Saturday, April 4, 2020

Is not the Corona pandemic enough???

While the United Nations Secretary General is calling on all countries to silence the guns and focus on collectively saving humanity from this vicious pandemic that is ravaging societies around the globe, Israel finds it very timely to increase its oppression of the Palestinians under occupation.  

A few days ago Israeli  soldiers  raided Ramallah creating havoc in the middle of the night.  A week ago they continued demolishing homes in the suburbs of Jerusalem and  other parts of the West Bank. And on the second of April, the police  raided the house of  Fadi Hidmi, the Palestinian minister in charge of the affairs of  East Jerusalem,  blasting the gate to his garden and breaking into his  house, as well as confiscating the money he had at home..  

Not only does Israel seize the opportunity of this world crisis to further harass the Palestinians, they always choose the night hours for their raids.  Why I wonder?  It seems to me that thieves are the only people that need to be protected by the dark  hours of the night  to do their illegal actions.  The Police in Jerusalem know very well that the Palestinians in East Jerusalem are practically under curfew and they have complied by staying at home.  So they could have easily picked up Mr. Hidmi during the day time without scaring the family and causing extra stress to the community that is already being deprived of its basic rights.  The only charge against Mr. Hidmi is that he is trying, with his colleagues,  to alleviate the suffering of so many people who have lost their daily bread due to the  current  crisis which has not spared either Palestinians or Israelis.  And that is why the police has also been  harassing all the young volunteers of the Old City of Jerusalem and confiscating the aid in kind that they are trying to deliver to needy families.  

Will the Corona Pandemic be a good enough lesson for all of the world leaders and citizens?  Actually, it is in time of crisis and the way  one reacts to fellow world citizens that one’s true character is revealed.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

We are a People With a Name

On top of  all the generous gifts that the President of the USA, Mr. Donald Trump,  gave to Israel in his deal of the century, the USA is now referring to the Palestinians of  Jerusalem as non-Israelis.
Not much different from the letter  of November 2, 1917 which Lord Arthur  Balfour, Foreign Secretary of Great Britain at the time wrote to Mr. Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland assuring him that “His Majesty's government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Ironic indeed that the indigenous  Palestinian  Arabs who were the majority of the population of Palestine  at that time,  would be  referred to as non-Jews.

It seems those big powers have a problem defining us by our proper name We are a distinct people, Palestinians, part of the Arab nation with civil, national and political rights.  We will stay put on our land fighting for our rights, all our rights  no matter what demonic schemes Israel and the US have for us.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Simply reflecting

As we entered 2020 the general political scene looked very grim  in all our region: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Libya,  and Palestine, especially after the announcement of the details of the “Deal of the Century.”   For us Palestinians, both the president of the USA, Donald Trump, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who are  running the show that continues to deprive us of our rights,  are the calamities of the new year.  But then out of  the blue China “blessed” us and many parts of the world with the Corona virus 

Ironic indeed when you think you are in control and can do anything you please a tiny virus topples your life upside down.  Meetings, prayers, concerts, conferences and so many activities on the occasion of Women’s day have all been cancelled.  However, the elections in Israel took place before the panic started and the restrictions imposed on many areas and schools.  How a candidate indicted for corruption is allowed to even run for elections and get so many votes is beyond me. 

When will all those powers stop for a moment and think of what they are doing to the soul of the human being who has become  a victim and vulnerable to so many injustices imposed by big powers.  We are confident that those powers will not have the final word   and that forces of good and forces beyond them will prevail in the end.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Announcement of the Deal of the Century

I hesitated a lot  before even attempting to reflect on the latest deal of the century, especially that renowned journalists, Israelis  like Gideon Levy and foreigners like Robert Fisk as well as Palestinians,  had written excellent articles on the issue.  I had also written something on the subject in May but it was before the plan along with  those distorted maps were  officially announced.  Yet it was clear what kind of a deal it was going to be due to the actions that were already taking place on the ground with the full support and blessing of the President of the USA.  But honestly I did not envisage that it could be that bad and that demonic, especially when Mr. Trump was promoting it as a “win win deal,” and good for the Palestinians as well.  If that is good for us, I dread to think how would a bad deal look like? 

That is why  I could not resist making the following analogy  since it was no deal at all.  It was simply an Israeli plan for further dispossession of the Palestinians and endorsed by the USA president.  I thought of it as a still birth to a love affair between Trump and Netanyahu with a novice of a midwife called Jared Kushner.  The way Trump was gloating over his presentation while admiring his partner in this affair clapping at every other sentence was disgusting.   

If by now the United Nations has not been able to set the records straight, and implement its own resolutions on the Palestinian issue, then I am afraid the law of the jungle will continue to  prevail.  The way Israel has been acting during those long years of its control of all the Palestinian land is but an example of such a law.  Over and above,  the US has been  shielding Israel as well as sanctioning anybody who dares challenge or criticize Israel.  The Palestinians have moved from armed struggle to civil disobedience to peaceful resistance , as well as to peaceful negotiations, but to no avail.  So nobody  should be surprised or dare  criticize them if  after 72 years should they resort to a new and innovative way of resistance.  Without Justice there can never be any peace in the whole region, neither for the Israelis nor for the Palestinians.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

My TV Day

As the weather was so bad on Sunday,  I did not even contemplate going to church and opted to watch the weekly service from one of the Christian churches on Palestine TV.  January 19,  being the Armenian Christmas,  the service was from St. James’ Armenian Cathedral in the Old City of Jerusalem.  So as I was listening to the chanting and not understanding one word, my thoughts took me back to the day my mother passed away in the early hours of January 19,  thirty four years ago, when the funeral was on that afternoon. 

Like this past Sunday,  the weather was wet and stormy, and we had asked Bishop Kafity, the Bishop of the Anglican Church  at the time,  and who was officiating at the service, if we could have the funeral service  at the Catholic Church in Birzeit.  The Anglican church is so small that it would hardly have accommodated the family members,  whereas the Catholic church is very large and spacious.  Of course the Catholic priest was very cooperative, a request  we could not have even considered ten years earlier. 

I took a break from the TV after the Armenian service,  and after having a bite and a short rest I turned on the TV again.   What a coincidence that the Promise was on.  It is a 2016 movie which I am  sure many of you had seen.  I had heard about it, but never had a chance to watch it.  The  events take place  towards the end of the Turkish rule and the Armenian Genocide.  The brutality was endless and the Turks were ruthless.  The suffering was unbelievable and it was a miracle that some actually survived.   A few years ago I had read Towards Golgotha, the memoirs of Hagob Arsenian, the grandfather of  our friend Nora Arsenian Carmi,  and what he went through to  make it to Jerusalem eventually.  I had nightmares after reading it and could not imagine any human being would survive such brutal conditions.  Watching the film and seeing the cooperation and the determination of those Armenians of all ages to survive until they were able to reach a safe haven was amazing.  

Of course I could not but relate to 1948 and the various massacres of Palestinians as well as their forced eviction, by the Israeli forces.  The sight of the people of Ramleh and Lydda, as they arrived from the coastal area, to the hills  of Birzeit and Ramallah after walking for three days during the hot sun of July 1948,   is still etched in my memory. 

It was not my day for light movies or one of the musicals that I always enjoy watching, so the next movie was Viceroy’s House which was about the days towards the end of the British rule of India.  How easy it was  for the British to divide countries that are not theirs.  The colonial policy of “divide and rule.”  Up to this day the area suffers from the partition of the country and the creation of Pakistan.  In almost the similar manner the partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel continue to cause so much suffering and unrest in the region.  

Both the Turks and the Israelis have a lot to atone for, and so do the British, the USA  and many other colonial countries, but I am not writing history, I am simply reflecting. 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Women: A Reflection on Hope

In my Christmas letter I included an item about  the election of Ms. Mira Rizek, the National General Secretary of the YWCA of Palestine as the World YWCA president during the November meeting of the World Council in Johannesburg, South Africa.. I referred to the event as one of the highlights of our year, because I felt maybe that was a good omen for the recognition of Palestine through this great and oldest women’s world movement whose  priorities always included important issues as human rights, refugees, climate change, disarmament, and others, often long before they were considered issues on the United Nations platform. 

Any outstanding achievement by women always gives us hope,  because women are doers, especially that we are sick and tired of all the rhetoric that we hear by the men politicians.  Although I do not want to generalize, but from my experience especially in volunteer work for many years, and in work that focuses on the common good, women do excel.  Of course we have seen very bad examples of women  not in accordance to that  theory, so I like to exclude them from being role models. 

Nevertheless,  I had hope that justice might eventually prevail when Fatou Bensouda,  a woman from Gambia,  and chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC),  ruled against Israel recently in moving toward a full war crimes probe.  Of course hell broke loose in Israel, and it will not hesitate to block any action by exerting  pressure,  as usual,  through different ways and means that we have become too familiar with.  

So the question remains whether the Prosecutor will stand firmly for the principles of the ICC, or will she cave in like so many other world leaders or heads of commissions?  I have a feeling she won’t,  because Israel has made a mockery of International law for too long.  Its use of false justifications to be considered above the law, which  has been humiliating for the International Community, cannot hold water any more.  So it is high time that those  crimes of  Israel,  are fully exposed, and the guilty be prosecuted.  Israel needs to pay a price for flouting International law  and for its ongoing dispossession of the Palestinians ever since 1948.  Otherwise the law of the jungle will eventually prevail, and those governments and bodies who have either shielded Israel or turned a blind eye to its actions will be paying the price themselves.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Christmas 2019

Image result for three wise men palestine

Dear Family and Friends:  

Amidst all the turmoil that has been going on in this crazy world of ours, and despite all  its absurdities, hope for justice and peace for all,  keeps us going. Even the weather has been acting crazy.  Ever since we had two good showers in October in time for the Olive harvest, it has been completely dry until we were blessed with some rain during this last week end.  I hope it is an omen for a good season.  

The highlight  of the year for us as a family was the wedding of granddaughter Zeina, my son Suhail’s  oldest child who got married on September 1 to Faris Zabaneh, her classmate at the Friends School.  It was a blessing that I had recovered from a fractured pelvis after a fall in January,  and was able to join the wedding party on top of a few jigs on the dancing floor.  Having some cousins from across the river of Jordan and from Europe, was an extra bonus.  Haya Yasmeen, Dina’s daughter was maid of honor, and her brother Faris had graduated from the University of San Francisco in time to join us for that  lovely occasion. Omar,  our oldest grandson, and the designer,  was also back from London where he had spent the summer at the British Musem.  Rand, Zeina’s  sister and one of the four bride’s maids left home immediately  after the wedding to start her veterinary studies in Budapest.   We look forward to having her home for Christmas in a couple of weeks.  Suhail’s youngest two boys Yousef and Shadi are still in school in Jerusalem, and Shadi was very happy to be the ring boy at his sister’s wedding. 

Daughter Dina who had been in charge of infection control at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem for many years started a new post at the hospital in May as Chief of  Operations Officer (COO.) Since then she has travelled for meetings and conferences to the USA, Dublin, and Dubai.  Her husband, Yousef  Nasser continues to teach economics at Birzeit University but after all those long years of being denied entry to Jerusalem,  he now has a permit to be in Jerusalem which needs to  be renewed on a yearly basis.

Son Suhail and his wife Rania have been contributing to the cultural aspect in the Palestinian Territories.  Suhail, as general director of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, and Rania as director of Yabous cultural Centre in Jerusalem.  The Palestine Youth Orchestra had a successful tour in the Scandinavian countries this past summer shortly after they had finished performing the musical “the Little Lantern” based on the story by Ghassan Kanafani, which Suhail had composed.  It was performed for the first time in 2004 at the Cultural Palace in Ramallah and  accompanied at that time by a German Orchestra.  But this time it was performed at the Feisal Husseini Hall at Yabous Cultural Centre  in Jerusalem, and accompanied by the Palestine Youth Orchestra. It ran daily for a whole week, and the young cast were all from Jerusalem.    Rania came back recently from Morocco after being one of five international personalities honored during the opening of "Visa for Music"   International festival for Music and Art in Rabat, Morocco, for her contribution and commitment to the cultural landscape in Palestine. 

I feel blessed to have both of my children around, especially that I am completely retired now and spend most of my time at home reading and writing.  Occasionally I accompany some friends to Rawdat El-Zuhur which remains close to my heart, and those lovely children continue to be a source of hope for the future.  I was not even able to attend the Sabeel International Gathering recently.  But it was such a pleasure to have  some of the participants drop by for a visit;   Brian Grieves,  Rev. Ateek with my friend Cedar and a long-time colleague at Sabeel, who was also unable to attend the Sabeel gathering, as well  as Don and Linda Wagner. 

As usual my birthday,  86th this past November,  was celebrated twice. Once in Jerusalem with the children.  and once in Birzeit with my siblings, Rima and Hanna and his lovely wife Tania.  This is due to some of the absurdities and check points that are part of our daily life.

Another highlight for the year was the election of Mira Rizek, the National Secretary of the YWCA of Palestine as president of the World YWCA during the recent meeting of the World YWCA council in November, held in Johannesburg, South Africa.  This meant a lot to us as a community, and to me personally because I had the privilege of being the first National President of the YWCA of Palestine when it was affiliated to the World YWCA in Stavengar in 1991.  On the 7th of January,  the YWCA of Jerusalem had a pre Christmas breakfast for its membership and friends on the occasion of St. Barbara’s feast.  It was a lovely occasion to welcome Mira with a big applause and a nice bouquet of flowers.  Abla Nasir, another past National president provided us with lovely music on her guitar, and the whole atmosphere was joyful. 
My children, their spouses  and grandchildren join me in sending you our warmest greetings for a blessed Christmas and a peaceful New Year. And we would like to share with you the following link for a song composed by Suhail with lyrics by Fouad Srouji .