Saturday, November 19, 2011

West Bank Palestinian land seized by Israeli kibbutz


JERUSALEM (AP) — A tract of Palestinian land in the West Bank has for the first time been seized by a kibbutz located inside Israel, a prominent Israeli researcher said Saturday.

The land — about 365 acres (148 hectares) from the West Bank Palestinian village of Bardaleh — was seized by the nearby agricultural community of Kibbutz Meirav, which lies inside Israel proper, said Dror Etkes, a prominent researcher and activist against Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

For decades, Israeli authorities seized such lands for Jewish settlers inside the West Bank, but not for communities across the cease-fire lines inside Israel proper, Etkes said.

The Bardaleh lands lie on the Israeli side of a barrier that was built to keep out Palestinian attackers. But the meandering barrier — a mix of high concrete walls and fences — frequently juts into the West Bank. It has kept some Palestinian farmland on the Israeli side of the barrier, including some belonging to farmers in Bardaleh.

The kibbutz has been tending to the land for years, but only recently has Israel publicly acknowledged that it considers it its own.

The move has raised fears among some Palestinians and their supporters that the same fate may befall other tracts of West Bank land that lie on the Israeli side of the barrier.

"Eventually, Israeli communities on the Israeli side of the Green Line will likely take land from Palestinians in the West Bank," said Etkes, referring to cease-fire lines that held until the 1967 Mideast War. "It seems to be almost inevitable."

Israeli military spokesman Guy Inbar said the West Bank land now belonged to the kibbutz. He said the move was not meant to set a precedent, but would not elaborate further. Officials from the Kibbutz weren't immediately available for comment because of the Jewish Sabbath.

Bardaleh's Sawafta clan says it owns most of the annexed land.

Mohammed Sawafta, one of the villagers, said kibbutz residents began scaring them off from their land in the early 1980s and Israel's military later blocked access as kibbutz residents started using the area themselves....READ MORE

Friday, November 18, 2011

Christian community divided by Israeli separation barrier



Christian community divided by Israeli separation barrier

Nov 17, 2011

CREMISAN, WEST BANK // Even though its concrete pillars and barbed wire have yet to be pieced together through these terraced olive orchards, Israel's separation barrier has already divided this small Christian community.

Israeli authorities are expected to build a segment of its 760-kilometre fence through Cremisan, an area of verdant hills wedged between occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

On one side will be the largely Palestinian-Christian landowners who stand to lose access to about 3,000 dunums (300 hectacres) of ancestral farmland. On the Israeli side will be the 19th-century Cremisan monastery and the monks who run its winery. Despite repeated petitions and protests against the fence by landowners and clergymen, the foreign-born monks, who come from the Vatican's Salesian order, have remained silent. It is a decision that many here regard as driven by the bottom line, not Palestinian rights.

"They have a wine making business here, and everyone is suspicious that they want to be on the Israeli side when the wall is built so they can gain better access to Jerusalem," said Nader Abu Amsha, 50, a resident of the neighbouring town of Beit Jala, whose olive orchards near the monastery will be cut off by the barrier.

According to maps showing the barrier's current route, the monastery, its agricultural land and hundreds of dunums of private Palestinian land will fall on the Israeli side. Palestinians divided from their land would be required to ask for Israeli permits to reach it.

Villagers near Cremisan say the eight-metre-high fence will be used by Israel to expand onto their land from the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo, which is located on a hill adjacent to the monastery.

At the same time, they suspect the monks have also received perks for their muted stance. Israeli authorities are building a new, private road that directly links the monastery to Jerusalem. Previously, the monks had to travel and ship their wine products into Israel through Israeli checkpoints.

The monks' new road is partly built on top of private land owned by Palestinians from the village of Walajeh.

The monastery failed to respond to repeated requests for an interview.

Ghaith Nasser, a lawyer representing the Palestinian landowners, has filed a petition to the Israeli government contesting the barrier's route through Cremisan and the private road.

"The only justification that can be legitimate for such a road is if it's for security reasons, but that's not the case here," he said. "It's a private road for the private use of the monks that's on top of private Palestinian land."

Israel claims the barrier is needed for security purposes, but Palestinians call it a tool for grabbing land because roughly 80 per cent of its planned route falls inside territory occupied after the 1967 Arab-Israel war.

Palestinians from Cremisan's surrounding communities believe that pressure from the monks could convince Israel to reroute the fence. Israel, they say, would not want to be seen to be in conflict with the Catholic Church.

They cite the example of nuns, also Salesians, from a convent next to the monastery who successfully petitioned the Israeli authorities against the barrier's original path.

Their compound of farmland and schools would have fallen on the Israeli side of the barrier under the route first presented by Israel five years ago. After the nuns protested its path, Israel re-routed the fence so the convent's facilities would remain connected to the Palestinian villages they served. Despite repeated attempts over the last five years, however, officials from Beit Jala's municipality, clergymen and residents say they have tried and failed to get the monks' backing.

"People here know that if the monks stood with them, there's a good chance the wall wouldn't be going through the area at all," said Samia Zeit, head of Beit Jala Municipality's head of planning and zoning, whose family also owns land that will be cut off by the barrier.

She said residents and municipal officials have attempted to enlist support - to no avail - from the Vatican because it alone has the authority to pressure the Salesians on the issue.

A source in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) familiar with the issue confirmed that Mahmoud Abbas, PLO chairman and president of the Palestinian Authority, also is preparing letter to request support from the Vatican on the issue.

Despite repeated attempts, officials in the Vatican could not be reached for comment.

Ibrahim Shomali, Beit Jala's parish priest, said the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which represents Catholics in the holy land, also has made contact with the Vaticanover the Cremisan issue, though he did not have details.

Mr Shomali has organised a weekly protest Mass on the soon-to-be-confiscated land near Cremisan. Local residents, clergymen of the Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox Church and the Salesian nuns have attended - but not the monks.

"When we asked them why they don't help us with this issue, they said it's because they are waiting for a decision on the issue from the Vatican," he said.

Standing on the land that he expected to lose, Mr Abu Amsha began questioning the conflicting role played by the church in his community.

"If these monks cared about us, they would help us save our land," he said.

"It's not just about X-number of dunums being confiscated. It's a matter of our national homeland being taken away, piece by piece."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

UNESCO's Admittance of Palestine Good News for Ancient Palace Complex | Popular Archaeology - exploring the past

Hisham's Palace, one of Umayyad-period Palestine's most endangered and astonishing archaeological treasures, may get a boost with Palestine's new status in the U.N. organization.

With UNESCO's recent granting of full membership status to Palestine, Palestinians will now enjoy the same right as those of other nations to nominate heritage sites for inclusion on the much-coveted World Heritage list. Long in coming, the new status now opens the prospect that at least some of Palestine's rich archaeological treasures will get the recognition they need for possible consideration and release of new resources directed to their preservation, protection and site development. Among them are such sites as the Dead Sea, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, the ancient sea port in Gaza, biblical sites near Jerusalem and Hebron, and some sites in the West Bank.

Not the least of these, however, are the impressive remains of the 8th century CE Umayyad winter palace complex at Khirbat al-Mafjar, otherwise known as Hisham's Palace. Just 5 km north of Jericho in the West Bank, the complex was built in 743–744 CE by Al-Walid ibn Yazid ...READ MORE

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My letters to the NYTimes & CSM RE From Nablus to Jerusalem by Raja Shehadeh & Khaldun Bshara has dodged bullets to preserve Palestinians' heritage

To request a photo please Contact Riwaq and note the photo number (s) you are interested in

RE: Khaldun Bshara has dodged bullets to preserve Palestinians' heritage

Dear Editor,

Khaldun Bshara: "I believe that everyone has to give back to the community that helped him to flourish," he says, citing his mother as the inspiration for this desire to help other people in this way."

Thank you CSM for helping at least one authentic and totally admirable Palestinian voice be heard today.

I was TOTALLY delighted and frankly relived to see this fascinating story on Palestine and Khaldun Bshara's RIWAQ, a West Bank architectural firm which renovates and preserves buildings that are part of Palestinians' cultural heritage.

I like Bshara's positive attitude and his perseverance... it is good to hear that he will continue on with his inspiring work regardless of whether there is a state or not. I very much hope there will be a Palestinian state- and a just and lasting peace for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Jordan's King Abdullah points out in a recent interview that the Arab Spring is a defining moment in Arab history... and his majesty reiterated for the umpteenth time that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains the region’s core issue: “The train wreck that is waiting to happen is the Israeli-Palestinian problem. As we talk about the Arab Spring and Iran, we keep forgetting the core issue.”"

Fact is day after day after day, year after year- decade after decade with both war and peace, Israel really has been systemically impoverishing, evicting, and disenfranchising the native non-Jewish population of the Holy Land. Hanan Ashrawi wisely warns this week that “Israel’s determination to halt the Quartet’s efforts and its continued violations of international law are clear messages that Israel is not interested in a two-state solution. The Quartet Committee and international society must reject settlement expansion projects that aim to erase Palestinian existence and impose a new identity on Jerusalem.PNN NEWS: PLO to Take Withheld Funds to Security Council

Just yesterday Israeli forces demolished four more Palestinian homes west of Jericho in the central West Bank. Families did not have a chance to remove their furniture and belongings.

Anne Selden Annab

RE: From Nablus to Jerusalem by Raja Shehadeh

Dear Editor,

“Palestine Connected” is the title of the art installation by the Palestinian artists Iyad Issa and Sahar Qawasmi, "set in the pickle factory that now stands where the Nablus central station once was..."

Seems to me that the perfect title "Palestine Connected" is much much bigger than one fascinating and creative bit of art set in a pickle factory. "Palestine Connected" is the wave of the future as the global information age gives us all ways to reach out beyond our own borders and assumptions... Reaching out and connecting with far away people and places and conversations that very much enhance the market place of ideas that builds the momentum to end the Israel/Palestine conflict (once and for all) with a just and lasting peace.

Thank you for publishing Raja Shehadeh's Latitude essay "From Nablus to Jerusalem". I hope that at least some of your readers are inspired by his short but compelling essay to seek out and read his books. I thought Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscapewas very illuminating and I very much look forward to reading his latest book.

Anne Selden Annab
American homemaker & poet

Hussein Ibish: Islamism and misogyny "

"Religious conservatism invariably focuses on social and sexual control. Women are the most immediate targets and primary focus of the authoritarianism of the religious right, wherever they may be. As Islamists seem to be finally getting their chance at gaining a share of power in the Arab world, the greatest and most immediate danger they pose is to women’s rights. That is why it is up to everyone else, including both secularists and religious moderates, to insist on the introduction of inviolable constitutional principles protecting the rights of individuals, women and minorities.

Socially conservative Arab parties have a right to participate in government, but not to reduce women to second-class citizenship." Hussein Ibish

From the archive, 16 November 1988: Troops stifle West Bank rejoicing

Palestinian boys wave Palestinian flags during a demonstration against Israel's controversial barrier, near Jerusalem September 16, 2005. Photograph: MAHFOUZ ABU TURK/ REUTERS

The Guardian,

Originally published in the Guardian on 16 November 1988

Independent Palestine spent the day of its birth behind closed doors yesterday, as Israel poured in thousands of troops to stop the people of the occupied territories from openly celebrating their new claims to statehood and to keep the press out. Ian Black reports from Ramallah

Forty years after the United Nations decree that there should be an Arab and a Jewish state in the Holy Land, the Israelis were taking no chances yesterday. At the first army roadblock on the road to Ramallah, just north of the Jerusalem city limits, the soldiers were stopping all cars with the tell-tale blue West Bank licence plates. From there, an hour's drive to the outskirts of Nablus, it was the same story, except that the roadblocks came thicker and faster and the old journalistic lie about visiting Jewish settlements did not wash. Free Palestine was out of bounds to the press, and there were written orders to prove it....READ MORE

The Great Debate: Middle East Peace

Boston University

COM event asks who stands in the way

Achieving meaningful peace in the Middle East has become one of the most contentious issues facing the international community. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, centered largely on issues of borders, control of Israeli settlements, and freedom of movement for Palestinians, remains a stalemate, despite efforts by the Obama administration to bring both sides back to the table for revived peace talks earlier this year. Just last week, attention was drawn to the region after Palestine’s bid to win full membership in the United Nations was set back when the Security Council’s admission committee announced it was deadlocked.

So what stands in the way of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement? That question will be debated by students and well-known Middle East experts tonight when the College of Communication hosts its annual Great Debate, which poses an issue of national or international significance to a panel of experts and students for spirited discussion. Justin Bourke (COM’13) will be part of a team arguing that Israeli leaders are to blame for the political impasse, while Phillip Kisubika (COM’13) will be among those arguing that Palestinian leaders are at fault.

One proposal currently on the table calls for a two-state solution, creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Just last week, President Obama’s leading envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, who has announced he is resigning at the end of the year, told the New York Times that neither Israel nor Palestine “can wish each other away. They have to live together, there’s no other option, and the only way they can live with each other is a two-state solution.”

Robert Zelnick, a COM journalism professor, former longtime ABC News reporter, and moderator of tonight’s event, says he chose the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as the topic for the 29th Great Debate because it is currently such a pivotal time in the relationship between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

“If things go wrong, the investment in peace taken by Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin could come very close to the Nasser-era hostilities,” Zelnick says, referring to the former Egyptian president and Israeli prime minister who signed an historic peace treaty in 1979. “Additionally, the upheavals growing out of the Arab Spring could push the parties towards more intense conflict rather than democracy and negotiation. The Arab Spring has unleashed a variety of emotions, ranging from a yen for democracy to a renewed commitment to Islamic fundamentalism and a desire to settle scores with Israel.”

Bourke and Kisubika say they’ll bring starkly different interpretations to who is at fault for the stalled peace talks. “One of the big considerations in our argument is that it is a very asymmetrical relationship,” says Bourke, a broadcast journalism graduate student. “Israel commands a vast majority of the leverage, and given that fact, certainly there is plenty of blame to go around to either side, but I came to the conclusion that Israel’s position is a little unclear, and I think they have been a little heavy-handed in negotiations.”

Sports journalism graduate student Kisubika says he’ll argue that “Israel has to fight just to be a country, to be accepted. It hasn’t helped that Palestinians haven’t separated themselves from those who wish ill to Israel. The constant negative rhetoric directed towards Israel makes it hard for them to work towards peace.”

The two students will be joined on stage by leading policy experts. Hussein Ibish, a senior research fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, and Geoffrey Aronson, director of research and publications at the Foundation for Middle East Peace will argue with Bourke that Israel, more than Palestine, is responsible for the impasse. Taking Kisubika’s position will be Robert Lieber, a Georgetown University professor of government and international affairs, and Joshua Muravchik, a Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Foreign Policy Institute fellow.

This is the second time that Lieber has been invited to appear as a guest at COM’s Great Debate, an honor, Zelnick says, “infrequently bestowed,” but that reflects Lieber’s “elevated standing” among Arab-Israeli conflict scholars. Zelnick describes Ibish as a “rising young intellectual and gifted spokesman for the Palestinian cause. He is carefully followed by scholars and diplomats on both sides of the conflict for his reason, his moderation, and his intellect.”

The Great Debate is modeled after the famous Cambridge and Oxford University Union Societies’ public discussions, a fierce debating competition between the two universities. At the end of tonight’s two-hour event, Zelnick says, he will ask the audience to vote for who they believe has made the most persuasive argument by moving to one side or the other of the Tsai Performance Center.

Bourke and Kisubika both admit to some anxiety in advance of tonight’s forum. “This debate requires a lot of background and history on the topic,” Bourke says. “You need to get your facts right more than anything. The amount of research required is almost overwhelming.”

Saving NYC's Washington Street: First Arab-American Neighborhood In Grave Danger

First Arab-American Neighborhood In Grave Danger
Lower Manhattan Was Once The Center of Arab Life in U.S.

Most Americans, and even many Arab-Americans, are unaware that Lower Manhattan -- along Washington Street from Battery Park through the 9/11 Memorial to Chambers Street -- was once the center of Arab-American life in the United States, then called "Little Syria" or the "Mother Colony."

Obscured from history as the result of the construction of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the World Trade Center, its physical destruction was compounded by vanishing memory within the Arab-American community, reinforced by an atmosphere unprepared to acknowledge that the Arab-American story of hard-work and community -- both Christian and Muslim -- began at the very location the violent tragedy occurred.

Fortunately, by a kind of miracle, three buildings remain and are physically connected: 103 Washington Street, an Arab church that served as a Irish bar for many years; 105-107 Washington Street, a community house inaugurated by the governor of New York to serve the Little Syria neighborhood; and 109 Washington Street, a tenement building still containing apartments.

Tens of millions of tourists every year will walk between Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum -- all through historical Arab New York! -- and these three buildings deserve to be preserved as landmarks to leave some general trace of an ethnic neighborhood that has been devastated like no other in the city.

The most urgent priority is to send letters to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission encouraging them to preserve the "Little Syria" Community House at 105-107 Washington Street. Community Board One in Lower Manhattan passed a resolution encouraging this action, but the Commission needs to hear from more Americans that this disappearing heritage and this building are valued. There is a danger that this building could be demolished in the coming months, and we need to act quickly.

Unlike nearly every other ethnic neighborhood in New York City, Little Syria has no signs, no memorials, and no statues to recall the tens of thousands of immigrants who passed through. We believe that the 9/11 Museum should acknowledge the long Arab history at the location in order to dispel stereotypes, and that the city should erect an informational sign communicating this heritage to the millions of tourists who shall walk within this neighborhood

Clouds of uncertainty hang over Palestinian village waiting to see if the Israeli army will call off its demolition of the community's solar panels

Palestinian woman Nihad Moor and her children stand at their home lit by electricity provided by a solar panel in the southern West Bank village of Imneizil. The Israeli army, which controls civilian affairs in the area, issued a demolition order for the panels and an adjacent control structure (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

West Bank solar panels risk demolition

Clouds of uncertainty hung over this tiny Palestinian village on Wednesday, as locals waited to see if the Israeli army would call off its demolition of the community's solar panels.

It was two years ago that Spanish NGO SEBA joined forces with Nablus's Al-Najah University and installed two solar panels in the community, at the southernmost tip of the West Bank, replacing the gasoline generators that the village had been using as its only source of power.

Since then, the 34 families living in Imneizil have sped into the 21st century, stocking their homes with appliances and rigging up light bulbs inside their tents and small makeshift homes.

The panels also provide power for the local water pump, as the village is not connected to a water pipeline.

But last month, the army, which controls civilian affairs in Area C where the village is located, issued a demolition order for the panels and a nearby control structure, saying they were built without a permit.

Israeli NGOs and the UN's Habitat agency have urged the army to freeze the order, which they say came as a surprise to the village.

The Spanish government is also working through diplomatic channels to prevent the closure of the 365,000-euro ($495,000) project, most of which was funded by SEBA.

"We are suspended between heaven and earth; the solar panels were a glimmer of hope for us," said village head Ali Mohammad Ihrizat.

"We have been here since 1948, and have nowhere else to go."

According to Ihrizat, they saw no point in asking the army for permission to erect the panels as Israel does not recognise the village, and none of its structures have ever received a construction permit.

A Spaniard running the project for SEBA told AFP they had requested a permit after setting up the panels, but had never received a response from the military department responsible for granting them....READ MORE


Arab Spring a defining moment in Arab history

His Majesty King Abdullah is received by British Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in London on Tuesday (AP photo by Lewis Whyld/Pool )

Responding to a question on dealing with Israel, the King said there were no indications that the Israeli government is seriously interested in reviving the peace talks with the Palestinians.

“We have been in contact. I haven’t seen or spoken to the Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] in quite some time because I got to a point where I didn’t see anything to me that justified seriousness on behalf of the Israeli government.”

“Having said that, we are in contact with them. They’re beginning to realise how serious the problem is. Can we collectively put something together from now to the end of the year? We are frankly out of ideas,” he said.

“The continuation of a lack of a peace process limits Israel’s options,” he warned, adding: “The Arab Spring overshadowed the strong discussions that Israel was going to be addressed with by the international community.”

“One Western diplomat said to me recently, if Israel continues with its policy, they will find that the only allies that they have in the world is the US Congress. And that’s quite a fascinating statement. Because their options become less and less as time goes on.”

The Monarch reiterated that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains the region’s core issue.

“The train wreck that is waiting to happen is the Israeli-Palestinian problem. As we talk about the Arab Spring and Iran, we keep forgetting the core issue.”

Israeli forces demolish [Palestinian] homes in Jericho

Boys sit on the rubble of demolished structures near Jericho on Nov. 15, 2011. (Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)

JERICHO (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Tuesday demolished four homes west of Jericho in the central West Bank.

Palestinian security officials said over 30 army vehicles and 100 soldiers deployed in the Ein al-Duyuk al-Tahta area early Tuesday morning and declared a closed military zone, before bulldozers started demolishing homes.

Families did not have a chance to remove their furniture and belongings, security officials added.

Majed al-Atawneh said Israeli civil administration officers ordered him to leave his home but he refused and sat on the roof with his family. He told Ma'an he preferred that the army demolished his home "over his head" than to become homeless.

Israeli forces demolished homes belonging to Musbah Ali Mutur, Amar al-Fakhory, Mohammad Ali al-Haaj and Ali al-Dallam.

Two of the families were forced to evacuate their homes and the other two were not at home. One of the homeowners is in Saudi Arabia after performing the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage, a Ma'an reporter said.

A spokesman for Israeli authorities in the West Bank told Reuters the homes were razed because they were built without proper permits.

Palestinian security officials told Ma'an that 30 homes in the area were under threat of demolition because they lacked Israeli permits.

The homes are in Area C, a zone encompassing 62 percent of the West Bank which is under full Israeli military and civil control.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA notes that under Israel's zoning policy, Palestinians can only build in 1 percent of Area C, on land which is already heavily built up. Meanwhile, more than 94 percent of Palestinian permit applications have been rejected in recent years.

"Sadly, the number of people affected by demolition continues to grow. The UN estimates that between 28 and 46 per cent of Palestinian homes could be at risk of demolition, leaving people living under a cloud of anxiety," UNRWA says.

After the demolitions on Tuesday, Israeli soldiers fired stun grenades to stop residents from returning to the rubble, witnesses said.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Palestine News & Info Agency - WAFA - Ashrawi: Negotiations’ Success Depends on Quartet’s Commitment to Peace Requirements

RAMALLAH, November 14, 2011 (WAFA) - Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, said Monday “the success or failure of negotiations depends on the Quartet committee’s well to commit to the clear and known peace requirements; make Israel commit to international law and 1967 borders and stop settlement activities as well as determine a binding timeframe,” according to a press release.

Ashrawi added, “If the quartet can commit to these requirements, it means it started dealing with the content not the form, away from dealing with Israeli maneuvers.”

She stressed on the importance of putting pressure on Israel to make it commit to the peace requirements and not to put pressure on the Palestinians.

She affirmed that there are no signs of dealing with Israel seriously in light of America’s acquisition over the peace process, US forthcoming elections and the Israeli arrogance challenging the entire world.

She called on the international community to work on putting pressure on Israel to make it commit to the international law rules and to stop unilateral breaches concerning East Jerusalem, settlement activities as well as to hold Israel accountable.

She said, “If the Israeli right-wing extremist government does not pay for its violations, and is not held accountable for its breaches, it will continue its racist occupational practices.” “If there are no real intentions to hold Israel accountable, then there is no meaning for any steps taken by the quartet in this context.”


Ibtisam Barakat- Acclaimed author of Tasting the Sky
Problems, although, we dislike them greatly, come with gifts, making us behave and think in new, brave ways. . . break our fears. . . a problem simply tries to help, to say that things need attention and creative thinking. . . I want to take a minute to thank all the problems of the world for encouraging humanity to think and feel and wonder, not get lazy, dare, discover and change. . A problem is especially exquisite when a person is forced to stop blaming others, any others and all others, and see how they themselves have helped in creating the problem and can certainly help in solving it . . . :D :D
-- Ibtisam Barakat 2011

NYTimes: From Nablus to Jerusalem by Raja Shehadeh

November 15, 2011, 5:14 am

From Nablus to Jerusalem

NABLUS, West Bank — Last Saturday, I arrived at the Nablus train station, a low, thick-walled stone structure, in time to board the 3:20 pm to Jerusalem. Some 20 passengers were waiting at the entrance, mostly young men and women, with a few people old enough to remember the days of train travel during the British Mandate over Palestine. The excitement was palpable: It was our chance to take a ride to Jerusalem, a city we are barred from visiting, bypassing the Israeli checkpoints along the way. As I entered the station, a porter in a dark blue uniform issued me a ticket on the Green Line. The journey would take 30 minutes, with stops planned at Hawwarah, Zatara, Uyun al Haramiya, Attarah and Kalandia — all existing checkpoints. I made my way to the waiting room. It was barren, except for low tables with brochures entitled “Palestine Connected” showing local train networks and their destinations. Gaza. Jaffa. Haifa. Beersheba.

Soon there was an announcement in Arabic and English: the train would be arriving in three minutes. I could hear it approach, all whistles and honks. The sounds grew louder and louder until they became deafening. Then, they subsided; the train had arrived. The doors of the waiting room opened...READ MORE

Monday, November 14, 2011

Khaldun Bshara has dodged bullets to preserve Palestinians' heritage

"Bshara, born and raised in the village of Tubas near Nablus, says his dedication to Palestinian cultural heritage stems from a sense of social responsibility. "I believe that everyone has to give back to the community that helped him to flourish," he says, citing his mother as the inspiration for this desire to help other people in this way..."
Khaldun Bshara, director of the RIWAQ Center for Architectural Conservation, stands atop the 1932 building that RIWAQ renovated and uses as its offices in Al Bireh, just outside the West Bank city of Ramallah. ’ We see our work as a central element,’ he says, ‘to creating a national identity of Palestine.' Tovah Lazaroff

Khaldun Bshara heads RIWAQ, a West Bank architectural firm which renovates and preserves buildings that are part of Palestinians' cultural heritage.

By Ruth Eglash, Contributor / November 14, 2011

Ramallah, West Bank

Most visitors to the Palestinian architectural company RIWAQ would be forgiven for thinking that its building and people are similar to others in the area.

With its Arabesque entryway, high ceilings, and tiled floor, the stone structure that houses the firm is a standard Ottoman design common across the region. And the people, busily working behind desks, appear to be like any other office employees.

But RIWAQ, which means "gallery" in Arabic, is more than just an architectural firm: It's a thriving center for architectural conservation. Today, as the dream of an independent Palestinian state grows more realistic, the organization's work in preserving Palestinian cultural heritage has taken on added significance.

RIWAQ director Khaldun Bshara excitedly points to the intricate details of the long-term renovation that has given this once-run-down 80-year-old former family home a new purpose. Most recently, it served as a strategic frontline base between fighting Palestinians and Israelis.

Standing in the lush garden with its vibrant bougainvillea and mix of indigenous plants, Mr. Bshara recalls how just over a decade ago he would have to keep away from the arched windows as bullets fired by Israeli soldiers and stones from Palestinian protesters flew past.

"We were right on the firing line during the second intifada," recalls the silver-haired architect, who started working for RIWAQ just before that Palestinian uprising began in 2000.

Bshara has gone on to dedicate his life to renovating such buildings and, in the process, has kick-started the efforts at heritage-building that lie at the heart of any viable national identity.

"I don't think that the declaration of [a Palestinian] state will have a huge impact on our work, but as we move in that direction, it will certainly bring more attention to the importance of heritage," says Bshara, referring to the Palestinian leadership's attempt to seek international recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations. "Our work will continue on, regardless of whether there is a state or not."

Founded in 1991 by architect Suad Amiry, together with a group of Palestinians concerned that their historical sites were disappearing, RIWAQ has spent the past two decades rebuilding and reviving villages damaged by the constant state of conflict in the area.

Aside from its impressive data-collection operation aimed at identifying all buildings of significance to Palestinian history, RIWAQ has gained financial support from a wide range of local and international sources, which has allowed it to improve people's lives by rejuvenating their surroundings.

"One of our goals is to connect the disconnected villages spread out all over the West Bank," says Bshara, describing one recent project in which a team of architects and experts cleared, renovated, and even added a contemporary structure to a local music conservatory. "We could sense how the renovations had a huge impact on how the kids behaved and even found meaning to their existence in terms of music and openness," he says.

"RIWAQ helped by giving us a place to hold our activities," says Fatimah Issa, director of the nonprofit organization Women for Life. "They let us hold on to our past while helping us for the future."

She adds: "Their work is unique because it makes us feel thankful that we have a country. It makes our country real."

While RIWAQ's projects are largely chosen based on their architectural importance and history, Bshara concedes those are not the only criteria. "We also look at how the project will help the community, and we also consider...READ MORE

One Day, a True Independence Day by Joharah Baker for MIFTAH


One Day, a True Independence Day
Date posted: November 14, 2011
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Tomorrow is a special day for the Palestinians, at least in the world of symbolism and tenacious hope. Tomorrow is November 15, the day in 1988 when late President Yasser Arafat declared a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.

Yes, we Palestinians – perhaps out of sheer survival – have learned to cling to symbols. We thrive on moral victories, on eloquent speeches and on support from countries that can make no real difference in the unbalanced corridors of power. And we celebrate, each year, on November 15, we take the day off, our children stay home from school and we remind them that one day, we will have a real independence day, but that until then, we cannot lose faith.

There is truth at the heart of this. We cannot lose faith in spite of all that has gone wrong. But there must be a balance between symbolism and reality. Each has its advantages and disadvantages equally and if we find that balance, we will not allow ourselves to get lost in the symbolism that merely lifts our spirits.

This is particularly true today, as the Palestinians face innumerable challenges, both diplomatically and on the ground. Earlier this week, the first blow was delivered to the Palestinians at the UN Security Council admissions committee which said it failed to reach an agreement over Palestine’s bid for full membership. The United States – wanting to spare itself even the slightest bit of awkwardness – seems to have been able to coerce France and Britain among others to either abstain or vote against the Palestinians should the latter decide to take it up in the Council so the US would not be singled out in its veto.

Naturally, the Palestinians are frustrated with the lack of justice and imbalance in powers that govern its diplomatic efforts to gain independence. But, like all these years of various tactics have proven to us, there is always one more way to go, one more idea to get us closer to our goal.

Officially, the leadership is not backing down on its option to turn to the United Nations to achieve statehood – symbolic again, but with a measure of diplomatic clout that could make a difference in their ability to take Israel to court and to get Palestine recognized as an occupied state. That, obviously, goes beyond empty symbolism and is why the leadership insists on pursuing it.

But back to our Independence Day and what it means to us Palestinians living year after year under occupation. At the time when President Arafat proudly took the podium in Algeria during the historical Palestine National Council’s special session, we all believed it would be just a matter of time before the dream came true. Even Arafat told us so – “We are in our last quarter hour,” he would say of the remaining duration of our long and hard struggle. “Jerusalem is just a stone’s throw away.”

That has not yet come to pass. Since then we have ridden the highs of our moral victories such as President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the UN General Assembly and the more recent UNESCO vote to include Palestine as full members. But we are no closer to independence than we were back in 1988 and perhaps just that much more disenchanted.

However, all is not lost. Those moral victories and the symbols we desperately cling to are meaningful for a reason. If it were not for the pride we feel when the Palestinian flag is flown on rooftops in Jerusalem or when three-fourths of the General Assembly gave President Abbas a standing ovation after his speech, we may forget what we are fighting for. The symbols are important, but not in and of themselves. It is not enough that Abbas got a standing ovation or that we are members of UNESCO. But it is something. And it is something when countries and individuals speak in our defense or condemn Israel for its crimes on Palestine soil. These are all stepping stones to the higher cause.

So, tomorrow, on our virtual Independence Day, let us be fair. It is not an “illusion” like some fazed cynics might call it. Neither is it the final destination because we are obviously still under occupation. But it is an important day to remember what we are working towards, why we are such a proud people and why, no matter how many more “virtual” independence days we have to celebrate, one day it will be for real.

Joharah Baker 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

My letter to the Washington Post RE Jackson Diehl's For Israel, a tough call on attacking Iran

RE: Jackson Diehl's For Israel, a tough call on attacking Iran

Dear Editor,

If Israel was truly concerned with keeping Jewish people safe from Iran's nuclear bombs it would welcome home the Palestinian refugees, as well as do all it can to help a viable, sovereign and secure Palestinian state emerge for those Palestinians who would rather not be Israeli.

Ending the Israel-Palestine conflict ASAP by fully respecting universal basic human rights and international law would go a long way towards calming down the entire region, and inspiring people here there & everywhere to invest in peace and justice rather than religious bigotry and bombs.

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?

Fake Progress vs Real Progress in Palestine - The Atlantic

Palestinian Freedom Riders

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

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rafeef Ziadah - 'We teach life, sir', London, 12.11.11

Palestinian Freedom Riders

Palestinian Freedom Riders
Inspired by
the Freedom Rides of the US Civil Rights Movement
Palestinian activists will attempt to board segregated Israeli settler buses to occupied East Jerusalem

A young Arab-American woman’s list of hopes for Arab-American Literature

Author of A MAP OF HOME

Randa Jarrar "I’m lucky enough to teach an Arab-American lit class at Fresno State– it’s officially an Arab-American Women’s Fiction class, but I also teach some poetry, comics, and non-fiction, too– and one of the assignments I gave my class was to think about what direction they think Arab-American literature seems to be going, and what direction they think it ought to go. Lots of students felt that it wasn’t their place, as White, Latino/a, or Asian-Americans, to tell Arab-American writers what to write about. But they wrote wonderful short essays anyway, asking Arab-American writers to write more Sci-Fi, less food porn, more literary fiction, less politically-centered narratives, more literature in general. There were lots of great responses, but I wanted to share this particular response from a young student...READ MORE

As ultra-Orthodox flex muscle, Israel feminists see a backsliding

Women who thought Israel's battle for gender equality was mostly won warn of a new assault from the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox, seeking to expand religious-based segregation into the public realm.