Saturday, October 22, 2011

ATFP 6th Annual Gala, Hanan Karaman Munayyer awarded for Excellence in A...

Jordan's king urges restart of Mideast peace talks

King Abdullah II of Jordan speaks at the opening of the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea, 34 Miles, (55 Kilometers) southeast of Amman, Jordan, Saturday Oct. 22, 2011. Jordan's king has urged Israel and the Palestinians to look to the Arab Spring uprisings for inspiration and to restart their peace talks. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan (AP) — Jordan's King Abdullah on Saturday urged Israel and the Palestinians to look to the Arab Spring uprisings for inspiration and to restart their stalled peace talks.

"The future for the Middle East and beyond is with the normalcy of peace," Abdullah told the opening of a two-day special meeting of the Davos-based World Economic Forum, held on the shores of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.

He said "shortsighted leaders may think they can shut" the door to peace — a rebuke believed directed at Israel's right-wing government. He added that a Palestinian-Israeli deal must consider Israel's "security and acceptance" and allow for the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Around 1,000 participants from 50 countries, including the United States, are attending the meeting which will discuss ways for economic development and creating jobs in the Arab world following the revolts that unseated three longtime Arab leaders.

Abdullah said one of the main factors to be considered is creating 85,000 jobs across the region soon to help alleviate poverty and improve living conditions for the youth who are leading the effort for change.

"Our region stands today at the gates to the future," Abdullah said, referring to the Arab uprisings. One of those gates, he said, leads "to peace and justice, opening the way out of regional crisis, especially (for the issue) at the heart of the region, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."...READ MORE

Friday, October 21, 2011

Canadians helping at least one of many Palestinian families who fled Iraq because their lives were threatened and family members were killed

Refugee family to arrive on Halloween

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 1:36 PM
By Jennifer Faerber

A Palestinian family of five have been granted refugee status in Canada and they're being placed in the Comox Valley.

Ali and Laila Abo-Nofal fled Iraq when their lives were threatened and family members were killed. They and their children, six year old Reem, 10 year old Mariam and 16 year old Rana have been living in a United Nations refugee camp for the past four years.

"They've been sitting in a tent up in the north-east corner of Syria, but now Syria's undergoing some political turmoil of it's own so the camp is probably going to be closed," says Dave Talbot from the Comox Valley Refugee Support Committee.

The Candian Government has given permisison for a number of these families to come to Canada: Two to Nanaimo, five to Vancouver, three to Victoria and one to the Comox Valley.

The Abo-Nofal's were expeted to arrive in mid-November, but now they'll be touching down in Comox on October 31, 2011.

"Our committment to them is for a year and theyr'e going to be learning English and the girls are going to go to school," says Talbot. "We have a lovely little house for them close to Courtenay Elementary and we almost have it furnished."

In total, the CVRSC is trying to raise $30,000.

"We've almost got 13,000 in the bank right now so we're doing pretty well but we really need the support of the valley," Talbot says.

A major fundraiser is going ahead on Saturday, 29 October at the Lower Elks Hall, called Decadent Desserts and Dancing.

"There will be a silent auction, there'll be a bar and a lot of fun," says Talbot. "Lots of decadent desserts from lots of the restaurants and bakeries in town, so please come along. We are making a difference."

Local band Flying Debris will be playing. Tickets are $25 available from Blue Heron Books (1775 Comox Ave) or in Courtenay at Laughing Oyster Book Shop (286 5th St).

Obama: All US Troops Out of Iraq by Year End

Keeping his promise to responsibly end the war in Iraq, President Obama announces that our troops will be home from Iraq by the holidays. White House Speeches and Remarks
"....Because after a decade of war, the nation that we need to build -- and the nation that we will build -- is our own; an America that sees its economic strength restored just as we’ve restored our leadership around the globe." Barack Obama

Palestinian Refugees Consider a Model for Return

IPS: Information is an agent of change. Since its inception, back in 1964, IPS has believed in the role of information as a precondition for lifting communities out of poverty and marginalization. This belief is reflected in our historic mission: “giving a voice to the voiceless” – acting as a communication channel that privileges the voices and the concerns of the poorest and creates a climate of understanding, accountability and participation...

Palestinian Refugees Consider a Model for Return
By Jillian Kestler-D’Amours

TEL AVIV, Oct 16, 2011 (IPS) - In a new project that has tackled one of the most divisive issues plaguing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a diverse group of academics, architects, urban planners and Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups are examining how the right of return of Palestinian refugees can be implemented on the ground.

"Based on the right of return, we developed since 2008 a project of thinking practically about return. It’s not so much about the right itself, but more about the possibilities, once there will be the right, of how it could be implemented," Eitan Bronstein, founder and spokesperson of Israeli organisation Zochrot told IPS.

Working to raise awareness among Israelis about the Palestinian Nakba, the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians before and during the foundation of the state of Israel in 1947-48, Zochrot has launched an exhibit titled ‘Towards Return of Palestinian refugees’ in Tel Aviv.

From the re-imagined layout and step-by-step return processes for the Palestinian villages of Kufr Bir’im and Miska, to video testimonials from Palestinian refugees themselves, a handful of detailed models, simulations and other projects were put on display.

"We believe that if people would be exposed to such projects this would show Israelis that there are possibilities of return. None of the projects talk about expelling anyone. We’re talking about how to return, but based on the rights of people who are living here to live here, and all the refugees and their descendants to return," Bronstein told IPS.

"We are kind of inventing a new language that hasn’t existed until now, of thinking about the return itself and not continuing to say no, it’s not possible."

Palestinians constitute the largest refugee population in the world, with approximately six million refugees and their descendants scattered throughout the Middle East and around the world.

Akhram Salhab is the communications officer at Badil, the Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, which organised workshops with Zochrot to develop the practicalities of return project. He stressed that any discussion about the Palestinian right of return must involve the input of the refugees themselves.

"For the past 62 years, most international initiatives related to the refugees have taken place against the will of the refugees. In all respects, the refugees have been left out of planning their own lives. For the project to be successful, it must be viewed as legitimate by them. Our key objective is to include refugees themselves in the planning process," Salhab told IPS.

"The project is still at the fairly early stage. I think one of the reasons for this is that the project is so unique, and we are trying to work with Palestinians and Israelis to discuss these issues. No such work has been done before."

Salhab explained that the next step in the project would be to look at how refugee return was achieved in a city in South Africa, and then build a comparative model for the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area.

He added that creating a new framework whereby both Palestinian refugees and Jewish Israelis will have equal rights, and making sure that both groups have a realistic picture of what return will actually mean, is crucial.

"There’s sometimes an extent to which Palestinians may view return in an idealised manner, and obviously this is taking place as a result of struggling for rights for so many years. For Israelis of course, it’s important to realise that any return of refugees will affect their privileges and the benefits they enjoy in the apartheid system in Israel. We are trying to bring forward a new reality based on equality," Salhab said.

UN resolution 194, issued in December 1948, states that Palestinian refugees "wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property."

While the right of return of Palestinian refugees is also enshrined in international law, Israel has to date refused to allow the refugees to come back, and discourse within the country largely paints their return as something that would destroy the state.

According to Eitan Bronstein, the practicalities of return project will hopefully break through this wall of fear and misinformation surrounding the Palestinian right of return, and open up a much-needed debate within Israeli society.

"People say that return is extermination of the state of Israel or extermination of the Jews themselves. We try to say that no, it’s not like that," Bronstein said.

"If we do more and more projects like this, perhaps the discourse will change soon. I hope there will be at least some space to open discussion on these issues, which is very important."

U.N. Press Release on Palestine 20 October 2011

The prolonged occupation of Palestinian territories presented extraordinary problems for the protection of the human rights and required stronger protection measures, particularly for the welfare of children, a United Nations expert told correspondents at Headquarters this afternoon....READ MORE

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Occupied Palestinian Territories

In Growing Gardens for Palestine... A Wonderful Gala: ATFP 2011 Honoring Heritage & Embracing Originality

Growing Gardens for Palestine: A Wonderful Gala: ATFP 2011 Honoring Heritage & Embracing Originality

Dr. Asali was describing the keynote speaker Salam Fayyad with those words, but I think his words describe everyone attending and supporting the ATFP Gala.

It takes real courage to work towards actually building a real Palestinian state in today's world... AND the Gala was TOTALLY crowded with people, with quiet heroes who have been doing what they can each in their own way to help do exactly that.

There was much to celebrate and enjoy at this year's ATFP Gala.

A good summary of the event itself can be found on ATFP 's website

ATFP Gala Featuring PM Fayyad Highlights Quest for Peace, Palestinian-American Achievements

My favorite speech was by Hanan Karaman Munayyer's daughter Maha Munayyer Kabbash who spoke of her mother's work to collect and preserve Palestinian embroidery.

There was a breathtakingly beautiful display of those traditional Palestinian dresses and Hanan Karaman Munayyer's most recent book was on display too- it is huge!

Thankfully there are visionaries like Hanan Karaman Munayyer who have carefully collected and preserved the beauty of Palestine for Palestine, to share with all the world.

Thankfully there are also gifted musicians who help lift our spirits with their enchanting music....

Special Performance by Simon Shaheen and Ensemble- A concert of Arab vocal and instrumental music

Thankfully there are also people with delightful senses of humor, to help lighten the mood as we struggle against all odds to do what we can for Palestine in these very difficult times.

Dean Obeidallah and Maysoon Zayid and Omar Baddar ATFP Gala table #33

The crowd at ATFP's Gala was full of talented and highly competent people. Far too many to mention all of them. A very impressive crowd indeed. My husband Jaffar and I enjoyed sitting at table #33 with Hussein Ibish. Ibish is a brilliant thinker and speaker. Dean Obeidallah, a charismatic comic, and Omar Baddar, a talented young writer, were also at our table... I was in awe!

Mr & Mrs. Jaffar Annab ATFP Gala 2011

The warmth, wisdom, generosity, good character, true dignity and decency of Dr. Ziad Asali and his charming wife Naila help set the tone for The American Task Force on Palestine's Gala. It becomes easier and easier to believe that Palestine will actually emerge as a free and sovereign and successful nation state with friends and advisers like this.

The American Task Force on Palestine "is strictly opposed to all acts of violence against civilians no matter the cause and no matter who the victims or perpetrators may be. The Task Force advocates the development of a Palestinian state that is democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and neutral in armed conflicts..."

The American Task Force on Palestine is convinced that diplomacy matters and that Palestine is worth discussing seriously AND worth investing in. The politicians and people of Palestine do not have to listen to ATFP if they don't want to- they are not forced to follow any one's advice. No one has to. But in my opinion it is a darn good idea to follow ATFP's lead as they are talented and well informed experts in the right place at the right time.

I also believe that Palestine is worth getting all dressed up for- and celebrating. No one knows what will be, but at least we can do what we can to try to help Palestine become a real nation state each in our own way.

Annie all dressed up in a green silk gown for the American Task Force on Palestine's Gala 2011. My jewelry was a gift long ago from my beloved father in law ( hand crafted in the Arab world and given to me on a visit to his home in Amman Jordan many years ago), and my handbag was embroidered by my American grandmother who used to live in Washington DC.

This morning I have been exchanging emails with a charming stranger who asked me several weeks ago if her local garden club could use one of my poems for a bookmark to give to her garden club members as a favor. For me, as a poet, this unexpected compliment is a higher honor than any formal prize or award I can think of. It is also a pertinent reminder to me of what building a state really means. It is not about rally cries or protest slogans or grandiose gestures, nor is it about headlines and newspaper articles. It is about slowly but surely building a community and belonging: It is about the individual efforts and good intentions and creativity and the admirable persistence of real people working together to make connections on a local level to improve our world and our collective future- to help make our world nicer... more safe, more beautiful, more pleasant and more welcoming for more people-for ALL people, citizens or not. A world where every child is welcome and free to grow up knowing what ever might be worth knowing.

On my own Granny's lap, in her garden Washington DC (Eleanor Standish Gamble James with Anne Selden Yellott Annab)


ATFP Sixth Annual Gala

American Task Force on Palestine President Ziad J. Asali: "The pursuit of peace, independence and reform is not a project for cowards..."

Press Release
Contact Information: Ghaith al-Omari
October 20, 2011 - 12:00am

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad delivered the keynote address at the Sixth Annual Gala of the American Task Force on Palestine in Washington, DC on Oct. 19. Fayyad praised the work of ATFP calling it "an invaluable bridge for us to Washington, especially at a time when relations are under a period of strain." He emphasized the achievements of the institution-building program, said the Palestinian Authority has more work to do to develop and reform state institutions, and that it is "only a matter of time" before a Palestinian state is established. He called on Israel to stop settlement activity and incursions into PA-controlled areas of the West Bank, and to curb settler violence. He also thanked the US government for financial aid for institution-building and said that the PA was working towards becoming independent of such foreign aid in the future. Fayyad said that reconstruction in Gaza, especially in the health and education sectors was overdue and should begin in earnest at once, especially given the huge improvements in these sectors in the PA-controlled areas of the West Bank.

Fayyad insisted, "All we Palestinians are looking for is a viable, sovereign state on 22% of the land. That's what we want. All we want is freedom from Israel, not freedom to vote in Israel. That's what we really want. If it doesn't happen who can prevent it from becoming a struggle for equal voting rights?" Fayyad emphasized that in the final analysis, negotiations with Israel were the only path to a lasting peace, but said, “Let me be frank with you: My own assessment is that conditions are not ripe at this juncture for a meaningful resumption of talks."

In his introduction to the Prime Minister, ATFP President Ziad J. Asali said, "The pursuit of peace, independence and reform is not a project for cowards. We are honored to welcome a man of courage, principle and conviction." He told PM Fayyad, "You and your work exemplify the understanding that Palestinians need to empower themselves and build a state that reflects not only their right to independence and statehood, but also one which reflects and nurtures their values and the best elements of their culture." Dr. Asali also emphasized that "We will never tire of supporting Palestine till it reaches independence and we will continue to support the state once it is established."

The Gala entitled, "Honoring Heritage, Embracing Originality," was attended by over 650 people, including numerous dignitaries, 17 foreign ambassadors, senior Administration officials, and key members of the diplomatic corps, Washington foreign policy community, think-tank and academic figures, and noted journalists.

Amb. David Hale, United States Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, presented a letter to ATFP from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sec. Clinton wrote, "Tonight, I commend everyone at ATFP, and those of you who support its mission, for your tireless commitment to our shared goal – two states, the State of Palestine and the State of Israel, living side-by-side in peace and security." She concluded, "Palestinians deserve an independent state, Israelis deserve security, and Palestinian and Israeli children deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams and fulfill their God-given potential with dignity and peace. I remain grateful for your unwavering commitment to these goals, and on behalf of the American people, I thank you, as proud Palestinian-Americans, for everything you do each and every day to enrich our beloved country." To read the full letter, click here.

The Gala, MCed by noted Palestinian-American comedian Dean Obeidallah, also featured a concert by internationally renowned oud and violin virtuouso and composer Simon Shaheen and his ensemble, Qantara.

At the event ATFP honored four outstanding Palestinian Americans:
• Mrs. Maha Freij for Distinguished Service in Philanthropy
• Mrs. Hanan Karaman Munayyer for Excellence in Arts Scholarship
• Mr. Nawaf Soliman for Excellence in the Fine Arts
• Ms. Maysoon Zayid for Excellence in Performing Arts

For media coverage of the Gala see:

ATFP is strictly opposed to all acts of violence against civilians no matter the cause and no matter who the victims or perpetrators may be. The Task Force advocates the development of a Palestinian state that is democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and neutral in armed conflicts.
The raison d'ĂȘtre of the American Task Force on Palestine

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Walter Pincus: United States needs to reevaluate its assistance to Israel

United States needs to reevaluate its assistance to Israel

By , Published: October 17

As the country reviews its spending on defense and foreign assistance, it is time to examine the funding the United States provides to Israel.

Let me put it another way: Nine days ago, the Israeli cabinet reacted to months of demonstrations against the high cost of living there and agreed to raise taxes on corporations and people with high incomes ($130,000 a year). It also approved cutting more than $850 million, or about 5 percent, from its roughly $16 billion defense budget in each of the next two years.

If Israel can reduce its defense spending because of its domestic economic problems, shouldn’t the United States — which must cut military costs because of its major budget deficit — consider reducing its aid to Israel?

First, a review of what the American taxpayer provides to Israel... READ MORE

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Hoping scarf

Tilda Swinton in her own clothes- Vogue Magazine November 2011
(the UK edition, not the US one)

Hope and Optimism
for Palestinians in
the Next Generation

The Hoping scarf has been designed exclusively by Bella Freud. It is 50% wool, 50% acrylic and comes in one size.