Saturday, June 11, 2011

This Week in Palestine: Indigo Plant, Pomegranate, and Saffron Flowers … A Festival of Colours

Picturesque Palestine A Palestinian Icon by Palestinian Artist Nabil Anani, 2010
George Al Ama Collection

Coloured silk threads from the late nineteenth century
Indigo Plant, Pomegranate, and Saffron Flowers … A Festival of Colours

A traditional Bedouin Jewellery -late nineteenth century.

Side skirt-panel, Majdal dress - first quarter of the twentieth century

Chest Panel Kabeh, Majdal dress - first quarter of the twentieth century

Side skirt-panels, Beit Dajan dress - first quarter of the twentieth century

front skirt-panel Hijir, Hebron bride dress - c. 1920

By George Al Ama and Nada Atrash, with contributions from Maha Saca

The traditional Palestinian costume: a composition of colours that not only expresses the harmonious taste of an owner and the skills of an experienced embroideress but is also an authentic mixture of cultural heritage and identity. The colour of both the textile and the embroidery play a defining role in distinguishing a woman; they indicate her native region and reflect her social and marital status.

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the choice of colours that were used to dye the threads was dictated by the availability of natural dyes. Various plants, insects, and seashells were used in the process of dying. This profession - a major business in some Palestinian towns - was carried on by certain families who kept the secret formulas to themselves. Although chemical dyes started to appear in the early twentieth century, some of the dyers continued to use natural dyes, magical blends that still hold their vivid effects compared to the chemical dyes that tend to fade quickly.

Wide selections of dyestuffs were at the dyers’ disposal. Red, a predominant colour in Palestinian embroidery, was worn by married women and was a reflection of a mature sexuality. Given that it was a symbol of menstrual blood, it was socially unacceptable for unmarried girls and widowed women to wear it. The red was made from crushed insects and pomegranate or the roots of the madder plant.

Blue, a discrete colour in Palestinian culture, was commonly worn by unmarried girls, as well as women in the transitional period that follows wearing black after a time of mourning. Indigo plant, from the Jordan Valley, was used to produce all shades of blue; a widowed woman, after the mourning period, would dye her dresses with indigo plant and wear them for the rest of her life, expressing her sadness over the loss of her husband and marking a return of pre-marital virginity. If a widowed woman had the will to remarry, she would add red-coloured embroidery to her indigo-blue dress, and if she desired to have children, she would also add patterns of embroidered dolls.

Murex is a type of shellfish that was first used by the Phoenicians (which means purple in Greek) to produce the colour purple in the land of Canaan (which also means purple). It continued to be used by the Palestinians for the same purpose, a practice that links them back to their Canaanite roots. The royal or imperial purple made from murex shells reflected luxury and was most common on the coast of northern Palestine. This dye was greatly prized because it does not fade; rather it becomes brighter and more intense with weathering and sunlight.

Saffron flowers and vine leaves were used to produce various shades of yellow; brown oak bark produced shades of brown; and sumac - a bush whose berries are used in food - produced a yellow-green colour. Other wild flowers, leaves, and tree barks were used to produce various shades of dyestuffs popular in the area, and were sometimes mixed with alum, salt, or vinegar to set the dye.

Using colours to identify the region where a dress was embroidered is a very easy task for a connoisseur of Palestinian costumes; in fact, it is one of the main indicators of the dress’s origin. In addition to the patterns, individual colours symbolise different meanings, and various combinations reflect originality and local traditions. The intensity of the embroidery, the colour schemes, the shape, and the type of textile used in a dress can help to identify its area of origin.

Villages around Jerusalem adopted muted to bright pastel colours, which were embroidered on various colours of Damascus textile. The Ramallah area tended to concentrate on using various shades of red: the dark to bright reds were combined with black on a natural background; a deep-pink colour in Ramallah dresses is believed to be an influence from Bethlehem and Jerusalem where a similar colour was fashionable in the early-twentieth century.

Gold and silver cords embossed on black, navy blue, or wine backgrounds were the main characteristics of a Bethlehemite dress. Its appearance is rendered more striking by the nature of the material itself, which is striped in various colours, and by the traditional sleeve pieces which are composed mostly of red and yellow silk. The saying from the early 1900s, “She shall be married with the red and yellow” (bil ahmar w bil asfar), refers to the red and yellow silk of the bridal dress and means, “She shall be married with all the best” or “all that she should have.”

A scheme of reds embroidered on a natural or black linen background distinguished the area of Jaffa, where many colours were also integrated in the embroidery; bright shades of scarlet and crimson red were preferred along the central coastline as well as in the southern plains and Hebron hills. A deep maroon-red was dominant in the early thirties in the dresses of Beit Dajan and was mixed with touches of green, mauve, and orange.

An outstanding mixture of pale pastel silks characterised the dresses of northern Palestine, and contrasting bright colours on a plain or muted, shadowy, wide-striped, hand-woven majdal or gauze cloth were the major characteristics that distinguished the costumes of the southern areas. Bedouin women tended to wear a simple all-black dress and decorate it with jewellery rather than embroidery, although the edging or traditional piping was integrated into the costumes.

Despite the different cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds that have influenced the colours of Palestinian embroidery, such as the Canaanite, Byzantine, and Ottoman cultures, personal experience and traditions stamped every single piece. A dress is a document that tells the story and the identity of the woman who made it. Some scholars believe that colours have magical effects: the white was associated with increasing the production of the mother’s milk and the blue with protecting against evil.

An enormous amount of information related to the various colours used in Palestinian embroidery was lost or never recorded, but still the richness of colours and patterns, and the absence or presence of uniformity in shades of one dress were evidence of its owner’s wealth and creativity and a model of pleasant harmony.

George Al Ama and Nada Atrash are part of the Research and Training Unit at the Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation - CCHP. George and Nada can be reached at

Maha Saca is the founder and director of the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem (

Photography and documentation by Rami Rabea Rishmawi. All garments documented in the article are part of the Maha Saca collection. (

A Palestinian protestor waves his country's national flag during clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Dair al-Hatab. Israel's foreign ministry will launch a diplomatic offensive in a bid to foil Palestinian plans to gain United Nations recognition for a state in September, the Haaretz daily reported Friday.(AFP/File/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Ukraine-based Palestinian artist Dr Jamal Badwan on Wednesday unveiled the biggest oil painting in the world in a public park in Kiev

Name: Jamal Said Badwan.
Date of Birth: 15/06/1958.

Palestinian artist unveils world's largest oil painting

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Ukraine-based Palestinian artist Dr Jamal Badwan on Wednesday unveiled the biggest oil painting in the world in a public park in Kiev.

Palestinian Authority Minister of Tourism Khloud Daibes and hundreds of Ukrainians and Palestinians attended the show.

The 310-square-meter painting portrait is expected to enter the Guinness Book of World Records. A Dutch artist currently holds the record, for a 210-square-meter oil painting.

Badwan told Al-Jazeera's Arabic-language website that the painting was inspired by Noah's Ark.

He painted the earth surrounded by people of all ethnicities, panicking as a huge flood approaches. They are led to safety by a dove through Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and a famous Kiev church.

U.S Artists Hurdle Over Israel’s Barrier: Breaching the Wall
June 10, 2011 Nico Colombant | Washington, D.C. Artist Helen Zughaib takes a peek around her piece 'Another Wall,' June 2011 Photo: VOA - N. Colombant

The barrier separating Israel from West Bank Palestinian territories is the theme of a Washington exhibit by a dozen U.S. and Canadian-based artists. Each gives a different representation of what the artist views as an obstacle to peace.

The curator at the non-profit and non-partisan Jerusalem Fund Gallery, Dagmar Painter, shows one of the pieces called Twisted Rope, an 18-meter rope made up of men’s headdresses, women’s garments and other fabrics.

“The idea of this piece is that it is a rope long enough for someone to throw over the wall, and then two people could climb one on each side and meet at the top,” said Painter.

Other pieces include pictures of a checkpoint sign made to look like bricks, a tsunami wave breaking down barriers, and a doll inside a sycamore trunk.

The exhibit is called Breaching the Wall.

Israelis commonly refer to the more than 500-kilometer and still gradually lengthening barrier as a separation, security or anti-terrorist fence. Some sections are made up of concrete slabs up to eight meters in height, while other parts of the barrier are barbed wire and electrified fencing.

Lebanese-American artist Helen Zughaib made a piece called Another Wall, which lines up 20 intricately designed miniature panels. Her inspiration was Palestinian embroidery tradition.

“One woman can read another women’s dress and can tell what village she is from by these beautiful intricate motifs that have been carried on from generation to generation,” she said.

Zughaib said she feels the longer the barrier extends, the more these traditions are at risk.

“I think that what a lot of people hear about the wall is that it keeps terrorism out and acts of terror, but in reality it does a lot more than that," she said. "It really does separate people from land, and separate people from their livelihoods, so it affects them so much. I think that part does not necessarily come across. Once you see it you become very aware that the wall does really encroach on people’s lives.”

Several years ago, Zughaib stayed in east Jerusalem, while attending a workshop in the West Bank, and had to cross three of the barrier’s checkpoints in both directions.

Zughaib said art can help eliminate a barrier she views as going against the aim of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.

"I think the more people speak up about it, write about it, take photographs of it, paint it, talk about it, get it out there, to a younger generation, I do think eventually it will come down," she said. "I do no think people are meant to live with walls, so I am optimistic, but I am not sure I will see it in my lifetime, but I hope I do.”

In 2004, the International Court of Justice issued an opinion against the barrier, also calling it a wall, and saying it was contrary to international law. But Israel’s government rejected the ruling and stressed the barrier would continue to be built.

The tsunami painting by Mona El-Bayoumi is called 'Step Over and Join Us,' June 2011

VOA News

Friday, June 10, 2011

Feeling winds of Arab Spring, Israel douses sparks of Palestinian uprising

Feeling winds of Arab Spring, Israel douses sparks of Palestinian uprising

I'm Either an Illegal Citizen of One State, or an Inferior Citizen in Another - Salem-News.Com

A brief story of my suffering as a blue ID card holder and resident of the occupied city of Jerusalem.It's amazing that anyone has to make this type of a statement in a modern day and age. Photos provided by: Jalal Abukhater
(RAMALLAH) - I am considered under the Israeli law to be an illegal citizen of the Palestinian West Bank and I am supposed to avoid it as an area of danger while Jewish settlers are allowed to come from all over the world and settle legally (under Israeli law) in the Palestinian West Bank....READ MORE

A refugee's dream of return ends in tragedy

Palestinian refugees living in Syria flash the V-sign as they mingle with residents of Majdal Shams prior to returning back to Syria, after crossing the border during a protest near Golan Heights, on May 15, during a mass show of mourning with Palestinians over the 1948 creation of the Jewish state known in Arabic as the "Nakba" or "Catastrophe."(AFP/File/Menahem Kahana)

Syria refugee's dream of return ends in tragedy

by Majeda El Batsh Majeda El Batsh – Fri Jun 10, 2:17 am ET

JERUSALEM (AFP) – When Ezzat Maswadi burst across the ceasefire line from Syria into the occupied Golan Heights, he thought his chance to return to Jerusalem -- the city of his birth -- had finally come.

But the return that Maswadi had longed for was not to be, and his attempts to reach the Holy City would eventually lead to his death, three weeks later, in the fields between Syria and the Golan town of Majdal Shams.

Born to a Palestinian family in Jerusalem in 1977, Maswadi grew up in the nearby town of Al-Eizariya until 1984, when his family moved first to Jordan and then to Syria.

His father moved back to Jerusalem shortly afterwards, but Maswadi and his mother were told they had lost their residency permits under an Israeli law which quietly revoked the residency of anyone who stayed away more than three years.

So Maswadi stayed in Damascus, fearing he would never be able to go home, until he heard that Palestinian refugees in Syria were planning to march towards Israel on May 15, the anniversary of the Jewish state's creation.

Palestinians mark the occasion as the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" when hundreds of thousands of them fled or were expelled from their homes in the war that accompanied Israel's declaration of independence.

On the day of the protests, a clear, warm Sunday, Maswadi joined thousands of others as they marched unimpeded to the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, just across from Majdal Shams in the Israel-annexed Golan Heights....READ MORE

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"The people want to return to Palestine!" factions have united during recent protests to demand the right of return for refugees [EPA]

Rooting their movement in the spirit of grassroots empowerment that has characterised the Arab Spring, Palestinians have chosen to focus on a single issue, which activists say is non-negotiable.

They demand the return to Palestine of the hundreds of thousands of people who were forced from their homeland in the ethnic cleansing that took place with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The latest protests are an extension of a decades-long struggle to exercise that right, a right that has been backed by numerous United Nations resolutions.

What is different with the movement that began on May 15 is the level of co-ordination, and the resulting clarity of the protesters' message.

It is a rallying point that has achieved the exceptional feat of drawing support from across political and religious lines. Overwhelmingly, protesters were willing to caste aside their political alliances and unite under the Palestinian flag.

On May 15, people chanted, "The people want to return to Palestine," recalling the chant that rang on avenue Habib Bourguiba and in Tahrir Square earlier in the year, "The people want to overthrow the regime".

Palestinians living in the camps share a desire for al-Karama, or dignity, with protesters elsewhere in the Arab world, Abu Omar says, though the underlying causes of their disempowerment are starkly different.

The limbo which began for so many Palestinians when they were uprooted from their homeland with the creation of Israel has left them with few economic, social, political or civic rights, he says.

The Burj al-Barajneh camp in Beirut where the activist lives with his family offers a snapshot of these conditions: 20,000 people live in a single square kilometre of crumbling, overcrowded buildings, with scant opportunity of a better life.

"There are four generations here and the population is increasing. The right to Lebanese nationality or to own land is unattainable," he explains.

The inspiration for the May 15 march on the southern Lebanese border came directly from the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, Abu Omar says.

Young Palestinians, invigorated by what they had seen of uprisings elsewhere, have thrown their support behind the movement.

"Tunisia and the other uprisings demonstrated that a people can demand their rights, peacefully," he says.

"The young, who were lost, are now asserting their right to return. We are working on an action plan until the return."

Maher Zain - Palestine Will Be Free | ماهر زين - فلسطين سوف تتحرر

Malek Jandali: Watani Ana مالك جندلي: وطني أنا

Israeli demolitions displace record number of Palestinian children, UN agency says

Israeli demolitions displace record number of Palestinian children, UN agency says

9 June 2011 –
The United Nations agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees reported today that Israeli home demolitions displaced 67 Palestinian children in May, a monthly record for the year.

Figures released by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) show that 304 adults and children have been displaced or affected by demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this year.

The previous monthly record for the number of children displaced was 66 in March.

“The figure for displaced and affected includes people who were not necessarily displaced by demolitions, but who were affected because some vital facility, like a water system, was destroyed,” said Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for UNRWA.

Under the Israeli zoning policy in the occupied Palestinian territory, Palestinians are allowed to build in 13 per cent of occupied East Jerusalem and 1 per cent of Area C, the Israeli controlled territory in the West Bank, which is already heavily built up.

“Palestinians are refused permits and are forced to build illegally. They then suffer the humiliation either of having the Israeli authorities destroy their homes, or are forced to destroy their homes themselves and foot the bill,” said Mr. Gunness.

“Children often watch with their parents as their homes are demolished. A house is a place of safety and comfort for most children around the world. A home demolished is a future destroyed.”

A street and living areas of Qalandia refugee camp in the West Bank

“Under international law, Israel must ensure that persons under its jurisdiction enjoy the fulfilment of their human rights, including the right to housing, health, education, and water. UNRWA calls on Israel to respect its legal obligations,” Mr. Gunness said.

UNRWA also announced a new website designed to monitor donations.

UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for some 4.8 million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a solution to their plight. The agency’s services encompass education, health care, social services,-net, camp infrastructure and improvement, community support, microfinance and emergency response, including in times of armed conflict.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Unemployment on the increase in the West Bank, UN report finds

The Demon Demographics... a poem by Anne Selden Annab

St. Anthony plagued by demons, as imagined by Martin Schongauer, in the 1480s.

The Demon Demographics

The Demon Demographics
carries a clipboard
takes a name
and pins it
like a butterfly
in a collector's box

poem copyright ©2011 Anne Selden Annab

The Elders are now calling on the international community to demonstrate a fresh approach to its pursuit of a viable two-state solution....

based on international law and respect for fundamental human rights.Palestinian unity: The Elders' letter to world leaders

The Elders have written to world leaders urging them to support Palestinian unity. Having welcomed the reconciliation agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas in May 2011, The Elders are now calling on the international community to demonstrate a fresh approach to its pursuit of a viable two-state solution based on international law and respect for fundamental human rights.

London, 4 June 2011

Your Excellency,

The far reaching changes we have seen across the Arab world in recent months have underscored the universal desire of all people for freedom and dignity; this wish is no less the case for Palestinians. At this crucial moment, we therefore call on all governments around the world to support a renewed effort to achieve a comprehensive solution based on international law and respect for basic human rights.

The Elders have consistently called for intra-Palestinian reconciliation as an essential step towards the larger goals of ending Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and creating the right conditions for the establishment of an independent state, living in peace and security alongside Israel.

In this regard, we welcomed the agreement signed in Cairo on 4 May between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, as a step in the right direction. However, in supporting the accord, we note that much hard work remains to be done on the ground to translate the parties’ stated willingness to cooperate into facts that will enable Palestinians to live in a democratic and free society based on the rule of law.

By supporting Palestinian unity – including giving support to a new, non-partisan government to be established under the unity agreement, one charged with preparing for fresh elections in 2012 and rebuilding the Gaza Strip – the international community can demonstrate its practical commitment to the two-state solution.

The policies of the past, whereby the divided parts of the intended future Palestinian state – Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – have been progressively separated from each other, and fragmented into separate mini-cantons, should be discarded. Instead, we recommend support for a new approach, favouring a shared commitment to build a viable and contiguous Palestinian state on lands beyond the 1967 Green Line – a goal that US President Barack Obama stated on 19 May was his government’s policy.

Looking ahead, the Elders note the stated intention of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to seek recognition of a Palestinian State by the UN General Assembly at the start of its 66th Session, in late September. Should this course be followed, we are of the view that the pursuit of recognition of a Palestinian state does not contradict the wish for a negotiated settlement of the conflict; rather, it should be supported as a means of stimulating serious negotiations. Far from being an act aimed at isolating Israel, as some have claimed, it could be a move that encourages Israel to accelerate its own wish to resolve – once and for all – the fundamental dilemmas that have dogged Israel since its founding in 1948.

Considering the historic role of the United Nations in the creation of the State of Israel, through its passage of Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947, and bearing in mind the subsequent failure of the international community to help bring about a parallel Palestinian state on the former British Mandate territory of Palestine, as had been intended, it would be appropriate for the General Assembly and Security Council to re-assume their central responsibilities for the question.

At the same time we, as Elders, are keenly aware that recognition by the United Nations will not alter the situation on the ground in the occupied territories. Nor will it preclude the need for intensified bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to resolve the core issues between them. These remain: borders, refugees, security, settlements, water and the status of Jerusalem.

Without a renewed effort to achieve a peace agreement based on the well-known contours of a two-state solution, we fear the risks of a return to general violence in the region; this, in turn, could undo all the hard work undertaken so far to build a Palestinian state, while its planned future territories remain under occupation. In mid-May alone, there were unarmed protests by peaceful demonstrators on all of Israel’s four borders, as a result of which some 15 people were killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli gunfire.

As Elders, we have already given our support to the Palestinian non-violent struggle to end the occupation and will continue to endorse this entirely legitimate course of action. The risk however is that, whoever may be responsible, violent incidents could spark a further downward cycle of bloodshed.

At this volatile and fragile time for the region, we therefore urge the international community to come together to support Israelis and Palestinians in reaching a just and lasting agreement, brought about with the help of even-handed, and robust, mediation. We call upon all governments to take a rights-based approach to this terrible conflict and insist that future negotiations be based on respect for universal human rights and international humanitarian law.

Our purpose in writing this letter is to help bring peace and security to the region and we stand ready to do all that we can in support of this objective.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration and esteem.

The Elders

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.

AP Exclusive: Hamas considers hands-off approach

AP Exclusive: Hamas considers hands-off approach

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Palestnian non-violence activist, Bassem Tamimi, addresses Israeli military court Tamimi on trial at Israel's Ofer military court near Ramallah. The
non-violence activist is charged with inciting and organizing "unauthorized
processions" in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Photo provided by Popular
Struggle Coordination Committee [MaanImages/PSCC]
Non-violence activist addresses Israeli military court

Non-violence activist Bassem Tamimi's address to Israel's Ofer military court during his trial for organizing protests in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. A military judge refused to allow Tamimi to read his full statement in court.

Your Honor,

I hold this speech out of belief in peace, justice, freedom, the right to live in dignity, and out of respect for free thought in the absence of Just Laws.

Every time I am called to appear before your courts, I become nervous and afraid. Eighteen years ago, my sister was killed by in a courtroom such as this, by a staff member. In my lifetime, I have been nine times imprisoned for an overall of almost 3 years, though I was never charged or convicted. During my imprisonment, I was paralyzed as a result of torture by your investigators. My wife was detained, my children were wounded, my land was stolen by settlers, and now my house is slated for demolition.

I was born at the same time as the Occupation and have been living under its inherent inhumanity, inequality, racism and lack of freedom ever since. Yet, despite all this, my belief in human values and the need for peace in this land have never been shaken. Suffering and oppression did not fill my heart with hatred for anyone, nor did they kindle feelings of revenge. To the contrary, they reinforced my belief in peace and national standing as an adequate response to the inhumanity of Occupation.

International law guarantees the right of occupied people to resist Occupation. In practicing my right, I have called for and organized peaceful popular demonstrations against the Occupation, settler attacks and the theft of more than half of the land of my village, Nabi Saleh, where the graves of my ancestors have lain since time immemorial.

I organized these peaceful demonstrations in order to defend our land and our people. I do not know if my actions violate your Occupation laws. As far as I am concerned, these laws do not apply to me and are devoid of meaning. Having been enacted by Occupation authorities, I reject them and cannot recognize their validity.

Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws which lack any legitimacy; laws that are enacted by authorities that I have not elected and do not represent me. I am accused of organizing peaceful civil demonstrations that have no military aspects and are legal under international law.

We have the right to express our rejection of Occupation in all of its forms; to defend our freedom and dignity as a people and to seek justice and peace in our land in order to protect our children and secure their future.

The civil nature of our actions is the light that will overcome the darkness of the Occupation, bringing a dawn of freedom that will warm the cold wrists in chains, sweep despair from the soul and end decades of oppression.

These actions are what will expose the true face of the Occupation, where soldiers point their guns at a woman walking to her fields or at checkpoints; at a child who wants to drink from the sweet water of his ancestors' fabled spring; against an old man who wants to sit in the shade of an olive tree, once mother to him, now burnt by settlers.

We have exhausted all possible actions to stop attacks by settlers, who refuse to adhere to your courts' decisions, which time and again have confirmed that we are the owners of the land, ordering the removal of the fence erected by them.

Each time we tried to approach our land, implementing these decisions, we were attacked by settlers, who prevented us from reaching it as if it were their own.

Our demonstrations are in protest of injustice. We work hand in hand with Israeli and international activists who believe, like us, that had it not been for the Occupation, we could all live in peace on this land. I do not know which laws are upheld by generals who are inhibited by fear and insecurity, nor do I know their thoughts on the civil resistance of women, children and old men who carry hope and olive branches.

But I know what justice and reason are. Land theft and tree-burning is unjust. Violent repression of our demonstrations and protests and your detention camps are not evidence of the illegality of our actions. It is unfair to be tried under a law forced upon us. I know that I have rights and my actions are just.

The military prosecutor accuses me of inciting the protesters to throw stones at the soldiers. This is not true. What incites protesters to throw stones is the sound of bullets, the Occupation’s bulldozers as they destroy the land, the smell of teargas and the smoke coming from burnt houses. I did not incite anyone to throw stones, but I am not responsible for the security of your soldiers who invade my village and attack my people with all the weapons of death and the equipment of terror.

These demonstrations that I organize have had a positive influence over my beliefs; they allowed me to see people from the other side who believe in peace and share my struggle for freedom. Those freedom fighters have rid their conscious from the Occupation and put their hands in ours in peaceful demonstrations against our common enemy, the Occupation. They have become friends, sisters and brothers. We fight together for a better future for our children and theirs.

If released by the judge will I be convinced thereby that justice still prevails in your courts? Regardless of how just or unjust this ruling will be, and despite all your racist and inhumane practices and Occupation, we will continue to believe in peace, justice and human values. We will still raise our children to love; love the land and the people without discrimination of race, religion or ethnicity; embodying thus the message of the Messenger of Peace, Jesus Christ, who urged us to "love our enemy." With love and justice, we make peace and build the future.

"Already we have limited access to grazing lands," he said, lamenting prospects for adequately feeding his flock.

Shepherd held for hours over grazing lands
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli police detained a Hebron shepherd for hours on Tuesday, saying he had allowed his heard of sheep and goats to illegally enter a "closed military zone."

Bilal Hathaleen, 25 from the village of Um Al-Kheir in the south Hebron hills was grazing his flock not far from home when he was apprehended by police and told that he was in a zone too close to the nearby Karmel settlement.

After his release, the shepherd told Ma'an he had been detained for four hours, and had not been aware that the area was a closed zone.

"Already we have limited access to grazing lands," he said, lamenting prospects for adequately feeding his flock.

"Herders are regularly denied access to lands near Israeli settlements," Human rights activist Hisham Sharabati told Ma'an, saying he had received reports of settler violence and harassment from Karmel residents over the previous two days, that kept locals away from the area.

He said the issue was getting acute, since water wells for animals to drink from are located in the region south of the settlement.

Another Umm Al-Kheir resident, 40-year-old shepherd Yasser Hathaleen, told Ma'an that the day earlier, an Israeli soldier had kicked a she-goat, killing it.

Settlers throw stones repeatedly, he said, trying to usher shepherds out of their pasture land. "We make our living this way," he added, fearing "they want us to go so they can expand the settlement."

"The true intentions of Israeli governments, past and present, on peace with the Palestinians have been long known by everybody who cared to know...."
Jordan Times Editorial: True colours

The true intentions of Israeli governments, past and present, on peace with the Palestinians have been long known by everybody who cared to know.

A recent poll conducted by the Dahaf Institute for the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs in Israel, however, is added proof of the official Israeli line. It shows conclusively how the Israeli public views the prospects of peace with the Palestinians, and it is not encouraging either!

The poll found that 77 per cent of Israelis of all shades of opinion are against the return to the pre-1967 borders, even in exchange for peace with the Palestinians.

Eighty-five per cent of those polled want to keep the whole city of Jerusalem united, a euphemism for keeping it under Israeli occupation.

And it doesn’t stop there. The poll reveals that 85 per cent of all Israelis insist on keeping the Jordan River border under full Israeli grip.

What these figures prove, besides showing worrisome lack of desire to even initiate talks that might lead to peace, is the prevalence of the fortress mentality among Israelis, the premium they put, as an overwhelming majority, on security rather than on peace agreements - bizarre as it is, for logic dictates that peace automatically ensures security, a notion Israelis seem to lack.

Frankly, these findings do not come as a big surprise, at least not for us, in the region. Israel has long behaved like a belligerent, not like a peace-loving country.

Under the circumstances, the Palestinians need to carefully navigate the murky waters of this reality, and act accordingly. There is little or no hope the official Israeli perspective on peace will change as long as the “popular” sentiment stands where it is today.

Since the Palestinians have no chance to arrive at a peaceful settlement with the Israelis, the only option they have is to go to the United Nations, as indeed planned.

Now that the international community has been clearly shown that Israel wishes to maintain its occupation of Palestinian land, it might find it easier to vote for an end to it.

8 June 2011

PLO leader slams US, German stance as 'counterproductive'

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- "People do not negotiate their right to statehood. Rather, this is an inherent right," a PLO official lashed out Wednesday in the wake of US and German statements demanding Palestinian officials abort plans to seek UN recognition of statehood.

"Far from acting unilaterally, Palestinians are bringing their case for statehood before the United Nations, the world’s preeminent multilateral body. Self-determination and respect for the sovereignty of nations are principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, making the UN a natural forum to resolve this issue," Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee said in a statement.

The day before, US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out at a news conference, saying they agreed that Palestinians should not seek recognition of a state at the UN in September, calling the move "unilateral."

Ashrawi's sharp statement appealed to the leaders, urging them to reflect on their position and "send a very different message" if they wanted to reinforce prospects for peace.

"For the last two years, we have built our state from the ground up. Our efforts have been internationally recognized and widely praised. We fulfill all the requirements of statehood as stipulated under Article 4 of the UN Charter and the Montevideo Convention. The sole obstacle that remains is Israel’s refusal to end its occupation," she said in a statement.

For peace to be realized, she continued, "You do not leave an occupied people at the mercy of those who occupy them and who act unilaterally in violation of international law by continuing to demolish homes, annex land, build settlements, erect apartheid walls and revoke IDs.

"On the contrary, come September, we expect President Obama and Chancellor Merkel to support the involvement of the United Nations as a positive step forward in efforts to secure regional peace and safeguard stability, and to recognize that the greatest threat to regional peace and security is Israel’s refusal to respect Palestinian rights and international law," Dr Ashrawi concluded.

Lawmaker Ashrawi Defends Palestinian Right to Seek UN Recognition
Lawmaker Ashrawi Defends Palestinian Right to Seek UN Recognition

RAMALLAH, June 8, 2011 (WAFA)- Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi Wednesday defended Palestinian right to approach the United Nations in September to get full membership within the 1967 borders.

Ashrawi, who is also member of the PLO Executive Committee, was reacting to statements by US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling on Palestinians to stop taking “unilateral steps” and avoid going to UN in September for recognition of the Palestinian state.

“Going to the UN in September for the recognition of the Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital is legal, humanitarian and political Palestinian right and not a unilateral step,” she said.

She emphasized the need to change the US stance from going to the UN, saying “Obama has to realize that this step brings stability, peace and security to the region.”

The PLO is going the UN because it is the source of international legitimacy for gaining full membership of the Palestinian state, Ashrawi said.

“They must realize that Israel is the one taking unilateral steps,” she said. “By continuing with the occupation, refusing to respect our rights and violating international law with its settlement activities, land expropriation, building the apartheid wall and imposing the siege, Israel actually poses a threat to international peace and security,” she said.

Scholars celebrate centennial of landmark Palestinian paper issue of Falastin newspaper in the 1930s (Photo courtesy of

By Rand Dalgamouni

AMMAN - The Palestinian press has played a crucial role in shaping a Palestinian national identity and consciousness, and the new media continues to play this role today, a researcher said Tuesday.

"In the Palestinian case, the press is more than a passive forge or mirror of a nation," Rashid Khalidi, who is Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, said at a conference yesterday.

He noted that for a people to whom a state has been "tantalisingly out of reach", civil society institutions, notably the press, become the "propagators" of the nation, instead of the state.

"The press was much more than a mirror; in this case, the media was the message. The message was that 'this region belongs to us'," Khalidi added.

His observations were part of a paper he presented at a conference commemorating the centenary of Falastin, the longest running Palestinian newspaper.

Falastin newspaper was founded by journalist Issa Al Issa in Jaffa in 1911. Working under the censorship of the Ottoman rule and the British mandate, the paper, which developed from a weekly into a daily, was suspended from publication over 20 times.

Falastin moved to Jerusalem in 1950 after the 1948 war before closing permanently on March 21, 1967. Later in March, the newspaper was merged with another daily to form the Jordanian Ad Dustour.

Organised by the Columbia University Middle East Research Centre, the two-day conference, titled "A Hundred Years of Journalism", groups 24 local, regional and international researchers and academicians in Amman to examine the contribution of Falastin to the 20th-century Middle East.

At the conference, Khalidi argued that the new media, has managed to transcend borders and establish links between "like-minded people" from groups "inside and outside" the Palestinian territories, mobilising them to rally across borders in "what we have seen on May 15 and June 5".

The Arab studies professor was referring to the marches over the Israeli borders with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan that took place recently to mark the creation of Israel on Palestinian land, in what is known to Arabs as Nakbeh or catastrophe, and those marking the 1967 war, known as Naksa or set back.

He explained that in this function, the new media does not achieve something unprecedented, but becomes an extension of the old media.

Also during a session in yesterday's conference, Ilan Pappe, fellow and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at Exeter University, said a close reading of Falastin shows "how very early on, writers in the paper recognised Zionism beyond its actual reality".

He noted that for the paper "to write before 1949 that this group [of Jewish immigrants] poses existential dangers" is a sign of foresight, adding that the paper, at the same time, did not demonise the settlers, highlighting the positive aspects they may bring to Palestine.

Such writings prove wrong "anyone who says that educated Palestinians ignored the danger of Zionism", Pappe said.

He argued that the problem, however, was that the educated Palestinian elite focused on the purchase of Palestinian lands by Zionists as the main threat; "they could not decipher the main threat as being beyond a colonialist force" and more of a plan for "racial cleansing".

Pappe warned that the same view is currently being adopted towards settlements.

"The settlements are not the illness; they are a symptom of an ideology that a people must be removed."

8 June 2011

"Israel’s “refugee problem” as they refer to it, must be reckoned with..."

Date posted: 08/06/2011

By: Meg Walsh for MIFTAH

It is Sunday in Palestine, a regular work day for most, but today is different. There is a certain feeling in the air. It is a feeling of anticipation, excitement, anxiety—or maybe that is just how I am feeling as I prepare to head toward the protests at the Qalandiya checkpoint, the Israeli military crossing separating Ramallah and Jerusalem, neighbors from neighbors.

Perhaps the reason why I am nervous is because I know what to expect, the potential consequences, and I choose to go regardless. I want to show solidarity with the Palestinian people who are demanding their freedom, yet I know that once I stand among that crowd, my American passport ceases to mean anything. I am the same as a Palestinian in the eyes of the Israeli soldiers manning it. I become the enemy. The tear gas canisters and the rubber bullets do not discriminate, nor the live ammunition which was used in similar protests just weeks ago on May 15. Fourteen nonviolent protestors were shot and killed and many more were injured that day.

Israel explains that it is simply protecting its sovereignty, as any state would do. There are some issues with this statement, however. Pulling the sovereignty card presumes that there are established borders, which Israel has thus far avoided establishing in order to continue its occupation, annexation, and colonization of Palestine. The bloodiest site of the protests, the Syrian Golan Heights, in which at least 20 were killed on June 5, is occupied by Israel. East Jerusalem is also occupied by Israel, both captured in the 1967 war. On these recent bloody Sundays, May 15 and June 5, Palestinians marked the dates in both 1948 and 1967 respectively, in which hundreds of thousands were displaced and barred from returning. In reality, the protesters attempting to return on these days were not threatening Israeli sovereignty-- they were simply attempting to comply with previous UN resolutions that mandate their right to return.

The Israeli army and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were quick to paint the protestors as threats to the citizens of Israel. Netanyahu claimed that “extremists around us [were] trying to breach our borders, and threaten our towns and citizens”; a familiar tactic of playing off of the existential fears of the public while also trying to paint a picture much different than the ones we have seen during the Arab Spring of peaceful Arab protesters shaking off the yoke of oppressive regimes. Israel must take these steps in order to stifle international sympathy and to make sure that people see the Palestinians in a different light—as violent and extreme, trying to “threaten” the citizens of Israel. The Palestinians’ demand for freedom must be discredited because such a result would topple the current status quo, which Israel is desperately trying to preserve. In some regards, their tactics have worked since mainstream media reports deem Palestinian nonviolence as a new concept, when in reality, Palestinians have been protesting non-violently for years.

At midday, my friend and I hailed a cab to head for the demonstration. Our driver was Adeeb Abu Rahmah, a man recently released from Ofer military prison after 18 months for organizing nonviolent demonstrations in his village of Biilin. This tiny village has garnered some international attention due to its weekly protests against the separation barrier’s route, which cuts the residents off from their own farmland. Nonviolent leaders are often arrested on bogus charges in an attempt by Israel to contain the movement. Abu Rahmah pulled out pictures from his glove box, one of him holding a victory sign upon release and another of him lying wounded, having been shot four times by the Israeli army. It was only fitting that such a man was the one to drop us off among the swirling crowd of protestors-- further proof that the resistance is everywhere in this land. We stood among the people-- Palestinians, internationals, journalists, and we observed the situation beneath the backdrop of the grotesque and towering separation barrier. I caught a glimpse of some protestors’ signs that read “To Jerusalem we go” and “Freedom is a human right”. Another group of protestors marched toward us, chanting and preparing to converge with our group. It was then that I noticed a team of soldiers descending quickly towards us.

Before we had time to react, the firing started. Tear gas canisters shot into the crowd, into the air, up the street, everywhere. They exploded in front of shops, on the backs of trucks stuck in traffic, near the elementary school. We started running but there was nothing we could do to escape because the canisters were exploding in front of us and behind us simultaneously, the irony of our American tax dollars exploding in our faces.

A Palestinian girl my age grabbed onto me, choking, and then collapsed to the ground. There was nothing I could do, for I could not breathe either.

Dozens suffered from inhalation throughout the day and I witnessed tear gas canisters being fired directly at ambulances that were gathering the injured. Not surprisingly, reports of such behavior from the Israeli army are not uncommon, and all fear-evoking tactics imaginable are employed. The protests, however, were not over. They carried on throughout the day as did the excessive use of force—rubber-coated steel bullets, skunk water, pepper spray, more rounds of tear gas. Soldiers infiltrated the area and occupied houses and rooftops. Yet, the protests still continued. It should be noted that the soldiers’ violent dispersal of the peaceful demonstration began before there were any attempts of Palestinians to breach the checkpoint. After my unhealthy dose of tear gas, I watched from afar, not wanting to experience it again.

I watched in admiration as the Palestinians kept going back, demanding their freedom through their courageous presence in front of the soldiers. The Palestinians are up against a powerful machine, not only of a military power bolstered by US support, but of propaganda in the media as well. History shows, however, that the strategies of the oppressor can only work for so long.

May 15 and June 5 were reminders that Israel’s “refugee problem” as they refer to it, must be reckoned with. The past, which Israel thought could be erased or contained, is ascending quickly upon the present-- a present that is unsustainable and volatile. Nevertheless, the Palestinians will keep pushing, amassing an intense pressure on Israel until the uncomfortable facts are faced. Unlike the other pressing issues, the refugees and their descendants are living, breathing human beings who do not forget, and whose rights cannot be negotiated away as part of any peace deal. They will keep confronting the bullets, the gas, the hatred, until such a concept is realized: their humanity.

Meg Walsh 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

Monday, June 6, 2011

For the Right To Return

For the Right To Return
People died
for the right to return
died then... died now

Through the decades
year after year people-Palestinians- refugees
risked their lives
for the right to return

risked all for the right to remember Palestine
Historic Palestine...The right to remember
homes and land usurped...

People died for the right to be free
and equal- for the right to have a home
and family (and a garden) and a future
respected by the powers that be

The right to expect fair and just laws...

But our newspapers only talk of protest
no context- no clue... framing the story
to exclude the real reasons
for the Palestinian refugees.

Even our churches drop the ball
calling the Palestinian refugees right of return "controversial"

Why is it "controversial" to object to being constantly
discriminated against- and impoverished
pushed into forced exile- trapped by racist laws and walls
harassed, insulted & played by Zionists left right and center worldwide.

Why exactly is it controversial to want to return
to your own actual home & heritage
and the living loving memory of life
in the Holy Land.

Anne Selden Annab

poem copyright ©2011 Anne Selden Annab

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Israeli Troops Fire at [Unarmed Palestinian] Protesters, At Least 14 Killed

"We want to prove to the whole world who is using violence. It is obvious. You know who is using violence right now. Look at me. Do I have anything on me? No. We are trained on methods like (those of) Ghandi, like Martin Luther King, Mandela. We believe in that and we are going to stay using our nonviolent methods until the world sees who is the real oppressor," said Sari, a [Palestinian] student from Ramalla VOA News

Palestinians are people, too - The Hill's Congress Blog

By Mustafa Barghouthi - 06/03/11 04:19 PM ET
Every June 5 for the past 44 years of my life has brought back memories of being a 13-year-old facing life under Israeli occupation. Forty-four years ago I saw Israelis for the first time. It took my generation a very long and difficult time to come to terms with accepting the need for peace and compromise with our occupier. That compromise was the two-state solution. Our goal was to end occupation and achieve freedom, dignity, and self-determination... READ MORE