Saturday, October 23, 2010

Palestine is not Israels promised land: Archbishop

Palestine is not Israels promised land: Archbishop

Vatican body urges UN to end Israeli occupation

Pope Benedict XVI (L) shakes hands with Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, Antonios Naguib, on the last day of the synod of bishops from the Middle East at the Vatican. The Catholic bishops urged the United Nations to end the Israeli occupation of Arab lands at the end of a meeting chaired by the pope (AFP/Osservatore Romano)

Vatican body urges UN to end Israeli occupation
VATICAN CITY (AFP) – Catholic bishops in the Middle East urged the United Nations Saturday to end the Israeli occupation of Arab lands at the end of a meeting chaired by Pope Benedict XVI.

In a final statement of their two-week synod, the bishops and patriarchs of the region's Catholic churches said the citizens of the Middle East "call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations, conscientiously to work to find a peaceful, just and definitive solution in the region, through the application of the Security Council?s resolutions and taking the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories.

"The Palestinian people will thus have an independent and sovereign homeland where they can live with dignity and security. The State of Israel will be able to enjoy peace and security within their internationally recognized borders.

"The Holy City of Jerusalem will be able to acquire its proper status, which respects its particular character, its holiness and the religious patrimony of the three religions: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We hope that the two-State-solution might become a reality and not a dream only."

The statement referred to Security Council resolutions which called on Israel to quit territories seized during the 1967 Middle East War, including east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The synod was marked by repeated affirmations that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the root of the tension affecting the whole Middle East.

With its resolution, the bishops said, "Iraq will be able to put an end to the consequences of its deadly war and re-establish a secure way of life which will protect all its citizens with all their social structures, both religious and national.

"Lebanon will be able to enjoy sovereignty over its entire territory, strengthen its national unity and carry on in its vocation to be the model of coexistence between Christians and Muslims, of dialogue between different cultures and religions, and of the promotion of basic public freedoms."

The synod also said, "We condemn violence and terrorism from wherever it may proceed as well as all religious extremism. We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism and Islamophobia and we call upon the religions to assume their responsibility to promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations in our region and in the entire world."

The bishops took aim at claims by hardline Jewish settlers in particular that they had a right to occupy the whole land of Israel promised to God by the Jews according to the Old Testament.

"Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable," the synod said.

"On the contrary, recourse to religion must lead every person to see the face of God in others and to treat them according to their God-given prerogatives and God?s commandments, namely, according to God's bountiful goodness, mercy, justice and love for us."

Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, head of the Greek Melkite Church in the United States, who headed the commission that drew up the final statement, said, "The theme of the promised land cannot be used as a basis to justify the return of the Jews to Israel and the expatriation of the Palestinians."

"For Christians one can no longer talk of the land promised to the Jewish people," he told a press conference, because the "promise" was "abolished by the presence of Christ."

In the kingdom of God, which covers the whole world, "there is no longer a favoured people, a chosen people, all men and women of every country have become the chosen people," the Lebanese-born Butros said.

Media: The Palestinian Refugees: Why Is Everyone Lying To Them?.... A reply from UNRWA

Media: The Palestinian Refugees: Why Is Everyone Lying To Them?

A reply from UNRWA

To the Hudson Institute Website Editor


The article posted on 19 October 2010, “The Palestinian Refugees: why is everyone lying to them?” contains factual inaccuracies and false insinuations about the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The notion of “UNRWA administered camps” is misleading as UNRWA does not run camps, but manages facilities such as schools and clinics within them. We have no control over who lives in the camps and the idea of our Agency forcing anyone to stay in them is absurd. Our education and micro-finance programmes offer self-reliance and give our beneficiaries the ability to leave the camps and lead dignified and productive lives, integrating where desired and possible into host communities. The facts speak for themselves. The proportion of refugees living in camps has steadily declined from about one hundred per cent at the time of our creation over sixty years ago, to just one third today.

Moreover, the conclusions that UNRWA perpetuates the refugee crisis, offers “no solution” and “creates new generations” of refugees are also wrong. As with refugees assisted by UNHCR, the refugee status of UNRWA refugees is transferred through the generations pending a just and lasting solution. What perpetuates the Palestinian refugee crisis is the failure of the parties to resolve the refugees’ plight within the context of a durable political resolution of the conflict. Until such resolution is reached, UNRWA remains committed to its mandate of bringing human development through education, health and social services, offering dignity, hope and stability to some of the most disadvantaged people in one of the world’s most troubled regions.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Gunness,
UNRWA Spokesperson

Frequently asked questions

This section deals with general queries about UNRWA.

For the Agency’s response to particular new developments or specific questions, please contact the public information office.

Refugees and the Right of Return

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.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Elders: The changing character of East Jerusalem is an obstacle to peace

21 Oct 2010
The changing character of East Jerusalem is an obstacle to peace

The possibility of a viable two-state solution being eroded by settlement expansion, Palestinian home demolitions and deportations

Mary Robinson, Ela Bhatt and Jimmy Carter are in the Middle East to encourage support for a two-state solution, but also to highlight issues that stand in the way of achieving “a just and secure peace for all”. They conclude their week-long visit to the region on Friday. During their visit to the region they have held meetings in Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the West Bank.

The Elders today visited the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, where they learned that many homes are threatened with demolition to make way for the King’s Garden Archaeological Park. Many Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have been evicted as settlements expand. Those who are politically active or speak out against the settlements face the threat of deportation and imprisonment. Experts and residents spoke to the Elders about the changing character of East Jerusalem as Palestinians are being forced out.

Mary Robinson

Elders’ delegation leader, Mary Robinson said:

“Jerusalem lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and agreement on its future must also be at the heart of any solution. The changing ethnic and religious character of the city has regional and global implications.

“As Elders we try to bring hope, but I was shocked at the practices the Jerusalem authorities are being allowed to get away with. All kinds of clever methods are being used to surround and squeeze the Palestinian population – tunnels, settler houses, new roads, and now tourist attractions. A solution must be found that respects the human rights of all.”

The Elders met the Mayor of Jerusalem to convey their concerns about settlement building in the city and the expansion of the King’s Garden Park. Municipal services to the Palestinian neighbourhoods are extremely poor, with schools, water services and roads receiving a fraction of the investment of the rest of the city. They appreciated that the Mayor wants to improve the living conditions and education of Palestinians as well as Israelis, but they warned the Mayor that current planning policies are a serious obstacle to an Arab-Israeli peace agreement.

Representatives of the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel, who make up 20 per cent of the population, also met the Elders yesterday, and outlined the laws that discriminate against them as citizens.

Jimmy Carter

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said:

“As I said to the Speaker of the Knesset today, Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens and other minorities is very disturbing. These people have not enjoyed equal social, economic and political rights for decades. Now there are more than twenty proposed new laws that would further erode their rights.

“I am particularly concerned about proposals to require non-Jews to pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state. I do not see how such an oath can be consistent with the rights of Muslims, Christians and others who are not Jews. Israel is in danger of damaging its credibility as a democracy.”

Ela Bhatt

Ela Bhatt, a pioneer in women’s economic empowerment and non-violent resistance said:

“The situation here seems much worse than when we were here last year. Tension is very high and there is a lack of mutual trust, but I appeal to people not to resort to violence. This does not mean being weak. Non-violent struggle requires great courage and may mean that some people are hurt or even lose their lives. I believe that creative civil disobedience, with clear goals, will ultimately be much more effective than violence.

“The key to success is self-reliance. Nothing will change unless people organise themselves and reduce dependency on others. We need allies, but the strength must come from within. We have met Israelis and Palestinians committed to working for peace and that is heartening. I hope that this spirit of peaceful coexistence will spread.”

Yesterday the Elders met the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to discuss the stalled final status negotiations. Both leaders agreed that Palestinian unity is a priority. This issue also featured in the Elders’ meetings throughout the Arab region. The Elders raised concerns about human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. They are hopeful that, through the leaders in Fatah, Hamas and other factions, the Palestinians will come together with a stronger voice.

On Friday the Elders will meet the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, and will brief the diplomatic community on their trip.

In concluding their visit, the Elders urge people to surmount the corrosive effect of cynicism and complacency in Israel, the Arab world and in the international community about prospects for a durable two-state solution. Israel already enjoys a high standard of living and its powerful military appears to provide many Israelis with a sense of security. The Arab world needs to become more united on the Israel-Palestinian issue. The international community is complacent too. A greater sense of urgency is needed – as well as greater energy and commitment by all involved to find a just and secure peace for all.

For more information about The Elders’ work in the Middle East during their visit including media releases, blogs, photos and videos, please go to

For updates and media opportunities, please register at

About The Elders

The Elders are an independent group of global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007, 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.

The Elders are Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Gra├ža Machel, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu (Chair). Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi are honorary Elders.

Poetry Everywhere: "One Boy Told Me" by Naomi Shihab Nye

Dear Ziad Growing Gardens for Palestine

Growing Gardens for Palestine

Dear Ziad,

Thank you and your lovely wife Nailia, and all of ATFP for hosting such an inspiring and interesting Gala. My husband and I very much enjoyed all the art- and the speakers... and the gift bag with zataar and olive oil and Nabulsi soap.

Meeting one of my favorite modern poets in person was a moment I will never ever forget. Naomi Shihab Nye is as welcoming and delightful as her poems.

ATFP's hard work and good intentions are obvious, as is the talent, intelligence, dignity and compassion of all the many people who chose to help support the American Task Force on Palestine... I wish you the best of luck in your collective efforts to help shape a just, lasting and comprehensive peace and a real Palestinian state.


Washington DC: The Lincoln Memorial

“In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” Beneath these words, the 16th President of the United States—the Great Emancipator and preserver of the nation during the Civil War—sits immortalized in marble. As an enduring symbol of freedom, the Lincoln Memorial attracts anyone who seeks inspiration and hope.

ATFP 2010 featuring Arab Artwork- promoting Palestine & Peace

For the complete text of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's Keynote Address at ATFP Gala click here. For the complete text of Ziad Asali's introduction click here. For more information about the gala click here.

Alice Walker: Calling All Grand Mothers

Calling All Grand Mothers

We have to live

or we
will die
in the same

old ways.

I call on all Grand Mothers
on the planet
to rise
and take your place
in the leadership
of the world

Come out
of the kitchen
out of the
out of the
beauty parlors
out of the

Step forward
& assume
the role
for which
you were
To lead humanity
to health, happiness
& sanity.

I call on
all the
Grand Mothers
of Earth
& every person
who possesses
the Grand Mother
of respect for
protection of
the young
to rise
& lead.
The life of
our species
on it.

& I call on all men
of Earth
to gracefully

stand aside
& let them
(let us)
do so.

From the book Hard Times Require Furious Dancing. Copyright 2010 by Alice Walker

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Poem by Naomi Shihab Nye: Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal by Naomi Shihab Nye

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,

I heard the announcement:

If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,

Please come to the gate immediately.

Well — one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,

Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.

Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her

Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she

Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.

Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,

Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew — however poorly used -

She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely.

She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the

Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.

We called her son and I spoke with him in English.

I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and

Would ride next to her — southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and

Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian

Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering


She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered

Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — out of her bag –

And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a

Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,

The lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same

Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers –

Non-alcoholic — and the two little girls for our flight, one African

American, one Mexican American — ran around serving us all apple juice

And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands –

Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always

Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,

This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate — once the crying of confusion stopped

– has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.

This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

A Palestinian farmer holds olives in his hands, during the olive harvest near the West Bank village of Tura al Gharbiya, near Jenin, Monday, Oct. 18, 2010. Palestinians began to harvest olives in October, a staple for many local farmers that also use them to make oil. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Israeli Settlers damage Palestinian trees 'with impunity': study

Palestinian farmers help extinguish a fire at an olive grove in the West Bank village of Hussan. Jewish settlers who vandalise Palestinian trees are not being brought to justice, with police inquiries repeatedly failing to lead to prosecutions, a human rights group said on Tuesday. (AFP/Musa al-Shaer)

Settlers damage Palestinian trees 'with impunity': study

Tue Oct 19, 1:02 pm ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Jewish settlers who vandalise Palestinian trees are not being brought to justice, with police inquiries repeatedly failing to lead to prosecutions, a human rights group said on Tuesday.

In an examination of around 100 Palestinian complaints of damage to their trees, Yesh Din researchers found that the police investigations did not result in a single indictment, with cases closed on grounds of insufficient evidence or "unknown perpetrator."

Conducted over a five-year period, the study tracked 97 cases where trees were vandalised, most of them olive trees, the group said.

"Not a single one of the monitored 97 cases under police investigation has yielded an indictment against those suspected of involvement in vandalising Palestinian-owned trees," said Yesh Din (Volunteers for Human Rights).

This year's olive harvest began earlier this month, ushering in a season which is often fraught with acts of harassment or violence against Palestinian farmers by Jewish settlers.

Israel's failure to prosecute the vandals only serves to encourage those behind the attacks to continue, head researcher Lior Yavne said.

"The law enforcement authorities are not responding to the ongoing harm done to the livelihood of Palestinian families," he said.

The fact that every case had been closed for lack of evidence or because the perpetrator was not known was "tantamount to an admission of failure" by the authorities, he said.

"This failure only increases this phenomenon, as the assailants are not punished, and therefore are not discouraged from repeating their offences".

Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld had no immediate information about the cases cited in the report, but said that since October 8, when the harvest began, police had received 27 complaints from Palestinians in connection with damage to or theft of trees.

"Until now, 16 people have been arrested in connection with these complaints and these cases are still under investigation," he told AFP.

This year's harvest has already seen more vandalism against trees than in the past few years, the Haaretz newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing an internal document from the defence ministry.

Over the past two weeks, some 500 Palestinian olive trees and 100 settler-owned trees have been cut down, poisoned with weed killer or set alight, the paper said.

Annual figures compiled by Yesh Din about complaints of settler offences against Palestinians have repeatedly shown that nine out of 10 police investigations fail to lead to a prosecution.

About 45 percent of farmland in the West Bank and Gaza is given over to olive production with approximately 10 million trees, said a report released on Friday by aid organisation Oxfam.

My letter to the LATimes RE Israel pushes Palestinians to acknowledge its Jewish character.Palestinians reject the demand as 'racist'

RE: Israel pushes Palestinians to acknowledge its Jewish character.Palestinians reject the demand as 'racist' and see it as a trap to force them to make concessions on such issues as the right of refugees to return.,0,6335179.story

Dear Editor,

Thanks for publishing "Israel pushes Palestinians to acknowledge its Jewish character, Palestinians reject the demand as 'racist' and see it as a trap to force them to make concessions on such issues as the right of refugees to return."

It is not the Jewishness of "the Jewish State" that is so worrisome- what is worrisome is how Zionists immigrating to Israel have chosen to define and defend Israel as "The Jewish State". Yes, in 1948 the UN called Israel 'The Jewish State" but the UN was also quite clear about the importance of respecting the Palestinian refugees inalienable legal and natural right to return to original homes and lands.

60 years later Israel as "The Jewish State" has been perfecting the nefarious art of persecuting, impoverishing and displacing the native non-Jewish population of the Holy Land.

The vast majority of Palestinians have already been pushed into forced exile. Israel would have become a very different country had the Palestinian refugees been able to return to their ancestral homes and properties and benefited from full citizenship rights all along, shaping a more honest and compassionate Israel for everyone's sake.

In "Who made Netanyahu the leader of the Jewish people?" Tony Karon mentions the fact that "only around 39 per cent of the world's Jewish population live in Israel; the other 61 per cent have freely chosen other countries as their home (more that two thirds are in the US). So, Mr Netanyahu is demanding not only that the Palestinians recognize the right of Israel's Jews to maintain their dominance over the country's non-Jewish minority, but also to recognise Israel as the patrimony of the majority of the world's Jews who do not live there."

Furthermore, Israel's economic success, despite its brutal treatment of the indigenous Palestinians, sets an example for Islamists and religious tyrants worldwide seeking to fuse 'church and state' ...and as an American writer Ernie Brock points out so beautifully in a recent op-ed on bumper sticker slogans:

"Mixing religion with politics is just as damaging to religion as it is to government. It drags religion down from exalted heights into the muddy, worldly mire of power struggles. It makes government oppressive since there will always be differences of religious opinion causing factions to strive toward dominance. Mixing religion and government makes God Himself responsible and answerable for human strife and folly

There are passages in the Quran, the Torah and the Bible that can be used to justify all sorts of cruel behavior and intolerance. People of good will and decency tend to quote selectively the kinder and more love-centered passages of their hallowed texts. Christianity has evolved a lot since the days of Savonarola, the Inquisition and witch-burning

The Taliban and al-Qaida exemplify movements to unite religious doctrine and government. Will our nation’s disgust for their barbaric actions inspire an equal and opposite reaction that creates our own American Christian Taliban?

The Israel/Palestine conflict creates negative ramifications worldwide- and the conflict itself exasperates Israeli angst and the very real plight and suffering of the Palestinians. We need a golden rule peace for both Israel and Palestine: A fully secular two state solution to end the conflict really is the best way forward.

Annie Selden Annab
American homemaker & poet

Growing Gardens for Palestine
The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Fady Joudah's translation of "If I Were Another" book of poems by Mahmoud Darwish WINS the PEN USA Literary Award for Translation 2010

Winner of the PEN USA Literary Award for Translation

Mahmoud Darwish; Translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah

Fady Joudah is a physician, poet, and translator. His translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s The Butterfly’s Burden was a finalist for the 2008 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation.

Mahmoud Darwish was born in the village of al-Birweh in what was then Western Galilee, Palestine.

"Mahmoud Darwish was that rare literary phenomenon: a poet both acclaimed by critics as one of the most important poets in the Arab world and beloved by his readers. His language—lyrical and tender—helped to transform modern Arabic poetry into a living metaphor for the universal experiences of exile, loss, and identity. The poems in this collection, constructed from the cadence and imagery of the Palestinian struggle, shift between the most intimate individual experience and the burdens of history and collective memory. Brilliantly translated by Fady Joudah, If I Were Another—which collects the greatest epic works of Darwish’s mature years—is a powerful yet elegant work by a master poet and demonstrates why Darwish was one of the most celebrated poets of his time and was hailed as the voice and conscience of an entire people." Macmillan Books


If I Were Another

by Mahmoud Darwish

Mahmoud Darwish
If I were another on the road, I would not have looked
back, I would have said what one traveler said
to another: Stranger! awaken
the guitar more! Delay our tomorrow so our road
may extend and space may widen for us, and we may get rescued
from our story together: you are so much yourself ... and I am
so much other than myself right here before you!

If I were another I would have belonged to the road,
neither you nor I would return. Awaken the guitar
and we might sense the unknown and the route that tempts
the traveler to test gravity. I am only
my steps, and you are both my compass and my chasm.
If I were another on the road, I would have
hidden my emotions in the suitcase, so my poem
would be of water, diaphanous, white,
abstract, and lightweight ... stronger than memory,
and weaker than dewdrops, and I would have said:
My identity is this expanse!

If I were another on the road, I would have said
to the guitar: Teach me an extra string!
Because the house is farther, and the road to it prettier—
that’s what my new song would say. Whenever
the road lengthens the meaning renews, and I become two
on this road: I ... and another!

Translated by Fady Joudah

Monday, October 18, 2010

In the Name of the Children....

"While opinions may vary as to the effectiveness of stone-throwing, especially by children, the more important issue is the motive behind it. Unlike some would want to portray, Palestinians - children or otherwise - are not more inclined to violence than any other people on this earth. In Silwan, the extenuating circumstances surrounding the "violence" show a much more complex picture than meets the eye. Jewish settlers, illegally squatting on Palestinian land in Silwan, have been the source of the real violence in this east Jerusalem neighborhood and the reason why its residents are fighting home demolition orders, land confiscation and overall everyday harassment. Settlements are a manifestation of the violence of the occupation and in Silwan, it is at its worse. " Joharah Baker

Palestine's independence is inevitable

Palestine's independence is inevitable
By Daoud Kuttab
Monday, October 18, 2010

A Palestinian state is coming – it is just not clear whether it will result from the latest round of peace talks.

It is easy to be pessimistic, or even apathetic, about the current peace talks. History is a witness to the lack of Palestinian accomplishments in incremental negotiations. All successful efforts to date have stemmed from secret talks made public only once a package agreement was reached.

Nevertheless, a breakthrough is possible this time – thanks to the unshakable Palestinian peace strategy.

Whereas the PLO long pursued a dual strategy of military resistance and politics, today’s Palestinian leaders have clearly opposed any form of violence. Most recently this determined non-violent effort can be seen and felt in every city, village or refugee camp in Palestine. With tactics including the boycott of Israeli settlement products and an international divestment campaign, it has captured the imagination of local groups, international activists and Israeli peace supporters.

Palestinian security apparatuses are working tirelessly to defend the peace strategy. These efforts have created an opening, but the situation remains plagued by attempts at obstruction from both sides.

When President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Washington last week, it marked the first time a Palestinian leader entered peace talks enduring deep opposition within his own party in addition to opposition from PLO factions and outside groups. Hamas has not stopped at verbal expressions of disagreement; it was behind the August 31 fatal shooting of four Jewish settlers near Hebron and an attack near Ramallah that injured two settlers the following day. The attacks were clearly timed to disrupt the talks and weaken the position of the Palestinian delegation.

Palestinians have good reason to be skeptical about Israel’s sincerity when it comes to peace. Chief among them: Israel’s heavy-handedness in Gaza and its continued violations of international law by building Jewish-only buildings in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank. When the spiritual leader of Shas, a major coalition partner in the Israeli government, publicly expressed hope for a plague to kill all Palestinians, many understandably doubted Israel’s willingness to live in peace with its Palestinian neighbors. Even after the talks began, Israel’s foreign minister dampened any hopes for progress by saying nothing will happen this year.

So why should Palestinians hold onto hope?

Rather than cursing the Israeli occupation, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a former World Bank executive, has shifted the focus to building up the Palestinian state. Fayyad’s government has improved security – as Israeli army generals have acknowledged – and the rule of law while also introducing far-reaching reforms in education, health and the economy. In its annual report on assistance to the Palestinian people, the UN Conference on Trade and Development estimated that gross domestic product in the occupied territories rose 6.8 percent in 2009. The recently unveiled second-year phase of this plan was titled “Home stretch to freedom.”...READ MORE

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Music Therapy... in Growing Gardens for Palestine

Growing Gardens for Palestine

All summer long I have very much enjoyed seeing the humming birds flitting up to drink their nectar at our feeder.

At the end of this summer my husband's father died, suddenly and unexpectedly. It was a horrible shock. My husband's father was an amazing man. I simply can not find the words to express how deep our loss is... the world's loss really as he was very much beloved by all family, friends, and associates who knew him. My father-in-law and his best buddy from childhood grew up to be very successful, well respected businessmen. Many different people feel his loss in many different ways. My husband has lost not only a father, but a best friend and trusted advisor. My sister-in-law writes lovingly of him in a blog she started called Baba's Little Girl. I however can not even begin to express in words how much this perfect father-in-law has meant to me. Nor can I even try describe him yet, for I would not know where to begin except to say he was born in Palestine.

Perhaps one day I will find the words to explain what an admirable and interesting and entertaining man my father-in-law was. In time, I hope, in time. He is most definitely a good memory to savor.

Miqdad giving his grandson James some lettuce to taste, Amman Jordan

Jaffar and his father and our kids in Petra

Miqdad and his two oldest grandsons exploring history

Miqdad & Miqdad & James & Jaffar just hanging out

Fathers & sons: Jaffar, Miqdad, and his namesake Miqdad

My father-in-law, who knew all sorts of fascinating tidbits about history and archaeology, giving us a fascinating tour of Jerash

Jaffar and his father

Miqdad & Alma Lou Annab at home

Miqdad, Jaffar & Miqdad gardening in the atrium, Amman Jordan 2009

We flew to Amman as quickly as we could when we heard of Baba's death. My mother came over as soon as she heard, helping us as I orchestrated plane tickets and travel plans for two sons away at two different colleges, my husband, myself and my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law was visiting us at the time of my father-in-law's death. Her immediate reaction was to remind us that he lived a good life- a full life. I will always be grateful that she was here to tell the news to her son, and to console us all.

Our young niece and nephew met at us the airport in Jordan, they are growing up so fast! We drove to Baba's house and the kitchen was crowded with close family members who had gathered to greet us, and to share our tears.

The Arabic newspapers were full of condolences and announcements about Baba. We had the traditional azza- three days of formal grieving with the men of the family greeting people (men only) in a large rented formal public hall and the women staying in the home to receive female visitors there. All day long people were coming in, shaking hands, sitting down for either a few minutes or hours- depending on how close they were to the family. Arabic coffee in tiny cups and big plump juicy dates and bottles of water were served to all who came. In the afternoon a large lunch arrived- each day brought by someone in the extended family as the women of the house can not be expected to cook during this time. We had delicious lamb with rice and almonds. Chicken. Stuffed grape leaves..etc... the traditional stuff. And on the third day we had knaffieh for dessert- the Nablus specialty.

Miqdad, James, Annie & Jaffar on the front steps of Baba's house Amman Jordan September 2010

Miqdad Hasan Annab, 16 years old
August 1st, 1932- September 17th 2010

Baba's kids: Nasser, Jaffar, Ali & Randa

Baba's grandchildren (Miqdad, James, Feisal, Yasmeen, & Laith) with Randa and Baba's niece Ghada & her daughter Nisreen

I always hoped that one day when Palestine was free from Israeli occupation Baba could take us to Nablus, and show us his childhood haunts and entertain us with his stories. He had a knack for making people feel at home and happy... We all thought he would live a long long time as his father did. I wish he could have lived long enough to see Palestine, his beloved birthplace, free. He was the type of supporter that Palestine needs- a good man and a loving man, and a modest man... and a successful competent businessman. Very much a diplomat- and a gentleman. By the entrance to his library there was a calender open to September 2010- celebrating El-Funoun the Palestinian popular dance troupe.

Jaffar & Annie at Nancy & Mohammad's for breakfast, Amman Jordan September 2020

Meanwhile life goes on. Our time with Baba was far too brief- and so is life itself. As my mother-in-law reminded us over and over this past month, Baba would not want us to waste all our time mourning.

This year's autumn leaves and autumn weather here in central Pennsylvania are glorious...

Autumn Leaves

Autumn flowers

Wandering in and out to see the leaves I sometimes leave the door open- the air feels so crisp- so clean, and the rustle of dry leaves in the trees as the wind picks up and drops is music to my ears- as is the bird song in our garden.

October Glory Maple Leaf

The other day I was sitting at my computer when I heard a loud ruckus in the garden room quite near me- turned out to be the clatter of squirrel talons/toenails on our Garden room's tile floor as a Mr. Squirrel sprinted over to the far corner of the room and crept under my grandmother's rickety old rocking chair.

I screamed! I screamed and jumped up- and I ran away... in running away my back was turned so I was not sure if Mr. Squirrel scampered out. Mr. Squirrel was no where to be found when my husband and I searched for him. I am now imagining furtive ninja squirrel carefully hiding in my house by hanging upside down somewhere under the furniture- his silhouette pulled tight up against his hiding place in order to better hide in the shadows.


Blue Jay in our back yard

This weekend was Family weekend at my youngest son's college. We had a delightful time spending the day with James, and we totally enjoyed the the '16th annual homecoming parade' put on by his college- and eating cafeteria food... and seeing a very special art exhibit in Elizabethtown College's Zug Memorial Hall.

Professor Gene Ann Behrens is a Music Therapy Professor. During a recent trip to Bethlehem she took some riveting and revealing photographs and has organized them into an exhibit to try to help show America what Bethlehem looks like today, under Israeli occupation- strangled by that awful Israeli made wall.

What struck me most about her exhibit is that she does not bombard her audience with the most painful and traumatizing images she can find. Instead she conveys a sense of hope- and a sensitivity to Palestinian dignity and beauty. Her photos are good- but how she titles them is most revealing; "The Pride of a Palestinian Mother" ... "Children Getting to "Act as Children"" ..."Illuminating Years of Faith in the Nativity Church"... "Ageless Strength"

"Ageless Strength "

"Perseverance Amid the Destruction"

Professor Gene Ann Behrens
Music therapy prof travels to Bethlehem to work with children

The International Center of Bethlehem is an ecumenically oriented institution developed through the Lutheran Church that serves the entire Palestinian community. Professor Behrens worked at the Center’s Dar Al-Kalima Health and Wellness Center, meeting with small groups of children and their parents to see how they are coping with the trauma of war, and developing music therapy protocol for working with the children.

Despair, destruction and hope 'Behind the Walls' of Bethlehem, Professor's photos on display at Elizabethtown College
Read more:

Professor Behrens happened to meander into the gallary right before my husband, myself and our son were about to leave. Heavens what serendipity- she was fascinating to talk with!

One thing she said really struck me- basically, the gist of it is that some researchers are finding that talking about trauma can make things worse for the traumitized, leaving them mired in misery rather than healing them. Music therapy however can reach the child- help heal the child.

There probally could be much more written on the topic of Music and healing- and Palestine, but I am not the right person to explain all that needs to be explained.

This week, here in America, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the keynote speaker at the ATFP's Fifth Annual Gala 2010: Building Palestine, the Indispensible State for Peace. One of my favorite poets Naomi Shihab Nye will be honored with an award for Excellence in the Arts. ATFP's Gala also has an Artists Corner pointing out that "these talented individuals have spoken volumes, celebrating Arab and Arab-American culture with vibrancy" My favorite artist found there is Helen Zughaib who believes that the Arts are one of the most important tools we have to help shape and foster dialogue and positive ideas about the Middle East. "Hopefulness, healing and spirituality, are all themes that are woven into her work."

Sisters by Helen Zughaib

"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

Growing Gardens for Palestine
The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you