Friday, November 11, 2011

PALESTINE: Public Announcement of a Civic Registration for Direct Elections to the PNC

  1. S/he was born within the borders of Palestine as defined during the British Mandate era, or was entitled to acquire the Palestinian nationality under the applicable laws at that time;
  2. S/he was born in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory;
  3. One of his/her ancestors falls under the application of paragraph (a) or (b) above, irrespective of where s/he was born;
  4. S/he is a spouse of a Palestinian.

Public Announcement of a Civic Registration for Direct Elections to the PNC

11 November 2011

By the spring of 2012 an internet register for the secure online registration of Palestinian voters everywhere will be completed and ready for use. Palestinians can then register themselves as well as assist others to register through a civic registration drive that will last for 6 months. For the first time it will become possible for every Palestinian, including the refugees in the shatat, to register for elections to the Palestinian National Council (PNC), and to participate in direct elections to the PLO parliament that represents the entirety of the Palestinian people. PNC elections have been officially announced, and are scheduled for the spring of 2012. This civic drive will help make these elections a reality.

The registration model was developed by university-based experts in internet security protocol and elections registration as a public service to the Palestinian people, the majority of whom are not included in the current voter register of Palestinians. The current voter register only covers Palestinians in the 1967 occupied Palestinian homeland, largely excluding Jerusalem, and was created by the Palestinian National Authority for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The PLC is itself incorporated into the PNC, and represents Palestinians from the 1967 occupied Palestine inside of it.

Tools for disenfranchised Palestinians to prepare and carry out a voter registration in all locations are published on PalestiniansRegister, the website of the civic registration drive. The website also explains how every Palestinian can assist in registering Palestinians who have never had the chance to vote in democratic elections to the PNC.

Elsewhere on this website you will find details of Palestinian civic associations’ Campaign for Voter Registration, a decentralized but coordinated campaign building towards the reality of democratic PNC elections, where the voices of each are heard. The immense challenges facing Palestinians in their search for democratic national participation require the dedicated and concerted efforts of civil society to overcome these obstacles. All Palestinians, individuals and associations, can join the civic campaign for voter registration in order to create the first-ever register of Palestinian voters for PNC elections. All the skills, energies and resources of Palestinian society can come together across borders to contribute to this common goal.

The announcement of the creation of a civic mechanism for voter registration is launched today November the 11th, on the anniversary of the death of the late President Yasser Arafat, Chair of the PLO (Abu ‘Ammar). Forty years ago on November 13th 1974, his historic speech at the United Nations paved the way to the international recognition of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and confirmed international recognition of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, foremost the right to return to our homes and properties and our right to self-determination. Today’s announcement builds on this heritage of the PLO as a liberation movement that unites, represents and advances the rights of all Palestinians as one people.

It is understood that a directly elected democratic PNC is the most effective means to affirm and advance Palestinian rights, end internal division, restore and strengthen our national liberation movement, and reactivate the PLO on a democratic basis so that it can represent the will of the entire Palestinian people. Creating a comprehensive register of Palestinian voters is the necessary first step, and the responsibility of all Palestinians to ensure, because Palestinians outside the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have never had a voter register for PNC elections. Those inside the West Bank and Gaza are registered for PLC elections, and the PLC is incorporated into the PNC, representing that part of the Palestinian people in it.

Today’s announcement for the civic voter registration drive is a call for a unique collective Palestinian endeavour that must be accomplished through each Palestinian’s own contribution to the Palestinian national polity. This is neither a campaign nor a `project’ of an NGO funded by international donors, but instead a civic endeavour carried out by civil society to support its national institutions, funded and run entirely by Palestinian civil society. It is not an initiative of a political group or committee that has given itself the mandate to ‘rescue’ or rebuild the PLO. It belongs to all Palestinians, individuals, associations, parties, unions, coalitions and networks, whose skills, energies and resources must contribute in order to enfranchise all Palestinians. Every Palestinian voice counts, and each is needed.

Successful implementation of voter registration requires collective effort to be divided into two phases: a first six-month-period of preparations, beginning today, and a second six-month-phase, beginning in the spring of 2012, when the online registration of voters can actually start, and be undertaken in all locations where Palestinians are not yet registered to vote for the PNC. Public awareness and resources must be raised, and national and international protection and support engaged, in order to achieve a large online register of Palestinian voters.

The facilitation office of the civic registration drive was created by Palestinian individuals and groups as volunteers. It provides basic services and assistance to the registration campaign in order to ensure its success, including technical and logistical support with the set-up of the internet registration system in all locations, civic registration training, basic materials for public information and campaigning, and the search for national and international protection and support.

As safe and secure online registration for PNC elections will soon be possible for all Palestinians, we call upon Palestinians everywhere, in particular our disenfranchised refugees in the shatat and the youth and their associations in historic Palestine and outside of it, to assume an active role in preparation of online voter registration by:

• Raising awareness in Palestinian communities in your area of the forthcoming registration, and the importance of the role of the PLO and of democratic elections to its sovereign body, the Palestine National Council;

• Mobilizing public resources for the registration drive, including volunteers, facilities, equipment and funds;

• Getting in touch with the civil association’s Campaign for Voter Registration in order to join.

• Participating in logistical preparations and training for voter registration in your geographic area.

For enquiries about participation in organising voter registration, please contact: is the website of the Facilitation Office for a Civic Registration Drive, an independent civic initiative in support of national efforts for democratic Palestinian elections to the PNC.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My letter to The Atlantic RE Is Peace Possible? Chapter 3: Refugees

A section of Israel's separation barrier is seen on a hill between the West Bank village of Abu Dis and Jabel Mukaber on the edge of Jerusalem / AP

Resolving the Palestinian Refugee Crisis

Can a peace agreement meet the needs of displaced Palestinians while preserving Israel as a Jewish state? The third in our four-part series on the key barriers to peace in the Middle East.

RE: THE ATLANTIC... Is Peace Possible? Chapter 3: Refugees

Dear Editor,

I was delighted to see that you featured such an informative video seeking potential solutions to the refugee situation in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

However I am very concerned that in trying to be balanced and fair you failed to really think about and comprehend the danger of being fixated on empowering Israel's Jewishness. Tragically for all involved, the past sixty years have shown that Israel's interpretation of what it means to be Jewish has created huge problems, exasperated bigotry all through out the region and inspired the worst in many people.

A fully secular two state solution based on full respect for universal basic human rights to once and for all end the Israel-Palestine conflict is a very reasonable, compassionate and intelligent goal.... regardless of any one's supposed race or religion.

Anne Selden Annab

The ongoing Palestinian refugee crisis:
Don’t demolish my future! UNWRA: Demolitions and the threat of displacement are ruining people’s lives in the West Bank.

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?

What's God got to do with it? If you want freedom and security, you need the following...

Dialogues in Democracy.... Karen AbuZayd will speak about the plight and promise of refugees

Refugees in the Middle East

United Nations Expert to Discuss Middle East Refugees

Stevenson Center on Democracy hosts program at 2 p.m. Nov. 13 as part of its Dialogues in Democracy series in Libertyville.

The Stevenson Center on Democracy will host a program on the plight and promise of refugees caught in the "Arab Spring" on Nov. 13.

As part of the Dialogues in Democracy series, the center has invited Karen Koning AbuZayd, expert on the Middle East refugee situation, to share her insights at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Stevenson Center on Democracy, 25200 N. St. Mary’s Road, Libertyville.

AbuZayd, recently retired commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, helped to oversee the education, health, social services and micro-enterprise programs for 4.6 million Palestine refugees from her base in Gaza beginning in 2005.

Before joining UNRWA, AbuZayd worked for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for 19 years. She began her humanitarian career in Sudan in 1981, dealing with Ugandan, Chadian and Ethiopian refugees fleeing from war and famine in their own countries.

From Sudan, she moved to Namibia in 1989 to help coordinate the return of apartheid-era refugees, a repatriation operation which led to elections and independence. A year later, the Liberian civil war erupted and AbuZayd moved to Sierra Leone to head the UNHCR office in Freetown, initiating a new emergency response that settled 100,000 Liberians in 600 villages along the Liberian/Sierra Leone border.

From 1991 to 1993 in UNHCR’s Geneva headquarters, AbuZayd directed the South African repatriation operation and the Kenya-Somali cross-border operation. She left Geneva to go to Sarajevo as chief of mission for two years during the Bosnian war. Four million displaced and war-affected people were kept alive by UNHCR’s airlift and convoy activities, while thousands more were protected from ethnic cleansing by the UNHCR presence.

AbuZayd was awarded the Spanish/Catalonia Peace Prize for her work highlighting the achievements of UNRWA’s education programs.

Information provided by Stevenson Center on Democracy.

Passing it on...

Mike Hanini Odetalla
Somewhere in America- November 2011
Was at my local gas station filling gas, I noticed this frail, elderly lady (about 80+) also filling gas across from me...She finished got into her car and left (in no hurry)...Soon after, I noticed the manager of the station run out...She had forgotten to pay...I went inside to pay and noticed the guy trying to call the police to file a report (he had her license plate)...I asked him how much she owed, paid him, and told him to let it go...The workers and customers inside were amazed, and one of them remarked "That's mighty Christian of you"...To which I responded, "Actually it's mighty MUSLIM of me!"


STIRRINGS poem by Ibtisam Barakat 2010 on YouTube Video

A poem about WOMANHOOD, GRATITUDE and FREEDOM ..About the poet: Ibtisam Barakat is a Palestinian-American author, poet, translator and educator. Her book, TASTING THE SKY, A Palestinian Childhood, about growing up in Ramallah, Palestine, is winner of the International Reading Association's best non-fiction and is a Book for Global Society, among 20 awards and honors. Tasting the Sky is available in six languages now, and it can be found on Amazon and at all book outlets. You are invited to learn about Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims from Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims!! like you would want others to learn about you from you. Thanks for creating more peace, beauty and healing in the world. -- Ibtisam Barakat.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Martin Luther King Jr. In Palestine


In March of 2011 I went to Palestine with Clay Carson, who runs the Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute, to film his play about King performed by the Palestinian National Theater and an African-American gospel choir. It was presented to audiences all over the West Bank and it was an incredible journey...READ MORE

"... Judith Miller says it it doesn't matter if Sarkozy and Obama dislike Netanyahu, and Jackson Diehl says it doesn't make any sense if they do."

Want a very readable quick summary of relevant Middle East News (& Opinion), plus the links so you can dive right in to read what you want to read in depth?

World Press Roundup
November 9, 2011


A battle is raging the House of Representatives over US aid to the PA. There are reports of more “price tag” right-wing violence by Jewish extremists, and Israel's Education Minister calls it “a cancerous tumor.” Threats against Israeli peace activists are escalating. A draft UN report says there is no consensus in the Security Council on Palestinian UN membership, with the final report to be issued on Friday. FM Malki admits Palestine cannot get a nine-vote majority. The Quartet will meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Nov. 14. Several reporters confirm the accuracy of an overheard discussion about PM Netanyahu between Pres. Sarkozy and Pres. Obama. Netanyahu's poor international reputation is offset by strong domestic popularity. Palestinian businesses in Jerusalem's old city are suffering.


Ronen Bergman looks at the history of Israeli prisoner swap negotiations. Nicholas Goldberg reflects on what the Jerusalem passport case means to him. Ha'aretz says Netanyahu is leading the fight against peace activists. Duncan Campbell says Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu deserves freedom. Walid Choucair says Israel and Iran play off each other to mutual benefit. Gershom Gorenberg proposes three steps to end Israel's international isolation. Helga Tawil-Souri looks at the cyber attack on Palestinian cable-based services. Judith Miller says it it doesn't matter if Sarkozy and Obama dislike Netanyahu, and Jackson Diehl says it doesn't make any sense if they do.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The conclusions from Tunisia's election are that emergent Arab democracy seems more plausible than ever, even with robust Islamist participation....

The conclusions from Tunisia's election are that emergent Arab democracy seems more plausible than ever, even with robust Islamist participation. Islamists are better disciplined and organized than secularists but do not command automatic majorities, and secularists need to focus on articulating their own vision, organizing themselves as an alternative, and appealing to people's social and economic needs. Western societies that wish to see secularists and modernists do well should also move more robustly to help them overcome these deficiencies.
These are tentative baby steps toward the emergence of a real Arab democracy, but they are indispensable ones." Hussein Ibish Two cheers for the Tunisian election

Gender segregation on rise in Israel

In this Monday, Nov. 7, 2011 photo, an Ultra Orthodox Jewish man is reflected on a mirror displayed next to another mirror and a painting, in Jerusalem. Images of women have vanished from the streets of Israel's capital. Women have been shunted onto separate sidewalks. Buses and health clinics have been gender-segregated, and the military has considered reassigning female combat soldiers because religious men don't want to serve with them. This is the new reality in 21st-century Israel, where ultra-Orthodox rabbis are trying to contain the encroachment of secular values on their cloistered society through a fierce backlash against the mixing of the sexes in public. (AP Photos/Sebastian Scheiner)

Gender segregation on rise in Israel

For years, advertisers have been covering up female models on billboards in Jerusalem and other communities with large ultra-Orthodox populations. Ultra-Orthodox have defaced such ads and vendors faced ultra-Orthodox boycotts of companies whose mores they deplore.

Recently, the voluntary censorship has gone beyond the scantily clad: Women are either totally absent from billboards, or, as with one clothing company's ads, only hinted at by a photo of a back, an arm and a purse.

Over the summer, Jerusalem inaugurated a long-awaited light rail with a major outdoor advertising campaign. The rail line is touted as a marvel of 21st-century technology, but there are no women's faces on any of the billboards affixed to its sides.

Advertisers acknowledge ultra-Orthodox pressure.

A private radio station went so far as to ban broadcast of songs by female vocalists and interviews with women.

Ohad Gibli, deputy director of marketing for the Canaan advertising agency, confirmed Monday that his company advised a transplant organization to drop pictures of women in their campaigns in Jerusalem and the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak for fear of a violent backlash.

"We have learned that an ad campaign in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak that includes pictures of women will remain up for hours at best, and in other cases, will lead to the vandalization and torching of buses," he told Army Radio.

Barkat told reporters recently that "It's illegal to forbid" advertising women. But "in Jerusalem, you've got to use common sense if you want to advertise something. It's a special city, it's a holy city with sensitivities for Muslims, for Christians, for ultra-Orthodox."

If women are being figuratively erased from the city's advertising landscape, then there are also attempts afoot by the devout to muzzle them.

In September, nine religious soldiers walked out of a military event because women were singing — an act that extremely devout Jews claim conjures up lustful thoughts...READ MORE

The Gallery... a Growing Gardens for Palestine poem by Anne Selden Annab

The Gallery

I dreamed
of him again...
were at the end,
in a gallery of treasures.

Along every wall were podiums
of all different heights holding
great silver urns and bowls
of all different sizes and shapes
smooth surfaces polished
reflecting ornate details
rims and handles
and flourishes

And he turned to me
spoke gently

And we walked together
slowly through the gallery...

Speaking of what we knew-
what we value

as we made our way
towards the farthest wall
with wide open doors

revealing the hint
of an exquisite garden beyond.

poem & photo copyright ©2011 Anne Selden Annab

My letter to CSM RE "How wrangle over Jerusalem is at the core of a US Supreme Court showdown"

RE: How wrangle over Jerusalem is at the core of a US Supreme Court showdown

Dear Editor,

Regarding law suits and lobby efforts by misguided American Jews who want Jerusalem to be listed as Israeli on their children's American passports: For decades Palestinians have been enduring the daily trauma and anxiety of losing their homes and livelihoods in Israeli-controlled East Jerusalem as Jews-preferred Israel does all it can to evict the native non-Jewish population of the Holy Land... Our Congress should not be empowering Israel's bigotry and apartheid policies.

Israeli obligations under international law

  • Immediately cease demolitions of Palestinian-owned homes, schools and infrastructure, which cause displacement and dispossession, until Palestinians have access to a fair and nondiscriminatory planning system. This should include community participation in all levels of the planning process.
  • Families that have been forcibly displaced must be allowed to return to their homes in safety and dignity, and be given compensation for any harm they have suffered, including the destruction of land, homes and property.
Anne Selden Annab

Don’t demolish my future! UNWRA: Demolitions and the threat of displacement are ruining people’s lives in the West Bank.

The calamitous toll the [Israeli] settlement project has taken...

Plight of refugees hits close to home for William Salameh

AP Exclusive: Palestinians face steep court fees

4 November 2011 Statement on Israeli Withhold of PA Tax Revenues

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

Saliba Sarsar and Hussein Ibish: The Palestinian Statehood Bid - What Comes Next?

Dr Ziad J. Asali: "The pursuit of peace, independence and reform is not a project for cowards..."

Palestine's Salam Fayyad: "We have been trying to do the very best we can."

In Detroit, ambassador makes case for Palestinian nation

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?

What's God got to do with it? If you want freedom and security, you need the following...

Monday, November 7, 2011

AP Exclusive: Palestinians face steep court fees

In this Tuesday Oct. 11, 2011 photo, Assma Muhammad Abd el-Dayim, 4, holds a picture of her late brother Arafat, 13, who was killed on Jan. 5, 2009, at their family house in Jebaliya, northern Gaza Strip. Mohammed Abd el-Dayim, the childrens' father, is suing Israel over the deaths of four relatives: his nephew, a volunteer medic who died when Israeli tank fire struck the ambulance he was driving, and a son and two other nephews who were killed the next day when Israeli shelling struck a mourning tent where the family was grieving. Dozens of Palestinians who lost relatives in an Israeli military offensive in Gaza have been forced to put their attempts to seek compensation on hold, claiming Israeli financial barriers make it impossible to proceed with their cases. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

AP Exclusive: Palestinians face steep court fees

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Dozens of Palestinians who lost relatives in an Israeli military offensive in Gaza three years ago have been forced to put their compensation claims on hold, saying Israel has placed near-impossible barriers to proceeding with their cases.

Israeli restrictions prevent Gazans from entering Israel to testify, undergo medical exams or meet with their lawyers. But the biggest obstacle, the victims say, are steep court fees that can reach tens of thousands of dollars.

"The victim must pay for justice," said Gaza resident Mohammed Abdel-Dayim, whose son and three nephews were killed during a military assault. "Israel should be ashamed."

Israel says the fees prevent frivolous lawsuits. They say they are imposed on many foreigners — not just Palestinians — because they don't have local assets that the state could seize to cover legal fees and other court costs.

But Palestinians say the costs are part of a strategy to protect Israeli soldiers. If the fees aren't reduced, lawyers representing Palestinians say they will have to drop most cases.

Abdel-Dayim is suing Israel over the deaths of four relatives: His son was a volunteer medic who died when Israeli tank fire struck the ambulance he was driving. Three nephews were killed the next day when Israeli shelling struck a mourning tent where the family was grieving.

An Israeli court asked Abdel-Dayim to post $22,000 in court fees, or just over $5,000 per victim. His annual income is under $6,000.

About 1,000 Gazans have prepared cases seeking compensation, mostly alleging wrongful deaths during Israel's offensive in the territory, according to their lawyers....READ MORE


Plight of refugees hits close to home for William Salameh

“We pose a question, and we let people speak,” William says of the process of town hall meetings. “We don’t tell people the solution. We open the door for people and ask them to think about these issues in different ways then they normally do.”
Plight of refugees hits close to home for William Salameh

New York, November 6, 2011—When he thinks back to that first town hall meeting, the laughter disappears from his voice. “It was very difficult. They accused me of not caring about them, of abandoning them and undermining their rights,” recalls William Salameh, now 28, of his first town hall meeting in Jenin three years ago.

Standing in front of an audience of Palestinian refugees discussing the right of return and advocating creative solutions is undoubtedly a difficult thing to do, no matter what the touted political benefits may be. For William, though, the issue hits much closer to home than for most. “I am a refugee like you,” he tells the room full of doubting men.

Some of those doubting men begin to listen.

“When I speak with refugees,” William admits, “I think of my grandfather.” William’s family was expelled from Jaffa in 1948 and has since resided in the West Bank city of Ramallah. When he broaches the topic of refugees – of what that word means to an individual, of what the land means to an identity and what the memories mean to a people – it is tinged with self-awareness.

“My father, my uncles, my aunts, they love Jaffa, they have Jaffa in their hearts,” he says. “But they left it when they were very young and their memories are collective memories that Palestinians all share.” A just solution, William continues, is not only about “refugees’ physical status, it is also about recognition, an apology and compensation for the emotional harm that has been imposed.”

And so, when William addresses a room of refugees discussing the ways to achieve a just solution with them, he does so as an equal, aware that whatever comes from the difficult but necessary process of negotiations does not apply only in some abstract way to an unfamiliar people. It applies to his family and himself.

“We pose a question, and we let people speak,” William says of the process of town hall meetings. “We don’t tell people the solution. We open the door for people and ask them to think about these issues in different ways then they normally do.”

Although he never lived there, he admits, the birthplace of his father and grandfather will always carry a special meaning for him, regardless of the final outcome. “The history and the stories will stay in our hearts,” he told that first gathering in Jenin, “but we cannot hold onto that alone. There is a reality and we need to work with that to break the status quo and move forward in accordance with international resolutions.”

One of the benefits of breaking that status quo of political lethargy, fatalism or extremism that resonates with William and the people he has talked to at town hall meetings in Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Salfeet and Jenin is freedom of movement.

When the second intifada (uprising) began in 2000, William was studying at al-Quds University in Abu Dis, a town in the West Bank just east of Jerusalem. A commute that would have normally taken 15 minutes from his family’s home in Ramallah would take hours as the bus navigated increased road closures and scrutiny at checkpoints. Often William would arrive at university to find it closed for the day, in mourning for a student who had been killed. Eventually, William was forced to abandon his studies in Abu Dis, close to his family in Ramallah, and transfer to the Arab American University in Jenin.

Experiences like these led William to join OneVoice Palestine three years ago. Frustrated with the occupation and wary of succumbing to the hopelessness that seemed to paralyze so many Palestinians around him, the OneVoice Youth Leadership Program and town hall meetings provided a mechanism to channel his anger into a positive force for change. He has since spoken with hundreds of Palestinians advocating pragmatism and creative solutions within Palestinian national interests at town hall meetings across the West Bank and has come to the United States on a OneVoice International Education Program tour in early 2010.

But as much as William has used the platform of OneVoice to advocate a vision of the future, the programs he has been involved in have simultaneously shaped how he approaches the conflict.

William participated in a joint town hall meeting hosted by youth leaders from both OneVoice Palestine and Israel in Tel Aviv in late August. “We were able to support each other,” William says of the Israeli youth leaders. “Ultimately, a framework that is good for us is good for them too.”

And while the questions have not become any easier – Palestinians living within Israel remained wary at the Tel Aviv meeting that their struggle was being overlooked and when they found out that he was a refugee they gave him a poster outlining the right of return after the meeting – William maintains that the two-state solution remains in everyone's self interest, refugees included.

“When we achieve our statehood,” he told the Palestinians in attendance, “we will have a stronger tool enabling us to help you. With an internationally recognized Palestinian state, we will have a better chance of fighting for a just solution.”

William will join his Israeli counterpart, Abigail Gottlieb, in leading an International Education Program tour of Northern California from November 11 - 18.

Scholars talk Palestine | University of Virginia: The Cavalier Daily

Professors analyze Israeli-Palestinian conflict at interdisciplinary symposium

By Elizabeth Heifetz, Senior Writer
on November 7, 2011

The history department hosted an interdisciplinary symposium Saturday about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948, focusing on the situation’s historical and legal context.

Susan Akram, a clinical law professor at Boston University, began by discussing the similarities between Palestine’s and Namibia’s struggles for statehood.

She compared the different ways law provides a framework for statehood, including whether or not independence is a precursor for statehood. Akram said statehood has four requirements: a permanent population, stable government, territory and permission to enter in negotiations with other states.

Presently, Palestine satisfies all elements of statehood except for independence, Akram said. “Palestine had no strategies linking their actions in obtaining independence,” she added.

Politics Prof. William Quandt responded to Akram’s claim.

“Palestinians have every right and reason to think that they are entitled to statehood, though the problem has nothing to do with legal strategy,” he said. “Even if they were to have a great legal strategy, they still wouldn’t succeed.”

Quandt said this is the result of Israeli and American influence, especially on compromises and negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

The United Nationals General Assembly and Security Council have been in a perpetual state of conflict about this issue, leaving the bid for Palestinian statehood uncertain, he explained. “No one is prepared to put any weight behind it.”

Other professors offered a historical perspective to compliment the analysis of contemporary politics.

Rochelle Davis, assistant anthropology professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, discussed the ways communities think of the past, focusing primarily on Palestinian village books.

“There are two reasons why they write these books: the desire to keep sentiments and memories alive, and the connotation of what it means to be a Palestinian today,” Davis said.

Davis said the villages’ histories and the village books are part of the lives of Palestinian refugees today.

More than 120 village memorial books about the 400 plus Palestinian villages which were depopulated and largely destroyed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War have been published, she said. “These documentary histories serve as proof that these villages existed and were more than just a place once on a map,” Davis said.

Gabriel Finder, associate German professor and Jewish Studies program chair at the University, compared the Palestinian village books to the concept of “yizkor,” which means remembrance in Hebrew. He described how history is recorded in the absence of written sources, refugee remembrances of home and ways of commemorating the past in the present.

Alon Confino, history professor and conference organizer, referred to yizkor again in a panel session titled, “The Coast of Tantura: 1948 and After.”

Confino said he believes more equality will reduce present-day Arab-Israeli tensions and improve Arab integration into Israeli society, making it easier to shape collective memory.

Professors analyze Israeli-Palestinian conflict at interdisciplinary symposium

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Arab Spring sparks renewed interest in Arab-American literature

Arab Spring sparks renewed interest in Arab-American literature
By Rand Dalgamouni

AMMAN - The Arab Spring has generated more interest in Arab-American writers and their reflections on the changes taking place in the region, an author said on Tuesday.

“The media in the [United] States has been reaching out to Arab-American writers,” Susan Muaddi Darraj told reporters.

“Whether we like it or not, we are viewed as spokespeople for Arabs in America,” the Arab-American writer said. “My identity as an Arab American is a political identity.”

Muaddi Darraj was in Jordan to launch the Arabic version of her short story collection “The Inheritance of Exile: Stories from South Philly”, which was translated through the US embassy’s Arabic Book Programme.

During her visit to the Kingdom, the author also met with Jordanian writers and students at several universities.

At a media roundtable yesterday, she said the aftermath of 9/11 has led to a greater interest in Arab-American writing.

Some authors took advantage of that interest by writing “damaging” books that were not based on actual facts, she charged, citing Norma Khouri’s 2003 book “Forbidden Love” on so-called honour crimes in Jordan.

“The book caused a lot of damage… it hurt the depiction of Arab women and men in the Middle East,” Muaddi Darraj elaborated, adding that “there’s a lot that we [Arab-American authors] have to do to fix the damage”.

Khouri had claimed that her book was based on a true story, but 75 factual errors were unveiled in 2004 by journalist Malcolm Knox of Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, with help from Jordanian activists Amal Sabbagh and Rana Husseini.

Their findings exposed the story as a “work of fiction” and revealed that the book contains over 40 erroneous statements regarding Muslims and Arabs.

Muaddi Darraj, who is also an associate professor of English at Harford Community College, told reporters she feels she has “a responsibility towards my readers to explain our culture”.

Due to the stereotypical depiction of Arabs in the media, she said most Americans think that Arab women are either “belly dancers” or oppressed, while Arab men are billionaires or terrorists.

“I want to show them that Arab women are mothers, doctors, teachers,” the author explained, stressing that she seeks to create “real, authentic” characters in her writings so that readers see them as a “challenge to what they view as Arabs”.

She noted that the experience of Arab Americans as an immigrant community is not foreign to the American reader.

“Our country is a country of emigrants… if [readers] can make the connection on a human level, they can make it on a political level.”

Muaddi Darraj, who has written several works of non-fiction, highlighted the power of fiction in breaking stereotypes by forming a connection with the reader.

“In fiction, you get to fuse truth with politics and fuse different experiences… and the reader brings his or her imagination to it, which creates further sparks.”

“The Inheritance of Exile: Stories from South Philly” follows the lives of four Palestinian-American friends: Nadia, Aliyah, Hanan and Reema, whose families emigrated to the US and settled in South Philadelphia.

The 2007 book was a finalist for the Association for Writers and Writing Programmes award series in short fiction.


"This sweet, sorrowful book is rich with insight. The Inheritance of Exile tells an authentic story of Arab-American life--these characters are true, expressive, and moving. A fully engaging, satisfying collection indeed." --Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Origin, Crescent, and The Language of Baklava

The Citizenship of Grief: A Dialogue Between [poet] Naomi Shihab Nye and [poet] Robert Bonazzi

by Robert Bonazzi Published on: Tuesday, November 01, 2011
[Robert Bonazzi’s latest books of poems are Maestro of Solitude (Wings Press 2007) and The Scribbling Cure (Pecan Grove Press 2011).]
Naomi Shihab Nye (age 8) with her father Aziz Shihab

Naomi Shihab Nye’s latest book of poems, Transfer (BOA Editions), focuses on her loving relationship with her late father, Aziz Shihab. She has written or edited 32 books in various genres, including 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems from the Middle East, a finalist for the National Book Award. Aziz Shihab’s memoir of Palestine, Does the Land Remember Me?, was published in 2007. Shihab Nye is poetry editor at the Observer.

Author and editor Robert Bonazzi recently talked to her about Transfer.

Robert Bonazzi: The loss of a parent tends to be a primal event and these poems track a deep grieving which—despite the claims of clinicians as to the “ stages of grief” —follow no prescribed pattern. What was your strategy for sequencing? Were the poems placed chronologically as written or were finished texts arranged later? Was your arrangement accomplished by a conscious method or by an intuitive aesthetic?

Naomi Shihab Nye: Definitely intuitive arrangement, on the floor, page-by-page, later. It would have been impossible to structure a sequencing beforehand, and chronological arrangement would be peculiar at best. The poems wanted to move (in the second part of the book) back into the world, which for me was entirely changed by my father’s new absence and deeper presence.

RB: The second section of Transfer (“ Just Call Me Aziz” ) contains 11 poems that take their titles from lines in your father’s notebooks. Unlike your other elegies about him, wherein the first-person narrator usually represents your voice, these seem to actually inhabit his voice, giving the convincing sense that Aziz had written them. We know you wrote the poems, but to what degree do they derive from recollections of his stories and the way he told them?

NSN: His voice inhabits my memory and ear so strongly that simply using his own floating lines as titles invited his voice to take over. This wasn’t planned beforehand, it just happened while writing. Aziz was skeptical of adjectives, as journalists often are, so the poems in his voice have fewer of those than my own might have. He loved short sentences and blunt diction. Writing this section made me laugh. I found things out. It was comforting to feel his own voice emerging so easily—I wouldn’t mind writing more poems of this kind. Guess it’s another way to keep that conversation going—as Alastair Reid mentioned [in an epigraph to Nye’s “Introduction”]. My father left a lot of scrappy notebooks, after all. Many more titles awaiting …

RB:All cultures have story-telling traditions—from oral history to literature. Since your narrative poems and Aziz’s autobiographical texts about his exile from Palestine were often created from actual events, can we assume that you place great value upon story- telling, especially stories generated through the Palestinian culture?

NSN: Without a doubt, I do. No one can deny your story, or the way you remember what you describe as your story. They may argue with your opinion, but not your story.

RB: Recently, we are hearing the long-silenced Palestinian narrative spoken in its own voice (President Mahmoud Abbas spoke about statehood at the UN). Do you sense new possibilities for human rights, self-determination and peace in these developments?

NSN: Definitely I do. And it is long, long overdue. Everyone with a moderate, reasonable sensibility in any country hopes for it—Palestinians and Israeli Jews and everyone who cares about balance in the region and mutual respect....READ MORE

The calamitous toll the [Israeli] settlement project has taken...

"The calamitous toll the settlement project has taken on Palestinians—stolen land, pilfered water, divided cities—is well known. The burden borne by Israelis, though less familiar and certainly less extreme, has also been immense."

Rising Up in Israel

"In the discussion groups that took place every night inside the tent encampments, participants traded stories about struggling to meet their expenses even as they heard ministers boast that the economy was flourishing."

"Conspicuously absent from the protests this summer were some Israelis who don’t work hard for a living: members of the ultra-Orthodox community. Like Jewish settlers, they are the beneficiaries of government subsidies reserved for politically protected theological pursuits—in their case, full-time Torah study funded by the state"
An Israeli family in a camp set up as part of a protest against the high cost of housing, Tel Aviv, Israel, July 23, 2011

My Letter to the LATimes RE: the EXCELLENT letter by Martin J. Weisman regarding "Our ally, Israel"

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", thus building a wall of separation between Church & State" Thomas Jefferson's letter to Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper soon thereafter... referencing the First Amendment to the United States Constitution

RE: EXCELLENT letter by Martin J. Weisman regarding "Our ally, Israel"

Dear Editor,

I am delighted to see the straightforward and totally helpful letter by Martin J. Weisman regarding "Our ally, Israel": In his opinion "Israel will only achieve true peace and sharply reduce global anti-Semitism if it separates synagogue and state and allows the establishment of a neighboring Palestinian state."... I TOTALLY agree!

A fully secular two state solution firmly based on actually respecting international law and universal basic human rights on both sides of every border really is the most reasonable, logical, and compassionate way to once and for all end the Israel/Palestine conflict... for everyone's sake.

Anne Selden Annab

Jumping to conclusions on the Arab Spring "While there's no reason to think Islamists are in the process of consolidating absolute power anywhere, it's simply foolish not to recognize that they remain in every meaningful sense radical and retain their totalitarian impulses. That they would like to broadly and severely restrict the rights of individuals, women and minorities in the name of religion is obvious. It's hard to see them developing such unrestrained power, but there is also no use in kidding oneself about their evident intentions." Hussein Ibish

What's God got to do with it? If you want freedom and security, you need the following...

'NEW Palestinian strategy'... set to begin 11-11-11

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine can promote peace, truth and reconciliation... We hope to aid that process

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

Dr Ziad J. Asali: "The pursuit of peace, independence and reform is not a project for cowards..."

Palestine's Salam Fayyad: "We have been trying to do the very best we can."

In Detroit, ambassador makes case for Palestinian nation

Don’t demolish my future! UNWRA: Demolitions and the threat of displacement are ruining people’s lives in the West Bank.

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?

"A right delayed is a right denied."
Martin Luther King Jr.... American Hero

Mahmoud Abbas speech at the UN - The full official text

Weighing the Price of Resistance By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

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

EXCELLENT LATimes letters on Israel

Our ally, Israel

Re "A true ally in the Middle East," Opinion, Oct. 31

With allies like Israel, who needs enemies? If it were not for Israel's international law violations, human rights violations and ignoring of United Nations resolutions, none of the "help" Israel gives us, which Robert D. Blackwill and Walter B. Slocombe identify, would be necessary.

Note that not one word is said about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. This singularly powerful, financially strong lobby with a highly organized support system of conservative Jews and neoconservatives can pretty much get its way in Congress.

Our relationship with Israel means that Congress and the White House can only blindly support it no matter what.

Lou Del Pozzo

Pacific Palisades

There is no arguing with Blackwill and Slocombe. Israel is a world leader in science and medicine; its economy is booming. What it lacks is peace and another friendly nation besides the United States.

In my opinion, Israel will only achieve true peace and sharply reduce global anti-Semitism if it separates synagogue and state and allows the establishment of a neighboring Palestinian state.

Martin J. Weisman

Westlake Village