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

no homes for nahr el bared, yet again

the last couple of weeks i was writing a review of rosemary sayigh’s brilliant and important book, the palestinians: from peasants to revolutionaries, which is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand palestine, palestinian refugees, palestinian resistance, and, of course, the right of return. i was re-reading the book and i was struck by what one palestinian refugee and fighter from nahr el bared refugee camp had to say about his camp being the first to liberate itself from the lebanese army:

They brought tanks and the army tried to enter the camps. That day, we can remember with pride, we brought out the few guns that we had–they were eleven. We did well at first, but then we ran out of ammunition. A rumour ran round the camp that the ammunition was finished and we tried to calm the people by telling them that rescue would come from the Resistance. But we didn’t really know whether it would come. But what was amazing was that people returned to what they had been in 1948, preferring to die rather than to live in humiliation. Women were hollering because it was the first time a gun had been seen defending the camp. It was the first battle that we didn’t lose. The children were between the fighters, collecting the empty cartridges although the bullets were like rain. It was the first time that people held knives and sticks and stood in front of their homes, ready to fight. (169)

it is so ironic to think about this when i read the latest news about nahr el bared, which still, until now has yet to allow most of the palestinian refugees (31,000 of them) to return to the camp two years after the lebanese army destroyed it (read electronic lebanon for background on this or search my blog for details about the subject).

here is the latest–from the daily star–in the lebanese government’s plan to make palestinians doubly and triply homeless while denying them civil rights and while not fighting for their right of return to their homes in palestine either:

Palestinian factions staged protests in refugee camps all across the country on Friday to condemn the ongoing delay in reconstructing the battered northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. Demonstrations were held in Ain al-Hilweh, near the southern coastal city of Sidon, al-Buss, near the port city of Tyre, and Chatila on the outskirts of the capital, to express solidarity with the refugees of Nahr al-Bared, who have yet to return home two years after the end of the battles between the Lebanese Army and the Al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam militant group.

Protestors held banners slamming a recent decision by the Lebanese government to halt the reconstruction process in Nahr al-Bared and voiced their demands in petitions sent to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) officials.

“We ask UNRWA to ease the suffering of Palestinian refugees at Nahr al-Bared and offer them relief,” said the head of Ain al-Hilweh’s Public Committee Abu al-Motassem.

Nahr al-Bared has been in ruins since 2007 when Lebanon witnessed a violent war between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam.

Lebanon’s Sate Shura Council recently issued a decision to halt the reconstruction process in the camp based on the discovery of Roman archeological ruins underneath the campsite.

Motassem called on the Lebanese government, UNRWA, the Arab League and the international community to reconsider the State Shura Council’s decision. “Refugees have been waiting for more than two years for the camp’s reconstruction,” he said.

Also in Ain al- Hilweh, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) official in south Lebanon Qassem Sobh asked the Lebanese government to find a solution for the “logistic difficulties” even if it meant “buying or renting nearby sites [to house refugees] in order to solve the humanitarian problem.”

The Union of Palestinian Factions official Abu Ahmad Fadel, demanded on Friday that the Lebanese Army put an end to the strict military measures imposed on the Nahr al-Bared refugees.

“We ask that the army reduce the security measures and guarantee the camp’s residents freedom of movement,” he said.

The delay in reconstruction also seems to have had repercussions on Lebanese- Palestinian political ties.

“The Nahr al-Bared issue concerns all Palestinians,” said spokesman of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) Ali Mahmoud. “Any attempt to halt the camp’s reconstruction directly affects Lebanese-Palestinian relations” he added.

and here is a news item on the subject in arabic from dunia watan:

إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد وحكمه: نموذج “مثالي” للإقصاء
بقلم ساري حنفي وإسماعيل الشيخ حسن

مخيم نهر البارد فضاء للاستثناء
تبدو الاوضاع المحيطة بتدمير مخيم نهر البارد مثيرة للقلق على أكثر من صعيد. فعلى الرغم من تبرؤ اللاجئين العلني من “فتح الاسلام”، ألقت بعض وسائل الاعلام اللوم فيما يتصل بهذه الظاهرة على المخيم وعلى اللاجئين، وذلك من دون إجراء أي تحقيق يتناول مصادر تمويل هذه المجموعة والجهات التي تقف وراءها. وخلال المعركة تم اعتقال لاجئين فلسطينيين في جميع أنحاء لبنان عند الحواجز التي أقامها الجيش أو قوى الأمن الداخلي، وجرى حصار المخيم وإعلانه منطقة حرب، كما منع الجيش دخول مواد للاغاثة، أو دواء، أو الصحافة. وفي حين فضّل اللاجئون في بداية المعركة البقاء في المخيم خشية أن تؤدي مغادرتهم المخيم الى تدميره بالكامل، فإن القصف العشوائي الشديد الذي لم يستثن المنازل والمدارس والمساجد، أجبر السكان في النهاية على إخلائه تماماً. وهذه هي الحادثة الاولى التي يغادر فيها الفلسطينيون مخيماً لهم من دون الدفاع عنه، الامر الذي يؤكد انتفاء الصلة بين اللاجئين الفلسطينيين و”فتح الاسلام”. وخلال الأشهر الاربعة التي دارت فيها المعركة، تم تدمير المخيم القديم بالكامل، وصار ركاماً بعد هدم 1700 منزل كان يضمها، هدماً كاملاً. وبعد محاولة للهرب قام بها الناجون من مقاتلي “فتح الاسلام”، أعلن الجيش إنهاء عملياته، وخروجه من المعركة منتصراً على الارهاب

العالمي.
ومع أننا نعيش حالياً عصر “الحرب الكونية على الارهاب”، وعلى الرغم من الاوضاع الملتبسة المحيطة باستشهاد جنود الجيش اللبناني غدراً، فإن ثمة ما يدعو الى الشك في أن العرض العشوائي للقوة المفرطة، والذي تجاهل حقوق الانسان والملكية، كان يمكن أن يمارس ضد أي مكان “حضري” لبناني آخر. لكن نظراً الى كون مخيم نهر البارد “فضاء للاستثناء”، أي مستثنى من حماية القانون العام، ويؤوي لاجئين ليسوا بمواطنين، ومحرومين من الحقوق المدنية في لبنان، وتمثّلهم فصائل فلسطينية متناحرة، وتخدمهم وكالة تابعة للأمم المتحدة تفتقر الى التفويض بحمايتهم – فإنه كان في الامكان تدميره بالكامل.

واعتباراً من التاريخ الرسمي لانتهاء القتال في بداية أيلول، وحتى العاشر من تشرين الاول 2007، وُضع مخيم نهر البارد تحت الاشراف الكامل للجيش اللبناني، ولم يُسمح لسكان المخيم بالعودة اليه، ثم عاد بعد ذلك، الآلاف الى المنازل التي تعرضت للحريق والنهب والتخريب المتعمد. ويؤكد الاشخاص الذين قابلناهم، والذين قابلتهم بعثة تقصي الحقائق التابعة لمنظمة العفو الدولية، وجود نمط ممنهج لحرق المنازل ونهبها. كما حملت الكتابات الجدارية العنصرية البذيئة على u]] من بيوت المخيم، أسماء الفرق العسكرية اللبنانية المتعددة (Amnesty International 2006). ويبدو ان عناصر “فتح الاسلام” وبعض سكان المخيم هم من قاموا بأعمال النهب في بداية الامر، لكن الذين تابعوا هذه الاعمال لا بد من أن يكونوا ممن يعتبرون المخيم فضاء للاستثناء وخارج نطاق القانون، يمكن أن يُنهب وأن تُخرَّب الممتلكات فيه عمداً. ولغاية الآن، لم يجر أي تحقيق مستقل، على الرغم من أن منظمة العفو الدولية كتبت بهذا الشأن الى رئيس الحكومة اللبنانية، والى وزارة الدفاع اللبنانية، وطالبت بإجراء تحقيق وبمحاسبة المسؤولين (Amnesty International 2006).

واللافت أنه لم يجر أي نقاش عام في هذا الموضوع المهم. وبما أن المخيم يُعتبر فضاء للاستثناء، فقد شكّل منطقة طوارئ مُنع الشهود من دخولها: فحتى اللحظة لا يُسمح للصحافيين، ولا لمنظمات حقوق الانسان، بدخول المخيم من دون تصريح عسكري خاص. وهذا التعليق للقوانين هو الذي سهّل قيام التخريب المتعمد والنهب، فالسكان الفلسطينيون هم “الانسان المستباح والمُضحى به” (homo sacer، بالمعنى الذي يعطيه جورجيو أغامبن): أناس لا تُخرَّب ممتلكاتهم فحسب، بل تُنهب ايضاً، ومن دون السماح بملاحقة المجرمين.

ويشعر سكان مخيم نهر البارد بأن ما حدث في مخيمهم يمثل جزءاً من مؤامرة مخطط لها ضدهم، فقد قالت الغالبية الساحقة من الاشخاص الذين قابلناهم إنه كان هناك خيارات أخرى لحل مشكلة “فتح الاسلام”، كان من شأنها تفادي تدمير المخيم تدميراً كاملاً. فقد كان في الامكان حل المشكلة من خلال تدخل المقاتلين الفلسطينيين الذين يعرفون جغرافيا المخيم، الامر الذي يجعلهم أكثر كفاdة في هذا النوع من الحروب داخل منطقة كثيفة العمران، وأكثر حساسية إزاء ممتلكات اللاجئين ومبانيهم. أما الخيار الآخر فكان قيام وساطة أكثر فاعلية بين “فتح الاسلام” والجيش اللبناني.

التعاطي مع الحيز:
عملية التخطيط العمراني

استمر وضع الاستثناء وأولوية الأمن في الهيمنة على مشهد ما بعد معركة مخيم نهر البارد، وقد بدا ذلك واضحاً في عملية التخطيط العمراني لإعادة إعمار المخيم. فالهيئة الحكومية الرسمية المسؤولة عن التخطيط في لبنان، هي المديرية العامة للتنظيم المدني، لكن، خلال المناقشات المتعلقة بتطوير المخطط العام، والتي استغرقت عاماً كاملاً، كانت هذه المديرية المذكورة غائبة. والواقع أن الجهة اللبنانية المعنية، التي هيمنت على مشهد التخطيط وعلى المفاوضات، كانت الجيش اللبناني. ويمثل ذلك سابقة خطرة للبنان عامة، وللمخيمات خاصة، وذلك مع تنامي تدخل العنصر العسكري في الشؤون الحكومية المدنية بحجة الدواعي الامنية. إن وجود الجيش كان كفيلاً بإيلاء الأمن الأولوية في المفاوضات الجارية على المخطط التوجيهي العام، ثم تتدخل المديرية العامة للتنظيم المدني في نهاية هذه العملية الطويلة للموافقة رسمياً على المخطط العام.

وعلى رغم المأساة التي تنشأ في أوقات الازمات والحالات الطارئة من هذا النوع، والتي تتفاقم بسبب الفراغ السياسي “الظاهري” في المخيمات الفلسطينية، فإن المأساة، الى جانب ذلك، تتيح الفرصة أمام عدد من الشبكات الاجتماعية، وكذلك أمام الناشطين والحركات السياسية، لتوحيد جهودهم من أجل مواجهة المخاطر التي تواجه جماعة ما، أو مكاناً ما. فعلى المستوى المحلي في المخيم، بدأت المبادرات الشعبية المتعددة، والتي نشأت استجابة لمشكلات معينة محدودة ناجمة عن غياب الحكومة، وعن عدم تأمين الخدمات في المخيم، بتوحيد جهودها ومناقشة ما يمكن، أو يجب عمله، في أثناء سير المعركة وتدمير المخيم.

واللافت في حالة مخيم نهر البارد أن ناشطين وأكاديميين آخرين من مخيمات ومدن وبيئات أخرى، قاموا بتوحيد جهودهم مع المبادرة المحلية. والامر المهم بشكل خاص في هذه الشبكة الممتدة والمتنوعة، هو وجود معماريين ومخططي مدن استفادوا من المعارف التي اكتسبوها من عملهم، ومن دراستهم للسياسات العمرانية المختلفة، ولمشاريع إعادة العمران التي تساعد على تمكين المجموعات، وذلك من أجل وضع استراتيجيات فاعلة في مواجهة مشروع الدولة. وقد أطلقت هذه المبادرة على نفسها اسم “هيئة العمل الاهلي والدراسات لإعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد”.

من جهة أخرى، أنشئ “برنامج” جديد لتحسين المخيمات التابعة لوكالة الغوث (الأونروا)، وذلك من أجل القيام بدور فاعل في إطلاق إعادة الاعمار والتخطيط العمراني، وهو جهد متواصل حالياً. وقد دعا هذا البرنامج الى مبادرة من منظار مختلف، الامر الذي ساهم في إيجاد مشاركة تامة بين وكالة الغوث وهيئة العمل الأهلي والدراسات، تجمع البعد الشعبي الى الخبرة المهنية. وانطلقت هذه المبادرة على الرغم مما وصفه علماء الاجتماع باختفاء الحيز العام الذي دمره العوز الاقتصادي، واستعمرته وسائل الاعلام، عدا السياق السلطوي العربي. كما تتحدى المبادرة المذكورة ما كان يُعتبر في العقود الماضية سلبية بعض اللاجئين الذين نشأوا على لعب دور الضحية.

ولعل سبب هذه الحماسة التي تجلت بين السكان هو اعتقادهم بوجود بعد سياسي في عملية تدمير مخيم نهر البارد، وفي مخطط الحكومة لإعادة إعماره. وقد ظهر ذلك واضحاً في إعلان عدة سياسيين، في أثناء سير المعركة، مخططات لتحسين المخيم تقوم على مبادئ ومعايير غير مقبولة لدى السكان المحليين. وبعد انتهاء المعركة، اتضح تماماً أن المفهوم العام للمخططات كان يرتكز الى شبكة منطقية من الشوارع العريضة التي تسمح بتطبيق ضوابط أمنية فاعلة، والى إسكان اللاجئين في شقق متماثلة بغض النظر عن أنماط عيشهم وبناهم الاجتماعية السابقة.

في أثناء الشهر الثاني من سير المعركة، قدمت هيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد المسودة الاولى لمبادئ إعادة إعمار المخيم، وكانت هذه نتاج ورشات عمل متعددة مع الاهالي، نظمها متطوعون في هيئة إعادة الإعمار، ونتاج اجتماعات مفتوحة واستطلاع آراء من خلال تعبئة استمارات. وبدأت المسودة بمطالبة الناس بالمشاركة في عملية تقويم مساحات البيوت، وأكدت الحاجة الى وضع خطة إعادة إعمار المنازل المدمرة كما كانت في السابق، الامر الذي يؤمن المحافظة على الوحدات السكنية الفردية، وعلى الاحياء، وطرق السير، والمعالم. وتمثل المطلب السياسي، في ما يتعلق بإعادة بناء المخيم، في أن يعود المكان “مخيماً” – وليس بلدة – أي كمكان إقامة موقت.

كان المطلب المعماري الاساسي يتمثل في الحفاظ على نمط البناء المرتبط بالعائلة الممتدة باعتباره حجر الزاوية في مباني المخيم، أي النموذج الذي يتمكن فيه الجيل الأصغر من البناء فوق منزل الوالدين وتأسيس أسر جديدة. ولم يكن سبب اختيار الإبقاء على هذا النموذج من البناء مقتصراً على الرغبة في الحفاظ على التماسك الاجتماعي للقرية فحسب، بل شمل سهولة التوسع المستقبلي وانخفاض تكلفته ايضاً (ولاسيما في بيئة تضم مجموعة سكانية مهمشة لا يسمح لها القانون بالتملك في لبنان). وفي النهاية، أعدت وكالة الغوث، بالاشتراك مع هيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد، خرائط وقاعدة بيانات بواسطة منظومة المعلومات الجغرافية (GIS)، إذ تم توثيق التفصيلات المكانية وتفصيلات الملكية في ما يخص جميع العائلات في المخيم – وذلك لاستعمال المعلومات قاعدة يتم على أساسها وضع المشروع النهائي لإعادة الإعمار.

لكن اعتماد مبدأ المشاركة لم يكن بالمهمة السهلة، فقد نجمت صعوبات بسبب موقف بعض مسؤولي الحكومة اللبنانية الذين لا يؤمنون بالمشاركة الشعبية الحقيقية، وإنما بالتعاون مع منظمات دولية ورسمية فقط، مثل وكالة الغوث، وكذلك موقف بعض مسؤولي منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية. وقامت وحدة تحسين المخيمات في وكالة الغوث بدور رئيسي في تمكين مشاركة الاهالي، وذلك من خلال المشاركة التامة لهيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد في عملية التصميم والمفاوضات كلها. ووافق رئيس الحكومة في نهاية الامر على الاقتراح الذي قدمته وكالة الغوث وهيئة إعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد، نظراً الى اقتراب
الموعد النهائي لمؤتمر فيينا الذي اصر فيه المشاركون – المانحون على تقديم خطة إعادة إعمار جاهزة في المؤتمر.

وكانت المفارقة رؤية المسؤولين الحكوميين اللبنانيين يتباهون بعد ذلك، وأمام المانحين ووسائل الإعلام المحلية، بأهمية مبدأ المشاركة في مشروع إعادة الاعمار، وذلك لادراكهم فائدة هذا الامر في تعزيز صورتهم. لكن المسؤولين لم يتبنوا الموقف ذاته في ما يتعلق بمسائل اخرى بالغة الاهمية، وتتصل باعادة الاعمار، كالحقوق المدنية او شكل الحكم او الامن او الاقتصاد، بل حتى الغاء الحالة العسكرية الموجودة في المخيم بعد اكثر من عامين على اندلاع المعركة. وظل الأمن يمثل العامل الرئيسي الذي اثر في قرارات حكومية عدة تتعلق بمسائل متعددة.

حكم المخيم: الرؤى المتضاربة للادارة المشهد المحلي

لا ريب في ان موضوع “إدارة” المخيمات، او الحكم المحلي فيه، غالباً ما يساء عرضه وفهمه، والسبب في ذلك يعود جزئياً الى ان ممارسات الحكم المحلي تتصف بأنها غير رسمية ومتضاربة ومتغيرة، وهي تتنوع من مخيم الى آخر، لكن يمكن وصفها عامة بأنها تتخذ شكل صورة متعددة الطبقة يقوم فيها العديد من الفاعلين والمجموعات والافراد والفصائل بالمناورة والتنافس، وبتدبير أمور الحياة في المخيم. ومع ان الممارسات المذكورة تبدو عصية على الفهم للمراقب الخارجي – فإنها في واقع الامر تمثل انعكاساً لتعقيد السياسة الفلسطينية والوضع الفلسطيني ومفارقاتهما ومصاعبهما في مخيم حضري للاجئين “موقت ودائم” عمره ستون عاماً. وهذه المقالة لا تسعى لتقديم نظرة عامة وشاملة الى آليات الادارة في المخيم ضمن المشهد السياسي – الاجتماعي التاريخي، وذلك على رغم أهمية هذا الموضوع، بل ان الفكرة المهمة في هذه المقالة هي إظهار تفسير الحكومة لـ”مشكلة” المخيمات، وكيفية التدخل التي اختارتها هذه الحكومة.

ان الفاعلين التقليديين في مخيم نهر البارد هم: لجنة شعبية (مؤلفة من ممثلين عن جميع الفصائل، لكن تاريخياً هم ممثلون عن التحالف الموالي لسوريا): لجان الاحياء؛ مجموعة من الوجهاء؛ بعض المنظمات الاهلية. كما يوجد في المخيم عدة لجان ومبادرات شعبية تتبنى قضايا مثل اعادة الاعمار والدفاع عن الحقوق ومصالح التجار، وقد بدأت تؤدي دورأً اكبر في مشهد المخيم. واظهرت ازمة مخيم نهر البارد ضعف الفصائل الفلسطينية التقليدية في ادارة الأزمات عندما تتصرف بمفردها، في معزل عن القوى الاخرى.

وبدلاً من الاعتماد على الفاعلين المحليين في المخيم، قررت الحكومة اللبنانية تغيير الوضع القائم، وتقديم نموذج جديد لادارة المخيم يقوم حصراً على مبدأ اضطلاع قوى الامن الداخلي بإدارة المخيم وبالمراقبة، وذلك من دون التعاطي مع المشكلات الحقيقية للمخيمات او للفلسطينيين في لبنان. وقام فريق خاص بإعداد وثيقة كي تقدم الى مؤتمر المانحين في فيينا الخاص بمخيم نهر البارد.

“وثيقة فيينا”

شاركت الحكومة اللبنانية جزئياً في تجميع مواد “وثيقة فيينا” وصوغها، وذلك من خلال التعاون مع لجنة الحوار اللبنانية – الفلسطينية ومستشاريها، ومع ما عُرف لاحقاً باسم المكتب الفني (RCC) التابع لمكتب رئيس الحكومة. وتجمع “وثيقة فيينا” بين دراسات فنية عدة كانت قد أعدتها وكالة الغوث، ولجنة اعادة اعمار مخيم نهر البارد، والبرنامج الانمائي التابع للامم المتحدة، والبنك الدولي، وشركة خطيب وعلمي، وذلك بهدف تقديم رؤية موحدة شاملة لإعادة إعمار المخيم، ولتكلفة المشروع. وفي حين اعدت الحكومة اللبنانية الوثيقة، رعى المؤتمر كل من النمسا ولبنان وجامعة الدول العربية ووكالة الغوث والاتحاد الاوروبي.

وعلى الرغم من موافقة الفلسطينيين رسمياً على الوثيقة، فان الممثلين السياسيين الفلسطينيين قاموا بدور رمزي فقط في عملية إعدادها الفعلية، نظراً الى افتقار منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية الى هيئات فنية تستطيع القيام بدراسة كهذه، والمشاركة في وضعها وإعدادها. وقد ملأت هذا الفراغ جزئياً مبادرات متعددة صادرة عن منظمات أهلية فلسطينية، وعن خبراء قاموا بدور فاعل في مع البيانات والضغط من خلال وسائل مختلفة رسمية وغير مباشرة، هذا بالاضافة الى آليات مشاركة متعددة لجأت اليها الأمم المتحدة والوكالات الدولية. اما المضمون السياسي للجزء المتعلق بالأمن والادارة في هذه الوثيقة، فيمثل حالة مغايرة تماماً، اذ أعدت الحكومة ومستشاروها تلك المقاطع بشكل كامل وحصري، وفي غياب اي جهة او مشاركة فلسطينية.

تقترح “وثيقة فيينا”: “تأسيس بنية ادارة شفافة وفاعلة في مخيم نهر البارد، ويشمل ذلك تحقيق الأمن وسلطة القانون داخل المخيم من خلال الشرطة المجتمعية (Community Policing)”.

وتطالب الوثيقة المانحين بتقديم الامكانات المادية (5 ملايين دولار) من اجل: “التدريب والمساعدة التقنية لقوى الأمن الداخلي (اللبنانية) بهدف إدخال نظم الشرطة المجتمعية الى مخيم نهر البارد”.

وتمضي الوثيقة لتبين ان: “تطبيق مبدأ الشرطة المجتمعية داخل بيئة مخيم نهر البارد تستوجب وجود قوى أمن داخلي (لبناني) داخل المخيم تعمل على تقليل المخاوف والحساسيات الموجودة قبل نزاع مخيم نهر البارد وبعده، فهذا النوع من ضبط الامن يشجع على المشاركة وحل النزاعات. وإن هذه التدابير الامنية الخاصة بمخيم نهر البارد متفق عليها مع منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية […]. وان بناء الثقة بين قوى الامن الداخلي وأهالي مخيم نهر البارد سيشجع اهالي المخيم على ان يكونوا داعمين بشكل افضل ومتشجعين على التبليغ عن مشكلات المخيم والامور الامنية. وسيشارك ضباط الشرطة في نشاطات اجتماعية متعددة (خطط شبابية وبرامج اجتماعية)، لإيجاد علاقات اقوى بأهالي المخيم. فالشراكة الوثيقة بين عناصر قوى الأمن الداخلي وبين المجتمع ستساهم في جعل مخيم نهر البارد بعد إعادة اعماره مكاناً اكثر أماناً، وستشجع على تعميم نموذج ناجح للامن في المخيمات الفلسطينية الاخرى في لبنان. وسيتم تعريف كوادر قوى الأمن الداخلي بالتاريخ السياسي للاجئين الفلسطينيين في لبنان، وسيتم تدريبهم على ان يتفهموا بصورة اعمق الخصوصيات الثقافية والاجتماعية للمجتمع الفلسطيني. كما سيتم تدريب هذه الكوادر على حل النزاعات وعلى مهارات التواصل”.

ومع ان المجتمع المدني الفلسطيني راوده الشعور بأن وثيقة كهذه كان يجري اعدادها، فان الوثيقة المذكورة لم تعلن الا قبل ايام قليلة من بداية مؤتمر فيينا، وذلك عندما طُبعت ووزعت على الدول المانحة. وقد اطلعت منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية على الوثيقة في الوقت الذي اطلع عليها المانحون الآخرون. وعلى الرغم من اعتراض منظمة التحرير على مبدأ الشرطة المجتمعية في اجتماع رسمي عُقد مع السفير خليل مكاوي (رئيس لجنة الحوار)، قبل مؤتمر فيينا ببضعة ايام، لم تجر اي تعديلات على الوثيقة. وفي الواقع/ لم يُعرض اي موقف فلسطيني امام الدول المانحة خلال المؤتمر. اما المبلغ المرصود لتمويل تدريب كوادر قوى الأمن الداخلي، والبالغ خمسة ملايين دولار، فقد جرى تأمينه وتحويله الى الحكومة اللبنانية نتيجة “وثيقة فيينا” ومؤتمرها، وبدأ استشاريون للحكومة العمل على الموضوع من دون معرفة أهالي المخيم.

اختزال الحكم بالموضوع الأمني

على الرغم من ايجاز المقطع الخاص بالادارة في “وثيقة فيينا”، فإنه يعكس بوضوح استمرارية وتطور منهجية التعامل مع المخيمات من زاوية امنية. فعندما يكون موضوع الشرطة هو العنوان الفعلي الوحيد في “وثيقة فيينا” الذي يتطرق الى موضوع “الحكم” في المخيم، فإن هذا استكمال لمنهجية اختزال اللاجئين الفلسطينيين الى مشكلة امنية، واعتبار المخيم “جزيرة امنية”. فقد وضع صانعو السياسة اللبنانيون ومستشاروهم، ومن دون استشارة الأهالي، التصور الموجود في الوثيقة. وفي حين جرى تسويق الوثيقة تحت شعارات الشراكة والشرطة المجتمعية، فإن المجتمع المحلي كان غائباً عند صوغها، وهذا يتناقض مع تعريف الشرطة المجتمعية، أساساً، كاستراتيجيا وفلسفة لضبط الأمن تقومان على مفهوم فحواه ان تفاعل الاهالي ودعمهم هما المساعد في ضبط الجرائم والتعرف الى المشبوهين، ,في احتجاز المخربين، وفي تبليغ رجال الشرطة ما يحدث من مشكلات. ويفشل هذا المنطق ويصعب تطبيقه عندما يفرض على مجتمع يرفضه لاسباب متعددة ستذكر لاحقاً.

وبينما يكمن مبدأ الشرطة المجتمعية في خطاب تحسين، ثم تمكين أنشطة معينة ومبادرات المواطنة، فإن هناك تناقضاً في تطبيق أنظمة وقوانين وممارسات تعتمد على تطوير مفهوم المواطنة، على مجموعة سكانية من اللاجئين الموقتين الذين تضن عليهم الدولة المضيفة بحقوقهم الاجتماعية الاساسية.

كان لفقرة الادارة في “وثيقة فيينا” ردة فعل سلبية قوية بين أهالي المخيم، وقد توصلنا الى هذه النتيجة من خلال عدد من المقابلات التي اجريناها، بالاضافة الى العريضة المقدمة، مباشرة، الى رئيس الحكومة، فؤاد السنيورة، والتي وقّعها المئات من أهالي مخيم نهر البارد، ونشرت في صحيفتي “الاخبار” و”السفير” بتاريخ 24/1/2009، إذ اعرب الموقعون عن معارضتهم سياسة الحكومة في التعامل مع مخيمهم من منظور امني، وكذلك خطتها المستقبلية لادارة المخيم.

ويمكن القول ان المضامين السياسية للاقتراح الوارد في “وثيقة فيينا” ستلقي بظلها على اي شراكة او نقاش مع المجتمع المحلي يمكن ان يجريا مستقبلاً. فعلى الرغم من الادعاء ان الاقتراح المذكور تم اعداده بالتنسيق مع منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية فإنه لا يوجد في تلك المرحلة اي شراكة حقيقية مع فصائل المنظمة في هذا المشروع، ولا أي تفاهم، ولا أي موافقة عليه.

ان الوثيقة لا تأخذ في الاعتبار الا الحاجات الامنية ووجهة النظر والرؤية اللبنانية، فاللجنة الشعبية عامة، لم تذكر في الاقسام المتعلقة بـ”الحكم” في الوثيقة باعتبارها محاوراً مشاركاً في مسألة الشرطة “المجتمعية”، كما ان الاقتراح يتجاهل بسذاجة المشهد العام السابق للمعركة في مخيم نهر البارد، وهو المشهد الذي يُظهر واقعاً معقداً شديد التنوع من الفاعلية يضم اللجنة الشعبية، والكفاح المسلح، واللجنة الامنية، والفصائل السياسية، ولجان الاحياء، والوجهاء، والنقابات المهنية المتعددة، والمنظمات الأهلية المحلية، وغيرها، الذين يتفاعلون ويتنافسون في ما بينهم بشأن مختلف المسائل التي تلحظ المصلحة العامة للمخيم. وهذا الواقع السابق للمعركة يعكس وجود طاقة ومشاركة في المجال العام تقومان على مشاركة شعبية مكثفة في ادارة شؤون الحياة اليومية.

من المؤكد ان هناك مشكلات لا يستهان بها داخل الادارة المحلية في المخليمات، بما في ذلك النزاعات والممارسات الفاسدة لبعض تلك البنى وتأثيرها السلبي المحتوم في ما يتعلق بمصلحة المخيم، لكن هذا لا يبرر تجاهل الاطر والممارسات السياسية والاجتماعية الموجودة في المخيم.

فإيجاد شراكة فلسطينية – لبنانية حقيقية تقوم على الاحترام وتطوير هذه الأطر والممارسات المحلية في موازاة تطوير آليات واضحة وشفافة للتنسيق مع الجهات اللبنانية، لا يتحقق من خلال تعليم ضباط قوى الأمن الداخلي اللبنانيين “التاريخ السياسي للاجئين الفلسطينيين في لبنان… والخصوصيات الثقافية والاجتماعية للمجتمع الفلسطيني”، كما ورد في “وثيقة فيينا”.

إن الأمر الإشكالي هنا هو حصر حاجات “الحكم” (governance) في المخيم ورؤيتها ضمن منظور أمني فقط، وافتراض إمكان تلبية تلك الحاجات بإدخال الشرطة الى المخيم، ذلك بأن هذا الأمر يتجاهل الخطاب المعاصر المتفق عليه عموماً في ما يتعلق بمعنى الحكم الرشيد ومكوناته الأساسية المتعددة من إدارة المكان وتمثيل المجتمع وتنميته وتطويره اقتصادياً. ولا يمكن فصل عملية تطوير الحكم المحلي داخل المخيمات الفلسطينية عن مسألة التعاطي مع الحقوق الفلسطينية ضمن رؤية ومقاربة شاملتين، كما ان الدروس والأدبيات التي تتناول حالة إعادة الاعمار ما بعد الحرب، لا تكف عن ترداد ما تعتقد انه يشكل قواعد اعادة الإعمار الناجحة بعد الحرب، وهذه القواعد هي: (1) اعادة بناء البيئة المكانية، (2) اعادة إقلاع الدورة الاقتصادية، (3) لجان تقصي الحقائق والمصالحة، (4) اقامة حكم رشيد. ولن يتمكن مخيم نهر البارد من التغلب على التحديات الاجتماعية والسياسية والاقتصادية التي يواجهها في مرحلة ما بعد الحرب، إلا من خلال إجراء مراجعة عامة وشاملة، وعندئذ يمكن وضع أسس علاقة لبنانية – فلسطينية راسخة وحقيقية.

أما على ارض الواقع، فان المقاربة السابقة المرتكزة على مفهوم الأمن، استمرت بعد انتهاء المعركة، وذلك من خلال تدابير متعددة: وجود نقاط تفتيش لا لزوم لها، وجود سلك شائك يحيط بالمخيم، منع السكان الفلسطينيين واللبنا نيين الراغبين في دخول المخيم، من دخوله، قبل الحصول على تصريح عسكري، وجود قواعد عسكرية وبحرية. وقد اصبحت هذه الإجراءات المذكورة سمة مميزة لعملية اعادة الاعمار، فعلى سبيل المثال، أقر مجلس الوزراء إنشاء ثكنة عسكرية عند أطراف المخيم القديم بعد انتهاء المعركة مباشرة، كما أنه أصدر في شباط 2009، مرسوماً آخر يقضي بإنشاء قاعدة بحرية على شاطىء نهر البارد، بالاضافة الى استمرار لجنة الحوار وقوى الأمن الداخلي في ممارسة الضغوط لإنشاء مركز للشرطة داخل المخيم القديم. وفي حين تعارض اللجنة الشعبية المحلية هذا الخيار معارضة عنيفة، تلجأ لجنة الحوار الى الضغط على قيادة منظمة التحرير كي تقبل الأمر.

ومن المهم ان نشير هنا الى أن منظمة التحرير تقبل وجود مركز الشرطة من دون استشارة اللجنة المحلية او مناقشتها في الموضوع. وهذا كله يجري من دون ان تؤخذ في الاعتبار الكثافة العمرانية الشديدة في المخيم، إذ ينحصر 1700 مبنn ضمن مساحة لا تتجاوز 190,000م.م.، وتؤوي ما يزيد على 20,000 لاجىء (أي 1100 شخص في الهكتار – وهي إحدى اعلى الكثافات الحضرية في العالم). وفي حين يبدو خيار إنشاء مركز الشرطة عند اطراف المخيم اكثر مراعاة لمشاعر السكان، فإن الحكومة اللبنانية ولجنة الحوار ترفضان مثل هذا الخيار باستمرار. ويبدو ان الحكومة اللبنانية تعتبر مركز الشرطة بحد ذاته بيانا سياسيا يعلن سيطرتها الجديدة التامة على المخيم، وذلك على الرغم من خبرات الدول المضيفة الأخرى في المنطقة التي تفضل إبقاء مراكز الشرطة عند أطراف المخيمات. ففي عمان مثلا، وبعد إنشاء مراكز شرطة وسط المخيمات وإحراقها مرات عدة، أعادت السلطات إنشاء تلك المراكز عند اطراف المخيمات. وفي حين نستطيع الانشغال، وبكل سهولة، في مناقشة ميزات “الشرطة المجتمعية”، أو عدم إمكان تطبيقها، فإن الموضوع الأول الذي يجب مناقشته هو الوضع الأمني الفعلي داخل مخيم نهر البارد. فاذا كان النقاش هو بشأن الجرائم، فإن هذا المخيم لم يكن يشكل مكاناً مغلقاً موبوءاً بها، إذ كانت هذه تطوق عادة، كما كانت تجري ملاحقة من ينتهك حرمة القانون، وهو ما كان يحفظ السلامة العامة في المخيم. أما اذا كان النقاش متعلقاً بوجود “فتح الاسلام”، فيجب التساؤل عن الأسباب الحقيقية التي حالت بين الأطر الفلسطينية وبين التعامل بحزم مع عناصر هذه الظاهرة، وما هي اسباب فشل قوى الأمن الداخلي والجيش اللبناني في اعتقال مجموعة مسلحة كان القسم الاكبر من مكاتبها وقواعدها ومواقع تدريبها ومنازل عناصرها موجوداً خارج الحدود الرسمية لمخيم نهر البارد، أي على ارض تابعة رسمياً للسلطات اللبنانية؟ فمعظم تلك الابنية، في الحقيقة، كان موجوداً في منطقة مجاورة لمخيم نهر البارد، وبعضها في مركز مدينة طرابلس وعلى أطرافها، مثل ابي سمرا. والهدف هنا ليس القاء المسؤولية على الجهات اللبنانية، وانما الاشارة الى ان ظاهرة “فتح الاسلام”، وكثيرا من الظواهر الاخرى التي تهدد أمن اللبنانيين والفلسطينيين معاً، ليسا مجرد نتاج غياب عناصر ضبط الأمن اللبناني.

القضايا الحقيقية هنا تتصل بطبيعة التنسيق وآلياته بين الاطر الفلسطينية واجهزة الدولة اللبنانية (بشقها المدني وليس العسكري وحده)، وذلك يخص المخيم والمنطقة المجاورة له. فمنذ توقف العمل باتفاقية القاهرة (سنة 1969)، ظلت الشروط المرجعية بين الطرفين غامضة وملتبسة في افضل الاحوال، وصار المخيم فضاء معلقا من الوجهة القانونية، اذ اصبحت المخابرات العسكرية تحكمه باعتبار انه “حالة استثناء”.

(جزء متكامل من دراسة أطول
تنشر لاحقا في مجلة
“دراسات فلسطينية”)

(ساري حنفي أستاذ مشارك في الجامعة الاميركية في بيروت، وإسماعيل الشيخ حسن مهندس ومخطط عمراني في جامعة لوفان (بلجيكا)، ويعمل ناشطاً في هيئة العمل الاهلي والدراسات لإعادة إعمار مخيم نهر البارد.)

on regret

An injured Afghan child at the hospital in Farah province. Photograph: Abdul Malek/AP
An injured Afghan child at the hospital in Farah province. Photograph: Abdul Malek/AP

listening to hillary clinton express “deep regret” yesterday over the american massacre of over 100 afghan civilians i couldn’t help but think about the meaning of regret. here is the times report on her remarks:

Hillary Clinton has expressed “deep regret” that American jets bombed two villages in western Afghanistan yesterday killing at least 30 men, women and children.

The Secretary of State addressed the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan as anger grew over the loss of innocent life.

“We will work very hard with your governments and your leaders to avoid the loss of innocent civilian life and we deeply, deeply regret that loss,” she said in Washington.

No exact casualty toll could be confirmed after the incident in Farah province, but the provincial governor and police chief estimate civilian deaths at more than 100.

for me, regret does not merely express sorrow or empathy. it also means learning from your mistakes and doing what you can to not do that thing that caused you to regret what you did in the first place. but, of course, clinton and obama want to create more such occasions for regret given their desire to place more american troops on afghan soil, which will only bring us promises of more massacres in the future. jeremy scahill shows us precisely why this “regret” is complete hogwash:

Hours after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “apologized” for US airstrikes that may have killed as many as 130 people in Afghanistan, NBC News is reporting that the US military is preparing to blame the deaths of several Afghan families—that were reportedly killed in US bombing raids this week in Farah Province—on Taliban fighters. The network’s Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said military sources told him Taliban fighters used grenades to kill three families to “stage” a massacre and then blame it on the US. At present there are few details on this.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, however, has stated bluntly that US airstrikes hit civilian houses and revealed that an ICRC counterpart in the Red Cresent was among the dead. “We know that those killed included an Afghan Red Crescent volunteer and 13 members of his family who had been sheltering from fighting in a house that was bombed in an air strike,” said the ICRC’s head of delegation in Kabul, Reto Stocker. “We are deeply concerned by these events. Tribal elders in the villages called the ICRC during the fighting to report civilian casualties and ask for help. As soon as we heard of the attacks we contacted all sides to warn them that there were civilians and injured people in the area.”

Read the entire ICRC statement here.

here is nick clark’s report on the massacre on al jazeera today:

here is robert fisk’s take on the massacre and the so-called “deep regret”:

Of course there will be an inquiry. And in the meantime, we shall be told that all the dead Afghan civilians were being used as “human shields” by the Taliban and we shall say that we “deeply regret” innocent lives that were lost. But we shall say that it’s all the fault of the terrorists, not our heroic pilots and the US Marine special forces who were target spotting around Bala Baluk and Ganjabad.

When the Americans destroy Iraqi homes, there is an inquiry. And oh how the Israelis love inquiries (though they rarely reveal anything). It’s the history of the modern Middle East. We are always right and when we are not, we (sometimes) apologise and then we blame it all on the “terrorists”. Yes, we know the throat-cutters and beheaders and suicide bombers are quite prepared to slaughter the innocent.

But it was a sign of just how terrible the Afghan slaughter was that the powerless President Hamid Karzai sounded like a beacon of goodness yesterday appealing for “a higher platform of morality” in waging war, that we should conduct war as “better human beings”.

And of course, the reason is quite simple. We live, they die. We don’t risk our brave lads on the ground – not for civilians. Not for anything. Fire phosphorus shells into Fallujah. Fire tank shells into Najaf. We know we kill the innocent. Israel does exactly the same. It said the same after its allies massacred 1,700 at the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila in 1982 and in the deaths of more than a thousand civilians in Lebanon in 2006 and after the death of more than a thousand Palestinians in Gaza this year.

And if we kill some gunmen at the same time – “terrorists”, of course – then it is the same old “human shield” tactic and ultimately the “terrorists” are to blame. Our military tactics are now fully aligned with Israel.

The reality is that international law forbids armies from shooting wildly in crowded tenements and bombing wildly into villages – even when enemy forces are present – but that went by the board in our 1991 bombing of Iraq and in Bosnia and in Nato’s Serbia war and in our 2001 Afghan adventure and in 2003 in Iraq. Let’s have that inquiry. And “human shields”. And terror, terror, terror. Something else I notice. Innocent or “terrorists”, civilians or Taliban, always it is the Muslims who are to blame.

of course the american government sounds far too close to the israeli government (and given both are the largest perpetrators of state terrorism on the planet this should not come as a shock) on a number of levels, some of which fisk addresses. and i don’t see any regrets leading to investigation and prosecution of those who dropped the bombs.

meanwhile as news of this massacre was just emerging, hamid karzai stepped off a plane in washington dc to meet with clinton and obama and other americans who create the conditions of terrorizing afghan people. i began to wonder about karzai’s regret. i began to wonder how do these people sleep at night? is it really possible you can have so little self worth or so little regard for your own people that you can move from learning of this massacre to meeting with the regime that continues to occupy your land and terrorize your people? and it is not just karzai, of course. asif ali zardari joined him in these meetings. but zardari didn’t seem to get any statements about the united states’ “deep regret” over the fact that because of the american war on pakistan there are upwards of 500,000 pakistanis who are internally displaced people as andrew buncombe reported in the independent:

By bus, by car and on foot, thousands of people continued to pour from the Swat Valley yesterday as the Pakistani military used helicopter gunships and pounding mortar rounds to try to drive out Taliban fighters. Aid officials said they had registered 45,000 people forced from their homes in the last four days but said that number could soon soar. The government has estimated that up to 500,000 people might flood out of the Swat valley ahead of a possible major offensive against the militants.

“It is an all-out war there. Rockets are landing everywhere,” Laiq Zada, who fled the danger zone, told the Associated Press. “We have with us the clothes on our bodies and a hope in the house of God. Nothing else.” The sharpened military offensive came as Pakistan’s leader, Asif Ali Zardari, yesterday met in Washington with Barack Obama and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. Many in Washington will be heartened by the decision by Mr Zardari and the military to take the fight to the militants.

But there are doubts over the military capacity for the operation, and the human costs involved. A drawn-out conflict will only increase the longer-term exodus. Some may feel they would have nothing to return to. “I do not have any destination. I only have an aim – to escape from here,” said Afzal Khan, who was waiting for a bus with his wife and nine children. “It is like doomsday here. It is like hell.”

part of the reason for this flight is pakistan fighting in the region, now, too, but this is just proof that the pakistani regime is a tool of the americans creating havoc against its own people for a country that continues to assault them from the air. declan walsh describes some of this context in the guardian (his other article includes video footage of people fleeing to safety in pakistan):

Pakistani helicopter gunships pounded a Taliban-controlled emerald mine and other militant positions in the Swat Valley today, killing dozens of militants, as fighting intensified across North West Frontier province.

Amid expectations of an imminent army operation, militants dug into positions across the main town, Mingora, as terrified residents fled the valley on foot across mountain paths. Taliban reinforcements have been pouring into the area from adjoining districts since Monday, many arriving under cover of night and in some cases crossing into the battle zone by boat.

As President Asif Ali Zardari met President Barack Obama in Washington, his government was bracing for a flood of up to 500,000 internal refugees, making it the largest displacement crisis in Pakistan’s history.

The army said it killed more than 60 militants in Swat and neighbouring Buner, a district 60 miles from Islamabad where a major anti-Taliban drive has been under way for the past nine days. Four soldiers were killed due to fighting and a roadside bomb, a military spokesman said, but local reports suggested a higher toll.

it is in this context that zardari and karzai met with the leaders of the regime that is terrorizing afghan and pakastanis alike in to flight when they are able to escape these massacres. tellingly, the puppet leaders had these remarks to make at their press conference yesterday as ewen macaskill reported in the guardian:

Karzai thanked Clinton for her expression of regret and added: “We hope we can work together to completely reduce civilian casualties in the struggle against terrorism.”

Clinton said the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan faced “a common threat”. Zardari described the Taliban as “a cancer”.

here is james bays report on al jazeera on this meeting in washington yesterday and today:

obama’s offensive rhetoric–along with his puppets by his side–is so deeply offensive not the least of which because any so-called commitment to the people of afghanistan and pakistan means that you would need to do things to improve their lives–this would not, of course, include massacre and forcing people to run from their homes because they are being terrorized by american drones and the pakistani army that is taking orders from the united states:

Barack Obama, the US president, has pledged a “lasting commitment” to both Afghanistan and Pakistan after holding talks with both nations’ leaders in Washington.

He said all three nations shared a common goal of dismantling, disrupting and defeating the al-Qaeda network, the Taliban and its allies and improving security in both countries.

“Our strategy reflects a fundamental truth, the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US are linked,” Obama said at a news conference in Washington on Wednesday, flanked by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and Asif Ali Zardari, his Pakistani counterpart.

He praised both men as fully appreciating the “seriousness” of the current situation in the region.

to get an idea of how real people who are subjected to this savagery feel in afghanistan just read some of the things they said today in the farah province during their protest against their puppet regime and the american occupiers of their land:

Afghans have staged an angry protest following the suspected deaths of up to 100 civilians in a US-led air raid in western Farah province.

Shots were fired on Thursday as the demonstrators threw stones at government offices in the town of Farah, the provincial capital.

Several people were wounded in the melee, Gul Ahmad Ayubi, a health department official, said.

The protest came as a team of US and Afghan government investigators arrived in the Bala Baluk district to gather more information about Monday’s incident.

If the casualties are confirmed, it would be the largest loss of civilian life in a single attack since US troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Haji Nangyalai, one of the protesters, said the demonstration had been called to “show our anger at the crimes committed by the American forces”.

“They have killed our innocent people carelessly, that is why we are protesting.”

Another demonstrator, who gave his name only as Abdullah, told the AFP news agency: “People are really angry and they shout ‘death to America, death to the invaders.

“They are hurling stones at government buildings and there is some gun fire in the air – at this stage we don’t know by who.”

telling the tale of tel al-za’atar

a couple of weeks ago i read about global voices book challenge on bint battuta’s blog. global voices along with unesco asked people to read their way around the world for unesco world book day which is today:

April 23 is UNESCO World Book Day – and just because the Global Voices team loves blogs, doesn’t mean we have forgotten other forms of the written word! In fact, because we think reading literature is such an enjoyable way to learn about another culture, we have a fun challenge for all Global Voices contributors and readers, and bloggers everywhere.

The Global Voices Book Challenge is as follows:

1) Read a book during the next month from a country whose literature you have never read anything of before.

2) Write a blog post about it during the week of April 23.

badr

bint battuta seems to already have her book review up on her blog. she read mohamed makhzangi’s memories of a meltdown. she fudged the rules a bit and i am going to a lot. the rules say you must read a book from a country whose literature you have never read anything of before. but given the paucity of international literature in bookshops or in libraries in palestine i read a novel by palestinian novelist liana badr entitled the eye of the mirror or عين الوراة. i had started reading it a few months ago but got side-tracked with work so this was a great excuse to get back to it. the novel is set in tel al-za’atar refugee camp in lebanon from 1975-76 when it was besieged by lebanese kata’eb militias. liana badr, who is a journalist as well as a novelist, was in lebanon at the time and later spent seven years documenting the massacre in the camp. the novel was first published in arabic in morocco in 1991, although badr told me a few months ago that she wanted to publish it with al adab in lebanon and they told her that the censors would not approve its publication. i have read badr’s other translated novel, Balcony Over the Fakahani or شرفه على الفكهاني which is also quite moving and also set in lebanon during the civil war.

© Benno Karkabé, 1975
© Benno Karkabé, 1975

but this novel is different and really important for literary and historical reasons. while there is much written about the israeli-kata’eb massacre of shatila refugee camp and the surrounding sabra neighborhood, there is little to nothing written about the massacre of over 4,000 palestinians in tel al-za’atar refugee camp. unlike shatila, which still exists today, tel al-za’atar was destroyed and the 12,000 palestinian survivors fled to other refugee camps, many of them to nahr el bared refugee camp in northern lebanon until the lebanese army destroyed that camp in 2007. for those interested in the subject from an historical perspective i highly recommend anything by rosemary sayigh. and those who want to see some rare images from the camp you can check out benno karkabé’s photographs of which the image above is one. but the novel does an amazing job of chronicling the events in a lyrical way. jordanian novelist fadia faqir, one of my favorite writers, authored the introduction to the novel, and samira kawar translated it.

the novel focuses on a variety of characters, but most of the central characters are women. and she grounds the story from the first page in an oral tradition from scheherazade’s tales told to her husband in a thousand and one nights which she used to save her community from his wrath. thus the narrator opens the novel with a direct address to the readers telling us:

You are insistent, calling again. You want me to tell you the story of Scheherazade, who rocks the sad king on her knees as she sings him tales from wonderland. Yet you know that I am not Scheherazade, and that one of the world’s greatest wonders is that I am unable to enter my country or pass through the regions around it. Do not be surprised. Let us count them country by country. (1)

rendering strange the reality of palestinians inability to travel to–let alone return to!–their land gives the opening narration a bit of a fantastical feel, until she grounds the narrative in historical reality:

I begin with the tale of a girl or a woman. I tell perhaps of you and I, or of women and men whom I have never met. I tell of an alley, a street, a neighborhood or a city. Or perhaps of a camp, of a camp, of a Tal! Tal Ezza’tar for example…Now you shake your head reproachfully again, fearful that the story will turn into political rhetoric like the slogans we’ve become weary of. Your eyelids bat mockingly inmy face, hinting it is necessary to reassure you that what you fear will not happen. But I am compelled to begin with Ezza’tar, Tal Ezza’tar in particular, not only because of its poetic name, but for many reasons which I am under no obligation to reveal now. (2)

like scheherazade badr’s narrator makes it clear that she will tease us with the plot as a way to keep us as her interlocutors. she delays our understanding of characters, setting, and events letting them unravel as scheherazade famously did in a thousand and one nights. in the arabic version of the novel badr used palestinian dialect so the spellings of transliterated words in her novel reflect this accent (hence her spelling of the camp’s name). the novel opens with the protagonist, aisha, who is actually my least favorite character in the novel, who at the time is working as a maid at a lebanese christian boarding school outside the camp. she is called home from work by her parents because of the april 1975 massacre of palestinians on a bus in ain al roumaneh, but the we hear about the incident on the bus several times before we learn the context of it. the narrator tells us:

The bus. Perhaps if that massacre hadn’t happened, they would not have taken her out of school. Her mother used to say, “The bus,” wincing as though she were being struck on the forehead by a ray of very strong sunlight. She would lick her oval-shaped lips with her cracked tongue, panting as she moved the fingers of her right hand over her chest as though she were shaking imaginary dust from her wide dress.

“The bus. Woe is me. What a catastrophe! What a shame! What had the young men and the boys done to get killed in this way? Twenty of them, my dear. Twenty. That’s what your father said. They attacked them, bang, bang.” (8).

we don’t learn who was on the bus or what it means for aisha until later in the novel. the novel delays our understanding as readers, but also aisha’s as her character is a rather naive young woman who is relatively sheltered as compared to hana, a character i like much more. badr also delays our knowledge of the family’s flight from yaffa, their village of origin in palestine, through fairy tale narrative techniques such as the repetition of “once upon a time” as well as aisha’s fantasies about her prince charming, george haddad a nom de guerre for ahmed al-ashi, a member of the resistance with the democratic front for the liberation of palestine (dflp). george is originally from tulkarem, but he left to fight with the resistance in jordan and was expelled to lebanon in 1970 after black september with the rest of the freedom fighters. his friendship with aisha’s parents and the conversation he has with her family is often as a kind of teacher about life in palestine in ways that disrupt stereotypes about religious differences or the divide between rural and urban palestinians as a way to assert unity among palestinians as when he tutors aisha’s younger sister ibtisam:

Speaking to him again, she said: “Why d’you pronounce the ‘ka’ as a ‘cha’ when you speak? Aren’t you worried that your fiance’s family will think you’re a peasant?”

“I am a peasant.”

She jumped with joy at the strange news, which aroused her interest: “A real live peasant? does that mean that you plant and harvest the land?”

“I’m a peasant and the son of peasants. But I’ve no longer got any land to plant and harvest.”

“So how d’you make a living?”

“We’re just like everybody else. My brothers and sisters and I, each of us is homeless in a different country.” (58)

conversations such as this one, various characters remembering life in palestine, plot details about aisha’s deisre to marry george, and later her marriage to feda’ee hassan, and depictions of daily life in the camp cover the first half of the novel. the gap between the ain al roumaneh bus massacre and the eruption of a full-scale attack on tel al-za’atar camp, mimicking the lull in the characters’ daily lives as they try to carry on in between clashes. after aisha’s marriage to hassan his mother, um hassan, shares her family’s story one morning with her new daughter-in-law that encapsulates many of the family’s stories in the novel:

With an automatic strength, she held back her words, which had turned into something resembling the stone that one rubs before prayer, hoping to pierce it and squeeze out whatever water might be inside it when none is available for ablutions. But her overwhelming sadness broke through her silence, and she spoke once more: “Eh…We came out of Palestine. We were in the orchards picking olives when Assafsaaf, which was the nearest village to us, fell. The Haganah gangs slaughtered a lot of people, and also raped many women. My neighbor’s niece was slaughtered in front of her father. We had no arms. We thought it would be a good idea to leave for a short time so that what happened to the people of Assafsaaf and Ain Ezzeitoun, which King Abdullah had surrendered, and Deir Yassin would not happen to us. We went north. We didn’t see anything, and never looked back, because we were so sure that we would return a few days later. In Bint Jbeil, we found that the UN were putting people into cars and taking them to Burj Esh-Shemali. People were surviving on almost nothing. When it snowed on us in Burj Esh-Shmeali, they moved us to Nahr El-Barid in Tripoli.” (109)

um hassan’s story here serves both as historical memory–of slaughter and flight–and also as premonition for what will come to tel al-za’atar camp in the coming weeks and months. just as the narration shifts from one character to another so as to give a variety of perspectives from palestinian refugees’ experiences, so too does the narrator shift at times to a voice that inserts the author herself entering the narrative:

That was a sight I shall never forget. The day I managed to enter the camp of Tal Ezza’tar, being one of the few people who managed to reach it between two sieges, I saw the apples scattered around on the streets, their skins shrunken and wrinkled. But they had kept their pretty red colour. I had said to myself: “Ezza’tar? Why don’t they call it Attuffah?” At that moment my grandfather’s home in Wadi Attufah, the valley of apples, in Hebron flashed into my mind’s eye. And I remembered my mother, Hayat, in the mid-fifties. She had lived at my grandfather’s house temporarily before moving into the attic above the school, which was afflicted with measles and frost-bite. How innocent I had been. I went to my grandfather simply to tell him how I had heard my mother complaining to Hajjeh Salimah about the hassle and pain of living with my grandfather’s fourth wife. I had told him. I was three years old. My mother and Hajjeh Salimah had later accused me of blowing the whistle on her and reporting her grievances to the tribe elder, who wore a red tarboush with a silk tassle. But, what I want to say is this. Every place I saw later would always remind me of my birth place in Palestine. And in Tal Ezza’tar, I recalled Wadi Attuffah in the West Bank of Palestine. My amazement increased at the dry fruit littering the place like freckles on a face that has seen too much sun. Everybody was sitting in the sun, both old and young. They had all come out of the shelters, corridors and passages to get a touch of the amber rays. Old women with patterned tattoos on their faces, which had been acquired long before their arrival in this place. They sat with their grandchildren in their laps, while the women were busy airing the sheets and blankets in which the young ones had slept during the confinement. No one looked at the scattered fruits which covered the ground like stones forgotten since the beginning of creation. The car turned and went up into the Tal. At the clinic, I was able to meet Um Jalal and the doctor who worked there. When I told them that I had come to do a newspaper report on the steadfastness of the camp on the anniversary of the emergence of the resistance, people called one another from here and there and they spoke to me. (125-126)

insertions of passages like the one above in which we imagine badr as a character in the novel taking eyewitness accounts of the people of the camp adds historical weight to the narrative. and it is through her presence that we finally learn more about characters like hana who is one of the resistance fighters badr-as-character interviews:

Like a passing arrow, Hana, entered the clinic. They introduced her to me: “Hana, the bravest wireless operator in the entire camp. No one is quite like her. She does the night shift in the wireless room, and goes with the girls to her military positions.”

I looked at her. Her eyes were green, her hair was tied back in a pony tail. She had a feminine air despite the seriousness which her difficult assignments imparted to her. I asked her: “It’s unusual for a girl to be on duty at night all by herself!”

“I’m not afraid of the night. Sometimes I used to be on duty at night, and I was not scared. The young men would be tied up along the combat lines and I would keep operating the wireless. At first, my parents wouldn’t agree to my work because they were worried about me. But I’ve done a three-month militia training course. I did it when the revolution entered the camp, and training began. They offered a course for girls. I was fourteen years old. It was a very strenuous course and I was in the third preparatory class at school.” (131)

once the intensity of the war increases, so too does the pace of the novel and the plot begins to mirror that intensity. the daily life of the women in the novel shifts to fighting to survive under siege, to collectivity:

The basement house! Voices echoing in a deep lair. The wailing of confined children and their running noses. The kerosene cookers emitting soot as they burned, and the smell of kerosene with the orange-blue flame. The arms of women moving the stone mill to crush lentils for use as a flour substitute. Discovering this new camp! It did not occur to anyone outside this besieged patch how thousands of people were living without basic necessities. No rice. No sugar. No wheat or flour. But there were lentils that were crushed and ground, and mixed with water, then fried on kerosene cookers or tin baking plates under which scraps of wood and paper were set alight. When there was no milk, they used lentil water as a substitute to feed their babies, and they used lentil yeast to make bread. Lentils became a mercy from God, quieting cries of hunger. Those who were unable to replace torn sandbags near their fortifications took cover behind lentil sacks. They hid behind them waiting for God to ease their plight. Had it not been for the blessed presence of the lentil packaging factory inside Tal Ezza’tar, hundreds would have starved long ago. (155-156)

we also begin to get more detailed narration about the freedom fighters defending the camp at this point, such as farid, whose presence in the novel is far too minimal. just as the story of the women above making do with their ingenuity and rations can be imagined in the context of so many other situations in which palestinians have been besieged–most recently, of course, in gaza–so too with farid’s story can we understand the plight of palestinians without a homeland, without an identity card, though, coincidentally he hails from gaza. when aisha’s mother, um jalal, complains about the fact that he smokes so much her son-in-law hassan tells her:

His family are all in Gaza. He’s not married and hasn’t got children, and you feel that a couple of cigarettes are wasted on him. Let him smoke as much as he likes. Why not?”

Um Jalal walked away, large masses of fat protruding from her back beneath her shapeless dress. Hassan recalled Farid with special sympathy. The homeless one! Unable to enter any country because he had no passport. Living in airports and traveling in planes. He had once tried to travel to an Arab capital to see his mother, who had come across the bridge, but he was unable to. The old lady had waited as airports took delivery of the young man, then threw him off to airports father away. His Palestinian travel document got him to Scandinavian countries after passing through African and Asian ones. Farid would enter a country and immediately became an inmate in an airport lounge until the authorities rejected him, putting him on the first departing flight. Farid had told them a lot about other Palestinian families living in transit lounges. He would guffaw as he told of how they would hang their underwear in the public bathroom. Sometimes, he would become tearful as he recalled the humiliation he had faced with security men and policemen. In the end, his case had turned into something akin to a play from the theatre of the absurd which no one would take seriously because it was merely entertainment. Finally one of the PLO offices was able to solve his problem through intensive lobbying of important people in the host country, and it was decided that he would be deported to Lebanon. Thereafter, Farid completely turned back on his plans to see his mother, and on his good intentions, which had only brought him harm. He never, ever thought of trying again, and his brothers had informed him of this mother’s death a year ago.

Although Farid had been accused of belonging to a terrorist organization, the name of which struck fear in the hearts of officials in European airports, Hassan believed that he had never even harmed an ant in his life. Duty was duty. And it was duty in any situation. it was enough that Farid had almost become the victim of his own organization when clashes had broken out in the early seventies over the concept of a Palestinian state on part of the homeland. The organization had not accepted the idea, and considered it a transgression of the sacred charter which called for the liberation of all Palestine. We cannot give up our land to the enemy, they had said. The whole of the levant will revolt one day, and we wil liberate Palestine to the last inch. The result was all too clear now. The Arab governments wanted to liberate their countries first, had been the comment of Farid. His incessant smoking provoked the anger and coughing of the middle-aged women dying for a Marlboro cigarette or any real tobacco wrapped in white paper.

The hateful church was nothing more than a wall to the fighters of the camp. They would remove it and excuse the enemy position which was crushing the people with their sniper bullets and shells. Hassan failed to understand why religion had turned into a sword against human beings. Until that moment, he could not understand how they would be able to blow up the church despite the teachings of the Quran chanted by his father, which instructed him to respect other religions. Hassan had never in his life tried to pick up a Quran and read its verses. He had become used to respecting it from afar. He had treated religion as though it were meant for old people and sheikhs who went on pilgrimage to Mecca. It was not for him, or those who were his age. The continued problems of day-to-day living had prompted families to give top priority to the education of their sons. His family had always said that the Palestinians could not win the struggle to survive without education. No home, no country and no friends. How could Palestinians struggle to survive without that weapon? It would gain them the protection they needed, and they would rebuild their shattered lives until they could return to their countries. Religion. He could not remember that anyone in his family had ever prayed, except for his elderly father. His mother had considered that working to solve the problems of being homeless refugees was a form of worship. Preserving the life that God has created is the most noble form of worship, she had always told them. So Hassan asked himself why the enemies were waging their war in the name of religion. was it because they had a lot of money, houses and factories that spared them from being overwhelmed by the problems of daily survival? but they were not all that way. Their poor were at the front, and those waging the war appeared on the social pages of the newspapers at their boisterous parties. (161-162)

i quote this long passage above because it says so much about the continuing struggle of palestinians. it speaks to so much historically and currently. farid is a resistance fighter who comes to rescue people of the camp by trying to bomb the church where most of the heavy shelling besieging the camp originates from. there are other moments like this where the context of the palestinian resistance struggle is contextualized such as hassan’s thoughts about why he fights in the resistance:

When he had grown up and gone to university, he had discovered that therw ere two civilizations living alongside one another in modern times. One was the civilization of repression, which used the most developed tools of technology to repress people and evict them from their homes, as in South Africa and Palestine. The other was the civilization of the oppressed, who could possibly win, but only possible…but if one was in one’s home and country. But here? Among strangers. How could one go on amongst those who only cared about importing cars and arcade games and the latest brands of washing powder appearing on television screens? (172-173)

while hana is the only female resistance fighter in the novel, all of the women resist in various ways. hassan’s sister amneh works in the hospital caring for patients without any medications, power, or water to treat them properly, much like gaza. she was responsible for holding patients down while their wounds were stitched without anesthesia. most of the mothers and elderly found a basement where they hid out together trying to escape the shelling, however, including her family. the narrator describes, in detail, what happens when she discovers the building had been shelled to the ground:

As she walked through a corridor of brown cloudy smoke Amneh saw herself as a sleeper sees her soul. She saw her body passing through fields of stones, crushed rocks, and pieces of debris flying about in the air. Amneh saw herself as if in a dream, as though she were crossing a desert too hot for any human to bear. Sweat flows profusely from her, dripping down her forehead, her shoulders, and beneath her arms. Powdered gypsum, or something like the white plaster used to decorate the walls of houses, stick to her hair. The clouds grew thicker, then lifted to reveal what Amneh finally realized–the shelter. Collapsed. Crumbled. Shelled. It was definitely no longer in its place. no longer remained standing. Something the mind could not grasp. But the crowds of traumatized people. They came in shocked waves. The sound of their wailing mingling with the hoarse moans coming out of the shelter convinced her, forced her to see what was happening. She went over to a man carrying a spade. He tossed it away, and threw himself on the debris to dig wit his hands. All she could get out of him was that the shells which had set the plastics on fire at the Boutajy factory had cracked the walls of the adjacent building, whose basement had housed the shelter. The enemy had shelled the five-story building continually for several days, concentrating their fire ot he exposed columns which supported it, until they had cracked and collapsed. the roof had fallen in on everyone beneath it, blocking the exit. No. everything had collapsed over them, and there was no longer any door or exit. The man was crying, shouting, screaming. His howling was lost amidst the successive waves of wailing voices coming from beneath the battered ground and from above it. People ran around here and there carrying hoes, but the were not of much use in removing the rubble of five floors, which had collapsed over the shelter, whose door had completely disappeared. At that moment, many different emotions surged through Amneh’s bosom.[…] She continued digging with the families of those who had been buried, from two o’clock in the afternoon until three o’clock the next morning. During that interval, and until it became possible to enter the shelter, Amneh did not try to look at the bodies which other rescuers pulled out. She did not want dead people. Simply, she only wanted those able to live, because she had come to hate the kind of life that was saturated with death day and night.[…] A terror that she would never experience in her life paralysed her. A terror that would crush her and would reshape and polish the hardness of her heart, making it even tougher than before. Inside the shelter, Amneh saw about four hundred bodies so disfigured that it was impossible to recognize them. They were all unimaginably mangled. A very small number of people had survived, but they too had sustained severe injuries to their limbs. Most of the mutilation had affected the heads. One woman’s intestines had spilt out, and she had died only a short time before. (191-192)

as the fighting over the course of months dies down slightly, hana learns from her work covering the wireless machine that an evacuation of the camp has been arranged. palestinian survivors of the massacre thus far, who are injured, who have been lacking food, water, and medicine for months begin the trek out of the camp on foot. many are barefoot. many, like aisha’s father assayed, find a trauma repeated as he imagines he is fleeing palestine in 1948 not tel al-za’atar in 1976. like many of the scenes in the second half of the novel, it is detailed and horrifying:

The terror. And the bodies. And Amneh, whom Um Hassan had sent ahead to find out what was happening at the to pof the road. Some of the neighbours had already left. But Um Hassan and Um Mazen were delaying their departure, hoping for a miracle that would avert the horror of falling into the hands of the besiegers. As the decision to surrender had spread through the shelters, crowds ahd surged wither towards the mountains surrounding the camp, or towards Dekwaneh that terrible compulsory route. The amputated hands and feet scattered along the Dekwaneh road, their veins being sucked by blue flies, were the true testament of the fate awaiting those who chose to head in that direction. The fighters prepard to leave by the rough mountain paths up to a small village called Mansourieh, hoping to break through enemy lines there, and then to continue on to the Nationalist-controlled area. Most of the young men and women joined those going up into the mountains, protected by an instinctive certainty that risking the unknown was better than following the voices offering people safe conduct which had suddenly blared out through several megaphones from the direction of Dekwaneh.

Amneh, with the newly-acquired military experience she had gained from her water-gathering trips, noticed that the faces of the bodies lying along the road were turned towards the camp, and she concluded that they had been shot in the back. The sounds of clashes on the road to the mountains made her aware of the new battle around the camp. (219-220)

amneh’s depiction of what she sees on the road out of the camp is a harbinger of what is to come once families choose to flee. the narrator describes the escalated horror that awaits the palestinian refugees, being made refugees yet again, upon their exit:

From then on, Khazneh saw nothing but blood. She passed the towering church which all the battles had not succeeded in destroying. She marvelled at the changed appearance of the building. It was neither destroyed, nor completely intact. Fallen, pile dup stones, and high thick walls and people standing outside them in lines. Was her eyesight playing tricks on her when she saw the building moving towards her, crawling like a giant ship that had suddenly set sail from a mythical port. Medieval flags fly over it, and knights parade on its roof upon pure-blooded saddled horses, wearing cloths flowing down their flanks. They carry quivers filled with poison-tipped arrows, and helmets and shields and pommels and whips and shining iron swords. As for the church, it continues to crawl and stretch forward with a slow deliberate movement, while they take no notice. Khazneh rubbed her eyes so that she could verify the movement towards her of the building-ship that she was seeing. She looked more carefully and saw rows of young men lined up in front of the wall of the church. Now they were hitting them on their backs with hammers, the stone pestles used in stone mortars to grind wheat and mix it with raw meat for kubbeh dough. But the hammers! They were hitting them with those hammers which had been specially made to pound red meat for that traditional dish. They ordered the prisoners to kneel and poured petrol over them. It caught fire in a split second, and some of the prisoners fainted. They sprayed bullets on those who were kneeling, after placing iron bars in the fire and using them to burn crosses onto the bellies of those who remained standing. the smell of charred flesh filled the air. Burning flesh. They began tying up the prisoners with ropes to parade them on thee astern side of the city in trucks specially brought over for that purpose. (231-212)

there are so many other scenes of horror that each one of the characters experiences and/or witnesses. indeed, each character in the novel is an eyewitness to massacre or a victim of it, in which case we, the readers, become the witness to the crime. palestinians get rounded up and put in detention centers and families are separated from each other as various members of families are murdered. aisha, the protagonist through much of the novel, and who we begin the novel with, finds herself pregnant mid-way through the narrative. she discovers this just before her husband, hassan, is murdered by kata’eb militia men. aisha manages to survive, though we do not learn the fate of all the characters by the novel’s conclusion. but her survival, like everyone’s survival in the camp, is one that just barely manages to escape fate. that she managed to live through this siege without proper food and water and under an extreme amount of trauma provides some hope in the novel’s conclusion. that there will be a new generation of palestinian babies and that this battle for palestinians to return is not over is wrapped up in aisha’s “emaciated abdomen” (264).

there is so much more to say, to share, but i hope that people will read badr’s novel on their own. and for those who want some further information on the context of tel al-za’atar refugee camp below are two articles on the larger issue of the origin of the lebanese civil war, the attacks on palestinians in lebanon, and the zionist role in collaborating with the kata’eb against the palestinians.

reilly-israel-in-lebanon-1975-82

farsoun-lebanon-explodes-toward-maronite-zion

land day/يوم الأرض

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

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

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

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

taha muhammad ali
taha muhammad ali

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

um al fahm
um al fahm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and in the knesset (or not) :

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

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

in salfit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

al quds capital of arab culture needs to join the boycott NOW!

bokra begins the celebration of al quds as a capital of arab culture. last year it was damascus. i have mixed feelings about these festivals because whether it is damascus or al quds how many arabs are prevented from traveling to participate if they had the money and wanted to go? i was not sure when all of this was beginning, but i saw this in ma’an news yesterday (someone also needs to tell ma’an news that mahmoud abbas is not president any longer!):

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will officially launch a yearlong celebration of Jerusalem as Capital of Arab Culture for 2009 at a ceremony in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Saturday.

Simultaneous ceremonies will also take place in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Gaza, Nazareth (a Palestinian city inside Israel), and Mar Ilias Refugee Camp in Lebanon. The simultaneous celebrations are an attempt to build a cultural bridge between Palestinian communities in Palestine and in the Diaspora.

The Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture festival has faced an uphill battle organizing events in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem. The Israeli-controlled Municipality has not granted any permits for events to take place there.

so, of course, i went to their website to see what was going on because i knew i’d be in ramallah and i thought i would see if any activities were going on nearby. all i found on all the calendar thus far is going on in paris, not palestine. but what was really shocking was that the organizers of this conference–on culture–are clearly not interested in the boycott campaign as they have decided that israeli terrorist cinema–and here i mean this quite literally: the cinema created by an israeli terrorist who participated int he mass murder of palestinians in shatila refugee camp and the surrounding neighborhood–counts as al quds culture. here is an screen shot from their website (or you can click the link to see it):

picture-2

what i want to know is this: why is it that they are ignoring a cultural boycott and acting like israeli terrorist even have a culture (or if they do, of course, it is stolen like everything else there)? this is about arab culture not the colonists’ so-called culture. note to organizers: wake up and join the boycott. for those who don’t understand why this is the film of a terrorist you may read about it here (two different reviews):

in arabic: رقصة الموت: «فالس مع بشير» والعطف على القاتل

in english: Film review: “Waltz with Bashir”

and for those who need a reminder of why boycott is a necessary form of resistance, here is what israeli terrorists did today with their terrorist soldiers in relation to the al quds festival:

Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture 2009 planners have no intention to change scheduled events in light of an Israeli police decision to shut down the cultural festival.

Additional police and border guards will be deployed with the task of blocking celebrations of Jerusalem (Al-Quds in Arabic) and Palestinian culture. Police say the festival is illegal because it is sponsored by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Israel banned all PA activity in the city in 2000.

The threats have not changed plans for the event, however. “People are going ahead,” said Najwa Silwadi, Director of the Community Action Center, a Jerusalem community support and legal rights expertise hub for Jerusalemites.

Silwadi explained that organizers were prepared to deal with the realities of Jerusalem, including the refusal for permits to hold large events celebrating Palestinian culture. She noted that small-scale community-based events will be hosted by dozens of community centers like hers in the Old City.

One of the activities planned is a series of traditional childrens’ games, run by dozens of volunteers, set to take place at Damascus Gate – the main entrance to the Old City – on the afternoon of the opening day.

“These are children playing games,” Silwadi said, “What are the police going to do?”

Israeli police spokesperson Mickey Rosenfeld, however, noted that “All Palestinian activity [sic] inside Jerusalem is illegal… [and] the cultural festival won’t take place as far as the courts and police are concerned.” He said that police would be deployed in the early hours of Saturday.

Commenting on the decision to stifle the cultural events, member of the planning committee Mohammed Edwan said, “the program will be a public, artistic, cultural and peaceful; it will not be an occasion to link arms and throw stones.” He called the events planned for Jerusalem an “expression of our simple happiness in our ability to honor our traditions.”

On Thursday night police stormed Jerusalem’s Christmas Hotel where organizers were discussing plans for the festival, which is scheduled to begin on Saturday. Police seized a laptop, documents, and the ID cards of the planners.

Because the festival is banned in the city it is meant to honor, the official launch event is planned to take place in Bethlehem, ten kilometers to the south, behind Israel’s concrete wall and within the PA’s jurisdiction.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed the area as part of its “eternal undivided capital.” Palestinians still regard the city as their capital and the international community does not recognize Israeli control over the area.

A spokesperson for the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality said that police in Israel are controlled by the federal government, and that it was not the municipality’s decision to ban the festival.

need i say more?

when people go looking for crumbs…

i find it rather shocking that palestinian and pro-palestinian bloggers are salivating over this new short animated video by yoni goodman who was the director of animation for the academy-award nominated film waltz with bashir. it is produced by some new project called the closed zone, which is affiliated with gisha, an israeli organization working on freedom of movement issues. i wasn’t going to post it, but given that i haven’t seen any critiques of it i feel that i should:

in theory the concept is good and the animation is interesting. simple, but interesting. but here is my problem: notice that when this boy tries to cross the border into rafah you see the the hands stopping him have shirts cuffs and those cuffs are primarily with the colors of egypt and one with israeli terrorist colors on the cuff. but every other time the boy tries to cross into 1948 palestine or into the mediterranean sea, there are naked hands with no cuffs. so as to remove blame from the fact that it is israeli terrorists who keep palestinians imprisoned in gaza.

i haven’t seen waltz with bashir, nor do i want to. but i trust the reading of as’ad abukhalil on this:

The film strives, as always happens in the liberal Zionist media, to introduce, up close, every soldier who appears in the film. You see the soldier as a child, helping his mother in the kitchen, you see him with his sweetheart, you see him sea-sick and vomiting, and there is nothing but for the viewer to lament and sympathize with the suffering Israeli murderer. There is a particular school in the Zionist Left that expresses its displeasure—nay, more—that some of the practices of Israeli wars and various aspects of the occupation are detrimental to “the Israeli spirit” or “the psychology of soldier.” In other words, for some of these people—like the thousands who demonstrated after the massacres of Sabra & Shatila—opposition to the slaughter came not out of sympathy with the victims or consciousness of the disaster that befell them, but out of support for the national (and, for some, even religious) fighting élan of the colonialist army. The humanization of the murderer and sympathy for him are both the flip side of the dehumanization of the Palestinian Other, for he is not a complete person in their view. Read Zionist literature from the beginning to find in their representation—if they were there at all—backward peasants or lowly bedouins or nondescript refugees without citizenship, later transformed into “saboteurs” (and this is the same name that the Phalangist “Voice of Lebanon” radio used in the course of the war) in the 1960s, until Zionist propaganda finally settled upon the description “terrorist”. The film doesn’t deviate from the formula, even with regard to that splendid boy when he fires an RPG launcher in the face of the occupier.

But, the (im)moral standard of the film is evident from the beginning when the narrator suffers from nightmares because he killed some dogs in South Lebanon. And in another scene, an Israeli soldier bemoans the plight of the horses in Beirut’s hippodrome, for the animals are more valuable than the Arab according to a racial hierarchy that doesn’t differ in its essentials from Nazi hierarchy. There is a liberal American organization—which has been utterly indifferent to the lives of the people of Palestine—that ran a campaign to care for the animals in Gaza. The Arab and the Muslim in the liberal standard of the white man is of a lower rank than the animal. The Western viewer will sympathize with the Israeli soldier because he seemed the most affected by the killing of animals at the hands of the Arabs in the devastation of 1982.

And then there is the most important thing. Why the Zionist focus on the massacre of Sabra & Shatila and not all the other massacres the Israeli aggressor committed in 1982, when it killed close to 20,000 Palestinians and Lebanese, most of whom were civilians? The reason is clear, and it has no connection to the atrocities the Lebanese forces committed among the massacres that fill any history of the Lebanese civil war. Israel wants, in its propaganda focus on Sabra & Shatila to the exclusion of others, to evade—not to assume—responsibility. And this is what Folman means in the propaganda hype for the film when he says, “Israeli soldiers had nothing to do with that massacre,” so Israel chose a massacre that was committed at the hands of its allies to remain at a distance from responsibility. Israel (and the film) wants to say that it did not carry out these heinous acts, even though Israel in the 1982 invasion killed many times the number of victims of that despicable massacre. The facile clichés of racial hatred are parroted over and over: that the Arabs kill in defense of “honor” and as a “show of force”, as if vengeance were not a quality of Zionism. Bashir Gemayel and his wife who fixed Lebanese meals for Ariel Sharon did not understand that, despite their claim to be “Phoenician”, Zionists look at them as Arabs, willy-nilly, no matter how much they pretended and no matter how much Amine Gemayel tried to appear sophisticated. The film passes over the breadth of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, intentionally omitting a number of stubborn facts. The film doesn’t want to mention, for instance, that Israel did not dare invade Beirut until after the elite fighters of the powerful Palestinian resistance were evacuated, and after the enemy [Israel] put thousands of women and children in concentration camps. But the film revealed what was hidden: that the soldiers of occupation were afraid of us. The boys in the camp of Ein el-Hilweh in Rashidiyah scared them. It can be said that we fell for the propaganda trick of 1948 to 2006. No one denies (except Wahhabi or Zionist propaganda—and they are allies these days) that the 2006 war put an end for eternity to the largest strategic component in the arsenal of the enemy: the power to intimidate and to sow the illusion of fearlessness on their own side. And if this component wasn’t eliminated, then why did the aggression on Gaza develop along the course they did, without a settlement in the enemy’s advantage? As the ideological defender of the Israeli soldier says: service in the army became a function of making a living. And for us, the opposite happened: the fighting is no longer done by people who practice it professionally to earn money, but rather by courageous volunteers and adherents to conviction (which appears as religious doctrine these days).

And when you see the film, you should remember that painful time. Watch it in fury. I found myself scrutinizing the drawings of the enemy soldiers’ faces and asking myself: did I see one of these when I took refuge in the town of el-Qalila near Tyre in summer 1982? Did one of them stop me at their checkpoint? Did one of these participate in our morning assembly in the plaza of el-Qalila in order to isolate the “terrorists” among us, based on the suggestions of masked informants? And I found myself following the film in anger and rage as it attempted to re-write that era. Why didn’t the national movement deal early on with the emergence of the Phalange, which flourished since the 1950s (according to Hebrew sources) under the protection of the state of Israel? Why didn’t the Palestinian left and the non-Arafat wing of the Fatah movement deal with Yasser Arafat who did the impossible, to thwart the possibilities for the Lebanese and Palestinian revolution? It was possible to establish an effective resistance in South Lebanon in 1978 after the first invasion. At the time, the Iraqi [Marxist] Hashim Mohsin Ali set out to launch (and name) the Popular Resistance Front for the Liberation of Lebanon from the Occupation and Fascism, and he got in touch with Mohsin Ibrahim and George Hawi, but Arafat (who sponsored both) refused. He preferred to use Lebanon to negotiate the formation of the resistance factions. Thus, Arafat’s military appointments, such as Haj Ismail and Abu Zaim, were not without design. He planted corrupt people to thwart the resistance.

It is painful to watch the film for those who can distinguish landmarks and streets and gardens. What are they doing on our land? The film wants you to sympathize with soldiers of the occupation and to forget that the occupiers of Palestine walk and wander in panicked fear on the occupied land of others. It is the occupation repeated and doubled. The film wants us to accept their occupation and feel only the pain of the witness to the murder of Palestinians at the hands of gangs from the Lebanese forces who arose and flourished and grew by a decision from Israel. But this Israeli insistence on separating the army of occupation from the forces of one Israeli man in Lebanon represents an evasion of direct responsibility for the invasion. Watch the film and remember that era and let the politicians of Lebanon run before your eyes. Remember those who collaborated with the occupation in those days. Bashir Gemayal was being threatened by Israeli forces but he was not destined to harvest the fruits of the hostility he fostered. And Samir Ja`ja` (Ga`ga` in Egyptian accent), leader of these gangs who slaughtered in Sabra & Shatila, is today looked to in the subject of Lebanon’s defense strategy. As for Solange [Gemayel], who told Sharon and his wife that she wanted them to be her first guest in the presidential palace in Baabda, she brought a hateful quartet alliance to the Lebanese parliament. And one of the leaders of the gangs in the Sabra & Shatila massacres (who, like Ja`ja`, received training and guidance from Israel), Elie Hobeika, transformed by Rafik Hariri and the Syrian regime and their allies into national leaders. And then there is Johnny Abdo, close companion since the early years of Rafiq Hariri, as recounted by Heikal and Abdullah AbuHabib. The smiling Johnny Abdo, who hosted Ariel Sharon in his home, when he was asked if army intelligence was during his time sending car bombs to West Beirut, replied that he would neither confirm nor deny. Hariri wanted to appoint him President, but before he ended up President, he was receiving (as Hassan Sabra recently reported) monthly payments of $350,000 (the builder of the modern state began construction by bribing the President of the Republic of Lebanon). The period of the Israeli invasion didn’t erase the memory of anyone who lived through it. Remember its details and preludes. How Lebanon’s little Hitler, Bashir Gemayel, made use of Israel to threaten his enemies among the Lebanese. When Bashir Gemayel learned of the order for Israel’s aggression—before anyone heard of “Shlomo Argov”—he summoned the [Lebanese state TV] anchor Arafat Hejazi to speak about the threat of “the decision”. After the end of filming, Gemayel persisted in loading Hejazi—as he told me later—with vulgar, obscene insults for [Prime Minister] Safik Wazzan, although he was an obedient tool in the hands of Elias Sarkis and Amin Gemayel after him. It is true that a number of militias committed the massacre, but the crimes of the Lebanese Forces were larger than the others 1) because they started the ethnic and sectarian cleansing, 2) they started the practice of killing based on [sectarian] identity, 3) they maintained relations with Israel since the 1950s, 4) they prepared for war and set it ablaze and insisted on its continuation and 5) they attempted to import the model of fascism—a Nazi regime in the land of cedar and oak. But all the ambitious projects were shattered on the rocks of their own factionalism. And the arms of the boys in the Ein el-Hilweh camp started a journey that has not ended. They allowed the extinction of the model of reckless military corruption that Arafat oversaw, and initiated actions of resistance against Israel since its formation.

The film doesn’t want to speak of history. It doesn’t want to speak of suffering. Even when Zionist liberals touch upon suffering, they mean the suffering of the murderers. The nightmares of occupation soldiers are more important than the suffering of the victims of Sabra & Shatila. The soldiers speak of only their suffering, and don’t allow Arab victims to speak about their own suffering. The nightmares of occupation soldiers were more horrible than the killing of children in brutal Israeli bombardment before and after Sabra & Shatila.

the above writings are a translation from his article in al akhbar, which you can read in arabic here.

one of the main issues people who have seen the film is absence: absence of the palestinians in it. but also absence of the israeli terrorists who are responsible for the massacre of palestinians in shatila refugee camp and the surrounding neighborhood of sabra. this seems to be a theme in the feature-length film as well as in the above animation short where israelis are absent in their complicity of their massacring and murdering of palestinians in gaza. here is some of naira antoun’s analysis of the film in her review for electronic intifada:

To say that Palestinians are absent in Waltz with Bashir, to say that it is a film that deals not with Palestinians but with Israelis who served in Lebanon, only barely begins to describe the violence that this film commits against Palestinians. There is nothing interesting or new in the depiction of Palestinians — they have no names, they don’t speak, they are anonymous. But they are not simply faceless victims. Instead, the victims in the story that Waltz with Bashir tells are Israeli soldiers. Their anguish, their questioning, their confusion, their pain — it is this that is intended to pull us. The rotoscope animation is beautifully done, the facial expressions so engaging, subtle and torn, we find ourselves grimacing and gasping at the trials and tribulations of the young Israeli soldiers and their older agonizing selves. We don’t see Palestinian facial expressions; only a lingering on dead, anonymous faces. So while Palestinians are never fully human, Israelis are, and indeed are humanized through the course of the film.

We most often see Palestinians — when we do see them — being blown to pieces or lying dead, but there is one scene where mourning Palestinian women occupy a street. They don’t speak; they cry and shout. We don’t see the hard lines of their grief, we don’t see their tears. Rather, the focus zooms into the face of the younger Folman watching them as his breathing becomes more shallow, functioning as the emotional anchor of the scene. This is very typical of the film in that the suffering and experiences of Palestinians are significant principally for the effects that they have on the Israeli soldiers, and never in their own right.

Several critics have noted the real — and horrifying — footage from Sabra and Shatila at the end of the film. Indeed the only people portrayed in the film who are not animated are Palestinians in this footage. There is a woman screaming and crying. She shouts “my son, my son” in Arabic. She repeats again and again in Arabic “take photos, take photos,” “where are the Arabs, where are the Arabs.” But her words are not subtitled; she is just a screaming woman and her words are irrelevant and incomprehensible. So even in the same gesture whereby we are reminded that the massacre was no animation and it was a real event, the victims of that massacre are presented to us in a way that is deeply dehumanizing and “othering.” The coping of the wailing Palestinian mother cannot compete with the quiet reflection and mild manners of the Israeli veteran. Folman does not talk to any Palestinians and the only Palestinians we see are in flashbacks and this footage at the end of the film. Not only are Palestinians essentially absent then, they are also of one time — Sabra and Shatila. Palestinians are not part of time’s passage; they are frozen in an incomprehensible, and in effect inaudible, wail.

It is not that the absence of Palestinians is necessarily a problem per se. There are indeed films where what is absent is key, and therefore has a presence that is all the more significant. In Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Rebecca, for example, the haunting absence of the true central character, the traces of her, the allusions to her, make Rebecca all the more present. Not so with the Palestinians in Waltz with Bashir. They are peripheral to the story of the emotional life of Israeli veterans, a story of Israeli self-discovery and redemption. Indeed, it transpires that the filmmaker does not need to find out about Sabra and Shatila for a full understanding of his own role there, of what happened, of his responsibility, of truth. Rather, Sabra and Shatila are a portal to “other camps.” The psychologist-friend cum philosopher-priest-moral-compass tells Folman that this is in fact all about “another massacre,” “those other camps.” At this point it transpires that Folman’s parents were camp survivors. “You were engaged with the massacre a long time before it happened,” the psychologist says, “through your parents’ Auschwitz memory.” The solution that he suggests is for Folman to go to Sabra and Shatila to find out what happened. Everything falls into place. This is the meaning of Sabra and Shatila — a means, a mechanism, a chapter in Israeli self-discovery and coming to peace. The Palestinians are doubly absent.

Folman’s psychologist friend, like many psychologists one presumes, often talks in therapist mode, in addition to his priest-philosopher mode. He puts forward the idea that Folman suppressed the memories because his 19-year-old self — with the Palestinian camps as simulacrum for those “other camps” — unwittingly associated himself with the Nazis. But, he reminds Folman now, at Sabra and Shatila Folman did not kill, he “only lit flares.” So while Folman has been teetering on the edge of an overwhelming guilt, his psychologist friend drags him from the precipice. Folman and his contemporaries need not carry the guilt of being perpetrators — they were accomplices. They lit flares so that Israel’s ally in Lebanon, the Phalange militia butchering Palestinians could see what they were doing.

The question of who was doing whose dirty work is not so easily answered however Israel was nobody’s sidekick when it invaded Lebanon. The film does not show us the Israeli shelling of Beirut that led to 18,000 deaths and 30,000 wounded, the violations committed against civilians, the destruction of Palestinian and Lebanese resistance. And what about the fact that the Palestine Liberation Organization and armed resistors had been evacuated more than two weeks before the massacres, and that it was the day after multinational forces left Beirut that Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon made it known that 2,000 “terrorists” remained in the camps? The focus of Folman’s quest for responsibility in Waltz with Bashir hones in on lighting the flares as the Phalangists “mopped up” the camps. That two months before the massacres Sharon had announced his objective to send Phalangist forces into the camps, that the Israeli army surrounded and sealed the camps, that they shelled the camps, that snipers shot at camp dwellers in the days before the massacres, and then having given the green light to the Phalangists to enter Sabra and Shatila, the Israeli army prevented people from fleeing the camps — all of this is absent in Waltz with Bashir.

In the film, it is on the shoulders of the Lebanese Phalangists that responsibility for the massacres is unequivocally placed. The Israeli soldiers have qualms and do not act on them, the Israeli leadership are told and do nothing, while it is the Phalangists who are depicted as brutal and gratuitously violent. But just as this is not a film about Palestinians, nor is it a film about the Lebanese Phalangists — it is a film about Israelis. The point seems to be to set up the young Israeli soldiers as morally superior to these blood-thirsty beasts, not only in that it was not they but the Phalangists who actually massacred and executed, but also in their very way of being in the world, they are superior.

In a moment of what is presumably supposed to pass as brutal honesty, one of Folman’s friends remarks sadly of how he realized that he “wasn’t the hero who saves everyone’s life.” Essentially this is the limit of the notion of responsibility in this film: the Israeli veteran’s guilt at not having been a hero. The pain of having done nothing at the time, although there were stirrings in their consciences, even then — which the film contrasts with the Israeli leadership, and most starkly with the Phalangists.

The immediate aftermath of Sabra and Shatila witnessed a rare, if limited, moment of Israeli self-reflection. It seems odd that an Israeli film grappling with responsibility for the massacres completely elides this moment in Israeli history and collective memory. After demonstrations of more than 300,000 persons, the Kahan Commission was set up by the Israeli government to undertake an inquiry into what happened at Sabra and Shatila. The inquiry had several limitations, and one of its conclusions was that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was indirectly, but personally, responsible for the massacres, and his ministerial portfolio was taken away. Of course the same Ariel Sharon was later elected and re-elected prime minister of Israel.

As Folman and those he speaks with recount what happened when they were in Lebanon, there is a lot of “while they’re shooting at us from all directions,” “we are attacked, we retaliate.” There is no sense that Israel invaded Lebanon — the word “invasion” is barely used in the whole film. The soldiers are young men going off to war in fighting spirit, fantasizing about women, wondering at how to prove their masculinity, licking the wounds of being dumped by girlfriends. They are singing songs with upbeat tunes and lyrics such as “Good morning Lebanon … you bleed to death in my arms,” “I bombed Sidon,” “I bombed Beirut, I bombed Beirut every day.” These lyrics are supposed to grate, but one nevertheless gets a sense of naive hapless kids who have no sense of the trauma that they are unwittingly walking into. One imagines that Folman would respond to the criticism that Israel’s role is not made clear in the film, that these hapless kids are also members of an invading army committing acts of aggression, by saying that this would be going into the realm of politics, and rather this is intended to be a human film. One of the more disquieting views coming from admiring quarters is that the film is great for a general audience because one doesn’t need to know any background information to appreciate the film. That Israel launched a brutal offensive that led to the deaths of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians is apparently not relevant. With “politics” and the “background” rendered off-limits, we are left with something that is misleading and inane. Its principal message becomes “war sucks.” And why does war suck? Because it is traumatizing — principally for the soldiers. When Waltz with Bashir won the Golden Globe for best foreign film in January, while the force of the Israeli military machine was being unleashed against Gaza, while war crimes and atrocities were being committed by Israeli soldiers, Folman could only muster, “My film is anti-war, and therefore would, sadly, always be relevant.” Given the evasion of responsibility and decontextualization that lie at the core of this film, this was hardly surprising.

In the final analysis, this is what Waltz with Bashir is about: the evasion of responsibility. It is not that the self-reflection offered by the film is only partial, and that we would simply be nay-sayers to be dissatisfied with it. Because there is no sense of what the Israeli role in Lebanon was, because it is about ethically and morally redeeming the filmmaker and his contemporaries — and by extension the Israeli self, military and nation, the Israeli collective in other words — because of all this, the film is an act not of limited self-reflection but self-justification. It is a striving towards working through qualms to restabilize the self as it is currently constituted; it does not ask challenging questions that would destabilize that self. And we are reminded of the psychologist’s comment near the start of the film: “We don’t go to places we don’t want to. Memory takes us where we want to go.” Perhaps this explains how at the same time that Gaza was being decimated, Israel heaped acclaim and awards on Waltz with Bashir; in addition to numerous international awards, the film scooped up six awards at the Israeli Film Academy. Indeed, the same Israelis who flocked to see the film gave their enthusiastic approval to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. According to a poll released on 14 January by Tel Aviv University, a staggering 94 percent of Israeli Jews supported or strongly supported the operation.

What is alarming is not the approbation that the film is enjoying. That is to be expected. What is so disturbing about the reception of Waltz with Bashir are those liberal Arabs, Palestinian and others, who have been gushing. There is no reason to be so easily satisfied, to ask for so little from Israelis. If Palestinians do not continue to call Israel to account, then who will?

In his anti-colonial classic, The Wretched of the Earth, psychiatrist and revolutionary Franz Fanon includes at the end a series of case studies of his patients. There are torture victims. But there are also torturers who are unsettled, who are suffering, who are having nightmares. Fanon brings out the absurdity — and inhumanity — of the notion that they want therapy to be at peace with what they do, and clearly have every intention of continuing to do. Waltz with Bashir answers the collective Israeli call for precisely this kind of therapy.

on knowledge

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there are so many challenges here on a daily basis. this is, of course, in addition to the challenges of living in a place that is invaded daily by israeli terrorists and increasingly by their collaborating partners in the palestinian authority. some of the challenges are good. for instance, in my postcolonial literature class this week my students had read an excerpt of edward said’s culture and imperialism. i love teaching this class, especially here, but it is always so disheartening to be confronted with my students’ gaps in knowledge. i talked about how european colonialism (and now, of course, american imperialism) uses culture as a way to justify its colonial rule and as a way to prove its superiority. said uses the example of edmund spencer’s the fairie queen, which helped to justify england’s colonial project in ireland. i asked them to think about what said says in relation to this superiority as it always comes with subjugation of indigenous culture. i asked my students to think about this in relation to their studies here. my students, who study literature in english, have been taught that shakespeare is somehow superior to abu nuwas. when i mentioned the numerous artistic achievements in arab and islamic civilization, over the course of centuries, they seemed shocked. i still can’t get over this, but they did. apparently they are not only missing out on palestinian history and culture in their educational system, but also ancient arab and islamic culture. and, of course, no one has told them–until they read said’s chapter–that all of this so-called great literature and culture in europe originated in egypt and came to europe by way of greece, a fact that was conveniently erased by europeans in the 19th century as yet another way for them to rationalize their imperialism across the globe. but my students didn’t learn this in school. and, equally problematic, they do not seek it out on their own. one student told me the other day that she watches lbc television and she asked me if all lebanese people, especially women, are just like what she sees on that channel. i thank god that this is so far from the truth, but again, what disturbs me is that although she has also watched al manar or al jadeed somehow she has not synthesized the information in a way as to get a more complete picture of the complex society that exists in lebanon. moreover, why doesn’t such curiosity lend itself to reading some of the amazing poetry or novels by lebanese authors to give her a more diverse picture? i mean, this is what literature majors should do. or at least what i wish they would do.

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this challenge–to help my students learn about and value the awesomeness of the history and culture in this region–is one that i welcome. i am happy to share such knowledge with my students. and indeed it seems to me that they are eager to learn these things. but other challenges i do not find welcome like when i taught lorraine hansberry’s a raisin in the sun in my drama class this week. when i write a syllabus–especially here–i spend hours, if not weeks, searching for the perfect texts to teach. i have so many things i must balance. first and foremost i want texts that will inspire my students to read. to want to read for class and to want to read beyond the class assignments. second, i have to find texts that will be accessible to non-native speakers (which also means i have to pay attention to length). third, i have to make sure that a text is compatible with/respectful to islam. this means, for instance, that my postcolonial literature class contains no novels by women as i cannot find any that do not deal with sex and sexuality. this is a time consuming process to say the least. but it is usually rewarding. one of the plays i wanted to teach this semester is a raisin in the sun because of the themes of poverty and racism, of family, and of the freedom to live where one wants to live. i choose texts, too, with themes that resonate with my students here, with the context in palestine. so i had wanted them to see such parallels in this play. after class on wednesday, one of my students–who took this class from me last semester and failed–came up to complain that there is sex in the play. i said, of course there is no sex in this play; there are a couple of kisses between a man and a woman who are married. and islam actually celebrates sexuality within marriage–far more so than any other monotheistic religion. he told me that the play is 7aram. that i should not be teaching this play here. after our argument about this several other students stayed after class to tell me how much they loved the play and were happy that i shared it with them. but i couldn’t help but feel disturbed by his reaction. aside from the fact that there is decidedly nothing 7aram in this play, fixating on two kisses which compromise about 1% of the play, if that, means that he missed the larger point of the play. but also: what plays don’t have kissing. shakespeare? his plays are far more bawdy than this play. but also this suggests to me not that this student is a scholar of islam and has some particular problem with the representations in the play. rather, i feel that this has more to do with resisting education. with being open to new ideas. when you couple this with the horrendous gaps in the education system here, i become very disturbed.

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i needed some kind of an antidote to all of this. a dose of reality. so after school yesterday i headed over to balata refugee camp. when i was in lebanon i got a stack of 17 village books and i’ve been photocopying them and giving them to libraries and refugee camp cultural centers here. these village books are amazing. they are created in palestinian refugee camps in lebanon, jordan, and syria. they are done by people from and about their original villages in 1948 palestine. they are incredibly detailed with maps marking water wells, where weddings were celebrated, everything about village life. there are title deeds reproduced, photographs, as well as the history of these villages. one thing i love about them is that the people who do them do not take any money or support from any political faction. these village books are entirely independent. this project has not really been done here–not by people from the villages, although some scholars have attempted to do this work. but it isn’t the same. these are precious oral historical texts that are unlike anything else. and indeed they were received as precious gifts, as gems. knowledge is welcome there. desired, required. though there are limitations there, too, like everywhere else.

one of my students from balata is working on her research paper about palestinian resistance. she gave me a draft to read the other day. it was not at all a research on palestinian resistance. it was a glorification of fatah and its resistance. i told her–as i tell all my students–that research means you have to be willing to interrogate a subject, even one that is dear to your heart. you have to explore various points of view and question all of them. i told her she needs to read yezid sayigh’s armed struggle and the search for state, which is the bible on the subject. yet another barrier to knowledge here: the glorification of particular leaders and the unwillingness to see faults and learn from mistakes.

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when i got home i received a happy call from my dear friend areej who was in ramallah. she called to say she was on her way to nablus with a friend. i was so overjoyed to see her, not because i think she is one of the most amazing women i know. but also because i admire her so much: her desire to always learn, read, understand, know. she is always reading, always wanting to know more about palestine and everything else. this is what most of my close friends are like here, but i have not met enough people in nablus who are like this. i met her downtown and we went out to dinner at my new favorite restaurant, saleem offendi. it’s a bit hard to find as there are no signs, but it is a stunning old nabulsi home that has been renovated. after dinner we went out for knafe, because you cannot come to nablus without eating knafe. but it was late and a lot of the knafe shops were closed. we found one on the verge of closing. their doors were open, but they were out of knafe. these first four photographs explain what happened next. areej’s friend had never had knafe so of course they couldn’t send us home. instead they made us coffee and invited us into the kitchen to show us how they make knafe. i had never seen it made from scratch before so this was a great treat. and to top it off he made us a valentine’s knafe with pistachio heart on top.

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we woke up to amazingly beautiful weather today, which was welcomed after intense thunder storms this week and really cold temperatures. after areej went back to deheishe refugee camp, i went to my new friend and colleague abdel sattar qasim’s house for lunch. we spent a lovely afternoon on his veranda enjoying the warm sunlight and his beautiful garden that is just beginning to show some blossoms on the almond and peach trees. he showed me around the neighborhood and the amazing view as he lives on one of the highest mountains in nablus. i asked him about that 60 minutes episode with bob simon a few weeks ago–specifically about the house that israeli terrorists occupy and take over, holding the family hostage on a regular basis. and that house happens to be directly next door to his house. and indeed you can see over the city from this mountain, though not really the old city. this is why they invade regularly. and the israeli terrorists graced us with their presence while we were out on the veranda (see photos above/below). they invaded for about an hour mostly, it seems, to observe what was going on in the city below. even a beautiful, almost-spring day they must disrupt. but in spite of this i had an amazing time and a delicious meal.

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abdel sattar qasim is, unfortunately, a rare kind of person. he is someone whose politics are pure. he believes in the liberation of palestine. he refuses to belong to any political party. he supports all forms of resistance. and as a result of his outspokenness on the subject he has been in and out of israeli colonist and palestinian jails. in fact, i found out later today that my dear friend ziad was in an israeli colonist prison with him and abdel sattar was his teacher there. he taught ziad to speak english in the jail. ziad–another one of my friends whom i deeply admire–is someone who loves to call his time in prison “the university.” and he is like a few of my friends who are my age and who are now pursuing their education because when they were younger they were in the resistance and/or in jail. but their desire for knowledge was never eclipsed.

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i could listen to abdel sattar speak forever. the way he describes the factionalization of palestine. the way he longs for a palestinianization of education and life here. the way he is completely unwilling to normalize with israeli colonists and the way he is completely unwilling to give up on liberating 100% of palestine. he is one of the rare people who has not sold out. and yet as a consequence he is alternately labeled in the media here as either an israeli collaborator or as hamas. it seems people cannot handle the fact that he is an independent thinker and actor; they want to affix a label to him. before the madrid conference the american ambassador wanted him to attend the conference that led to normalization and that killed the more unified liberation struggle. he refused. even the israeli colonial governor commanded that he go and he said he’d prefer prison. and before that he went to lebanon in the 1970s to join the resistance and even then found that the various factions did not meet his high standards. and he wrote about this–he has written numerous books. he wrote then–i think in 1979–a book about how yassir ‘arafat had been serving the interests of americans and israelis, which is what we saw when they agreed to leave lebanon as a prelude to the massacre of palestinians in the shatila refugee camp and the surrounding neighborhood of sabra; this israeli-kata’eb massacre was made possible by the evacuation of all the freedom fighters. he has so many other specific examples of fatah coordinating with the israeli colonial and american masters, especially the way in which whenever it seems like they are losing favor among the people they attack the pa or fatah or ‘arafat (think the muqat’a in 2002). this, in the end, makes it possible for people to consolidate their support for the pa. he read so much and has experienced so much. and he has written so much. his books are bestsellers here. and yet his critiques of fatah and ‘arafat and of the palestinian authority have not had an effect; i wish they would. his voice is so badly needed, but this educational system in place here, which serves the needs of the pa (think louis althusser’s ideological state apparatus) keeps people in the dark. indeed, it so much easier to rule over a people made ignorant. but it is more than this, too. the salaries fatah gives to people here are like bribes. so many families cannot live without that money and if you speak out against fatah or the pa your salary disappears. it’s like hush money. it maintains the status quo. i could go on and on. i hope that he takes a break from writing his political science books and writes a memoir because his life sheds so much light on all of these themes and i think he is such a role model.

big lies of israeli terrorist propaganda about gaza

on friday the children & youth center (cyc) in shatila refugee camp had a protest against israeli terrorism in the courtyard of the cyc. here are some of the images from that protest for the people of gaza so they know that there are many people who are working to support their steadfastness, their resistance.

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likewise, tomorrow students at the american university of beirut are holding a protest/strike in solidarity with the people of gaza, with the students of gaza who do not have the luxury of going to classes and studying right now:

من أجل غزة

لا بد لكل من في قلبه ذرة انسانية أن يتألم لمناظر الشهداء من المدنيين والفلاحين والنساء والأطفال الذين سقطوا على أيدي العدو الصهيوني.

قد لا يكون بوسعنا نحن كأفراد ومدنيين أن نوقف العدو الصهيوني عن اقتراف جرائمه، حتى التظاهر في دولنا العربية ضد العدوان الإسرائيلي لن يكترث له الإسرائيليون وهم المعتادون على تجاهل القرارات الدولية، إلا أنه لا يزال واجبًا لأن إخوتنا في غزة يحتاجون لأن يشعروا بأن إخوتهم يقفون معهم.

هذا من ناحية، ومن ناحية أخرى، وبالنسبة إلى مشهد النظام الرسمي العربي، يمكنننا تكثيف جهودنا لنحدث تغييرًا حقيقيًا.

والتركيز الآن على النظام المصري، كونه مصممًا على إغلاق حدوده مع غزة في وجه المعونات الغذائية وفي وجه الأطباء والممرضين المتطوعين للذهاب إلى هناك، بحجة الخوف من استخدام معبر رفح لتهريب السلاح، وإن كان إمداد أهل غزة بالسلاح واجبًا قوميًا وطنيًا وإنسانيًا، والأدهى من ذلك، بحجة خوفه من تدفق النازحين إلى مصر، تاركًا أطفال غزة محاصرين تحت نيران العدو الغاشم وقصفه الهمجي لمدارسهم ومنازلهم، مخالفًا بذلك جميع القوانين الدولية واتفاقية جنيف الرابعة القائلة بوجوب فتح الحود في وجه المدنيين النازحين من الحرب.

وهنا تكمن قدرتنا الأكبر، فتظاهراتنا والتعبير عن غضبنا واستيائنا كمواطنين عرب من أفعال العدو الصهيوني و تواطؤ النظام االمصري الذي يرفضه وبشدة شعب مصر الأبي، ستشعر النظام بأن الضغط الشعبي عليه ليس داخليـًا فقط بل ويشمل جميع شعوب الددول العربية. وهذا الضغط والغضب الشعبي لا بد أن يثمر عن نتيجة.

نود أن ندعوا طلاب و أساتذة الجامعة الأمريكية في بيروت وقف الصفوف لمدة ساعة واحدة اليوم و اظهار التضامن مع غزة من خلال الاعتصام ، الذي سيعقد اليوم ، الاثنين 12 يناير على البوابة الرئيسية من الساعة 12:00 – 1:00 بعد الظهر.

النادي الثقافي الفلسطيني

الجامعة الأمريكية في بيروت

For GAZA

Anyone who has the slightest sense of humanity cannot but be moved by the images of the martyred women, men and children that have fallen victim to the onslaught of the Zionist war-machine in Gaza. Demonstrations in the Arab world may not be able to stop the Zionist aggression against our sisters and brothers. Israel does not adhere to UN Security Council resolutions; we do not expect mass demonstrations to deter their determination on exterminating the Palestinian people. However it is our duty to continue these protests in order to show our sisters and brothers in Gaza that they have our unending support.

This said, we must also take into account the role of the Arab regimes; especially that of the Egyptian government. It has insisted on closing their borders and not allowing much needed food, water, medical supplies as well volunteer doctors and nurses into Gaza. Egyptian officials have expressed their fear that weapons may enter Gaza, as if it is not our morally justified duty to supply our sisters and brothers in the Palestinian resistance with arms to defend themselves against a brutal enemy. Furthermore the Egyptian government has expressed their concerns that refugees may flee Gaza and pour into Egypt. These actions and attitudes have left an imprisoned, impoverished, and poorly armed Palestinian army to do battle with the most powerful army in the region.

Our role as active citizens of the Arab World has been laid out for us. We must show our anger towards the Zionist massacres and the Egyptian regime’s actions, which do not reflect the opinions and desires of the proud Egyptian people. The Egyptian regime will feel the popular pressure applied on it; both domestically and throughout the Arab World. This pressure and anger will inevitably result in a change.

We would like to ask AUB community to skip an hour of classes and show solidarity with the people of Gaza through a Sit-in, which will take place today, Monday January 12 at Main Gate from 12 pm – 1 pm

Palestinian Cultural Club

American University of Beirut

blogger al falasteeniya posted a women’s call for a protest in ramallah today, which had some important talking points that i meant to post earlier because it was in relation to a protest today, but their talking points are relevant in general:

أولا: استمرار التحرك في الشارع العربي لاعلاء الصوت الشعبي العربي في ادانة العدوان والضغط على العدو الاسرائيلي والداعم الامريكي لعدوانه لوقف هذا الارهاب الاسرائيلي المجنون على أهلنا في قطاع غزه الباسل.

ثانيا: توجيه الضغط على الانظمة العربية لقطع علاقاتها مع العدو الاسرائيلي ووقف كل أشكال التطبيع معه كما وتوجيه الضغط على الادارة الاميركية لوقف انحيازها المطلق للعدو الاسرائيلي ضد حق شعبنا في الحياة وتقرير المصير، وعقد قمة عربية عاجلة لتوحيد الموقف العربي الداعم لشعبنا ومقاومته المشروعة.

ثالثا: التوجه الى المحافل الدولية والى المؤسسات القانونية ومؤسسات المجتمع المدني لتنظيم الجهد القانوني لتوفير الحماية الدولية لشعبنا، ومعاقبة حكومة العدو الاسرائيلي لتنكرها للمواثيق الدولية، وارتكابها جرائم حرب وإبادة بحق شعبنا.

رابعا: تنظيم الدعم بكل أشكاله المعنويه والماديه من خلال لجان نسائية عربية.

خامسا: ندعوكن الى وقفة نسائية عربية موحدة، في يوم غضب نساء العرب تحت شعار ” أوقفوا العدوان على غزه، وفكوا الحصار عنها” وذلك يوم الأحد 11/1/2009 في الساعة الثانية عشرة بتوقيت القدس.

1. a continuation of protests across the arab world condemning israeli aggression and american support.

2. putting pressure on arab govs to cut ties with israel, stop all forms of normalization.

3. appeal to legal organizations and intl ngos to bring israel to justice for the war crimes it continues to commit.

4. providing various kinds of support for palestine via arab women orgs across the arab world.

5. inviting women all over the world to participate in this protest sunday the 11th of jan.

there is a song making its way across the internet that was written by a man named michael heart. the video on youtube for this song is powerful as are some of the lyrics in relation to the recent news about new layers and levels of israeli terrorist war crimes:

here are the lyrics to heart’s song:

A blinding flash of white light
Lit up the sky over Gaza tonight
People running for cover
Not knowing whether they’re dead or alive

They came with their tanks and their planes
With ravaging fiery flames
And nothing remains
Just a voice rising up in the smoky haze

We will not go down
In the night, without a fight
You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
But our spirit will never die
We will not go down
In Gaza tonight

Women and children alike
Murdered and massacred night after night
While the so-called leaders of countries afar
Debated on who’s wrong or right

But their powerless words were in vain
And the bombs fell down like acid rain
But through the tears and the blood and the pain
You can still hear that voice through the smoky haze

We will not go down
In the night, without a fight
You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
But our spirit will never die
We will not go down
In Gaza tonight

We will not go down
In the night, without a fight
You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
But our spirit will never die

We will not go down
In the night, without a fight

We will not go down
In Gaza tonight

heart’s song speaks to the steadfastness of the spirit of the palestinians in gaza. it also alludes to the illegal weapons like white phosphorous that israeli terrorists are using on the people of gaza as seen in the photo below.

phos

human rights watch reports that white phosphorous is being used in a recent report:

Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus as an “obscurant” (a chemical used to hide military operations), a permissible use in principle under international humanitarian law (the laws of war). However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza’s high population density, among the highest in the world.

“White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. “Israel should not use it in Gaza’s densely populated areas.”

Human Rights Watch believes that the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life. This concern is amplified given the technique evidenced in media photographs of air-bursting white phosphorus projectiles. Air bursting of white phosphorus artillery spreads 116 burning wafers over an area between 125 and 250 meters in diameter, depending on the altitude of the burst, thereby exposing more civilians and civilian infrastructure to potential harm than a localized ground burst.

unfortunately, human rights watch, like most media outlets are banned from entering gaza so doing proper research on it is difficult. but there are those who are on the ground who have been reporting this for weeks now. here is an al jazeera report on the use of white phosphorous in gaza where you can see israeli terrorists rationalize their use of it because american terrorists use it too:

sameh habeeb also reports on casualties related to white phosphorous today:

A-25-woman killed in Khoza’a area due to Phosphorous bombs in Khan Yonis. Around 50 wounded according to medical sources.

one reason you don’t hear about things like this in the american media is because it is blocked, because israeli terrorists are using its propaganda to terrorize people into remaining silent. remaining complicit. here on al jazeera’s “the listening post” you can get a taste of what i’m talking about:

and you can see a bit of this in a more satirical version on jon stewart (who knew? i have only ever seen his comedy as a raving zionist cheerleader–if you don’t believe me go see for yourself how he discussed the israeli invasion of gaza and lebanon in the summer of 2006). but here he seems to be a little different:

there is even a jewish voice for peace campaign now calling for people to send him thank you notes from this website.

one clear example of israeli terrorist propaganda is its attempt to make the world think that hamas uses palestinian children as human shields or schools as launching pads for its rockets. ips reporter thalif deen proves otherwise:

Did the Israelis misidentify a school run by the U.N. Relief Works Agency (UNWRA), where 43 Palestinians seeking shelter were killed in an early morning air strike? Or were there Hamas gunmen shooting from the school drawing Israeli fire?

Neither assertion is accurate, says John Ging, UNRWA’s director of operations in Gaza.

All U.N. schools in Gaza are clearly marked, and they fly the Organisation’s distinctly discernible blue-and-white flags.

Moreover, he told reporters, Israel has been provided with Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of all of UNRWA’s installations in Gaza.

So there could not have been a misidentification of the U.N. school in the Jabaliya refugee camp whose compound was hit by an artillery shell early this week.

Asked if Hamas militants could have taken shelter in the school that was attacked, Ging said that UNRWA was “hugely sensitive” to maintaining the integrity of its facilities.

“We vet all those who seek shelter in our facilities to make sure militants were not taking advantage of them,” he said.

for those who know their zionist history well, and of course be extension world war ii history with which jewish suffering was rammed down their throats so as to ensure that they would never think that anyone else’s suffering in the history of the world was more important than jewish suffering, you know that one of adolf hitler’s tactics was the “big lie.” zionists from the late 19th century when theodor herzl and his cohorts spread lies about an “empty” palestine have used such deception. and they have used it ever since as rannie amiri writes in counterpunch:

In the case of the current Gaza onslaught, Livni’s remark in Paris that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and everything is “completely as it should be” is an excellent example of The Big Lie. Its propagation has no doubt been aided by the Israeli government prohibiting journalists from entering Gaza (despite a High Court ruling ordering them to lift the ban).

But facts always run contrary to The Big Lie. According to the agencies of the United Nations and multiple international relief organizations:

* Eighty percent of Gazans were dependent on humanitarian assistance during the crippling 18-month siege of Gaza but before the outbreak of hostilities.

* Nearly all food shops have closed and there is currently a severe shortage of flour, rice, milk and canned goods.

* One quarter to one half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people are without water. Seventy-five percent have been without electricity for over a week. Fuel is in short supply and with winter at hand, this has caused terrible hardship to the majority who live in unlit, unheated homes (and who are also forced to keep their windows open to prevent shattering glass from nearby explosions).

* Cooking gas is extremely scarce since the tunnels into Egypt—the lifeline that kept Gaza barely afloat during the siege—were bombed.

* Supplies of regular diesel—the only means hospitals have for running backup generators and which they now exclusively run on—are very low. According to the United Nations, these generators are “close to collapse.” Diesel is also needed to run water and sewage pumps; absolute necessities in providing adequate sanitation and preventing the outbreak of disease.

* Even before the military campaign commenced, 75 percent of Gaza’s children were malnourished, 46 percent anemic and 30 percent suffered from stunted growth.

* The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Dr. Richard Falk, said that Israel was “… allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease.”

A hallmark of The Big Lie is its repetition.

“Hamas is trying to create the appearance of a humanitarian crisis, but together with the international organizations, we are preventing this from happening.”

– Colonel Moshe Levi, Commander of the Israeli army’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, 1 January 2009.

The reality:

John Ging, head of the United Nations Relief and Words Agency (UNRWA), the organization responsible for feeding half of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents:

“We have a catastrophe unfolding in Gaza for the civilian population. The people of Gaza City and the north now have no water. That comes on top of having no electricity. They’re trapped, they’re traumatized, they’re terrorized by this situation … The inhumanity of this situation, the lack of action to bring this to an end, is bewildering to them” (Daily Telegraph, 5 Jan 2009).

“Gaza was already bad enough but what I saw today was utter devastation. It’s just horrible to see this, horrible to see civilians caught up in this. Gaza went through ‘crisis’ a long time ago and what I saw today was a catastrophe in the making” (The Guardian, 5 Jan 2009).

Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UNRWA:

“When you look at the Israeli assertions about the humanitarian situation it is very hard to square this with the extraordinarily dire situation on the ground in Gaza. Any claims about human need at this stage need to be grounded in reality” (Daily Telegraph, 1 Jan 2009).

Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories:

“By any definition this is a humanitarian crisis and more” (AFP, 3 Jan 2009).

“The WFP [World Food Programme] stopped sending food in there because their warehouses are full to the top.”

– Major Avital Leibovitz, military spokesman, 4 January 2009.

Christine Van Nieuwenhuyse, WFP representative in Gaza (reported to be “furious” at the above comment):

“The current situation in Gaza is appalling, and many basic food items are no longer available on the market” (Press TV, 2 Jan 2009).

Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories:

“Conditions for parents and children in Gaza are dangerous and frightening. It is absolutely crucial that there is an end to the fighting. Without it, more civilians will continue to be killed. Without the violence stopping, it is extremely difficult to get food to people who need it” (The Scotsman, 3 Jan 2009).

“Electricity and communications are down over much of the strip both on account of lack of fuel and damage to critical infrastructure. Over a million people are currently without power, and over a quarter million without running water, some for up to six days” (Washington Post, 6 Jan. 2009).

The Associated Press, 4 Jan 2009:

And in the central Gaza refugee camp of Nusseirat, Munir Najar said he only had another day’s worth of flour to feed his family of seven, but ventured out to find streets deserted and shops closed.

“There’s not a loaf of bread to be found,” said Najar, 43.

“There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

– Israeli Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel, 4 January 2009.

The New York Times, 5 Jan 2009:

Many here would dispute that [Yehezkel’s statement]. With power lines down, much of Gaza has no electricity. There is a dire shortage of cooking gas.

Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian who was allowed into Gaza last week to give emergency medical aid, and who has worked in many conflict zones, said the situation was the worst he had seen.

The hospital lacked everything, he said: monitors, anesthesia, surgical equipment, heaters and spare parts. Israeli bombing nearby blew out windows, and like the rest of Gaza, here the severely limited fuel supplies were running low.

Dominic Nutt, spokesman for Save the Children:

“We need to deliver more food and blankets to ensure that children do not die of hunger and cold” (Daily Telegraph, 5 Jan 2009).

Sadi Ali, project manager for the Palestinian Water Authority:

“There is a risk of the spread of all sorts of water borne diseases such as dysentery and cholera” (Daily Telegraph, 4 Jan 2009).

Pierre Krähenbühl, Director of Operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):

“There is no doubt in my mind that we are dealing with a full blown and major crisis in humanitarian terms. The situation for the people in Gaza is extreme and traumatic as a result of ten days of uninterrupted fighting. In that sense, their situation has clearly become intolerable” (ICRC.org, 6 Jan 2009).

The truth, as always, runs in stark contrast to the utterances of those peddling the latest of Israel’s Big Lies. Just as in 1948 when the ‘people without a land for a land without a people’ myth was used as cover to expel 700,000 indigenous inhabitants from historical Palestine, The Big Lie is once again being employed to obfuscate the reality of the crimes being committed in Gaza.

Let us hope this time, they do not get away with it.

indeed this big lie is so pervasive that someone from medecins sans frontieres wrote to me and asked me to post this article and a link to it on my blog:

The military offensive in the Gaza Strip is affecting civilians indiscriminately, while medical teams continue to face serious obstacles to providing assistance, the international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today. The international community must not be content with a limited truce, which MSF said is largely inadequate for providing life-saving assistance.

As the Israeli military offensive continues, the toll, estimated at 600 deaths and 2,950 wounded in just 11 days, is reaching alarming proportions and is indicative of extreme violence indiscriminately affecting civilians.

indeed one of the big lies israeli terrorists have been pushing for the last week is that from 1-4 pm each day there is a “lull” for a humanitarian corridor so that aid can get to the palestinian people in gaza. of course, if you watch the news (i.e., not american or british propaganda news like bbc or cnn or fox) you will notice that this is far from the truth:

or here is what natalie abou shakra says about what a “ceasefire” or “lull” looks like on the ground:

Comrade Alberto Arce and comrade Eva Bartlett almost got killed yesterday as the Israeli “defence forces” were defending themselves from the ambulance’s sirens… they said the ambulance siren was bothering them while they were flying their planes in Gaza’s beautiful sky that they make ugly with their presence…they killed two paramedics in the shooting, from the snipers in the surveillance buzzing planes, Mr. and Mrs. Bee. Alberto had his camera on… later the footage was provided to AL Jazeera… at eleven, we accompanied Alberto to his live interview with Al Jazeera from the Ramattan building… he was very nervous… Eva, Mohammad and I watched him as we sat beside him, not appearing on the camera… it was the same studio I was in when Al Jazeera interviewed me the day I set foot in Gaza… I look at the chair, at the desk… at the background which is but a dark body of gloominess behind the chair… of Gaza… without lights… no lights… could death be that dark, I asked myself… we all support Alberto as he is nervous to speak in English… “In Spanish I would fight Bush… but, in English I cannot”… he is from Spain…he spoke bluntly, but as he ends, I tell him he forgot to note down that in the Israeli “defense forces'” “ceasefire” they ceased-fire three children’s souls… Amal, Souad, and Samar, 2, 4, 6 years old respectively from the Abed Rabbu family… they said they were defending themselves against pink pajamas which they mistook for pink Qassam rockets…

and while israeli terrorist reservists are now joining in the killing spree in gaza, the siege has also extended across the border and into egypt, though i don’t suspect hosni mubarak cares any more for the egyptians living on the other side of rafah than he cares for the palestinians in gaza:

Four people in Egypt were reportedly wounded by shrapnel from IAF strikes near Rafah on Sunday night, according to a security official quoted in an AFP report.

Two of the wounded were children, aged two and five, and two were Egyptian police officers.

“Tens of homes” were also damaged in the strikes, which targeted terrorist smuggling tunnels on the Philadelphi Corridor, the official was quoted as saying.

but there was some good news today:

1. hamas fired at american-made f-16s flown by israeli terrorists.

2. iran announced it would boycott those doing business with the zionist entity.

3. palestinian union of workers’ unions called for a boycott of israeli terrorist products

4. and…some group started shooting at israeli terrorists from occupied golan.

all of this on a day when we are reaching close to the 1,000 mark of counting martyrs. some new names of those martyrs were reported in ma’an’s breakdown of today’s war crimes brought to you by the israeli-american terrorist forces:

Five Palestinians were killed in separate strikes near Gaza City and in the Jabaliya Refugee Camp on Sunday evening.

Despite a so-called lull in fighting for the delivery of humanitarian aid, Israeli shelling killed two Palestinians in the Ash-Shuja’eiyah neighborhood, which is east of Gaza City.

Meanwhile, two others died in the northern Gaza Strip refugee camp of Jabaliya, local sources told Ma’an, adding that specifically the Al-Jurn area was hit in the deadly attack.

Those three victims were identified as Mus’ab Khader, Husein Abu Sulkltan and 15-year-old Amal A’lush. A number of others were injured.

Also, Israeli warplanes shelled the home of Mohammad Dahlan in the Ar-Remal neighborhood of Gaza City. Jets also hit the home of Shadi Abu Labad in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip.

Earlier Sunday

Some 30 Gazans have been killed since midnight Sunday and nearly 100 injured, apparently by newly used weaponry that set fires to both the people and buildings targeted.

Israel had not previously used white phosphorous bombs during the Gaza offensive, but by Sunday residents and experts were reporting widespread damage by the weapon, which is not illegal, in the Ghuza’a and Abasan villages east of Khan Younis.

Medical sources at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis said most of the morning’s casualties had been women and children. Medical staff appealed to international agencies for new supplies to deal with burn victims suddenly pouring into the hospital.

Earlier, Sunday dawned with six more Palestinians confirmed dead in Gaza, mainly from the Khuza’a village, which is east of Khan Younis.

Overnight

Israeli warplanes shifted their sights to civilian homes in southern Gaza shortly before dawn, after which strikes began in the north.

Israeli ground troops continued their advance toward Gaza City, as well.

One contingent withdrew northward at dawn, while a second front southwest of Gaza City continued to move toward an abandoned Israeli settlement south of the city.

The identities of two Palestinians killed in the southern Gaza Strip during the night were revealed as 41-year-old Hanan An-Najjar and another unidentified man.

At least 50 were injured as Israeli strikes hit a dozen homes in the village of Khuza’a, many of which were still ablaze through the noon on Sunday.

Also, the body of 17-year-old Usama Abu Rajileh was identified among the dead in Khan Younis.

Attacks in the north began shortly, as well, when four members of the Bashir family were killed by Israeli airstrikes on the family home, which stood in the Al-Karama neighborhood, northwest of Gaza City.

The family was in the home at the time and an unknown number were injured. Witnesses said Ala Bashir “Abu Sheib,” Bashir’s wife, his mother-in-law and son were all killed in the strike. Several other homes in the area were hit.

Strikes then shifted to the northern border town of Beit Lahiya, where locals reported the use of white phosphorous, which set homes ablaze. The strikes killed at least three from the Ma’rouf and Ghaban families and injured dozens more.

Ground troops head north after night of attacks

Witnesses said Israeli troops withdrew from the As-Sudaniyah area, north of Gaza City, after a night of shooting there.

Locals said several homes were raided and their residents “massacred,” after which their homes were burned. Medical sources have until Sunday evening been unable to confirm the number of dead there.

Some of the known raids included the home of Ahmad Aj-Ja’bari, an Al-Qassam Brigades member, in eastern Gaza City. His home was set on fire, as well, as Israeli troops withdrew.

In the southwest quarter of Gaza City clashes were heard in the Al-Sheikh Ajlein neighborhood as Israeli troops approached the evacuated Netsarim settlement, south of the city.

these are the war crimes that you, american citizens, pay for. that you don’t speak out about. you are complicit. i ask you: if these were jews, if this were world war ii, if adolf hitler were still alive, would you keep silent then too?

الصمود في غزة

gaza graffiti on wall outside my old apartment in hamra
gaza graffiti on wall outside my old apartment in hamra

i keep thinking about safa joudeh. the last two days since i read and blogged her words from electornic intifada:

We have fled for too long, Gaza is our last refuge and our home after we were displaced from what is now called Israel. All this happened 60 years ago. What more could they want? We have nowhere left to go. They have disregarded every single international law there is. Now is the time to defend ourselves, now is the time for resistance.

i found her online and i asked her what we can do for her–those who want to support the resistance from beirut or nablus. those who would come to fight in the resistance if we could, but are unable to get there. i was somewhat surprised by her answer, but i think it is important to really think about what she says:

It’s wonderful to hear about the demonstrations being organized and here in Gaza knowing what’s going on in the rest of the world and that people are outraged is truly a huge source of comfort. At this point we feel so helpless, I for one wish that there was more I can do than write! but I think raising awareness is very important and that gives me comfort. And I think that would be the best thing people outside can do to help.

she wants us to write. to raise awareness. to demonstrate. demonstrate so that it makes the media. so that they see it in gaza. to show them that we care. so simple. but we must do this every day. and we must organize and do this in numbers big numbers. like hezbollah: yesterday they got 20,000 people into the streets of nabatiya to march for gaza. yesterday the communists and pflp, who seem to be doing most of the organizing in beirut, got about 20 people to protest in front of the egyptian embassy (well, a few blocks away because the internal security forces [isf] has the street cordoned off with barbed wire) and today in the pouring rain we had maybe 1,000 people at a march from barbir to downtown. but more on that later.

gaza coffins, hamra street, beirut
gaza coffins, hamra street, beirut

last night some dear friends got together to discuss what we could do, how we could not only support palestinians in gaza, but their resistance, their stadfastness, their الصمود. one of my friends told a story about an ‘azza he went to once for a friend whose relative had died. at the time my friend did not think much about the act of going to the ‘azza to pay his condolences for his friend; it is a normal thing people do. but he later learned how much it meant to his friend. after this ‘azza the friend later told my friend that he had divided his friends into two camps: those who paid their condolences and those who did not. something with this clicked with me instantly. i remember when my mom died in my senior year of college. i was very struck by people’s responses to this. those friends who wrote me letters, who called, who came to the funeral indeed were people i remained closed to. those who did nothing i never spoke to again. it is very clear what we need when people we love die: we need to know that people are standing with us; we need to know that people will that there are people who will help us to get through those difficult times. this is the bare minimum that we can do. to lend our emotional support to the palestinian people in gaza. to show them that we are with their armed struggle against zionist colonizers and terrorists 100%. too, after loved ones die, after palestinians in gaza become martyrs we have practical questions of how we can help prepare them to carry on this revolution to liberate palestine. and we need to convince people in lebanon of this issue as much as we need to convince those palestinians that their support should be with the people not with the cia-controlled palestinian authority.

this is why we must remember the martyrs and name them and not forget them and honor their death in a dignified way. in solidarity. the latest massacre figures are as follows:

Twenty three Gazans have been killed since midnight Sunday morning and dozens injured by new weapons that ensure the incineration of buildings and people hit by the explosives.

The Israeli Phosphoric bombs have not yet been used in the Gaza offensive.

The total for the 16 days of Israeli strikes and ground fire is now 875 killed, 3,620 injured and 411 seriously wounded.

and there are now 50,000 internally displaced people (idps) in gaza. so the subject of conversation in beirut, among friends of mine, is focused on what we can do from here: how can we support the steadfastness, the resistance from here? how can we place pressure on external players who have blood on their hands for participating in this massacre either by arming the israeli terrorists (the united states) or by closing the borders and now helping palestinians who wish to flee (egypt) or by those in collusion with this american-israeli massacre on the political level (jordan, saudi arabia). this pressure is important for the long-term struggle. and we identified 3 levels of this struggle that need to be dealt with and supported:

1. the military struggle (which those of us outside cannot really help with)

2. putting pressure on external players (boycott, divestment, sanctions, protests)

3. supporting the psychological steadfastness of the palestinians in gaza (protests, writing, educating)

in all of these levels we need to be highly visible. it needs to be done well. to be coordinated without factionalism. but the third element–to which the second one is related–is important because we don’t want palestinians in gaza to become a defeated people. we want them to see the support and continue their resistance. to know that it is worth it. this is why even the propaganda that we see on television stations like al manar (which you can watch online) is important.

another important thing my friend mentioned in our discussion is that what is happening in gaza is symptomatic of the arab world so we need a systemic response to it. even if we were capable of smuggling weapons from here, it would be a bandaid response to a larger, regional problem. what is needed, what they don’t have is support from the arab world. obviously, the people of the arab world support the people of gaza; but we need new governments in these complicit states that reflect the will of the people not these regimes we see in jordan and egypt that are in collusion with the united states. we need to put pressure to halt all normalization with the zionist entity so that we can truly liberate palestine. the armed resistance in gaza is not a problem as kabobfest observed last week and angry arab observed yesterday: in 1967 the region was defeated in 6 days. we are now into day 16 and palestinians are not defeated in the least.

jordanian flag painted over with red...
look closely at the flag: jordanian flag painted over with red…

one reason it was important for us to have this discussion last night, and why many of my friends are continuing to have such discussions here, is because we need to figure out how we can act in ways that would be powerful and effective. so that the media comes to the protests, so that people in gaza see us on television and know that we are here for them, with them. we need to think how people can best be mobilized. and this question came up because we went to a protest yesterday at the egyptian embassy and it was only sparsely attended. there were about 20 people there. we couldn’t get nearly close enough as all the streets in a one-block radius around the embassy are blocked off with barbed wire. some of the protesters brought pictures from the massacre in gaza and affixed them to the barbed wire (oddly: al jazeera english, which showed images from our demonstration yesterday, said that we put this barbed wire there: we did not! the internal security forces put it there so that we could not get close enough to the embassy as they did in yemen). this demonstration, like the one i went to today, was organized by the various leftist and communist parties in lebanon and from the palestinian refugee camps here. but yesterday there were 3 protests: this one at the embassy, a candlelight vigil in sassine square in ashrafiyeh, and a mass at an ‘aoun affiliated church in ashrafiyeh which had around 250 people in attendance.

dsc00039

on a side note: we went to buy flags for the protest at a shop in hamra yesterday. once we got there and we saw the sun shining on the red of the flag we noticed that the flag shop sold us jordanian flags with the white star painted over in red to make it a palestinian flag. anyway, these protests at the egyptian embassy are daily, which may be one reason for the sparse attendance. so we are trying to think about how to best connect people. the people are too divided–even among the left here. there are multiple meetings every day. there are too many protests. we need one big one every day. like an ‘azza, in a central place, like in the cemetery outside shatila refugee camp where people from mar elias refugee camp, bourj al barajneh refugee camp, and the christian, shi’a, and sunni neighborhoods nearby can easily get to. where we can maybe get at least 1,000 people every day to attend, to mourn for 40 days. to show solidarity with the people of gaza. an on-going vigil. it must be centrally located. this is more important than the nightly vigil at the united nations escwa building downtown, the spaces of the elite, rich people. and we need to duplicate the work of the people in bourj al barajneh camp that has the phone bank to call people in gaza to let them know we are with them 100%. every day.

the key is this: the focus must be on the palestinian people of gaza. this is not and cannot be about people’s egos, their desire for power or fame or control of one political party or another, which is what it sort of seems like to me at the moment.

egyptian embassy in the distance
egyptian embassy in the distance

on a related note my friend also had an important thing to say about the political parties with which we align ourselves. we expect that whatever party we belong to meet our ideological perspective 100%. and if it doesn’t we tend to not want to involve ourselves. for instance, there are things about hezbollah or hamas that i do not agree with, but their resistance is strong and steadfast and i support both in this 100%. but this is again related to questions i posed the other day when thinking about resistance. my friend said: we work at places, spend 8 hours a day at such places, that we do not agree with institutionally, politically. maybe we agree with our places of employment 20%. and yet we work there. so why is it that we are not willing to work with those political parties with which we agree maybe 80%? such thinking forces us to divide, to factionalize and this weakens our resistance and our ability to support people in gaza.

barbir to downtown march
barbir to downtown march

today’s demonstration, though, was better in some respects as there seemed to be around 1,000 people. we met in barbir and marched to downtown in the pouring rain and hail. but people did not seem to run for shelter and abandon the demonstration. we marched in our soaking shoes, socks, pants in spite of the weather. but again, just one political orientation: just leftists. where are the others? why can’t we join forces with hezbollah and ‘aoun, for instance, and make our voices louder and stronger. sure al jadeed television and al jazeera and al manar television will cover these events, but the bigger we are the more support we lend to the people of gaza and that should be our overall goal. we should not forget this.

marching in the rain
marching in the rain

as for other forms of resistance: boycott, divestment, sanctions and a total cessation of any form of normalization with israeli terrorists should be demanded by people all over the planet. not just the arab world. just as i divided the world into two parts after my mom died: those who stood with me and those who ignored me, i feel the same way now. those who normalize and those who don’t. those who stand steadfastly with palestinian resistance and those who do not. there is no space for a gray area now. we should follow norway’s example, for instance, in their boycott plans:

Norway has been the site of a flurry of Palestine solidarity activism and BDS initiatives over the past week, as tens of thousand of people have called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Oslo, and major trade unions are mobilizing in support of a comprehensive boycott and divestment campaign.

Demonstrations have now been held in at least 28 cities:

Oslo, Stavanger, Sandnes, Fredrikstad, Trondheim, Hamar, Sortland, Namsos, Arendal, Norheimsund, MosjÃen, Bergen, Sarpsborg, TÃnsberg, Harstad, TromsøKristiansand, Notodden, VadsøMoi Rana, Alta, Kirkenes, RÃros, Volda, Halden, GjÃvik, Lillehammer, Selbu.

The numbers of participants have never been bigger.

Union activities:

POLITICAL STRIKE: Thursday ALL trains in the whole of Norway, and all trams and subways in Oslo, will stand still for two minutes as a result of a political strike organized by the Norwegian Locomotive Union and the Oslo Tram Workers Union in protest of the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

A large selection of Norwegian trade unions and organizations has endorsed a new campaign for the withdrawal of all State investments in Israel. The call is endorsed by so far 6 of the largest national trade unions.

The Union of Trade and Office Workers calls on all members to ask their employers to remove Israeli products from stores. The union is the by far largest union of workers in all types of private and public stores in Norway.

The confederation of Norwegian Trade Unions (LO), with apr. 1/5 of the whole Norwegian population as members, condemns the Israeli bombing and invasion in Gaza and calls for demonstrations.

The Norwegian Church has protested Israels invasion of Gaza and was, according to media, “called to the carpet” by the Israeli ambassador.

22.000 supports the Facebook-group demanding the ambassador to be expelled from Norway. The Facebook-group has got attention in all major newspaper and was hacked by a Zionist hacker-group but is now back on track.

31% of Norwegians supports the boycott of Israel, in a survey by the pro-Israel tabloid VG today. The question was politically charged “Do you support the Socialist Left’s boycott of Israel?” If not mentioning the Socialists the number would probably be much higher. The vast majority in all groups in the survey is against the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

likewise, in canada we are seeing increased workers mobilize in solidarity with palestinians in gaza through boycott:

On behalf of the 56,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, I am writing to demand that the Canadian government condemn the military assault on the people of Gaza that the state of Israel commenced on December 26th, 2008.

Canada must also call for a cessation of the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza, which has resulted in the collective punishment of the entire Gaza population.

Canada must also address the root cause of the violence: Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Israel’s current actions are totally out of proportion with any notion of self-defense. Israel’s actions are resulting in the massacre of people in Gaza.

Israels action will not bring peace to the region. they will result in Israel being less secure.

Professor Richard Falk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied territories, has characterized the Israeli offensive as containing “…severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regards to the obligations of an occupying power and in the requirements of the laws of war.”

CUPW strongly urges the Canadian government to condemn the serious violations of humanitarian and international law by the state of Israel.

The Israeli Government’s siege and military incursions into Gaza are not isolated events. It is a direct result of Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine and the refusal of the Israeli government to abide by numerous United Nations security council resolutions.

Therefore, as a longer term strategy, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is asking your government to adopt a program of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel recognizes the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and complies with international law, including the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Yours truly,

Denis Lemelin
National President

cc.
Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Leader
Jack Layton, NDP Leader
Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois Leader
Ken Georgetti, Canadian Labor Congress

and in egypt we see more action on the front of destabilizing its normalizing relations with the zionist terrorist regime:

90 members of the Egyptian parliament have asked for accelerating the endorsement of a draft law banning the sale of natural gas to Israel in the light of the latter’s “criminal aggression on the Gaza Strip”.

The request signed by 90 MPs asked for respecting the Egyptian state court’s ruling that banned such exports.

They also asked for canceling the minister of petroleum’s decision in 2005 that approved the signing of a deal allowing the export of gas to Israel.

MP Hussein Ibrahim, Muslim Brotherhood deputy, said that he tabled a proposal to this effect in the past parliamentary session but it was delayed and he was now insisting on putting it to vote in the current session.

Signatories to the request, tabled with the parliament speaker, said that they would not tolerate witnessing Egyptian gas and petroleum being exported to Israel at a time it was using it in killing Gaza children.

burning the israeli terrorist flag
burning the israeli terrorist flag

likewise academics must stop their normalizing relations with israeli professors and institutions who are complicit in israeli state terrorism (all israeli universities are state run institutions that produce the knowledge that enables their genocidal practices and policies and there has NEVER been a single israeli academic body to condemn this behavior). dear rania and i wrote an article for the chronicle of higher education last week, addressed to our academic colleagues in the united states, but they ignored it and refused to publish it. it is now on dissident voice. i encourage you to read it in full (as well as rania’s updating of it on her blog), but here is what we are demanding:

We urge our fellow academics to not only support this statement in theory, but also in practice by pushing for academic boycott on your campuses as you return to classes this week. Supporting the human rights of Palestinians is not anti-Semitic; it is about human rights: Palestinian human rights. If this were any other captive population besieged for seven days with US-made materiel, we would be outraged and acting. So we are asking you to act now. It is our tax dollars at work that enables this massacre to take place. Let us work for justice, for consistency. Let us make apartheid, in all its forms, only present in history books.


the blog south lebanon also republished the piece;
we hope others will not only follow in getting the word out, but alter their behavior institutionally and personally. i refuse to subscribe to the belief that freedom of speech is more important than the palestinian people who are being slaughtered.

canadians have been active on this academic boycott front for a while now and are renewing that work, though shamefully american academics are not in the same way:

CUPE Ontario’s university workers committee will bring a resolution to its annual conference supporting a ban on Israeli academics doing speaking, teaching or research work at Ontario universities as a protest against the December 29 bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza.

“In response to an appeal from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, we are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general,” said Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario. “It’s a logical next step, building on policy adopted by our provincial convention in 2006.”

Resolution 50, adopted in May 2006, supported boycotts, divestment and sanctions aimed at bringing about the Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and a just peace in the region.

“Clearly, international pressure on Israel must increase to stop the massacre that is going on daily,” said Janice Folk-Dawson, chair of the CUPE Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee, whose conference is scheduled for February. “We are proud to add CUPE voices to others from around the world saying enough is enough.”

Ryan and other CUPE representatives will join in the demonstration against the Israeli assault on Gaza at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, January 3 at Dundas Square in Toronto.

likewise, the palestinian academic and cultural boycott of israel wrote a letter this week to soas for its normalizing relationship with tel aviv university in the midst of this horrific genocide on gaza:

Dear Professor Paul Webley,

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is gravely concerned that the School of Oriental and African Studies will be hosting the Tel Aviv University Special Lecture Series marking Tel Aviv’s centennial (January 12th-March 16th).

At a time when the Israeli government is unleashing the full force of its military might in an all-out war against an essentially defenceless population in the occupied Gaza Strip, celebrating Tel Aviv while Gaza burns is morally repulsive. It is an indefensible position for an academic institution to take while a population, over half of whom are children, are subject to daily attacks that are widely recognized as violating international humanitarian law and basic human rights.

Tel Aviv is not a ‘White City on the Dunes’ promising a ‘Mediterranean Dream’ as the titles of two lectures in the Lecture Series would have us believe. Rather, as the seat of Israeli political and economic power, Tel Aviv houses the masterminds of Israel’s longstanding policies of ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination and military subjugation. It is hence more emblematic of apartheid and colonial rule than any other Israeli city.

Tel Aviv is a city in colonial denial. Its very existence and expansion are products of the Zionist project of erasing the physical presence of the Palestinians, their culture, heritage and memory. The adjacent Palestinian city of Jaffa and numerous villages were emptied of their indigenous inhabitants to make way for the ‘White City’. This fact is conspicuously absent from the Special Lecture Series and thus renders the lectures no better than political propaganda on behalf of Israel and its ongoing project of colonial dispossession.

It may be claimed that as an academic institution, Tel Aviv University stands apart from all this. But it is important to stress that the university was built on the lands of the Palestinian village of Sheikh Muwannis, a village largely destroyed in 1948 and its inhabitants ethnically cleansed and forced to flee for their lives. The “Green House”, the former home of the head of the village, is one of the few original buildings of the village that remains and currently serves as a restaurant for university faculty. The President of Tel Aviv University refused to acknowledge its history and objected to the posting of a sign on the “Green House” that would explain its origin. The campaign to pressure the university to recognize its history has been led by the Israeli organization Zochrot. [1]

The university not only refuses to recognize its past, but is also an integral part of Israel’s brutal occupation and apartheid regime imposed on the Palestinians, including the current savage bombardment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Typical is the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), an external institute of Tel Aviv University, which boasts in its mission statement of its “strong association with the political and military establishment”. Advising governmental decision makers and public leaders on important “strategic issues”, it is no stretch of the imagination to suppose that the INSS has played a direct or indirect role in the current Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

In common with all other Israeli academic bodies and institutions, Tel Aviv University has never taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, or criticized the closure of Palestinian universities which are part of a longstanding assault on Palestinian education. Unsurprisingly then, no voice was heard from Tel Aviv or any other academic institution in Israel condemning the bombing of the campus of the Islamic University in Gaza on December 28th, 2008. In addition to Palestinian academics, we know that a significant number of their international and UK colleagues are shocked at the deafening silence emanating from the Israeli academy. As the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees asked in their recent statement [2], are Israeli universities willing to call for an end to the occupation? Are Israeli academics going to speak out in support of freedom of education and call for an end to their government’s assault on Palestinian education? Are they going to cut their organic and deep-rooted ties with the military-security establishment? Or are the members of the academy dutifully preparing for the reserve call-up just approved by their government, ready to serve in the death squads committing what international human rights organisations have described as war crimes?

While some may claim that an academic institution such as SOAS, should remain above ‘political frays’ and provide instead a neutral forum for the open exchange of ideas, hosting such an event, and particularly as Gaza is being decimated by Israel, is to support and acquiesce in Israel’s vicious and illegal actions. We urge the administration of SOAS to cancel the Special Lecture Series to avoid being held complicit in whitewashing Israel’s grave violations of international law, to take a minimal stand in solidarity with your Palestinian colleagues, and in response to the call issued by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC, urging international civil society “not just to protest and condemn in diverse forms Israel’s massacre in Gaza, but also to join and intensify the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel to end its impunity and to hold it accountable for its persistent violation of international law and Palestinian rights.”[3] We agree with the statement’s conclusion that “without sustained, effective pressure by people of conscience the world over, Israel will continue with its gradual, rolling acts of genocide against the Palestinians, burying any prospects for a just peace under the blood and rubble of Gaza, Nablus and Jerusalem.”

SOAS has the opportunity to uphold ethical principles and the universality of human rights by cancelling this ill-conceived propaganda exercise, thereby contributing to bringing about the conditions for a just and lasting peace for Palestine and the entire region.

Sincerely,
PACBI
www.pacbi.org

likewise in scottland there is a call for boycott:

SCOTTISH COMMITTEE FOR THE UNIVERSITIES OF PALESTINE

Press release: 1-00 pm / 4th January 2009 – Glasgow

As evening closed in on Saturday 3rd January 2009 F-16 fighter planes
 renewed their bombing of one of the most densely populated areas of land in the world, killing more Palestinian civilians. In seven days Israel has killed over 500 Palestinians and injuring thousand of innocents. And now it has embarked on a full scale ground invasion.

We note and deplore the failure of the UN Security Council to condemn the Israeli massacre of Gazans in the Strip; the international body has proved itself a farce by once again colluding in the US-EU-Israeli effort to thwart peace. In these circumstances we call for all members of Scottish civil society to support all demonstrations against this atrocity, to join lobbies and write to representatives, and to contribute to medical aid through various organisations. We seriously urge the BBC to speak out against the Israel’s concealment of its atrocities, away from the world’s media. Again Israel defies international law and its own legal system. We say this is not the action of a democracy! Journalists and media organizations must therefore make formal objections to this ban. Israel cannot be allowed to conceal its war crimes.

We call for a boycott of Israel and for ordinary people to participate in peaceful actions everywhere opposing actions of the Zionist state and express real support for the Palestinian people. We also demand that the UK government withdraw its ambassador in Tel Aviv immediately and cease diplomatic relations until Israel starts conforming to the norms of international relations. A country that spurns diplomacy as an option for resolving its disputes must not benefit from the legitimacy that diplomatic recognition confers.

Israel must withdraw from the Gaza Strip immediately. The bombing and ground operation must cease without delay; and the border crossing with Egypt must be opened forthwith. There is no justification for withholding food, water, power and essential services to 1.5 million civilians. International observers and the press must be allowed into Gaza and, finally, the Scottish civil society must respond to the call issued by their Palestinian counterparts in adopting the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign and generate international pressure where the multinational institutions have been remiss. Israeli institutions and produce must be rejected. We urge shoppers to look for replacement goods from peaceful states.

For further information and contacts who may be interviewed please contact:

Keith Hammond

Notes:

The Scottish Committee for the Universities of Palestine is a committee of academics and similar professionals, established in 2008 as a sister organisation to the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP). The Scottish Committee is committed to furthering the boycott of the state of Israel. We aim to popularise amongst in Scottish universities and broader civil society the humanitarian consequences of Israel’s war policies. We aim to highlight the racist state of Israel’s systematic destruction of Palestinian universities and schools, hospitals, and municipalities. We work towards an end to the Israeli occupation, meaningful peace in the dismantling of the apartheid wall, the checkpoints and illegal settlements; and we campaign to further the building of a free state of Palestine.

i know it is a lot to ask of americans to think about palestinians as human beings (just look at the white house’s response to the death of its f(*&^%$ cat compared to the 857 palestinians in gaza as one example) whose rights and lives are more important than their precious positions in corporations or universities. this is why i had naievely thought that israeli terrorists targeting not only universities and schools, but united nations unrwa schools housing palestinian idps might just get their attention and force them to change their point of view. but clearly this is not the case as of yet. nevertheless, it is worth reading ameer ahmad and ed vulliamy’s piece in the guardian today on what they call scholasticide:

A new word emerged from the carnage in Gaza this week: “scholasticide” – the systematic destruction by Israeli forces of centres of education dear to Palestinian society, as the ministry of education was bombed, the infrastructure of teaching destroyed, and schools across the Gaza strip targeted for attack by the air, sea and ground offensives.

“Learn, baby, learn” was a slogan of the black rights movement in America’s ghettoes a generation ago, but it also epitomises the idea of education as the central pillar of Palestinian identity – a traditional premium on schooling steeled by occupation, and something the Israelis “cannot abide… and seek to destroy”, according to Dr Karma Nabulsi, who teaches politics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. “We knew before, and see more clearly now than ever, that Israel is seeking to annihilate an educated Palestine,” she says.

The Palestinians are among the most thoroughly educated people in the world. For decades, Palestinian society – both at home in the West Bank and Gaza, and scattered in the diaspora – has put a singular emphasis on learning. After the expulsions of 1948 and after the 1967 occupation, waves of refugees created an influential Palestinian intelligentsia and a marked presence in the disciplines of medicine and engineering across the Arab world, Europe and the Americas.

“Education is the most important thing – it is part of the family life, part of your identity and part of the rebellion,” says Nabulsi. “Everyone knows this, and in a refugee camp like Gaza, every child knows that in those same schooldesks sat your parents and your grandparents, whose tradition they carry on.”

Schooling and university studies are the fabric of life despite, not because of, circumstances: every university in the occupied territories has been closed down at some point by Israeli forces, many of them regularly. However, the closures and arrests of students (more than 300 at Birzeit university in Ramallah, says Nabulsi) only strengthens the desire to become educated.

In the current offensive, Israel began attacking Gaza’s educational institutions immediately. On only the second and third day of air attacks last week, Israeli planes wreaked severe damage in direct strikes on Gaza’s Islamic University. The main buildings were devastated, destroying administrative records, and, of course, ending studies. The Ministry of Education has been hit twice by direct hits from the air.

The Saturday of the ground invasion was the day on which most students in Gaza sit their end-of-year examinations. In the majority of cases, these had to be abandoned, and it remains unclear whether they can or will be sat again. Other schools were also attacked – most notoriously the UN establishment in the Jabaliya refugee camp where at least 40 people were massacred on Tuesday.

On Sunday, another Israeli air strike destroyed the pinnacle of Palestinian schooling, the elite and private American International School, to which the children of business and other leaders went, among them Fulbright scholars unable to take up their places in the United States because of the Israeli blockade. Ironically, the same school was attacked last year by a group called the Holy Jihad Brigades, and has been repeatedly vandalised for its association with western-style education.

The school was founded in 2000 to offer a “progressive” (and fully co-educational) American-style curriculum, taught in English, from kindergarten to sixth form, and was said by the Israelis to have been the site, or near the site, from which a rocket was fired. A night watchman was killed in the destruction of the building.

The chairman of its board of trustees, Iyad Saraj, says: “This is the most distinguished and advanced school in Gaza, if not in Gaza and the West Bank. I cannot swear there was no rocket fired, but if there was, you don’t destroy a whole school.” He adds: “This is the destruction of civilisation.”

The school has no connection to the US government, Saraj says, and many of the 250 who graduate from it each year go on to US universities. “They are very good, highly educated open-minded students who can really be future leaders of Palestine.”

Young Palestinians playing in Daniel Barenboim’s celebrated East-West Divan Orchestra – which this week again brings Palestinian and Israeli musicians together to play a prestigious concert in Vienna – say that music schools in their communities and refugee camps are “not just educating young people, but helping them understand their identity”, as Nabeel Abboud Ashkar, a violinist based in Nazareth, puts it, adding: “And the Israelis are not necessarily happy with that.”

Ramzi Aburedwan, who runs the Al-Kamandjati classical music school in Ramallah, argues: “What the Israelis are doing is killing the lives of the people. Bring music, and you bring life. The children who played here were suddenly interested in their future”.

In a recent lecture, Nabulsi at St Edmund Hall recalled the tradition of learning in Palestinian history, and the recurrent character of the teacher as an icon in Palestinian literature. “The role and power of education in an occupied society is enormous. Education posits possibilities, opens horizons. Freedom of thought contrasts sharply with the apartheid wall, the shackling checkpoints, the choking prisons,” she said.

This week, following the bombing of schools in Gaza, she says: “The systematic destruction of Palestinian education by Israel has countered that tradition since the occupation of 1967,” citing “the calculated, wholesale looting of the Palestinian Research Centre in Beirut during the 1982 war and the destruction of all those manuscripts and archived history.”

“Now in Gaza,” she says, “we see the policy more clearly than ever – this ‘scholasticide’. The Israelis know nothing about who we really are, while we study and study them. But deep down they know how important education is to the Palestinian tradition and the Palestinian revolution. They cannot abide it and have to destroy it.”

again, i must ask: what are you doing? what are you going to do? what sacrifices are you willing to make to support the palestinian people in gaza?