Thursday, August 8, 2019

Too Sad For Words

To My American Friends:

After watching the news about the El PasoTexas shooting I started writing a note of condolences to my friends in Texas.

It has been sixty-five years since I graduated from from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, but I still have a soft spot for that area despite statements by some of the Texas representatives regarding our region and our rights.  Even those who favor peace and a two state solution never seem to be willing to impose sanctions on Israel for violating human rights.  While the shooting in El-Paso was taking place, Israeli soldiers were shooting young Palestinian children and holding a seven year old boy for interrogation and putting restrictions on the funeral of a released prisoner.  

The world has gone crazy, but at least in our area, we know who the enemy is.  As brutal as it is,  we expect it because it is an occupation, and when we resist an occupation we are not terrorists.  But in a free country when you are even free to carry a gun, and your president feels he can twitter any hate messages all over, it is scary because you never know when the next shooting is going to come from.  Actually,  that is terrorism.  

It  was very interesting to hear comments from people interviewed by CNN criticizing statements by president Trump that help feed this white supremacy phenomenon,  which eventually led to that  shooting episode.   I know you were  still trying to get over the California shooting and here you were faced with the shooting in Texas and in no time it was followed by another one in Dayton, Ohio.

My heartiest condolences to all my dear American friends, whether they are in California, Texas or Ohio;  my heart goes out to all those who lost dear ones.  I just hope that the losses of this past week  would be a lesson for legislators to reconsider some of the legislation regarding  the free access to arms, as well as the hate language that prevails by responsible people like the president.  

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Demolitions of Sur Baher

There was a wide coverage by the media this past week of the brutal demolition of Palestinian homes in Sur Baher in the Palestinian territories.  It was so brutal that the attack by some settlers from the Neve Yacov settlement on the St. James church in Beit hanina with yogart cartons and tomatoes while they were celebrating the end of the summer camp seemed almost harmless despite its racist significance,  and intrusion on the grounds of the church which is very close to our house and where I usually worship.  
Israel claims that it had to resort to the demolitions  for the sake of its security as the homes were too close to the separation wall. How ironic indeed because the Israeli claim for building the separation wall in the first place was for security reasons, but in reality the wall ended up snaking through the Palestinian territories. And now they claim that the buildings are too close to the separation wall so once again in the name of security those buildings had to be demolished although they were not illegally constructed as Israel claims, because they were located on Palestinian territory and had building permits from the Palestinian authority. Where does Israeli security stop? Is the sky the limit or is it the whole Palestinian territories ?

UN officials and the European Union condemned the demolitions and called for an immediate halt to the policy. Canada expressed its deep concern calling on Israel authorities to halt such demolitions which are illegal under international law and undermines efforts for a two state solution (as if there is a chance anymore for the two state solution!!) 
At this stage of Israeli impunity, condemnation and concern have no impact any more, and Israel has been getting away with all its violations of human rights and international law. So unless there is action and Israel is made to pay for its impunity those statements are useless, and have no power to redress such a grave injustice.  We all still remember that it was the boycott and sanctions that helped bring about the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa, yet the US staunchly shields Israel from such actions and criminalizes any party that imposes sanctions or boycotts Israel. It is worth reminding my readers of Dorothy Thompson’s quotation in 1951 in the early years after the Nakba when she  said "The state of lsrael has got to learn to live in the same atmosphere of free criticism in which every other state in the world must endure." - 
How long will the international community continue to accept such double standards? 
Once again I would like to end with a quotation by Dr. Martin Luther King:
"In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends" Martin Luther King.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Al-Fawanees (The Lanterns)

Once again I attended the closing performance of Al-Fawnees last night after I had been at its opening on Saturday, the 13th of July 2019.  It ran full house for a whole week at Yabous Cultural Centre in Jerusalem Al-Fawanees is a musical composed by my son Suhail and was performed for the first time at the opening of the Ramallah Cutural Palace in 2004.  

The political situation has deteriorated so much since then and East  Jerusalem has become almost another ghetto in which the Israeli occupation has  been trying to  squeeze us into .  It was so important for a show like Al-Fawanees to lift our spirits and put some life into  the streets of East Jerusalem.  We needed such an evening to divert our attention from watching  the news of so much brutality against our people and so  many  absurdities on the political scene. 

For those of you who have read my book Reflections from Palestine: A Journey of Hope, I have a paragraph about it in my last chapter about Music.  The musical is based on a children’s story “The Little Lantern,” by the renowned Palestinian writer,  Ghassan Kanafani, but special lyrics were written for the musical by Wasim El-Kurdi.  The Orchestra of the National Conservatory of Music  accompanied the musical which was quite an achievement from 2004, when Suhail had to work with a German orchestra at the time, but the orchestration was done by Bishara El-Khil.  However Edward Muallem was still part of the  team who trained the children in acting and helped in the production while  the main Director  was Fernando Toby from Colombia.  I know how much effort  was put into this work as I watched Rania, my daughter in-law, and director of Yabous accompanying the family every day from morning to night.  Both their boys were guards in the musical and the girls played in the orchestra, and the team of Yabous and the Conservatory as well as  the volunteers have been outstanding throughout this great work.  Here is a quote from my friend Cedar, who attended the musical:  “Al-Fawanees was delightful, very very enjoyable. BRAVO Suheil and BRAVO for the whole set. The music, orchestra, the child performers.....everything. A performance to be proud of.Congratulations to every one of them and congratulations to Palestine.”
The story about the will of a dying king to his daughter is symbolic.  The princess  cannot inherit the throne until she brings the sun into the Palace before the long candle goes out.  Eventually that was possible with a united population,  and when everyone in the kingdom carried a lantern making their way to the palace.  The princess, realizing the sun cannot enter the palace behind  walls and barriers  had ordered the guards to pull down the gates and walls, so with everyone carrying a lantern into the palace  it seemed like the sun did enter the palace, and  the story ends happily with a great celebration.   The joy on children’s faces as they performed with so much passion,  was shared with the audience who gave them a standing ovation and the clapping went on and on.  

Will we ever enjoy a world without walls or barriers???? 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

America's Independence Day

My Dear American friends:  I have been thinking of you and what message can I possibly send you on your Independence day on the 4th of July.  Many of you have been on my list and have checked my blog and my writings for some time now.  Many of you have also read my book,  Reflections from Palestine:  A Journey of Hope, and your solidarity with our people, and for the cause of justice has been amazing.  

But I am not sure whether you realize down deep in your heart what it means to lose your country, your identity, your freedom, and the right to self-determination; an ongoing  process of dispossession since 1948.   So as much as I would like to rejoice with you and congratulate you on your Independence Day, it hurts me to realize that it is your government that has been the major obstacle that has prevented my people’s independence, liberation, and right to self determination.  I am not blaming you personally, however maybe the words of Dr. Martin Luther King will inspire you to be active and  do something about it. “We are tied together in a single garment of destiny. We are caught in a network of mutuality, And I can never be who I ought to be until you are who you ought to be” 

Happy Independence Day, Samia

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"The Deal of the Century"

The US administration has never been supportive of our cause as Palestinians.  And I specifically say the administration because we have a lot of support from the public, the mainstream churches, the civil society, as well as many Jewish Americans.  The United Nations records show clearly that it was the Veto of the US at the United Nations that has hindered the implementation of the UN resolutions that would have guaranteed our rights as Palestinians, basically the right to return to our homes from which we  were evicted by force or  had to flee for our lives in 1948.   We were never even offered compensation,  and Israel  continues till this day to deny its responsibility for our plight.  

But never has an administration been so blatantly proactive in its humiliation of the Palestinians and ignoring their rights like this present administration.  It actually violated  international law so as to offer Israel all that it wants on a silver platter.  First, by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, then by cutting all US Aid that started flowing into the country after the Oslo agreement between the PLO and Israel was signed.  Yet the US found it very timely to close the offices of the PLO in the USA,  as well as cutting aid to UNRWA, the organization which was established by the United Nations to take care of the basic needs of the Palestinian Refugees until they were able to realize their right of return.   So it seems like “this great democracy in the world” is taking its cue from “the only democracy in the Middle East.”  I still remember how Mr. Netanyahu in his theatrical presentation at the UN General Assembly Meeting in September 2018 thanked the president of the USA for pulling out of the agreement signed with Iran during the term of Mr. Obama, while sending a message to Iran that Israel knows what they are doing.  Will Israel be the force behind the US to wage a new war against Iran this time.  Nothing would be surprising now that more American troops have already been sent to the bases in the region.  

Ironic indeed that the US has waged so many wars on other people’s lands in the name of democracy, while Israel continues to hold a whole population under occupation, and it has recently passed the Nation State Law in its Kenesset that would deprive 21% of its citizens most of their basic rights.  While the US has the liberty to impose sanctions on countries that do not abide by its rules, it takes harsh measures against any individual, or body that promotes the BDS (Boycott Divestment  and Sanctions) against Israel for violating international law, in the same way that Israel does.  

After seventy one years of dispossession  and fifty two years of a brutal occupation, we get a novice in political issues to come up with the “Deal of the Century.”  First they humiliate us, then they starve us and now they want to further humiliate us by  bribing  us into accepting money for our rights in a conference in Bahrain.  Thank you, but no thank you.  In our ethics lessons, we were taught that those who bribe and those who accept the bribery are just as guilty.  But who will convict the guilty in this case?   

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” ­--- Albert Einstein

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Zookeeper's Wife

Last night one of my granddaughters was “grandma” sitting to relieve my daughter from night duty.  And she wanted to entertain me with a film as it was a hot day and I was not able to sleep early. “The Zoo keeper’s wife”  sounded like  a nice film.  With quite a variety of animals that appeared at the beginning  we thought it would be a   light and entertaining  film after all the depressing news of the commemoration of our Nakba seventy one years ago.  

Ironic indeed;  the film was about the Nazi atrocities in Poland, and we were curious enough to watch it till the end, and of course we could not help but empathize with the victims.   However, I was not surprised when my granddaughter said:  “It is unbelievable that after what they have gone through, they would turn around and do what they are doing to us.” 

Indeed it is unbelievable.  And what is furthermore unbelievable is while the holocaust is over,  our  Nakba is still ongoing and the perpetrators refuse to admit responsibility or pay the price, while compensation for the holocaust never seems to end.  Thanks to the US administration for its never ending moral and financial support to the State of Israel and for shielding it for its non-compliance with United Nations resolutions.  Sometimes my friends wonder how I keep holding on to hope; In fact I wonder my self.  But when justice is on your side, you cannot lose hope.     

Monday, May 6, 2019

Reflections from GAZA

The following reflection is by Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem Micheal Sabbah

There is a war on Gaza, as it has been once, twice and more. Gaza and its people are in a state of permanent war. It has been under constant siege for 13 years, which is war imposed upon them every day. Today, the month of Ramadan has started for fasting, prayer, repentance and good deeds. Instead, we see death exploding in and around GazaIsrael itself complains of the war. Yesterday, Sunday May 5th, the Israeli Defense Minister tweeted and  cried out to the world to notice and see Israelis waking up for the second day in a row of  rockets coming from Gaza and falling in Israel.
War is painful after two days in Israel. It is as painful and more painful in Gaza after 13 years of siege. War is an absolute evil both for the Israelis and for the Palestinians. Mr. Minister, the key to peace and the end of war is not in the hands of a world that we summon but simply in your hand and in the hands of Israel.
The issue is not only that of Gaza but the issue of all the Palestinian people. The issue is the injustice imposed on the Palestinian people since generations. Israel refuses to see Palestinians as human beings with same rights and equal to all human beings. Israel has tried the methods of war and violence repeatedly to solve the issue. Until today, it has not succeeded and now, on the near horizon, there is talk about a solution wrapped in darkness and non-recognition of Palestinian rights. It will not bring a just solution. It will be another failure.. 
The solution is simple if Israel wanted to SEE. If it wanted to see that the Palestinian people have the same rights as the Israeli people, all being equal in humanity. It is in Israel's hands - Israel is the stronger – to realize this equality. Avoiding this equality until now was useless. Israel itself today suffers from war launched on Gaza
The solution is simple. Israeli human beings should not remain exposed to war, as is the Palestinian human being. Both are human and equal in humanity. We call upon Israel, the friends of Israel, those interested in the survival of Israel and the security of Israel to simply see that the Palestinian and Israeli peoples are equal in rights and duties and capable of making peace. 

We say to the Israeli authorities: It is in your hands to keep us and keep yourselves in constant war and hostility, and in your hands to let us move together to an equal life with dignity, peace and security. Learn from the experience of already 70 years in war. They did not yield security and peace. The cause of the Palestinian people cannot be solved by violence or unjustly imposed solutions, but only by justice and equality. This is the key to war and peace in Israel and Palestine. The key to open the door of peace is in the hands of Israel