Saturday, November 14, 2009

Transforming the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rather than ending it

"Israel is working towards a solution that many ultimately would prefer in any case, but in a backwards manner. Israel, by ensuring that a two-state solution cannot occur, is in fact working towards a one-state solution, a Palestine complete from river to sea.

Unfortunately, it is doing so in a manner that will merely transform the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rather than end it." Jordan Times Editorial 15 November 2009 Transforming the conflict

Friday, November 13, 2009

Palestinian families at risk of being forced to leave homes

Palestinian families at risk of being forced to leave homes

Our new research warns that intolerable living conditions are driving families living in areas of the Occupied Palestinian Territory that the UN identifies as 'high risk' to abandon their land and homes, even though most will be worse off once they do so.

Families living in 'high risk' areas, which include most of the rural West Bank and Gaza border area or 'buffer zone', face hardships such as daily shortages of food and water, high unemployment, insecurity, separation from families and access to schooling. Palestinians living in these areas are also poorer, less protected and more vulnerable than anywhere else in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Almost half of Palestinians living in 'high-risk' areas in OPT have been forced from their homes since 2000, the last major period of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. House demolitions and the loss of income and sources of livelihoods are common triggers that lead them to move. More than half of those affected are children. 78% of displaced families said they wanted to return to their homes.

Other research findings:

- Only 37% of people living in high-risk areas have enough to eat, compared with 70% of people living elsewhere.

- In the surveyed areas of the West Bank, 92% of families have no access to healthcare, compared to 34% in the rest of the occupied territory. These families also face forced evictions, land confiscation threats and lack of access to essential services.

- Only 2% of people in the surveyed areas of the West Bank have access to sanitation, compared with 61% outside the area.

- In Gaza, only 9% of families living in or near the Buffer Zone said they felt safe and secure, compared with 55% outside of the area. Concerns for personal security and safety have caused families to move away from their communities.

- "We always knew that life was tough in these areas, but this new research has shown just how bad things are. Many families we spoke to were at breaking point," says Salam Kanaan, Country Director for Save the Children UK in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Humanitarian aid not reaching those in need

The research also reveals that international organizations are not reaching those most in need. Movement and access restrictions, as well as difficulties coordinating with Israeli authorities, are the major obstacles to getting help through.

"It's unacceptable that so little real assistance is getting through when children are at such high risk. The humanitarian community, development agencies and the Palestinian Authority must make these vulnerable communities an urgent priority through a comprehensive and co-ordinated response," Kanaan continued.

Save the Children UK urges the State of Israel to halt actions that result in the displacement of Palestinians, including the demolition of Palestinian homes, and to clearly define a policy for the Gaza buffer zone that is in line with its international legal obligations to protect civilians under occupation.

Read the full report.

Charter for Compassion

This Week in Palestine: Dr. Salam Fayyad- From Street Football in Tulkarem to the Prime Minister’s Office Born in Nablus in 1952...

Dr. Salam Fayyad

From Street Football in Tulkarem to the Prime Minister’s Office Born in Nablus in 1952, Dr. Salam Fayyad remembers his early school years in Tulkarem, when doing well at school was not the main thing (as it continues to be today), it was the only thing. Well, almost the only thing. Back then, after-school street football was also a daily routine and a prominent item on his agenda.
In his late teens, Fayyad left the West Bank and headed to Jordan for high school before moving to Beirut, where he received his first college degree at the American University of Beirut. He then went on to complete graduate studies in the United States. In Texas, he earned an MBA from St. Edward’s University and a doctorate in economics from the University of Texas, Austin (1986). It was there that he developed a keen appreciation for that other game they call football, of which he has since become an avid fan.
Fayyad has always loved to teach, and in the early to mid 1980s, he taught economics at the University of Texas as well as at Yarmouk University in Jordan. However, he found another calling at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, D.C., where he worked from 1987 to 2001, acting as resident representative in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from 1996 until 2001. Between his teaching and his IMF career, he served as a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Before embarking on a political career, Fayyad also worked as the regional manager of the Arab Bank, Palestine, in 2002. However, by June of that year, politics beckoned, and Fayyad was appointed minister of finance of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Having held similar positions since then, including membership in the Palestinian Legislative Council, Fayyad is now in the midst of one of the most important challenges of his life - the role of prime minister.
Throughout the years, Fayyad has earned an international reputation for his commitment to fairness, transparency, and accountability. As the minister of finance and prime minister, Fayyad essentially whipped the PNA’s books into shape. Last year, he re-launched the Ministry of Finance’s website, committing to post monthly reports on the PNA’s financial operations, thereby allowing every citizen to examine all of the PNA’s financial transactions in order to eliminate any doubts about corruption and financial mismanagement. As Fayyad said during the launch, “Reform is not just a slogan, nor is political will - important as it is - enough to turn it into a reality. It is the combination of the will to undertake it and the capacity to carry it out that matters.”
Fayyad spends his days dealing with correspondence, reading reports, meeting with ministers, security chiefs, local and international delegations, and foreign representatives. He doesn’t like to travel abroad, preferring to stay where his duties lie, in the domestic arena. The highlight of his week, however, is when he gets to leave the office behind and head out to refugee camps, villages, and towns around the country, meeting ordinary people. Under his leadership, the government has dedicated millions of dollars to small community projects such as the building and expansion of schools, the opening of wells and other water and electricity projects, the paving of new roads, the inauguration of cultural and youth centres, and the establishment of local councils. Fayyad sees these projects as a means of reinforcing the steadfastness and ability of Palestinian citizens to remain on their land. Fayyad’s own personal version of sumud is to run a government, provide basic services, develop the infrastructure, build schools and hospitals, have a transparent budget, etc., all in spite of the occupation.
These community and rural projects, essential to improving the lives of Palestinians, are elements of a much bigger vision. On 25 August 2009, Fayyad unveiled the Thirteenth Government Program entitled “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State.” Fayyad describes the Program as highly proactive, a form of positive unilateralism to produce positive change on the ground for Palestinians. The Program is not just another government document targeting politicians and donors. Instead, it calls on Palestinians from all segments of society to unite behind it and transform it into a reality. Its goal, the national goal, is to establish an independent, sovereign, and viable Palestinian state, which Fayyad insists is fundamental for peace, security, and stability in the region.
A son of Tulkarem, Fayyad reaches back to his own roots and remembers his own personal struggles as he soldiers on in pursuit of a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people. Fayyad is working towards a future that holds freedom, hope, and prosperity for all the Palestinian people, including his own three children.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Israel discriminates against Arab youths: judge

Israel discriminates against Arab youths: judge

JERUSALEM (AFP) – An Israeli judge has decided not to convict an Arab youth accused of hurling rocks at a police car, claiming the state discriminates against teenage Arab transgressors, media reported on Thursday.

"Israel operates on two fundamentally different levels of enforcement for ideological offences committed by Arab and Jewish minors," Nazareth Magistrate Court Judge Yuval Shadmi wrote in his ruling.

The 17-year-old was arrested in January when he and some friends allegedly threw rocks at a police vehicle near the northern Israeli city of Nazareth.

Shadmi told him to promise to refrain from violence against police and sign a 5,000 shekel (1,315 dollar, 875 euro) bond.

The judge also ordered the youth to perform 200 hours of community service.

He accepted the defence argument that the state systematically discriminates against Arab teens, particularly in the case of attacks on police.

He pointed out that very few Jewish teens had been indicted after attacking security forces in 2005 to protest the withdrawal of Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip.

The same holds true of ultra-religious Jews who attacked police during recent protests in Jerusalem, the judge wrote.

He said he had not seen a single Jewish minor sentenced to prison, although dozens of Jewish teenagers had committed the same offence as the Arab teen had.

"If the state believes that 'ideological' offences by youngsters justify lenient enforcement, it should apply this policy to all youngsters, regardless of their nationality or religion,' Shadmi wrote.

The Supreme Court denounced in 2006 that Arab-Israelis, who account for 20 percent of the country's 7.5 million population, suffer from discrimination.

Arab-Israelis officially enjoy the same rights as other Israelis, unlike Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli military law is enforced. There are currently 326 Palestinians under the age of 18 in Israeli detention, according to Defence for Children International.

Assistant Secretary Eric P. Schwartz Traveling to Iraq, Jordan and Syria

Assistant Secretary Eric P. Schwartz Traveling to Iraq, Jordan and Syria

Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 12, 2009

Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Eric P. Schwartz will travel to Iraq, Jordan and Syria from November 13 through November 19. He will meet with Iraqi and Palestinian refugees benefiting from United States Government-funded programs in the region as well as with government officials and officials of the United Nations, international organizations and non-government organizations.

In Jordan, in addition to the meetings mentioned above, Assistant Secretary Schwartz will participate in meetings of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and in the inauguration of a USG-funded UNRWA school with UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd.

For more information, please contact Beth Schlachter at (202) 663-1979.

Keys to the past & Keys to the future

"Living in a tolerant and multicultural society gives Palestinians the freedom to express their heritage, and the generations that follow to choose how their heritage will be preserved."
Handing on the Key.
Photo: Rich Wiles

Handing on the Key
explores how the link to homeland is passed from one generation to the next through acts of memory. The changing identity of the Palestinian community through generations reveals the different and often emotional connections that Australians of Palestinian heritage have to Palestine.

Keys to the past

Many Palestinians left their homeland carrying keys in their pockets. Once, they unlocked the doors of homes in Palestine where generations of families had lived. Through years of upheaval and displacement, locks were changed and houses destroyed, but the keys remained. They became a symbol of the hope that Palestinians would one day return to the land of their people.

Today, keys represent memories of grief and happiness, and the determination to be recognised. They also symbolise the right of future generations to open their own doors.

Young Palestinians in Australia are negotiating their own identity whilst sharing the grievances of their forebears. Living in a tolerant and multicultural society gives Palestinians the freedom to express their heritage, and the generations that follow to choose how their heritage will be preserved.

Keys to the future

“Just as our people carried their keys from Palestine into other lands, we carry the complexity of our past and our own hopes for peace with justice. This is our muftah, our key.“

We need a Golden Rule Peace for Israel and Palestine

A Palestinian man rides his horse through an olive grove, where olive trees have been cut overnight in the West Bank village of Bourin near Nablus on Thursday, Nov. 12. 2009. In the past, Jewish Settlers from the surrounding area have cut down olive trees belonging to Palestinian villagers. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

Dear President Obama,

Please do not give up on Palestine.

These are indeed very troubling times, very discouraging and difficult... but please help keep hope alive that a just and lasting peace is more than possible- it is an absolute necessity for everyone's sake.

"Extremists on both sides feeding each other’s appetite for destruction. That’s the menacing miscalculation from which my region is reeling: the belief that violence is the answer. The only answer is non-violence. That’s the seismic shift we need. Because the major threat to our world is neither nuclear weapons nor environmental disaster; it’s a population without hope. We have one on our doorstep. " Tactical Blunders

In seeing a new "Charter for Compassion" arise today- and in exploring "The American Task Force for Palestine" and all the ATFP's hard work to convince America to understand and care about Palestine, I believe that w
e need a Golden Rule Peace for Israel and Palestine, a Golden Rule Peace firmly grounded in full respect for international law and basic human rights- and in veering away from violence a golden rule guide to calming down the conversation rather than inflaming bigotry, extremism and despair.

The Arab Peace Initiative is reasonable and right: We do not have to demonize or destroy Israel in order to help free the besieged and displaced people of historic Palestine- but we do have to firmly and clearly demand that Israel fully respects and honors a two state solution, an end to its illegal occupation as well as an end to its public and private institutionalized bigotry towards the native-non-Jewish population of the the Holy Land: A Golden Rule Peace has to be on both sides of every and any border.... and in every home and neighborhood.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights wisely reminds us "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

Please do not give up on Palestine.

Anne Selden Annab

Washington Insider: "Politics always interferes with policy" Dr Ziad J Asali, founder and president of the American Task Force on Palestine

Washington Insider: "Politics always interferes with policy"
Written by Michael Friedson
Published Thursday, November 12, 2009

Photo: TML Photos / Dudi Saad

Dr Ziad J Asali, founder and president of the American Task Force on Palestine, in conversation with Michael Friedson, executive editor of The Media Line News Agency.

Dr. Ziad J. Asali is the president and founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, an organization that in a few short years has made a strong presence in Washington and Capitol Hill speaking on behalf of the Palestinian people. Dr. Asali was interviewed at The American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem by The Media Line’s Executive Editor Michael Friedson.

TML: Ziad, what have you seen in terms of the transition or change from the time you began your quest until now?

Asali: That’s a good question actually. When we first started in 2003, we defined our mission that establishing a state of Palestine alongside Israel is in our national interest: the U.S. national interest. That was the argument that we were pushing and advancing. It was not an argument that was based on anything in the Middle East-- Palestinian, Israeli or Arab, whatever. It was a United States-based argument, a national interest argument. So it was very gratifying to us that this very argument has gained serious ground. Of course, it has been discussed before but it has become a defining principle for the United States policy as stated by the President of the United States, Bush and then Condi Rice and now President Obama and Secretary Clinton. It was translated to a global argument with support from the Quartet, which is the whole world you know: the United Nations, Europe, Russia, as well as the United States. So everybody now says that it’s within the national interest of everybody to resolve this. I think this a good argument for two reasons: It’s true; and secondly, you can defend it to any people, that you are doing the thing for yourself, not doing anybody any favor. We really do think that the two-state solution is the accepted solution. There are many other options, none of which is a solution.

TML: You come from an interesting perspective, in that Washington is a city of lobbyists, everyone says, ‘I want this for my interest.’ Yet you appear to be saying, in terms of the Palestinian question, ‘we want to be side-by-side with Israel. We’re not asking to take from Israel. We are asking to add Palestine.’. Is that accurate?

Asali: Yes. Of course, that is accurate. We say “Palestine alongside Israel,” so it is clear to anybody with any language that what we are talking about is the national interest of the United States and the national interest presupposes and accepts the creation of a state of Israel on the borders of pre-’67 and a new creation of Palestine alongside it, which means a historic compromise between these two nationalities to resolve the regional conflict and everybody will be getting half of what they want. Nobody will get the extremist demands of what they want. But it should be enough.

TML: Israel’s own lobby is somewhat legendary. Do they share your perspective? Are they as willing to accept Palestine alongside Israel, as you are accepting Israel alongside Palestine?

Asali: I have learned several things, one of which is that nobody speaks on behalf of a whole group of people or a country. Nobody speaks on behalf of Israel exclusively. Nobody speaks on behalf of Palestine exclusively and nobody speaks on behalf of the United States—sometimes I wonder who really does speak about United States policy. But having said that, I really do think that for decades, especially after ’67, there was no acceptance of the two-state solution by the Israeli lobbyists. Their real agenda was not to support the creation a state of Palestine after Oslo and Madrid, but just to continually support the Israeli government’s general policy which was practically, ‘maybe you say you want a two-state solution but really don’t.’ I have to say that over the course of the past years, certainly during the existence of our organization, we have witnessed a steady shift of the lobbyists who advocate for Israel’s benefits in any way, toward a two-state solution. The most acknowledged and known entity within the U.S., described as ‘The Lobby,’ is AIPAC, and is clearly calling for a two-state solution.

TML: You have a difficult job in explaining for whom it is you speak. Papers are filled with the bifurcation of Gaza in Hamas hands, Fatah controlling the West Bank. How do you answer that and is it a question that’s often asked on The Hill?

Asali: Yes, it is; and in fact, we really don’t speak on behalf of anybody. We speak on behalf of ourselves. We, as an entity that is based in the United States, has every right to define the national interest, like any other entity like AIPAC; or the Jewish community; or J-Street; or the Latinos; or the Vietnamese; or whoever. Our perspective: we are looking for a secular, democratic state in Palestine, pluralistic. In that sense, we are clearly supportive of what the Palestinian Authority is doing, because that is the kind of government and system they’d like to create.

TML: Prime Minister Faya’d kind of shocked the world. He came with a timetable that had never before been so specifically placed: ‘Two years infrastructure in place, when that happens, regardless of the position of negotiations, a state will be declared.’ We just spoke with James Wolfensohn who said, that’s a terrific idea. How do you feel about it?

Asali: I think it’s a terrific idea, too. What is fundamentally important about it is that it addresses the Palestinian people and places on them the burden of helping themselves. It gives them urgency. It removes the victim’s attitude of waiting to see ‘how the world is going to treat me and resolve my problems.’ It tells the people here that you can do something about the occupation, you can do something about your state and you better start doing it. I think in his analysis that building an infrastructure of a state is eventually -- within two years, he states -- going to qualify enough within the international community to say, ‘yes, you are right. You have earned a state.’ This is fundamentally important and I have actually written an Op/Ed about it with the title, ‘You build it and the state will come.”

TML: Do you see support for that position in the diplomatic world?

Asali: Yes. Yes. Yes. Actually, the Quartet once again, which is the international community’s official body dealing with the Middle East, has endorsed it already. Clearly, there is international support, both at the spoken, state level, but also at the real level. The Quartet -- which still represents the international community’s official body – is dealing with this. It has come out officially in support of this. The United States is in the process of organizing its own economic and political aid in order to help this plan and support it. Of course, the other parties cannot look for enough word of help with health and education. I think Israel is in a divided mind about it and we need to say this. When Mr. Lieberman comes out against it, and says it helps the Palestinian leadership politically but it does not speak in the name of Israel. We have not yet heard Mr. Netanyahu say it’s not good. And we know that part of his program is development of the Palestinian land, economic program. So that at least, that part of it, is not going to be a hindrance to the project.

TML: You bring up Mr. Netanyahu. One of his stated frustrations is that as he calls for Israel to be very supportive of the Palestinian economy and economic programs, because of the political differences, Mr. Abbas accepts that they shouldn’t move in any direction if Mr. Netanyahu has any hand at all. Is this self-serving, counterproductive -- how do you feel about it?

Asali: I think there are three issues in that one question. First off, Mr. Netanyahu was firstly speaking about economic peace. I think so many of us have had conversations with Israelis about this phrasing. Drop it. It’s not good. All it means to any Palestinian or Arab is that he wants to improve the economy and deny the political realization of a state. So I am gratified that talking about the economic peace is now off the table, and now people are talking about economic development in Palestine, that’s one. I think the difference between Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and BiBi Netanyahu now is about how to start negotiations. Mr. Netanyahu says he wants negotiations without preconditions, but don’t talk about Jerusalem. That is a precondition. On the other hand, Abu Mazen says, ‘I was in the conversation in the first place because we were told by the Americans [who] demanded publically, including President Obama, that there will be a settlement freeze.’ How do we get Mr. Abbas to come down and negotiate while the settlement expansion continues? It’s going to be exceptionally difficult. We are talking about a loaf of bread that we want to divide amongst ourselves but then you keep munching on it. So he says, ‘okay, we want a two-state, let’s stop.’ Clearly, it’s not as simple as that and there are issues to be worked out. We are living today at a week of extremely challenging diplomatic issues to be resolved mostly by the United States and these two other parties in order to say, are we going to be able to bridge this gap, get the Palestinians down from the tree where they were placed by the United States’ initial offer, to the point where we start negotiations and then all the issues will be on the table. I think it was to me gratifying that President Obama, in his speech to the United Nations right after the meeting he had with both Netanyahu and Abu Mazen, he said several important things which I still think can be used very much as terms of reference to resuming negotiations. He said settlement expansion is illegitimate as far as the United States is concerned. He said we will start negotiating the final status issues right away, immediately. He included what these negotiations’ status issues are: he included Jerusalem right in there, which was taken off the table by Netanyahu’s public speech. And then he started the 1967 border as the starting point of negotiations. All of these things are very helpful to define the kinds of terms of references that final status negotiations can be decided on. There are other issues that need to be done -- frankly, in my opinion, practical things that need to be given right now in the political climate of today with the fragility of P.A. system. Israel has to seriously consider if it is interested in salvaging the two-state solution for its own benefit -- not to do anybody a favor -- to give some practical issues to be presented to the Palestinians with political implications. And that is the challenge of the politicians of this moment.

TML: As we meet here to conduct this interview, the hottest issue in town is an apparent switch in position by the Obama administration. It seems that for the nine months Mr. Netanyahu was ostracized as the obstacle for peace because of the settlement building policy, almost overnight, Hillary Clinton said those same policies represent courageous concessions—“unprecedented concessions.” The rhetoric coming out of the Palestinian areas is vicious. The reaction coming from Palestinian spokespeople is unrelenting. It’s angry. They feel betrayed. How are you reading this as someone who is so well-connected in Washington?

Asali: Well, you summed up what happened as of yesterday. Today, there is a new rhetoric coming out of both Secretary Clinton and [U.S. Mideast envoy George] Mitchell, which is ‘what the Israeli government offered is not enough and we are not satisfied, etcetera, etcetera,’ and she is on her way to Cairo to talk about wanting more to do. The reality is the following: Since we are a very independent group, independent organization that does not work with any government, we are not quite reticent to say things that we know to be true. What is true is that the United States did expect to implement the settlement freeze, and did expect the Israeli government to go along initially. Because what it meant, we are talking about something in the future, it hasn’t happened yet. There will be no TV pictures, no settlers removed, etcetera, and etcetera. And any politician can stand that. What’s that? It still speaks to the essence of the agreement, which is two states. So you’re sparing land basically for a future Palestinian state. That was the expectation several months ago. The reality is Israeli politics, and I might just add, politics always interferes with policy. It blocks policy. In Israel and Palestine and in the United States, remember that. So the reality of Israeli politics made it not possible or made the prime minister not want to implement the 100 percent freeze. This reality has become clear over the past couple of months to the Americans. They pretty much accepted that it will be less than a 100 percent freeze. However, the Palestinian leadership, President Abbas, was put in an exceptionally complicated situation. Here, he accepted the Americans’ demands for a 100 percent freeze. He could not be less Palestinian than the president of the United States and now the Americans backed off and he’s left holding this, you know, ‘we want a hundred percent freeze.’ Even if you disregard the Goldstone and other political earthquakes that have hit them, you still have to resolve that issue. You have to resolve the other issue which is ongoing as we speak and it causes a lot of frustration and fear in the Palestinian leadership, which is the issue of Jerusalem. Many things are happening in Jerusalem at the very same time, where everything up in the air, we seem to be ‘what is going here?’ Do they really want to exclude Jerusalem from final status right now? De facto? Is that what is being done? So what to negotiate about? It’s never as simple as it seems to be.

TML: Mahmoud Abbas has indicated he may have had enough of all this. That it may be time for him to leave public life and get on with his personal life, to enjoy as many years as he can. Who is going to replace him? Who is of the status, with the respect among the people; the international reputation? Who is waiting, who can be the one?

Asali: First off, I think he is frustrated. I think he has faced a moment of great challenge this past month of the whole project that he has advocated for being in jeopardy. A Palestinian state, as he understands it. His sense is that if it doesn’t work, what are we doing here? And what am I personally doing? I can see that and I can sense that. However, I don’t think this is a final word. The political obituary of Mr. Abu Mazen has been written prematurely. And I think that it’s not fruitful to speculate of who is to come. It would be written if the two-state solution actually is dead and is not able to be pursued in any meaningful way by any serious people. I don’t think we have reached that point and I know a lot of people speculate otherwise and like to say, ‘well it’s a waste of time.’ Not at all. It’s not a waste of time. The political solution that is called a ‘two-state solution’ is the only thing that actually is a solution. There are other things that might happen and none of them is a solution that would lead to stability, end of conflict. No other option would lead to that. There will be no other solution where there is a total victory for the right-wing Eretz Israel project -- people who want to get rid of the Palestinians. The days have passed where you can kill millions of people or evict them. That’s gone. On the other hand, the Palestinians thinking of the extreme, on the margins, extremists or nationalists or religious thinking that if they wait long enough, then they will get rid of the people of Haifa and Tel Aviv and send them anywhere. That’s just unrealistic. So the only way to keep these two peoples in the same narrow strip of land is to divide it. For a long stretch of time, before they adjust like the Italians and French, living with each other in Europe after so many wars; and the Germans. But if you seek stability and a future for the upcoming generations, you have to separate these two people into two separate states, or you can have the extremists run the agenda and make it a holy war and let them all have fun for a long time to come.

TML: So I ask you at last: in two years, will we be sitting here in Palestine? And if we do meet in the state of the Palestine, will we be meeting in a peaceful environment?

Asali: It will depend on the political will. Time doesn’t do anything. It’s what we do with the time that will make a difference. If truly, the Palestinian and Israeli leadership start having any negotiations, they would start out actually negotiating about negotiations, they will be currents of negotiations. There will be tracks, there will individuals contacts, but eventually if the people who have actually committed themselves at the top level to the two state solution, if they start working jointly with the United States and it is not unrealistic to expect a major push to a two-state solution two years from now, two years is a good target, but we could be sitting just a little bit beyond that and there will be a state of Palestine. I say again: It’s an expression of the political will of the leadership and the people. Do they want peace or do they want what they have now?

TML: Ziad Asali, thank you.

A Palestinian Response to David Suissa by Ameen Estaiteyeh

A Palestinian Response to David Suissa

Read David Suissa’s column here.

David Suissa thinks that what is needed now “more than anything today is not a J Street but an A Street,” “an Arab organization that would…rally peace-seeking Arab moderates to the cause of peaceful coexistence with a Jewish state” (November 5, 2009, We Need ‘A Street,’ Not J Street).

Perhaps he should take a look at the work of the American Task Force on Palestine. (ATFP). It is precisely the “pro-Arab, pro-peace” group he imagines does not exist, and performs exactly the work he should learn is, in fact, being done.

From its founding in 2003, ATFP has been committed to a negotiated end of conflict agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that results in two states—Israel and Palestine—living side-by-side in peace and security. ATFP advocates an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and the establishment of a Palestinian state that is democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and neutral in armed conflicts.

The Task Force has built strong working relationships with both the executive and key congressional leaders in Washington and with the Palestinian leadership, and working relations with the government of Israel. It has also built bridges to think tanks and advocacy organizations across the political spectrum, including a wide range of Jewish American organizations, held scores of events in Washington and elsewhere, and brought its pro-Palestinian, pro-peace message to the media around the world.

Suissa asks his readers to “imagine the impact on the peace process if 1,500 Palestinian peace activists gathered in Washington, D.C.” ATFP has held four annual galas in Washington celebrating the achievements of Palestinian Americans and promoting peace with Israel, welcoming 500 guests at its first gala in 2006 at which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the keynote speak, in 2008 over 600 gathered to listen to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and on October 15 over 650 guests were addressed by National Security Advisor James Jones.

All of these galas have been attended by current and former senior administration officials; ambassadors and cabinet ministers from various countries; members of Congress and staff; key journalists; and a veritable who’s who of Middle East policy professionals, increasingly including senior leaders of major Jewish pro-Israel, as well as Arab-American, organizations.

ATFP’s Board of Directors is composed of a large group of prominent Palestinian-American business, academic, scientific and medical leaders, all dedicated to the causes of Palestinian statehood in the occupied territories and peace with Israel.

Its President, Ziad Asali, has testified before Congress, represented the United States in official delegations to the funeral of the late Pres. Arafat and to observe the two subsequent Palestinian elections, and been involved in numerous pro-peace organizations. Senior Fellow Ghaith Al-Omari was an advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team throughout the permanent status negotiations and the lead Palestinian drafter of the Geneva Initiative. Another ATFP Senior Fellow, Hussein Ibish, has been a prominent Arab-American activist and voice for peace based on two-states for many years.

In addition to countless articles, issue papers and policy documents, ATFP has published three books explaining its pro-Palestine, pro-peace point of view, most recently “What’s Wrong with the One-State Agenda?” by Ibish, as well as two collections entitled “Principles and Pragmatism,” and “Palestine and the Quest for Peace.” ATFP’s website is ranked in the top 200,000 sites in the United States, with traffic far exceeding almost all other Middle East-related American organizations.

Mr. Suissa may be based in Los Angeles, but if he follows the discourse on Middle East issues in the United States, he should by now have been aware of ATFP given the reach and impact of it’s Washington-based pro-Palestine, pro-peace activities.

At its Oct. 15 Gala, ATFP received a letter from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), who wrote: ” Your integrity, your knowledge of the issues, and your unswervingly principled stand on behalf of peace and fairness—as well as your deep commitment both to the land of your birth, Palestine, and your adopted homeland, America—have all had a powerfully positive impact on discourse in Washington about the Middle East. You and your colleagues have also been an important influence on my own thinking about Middle East peacemaking and that of many of my colleagues in the Congress.”

This unprecedented letter to a Palestinian-American organization coming from one of the most powerful members of Congress on foreign affairs and a stalwart Jewish-American supporter of Israel demonstrates how far ATFP has helped transform the thinking about peace and the need for a Palestinian state, creating heretofore unimaginable alliances and opportunities for cooperation and progress.

I would therefore modestly suggest to Mr. Suissa and everyone else wondering where the pro-Palestine, pro-peace Arab-American organization is to look carefully at the work and track record of the American Task Force on Palestine. It is exactly what he says he is looking for.

Ameen Estaiteyeh serves on the Board of Directors of the American Task Force on Palestine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My online comment to the Washington Post RE Palestinian despair for peace by Dr. Hussein Ibish

RE: Palestinian despair for peace by Dr. Hussein Ibish, Senior Fellow, American Task Force on Palestine

Dear Editor,

Thank you for publishing this informative article on Palestine by Dr. Hussein Ibish, Senior Fellow, American Task Force on Palestine. We need to be noticing Palestine- and the very real plight of the Palestinians.

Today I saw an inspiring new campaign led by Karen Armstrong and Archbishop Desmond Tutu - a worldwide campaign "Charter for Compassion" urging all people to live by the golden rule. Applying "the golden rule" would result in a world of kindness and understanding: I think it is clear that the very real plight of the Palestinians needs our compassion and all our best efforts to help bring about a just and lasting peace.

"The Golden Rule requires that we use empathy -- moral imagination -- to put ourselves in others' shoes. We should act toward them as we would want them to act toward us."

We need a Golden Rule Peace for Israel and Palestine, a Golden Rule Peace firmly grounded in full respect for international law and basic human rights- and a golden rule guide to calming down the conversation rather than inflaming bigotry, extremism and despair.

I very much agree that supporting the institution building program proposed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad "could enact a dynamic, unilateral, nonviolent and constructive resistance to the occupation, creating the necessary framework for Palestinian independence, and constituting a dramatic transformation of the strategic environment in favor of both Palestinian interests and the prospects for peace."... and I am glad that there is an American Task Force on Palestine, with scholars busy trying to be a bridge between 'us' and 'them'.

Thanks again for publishing Ibish's thoughtful article.

Anne Selden Annab

Compassion unites the world's faiths- By Karen Armstrong and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Special to CNN

Rediscovering the Golden Rule VIDEO on

Editor's note: Karen Armstrong is a former Roman Catholic nun who has written more than 20 books about common themes in Islam, Judaism and Christianity, including "The Bible: A Biography." She received the 2008 TED Prize. Archbishop Desmond Tutu received the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for opposing apartheid in South Africa. Since 1988 Tutu has been chancellor of the University of the Western Cape in Bellville, South Africa.

  • Karen Armstrong's wish upon winning TED prize was for a charter for compassion
  • She and Desmond Tutu say all faiths share belief in compassion
  • Applying "the golden rule" would result in a world of kindness and understanding, they say
  • The "Charter for Compassion" will be unveiled in Washington November 12

(CNN) -- We have called on the world to sign up to a Charter for Compassion.

Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves into the place of the other and it lies at the heart of all truly religious and ethical systems.

The charter, which will be unveiled Thursday, November 12, has been composed by leading thinkers in many different faiths. Thousands of people have contributed to it online. It is a cooperative effort to restore compassion to the center of religious, moral and political life. Why is this so important?

One of the most urgent tasks of our generation is to build a global community, where men and women of all races, nations and ideologies can live together in peace.

Religion, which should be making a major contribution to this endeavor, is often seen as part of the problem. All too often the voices of extremism seem to drown those that speak of kindness, forbearance and mutual respect. Yet the founders of every single one of the great traditions recoiled from the violence of their time and tried to replace it with an ethic of compassion.

The great sages who promoted the Golden Rule were nearly all living during periods of history like our own. They argued that a truly compassionate ethic served people's best interests and made good practical sense.

When the Bible commands that we "love" the foreigner, it was not speaking of emotional tenderness: in Leviticus, "love" was a legal term: It was used in international treaties, when two kings would promise to give each other practical support, help and loyalty, and look out for each other's best interests. In our global world, everybody has become our neighbor, and the Golden Rule has become an urgent necessity.

When asked by a pagan to sum up the whole of Jewish teaching while he stood on one leg, Rabbi Hillel, the older contemporary of Jesus, replied: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the Torah -- and everything else is only commentary." His Holiness the Dalai Lama put it even more succinctly when he said: "My religion is kindness."

These traditions have also pointed out that it is not sufficient to confine our benevolence to those we find congenial -- to our own ethnic, national or ideological group. We must have what one of the Chinese sages called jian ai, "concern for everybody." If practiced assiduously -- "all day and every day," as Confucius enjoined -- we begin to appreciate our profound interdependence and become fully humane.

We come at this issue from different perspectives. I, Karen, was a Roman Catholic nun for seven years, from the age of 17 to 24. After that, I turned away from religion but came back to it after a series of career disasters -- when I was invited to make some TV programs for Channel 4, which was just opening up in the United Kingdom. The more I studied religious traditions that were different from my own, the more I had to revise my views on faith in general.

I started to study Judaism and Islam, and found that these faiths both offered a perspective on religion that was different from the somewhat parochial Catholicism of my childhood but which really resonated with me. I no longer see any of the great faith traditions, eastern and western, as superior to any of the others.

Each has its own particular genius and each its particular flaws. Every single one of the faiths regards compassion and the Golden Rule as the litmus test of true spirituality and sees it as one of the main ways in which we come into relation with the transcendence that we call God, Nirvana, Brahman or Tao.

In 2008, I was honored to receive the TED Prize, which consists of money, but more importantly, a wish for a better world the TED organization will help you to realize. I knew at once what I wanted to do and TED helped refine it. The result was a Charter that would restore compassion to its central place in religious and moral life.

If we wish to create a viable world order, we must try to implement the Golden Rule globally, treating all peoples, even those who seem far removed from us, as we would wish to be treated ourselves. We must strive for a global democracy, in which everybody, not only the rich and powerful, has a voice and which takes everybody's needs and aspirations with the utmost seriousness and respect.

Today we are all bound together, electronically, economically and politically, as never before. Our financial markets are inextricably connected: When one falls, there is a ripple effect worldwide. What happens in Afghanistan or Iraq today may well have repercussions tomorrow in New York or London.

Our world has become dangerously polarized and many of our policies -- political, economic, financial and environmental -- seem no longer sustainable. We have a choice. We can either choose the aggressive and exclusive tendencies that have developed in practically all religious and secular traditions or we can cultivate those that speak of compassion, empathy, respect and an impartial "concern for everybody."

The Charter for Compassion is not simply a statement of principle. It is above all a summons to creative, practical and sustained action to meet the political, moral, religious, social and cultural problems of our time. You can find out how you and your community can participate in the launch and in the ongoing effort to build a fair, just and compassionate world on our Web site:

We cannot afford to be paralyzed by global suffering. We have the power to work together energetically for the well-being of humanity, and counter the despairing extremism of our time. Many of us have experienced the power of compassion in our own lives. We know how a single act of kindness and empathy can turn a life around. History also shows that the action of just a few individuals can make all the difference. In a world that seems spinning out of control, we need such action now.

The Charter is a summons to action and includes directives about how to implement the Golden Rule. There can be no detailed directives; everybody will have to see how to do this in his or her particular sphere: in the media, in study, teaching, parenting, business, or politics.

The launch is only the beginning of the journey -- not the end.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karen Armstrong and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Refugee Stories- ECHO /UNRWA partnership

Refugee Stories

ECHO /UNRWA partnership

‘Normal Life’, Courtesy of
UNRWA and the EU

September 2009 - Hebron

Raghda Tarayreh, 35, lives in Bani Na’im village in Hebron with her two children. Her husband has been in Beersheba prison, Israel, for 3 years and has another 3.5 yrs until his release.

Raghda and her children have lived for the last three years without a light, a fridge and heating. The couple had not yet installed electricity in their home at the time that Raghda’s husband, who was working as a driver when they married, was taken by the Israeli authorities.

As she can’t store food, Raghda takes her children to her mother’s house everyday to eat cooked food. In the winter, they also spend a lot of time there to avoid the bitter cold. The little support Raghda receives as a prisoner’s wife from the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoner Affairs goes to support her husband’s family first, leaving only 500 NIS a month for her and her sons.

Despite everything, Raghda has always believed in herself and striven for a better life. She gained experience with UNRWA’s job creation programme (JCP), which is supported by funding from by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO).

Raghda recently gained a diploma in Financial Management through the Open University and, once her kids could be admitted in the kindergarten, started to work. In July, she was hired as an administrator by the Hebron Municipality.

With the subsidy earned from the JCP, Raghda installed electricity at home. Now, using her mother’s old washing machine, she is able to do the laundry at home. The next step, she says, will be to buy a fridge and begin a ‘normal life’.

Raghda, her mother and a JCP monitor,
inspecting electricity cables by Raghda’s house.

“I am so happy that I have been able to do this for my family”, says Raghda. “I did something which is expected to be a man’s job, and I did it by myself. I am very proud of myself. The only trouble is that now my kids want a computer!”

Through its emergency programmes, UNRWA seeks to mitigate the worst impacts of the crisis and to meet the most pressing basic needs of affected refugees.

For the past 18 years, ECHO has supported UNRWA through a variety of programmes. UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme (JCP) receives nearly 50% of its backing from ECHO.

Clarity- for Palestine

Written in response to: How Salam Fayyad plans to save the Palestinian dream, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad brought the PA back from the brink once. Now he wants to create Palestinian settlements, in effect, to counter Israeli moves.

Dear Editor,

"If we don't do anything, people will criticize us, and if we come up with something that's proactive, we'll also have critics," shrugs Fayyad. "Is this realistic? We'll never know unless we try."

I very much hope that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad can help save the Palestinian dream with his statehood program. According to Dr. Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine "The PA plan provides a mechanism that complements diplomatic efforts to end the occupation and frees Palestinians from being entirely dependent upon discussions with others. It enables them to shape their own future." Hussein Ibish

The American Task Force for Palestine is on record as supporting a Palestinian state that would be democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and neutral in armed conflicts. Ibish, well aware that many various extremists, hate mongers, hopeless cynics and selfish opportunists are eager to sabotage negotiations and the idea of a viable two state solution, wisely warns that "One of the most probable outcomes of any third intifada would be the ascendancy for the foreseeable future of Islamist organizations and the recasting of the Palestinian national movement as an Islamist cause, which would almost certainly spell the death of the dreams of Palestine and peace. I doubt that the Palestinian national cause could, as a practical political agenda, survive such a grotesque mutation." What is at stake in Palestine: a third intifada and the parade of horribles

Many Palestinians are in forced exile, living in refugee camps, totally dependent on charity and the good will of host countries. UNRWA's current Commissioner-General, Karen Koning AbuZayd will soon be retiring: "Noting her upcoming retirement from her post at the end of 2009, she said that in tragic contrast to the resolution of a number of protracted refugee situations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained resistant to solution, despite the clarity of its components: an end to occupation, Palestinian selfdetermination, and security guarantees for both Palestinians and Israelis."

Aware perhaps that real change is in the air, the quote continues "
On a more positive note, she said that UNRWA remained acutely aware of its status as a temporary Agency and would one day, when a negotiated settlement was reached, hand over the tasks it currently undertook to a professional cadre of tens of thousands of well-trained Palestinians who were committed to the values of the United Nations."

A real Palestine will not be perfect, no country ever is- but a real Palestine will most certainly help define and defend a better way forward for all men, women and children in the spirit of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood....

Anne Selden Annab
American Homemaker & Poet ( & Blogger )

My letter to CSM RE The Israeli separation barrier: Another Berlin Wall? | In Pictures |

In Pictures

In Pictures | The Israeli separation barrier: Another Berlin Wall?

RE: The Israeli separation barrier: Another Berlin Wall? | In Pictures |
"In al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, a combination of three photos shows Palestinians and international activists pulling down a concrete panel, part of the controversial Israeli separation barrier, during a protest marking the 20th anniversary of the toppling of the Berlin Wall. Palestinians are using the anniversary to emphasize their campaign against Israel's barrier."
Dear Editor,

THANK YOU for noticing the Palestinians and that horrible Israeli made apartheid 'security' wall, and for publishing such inspiring pictures, both the full series The Israeli separation barrier: Another Berlin Wall? | In Pictures |
as well as one picture of the day "In al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, a combination of three photos shows Palestinians and international activists pulling down a concrete panel, part of the controversial Israeli separation barrier, during a protest marking the 20th anniversary of the toppling of the Berlin Wall. Palestinians are using the anniversary to emphasize their campaign against Israel's barrier."
The Christian Science Monitor | In Pictures |

Visually it feels like a huge victory to see a section of that Israeli made anti-Palestinian wall fall as it is very symbolic. The physical reality of Israel's Apartheid wall is cruel, and the political reality of its placement on Palestinian territory (in addition to the convoluted way it snakes and strangles Palestinian communities) is clearly meant to usurp land as well as aggravate tension between Palestinians and Israelis.

Let us hope for a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land for everyone's sake- and in hoping let us work towards ending the Israel/Palestine conflict diplomatically and as gently and calmly as possible so that all people (regardless of their supposed race and/or religion and/or nationality) might have the chance to
live in real dignity with peace and security and the freedom to come and go: Borders should be a brief official pause between one place and another- in other words do not misuse borders or negotiations to perpetuate bigotry and injustice: We the people, and all our nation states as well as our NGOs need to respect international law- and basic human rights.

Anne Selden Annab
American Homemaker & Poet

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Palestine & the Arab Peace Initiative

Palestinian Sun bird by Ismail Shammout

Comment I left online regarding "Good Riddance, Abbas" by Saree Makdisi

I find it mind boggling that right now, with a huge international push to take negotiations for a two state solution seriously - including "Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194." The Arab Peace Initiative that pro-Palestinian academics here in America opt to bash Abbas and swat away support for a two state solution.

Yes Israel continues to expropriate Palestinian land, bulldoze Palestinian homes, and build exclusively Jewish settlements in violation of international law... so how exactly is a one state solution which erases the illegal occupation aspect of Israel's Jews-preferred settlement projects and investments going to play out ?

Will a one state solution dominated by Zionists who know how to empower their leadership and how to play every story to get international support for their Jews-preferred plans really welcome home the Palestinians refugees? According to reports I've read many elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel live in dire poverty- and yet magical thinking convinces us that Palestinian refugees returning to what is now Israel will be better off?

Yes, I really do believe with every fiber of my being that the Palestinian refugees right of return to original homes and lands is an inalienable legal, moral and natural right- but I also believe in the importance of supporting an option called Palestine with all the positive energy and support we can muster: Not all Palestinian refugees will want to live as second class citizens in Israel and it simply is not fair to force them to become Israelis.

Anne Selden Annab

Spring in Palestine by Ismail Shammout

Monday, November 9, 2009

Reflections on Fort Hood By Dr. James Zogby of the Arab American Institute

Reflections on Fort Hood

I landed in London at 6:30 am (GMT) and turned on my Blackberry to find it flooded with emails sent while I had been in the air, flying home from the Middle East. Looking at just the “sender” and “subject” lines, I observed that some were “news alerts”, others came from various members of my staff at the Arab American Institute in Washington. The last group included statements and press releases issued by other Arab American and American Muslim organizations.

My curiosity piqued, I commenced reading these emails in the order they had been received. The “news alerts” began mid-afternoon providing, at first, just the bare outlines of the horrible murders of what was thought to be 12 military personnel at Fort Hood, Texas. Reading on, the story unfolded with new details emerging and erroneous early reports corrected as facts became known. Early on, for example, I read that there were thought to be three shooters, before it was established that there was just one. At one point there was a report that the lone shooter was a Muslim, possibly a convert, and that he had been killed. Only later was the killer’s identity established and it became clear that he is an Arab American 39 year old Army Major. He is Jordanian-Palestinian, born in the US. It was also established that he is a psychiatrist counseling returning soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Next came a flurry of missives from my staff writing to me or to each other, copying me, reporting on their handling of this crisis and what they were hearing from reporters who were calling for reactions or from the community seeking guidance. (The earliest of these was sent at 8 pm EST, the last after 3 am). My first reaction to this particular set of emails was a pang of guilt. My current staff, though extraordinarily talented and dedicated, is quite new — new enough not to have been on board when we last faced similar crises. I know the pressure they are under dealing with demands from all sides: statements needing to be prepared, as do talking points for community leaders around the country, and they would need to put in place mechanisms to deal with the hate or threats that might come (one such call, I learned, had already come into the office shortly after 6 pm), and much more.

Though I wanted to be with them, to provide whatever guidance I could, as I continued to read their emails, I found that, for the most part, they had the complex demands of this situation well in hand. Since some had sent questions to me (not knowing when I would get them, or whether I would be able to respond in time), I used my wait in the airport lounge to give my best advice on next steps: what a follow-up statement might include; what messages to avoid (I noted that among the emails I had received were statements for some other groups with headlines condemning the killings and warning against anti-Arab or anti-Muslim backlash. My advice was “don’t go there”. This is not about us right now, it’s about the victims and the pain of their families. If it were to be about anyone or anything else, it shouldn’t be about the potential this horrible act poses to Arab or Muslim American groups. Rather concern should be shown for the challenges all this will pose for the thousands of patriotic Arab Americans currently serving with distinction in the US military, some of whom, may now unfairly be targets of suspicion.); how to log and deal with threats should they come, and who should do what before I return.

In the more than three decades I have been engaged in this work with my community, we’ve weathered many storms — from hijackings and terrorist acts (some of which were perpetrated by Arabs, while in other cases there was a rush to judgment wrongly accusing Arabs) to wars, some involving our country fighting in the Middle East, others involving Israel, but with our political leaders and many in the media behaving as cheerleaders. In each of these instances we’ve had to face down challenges.

In our media age, where news is omnipresent and instantaneous, we don’t just read about stories as detached observers, we live them. We become caught up in unfolding dramas with each new morsel of information becoming “breaking news”, and the subject of endless commentary. As a result, more than being just a story, a crisis becomes an event in which we become participants. It draws us in directly and drives our emotions.

I have been here before, riding this rollercoaster — forced to live these stories but wondering what it would be like to just watch them: to be able to just mourn the senseless loss of life without having to look over my shoulder because someone holds my community responsible and may strike out, or at least create fear by threatening violence. To not have to, as one of my staff members wrote in an email “hold my breath and pray that it’s not an Arab involved” — because we know that if it is some may hold us all responsible.

Of course, what was different this time was that I learned about all of this from afar, feeling it unfold while reading about it on my Blackberry in the London Airport lounge. I then boarded a plane, lost in reflection about the trauma and the fear that captured so many, and wrote about this all the way home knowing that once back I would, no doubt, become a participant once again in wherever the unfolding story would be upon my arrival.


To be True

Growing Gardens for Palestine

...To be True

I want prayers
to go back to the spiritual

to be of air and light
and goodness

To be of heaven

To be of love
and looking up

To be of angels' song

Not the guns and hate
inspired now
by "Israel"

Not the crimes
and cruelty
inspired now
by "Israel"

Not the collaborations
and betrayals

and greed

Not the corruption
and lies... and manipulative games

I want prayers
to be pure
to be good- to be kind

To be true

copyright 2008 Anne Selden Annab

HuffingtonPost: Queen Rania of Jordan speaks out on Another Divisive Wall

Queen Rania of Jordan

Queen Rania of Jordan

Posted: November 9, 2009 07:40 AM

Another Divisive Wall

The fall of the Berlin Wall: what a testament to the power of peaceful revolution. Even as a high school student in Kuwait, it was impossible not to be swept up in the emotion, as I watched people clamber to freedom, family and friends for the first time.

And yet, for me, and for so many other people in the Middle East, and around the world, the anniversary is bittersweet. It is a reminder, as if one was necessary, of another divisive wall that we are desperate to tear down and consign to the annals of history: the ugly expanse of concrete and barbed wire that runs through the West Bank, most notably splicing Jerusalem and mutating its cherished and sacred history.

As the people of Germany celebrate a wall coming down, the people of Palestine are overwrought by a wall going up.

According to the Israeli government, their "Separation Barrier" is meant to divide Israel from Palestine, and protect Israelis from attacks. But to 'protect' illegal Israeli settlements, the wall snakes deep into Palestinian land, cleaving families from friends, homes from schools and universities, and workers from their land and their jobs. Innocent Palestinians, suffocated. A nation, imprisoned.

According to B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, the wall cuts off half a million Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank. Communities are being forcibly torn apart. Not 20 years ago, but today.

It has been five years since the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel should cease construction, dismantle the wall, and pay reparations to affected Palestinians. But the "Separation Barrier" is now 400 km, double its length at the time of the court ruling. Israel continues to ignore this legal ruling and construct the barrier which, they claim, is only two-thirds complete.

I know this wall is only the symptom of a greater division - the figurative wall of hate, fear, and mistrust that divides the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. But that does not justify - legally or morally - what is happening in Palestine. It is an affront to human freedom, an assault on human dignity, a scar on our collective well-being. Until the barriers, blockades, and barbed wire are history, Palestine's history will be irreconcilable.

Today, we celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall; next year, we will celebrate the end of Apartheid in South Africa. These two events taught us that when barriers are removed - whether physical barriers, legal barriers, or the walls people build in their hearts - the ground is laid for progress, peace, and development for both sides. The people of my region yearn as well for justice and reconciliation.

What better way to honour these anniversaries than to tear down another wall?

Jordan's king warns of Mideast dangers

Jordan's king warns of Mideast dangers

JERUSALEM, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- The lack of progress in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority could plunge the region into an abyss, Jordan's King Abdullah II warned.

"If there is no progress, if there is no vision, I am concerned about Palestine and about the entire region," the king was quoted as saying in an interview with the London-based al-Hayat newspaper Monday, said.

If Arab efforts to force Israel to impose a total West Bank settlement freeze fail, then the United States and the international community must intervene, the king was quoted as saying.

Negotiations must focus on a permanent agreement including final borders, the status of Palestinian refugees and the future of Jerusalem the king said. He warned Israel to "stop playing with fire," saying Israel must treat Jerusalem sensitively.

"Jerusalem is a red line and Israelis must understand Jerusalem's standing among the Arabs, the Muslims and the Christians, and should not play with fire," the Web site quoted the king saying.

The Jordanian king said he understood Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's decision not to run for another term, calling him a true partner in the peace process who does everything he can for his people's interests.

Failure to make progress in the peace process will open the region to some dangerous and difficult possibilities the king said, and described the current stalemate as "unacceptable."