Monday, April 24, 2006

Email of April 23, 2006
Hi Bob,
Thank you for this article. I agree with you that
such discrimination leads to hatred and discrimination
of the "other". I've been living in the West Bank for six
months now. I've learned that, unfortunately, Palestinians
practice a similar discrimination against Christians
in Palestine.
Christians cannot inherit real estate from Muslims.
This law, as I understand it, is recent having evolved
from the rigid fundamentalism that has smothered any
nascent enlightenment of men during the past twenty
years. The law means if a Muslim marries a Christian
she cannot inherit his property when he dies. As far
as I know, Muslim women never marry Christian men.
Even a Muslim widow is allowed only one eighth of her
husband's estate.

Loving husbands of a benevolent nature have ways
to bypass these laws and pass their property on to
their wives. They can donate it to her. They can leave
it in their children's names with the understanding
that it actually belongs to their mother. Many do just
that. Sadly, the law supports not the more progressive
and generous of men, but the most self serving and
oppressive. It gives the full weight of the law to
those men with the least integrity. I know of some
appalling examples.

Thus insecure and frightened men, who fear losing
any control of their women, place themselves in a
vulnerable position when it comes to world opinion.
Already having been ambushed by history, made
organizationally impotent by the dominance of Israel,
and subject to vilification by Zionist sympathizers,
Palestinians themselves inadvertently offer weapons
of contempt to their enemies.

I appreciate your continuing education regarding
the Palestinian tragedy.
--- Bob wrote:
Years ago, I conducted one of the first
"redlining" studies in the US for Baltimore, MD that
led to national legislation such as the HomeMortgage
Disclosure Act and the Community Reinvestment Act. I
did it because I firmly believed - and continue to
believe - that NO ONE should be denied a mortgage or a
place to live because of the color of his/her skin,
religion, ethnicity, etc. Such segregation only leads
to racism on both sides, alienation by the victims and
cultural/religious isolationism that breeds hatred and
demonization of the "other".

Unfortunately, Israel has been practicing "redlining"
against theirPalestinian neighbors and fellow citizens
since the founding of theState of Israel, as described
in the attached article entitled:
Redliningand the Israeli Real Estate Industry
Fred Schlomka

Below is the opening paragraph of this excellent and
factual article,to give you a "taste" of magnitude of
this problem: "The recent Israeli nelections were
followed by a number of pronouncements by US officials
praisingdemocracy in Israel.However democracy is much
more than elections, and many freedoms that Americans
take for granted are not available in Israel.For
example, Israel'sArab citizens suffer from
discriminatory real estate and housing practices of
the sort that were outlawed in the US almost 40 years

In my humble opinion, as long as Israel continues
to treatIsraeli/Palestinians in such a discriminatory
fashion, anti-Israeli feelings and anti-Semitism will
continue to grow, to the detriment ofIsrael's
long-term self interest. It is also against many of
the teachings of the Torah. As American
liberals/moderates who find these redlining practices
repugnant, we should be urging the Stateof Israel to
reform its policies against its Palestinian citizens
by treating them AS EQUALS, both in law and in
practice. In my opinion,this will do more to undermine
"terrorism" and hatred against Jews and Israel than
any military weapons or separation barrier.

Shalom, Salam & Peace

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Email of February 20, 2006-04-22
Subject: Sami’s Funeral

Thanks, Michelle, for your kind words. The past ten days since I took Sami to the hospital have been a whirl ofconflicting emotions with no time for answering many emails. I'm in Amman, Jordan now with Sami's older brother's family. Muslim funerals are never ending affairs.

He was buried on Friday and a family recepton followed that lasted until after 7:00 pm and then resumed the next morning until late that evening. Hundreds of people came each day. The family is well known and he belonged to two tribes, both his mother's and his father's. The tribes are really just large extended families. I thought by coming here to Amman to renew my visa I would escape some of the people who come to extend their condolences, but it resumed last night here in Amman. I remember that in my father's generation the men rose to greet women when one entered a room. Here everyone rises to greet each visitor. I began to feel like a piece of popcorn. Then the visitor ceremoniously kisses both your cheeks and murmurs words of sympathy. The village women tell me how good I am in brokenEnglsh. I was uncomfortable with that. I was a bit ofa brat as a child, talking too much in class andsurpassing the boys in playing jokes on others so Idon't think of myself as "good".

There must have been 50 who showed up here in Amman.Many of them spoke English so I wasn't so bored as inPalestine. The receptions last three days so when I return to the West Bank tomorrow they will be finished, Ithink. I hope.

The customs are similar to the social guidelines formourning that were practiced in Europe and Americaduring past centuries. I was still married to Sami according to "Sharia", Muslim law, so I'm treated with all the courtesy and restrictions of a grieving widow. I have to wear black for awhile. When the family discovered the only coat I had with me was a flaming red one they scurried around finding a proper black coat I could borrow to wear to my late father-in-laws house where the funeral and receptions were held. VIPs from the region attended. Sami was buried near the house alongside his parents and his brother.

Aysha is his grandniece, about nine years old. Not wanting to miss anything, she was desperate to attend the funeral. Once she understood from her father that she would not be allowed to attend she said to him, "May it snow tomorrow and a fire break out, and ruin all your plans." Her father smiled indulgently and ignored that. Her mother relented on the evening of the second day and let her come. After seeing the four graves, she told her mother, "You are burying so many people there won't be room for me." I told her my sons and I own a large burial plot in Virginia and we'll let her be buried there. My son, Adam, suggested to her that perhaps we should dig the holes deeper and bury them standing up so there would be more space for her. It was nice to have a laugh in the midst of all the sadness.

Michelle, I will look for the prettiest table cloth I can find. They are very colorful so is there any particular color you would like? They also create beautiful toss pillows. Again what color would you choose? I'm not sure about the cost here. I know they sell for about $45. each in the states. I plan to remain here until early May when I'm scheduled to fly back on my return airfare. My twos ons are here for three weeks.


Michelle wrote:
Dear Bronwin,
I am sorry for your family's loss, but I have been inspired by your compassion and kindness. Sami was a fortunate man that your caring followed him as far as it could in the mysterious transition that is death.

On your return, I would like to offer some attentive listening time, if that would be good for you - time to share your own experience of this deeply important time in your life. It would be a gift to me as well.

On a personal note, if you would have time to choose some Palestinian embroidery - I would be thrilled to buy it from you. Perhaps a table cloth? I would gladly spend up to $50 for whatever you find of interest. I suspect other people in the meeting would be interested as well. I have not yet sold the other things you left, so perhaps they can be combined. I heard a wonderful concert with Nadia Dosky last night, raising money for the Palestinian Youth Orchestra. It was a fine concert by Middle Eastern musicians.

Love and Light to you and yours,

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The following email was written by my son and forwarded to me:

Mon., 17 Apr 2006 17:23:09 -0700 (PDT)
<> wrote: --------------------------------- Dear Abass, For the last three nights I have had no other desire but to watch the PBS special Auschwitz: Inside theNazi State. And each night afterwards, as I attempted to sleep, I imagined the horror of what took place and I was there. I saw myself standing in the line at the train station of Auschwitz with my family. I imagined that I would have been selected as a slave laborer, though my days would have been numbered. Suada, Ihope, would have been sent to the area known as Canada, where she would pick through the prisoners belongings searching for valuables for the Nazis to steal. I would pray that she would survive and that later she would not be raped and murdered by the Soviet troops who came to "liberate" the camp. What would become of my son, Adam? Without a doubt, he would have been herded into that dark underground room,which would have quickly been made airtight. In the total blackness of the room he would have been very scared, calling for Mama, but this time she could not come running to comfort him as she always does. And then there would be quiet. These last few days I have felt such pain, I am in pain now. How could such cruelty be committed or allowed to go on for so long. However, I also have a feeling of sadness. That sadness is brought about bythe fact that many American Jews who attend the Mid East Peace Discussion (MEPD) can not empathize with the pain of the plight of the Palestinians. A couple of Sundays ago, when Abu Rizik spoke of thehorror of what took place in Palestine in 1948, some of those American Jews who were attending for the first time tried to shout him down or told him that was ancient history. What really hurt me was that several of our American Jewish friends who have been coming to the MEPD for many years and I consider as good friends, sat there and said nothing. They knowAbu Rizik and they know his heart is in the right place. Believe me, if someone came to the MEPD and began belittling or questioning the horrors of theholocaust, I or any of the regulars from thePalestinian-American camp would respond without hesitation. As I think about what took place that Sunday, I am not as upset by the lady taking photos of the participants of the MEPD or the actions of the first timers as I am that none of our American Jewish friends spokeout in Abu Rizik’s defense. Nor did they make any effort to explain to these newcomers how the MEPD should be conducted. After all this time, we should be further in our understanding of one another. I have been coming to the MEPD for about five years, as have many of the American Jews I still see there and it seems they have learned nothing from us about the other in the Israel-Palestine conflict. For example, after the Peace Cafe in question, Edward Levy who has been coming as long as I can remember came up to me afterwards and lectured me on my "conspiracy theories" of how Israel is handling the Palestinians in the occupied terrorities. In her book Israeli and Palestinian Voices, CathySultan has a passage that I firmly believe, "Peacebetween Israelis and Palestinians does not require them to agree on the events which comprise their respective histories. Instead, it necessitates a mutual acknowledgement of the injustices each has suffered." Her words could also apply to us at MEPD. The way in which we try to understand and feel each peoples’ pain and suffering is key if the MEPD is to move forward in a positive way. Rashid

Friday, April 14, 2006

These believers must be the same geniuses who brought us George Bush!

Excerpts from Bill Moyers
There is no Tomorrow
The Star Tribune

One-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup Poll is accurate, believes the Bible is literally true. This past November, several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in what is known as the "rapture index."
These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans. Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre: Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "bibli-cal lands," legions of the Antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.
I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That is why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. That is why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations, where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." For them a war with Islam in the Middle East is something to be welcomed - an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The rapture index - "the prophetic speedometer of end-time activity" - now stands at 153.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hi Paula,

I've met an American woman who shares many of my interests. I was excited about meeting Jane. Nora had told me months ago Jane wanted to meet me. I was eager to know a woman of my own age and background. The local Meeting House had been a disappointment because so few local people attended. To my questions, Nora had replied that Jane lived in the city and had done so for five to six years. She was a single woman, had come to the West Bank to work for an NGO and remained after her contract ended. Our few phone conversations revealed a lively personality and no hint of a southern accent.

When my driver and I arrived outside her house, a tall woman with large round eyes and a shortened nose climbed into the car. A look of confusion crossed her face when I turned and introduced myself from the front seat. I wondered what in my appearance had surprised her. Naseer drove us to a restaurant she had chosen in the downtown area. During our lunch I learned she was a graduate of Harvard; she had the self confidence of one who had distinguished herself early in life. She spoke Arabic fluently and had specialized in the study of sharia, Islamic law, while in college.

She had moved to the area from the US six years earlier to administer an NGO program with a multimillion dollar budget. From the American south she had conquered her southern accent but her native Alabama was just around the corner. After criticizing the Christian Zionists and their Messianic zeal to promote Israel she confessed she herself was actually an evangelical. My growing admiration turned to caution. I warned her I had little patience with proselytizers. She assured me she did not attempt to save souls. I decided she and I did not share a definition of evangelicals.

Jane told me how she often demonstrated against the Wall and house demolitions and invited me to join her. I answered that I had a long history of involvement in demonstrations and had ceased due to a painful ankle and a realization that it was mostly theatre with no measurable results. She said in this area, in Palestine, it keeps you sane. She then told me how one family had retrieved their confiscated home by proving it had been taken illegally. She said sometimes there are measurable results. I concurred that perhaps years of disappointment had made me cynical.

She said the presence of Americans and Europeans will often dampen the aggression and cruelty of the Israelis. She told of one young Japanese photographer who was visibly shaking as he photographed from ground level the raised club of an Israeli soldier. She said she herself was once arrested. While witnessing the beating of a Palestinian at one of the checkpoints she started shouting, “You bastard! You bastard!” She was taken into “protective custody” by the Israelis. One female soldier asked her if she thought they were evil. She answered no. She thought they were involved in an evil system and compared it to the south of her childhood prior to the civil rights movement. I told her I thought that was an excellent answer.

She had an infectious laugh and was a delight to be with except for one annoying habit. She would not let me complete a sentence without interrupting.

She has invited me to join her for the next two weekends at her church in Jerusalem to celebrate Easter.

I hope you have a happy Easter.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Dear Barbara,

Life here is getting worse for the Palestinians. In my village garbage has not been picked up for 40 days because the US and almighty Israel have ruled that the PA cannot be paid. This because the Palestinian people exercised their voting rights and voted on a party that was not approved of by the US and Israel. I know a number of people who belong to Hamas and have found them to be good people. The rulers of Hamas ceased supporting suicide bombers several years ago. Israel continues its state run terrorism. I was surprised to learn that many Christians here voted for Hamas. It was mostly a vote against the corruption of Fatah. Before Americans judge that they should take a look at the billions of aid for Iraqi reconstruction that has been stolen by Americans.

Americans would be amazed to know the majority of Palestinians practice passive nonresistance against their occupiers. Isn’t that Gandhian? It gets them nowhere. However, I tend also to not listen to God and to give in to impatience. Perhaps it’s happening in God’s time. I’m frustrated because I now witness daily the brutality and intransigence of Israeli policy. Neighbors of mine, a good family, had a quarrel with their teen age son two weeks ago because they believed he was spending insufficient time studying for what is the Palestinian equivalent of our SAT tests. He left the house, angry at his parents no doubt, and started to throw stones at a nearby settlement. The boy was arrested and thrown in an Israeli jail. His parents will have no access to him for months. If the Israelis follow their accustomed practice, he will be tortured and returned in three years a hardened and bitter young man.

Peace and best wishes,

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

November 2005 Diary Entry

Recent weeks have passed in a vicious blur of sorting belongings, packing, giving stuff away, appetite gone from anxiety, disappointment when sons don’t respond as expected, gratitude when they do. Dread that he will die before I get there, split second decisions made about cherished things, what stays, what goes, what to do with what’s left?

My cats were clingy. Do they have ESP? Hilary, my beautiful part Persian, is now happily at home with a friend. Alex, my outdoor adventurer cat, will remain in his territory. The landlord has agreed to feed and care for him. I am grateful for his kindness.

He said on the phone, “I’m dying and you’re worried about cats.” Who was it that said, “I could not love thee so did I not love honor more.” Likewise, if I could abandon two devoted cats would I reorganize my life and fly 6,000 miles to say our last goodbyes. A paradox…he has loved me longest while accepting least the tendencies he has pursued for a lifetime. A fight ensued. There were always the fights except in the early years, my teens and twenties, when I remained silent and retreated into clinical depression. With therapy I learned to fight back.

The marriage ended…at least on paper. He said, “Just as paper doesn’t make a marriage, it doesn’t make a divorce.” He continued his pursuit. Years later a therapist said to me, “There’s something about first marriages, the continuing hold on your mind, as though they were meant to be”. Whatever, he fulfilled a niche among my emotional needs that no one else could. For me there was never a second marriage.

Back to the present. “Sami, you want me to remarry you? So that I can inherit one eighth of your estate”, I say, “A lousy eighth”. It’s an insult to me and every other woman on the planet”. He answers that if I fight it, I will lose and the children and grandchildren will get nothing. This was decided by sharia (Islamic law) and he has no control over it. Over the phone I can hear him gasping for air as he argues with me and I declare I don’t want to fight with him when he is so sick. I muse about how the Israelis will confiscate it anyway and I may as well take a stand for the rights of women…change the law…research…. “Did Muhammad ever say only one eighth?

There are attorneys, female attorneys, Palestinians, serving with me on the board of an American advocacy group for Arab Americans. I’ll ask them the genesis of such an outrageous law. We had discussed it once before. I had objected strongly, “but what if she’s borne 20 children?” “Some do and it’s still only one eighth,” I was told. One warned me if I wanted to preserve the land for my sons I had better go there, remarry him, and live in the house he had built or the brothers and cousins would confiscate everything once my sons and I returned to the states. The woman who advised me did not know my family so her words were not an indictment of them. I asked if this was standard practice among Palestinians. She assured me it was. I often detected resentment toward her culture, perhaps because as she often said she had been married off to someone she did not love when she was seventeen. After moving to the states with him, giving birth to two children, and an ensuing divorce, she returned to school to earn three college degrees, including a law degree, from an American university while bringing up the children. Her ambition and accomplishments were admirable. I had reservations about her advice as she had voted on Bush for president and openly admitted to it.

My sisters-in-law, though a generation older than her, were not compelled by the family to marry anyone they didn’t wish to marry. They had accepted or rejected whomever they wished to marry among the men the family chose for them and then only after they were in their twenties and had earned college degrees. The marriages have lasted for decades, only one having ended by death of the husband.

I decide inheriting only one eighth is a bigger outrage than the tacky head scarves that are an affront to my sense of fairness. During summer in the American south, some Arab men walk around in the sweltering heat with short pants and cool summer shirts while their women are shrouded in black heat absorbing robes and the nun like beauty destroying head scarves. “You’re putting us down; putting us in ‘our place’, I scream silently defending my sisters who do not recognize me as their sister.

An old woman now, I have not lost that childish inner cry of, “It’s not fair.” It should have been broken by decades of the disappointments of life, transformed into acceptance by grudging wisdom. Not so. Buttressed by the self confidence of maturity and the fearlessness of a life mostly spent, it’s stronger than ever, dangerously stronger. “I won’t agree to one eighth,” I say. He says then I will lose all for myself, my sons, and the grandchildren.
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2005 10:45:40 -0800 (PST)

Subject: Re: birthday
Thanks so much for your sweet words. I'm sure I'll be safe. As Rashid has told me there is no safer place than the center of the storm. Suicide bombers will not strike in Ramallah. I'm so relieved I'm flying by British Air and not either a Jordanian or Israeli airline. I've flown on those before and they were bad experiences.
-Bronwin wrote:
Dear Bronwin,
I feel very nervous for you going there but I know you feel you must go so I will support you with prayer and hopefully can communicate with you while you are there with the information you have given me. I was so glad to hear that you were still here for a little while so I could respond. I guess you are going to keep your apt. here while you are gone. Did you find someone to take care of your cats?
If you do not have time to respond to this, I have the information I need so don't add that to the list of one more thing to do!
Go in peace and the protection of the Light and the Love that surpasses all understanding. Love and Blessings, Paula