Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Lessons of the Nakba.... an authentic voice

"Israelis and Palestinians alike are two peoples who have experienced traumatic histories. We must never forget them. But we must not be held hostage by history either. We must care more about the future of our grandchildren than the past of our grandparents, or even ourselves.

We must work together to build a future in which both peoples can enjoy the rights, responsibilities and dignity of citizenship and self-determination. There is only one way to actually accomplish this: ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state to live alongside Israel. Palestinians must recognize and accept Israel, which is a legitimate member state of the United Nations. The Palestinians must have one place on earth, the territories occupied in 1967, where they can live freely as first class citizens in their own independent state. There is no other way to end the cycle of bloodshed, pain and hatred has that lasted for so long."

70-year-old Palestinian refugee Christian, holds her birth certificate which was issued by the Palestinian Government in 1939. (Getty Images)

The Lessons of the Nakba 

Friday, May 11, 2012

In West Bank, Israeli barrier threatens Roman terraces

In this photo taken Sunday, May 6, 2012 Palestinian farmer Elayan Shami, 62, plants eggplants in a maze to direct the water downhill from one terrace to another in his field in the West Bank village of Battir. Residents of Battir, one of the last West Bank farming villages that still uses irrigation systems from Roman times say the village's ancient way of life is in danger as Israel prepares to lay down its West Bank separation barrier. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

BATTIR, West Bank (AP) — One of the last Palestinian farming villages that still uses irrigation systems from Roman times says its ancient way of life is in danger as Israel prepares to lay down its West Bank separation barrier.

With construction possibly beginning in the coming weeks, the people of Battir hope a legal battle, backed by recent U.N. recognition of the village's agricultural practices, will help change Israel's mind.

Battir's 6,000 inhabitants live in limestone-faced houses built into a hillside southwest of Jerusalem. On the lands around the homes, stone retaining walls have transformed scrubby hills into orderly terraces of olive trees and vegetable gardens.

Terraces are a common Palestinian farming technique in the hilly West Bank terrain. But in Battir, they are unique for their extent — stretching uninterrupted over nearly 2,000 hectares (800 acres) — and for the centuries-old network of irrigation canals that direct springwater over the stepped hills.

This combination prompted the U.N.'s cultural agency, UNESCO, to award the village last year with a $15,000 prize for "Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes."

The canal network has been in place for 2,000 years, with residents continually keeping up the system, said Giovanni Fontana-Antonelli, a local UNESCO official. Because the area is largely untouched by construction, it is still possible to see "the form and the shape of the past generations' work," he said. "In other places you have terraces, but you also have urban sprawl, roads and settlements."

"The wall as projected so far will interfere with this ancient irrigation system by cutting part of the irrigation network," he said of the planned path for Israel's barrier. The integrity of the terraces "will be totally dismantled."....READ MORE


In this photo taken Sunday, May 6, 2012 a Palestinian farmer stands near a water spring in the West Bank village of Battir. Residents of Battir, one of the last West Bank farming villages that still uses irrigation systems from Roman times say the village's ancient way of life is in danger as Israel prepares to lay down its West Bank separation barrier.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's Time for Palestine

World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel

28 May - 3 June 2012

"Pray, educate, and advocate for justice in Palestine"
An initiative of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches

This annual observance of a week of prayer, education, and advocacy calls participants to work for an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine, so that Palestinians and Israelis can finally live in peace. It has been more than 63 years since the partition of Palestine hardened into a permanent nightmare for Palestinians. It is now more than 44 years since the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza overwhelmed the peaceful vision of one land, two peoples.

... the dream of one nation cannot be fulfilled at the expense of another.

The action week's message is that now:
  • It's time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace.
  • It's time for freedom from occupation.
  • It's time for equal rights.
  • It's time for the healing of wounded souls.

It's time for Palestine.
It's time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace.

It's time to respect human lives in the land called holy.
It's time for healing to begin in wounded souls.
It's time to end more than 60 years of conflict, oppression and fear.
It's time for freedom from occupation.

It's time for equal rights.
It's time to stop discrimination, segregation and restrictions on movement.
It's time for those who put up walls and fences to build them on their own property.
It's time to stop bulldozing one community's homes and building homes for the other community on land that is not theirs.
It's time to do away with double standards.

It's time for Israeli citizens to have security and secure borders agreed with their neighbours.
It's time for the international community to implement more than 60 years of United Nations resolutions.
It's time for Israel's government to complete the bargain offered in the Arab Peace Initiative.
It's time for those who represent the Palestinian people to all be involved in making peace.
It's time for people who have been refugees for more than 60 years to regain their rights and a permanent home.
It's time to assist settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to make their home in Israel.
It's time for self-determination.

It's time for foreigners to visit Bethlehem and other towns imprisoned by the wall.
It's time to see settlements in their comfort and refugee camps in their despair.
It's time for people living more than 40 years under occupation to feel new solidarity from a watching world.

It's time to name the shame of collective punishment and to end it in all its forms.
It's time to be revolted by violence against civilians and for civilians on both sides to be safe.
It's time for both sides to release their prisoners and give those justly accused a fair trial.
It's time to reunite the people of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
It's time for all parties to obey international humanitarian and human rights law.

It's time to share Jerusalem as the capital of two nations and a city holy to three religions.
It's time for Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities to be free to visit their holy sites.
It's time in Palestine as in Israel for olive trees to flourish and grow old.

It's time to honour all who have suffered, Palestinians and Israelis.
It's time to learn from past wrongs.
It's time to understand pent-up anger and begin to set things right.
It's time for those with blood on their hands to acknowledge what they have done.
It's time to seek forgiveness between communities and to repair a broken land together.
It's time to move forward as human beings who are all made in the image of God.

All who are able to speak truth to power must speak it.
All who would break the silence surrounding injustice must break it.
All who have something to give for peace must give it.
For Palestine, for Israel and for a troubled world,
It's time for peace.

My letters Re Is a two-state solution dead? & Under Netanyahu, Israel is stronger than ever


RE: Is a two-state solution dead?,0,4725588.story

Dear Editor,

Good editorial.  I was frankly surprised you had such a firm grasp of the facts. Granted there are many more relevant facts plus plenty of angst and rage and rising religious extremism on all sides. Day by day the conflict- and the very real plight of the Palestinians gets worse. 

Echo chambers convince players on both sides they are 'winning' and one-staters (on both sides) relish the lack of progress as if time will be kind... Time is not kind- it is ruthless. 


Anne Selden Annab


RE: Under Netanyahu, Israel is stronger than ever By Fareed Zakaria

Dear Editor,

Israel is indeed stronger than ever, despite the institutionalized bigotry perpetuating the paranoid claims that it is and needs to be "The Jewish State"... Forcing tax payers (here & there) to fund religious scholars and schemes and corruption is a very bad idea- as is fragmenting families and demonizing, oppressing, impoverishing and destroying select men, woman and children because you have deemed them to be the wrong religion and a "demographic threat".

Fueling religious extremism and bad choices on both sides by harping on real or imagined demographics only makes matters worse: A fully secular two state solution to once and for all end the Israel-Palestine conflict for everyone's sake is the best way forward. 

Anne Selden Annab


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

"It's a simple dictum, but one that many still have trouble accepting: Israelis and Palestinians have to talk to each other if they're going to get anywhere." Hussein Ibish: We Need To Talk

This week, #Israeli #settlers vandalized 400 #Palestinian-owned olive trees. Total trees damaged by settlers since start of 2012: over 2,560 General Delegation of the PLO to the United States via twitter

Demolition watch: The Israeli practice of demolishing homes, basic infrastructure and sources of livelihoods continues to devastate Palestinian families and communities in East Jerusalem and the 60 per cent of the West Bank controlled by Israel, known as Area C.

Refugees and the Right of Return
Palestinian refugees must be given the option to exercise their right of return (as well as receive compensation for their losses arising from their dispossession and displacement) though refugees may prefer other options such as: (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (even though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside. What is important is that individual refugees decide for themselves which option they prefer a decision must not be imposed upon them.

UN Resolution 194 Article 11: [The General Assembly]
Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest possible date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible; instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Is a two-state solution dead?

The reality is that peacemaking is a long, difficult, frustrating business. To give up negotiations in favor of walls and fences, or an endless war of attrition, would be both irresponsible and tragic.

LA Times Editorial
It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when a comprehensive rapprochement between Israelis and Palestinians seemed not just possible but inevitable. In the mid-1990s, the two-state solution was gaining support on both sides. Hamas and Islamic Jihad were losing influence. Israel was handing over West Bank cities to Palestinian control. The 50-year-old conflict seemed to be nearing a resolution.

Of course, that never came to pass. Peace fizzled in the wake of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the terrorist bombs of the Palestinian militants, among other things. But does that mean it can't be revived, or that the two-state solution can never work? The reality is that peacemaking is a long, difficult, frustrating business, conducted between enemies who have, by definition, little trust for each other. To give up negotiations in favor of walls and fences, or an endless war of attrition, would be both irresponsible and tragic....READ MORE



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

We Need to Talk... Ziad has proven that Palestinian-Americans can work within the system as first-class American citizens and Washington has paid attention.


Hussein Ibish
The Daily Beast (Opinion)
May 7, 2012 - 12:00am

It's a simple dictum, but one that many still have trouble accepting: Israelis and Palestinians have to talk to each other if they're going to get anywhere.

A flurry of condemnation greeted the tweeting by Ha'aretz reporter Natasha Mozgovaya of a photograph of Ziad Asali, President of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), at a recent "Independence Day" event held by the Israeli Embassy. ATFP's critics' outrage proves that, from the right and the left they either fail or refuse to comprehend this dictum or the basic mission of the Task Force.

ATFP was founded to advocate that it is in the American national interest to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel in peace, security and dignity. It is not opposed to Israel, but it is opposed to the occupation. This is consistent with stated American, UN, Palestinian and Arab League policies.

ATFP is an American organization and works within the political system to secure a goal that is in American interests, as well as those of the Palestinians and Israel.

And in terms of gaining a real measure of influence in the policy conversation in Washington, it has been an unprecedented and unexpected success, especially by deftly advocating for Palestine with Israel as a partner, rather than a target.

The basis of this success is that serious people on all sides talk to Asali. They know that other serious people also talk to him, frankly, seriously and respectfully.

ATFP works to bring Palestinians and Americans closer together, and to maintain strong relations with Palestinian and American leaders and working relations with Israeli officials. This is the only approach that anyone based in the United States who seriously wants to achieve anything practical for peace, or to improve the lives of Palestinians, can actually take.

Mozgovaya's photograph merely reconfirms what ATFP has always openly and frankly pursued: a public and strategic display of continued contact with the Israeli establishment to promote the goals of peace and ending the occupation. Those who think there is a military solution are welcome to pursue it. Others may hide their activities, or pander to a lowest common denominator, but ATFP has consistently and publicly maintained those relationships and contacts.

This is hardly the first Israeli or Jewish-American event attended by ATFP officials, and it won't be the last. Israeli officials and pro-Israel Jewish-Americans have attended every ATFP annual gala, sitting alongside Palestinian activists and Arab diplomats in some of the most extraordinary Middle East policy gatherings to have ever taken place in Washington. Such meetings have always been based on mutual respect and dignity.

Asali is a trailblazer and a visionary. His approach has been controversial, but driven by the watchwords of seriousness, credibility and integrity, he has not shied away from taking bold positions and making difficult choices precisely because they are necessary for progress.
Asali's critics need to ask themselves what the Palestinians and their allies can possibly achieve without talking to, and ultimately making an agreement with, the Israelis.

The status quo is clear: occupation. Asali's mission is to change that status quo.

Ever since he became the President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in 2001, and then President of ATFP, which he founded in 2003, Asali has not drawn a single penny in salary or other compensation. This extraordinary, and in my experience unparalleled, commitment, led the late Edward Said to aptly describe him as a public-spirited physician who voluntarily gave up his medical practice to run the organization on a pro bono basis. That this has continued for no less than twelve years in the face of unrelenting, and often personal and vituperative, criticismâ??and without any prospect or expectation of personal gain tells you all you need to know about his character and integrity.

Asali has led ATFP in reaching out not only to US officials and Arab-American organizations but also Jewish-American groups across the political spectrum. ATFP has angered many by refusing to become embroiled in political squabbles, particularly between rival Jewish-American organizations. Under Asali, it pursues its mission with scrupulous independence, and declines to serve as a prop in anyone else's dramas.

Asali has proven that Palestinian-Americans can work within the system as first-class American citizens. Washington has paid attention.

Secretaries of State Rice from the Bush administration and Clinton from the Obama administration have addressed ATFP galas, attended by a who's who of the Washington Middle East policy establishment. A 2009 letter from Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), then Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, attested that Asali and ATFP "have been an important influence on my own thinking about Middle East peacemaking and that of many of my colleagues in the Congress."

Asali and ATFP have been instrumental in changing perceptions of the PA institution-building program.within the government and foreign policy establishment by persuasively arguing that is a strategic and political initiative, not just a development program. ATFP has been active and effective in helping to secure continued American aid to the PA following the UN membership bid last September.

The Palestine Liberation Organization recognized Israel in 1993. Palestinian officials meet with Israeli officials on a regular basis. It makes no sense whatsoever for Palestinian-Americans to refuse to talk with Jewish-American groups, or with Israeli officials, they do not fully agree with.
It is what we say that really counts, and ATFP expresses the same message, no matter the language, medium or interlocutor.

By condemning Asali for such meetings, his critics are attacking someone who talks the talk and walks the walk. Such critics will be taken seriously only when they do the same. If they do not like ATFP, they should establish their own organizations, rather than tear down the Task Force, a disturbing phenomenon thoroughly excavated in Said's article cited above. They should be ashamed of their shallow, petty, and often vicious narrow-mindedness.

And, most importantly, they need to accept this inescapable reality: we need to talk.

Turning to the Past for Future Peace by Randa Farah


"... Poignantly, most of the refugees live within 100 km of their homes of origin: tantalizingly proximate, but politically inaccessible. And the number of refugees and exiles has grown. At the end of 2011 the total Palestinian population was estimated at 11.2 million, almost 70 percent of which is displaced, both within and outside historical Palestine.

Under the law, we have a right of return, and this requires us to consider the nature of the future polity in what was Palestine until 1948 and is now Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Regardless of its shape and form, the future polity must be a model of inclusion and diversity that incorporates Muslims, Christians, Jews, Druze, atheists and people of diverse backgrounds. Palestinian rights do not and should not generate another calamity and a counter-process of Jewish displacement.

A growing number of studies show that a Palestinian right of return is not only just but viable, even though at this historical juncture it seems far-fetched. Only the recognition and fulfillment of this right -- all the more important as the 64th anniversary of the Nakba approaches -- will lead to justice and secure a lasting peace."

Randa Farah is a policy advisor of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, and an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario who has written widely on Palestinian, Sahrawi, and other refugee communities. 

Turning to the Past for Future Peace

We Shall Return The Story of Iqrit by Fida Jiryis...This Week in Palestine

Sign Showing Site of Home - Iqrit.

We Shall Return The Story of Iqrit

By Fida Jiryis

“I don’t want to open all my wounds…,” says Maher Daoud, a descendent of Iqrit refugees, as we drive to the site where the village of his parents once stood. I wince and apologise, aware of how difficult the subject must be for him. Iqrit is one of the 350 or so Palestinian villages that were completely destroyed and ethnically cleansed in 1948, its residents barred from returning and turned, overnight, into internal refugees in their own country.

Maher, 43, is married to my cousin, Njoud, and they live in Mi’ilya, a village in the Galilee. They regularly drive up to Iqrit, whose church is all that remains today, to partake in religious celebrations at Christmas and Easter and to visit dead relatives in Iqrit’s cemetery. The occasion of our visit now is sombre: Maher’s mother passed away two years ago, and we are here to visit her grave on the occasion of Good Friday, as is the custom among Palestinian Christians.

The drive to Iqrit takes a mere twenty minutes from my village, Fassouta. Both are in the Galilee: the north of historical Palestine, a few kilometres from the Lebanese border. During Israel’s “War of Independence” in 1948, or the Nakba (Catastrophe) as Palestinians refer to it, the residents of Iqrit and Biram, another nearby village, were uprooted from their homes on “security grounds,” presumably for Israel to protect its northern border. The residents of Iqrit were bussed to Rama village, twenty kilometres south in the Galilee, and told it would be for a few weeks, until the security situation was calm and they could return. But they never did. On Christmas Eve, 1950, the Israeli army blew up all the houses of Iqrit, in a timely “Christmas gift” to its expelled Christian residents. My father, a boy of 12 at the time, saw the smoke rising above the village in the distance, and, in panic and haste, told a man named Tu’meh from Iqrit, who had taken refuge in Fassouta. Tu’meh’s eyes filled with tears.

In 1951, the Israeli High Court ruled that the villagers be allowed to return “as long as no emergency decree” existed against the village. With cold predictability, the government was quick to issue such a decree against the Iqrit evacuees. In 1953, it blew up the houses of Biram, too, leaving only the churches of the two villages standing. Two years later, the theft was completed: the land of the two villages - 16,000 dunams (1 dunam = 1000 m2) in Iqrit and 12,000 dunams in Biram - was expropriated for establishing Jewish settlements, which are there today: Even Menahem, Shlomi, and Shtula.

I’d read about this before; Israel coldly and ruthlessly destroyed about 350 Palestinian villages and turned close to 700,000 Palestinians into homeless refugees during the Nakba. I had visited Suhmata, another such village, already, so I was prepared for what I expected to see. Nothing stopped the flood of goose bumps, though, when my cousin whispered: “Here it is. The village starts here.”

“The village” that she was referring to “started” as a small pile of rubble by the roadside. Maher was quick to point to the church atop a hill in the distance. “That’s Iqrit,” he said.

I experienced the same sickening disbelief I’d felt when an old relative had pointed to a tree-covered hill and told me: “Here it is. This is Suhmata.”

In fact, it is completely surreal: all you see are shrubs and trees, thick greenery as is characteristic of the wilderness of Galilee. The small piles of rubble dotted periodically around are the only small reason to believe that those speaking to you are not deranged or delusional.

The climb to Iqrit’s cemetery and church is up a tiny, winding road with tall grass on either side. April is springtime in Palestine, and the Galilee has rightfully been dubbed the most beautiful area in the country, with superb views and hills luscious with thick, deep greenery. The site of Iqrit has one of the best views that I’ve ever seen: the greenery is so vivid, thick, and beautiful that it blows my mind away.

As we climb up the winding road...READ MORE

For the Expected One, by Ismail Shammout.

The Child Far Away... Palestinian Folkloric Fairy Tales A Spotlight on Palestinian Painter Bissan Rafe


Palestinian Folkloric Fairy Tales A Spotlight on Palestinian Painter Bissan Rafe

By Federico Cao

As a multimedia artist and writer based in Texas (USA), Bissan Rafe Alhussien (Qasrawi) established her official art studio (Nohra-Studio) back in 2007, and is currently the director of international relations and a member of the directive council at the International Artist Collective, Ali Ribelli, based in Italy. Her work ranges from oil paintings to illustrations and many things in between. One of her most notable oil series is Palestina I, a series of oil-on-wood paintings that outline the Palestinian folklore and dilemma using folkloric dresses.

It might come as a surprise that Bissan never formally studied art except in two college-level courses in high school and, instead, is a biological science major from the University of Houston System pursuing a future career in naturopathic medicine.

Bissan was born in 1986 as a member of the Palestinian diaspora displaced in Kuwait. At the age of four, she and her family fled to Jordan during the 1990s Gulf War and settled in a remote village on the border of Syria and Jordan near the Dead Sea. They were there for eight years, during four of which they lived primitively, without electricity or running water. “The number four seems to be a reoccurring code in my life,” she says. “It’s very uncanny to be honest!” Subsequently, she named one of her novels A Line of Four Syllables, whereby each increment of the number four marked a major landmark in her life.

Fairy Tales, Bissan’s new project, is a collection of both individual and collaborative work linking eastern and western Asian folkloric cultures through imagination. The new series includes six projects, two of which are in production. Each project is a full-coloured text-illustrated book that conveys an original fairy tale.

The series as a whole will be collected in an anthology encompassing the six fairy-tale books in addition to a documentary outlining all the residencies and countries visited during the creation period. The six fairy tales are: Shamms Islet, The Child Far Away, De Clérambault, The Invisible Girl and the Goat, and two more which are still being formulated.

Shamms Islet is a fairy tale based loosely on Bissan’s novelette released earlier in 2012 by the same name under Nohra-Studio/Arabesque Ink literary division. The story focuses on the journey of a Westerner wolf to the summit of a high mountain where he meets and befriends a girl imprisoned on an islet there with only a giant shadow for a companion.

Shamms Islet ties inspirations from three regions: Beisan (Palestine), Big Bend (Texas), and Yamanashi/Fukuoka (Japan), linking western and eastern Asian folklores. The creation process involved several art residencies and travels to the aforementioned locations with future plans for final production scheduled for Japan in 2013.

How the project is conducted is one of the most attractive aspects of Bissan’s work. Naturopathic medicine, art, and folklore were masterfully woven into the fabric of the story combining elements from the various involved regions. For example, the dress Shamms wears is based on Palestinian traditional dresses that she observed during her trip to the West Bank. The nature and background of the illustrations are linked to locations in Yamanashi, Big Bend, and Beisan.     

The Child Far Away is an illustrated fairy tale produced through the collaboration between Italian-American writer Jason R. Forbus and Bissan Rafe. The story revolves around the refugee child and dreams and is based on the Island of Ventotene. The construction and presentation took place in Italy, Portugal, and Palestine, with revenues generated to support the book’s donations to schools in refugee camps and the developing world.

The Child Far Away has a music production based on an orchestral musical score by Cristian Maddalena that will feature live stage interactions with life-size portraits of the characters and various actors, and an exhibition of the illustrations scheduled to premiere in Italy sometime during November 2012.

Finally, De Clérambault, the third of six in the series, is a fairy tale based loosely on Bissan’s short story by the same name in which the De Clérambault psychological syndrome or Erotomania is the central theme: a type of delusion where a person believes that a complete stranger is in love with him or her. The syndrome often manifests during psychosis, especially in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

De Clérambault explores the concept of martyrdom. In particular, it links the Berlin Wall to the Apartheid Wall in Palestine. The events of the fairy tale are purely fictional, and the story is told in a dreamlike atmosphere. The title of the work is used metaphorically in the story in order to explain the psychological discrepancies of martyrdom.

Bissan, originally from Beisan, is but one example of the refreshing art one feels resonating from young Palestinians with yet another innovative approach to redefining the Palestinian cause and image. Her new series, Fairy Tales, is a beautiful rendition of the Palestinian history and reality through vibrant, breath-taking illustrations and a gripping style of storytelling. For more information, you can visit the artist’s official website at or Ali Ribelli International Artist Collective at, which is currently welcoming new artist members.

Federico Cao is an architect and art enthusiast based in New York and Turino (Italy). He has a master of architecture degree from Northeastern University in Boston. He currently resides with his wife and two sons in Turino. Federico can be reached at

All illustrations and pictures are copyright protected by the artist, Bissan Rafe.


My letter to CSM May 7, 2012 Refugees use Facebook to keep scattered families connected

This Week in Palestine: The Village Awakens, 1987 by Sliman Mansour

RE: Refugees use Facebook to keep scattered families connected
comment I posted online via twitter

THANK YOU for publishing the AP story "Refugees use Facebook to keep scattered families connected" in your culture section.  I was online, looking for a poem- and found that fascinating story instead.

I very much hope that all the world catches on to how crucially important it is to fully respect international law and universal basic human rights including but not limited to every refugee's
inalienable legal, moral and natural right to return to original homes and lands...  Facebook could disappear tomorrow- but the right to return will remain, and people worldwide will continue to find ways to reach out to find kith and kin- and connection. 

Anne Selden Annab

To Be Clear: Return

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Palestine's exiles find family bonds thru Facebook

Published May 06, 2012

As Jewish forces advanced on their village during the war that surrounded Israel's creation in 1948, the Palestinian Faour family piled children and belongings into donkey carts and fled, hoping to return home when the fighting stopped.

Only some of them got back, and the family is still divided. Some are in the Lebanese city of Sidon as stateless refugees. Others are 80 kilometers (50 miles) away as Israeli citizens in their village of Shaab, across a fenced and hostile border.

Granddaughter Mona Maarouf, 26, still considers Shaab home, even though she has spent her life in Sidon, has never visited her ancestral village and maybe never will. She knew she had relatives there but knew nothing about them.

Then she joined Facebook.

Now she tracks who has died in the village, and her cousins in Israel weigh in on her marriage prospects. "I didn't think anyone knew anything about me," she says. "Then I saw that they knew everything."

Social media have produced a boom in communications between Palestinians in Israel and the Arab world, once connected only through rare letters carried by intermediaries or the International Red Cross. Younger exiles like Maarouf are tracking down and getting to know relatives separated for decades.

Many Palestinians say they now know more about their extended families than at any time since the birth of Israel, an event Palestinians mourn every May 15 as the "Nakba," or catastrophe.

Mostly they stick to swapping family photos and news, worrying that political talk could draw attention from intelligence agencies. Some, however, say stronger ties will bolster the Palestinian demand that some 5 million Palestinian refugees registered with the U.N. return to their villages...READ MORE