Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My letter to the NYTimes RE In the Middle East, Time to Move On Editorial

Palestinian Refugees (1948-NOW) refused their right to return... and their right to live in peace free from religious bigotry and injustice.
RE In the Middle East, Time to Move On

Dear Editor,

American Jews and Christian Zionists empowering sovereign Israel's ongoing impoverishment and forced displacement of the native non-Jewish men, women and children of historic Palestine are very very bad PR for America and very very bad PR for international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

American Jews and Christian Zionists investing in Israel's illegal land grabbing settlements are very very bad PR for America, and very very bad PR for modern democracy- real democracy where race, religion or gender are never ever used as a tool to prevent a person from having full and equal rights.

Your advice that it is time to move on- to give up on ending the Israel-Palestine conflict might convince some moderates who do not have Arab relatives or roots to look elsewhere for entertainment.  Meanwhile extremists and criminals and idiotic ideologues on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict are even more free to use the Israel-Palestine conflict to generate poisonous propaganda campaigns based on half truths and manipulative misinformation aimed at raising funds and support for escalating conflict and intransigence- and violence... with endless negative ramifications worldwide.

I'd rather not give cynics, hate mongers, and religious idiots free reign and limitless funds to ruin countless lives and communities.

Empowering Israel-Palestine peace with an actual end to the Israel- Palestine conflict is not a matter of making heroes or demons and scapegoats out of the human beings stuck having to deal with the Israel-Palestine conflict and the various insanities and cruelties created by the conflict.  Empowering Israel-Palestine peace is a matter of ideas- empowering good ideas such as respect for human rights and the rule of fair and just laws and diplomatic efforts to create a better way forward for everyone's sake.  

Anne Selden Annab

That is real cultural and educational leadership and integrity. It is principled, brave, intelligent and unflinching. It deserves only support, applause and emulation...

"Today diplomacy is deadlocked, yet the nature of politics is that tomorrow that reality may change. The Holocaust was not a political conflict: the very idea of a “Nazi-Jewish peace process” is absurd. Teaching the Holocaust to Palestinians is a way to ensure they do not go down the blind alley of believing their peace process with Israel is as hopeless as one would have been between Nazis and Jews." Why Palestinians Should Learn About the Holocaust  by MOHAMMED DAJANI DAOUDI and ROBERT SATLOFF in the New York Times March 29 2014

Outreach: American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) "Our Israeli and Palestinian partners in the Middle East as well as our partners in the U.S. believe as we do that a lasting peace must begin with a commitment to shared security for all."

Growing Gardens for Palestine: "And it's up to all of us together"... a Spring poem for Palestine & peace

ATFP Peace Building ... civic muscle
  • 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.

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

"The only way to honor our tragic histories is to create a future for our children free of man-made tragedy. This means making peace fully, completely and without reservation, between Israel and Palestine." ATFP's Ziad Asali: To honor a tragic history, we must work for peace

Sunday, April 13, 2014

UNWRA: Engaging Youth to Engage the Youngest

Watching Reitag, 4, and Hadi, 5, concentrate on making paper snowmen seems an almost charmed scene. But for these kids and the 23 other young Palestine refugees in their group, their short lives have been anything but charmed. Instead, they’ve been marked by the unimaginable horrors and the sudden displacements of the conflict in Syria, which is nearly as old as they are.

These kids, among the displaced refugees now in a collective shelter in the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Damascus Training Centre, in Mazzeh, are too young for school, as Um Hadi points out. That means “they not only have limited activities, but also don’t have access to an important protection tool and source of psychosocial support.”

An arts and crafts class might seem small, but ask Reitag’s mother how important it is. She says that because she sent her daughter to the class, “She looks so healthy and fresh, not like before. The activities helped children bond with their peers. My daughter loved every minute of her time here.” Especially when the natural caregivers, the parents, are struggling with displacement and other hardships, the class is an important source of support.

In fact, this class isn’t just helping its little students. It’s also helping the young women teaching them. For them, this is on-the-job experience for a preschool-instructors training course. Part of the UNRWA Engaging Youth project, funded by the European Union, the course gives young Palestine refugee women professional, specialized experience in early-childhood care and education.

With the ongoing conflict devastating livelihoods and opportunities, this training is vital. According to one participant, Hazar Yahya, it’s also “very exciting to have the opportunity to attend the preschool-instructors training course, introduced by the Engaging Youth project.” She is one of 22 young Palestine refugees enrolled in the four-month course. Its comprehensive curriculum includes theory and strategies based on the philosophy and methodology of Dr. Maria Montessori. “It is innovative and challenging to obtain the ‘Foundation of Early Childhood Practice’ certificate,” Hazar continues. “It will increase our chances of working in nursery or day-care centres.”

Activities focus on helping children develop behavioural, emotional and social skills, while supporting teachers working with children whose development in these areas is causing concern.

Another participant, Rawan Abdul Wahab, says: “I really enjoy this training. I am already involved in youth work and am now considering working in a school. The course has helped me introduce new techniques with the displaced children to gain more experience and confidence in my work, and I have also noticed an improvement in the children’s behaviour.”

The Engaging Youth project isn’t just letting kids make snowmen. It’s giving training and opportunities to young Palestine refugees, and they, in turn, teach the very youngest how to make snowmen, how to play with each other – and also how to trust again, how to smile again, how to laugh again.

UNRWA Teachers ‘Warm a Child’
At the Dhahyet Qudsaya al-Oula school in Damascus, UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) teachers see all too clearly that their students need them, right now, to be more than just teachers. The more than one thousand kids in their charge, at a school that the government has generously provided to UNRWA, are young Palestine refugees, displaced by more than three years of conflict from their homes in Yarmouk and other camps. So their teachers teamed up for a 'Let's Warm a Child' campaign to distribute clothes to 100 displaced kids. On 27 March, their effort brought smiles to the faces of children who have seen so much, and set an example for the community to follow.

These teachers had already organized two other efforts to provide kids with not just the chance to continue their education, but also to have the other kinds of help and support that they need. As the kids sang welcoming songs, Abdallah Al-Laham, Officer-in-Charge of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, joined the teachers and head teacher to distribute the clothes. He emphasized that children have the right to play, to grow up in a healthy, normal manner. In addition, he said, "Children have the right to special care and protection and to good food and housing." Through their initiative, "the teachers showed solidarity, helping underprivileged families and promoting the value of helping others."

Imprisoned ...a poem


There are some
who insist
only rage and armed resistance
will liberate Palestine

And some who insist
that the Right of Return
negates negotiations
as if the hungry and the poor-
the disenfranchised refugees
will have manna from heaven
on their way home.

Each echo chamber
builds base, bulwark,
and lid
like a coffin...

the cemetery grows.

That is real cultural and educational leadership and integrity. It is principled, brave, intelligent and unflinching. It deserves only support, applause and emulation...

"Today diplomacy is deadlocked, yet the nature of politics is that tomorrow that reality may change. The Holocaust was not a political conflict: the very idea of a “Nazi-Jewish peace process” is absurd. Teaching the Holocaust to Palestinians is a way to ensure they do not go down the blind alley of believing their peace process with Israel is as hopeless as one would have been between Nazis and Jews." Why Palestinians Should Learn About the Holocaust  by MOHAMMED DAJANI DAOUDI and ROBERT SATLOFF in the New York Times March 29 2014

HUSSEIN IBISH: Palestinians and Israelis must be taught the truth

It is a universal human impulse to shrink from uncomfortable truths. People instinctively only want to hear what reinforces their existing world views and their collective identities, which can be unbearably fragile. Therefore many deliberately prefer myth over reality, ignorance to knowledge, and the warm cocoon of self-satisfaction – especially the supposed moral authority that attaches to victimhood – instead of empathy and understanding.

Cultural leadership requires disrupting such impulses. Political power is more easily gained and maintained by pandering to the lowest common denominator. But no compatriots are more valuable than those who decline to tell their society what they want to hear, and insist instead on telling them what they need to hear.

Mohammed S Dajani Daoudi, a professor at Al-Quds University in occupied East Jerusalem, is the latest groundbreaking figure to champion the virtue of historical truth over the seductive allure of national dogma. As so often befalls those who challenge easy and convenient attitudes, Prof Dajani is facing an angry backlash when he deserves thanks and respect.

His “transgression” was to take 30 Palestinian students to Krakow and Auschwitz-Birkenau to learn about the history of Jews in Europe and especially the Holocaust, while an Israeli professor took a similar number of Jewish students to Dheishe refugee camp in occupied Bethlehem to learn about the Palestinian experience, particularly the Nakba and the dispossession and exile of the refugees.

As word of this project, which took place in March, spread in Palestinian society, Prof Dajani has faced a wave of angry denunciations. He’s been threatened and called a “traitor,” a “normaliser,” and similar epithets, as noted by Matthew Kalman in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. Al-Quds University distanced itself by saying he was acting in his private capacity. He has received some Palestinian support, but not enough.

Prof Dajani, who has a deep history of Palestinian nationalist activism, has long advocated the necessity of teaching about the Holocaust and its “universal truths” in Palestine. His points are unassailable. Historical truth has merit simply as truth. Palestinians deserve to know the truth. Palestinian students, in particular, have a right to be taught the truth.

Moreover, Palestinians have an urgent need to understand the Jewish Israelis who occupy their land and control so much of their daily lives. Palestinians could justifiably claim to understand Israelis all too well at a certain register, through the inescapable lived experience of the occupation.

What’s often missing is a clear sense of the historical experiences that inform Jewish Israeli attitudes about the world, their apparently bewildering sense of constant insecurity when they both seem, and are, overwhelmingly powerful compared to the Palestinians, and their consequent obsession with security – a motif that is effectively deployed in Israel to rationalise many illegal or indefensible practices, typically at the expense of Palestinian human rights.

Palestinians have nothing to fear from any aspect of the historical truth, particularly events in Europe that were a culmination of centuries of European anti-Semitism that do not have any traditional or deep-seated analogue in either Arab culture or Islamic theology. Palestinians cannot be implicated in any meaningful way in Nazi genocide, so objectively they only stand to benefit from its lessons. But it still can be an unwelcome intrusion on otherwise reassuringly simple assumptions about victims and victimisers.

For some, acknowledging that Jews in Europe were the victims of a monstrous crime is experienced as an evasion or an inversion of moral perceptions moulded by the occupation. It requires those who are oppressive to be nonetheless understood as belonging to a people who have been horribly victimised. It can seem an objectionable distraction, truth notwithstanding.

Prof Dajani challenges Palestinians to recognise the complexities of the Jewish experience, while his colleagues who went to refugee camps ask Israelis to open their eyes to the reality of Palestinian suffering. Angry resistance to such projects is not merely the championing of ignorance. It is a wilful withholding of empathy, and insistence on an imagined binary reality neatly divided between essentially “good” and “bad” people.

Refusal of empathy is distressingly widespread and can be disturbingly casual. On April 9, the prominent Jewish-American writer Norman Podhoretz averred with a twisted nonchalance in The Wall Street Journal, “I have no sympathy – none – for the Palestinians,” because they don’t “deserve any”. He describes Palestinians as harbouring “evil intents” and bizarrely insists they will never recognise Israel, even though the Palestine Liberation Organisation did in 1993.

Mr Podhoretz churlishly spurns the complexities of truth, instead cuddling the comforting fiction of a caricature alternate universe in which – most conveniently – anything Palestinians suffer under occupation by his fellow Jews is unobjectionable because these uniquely wicked people “deserve” absolutely no sympathy. His twisted mentality perfectly echoes that of those Palestinians who are angry with Prof Dajani for insisting Palestinians need to learn about the Holocaust in their schools, just as Israelis need to learn about the Nakba.

By stark contrast, in response to the threats, Prof Dajani declared: “I will not remain a bystander even if the victims of the suffering I show empathy for are my occupiers.”

That is real cultural and educational leadership and integrity. It is principled, brave, intelligent and unflinching. It deserves only support, applause and emulation.

Hussein Ibish is a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine and blogs at On Twitter: @ibishblog.

Hussein Ibish, PhD
Senior Fellow
American Task Force on Palestine