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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Palestinian heritage on show

Palestinian heritage on show

A SERIES of events are set to take place across Bahrain to promote Palestinian heritage, national identity and patriotism.

They will include exhibitions, poetry readings and plays with the aim of highlighting what life is like in the war-torn state before and after the Israeli occupation.

The first event, a cultural exhibition showcasing Palestinian heritage, will take place today from 10am to 7pm at the Ebrahim Al Arrayed Poetry House, Manama.

It will feature household tools used by Palestinians before the Israeli occupation, old forms of national dress and equipment used in the Palestinian occupied territories today.

"This is a chance for the public to see what life was and is like in Palestine and to share our experiences with the international community," said Palestinian community co-ordinator Rami Rasheed.

A poetry reading event will also be held today at 8pm at the same venue.

Palestinian poets Omar Zidani and Mohammed Qadriya will recite popular folklore poetry known as Zajal, which is most commonly heard at wedding parties.

Two Palestinian folklore groups will also perform productions entitled Haneen (longing) and Al Kufiya (the traditional Palestinian headwear) next month.

Both will be staged at the Cultural Hall, next to Bahrain National Museum, on February 6 from 8pm.

Haneen will be conducted by 17 Palestinian singers and musicians between 25 and 40 who will perform traditional Palestinian songs.

Al Kufiya is made up of 30 children between the ages of seven and 18 who grew up in Lebanese refugee camps.

Wearing traditional Palestinian dress, the children will perform silent plays that tell of their suffering in the camps and the story of every village in Palestine.

All events are free and open to the public.

Haneen and Al Kufiya will also be performed to an audience of VIPs and ministers the following evening at the Golden Tulip in Manama on February 7.

Palestinian Ambassador Taha Abdul Qader hopes the events will appeal to all nationalities.

"Palestinians must never forget their homeland and their own history," he said. "These events have been organised to teach the younger generations and remind the older ones about the importance of heritage.

"We hope that they will strengthen unity, patriotism and keep Palestinian civilisation alive from generation to generation. "Essentially, remembering Palestinian heritage is the will of our ancestors."

Mr Abdul Qader was born in Galilee in a village near Nazareth, was forced to leave for Lebanon with his parents at the age of two.

He has lived in Lebanon ever since, at first in a refugee camp and then to Lebanon's third largest city Saida in the south.

"I hope to be in Bahrain to see peace come to Palestine and I remain wholly committed to our cause, in and outside the country," said the envoy.

Mr Abdul Qader, who too arrived in Bahrain from Lebanon last October, has thrown himself into improving ties with ministers and government officials, as well as integrating himself into the Palestinian community.

"All the activities that have happened since I arrived in Bahrain could not have happened without the strong support of the Palestinian cause from His Majesty King Hamad and the Bahraini people," he said.

"There are more than 5,000 Palestinians here, some of whom have been here for 50 years or so and have Bahraini nationality and they are very well respected and recognised in their fields."

They are mainly employed as lawyers, teachers and doctors.

Mr Abdul Qader recently marked Solidarity Day with Palestinians in Gaza with Shura Council members and MPs at a symposium at Beit Al Quran, Manama.

Speeches were delivered by Shura Council member Ebrahim Bashmi, Mr Abdul Qader, Foreign Affairs Ministry Under-Secretary Karim Al Shaker, Royal Charity Organisation secretary-general Dr Mustafa Al Sayed, Ears, Nose and Throat (ENT) consultant Dr Nabeel Tammam and activist Khalid Bucheeri.

It aimed to stress the important role played by the parliamentary group in the promotion and consolidation of relations between Bahrain and Palestine.

Friday, January 21, 2011

UN urges halt to ugly Israeli-Palestinian rhetoric

as always PLEASE go to the link to read the story in full

UNITED NATIONS – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Friday for a halt to "irresponsible rhetoric" that questions a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution and incites hatred and violence.

With a September target date looming for agreement on the outlines of a peace deal, the U.N. chief again called on Israel to freeze settlement construction on Palestinian land so negotiations can start.

"We cannot afford to lose any further time," he stressed.

Ban said the Palestinians have the right to an independent state, Israel has a right to live in peace within secure borders, and a way must be found for Jerusalem to emerge as the capital of the two states "with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all."

"There is no place for irresponsible rhetoric that calls into question these fundamentals, seeks to delegitimize the other's heritage or incites hatred and violence," he told the opening meeting of the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Ban's speech reflected growing U.N. frustration with the stalemate in negotiations. The talks stalled just weeks after restarting last September because Israel lifted a moratorium on construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians hope to form a state that includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians have been drumming up international support for recognition of a Palestinian state as early as this fall. This week, they got 122 countries to co-sponsor a draft Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. observer, told the committee on Friday the number of co-sponsors will definitely increase "as an indication that the international community is determined that Israel has to comply with its obligation with regard to settlement activities."

The United States, which has been trying to revive the stalled peace talks, is against settlement expansion but has strongly opposed Security Council involvement.

Seeking an immediate vote on the resolution would put the administration of President Barack Obama in a tough position of antagonizing most of the world, especially the Arabs, with a veto, or antagonizing Israel with an abstention.

Council members have said the Palestinians are likely to hold off until after the main Mideast mediators known as the Quartet — the U.S., the U.N., the European Union and Russia — meet in Munich, Germany, on Feb. 5 to talk about the Mideast stalemate.

Mansour indicated that the Palestinians don't believe the U.S. alone can get negotiations moving.

He said the Palestinians want the Quartet, "with the very active role of the United Nations," to take the lead and adopt decisions at next month's meeting "that could demonstrate a decisive, firm and clear leadership by the Quartet in the months ahead as we move ahead to complete a peace treaty between us and our neighbors, the Israelis, before September 2011."

"We know the international community is working very hard with us ... so that we can succeed this time," he said.

Mansour thanked the secretary-general for the "principled position" and "strong spirit" in his statement.

Ban said in his speech that the international community has gained "renewed confidence" in the past year at the Palestinians' ability to govern themselves, citing "major strides" in strengthening institutions and delivering improved governance, transparency, economic opportunity and security in areas it controls.

"I am encouraged by the World Bank's assessment that the Palestinian Authority is well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future," the secretary-general said. "It deserves recognition as a dependable partner."

Leader Salam Fayyad seeks to make Palestinian statehood inevitable

"I will never back away from this. Part of getting where we must go comes from transforming this from abstract concept to the realm of the possible. A key point of strength is to impart a sense of inevitability. That's highly transformative, both on Israelis and Palestinians. I'm betting on that. The minute you begin to equivocate, you become an analyst. I'm not an analyst. I'm immersed in this. My soul is in it. I can't project anything but full confidence. I could care less how I'm viewed. It's not about legacy. It's about a state that will be born this year. Come to me on Aug. 25 (Aug. 26 is the deadline) and I'll be saying, "We still have one day left." That's me. Unless we have the spirit to defy it, it's not going to happen. Unless we believe it, how is it going to become a reality? Let the skeptics have second thoughts. I have no Plan B. No parachute." Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad

Leader Salam Fayyad seeks to make Palestinian statehood inevitable

'It's not about legacy. It's about a state that will be born this year,' the prime minister says.

An Israeli soldier inspects Palestinian ID cards at a checkpoint in the West Bank.(AFP/File/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

A Palestinian boy stands next to Israeli left wing activists as they plant olive trees in an area that local Palestinians claim Jewish settlers uprooted olives trees last year in West Bank village of Mughaiyir, northwest of Ramallah January 20, 2011. Thursday marked Israel's Arbour day. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS AGRICULTURE)

A French security officer welcomes Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's car, arriving at the French consulate for a meeting with French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie in Jerusalem, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

An Israeli left wing activist stands next to a Palestinian man before planting olive trees in an area that local Palestinians claim Jewish settlers uprooted olives trees last year in West Bank village of Mughaiyir, northwest of Ramallah January 20, 2011. Thursday marked Israel's Arbour day. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS AGRICULTURE)

My letter to the LATimes RE Leader confounds both sides with plans for Palestinian state- Salam Fayyad believes in nonviolence

RE: Leader confounds both sides with plans for Palestinian state- Salam Fayyad believes in nonviolence and is well thought of in the international community. But Israelis don't get him and Palestinians lack faith in him.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-palestinian-fayyad-20110121,0,2741064.story?page=1

Dear Editor,

This week with so much of America's attention on Martin Luther King Jr 's I Have a Dream, plus a growing movement to honor JFK I can not help but think of citizenship- and flexing civic muscle....

Kudos to Palestine's Salam Fayyad for stepping up to do what he can to be a good citizen and an inspiring leader for Palestine. He sets a good example.

Sincerely,
Anne Selden Annab

"And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." John F Kennedy 1961 Inaugural Address

Growing Gardens for Palestine

James Zogby's 'Arab Voices' examines major US false perceptions about the Middle East

http://www.voanews.com/english/news/usa/arts/New-Book-Busts-Arab-Myths-114273089.html

James Zogby's new book points out the diversity of Arabs across the Middle East and North Africa, but finds many are united on key issues such as Palestine.Arts & Culture

New Book Busts Myths about Arabs

'Arab Voices' examines major US false perceptions about the Middle East

The United States has committed more money, troops and resources to the Middle East than to any other part of the world since the Vietnam conflict of the 1960s. Yet Americans know very little about the Arab world, and much of what they know is wrong, according to James Zogby, author of the new book, Arab Voices.

Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute - a non-profit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. - challenges what he sees as five super myths which distort Americans’ perception of Arabs.

James Zogby with a copy of his new book, 'Arab Voices. VOA - M. Elshinnawi
The first myth is that Arabs are all the same, while the second holds that there is no "Arab world." His brother John’s polling organization, Zogby International, conducted surveys in six Arab countries from Morocco in the west to the United Arab Emirates in the east. The results reveal a rich and varied landscape, with diverse sub-cultures. However, James Zogby notes, they also show a sense of belonging to a greater Arab world.

"Culture in Morocco is different than culture in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia is different than Egypt," he says. "We get a tremendous diversity of opinion about daily life and about uniqueness of one’s own country but at the same time there are these common threads that go throughout the region that are born of a common language and a common sensibility. Arabs can be as diverse as any people on earth but when Iraq was invaded they came together, when Palestine is hurting, they come together and they speak in one language and they feel and they resonate together with certain words that mean something powerful to them."

Zogby blames the American news media for the third myth, which is the false perception that Arabs despise the United States, its values and way of life.

"The notion we have is that they go to bed at night hating America, wake up in the morning hating Israel and during the day, they watch TV news fueling the hatred," he says. "In fact what we find in our polling that their number one concerns are their children, health care and education. They go to bed at night thinking about their jobs like everybody else all over the world and wake up in the morning thinking about their families. And during the day, they are watching TV to be sure, but the number-one rated shows are movies and soap operas and dramas."

Zogby also discounts the fourth myth - the idea that most Arabs are driven by religious fanaticism. According to public opinion surveys conducted across the Middle East over the past decade, mosque attendance rates are around the same as church attendance rates in the U.S. The author suggests this misperception is due to Hollywood’s portrayal of Arabs as either terrorists or corrupt oil millionaires.

"Is it fair to have an Arab who is a terrorist? Of course, there are Arab terrorists. There are Arab oil Sheiks who do awful things with their money," he says. "What we are questioning is, if the only black person on TV were a street criminal or the only Jewish person were some shyster businessman, if the only characters in other words were these stereotypes, then that is the image that sticks. The problem is there needs to be at least as many characters or types of characters as there are real images in the Arab world to balance those negatives, so that people go away with the sense that they are really not all that way."

According to public opinion surveys conducted across the Middle East over the past decade, mosque attendance rates are around the same as church attendance rates in the U.S.

The fifth super myth challenged in Arab Voices is a fundamental one: that Arabs reject reform and will never change unless the West pushes them. Zogby uses polling data to show that people across the Arab world want social and political change, but resent having it imposed on them. They aspire to their own kind of reforms. Zogby recommends that American politicians learn from Americans doing business in the Arab world.

"Businessmen are open to making a deal. They listen to the other side, in order to understand what the other side wants. They know they can’t sell unless they know the market they are selling into," he notes. "If we did our politics the way we do our business we will succeed in making peace and having good friends all over the world. I think our best public diplomats are our businessmen in the region because they are selling America everyday and they actually doing a great job of it because people want a little piece of America. They love our values, they love our culture, they love our products. They like our way of life, they just want to be a part of us, but we keep pushing them politically."

These misperceptions seem poised to impact the next generation of Americans as well. Zogby points out that the U.S. education system teaches little about Arabs and the Middle East. He argues that this knowledge gap must be overcome - and false U.S. perceptions debunked - before the United States can truly hope to win the hearts and minds of the Arab people.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

My letter to the IHT RE Palestinians, America and the U.N. by Hanan Ashrawi

RE: Palestinians, America and the U.N. by Hanan Ashrawi
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/opinion/21iht-edashrawi21.html?ref=global

Dear Editor,

Thank you for publishing "Palestinians, America and the U.N." by Hanan Ashrawi, providing Americans with much food for thought...
I very much wish that more people worldwide were more enthusiastic about endorsing and supporting a fully secular two state solution to end the Israel/Palestine conflict once and for all.

For everyone's sake- and for the sake of civilization itself- modern Middle East peace must be based on full respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Law.

UN Resolutions can help guide the way- but at the end of the day the people of Israel and the people of Palestine (and all their various supporters) have to be in charge of their own destinies- and their own discussions and day by day negotiations and business deals.

What matters most is not this upcoming UN Vote, but an actual end to the conflict.

In any case, with an eye towards actually ending the conflict, KUDOS to the U.S. diplomats and officials (including former Reagan Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci and former Assistant Secretaries of State Thomas Pickering and James Dobbins), who have written to President Obama "urging him to support the resolution, which they argue is not incompatible with negotiating an end to the conflict nor a deviation from the U.S. commitment to Israel's security." (U.N. Resolution on Israeli Settlements Puts Obama in a Diplomatic Bind)

Sincerely,
Anne Selden Annab

"And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." John F Kennedy 1961 Inaugural Address

Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:

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

2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:

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

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

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

3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:

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

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

Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.



"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

President John F. Kennedy's iconic inaugural address

"And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." John F Kennedy 1961 Inaugural Address- Great Speeches

JFK 50 Years
Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy inspired people throughout the world to rise to the challenges of their era and to achieve in ways never before dreamed possible. Today, a new generation has the opportunity to embrace President Kennedy's ideals and to take on the challenges of the next fifty years.

The new film "Let the Word Go Forth" is a re-creation of President John F. Kennedy's iconic inaugural address through many voices. Learn more about the people reciting the speech here.

JFK50 is a year-long celebration of the Kennedy presidency convened under the collaborative leadership of the JFK Presidential Library, Harvard Kennedy School, the Institute of Politics, the Kennedy Center and members of the Kennedy family. Explore this web site to experience JFK50 through stories, films, news and more.

Join us in carrying JFK's ideals and inspiration into the future.
Ask what you can do....

U.S. President John F. Kennedy delivers his inaugural address after taking the oath of office at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in this Jan. 20, 1961 AP Photo

John F. Kennedy inaugural address: How good was it?

John F. Kennedy inaugural address: How good was it?

My letter to USAToday RE Oren: Direct talks needed for Mideast peace

RE: Oren: Direct talks needed for Mideast peace
http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-01-20-column20_ST2_N.htm

Dear Editor,

Oren and Israel do the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international law, and the future of civilization itself a huge disservice by foolishly refusing to fully understand and respect the Palestinian refugees inalienable legal, moral and natural right to return to original homes and lands: Imagine if you left your home today in the USA and were denied your right to return to your own home and land (or the right to rent an apartment) because you were deemed the 'wrong' race or religion.

The best chance for building a just and lasting peace in the Middle East is to end the Israel/Palestine conflict with a secular two state solution in line with international law.

[Futhermore]
I agree that direct talks and negotiations are crucial, but I do not think it is fair to blame official Palestinian leadership (or school books) for Israel's anti-peace anti-Palestine antics... ""We are very concerned about the initiation of demolition of the Shepherd's Hotel," the Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton] declared in Abu Dhabi. She did not mince any words in her outright condemnation: "This disturbing development undermines peace efforts to achieve the two state-solution. In particular, this move contradicts the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of [occupied] Jerusalem."" Colony freeze a must for peace

Sincerely,
Anne Selden Annab
Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law , general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.

Core Issues

"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

The Arab Peace Initiative

Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:

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

2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:

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

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

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

3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:

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

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

Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

The Golden Rule

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

From Growing Gardens for Palestine: This Week in Palestine 2011 Agenda... Celebrating Jericho- Ten Thousand Years of Civilization

Growing Gardens for Palestine

2011 Agenda Jericho- Ten Thousand Years of Civilization- PDF file

2011 Agenda Jericho- Ten Thousand Years of Civilization- PDF file

Symbolism isn't Everything…But it is Something By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

http://www.miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=23063&CategoryId=13
Date posted: January 19, 2011
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Critics may say that the string of recognitions by South American countries of the State of Palestine mean nothing in practice. They might be right. Just because Brazil or Argentina say they recognize a state within the 1967 borders doesn't automatically make it true. Neither does the fact that the Palestinian flag was raised for the first time ever in Washington DC mean the Palestinians have full acceptance by the United States.

No, these gestures are mostly symbolic. In the case of the South American countries it is a show of support, a way of reminding the Palestinians that there are those in the world who back their national aspirations and refuse to wait for others to call the shots. The fact of the matter is that Palestine is still very much occupied; Israel has full control over borders, air and sea space and Jerusalem not to mention the way it gobbles up the land with more and more settlements. These things have not changed just because Guyana says it acknowledges a Palestinian state. Nevertheless, gestures such as these are not to be dismissed completely. They are, if nothing else, moral support for us and a way of keeping the Palestinian cause alive and well in the big bad world.

Many try to discredit these gestures, including what can only be called a gesture by the Palestinians in demanding a UN resolution for a halt to settlements. We all know the machinations within the halls of the United Nations that almost always end up with the United States vetoing any resolution that is perceived as even slightly anti-Israel. On BBC International's Hardtalk program, Fateh veteran and negotiator Nabil Shaath was put to the test by host, Steven Sackur. Sackur grilled Shaath on the benefits of going to the Security Council, knowing all too well that the resolution would get nowhere.

Shaath was slick, maintaining that the US has no good reason to veto a resolution on a matter it agrees with in the first place. Doesn't the United States also deem settlements illegal? Hasn't it repeatedly called on Israel to halt them? Hence, if it does use its veto, this will put the US in an awkward position whereby it will look like a hypocrite and undermine its own credibility towards the pace process.

The truth of the matter, if my analysis is correct, is that the Palestinians are seeking two things in taking this move: the first is to embarrass the US and possibly Israel (although that is not likely) and the second is to shine a light on the issue of settlements in an arena other than bilateral talks overseen by the US. If nothing else, making a stink at the UN will bring attention to the cause. Coupled with the support of many countries who believe in the Palestinians' right to a state and the futility of negotiations with Israel, there is a real opportunity to bring Palestine back into the headlines.

Perhaps that is why Israel is so peeved at countries like Brazil and Argentina. It is not about the actualization of a Palestinian state upon the mere recognition of this entity by these countries. Israel has ensured that this will never happen without its consent. At the same time, it does not like the positive attention such recognitions generate. It does not like that there are countries who pledge their commitment to a Palestinian state regardless of Israel's claims that this can only happen as a result of negotiations. It does not like the fact that more and more countries and leaders are exposing the lie of Israel's peace claims. The Palestinians have said it for years, even as they continued to negotiate with the other side. Israel does not want a just peace, it never has. Facts speak for themselves and the condition of Palestine today is as solid evidence as ever.

As for symbols such as the Palestinian flag waving over the PLO mission in Washington DC, I can say this. While most people take the sight of their national flags for granted, we Palestinians have never had this luxury. That is why it is an accomplishment – however symbolic - to see it flying in the US capital even if this has not changed the status quo of the Palestinians vis-à-vis its relationship with the US. If nothing else, it is a reminder that, "yes, we are still here and we are not going anywhere."

No, perhaps these symbolic moves will not get us anywhere on the ground. While the United Nations should ostensibly be the body to which all nations can turn to in times of need, we all know the Palestinians have not had the best of luck there. Still, if going to the Security Council brings attention to the issue and forces Israel to plead its case, this is an achievement in and of itself.

Finally, all those countries who offered their recognition of a Palestinian state will always have our heartfelt appreciation no matter what the outcome. Palestine is on the map, in reality and in the jargon of international diplomacy. One day our flag will wave alongside all the others at the UN headquarters in New York and Geneva. As for the present, last December in Brazil President Mahmoud Abbas cut the ribbon for the first ever Palestinian embassy in the Americas. I don't care what anyone says. That is something.

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.

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

VISION

An independent, democratic and sovereign Palestinian state, which grants Palestinians their basic rights, preserves their dignity, and enjoys international recognition and respect.

Real-World Obstacles to Supernatural Demand: A Classic Tale of Tragedy- By the Team of This Week in Palestine

Real-World Obstacles to Supernatural Demand: A Classic Tale of Tragedy
By the Team of This Week in Palestine


Writing an informative article about the handicraft industry in Palestine is difficult simply because there is so little quantitative information available. While extensive data exists from the year 2000, only a few, very localised studies are almost new enough to be relevant or at least illustrative of the industry. Part of the UNESCO MDG project, which is discussed in other parts of this issue of This Week in Palestine, will attempt to correct this lack of data through a comprehensive study conducted jointly with UNIFEM. But that is of little use for now, when we can only speculate on the future by using data from the past.

Although older surveys do not tell us much about the current state of the handicraft industry, what they do highlight is how dramatically the political volatility that hampers the whole of the Palestinian economy adversely affects this sector in unique ways. I hope to describe this scenario by using as much available data as possible while also filling in the gaps with a personal reflection on the challenges and promises of the handicraft industry in Palestine.
The relative “calm” of the late 1990s and early part of the new millennium saw a rise in the number of tourists to Palestine’s historical and religious sites. Pilgrims from the world over took advantage of the decrease in violence to come and buy locally produced goods such as olive wood carvings, embroidery, and religious items. In 1998, over 600,000 tourists visited Bethlehem, and by 2000, the number had increased to almost 850,000 - nearly 50 percent more than only two years before.* Had the second Intifada never occurred, it is likely that the numbers would have continued to rise at the same rate.

The unique aspect of the handicraft trade in Palestine is that religious trinkets, such as rosaries, prayer beads, Bibles, and Qurans, can be blessed in the very places where the gods and prophets of old walked and spoke. Interestingly, the place where it is bought is far more important than the actual item sold.

I remember bringing a rosary to my grandmother a few years back - one that I had bought in East Jerusalem and laid upon the stones in and around the tomb of Christ. Of the seemingly endless collection of religious paraphernalia that my grandmother owns (from Lourdes, the Vatican, Notre Dame, etc.), this simple rosary is by far her most treasured possession. She still gets excited when she has a chance to show it off to people, and she is becoming increasingly protective of it. “Don’t touch it so much, you will wear it out!” she says.

This is the magic of Palestine handicrafts; they are imbued with the supernatural. The amazing quality of the work you see and read about in this issue is important, but it takes a backseat to the fact that they are produced in the Holy Land.

Yet while the demand for Palestinian handicrafts could be said to be almost supernatural, the very real world of politics is not easily overcome. The onset of the second Intifada and the incursion of Israeli military forces into Palestinian cities and towns shocked the world and spread fear about the safety and security of further pilgrimages. Between the years 2000 and 2003, the number of tourists to Bethlehem went down from 850,000 to approximately 15,000!

Yet even after the Intifada had slashed the number of tourists visiting Bethlehem’s holy sites by almost 98 percent, the small numbers that continued to come still made up over half of the handicraft consumer market. Only 45 percent of Palestinian handicraft production is sold to markets abroad, with approximately 30 percent going to Western markets and 15 percent going to the Arab world.* People want these goods; that much is clear. But what they seem to want even more is to be here to buy them.

I had originally hoped to provide a snapshot of the handicraft industry in order to ground the rest of the articles in this issue in facts and figures. In truth it was not only the lack of data that made me want to avoid discussing the realities of Palestinian handicrafts. The economic de-development caused by the occupation affects this sector as it does every other. We have heard this story before, and it is never a happy one.

The sad story of the “supply side” of handicrafts in Palestine, however, is only one side of the coin. Whether it is useful or just fanciful, I find myself wanting to tell the other story as well. The story of my grandmother typifies well the billions of Christians, Muslims, and Jews dying to fill the streets and markets of cities throughout the West Bank and Gaza. She represents the “demand side” of the story; and if I told her that I could bring one more rosary tomorrow, she would ask for ten. If I could peel her away from the images of Palestine that she sees on her television every day and convince her to make the pilgrimage she has always dreamed of, she would buy hundreds.

This Week in Palestine.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Palestinian children play outside a tent which was erected after their house was destroyed during Israel's three-week offensive in 2008 to 2009, in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS CONSTRUCTION CIVIL UNREST)

Christian Orthodox pilgrims attend a traditional Epiphany ceremony, at the baptismal site of Qasr el Yahud, the spot where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus, near the West Bank town of Jericho, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theofilos III leads the procession to the baptismal site of Qasr el Yahud, the spot where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus, near the West Bank town of Jericho, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Christian Orthodox pilgrims arrive to a traditional Epiphany baptism ceremony, at Qasr el Yahud, the spot where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus, near the West Bank town of Jericho, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011. Just months before the official opening of one of Christianity's holiest sites to visitors, the area remains surrounded by thousands of land mines. Israel says Qasr el-Yahud will be safe, but advocacy groups warn that crowds of tourists could be in danger. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A Christian Orthodox pilgrim stands on the Jordanian bank of the Jordan river during a traditional Epiphany baptism ceremony, at the baptismal site of Qasr el Yahud, the spot where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus, near the West Bank town of Jericho, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, second right, attend a welcoming ceremony in the West Bank town of Jericho, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011. Medvedev arrived in the West Bank on Tuesday for a visit seized by the Palestinians as an opportunity to showcase their progress toward building an independent state. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, center left, and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, center right, visit at a park and museum complex in the ancient town of Jericho Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011. The complex was a Russian gift to Palestinian people and Jericho residents for the 10,000th anniversary of the city. (AP Photo/Abbas Momani, Pool) .

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas (R) shakes hands with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev following their joint press conference in the West Bank town of Jericho. Medvedev reaffirmed on Tuesday Moscow's support for an independent Palestinian state, and said there would be no peace progress without a move on settlements. (AFP/Jack Guez)

The Palestinian flag flies from the building housing the General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington. The Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington hoisted its national flag for the first time, saying it symbolized its struggle for independence. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

Seizing the Moment By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Date posted: January 17, 2011
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Palestinians are in awe of Tunisia at this very moment. So are just about every other Arab people who have long felt the bite of oppressive regimes that exercise their iron fists on their own while bending like rubber to external parties. This is not lost on these regimes, who are currently sitting in quiet fear of upheaval and revolt in their own countries. Fair enough, it should be added, given that Zein Al Abideen bin Ali held his position as Tunisian president for 23 long years before all hell broke loose.

For the Palestinians, the concept of revolt against an oppressive power is nothing new. Since the early sixties, the Palestinian revolution has continued, with its ebbs and tides, until today. Palestinians continue to warm to the idea of revolting against the Israeli occupation even as negotiations and peace talks try to find alternative ways of solving the conflict. However, revolting against the occupying power is not the subject at hand right now. The question is whether the Palestinian leadership has reason to fear a revolt from within.

This is a difficult question to answer especially since we are not yet a “free” people and can therefore not blame our own government for all the ills that befall us. It is ultimately not the leadership’s fault that Gaza is separated from the West Bank or that Jerusalem has been completely isolated from its Palestinian surroundings or that less Palestinians have jobs inside Israel because of lack of permits. Whatever blame we would like to heap on our leadership in terms of its political line, the truth is, the Israeli occupation always calls the last shot and to this, Palestinians are powerless.

However, since we did agree to the formation of a Palestinian Authority, a sort of quasi-government that would govern our internal affairs instead of resorting to an Israeli civil administration, accountability must be applied to these people in power. And it is no secret that Palestinians are not always happy with the way they are being governed.

Take for example the split between Hamas and Fateh. Hamas’ rule in the Gaza Strip has not only rendered the Palestinian Authority’s more secular philosophy of rule obsolete there but it has also introduced extremely rigid codes of conduct on a people who pride themselves on their pluralism. Most Gazans are less than happy with ridiculous decrees from the de facto government about women smoking hubbly-bubblies in public places or having to carry around wedding licenses when traveling with their own husbands in a car.

In the West Bank, while these issues are not nearly as glaring, Palestinians are continually plagued with rumors of corruption within the Palestinian leadership’s higher echelons. A few months ago, after a report about the misuse of government cars surfaced in the media, the PA was up in arms. Of the many details released, one was that President Mahmoud Abbas had nearly 200 cars at his disposal.

The good thing is that there are conscious attempts within Palestinian civil society and even within some government circles not to allow Palestine to turn into another Tunisia. The Palestinian people understand that not all matters are in the full control of their leadership, including issues such as unemployment rates and even rising food prices. However, they also understand that some issues, such as the exploitation of government funds are something that must be dealt with internally.

This is the perfect time for our leadership here in the West Bank to prove to its people that it can be something other than another oppressive Arab regime. Just yesterday, 80 new cases were referred to the PA’s anti-corruption department for investigation, including some “high profile” officials, according to a report in the Palestinian media. While this is a great first step, the fear is that the files will be lost along the road, swept under the carpet by influential bribes and bulging pockets. If that happens, we can assure ourselves that we are no different than the regimes we criticize.

Protests may very well break out in other parts of the Arab world. Truth be told, Tunisia has given hope to other peoples that the regimes which rule them are not “people-proof” and that any structure can be perforated with the will and power of the masses. In Palestine, while there is always a potential for revolt against our own leadership – especially if it does not give the people enough say in the decisions it makes – such a revolt may not happen as long as Israel is the overriding power. This is no excuse though. If we are going to be an independent state with a sound leadership, it is never too early to start practicing. As long the presence of a Palestinian government is a reality, this government has the moral obligation to serve its people in the best possible manner.

Let Tunisia be a lesson and a red flag to us all. Peoples may stay silent for a time and may overlook some of its government’s indiscretions for a while. However, if they are oppressed and feel they have been treated unjustly, they will rise up and force change. We do not want to reach this stage, neither now nor after we gain our independence. Let us set an example for others, not only in the Arab world, but beyond. It is never too early or too late to set the record straight.

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.

Palestinians raise flag at Washington DC office

2007 on an American college campus: A mural for Palestine... Children Reading Children are the bearers of the future who will carry on the deep cultural traditions of the Palestinians. Their presence on the mural represents the recognition of Palestinian children’s right to freedom, life, and education.

Palestinian artist Ismail Shammout 1930-2006: Victory Dance


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Palestinians raise flag at Washington office

WASHINGTON – In a symbolic gesture, the Palestinians have raised their flag over their diplomatic mission in Washington for the first time, as they continue a push for international recognition that is complicating the Obama administration's efforts to restart stalled Mideast peace talks.

At a brief ceremony on Tuesday, the Palestinian's chief envoy to the United States hoisted the red, green, white and black banner outside the PLO General Delegation office. He expressed hope it would help in the Palestinian quest to win support for independence with or without a peace deal with Israel.

The U.S. has long said it will not recognize a Palestinian state without a deal, but several other nations have done so and the Palestinians are seeking broader support to bring the matter to the U.N. in September.



Palestinian Flag Raised at PLO Office in D.C.

Survivors of the Holocaust have warned of neo-fascism in Israel following the emergence of a campaign to cleanse Arabs from parts of Israel/Palestine

Survivors of the Holocaust have warned of the first stirrings of neo-fascism in Israel following the emergence of a Right-wing campaign to cleanse Arabs from predominantly Jewish parts of the country.

9:00PM GMT 31 Dec 2010

Until this month, the shadowy Lehava organisation was best known for issuing an eccentric demand in March urging Bar Refaeli, an Israeli model, not to marry Leonardo DiCaprio, the American actor, because he is a gentile.

But in recent weeks it has taken on a more sinister hue by spearheading a series of actions that included a rally in the coastal city of Bat Yam to denounce Jews who rent their homes to Arabs.

In the broader political spectrum, Lehava may represent a tiny minority of malcontents but there is growing unease in Israel after the message about renting homes was effectively endorsed by 300 rabbis.

The rabbis, some of them of senior rank, signed up to an edict issued last month that declared: "It is forbidden in the Torah to sell a house or a field in the land of Israel to a foreigner."

With its undertones reminiscent of 1930s Berlin, where Jews were relegated to second-class status and denied the right to rent German-owned properties, the pronouncement has appalled Holocaust survivors.

"As someone who suffered as a Jew and underwent the Holocaust, I remember the Nazis throwing Jews out of their apartments and city centres in order to create ghettos," said Noah Flug, the chairman of the International Association of Holocaust Survivors.

"I remember how they wrote on benches that no Jews were allowed, and of course it was prohibited to sell or rent to Jews. We thought that in our country this wouldn't happen."

As part of a campaign to "purify" the land of Israel, Lehava has also invited informants to denounce Jewish neighbours who have Arab tenants by telephoning a hotline. This week it distributed a letter from a group of rabbis' wives calling on Jewish girls not to go out with Arabs, work with them or perform national service in places where Arabs are employed...READ MORE