

Yes Amadou this my country
And these my people

Evacuated as if criminal
Rescued by neighbors
Shot by soldiers

Adamant they belong

The rest of the world can now see
What I have seen

Do not look away

The rest of the world lives here too
In America

and for those who feel inspired to take action today who are in the united states i encourage you to take action against trader joe’s as a part of the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement that is fighting for the right of palestinian refugees to return to their land:

On Saturday, June 20, activists will gather at Trader Joe’s in different cities to demand that the company stop carrying Israeli goods such as Israeli Couscous, Dorot frozen herbs, as well as Pastures of Eden Feta cheese. A letter was sent to Trader Joe’s on June 6, 2009 but no response has been received yet. More than 200 individuals and organizations signed the letter. Note that we are not calling for a boycott of Trader Joe’s.

Join us in this nationwide action! Plan one in your local community!

a step backwards (UPDATED)

yesterday i had a close encounter with one of jimmy carter’s entourage. i was looking for a book at the american colony hotel bookshop and talking with the owner, munther fahmi, when a white woman came in the shop looking for a place to charge her iphone. munther asked her why carter’s press conference the previous day only had a couple of palestinians invited and the room was brimming with zionist colonists. of course, she did not have a proper answer. i chimed in, of course. i said something to the effect that of course he’s not interested in equality; he’s towing the american line. she asked me if i have read his books. i said, yes. but his book, especially palestine: peace, not apartheid, is deeply problematic because he does not recognize apartheid in 1948 palestine and he refuses to call for refugees’ right of return. and that was that.

carter is here in palestine and heading for gaza today. but yesterday he met with zionist terrorist colonists and he told them that their colony in the west bank shall remain forever:

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter met with settler leaders from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc on Sunday and told them that he believed that their settlement is among the ones which should be able to remain under a final peace deal with the Palestinians.

“This particular settlement is not one that I envision ever being abandoned, or changed over into a Palestinian territory,” Carter said. “This is part of the close settlements to the 1967 line that I think will be here forever.”

palestinian home in beit el sukariya, surrounded by zionist colony of gush etzion
palestinian home in beit el sukariya, surrounded by zionist colony of gush etzion

i am not sure where carter met with these colonists, but i suspect it was not inside their colony. for if he had gone there he would have possibly asked questions about the tent-like shacks that the colony effectively imprisons. you see, gush etzion is on the land of the palestinian village of beit al sukaria not far from where i live. there are still a few remaining palestinian families there who are not allowed to build on their land (hence the plastic bag as roof) and they are fenced in with barbed wires. you can see gush etzion in the background behind this palestinian family’s home. i posted more photographs and wrote about this colony and village a few months ago; you may click on this link to read it. but this is just to give you an idea of what sort of colonies carter deems okay in his so-called opposition to apartheid.

unlike barack obama, carter had some reservations about benjamin netanyahu’s speech the other night, but it seems that most of the world believes netanyahu took a step forward. and what i want to know is: how on earth is that possible?

obama, for instance, found netanyahu as taking a step forward:

Barack Obama has welcomed what he called “positive movement” in a speech by Israel’s prime minister, saying that it paved the way for the restart of “serious talks”.

“Overall, I thought that there was positive movement in the prime minister’s speech. He acknowledged the need for two states,” the US president said of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Sunday speech.

He acknowledged that “there were a lot of conditions” placed by Netanyahu for the creation of a Palestinian state, but added that Israeli and Palestinian conditions could be addressed in negotiations.

“What we are seeing is at least the possibility that we can restart serious talks,” he said on Monday.

well, yes, it is possible to start talks as there has been talking for over 16 years, which has led to nothing more than further theft of palestinian land, massacres of palestinian people, and the mass arrests of men, women, and children. my friend and colleague abdel sattar al qassam summed it up best:

The Arabs particularly the Palestinians are mad at Netanyahu’s speech of June 14, 2009. It is deemed militant, extremist, hawkish and destructive of what they call the peace process. Even they are unhappy about the White House that described the speech as a step forward. In this speech, the Israeli Prime Minister totally denied the Palestinian national rights. Although he didn’t talk about the Palestinian right to self-determination, the denial is built in and implicit in the whole speech.

Netanyahu strongly asserted his conviction that Israel exists on the historical land of the Jews, with emphasis on the West Bank (which he called Yahuda and Shomron) as part of this land, but recognized that there are Palestinians living on this land. He said that Israel should be recognized as a Jewish state by the Palestinians, and if they do so together with strictly observing the needs of Israeli security they will be granted a disarmed entity (which he called a state) that commits itself to Israel’s security. He said that the refugee problem should be solved outside Israel, and Jerusalem will ever remain the unified capital of Israel. He committed himself to more settlement activities.

I don’t see why the Arabs and the Palestinians are mad. Those who signed the Oslo and Taba Accords knew beforehand that Israel would never reach an agreement with any Arab party without observing Israel’s security and conceding the right of return. The Palestinian leadership practically conceded the right of return at the very moment it recognized Israel, and committed itself to Israel’s security as it accepted to fight what is called Palestinian terrorism. The Palestinian leadership accepted the Geneva initiative that indirectly denies the Palestinian right of return, and has authorized Dayton, the American general, to recruit and train Palestinians on how to fight terrorism; i. e. to fight other Palestinians.

The Palestinian leadership has always warned (since 1994) that settlement activities jeopardize the negotiations, but building new settlements, enlarging existing ones, confiscating land, uprooting trees, and demolishing houses went on together with the negotiations. This is also true for Jerusalem which has been under a relentless process of social, economic and cultural transformation.

The Palestinian leadership hasn’t been honest with the Palestinian people. It has been saying something and ratifying something else.

Netanyahu hasn’t announced a policy that is radically different from the policies of other Israeli governments whether led by labor or Kadema parties. Only Netanyahu indirectly pledged to continue what his predecessors started, and to adopt the same policies. What makes Netanyahu a ghost while other prime ministers doves? Netanyahu tells the truth. Apparently, Arab and Palestinian leaders don’t care about the truth, they only hate to be told the truth.

If the Palestinian leadership is truly concerned, it should renounce the accords with Israel, insist on Palestinian national unity, seek new approaches toward the realization of the Palestinian national rights and find ways to meet the expenses of the daily life of the Palestinians. This isn’t a difficult task, and all of what it needs is free will.

unfortunately, abdel sattar is in the minority as the palestinians like saeb erakat and mahmoud abbas who profit off of the “peace process” industry want nothing more than to continue negotiations in spite of their protests over netanyahu’s speech, but for the moment these self-appointed negotiators are feigning threats to halt negotiations as mel frykberg reported in ips:

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who just last week told IPS that Palestinians were in their strongest position ever politically and that this time around the U.S. meant business, also lashed out at Netanyahu’s speech.

Erekat said the Israeli premier’s speech had “closed the door to permanent status negotiations. We ask the world not to be fooled by his use of the term Palestinian state because he qualified it,” said Erekat.

“He declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, said refugees would not be negotiated and that settlements would remain. The peace process has been moving at the speed of a tortoise. Netanyahu has flipped it over on its back.”

Erekat has gone as far as to call for annulment of the Arab peace initiative. The Arab initiative was a peace plan sponsored by the Saudis and adopted during the Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002. The plan called for normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab world in return for Israel withdrawing form occupied Arab land and returning to its internationally recognised borders.

if these statements are made in earnest, it could bode well for a return to the heart of the matter–all the items netanyahu said no to in his speech.

zionist terrorist colonists masked as “liberals” like gideon levy read the speech rather differently, not surprisingly:

The gate was not thrown open last night, although a narrow crack appeared, which in itself is noteworthy. Another small brick was removed from the barricades of the occupation: A right-wing leader said he supports Palestinian statehood.

“Demilitarized, Demilitarized,” he repeated; now all that remains are the utmost margins of the fantasizing, embittered right-wing, a group finally left isolated and abnormal. They are a dangerous contingent, but they are few.

levy’s call for giddiness aside, it should alarm us that zionist colonists in the colony of ofer in between nablus and ramallah saw the speech as supporting their “rights” for “natural growth,” a new buzzword suggesting that they have a right to expand their colonies. dan nolan of al jazeera watched the speech with some of these colonists and reported on their response:

is this what obama meant when he issued a statement calling netanyahu’s speech a “step forward”?:

Wisely, the U.S. took Netanyahu’s acceptance of a Palestinian state at face value. U.S. officials deftly side-stepped the Israeli leader’s constraints. His speech was termed “an important step forward.”

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

for me the heart of the matter in netanyahu’s speech was when he discussed an nakba and palestinian refugees. because although he cannot see it or say it, this is the crux of the issue. this is the root of the problem that began the ethnic cleansing and colonization process of palesitne:

I now am asking that when we speak of the huge challenge of peace, we must use the simplest words possible, using person to person terms. Even with our eyes on the horizon, we must have our feet on the ground, firmly rooted in truth. The simple truth is that the root of the conflict has been and remains – the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish People to its own state in its historical homeland.

In 1947 when the United Nations proposed the Partition Plan for a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the proposal, while the Jewish community accepted it with great rejoicing and dancing. The Arabs refused any Jewish state whatsoever, with any borders whatsoever.

Whoever thinks that the continued hostility to Israel is a result of our forces in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is confusing cause and effect. The attacks on us began in the 1920s, became an overall attack in 1948 when the state was declared, continued in the 1950s with the fedaayyin attacks, and reached their climax in 1967 on the eve of the Six-Day War, with the attempt to strangle Israel. All this happened nearly 50 years before a single Israeli soldier went into Judea and Samaria.

yes, hostility began long before 1967 because colonization of palestine and the massacre of palestinians began long before 1967. the problem is not with the occupation of the west bank and gaza strip. the problem is with the occupation of all of historic palestine. this is why palestinians have resisted and will continue to resist.

zionist colonist akiva eldar correctly understood the speech as a colonial one, though he failed to perceive the main problem when it came to refugees:

No empathy for the refugees from Jaffa who lost their entire world, not a word for the Muslim connection to Jerusalem – neither a fragment of a quote from the Koran, nor a line of Arabic poetry.

Netanyahu’s provincial remarks were not intended to penetrate the hearts of the hundreds of millions of Al Jazeera viewers in the Muslim world. Instead, he sought to appease Tzipi Hotovely, the settler Likud lawmaker, and make it possible to live peaceably with the settler foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people didn’t even leave him an opening for forging reconciliation with the Arab citizens in the country.

netanyahu could have recited the qur’an until the cows came home, but palestinian refugees want their homes back not the words of their religious text recited by those who have participated in the murdering of their compatriots and the theft of their land. they don’t want an apology, though that would be a start. they want their land back. period.

palestinian novelist susan abulhawa makes it clear what palestinians demand and what their rights are given their dispossession over 61 years ago in an article in dissident voice:

Following Netanyahu’s much anticipated policy speech, politicians and journalists, like mindless automatons, have set about repeating Israel’s tired mantra that Palestinians should recognize Israel’s right to exist. Never mind the fact that the PLO and Palestine Authority have obliged this ludicrous call, not once, but four times. And never mind that Israel has always denied Palestine’s right to exist, not only as a nation, but as individuals seeking a dignified life in our own homeland.

Does anyone find it interesting that Israel is the only country on the planet going around with this incessant insistence that everyone recognize her right to exist? Given that we Palestinians are the ones who have been dispossessed, occupied, and oppressed, one might expect that we should be the ones making such a demand. But t hat isn’t the case. Why? Because our right to exist as a nation is self-evident. We are the natives of that land! We know we have that right. The world knows it. That’s why Palestine doesn’t need Israel or any other country to recognize her right to exist. We are the rightful heirs to that land and this can be verified legally, historically, culturally, and even genetically. And as such, the only true legitimacy Israel will ever have must come from us abdicating our inheritance, our history, and our culture to Israel. That’s why Israel insists we declare she had a right to take everything we ever had – from home and property, cemeteries, churches and mosques, to culture and history and hope.

Israel is a country that was founded by Europeans who came to Palestine, formed terrorist gangs who set about a systematic ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians from their homes on 78% of Historic Palestine in 1948. Those Palestinians and their descendants still languish in refugee camps. Israel attempted a similar scenario in 1967 when they conquered the remainder of Palestine, but Palestinians then couldn’t be dislodged from their homes as easily. This remains true, despite 40 years of Israel’s violent and oppressive military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Despite home demolitions, land confiscations, rapacious building of Jewish-only colonies, endless checkpoints, targeted assassinations, bombings of schools, hospitals, municipal buildings and malls, closures and denials; despite the massive human rights abuses, the imprisonment and torture of men women and children alike, the separation of families, the daily humiliations; despite the massive killings – Palestinians remain. We still resist. We still live, love, and have babies. As much as we can, we rebuild what Israel destroys. Such are rights!

but perhaps there is a silver lining as the speech confirmed to the european union at least that netanyahu is a warmonger who is only interested in getting away with theft. chalk this one up to another victory in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement if it holds:

European Union foreign ministers welcomed on Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conditional endorsement of a future Palestinian state, but said it was not enough to raise EU-Israel ties to a higher level.

The ministers, who were due to meet Israel’s foreign minister later on Monday, questioned conditions cited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for backing a Palestinian state and also his defence of Jewish settlements on occupied land.

UPDATED: watch this interesting discussion about the speech with abdel bari atwan (and two zionists) on kamahl santamaria’s “inside story” on al jazeera:

netanyahu’s no’s

1. no to al quds

“Netanyahu’s remarks have sabotaged all initiatives, paralysed all efforts being made and challenges the Palestinian, Arab and American positions,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, noting Mr Netanyahu’s demand that Jerusalem be the undivided capital of Israel and that Palestinian refugees not be allowed into Israel.

2. no to refugees right of return

Netanyahu also said the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and he declared that the solution of the Palestinian refugee problem must be “outside Israel.”

3. no to stopping the expansion of colonies

Israel would not accept any situation in which it was forced to exist beside a “terrorist” state. Every withdrawal from settlement territories would contribute to such “terror”, said Netanyahu. He stressed that Palestinians must accept Israel as a Jewish state.

4. no to the right of palestinians to defend themselves or resist foreign colonists occupying their land

“Any peace settlement must have a demilitarised zone controlled by Palestinians.”

on al jazeera diana buttu called this a “dictation of peace” and a “surrender agreement.”

my response: remember the 3 no’s of khartoum after the 1967 war:

Dazed and humiliated they instead proclaimed the “three nos” at the Khartoum conference two months later: no peace, no negotiations and no recognition.

old camp, new camp: how about no camp?

the situation of palestinians in nahr el bared refugee camp in northern lebanon remains one of the primary reminders of why the right of return is the only solution for palestinian refugees. while palestinians who continue to be displaced from their camp two years after the lebanese army destroyed it, an immediate solution to the situation could be the right of return to palestine sidestepping the entire battle over the camp itself.

a-films recently produced an excellent new film called “a sip of coffee” that highlights the variety of issues palestinians are facing who are from this camp. here is a description of the film followed by the film itself:

In May 2007, the battle between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army broke out in Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in northern Lebanon. Amidst heavy fighting, the Lebanese army had systematically destroyed the entire camp by September 2007. Two years later, nearly all the rubble has been cleared from the “old camp”, the core of Nahr al-Bared. However, though the displaced residents grow increasingly desperate, reconstruction has yet to begin.

Not only does the Lebanese army keep people away from the old camp, but it also controls movement in and out of the surrounding area known as the “new camp. Anyone entering the new camp requires a valid permit issued by the army. Refugees and NGOs working to revitalize the once robust economy of the camp face crippling isolation, as the marketplace of Nahr al-Bared is totally cut off from the surrounding villages. A flailing economy and soaring unemployment are only a few of the consequences of the destruction and ongoing siege of the camp.

This 26-minute film follows a father and his son as they attempt to deal with their unemployment. The two have been living in metal barracks for more than a year, waiting to return to their camp. By documenting issues of reconstruction, temporary housing, economy, unemployment and despair, the film touches on the daily experience of life in Nahr al-Bared Camp.

ray smith of the a-films collective recently wrote an article for electronic intifada on the issues facing palestinian workers from nahr el bared as well laying out some of the issues in further detail:

Mohammad and Mahmoud sat on an idle field on the edge of the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon. While Mahmoud sang to the songs being played on his mobile phone, Mohammad used his for gaming. Mohammad looked up and explained, “We spend our days doing nothing. We get up and sit at the cafe for a few hours. Then we go home and pray. We gather again and return to the cafe. There we sit until the evening. Every day passes like this.”

The two young men are not the only unemployed refugees in Nahr al-Bared. Formerly the most prosperous Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, Nahr al-Bared’s residents have struggled to rebuild their lives since the camp was destroyed two years ago during fighting between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam, a small Islamic militant group that had infiltrated the camp. According to a 2007 study authored by the Norway-based FAFO Institute, before the war, 63 percent of Nahr al-Bared’s labor force was working inside the camp. However, a November 2008 survey carried out by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) estimates the current unemployment rate of the 10,000 returnees to be 40 percent. This number is based on statements with the interviewees and doesn’t reflect the large number of residents who have only temporary jobs or part-time work. A significant number of camp residents work as day laborers. Many of them work only a few days per week and are sometimes out of work for weeks.

Nahr al-Bared used to be a thriving marketplace between the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli and the Syrian border. In the UNRWA survey, three quarters of the former business owners stated that their work premises were totally destroyed. Additionally, a report prepared by the SME Working Group finds that 1,512 micro, small and medium enterprises in Nahr al-Bared Camp were damaged or destroyed in the aftermath of the conflict. During and after the war — when the camp was under sole control of the Lebanese army — machines, tools and stocks of goods were looted. Furthermore, businesses were burnt or otherwise destroyed. By October 2007, Nahr al-Bared’s economy was physically eliminated.

Mohammad’s father, Ziyad, is also unemployed. He spent a large part of his life working in pipeline construction in the Caucasus and the Persian Gulf. Last summer he worked for a short time with a Lebanese company in the nearby al-Koura district. “When work slowed down, I was the first one who had to leave. Because I’m Palestinian and was illegally employed, I could easily be kicked out,” he explained. Since then, he has tried to earn income from fishing and selling coffee, lemonade and tea in his barely-visible cafe next to the camp’s temporary housing, known as the “iron barracks.”

Ziyad has plenty of time to go fishing. Every morning between 5-7am, he walks to the shore and tries his luck for a few hours. “It depends on the wind,” he said. “The day before yesterday, I caught a lot so I could even sell fish for LBP 14,000 ($9). Yesterday, I returned empty-handed.” If the wind is favorable, he returns to the sea in the late afternoon.

Nahr al-Bared camp is situated along the Lebanese coast. As part of the camp clean-up, dump trucks have created a 10-meter strip of debris along the shore. Ziyad dropped the fishing hook into the water. Beneath his feet were the detritus of the former camp — broken toys, a shoe, kitchen appliances and pulverized brick and stone.

Ziyad’s family lives in the iron barracks. They eat fish almost daily as there is rarely money for meat. In mid-May, Ziyad decided to re-open his improvised cafe. He pointed at a box of empty lemonade bottles and said, “Look, this box contains 24 bottles. I sell them at LBP 250 [$0.16]. If I sell all of them, I’ll earn LBP 1,000 [$0.66]. At the end of the day, the profit I get from the cafe is no more than a few dollars.”

Mohammad, a young butcher, is in a similar, but slightly better situation. He invested $5,000 in his business and is now heavily in debt. He sells meat, sandwiches, snacks and popular dishes. A customer received his sandwich and handed him LBP 1,000. Mohammad turned around and said that “In Tripoli, the same sandwich sells for LBP 3,000. I don’t earn anything on 1,000. In fact, this guy gets the 1,000 back in a few days, when I buy vegetables from his shop.” Near the camp’s main street, Salim was fixing the sole of a shoe and received LBP 1,000 from a customer. Salim said, “The economic situation in Nahr al-Bared is like this: if you write your name on a LBP 1,000 note, it will make the rounds through the camp and by the end of the week, a customer returns it to you.”

The almost totally-closed economic circuit is caused by the Lebanese army’s complete siege of the camp. In the 2008 UNRWA survey, the camp’s business owners stated that before the war, about half their customers were Lebanese. The president of Nahr al-Bared’s traders committee, Abu Ali, complained, “The camp is a closed military zone. Our Lebanese neighbors are forbidden to enter. Under these conditions, how can the camp’s economy recover?” The coffee producers El-Saadi and other companies have opened small branches outside the Lebanese army checkpoints, in Abdi or along the highway. An UNRWA employee who wished to remain anonymous expressed the dilemma: “Helping the owners to open branches outside the camp is very problematic and unpopular. On the other hand, they hardly have a chance to survive inside the camp’s boundaries.”

One of the hopeless businesses inside the camp belongs to Ahmad, a young man living in the iron barracks. After having worked as a day laborer for months, he opened a small Internet cafe in mid-May. Already after a few days, he closed its doors, because he hardly had any customers and almost no returns. He sold the computers and instead bought a pool table and a squeezer to produce fresh juice. Nevertheless, he spends most of the day sitting on a plastic chair in front of his place.

Ziyad’s son Mahmoud faced a similar fate. Last autumn, he opened an Internet cafe in the metal shed besides the barracks. Since then, he has sold the computers and closed the Internet cafe. “I didn’t earn more than a few dollars, even though the computers were always in use. In the long term, it wasn’t worth the effort,” he said. Now he works in Beirut again. Every morning, Mahmoud leaves the camp between 5-6am and returns home in the evening between 7-9pm. He usually only sees his two sons when they are asleep and half his daily wage is spent on transportation and food.

It seems like there are too many cafes, sandwich shops, clothing, produce and corner shops in Nahr al-Bared. They fight for the few customers and earn revenues that are hardly worth the sweat. Accordingly, these businesses are often very short-lived. The customers’ purchasing power is low and because of the siege, incentives to invest are scarce. Abu Ali said that another factor is that “Nahr al-Bared’s economic success was partly based on debt economics. Lebanese customers could pay their goods by installments. Until now, many people from the region of Akkar haven’t paid back their debts to the camp’s business owners. In addition, during the war, not only was a lot of capital lost, but also debt registers.”

The current economic misery in Nahr al-Bared forced the former owner of several clothing stores to ask about the reasons behind the destruction of the camp. Abu Ali drew a comparison to last autumn’s clashes between the Alawis of Jabal Mohsen and the Sunnis of Bab at-Tabbaneh in Tripoli. He exclaimed that “The army positioned soldiers and tanks there, but didn’t isolate the area. Therefore, they can also leave Nahr al-Bared open! We demand that the Lebanese authorities immediately lift the siege of the camp!”

Back at the iron barracks, Ziyad had started selling fresh orange and carrot juice at his cafe. He sold a big glass of juice for LBP 500 ($0.33). In Tripoli, it would cost at least double the price. Ziyad shrugged his shoulders, smiled bitterly and said, “I hardly earn anything with this, but it’s still better than nothing.”