Thursday, December 29, 2011

[ePalestine] TWIP: Palestine's Economic Hallucination (By Sam Bahour)

TO READ ONLINE: http://bit.ly/sPfCqj

This Week in Palestine (Issue No. 165, January 2012)

Palestine’s Economic Hallucination
By Sam Bahour

It’s the end of the year and time to turn the page after a bit of reflecting. What better way to reflect than to contrast image and reality, and even more so when the topic is Palestine’s economy? For starters, I ask, Do we have an economy, real or imagined? For a long time, many would just sweep this question under the rug of the Israeli military occupation and say No. How could we when every aspect of our livelihood is ultimately micromanaged by the Israeli government?

But such a knee-jerk answer did not make sense after the Oslo Agreement and the advent of the Palestinian Authority. From that point on, the economic reality under occupation was spiced up with heavy doses of self-made artificial images. The starting image, if my memory serves me well, was that we would “build a Singapore.” May God rest that imager’s soul. I hope the real Singapore never asks Palestinians to compensate them for the damage done to its good name.

These now infamous Palestinian negotiators who signed the agreement in Paris back on April 29, 1994, termed the Protocol on Economic Relations between Israel and the PLO (better known as the “Paris Protocol”), agreed to what our economy could and couldn’t do. The Paris Protocol was, with only minor modifications, incorporated as Annex V in the Interim Agreement - the equally infamous Oslo Agreement - signed in Washington on September 28, 1995.

So with the Oslo Agreement, which descended like a parachute from above, emerged the agreement’s spectacular brainchild, the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority, which is its accurate name in the Oslo Agreement, wasted no time in producing all the trappings of a real economy. Before one could say “the Authority is an Orwellian double-speak Authority,” economic ministries, ministers, laws, policies, regulations, and even a few “strategic” plans started to pop up here and there.

From the outset, the powers that be even squeezed the word “National” in between “Palestinian” and “Authority,” which seemed to give many people patriotic goose bumps. Anyone engaged in trying to build a real economy got little more than a permanent rash.

A decade later, the Palestinian economy was in our face. The image of an economy had taken form. The superheroes were not the negotiators who signed the Paris Protocol, and not even the Audi-happy Palestinian ministers, but rather the donors and their agents who built an entire aid industry using the agreements, Paris Protocol included, as its foundation.

When reality sunk in after the collapsed Camp David II talks in the year 2000, more and more people started to see the artificial economy for what it was - a farce. We were back to hearing: How could we have an economy when every aspect of our livelihood is ultimately micromanaged by the Israeli government?

But then came along Israeli peace activist (and good friend) Jeff Halper and made an analogy: even a prison has an economy, albeit 95 percent of the prison is occupied (not to be confused with militarily occupied) by the prisoners. The prison warden only needs a small percent of space to control all the doors, entrances, exits, and windows. What gets traded in a prison is what the warden allows in or is smuggled in: cigarettes, drugs, books, chores, favours, and the like.

This “Inconvenient Truth,” to borrow Al Gore’s words, that the whole of the occupied territory was no more than a prison where the prisoners seemingly have space, but zero voluntary ability of movement and access, was an eye-opener to many. When one added the fact that 60 percent of the West Bank was classified in Oslo as “Area C” - off limits to Palestinian economic development - many started to see a prison as a step up from the reality that was called the Palestinian economy.

Then came political infighting on the heels of long overdue elections. A convenient new chapter was born to rebrand the past economic failure.

For so many years, if you read the reports, listened to all the speeches, read the billboards, scanned the newspaper advertisements, noted all the prizes being offered by the banking system, you would never believe that a real economy never existed here. And just in case you started to feel that this may be an artificial economy after all, the banking system jumped out of its conservative straightjacket and started begging for customers to take out loans. Not one loan, not two, but as many as possible. Why not? - since the mighty all-knowing donors were quietly hiding behind the bank vaults, guaranteeing every move and cheering on the structural change that was taking place with full Palestinian government acceptance.

Indebtedness! Good ol’ American indebtedness. Need a student loan? No problem. Need a car loan? Simple. Want to get married - how much do you need? A home? Why rent when you can own? Don’t have the latest iPhone? Don’t sweat it, just sign here and pay NIS 5 for the next 200 years. While you’re at it, every home needs a computer, what’s the difference between a NIS 5 and NIS 7 payment? And the list goes on.

OK. I’m being a little too sarcastic, but not much. Let me try to bring this hallucination into focus.

Back to basics! What the hell is an economy anyway? Well, the dictionary says an economy is “the system of production and distribution and consumption.” OK, that’s a decent starting point, but it reflects a normal condition. Palestine, the occupied part, is far from normal. The phase of our development is not just producing, distributing, and consuming. We are supposed to be removing the boot of an entrenched military occupation from our necks while simultaneously building a state that needs an economic foundation to serve it. Yes, we must eat, sleep, and be clothed in the meantime, but that is surely not going to be enough.

So, what does an economic foundation to serve a forthcoming sovereign state need? A few more cafés? A larger supermarket? KFC? Another hotel? A bowling alley? Bars?

BEEP! Wrong answer. All of those are fine and dandy to have, but they will not move us one iota closer to freedom and independence, economically.

The economic resources we need are known to all who need to know, first and foremost the donor community. Strategic state-building economic resources are land, water, roads, borders, electromagnetic spectrum, airspace, movement, access, electricity, free trade relations, and the most important resource of all, the human resource. All of these and many more are not 99 percent in Israeli hands but are 100 percent micromanaged by the Israeli military occupation.

Without taking a step back and taking note of the systematically planned integration (better known as forced dependence) of the Palestinian economy with Israel, we will continue to believe a reality of an economy that is simply an economy in the occupier’s defined image.

The wake-up call has arrived. State or no state, this occupation is illegal and must end now. In the world of military occupations, third states, signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention, carry the burden of holding the occupier accountable. Enough with this glorified empty talk of institution building and bilateral negotiations. Our economic resources are being raped as donor-funded cappuccinos keep the doors of our cafés open.

If donors can’t place their efforts where they belong, then they should kindly be asked, by their own people before us, to stop wasting their citizens’ tax dollars by feeding us an illusion of building a Palestinian economy, which has now been exposed as the fragile house of cards it is. If our water resources continue to be diverted, if our frequencies continue to be commercially abused by unlicensed Israeli telecom operators, if our movement is going to remain hostage to an ID, a magnetic card, a businessman’s card, and a permit, if a Gazan student can’t study in a West Bank university, and if illegally annexed Jerusalem is going to remain so difficult an issue for donors to address, well then why are we all wasting our time?

It seems the Palestinian “leadership” purchased its first mirror this past September and is starting to see the reflection of what it has created and thus beginning to make some slight adjustments. I would hope that not only legacy-building is in the reflection, but an honest approach to where we have reached, on all fronts. The times do not call for more resounding speeches or cosmetic changes to a warped reality.

Palestine’s economic hallucination has the power to maintain an image of a reality that is growing at more than 9 percent a year. It used to take us 20 minutes to travel from Ramallah to Bethlehem. Now, we are forced to circumvent Jerusalem, around cement walls and through multiple Israeli checkpoints. Today it takes us over 60 minutes, at best. For GDP growth, this is great news. During those extra 40 or more minutes we burn more gasoline, require more lighting on the longer roads, eat more sandwiches on the way, spend more time driving, hit more potholes, which causes more work for the road engineers in the morning, etc., etc. All of this extra spending is great for a higher GDP but catastrophic for our livelihood and state-building exercise.

It’s time for a new economic model, one built on economic justice, social welfare, solidarity, and sustainability. We should all have one goal in mind: lowering the cost of living under occupation so more people can remain steadfast during these troubling times. If you don’t believe me, no hard feelings - feel free to transfer your salary to that other bank down the street, they are giving away the best prize yet: one- way airline tickets for your entire family to anywhere, but Palestine. Bon Voyage!

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American based in Al-Bireh/Ramallah, Palestine. He is a freelance business consultant and was instrumental in the establishment of the Palestine Telecommunications Company and the PLAZA Shopping Center. Sam writes frequently on Palestinian affairs and has been widely published. He is co- editor of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians and may be reached at   sbahour@palnet.com . He blogs at   www.epalestine.com .  

TO READ ONLINE: http://bit.ly/sPfCqj


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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

[ePalestine] WATCH: Ultra-Orthodox spit on “immodest” 8-year-old girl in Beit Shemesh


Israel has caught up with itself. This mess must stop for all our sakes, Israeli and Palestinian!

Dismantle racism, in all its forms,
Sam



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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

[ePalestine] Huffingtonpost: Waking Up Stateless in Jerusalem (by Danielle C. Jefferis)

Waking Up Stateless in Jerusalem 

By Danielle C. Jefferis, Third-year law student, Georgetown University 


This article is based on the forthcoming paper Institutionalizing Statelessness: The Revocation of Residency Rights of Palestinians from East Jerusalem in the International Journal of Refugee Law. 



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Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Palestinian clowns are everywhere
By Sam Bahour


Some Palestinians refuse to just sit still and accept their fate as a permanently, militarily occupied people. One would think by now that Palestinians would have received the message loud and clear – the world couldn’t care less about their fate. But no, these Palestinians just refuse to sit still. They continue to defy their reality and can be seen across the Holy Land – jumping, climbing, swinging, falling, tripping, singing, twirling, juggling, cycling, tight roping, and the like. Their nerve! To think they can attempt to live a normal life when the powers that be are spending billions, literally, to cause a collapse of Palestinian society.

And who is it exactly I speak of? Palestinian clowns. No, I’m not taking a swing at the political leadership, at least not here. I’m talking about the real thing: circus clowns, like in clowns that make you laugh and make you forget that the boot of occupation is pressing on your neck.

I can understand your confusion. Clowns and circus do not usually appear in the same sentence with Palestine. You are probably much more attuned to how Palestinians have been labeled over the years by some Israelis and their marionettes – everything from terrorists, crocodiles, ‘beasts walking on two legs,’ grasshoppers, cockroaches, slaves, ‘a community of woodcutters and waiters,’ the ‘penniless population,’ ‘not worth a Jewish fingernail,’ all the way to the most recent classification of being an ‘invented people.’

As many are bent on dehumanizing Palestinians, systematically and with contempt, others are mending the wounds of a people who have been purposely stripped of their well-being in one of the world’s most unjust chapters of history. One group tending to that process of mending the deep wounds that 44 years of military occupation continue to inflict is the Palestinian Circus School (PCS), based in Birzeit, Palestine.

Yes, you read correctly. There is a Palestinian Circus School in Palestine! However, as I have learned while working closely with this professional team of circus artists, this is not what we all think of when we first think of circus. There are no elephants here, only Palestinian children engaged in a form of art and expression that uses their body to tell a story which can make audiences laugh, cry, or both.

Although the school recently moved from Ramallah to its newly donated headquarters in Birzeit (thanks to Dr. Hanna Nasir), its activities are spread across the West Bank, and Gaza will be added as soon as possible. The School operates local circus clubs and gives performances in various cities, villages and refugee camps.

The Palestinian Circus School is a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in 2006 and registered with the Palestinian Authority since February 2007. You can read more and view some videos of their work at: www.palcircus.ps.

My consulting firm, which mainly serves the private sector, was commissioned by a unique donor, the Drosos Foundation, to assist the Palestinian Circus School in developing a five-year business plan which we successfully completed. Drosos has a rock solid motto of being ‘committed to enabling disadvantaged people to live a life of dignity.’ It is rare I would choose to write about one of my work assignments; however, what I witnessed over several months sparked an interest that I want to share. I also want to appeal to you to support their efforts. Likewise, Palestine is flooded with donor agencies, and most want to drive Palestinians’ development agenda, so when I worked with a funding agency that was sincere about supporting Palestinians by providing resources, but didn’t stand in the way of indigenous planning, I felt this was one of those cases that is the exception and also deserves to be shared.

Contemporary circus (or nouveau cirque as it was originally known in French-speaking countries) is a genre of performing art developed in the late 20th century, in which a story or theme is conveyed through traditional circus skills. It may all look like a game to the untrained eye, but this is serious business. At its heart, this style of circus is a societal change agent. The Circus School teaches young Palestinians the circus pedagogy to stimulate and develop their physical, mental, artistic, emotional, social and cognitive abilities. The circus then employs these skills in bringing smiles to the faces of children throughout Palestine, especially in marginalized areas.

If you spend any time in any part of Palestine, or even in Palestinian refugee communities outside of Palestine, you will quickly notice that the ultimate weight of this conflict is falling on the shoulders of our youngsters—shoulders that should never have to carry the weight of a military occupation! These young minds continue to be systematically damaged, but society is not standing still.

The Palestinian Circus School puts smiles on children’s faces as well as using the platform of circus to link to a global circus arts community. Circus schools and troupes worldwide are acting in solidarity with Palestinians by exchanging trainers, performances and experiences. It’s serious business with serious results. Maybe that’s why, last year, Israeli authorities denied entry to Mr. Ivan Prado, the most famous clown in Spain, who was coming to perform to Palestinian audiences.

Robert Sugarman, author of The Many Worlds of Circus, described the impact of circus best when he wrote, “By turning you upside down, we teach you to stand on your own two feet. By dropping objects we teach you to catch them. By having you walk all over someone, we teach you to take care of them. By having you clown around, we teach you to take yourself seriously.” The children of Palestine have had their lives turned upside down. Help us bring a smile to their faces and build confidence in their futures to make their lives worth living.

So, as you prepare to bring in a new year, I appeal for your generous support to the Palestinian Circus School in any way you can. You will not be disappointed. There are three places donations can be made:

- IndieGoGo Campaign to raise $25,000 to kick off fundraising for erecting a movable training hanger, which will be located adjacent to the newly donated headquarters. This new addition will house the high circus equipment, which are now placed outside in the cold under the open sky. This campaign just started and will run through February 20, 2012 at: http://igg.me/p/52303.

- Alternatively, donations to the Palestinian Circus School in the U.S. can be made through The Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA is a tax-exempt 501(c) 3 organization, so your gift is tax-deductible) www.mecaforpeace.org/partners/palestinian-circus-school.

- Of course, direct donations and/or student scholarships can be made via the School’s website at home.palcircus.ps/en/1/1/3.

Happy Holidays.

- Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business development consultant from Youngstown, Ohio living in the Palestinian City of Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He is co-author of  HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and may be reached at sbahour@palnet.com. Disclosure: Sam’s firm, www.aim.ps, provides consulting services to PCS.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

[ePalestine] Addameer Concerned About Wave of Arrests since First Phase of Prisoner Exchange

NOTE: Walid Abu Rass is still being held!  

Dec. 15, 2011 

Addameer Concerned About Wave of Arrests since First Phase of Prisoner Exchange 

Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) have arrested nearly 470 Palestinians since 18 October 2011 , when 477 Palestinian political prisoners were released in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as part of the first phase of the prisoner exchange deal concluded by the Israeli government and Hamas authorities. This wave of arrests reveals that the exchange deal has not deterred Israel’s policy of detention of Palestinians; rather, Israeli prisons are being refilled with almost the exact number of Palestinians that were released in October. Even the released prisoners were not safe from harassment, as the IOF has regularly raided their homes, issued summons to meet with Israeli intelligence and re-arrested one individual. 

The 470 Palestinians who were arrested between 18 October and 12 December include about 70 children and 11 women.  The IOF continued to employ brutal methods of arrest, including the use of undercover Israeli forces, commonly known as musta’arabeen, who dress as Palestinian civilians in order to carry out ambushes and arrests of Palestinians from their homes and places of work. In many cases, joint army and intelligence raids occurred after midnight, where soldiers deliberately destroyed contents of the houses they were searching. Of the 70 children arrested during this period, the majority are from Shuafat camp in Jerusalem and Dheisheh camp in Bethlehem. In the past two weeks alone, 11 children were arrested in Shuafat and 10 in Dheisheh. Two of the 11 women arrested in during the past two months remain in detention. One of the released women is Irsa Salhab, a journalist who spent more than 20 days in Moskobiyyeh interrogation center. Six of the women were arrested during a demonstration outside Hasharon prison, where they were calling for the release of female prisoners not included in the first phase of the prisoner exchange. Three of these women were released shortly after their arrest, and three were sentenced to house arrest. 

Political activists were especially targeted for arrest during this period. Approximately 150 arrests of alleged party members occurred, particularly including those whom the IOF claims are active in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), some of whom received indictments issued against them, while others received administrative detention orders. The IOF has continued to arrest and renew administrative detention orders of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Two PLC members were arrested since 18 October, the administrative detention orders of 6 PLC members were renewed and one PLC member received a 30-year sentence.  Furthermore, on 27 October, following a mass hunger strike protesting punitive measures against prisoners including the use of isolation, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) renewed the isolation order for Ahmad Sa’adat for another year. At the beginning of December, Ahmad entered his 34th consecutive month in isolation. 

The IOF also continued to carry out arrests against human rights defenders in order to further repress the popular resistance movement. During the past two months, arrests of protestors participating in peaceful demonstrations occurred in almost all of the villages with an active weekly demonstration. These arrests include at least 2 from Bil’in, 3 from Nabi Saleh, 17 from Beit Ummar, 3 from Al-Ma’asara, 1 from Kufr Qaddum and 2 from Al-Walajeh, with arrests in East Jerusalem and the South Hebron Hills as well. In addition to these arrests, the IOF used extreme violence to disperse demonstrations, resulting in the death of protestor Mustafa Tamimi, 28, on 10 December. Mustafa was fatally injured when hit by a teargas canister in the head fired at close range by an Israeli soldier on 9 December, during the weekly demonstration against the Israeli settlements and Annexation Wall in Nabi Saleh. The arrests of human rights defenders, use of violence against peaceful protestors and threats to family members of activists are in clear violation of Palestinians’ right to freedom of expression and assembly. 

In light of this heightened wave of arrests, Addameer is concerned about what will happen after the conclusion of the second phase of the prisoner exchange deal.  The IPS has announced that 550 prisoners will be released on Sunday 18 December. Addameer calls for the implementation of the rights of released prisoners and urges the international community, including the United Nations and European Union, to intervene rapidly to prevent Israel from its continued practice of brutal and arbitrary detention. 




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Friday, December 09, 2011

Walid Abu Rass

Where’s my friend?
By Sam Bahour

My friend is Walid Abu Rass. He is the Finance and Administration Manager for the Health Work Committees (HWC, at www.hwc-pal.org), one of the largest community health service providers in the occupied Palestinian territory. HWC serves over 500,000 patients/beneficiaries per year! More on HWC in a second.

I had not seen Walid for a while. We are both knee deep in Palestine’s daily rat race. About two months ago, Walid and his HWC colleagues called for a meeting of their circle of friends. They sought assistance. HWC was going through some financial hard times, especially with the financial crisis in Europe, where many of their donors are based.

Given it was close to the end of year, a season when I usually donate some time to assist a community based organization to fundraise, I offered to volunteer. Walid was my counterpart. During the past weeks, we were in daily phone and email contact, and every few days we met up to visit a potential local donor. Progress was being made. We then started to plan, with a few others, an end-of-year fundraising raffle. Plans were coming together, and there was excitement among the team and staff that we were taking our fundraising needs to our local community to compensate for the loss in European institutional funding. This is even more significant since HWC does not accept funding with strings attached (“conditional donor funds”), so they have to struggle just to keep the doors open in this tainted donor-driven market.

For nearly a week I was emailing Walid with no reply. This was not like him. He and I nearly live behind our keyboards. The deadline for the raffle details was rapidly approaching and if we did not get started, we would miss the end of year opportunity for fundraising. I started to think Walid was mad at me for some reason. I rethought our last few weeks of working together. There was absolutely nothing there to cause him to just ignore my calls; after all, I was his volunteer counterpart.
Walid Abu Rass, daugthers Malak, 4 yrs old, Mais, 13 yrs old

Then, last night I learned why Walid stopped replying to me. On November 22nd, Israeli occupation soldiers arrived at his home at 1:30 A.M. Walid lives in Ramallah with his wife, Bayan, and two daughters, Mais, 13 years old, and Malak, 4 years old, who were all frighteningly awakened during his arrest. Walid was taken into custody and transported in the bone chilling cold of the night to Israel’s Ofer Military Detention Center where hundreds of Palestinians are detained, the vast majority with absolutely no knowledge of why.

The Israelis have been arresting Palestinians nightly for years now. Israel releases a few hundred prisoners in a media frenzy and then, the same night, starts to refill its prisons, a few Palestinians at a time. Although, as per the Oslo Agreements, the Palestinian side is responsible for security inside the Palestinian cities, Israeli armed forces routinely—read nightly, every night—enter the cities in their armored vehicles in the middle of the night and arrest a dozen or so Palestinians from their homes. Walid was merely the latest victim of this kidnap-by-night strategy.

The routine then goes something like this. Within eight days he will be brought before an Israeli military “judge” for the sake of processing only, not deliberating. The entire kangaroo court then, without sharing the reason why the Palestinian detainee is being held, flashes the security card to justify not sharing information on why they have acted against a specific individual. Then the court slaps a six month Administrative Detention Order on the detainee. That means you sit in prison for six months for no reason at all. Walid has already been given just such an order.

Your wife, your children, your work, your end-of-year fundraising campaign, your 500,000 patients/beneficiaries, your life, all abruptly stop. Then, usually, that six month order gets extended a few times before you are released. Walid is not unacquainted with this Orwellian mess. He previously spent nearly five years in and out of detention, never once being charged with anything!

The Health Work Committees association is registered as a not-for profit organization with the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior and also has a Jerusalem registration since they work in Jerusalem as well. HWC employees over 300 persons and operates 14 clinics throughout the West Bank, providing primary health services via these health clinics, mostly in areas not fully covered by the Ministry of Health. HWC also has a community development aspect of their work and operate the following: Jadal Center for Culture and Social Development, Nidal Center (providing health education to East Jerusalem schools), Community Development Plan, Oasis Rehab Center, Community Based Rehabilitation, and the Elderly Care Nursery and Kindergarten. One of the success stories of HWC is its partnership with the Dunya Women's Cancer Clinic.

All of these activities need health care administrators, of which Walid is one. At a time when the Israeli closure system is making life hell for Palestinians, especially those living in marginalized areas or areas directly affected by the Separation Wall, HWC is needed more than ever. Likewise, at a time when international organizations, like USAID, have dramatically cut funding and laid off staff from their heath care programs (such as Flagship) as punishment to the Palestinians for pursuing membership in UNESCO, HWC’s services are needed more than ever.

The era of silence is over. Also, over for me are the slogans that can’t be operationalized. Yes, we want all 5,000 or so Palestinian detainees released. Yes, the policy of administrative detention is inhumane and must end. However, these slogans, although needed at times, must be matched with action items. Each life being destroyed by the Israeli revolving door policy of detainment is a person with a name and a family and a job. And when the person is my friend or colleague, I refuse to swallow the fact that Israel has carte blanche to act above the law.

Help me get Walid back to his family and his desk so we can get back to the work of improving the Palestinian health care system. Consider contacting your local Israeli Embassy and any or all of the following and demanding his immediate release. Reference his name, Walid Abu Rass, and his ID # 9-9702819-6.

Judea and Samaria Region  
Office of the Legal Advisor

P.O. Box 5
Beit El, 90631
via Israel
Tel:  +972-2-997-7071
Fax:  +972-2-997-7326

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Office of the Prime Minister

3 Kaplan Street
PO Box 187
Kiryat Ben-Gurion
Jerusalem 91919
Fax: +972-2-651-2631 or +972-2-670-5475
E-mail: rohm@pmo.gov.il or pm_eng@pmo.gov.il

Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Defence Ehud Barak
Ministry of Defence

37 Kaplan Street
Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909
Israel
Fax: +972.3.691.6940
Email: minister@mod.gov.il

For more information on Administrative Detention see ADDAMEER (Arabic for conscience) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association at www.addameer.org.

- Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant from Youngstown living in the Palestinian city of Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He is co-author of “Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians” (1994) and may be reached via www.ePalestine.ps.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

[ePalestine] The Myth of "Resuming Negotiations" (by By John Kleinheksel Sr)

The Myth of "Resuming Negotiations"

By John Kleinheksel Sr, FPI, (Friends of Palestinians and Israelis)




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Sunday, December 04, 2011

[ePalestine] Palestine in Israeli School Books (by Nurit Peled-Elhanan) (A MUST VIEW)

Alternate Focus interviews Nurit Peled-Elhanan, author of the forthcoming book Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education. Nurit Peled-Elhanan argues that the textbooks used in the school system are laced with a pro-Israel ideology, and that they play a part in priming Israeli children for military service. She analyzes the presentation of images, maps, layouts and use of language in History, Geography and Civic Studies textbooks, and reveals how the books might be seen to marginalize Palestinians, legitimize Israeli military action and reinforce Jewish-Israeli territorial identity. 


NOTE: Nurit Peled-Elhanan is a Professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an Israeli peace activist, and one of the founders of the Bereaved Families for Peace. After the death of Elhanan's 13 year-old daughter in a 1997 suicide bombing, she became an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. 



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Friday, December 02, 2011

[ePalestine] ATLANTIC: Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews

The Atlantic 
Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews  
By Jeffrey Goldberg  


No comment,
Sam 



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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

[ePalestine] Souciant: Home and Garden (by Mitchell Plitnick)

The Harper's article mentioned in this article may be found here:

BEST TO READ BELOW ARTICLE AT URL GIVEN EMBEDDED LINKS:

Souciant

Geographies / Near & Middle East 

Home and Garden 
by Mitchell Plitnick on Nov 30, 2011 

This week, Iceland became the first European country to recognize the State of Palestine. The declaration had a curious clause: “Iceland recalls also the right of Palestinian refugees to return to former homes in accordance with numerous UN resolutions.” 

To be sure, this carries little weight; Iceland is a country of less than 320,000 people. It’s a political maverick, frequently charting its own course, and is not a member of the EU. While it’s unlikely that other European states will follow Iceland’s lead, the fact remains that a first world country has formally endorsed the return of Palestinian refugees. 

Coincidentally, the issue of the Palestinian Right of Return (RoR), made some waves a few days earlier when the noted Zionist dove, Bernard Avishai, published a piece in Harpers (print only, but available here) which took on the issue directly and tried to find some resolution to it that both Israelis and Palestinians can live with. 

This was no small task Avishai took on. For the overwhelming majority of Israelis, including most of the Israeli left, Right of Return is nothing more than code for the end of Israel as a Jewish state. For most as well, this has connotations of mass expulsions or fleeing the country at best, violent dangers at worst. Thus, even among most supporters of peace and withdrawal from all the Occupied Palestinian Territories, RoR is anathema to Israelis. 

For Palestinians, the Right of Return is not just a negotiating point. It is the very heart of their nationalism, the focus of their historical claim to lands from which they were driven. It is both a national right, which can be negotiated by their leaders, but also an individual right, which cannot. It is at once the key elderly Palestinians still keep with them to the homes from which their families were driven more than 60 years ago; it is also the grievance they feel must be addressed, the fact of that expulsion, if there is ever to be reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. 

In more than a decade of activism, including many visits to Palestinian towns, cities and refugee camps, I have spoken with Palestinians from all parts of the political, cultural, religious and economic spectrum. I have heard many views regarding the implementation of RoR. But not a single man, woman or child has ever said they would give it up. 

Except for the tiny minority of Israeli Jews who support the Right of Return, the mere mention of the idea casts a pall of terror across their faces. Many Israelis will withdraw from the West Bank, abandon the settlements and in smaller numbers, share Jerusalem. But RoR is an absolute non-starter. 

It is little wonder, then, that there has been virtually no serious discussion about the Right of Return, in or outside of Israel/Palestine. There have been repeated declarations by both sides of the heartfelt, and absolutist, stances, but little real discussion. In peace proposals, the “refugee issue” is left to vague wording that promises nothing to the Palestinians, yet still raises Israeli anxiety to a boiling point. For this reason, both Iceland’s declaration and Avishai’s article are extremely important. 

The Icelandic statement is a reminder to the West that this issue cannot be skirted around. The well-worn cliché about the only resolution being negotiations between the parties conducted in a fair and balanced atmosphere (that is, one where outside parties strive to balance the skewed power dynamics between the regional superpower, Israel, and the occupied, stateless and powerless Palestinians) is absolutely true in this case. 

But instead of taking that on, the United States, Europe, and all the other major players have tried their best to avoid it. Frankly, this is absurd, and always has been. 

No peace deal yet devised has ever taken a real look at RoR. Discussions ensue about what “the people” will accept, and it is usually, if quietly, assumed that the Palestinian position is so weak that they will swallow forgoing the Right of Return in order to end the occupation and build their state. Those making that assumption have never bothered to talk to an actual Palestinian. Whether in a café in Ramallah, a workshop in Gaza City, a refugee camp in Lebanon or an organizers’ meeting in Paris, they would have gotten a clear message that RoR must be seriously addressed if any peace proposal is to garner even moderate Palestinian support. 

Avishai, who has come under some justifiable criticism for an approach to this issue reflective of his privileged Israeli position, must be applauded for finally bringing this question into mainstream US discourse. 

It is the discourse, in the US, Europe and most of all in Israel and the Occupied Territories that has been missing for all these years. On all other issues, there have been the stated demands on both sides and then public discussion, within and across borders, about how to reconcile pragmatism with ideology, historical wrongs with present-day realities. But on RoR, there has been only the tense exchange of absolutism. 

Avishai’s proposed solution may not seem realistic to many. However, the solution isn’t the point right now. Opening a discussion about this, allowing Palestinians to make their case in a public forum, and Israelis and their advocates to respond, like every other issue, is the task at hand. 

Already, Avishai’s piece stirred up intense debate on the very nature of Zionism and the Jewish State. And that is precisely the discussion that Right of Return is going to provoke. Instead of running away from that discussion, it should be embraced. 

More than any other issue, RoR both challenges the status quo and stirs serious legal and ethical questions of history. Until they are grappled with, we are likely to see a continuation of the polarization we have seen in recent years and an ongoing stalemate which only leads to more violence and insecurity. 

The Right of Return is the very heart of the conflict, the definition of Palestinian dispossession and the cause of the fear, born (for the many Israelis of conscience) of historical guilt in Israel. Resolving it in a manner that both sides can live with is indispensable. Who knows. Maybe Avishai is right, and the road to resolving it, whether on his path or some other, contains the key to resolving the conflict as a whole. 

- Jaffa tanner’s home portrait courtesy of gnuckx. Published under a Creative Commons license. 




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Friday, November 18, 2011

[ePalestine] NEWSWEEK: Moshe Dayan's Widow Ruth: Zionist Dream Has Run Its Course

"We move from war to war, and this will never stop. I think Zionism has run its course.” ~Ruth Dayan

NEWSWEEK 

Moshe Dayan's Widow Ruth: Zionist Dream Has Run Its Course 

By Rula -Jebreal 

These startling words were uttered last week in Tel Aviv by 95-year-old Ruth Dayan, widow of one of Israel's founding fathers 




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Monday, November 14, 2011

[ePalestine] Rafeef Ziadah - 'We teach life, sir', London, 12.11.11

RAFEEF ZIADAH is a Canadian-Palestinian spoken word artist and activist. Her debut CD Hadeel is dedicated to Palestinian youth, who still fly kites in the face of F16 bombers, who still remember the names if their villages in Palestine and still hear the sound of Hadeel (cooing of doves) over Gaza. 




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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

[ePalestine] bitterlemons.org: The Quartet facade (By Sam Bahour)

bitterlemons.org 

The Quartet facade 

Sam Bahour 

Israel and the United States have perfected, almost to a science, the management of international players who dare to intervene in trying to advance peace in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israelis. The most recent political configuration to serve this purpose is the "Quartet on the Middle East", better known as just "the Quartet", a self- appointed foursome of nations and international and supranational entities involved in mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The Quartet is comprised of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia. The group was established in Madrid in 2002. Given that the United States dominates the Quartet, one does not need to be a political scientist to conclude that the entire setup merely serves as a facade for continued American unwillingness to uphold its legal obligations, under international law, to hold its strategic ally, Israel, accountable for maintaining an unlawful four-decade military occupation of Palestinians. 

In the opening paragraph of their first joint statement in Madrid on April 10, 2002, the Quartet members stated that, "We reviewed the escalating confrontation in the Middle East and agreed to coordinate our actions to resolve the current crisis." Note the timing of their actions and their focus. The Quartet emerged in an attempt to negotiate a ceasefire between then- Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israel, the occupying power, who at the time had re-invaded all Palestinian cities and surrounded Arafat's Ramallah headquarters with tanks. Also interestingly, their scope of work--as defined in their own statement--was aimed to "resolve the current crisis" and not necessarily bring about a lasting peace among the parties, even as the same statement paid lip-service to a supposed peace process that would lead to the end of the conflict. 

This poor excuse for a balancing act between maintaining an Israeli security agenda while assuming to advance peace has been the mantra that the Quartet has become known for. Fast forward to the Quartet's most recent statement, issued on September 23, 2011, the same day Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas submitted an application to the secretary general of the United Nations for full membership for Palestine. In this statement, the Quartet called for "an agreement within a time frame agreed to by the parties, but not longer than the end of 2012". What they have failed to advance, one iota, for over more than nine years, they now want to do in a single year, utterly ignoring that their repeated failures, purposeful or not, have caused serious damage on the ground: they have allowed for not only the total collapse of any serious resemblance of a peace process, but more importantly allowed Israel to continue building more facts on the ground, such as tripling the Jewish-only settlement enterprise in the West Bank, as well as building the internationally-condemned Separation Wall cutting deep into Palestinian lands and communities. This is not to mention the Quartet turning a blind eye to the ongoing onslaught by Israel on Gaza and continued siege of the Gaza Strip. 

As if the Quartet itself was not enough, the group has created another layer of the facade of being genuine mediators by creating the Office of the Quartet and appointing high-profile envoys to this office. The current envoy is the United Kingdom's ex-prime minister Tony Blair, who succeeded James Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank who resigned from his post at the Quartet in disgust with American hegemony and unwillingness to allow the Quartet to play a real role in making peace. 

Much has been reported about the office of the Quartet representative and its style of leadership, but this is all a sideshow. The core of the matter is political, not personal. Regardless of who the special envoy is, the parties to the Quartet are political and have a political role to play. They cannot shed their political responsibility--and legal one, too--by laying blame on the envoy. 

In an extended interview with Haaretz more than a year after he resigned from his 11-month ordeal as Quartet special envoy, James Wolfensohn said it best: "I feel that if anything, I was stupid for not reading the small print. I was never given the mandate to negotiate the peace." Haaretz noted in reporting the interview that, "The mandate he received, he says--which is identical to the one Tony Blair has now been given--was solely to try to improve the economic situation in the territories and to improve the Palestinians' situation in general, whereas he naively thought that this included intervention to advance peace." 

Sadly, it is not surprising that the nation states represented in the Quartet would play along with this sham. What is unacceptable is that the United Nations itself, the body tasked with holding nations accountable for their actions, would accept to play along. The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will reveal much more than how the Holy Land was torn apart; it will also feature how the Palestinians' struggle for freedom and independence became the Achilles' heel of an international system of governance that has become broken beyond repair.-Published 31/10/2011 © bitterlemons.org 

Sam Bahour is a Ramallah-based management consultant.




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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

[ePalestine] PETITION: Respect Palestinians' Right to Self-determination in Development. Reform the International Aid System

Kindly consider adding your name to this campaign calling for reform of the international aid system:


Aid for progress, not dependency,
Sam



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