Feb 21, 2023

Carter and Al-Haq

Last week I shared one inspiring story on my blog on my mother. This week, I share another two stories, one a bit controversial. You can read my reflections about Jimmy Carter and about Al-Haq (a Palestinian brilliant human rights organization) below. 

President Jimmy Carter born 1924 whose mother was a nurse and father ran a general store in Plains, Georgia. It is hard to sum up his achievements in 99 years (he was just checked into a hospice). Racist Zionists vilified him for writing a book called “Israel: Peace not apartheid”. But let me leave this aside for few more sentences. Carter grew up in the great depression among African Americans greatly discriminated against, served in the navy, and became a peanut farmer in Georgia. Deciding to run for office to give him a platform to speak against racial discrimination. He succeeded and was inspired by John F. Kennedy (a president who was likely assassinated by the deep state as was his brother). 

John F. Kennedy, tried to force Israeli lobbyist in the US to register as foreign agents (per the law) and to prevent Israel from developing nuclear weapons.  To this day, many Palestinians in refugee camps still have JFKs pictures hanging in their homes. Carter became governor in 1971 but did it by employing what many considered unethical attacks on his opponent to gain the “white vote”. On Zionist David Rockefeller's endorsement, he was named to the Trilateral Commission in April 1973 and ran successfully for President in 1976. His inconsistent positions and trying to straddle the fence to pleas conservatives while losing liberals caught-up with him and he lost the election to Ronald Reagan in 1980.  I think had he served a second term in office he would have rectified his mistakes. He tried to do that out of office. For example while in office he presided over a so called “peace agreement: between Israel and Egypt which basically sold out the Palestinians, strengthened the Egyptian dictatorship, limited Egyptian people access to their own lands, sent $billions more to Israel every year since, and resulted in removing Sinai Bedouins.  Historian Jørgen Jensehaugen argues that by the time Carter left office in January 1981, he was "in an odd position—he had attempted to break with traditional U.S. policy but ended up fulfilling the goals of that tradition, which had been to break up the Arab alliance, side-line the Palestinians, build an alliance with Egypt, weaken the Soviet Union and secure Israel."  It was the beginning of the normalization of an apartheid system that strengthened the right wing in Israel and led directly to what we see happening today in “Israel” (including a fascist government). 

Carter's efforts at fixing things after he left office by speaking out for human rights where paved with good intentions but limited capacity. As the Democratic Party continued to follow the failing strategy of bargaining human righst to cater to Zionist funders (estimates of over half its funding come from Zionists). Carter is a ky figure in Habitat For Humanity (https://www.habitat.org/) and over a dozen other charities that help the poor and disenfranchised, The story of Jimmy Carter is the story of all politicians (and all of us): an angel on one shoulder, a devil on the other egging them on. I am reminded of the story of the old native American asked by a grandchild about good and evil. He answered that inside every person there is a good wolf and a bad wolf continuously fighting. The child asks which one wins. The old man answered “the one you feed”. Carter’s good wolf was fed well especially in the second half of his life. It is a lesson to learn from. 

Now for an inspiring organization I wanted to also highlight here (most of the below is also from their website https://www.alhaq.org/.  Al-Haq is an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization, It was established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Al-Haq documents violations of the individual and collective rights of Palestinians in the OPT, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator, and seeks to end such breaches by way of advocacy before national and international mechanisms and by holding the violators accountable. The organization does advocacy before local, regional and international bodies and works with governmental and non-governmental bodies to ensure that international human rights standards are reflected in Palestinian law and policies.  Al-Haq is the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists - Geneva and is a member of the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Habitat International Coalition (HIC), the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PRHOC), and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO). For its work in protecting and promoting human rights, the organization has been awarded the Fayez A. Sayegh Memorial Award, the Rothko Chapel Award for Commitment to Truth and Freedom, The Carter-Menil Human Rights Foundation Prize, the Geuzenpenning Prize for Human Rights Defenders, the Welfare Association’s NGO Achievement Award, The Danish PL Foundation Human Rights Award, the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic, the Human Rights and Business Award, the Bruno Kreisky Prize in 2022 and the MESA Academic Freedom Award 2022. 

Professor Lynn Welchman published a book titled “Al-Haq: A Global History of the First Palestinian Human Rights Organization” - (University of California Press, 2021 - New Directions in Palestinian Studies). Read the publication in full at https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520379756/al-haq For the same activities Al-Haq was vilified by the Israeli occupiers reaching the point of banning travel of organization leaders and then in October 2021 declaring Al-Haq “illegal” with other organizations (see https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/19384.html).

I used their publications regularly in our own group’s work on human rights and environmental justice. Here is a recent publication so you can see their rigorous and very useful scholarship: Al-Haq 2022. Corporate Liability: The Right to Water and the War Crime of Pillage. https://www.alhaq.org/publications/20995.html

Feb 16, 2023

Exile and Mama

A post about exile and my mama in a series of posts I will start weekly on positive role models. This is post 1. I hope you like it. You can post comments also below.

I just went to Jordan for a short of one night related to our work. In Jordan I was hosted by two colleagues each of whom I knew for decades: my relative who is also my friend since high school Nader  lived in Jordan for many years and my friend from our university days Zuhair Amr (professor). Both have lived in Jordan or decades (expatriates from Palestine). On the drive back and forth from the Bridge to Amman the taxi drivers each was a Palestinian with a different story: one was a young man whose family comes from Safuriya (https://palestineremembered.com/Nazareth/Saffuriyya/ ). He has never seen it except in pictures. The other was an abandoned baby in a refugee camp raised by two refugees from Beit Jubrin (https://palestineremembered.com/Hebron/Bayt-Jibrin/index.html) These are two of 530 villages and towns ethnically cleansed in 1948 to 1949. Each individual of those four have their own story to tell worth of being put in a book. More than two thirds of the people in Jordan are of course Palestinians. I was reflecting on this as to issues of peace and reconciliation. I am also cognizant of the challenges we face. Two books that I finished rereading (I have read them more superficially a few years back) are “Palestine For Sale” by Khalil Nakhah and “Palestine LTD”  by Toufic Haddad. Both make for sobering reading about the Palestinian cause and how it was (re)engineered with neo-liberal and capitalist agendas similar to what happened in South Africa (when I visited I was shocked that apartheid did not really end but that black face to apartheid created). I have to always remind myself that for every weak person who sells his conscience for a fistful of $, there is a person who is living his/her life comfortable in their own skin, resisting, loving, and really living.  Being a house slave after all is not a true life! I am truly inspired by stories of people like the four I mentioned and the many thousands I met and befriended over the years. They are stories of hope for a better future. I am going to write more on such inspiring people going forward. I hope you will like that.  I will start here with my mother:

Me givng salute, mama in back

My mother (we say in Arabic Mama or Yama) was born in 1932. She was in the teachers’ colleage in Jerusalem in 1948 when a friend/classmate of hers (Hayat AlBalbisi) was killed in the massacre of Deir Yassin (https://www.palestineremembered.com/Jerusalem/Dayr-Yasin/index.html ). She recalls before Zionism her mothers house in Nazareth, her uncle’s house in Jaffa, her birth ho,me in Beit Jala and all the wonderful landscape that existed between those ian a Palestine that was then one united, undivided by segregation walls and artificial borders. My mother was the first teacher in Bethlehem allowed to teach while she was married. She taught for decades elementary school children while raising six children (three of them with PhDs). She was also school principal. When she was forced to retire from public schools, she went back to school as a student and  got a bachelor degree in English from Bethlehem University being (still) the oldest graduate of the university. She then taught in private schools in her 60s until she was forced to retire again. She was honored with numerous awards and accolades. But more than her professional life, I would not be here without the lessons I learned from her in life on charity, caring for others, love of Palestine’s nature (used to go collecting herbal and medicinal plants in the beautiful valleys). This Palestine She took care of my ailing father who suffered with two kinds of cancers until his death 20 years ago. I now spend every morning helping her have breakfast and finding pleasures in speaking to her (although her responses are few but very helpful). We are so grateful for this remarkable women. I owe not only my physical existence to her but everything I have achieved so far including our helping thousands of people via establishing palestinenature.org .
To be continued next week with another inspiring story.