Saturday, January 23, 2010


There is only hope
and hard work
no guarantees

dreams are dashed
by the nanosecond

day after day after day

homes demolished
jobs disappeared
cycles right back into
homes made
jobs found

does have strings
and so does scorn

there is only so much
any one can take.

poem copyright ©2010 Anne Selden Annab

The perils of certainty

The perils of certainty

January 23, 2010 - 8:18am

Among the most dangerous aspects of the political culture surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on both sides are glib assertions of inevitable victory and the uninterrogated assumptions that inevitably lie behind them...READ MORE

Who has inspired you?

I nominate Ziad J. Asali, retired physician, for his efforts as a loyal American on behalf of Palestine.

I first noticed Asali on cspan years ago. His knowledge concerning the Israel/Palestine conflict is extensive. But what impresses me most is that he is willing to speak out publicly for Palestine in mainstream ways. Please understand how difficult it is to do that. The situation for Palestinians is so tragic and crazy all at once, making it very hard to remain calm and reasonable- but somehow Dr. Asali persists and I find that very inspiring.

In 2003 Dr. Asali founded the American Task Force on Palestine. According to their website. "ATFP is dedicated to advocating that it is in the American national interest to promote an end to the conflict in the Middle East through a negotiated agreement that provides for two states - Israel and Palestine - living side by side in peace and security. " Http://

As a Palestinian refugee, Dr. Asali could have done many things with his life and his earnings, and he could have even simply walked away from Palestine and never looked back. Or he could have become bitter and angry, wallowing in negativity- but he did not... Instead he has used his spare time, diplomatic skills, and freedom as an American to figure out how best to help promote a just and lasting peace for every one's sake.


Quite honestly the jury is out on anyone's impact when it comes to ending the contentious Palestine/Israel conflict.... However Dr. Ziad Asali helps give me hope that reason and compassion and decency will prevail. I also like to think that his efforts are inspiring many other Americans to believe in Palestine and peace AND at the same time helping Arabs worldwide better understand and respect America and the political process... and our fourth estate.

Anne Selden Annab
Growing Gardens for Palestine

Good morning,

For over 40 years, the President of the United States has awarded the Citizens Medal -- the second highest civilian honor in our nation -- to Americans who have "performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens."

Now for the 2010 Citizen's Medal, the White House is opening up the process to include an exciting source of nominations: you. President Obama is inviting the American public to nominate candidates he should consider for the Presidential Citizens Medal -- truly making this an honor of, by, and for the American people.

Who has inspired you? Whose selfless dedication to service has touched your life or the lives of others?

Watch the President explain the program in this web video and then nominate an unsung hero from your community: LEARN MORE

Submit a Nomination

To nominate someone for the 2010 Citizens Medal, please review the criteria for this year’s medal and fully answer questions below. Additional awardees may be selected outside of the public nomination process. In order for the individual to be considered for the Medal:

  • Nominees must be citizens of the United States, as required by the 1969 Executive Order.
  • The nominee’s service must have been performed outside of their regular job.
  • All questions on this form must be fully answered.
  • Nominations must be received by Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Explain why your nominee should receive the Citizens Medal based on the criteria outlined here

Friday, January 22, 2010

UNRWA and the Blue Balloon

UNRWA and the Blue Balloon

The Blue Balloon in these photos is a protective moon that has accompanied Palestine refugees throughout their exile. It is a symbol of hope that can rise over obstacles and unite people that have been separated as the Palestine refugee communities have. The balloon is a childhood object, representing the innocence of children who are the chief recipients of UNRWA services. Now in our 60th year alongside the Palestine refugees, we continue to serve in hope for a future where our services and protection will no longer be needed.

My letter to the Guardian RE Israel's double standards over Haiti

RE: Israel's double standards over Haiti

Dear Sir,

I do not like what Israel has done to Palestine throughout the years. But I do not like what Hamas and armed Islamic resistance has been doing either.

For Palestine's sake I very much believe that Hamas should step down and all resistance groups should renounce violence and hate mongering rhetoric. Palestine can and should move towards becoming an independent, democratic, progressive, and modern Arab state, with full sovereignty over its territory in the West Bank and Gaza, on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Anne Selden Annab

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My letter to the Boston Globe RE Palestinians want US to serve as proxy in border talks

RE: Palestinians want US to serve as proxy in border talks

Dear Editor,

Israel's newest provocative and totally unreasonable demand that it retains a presence on the eastern side of a prospective Palestinian state
is utterly ridiculous and insulting. Palestine needs to be a viable sovereign state, in charge of its own affairs and its own borders. Furthermore Jordan, which is the country running alongside the eastern border of Palestine, has a peace treaty already in place with Israel, plus a strong desire to calm the situation down with a fair and just negotiated two state solution for everyone's sake.

Jordan has been consistently urging stronger peace efforts and Israel responds by being utterly unreasonable- as if that will give it bargaining power when forced to the table... "Judeh reiterated that Israel's unilateral measures in the occupied Palestinian territories, especially in East Jerusalem - such as housing demolitions, forced evictions of Palestinians and excavation works beneath the Islamic and Christian holy sites in the city - are illegal and rejected and should be stopped immediately." Jordan urges stronger int’l peace efforts

Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and the Palestinians basic human rights, plus its unreasonable expectations and demands, are the main obstacle to peace in the region. If the United States is forced to serve as proxy in talks I very much hope everyone understands the crucial importance of adhering to The Arab Peace Initiative regarding Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, and an end to Israel's illegal occupation and institutionalized bigotry.

Anne Selden Annab

My letter to the CSM RE Israel's controversial expansion of Ariel University in West

RE: Israel's controversial expansion of Ariel University in West

Dear Editor,

Continuously usurping Palestinian land, Israel's soldiers and settlers seek to destroy both Palestine and peace: The pretense of being a "secular" Israeli settler (as opposed to a religious zealot) living in, supporting or going to school in any one of Israel's many illegal settlements does not make such an immoral and unethical choice less wrong. I think it is utterly crazy and cruel that American Jews can go live and work in Israel and Palestine, coming and going as they please- but Palestinian refugees can't.

Anne Selden Annab

My letter to the Washington Post RE Israel removes American employed by Palestinian news agency

RE: Israel removes American employed by Palestinian news agency

Dear Editor,

"Israel removes American employed by Palestinian news agency" ... That American just deported is Jewish
. I think Palestine should be free to employ Jewish talent- but more importantly it also should be free to welcome or deport its own guests and its own workers. Is this heavily publicized deportation a deliberate gambit and exploitation on Israel's part? A trap laid to lure anti-Israel activists into loudly insisting that American Jews, including the religious fanatics and secular pawns who populate Israel's illegal settlement projects- should be free to stay taking over Palestine? The entire episode becomes quite a minefield... as does most everything that has to do with both pro-Israel and anti-Israel maneuvers.

Anne Selden Annab

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hussein Ibish: The importance of truth

"At some point we have to decide whether or not we value the truth, both as a category for its own sake and as an important element of effective political engagement. Obviously, everybody prefers to hear what they wish to hear, and everybody wants to put their own spin on matters, but at a deeper level telling people things that you know, or certainly should know, are totally inaccurate doesn't serve any useful or defensible purpose. It gives people the wrong impression leading to mistakes of judgment and it makes you look pretty silly in the process. Everyone gets their facts wrong sometimes, but errors have to be corrected and one ought to try in so far as possible not to give people false information. Analysis, evaluation and interpretation are another matter. But I can't see any rational, responsible explanation for saying something has happened when it simply and obviously hasn't happened." Hussein Ibish

The importance of truth

In this photo taken Monday Jan. 18, 2010, a drawing is seen on the wall during the opening of the exhibition 'Childhood under Fire' in Tel Aviv. The exhibition presents drawings created by Palestinian children from Gaza in commemoration of the first anniversary of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

In this photo taken Monday Jan. 18, 2010, Israelis are seen at the oppening of the exhibition 'Childhood under Fire' in Tel Aviv. The exhibition presents drawings created by Palestinian children from Gaza in commemoration of the first anniversary of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

In this photo taken on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010, Palestinian boy Ahmad Abu Halima, 11, draws at his family house in Beit Lahyia northern Gaza Strip. Abu Halima participates in the exhibition 'Childhood under Fire', displayed in Tel Aviv, Israel, that presents drawings created by Palestinian children from Gaza in commemoration of the first anniversary of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

In this photo taken on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010, Palestinian girl Mona Sammouni, 11, displays one of her drawings at the family house in the Gaza City neighborhood of Zeytoun. Sammouni participates in the exhibition 'Childhood under Fire', displayed in Tel Aviv, Israel, that presents drawings created by Palestinian children from Gaza in commemoration of the first anniversary of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

In this photo taken on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010, Palestinian girl Umsiyat Awaja, 12, displays two of her drawings at her family tent in Beit Lahyia northern Gaza Strip. Awaja participates in the exhibition 'Childhood under Fire', displayed in Tel Aviv, Israel, that presents drawings created by Palestinian children from Gaza in commemoration of the first anniversary of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip. Umsiyat's brother was killed and her father was injured during the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Awaja and her family lives in a tent after their family house destroyed during the Israeli offensive in Gaza last year. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Christian Orthodox pilgrims stand on the Jordanian side of the Jordan river during a traditional Epiphany baptism ceremony, at the baptismal site of Qasr el Yahud, near the West Bank town of Jericho, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. The Orthodox Christian community in Israel and the Palestinian Territories held their Epiphany baptism ceremonies Monday at the Qasr el Yahud, traditionally believed by many to be the place where Jesus was baptized. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

UN blue helmets plant trees to support residents in southern Lebanon

UN blue helmets plant trees to support residents in southern Lebanon

15 January 2010 – United Nations blue helmets are helping to green southern Lebanon through a re-forestation project designed to raise environmental awareness and provide long-lasting benefits to local residents in the village of Sh’huur.

The project was inaugurated today at a tree-planting ceremony led by the Australian Ambassador to Lebanon, Jean Dunn, and attended by local authorities and officials from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

This coordinated effort aims to plant a total of 2,300 trees, including walnut, olive and pine, over the next three months.

One of the goals of the project is to “make the area environmentally friendly with long-lasting impact on development through providing residents with green space for recreational benefits, fruit products, increasing biodiversity of the nearby farming land and indirectly supporting beekeepers in the area,” UNIFIL said a statement.

The trees will be planted in several locations in the municipality, including along the five-kilometre stretch of the Litani River, in recreational areas and picnic sites, on the nearby de-forested hills and along the roads in the village.

Since 2009, UN peacekeeping forces have increased their efforts to combat climate change. Blue helmets have already planted nearly 30,000 saplings in 11 peacekeeping missions worldwide, including in Timor-Leste, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Georgia and Lebanon.

UNIFIL has also funded re-forestation projects in two other cities in southern Lebanon, including planting 5,000 trees in Khiam, with assistance from Malaysia, and 3,000 trees in Rachaya al-Foukhar.

Greening of the area around Sh’huur is being spearheaded by the “Green Sh’huur” Committee, comprising citizens of the municipality, including the Mayor. The ultimate objective is to plant 10,452 trees, symbolizing the total surface area of Lebanon (10,452 square kilometres). As part of this initiative, the Committee has already planted 4,000 trees in the area.

Established in 1978, UNIFIL is tasked with ensuring that the area between the Blue Line – separating Lebanese and Israeli forces – and the Litani River is free of unauthorized weapons, personnel and assets, and it also cooperates with the Lebanese armed forces so they can fulfil their security responsibilities.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Blue helmets planting trees in bid to ‘green’ planet

UNRWA Launches 2010 Emergency Appeal, Urges International Community to Work to End Israel/Palestine Conflict

19 January 2010

UNRWA Launches 2010 Emergency Appeal, Urges International Community to Work to End Conflict

East Jerusalem, 19 January

Yesterday saw the launch of the 2010 Emergency Appeal of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), at a meeting in East Jerusalem of representatives of the Agency and its major donors. The appeal event, hosted by Director of West Bank operations Barbara Shenstone and Deputy Director of operations in the Gaza Strip, Sebastien Trives, came a year and a day after the conclusion of Israel’s war on Gaza. Donors yesterday heard how the humanitarian situation in the besieged Strip remained characterized by unemployment, food insecurity and socio-economic decline.

Shenstone also took the opportunity to speak about the circumstances of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, where the fragmentation of land, geographical restrictions on freedom of movement and limited access to employment and public services are redoubled by the problem of economic and social marginalization.

In 2010, she added, the Agency would make humanitarian interventions in the West Bank to alleviate the negative effects of those conditions on the Palestine refugees. The Agency would be working to pressure the international community to resolve the long-standing conflict resolution, lift the siege on Gaza and support UNRWA in its efforts to enable human development for Palestine refugees. The Agency’s work in the West Bank would include the provison of food aid and employment opportunities, and the delivery of essential services and emergency cash assistance to families living in poverty or facing severe difficulties. The Agency’s work in the area of protection would expand to include marginalized groups such as young people, nomadic communities, women and people with special educational needs.

The Agency will also work to address the psychological impact of violence, closures and difficult living conditions, as well as providing mobile field services for communities and isolated populations at risk of displacement in the West Bank, Shenstone said.

Speaking about the social conditions and economic, psychological and infrastructure-related effects had on the population of Gaza after last year’s war, Sebastien Trives, pointed out that more than two-thirds of the victims of the Israeli assault were women and children, and that destruction of public and private property was widespread. Trives urged the international community to end the siege imposed on Gaza.

UNRWA’s activities aim to alleviate the effects of poverty and unemployment in the Strip, said Trives, providing food, emergency employment opportunities, and targeted assistance to reach the poorest of the poor. The Agency would work urgently to help those who destroyed their homes because of war, he said, but the blockade imposed on Gaza severely hampers the Agency's reconstruction effort. Nonetheless, UNRWA would continue to provide basic services including health, education, and would again hold the annual summer games for Gazan children, which aim to alleviate the psychological trauma suffered by many young people.

Background information

UNRWA provides assistance and protection to Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. It does so by offering to a population of some 4.7 million refugees a range of human development and humanitarian services in primary and vocational education, primary health care, social safety-net, community support, infrastructure and camp improvement, microfinance and emergency response, including in situations of armed conflict. UNRWA’s role also encompasses advocacy and actions to address the human rights and protection needs of Palestine refugees.

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states. The Agency’s core budget for 2010 and 2011 stands at US$1.23 billion.

The Agency's 2010 emergency appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory amounts to US$73,049,589 for the West Bank and US$249,587,143 for the Gaza Strip.

- Ends -

For further information, please contact:

Chris Gunness, English spokesperson: +972 542 402 659/

Sami Mshasha, Arabic spokesperson: +972 542 168 295/

Preserving Palestine’s Roots of Resistance By Hajr Al-Ali for MIFTAH

Date posted: January 20, 2010
By Hajr Al-Ali for MIFTAH

Anyone who has reveled in Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cuisine knows the important role olives play in giving their taste buds cause to cheer. Whether eaten whole or through their oil, olives complete nearly any meal. Yet, here in Palestine in particular, zaytoun (olives) provide flavor to our lives beyond simply satisfying our palates. They are a vital part of the Palestinian economy, and are the nation’s largest commercial crop. According to UN figures, olive trees account for more than 45 percent of all farmland and 80 percent of all orchards in Palestine. They also happen to be a consistent target for Israeli settler and military attacks.

In November, a group of settlers from the Yitzhar settlement, south of Nablus, cut down nearly 100 olive trees in the village of Burin the day before it was about to celebrate the harvest; a celebration which comes after two years of tending. In the village of Beit Ummar in Hebron, Israeli troops banned farmers from planting over 1,500 olive trees by claiming it was a “closed military area,” despite an Israeli court allowing the farmers to do so. And according to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture “a productive olive tree is uprooted [by the Israeli military and settlers] every minute in the occupied Palestinian territories.” Such incidents have become increasingly frequent. Like termites, they gnaw away at Palestine’s geographical, cultural, and economic landscapes, particularly affecting the 65 percent of Palestinian families living in rural areas that are dependent on the agricultural sector.

In an attempt to rebuild the livelihoods of these families, crop-planting projects have begun to sprout up across the West Bank. This past Saturday, January 16, I trekked out to such an event with some friends. We woke up early to weave our way through Palestine’s notorious hills to a village in northwest Nablus called Deir Sharaf. Upon stepping out our service taxi, we were greeted by community members and volunteers who held out hoes and rakes for us to take, telling us with broad, knowing smiles that we should get busy planting.

The event was the first for the village, “but not the last”; part of the “10,000 Trees for Nablus Campaign.” Organized by Al-Hayat Center for Civil Society Development and supported by two UK-based organizations, the Friends of Nablus & Surrounding Areas Association (FONSA) and the Dundee Nablus Twinning Association (DNTA), the initiative seeks to provide a sustainable source of income for the community’s families.

Yet, as is often the case when it comes to Palestinian rights to their land and Israeli counter claims, this endeavor did not come without struggle and stipulations. Council members of Al-Hayat Center explained that the Israeli army prevented them from planting the trees in their original location, as it was “too close to the [separation] wall.” Subsequently, residents of Deir Sharaf were warned that if they dared to go near it, they would be shot. Their neighbors in the settlement of Shave Shomron did not receive this same warning, and often cross over to torment Deir Sharaf villagers by throwing trash onto their land or instigating clashes. Recently, settlers released pigs in Deir Sharaf which not only destroyed crops, but also brutally attacked a farmer, leaving him in the ICU for three months.

Such acts are, of course, another way to prevent the smooth passage of “sustainability” from entering into Palestinian life. In addition to such attacks, Israel’s land confiscations, uprooting and burning of trees, and the curfews and checkpoints which deny farmers access to both local and international markets, have systematically and significantly deteriorated the Palestinian economy.

It’s another flagrant sign of where Israel stands in desiring a viable peace. After all, the strong link between a sustainable economy and sustainable peace is no secret. Continued Israeli aggression against Palestinian farmers, make Netanyahu's claim that his government would be a “partner for peace, for security and for rapid economic development of the Palestinian economy” laughable. By destroying fields of olive trees to build more illegal settlements, separation fences and walls Israel has, quite literally, burned down the universal symbol for peace.

For Palestinians, olive trees stand as more than the archaic symbol of harmony. Their roots are grounded in resistance by those who struggle to protect them. Maha, a young woman volunteering in Deir Sharaf who claimed her English was “no good,” best explained the significance of olive trees to Palestinian life: “They are our grandfather. They are our beauty. They are our air.” We can only hope that one day Israel, as well as the international community, will recognize Palestine’s right to breathe.

Hajr Al-Ali is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Time to add a bottom-up approach to Middle East peacemaking

"While it is essential that the Obama administration continue to pursue the top-down diplomatic agenda with as much vigor, wisdom and caution possible, it is just as important for all actors to embrace and engage with the bottom-up state and institution building plan that will complement, reinforce and protect the diplomatic track, and lay the essential components on the ground for a Palestinian state, when it is established, to be successful." Hussein Ibish

IBISHBLOG: Time to add a bottom-up approach to Middle East peacemaking

MIDDLE EAST: Next steps for Iraqi refugees..." The country should be welcoming to all, regardless of religion, sect or political preference."
MIDDLE EAST: Next steps for Iraqi refugees

Photo: M.Bernard/UNHCR
Iraqi children play football in a Damascus neighbourhood. Of the 260,000 registered Iraqi refugees in Syria, less than 1,000 have sought assistance to return home under UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme
DAMASCUS, 19 January 2010 (IRIN) - An 18 January meeting in Damascus of over 50 NGOs and host country government representatives has mapped out the next steps in providing vital assistance and protection for Iraqi refugees across the Middle East.

The main product of the meeting is the 2010 Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees (RRP), which also looked at minority groups in Iraq.

One of the Plan’s most important elements is the closure of al-Tanf camp on the Iraqi-Syrian border. The camp - in no-man’s land - is home to 1,000 Palestinian refugees from Iraq, most of whom are expected to be resettled in al-Hol camp, northeastern Syria by the end of 2010.

The Plan notes that of the 260,000 registered Iraqi refugees in Syria, less than 1,000 have sought assistance to return home under the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) voluntary repatriation programme. The lack of social services, employment opportunities and uncertainly surrounding planned Iraqi elections were among the reasons cited.

However, more and more refugees are reportedly returning home for short periods to collect pensions, or check on family and property.

Radhouane Nouicer, UNHCR Middle East and North Africa bureau chief, said refugee resettlement in a third country is not a solution and can only assist a small number. Nevertheless, around 20,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria and a further 10,000 in Jordan applied for third-country resettlement in 2009.

Photo: J.Wreford/UNHCR
Palestinian children at al-Tanf camp between the Iraqi and Syrian border

On the ground, many refugees are only looking west. Ali from Baghdad has been in Damascus since August 2006 and rules out returning to Iraq. “I hope to be resettled to Texas in the US within the next 12 months. I’m not thinking of Iraq, and nor are any of my friends and family from Iraq.”

Strategic objectives

The RRP’s strategic objectives will focus on ensuring refugees can continue to seek refuge in their host countries (in many states there is no legal framework regarding refugees, including those in the Gulf where 1,089 Iraqi individuals have been registered), and offering vocational training to those wishing to return to Iraq.

In Syria, RRP hopes to extend support for refugees in rural areas, with many parts of the country now suffering from drought.

The Plan also targets child labour by pursuing measures to get an additional 12,000 Iraqi children in Syria into school, bringing the total number to around 45,000.

Meanwhile a senior Syrian official has criticized the Iraqi government. Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad said: “We will not oblige any Iraqi person to go home unless they wish to do so voluntarily, but there must be a political will in Iraq to help. The country should be welcoming to all, regardless of religion, sect or political preference.”


Theme(s): (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Letter dated 12 January 2010 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (A/ES-10/475–S/2010/22)

General Assembly
Tenth emergency special session
Agenda item 5
Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and
the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Security Council
Sixty-fifth year

I am compelled to once again draw your attention to the critical situation in Occupied East Jerusalem as a result of the continuing illegal measures being carried out by Israel, the occupying Power. The Holy City remains the target of a deliberate, aggressive and illegal policy by the occupying Power to alter its demographic composition and its distinctly Palestinian Arab character and nature and to sever the city from the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

In grave breach of international law and in absolute disrespect for the calls of the international community, Israel continues and is intensifying its illegal attempts to consolidate its control over Occupied East Jerusalem and to artificially create an overwhelming Jewish majority in the city via the expulsion or forced displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population and the transfer of more Israeli settlers. The construction of settlements, the construction of the Wall, the eviction of Palestinian families, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the closure of Palestinian institutions, and provocative actions in and near holy sites in Occupied East Jerusalem by the occupying Power continue unabated. All such actions are not only unlawful, but are highly inflammatory, threatening to further fuel existing sensitivities and to further destabilize the tense and fragile situation on the ground.

In this regard, I must refer to the ongoing Israeli practice of revoking the residency rights of Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem. For decades now, the occupying Power has been stripping Palestinian Jerusalemites of their identity cards, which ensure their residency in East Jerusalem, as part of a larger policy aimed at forcing out as many Palestinians as possible from the city and advancing its Judaization.

Reports have revealed that in the year 2008, Israel revoked the Jerusalem residency rights of nearly 5,000 Palestinians, forbidding them from living in the city that for thousands of them is the place of their birth. This figure represents the highest number of residency revocations in a one-year period since the occupation began in 1967. In this regard, records indicate that from the start of the occupation in 1967 until 2007, Israel revoked the residency rights of nearly 9,000 Palestinians, using a range of arbitrary pretexts and measures. The 2008 figure thus starkly illustrates and confirms the intensification and extent of Israel's colonization and de-population measures in East Jerusalem in recent years. Indeed, recent reports indicate that tens of thousands more Palestinian Jerusalemites are under threat of being stripped of their residency rights as Israel continues to pursue this illegal, reckless and dangerous policy to ethnically cleanse Occupied East Jerusalem of its indigenous population and to further entrench its illegal, de facto annexation of the city.

We have sent numerous letters alerting you to the critical situation in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory as a result of Israel's illegal colonization policies. We have repeatedly appealed to the international community to act to implement the relevant resolutions of the Security Council. The Council has repeatedly demanded the cessation of settlement activities and, in many resolutions, has specifically addressed Israel's colonization measures in Occupied East Jerusalem, calling for the immediate halt of all such measures and deeming the changes caused by these Israeli actions to be illegitimate, null and void. However, in spite of these resolutions and despite the firm calls, particularly in the recent period, by the international community for cessation of Israeli settlement activities, Israel continues to breach the law with impunity and has in fact intensified its colonization campaign. This is not only undermining the attempts to resume the peace process, but is directly endangering the prospects for and the physical viability of the two-State solution for peace on the basis of the pre-1967 borders.

Amidst grave concerns in this regard, the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization has once again raised this issue to the highest level. The Palestinian leadership thus continues to consult all concerned parties with a view to drawing attention to and mobilizing action to urgently and collectively address this extremely serious matter. This is absolutely imperative for salvaging the prospects for a peaceful settlement. We thus reiterate our call upon the international community, including the Security Council, to take action, including via practical measures, to compel Israel, the occupying Power, to finally bring an end to its illegal colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to respect the rule of law and comply with its legal obligations, including the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant United Nations resolutions.

This letter is in follow-up to our previous 354 letters regarding the ongoing crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, since 28 September 2000. These letters, dated from 29 September 2000 (A/55/432- S/2000/921) to 6 January 2010 (A/ES-10/474 -S/2010/13), constitute a basic record of the crimes being committed by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people since September 2000. For all of these war crimes, acts of State terrorism and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people, Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have the text of the present letter distributed as a document of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, under agenda item 5, and of the Security Council.

(Signed) Riyad Mansour
Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Research and Publication Unit

In an attempt to fill a gap in research and publications on cultural heritage in Palestine, Riwaq established this unit in the year 2000. The topics addressed by Riwaq convey a wide spectrum of interests; such as landscape, water systems, building techniques, personal anecdotes of historic buildings…etc.

from Growing Gardens for Palestine: A Palestine To Return To ... poem by Anne Selden Annab

.....A Palestine To Return To

Palestine does not need more anger
that cup already runneth over...

I'd rather hold a chalice of clear
clean water
fresh hope
for a future
for a totally real true Palestine

A fully free Palestine for Palestinians
and guests....

A Palestine to be proud of...
a Palestine of old world charm
with modern freedom & infrastructures

A Palestine of gardens and orchards
and jobs

A Palestine of bird watching
and green technology
to preserve the pastoral history
and the ancient buildings and paths...
alleyways... markets... ambiance...
to be the perfect equilibrium between
what was- is- and will be
to be Palestine alive
and doing well.

A Palestine to return to
and wanting the best
for all offspring

Diligently defining
a heritage
to bequeath
to coming generations...

A Palestine to treasure
in everyday ways...
with all the real comforts
of a real home
for real people
good, bad and indifferent...
not a rally cry- but a real place

Palestine with a passport
and a stamp.

poem copyright ©2010 Anne Selden Annab

Growing Gardens for Palestine

Have a Dream

OBAMA 2010: Martin Luther King and the Challenges of a New Age

The White House Blog

Speaking at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church in Washington, DC, the President honors Martin Luther King's legacy and ideals, and discusses his thoughts on how the lessons of that time apply to the tough times of today.

Martin Luther King and the Challenges of a New Age

Read the Transcript | Download Video: mp4 (342MB) | mp3 (25MB)

Let it be clear up front that it is well worth considering the President's remarks today in full - by all means simply watch them in their entirety above or read the full transcript.

As he began his remarks today focused on honoring the legacy and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, President Obama spoke first about the venue in which he spoke:

Now, it's fitting that we do so here, within the four walls of Vermont Avenue Baptist Church -- here, in a church that rose like the phoenix from the ashes of the civil war; here in a church formed by freed slaves, whose founding pastor had worn the union blue; here in a church from whose pews congregants set out for marches and from whom choir anthems of freedom were heard; from whose sanctuary King himself would sermonize from time to time.

The President spoke of the time and problems that Dr. King referred to as the "Challenge of a New Age" - a time when pivotal victories of the Civil Rights struggle had been won in the courts, but when racism still persisted, and when these rulings were still defied in the South:

So it's not hard for us, then, to imagine that moment. We can imagine folks coming to this church, happy about the boycott being over. We can also imagine them, though, coming here concerned about their future, sometimes second-guessing strategy, maybe fighting off some creeping doubts, perhaps despairing about whether the movement in which they had placed so many of their hopes -- a movement in which they believed so deeply -- could actually deliver on its promise.
So here we are, more than half a century later, once again facing the challenges of a new age. Here we are, once more marching toward an unknown future, what I call the Joshua generation to their Moses generation -- the great inheritors of progress paid for with sweat and blood, and sometimes life itself.

The President went on to discuss the lessons of hope and fortitude that this "Joshua generation" could learn from that "Moses generation":

First and foremost, they did so by remaining firm in their resolve. Despite being threatened by sniper fire or planted bombs, by shoving and punching and spitting and angry stares, they adhered to that sweet spirit of resistance, the principles of nonviolence that had accounted for their success.

Second, they understood that as much as our government and our political parties had betrayed them in the past -- as much as our nation itself had betrayed its own ideals -- government, if aligned with the interests of its people, can be -- and must be -- a force for good. So they stayed on the Justice Department. They went into the courts. They pressured Congress, they pressured their President. They didn’t give up on this country. They didn’t give up on government. They didn’t somehow say government was the problem; they said, we're going to change government, we're going to make it better. Imperfect as it was, they continued to believe in the promise of democracy; in America's constant ability to remake itself, to perfect this union.

Third, our predecessors were never so consumed with theoretical debates that they couldn't see progress when it came. Sometimes I get a little frustrated when folks just don't want to see that even if we don't get everything, we're getting something. (Applause.) King understood that the desegregation of the Armed Forces didn’t end the civil rights movement, because black and white soldiers still couldn't sit together at the same lunch counter when they came home. But he still insisted on the rightness of desegregating the Armed Forces. That was a good first step -- even as he called for more. He didn’t suggest that somehow by the signing of the Civil Rights that somehow all discrimination would end. But he also didn’t think that we shouldn’t sign the Civil Rights Act because it hasn’t solved every problem. Let's take a victory, he said, and then keep on marching. Forward steps, large and small, were recognized for what they were -- which was progress.

Fourth, at the core of King's success was an appeal to conscience that touched hearts and opened minds, a commitment to universal ideals -- of freedom, of justice, of equality -- that spoke to all people, not just some people. For King understood that without broad support, any movement for civil rights could not be sustained. That's why he marched with the white auto worker in Detroit. That's why he linked arm with the Mexican farm worker in California, and united people of all colors in the noble quest for freedom.

Of course, King overcame in other ways as well. He remained strategically focused on gaining ground -- his eyes on the prize constantly -- understanding that change would not be easy, understand that change wouldn't come overnight, understanding that there would be setbacks and false starts along the way, but understanding, as he said in 1956, that "we can walk and never get weary, because we know there is a great camp meeting in the promised land of freedom and justice."

Even more broadly, he spoke to two of the defining principles both of the Civil Rights era and the entire history of this nation - hard work, and faith.

On hard work:

Progress will only come if we're willing to promote that ethic of hard work, a sense of responsibility, in our own lives. I'm not talking, by the way, just to the African American community. Sometimes when I say these things people assme, well, he's just talking to black people about working hard. No, no, no, no. I'm talking to the American community. Because somewhere along the way, we, as a nation, began to lose touch with some of our core values. You know what I'm talking about. We became enraptured with the false prophets who prophesized an easy path to success, paved with credit cards and home equity loans and get-rich-quick schemes, and the most important thing was to be a celebrity; it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get on TV. That's everybody.

And on faith:

It's faith that gives me peace. The same faith that leads a single mother to work two jobs to put a roof over her head when she has doubts. The same faith that keeps an unemployed father to keep on submitting job applications even after he's been rejected a hundred times. The same faith that says to a teacher even if the first nine children she's teaching she can't reach, that that 10th one she's going to be able to reach. The same faith that breaks the silence of an earthquake's wake with the sound of prayers and hymns sung by a Haitian community. A faith in things not seen, in better days ahead, in Him who holds the future in the hollow of His hand. A faith that lets us mount up on wings like eagles; lets us run and not be weary; lets us walk and not faint.

So let us hold fast to that faith, as Joshua held fast to the faith of his fathers, and together, we shall overcome the challenges of a new age. (Applause.) Together, we shall seize the promise of this moment. Together, we shall make a way through winter, and we're going to welcome the spring. Through God all things are possible. (Applause.)

May the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King continue to inspire us and ennoble our world and all who inhabit it. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)

From Palestinian Refugee to Citizen of the World- Hasib Sabbagh a leading Palestinian philanthropist

A few words...

Hasib Sabbagh has dedicated his life to finding a solution to the dilemma of the Palestinian people. His most cherished hope is for the establishment of an independent state.

"With the passing of Mr. Sabbagh, Palestine has lost a loyal son but whose legacy will endure for years to come." MIFTAH

"His company moved its headquarters to Athens from Beirut after civil war broke out in Lebanon in 1975. It then benefited from the economic construction boom in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and provided offshore services to the oil and gas industries in the Persian Gulf." New York Times

"Carter said in 2005 that Mr. Sabbagh was "one of my earliest and strongest allies in pursuing peace in the Middle East" and that "Hasib's integrity and judgment, which made him a successful businessman, also made him a trusted adviser."" Washington Post

Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
January 12, 2010 - 12:00am

Jan. 12, 2010, Washington, DC – The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) offers its condolences to the family and friends of noted businessman and philanthropist Hasib Sabbagh following the announcement today of his passing away. ATFP also offered condolences to the Palestinian people generally, in light of Mr. Sabbagh’s many important civic and philanthropic efforts over the years.

Hasib Sabbagh was born in Tiberias, Palestine in 1922 to a distinguished Palestinian family. In 1941 he earned a degree in civil engineering from AUB and in 1943, co-founded the Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) in Haifa. Following the establishment of Israel, CCC was reestablished in Beirut, Lebanon in 1950, and has since grown into the largest multinational corporation in the Middle East and one of the largest contracting companies in the world with over $4 billion in annual revenue and at least 160,000 employees.

Mr. Sabbagh was not only noted for his numerous civic and philanthropic efforts, he also was politically active for many years. He served as a member of the Palestine National Council (PNC) and was committed to peace based on two states. He was the leading Palestinian philanthropist and was associated with a wide range of social service, civic, humanitarian and educational institutions in the Middle East and around the world. He served as deputy chairman of the Health Care Organization of the West Bank and Gaza and chairman of the Palestinian Students Fund. He also founded the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Foundation, which focuses on health care and education in the United States, and gave substantial donations to institutions such The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital as well as numerous universities.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Little Bit of Everything...Palestinian Refugees

A Little Bit of Everything – 63,000 young refugees played sports and participated in arts and crafts activities in 70 UNRWA schools. Summer Games 2008

UNWRA Seeds of Success: Hala Agha – Women First

Hala Agha – Women First

Damascus, January 2010

Hala Agha is not your average postgraduate student. She is a loving mother of two, a responsible wife, a very active Palestine refugee and an extremely committed person. But above all she is a woman that has never stopped believing in her dreams, to the point of turning them into solid realities. Her most recent aspiration was going back to college to pursue an MA in Sociology, more than 20 years after obtaining her bachelor’s degree. And unsurprisingly, she is just about to get it done. She is graduating soon and not only with honours but with a very well-deserved award.

"As women we have to realise we are human beings, just like everybody else. We must understand we do not belong to anyone but to ourselves," confides the smiling, goal-oriented woman while explaining the drive behind her achievements. Late last year, Hala was granted a research prize by the Arab Women Organization for her project on gender and violence in Syria. "This is a very important recognition not only because it will allow me to continue my research but also because it symbolises the struggle Arab women face to let their voices be heard," affirms the honouree.

The Arab Women Organization is an intergovernmental organisation established under the umbrella of the League of Arab States and based in Egypt. It emerged from the Cairo Declaration issued by the First Arab Women Summit which convened in Cairo in November 2000. The international association came into effect in March 2003 and since then it rewards outstanding projects submitted by women throughout the region. In 2009, Hala’s research proposal, entitled "Violence against wives", was picked out from hundreds of others and honoured with a prize for its exceptional value in depicting women’s conditions in the city of Damascus and its rural areas.

"Throughout my life I have always been discriminated against for being a woman. At school, at work, in my family or in the society, everyone has tried to prevent me from doing this or that for the simple fact of my gender," explains the middle-aged social researcher. "That is the reason I have always been interested in women’s issues and in doing something to help women and improve their situation."

For three months from September 2009, Hala interviewed hundreds of married women in the greater Damascus area, belonging to all social classes and aged from 17 up to 70 years old, asking them about their lives and whether or not they have suffered gender-related violence in their households. It was not an easy task. "Being such a sensitive issue many women were reluctant to answer. In order to talk to them I had to feel what they were feeling, empathise with them, listen to them. That’s how trust is built. It was very emotional because by holding their hands I felt reflected in many of their stories."

Hala’s research, the first of its kind in Syria with the approval and support of the corresponding authorities, is part of her Master’s dissertation project. The US$ 5,000 grant she received from the Arab Women Organization was used to cover the research expenses and will eventually help her carry out her next dream: extending the research to the Palestine refugee women population in Syria, something Hala plans to materialise sometime this year. "Being Palestinian it is fundamental for me to reach out to my own people, especially the women like me," she affirms proudly.

The final outcome of the research is still to come. A lot of information needs to be processed before the official results shed light on the situation of women in Syria and their future perspectives. In the meantime one thing is clear for Hala: there is still much to be done to improve the gender bias. "In one way or another, practically all the women I talked to have suffered violence," Hala says. Because even though Syria is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and has accordingly implemented policies and legal reforms, the mentality of society has not necessarily moved in the same direction.

"It might take a very long time for things to evolve favourably, but we have to start somewhere. If we do not start now change will never arrive," concludes Hala confidently.

Text and photo by Diego Gomez-Pickering

Israel and Arabs both responsible

Israel and Arabs both responsible

Despite the insistence of several recent letter writers, it is untrue that in 1948 Arabs freely abandoned their villages solely at the request of the attacking Arab nations. This argument bars Palestinian refugees from returning to villages that they had occupied for centuries.The record is quite clear that Israel was as responsible as the Arabs (or even more so) for the abandonment of these towns. For example, the 1948 Israeli "Operation Hiram" was a focused effort to remove all Palestinian Arabs, mostly Christian, from the upper Galilee. Systematic bombing of seven villages on Oct. 29-20, 1948, forced the surviving villagers to flee. Was this a voluntary flight?

Operation Hiram also produced such atrocities as the Israeli execution of peasants in Safsat (56 farmers killed with their hands bound), Eilaboun and Hulah. All of this to fulfill Israeli leader David Ben-Gurion's wish (Sept. 26, 1948) that this area be Arab-free. Did all of these villagers leave their homes voluntarily?

Yes, atrocities were committed by the Arabs as well (for example, at Haifa and Kfar Etzion) but far fewer -- simply because the Arabs took few Jewish settlements, while the Israelis took 400 Arab towns and villages.

It is unethical and unreasonable that a Russian Jew, newly arrived in Israel, whose forefathers may have abandoned their homes in the Holy Land millennia ago, has more rights to land than does an Arab whose family may have lived in that area for the last two to three centuries.



“Not through a narrow prism!” by Hassan Al-Battal

Hassan Al-Battal
Al-Ayyam (Opinion)
January 9, 2010 - 12:00am

One can excuse the Palestinians for viewing the problems of Middle East and terrorism through their own narrow prism. This is precisely the same prism they are using to view the recent events of Rafah and Al-Arish.

But how could the Islamists who run Gaza and proclaim that their fight is with Israel as well as with the Authority in Ramallah follow such a wrongheaded policy towards Egypt? They are hurling clubs and bullets across the border, using short-term logic that undermines long-term strategic objectives, and are exploiting the dual siege for political purposes. In doing so they are undermining Egypt’s fragile security in the Sinai.

No one can overstate the steadfastness of Gaza. But the Islamist movement that controls and rules Gaza is taking full credit for the steadfastness of its people. Gazans, out of necessity, have resorted to using sesame oil as a substitute for gasoline and heating oil, items that they used to import from Israel. UNRWA was forced to build homes with mud for lack of iron and cement. There is no way to attribute the steadfastness of the people to the industry of Hamas, since it arises instead from the resourcefulness of people in dire circumstances.

In contrast, the Israelis are not unexcused when they claim that the Palestinian issue is not paramount.

What is the relationship of the conflict in Swat Valley in Pakistan, where the Islamists blew up a sports stadium and killed over a hundred spectators, with the issue of the Palestinian state? What is the relationship of Darfur and Sudan with the Palestinian problem? What is the relationship to the Zaidi Huthists? What does Al Qaeda’s attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit have to do with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? What knowledge did the Nigerian Abdul Muttalab have about the intricacies of that conflict, his voyage to Yemen on the pretext of studying Arabic notwithstanding?

These are the arguments that the Israelis use when the Americans posit a correlation between the crisis in their relations with the Islamic world and the resolution of the Palestinian problem.
The proclamations of Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman are properly dismissed in European political circles, but are popular in Israel. Otherwise, Netanyahu would have already replaced him as foreign minister.

I don’t see a nuclear Iran as a threat to Palestine. But I do see the anti-Semitic rhetoric and denial of Israel’s right to exist expressed by the present leadership in Iran as a flagrant manifestation of Iran’s political ambition to become a regional super power. The Iranians should not be allowed to use the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to feed this ambition. Turkey, on the other hand, is succeeding in its regional plan by balancing its relations with Israel, the Arab states and Iran, as well as with the West and the Islamic world.

Our beloved Egypt, the cornerstone of what remains of the Arab nation, tries quietly to improve conditions in the Sudan, to ameliorate the pains of Yemen, and maybe to coexist with the ambitions of a nuclear Iran. But Egypt is neck-deep in its involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli issue due to its border with Gaza and the persisting nationalist sentiments that pull it towards the Palestinian problem. Also, the constrained competitiveness and cold peace with Israel compel Egypt to differentiate between Gaza tunnels that are in fact lifelines, and other Gaza tunnels that are used to smuggle militants and arms. Nobody believes that Egypt does not ignore the tunnels that indeed serve a reasonable function.

There is a profound significance in the question that the Saudi foreign minister posed to the Hamas leadership: Are you an Arab movement or not? There is an effort to connect Islam to political Islam, political Islam to religious action, religious action to jihad, jihad to terrorism, and terrorism to the killing of innocent civilians.

Last month witnessed a very important landmark in Iraq: not a single American soldier died, while 369 Iraqis died in suicide bombings, a tactic that the Palestinians have said goodbye to and not a minute too soon, just as they once said goodbye to hijacking airplanes.

The Palestinian problem is above all an Arab problem, in spite of the prevailing deplorable state of the Arab world that has allowed the Jihadist movements to falsely use the Palestinian problem in its effort to create and reinforce a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.

The Palestinian problem is also a Jewish, Israeli and Zionist issue. This should be the priority for the Israelis, even though they currently view nuclear Iran as the paramount threat. In the past, Iran was not seen as an existential threat, but Israel feels the need to have a monopoly on being the strongest power in the region.

In a nutshell: the Islamists are inflicting serious damage to the issue they falsely proclaim to be fighting a jihad for. Their reckless and barbaric attacks against innocent civilians give credence to the Israeli argument that the root of the unrest in the region is not the Palestinian issue, but rather Islam and its search for its character and identity, an identity that is trying to find a place in an evolving and civilized world.

The Islamist and Jihadist movements are greatly diminishing the centrality of the Palestinian problem at the very time when the issue has finally been placed at the forefront of the attention of Europe and the United States of America.