Jan 30, 2016

Advise to Palestinians

I posed the question to readers a while ago as we moved from 2015 to 2016: "What would YOU advise Palestinian to do? I am genuinely curious as to how many of my readers have constructive advice based on what they know of geostrategic structures, capabilities etc." I received dozens of answers including some really very insightful commentary. Every Palestinian should read at least these 26 sample responses [now over 60] from smart activists: 

"I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free and wanted other people to be also free... I will always work for human rights for all people.” ― Rosa Parks
Let this quote be your guidepost and maybe the truth will set you free.
in a nutshell - Oslo is a Zombie. i.e. it is long dead but still walking. so, the obvious thing to do is simply to bury it. Close down the masrahiyeh. Bold steps are needed. The very best, in my view, would be to close down the Sulta once and for all. The only option that, I believe, threatens Israel's delicately balanced "stability and normality" of the occupation. It is a bold and stark step back in some ways, so Palestinian leadership would need to open up a true discussion and get consent from the people for this step. No more acting on behalf..If less dramatic steps would turn out to represent what an informed Palestinian public truly wishes, then aim for less. But surely no more "extend & pretend" (Varoufakis) that currently we would still be walking down a path towards "statehood" (sovereignty, let alone freedom or justice)
The leadership seems inclined not to ask and not to discuss and not to change course. So, then - just like everywhere else in the world - it becomes the people's obligation to form a will and impose it on the leadership......an organized campaign for this tricky task to from a will, certainly requires not only mass participation but also (new or revived) organisations..
I believe that while Israel holds the (earthly) power, Palestinians hold the key (pun intentional). Israel has taken the position that it is interested only in solving (or "managing") the situation so as to serve its own people's interests. This is so entrenched and understood that no one even mentions or considers it, but it leaves Israel tremendously vulnerable. "Interbeing" is the reality of our existence, period. We are all one. That the stronger regime refuses to acknowledge it, does not make it be not so. I believe that to counter that, Palestinians might (could, should, must?) take the position that they are interested in solving the situation so as to serve the interests of all concerned -- not least because that is by far the surest way of serving your (their) own interests.
To date there has been some writing published in this vein: While we get free, we'll free you of your guilt/shame/burden/shadow etc. But I think a lot more can be done in this direction. From the soil of Palestinian suffering and sumud can come the flowering of a new way of co-resolving our situation. It has to start somewhere. Why not in Bethlehem? (Good vibes...)
Surely to change the narrative, to have many Palestinians to dedicate efforts to that aim toward both the west and the arab countries (and this last is a full other chapter, of which I know too little to dare to say much more than ..I believe there is tearing inside, a great pain and questioning, and at the same time anger for those that are muslims and a great difficulty also for all minorities in beliefs. But there is also an incredible social tension around corruption justice and freedom, and because of the extreme poverty of the majority in some countries, first of all egypt, there is also a request for social improvements if not yet justice.
I firmly believe that the answers to overcome the conflict have to come from the inside of the Palestinian society (meaning Gaza, West Bank, '48, refugees...), an agreement on the strategy to follow in order to prepare a better future for the Palestinians, but including a broad consensus on what Palestinians want. What I would advise to the Palestinian leaders is to try to get leverage on Israel and US through the BDS campaign to change the conflict. I think that the global solidarity movement with Palestine keeps growing and it could turn the BDS campaign in a powerful tool to transform the conflict. So the Palestinian leaders should be closer to the campaign and coordinate their actions with the campaign. It this way, Palestinians would benefit from the advances of the campaign in form of political power in front of Israel.
I have long despaired of the way the Palestinian leadership fails to use the media in terms of presenting in a professional way the issues facing Palestine to those of us in the West. There must be western educated Palestinians who could do this and challenge the slick media trained people the Israeli government is able to use. So my first suggestion is to recruit suitable people to carry out this task. Secondly I suggest that using such people, the leadership should issue a plea to the international community for protection of Palestinians, particularly those living in Area C. This protection could be in the form of a UN/EU sponsored multi-national civil force which would be tasked with the protection of civilians in Area C and, with a development fund provided by international donors, help Palestinians to reverse the damage done by Israeli policies and enable economic development. The plea could perhaps begin with this: “ Area C and the Future of the Palestinian Economy”, a report published by the World Bank in 2013, has shown that more than half the land in the West Bank, much of it agricultural and resource rich, is inaccessible to Palestinians. The result, according to the Bank, is a disastrous loss to the Palestinian economy of about US$3.4 billion. It goes on to say that if businesses and farms were permitted to develop in Area C, this would add as much as 35 percent to the Palestinian GDP. Development would in the long term reduce dependency on foreign aid. It could continue with a clear explanation of how Israeli policies have affected Area C.
If, and I know this is a big IF, everyone who feels the way we do would write to newspapers, legislators, church leaders and keep on writing, often and loudly, perhaps we could finally generate enough noise to wake folks up to the point that their very own tax dollars are in part responsible for the outrage. It seems like such a small thing to do, but as little people in a community, we need to combine our little voices to become one big one. Some churches are quite active, but church membership these days seems to be waning sadly. I hope that someone comes up with a great idea for better ways than this to get the word out and creaet the changes that are necessary. I'll be reading every word you print, hoping for a breakthrough.
I believe that it might be useful to hold a referendum of Palestinian opinion concerning the single-state/two-state alternatives and proceed from there. With a Palestinian state acceptable to Israel, it is certain that the Palestinian people would be allowed no sovereignty over their airspace or coastal waters nor would they be permitted any defence capability. Likewise, control of precious water and other resources would be much more in the hands of the more powerful Zionist state than could ever be exercised by what would inevitably be a vassal state of Palestine. In 1947/1948 Palestine was already too small to partition and today further division of the decimated non-contiguous and pathetically tiny remnant is unconscionable. There are Israelis who advocate a single-state solution, probably one of the best known of them is, of course, Miko Peled. There needs to be a worldwide single-state movement developed along the lines of BDS and, it is to be hoped, operating in parallel with it. But that's just my opinion!
I greatly respect the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa, which has been copied in several other countries. It's not perfect, although there's no perfect means of dealing with fascism, genocide, etc. ……With Israel and Palestine, some one is going to have to be the last victim, unavenged, if there's ever going to be peace……Of course, an effective Truth and Reconciliation process would need more than apologies and admissions, the living conditions and structural arrangements would have to change. Merely saying "sorry" while continuing occupation is not tenable. In the long run, the occupation is dependent on concentrated fossil fuels, as the oil declines so will the ability of high tech militaries to function.
We can and must imagine a different future where Israelis and Palestinians work together to produce a unique experiment in democracy in the region. Here again I fully concur with Ian Lustick who says: “ In such a radically new environment, secular Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank could ally with Tel Aviv’s post-Zionists, non-Jewish speaking Russian-speaking immigrants, foreign workers and global-village Israeli entrepreneurs. Anti-nationalist ultra-Orthodox Jews might find common cause with Muslim traditionalists. Untethered to statist Zionism in a rapidly changing Middle East, Israelis whose families come from Arab countries might find new reasons to think of themselves not as “Eastern,” but as Arab. Masses of downtrodden and exploited Muslim and Arab refugees, in Gaza, the West Bank and in Israel itself could see democracy, not Islam, as the solution for translating what they have (numbers) into what they want (rights and resources). Israeli Jews committed above all to settling throughout the Greater Land of Israel may find arrangements based on a confederation, or a regional formula more attractive than narrow Israeli nationalism.”……
Palestinians must demand their freedom themselves. BDS is improving the understanding and acceptance of the Palestinian position in European states, and even in the United States. But BDS is not enough because it is something done by Europeans and Americans. BDS is not a Palestinian activity. BDS will not be enough. Palestinians must demand their freedom with continuous, massive, non-violent protests. Israel will violently attempt to suppress these demonstrations. But the Palestinians must keep coming. Imagine if 100,000 Palestinians marched from Ramallah to the Qualendia crossing on Friday morning and demanded to go to the Al-Aqsa mosque to pray
….In the Year 2027 Israel will be a state of Zealots, and all Secular Jews will be mainly in Central Germany (3rd Israel). I can guest, the end of "The Glorious Israel" in the Kingdoms of David and Solomon! Until now Israel had succeeded in beating us because we were unarmed and weak. …..Now they have realized that we can hit back hard, and the fun of the game is over! Conclusion: all what you have mentioned is the reality, but I add : The "Homo sapiens" is the biggest blunder the Evolution had ever made! Our wonderful planet would have been much better-off if the Evolution would have stopped by the Chimpanzee, Gorilla and Orang-utan! I do still believe that Palestine will be ours, sooner or later - perhaps not in my life time!...............
Rudyard Kipling’s first 4 verses
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools

Restiamo humani!
I believe that a Third World War has already began - a war against the people constituting a crime against humanity. We may not be dying in the UK , as people are in Palestine, Syria, Eastern Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan. Kurdistan, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia....., the list goes on, but as we see our freedoms eroded and our government representing, not us, but an entitled elite which encompasses a Zionist/ fascist ideology, I fear for our future.., I fear for the future of our children and grandchildren. Mazin, you are most definitely on the front line, but you are not alone. All of humanity is being threatened. Our strength comes from our numbers and from the rightness of our cause. I once heard a refugee say that we needed to create a global chain, then rattle it so that the din we create is so loud that those at the top of the pyramid will shake with fear. Maybe the vibration of our angst will shake them from their perch so that they tumble down and join us in our humanity.
What I would advise the Palestinian leadership to do is to assemble the best legal team and move in a determined fashion (no backsliding under pressure) to put the settlement issue before the ICC. I read that they now say they will consider doing this - but there can be no backing down! Unlike Israel's aggression against Gaza - where the court can say that it cannot get involved because Israel is conducting its own investigations - it is difficult to see how the ICC can fail to rule that the settlements are
illegal under international law. This would put a major spoke in Israel's wheels and could thwart its most frenzied efforts in the hasbara department. If not now, when?
Palestinians should [take away fear of violence from Israelis and ] make it clear that they are not all Muslims and that Zionism is in process of destroying what is left of Middle Eastern Christianity. They should never cease to remind the world that the Jewish and Christian communities survived and thrived through more than 13 centuries of Muslim rule and that the greatest danger they faced was from the Crusades.
Palestine should first get sufficient strength, before engaging with Israel, otherwise there is no use of getting killed many people. Your museum project is nice, educate the people through it.
I can only say or suggest what might affect us to better help you to work out your own solution. But I know that right will win in the end whichever way it turns out - one state or two. Restiamo humani and hope springs eternal. I send this brief paragraph to you in all humility and with our continuing prayers for peace and reconciliation between all faiths and creeds. I read this little excerpt today that I thought you would appreciate. It is a short thought provoking quotation from an Red Indian chief called John (Fire) Lame Deer Sioux Lakota: “Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn’t have any kind of prison. Because of this, we had no delinquents. Without a prison, there can be no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys and therefore, among us there were no thieves. When someone was so poor that he couldn’t afford a horse, a tent, or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift. We were too uncivilized to give great importance to civilized property. We didn’t know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth. We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another. We were really in bad shape before the white men arrived and I don’t know how to explain how we were able to manage these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society.” which all goes to show that all that glitters is not gold or put it another way that money and materialism doth not make the man.
I am surprised at your optimism about PA figures wanting to do something new, at least I think that is what you are saying. I would be very cynical about that. Maybe you were saying rank and file Palestinian leaders like you. What is required to build a mass movement is to break the law, which I doubt anyone in authority, even PA "authority"' is prepared to do. No doubt very many Palestinians and some Israelis are ready to do something, but it must be under leadership that is not tied to the politicians and capitalists who are currently in charge. I liked your suggestion of mass uprisings against the wall as one tactic, or check points, and some Israelis would join. Bet the folks in Budrus would too. If it is like here, the reason things changed in Ferguson was because the young people refused to listen to the misleaders like Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or the local clergy who told them to be peaceful and rely on the courts or voting. Once they began and continued a mass militant movement it sparked the frustrations everywhere. Now the task is to maintain the movement without it getting sucked back into the system, which will probably not succeed at this time except with small groups. So that's the task as I see it, build militancy while ingraining the goal of an anti-racist, non-capitalist society. A long, arduous, but necessary task. Anxious to hear how you do.
I recommend focusing on one and only one message to all audiences, that all people (Jewish or Israeli or German or American or French, etc, depending on who you are talking to) are good people who agree that-- while Jews have suffered from persecution throughout history-- it would be wrong to expel peaceful non-Jewish families from their homes to create a state run by and for Jewish people. It is wrong to mistreat anyone, whether Jewish or not Jewish; that was the lesson of the Holocaust. All Palestinians refugee men, women and children must be allowed-- encouraged-- to return to their homes immediately to live in peace and equality alongside Jewish families. Nothing more, nothing less.
I agree that having Palestinian leaders shift all emphasis to the creation of a workable one state solution that respects diversity and human rights of all citizens would seem more viable to sway popular opinion in Canada or the US in favour of.
I do not believe that Israel will ever give up the West Bank or Jerusalem (or the Golan). I feel that the Israeli plan, with the cooperation of the puppet PA, is to allow for the creation of a Bantustan style of Palestinian state in small parts of the West Bank. As part of this action, the Zionists will do a "land for peace" deal and will transfer a bit of Israeli land, along with most of Israel's Palestinian-Israeli citizens, into this Palestinian statelet, and of course, Israel will transfer all of the settlements (colonies) into Israel. By using fascistic laws on the few remaining Palestinian-Israeli citizens, they will control and or drive them out, and so keep Israel as a racist state for many many generations to come. As such, I feel that the only hope for the Palestinians is to dissolve the PA, and legally hand complete authority for the West Bank and Jerusalem back to the Israelis (the Zionists), and turn it all back into "occupied territory and people" as per international law. Then, the Israelis will either be forced to incorporate the West Bank and Jerusalem, and it's Palestinian citizens, into Israel, which in the long term would mean Israel would become a majority Arab state, or they will have to ignore any semblance legality, and unilaterally transfer (drive) the Palestinians out of Palestine (and Israel) and seize their land. The key will be whether Palestinians will be able to wrestle control of the PLO/PA away from Abbas and the other puppets, before they sign a sell-out agreement with the Zionists. Sadly I think Gaza will continue to be cut off from Israel and the West Bank, but will hopefully be left in relative peace someday soon, especially once it's marine border is opened. Perhaps someday in the distant future, Gaza will be able to join a truly democratic and majority Palestinian controlled Israel, but that would be a very long ways down the road.
I think that Muslims need to make museums everywhere they can in the Western World to show what is happening in the Middle East and specifically Palestine. I suggest that they construct museums next to Mosques in the United States, Canada and Europe for starters. One of the big problems that the Palestinians have is that the Jews around the world are very good at keeping the world from finding out what is really happening in Palestine and to Palestinians everywhere. Also, they say that the people united will never be defeated. I believe this is true. What would Israel do if all the men in an area marched toward a check point to take it over or destroy it? Would they Jews attack the check point? Just suggesting a possibility. What would they do if all the people in a village tried to tear down a fence or barrier? There is also silent and peaceful resistance to policies you don't like.
1. The PLO should declare the Oslo Accords are dead.
2. The Palestinian Authority should dissolve itself since
a. It never had any authority
b. It relieved Israel from the costs of administering the occupied West Bank
c. It was at the mercy of its funders, the US and its allies, who continually threatened to withhold funding if it didn’t toe the line
d. Is guilty of spending 21 years in futile negotiations while Israel move 650 thousand colonists into the West Bank
3. People should be mobilized to engage in peaceful resistance
4. Reach out to the 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel
5. Emphasize the unity of the struggle of the 6 million Palestinians in occupied Palestine: those in the West Bank, Gaza and Palestine 1948 by calling for a non-sectarian state in Palestine
6. Promoting the goals of BDS (ending the occupation, equality for all and the return of the refugees) in all Arab and international forums through solidarity groups
I am distressed by growing anti-Arab Islamaphobia, which only makes a reasoned approach to settling the Palestinian Question even more difficult. Humbly, I suggest to my Palestinian brothers & sisters to stay the course of an intellectually based legal and ethical presentation of the inescapable merits of advocating for a fair & just Palestinian homeland. Few can argue with an ethical quest for national liberation…..as we all, at some time were part of such a process. I am heartened by both the swelling global support for Palestinian rights/justice (albeit small) AND the foibles of the Israeli government….plus the right-wing settler movement showing its true colors of racist hatred & violence. Sadly we watch the cognitive dissonance of so many settlers allow the committing of crimes once ascribed to the former torturers of Jews. As much as it pains me to see this…..it does have the predictable effect of reflecting a comparatively more flattering light upon the mainstream Palestinians who simply want the American/English/French/German/etc dream of autonomy, 2 flat screen TVs and a car in the garage. Do not squander this opportunity to show yourselves as the humans I know so well. Do not allow the marginal minority to spoil the soup. Secure your alliances with similar movements which already have support in their respective countries.
My suggestion is to insist on culture and literature meeting and knowledge also like your life project reserve the nature of Palestine Land. Making weekly meetings under the name of Literature and Culture will help build one opinion and education and preparation for new generation with one and unified opinion and understanding for what we need and lack. Palestinian people has never been mindly unified or having real real unity for stable future life. Unless the Nakba happened, every city or area were living away from being a one nation. Now they have a vague unity about returning back to Palestine but without any way of planning or thinking how. The unity in mind is very important. So we have to make Cultural Societies in every big and small cities and towns. Then make weekly meetings just to talk or read poetry or speakers or lecturing and publish the results on internet and may be books distributed free to people and to schools and universities. We need college students and professors to participate in the plan. All outsiders will be able to do any favor to Palestine. The Palestinians themselves must do the job and the world will respect and support their deeds and struggle like South Africa. I sill ask or you may know the only people that have no central Cultural Association are the Palestinians. Amazeegh and Kurds and other races are much and better arranged and prepared to self rule or freedom better than us who've been suffering for over a 100 years. It is painful and regret for those who know about the case.
I don't know what the answers are but I think I know WHERE they are. We met with Israeli groups and Palestinian groups as well as groups containing both "sides". Thy had many good ideas, but the Israeli govt opposes them and does not want to give them exposure. If they encouraged them and encouraged press coverage, things could have changed, though it may not be possible since Israeli has confiscated 90% of the land.
Some Palestinian-Americans -- and other advocates of justice for the Palestinians -- should compare (and maybe this has been done often) what the early U.S.-American settlers-colonialists (in expanding their grip
on north American territory) did to the indigenous people. They were placed on reservations, as you know. Howard Zinn wrote about this very forcefully.
Palestinians and Arabs in general are doing so so much already, using direct action to resist, risking their lives on a daily basis, attempting to survive an ongoing genocide by Israel, the West and the Gulf Nations. The burden is not on Palestinians and Arabs. The responsibility should be on people elsewhere of good conscience to use ALL of their privilege to force their governments, military and corporations to end the invasion, the genocide, to end zionism. In the U.S., people, left-wing activists and all, derive immense financial benefits from the ongoing invasion and genocide. People should renounce these benefits, get focused and grounded, and sacrifice their privilege and take nonviolent direct action. The problem with the above is that is what people in the West should do. We're not doing it and it's hard for me to foresee, short of some rare holdouts and martyrs, it happening in my lifetime. Could there be a cataclysm, natural or man-made, that could quickly rewire our colonized brains and launch us into action?
In today's world where communication is everything, the Palestinian struggle needs some "re-packaging" to stimulate a renewal of interest all over the world. BDS has been a very fruitful campaign since 2005 but it's already 10 years old, and it also needs to be "refreshed". The opportunity is coming soon to revisit the message: the year 2017 is a huge historical anniversary, as the 50 year of the occupation but also the 100 year of the Balfour declaration, and the 70 year of the UN partition plan - pointing to the global responsibility, of Israel, of the UK and the Western world, in the whole conflict - so an opportunity for the Palestinian not only to say ENOUGH is ENOUGH but to engage citizens of the world - yes, why not a democratic debate online where everyone can join? - to launch the second century of this Epic Journey, after a first century of tragedy, launching a second century of hope and construction of a future turned towards justice and inclusiveness in the land of Canaan - which by the way is the key question of the 21st century everywhere: how can we learn to live all together in all of our diversity and differences, and how can humankind grow into humanity?
I would be happy to continue this conversation with you at some point
I have just read all the comments and replies right to the end. I found them interesting and helpful when I infrequently come across a vocal Zionist here. I'm not in a position to advise Palestinians. The best I can do is support BDS, call on my local Archbishop to ask the Synod to do the same (which I have done unsuccessfully -- he sits on the fence because he knows the Synod would vote No), write the occasional letter to politicians, and exchange my Free Palestine badge for my Israel Terrorist State badge, which I am about to do now.
It's simple. All Americans have to do it to cut off ALL aid to Israel! However, as you know, that's not simple. But that's what we have to work for...fight, fight, fight for the truth so that we can convince our country to cut off all aid to Israel.
As a non-Palestinian American Jew, I read them, to look for ideas how I can support Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom and equality.
For me, it comes to being willing to confront hate and intolerance when I come across it.
האינתיפאדה של הסיכנים לא יכולה לנצח ורק מחזקת את הימין בישראל. יש
להחליפה בהתקוממות עממית נוסח האינתפאדה הראשונה ולסלק את הרשות ולהחליפה
בהנהגה ראויה שאינה משתפית של ישראל
המאבק צריך להיות בעד מדינה אחת דמוקרטית עם שיבת הפליטים תוך מאבק למען
חברה שוויונית ולא קפיטליסטית
By every means possible (non-violent and violent) continue your resistance: Rebellion, national liberation, free Palestine.
this is a fight that in the face of the overwhelming forces against us requires that we follow those possessed by sublime madness, that we become stone catchers and find in acts of rebellion the sparks of life, an intrinsic meaning that lies outside the possibility of success. We must grasp the harshness of reality at the same time as we refuse to allow this reality to paralyze us. (Chris Hedges)
stay human, end Israel, Free Palestine
...This brings us to the crux of the matter. If we look at the power wielded by tribal Jewry in the Western democracies, not only in the English speaking Old Testament besotten cultures, but in France, Germany etc., we are always impressed that a mere 2% of the population, more or less - in some cases considerably less - has managed to wrest de facto control of the political, economic, media and educational spheres. All of this power is focused on fanatical support of the State of Israel. It is not that the majority of Jews wield this sword - most of them just go along to get along, particularly as they are constantly being bombarded with tribal propaganda and it so psychologically satisfying to seem to be, at least, part of an exclusive club. But the small number of wealthy, influential, dedicated Zionist Jews and the rest of the ZPC (Zionist Power Configuration) who actually run the show may finally be losing their grip, albeit just a little bit. The traditional progressivism of young Jews has begun to surface again, and they are flocking to Palestinian support groups and the BDS movement.

Jan 14, 2016

Lebanon Encounter

Cedars in Shouf

My visit to beautiful amazing, diverse, and edgy Lebanon left memories and emotions that will stay with me the rest of my life but also established new friendships and collaborations that will enhance environmental research and conservation. I was supposed to travel to Lebanon Sunday evening but missed my flight at the trip from Bethlehem to Amman aoirport took 10 hours! But this gave me time to spend with our friend Prof. Zuhair Amr in Jordan who we publish much research together. I took the next flight to Beirut Monday morning and was met at airport by Dr. Mounir Abi Said who took me on a whirlwind tour of the Shouf mountains, its beautiful nature reserve with the ancient cedar trees. In the reserve we met with the reserve staff and manager and discussed collaborations. I then visited the American University in Beirut. I personally have never been there before but I almost could swear that I was there in a previous life.

 At AUB- Been there in another life?

My uncle Sana Atallah did both his bachelor and master degree at AUB in the 1960s and his summer visits to Palestine he would take me with him to the fields for nature walks and work. I was only a child and I remember the beauty of nature but not much else from that time. It is what made me follow in his footsteps and start my own collection of objects of nature immediately after he died in a car accident in 1970 (shortly after he finished his PhD).  I literally followed in his footsteps, took care of part of his collection that was here in Palestine and did graduate studies in the same US university where he studied. But having never been to AUB (a university that literally shaped his short life), I was very emotional. My mind raced as we stepped into the old natural history museum and I saw the mammal collection that Uncle Sana and His mentor Robert Lewis collected. I could almost smell and feel and hear those two great people and wished I could have been their student at AUB. An old statue and an old bench gave me shivers as I felt that surely I must have been here before. A mixture of sadness, happiness, nostalgia, wishful thinking and more swept through my mind in ways hard to put down in writing.
 Specimens collected in Palestine by Sana Atallah, now at AUB

After meeting with a few people at AUB, I went to visit a project started by Dr. Mounir and his wife Dr. Diana to rescue animals captured or injured by hunters. They rehabilitate them and release some while keeping some for environmental education for children (see http://www.animalencounter.org/ ). Unlike other environmental awareness facilities in our region, this one is run by experts based on scientific principles. They initially started it in their home and then the municipality gave them land to do this on. We also started the Palestine Museum of Natural History at our house and then moved to Bethlehem University Mar Andrea campus. So we connected in Lebanon with colleagues like Mounir and Diana on so many levels. We now must start joint research and development projects.

Mounir and friendly Hyaen and wolves at Animal Encounter

Representing Bethlehem University, I joined other colleagues from other universities in Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon for a conference in Tuesday at the Lebanese university dealing with European funding under the Jean Monnet program. It was a good opportunity to lean and to network. I took time in the evening to walk around Al-Hamra area of Beirut. I was saddened to see how electricity is off in Beirut just like in Gaza (6 hours on, 6 hours off). I was saddened to see many women with children begging to sell gum on the side of streets like Al-Hamra street.

 Trash piled up in Beirut as the country goes without a President and contending parties blame each other (Young man there was collecting garbage for reccycling).
 Al-Hamra street (busy commercial street but hotels and businesses depend on generators at night)

Lebanon, like Palestine, is such a beautiful rich country but its political leaders do not seem to get their act together. Being divided into sometimes intermixing and sometimes contending communities is not a bad thing if you think in terms of a healthy diverse human communities just like a health diverse ecosystem (many species competing, conflicting, sometimes cooperating). It is fertile ground for innovation and Lebanon has lots of innovative smart people. For example (among many), I met brilliant researchers and teachers like Dr. Mounir (mammals), Dr. Dany Azar (Paleontology), Dr. Efat Abu-Fakhr (Crop Protection and Entomology) and many more. Like in Palestine, we just need to collect all those good people in networks to better help young talent to grow and promote collaboration and healthy but not destructive competition. Our museum motto is RESPECT (for ourselves, for others, for nature). I found so many good Lebanese and Palestinians who do have that respect and thus are able to make a positive impact in their/our societies.  By giving of themselves they build their character and have a very productive career.  By devoting ourselves to things bigger than ourselves we also have personal growth and success. Being selfish or self-centered will only diminish us. Anyone close to death can tell you what they regret most in life and what they appreciate more in life and it is never that they wish they had made more money or ate more food or had a bigger house; instead they wish they gave more and took care of others more. I am inspired and energized by this visit.

I am back in Palestine now where martyrs are still falling (three the day before I returned) and where thousands of political prisoners languish in Israeli gulags. This is where checkpoints and walls rule. Where Israel even banned "Breaking the Silence" (an Israeli group of soldiers and ex soldiers who tell about the crimes they wee ordered to commit). But this one land refusing to be divided continues to build and where good things still happen.  For example here at the museum grounds (Bethlehem University), we have a dozen individuals at the museum (9 of them from Gaza with permits facilitated through GIZ) learning about aquaponics!  They are good energetic people and good energetic instructor (Philip) who want to improve life in Gaza by growing plants and fish !!  

Things have piled up for me to take care of including several deadlines for proposals and publications. I also teach several courses this semester including: cultural and eco-tourism for Masar Ibrahim, research and writing, and anthropology for the master in Hotel Management and tourism (all at Bethlehem University), research tools and peacemaking courses (at Bethlehem Bible College master program in conflict resolution), and biodiversity at the master program in Environmental Biology (at Birzeit University). Join us to be part of a growing team for nature and for Palestine.  Since my last email a week ago asking for signing up to our network of supporters and volunteers, over 110 people signed up from around the world. To reiterate:  We now have an integrated system for research and education to address areas in need in Palestine: healthcare, environment, and agriculture (especially permaculture).  We have dozens of volunteers and we are grateful to all volunteers and donors but we can accelerate our progress with more of YOUR help and thus accomplish much more. So look over our website (http://palestinenature.org) and fill out this form http://goo.gl/forms/Z7nmOGFC9i (if you have difficulty email us at info@palestinenature.org)  to tell us you can help from your location (any and all countries including Palestine). Tentative name is “Network for Palestine Nature” (your suggestions on name would be appreciated). Thank you for your kind support.

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