Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spirit of “Moving Forward” Pervades Arab American Celebration

Michel Shehadeh: “Today is a good day to be Arab,” he said. “We are proud Americans and we come from generations of builders, not destroyers”
Spirit of “Moving Forward” Pervades Arab American Celebration
SAN FRANCISCO -- Approximately 500 people gathered at City Hall to celebrate the citywide third Annual Arab American Heritage month.

An Arab music orchestra performed on the grand staircase of the building’s rotunda, accompanied by vocalists wearing colorful dresses with elaborate embroidery, and folkloric dancers from two different troupes. Flags from the Arab world’s 22 different countries hung from above the staircase and the aroma of Arabic appetizers, such as mini spinach pies and meat pies filled the area. There was also an exhibit of contemporary Iraqi Art on display, courtesy of

Shadi Elkarra, chair of the Arab American Heritage Month committee, organized the event in partnership with the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services.

“If I may say, Ahlan wa sahlan,” said San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, welcoming the audience in Arabic.

Lee mentioned the recent “spotlight on the Arab community,” referencing the current political and social uprisings taking place in the Arab world, but he emphasized that in San Francisco, diversity is embraced.

“Here in San Francisco we have a tradition,” he said. “Particularly when it comes to immigrants, and that tradition is we learn from our immigrants, where they come from, who they are and what they want to do. That’s the beauty of being here in San Francisco. That’s our strength, and that’s why we have these wonderful celebrations,” he said. Lee also congratulated the Arab American community for their leadership in small business, politics and technology innovation in San Francisco, and the Bay Area.

According to the Arab Cultural and Community Center of San Francisco, there are an estimated 180,000 Arabs in the Bay Area. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, Supervisor Malia Cohen, and Supervisor John Avalos attended the festivities.

Long-time community activist and leader Nabila Mango was honored at the event with a lifetime achievement award. Mango, who is of Palestinian descent and is battling stage four of breast cancer, is a mental health therapist who has served the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood for over 20 years. She also chairs several Arab arts organizations and philanthropic efforts in the community.

Michel Shehadeh, executive director of the San Francisco based Arab Film Festival, also spoke at the event and received a certificate of recognition for his work in the community.

“Today is a good day to be Arab,” he said. “We are proud Americans and we come from generations of builders, not destroyers,” he said.

He listed several cities that Arabs have built, including Damascus, which he said is regarded the oldest city in the world.

Shehadeh addressed the current political climate more candidly and said it’s important to recognize and celebrate Arab heritage, especially “in these times.”

“Despite everything, we are still achieving,” he said. Despite “the nature of political climate, the attack on our community, and the pain that’s caused, we are still positive and we are moving forward,” he said.

Village Voice interview: Simon Shaheen On Occupy Wall Street, The Arab Renaissances, And Uncovering Arabic Music's Instrumental Repertoire

You performed at the American Task Force on Palestine gala last week. What did you play there?

We played instrumentals and two songs with Moroccan singer Nidal Ibourk, who lives in Chicago. "Iraq," an instrumental I composed four years ago, is based on a short Iraqi folk theme. We also performed a song whose title translates as "The Land Speaks Arabic."

Have you visited Occupy Wall Street yet? How does it compare to the popular revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya?

I can certainly draw similarities from what I've seen on TV and the fact that people are camping there. It's so obvious that the occupiers themselves recognize it. I'd like to go there and participate. Maybe I'll do a performance. I haven't been down there yet because this semester I've been teaching at Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory in Boston. And with all my travel, projects, and performances, it's a nightmare.

I hope this doesn't sound condescending, but I suspect a lot of Westerners have trouble enjoying Arabic music because of its perceived sameness. They only hear the swelling strings, melodramatic vocals, and "habibi habibi habibi." Not to mention the belly dancers.

I've been in the United States for 30 years, and I've seen a huge growth in appreciation of Arabic music. I think I was part of it. I remember when I first came here and we didn't have any audience. Americans generally viewed Middle Eastern music as cabaret with belly dancers, and those were the venues in which it was mainly heard, unfortunately. But my colleagues and I worked very hard to reach out to performing-arts centers, universities, and even elementary schools; we offered residencies, workshops, and lectures in addition to performances. Nobody can deny that Arabic music contains fabulous poetry, but I started the Near Eastern Music Ensemble in order to concentrate on instrumental music. People here didn't know there even was instrumental Arabic repertoire. Arabic music has made fantastic strides outside the Middle East since the late '70s and early '80s. I can feel it during my performances.

What Arab music speaks most strongly to the current situation in Palestine?

We are including a song Fairuz sang for Palestine at the beginning of the '60s. In Palestine we have a strong folkloric repertoire; indeed, folklore is the repertoire. Much of it doesn't need a political statement to reflect what's going on. Palestine's poetry is very powerful and speaks of the land, olive trees, hills, the nature of the people, and intricate details of village or rural life. Dances like the dabke are important, too, of course. Folklore, music, dance, embroidery, and theater all speak for Palestine.

Simon Shaheen performs at Roulette on Saturday night as part of "Songs for the People: Voices of the Arab Renaissance."

Q&A: Simon Shaheen On Occupy Wall Street, The Arab Renaissances, And Uncovering Arabic Music's Instrumental Repertoire

"We wanted women to be introduced to Resolution 1325 and to understand its importance. "

With the goal of forwarding the role of women and empowering them in various fields, MIFTAH carries out its program, “Gender Equity and Protection”, which primarily aims at pressuring decision makers to render laws and legislation more sensitive to gender-based violence.
(READ MIFTAH Makes a Difference in Full)

What was your initiative?

Najat: My initiative was to hold a women’s summer camp upon popular demand from the women themselves. It is also in line with Article 5 of the planning form given to us by MIFTAH, which stipulates that we are to “embrace creative, nonconventional initiatives and hence achieve direct goals and not only transient activities for entertainment.” We often bring women to participate in workshops and training but this is all very conventional. So, we wanted to do something new for the women, including a summer camp – a concept everyone has grown accustomed to being for young men and children. This was the first time a women’s summer camp was ever organized.

Tell us a bit about the summer camp

Najat: It lasted eight days, from September 5th to the 12th. There was a real need for such a camp I believe. We wanted women to be introduced to Resolution 1325 and to understand its importance. The women would have been bored by just sitting in on workshops. But when we educated them on the resolution through fun activities, visits to the springs and other sites in the village, they remembered the information easily. We would talk about 1325 in each activity and discuss ways to activate it. I think it was a big success.

How many women joined the camp?

Najat: The original number of participants was 50 but when we tallied the final number we had 56 women who wanted to join. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take them all because the funding only covered 50 women. But we promised them that would we try to allow for more participation in other activities. This is an indicator of how much women wanted to be part of the summer camp, how much they wanted to be involved.

How do you think the women benefited from the summer camp?

Najat: I think the biggest benefit was that women got to know their rights and that this resolution protects them; that the resolution does not only give them a specific right but gives them a number of rights in their homeland. The resolution has been ratified by the UN Security Council and has been adopted and worked with by women around the world, even Israeli women. So why shouldn’t we Palestinian women do the same? After hearing this reasoning, our women were more than eager to participate.

Using 1325 as a springboard, we also branched out into other areas of women’s empowerment, including the social role of women. For example, if a woman cannot make the change she wants in her husband, she can work to make these changes in her sons for the future – what their role is in the home and how to support their future wives.

What was MIFTAH’s role in your initiative?

Najat: MIFTAH funded our initiative and trained me. Without MIFTAH I don’t think we could have been able to carry out our initiative or float the idea of reactivating Resolution 1325. So, I would like to especially thank MIFTAH and its project coordinator, Najwa Yaghi, who cooperated with us from day one and helped us all along.

How did the summer camp impact the women’s cooperative that you run?

After our initiative, the cooperative has become better known among others and has attracted women who are not members in the cooperative to us. We had women from the three villages of Al Nuwaymeh, Dweik Al Tahta and Dweik Al Fouqa come to us. There has also been a request to hold other summer camps in the future.

How has the training you received from MIFTAH affected you and on your efforts to activate Resolution 1325?

Najat: I have participated in many training courses over the past three years. What makes MIFTAH’s training so unique is their trainers and their up-to-date training materials. MIFTAH’s trainer Maysoun Qawasmee is a wonderful trainer and made the training course very comprehensible for us. We felt personally empowered because it felt like she was speaking for all of us. We discussed the resolution and also discussed ways of documenting Israeli attacks and showing documentary films through MIFTAH. We used to watch films about Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation, about checkpoints and the wall. We saw how affected the women were from these films, especially those that showed other women. The women participating in the training learned how, if they were witness to a violation of a woman, they should film the violation with their mobile phones.

This was an idea that never occurred to these women before. They now realized that they could document any violation against them or any other woman by filming it and sending it to us. We then had our ways of sending it to international organizations so they could be aware of what our women endure.

How would you evaluate MIFTAH’s work among other organizations targeting women?

Najat: What I like about MIFTAH is the trust they put in us. I am so pleased with how they trusted our initiative, supported and funded the women’s summer camp. We are always in contact with MIFTAH’s coordinator Ms. Najwa Yaghi and she is always there to provide support and help. MIFTAH is a unique and wonderful organization.

Media’s Role for Changing Society and Democracy

Egyptians: If you don’t communicate, you don’t exist

“We can write anything now!” said an editor of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram to some visiting Danish participants in Cairo as a part of a recent Alexandria-based conference called “Media’s Role for Changing Society and Democracy.” The Egyptian revolution has certainly become a catalyst for free speech and for more political debate in Egyptian media. Yet, the chaotic climate of the revolution has also suffered some backlash. Another editor at Al-Ahram warned that the media in Egypt is now in a political limbo, and can sometimes even motivate the Egyptian public toward sectarian violence and false information.

The conference and the changing media landscape made it clear to all participants that both mass media communication, as well as Muslim-Christian dialogue, were of immense importance during this time of transition in Egypt. And participants did note that the media has the potential to promote positive dialogue. New media, especially social media sites like YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, has brought new players into the game of mass communication and challenged the hegemony of the “old” regular mass media.

Danish participant Peter Fisher-Nielsen pointed out that the limitations created by state censorship have loosened after the revolution, but that the current absence of any limits on what can be discussed in the media also poses a danger for more confrontation. That is why direct dialogue between religious minorities and groups has become more important than ever....READ MORE

David Hale: Hamas could be swept out of power if the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority is able to show "tangible" results from peace negotiations

"You supported the Arab spring which was seeking democracy and freedom. Now the Palestinian spring has arrived, asking for freedom and an end to the (Israeli) occupation. We deserve your support." Abbas
President Mahmoud Abbas meets with US Mideast peace envoy David Hale in the
West Bank city of Ramallah on Sept. 7, 2011. (Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)
US envoy: Palestine not immune to Arab Spring

CHICAGO (AFP) -- The revolutions rocking the Arab world could upturn Palestinian politics if a real peace process got off the ground, a top US diplomat has suggested.

Hamas could be swept out of power if the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority is able to show "tangible" results from peace negotiations with Israel, US envoy for Middle East Peace David Hale told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Thursday.

The envoy said that the PA had yet to show the benefits of talks, but warned that pursuing statehood at UN bodies could undo the peace process.

PLO officials say they are taking the membership application to the UN because 20 years of negotiations have brought them no closer to independence and with nothing to show for their efforts but more Israeli settlement on Palestinian land.

Hale said while the security and economic reforms that have been achieved by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank are "valued" they "aren't enough."

When the Palestinian people "see that the leadership that is committed to peace has something to offer, then I think then you will see a very different dynamic underway," he added.

"The Palestinians are no more immune to the currents of change and demand for democratization, reform and freedom than any of the other people in the region," Hale said.

"I think you will see those same forces affect Hamas because clearly their leadership is not characterized by any of those words."

Hamas -- which is blacklisted by the US -- won democratic national elections in 2006, before seizing the Gaza Strip after fighting with long-term rivals Fatah erupted into near civil war, and split Palestinians into separate administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

Hale said that while Hamas is vulnerable, it will only lose power when the Palestinian people are given a real choice between peace and violence.

"That choice can only be put to the Palestinian people in the context of negotiations in which there is actually something tangible to be judged," Hale said.

"It has to move beyond rhetoric which is unfortunately all we have right now to show for our efforts."

Hale cautioned that Palestinian attempts to seek statehood at the United Nations -- including Monday's vote to grant Palestine full member status at the UN cultural agency UNESCO -- could instead complicate, delay or even "derail" the peace process.

"Peace will not come through statements or actions or votes in the United Nations," he said, adding that such action will simply raise expectations "that we fear will be frustrated because it will do nothing to change the situation on the ground the day after the vote."

In early October, Abbas urged members of the Council of Europe parliamentary assembly to support the Palestinian UN bid as they had the Arab Spring in a Strasbourg speech.

"Today we are at the heart of the Arab spring: we say that the hour of the Palestinian spring has struck," he told European parliamentarians.

"You supported the Arab spring which was seeking democracy and freedom. Now the Palestinian spring has arrived, asking for freedom and an end to the (Israeli) occupation. We deserve your support."

Fateh considers Palestinian Authority’s future

Fateh considers Palestinian Authority’s future

RAMALLAH (AFP) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday urged his Fateh party to think carefully about where the Palestinians are headed and the future of the Palestinian Authority.

In a speech to party’s revolutionary council, meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Abbas said it was important to address concerns that the Palestinian Authority had become defunct.

“Where are we going? That’s what I said to [US] President [Barack] Obama,” he said, according to a text of his address.

He said the council would discuss the next steps in the Palestinian bid for state membership of the United Nations, as well as a peace talks proposal from the international Quartet and the future of the Palestinian Authority.

Created in 1994 after the signing of the Oslo peace accords, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was intended to prepare for the creation of a Palestinian state after a final peace deal with Israel.

But with talks on hold and the Palestinians instead pursuing state membership at the UN, questions have increasingly been raised about the purpose of the PA.

“The people and Palestinian institutions are asking what the point of its continued existence is,” Abbas said.

“We want to respond to this question, which will be one of the subjects we will discuss with our brother Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas chief,” he added, referring to talks he is scheduled to hold with the Islamist leader.

Abbas and other senior Palestinians have said that if peace talks remain stalled, they might consider dismantling the PA entirely, although no serious steps towards doing so appear to have been taken.

Abbas also told the council, which is meeting through Friday, that he was determined to pursue full membership for a Palestinian state at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) despite a brewing storm over the issue.

The organisation is expected to approve the membership bid, which comes in parallel to Palestinian attempts to gain state membership at the United Nations, despite Israeli and US opposition.

US law requires Washington to cut funding to UNESCO if it accepts the Palestinian bid, which could seriously hamper the organisation’s work.

But Abbas said Thursday he saw “no justification” for abandoning the bid.

“We will not renounce the demand for Palestine to become a member of UNESCO, where the battle is very intense,” he said.

Israel’s envoy to UNESCO, Education Minister Gideon Saar, met the organisation’s head on Thursday in an attempt to head off the bid.

Saar called the Palestinian bid “part of the Palestinians’ continuing effort to circumvent direct negotiations between the sides, which will only push peace and an end to the conflict further away,” an education ministry statement said.

Meanwhile, in Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday urged the Congress not to cut security aid to the PA, warning that hardliners such as Hamas could fill a vacuum.

Pro-Israel US lawmakers recently froze some $200 million in economic aid to the Palestinians after leader Mahmoud Abbas sought statehood at the United Nations, although they did not hit security funding.

“I will certainly underscore publicly again our strong preference that aid not be cut, particularly aid for the security forces,” Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in response to a question.

“I would hope as the Congress considers these issues that we will consult closely and that there be a real recognition that we don’t want unintended consequences,” she said.

“We certainly don’t want the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and a vacuum that could then be filled by radicals like Hamas,” she said.

28 October 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

UNESCO to vote Monday on Palestine membership: sources

Palestinian women wave national flags during a protest calling for a Palestinian state with full UN membership at the Qalandia Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank near Ramallah, September 2011. UNESCO's general assembly will vote on whether to grant Palestine full member status, a move that would cut millions of dollars in US funding to the UN cultural agency. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
UNESCO's general assembly will vote Monday on whether to grant Palestine full member status, a move that would cut millions of dollars in US funding to the UN cultural agency, UNESCO sources said.

The vote is to take place the same day Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki addresses the assembly, the sources told AFP.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation on Tuesday started holding its general assembly, which, like the UN General Assembly in New York, is to vote on Palestinian membership.

But while as a permanent UN Security Council member the US has a veto that it says it will exercise at the General Assembly, no one has a veto at UNESCO, where a two-thirds majority of its 193 voting members suffices.

Arab states braved intense US and French diplomatic pressure to bring the motion before the UNESCO executive committee earlier this month, which passed it by 40 votes in favour to four against, with 14 abstentions.

Palestine currently has observer status at UNESCO and diplomats told AFP that it would have no problem garnering the required votes to become a full member.

Such a move would automatically spark a crisis between Washington and UNESCO, as two laws passed by Israel's staunchest ally in the 1990s ban the financing of any United Nations organisation that accepts Palestine as a full member.

UNESCO stands to lose $70 million, or 22 percent of its annual budget.

In Detroit, ambassador makes case for Palestinian nation

Maen Rashid Areikat, Palestinian ambassador to the U.S.
Visiting metro Detroit, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.S. called Thursday for the recognition of a Palestinian nation and "an end to the occupation," saying that Palestinians deserve the right to have their own country.

"We are fed up," said Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organization's representative to the U.S. "We are sick and tired that things are not moving forward. ... The status quo cannot continue."

Areikat spoke Thursday to the Free Press editorial board and earlier at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Last month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas approached the United Nations to ask for support in declaring a Palestinian nation.

Areikat echoed Abbas' views, saying that it's time that Palestinians are recognized. And he said that the recent Arab uprisings should be a "cause of alarm for the Israelis" because Arab leaders "can no longer ignore the public sentiment" against Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has undermined the peace process, he said. Areikat criticized Israel's government for continuing to build settlements that he said violate international agreements....READ MORE

Home near Nablus 'firebombed by [Israeli] settlers'

The Hanini family home and a vehicle parked outside sustained serious damage in what one Palestinian official has called a settler attack.
Home near Nablus 'firebombed by settlers'
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- A family in Nablus says Israeli settlers blew up a room in their home and firebombed their jeep early Thursday.

Shaheer Hanini, 40, told Ma'an the family was woken by two blasts at their home in Beit Furik at around 2 a.m.

They found a room at the back of the house burnt out and their jeep, parked in front of the home, on fire. Hanini says he used a water tank to put out the blaze.

Hanini said a gas tank outside the home attached to an oven had been dragged into the living room and set on fire, and he blamed settlers for the attack.

The family's furniture, TV, laptop and cell phone were destroyed in the blast.
Palestinian Authority settlement affairs official Ghassan Doughlas said the attack marked an escalation in settler violence. He urged the international community to intervene.

Palestinian People's Party politburo member Nasr Abu Jaish told Ma'an that the incident was an organized and provocative action targeting civilians.

Abu Jaish said parties would meet in Nablus on Thursday to form committees to protect homes and guard communities from further attacks.

Jordan king: We are Israel's last ally in region

"Quoting Western intelligence officials, Maariv said the king was convinced Israel was deliberately destabilizing President Mahmoud Abbas to create regional chaos and that Netanyahu wanted Palestinians to overthrow his Hashemite rule in Jordan."
Jordan king: We are Israel's last ally in region
WASHINGTON (Ma'an) -- Jordan's King Abdullah on Tuesday said his kingdom was Israel's last ally in the region and warned that Egypt may dissolve its peace treaty with Tel Aviv.

"We are actually the last man standing with our relationship with Israel," the king told The Washington Post, pointing to Israel's troubled relations with Turkey and Egypt.

Jordan will maintain peaceful ties with Israel because it is in both parties' interests, he said.

But the king warned that Cairo's new leadership might break Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, in place since 1979.

"That is a very, very strong possibility."

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a treaty with Israel, but relations have been tense since the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak in February. Mubarak had long defended the peace agreement despite its unpopularity with many Egyptians.

When Israeli troops killed five Egyptian border guards in August after an incident in which eight Israelis were killed near the frontier, protesters stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo. The embassy was evacuated and Israel flew its ambassador home.

But Egypt's recent mediation of a captive exchange between Hamas and Israel, which was swiftly followed by a prisoner swap deal between Cairo and Tel Aviv announced Monday, may suggest a thaw in tension between the capitals.

Asked if he thought it was strange for Israel to negotiate with Hamas, King Abdullah said: "It is politics at the end of the day."

Meanwhile, he questioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's commitment to reaching an agreement with Palestine based on two states.

"This is the most frustrated I have ever been about the peace process. I think a lot of us have come to the conclusion that this particular (Israeli) government is not interested in a two-state solution."

He added: "Since I am not convinced there is an interest in a two-state solution, the question I am asking is: What is Plan B?"

The Hebrew-language daily Maariv on Thursday said King Abdullah was worried that Netanyahu planned to topple his rule and create a Palestinian state in Jordan.

Quoting Western intelligence officials, Maariv said the king was convinced Israel was deliberately destabilizing President Mahmoud Abbas to create regional chaos and that Netanyahu wanted Palestinians to overthrow his Hashemite rule in Jordan.

Palestinians constitute a demographic majority in Jordan and Abdullah believes Israel wants to transfer the population of the West Bank to the neighboring country, Maariv reported.

According to the report, Abdullah is also concerned that the prisoner swap deal has strengthened Hamas and that the Islamist movement might try to move its headquarters from Damascus to Amman due to the unrest in Syria.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vandals cut down 20 olive trees belonging to an Palestinian family in Jerusalem- a Jewish extremist act against Arabs.

Jerusalem olive trees cut down in possible price tag attack

Vandals cut down 20 olive trees belonging to an Palestinian family in Jerusalem, police said Thursday, with a note at the scene implying it might have been a Jewish extremist act against Arabs.

The incident was discovered on Thursday "in the courtyard of an Arab house" on the outskirts of Beit Safafa, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

"Israeli police arrived at the scene and launched an investigation in the afternoon as to who caused the damage. The investigation was continuing, and no suspects have been arrested so for," he said.

Rosenfeld added that "there was a little piece of paper that had the words price tag written on it."

Police term "price tag" incidents as acts of vengeance by extremist Jews against Palestinians or Arabs. The term usually refers to attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinians or their property in the West Bank.

Earlier this month, a mosque in northern Israel was torched and graves in a Muslim and Christian cemetery in Jaffa were defaced, in attacks believed to be "price tag" incidents.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat strongly condemned Thursday's incident, and said that "no tolerance should be shown to violence of any nature. We will continue to maintain coexistence in the city," public radio reported.

Envoy Tony Blair says the quartet, frustrated with the peace process, will seek border and security proposals first from Israelis and Palestinians...

Question: You are taking a more active role in the peace process? Is that because the U.S. is stepping back?

[Tony Blair's answer] The U.S. is still very much there, but it's also saying to the international community, "You've got to step up with us here." If this situation deteriorates, you are going to have a major problem in the region. However difficult or frustrating it gets for me — and this is my 72nd visit here in four years — I do it because I think it's of profound importance to the region and to our security.

So you are not going away?


Mideast 'quartet' tries new approach with Israel, Palestinians

My letter to the LA Times RE Mideast 'quartet' tries new approach with Israel, Palestinians- Tony Blair Interview

RE: Mideast 'quartet' tries new approach with Israel, Palestinians, Envoy Tony Blair says the quartet, frustrated with the peace process, will seek border and security proposals first from Israelis and Palestinians to gauge whether direct talks are feasible.,0,3046894,full.story

Dear Editor,

Many amateurs like to argue about why peace is not possible- more professionals should step up to do all that they can to convince all involved that a just and lasting peace is not only possible, it is a dire necessity for everyone's sake.... and we all have our part to play: Every 'side' needs step up to do what they can to curb religious extremism, hate mongering and the violent radicals who seek to perpetuate the very real suffering and plight of the Palestinians.

The Arab Peace Initiative, international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all lay a firm foundation for the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East with an end to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Negotiations need to be about how to get from here to there, not about how to dismiss or ignore important issues and crimes against humanity.

Anne Selden Annab

Help Build A Golden Rule Peace for the Holy Land

My letter to CSM 10-27-2011 What are the Israeli-Palestinian peace talk preconditions?

RE: What are the Israeli-Palestinian peace talk preconditions?
posted online in the comment section

(Dear Editor)

This story about preconditions on Middle East peace was misleading- and misguided. Israel is the one aggressively usurping Palestinian land, demolishing Palestinian homes, uprooting Palestinian trees and pushing more and more Palestinians into forced exile and despair- and/or the arms of Islamists.

Furthermore Israel has been insisting that Palestinians formally and officially dub it "Jewish", so that Israel can more easily continue to ignore the Palestinian refugees very real right to return to original homes and lands as promised by the precedent set by refugee return and reparations after the Nazi Holocaust.

Peace must be based on full respect for international law and universal basic human rights- a fully secular two state solution to once and for all end the Israel/Palestine conflict is the best way forward for everyone's sake- regardless of supposed race or religion.

Anne Selden Annab
American homemaker & poet

My letter to the Washington Post 10-27-2011 RE David Ignatius's "The Mideast deal that could have been"

RE David Ignatius's "The Mideast deal that could have been"

Dear Editor,

Regarding the
"The Mideast deal that could have been": Most of the peace deal details sound basically reasonable until one gets to the big gotcha: "The “right of return” for Palestinians would be limited to about 5,000"... Were Jewish refugees from the Nazi Holocaust refused their right to return to original homes and lands after the war- no not at all!!! In fact descendants who moved to Israel continue to get passports today and are easily able to return to Europe as full and equal citizens.

I can understand why Israel is convinced that denying people (specifically the native non-Jewish Palestinians) full and equal rights because of their supposed religion is a politically expedient necessity, but I simply can not understand why any American politician or columnist can promote or endorse such cruel policies and wrong headed thinking after all America has been through to become a more real democracy.

Did we deny the victims of Katrina or any other Hurricane the freedom to return to New Orleans after the storm?

Do we use a person's religion as a basis for housing subsidies? Is our government using our tax dollars to build roads and put up checkpoints and walls inside Mexico and Canada so that American citizens can have more freedom and job opportunities than local citizens?

The Western world knows quite well the perils of mixing church and state, and how quickly and completely religious tyranny and corruption takes hold. Our message to the Arab Spring needs to be about the vital importance of fair and just laws and a secular peace for all the people... a just and lasting peace and prosperity firmly based on full respect for universal basic human rights including but not limited to every refugee's very real right to return- and the right to leave too. The freedom to move away from conflict and the right to find a decent job and build a new home and make new friends. The right to build a compassionate community and a better future for all our children- regardless of supposed race or religion.

Anne Selden Annab
American homemaker & poet

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Palestinian man harvests olives at a grove near Farha village, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah October 25, 2011. Picture taken October 25, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

A Palestinian man harvests olives at a grove near Farha village, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah October 25, 2011. Picture taken October 25, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Visit Palestine, it Makes a World of Difference By Julie Holm for MIFTAH

Visit Palestine, it Makes a World of Difference
Date posted: October 26, 2011
By Julie Holm for MIFTAH

Every year Palestine is visited by thousands of foreigners. Unlike conventional tourist spots, however, most of the foreigners coming here have an agenda that is more about work and politics than sunbathing and shopping. For the past couple of years, however, the number of people traveling to Palestine just to experience the country, the culture and the conflict up close has increased. Last week I got to experience what it is like to be a tourist in Palestine as I acted as a tour guide for my family who came to visit me.

Coming to Palestine on some sort of business is one thing, but coming here for “pleasure” especially takes a certain interest in the area. It is not a place you go just because you found a good deal online. Here for business or pleasure, foreigners have very different interests, backgrounds and reasons for coming. In Ramallah, I meet people who are here to work, find work, volunteer, visiting friends or family or just to experience living in Palestine for a while. They are here on work visas or tourist visas, traveling in and out every three months. Some stay for a week or a couple of months, some stay a year and others stay forever.

Whatever the reasons are for visiting Palestine, and whatever the visitors know from before, the fact that they come here to experience the situation and see the occupation with their own eyes, has great significance on how the occupation is perceived outside of Palestine and outside academic and organizational circles working with the issue. One thing is reading about the conflict in the newspaper or hearing about it on the news. Far too little news about Palestine and the occupation reaches western viewers. Only big events like Palestine going to the UN or the more recent prisoner swap reaches television screens and newspapers viewed by people in other places in the world; unfortunately, the burning of mosques, destruction of olive trees and settler violence most often does not.

Going through the check point coming from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, my family and I got caught in a long line of cars and buses trying to pass. In front of us, however, the line was held up by two men trying to pass the check point on a motorcycle. A group of four to five Israeli soldiers stopped them and asked them questions while they openly joked among themselves. They started yelling and kicking the motorcycle and finally, when the two men turned around to go back, one of the soldiers grabbed on to the man sitting on the back of the motorcycle and hit him several times before returning to his friends laughing. This was when, I think, my parents really understood the realities of the occupation. And even though I don’t wish for anyone to experience something like that, it makes all the difference in the world to see it with your own eyes.

I brought my family on a tour to Hebron, and the tour guide told us that he would show us the realities without trying to convince us to be “pro” one or the other. But the realities spoke for themselves. Even though facts can be manipulated, it is not hard to see who is the occupier and who is the occupied. Here we saw how old Palestinian women climb out of windows and down ladders at the back of their houses to avoid having to go through checkpoints; how Israeli settlers living above Hebron’s old city throw garbage and dirty water on Palestinians walking by underneath, their children playing with BB guns, aimed at these same Palestinians, while Israeli soldiers watched and just let it happen.

After this experience, and after talking to Palestinians and seeing what life is really like in the West Bank, my family will, as many others have before them, go home and tell people they meet about the situation. When you have experienced the situation first hand you get a very different and much stronger impression of what many Palestinians have to go through every day. That is why it is great to see that the number of tourists in Palestine is increasing.

It is easy to sit in the comfort of your home, watching the (often one-sided) news and make up your mind about this very complicated conflict. Experiencing the uncomfortable situation at checkpoints, visiting settlements and refugee camps and seeing the separation wall with your own eyes gives it a very different perspective altogether.

Julie Holm 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

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

The Arab Peace Initiative requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well...

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

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

2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:

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

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

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

3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:

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

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

4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.

5. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighbourliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.

6. Invites the international community and all countries and organisations to support this initiative.

Even the Heavens were displaying the Palestinian colors last night..."Pro Palestinian" Northern lights over Norway!

Mike Hanini Odetalla

Even the Heavens were displaying the Palestinian colors last night..."Pro Palestinian" Northern lights over Norway! NO TRICK Photography...Actual picture from last night!

Ålesund, Norway Northern Lights

Palestinian envoy is asked to leave Ottawa after controversial tweet

The Palestinian envoy to Canada has been told she’s not welcome in Ottawa after she tweeted a link to a video that the federal government deemed an offensive diatribe against Jews.

Now, Linda Sobeh Ali, the chargé d’affaires of the Palestinian delegation in Ottawa, is just one cut above persona non grata. The Canadian government called her in for a high-level dressing down, made a formal protest to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and has decided to “limit communication” with her until a replacement arrives.

The diplomatic cold shoulder was sparked when Ms. Sobeh Ali took to Twitter this month... READ MORE or just watch the video Linda tweeted:

Heartbreaking Poem of Palestinian Girl - English Subs

International envoys seek to restart Mideast talks

JERUSALEM (AP) — International mediators will sit down with Palestinian and Israeli officials in Jerusalem on Wednesday in the hope of finding a formula to restart the deadlocked peace talks.

But in a telling commentary on the beleaguered state of peacemaking, they will be huddling separately with officials from each side and will not be meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The mission by the Quartet of Mideast peace negotiators comes after the Palestinians asked the United Nations last month to recognize an independent state of Palestine. The request defied a U.S.-led effort to block the move, which is currently under review at the U.N. Security Council.

Immediately after the statehood application was submitted, the Quartet — representing the U.S., European Union, Russia and U.N. — called for a resumption of peace talks in a month, with the ambitious goal of reaching a peace agreement by late 2012....READ MORE

Washington Post interview with Jordan's King Abdullah on Egypt, Syria and Israel

"The Arab Spring didn’t start because of politics; it started because of economics — poverty and unemployment. . . . What keeps me up at night is not political reform because I am clear on where we are going. What keeps me up at night is the economic situation because if people are going to get back on the streets, it is because of economic challenges, not political." King Abdullah

Jordan’s King Abdullah on Egypt, Syria and Israel

During the World Economic Forum he hosted at the Dead Sea over the weekend, Jordan’s King Abdullah II spoke with The Post’s Lally Weymouth. ...READ MORE

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Anthropology News: Why Heritage Restoration Make Sense Under Occupation

Heritage by NGOs

A current map of the West Bank, showing its fragmentation. Only the dark brown areas are controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Courtesy of B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Why Heritage Restoration Make Sense Under Occupation

Walking through the empty alleyways of the Old City of Hebron, an otherwise prevailing silence is broken only by a curious and unexpected noise here on a key battlefield of the Israel-Palestinian conflict: the sound of ongoing restoration work on sites throughout the old souk. Life in Old Hebron came to a standstill in the late 1970s when a handful of Israeli settlers occupied some of its signature historic buildings, bringing with them several thousand soldiers. This militarization and the subsequent progressive depopulation of the Old City’s Palestinian inhabitants have made the once bustling center of the southern West Bank a ghost town. Since the mid-1990s, a heritage organization called the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) has been working to restore the city’s many dilapidated Ottoman and Mamluk buildings. The HRC is what might be called a quango, or a quasi non-governmental organization; though tied to the Palestinian Authority, it is largely independent of it, particularly concerning funding. The major functioning Palestinian institution in Old Hebron, HRC receives several million dollars a year from Arab and European donors. Yet, why invest so much effort and money into heritage restoration in a place literally under fire? HRC’s work allowed several thousand Palestinians to return to live in the restored houses of the Old City, preventing the expansion of Israeli settlements into abandoned areas. Ultimately, HRC helps maintain the city’s very “Palestinianness”, including the historical character of its traditional Arab-Islamic urban fabric. This organization’s other activities extend from providing much needed employment on its restoration projects to promoting socio-cultural development....READ MORE

East Jerusalem school textbooks are a war of words

Israel's edited version of a first-grade math textbook for Palestinian students in Arabic-language schools in East Jerusalem, right, omits a Palestinian flag flying over a school that is featured in the Palestinian version. (Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times / October 6, 2011)

Goldberg: American imperialism? Please... The upside to the U.S. leaving Iraq is that it should quell the nonsensical talk about empire-building.

"In many quarters of the Middle East, the war on terror is cast as a religiously inspired front for crusader-imperialism. This nonsense overlooks the fact that America has gone to war to save Muslim lives more often than any modern Muslim country has. Under Democrats and Republicans we've fought to help Muslims in Somalia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. We've sought the conversion of no one and -- with the exception of Kuwait -- we've never presented a bill. When asked to leave, we've done so.

To say we did these things simply for plunder and power is an insult to all Americans, particularly those who gave their lives in the process."

James J. Zogby: Whether in Egypt or America, it takes organisation to win

"Victory doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t go to the side with the best ideas, or even to the one that expresses its ideas best, the most frequently, or to the largest audience. Whether in a small city or a big country, change will only come through organisation and ability to mobilise people to press for change." James J. Zogby

Hussein Ibish: Netanyahu governs like Arafat did

Hussein Ibish, October 25, 2011

An often overlooked irony of contemporary Middle East politics is how deeply reminiscent the governing style of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to that of the late Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat. The mechanics of holding together a fractious national liberation movement bear uncanny similarities to those of cobbling together a diverse coalition within a flawed parliamentary democracy.

For most of its history under Arafat, the Palestine Liberation Organization was not simply synonymous with Fatah. It was, rather, a contentious coalition of diverse groups from the far left to the moderate right.

Arafat was a master at operating a quota system in which everybody got enough of the action to keep them on board. In more recent years under President Mahmoud Abbas, and particularly Prime Minister Salam Fayyad—who is not a member of either Fatah or the PLO—Palestinians have been moving away from a quota system toward one with elements of meritocracy and the selection of officials based on their ability to perform rather than what faction they represent.

Coalition building in parliamentary democracies frequently involves jockeying for positions between party leaders based on the number of votes they can produce in the legislature. But Netanyahu has managed to create an ideologically crazy-quilt coalition that is nonetheless one of the most stable in Israel's history precisely because all of its members get exactly what they need....READ MORE

Monday, October 24, 2011

Israeli settlers have cost Palestinian farmers over $500,000 this year by destroying olive trees in the West Bank
Oxfam: Settlers cost farmers over $500,000 this harvest

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers have cost Palestinian farmers over $500,000 this year by destroying olive trees in the West Bank, Oxfam and local organizations warned Thursday.

Oxfam, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees estimated that olives collected this year would produce half the oil of the 2010 harvest, a statement from Oxfam said.

"Burning an olive tree is like burning a farmer’s bank account," said Oxfam director Jeremy Hobbs.

"Over 100,000 Palestinian families depend on the money they earn during harvest season. Especially because this is a bad harvest, every olive counts."

Oxfam says over 2,500 olive trees were destroyed in September, and 7,500 this year. Since 1967, 800,000 olive trees have been uprooted resulting in a loss of around $55 million to the Palestinian economy, the international organization estimates.

In 97 incidents of tree destruction documented between 2005 and 2010, no court cases have yet been brought against culprits, according to research by Israeli NGO Yesh Din, the release said.

Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees advocacy director Munjed Abu Jaish urged Israeli authorities to "stop protecting and supporting the settlers over Palestinians.

"Israeli settlers must understand that they are not above the law."

Aside from settler attacks, tens of thousands of olive trees have been uprooted to make way for Israel's wall, and nearly one million more are caught between the illegal wall and the Green Line separating Israel from the West Bank. Thousands more trees are off limits to farmers because they are close to illegal settlements in the West Bank, Oxfam notes.

Union of Agricultural Work Committees official Omar Tabakhna says farmers don't want to be dependent on aid handouts.

"They want to work on their land and earn money from a product they are proud of. In order for them to do this, we must ensure that their rights are upheld."

Ahead of UNESCO Meeting, Archaeologists Demand Protection for Mamilla Cemetery

Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock is slated to be a Palestinian UNESCO World Heritage Site, if Palestine is granted membership (Brendan Work, PNN).
Days before the beginning of the 36th session of UNESCO—the body expected to approve Palestinian membership and grant protection to Palestinian heritage sites—a group of 84 international archaeologists signed a petition calling Israel to stop building the planned Museum of Tolerance on the site of the Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem.

Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that the archeologists’ petition was sent on October 20 to the Jerusalem municipality, the Israeli Department of Antiquities, and the Wiesenthal Center—a major American funder of the project—asking to halt work on the museum.

"The bulldozing of historic cemeteries is the ultimate act of territorial aggrandizement: the erasure of prior residents. Desecration of Jerusalem's Mamilla cemetery is a continuing cultural and historical tragedy," said Yale University Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology Harvey Weiss, a signatory to the petition.

The archeologists also said they would also go to UNESCO and the Human Rights Council to intervene and demand Israeli not build the museum over the cemetery. UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, is due to vote to upgrade Palestine’s status with the organization from an observer to a member state sometime between today and November 10.

The general conference vote will follow an initial vote of the UNESCO Executive Board in which 40 nations voted in favor of taking the issue of Palestine’s membership status to the General Assembly. Only four nations at the Executive Board voted against the proposal – the United States, Germany, Latvia and Romania. The remaining 14 nations, including Belgium, France, Italy and Spain, abstained from voting.

If admitted to UNESCO as a member state, Palestinian officials would be able seek UNESCO protection of significant cultural sites within its territories. As well as seeking protection for sites in places such as Jericho and Bethlehem, Palestinian officials could also use UNESCO membership to seek protection for endangered sites within East Jerusalem. Whether this list could include the Mamilla Cemetery, which includes significant pre-Islamic tombs and was declared a “historic site” by the Supreme Muslim Council in 1927.

If the vote to include Palestine as a full member is successful, UNESCO may suffer severe funding cuts. The United States currently provides up to 22% of UNESCO’s funding. But under existing US legislation, the country cannot provide funding to any UN body that grants full membership to any group that “does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.” The USA previously withdrew funding from UNESCO from 1984 – 2003 after disputes over mismanagement and politics, but since rejoining under George W. Bush, the USA has forged strong ties with the organization and provided strong praise for its programs. If the USA were to withdraw funding, it could maintain its UNESCO membership for two years. However both its influence, and the ability of UNESCO to implement its programs would be severely undermined

Dear Congress: Please support The United Nations- UNESCO - UNWRA... AND PALESTINE!

letter I just sent via
SUBJECT: Please support The United Nations- UNESCO - UNWRA... AND PALESTINE!

President Barack Obama
Sen. Bob Casey
Rep. Todd Platts
Sen. Patrick Toomey

October 24, 2011

Today's LA Times had an article regarding UNESCO and Palestine

AND I am horrified to find out that "For the U.S., a forced withdrawal from UNESCO, If the organization accepts Palestine as a member, the U.S. will have to resign."... Sounds to me like it is time to change the 20 year old law which forbids the payment of dues by the U.S. to any U.N. body that accepts Palestine as a member.

The time has come for a real Palestinian state to emerge as part of an end to the sixty year old Israel/Palestine conflict- and for all nations (as well as all individuals) to do what they can to support and empower a better way forward for both Israelis and Palestinians: A negotiated fully secular two state solution firmly based on full respect for international law and basic human rights is the only way to end the conflict.

Anne Selden Annab
Mechanicsburg , PA

My letter to the LATimes RE For the U.S., a forced withdrawal from UNESCO, If the organization accepts Palestine as a member...

Building Peace in the Minds of Men and Women

RE: For the U.S., a forced withdrawal from UNESCO, If the organization accepts Palestine as a member, the U.S. will have to resign.,0,2019108.story

Dear Editor,

Regarding the fact that "For the U.S., a forced withdrawal from UNESCO, If the organization accepts Palestine as a member, the U.S. will have to resign."... Sounds to me like it is time to change the 20 year old law which forbids the payment of dues by the U.S. to any U.N. body that accepts Palestine as a member.

The time has come for a real Palestinian state to emerge as part of an end to the sixty year old Israel/Palestine conflict- and for all nations (as well as all individuals) to do what they can to support and empower a better way forward for both Israelis and Palestinians: A negotiated fully secular two state solution firmly based on full respect for international law and basic human rights is the only way to end the conflict.

Anne Selden Annab
"Everything we say or do , no matter how small or big, affects others..."

Food for thought

Growing Gardens for Palestine

Dear Ziad,

Dear Ziad,

Thank you and your delightful wife for being at the helm of the ATFP, for all of your hard work and specifically for pulling together such a wonderful Gala for American supporters of Palestine this year.

I adored seeing the Palestinian dresses and embroidery and hearing the story of how the Palestinian Heritage Foundation came to be.

The exquisite prints and artwork in the silent auction certainly were worth exploring too- although the main reception room was so totally crowded it was a tad hard to really get a good look at many of them.

My main regret of that night is that I did not bring a bigger handbag so that I could tuck away and take home some of those utterly delectable delicate cheese and spinach pastries- heavens those were soooo good!

Speaking of delectably good- Dean Obeidallah really was a perfect choice for MC for the 2011 Gala. He is so much more than merely a very personable and talented comedian with a very good sense of humor. He is also a very thoughtful and intelligent writer. I have very much admired the articles he has had published in mainstream American publications and media outlets such as CNN.

And what a delight to also be seated at Hussein Ibish's table for the dinner. He is one of the most brilliant - and hard working- people I know... All in all the diversity of the crowd, and the breadth of knowledge of the speakers (and guests) was fascinating and so very informative: Salam Fayyad has certainly done a heroic job of taking Palestine seriously and doing all he can to build the foundations of a real state, as well as gather up serious support for that state.

I very much hope that America continues to support and fund and believe in a real Palestinian state and that Palestine soon becomes a real nation state; a fully sovereign, economically viable, democratic, pluralistic, stable, secular state living in peace and prosperity alongside its neighbors including Israel.


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


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