Sunday, December 23, 2007

Scapegoats in an Unwelcoming Land
By Nir Rosen
Sunday, December 16, 2007; B02

Last Wednesday, a car-bomb blast on a crowded Beirut street killed Brig. Gen. Francois Hajj, one of Lebanon's top generals. The capital began buzzing with speculation that Hajj had been assassinated in retaliation for his role as the operational commander of the army's bloody three-month battle with an armed Islamic group last summer. In May, Fatah al-Islam -- a foreign jihadist group inspired by al-Qaeda, led by veterans of the struggle in Iraq and made up mostly of Saudis, Syrians and even some Lebanese -- ensconced itself on the outskirts of Nahr al-Bared, a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, and massacred Lebanese troops at an army checkpoint. Hajj's forces responded by indiscriminately bombarding the camp in the name of the war on terror, and the Lebanese public rallied 'round.

Palestinians had once again become Lebanon's scapegoats, victims of a land in which they have long faced slaughter and discrimination. Attacking them may be personally risky, but it's also often good politics; the assassinated general's boss, army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman, is poised to become Lebanon's next president. Suleiman isn't the first army commander to punish the Palestinians, and he won't be the first president to do so, either. Between 1958 and 1964, President Fuad Shehab created an elaborate, ruthless secret-service network to monitor the Palestinian camps. During his 1970-76 reign, President Suleiman Franjieh clashed militarily with Palestinian factions, even using the air force to bomb a neighborhood thought to be pro-Palestinian. I've heard followers of assassinated president-elect Bashir Gemayel, whose Maronite Christian militia massacred Palestinians in 1976, brag that he was stopped at a checkpoint in the early years of the country's 1975-90 civil war with a trunk full of the skulls of dead Palestinians. Even today, the Lebanese opposition's preferred candidate for president is Michel Aoun, a Christian retired general who also participated in the 1976 killings.

The rights of the Palestinian refugees have been ignored for six decades by a world that has wished them away. But the Middle East will never know peace or stability until they are granted justice. In 1948-49, around the conflict that Israelis refer to as their War of Independence and that Palestinians call the Catastrophe, some 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed to make way for the creation of the Jewish state. In 1967, during the Six-Day War, 400,000 Palestinians were expelled by the Israeli military, according to Amnesty International.

A series of subsequent peace processes has ignored the refugees, offered no compensation for their suffering and lost property, or refused to recognize their right to return to their homes in their homeland. It's not just the Israelis who have brutalized them; Palestinian refugees have been massacred in Jordan and Lebanon. Small numbers have become so radicalized that they have gone on to fight the U.S. occupation of Iraq. In Lebanon -- a small, weak state with a delicate sectarian balance and turbulent political system where, according to Refugees International, about 382,000 Palestinians have registered with a U.N. refugee-relief agency -- the refugee problem has never really left center stage.

Last summer, I witnessed yet another chapter in the book of the refugees' misery. By late June, most of the Palestinians from Nahr al-Bared had fled to Badawi, another refugee camp nearby. In a schoolyard there, I was stopped by a man named Abu Hadi, born in Haifa in 1946. "I am a person without an address," he told me. "I wish I was a donkey or a horse so I would have doctors and lawyers for my rights." He showed me a plastic bag with a sponge and a towel. "My bathroom is in my hand," he said.

The term "refugee camp" summons up images of tents and squalor, but Nahr al-Bared, like many of its counterparts elsewhere in Lebanon, had been a thoroughly urban camp, with low-slung apartment buildings. It even had soothing views of the Mediterranean. The 40,000 Palestinians of Nahr al-Bared wound up housed in schools in the Badawi refugee camp and Tripoli, watching from afar as their homes were obliterated. According to aid workers and Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, at least 42 Palestinian civilians had been killed by Sept. 2, when the Lebanese army and media declared that Gen. Suleiman's forces had won a great victory.

Only in October did the army finally begin to allow a trickle of Palestinians back to their homes, and then only in the so-called new camp, a small area on the outskirts of the original camp that had housed 2,000 families and been safely under Lebanese army control throughout the clash.

When about 1,000 families finally passed through the checkpoints, to the jeers of soldiers and demonstrators, they found only destruction. Every single home, building, apartment and shop that I saw had been destroyed. Most buildings had been burned from the inside; the signs of the flammable liquids that the soldiers had used were scorched on the walls, and empty fuel canisters were strewn on the floors. Ceilings and walls were riddled with bullets, shot from inside, seemingly for sport. Most homes that I saw had been emptied of furniture, appliances, sinks, toilets, televisions and refrigerators. Most shockingly, soldiers had defecated in kitchens and bedrooms, on plates, bowls, pots and mattresses; they had urinated into olive-oil jars.

The media were not permitted in, and most Lebanese outlets ignored or denied the outrages. When I managed to slip inside, I was shocked by the scope of the damage. The buildings were crumpled, windows broken, electrical wiring yanked out, water pumps destroyed, generators stolen or shot up. All the gold jewelry had been stolen, as had been the cash that so many Palestinians had stored in their bedrooms. Insulting graffiti were scrawled on the charred walls, as were threats, signed by various Lebanese army units. Every car in the camp that I saw had been burned, shot or crushed by tanks or bulldozers. The ruination had been strikingly personal; I saw photo albums that had been torn to shreds. Palestinians told me that they had seen their belongings on sale in the main outdoor market in Tripoli.

Like all institutions in Lebanon, the army is sectarian, a fact that helps explain the devastation. Most of the soldiers fighting in Nahr al-Bared had been Sunnis from northern Lebanon; the Sunnis had once seen Palestinian militias as friendly, but now they blamed the Palestinians for the outsiders of Fatah al-Islam and unleashed their fury on the camp. By contrast, refugees told me, Shiite soldiers from the south had been far kinder and more supportive after the fighting.

The camp had once been woven into the area's economy and culture. Now the Palestinians were again unwanted and rejected. "It is our destiny," one man said emotionlessly in his blackened home in Nahr al-Bared, standing near feces that Lebanese soldiers had left on his kitchen floor.

I saw Palestinian children's art from this period that depicted the Lebanese soldiers and tanks that destroyed the camp as Israelis, equating their suffering at the hands of the Lebanese with the suffering of their brethren at the hands of the Israelis. I saw videos filmed by Lebanese soldiers on the Internet, showing army medical staff abusing corpses and beating prisoners. Hundreds of Palestinians had been abused or tortured in Lebanese detention, according to human rights groups, and refugees told me that some had died from medical neglect of treatable wounds.

The refugees still faced harassment and the occasional beating by Lebanese soldiers. Nobody is helping them, but rather than giving up, hundreds of Palestinians were at work emptying their homes of debris and trying to get on with their lives. One woman stood on her balcony, throwing rubble from inside her home out onto the broken street. She was lucky; most of the Palestinians still couldn't get to their homes and could only wonder what awaited them. On the roof of one of the taller buildings in the new camp, I found Farhan Said Mansur, a sanitation worker, standing with his wife. They were gazing silently across to their distant home, whose broken roof they could just make out, as if they were looking over the border toward Palestine, where he was born. "It is a calamity to all Palestinians," he said.

Nir Rosen is a fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of "In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Ads by Google
Arabic Classes
Beverly Hills Lingual Institute Small Classes, Quality Teachers

Learn Arabic Abroad
Find Arabic abroad programs with's directories!

Learn the Hebrew Alphabet
A fun new way to learn the The Hebrew Alphabet

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 22, 2007

For this time of year from Zatoun‏

From: Zatoun (
Sent: Fri 12/21/07 8:50 PM
Reply-to: Zatoun (
To: Bronwinpeel (

Dear friends and supporters of Zatoun,

Were it as easy to unleash peace as
to open a bottle of olive oil.

We know that our efforts are not in vain but
are helping individual Palestinians cope with life
under occupation and to bring Palestine into
public consciousness in a positive way so that
one day it will become a political reality.

With God's grace and the goodwill of individuals
across North America justice and peace will one
day come to Palestine and its long-suffering people.

At this very special time, Zatoun extends thanks,
best wishes and blessings of peace and love.
Find out how you can participate in Trees for Life -
Planting Peace in Palestine - Zatoun's program
to plant 35,000 olive tree saplings in January.
fair trade olive oil from PALESTINE;

Labels: , , ,

The Forward: Insider Account of Peacemaking Details History of Misguided Diplomacy

Insider Account of Peacemaking Details History of Misguided Diplomacy

By Nathan Guttman
Wed. Dec 12, 2007

TOO LITTLE TOO LATE: A new study of American diplomacy in the Middle East says that when Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak met at Camp David it was a 'glaring failure.'

Washington - As negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians reached their peak at the Camp David summit of 2000, the Clinton administration was facing such a shortage of manpower that a translator who had no diplomatic experience was drafted to fulfill diplomatic missions in the most delicate moment of the negotiation process.
This insider account and others like it are detailed in a book, to be published in January 2008, on the past two decades of Middle East peacemaking efforts. The book, “Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East,” is being released by the United States Institute of Peace just as the Bush administration is throwing itself into new peace talks. “Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace” is meant to serve as a guide to current and future efforts.
The new book, written by former American ambassador to Israel and Egypt Daniel Kurtzer and U.S. Institute of Peace scholar Scott Lasensky, is an ambitious attempt to map all the failures and shortcomings of American administrations since the early 1990s. More than 100 leading policymakers were interviewed over the course of a year, including secretaries of state James Baker, Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell; senior White House officials, and leaders from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Syria and other parties to the conflict.
The result is a scathing account of missed opportunities, mistaken decisions and bureaucratic blunders.
“Missteps in American diplomacy have been both strategic and tactical,” the book concludes, pointing to “an alarming pattern of misguided diplomacy.”
Reports like this one do not have a good track record with policymakers in recent years. Philip Wilcox, a former American consul general in Jerusalem who served for more than three decades in the Foreign Service, said that during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, the State Department had a regular exchange of views with academics and experts, but recent administrations have been less interested in outside views.
“My impression is that this administration is immune to any kind of analysis and advice from people who are not part of it,” said Wilcox, who now heads the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a Washington group promoting Israeli-Arab peace.
He added that one of the reasons think tank studies rarely get the administration’ attention is the growing politicization of the research institutes.
The United States Institute of Peace has the advantage of its reputation for impartiality and bipartisanship. The institute was founded under a congressional mandate and was the main sponsor for the work of the Iraq Study Group.
The new study begins with the 1991 Madrid peace conference, which was arranged by George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state, James Baker. The experts interviewed for the study give Bush and Baker “the highest marks for both performance and outcomes” but are much more critical of the two administrations that followed.
Bill Clinton is characterized as being less disciplined and lacking focus and follow-through. Kurtzer and Lasensky say that when the Camp David summit rolled around, the peace team was small and isolated from other government agencies, with a severe shortage of experts on the Arab world and its culture.
In one particularly telling anecdote, the authors describe the moment when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak suddenly agreed to discuss the future of Jerusalem during the Camp David summit. The American team was caught by surprise and sent out every available expert to figure out what the American policy on Jerusalem was.
“It was one of the most dysfunctional groups of people I’ve ever worked with and will ever work with,” an unnamed former State Department official says of the Clinton peace team in the book.
Kurtzer and Lasensky describe Camp David as “the most glaring failure” of the period.
George W. Bush’s policy toward the region “lacked both commitment and a sense of strategic purpose,” according to the authors. They say that Bush missed several opportunities to take on peacemaking, from a 2001 report by former senator George Mitchell to a 2002 Arab League initiative and on through the 2005 election of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The book argues that Bush’s brokering attempts were hampered by internal disputes between the State Department and National Security Council, with special envoys getting little or no backing from the president.
The study also takes a critical look at the relations of the three administrations with Israel and the Jewish community and finds that Clinton and George W. Bush tended to take the Israeli standpoint instead of insisting on the American view.
“Our conceptions were filtered far too much through what Israel needed and wanted and required,” a former senior official from the Clinton era told the authors.
According to the book, at the peak of talks between Israel and Syria in 2000, the United States “was reduced to delivering an Israeli proposal to Syria.”
The authors argue that the only president to stand up to Israel and the Jewish community was the senior Bush, who insisted that Israel freeze settlements before receiving loan guarantees. Even this, the authors write, was handled in a problematic way, since it “unnecessarily alienated” pro-Israel groups in the United States and caused Clinton and the junior Bush to “overcompensate in a way that created a different set of problems.”
The report concludes that “the challenge for the president is to engage in tough love with Israel.”
The authors set out not only to map the failures of the past but also to provide diplomats in the current peace process with a manual for effectively pursuing peace in the region.
Kurtzer stressed the need for the current administration to put in place an effective system that will supervise and ensure that both parties live up to their commitments. “Monitoring, monitoring, monitoring. This is the key,” he told the Forward.
Kurtzer, who is currently a professor at Princeton University, says that many of his old colleagues will likely feel uncomfortable with the book’s sharp criticism of their conduct. But the authors and experts interviewed for the study see it as crucial to learn from past mistakes.

Wed. Dec 12, 2007

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christians and Muslims Weep Together
A Christmas Reflection on Palestine


As Christmas approaches this year, the thoughts of Christians all over the world will once again turn to Bethlehem, the holy town where Jesus was born over two millennia ago. Voices will be raised in joyful celebration and children everywhere will re-create the Christmas story to help us remember the circumstances in which the Christ child was born.
Such a momentous occasion in such humble surroundings heralded a new way of thinking about people's relationship with God and with each other. It shook the foundations of an unforgiving society presided over by an unforgiving God and proclaimed peace and goodwill on earth amongst all people. There was indeed much to hope for.
However, the tranquil pastoral scene so familiar to us is not at all evident in Bethlehem today. Bethlehem does not lie still, and peace on earth and goodwill towards all is as elusive as ever. The tyranny of Israel's occupation and its colonial expansionism is crippling the lives of both Palestinian Christians and Muslims alike. Yet, many Christians will again ignore the misery suffered by the Palestinians in the Holy Land and will celebrate Christmas without remembering that it was amongst this people and in their land that Jesus was born. Priests will chant, masses will be said, carols will be sung and nativity scenes will be created, but it is unlikely that many sermons will urge Christian congregations to speak out against the crimes being committed in Palestine.
Only recently, a delegation of eminent Australian Church leaders returned from visiting the Holy Land and reported their distress at 'the suffering and fear experienced daily by large numbers of people.' [1] The report criticizes Israel's military occupation for the 'systematic harassment, physical and psychological oppression, widespread unemployment, poverty, and economic deprivation' [2] of both Palestinian Christians and Muslims. No doubt these church leaders will encourage their ministries to spread the word before the momentum is lost, but there are many forces working against justice for the Palestinians. Their statement has already been criticized by the Israeli ambassador and they are likely to face objections not only from Jews who support a Zionist state in Israel, but also from Christian quarters.
A dangerous Christian ideology which endorses the rhetoric of Zionism and the conquest of all Palestine for Israel is making its presence felt in Australia. This Christian fervour for Israel has found expression in a revitalised Christian Zionism that began back in the sixteenth century [3] and is directed today against Islam and Muslims. In America particularly, it has misconstrued the messianic and apocalyptic legacy of the Christian faith and has replaced the Jewish and communist Anti-Christ of Christian Zionism's earlier imaginings with an Islamic Anti-Christ. This Anti-Christ, it believes, will be defeated in Israel where all mankind will gather for the coming of the Messiah. That it should take place in Israel, given the numbers of the world's populations, is an absurd notion even amongst the most devout. That the dispossession, degradation and humiliation of the Palestinians who have lived in this land for millennia, can be condoned on such a pretext is even more abhorrent and preposterous.
Unfortunately, the influence of this Christian Zionism is growing rapidly and threatens the thinking of a whole generation of mainstream Christians regardless of their denominations, including Christians in the Holy Land. Father Rafiq Khoury of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, gives a very disturbing account of Christian Zionism's effect on religion and politics. [4] Where once Christians and Muslims shared common values and aspirations in Palestinian society, Christian Zionism has succeeded in fragmenting this already battered community as it struggles to withstand Israel's punishing occupation. Amongst certain sections of this society, Christians and Muslims are now viewing each other with suspicion, and Christians in Palestine, like those abroad, are beginning to see Islam as the enemy. Needless to say, this has been enormously detrimental to the Palestine liberation movement.
It would surprise many Christians in the West that Palestinian Christians and Muslims have prayed in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity for centuries. In fact, the Qur'an - the holy book of Islam - refers often, and with great reverence, to Jesus and Mary. Muhammad himself preserved an icon of Mary and the child Jesus after the conquest of Mecca and ordered that it remain within the Ka'ba to which Muslims make their obligatory pilgrimage from all over the world. [5]
Since 638 CE, Muslims have had the right to pray in the south aisle of the church when the Patriarch of Jerusalem handed over Palestine to Caliph Omar as he swept into Bethlehem with his Arab armies. [6] Muslims recognise Jesus as the Christ, the mightiest Messenger of God who was born miraculously of the Virgin Mary and who, through God, was able to perform miracles. However, Christians and Muslims part ways on Christ's divinity. Muslims believe that there has always been and continues to be one God only and that joining Christ and the Holy Spirit with God the Father in what is known as the Trinity ­ a major tenet of Christianity ­ compromises that singular divinity of God.
It has not though affected their recognition of, and reverence for, Jesus and Mary. The highly regarded theologian of the early Christian Church, St John of Damascus actually thought that Islam was merely another form of Christianity[7], and indeed today, St John would probably be more comfortable with the practices and beliefs of Muslims than he would with the form of Christianity that has developed in the West, particularly Christian Zionism.
So much of the fear and antagonism we see today against Muslims come from ignorance. In Palestine, Christian and Muslims have lived together in harmony for centuries, and particularly in Bethlehem, they have not only shared Christmas celebrations, but even the Muslim feasts Eid al-Fitr at the end of the Ramadan fast and Eid al-Adha. As one young Bethlehem tour guide commented in 2002:
'We know how to celebrate together, because we know how to weep together. We have suffered as one people under 35 years of occupation. The same week that Mary, a Muslim mother of seven was killed in Beit Jala, Johnny, a 17-year-old, died in Manger Square as he was coming out of the Church of the Nativity, both shot by Israeli snipers. We're all inmates together, Muslims and Christians, in the same miserable prison called Palestine. We have no freedom, no peace, no jobs, no money for winter heating, no travelling to Jerusalem or between towns and villages, no future.'
And that is the sum of what is so often forgotten in the search for peace and justice: the escalating inhuman situation suffered by the Palestinians ­ Christians and Muslims.
Sing as we might this Christmas, the hopes and dreams of all the years is unlikely to be met in Bethlehem for those who live there. Nor are they likely to be met for the Palestinians barely hanging on to their miserable existence in Gaza, or the Palestinians in the other cities, towns and villages in the Holy Land and even less for the stateless Palestinians long deprived of hope in the refugee camps. Every chorister's hallelujah will just be a death knell for another generation of Palestinians and every Christmas reflection will become meaningless words of Christian faith, unless we are prepared to look beyond the tinsel and the feasting and really do something to stop Israel's crimes against both Christians and Muslims in Palestine.
Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia. See

Labels: , ,

Print - Close Window
From: "partnersforpeace"
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2007 18:53:20 -0000
Subject: [partnersforpeace] Op-ed from Jerusalem Women Speak 14 participant, Wejdan Jaber
Metal Detectors: My Biggest Fear
It's not the dentist or public speaking that I am afraid of. It is
the metal detector that is my biggest fear.

Every time I approach a metal detector gate, I get this strange fear
knowing that my ability to proceed to where I am going will be decided
by the person operating detector. Most times, I succeed in explaining
the reason the bells and whistles go off when I walk through the metal
detector, but sometimes I am not even allowed the opportunity to
explain and get denied entry.

In 1968, I was born with bi-lateral hip dislocation. I went through
several painful surgical operations to fix it, but none of them
worked. I grew up with my disability and the immense physical and
psychological pain it caused, including several years of being bullied
and picked on in school. Thirty years later, I had garnered the
courage and the money to replace my dislocated hips with a brand new
pair of artificial hips. Little did I know that my new hips would add
a new level of complexity to my life.

In the West Bank where I currently live, there are 85 manned checkpoints, 460 physical
obstacles, and many other "flying" checkpoints that cut the roads between Palestinian
cities and villages in the West Bank (UN OCHA report, Aug. 30, 2007 - www.ochaopt. org).
Only a few of these checkpoints are on the 1967 "green line" between the West Bank and
Israel, restricting Palestinians from entering Israel. Several of these manned checkpoints
contain metal detectors.

In metal detector line, I often see women taking off their jewelry or
hair pins; men taking out coins from their pockets; and older people
leaving their metal canes to the side or putting them through an
X-ray machine before they go through. It is like a test, I feel,
where everybody is eager to be let through and to collect their
belongings after the gate. It is a standard procedure that everyone
has to go through. If you are a Palestinian with dark hair and
"Middle-Eastern" features, this procedure may be more than just
standard protocol for you. You are a walking suspect because "you
fit the profile", and then, when the metal detector sounds its bells
also, it is as if it is shouting, 'Here she is, catch the terrorist!'

On a cold morning in January 2004, a 22-year-old mother of two
children, Reem Riashi, was sent by Hamas with an explosive belt to
Erez checkpoint between Israel and the Gaza Strip. She managed to
go through the Israeli security checks by claiming that she was
disabled and that she had metal parts in her body. Once she made it
through, Reem set off the explosive device taking her own life and
killing four Israelis. Reem must have realized that her suicidal
mission would leave her two children motherless, but I do not think
she recognized how her action would effect the thousands of disabled
Palestinians with metal parts in their bodies, including those who
have been wounded during confrontations with the Israeli army and have
bullet remnants or shrapnel in their bodies. She left all of us
prisoners because we set the metal detector off wherever we go.

In June 2004 while I was working for the United Nations office of the
High Commissioner for Human Rights. I was assigned to travel from
Gaza to Cairo to help with the work of the UN Special Committee that
investigates Israeli practices against Palestinian people under
occupation. The only way I could travel was through the
Israeli-controlled Rafah Crossing, south of Gaza. After waiting for
eight hours under the hot sun of a summer day in Rafah, I was ordered
to return to Gaza at once because the metal detector at the borders
went off. I tried to explain to the Israeli soldiers –whom I could
only see at a distance- my situation, but they would not come down
from their monitoring towers to check me personally. They kept on
saying through their loudspeakers "go back, go back or we will shoot".

And that's what I did. I went back through the metal detector gate
and I called the UN liaison office to see if they could help in
coordinating my passage as a UN employee, but they could do nothing.
Dismayed by knowing that I could face this every time I want to leave
the country, I headed home in tears. On my way back, I could not stop
thinking about the amount of anger, humiliation, and deprivation that
any human being can tolerate before he turns into a suicide bomber.
Of course, I didn't forget to stop by my office at the UN to hand in
the UN Passport that was issued to me especially for that mission.

www.filastiniyat. org

Labels: , , ,

Sealed Off by Israel, Gaza Reduced to Beggary
By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, December 15, 2007; A01

GAZA CITY -- The batteries are the size of a button on a man's shirt, small silvery dots that power hearing aids for several hundred Palestinian students taught by the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children in Gaza City.

Now the batteries, marketed by Radio Shack, are all but used up. The few that are left are losing power, turning voices into unintelligible echoes in the ears of Hala Abu Saif's 20 first-grade students.

The Israeli government is increasingly restricting the import into the Gaza Strip of batteries, anesthesia drugs, antibiotics, tobacco, coffee, gasoline, diesel fuel and other basic items, including chocolate and compressed air to make soft drinks.

This punishing seal has reduced Gaza, a territory of almost 1.5 million people, to beggar status, unable to maintain an effective public health system, administer public schools or preserve the traditional pleasures of everyday life by the sea.

"Essentially, it's the ordinary people, caught up in the conflict, paying the price for this political failure," said John Ging, director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, which serves the majority refugee population. "The humanitarian situation is atrocious, and it is easy to understand why -- 1.2 million Gazans now relying on U.N. food aid, 80,000 people who have lost jobs and the dignity of work. And the list goes on."

Israeli military and political leaders say the restrictions are prompted by near-constant rocket and small-arms attacks and concerns over what uses Palestinian gunmen might have for some materials entering Gaza, particularly fuel and batteries.

The Israeli cordon tightened in June, when Hamas, a radical Islamic movement at war with Israel, seized control of Gaza. Israeli officials have insisted to the Bush administration that no humanitarian crisis would result from the sanctions imposed on the territory.

But for Gazans, caught between Israel's concrete gun towers and the Mediterranean, the sense of crisis is pervasive as they struggle to keep their homes intact, buy essential food from a shrinking and increasingly expensive stock, and educate their children.

"I hold every man, woman and child in Israel responsible for this," said Geraldine Shawa, 64, the Chicago-born director of the Atfaluna Society. A tall, imposing woman who has lived in Gaza for 36 years, Shawa has watched the fortunes of her pupils squeezed in recent months by what she calls Israel's practice of collective punishment.

Israeli military officials said last week that 2,000 rockets had been launched from Gaza toward Israel this year, killing two Israelis, wounding many others and instilling fear across the southern region. Since the U.S.-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Md., last month, Israeli airstrikes and ground forces have killed 26 Hamas gunmen, the Islamic organization says, as well as at least four Palestinian civilians.

Hamas's military wing is not behind most of the rocket attacks, for which smaller armed groups generally assert responsibility. But Hamas leaders do little to stop the firing of the rockets and rarely, if ever, condemn them.

On Tuesday, Israeli tanks rolled into the central Gaza city of Khan Younis. Six armed Palestinians from the Popular Resistance Committees, a militant splinter group, and the radical Islamic Jihad organization were killed in fighting. Israeli officials labeled the operation "routine."

"I hold each of them responsible, just as they obviously seem to hold all of us responsible," Shawa said of the Israelis. "If the Israeli government really has the power and the desire to change, well, this is pushing me in exactly the opposite way -- over the edge."

An Isolated Collective

Moamen Ayash, a frail, 6-year-old Palestinian boy in navy blue slacks and a pressed dress shirt, walked to the whiteboard at the front of his tidy classroom to work through some simple sign phrases.

Moamen has not had a working hearing aid for three months. Israeli military officials said they had no idea the batteries were not being delivered.

The inability to hear even the faintest sounds, which hearing aids sometimes make possible for the deaf, hinders children such as Moamen from acquiring spoken language.

Because few of the estimated 20,000 Gazans suffering from hearing loss know even rudimentary sign language, the deaf here represent an isolated collective, dependent for funding largely on the kindness of strangers and the proceeds of their own crafts shop.

Their condition resembles in some ways the larger estrangement of Gaza, a fenced-in, chaotic jumble of squalid refugee camps set amid rubble-strewn dunes that might someday be perches for resort hotels overlooking the turquoise sea.

Work is rare. Food is scarce. Gasoline is so hard to come by that Mahmoud al-Khozendar, 49, has hung an effigy of a man in a suit above the empty gas pumps at his station. The sign pinned to the hanging man's chest reads: "The Man in Charge."

Israel delivers electricity to Gaza that provides roughly 60 percent of the territory's energy. An Israeli Supreme Court decision is expected any day on whether the supply can be reduced as punishment for the rocket fire from Gaza, which Israel evacuated in the fall of 2005 after nearly four decades of military occupation.

In the rank, crowded wards of Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, the dispensary is out of 85 essential medicines and close to using up almost 150 others.

Dialysis treatment has been cut back from three to two times a week for even the most critically ill kidney patients, roughly 900 in all. A stack of nearly two dozen blood-cleaning machines gathers dust in a corner, awaiting spare parts that Palestinian doctors say have not been allowed through the border crossings between Gaza and Israel.

The minister of health, Bassem Naim, said in an interview last week that he is husbanding a two-week stock of anesthetic at a time when Israel is threatening to mount a broad military offensive into Gaza to end the rocket fire.

"They have turned Gaza into an animal farm -- we only are allowed to get what keeps us alive," he said.

Since June, Naim said, more than three dozen Palestinians seeking treatment for cancer and other critical illnesses at Israel's more advanced hospitals were rejected for passage by Israeli security agencies. The Israeli nonprofit group Physicians for Human Rights estimates the number of rejections "in the tens."

According to Naim, at least 29 patients have died since June, including 12-year-old Tamer al-Yazji, who Palestinian health officials said was denied entry into Israel after developing acute complications from encephalitis. Of the patients who approached Physicians for Human Rights for help, seven died before being granted passage to Israel, according to the organization.

"What do you call sending dozens of Gaza patients to a slow death because they are refused treatment?" Naim said. "That's not a humanitarian crisis. That's a war crime."

Maj. Peter Lerner, Israel's military liaison for international organizations working in Gaza, said 8,000 Gazans have been permitted to enter Israel for medical care since June.

It is not a risk-free venture for Israel. In 2004, a Palestinian woman detonated an explosives vest near the main Erez Crossing, killing four Israelis and herself. A year and a half later, a 21-year-old Palestinian woman passing through Erez for medical care at Soroka hospital in southern Israel was discovered smuggling a 20-pound bomb, which she unsuccessfully attempted to detonate.

"Hamas should be held accountable to the Palestinian people in Gaza," Lerner said. "They can't fire rockets in the morning and expect the crossings to be open for the sick in the afternoon."

Blackouts and Shortages

When Israel withdrew 8,500 Jewish settlers from Gaza along with the soldiers protecting them, Israeli leaders said the strip could become a prosperous proving ground for a future Palestinian state.

But since the rocket attacks from Gaza began -- killing a total of 13 Israeli citizens since the start of the most recent Palestinian uprising in September 2000 -- the frequent closure of crossings to Israel has choked the export-reliant Palestinian economy.

Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in January 2006, trounced the U.S.-backed Fatah movement in Gaza in June. The violent takeover, which Hamas swiftly consolidated politically and culturally, cemented the strip's isolation.

The political divide is widening between the West Bank, where the U.S.-backed administration of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah is in control, and Hamas-run Gaza. The two regions were once envisioned as the twin territories of a Palestinian state.

Now rolling blackouts have begun across the strip, partly because the Palestinian Authority refused for days last week to pay the Israeli company that supplies fuel to Gaza. The strip was receiving only about 24,000 gallons of diesel fuel a day, the lifeblood of the private-sector economy. Before June, the strip received nearly 80,000 gallons of diesel a day.

The Authority has paid its bills, but Israel has limited daily diesel deliveries to Gaza to about 50,000 gallons, some of which is used by the Hamas government and security forces. In addition, Israel sends 80,000 gallons a month directly to the U.N. agency for refugees to ensure that its operation continues.

Lerner, the Israeli military liaison, said this week that he would contact the International Committee of the Red Cross to make sure hearing-aid batteries would be allowed through the crossings.

A spokeswoman for the Atfaluna Society said none had been received so far.

The restrictions have also hampered the society's vocational programs, which use well-equipped wood shops, weaving looms and pottery studios. Thread for traditional Palestinian embroidery, wood for painted boxes and pottery glazes mostly remain on the far side of the backlogged Israeli border crossings.

"We may have enough for another month," said Mohamed al-Sharif, 36, who supervises the classes. "Then we will run out again."

Trucks carrying tobacco and coffee usually have low priority in the lines backed up at the crossings. Israeli military officials say they try to push 60 to 70 trucks through a day, despite frequent rocket and small-arms attacks.

In the meantime, Gazans improvise. "We've bought 20 tons of coffee from every store here we could find," said Riyadh Haigar, owner of the popular Delice Coffee Shop. "Maybe it'll last a month. Then we close the doors."
© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Labels: , ,

From: A Friend
Subject: Ashrawi: The demographic argument is inherently racist
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2007 14:30:26 +0000
The demographic argument is inherently racist
an interview with Hanan Ashrawi bitterlemons: Israel's demand to be recognized as a 'Jewish state' at Annapolis caused an uproar among Palestinians. This doesn't seem like a new demand, so why the uproar?
Ashrawi: It is new in a sense. It is new as a prerequisite for negotiations. The demand has always been the recognition of Israel. Then Israel added the recognition of Israel's 'right to exist', and then the recognition of it's right to exist as a 'Jewish state'. But when the PLO recognized Israel in 1993 there was an assumption that that was it, in the context of a two-state solution and international law and UN General Assembly Resolution 181 and Security Council Resolution 242.

This issue of the Jewishness of the state came up recently mainly because of the so-called demographic issue--which to me is an inherently racist issue--which became the central motivation for the two-state solution among the Israeli right, including Ariel Sharon. The fear of the demographic balance, projections for the birthrate and so on, led people to this position, and now Israel wants to ensure that there is always a Jewish majority.

bitterlemons: Why is this position unacceptable to the Palestinians?

Ashrawi: Once you start raising this issue it means that you want to eliminate the Palestinian refugees' right of return because they happen not to be Jewish. Israel sees the return of Palestinian refugees as a demographic way of destroying the state of Israel. Hence it has become a main prerequisite for qualification for the 'good housekeeping seal': if you are a Palestinian who adheres to the right of return you are not qualified for negotiations or as an interlocutor because you want to destroy Israeli demographically.

It is also unacceptable to the Palestinian citizens of Israel. These are the people saying Israel should be a state for all its citizens. The irony is that this is seen as something entirely unacceptable by Israel. But every state should be a state for all its citizens. It cannot be a state for a select number of citizens depending on ethnicity or religious affiliation. So in a sense, Israel also wants the Palestinians to negate the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel and ensure that they remain second or third class citizens.

Finally, there is a question of principle. People recognize states. They do not recognize the right of any state to exist. The moment you recognize a state you recognize its right to exist. But you don't recognize the nature of the regime or form of governance. I don't only recognize the US as long as it is maintains a democratic, presidential system, France as long as it is a secular republic or Iran as long as it is an Islamic state. It is ironic that at a time when we as Palestinians are struggling to have a state that's pluralistic, democratic, open, inclusive and tolerant and are fighting internally against absolutist and exclusionary ideologies, we are asked by Israel to accept their form of exclusionary ideology.

bitterlemons: Israel claims that upholding the right of return would be the end of a two-state solution because two Palestinian states would essentially be created. Is this a fair position?

Ashrawi: A right is a right and it cannot be negotiated. You do not enter negotiations having relinquished a right and violated international law. You have to uphold international law, recognize rights and then negotiate their implementation.

It is Israel that is destroying the two-state solution with its settlements and by refusing to accept a viable democratic state on the 1967 borders. There are now voices increasingly calling for a one-state solution and democracy as the answer, with one voice and one vote.

To me, the demographic argument is by definition racist. I think Palestinians have the right to independence, statehood and self-determination as a legal and political imperative. It is not an issue that has to become a threat or that we formulate in response to somebody else's position.

bitterlemons: Israel says the idea of two states for two peoples is embodied by UNGA Resolution 181. Is this your interpretation?

Ashrawi: The language used was a 'Jewish state' and an 'Arab state'. If they want to accept 181, then let us take all of it. Then we go back to the whole partition plan. We have agreed to give them 78 percent of historic Palestine. If they want to use 181, then they can have 54 percent of Palestine and then they can say they have a 'Jewish state'.

bitterlemons: But is that your understanding of 181? Does it call for this kind of ethnic division?

Ashrawi: No it doesn't. But it describes the state as Jewish and that's why Israel wants to use it. 181 was a response to the Jewish Question. It was decided to give part of Palestine to Jews for as long as it would not endanger the rights of the indigenous Palestinian population. Now Jews have a state. But does this mean that this state can be exclusionary and discriminatory? Does it mean that this is the language that should be used in twenty-first century? If they want to use 181, let's take it in its totality.

bitterlemons: In view of the apparent US endorsement of the Israeli demand, what can Palestinians do?

Ashrawi: We don't have to accept the Israeli demand. If anyone came up and said the US should be legitimate only as a Christian state there would be an outcry. But the fact that the US took their cue from the Israelis and adopted Israeli language is not new. It doesn't mean we have to accept it.

bitterlemons: But how significant is it?

Ashrawi: It depends on how you pursue it. It's significant in the sense that the US adopted the Israeli position, but this is not new. But will it be translated into concrete steps when it comes to refugees, or the suggestion by some Israeli racists of a land swap based on demography? Would the US endorse such racist solutions? Would they accept the negation of the rights of Palestinians? That's the issue.

bitterlemons: Do the Americans understand that this is the issue?

Ashrawi: If they don't, they have no business mediating. The implications of these words are enormous. The Palestinians see this as a way of forcing them to accept the Israeli narrative and therefore negate the Palestinian narrative and Palestinian legitimacy. If you want a peace process you have to incorporate the legitimacy of the Palestinian narrative.- Published 17/12/2007 ©

Hanan Ashrawi is a Palestinian legislator and a member of the Third Way party.

Labels: , , , ,

From: My Son
Subject: Remembering Bethlehem this Christmas
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2007 14:45:54 +0000
Also, please read the National Geographic's amazing article on Bethlehem 2007 A.D.:

Remembering Bethlehem this Christmas

2nd Annual
Christmas Procession for Bethlehem
Saturday, December 22, 2007

Begins with a worship service in the
Bethlehem Chapel of the National Cathedral
3101 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., Washington, DC
9:30 AM Gather
10:00 AM Worship Service
Planned joint service simulcast with the people of Bethlehem

Procession will follow service; starting at 10:30 AM on Woodley Road.

Mary and Joseph, with donkey, will lead the procession.

Bethlehem, the city of Jesus' birth, is under occupation. All its residents, including Palestinian Christians, are suffering.

Behind the wall that separates neighbor from neighbor, patient from hospital, student from school and farmer from land, Palestinian Christians will continue to bear witness to their faith this Christmas, as they have done for generations. Let us join our voices with theirs in seeking and offering hope for a better future.

Sponsored by the Ad Hoc Committee for Bethlehem,
the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace
and Sharing Jerusalem

For updates on location and details, go to
Or contact Samia Noursi at (703) 255-4150,

For directions and parking info. go to www.cathedral.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 08, 2007

From: Rashid
To: Bronwin
Subject: American Prospect: Ehud the Semi-Beliver
Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2007 16:46:30 +0000
Ehud the Semi-Believer

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is trapped by his unwillingness
to acknowledge that Israel must leave the occupied territories

Gershom Gorenberg | December 4, 2007 |American Prospect web only

Ehud Olmert has begun to fascinate me. Don't misunderstand:
I am completely innocent of ever voting for him. I have no
intent of committing such an act in the future. Had fate not
put me in a country of which Olmert is prime minister at a
moment that might be seized by someone else, an actual leader,
to make peace, my interest in him would be purely as a
literary figure, a character. I don’t mean that he is a tragic
hero; precisely the point is that he lacks grandeur. He is
Willy Loman with a vision: a glad-handing hack politician who
was ambushed one day by a truth. Half of that truth scares him
so much that every time it calls, he tells his secretary to
tell it that he's in a meeting.

At the Annapolis peace conference last week, Olmert and
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas agreed to 'make every effort
to conclude an agreement' resolving all issues and resulting
in full peace 'before the end of 2008.' Their joint statement
was read out loud by George W. Bush, making a very rare cameo
in Mideast peace efforts. Let's leave aside Bush and Abbas for
now. Bush is a badly written character, shallow and one-
dimensional. Abbas, who inherited Yasser Arafat's job but not
a scrap of his popularity, deserves a treatment of his own.

Speaking at the summit, Olmert said that 'the reality created
in our region in 1967 will change significantly.' The 'reality'
created in 1967 is occupation and Israeli rule over the
Palestinians. If the point wasn't clear, he told the daily
Ha'aretz that without a two-state solution, Israel would face '
a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights' for
Palestinians in the occupied territories, and that Diaspora
Jews would turn against the Jewish state. This sounds like a
man eager to end the occupation.

Then he came home, convened the cabinet, and said that the
deadline of the end of next year is a mere hope. 'There is no
commitment to a specific timetable regarding these negotiations,'
he said (link to Hebrew text). In other words, talks could go on
forever; the process could replace arriving at an agreement.
Israel , he said, did not need to do anything until 'all of the
Roadmap commitments are met,' code words for the Palestinian
Authority enforcing a total end to attacks on Israel . Yes, the
2003 'roadmap' to peace also obligates Israel to remove illegal
settlement outposts. As I write, there is no indication that
Olmert is rushing to do that.

One more news item, absolutely Olmertesque, requires mention:
Just after he arrived home, the head of the national police's
fraud squad recommended closing an investigation of the prime
minister for trying to fix the sale of a state-owned bank so that
a friend could buy it. The State Prosecutor's Office has since
said the case remains open. There are two other criminal
investigations of Olmert at the moment -- one involving buying a
home at a discount that could have been a bribe from a developer;
the other involving political appointments when he was trade
minister. Olmert has been investigated several times before, even
if charged and tried only once. In 1996 he was indicted on
conspiracy and fraud charges connected to a campaign-financing
scandal. The next year he was acquitted, though censured by the
judge. Other cases have been closed for lack of evidence. For
years, he has been under suspicion. Living, so far, a millimeter
within the law, he reeks of the tawdriness of the zoning board and
the lobbyist's lunch.

Olmert was born into politics. His father, Mordechai Olmert,
supported the far-right Irgun underground before Israeli
independence and later served as a member of parliament for
Menachem Begin's Herut (Freedom) party, forerunner of the
right-wing Likud. In 1973, at age 28, Ehud Olmert was elected
to the Knesset on the Likud ticket. Afterward, he exploited
the young country's lack of conflict-of-interest laws, opened
a law practice while in parliament, and became wealthy. Though
always on the side of Israel politics that opposed giving up an
inch of occupied territory, he switched factions and mentors
shamelessly. His real ideology appeared to be Ehud Olmert.

When the Likud lost power to Yitzhak Rabin's Labor party
in 1993, Olmert switched to municipal politics, cut a deal
with Jerusalem 's ultra-Orthodox political bosses, and got
elected mayor. Streets got dirtier, young people left the
city, and the mayor incessantly flew around the world. When
he returned to national politics in 2003, he barely made it
into parliament. But by now he was a crony of Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon, who appointed him vice prime minister. When
Sharon suffered his stroke in January 2006, the hack became p
rime minister.

By then, though, Olmert had been visited by an Idea. I suspect that he himself would have been less surprised if he had discovered he was pregnant. In newspaper interviews in late 2003, Olmert announced his vision: Israel needed to pull out of most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Otherwise Palestinians in occupied territory would demand the right to vote in Israeli elections. Since Palestinians were on the verge of becoming the majority between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, Israel would cease being a Jewish state. 'I shudder to think that liberal Jewish organizations that shouldered the burden of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa will lead the struggle against us,' Olmert said. This comment was a psychological gambit: He assigned to liberal Jews elsewhere the piece of the idea too terrible to say in his own name.

Admittedly, this wasn't a new idea. Founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion rejected conquering the West Bank in 1949 for this reason; Olmert even quoted him. Some Labor politicians made the same argument as soon as Israel conquered the West Bank in 1967. Olmert was a very slow student, but once he caught on, he was convinced.

Well, sort of. An agreement with the Palestinians, he said in December 2003, was out of the question, because it would necessarily look something like the unofficial Geneva Accord, requiring a return virtually to the pre-1967 borders. The need for a negotiated peace was the part of his own big idea that Olmert did not want to face. His initial solution to that dilemma was a unilateral withdrawal to lines of Israel 's choosing, leaving the major settlements in Israeli hands.

Last summer's war erased all public support for that proposal, along with Olmert's popularity. A unilateral pullout would mean continued conflict, with Palestinian groups firing rockets into Israeli cities. Olmert began negotiating with Abbas. The pace picked up after Hamas seized control of Gaza and Abbas formed a new government in the West Bank .

In a world of Olmert's own design, Abbas would agree to peace based on a partial Israeli pullback, more or less to the 'security barrier' in the West Bank . Even with immense American pressure, Abbas will not agree to this. No Palestinian will. Olmert knows this, he said so four years ago, and does not want to know he knows this. Even if he was willing to agree to something resembling Geneva Accord, he does not have the political support to carry the deal in the public and parliament. Someone else, the kind of leader who leads, a Yitzhak Rabin perhaps, might trust his ability to speak and convince and have people follow him. So far in his long political career, Olmert has not been able to do this. He is caught between his idea and its consequences, between his idea and his abilities.

As a literary character, uncertain, unpredictable, he is fascinating. Unfortunately, he is prime minister. The next chapter of history depends at least partly on him. Living where I do, I consider pessimism a luxury, but I have a hard time believing that the chronicle of Ehud Olmert will have a happy ending. I would deeply like to be surprised.

Gershom Gorenberg is a senior correspondent for The Prospect. He is the author of The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 and The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount.

Labels: , ,

Muslim extremists insult the faith.
Read below for an excellent article on the toy bear named Muhammad.
You may have to cut and paste.,0,1182095.story