Saturday, June 5, 2010
In his opening speech, Abbas formally named the PIC the "Freedom Conference," in commemoration of the loss of life and upheaval swelling from Israel's decision to attack the Freedom Flotilla of six ships en route to Gaza with 10,000 tons of aid for the besieged Gaza Strip.
The name, Abbas suggested, was apt, because it also signaled the purpose of the conference; to enlist the support of the world in freeing Palestine from Israeli occupation. In the case of the PIC, he said, it would be through economic investment and support that would make Palestine a stronger and more viable state that was not reliant on Israel or its settlement economies.
Speaking about the investment conference, Abbas said it would provide "numerous investment opportunities in the Palestinian market," which he called hitherto unplumbed. He encouraged participants, including some 800 granted permits by Israel for travel from across the Middle East, to "be part of the steadfastness of Palestine, play a role in the liberation of a nation from occupation, and be a major player in the development of the Palestinian economy."
US delegation commends investment initiative
Addressing the Freedom Conference, US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin called the event "both an invitation and a declaration," saying the "Palestinian economy is open for business, that the Palestinian people and their government are committed to laying the foundation for an economically viable state, where private enterprise can thrive."
Wolin commended Fayyad's plan to develop state institutions, calling his legislative agenda "an important step forward," that was filled with "sound policies."
The official also noted "Israel's cooperation will be important," particularly in the form of "issues related to movement and access of both people and goods.
He lauded the Palestinian Authority for taking the lead in development, calling its success in the IT industry a "powerful story," and citing the record growth of the tourism industry. "The opportunities are tremendous," he said, but added that "the stakes are high."
Wolin said the Monday attack on the Gaza aid flotilla "underscores the need to move forward with negotiations to resolve the conflict and establish a comprehensive peace as soon as possible."
A moment of silence
Several changes were made at the last minute to the program of the investment conference, including the cancellation of many of the morning's opening ceremonies, which were cut back to a small handfull of speeches and a minute of silence to commemorate the death of at least ten activists on board the Freedom Flotilla.
During his speech, Abbas mentioned his upcoming trip to Washington, where he said he would ask US President Barack Obama to make "courageous decisions" around the situation in the region.
He also thanked Egypt for the rapid opening of the Rafah crossing, calling the decision "appropriate" in light of the circumstances, and also thanked Turkey for its ongoing support of Palestine.
Also present at the conference was Quartet envoy Tony Blair, and a delegation of US officials including special envoy for the peace process George Mitchell.
Documents detailing the state and institution building program of the 13th Palestinian Government, including the overall plan and priority interventions for 2010.
The U.S. Commercial Service in Jerusalem strongly encourages American exporters wishing to market their goods in the West Bank to use local Palestinian agents and distributors. Using Israeli agents for Palestinian markets does not utilize local, Palestinian market expertise...read more
comment I left online [Dear Editor,]
Excellent! Good to see that Palestinians are making a serious effort to welcome home Palestinian refugees to a real Palestinian state. HOWEVER the fact that Palestinian leadership is willing to welcome home all the Palestinian refugees to help build a real Palestinian state does not mean that Israel no longer has an obligation to comply with international law and respect basic human rights, including but not limited to the Palestinian refugees legal and natural right to return to original homes and lands.
As part of a fair and just negotiated settlement to end the Israel/Palestine conflict with a two state solution Israel should also be welcoming home Palestinian refugees- in line with international law and multiple UN Resolutions regarding every refugee's very real right to return to original homes and lands, but obviously with the understanding that Palestinian refugees returning to Israel will be legally and officially Israeli.
Abbas' warm welcome for all Palestinian refugees is a welcome step forward towards real freedom and possibility for Palestine... Obviously hard choices are ahead for individual Palestinian refugees, but at least with the rise of a real Palestinian state they are already being offered better options than the current reality of being stuck in stateless limbo and impoverished refugee camps.
Anne Selden Annab]
RE: U.S. should include Hamas in peace efforts By Daoud Kuttab
Delighted to see Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab pop up in your pages- but I do not like the way the Washington Post headlined his story, for I think that particular headline is misleading and distracting as ignores Kuttab's most important points as well as the importance of protecting what he refers to as the "fragile Palestinian-Israeli proximity talks that took U.S. envoy George Mitchell over a year to get started"
I am utterly and completely horrified and disgusted by Israel's commando attack on a humanitarian aid ship. I also think Israel's blockade of Gaza is and has been counterproductive and wrong- but that does not mean that armed Islamic militancy is right: Fatah, the PLO and serious secular resistance to Israel's ongoing crimes against the people of historic Palestine are being pushed off a cliff by Hamas supporters and apologists.
I do not agree with the Israelis who are urging the U.S. and Palestinians to include Hamas in peace efforts. I think it is obvious that Hamas could have and should have stepped down years ago in order to end Israel's punitive siege and illegal occupation of Palestinian land- or at least to help prove that Israel really has no intention of making peace with or for Palestine.
Anne Selden Annab
Friday, June 4, 2010
By Rami G. Khouri
The first is the narrow technical level of who used force first - whether the Israeli attack was the problem or those on board who defended themselves against the Israelis triggered the fighting that resulted in death and injuries.
The second is the wider political context of the actions of both sides, raising important moral and legal issues - the long-running Israeli blockade and recent strangulation of the people of Gaza, and the growing Palestinian-international effort to break the Israeli siege and send basic humanitarian supplies to Gaza’s population.
The third level is Israel’s standing among the nations of the world. It is about how the entire modern Zionist movement that successfully created Israel as the homeland of the Jews who want to live there has found itself increasingly isolated because it ascribes to itself prerogatives that seem to place it above the laws that govern the conduct of all other states. This is why many have asked for years whether “Zionism is racism”.
The issues on all three levels are being widely discussed in the international media and political forums. The most important one, in my mind, is the third level - the hard questions about what Israel and Zionism have become, and how they relate to other people and states, beyond their conflict with the Palestinians and Arabs.
Are Israel and Zionism the noble manifestations of the Jewish people’s right to live in peace and security, without being subjected to genocidal pogroms - as Zionists portray their movement? Or have Zionism and Israel become so narrowly and blindly obsessed with their own needs that they have lost sight of the ethical foundations - justice, compassion, ethics-based law and equality for all humankind - that are widely seen as the core characteristics of Judaism, as of the other Abrahamic faiths?
Has Zionism, and by implication Israel and Judaism, been transformed from a commitment to preserving life to a media-based justification for siege, assault, piracy and murder?
These questions now being asked around the world are the deeper, more complex and often gut-wrenching ones that Israelis and Jews themselves need to debate and resolve. Israel wants to avoid this discussion, and prefers to keep the focus very narrow and technical. It has used its well-honed propaganda machine to shift the initial discussion in the international media to how a few passengers on one ship used sticks and knives to beat off the attacking Israeli commandos.
Jews were attacked by club- and knife-wielding mobs, the Israeli-Zionist refrain goes these days, and Jews must never again allow themselves to be attacked by mobs. In the wake of several hundred years of inhuman pogroms, racism and genocidal assaults against Jews mostly by white Christian Europeans, the message of Jewish self-defence carries special weight and resonance around the world - as it should. Yet the modern Jewish right to self-defence increasingly clashes with the modern Zionist and Israeli track record of aggression, ethnic cleansing, massacres, occupation, siege, collective punishment, low-intensity starvation, colonisation, and occasional bouts of barbarism against the Palestinians and other Arabs.
The practice of Israeli Zionism increasingly contradicts the ethical and moral foundations of historical Judaism: international law applies to the entire world, but the state of Israel reserves the special right to ignore and transcend that law, and to attack humanitarian convoys on the open seas, in the name of defending the Jewish people and their values.
Now, this Israeli-Zionist penchant for taking any measures deemed necessary to protect Jews has over-spilled the narrow conflict with Palestinians and Arabs, and has resulted in the death of Turks and a grave affront to the concept of the universality of international law.
Israel wants the world to get tangled up in an endless debate about a few knives and clubs. The world wants Israel to come to grips with the more fundamental issue of whether Israel respects the laws and norms that govern all humankind or behaves only according to an increasingly hysterical, violent and often murderous sense of its own perpetual victimhood.
Israel makes of its historical and permanent victimhood an absolute right to transform any place in the world into a free-fire zone and a killing field where it can run amok - in the name of protecting the Judaism that, in fact, it only increasingly besmirches and demeans.
Israel is becoming a new Jewish ghetto, increasingly isolated from and criticised by the world, and doubly tragic because this is largely the consequence of its own handiwork.
Jewish ethics hold human beings accountable to a higher moral code; does this also apply to Israel?
My letter to the Washington Post RE U.S. needs to keep nudging Israel on a Gaza fix By David Ignatius & Israel, disarmed by Charles Krauthammer
RE: Israel, disarmed / Those troublesome Jews, Israel has every right to its blockade of Gaza, and here's why. by Charles Krauthammer
& The U.S. needs to keep nudging Israel on a Gaza fix By David Ignatius
Thank heavens for the internet- an inquiring mind is no longer stuck in the ruts of so many syndicated American columnists who have been groomed to promote Israeli perspectives rather than looking at the larger picture.
All this week I have been thinking about a recent frankly shocking online photo essay Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan... in Foreign Policy Magazine which shows a very different Afghanistan than what one sees today: "There was a tradition of law and order, and a government capable of undertaking large national infrastructure projects, like building hydropower stations and roads, albeit with outside help. Ordinary people had a sense of hope, a belief that education could open opportunities for all, a conviction that a bright future lay ahead.". http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/05/27/once_upon_a_time_in_afghanistan?page=full
That photo essay could have just as easily been about Palestine in the forties and fifties.
I do not support or admire much less want to apologize for Hamas or Hezboullah because I very much believe that armed Islamic resistance and militancy very much harms Palestine. However it is also obvious to me that people all over the Middle East can clearly see how successfully Israel has used religion to gather money, supporters, international respect and power- including the power to make life utterly miserable for the native non-Jewish population of the Holy Land. The lesson of Israel today is that funding and 'defending' one religion with tax payers' money and a full arsenal of lethal weaponry can create a strong economy and a loyal following.
Najeeb Mubarki, in an recent op-ed in the Economic Times Why Israel does what it does points out that the recent Memorial Day Massacre is not the first act of Israeli hostility against a ship carrying civilians: "In 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) had chartered a vessel, called al-Awda (the Return), to take a few Palestinians living in exile back to their land. The idea was dramatic, deeply symbolic..." http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Why-Israel-does-what-it-does/articleshow/6009664.cms?curpg=1
"The same naval unit that carried out Monday’s bloody raid on the aid flotilla, was reportedly used to sabotage and sink al-Awda in its harbour in Cyprus before it could start on its journey."
As things stand today (with the Palestinian refugees inalienable legal, moral, sacred and natural right to return to original homes and lands still ignored and/or demonized by the sovereign power who should have welcomed them home decades ago) the lesson of Israel tomorrow will be that nations worldwide are free to invest in institutionalized bigotry, free to persecute innocent people- and free to usurp and/or demolish the homes and gardens of men, women and children that the state 'elects' to impoverish and destroy: Do we really want that to be the future of democracy?!
Anne Selden Annab
My letter to the Economist RE Israel's siege mentality- The government’s macho attitude is actually making Israel weaker
RE: Israel's siege mentality- The government’s macho attitude is actually making Israel weaker
I totally agree that peace is important, and that the contours vis-a-vis Jerusalem, borders and refugees are already crystal clear- but the Economist is wrong to assert that Palestinian refugees can not return to their old homes. They can and will. Negotiations need to be about how best to implement and respect international law and all relevant UN Resolutions. No peace agreement will hold, much less be taken seriously, if it tries to erase or dismiss or ridicule basic human rights.
Anne Selden Annab
Thursday, June 3, 2010
After years of marking time while negotiations with Israel went nowhere and Israeli colonisation proceeded apace, Ramallah is beginning to stir. One of the engines driving movement is the plan of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to build the infrastructure of a state and then unilaterally proclaim the state in August 2011.
It is interesting that there is now discussion of reviving the Palestinian pound, one of the key elements of statehood, independence and sovereignty. The restoration of the Palestine pound, once on a par with the British pound, would amount to a declaration of monetary and financial independence from Israel, which has held the Palestinian economy captive - along with the land - since the occupation in 1967.
Talk of a national currency coincides with the belated imposition of a ban on Palestinians working in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and a boycott of Israeli settlement produce, goods and services.
The PA is calling for $50 million for the national "Dignity Fund" established to pay half salaries for half a year to Palestinian workers who quit their settlement jobs and take up employment in the Palestinian private sector. The money would be channelled through employers and would encourage them to take on more workers, expand their businesses, and grow the small, weak Palestinian economy.
The time is right to impose this ban because the Palestinian construction sector is booming and can absorb labourers who left jobs in the settlements.
Initially, the workers resisted the idea of leaving their relatively well-paid jobs in the settlements. They argued that they would not get the same salaries working in the Palestinian private sector. Many of the 20,000 workers, particularly the 6,000 women, prefer to take menial jobs in the settlements rather than in their own communities. They have been given till the end of the year to comply with the ban or face heavy fines, or even imprisonment.
The ban amounts to a breakthrough in the thinking of Palestinian policy makers who are, at long last, preparing for the day when Palestine will separate from Israel - if ever it does.
Israel has long pursued a policy of "separation" - translated into South African terms, apartheid. This has been manifested in the construction of the West Bank wall, the denial of free movement to Palestinians, the cutting off of occupied East Jerusalem from the West Bank hinterland, the imposition of a pass regime and the isolation of Gaza from the West Bank.
The PA took its time to react to Israel's "separation" policies because it did not wish to upset the negotiations applecart. Unfortunately, the PA discovered - almost too late - that the cart (the peace process) was rickety and there were no apples (benefits) to be had.
Fortunately, private individuals and groups took matters into their own hands. Some declared unofficial boycotts of not only settlement products but also Israeli goods. In 2000, during the opening weeks of the second Intifada, a group of Palestinian individuals formed a movement to promote a boycott of settlement goods. One of its founders, Salah Haniyeh, observed: "We were not connected with the PA and worked with the grassroots. While the PA did not stop us or support our campaign, we did not have the legitimacy to go to shops to ask them to stop stocking settlement products. This depended on the owners of factories and shops. They had to stop accepting settlement goods and start stocking Palestinian products. We made an awareness campaign through students and women."
He noted that women were particularly important because they decide what to buy for the home and family. The boycott succeeded in removing from the Palestinian market some soft drinks and bottled water originating in settlements.
At the end of last year, the government decided to join the boycott campaign. Thousands of volunteers wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan "Don't let settlements into your home" circulated in Palestinian towns and villages and handed out an 88-page guide listing settlement goods, services and manufacturers to be boycotted and giving instruction on how to participate. Palestinians are asked to sign the "karama", or "dignity", pledge to replace settlement products with local ones.
On April 26, President Mahmoud Abbas signed a law for the boycott of settlement products and it was promptly enforced. Lorries carrying asphalt and cement from settlements to the West Bank were turned away. The Ministry of Public Housing announced it would not use settlement materials in projects. Fruits and vegetables being sold in the West Bank were seized and burned or trashed. At least one settlement-based factory closed.
In tandem with the boycott, a consumers' protection society was established to oversee quality control and pricing of Palestinian products.
"This is very important. In 1987, during the first Intifada, we boycotted Israeli goods. Palestinian factories opened but after six months we saw that the products were not good quality and prices were high. Now we have institutions for standards and a hot line to the consumer protection society," stated Haniyeh.
He made the point that a boycott of settler goods and a ban on settlement employment does not violate the 1996 Paris protocol, which governs freedom of movement and trade in the occupied territories, or international law, which regards settlements as being illegal.
"We are beginning a popular battle, like the campaigns waged by Gandhi for Indian independence. The situation here is changing. The protests every Friday against the settlements and walls in the West Bank village of Bil'in have inspired 20 villages to join in. A small village can change the world."
By Taylor Luck
AMMAN - One of the largest service organisations in the world grew a little larger this week as Rotary International unveiled new clubs in Amman and Ramallah.
During a visit to the region, Rotary International President John Kenny unveiled the first Rotary club in Palestine, a club that was 17 years in the making.
“We are very proud to welcome our new members,” he said in a press conference in Amman on Tuesday.
According to Kenny, the focus of the Ramallah club will be children, with Palestinian Rotarians preparing an “ambitious” park programme entailing the establishment of 100 parks in Palestine.
“There are currently no parks in Ramallah for children, and the Ramallah club has shown interest in providing them spaces, and facilities for children with disabilities,” Kenny said.
Ramallah leaders are “proud” to have a club and to have the opportunity to give back to their community, Rotary International Director Phillip Rivers said.
He underlined how Rotary International aims to promote peace and understanding, pointing out that with the recent tensions in the region, “Rotary International is needed now more than ever.”
Jordanian Rotary clubs, which now number 10 after the introduction of a new Amman charter on Tuesday, will cooperate closely with the Ramallah branch, according to Usama Bargouthi, Rotary district governor nominee.
Jordanian Rotarians will attempt to apply successful programmes in Palestine, such as the Gift of Life initiative, which provides corrective heart surgery for children, and the establishment of a centre for the production of artificial limbs, he added.
“Rotary clubs in Jordan are our gateway to Ramallah,” Rivers said, noting that there has been “intense” interest among clubs across the region and the world for partnering with the new club.
In recent years, Jordan’s Rotary clubs have financed a microscope to examine cornea cells for the Jordan Eye Bank, provided a public park for Safawi residents, opened a brick factory to build limited-income housing in Al Adassia in addition to providing computers and educational programmes to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Bargouthi said.
Rotary clubs across the Kingdom are also embarking on a nationwide project to improve water access by digging wells for water harvesting in areas identified as water-poor, he noted.
Globally, Rotary International aims to improve literacy rates, eliminate hunger and ensure clean water and sanitation for communities in the developing world.
The international service organisation is still committed to the complete eradication of polio, Kenny pointed out, adding that “we are 99 per cent of the way there, but 99 per cent is still not good enough.”
Polio remains endemic in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, he said, underlining that in Tajikistan, polio made a return after two decades of its apparent eradication.
Rotary International, with the first branch established in Amman in 1956, played a large role in eradicating the disease in the Kingdom in 2001.
Rotary clubs are open to business and professional leaders who take an active role in their communities.
Approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 32,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the world.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Nablus – Ma'an – Residents of the illegal Yitzhar settlement set fire to more than 100 dunums of Palestinian lands near Urif village, southwest of Nablus on Wednesday afternoon, Palestinian officials said.
Local official in charge of the settlements file in the northern West Bank Ghasan Daghlas said the fire was set in the Jabal Marwes area, the hill separating the villages of URif and Asira Al-Qaliya, into which Yitzhar's "municipal area" extends.
"The settlers had set fire to the area, and it spread across a large swath of agricultural land," Daghlas said.
When Palestinians saw the fire, dozens rushed to put it out, Daghlas continued, but said hundreds of almond and olive trees were destroyed.
"Clashes broke out between the Palestinians and the settlers who had lit the fire," Daghas said, and Israeli forces used tear gas to disperse the fight.
The fields, village official Fawzi Shaehada said, belong to Mohammad Salamh A’mer As-Aafadi from Urif.
An Israeli military official said a fight broke out in a "disputed area" between what she estimated was 50 Palestinians and Yitzhar residents, where "mutual rock throwing" took place. She said Israeli border police dispersed the fight and noted no arrests.
Palestinian activist Jean Zaru wins Swedish prize for her work to promote nonviolence in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians
Palestinian activist wins Swedish prize
STOCKHOLM (AP) - Swedish organisers say a Palestinian peace activist has won the 2010 Anna Lindh prize for her work to promote nonviolence in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The 70-year-old Jean Zaru has been a teacher of religion and ethics at a school in Ramallah and written several books about non-violence. She will receive the 150,000 kronor ($19,000) award at a ceremony in Stockholm on June 10. The Anna Lindh memorial fund said Tuesday that Zaru was awarded for her "tireless work to build up a true peace culture and bring attention to all people's right to honorable and fair lives". The Anna Lindh award was established to honour the Swedish foreign minister who was stabbed to death in 2003. It supports those fighting prejudice and oppression.
A Palestinian Woman Speaks
Jean Zaru is a Palestinian Christian from Ramallah (West Bank) and founding member of Sabeel. Jean is a spiritual leader in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), an international consultant on peace and justice issues who has served as a member of the International Council of the World Conference for Religion and Peace. She served as president of the Jerusalem YWCA and as a member of the national board of YWCA Jordan, the YWCA of Palestine and was vice-president of the World YWCA. Her latest book is Occupied with Nonviolence: A Palestinian Woman Speaks (Fortress Press, 2008). She is also author of A Christian Palestinian Life: Faith and Struggle and Overcoming Direct and Structural Violence: Truth and Peacemaking in the Palestinian Experience.
By Nathalie Handal
Love and Strange Horses is the latest book of poetry by Nathalie Handal, a Palestinian poet originally from Bethlehem. Her irresistible charm comes through on every page as it does in person. It is a privilege to be able to read her verses and hear them being read. On every page is a discovery, and with every discovery, another one waiting.
In this collection, the poems are sensual and witty, they mourn and rejoice, they question. They cross borders, sing, and remind us of what it is to be human. Nikki Giovanni confirms this: “Sometimes we have questions that seem to defy answers or even suppositions but then we find Love and Strange Horses to help us map out a course to continue loving life. A really wonderful, thoughtful read by an intriguing voice.”
The book is organised into three movements. In the preface poem, “Pasaje,” Handal writes that these are the three movements of the heart - Intima’, Elegía Eroctica, and Terre Música.
Movement I: Intima’ (which means “belonging” in Arabic) consists of 19 poems. The poems in this movement are rooted in the places where we first find love - family, homeland, ancestry. She travels through the world of her belongings, and writes:
History has a way of moving the heart backward.
A way of moving it forward
To protect its past, its tired mind.
But it had to come to this instead:
A broken violin
The heart, unsolved
an argument with Jesus or Mohammed
-exile has its ways.
Movement II: Elegía Erotica consists of 16 poems that explore the music of the body. Take the poem, “Javier,” for example; it traverses the life of two lovers who cross and keep missing each other. It is about lovers who fall in the cracks, who are haunted by shadows, who long for something that breathes beyond them, yet who arrive too late. One could read this poem as a metaphor for the Palestinian experience. The poems of this movement are layered and echo the personal and the collective. Although at times it is difficult to isolate these poems from Palestine, the poet insists on love and its journey - whether real or imaginary. And despite the sometimes bleak endings of certain poems, Handal leaves us hopeful. She affirms that our human victory rests in what we choose to believe.
Movement III: Terre Música consists of 17 poems. In this movement, the poet returns to the spirit and to nature. More than in any other movement, Handal explores and experiments with language and form, for example, in “El Mundo” and “Portraits & Truths.” It is also in this section that two important poems are found. The first is “White Trees,” which mirrors the various movements - homeland, the body, nature, and the spirit. She writes:
When the white trees are no longer in sight
they are telling us something,
like the body that undresses
when someone is around,
like the woman who wants
to read what her nude curves
are trying to say,
of what it was to be together,
lips on lips
but it’s over now, the town
we once loved in, the maps
we once drew, the echoes that
once passed through us
as if they needed something we had.
In the second poem of particular importance, “Here and There,” she echoes the quote by Octavio Paz that opens the book, Only the mist is real. This poem, like most of the poems in the book, is a dance between the surreal and the real. She asks:
Is it possible to open these gates?
…. Isn’t it time to meet?
These are questions for lovers and could possibly be questions for Israelis.
The title poem, in three parts, appears at the end of each movement reflecting a carefully crafted book and the traits of a very talented poet.
One of the most interesting elements of Handal’s poetry is its thematic universality. Handal writes about the world from her unique perspective - one of cultural and linguistic multiplicity - while also being deeply rooted in Palestine. The numerous languages that colour her world appear in her work. Her distinctive poetic voice takes her around the globe. And indeed she should be celebrated and read.
Reviewed by Paola Handal-Michael. For more information, visit http://www.nathaliehandal.com/ or http://governessfilms.com/broken_music/.
Akka’s harbour. Photo by Abdulrahman Hashem.
Reconnaissance Family visit to Innabeh.
Walking through the rubble of Innabeh.
Odysseus, Al-Nakba, and the Sea
By Dr. Ali Qleibo
“The regal nymph Calypso,
once she’d heard Zeus’s message, went off to
great-hearted Odysseus. She found him by
sitting down there, with his eyes always full of
because his sweet life was passing while he
for his return.… That great-hearted man sat
crying on the shore,
just as before, breaking his heart with tears
full of sorrow, as he looked out on the
Homer, The Odyssey, Book V
Summer glistens with the shimmering waves of turquoise-blue sizzling into white foam which fizzles into splinters as it breaks against the sun-baked yellow ochre beaches stretching from southern to northern Palestine. Gaza, Jaffa, Haifa, and Akka, the jewel coastal cities of Palestine, punctuate this immense stretch of blue hemmed in by the golden shores and provide an outlet from the scorching heat of the mountainous hinterland. The Mediterranean, once a symbol of infinite horizon and a promise of boundless adventure, has become the symbol of Palestinian grief. The sea now is inaccessible to West Bankers. In the sweltering summer heat in Jenin and Tulkarem, close to the coast, they smell the sea but cannot reach it. The Wall stands as a barrier, a witness to the twentieth-century historical political processes that have displaced and alienated millions of Palestinians from their motherland - and sent them into exile all over the world. In the quiet of the night, between the ebb and flow of the cascading waves, the promenade between Jaffa and Tel Aviv still echoes with the last moments of panic as mothers and fathers, carrying the young and the elderly, rushed into the small boats in search of safety from the Jewish terrorist groups. As the final moments drew to an end, a majority left their homes in haste. The image of a terrified mother running into a Jaffa boat believing that the pillow in her arms was her swaddled baby is a recurring theme in the mythology of Palestinian refugees.
The loss of Palestine is a trauma that our longing for the sea has come to symbolise. The sea breeze, once associated with the citrus blossom from the orchards that stretch along our coastal plains, dissipates under the weight of the tragic accounts describing the flight of the frightened Palestinians from their homeland to shores of safety in foreign lands. Following our defeat in the 1967 War West Bankers could once again visit their homeland along the Palestinian coast. Reconnaissance visits to their villages and ironic encounters with Israelis who had moved into their homes deployed a new discourse with a fairy-tale mythological quality.
As a Jerusalemite whose destiny chose that the 1948 War should stop one kilometre from his ancestral home I was always puzzled by the endless love between my friend Ibrahim Abu-Lughod and Jaffa. The great scholar, driven by the dream of the return, came at an advanced age to teach at Birzeit University. Every Sunday he would go to his hometown to swim. I could never understand how he could return to the city of his childhood, now a mere shell, emptied of family, friends, and the life that once populated its homes, markets, and streets.
“As I swim, once I am deep in the sea,” he told me, “Jaffa becomes alive. I see it as it has always been.” He became sentimental and laughingly told me, “Al-Hajjeh (his old mother) always kept the keys of the Jaffa house. I would tease her: Why don’t you throw them away? … You know you will not return.”
“Even were I to be paid millions, I would never sell my home in Jaffa.” The key to a house either already demolished or inhabited by Israelis and the deed to the land of the ancestors are invariably the only concrete mementos that furnish the proof that the homeland was a reality and not a phantasm. The nostalgic narratives conjure the way of life and the landscape they have left behind. These anecdotal tales provide cathartic outlet for the grief over the lost paradise and recreate a way of life and an urban and agricultural landscape from which they are now distanced.
Summer warm weather and the balmy fragrance of the night allows for long evening visits. Apart from extending traditional hospitality to the visitor, both host and guest regale each other with anecdotal narratives. Among my refugee friends folktale-quality stories pertaining to the lost homeland assume an elevated position. Through the story, told on the balcony or terrace saturated with the aroma of jasmine, ful (gardenia), and the sweet fragrance of colonia, the past is regained. The blatant absence becomes a presence. The emptiness of being, the manque à être, regains its fullness. Distance and time dissolve under the spell of language in a moment of great intimacy. Reality is deferred in preference for magic.
Though the English term “nostalgia” is modern, it was coined in the seventeenth century by a Swiss scholar, J. Hoffer, who juxtaposed the Homeric word, algos, “pain” and nostos, “homecoming,” into the compound “nostalgia”; the idea itself is as ancient as humanity. Imprisoned on an island by the Goddess Calypso, Odysseus’ longing for the homeland, his Ithaca, gave expression to the human sense of territoriality bound up with the sense of identity and meaning long before the term was created. On the other hand, Al-haneen ala al-Awtan (longing for the homeland) is a classical theme in Arabic prose and poetry and is the title of one of the books by the great ninth-century Abbasid scholar, El Jaheth الجاحظ.
The sense of personal identity is inextricably linked in Palestinian individual consciousness to group identity. To the existential question, “Who am I?” the answer is resolved geographically. “I am from Salamah, Jaffa, Yazure, or Haifa.” Despite the six decades since the Nakba, neither the elapsed time nor the distance from the fatherland, now accentuated by the Separation Wall, has succeeded in building a buffer between the refugee and his/her homeland: the village whence the family was forced to flee in terror in 1947/48.
It is the aroma of his soil - spring, summer, winter, and fall - for which the refugee yearns. It is his sky, his sun, his moon, the birds in the field, the sunrise dew on the grass, the breeze that ruffles the leaves as the sun sets imprinted in his heart that sustains his solitary life away from the motherland. Reconstructing the way that life used to be in the form of a folktale - albeit cathartic - has deployed a rich discourse that passes the memory of a place, a time, and a society which shapes the identity of second, third, and fourth generations of refugees into a socio-cultural-ecological map of Palestine. In my repertoire of collected oral accounts, the story of the family picnic in the ruins of Innabeh stands out.
During the summer of 1990 a family reunion took place in Al-Jalazon Refugee Camp for the first time since the 1967 War. Three brothers in their sixties were able, within the summer programme that allows Palestinians a one-month visitor permit, to gather in the homeland. The eldest, the hosting brother, lived in the Occupied Territories while his two brothers lived in Al-Wahdat Refugee Camp in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. They came with their respective spouses, children, and grandchildren.
Before the visit permit expired they decided to take a trip to their birthplace in the village of Innabeh on the outskirts of Ramleh. They rented a few cars and drove from the West Bank through the Green Line to their ancestral town near the Palestinian coast. They parked the cars under the shade of some wild carob trees on a promontory on the outskirts of the village. The children started to unpack their picnic food, the kanoon (charcoal brazier), the coal, the icebox, the meat, their vegetables, their fruits, and the ever-present watermelon. They were still unpacking the blankets, the footballs, the arageel (water pipes), the coffee, and the tea kettles when an armed Arab suddenly appeared.
“What are you doing here?” he asked belligerently in a Bedouin dialect. “What do you mean?” the host answered in surprise. “Obviously we are having a family picnic. Itfaddal, welcome, welcome...”
“No, you have come to steal my fruits. All of you West Bankers think that the land is still yours and keep on coming in droves to steal my trees. Yes, do not look surprised, they are mine. I rent all these lands from the Israeli government.”
They showed him the quantity of food they had brought for the occasion. The sight of the preposterous amounts they had considered necessary for a one-day trip put him to shame.
“All right; you may stay.”
They invited him to join them. He would not. He walked away but remained in the vicinity keeping an eye on them.
The fire was lit. When the flames subsided and the charcoal turned into red embers they proceeded to grill the kebab and shish kebab. As soon as the first skewer was cooked, a sandwich was made and the eldest son, Walid, took it to the guard. The Bedouin initially refused the hospitality. But later he joined them under the cool shadow of the ancient carob tree.
The three families had come with the special intention of visiting the remains of their hometown. Unlike the majority of the Palestinian coastal towns and villages, Innabeh had not been bulldozed and levelled to the ground. Its buildings were left intact and were not integrated either within a kibbutz or into a moshav compound. After the Palestinian inhabitants fled in terror in 1948, Innabeh remained deserted; only erosion caused by the natural passage of time had made some of its house walls and ceiling beams give way and collapse.
The three brothers walked in the desolate streets of Innabeh trying to find their bearings and remember the people who once populated the forlorn houses. The elementary school, a landmark, was easily recognisable. The homes, however, required specific cues and some guesswork in order to remember their proprietors.
“The lemon tree was in the hakouret (courtyard) Um Isa,” the youngest brother Fat’hy told his children who were born in a refugee camp in Jordan. “You know her, the woman living next door to your aunt ‘Afifeh in el-Baq’a.”
“The mulberry tree, this must be Al-Haj Yasser’s house.” Abu al-Walid, the eldest brother, looked at Yihya and continued teasing him. “Do you remember when you got caught up in the branches and could not come down?”
“Not in front of the children,” Yihya smiled awkwardly. He looked fondly at the tree, sighed deeply and added, “So much time has passed since those days. But God bless his soul, he was the best father one could ever hope for.” Changing the sentimental mood, he pointed to some dry branches and reflected, “Look, it is old and dying.”
The sun was still high on the horizon and they felt thirsty. “Ah, this is a problem,” said the Bedouin. “Whenever I have my sheep I always have to walk them to a well ten kilometres away from here.”
“Let me see,” Abu al-Walid said. He bent down and picked up a broken branch that had fallen from the mulberry tree. “Follow me,” he gestured to him.
A few metres away in the shadow of an extremely dilapidated house, he started to tap the branch on the floor listening attentively as though for a familiar sound. Suddenly his face beamed and he said excitedly, “Over here!” He started clearing the dust from the ground. Soon enough the rusty metal lid of a well appeared. He lifted the cover. The well was filled to the brim with crystal clear cold water. They drank happily. The Bedouin, no longer a roaming nomad, was especially delighted since the discovery would save him a lot of trouble.
Back in the cool shadow of the carob tree they smoked their arageel, drank coffee, ate more watermelons, and lounged around talking and remembering the old days.
The sun began to fall quickly into the horizon. It was time to leave. They started to pack their belongings, fold the blankets, and gather the garbage they had produced. At that moment the two brothers from Al-Wahdat Refugee Camp in Amman took out two clean plastic bags that they had specially brought along. They bent down to the ground, scooped soil into each bag, closed them tightly, got into the car, and drove back to Al-Jalazon Refugee Camp.
Longing for the motherland is constitutive of Palestinian collective identity. The post Nakba Palestinian has developed an identity as an image of his/her homeland’s landscape, as one who knows all its paths, its hidden corners, every mound, every ravine, and every flower and plant. The yearning for the lost paradise has become an unequivocal expression of a generations-old tradition of keeping alive the memory of the landscape, the physical and chronological dimensions of the Land. Though the post Intifada generation has never been to the motherland, it is thoroughly familiar with the name of every valley, water spring, well, wild bird, and hairy cassia - let alone every planted tree and house. In Innabeh trees had proper names. Al-Aroos, the bride, is the name of a huge olive tree whose branches reached to the sky. As the grandfather described to me how a ladder was mounted on the camel back to reach its lofty branches the grandchildren gathered, hanging on very word he said, to hear the magic of the country they were forced to leave behind. In a photograph from the seventies an aged couple on their visit to Innabeh pose next to another ancient olive tree which carried the proper name, Al-Sheikha, the old woman.
More than sixty years have passed and the memory remains fresh through oral sagas. Reality is that of the heart. Palestine and the homeland are a wound that time will not heal. The love of the fatherland is a chronic condition and not a passing illness.
Before the Wall, before the Oslo Agreement, we often went to Gaza where we would stand at the seashore inhaling the sea air. We would stare wistfully into the distant horizon to where the sea and the sky dissolved into one blue line. Standing by the seashore of Gaza we would feel a mysterious sense of freedom
The political conflict has circumscribed our vision to such an extent that the sea itself has acquired an ethnic identity. In Gaza, the Mediterranean is Arabic. For what a great difference we feel between the sea of Tel Aviv and the sea of Gaza! There in Tel Aviv, barely five kilometres from the empty shell of Jaffa, the sea stands as a blue wall and reminds us of our grim reality. Both sky and sea close in on us. Standing on the seashore of Gaza, we would breathe deeply and sense our freedom. The sea becomes an endless horizon wherein our dreams soar high.
It is summer 2010. We have lost our last sea. The Nakba continues.
Dr. Ali Qleibo is an anthropologist, author, and artist. A specialist in the social history of Jerusalem and Palestinian peasant culture, he is the author of Before the Mountains Disappear, Jerusalem in the Heart, and the recently published Surviving the Wall, an ethnographic chronicle of contemporary Palestinians and their roots in ancient Semitic civilizations. His filmic documentary about French cultural identity, Le Regard de L’Autre was shown at the Jerusalem International Film Festival. Dr. Qleibo lectures at Al-Quds University. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Monday, May 31, 2010
The USS Liberty, The Memorial Day Massacre & the vital importance of fully respecting the Palestinian Refugees right of return ASAP.
The USS Liberty, The Memorial Day Massacre & the vital importance of fully respecting the Palestinian Refugees right of return ASAP.
Dear President Obama,
There is and will be spin and plenty of hate mongering inspired by Israel's recent commando attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
Please don't let the hate mongers and the obfuscation experts and angry extremists "win", for then we all lose... Please do not let this incident be swept aside as Israel's 1967 attack on the USS Liberty was swept aside. (On June 8, 1967, US Navy intelligence ship USS Liberty was suddenly and brutally attacked on the high seas in international waters by the air and naval forces of Israel. http://www.gtr5.com/ )
No matter what you think- or what you have been told to think about about what many have dubbed "The Memorial Day Massacre", Israel is and has been in long term and flagrant violation of international law on many counts.
Israel refuses to respect the Palestinian refugees inalienable legal, moral and natural right to return to original homes and lands... 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 of could not return to their homes while [Zionist] immigrants flowed into Palestine to take their place." This is still true today- and each and every Palestinian child knows this as an absolute fact.
Please note from the start: "The United Nations had certainly not intended that the Jewish State should rid itself of its Arab citizens" 5 May 1949 Application of Israel for admission to membership in the United Nations http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/85255e950050831085255e95004fa9c3/1db943e43c280a26052565fa004d8174?OpenDocument
What matters is the idea of home- and respect for the rule of fair and just laws.... true security for all people, for all families, for all children regardless of supposed race or religion, and regardless of borders.
Israel's sovereign failure to respect Palestinian homes and families takes on many forms- the Nakba of 1948 continues on and on as Palestinian men, women and children continue to be pushed into forced exile. For instance " The dig dividing Jerusalem: The search for the City of David may offer tourists a reminder of Jerusalem's ancient past. But for the Palestinians whose homes are threatened by the excavations, archaeology is merely the latest weapon being used against them" http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/26/jerusalem-city-of-david-palestinians-archaeology
Families are being fragmented and impoverished in many ways by the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Please get to the bottom of it all- insist that first and foremost Israel must FULLY respect UN Resolution 194 ... and keep in mind that "What is important is that individual refugees decide for themselves which option they prefer – a decision must not be imposed upon them." PLO Core Issues http://www.plomission.us/index.php?page=core-issues-3
One state or two or none- real peace and real justice in the Holy Land must start with true respect for the Palestinian refugees' very real right to return to live in peace, unmolested by institutionalized bigotry and free from religious tyranny of all types.
Anne Selden Annab
American Homemaker & poet
"Palestinian refugees must be given the option to exercise their right of return (as well as receive compensation for their losses arising from their dispossession and displacement) though refugees may prefer other options such as: (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (even though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside. What is important is that individual refugees decide for themselves which option they prefer – a decision must not be imposed upon them." http://www.plomission.us/index.php?page=core-issues-3
On June 8, 1967, US Navy intelligence ship USS Liberty was suddenly and brutally attacked on the high seas ...
On June 8, 1967, US Navy intelligence ship USS Liberty was suddenly and brutally attacked on the high seas in international waters by the air and naval forces of Israel. The Israeli forces attacked with full knowledge that this was an American ship and lied about it. Survivors have been forbidden for 40 years to tell their story under oath to the American public. The USS Liberty Memorial web site tells their story and is dedicated to the memory of the 34 brave men who died.
After surveilling USS Liberty for more than nine hours with almost hourly aircraft overflights and radar tracking, the air and naval forces of Israel attacked our ship in international waters without warning. USS Liberty was identified as a US naval ship by Israeli reconnaissance aircraft nine hours before the attack and continuously tracked by Israeli radar and aircraft thereafter. Sailing in international waters at less than five knots, with no offensive armament, our ship was not a military threat to anyone.The Israeli forces attacked without warning and without attempting to contact us. Thirty four Americans were killed in the attack and another 174 were wounded. The ship, a $40-million dollar state-of-the-art signals intelligence platform, was later declared unsalvageable and sold for scrap...read more
Israel recoils as Washington’s unprecedented backing for a UN resolution for a nuclear-free Middle East singles out Israel
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - Washington’s unprecedented backing for a UN resolution for a nuclear-free Middle East that singles out Israel has both angered and deeply worried the Israeli government although officials are cagey about openly criticising their biggest ally.
The resolution adopted by the United Nations on Friday calls on Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and urges it to open its facilities to inspection.
It also calls for a regional conference in 2012 to advance the goal of a nuclear-free Middle East.
Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, with around 200 warheads, but has maintained a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its capabilities since the mid-1960s.
The document, which singles out Israel but makes no mention of Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, drew a furious reaction from Israel who decried it as “deeply flawed and hypocritical”.
But it was US backing for the resolution which has caused the most consternation among Israeli officials and commentators, who interpreted the move as “a resounding slap around the face” which has dealt a very public blow to Israel’s long-accepted policy of nuclear ambiguity.
Publicly, the Israel government has not criticised the US position but privately, officials expressed deep disappointment over the resolution, which Washington backed despite intensive Israeli efforts to block it.
According to the top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “furious with the Obama administration for having failed to prevent the resolution from passing... and for choosing to support it”.
“The American support for the resolution, after decades in which it supported Israel on this issue, came as a complete surprise,” the paper said.
“In the secret talks that Netanyahu held with Obama’s men... Israel was promised that the resolution would not focus on Israel and that if it did, the Americans would vote against.”...read more
The Elders condemn Israeli attack on Gaza relief ships
Meeting in Johannesburg addresses major international issues
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Elders have condemned the reported killing by Israeli forces of more than a dozen people who were attempting to deliver relief supplies to the Gaza strip by sea.
Meeting in Johannesburg, the independent group of eminent global leaders repeated their call for an end to the blockade on Gaza. They called for a full investigation of last night’s incident and urged the UN Security Council to debate the situation with a view to mandating action to end the closure of the Gaza Strip.
The group’s biannual meeting also addressed a number of other major international issues.
Overnight, Israeli troops stormed at least one ship in a flotilla of vessels carrying 10,000 tonnes of relief supplies to Gaza. Around 600 people are on board the six cargo and passenger boats.
The Elders described Israel’s attack on the aid shipment and the resulting killings and injuries as completely inexcusable. They said this tragic incident should draw the world’s attention to the terrible suffering of Gaza’s 1.5 million people, half of whom are children under the age of 18.
The Elders reminded the world that under international law, the three-year blockade of Gaza by Israel is illegal collective punishment of its inhabitants. They said that the treatment of the people of Gaza is one of the world’s greatest human rights violations and that the blockade is not only illegal, it is counterproductive. This is because it creates unacceptable suffering, in the process empowering extremists and undermining moderate forces in Gaza.
During their meeting in Johannesburg, the Elders also discussed a range of other issues in which they are engaged as a group. A brief summary of their views is as follows...read more
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- The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.
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