Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jerusalem: Ethereal City, not City of Men

In accordance with the online campaign (#Blog4Quds) of devoting January 16th to the 31st to blogging about Jerusalem, or Al-Quds, I've compiled below a few paragraphs taken from my academic papers.

What has made Jerusalem the object of such violent conflict and reverence through thousands of years? It is not a strategic locale to capture-- as it is exposed in the north-- nor a prosperous trade city, nor is it situated near a river or the sea, nor does it harbor any natural resources. To grossly generalize, the city is an amalgamation of holy sites and objects, which ironically has made it an epicenter for intolerance and brutality in contrast with its toted name of “City of Peace”, as when the Crusades killed 65000 in 1099 in the name of holy war, or when Hadrian completely destroyed the city in 130 AD as a result of the Jews revolting and causing unrest.

The city is a mixture of myth and holiness, the basis of monotheistic religions, the location of destructive sieges and massacres, of invasion and piety, home to the splendor of a few chief architectural monuments and contrastive geography.

The signs of Israeli permanence through its occupation and colonization are enough to make one feel fragmented and confused, as Israel is intent in siphoning off any remnants of Palestinian identity, but the fact of the matter is that it has ironically, refurbished the very definition of what it means to be a Palestinian, either living under the hands of the occupation or living in the diaspora. Much in the same way that Jews for centuries mourned Jerusalem, their Zion, and never failed to commemorate any aspect of it during occasions, their Palestinian counterparts inculcated Jerusalem as a romanticized symbol for the whole of Palestine into their children and future generations’ consciousness, always expressing hope that it will be theirs again.

Edward Said suggests in his article Invention, Memory, and Space: “People now look to this refashioned memory, especially in its collective forms, to give themselves a coherent identity, a national narrative, a place in the world, though, as I have indicated, the processes of memory are frequently, if not always, manipulated and intervened in for sometimes urgent purposes in the present” (p 179).

Overall, the city of Jerusalem is contested not just in its corporeal being/physical space but in its imagery as well. There is no doubt of course that the cultural, religious, and historical significance the city holds is insurmountable but the grave error the people hold in their views towards it is the magnification and the blowing out of proportion of its representational value, to the extent that Jerusalem has ceased to become an “authentic” city and is closer to the belief of its celestial counterpart directly above it. Israeli narratives can paint a quasi-description of the city without mentioning the occupation, but the Palestinian accounts are steeped into the figurative envelopment that contains the occupation and religious discourse which are juxtaposed to each other. In order to gain a more profound and realistic understanding of Jerusalem, it must be exposed as a city of men on a ground level, and not one of a dominant ethereal icon.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Israel’s interrogation of Islam Dar Ayyoub Tamimi, age 14: video reveals rights abuses

As posted on Electronic Intifada

A year ago on January 23, 14-year-old Islam Dar Ayoub Tamimi was arrested at gunpoint after the Israeli army surrounded his house at around 1:30am. A few days before, on January 17, Islam’s house was one of many in the village of Nabi Saleh that were raided by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), where the soldiers then proceeded to take pictures of all males over the age of 12.

A month later, Islam’s younger brother eleven year old Kareem was chased down and hauled off by the Israeli police where he was illegally interrogated for two hours before getting released.

During his arrest, Islam was taken out of bed at gunpoint and violently taken to a military jeep, handcuffed and blindfolded. His brother Omar (who remains in detention after getting arrested during the West Bank car protest on Israeli only roads earlier this month) was beaten up as he tried to help Islam.

According to an email interview with Israeli anti-occupation activist Jonathan Pollak:

Islam was then taken to a military base in the nearby Jewish-only settlement of Halamish, where he was kept outside in the cold, still blindfolded and handcuffed, and was not allowed any sleep. He was then taken to a police station in the Mishor Edomim settlement for questioning, where he arrived at around 8:00 in the morning.

He was asked to sign a document in Hebrew, but it was a (flawed) summery of his interrogation. This happened after he was finally allowed to see his lawyer, and he refused to sign it. The video shows that the Hebrew document was read to him in Arabic before he was asked to sign it.

After his interrogation he was taken to Ofer, and then, a few days after to Rimonim prison (which is part of Hasharon prison complex), which is a detention center for minors. To the best of my knowledge, he was imprisoned together with other Palestinians, not Israel criminal prisoners.

The judge didn’t admit Islam was under psychological pressure and felt threatened per se, but rather wrote that indeed his rights were violated (which in some cases, would have rendered his testimony inadmissible) but that in this specific case, from looking at the tape, it seems he was treated well during the interrogation and spoke of his own free will. [In other words] she believes that the impact of the violations on him, in this specific case, was not severe enough.

Islam was released on 4 April 2011, after 71 days in detention, but remained under full house arrest. The conditions of his house arrest were changed at the beginning of the school year (in September) so that he is allowed to go to school. He still remains under partial house arrest.

The military judge, Major Sharon Livnin, ruled that Islam’s confession despite his unlawful interrogation was legitimate enough to be used as evidence in the trial of Bassem Tamimi:

“In my opinion, the infringement on the defendant’s rights in this concrete case, did not amount to a violation of his right in a way that will sufficiently endanger his right to a fair trial […].”

The Popular Struggle website outlies some of the ways Islam’s rights were violated:

  • The boy was arrested at gunpoint in the dead of night, during a violent military raid on his house.
  • Despite being a minor, he was denied sleep in the period between his arrest and questioning, which began the following morning and lasted over 5 hours.
  • Despite being told he would be allowed to see a lawyer, he was denied legal counsel, although his lawyer appeared at the police station requesting to see him.
  • He was denied his right to have a parent present during his questioning. The testimony of one of his interrogators before the court suggests that he believes Palestinian minors do not enjoy this right.
  • He was not informed of his right to remain silent, and was even told by his interrogators that he “must tell of everything that happened.”
  • Only one of four interrogators who participated in the questioning was a qualified youth interrogator.
At the beginning of a video documenting Islam’s interrogation in the presence of two interrogators (uploaded by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee’s youtube channel), the boy asks if he will be allowed to go home soon. One of the interrogators barks at him, “Wait, we’re doing an interrogation here.” The one at the computer types in “student” as the other affirms that Islam is a reporter’s assistant. At 43 seconds, Islam asks again if he’s going to go home that night, explaining that he has an exam the next day.

At 1:15, one of the interrogators accuses Islam that he along with other youth were throwing stones at Israeli army jeeps and participating in protests, which are “against the law” and (at 2:30) a “breach of public security.” The same interrogator (at 2:58) then proceeds to tell Islam that he has a right to see a lawyer, but that if he chooses not to answer any questions, that can be further used as solidified evidence against him in court. At 3:29 the interrogator says, “You’re a little boy. Inshallah [God willing] we’ll finish with the interrogation soon, but we want you to tell us all the right things. Understand? We’ll show you pictures of people throwing rocks, including you.”

Almost half an hour later, a third interrogator joins the room. Islam is in the middle of explaining an injury to his leg sustained during one of the protests.

At 4:40 Islam gives the name and age of one of the youths in the village. The third interrogator punches his hand into his fist. The video goes to another interval, where one of the interrogators cuts off Islam, who is in the middle of describing how the youth hide in houses when the army surrounds them, by calling them as mice. The third interrogator says in his rolling accent, “Like Tom and Jerry.” He then suddenly shouts, “Those poor things! Those unfortunates!”

At 5:59, the same interrogator snaps at Islam not to breathe in his face. Islam replies that he hasn’t slept. At 6:39 the interrogator asks Islam what the job of the first “brigade” was, before snickering that he was going to catch the flu from Islam.

At 7:05, another interrogator enters the room. At 7:30 Islam announces he wants to go home because of his school exams.

At 7:50 one of the interrogators asks Islam how many people were in each brigade.

At 8:28 Islam asks if the latest interrogator is the one responsible for taking him home.

At 9:18, after almost three hours (2 hours and 42 minutes to be exact) of interrogation, the psychological stress becomes all too evident as Islam breaks down into tears. When asked why he’s crying, Islam replies that he’s afraid he’s going to fail his school year. He elaborates, “If I fail then the school won’t let me come back to repeat the year.”

At 11:08 The interrogator asks, “What did he tell them?” Islam replies, his voice wobbling, “He told us to wait at the intersection and to take the cardboards to the shrine. We’d take them to Uncle Naji and Uncle Bassem without knowing what was in them. Motasem wanted to know what was in them so once he opened one and found gas masks.”

At 11:39, a new addition is in the room: the only qualified female youth interrogator.

At 12:43, the interrogator that rolls his R’s slaps Islam’s shoulders, saying “You’re happy that the officers got hit by stones, right?”

At 13:35 the interrogators order Islam to raise his head and to sit up straight, telling him that it will all be over soon. Islam’s been in interrogation for more than four hours at this point.

At 13:55 Islam asks when the interrogation will be over. One of the interrogators replies, “In half an hour. We have to first check if what you said is all true, and then we’ll see what will happen. I don’t want to see you here again.”

At 14:35 the interrogator flicks Islam’s arms, which are resting his head, and tells him to raise his head up. “When the interrogator is in the room, raise your head up. Yell at him. And if possible, you beat him up!”

The other interrogator shows Islam a photograph and asks him who the person in it is.

After more than five hours of interrogation, Islam yawns and asks for the time. It’s 2:30 pm, answers the interrogator. Islam turns to the stoic female interrogator and tells her he hasn’t slept since yesterday.

At 15:12, Islam is left alone with the female interrogator. He asks if it’s over yet. She replies, “in a little bit.” Islam then asks her if she’s Israeli or an Arab. She answers, “What do you think? I speak Arabic. I’m an Arab.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I work.”

“You work as what?”

“Just work.”

At 16:52, Islam yawns, “Please God, take me home. I am so tired.”

Islam’s unlawful interrogation was used to incriminate and arrest Bassem and Naji Tamimi, who are actively involved in Nabi Saleh’s weekly popular resistance protests, a couple of months later in March. Nabi Saleh began its protest back in December 2009, after settlers from the illegal settlement of Halamish built upon the village’s land further expropriated the village’s main water supply and spring, Al-Kaws. Naji agreed to a plea bargain, and was subsequently sentenced to a year in prison plus a 20,000 shekel fine. Bassem refused to do the same, and has still not been sentenced, despite spending ten months behind bars since his arrest. When Islam was put on the stand in court in November 2011, he admitted that he had given false testimony due to the immense pressure he was under before and during his interrogation.

Back in late November last year, I sat with Bassem’s wife, Nariman Tamimi, who talked about her husband’s trial, the baseless charges against him, why Naji accepted the deal and Bassem didn’t, and the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh in the video below. She rejects labeling her husband or Naji as “leaders of the protests”, maintaining that this was the characterization given to them by the Israeli authorities in order to accuse them of the charges, as any child participating in the protests is capable of leading. She contents that she doesn’t “recognize the occupier’s right to exist to recognize the legitimacy of their courts” and that she attends the trials because she wants to see her husband who “is my best friend and partner.” When asked about Bassem’s morale, Nariman replies, “He’s always been so strong and optimistic. His spirits are so high and make you stronger, instead of the opposite.”

Thanks to Jan Beddegenoodts for the video

Sunday, January 22, 2012

#OccupyBZU to #BZUProtest

It's a sign of the times we're living in when hashtags are perfectly acceptable as titles, and I'm sure there are countless thesis dissertations in progress attributing this as another significant regime-tackling phenomenons of social media. Suffice to say, it is increasingly obvious where people get much of their news from nowadays.

Last week on Tuesday the 17th, a number of students from Birzeit University protested the totalitarian fixtures regarding tuition costs and financial measures introduced at the start of the second semester, which left 1200 students unable to continue their education because of the expensive costs. Dozens walked inside the administrative building, and were subsequently locked in by security. Thus, #OccupyBZU was commenced.

One of my main problems with my time at Birzeit University was the lack of any concrete student activism, overtaken instead by the simulated scenes and atmosphere of a US high school as shown in Hollywood movies. That's all fine and dandy since not everyone wants to be at the forefront of tackling social change or even challenging Captain Israel to an arm-wrestling match, but when the circumstances are crying out for it, there is no excuse left to remain passive. The glory days of BZU were during the first intifada, the late 80's to the early 90's, where students were largely involved in peaceful resistance against the Israeli military occupation. One such demonstration was attending classes in empty buildings in defiance of Israeli military orders. Students were one of the important driving forces behind the mass protests and civil disobedience in Palestinian society. That of course didn't come without its sacrifices; another name for Birzeit University is the Martyrs' University/ جامعةالشهداء due to its thirteen students killed by Israel.

The Oslo Accords can be explained as the reason for the students' growing detachment from politics, despite the student parties within the university itself being derivatives of Palestinian political parties. The second intifada ushered in armed resistance as the primary method of response against Israel's increasingly unbearable occupation, which contrary to the first intifada, isolated sectors of the Palestinian society from being a true popular uprising. Coordination with the other eight universities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip became more difficult. Factionalism reared its ugly face following the US backed civil fighting between Hamas and Fateh back in 2006. Politics on campus became repressive, and used as a platform to trash talk the rival party. Some male students belonging to Hamas' Kutla Islamiyeh bloc were imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority. Instead of the students of the Fateh university Shabeeba group demanding their release, the act was further augmented by incendiary accusations and wholehearted support. These antics only managed to alienate a large number of students who find no representative as they are not affiliated to any political student party, and "student activism" took the role of proudly parroting each respective party's propaganda.

The above serves as an explanation for the disillusionment concerning the possibility for any meaningful act to take place on campus. These protests against financial matters are hardly news. In fact, it is the norm at the beginning of every single semester. They always take the same cycle: Students protest, each student political party writes up a statement, get out their best throaty orator backed with factional music, and proceed to threaten the university's administration with calls of prolonged strikes. The whole thing lasts for a week, with actions escalating then diminishing as fast as if they never happened, without any success achieved. The same Spartan students go from building to building, classroom to classroom, informing the other students that classes have been suspended for the day, right under the nose of the professor. They order the students to leave the classrooms, leave the building, and join them in a demonstration in front of the administration building. Hardly anyone listens, and see this as an opportunity to hang out with friends. The buildings then get put on lock down for an indefinite time period, even if there are students and professors inside. Tires are burned at the gates of the university, the gates themselves get locked with chains brought from who knows where, and the student portal Ritaj becomes useless as it doesn't give out updates for whether there will be classes on this day or not.

The point is that these drastic actions serve as a cry for attention, as their repetitive nature hardly achieve whatever demands the student parties champion out through the state of the art loudspeakers. But Tuesday, January the 17th excited a lot of people, myself included because it was the first time students staged a sit-in overnight. The following morning, more details began to emerge and were shared on Twitter.

It turned out that students, contrary to initial thoughts, did not purposely mean to stay overnight in the administrative building. 76 students merely went inside to protest peacefully, and found themselves locked in by security after the administrative staff vacated the building. Allegedly, one security guard taunted the students by saying, "Let's see who's man enough to stay here for the night." The radiators were turned off, and the students spent the night without blankets or food, shivering as a storm raged outside. For those who had to use the bathroom, they were allowed outside but were prevented from going back in. As a result, 22 students were left inside the administrative building. The following morning, one student's health deteriorated rapidly but the administrative prohibited him from receiving immediate medical attention. The university dean Dr Khalil Hindi issued a media blackout on the whole situation.

The most austere financial measure imposed was that a student's tuition had to be paid in full before the new semester begins, in order for the student to choose his/her own classes. This is outrageous to say the least. Tuition costs are usually paid in money installments twice a semester, in an attempt to alleviate some families' financial stresses. Non-elected Prime Minister Salam Fayyad may have succeeded in transforming the West Bank, and Ramallah specifically into a capitalist consumerism society, but Birzeit University doesn't host only the privileged rich kids. I remember one time taking a group of high school seniors from Jenin on a quick tour on campus, and one of the chaperoning teachers told me he couldn't afford to send his kids to Birzeit Uni because the tuition was more than his monthly salary. The university is suffering from financial losses because the Palestinian Authority owes it money from three years.

10 students from Bethlehem University went on hunger strike also protesting the changed tuition policies, before #OccupyBZU even started. Speaking of "Occupy" (a word I don't like for apparent reasons) the hashtag was changed to #ProtestBZU because the administration accused the students of occupying the building--ignoring the fact that they were locked in-- thus painting the whole sit-in unfavorably as it is in their interests to do so.

The protest seemingly had the support of the majority of the students, those affiliated with parties and those who were not. For once it wasn't an act pulled by Hamas, or Fateh, or the Left (Jabha). Some even went so far as to label it the Birzeit Spring:

More pictures found here

The protest continued for the next couple of days. The gates of the university were still closed, the students still inside the building. The university's workers' union tried to mediate between the demands of the students and the administration but found that the administration ignored the demands and flat out refused to even talk, let alone negotiate with a group of students who were not the official representative. When the student council finally announced their support for the locked in students, the administration still refused to talk. Even after a committee composed of representatives of all eight student parties as well as from the student council was agreed upon, the administration still refused to talk. Their arrogance is a staple in their job description. The bureaucratic system of Birzeit University is one of the worst I've ever had the misfortune to encounter. Other students brought tents and pitched them outside the gate, where they too staged a sit-in. The media blackout was still in place, with everyone getting updates and information from students on site tweeting away. Reports had it that Dr Hindi cut off the internet on campus, an act that Mubarak would have applauded...or in hindsight, maybe not.

Then on Saturday, a press conference was called at 10am. At 12pm was another press conference for the administration. The blackout was lifted. The vice president of the university denounced the protesting students as having an agenda. For their part, the students finally made the financial and academic demands public. This threw the whole protest into a different light, as some of the demands were pretty stupid, to put it bluntly. Speaking to other students, they told me that the behavior of the protesting students was far from angelic in directing their speeches towards the dean, as if he were a despicable despot. Regardless, if you're going to protest peacefully, willing to endure days of cold and mistreatment, then whatever you're protesting for should be worthwhile, practical, and most importantly, in the interests of the students themselves. Many found issue with the academic demands (seems like the sillier points, such as raising the number of times a student was allowed to fail a class before getting suspended permanently from three to five were omitted, see below) while the financial ones were more sensible.

Financial Demands (translated from here)

  • For every student to have the chance to pay his or her tuition in money installments throughout the semester, especially students who have previous debts and did not have the chance to register for this semester, and for them to register on the back of what they could pay according to their financial status, and to pay the rest of the tuition throughout the semester.

  • To give preferential treatment to students with special and social needs and students who were prisoners in Israeli jails, and for them to register with ease through what is mentioned in point number one.

  • For the university to restart the system of accepting cheques as a form of money installments or at least to find a new mechanism for paying tuition costs as agreed upon by the students and the administration.

  • To give scholarships to sibling students without going through the bureaucratic ladder, regardless of whether these students have already received financial aid or not.

  • To conduct a thorough survey among all students in order to see who is eligible for financial aid. This way financial aid will not go to students who don't need it, which has posed as an obstacle to the students who are in actual need.

Academic Demands

  • To open the registration for classes (add/drop week) especially for students who were late in paying their tuition as stipulated in point number one, and to open sections

  • To reconsider the policy of transferring from one major to the next, which grows more complicated without any justification, without affecting the academic and educational level of the university.

  • To not give elevated courses to inexperienced or newly graduated teachers and to preserve the quality of academic level.

An agreement was reached on Sunday. The administration finally got off its high horse long enough to agree to all of the financial demands, but wouldn't agree to any of the academic ones pointing out it was beyond their reach to make changes regarding this aspect. Normal classes are set to resume on Tuesday, the 24th.

Meanwhile, five students from Bethlehem University have been hospitalized as a result of the hunger strike they started last Monday. More students have vowed to join in the hunger strike, raising the total to thirty students, seven who have been on strike since last week.

The administration suspended classes last Tuesday, saying it could not ensure students' safety on campus because of the protests, which have included all-night sit-ins.

The student senate, which is leading the protest, said it had tried to end the crisis by offering the university 40,000 Jordanian dinars ($56,400) from the Fatah movement to exempt students from tuition fee increases. It said the university had not responded to the initiative.

Instead of treating symptoms, the source of the sickness must be treated first. Birzeit students may have succeeded in achieving their financial demands, but what about the cause for the rise in tuition costs? It's not all down to the university's miserliness. The Palestinian Authority is in debt, plain and simple. It has done absolutely nothing to build and sustain a homegrown economy, relying instead on overwhelming foreign donor money. Austerity measures have recently been introduced, with citizens required to pay a minimum of a 5% tax increase and a maximum of 30%. The PA takes the billions of dollars it is granted by governments, and hardly invests them in community building projects or in Palestinian society in general, unless you count the mushrooming number of bars and expensive restaurants that cater to the elite. Dissolving the PA would pop the bubble of normalcy under occupation, and there'd be a good chance of Palestinians of finally realizing that their houses, cars, laptops-all on loans- and lifestyles they cannot afford are worth nothing while they are still under Israeli occupation.

So I call on all students in the West Bank to rise up, first against the parasitical PA, then against the occupation once and for all.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Palestinians for Syria/تحية فلسطينية للثورة السورية

تحية فلسطينية للثورة السورية
21.1.12 يوم الغضب العالمي لنصرة الشعب السوري
ثورة سلمية.. ضد التدخل الأجنبي.. ضد الطائفية والفئوية..
منذ عشرة شهور يسير الشعب السوري نحو الحرية وثقتنا به لا تشوبها شائبة لذا نرى أن من واجبنا أن نحذره من خطر التدخل الأجنبي وأن نشد على أياديه للحفاظ على سلمية الثورة التي عودتنا منذ بدايتها على رفض الطائفية والفئوية.
منذ عشرة شهور يسير الشعب السوري نحو الحرية بثبات، رغم تعثر خطواته التي يقطعها إجرام نظام بشار الأسد بأسلحة كانت أولى بحرب تحرير أرضه المحتلة، أو يقطعها اختلاف من ائتمنهم الشعب السوري على تمثيله.
منذ عشرة شهور يسير الشعب السوري نحو الحرية يسقط في مسيرِه شهيدا من يسقط، دون أن يَحدّ القتل ومحاولة تفريق الصفوف من صموده البطولي.
منذ عشرة شهور يسير الشعب السوري نحو الحرية والعالم كله يُحلل شعارات مظاهراته وتحقق الفضائيات نسب المشاهدة المرتفعة فوق دماء شهدائه ويبيع الإعلام الكلام والصور عن حرب أهلية أو مؤامرة، ويتهالك على سورية من لم يدعموا يومًا الحرية والديمقراطية في شرقنا، معتقدين أن مؤامراتهم ونواياهم تنطلي علينا. ونحن على ثقة أن هذه المؤامرات ستتهاوى عند أقدام الشعب السوري العربي العريق، حالما يستعيد عافيته.
عشرة شهور ونحن نتفرج ونؤدلج الموقف ونتفادى مشاهدة الجثث الممثل بها والنساء اللواتي لا يتظاهرن خوفا من الرصاص وننتقي القناة التي سنشاهد فيها خبر استشهاد ثلاثين وسبعين ومئة سوريّةً وسوريًّا ونخجل من تضامننا البائس. . وعندما ينتهي كل يوم ثوري تنام عشرات الأسر السورية دون أحد أبنائها ودون أن يقاسمها ألمها أحد.
نحن نشطاء ومدونون فلسطينيون، وفي يوم التضامن العالمي مع الثورة السورية، نؤكد وقوفنا إلى جانب الشعب السوري الثائر. نرفض بشدة استخدامنا واستخدام قضية فلسطين كسجادة يكنس نظام الأسد جثث ثوار سورية تحتها ثم يدوس عليها أمام عيوننا جميعا. لنفكر عميقا بما يدور حول الثورة السورية وداخلها لكن لنترك التحليل المفرط والفذلكة جانبا لأن الثمن ليس أقل من دماء إخوتنا. لندعم الثورة السورية لتظل ثورة ترفض التدخل الأجنبي وتلفظ الطائفية وتحتفظ بسلميتها، فدون ثقتنا جميعا بها ودعمنا لها لن يكون لنا أي حق بالتنظير والمزاودة على
الشعب السوري الذي يُقتل كل دقيقة.

Palestinians for Syria

21/01/12 is the Global Day Of Rage For Syria

A peaceful revolution…a revolution against foreign intervention…a revolution against sectarianism and factions.This is the revolution of the Syrian people we know.

For ten months now the Syrian people have marched towards freedom and we have no doubt that they will achieve their liberation. For this reason we see it as a duty to warn them of the dangers of foreign intervention and to express our support for their peaceful revolution against sectarianism and factions.

For ten months the Syrian people have marched steadily towards freedom, despite the criminal oppression of Bashar al-Assad’s regime which uses weapons against its own people, instead of using them to liberate their occupied land, and despite the disagreements among their representatives whom the people gave trust in.

For ten months the Syrian people have marched towards freedom as martyr after martyr is sacrificed, which has only strengthened their resolve and steadfastness to continue their march.

For ten months the Syrian people have marched towards freedom as the world analyzes the meanings behind slogans raised in protests, and satellite channels have garnered more viewers with the increase in bloodshed and murders. The media sells to its viewers talks of a conspiracy or of a civil war, and many powers, sells us their support to freedom or democracy in the Middle East, when they never did. We are confident that these plots will fail and be crushed under the feet of the Syrian Arab People.

Ten months and we have avoided watching the disfigured bodies and the brave women who do not fear facing the live ammunition. Ten months and we chose which channel to hear from about the news of 30, 70, 100 martyrs of Syria, which made us ashamed from our miserable show of solidarity, as at the end of every day dozens of families lose their sons and daughters, with seemingly no one to share their pain with.

We, Palestinian activists and bloggers, on the Global Day of Rage for Syrian Revolution, stress our support for the brave revolutionary Syrians. We strongly reject manipulating the Palestinian cause as a cover under which the Syrian martyrs’ bodies are brushed under and stamped upon by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. It is true we must think logically about the dynamics of the Syrian revolution, but we must put the overwrought analyses aside, because the cost is the blood of our Syrian brothers and sisters. We reiterate our support for the peaceful Syrian revolution and its rejection of foreign intervention amidst the threats of sectarianism, as without our solidarity and faith we have no right in theorizing and preaching to the Syrians who are being murdered one after the other.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Follow Up Protest for #No2Negotiations

In a blatant demonstration of the Palestinian Authority’s colossal gap between the interests of itself and the people it claims to represent, unelected chief negotiator Saeb Erekat will meet up with his Israeli counterpart Yitzhak Molcho for the fourth round of talks in Amman, Jordan on January 25th. The announcement came barely a day after Palestinians protested against the farcical negotiations in front of the PA compound of al-Muqata’a in Ramallah.

Nevertheless, the group Palestinians With Dignity have been quick to issue another statement out, calling for another protest this Saturday the 21st. It is clear that these protests are not reactionary, and will continue until all negotiations between the occupied and the occupier cease once and for all. Last week saw the arrest of a young man who participated in the protest by the PA security forces. He was attacked and interrogated before being released.

In a true and classical behavior that characterizes Arab repressive governments who are merely puppets of western interests, will violence against protesters by the PA escalate?

Below is the statement [emphasis not mine], with a link to a petition against negotiations at the bottom:

Last Saturday 14th of January, we stood in silence in front of the Presidential Compound (Muqata’a) in Ramallah demanding the immediate stop of the bilateral negotiations between Saeb Erekat and Yitzhak Molcho in Amman. The bitter cold did not stop us from protesting against the return to these fruitless talks. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has retreated from its earlier position that they will not return to negotiations, until settlement expansion is halted and all the political prisoners were released; this represents the bare minimum demands of the Palestinian people.

The PLO’s reneging on their promise to the Palestinian people and their return to negotiations implies that the leadership accepts the continued theft and seizure of Palestinian lands, legitimizes the ever-going attacks of the settlers, and furthermore undermines the Palestinian people in whole.

As Palestinians youth, we do not see any benefits from these futile negotiations. We have grown weary of representatives that don’t represent us, a national consensus that does not include us, and an implied future pseudo-state that does not guarantee our rights; specifically the rights of the majority of Palestinians who are refugees and live in exile.

It appears that our message last Saturday fell on deaf ears. The Palestinian leadership is still moving forward with negotiations, despite the Israeli occupation’s expansion of illegal colonies in the West Bank, the continued siege on Gaza, and Israel’s continued practice of the crime of Apartheid against Palestinians.

Nevertheless, we have not been deterred from acting. We demand the Palestinian leadership bears its responsibility in defying all sources of foreign pressure to return to negotiations. Instead of pursuing negotiations at this moment in time, we are in need of a resistance-based strategy. A strategy that begins with the unification of Palestinians and the political, economic, cultural and academic boycott of the apartheid state of Israel. We unequivocally demand that our leadership invests in its people, because when unified, together we can alter the balance of power to our favor.

On Saturday, January 21st at 1 PM we will again protest at the doorsteps of the Presidential Compound (Muqata’a). Join us on Saturday, and let us together stand tall with dignity and full of pride until our demands are met.

Show your support by signing the following petition against negotiations:

Palestinians for Dignity

Palestinian tweeps on the ground will be using the hashtag #No2negotiations for live updates.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Open Letter from Taiseer Khatib: Raise Your Voice Against Apartheid

I’m bringing here a letter written and distributed by Taiseer Khatib, from Akka (Acre).Taiseer, his wife Lana and two children, Yusra (3) and Adnan (4), are one of the thousands families that will have to live apart, after the approval of Israel high court’s approval to the racist Citizenship Law. They face now a real and ‘legalized’ threat of deportation of Lana back to Jenin.

Dear friends,

Those who are here and those who are spread all over the world, those in academic institutions, political parties, theatres, human rights organisations, students, workers, and everyone of You, please consider this email addressed to you personally.

Some of you might be aware of the latest racist Israeli supreme court decision from yesterday, that threatens to separate tens of thousands of Palestinian family members apart. This decision in addition to 25 laws and laws proposals are designed to segregate and discriminate against the Palestinian minority inside Israel. These racist laws have one goal: to bring to a situation where this state, should be only for a Pure race: Jewish! The deportation can start with Palestinian spouses today who are married to Palestinians inside Israel, but tomorrow it will be the overwhelming majority of Palestinians in Israel, if not all !

Yes, i feel very pessimistic! Yes i feel that a deportation of my wife and its separation from me and from my children is real ! It is a black day in my life and the life of tens of thousands of people in my situation! Deportation had not only become real but legalized!

I am writing to ask you to act in the name of humanity and human rights, which the Israeli supreme court had legalized a war against them, as it declared the war against us, we the “other”, it gave the green light for all security services to act in the name of LAW! The supreme court was the last shelter for defending human rights in Israel, and now it had shut its doors to Rights, and kept the Humans (Palestinians) out without any protection.

Below you will find some articles explaining the current racist law and also some articles or interviews with me and my family, there is also the TV interview (in Hebrew). Please contribute your part in fighting Israeli racism and spread the word, articles, and all what you find in regard of this law to ALL your friends in your Email, social networks, facebeook, twiter, and others, in order to raise the awareness mainly in Europe and in US to what is going on inside the so called “Democratic” state of Israel. Please do not let it stop by your email, spread and make the voice loud against this racist and discriminative actions!

To all of you who sent me emails, called, and express their solidarity with our case, i would like to say thank you, (especially my Israeli friends who denounced the law and told me, that the law doesn’t speak in their name, and that they feel ashamed of such a decision, for expressing solidarity with yourselves in the first level, and with me and my family on the second level, Racism against the Palestinians inside Israel, will not stop by them, it will continue further to the Jewish Israeli society, as it is becoming clear in the last period.

I will end my email with a citation from the great intellectual Said:

Remember the solidarity shown to Palestine here and everywhere… and remember also that there is a cause to which many people have committed themselves, difficulties and terrible obstacles notwithstanding. Why? Because it is a just cause, a notable ideal, a moral quest for equality and human rights.”

Edward Said

I hope this just cause can get to as much as people as you can, as it is one of the last ways of fighting fascist decisions, raise your voice against the Apartheid!













h/t to @AbirKopty

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Palestinians for Dignity: Saeb Erekat, Go Home

As posted on Electronic Intifada

More pictures can be found here

Under the pouring rain, Palestinians for the first time took part in a protest right in front of the Palestinian Authority compound Al-Muqata’a, which has become to symbolize, as one of the more lavish foreign funded state-building projects, an illusion of authority under the Israeli occupation. In her article describing the PA’s spatial organization of state structures, Linda Tabar quotes an official who describes the Muqata’a as an image “of grandeur that creates the impression we have a state.”

The protest, organized by a group of young Palestinians who called themselves Palestinians for Dignity, was against the farcical “negotiations about negotiations” currently taking place in Amman, Jordan between the PA represented by unelected chief negotiator Sa’eb Erekat (who incidentally, resigned his post after it was revealed that the Palestine Papers were leaked from his office in 2011) and the Israeli delegation, headed by Yitzhak Molcho. A third meeting is expected to run today between the two sides, after the first two were conducted last week on January 3rd and January 10th respectively.

From the statement released by the youth, the ongoing negotiations have once again commenced without any pre-conditions:

Counting on the same fruitless and failing process of the past two decades, the negotiations contradict past PLO statements that have explicitly rejected negotiations until settlement expansion is frozen, borders are clearly referenced and defined, and the fulfillment of the release of all political prisoners.

It has become increasingly obvious that the PA and its leadership have stopped pretending to sugarcoat their salient acts with their occupier, which does not reflect the interests of the Palestinians. In fact, twenty years of failed negotiations have only made the life of the average Palestinian more miserable as a result of the enhanced state of occupation they live in, as the rapid land grabs and construction of settlements are implemented with the full knowledge and even blessing of the negotiating team of the PA.

The statement continues,

Palestinian youth are fed up with illegitimate representation, a national consensus that does not unite them, and of a future state that does not guarantee the rights of the majority of the Palestinian people, in specific, Palestinian refugees in exile. We demand a strategy that is supported by political, economic, academic and cultural boycott of the Zionist entity, the strengthening of the steadfastness of the people, and preparation for direct elections to the Palestinian National Council (PNC) representative of Palestinians across the world.

The protest didn’t say silent for long. In my opinion, Palestinian silent protests are an oxymoron. Pretty soon, abetted by the expressive posters, vigorous chants were shouted by those in attendance who numbered around one hundred. Plainclothes police once again “infiltrated” the protest, but their faces were familiar to many who were involved in the now obsolete March 15th youth movement.

Chants called for Saeb Erekat to go home, and asserted that the right of return was not for sale. One variation was that the blood of the martyrs was not going to be sold out. Negotiations and normalization were used interchangeably in the chants as in this context they were really synonymous after all. One popular chant was “Right of Return, Freedom, National Dignity/ عودة, حرية, كرامة وطنية”

The plainclothes police moved to the other side of the street, the side of the Muqata’a. They watched us from inside their cars and a couple even took pictures, which forcibly reminded me of the Israeli army during the weekly protests in the village of Nabi Saleh who carry out the same act. After an hour and a half, the protest was over, but not before the youth shouted that if the message today wasn’t heard by the PA leadership, then there will be more protests to follow.

Shortly afterwards, one young man from Tulkarem who participated in the protest (and who prefers to remain anonymous) was attacked and arrested by the PA security forces. His arrest lasted for two hours, including an hour of interrogation about the names of the people who were chanting against the PA.

There is no longer a psychological barrier of fear against the Palestinian Authority and its security forces. Their interests are to consolidate their elitist status while the majority of the Palestinians continue to suffer from a two-tiered tyranny: The Israeli occupation and its bestial policies, and the suppression and stifling rule of the main Palestinian parties, Fateh in the shape of the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. We will not stand by anymore on the sidelines, as outdated so-called representatives negotiate our rights away with the same side that is continuously oppressing us. It is simply ludicrous, shameful, and outright embarrassing that these negotiations still occupy a space in the Palestinian political spectrum. Only free men and women negotiate, and for all their money, expensive cars and villas, and security coordinated travel permits, the Palestinian leadership is still at the end of the day occupied by Israel and its whims.

UPDATE: The incident with the arrested young man, Said al-Edreesy, is now public

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nabi Saleh's Balloon Release for Gaza

Photo by Oren Ziv/ActiveStills.org

My friend Amra Amra informed me that the Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights were planning on commemorating the third year since the massacre on Gaza, which Israel dubbed as Operation Cast Lead, by releasing balloons with the name of each child killed attached- a total of 344. One of the coordinators asked if we could possibly emulate the same action in Palestine.

After some initial planning, we decided to take the balloons to the village of Nabi Saleh, as opposed to Qalandiya checkpoint, which separates the rest of the West Bank from Jerusalem. It was easier to coordinate with the villagers and a lot less hassle, especially on such short notice.

Friday morning came. Along with a handful of other friends/activists, we got the balloons and managed to stuff them all in the back of a ford (mini-bus). As we got closer to Nabi Saleh, I was sick with worry about what the soldiers manning the yellow gate at the entrance to the village would do once they saw the balloons. I was scared they would open the back door and let the balloons fly away. I reached behind me and gripped the strings tightly. From experience, I know their maliciousness knows no mercy. We decided on a story: We were going to Beit Rima (the village just after Nabi Saleh) for a kid's birthday party. I nicknamed it, Operation Susu's Birthday.

It was such a ridiculous situation. Ridiculous that we should be holding our breath just because of some balloons, ridiculous that these young soldiers had the power to do anything to us, ridiculous in that we were sitting uncomfortably with the balloons batting our faces, necks and shoulders, threatening to engulf us. This is occupation, when the gravity and tension weigh up against the absurdities and unnecessities, creating a split personality-one full of apprehension and anger, the other just seconds away from a good dose of hysterical hyena laughing.

Thankfully, nothing happened. They demanded to see the ID of the driver and the person sitting in the passenger seat. They opened the door and peered at each and every one of us. One soldier said, "Balloon?" but we ignored him. Then we passed. We all breathed audibly. We jumped out of the ford and walked through the village with the balloons. Kids outside in the cold morning were exclaiming, "I want a balloon!" We told them to come find us just before the protest started, still a few hours away. We went to one of the welcoming houses, and downstairs inside a room we got busy with work. We cut the papers with the names of the children of Gaza killed into strips, hole-punched them, and tied them to each balloon string. There were a lot of pictures taken, kids were careful not to be overly exuberant, and we had a great time. The kids asked what the strips of paper were, and we told them about the commemoration of the Gaza massacre.

One medic, a regular in Nabi Saleh who's well-known by the villagers, took a stab at black humor. "So when you all get killed," he told the children in the room, "We'll remember your names by flying some balloons."
"Don't joke about this kind of stuff," I snapped. The kids however wanted to know more.
"Is Mustafa's name tied to one of the balloons?" 7 year old Rand asked, referring to Mustafa Tamimi, the young man killed after an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at his face a few weeks ago.
"Mustafa was 28 years old," the medic replied. "Did he look like a kid to you?"

We talked about what was the best way to include the balloons in the protest. Should we have the kids go down the road in front of the soldiers before the demonstration began? The soldiers wouldn't fire tear gas at them, right? Of course they would. We've all witnessed it more than once. The army fires tear gas at children singing and chanting. The parents shook their heads. It's safer if the kids were with the protest crowd; that way at least there will be people to protect and shield them once the Israeli occupation forces intensified their sadistic suppression of the villagers' basic rights.

We decided to visit another favorite house of ours in the village. As we were making our way down the road we watched powerless, meters away, as two Israeli jeeps came hurtling up the road, before it kidnapped two international activists who were taking pictures of the village and of where Mustafa had fell.

Protest time: Amra and I got the balloons, and I gave one to a kid so he could entice the other ones to come our way. They came running. They were so enthusiastic. It was perfect timing, as the demo passed by and swept them along. We went down the street chanting. We turned the bend and continued to where the soldiers with their jeeps and skunk truck were waiting for us. The kids were interspersed in the crowd, some in the front, most in the middle. We waited for the sky to rain tear gas. A few canisters were fired (a few being abnormal; usually dozens are fired from the onset). Instead, the skunk truck rumbled forward, its nozzle spraying that nasty stuff. We all ran back, and I noticed all the kids had scampered, using their common sense. Their ages were between 14 to 5 years old.

We didn't get to release the balloons all at the same time like planned, but it didn't matter. I realized how silly this part of the idea was. The soldiers don't differentiate between child, man, or woman. Getting the children together in a group to release the balloons at the same time in front of the soldiers was indeed a powerful and symbolic image, yet owing to the aggressive reality on the ground, it was not a feasible idea. It was impossible to replicate an identical event amidst the IOF, dodging tear gas canisters fired at our bodies, and running away from the skunk water. Still, the most important thing was that we got our message across, and that the kids had a blast.

That's about how far the balloons went..the demo was ugly with a lot of tear gas, multiple arrests, skunk water sprayed numerously, and a couple of violent house raids which terrified the children inside. Sometimes I'd look up, chest constricting, and see the clouds of tear gas hanging over our heads, other times it would be clumps of balloons floating away. It made me think of ten year old Ahmad Mousa from Nilin, shot and murdered by Israel in 2008. It made me think of 5 year old Jana singing Bombing Gas to the tune of Jingle Bells.

We don't teach our children to hate.

That's all.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

I don't know what I can write about the year 2011 that hasn't been written about here on the blog. My articles started to get published, I graduated, I found work, I met the most amazing, passionate young people who are more than friends and which our shared experiences created an unbreakable special bond, I fell in love with a whole village and its inhabitants, I witnessed the murder of a young man by the Israeli occupation, I carried home with me the disgusting skunk smell, I've laughed and cried with strangers, and so on.

A new year doesn't mean much to me. It's just another day in the calendar, always on its cyclic move. I haven't been able to write beautiful posts about how this year personally affected me like how my dear friends have in this one or that. I can however say with full confidence, this is just the beginning. It's only the start. Our voices have reached out to so many. And we are such few in number. There is reason to be optimistic, reason to be hopeful, reason to believe my generation WILL make a change.

May 2012 usher in a stronger permanent wave of popular resistance, an actual representative Palestinian government, the irrelevance of Hamas and Fateh, more BDS successes, the elimination of normalization events, the release of all Palestinian prisoners, justice to Mustafa Tamimi's family and the thousands before him, the right of return for the millions of Palestinian refugees, and accountability that will bring Israel down to its knees. Happy New Year!