Saturday, September 14, 2013

NSA scandal: “Israel which discriminates continuously against US citizens of Arab and Muslim origins should not be rewarded with information that encourages and enhances its ability to discriminate against them leading to their deportations at Israeli airports, banning them from entry, and even jailing them,”

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2013 (WAFA) – The Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) General Delegation to the United States said in a statement on Thursday that it was deeply disturbed by reports that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has been sharing raw intelligence information on American citizens with the Israeli government.
The British newspaper, the Guardian, published on Wednesday a new document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden which revealed that the NSA and an Israeli intelligence agency have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on sharing data about US citizens before filtering them that could violate their constitutional rights.
“Israel which discriminates continuously against US citizens of Arab and Muslim origins should not be rewarded with information that encourages and enhances its ability to discriminate against them leading to their deportations at Israeli airports, banning them from entry, and even jailing them,” said the General Delegation’s statement.
“We expect the United States to hold Israel accountable for its discriminatory actions against Arab and Palestinian-Americans and to pressure Israel to end all forms of discrimination against US citizens,” it said.

The Guardian ‎- 1 day ago
Secret deal places no legal limits on use of data by Israelis • Only official US government communications protected

Friday, September 13, 2013

"The lesson, I think, is this: the Holy Land holds histories that, with time, can be taught to coexist. My mother’s is one of them. As she navigates her own, inner peace process, I hope that one day, in her lifetime, it leads home."

On Yom Kippur, Remember My Palestinian Mother

That question weighs heavy on my mother’s mind this week, as she and I recall two decades of failed U.S. attempts to help end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict—a conflict that has defined all but four years of my mother’s life.

She was still in her 40s when Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn. But two decades on, as she approaches her 70s, my mother is beginning to reckon with the possibility that she will live out her life in exile.

She is not alone, of course.

My mother is part of the last generation of Palestinians born before 1948, when the creation of Israel displaced three-fourths of the Holy Land’s indigenous population.

That inescapable tragedy—displacing one people to shelter another—is the unhealed wound that sustains the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Like any wound, it must eventually be exposed. And if it is to truly heal, Palestinians and Israelis must make of the scar a source of succor, not fear.

After all, my mother, like others of her generation, is no threat—not to those who know and love her and certainly not to an entire nation. For Christmas, she knits Bethlehem-themed ornaments and sells them at church bazaars. She stands at a plastic table, this woman from the Holy Land, and regales wide-eyed American children with tales of day trips to the Sea of Galilee.

That life of more than six decades ago is too far-gone, though. Like any person with more years lived than left, my mother is too wise to inveigh against the inevitabilities of time. Instead, like millions of her generation who remember a land before loss, what she really wants is something more elemental.

She wants the right to access those memories, on her own terms, as she looks back on a life in waning.

But to revisit them, like any person should have the right to do, my mother needs permission—not from the quixotically named Palestinian Authority, but from Israel. That cruel reality, more than any other in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, adds enduring insult to injury.

Still, my mother and I maintain hope that she can return someday, without the indignities of interrogation. Much of that hope, it must be said, derives from the Jewish experience. After all, what nation knows better the injustice of depriving a people of their history?

Some months ago, I gave a lift to an Israeli author whose grandfather’s signature is affixed to Israel’s declaration of independence. In the trunk of my car, where he had just put his suitcase, there was a box sealed well before my years and, in my mother’s scrawl, labeled: “History.”

My Israeli friend asked about the contents. But I couldn’t answer. Whenever I asked my mother what her History held, she demurred, saying only: “Keep it in a cool, dry place.”

I understood why when I opened it myself. In that box, I found hundreds of faded, yellowing photographs—my mother’s history, hidden all those years in sepia stills.

The author's mother and grandmother in Bethlehem. (Courtesy of Samer Badawi)
There she was—tomboyish and slight—beside her mother, who was stitching. And there were Solomon’s Pools, where my grandfather drowned.

These were the Holy Land’s apocrypha, I thought, subsumed for so long by another’s narrative. They told us: Ours was a land without a people. Ours was a desert, and they made it bloom.

But history, the images showed, had been sullied. They showed my mother, laughing on a terraced hill, land stitched with olive trees. They showed the vine, made famous not by wine, but by my grandmother’s stuffed grape leaves.

The lesson, I think, is this: the Holy Land holds histories that, with time, can be taught to coexist. My mother’s is one of them. As she navigates her own, inner peace process, I hope that one day, in her lifetime, it leads home.

Palestine and Israel in the New Regional Context


Ziad J. Asali, M.D. 


Palestine and Israel in the New Regional Context

Posted: 09/11/2013 11:19 am

The United States is striving to achieve Palestinian-Israeli peace amid a backdrop of increasing unrest in the Arab world. To borrow an image from quantum physics, we are speeding up to try to protect the peace process from the powerful gravitational pull of a developing Middle East black hole.

Secretary of State John Kerry deserves applause for his serious and tireless efforts to end this conflict. As a Palestinian-American, a Jerusalemite displaced by the 1948 war, and, for the past 10 years, a full-time advocate for a two-state solution, my dream of an independent Palestine living in peace with Israel is still alive. But it has become inextricably intertwined with other Middle Eastern issues.

The meltdowns spreading throughout the region require a more holistic American approach to avoid even more widespread chaos. Securing American policy goals in the region requires rethinking traditional policies that favor short-term interests over long-term stability.

In Syria the number of dead has long exceeded 100,000 and there are increasing reports of the unspeakable use of chemical and heavy weapons against rebels and civilians. There has been an average of 30 car bombs per month over the past three months in Iraq. Assassinations are destabilizing Tunisia; militias run uncontrolled in Libya; and there is growing instability in Yemen and Lebanon. Egypt, with its undoubted regional influence and centrality, has seen the ouster of two presidents in as many years. Its revolutionary turmoil reverberates throughout the region, and rages at the doorsteps of the future Palestinian state.

The convulsions in the Middle East are not just a regional problem, they are threatening to the global economy and stability. It would be unwise to dismiss them as distant or unimportant.

Solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will not be a panacea for all the ills of the region. But it would have a significant positive impact on many ongoing problems faced by Middle Easterners and the United States alike. It is the single thing the United States could help do that would most improve the general atmosphere in the Middle East.

Many Arab societies are trapped in a false binary between authoritarian governments and Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. But within these societies there are many disconnected and neglected islands of support for non-sectarian, pluralistic, tolerant, accountable and transparent orders based on the consent of the governed. It is time for the United States to identify and support, in a sustained, strategic and long-term policy, these moderate, centrist forces. They exist, and, with sufficient help, can be key players in transitioning to more open systems. We cannot do it for them, but we can help them do it.

There is no magic formula, one-size-fits-all, or instant cure for the deep-seated problems in the Middle East and the Arab world. Transforming the political culture of the region, and helping it find its own solutions consistent with globally accepted norms, but without imposing Western models, is a generational project.

There is no reason to believe that it's impossible for Arab states to join the rest of the world as equal partners with the West and all the other societies that are moving forward as part of a global community and economy. The problem is that, both in the Middle East and the United States, there has never been enough belief in, or support for, this project. Such skepticism is a self-fulfilling prophecy that should be abandoned.

The United States would be well advised to embark on a concomitant, long term, and focused policy of regional engagement that seeks to support moderate and centrist forces in the Arab world, as it continues to secure Palestinian-Israeli peace. The great people of Egypt, for example, are searching for alternatives to their present political choices: a traditionally authoritarian state versus intolerant and sectarian religious extremists. Palestinians deserve an open political horizon beyond a dysfunctional Fatah and a fanatical and terror-designated Hamas. Syrians need an end to their national nightmare, and a chance to rebuild their country and their lives. Our policies can help these societies achieve such goals.

The long-term objective must be to help empower open-minded, tolerant Arab groups to develop their own path to modernity based on the consent of the governed, job-producing economies, the rule of law, and respect for the rights of all citizens, including individuals, minorities and women.

We should do everything in our power to ensure Palestinian-Israeli peace, and never stop trying to achieve that vital goal. Meanwhile, we would do well to rethink our fundamental approach to the Middle East, and systematically help Arab societies transform their political cultures. Otherwise the black hole will continue devouring everything within its reach, harming not only the region but also our national interests.


ATFP provides an independent voice for Palestinian-Americans and their supporters and advances human rights and peace. It categorically and unequivocally condemns all violence against civilians, no matter the cause and who the victims or perpetrators may be.

Witnesses: Israeli forces bulldoze land south of Qalqiliya

 Published yesterday
QALQILIYA (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces razed Palestinian land south of Qalqiliya in the northern West Bank early Thursday, witnesses said.

Israeli civil administration crews arrived with bulldozers and razed land belonging to Jalud village. They also uprooted olive trees, witnesses told Ma'an.

Locals say Israeli authorities plan to confiscate the land to expand the illegal Alfe Menashe settlement, built on Palestinian land in the area.

Israelis uproot over 40 Palestinian olive trees in south Hebron hills late Sunday

[Israeli] Settlers uproot over 40 olive trees in south Hebron hills
Published Monday 09/09/2013

 HEBRON (Ma'an) -- A group of settlers uprooted over 40 olive trees in the south Hebron hills late Sunday, a local official said.

Ratib al-Jabour, coordinator of the popular committee against the wall and settlements, said that settlers from Maon destroyed olive trees in the neighboring village of al-Tuwani.

The trees belong to the al-Rabai family.

Settlers routinely attack Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank with impunity.

Annual figures compiled by Israeli rights group Yesh Din have repeatedly shown that nine out of 10 police investigations about settler crimes fail to lead to a prosecution.

The politicization of religion contributes to discrimination and persecution of religious minorities around the world....

 “The politicization of religion and use of religion in politics has often added to polarization, social divides and conflicts in traditionally tolerant communities around the globe”

Politicization of religion and rights of religious minorities

12 September 2013
A World Council of Churches (WCC) consultation in Geneva will facilitate dialogue on issues related to religious minorities and the politicization of religion, which contributes to discrimination and persecution of religious minorities around the world. 

The consultation organized by the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) will be held at the Ecumenical Centre, in Geneva, Switzerland, from 16 to 18 September.

The event titled “Politicization of Religion and Rights of Religious Minorities” will bring 60 participants, including religious leaders, politicians, scholars and activists from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and North America.

The consultation will be opened by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC on Monday afternoon, 16 September. Prof. Dr Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief will be the keynote speaker at the opening session from 16.30 to 18.00.

Emerging trends in religious freedom and rights of religious minorities have been studied by the CCIA during the past two years. As a result of such discussions, at the 51st meeting of the CCIA in the People’s Republic of China in 2012, development of a public issues statement on freedom of religion and the rights of religious minorities was recommended.

The consultation will help draft the statement, which will be presented at the WCC 10th Assembly to be held from 30 October to 8 November in Busan, Republic of Korea.

“The politicization of religion and use of religion in politics has often added to polarization, social divides and conflicts in traditionally tolerant communities around the globe,” said Dr Mathews George Chunakara, director of the CCIA.

“To address such trends, the consultation aims to provide a platform of dialogue,” he added.

WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

More Times Than I Can Remember ... a poem by Saliba Sarsar (born and raised in Jerusalem)

More Times Than I Can Remember

I, living between the Jordan and the Med,
was drawn and redrawn more times than
I can remember. Names of cities and towns,
lakes and streams, mountains and valleys
vanished off my body countless times,
only to reappear clothed in religious garb
one day, nationalist garb the next.
Lines—some shallow, others deep—decorate
with their colors and shapes the ins and outs
of my being. Looking increasingly like Swiss
cheese, the winds of conflict blow through me
like a hurricane, twisting and shredding my limbs.
I long for the day when I am whole again.
Balance, justice, stability, peace must return!

© Saliba Sarsar
Published on with the permission of Saliba Sarsar

Saliba was born and raised in Jerusalem. He holds a doctorate from Rutgers University and is currently Professor of Political Science and Associate Vice President for Global Initiatives at Monmouth University
Dr. Sarsar is the author of several articles and commentaries on the Middle East; editor of Palestine and the Quest for Peace (American Task Force on Palestine, 2009); and co-editor of Principles and Pragmatism: Key Documents from the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP, 2006), Patriarch Michel Sabbah-Faithful Witness: On Reconciliation and Peace in the Holy Land (New City Press, 2009), and Democracy in Africa: Political Changes and Challenges. (Carolina Academic Press, 2012).  Dr. Sarsar is also the author of two books of poetry, titled Crosswinds (Mellen Poetry Press, 1999) and Seven Gates of Jerusalem, a bilingual English/Arabic edition (Kul-Shee, 2010).

The ATFP Award for Academic Excellence will be presented to Dr. Saliba Sarsar. Dr. Sarsar, born and raised in Jerusalem, is Professor of Political Science and Associate Vice President for Global Initiatives at Monmouth University. He is the author of several books, articles and commentaries on the Middle East and two volumes of poetry. Dr. Sarsar is active in Arab-Jewish dialogue and peace building, for which he received the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice in 2001.

Honoring the Achievements of Palestinian-Americans

Distinguished Public Service: Representative Justin Amash
Academic Excellence: Dr. Saliba Sarsar
 Excellence in Business and Finance: Mr. Talat Othman
Musical Performance
Nidal Ibourk

Master of Ceremonies
Dean Obeidallah

Tuesday October 29, 2013 
The Ritz-Carlton
1150 22nd Street, NW Washington, DC 20037
The ATFP Gala is a black-tie event

Monday, September 9, 2013

Palestine Festival of Literature 2013

The PalFest 2013 Report is now online and publicly accessible
 A central aim of  Palfest [Palestine Festival of Literature] is to overcome the constraints of occupation; to create links between international artists and Palestinian artists and audiences. Having succeeded in bringing the festival to Gaza for the first time in 2012, this year we ran PalFest across all of Palestine. One group of international artists crossed the Rafah border from Egypt into Gaza. A second group traveled throughout the West Bank, Jerusalem, and, for  the first  time, Haifa. In this way, workshops, cultural meetings, and public events connecting international writers with Palestinian artists and audiences  were  held   throughout   historical   Palestine

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My letters RE CSM's "Israel becomes a 'Promised Land' for non-Jewish geeks" & NYTimes' "For Israel, a U.S. Strike Is a No-Brainer" by Daniel Nisman, Middle East intelligence manager at Max Security Solutions

Palestinian Refugees (1948-NOW) refused their right to return... and their right to live in peace free from religious bigotry and injustice. photo credits Red Cross ICRC & UNWRA historic archives
RE  For Israel, a U.S. Strike Is a No-Brainer

Dear Editor,

Bitter memories of the Holocaust which dominate Israel’s national psyche should motivate Israelis to respect international law and the Palestinian's basic human rights, as well as negotiations to once and for all end the Israel-Palestine conflict... but that has not happened.

Continuing to call Israel "The Jewish State" rather than simply "Israel", creates the emotional roller coaster that has been hurling Israel towards impoverishing and displacing even more Palestinian men, women and children- including countless Palestinian refugees already displaced multiple times.

Hezbollah (and Hamas, and possibly even Al-Qaeda) would not even be but for the rampant institutionalized bigotry and injustice of "The Jewish State" with it's sovereign template of how to succeed economically and 'emotionally' by arming religion with lethal weaponry and constant spin.

The Syria crisis and tragedy is not just the number of children killed, or the methods used to kill them, it is also the refugee crisis.  Syrian refugees top 2 million as thousands flee daily , despite the fact that "A lot of people are afraid to leave... People don't want to become Palestinian-ized" -- in reference to the decades-long displacement of millions of Palestinians that began in 1948."

"At the end of August [2013], some 716,000 Syrian refugees were registered or in the process of being registered in Lebanon, 515,000 in Jordan, 460,000 in Turkey, 168,000 in Iraq and 110,000 in Egypt"

Look at a map- every neighboring nation except Israel has welcomed in Syrian refugees. Every country sharing a border, except Israel, is wrestling with how to feed and house and keep safe the people displaced by the debacle in Syria. And what will happen to the children of Syria as time goes by... As long as an economically successful and relatively stable Israel is idolized and defined as "The Jewish State", rather than as a real democracy with full and equal rights for all, Islamists everywhere will follow Israel's lead- arming religion with lethal weaponry and constant spin.

Bombing Syria only adds to the violence and the angst and the proxy investments pushing this mess towards WWIII. Instead of fixating on military action, the entire world would be much better off if  we all focused in on peace and actually ending the Israel-Palestine conflict with a fully secular two state solution that fully honors and respects international law and basic human rights, including but not limited to every refugee's universal right to return to original homes and lands.

Anne Selden Annab


RE: Israel becomes a 'Promised Land' for non-Jewish geeks-Tel Aviv is home to a growing number of non-Jewish expats drawn by the optimism and openness of its technology start-up scene.

Dear Editor,

The pretty side of ethnic cleansing and institutionalized bigotry a la Israel is that a constant flow of clueless new arrivals infuse the conversation with happy stories of Israel and falling in love.   The not so pretty side is the fact  that Palestinian refugees continue to be refused their inalienable legal, moral and natural right to return to original homes and lands, a universal basic human right clearly affirmed by UN Resolution 194 in 1948.

Imagine if these Untied States of America decided that as of now, following Israel's spectacularly successful lead, citizenship and job opportunities depend entirely on either being a Christian or being married to a Christian- except for a few token exceptions to the rule for PR purposes. 

Imagine if every country in the Middle East, following Israel's spectacularly successful lead, opted to make citizenship and security as well as travel privileges dependent on pledging allegiance to a preferred religion, and then eventually a preferred sect of that religion as our world becomes more crowded and number crunching sovereign nations seek ways to figure out how to allocate increasingly scarce resources. 

There is a huge difference, both economically and emotionally, between voluntary relocation and forced exile.

When you leave your house or apartment today, closing the door behind you, take note that your freedom to return depends on many factors- including fair and just laws.  When you drive across town to visit your mother or sister or friend or a doctor, keep in mind the fact that your freedom to do so depends on many factors- including fair and just laws.  When you apply for a job or a building permit or a passport remember the crucial importance of fair and just laws.... and the very real plight of the Palestinians.

Anne Selden Annab

Live by the Golden Rule

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

Dear President Obama... Let Freedom Ring


Help Build A Golden Rule Peace for the Holy Land

Globalizing Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Arab Peace Initiative
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.
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

"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

Live by the Golden Rule
Words to Honor: The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 1.
    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

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

"In 1949, the international community accepted Israel's UN membership upon two conditions: That they respect resolutions 181 (two states) and 194 (refugee rights). Neither has been honored. In fact, 65 years later, Israel has not even acknowledged what it did in 1948." Saeb Erekat
11 December 1948 UN Resolution 194:"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"

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