Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Songs and Pictures from Palestine: Thyme & a poem

Thyme from homeland Palestine
14 photos by Manal Abdallah

Did You Know ... a poem by Anne Selden Annab
Did you know
when your fingers fumbled with the fabric
and your mind played with the design
Did you know
as you stitched and pulled
the threads
Did you know
as you danced with color
and shape
rhyming patterns
to repeat
close to her heart...
your heart
mother daughter sister aunt
Did you know
how long
this art would last
& how much it would be shared.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tales from the West Bank: Palestinian Raja Shehadeh chronicles life during occupation

The Palestinian author and lawyer Raja Shehadeh has kept a diary since the 1967 Israeli invasion of his homeland
AFP/Getty Images
The author and lawyer has kept a diary since the 1967 Israeli invasion of his homeland.
13 December 2009

I'm just back from a lovely day spent in Wadi Kelt, the ravine on the way between Jerusalem and Jericho. This is one of the few places in the West Bank where one can be sure of finding water even after the drought of the past eight months. Turned out we were not the only ones who had the idea of an outing there. Just after we put down our rucksacks and stretched out on the rock in the sun, a Palestinian family of nine arrived. They were disappointed to find us there but settled for the second best slab of rock on the opposite side of the pool. Their smaller group included two bearded men and two young women with hijab, another of undetermined age with the niqab and four children. We, on the other hand, were a mixed group of Palestinians and foreigners, photographers and teachers, all of whom live and work in the West Bank.

As soon as I saw them I wondered how they had managed the rocky path without falling in the water. The women in our group invariably wore jeans and colourful shirts. I had been thinking as we passed the Israeli checkpoint of how clothes distinguish the various groups in our tiny land… the Israeli women soldiers wore tight khaki trousers with a low waist emphasising the contours of their hips, bedecked with mobile phones. They looked at us through their dark sunglasses giving us orders with their hands while exchanging flirty looks and sexual innuendos with the male soldiers with whom they conversed in loud Hebrew. To them we were mere specks on the terrain that belonged exclusively to them, where they could move us around with a flick of their small finger like pieces on a chequers board.

From the way we looked and dressed, the sombre-looking family at the picnic must have suspected we were Israelis, but our fellow picnickers were within earshot and could easily hear us speaking Arabic. Unfortunately we did not do what would have been normal a few years ago, perhaps because we drew an imaginary line between us, with them, the suspected Islamists on the one side, and us seculars on the other, with the fresh water pond between. No one from our side either greeted them or went over to their side to invite them to join us on our side of the rock which was large enough to accommodate them as well. So a distance was established between us from the beginning, much wider than the natural divide, the small pool of water that separated us.

4 January 2010
Penny and I went today to Bethlehem to look at the work of Banksy, the British street artist, on the Annexation Wall there. This conflict and the methods Israel uses to repress Palestinians are producing responses in many parts of the world. Banksy is one artist – but not the only one – who has come to express his feelings about the situation using his wall as the canvas.

We took the Walajeh Road heading f southwest on a circular route to Bethlehem which is directly south of Jerusalem, all in order to avoid the checkpoint between the two cities. We were stopped at the Walajeh checkpoint which I had heard also checks whether those crossing have paid their taxes to Israel, just to make life more complicated...READ MORE

Romney Versus the World Bank

Trying to solidify his “pro-Israel” bona fides, Romney compared the GDPs of Israel and the Palestinian territories. Hussein Ibish on the candidate's latest failure abroad.


 Republican candidate Mitt Romney's visit to Israel was marked by a series of largely boilerplate comments about the special relationship between the United States and Israel. And, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he almost entirely avoided the question of peace and the two-state solution, preferring to focus on the threat posed by Iran's nuclear weapons. In his speech in Jerusalem, the word “Palestinian” did not once cross his lips.

But certainly Romney's most striking remark, from a Palestinian point of view at least, came when he spoke to the in-crowd.

Romney explained to some 40 wealthy donors at Jerusalem's King David Hotel that he was putting the economic puzzle together:  

As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $US21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality.

Not only did Romney get the economic figures entirely incorrect—Israel's per capita GDP is about US$31,000 while the Palestinians' is at US$1,500—he attributed this difference to “culture.”

Romney reportedly told the group—which, by the end of the night had given him around $1 million for his campaign—“Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.” He also bizarrely attributed Israel's relative prosperity in contrast to Palestinian impoverishment to “the hand of providence.”

Romney and his team would be well advised to consult the latest World Bank report on the state of the Palestinian economy released July 25th of this year. The report emphasizes the need for the creation of a more robust private Palestinian economic sector and education reform and named the major constraints to private sector activity as tight Israeli restrictions on movement and resources.   It’s quite straightforward:

The Government of Israel’s (GOI’s) security restrictions continue to stymie investment…Despite the easing of some [Israeli] restrictions, most of the constraints on movement of people and access to resources have remained in place, constraining investment and productivity growth.

These restrictions, along with a dependence on international aid are a function of not providence, but, well, the occupation. The report notes that the occupation “has skewed the economy towards the public sector and non-tradables."

The bottom line: “The major constraints to private sector activity are the tight Israeli restrictions, and growth will not be sustainable until Palestinians have access to resources and are allowed to move freely.” To be sure the report notes that there is much the Palestinians need to do, particularly in shifting education reform to produce a more dynamic and employable workforce geared towards a robust private sector. But it also makes clear that the development of such a sector depends even more on the easing of Israeli restrictions that are the consequence of its occupation policies....READ MORE

My letter to the Washington Post RE Romney

Claire Schwartz photo: 2011 Barbed Wire in Jerusalem outside the Jerusalem/Bethlehem Checkpoint.

RE Beyond Romney’s Olympic troubles By E.J. Dionne Jr .... (& today's wire story "Romney praises Israel’s success, but his failure to mention occupation outrages Palestinians" )

Dear Editor,

Romney just raised more than a million dollars in Israel by pandering to wealthy Zionist ideologues who actively scorn respect for international law and universal basic human rights... Would Romney be so eager to pander to Zionist ideologues & propagandists if his own home and freedom to travel and his ability to earn a living were at stake?

Would Romney continue to have so little sympathy and compassion for the Palestinian refugees refused their right to return if he was suddenly refused reentry into the United States- and his home and his wealth was usurped by non-Mormons convinced that Mormons are a 'demographic threat'. 

Would Romney be so motivated to idolize a foreign country- a foreign country dedicated to building racist laws and walls if he actually believed in America and our ideals of real democracy with full and equal rights for all.

Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is right that Romney "lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people". 

Anne Selden Annab

Demographics should be a research tool, not a national policy shaping institutionalized bigotry and injustice.

Violent attacks by settlers on Palestinians and their property, mosques and farmland had increased by 150% over the past year.

Palestinian officials point out that US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is undermining peace... "What this man [Mitt Romney] is doing here is just promoting extremism, violence and hatred"

"If you have to modify it, it isn't really a democracy."

'Separate and Unequal' is Unacceptable to Palestinians

World Bank says Palestinian economy unsustainable, noting that Israeli restrictions remain the biggest impediment to investing, creating high uncertainty and risk

Do you support as a solution to this conflict the emergence of a fully sovereign state of Palestine on the territory occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem? Yes or no?

The Office of International Religious Freedom ( )  Given the U.S. commitment to religious freedom, and to the international covenants that guarantee it as the inalienable right of every human being, the United States seeks to:
Promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right and as a source of stability for all countries

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."

"It is in Israel's vital interest to come to a complete resolution of the conflict between it and the Palestinian people sooner rather than later, relieving the weight of this tragic conflict from both of our peoples' shoulders. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to the world." Maen Rashid Areikat: The Time for a Palestinian State Is Now

"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

US sees Israel as spy threat

Despite inarguable ties between the US and its closest ally in the Middle East and despite statements from US politicians trumpeting the friendship, US national security officials consider Israel to be, at times, a frustrating ally and a genuine counterintelligence threat.

In addition to what the former US officials described as intrusions in homes in the past decade, Israel has been implicated in a US criminal espionage cases and disciplinary proceedings against CIA officers and blamed in the presumed death of an important spy in Syria for the CIA during the administration of George W Bush.

The CIA considers Israel its No 1 counterintelligence threat in the agency's Near East Division, the group that oversees spying across the Middle East, according to current and former officials. Counterintelligence is the art of protecting national secrets from spies. This means the CIA believes that US national secrets are safer from other Middle Eastern governments than from Israel.

Israel employs highly sophisticated, professional spy services that rival American agencies in technical capability and recruiting human sources. Unlike Iran or Syria, for example, Israel as a steadfast US ally enjoys access to the highest levels of the US government in military and intelligence circles.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorised to talk publicly about the sensitive intelligence and diplomatic issues between the two countries.

The counterintelligence worries continue even as the US relationship with Israel features close cooperation on intelligence programs that reportedly included the Stuxnet computer virus that attacked computers in Iran's main nuclear enrichment facilities. While the alliance is central to the US approach in the Middle East, there is room for intense disagreement, especially in the diplomatic turmoil over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"It's a complicated relationship," said Joseph Wippl, a former senior CIA officer and head of the agency's office of congressional affairs. "They have their interests. We have our interests. For the US., it's a balancing act."...READ MORE

Palestinian officials point out that US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is undermining peace... "What this man [Mitt Romney] is doing here is just promoting extremism, violence and hatred"

US Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives to deliver
foreign policy remarks in Jerusalem on July 29. (Reuters/Jason Reed)

RAMALLAH (Reuters) -- Palestinian officials accused US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday of undermining peace prospects by calling Jerusalem "the capital of Israel", ignoring their own claims to the city and most world opinion.

Romney used the term on Sunday to sustained applause from his Israeli audience in the Holy City, during a trip to present himself as Israel's closest ally ahead of the Nov. 6 election contest with President Barack Obama.

"We condemn his statements. Those who speak about the two-state solution should know that there can be no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters on Monday.

"What this man is doing here is just promoting extremism, violence and hatred, and this is absolutely unacceptable," he said. "His statements are just rewarding the occupation and aggression."

Israel seized eastern Jerusalem during a 1967 war. A UN Security Council resolution condemns a 1980 Israeli law that declared Jerusalem the "complete and undivided" capital of the country as a violation of international law.

Most countries, including the United States, have not recognized Israel's declaration and have kept their embassies in the coastal city of Tel Aviv.

Previous US presidential candidates, including Senator Obama in June 2008, have referred to Jerusalem as Israel's capital ahead of elections, only to row back when taking power and suggest the issue should be resolved by negotiations.

A senior aide to President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said Romney's statements were unhelpful, stood in the way of a peace settlement and "contradict the previous positions held by the American administration".

Palestine Liberation Organization secretary-general Yasser Abed Rabbo said: "American policy makers must abandon hypocrisy and stop attempting to gain votes at the expense of the Palestinian people's rights."...READ MORE