Saturday, June 18, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Arab-Jewish dialogue: Is there a purpose?
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Amirah’s father takes us home afterwards and all of us sit outside drinking tea as the night creeps up on us. I later learn that he was a political prisoner for close to 10 years, having been arrested during the first intifada. It was supposed to be a life sentence, but under the Wye River Memorandum of 1998, (an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority) he was released along with a number of other prisoners. Amirah’s parents were not able to marry before his incarceration, and although she did not know whether he would ever be released, she chose to wait for him. They married after he was set free, and Amirah came into the world soon after. My mind drifts to the uncomfortable thought that the pure luck of his release in this unjust system is what led to her existence.
There is a quiet strength that I sense in Amirah, and I can tell she gets it from her mother. Palestinian women are forced to be strong, forced to carry on even when their brothers, sons, and husbands are taken away—a reality that too many of them have to face. Palestinian women are imprisoned as well, although to a lesser extent. There is a constant fear of being arrested here, for young and old alike. Amirah’s cousin was just released from jail and is now terrified to venture outside of his home.
As of April 2011, there were 5,604 Palestinian political prisoners being held. These include 217 child prisoners, 37 of whom are under 16.
Perhaps what makes this issue so shocking is the contrast that exists between the justice system regarding Palestinians and that regarding Israelis. Israeli settlers, who are responsible for many attacks on Palestinians, can only be arrested by Israeli police, not the military. They are then tried in civilian courts. However, most cases of settler violence in the West Bank do not even reach the court system. Under Israeli military rule, Palestinians can be arrested and kept indefinitely with no charges against them. If they are tried, it is in military court by judges who are officers in the Israeli army.
To make things worse, it is not unusual for family members to be barred from visiting their loved ones, especially those who are held within Israel. Imprisoning Palestinians in Israel violates Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that an occupying power must detain residents of occupied territory in prisons inside the territory. Since the family must travel into Israel, they must first obtain an often elusive permit from the Israeli authorities. Thus, in such circumstances where permits are denied, a life sentence essentially becomes a death sentence on a human level.
Since it is Friday night, Amirah’s mother gives her permission to sleep on the roof. She asks me to join her and we sleep out under the open Palestinian sky with the sound of celebrations still carrying on into the night. I am thankful that I got to meet her and her family, yet through their story, I cannot help but think of all the other Palestinians who were not so lucky, who are forever waiting for their loved ones to come home. Amirah is the face of innocence of all Palestinian children, born into this conflict and forced to live within a system that refuses to recognize the most basic human rights-- forced to live without their mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. When justice prevails, it will be the occupiers who find themselves in the defendant’s seat.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS)
(AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
(AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
(AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
(AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
(AP Photo / Khalil Hamra, File)
(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
(WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS CONFLICT)
(AP Photo /Adel Hana)
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
My letter to the LATimes RE Jonah Goldberg: Taken in by 'Gay Girl' The 'Gay Girl in Damascus' hoax is worse than a lie. It's propaganda.
Foolishly, I too got taken in by the compassionate calls to care about Amina, who turned out to be nothing but a sock puppet for a misguided writer. HOWEVER I very much believe that Jonah Goldberg is totally in the wrong to use this well publicized blogsphere incident as an opportunity to do what he can to discredit and dismiss the Palestinian refugees very real right to return to original homes and lands. UN Resolution 194 from 1948 clearly affirming the Palestinian refugees inalienable right to return is not a figment of anyone's imagination- and the official photographic records and documents following the very real plight of the Palestinians for the past sixty some years are about very real oppressed, impoverished and displaced men, women and children.
Anne Selden Annab
"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."Eleanor Roosevelt
Palestinian refugees must be given the option to exercise their right of return (as well as receive compensation for their losses arising from their dispossession and displacement) though refugees may prefer other options such as: (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (even though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside. What is important is that individual refugees decide for themselves which option they prefer – a decision must not be imposed upon them.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Each morning, they scrabble through a drainage pipe under a busy main road slicing through the unforgiving landscape between Jerusalem and Jericho, where hard-baked stony hills roll down to the Dead Sea.
At the end of the school day, they clamber back down to the drainage pipe to pass beneath the thundering traffic on their way home.
But, after today, the last school day in the academic year, the pupils of Khan al-Ahmar primary in the West Bank cannot be certain their school will still be standing come September.
Head teacher Hanan Awad fears that if the building is left empty, bulldozers will rumble up the hill from the main road ...READ MORE
Maher, on his land south of Bethlehem [MaanImages]
On 2 June, Maher said he woke up to find more than 250 of his olive trees destroyed by settlers. He said he was shocked, but not surprised.
An area of agricultural land south of Al-Khader, the Bethlehem-area land knows as Khirbet A'liya abuts the Jewish-only settlement of Efrata. Built more than seven kilometers inside the West Bank, the illegal settlement has eaten more than 2,000 dunums of private Palestinian land, and thousands more of village lands.
The network of settler-only roads leading to the settlement, and the growing path of construction of Israel’s separation wall have further encroached on the area.
His struggle began in 1982 when his house, built on land his father purchased in 1962, was confiscated by the Israeli army after members of the Palestinian resistance movement used it to fire at soldiers during the Second Intifada.
In 1998, the Israeli military built a base on part of his land. Through court action, Maher said, he managed to expel them in 2002 proving his ownership.
Despite the legal success, the years that followed saw repeated attacks on his property by settlers. In 2004, one such attack nearly resulted in his death when 30 armed settlers assaulted him and his nephew as they worked on the home. The Israeli military eventually intervened in the incident, but informed Maher that he was forbidden to return to the area because his safety could not be guaranteed, he recalls.
After being unable to visit Khirbet A'liya, Maher said he received a few years later, a claim from settler groups that they had a deed to the land.
Maher said he complained to the Civil Administration, but was told that since he had not been on the land in years, it had been declared 'absentee property.' It was registered under his father’s name, and his father had long since died.
In order to contest the claim, Maher said, he had to pay 80,000 shekels ($23,285) to transfer ownership to his name.
Now the official owner of the land, Maher said he was offered huge sums of money by the Civil Administration from their offices in the Etzion settlement bloc, to sell up. In addition to being offered over $30 million, he told Ma'an that his family was also offered Israeli passports. He said he declined all of the overtures.
Despite his refusal to sell the land, Maher said eight dunams were still confiscated, he said in order to build a street to connect to the nearby settlement of Efrata. He was then offered $250,000 to build a street which would pass directly through his land, but again refused the offer, he said.
In his most recent struggle in the Israeli courts, Maher managed to save part of his land from confiscation for construction of the separation wall. He said he is still awaiting a response to an amended plan for the route of the wall, which stopped west of Al-Khader.
He told Ma'an that the Bethlehem governorate had promised to pay him 68,000 shekels ($20,000) to provide his home with power and water, but that he has only received a cheque of 6,800 shekels to cover part of the cost.
“Over the years I could have become a rich man,” he said, adding that he preferred to join the many Palestinians who have remained steadfast in their refusal to be displaced.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
is a propaganda scam-
a scare tactic
and a distraction
and yet another way
to oppress, displace, silence
and destroy Palestinians.
A nation is a nation
from inside- not out
Its citizens are loyal
Free and equal
Inspired to care
laws are made
and then changed
with changing times
Families do what they can
to survive with what they have
and what they can understand...
Legitimize international law
and basic human rights
Legitimize justice- peace
Legitimize an actual end
to the cruelty and the hate created
by the Israel/Palestine conflict
with two fully sovereign
fully secular states
for everyone's sake
for every family
Legitimize justice- peace
Demolition watch: The Israeli practice of demolishing homes, basic infrastructure and sources of livelihoods continues to devastate Palestinians
Demolition = dispossession
Demolitions also lead to a significant deterioration in living conditions. Families and communities face increased poverty and long-term instability, as well as limited access to basic services, such as education, health care, water and sanitation.
The permit predicament
Building without a permit means that the structure is considered “illegal” by Israeli authorities. Under the Israeli zoning policy, Palestinians can build in just 13 per cent of East Jerusalem and in just 1 per cent of Area C. In both cases these areas are already heavily built up.
Ultimately, the number of permits granted to Palestinians each year falls far below the demand. More than 94 per cent of all Palestinian permit applications have been rejected in recent years.
This means that when a family expands or a community wants to build infrastructure to meet its basic needs, the choice faced is between building without a permit, or not building at all. Many end up building to meet their immediate needs in the hope that they will be able to avoid demolition.
Sadly, the number of people affected by demolition continues to grow. The UN estimates that between 28 and 46 per cent of Palestinian homes could be at risk of demolition, leaving people living under a cloud of anxiety.
The table and graph below shows the number of people displaced and affected by demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the start of 2011.
See a further breakdown of these statistics.
Number of displaced and affected Palestinians
Note: Displaced means people whose homes have been demolished. Affected is when a demolition has had an impact in other ways such as on people’s livelihoods or on basic services and utilities.
Protecting vulnerable refugees
In 2010, more than 10 per cent of people displaced by demolitions in East Jerusalem and Area C were refugees registered with UNRWA.
UNRWA seeks to protect refugees against infringements of their human rights, such as eviction, displacement, or restriction of movement. UNRWA monitors violations of international law and advocates for the protection of Palestine refugees’ rights. The Agency also provides emergency assistance to victims of house demolitions, evictions, and refugees whose property is damaged as a result of conflict.
Under international law, Israel must ensure that persons under its jurisdiction enjoy fulfilment of their human rights, including the right to housing, health, education, and water
As young children, we all asked our parents or teachers why the sea looks blue when we look at it from a distance, but turns out to be colourless when we come near it.
We were all given the same scientific answer: Seawater is as colourless as the water we drink, but it reflects the colour of the sky, which is usually blue.
Regardless, we still developed a special relationship with the sea that grew with the years. This is particularly true with residents of coastal cities, who will tell you that even though they grow up and change over the years, just like their cities, the sea remains the same. It stands as a reminder of their childhood memories and is a calm resort of sanity for when one feels lost in the madness of the world.
Gaza is one of Palestine’s biggest and most beautiful coastal cities. Throughout the years, the Mediterranean Sea has given Gaza extra special geopolitical and economic privileges that have fortified its position and increased its international importance. Its ancient port city, Maiumas, gave it prominence in Palestine and across the region, such that many years ago, Gaza used to be one of the most active trade hubs around the Mediterranean. By geographic proximity, it was (and still is) the main city that connects Asia and Africa, the Levant to Egypt (the last city in the Levant on the way to Egypt and vice versa).
Gaza was also an old, well-established city that empires fought over for their security and well-being, and that grew in importance with the succession of civilisations. As a fortress of strength, it was able to repel foreign invaders and warriors. In ancient times as well as now, Gazan coins and jars could be found anywhere along the coasts of the Mediterranean. Throughout thousands of years of history, various peoples have inhabited this city and admired the beauty of its shores, just as we do today.
The inhabitants have changed, but the shores have not. How many seasons have these shores witnessed? How many years has the Palestinian coastline of Gaza City existed? I sit here thinking about all those who inhabited Gaza before we did, starting with the people of the early Bronze Age, through the Phoenicians, the Persians, and the Greeks, into the Hellenistic, Roman, and finally the Byzantine eras before the Muslim conquests reached Gaza, eventually leading to the Ottoman Empire and the present.
Thus we can safely assume that the sea knows all about the people of Gaza. It has witnessed their good times and bad, for thousands and thousands of years now. It has lived through these times with them and provided refuge during the most difficult times. The sea knows all about its people, the people of Gaza, and the people of Gaza trust the sea with that knowledge and entrust to it more knowledge every single day.
True, the sea is indeed colourless except when it reflects the blueness of the sky. However, it would be fair to say that Gaza’s sea reflects the emotions of its people. To someone who’s overridden with either sorrow or joy, the sea always seems to be on the same page. When a person is sad, the sea seems to be gloomy and quiet. When angry, its waves go crazy and it even sounds a bit scary. When happy, it shines like a field of pearls and reflects the most exquisite colours of the sun. The sea is our real big brother, with immediate reactions but no intentions but to listen to our secrets and keep them hidden forever.
It is a well-established fact that in Gaza, the sea has always been the only place where people can freely “breathe.” It’s one of the few places in Gaza where people can enjoy themselves, making it almost everybody’s favourite destination. For this and more, the sea is evident in everything that is Gaza: from souvenirs, books, and food, to music, art, and sports. The most beautiful ballads and traditional music brag about Gaza’s beautiful sea, or share their grief and sorrow with the sea (particularly songs related to the loss of Palestine and the Palestinian exodus). Perhaps unwillingly, the sea also brought us many misfortunes. Israeli warships used it to attack our city and us. One story in particular, that of Huda Ghalia, is worth telling. While Huda was enjoying a day on the beach with her family, she went to swim in the sea while the rest of her family stayed on the beach. Scary bombing-like sounds forced her out of the water. She ran towards her innocent family to find that an Israeli warship had killed all of them - for no reason - while she was swimming.
Still, people in Gaza look forward to summer every year. Not because they have exotic vacation plans but because summer means that they can enjoy the beach at their will, free of any obligations (usually school or university). Hundreds of summer camps for children and teenagers are set up across the beach and attract most of the city’s youngsters. Tens of restaurants and cafés brag about their view of the sea and compete to offer the best view, food, and service. Visitors and residents alike get to savour Gaza’s Mediterranean seafood, which has a special taste during the summer.
Ask a photographer, a fisherman, or a chef, and they will all tell you that what’s even more beautiful than the sea are the fish that come out of it. True, Israel’s lack of humane and environmental consciousness has caused depletion in the fish supply and the purity of the water, but that, like everything else Israel attacks us with, doesn’t stop us. It doesn’t stop beautiful seashells and ancient pottery from swimming up to our shores either. Nor does it stop us from admiring the sunset, which leaves us with a new scene made up of different colours and shapes every day.
As the saying goes, “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” Most of the people living in Gaza would tell you that they have been hearing that for as long as they can remember, and that their response has always been, “Can it get darker than this?!” Unfortunately, it always has. However, the sea teaches us not to lose hope. Every day we bid farewell to the sun as it departs our city with its beautiful light and shine, knowing that it’s only a matter of hours before it returns. This beautiful scene that repeats every single day in Gaza is one of the few things that keep us sane, because it reminds us that the darkest hour is indeed just before the dawn; we only have to catch a glimpse of blue when it’s time.
Yasmeen J. El Khoudary is a writer and researcher in Gaza, Palestine. You are invited to visit her blog, A Voice from Palestine (http://yelkhoudary.blogspot.com).