Saturday, July 29, 2017

I Cannot Help But Wonder...

 Is Israel the 51st state  of the US?.  Or is the US a territory under
the control of Israel.  It is unbelievable that the Israeli Knesset
and the American Congress would be simultaneously involved with
passing laws that would impose fines and sanctions on anybody who
promotes any non-violent movement such as the  BDS (Boycot Divestment
and Sanctions) against Israel for its  continued illegal military
occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

While both the US and  the United Nations consider the occupation of
the West Bank as well as the annexation of East Jerusalem and the
building of settlements are illegal, yet the US continues to support
Israel in pursuing this illegal status.  While we Palestinians are
physically occupied by Israel, the US, however, is  morally and
psychologically occupied.

Mr. Netanyahu keeps claiming that Israel is the state for all Jews,
inviting all Jews from all over the world to come to Israel.  Yet how
ironic that  a Jewish lady Rabbi, Alissa Wise,  who was a member of
an interfaith delegation planning to come and visit Israel was denied
with the rest of the delegation from boarding  a Lufthansa Airlines
jet at Washington Dulles International Airport heading to Israel.

It seems the Prime Minister would like to welcome only Jews who
approve and support  all the illegal measures of the State.  The
sincere Jews and non- Jews who for the sake of the welfare of Israel
would like to see a non-violent way to end the  occupation, are not
welcome to Israel.  There is no doubt that  the Prime Minister and his
right wing government are proving to be their own worst enemies.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets

Yabous Cultural Centre in Jerusalem  had just ended all its preparations for the yearly Jerusalem Festival, and Rania, my daughter- in- law, director of Yabous, was spending hours to get everything ready for the opening night with a Flamingo performance on July 18.  Of course all the family was planning to attend a variety of events, and in fact I had invited guests for the Flamingo night.

However, tension started mounting in Jerusalem after the shooting incident that took place on July 14, 2017 at El-Haram El-Shareef, one of the holiest sites in Islam.  It is worth noting that the security of El-Haram as well as Jerusalem itself is under Israeli control, and that the armed men who shot the Druze soldiers and eventually got shot, are from Um El-Fahem inside Israel. This led to the closure of all the gates that give access to Muslim worshipers to reach the mosque, and of course it led to the cancellation of the Festival. 
One cannot but wonder who could possibly benefit from such a shooting. 

Ever since the occupation of the Palestinian Territories including East Jerusalem after the June 1967 war, Israel has coveted the area of the mosque, claiming it to be  the site of the Jewish Temple and referring to it as “The Temple Mount.”  For a starter they evicted all the Palestinians living around the Wailing Wall and demolished their homes so as to turn the whole area into a plaza for Jewish worshippers.  Then there was the attempt to burn the mosque, which Israel at the time alleged the perpetrator was lunatic.  And for those who might have forgotten, the 2002 armed uprising was triggered by the provocative visit of  Ariel Sharon to the compound of  El-Haram El-Shareef.  Confiscation of property around the area never stopped and neither did the excavations below the Haram which has affected many houses in the area.

It almost fits the pattern, so that the status quo at El-Haram el Shareef agreed upon with Jordan, the Palestinian National Authority and Israel would not hold any more.  Electronic devices and smart cameras have been placed at the main entrances to the mosque, but the Palestinians as well as Jordan refuse to deal with this change in the status quo.  However, that has not deterred  worshippers from worshipping on the streets outside the gates of Jerusalem despite the brutality of the Israeli armed forces to an extent that they raided the Makassed hospital where some of the injured young Palestinians were being treated.   Never has the Jerusalem community, both Muslims and Christian, been so united in facing this onslaught on one of its holiest sites. 

After fifty years of a brutal military occupation it has become openly clear that Israel is capable of achieving what it sets out to achieve and gets away with it even if it violates international law and UN resolutions.  “Whatever Lola wants Lola gets,” a song from the fifties, continues to be so pertinent  regarding Israel.  The daily provocative incursions into the compound of the mosque  by settlers under the protection of Israeli forces,  proves their intention. 


Should the international community allow this to go on?  And will the intervention to salvage this third holiest Mosque in the Muslim world by countries who have peace agreements with Israel like Jordan, and Egypt, and others countries like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, who have unofficial relationships, make a difference? Or will they acquiesce to all the Israeli measures and allow Israel to achieve what it wants to achieve regardless of  the havoc that it will bring to the area should the Israelis partition the mosque as they did with the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron?  God forbid!!!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Family Reunion in Rhodes

Just got back from a family reunion in Rhodes.  It was basically for the descendants of my grandfather Andoni Khoury from Jaffa  (my  mother’s father.)  His six children have all passed away and so did some of his grandchildren who were with us in the 1984 reunion in Cyprus.  So my generation was the front line generation, and we missed the doyen of the cousins Tony Khoury who could not make it for health reasons.  Also especially missed was  a cousin from Germany,  Marie Anne Kleber, the daughter of cousin Nadia Khouri Michon, who passed away shortly before the reunion.  However we appreciated it very much that her husband and family did join us, and we felt her spirit was with us because she wanted her family to stay connected.  With the second and third generation we were around eighty  persons coming from different parts of the world.  From outside the immediate family, my sister Rima’s brother- in-law,  Hani  and his family joined us.

Well we made it home safely and as I look back at the  effort that everybody made to be there,  I realize how strong the family and the Palestinian Jaffa bond must be to keep us connected.  For my sister Rima, it was an occasion to have all her four boys and their families who live in different parts of the world come together, and over and above we all had the opportunity to meet the youngest member of the extended family, her grand son  Faris Tarazi.

Many of us had enjoyed a mini reunion at the wedding of his parents Nabil and Lara in Aqaba four years ago.  His competitor with her charm, but slightly older than Faris, was Laila, the daughter of Sami and Mona Baramki.  Once you look at her charming face you cannot but remember the film Gigi, and the   beautiful song by Maurice Chevalier “Thank heavens for little girls…….”

Hanging around the breakfast tables and around the pool bar was a great time for reminiscing.  For me personally, Rhodes brought back lovely memories of our honeymoon in 1960 when Yousef and I had stayed at the Mira Mar hotel,  the  only hotel on the beach at the time. 

For us who continue to live under occupation, it was a lovely break.  However, there is never a dull moment.  One morning while we were swimming in the pool the children were playing musical chairs on the side of the pool, and a young boy from  our group won.  But when he was asked where he was from, and said Palestine, the lady in charge said that there was a mistake because the music had not stopped; it was only  a pause.  So as they repeated the game an older girl joined in and pushed him when the music stopped, and was announced the winner.  Not surprising that she was an Israeli. 

At the Rhodes airport, on our way back,  they were just as pushy and by the time a young girl from  our group got to the passport control the attendant was going  crazy.  “But I am not Israeli” she said, “I am Palestinian.”   “Thank God, ” he said while crossing himself .  Maybe that is why they always get away with what they want. 

We enjoyed every bit of the  program that the planners, my grand-daughters, Haya Yasmeen and Zeina had prepared.  The welcoming reception in which I had a chance to read my special rhyme for the occasion, the boat ride, (which the front line generation skipped),  but I heard it was enjoyable with lots of adventure due to the false alarm from Mona Said.  My son Suhail entertained the group with his clarinet which was greatly appreciated.  Then there was the trip to Lindos, the Greek night which after the official show,  ended up a Palestinian Greek night.  And the grand finale of the dinner dance, in which  even Rima and  I could not resist a few dances, and the usual laughs.  There were also a number of  honorary funny awards during the dinner.   And joining us for that special  occasion were the honey-mooners, George and Wilhelmine who had been on a cruise celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary; the memorable wedding that took place on June 4, 1967, just one day before the war. 

The keen interest of the younger generations to hear from the older ones their stories of how they left Palestine and ended up where they are now was amazing.   The family tree which our late cousin Vera,  had prepared for  the first reunion in 1984, which she had planned, was available.  We realized how much updating it needs. Everybody bought the special  Tote bag which Omar had designed with the logo of the orange business in Jaffa and the date of the reunion. 


Already the younger generation is talking about 2020 for the next reunion.  I am not sure who will still be around, but I know that registration will start as soon as the first invitation is circulated with no need for reminders or hesitancy until the last minute.   Yet it was a treat to have Jida Farradj Mushawar, accompany her mother Nina Farradj (not mentioning age)  at the last minute.  Go for it younger generation and stay connected through all the new technology, and encourage your children and grandchildren to join us for special visits in Palestine.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

50 years of occupation will not kill hope for a free Palestine

50 years of occupation will not kill hope for a free Palestine

Samia Khoury
On its 40th day, the mass hunger strike by Palestinian political prisoners was suspended after an agreement was reached to allow two visits per month.
 
Picture by Non Violent Vigilante. Flickr.com (CC BY-NC 2.0). Some rights reserved. 

The strike was hailed as a small victory and highlights the dire conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. The demands throughout the strike have been within the minimum rights of political prisoners in accordance with the Geneva Conventions: Regular visits from their families, access to telephones to call home, access to media in Arabic, as well as better food and better health care. Unfortunately the Israeli authorities have long ignored those requests and these basic demands, failing to respond to the humanitarian crisis.

I am just wondering what was it that moved Israel to respond to their demands, especially that the international community did not take any action.

Before the strike was suspended, Mahmoud Abbas seized the opportunity of his meeting with Donald Trump in Bethlehem to highlight the issue of those prisoners. Unfortunately there was no reaction from Mr. Trump, or as much as a promise to consider the request. In fact Mr. Trump gave Mr. Abbas a lecture on the need to fight terrorism, and to cut the regular stipend for the families of the prisoners. It is worth noting that Mr. Trump also avoided visiting the Church of Nativity because the mothers of those prisoners were holding a sit-in in that area. Perhaps he did not want to face those mothers and look straight into their eyes lest he feel some compassion towards them? However, from the way he goes about his business, I doubt that compassion is one of his strong suits.

Terrorism was highlighted in his visit in Saudi Arabia as well. For those who were not born during the days of the British Mandate in Palestine, it is worth remembering that it was in that era that the Jewish underground were the first perpetrators of terrorism in our region. The late Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin was on the wanted list of the British Mandate Government, for the terrorist act of blowing up the British Government Secretariat wing in the King David Hotel in July 1946, and other places like the Samiramis Hotel. However when he became Prime Minister of Israel, he was received officially at Buckingham Palace in London.
The memory of the victorious is very short, but that does not mean that the victims forget. Yes they might forgive, but that does not change facts on the ground, and the grief for the loss of dear ones lingers on.

Invading Iraq, Libya, and Syria by western powers, under the guise of spreading democracy, has brought about havoc to the region. Therefore, it is not surprising that terrorism ended up as a normal reaction to those unjustified wars of terror that devastated those countries. And it is indeed very sad that it is the innocent people in the region and in the west that are paying the price.
In the meantime the Palestinians are commemorating fifty years of a brutal military occupation. With the Oslo agreement in 1993 we were all made to believe that the occupation will soon be over and that peace was around the corner. But after more than twenty years of futile negotiations we realised that this is not a normal occupation that was going to end by a UN resolution. It is in reality a settler colonial regime with an ongoing process of dispossession.

East Jerusalem which Israel unilaterally and illegally annexed to West Jerusalem was no more accessible to the Palestinians living in the West Bank except with special permits. Although the international community has considered the annexation of occupied East Jerusalem as illegal, the Israeli Prime Minister makes it a point to stress the fact that his guests are welcome in “the united and eternal capital of Israel.” In fact he was hoping that during his visit, Mr. Trump will announce the moving of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Assuring both parties that he wants to forge peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, he was wise enough to avoid a controversial action that will label him one-sided. But then again, when was the USA ever a neutral or honest broker for peace in our region? Without its financial as well as moral support, Israel could never have survived or maintained the illegal occupation or the settlements that mushroomed in the Palestinian occupied territories.

After 50 years, it is not easy to maintain hope and not to despair especially when we watch new realities on the ground as Israel continues to defy international law and UN resolutions. The institutions of East Jerusalem continue to suffer because of a variety of discriminatory laws as well as financial restrictions. But when I visit Rawdat El-Zuhur, the school which I served for many years and look at the bright shining eyes of the children, or when I hear my young grandson practicing his trumpet in the late afternoon I am determined that we cannot lose hope for the sake of those children. And of course when justice is on our side, how can we lose hope. So we continue to dream of a better future with dignity and liberation. As John Lennon sings: “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality.” To start with, we as Palestinians need to unite so we can dream together. And we certainly hope and expect the international community to dream with us and work for justice, because as Edmund Burke says,‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

We continue to hope and pray for some wisdom and compassion towards those prisoners who are incarcerated for no other reason than for  their legitimate right to resist an illegal occupation.


democraciaAbierta image

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Starving for Justice

How would you feel if your son or daughter went on a
hunger strike demanding justice for more than a month, and nobody
bothered to call you or check on you and your beloved one?  The
silence is so loud that our hearts bleed with those mothers who are
gathering daily in various areas including  the Red Cross offices  in
the Palestinian Territories. Yet there is  no reaction or action from
the Israeli authorities or the international community to respond to
their demands for basic rights  as political prisoners,  in accordance
to the Geneva Convention.  So many of those political prisoners have
been  under administrative detention without any charge or trial.

In fact the only action taken was to move most of those prisoners to
prisons near hospitals so that they can be hospitalised if need be or
force-fed without any intention of starting a dialogue with them.
How long  will Israel continue to  ignore the basic  demands of those
prisoners, and continue to  get away with treating  them with contempt
void of any human dignity.  Do they need to die before anybody cries
out Enough is Enough.

The focus this week has been  on the visit of Mr. Trump to the region.
And Israel claimed a couple of days ago that it is introducing  easier
measures for the Palestinians.  Is this a gimmick? Or is the
occupation authority trying to pull wool over  the eyes of the
American administration and the international community? How about
introducing easier measures for those prisoners, and starting a
dialogue with them?  Please we appeal to you our friends to raise your
voice before it is too late to save the lives of those young men and
women incarcerated for no other reason than for  their legitimate
right to resist an illegal occupation.