Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The healing message of nonviolence

Janessa Gans Wilder: "Consider the message carried by local nonviolence heroes such as Sami Awad, Ali Abu Awwad, and Ayed Morrar – Palestinian Christians and Muslims who talked to me more about the need to assuage Israeli fear, trauma, and suffering than about Israeli occupation and brutality. Astonishingly, Mr. Awad, a Palestinian son of a refugee, told me, “We, the Palestinians, must do for the Jews what the international community failed to do – heal the trauma they have experienced. This would free both them and us.

It simply does not get more compassionate and powerful than that, with leaders who are able to prioritize healing the trauma of the Jewish people in the face of so much immediate suffering in the Palestinian community. It’s amazing to see that these same movements are being sidelined – their leaders imprisoned, demonstrations shut down, and many protesters injured or killed. Since 2004, 21 have died in peaceful demonstrations against Israel’s separation barrier."

Nine countries in the Middle East where 'winds of change' are blowing

The winds of change are indeed in the air, and the whole region is being swayed by them. With American encouragement, Israel should boldly engage these groups and reward their consecrated dedication to nonviolence, instead of sidelining them. Peace requires it.


After Egypt uprising, Israel can't afford to ignore nonviolent Palestinian protesters

As protests shake much of the Middle East, Israel should be less concerned with nonviolent Palestinian resistance movements than with what it would mean for them to fail. Israel should engage, not sideline, these groups. The alternatives for such a frustrated people aren't peaceful.

Professor Hala Nassar leaving Yale: “As for me, if I’ve been persecuted or not,” Nassar said. “I’ll keep it to myself.”

NELC [Yale's Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations] loses last Palestinian prof

By Zoe GormanAfter being passed over for promotion, the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations’ only Palestinian professor is leaving Yale.

Hala Nassar, assistant professor of modern Arabic culture and literature, was not promoted to associate professor this year. According to Yale’s promotion policies, Nassar — the department’s only professor of Palestinian descent and only expert on modern Palestinian culture and thought — must leave at the end of this spring.

Professor Hala Nassar will be leaving Yale after spring term.

“Palestinian people are people with a culture of their own,” Nassar said. “They have theater and music of their own … [students should see them] not only in terms of conflict and shooting and bus explosions, or in terms of Hamas and the rest of it.”

Nassar came to Yale in 2003 and served as the department’s director of undergraduate studies until 2008, when her proposal to add a modern Middle Eastern studies major was approved. Nassar said that while Yale has many political specialists and professors who work in Arab prehistory and classical literature, the department is lacking in modern Arab cultural experts.

According to the faculty handbook, cumulative time as an assistant professor and associate professor on term may not exceed nine years.

“If you could stay in untenured positions, all of Yale’s faculty would be people who didn’t get tenure,” said Deputy Provost Frances Rosenbluth of Yale’s policies. “I think that part of it makes sense; tenure is a system that was designed to make people independent thinkers.”

Department Chair John Darnell said the department will miss Nassar on a scholarly and personal level, but has “no intention of leaving that position vacant.” Darnell said he is confident that the provost’s office will approve a proposal to hire a replacement for Nassar, and hopes the approval comes sooner rather than later.

“A number of positions have lain fallow over the past year,” Darnell said of faculty hiring at Yale, “but the flood gates are beginning to open right now.”

Darnell said the department’s only other professor from Palestine or Israel is Ayala Dvoretzky, a senior lector of Hebrew. But he said a candidate’s regional origins will be secondary to his or her scholarship. Nassar said she hopes her replacement is concerned with Middle Eastern cultural identity.

“People are so caught up in the political environment,” Nassar said, “they don’t realize these people have culture and thought.”

Nassar said she tries to provide a cultural perspective based in literature rather than her own political views when discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in her courses. But Jessica Belding ’13, a modern Middle Eastern studies major who took a course with Nassar last semester and is currently taking two more, said that Nassar’s students are well aware of her political opinions by the end of a semester in her class.

Still, Belding said Nassar’s approach to studying the Middle East provides a welcome contrast to political analyses.

“Her classes give a more holistic view of the region, which is really important for anyone who wants to work in or even just understand the region,” she said.

Belding said the University has too few modern Arabic literature courses, adding that she has taken almost every class Yale has offered on the topic.

Current Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations DUS Colleen Manassa said Nassar’s course on introductory Arab thought is the most popular course for students seeking to fulfill the major’s modern Arab culture requirement. Another popular course for fulfilling the requirement is the Department of Religious Studies’ “Islam Today: Jihad and Fundamentalism,” Manassa said, adding that this course does not take Nassar’s broad, secular approach.

Manassa said the department will search for a replacement who can provide a similarly broad perspective in a course on Arab thought.

In her “Introduction to Modern Middle Eastern Studies” course this term, Nassar said, her students will examine Middle East studies scholars at risk in the United States and the legalities of “how they are persecuted on American campuses for one stand on one issue.”

“As for me, if I’ve been persecuted or not,” Nassar said. “I’ll keep it to myself.”

Nassar offered the department’s first course on Palestinian theater in 2003, titled “East Meets West: Theatre and Drama in the Arab World.” Darnell said he hopes to continue collaboration with the Department of Theater Studies after Nassar’s departure.

"For decades, opponents of American foreign policy have been able to raise the Palestinian cause as proof the United States isn't trustworthy"

Expert to discuss Palestinian, Israeli policy at University of Montana

By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian | Posted: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 9:30 pm

While Egypt and Tunisia have been overwhelmed by rapid change in recent months, negotiations between Israel and Palestinian leaders appear as bogged down as they've ever been.

That could change with some key American investments, according to American Task Force on Palestine senior research fellow Hussein Ibish. The World Affairs Council of Montana brought Ibish to speak on the subject Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the third-floor ballroom of the University of Montana's University Center.

"There's nothing we could do anywhere in the world that would accomplish as much as settling the Palestinian question," Ibish said Tuesday. "And the biggest failure we've had has been in failing to resolve this small thing."

For decades, opponents of American foreign policy have been able to raise the Palestinian cause as proof the United States isn't trustworthy, he said. For radicals of many stripes, "it's the gift that keeps on giving - it colors everything we do in a negative way."

Both the Palestinian and Israeli leadership have been in disarray for the past several years. While the Palestinians have seen their government split between the old-guard Palestinian Liberation Organization and the more radical Hamas movement, Israel's government has wavered over the issues of expanding Jewish settlements into occupied parts of the country and immobilizing Palestinian society with walls and checkpoints.

Ibish called for supporting a program of "state building" in Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This involves building hospitals, schools, business centers and a security force that can give Palestinian people the trappings of a stable society. As those institutions become more robust and customary, Ibish argued, Israel would have a better sense of what an independent Palestinian state would look like.

"This is not development aid - it's political, it sets the stage for diplomacy down the line," Ibish said. "I'm just talking about intensifying something that's already happening. It bolsters the moderates in society, and makes Israel feel better about the possibilities for resolution. It's the first new idea in 15 years."

Ibish's lecture is open to the public. Admission is $5 or free for members of the World Affairs Council and students.

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at

Reem Kelani's ululations ... Tahrir Square, Cairo, Friday 11th February

Tahrir Square, Cairo, Friday 11th February

by Reem Kelani on Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 12:58pm

All of a sudden, a massive 'sound wave' rippled across the crowds. People were screaming, shouting, yelling, laughing ecstatically, crying and kneeling on the ground......

I ululated along, and I realised that Mubarak was president no more.

Read Reem Kelani's blog in full on her website:

Follow Reem in Cairo on Twitter @miktab.

Click Here to Buy the Album

reem kelani: biography

Palestinian singer, musician and broadcaster Reem Kelani released her debut album “Sprinting Gazelle – Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora” (Fuse Records) in February 2006 to critical acclaim. Representing the culmination of twenty years’ work, which included research in Palestine, in Palestinian refugee camps and the Palestinian Diaspora into old traditional songs, Sprinting Gazelle is a fully independent production. The excellent reviews which the album has gained and which continue to flow in from across the globe are testament to its quality.

Having spent many years touring and working with musicians from the countries she visited, Reem has focussed her efforts in the UK on working with non-Arab musicians and introducing more of them to Arabic and Palestinian music.

Reem’s music works as well with an Arab audience (through her observance of the conventions of classical Arabic singing, the precision of her language and the authenticity of her research) as with non-Arabs (through the quality of the music, the structuring of the band around a Jazz rhythm section, the carefully researched sleeve notes and translations).

Instead of militant lyrics, Reem's decision to sing traditional songs or songs based on the poetry of well-known Palestinian poets is a simple and yet powerful affirmation of the existence of a Palestinian cultural identity.

Reem has built up an impressive following at grassroots level across the UK, through her work with schoolchildren, women’s groups, youth groups and community choirs.

Reem is also a regular broadcaster. She wrote and presented ‘Distant Chords’ for BBC Radio Four, featuring the music of migrant communities in the UK (Afghan, Yemeni, Kurdish, Armenian, Micronesian and Portuguese). Other programmes also include presenting ‘A Day in the Life of a Palestinian Woman’ and ‘In Praise of God’ for BBC World Service. More recently, she presented “Salome: Dance of the Seven Veils” on BBC Radio 4.

Manchester International Festival commissioned Reem in early 2007 to compose music for and to rehearse the ‘Beating Wing Orchestra’ comprised of locally based refugee and migrant musicians. The work “Paradise in Strangers” was premiered in July 2007 and was a great critical success.

Reem’s next CD project will be a tribute to the great Egyptian composer Sayyid Darwish (1892 – 1923).


Born in Manchester, England, and brought up in Kuwait, Reem qualified as a biologist in 1986 at Kuwait University. Upon her graduation and before switching to a full-time career in music, she worked for two years as an assistant marine researcher for Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research (KISR) and two years in research management for the Vice Rector of Research at Kuwait University. Reem is also a literary translator: she assisted her father Dr. Yousef Kelani in the English-Arabic translation of Manfred Ullman’s seminal book ‘Islamic Medicine’ in 1980 and she currently works with the likes of literary editor and historian Dr. Salma Khadra Jayyusi. The sleeve notes of Reem’s debut CD are another example of her translation work.

the grove dictionary of music and musicians

For the chapter entitled Palestinian Music, including Reem's biography, go directly to the Grove Dictionary website: Please note that the Grove uses the phonetic [transliterated] spelling of Reem's name: Kilani, Riim Yusuf

Abbas: Israel has no vision for peace

Ashton says international community still seeks peace deal in six months despite political turmoil in region, sacking of PA cabinet and resignation of chief PLO negotiator.

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that the current Israeli government had no vision for an end to the occupation.

Addressing Palestinians released from Israeli detention, at his Ramallah headquarters, the president said Israel continued to shut down all avenues to peace.

Abbas said the US administration pledged that negotiations launched in September would establish a Palestinian state within a year. He asked how long the international community would watch a population live under occupation if an agreement wasn't reached.

"We would be fooling ourselves to say that we are independent when there is a wall, checkpoints, arrests, killings and destruction around us," he said.

Regarding the uprisings across the Arab world, which led to the toppling of longtime leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, Abbas said Palestinians would not interfere in the internal affairs of other nations. However, he praised the determination of the Egyptian and Tunisian people, and thanked them for their support of Palestinians.

He assured the former prisoners that the plight of Palestinians detained by Israel was a priority of the Palestinian Authority.

UNRWA West Bank director plants olive trees in Burin - Festival highlights human side of life in Gaza- Zain’s UNRWA TV commercial scoops 3 top awards

UNRWA West Bank director plants olive trees in Burin
15 February 2011
Burin, West Bank

Barbara Shenstone, the director of UNRWA operations in the West Bank, joined workers from UNRWA’s job creation programme (JCP) in planting olive trees on land in the West Bank village of Burin threatened with confiscation.

JCP workers planted 360 olive trees in the presence of the representatives of Palestinian ministries, partners, and ECHO, the European Union’s humanitarian aid department.

Ms Shenstone’s participation reflects UNRWA’s continuous support for Palestinian refugees and farmers to help them protect their lands. She stressed the significance of UNRWA's partnership with local community organisations and village councils.

Protecting land

Ms Shenstone said planting olive trees was a way to protect Palestinian lands from confiscation by Israeli settlers. The activity would also attract international attention to the village, she added.

Local people were hired to plant and maintain the trees, bringing employment to the community. Planting olive trees supports the local economy, with trees a lifetime donation. UNRWA’s indicators show that products derived from olive trees provide long-term financial support for many Palestinian families.

Tree donations

Yesterday’s planting was made possible thanks to the generosity of UNRWA’s online donors, hundreds of whom took part in a survey in autumn 2010 to help the Agency find out more about its supporters around the world. In return for their time, everyone who responded to the survey had a tree planted in their name.

Sami Mshasha, UNRWA spokesperson, said: “UNRWA was able to make this lasting difference on the ground in Burin thanks to the generous gift – of time and money – of members of the public from all over the world. We at UNRWA, and the Palestine refugees we serve, thank them.”

EU | job creation | protection | West Bank

Festival highlights human side of life in Gaza
February 2011

Over the past month, the Festival of Alternative Arts has hosted a series of cultural and artistic events that have shed new light on life in Gaza.

On 25 January, UNRWA’s deputy director in Gaza, Christer Nordahl took part in a media seminar with Gazan journalist Sami Abu Salem and journalist photographer Mia Gröndahl at Al Balad Theatre in Amman.

The panel engaged in a variety of topics, touching on issues that were both expected and surprising.

The occupation. The frequent blackouts. The constant fear. The underlying flicker of hope.

Refuge and respite

Christer Nordahl, who has worked with UNRWA in Gaza for the past decade, singled out the importance of women's centres in providing much-needed refuge and respite. He also highlighted the value of UNRWA's Summer Games in allowing children to take part in recreational activities, offering them some semblance of normality amid the inhumane conditions which occupy every aspect of their lives.

Mia Gröndahl, the author of Gaza Graffiti: Message of Love and Politics, said: "These are children like any other children in any part of the world and they have the right to depend on us, on humanity, to ensure that they enjoy their childhood."

As an internationally renowned freelance journalist, Sami Abu Salem is able to travel the world outside of Gaza, but lamented the frustrating inability to cook falafel in his home due to the import restrictions placed on key ingredients.

Limits to everyday life

Under the shadow of occupation, Gazans face limitations in all aspects of everyday life, with Mia Gröndahl suggesting that many young people use graffiti to channel and express their feelings and frustrations.

The debate was one of many events under the Festival's programme, which also included photographic exhibitions, film screenings, theatre, and musical performances. The Festival was initiated by the Embassy of Sweden in Jordan, with a range of partners including UNRWA.

UNRWA also co-organised a "Street Labs" evening in partnership with Philadelphia Skateboards and 962Street, focusing on young people and street culture. The evening incorporated live music production, hip hop poetry, skateboarding and a debate on the significance of street culture. Participants from UNRWA's community development centre in Zarka attended, actively engaging in the topics discussed and emphasising the impact that participation in the centre has had on their lives.

Community-based organisations

UNRWA works with 104 refugee-run community-based organisations throughout all five fields of operation. Operated by members of the refugee community, the organisations provide a wide variety of activities, ranging from skills training and community-based rehabilitation to awareness-raising workshops for women, children and young people, and people with disabilities.

Tags: blockade | Gaza

Zain’s UNRWA TV commercial scoops 3 top awards

14 February 2011

Leading Middle East telecom operator Zain’s UNRWA TV commercial has won three prizes – best production, best director and best soundtrack – at the annual MENA Cristal Awards, held recently in Lebanon.

The prizes were for UNRWA 60 Years - It's a Wonderful Life, a 60-second film about Palestinian refugees, sponsored by Zain and produced by Lebanon-based City Films Production House.

The film was the centerpiece of a six-week regional marketing campaign across all media in the summer of 2010 to promote fundraising in support of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

The campaign, sponsored by Zain Group, created awareness for the Agency’s humanitarian work in the region, on the occasion of its 60th anniversary, in an effort to enlist financial support for the Agency’s work in the areas of health and education for the benefit of Palestinian refugees.

“This is yet another example of our diversity outside the boundaries of our core business,” said Zain Group chief commercial officer Bashar Al Arafeh.

Chris Gunness, head of communications at UNRWA, added: "With creative partnerships such as ours with Zain, we can put the Palestine refugee issue on the map as well as make the case for proper funding for UNRWA. This ad is just one example of what can be done in terms of advocacy and awareness-raising when UNRWA's creative team partners with the private sector."

A version of this article originally appeared on the news site Trade Arabia.

Tags: refugees | Zain

Statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Gaza unemployment reaches 45 per cent, says UNRWA

Lebanon: looking from the outside in

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More Arab democracy, Palestinian this time

"The biggest question mark is over the future of President Mahmoud Abbas. He has repeatedly said he would not stand in future elections, but there is no clear successor to him in Fatah or the PLO. But politicians change their minds, and standing in a free and fair election would not be illegitimate for Abbas. On the other hand, the president seems genuinely to have had enough of national leadership.

No doubt there will be efforts to convince Abbas that since there are no clear, plausible alternatives at this stage, he should reconsider his earlier pronouncements. That is especially true since it is not clear what kind of leadership and policies might emerge otherwise." Hussein Ibish

PLO confirms presentation to the United Nations of a draft resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlement activities

Anti-Settlements Draft Resolution Presented to Security Council

RAMALLAH, February 15, 2011 (WAFA) - PLO Executive Committee member and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council Hanan Ashrawi confirmed Tuesday that a draft resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlement activities and calling for all such activities to stop has been officially presented and placed on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council.

Debate and a vote on the resolution are expected to take place this week, said Ashrawi.

She said that the announcement on Monday of plans for the construction of a further 120 new settlement units in the illegal settlements of Ramot Allon and Pisgat Ze’ev in occupied East Jerusalem, and Israel’s stepped up settlement activity more generally, further reinforce the urgency of this resolution.

“Israeli exceptionalism and impunity have been sanctioned by the United States at the expense of Palestinian rights and the achievement of a just peace,” she said.

“The draft resolution is consistent with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council and international law. A veto by the United States would be seen globally as a direct affront to the international community and the requirements of peace,” Ashrawi said.

She called on the US to draw the proper conclusions from the revolution in Egypt.

“The determination and courage shown by all segments of Egyptian society these past few weeks serve as a powerful reminder that no one can indefinitely suppress a people’s yearning for and right to freedom, dignity and justice. For over 40 years, Palestinians in the occupied territory have been subjected to systematic violence and human rights violations at the hands of Israel’s occupation. All the while claiming to be the ‘only democracy in the Middle East,’ in reality Israel has maintained one of the longest and most brutal military occupations in history. It does so with full American political and financial support,” Ashrawi said.

“It is time for the United States to understand that it is precisely the same longing for freedom, dignity, democracy and human rights that motivated the Tunisian and Egyptian popular uprisings, that also animates the Palestinian struggle. Israeli violations do not just victimize the Palestinian people, they also inflame Arab public opinion against Israel’s occupation and American complicity, as well as the ineffectiveness and collusion of their own regimes.”

“It is time for Israel’s occupation to be lifted and for the Palestinian people to be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination on their own land. The adoption of this resolution condemning ongoing illegal Israeli settlement activity sends the proper signal not just to the Palestinians, but also to Arab and international public opinion,” concluded Ashrawi.


In preparation for the Palestine issue....

"In preparation for the Palestine issue she traveled to the West Bank and Jerusalem seeking an answer to the question: “What is the significance of going through a checkpoint in Palestine?” In a hard-hitting editorial she writes: “Artists, writers, thinkers, poets, musicians, dangers, theatre people, photographers and filmmakers, from the homeland and the diaspora, are activists in the truest sense. Their work, a form of resistance, emerges from wounds of loss and displacement.”"
international gallerie issue (no 25) on palestinian culture

International Gallerie was founded in 1997 by the prominent cultural entrepreneur, writer and poet Bina Sarkar Ellias as a journal dedicated to the journey of arts and ideas. Published twice a year, it has won prizes and has established an international reputation, with subscribers including top galleries, museums and universities worldwide.

"Arab citizens throughout the region are demanding governmental reform and Palestinians are no exception." Ziad Asali of ATFP

"It would be tragic if we were to look at this period in the future as yet another missed opportunity."
Asali speaks at the University of Oxford about State-Building Program
Ziad Asali

February 13, 2011 - 12:00am

For decades, the political process simply meant negotiations about the often-repeated final status issues. Hopes were raised and then dashed in extended clusters of negotiations, numerous international conferences, TV appearances and commentaries by politicians and pundits that yielded no meaningful progress toward resolution of the conflict.

Little attention was paid to what was actually happening on the ground, its impact and implications for the peace process, the need to rebuild the Palestinian society after decades of occupation especially after the devastating impact of the second Intifada, and how to prepare it for statehood.

The institution-building program of the Palestinian Authority Government which addresses these issues is surrounded by a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding. This may be a function of the very nature of the program: a political project that has its foundation in the technical aspects of building a nation.

At a first glance, the program appears to be only technical, steeped as it is – and as it should be – in security sector development, governance reform and economic policies. Indeed, what has made it so noteworthy, and so different from the traditional hollow pronouncement of reform by most Arab governments, is the fact that the program has already delivered improved security, better governance and economic growth. It is remarkable that the most successful and wide-ranging Arab reform program should happen in the most unlikely locale. Palestine, with its reality of occupation and a political culture, reflecting that reality, which has traditionally focused on liberation at the expense of governance, has accrued these elements of national strength.

Much has been said and written about Prime Minister Fayyad’s government program, and I will not repeat what you undoubtedly know. I would only like to emphasize that the judicious efforts towards reform must continue if the program’s potential is to be realized. This is a political program par excellence in terms of its ultimate objectives, impact, and what is needed to sustain it. It is precisely because of these political implications that the world must provide the Palestinians with the necessary financial and technical support needed to properly implement reforms.

From its very inception, the entire program of building Palestinian institutions and a sovereign state has been explicit and unapologetic about its objective: the Palestinians are building their institutions under the occupation with the ultimate aim of ending the occupation. If the project becomes – or is seen to become – a tool of maintaining the status quo and beautifying the occupation, it will be abandoned – not only by the Palestinian public, but by the very leaders who initiated this program.

This is an inspirational and aspirational program the credibility of which is based on building concrete as well as systemic facts on the grounds while it generates support. It has already had an undeniable political impact both domestically among Palestinians and upon the foreign policy realm.

Domestically, it is helping to shift Palestinian political cultural from the understandable yet ultimately self-defeating sense of victimhood and entitlement into one of self-empowerment, where adversity is seen as challenges to overcome. Since the program was initiated in August 2009, the two thousand projects already implemented offer clear evidence that a good portion of Palestinians’ fate lies in their own hands. This ongoing paradigmatic shift is changing what Palestinians expect from themselves and their governing elites and is introducing new political criteria for judging the success or failure of political actors.

Critics have claimed that this program has brought nothing new and is nothing more than a political theater. This assertion cannot withstand the test of reality, as can be witnessed by anyone who has regularly visited the West Bank over the last decade. Nor is it consistent with the assessment of international organizations like the World Bank which have judged the reform trajectory sufficient to form the foundations of a vibrant Palestinian state.

Arab citizens throughout the region are demanding governmental reform and Palestinians are no exception. Finger pointing, complaints and rhetoric in lieu of action have become unacceptable responses by the leaders. The public need for good governance which provides both accountability and competence must be met. Appointing cabinet members qualified to meet these needs, as well as holding Presidential, Legislative and Municipal elections are expected by the public.

In foreign policy terms, the enhanced security developments have enabled the resumption, though not the continuation, of peace negotiations. The state and institution-building program, which has initially received some support in Israel because it was perceived as consistent with what was called “economic peace” has increasingly been viewed as a threat. However, a significant segment of the Israeli military and security establishment, witnessing a new, deep-seated doctrine and professionalism of the Palestinian security forces, has begun to advocate for the program within the Israeli establishment.

The institution-and state-building needs political decisions to protect it. In terms of the Palestinians, the greatest obstacles to implementation in areas under PA control have been the resistance from some within the old Fatah establishment and the security challenges of Hamas. Fatah has to understand that the success of this program, while it might undermine its networks of patronage, is a success for the national-secular Palestinian project and will benefit all moderates.

Israel for its part needs to understand the stability and security that such a project brings about. In order to secure its stated national project of achieving a democratic state as a homeland for Jewish people, Israel must break out of the habit of denying the Palestinians access to land and tightening its squeeze on the ground and the people. Institution-building should be insulated from the diplomatic squabbles of the negotiations by willful political decisions and oversight by the Quartet and its constituent members.

Most importantly, the program must produce political dividends in order to be sustainable. The Palestinian public must feel that they are moving towards statehood and an end to the occupation. Otherwise, the institution-building process becomes vulnerable to accusations of beautifying the occupation. These charges can only be answered by political deliverables foremost among these is a credible peace process. However, even in prolonged periods of overt diplomatic impasse, progress can be shown through steady extension of Palestinian authority over expanded areas in the West Bank, as well as curtailing and then stopping Israeli forces’ incursions in Palestinian cities and towns. In the meantime, statistics show that the numbers of Palestinians who go back to live in Palestine is slightly more than those who leave it- a significant reversal of a trend that lasted for many years.

The international community needs to treat this program as much more than a development project handled by development agencies. It is an essential component of peacemaking that requires both financial and political support at the highest levels of foreign policy-making. Defining a two-year time horizon, demonstrable achievements on security, governance and the economy, as well as an energetic Palestinian diplomacy have created a global sense that Palestinian statehood is inevitable.

Recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere have demonstrated that the Arab public is no longer willing to overlook corruption, mismanagement and bad governance. The international community must learn that stability cannot be maintained at the expense of responsible governance based on rule of law, functioning institutions and viable economies. The Palestinians seem to have anticipated this through a pioneering program that is bringing Palestine closer to independence even as it starts providing the public with improved governance.

The program is still taking root, but it needs to be strengthened because it holds great promise to the Palestinians and to the region. It would be tragic if we were to look at this period in the future as yet another missed opportunity.

Ziad J. Asali
Remarks at the Said School of Business.
Oxford, U.K.
February, 13, 2011

Sliman Mansour: The Palestinian artist whose work gave visual expression to the cultural concept of sumud.

Sliman Mansour (Arabic: سليمان منصور‎, born 1947), is a Palestinian painter, considered an important figure among contemporary Palestinian artists. Mansour is considered an artist of the intifada whose work gave visual expression to the cultural concept of sumud.[1]

Monday, February 14, 2011

The upsides of Egypt's revolution by Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post

"...So the first benefit of a democratic Egypt will be a government that will have to take responsibility for its policies, instead of tacitly blaming them on the United States - and extracting unnecessary bribes from Washington. It will have to defend its policies to its own people - which means, for example, that it will have an incentive to check rather than promote anti-Semitic propaganda.

A second benefit should be the end of an era in which U.S. administrations were blamed by Arab media and much of the public for torture, censorship and other repression. That connection not only has fueled anti-Americanism in the region but has also motivated terrorists such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian who is al-Qaeda's second in command.

The United States used to be tarred with the crimes of dictatorships in Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey, too. Now all of those countries, as democracies, mostly respect human rights - and still have friendly relations with the United States. Few blame Washington for their policies. Sometimes they are difficult to work with, and sometimes they vote the wrong way in the U.N. Security Council. But they share U.S. values - and they are enemies of terrorism. A democratic Egypt is more likely to follow their course...READ MORE

The upsides of Egypt's revolution

Present and Future: The Urgency of Children’s Rights in Palestine- DCI "Our children are our future... But our children are our present, too" and Future: The Urgency of Children’s Rights in Palestine
By Rifat Odeh Kassis
Our children are our future. This is a common idea, easily borrowed for slogans and sayings; an idea with which, I suspect, most people in the world would agree.

But our children are our present, too. The problems they encounter, the challenges they face, reveal a diagnosis of the problems and challenges afflicting society itself.

Sixty-three years into Israeli occupation, the state of Palestinians’ human rights is grave, and the state of Palestinian children’s rights is graver still. In a situation dominated by military control, violence, intimidation, fragmentation, and the violation of basic rights to free movement, education, health services, and so forth, all Palestinians have seen their liberties constantly violated and denied - and children, growing up in this atmosphere with all the toxins it contains, are the most severely affected.

Defence for Children International - Palestine Section (DCI-PS) seeks to provide resources, support, empowerment, and hope to Palestinian children and their families in the midst of this environment. DCI-PS is the Palestinian chapter of the international DCI movement, which works to protect and promote children’s rights through 45 national sections across the globe. Founded in 1991 and staffed by a dedicated team of employees and volunteers, our main office is located in Ramallah, though we work throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Our vision is a Palestinian community that is fit for all children: a community that is free and independent; a community in which justice, equality, and respect for human dignity prevail; and a community in which children can enjoy and exercise their human rights without any kind of discrimination. In our work and our advocacy, we prioritise the child’s best interests above all, and emphasise children’s own right to participation: we encourage and act upon the belief that children themselves are fully capable of articulating their needs, of participating in the social processes that honour those needs, and thus of acting as true agents of social change.

Our work at DCI-PS is structured according to our three central roles: to document (we have a monitoring and observing role); to defend (we provide legal representation for children in Israeli prisons and children in conflict with the Palestinian law, advocate for their rights, and seek accountability from primary duty-bearers); and to empower (through capacity-building initiatives and work with others, e.g., networking, coordination, and cooperation with other governmental and non-governmental bodies).

DCI-PS’s legal and advocacy work seeks - among many other goals - to improve the protective environment for children within the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (this includes assisting in developing a Palestinian juvenile justice system in accordance with international standards); monitoring and documenting the conditions of children in detention within both the PA and Israeli systems; representing Palestinian minors in Israeli military courts; providing legal and psychological support to children in conflict with the law and to their families; producing advocacy materials about discriminatory Israeli governmental and military policies; and strengthening the programmatic capacities of child-focused community-based organisations working alongside us in the Palestinian context.

And what does this context contain? In other words, what is the reality experienced by Palestinian children, and what are the primary obstacles to the true fulfilment of their rights?

The detention policies of the Israeli state. Among the most egregious aspects of Israel’s detention policy overall is its treatment of child prisoners. While military regulations active in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) technically define a child of 16 as an adult (and while this in itself defies the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which defines an adult as 18 years old), in practice, children as young as 12 are tried in military courts, with 14-year-olds often being tried as adults. Children are routinely grouped with adults in detention, and neither Israel nor the PA has juvenile courts. Starting from the Second Intifada, Israel began to utilise administrative detention against children; since that time, too, the arrest and detention of children has become more rampant and systemic, with around 350 to 430 child prisoners held each month.

As of December 2010, there were 213 children in detention; 30 were between 12 and 15 years old; one child was held under administrative detention (which means being arrested and detained with neither charge nor trial, justified by administrative order instead of judicial decree). The most common charge for children in detention is stone-throwing. As of October 2010, Jerusalem police are implementing a policy of increased/extended house arrest for children charged with throwing stones, as well as high fines for their families, in an attempt to “discourage” this activity.

Violence and abuse during detention. In addition to regularly suffering similar abuses as adult prisoners - beatings, humiliation, being painfully shackled, etc. - child prisoners are subjected to many tactics designed to exploit their young age and intimidate them into confessions. These illegally obtained confessions are often used as evidence in the military court system, leading to the convictions of about 700 Palestinian children each year. In Silwan, a flashpoint neighbourhood in East Jerusalem (22 homes are under threat of demolition by the Jerusalem municipality, and the neighbourhood contains particularly virulent settlement activity), 76 percent of children arrested report that they were subjected to some form of physical violence during arrest, transfer, or interrogation. Their reports include accounts of slapping, punching, kicking, beating with a rifle, and having their hands painfully restrained for hours at a time. Children are routinely interrogated in the absence of their parents.

Settler violence. During the period from March 2008 to July 2010, DCI-PS documented 222 settler attacks against Palestinians, causing 364 injuries - 93 of them suffered by children. Half of these attacks occurred in or around the city of Hebron. In investigations/analyses of 38 such attacks against children, it was found that settlers opened fire in 13 of the cases (killing 3 children, injuring 10); in 8 cases, soldiers participated, ignored the events, or punished the victims rather the attackers.

Targeted shootings. Each day in the north of Gaza, close to the border fence that separates it from Israel, scores of boys and men search for building gravel and other materials that could be used for construction - another consequence of the blockade and its accompanying shortage of work and resources. During the period between 26 March and 23 December, DCI-PS documented 23 cases of children who had been shot by Israeli soldiers while collecting gravel between 50 and 800 meters from the border fence.

Domestic abuse. Many cases of physical and psychological violence, including sexual abuse, go unreported within the oPt - often due to deeply entrenched social stigmas that prevent families from openly addressing such problems. Even when addressed, many cases of domestic abuse are mediated informally and never reach official institutions or trained professionals.

Lack of effective protection. Within the PA, the legislative framework that regulates child protection at the domestic level is both outdated and poorly enforced. Although the PA adopted the Palestinian Child Law in 2004, an important first step toward the condemnation of violence against children, the scope of this legislation is limited in terms of the protection it actually provides. For example, it does not stipulate precise penalties for violations of the law, nor does it adequately allocate responsibilities among primary duty-bearers.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is the main body responsible for overseeing the oPt’s child protection mechanism, but it doesn’t have a sufficient number of protection centres or officers under its supervision to fully accommodate the number of children who require protection; likewise, collaboration with other governmental and non-governmental bodies (e.g., to strengthen inter-ministerial child protection policy) leaves much to be desired. The oPt also lacks an adequate juvenile justice system: the mechanisms that exist for dealing with children in conflict with the law are outdated, and its protection methods and resources do not meet international standards.

I could go on. The problems are seemingly endless; the violations are appalling; our present reality is, clearly, a troubled one.

Yet working with DCI-PS - with my impassioned colleagues, with other organisations determined to make a difference, with children themselves and their remarkable strength - reminds me every day that we must not resign ourselves to this reality. Indeed, we must change it. And we can, little by little, child by child, family by family, lawyer by lawyer, law by law … in collecting affidavits from children and ensuring that their voices be heard; in representing children in court who would not otherwise have been defended; in advocating internationally for the rights of children in, for example, Gaza, a place so painfully inaccessible to most of us in person and so easily neglected by the world; in collaborating with both governmental bodies and other NGOs to gradually effect changes in the very institutions - and mentalities - that exist with respect to children’s rights; it is clear that we are all, both children and adults, growing and changing.

There is a great deal of work to be done before we can confidently say that we have “a Palestinian community that is fit for all children.” In the meantime, when we remember that our children are both our present and our future, we can work together in sharing our experiences, energies, and abilities to strengthen both.

I invite you to visit the DCI-PS website,, to learn more about our work - and about the children we are working for.

Rifat Odeh Kassis is president of Defence for Children International Executive Council - Geneva, and general director of Defence for Children International - Palestine Section.

"International human rights law and international humanitarian law are not negotiable. No individual or state can be considered exempt..."

Statement by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Statement by Navi Pillay

11 February 2011

Good afternoon,

It is a great pleasure to be here, on my first visit to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel since I took up office as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

I was received with courtesy by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, meeting with both President Shimon Peres and President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and a number of Ministers, state officials and other interlocutors in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). I would like to express my deep appreciation for the good cooperation which has characterized this visit.

I met Palestinian victims of human rights violations in a variety of locations in the oPt, including East Jerusalem and several towns and villages in the West Bank and Gaza. I and my team also met with victims in Sderot, West Jerusalem and the Negev desert. They explained their extreme hardships to us with great patience and dignity, and left me with a profound impression of the difficult human rights situation of so many civilians, because of the conflict, occupation and discriminatory laws and practices.

I also had very informative meetings with four different groups of exceptionally dedicated human rights defenders in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza City.

Collectively, my many interlocutors raised a wide range of complex multi-layered human rights issues and situations, intertwined with the ever-present, and ever complicating, security concerns and political considerations.

As High Commissioner, my mandate is independent and impartial and my comments, reports and actions are always firmly rooted in international human rights law. I do not do politics, I do law. I am particularly concerned about whether or not the rule of law is being applied in line with international standards.

With regard to human rights in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), I have one paramount concern, which has been reinforced by what I’ve seen and heard during my visit. This is that the politics of conflict, peace and security are constantly leading to the downgrading, or setting aside, of the importance of binding international human rights and humanitarian law.

International human rights law and international humanitarian law are not negotiable. No individual or state can be considered exempt, if they violate the law.

I wish now to outline some of those international legal principles, relating to the occupation of Palestinian territory, before moving on to some more specific issues both in the oPt and in Israel itself....READ MORE

UNWRA's Isabel de la Cruz: "I take aim and shoot all over the place, looking for the human inspiration for our “Peace starts here” campaign."

Lebanon: looking from the outside in

By Isabel de la Cruz

February 2011

I have been living in the Middle East for over 20 years, most of the time working with Palestine refugees in the West Bank, sometimes with UNRWA, sometimes not. I have been to Jordan and Syria and the beaches of Taba, the Dead Sea and Tel Aviv, but I had not yet been to Lebanon. Having been transferred to work with UNRWA’s Public Information Office at headquarters two years ago, and therefore covering all of UNRWA’s five fields of operations, it was time to visit this enigmatic country of beauty and contradictions.

My brief was to photograph the refugee camps and its people. The refugees. Not an easy task when you only have three days to cover six camps. Trying to capture their soul, their essence will be tricky. In three days, all I will be is a spectator behind a lens, looking from the outside in, but it’s what I’ve been given and what I’ve got to work with.

I crossed into Lebanon from Syria and approached Beirut from the south, passing through a tightly packed neighbourhood presenting a cacophony of contrasting impressions in impossibly adjacent settings: a Maronite church on a street lined with political billboards; martyrs’ posters dating from this war or the other, hanging from lamp posts that divide lanes of Range Rovers, Mercedes and BMWs. The soundtrack is peppered by the sound of a squillion cheap mopeds, the air is heavy with late-summer Mediterranean heat framing giant billboards that host glitzy advertising campaigns for Lebanon’s francophone high-society: Beyrouth Souks!

Passing by the car window on the right is Shatila refugee camp.

A poster in English reads: “We will never forget”.

After some refreshments at UNRWA’s Field Office, I’m off to do my job: Shatila and Burj Barajneh camps. After some 20 years in Palestine, this is a totally different reality. We are a couple of kilometres from the shoreline, maybe three. As I photographed my way through the narrow alleyways, with barefoot kids and dripping laundry lines, I ask UNRWA’s camp services officer if the communities mix: “Do the refugees ever walk along the corniche?” With great patience, he responds that for these kids, the camps are their life, their universe. They know nothing else. Hoda, one of UNRWA’s public information officers in Lebanon, adds that these kids dream of one day seeing the sea.

As I smell the air heavy with salt, I tell myself: “Silly question”.

We walk past posters of Abu Ammar and Abu Jihad and I realise something: 1948 is everywhere. Every picture on the wall and every writing on the wall. Street names and school names. Ramallah school here, Lubbiya street over there. In Lebanon, the Palestine refugees are still Palestine refugees.

They are not at home away from home, nor have they blended in with their surroundings. They are actually still in Palestine with their hearts and souls and minds - and waiting to go back.

I take aim and shoot all over the place, looking for the human inspiration for our “Peace starts here” campaign. Hoping to find it around the next corner, always. Still looking. Maybe tomorrow in Nahr el-Bared or the next day in Tyre....READ MORE

Let US see Al Jazeera... "If only we could tune in live."

"The events in Egypt, culminating in President Mubarak’s exit, are the beginning of an unpredictable narrative in the Middle East. American news outlets will return home. But, the story continues throughout the region. If only we could tune in live." Juliette Kayyem
Juliette Kayyem is a former homeland security adviser for Massachusetts and most recently served as assistant secretary at the US Department of Homeland Security.
Employees of the English-language satellite news channel Al Jazeera work in the control room in Doha, Qatar. The Egyptian crisis may provide the news channel its best chance yet to capture a larger share of the US audience. (Reuters)

Let US see Al Jazeera

Cable companies have resisted adding Al Jazeera English to the lineup

Israeli forces demolish more Palestinain homes again

Ma'an Image
In photos: Demolished village inspected

MaanImages/Mustafa Abu Dayeh

On 9 February, Israeli forces demolished six residential structures and 21 animal pens in the community of Khirbet Tana in the Nablus governorate.

According to numbers provided by the UN, the demolitions displaced six families (52 people) and affected a total of 106 people. The demolition was the third time since January 2010, and the fourth time since 2005, a UN report noted.

A statement from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said humanitarian organizations "are currently working on assessing basic needs and providing an emergency response."

On 11 February, when these photos were taken, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad visited the area

In 2008, the community, with the help of the Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights, lodged a petition with the Israeli High Court of Justice, requesting the preparation of an adequate planning scheme for the village that would allow the issuance of building permits. The Court rejected the appeal in January 2009, and, shortly thereafter, the community again began receiving demolition orders.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Experience traditional Palestinian hospitality, culture and cuisine at the Arab Women's Union Guesthouse in the heart of historic Beit Sahour

Welcome to the Arab Women's Union Guesthouse! We are excited about your visit and hope you will enjoy your stay with us where you will experience traditional Palestinian hospitality, culture and cuisine. Located in the heart of historic Beit Sahour, our guesthouse has a lobby, air conditioning in every room ( still not installed yet ) , a dining room for visitors and locals to meet and chat, 15 rooms, 33 beds, a full private bathroom in every room, and a beautiful balcony. The only part missing is you!


The Arab Women Union was initiated in 1956 by a group of local women. Their main objective was to support the woman role in the community and enrich her position as a lead force. The first building was constructed in the same year and was used as the main centre of the Arab Women Union and also served as a day-care place for children. The project was the Union´s first activity and targeted the working women.

Throughout the years the Women Union´s activities were expanded and besides the day-care they started a rehabilitation centre for disabled “basma Center”, and a Kindergarten, a multipurpose hall for social and educational events and a guesthouse .

Because the vast majority of services offered at the Arab Women's Union are free, the guesthouse's mission is grounded in providing income for the Union as the guesthouse is the main income generator. It is not just an income generator for the Union and its subsequent programs like the childcare program and Al-Basma, but also for the women who work here. All funds generated by the guesthouse are given to the Union as a way to improve the overall economy in Beit Sahour, provide jobs to Palestinian women and support the Union's existing programs.

To read more about who the Arab Women's Unions and who the guesthouse serves, click here.

My letters regarding PBS & "The free flow of ideas and debate [that] helps us participate in the political process as informed citizens."
letter i just sent to my elected officials
Public TV and Radio Matter to the We the people of America


Please support funding for public broadcasting.

Federal funds are an important part of keeping the arts and sciences alive and well- and relevant... $1.35 per citizen per year is a small price to pay for the immense amount of quality programming PBS & NPR provide.

My local public television and radio stations are crucially important to me and to the 170 million Americans who tune into various public broadcasting services each month, plus all visitors who might want to listen to or watch something more intellectually stimulating, aesthetically appealing and culturally important than the barrage of lowest common denominator trash programming and paid infomercials that tend to dominate most all of America's commercial TV.

Furthermore, the local community outreach and uplift aspect of our public TV & radio improves the quality of every conversation: High quality, educational, non-commercial highest common denominator content is far too valuable to far too many people in far too many different ways to lose.

Please do all you can to keep funding PBS & NPR.

Anne Selden Annab

The free flow of ideas and debate helps us participate in the political process as informed citizens.

PBS Ombudsman- What's Next for Post-Mubarak Egypt?

Dear PBS,

Earlier today, responding to the 170 million Americans for Public Broadcasting campaign I wrote my elected leaders asking that they don't cut funding.

I sincerely thank you for all the quality programming you provide. In particular, I can not help but be immensely grateful for the calm and intelligent approach taken concerning the recent events in Egypt. I very much appreciated PBS Newshour's probing "What's Next for Post-Mubarak Egypt?
AIR DATE: Feb. 11, 2011

I like that Arab and Arab American voices are rising up to help be a bridge between East and West, connecting "us" and "them" into a collective WE, world citizens willing to flex our civic muscle for everyone's sake.

In Lebanon's Daily Star I recently read a fascinating op-ed on how In the information age, the nature of power is changing : "Conventional wisdom has always held that the state with the largest military prevails. In an information age, however, it may be the state (or non-state) with the best story that wins. Today, it is far from clear how to measure a balance of power, much less how to develop successful survival strategies for this new world." Joseph S. Nye

I believe that this new world, and the marketplace of ideas- and stories- is well served by the high caliber of dialogs and discussions and high quality programming that PBS provides, in hopes of shaping better polices and empowered citizens here there and everywhere.

Anne Selden Annab


PBS Newshour
What's Next for Post-Mubarak Egypt?


As President Mubarak steps aside and the military assumes control, Egypt faces numerous obstacles as it transitions to democracy. Jeffrey Brown talks with Harvard University's Tarek Masoud, Tufts University's Rami Khouri and Hisham Melhem of Al-Arabiya TV about what's ahead for Egypt's political sce
ANALYSIS AIR DATE: Feb. 11, 2011

After Egypt's 'Cosmic' Day, Will Army Usher in Democratic, Civilian Government?