Thursday, September 29, 2016

[ePalestine] TWIP: The Ghost of Palestine's Diaspora (By Sam Bahour)

This Week in Palestine

The Ghost of Palestine's Diaspora

By Sam Bahour

"BEWARE! Palestine has a hidden weapon of mass development: Its diaspora community. There is only one slight problem. We are unable to locate it."

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#Palestine #PalestineDiaspora

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

[ePalestine] Cleveland Plain Dealer: Donald Trump backers also trying to get vote out in Israeli settlement

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Donald Trump backers also trying to get vote out in Israeli settlement

By Sam Bahour

"I ask Trump the same question I ask Israelis: If it's not a military occupation, what is it? If it's an occupation, then it is past time we start holding Israel accountable as an occupying power and speak of when the occupation will end. If it's not an occupation, then should I tell my neighbors, who are originally from Haifa, to prepare to go home? If Israel is imposing upon us one state, then we Palestinians insist that it be one state with equal rights for all and not a continuation of the apartheid policies we now endure." ~Sam Bahour

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Monday, September 26, 2016

[ePalestine] Haaretz: Don't Call Us 'Israeli Arabs': Palestinians in Israel Speak Out (By Sam Bahour)

Haaretz - Sep 26, 2016

Don't Call Us 'Israeli Arabs': Palestinians in Israel Speak Out

"Palestinian citizens of Israel are its Achilles' heel; they refuse to become Zionists, refuse to leave Israel, and refuse to vanish into thin air. And, increasingly, they are refusing to remain silent."



Don't Call Us 'Israeli Arabs': Palestinians in Israel Speak Out
Palestinian citizens of Israel are its Achilles’ heel; they refuse to become Zionists, refuse to leave Israel, and refuse to vanish into thin air. And, increasingly, they are refusing to remain silent.

Sam Bahour Sep 26, 2016 3:20 PM

Arab Israeli protesters march to commemorate Nakba Day, Rahat, Israel, May 12, 2016.Ahmad Gharabli, AFP

When Israel’s founding fathers removed by force the native Palestinian Arab population living where they intended to establish their state, they murdered or displaced more than 80% of that population.

This act of ethnic cleansing — to borrow one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s newly found phrases — was given a name in Arabic: the Nakba, or catastrophe. The Palestinian Muslims, Druze and Christians who remained in what became Israel have been, and are today, approximately 20% of the population. These are indigenous Palestinians and their descendants, who have had Israeli citizenship imposed upon them.

'48ers, Palestinian Arabs, 'insiders' – just not 'Israeli Arabs'

For over half a century, Israel has preferred the designation Israeli Arabs, focusing on their Israeliness and attempting to obliterate any trace of Palestinian from their identity. Among Palestinians in exile or the West Bank, they’re referred to as ‘48ers, referring to the year of the Nakba, or as those living “on the inside,” meaning inside the 1949 armistice line, better known as the Green Line. Now, a new cohort of Palestinian thinkers inside Israel writing 68 years after the Nakba reaffirm that they are not just Arabs, but Palestinian Arabs, and that while they may be “in Israel,” they are not Israel’s: they are their own masters.

These Palestinian citizens of Israel are its Achilles’ heel; they refuse to become Zionists, refuse to leave Israel, and refuse to vanish into thin air. And, increasingly, they are refusing to remain a silent, or passive, player.

This increasingly assertive minority in Israel spoke out in a new think tank report published this month by The Palestinian Arab Citizens in Israel hosted by the Oxford Research Group and supported by the I'LAM Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research in Nazareth and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [Full disclosure: While completely independent, this project is also a sister project of the Palestine Strategy Group, of which I’m a secretariat member.]

Four futures for Palestinians in Israel, from chaos to a binational state

The report is unequivocal about the need for the state of Israel to wholly accept these Palestinian citizens as full and equal citizens. Israeli Jewish citizens who think they have quashed any impetus for collective action by their Palestinian neighbors in Israel would be well advised to read, not just this report in its entirety, but also the biographies of those responsible for its production. Some of the sharpest political and academic minds in Israel are exposing the historical misjudgments and internal contradictions in the Israeli state and offering a way out, if anyone is interested in pursuing it.

The report highlights three possible scenarios – four futures for the Palestinian citizens of Israel and their relationship with the State of Israel.

Scenario 1 assumes the continuation of the status quo
, which could proceed along two different paths: Israel could embark on attempting to better the quality of life of its Palestinian citizens, as individuals, without addressing the core political or collective issues, or could simply attempt to perpetuate the status quo, without the emergence of a Palestinian state, a combination that would inevitably become less status quo and more a continuous downward spiral.

Scenario 2 envisions chaos on Israel’s borders as regional Islamic fundamentalism in bordering states spills over into Israel, provoking redeployment of the Israeli military and greater potential instability.

Scenario 3 assumes the creation of an independent Palestinian state (as defined by the UN General Assembly Resolution passed on November 29, 2012) living side by side with Israel.

Thousands of people participated in a march to commemorate 'Nakba Day' near the ruins of the village Al-Lajoon near Megiddo in northern Israel, Tuesday April 24, 2007. Tomer Neuberg / Jini

And scenario 4 projects Israel’s transition into a binational state, in effect a one-state solution, but with a very different social contract with Jewish Israelis: one that ensures constitutional equality between Jews and Arabs and re-envisions all of the state’s trappings, such as the flag, national anthem, etc.

Recognizing the collective rights of Palestinians in Israel

But in parallel to these high-level strategic scenarios, Palestinian citizens in Israel need tangible goals.

In the short-medium term (five- to ten-years) framing the aspirations of the collective, building and upgrading the institutional infrastructure of the legitimate minority status of Palestinians in Israel based on pluralism, democracy and equality. Specifically, the umbrella representative organizations – the Higher Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and the National Committee of the Heads of Arab Localities – should be reformed and new associations should be considered.

A ten- to twenty-year horizon focuses on individual rights and equal opportunities in addition to the attainment of recognition as a collective. This includes efforts to revitalize existing representative bodies and create new ones to work toward achieving formal recognition at all levels of government with the aim of securing first-class citizenship rights and economic and development rights, as well as addressing the various state planning bodies.

And finally looking forward twenty to forty years: the achievement of a historic reconciliation between the two peoples in historical Palestine as part of reconciliation between the Jewish community and the Palestinians alone, or also with the peoples and countries of the wider region.

Palestinians: Accept pluralism. Israelis: Right historical injustice

Such charting of a joint future is difficult to envision today because of the vast ideological diversity with the Palestinian community, with some calling for no separation between religion and state and others calling for total separation. This major disparity in ideologies is a clear potential weakness: the report calls for the universal acceptance of pluralism as the necessary foundation on which to build, with all stakeholders accepted as part of a shared future. The report notes likewise that the need for the state to be a state for all its citizens must be a given in any future scenario.

It is true that ending the nearly 50-year-old Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, although imperative, will not bring total peace to Israel. What could finally accord Israel a normal place among nations, for the first time ever, is for it to come to terms with its history of injustice.

That means acknowledging its role in the creation of the Palestinian refugee community, taking restorative efforts to right that wrong, and finally accepting its Palestinian citizens as full and equal civic partners in theory and in practice.

Sam Bahour is a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network; Chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy; Co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians (Olive Branch Press). He blogs at @SamBahour

Sam Bahour
Haaretz Contributor


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Friday, September 09, 2016

A Palestinian Stalwart Rests

A Palestinian Stalwart Rests
By Sam Bahour

Jaber El-Wanni
Some people don’t deserve the harshness life imposes upon them. Jaber El-Wanni was one of those persons.

This summer, when I last visited him in his home to bid him farewell before heading back to Palestine, I was speechless. How do you tell someone goodbye when you both know it will be the last time you will ever see each other? The fragile giant of a man that barely resembled the Jaber I chose to remember, slowly got out of his recliner and, as always, took the initiative. He said, “Well, if I don’t see you again, please take good care of yourself.” My pitiful answer was all I could muster, replying to him that I’ll see him again soon, maybe around Christmas. We both knew better.

After a long and difficult battle with cancer, Jaber El-Wanni passed away at home in Youngstown, Ohio on September 8, 2016, surrounded by family and friends. He suffered months on end for sure, but you would not know it by sitting and talking with him. He lived the last period of his life with the same dignity that he lived the rest of his life. A man of high intelligence and keen intellect, Jaber was not one to live in empty slogans but rather approached life’s challenges with an analytical mind that operated in a world of facts and reality. Whether the discussion was about history, politics, current events, cinema, or music, Jaber would have insight and value to add to the conversation.

Jaber was born in Marda, a Palestinian town located in the Salfit Governorate in the northern West Bank, 18 kilometers Southwest of Nablus. He left Marda to pursue his studies in the US and successfully did so in California and Michigan, earning a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in economics. He was a leader in the US branch of the PLO’s General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), which is how I first met him.

Throughout the 1980s, his work led him to spend significant time in South America promoting the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence. When his work frequently brought him to Youngstown, Ohio, we became more than friends. The couch in my small apartment’s living room on Roosevelt Drive became a place he started to call his second home. We bought memberships at the Scandinavian Health Spa in Boardman and challenged each other to go work out whenever he was in Youngstown, me heading straight for the pool and Jaber dragging me to the weights and aerobics first. A stickler for details, he would call from places like Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, and Ecuador checking up on this and that, a few times rattling off in Spanish before I could remind him to change frequencies so I could understand. Jaber never got bogged down by things he could not directly affect, he just calculated what could be done at any given moment, and moved on. A virtue we would all be well-advised to strive for.

Jaber (R) at a graduation party in Youngstown, Ohio (June 2016)
Jaber knew that our personal lives are not just sideshows, but needed the same attention as the larger struggles of life. He was one of the very few people I was able to engage with about personal matters. We each contemplated with the other where marriage would take us, where to live, how to absorb the seismic changes happening in the Palestinian national movement, how best to manage our work lives, among so much more. He married Salam Jabarin and they had two boys, Khalid and Ghassan. Jaber and Salam finally decided to settle in Youngstown, Ohio, and started building their business later in life than most. Working as a team, Jaber and Salam were able to make the progress others who had a few decades head start made. While building a family, home, and several successful businesses, Jaber was adamant not to forget his lifelong commitment to his community. He was an active member of the Arab-American Community Center of Youngstown and the Youngstown Grocers’ Association, holding multiple leadership positions at both, including president.

Jaber’s standing joke was how could life be fair when I, the Youngstown native, am living in Palestine, and he, the Palestine native, is living in Youngstown. After decades of being unable to even visit Palestine, Jaber decided it was time to attempt to come home for a visit. A little nervous, but as practical as always, Jaber made the trip to the Ben Gurion Airport (better known to Palestinians as Lod Airport, before its name was changed in 1973) in 2008. He was permitted to enter by the Israeli authorities and made his way to his birthplace. He was in his glories. He spent the visit like a child in Disneyland, wanting to experience it all. We went on many day trips. One trip, in particular, was when I took Jaber to visit Jerusalem. He kept trying to make sense of a landscape that was now foreign to him. Nevertheless, some parts of Jerusalem will never change and as we got closer to the Old City he was able to anchor his memory in a few well-known spots. Upon driving out of Jerusalem back to Ramallah a car pulled up beside us and the driver started frantically waving. It was a friend of ours, a woman that Jaber worked with back in California during his student days. He was tickled that after so many years, he could still find someone to recognize him in Jerusalem.

That first trip was followed by several others. After a serious health issue, Jaber’s health was finally stabilized. So, a few years ago Jaber and Salam came on a visit and decided to purchase an apartment in Ramallah; he wanted to create a platform for a future retirement. Just last year the apartment was completed and they came back and furnished it, only to learn upon getting back to the US that Jaber’s cancer was back and spreading. He was told to prepare for the inevitable. My father accompanied Jaber when he got this devastating news. And in perfect Jaber style, my father said he stayed focused on what could be done. He entered a year of shuttling back and forth to the Cleveland Clinic and local Youngstown medical facilities for intense chemotherapy treatments, which took their cruel toll. When my father was his driver on these trips to Cleveland he would call me in Palestine when Jaber was getting his treatments to let me know how he was doing. My dad’s message was always the same, “Your friend is one strong man.”

Jaber’s last months and days were full of pain. This past summer he asked his wife to drive him to Michigan to see his old friends, one of whom has a serious health issue. Jaber had a hard time but made the trip and bid all of his friends there a final farewell. Back at home in Youngstown, Jaber’s living room became witness to a constant flow of friends, all wanting to help wherever possible, but there was not much anyone could do. My sister, Leila, made sure Jaber had a stash of her famous biscottis, which he loved. Jaber sat with everyone who visited, albeit quiet and visibly unwell. Every so often he would faintly interject his insights, still sharp, on the topics being discussed. If there was ever a poster made for a person who passed away with full dignity, Jaber’s photo would be on it.

Rest in peace Jaber; rest my brother, we will take it from here. You did your part and so much more.

~ Sam Bahour blogs at and may be reached at

Top Photo: Jaber at his son Khalid’s gradation party, 2007.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2016

[ePalestine] UNCTAD: The staggering economic cost of occupation

Only $448 billion, and that was only up until year 2000!

This new economic report from United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is of utmost importance. It focus on the damage done to the Palestinian economy by this prolonged Israeli occupation.

Here is the link to the press release. You may download the brief report in PDF here.

Be sure to watch for the upcoming analysis. The indefatigable Dr. Samia al-Botmeh, assistant professor in economics and researcher at the Centre for Development Studies at Birzeit University, and Dr. Raja Khalidi, MAS Research Coordinator, presented the report today at the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute-MAS.

Dr. Samia al-Botmeh and Dr. Raja Khalidi, Sept. 6, 2016 at MAS


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