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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Growing Gardens for Palestine: Nominating a hero... Ziad Asali of the American Task Force on Palestine

Growing Gardens for Palestine


Nominating a hero... Ziad Asali of the American Task Force on Palestine


Submit a nomination 
 The 2013 Citizens Medal will recognize “citizens of the United States of America who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.” Executive Order 11494 (Nov. 13, 1969). It is generally recognized as the second highest civilian award of our Government.




Dr. Asali first and foremost sets a good example. He came to this country as a Palestinian refugee and has spent his life becoming a successful and loyal American citizen.

Dr. Ziad J Asali's primary job and career was as a physician. A very successful physician. When he retired he could have chosen to live a private life of leisure, enjoying the pleasures of a loving family and respect from many friends and peers. But instead he stepped up to do something much harder than it might appear- diplomacy for  Palestine and peace. Dr. Asali founded the NGO The American Task Force on Palestine in 2003 http://www.americantaskforce.org/  in hopes of generating mainstream American interest in supporting a two state solution to once and for all end the Israel-Palestine conflict.


Describe the impact that your nominee’s service has had on individuals and/or communities:

The challenges of advocating mainstream support for Palestine here in America are huge. Many who know and care about Palestine have been lead astray by cynicism and negativity and bad arguments.  Far too many wrongly believe that Israel should be or will be destroyed. Some foolishly become puppets and pawns for Islamists and anti-America radicals pretending to care about Palestine. Few have the strength of character and the courage and the wisdom to be both pro-Palestine as well as pro-America.  Dr Asali is very much both pro-Palestine as well as pro-America. 

Dr Asali's leadership and his organization offer a safe harbor and good advice and direction for Americans like me who are sincerely concerned about the very real plight of the Palestinians and American investments abroad.  His focus is on empowering public support for state building efforts for Palestine and negotiations so that Israel and Palestine will be able to live side by side in peace and security. 


I'd also nominate ATFP's Senior Research Fellow Hussein Ibish for the citizen's medal- but Ibish's brilliant work and outreach are his career, a career made possible in part because of Dr. Ziad Asali's valiant efforts and organization.
 
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Website

Learn more and sign up for ATFP's newsletter at http://www.americantaskforce.org/

HEAR PEACE - SEE PEACE - SPEAK PEACE.... be peace

Friday, March 22, 2013

My letter to CSM RE: Palestinians see Obama visit as reminder of broken promises

RE: Palestinians see Obama visit as reminder of broken promises
'http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2013/0321/Palestinians-see-Obama-visit-as-reminder-of-broken-promises?nav=90-csm_category-topStories

Dear Editor,

"What President Obama has issued is a momentous challenge to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to find ways to work together to translate this vision of peace and prosperity into a reality, and create a future based on security, freedom and prosperity. Having been reassured by President Obama of the full support of the United States, it is up to people of courage on all sides to work to realize the President's vision. And it is up to the friends and supporters of Israel and Palestine in the United States and around the world to play their part in bringing this vision to reality." Ziad Asali Warmly Welcomes President Obama's Historic Jerusalem Speech

Ending the Israel-Palestine conflict is a win-win situation, and negotiations are the only way to get there.

Right now we might be witness to the birth of an independent, economically viable, diplomatically savvy, sovereign Palestinian state and an inspiring era of peace and progress for the people of the Middle East: A triumphant turning point towards a golden rule way of life where fair and just laws and accountability and full respect for universal basic human rights and international law help guide better choices large and small.

I hope so, because really the only other option is the torturous disfiguring, long term suffering and eventual demise of Palestine. Angry memes, snarly cynicism, protest rallies, religious extremism, tire burning and stone throwing will not provide jobs or help raise funds for UNWRA and the Palestinian refugees.

Sincerely,
Anne Selden Annab

NOTES
Crowdsourcing Peace: By going over the heads of Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Obama is demanding that their people step up.

Obama with Palestine's beautiful children March 2013



LIKE ATFP - The American Task Force on Palestine

"I come from there and I have memories... "


Octavia Nasr: What the city of Haifa taught me

Passports & Doorways... a poem by Anne Selden Annab

Barak Obama, Yes you are welcome in Bethlehem... Mr. President you are welcome in Bethlehem of the occupied Palestine, with open arms, in the hope that you are devoted to justice and a positive peace.


Amid the social and political transformations reshaping the Middle East, can King Abdullah II, the region's most pro-American Arab leader, liberalize Jordan, modernize its economy, and save his kingdom from capture by Islamist radicals?

Dear President Obama … I hope you won't remain silent: In an open letter, a Palestinian boy describes how life has changed since settlers took part of his family's home


U.N. officials in Washington to defend Palestinian refugee aid

Hussein Ibish: Muslim Brotherhood Attack on Women's Rights Just the Start

Facing Facts

Palestinian Maher Salamah: "We want borders, an airport; we want a state, we want freedom."

Palestinians buy land to protect future state and generations: A son of refugees has battled with the Palestinian Authority to create hundreds of plots with title deeds for Palestinians to own

Of Course Settlements Are Illegal... That's not an opinion. That's a legal and political fact.

Obama tells Arab-American leaders trip will show commitment to statehood



".... it being clearly understood that nothing
          shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious
          rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine..."
What is an Israeli settlement

"Legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Thomas Jefferson

The Office of International Religious Freedom ( http://www.state.gov/j/drl/irf/)   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

Palestinian Refugees(1948-NOW) refused their right to return... and their right to live in peace free from religious bigotry and injustice.

The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

"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
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 from 1948  : The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable 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.


Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:
1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.
2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:
I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.
II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.
III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:
I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.
II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.
5. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighbourliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.
6. Invites the international community and all countries and organisations to support this initiative.
7. Requests the chairman of the summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the secretary general of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim states and the European Union.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Crowdsourcing Peace: By going over the heads of Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Obama is demanding that their people step up.

BY HUSSEIN IBISH | MARCH 21, 2013
 [AS ALWAYS PLEASE GO TO THE LINK TO READ GOOD ARTICLES IN FULL: HELP SHAPE ALGORITHMS (and conversations) THAT EMPOWER DECENCY, DIGNITY, JUSTICE & PEACE... and hopefully Palestine]
U.S. President Barack Obama's speech in Jerusalem was without question the strongest ever made by a senior American politician on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was plainly designed to speak directly to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples over the heads of their political leaderships. It was an exercise in public diplomacy par excellence, intended to change the tone and atmosphere, and public perceptions of Obama himself, presumably as an adjunct to actual diplomatic efforts to lay the groundwork for eventually resuming negotiations.

The psychological, communication and political skill that was marshaled to give the speech its maximum impact with public opinion was quite extraordinary, and stands in contrast to some miscalculations Obama made about Israeli and Palestinian perceptions during his first term. By systematically downplaying expectations for his trip, Obama made the power of his speech and the boldness of some of the language and positions he staked out -- particularly regarding the realities Palestinians face under Israeli occupation -- surprising and therefore all the more striking.

Obama made the first day of his trip an extended exercise in telling the Israeli public everything it could possibly want to hear from an American president, ranging from "undying bonds of friendship" to robust reiterations of security commitment and a much yearned-for acknowledgment of the long Jewish history in the land. In retrospect, it's clear that what looked like public outreach bordering on pandering was, in fact, designed to transform Israeli perceptions of Obama himself in order to prepare them for some of the hard truths he was preparing to deliver the next day.

What Obama has done is to reassure and challenge Israelis and Palestinians alike. To Israelis, he reiterated America's undying support and commitment to Israel's security. But he confronted them with the fact that "the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine." He reassured Palestinians that the United States is not walking away from the effort to create an independent Palestinian state. But he told them they must recognize that "Israel will be a Jewish state" and challenged them, and the rest of the Arab world, to begin to normalize their relations with Israel...READ MORE

Obama with Palestine's beautiful children March 2013

U.S. President Barack Obama poses for a picture with young Palestinian dancers after watching them perform during his visit to the Al Bireh Youth Center in Ramallah March 21, 2013. Photo Credit: Reuters

"What President Obama has issued is a momentous challenge to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to find ways to work together to translate this vision of peace and prosperity into a reality, and create a future based on security, freedom and prosperity. Having been reassured by President Obama of the full support of the United States, it is up to people of courage on all sides to work to realize the President's vision. And it is up to the friends and supporters of Israel and Palestine in the United States and around the world to play their part in bringing this vision to reality." ATFP's Ziad Asali

Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

Washington DC, March 21 -- The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) warmly welcomed President Barack Obama's historic speech to the people of Israel and the broader Middle East region delivered in Jerusalem today. The President reassured the Israeli people of the "unbreakable bonds of friendship" between their country and the United States, and emphasized the American commitment to their security. He praised Israel's achievements, prosperity, and "thriving democracy." However, he issued significant challenges to Israeli society about its vision for its own future and that of the Palestinian people, and to the Palestinian people and the rest of the Arab world about their relationship with Israel.

President Obama noted that, "Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside, and express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do." But, he continued, he nonetheless wanted to make three crucial points.
First, he insisted that "peace is necessary" and "is the only path to true security." The President told the audience that "the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine," and he warned that defense technology is no substitute for peace.

Second, President Obama insisted that, "peace is just" and "the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized." He asked the Israeli people to put themselves in the Palestinians' shoes and "look at the world through their eyes." "Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer," President Obama insisted, declaring that, "Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land." "I believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad," he told his Israeli audience, citing institution-building and security enforcement in the West Bank as tangible achievements demonstrating this.

Third, he asserted his conviction that "peace is possible." He called on "the Arab World to take steps toward normalized relations with Israel," and on the Palestinians to recognize that "Israel will be a Jewish state." But, he insisted, "Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable– that real borders will have to be drawn."

President Obama urged the peoples of the region to press their leaders for progress on peace, saying they "will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see." He also cited prosperity as a key factor for securing the future for Israel, the Palestinians and the rest of the Middle East, declaring, "I believe that all of that potential for prosperity can be enhanced with greater security, and a lasting peace."

ATFP President Ziad J. Asali noted, "In this historic speech, President Obama both reassured and challenged Israelis and Palestinians. He reiterated the necessity for, and the vital American national security interest in, peace. And he reaffirmed to the Palestinian people that their quest for independence and statehood remains central to the American foreign policy agenda." Dr. Asali said, "President Obama's speech opens horizons for security, peace and prosperity across the region." He added that, "What President Obama has issued is a momentous challenge to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to find ways to work together to translate this vision of peace and prosperity into a reality, and create a future based on security, freedom and prosperity. Having been reassured by President Obama of the full support of the United States, it is up to people of courage on all sides to work to realize the President's vision. And it is up to the friends and supporters of Israel and Palestine in the United States and around the world to play their part in bringing this vision to reality."


[AS ALWAYS PLEASE GO TO THE LINK TO READ GOOD ARTICLES IN FULL: HELP SHAPE ALGORITHMS (and conversations) THAT EMPOWER DECENCY, DIGNITY, JUSTICE & PEACE... and hopefully Palestine]
  

Facebook  ATFP - The American Task Force on Palestine
Twitter
Website

Learn more and sign up for ATFP's newsletter at http://www.americantaskforce.org/

Mission
The American Task Force on Palestine's mission is to advocate for a negotiated end-of-conflict agreement that is in the American national interest and allows for two states, Israel and Palestine, to live side-by-side in peace and security.
ATFP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, DC.

Description
ATFP seeks to build strong working relationships with government agencies, think tanks, NGOs, and the media. It has developed lines of communication with the US, Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian governments to pursue its policy advocacy goals. ATFP has also engaged in humanitarian fundraising to support health and education in the Palestinian territories.

ATFP is strictly opposed to all acts of violence against civilians. The Task Force advocates the development of a Palestinian state that is democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and neutral in armed conflicts.

Please help sustain ATFP's work and independent decision-making by donating here.



My letter to the NYTimes RE It’s Up to Obama By Mustafa Barghouti

Palestinian Shepherd outside Jerusalem

RE: It’s Up to Obama By Mustafa Barghouti
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/21/opinion/global/obama-can-end-israeli-intransigence.html?ref=global

Dear Editor,

Our Library of Congress has a treasure trove of photographs honoring and exploring American culture and history, as well as intriguing glimpses of faraway lands... like historic Palestine.  Reading Palestine's Mustafa Barghouti in today's New York Times, I can not help but think of the photographs I have seen- images available to view because for generations now Americans and American institutions have created, preserved, archived and freely shared them.

UNWRA has many more recent photos of Palestinians, documenting the Nakba of 1948 as well as 1967, but their full gallery of older photographs is no longer so easy to find online. I suspect one too many extremist misused the UNWRA photos to generate hate and more conflict rather than support efforts to actually end the Israel-Palestine conflict, or at least help raise funds to feed and educate the children under UNWRA's care.

There are many dishonest brokers making the Israel-Palestine conflict worse... Obama is not one of them.  Be that as it may however, whatever Obama does or says on this historic trip to Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, what really matters most is how people on all sides respond.  One can be a cynic and feed the negativity, add into the blame games and angry protest rallies and nay saying, or one can help find the strength and courage to call for peace and careful conscientious negotiations to actually end the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

Sincerely,
Anne Selden Annab

NOTES
LIKE ATFP - The American Task Force on Palestine

"I come from there and I have memories... "


Octavia Nasr: What the city of Haifa taught me

Passports & Doorways... a poem by Anne Selden Annab

Barak Obama, Yes you are welcome in Bethlehem... Mr. President you are welcome in Bethlehem of the occupied Palestine, with open arms, in the hope that you are devoted to justice and a positive peace.


Amid the social and political transformations reshaping the Middle East, can King Abdullah II, the region's most pro-American Arab leader, liberalize Jordan, modernize its economy, and save his kingdom from capture by Islamist radicals?

Dear President Obama … I hope you won't remain silent: In an open letter, a Palestinian boy describes how life has changed since settlers took part of his family's home


U.N. officials in Washington to defend Palestinian refugee aid

Hussein Ibish: Muslim Brotherhood Attack on Women's Rights Just the Start

Facing Facts

Palestinian Maher Salamah: "We want borders, an airport; we want a state, we want freedom."

Palestinians buy land to protect future state and generations: A son of refugees has battled with the Palestinian Authority to create hundreds of plots with title deeds for Palestinians to own

Of Course Settlements Are Illegal... That's not an opinion. That's a legal and political fact.

Obama tells Arab-American leaders trip will show commitment to statehood




".... it being clearly understood that nothing
          shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious
          rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine..."
What is an Israeli settlement

"Legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Thomas Jefferson

The Office of International Religious Freedom ( http://www.state.gov/j/drl/irf/)   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

Palestinian Refugees(1948-NOW) refused their right to return... and their right to live in peace free from religious bigotry and injustice.

The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

"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
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 from 1948  : The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable 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.


Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:
1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.
2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:
I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.
II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.
III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:
I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.
II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.
5. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighbourliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.
6. Invites the international community and all countries and organisations to support this initiative.
7. Requests the chairman of the summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the secretary general of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim states and the European Union.

LIKE ATFP - The American Task Force on Palestine

Facebook  ATFP - The American Task Force on Palestine
Twitter

Website

Learn more and sign up for ATFP's newsletter at http://www.americantaskforce.org/

Mission
The American Task Force on Palestine's mission is to advocate for a negotiated end-of-conflict agreement that is in the American national interest and allows for two states, Israel and Palestine, to live side-by-side in peace and security.

ATFP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, DC.

Description
ATFP seeks to build strong working relationships with government agencies, think tanks, NGOs, and the media. It has developed lines of communication with the US, Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian governments to pursue its policy advocacy goals. ATFP has also engaged in humanitarian fundraising to support health and education in the Palestinian territories.

ATFP is strictly opposed to all acts of violence against civilians. The Task Force advocates the development of a Palestinian state that is democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and neutral in armed conflicts.

Please help sustain ATFP's work and independent decision-making by donating here.

 ***
USAID

Why Institution Building in the West Bank is Critical for a Palestinian State

The United States is the leading provider of bilateral assistance to the Palestinians. We are working closely with the Palestinians to help them build the governance structures and the economy of a future state. We do this by working with all levels of government, with the private sector and with civil society. And we do so in a way that benefits not just Palestinians, but Israelis as well. From developing water infrastructure to connecting Palestinian ICT firms with Israeli companies to working with the justice sector on critical rule of law matters, we are bringing together Palestinians and Israelis to address important issues of mutual concern.

Our work with the PA helps it deliver basic services to the Palestinian people. Since 1994 the United States has helped the Palestinian health system offer improved emergency services, enhanced diagnosis and treatment, and improved administration including an integrated health information system; and ensured that more than a million Palestinians had access to clean drinking water. When people see that their public institutions work—when a village gets piped water for the first time or a businessman interacts with a well-trained broker who makes the customs process easier—this helps build confidence in the institutions of government.

This work is helping to build a more democratic, stable and secure region, which benefits Palestinians, Israelis and Americans. The interest shown by the people who came up to me following the presentation who wanted to engage further was inspiring.  It  demonstrated  the value in USAID continuing to share  the story of our support for Palestinian institution building, as one part of the two-track approach, that coupled with resumed political negotiations, can help lead to the establishment  a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.


"I come from there and I have memories... "


Woman of Nazareth
between 1898-1946
Library of Congress

Poetry


Poem by Palestine's beloved Mahmoud Darwish
 

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Octavia Nasr: What the city of Haifa taught me


[AS ALWAYS PLEASE GO TO THE LINK TO READ GOOD ARTICLES IN FULL: HELP SHAPE ALGORITHMS (and conversations) THAT EMPOWER DECENCY, DIGNITY, JUSTICE & PEACE... and hopefully Palestine]
What the city of Haifa taught me

It has crossed my mind on several occasions during my lifetime that Haifa is the city I could one day live in. Diverse, lively and has a great beach.

After all, I grew up with countless stories about Haifa’s golden days pre-1948: The hustle and bustle of the Horse and Carriage Square (Sa7et El 7anatir) and the life of comfort Palestinians lived there before they became refugees. I’ve heard stories about restaurants, picnics, weddings, and graduations among others. Always happy memories of a life lived before it was harshly interrupted in 1948 by the establishment of the state of Israel. I don’t recall any sad or challenging stories prior to the Nakba (Calamity of 1948 as Arabs refer to it). It always seemed to me that life was perfect then and in the blink of an eye it just ceased to exist. I’ve seen actual keys to homes left behind and I’ve read documents of ownership for businesses, land and properties. I’ve seen identity cards with Palestine listed as a country before Palestinians were reduced to refugee numbers on UNRWA ration cards.

Then the awakening came at my first meeting with a current Haifa resident more than twenty years ago. My first impression was disbelief that an Arab, Christian-Maronite actually resides in Haifa after all the atrocities committed and the complete takeover of the land and displacement of its original people. “I know people from there,” I said. I listed all the locations that grew dear to my heart over the years: Saint Elias Church, Mount Carmel, College Des Freres school, Selizian School, Wadi al-Nasnas... To my surprise, they were all still there and flourishing with fresh new generations of Palestinians. I later met a Jewish family from Haifa and got to know a different side of the story of the majestic city. I learned about the Hadar area, Hertzel Street and Ben Gurion Boulevard. From the Druze of Haifa I learned about Isifya and Daliya village on Mount Carmel. Not to forget the Muslim community of Haifa which can be found everywhere in the Arab sections and the very prominent Baha’I faith with its majestic gardens and Abbas Dome, one of the most beautiful gardens and architectural structure in the world.

Common denominator

 

For some reason, Haifa was always a common denominator and it kept creeping up into my world, as the example of how integrated living between -- not just Arabs and Israelis would look like -- but also how the harmony among Christians, Sunnis, Shiites, Druze, Baha’is and Jews can be exemplified.

During a recent visit to this great city, I learned that indeed Haifa is a symbol of tolerance and co-existence. Palestinians, while treated as second-class citizens at many levels, have mastered ways to utilize the system to their advantage and participate effectively in all aspects of life towards the betterment of their Arab heritage and Palestinian identity. Haifa taught me that a rightful cause doesn’t die if people keep working hard at improving themselves and forging ahead in their life without succumbing to intimidation or bullying. In Haifa I learned that most people live their life just like any other place on earth. As Haifa blogger Abeer Khshiboon told me, “Here, we live together and we deal with each other on a daily basis. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not part of our daily conversation or woes.” Khshiboon and many other young Palestinians are very attached to their Palestinian identity and they project it well. Highly intellectual, she speaks both Arabic and Hebrew fluently, fully integrated in her society but knows very well the limits and challenges being a Palestinian woman come with and lives her life accordingly.

A lesson learned

 

People who still believe in the military struggle as the only way to Palestine should learn a lesson from Haifa. Peaceful Palestinians have found a way to protect the land and safeguard it despite all the pressures and abuses. By doing so, those Palestinians are growing demographically and doing well socially creating one of the biggest threats to the state of Israel. It is a threat that is much louder and much more difficult to crush than any military attack.

I know a little boy who was baptized in the Saint Elias Maronite Church in Carmel some seventy years ago. He might never see that church again, but it must be comforting for him to know that it is still standing and brings together Muslims, Christians, Jews and Druze for worship and for lessons in co-existence only Haifa can offer!

 ----------
 Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks. Twitter: @OctaviaNasr

Passports & Doorways... a poem by Anne Selden Annab

(Jerusalem Doors photo credit- flickr All rights reserved by judi333)

         Passports & Doorways

To return 'and live at peace'
continues to be obstructed-
undermined by militants
sabotaged by Islamists
destroyed by Zionists- and hate mongers
rendering the right of return a threat
rather than an act of compassion
and personal accountability
honoring fair and just laws...
and the hard work required
to build a good life.

To return and live at peace
is to know that the past is past
and it is time to move on.

To return and live at peace
practicing diplomacy
and perfecting community.

To return and live at peace
or learn to live, dream and work elsewhere
anywhere generating a better world
where ever you might go.




*
UN Resolution 194 from 1948 : The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable 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

Barak Obama, Yes you are welcome in Bethlehem... Mr. President you are welcome in Bethlehem of the occupied Palestine, with open arms, in the hope that you are devoted to justice and a positive peace.

http://english.pnn.ps/index.php/opinion/4273-barak-obama-yes-you-are-welcome-in-bethlehem
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Bethlehem, 19th March 2013
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Just like the many other visitors that we receive here in this land, we would do our best to overwhelm you with our cultural hospitality and our traditions. Mr. President, I would seize this opportunity to not only welcome you to visit Bethlehem, but also to welcome all US citizens to visit my small city. 

I invite you, Mr. President, to be in my city and among the nation that has a dream of liberty; a dream that goes in rhythm with all nations’ right of self-determination. We have embraced what nations alike pursued of democracy, human development and security. We have tumbled through our pursuits and have made mistakes, but we just like all humans and as part of our human nature, we slip. We have built, learned, developed and made our existence noticeable for all nations.

Mr. President, I hope that in your visit you would not only enjoy the blessings of the Holy Land, but be encouraged to return and experience this city to its fullest. After you finish your presidency you will be able to visit without a big security escort and you will enjoy wandering the old streets and spending time in the old city of Bethlehem when you come back with your family.

Mr. President our generation reads and learns about the legacy of the 16th U.S. President Lincoln and his great success of bringing change and hope with his struggle to achieve the 13th amendment; the amendment that brought an end to slavery in the United States of America; the amendment which served as a platform for justice in the US for all men and women alike, despite the labels of difference we humans have created. Justice for all humans alike is something I live in hope to witness some day in my lifetime; once we are no longer occupied by the Israeli military.

Mr. President, I will not write to draw you a picture of what life here is like or of what the geo-political situation is. I will not write to you about my personal opinion of the political and peace process deadlocks, nor will I try to explain the deteriorating levels of human security we witness in our lives. Not because all of this is not important, but because I’m sure you know it all by now.

Mr. President our threatened Catholic monastery and winery of Cremisan is only a 10 minute drive away from the Nativity church which you will be visiting. It is a place my family, like many other families, used to go for a “family walk”. Mr. President, I invite you to visit the monastery and winery when you are in Bethlehem, where some of us will be praying in demonstration to save our last open green space in the community in Bethlehem. Visit it not because it is nice, but before it no more exists as it is now with its natural beauty and its connection to its historic community. The Israeli segregation wall will soon destroy it and separate it from us. 

Mr. President you are welcome to be in my city and take photos of every landscape you might encounter, whether it’s a church, mosque, olive trees, refugee camps, or the cement segregation wall at the entrance to Bethlehem. You will not, however, encounter the wall or the military checkpoint, which segregate me and my community from our Holy sites in Jerusalem, since you will visit be flying in by helicopter. Don’t worry, though, we can send you photos of it if you wish.

My city welcomes you and this is why I’m writing. You are welcome as a guest and as a friend of the people, since you are one of that nation; the nation that supported justice and lauded Martin Luther King Jr., the leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

You are welcome as one of the nation that follows his footsteps and celebrates his memory, ideology and spirit. He who expressed in his Letter from Birmingham Jail his despair and rejection of a silent moderate audience, saying:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

In that spirit of leadership, we look to you Mr. President. If you are in support of justice and a positive peace, I call on you not to be of those who prefer “order” and the “absence of tension” rather be of the blessed who are the peacemakers. You are welcome to visit the Church of the Nativity, every corner of this historical city, every street and every house. It is after all the birthplace of Jesus Christ whose footsteps we follow in our search for peace. 

About the author: Antwan I. Saca is the Advocacy Officer at the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem -(ARIJ). He previously worked at the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF), is an advocate of Palestinian rights, and is active in the Palestinian civil society movement for peace.    

Amid the social and political transformations reshaping the Middle East, can King Abdullah II, the region's most pro-American Arab leader, liberalize Jordan, modernize its economy, and save his kingdom from capture by Islamist radicals?

King Abdullah II of Jordan
April 2013

Monarch in the Middle


It is still, on occasion, good to be the king.

It is not necessarily good to be the king of a Middle Eastern country that is bereft of oil; nor is it necessarily so wonderful to be the king during the turmoil and uncertainty of the Arab Spring. It is certainly not good to be the king when the mystique that once enveloped your throne is evaporating.
But when a squadron of Black Hawk helicopters is reserved for your use, and when you are the type of king who finds release from the pressures of monarchy by piloting those Black Hawks up and down the length of your sand-covered kingdom—then it is still good to be the king.

One morning last fall, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, the fourth Hashemite king of Jordan, rolled up to a helipad situated close to the royal office complex in Al Hummar, on the western edge of the capital, Amman. He stepped out of an armored Mercedes—he drove himself, and drove fast, like he was being chased—and hustled to one of his Black Hawks. The king, who as a young prince served as a commander in the Royal Jordanian special forces, climbed into the pilot’s seat, talked for a moment with his co‑pilot, a trusted member of the Royal Squadron, and lifted off, pointing us in the direction of the rough, unhappy city of Karak, about 80 miles to the south. A second Black Hawk, filled with bodyguards, lifted off a moment later.

The king was flying himself to Karak, which is one of the poorer cities in a distressingly poor country, to have lunch with the leaders of Jordan’s largest tribes, which form the spine of Jordan’s military and political elite. More than half of all Jordanians are of Palestinian origin, with roots on the West Bank of the Jordan River, but the tribal leaders are from the East Bank, and the Hashemite kings have depended on East Bankers to defend the throne since the Hashemites first came to what was then called Transjordan from Mecca almost 100 years ago. This relationship has a coldly transactional quality: in exchange for their support of the royal court, the leaders of the eastern tribes expect the Hashemites to protect their privileges, and to limit the power of the Palestinians. When the Hashemites appear insufficiently attentive, problems inevitably follow.

Earlier that day, in his private office in Al Hummar, which overlooks the wealthy neighborhoods of West Amman, the king had explained to me the reason for the trip to Karak: he was trying, in advance of parliamentary elections in January, to instruct these tribal leaders on the importance of representative democracy. He wanted, he said, to see Jordanians build political parties that would not simply function as patronage mills but would advance ideas from across a broad ideological spectrum, and thus establish for Jordan a mature political culture. He said he would like to see Palestinians more proportionately represented in parliament. And he would like to do all this, he explained, without allowing the Muslim Brotherhood—a “Masonic cult” (as he describes it) that today controls the most formidable political organization in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front—to hijack the cause of democratic reform in the name of Islam. In other words, the king wants to bring political reform to Jordan, and to cede some of his power to the people...READ MORE

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dear President Obama … I hope you won't remain silent: In an open letter, a Palestinian boy describes how life has changed since settlers took part of his family's home

Video: Rebekah Wingert-Jabi, Julia Bacha, Just Vision Link to video: My Neighbourhood: a Palestinian boy's view of Israeli settlements
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/17/dear-president-obama-palestinian-letter
Mohammed El Kurd
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 17 March 2013

Dear President Obama,

I am 14 and live in the Palestinian Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Almost four years ago my family and I were evicted from part of our home by Israeli settlers, backed by Israeli court decisions. The process has made life almost unbearable for me and tens of thousands of Palestinians. Settlers are working towards Jewish control of all of East Jerusalem, at times using violence against Palestinians.

This was once a beautiful neighbourhood. Everybody was so close, and before part of my house was evicted, I was never afraid of going to sleep. We used to have no worries. Now it doesn't feel like a Palestinian neighbourhood any more. All the signs are in Hebrew, and the music too.

The people who've been evicted have lost financially and emotionally. My father has stopped going to work for almost a year, because it was so crowded and dangerous and every day there was tension and violence, so he couldn't just leave us alone in the house with the settlers...READ MORE

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U.N. officials in Washington to defend Palestinian refugee aid

http://www.americantaskforce.org/daily_news_article/2013/03/13/un_officials_washington_defend_palestinian_refugee_aid
Josh Rogin
Foreign Policy
March 13, 2013 - 12:00am
http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/03/13/un_officials_in_washington_to...


U.S. aid to the Palestinian refugees could fall victim to the automatic budget cuts that went into effect March 1, so the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) made two trips to Washington this month to argue for consistency in U.S. help for his organization.

Filippo Grandi, the commissioner general of UNRWA, came to Washington last week but had to come back this week due to the March 6 snowstorm. On Tuesday he met with Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), and staffers from the Senate Appropriations and Senate Foreign Relations Committees. He will also see Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and Middle East Special Envoy David Hale.

On Wednesday he sat down for an interview with The Cable.

Grandi said that U.S. contributions to UNRWA, which are voluntary, are needed more than ever due to the dire situation of Palestinian refugees caught up in the Syria crisis. Right now, the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration require that all accounts be cut evenly, but Congress is expected to provide the State Department flexibility in deciding what to cut. Grandi said he feels confident State won't choose to disproportionately cut money for UNRWA.

"I am encouraged that the will to support UNRWA is there, very clearly. My sense is that if ever there will be any flexibility we will be considered a priority recipient of State Department funds," he said. "All the messages I got back were reassuring, within the context. We are not at the center of the discussion, as you can imagine. We will have to deal with the consequences of whatever is decided on the much bigger scale."

UNRWA is working to get more money from the Gulf states and Asia, but those funds are not forthcoming yet, so the organization is still very dependent on U.S. contributions.

"Any reduction in U.S. funding would be really very serious for UNRWA," Grandi said. "Any cut, selective or across the board, because the U.S. is the biggest bilateral donor, would be irreplaceable."

Some lawmakers, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) have been working to reduce U.S. contributions to UNRWA. Grandi said he requested meetings with both those offices but they didn't grant him meetings... READ MORE

Hussein Ibish: Muslim Brotherhood Attack on Women's Rights Just the Start

https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/commentaryanalysis/brotherhoods-assault-of-womens-rights-is-just-the-start
Brotherhood’s attack on women bodes ill

No more illusions. No further evasions. Tolerate not a single additional apologetic explanation. Admit no further concessions to a false moral and cultural relativism. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has now fully exposed itself as what many of us have been trying to explain it is: paranoid, chauvinistic, reactionary, retrograde, and, above all, misogynistic.

The Brotherhood has reminded us, in a bizarre rant against the UN Commission on the Status of Women, that Islamism in practice invariably prioritizes misogyny (and homophobia). But this is merely the vanguard of a much broader set of intended and inevitable repressions against minorities, individuals and, eventually, all opposition.

Islamism doesn't have the intellectual depth of a systematic political ideology. It has no specific economic theory or program beyond mercantilism, with some (apparently malleable) suspicions about interest. It doesn't have an analysis of class or other key social structures. Its ‘theory’ of the relationship of the individual and society simply empowers those claiming religious authority and ‘authenticity’. It has no distinctive defense strategy, foreign policy, developmental program, or anything like that.

Instead, it boils down to a set of extremely reactionary social attitudes that don't have any real implications for such key issues of governance.
 
The Muslim Brotherhood was formed in the 1920s in order to exploit and manipulate religious sentiment to seize political power. They seek to use that power to ‘Islamize’ Egypt and other Arab societies along ultraconservative lines that purport to be ‘traditional’ but are often in fact modern innovations or new interpretations of past practices....READ MORE

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