Jul 20, 2014

Pain in Gaza

It is hard not to cry watching the unfolding horror in Gaza, children with heads blown off, pregnant woman with body torn by a shell, babies with missing limbs, targeting of playing children, targeting hospitals, targeting ambulances, and even a handicap center killing two handicap children.  Israeli forces then ratcheted up their attacks committing large scale massacres in places like Shujaia and Beit Hanoun. 80% of the victims are elderly, women and Children (over 110 children so far). Though mainstream western media self-sensors to comply with the Zionist lobby, the truth is coming out and the videos and pictures are horrific. Our friends in Gaza issue desperate calls to us. Israel cannot absolve itself by saying we asked people to evacuate (110,000 are homeless already). Forcing people out of their homes is a crime against humanity let alone bombing those who remain. But CNN and other western media run by Zionists interview colonizer leaders like Netanyahu who is a habitual liar and do not interview representatives of the victims or the resistance.

Gaza is very heavily populated thanks to the ethnic cleansing done to create the racist colonial state of Israel. Two thirds of the people are refugees denied their basic rights including right to return to their homes and lands. Israel tries to dehumanize its victims while blaming the few people who resist as “the problem.” Unfortunately as I stated repeatedly before, colonization and ethnic cleansing are the violence, and resistance is actually part of the remedy. I repeatedly explained that Zionism lost and Zionists will get very violent here before they finally give up privilege based on racist ideology. They refused to abide by basic human norms and insisted that through money and military might they could achieve their goal of a racist ethnocentric chauvinistic state. I always held the hope that the elites among them will be able to step back and avoid this suicidal path. If only they admit the folly of their ways, and ask their victims for forgiveness. I always thought it is possible and is the only way to peace here. I always feared though the Zionist strategy would lead to a lose lose scenario. In this case, they will lose more since there are some hundreds of millions of Arabs and only at best 2-3 million Zionists. Many Jews did see this folly and became anti-Zionist or post-Zionists. But Zionists were influential and powerful and intimidated and silenced millions including some Arabs and Muslims (look at our “leaders” like Abbas and Sisi). The Egyptian government even denied medical relief convoys from entering Gaza. Spoiled Zionists used to privilege on the expense of others are acting mad since they can't get their way to silence their victims. They decided to go all out and having failed to stop the resistance decided to take on civilians.

For those of us who have been through this many times, we feel there is something different this time suggesting that it maybe indeed the last Zionist tantrum. It is hard to imagine what else Netenyahu and his racist gang can try. They have tried to destroy Gaza and Lebanon before but in every round, the resistance only grows stronger. They even went into this bizarre idea that they can succeed to mobilize the world against Political Islam by training and funding killers through Arab regime puppets and sent them to kill people (christians, Shia, democrats, etc) to simply say “look they are horrible”. Instead of intimidating everyone, the obvious and now exposed game creates a backlash and awaken a lot of people to join the ever spreading wave of real resistance aimed at justice which is the only route to peace. Zionists are unleashing the only tool they have (their military) and whipping up even more frenzied racism among their people (e.g. Israelis cheering the slaughter in Gaza). Another sign of the endgame is the scurrying of western puppets around the world capitals to try and show their people that we are “doing something.” I think that explains Abbas in Cairo and Istanbul and his calling for a three day mourning period for the victims of last massacre while still working overtime to undermine resistance. Another massacre was committed and his police force prevented demonstrators in the West Bank and his spokesman tried to act as if Israel and Gaza are two children querreling and he is the grown-up. Our choice is certainly not between Western created Israel (and Arab puppets) and Western created fanatics beheading fellow Muslims and forcing Christians to flee for their lives! The steadfastness of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza is creating a ripple effect that could end this theater of the absurd for good. Maybe that is why both sides of Western creations are acting desperately (killing, butchering, and trying so hard to create fitna/division!). Maybe that is why we need not despair but instead focus on building some positive and credible movement for peace with justice. We need more actions for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). We need more demonstrations. We need more movement against quisling and weak “leaders”. We need to force mainstream media to stop their compliance. We need to ridicule and embarrass politicians who support racism and apartheid. We need to support the Palestinian people in their Sumud (resistance and resilience). But that is tomorrow.. today we need all to work to end the horrific slaughter of Gaza civilians by a fascist government. All of us need to turn off our computers and our TVs and go down to the streets (after we tell others to join us !)

 Mads with a patient in Gaza

Below is a letter from Dr. Mads Gilbert, a physician working in Gaza.

Dearest friends -

Last night was extreme. The "ground invasion" of Gaza resulted in scores and carloads with maimed, torn apart, bleeding, shivering, dying - all sorts of injured Palestinians, all ages, all civilians, all innocent.

The heroes in the ambulances and in all of Gaza's hospitals are working 12-24hrs shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman workloads (without payment all in Shifa for the last 4 months), they care, triage, try to understand the incomprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans. HUMANS!

Now, once more treated like animals by "the most moral army in the world" (sic!).
My respect for the wounded is endless, in their contained determination in the midst of pain, agony and shock; my admiration for the staff and volunteers is endless, my closeness to the Palestinian "sumud" gives me strength, although in glimpses I just want to scream, hold someone tight, cry, smell the skin and hair of the warm child, covered in blood, protect ourselves in an endless embrace - but we cannot afford that, nor can they.

Ashy grey faces - Oh NO! not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding, we still have lakes of blood on the floor in the ER, piles of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out - oh - the cleaners, everywhere, swiftly shovelling the blood and discarded tissues, hair, clothes,cannulas - the leftovers from death - all taken away...to be prepared again, to be repeated all over. More then 100 cases came to Shifa last 24 hrs. enough for a large well trained hospital with everything, but here - almost nothing: electricity, water, disposables, drugs, OR-tables, instruments, monitors - all rusted and as if taken from museums of yesterdays hospitals.But they do not complain, these heroes. They get on with it, like warriors, head on, enormous resolute.

And as I write these words to you, alone, on a bed, my tears flows, the warm but useless tears of pain and grief, of anger and fear. This is not happening!

An then, just now, the orchestra of the Israeli war-machine starts its gruesome symphony again, just now: salvos of artillery from the navy boats just down on the shores, the roaring F16, the sickening drones (Arabic 'Zennanis', the hummers), and the cluttering Apaches. So much made and paid in and by US.

Mr. Obama - do you have a heart?
I invite you - spend one night - just one night - with us in Shifa. Disguised as a cleaner, maybe.

I am convinced, 100%, it would change history.

Nobody with a heart AND power could ever walk away from a night in Shifa without being determined to end the slaughter of the Palestinian people.
But the heartless and merciless have done their calculations and planned another "dahyia" onslaught on Gaza.

The rivers of blood will keep running the coming night. I can hear they have tuned their instruments of death.

Please. Do what you can. This, THIS cannot continue.


Gaza, Occupied Palestine
Mads Gilbert MD PhD
Professor and Clinical Head
Clinic of Emergency Medicine
University Hospital of North Norway

Jun 23, 2014

Presbyterian divest

Bad news first then good news
In the past 10 days, Israeli occupation soldiers murdered 7 Palestinians (including a 13 year old child), injured dozens, kidnapped nearly 400, demolished many houses, destroyed contents and broken doors on hundreds of homes invaded in the middle of the night, blocked travel to hundreds of thousands, and continues to imprison thousands many on hunger strike for being held without charge for months. One of the people they kidnapped is also Samer Aleisawi who is famous for having the longest hunger strike in history as a political prisoner. He was released only after human rights activists and human rights organizations exerted significant pressure on Israel He was now kidnapped using the excuse of three missing colonial settlers (which maybe a false flag operation to detract from the suffering of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners). In those 10 days, Apartheid Israel received nearly 100 million dollars from US taxpayers unaware of what their congress is doing with their money. And to add insult to injury the colonial apartheid state was given a vice president position in a UN agency that is supposed to fight colonialism. To say all of this is Orwellian would be the understatement of the year.

In those ten days other US supported regimes cracked down. Egyptian kangaroo courts passed death sentences and long prison terms on hundreds of their political opponents (including even journalists just doing their job). US supported "Saudi" regime puppets executed hundreds in Iraq.

But there are signs of resistance every where. Israeli parliament member Haneen Zoabi (a decent Palestinian leader in 1948 occupied areas) was brave to say the truth others did not dare say: resistance to occupation is legitimate, collaboration with occupiers against native people is treacherous. Demonstrations were held in Ramallah against the Palestinian authority (even throwing stones at a PA police station). This after  the PA police blocked several demonstrations some of them by family members of the Palestinian youth imprisoned by Israel.  There was resistance to the invading Israeli army in dozens of villages. Al-Aqsa martyrs brigade issues a statement from Balata refugee camp finally openly accusing Mahmoud Abbas of treason. But Abbas sent his wife to an Israeli hospital to give the Israelis a good media opportunities to vilify the Palestinians and beautify the occupiers.  But the most significant news of all: The Presbyterian church general assembly voted to divest from three American companies that aid the Israeli occupation: Motorola, Hewlett Packard, and Caterpillar. I wrote on my facebook page after the vote:

"Despite all the Zionist racist tactics that tried to intimidate, pressure, bully and trick commissioners, there was still enough of them principled enough to stand that and vote for what is right. Thank you to the Presbyterian church.. Presbyterians light the way for the rest of humanity.. kudos to all including our activists at Al-Rowwad who sent the message on the wall, the thousands of peace activists who wrote and acted and spoke out. Special mention to Jewish Voice for Peace. You all rock. We love you from Bethlehem"

Now our job is to resist to end this charade. We ,must approach other churches and we must engage in massive rebellion against the repression. Freedom is not freely given and it takes effort. Time to act is now.

Note: thousands of activists worked very hard

Message from Jewish Voice for Peace

Presbyterian Church Israel/Palestine mission network

Presbyterian Church resolution as passed

The number of registered Palestinian refugees 5.4 million (plus many unregistered) http://www.imemc.org/article/68172

It is time to imagine a future without the "Palestinian authority"

Jun 15, 2014

Justice versus violence

The most blatant and obvious manifestation showing western hypocrisy about violence and human rights remains in Palestine as millions remain refugees and massive land and resource theft continues supported by Western Governments who hypocritically still speak of human rights and international law (elsewhere of course).  I warned repeatedly over the past 20 years that unless human rights and international law are observed uniformly, the “Middle East” (Western Asia) and the whole world would be at risk of continuing down the path of mayhem and killings (“might makes right”). I repeatedly explained that we must choose the different path of justice and coexistence. This is not a new revelation as many have previously warned of the same choices as observed by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King (we either live together as equal or perish together as fools), Desmond Tutu, Edward Said and many others.

In September 2011 at the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001, I wrote:
On this sad anniversary, there are a lot of “what if” scenarios being discussed and healthy reflections around the world.  For example, what if the US and Israel obeyed international law? What if we did not illegally invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan? What if Israel was forced to comply with UN resolutions on withdrawal from illegally occupied areas and forced to allow the ethnically-cleansed Palestinians to return to their homes and lands? In short what if we did not send the message that might makes right but rather that rights make things right? Would that not have been the most rational response to extremists whether they are wearing Turbans or wearing Kippas or wearing crosses?

The painful events happening throughout the area today (in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine etc.) are just a reminder of these missed opportunities. Some over the years knew the dangers we faced if we stayed down that path (e.g. see letter from George Salzman in 2008  http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/s/2008-12-15.htm

Today, we see mayhem in Iraq and Syria as militias funded by US proxies fight to create an Islamist state in the same way the US funded the Taliban. Today we suffer collective punishment to millions of Palestinians (already living under apartheid laws) because three army-enlisted Israeli colonial settlers went missing. Israel punished the whole population including blaming the Palestinian authority even though the settlers are in the area of the West Bank that has no Palestinian authority presence. Gaza was sealed further, over 120 Palestinians were kidnapped in the past 24 hours, and we Palestinians in the West Bank are prevented from freedom of movement. Those under 50 are denied the right to even leave the country. If these brain-washed settlers living on stolen Palestinian land were taken by Palestinian resistance, this could be in  response to the starving Palestinians in Israeli jails.  5000 kidnapped Palestinians are held in Israeli jails including hundreds of children. Many of those are held for months without trial (called “administrative detention” but is a war crime per international law), Many are on a hunger strike for the past 50 days. Some are near death. The US administration  calls for the release of three Israelis who are illegally squatting on our land but has not called for the release of thousands of Palestinian civilians held in inhumane conditions in Israeli jails.

International law is very clear on the rights of people under occupation including the right to resist. Most of our resistance was by hundreds of forms of non-armed resistance. See my book “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of hope and empowerment”. Oslo was meant and succeeded in creating a local (subcontracted) “security force” to make this the most profitable occupation in history (at no cost to the occupying power).  But this would not work. It did not work before:  the Vichy regime in occupied France and Buthalesi regime in Apartheid South Africa. What will work is a known path untried since Zionism was founded and created mayhem throughout the Arab world.

Solutions are in our hands and they can only involve justice and coexistence. This certainly must not involve continuing the path of “might makes right”. It is time to think and act on rights as the path to our collective salvation. Tribalism, factionalism, sectarianism, Zionism must be ended and we must pursue humanism. There cannot be winners and losers only all losers or all winners. Let us all be winners by acting for peace and justice.

In my book “Sharing the Land of Canaan” published 10 years ago, I implored people to shed the notion that violence solves their problems. It only creates more violence. I ended the chapter on Violence and Terrorism by quoting Howard Zinn:

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic.  It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, (and) kindness.  What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.  If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.  If we remember those times and places - and there are so many - where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.  And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand Utopian future.  The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

Mar 2, 2014

Crimean war

                                                    The Siege of Sevastopol 1855

It is sometimes instructive to learn a bit of history to reflect on current events because if we do not learn from history, we are bound to repeat the tragic history of useless wars.  This came to me as I read about the escalating situation in Ukraine, where the US and western countries invested heavily to dislodge the Ukraine (strategically located on the Black Sea) from Russian influence.  The coup that toppled the elected government in the capital and Russia’s strong influence in the mostly Russian Speaking Crimean peninsula of the Ukraine threatens to ignite another Crimean war (1854 prelude to many more European wars). 

The Crimean war 1854-1856 was a devastating and useless conflict that was started with a with an incident here in Palestine (then under Ottoman Rule). The British were in the midst of an industrial economic boom (at least for the elites, the workers were essentially enslaved). To fuel this industrial boom, Britain (and to a lesser degree France) were aiming to expand their empires.  The weak Ottoman empire seemed a target. Russia’s influence on the religious Holy Places was high. This was understandable considering that most Palestinian Christians at the time and even still today are Orthodox (especially around the holy sites of Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem). Russian intellectuals have gone through a period of Westernization before the 1850s then grew disillusioned with the west and its hypocrisy.  Those who considered themselves Patriotic Russians thus became increasingly oriented towards Czar Nicholas and the Orthodox Church and increasingly opposed to the Western Encroachments on the borders of Russia.  When France instigated a provocation by Catholic supporters challenging Orthodox long standing traditions at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, a fury of high level diplomatic lobbying ensued with threats and counter threats that escalated to the Crimean war.  Alyce Mange wrote that ‘The Crimean War (1854-1856) was a war fought ostensibly for the preservation of the Ottoman Empire but actually for the curtailment of Russian encroachment’!

The war was costly to all sides concerned even though the Russian empire lost to the alliance of the three empires (Britain, France, Ottomans).  But the origin of the problem remained here in Palestine where competing Russian, British, and French interests remained until the first draft of the Sykes-Picot agreement (which divided their influences).  Russia withdrew and so it remained for Britain and France to divide the spoils of WWI in the “Near East/Middle East” (I prefer the term Western Asia to these colonial terms).  In parallel, there was the growth of the world Zionist movement that got from France and Britain the infamous Jules Cambon and Arthur Balfour Declarations (1917) partially as quid pro quo for the Zionists lobbying the US to enter the war.

Fast forward from 1854 to 2014 and we see again beating of war drums for hegemony with triggers in Palestine. The circumstances differ but this could also degenerate into yet another useless devastating war (except some people do profit from wars). The Zionist movement was unhappy about the lack of progress in their efforts  to destroy the Iran-Syria-Lebanon axis using others as canon fodder. A big part of their failure to get more conflicts (as they did with Iraq) is due to the fact that Russia (and China) refuse to go along and realized that the end-game is total Western hegemony in Western Asia (with Israel assuming even more power over Western foreign policies). The Russians and Chinese also took lessons from the disastrous US attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan and NATO attacks on Libya which had terrible consequences (including spreading radicalism and terrorism around the area). The calculated they must draw a line. The Zionist movement became involved as they do frequently because their key members are in the US State Department and also heavily influential in France and Britain.

They thought that we must break Russia’s will to resist encroachment in Western Asia. Ukraine seemed like an ideal “soft belly” for Russia. It seems possible that such reports as this one on Israelis involved in the protests in Kiev (http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/02/16/350986/israel-exofficer-leads-ukraine-unrest/) may have some basis. However, most Israeli meddling is not done via Israelis but via their now obedient people working for the US government. Also in this case, the  Russian government has been very friendly to the Jewish establishment. But Zionists preferv conflicts that help arm sales (laboratory tested on Palestinians). It is not a coincidence that problems are fueled in various parts of teh world especially in countries taht are not 100% in line (e.g. Ukraine and Venezuela). I do not know what will happen, but suggest that all wars are useless and counterproductive (to all ides); the history of the 1854 Crimean war should give us pause. And we shoudl not allow wars by proxy (as in Iraq) or direct (e.g. Israel last two attacks on nearby areas of Lebanon and occupied Gaza). Enough suffering.

What I suggest is that the talk about democracy by Western leaders like Kerry, Obama, Hollande and company is wearing thin. European public identifies Israel and the US as the two most dangerous countries on earth. Most people recognize hypocrisy. Most people know that democracy is not achieved by Coups against elected governments (whether in Egypt or Ukraine) and certainly not done on behalf of countries who support dictatorships everywhere that are friendly to their interests (see Saudi Arabia as a glaring example). For the good people of Ukraine (both in the East and the West), do not let your country be used for power politics again.  But also I suggest that they remember who their neighbors for the next few hundred years will be (hint it is not Israel or the US or England). But even those countries will not remain immune from destabilization and change if they do not learn to share this planet earth and respect other people.  Remember might does not make right and even great empires fell before. This brings me back to the point I always emphasize: READ HISTORY (objectively and not tribally).

(See Andrei P. Tsygankov Russia and the West from Alexander to Putin: Honor in International Relations)

Feb 19, 2014

Another world is possible

A visit to the Galilee just emphasized to me that we are on the right track to one democratic state where we live together in equality, peace, and harmony.  Another world is coming.  As you will see below, there is no difference in colonial settlement activity inside 1948 or 1967 occupied areas but that is all temporary phenomenon. Since my trip was focused on environmental issues and science (biodiversity), I was more concerned about time passage that makes the environmental destruction in the Galilee irreversible.  

Haifa was the first planned Palestinian city built in 1761 by Daher Al-Omar (Zedani) who is credited by many as the first Palestinian ruler who managed to develop an independent modern government inclusive of all religions that covered much of what is now northern Palestine (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daher_el-Omar).  Most of the citizens of Haifa were removed in 1948 and the 3000 remaining were squeezed into Halsa and Wadi Nisnas against their will (now they number some 35,000 due to natural increase).  Today the highest Israeli court in the north is built on top of ruined buildings but also overlooks abandoned Arab homes and businesses.  It must be some sight from the windows of that glittery building looking down on to what is left of Arab Haifa.  The historic train station built in 1905 to take pilgrims to Macca through Jordan is slated for demolition.  Next to Al-Istiqlal mosque, there is a monument with a faded inscription: "Faisal (emir Faisal who dreamt of Arab Unity) said that no freedom is given but it is to be taken by struggle.."  More on Haifa http://www.palestineremembered.com/Haifa/Haifa/index.html

While I was in the north, a three story building in Akka collapsed killing 5 Palestinians including one child. There are various stories about the causes but it is clear that Israeli authorities prevent the remaining Palestinians from repairing or rebuilding their houses in the old city in an attempt to further impoverish them.  We cried for the victims but we were also impressed by the generous and resilient spirit of those remaining family members.

Sakhnin is 30,000 people reduced to use of only 9,700 dunums.  The 16,000 colonial settlers of Misgav which took the land of Sakhnin and other nearby Palestinian villages in the Galilee control 183,000 dunums (population access to land of 39 fold more given to new settlers from the land of the natives). The settlement of Karmiel is billed as a model of tolerance even though it was built to increase Jewish presence in the Galilee because Israel is not happy with natives who remain in a “Jewish state.” When we visited, we noted Bedouins who are going to be kicked out of the land now allocated to “Karmiel” even though those Palestinians have lived there since before the Zionist state was established.

The house we stayed in has a demolition order just like tens of thousands of houses throughout historic Palestine built on private Palestinian land that Israel covets and does not allow building on.  Palestinians in historic Palestine are now 6 million people living on 8.3% of our historic lands (these are also in disjointed enclaves in the Galilee, the Triangle, the WB, Naqab, and Gaza) while 91.7% of historic Palestine is off-limits to us and dedicated for the use of the 6 million Jewish Israelis (most of them immigrants from other countries).  Why not justice and equality where we all prosper together?

But let me move to environment.  If you want more on politics you can see my report and video from my 2010 trip to the Galilee here

This time I was studying biodiversity and the preliminary scientific observations I made were extremely worrying.  The Jewish National Fund recruited hundreds of millions of dollars from Jews around the world in the 1950's and 1960's to “plant trees in Eretz Yisrael.”  This was simply an attempt to hide the destroyed Palestinian villages via large scale planting of pine trees.  Even Israeli environmentalists recognized this as an environmental catastrophe.  The pine forests that now cover much of the Galilee destroyed the natural plant cover (primary oak and scrub forests and green fertile valleys) used for thousands of years by native Palestinians as rangeland as well as agricultural lands.  Conifer trees do not allow much to grow under or around them since their needles increase soil acidity and impoverish the soil.  So even species of snails I noted in the Galilee were so much fewer than I expected.  There are no good scientific studies to predict if such damage can be reversed when done on such a large scale.  There are pockets of natural habitats still existing and they could be used to reclaim the artificially forested areas.  But time is not on our side in this situation.  The problem is compounded with Israel building massive infrastructure like expanding roads, drying up more springs (to control the water and prevent Palestinian access), schemes like the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal and more to destroy this ancient land.

For a detail history of what transpired and continues to transpire in the Galilee and the rest of Palestine in terms of populations, see Ilan Pappe’s book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.”  If you are interested in environmental issues, write to me and I will send you material.  Politicians on all sides do not address these issues. 

But we have positive signs all around us: 1) more and more Israelis are joining the struggle for environmental and political justice, 2) more and more global civil societies are adopting the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions movement, 3) the Palestinian generation of Oslo is passing on and a new generation is coming up that is taking matters into their own hands.  Examples are many: from the bus freedom riders to successful challenge to the Prawer-Begin plan designed to finish ethnically cleansing the Naqab (Negev) to Kufr Qaddoum to Majd el Krooum to Sakhnin.  An example of resistance in the footsteps of Land Day of 1976 is the return to the two villages of Iqrit and Biram.  These were Christian villages which were ethnically cleansed and the houses destroyed leaving only the village churches.  This did not happen in war but by a process long after the ceasefire lines were declared in the relentless effort to “Judaicize” the Galilee.

We were gratified to visit some young people from Iqrit and Biram who returned to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.  Even Zionist leaders like Moshe Arens struggle to twist things to explain Israeli policy with respect to these two villages (see http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.545977).  While we were in Iqrit, a group of elderly Jews from Tel Aviv showed up with a guide.  They were “left Zionists” who get a distorted but still better version of history than that taught at Israeli schools and universities).  I saw the puzzled looks on their faces and lack of answers to basic questions that came as a challenge from the Palestinians around who technically hold Israeli citizenship but who are treated as unwanted non-citizens.  These 1.6 million represent 25% of population inside the Green Line.  They were everywhere we looked:  from the bus station in Jerusalem to the University in Haifa to the gas-station attendant at the road to “Karmiel.”  I wondered why I could see and interact with them everywhere as a visitor but most of those Jews who walk pass them daily either ignore them or do not know they exist (many “Palestinian-Israelis” speak Hebrew more fluently and without an accent).  Why couldn’t we all intermarry, live in one country without discrimination, with justice and human rights to all?  We saw a glimpse of that future in a demonstration of 150+ people of all faiths including many youths in front of Haifa municipality.  They were objecting to the deputy mayor who called the sound of the Muslim call to prayer as “squealing like the sound of a pig!”  We saw it in a young and kind Jewish waitress working in a Palestinian owned restaurant in Haifa.  We saw this future.  As Arundhati Roy said: "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing."

For tours in the Galilee including Palestinian villages present or ethnically cleansed, I recommend Galilee Today Alternative Tours www.galileetoday.com (galileetoday on facebook).

Note: Israeli policies forbid people like me to visit the Galilee even though my grandmother is from Nazareth and it is still our country; these restrictions apply to me and millions of Palestinians similar to the restrictions on blacks under apartheid in South Africa.

Haifa video from a refugee

Jan 27, 2014


The distance from Amman to my house in Beit Sahour is 45 miles (72 kilometers).   In normal situations, that should take 1-1.5 hours.  Sunday it took me some 13 hours (i.e. Ten times more) and I arrived at my home at 3 AM.  I won’t bore you with details of misery and can just summarize the main reason: occupation.  The illegal military occupation and colonization of the West Bank by Israeli forces has now been in place for almost 47 years, one of the longest in history.  I see the worst of people and the best of people daily.  I spent five days in Jordan working on biodiversity issues with my friend Prof. Zuhair Amr. He and his family always treat me so nice and their hospitality is unmatched.  But most important for me was getting to learn so many new things.  We even got to the Jordan river under the watchful eye and with permission from the Jordanian military and collected some freshwater snails there (pictures were not allowed).  This is highly unusual for a  Palestinian (or a Jordanian) since Jordanian military ensure a buffer zone with no one to get near the water border for the shared parts of the Jordan river with the Israeli-Occupied West Bank.  Of course from this side, Israeli occupation prevents Palestinians from getting anywhere near the river while Israeli settlers and soldiers are free to move around as they wish.

Prof. Zuhair in his lab

Snail from the Jordan river basin

Jordan, a constitutional monarchy where I did my bachelor degree, is still a fascinating, beautiful and diverse place. Home to 3.5 million Palestinian refugees, some 600,000 Syrian refugees, and almost one million Iraqis and Egyptians.  The original Jordanians thus constitute the ruling minority in a place  surrounded by problems.  But the country miraculously managed to navigate through the instability affecting nearby countries and even profit from such instability (getting significant subsidies from Western Countries and gulf states).  It is the only venue out for Palestinians from the West Bank into the rest of the world.  Our economies and people are intertwined and not just because millions of Palestinians hold Jordanian citizenship. Palestine to the West of Jordan is under a brutal colonial occupation with Palestinian leadership and people in between uprisings and thus in a state of maximum weakness. Syria to the North used to be even more self-sufficient than Jordan but has now descended into mayhem.  Egypt to the southwest likewise is suffering significantly with a military run country that could not and would not figure a peaceful way to deal with the “problematic” Muslim Brotherhood so they decided to fight them and even designate them a terrorist organization. The Palestinian authority President Abbas openly sided with the military rulers (contradicting long standing Fatah policies of non-interference in Arab affairs). Saudi Arabia to the south is Western supported absolute monarchy (not like Jordan which has a parliament) and has its own issues. Iraq to the East is.. well you know from the news what happened after the US invasion (one million dead and more dying daily).  These difficulties hopefully will not come to Jordan and Jordan will continue to develop peacefully in this midst.  What is most shameful is that Syrian refugees were allowed into all neighboring countries except one: “Israel”.  Israeli authorities are also persecuting the few hundred African refugees that came.  Imagine if the Israeli government had at least allowed the Palestinian refugees who fled their Syrian refugee camps (nearly 400,000 of them) to come back to their homes and lands in the Galilee.  Imagine how much this would have helped change political dynamics.
Photo from RSCN website http://www.rscn.org.jo/

I do not want to paint too rosy a picture of Jordan even though much has already been accomplished (for me the work of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature is a brilliant example as is the levels of healthcare and education).  And certainly it is not up to me.  Most Jordanians (unlike most Israelis) recognize there is a lot of work to be done on their own government. While waiting for hours on the bus from Jordan as it was held up with over 15 buses at the bridge to the Israeli border controls, we watched shows including a Jordanian satirical political show that mocks the government and the ministers.  I think more shows like that should be encouraged. A similar show in Palestinian TV that mocked our authority was closed by the PA thought police (shamefully). A similar show in Egypt (“Albarnamej”) was also shuttered more than once.  But we also should not put all blame on governments.  Large part of the blame is on us.  I was dismayed for example to see how some Palestinians cut through lines even in front of old ladies or toss their garbage out of a moving vehicle or do not show sympathy for suffering civilians (e.g. in Gaza, in Yarmouk Refugee camp, in Syrian Hama area).  It is these attitudes that need to change.  While intellectually I can understand that decades of colonization and dehumanization can “rub-off” on our souls, we must teach our children to respect each other and the environment.  This is a concept that I hope we will do with starting to build educational museums (we are working on one in the Bethlehem area now).

There is so much that each of us individually can do to help. For example on the issue of Palestine, see http://qumsiyeh.org/whatyoucando/
This week in Palestine highlights innovation in the latest issue

In other good news, the virulent Zionist attack against the American studies association and other organizations and churches seen to be back-firing and there is a constant growth of these movement.  Every day brings us good news.  For example, according to Haaretz: “ABP, a Dutch pension fund considered the world's third largest, Nordea Investment Management, a Scandinavian firm, and DNB Asset Management, a Norwegian company, want more information about the Israeli banks' involvement in Israeli settlements.  The three European firms combined manage nearly 500 billion euros' worth of assets.  The review by the three pension funds comes about two weeks after PGGM, the largest Dutch pension fund, divested from Israel’s five largest banks because they have branches in the West Bank and/or are involved in financing construction in the settlements.”
The Palestinian Capitalists That Have Gone Too Far: While most Palestinians living under Israeli occupation are struggling to survive, a powerful group of Palestinian capitalists is thriving and growing in political, economic and social influence.

Jan 14, 2014

Palestinian rights

                                            Dancing with 92 year old Umm Atallah

We are in a new year and certainly I wish all humans (friends and foes) a happy new year that would bring justice which is the prerequisite for peace. In the first few field-trips in 2014, we saw beautiful budding lilies, many species of snails and insects, and birds and others signs of renewed life after the snow in Palestine.  Our water wells are full and Spring is coming. Life renews itself.  We remember fallen comrades but we look to the future with hope. I spoke to several groups of young students from around the world last two weeks and they also give us hope.The young and old Palestinians I interact with daily also give us hope. In a party, I talked to the oldest Qumsiyeh alive, a 92 year old woman who is phenomenal in her inspiration (picture above).

We must learn to appreciate and thank people more while they are alive.  I felt sad at hearing the news of the passing of Dr. Lamia Haddad Khairallah.  She was a great activist who loved Palestine (where she is from), Lebanon (where she grew up) and the US (her adopted home where I met her first in 1979 and she and her late husband sort of adopted me). Services will be January 24 at 2 PM, Storrs Congregational Church, 2 North Eagleville Rd., Storrs, Connecticut. We will miss her dearly. I wish I could be there.

New facebook page to like, join, and disseminate to protect Palestinian rights  “The original PLO charter called for right of return and self-determination. These remain the quintessential demands of the majority of Palestinians. We reject the planned structures to liquidate the Palestinian cause. International law states that all agreements that abrogate basic rights like the rights of refugees are null and void (even if signed by some “leaders”) . We believe and will join forces to achieve these goals including via Sumud (resilience) on our land, popular resistance, and the spread of boycotts, divestments and sanction against the Israeli apartheid system. Palestine (from the river to the sea) is our homeland and our priority. We will work to make it a country of all its citizens with all the returning refugees regardless of religious beliefs.”

Prof. Qumsiyeh: Conditions for the next uprising are there

Professor Qumsiyeh on the American Studies Association and the growth of the Academic boycott http://qumsiyeh.org/americanstudiesassociation