Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Qatar Experience I

At the time of writing I lie here in the giant bathtub, wiggling my foamy toes in pure unadulterated bliss. The water is scalding, but the simple experience of taking a bath is among the many things the Four Seasons Hotel can provide me with. In Ramallah, it would have been the high water bill at the end of the month that would have been the death of me. Ratios flutter, annoyingly so: 70 liters of water per Palestinian (below the WHO recommended 100 L) to 300 liters of water per Israeli. Even in this slice of pampering luxury, my people's reality is never too deep beneath the surface.

Along with three others, the Palestine Writing Workshop chose and sent us for the week long Summer Writing Institute in Doha, Qatar, fully sponsored by the fabulously generous Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing. It has become an annual thing to do, as the five participants from last year came back laden with donated books, bursting with stories, experiences, and wildly imaginative adventures. The idea is that the participants will also give back to the PWW as co-facilitators and take the next step in becoming a writer in residence by being part of a training program given by the PWW itself. Also, building a community of writers is the essence of what the PWW is all about and those semi-vacationers get to encourage and reimburse that One Love attitude to their peers.

To backtrack:

I had already been in Amman for a week now, and while Dina, Dalia (our lovely supervisor), Mustafa, and Hussam crossed the Allenby bridge and headed straight to the airport, I took my time. Traveling without family was so exciting, yet sadly I looked like that type of first-timer. Instead of heading toward the departures gate I went to the arrivals, and after being mobbed by the babble of five employees all at once, I finally went to the right one where I met up with the group. After 20 minutes, it was time to check in. The girls got through easily as we had our printed visas but the guys had a bit of trouble as their visas were issued but not sent. Just before we went to sit again outside our gate number, we had to have our passports once again checked by airport employees.

"Nablus?" he aasked.
"It's either Nablus or Ramallah."
I stared. "What are you talking about?"
The employee laughed. "That's where the pretty girls come from."

Oh gross. I grimaced, and my nostrils flared. How quaint. Typical Jordanians once again displaying their "light-hearted humor/خفة الدم".

"Look into the scanner Linah."

I glared at it. I should be addressed as ma'am or madam (hell, I'll even take sir) and not on a first name basis. Jordanian professionalism. Next to me in the other booth, the second employee was guffawing and telling Dina to smile in the scanner.

"I don't want to," she said flatly. I always think of her as Dina AK-47 because she signs off her last name as AK.

"It's better to smile. What do you want to keep on frowning for?" and the two clowns fell into laughter again.

I stood stiffly on the escalator as we made our way up to the Duty Free store. Then I regained my jolly mood as like true Japanese tourists, we took pictures of everything. Our boarding pass, our passports, our boarding pass in our passports, zoom in on our tickets, posing with the boarding pass, some random baby on a table, the stores, the floor, each other, etc. We knew it was crazy and silly and overwhelming, but hey this was our trip and we were gonna live it up to the last minute! Also, Dina's new camera was those expensive professional ones and we were really just trying out the settings, to no avail.

On the plane, Dina got the window seat as it was her first time flying. Her camera never stopped clicking and flashing. "Why is the plane moving on the ground? When is it going to move in the air?"

"It's called taxiing," I tried to explain.

We took off moments later, our seats angled at a tilt, and suddenly I felt sick, oh so sick. I had car sickness when I was a kid, and I felt my throat tightening as I took in deep breaths.
Pull it together, this isn't the first time you've flown, yallah, think about what movie you're going to watch.

I settled for The Fighter, but after fifteen minutes I was fingering the barf bag and turned my screen off. Occasionally Dina turned to ask me a question, yelling a bit apparently forgetting that she had headphones on tuned to Latino music.

The second hour was better. I felt back to normal again, was laughing out loud at the 7 episodes of 30 Rock, and eating plane food with gusto. As a notorious slow eater, I shoved the crackers and buttered bread-waste not!- next to the armrest before sweetly handing over the tray to the air stewardess who was hovering around my seat for the second time.

We greeted our first step off the plane with a grin that immediately twisted into a horrified expression as we inhaled water-logged air. At Maha Services, our visas were once again checked, complementary of owning a third world passport. The lounge was comfortable. Looking for the bathroom I came upon three doorknobs barely jutting out of the wood paneling. I tried one and it didn't open, before the helpful Indian worker pushed it toward the inside of the wall-a door concealed in a wall!- to reveal the bathroom. Finally we got out of the airport, and after initial confusion of which driver to go with (the Four Seasons driver or the Indian driver holding up a paper with Dalia's name on it) we drove into the night and reached the phantasmagorically ostentatious hotel.

Inside the elevator, Dalia was complaining of how everything was so...stratified. The Egyptian receptionists, the African and Nepalese/Philippine doormen, all those busy worker ants flitting like ghosts working hard to make sure everyone is not just content but exceedingly satisfied, all against a hugely expensive backdrop...it did make us uncomfortable. In Palestine we were the brown people, in Qatar we are the exalted folk. Our rooms made me scream. They looked-understatement coming up- so comfortable. I dived onto my bed, gurgling happily before I leaped up and checked out my personal sanctuary, (golden music please) the bathroom. And it did not disappoint. I climbed into the bathtub fully clothed, climbed back out and marveled at the sliding double doors fitted with full length mirrors, reawakening my beastly vanity.

Attempting to capture the enthusiasm of that very first night, I do realize how this all might sound like. Fresh greens gaping at the city lights for the first time and all that. But that's not the case at all. And now I've written a sort of disclaimer, never a good sign for first draft writing.

The group walked outside before hurrying back in the hotel to escape from the merciless humidity. We all slept late, and woke up very early. The morning yielded the spectacular view of the hotel's pools and own private beach. We ate breakfast downstairs observing the other guests with interest. One Asian businessman walked in and spotted his associate let's say, an American man who was drinking his coffee and reading the newspaper. The Asian man said,

"Good morning! May I join you?"
"Uh, no actually I'm finishing up. Find someplace else to sit."

Someone is lacking in taste and manners! After breakfast we climbed into the white jeep with our gentle kind Somalian driver, Ibrahim.We reached Doha's education city with its cluster of university campuses and walked in the student center, currently undergoing on-site construction which makes the classes that bit more enjoyable. In fact, we still don't understand how the rooms at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University), the original setting for the Summer Writing Institute went AWOL.

The group then dispersed to their respective classes. There was Arabic fiction with Alma Khasineh, blogging in Arabic with Farah Ghneim, English fiction with Lesley Thomson, personal essay/nonfiction writing with Carol Henderson, and poetry with Patti Payne. We start at 9 and finish at around 3pm. The other students surprisingly to us since we expected peers our age were expatriate wives who were all in the middle of writing their own books. They are a lovely bunch of women who don't fit the vacuous expat wife role into which they are so easily typified into. And that's one of the main things we like about the classes, that there is no judgement on anyone's side. There's a lot of writing in class and the best thing is the comments -no negative critique-you get once you read them out loud.

Despite the obvious racism and stratification, some of Doha is impressive for the first comer. This country is still building itself, as evidenced by the city center called the Dafneh which has beautiful glass empty skyscrapers. The name Dafneh is pretty funny since it has connotations to do with burial, which is the feeling you get as a result of it being right next to the Corniche and hence the unbelievably heavy humidity. So far we've experienced the Museum of Modern Art, attended the last episode for this season's The Doha Debate, and walked through Souk Waqif. This week better drag by slowly!

*Photo Credit Dina AK

Friday, May 27, 2011

End of Semester Musings

For some reason, this was saved as a draft when it was supposed to be published a couple of weeks ago. Eagle eyes come in handy.

May 25th was the last day of exams. It was supposed to be May 14th but the joint strikes by university faculties meant that there was a week where everyone sat in their houses twiddling their thumbs. Those who finished their exams before May 13th got an extra week of vacation. We desperately wanted that since for the third year running, in a bid to finish our less than satisfactory university experiences in less than the required eight arduous semesters, we'll be taking summer classes. We forgot that summer used to be like hibernation to us. This year, the summer semester is divided up into two semesters, each 6 weeks long instead of the usual 9 week semester. We heartily approve.

As always, the first semester of the academic year was more enjoyable. We had late classes, so we always witnessed the beautiful sunset or the sun about to set. Plus campus gets relatively empty, and we were taken with the sudden revelation that BZU is actually very pretty when it is subtracted from its students.

Older people never fail to tell us whenever we mention the word "university" how it is the best years of anyone's life. That made us a bit depressed, before we learned what objectivity and subjectivity were. Maybe because we're nearing the end of this road, but we couldn't help from getting a little...nostalgic at odd moments. And then we'd come to our senses again and all would be right with the world again.

We pooled our thoughts and came up with what we enjoyed and what we didn't enjoy this semester. Not all of them were mutually agreed upon though.

  • Shakespeare class….Honestly its not what it sounds like! Well, yeah actually it's all about Shakespeare, but it was extremely fun learning about that dead dude…Allah yir7amo! (Definitely not agreed upon. "Extremely fun"? I spent most of that class day dreaming about broomsticks and flying carpets.)

  • Not having to attend an 8am class because of our English language proficiency. Believe us, this is the only perk of being English speaking/"native"!

  • End of the semester projects! These little artistic activities enabled us to show our superlative acting, dancing and singing skills!
(Eh. So and so. It was fun dressing up as fairies but these projects merely added to our stress levels and list of Dumb Shit That's Unnecessary. One of us loves to act, dance and sing, the other is only willing to do that for a proper audience.)
  • The familiarity/camaraderie with the department, students, and professors.

No Likey:

  • Getting a new disastrous teacher in the middle of the semester. She made the rest of the semester unbearable! (Plus her name translates to Funny in Arabic. Yeah, we don't know why either.)

Having to walk as fast as the speed of light to make it to classes on time.
(There's the Business building, all the way over THERE, and then there's the Nursing building which is all the way over HERE. Ambling along takes about 11 minutes, power walking takes about 5 minutes, and running makes you a laughingstock. PS we're neither Business nor Nursing majors. Hmm.)

  • Four words: Fudged up exam schedule.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Abbas' Palestine State

I graduated from Stupid to PLEASEGODSHUTMEUPNOW
All we can ever hear whenever Abbashole opens his mouth is a lot of Frankensteinian grunts and growls and slurring. In his speeches he freezes his whole facial expression like a bullfrog about to breathe (or whatever it is that they do with that engorging flap of skin under their chins-attract mates?) and delivers a growling, slurry monotone punctuated by grunts and possible flatulence.

So what has this self-titled president been up to since the baseless unity talks with Hamas? Who cares and who knows. He spends more than half of his time outside the country trying to find an evil inventor with a shock of white hair and a lightning bolt scar on his forehead to make him a flying carpet out of the millions of dollars he stole from the Palestinian people.

Even this article, which we strongly suspect was ghost-ridden by one of Max Clifford's protégés has done very little to boost his popularity or thankfully the fascist mentality of "Our Father". But let's take a closer look...

The article starts off in the third person, a feature befitting all thieving authoritarian megalomaniacs. Back when he was known as Mahmoud, he was ethnically cleansed at the age of thirteen from his town Safad in north Palestine. Then the article delves into the pros of how recognizing a Palestine state is beneficial to everyone. He points out that the last time Palestinian statehood was addressed was back in 1947 when the UN graciously decided to cut the land up and give the majority to some white alien settler population. The Zionist trolls accuse Palestinians of being an inherently war-mongering people because they rejected this partition, thereby rejecting peace. It's a bit overwhelming how readily people can form their opinions without ever opening up a history book or reading some basic information. Copies of Herzl's diary are available, there's an endless plethora of Ben Gurion quotes and sadistic intentions formalized into action, and yet all of this readily accessible evidence that show what the true purpose of Israel on Palestinian land gets swallowed up in favor of justifying it through religious discourse and plain self-righteousness. But we digress.

We can't help from wandering off topic though. This article makes for some hot and steamy bullshit. Take this excerpt for example:

Our quest for recognition as a state should not be seen as a stunt; too many of our men and women have been lost for us to engage in such political theater. We go to the United Nations now to secure the right to live free in the remaining 22 percent of our historic homeland because we have been negotiating with the State of Israel for 20 years without coming any closer to realizing a state of our own. We cannot wait indefinitely while Israel continues to send more settlers to the occupied West Bank and denies Palestinians access to most of our land and holy places, particularly in Jerusalem. Neither political pressure nor promises of rewards by the United States have stopped Israel’s settlement program.

Too many of our men and women have lost their lives....with the blessing of your little collaborative incumbency. Was Arafat seriously drugged when he signed the Oslo Accords? There is no other explanation. The resultant PA is in charge of key cities and towns in the West Bank but Israel controls the surrounding areas, meaning that Palestinians need permits to get from one area to the next. A blueprint disaster. Oh we can go on and on about the Oslo agreement...and guess what? We don't want to "secure the right to live in 22 percent of our historic homeland". The term "historical Palestine" is a verbally political trap. STOP USING IT. It implies that oh, its historic so what's past is past, let us talk about the modern day homeland. The same way that historically Syria was part of the Ottoman empire. The same way that historically the French owned the state of Louisiana. Palestine homeland is the whole land, not just 22 percent of its historicity. Sheesh. Also, Israel sending more settlers in the West Bank and denying Palestinians their right to access their lands is something that Abbashole colluded in.

Onwards, ye patient ones.

The State of Palestine intends to be a peace-loving nation, committed to human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter. Once admitted to the United Nations, our state stands ready to negotiate all core issues of the conflict with Israel. A key focus of negotiations will be reaching a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on Resolution 194, which the General Assembly passed in 1948.

Sorry, committed to human rights, democracy, etc based on what standards exactly? The PA's brutal crackdown on dissenters? Discriminate targeting of people with the wrong political affiliation? Banning any supporter of Hamas from working in its ministries? The jailing and torturing of those who dared to speak out against the police state the West Bank under Abbashole's regime became? And we are to believe that getting a decent job won't involve any kind of nepotism? And that USaid projects will run its course throughout the country, trading smooth roads for a more subservient state to Israel? CAN WE HAVE THE LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS ALREADY!

And then, the self-aggrandizing windbag goes on in the same breath to mention the Right of Return. The fact that he's in his 70's and therefore more vulnerable to senility than the average Palestinian definitely doesn't excuse his rambling. But how can he even think to assume that Palestinians are a forgetful lot? Hello, Palestine Papers! Saeb Erekat and his band of negotiators acknowledged that granting refugees their right of return is out of the question. Olmert proposed that over a five year span ten thousand refugees will be allowed back in but they won't have voting rights. Ten thousand out of 6 million. Take it or leave it. And then the GALL, the absolute nerve of him to even mention negotiations.

What is sheer pissing ironic is that this bloated article is still seen as simply unacceptable and indigestible for all of the wrong reasons.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

More People Power and "Correct" Resistance

Spain, that slice of heaven that keeps on producing male eye candy, is taking a leaf out of the Arab Spring revolutions. Beginning on May 15th, the Spaniards/Basques/Catalans etc took to the streets to demand a TRUE democracy, for a " decent, solidarity and sustainable future".

Egypt's revolution is still on-going. The "second revolution" will take place next Friday May 27th because as this video below says, repression of social rights still exist-the most recent example being the Egyptian army arresting peaceful demonstrators outside the Israeli embassy a few days ago.

And here's just a couple of links to illustrate the point of Palestinian non-violent resistance not being something new. Grr. Palestinian guerrilla movements began after their non-violent resistance was met by severe repression.

Obama's Middle East Speech

No we didn't watch it. It wasn't featured on our things to do list. But we read a few articles, watched Omar Barghouti summing it all up as IRRELEVANT and then waffled down some vegetable stuffed chicken with a divine salad. Who is Obama to stick his nose in a part of the world that he doesn't rule? Put Israel on one side, but imagine China dictating its plans as works of progress/lines of interests in the political sphere of Europe or something. Imperialistic much? Just the same old empty rhetoric regurgitated over and over again-Israel has a right to defend itself, Palestinians must recognize Israel's right to exist but no mention of the occupation or Israel's need to recognize a Palestinian state. Screw that, the two state solution has been buried long ago, it's a bi-national state we're looking for.

More at The Real News

Peter Beinart wrote that the more America stands by Israel, the less relevant America will become. Seeing how America was anything but an honest broker in peace talks, this means good for Arabs and bad for poor little beleaguered Israel.

Ahdaf Soueif ripped Obama's speech apart. Here's an excerpt:
"Countering terrorism" has implicated (at least) Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the US's extraordinary rendition programme, turning our governments into torturers for hire and consolidating a culture of security services supremacy and brutality that is killing Syrian protesters today and manifests itself in Egypt as a serious counter-revolution.

"Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons" highlights consistent US double standards as Arab nuclear scientists are murdered, the US threatens Iran, and Israel happily develops its illicit arsenal.

"Securing the free flow of commerce" has meant shoving crony capitalism down our throats, bribing governments to sell our national assets and blackmailing us into partnerships bad for us.

"Supporting Israel" has led to land, resources and hope being stolen from Palestinians while Egypt becomes their jailer and dishonest broker, losing its credibility and self-respect.
 Robert Fisk who's a beast of a man first had these little bulletin points for Obama to follow instead of the complete crap he instead spewed out, which Fisk then surmised here.

Our favorite anti-imperialism rapper Lowkey calls Obama "the handsome face of an ugly empire." Hee!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another Day of Rage

Fadi Quran has a face to his name, and he's studying for his MA at Birzeit University. Which makes us friends since you know.

Anyway, Democracy Now's Amy Goodman interviewed him a couple days after Sunday's special Nakba which for the first time saw Palestinian refugees in the bordering countries protesting and some succeeding in crossing over to Palestine (and in this man's case, all the way to Yafa). This nascent youth movement is solidifying quite quickly. In a way, I was filled with contempt at the hunger strikers who had at their heart pure and noble intentions but I was convinced that starving one's self was not going to yield any positive change and that other tactics (something along the lines of the US civil rights movement in the 60's) would prove to be more effective. But what did I know. So quick to judge and all that. Turns out that here, in this Palestinian society I live and breathe in everyday, there is such a movement. The hunger strikers formed the face of it, set things in motion, and then branched out to adapt to the quickly changing circumstances. The brave resistance going on in the villages of Nabi Saleh, Nil'in, and Bil'in every Friday for years now hasn't achieved that proper media coverage/awareness it needs. The youth movement is drawing upon the villagers' example and seeks to employ non-violent resistance. To say that Palestinian non-violent resistance is a relatively new concept is unbelievably wrong. It was just that throwing rocks against an army turned out to be more interesting for the world, the whole David verus Goliath thing. Yet the first intifada started off as a civil protest with syndicated strikes and Palestinians refusing to pay Israel taxes and their rejection of their military issued ID cards. Then came the hard hitting stuff as Israel responded with sadistic brutality, using the "break their bones" quota for the rock throwing youth.

What does Fadi have to say about a third intifada?

"I honestly—currently, I don’t think it’s going to be a third intifada, or uprising, in the sense that we saw in the First Intifada, 1988, and in 2000. I see that what’s going to develop now is something more similar to the civil rights movement in the South in the United States in the 1960s, where it wasn’t an ongoing uprising. It was more of a—you know, different events, people in their own communities organizing the Freedom Rides or organizing boycott campaigns. That’s what we’re going to begin seeing in the West Bank and Gaza, in the 1948 territories, and even in refugee camps. So it’s going to be that type of organic grassroots movement, and not an all-out uprising. Now, I think that if, at some point, our goals are not being achieved, if freedom still seems far away, then the pressure that we all feel as Palestinians due to Israeli oppression will likely lead us to an all-out uprising. But I think in the next maybe month, two months, it’s just going to be this type of escalating civil rights movement, people demanding equality, people demanding justice."

THANK YOU. We need direction because what kind of resistance will aimless rock throwing on Israeli military jeeps and soldiers will that be? Just another excuse to victimize poor Israel even more and to dehumanize the scum of the earth Palestinians. We need to build up awareness (people still scoff at BDS, dear God), educate, really work on building grassroots movements.

The youth movement which is STILL nameless and so shall be referred to here on the blog as PalestineYouthMovement--PYM-- is behind the Day of Rage set for Friday, May 20th. They are following up on the success of Sunday's Nakba commemoration which is good to see because continuity is integral. Key meeting points all over the West Bank and Gaza Strip have already been named and the purpose is to basically make our presence as an occupied people to the IOF and the watching world as even more salient. No doubt tomorrow there will be a lot of tear gas, but it's sending a message. The brown people are revolting the so-called western way, and the Occident's offspring are responding with violence. What a perfectly imbalanced equation right there. It's better to come with family and friends, to raise only the Palestinian flag, to be armed with scarves and plastic bags for the tear gas, and to watch out for the damn musta'rabeen and Israel's "elite special forces".

Ramallah: At 7am transportation will be provided to those who congregate around the Manara square to take them to Nabi Saleh. For those who consider it a criminal offence to wake up that early on a weekend, the protest will start later on in the morning at the entrance of Qalandiya's refugee camp and will proceed to the checkpoint.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Just yesterday I was reading the genius Roald Dahl's book The Twits. I gave it to a friend some time ago to encourage her to read, who then gave it to another friend after I had boasted of its hilarity, who gave it to another friend to read to her baby.

That's what I think of whenever I hear Twitter. Twitter is an annoying word too, very gossipy. "They kept twittering over her status after the scandal of her baring her ankle was exposed", "Twittering madly about incompetent teachers at some nancypants boarding school" etc.

And yet I have decided to conform to the masses by attempting to master Twitter. I shall be twittering on Twitter, only they call it "tweeting". In Arabic the sound of a bird is called 'hadeel" which is also a nice name for a girl. So I shall be hadeeling on Twitter. My vocabulary has already expanded by two words, Retweet and Hashtag. On fascinating days when Ramallah gets to be that much more interesting the world will now have a glimpse into my extraordinary insights into life. This feels like a big step, and my technologically challenged brain just became more tech savvy.

Now all I need is a phone with a camera in it. MTV generation is not what I am thanks.

Update: The Twitter box has now been added!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Palestinian Youth Movement(s) Rising

Oh, there they are! Turns out that they were not just a hunger striking one-off group intoxicated by the successes of  the revolutions of Egypt and Tunisia, but are in fact building a movement complete with seminars that will educate and teach members and activists the true effectiveness of non-violent resistance. Why don't they have a name though? The Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) isn't something that is too mind-boggling to come up with. Anyhoo, we are thrilled. One year from now and this movement will have caused some significant positive changes. Well, at least we hope they do.

We knew about the demonstration that was going to take place at Qalandiya but we didn't see the point of going since the usual outcome is always getting tear gassed, and we didn't see how that will help in anything. We believe in effective useful means you see. As it turns out, the rock throwing yesterday started only after the IOF began firing tear gas canisters, and it was mostly from adolescents. Imagine instead, sticking flowers in the guns of those scaredy-pants soldiers. How disarming will that be! Trust us, we are not turning on the sarcasm full wattage here. We honestly want to see these creative non-violent resistance tactics succeed.

Kieron Monks reports that the superficial PA-sponsored festivities around the Manara square were  meant to divert from the main effort taking place at Qalandiya. We didn't see any "sea of yellow flags" in Ramallah though.
Fadi Quran, one of the youth movement's senior figures, defined success by progress. "In the long run, this will be useful for building unity of purpose," he said. "You can see there is more trust between the people, we have the numbers and the connections."

Before the event, the movement had convened seminars to educate youths on strategies of non-violent resistance, as well as providing advice on how to cope with police brutality. The efforts will intensify toward future actions, but the traditional resistance of burning tires and throwing stones will not change overnight.

"We need to give the world a picture of non-violent Palestinian resistance," Quran said.

Maybe then the world can acknowledge Palestinian self-determination. It is so heartening to see Israeli activists taking part in the Nabi Saleh protests. Joseph Dana does a pretty fantastic job documenting what goes on every Friday there. Speaking of which, we hereby introduce you to Zochrot, a little Israeli organization dedicated to the remembrance of the Nakba. The video "highlights the basic psychology of the Israeli public who use the Holocaust to justify their colonization, dispossession, and subjugation of he Palestinians." This kind of free democratic nation houses wax-like scary eye make-up self-acknowledged racists. That is just so weird. The logic here is so clear cut: My family suffered unimaginably during the Holocaust and I have a right to live in this country. Fuck the Palestinians, they didn't have to lose three brothers at the hands of the Nazis!

Mainstream non-violent resistance and a very profound education for both sides. Israelis, Palestinians have a right to live in this country. Palestinians, Israelis are victims of their own governments and theocratic lunatics. There needs to be more independent thinking and critical awareness from the Israeli public, because this is not an equal conflict. There are the oppressors, and there are the oppressed. And as Desmond Tutu once said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."

To round off, Fadi Quran says,
"...we're going to continue training in nonviolence, and we're going to continue marching in nonviolence until it is very clear in the international media who is violating human rights."
Sign us up already!

Palestinian Refugees in Syria "Infiltrate" Majdal Shams

This made us clog up with tears. The man videoing the whole thing is repeatedly yelling at the crowd not to get too close thinking that there are explosive mines between the borders. As the refugees climbed over the fence, he said, "This is what liberation looks like." Majdal Shams is a village in the Golan Heights, along the so-called border line. Imagine that kind of pressure on the borders if not every day then every week. With the proper media coverage and the predicted Israeli response of murder, this will serve to expose yet another crack in the image Israel shoves down the throat of the west, and a step closer for Palestinian self-determination and liberation.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The 63rd Nakba Commemoration

As a Nakba commemoration day, it was fine. As a third intifada, it was nonexistent, but that's also fine. At the Qalandiya checkpoint, around 150 youth suffered from tear gas inhalation and sustained related injuries. Tens were arrested by the musta3rabeen, or mistaravim in Hebrew and other "special forces". Around the borders and in the Gaza Strip, more civilians were shot at and killed. In Ras Maroun on the southern Lebanese border, civilians were killed by Israeli soldiers. These civilians, numbering so far ten, were still on the Lebanese side of the border. In Gaza at its northern border with Israel, one Palestinian got killed and almost a hundred injured. Syrian protesters managed to get inside the border into the Majdal Shams village. Four have been confirmed killed, and the rest were driven back to the Syrian border. The video below is of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon throwing rocks at the chain link fence that separates Lebanon from Israel/Palestine.

In Ramallah, there were a lot of festivities. For the first time ever, I wore the black and white kuffiyeh. With the whole unity thing, I decided to give it a shot. However, nothing changed as the total number for receiving unwanted pervy comments just got tallied off the chart.

"She's from the kata'ib [ Aqsa brigades]!"
"What a pretty Fat7awiya."
"Did you liberate Palestine yet?"
"Here comes the liberation of Palestine!"
"Look, here comes the big boss."
"Did you see that? Oh Allah, my heart!"

Last year I wrote a poem about how wearing a black and white kuffiyeh in the West Bank automatically typifies you as a supporter of Fateh. It makes me beyond sick. In high school, I wore the red kuffiyeh in the winter a couple of times, mainly because my favorite color is red and I like me some Palestinian heritage. To my horror, a couple of teachers gave me a knowing smile and said heartily, "I didn't know you were jabha! Haw haw haw." And when I wore a green shirt I got followed around by a few leering Neanderthals calling out to me, "Hamsawiya! Show us what you've got!"

Not meaning to digress, but what exactly is the best way to respond to these sexual harassers? I learned from the hard way that silence eventually shuts them up and makes them move on to their next prey, but one of these days I am going to bust out my kung-fu kicks and leave them rotting in some sewage pipe.

Back to the festivities. There was one on the side of the Manara square that leads off to Rukab Street, where a few men were leading the chants, and then there was a huge stage set up down by the hisbeh (vegetable marketplace). On that stage, a few notables said speeches, poems were read out, dabka was performed, a couple of Fateh songs were played, Ammar Hasan (finalist on the show Superstar 7 years ago) sang, two young women swooned, and the popular Abu Arab closed the show by singing for almost an hour. Schools from Ramallah and the surrounding villages proudly displayed their scout cubs who took turns in making their way down the streets in their band processions.

There were a lot of people, not as much as on the night before Eid, but it was obvious that many of them had come to Ramallah to do their shopping/sight-seeing and not just for the Nakba day. In terms of action, Ramallah got the least, and as I said above that's perfectly acceptable. The Palestinians are not ready for a third intifada. The youth movements, the political factions, and the grassroots activism movements need to get together, agree on a mandate, and set about finding ways to achieve their goals. Intifada doesn't mean piling up the numbers of martyrs. There needs to be a clear purpose, a collective will to endure sacrifices as a means to reach the ends. With 150,000 Palestinians employed in the PA ministries, their reaction to unity was long-suffering annoyance at not receiving their salaries for this month (as a result of Israel freezing the PA's tax revenues and Salam Fayyad withholding the 300 million dollars the PA have). The first intifada on a civil level was truly an uprising of the people, as they collectively boycotted Israeli goods, refused to pay their taxes, burned their IDF military issued IDs, etc. The second intifada saw different political factions fragmenting Palestinian society as each group used the intifada for their own interests. In one of our classes, the professor asked us all whether the martyrs who had died/sacrificed themselves for Palestine had died for nothing. It is easy to romanticize dying for a cause, in fact someone once said that to die for a cause is better than living for nothing, but to answer that question in the context of the present political reality is really crushing.

And yet, I am hopeful. Times are certainly a-changing. There's been unprecedented unbiased coverage of the Israeli occupation, more and more people all around the world are waking up to the true nature of what the state of Israel stands for, and with the Arab revolutions, the populations who were once silenced under the boots of their dictators are finally free to express their immense solidarity and support for the Palestinians and Palestine. It is highly possible that the next generation will never know what occupation is, and "jundi, hajiz, ta5, saroo5" (soldier, checkpoint, shooting, rocket) won't be part of a four year old's vocabulary. The West Bank society need to reform themselves, following the outstanding examples of the villages Nabi Saleh, Bil'n, and Nil'in, and to not acclimatize themselves with the occupation on the basis of just wanting to live their lives, because living under brutal military rule doesn't sound like much of a life, even if there's a rise in bar partying and more Movenpick hotels are built. And that's basically the summary of our huge dissatisfaction with our society. Resist is to Exist.

Pictures from today:

Posters all around Ramallah

Boys Scout club from Mughayar School

Even the soos guy went patriotic for the day

One side of the Manara
Peeping Tom :)

Ah, Stars and Bucks. The woman in the window was waving a kuffiyeh

Crap angle of the ever symbolic key

And continuing with the spirit of hopefulness in the face of positive change, here's a video of a protest that took place in Tel Aviv where the Palestinian flags were raised for the first time since 1948. No Fatah snide remarks for those kuffiyeh wearing peeps!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 15th and the Third Palestinian Intifada

Every year for the past 62 years, there has always been a Nakba commemoration day. May 15th marks the Israeli "War of Independence Day" at the expense of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that were displaced, expelled, and ethnically cleansed from their cities, villages, and homes in the most brutal manner. Some fled for fear of experiencing the same fate that Deir Yassin underwent, where over one hundred men, women, and children were murdered on the spot. Others were threatened, forcibly evicted, and were either placed on trucks that took them to the Jordanian/Lebanese borders or were told to walk there under the unbearable heat with inadequate food and supplies and no shelter. Many died on the way. Others made their "temporary" homes in the nineteen refugee camps in the West Bank, and the eight in the Gaza Strip.

Every Palestinian is familiar with the Nakba, as it still lives on in the collective memory, passed on from generation to generation, where land deeds and rusty keys are the most prized possessions. 700,000 refugees, over half of the original Palestinian population, have escalated 63 years later into a 6 million problem. Israel continues to systematically deny these facts and figures, disseminating lies through their hasbara machine that these Arabs left on their own accord and free will, but for how long? Especially in such glaring evidence? Writing on newly obtained statistics that show how Israel revoked residency rights of Palestinians (up to 140,000) up until the time of the Oslo Accords, Gideon Levy writes how the spirit of ethnic cleansing is still very much alive and kicking in the democratic state of Israel, all for the purpose of transforming the land into a purely Jewish only state.
"This is an absolute refusal to allow the return of the refugees - something that would "destroy the State of Israel." It's also an absolute refusal to allow the return of the people recently expelled. By next Independence Day we'll probably invent more expulsion regulations, and on the next holiday we'll talk about "the only democracy."

This year, the 63 third commemorative year of the Nakba, is surrounded by so much hype and fanfare. Bolstered by the geopolitical changes in the Arab world, and drawing upon loud support from the resuscitated Egyptians as a result of their spectacular revolution, this Sunday promises to be something memorable. Egyptian youth have called for a million man march to the Rafah border to show their support and solidarity with the Palestinians, and Jordanians and refugees in Lebanon have pledged to do the same on their side. But guess who has the audacity to rain on the Egyptians' parade... Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal. He called for the Egyptian youth to refrain from marching to the border, citing fears of "unwanted military confrontation" and not wanting to place Egypt in direct conflict with Zionism when they have their own problems to sort out. Given that Hamas shot any diaphanous shred of credibility by announcing its favor in the two state solution, Meshaal's comments are seen as nothing less than traitorous. Imagine Mahmoud Abbas or any of his henchmen saying that. Speaking of which, the PA has banned anyone from demonstrating on Sunday next to checkpoints and settlements.

63 years, and Palestinians are not in any way closer to giving up their right of return.

And again, Ben Gurion's "The old will die and the young will forget" couldn't be further away from the truth. IMEU has come up with this great initiative where second or third generation refugees in a one minute video talk about their parents/grandparents' Nakba memories.

This year, Israel passed a law forbidding anyone inside of Israel to commemorate the nakba since apparently it's a criminal offense. This from the Palestine Monitor:
Palestinian schools inside the Green Line have already experienced signs that portend increased censorship. According to an Alternative Information Center report, officials from Israeli Ministry of Education visited Palestinians schools on Land Day, 30 March, requesting that school officials send the Ministry a list of teachers and students that were absent that day.

This act of intimidation was received as a reminder to schools that the Ministry of Education is in fact watching their political activities.

The Follow-Up Committee on Arab Education, an Israeli organization founded in 1984 to advocate for and protect Arab education in Israel, have vocalized their opposition to the law and dedication to Palestinians’ right to observe national days that form cultural and collective memory.

In the past, Palestinian schools have worked with their mayors and local councils to develop lesson plans, activities and video screenings to memorialize the Nakba. Since the passing of the “Nakba Law,” FUCAE is working with legal organizations, Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Adalah, to understand how Palestinian schools will be able to recognize their historical narrative without incurring heavy fines.

On Friday, protests were held in Cairo and Amman and Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli security was tight, and one youth from Silwan died early this morning from a gunshot wound to his stomach. In the areas around East Jerusalem particularly, clashes took place between Palestinians and the Israeli forces, resulting in the arrest of 34 people.

And now onto the Third Palestinian Intifada. It all started on Facebook after getting inspired by the Arab revolutions. Fans numbered almost 300,000 when Facebook decided to pull the page after a couple of whiners were concerned about the anti-Semitic message the page was giving out. In its place, dozens of the Third Palestinian Intifada pages appeared. We don't know how exactly this proposed intifada will pan out, but Mahmoud Abbas is determined that no intifada will happen under his festering reign, stating that anyone who wants to carry out "armed resistance" should do so away from the Palestinian people. Some people just don't know when to stop sinking so low. We checked out the Facebook page for the intifada, and it included a long-winded mission statement in Arabic that outlined the cause and effects of the first two intifadas and and what the aspirations for the youth or anyone partaking should be and how that in turn should develop and shape their personalities with regards to social, economic, political, cultural, organizational, and gender related issues. From a quick skim, we saw no information about how this imminent third intifada will be implemented.

Matthew Cassel clarifies what will happen on May 15th, which looks like the normal procedure for previous May 15ths. The third intifada is a day where:
...Palestinian activists, political factions and non-governmental organizations, are participating in various coordinated actions to protest Israeli occupation and call for the right of return for some six million Palestinian refugees. The significance of this date is that it is Nakba day — the day Palestinians annually commemorate their ethnic cleansing from Palestine as British forces departed in 1948 and Zionist forces took over much of the country to establish Israel.

We really do not want to belittle the events/actions that are going to take place tomorrow. While it was heartening to hear Jordanians from the village of Karameh shouting "The people want the liberation of Palestine"/"A-sha3b yureed ta7reer falasteen" and even more so that the Egyptians are putting together convoys to effectively break the siege of Gaza once and for all, here in the West Bank we can't but help feel that all this hullabaloo will result in crushing disappointment, much like the one experienced on March 15th. In fact, we have already bet that around three thousand people will show up around the Manara square and other landmarks in the West Bank cities, instead of the hundreds of thousands who are participating rigorously in debates on Facebook pages, posting links and pictures and YouTube videos in a frenzied manner.

Here's what we think will go down tomorrow:

  • Congregation of disappointing amount of people
  • First half hour characterized by emphatic chanting, waving of flags, fist-pumping, etc
  • Adrenaline flows as there seems to be genuine feelings of nationalistic pride
  • Attempted sabotage by the united political factions
  • Blaring loudspeakers play nationalistic songs over and over again as people begin to lose interest and walk away
  • Unleashing of Ramallah perverts, who make sardonic and immensely witty jokes about liberation of Palestine
  • We cry
  • Go home, turn on the news, watch youth who demonstrated at Qalandia checkpoint get tear-gassed and maybe a procession of a martyr or two 
Keep in mind, we made this list not because it's the prototype of what usually goes on in (PA approved) rallies/demonstrations or to be called useless slags who keep on moaning about the incompetence of any type of Palestinian leadership that lacks that stimulating factor, but rather so we can be proved horribly, magnificently wrong. A couple of months ago, there was on article on the al-Jazeera website that asserted that no revolution is likely to take place in Syria anytime soon because of these so and so factors.

We'll be there around the Manara square tomorrow, but this time with no high hopes or expectations. May 15th will be yet another commemorative year, but this won't explode or even ignite the fuse for the Third Intifada. The youth seem to know what they want (an end to division, an end to occupation, liberation of Palestine, calls for democratic elections, etc) but their problem lies in their means to achieve these goals. Again, with March 15th on our minds, copying the tactics of Egypt and Tunisia was not enough. March 15th didn't bring about the reconciliation of Hamas and Fateh. The geopolitical circumstances in surrounding Arab countries did. May 15th will be another year, another day of remembrance, a devastating and amplified reminder that 63 years have gone by, where over 500 villages and 11 urban neighborhoods were completely destroyed and now have thriving Israeli infrastructures built upon the ruins. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Second Annual Palestine 5K Run/Walk

We never knew there was so much that can be done before 11 am on a Friday morning. Usually we wake up around early afternoon, but today we were ready to roll!

*All pictures taken from the event's Facebook page, and are not our own mad photography skills

The Second Annual Palestine 5K Run/Walk took place today at 10:20 am, just five minutes after the 1K race took off. All proceeds (sign up fees are 20 shekels and they throw in a free t-shirt) go to the Abu Rayya Patient's Friends Society in Ramallah, a rehabilitation center for those with disabilities.

The last time we properly ran a race was sometime in 6th grade for Field Day. Nevertheless, we decided to go for it because it seemed like the only time in Ramallah where women can run without getting perved upon. So we showed up, in the wrong attire (jeans, yeah) and did a couple of miniature stretches. Our main gripe, due to our vampire nature, was the fact that the sun was out after yesterday's forecast promised a cloudy breezy day, perfect weather conditions so as to not sweat/glisten profusely. The breeze started soon after, and we took our places behind the green line. We were off!

There were so many people of different ages around. Little kids that barely came up to our knees were running in front of us, determined to finish all five kilometers. Our favorite was a blond family of four, the parents and their tiny scrumptious kids. We eyed our main competitors, the foreigners with skyscraper legs, and settled for nothing less than one of the trophies that were laid out on the table just outside the center. Wishful thinking, but the motivation was needed, especially after the first 100 meters. We then alternated between our version of power walking (plodding along) and jogging (an updated form of plodding), cursing Ramallah's steep streets. The roads were closed and the policemen refrained from their usual leery selves as they ensured that no cars would disrupt our course.

We ran. We skidded down steep streets, and huffed our way up. We walked. We eavesdropped on the banter around us. We ran again. King Julian from the movie Madagascar occupied our brains with his song. Physically fitta, physically fitta, I like to move it move it. The two cafes on the course, Zamn and Jasmine handed out cups of water. Volunteers encouraged us on with their witting colorful signs (Now You're Flying!). We felt our abdominal muscles flex. Encouraged by the thought that cheese and carrots could be grated on our newly formed abs we ran some more. Store owners, shop keepers, customers, passersby all stopped to watch us go. During the first half of the last kilometer, we started walking again. One policeman, with the look of someone who's been sucking on lemons for too long, sneered, "I've been up since 5 am manning the streets just so you can WALK? Run!" We looked back to see if this was an attempt at some humor or pervy encouragement. The pinched face glared back at us. For once, our withering looks of contempt had no effect on this sourpuss.

Finally we turned into the corner of the street where the finish line was. We flew like the wind (physically fitta), ecstatic to have finally taken part in a mini marathon and finishing it, when we noticed that half the runners were already there. But that was ok, especially for the two of us who count sleeping as a hobby. Next year, however we WILL come in first. Or at least in the top ten. The amazing thing about the whole race was that everyone had such a great time. We were all running/walking/plodding along with unconscious smiles on our faces, and we didn't mind that the tiny kids had more energy and were bounding along ahead of us. Of course we couldn't. We're fierce competitors, but not when we're so unprepared. And at the risk of using loser mentality, it's not all about winning. Duh.

As the last runners crossed the finish line (one was a woman pushing her baby in his stroller) we belatedly headed on downstairs in the center and outside for fun and games. First came a performance by Ashtar theatre company, but due to our hyperactive self-congratulatory remarks and tardiness we were unable to comprehend the message of it, and therefore we can only say that it had something to do with Red, White, and Gibberish. The kids in the audience however, seemed to be enjoying every moment of it. They were participating by screaming out “Red” or “White” and declaring why they choose the color they did. The came the awards ceremony. The first four trophies were handed out to the 1K competitors which consisted of kids. The first two boys and two girls who crossed the finish line were called up to the front of the pack (no stage) to receive their trophies. One of the girls was extremely proud of herself, running around screaming, “I won, I won!” As for the winners of the 5K, they were the first two male and two female skyscrapers to cross the finish line. Sadly that wasn’t us, but seriously we never had a chance against those ostricheetahs (Ostriches + cheetahs). We say in order to have a fair competition, we should demand that next year's rules should state that no participants taller than the average height 5’7 are allowed to join in. Actually, it won't matter since next year we will be physically fitta and poised to participate in the 2012 Olympics.


Check out the rest of the hundreds of pictures on the event's Facebook page.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Good Shit

We remember watching Slingshot Hip-hop last year for one of our classes, which marked the beginning of our Narcycist/Lowkey obsessive mania after we chucked out Enya/All American Rejects/other god awful shit-but never Backstreet Boys- and concluding that Arabic rap isn't that bad. But then we saw a video for one of DAM's songs which had a lot of girls in tight clothes flipping their bouffants and dancing, so we stopped listening to them for a while. That was when we were still going through the "open-your-mind" phase, where naturally after years of crap school indoctrination we believed that anyone (well a Palestinian mostly) who spoke in favor for the cause had to be a respectable knowledgeable prayer-of-5-times-a-day type. Oi, Noura Erekat, your skirt is too short!

We were so judgmental. We feel like slapping our past 17, 18 year old selves. Still, that DAM video was awful, and when we found out that the girls were commissioned from our very own Birzeit University's Business college, that really explained a lot. Ya3ni we were not surprised :). Shoot, we're STILL judgmental.

The other rap group were from Gaza called PR, Palestinian Rapperz. They're mostly defunct now, with the lead rapper following his destiny in making less than satisfactory songs somewhere on a visa in the US. Or is it a green card hmm.

DARG Team, which stands for Da Arabian Revolutionary Guys, probably came after Jackie Salloum's shooting of the movie, since apparently they are the best known hip hop group in Gaza. The above video is their own rendition of the popular poem by Tariq Ziad turned song "Ounadekum" (Calling You) as a tribute to the slain Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni, which was his favorite song.

We Love It.

Oh, here we are, a lot of information on their Facebook page...

• Did the sound track for Aisheen “Still alive in Gaza” a documentary about the impact of the Gaza offense on people which was filmed in Gaza strip on February 2009 directed by the Swiss director Nicolas Wadimoff.

• The first Palestinian hip hope group to film a music video using the green screen and graphics designs “Rebuild by us”.

• Film the third music video Long Live Palestine featuring Low Key an MC from UK.

• Summer 2010 were able to leave the strip to Switzerland to work on the Gaza Meets Geneva project that took place for three months and were invited by Ville De Geneve were the team was able to record the third album titled Gaza Meets Geneva Vol. 2 featuring lots of hip hop and R&B artists from the EU.

• Presented the Palestinian and Gaza hip hop in EU in a six months tour played in Switzerland, France, Denmark, Norway and Sweden after nine months of failure trials to get out of Gaza.

• The first Palestinian and Gaza hip hop group to play in Syria and in AL Nerab the Palestinian refugee camp in “Aleppo” last summer.

• Won the first place on the first national hip hop competition that took place in the West Bank and had more than 50 participants from all over Palestinian territories and the lands of 48

We can't help but be finicky though. TARG doesn't sound that different from DARG, so would it have killed them to be "The Arabian Revolutionary Guys"? Yeah, we're showing our major right there.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gaza Runs Marathon

Photo Cred: Marco Longari. Check out the rest here.
We LOVE this. LOVE IT. From the Guardian article:

Donkey carts, exhaust fumes and potholes were just some of the obstacles for runners in the Gaza Strip's first marathon.

There were no roads closed, no security tape and no guides, as the route was very simple: start at the border of Israel and stop at the border with Egypt.

The race started at 6am local time on Thursday, three minutes after sunrise, and the temperature was already at 21C. The starting point was Beit Hanoun, in the north-east, from where the runners headed west towards the Mediterranean.

More than 1,500 people took part in the event, hosted by the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which raised $1m (£600,000) for its annual summer camps. The camps are a source of tension between the UN and conservative sectors of Gazan society who object to the mixing of boy and girls, even before puberty.

More than 1,300 schoolchildren ran the marathon in relays of a kilometre at a time, while about 200 ran a half or quarter-marathon. Only nine adult participants ran the whole course – seven Gazans and two UN workers. The winner was Nader al-Masri, 31, from Beit Hanoun who ran in the 5,000 metres at the Beijing Olympics and hopes to run at the London Games in 2012. He clocked two hours and 42 minutes.

By the time the race reached Gaza City, Masri had already developed a substantial lead. The coastal road runs past the harbour where sardine fishermen land their catch. The runners had to negotiate donkeys carts, vans and hundreds of blue boxes filled with fish as the fishermen and merchants cheered.

From the fish market, the runners passed the wasteland that was Yasser Arafat's presidential compound, destroyed by Israeli aircraft and ships in a series of bombings since 2001.

The UN – which provides services for refugees, a majority of Gaza's 1.5 million residents – also attempts to create a sense of normality, particularly for schoolchildren who are unable to leave. Earlier this week, the UN hosted the Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, who brought a 25-piece orchestra to play Mozart for an audience of 200 children and adults.

Chris Gunness, a UNRWA spokesman, said: "The Israeli authorities have kept many things out of Gaza but we are trying to make sure that the one thing that can get through the blockade is fun. The marathon definitely achieved that not just for the competitors but for the thousands and thousands of onlookers who applauded every runner."

Gemma Connell, the only woman running the marathon and the initiator of the event, finished the course in four hours and 45 minutes.

"I ran through refugee camps, past farmers and street cleaners. They all clapped and shouted: 'Salam Alaikum'. The variety of scenery and the welcome was incredible and there was the unspeakable beauty of the Mediterranean, which gave me the energy to keep going," she said.