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Saturday, March 31, 2007


Palestinians Commemorate Day of the Land

Six Palestinian citizens of Israel, who were peacefully protesting the confiscation of their land in the Galilee were shot dead thirty-one years ago today.

Palestinians in the occupied territories, Israel, and the diaspora commemorate this day, another in a long line of commemorations significant in the one hundred year struggle against an enemy determined to possess a land without its people.

According to http://www.miftah.org/,

Israeli authorities had announced that 5,500 acres of Palestinian-owned land would be confiscated from villages in the Galilee in what is now northern Israel. Palestinian communities inside Israel declared a general strike and took to the streets in protest where they were violently confronted by Israeli police. The area was declared a closed military zone and was later utilized for massive illegal settlement expansion in the Galilee area.

Land Day has come to signify Israel's ongoing theft of Palestine's patrimony, even our olive trees and stones. The Palestinian's identity is very much tied to his/her geography, which is why well-meaning "friends" who call upon Palestinians to relinquish their right of return, bring to mind the "whispering" campaign.

The whispering campaign was the psychological warfare component of Operation Yiftach, the Zionist plan to ethnically cleanse Eastern Galilee of its Palestinian inhabitants, spearheaded by Yigal Allon in 1948.

In Allon's own words: "I gathered the Jewish mukhtars, who had ties with different[local]Arab villages," and I asked them to whisper in the ears of several Arabs that giant Jewish reinforcements had reached the Galilee and were about to clean out the villlages of the Hula [and] to advise them, as friends, to flee while they could"(Khalidi 429).

According to Khalidi, the whispering campaign "precipitated the flight of eighteen percent of the population of the Galilee panhandle" (429).

Khalidi, Walid. All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated By Israel in 1948. Washington DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.

Over 250 Palestinian villages were depopulated before Israel was declared a state on May 15, 1948.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Dr. Salman Abu Sitta: A Sacred Right

Your people, Bir'im have not died

And will not forsake a grain of sand from you

As long as you have men like these

As long as you have men like these

Who continually strive for justice

Issa Chacour


Why should I, a Jew from north London, be permitted to take up Israeli citizenship, when that right is denied to a Palestinian who languishes in a refugee camp in Lebanon? Especially when I acknowledge that a large majority of those that left in 1948 were ethnically cleansed by Israeli forces.

Those are the words of Alex Stein, writing for Comment is free last week. A commendable admission of injustice to Palestinians, you would say. But then he derives conclusions that are contrary to this premise; that the right of a Palestinian to return to his home is neither sacred, legal nor possible.

This split-personality theme has been infamously adopted by Benny Morris who poured over hundreds of declassified Israeli files. Morris confirmed in minute detail that, in 1948, Israeli invasion forces committed massacres, expelled Palestinians, destroyed their villages, looted their property, burnt their crops, poisoned their wells and shot on the spot any Palestinian who tried to return to his home. Referring to the remaining minority, Morris then solemnly declared that he was sorry that Ben Gurion "did not finish the job".

Both Alex Stein and Benny Morris escape from the fact, slowly seeping into the western conscience, that Palestinians were - and are today - subject to the most massive, comprehensive, meticulously planned and executed and continuous ethnic cleansing operation in modern history. This has long been denied by Israeli historians. A notable exception is a brave and honest Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe.

The sensation created by Benny Morris's revelation about al-Nakba, grudgingly accepted by some Jews, is a stark measure of how the west was taken in by the Zionist propaganda for several decades. The Palestinians do not know whether to laugh or cry, for the "revelations" are only some of what they have been saying all along since 1948. Hundreds of thousands of refugees gave graphic details of their plight but these were dismissed by the Zionist Europeans as "a figment of oriental imagination" until an Israeli historian found damning evidence in Israeli files.

Facts have a way of surfacing. The facts, documented on maps and records, show that in 1948 Israelis depopulated the Palestinian inhabitants of 675 towns and villages, that their land represents 93% of Israel's area; that half of all the refugees have been expelled in the last six weeks of the British Mandate, before the state of Israel was declared and before any Arab regular soldier set foot on Palestine to save its people from the invasion of Jewish European immigrants who had just waded into their shores to build Israel on the ruins of Palestine.
What is more natural than a person returning to their home? If Stein does not believe this is "sacred", he has to ask 6 million Palestinian refugees (two-thirds of all Palestinians) why are they still determined to fight for their right to return over a period of six decades and through three generations and many wars. That the right of return for Palestinians has been affirmed by the UN more than 130 times is enough to put this matter to rest. No need to spill more ink on that score.

If defeated on both counts, Zionists usually resort to their last defence: that the right of return is not possible to implement.

In a civilised society, if a crime is committed, its consequences must be reversed. The criminal should not be rewarded, and his crime should not be forgiven or even legitimised. The stolen property must be returned. Rights must be reinstated and reparation paid for material losses.
This is what the international community insisted upon, sometimes using military force, in implementing the return of refugees to Bosnia, Kosovo, Burundi, Cambodia, East Timor, Georgia, Guatemala, Mozambique, Ruwanda, South Africa, Tajikistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

This is also what the European Jews rightly got when they returned to their former homes (if they so wished), recovered their property in Europe and received massive amounts of compensation for their suffering during the second world war, without the benefit of a single UN resolution.

The pretext that return is not possible because of the influx of Jewish immigrants to Palestine to replace the expelled Palestinians is not a valid one, morally, legally or politically. But we are spared the argument on this point. Here we have yet another one of the misconceptions designed to mislead and misinform the western public. It is not true that it is physically impossible to implement the right of return.

Palestine is the most documented among conflict-torn countries, certainly much more than Bosnia and Kosovo. We have complete UN-documented ownership records of every acre of land. Not a single Israeli Jew has an equivalent title deed after al-Nakba. We have detailed maps of what every acre was, what it is today and can visualise what it could/should be in the future.
We have a huge database of millions of Palestinians - where they come from in Palestine, and where they are residing today, their family structure and their ages. Today, 90% of them reside within 100 km of their homes, 50% within 40km and many can actually see their home on the opposite hill.

That is not all. The refugees' land is still sparsely populated. Eighty per cent of Israeli Jews still live in the same area they acquired during the Mandate and a little more, but 15% of Israel in total. About 18% of the remaining 20% of the Jews live mostly in half a dozen originally Palestinian or mixed cities, considerably enlarged. This leaves 2% of Israeli Jews who are the members of Qibbutz and Moshav.

This small number of population, in addition to the army, use and control 85%-88% of Israel's area, which is the patrimony of 6 million Palestinian refugees. To take an example, all the rural Jews in the southern district from Ashdod (Isdud) to Eilat (Umm Rashrash) are less in number that one refugee camp in Gaza. Their density is six persons per square kilometre while that of Gaza population - the owners of this very land - is 6,000 per square kilometre. These owners of the land are held captive by the occupier in a concentration camp called Gaza.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Why do homo sapiens recognize Israel's right to exist?


Dear Editor:

Speaking of "tombs," Judah Pearl is not a "bit embarrassed" about 675 depopulated and 418 destroyed Palestinian villages and towns and in a feat of sophistry rejects the situation as one of "resource" and "land disputes" disregarding that when the UN partitioned Palestine Jews owned 5.5 percent of the land. Ask the internally displaced villagers of Kafr Bir'im, who stood on a hill in 1953 and watched Israel's army bomb their houses one by one what they think of Israel's "right to exist." Ask Samaa Fakaah, held up at Atara checkpoint, whose sick six month old baby died in her arms to recognize Israel's "right to exist." Zionists can hardly expect moral approbation from their victims.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


In Memorium: My Father

Baseel Jameel Harb
April 7, 1922-March 25, 2002
Born: Ramallah, Palestine
Died: Bakersfield, California
"Kamel Nasir's Last Poem,"
translated by Abdel Wahab Elmesseri
Beloved, if perchance word of my death reaches you
As, alone, you fondle my only child
Eagerly awaiting my return,
Shed no tears in sorrow for me
For in my homeland
Life is degradation and wounds
And in my eyes the call of danger rings.
Beloved, if word of my death reaches you
And the lovers cry out:
The loyal one has departed,
his visage gone forever,
And fragrance has died within the bosom of the flower
Shed no tears...smile on life
And tell my only one,
my loved one,
The dark recesses of your father's being
Have been touched by visions of his people.
Splintered thoughts bestowed his path
As he witnessed the wounds of oppression.
In revolt, he set himself a goal
He became a martyr, sublimated his being
even changed his prayers
Deepened their features and improvised
And in the long struggle his blood flowed
His lofty vision unfolded
shaking even destiny.
If news reaches you, and friends come to you,
Their eyes filled with cautious concern
Smile to them in kindness
For my death will bring life to all;
My people's dreams are my shrine
at which I pray, for which I live.
The ecstacy of creation warms my being,
shouting of joy,
Filling me with love,
as day follows day,
Enveloping my struggling soul and body.
Immortalized am I in the hearts of friends
I live only in others' thoughts and memories.
Beloved, if word reaches you and you fear for me
Should you shudder and your cheeks grow pale
As pale as the face of the moon,
Allow it not to look upon you, nor
feast on the beauty of your gaze
For I am jealous of the light of the moon.
Tell my only one, for I love him,
That I have tasted the joy of giving
And my heart relishes the wounds of sacrifice.
There is nothing left for him
Save the sighs from my song...
Save the remnants of my lute
Lying piled and scattered in our house.
Tell my only one if he ever visits my grave
And yearns for my memory,
Tell him one day that I shall return
--to pick the fruits.
Kamal Nasir was from a distinguished Palestinian Christian family of educators. He was assasinated by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


La Ahada Yalam (No One Knows)

"I'm trying to promote the Palestinian culture, and so I try to explain my situation, not only to talk about myself, but about my people. I'm part of my people. But the main thing is to survive as a Palestinian, because you don't know a lot about Palestinian creative people because of the war." Amal Murkus

La Ahada Yalam by Amal Murkus: "Summer Camp in Bir'im Video"

by Nizar Zreik

No one knows

whose turn it will be tomorrow.

The skies above the refugee camp are grey.

Dreams hastily scrawled on the walls.

Beneath the slogans

the children from the city

play their game.


No-one knows, no-one knows.

The heroes of today are announced dead

on the evening news.

Ordinary people make the headlines

for a few seconds,

only to vanish

without a trace

in the current

of another day's events.

No-one knows, no-one knows.

But I know that tomorrow's victims

will bring a new dawn closer.

No one knows.

translated by Robert Wyatt

Friday, March 23, 2007


'The Return Will Never Disappear'

Kfar Bi'rim was completely destroyed in 1953. The village church was left standing (Please notice the pictutes. The villagers must now pay a fee to enter their own property).palestineremembered. Every year the internally displaced villagers return to their village. In a moving video, Summer Camp in Bi'rim (when you get to the site, scroll down to "Summer Camp in Bi'rim),
one of the returning villagers speaks the words below (and the song by Amal Murkus, La Ahada Yalam, that accompanies the video is moving and exquisite):
Your beauty is God given
Your beauty is God given
A human being strains to describe it.
North, south, east, west
Vistas of hills and valleys
When you tire on the way and feel thirsty
You may drink of al-Safra from the well
And on a dessert of figs you may feast
Feast on a dessert of figs of Bayad and Ghazzali
Tarry as you near the grapes
And when you approach the vine
Give thanks, and lift up your voice
Your people, Bir'im have not died
And will not forsake a grain of sand from you
As long as you have men like these
As long as you have men like these
Who continually strive for justice
they do not care what others may say
And they always say to the oppressor
Our Bir'im is more precious than money.
And the return will never disappear
We will return contented
We will forget the bitter days.
You may also download a new book, "Returning to Kafr Bir'im, which is the story of the villagers continuing attempts to return to their village from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


There's something about numbers . . .


by Aaron Levitt

Jerusalem-region Palestinian villages depopulated (and in most cases completely razed) in '47/'48:
There's something about numbers and abstractions that makes us lose our minds.
'Allar, founded < 1596 CE, pop 440, Muslim
Everybody says that the Nazis killed six million Jews, but nobody really kills "six million" of anything.
'Artuf, founded < 1596 CE, pop 350, Muslim
People always die one at a time, each one alone and afraid.
'Ayn Karim, founded 2nd mill. BCE, pop 3180, Mus/Chris
And we talk about 700,000 Palestinians driven or fled from Israel.
Bayt 'Itab, 4th century CE, 540, Muslim
But it was really one person, 700,000 times.
Bayt Mahsir, < late 19th century CE, 2400, Muslim
Or maybe one family, 100,000 times.
Bayt Naqqubu, < late 19th, 240, Muslim
If I said that I kicked my neighbor out of her house
Bayt Thul, < 1596 CE, 260, Muslim
and took it for myself, because I couldn't live
Bayt Umm al-Mays, <= crusade period, 70, Muslim
a fully Jewish life otherwise,
al-Burayj, unknown, 720, Muslim & Christian
everyone would agree that I was a criminal,
Dayr Aban, Roman period, 2100, Muslim & Christian
or simply crazy.
Dayr al-Hawa, unknown, 60, Muslim & Christian
And if I and three of my friends took houses away from
Dayr Rafat, unknown, 430, Muslim & Christian
four other people,
Dayr al-Shayk, < 1596 CE, 220, Muslim & Christian
the reaction would be just the same.
Dayr Yassin, < 1596 CE, 610, Muslim
Somehow, though, when the numbers get big enough,
Ishwa, < 18th CE, 620, Muslim
something changes, and things we all know are simply wrong
'Islin, < 1596 CE, 260, Muslim
become gray areas. Sophistry and self-justification
Ism Allah, unknown, 20, Muslim
wash over people's lives, and hopes, and pain.
Jarash, < late 19th, 190, Muslim
If I robbed my neighbor of his home,
al-Jura, < late 19th, 420, Muslim & Christian
nobody would need to check the law
Kasla, Canaanite period (Chesalon), 280, Muslim
to decide whether it was wrong.
al-Lawz, unknown, 450, Muslim
Nobody would argue about how long she was there,
Lifta, <= crusade period, 2550, Muslim & Christian
or whether she was "indigenous",
al-Maliha, biblical period (Manahat), 940, Mus/Chris
or whether her cousins had room for her at their place.
Nitaf, unknown, 40, Muslim
Nobody would care that some other guy in Germany
al-Kabu, Roman period, 260, Muslim
had his home stolen last year,
Qalunya, Canaanite period (Mozah), 1260,Mus/Chris/Jew
and still hadn't gotten it back.
al-Qastal, crusade period, 90, Muslim & Christian
But somehow, when the numbers get big enough,
Ras Abu 'Ammar, < late 19th, 620, Muslim
we forget the simple things we know about decency,
Sar'a, Roman period, 340, Muslim
and honor,
Saris, < 1596 CE, 560, Muslim
and justice,
Sataf, < late 19th , 540, Muslim
and what it means to be a decent person (or a Jew).
Suba, Persian period, 620, Muslim
And we debase ourselves with arguments like these
Sufla, crusade period, 60, Muslim
As if a crime committed against a single person
al-Umur, Byzantine period, 270, Muslim
is somehow rendered pureal-Walaja, < 1596 CE, 1650, Muslim
when one becomes hundreds of thousands.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Right of Return on Comment is Free

link for a rationalization by a transplanted Brit why Palestinians shouldn't be able to live in their villages, towns, homes. Some of the comments on the story are here:

Israel did not just make a few refugees in 1948 and again in 1967- Israel created the largest and longest running refugee crisis in the world today... AND Israel as a sovereign nation with one of the most powerful miltaries on earth continues to pulverize Palestinian homes and impoverish the Palestinian individually and collectively. The way that Zionist immigration and investments and propaganda works is that the game is now very much rigged so that one very racist Israel, what ever promise it might have had in 1948, will only become more and more monstrous towards the native non-Jewish population of the region.The only way to forward toward real justice and a lasting peace is by fully respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 in general - and specially the INALIENABLE right to leave- and return. People world wide do it every day when we leave for work or school. It is reasonable and right to expect that you can leave and return to your home. It is also reasonable and right to expect full and equal rights ( and economic opportunities) in the the land of your birth.

Anne Selden

From the very inception, Israel was a crime against humanity, it is still a crime against humanity. Israel is a murderer, liar and land thief. And like all thieves, it always resorts to lying and other twisted tactics to justify their abominable behavior.

That is why the rape of Palestine, my country, by ethnic Ashkenazi supremacists will never be accepted, neither now, nor after a thousand years. Hence, we must always speak in a clarion way about the right of return. This right represents the soul and heart of the Palestinian problem. It is more important and more paramuont than anything else, including the issue of Palestinian statehood. A Palestinian state may go to hell if its creation is at the expense of the right of return.

The right of return is not about enhancing one's standards of living, it is not about compensation or indemnification. It is not about a Hamburger or a "big mack" as the paragons of mendacity would protray our just cause.

It is about the profanity and evilness of uprooting and extirpation an entire people form their homeland from time immemorial by East European Ashkenazi supremacists. It is about an individual's inherent right to live in one's homeland, one's country.

Hence, our right to return to our homes and villages from which we were banished at gunpoint is inherent, intrinsic, inalienable, and absolute. Claiming otherwise would be a futile exercise in dishonesty and racism.

Khalid, al Khalil, occupied Palestine.

If ethnic cleansing is the key to solving the "problem" in the Middle East, if Judeo-Nazism is the only hope for peace, and if perserving one's simple right to return to his home, from which he or she was expelled at gunpoint, complicates things in the Middle East, then we certainly prefere to keep the "problem" intact.

The analogy with "German refugees" is corrupt and unacceptable. Nazi Germany waged war on Europe and much of the world. Germany destroyed Europe and caused the death of millions of people. The Palestinians waged war on nobody, invaded nobody's homeland and expelled nobody from their country. Quite the contrary, they were and still are the victims. Their homeland was taken away from them, their villages were destroyed, their homes stolen, their people expelled to the four corners of the world. So, is it just that that they be punished like the German people? What kind of obscene and promiscuous logic is that which equates between the victims and the victimizers.

We Palestinian refugees and our children and grandchildren and their children will never ever render legitimacy to the act of rape, to the greatet theft in history. The ethnic cleansing of our people was a crime against humanity. It is still a crime against humanity. And we will never every come to terms with this crime. We will never ever allow ethnic cleansing to win.

Khalid Amayreh

Gershon Baskin wrote the following:

"Anyone who understands anything about Israel and Israelis must realize that there will be no return to Israel proper."

Dr. Salman Abu Sitta replied:

"In simpler words, Israel wants to continue its ethnic cleansing, pursue its racist and Apartheid policies, and does not 'really want to live in peace' with the Palestinians but instead of them.
"The Palestinians, and most of the world with them, are determined to pursue justice, eradicate racism and Apartheid. Just as South Africa did. They have no intention of disappearing.

"Baskin, true 'friendship' should go to the Israelis to help shake them off their collective amnesia about what they have done and are doing to the Palestinians and to advise them that their salvation lies in shedding racism fully and forever. They have to amend their ways, reverse ethnic cleansing and make reparations.

"For it is clear that the history of Jews will ultimately be marked indelibly, and above all other historical events, by what they have done in Palestine."

Based on Alex's earlier article on the Jewish Law of Return, I had actually looked forward to engaging with a similarly thought-provoking piece on the Palestinian Right of Return. Having read his latest post, however, I'm disappointed to find that there's hardly enough substance to justify a response. Just one more Jew who is either unable, or unwilling, to exercise moral judgment where fundamental issues of justice come into conflict with equally fundamental tenets of contemporary political Zionism.

Alex knows what he wants, he has the weapons to keep it, and that's what he intends to do. The rest of the post is just self-soothing and post hoc rationalization. I've seen worse, certainly, just not when I was actually expecting better. Maybe later I'll write some sort of detailed response, and we can all pretend, for a few additional minutes, that we're participating in a substantive debate. For now, I'm just going to append a paragraph from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's overview of Hannah Arendt.

"Arendt concluded that Eichmann was constitutively incapable of exercising the kind of judgement that would have made his victims' suffering real or apparent for him. It was not the presence of hatred that enabled Eichmann to perpetrate the genocide, but the absence of the imaginative capacities that would have made the human and moral dimensions of his activities tangible for him. Eichmann failed to exercise his capacity of thinking, of having an internal dialogue with himself, which would have permitted self-awareness of the evil nature of his deeds. This amounted to a failure to use self-reflection as a basis for judgement, the faculty that would have required Eichmann to exercise his imagination so as to contemplate the nature of his deeds from the experiential standpoint of his victims. This connection between the complicity with political evil and the failure of thinking and judgement inspired the last phase of Arendt's work, which sought to explicate the nature of these faculties and their constitutive role for politically and morally responsible choices."

Aaron J Levitt

Dr. Salman H Abu-Sitta is a very self-effacing man, who gave up a lucrative career in construction to establish himself as perhaps the foremost expert on Palestinian refugees. He has iconic status among Palestinians and is revered among us for his monumental work and untiring efforts.

Dr. Abu Sitta is himself a refugee. According to journalist Amira Howeidy, "His family's land and town bears the family name, Maein Abu Sitta (the Abu Sitta springwell), which appears 'on all the maps of Palestine from the 18th century onwards.'" Maein Abu Sitta is located in Beir Al-Sabe' (Beersheba).

Dr. Abu-Sitta's father built the school in Maein Abu Sitta and was its headmaster.
Dr. Abu Sitta defines "sacred," in a debate with Michael Lerner.
"It [right of return] is sacred because it is embedded in their [Palestinians'] psyche." He continues, "Although they have been dispersed, their family structure is strong."

He further elaborates on "sacred" in "An End to Exile":

"For them [Palestinian refugees], the return home is sacred. They have lived on this land for over 30 centuries. Their historical bond with the place moved an Israeli writer to note: 'Every people in the world lives in a place. For Palestinians, the place lives in them.' The grandchild of a 1948 refugee, when asked, says he comes from his original village, not from the refugee camp where he lives. The Mukhtars (village heads) are elected on the basis of their original villages. The schoolchildren are registered in school accordingly. A recent study showed that 66 per cent of all refugees moved to their exile in one of the five areas of UNRWA operations (Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon) as a complete village unit, 25 per cent of the villagers split into two UNRWA areas and only nine per cent moved to more than two areas. It is remarkable to note that 87 per cent of the refugees are in Palestine (where 29 per cent live) or in a 100km-wide ring around it. Only 13 per cent are in other Arab and foreign countries. This proximity to the homeland is indicative of the bond between the refugees and their homes."

Dr. Abu Sitta, using much of his own money, worked decades to compile his monumental Atlas of Palestine. "Israel has attempted to eradicate their [Palestinians'] lives and their culture," writes Amira Howeidy.

David Ben Gurion "create[ed] a committee of scholars, geographers, and theologians . . . whose goal was to "erase" all the names used in historic Palestine for the past five thousand years and to create new Hebrew names. 'They wanted to make these names a symbol of the old link with Palestine, but unfortunately they could not find genuine Hebrew names for more than five percent of the names previously used,' said Abu Sitta. These new maps and new names erased the vocabulary of the life of the people, he added, because of the way the names had recorded historic events like weddings and battles.'"

Dr. Abu Sitta's Atlas, which for the present restores our patrimony on paper, is, according to Rami Khouri:
" . . . not a record of what Palestinians have lost; it is an affirmation of that which still defines them and future generations. The collective link to the land is the source of their national legitimacy. It is documented here with startling power, and ? it can never be taken away from them, despite death, denial, dispersal and occupation."

Sunday, March 18, 2007


A Presentation of the Palestinian Traditions


from Deeback

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Israel's Right to Be Racist

I hope that citizens of the United States will heed Joseph Mossad's articulate and principled words in his recent essay,Israel's Right to be Racist, in which he accurately portrays Israel, which violates every value that we honor in our country. A couple excerpts; the complete essay is brilliant:

Israel's desire for peace is not only rhetorical but also substantive and deeply psychological. With few exceptions, prominent Zionist leaders since the inception of colonial Zionism have desired to establish peace with the Palestinians and other Arabs whose lands they slated for colonisation and settlement. The only thing Israel has asked for, and continues to ask for in order to end the state of war with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours, is that all recognise its right to be a racist state that discriminates by law against Palestinians and other Arabs and grants differential legal rights and privileges to its own Jewish citizens and to all other Jews anywhere.
Many Palestinian officials in the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organisation have been offered and have accepted numerous financial incentives to recognise this crucial Israeli need. Those among the Palestinians who regrettably continue to resist are being penalised for their intransigence by economic choking and starvation, supplemented by regular bombardment and raids, as well as international isolation. These persuasive methods, Israel hopes, will finally convince a recalcitrant population to recognise the dire need of Israel to be a racist state. After all, Israeli racism only manifests in its flag, its national anthem, and a bunch of laws that are necessary to safeguard Jewish privilege, including the Law of Return (1950), the Law of Absentee Property (1950), the Law of the State's Property (1951), the Law of Citizenship (1952), the Status Law (1952), the Israel Lands Administration Law (1960), the Construction and Building Law (1965), and the 2002 temporary law banning marriage between Israelis and Palestinians of the occupied territories.

Friday, March 16, 2007


The Easiest Targets: Israel's Abuse of Women and Children

This film, from If Americans Knew, devastatingly portrays how Israelis humiliate Palestinian women and children and Palestinian sympathizers in the Ben-Gurion Airport. It is one of the most intense films that I've seen, and I can not watch it without crying. I feel violated again and feel so much empathy for the women and children, who relate the humiliating effect of the gratuitous abuse. "Why?" asks Maysoon, who, in her wheelchair, was made to bleed all over herself and "no one, no one, spoke up. Nothing, nothing is sacred, if they can do this," cries the cerebral palsey victim.

"Why, would you do that to someone?" asks Laila El-Haddad, who has undergone the searches and experienced the humiliation of her mother, a physician, many times.

Why? Because it is obvious that the Zionists, to whom Palestinian journalist Khalid Amayreh refers as "the Nazis of our time" do not want us there. They do not want us there and they do not want us to go back. What they want and what we will never provide is permission and approval of their thuggish, racist ways.

I was stripped searched when I was nineteen despite my American passport, and I have not been back for thirty years.

Watch these women, including handicapped Maysoon Zayid and journalist Laila El-Haddad, relate in a very powerful way what it is like to be abused in their own homeland and for some of us in our ancestral homeland. Even eighty year old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein was not spared.

Thank you, Alison Weir.

From "If Americans Knew" video
"If Americans Knew" story

Israeli officials have been regularly strip-searching children for decades, some of them American citizens.

While organizations that focus on Israel-Palestine have long been aware that Israeli border officials regularly strip search men and women, If Americans Knew appears to be the first organization that has specifically investigated the policy of strip searching women. In the course of its investigation, If Americans Knew was astonished to learn that Israeli officials have also been strip searching young girls as young as seven and below.

According to interviews with women in the United States, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli border officials periodically force Christian and Muslim females of all ages to remove their clothing and submit to searches. In some cases the children are then “felt” by Israeli officials.

Sometimes mothers and children are strip-searched together, at other times little girls are taken from their parents and strip-searched alone. Women are required to remove sanitary napkins, sometimes with small daughters at their side. Sometimes women are strip searched in the presence of their young sons.

All report deep feelings of humiliation. Many describe weeping at the degradation they felt.

“I remember crying and pleading with my mother,” Gaza journalist Laila El-Haddad recalls of an experience when she was 12-years-old, hoping that her mother could convince the Israeli official to allow her to keep her undershirt on. But parents are unable to shield their children, El-Haddad and others report.

“They had machine guns,” El-Haddad explains. “We just had to submit.” El-Haddad, who holds a Masters degree in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, believes that the intention of the strip searches is to humiliate Palestinians so that they won’t return to Palestine.

Oregon attorney Hala Gores remembers being strip-searched at the age of 10. Her family, Palestinian Christians from Nazareth, were leaving Israel because of Israeli discrimination against Christians. Gores has never returned to her family’s ancestral home in Nazareth, she says, in part because she does not want to repeat the experience of having no control over what is done to her.

The Israeli policy appears to target only Christian and Muslim children, and is equally applied to those with Israeli citizenship and citizenship in other countries, including native-born Americans. There are no reports of Jewish children being strip-searched.

New Jersey stand-up comedian Maysoon Zayid describes being strip-searched at Ben Gurion Airport when she was “seven, eight, nine years old” on family trips to visit her parents’ original home in Palestine. On her most recent trip in July 2006, Maysoon, an American citizen, had her sanitary pad taken by officials in Ben Gurion Airport. When the search was completed, she says, the Israeli official in charge, Inbal Sharon, then refused to return her pad or allow her to get another.
Zayid, who has cerebral palsy and was sitting in a wheelchair, was then forced to bleed publicly for hours while she waited for her flight.

Zayid, a former class president and yearbook editor at New Jersey’s Cliffside Park High School known for her irreverent comedy routines and strong personality, describes sobbing uncontrollably. “No one spoke up,” she remembers. “There were several women, including the woman who was pushing my wheelchair, none of whom said a word.”

When she boarded her flight, Zayid recalls, “The flight attendants looked at me in disgust.” She told them what had happened, and the attendants then gave her some of their own clothing to use.

In addition to taking her sanitary napkin, Israeli officials also confiscated medication that Zayid is required to take when flying. As a result, she vomited repeatedly throughout the 12-hour flight.

Zayid, who founded a program for newly disabled Palestinian youths, many of them permanently disabled from attacks by Israeli forces, was so depressed by her treatment that she determined never to return. “But that’s what they want,” she says, “They want us to get to the point where we don’t go back.” She says that she is already planning to return to her volunteer work in the West Bank.

Israeli practices vary and seem to be applied randomly, from elderly women to small children. In some instances women are taken into a room alone and are left sitting naked for hours. At other times they are strip-searched in groups, their clothes thrown in a pile. When they are finally allowed to get dressed, they describe having to rummage through the heap of clothing, naked and barefoot, to find their own garments.

Jewish Holocaust Survivor

While these policies largely target Palestinian and Palestinian-American women and children, some non-Palestinian Americans also report being subjected to strip searches by Israeli officials.

St. Louis resident Hedy Epstein, whose parents and extended family perished in Nazi camps, and whose story is featured in the Academy Award winning documentary "Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport," reports being strip searched three years ago following her participation in nonviolent protests in the West Bank. Epstein, who was 79 at the time, describes being forced to bend over for an Israeli official to search her internally.

The strip searches appear to be illegal under numerous statutes. The Geneva Conventions, to which Israel is a signatory, prohibit: “Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” and specifically emphasize: “Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour...”

Article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states: "No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy..."
In the US, such policies would appear to violate child abuse statutes. The state of Utah, for example, defines Child Abuse as: “Any form of cruelty to a child's physical, moral or mental well-being.” The Encarta Encyclopedia defines child abuse as “Intentional acts that result in physical or emotional harm to children.”

While the If Americans Knew investigation focused on practices concerning women, many interviewees reported frequent random strip-searching of males as well, including American citizens, children, and the elderly.

While the practice is widely applied, many people find it too humiliating to speak of. One 68-year-old Christian businessman, who had been stripped naked at Ben Gurion airport in 2006 before being allowed to board his flight to return home, had never revealed his experience to his family until he learned of the If Americans Knew investigation. He then explained to his daughter why he had previously told her that he might never return to his original home, now in the state of Israel.

Christians, a thriving community that made up approximately 15 percent of Palestine’s population before Zionist immigration and the creation of Israel (Muslims were 80 percent and Jews 5 percent), have now dwindled under Israeli occupation to approximately two percent of the total population.

Israeli spokespeople and sympathizers have bristled in recent months at the title of a book by former President Jimmy Carter, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.” In reply, Carter has emphasized that the Israeli “apartheid” he is describing is limited to the West Bank and Gaza. Many analysts have disagreed with Carter, providing evidence of pervasive discrimination within Israel itself. The If Americans Knew finding that Israel has been routinely strip-searching non-Jewish citizens of Israel would also indicate a wider policy of Israeli discrimination.

Since American taxpayers give Israel over $8 million per day, the Council for the National Interest, a Washington DC-based lobbying organization, is organizing a campaign to call on Congress to demand that Israel end these policies.

“We are extremely upset to learn that Israel is using American tax money in ways that degrade and humiliate women and children,” says CNI President Eugene Bird. “We call on all Americans to help us on this campaign.” The organization urges people to begin contacting their Congressional representatives immediately, and to disseminate the video report “The Easiest Targets” by If Americans Knew as widely as possible.


Benny Morris's Nazi Tendency

© By Khalid Amayreh, for thepeoplesvoice.org

Until a few years ago, Benny Morris was a prominent Israeli historian specializing in the vicissitudes of Israel’s formative years. His book “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem-1947-149”, based on Israeli army archives of that period, played a key part in demolishing the long-held Zionist narrative that Palestinian refugees left their homes and villages voluntarily and that they were not expelled by Jews.

Other “new historians” , such as Ilan Pappe of Haifa University, have consolidated Morris’s original thesis. Pappe’s recent book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”, also based on Israeli army archives, presents irrefutable evidence showing that the original 700,000-800,00 Palestinian refugees were terrorized and massacred into leaving their ancestral homeland in accordance with a well-devised plan by the Jewish leadership.

Now, it is apparent that Benny Morris has abandoned the realm of academic honesty to rabidly join the legions of Jewish fascism. A series of interviews with him published in the Israeli and western press leaves no doubt as to the Nazi-like propensity Morris is harboring toward the Palestinian people. Sometimes, his fascistic outlook is so outpouring that one can’t distinguish him form the likes of Meir Kahana, Benjamin Elon, Eifi Eitam, and the terrorists of Kiryat Arba. On other occasions, he tries to package his repulsive views with a thin layer of academic jargon. But in both case, he makes no effort to hide or even extenuate his fascistic discourse.

Indeed, a meticulous examination of Morris’s views, especially when reading between the lines, shows that the man is not only regretting his original discovery, that the Zionists expelled and massacred the Palestinians en mass, but is also regretting the fact that the “mission” (the ethnic cleansing) was not carried out “fully.”

In an article titled “Israel revisited”, published by the Washington Post Foreign Service on 11 March, 2007, Morris argues remorsefully that “had the war ended more definitely and logically demographically, every one would have been better for it. Not only Israel and the Palestinians, but all of the Middle East.”

It is not difficult to translate Morris’s ghoulish words into simple language. In plain English, he says that in 1948, Israel should have expelled and/or massacred the entire Palestinian people between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. In other words, he wishes Israel had “completed the job” employing whatever means necessary, including, conceivably, genocide and ethnic cleansing.

But Morris is not giving up. He says that the time is not too late to try to do what was not done in 1948, namely to exterminate and/or expel the remaining Palestinians from their ancestral homeland.

And his justification for this Final Solution is the fact that Israel is “an outpost of the West…in a largely Islamic, backward and in some ways even barbaric area.”
Oh, halleluiah, it is good to finally hear from a major Israeli historian a clear admission that Israel doesn’t belong to the Middle East and that the bulk of its population are not Middle Eastern, in other words, not Semites. The world should take note of this.

Today, Israel is suffering from a deep collective psychosis and it seems that Morris encapsulates and caricatures this morbidity to a very large extent.

He says that “Ben Gurion should have expelled more Palestinians during the 1948 war to leave a stronger Jewish majority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.”

“If the man was already driving out people, maybe he should have gone the whole hog.”
This is more than sickening. It borders on diabolical and satanic racism. Indeed, how would we react if some Nazi argued that “If Adolph Hitler was already exterminating Jews in Europe, maybe he should have go the whole hog.”!

Some Zionist apologists might be prompted to argue that “expelling” is not the same as “exterminating.” Well, such arguments would not persuade even my little dog, since no expulsion can be effected without at least a partial genocide as Morris himself made it clear in his original book “the Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem.”

But Morris still has much to surprise us. He soon will examine whether the Palestinian-Israeli strife can be resolved by forging a single nation of Arabs and Jews or two states for two peoples.
And we don’t have to wait long for the answer. He already argues that should the two-state approach fail, as many Israelis, Palestinians and others say it would, there are two other realistic solutions: “One is that the Jews will kick out all the Arabs across the river, and the other is that the Arabs will throw the Jews into the sea. I am not sure one of them won’t happen.”

Well, this certainly advocacy for genocide. Because when a powerful state, actually a nuclear power, which also, to a very large extent, controls the politics and policies, of the world’s only superpower, tells its tormented subjects, the Palestinians who are actually a prisoner population under the Israeli occupation, that “we either throw you across the river or you throw us into the sea,” it means that Israel is hell-bent on committing genocide since the Palestinians lack the ability to defend and protect themselves.

There is no other way to read and understand Morris’s thesis except that he is advocating genocide and ethnic annihilation.

Finally, we must understand and make those who don’t realize that terms like “transfer” and “throwing them across the river,” etc, are only euphemism for genocide.

The Nazis viewed Jews as their enemies, possibly because they thought Jews were instrumental in Germany’s defeat during World War I. And during World War II, the Nazis effectively used the same language Benny Morris is now using. They told European Jewry that “ it is either we destroy you or you destroy us.” We know the rest of the story.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Jerusalem Go To Meeting Dress, 1929

In this photo from Walid Khalidi's Before Their Diaspora, appear "a delegation of Palestinian women outside the high commissioner's residence in Jerusalem," circa 1929. According to Khalidi, the women wearing hats are Christian. The rural Muslim women "wear no veils at all." The woman second from left is Mrs. Matiel Moghannam, "a Palestinian Protestant feminist leader and author of The Arab Woman and the Palestine Problem [London: H. Joseph, 1937]."
Arab Woman Progressive Voice juxtaposes contemporary Palestinian women's dress in a striking way. Check out the photos on her blog.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Letter Published in Los Angeles Times

Land and Language in the Middle East

Thank you for publishing Makdisi's article. By parroting Israel's script, the media have aided and abetted the destruction of Palestinian life, culture and patrimony. Doesn't everyone realize the absurdity of the elderly Palestinian refugee with a key to his or her house in historic Palestine, proclaiming that the immigrant Jew has a "right to exist" on the refugee's stolen property?

Monday, March 12, 2007


The Gestapo and Wehrmacht of Our Time

"German Catholic Bishop visiting Israel and the Occupied Territories on 5 March compared Israel’s oppressionof Palestinians with Nazi oppression of Jews at Ghetto Warsaw." (Warsaw ghetto left, and Ramallah ghetto) from The People's Voice
© By Khalid Amayreh, for thepeoplesvoice.org
“I fear very much that the Jews are like all underdogs. When they get on the top they are just as intolerant and cruel as the people were to them when they were underneath. I regret this situation very much because my sympathy has always been on their side.” Harry Truman

When a conscientious German Catholic Bishop visiting Israel and the Occupied Territories on 5 March compared Israel’s oppression of Palestinians with Nazi oppression of Jews at Ghetto Warsaw, Israeli apologists got furious.
Gregor Maria Franz Hanke of Eichstatt couldn’t suppress his rectitude and human decency when he was brought face to face with the affronting ugliness of the “separation wall” which has already morphed Palestinian population centers into modern-day concentration camps.
Upon seeing the misshapen creature, which is as ugly and as deformed as the Nazi-like mentality that gave birth to it, the German bishop said the following:
"This morning we saw pictures of the Warsaw ghetto at Yad Vashem and this evening we are going to the Ramallah ghetto."
Unfortunately, we don’t have many religious leaders, let alone politicians, who are willing to call the spade a spade, especially when it happens to be in Jewish hands.
But this man said it as it is , preferring to be at ease with his conscience at the expense of standing accused and vilified by the holocaust cult.
There are many reasons and motives for western flaccidity toward Israel and Zionism. Some westerners believe that the holocaust, which was perpetrated by Europeans, should justify anything and everything Israel does to the Palestinians, including crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
Many other westerners, especially North Americans, are simply scandalously ignorant of the Nazi-like nature of the Israeli state. Others know the facts very well, but are too cowardly and dishonest to speak up for fear of Zionist intimidation and retaliation. Others are simply malicious and believe that Israel, by virtue of being powerful militarily, has the right to pursue Nazi-like policies in order to serve its goals and interests. This is the same folk who would have embraced the Third Reich soul and heart because power is their God and “realism” is their religion.
I believe that people like the honorable bishop and all other free-minded voices that speak up in defense of truth, that don’t flinch from calling the spade a spade and refuse to cringe or cower in the face of evil, are the salt of mother earth and the crème de le crème of humanity. It these sporadic candles of light that keeps our world from plunging into moral nihilism.
Hence, we must salute them for their courage and morality and never allow ourselves to betray them or let them down. We must seek to emulate them in their courage and honesty and moral defiance in the face of evil, because in the final analysis life itself is a moral stand and is too short to be squandered and exhausted in the zigzags of political correctness. The Quran states:
“By the passage of time, man is indeed in a state of loss, except for those who believe, and do good deeds, and counsel each other to truth and counsel each other to patience.”
Of course, the bishop of Eichstatt is not inventing anything. He simply saw this diabolical, gigantic structure meandering around Palestinian population centers all over the West Bank, from Jenin in the north to Dahiriya in the south, cutting of neighbor from neighbor, and creating ghettos congested with poverty, misery, hunger and oppression.
In fact, had the bishop gone a little deeper and a little further, the overwhelming ugliness of Israel’s shame would have shocked him even further. I am saying this because Israel has not stopped at merely converting Palestinian towns and villages into virtual detention camps, but went many steps further by making sure that the tormented souls in these ghettos are constantly and relentlessly hounded and surrounded.
Indeed, not a day passes these days without the Israeli occupation army and the Gestapo-like Mishmar Gvul (Border Police) carrying out several raids into Palestinian towns and villages. During these criminals rape-like forays, innocent people are killed, injured and arrested, and their property is destroyed.
This writer witnessed an incursion at the village of al-Kum, 20 kilometers west of Hebron on Saturday, 10 March.
Around 2: a.m., numerous Israeli troops and paramilitary policemen stormed the small village (pop. 3000), placed it under curfew amid loud explosions of stun grenades meant to terrorize the people. Then the forces spread all over the village, vandalizing property and smashing glass and turning furniture upside down. After that, the mostly undisciplined soldiers used an elderly man, in his early 70s, as a human shield. Then they raided the local mosque, arrested three young men in their early mid 20s and left seven hours later.
Around the same time, a Palestinian driver who reportedly transferred Palestinian laborers into East Jerusalem was beaten to death by the grandchildren of the Holocaust. According to eyewitnesses, Israeli Border Policemen ganged up on the man, identified as 32-year-old Wael Yousef Karawi, beat him on the head with the butts of their rifles, causing him a massive brain hemorrhage. The man collapsed and died on the spot. Then a few hours later a mendacious statement coming out of the Israeli mill of lie claimed that the man died of “natural causes.”
A day earlier, another poor Palestinian worker was killed in Gaza as he sought to enter Israel to find work. Israel has been starving Palestinians en mass by preventing them from accessing work and food. This manifestly criminal policy is carried out by barring Palestinians from fishing off the Gaza shore “for security reasons.” Today, as I write this piece, an Israeli naval patrol opened fire on two fishermen, injuring them both. More to the point, Gazans are not allowed to travel abroad for work or even medical treatment, because the so-called “border terminal” between Gaza and Egypt (Gaza’s only exit to the outside world) is kept closed by Israel nearly all the time for no reason other than tormenting an already thoroughly tormented people.
Non the less, Israel still has the audacity to tell the world that it has ended its occupation of Gaza. You see God’s lying people.
Two weeks ago, the Israeli occupation army murdered two people in Nablus, including a young boy who hurled a stone toward (not on or at but toward) an Israeli Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) rampaging through the streets of the city. The other man was shot dead as he stood at his rooftop to fix a TV antenna. Responding to charges of cold-blooded murder, an Israeli army spokesperson said rather tersely that the “incident is being investigated.”
Of course, this is a lie, nothing is being investigated, and even if there was an investigation, it would blame the victims and declare the killers ‘innocent of any wrong doing” because they acted in accordance with outstanding army instructions.!!!! Well, even the Gestapo and SS were also acting in accordance with outstanding army instructions.
In the meantime, the Israeli state keeps swelling its dungeons and detention camps with young Palestinians. The declared reason is “security,” but the real reason is to keep as many Palestinians as possible behind bars in order to use them as bargaining chips in any prospective negotiations with the inherently weak Palestinian Authority.
According to both Israeli and Palestinian sources, the Israeli army rounds up an average of 15-20 Palestinians per days. Now the number of Palestinian detainees and internees in Israeli jails and detention camps stands at 10,000-11,000.
On Friday, 9 March, an Israeli military court sentenced Hebron MP Hatem Qafisha, to six months of “administrative detention,” without charge or trial. The six months are renewable depending on the mood of the Shin Beth officer in charge of the Hebron region. There are Palestinian detainees who have been languishing in Israeli dungeons for 80 or even 90 months without charge or trial. Usually, the mantra of security is always ready to be evoked in defense of the Nazi-like justice system.
In fact, Qafisha has already spent 93 months in Israeli jails first for “harboring extremist views” and second for “competing in legislative elections under the banner of a terrorist organization,” a clear allusion to Hamas.
Well, didn’t Israel and the United States consent to the participation of Hamas in the elections which took place in 2006? If so, why arrest these people, including democratically-elected lawmakers, cabinet ministers, and even the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Aziz Dweik, and dump them in detention camps for lengthy terms? If they have committed any crime, let them be tried before a genuine court of law, not before the court of the occupation for which a Palestinian is guilty even if proven innocent…just as the Nazi courts viewed Jews as guilty even proven innocent.
Are the Zionists the Nazis of our time? Are the Israeli army and police the Wehrmacht and Gestapo of our time? This is a question for Jews to answer. Maybe they will come to the realization that this sick and sickening state is corroding their humanity. Just maybe.
March 12, 2007 © Copyright March 12, 2007 by Khalid Amayreh - amayreh@p-ol.com This article originates on http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org - Permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media if this credit, © By Khalid Amayreh, for thepeoplesvoice.org, is attached and the title and text remain unchanged.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Sulha in 1949 Ramallah

I was hoping this picture would scan better; it's from 1949 and is in Naseeb Shaheen's, A Pictorial History of Ramallah.

The Yousef clan is gathered for a Sulha, or reconciliation feast. There was a dispute over a nomination to the Ramallah City Council in 1943. Everyone looks pretty happy here. Shaheen writes that Israeli authorities "partially demolished and sealed" this house in 1987, which belonged to the 1943 city council nominee in dispute, Hanna Jaber.


Why Does the Times recognize Israel's 'right to exist'?

An excellent op-ed by Saree Makdisi in the Los Angeles Times today and my letter thanking the Times for printing it. And before the letter and the op-ed here's a bit that WAFA picked up from Ha'aretz regarding the recommendation of the United Nations Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination:

"The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their property and land in Israel."The Committee recommended that Israel scrutinize its policy in a number of areas. Among them, it recommends that 'the state party ensure that the definition of Israel as a Jewish nation state does not result in any systematic distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin.'"

My letter:

Dear Editor:

Thanks you for publishing Saree Makdisi's "Why does the Times recognize Israel's 'right to exist'? By parroting Israel's script the media has aided and abetted the destruction of Palestinian life, culture, and patrimony. Realize the absurdity of the elderly Palestinian refugee with a key to his/her house in historic Palestine, proclaiming that the immigrant Ethiopean, Russian, or American Jew has a "right to exist" on the refugee's stolen property.

Makdisi's brilliant op-ed, published in a mainstream US newspaper!

Why does The Times recognize Israel's 'right to exist'?

The paper consistency [sic] adopts Israel's language, giving credence to an inaccurate, simplistic and dangerous cliche.
By Saree Makdisi, SAREE MAKDISI, a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA, writes frequently about the Middle East.
March 11, 2007

'AS SOON AS certain topics are raised," George Orwell once wrote, "the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: Prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse." Such a combination of vagueness and sheer incompetence in language, Orwell warned, leads to political conformity.

No issue better illustrates Orwell's point than coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the United States. Consider, for example, the editorial in The Times on Feb. 9 demanding that the Palestinians "recognize Israel" and its "right to exist." This is a common enough sentiment — even a cliche. Yet many observers (most recently the international lawyer John Whitbeck) have pointed out that this proposition, assiduously propagated by Israel's advocates and uncritically reiterated by American politicians and journalists, is — at best — utterly nonsensical.

First, the formal diplomatic language of "recognition" is traditionally used by one state with respect to another state. It is literally meaningless for a non-state to "recognize" a state. Moreover, in diplomacy, such recognition is supposed to be mutual. In order to earn its own recognition, Israel would have to simultaneously recognize the state of Palestine. This it steadfastly refuses to do (and for some reason, there are no high-minded newspaper editorials demanding that it do so).

Second, which Israel, precisely, are the Palestinians being asked to "recognize?" Israel has stubbornly refused to declare its own borders. So, territorially speaking, "Israel" is an open-ended concept. Are the Palestinians to recognize the Israel that ends at the lines proposed by the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan? Or the one that extends to the 1949 Armistice Line (the de facto border that resulted from the 1948 war)? Or does Israel include the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it has occupied in violation of international law for 40 years — and which maps in its school textbooks show as part of "Israel"?

For that matter, why should the Palestinians recognize an Israel that refuses to accept international law, submit to U.N. resolutions or readmit the Palestinians wrongfully expelled from their homes in 1948 and barred from returning ever since?

If none of these questions are easy to answer, why are such demands being made of the Palestinians? And why is nothing demanded of Israel in turn?

Orwell was right. It is much easier to recycle meaningless phrases than to ask — let alone to answer — difficult questions. But recycling these empty phrases serves a purpose. Endlessly repeating the mantra that the Palestinians don't recognize Israel helps paint Israel as an innocent victim, politely asking to be recognized but being rebuffed by its cruel enemies.

Actually, it asks even more. Israel wants the Palestinians, half of whom were driven from their homeland so that a Jewish state could be created in 1948, to recognize not merely that it exists (which is undeniable) but that it is "right" that it exists — that it was right for them to have been dispossessed of their homes, their property and their livelihoods so that a Jewish state could be created on their land. The Palestinians are not the world's first dispossessed people, but they are the first to be asked to legitimize what happened to them.

A just peace will require Israelis and Palestinians to reconcile and recognize each other's rights. It will not require that Palestinians give their moral seal of approval to the catastrophe that befell them. Meaningless at best, cynical and manipulative at worst, such a demand may suit Israel's purposes, but it does not serve The Times or its readers.

And yet The Times consistently adopts Israel's language and, hence, its point of view. For example, a recent article on Israel's Palestinian minority referred to that minority not as "Palestinian" but as generically "Arab," Israel's official term for a population whose full political and human rights it refuses to recognize. To fail to acknowledge the living Palestinian presence inside Israel (and its enduring continuity with the rest of the Palestinian people) is to elide the history at the heart of the conflict — and to deny the legitimacy of Palestinian claims and rights.

This is exactly what Israel wants. Indeed, its demand that its "right to exist" be recognized reflects its own anxiety, not about its existence but about its failure to successfully eliminate the Palestinians' presence inside their homeland — a failure for which verbal recognition would serve merely a palliative and therapeutic function.

In uncritically adopting Israel's own fraught terminology — a form of verbal erasure designed to extend the physical destruction of Palestine — The Times is taking sides.

If the paper wants its readers to understand the nature of this conflict, however, it should not go on acting as though only one side has a story to tell.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Ari Sandel's Amazing Twenty-Four Hours

Ari Sandel, director of the Oscar Award winning short film West Bank Story told the press after his victory, "I've just had the most amazing single twenty-four hours of my life. It's a dream come true." One may also see the elation of his family upon learning of his Oscar victory from their Malibu home on youtube.

As Sandel and his family celebrated West Bank Story's victory, the West Bank town of Nablus, with a population of over 100,000, was under curfew. According to the Union of Health Care Committees, "two houses were demolished in the Old City, another was set on fire at Al-Makhfyah Neighborhood, and more than 100 doors of 'commercial stores' were destroyed, not to mention the damage brought upon the entrance of every house on the pretext of searching for 'wanted people.'" Israeli soldiers beat medical workers and prevented them from reaching the old city. Houses were comandeered, twenty people were forced to stay in one room. A Nablus man was killed on his balcony and his son shot.

Also during the "most amazing twenty-four hours" of Sandel's life, a five year old girl, Ebtisam Al Tardh died of shock, brought about when Israel's occupation soldiers broke into her house in the middle of the night. Her father, despite his daughter's death and his heart disease, is in an Israeli prison, along with ten thousand other Palestinian political prisoners.

Another little slice of Palestinian life during Sandel's "amazing twenty-four hours" included the death of Yosra Ahmad Al Rajabi, aged 60. She attempted to keep soldiers from abducting a Palestinian youth. For her trouble she was "repeatedly clubbed" on her head "until she fell unconscious" and subsequently died.

Sandel, who belongs to AIPAC and Peace Now, says he has gone to great pains to "maintain balance and equality between the sides" in his send-up of West Side Story. His version has a Palestinian girl, played by the American actress of Indian background, Noureen DeWulf, whose family runs the Hummus Hut, fall in love with an Israeli soldier, whose people run an adjacent cafe called Kosher King.

The website for the movie asks "Can the couple's love withstand a 2000 year old conflict and their families' desire to control the future of the chic pea in the Middle East?" For one knowledgeable about Palestine, this mention of a 2000 year old conflict, in addition to the director's boast of balance regarding a situation which is agonizingly unbalanced, indicates that the short is little more than Zionist propaganda most likely to fool those Americans who are ignorant of the conflict.

Sandel speaks of the overwhelmingly positive response to his film and tells of initial criticism from some audience members at a Dubai screening but then boasts of a refugee from Gaza, who like a deus ex machina, rose amid the criticism to laud the film, thus in Sandel's view bestowing it with the Palestinian imprimitaur of approval.

It is hard to imagine any Palestinian with a modicum of self-respect regarding this film with anything other than revulsion. In one scene one of the members of the soldier's family states he will build a wall between the two cafes. An actor portraying a Palestinian jokes, "What, Jews and construction?" I'm sure that will play well in a Los Angeles comedy club, but Palestinians are most likely thinking, " Israeli Jews don't construct; they destruct." They destruct homes; they destruct lives; they destruct families, and they've been doing it for about one hundred years now. And at the time Sandel was picking up his award from the Academy, Israel's soldiers weren't romancing Palestinian girls, rather masquerading as Palestinians and shooting three Palestinian young men in Jenin, one of whom, clearly wounded and incapacitated, was then shot dead.

Sandel's "West Side Story," Annie Annab incisively notes, is "pathologically insane--not funny at all, egotistic and self-absorbed," in which "the Israeli killing machine is so deluded about itself it thinks Palestinian beauty and decency can not help but admire and fall in love with Israeli 'heroics' and 'sensitivy.,"

What Sandel has done according to Annab is "crown the economic crime called Israel and its land grabbing immigrant bigots as Kosher Kings and put shishkabobs through Arab heads (the Palestinians wear shishkabob hats in the film). . . skewer Palestinians and then make that particular insult waggle so that Palestinians look like asses with big floppy ears."

Akram Awad notes that Ari Sandel's movie portrays the conflict as one between Arabs and Jews. Not only is the conflict not two thousand years old, neither is it one between Arabs and Jews. The conflict is about ethnic cleansing and theft of Palestinian patrimony by immigrants. The conflict rages on, not because of Palestinian aversion to Jews, but because of Israel's refusal to abide by international laws. In Awad's review of the film he writes:

"Mr. Sandel, Muslims and Palestinian Christians do NOT have a problem with the Jews. When I take your bag the only justice is to return your bag to you, and you are the victim and I am guilty until I do so. If you really long for peace in the Middle East you need to be among those who seek the truth, unveil it and stand against the racist criminal ideology of Zionism and its advocates."

Palestinians clearly are irrelevant and Israelis really are Kosher Kings when a Palestinian girl is depicted as falling in love with an Israeli soldier. This would be anathema to any normal Palestinian girl. Akram Awad writes, "A Palestinian woman falling in love with a Zionist Israeli soldier; that's only in your dreams! No Palestinian woman will ever betray her people or cause and sell her honour and heart to someone whose duty is to kill her, her parents, brothers, sisters, children, neighbours, friends, classmates and colleagues."

There are no parallels between a Palestinian girl in the occupied West Bank and Maria of West Side Story. Tony's gang wasn't ethnically cleansing New York of Puerto Ricans, demolishing their homes, humiliating old men, beating up medical workers, clubbing old women, shooting kids in the head, uprooting olive trees, poisoning wells, and stealing land. If he were, we'd call Maria a collaborator, skank, and a whore for taking up with him.

In true Zionist fashion, Ari Sandel employs what Shakespeare calls "a jade's trick," which simply means to stop conversation. Young British and American Jews who make aliyah to Israel employ the "Jade's trick" frequently when they refuse to discuss Israel's right to exist or their right to be there. In similar fashion Sandel halts criticism of his movie: "This film is not meant to be a learning tool for the situation in the Middle East. It is not an historical explanation, or a political solution on screen. It is a movie about HOPE and PEACE and that is it."

Ari Sandel once stated that his film about "hope" and "peace" had Palestinians playing the Palestinians and Jews playing the Israelis. Then in another interview the "Palestinans" changed to Muslims and Arabs. Guess a New York girl with an Indian background with another girl doing the singing passes as a Palestinian in Hollywood. Hardly matters who plays the parts because Palestinians are irrelevant to the film's Zionized narrative. And the choice of this film by the Academy clearly shows that Palestinians are irrelevant in a Hollywood which has honored a garish film that presents ethnic cleansers and killers as singers and dancers. Perhaps Ari Sandel's next film will feature a young Jewish concentration camp inmate falling head over in love and kicking up her heels in a chorus line with her Nazi warden.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


The Thinking Bloggers

Thank you to Kate of Kate/A/Blog for giving Umkahlil a "Thinking Blogger Award."

The Thinking Blogger Award rules are:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

I will start first with Kate. When I first started blogging, I happened upon her blog and was very impressed by her insight and humor, which never fails to inspire "thoughtful laughter":

Ms. Clinton woos the rightwing fundies and Jewish votes with periodic pilgrimages. She recently slipped a note between the stones of Jerusalem's Western Wall - many Jews believe that pleas placed between the stones of the holy site are answered by God (Hillary's note said "Me 2008").
and more humor:

Every week for several weeks we read the same hyped headline that "Bush poll numbers plummet." We now use "plummet" in our household as synonymous for all fake drama or excitement, i.e. my electric bill was $1.37 less and straight faced I can say my electricity costs have plummeted this month.

The author of Annie's Letters has had a profound effect on the way that I view effective Palestinian resistance. An excerpt from one of her letters-to-the-editor:

Political Zionism has shown no compassion for real community and a true sense of home. The indigenous Palestinians have been ruthlessly and intentionally impoverished, dismissed, displaced, demonized, and destroyed in every way possible. Zionists want to own every conversation plus that prime spot of real estate in the Middle East, and they want to be admired and protected while they commit a terrible crime against humanity with America's help.

Bonsoir is another Palestinian resistance blog written by a young man wise beyond his years. An excerpt from his review of West Bank Story, a musical comedy that won an Oscar for best short film and which presents the conflict between a heavily armed occupier and its victims as "balanced," and in eighteen minutes shows a love story between an occupied Palestinian girl and a nice Israeli soldier:

Mr. Sandel [director], if you have a little bit of rationality you will admit that occupation soldiers are never nice and wise. Israeli soldiers who serve the Zionist apartheid regime in its plot to cleanse the Palestinians never care for those they are killing and wose lives they sabotage every day. Israeli soldiers do not raid Palestinian territories because they enjoy helping the Palestinians. The only fun an Israeli soldier has is when shooting or beating a Palestinian and watching him or her bleed till death.

Peace Palestine contains one of the most insightful essays I've seen on a blog, "On Being An Art Restorer--Palestine Solidarity Activist":

A painting is not only cleaned and retouched, often it is consolidated, given a new lining, a new stretcher is built. At times, its dimensions must be modified, and there are always surprises that come to the fore once it enters into the laboratory. Sometimes it is disinfested if there are damages from insects, and most of the time one is working more often with a scalpel and syringe in hand than with palette and brushes. At least 75% of the work involves things that aren’t visible to the eye, because they aren’t located on the painted surface.

The same can be said for activist work. The writing campaigns at all levels, from letters to representatives and editors, letters of solidarity to prisoners and academics under pressure, to writing articles, books, opinion pieces and research projects such as the beautiful Palestine Atlas by Salman Abu Sitta are all useful and important.

And finally, another thought provoking blog is Arab Woman Progressive Voice:

She poignantly describes her flight as a little girl from El-Bireh in June 1967 and return:

I remember seeing my uncle, the family's patriarch, weaping. This is a man who spent eight long years in Al Jafer, the desert Jordanian jail. I don't know if he ever wept in jail or under torture. But I remember him weeping in Burka. That's when I got scared. He and all the men were glued to the radio. I remember them standing on the open veranda looking towards Jerusalem. Pointing. To fires. Planes on the horizon. And weeping.Someone tells my mother that our house received a direct hit. She collapses. Two of my teenage cousins are so upset on her behalf that they decide to go back to El Bireh to see for themselves. They come back with the news: the house is still standing. My mother lives.

. . . But on the day of our return, I remember, or my mother told me, that she finds that the dough she had left behind and was planning on baking six days ago has risen and spelled out of the tajen. She kneeds a new batch.I remember the smell of the fresh baked bread. The first thing we eat under occupation.

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