Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sophie's Survey: CONFLICT COMMUNICATION asking how and why people use social web media in the context of the Middle East conflict and a possible peace

Dear blogger,

Thank you very much if you have already participated in my survey about conflict related communication on the social web! I have received many enlightening answers so far.

Nevertheless, I am still lacking responses - especially from the blogging communities, which I consider an absolutely crucial part of the online conversation surrounding the Mideast conflict. If you have not yet filled in my questionnaire, please do so:〈=en

Please also circulate this email and/or the link to my survey in the respective communities and, if possible, post it on your weblog. Thank you very much, best regards,

Sophie Huber
Doctoral candidate, University of Salzburg/Austria, ICT&S Center (


This survey is part of a doctoral thesis dealing with conflict related communication on the social web. I try to find out how and why people use social web media in the context of the Middle East conflict and a possible peace process.


Sophie Huber, the author and administrator of the survey, is a doctoral student at the ICT&S Center, University of Salzburg, Austria (


You are invited to post a notice about this survey, e.g. on your blog or facebook page, since I am trying to hear as many and as different voices as possible. Answers to this survey are anonymized.

Completing the questionnaire will take about 15 minutes. Many thanks for taking the time!
If you are interested in the results of the study (to be released in the course of 2010), please send an email to

There are 45 questions in this survey.
A Note On Privacy
This survey is anonymous.
The record kept of your survey responses does not contain any identifying information about you unless a specific question in the survey has asked for this. If you have responded to a survey that used an identifying token to allow you to access the survey, you can rest assured that the identifying token is not kept with your responses. It is managed in a separate database, and will only be updated to indicate that you have (or haven't) completed this survey. There is no way of matching identification tokens with survey responses in this survey.

Friday, March 12, 2010

United States to Assist Palestinian Refugees

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

United States to Assist Palestinian Refugees

Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 12, 2010

Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Eric P. Schwartz welcomed Filippo Grandi, recently appointed Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), to Washington DC on March 11, 2010, and announced that the U.S. will make an additional planned contribution of $55 million to UNRWA.

The United States is UNRWA’s largest donor. The announced contribution of $55 million includes $30 million to UNRWA’s General Fund, which provides core services to Palestinian refugees across the region, and $25 million to UNRWA’s Emergency Appeal for the West Bank and Gaza. This additional funding will bring total U.S contributions to UNRWA thus far in Fiscal Year 2010 to $95 million. In 2009, the United States provided more than $267 million to UNRWA.

UNRWA provides emergency food assistance, critical health, education, job creation programs and humanitarian services to 4.7 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. Assistant Secretary Schwartz and Commissioner-General Grandi discussed UNRWA program requirements and the quantity and scope of essential materials entering Gaza.

Commissioner-General Grandi will also meet in Washington with Deputy Secretary of State Jacob J. Lew, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey D. Feltman, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael H. Posner, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations Gerald C. Anderson.

Ibtisam Barakat's poem "Palestine"

Ibtisam Barakat's "Palestine"
To all of the Palestinians who have never seen Palestine...


At the check out register
At an office-supplies store
I am getting ready to
Buy the world --
The globe that is
Fifty dollars, the man says
195 countries all
For 50 dollars.
I am thinking –
That means 25 cents
A country..
Can I give you a dollar
And you throw in
Where do you want it?
He says.
Wherever there are

-- Ibtisam Barakat

UNRWA initiatives help Palestinian women promote themselves in society

UNRWA marks International Women’s Day 2010

Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All

8 March 2010

Monday 8 March 2010 is International Women’s Day. It is a global day to recognise and celebrate women’s achievements, and to look ahead to the opportunities that await future generations..

Literacy helps reconnect mother and son

March 2010


Amal Fayyad writingAmal Moh’d Fayyad’s eldest son has been in prison in Israel for seven years, but she is unable to leave Gaza to visit him because of the blockade of the Strip. Amal cannot even write him letters because she cannot read or write, having left school at 14.

Amal, known as Um Hassan, got married at 14 and did not continue her education. Now 45, she is a mother of 14 children.

She said “I wanted to communicate with my son, to write him letters by myself without the need to ask my other sons or daughters who were not available or willing to help most of the time. I decided to join the Ata’a Centre for Women’s Development in Beit Hanoun.


“I started from the very beginning motivated by my dream: the dream of writing a letter by my own hand, a letter in which I can convey all my love and thoughts to my son, a letter that can break all the barriers, and melt the distances between us,” she continued.

Her persistence and motivation helped her attend the classes for almost a year, without ever being bored or frustrated. At home, Um Hassan would compete with her youngest son to see who achieved the highest grades in dictation tests.

“My son felt so happy that I could do the same homework, and he encouraged me too,” Um Hassan said.

Defeating darkness

"With the help of these classes I started to read too. Simple stories, with little words. When I go home, at night when my children go to sleep I narrate to them the story I read. I felt so happy and proud that I no longer am unable to read.”

At the Ata'a Centre for women in Beit Hanoun, Um Hassan and 12 other women gathered around the table holding their pencils, eager to learn more to defeat the darkness imposed on them either by their families or their society.

Most of them were very happy that they could attend such classes, and also exchange their experiences around their lives, their children, and what they might face.

Text by Najwa Sheikh, Gaza Strip

“I decided to break the chains tying me up”

March 2010

After family problems caused her stress and depression, Ibtisam Akieleh found support with a group of other Gazan women – and realised she was not alone. With this help, and her own willpower, Ibtisam was able to come off her medication.

Ibtisam, 45, lives in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. She is married with five children, one of whom died in 2003 during the Israeli invasion of Beit Hanoun.

Feeling isolated, Ibtisam’s mental health began to suffer. She said: “I suffered greatly in my life and was isolated from the outside world because I felt inferior inside. I felt everyone around me was contributing to the frustration I lived in.

Breaking the barrier

“I felt my life was inanimate and confined to raising my children and taking care of my house. I convinced myself that life isn’t like this; that human beings are not livestock that only eat, drink and sleep. I decided to go out and break the chains than tie me up.”

Other women in the community told Ibtisam about the Ata’a society, a Palestinian charitable society that cares for women and children’s welfare, and targets women in Beit Hanoun.

Describing the turning point she experienced, Ibtisam said: “I was on psychiatry medication to relieve my stress and family problems. I used to be good student, but I turned into an introverted person who is unaware of the outside world.”


The centre offered Ibtisam psychiatric support and discussion sessions with other women. Answering a question about the real reason behind her introversion, Ibtisam said: “What drove me to the psychiatric illness was a lack of balance as well as the collapse in my life, especially after my husband brought in a second wife to share my life. This led to family problems.

“I thought I was the only woman that suffers from a dominant second wife, but found that a lot of women suffer from greater and multiple problems.”

“After I joined the centre, I witnessed a great difference in my personality. I acquired new self-esteem. The psychiatric medicine became unnecessary and I returned to being an ordinary human being. I knew what was wrong with me; it was simply that I needed to have contact with the outside world.”

Women train their sights on the future in Nahr el-Bared

8 March 2010
Nahr el-Bared, Lebanon

Women from the destroyed Nahr el-Bared camp (NBC) in Lebanon are rebuilding their lives – and their businesses – thanks to specialised training courses.

The 2007 conflict at Nahr el-Bared destroyed most of the camp’s thriving economic climate. Women, who had owned more than 10 per cent of the camp’s businesses, were left with few options to contribute economically.

UNRWA’s capacity building project for women and girls of NBC, a partnership with the NBC Women’s Programme Centre and the Austrian Development Corporation, prepares women to join the workforce – and boost the camp’s economy.

The courses, which include hairdressing, food preparation and sweets manufacturing, were offered based on the women’s own preferences.

Hairdressing training

Sisters Ahlam (34) and Ayda (30), students on the popular hairdressing course, plan to open their own salon. Ahlam’s small grocery was destroyed during the conflict. The training, she says: “provided encouragement for us financially and mentally to open our own shop. We have high spirits about it.”

Ayda agrees: “Before we were feeling so bored; we were not doing anything. Our family prevented us from going out and we had no friends. Now we feel much better and have much more freedom.”

Learning with others also extends women’s informal social networks, and with it their access to information and resources. One student says: “We have developed our hairdressing skills but also how to work and deal with other people.”

“The course is making girls feel more confident and like they have a purpose.”

Social barriers

The students must overcome social barriers to even attend the training, including convincing family members of its value. But the women say it is worth the fight. They point to the difference between their own personality and those of their peers who have remained at home, focused only on domestic work.

“My personality has changed, I now have the freedom to express my feelings,” says one woman.

Other women and girls who left school early plan to seek jobs in established salons after graduation, rather then return to home and domestic duties.

While the women realise there are also considerable challenges to seeking work outside the home, they feel the benefits will far outweigh the initial difficulties. Studies show that including women in the labour force is often the single step out of the poverty cycle, as the income they contribute makes a crucial difference to their families’ wellbeing.

Text by Kristen A. Cordell, UNRWA gender consultant

Computers help Gazan woman reach “another world”

9 March 2010

After years of being unable to contact her son in Algeria, 65-year-old Gazan Amena Al Ajrami has learned to use computers to communicate with her son and grandchildren.

Amena only finished eighth grade before she got married and stopped going to school. She said: “I was only 14 years old when I got married. Now, after my kids have grown up and married I have lots of spare time, so I decided to use this time learning different courses.

"I am eager to learn more than before. I was forced to leave school; I could not say no, but now I want to learn as much as I can.”

Most of Amena’s eight children are married and have children. One son lives in Algeria and is unable to visit his family, who have not seen him for years.

Keeping in touch

Amena decided to start a computer course at Jabalia Women’s Programme Centre, so she could use the internet to keep in touch with her son and grandchildren. She said: “Yesterday was the first time I saw my grandchildren since 1995. You cannot imagine how happy I was, and proud at the same time."

"I was hesitant to use the computer or just to think of using it. Now whenever I have time I can use it and go through different programs. I also use the internet to gain any information that I need; it is another world," she continued.

“I am 65 years old, but I am not ignorant, I like to read. Ignorance is not only being unable to write or to read. I have changed a lot, and can understand now what my children are talking about."

Spreading the word

"I can use Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I am so happy to learn and very proud,"
Amena said. “I told all the women that I met them to join this centre and learn all kinds of training. It is good for them, for their lives, and for their characters."

Jabalia Women’s Programme Centre is one of 22 centres for women’s development in the Gaza Strip. The UNRWA initiative helps women promote themselves in society.

Text by Najwa Sheikh, Gaza Strip

More about Palestine refugees


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye’s (1952—) mixed heritage—her father is Palestinian, her mother is American—shapes the subjects of her poetry. Through mostly free verse, Nye often writes about everyday life while addressing cultural issues. Nye has traveled extensively, including to the Middle East and Asia to promote goodwill through the arts.

by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

Washington is the indispensible partner for a settlement By Ziad Asali
Washington is the indispensible partner for a settlement
By Ziad Asali
Friday, March 12, 2010

The situation facing Israel, the Palestinians and all other interested parties, especially the United States, is difficult, but it also presents important new opportunities. Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians may resume soon, although continued disagreements over Israeli settlement building may yet derail this.

If talks do resume, hopefully they will do so with measures in place to maximize the possibility of success. The recent Arab League decision supporting proximity talks facilitates the efforts of the US special envoy, George Mitchell, to bring the parties together. Regional cooperation and more constructive rhetoric by the parties will also help.

In the state and institution building program adopted last August, the Palestinian Authority has initiated an important innovation with regard to Middle East peace. Palestinians plan to build the institutional, infrastructural and economic foundations of their state while under occupation, in order to bring an end to the occupation.

All parties, including Israel, say it is their intention to realize the two-state solution. The Palestinians are therefore taking up the responsibilities of self-government as they continue to insist on the right of self-determination. In extemporaneous remarks at the Herzliya conference last month, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad explained this, and the Israeli political and national security leadership in attendance applauded. He addressed accusations of unilateralism by noting that only Palestinians could build their own state.

It must be clearly understood that a Palestinian state can only be established through a negotiated agreement. The Israeli establishment that understands that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is a strategic imperative should recognize this program as a serious pathway to that end. And there should be no doubt about the negative strategic consequences of thwarting it.

Palestinian institution-building is not a substitute for diplomacy. Both support each other. The Palestinian Authority’s innovation is to add a bottom-up approach, based on palpable achievements, to top-down diplomacy. What is needed is convergence between the bottom-up and top-down approaches. Strategically significant, positive, changes on the ground and diplomatic progress should be mutually reinforcing.

However, the Palestinians will not be able to fully realize this ambitious and potentially transformative program on their own. It will require a sustained global effort to provide the Palestinian Authority with the financial and technical support and sustained political engagement that will be required for it to succeed. The Obama administration, the Middle East Quartet, Arab governments and the Israeli government all have a stake in establishing a Palestinian state. Now is the time for them to act.

At the heart of the state-building enterprise are the new Palestinian security forces. Their restoration of law and order, increased security cooperation, along with Israel’s removal of several checkpoints, has led to an economic upturn in the West Bank.

This model demonstrates what Palestinians can accomplish, and how Israeli concerns can be overcome, given appropriate levels of coordination, international aid, technical support and sustained political engagement. This process can be repeated in sector after sector. It is also vital that Palestinian security forces be allowed access and mobility. Israeli incursions undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of these forces as state builders.

Despite the harsh realities of daily life under the occupation, conditions have improved in areas under Palestinian Authority control. But significant challenges remain. Tensions were raised by Israel’s decision to add holy sites in the Occupied Territories to its national heritage registry.

Continued settlement activity, confrontations in East Jerusalem, excavations near holy sites, evictions of Palestinian families, travel and visa restrictions, belligerent conduct by extremist settlers, and sporadic violence by individual and organized Palestinian extremists all undermine the viability and credibility of negotiators and negotiations. In this context, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intervention to defuse a crisis over building plans in Silwan has to be acknowledged.

The situation in Gaza is dire. Israel’s blockade has produced a humanitarian tragedy without weakening Hamas control. Isolation helps Hamas increase its hold on the long-suffering people of Gaza and to create a totalitarian theocracy that systematically takes over civil society and harasses international non-governmental organizations, the very organizations best placed to lead the reconstruction effort.

In short, the people suffer while Hamas benefits politically from this unconscionable blockade. Reconstruction should commence soon and the legal and orderly operation of the crossings be resumed. It is also vitally important to end the frankly mystifying and counterproductive pattern of Israel’s preventing Gaza students from traveling to study abroad.

The US Congress is to be commended for the substantial aid it provided to the Palestinians last year. This positive trend needs to be expanded by offering the necessary financial and political support for the Palestinian Authority to successfully pursue the state and institution building program. This is not simply a development project, it is a serious political program that advances a key American national interest.

This program should be funded by Congress, and that the United States government should lead others to fund and support it as well. George Mitchell is currently enlisting necessary partners to achieve coordinated political, economic and security progress.

The United States is the indispensable partner that can bring all parties to negotiations and agreement. This is a role that can neither be relinquished nor outsourced.

Ziad Asali is president of the American Task Force on Palestine. This commentary is adapted for THE DAILY STAR from testimony presented to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on March 4, and has been updated to take into consideration later developments.

The Palestinian State and Institution Building Program
Documents detailing the state and institution building program of the 13th Palestinian Government, including the overall plan and priority interventions for 2010.

My letter to the LATimes RE Recent events aside, a two-state solution remains the best path to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

RE: Editorial: Staying true to 'two-state' Recent events aside, a two-state solution remains the best path to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.,0,6205345.story

Dear Editor,

The question should not be "Is time running out for a two state solution?" We need a more telling statement such as: "Is time running out for a real solution- and a just and lasting peace in the Middle East?"

What is right now already is the one state "solution" with the continued oppression, impoverishment and displacement of the native non-Jewish men, women and children of historic Palestine. Already extremists, religious idiots, and many naive and easily manipulated followers of various factions on all sides have helped inflict a huge amount of harm to both Palestine and peace. Do you really think more time will change that trend?

A totally secular two state solution will help push both Israel and Palestine towards starting the hard process of healing and moving forward in much more positive directions for everyone's sake.

Anne Selden Annab

Celebrating Women's History Month by celebrating some GREAT Palestinian-American Artists, Writers & Poets

Need the facts on Palestine?

Israel's unfair 'law of return'

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE READ the ARTICLE on its original website... go to the link to read the article in part or in full, to help let newspapers (and their advertisers) know what you like to read. Reward really good stories with your attention- and ignore really bad ones to help shape a more revealing and helpful conversation.

"....Today there are more than seven million Palestinian refugees around the world. Israel denies their right to return to their homes and land – a right recognised by UN resolution 194, the Geneva convention, and the universal declaration of human rights. Further, "an occupier may not forcibly deport protected persons... or transfer parts of its own civilian population into occupied territory" (article 49).

The Foreign Office emphasises that the UK's "policy on settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is absolutely clear: Israeli settlements activity is not only illegal under international law, it is also in contravention of Israel's obligations under the Road Map to Peace and detrimental to the peace process. The prime minister made this point most recently in a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu of 5 January."

The Israeli government continues to expand these settlements and encourage immigration in order to consolidate its hold on the occupied territories. The new Jewish-only settlement towns being built by the Jewish National Fund within Israel, in the Negev and Galilee, also continue Palestinian dispossession, by displacing Bedouin in "unrecognised villages". While Palestinians are being continuously dispossessed, imprisoned in enclaves, and prevented from building to house their families on their own land, Jewish people from any part of the world can be housed anywhere they choose within Israel and West Bank. Precious water resources are used lavishly in the settlements, while drastically limiting Palestinians' access. Use of the super-highways linking settlements to Israeli cities is denied to Palestinians, and sewage from the settlements is discharged into Palestinian villages and agricultural areas. The settlement freeze is a joke, and is ignored by Israel. It is more a settlement frenzy.

So far, the British government, while issuing protests to the Israeli government, has not taken proper measures, together with the Quartet, that would stop the settlement construction. Arguably, British citizens who settle in Israel may be accessories to a crime if they move to these illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, contravening the 1977 additional protocol and the International Criminal Court Act 2001, which the UK has ratified. Unless Britain acts firmly to end Israel's impunity to international law and agreements, hopes of establishing a lasting and just solution for peace in the Middle East will be indefinitely delayed." Abe Hayeem

Israel's unfair 'law of return'

While British Jews are offered property in the West Bank, Palestinian refugees are still denied the right to return

My letter to the New York Times RE Editorial: Diplomacy 102

RE: NYTimes Editorial: Diplomacy 102

Dear Editor,

Israel's invasion projects in the illegally occupied territories are coyly referred to as "settlements" and "fences" and "roads" as if there is an old fashioned harmlessness to these very modern, heavily armed, interconnected cauldrons of institutionalized bigotry and injustice.

Diplomacy and negotiations regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict are not necessarily as much about getting two feuding parties to talk as it is about convincing the world and all our many various media pundits and politicians (and religious leaders), that a secular two state solution fully honoring and respecting international law and basic human rights is in everyone's best interests.

Obama needs our help- and so do both Israel and Palestine. We the people, each in our way (no matter where we come from or how we define ourselves) can make a huge difference by doing all we can to make sure the conversation stays on track and progress is made towards creating a just and lasting peace- a real peace... and a real Palestine.

Anne Selden Annab

Celebrating Women's History Month by celebrating some GREAT Palestinian-American Artists, Writers & Poets

Need the facts on Palestine?

My letter to the IHT RE Uri Dromi's Will Israel Join the March of Folly?

RE: Will Israel Join the March of Folly? By URI DROMI

Dear Editor,

The March of Folly indeed... "Settlements" is too polite a word for the Israeli invasion projects funded and defended by Zionist zealots and bigots who want the land, but not the native non-Jewish population of that land.

Furthermore, Israel is wrong, and has been wrong all along to scorn international law and the Palestinians' basic human rights, including but not limited to the Palestinian refugees inalienable legal and natural right to return to original homes and lands.

Since WWII ended and reparations started, persecuted Jewish refugees who fled the Nazi Holocaust have been free and able to return to their original homes throughout Europe, as well as able to reclaim stolen property.

Every piece of stolen art reclaimed by Jewish heirs after WWII is inspiring proof that the right of return is a universal right and a civilized right... a basic human right that should not EVER be limited by a person's supposed race or religion.

Respecting the right of return does not mean that all Palestinian refugees must be forcibly transferred to Israel-proper pronto. Peace and a negotiated secular two state solution to end the contentious Israel/Palestine conflict should give displaced and fragmented Palestinian families the freedom to come and go, the freedom to visit friends and family, and the freedom to make an informed choice as to where they want to live and work and invest their time and talents.

Anne Selden Annab

Celebrating Women's History Month by celebrating some GREAT Palestinian-American Artists, Writers & Poets

Need the facts on Palestine?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Al Jazeera English - Middle East - Peace activist's parents sue Israel

Al Jazeera English - Middle East - Peace activist's parents sue Israel

My letter to the Washington Post RE U.S. condemns Israel's plans to build housing in east Jerusalem

RE: U.S. condemns Israel's plans to build housing in east Jerusalem

Dear Editor,

THANK YOU! Thank you for headlining Biden's Middle East visit and the fact that the U.S. condemns Israel's plans to build housing in east Jerusalem... The long process of creating a just and lasting peace by ending the Israel/Palestine conflict though negotiations will be shortened significantly if all parties (and their advisers) firmly and fully respect international laws and resolutions- and basic human rights across the board.

The men, women and children of both Israel and Palestine need a peace agreement that realizes the rights and freedoms set forth in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Ending Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territory would be a good beginning towards exactly that.

Anne Selden Annab

My letter to CSM RE "Why Israel jailed me for ‘talking too much’ ... We could use a little support from Obama" by Jamal Juma’

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable..." Martin Luther King, Jr.

RE: Why Israel jailed me for ‘talking too much’ All we Palestinians want is a life free from racial discrimination. We could use a little support from Obama. By Jamal Juma’

Dear Editor,

THANK YOU! Thank you for publishing "Why Israel jailed me for ‘talking too much’ All we Palestinians want is a life free from racial discrimination. We could use a little support from Obama." By Jamal Juma’

I do very much hope that the renewed Middle East peace process becomes much more than a charade and a cruel farce- I hope that it becomes a real effort on everyone's part to seriously and conscientiously calm down and end the Israel/Palestine conflict with a shift into serious negotiations based on full respect for international law, basic human rights, and a two state secular solution... two states Israel and Palestine - living side by side in peace and security.

Two states, with clear borders and passports and people free to come and go- free to find jobs and free to start the process of healing and helping each other overcome all the many challenges ahead as both Israel and Palestine start investing in peace and progress for everyone's sake.

Anne Selden Annab

My letter to the NYTimes RE An Eviction Stirs Old Ghosts in a Contested City

RE: An Eviction Stirs Old Ghosts in a Contested City

Dear Editor,

In 1917, defining Jewish Zionist aspirations, Balfour makes the ground rules quite clear "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine"

50 years later, Linda Mansour writes in her brief but telling essay concerning 1967: Denied Our Rights in the Blink of an Eye "Both my father and my mother (from Lifta-Jerusalem) were denied their rights in the blink of an eye: to be close to their families, to take care of their elderly parents, to raise their children among their cousins, to contribute to their community, to be home."

Israel has been systematically and intentionally evicting Palestinians from their homes and lands for 61 years. It has been fragmenting Palestinian families, impoverishing Palestinian individuals and communities at every turn, and then vilifying Palestinians because they dare object.

Old ghosts are not the problem: Rampant ongoing violations of international laws, active institutionalized bigotry and living human beings- Palestinian men, women and children pushed out of their homes and off their land- and cruelly denied their inalienable legal and natural right to return so that Israel can become more and more militantly "Jewish" is the real crisis at hand, and has been all along.

UN Resolution 194 from 1948 makes it quite clear that "the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property"

Anne Selden Annab

"It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine, and, indeed, at least offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees who have been rooted in the land for centuries. " United Nations Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte
From the "Progress Report of the United Nations Mediator on Palestine" by Folke Bernadotte. 16 September 1948. United Nations General Assembly Doc. A/648. Part one, section V, paragraph 6.

"The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians and for Jews, Muslims and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world. Unilateral action taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations on permanent status issues. As George Mitchell said in announcing the proximity talks, "we encourage the parties and all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks."" " Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Office of the Vice President The White House March 09, 2010

One of my own favorite poems is by the late Israeli-Arab (Palestinian) Tawfiq Zayyad, a poet born in the Galilee, a Mayor of Nazareth and a Knesset member:

All I Have

I never carried a rifle

On my shoulder

Or pulled a trigger.

All I have

Is a lute’s memory

A brush to paint my dreams,

A bottle of ink.

All I have

Is unshakeable faith

And an infinite love

For my people in pain.

Statement by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. | The White House: "We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them."

The White House

Office of the Vice President

Statement by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.


"I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel. We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them. This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict. The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians and for Jews, Muslims and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world. Unilateral action taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations on permanent status issues. As George Mitchell said in announcing the proximity talks, "we encourage the parties and all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks.""

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Daily Video Diary Covering Four Palestinian Women Launched on YouTube: Sleepless in Gaza...and Jerusalem

On March 1, the premier episode of a 90 part series, "Sleepless in Gaza...and Jerusalem" was launched on YouTube, and there are now eight episodes online. The video diary chronicles the lives of four young Palestinian women, Muslim and Christian, two living in Gaza and two in Arab Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The YouTube channel for the video log is at:

PINA TV Production camera crews are covering Ashira Ramadan, a broadcast journalist based in Jerusalem; Ashira's friend in Gaza, the documentary film maker Nagham Mohanna; Donna Maria Mattas, a 17 year-old student at the Holy Family School in Gaza who dreams of growing up to be a journalist, and Ala' Khayo Mkari who works with Caritas in Jerusalem.

The producers say the intention of the series is to allow all who do not live in the occupied territories -- Arab East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, as well as the Gaza Strip -- to grasp how these four young Palestinian women live daily lives under occupation.

Each episode runs 26 minutes and will be shot in Jerusalem/West Bank and Gaza, edited and uploaded the same day. A new sequence is added six days a week, with Fridays off.

The producers, Radiant Circle Productions and PINA, can be reached by e-mail at or through the PINA office in Ramallah,

My letter to USAToday RE True history hides deep under the bark of the family tree By DeWayne Wickham

RE: True history hides deep under the bark of the family tree By DeWayne Wickham

Dear Editor,

I very much enjoyed Dewayne Wickham's "True history hides deep under the bark of the family tree",
honoring his beloved Aunt Arline, and celebrating the human family.

Science does indeed give us a miraculous ability to discover genetic connections and suggested histories we might find surprising and intriguing- fascinating for many different potential reasons.

We can at best guess what various far flung ancestors might have believed or thought, but religion is not written on DNA, nor is basic dignity... Thankfully we are free to make the most of our own modern complex and often confusing selves, free to exchange ideas and knowledge with others, free to experience life- free to think and come to our own conclusions about both the past and the present, and the gift of life itself.

Anne Selden Annab

Growing Gardens for Palestine

My letter to the New York Times RE Biden Calls Ties Between U.S. and Israel ‘Unshakable’

RE: Biden Calls Ties Between U.S. and Israel ‘Unshakable’

Dear Editor,

Israel is constructing more illegal settlements, exasperating tensions, empowering radicals and throwing up crazy ideas in order to either continue on with its illegal occupation and harsh oppression of the Palestinians- or to have as much bargaining power as possible as a huge international push for peace and Palestine forces everyone to take both peace and Palestine quite seriously.

calculated foolishness in demanding "an Israeli military presence on its [Palestine's] future eastern border to prevent the import of weapons and rockets that could be aimed at Israel’s population centers" completely ignores the fact that that eastern border is with Jordan and Jordan is already perfectly able and willing to stop the smuggling of weapons and rockets used to target and harm men, women and children in Israel, Jordan and Palestine.

Anne Selden Annab

Need the facts on Palestine?

Sands of Sorrow : Documentary on Palestinian refugees recorded on 1950 two years after the Israeli Occupation of Palestine

My letter to the Washington Post RE Editorial "From proximity to peace?"

Washington Post Editorial "From proximity to peace?"
& the News- Biden visits Middle East; Israel and Palestinians agree to indirect talks

annieannab wrote:

Times have changed- in 1991 few Americans knew much at all about Palestine, but we now live in a 24/7 world, with The Global Information Age and the internet enabling us to see and understand the very real plight and suffering of the Palestinians.

Even if our own mainstream newspapers are reluctant to give full coverage to the situation it is easy as can be to read international newspapers and see you-tube videos... and to closely examine testimony given at Senate Hearings such as the recent testimony given by Dr. Ziad Asali of the American Task Force on Palestine regarding “Middle East Peace: Ground Truths, Challenges Ahead” for the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Now is not the time for cynicism- now is the time to start believing in peace- and Palestine... a real Palestine living in peace alongside Israel.

Our own focus should be to do all we can to help empower all who endorse and help make real a secular two state solution in line with the Arab Peace Initiative "Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties..."

A Golden Rule Peace- fully respecting international laws and basic human rights, including but not limited to the Palestinian refugees inalienable legal and natural right to return to original homes and lands: A secular two state solution is the only solution for every one's sake, and negotiations on how best to respect and implement all the many international laws and resolutions already in place need all our support.

Militants, religious zealots, and petty tyrants on both sides want to sabotage peace and undermine the peace talks. It behooves us all to refuse to empower the hate mongers and troublemakers who benefit from the continuation of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Obama is only one of many Americans, and America is only one of many various nations, who can rise up in dignity for dignity to help create positive momentum for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East... for everyone's sake.
3/9/2010 6:10:29 AM

Anne Selden Annab

Monday, March 8, 2010

UNRWA marks International Women’s Day 2010: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All

UNRWA marks International Women’s Day 2010

Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All

8 March 2010

Monday 8 March 2010 is International Women’s Day. It is a global day to recognise and celebrate women’s achievements, and to look ahead to the opportunities that await future generations.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is marking the day with events across its five fields, including bazaars, workshops and film screenings.

Over the next week we will profile stories of refugee women UNRWA has helped.

From School Drop-Outs to Star Students: Girl Power in Lebanon

8 March 2010
Sidon, Lebanon

Walaa and Hanadi are close friends, having grown up together in the Ein el Hillweh camp near Sidon, in Lebanon. Both girls left school very young, and long before they completed their education. Low self-esteem and decreased ambition were swift to follow.

“Being an underachiever, repeating classes and having a low performance record all led me to leave school and stay at home,” says Hanadi. ”I felt that my life had ended, my future was ruined. I’d completely lost hope.”

Help was at hand, however, through a programme for school drop-outs run by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), with funding from the European Union.

Walaa explains a bit more about the programme: “I had stayed at home for six months without school and without a job until the school principal invited me to meet with officials from this scheme. They offered me a choice: either return to school, or enrol in a vocational major of my choice to work towards a profession. I chose to work towards a qualification in photography and editing.”

Together, the two friends joined the same special one-year programme, studying and doing practical training in a fully functioning photographic studio. Both are now happily employed in a studio in the city of Sidon.

Looking back, are the girls happy with the choices they’ve made since dropping out of school? Hanadi is in no doubt that the programme helped her regain confidence and get a helping hand to a career. She says: “I would advise everyone to learn a profession in case they are unable to continue academic schooling.”

“I am very happy working in this field,” says Walaa. “It is so nice to be working in an arts-related profession.”

The director of the studio is equally satisfied with his new employees. He says: “Walaa and Hanadi are such quick learners and very active. They really are dedicated and highly motivated to improve in this profession.”

Hanadi chips in to offer a closing assessment. “Thanks to the drop-out programme, my life has changed, and for the better,” she says. “Because I go out to work everyday, I have regained hope – I know the value of my existence in society.”

Rana Saleh: “I dreamed of completing my education”

8 March 2010
Beddawi, Lebanon

To mark International Women’s Day, 27-year-old Rana Saleh explains how she overcame a difficulty upbringing to become the sole provider for her family – and an acclaimed seamstress.

Rana, from Beddawi camp, left school at 15, after her mother, who suffers from schizophrenia, had her youngest sister. Rana says: “I had to take care of my newborn sister because of my mother’s ailment and my father’s blindness.

“I started learning sewing at an early age because of my family’s difficult economic situation.” Rana’s family – her parents, four sisters and one brother – were classed by UNRWA as special hardship cases.

Sewing and fashion

"I found myself looking for a career to be able to provide for them,” she says. “In 2000, I signed up to a year-long course in sewing and fashion design at UNRWA’s Multi-Purpose Community Development Centre in Beddawi camp. Once I could earn, I could help my family.”

She discovered a love for sewing and studying: "My ambition had no limits. I loved learning about everything – I even studied curtain design. It was fun to learn how to make suitable dresses for women and clothes in general."

Sole provider

As the sole provider for her family, Rana has helped support her sisters’ education. “I liked having a role in improving my family's condition and not to live on the support of others."

"The centre gives me a lot of support, not only in securing work there, but also moral and emotional support. Having left school early, I dreamed of completing my education."

Her sewing work also allows Rana to pay back the UNRWA loans that have been an important lifeline for the Saleh family. She has already repaid two loans for her brother's treatment after he was hurt in an accident, and for home improvement.


In appreciation of the opportunities she had, Rana’s desire to give back goes beyond her family. As a trainer in the centre, she is helping new girls find a way to get on their feet. "I feel proud because [as I train] new girls in sewing, I always remember the trainers who taught me,” she says.

Rana’s fame as an excellent seamstress has spread throughout the camp. She is an example to the girls and women following in her footsteps. A strong advocate for women's access to the workforce, Rana encourages girls in her community to work even after marriage. As she explains: "Work is important for our life."

Summing up her experiences, Rana concludes with a Chinese proverb: "Teach me to fish rather than give me fish."

Text by Maysoun Mustafa, Beddawi camp information officer

On International Women's Day, UNRWA and the EU Celebrate Palestinian Women

8 March 2010
East Jerusalem

Alia Arasoughly, Palestinian film producer and head of womens’ NGO Shashat
Alia Arasoughly, Palestinian film producer
and head of womens’ NGO Shashat

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) today kicked off a week of celebrations in honour of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2010.

Workers at the Agency’s main compound in East Jerusalem were treated to a visit by the Palestinian cinema NGO Shashat. After a speech by Barbara Shenstone, the director of UNRWA’s operations in the West Bank, came a screening of the film Far from Loneliness, which follows the tough pre-dawn journey of three older farming women from their fields to the vegetable markets, as they tell of their relationship to the land. The screening was followed by a lively discussion, led by director Sawsan Qaoud and producer Alia Arasoughly.

Qaoud’s film is one of four produced by Shashat as part of their ambitious 'Masarat’ project, supported by funding from the European Union. The project aims to encourage public debate on women’s lives in the occupied Palestinian territory, using film as a way to engage a wider audience from diverse social, economic and educational backgrounds. Yesterday’s event was the first in a series of similar events planned throughout UNRWA’s five fields of operation, as part of the Agency’s efforts to achieve gender equality within all its operations and programmes, and among staff and beneficiaries alike.

Meanwhile, further celebrations got under way in Lebanon and Jerusalem, with events showcasing the achievements of UNRWA’s female beneficiaries and exhibiting Palestinian-made products. A special event in East Jerusalem will tomorrow launch a week-long bazaar of goods produced by Palestinian women under the auspices of UNRWA’s job creation programme (JCP), which ensures work for the most vulnerable West Bank refugees.

The programme’s cash-for-work project, made possible by donors including the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), and the governments of Sweden, Belgium and the US, actively targets female refugees by providing work opportunities to suit social values, and which are physically accessible to women. The event will run at the East Jerusalem YWCA until 11 March in celebration of the achievements of the project’s female employees.


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 European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. Over the period 2000 to 2009, the EU, excluding EU member states, alone has provided more than €1 billion of support to the Agency. The EU and its Member States provided 62 per cent of support to the General Fund in 2009. This funding has enabled human development for the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Masarat is an ambitious Palestinian media project by the Palestinian cinema NGO Shashat, and funded by the European Union. The project aims to promote awareness of the resiliency and strength of Palestinian women and encouraging public debate of some of their lives. The four films focus on women and young girls from diverse walks of life addressing the complexity of women’s lives in Palestine. Each of the films is unique in its style and subject matter and focuses on women from different social, economic backgrounds and of different generations. An extensive and diverse network of community, cultural and educational institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as independent media outlets were involved in the project. The four films are Ghada Terawi’s Golden Pomegranate Seeds, Sawsan Qaoud’s Far from Loneliness and Mahasen Nasser-Eldin’s Samia, and Dima Abu Ghoush’s First Love.

For more information on UNRWA
West Bank Gender Officer: Rea Bonzi, +972 (0)2 589 0456
Spokesperson: Chris Gunness, +97 2(0)54 240 2659

For more information on the EU's assistance to the occupied Palestinian territory
Shadi Othman, +972 (0)2 541 5888 ext 867

For more information on Shashat and the Masarat project
Alia Arasoughly, +972-2)297-3337

Parsing Mitchell's statement

"The Palestinians want specifics," Ibish continued. "The Israelis want the vagueness. That's a difficult gap to bridge. Also, the Palestinians are very keenly aware of the dangers of a complete meltdown at the diplomatic level and want and need some assurances that this will not be a complete catastrophe. ....Proximity talks allow them, and everyone to ease back into the negotiating process with some political protection." Hussein Ibish quoted by Laura Rozen on Politico

Parsing Mitchell's statement

Bethlehem ... a poem by Nathalie Handal

Mervat Essa lives in a small town in northern Israel not far from the town in which her grandmother lived until Al Nakba. These ceramic sacks memorialize the depopulation of Al Biram and other Palestinian villages in 1948. These villages were completely razed, its residents driven into exile, its buildings and natural resources left to waste. MADE IN PALESTINE


Secrets live in the space between our footsteps.
The words of my grandfather echoed in my dreams,
as the years kept his beads and town.
I saw Bethlehem, all in dust, an empty town
with a torn piece of newspaper lost in its narrow streets.
Where could everyone be? Graffiti and stones answered.
And where was the real Bethlehem--the one my grandfather came from?
Handkerchiefs dried the pain from my hands. Olive trees and tears continued to remember.
I walked the town until I reached an old Arab man dressed in a white robe.
I stopped him and asked, "Aren't you the man I saw in my grandfather's stories?"
He looked at me and left. I followed him--asked him why he left? He continued walking.
I stopped, turned around and realized he had left me the secrets
in the space between his footsteps.

Nathalie Handal


Nathalie Handal
Mahmoud Darwish
Fadwa Tuqwan


"The anthology was prepared to eradicate invisibility," writes Nathalie Handal (The Never Field) of Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology. With research help from groups like RAWI (Radius of Arab-American Writers, Inc.) and from Arab-American newspapers and journals like Al Jadid, Handal has gathered work from "most of the older and newer contemporary voices" of the Arab diaspora over 80 poets writing in Arabic, French, English and other languages, and living in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza and the U.S. Handal's introduction, along with biographical notes on the poets and many translators, helps to place them. ( Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Writer/Director of Amreeka, Cherien Dabis, at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards!

Writer/Director of Amreeka, Cherien Dabis, at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards!


"Life's best adventures are journeys of the heart"