Monday, August 13, 2018

Why a cultural Centre?

A few days ago Israel bombarded the Mishal  cultural centre in Gaza destroying it completely.  Why?  This centre has been the gift of Said Meshal to the youth of Gaza to help them cope with all the pressure of living under  siege for the last twelve years.  It is neither a Hamas nor a Fateh Centre.  In fact there is an Egyptian cultural centre in the building.  Ironic indeed when Egypthas been  trying  to mediate some sort of  a long term truce “Hudna” between Israel and Hamas.  

Is it not enough that those young people as well as all the people of Gaza are deprived of a normal life, that it was too much for Israel to see them enjoying some fun with music art, and drama.   Once again, I cannot help but see the irony of it when at the same time Israel is asking that help to UNRWA in Gaza should not be curtailed because it will make life  for  the people of Gaza much worse.  

Indeed it will,  and so will the demolition of a cultural Centre that was supposed to lift up the spirit of the youth,  and engage them with activities that are normal to all children of the world ?  

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

UNRWA laying off its staff

I have written more than once on the UNRWA crisis, but this time UNRWA is laying off its staff and is causing a great deal of concern within the Palestinian community.  The financial situation, especially in Gaza has been deteriorating so badly  that the last thing this besieged area could deal with is the cutting of UNRWA  services and laying off its staff.  

When UNRWA was established in December 1949,  it was established as a temporary relief agency for the Palestinian refugees who,  in 1948, were driven out of their homes at gun point, or fled  for their lives, when the state of Israel was established on Palestinian land . 

Why was it temporary?  Because a year earlier, and in December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 194  allowing  all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.  Israel which planned that exodus in the first place, was determined not to allow the Palestinians to go back to their homes and in no time it started destroying villages and occupying  Palestinian homes to settle Jewish families in them,   so  that a new reality would hinder any return of the Palestinians.   Even the Palestinians who stayed in the newly established state and had been evicted to another area of Israel, were not allowed to go back to their homes.  

The failure of the UN to implement that resolution, and to link it with the  acceptance of Israel as a member state, is the root cause of the crisis that UNRWA is facing at the moment.  

Instead of exerting its effort on a political solution for  the refugees,  the UN  member states who supported UNRWA kept  raising funds and supporting the budget, and supporting the salaries of their representative staff working with UNRWA, without any financial support from Israel itself which was basically responsible for the refugee problem.  

Undoubtedly the Palestinians have been grateful for this support which sustained them for a long time.  However,  they  would have been much more grateful had the UN taken a legal and moral approach to the refugee problem and worked  towards their return  instead of draining their budgets year after year on services that are now being  curtailed  for financial reasons.  

Of course one  of the main reasons that the UN could never implement resolution 194 was the veto power of the US, and its blind support of Israel  which did not even oblige Israel to be morally and financially responsible for the refugee problem.   Furthermore, the US has exacerbated the financial crisis by withdrawing its commitment to UNRWA.  How ironic indeed.  As I mentioned earlier in an open letter  to Mr. Trump.  “ We are not requesting charity, we are demanding our rights.  And that is why the UN is legally and  morally obligated to set the record straight, and to keep supporting the work of UNRWA until it implements a just solution to the refugee problem. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Human Rights Commission

How ironic that the US has decided to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Commission because it is one sided, at a time when the focus of  the world is on the issue of the children of the immigrants being separated from their parents at the US borders.  How brutal.  But then of course the decision was mainly taken to avoid further embarrassment about shielding Israel from violations of human rights as well as international law. 

What makes it more ironic is the reaction of Israel agreeing completely with the decision and bragging as usual  that Israel is the only democracy in the region.  Yet it emphasizes the fact that it is a Jewish State.  How can it be Jewish and democratic when 25% of its population is not Jewish.    Addressing the Congress on Judaism and Democracy, earlier this year,  on the controversy over the Jewish nation-state bill, the Israeli Minister of Justice  Ayelet Shaked  said  that there is place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of human rights.
 I   wonder who makes the human rights commission  one sided?  Isn’t the USA basically responsible for that fact,  when it meddles in other countries’ affairs and wages wars in the name of democracy,  and at the same time vetoes every resolution condemning Israel for its human rights violations.    As a settler colonial power Israel has refused to implement any of the UN resolutions regarding the Palestinian plight, whether it was the right of return of the 1948 Palestinian refugees  as stipulated in UN  resolution 194  or the end of  the occupation of the land captured in 1967 in accordance with  resolution 242. But it seems that the powerful can get away with anything.  

Friday, May 18, 2018

Palestine: The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

After the massacre of Gaza on May 14, I was writing to a friend and asking how many more need to die before our voice is heard and we are granted justice.  He wrote back reminding me of Bob Dylan’s song  “the answer is Blowin’ in the wind.”  I have always loved that song.  So I decided to improvise new words to suit our situation.

How many massacres must we go through
Before they see us as  humans?
How many evictions must we go through
Before we have the right to go back to our homes
Yes,  and how many times are we labeled terrorists
Before we are granted our rights
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many years must we stay under siege
Before we regain our freedom
How many years must we face humiliation
Before we’re granted  our dignity
And yes how many more lives need to be lost
Before justice and peace will prevail
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

How many years can people stay  oppressed
Before rising up towards  freedom
How many young people must die
Before the world raises its voice 
And yes how many handicapped will stay around
Before they can lead a normal life
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Congratulations Israel on your 70th Independence Day.

Congratulations Israel on your  70th Independence Day.  Surely you should be proud of your achievements. 

1.  You established your state on  land that belongs to the Palestinians. You were not satisfied to share with them their land, so you had to evict them to have your own Jewish state.  You did that by resorting to brutal force, and  in some cases  massacres that remain a black spot in your history. 

2.  For the first eighteen years, you imposed strict military rule in the country which  controlled every aspect of the  lives of the original owners of the land who managed to stay in the newly established state.

3. You gave the indigenous Palestinian population citizenship, but they did not have the same rights that the Jewish community had, neither did their towns or schools have the same privileges and budgets

4.  Moreover, by some absurd law, this Palestinian population ended up being “present absent” meaning that they were absent as far as their right to claim their homes and property, but were present for paying taxes to the newly established State.   

5.   For the last 50 years, you have been occupying the rest of the Palestinian land which you did not succeed in conquering  in 1948. 

4.  You claim you are not occupying the land, but that you have liberated it. And you claim that Jerusalem is the united eternal capital of Israel, yet 

a.   The residents of the West Bank have no access to Jerusalem except for certain purposes and on certain occasions. 

b.  The residents  of Jerusalem are not citizens and their residency can be revoked any time under a variety of absurd regulations.

c.  The residents of Jerusalem are deprived of having their  spouses join them should they be from the West Bank without going through an endless procedure of family reunification which is mostly denied even after many years of marriage.

d.  It takes for ever and sometimes never for a Jerusalem resident to get a building permit whereas the Jewish settlements have encroached on most of the Jerusalem and West Bank Land.  So demolishing homes  and confiscating land in the Palestinian areas is very common.   

7.  Over and above you already have a population of  around two million  living under siege in Gaza. Although you claim to have withdrawn from Gaza you continue to control its borders, land, sea and sky.    

8.  You claim to have the most moral army in the world yet your soldiers raid homes at night and get children out of their beds.  You already have 350 children in your jails and -6500 men and women, many of whom are under administrative detention without charge or trial, and around 1000 of them are sick.

9.  You claim to be the only democracy in the region.  Yet you have two sets of laws for your own citizens.  And you deny entry to anybody including Jews and even  Rabbis who do not agree with your policies.  This is certainly not a democracy.  Over and above you silence voices of dissent in your own country and you imprison young people who do not wish to serve in the army.  

10.  You claim your hand is stretched out for peace, yet every day your armed settlers are grabbing new areas with the protection of your  army.  Barak’s generous offer  with  which you brain-washed the world and your own citizens amounts only to a little over 15% of  historic Palestine instead of the 22% on which the Palestinians were willing to establish their new state after the Oslo agreement. 

You certainly do not want peace but you want to be left in peace without being held accountable to any of the violations of human rights or international law. 

Of course you can always count on President Trump and his representative at the UN Nikki Haley to cover your back so as to get away with those violations.   No wonder you are feeling on top of the world as you are celebrating 70 years of Independence while we celebrate 70 years of our Nakba (the catastrophe of dispossession.)

Maybe you should stop for a moment and listen  to the prayer of  one of your Jewish Rabbis:  Rabbi Brant Rosen.

Le'el she'chafetz teshuvah,
to the One who desires return:
Receive with the fulness of your mercy
the hopes and prayers of those
who were uprooted, dispossessed
and expelled from their homes
during the devastation of the Nakba.
Sanctify for tov u'veracha,
for goodness and blessiong,
the memory of those who were killed
in Lydda, in Haifa, in Beisan, in Deir Yassin
and so many other villages and cities
throughout Palestine.
Grant chesed ve'rachamim,
kindness and blessing,
upon the memory of the expelled
who died from hunger,
thirst and exhaustion
along the way.
Shelter beneath kanfei ha'shechinah,
the soft wings of your divine presence,
those who still live under military occupation,
who dwell in refugee camps,
those dispersed throughout the world
still dreaming of return.
Gather them mei'arbah kanfot ha'aretz
from the four corners of the earth
that their right to return to their homes
be honored at long last.
Let all who dwell in the land
live in dignity, equity and hope
so that they may bequeath to their children
a future of justice and peace.
and let us say,
Le'el she'chafetz teshuvah,
to the One who desires repentance:
Inspire us to make a full accounting
of the wrongdoing that was
committed in our name.
Help us to face the terrible truth of the Nakba
and its ongoing injustice
that we may finally confess our offenses;
that we may finally move toward a future
of reparation and reconciliation.
Le'el malei rachamim,
to the One filled with compassion:
show us how to understand the pain
that compelled our people to inflict
such suffering upon another -
dispossessing families from their homes
in the vain hope of safety and security
for our own.
Osei hashalom,
Maker of peace,
guide us all toward a place
of healing and wholeness
that the land may be filled
with the sounds of joy and gladness
from the river to the sea
speedily in our day.
and let us say,

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Ahed Tamimi

What a shame!!! Israel which claims to be “the only democracy in the Middle East” has been harassing a little town called Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah.  Not only have they confiscated their land to put a settlement in the midst of this Palestinian country side, they also confiscated their spring of water.  So their water supply is irregular and unpredictable, and not more than 12 hours per week.  That is why they have to rely on water tanks and be very very careful.   Moreover, that Spring area was their only recreational ground.  How ironic that Israel is determined to build walls of separation,  yet the settlers   choose to  live in our midst and make life hell for us.   Nabi Saleh is just one of those sites that have been coveted by the Israeli settlers. Any body that has common sense or compassion would understand why the old and young people have been demonstrating regularly against such a brutal injustice.  How many in Israel or the US would sit still if their land is confiscated illegally and their water is not flowing  through their taps  regularly on daily basis? 

Ahed Tamimi grew up in this atmosphere of  daily harassment.  Her reaction to the news of the shooting of her  fifteen-year-old cousin in the head with a rubber bullet, requiring the surgical removal of part of his skull,  was not surprising.    This young courageous woman got out all her anger, and with her bare hands,  with no stone or knife,  simply slapped those two soldiers to show them that they were not welcome in the courtyard of her house.  Maybe the shock of the slapping made those soldiers act with restraint,  thinking that after all she was a child.  The whole episode might have ended as a joke had the incident not been documented on video, and hence went viral.   That is why  “the most moral army in the world” could not face this insult and the  plan now is to teach Ahed a lesson that she and other young people of her age will never forget. 

With all the international pressure and petitions to release her and her mother, dare we hope that this “moral army” will drop charges and put an end to the suffering of the whole Tamimi family who have already lost four of their family Bassema in 1993, Mustafa in 2011, Rushdi in 2012 and most recently Musaab in 2018.  Who is going to try the murderers of those young people?  Will Israel be allowed to continue flouting international law?  It is time this occupation comes to an end and with it, the colonial settler project that is causing so much suffering for the Palestinian people and hindering peace in the region.