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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

viva-palestine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 days of war crimes in gaza

khalil bendib's latest
khalil bendib's latest

it’s unbelievable really. i literally just shut down my computer to go to my friend mohammad’s house. he lives about 10 minutes away from my other friend’s house where i stay when i’m in amman. i had just finished blogging about last night’s israeli terrorist attack on an unrwa school where 13,000 palestinians, many of whom are already refugees from jewish (there were no israelis until 1948) terrorists’ ethnic cleansing operations during an nakba, who had fled their homes because of israeli terrorists’ murderous rampages had forced them to flee and because they are locked in the gaza concentration camp, they sought shelter in unrwa schools. this is not uncommon: when the lebanese army (in cahoots with saudi arabia and the united states) destroyed nahr el bared refugee camp in lebanon where did most palestinian refugees flee to (many of whom fled the lebanese forces attacks on tel al za’atar refugee camp in 1976 and also an nakba in 1948)? they fled to unrwa schools in other palestinian refugee camps in lebanon. the united nations, like hospitals, the media, ambulances are supposed to be protected. under international law, under international rules of war you do not target repeatedly such sites. and yet year after year the zionist regime does just that. look at their record it is not difficult to see the piles of evidence. and yet they did it again: now israeli terrorists have targeted not 1, not 2, but 3 unrwa schools–united nations schools–with palestinian internally displaced people (idps) fleeing from war seeking refuge inside.

where is the outrage over these clear violations of the geneva conventions? of international law? of humanity?

there are now 660 palestinian martyrs. there are now 2,950 palestinians injured, many in critical condition. 214 of these palestinians who were killed are children; 89 are women.

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Israeli forces killed dozens of Palestinians at a UN school that was sheltering displaced people in Jabaliya Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip late on Tuesday afternoon.

John Ging, Director of Operations in Gaza of UNRWA, said that 30 people died and 55 others were injured when three Israeli artillery shells landed at the perimeter of the school.

Ma’an spoke with witnesses who saw two shells exploding at the school. Medical officials at Gaza hospitals said 42 were killed.

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli military onslaught had taken shelter in the school.

Witnesses reported ambulances and private cars evacuating the dead and wounded, some of whom appeared to have been blown to pieces. Many women and children are said to be among the dead. Hundreds of people were reported to be in the area of the school at the time of the shelling.

Ma’an’s reporter said that dozens more, all civilians, were injured in the attack on the Al-Fakhoura School. The death toll is expected to rise as a number of the wounded are said to be in critical condition. Ambulances were initially unable reach the school.

The school is operated by UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees. UNRWA has been using its schools to house some of the 15,000 Gazans who have fled their homes due to Israel’s ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, which began on Saturday.

UNRWA says it handed over the GPS coordinates of all UN installations throughout the Gaza Strip to the Israeli military. The school was clearly marked as a UN facility.

Earlier on Tuesday, the United Nations confirmed that three refugees had been killed at 11:30 on Monday night when Israeli forces fired directly on a UNRWA school in Gaza City.

According to the UN, Another UNRWA school also came under fire in the city of Rafah. An UNRWA health clinic in Al-Bureij Refugee Camp was also damaged when an Israeli missile hit an adjacent building, injuring ten medics and patients.

“There’s nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorized and traumatized,” said John Ging, the top UN official in Gaza. He also said that people in Gaza are “entitled” to action by the international community to stop the Israeli invasion.

“I am appealing to political leaders here and in the region and the world to get their act together and stop this,” he said, speaking at Gaza’s largest hospital. “They are responsible for these deaths.”

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ma’an news gives you a good overview of the facts. israeli terrorist newspapers like ynet, however, offer a great counterpoint to show you not only how they spin their propaganda, but also how they do this to justify the outright murder, massacre of civilian populations in a united nations facility–layer upon layer of war crimes. but the united states chimed in with complicity in these attacks with their weapons, rationalizing, legitimizing the slaughter of innocent civilians by repeating israeli terrorist propaganda that hamas uses human shields (when in reality it is israeli terrorists who nightly kidnap youth in the west bank and force them out of their houses as they make their nightly kidnapping rampages using these youth as human shields–i have a number of students who have told me harrowing stories about their experiences being forced to be human shields for israeli terrorists):

Dana Perino, spokeswoman for the White House, said: “I saw the reports about the school. I don’t have any information about that. I think that we should not jump to conclusions and we should wait to find out what the evidence says.

“What we do know is that Hamas often hides amongst innocents and uses innocent people, including children, as human shields.”

if you would like a truthful representative of what happened here is the report from al jazeera:

and here is unrwa’s john ging making strong statements about how palestinians in gaza are terrorized and holding the international community responsible for its inaction:

a reminder, as i mentioned earlier today, the israeli terrorist forces had all of the gps coordinates for all of the united nations facilities in gaza thereby rendering it a targeted attack:

Three members of the same Palestinian family were killed whilst taking shelter in a United Nations school designated as a temporary refuge from the violence on Monday night, the UN told Ma’an.

But well before the current fighting, the UN says it had given Israeli authorities the GPS coordinates of all its installations in Gaza, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency school, which was struck by an Israeli missile on Monday.

“These tragic incidents need to be investigated, and if international humanitarian law has been contravened, those responsible must held accountable,” said UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory Maxwell Gaylard in a statement.

“There are no safe places to flee. We call on all parties to uphold international humanitarian law and protect civilians,” he added.

israeli terrorists not only assault refugees fleeing the fighting–albeit limited fleeing as they are enclosed in a concentration camp (what is that line in israeli terrorist propaganda about jews always worried about being pushed into the sea? what exactly are the israeli terrorists doing right now?)–they also assault the medical workers, ambulances, medical clinics and facilities trying, desperately to care for the wounded:

The Chair of the Palestinian Health Care Committees, Nihal Al-Akhras, called on the international community and human rights groups to pressure Israel to stop firing on medical facilities and workers in the Gaza Strip, a day after the Committees’ offices were destroyed.

Al-Akhras said that Ad-Dura Hospital was bombarded, and that a building in the Ar-Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City the Health Care Committees was completely destroyed. Three mobile clinics provided by a Danish aid agency were also destroyed.

He said that the world must place pressure Israel to comply with the Geneva conventions governing the conduct of war.

According to DanChurchAid, which donated the mobile clinics, the vehicles were parked by the Union of Healthcare headquarters and all were clearly marked with red crosses and the marked “Mobile Clinic.”

“We’ve been able to help the wounded and suffering so far, because our vehicles have been present and ready inside Gaza. This possibility of emergency aid is now in ruins. We are deeply shocked that the Israeli air strikes directly prevent the humanitarian aid effort.”, says Henrik Stubkjær, Secretary General of DanChurchAid.

and here is a report that includes statements about these attacks on the medical sector from the international red cross:

Meanwhile the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has declared a “full-blown humanitarian crisis” in Gaza, said it is investigating reports that a Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) ambulance station in Jabaliya refugee camp was targeted Monday night.

In an earlier attack last Friday, the ICRC reported that two clearly marked ambulance medics from the PRC, evacuating the dead and wounded from an earlier Israeli attack, were targeted by Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) fire.

The paramedics were wearing fluorescent jackets and their ambulances had flashing lights visible from a considerable distance.

“I have no doubt that one missile was aimed at us. I do not know for certain whether it was meant to kill us or warn us to keep away, but it was definitely aimed in our direction,” said Palestinian ambulance driver Khaled Abu Saada.

Sammy Hassan, a spokesman from Shifa Hospital said in the last week that four ambulance personnel had been killed in Israeli strikes. “One was a doctor and the other three were medics. We are very worried about our ambulance staff,” Hassan told IPS.

for readers interested in really understanding the origins of terrorism in the region: it began when the jews started to colonize palestine (again, i am using the word jew here because there were no israelis then). angry arab offers a very small and partial listing of such key events, though there are hundreds, if not thousands more over the last sixty-one years:

Origins of Terrorism in the Middle East

Who Started Terrorism in the Arab-Israeli Conflict?

Bombs in Cafes: first used by Zionists in Palestine on March 17th, 1937 in Yaffa.
Bombs on Buses: first used by Zionists in Palestine Aug. 20th-Sep. 26, 1937.
Bombs in Market Places: first used by Zionists on July 6th, 1938 in Haifa.
Bombing of Hotels: first used by Zionists on July 22nd, 1946 in Jerusalem.
Bombing of Foreign Embassies: first used by Zionists on October 1st, 1946 in Rome (against the British).
Mining of Ambulances: First used by Zionists on October 31st, 1946 in Petah Tikvah.
Letter Bombs: first used by Zionists in June 1947 against British targets in UK.

(for documentation, consult The Arab Women’s Information Committee and The Institute for Palestine Studies, Who Are the Terrorists? Aspects of Zionist and Israeli Terrorism, (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1972).

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this is why people must organize to make the israeli terrorist state a pariah state by halting all forms of normalization with israel NOW. some people–clearly not americans, clearly not american academics–are on this now. in canada, for instance, in response to this caranage a bold new proposal has been drafted:

Ontario’s largest university workers’ union is proposing a ban on Israeli academics teaching in the province’s universities, in a move that echoes previous attempts to boycott goods and services from the Jewish state.

The resolution, proposed by CUPE’s Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee, is in protest against a Dec. 29 bombing that damaged 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.

in a smaller gesture today, but one no less important (recall the significance of the sports boycott during apartheid south africa!) turkey halted a basketball game between israeli terrorists and turkey:

A basketball game between a Turkish and an Israeli team was suspended on Tuesday after Turkish fans erupted in protests against the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, Turkish media reported.

A referee suspended the game between Turk Telekom and Bnei Hasharon, part of a European basketball championship, and ordered the players back to the dressing room after hundreds of Turkish fans began chanting “Israel, killers!” in an Ankara sports centre, SkyTurk broadcaster reported.

and…of course, you gotta love hugo chavez. always. the man has cajones. while i heard that mauritania did the same today, coming from venezuela means so much more and i hope both of these countries’ attempts at halting normalization with the zionist terrorist regime has a tremendous domino effect around the world:

Venezuela has expelled the ambassador to Israel in protest over the offensive in the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 500 Palestinians, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

and here is what chavez had to say about the zionist terrorist regime today, a regime that is imprisoning 1.5 million palestinians and slaughtering them every day:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday called Israel’s offensive in Gaza a Palestinian “holocaust” and said the presidents of Israel and the United States should be tried in international court.

“The Holocaust, that is what is happening right now in Gaza,” Chavez said in televised comments. “The president of Israel at this moment should be taken to the International Criminal Court together with the President of the United States.”

carlos latuff
carlos latuff

and the rhetoric from jordan seems to be continuing on a path that suggests the same–god i hope!–will happen in jordan. king abdullah gave a speech tonight and spoke on al jazeera and used language such as “there is a conspiracy against the palestinians” and i suspect we can see the zionist terrorist ambassador to jordan leaving very soon. and don’t let the door hit you on your way out! it is such a hopeful possibility that i must cling to so that these martyrs who have been massacred in gaza do not die in vain. people in jordan are really motivated, getting out and doing things, even people who are not normally activists. people are forming new networks and trying to create change here. and the protests here are unprecedented, especially that the government even allows them to happen in the first place. there is also a tremendous relief operation going on, though it does not seem to be coordinated among the people. the blood bank refrigerators seem to be full and i don’t think blood has been taken to gaza yet. however, it seems that the hashemite kingdom has been getting some of its aid into gaza. though israeli terrorists seem to have an odd secret list about what they will and will not let in–which they do not inform people of here who are collecting the aid. for instance, goods made in syria or iraq are forbidden. as are used blankets; israeli terrorists are only allowing brand new blankets into gaza it seems. so jordanian activists are having to deal with figuring out what can and cannot go in. of course, if jordan kicks out the israeli terrorist ambassador its aid convoys will likely be forbidden to enter, at least through 1948 palestine. but i would argue that the larger good: halting all normalization in order to liberate palestine completely is for the larger good. this is the more important way to go. the moral way to go. doing so honors the steadfastness and patience of the palestinian people who will remain, who will not allow this to be another nakba as fida’ qishta writes about um muhammad, who just lost her sons by israeli terrorists:

“We are nine in the family, I have five daughters and three sons, I lost two and now we are seven including me and their Dad.”

“It’s true that I lost two of my sons but when I see other people’s misery I feel that my misery is small.”

“I’m like any person living here. I could die any night, killed by an Israeli attack. They just attack the area. I could be killed, who knows. I will die today or tomorrow or now. All the Palestinians here are threatened. I say every day, tomorrow I could die.”

“They want us to leave our homes, but it is in their dreams. They are wrong. We will not leave our homes. We will always stay here. It will not be like the 1948 war. We will stay in our homes, and we prefer to die in our homes. It’s an honor to die in our country rather than to escape. They will not evacuate our land and take it. They occupied our land and they came to us. Why did they come to us? We didn’t go to their homes but they came to ours. I don’t know what they want from the Palestinian people, or why they occupied us? We are strong in our faith, and God will always help us.”

forced evacuations

The time between An Nakba (1948) and the destruction of the Palestinian refugee camp Tel Al Za’atar (1976) by Lebanese Forces and the destruction of the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr el Bared (2007) by the Lebanese army is distanced by time, but not by memory. The Palestinian families who fled Jewish terrorism in their homeland to seek refuge in Lebanon, only to find themselves subjected to more brutality, usually in cahoots with the Zionist state, particularly in these two other camps is important because many of these families experienced multiple nakbas, as they describe it, because they fled from Palestine to Tel Al Za’atar, to Nahr el Bared, and then last summer to various other Palestinian refugee camps like Baddawi and Shatila. The space is distanced by time from one forced evacuation to the next. I can’t help but think of this when I think of Hurricane Gustav heading for New Orleans in a matter of hours and the forced evacuation taking place. They have only had a reprieve of three years before this new hurricane and most of the people in places like the Lower Ninth Ward continue to have to fight for their rights to basic needs such as housing and education.

Here are some facts that highlight the situation in the Gulf Coast.

* Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistance from the $10 billion federal post-Katrina rebuilding program Road Home Community Development Block Grant — compared to 116,708 homeowners: 0
* Number of apartments currently being built to replace the 963 public housing apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the St. Bernard Housing Development: 0
* Percentage of the rental homes that were supposed to be repaired and occupied by August 2008 which were actually completed and occupied — a total of 82 finished out of 10,000 projected: .008
* Number of families still living in FEMA trailers in metro New Orleans area: 6,982.
* Number of houses demolished in New Orleans since Katrina: 10,000.
* Number of homeless in New Orleans even after camps of people living under the bridge has been resettled — double the pre-Katrina number: 12,000.
* Number of displaced families in New Orleans area whose hurricane rental assistance expires March 2009: 14,000.
* Number of children who have not returned to public school in New Orleans, leaving the public school population less than half what is was pre-Katrina: 32,000.
* Number of Louisiana homeowners who have applied for federal assistance in repair and rebuilding who have still not received any money: 39,000.
* Review the 11 companies that took advantage of Katrina Victims and the Tax Payer

I was thinking about this today as I watched Al Jazeera showing ordinary white folks complaining about evacuating; for some reason Al Jazeera chose not to interview any of the African American families who have become refugees or internally displaced people who were never allowed to go home in the first place. Whose living conditions remain far more vulnerable as a result at the present moment. I was just exploring a website that announced its traveling performance project to highlight these and many other themes related to the racism the U.S. rendered so undeniably visible in its response to Hurricane Katrina. The project is called Hurricane Season. How ironic that it is beginning its U.S. tour now; how ironic that this new hurricane is on its way to New Orleans almost exactly three years to the day of the first and most devastating disaster.

Here is a film clip that shows people of New Orleans addressing the racism that Hurricane Katrina shed light on for the rest of the U.S. and indeed the world:

The Katrina Information Network has a list of 29 things one can do to support people in New Orleans on this anniversary of the prior hurricane and on the heels of this impending one.

Back here it seems a bit more quiet than usual. Everyone seems to leave the university by 4 pm at the latest and I find myself enjoying the solitude of my office along with the pigeons that sit on the perch outside my office; they have made a nest for themselves here. The peacefulness of Nablus is deceiving, however. Unlike my newlywed friend’s new apartment in Beit Lahem, which has a view of the apartheid wall, the checkpoint, and illegal settlements, the mountains of Nablus shield me from most of these horrifying sights. But, unfortunately, the mountains here do not shield the people living in Nablus from daily (or rather nightly) incursions. Last night/early this morning was no different:

Israeli forces invaded on Saturday morning the West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus and nearby refugee camps, local sources reported.

A number of Israeli military vehicles invaded Nablus at dawn; troops deployed in several streets and fired rounds of live ammunition.

Moreover troops invaded Al Ein refugee camp in the city and launched a search campaign in the area, no arrests were reported.

And in Gaza, of course, the siege continues in spite of their two-day reprieve of the Rafah crossing opening for Ramadan. Some patients will hopefully be allowed to leave for medical treatment. Though it seems that Fulbrighters will not be allowed out because of the U.S. government’s collusion with the Zionist state. In spite of what these nimrods on Al Jazeera English seem to suggest, the siege is still alive and well and killing Palestinians daily, hourly.

But there was a nice and hopeful story on Al Jazeera last night about a new archaeology museum in Gaza: