انا اصلي نن…

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before i left palestine a dear friend of mine gave me a beautiful silver necklace she had made for me. it says: فلسطين لاجئين 194. i think that this necklace has made more people in jordan offer up where they are originally from. ever since i crossed the border into jordan the other day i hear from everyone i meet, انا اصلي من… the first person was the manager of the taxi shop on the sheikh hussein bridge. he is originally from beesan, the palestinian village closest to this crossing point. the next person was the man working the front desk at the hotel. he’s from iraq al manshiya. next my new landlord who is from halhul. and then the cook at the hotel who is from dawayima. and then the taxi driver who is from ramallah. this is the first time i’ve been in jordan and have had so many people offer up where they are from, where they belong, where they long to return so quickly.

zakariya's mosque still standing
zakariya's mosque still standing

a few days before coming here a dear friend of mine who is writing a memoir about his life with another dear friend of mine had a meeting in deheishe refugee camp with his uncle, his mother’s brother, to hear more about his village and his mother’s family’s history. i was in al quds, where he lives, and told them i was going back to deheishe and could drive them if they wanted. but i told them i had to run an errand on the way–an errand that would lead us to drive past his mother’s village of zakariya on the way. they decided to come with me and to take some time to visit his mother’s village. my friend has been past it many times over the years, but he’s never gone inside the zionist terrorist colony that now exists on his mother’s land.

a view of zakariya, palestine with the mosque still in the center of the village
a view of zakariya, palestine with the mosque still in the center of the village

i have been to zakariya with kids from deheishe refugee camp in the past so i knew where the mosque was and the one remaining palestinian home and the school that were not destroyed. we drove around for a bit, but he was clearly uncomfortable being there and so we did not stay long. as we drove out of the village i noticed that the sign, which used to say the name of the village in arabic, english, and hebrew had the arabic scratched out (mind you, it was the transliteration of hebrew and not the original name of the village, but it was arabic nonetheless). only one week ago when we were at camp with the kids that arabic was on the sign. now it is not. it seems that vigilante colonists are taking action in relation to the new initiative to make all signs in palestine only have transliterations from the hebrew whether in arabic or in english. i wrote about this new racist apartheid project on the part of the zionist entity last week, but here is an update from imemc:

In a recent and bold move by the Netanyahu government, the Arabic names of cities within Israeli borders and Jerusalem are being changed to Hebrew.

The Israeli Minister of Transport has been charged with the task of erasing the Arabic names in Israel, in what has been condemned as a bigoted attempt to deconstruct the Palestinian legacy, especially in Jerusalem. The Arabic name of Al Quds is also set to be changed, as is Nazareth, and other cities within Israel.Palestinian Chief of Justice has responded by declaring this as a means of erasing the Arab identity in Jerusalem and greater Israel. The Chief Justice and Chairman of the Commission in Support of Islamic and Christian Sanctities in Jerusalem has made similar statements, and calling it an act of racism. In addition to these implications, it is against international law to make such changes to a city that is still contested territory. From the creation of the Israeli state, Jerusalem has been a heavily contested area, subjected to many changes, land confiscation, home demolitions, evacuations, and settlements to cut the city off from its Palestinian heritage.

ethnic cleansing courtesy of zionist terrorist colonists
ethnic cleansing courtesy of zionist terrorist colonists

my friend jen marlowe wrote a piece about this for world focus, where she shares some of the history she heard later in deheishe camp that day:

Less than an hour later, we were sitting in Deheisheh Refugee Camp, talking with Sami’s uncle Mustafa, two years younger than Sami’s mother. We asked Mustafa to fill in the missing gaps of his sister’s story, and he was more than happy to oblige. Sami and I learned the details of how his grandfather died fighting the British in 1939 and the attacks that pushed out the residents of Zakariyya.

Zakariyya holds a prominent place in Mustafa’s house in Deheisheh and in his heart. A 1921 photograph of the old school (now convenience store) with students sitting cross legged outside is framed on a shelf. A map of Zakariyya is on the wall, with the former houses indicated and a code to decipher which areas were inhabited by which families.

Mustafa spoke not only about his memories of losing Zakariyya. He spoke about a more recent pain as well. His older sister, Sami’s mother, had been struck two times with brain tumors. The first was in 1977 when Sami was fifteen years old. She received a life-saving surgery. Mustafa came to the hospital in Jerusalem every day. He fed her daily, tenderly. She would eat only from his hands. The second tumor took root in her brain in 2007. But this time, Mustafa could not feed his sister as she lay on her death bed in Jerusalem. The Israeli military would not issue him a permit to visit her.

Mustafa and Sami sat in silence as I digested this information. The evening call to prayer sounded from a nearby mosque in the camp. It was time to wrap up the interview. I had one final question. “Did you realize in 1948 that you were leaving Zakariyya for good?”

Uncle Mustafa’s eyes glistened slightly, both from the memory of his beloved home and the fresh loss of his sister.

“Until now I don’t accept that I left for good. As long as I am alive, I have hope that I will someday return.”

Those who were forced to leave their homes will always be filled with longing to return to them. Acknowledgment and empathy are natural responses. But Mustafa’s yearning seems to be met with something other than empathy by the current residents of Zakariyya. With fear, perhaps? Dismissal? Contempt? Whatever it is, it permits the ancient mosque of the historic village to dilapidate to the point of ruin. It permits the Arabic word “Zakariyya” to be scratched out on the entrance’s sign. As if by scratching out the name, somehow the existence of Zakariyya and its people will themselves be erased.

Mustafa’s very presence, however, is a form of resistance to this deletion. Sami’s uncle sits surrounded by memories and remembrances of his home, waiting in quiet dignity for his longing and his claim to be acknowledged rather than erased.

one of the most amazing things mustafa gave sami was a map of the village of zakariya. a group of refugees from the village got together and mapped out where exactly everyone lived in their village and color coded it by family and listed the names of the families on it. i took a photo of it and posted it below. it is amazing and i hope that by spreading this around others can do the same for history’s sake and for claiming their land when they return to their villages.

a map of zakariya village
a map of zakariya village

the erasure of the village via nightly murders of palestinians in zakariya, something that ultimately forced them to flee to places like ramla inside 1948 palestine where some are internal refugees, as well as to refugee camps like deheishe, was one level of ethnic cleansing. but of course this is ongoing with the new laws forcing the word nakba that describes this history to be cleansed from textbooks:

The Israeli government decided on Wednesday to remove the term ‘Nabka’ from school textbooks. Israel’s education Ministry said that using term Nakba or catastrophe to describe the creation of Israel is inconceivable.

Approximately 700.000 Palestinian were expelled and displaced by Jewish arm groups and hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed in 1948 and the state of Israel was declared on Palestinian lands.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed that using the word Nakba in Arab school is considered as spreading propaganda against Israel. The decision to bar using ‘Nakba’ in textbooks was made despite the fact that it is only used in Arab schools in Israel.

It was introduced into textbooks in Arab schools in 2007 when the Israeli Education Ministry was headed by Yuli Tamir, member of the Labor Party. The textbooks that contains the term Nakba was intended to be studied by children aged eight and nine.

Yisrael Twito, spokesperson of the current Israel Education Minister, Gideon Sa’ar, said that the ministry studied the issue and decided that using the term Nakba to described ‘Israel’s independence’ should be removed.

The term Nakba was not used without presenting the Israeli side of it, the text reads ‘the Arabs described the war of 1948 as the Nakba – catastrophe, loss and humiliation, and the Jews calls it the war of independence’, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported. Arab member of Knesset, Jamal Zahalka, stated that the Arabs will not accept to be gagged by laws that aims at controlling their feelings, beliefs and history.

‘We will not accept to be silenced, we will continue to shout out loud, their independence is our catastrophe’, Zahalka stated, ‘We will always oppose Zionism, and we will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state’.

The new law was approved by 38 members of Knesset, while 14 voted against it. It also bars any institution that receives government funding in Israel from commemorating the Nakba, or financing related activities.

and it gets worse. now, as jonathan cook reports in electronic intifada, palestinians are going to be forced to study the zionist entity’s anthem, yet another method of ethnic cleansing one that is an attempt to cleanse the minds of palestinian youth:

A leading Arab educator in Israel has denounced the decision of Gideon Saar, the education minister, to require schools to study the Israeli national anthem.

Officials announced last week that they were sending out special “national anthem kits” to 8,000 schools, including those in the separate Arab education system, in time for the start of the new academic year in September.

The kits have been designed to be suitable for all age groups and for use across the curriculum, from civics and history classes to music and literature lessons.

The anthem, known as Hatikva, or The Hope, has long been unpopular with Israel’s Palestinian minority because its lyrics refer only to a Jewish historical connection to the land.

Saar’s initiative is widely seen among Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens as a further indication of the rising nationalistic tide sweeping policymakers.

Last week the ministry also announced that textbooks recently issued to Arab schoolchildren would have expunged the word “nakba,” or catastrophe, to describe the Palestinians’ dispossession at Israel’s founding in 1948.

Hala Espanioly, who chairs the education committee of the Arab minority’s supreme political body, the Higher Follow-Up Committee, told the Israeli news website Ynet: “If there is an attempt to force the Hatikva anthem on Arab schools and Arab pupils, it will be akin to a kind of attempted rape of their identity.”

The issue of the national anthem, based on a 120-year-old poem by Naftali Hertz Imber and an ancient folk melody, has been a running sore between Israel’s Jewish and Arab populations for decades.

Arab citizens are unhappy with its heavily Zionist lyrics, which speak of how the “soul of a Jew yearns” to return to Zion, as well as referring to “The hope of two thousand years, To be a free nation in our land.”

In 2005 some legislators were outraged when an Israeli parliamentary committee considered, among possible constitution changes, revising the anthem’s lyrics from “the soul of a Jew'” to “the soul of an Israeli.” The change was not approved.

Saar, then an ordinary politician, led the opposition to changing the lyrics: “In two words: definitely not. I wouldn’t make any changes to Hatikva. It would be a compromise on the state’s identity.”

The refusal of prominent Arabs to sing the anthem in public has provoked several notable controversies.

The most high-profile concerned Raleb Majadele, of the Labor party, who was appointed Israel’s first Arab cabinet minister in 2007. In an interview he said that, though he always stood during Hatikva, he drew the line at singing it.

He later defended his position to Israeli radio: “Where is it written that a person appointed to be a cabinet minister in Israel must stop being an Arab, and turn into a member of a different religion and ethnicity?”

Arab players in Israel’s national football squad have also admitted being uncomfortable during the playing of the anthem before games. TV broadcasts often zoom in to show that their lips are not moving.

Abir Kupty, today an elected official with the Nazareth municipality, produced one of Israeli TV’s most talked-about moments four years ago when she was filmed sitting down when the anthem was played. She was the only Arab contestant in a reality show to find Israel’s future leaders.

Kupty said: “This decision by the education ministry is part of the current hysterical right-wing mood in Israel. They hope they can erase our Palestinian identity by making us love the anthem.”

She added that Arab pupils were already deprived of the chance to learn about their own history, culture and identity. “The curriculum in Arab schools is heavily controlled by Jewish officials and by the security services.”

Sofia Yoad, the education ministry’s director of curriculum development, said the anthem kits included a book and two CDs containing 40 historic recordings of Hatikva, including it being sung in a concentration camp and at the Declaration of Independence.

“It is very important to learn about the national anthem even if pupils are not Jewish,” she said. “After all, this is the story of a country’s independence.”

Astrith Baltsan, a pianist who researched and wrote the book over three years, said she had originally been commissioned to produce it for Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations last year.

But when Saar saw it, she said, he had been keen to use it in all schools. She added that, when she played the anthem at a ministry launch party last week, even the Arab schools inspectors stood. “When you know the story of the anthem, you show it respect,” she said.

The Higher Follow-Up Committee, a national political body representing Israel’s Arab minority, has staunchly opposed the use of the kits. It wrote last week to Saar, warning that the initiative would “only deepen the alienation of Arab students and teachers.”

Figures released by the education ministry this month show that only 32 percent of Arab students passed their matriculation exam last year, compared to 60 percent of Jewish students. The pass rate was a dramatic drop from the 50.7 percent of Arab pupils who matriculated in 2006.

Yousef Jabareen, head of Dirasat, a Nazareth-based organization monitoring education issues, blamed the poor results on growing cultural bias in the Israeli education system as well as severe budgetary discrimination.

He said the increasing weight placed on Jewish heritage and Judaism lessons put Arab pupils at a severe disadvantage, and that further alienation was caused by the state’s refusal to allow the Arab education system any autonomy in selecting its own curriculum.

A report published in March, he added, showed that the government invested $1,100 in each Jewish pupil’s education compared to $190 for each Arab pupil. There was also a shortfall of more than 1,000 classrooms for Arab students.

Jabareen pointed out that a committee appointed last year by the dovish previous education minister, Yuli Tamir, had recommended curriculum reforms to encourage a “shared life” and common values among pupils, including more frequent encounters between Jewish and Arab students.

In April Saar quashed the committee’s report.

Opposition to the study of Hatikva is shared by ultra-religious Jews known as the Haredim. They believe the anthem should include a reference to God in the lyrics, and have proposed an alternative entitled HaEmunah.

what is a palestinian festival of literature?

apartheid wall, beit lahem with painting of mahmoud darwish
apartheid wall, beit lahem with painting of mahmoud darwish
close up of mahmoud darwish painting on the apartheid wall
close up of mahmoud darwish painting on the apartheid wall

it was the fourth day of the palestinian festival of literature today. the schedule had the group spending the afternoon in aida refugee camp and a friend of mine at badil was doing the logistical organizing so i asked him if i could join them and he said yes. i had to be a bit unobtrusive, however, as i learned that problems emerged today. there were three journalists who have been accompanying the writers to document the festival: one from electronic intifada, one woman from a singapore newspaper, and one woman from the new yorker. apparently ahdaf soueif decided that there are “the writers” and then there are “writers.” journalists, apparently, fall into the second category. so although they had been traveling with the group for the past few days, they were not allowed to come to the camp.

i walked to the camp, but the writers were behind schedule so i went to the lajee center where the program in the camp would begin. as i walked to the camp i noticed this new art on the apartheid wall. i guess it has been there a while, but i had not noticed it before. it is a painting by a french painter of mahmoud darwish (i cannot recall his name, but if someone knows please remind me). the same painting is in several different public spaces in palestine including in manara square in ramallah, in the garden at the khalil sakakini centre in ramallah, and before the front door of the lajee center. it is a reminder of darwish’s powerful presence in the psyche of palestinians. it is also a reminder of the importance of poetry in palestinian culture. one would never see such a tribute paid to an american writer. i cannot image any american writer being mourned and memorialized the way that darwish is here.

view of apartheid wall and gilo colony from aida refugee camp
view of apartheid wall and gilo colony from aida refugee camp

the lajee center has moved since the last time i was there. they have a much bigger space now and their building has a view of the apartheid wall as well as the gilo colony nearby on the land of beit jala. when the group finally arrived they came up for a presentation that started with two of the digital resistance project by children in aida camp that i’m actually writing about in the chapter i’m working on right now. the first is from a girl named abeer and the second from a girl named kholoud:

a couple of people talked about the camp and what it means to be a refugee and then the group went downstairs to view a photo exhibit produced by the children. then a brief walking tour of the camp began. it concluded with a dabke performance at al rowwad center in aida camp.

nathalie handal in aida refugee camp
nathalie handal in aida refugee camp
suheir hammad in aida refugee camp
suheir hammad in aida refugee camp
al rowwad dabka performance
al rowwad dabka performance

as i observed this visit to the camp i thought about the narrative being told about an nakba and about colonization in palestine. about the words chosen. about bearing witness. about what it means to be told these stories. about the responsibility of the listener who hears those stories. about how it affected these writers. one writer, henning mankell, who fell asleep while onstage during the first night’s performance in al quds, appeared as if he could barely stand being in the camp today. before the tour even began he stated loudly, “i’ve heard enough,” and left the group. while possibly he had jet lag the first night, and perhaps today he was tired, this outburst was extremely rude and deeply offensive to those who heard it.

i’m not sure what could have offended mankell. actually the language seemed quite mild to me. a lot of these writers are new to the subject of palestine and for most of them this is their first trip here. when internationals come here i think it is important for them to understand that when they learn about the colonies like gilo that they can see swallowing up palestinian villages like beit jala, they also need to understand that those are not the only colonies. they need to understand that villages like beit jebreen or zakariya are also colonies that occupy the land where palestinian refugees in aida camp–or any other camp for that matter–come from and where they have a right of return to. i wish that part of this trip had included not just the camp visit, but also a visit to a couple of the original villages with a couple of the kids from the camp. they could have conducted a writing workshop in that context and both the internationals and the youth from the camps could have composed poems or narratives about the village, about what it means to be a refugee. indeed, going to villages with refugees is the most powerful, awe-inspiring experience one can have in palestine. and helping give voice to palestinian refugees who wish to narrate their stories about an nakba and their right of return is essential, especially given the fact that the zionist entity is trying to make it illegal for palestinians to mourn this annual historical event marking their dispossession:

The Israeli cabinet ministers approved on Sunday a draft law banning the commemoration of the Nakba, the Arab word for catastrophe.

Palestinians mark their Nakba every year on the 15th of May as this the day when Israel was created after hundreds of Palestinians were killed and the majority of the people living in that territory lost their homes and became refugees.

The draft law will be submitted for Israeli parliamentary approval next week. If this law will pass people can face prison sentences up to three years. About 1.2 million Palestinians live inside Israel and thus constitute a minority of around twenty percent.

Dr. Jamal Zahalka, an Arab member of the Israeli Parliament told IMEMC over the phone that this law shows the real face of Israel. “This is a stupid, racist and very rude law that is unprecedented in the world. This law will control the feelings of people. It’s a rude law in particular because Israel has expelled our people and destroyed our villages, and then now they want to steal our cry of pain from us.” Dr. Zahalka said.

The draft bill was brought forward at the instigation of the radical ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party of Avigdor Lieberman, now Israel’s foreign minister.

During the Israeli elections of 2009, Yisrael Beitenu, now holding 15 of the 120 seats in parliament, targeted Israel’s Arab minority during the election campaign, adopting the slogan “No Citizenship without Loyalty”. Nadeem Nashif, President of the Association for Arab Youth, Baladna, a Palestinian NGO in Israel, told IMEMC that this law, if it will pass, will not stop the commemoration of the Nakba

“We will continue to commemorate the Nakba, no one can force use not to do so, for us it is an important part of our history and heritage. As we commemorated the Nakba in the past will do it in the future.” Nashif said.

On Monday Israeli media reported that three Labor ministers declared their intention to appeal the approval by the ministerial panel.

Israeli Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, and Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman said the draft bill will damage the freedom of expression and freedom of association.
The draft legislation has sparked up a lot of controversy in the Israeli society as well.

“To what level of stupidity can they sink?” said Dr. Eyal Gross, a constitutional law expert at Tel Aviv University as quoted in Israeli media, “it’s the kind of law that tries to make everyone think the same way. I don’t know of any similar laws in any democratic country.”

According to Gross, despite the fact that the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union has fallen, it seems that someone in the Knesset longs for the days in which there was only one truth, that was dictated by the government

The bill is expected to pass as the Israeli government holds the majority in the Israeli parliament.

At the same time Lieberman’s party has put forward another controversial draft legislation to the ministerial committee. The proposal calls for an amendment to the Citizenship Law. It states that people who refuse to state their willingness to serve in the army or perform alternative service will not be entitled to Israeli citizenship, as Yisrael Beiteinu also put forward in its election slogan.

The draft also includes an oath of allegiance: “I pledge to be loyal to the State of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and values, and serve the state, as required, in military service, or alternative service, as stated by the law.”
The amendment to the law also suggests that signing this declaration would be conditional in order to obtain an identity card in Israel. It determines that the state would be allowed to cancel the citizenship of a person who did not fulfill any of the described duties.

In Israel the Palestinian population is exempted from compulsory military service. In recent years the discussion has come up that Palestinian Israelis, instead of doing military service, should be engaged in alternative civil services, to serve the Israeli state in a different way.

As with the Nakba ban proposal the criticism on this draft proposal is that it limits the freedom of expression and it damages the basic principles of democracy.

robin yassin-kassab, claire messud, jamal mahjoub, michael palin
robin yassin-kassab, claire messud, jamal mahjoub, michael palin

after the visit to the camp i went to a coffeeshop with some friends until the reading for tonight began. there i learned from one of the journalists covering this trip that the criteria for being chosen is just whether or not they are famous. not what they will do after. not whether or not they have feelings or even curiosity about palestine. the subject tonight was “literary representations of migration and travel” and included claire messud, michael palin, robin yassin-kassab, and jamal mahjoub. for most of the discussion, as well as this literature festival more generally, i kept wondering: what is the point of this festival? is it merely a literature festival in palestine? it certainly isn’t a palestinian literature festival. yet again the bulk of the panel discussion had nothing to do with palestine even though the theme of the panel was about a subject that is very much related to palestine and yet it took quite some time before the subject was brought up. i feel like palestinian writers–here and from abroad–should be included in every one of the panel discussions, in part to inject the subject of palestine into the context. suheir hammad and nathalie handal should be included in these panel discussions; they are the only palestinian writers on the tour and yet, from my perspective, seem totally marginal in terms of how much we in the audience have heard their voices (nathalie has yet to do a reading of her poems).

robin yassin-kassab was the only one to bring up palestine–in relation to suad amiry’s talk the other night–in relation to the changing landscape in palestine in relation to his countries of origin, britain and syria. meanwhile claire messud brought up salman rushdie’s book imaginary homelands without ever connecting it to the very real aspirations for palestinians and their right to their homeland. and this is after spending an afternoon in a refugee camp. at one point my friend abed asked them a pointed question about what they will do after their trip here, but they seem to side step the question. i also asked a similar question, but made mine particularly pointed especially because there was someone in the audience with an american accent who identified himself as “living in israel,” which almost made me lose it; i took off my sandal wanting to throw it at him. so my question began with a statement that made it clear that whether it was gilo they were looking at or the apartheid wall: it is not about this recent confiscated land and that those villages they heard about today are every bit as much colonies as those we can see from the camps. and then i asked them what will they do when they go home? will they use their voices? their pens? pressure their governments (u.s. and u.k.)? these are people who have people’s attention far more than someone like me: what will they do with their voices? will they speak about the right of return for palestinian refugees? or will this just be an experience they had and that’s the end of that? messud directed me to the mission statement of the festival which reads as follows:

Palfest brings writers and artists from around the world to Palestinian audiences. It initiates and organizes cultural festivals with international and local participation. It organises workshops with students in Palestinian academic institutions in co-operation with Palestinian academics.

clearly this statement is working overtime trying to be apolitical. but the problem is coming here one cannot be apolitical as even the pope found out when he visited aida refugee camp. if they are here to help palestinian students and academics, why not do so in a way that can help them in literary and political ways? why not invite anti-colonial writers–ngugi wa thiongo’ comes to mind–who can share not only their art and craft, but also their political experience with people here? why not bring people who can talk about literature and resistance? moreover, who is this festival for? none of the events so far have had translation and all of the speaking has been in english. those who speak english well enough to attend such events are necessarily going to be from predominantly elite families. so is this a festival only for the elites of palestine?

and, by the way, the last question of the evening was about the cultural and academic boycott campaign (only two of these authors is signed onto the cultural boycott: victoria brittain and ahdaf soueif).

even the palfest blog is disappointing in terms of the kinds of things that the writers are observing. but not suheir hammad. never suheir. she posted something today about her day in ramallah:

….h, i, j, k, l.

between “k” and “l” no thing. air. space.

a walk. a wall. a walk.

raja shehadeh is a walker and a trail blazer, but not a tour leader. we walked and climbed and slid and sometimes crawled through the hills in our city slicker clothes. we held each other’s hands as we made ways up and then down. thorns everywhere. settlements on highest ground, and the sun behind clouds. sumac and zaatar and maramiya growing. terraced hills.

the israeli settlers from nearby colonies get to walk in these hills unmolested. the palestinians do not. the beauty and energy of the land, i imagine, has no political motivation, unless the desire to be loved and appreciated is political. it is here.

i wonder if soil has heart. i wonder if blood, sweat, and tears do feed roots and flower fruit. if the earth itself has memory, and can she remember, somehow, all those who came and planted and ate here. especially, as i struggle through the climb, i think of the women in traditional gear, expected roles, climbing with broad steady feet these steps in the hills. i wonder if some people are walking phantom limbs looking for home.

*suad amiry this evening talks about how she gets lost in the west bank, when once she knew it like her hand. so many checkpoints and detours where once there were open roads. “space and time here is not what you think,” she says and i understand. what once took 20 minutes now takes ten times the time. where there was space to plant and even bbq and picnic, there is now…the space is still there but it’s no longer accessible. so “here” and “now” mean different things in this place.

*in ramallah i get to see many friends who come out for the festival’s evening event. i ask them each, how has the year been, and the answers are the same, and in an order. first they respond, “alhumdilallah” or something like it, meaning “thank god/all good”. then they ask how i am. then i ask again and the answer is something along the lines of “not bad”. ask again, and the truth comes, and the truth here, now, is beautiful and hard, like the land we walked.

*there is a wall.
here is a land.
now is the time.
the people are here.
still.

khawaja

deir rafat, palestine
deir rafat, palestine

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

bedouin shepherds in deir rafat
bedouin shepherds in deir rafat

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

ruins of deir rafat
ruins of deir rafat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

saffuriyya, palestine
saffuriyya, palestine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

building momentum against israeli apartheid

carlos latuff
carlos latuff
many of you know that it is now israel apartheid week around the world and also here in palestine (i will paste in the information about events in palestine below because the link here to the apartheid website does not seem to be updated yet). there are all kinds of things you can and should do this week–and i would say every single day–to help support this week of educational events (and stuff coming up for yom al ard at the end of the month). the palestinian boycott divestment sanctions (bds) movement created this lovely little pdf for people who want to know what else they can do. click here for the document.

and the boycott of israeli products (though, unfortunately, not american products: please, someone tell me, why/how people can be so willing to give up their lives, to fight and die in order to liberate their land, but they still cannot sacrifice the 2-3 minutes the flavor of coca cola on their tongues. seriously: i want to know the answer to this question because it keeps me up at night. it bothers me that much) is taking off in palestine, it seems. i say “it seems,” because i am very cynical about how this is being framed and who is doing the framing. it is the palestinian authority that seems to be taking the lead here, but i bet that if we went into the offices of these folks we’d find all things israeli. but if they want to coopt this campaign and push their fatah-normalizing followers to boycott too, the more the merrier. here is what was reported late last week:

Buying Palestinian products is a patriotic act of resistance which plays a major role in helping the Palestinian people stay steadfast on their land, said Head of Palestinian Presidential Bureau Rafiq Al-Huseini Saturday.

Al-Huseini spoke at a conference where the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced an initiative to support the production and improvement of Palestinian products as part of a boycott of Israeli goods as well as an effort to strengthen the local economy.

Such an action, he said, “is a peaceful means of countering Israeli settlement plans; it is also something ordinary people can easily participate in.”

The initiative aims at enhancing Palestinian products by improving quality, reducing price and increasing the ability of Palestinian producers to compete against world products both at home and abroad.

“Our vision is to have national products capable of competing in internal and external markets,” Al-Huseini said. “We also aim at strengthening consumer loyalty to Palestinian brands,” he told assembled politicians and businessmen in the Ramallah government compound on Saturday.

Palestinian minister of the Economy Kamal Hassuna said supporting national products was a moral duty, noting that the caretaker government had, from the “beginning, worked to support the private sector through new legislations.”

Head of the Union of Palestinian Industries Basim Khouri, said the union endeavored to increase the portion of national products in the local market by providing high-quality products meeting international standards at competitive prices.

Representative of the Palestinian investment fund Jamal Haddad described supporting national products as a pillar of the Palestinian resistance against occupation because it frees the Palestinian people from dependence on Israeli products and supports local business owners.

and for those of you who think that making responsible choices when you go shopping doesn’t have an effect on the israeli terrorist regime, think again and read what shir hever has to say about it:

Although the Israeli economic media doesn’t concern itself with the moral dimension of the attacks on Gaza, the economic dimension of recent events have created a rising level of concern. In order to demonstrate this trend, here are summaries of four articles that appeared in the Israeli The Marker magazine for economic news:

1. On 2 February, Guy Grimland warned about a growing phenomenon of boycott of Israeli high-tech companies, and several Israeli companies received letters from European and U.S. companies explaining that they cannot invest in Israel for moral reasons.

2. In 3 February, Nehemia Strassler, one of Israel’s most famous economic correspondents, attacked the Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Eli Yishai, for calling on the Israeli military to “destroy one hundred homes in Gaza for every rocket that falls in Israel.” Strassler had nothing to say about the Palestinians living in these homes or about the loss of life, but he warned:

“[the minister] doesn’t even understand how the operation in Gaza hurts the economy. The horror sights on television and the words of politicians in Europe and Turkey change the behavior of consumers, businessmen and potential investors. Many European consumers boycott Israeli products in practice. Intellectuals call for an economic war against us and to enforce an official and full consumer boycott.

Calls are heard in board meetings of economic corporations to boycott trade relations with Israel. So far deals were cancelled with Turkey, the UK, Egypt and the Gulf States, and visits by economic delegations were cancelled. It’s much easier now to switch providers while abandoning Israeli providers. Many company boards are required to take wide considerations into account with regards to the good of society and the environment, and they put political considerations in that slot as well.

Of course there is an economic cost to severing diplomatic ties. Qatar cut its trade relations with Israel, Venezuela and Bolivia cut diplomatic relations. Mauritania recalled its ambassador and the relations with Turkey worsened considerably—and this bad ambiance seeps into the business sector decisions. Here, just yesterday Dudi Ovshitz, who grows peppers for export, said that ‘there is a concealed boycott of Israeli products in Europe.'”

3. On 6 February, Shuki Sadeh wrote about even more companies that have decided to boycott relations with Israel. A Turkish company demanded that Israeli companies sign a document condemning the Israeli massacre in Gaza before they can offer their services for it. Sadeh quoted Naomi Klein’s recent call for boycott, the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott and Israeli organizations that support the boycott and provide information for the global BDS movement. Sadeh’s article also had concerned quotes by Israeli businessmen who demanded government intervention to protect them from the growing boycott.

4. In 11 February, Ora Koren reported that the Israeli business sectors feel the effects of the attack on Gaza. She reported that Israeli businessmen in Turkey are hiding their names so that the local BDS organizations won’t learn about their activities, and that the situation is even worse in the UK.

These four articles are a sign that there is a shift in the effectiveness of the BDS movement against Israel, and that if the momentum is maintained and strengthened, Israeli businessmen may decide to move their headquarters away from Israel, or to begin to put pressure on the Israeli government to begin respecting international law, and ending the occupation.

reporting on israel apartheid week in canada, mel frykberg gives us some context for bds not only because of the israeli terrorist state’s action at “home,” but also for their complicity in apartheid south africa itself:

In the wake of the BDS campaign, critics of Israel have lashed out at what they see as parallels between South Africa’s former apartheid system and Israeli racism.

They point to Israel’s discriminatory treatment of ethnic Palestinians within Israel who hold Israeli passports, and the extensive human rights abuses against Palestinians in the occupied territories by Israeli security forces.

During the apartheid era, ties between Israel and South Africa were extremely strong, with the Jewish state helping to train South Africa’s security forces as well as supplying the regime in Pretoria with weapons.

Meanwhile, Toronto, where the Israel Apartheid Week movement was born, will hold forums, film shows, cultural events and street protests to mark IAW week. One of the guest speakers is former South African intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils.

Kasrils is no stranger to controversy. His parents fled from Tzarist Russian pogroms carried out against Jews, and immigrated to South Africa at the beginning of the last century.

During white rule, as a member of the African National Congress (ANC), working both in exile and underground in South Africa, he was reviled by many white South Africans as a “terrorist”.

He has also been labelled a self-hating Jew by many Israelis and South African Jews due to the strong stand he and the ANC have taken against Israel’s policies.

and today we have great news from the united kingdom. they are making the moral choice not to accept office space in the man who has african and palestinian blood on his hands, lev leviev (now if we can only get the uk to sanction the zoinist regime then we’d be getting somewhere, but i suppose that is too much to ask. i mean, where would the zionist entity be without their british friends?):

The British embassy in Tel Aviv has stopped negotiations to lease a floor in Africa-Israel’s Kirya Tower because of the company’s role in West Bank settlement construction.

The British embassy had been expected to move from its current Hayarkon Street location into the office tower on the corner of Kaplan and Begin. The lease would have cost $162,000 a year, the British press reported.

Africa-Israel is owned by Lev Leviev, a tycoon who recently left Israel and settled in Britain.

jamal juma’ has an article in electronic intifada this week encouraging us on to continue our actions, to build on this momentum with bds as civil society, but his reference to latin america is an important reminder that one of the reasons for bds is that we, as civil society members need to use boycott and divestment pressure to encourage governments to sanction the zionist entity:

Latin America, on the other hand, is the only region wherein popular anger was more or less reflected in official discourse and action. It is no coincidence that Bolivia and Venezuela, the two countries in the region that cut diplomatic ties with Israel, are also the two states whose governments operate, both in principle and in practice, according to the needs of the majority.

Palestine has developed into a global litmus test for democracy. While more progressive states in Latin America stood up for Palestine and BDS, repressive Middle Eastern regimes did their best to crush popular mobilization. The EU governments stood somewhere in the middle, giving further proof of their special form of “democracy” wherein people are allowed to express their opinions but not influence government decisions.

Regardless of governmental political leanings, the mobilizations evidence a considerable and growing popular support for the Palestinian people. Yet, these protests, while encouraging, do not guarantee longer-term political gains. The most recent and sobering example of this were the record numbers of people who turned out to protest the most recent invasion of Iraq and the subsequent problems that have plagued the creation of an effective anti-war movement.

Instead, we should look to the concrete BDS victories that followed Gaza as evidence of lasting political change. The actions of South African workers and Latin American social movements, to mention only a few examples, represent not only anger over Gaza, but also its effective channeling into an organized movement that far predates this most recent atrocity. They indicate that we have managed to build, in a short period of time, an effective focal point for uniting international solidarity and support for the Palestinian cause.

i get impatient with those organizing in the u.s. very easily, one of the many reasons i left the country, because there is still so much educational work to be done before people can see why bds is necessary. i wish that students in american universities, for instance, would work to occupy their institutions and divest now rather than educating, but at the same time i suppose it is important to remember that the students at hampshire college worked on their campaign for 2 years before getting to where they are now. and the research one needs to do in order to discover what israeli and american and european companies that invest in the israeli terrorist state takes a long time. thus, columbia university seems to be on the right path as david judd reports:

Students at Columbia University are taking up the fight for Palestinian rights and have begun organizing around a set of demands for the university’s divestment from Israel.

The students’ demands, released on March 2, include full disclosure of Columbia’s budget and endowment, a public forum on divestment, partnership with a Palestinian university, scholarships for Palestinian students and statements of support for Palestinian academic freedom and self-determination.

Students plan to host a forum on March 4, on “Columbia University’s Relationship to Palestinian rights.” A rally in front of the administration building is planned for the next day.

This comes just two weeks after more than a hundred Columbia University faculty members signed a letter demanding that the university’s president take a stand for academic freedom in Palestine.

at columbia university and elsewhere along the east coast my dear friend ziad abbas, who is a refugee from the village of zakariya in 1948 palestine though he grew up in deheishe refugee camp, is starting his speaking tour this week for israel apartheid week and i strongly encourage people to attend. he is inspirational and amazing in every way:

Ziad Abbas, a Palestinian refugee and journalist from Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, is the cofounder of the Ibdaa Cultural Center. Ziad has worked with Palestinian and international media and has participated in the production of several documentary films. He recently completed his M.A. in Social Justice from the School for International Training (SIT). Currently on leave from the Ibdaa Cultural Center, Ziad works with Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), a non-profit organization which provides humanitarian aid to children in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. The tour will help support MECA’s efforts in Gaza.

Atlanta, GA

TUESDAY March 3rd, 2009 – 7pm
Testimony, Apartheid and Resistance
Harland Cinema
Dobbs University Center/Drawer B
Emory University
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!!
Donations to MECA welcome!!
Contact Saba at skhali3(at)emory.edu or Atasi at atasi.das(at)gmail.com
Sponsored by Emory Advocates for Justice in Palestine

Brattleboro, VT

WEDNESDAY March 4th, 2009 – 6:30 pm
International Center (IC) 101
SIT Graduate Institute
1 Kipling Road
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!!
Donations welcome!!
Contact Jennifer at Jennifer.McClearen(at)sit.edu or Atasi at atasi.das(at)gmail.com

Marlboro, VT

THURSDAY March 5th, 2009 – 7pm
Ragle Hall
Marlboro College
2582 South Road
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!!
Donations to MECA welcome!!
Contact Mikaela at mikaela_sims(at)wsesu.org

New York, NY

TUESDAY March 10th, 2009 – 6:30pm
Silver Center, Room 703
New York University
31 Washington Square Place
(btwn Greene St. & Washington Square East)
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!!
Donations to MECA are welcome!!
Contact Morgan at morgan.l.brennan(at)gmail.com or Atasi at atasi.das(at)gmail.com

WEDNESDAY March 11th, 2009 – 7:30pm
Columbia University
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!
Donations to MECA are welcome!!
Contact Shaina at srl2127(at)columbia.edu

Washington D.C.

THURSDAY March 12th, 2009 – 7pm
Busboys @ 5th & K.
1025 5th Street NW, DC
(202) 789-2227
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!
Donations to MECA are welcome!!
Contact Vera at vera.leone(at)gmail.com

Harrisonburg, VA

FRIDAY March 13th, 2009 – 7pm

Strite Conference Room in the Campus Center (main building in center of campus)
Eastern Mennonite University
1200 Park Rd
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!!
Donations to MECA are welcome!!
Contact Suzi at suzi(at)clementinecafe.com

Portland, ME

SUNDAY March 15th, 2009 – 7pm
Meg Perry Center
644 Congress St.
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!
Donations to MECA are welcome!!
Contact Dan at fugedaboutit(at)gmail.com

Lewiston, ME

MONDAY March 16th, 2009 – 7pm
Bates College
Location: TBA
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!!
Donations to MECA welcome!!
Contact Samy at sqarmout(at)bates.edu or Grif gpeterso(at)bates.edu

finally, for those who are in palestine, here is the list of events for israel apartheid week–in arabic followed by english–that you can attend in refugee camps and universities throughout the west bank:

للنشر الفوري: 3 آذار 2009

بيان صحفي صادر عن اللجنة الوطنية الفلسطينية لمقاطعة إسرائيل وسحب الاستثمارات منها، وفرض العقوبات عليها

الجامعات ومخيمات اللاجئين في الضفة الغربية المحتلة تطلق حملة فعاليات أسبوع الفصل العنصري الإسرائيلي (2 – 9 آذار 2009)

يصادف هذا الأسبوع والممتد من الثاني من آذار وحتى التاسع منه، الدورة الخامسة لأسبوع الفصل العنصري الإسرائيلي، والذي يعقد في أكثر من أربعين موقعاً في العالم. وقد امتد هذا الأسبوع إلى فلسطين المحتلة، حيث ان هذه هي السنة الثانية التي ينظم فيها هذا الأسبوع في عدد من الجامعات والمخيمات الفلسطينية في الضفة الفلسطينية المحتلة. ويتضمن أسبوع الفصل العنصري لهذا العام سلسلة من الفعاليات المتنوعة، تشمل المحاضرات والعروض الثقافية، وعروضاً للأفلام الوثائقية وتنظيماً للمعارض، إضافة إلى تنظيم التجمعات والمظاهرات والنقاشات التي تهدف إلى تسليط الضوء على نظام الفصل العنصري الإسرائيلي، وزيادة الدعم لحركة التضامن المحلية والعالمية الداعية لمقاطعة إسرائيل وفرض العقوبات عليها حتى تذعن للقانون الدولي وقرارات الشرعية الدولية ذات الصلة.

ينظم أسبوع الفصل العنصري الإسرائيلي لهذا العام في فلسطين المحتلة تحت عنوان: لنقف صفاً واحداًُ مع غزة، التي تعرضت وسكانها الفلسطينيين إلى هجمة إسرائيلية متوحشة مع بداية عام 2009، أدت إلى استشهاد 1400 معظمهم من السكان المدنيين، والتي ترافقت مع حالة من السخط العالمي الشعبي على المجازر الإسرائيلية، تمثلت في التضامن غير المسبوق مع الشعب الفلسطيني وفي المطالبة بمقاطعة إسرائيل وفرض العقوبات عليها.

هذا وتنظم فعاليات أسبوع الفصل العنصري الإسرائيلي في عدد من الجامعات ومخيمات اللاجئين الفلسطينيين في الضفة الغربية المحتلة، وستأخذ هذه الفعاليات عدة أشكال نضالية سلمية ضد نظام الابرتهايد الإسرائيلي. ورغم انه قد درج استخدام أسبوع الفصل العنصري الإسرائيلي إلا أن الفعاليات ستستمر خلال شهر آذار، وستتكلل بمسيرة جماهيرية بتاريخ 30 آذار 2009 الذي يصادف يوم الأرض. هذا وستنظم مجمل الفعاليات الجماهيرية لهذا اليوم تحت عنوان: مقاطعة إسرائيل وفرض العقوبات عليها. وسترفع الفعالية المركزية شعار:
لنجعل يوم الأرض يوم مقاطعة إسرائيل وسحب الاستثمارات منها وفرض العقوبات عليها.

لقد أصبح أسبوع الفصل العنصري منذ انطلاقته في العام 2005، احد أهم الأنشطة على أجندة التضامن العالمي مع القضية الفلسطينية. ففي العام المنصرم، شاركت 25 مدينة عالمية في الأنشطة والفعاليات المختلفة المنبثقة، إلى جانب مشاركتها في إحياء الذكرى الستين للنكبة الفلسطينية. إن الحضور والمشاركة في فعاليات أسبوع مقاطعة إسرائيل، تعتبر عوامل أساسية للتواصل مع الحركة المحلية والعالمية المتصاعدة الداعية لمقاطعة إسرائيل، وتساعد على فهم طبيعة ومضمون نظام الابارتهايد والاستعمار الاحلالي، والاحتلال الإسرائيلي العدواني.

وفيما يلي قائمة بالمواقع المشاركة في الأسبوع في الضفة الغربية:
القدس: جامعة القدس (ابو ديس)، مخيم شعفاط.
رام الله: جامعة بيرزيت، مخيم الجلزون.
بيت لحم: بيت ساحور، مخيم عايدة.
الخليل: مخيم الفوار.
جنين: الجامعة الامريكية، مخيم جنين.
اريحا: جامعة القدس المفتوحة، مخيم عقبة جبر.
نابلس: جامعة النجاح الوطنية، مخيم بلاطة.
طولكرم: جامعة القدس المفتوحة، كلية خضوري، مخيم نور شمس.
طوباس: مخيم الفارعة

للمزيد من التفاصيل الرجاء التواصل مع: محمد جيوس، الحملة الشعبية لمقاومة الجدار (0599649815)،
وللمزيد من التفاصيل حول الفعاليات في مخيمات اللاجئين الرجاء التواصل مع: حازم سليمان، مسؤول التواصل في بديل/ المركز الفلسطيني لمصادر حقوق المواطنة واللاجئين: (2747346+)، أو (2777086+)، ومباشرة على: info [at] bdsmovement.net

**For Immediate Release**

“Israeli Apartheid Week” Taking Place in Universities and Refugee Camps
Across the Occupied West Bank

March 2nd – March 8th 2009
Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Jericho, Nablus, Qalqilya, Tulkarem, Tubas
For a detailed list of events, please see: http://apartheidweek.org

BDS National Committee (BNC), Occupied Palestine, 26 February 2009 – The fifth international Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) – occurring in over 40 cities in Palestine and worldwide – will be held across the West Bank from 2-8 March 2009.

This is the second consecutive year IAW is hosted in the West Bank. The week will feature lectures, film screenings, art and photography exhibits, cultural events and demonstrations aiming at deepening the apartheid analysis of Israel, while gathering support for the growing local-Palestinian and international movement for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) until Israel complies with international law.

The theme of this year’s IAW is “Standing United with the People’s of Gaza” – a focus which comes in the wake of the brutal Israeli military attacks on the people of Gaza in early 2009. Over 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the assault, more than 5,000 injured, and 14, 000 homes were totally or partially destroyed. Apartheid week will build upon the widespread protest and indignation witnessed during Israel’s assault and seek practicable ways to hold Israel accountable.

Campus and refugee camp boycott campaigns will be launched and developed during the week, in the lead-up to the 30 March (Land Day) BDS global day of action.

Since its initial launch in 2005, IAW has grown to become one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar. Last year, more than 25 cities around the world participated in the week’s activities, which also commemorated 60 years since the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homes and land in 1947-1948. Attending IAW is important for anyone interested in understanding and connecting with the rising student and youth movement in the West Bank that has taken a pivotal role in organizing and mobilizing against Israeli apartheid, occupation and colonialism.

The full list of locations is as follows:

Jerusalem: al-Quds University (Abu Dis), Shu’fat Refugee Camp
Ramallah: Birzeit University, Jalazon Refugee Camp
Bethlehem: Beit Sahour and ‘Aida Refugee Camp
Hebron: Fawwar Refugee Camp
Jenin: Arab-American University, Jenin Refugee Camp
Jericho: al-Quds Open University, Aqabat Jabr Refugee Camp
Nablus: al-Najah University, Balata Refugee Camp
Tulkarem: al-Quds Open Unversity, al-Khadouri Collge, Nur Shams Refugee Camp
Tubas: Far’a Refugee Camp

For media contacts and inquiries, please contact:
For campus initiatives:
Mohammad Jayyousi, Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, +972-599649815

For initiatives in the refugee camps:
Hazem Suleiman, Badil Resource Center +972-2-277-7086

Please, direct email inquiries to: info [at] bdsmovement.net

smuggling

Jewish-only road near Nahaleen above the Palestinian bypass road
Jewish-only road near Nahaleen above the Palestinian bypass road
I had been looking forward to this weekend for so long. I had first planned to go down to Deheishe refugee camp to see my friends of Eid, but this year is a hibernation year for me so that I can finish my book. And because I hadn’t completed enough work I used Eid to write. We had been planning a trip to 1948 Palestine since then and this was the weekend we finally did it.

the Palestinian village Nahaleen's olive trees and the illegal Israeli settlement bitar above
the Palestinian village Nahaleen's olive trees and the illegal Israeli settlement bitar above
We got up somewhat early Friday morning and went with a group of youth from the Ibdaa Cultural Center to the nearby Palestinian village of Nahaleen to help pick olives. It was a beautiful day–warm, blue sky, bright billowy clouds. And many of the families were already out picking their olives when we arrived. The village of Nahaleen, like most Palestinian villages, is confronted by the illegal Israeli settlement Bitar which sits above it complete with an Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) watch tower overlooking the village. There were no problems in the village yesterday when we were picking olives, but that is not usually the case–certainly not in the villages around Nablus where I live. The Israeli human rights organization, B’tselem, reports on some of these atrocities–committed by the ITF and illegal Israeli soldiers alike. I have also posted a number of links since the harvest began.

Nahaleen olives
Nahaleen olives
In an AP news story last week the economic condition was also discussed, which is not usually addressed in much of the writing about the olive harvest here.

Thousands of Palestinians take part in the harvest, with students given time off to help and professionals returning to their villages. Olive oil is a food staple, and even the leftovers from the oil presses are used as fuel.

The economic benefits are relatively modest — about $100 million from an expected 21,000 tons of olive oil this year — but the extra income reaches some 100,000 families. For some, it’s just pocket money, for others enough to plan a wedding or build a house.

Regardless of what revenue is generated by the olive harvest, it is an essential component of many families’ income every year, made more challenging by the number of trees that illegal Israeli settlers set fire to, uproot, confiscate, and poison every year. The village of Nil’in near Ramallah has also seen a difficult year in terms of its land confiscation and violence directed at its villagers who resist this.

Zionist painting over a Palestinian home in Haifa
Zionist painting over a Palestinian home in Haifa
I loved that we spent time doing this–especially that Palestinian refugees spent time picking olives. It’s important not only in terms of solidarity between villagers and refugees, but also enables refugee children to participate in a traditional, historical practice that their families would be doing today were it not for the Zionist theft of their land. I was reminded of this on our way to Haifa in the afternoon. There were four of us on our mini road trip: one of us from Nasra and two refugees from the Beit Lahem area. On the way we drove by so many of the villages that Palestinians in Deheishe come from: Beit Jibrin, Ras Abu Ammar, Zakariya, as well as my friends’ villages: Deir Rafat and Malha. In many of these villages, and the surrounding area, there are forests. Nothing has turned the environmentalist in me against forests more than the Zionists. As I glimpse the trees I see nothing but the covering up of Zionist crimes: theft and murder.

street sign in Akka comemmorating Jewish terrorists
street sign in Akka comemmorating Jewish terrorists
Our drive also revealed the many of the boycott companies: Coca Cola, Microsoft, Nestle, McDonald’s. These companies also occupy space on stolen land. We arrived in Haifa in the late afternoon and met up with a friend of one of my friends. We walked a bit around the old city where we saw far too many signs of what Zionists would probably call “art” and what I would call defacing Palestinian homes. Haifa, like Akka, is one of those cities where Palestinians and Israelis live together (or what the Israeli governments call “coexistence”; “coexistence” is always code for Israeli domination of Palestinians by erasing their identity, burning down their homes, boycotting their businesses, keeping them from equal access to housing on their own land, as well as violence directed against Palestinians).

Zionist take over of a Palestinian mosque in Akka
Zionist take over of a Palestinian mosque in Akka
We didn’t stay very long in Haifa as we wanted to get to Akka, which was another hour or so north. We had been planning this trip to Akka before the Israeli violence against Palestinians broke out in that city. Actually, we were supposed to be there that weekend, but my writing schedule and the Israeli closure of the West Bank postponed the trip. Unlike Haifa, people in Akka were still reeling from what happened there. People we met in the streets spoke very differently about their Jewish “neighbors” than people in Haifa. It was disappointing that at least the sentiment among Palestinians hadn’t spread. It’s not like such violence and racism doesn’t exist in Haifa, too. It does. But even politically active people I met seemed to be all too willing to resume “normal” relationships with the Zionist colonists who live in that city in Palestinian homes, on Palestinian land. But in Akka it was different. We walked around the Old City and around the port and rocky sea shore. Even late at night the Old City was so lively–far more lively on a Friday night than in the Old City of Nablus or Al Quds. Here we saw an engagement party being held outside in the streets, people playing card, smoking argila. It was amazing to see people out in the streets like that (in Nablus the city closes down relatively early given the frequency with which the ITF comes in and murders and kidnaps people every night.) We had a lovely dinner in one of the Palestinian restaurants on the sea. We checked first to make sure it was owned by a Palestinian family and the owner happened to be there. He was so happy that people came all the way from Beit Lahem to lend their solidarity that he served us desert for free. And a number of Palestinians eating on the deck nearby who overheard our conversation over dinner expressed similar sentiments.

pre-1948 writing on the wall of Beit Najadah, Haifa
pre-1948 writing on the wall of Beit Najadah, Haifa
Over dinner one of our many conversations was about what my one friend learned in her schooling in Nasra where they are obligated to use Israeli curricula and textbooks. There is not one word about Palestinian history in these books. In fact, the word Palestinian is not mentioned. For my friend, this has led to a situation where most of her peers growing up–those who did not receive such knowledge from parents and grandparents–assimilated, or tried to anyway. They grow up thinking that they are Israeli and that they are not related to or associated with Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza or the refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan. In some ways this is strange for me to hear because I have dear friends in Lebanon who are from Nasra, who still have family in Nasra, so there is obviously knowledge that there is a relationship between Palestinians elsewhere, particularly those expelled from their land, and those living inside 1948 Palestine. But the Israelis, like all colonists, have been quite successful at its project of internalized colonialism. (For anyone out there who thinks that assimilation is a good thing and that it somehow leads to an erasure of racism just look at the U.S. elections and how hard republicans are trying to prove Barack Obama isn’t really American.)

Beit Najadah, Haifa
Beit Najadah, Haifa
In Nasra it seems that the situation is more difficult–people just want to live their lives, they don’t want to fight for their right to learn about their own history (and I should say that Palestinian textbooks here in the West Bank are not much better: while the word Palestinian is obviously used here, these books are also subject to Israeli and American censorship, usually led by Hillary Clinton, and the history is far from complete) according to my friend. And yet Nasra, like Akka, is subjected to the same level of racism as in the rest of 1948 Palestine as Ali Haider wrote last week in Electronic Intifada:

But Acre is not alone. There are six other cities like it that are also called “mixed cities,” where strong and deep-rooted Palestinian communities lived until 1948 and where only the remnants of the expulsion remained. The situation of the Arab residents in Acre also reflects the situation of the Arabs in Jaffa, Ramle, Lod and Haifa. During the past decade, they were joined by Upper Nazareth and Carmiel. The residents in these cities are exposed to persistent efforts to expel them by various means, most of them systemic. They are at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, suffer from unemployment, poverty, a shortage of housing and land, and encounter policies of two-fold discrimination: from both the central government and from the local government.

Leila Khaled's house
Leila Khaled's house
There are reminders of the way in which Zionists have always stolen land all over 1948 Palestine. One of those reminders was when we went searching for Leila Khaled’s house in Haifa on our way home. We found it with the help of my friend’s friend whom we met up with again later that night. But it was disturbing to see that there was a name written in Hebrew above the doorbell. I had thought that the house was empty–actually I had been told that by someone in Haifa, and also I vaguely recall hearing that in the film Leila Khaled: Hijacker. But perhaps that has changed since the film came out a few years ago. We also saw a house called “Beit Najadah,” for which a photograph above, with Hebrew text, commemorates (for the Zionists). This house is on the main road, Salah el Din Street, along the coast in Haifa and apparently this is the road that Lebanese resistance fighters who came to fight in solidarity with Palestinians during an nakba came down. As a result there was fighting there between the Jewish terrorist forces Hagana (the same Hagana that the coastline street in Akka, around the Palestinian old city, is named after) and Palestinians. But while I suspect this sign is memorializing the 36 Jewish terrorists who died there on April 21, 1948, the fact that this is being commemorated at all shows one of the few Arab victories of 1948. But the Zionist colonists were so worried about the location of this house that they commandeered the bottom two floors from the family who lives there and until this day it is a synagogue.

Palestinian vs. Israeli beer
Palestinian vs. Israeli beer
Before we left Haifa, and 1948, we went out with my friend’s friends for a drink in an area called the “German Colony,” though we did go to a Palestinian cafe there. But even the name of this area doesn’t disguise what it was and what it is: a colony of foreigners who don’t belong there. Who were not invited. Who stole and steal and murdered and murder. I had Arabic coffee given that I had to drive back to Beit Lahem (we didn’t get home until 5 am), but my friends had beer. Of course, my friends from Beit Lahem observe the boycott and so the one who wanted beer ordered Taybe, the Palestinian beer. But the two men from Haifa who we were with ordered Gold Star, which is an Israeli beer. Anyone who knows me well can expect what happened next. An argument ensued. I started it, but my friend from Deheishe carried it through–for about 2.5 hours, until almost 2:30 in the morning. And as the evening (or morning, rather) wore on the number of Gold Star beers these two men consumed increased. Their choice of beer bothered me for two reasons: 1) when you have a Palestinian choice, precisely because there are so few spaces here where one does have a choice, you should choose the Palestinian option; 2) if you don’t like the Palestinian option because you’ve so internalized the idea that Israeli products are better and you don’t question that colonial logic, then why not drink something else? Beer is not necessary in one’s life. It’s not like soap or vegetables or things one needs every day. This is where I just fundamentally cannot understand why someone would make a choice–especially someone who is active in politics and in a political party that they share with Azmi Bishara. Bishara is known for his speaking all over the world about boycott, divestment, and sanctions. So why can’t people match their politics with their behavior? This fight was interesting especially because at dinner in Akka we made it very clear that whatever items on the menu we were consuming we wanted Palestinian versions wherever possible. For instance, we didn’t want bottled water because you can’t buy Palestinian water in 1948.

I don’t know what will have to give in order to unify the ideas and the people all over Palestine in order to enable Palestinian refugees to return to their land, but something’s got to give. And soon. While smuggling my friends into 1948 Palestine was a great pleasure in so many ways, I hate that I had to resort to illegal activities in order to help my friends see their own country that they were forcibly removed from. I want them to not only visit whatever area of their country they choose to visit, but to be able to live wherever they want to.