Wednesday, December 31, 2014

[ePalestine] Open Letter to the Editors of the New York Times

Open Letter to the Editors of the New York Times

By Sam Bahour
December 31, 2014

A view of Gaza City

Re “Gaza Is Nowhere” (By Roger Cohen, Dec. 30, 2014):

I started writing this as a Letter to the Editor, but my anger could not be conveyed in only 150 words, so I am posting this open letter instead:

Readers expect greater accuracy from New York Times columnists.

How dare Mr. Roger Cohen suggest that Gaza, a part of my homeland, is “nowhere!”

If Mr. Cohen is at a loss to know where Gaza lies, allow me to guide him. The Gaza Strip, as well as Gaza City, were both part and parcel of Historic Palestine, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Following the colossal injustice that resulted in the displacement of more than half of the Palestinian people, and then the creation of what we know today as the state of Israel, and the subsequent military occupation of the remaining Palestinian lands of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Gaza Strip become part and parcel of an Israeli-militarily-occupied territory. It is this military occupation under which many of my friends and colleagues were born and live to this day.

Despite the bitter life Gazan Palestinians face, they know exactly where they are and who they are. To Mr. Cohen’s possible disappointment, I will not sugar-coat reality with euphemisms or attempt to bury the international community’s disgraceful failures by dwelling on internal Palestinian political dynamics.

What Mr. Cohen terms a “high-tech Israeli facility,” is, in reality, an Israeli military garrison and checkpoint that is equipped with U.S. technology aimed to keep Palestinians locked into the world’s largest open-air prison called Gaza.

The Palestinian road worker who impressed Mr. Cohen is not “among the more productively employed of Gaza’s 1.8 million citizens.” The Gaza community is alive, albeit not well. If he had taken the time to look again without his biased lens, he would have seen an entire society struggling to be productive in a reality where electricity is a luxury, clean water is a distant thought, and having the ability to travel freely is a foreign concept to yet another generation of Palestinians.

Mr. Cohen claims that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is “the only dust-free environment” in Gaza. Spare me, please. Has he forgotten that Gaza has been on the receiving end of three major Israeli military operations within the past six years, which left scores dead and wounded and the rest traumatized for life. If he had only taken the time to visit Palestinian homes he would have found other “dust-free environments,” if dust was of such major concern to him. He would have experienced the generosity of a people battered for decades yet miraculously finding a way to go on educating their war-affected children, sustaining themselves economically, continuing to love, and stubbornly maintaining hope for a better tomorrow, even as they are forced to live in imposed darkness. Indeed, as retired Palestinian diplomat Afif Safieh has famously said, Palestinians have been “unreasonably reasonable” given what has fallen upon them.

To add insult to injury, Mr. Cohen assumes the role of spokesperson for Palestinians, claiming the utmost urgent matter in Palestinian lives is the need “to end the lockdown of Gaza.” Lockdown, Mr. Cohen, is a move used to keep prisoners in their cells. Ending the lockdown is allowing the prisoners to interact among themselves and visit the prison yard. Thank you Mr. Cohen, but no thank you. We have the right to be free from the prison imposed on us by Israel and bankrolled by your country. Our utmost urgent matter is that Israel end its nearly five-decade-long military occupation and allow Palestinians to return to their homes, after which we will take care of ourselves.

I can go on, but you are not interested in Palestine or Palestinians. Your career requires you to feed the stereotypes about my home, me, and my people, and for that, you are part of the problem, not the solution. That, Mr. Cohen, is what is truly “shameful.”

Sam Bahour
Al-Bireh/Ramallah, Palestine


Mr. Cohen's Twitter reply on Jan. 3, 2015:



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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

[ePalestine] NYT: The Embattled Dream of Palestine (Unpublished Letter to Editor)

My unpublished NYT Letter to the Editor in reply to:

To the Editor:

Re "The Embattled Dream of Palestine" (By The Editorial Board, Dec. 19, 2014):

Readers expect greater accuracy from NYT's editorials.

To deem Palestinian's frustration with nearly 50 years of Israeli military occupation as, "resentment of Israeli rule that leads to unrest" is a pale attempt to dilute the horrific reality on the ground. Employing such language outright ignores the fact that, except for Israel (the occupying force) the entire world (U.S. included) has deemed the state of affairs as a "military occupation."

Likewise, when the Editorial claims that, "successive Israeli governments, including that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have long negotiated on the basis of a two-state solution," one is led to believe that fact checking has lost its role in journalism. Not only has Prime Minister Netanyahu made multiple, recent public statements defying any notion of a solution based on two states, his party, Likud, has yet to insert its support for two states into its political platform.

Another deep flaw in this piece is stating that Israel "withdrew from Gaza in 2005." They did nothing of the sort. Even Israel itself did not call it "withdraw," but rather "Unilateral Disengagement." The international community has made it clear, over and over, that Gaza today is just as militarily occupied as Ramallah or East Jerusalem.

Sam Bahour
Policy Advisor, Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network


Dear ePalestine friends,

Happy New Year and, if you can, please support these efforts:


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Saturday, December 20, 2014

[ePalestine] Newsweek: Gaza: One War, One Family. Five Children, Four Dead

In Newsweek, of all places. OK, it's the European edition, but still. The tide is surely on the rise. Most of the world may have already forgotten the over 2,220 human beings slaughtered in 51 days this past summer, but we have not.

Thank you Sarah Helm for reminding us what journalism was meant to be, a tool to speak truth to power.

By Sarah HelmDecember 12, 2014
Gaza: One War, One Family. Five Children, Four Dead

Thanks also to Philip Weiss from for writing on this.


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Monday, December 15, 2014

[ePalestine] What I am supporting

Dear friends,

I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy holiday season and a Happy New Year, despite all.

It is this time of year that is also tagged as the month of giving. I, like you, am bombarded with funding requests during the end of every year. Some are agitated by this, I am not. Civil society, one that is not coerced by the powers that be, can only do its work with public support. There are scores of people doing good things around the world that deserve our support. If they do not ask, they cannot be funded, and thus will be handicapped in their work. I take every request in stride and do my part where I can.

In addition to being asked to support various efforts, I am also frequently asked, every year, to suggest things people can support. Many generous friends on this list have targeted their donations to campaigns (I actually support real people, but the requests arrive in your inbox as a campaign) which I have supported over the years and to them I am eternally grateful and humbled.

This year, I am sharing with you more than a single focal point for support because, in reality, I, like you, support many efforts in one way or another. Thus, I share with you here what I am currently supporting and ask that you consider these efforts for your generous end-of-year support. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list.

1. CULTURE: My firm's current CSR campaign to help a professional Palestinian woman actress conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of a Theatrical Museum of Palestinian Oral History. We have already raised $850 toward this project and $6,350 more is needed to start the study. The details are here:

2. PALESTINIAN EDUCATION: Hashem Abushama is an amazing Palestinian student from a refugee camp near Hebron who is studying in the US and seeking a partial scholarship. Hashem is an impressive young man. In January, he will share the stage with my daughter Areen as they go on a speaking tour to the Jewish American communities in Boston and New York. He did not wait for funds to drop out of the sky to secure his education; he acted and setup a crowdfunding appeal. See:

3. MENTAL HEALTH: The Palestinian Medical Education Initiative (PMEI) is a dynamic team of mental health professionals who are transfixed on establishing a proper mental health sector in Palestine. I serve on the Board of PMEI. Led by the amazing duo, Palestinian Dr. Samah Jabr and American Dr. Michael Morse, this effort is at a crucial turning point and is about to realize the fruits of years of planning. Your help is needed given this much needed sector is, regretfully, stigmatized in our society. PMEI will change that perception over time, no doubt. Donate here:

4. JEWISH EDUCATION: Encounter is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of Jewish American leaders to be constructive agents of change in transforming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have the utmost respect for this professional team of Jewish educators and the outstanding work they do on the ground--actually at ground zero of the occupation. Learn more and donate here:

5. BUSINESS: I went on a speaking tour in Chicago last year that was organized by a retired American businessman, Ed Thompson. After the tour, Ed asked me to join him in establishing Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (AVPE). We co-founded this effort earlier this year on the simple premise that Positive Investment in Palestine breeds hope for a better future for Palestinians through tangible economic opportunity. Our U.S. nonprofit (soon to be a 501(c)(3)) organization encourages lasting economic partnerships between Americans and Palestinians. A high-powered board of professionals has been assembled and we are already deep into putting our plans into action. Soon the donate page will have the needed info to donate, but for now we need your support in finding American businesses and trade associations that we can reach out to regarding doing business in Palestine. Note: this effort is not about doing business with our military occupiers, but rather it is about direct relations between American business and Palestinian business. Find AVPE here:

6. PALESTINIAN POLICY VOICE: We are sick and tired of others speaking for us. Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network, is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law. I serve on Al-Shabaka's board. Read and support our work here:

7. COMMUNITY FOUNDATION: Dalia Association is a community foundation that was established in 2007 by members of the Palestinian community, including individuals from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, Israel, and the Diaspora. Dalia believes that Palestinians have a right to control our own development. Our mission is to mobilize and properly utilize resources necessary to empower a vibrant and accountable civil society. As a co-founder and board member, I invite you to join us in any way you can, materially or otherwise. Find Dalia here: (Note the site is undergoing a repair and will be up within 24 hours).

Two points I would like to make in closing:

- Some will look at this list and say, what a long list, how can Sam expect someone to support all of these efforts. I do not. I respect people's ability to choose what suits them best, be it from this list or helping your next door neighbor. I am not marketing a product here; I am sharing with you my civic duty toward society and inviting you to join me.

- Secondly, you may be thinking, where's Gaza in Sam's list. Rest assured Gaza is there, embedded in each and every one of the items listed above.

Lastly, for those of you in Youngstown or who know Martha Katz, I ask that you direct your prayers for her wellbeing as she struggles to regain her health at St. Elizabeth Hospital.

I wish all a safe and prosperous new year.

Happy Holidays,

Sam Bahour
Mobile: +970-(0)599-378-278


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Saturday, December 13, 2014

[ePalestine] Rick Steves Europe in Palestine

Guidebook author and travel TV host Rick Steves is said to be America's most respected authority on European travel. He visited Palestine in October 2014.

Thanks to IMEU for sharing the Palestine episode of Rick Steves' travel show, which debuted this fall on PBS affiliates across the country. During the 30-minute episode, Steves -- one of the country's most recognizable travel authorities, with shows on both PBS and NPR -- visits some of Palestine's most famous sites and speaks to people about their concerns and hopes for the future.

I do caution that there is a bit of political naivety, to put it politely. Actually it is more than a little which makes one wonder why such personalities still fear speaking things we assume they know as fact, or should. Nevertheless, the video images are beautiful, so enjoy: (26:45 min)

P.S. If you know Eng. Mahmoud Akel try to catch the glimpse of him in Ramallah:-)


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