Thursday, November 24, 2005

EMHRN meeting in Vienna, November 12-13, 2005

I was in Vienna last weekend at a network meeting; the network is called the Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN). The Arab HRA, the organisation I represent, sits on the Steering Committee of the network's Working Group, called the Working Group on Palestine/Israel.

We finalised European advocacy strategies in London and Brussels for December 2005, and spoke of future possibilities for late 2006.

Although the meeting schedule didn't allow for a visit into Vienna, we did manage to sample great chocolate, rich ice wine and some warm hospitality from a Croatian-minority couple living near the city of Neusiedl am See.

Room Keys at the Hotel

Guess who... found an iron that morning

Caffeine Advocacy

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Why Gaza is still Occupied Territory

Gaza is still occupied. We heard it from a Gazawi (Gazan), the Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Raji Sourani. He was supposed to meet with us in Austria as part of the Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network's 'Working group on Palestine/Israel', but because no Gazawi can currently leave Gaza, we had to settle for a teleconference with him.

This is what Raji had to say:

The Occupation remains and Gaza is completely disconnected from the West Bank and Al-Quds (Jerusalem). Israel maintains complete air and land control (in spite of the fact that there is no physical army presence on the ground).

Mainstream media talks about Gazawis now having the chance to step up to the plate and prove themselves. But here is the de facto situation on Gazawi ground:
- Lives of Gaza's inhabitants still completely controlled.
- Israeli navy presence just 10 metres from Gaza's shores.
- 3-5 kms from border, Israel fires sonic bombs as a method of intimidation.
- Political assassinations commonplace by Israeli apaches. Since the disengagement and until November 13, 2005 - 17 such killings.
- The Rafah border crossing is totally sealed.
- Unemployment in Gaza used to stand at 66% - today it is more. 81% people under poverty line – facing real economic, social, political strangulation.
- Israel decides what Gazawis drink, eat and wear. Very frightening.
- Buffer zones exist in the north and west; the army will shoot and kill any movement in that area.
- Gazawi fisherman can’t even go to the sea.
- There are 985 kilo bombs parked 360° around Gaza.
- Israel has been able to achieve this ‘withdrawal mirage’.
- However, the reality is very different and is not promising on any level.
- 1.4 million people are caged in. And nobody seems to see that.

He added:

- 7,000 settlers evacuated – which is great. But it’s business as usual. Remember, the withdrawal wasn't about the Palestinians; it was about a military presence that was working out too costly for them.
- Israel has marketed the Disengagement smartly; so much so that they can reasonably convince the Europeans to work with them on Israeli security.
- Israel is manufacturing another Bin Laden in Gaza by continuing their present practice in the region.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Advocating for Palestinians

To make inroads into seeing true Palestinian representation within Israel (and even in the Occupied Territories; yes Gaza is still occupied), the struggle can assume two forms:

- An internal struggle, and
- A struggle that employs external advocacy measures

True, empowerment of the population is vital to seeing representation... as are other internal strategies - like working with the Israeli public to make them aware of real Palestinian issues, political participation, and even (running contrary to the previous) economic and political boycotts. However, part of the struggle is applying external pressure on the Israeli government; international advocacy helps us get there.

I will be in Vienna, Austria tomorrow, and for the following 3 days, to work on just that. The Euro Med Human Rights Network's 'Working Group on Palestine/Israel', on whose Steering Committee the Arab HRA sits, will be meeting to talk about the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Barcelona Process and general advocacy strategies for Occupied Palestine and Israel.

Look, if they don't listen to us, maybe they'll listen to those that can prospectively make them richer. Maybe they'll listen to those that they aspire to be, the Europeans.

Anyway, details on the meeting to follow.
Must get to packing.
Leaving shortly.

And in the words of Lascelles, my Jamaican/ Torontonian/ photographingmanofwisdomwithmanywordsofintellect, Keep the faith, the beat goes on...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Quotes from the West Bank

Two weeks ago I was in Bethlehem. In the West Bank.

There are stories of border crossings, the current status of Palestinian civil society, and why the Palestinian women I've met are not what I expected (not a bad thing). But I'll postpone those stories for tomorrow.

Today I'll leave you with quotes. Quotes from the two conferences I attended. Also in attendance were European funders and advocacy groups, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, and words spoken but till date not understood...

"If you dig a hole with a needle, you make a packet, then you take a spoon, then you take a shovel..."

He then adds, "They are from us who is doing it yknow, they are not from them."

This from the moderator, "It’s kind of like an active forum. It’s kind of like a weird animal."

"Mohammed, let’s go step by step. I’m really feeling like, yknow, a car turning round and round in a playground..."

"Mohammed, Laila... wait! Everything is missing… I’m not bullshitting myself, neither you guys here yknow… I explained yesterday, working on the Israelis and not with the Israelis… Mohammed you are really trying to put make-up on the face of the thing… This is the normalisation terms that we used and we ate shit!"

This is an open call to all translators; we're west-banking on you.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Lubna Azabal

This post goes out to young, talented female actors world-over; and is especially directed to Belgian artists of Moroccan origin.

Belgian artists of Moroccan origin that exhibit soul in their step and breathe character in their smile.

I had the pleasure of meeting, albeit briefly, Lubna Azabal of Paradise Now / Exils / Viva Laldjérie - fame. She's in Nasereh for the French Cultural Centre's 1ère édition du Festival du Film Français de Nazareth.

I'm not sure how much of her spirit you can feel through the inserted photos, but I'll throw them in anyway because they're easy on the eyes.

Veo aspectos de las actrices de mi vida personal - Brooke, Jimagua, Zuzia - en ella