Thursday, November 23, 2006

Karen Armstrong: How Religious Movements Prolong the Arab-Israeli Conflict

I ran into an acquaintance, Jack, at the National Press Club in DC where I listened to a most enlightening lecture by Karen Armstrong. He sent me the following email.

Hi Bronwin,
This article is RIGHT ON THE MONEY!!! As a person of faith, I am deeply concerned and upset about the way so-called "fundamentalists" in all three Abrahamic religions have some how forgotten the most fundamental teaching from God: Peace on Earth, Good will toward men.


November 20th, 2006
By Carlton Cobb, CNI Staff Member

To a full audience on Capitol Hill, Oxford scholar of religion Karen Armstrong argued last week that fundamentalist movements within each of the three faiths involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, contribute to sustaining that conflict. Her talk outlined how the "Christian Right" in the U.S., Islamists such as Hamas in Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon and ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have drawn religion into what is "at base a political problem..., a secular problem over land." Armstrong spoke at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, a block east of the U.S. Capitol building, on Thursday, November 16th, in Washington, DC.

Fundamentalist movements, she said, see "the events of history as part of a divine drama," with the Arab-Israeli conflict being a particularly potent example. She noted that Zionism began as a secular rebellion against religious Judaism in its attempts to settle the land of Israel, which the Orthodox considered sacred. Since the problem has been allowed to "fester," however, religion has been "drawn in on all sides" and the Arab-Israeli conflict has become symbolic, "something more than itself in many people's minds." Israel is now sacred to most Jews, whether they are believers or not, because it represents a "revival after the Holocaust." Likewise, the conflict is symbolic for Muslims as a sign of their impotence and humiliation in the world: "Seven hundred and fifty Palestinians lose their homes and no one does anything."

The Christian Right, which Armstrong described as "the first fundamentalist reform movement of the 20th century," has sought to "drag religion back to center stage" in American life. She traced the origins of "rapture ideology" to an imaginative and selective reading by John Nelson Darby of the Bible's Book of Revelation, "the most unfortunate book of the Bible," in her words. Darby, a 19th century British evangelist, found "no takers" for his ideas in Britain, but set off a Christian Zionist movement in the United States. Hence, the 1948 creation of Israel and events since have been seen by the Christian right as "fulfilling the story of the end of days" and support for Israel's right wing has naturally followed.

Armstrong used the Christian Right as an example to support her thesis that fundamentalist movements are rooted in fear and humiliation. Fundamentalists share the belief that "secularism and liberalism are attacking them," that the "modern world wants to wipe them out." So, for example, she said that "small-town America" feels threatened by the culture of "Harvard, Yale, and Washington, DC."

Fundamentalist movements, Armstrong said, are an "expression of a great sickness of soul," a sign that "something is rotten" in the society that produces them. In making her case, she discussed Jewish fundamentalist leaders such as Rabbi Abraham Kook and Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kahane Chai movement recently had an appeal to remove its name from the U.S. State Department list of terrorist groups rejected, as well as Muslim fundamentalists such as Osama bin Laden and Sayyid Qutb.

Armstrong noted that fundamentalist religious movements start by opposing their co-religionists, before broadening their opposition to the larger society, and that such movements are not peaceable. Armstrong pointed to Qutb's argument that because of the "present emergency" posed by "Western aggression and colonialism" that the commandment against compulsion in Islam must be thrown out, at least temporarily. She also highlighted the opposition that the Christian Right has to organizations such as the United Nations, the United Church of Christ, and the European Union, each of which they regard as being the "abode of the devil."

Armstrong had just returned from attending the "Alliance of Civilizations" conference organized by Kofi Annan in Istanbul, which she described as an effort by the United Nations to counter the idea of a "clash of civilizations" put forth by Samuel Huntington and "to give practical guidelines to stop the rise of extremism." She expressed hope that the meeting would result in a new "white paper" on Palestine that would resolve the outstanding issues of the conflict. She was in Washington, DC, to receive an honorary doctorate from Georgetown University.

Armstrong has authored thirteen books, including the best seller A History of God. At age seventeen she took vows of chastity and poverty, and entered the Roman Catholic order of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. Seven years later she left the convent and in 1982 published her first book, Through the Narrow Gate, which chronicles her life as a nun. Shortly thereafter she published a second autobiographical book about the religious life, Beginning the World.

Armstrong's achievements as an independent scholar focusing on the three great monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, have earned her a reputation as a major contributor to interfaith understanding and respect. Her books on Islam and Muhammad have given many Westerners their first clear and unbiased insight into the history and teachings of this great tradition and its prophet. Her latest book, The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions, was published in March 2006; her next book, a revision of her biography of Muhammad, is being published by Atlas Books/HarperCollins.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Subject: New York Iimes: Israeli Map Says West Bank Posts Sit on Arab Land Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2006 20:10:08 +0000


November 21, 2006
Israeli Map Says West Bank Posts Sit on Arab Land
JERUSALEM, Nov. 20 — An Israeli advocacy group, using maps and figures leaked from inside the government, says that 39 percent of the land held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians.

Israel has long asserted that it fully respects Palestinian private property in the West Bank and only takes land there legally or, for security reasons, temporarily.

If big sections of those settlements are indeed privately held Palestinian land, that is bound to create embarrassment for Israel and further complicate the already distant prospect of a negotiated peace. The data indicate that 40 percent of the land that Israel plans to keep in any future deal with the Palestinians is private.

The new claims regarding Palestinian property are said to come from the 2004 database of the Civil Administration, which controls the civilian aspects of Israel’s presence in the West Bank. Peace Now, an Israeli group that advocates Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, plans to publish the information on Tuesday. An advance copy was made available to The New York Times.

The data — maps that show the government’s registry of the land by category — was given to Peace Now by someone who obtained it from an official inside the Civil Administration. The Times spoke to the person who received it from the Civil Administration official and agreed not to identify him because of the delicate nature of the material.

That person, who has frequent contact with the Civil Administration, said he and the official wanted to expose what they consider to be wide-scale violations of private Palestinian property rights by the government and settlers. The government has refused to give the material directly to Peace Now, which requested it under Israel’s freedom of information law.

Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the Civil Administration, said he could not comment on the data without studying it.

He said there was a committee, called the blue line committee, that had been investigating these issues of land ownership for three years. “We haven’t finished checking everything,” he said.

Mr. Dror also said that sometimes Palestinians would sell land to Israelis but be unwilling to admit to the sale publicly because they feared retribution as collaborators.

Within prominent settlements that Israel has said it plans to keep in any final border agreement, the data show, for example, that some 86.4 percent of Maale Adumim, a large Jerusalem suburb, is private; and 35.1 percent of Ariel is.

The maps indicate that beyond the private land, 5.8 percent is so-called survey land, meaning of unclear ownership, and 1.3 percent private Jewish land. The rest, about 54 percent, is considered “state land” or has no designation, though Palestinians say that at least some of it represents agricultural land expropriated by the state.

The figures, together with detailed maps of the land distribution in every Israeli settlement in the West Bank, were put together by the Settlement Watch Project of Peace Now, led by Dror Etkes and Hagit Ofran, and has a record of careful and accurate reporting on settlement growth.

The report does not include Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed and does not consider part of the West Bank, although much of the world regards East Jerusalem as occupied. Much of the world also considers Israeli settlements on occupied land to be illegal under international law. International law requires an occupying power to protect private property, and Israel has always asserted that it does not take land without legal justification.

One case in a settlement Israel intends to keep is in Givat Zeev, barely five miles north of Jerusalem. At the southern edge is the Ayelet Hashachar synagogue. Rabah Abdellatif, a Palestinian who lives in the nearby village of Al Jib, says the land belongs to him.

Papers he has filed with the Israeli military court, which runs the West Bank, seem to favor Mr. Abdellatif. In 1999, Israeli officials confirmed, he was even granted a judgment ordering the demolition of the synagogue because it had been built without permits. But for the last seven years, the Israeli system has done little to enforce its legal judgments. The synagogue stands, and Mr. Abdellatif has no access to his land.

Ram Kovarsky, the town council secretary, said the synagogue was outside the boundaries of Givat Zeev, although there is no obvious separation. Israeli officials confirm that the land is privately owned, though they refuse to say by whom.

Mr. Abdellatif, 65, said: “I feel stuck, angry. Why would they do that? I don’t know who to go to anymore.”

He pointed to his corduroy trousers and said, in the English he learned in Paterson, N.J., where his son is a police detective: “These are my pants. And those are your pants. And you should not take my pants. This is mine, and that is yours! I never took anyone’s land.”

According to the Peace Now figures, 44.3 percent of Givat Zeev is on private Palestinian land.

Miri Eisin, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that Israeli officials would have to see the data and the maps and added that ownership is complicated and delicate. Baruch Spiegel, a reserve general who just left the Ministry of Defense and dealt with the separation barrier being built near the boundary with the West Bank, also said he would have to see the data in detail in order to judge it.

The definitions of private and state land are complicated, given different administrations of the West Bank going back to the Ottoman Empire, the British mandate, Jordan and now Israel. During the Ottoman Empire, only small areas of the West Bank were registered to specific owners, and often villagers would hold land in common to avoid taxes. The British began a more formal land registry based on land use, taxation or house ownership that continued through the Jordanian period.

Large areas of agricultural land are registered as state land; other areas were requisitioned or seized by the Israeli military after 1967 for security purposes, but such requisitions are meant to be temporary and must be renewed, and do not change the legal ownership of the land, Mr. Dror, the Civil Administration spokesman, said.

But the issue of property is one that Israeli officials are familiar with, even if the percentages here may come as a surprise and may be challenged after the publication of the report.

Asked about Israeli seizure of private Palestinian land in an interview with The Times last summer, before these figures were available, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: “Now I don’t deny anything, I don’t ignore anything. I’m just ready to sit down and talk. And resolve it. And resolve it in a generous manner for all sides.”

He said the 1967 war was a one of self-defense. Later, he said: “Many things happened. Life is not frozen. Things occur. So many things happened, and as a result of this many innocent individuals on both sides suffered, were killed, lost their lives, became crippled for life, lost their family members, their loved ones, thousands of them. And also private property suffered. By the way, on all sides.”

Mr. Olmert says Israel will keep some 10 percent of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, possibly in a swap for land elsewhere. The area Israel intends to keep is roughly marked by the route of the unfinished separation barrier, which cuts through the West Bank and is intended, Israel says, to stop suicide bombers. Mr. Olmert, however, describes it as a putative border. Nearly 80,000 Jews live in settlements beyond the route of the barrier, but some 180,000 live in settlements within the barrier, while another 200,000 live in East Jerusalem.

But these land-ownership figures show that even in the settlements that Israel intends to keep, there will be a considerable problem of restitution that goes beyond the issue of refugee return.

Mr. Olmert was elected on a pledge to withdraw Israeli settlers living east of the barrier. But after the war with Hezbollah and with fighting ongoing in Gaza, from which Israel withdrew its settlers in the summer of 2005, his withdrawal plan has been suspended.

In March 2005, a report requested by the government found a number of illegal Israeli outposts built on private Palestinian land, and officials promised to destroy them. But only nine houses of only one outpost, Amona, were dismantled after a court case brought by Peace Now.

There is a court case pending over Migron, which began as a group of trailers on a windy hilltop around a set of cellphone antennas in May 1999 and is now a flourishing community of 50 families, said Avi Teksler, an official of the Migron council. But Migron, too, according to the data, is built on private Palestinian land.

Mr. Teksler said that the land was deserted, and that its ownership would be settled in court. Migron, where some children of noted settlement leaders live, has had “the support of every Israeli government,” he said. “The government has been a partner to every single move we’ve made.”

Mr. Teksler added: “This is how the state of Israel was created. And this is all the land of Israel. We’re like the kibbutzim. The only real difference is that we’re after 1967, not before.”

But in the Palestinian village of Burqa, Youssef Moussa Abdel Raziq Nabboud, 85, says that some of the land of Migron, and the land on which Israel built a road for settlers, belongs to him and his family, who once grew wheat and beans there. He said he had tax documents from the pre-1967 authorities.

“They have the power to put the settlement there and we can do nothing,” he said. “They have a fence around the settlement and dogs there.”

Mr. Nabboud went to the Israeli authorities with the mayor, Abu Maher, but they were told he needed an Israeli lawyer and surveyor. “I have no money for that,” he said. What began as an outpost taking 5 acres has now taken 125, the mayor said.

Mr. Nabboud wears a traditional head covering; his grandson, Khaled, 27, wears a Yankees cap. “The land is my inheritance,” he said. “I feel sad I can’t go there. And angry. The army protects them.”

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Monday, November 20, 2006

The Palestinians
Nations and narrativesNov 2nd 2006
From The Economist print edition

An Israeli academic who argues that Israel should confess to a deliberate campaign to expel nearly 800,000 Palestinians in 1948 is courting controversy at home

SO IS it to be 1967 or 1948? For watchers of the Middle East this question is shorthand for two different ways to think about the origins of, and solutions to, the long conflict between Israel and the Arabs of Palestine. In the eyes of the 1967 crowd, Israel was entitled to the borders it had before its abrupt expansion in the six-day war of that year. To make peace, the trick is therefore to create circumstances in which Israel will give up most or all of that land and allow an independent Palestinian state to arise in the West Bank and Gaza. That, as generations of failed peacemakers have discovered, is quite a tall order.

For the 1948 crowd, however, this way of thinking about the conflict is a mistake. They argue that peace is impossible unless Israel admits to and atones for the crime they say it committed nearly 60 years ago, in its independence war of 1948. That crime, they say, was deliberately to expel most of the Arabs of Palestine, close to 800,000 people, in order to be sure of having a Jewish majority for the Jewish state. Unless Israel somehow makes amends for this earlier catastrophe, which the Arabs call the nakba, peace is an impossibility.

Ilan Pappe, a political scientist at the University of Haifa, is one of the purest Israeli exponents of the 1948 view. He knows how provocative it is to choose the phrase “ethnic cleansing” for the title of his latest book. But ethnic cleansing, he insists, is precisely what occurred in the first Arab-Israeli war. It was, he says, a long-premeditated crime, implemented ruthlessly and then systematically denied. In 1948 the Zionists did not happen to wage a war that tragically but inevitably led to the expulsion of parts of the indigenous population. The ethnic cleansing of all of Palestine, he maintains, was the main goal all along.

Inside Israel, the historiography of 1948 has been in ferment for more than 20 years. Israel and its admirers once clung to a simple collective view about the circumstances of the state's birth. In a Solomonic judgment, the United Nations voted to divide the contested land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted the plan, but the Arabs tried to strangle the Jewish state at birth. In the course of the war that followed, the Jews overcame vast odds, guaranteeing their survival and expanding the territory allotted to them under the original plan. In the course of the fighting, most of the Arab population fled.

The last bit of this over-simple narrative has by now been comprehensively debunked. In 1988 Benny Morris, an Israeli historian, published “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949”, challenging the view that most of the Arabs fled of their own accord, in panic or at the behest of the Arab states. In many towns and villages they were put to flight deliberately. Mr Morris said that there was no master plan to evict all the Arabs: many expulsions took place in the heat of battle and the fog of war. But he also argued that the idea of a population transfer had been carefully considered by David Ben-Gurion and the other Zionist leaders, and hovered behind their actions and deliberations.

Mr Morris and other “new historians” in Israel unleashed fierce argument. Other scholars accused Mr Morris of traducing Ben-Gurion through selective quotation. In a new version of “The Birth” in 2004, Mr Morris offered even more evidence of the extent to which the Zionist leadership hankered after a population transfer, and the alacrity with which they exploited the events of 1948 to bring one about. (Mr Morris also said, in an interview that stunned his supporters, that Israel was justified in uprooting the Palestinian “fifth column” once the Arabs had attacked the infant state, and that the number executed or massacred—some 800, on his reckoning—was “peanuts” compared with, say, the massacres in Bosnia in the 1990s.)

Mr Pappe, however, goes a good deal further than Mr Morris. He insists that there was indeed a master plan. On March 10th 1948, he asserts, 11 men met at the “red house”, the Tel Aviv headquarters of Israel's pre-state army, the Haganah, to put the final touches to Plan Dalet, “a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine”. That evening, military orders were sent to units on the ground to prepare for the expulsion of the Palestinians. Mr Pappe calls this group of men the “consultancy”, an ad hoc cabal of political and military leaders dominated by Ben-Gurion. And population transfer did not just “hover” in the background of their thinking, he says. It was central from the start.

Still in a fog
You might suppose that after 60-odd years the story of 1948 would by now have been laid bare. Historians have access, on the Israeli side at least, to military archives, political minutes and personal diaries.

It is not, alas, so simple. The consultancy rarely kept minutes. Ben-Gurion was a prodigious diarist, but selective in what he recorded. Mr Pappe admits that he does not in fact know what Ben-Gurion said at the supposedly fateful “red house” meeting on March 10th. As for Plan Dalet, this is no new discovery by Mr Pappe. The plan has been public for decades and does not read unambiguously like a master plan for wholesale ethnic cleansing. The aim was to crush the Palestinian militias before the Haganah had to face the invading Arab armies. It gave commanders discretion to occupy or destroy and expel hostile villages or potentially hostile villages; some destroyed swathes of villages and a few did not. And Mr Pappe's detractors will ask why he ignores the orders sent out by the chief of staff of the Haganah, Israel Galili, on March 24th, reminding commanders of the policy to protect the “full rights, needs, and freedom of the Arabs in the Hebrew state without discrimination”.

Thanks to such inconsistencies, the history of 1948 will remain contentious. And like much of the “new history”, this book has the defect of treating the Palestinians only as victims, not as actors in their own right. But how much really turns on this debate among historians? Mr Pappe says that Zionism needs to acknowledge and reverse its original sin. But whether or not the population transfer of 1948 was premeditated (as he says), or largely opportunistic (as Mr Morris says), history can hardly be rewound over half a century.

Some thoughtful Israeli politicians have indeed acknowledged their country's portion of the blame. In his 2005 memoir, “Scars of War, Wounds of Peace”, Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former foreign minister (and historian) accepted that in 1948 an Arab community “in a state of terror” was put to flight by a “ruthless” Israeli army that perpetrated atrocities and massacres. This was done consciously to enlarge the borders of the new state. But whatever the moral case for letting back the refugees, Mr Ben-Ami says, after the war this was “out of the question in a historical and political context”, not least because of the illegitimate demands of the Arab states, who never accepted partition and indeed grabbed for themselves much of what should have been the Palestinian state.

As Ehud Barak's foreign minister, Mr Ben-Ami was part of the team that tried at Camp David in 2000 to make peace on roughly the border of 1967. Mr Pappe is not surprised that this failed. For the Palestinians, he says, “1948 is the heart of the matter and only addressing the wrongs perpetrated then can bring us closer to the end of the conflict.” But Mr Pappe wants Israel not just to apologise but also to let back all the Arab refugees, and so give up the idea of remaining a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. It is hard to imagine many Israelis agreeing to that, whatever they come to believe really happened in 1948.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Al-Jazeera and the Truth
by Charley Reese
Al-Jazeera, the Arab television network that the Bush administration hates so passionately, has launched its English-language service but is, of course, having trouble finding an American cable or satellite system willing to carry it.

The British Broadcasting Corp. had a man watch the first day's broadcast (it's being distributed in Europe) and gave it a rave review: accurate, but grim.

Since American politicians have involved us so deeply in the Middle East, the American public is entitled to see the truth of what's going on over there. The public can't get that from American television, which sanitizes its reports. Al-Jazeera shows you the grim reality. When the Israelis kill children, they show you the bodies and the weeping mothers. They show you all the ugly truth about Israeli and American policies and actions in the Middle East. They show you what war looks like.

So you don't need an electronic bug in the offices of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee to know that AIPAC and the Bush administration are putting pressure on the distributors to shun al-Jazeera. Denying Americans their First Amendment right to the truth, in regard to Israel, is always Job One with AIPAC. That is necessary because the truth about Israel's actions toward the Palestinians and other Arab countries puts the lie to all of the Zionist propaganda.

Even before the recent massacre of an extended family asleep in its home by Israeli tank fire, the Israelis had killed 57 unarmed children in their current Gaza attacks. That number comes from Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper that publishes an English-language edition on the Internet. I heartily recommend it, because Israeli newspapers, unlike American newspapers, are not afraid to criticize the Israeli government.

Israel is, after all, a country like any other, and its population consists of decent people and indecent people, as does the population of every other country in the world. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is the core problem in the Middle East. It drives everything else, and until that problem is resolved in a just manner, there will be no peace or stability in that region.

Recently, the U.S. again vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the murder of the extended family, using the same worn-out excuse that it was unbalanced. OK, the resolution could have said it condemned the sporadic firing of homemade rockets, which have killed one person in recent weeks, and the deaths of 18 innocent people, the latest of more than 150 who have been killed by the Israeli army. Even if it had said that, we still would have vetoed it. The Israelis – who, by the way, have the most high-tech military equipment in the region – said the deaths were a mistake. Yes, the death rate of Palestinians due to Israeli mistakes is very, very high.

The rest of the world is getting sick of watching us kowtow to the Israeli government. The U.S. is losing friends like a sycamore tree loses leaves in the cold blast of a November storm.

You should call your cable or satellite provider and request the English-language service of al-Jazeera. In addition to Haaretz, you should also check out the Angry Arab News Service, a Web site of an American college professor who isn't afraid of the truth.

I wish American politicians had never gotten us involved in the Middle East, but since they have, you deserve to know the naked truth of what's going on over there. Al-Jazeera will tell you. Fox News, whose employees act as if they are on Karl Rove's payroll, won't.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

November 14,2006

I will be going so maybe we want to meet up at my work and go together. What do you think?


From: Bronwin Peel
Sent: Saturday, October 28, 2006 8:03 AM
To: Meetin House Listserve
Subject: Karen Armstrong, author of The History of God, lectures on Islam

Dear Friends,
Karen Armstrong who wrote one of the most memorable
books I've read, The History of God, will speak on
Islam at the National Press Club on November 20th.

It's in the middle of the day. However, I plan to
attend and thought there would be others in the
meeting who would do so as well. Here is an
opportunity to know Islam without the fundamentalist
bias of either Christianity or Islam, an opportunity
to see how another people perceived God through the
prism of their cultural conditioning.

I believe when we understand the core beliefs of all
the Abrahamic religions, the yearning for a God we
can never fully understand, but only be awestruck by
the mystery, we can deliver ourselves from the
fundamentalism that is threatening the survival of our

I've cut and pasted below the attachment sent to me.
The lecture is free but early registration is


Monday, November 13, 2006

He can't leave the West Bank. She can't get in.
Israeli border policy keeps out those with foreign citizenship

By Joel Greenberg
Tribune foreign correspondent

November 12, 2006

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Adel Samara sat in what used to be his wife's beauty salon, now a mostly empty room with a few chairs and leftover hair dryers yet to be sold off.

It has been more than five months since he last saw his wife, Enayeh. Her business has closed, and Samara, a political economist, carries on his work alone from an office next door.

Enayeh Samara, 56, a Palestinian with American citizenship, was denied entry to the West Bank in May when she returned from a short trip to Jordan. She is among scores of Palestinians with American or other foreign citizenship living in the West Bank who have been turned away in recent months as part of a tightened Israeli border policy.

The Israelis say it is merely a stricter enforcement of visa rules. But Palestinians and human-rights advocates suspect the new restrictions are part of a deliberate policy to limit the Palestinian population in the West Bank or even push Palestinian families to leave.

Born in the West Bank, Enayeh Samara moved to Chicago as a teen with her family and became a U.S. citizen. During 31 years of marriage, she has lived in the West Bank on renewable three-month tourist visas issued by Israeli authorities and extended locally or renewed by traveling abroad and returning.

But on May 26, after a brief trip to Jordan to renew her visa, Enayeh was barred from the West Bank by Israeli border officials. Since then she has been unable to return home and is staying with a sister in the Chicago suburb of Westchester.

"When I went to the border they said: `We can't let you in. Go back to America or Jordan, whatever you want to do. We're not responsible,'" Enayeh Samara said in a phone interview.

The Samaras were suddenly separated.

"It is really very painful," said Adel Samara, 62. "You find yourself divorced from your wife because of nothing. There is no justification for this."

Samara's repeated applications to gain his wife resident status in the West Bank were rejected. Jailed by Israel in the past for membership in radical factions, he was barred from leaving the West Bank two years ago when he attempted to travel to a conference in Jordan.

Enayeh Samara said she felt cut off in Chicago. "I am away from my family, my country, my friends. I don't have anything over here, just my sister," she said. "It's the worst thing that can happen, to be separated from your family."

Israeli officials acknowledge that they are tightening controls, refusing the renewable tourist visas that enabled thousands of Palestinians with foreign citizenship to live in the West Bank even though they lacked formal residence there.

"There is no change in policy, but stricter enforcement," said Sabine Haddad, spokeswoman for the Israeli Interior Ministry's population administration.

Israel virtually stopped issuing such permits after the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in 2000. It also stopped processing applications on behalf of Palestinians abroad for permanent residence with spouses or other relatives living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, known as family unification.

There is an estimated backlog of 120,000 family unification requests submitted since the start of the uprising.

Denied entry

The tightened visa policy is especially a problem for the thousands of Palestinian-Americans living in the West Bank without resident status.

The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem says that it has been notified of more than 100 cases of Palestinian-Americans denied entry to the West Bank but that the actual number of cases could be significantly higher.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raised the issue with Israeli officials in October and later made public reference to it in a speech to a Palestinian-American group, promising to do everything she can "to ensure that all American travelers receive fair and equal treatment."

Shlomo Dror, the spokesman for the Israeli Defense Ministry department responsible for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said the tighter entry controls are being enforced to prevent misrepresentation by Palestinians entering repeatedly as tourists but actually staying as residents.

Critics of the Israeli policy say it is designed to make it impossible for Palestinians from abroad to come and live with spouses or other relatives in the West Bank.

In a recent report on the freeze of family unification permits, the Israeli human-rights group B'Tselem and another rights group, HaMoked, suggested that the policy is part of a deliberate attempt to limit the Palestinian population in the West Bank.

The report quoted Brig. Gen. Ilan Paz, a former chief of the Civil Administration, the Israeli military government in the West Bank, as telling B'Tselem and HaMoked representatives that Israel has consistently sought "to limit the number of Palestinians in the [occupied] territories," and that "the considerations are demographic."

Sam Bahour, 42, a Palestinian-American entrepreneur who has been living in the West Bank with his family for more than a decade, said the policy was harming people like him who had moved to the area after the 1993 Oslo accords to invest and help build the local economy.

Bahour, who was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, established an American-style shopping mall in Ramallah, played a key role in setting up the Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel and studied in an MBA program at Tel Aviv University.

Seeking a reversal

Faced with the prospect of being denied entry himself the next time his visa runs out, Bahour has been leading a campaign to reverse the Israeli policy.

"The people contributing to economic stability and investment are being kicked out, which means that the part of society that can help build a modern economy is not going to be here," he said.

Nofal Nofal, 35, a Palestinian-American who teaches electrical engineering at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, was faced with a painful choice when he returned with his family in August from a U.S. visit.

His wife, Woujoud, 35, a Jordanian-born Palestinian with U.S. citizenship, was turned back at the crossing from Jordan to the West Bank by Israeli border officials. Nofal, who has West Bank residency, had to decide whether to enter alone with his children or go back with them and his wife. She ended up staying in Jordan with the couple's year-old baby.

A few weeks ago, Nofal took three more of his children to stay with their mother, while he remains in the West Bank with his three oldest children.

"Life is really miserable, and we can't plan our future anymore," Nofal said. "We don't know whether to leave or wait for this to be resolved. American Jews can come here, stay and leave when they want. We, as Americans, should be treated equally."

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Deconstructing David Grossman
If he is Israeli left, who needs right?
By Gilad Atzmon*
10 November 2006

Gilad Atzmon highlights the inherent contradictions in the views of Israeli Zionist author David Grossman who appears to espouse peace with the Palestinians but shows worrying signs of Jewish supremacism.It would seem that the world is giving a standing ovation to the new Israeli orator, the author David Grossman. Israel's public relations desperately needs a righteous intellectual, an author who "talks peace", a man who preaches "reconciliation", a man of shalom. On 8 November the Guardian published a speech by Grossman which he gave the previous week at the Yitzchak Rabin memorial in Tel Aviv. Grossman is a "matured enlightened Israeli", a light left Zionist who craves for a change. I read Grossman's speech and I must say that, although the man is seen by some as an Israeli left intellectual, I see in his speech nothing but hard core Jewish supremacy and even maintenance of the old crude Zionist racial agenda. Grossman, like other Israelis, is totally submerged in a Zio-centric chauvinist discourse, a discourse of denial of the Palestinian cause; i.e. the right of returnI have collected and highlighted some outrageous extracts made by the newly emerging Hebraic left orator. To read this entire article cut and past the following: and the myth of "Jewish universal values"Grossman, the Israeli some of us love to love, serves us with a major glimpse into the secular Zionist mind. "I am," he says about himself, "a man entirely without religious faith". However, Grossman doesn't stop just there. "For me, the establishment - and very existence - of the state of Israel is something of a miracle that happened to us as a people; a political, national, human miracle."I ask myself, since when do secular beings believe in miracles? One may have to remind the "Israeli secular intellectual" that a miracle is "an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause". Indeed, Grossman, like many other Israelis, has managed to follow a new form of secularism. It is an atheism that "ascribes to some supernatural cause". Bizarrely enough, the Zionist seculars are pretty fundamentally orthodox about their new pathetic religion. I would like to help Grossman and suggest to him that there is no real, truly heroic miracle about Israel. Israel is just a vulgar, racist ultra-nationalist state. Israel's relative success seems miraculous only because it took its Arab neighbours a few generations to adapt to the level of Zionist barbarism.According to Grossman, Israel wasted that "miracle", that "great and rare opportunity that history granted it, the opportunity to create an enlightened, properly functioning democratic state that would act in accordance with Jewish and universal values".Following Grossman's glimpse into the Jewish spirit, enlightenment and democracy are foreign to Jews and their occurrence within the Jewish sphere should be acknowledged as a miracle. Probably without realizing it, Grossman admits that "enlightenment" and "democracy" oppose the Jewish spirit. Certainly, this intellectual current is not new, neither is it original. The early waves of Zionist ideologists believed that, in Zion, a new Jew would emerge: a civilized, secular, democratic and enlightened Jew who rebels against his morally degenerate Diaspora ancestor.More worryingly, Grossman bluntly deceives his listeners by referring to "Jewish universal values" as if such values are nothing but an accepted common knowledge. As bizarre as it may seem to some, there is no general accepted set of "Jewish universal values". Is there a book that presents a notion of "Jewish universal values"? I don't think so. If there is a set of values that should be acknowledged as "Jewish universal values", those are properly conveyed by the Judaic core. I believe that Torah Jews who genuinely support the Palestinian cause may know something about universal values. Yet, Grossman portrays himself as a secular man. Surely, it isn't the Judaic orthodox interpretation he is thinking of when referring to Jewish universality. In fact, it is Christianity that translates Judaism into a universal value system. It is Christianity that transforms the "neighbor" into a "universal other". Without a doubt, there are plenty of universal humanists who happen to be Jewish by origin. Yet there is no recognized set of "Jewish universal values". Grossman and other Jewish intellectuals who spread the myth of "Jewish universalism" are deceiving themselves and their listeners. Moreover, the fact that Jewish secularism lacks a philosophical background may explain the general moral bankruptcy of the Jewish state. As we will read soon, even Grossman himself falls into the same trap. He may be aware of the concept of morality but he fails to present a consistent moral worldview. He may be aware of the negative effect of racism but he himself manages to fall into supremacist bigotry rather easily.Supremacist worldviewGrossman is courageous enough to stand up and admit that "violence and racism" has taken control of his home, Israel. So far so good. For a second I tend to believe that Grossman is indeed an enlightened anti-racist secular Jew but then, just a sentence later, he asks "how can it be that a people with our powers of creativity and regeneration" has managed to finds itself today "in such a feeble, helpless state"?The critical reader may ask himself what is Grossman really referring to when he says "a people with our powers of creativity and regeneration"? It is rather simple. Grossman truly believes in the uniqueness of the chosen people. In other words, Grossman is basically a biological determinist.The question to be asked here is why does the Guardian dedicate three pages to a Jewish supremacist? I believe that Jews do enjoy some freedoms the rest of humanity lacks. For instance, I find it hard to believe that the Guardian would give a voice to a German philosopher who praises Aryan people's "powers of creativity and regeneration". Somehow, a Jewish intellectual can get away saying just that.Although Grossman is honest enough to admit that the Palestinians have placed Hamas in their leadership, he calls on Ehud Olmert to "appeal to the Palestinians, over Hamas's head. Appeal to the moderates among them, to those who, like you and me, oppose Hamas and its ideology".Mr Grossman, if you are indeed a universal humanist, something I obviously suspect, the you had better learn to listen to Hamas rather than speak to the Palestinians over their elected leaders' heads.Grossman obviously fail to respect his neighbours, he fails to respect their democratic choice. Generally speaking, I suggest that we leave the despicable method of speaking over heads to Bush and Blair. Intellectuals have the privilege of listening and to acting ethically.Grossman the victimBut Grossman's Jewish chutzpah doesn't stop just there. "Look at the Palestinians, just once," he tells Olmert. "You will see a people no less tortured than we are." Yes, this isn't a joke. Grossman, the colonialist Jew who dwells on occupied Palestinian land in a state that is ethnically cleansing an indigenous nation, is looking at the terrorized Palestinian victims while saying "they are almost as tortured as me".This says it all. It summarizes the level of Zio-left blindness. Indeed, if these are the Israeli leftists, who need the right?In his concluding paragraph, Grossman admits: "The differences between right and left are not that great today." He is correct. Within the European political discourse, Grossman, the Israeli left intellectual icon, is nothing other than a trivial right-wing neo-conservative, a man who appears apologises for a form of Jewish supremacism that is disguised as goodwill, a man who talks over the heads of other people.Grossman and the two-state solutionGrossman is deceiving himself and his listeners by saying that "the land will be divided, that there will be a Palestinian state". You are partially wrong, Mr Grossman. This land will never be divided. I will make it very simple so that you and your very few Zio-leftists may understand once and for all. Palestine is a land, Israel is a state. Palestine will always be Palestine, i.e. a land. Israel, on the other hand, is a racist, nationalist state and will disappear. The land won't be divided. It will reunite into one Palestine. Rather than maintaining a racist, nationalist state, I call Grossman and his friends to join the one Palestine movement, a movement that endorses equality in the land of Palestine, a Palestine where values are universal.

Friday, November 10, 2006

ADC Press Release:
Arab Americans Making the Difference!
Washington, DC | November 8, 2006 | Yesterday hundreds of thousands of Arab Americans headed to the polls to weigh in on midterm elections. Across the country, in tight races, Arab-Americans made the difference through their votes. Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives and the first woman speaker of the House will be Nancy Pelosi. Control of the Senate has yet to be determined with the Virginia senate race still too close to call. Many Members of Congress who have worked with ADC to protect domestic civil rights and civil liberties will now take over important committee assignments. In late January 2007, the 110th Congress will begin its work. ADC encourages all of our members to actively begin working with these new Members of Congress as soon as they take office. It is extremely important for Arab-Americans to begin building relationships with these Congressmen and women and educating them on the priorities of Arab-Americans.

As power shifts from the Republican Party to the Democratic, leadership of all House committees will change. Some of these new changes include Arab-American Congressman Nick J Rahall who is expected to take the Chairmanship of the House Committee on Resources. New York Congressman Peter King, who this summer publicly supported racially profiling Arab and Muslim passengers, has lost his position as Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Congressman Henry Hyde, a vocal supporter of Palestinian Christians will retire from Congress. Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who currently chairs the Middle East Subcommittee, was expected by many to take over the full committee upon Hyde's retirement. With Democrats gaining control of the House, California Congressman Tom Lantos will now head the House International Relations Committee. According to insiders, the list below is the most likely line-up all House committees.

• Agriculture: Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., takes over from Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
• Appropriations: Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., replaces Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif.
• Armed Services: Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., takes over from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.
• Budget: Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., replaces Rep. Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, who left the House to run for governor.
• Education and the Workforce: Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., replaces Howard (Buck) McKeon, R-Calif.
• Energy and Commerce: Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., takes over from Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.
• Ethics: Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., replaces Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.
• Financial Services: Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., replaces Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, who is retiring.
• Government Reform: Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., takes over from Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.
• Homeland Security: Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., replaces Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
• House Administration: Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif., replaces Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich.
• Intelligence: The new chairman is uncertain. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., is the ranking member, but she is unlikely to be reappointed to the panel by House Speaker Pelosi. The top candidates include Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., and Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R Mich., is the outgoing chairman.
• International Relations: Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., takes over from Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill, who is retiring.
• Judiciary: Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., replaces Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.
• Resources: Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., takes over from Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif.
• Rules: Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., replaces Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif.
• Science: Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., replaces Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., who is retiring.
• Small Business: Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., takes over from Rep. Donald Manzullo, R-Ill.
• Transportation and Infrastructure: Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., replaces Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.
• Veterans Affairs: Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., replaces Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind.
• Ways and Means: Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., replaces Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., who is retiring.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tthe following article was emailed to answer my listserve posting about the expulsion
on November 2.

This doesn’t directly address your question, but it’s clear that Israeli policies have changed.

In the Light,

Israeli policy splits Palestinian families

By Charles Levinson
Agence France-Presse

The Jordan Times -- Tuesday - October 24, 2006

RAMALLAH — Last May Adel Samarra’s wife of 31 years left the West Bank to go to Jordan to renew her Israeli visa for the 126th time.

On the 125 previous occasions the process had gone off without a hitch for the US passport holder, but five months ago Samarra’s wife was suddenly denied entry as she tried to return to her husband, children and grandchildren.

Like thousands of other Palestinians, Samarra was left stranded by Israel’s recent decision to close a loophole that allowed thousands of foreign passport holders to remain in the Palestinian territories by renewing tourist visas every three months.

The new policy, which Israeli officials say is merely enforcement of an already existing law, has divided scores of Palestinian families and threatens to split up many more.

“I’ve spent half my life with her,” says the glum-faced Samarra, sitting in his wife’s now shuttered beauty salon in downtown Ramallah nursing a bottle of Carlsberg.

An economist with a PhD from London University, Samarra is also an outspoken Marxist with a long history of anti-Israeli political activism. Because of his dissident history, Israel refuses to grant the 62-year-old permission to travel abroad to visit his wife, who has moved in with a sister in Chicago.

“I knew the Israeli occupation could steal my property, but I never thought it would steal my wife,” adds Samarra.

The Israeli crackdown on the tourist visas is part of a broader campaign to undermine the Hamas government, observers say, but Palestinians say it is collective punishment for their democratic choice in January’s parliamentary elections.

For years, foreign residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip simply renewed their tourist visas every three months in order to stay legally, but now that Israel has stopped renewing those visas they find themselves in a unique bind, a bureaucratic no-man’s land.

If they leave, they may not be allowed back in, and if they stay, they do so illegally.

Israel insists foreign passport holders need proper residency visas to remain in the Palestinian territories, but Palestinians say applications are either ignored or rejected.

“The applications for residency go nowhere,” says Anita Abdallah, a Swiss-Palestinian woman married to a Palestinian who fears she too will be denied entry the next time she travels abroad.

Abdallah says Palestinian authorities have over 60,000 unprocessed applications that they haven’t even bothered handing over to the Israelis since the Jewish state severed contact with the Palestinian Authority after Hamas came to power.

Those turned away have been predominantly American passport holders, of which there are about 35,000 living in the West Bank and Gaza, according to the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

Many are businessmen who serve as a pillar of the already faltering Palestinian economy. Many others work for non-governmental organisations, as teachers, or aid workers.

In one of the more dramatic cases, Tariq Ramahi, an American cardiologist from Yale University who was offered a position at Jerusalem’s Al Quds University, has been denied entry.

“Palestinian universities have a significant number of faculty members who hold foreign passports and if these people are expelled it will mean considerable harm to those universities,” warns Israeli peace activist Jacob Katriel.

The steady stream of complaints from US citizens prompted US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to raise the issue with Israeli officials during her recent visit to the region and the US embassy has also sought clarification about the Israeli policy.

“The US government is committed to ensuring that all Americans receive equal treatment,” US embassy spokesman Geoff Anisman told AFP.

Anisman said that over 100 cases of US citizens being denied entry had been brought to the embassy’s attention, and said there were likely many more.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev says Israel is working to address the problem.

“You had a situation for many years where people were staying here for an extended period of time on tourist visas and this wasn’t correct,” Regev told AFP. “This was a misuse of a tourist visa so the government decided that this shouldn’t be happening.” “The decision has worked against some people who at least claim they have no alternative so the government is looking into the decision that was taken.” Samarra sits in the soon-to-be vacated hair salon, flanked by a gaudy Vidal Sassoon poster and hair dryers ready to be carted off to storage. He thumbs through pictures of him and his wife.

One of the vintage photographs with weathered corners is from their wedding day in October 1975. Another one shows the then-young couple laughing on a rust-coloured futon in a London apartment in the late 1970s.

“She has made me very happy,” says Samarra. “I’ve learned so much from her, more than I learned from all my books.”
Quaker Expulsion From West Bank

My friend, Jane, an American woman, who lives in Ramallah wrote:

November 1, 2006
The couple that run the Quaker Center and Program (American Friends
Service Committee) were given one week to pack up and leave when they
entered Israel recently. In addition one of the English teachers at the
Friends School, founded and supported since decades by US and English
but mostly US Friends was denied entry, leaving noone to teach her 7th
grade English classes.
the couple are appealing and we hope for the best. Note that none of
these people are any security threat or offer anything other than
goodness, also that the US and Israel have a reciprocal agreement which
says that we have to apply the same entry/reentry/visa regulations to
each others citizens.

November 2, 2006
Note that all of these people are US citizens, and that the Friends
School has been a Western Christian institution out here for about 40
years, bringing Western values and moderation to people, increasing the
image of the West and esp Christians there, etc. A huge investment and
effort on the part of thoughtful caring Chrisitans down the decades now
being denied any assurance of crucial staff.

I believe she is mistaken about forty years. The Quakers have had an organized presence in the West Bank for over 100 years.

November 2, 2006
I sent Jane’s emails to my Meeting House through the meeting Listserve and received the following replies:

Keith wrote:
sending this offlist
Ramallah Friends was originally established if memory serves by the
aunt and uncle of Rufus Jones! That should give an idea to its original

Note the term "original" -- it is possible that the 40 year span may
refer to the school being closed for a while after israelis took control
of the West Bank in '67 6-day war. I don't know, but I would suspect
that might be the case.

On November 3 Joe wrote:
Bronwin, Is there someone we can write to, either in Israel or the US govt to express our concern about the visa difficulties of Quakers, and residents generally, in the West Bank? This is surely not in anybody's interest, no matter what you think about the situation there. Jim
My reply:
Yes, write your US Congressman and object strongly tothis outrage. I've had a meeting with my Congressman who has promised to help to resolve this. I had hoped all Friends would have volunteered to do something. You are the only one I've heard from.

Joe’s letter to him Congressman:
I have recently learned that Israel has apparently adopted a new policyof not renewing visas for long-time residents of the West Bank who are not citizens. This has affected many Americans, both of Palestinian and non-Palestinian descent. It has disrupted countless families, and interfered with international efforts to promote peace and understanding.
I have a personal interest because my religious faith, the Society of Friends (Quakers) has for many decades operated a school in Ramallah, which is now starting to have difficulties maintaining residence visasfor its staff. I fully understand the that Israeli-Palestinian situation is complicated and does not lend itself to easy solutions. I have long resisted seeing either side as all "right" or all "wrong." But preventing the very poeple (such as the Quakers of Ramallah and others) who are working to promote peace and mutual understanding from continuing to live and work on the West Bank can be in nobody's interest, at least not anybody who desires a peaceful solution.
The United States has tremendous influence with Israel, and still enjoys considerable credibility as a potential peacemaker on both sides. Please use whatever influence you can personally to persuade Israel to reverse its recent policy change regarding renewal of visas for peaceful, ordinary residents who cleary pose no security threat (even the Israeli government is not claiming that they do).
Thank you.
November 4, 2006
From Raymond,
This news piqued my curiosity, and so I telephoned Bill Pierre
who runs the Middle East desk at AFSC to find out what is going
on. He says that there has been a shift in policies by the Israelis
regarding work visas that they issue to foreigners working in
Palestine. This change happens to affect Quakers disproportionately
although it is not targeted at Quakers.

One shift in policy affects ex-patriot Palestinians no matter what
country they are now citizens of. Their work visas are not being
renewed. I think that a number of such people are Friends and/or
are employed by the Ramallah Friends Meeting or the Friends
International Center in Ramallah.

Another shift affects the many foreign workers of any origin who work
for international organizations and who in the past have been 3-month
work visas, which I believe is a majority of such workers. The old
policy for many decades has been that the 3-month work visas would be
regularly re-issued upon request. This worked out well for many
teachers whose semesters could fit within such 3-month periods,
although I think they would have to leave the country at Christmas and
Spring breaks and re-enter upon approval. Again, this arrangement had
been in effect for decades. Now such visas are not renewed. A select
few international workers are granted annual visas which are expected
to be renewed despite the other policy chsnges, but it is unikely that
a larger number of these visas will be issued. The many international
workers who had relied upon 3-month visas to work in Palestine are
now largely out in the cold.

Bill Pierre says that usually these kinds of policy changes are made
by a decision of the Israeli parliament, however at this time the
shift appears to have been initiated internally within one of the
Israeli government ministries. There is also supposed to be an
arrangement in place where re-approved visas for Palestine may be
granted if certain officials, one from the Israeli government and
one from the Palestinian government, both agree on the list who who
shall be approved. But discussions between Israeli and Palestinian
officials have broken down because of the larger situation, and
apparently some lower level Israeli bureaucrats have taken

Concerns about these issues have been taken up at the highest
diplomatic levels by various countries who have citizens working in
Palstine, including by U.S. Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice. A
solution does not seem imminent. It's a bit of a mess.

Thanks to Bill Pierre for the info. Thanks to Chris Pifer for
referring me to Bill.

My reply to Raymond:
Dear Raymond,
Thank you for obtaining this information and emailingit to me and the Listserve. I'm always interested in motivation. Regardless of what branch or level of the Israeli government the policy change was made the Palestinians I know believe the reason for the expulsion is a deliberate attempt by the Israeli government to remove foreign witnesses to an another imminent major land grab. In recent decades Palestinians have been very successful living in the abroad and they own homes and acreage in the West Bank.
Palestinians who do not work in the West Bank and only want to return for visits are also denied re-enty. Refusing the reentry, makes it easier for the Israelis to confiscate their land and unoccupied homes.

I was emailed an article this week that declared the Israelis had backed down on refusing the three month VISA to American citizens entitledf: Israel backs down on VISAS for Palestinians from US By Harry de Quetteville in Ramallah. I tested it yesterday morning. I called the Israeli Embassy in DC to see if I can get a VISA before leaving for Israel. I was told I would have to apply for the VISA after I arrive in Tel Aviv and I may be granted three months. I may be granted 2 to 3 days "for security purposes". (I'm a grandmother in my sixties, currently walking with a cane?) That means I can not return to the lovely little house in the village I inherited in February from my husband.

November 4, 2006
From John, another member of my Quaker meeting house:

Yes, I did receive it. I am sorry not to have replied
sooner, but I have been very busy, and I leave
tomorrow for a two week trip to Israel/Palestine
myself. I will let you know more about what I learn
when I get back. I keep hearing more stories, and the
situation keeps changing.


to be continued

Thursday, November 02, 2006

02 November 2006
Editorial by Rela Mazali Published in Boston's "Jewish Advocate"
The following editorial written by Jerusalem Women Speak 12 participant Rela Mazali appeared in The Jewish Advocate newspaper of Boston, Massachusetts on Thursday, November 2, 2006.

Stand With Me for Justice
By Rela Mazali

The Jewish Advocate
Thursday November 2 2006

This week, Rela Mazali writes about standing in solidarity with her Palestinian colleagues.

Recently addressing audiences throughout New England along with two Palestinian partners, I find that many – especially Jewish people – expect me, as a Jewish Israeli, to take issue with my partners and represent what they perceive as “the Israeli standpoint.” Such expectations originate in the mistaken equation of the official Israeli line with what is held true by Israelis in general. They assume that Israeli government policies are in line with what is actually good for Israeli people. Repeatedly foiling these expectations, I fully endorse the descriptions offered by my Palestinian partners, Ghada Ageel of Khan Yunes refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, and Shireen Khamis of Beit Jala, adjacent to Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank.

Rather than arguing an alternative analysis, I tell our listeners that the first, most important comment I am able to add is how desperately urgent it is to take action toward stopping the catastrophe we are facing.

As all three of us tell our listeners, the systematic devastation the territories occupied by Israel on the pretext of a “war on terror” is taking place as we stand by. The near one-and-a-half million people in Gaza have been starved of salaries, food, medical supplies and access to the outside world for seven months following the results of fair elections.

Summary executions of untried suspects, word-washed as “targeted assassinations” by Israel, as well as daily incursions, kill dozens of Gazans on a weekly basis. The West Bank is paralyzed by more than 500 checkpoints and roadblocks denying freedom of movement and with it the right to education, to medical care, to freedom of worship, among many others which, it appears, are not inalienable under Israel’s rule.

The new Israeli government, after failing to realize the script it envisioned for its war in Lebanon, is now attempting to show itself to be “strong,” while confusing strength with state violence.

While Israel’s government claims to be seeking peace, it continues to confiscate and settle Palestinian land, most recently taking over about 40 acres in the vicinity of Hebron. Meanwhile, spiraling military spending is leading to slashes in social budgets while well over one third of Israeli children already lived below the poverty line in 2005 and 40 percent of Holocaust survivors currently live in poverty in Israel.

Over the years preceding the recent war in Lebanon, the number one cause of deaths among Israeli soldiers was suicide, and large numbers of veterans are disabled by depression and drug abuse.

The U.S. military industry is making enormous profits from this conflict. Seventy-five percent of U.S. military aid to Israel (to the tune of more than three billion a year) is earmarked for purchases from American producers. We call on Americans to stand for truth and justice.

Rela Mazali, Shireen Khamis and Ghada Ageel are three women (a Jewish Israeli, a Christian Palestinian and a Muslim Palestinian) traveling in the United States as the 12th national “Jerusalem Women Speak” tour sponsored by Partners for Peace. The tour visited New England communities this October. More information is available at

© 2006 The Jewish Advocate. All rights reserved.
From: Rashid
Subject: Mustafa Barghouti on the factional infighting in Al Ahram Weekly
Date: Thu, 02 Nov 2006 22:39:37 +0000
The prison and its wardens
Mustafa Barghouti* makes an impassioned plea to his Palestinian countryman to cease factional infighting and, with one voice, condemn and resist the occupation


Being a Palestinian is to know prison first hand. As anyone who went through prison knows, prisoners are often allowed to share the space within the wards and even fight for turf, so long as the warden has total control of the locks and keys and of the doors and the walls. For the warden, what matters most is that he can get inside the ward anytime he wants and keep the inmates in line. Nothing is sadder when the inmates get so absorbed in their fight for turf that they forget their real situation: that they are in prison and therefore powerless.

For the past seven months, this has been the case in the occupied territories, where Fatah and Hamas have been too busy pushing each other around to think of anything else. Meanwhile, the occupation forces have escalated their brutal attacks, expanded their settlement building activities, continued to build the racial separation wall, and kept changing Jerusalem's borders and demographics. The Israelis are destroying every chance for an independent Palestinian state, and we're too busy to speak in one voice.

The occupation forces have put us into prisons of various sizes. Some are as small as a cell, as in Al-Noaman and Qalqilia. Some are more like a ward, as in Bethlehem and Nablus. Others are larger, such as the Gaza Strip. In these prisons, we continue to fight and call each other names. We continue to jockey for imaginary power, a power that is totally controlled by our occupiers.

The occupation is approaching its 40th year and has perfected its racist system of oppression. Meanwhile, we're as divided as ever, incapable as ever of foiling its schemes. The occupation authorities are holding back the salaries of government employees, yet no one raises their voice in protest. On the contrary, we're blaming each other for the consequences. Everyone knows that the sum total of the Palestinian money held by the occupation forces, unjustly and in contravention of earlier agreements, amounts to $550 million -- more than enough to cover all the unpaid salaries.

Donors from the East and the West are vying to boost the size of our security services. Now we can make it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the only government in the world where security personnel (over 81,000) outnumber the rest of public servants. And yet we have no security and no peace. Worse still, our security services are being used as militia, a matter that is degrading by any standards.

We used to criticise the Palestinian budget because it earmarks 25 per cent of its expenditure for security, 0.8 per cent for agriculture, and nine per cent for health. Now things are getting even worse. The next budget -- applicable once and if the siege is ended -- will allocate 33.5 per cent for security, 0.7 per cent for agriculture, and seven per cent for health.

The last Legislative Council was marginalised. But our answer to Israel's abduction of 40 members of the new Legislative Council was to bring the council's activities to a standstill. Our paralysing factional strife stopped us from finding any solution to the undemocratic acts of the occupying power.

During the first Intifada, we used to challenge the occupation. We used to organise medical relief, in defiance of Israel, to treat the wounded and take care of the patients. When Israel closed our schools and universities, we organised grass-root education committees. When the occupation authorities arrested us, we set up clinics and classes within the prisons. Now we close our schools with our own hands. And some of us feel no pity at the sight of a poor woman needing medical help to deliver her baby.

Despite the siege and the prisons -- and at a time when we had no government -- no one went hungry during the first Intifada thanks to social schemes and organised charity. Now thousands cannot feed their children, while others are getting fat on incredibly high wages -- by local standards -- working for foreign agencies.

Israel has learned from its failures during the first Intifada. Israel managed to distract us through the Oslo Accords and its annexes. Then it proceeded to change the rules of the game, to demonise our just struggle and denigrate our humane principles. Now we have to prove our good conduct to the world with every passing day. And instead of standing together in the face of this grave injustice, some of us are pleased to prove our compatriots wrong.

Israel's whole strategy is based on distorting the essence of our struggle, on twisting international laws and norms. Israel wants to turn the occupied territories into disputed territories. Israel wants to portray the legitimate struggle against injustice as acts of terror. Israel wants the blame to fall not on the occupation, but on the victims of occupation. And yet Israel's ideas are now seeping into our political culture. Some of us are now ashamed to assert our right to defend our dignity and resist. Some of us want us to capitulate instead of understand and change reality.

At the moment when we need a unified strategy and action, when we need to capitalise on Israel's failure in Lebanon, when it takes a mere visit by a journalist to the occupation walls to see Israel's inhumanity, the world media is focused on our infighting.

I have said it before, and I will say it yet again. There is no way forward except through a unified national command. We need to agree, even temporarily, on a unified vision. And we need to have a government of national unity -- be it from the factions, the technocrats, or the independents. The most important thing is for the government to be united.

We need a unified mechanism to manage the conflict, defend our rights, break the siege, and protect our people and our name from the harsh judgement of history. We need to remember that the conflict must not be among our factions, but between our people and the forces of occupation, injustice, and repression.

We need to remember that however big the prisons we live in now, in our villages and towns, they are still prisons. And the only way to bring down the walls of those prisons is for us to work together. Those who are besieging us must know that they cannot divide us. We should unite in our vision, even while we disagree in our views. We need to remove from our eyes the speck that makes us unable to see the checkpoints, the daily arrests, the repeated incursions, and the gloating smile on the faces of our torturers and oppressors.

* The writer is secertary - general of the Palestinian National Initiative.

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Quaker Expulsion From the West Bank

A communication with my Meeting House concerning
denial of reentry into the West Bank for Quakers

Dear Friends,

I've cut and pasted the following email from my
friend, Jane, who asked me yesterday if I had
heard, "the Quakers were given one week to pack and
leave". It seems the Israelis are denying reentry to
any Friends who leave and try to return.

Jane has an interesting and distinguished background.
She graduated from Harvard where she studied Sharia,
Islamic law, and became a fluent speaker of Arabic.
She went to the West Bank as the administrator of a
multimillion dollar funded NGO about a decade ago.
After her contract ended she stayed on because she
loved the place and the people. She's returning to
the states in two weeks and is worried that she will
also be denied reentry into the West Bank.

Jane's Email
"The couple that run the Quaker Center and Program
(American Friends Service Committee) was given one
week to pack up and leave when they entered Israel
recently. In addition one of the English teachers at
the Friends School, founded and supported since
decades by US and English but mostly US Friends was
denied entry, leaving no one to teach her 7th grade
English classes. The couple are appealing and we hope
for the best. Note that none of these people are any
security threat or offer anything other than goodness,
also that the US and Israel have a reciprocal
agreement which says that we have to apply the same
entry/reentry/visa regulations to each others

Note that all of these people are US citizens, and
that the Friends School has been a Western Christian
institution here for about 40 years, bringing Western
values and moderation to people, increasing the image
of the West and especially Christians there, etc. A
huge investment and effort on the part of thoughtful
caring Chrisitans down the decades now being denied
any assurance of crucial staff."

I believe there has been a Quaker presence in the West
Bank for over 100 years. I think she is mistaken about
the Friends School being a mere 40 years old.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

AAI Alert: Palestine: Peace Not Pandering
More than two weeks before its release, former President Jimmy Carter's upcoming book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" is already fodder for political pandering on the left and right. In the book, the Nobel Peace Prize winner asserts that, "Because of powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the United States, Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned." Eager to prove his point, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a statement saying, "With all due respect to former President Carter, he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel…We stand with Israel now and we stand with Israel forever…It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically based oppression, and Democrats reject that allegation vigorously." DNC Chairman Howard Dean joined in, saying, "On this issue President Carter speaks for himself, the opinions in his book are his own, they are not the views or position of the Democratic Party. I and other Democrats will continue to stand with Israel in its battle against terrorism and for a lasting peace with its neighbors." Perhaps most disappointing is the response from Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), who reportedly called Carter to chide him for the book's title. Conyers represents thousands of Arab Americans and has always been counted on as a voice of reason on Middle East issues.