Monday, July 31, 2006

Hisballah, A Primer

July 31, 2006
Emailed to me from a friend.

Hizballah, the Shi'i Islamist movement whose militia is fighting the Israeli
army in south Lebanon, has been cast misleadingly in much media coverage of
the ongoing war. Much more than a militia, the movement is also a political
party and a provider of social services. Not a creature of Iran and Syria,
Hizballah arose to battle Israel's occupation of south Lebanon from
1982-2000 and, more broadly, to advocate for Lebanon's historically
disenfranchised Shi'i Muslim community. While it has many political
opponents in Lebanon, Hizballah is very much of Lebanon.

"Hizballah: A Primer," by Lara Deeb, is now available in Middle East Report

Middle East Report Online is a free service of the Middle East Research
and Information Project (MERIP).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

An Israeli Perspective on the War
by a Friend

My answer to the email that follows this one:
Hi Maria,

I'm happy to hear you are ok. Why are you in
Israel? Are you with the World Bank or the UN?

Before you leave would you like a perspective
from the Palestinian side? I'm sure I can get
you an invitation from my in-laws on the West Bank.
They're nice, highly educated, warm, friendly
people. One niece is an attorney, another a
medical doctor. Her husband is a government
minister. It would be most enlightening for
you. They have cousins and an uncle who were
tortured in a "most disgusting way and then
killed” by the Israelis. If it's feasible let
me hear from you and I'll try to arrange it.
Arabs are the world's most hospitable people
provided you're not stealing their real estate
and I'm sure you would enjoy the visit.


Received from the List Serve of my Meeting
house today:
Currently stationed in Tel
Aviv I can offer an Israeli perspective:

...Let me start by thanking everyone who has emailed
to make sure I'm ok. I can't even begin to tell you
how much I appreciate knowing that people are
thinking about me or worrying. ...For those that
are worrying, no need. Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
where I've spent most of the past 2 weeks),
are in about the middle of Israel. So far, the
bombs are only going off up North. Of course,
distance is > all relative since the country
of Israel is about the size of New Jersey.
We know Hezbollah has bombs that can hit us.
But right now, they don't seem to want THAT
kind of war. It would truly escalate things if
they bombed Tel Aviv. However, the country has
been through this before and is prepared. They
have an air raid siren system throughout the
country and can usually give you a minute to a
minute and a half warning if a bomb comes in...
Some of you may remember that in my first update
I commented how startling it was to drive
through a city my first day that looked like
almost any other city and arrive at my beautiful
apartment building. Then, as I walked through the
lobby, to see the sign for the bomb shelter.
It's interesting how life changes. The bomb
shelter startled me at first. Now most of us are
startled if we go into a building that doesn't
have one. But what I find truly amazing, is the
endurance of the Israeli people. Their country
is at war (for about the 7th time in 50 years).
And life goes on. They still go to work (even
people up north where the bombs are going off.)
They still go to the movies (in fact they were
sold out when I tried to go 2 weeks ago.)
And the beaches are full. They truly believe
in living life enjoying what you have.
...At the moment, I basically do everything that
needs to be done to help Americans. And we have
over 200,000 Americans here. (And 7 staff in our
department – two American officers.) So right now
we are very busy. And we do get a flow of
hysterical people... It's also quite startling
to sit at my computer in my living room -
looking out over the Mediterranean and watch
the military helicopters fly up and down the
coast. They come by about every 10 minutes. The
view has definitely changed in the past few weeks.
But I have had a lot of opportunities to work
towards ……. making a difference.

Some of you may be asking what I think of this war.
I finally responded, that I think its tragic. If
someone did the same thing to the U.S. that was
done to Israel, I would hope the U.S. would react
the same way. I find it funny how the news tends
to slant things. If you watch Fox its one way.
If you watch CNN its another. But what I don't
see many of them saying is that it's not just that
Hezbollah invaded Israel, killed 8 soldiers,
and kidnapped two soldiers. It's not just that
Hezbollah is notorious for killing all hostages
in an obscenely disgusting way. They have been
bombing Israel for years. It's a weekly occurrence
in the North to have towns living in bomb shelters
because of the rockets. And have small incursions
into Israel. And this is after Israel moved out
of southern Lebanon about 6 years ago after
pressure and assurance from the international
community that Hezbollah would not do this.
This was not a singular instance. It was just
the last straw. ...if you happen to be saying
any prayers, please add one for this region.
There has been so much death. And there is the
chance for so much more. I'm sure God is
watching. But a little message once in awhile
can't hurt.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

'Ship of Fools': Like the Jews in 1930s Germany,
Palestinians are Scrambling to Get Out, notes Jane Stillwater

2006-07-28 | I was chatting with a friend whose parents had immigrated to Berkeley from East Jerusalem many years ago. “The Zionists are making things so miserable for Palestinians in Israel these days that it's beginning to be a matter of immigrate or die”, he said. "But where are they to go? Jordan won't take them." Then he laughed. "Maybe George Bush will take them at his ranch in Texas!" Yeah right.

Then an Israeli friend of mine told me, “This Gaza invasion is nothing new. They've been planning different ways to get rid of Palestinians for the last 50 years. Go to Israel yourself. Check it out. There are now thousands -- if not hundreds of thousands -- of upscale rent-free Israeli condos built on land that used to be owned by Palestinians.” And all these free deluxe condos are paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

I wish they'd buy ME a condo!

“Currently, in the section of East Jerusalem mostly inhabited by Arab-Israelis, there are TEN THOUSAND home demolition orders that have already been issued for Arab-Israeli homes”, continued my friend. “And the only thing that keeps the Israelis from destroying these 10,000 homes is their lack of trained bulldozer drivers.” But they are training them as fast as they can.

Then I read Mike Whitney's recent article in OpEd News. "In the minds of Ehud Olmert and the Israeli leadership, the invasion of Gaza is a 'positive policy' which will 'induce' vast numbers of Palestinians to leave", wrote Whitney. "The humanitarian crisis they are precipitating is not seen as a disaster, but an opportunity. Every Palestinian who is driven from his homeland by grinding poverty, racism or violence, provides another inch or two of ground for Israel to claim as its own."

Olmert has a plan here. "And," states Whitney, "when the unilateral borders are set and Israel owns everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, Olmert will finally realize his dream of 'Greater Israel'. The rivers of blood that have fed that vision will mean nothing,"

Okay. So we got grinding poverty, seized homes and rivers of blood. That should induce Palestinians to leave -- just as Hitler's policy toward the Jews in 1930s Germany induced them to try to leave too. And, like the Jews in Hitler's 1930s Germany, Palestinians are asking themselves the same question. "Where can we go?"

For Palestinians, finding a new homeland is like a scene from that old movie about Jewish German refugees. "Ship of Fools".

The United States refused to take many of the Jews fleeing Germany in the 1930s. And the United States refuses to open its doors to Palestinians fleeing Israel today. Egypt doesn't want the Palestinians either. Who will take them? Iceland? Botswana? Haiti?

I'll take them. I have a spare bedroom! Twenty years from now, I don't want people accusing me of being a Nazi. "What did YOU do to help the Palestinians during the Holocaust, Grandma?"

"Well, you know your Uncle Moussa? He's not really your uncle...." He's someone I rescued from off the Ship of Fools.

Jane Stillwater

"Life is a competition. The winners are the ones that do the most good deeds."

"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!"

Jane Stillwater

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Captured Israeli Soldiers Were Inside Lebanon
Folks, you need to send these articles to everyone you know. The US Mainstream Media (the same media that assured you there were nookular bombs in Iraq) are pushing as hard as they can to blame the current wars on Lebanon. But this is a lie. The Israeli soldiers were INSIDE Lebanon when captured, which means Israel intentionally provoked this confrontation. This is the most important fact regarding the current crisis, and everyone needs to know about it before ABC, NBC,CNN,CBS and Fox gets a lot more young Americans killed.

I thought you might be interested in THE TWO ISRAELI SOLDIERS WERE CAPTURED IN LEBANON. You can view it at

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Report From the Israeli Peace FrontAn email received this morning from my friend, Paula:

It is true that we probably will not see this. What brave women. I hope they are more successful than we have been with our government!
- Paula

Quick Report from the Israeli Peace Front

The peace movement in Israel has pulled out all stops to end this mad war. Lots of groups are active, and we had a big joint demonstration last night - at least 5,000 people (though the media reported 2,500). Marching through the streets of Tel Aviv with signs, "End the War", "End the Occupation" felt like a relief after the roar of pro-war-talk on all the media.

Women in Black held vigils last Friday throughout Israel. The reactions from the street were quite violent and the police were out in numbers keeping onlookers (and on-shouters) at bay. After our vigil, we read the list of 55 (!) locations [see list below] that held solidarity events this weekend. Some were Women in Black and others organized by allied groups. We felt greatly encouraged by this international solidarity.

I end with a short note from Hannah Safran of the Haifa vigil of Women in Black. The women were shelled during the vigil, but they returned to complete it. Later that day, under the newly formed "Women Against War", they again left their homes to protest.

hi gila, how are you? we are having a terrible day today. while we were demonstrating at our regular Women in Black square (30-40 people in all), we were bombed on both sides. it felt like being targeted from close. we had to abandon the vigil and look for shelter. we came back 20 min. later and completed the vigil on time. As we were traveling home, there was a second attack and we had to stop the car and look for shelter. When we came home we opened the newspaper to read letters of women from Lebanon. The devastation is horrific. Has Israel gone crazy or have we not noticed what a mad country we live in? It is 5:45 p.m. now and we had two attacks since then. I am off to our daily demonstration of Women Against War in front of the Foreign Office and all the foreign press. We will not be silenced. War must be stopped now. Every min. counts as people's lives are in danger. do all you can to stop this madness. only someone from outside can put pressure on Israel to stop. i have to hurry. be well and let's pray for better days.
love, hannah

Please continue to voice your protest throughout the world.
Gila Svirsky

Demonstrations and Vigils held this weekend (or just before)
Albuquerque, NM, US
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Armidale, Australia
Asheville, NC, US
Baltimore, MD, US
Bay Area, CA, US
Belgrade, Serbia
Bellevue, WA, US
Berlin, Germany
Bonn, Germany
Burlington, VT, US
Calgary, Canada
Canberra, Australia
Cologne, Germany
Concord, MA, US
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Farmington, MA, US
Göteborg, Sweden
Halmsted, Sweden
Kitchener, Canada
Lancaster, PA, US
London, UK
London, Ontario, Canada
Los Angeles, CA, US
Malmö, Sweden
Marseille, France
Melbourne, Australia
Minneapolis, MN, US
Montreal, Canada
Naples, Italy
New Orleans, LA, US
New Paltz, NY, US (near Woodstock)
New York, NY, US
Oslo, Norway
Ottawa, Canada
Oxford, UK
Padova, Italy
Piteå, Sweden
Paris, France Pune, Marashtra, India
Rome, Italy
San Luis Obispo, CA, US
Santa Fe, NM, US
Seattle, WA, US
South Dakota, US
Stockholm, Sweden
Strasbourg, France
Toronto, Canada
Tucson, AZ, US
Turin, Italy
Valencia, Spain
Vienna, Austria
Washington, DC, US

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Elegy for Beirut

Saturday, July 22, 2006

My son, Rashid, emailed this Robert Fisk article
to me today. It is tragic and beautiful.
Paradise Lost: Robert Fisk's elegy for Beirut
Elegant buildings lie in ruins. The heady scent of gardenias gives way to the acrid stench of bombed-out oil installations. And everywhere terrified people are scrambling to get out of a city that seems tragically doomed to chaos and destruction. As Beirut - 'the Paris of the East' - is defiled yet again, Robert Fisk, a resident for 30 years, asks: how much more punishment can it take?
Published: 19 July 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friend's Parents Fleeing From Israeli Bombs
Following are emails posted on the listserve
of the Meeting House of the Religious Society
of Friends where I am a member:

July 18, 2006
Dear Friends,
Please hold Nejwa and her family in the
Light. Nejwa's parents returned to live in
Lebanon twelve days ago. They had been
living in the States for decades, but decided to
return so they could live near their relatives
They are now fleeing the bombs.
With love,

July 19, 2006
Dear friends,
I just found out that my parents made it safely
to Damascus. They are shell-shocked, depressed
but thank God > healthy. They will be travelling
north to Homs tomorrow where they will spend
at least 2 weeks recovering and waiting for a
free seat on a plane to Washington.

Thank you so much for your support, your prayers
have paid off and your kind thoughts have done a
lot to keep me going this past week.

Mark wrote:
Thank you for the update, Nejwa.
I know it was not their choice, but it will be
wonderful to have your parents safely back
with you. We also look forward to having
them among us.


July 20, 2006 I wrote:

Dear Nejwa,
I just discovered the emails concerning your
parents. What can I say? You have my
sympathy. They have my sympathy.

I was planning to travel to the West Bank in about
six months to retire in the little house I inherited
there from my husband. Israel has now passed a law
that American citizens cannot live in the West Bank
except for one month a year. Many, many lives will
be uprooted by that. Surely Israel will self
destruct with time. I'm afraid it won't be in my
time. May God help us all.

Nejwa Hadawi wrote:

Thank you Bronwin for your kind thoughts. I am truly
sorry for you that you won't be able to go back. I
think this will be the toughest thing for my parents
to accept, not to be able to live their last days in
peace in a place of their choice amongst their
friends and family.

As for Israel, it will surely destroy everything
around it first before it finally self-destructs. It
is even dragging us down with itself. The hardest
part for me in all this is realizing how helpless I
am in affecting any change in my government's
policy, seeing our congressmen and senators sell
their souls for a vote, paying taxes that enable
this senseless destruction and realizing that my
parents and I have to live here even though we no
longer feel at home. Luckily for us, there are
people like you and all the other Friends that give
us hope and sustain us morally and spiritually
I agree with you, may God help us all.


No, This is Not Our War
by Pat Buchanan
July 20, 20068:36 p.m. Eastern
© 2006
My country has been "torn to shreds," said Fouad Siniora, the prime minister of Lebanon, as the death toll among his people passed 300 civilian dead, 1,000 wounded, with half a million homeless.
Click below to continue the story:

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Occupation? Fuggedaboutit!
July 20, 2006
Another enlightening email from my peace activist friend Bob:

Short but sweet as ONLY Gila can tell it.

The Occupation? Fuggedaboutit!
Gila Svirsky

What a stroke of luck – 10 days before a war breaks out in Lebanon, we buy an apartment in Nahariya.

We had been looking for a place for about a year. We went to Cyprus to check out the beautiful new communities on the northern shore – it’s quite a bargain, if you don’t mind settling in occupied territory. We thought about Mauritius, but the savings on real estate would be offset by the costs of flights there. So finally we settled on an apartment under construction in Israel’s sweetest little town on the Mediterranean coast – just 5 miles south of the border with Lebanon.

We were looking for a sea view. Had the balcony already been built, we would have been able to watch the Israeli navy array itself along the coast, laying siege to Lebanon. We wanted to be close to Kibbutz Sa’ar, just north of Nahariya, where one of my grown daughters lives, except when she evacuates herself to safer points south. And we wanted a getaway from turbulent Jerusalem, somewhere we could spend long quiet weekends and eventually a serene retirement. Several dozen rockets dropped into her kibbutz and our serene neighborhood this weekend.

In listening to the media, to my neighbors, to the gas station attendant, I am amazed by the lack of comprehension: “We leave Gaza, they shoot missiles at us from there. We leave Lebanon, they kidnap our boys. How do they expect us to leave the West Bank? Fuggedaboudit!”

These views, expressed by most Israelis these days, can only fill me with awe at how the Big Lie works: Repeat it often enough, publicly enough, by political and spiritual leaders, and the whole country/world will begin to believe that Israel is innocent of all wrongdoing and that these attacks emerged from a political vacuum:

As if there is no occupation. As if there is no siege on Gaza. As if there are no 39 years (and counting) of military and political oppression with all the killing, maiming, home destruction, and livelihood wrecking that this entails. What is it about “end the occupation” that they don’t understand?

No, I do not justify Qassam missiles or Katyusha rockets hurled at Israeli towns or the kidnapping of anyone (even armed soldiers in tanks). I do not justify any attacks by missile or suicide bomber or remotely detonated device.

Nor do I justify the endless shelling of Gaza and Lebanon – land, sea, and air – for any reason at all, let alone for purposes more related to posturing and domestic public opinion than with accomplishing any political objective. “How could we not respond when they kill and kidnap our soldiers?” asked Yuli Tamir, our Education Minister (for goodness sakes!) and a former Peace Now activist. As if shelling is sure to make the Hizbullah leaders remorseful and let our boys come home.

So, as usual in wars, we have an alliance of the jingoistic decision-makers on both sides, whipping up patriotism while they watch the fighting on-screen from bunkers deep in the earth. In Israel, this war absolutely thrills the right wing: The escalation keeps up the militaristic approach to problem solving, discredits the view that Israel must leave the occupied territories, and distances the current warfare from its roots in the ongoing occupation. What’s not to love about this war?

And as usual in Israel, a few cantankerous peace organizations – the Coalition of Women for Peace, Gush Shalom, Ta’ayush, and a few others – increase their presence on the streets. At Women in Black last Friday, we carried our regular “End the Occupation” signs and buttressed them with signs saying, “Stop the Killing – Negotiate!” (and “It’s the Occupation, Stupid!”). But when the cannons roar, so do the bystanders, and a dozen police were there to prevent anything worse than words and gestures.

A day will come when this small corner of the Mediterranean will again hold sailboats and waterskiers, and I’m looking forward to that view from the balcony. I still think it was a good investment.

Shalom / Salaam from Jerusalem,


Gila Svirsky
Coalition of Women for Peace

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pictures You Will Not See in the US Media

Please click on the following web page address for pictures you will not see on the US news, small children killed yesterday in Lebanon by the Israeli bombing.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

March 6, 2006 Journal Entry

Hager’s Family

I continue to meet interesting people. Yesterday we were invited to have a meal at the home of Hager. Hager has been a family friend since her teens when she and Sami apparently had a thing for each other. Hager married another and moved to Columbia, South America when her first child was three to join her husband who had gone on earlier. Hager’s husband was a successful businessman. They lived in a villa and were waited on by servants. Nine more children followed and then her husband died. He was gunned down by the Columbia mafia in retaliation for his brother’s double dealing. He was shot so many times his body was cut in half. The brother then cheated the widow with ten children out of all her property and wealth.

The children include three sons and seven daughters. One of the sons went to an Israeli jail for destroying the home of an Israeli collaborator and two sons spent time in a Palestinian jail for killing a suspected collaborator. The daughters fared much better. Most have become college graduates and one has a master’s degree from Harvard. Her diploma is framed and displayed proudly on their living room wall.

One of the older daughters, Sameer, helped me when I first arrived in Ramallah by taking me shopping and doing my laundry at her home as the luxury hotel where we were staying had no laundry facilities. She’s in public relations and has the outgoing, friendly personality required by that profession. Rajai, the brother, who served time for killing the collaborator with his bare hands, came with his niece, Aida, the daughter of Sameer, in his car to drive me to Hager’s home in a nearby village. As we sped along the wind blew through the open window on the passenger side where I was sitting. When I attempted to roll it up, Aida explained the glass was gone and was concerned if I was too cold. I assured her I was fine. I explained I was surprised they had arrived so soon after my son told me they would come to drive me to Hager’s house. Leaving my village they pointed out a dirt road they had used that cut through olive trees down the hill from their village across the small valley and up the hill to my village. On the way back we would go a longer way, through Bier Zeit, where I could find a shop that had a copy machine and a fax so I could send Sami’s death certificate to the Embassy in Jerusalem. Two shops were closed. I was told that was because the owners were Christian and it was Sunday. Aida apologized for not having paid a condolence call after Sami died. She had been busy with her studies at Bier Zeit University. I assured her I was not offended and understood. I asked to be taken to a grocery store. Rashid, when he had called to tell me they were at Hager’s already and Rajia would come to bring me, had asked me to bring a box of chocolates as a hostess gift for the family. I noticed in the store Rajia bought beer. I assumed from that they were not fundamentalist Muslims and told Aida I would like some wine. She said Sameer enjoyed wine also. I bought a bottle of Chardonnay made in Bethlehem and the tin of chocolates. We then found an open shop that had a copy and fax machine. Aida insisted on paying the four sheckles due, less than a dollar. On the way home Rajia and Aida told me a joke about Fatah. Electrical extensions are called "robbers" here because they rob electricity from the main outlet. Since the government corruption by Fatah members they have undergone a name change and are now called "fatahs". The corruption of Fatah was so well known and resented by the people it has made changes in their language and resulted in the election of Hamas to the government
When we arrived in the village of Beit Suhal I found the steep hills a little frightening. The ancient car clung to the dirt roads as we passed stone houses standing next to dirt roads that took my breath away as we swung left and right alongside sheer drops into the little valleys of olive trees. It’s common here to find new half finished houses that have been abandoned. People start to build then run out of money. Some were discouraged at the beginning of the second Intifada and moved away. After several more roads and many more stone houses we stopped at Hager’s home, a large stone house with a front porch that was reached by climbing a flight of about ten steps. Most of the large family are there, two of the sons, four of the daughters, and several grandchildren of differing ages. They speak excellent English with Spanish accents. They tell one joke after another. They enjoy each other’s company as much as they enjoy ours. They have gifts for all of us, a small purse decorated with Palestinian embroidery for me, a robe and kifiya (Arab headdress) for my five year old grandson and other items.
Aida is wearing a brightly colored scarf tied in a stylish way around her head with the ends hanging down her back reminiscent of the manner of wearing scarves I've seen in American fashion magazines. She is also wearing jeans and a knit shirt. She starts to talk about the hejab, the scarf worn by many young Palestinian women. She says when you see the hejab worn partially covering the sides of a woman's face and she also has a long dress or coat that completely covers her then the garb is worn for religious reasons and it's the way for her to express her belief in Islam. When girls wear the hejab with tight jeans and a knit shirt it's just a fashion statement. I asked her how her pretty scarf fit into the descriptions she had given. She said she was just having a bad hair day and had covered her hair.

They entertain us with stories about family history. In 1978 Hager returned to the West Bank with her children to join her family. She arrived in Tel Aviv with her ten children begging to be allowed to stay. The Israelis attempted to deport her. She was championed by Felicia Langer, an Israeli attorney, who devoted her career to assisting Palestinians who were being harassed, deported, or tortured by the Israelis. The judge when meeting the widow, Hager, and her ten children, said she, like the biblical Hager, would have to leave. Ms. Langer argued that Hager’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and generations before them had lived in her village for centuries and she should be allowed to stay. The judge suspended the deportation for a year. The yearly suspensions stretched out for ten years until finally they were allowed to stay indefinitely.

Miriam, a daughter about 45 years old, was active in the first Intifada about twenty years ago. She was standing next to a teenager when he was shot by an Israeli soldier. She led the boy to a taxi and tried to get him to a hospital. While she held him and he assured her he was okay he died in her arms.

Sometime after the Israelis decided to let them stay they managed to purchase a two room house. One of the brothers was now living in it and they told us how fond they were of the tiny house because it was the first one they had owned after returning to Palestine. The two room house had been home to this family of eleven that had left a villa behind in Columbia and they were speaking of their happy memories of the place. My sons and I felt a bit ashamed on our way home about how we had complained about staying in the three room house in our village.
American Citizens Barred From Living in West BankMy American friend in Palestine, who I had no contact with for several months.
July 10,2006

My mother died and I spent several months in the US - I have tried to call and left messages and hoped to hear from you.

July 10, 2006
Dear Jane,

I'm so sorry to hear about your mother's death. A parent's death is one of the most difficult of life's crisis. I'm still in Virginia and will be for about six more months. I’m facing another joint replacement. The orthopaedist says all cartilage is gone now and I'm wearing away bone. I've found a job of sorts as a mortgage consultant. If I can just get it started it will be lucrative, but getting started I'm scraping the barrel financially. I'm in a hurry and will write more later.


Hi Jane,

I’ve cut and pasted an article my son sent me from Haartz . Please read. Did you have any trouble returning to Ramallah?-Bronwin

Answer from Jane:No, but many wives and children of local Palestinians have been barred. We have formed a committee but mostly for these spouses - I am considered "attempted illegal entrant" as I repeat my three month visas. the Palestinian American who lives upstairs here and works for the UN is still in Jordan, a mother with a young child here was given two weeks to get her and pack out - I have a plan to bring pilgrims here from the Christian South to meet their local Palestinian brothers and this means dollars for Israel so may make it back again.As the wall closes they will probably ban all of us just like in Gaza, a bigger and more pleasant prison but a prison. I have tried to phone Nora several times since my return but no response - Ghassan is doing good, speaking out reasonably, writing in IHT, etc. A very good man and of course she is marvelous. I may be home sooner than I thought and much sooner than I wanted.


Israel bars Palestinian Americans for first time since 1967
By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent

For the first time since 1967, Israel is preventing the entry of Palestinians with foreign citizenship, most of them Americans. Most of those refused entry are arriving from abroad, but have lived and worked for years in the West Bank. According to a growing number of accounts from West Bank residents, petitions to the High Court of Justice and monitoring by Haaretz, the number of those barred from entering Israel en route to the territories has been steadily rising since April 2006. The Interior Ministry and Civil Administration made no formal announcement about a policy change, leaving returnees to discover the situation when they reach the border crossings.By various estimates, the ban has so far affected several thousand American and European nationals, whom Israel has kept from returning to their homes and jobs, or from visiting their families in the West Bank. This could potentially impact many more thousands who live in the territories - including university instructors and researchers, employees working in various vital development programs and business owners - as well as thousands of foreign citizens who pay annual visits to relatives there. The policy also applies to foreigners who are not Palestinian but are married to Palestinians, and to visiting academics.The first group to suffer are Palestinians born in the territories, whose residency Israel revoked after 1967 while they were working or studying abroad. Some eventually married residents of the territories, or returned to live with aging parents and siblings. Israel rejected their applications for "family reunification" (i.e., requests to have their residency restored). However, until recently Israel permitted them to continue living in the territories on tourist visas, renewable every three months by exiting and reentering the country. In some cases the State also granted them work permits.Citizens of Arab states (whether or not of Palestinian origin) have been barred from entering Israel since 2000. A handful were allowed in as "exceptional humanitarian cases" - mostly when a first-degree relative is dying or has died - but even this practice was suspended in April. One of the demands that Israel has posed in specific cases which attorney Leah Tsemel represented before the High Court of Justice, is that applications for visitation permits be authorized by a low-ranking official from the Palestinian Interior Ministry, who is not affiliated with Hamas. The ministry refuses to comply with this condition. Now it turns out that this policy has been extended to U.S. and European citizens.An Israeli Interior Ministry spokesperson told Haaretz that this is not a new policy, but merely a "procedural updating." But the High Court petitions department at the State Prosecutor's Office, which has been addressing the phenomenon with regard to several specific petitions, wrote Tsemel on May 2, 2006 that a policy on entry of foreign nationals to the West Bank would be formulated only "at the start of next week." Since then Tsemel has not learned whether such a policy was indeed drafted.The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv told Haaretz that no Israeli official informed them of a change in entry policy, and said that the United States cannot intervene in sovereign decisions of another country. Several people who were refused entry and spoke with U.S. representatives said that the consulate and embassy are well aware of the apparently new policy. An e-mail from the department of U.S. Citizen Services in Jerusalem to a U.S. citizen who had inquired about entering the West Bank stated that the consul general had met with a representative from the Israeli Interior Ministry regarding the government's entry policies: "The Israeli official conceded that 90-day visa entry cards, which were once routinely granted in the past, especially to U.S. citizens, are now more difficult to obtain, specifically for Palestinian American citizens traveling to the West Bank and for U.S. nationals affiliated with humanitarian organizations. Both the U.S. Embassy and the Consulate in Jerusalem are pursuing the issue."Israel's Civil Administration stated in response that "the entry to the region of foreigners who are not residents of the territories takes place by means of visit permits issued by the Palestinian Authority and approved by the Israeli side," because coordination stopped after September 2000, and entry was permitted in exceptional humanitarian cases - a practice that was also suspended after the Hamas government was formed. Today, the statement continued, cases "involving special humanitarian need" are being considered.The Civil Administration confirmed that the applications must be conveyed by a low-ranking official who is unaffiliated with Hamas. The Interior Ministry and Civil Administration declined to comment on the fact that for 40 years, Palestinian citizens of Western countries did not required a "visitation permit."

July 11, 2006

Hi Jane,

I am disappointed. I wanted to return there within six months after I’ve healed from my surgery. Now I suppose I shouldn't even plan on it. Will you please give me the name and phone number of the person who told you I, as an American, could get the family land back? I would like to pursue that. If the Israelis try to take my house and land there, I will not go down without a fight.

Nora's son had a very serious surgery recently. I understand he is okay. That may be why she's not returning your calls or emails.

Thank you for your efforts. If you're bringing in southern Pilgrims please leave out the fundamentalists, those who believe anything Israel does is okay as that is God's will.


Email From Jane
July 12, 2006
The person I am working with is remarkably credible with Southern Fundamentalists who tend to be clueless rather than hostile - this is a wake up effort to remind them of what a Christian really is, and that they cannot let the local Christian community die out in their lifetimes.I have now forgotten who told me that but know a number of lawyers specializing in these land issues/seizures etc so will follow up.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Joke From A Gaza Physician
Dear Barbara,

I found this wonderful little story on the BLOG of a
female physician in Gaza.

A married couple in their early 60s was out
celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary in a
quiet, romantic little restaurant.Suddenly, a tiny yet
beautiful fairy appeared on their table and said, "For
being such an exemplary married couple and for being
faithful to each other for all this time, I will grant
you each a wish.""Oh, I want to travel around the
world with my darling husband" said the wife.The fairy
waved her magic wand and - poof! - two tickets for the
Queen Mary II luxury liner appeared in her hands.Then
it was the husband's turn. He thought for a moment and
said: "Well, this is all very romantic, but an
opportunity like this will never come again. I'm sorry
my love, but my wish is to have a wife 30 years
younger than me."The wife and the fairy were deeply
disappointed, but a wish is a wish...So the fairy
waved her magic wand and - poof! - the husband became
92 years old.The moral of the story: Men who are
ungrateful bastards should remember that fairies are

Monday, July 10, 2006

Living in the Village
The following email from one of my readers has inspired me to rewrite and post an earlier essay I wrote about the village. Please Anonymous read the ending if nothing else.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post
4/24/2006 01:41:00 PM
": I think everyone needs to learn how to live together. The problem is that Palestine refuses to understand this basic concept, they seem hungry for war and despair.This is my opinion and I know you will disagree, but you have that right!

Living in the Village

For fifty years my life was influenced by an inexplicable attachment to a man with whom I rarely lived happily. I traveled to occupied Palestine in the fall of 2005 to care for him. In 1994 he had left the US to return to the village on the West Bank where he was born and grew up. Thirty years of breathing toxic chemicals while employed as a research and works chemist in the US had destroyed his lungs. He was dying a slow and agonizing death by asphyxiation. He spoke only once of his dread of the concluding moments of his life, saying he hoped the final suffocation was over quickly. I was thankful he was unconscious when the end came.

He is buried now not 30 yards from my front door in the family cemetery. Another 30 yards behind his grave is the front porch of my father-in-law’s house where my memory sees him in 1982 holding court for dozens of villagers. They gathered from miles around to visit on his first trip home from Jordan in three years. Tired by his many years, the guests rejuvenated him. He entertained his audience for hours with stories that spanned his nine decades of life, from his military service with the Ottomans to modern life in Amman. His wit was such that even though his stories were translated to me from Arabic and spanned two cultures I laughed aloud. He left us a few years later and now Sami’s grave is located a few feet from his. In the evenings as I dress for bed, I see the framed portraits of our grandchildren glowing with their young beauty and I think of the future.

A dozen spring kids from an exotic breed of goats frolic and bleat in the nearby barnyard. Young children play on the only road. Of the 120 people in the village 75 are under the age of sixteen. The children seem friendly and unspoiled. The charming shyness of one five year old has motivated me to improve my Arabic so I can talk to her. She has large dark eyes and a mop of shining, black hair. In the mornings I’m sometimes awakened by a pair of mourning doves cooing at my window sill. A family of feral cats gathers occasionally at my door and begs for food. Sami fed them before his illness compelled him to leave the house in November for the warmer hotel in the city. An older cat remembers. He leaps up boldly on to the window sill and meows shrilly. They have lived for generations on human food disposed of in the dumpsters. Last week I recognized one of my beggars lying dead beside one of the dumpsters, run over by a passing car. I hesitate to feed them as they will depend on me and then I will leave. One kitten with a long snout and bushy tail resembles a small fox; I’m tempted to tame and adopt. When my sons and I arrived here from the city in February a week after Sami’s death the almond trees were in full bloom. The blooms are gone now and almonds encased in their fuzzy spring green cocoons hang from the trees. The wild cyclamens that covered the ground in front of the house are fading. The space is colored by red wild poppies intermingled by blooms of blue that resemble wild asters. Yellow flowers crowd most of the space and dance in the spring breeze, their exuberance matched by the brightness of their color. Interspersed throughout the plant life are ancient stones jutting two to three feet from the ground. The stone outcroppings are loaded with fossils created a million years ago when the area was under the sea. The family have used many of the stone fossils to build terraces for planting flowers around the old stone house that was built by Cidi (grandfather) sixty years ago. Not far up the incline from my house are the ruins of Saul, a town mentioned in the Old Testament.

A young neighbor, Naseer, spent an hour with me last evening, updating my computer and sharing the plans he has for turning the forest beyond the village into a public park. The trees in the forest were planted by my father-in-law, when he worked as a forester for the British Mandate, during the thirties and forties. A lovely stone fence borders the road leading up the mountain and into the village and the forest beyond. Sami supervised the building of it when he was in high school back in the forties. It’s now in danger of being removed to widen the road to make space for the hundreds of people who drive up this mountain on the weekends to picnic and enjoy the beauty of the place. I discussed with Naseer charging these visitors enough money to finance cutting a new road farther down the slope to save the fence. He agreed and said if people would pay, it would finance building the park and would provide jobs for some of the young people of the village. If the activities of the visitors were supervised they might behave better. They’ve been found cutting down trees and they litter the forest with trash.

Heba, an eighteen year old sister of the five year old charmer, cleaned house for Sami while he was ill. She came by this afternoon with another sister to return laundry she had taken to her house yesterday to wash. Her stocky build and firm square jaw speak of her dependability and I wasn’t surprised when she told me she enjoys housecleaning. I’m glad to see the dangling silver earrings I gave her add to her charm. Playful, they have softened her sturdy face. She refuses to take any pay, seems insulted at the suggestion, so I’ve been generous with gifts. She’s a storehouse of useful information for me. I showed her today where I was having a problem with a leak in the bathroom. She told me immediately who I must call for help. Her English is rudimentary. I’m helping her with new English words while she teaches me a few new Arabic ones each day. I’m learning slowly. Though I enjoy learning new words, I’ve decided I don’t have a talent for languages. Maybe time and persistence will give me an adequate vocabulary. I hope.
I’m certainly practicing the simplicity of my Quaker brethren. I came with only the 140 pounds of luggage allowed by the airlines, much of which was used for gifts. I’ve discovered the advantages of living simply. My one concession to extravagance has always been my wardrobe as I enjoy beautiful clothes. Now I have a few changes of everyday sports clothes, two dress-up outfits for weddings and funerals, a denim jacket and a dressier coat, three pairs of shoes, pajamas and underclothes and nothing more. I’ve found a sparser wardrobe is easier to care for and I don’t waste time deciding what to wear for the day. In the past my protein has mostly been chicken and fish. Fish is hard to find and chickens are scarce since the Avian flu scare announced from Israel last week. I’ve ceased eating eggs. The goats raised on the farm supply me with goat cheese. That and some veggie burgers I found at the supermarket in the nearby town are my sources of protein. A vegetable peddler comes to the village daily in his truck so I have a steady supply of fresh vegetables and fruits. I buy yogurt and milk from the grocer in a nearby town as I find the flavor of the goat yogurt and milk too strong for my taste. Tomorrow I’ll go into the city where I can buy whole wheat bread from a grocer. I like pita but not as my only source of bread. Though mayonnaise is available I’ve found yogurt makes a good substitute and is healthier. I’ll buy mustard and catsup tomorrow and perhaps some ground beef. I find that I anticipate eagerly my weekly shopping excursions. I’m learning first the Arabic words for different foods and fee? (Do you have?) was the first question I learned to ask.
I’m tempted to retire to this house in the village. My sons and I own it now. My money is adequate to live on here and would provide me with a trip back to the states at least once per year. Though I would miss my grandson, the granddaughters live so far away I rarely see them anyway. Before they returned to the states, both sons spoke of traveling here in the summers with their families for vacations, but I doubt if it will happen often. The quiet peace of this place encourages me to write, sketch, and catch up with all the things I planned to do in a hectic, hurried life that interfered with my best intentions. The village is very safe and I’m treated like a star as they’ve never had anyone of my background living among them before. Before he died, Sami said it’s unimaginable to them that an estranged wife would travel all the way from the US to care for an old sick man. That surprised me as I find them to be more generous and hospitable than westerners.
I plan while in the city tomorrow to buy a microphone for my computer so I can make international calls through it at a much cheaper rate than by phone. I miss my friends but the world is truly a global village. With the Internet, I’m still in touch with everyone. Once I have the microphone, I can speak for free with anyone in the US who is willing to download the web page and buy a microphone. I’ll have the whole world available to me from my little house in the village where I am familiar with the cycle of life in dramatic and intimate ways.
This Shangri La, this heaven exists in the midst of hell. I listen daily to stories of the cruelty meted out by the Israelis to the inhabitants of this land they continue to occupy and steal. Neighbors of mine, the village muktar, and his wife had a quarrel with their teenage son last week concerning his study habits. He left the house angry and threw rocks at a nearby settlement, a settlement built on land stolen from his village neighbors. The settlers arrested him, and then went to the family home to threaten further arrests and the destruction of their home if another family member throws a rock. They forbade the parents to see their son for three months. If the Israelis follow their usual policy the boy will be tortured and remain incarcerated for three years.
Muhammad, the keeper of the goats at the family farm, must walk from his village and cross the valley near the settlement to arrive here. The settlers often stop him and force him to sit in the hot sun for hours before letting him continue. This is done only because he is Palestinian.
My late brother-in-law, who grew up here and inhabited the village at various periods of his life, is buried now in the family plot. He died five years ago from bone cancer. When the physicians at the American hospital where he went for treatment x-rayed him they discovered every bone in his body had been broken. They hurried into his room to ask what had happened to him. What happened? In the sixties he led a strike against an Israeli employer. He was arrested, thrown into an Israeli prison and tortured to the point of near death. A brave and compassionate Israeli attorney, a woman, came to his rescue, represented him in court, and obtained his release.
I visited my sister-in-law, Jamilah, this past weekend. She told me stories of the incarceration of other Palestinians. Sickening stories! Israeli soldiers take a cup, four or five of them spit into it, then force the prisoner to drink it; sometimes they urinate in the cup or on the prisoner. She spoke of a villager who in 2001 was painting a fence near the settlement. The settlers kidnapped him, cut out his eyes while he lived, murdered him, then threw his body under his house where his twelve year old daughter discovered him the next morning. Jamilah struggled to describe the composure of the young widow, the mother of five, as she received her visitors at the funeral. She became overcome and said she wished she had not remembered because now she would have trouble sleeping.

I, an American accustomed to freedom and security, explained to Naseer I was reluctant to spend money on renovation of my village house because the Israelis might take it from me and my money would be wasted. His reply was an incredulous, "But why?" The villagers do not hesitate to remodel their homes. Tomorrow night I’m invited to the wedding celebration of a neighbor. I’m urged daily to come for tea by others. When I go for a walk a woman asks me to come in for candy to welcome the birth of a new baby. The mournful wail of the call to prayer interrupts the village quiet five times a day. The majority of the people continue to celebrate their weddings, pray to their God, educate their children, care for their neighbors, and have their babies while they practice passive nonresistance. The American newspapers continue to emphasize only the suicide bombers.