Tuesday, June 1, 2021

They Have Gone Astray

I spent most of the day yesterday watching news and updates on the various TV channels, until I got so tired, that I decided to take a break and sit outside on the porch with my book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy.  How ironic that the following lines by Habib Jalib were quoted in the book: Bullets you sow instead of love

Our homeland you wash with blood

You imagine you’re showing the way

But I believe you’ve gone astray


Immediately those lines spoke to me and I thought Israel has always been astray, but has truly gone rogue this time, and so has the USA for not raising a voice on the ongoing brutality and dispossession of the Palestinians.  Palestinian lives matter just as little as black lives do when it comes to Settler-Colonial nation states like Israel and the USA. Israel and the USA always take pride in claiming that they share common values!!! Watching  the brutality of the Israeli police against our young people, one needs to be absolutely blind not to see the similarity in the methods that the American police used against George Floyd. 


How sad and anti-Semitic that the Jewish genocide by Europe continues to be the justification for allowing Israel to get away with all the criminal, illegal and repressive measures against the indigenous Palestinians on whose land Israel was created by the enabling of those same powers, mainly the UK and the USA and Germany, as if to distract from their complacency in the Holocaust.    

However, no power has had the guts to force Israel to atone for the dispossession and massacres of the Palestinians that took place during the establishment of the state of Israel. And Israel continues to claim that it is the only democracy in the Middle East region, irrespective of the fact that the Palestinians who remained in Israel when it was created and became  citizens of the state over-night, do not have the same rights as the Jewish population of the state.  This fact was sealed by the Nation State law approved by the Knesset in July 2018, and which enshrines Israel as a Jewish Supremacist state despite the fact that more than 20% of Israel’s population (19% Palestinian at least ) are not Jewish. 

The protests of this last week that erupted in Jerusalem against the forced expulsion and dispossession of Palestinians from a whole neighborhood of “Sheik Jarrah” in Jerusalem, and the storming of  Masjed Al-Aqsa, the third holiest place in Islam, during the holy month of Ramadan was but one of the egregious methods of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians who were recently barred from reaching the Holy Sepulcher during  the Orthodox Holy Saturday before Easter.


It was only when the rockets from Gaza hit Israel, that the impotent voice from the White House was heard, assuring Israel that it has the right to defend itself, as it was indiscriminately bombing the  Gaza Strip  without mercy killing whole families including children. An area that Israel has had under siege for the last fourteen years. 


Our Palestinian leadership thought they were going to have a better deal with the US after Trump lost the elections.  How naive indeed.  At least with Trump we knew the reality, and we knew where we stood without any hypocricy.  They were just as naive, or maybe  stupid, when they thought that Israel was genuinely interested in peace, when in reality all it was interested in is to be left in peace, and that is what the Olso agreement of 1993 helped them to achieve.   We are now reaping the fruits of a bad agreement, failed leadership and European sins.  The landscape has completely changed as  the land  according to that Oslo agreement was divided into areas, A, B, and C,  which eventually was filled up with colonial settlements.    Jerusalem was sealed off, stopped being accessible to the Palestinians living on the West Bank, even though East Jerusalem is technically in the West Bank, and the Jerusalem area is already filled up .  with 250,000 Jewish settlers.  The Apartheid Separation Wall, separated Palestinian territories from each other and military check points made life more and more difficult for Palestinians. 


On the grass roots level, we have watched many movements standing in solidarity with our people.  So hopefully they will eventually make a change and bring justice to our people, for without justice there can never  be peace.  But according to Benjamin Franklin “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

So I hope we can continue to count on your actions that would make a difference in the lives of our people

Friday, May 14, 2021

On Love

John 15:12

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

How much better the world would be if only we could abide by this command.  I must admit that it is not that easy.  Are we capable of the love that God is referring to in this verse, especially that we are reminded of  another  verse in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.”  What are we willing to give or do to prove our love for the other: our own families, neighbors, our colleagues at school, and work,  let alone our enemies, who are out to get us in one way or another, and will that be possible?


However, when we reflect on the qualities of love as listed in 1Corinthians 13:4-7, we begin to realize that with love one can overcome so many problems and conflicts, whether on the level of the family, community,  the country, and even on a larger scale of regional and global conflicts.  “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered.  It keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  It seems to me that in a nutshell,  love is actually blinding.  I thought those beautiful definitions of love should help us appreciate the meaning of love, and provide us with  the guidelines  to abide by that command:  Love each other as I have loved you.    An unconditional love.  That is why when we experience the power of love,  we realize that it is indeed a blessing to be able to love and be loved.


I would like to share with you a true story of a friend of mine,   who was a very wise and pious Christian woman.  And I say was, because she is not with us any more.   Like many Palestinians, she and her family had been evicted from their home in West Jerusalem in April 1948, and ended up living in Amman, Jordan.   Shortly after that trauma, her husband passed away and eventually her two sons married to two sisters were living with her.  She was such an organized woman, but she was having a hard time coping with all the disorder and chaos brought about by her daughters-in law.  Her only outlet was to share her dilemma with her daughter who was already married before 1948, and was living abroad.  You cannot imagine how the advice of her daughter “to love them as if they were her own daughters” worked like magic.  By her own words she told me:  By loving them my whole life changed and I was relaxed and stopped seeing any of the chaos that bothered me so much. Indeed love is blinding.  


As we ponder on the qualities of love,  it becomes  very clear that the opposite of those qualities are actually the main reasons for all the conflicts that we face in our daily life.  When you are impatient, you are not willing to listen to somebody else’s point of view.  When you are not kind, you are bound to hurt somebody.  When you envy somebody for what he or she has gained or accomplished you are already hurting somebody’s feeling instead of sharing the joy of the accomplishment.  When you are rude and easily angered you are bound to create enemies due to your attitude, and nobody would be interested in even listening to you.  Indeed love keeps no record of wrongs.  When you are trying to reconcile with a friend you simply shut the record with an apology,  and let bygones be bygones, otherwise there will never be any reconciliation.   I remember when we were kids and we would have a fight or hurt each other at home or school, during a game or discussion,  which was a  normal feature of growing up,  it was always compulsory  that our parents or teachers would make us say “sorry”  before going on with the day.  It was the magic word that clarified any misunderstanding or any hurt feelings.  Sometimes there was a  kiss along with the “sorry.”  And life went on.


Many years later,  I observed the principal of Rawdat El-Zuhur School in East Jerusalem, where I volunteered for many years as she dealt with conflicts.  She would never allow a child to go home before  a good handshake or a hug with one of his or her  peers if  they had a big row in school.  Also small misunderstandings between teachers would be solved before the end of the day.    A policy that proved very helpful in maintaining  an atmosphere of love, peace, and dignity for all.  Be they staff or students. I often wonder what if churches, organizations and even countries would  follow such a policy?  Would we not be spared so many conflicts?  So many people around the globe  have been hurt due to oppressive regimes in their own churches, institutions, and governments.  While many more  have suffered due to imposed conflicts upon them, like occupation, colonization  and deprivation of their rights, and nobody even recognized the root cause of their suffering, let alone offer an apology. 


How could the world unite under the slogan of love, to overcome all the suffering that we watch daily on our TV screens?  Or am I being too na├»ve to even start hoping that through love we shall overcome, while vested interests and material gains for the powerful continue to be priority.  However if all good people who believe in the power of love and truth, can  join forces in the right direction, we can continue to  hope that we shall overcome.     With the sophisticated media, we have no reason anymore to justify our ignorance about what is happening around the globe,  and how it is affecting  everybody;  we have all become so interconnected.   I think the following words of Dr. Martin Luther King are  so pertinent regarding this issue:


“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.”


So I hope that the love that preserves,  is also able to preserve our Globe and spare it and spare its inhabitants further suffering that humans are imposing on each other as well as on the environment that we are living in.


Go with love and peace.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Indeed Absurd

Soon after the International Criminal Court confirmed its jurisdiction, it announced  on March 3, 2021 the opening of a formal investigation into crimes committed in the Palestinian territories, after 2014.  While the Palestinians along with other human rights organizations,  applauded the decision,  the Israeli PM, Mr. Netanyahu, commented that it was absurd,  which inspired me with the title of this reflection.  Indeed absurd, but   not the investigation.   What is really absurd is the fact that Israel considers itself the only democracy in the region and  refuses to be accountable to anybody despite  its long history of violations of the Palestinian human rights.   In fact it should be grateful that the investigation will only cover the period as far back as 2014, because Israel’s   history of violations of human rights goes back to the early days of the  establishment of the state, not withstanding the “terrorist attacks of the Jewish gangs  under the British Mandate.  


It was not surprising  to hear  Mr.  Blinkin, the US secretary of the State, objecting to the investigation.  What else is new?  Without  the moral and financial support of the USA  Israel would have never been  able to get away with all its violations of the rights of the Palestinians.   It is high time that Israeli leaders and soldiers should start worrying now that the ICC is opening  its investigation.  


However, it won’t be surprising at all that Israel will once again use the “gimmick” of AntiSemitism to blackmail members of the  International Criminal Court.  We have already seen how being  labeled as anti-Semitic has played a role in ousting politicians as well as university professors and others. We have seen a number of cases where people lose their integrity by silence, rather than be falsely labeled anti-Semitic.   Will  the court  succumb?  Or will its members  stand up against all the pressure and uphold the terms of its  mandate, and prove to be an honest court of Justice?  Let us hope so, and hope that Israelis will finally pay the price, as well as learn the  lesson that justice and only justice, and not blackmailing,  will bring about security and peace in the region.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Irony of Ironies!!

While our young Palestinian prisoners go on a hunger strike every now and then demanding justice,  especially those who are under administrative detention without charge or trial, I was shocked to hear this morning that the Israeli settlers are staging a hunger strike in front of the offices of the Prime Minister in Jerusalem.   What was shocking is not the hunger strike itself, as we have been watching the Israelis for some time now, demonstrating against the Prime Minister demanding his stepping down.   What is  ironic about this hunger strike is that the Jewish settlers  are demanding the legitimizing of the illegal posts they have  in the West Bank, because they cannot  survive without water and electricity?”  Indeed  nobody can beat such impudence.  


However we have to remember that all the settlements are illegal according to international law because they are built on occupied territories, and they all started by being illegal according to the Israeli definition, meaning they did not get the permit of the Israeli government.  So the definition of being legal or illegal is determined by Israel itself, defying international law.  


It remains to be said that around 45  Palestinian villages in the Galilee and the Negev, that have existed before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948,  are still unrecognized and have no services, water, electricity, transportation, education, etc. whereas those new illegal Jewish settlements that have been mushrooming all over the occupied Palestinian territories of 1967 have the most modern services including swimming pools that have been  depleting the water resources of the Palestinian towns.  Indeed the irony of ironies.  Samia

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A New Dawn?

The joy and relief at seeing an end to the Trump era reminded me of the story of the widow who was living in a very small and crowded house with her family.  She sought the help of her parish priest, and he advised her to get a goat? What a crazy suggestion she thought as I hardly have room for my children.   But she took his advice hoping for a miracle,  which the church keeps talking about.  She got herself a goat, and God knows what she went through for two weeks until the priest checked on her and advised her to remove the goat.  Ah she sighed with relief.  The house seemed so spacious and she was happy and ever so grateful for the advice of the priest, although the house was the same.  


The sigh of relief  at the end of the Trump era,  came from so many people as well as governments around the world,  However we cannot belittle the over   74 million votes that he got.  For us, Palestinians,  ever since the US approved the partition scheme of Palestine in 1947, and was the first to  recognize the State of Israel, we never had a fair deal, irrespective of who the president of the USA was.  Yes we had some who were more understanding and were keen to stop our demise, but the pro-Israel vote which has been so entrenched in the American legislative system has always been the obstacle for a fair and just solution for Palestine.  But we never had it as bad as we did during the term of Donald Trump.  So in Palestine it was also a great relief to see him go.


With so much damage done for our cause by the many free gifts that  Trump had offered  Israel on a silver platter, we should not expect Mr. Biden to retrieve all those gifts.  To start with,  his hands are already full trying to mend the situation in the USA itself,  and he is not going to be any different than other administrations for keeping Israel as a priority.  After all   he is  very familiar with the region as he had served as Vice President  during Mr. Obama’s term, so he is certainly more knowledgeable and more of an experienced  statesman than Mr. Trump.  However Mr. Obama’s term was one of the most disappointing, maybe because we had expected so much from him, especially   after his Cairo speech and after his courageous stand against the settlements.  Unfortunately, he was unable to deliver anything to the Palestinians, not withstanding his very generous financial commitment to Israel for the next ten years, shortly before the end of his term. 

Was that really necessary, or was he trying to mend matters with Netanyahu whose mutual animosity was so apparent.  And all that, at the expense of the Palestinians.  


Shielding Israel and turning a blind eye to all its violations in the occupied territories has always been the normal stand of  the US, locally and on the international arena.  But the most recent report of the B’tselem Israeli human rights organization, labeling  Israel as an apartheid state, should be a wake up call for  both Israel and the USA.  So dare  we hope that for a change,  Mr. Biden will launch a new dawn by realizing that justice for the Palestinians and ending the occupation will actually not only be the right thing to do, but will also benefit Israel and grant it the security that it  demands and which it  constantly uses to justify all its violations?

Friday, December 18, 2020

Christmas 2020

The Little Town of Bethlehem is not celebrating

It was the first to be hit by a virus so invading

Tourists carried it during a flourishing season

Causing a complete lockdown of all the region.

Easter has gone and now it's Christmas time

It's getting worse and the virus is in its prime

The Christmas tree stands lonely in the square

No choirs or pilgrims, a scene so sad and rare

With the news of the vaccine, hope is rising

Holding onto hope for us is not surprising

Hope has been the secret of our surviving

Despite the occupation ever so brutalizing

As we face this monster of a pandemic altogether

The least we can do is to be kind to each other

May the spirit of Christmas continue to prevail

And may justice, peace and liberation tip the scale

Friday, December 11, 2020

An Open Letter to the European Union On the UN Human Rights Day


For the last few days,  we have been hearing  about the European Union contemplating  to impose sanctions on Turkey.  I am not going to indulge in the reasons justifying those sanctions.  However,  on this 10th day of December,  I want to seize the occasion of the United Nations Human Rights Day to pose a question to the European Union,  that  has been watching the daily violations of Palestinian human rights by the Israeli occupying forces including the demolition of schools which the European Union itself  has provided funding for.  When will the European Union think it is appropriate to consider or in fact to actually impose sanctions on Israel?  After the visit  to the site of the schools and the wide coverage it had on the media,  all that the European Union Representatives did was to condemn the action.  Israel could not care less, and it has become immune to any condemnation of its violations in the occupied territories.  Even when it kills young people,  it claims that it has a right to defend itself.


However,  I am sure Israel  won’t be that  immune if it is made to feel the brunt of its violations by some action on behalf of the international community.  So I am wondering what it is going to take for the  European Union to consider imposing sanctions on Israel, for its continuous  violations during its 53 years of a military occupation, which in itself is a violation of  the United Nations resolution 242 passed by a unanimous vote of the Security Council  on November 22, 1967  for the withdrawal of the Israeli forces based on the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.