Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mearsheimer's unhelpful, unrealistic and disempowering message to the Palestinians

"...Insofar as they are aimed at Palestinians, his conclusions are absolutely pernicious. They play into their most traditional and damaging fantasy: the idea that Palestinian numbers and presence on the land will, sooner or later, negate the Zionist project and deliver power into Palestinian hands in the whole of historical Palestine. This was a deep-seated belief since at least the 20s, and in every phase of Palestinian political life since then, and it remains a potent article of faith among Palestinians even today. This misapprehension, proven wrong time and again in practice, has been a key element in the steady accumulation of defeats, setbacks and miscalculations that have delivered the Palestinian national project to its present woeful state. I'm not sure I can imagine, short of a jihadist rant, a worse or more damaging message to a Palestinian audience than Mearsheimer's conclusion:

"In sum, there are great dangers ahead for the Palestinians, who will continue to suffer terribly at the hands of the Israelis for some years to come. But it does look like the Palestinians will eventually get their own state, mainly because Israel seems bent on self-destruction."

What is the take away from that indefensible assertion? Of course it's that Palestinians don't really have to do anything, except avoid the kind of violence that might justify massive ethnic cleansing by Israel, and simply wait for the Israeli project to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. This is the key refrain of the siren song of the one-state agenda, the chorus of certainty between each and every verse. It takes a perfectly reasonable observation -- that because of the occupation Israel is charging headlong down the path towards self-destruction -- which is undoubtedly true, but attaches to that accurate assessment the weird corollary that this somehow means Palestinian victory. As I keep saying, again and again, it is entirely possible for either or, quite possibly, both sides to lose everything in this conflict. Nothing about it is a zero sum. Just as both Israelis and Palestinians require a peace agreement to secure a reasonable future, both of them are likely to face wretched futures as far as the imagination can justifiably be stretched in almost any scenario likely to be produced by a lack of peace (leaving aside, of course, science fiction-like fantasies that have no relation to the political and other forces that actually produce outcomes).

What Mearsheimer fails to see is that while it's true that extremists in the pro-Israel lobby are assisting Israel in its journey towards oblivion by counseling or enabling permanent occupation, he is performing the same Kevorkian-style tender mercy for the Palestinians by counseling and enabling the abandonment of efforts to end the occupation. Telling the Palestinians that they are doomed for a certain, probably long, term to endure formalized apartheid and there isn't really anything they can do to avoid that, but that in the long run they basically don't have to do much of anything for their national project to triumph since Israel will inevitably self-destruct is about as unhelpful, unrealistic and disempowering as anything I can imagine. It's been my long-standing suspicion that while Mearsheimer clearly doesn't like the pro-Israel lobby, he doesn't seem to really understand, or even care that much about the well-being of, the Palestinian people. That Mearsheimer is using them and their cause as a foil in his ongoing feud with the pro-Israel lobby, which he has been at odds with for so long he is starting to resemble, all but confirms this." Hussein Ibish

Mearsheimer's unhelpful, unrealistic and disempowering message to the Palestinians

A light is cast upon pro-Israel groups By Rami G. Khouri

A light is cast upon pro-Israel groups
By Rami G. Khouri
Commentary by
Saturday, May 01, 2010

One of the fascinating aspects of recent tensions between the American and Israeli governments over Washington’s Middle Eastern diplomacy has been a sea-change in the public posture of what is usually called “the Israeli lobby” in the United States. This phrase refers to a very sophisticated, extensive and successful web of American organizations and individuals that work to shape American foreign policy so that it favors the prevalent Israeli rather than Arab view of things.

The pro-Israel lobby includes mainstream American Jewish groups but also fundamentalist Christian organizations. They have been able since the 1970s to shape the main contours of Washington’s policy in the Middle East on anything that touches or approaches Israeli concerns, by using perfectly legal and routine levers of political influence in the United States that target the political class and public opinion.

The most important is using immense local and national pressures (funding and votes) on members of Congress and the president to keep them in line with pro-Israeli sentiments, or else risk losing the next election (therefore Congress routinely, as it did in recent weeks, issues letters signed by a large majority of its members declaring strong support for whatever Israel asks them to support).

This is complemented by persistent and professional activities to shape the public environment primarily through influencing media, including portraying Israel as a consistent strategic ally of the United States and the Arabs, Iranians and selected others as dangerous to both Israeli survival and American values. This includes activities by dozens of pro-Israeli groups that give the appearance of being independent American organizations, but are seen by many to work primarily to promote pro-Israeli sentiments, policies and interests, like Campus Watch, CAMERA, MEMRI, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and others.

The significant recent development is that these and other such groups have been pulled out of the world of the shadows where their agenda has always found comfortable and successful camouflage, and they are now routinely discussed in public in two main contexts: Are they working for the best interests of the United States or that of Israel? Is their strong influence on American public opinion and foreign policy a good or a bad thing for the United States?

The novel public debate about the pro-Israel lobby in the US was highlighted a few weeks ago by a fascinating exchange in Foreign Policy magazine between Stephen Walt of Harvard University (the co-author with John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago of “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy) and Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. They exchanged thoughts on the issues raised by Walt in response to an earlier article by an American journalist who quoted a Washington source as suggesting that long-time State Department and White House official Dennis Ross was “far more sensitive to Netanyahu’s coalition politics than to US interests.”

The Walt-Satloff exchange touched on several issues, the main one being whether WINEP was an independent American institution doing independent analysis, research and policy recommendations or whether it was an integral part of the pro-Israel lobbying and public relations efforts. (A subsequent article in, by M. J. Rosenberg, offered confirmation that WINEP is and always has been a creation of the pro-Israel lobby, by recounting events he participated in when AIPAC decided to create WINEP in a manner that disguised its connections to the pro-Israeli world in Washington.) The discussion continues.

This is only the latest and most substantive of many examples of how the work of pro-Israeli groups in the US is being forced onto the stage of public analysis and debate, with the main question being: Is the line they push good for the US national interest or only designed to help Israeli hawks? The pro-Israel lobby groups are not comfortable being assessed in this manner, especially because of insinuations of dual loyalty or conflict-of-interest that often lurk just below the surface in some discussions.

It was inevitable that this public discussion would occur, once the Obama administration decided to push hard for Arab-Israeli negotiations that started to separate US national interests from Israeli national interests, without compromising the fundamental American commitment to the survival and security of Israel within its 1967 borders.

The pro-Israel lobby prefers to work quietly in the background to define the Middle East foreign policy debate in the US – but now finds itself part of that agenda that is being debated in public. I suspect this is because many people in power in Washington are starting to feel the pain and the consequences of the US pursuing a stridently pro-Israeli policy for decades on end, and are exploring new approaches to securing American, Israeli and Arab legitimate national interests simultaneously.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR

School Library Journal: 'The Shepherd’s Granddaughter' Under Attack

'The Shepherd’s Granddaughter' Under Attack

By Lauren Barack -- School Library Journal,04/28/2010

Author, librarian, and teacher Anne Carter’s book, The Shepherd’s Granddaughter (Groundwood, 2008) has won a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the student-selected Red Maple Award. It was also chosen as a Book of the Year for children by the Canadian Library Association in 2009.

But Toronto District School Board trustee Sheila Ward is demanding that the book, about Israeli settlers attacking a young Palestinian shepherd girl and her family, be banned from library shelves. B’nai Brith Canada is also calling for its removal from all school reading lists, and the Canadian-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies is cautioning against the title.

SLJ spoke to Carter about why her message of hope and peace for the Palestinians is garnering so many protests.

How did you first hear about the protest against the book?
I was informed in February when the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies sent a letter of caution to school boards in Ontario. It was sent quite widely. I was not sent a copy, but I have contacts at schools and libraries, and friends let me know. In the letter they quoted a sentence from a comment on a blog. It was an extremely unfortunate comment, and I felt it was taken out of context a little bit.

Do you think those who object to the book have a point?
The novel was not written in the spirit of demonizing Israelis. I first went to Israel when I was 17, and spent the summer there for about 12 weeks. I honestly had an absolutely wonderful time. I saw Israel only through extremely sympathetic eyes. I had read a lot of Holocaust literature, went back when I was 19, learned Hebrew, was there for the Yom Kippur Wars and saw how extremely difficult it was to be Israeli and constantly being attacked. I was there for a year, I married a young man I met there, and then I came home and made a life here in Toronto.

What prompted you to learn about the Palestinians under occupation?
I suspect after 9/11 I realized that like a lot of people in North America, I did not know much about Islam. I watched the horror of suicide bombing, and again I had been very sympathetic to the Israeli side. I watched on the news what was going on in Israel [with suicide bombers], and I felt that collective punishment was harsh. But we’re not living in our cities with suicide bombings. It is an extremely difficult problem.

Did something click for you?
After 9/11 I became a librarian and had Muslim students and Palestinian students and realized there were no books on the shelves representing their point of view. And I realized that I had lived in Israel for one and a half years, but I had not made friends with Palestinians. And here we were 30 years later, and we had even more fear. I recognized I lacked information.

How did you research your book without knowing any Palestinians,?
Through an international organization, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), I was invited to teach creative writing in Ramallah. I always like to stay with families. I am not a hotel kind of person, especially if I am trying to understand a people. I knew someone with the Christian Peacemaker Teams who put me in touch with people outside Hebron who spoke a little English. I visited both places, and spent two weeks and thought I might write something. I was terrified there. I‘m not a journalist. I don’t seek out conflict situations to write about.

How did you react to being with Palestinians?
It didn’t take me long. When you go on the other side of the separation wall and live with Palestinians, you see that the occupation is a very hard thing. The people I met didn’t hate Israel and didn’t hate Jews, but they hated the occupation. I met a lot of patient people who believe in democracy and long for peaceful ways to resolve that, and are not giving up and not resorting to violence, and I had not heard that story. You can read in the paper about not being able to get permits, having schools closed, not having any water. But when all these things are accumulating, it’s really hard. I began to see the Palestinians as a very long-suffering patient group.

Did you base the book on a real family?
I lived with a family in Hebron, very rural, and very poor, and their story inspired me. I found it hopeful. And a lot of people are not hopeful about the conflict. And these are people working for peace. It is possible. There are these examples, people reaching out to each other and not getting dragged down by the hatred and violence of the past as neighbors. And that was the spirit. It took me three years to write the book. I was very careful, and I wrote the book as gently as I could.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?
I was writing it for that person in the Jewish community, very defensive about Israel’s right to exist. And of course it should exist and be safe. I just feel that what’s going on with Palestinians and the occupation, that the occupation is a horrible thing. And the settlements have been internationally condemned, and I would like to see them stop. The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award was, to me as a writer, the highlight of my career. It was very meaningful to me. And they read it as a book to build some understanding and moving toward a peaceful solution. It was not written to engender animosity. I know it was naive, but I hoped it would open up some hearts, to understand the conflict after reading it from both sides. I would hope young readers would read this and then go on to read other things, go research and think about it for themselves, and never get one point of view.

My letter to The Economist REGARDING Get your plan ready, Mr Obama, As talks look set to resume, Barack Obama must prepare a big plan of his own

RE: Get your plan ready, Mr Obama, As talks look set to resume, Barack Obama must prepare a big plan of his own

Dear Sir,

Not only America, not only Obama, and certainly not only official leadership, needs to be involved:
EVERYONE needs to nudge "Arabs and Jews" or however you want to define the division, into ending the Israel/Palestine conflict with a fair and just negotiated settlement ASAP.

Every individual, every organization and government, and every media pundit, every poet, every dreamer, every doer needs to realize that we all have a crucial part in either
instigating even more hostility, strife and escalating religious bigotry OR compassionately calming down the situation by honoring and respecting international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at home and abroad.

One by one, each in our way, citizens of the world can and should help visualize and usher in full respect for international law and basic human rights, INCLUDING but not limited to fully honoring and respecting the Palestinian refugees inalienable legal and moral right to return as clearly called for in UN Resolution 194 from 1948, and affirmed for the umpteenth time once again in the more recent Arab Peace Initiative.

Anne Selden Annab
Homemaker & Poet

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, the council:

1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.

2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:

I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:

I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.

4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.

5. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighbourliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.

6. Invites the international community and all countries and organisations to support this initiative.

7. Requests the chairman of the summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the secretary general of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim states and the European Union.

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.

Omar Baddar: Video Series Depicts Life Under Occupation, Humanizes Palestinian Experience

"While the show doesn't go out of its way to be political, it remains heavily so because life under a foreign military occupation is inherently and unavoidably political. Whereas political news reports highlight egregious cases of Palestinians being thrown out of their homes in illegally-occupied East Jerusalem for Israeli settlers take over, this show explores the less conspicuous but more sustained and widespread pressures of economic strangulation on Palestinian shopkeepers in the old city. And whereas human rights reports cover the massive infrastructural devastation of Gaza in the aftermath of Israel's assault over a year ago in statistical terms, this show brings that reality home by giving viewers a chance to meet the families that live without electricity or access to clean water.

From the terror of a 4:00am raid on a family's home to arrest a 10 year old boy, to the joy of kids who are taken to an amusement park beyond their financial means, to the horror of a family that discovers beating marks on the body of their son whom Israeli authorities alleged had committed suicide in prison (and the bravery of the women exploring and documenting these stories), the series takes you on an emotional journey which authentically delivers the reality of Palestinian life.

Of course, one can certainly learn all the cold facts about the occupation by reading books and human rights reports, watching documentaries, or listening to lectures. But, like Anna Baltzer's moving and notable book Witness in Palestine, what this series offers is a better grasp on what it really feels like to live everyday under the occupation."

Cross-cultural understanding and tolerance: A new children's book The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The Queen of Jordan is the co-author of this lively picture book based on her nursery-school experiences that taught her to be “open to what seems foreign or strange.” Salma and Lily are best friends at school, and lively, double-page spreads show the girls having fun, drawing pictures, playing in the schoolyard, and eating lunch together, until one day Lily blurts out that Salma’s sandwich (pita bread and hummus) looks kind of yucky, and Salma says the same about her friend’s peanut butter and jelly (“looks gross, and it smells bad, too”). The harmonious pictures change to show angry standoffs, and other kids choose sides, shout insults, and begin a huge food fight. Finally, after a visit to the principal’s office, Salma and Lily feel ashamed. They taste each other’s sandwiches (yummy!), hug, and trade lunch. The story is preachy, and food makes a too-easy peacemaker. But preschoolers will recognize the school drama of friends and enemies and the messy confrontations that are resolved. Preschool-Grade 2. --Hazel Rochman

Product Description

Lily and Salma are best friends. They play together and stick together through thick and thin. But who would have ever thought that ordinary peanut butter or plain old hummus could come between them? Lily and Salma don’t quite understand each other’s tastes, but does that mean they can't be friends? They understand far better than a lot of gown ups that these things hardly matter and that friendship is the most important thing of all.

Her Majesty,Queen Rania’s children’s book is inspired by her own experience. As written by Kelly Dipuchio, it is a warm-hearted and gently humorous fable about two girls who become aware of their subtle cultural differences, only to have their friendship strengthened as a result. Her Majesty travels the world promoting children’s causes as well as cross-cultural understanding and tolerance.

Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan ( is a mother, a wife, a boss, an advocate, and a humanitarian. She is dedicated to defending the welfare of children around the world: she is UNICEF's Eminent Advocate for Children. Known also as a champion of cross-cultural tolerance and a campaigner for global education, Her Majesty collaborates with international organizations and grassroots projects in these areas. Her Majesty is married to King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein of Jordan, they have 4 children: Prince Hussein, Princess Iman, Princess Salma, and Prince Hashem.Follow her on twitter at

My letter to the New York Times Regarding "Who Lives in Sheik Jarrah?" by Kai Bird

Who Lives in Sheik Jarrah? By Kai Bird

Dear Editor,

Thank you for publishing
Who Lives in Sheik Jarrah? by Kai Bird- concerning Palestinians being forced out of their homes and denied their right to return... However I vehemently disagree with the idea that the right of return should only be respected if a two state solution fails.

Race, religion, and/or ethnicity must not be the determining factor in who gets rights, freedom, security, respect, jobs, and the ability to preserve one's own personal history and potential prosperity: Every refugee's right of return is an inalienable legal and moral right that is above and beyond all borders, both real and imagined.

Furthermore UN 194 from 1948 clearly follows the two state formula- The United Nations had certainly not intended that the Jewish State should rid itself of its Arab citizens.

In 1948 United Nations Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte pointed out that "It would be an offence against the principles of justice if those innocent victims [Palestinian refugees] could not return to their homes while [Zionist] immigrants flowed into Palestine to take their place." (page 4 far left column )

Negotiations are a necessary part of all political processes, but negotiations need to be about how to best respect basic human rights and international law- not how to dismiss them.

Anne Selden Annab

Refugees, Borders & Jerusalem... "The State of Israel, in its present form, directly contravened the previous recommendations of the United Nations"

Friday, April 30, 2010

Nadya Parks will be tying her running shoes in support of Palestine refugees at the Illinois Marathon early tomorrow morning....

Run for Refugees Supports an Important Cause

Nadya Parks will be tying her running shoes in support of Palestine refugees at the Illinois Marathon early tomorrow morning. Nadya, the daughter of a refugee from Lebanon, is hoping to raise $2,600, one hundred dollars for every mile she runs, to donate to UNRWA.

Tomorrow, on the sixtieth anniversary of the start of UNRWA's field operations in 1950, Nadya will join 13,000 other runners in the marathon.

"I wanted to put my passion for the Palestinian refugee situation into action," she said. "I was tired of waiting for change to happen. I decided that if I wanted Palestinians to receive better services and assistance then I should raise money for an organization that commits itself to helping Palestinians."

Nadya's father grew up in Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon. Many of her aunts, uncles, and cousins continue to live in refugee camps.


"Supporting UNRWA is a very important cause for me," Nadya said. "Despite the challenges that my father faced, UNRWA schools played a key role in him getting a strong education that ultimately afforded him the opportunity to attend the American University of Beirut and also to pursue a Master's degree and PhD in the United States."

Nadya's lifelong interest isn't only personal; she has also seen UNRWA's work at first hand. "I have spent the last six years studying development in Palestinian refugee camps throughout Jordan, Lebanon and Syria for my PhD," she said. "The Palestinian people welcomed me into the camps, sat with me in many long interviews, and UNRWA officials met with me to answer my questions too."

It is her first marathon, and Nadya says she is nervous and excited. "It is very challenging on a physical and mental level," she said. "I started training in June by slowly increasing the distance of my runs. I train roughly six days a week, with lots of runs and a yoga class."

Marathon Fundraising

"I have reached 60 per cent of my goal by raising a little over $1,500 dollars. However, I still have a ways to go until I reach my goal," Nadya continued. "I am hoping in the last few weeks before the race that donations will increase. Please consider donating to the cause, even small donations make a big difference in the lives of Palestinian refugees."

Donate to Nadya (FirstGiving website)

Read more on Nadya's Blog

If you're taking part in a running event and would like your sponsorship to go to UNRWA, please email

My letters to The Guardian & LATimes RE The split between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority

RE: The Palestinian cold war, The split between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority is reflective of the foreign influences dominating the Middle East by Jonathan Spyer

Dear Sir,

ttempting to define the foreign influences at play in the Palestine/Israel conflict, Spyer left out the most crucial factor: UNWRA and the Palestinian refugees. UNWRA really is because of Western money plus Arab hospitality keeping Palestinian refugees alive... and educated. Recently One Laptop Per Child and UNRWA partnered to provide new learning opportunities for Palestinian Children Nearly half a million Palestine refugee children by 2012 will have laptops, and they can take their laptops home so each laptop also becomes a family and community resource.

Recently in Nablus Palestine, wanting to help a blind aunt and uncle who struggle to navigate the steep slopes and scant sidewalks, two 14-year-old Palestinian girls built an obstacle detecting walking stick for a class project at their United Nations-funded girls' school. Their ingenuity won them a prestigious trip to Intel Corp.'s international youth science fair in California: "These girls are the Albert Einsteins of tomorrow," said Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the agency. "We need to teach the next generation rational thought, to think through problems and talk about problems. It's a microcosm of the peace process, if you like, and we need to spend time and invest in education because that is the peace dividend of tomorrow."

One of my favorite writers is acclaimed author, poet, and proud UNRWA graduate Palestinian-American Ibtisam Barakat. Her book Tasting the Sky has won numerous awards and warm praise: “ The child in this story carries more wisdom and a keener sense of justice and injustice than do most people in seats of power. Tasting the Sky should be read by everyone with a humane interest in the story of Palestine.” —Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Habibi"

We do not know what will be, but we do know that we live in a global interconnected world... and that good and decent people everywhere are working hard to calm down and end the Palestine/Israel conflict. More and more the children of Palestine are free to explore a whole huge world of ideas with many creative projects and potential careers- and they are being given the power to make up their own minds about where they want to invest their time and talents. I for one very much hope that many more decide to invest in the winning combination of Palestine and Peace- for everyone's sake.

Anne Selden Annab
Growing Gardens for Palestine

The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

RE: Hamas is accused of being moderate,0,7354944.story

Dear Editor,

In my opinion, Hamas should step down- and all Palestinians and their supporters should be encouraged to make a serious effort to stop excusing and/or arming religious resistance to Israel- not for Israel's sake, but for Palestine's sake.

Anne Selden Annab

Refugees, Borders & Jerusalem...

  • "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, April 29, 2010

One Laptop Per Child and UNRWA Partner to Provide New Learning Opportunities for Palestinian Children

One Laptop Per Child and UNRWA Partner to Provide New Learning Opportunities for Palestinian Children

RAFAH, Gaza----One Laptop per Child , a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help provide every child in the world access to a modern education, is partnering with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East to bring new learning opportunities to nearly half a million Palestine refugee children by 2012.

Daoud Kuttab: Israeli tourism maps annex Palestinian lands

Israeli tourism maps annex Palestinian lands
Published by Daoud Kuttab Special US envoy George Mitchell has visited the area, armed with a special letter from President Barack Obama to the Palestinian president reiterating what seems to have been a US-Israel understanding that the proximity talks will take place soon.

The Palestinian side is keen this time not to waste time on talking for the sake of talking, or based on the idea of incremental negotiations. Palestinians are determined to tackle the issue of borders first and walk back from that to how to implement the establishment of the Palestinian state. In meantime the Israeli tourism ministry (in its most recent maps) has unilaterally annexed Palestine to Israel and has omitted the existence of many Palestinian communities. While the West Bank is not demarked nor mentioned as the West Bank, it is listed as Yehuda and Samaria. The Gaza strip, however, is demarked with the words “Azza (Gaza) strip.”Continue Reading »

Time Magazine: "Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's uniqueness strikes you as soon as you meet him — a passionate advocate of the Palestinian cause"

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's uniqueness strikes you as soon as you meet him — a passionate advocate of the Palestinian cause with a clear vision of the unequivocal, nonviolent path to statehood and peace with Israel. In his three years in office, he has greatly strengthened the capacity of Palestinian government ministries and the security services despite both physical and political constraints. His reforms have led to dramatic improvements in security and the economy in the West Bank: Palestinians can move around more freely, jobs have been created, civil servants receive a regular salary, and people generally feel safer. These strides, as well as the stringent fiscal measures introduced by his government, are mighty accomplishments that are recognized by the international community and Israelis alike.

In August 2009, Fayyad, 57, laid out a program to build the apparatus of a Palestinian state within two years, proving that he doesn't hesitate to lead from the front, often with great personal courage. It is this conviction — and his unquestionable personal integrity — that allows him to keep going in the face of daunting odds.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"The United Nations had certainly not intended that the Jewish State should rid itself of its Arab citizens..."

"The United Nations had certainly not intended that the Jewish State should rid itself of its Arab citizens. On the contrary, section C of part I of the Assembly's 1947 resolution had explicitly provided guarantees of minority rights in each of the two States. For example, it had prohibited the expropriation of land owned by an Arab in the Jewish State except for public purposes, and then only upon payment of full compensation. Yet the fact was that 90 per cent of the Arab population of Israel had been driven outside its boundaries by military operations, had been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring Arab territories, had been reduced to misery and destitution, and had been prevented by Israel from returning to their homes. Their homes and property had been seized and were being used by thousands of European Jewish immigrants."

Refugees, Borders & Jerusalem... "The State of Israel, in its present form, directly contravened the previous recommendations of the United Nations"

A review of the facts is in order: Redeeming Jerusalem by truth, not hollow slogans By Daniel Seideman

Redeeming Jerusalem by truth, not hollow slogans By Daniel Seideman
In recent full page ads in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, renowned author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel argued that Jerusalem is "above politics." But the portrait of the city Wiesel painted is so factually inaccurate and so morally specious as to leave no room for doubt: Wiesel's false innocence and moral posturing over Jerusalem is an example of politics par excellence, with Wiesel willingly becoming a tool of Israel's extreme right in its desperate efforts to block Obama's peace efforts...READ MORE

Palestinian girls get ticket to Intel science fair

Palestinian girls get ticket to Intel science fair

By GRANT SLATER, Associated Press Writer Grant Slater, Associated Press Writer Tue Apr 27, 7:24 am ET

NABLUS, West Bank – Watching her blind aunt and uncle struggle to navigate the steep slopes and scant sidewalks of this hilly city, one Palestinian girl decided to reinvent the stick.

Armed with spare parts that are hard to find in the West Bank, Asil Abu Lil and two classmates patched together an obstacle-detecting cane that has won them a trip to San Jose, California, for Intel Corp.'s international youth science fair.

The three girls are the first Palestinians to participate in the prestigious event.

"Of course, I want to go to America, but this project is important for the blind and we want it to help them," Asil said.

Students from more than 50 countries will compete in next month's International Science and Engineering Fair, vying for the grand prize of $75,000.

The 14-year-old girls built the beeping walking stick for a class project at their United Nations-funded girls' school. The cane uses two infrared sensors, one front-facing and one in the tip of the cane, to detect obstacles and drop-offs. They did so despite difficulties in getting parts because of travel restrictions in the West Bank.

The students produced two prototypes after making multiple trips to Ramallah, about 45 minutes away and past two Israeli checkpoints, to scour electronics stores for proper circuits and sensors.

Although various types of "laser canes" have existed since the early 1970s, the girls' design resolves a fundamental flaw in previous models by detecting holes in the ground, said Mark Uslan, director of the American Federation of the Blind's technology division.

The cane beeps when it passes over a hole or steps going downward.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency provides schooling to more than a quarter million children in Gaza and the West Bank, often in crowded schools that run two shifts of students a day.

"These girls are the Albert Einsteins of tomorrow," said Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the agency. "We need to teach the next generation rational thought, to think through problems and talk about problems. It's a microcosm of the peace process, if you like, and we need to spend time and invest in education because that is the peace dividend of tomorrow."

The girls beat dozens of contestants in the West Bank to win the prize. But even after that, they ran into one last obstacle: There was only enough prize money to allow two girls to make the trip. After drawing lots, Asil was to be left behind as her classmates headed to San Jose.

U.N. workers heard this and pooled money last week to purchase an additional ticket. When Asil heard the news on Monday, she broke into tears, leaping up from the table to embrace her classmates.

"Even when I'll be old, I will remember this time forever," Asil said.

Reading in Many Languages-Championing global literacy International Reading Association’s 55th Annual Convention in Chicago... "Literacy lifts lives."

Her Majesty Queen Rania at the opening of the International Reading Association’s 55th Annual Convention in Chicago on Monday (Photo by Nasser Ayoub)
Queen Rania champions global literacy

AMMAN (JT) - Her Majesty Queen Rania on Monday opened the International Reading Association’s (IRA) 55th Annual Convention in Chicago by championing global literacy, both as a means to lift the lives of impoverished communities, and as a way to overcome intolerance and mistrust between countries.

During her speech, Queen Rania told the story of Gcina Mphole, a woman she met in South Africa.

Inspired by her aunt, who realised the value of words but died before learning to read or write, Mphole was determined to help children in South Africa defeat illiteracy. So, she raised money, and started carrying suitcases filled with books to rural villages, as she believed that literacy is "luggage for life".

"I agree, and I know all of you do too. So do the nearly 760 million illiterate men and women around the world. Because being able to read and write is more than spelling your name or reading a road sign… Literacy lifts lives," Her Majesty said.

"It fills in application forms, gets well-paid jobs, and can be a path out of poverty. Literacy accesses the Internet, teaches hygiene and wards off disease… And literacy enriches; it can help us appreciate other people and other cultures," Queen Rania noted at the event, attended by literacy professionals, teachers, librarians, academics, publishers, students and book-club organisers.

Her Majesty then drew the audience's attention to another kind of illiteracy the world has been suffering from for ages: "It seems that while we’re making strides in combating illiteracy around the world, thanks to the efforts of people like you, when it comes to cross-cultural literacy, we’re all still stumbling over the a, b, c’s… struggling to grasp the language of diplomacy, dialogue, and discovery."

Referring to a recent Gallup poll about East-West relations, the Queen noted that more than four in 10 Americans (43 per cent) admit to feeling at least a little prejudiced towards Muslims; nearly one-third say their opinion of Islam is "not favourable at all", and two-thirds have either “very little knowledge” or “none at all” about Islam.

"But amongst people who actually knew a Muslim, misconceptions melted away,” the Queen pointed out.

Dedicated to finding common ground between East and West, Queen Rania urged the audience to "reach out to people who we’ve perhaps shied away from in the past".

Talking about her recently written book, "The Sandwich Swap", Her Majesty explained how she was inspired by a childhood experience that taught her to stop fearing and second guessing diversity, and start appreciating the cultural differences that enrich our lives.

Queen Rania also explained the key role schools can play to instil the values of compassion and understanding in children, "Teachers here are fostering tomorrow’s global citizens, nurturing future leaders, influencing how tolerant, open-minded and knowledgeable the next generation can be."

"Because the more we open our children’s minds, the more secure our future will be," Her Majesty told the audience.

Concluding her speech, Queen Rania called for everybody's efforts to combat intolerance.

"Let’s strive to overcome cross-cultural illiteracy once and for all. And let’s promise that, whatever our destination, when we open our suitcases, we’ll unpack compassion, forgiveness, knowledge, and respect… and begin a new journey together."

Also during the convention, Her Majesty participated in a Q&A session, where she answered questions about her book, "The Sandwich Swap". All the proceeds from the book, a children’s picture book from the Disney Book Group, co-authored with Kelly DiPucchio, will go to Madrasati Jordan.

Queen Rania also talked about 1GOAL, an education campaign that she co-founded with the Global Campaign for Education and FIFA to get 72 million children into school.

Since 1956, IRA has been a nonprofit, global network of individuals and institutions committed to worldwide literacy. More than 70,000 members strong, the association supports literacy professionals through a wide range of resources, advocacy efforts, volunteerism and professional development activities. It promotes high levels of literacy for all by improving the quality of reading instruction, disseminating research and information about reading and encouraging the lifetime reading habit.

For more information about the International Reading Association’s 55th Annual Convention, visit:

27 April 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In Jerusalem, footballs go where people cannot

Palestinian youths play football in a field near Israel's controversial barrier separating the Palestinian village of Anata in the West Bank from Jerusalem. Once the ball crosses the separation barrier, it remains there. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

After the 1967 war, Israel annexed Anata along with the rest of Arab east Jerusalem in a move not recognised by any other government.

The Palestinians demand east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and the city's status has been one of the most intractable issues in the Middle East peace process since its beginnings in the early 1990s.

Obeidi's neighbourhood illustrates the disfigurement of the city over the past two decades, as the peace process has repeatedly collapsed.

The area of Anata closest to the wall was called the Neighbourhood of Peace after the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords.

Now residents can hear earthmovers on the other side of the fence expanding the sprawling Pisgat Zeev settlement, a built-up residential area with neat rows of apartment blocks and shopping malls.

Israel has rebuffed Palestinian demands that it halt all settlement activity in east Jerusalem ahead of any new peace talks, despite months of US pressure to restart negotiations suspended when it launched a devastating offensive against the Gaza Strip in late 2008.

Around 12,000 people live in the Neighbourhood of Peace, most of them holding Jerusalem IDs which were given to the vast majority of the city's Arab residents when they declined Israeli citizenship after the 1967 annexation.

"We called it the Neighbourhood of Peace because we thought that peace was at hand," says Musa al-Qasrawi, 58, a local community organiser. "But instead of peace we got a wall."

Qasrawi carries a West Bank ID and so cannot enter Jerusalem without a special permit, but all the members of his family have Jerusalem IDs.

"They can go to Jerusalem, but I can't," he says. "Our house is divided in two."

In Jerusalem, footballs go where people cannot