Wednesday, October 17, 2007

عيدكم مبارك

This is how 'Eid l-Fitr has gone down in Gaza - an article (October 17) from Ha'aretz reporter, Amira Hass.

UNRWA, the UN organization that helps Palestinian refugees, was unable to keep its promise to give students at its schools in the Gaza Strip NIS 100 each with which to buy clothes for the Id al-Fitr holiday. Why? Because Israel would not allow it to bring the cash into the strip.

The hermetic closure of Gaza over the last four months has also left its mark on the currency still circulating: The notes are ragged and torn, a visible reminder of the severance of commercial ties between Gazan farmers and manufacturers and their external markets. Only basic necessities are allowed into the strip...

...Appliance and computer stores have empty shelves; even the stock of light bulbs and electric cables is being steadily depleted. People are saving things they would not have saved in the past - even medicines: A. went to every pharmacy in Gaza City yesterday in an effort to buy a medicine imported from Egypt for his anemic wife, but came home empty-handed.

Read the full article here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Jonathan Cook asks 'Why did Israel attack Syria'

To quote Cook's article, "...Damascus, Hizbullah and Iran undoubtedly do share some military resources. But their alliance should be seen as the kind of defensive pact needed by vulnerable actors in a Sunni-dominated region where the US wants unlimited control of Gulf oil and supports only those repressive regimes that cooperate on its terms. All three are keenly aware that it is Israel's job to threaten and punish any regimes that fail to toe the line.

Contrary to the impression being created in the West, genocidal hatred of Israel and Jews, however often Ahmadinejad's speeches are mistranslated, is not the engine of these countries' alliance."

Read the full article here.

Mi'kmaq Poetry on the Spirit of Haida Gwaii

The Haida First Nations people of Haida Gwaii (off the coast of present-day British Columbia in Canada) were a flourishing population that maintained a delicate balance with the sea and the forest and sustained a civilisation that had evolved over the past twelve thousand years. Since James Cook landed on the island in 1778 and in the 138 years of contact with settler Europeans, over 90% of the Haida population was wiped out due to spread of European diseases of smallpox and measles, cultural dislocation and killing (Tulley, Strange Multiplicity).

These are beautiful words of truth, from Rita Joe of the Mi'kmaq First Nations people. These words speak to the 'spirit of Haida Gwaii' and to the spirit of modern-day Canada and urges us to remember and respect the indigenous populations of present-day Canada.

Your buildings, tall, alien,
Cover the land;
Unfeeling concrete smothers,
windows glint
Like water to the sun.
No breezes blow
Through standing trees;
No scent of pine lightens my burden.

I see your buildings rising skyward,
Over the trails where once men walked,
Significant rulers of the land
Who still hold the aboriginal title
In their hearts
By traditions know
Through eons of time.

Relearning our culture is not difficult,
Because those trails I remember
And their meaning I understand.

While skyscrapers hide the heavens,
They can fall.

(Rita Joe, 1978)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Israeli Army Doings Exposed by Army Insider

This is a Ha'aretz article (October 6 2007), written by Dalia Karpel called 'Parallel Lives'. The article tells the story of Nufar Yishai-Karin, a clinical psychologist who was drafted into the army in 1989 as a combat soldier and who also served in Gaza.

During her army service, she became interested in "finding out why some people in these groups (i.e. the army) work to bring about a change for the better, what it is in their personality that makes them like that and what happens in that kind of situation (i.e. in army service)." Accordingly, she studied the issue of violence ingrained in the minds and actions of Israeli soldiers, in conjunction with a Professor serving in the Army's mental health unit.

Read excerpts of her findings below:

The study included interviews with 18 soldiers and three officers who served with her in two armored infantry units. She knew most of them from her military service. She interviewed each of them personally in his home for a few hours and recorded the interviews; she still has the tapes. Her prior acquaintance with the soldiers led them to trust her implicitly, and they opened up fully, readily telling her about crimes they themselves had committed: murder and killing, breaking the bones of children, inflicting humiliation, destroying property, stealing.

About half the 21 interviewees are Ashkenazim, half Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent). Most are native-born and most are from middle-class families.

Testimony: "I went out on my first patrol ... Others on the patrol were just shooting like crazies ... I also started shooting like all the others ... It was ... look, I won't tell you that it wasn't cool, because suddenly for the first time you come and hold the weapon seriously, you're not training in some drill or in some dugout in the dunes, or I don't know what, or you have some commander who is looking over your shoulder in the firing range. Suddenly you are responsible for what you are doing. You take the gun. You shoot. You do what you want."

One of the study's most shocking findings is that the soldiers enjoyed the intoxication of power no less than the kick they got from the violence. "At one point or another of their service, the majority of the interviewees enjoyed [inflicting] violence," Yishai-Karin observes in the thesis. "They enjoyed the violence because it broke the routine and they liked the destruction and the chaos. They also enjoyed the feeling of power in the violence and the sense of danger."

Testimony: "The truth? When there is chaos and like that, I like it. That's when I enjoy it. It's like a drug. If I don't go into Rafah and if there isn't some kind of riot once in some week, I go nuts."

Another soldier: "The most important thing is that it removes the burden of the law from you. You feel that you are the law. You are the law. You are the one who decides ... As though from the moment you leave the place that is called Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] and go through the Erez checkpoint into the Gaza Strip, you are the law. You are God."

The callousness of some of the soldiers produced extreme indifference to the Arabs' suffering: "We were in a weapon carrier when this guy, around 25, passed by in the street, and just like that, for no reason, he didn't throw a stone, did nothing - bang, a bullet in the stomach - he shot him in the stomach and the guy is dying on the sidewalk and we keep going, apathetic. No one gave him a second look."

There were some tough soldiers who developed an ideology holding that even minor events necessitated a brutal response. "A 3-year-old kid, he can't throw, he can't hurt you no matter what he does, but a kid of 19 can. With women I have no problem. With women, one threw a clog at me and I kicked her here [pointing to the crotch], I broke everything there. She can't have children. Next time she won't throw clogs at me. When one of them [a woman] spat at me I gave her the rifle butt in the face. She doesn't have what to spit with anymore."

Some of the soldiers were singled out in the study as "prone to being led" - that is, they were swept up in the wake of their officers and buddies - and there were some who had never lifted a hand against anyone before their army service. "The moment the red line is broken, it is not just broken, it is smashed to smithereens, and from that moment everything is permitted," one soldier testified.

These soldiers believed that the intifada was a war, and that they had to be professional and maintain "purity of arms" - morality in warfare. But the reality of the situation and the fraternity of fighters prompted some of them to cover up for their friends, even if they stole from homes where they conducted searches or sexually harassed or provoked Arab women.

Most of the soldiers who were interviewed vividly recollect their first encounter with brutality. In one case, while still in basic training, they served as escorts for a group of suspects. "They took the Arabs, the commanding officers did, and put them on the bus between the back door and the last seat, put them only between the seats. On their knees. Then they told us: Within two minutes - and this is still just basic training - within two minutes everyone is on the bus. No one steps on the seats ... And everyone started to trample them [the Arabs] and step on them on the run ... It was a really bad winter. Minus 4 degrees [Centigrade] and rain and hail ... They each went out in the middle of the night ... They weren't given time to dress. Some of them had clogs, short-sleeved shirts ... Everyone opened the windows deliberately. People poured water on them from the canteens, so they would freeze from the cold. And the whole way they were bombarded with blows ... and I mean the whole way."

Another soldier describes one of the first times he entered a house to arrest an Arab, "an absolute giant, around 30, maybe. Rampaging. We shout at him to lie down, we hit him, but he doesn't lie down, he wants to escape ... These four guys show up and throw stones at him from all sides, and we are beating up on him ... Lie down! Lie Down! Lie down! Until in the end he lies down ... We get to company headquarters and it turns out he lost consciousness ... and a few days later he is dead."

An incident that fomented a crisis began when a squad commander from the hard-hearted group maltreated three bound teenagers. A soldier of conscience summoned another squad commander who was a paramedic. He told Yishai-Karin that by the time help arrived the three Palestinian boys were already "completely covered with blood, their clothes were saturated with blood and they were shaking with fear. Their hands were tied and they were afraid to move, they were on their knees."

The conscience-driven squad commander and soldier reprimanded the brutal squad commander, but were not backed up by the platoon commander. "You should know that what the two of you did is very serious," the platoon commander told them, "talking to him like that! You should know that you're in for punishment."

The two soldiers who received this tongue-lashing told another soldier what had happened, and he decided to tell the story the next day at a meeting of the brigade with the division commander. After hearing him out and asking to hear the testimonies of the two other soldiers, the division commander asked the brutal squad commander what he had to say for himself. But he refused to respond in front of the soldiers. The division commander removed him from the sector and ordered the Military Police to investigate the incident. The squad commander was sentenced to three months in prison.

Recalling this incident, which broke the conspiracy of silence in the company, Yishai-Karin notes that all the other soldiers supported the brutal squad commander, even those who thought he had gone too far and deserved punishment. In the face of the sacrosanct creed of the fraternity of fighters and unit loyalty, the soldiers of conscience were considered traitors, because "no soldier should have to go to jail because of some Arab."

The two soldiers of conscience - the eyewitness to the beating of the helpless youths and his paramedic buddy - were transferred out of the company. The former was sent to a snipers' course, the latter to an advanced course for paramedics, and afterward both of them took an officers' course. The soldier who revealed the story to the division commander was ostracized. Everyone boycotted him and hounded him, until he finally transferred out of the company and was assigned to a rear-echelon post.

...The soldiers claimed that the longer the unit spent in the field, the more violent it became and the more it was prone to impose order. They claimed that the army was aware of the drift toward violence, and encouraged it, because that way they could allocate less manpower.

Can you sum up the message of the study?

...Freud talks about the destructive aggressive instinct. In a letter to Einstein in 1932, Freud wrote, 'Musing on the atrocities recorded on history's page, we feel that the ideal motive has often served as a camouflage for the lust of destruction.' That has existed in everyone, in all languages and in all religions, across all the hundreds and thousands of years of history, and probably even before. There are some cultures that are more violent, yes, but violence appears in every culture.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Back from Exile in 3amman

After being in exile in 3amman for 5 weeks, I finally am allowed to return under alias.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

PCHR's Position on Emergency Order Restricting Civil Society in Gaza

Following the declaration of the 'state of emergency' declared by Mahmoud Abbas on June 14, on June 20 Abbas issued a decree on civil society organisations. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights based in Gaza writes about this decree:

Under first article of this decree the Palestinian Interior Minister is granted “the authority to review all permits for associations and organizations issued by the Ministry of Interior or any governmental source.” The second article gave the Minister of Interior or any person delegated by the Minister the power to “take any steps deemed necessary against associations and organizations with the intent of closure, amendment, or any other action.” The third article points that “all organizations and associations must submit new registration applications within one week; and all who violate this directive are subject to the law.”

PCHR's position is that this decree is a serious violation of the right to establish organizations, which is a basic human right guaranteed by article 26 of the Amended Basic Law for 2003, stating Palestinians’ right to “Establish unions, associations, federations, clubs, and public organizations in accordance with the law”, while they stress the importance and necessity of civil society in the current crisis, especially in the provision of humanitarian, relief, medical, and other services to the civilian population.

At a time when there is a crucial need for dialogue and cooperation among Palestinians at all levels - governmental, non-governmental, in civil society, among activists, in the media - there seems to be an earnest effort taken by the Palestinian Authority to sideline those who don't support them. This bodes very dangerous for the acting government as through actions like these they lose their legitimacy among the people and push Palestinians further apart from each other, all the while that the Occupation persists, the refugees are left without hope, and the initial goals that characterise the Palestinian struggle of a sovereign, independent state are threatened with being put off for another 59 years.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gazawi Human Rights NGO's Position on Crisis in Gaza

I read the following recommendations to address the crisis in Gaza at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) website, an organisation that do very important work in Gaza and that we have had the honour of cooperating with. This organisation and their website - - are a great resource to get the truths on Gaza from within; their June 18 Press Release reads:

In light of these accelerating developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), particularly in the Gaza Strip, PCHR stresses the following:

- PCHR condemns the use of military means to resolve the conflict between Hamas and Fatah movements, particularly the decision to resolve the conflict militarily through the seizure of Palestinian security headquarters and sites in the Gaza Strip by the Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades. Although PCHR is aware of the legitimacy of the government and its right to fully have its constitutional powers, and conscious of the security problems that preceded and the urgent need to reform the security establishment, there is no justification for the use of Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades in the military conflict and in the take over of the security establishment, which will only frustrate reform of the security establishment.

- Steps taken by President Mahmoud Abbas in response to these events violate the Basic Law and undermine the Basic Law in a manner that is no less dangerous than what is happening in Gaza, especially as:

A.The President has the right to declare a state of emergency and to dissolve the government in accordance with Chapter 7 of the Basic Law, but according to the Law, the dissolved government shall serve as an acting government until the formation of a new government that must be approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).
B.The Basic Law does not give the President any authority, even during a state of emergency, to suspend the enforcement of any provision of the Law concerning the PLC’s authority to grant confidence to the government, and he does not have the authority to dissolve or interrupt the work of the PLC during the period of emergency (article 113). The Basic Law is superior to all laws, from which all powers, including those of the President and Prime Minister, are derived, and it must not be undermined or suspended in all circumstances.

- Steps taken by the President are likely to complicate the crisis rather than solving it. The President’s response may lead to further isolation of the Gaza Strip and throw its 1.5-million residents into the unknown by subjecting them to international sanctions. There is also concern that a de facto political situation may develop in which the Gaza Strip is cut-off from the rest of the OPT.

- In the context of such a dialogue, it is important to stress the need to reconstruct the Palestinian security establishment on professional and national foundations, to ensure its independence and not to push it into any hideous factional conflicts so that it may be able to carry out its constitutional duties to defend the homeland, serve the people, protect the society, and ensure security and public order.

- The current Palestinian crisis is a new Nakba (in reference to the dispersion of the Palestinian people in 1948) that if not immediately stopped, will only grow as expectations of more economic and social strangleholds fuel concerns over massive emmigration from the Gaza Strip.

- The international community and Arab States are invited to take immediate steps to prevent this catastrophe by pressing for political dialogue between the Hamas and Fatah movements, as well as all other political factions, and to end this crisis which threatens the PNA and the Palestinian people as a whole.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Gutting Gaza

And then twisting the knife of occupation.

First they made beggars of an entire nation with their sanctions, then they threw their dirty dollars towards undermining the Palestinian Unity Government by arming Abbas' security force, and now the Israelis are dropping bombs like they would throw cheese-flavoured-sweets at Shavuot.

Please turn to good friend Laila Haddad's words to get the real story before you start spilling your misinformation about 'look at those Palestinians turning on each other and spreading chaos and Hamas and terrorist and barbarians'.

Hamas represents a real alternative to the Occupation and that is why the US and Israel are working to undermine them.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ya Awlad il-7aram - You're killing the Fourth Estate!

Pay respects folks - it's true... the fourth estate is dead. Allah yer7amha.

On a related note, the harrassment hasn't stopped at the airports, malls, border crossings, Jewish towns, mixed Arab-Jewish towns - it has now followed you all the way to your own Arab hometown. Two nights ago I was harrassed by police in my own town of Nazareth while walking home. It's alright cousin, I'm coming armed with books in one hand and ghitra in the other.

Ya awlad il-7aram... This is the State we live in - the anti-Arab one. The anti-Palestinian one. The anti-government narrative one. The racist one.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

صدق مخطوبة يفلانة وصدق باجر يزفونج

She and I engaged souls late November. She is wardat al-Nasereh, my queen. Mabrook baby on finding the right man.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Revolution will not be televised

The Revolution will not be televised... There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clocknews and no pictures of hairy armed women liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.

The revolution will not be televised - And sometimes, even today's reality isn't. Spot the coverage of the story below in al-bayan. Wila kilma ya 3ami.

January 18 - At least two people have died in a fire that broke out in a building under construction in the Gulf emirate of Dubai.

Two workers building the 37-storey apartment tower were killed and 57 others injured, said Maj. Rashid al-Falasi of the Dubai Police.

"Some of the workers were trying to climb down on cables. One guy in red was trying to climb down and then he just fell. It was horrible," said Louise Olson, 25, from Denmark, who watched the scene from her whirlpool bath in a high-rise that faces the burning tower.