Saturday, September 28, 2013

Walking Palestine & The Abraham Path... a creative space for stories that highlight the unique culture, heritage and hospitality of the region

 On Facebook

Abraham Path

 Check out the new online guidebook: The Abraham Path is a long-distance walking trail across the Middle East.

The mission of the Abraham Path Initiative is to support local partners to develop the path as:
• a catalyst for socio-economic development and sustainable tourism
• a place of meeting and connection between people from the Middle East and people around the world.
• a creative space for stories that highlight the unique culture, heritage and hospitality of the region
The Abraham Path Initiative is an international organization cultivating the development of the path with local and international partner organizations. The initiative is a non-profit, non-religious and non-political organization. 
THIS WEEK IN PALESTINE: Walking Palestine is a simple website intended to be a virtual companion to a book by the same title. The book, written by Stefan Szepesi, documents 25 walking journeys in Palestine and serves as a guide, exposing the natural and cultural aspects of the country. Walking Palestine is available in English with a brief description in Arabic.

The site has background images from natural Palestinian scenery....
 on flickr

Walking Palestine Public Pics

Walking Palestine

see for more info
Copyright All rights reserved by Walking Palestine
With the images of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so dominant in our minds, walking for leisure is the one activity probably least associated with the West Bank region. But Walking Palestine wanders well off the beaten track of Palestine as only a synonym for occupation and strife, exploring its inspiring natural and cultural landscape, its intriguing past and present, and the hospitality of its people.
The book takes first-time walkers and experienced hikers, as well as armchair explorers, through Palestine's steep desert gorges, along its tiny herders' trails and over its quiet dirt roads running past silver green olive groves. With side stories and anecdotes on heritage, history, culture and daily life in the West Bank, the book ventures into the traits and character of Palestine today. Beyond the 250 km of walking trails described and mapped in detail throughout the book,Walking Palestine offers a wealth of practical walking tips, including references to local guides, the West Bank's best leisure spots and countryside restaurants, and the most charming places to spend the night. 

“...graceful and evocative...Stefan Szepesi does us the great service of introducing us to the art of walking in the surprisingly safe, beautiful, and welcoming countryside of the West Bank.”
 —William Ury, co-founder of Abraham’s Path, and Senior Fellow at the Harvard Negotiation Project

Friday, September 27, 2013

My letter to the Washington Post RE Jackson Diehl's Obama’s myopic worldview

RE: Jackson Diehl's Obama’s myopic worldview

Dear Editor,

Worldwide religious bigots, tyrants and terrorists of all types have been thriving on the continuation of the Israel-Palestine conflict. This is a horrible situation that is bound to only get worse with time, with many more negative ramifications.

Tragically, because the fourth estate plays a crucial role in our democracy and decision making abilities, the Washington Post - and Jackson Diehl - tend to be quite myopic when it comes to the Middle East and priorities- and peace.

There is nothing at all myopic about Obama's foreign policy priority in " striking an agreement with Iran that would curtail its pursuit of nuclear weapons and brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord."

An arms race in the Middle East will most definitely further endanger as well as impoverish many people.  Education and diplomacy are a much better investment- for everyone's sake. 

And an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, firmly based on full respect for international law and universal basic human rights, will make a huge difference in calming down the entire region, and ushering in a Golden Rule age of co-operation and co-existence- for everyone's sake.

Anne Selden Annab
American homemaker & poet

Remarks by Palestine's President Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly..."The hour of freedom for the Palestinian people has rung. The hour of the independence of Palestine has rung. The hour of peace has rung."

Obama urges world to take risks for Mideast peace... "All of us must recognize that peace will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists, and embolden those who are prepared to build a better future," he said.

Announcing ATFP Gala Silent Auction ... Featuring Arts, Calligraphy, Photography, Manuscripts, Lithography, and Maps [ATFP seeks to support good governance and living standards for Palestinians, and to bring Palestinians and the United States closer together at every level]

Remarks by President Obama and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority Before Bilateral Meeting

"I sit in preventive detention... The reason, sir, is that I am an Arab." Fouzi al-Asmar (1937-2013)

Palestinian Journalist/Author/Poet/Activist Fouzi El-Asmar, R.I.P... El-Asmar was a doting husband, father, grandfather, a devoted friend, and a respected journalist who died this month at age 76, three weeks after the passing of his wife: He had asked to be buried in his native land.

UNHRC Discusses Human Rights Situation in Occupied Palestinian Territories

Definition of Irony: why “end times” believers might actually trigger the end times

Arab Myths Distort Understanding Of American Policy

Newspapers Review: Killing of Soldier in Hebron Focus of Dailies ... & EU Warns Violence Could Undermine Negotiations (Israeli Army Kills six Palestinians last month & this month in Qalandia & Jenin refugee camps- prompting protests)

Israeli soldiers assault Palestinian farmer near Hebron

Israeli Settlers Destroy 20 Dunams of Land near Nablus

"The occupation is an emergency, not a macro- or trans-historical problem, particularly for the millions of Palestinians living under its oppressive rule. They, especially—but we too—do not have the luxury of waiting to see what the next hundred years of history will bring us, good or bad. On the contrary, we must have the courage to act now, and with urgency, within the existing realities, however difficult, to try to create a working solution to a situation that is both intolerably unjust and regionally (and to some extent even globally) destabilizing."Hussein Ibish & Saliba Sarsar of ATFP...

Palestine and Israel in the New Regional Context

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. 

The Promised Land: In Celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights & Peace Day...Ibrahim's Estate... a poem

The 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.
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

".... 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

Remarks by Palestine's President Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly..."The hour of freedom for the Palestinian people has rung. The hour of the independence of Palestine has rung. The hour of peace has rung."

President of State of Palestine Addresses General Assembly
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, addresses the general debate of the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly. 26 September 2013 United Nations, New York Photo # 563595 UN Photo/Evan Schneider
 Below is the full text of the speech of H.E Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, before the General Debate of the 68th Session of the UNGA General Assembly in New York, delivered on September 26, 2013.

Link to speech in HTML
English PDF file
Arabic PDF file

Statement by H.E Mr. Mahmoud Abbas,
President of the State of Palestine and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, before United Nations General Assembly Sixty-eighth Session, General Debate of the General Assembly


Mr. President of the General Assembly of the United Nations,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I extend my congratulations to H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremid on his outstandingly successful presidency of the previous session of the General Assembly, and I congratulate Mr. John Ashe upon his assumption of this session's Presidency and wish him all success.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to address you today, and for the first time in the name of the State of Palestine, before the United Nations General Assembly, after your historic decision last 29 November to raise Palestine's status to that of an observer State. As representatives of your Governments and of your peoples, you have championed justice, right, and peace, and thereby affirmed your refusal of occupation, and stood for principles and ethics and on the side of peoples yearning for freedom. For this, I present you again today with my deepest thanks and gratitude, in the name of Palestine and of its people. The Palestinian people celebrated this resolution, because they rightly felt that they did not stand alone in the world, but that the world stands with them, and because they realized that the result of your overwhelming vote meant that justice is still possible and that there still is room for hope.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I assured you last year that our quest to raise Palestine's status does not aim to delegitimize an existing State - Israel, but to consecrate the legitimacy of a State that must exist, which is Palestine. I have also affirmed in front of you that our quest does not aim to affect the peace process, nor is it a substitute for serious negotiations. To the contrary, our quest is supportive of the path of peace and has revived a comatose process. As we have repeatedly affirmed, and as we have proven in practice, the State of Palestine, which abides by the United Nations Charter, by international humanitarian law and by the resolutions of international legitimacy, will exercise its role and uphold its responsibilities in the intenational system in a positive and constructive manner, and in a way that reinforces peace.

A new round of negotiations began a few weeks ago thanks to the appreciated, tireless efforts of the President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama, and of the US Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry. I affirm before you that we have begun these negotiations and that we shall continue them in good faith and with open minds, strong determination and an insistence on success. I assure you that we shall respect all of our commitments and foster the most conducive atmosphere for the continuation of these negotiations in a serious, intensive manner and provide the guarantees for its success, aimed at reaching a peace accord within nine months.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we engage in this new round of negotiations, we must recall and remind that we do not start in a vacuum or from point zero, nor are we lost in a labyrinth without a map, nor do we lack a compass so as to lose sight of the finish line and of the destination. The goal of peace that we seek is defined and the objective of these negotiations is clear to all, and the terms of reference, basis and foundations of the peace process and of the agreement we seek are longstanding and are within reach. As for the goal of peace, it is embodied in redressing the historic, unprecedented injustice that has befallen the Palestinian people in Al-Nakba of 1948, and the realization of a just peace, the fruits of which can be enjoyed by the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, as well as by all the peoples of our region.

The objective of the negotiations is to secure a lasting peace accord that leads immediately to the establishment of the independence of a fully sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all of the Palestinian lands occupied in 1967, so that it may live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, and the resolution of the plight of Palestine refugees in a just agreed upon solution, according to United Nations resolution 194, as called for by the Arab Peace Initiative. Here, we reaffirm that we refuse to enter into a vortex of a new interim agreement that becomes eternalized, or to enter into transitional arrangements that will become a fixed rule rather than an urgent exception. Our objective is to achieve a permanent and comprehensive agreement and a peace treaty between the States of Palestine and Israel that resolves all outstanding issues and answers all questions, which allows us to officially declare an end of conflict and claims.

The terms of reference and parameters of these negotiations, its goals, and the basis of the agreement we seek are found in your historic decision to raise Palestine's status, as well as in the countless resolutions of this august body and the resolutions of the Security Council, and in those of the Arab League, of the European Union, of the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In fact, over the years, these parameters have come to form an international consensus.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Twenty years ago, precisely on 13 September 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, signed with the Government of Israel a Declaration of Principles Agreement (Oslo Accords), in the presence of our departed leader, Yasser Ararat, and Yitzhak Rabin, the late Israeli Prime Minister, and of former President Bill Clinton on the White House lawn in Washington.

On 15 November 1988, the Palestinian National Council adopted our program for the achievement of peace, thereby taking an extremely difficult decision and making a historical and painful concession. However, as representatives of the Palestinian people, we have long been aware of our responsibilities towards our people and had the necessary courage to accept a two-State solution: Palestine and Israel on the borders of 4 June 1967, establishing a Palestinian State on 22% of the land of historic Palestine. Thus, we did our part to realize a historic settlement, uphold our obligations, and fulfill all that the international community set as requirements from the Palestinian side in order to attain peace. At the same time that the PLO affirmed its choice of peace as a strategic option and of a solution resulting from negotiations, it firmly repudiated violence and affirmed an ethical, principled rejection of terrorism in all its forms, especially State terrorism, and affirmed our respect of international humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions. As a genuine historical breakthrough, the signature of the Oslo Accords caused an unprecedented political dynamism, fostered great hopes and generated high expectations. The PLO worked with dedication to implement it in order to end the occupation and to realize a just peace.

But after the passage of twenty years, the picture appears dispiriting and bleak, the great dreams shattered, and the goals more modest. As much as we felt in those days that peace was at hand, we realize today how far we are away from it. For the goal of the Accords was not achieved, its provisions not implemented, and its deadlines not respected. And, all the while, the continuation of intense settlement construction, which aims to change the facts on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, has violated the spirit of the agreement, struck at the core of the peace process, and caused a deep fracture in its cornerstone - that of the two-State solution.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The start of a new round of negotiations is good news, but it cannot be sufficient grounds for relaxing vigilance or give the international community an exaggerated sense of tranquility. The negotiations we are undertaking with the Israeli Government under the auspices of the United States require that the international community exert every effort to make them succeed, namely by international and regional organizations, as well as by individual States upholding the international consensus on the goal of peace, the objectives of the negotiations, the terms of reference and the basis for a permanent peace agreement. At the same time, the international community is asked to remain alert to condemn and stop any actions on the ground that would undermine negotiations - and I refer here, above all, to the continuation of settlement construction on our Palestinian land, particularly in Jerusalem. There is an international consensus - among the countries of the world, international and regional organizations and the International Court of Justice - on the illegality and illegitimacy of these settlements. The position of the European Union with regard to settlement products is a positive model of what is possible to be done in order to ensure an environment supportive of the negotiations and the peace process. At the same time, it is imperative that the near-daily attacks on the religious sites in Occupied Jerusalem, at the forefront of which is A1-Aqsa Mosque, where the continuation of such attacks will have dire consequences.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

History teaches us - and it is the best teacher - that waging war, occupation, settlements and walls may provide temporary quiet and a momentary domination, but they certainly do not ensure real security nor guarantee a sustainable peace. Such policies may create a specific reality on the ground, but they certainly do not create a right, nor do they provide legitimacy. Such policies may impose a weak stability, but they cannot prevent an inevitable explosion, because such polices in fact fuel inflamed situations to explosion. But above all, such policies are incapable of extinguishing the aspiration of a people for freedom and cannot eradicate their living memory or eradicate their narrative. Therefore, what is required is to heed the lesson of history, to abandon the mentality of force and occupation, to recognize the rights of others, and to deal on an equal footing and parity to make peace. What is required is to stop relying on exaggerated security pretexts and obsessions in order to consecrate occupation, and to stop contriving demands that push the conflict from its defined political terrain towards the abyss of religious conflict in a region burdened with such sensitivities - a matter that we categorically refuse.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am confident that the Israeli people want peace, and that its majority supports a two-State solution. We have always expressed our firm positions and have always explained them at the negotiations table with the Israeli Government and in the meetings and contacts we have intensified in the recent years with a wide spectrum of actors in Israeli society. Our message stems from the idea that the two peoples, the Palestinian and the Israeli, are partners in the task of peacemaking. This is why we keep reaching out to the Israeli side saying: let us work to make the culture of peace reign, to tear down walls, to build bridges instead of walls, to open wide roads for connection and communication. Let us sow the seeds of good neighborliness. Let us envision another future that the children of Palestine and of Israel enjoy with peace and security, and where they can dream and realize their dreams, a future that allows Muslims, Christians and Jews to freely reach places of worship; and a future in which Israel will gain the recognition of 57 Arab and Muslim countries and where the States of Palestine and Israel will coexist in peace, in order to realize each people's hopes for progress and prosperity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While we discuss the realization of peace between Palestine and Israel as an imperative to achieve a comprehensive peace between the Arab countries and Israel, according to the resolutions of the United Nations; we bear in mind the current volatile reality and unprecedented dynamics gripping our region. Palestine does not interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries, but we have clearly affirmed our stance beside the demands of the peoples, their choices, and their peaceful popular movements to achieve these demands, along with the programs and roadmaps they have adopted to reach their goals. Further, while we condemned the crime of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, we have affirmed our rejection of a military solution and the need to find a peaceful political solution to fulfill the aspirations of the Syrian people.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people were born in Palestine and in exile after the 1948 Al-Nakba. But after the passage of 65 years, they are still its direct victims. Since the start of this year, 27 Palestinian citizens have been killed and 951 have been wounded by the bullets of the occupation, and 5000 fighters for freedom and peace are held captive in occupation prisons. So, does anyone deserve more than the Palestinian people ending this occupation and realizing a just and immediate peace?

This year and in the last few years, Palestine refugees continue to pay - despite their neutrality – the price of conflict and instability in our region. Tens of thousands are forced to abandon their camps and to flee in another exodus searching for new places of exile. So, is there anyone more deserving than the Palestinian people to obtain justice, like the rest of the peoples of the world? 4 Since the beginning of the year, construction continues on thousands of settlement units and construction tenders have been issued for thousands of others on our occupied land, while yet more, large areas of land are expropriated or declared off limits, and 850 homes and structures have been demolished.

Palestinians are forbidden from planting their own land and from using the majority of the area of our country. They are prevented from using the water of their own country to irrigate their crops. The wall and checkpoints continue to tear apart the lives of the Palestinian people and to destroy the economy. The siege grows tighter, along with attacks and oppressive discriminating measures against Occupied Jerusalem, its holy places and its citizens. In Gaza, an unjust blockade continues to be imposed on our people. So, is there anyone more deserving than the Palestinian people to gain freedom and independence now?

Since the beginning of the year, 708 terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by settlers against our mosques and churches, and against olive trees, farming fields and homes and property of Palestinians. Is there any doubt in anyone's mind that the Palestinian people are the most in need of security? Is there a nobler mission on the international community's agenda than realizing just peace in the land of the monotheistic faiths, the nativity of Jesus Christ - peace be upon him, the ascent of the Prophet Muhammad - peace be upon him, and the resting place of Abraham, the father of the prophets, peace be upon him?

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Palestinian people, as they continue to be steadfast on their land, also continue to build their institutions, to strengthen internal unity, to achieve reconciliation by returning to the ballot box, to wage peaceful, popular resistance to counter the oppression of occupation and settlements and settler terrorism, and continue to adhere to their rights. The Palestinian people do not want to remain "out of place" in the words of Edward Said. Our people wait for a day when its cause ceases to be a fixed item on the agenda of the United Nations. Our people want to have freedom, God's gift to humanity, and to enjoy the grace of living an ordinary life. For we - as Mahmoud Darwish wrote - "cultivate hope", and we "shall one day be what we want": a free sovereign people on the land of the State of Palestine.

Mr. President,

I am personally one of the victims of Al-Nakba, among the hundreds of thousands of my people uprooted in 1948 from our beautiful world and thrown into exile. Like hundreds of thousands of Palestine refugees, I have known as a youth the pain of exile and the tragedy of the loss of loved ones in massacres and wars, and the difficulties of building a new life from zero. And we tasted in refugee  camps in exile the bitter taste of poverty, hunger, illness and humiliation, as well as rising to the challenge of affirming one's identity. Our people have walked the path of armed revolution and rose from the ashes of Al-Nakba and collected the shards of its soul and its identity to present its cause to the world and consecrate the recognition of its rights. We have walked a long, difficult path and sacrificed dearly, and yet we affirmed at all times our active quest for peacemaking.

I have signed, in the name of the PLO twenty years ago, the Declaration of Principles Agreement, and we have worked faithfully and diligently to implement it, affirming our respect for our commitments and the credibility of our positions. The successive setbacks did not shake our strong faith in the objective of a just peace, and we shall continue tirelessly and unwaveringly to see it realized. My own hope is to see the day where a just peace reigns so that the generation of Al-Nakba can pass on to its children and grandchildren the flag of an independent State of Palestine.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Time is running out, and the window of peace is narrowing and the opportunities are diminishing. The current round of negotiations appears to be a last chance to realize a just peace. Merely thinking of the catastrophic and frightening consequences of failure must compel the international community to intensify efforts to seize upon this chance.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The hour of freedom for the Palestinian people has rung. The hour of the independence of Palestine has rung. The hour of peace has rung.

I thank you, Mr. President.

Obama urges world to take risks for Mideast peace...

"All of us must recognize that peace will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists, and embolden those who are prepared to build a better future," he said.

"So let us emerge from the familiar corners of blame and prejudice, and support Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are prepared to walk the difficult road to peace."


UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - President Barack Obama urged the global community to cast aside old prejudices and take the risks needed to help reach a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Two years after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas made a powerful plea to the UN General Assembly to grant his people statehood, Obama said the United States remained "determined to resolve a conflict that goes back even further than our differences with Iran."

"The time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace," Obama told this year's UN summit in New York.

"Already, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks."

The Middle East peace process was relaunched in July ending almost three years of stalemate, after US Secretary of State John Kerry spent months doggedly shuttling back and forth to coax the two sides back to the negotiating table.

With the guidance of newly appointed US special envoy Martin Indyk, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been meeting in private to hammer out some of the thorniest issues standing in the way of a deal to create two states, living side-by-side.

In September 2011, Abbas handed over a formal request for statehood to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, and triggered wild applause as he addressed the General Assembly, vowing that the Palestinians were ready to return to peace talks if Israeli settlement activities cease...READ MORE

Announcing ATFP Gala Silent Auction ... Featuring Arts, Calligraphy, Photography, Manuscripts, Lithography, and Maps [ATFP seeks to support good governance and living standards for Palestinians, and to bring Palestinians and the United States closer together at every level]

Church of the Holy Sepulchre by J. Cramb

Silent Auction (We are adding more pictures...come again)

Silent Auction items 
ATFP 10th Anniversary Gala
"Generations of Commitment"
Featuring Arts, Calligraphy, Photography, Manuscripts, Lithography, and Maps on ATFP Gala website here.

Auction items will be available for purchase during gala night

ATFP is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that aims to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. It advocates the national security interest of the United States in the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace, security and dignity. ATFP seeks to support good governance and living standards for Palestinians, and to bring Palestinians and the United States closer together at every level. It advocates that American policies recognize the inextricable interconnection of the issue of Palestine with our other major policy objectives in the region. The Task Force holds that the values and interests of the United States are complementary rather than contradictory throughout the region, especially as it pertains to Palestine.

ATFP believes that the Palestinian-American community can and must play an ever-increasing role as a bridge between the United States and Arab societies. The Palestinian-American community has made significant contributions to our country, and at the 10th Anniversary Gala, ATFP will recognize these achievements by honoring leading Palestinian-Americans who have made contributions in the fields of Public Service, Scholarship, and Business & Finance. Your attendance at the Gala will serve as your recognition of the accomplishments of the Palestinian-American community, as well as a much-appreciated gesture of support for ATFP’s message of peace, prosperity, freedom and co-existence.

Click here to learn more about previous ATFP Galas.
The American Task Force on Palestine is celebrating its 10th Anniversary at this year's annual Gala. As always, this year we will be honoring the accomplishments of distinguished Palestinian Americans.

ATFP's black-tie galas are attended by high-level decision-makers and opinion-influencers in Washington, along with an unmatched combination of community members, diplomats, analysts, journalists and other distinguished guests.

The Gala program will be informative and newsworthy -- a senior policy-maker (to be announced) will give the keynote speech, at a time when dramatic events in the Middle East are leading the news worldwide. Moreover, it will be entertaining: various musicians, singers and comedians will ensure that the atmosphere is lively and joyful.

ATFP 10th Anniversary Gala “Generations of Commitment”
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

Palestine according to its ancient divisions, by W. Hughes

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, by David Roberts

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Remarks by President Obama and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority Before Bilateral Meeting


The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
September 24, 2013

Remarks by President Obama and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority Before Bilateral Meeting

Conference Building-United Nations
New York, New York
3:06 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I want to thank President Abbas for this opportunity to speak to him once again.  The last time that we had an extensive discussion was in Ramallah during my visit to both Israel and the West Bank.  And at that time I said to both sides that I remain deeply committed, and the United States remains deeply committed to bringing about a just and lasting peace to a conflict that has been going on too long.

And I want to say that President Abbas I think has consistently rejected violence, has recognized the need for peace, and I’m grateful to him for his efforts.

The position of the United States has been clear.  The border of Israel and Palestine should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed-to swaps so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states with robust security provisions so that Israel retains the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threats.

And I am very pleased that President Abbas has been willing to enter into negotiations.  Sitting directly at the table, we’ve seen Palestinian and Israeli representatives discuss some of the most difficult issues that have been roadblocks to peace for too long.

None of us are under any illusion that this would be easy.  As I said in my speech this morning, it has already entailed significant political risk by President Abbas, as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu.  But I think the reason that they’ve been willing to take those risks is they realize this is the best way, the only way, for us to achieve what should be our goal:  two states living side-by-side in peace and security.  It’s right for Palestinian children.  It’s right for Israeli children.

And having leaders who are willing to look out into the future and take risks on behalf of that better history is something that the United States intends to support as strongly as possible.  And I’m urging all my counterparts, heads of state here at the United Nations to support this effort as well.

Last point I would make -- the Palestinian Authority has been a critical mechanism to improve governance and increase transparency in the West Bank.  Obviously, the Palestinian Authority operates under significant constraints, including resource constraints.  But we think it's very important that we continue to support efforts that have been made by the Authority, for example, to improve internal security and professionalize security forces inside the Authority.  And that, I think, lays also an important foundation for the kind of economic development and governance that will be critical for an independent Palestinian state.

So, Mr. President, thank you for taking the time to be with me here today.  And I look forward to our discussions.

PRESIDENT ABBAS:  (As interpreted.)  Thank you very much, Mr. President, for hosting us here and agreeing to meet with us to discuss very critical issues related to the peace process in the Middle East.

And we still -- and our people still remember very proudly the historical visit that you paid to the Palestinian Territories, after which we launched peace negotiations with your support and help, and also with the involvement of Mr. Kerry.  And we appreciate all the support that the U.S. is extending to the Palestinian people to build the institutions of the future Palestinian state, which hopefully will materialize very soon with your support and continued assistance.

And as we have said in the past, and we can continue to reiterate, that we are fully committed to the peace process so that we can reach a final settlement that ultimately will lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state that would live side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.

And as you have indicated, Mr. President, we have no illusions that peace will be easy or simple.  And we have to overcome several difficulties, but we realize that peace in the Middle East is not just important for the Palestinians and Israelis, it’s important for the entire region and the world.

We appreciate your support for the continuation of the negotiations, and we will exert every effort possible to make sure that they will succeed and to take advantage of this historical opportunity.  We understand there will be difficulties, but we will do our utmost best to overcome them.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, everybody.

3:13 P.M. EDT

"I sit in preventive detention... The reason, sir, is that I am an Arab." Fouzi al-Asmar (1937-2013)

I sit in preventive detention
The reason, sir, is that I am an Arab.
An Arab who has refused to sell his soul
Who has always striven, sir, for freedom.
An Arab who has protested the suffering
   of his people
Who has spoken out against death
   in every corner
Who has called for - has lived -
a fraternal life.
That is why I sit in preventive detention
Because I carried on the struggle
And because I am an Arab.

                                Fouzi al-Asmar
                    "Because I am an Arab"

Exiled from his homeland in 1972, Fouzi al-Asmar is the author of numerous works in English, Hebrew, and Arabic, including

Poems from an Israeli Prison

Palestine: A Photographic Journey... Published 1991

Palestine: A Photographic Journey - Page 125 - Google Books Result
George Baramki Azar - 1991 - ‎History

Palestinian Journalist/Author/Poet/Activist Fouzi El-Asmar, R.I.P... El-Asmar was a doting husband, father, grandfather, a devoted friend, and a respected journalist who died this month at age 76, three weeks after the passing of his wife: He had asked to be buried in his native land.

Fouzi El-Asmar recalled how the inhabited land of mandate Palestine became the state of Israel and how the Arab Christian and Muslim natives were turned into second-class citizens... The experience initially recounted in Hebrew, which he mastered, and later in his native Arabic, was "To Be An Arab In Israel," a searing book published in 1975 and later translated into nine languages. 
Magda Abu-Fadil

Director of Media Unlimited in Lebanon

It's the details one often remembers.

Mine is the memory of Fouzi El-Asmar surrounded by piles of newspapers, documents, and books, at his Washington, D.C. office and Maryland home office.

The noted Palestinian journalist, author, poet and activist par excellence devoured words with relish and produced countless words of his own to fill volumes for over half a century.

The focus, the Holy Grail, was Palestine, the land of his birth and in which he was made to feel an outsider.

After the first recovery from the 1948 defeat, the Arabs of Israel were left in a void. They saw that a new situation had emerged....Arab lands were confiscated under many different laws, and many villagers were expelled and turned into refugees inside the country....READ MORE

Dr. Fouzi El-Asmar was a distinguished Palestinian writer, poet, academic and journalist. He was a publicly recognized authority on the political and social lives and conditions of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. He regularly published articles that are syndicated in the Arabic press throughout the Middle East and in Europe. He wrote numerous books, including Through the Hebrew Looking Glass and the renowned To Be an Arab in Israel. The latter has been published in seven languages, including English, Hebrew and Arabic. Dr. El-Asmar also wrote several collections of poetry, including Poems from an Israeli Prison and The Wind-driven Reed and Other Poems.

Born in Haifa, Palestine, Dr. El-Asmar grew up in a Palestinian area of Israel. In 1958, he became a member of the editorial board of the literary monthly, Al-Fajr, and in 1966 he became editor of the Arabic magazine, Hadha-al-Alam. He attended Central Connecticut State University (then Central Connecticut State College) and received his B.A. degree there with honors in 1975. He subsequently earned a Ph.D. from the University of Exeter in England.Then in 1979, he became the managing editor of the London-based international newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat.

Dr. El-Asmar lectured and taught at a number of universities, including St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, and Bradford University in England, and the American University in Washington, D.C. He held dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship and resided in Bethesda, Maryland.



The Wandering Reed

Of what benefit is it, if man were to gain
the whole world

But lose the green almond in his father’s

Of what benefit is it,

If man were to drink coffee in Paris

But none in his mother’s house?

Of what benefit is it, if man were to tour
the whole world

But lose the flowers on the hills of his
native land?

He gains nothing but deadly silence

Within the hearts of the living.

You look through the mirror of lands not
your own

And see your exiled face;

You recognize your face

Despite the deadly dust of travel

From Jaffa, to Lydda, to Haifa,

Through the Mediterranean to exile;

You recognize your face

And try to deny that face!

Your worship your own face

Even though exile has obliterated its

The hangman of the twentieth century
assumes the countenance

Of the eternal face!

You close your eyes

To worship your face in the darkness of
this century.

You deny…Your worship,

You deny…Your worship,

And the God of truth cries to your face:

“He who denies his face

Is renounced by all the birds of paradise
in this universe,

And those whom silence has turned mute

Will never be heard by the roses of the

He who kills the nightingale of his dreams

Will be buried in the forgotten graveyard
of the living.”

You open your eyes

And see the face of your country in the
mirror of exile.

The deadly silence in the hearts of the

Strips away the skin of your face;

It cuts and dries your flesh,

Then hangs what remains on poles

Under the forgotten sun of the West.

Fouzi El –Asmar, The Wandering Reed...





 on twitter: 

IPS remembers Palestinian Journalist/Author/Poet/Activist, Fouzi El-Asmar via :

The Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) is devoted to documentation, research, analysis, & publication on Palestinian affairs.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

UNHRC Discusses Human Rights Situation in Occupied Palestinian Territories
PNN (Palestine News Network)
The United Nations Human Rights Council met Monday in Geneva to discuss the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon gave a report to the Council that addressed issues of settler violence, forced evictions and excessive use of violence by Israeli Occupation Forces. Other speakers addressed the “illegal conduct” of Israel in Gaza and the West Bank, and most called for Israeli settlement building to cease, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Israel’s representative was reportedly absent during the meeting, prompting Palestinian representatives to accuse Israel of “arrogance.”

Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi said, “Israel continued its policies of deliberate violations of United Nations resolutions and international law, which were fully applicable in the occupied Palestinian territory.” He continued, saying, “The failure of the international community to ensure that Israel respected its international obligations jeopardized the credibility of international law.” Additionally, Khraishi called for an end to the Gaza blockade.

Syria’s ambassador in Geneva Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui said, “Continued culture of impunity in Israel had been attested to in many international commissions, and amounted to the recognition of war crimes… The treatment of prisoners, the abuse of the rights of those living in the Golan, and the destruction of the wealth of the occupied lands should all be ended.” He also called for a boycott of Israeli products until “the end of the occupation.”


Definition of Irony: why “end times” believers might actually trigger the end times

 "If we believe the world is getting progressively worse until the end comes, we will be a people who start behaving that way. If we start behaving that way, we’ll stop investing into long-term multi-generational ways to improve society. If we stop investing into the future and capitulate to our own crappy theology, well… We might see our belief come true."

September 11, 2013 
Benjamin L. Corey, a theologian/missiologist, writer, and commentator.

Like many of you, I grew up as an end-times believer.

I mean pre-tribulation rapture, antichrist, battle of Armageddon, and the whole nine yards.

While other kids were thinking about where they were going to go to college, I was worried that the rapture would come before I had sex.

Or worse, that I would actually have sex but that the rapture would happen while I was having sex… and well, that would certainly be disappointing and awkward all at the same time.

Thankfully, none of that happened. Even better is the fact that it’s not going to, because the rapture is a hoax.

Walking away from a belief in the “end times” and all the baggage that comes with it wasn’t easy. Strangely enough, it was actually quite frightening to let go of such a pessimistic view of the future in lieu of a healthy, optimistic, eschatology. You’d think such a trade would be easy, but it wasn’t.

Back in 2007, my wife took me on a weekend get-away to Boston because she wanted me to meet her friend Joe who had done two master’s at Gordon-Conwell and was getting ready to do his PhD in Theology at the University of Aberdeen. She was hoping that introducing us would gently prod me into going to seminary, but at least temporarily, the plan backfired.

The conversation with Joe went great, until he started talking about the rapture being a joke. I still remember walking back to the car when we left dinner, telling my wife what a heretic the guy was… shocked that she would have friends like that. I mean, he was only a theologian who went to one of the top seminaries in the world, and I was a punk who went to Word of Life and Liberty University… so what did he know? (flash forward: he’s now one of my best mates)

The world was ending and the rapture was imminent, I steadfastly believed.

Until I didn’t anymore.

When I ended up in seminary, no less than a week went by before I realized that end-times believers were actually the minority in Christianity and believed an entire worldview that wasn’t in the Bible (go look– there’s no falling planes, no taxi cabs going off the road, no scenes where millions of people missing… it’s NOT there. I can’t even refute a passage about it, because there aren’t any passages to refute.)

Ultimately, I realized that while everyone else had been busy improving the world, I had wasted my time...READ MORE

Arab Myths Distort Understanding Of American Policy


Arab Myths Distort Understanding Of American Policy by Dr James Zogby:  As I attempted to demonstrate in "Arab Voices: What They Are Saying and Why It Matters" we, in the West, are still mystified by the Arab World. Absent real understanding, our public discourse and, too often, our policy debates are informed by crude myths and negative stereotypes of the region, its culture, and its people.
Monday September 23, 2013
Dr James Zogby
As I attempted to demonstrate in "Arab Voices: What They Are Saying and Why It Matters" we, in the West, are still mystified by the Arab World. Absent real understanding, our public discourse and, too often, our policy debates are informed by crude myths and negative stereotypes of the region, its culture, and its people.

I have noted on other occasions that much the same is true in the Arab World. Having just returned from the Middle East, I continue to be struck by how much of the Arab World's political discussion about American policy is myth-based.

There are two persistent myths that influence Arab perceptions about why and how America does what it does in the world. The first is that they think we are smart—that we know what we are doing and intend the consequences of our actions. The other myth is a variation of the first, and that is that we are all-powerful and can do almost anything—so when we do something and make a mess or when we don't act, there must be a reason.

These myths are both ill-founded and dangerous. Ill-founded because, to be quite honest, we aren't that smart and, therefore, sometimes blunder. And dangerous because they all too often given birth to fantastic conspiracy theories in an effort to make sense out of the disastrous consequences of American policy mistakes.

Both of these myths, after having been given a real run in conversations about the horrific war in Iraq, are again on full display in analyses of US policies toward Egypt and Syria. In discussions about both situations, assumptions are made that American policies are informed and intentional with the resultant consequences having been anticipated.

In the case of Egypt, one line of thought begins with "America supported the Muslim Brotherhood". As it is developed, the argument is made that the US saw (or hoped for) the creation of a "Sunni crescent" in the Middle East as a check against Iran and its allies.

As evidence for this assumption, some point to the simple fact that President Obama recognized the elected Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohamed Morsi, and continued US assistance programs to Egypt. Adherents of this view believe that their case gets stronger when they note that in the lead up to Tamarrod, the US Ambassador to Egypt addressed a public gathering in which she actively discouraged demonstrations, suggesting that political activists should, instead, strengthen opposition political parties and prepare for the next election. A few days later, the Ambassador paid a visit the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters to meet with the group's leader.

Then, after the military deposed Morsi, the Administration didn't immediately embrace the transition and instead sent a high ranking State Department official to urge reconciliation and political compromise. Case closed.

The reality, however, was far more complex. One the one hand, it was entirely reasonable for the US to attempt to work with the elected government of the largest and most strategically important Arab country. America has important interests to protect in the region and sees peace, stability, and progress in Egypt as a key component to those interests. It might also be seen as reasonable that a US official would caution against potentially destabilizing demonstrations and, for the same reason, after the military action of July 3rd, urge the parties to seek some level of accommodation and a restoration of civil order.

Where fault can be found is with American intelligence failing to understand the depth of Egyptian frustration with the Morsi government and the degree to which its agenda had alienated the population. The bottom line is that as difficult as it may be for those who would rather comfort themselves with the certainty of myths and conspiracy theories, America didn't have a clue what was going on in Egypt and was operating in the blind on autopilot. No conspiracy, just mistakes in an effort to protect interests.

I have also been struck by the myths playing out in reaction to the admittedly awkward scenario that developed over the threats to bomb, then not bomb, Syria. It wasn't the "America's smart" myth that played out here, it was myth of the "America, the all-powerful"...READ MORE