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Friday, September 17, 2010

My letters to The NYTimes, Boston Globe & The Washington Post Regarding Palestine & Peace

RE: Abbas Says Israel Talks Will Continue
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/17/world/middleeast/17mideast.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&ref=middleeast&adxnnlx=1284721228-p8u+q9cEYqVUMq5xKCPfng

Dear Editor,

Good to hear that "Abbas Says Israel Talks Will Continue" as a negotiated end to the Israel/Palestine conflict creating a FULLY secular two state solution in line with international law and honoring basic human rights and real freedom on both sides of every border, is the only way that a just and lasting peace will become a reality for the many men, women and children currently harmed and tormented by continuing hostilities.

Sincerely,
Anne Selden Annab

NOTES
ATFP Resources on Palestinian State and Institution Building
ATFP's unique collection of online resources on Palestinian state and institution building, including hundreds of relevant documents
Middle East Peace Talks Statements
Official Statements of Heads of State from the Middle East Peace Talks
held in Washington DC, on September 2nd, 2010.

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


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RE: Israeli offices halt Web payments on Sabbath
http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2010/09/17/israeli_offices_halt_web_payments_on_sabbath/

Dear Editor,

Thank you for publishing the news concerning Israeli offices halting web payments on sabbath. Israel is obviously inching towards being a haven and an inspiration for religious extremists, and many generous but naive Americans are clueless as to what really is going on.

The vast majority of native non-Jewish Palestinians (including many Christians) have already been pushed out into forced exile, and Jews-preferred Israel refuses to respect the Palestinian refugees inalienable legal, moral and natural right to return to original homes and lands. Israel has also been making it impossible for a viable and sovereign Palestinian state to emerge.

Should we really be arming and empowering and praising a modern nation-state that has evicted and oppressed millions of indigenous people because they have been deemed the 'wrong' religion ? Surely a FULLY secular two state solution to end the Israel/Palestine conflict is the best way forward for everyone's sake. Otherwise institutionalized bigotry and injustice on both sides of Israel's ugly Apartheid wall will only grow more insidious and widespread.

Sincerely,
Anne Selden Annab



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RE: Clinton turns history of controversial statements on Mideast into asset in talks http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/16/AR2010091602595.html?wpisrc=nl_cuzhead

Dear Editor,

Clinton's positive momentum for peace with the creation of a viable sovereign Palestinian state is not so much based on her diplomatic skills but on the fact the global information age has opened up the conversation and allowed people world wide to better see and understand the very real plight and suffering of the native non-Jewish population of historic Palestine: Clinton rides on an electronic tidal wave of documented facts combined with a growing awareness of the importance of respect for international law and basic human rights.... and real democracy.

A fully secular two state solution to end the Israel/Palestine conflict is in everyone's best interest- regardless of supposed race or religion. Let us hope that all involved in endorsing peace and progress for both Israel and Palestine realize the vital importance of FULLY honoring and respecting UN Resolution 194 from 1948, the Palestinian refugees very real right to return to original homes and lands.

Sincerely,
Anne Selden Annab

NOTES
"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

UN Resolution 194 from 1948 states that "The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible"

The Arab Peace Initiative

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.


My letter to CSM RE Can ignoring Hamas lead to Israeli-Palestinian peace?

RE: Can ignoring Hamas lead to Israeli-Palestinian peace?

Dear Editor

HAMAS does not seek to free Palestine, it seeks to use Palestine and the very real suffering of the persecuted, impoverished and displaced Palestinian people as a way to empower an Islamist agenda- and a way to undermine and destroy a secular two state solution to end the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Your article "Can ignoring Hamas lead to Israeli-Palestinian peace?" wrongly concludes that only HAMAS advocates respect for the Palestinian refugees right of return to original homes and lands. The Arab Peace Initiative clearly points out the importance of respecting the Palestinian refugees right of return with "a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194" , as does the PLO:

"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

UN Resolution 194 from 1948 states that "The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible"


What is most significant about HAMAS is that, for Palestine's sake, they could have and should have stepped down from power in order to help end Israel's siege long ago. Instead they have relished the people's suffering and essentially helped Israel assert a punitive economic stranglehold on all of Gaza.

Sincerely,
Anne Selden Annab

NOTES

The Arab Peace Initiative

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.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

UN agencies: Palestinian children denied education

http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=315426Palestinian students inspect their school, Dar Al-Fadila, in Gaza in December 2010, one year after it was bombed by Israel. [MaanImages/Hatem Omar]
UN agencies: Palestinian children denied education

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The new school year saw 40,000 children turned away from classrooms in Gaza and more than 10,000 children in the West Bank return to school in tents, caravans and tin shacks, UN agencies say.

UNRWA, the UN body set up to assist Palestinian refugees, said Wednesday that it has been unable to build new schools in Gaza since 2007 due to Israel’s siege. The "almost absolute ban on the import of construction materials has left students with lots of pens and notebooks but without classrooms," an UNRWA statement said.

Turning away students is only one consequence of the classroom shortage, the agency says, adding that students already learn in two shifts with up to 50 students in each class, while oversized metal containers are used as classrooms.

Israel announced that it would ease its four-year siege of the coastal enclave in June after Israeli forces killed nine passengers on a ship bringing supplies to the Strip, sparking international outcry. However, UNRWA says Israel has not yet approved any construction materials needed for UNRWA schools and has only agreed to "negotiate" coordinating materials for eight of the 100 schools needed.

"All of the temporary measures and substitutes have already been exhausted," UNRWA’s Gaza director John Ging said, explaining that realizing the right to education for Gazan children relied on the continued construction of schools.

Many of Gaza's schools were damaged by Israel's December 2008 assault on the Strip, and 82 percent of this damage has still not been repaired, UNICEF and UNRWA reported.

No repairs for West Bank schools

UNICEF said that in the West Bank, Israel's restrictive permit regime in Area C meant that over 10,000 children began their school year in tents, caravans, or tin shacks.

Area C encompasses 60 percent of the West Bank under zoning regulations established in the Oslo Accords. It is under full Israeli civil and military control, and the UN has said it is "nearly impossible" for Palestinians to obtain permits from Israel to maintain, repair or build in Area C.

At least one-third of the schools in Area C have "totally inadequate" sanitary facilities, lack water and fall "far short" of basic safety and hygiene standards, UNICEF reported.

Further, UNICEF warned that constant harassment by settlers and Israeli soldiers, as well as forced displacements and home demolition, caused children psychological distress.

Palestine Liberation Organization Mission to the United States Statement on the anniversary of the Sabra & Shatila massacre:

September 16, 2010

Palestine Liberation Organization

General Delegation to the United States

On the 28th anniversary of the crimes against humanity perpetrated against the residents of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon, the General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United States sends our thoughts and prayers to the victims and survivors of this terrible tragedy.

Twenty-eight years ago today the slaughter of as many as 2000 defenseless Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Phalangist militia began as their allies and patrons in the Israeli army surrounded the camps and watched.

Twenty-eight years later the individuals responsible for this crime have yet to face justice. Twenty-eight years later the survivors continue to struggle with their pain and loss.

On this somber occasion we remember those whose lives were cut so tragically short, and we seek solace in words of the great Mahmoud Darwish:

Come to me wherever you are

Whatever you have become

And return color to my cheeks

And meaning to my being

Return and take me into your eyes

Take an olive branch

Take a verse of my tragedy

A toy

Take a stone from our house

So that our descendants

Will remember their way home


~~~

40,000 students turned away from UNRWA schools due to Gaza closure

40,000 students turned away from UNRWA schools due to Gaza closure

15 September 2010

  • UNRWA can't meet enrolment demand because of ban on construction materials
  • UNRWA needs to build 100 schools, none built since 2007 closure
  • UNRWA schools have specialised curriculum on human rights and critical thinking, not available in government schools

Notebooks and pens are in, construction materials are out

Despite Israel's promise to ease the closure of the Gaza Strip, the Gaza school year opened this week with a severe shortage of classrooms. While for the first time in three years Israel has allowed the import of school supplies for government schools in Gaza, the almost absolute ban on the import of construction materials has left students with lots of pens and notebooks but without classrooms.

Human rights studies – not for all

UNRWA needs 100 new schools to meet the enrolment demands of the children of Gaza. But despite the "easing" of the closure, building materials for the construction of schools have not been approved to enter Gaza since 2007. Therefore, UNRWA has had to turn away 40,000 children eligible to enrol in its schools for the academic year that began yesterday. Students at UNRWA schools study a specialised curriculum in human rights and critical thinking, not available in government schools. Furthermore, according to UNRWA records, students in its schools score 20 per cent higher than government school students on international aptitude tests.

Students being turned away from UNRWA schools is only one consequence of the classroom shortage in the Gaza Strip. To deal with the shortage of classroom space, students in most of Gaza's schools study in two shifts, in classrooms with up to 50 students, and sometimes oversized metal containers are used as classrooms, with three children seated at desks designed for two.

Onerous bureaucracy, limited capacity of crossings

Construction of a standard school requires an estimated 220 truckloads of building materials, or 22,000 truckloads for 100 schools. The only crossing Israel allows to open, Kerem Shalom, can accommodate just 250 truckloads per day, mostly for food and basic humanitarian supplies. Despite promises, Israel has yet to approve a single truckload of construction materials for UNRWA's schools and has agreed to "negotiate" coordinating materials for just 8 out of the 100 needed schools. Since the "easing" of the closure, Israel has allowed just 240 truckloads of construction materials monthly for all uses, compared with more than 5,000 trucks monthly before the closure (4 per cent of pre-closure levels).

According to UNRWA’s Gaza Director John Ging: "The right to education is a basic right of children everywhere. For the children of Gaza, realisation of that right depends on the continued construction of schools, because all of the temporary measures and substitutes have already been exhausted."

For updated information about the Gaza Strip's crossings, see: www.gazagateway.org.

For "Safe Passage", a new computer game that allows the player to interactively experience the travel restrictions between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, see www.spg.org.il.

For an information sheet on the changes in the closure policy since the June 2010 cabinet decision, see: Unravelling the Closure of Gaza (PDF).

Courtesy of Gisha

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UNWRA AT SIXTY

UNRWA’s record in education is impressive. Through times of strife in the Middle East, as well as times of relative calm, generations of Palestine refugees have received their first years of education in UNRWA schools. Today, the Agency provides free education to some 500,000 pupils enrolled in its 689 schools and employs 22,000 educational staff. Sixty years after its establishment, UNRWA operates one of the largest school systems in the Middle East. It uses curricula of host countries, but enriched with course material devised specifically by the agency on human rights, tolerance and conflict resolution. Conveying to the next generation a sense of universal values in a region beset by radicalism is an incalculably valuable contribution.

More important, since its establishment, UNRWA has made gender parity in education a priority, welcoming girls into its schools from the start. In 1951, the proportion of female pupils was 26 per cent. Gender equity in enrolment was achieved in the 1960s and has been maintained ever since....READ MORE

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Understand anti-Semitism, and anti-Muslim bigotry

http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/09/understand_anti-semitism_and_anti-muslim_bigotry.html

Understand anti-Semitism, and anti-Muslim bigotry

By Yaman Salahi
In a recent On Faith posting, Rabbi Shmully Hecht of Eliezer, a Jewish student society at Yale University, criticized a column I wrote for the Yale Daily News. Sadly, Hecht employed a tactic that has become increasingly familiar in American discussions about Arabs, Muslims, and Islam. In my column, I argued that a conference sponsored by the Yale Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism undermined the lessons to be learned from anti-Semitism because it hosted a variety of speakers with a reputation for promoting racist ideas about Arabs and Muslims. My message was simple: you cannot fight anti-Semitism without also fighting racism against Arabs and Muslims. Racism is wrong because of what it does, not because of whom it targets.

I refer to the myopic view that asserts that Islam is the main impetus behind everything a Muslim does or believes. Accordingly, nearly every feature of Muslim life and political activity can be attributed primarily if not exclusively to religion. This approach makes the crucial mistake of treating Islam like a rigid, fixed set of norms and practices when, in fact, the way Muslims conceive of their religion is ever-changing and contingent on a variety of other factors. More importantly...READ MORE

Bringing the Palestinian economy out of recession

http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=314661

Bringing the Palestinian economy out of recession

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The potential for the Palestinian economy to rise out of the recession caused by the outbreak of the Second Intifada and a dramatic increase in per capita GDP are deeply entrenched in the success of talks.

"Economy is related to politics. There is no way one can sustain complete economic growth without complete stability in politics," says Jawad Sayyed Al-Herbawi, the adviser to the mayor of Hebron and a business development expert.

According to a UN report issued in August, Palestine recorded marginal economic growth in 2009, with the per capita GDP remaining 30 percent lower than a decade ago, while 30 percent of the Palestinian work force remains unemployed.

The Palestinian economy, says Al-Herbawi, saw rapid growth between 1994 and 2000, before the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Growing at a rate of six percent, the Palestinian GDP increased from $3.3 million to $5 million. "If the Palestinian economy had kept growing at that rate, the GDP would have reached 8.8 million," he said, citing International Monetary Fund statistics on the West Bank.

With the failure of Camp David summit in 2000 and the ensuing violence, Israel increased restrictions across the West Bank and Gaza, plunging the Palestinian economy into a recession from which it has yet to emerge. The success of talks would have a "long-term, high-level impact" on the Palestinian economy "with a complete reflection in the per capita of each and every person," which was recorded at nearly $1,600 in 1998, but stood at just under $1,000 in 2008 and has yet to rise.

"Everyone should be aware that Palestine has a competitive advantage ... having ratified several free trade agreements with the EU and US, giving Palestinians direct access to these markets without extra cost," says Al-Herbawi.

But the economy's success remains deeply routed in the outcome of a final status agreement as internal movement restrictions and settlement expansion stunt its potential for growth.

An economy driven by foreign investment

One significant impact the failure of talks could have on the economy, says Al-Herbawi, is the drop in foreign investment. Several reports indicate that the Palestinian economy is driven by such investment, which is needed for the revival of the private sector.

While several initiatives have been launched, including the Palestine Investment Conference, to attract foreign investment, the failure to reach an agreement that would remove several Israeli restrictions and end potential political instability will see "hesitation from investors," joint ventures could flop and local investment would decrease.

"Removing checkpoints, improving accessibility in the West Bank and Gaza," would naturally contribute to the dramatic increase in GDP, he states.

A recent report published by the IMF said the Palestinian economy grew by nine percent in the West Bank and 16 percent in Gaza during the first half of 2010, due to the easing of Israeli restrictions, donor aid and aggressive financial-sector overhauls by the PA.

However, the IMF warned that sustainable growth could not be achieved without further lifting of Israeli restrictions, expecting growth rates to slow significantly by the end of the year.

Hebron: The core of commercial activity

The southern West Bank district of Hebron contributes to a third of the Palestinian economy, an estimated 65 percent of Palestinian commercial activity. The potential for the district to play a significant role in the growth and development of the economy, Al-Herbawi said, is unmatched.

Hosting nearly 60 percent of Palestine's national reserves in marble, with a 40 to 45 percent production capacity, and between 50 to 60 percent of the country's goldsmith industry, Hebron is also home to nearly 40 percent of Israel's military installations.

Settlements and checkpoints in and around the Old City of Hebron, completely bar Palestinian access and have turned it into a "ghost town," Al-Herbawi said, while they have "severed economic communication" throughout the district. This, he explains, has prevented the growth of "untapped markets."

Al-Herbawi said, however, that many initiatives in Hebron require "political will" to ensure their success. Citing as an example plans for an industrial park in Tarqumiya which were quickly disregarded, when Israel brought up security concerns over a planned road providing access to the area.

Al-Herbawi also notes that other sectors are tipped for development and expansion in the district, including housing with Hebron's birth rate among the highest across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Moreover, Hebron's university is matriculating a number of students in the field of information technology, which Al-Herbawi says could be fierce competitors with rival markets such as India.

As Palestinian and Israeli leaders arrive in Egypt ahead of the second round of direct negotiations, with the PLO threatening to withdraw over illegal settlement expansion and reports that further construction will follow Israel's moratorium, the Palestinian economy may yet have a long way to go.

BUILDING PALESTINE: THE INDISPENSIBLE STATE FOR PEACE.... ATFP Gala 2010



Dear ATFP friends,


We would like to extend to you the warmest of invitations to ATFP’s 5th Annual Gala to be held on October 20, 2010 at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C. This year, ATFP will recognize the outstanding contributions of four esteemed Palestinian-Americans, including Dr. Peter Mansoor, Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired) for Distinguished National Service; Mrs. Naomi Shihab Nye for Excellence in the Arts; Ms. Betty Shamieh for Excellence in the Performing Arts; and Mr. Ghassan Salameh for Excellence in Business.


ATFP is honored and humbled to count such highly distinguished guests as T.H. Madeleine K. Albright, and T.H. Stephen Hadley as members of the 5th Annual Gala’s Honorary Host Committee. Amb. Albright and Mr. Hadley are joined by a long list of honorable Senators, Congressman, Ambassadors, and leaders of many influential public and private institutions who all support ATFP’s vision for a two-state solution and the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state. (A full list of the 2010 Honorary Host Committee members can be viewed here.)


We would be truly honored if you would join us at ATFP’s 5th Gala, to not only lend your support for a two-state solution and the work of ATFP, but also to help us amplify the strong American and Palestinian voices of success, moderation and commitment to peace.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Ritz Carlton—Washington D.C.
1150 22nd Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20037


6:00pm - Reception
7:30pm - Program and Dinner


The event will be a black tie event.


Price : Ticket $ 250.00


For tables, sponsorships, and other information about the Gala, please contact us at (202) 887 0177 or e-mail us at gala_info@atfp.net.

The American Task Force on Palestine is happy to announce that it will be holding its Fifth Annual Gala on October 20, 2010.

Each year, ATFP’s Annual Gala honors Palestinian Americans in recognition for their outstanding contributions to the United States. The 2010 Gala will award the following honorees:

Dr. Peter Mansoor, Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired) for Distinguished National Service;
Mrs. Naomi Shihab Nye
for Excellence in the Arts;
Ms. Betty Shamieh for Excellence in the Performing Arts;
and Mr. Ghassan Salameh for Excellence in Business.

This year’s Honorary Host Committee members include T.H. Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, and T.H. Stephen Hadley, former National Security Advisor as well as a group of Senators, U.S. Representatives, Ambassadors, Diplomats and heads of national and international institutions. The full list of the 2010 Honorary Host Committee's esteemed members can be viewed here.

**************

ATFP's unique collection of online resources on Palestinian state and institution building, including hundreds of relevant documents

Middle East Peace Talks Statements
Official Statements of Heads of State from the Middle East Peace Talks
held in Washington DC, on September 2nd, 2010.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ibtisam Barakat ابتسام بركات STIRRINGS -- A poem of gratitude and freedom

Middle East peace talks: four reasons not to be cynical

Middle East peace talks: four reasons not to be cynical

Yes, there are huge obstacles. But the advantages of talking over fighting can't be discounted. Peace talks slow the killing, promote civil society, and may shift the dynamics in the region for a more stable future.

By P. Edward Haley / September 14, 2010 Claremont, Calif.

It is impossible to know whether this latest round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which began Sept. 2 in Washington, will lead to peace

There are huge obstacles.

Among them are domestic politics in Israel, which features a government led by conservative nationalist and religious parties. Compromise with the Palestinians is anathema to many within this fragile coalition, and its supporters.

The Palestinians are so deeply divided that they govern different geographic areas and are as opposed to one another as they are to Israel.

Many Americans, meanwhile, point to past failures and warn against future concessions. Now that Israel is relatively safe, they say, why force it to take steps that could turn the relatively quiet West Bank into another Gaza or Lebanon?

Talking rather than fighting

This is the usual way of counting risks in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it overlooks the advantages of talking rather than fighting. They are significant, so significant that they outweighed the reservations of the two sides and persuaded them to accept President Obama's invitation to talk.

The first and greatest advantage of peace talks is to slow the killing. Those who argue that Israel's assaults have stopped Palestinian attacks forget the balance sheet of the past decade. A conservative estimate is that since the second intifada began in 2000, more than 700 Israelis have died as a result of Palestinian attacks, and more than 6,300 Palestinians have been killed by Israel.

Second, negotiations promote peaceful economic and political development. During the mid-1990s, the Oslo peace process encouraged the launching of bilateral economic initiatives such as Israeli and Palestinian joint ventures, most of which were destroyed by later warfare.

Third, as talks proceed, a precious web of civil society will begin to take shape between Arab and Jew, knitting together dentists, teachers, water experts, farmers, and others who join one another for mutual advantage regardless of nationality. These kinds of spontaneous associations were enormously helpful in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, but they falter in the face of violence and war.

Fourth, peace talks put the emphasis on refraining from attack and reprisal. In this way, negotiations dilute the fear and uncertainty that favor radical movements, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, that were born out of strife and have grown stronger with it....READ MORE

ART MILES.... Healing the World Through Music, Art, Dance & Culture




"Healing the World Through Music, Art, Dance & Culture" - OUR GLOBAL FAMILY
ART MILES IS:
"BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER"
“TEACHING UNDERSTANDING AND RESPECT"


Al-Awda San Diego's contribution to the MURAMID - Many thanks especially to Loraine, Aida K, Joanne, Aida H, Marce, Anayat, Omar, Sofia, Nadia, Paul, Reem, Hena and all the other volunteers who contributed their efforts to this project. Many thanks also to the Art Miles Project for their initiative and for a wonderful experience working with them.




Peace Talks: Does religion help or hurt?

Director of Friends Center, Guilford College


Max Carter

A recorded Friends minister, he serves on the Board of the American Friends Service Committee and the Advisory Board of the Earlham School of Religion.

Peace Talks: Does religion help or hurt?

Mideast peace talks resume this week, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveling to Egypt and Israel for negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Is religion helping or hurting the attempt to forge peace between the Jewish state and the Palestinians?

A few years ago, I visited one of the Jewish settlements deep in the heart of the Palestinian West Bank, a settlement that is home to several thousand religious Zionists committed to preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state there... READ MORE

The Occupation’s Many Faces By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

There is an overriding reality that cannot be dismissed here in Palestine. Israel controls just about every aspect of our lives. No matter how we try to turn it around, candy coat it or look at it from a “different perspective” this is the truth and the main reason why no partial agreement will ever hold.

One only has to travel in the occupied Palestinian territories to know this to be true. Over the Eid Al Fitr – the Muslim holiday following the month of Ramadan – the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem (itself only a recent reality) was jam packed to kingdom come. People spent literally two, three and four hours trying to make their way out of a one-kilometer area because the Israelis had decided to block all traffic going out of Ramallah towards Jerusalem. It did not matter that people had plans, needed to get back to their children and parents or in the worst case scenario, get to a hospital. At the iron gate opened in the separation wall at Qalandiya, a group of young Israeli soldiers stood with their weapons cocked and smirks across their faces as they watched desperate Palestinians trying to inch their way out of the mess. Rather than the [Israeli] authority responsible for the chaos trying to alleviate the situation, instead young Palestinian men exited their cars and tried to direct traffic.

It is not only the traffic and checkpoints Israel controls. Palestinians across the West Bank are plagued by water shortages. In my Ramallah-area village, the water is cut off four of the seven days a week. Families have to ration out the water usage because if tanks are emptied there is absolutely no way to fill them again until the water comes back on. This is not because there is no water in the West Bank, contrary to common belief. According to a report issued by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, Israel controls and exploits 80 percent of ground water from the Mountain Aquifer, which is the largest water source in the region. The remaining 20 percent is basically leftovers distributed among the Palestinian population.

To give a more concrete idea of just how much Israel controls the water resources and distributes it to its own people’s benefit, according to the World Health Organization in 2008, the minimal daily consumption per capita should be 100 liters. In Israel, the per capita consumption reaches 242 liters while the Palestinians consume an average of 73 liters a day. In some places, the WHO says, Palestinian consumption is as low as 37 liters.

Settlers illegally living on Palestinian land have no shortage of water. Just pass by a Jewish settlement, past the lush greenery and the swimming pools and it It’s more than obvious that Jewish settlers never have to think about whether they will have enough water to shower or not. Reports have indicated that in places like the Jordan Valley, Jewish settlers use up to six times more water than Palestinians living in the same place.

So, when the Palestinians say they are not continuing with peace talks if Israel continues building in settlements, this is hardly an unreasonable demand. On the contrary, this is the least of the least they can demand given the detrimental effects settlements have had and continue to have on the Palestinians.

Right now, as the negotiating parties head to Sharm Al Sheikh for the second round of peace talks launched in Washington on September 2, Israel is already casting blame on the other side. It is calling the Palestinians’ demand that Israel renew it settlement freeze – already severely riddled with flaws – an “all or nothing strategy” which could ultimately derail any peace efforts. Israel is portraying the Palestinians as the intransigent party for their very legitimate demand of halting settlement construction. Many Palestinians even see this as way too little and a lot too late, saying the leadership should demand nothing less than a complete halt to settlement construction and a dismantlement of settlement structures in accordance with international law.

However, Israel has no plans of relinquishing its settlement enterprise in the West Bank for one reason, which is its control of the land and consequently of the oppressed people living on it. Since its occupation of the West Bank in 1967 Israeli governments have encouraged settlement growth by offering enticing economic incentives such as subsidized housing and reduced utility expenses. By keeping a presence in the West Bank through its settlements, the bypass roads, separation wall and the checkpoints such as Qalandiya, it maintains complete control over the populace, all under the false guise of its own security.

While Israel continues its rants about how the Palestinians are unreasonable and are placing obstacles in the way of peace, it is worthwhile to remind the world what it is like to live under occupation. Control and oppression is multi-faceted. Israel’s military presence and confrontations with the occupying army are definitely important features of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem but they are not the only ones. The overall control Israel wields over Palestinian lives is suffocating because it is so comprehensive. Leaving and entering the country is controlled by Israel, entering Jerusalem, working inside the Green Line, exporting and importing goods, building a house, tending to your land (if you have access to it) and even the amount of water you are allowed to consume are all controlled by the mighty hand of Israel’s occupying power.

So, before blame is laid or the world judges us too quickly, let us all remember the overriding reason we are at the negotiating table at all. Then after the occupation is duly mentioned, just imagine spending four hours trying to get home from a 45 minute trip only to find no water for your shower.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at mid@miftah.org.

Should the West welcome new mosques?

"Many people in the American Muslim community would hold that no one should ask for permission in exercising such a well-established American right or care what their fellow citizens think about the exercise of such basic rights. This is a profoundly mistaken attitude. Even legal rights that are practically unchallengeable come with social responsibilities (free-speech rights are a great case in point, such as deliberately inflammatory Quran burning spectacles which are certainly protected by the First Amendment and are also certainly repugnant and indeed dangerous). The mark of a healthy, well-adjusted community is not a decontextualized defiant assertion of rights, but is instead a balancing of rights with social responsibilities includes a due regard for the sensitivities of fellow citizens." Hussein Ibish

AP's Robert Burns Playing Politics by Replacing "Settlement Freeze" With "Curb on Housing Construction"

Daoud Kuttab

Posted: September 13, 2010 02:22 PM

AP's Robert Burns Playing Politics by Replacing "Settlement Freeze" With "Curb on Housing Construction"


The Associated Press takes pride in being the leading international news agency. The short headlines that appear on Yahoo home page are almost exclusively reserved to AP stories. But even the great AP makes mistakes. Sometimes its errors are not factual but a descriptive. The consequences are just as bad.

Reporting from Washington, AP's Security Affairs Reporter Robert Burns filed an analysis piece Monday about the challenges facing Secretary of State Clinton's upcoming trip to the Middle East. The story was dealing with whether she will be able to overcome the looming settlement obstacle. Burns, unilaterally, decided to change the terminology and phraseology connected to one of the major obstacles of the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts. Settlements.

He changed the word 'settlement' to the word 'housing construction.' He also replaced ' freeze' with the word 'curb.' As a result, Burns' 698 word analysis refers regularly to the fact that the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hinting on "a housing construction curb."

I googled the story for which the analysis was based and found that all western media outlets used the universally accepted term 'settlements." Outlets such as CNN, Reuters, NY Times, Bloomberg, Washington Postand even the Associated Press used the exact same word. For example, the headline and the lead paragraph of the report by AP's Mark Lavie report from Jerusalem used the word 'settlement' and 'freeze' in reference to the issue at hand.

The Israeli media was also universal in identifying the building in the occupied territories with the same term that the UN and the US have used repeatedly. Not only did the left-leaning Haaretz use the term 'settlements' but so did the mass circulating papers like, Yediot Ahranot, Maariv, Israel Today, and the financial daily Globes.

Anyone following the fragile peace talks that were launched earlier this month, knows that the continuation of the talks are hinged on whether Israel agrees to continue the settlement freeze which it had initiated ten months earlier and which are due to expire on September 26th. Palestinians have said that they will walk out of the talks if the Israelis decide to continue building settlements because that will show their lack of good will towards peace. On the other hand, the Israeli Prime Minister has been under pressure to allow building of settlements once the moratorium expires in a couple of weeks.

By changing the terminology, Burns has clearly taken a biased stand and has even contradicted what appears to be part of the AP style book.

Israeli propagandists try to dismiss the fact that the settlements built in areas occupied in 1967 are contrary to international law. Every US president since 1967 has chastised Israel for building settlements in occupied territories. Every UN Security Council Resolution and UN General Assembly decree or statement have repeatedly censored Israel for violating the Geneva Conventions. As late as July 2004 the International Court of Justice at the Hague unanimously agreed in a decision about the Israeli wall, built deep in Palestinian territories, that settlement activities in the West Bank are in violation of international law.

While AP reporters, international law, and the unanimity of world opinion agree to call Israeli building activity in the territories settlements, the Associated Press reporter, Robert Burns, insists on his own terminology. Ironically, his insistence is not only restricted to what terms the gives to settlements, but he has the audacity and the lack of professionalism to put his language in the mouths of Palestinians.

Speaking about the difficulties facing Clinton, Burns tells the readers what he thinks Palestinians want. "But the most immediate obstacle for negotiators is a Palestinian demand that Israel extend a curb on new housing construction (emphasis mine) in the West Bank, a constraint that Israel says will expire Sept. 26," Burns writes.

Palestinians have never demanded a "curb on housing construction." as if this was a mere zoning issue. Palestinians have consistently sided with the international community that these Jewish-only settlements, built on illegally confiscated Palestinian lands, are in violation of international law and must be removed. This demand is not aimed at the race or religion of the settlers but the fact that this was done in violation of international law. In a gesture for peace during proximity talks this summer, Palestinians officially handed the US peace envoy written approval that Palestinians would be willing to make a compromise for some of the settlement blocks in areas cradling the Green Line on condition that they are swapped for lands equal in size and importance. But this has not changed Palestinians demands that settlement activities must be suspended during the peace talks.

Instead of playing politics, Robert Burns should focus his reporting and analysis on what he is committed to do as an AP reporter. "We insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news. That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions. It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast," is what the Associated Press states about its professional journalistic duty.

AP's guidelines and principles published on their web site conclude with the following, "Ultimately, it means it is the responsibility of every one of us to ensure that these standards are upheld. Any time a question is raised about any aspect of our work, it should be taken seriously."

I hope that the editors of the Associated Press would take this complaint seriously, make the appropriate correction and ensure the public that such unprofessional actions will not be repeated.

Follow Daoud Kuttab on Twitter: www.twitter.com/daoudkuttab

"That Postive Attitude Paid Off"... Palestinian Youth Orchestra shines - CNN Video

A Palestinian woman watches as a farmer sifts sesame seeds in a field near the West Bank city of Jenin, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. Hundreds of pounds of sesame seeds are harvested in the West Bank every year, some which are sent abroad to be used in sweets and oil manufacturing. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas).

A Palestinian farmer harvests sesame seeds in a field near the West Bank city of Jenin, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. Hundreds of pounds of sesame seeds are harvested in the West Bank every year, some which are sent abroad to be used in sweets and oil manufacturing (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas).

Palestinian farmers harvest sesame seeds in a field near the West Bank city of Jenin, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. Hundreds of pounds of sesame seeds are harvested in the West Bank every year, some which are sent abroad to be used in sweets and oil manufacturing. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

Two Palestinian shepherds are seen next to a section of Israel's separation barrier, in the West Bank village of Hizmeh, near Jerusalem, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vague remarks on restricting new Israeli housing in the West Bank are the latest hurdle for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she flies to Egypt and Israel for the next round of Mideast peace talks. Clinton and former Sen. George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's special envoy to the region, plan to be in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, for talks Tuesday with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Palestinian children play in an alley of the West Bank refugee camp of Balata near Nablus, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. The Arabic on the wall reads 'You did me a favor by releasing me from jail.' (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

A Palestinian boy walks across a stream of water, backdropped by the Mediterranean Sea, on a beach on the outskirts of Gaza City, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. Israel says it is allowing the largest shipment of construction materials into Gaza since its deadly raid on an international flotilla in May. Israeli military spokesman Guy Inbar says 250 tons of pipes, iron and other materials began to enter Monday to upgrade a Gaza City waste treatment plant. Gaza water official Maher Najjar says the upgraded plant will be able to treat 20 million gallons (75 million liters) of waste a day, nearly double the current level (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

An Egyptian soldier stands alert in front of mountains, in the red sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, Monday Sept.13, 2010, a day before Egypt hosts the second round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Sharm (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Swinging hard : Palestinian refugee children enjoy a ride on swings at the Askar refugee camp outside the West Bank city of Nablus on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

An elderly Palestinian Muslim couple reads verses of the Quran over the grave of a relative as part of tradition during the first day of Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, outside Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Eid, one of the most important holidays in the Muslim world, is marked with prayers, family reunions and other festivities (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

A Palestinian Muslim man buys a palm fronds to lay on the grave of a relative as part of tradition during the first day of Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, outside Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Eid, one of the most important holidays in the Muslim world, is marked with prayers, family reunions and other festivities (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

A Palestinian Muslim woman walks with her son holding a balloon while walking outside the Dome of Rock Mosque during the first day of Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Eid, one of the most important holidays in the Muslim world, is marked with prayers, family reunions and other festivities. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

A Palestinian takes a photo of the Al-Aqsa Mosque before prayers on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, September 10, 2010 REUTERS/Ammar Awad

A Palestinian woman casts a shadow on her relative's grave as she reads from the Quran during the first day of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Eid, one of the most important holidays in the Muslim world, is marked with prayers, family reunions and other festivities (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

A Palestinian Muslim girl runs after a friend while playing following a prayer during the first day of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Eid, one of the most important holidays in the Muslim world, is marked with prayers, family reunions and other festivities (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

A Palestinian Muslim family sit after attending a prayer on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Eid, one of the most important holidays in the Muslim world, is marked with prayers, family reunions and other festivities (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)



Sesame harvest : A Palestinian farmer throws handfulls of sesame into the air to separate the seeds from the stems during the harvesting season in the West Bank village of Yamun, near Jenin (AFP/Saif Dahlah)

Monday, September 13, 2010

My letter to the Washington Post RE Jackson Diehl's "Who is bluffing Abbas or Netanyahu?"

RE: Who's bluffing: Abbas or Netanyahu? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/12/AR2010091202884.html

Dear Editor,

"Who is bluffing Abbas or Netanyahu?" What a totally absurd and essentially manipulative question! Zionists have been waging a war on the people of historic Palestine for the past 60 years by constantly usurping Palestinian land, rights and life, and even the story itself at every opportunity. That is not a bluff- it is a cruel reality that has made life miserable for the native non-Jewish population of the so-called 'Holy Land'.

Today in the middle of peace talks "Thousands of Israeli settler homes planned" in the illegally occupied territories http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100913/wl_mideast_afp/israelpalestinianspeacesettler . That is not a bluff- it is a clear pattern of sovereign Israel scorning international law, and a clear pattern of sovereign Israel pretending to seek peace when really Israel is doing all it can to make peace impossible.

Israel refuses to even establish actual borders, much less respect the basic human rights of Palestinians wherever they might be. That is not a bluff- it is an impossible situation and kudos to the Palestinians (and all their many supporters) who realize that real freedom and dignity and true progress will only be found with a fully secular two state solution to end the Israel/Palestine conflict as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
Anne Selden Annab


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Daoud Kuttab: One of 60 World Press Freedom Heroes


Vienna- The International Press Institute will honor, Monday, journalist Daoud Kuttab as one of 60 world press heroes as part of its 60th annual celebrations held in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

Kuttab will be joined with regional journalists Mai Chediack from Lebanon and Nizar Nayouf from Syria as well as Israeli journalist Amira Hass.

Reflecting on the award Kuttab said that there are many Arab journalists who are the true press freedom heroes. "While I may have been recognised because I am known, there are many Arab journalists who have sacrificed financially, bodily as well as with their own lives for their press efforts. They are the true heroes in our part of the world."

Kuttab started his journalistic career in Jerusalem working with the newspapers Al Fajr and AL Quds. He has also helped set up Amin.org web site and al Quds Educational TV. Kuttab was detained by the Israelis and the Palestinians for his journalistic work.

In 2000 he set up the world's first internet radio station, AmmanNet. He is the director general of COmmunity Media Network, a not for profit media organisation working in JOrdan and Palestine. He is a regular columnist in local and international media outlets. His lastest column appeared in the Washington Post last week.


list of 60 world press heroes
http://www.freemedia.at/awards/world-press-freedom-heroes/

“The Heroes of the IPI demonstrate that in spite of every obstacle and every constraint the truth ultimately prevails and is made known. The spread of democracy is relentless. And that freedom is an eternal goal for men and women everywhere. The editors and publishers you honour today and on whose behalf I have the great honour to speak, have played an essential and inspiring role in helping the people of their countries and the world achieve that freedom.”- Katharine Graham, IPI World Congress and Celebration of the 50th Anniversary, Boston, 2000.