Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christian Peace Team: Repressive force by Israeli forces at demonstration to protest checkpoint closure in Hebron

Christian Peace Team, Nov. 29, 2014 - At a demonstration to protest the closure of checkpoint 56 in Hebron on Saturday 29.11.14, a torrent of teargas and sound grenades rained down from Israeli forces, also armed with live ammunition, who were occupying rooftops above Bab az- Zaweyeh. Leading onto the small section of Shuhada street on which Palestinians are allowed to walk, checkpoint 56 leads from Bab az-Zaweyeh (the central square which marks the boundary of Israeli controlled-H2, and Palestinian Authority governed H1) to the neighbourhood of Tel Rumeida. Last week the checkpoint was set on fire during clashes, and the checkpoint has been closed by Israeli forces ever since. This act of collective punishment demands that families living in Tel Rumeida walk an extra hour, or that they walk through the homes and gardens of other Palestinians, to reach their homes. These families therefore organised a nonviolent demonstration to protest this closure, which is another example of the daily harassment and routine restriction of the rights and movement of Palestinians living under occupation.

The demonstration was a nonviolent march towards the checkpoint, attended by families from Tel Rumeida and the organisation ‘Youth against Settlements’, some of whom were waving flags and chanting “no to the occupation”. It took less than a minute before Israeli forces, who were already occupying rooftops nearby, to fire the first teargas canister into the crowd of people, swiftly followed by a sound grenade. In the half hour that followed, at least 15 tear gas canisters and 12 sound grenades were fired by Israeli forces into the busy square of Bab az-Zaweyeh. As anger and frustration at the sheer repressive force of the Israeli military mounted, stones were also thrown by Palestinians, yet were unable to reach the rooftops occupied by the heavily armed Israeli soldiers and police. The two CPTers who were in attendance, documenting, monitoring and photographing what was initially a nonviolent demonstration, were also directly targeted by sound grenades and teargas, by Israeli police who were also pointing live ammunition into the crowd. With the demonstration violently suppressed, clashes continued into the afternoon.

Source: http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=cf2b03c2e5&id=b32029c659&e=8bd6e95de8

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Narrative: Thanksgiving wishes from Taybeh

by Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

We too, here on the ground in Palestine, believe in miracles and hope the world will believe we are human like all people of the world.

As I woke up to heavy rain and severe wind storms in one of the highest mountain regions in Palestine, I gave glory to God  to be alive for another day and continue to keep my hope that all people of this region will learn to love humanity.  The only good thing about the dense fog in front of me is that I could not see the illegal Israeli settlement outside my kitchen window.  Settlements on the West Bank have been a huge big obstacle to any frozen peace agreement for twenty years between Israelis and Palestinians.  As the harsh weather and tough political conditions continue to be at an all-time high, I was grateful for friends around the world who prayed for a peaceful day (November 25th) during the opening of the new Taybeh Winery introducing for the first time, Palestinian boutique wines.  We were lucky the storm arrived at night after having a successful and history-making day with many local and international visitors.  All of our friends in America are celebrating a Happy Thanksgiving and we are truly thankful for having a peaceful day.  Glory be to God for all things!

As a collaborative celebration, the Belgian Consul General in Jerusalem selected our tiny village to celebrate for the first time in Palestine the King’s Day, a type of national day for Belgium traditionally held in Jerusalem  by the consulate every year during the fall with the actual birthday of King Philip being November 15th.  However, as more countries around the world are officially recognizing Palestine, we felt this decision to host the King’s Day celebration was a personal support and solidarity of our existence.  The Taybeh Golden Hotel, under construction for many years, finally opened its door to welcome many dignitaries including the Palestinian Prime Minister and the American Consul General in Jerusalem along with the ambassador of Turkey and Japan and many other leaders including the Greek Consul General.

The Taybeh Winery, on the street level of the eighty room Taybeh Golden Hotel is a dream comes true for Nadim Khoury, the co-founder of Taybeh Brewing Company along with my husband David.  Following his dad's footsteps in challenging times, my nephew Canaan, Harvard class 2013, returned home to Palestine to become the new winemaker and manage the winery with Roberto, an Italian wine maker using all state of the art equipment from Italy. 

The grapes from Taybeh and the surrounding towns of Aboud and Birzeit were crushed August 2013 and bottled recently in the “Nadim” label for Merlo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.  “Nadim” in Arabic means “drinking companion"--what the family thought was the perfect name for the new wine to enter the international market with a distinctive Palestinian identity.  This last harvest, white grapes from Hebron, were also crushed and will be bottled in the spring for what we expect to be a delicious Sauvignon Blanc.  The 2013 Grand reserve Cabernet Sauvignon reserve is aging in French oak barrels and hopefully will be bottled just in time for Christmas.  Although the website and many things are still under construction, everyone felt it was a historic day in Taybeh with the Belgian celebration and the introduction of the new fine boutique Palestinian wines. 

We are trying to do some good things under terrible conditions and show that Palestine has a civilization of culture, art, music and not only a great micro-brewed beer for twenty years but now a boutique wine too and a theme hotel to go with it.  We were honored that some of the well-known Palestinian artists, Nabil Anani and Tayser Barakat, lent their exquisite art to be displayed during the opening. Suheil Zayad from Birzeit played the oud all evening while Joseph Doughman from Bethlehem played the saxophone during the day.

As Jesus blessed the water to wine in Cana more than two thousand years ago, I surely hope all the heavy rain will be a blessing for our water shortage.  As Fr. Louis from Birzeit Latin parish said, “Taybeh is the new Cana,” because it serves as a light in the region that has so much darkness today across the board, politically, emotionally, culturally, intellectually and even with tough weather conditions.  But it was a glorious day to have our parish priest, Fr. Daoud Khoury, offer a prayer  in an ecumenical blessing with representatives from the Russian, Coptic Patriarchate and His Eminence Archbishop Aris Shirvanian from the Armenian Patriarchate with Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey from the Greek-Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Jerusalem.  Father Jack and Fr. Aziz, our local priests, also gave their blessing.  Pray with us for better times in Palestine so we can see the end of military occupation in our lifetime. However, in the meantime, Taybeh welcomes you not only for the Taybeh Beer tour which might include an interview with Madees Khoury, the only female who brews beer in Palestine, but an eye opening experience at the Taybeh Winery also.  “Eye opening” because Palestinians are normal people like you and me. 

The beautiful Bible verse in John (2:1-11) says that “ what Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and  his disciples believed in Him.”  We too, here on the ground in Palestine believe in miracles and hope the world will believe we are human as all people of the world.  And, the best is now coming from Taybeh.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Give thanks in all things. (1 Tim. 5:18)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

From a Jerusalem Christian

The Jerusalem Christian, father of three boys, writes:

This is how we are humiliated and disgraced by the Israeli police in Jerusalem. My boys are not taking public transport anymore.

Samia Khoury: Reflecting on the events of November 18, 2014

by Samia Khoury of Jerusalem

First, watch this and then you will understand why so much violence  is encompassing Jerusalem.

It did not start with the kidnapping of the three young settlers which Israel claims to be  the reason for retaliation on all fronts.  It did not start with the occupation of the Palestinian Territories in 1967.  It has been an ongoing dispossession ever since 1948 even after the Palestine National Council recognized Israel on 78% of historic Palestine in 1988.  The onslaught on  East Jerusalem has been going on with a clear agenda that  Jerusalem is the united eternal capital of Israel, with a plan to build the Temple to replace El-Haram El-Sharif. 

Ironically Har Nof where the events of today took place is originally  a Palestinian suburb  adjacent to Deir Yaseen where the infamous massacre of the Palestinians took place in April 1948.  That was the spark that  terrorized the Palestinian residents of West Jerusalem that led to their exodus.  

Yes indeed it is  brutal and completely unacceptable to attack worshippers in their place of worship, as was the attack of settler  doctor,  Baruch  Goldstein,  on  Muslim worshippers during the month of Ramadan at the Hebron Mosque in February 1994?  Twenty nine Palestinian were killed and 125 wounded at the time.  The epitaph on Goldstein’s  tombstone calls him a martyr with clean hands and a pure heart. 

 As much as I believe in un-armed resistance,  it is very sad to realize that the futility of the negotiations and the  failure of the peace process to end the occupation,  on top of Israeli provocations, are all leading  the Palestinian population of Jerusalem to desperation as they feel  completely abandoned.  While the International community continues to claim the annexation of Jerusalem as illegal and so are  the settlements, and the demolishing of homes, no action has been taken  to reverse the realities that Israel continues to create on the ground.    The young people of Jerusalem  cannot sit still any more,  simply watching and resisting peacefully while their holiest site El-Haram El-Sharif is  being coveted and taken over while the world is watching.  The more desperate those young people become, the more violence will prevail.  We continue to hope for some wisdom to prevail and a definite  resolve on behalf of the international community to put an end to Israel’s impunity and spare both people further suffering.   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Maria Khoury: News from the Holy Land

Greetings from the Holy Land!

I wish all of you a blessed Holy Nativity Fast.   Tomorrow, we are actually celebrating  the transfer of the relics of St. George from Asia Minor where he was martyred to Lod (next to the Tel Aviv airport now)  where his mother lived in ancient Palestine.  It has been an annual tradition that Christian communities from all corners of the Holy Land gather in Lod to commemorate this special feast day in addition to the one in April.  

However, some of you might know the ongoing violence in Jerusalem and the unrelenting settlement expansion and police harassment, riots and marches inside Israel have increased following the cold blood killing of an Arab youth by police in Kafr Kanna. The  Israelis and Palestinians have been killing each other back and forth in revenge attacks for many months now. Thus, many people in our community were simply too scared to get a permit and travel to the original St. George Church to continue this century old Christian tradition in memory of St. George the Great Martyr.   We pray for better times ahead and keep our hope in Christ.  

Personally, I wish I was in America instead of checkpoints where Israeli soldiers are shooting kids throwing rocks. I am not sure if we are on the verge of another uprising but may our Lord have mercy with the violence all around.

Maria Khoury, Ed.D. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Samia Khoury: Remembering November Anniversaries

 by Samia Khoury of Jerusalem

I have been reflecting on the many anniversaries during the month of November, aside  from the fact that I turned 80 last November on the day my book “Reflections from Palestine – A Journey of Hope” was launched, and that the birthday of my granddaughter’s best friend Juman, falls on the 2nd of November.  I am sure neither Juman nor her mother had much choice in determining that day to coincide with  the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 which the Palestinians consider to be the root cause of  their  dispossession.

But then November 9 was the twenty fifth anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall.  Whoever thought that wall will ever collapse?  That is why this is a very meaningful day for us, the Palestinians,  as it gives us hope that the infamous Separation Wall  which separates  the Palestinian territories from each other in the name of security, will eventually collapse some day.   However the 19th  anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin  on November 4 continues to remind us that the whole peace process was a farce, and led us  nowhere,  while at the same time  it shielded Israeli impunity as it continued to create new realities on the ground. 

November 11  is Armistice Day,  or Veteran’s day as it is called in the USA, which marked the end of World War I in 1918. Again it makes us wonder at the brutality of wars.  As if the loss of many lives in both World War I and World War II was not enough, the colonial powers continued to  wage so many wars in other peoples’ countries and under a variety of  pretexts.  Will November 11  ever make those powers realize that wars are not about solving problems but about greed, sale of armament, hegemony  and devastation.  Devastation not only of  the land and its natural resources, but devastation of humanity and the mushrooming of new radical movements.  It is very hard under the circumstances, where we watch regions torn apart, to envisage any  hope for an armistice day for our region or peace around the whole world.

Ironically November 11 is also the tenth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat.  I remember I was in Hawaii at the time and we stayed up late with my cousin Diana and her husband Jerry to watch the end of an era for the Palestinians.  Of course Israel has claimed him to be “no peace partner” despite all the concessions he made for the sake of peace.  In fact November  15 is  the 26h anniversary of the Declaration of the  Independence of the State of Palestine within the 1967 borders, and it is an official holiday in Occupied Palestine.  I still do not know what we are celebrating, after making such a compromise and  still not being independent on that 22% of our historic Palestine.  But I know the teachers and students are happy to have a long week end off.  I still remember when November 14 was an official holiday during the Jordan times, as it was the birthday of King Hussein.    Salwa,  the  school principal at Rawdat El-Zuhur had the same birthday, so her birthday was always an official holiday.    

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Narrative: An American Jew in Palestine

Steven Davidson's summer taught him that peacetime and wartime in Palestine aren't a whole lot different.
Steven Davidson / The Chronicle
Steven Davidson's summer taught him that peacetime and wartime in Palestine aren't a whole lot different.

HEBRON, Palestine—I recall the sermons in my religious services growing up. During the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there were always calls for peace and prayers for Israel. A country symbolizing the triumphant conclusion to centuries of persecution, Israel was the home to my people—the Jews. And they had waited so long to return. It wasn’t until this summer in which I had the honor of doing so. Although I began my trip under the normal auspices of going on Birthright, my trip took me far from the comforts of Israel, into a land where few Jews go—Palestine.

Preparing to leave from Tel Aviv, I was nervous for the two months ahead. I had just finished participating in the Birthright program. After listening to the Israeli narrative of this land for two weeks, I was ready to see the other side that had been kept from me and other Jews for so long. Mentions of the West Bank were sparse during Birthright, and when it was discussed, the narrative seemed incomplete. I had loved my connection with the Land of Israel—the land of my origins. However, I was disturbed by the way people connected the Land of Israel with the State of Israel—the actions and policies of the current government—without true inner contemplation. Political doctrine was presented as fact.

Now I was going to the black part of the map.

Steven Davidson / The Chronicle
I craved to see Palestine with my own eyes, but knew so little about the land. Before I went to teach English to Palestinians and work for an Nongovernmental organization in Hebron, I tried to research the Palestinian culture. But Google searches only yielded news clippings of terrorist attacks and violent clashes. All I had heard from Israelis about Palestinians was their supposed poor taste in clothing. As I crossed the Green Line to enter the West Bank, life in Palestine was a complete and anxious unknown.

So how did a Jew from New York survive in a place in which the Anti-Defamation League found 93 percent of the population to be anti-Semitic? Aside from a group of trusted people, everyone in the West Bank thought I was Christian.
The situation I discovered while living in Hebron in the West Bank for more than two months was shocking. Living there during times of peace (relatively speaking), a kidnapping and ensuing operation and ultimately war, I witnessed all the stages of the occupation. I witnessed inhumane horrors at the hands of what I had been told for so long was a benevolent government. They were horrors I had not anticipated to be so blatant in their nature and so extensive in their practice. Yet, the comforting light at the end of my journey was to have the opportunity to meet the people there who—in spite of their traumatic lives—only showed me love and hospitality.

There I was, on the other side of one of the biggest conflicts in world history, and all these people showed me was kindness. There was the husband and wife who, after feeding me to no end (an all-too-common occurrence), sent me on my way with a bag of peaches. The father, peering around the room, handed me an energy drink, desperate to give me anything. In one afternoon alone, four separate people on the street invited me to dinner that night. There was the taxi driver who took it upon himself to leave his shift to show me around the Old City and reveal all the secrets his town had to offer, and the restaurateur who took me in as I sought to break fast during Ramadan. As I finished the three-course Iftar, I asked him how much it would cost. He looked at me and replied, “No, Islam,” as he pointed to the sky.

These were people who often worked upward of 11 or 12 hours in a day to make not much money at all, and yet, here they were paying for my drinks, treating me to dinner and doing everything they can to make me feel welcome.

So how did a Jew from New York survive in a place in which the Anti-Defamation League found 93 percent of the population to be anti-Semitic? Aside from a group of trusted people, everyone in the West Bank thought I was Christian. I was racked with guilt of lying to people who had been so kind to me, yet I knew that if the wrong person had found out my background, there could be grave repercussions.

Wars do not happen without a systematic dehumanization of your enemy. In Palestine, this dehumanization is the same in peacetime as it is in the throws of battle.
Ultimately, my identity would not have made a difference with most people. In conversations I had, people repeatedly stated to me that they were not anti-Semitic—they were only anti-Zionist. They emphasized all the two Abrahamic religions shared, and they always mentioned the American Jews who voiced opposition to Israeli occupation. The picture I was viewing was vastly different than the one that had been painted for me when I was younger. I realized that statistics like the ADL’s was the result of equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Even when I encountered anti-Semitism, which I will never condone, I knew it was the product of experiences that span far beyond my 21 years on this earth. Their fleeting interactions with Jews have often ended staring down the barrel of a gun.

Wars do not happen without a systematic dehumanization of your enemy. In Palestine, this dehumanization is the same in peacetime as it is in the throws of battle. The Palestinians live under military rule. Israel Defense Forces soldiers can effectively do as they please. Even places Palestinians are technically allowed to go would sometimes be off-limits. I listened as my friend told me how his ability to go to the Dead Sea, inside the West Bank, was dictated by whether a soldier along the way decided to turn him back or not. And if my friend asserted his right to go? “I might be shot.”

Whoever by name controlled areas of the West Bank, it was ultimately Israel that had the overriding power. Checkpoints were everywhere—soldiers were as common as olive trees. Before I arrived, there had been a video of an identified soldier shooting and killing an unarmed girl, yet nothing happened. There is virtually no international media found in the West Bank. Israel largely keeps the foreign press out and demands self-censorship.

Most international reports on the West Bank are in fact reported from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. To read the news unfolding in front of me distorted by the media at home only affirmed that I needed to share what I experienced. Censorship is one of Israel’s greatest weapons—the reality does not match the story given to the public.

The wall that divides Israel and Palestine creates more than physical barriers.
Steven Davidson / The Chronicle
A towering slab of concrete divides Israel and Palestine. The wall’s construction destroyed dozens of villages, has caused an endless economic depression and imprinted permanent psychological damage to the Palestinian people. Every time I mentioned going to Tel Aviv, guilt would seep through as people lamented their desire to just one day be able to see the ocean. It pained me as I’d pass Jerusalem from the other side of the wall and those around me would look on at the Dome of the Rock in the distance, wishing to one day pray there. It was always an awkward topic to mention my travels in Israel, having visited all these places as a foreigner. These places were a part of their childhood, yet now they could never experience what I did with such ease. The wall penetrated people’s minds and livelihood in so many ways, even in life-or-death situations. There was a boy who fell ill and needed immediate medical attention. His family drove to the wall to go to the hospital in Jerusalem. In spite of his critical condition, soldiers denied permission for him to go. He died at the wall. These stories are far from uncommon.

Visiting the wall was intensely emotional. In Bethlehem, people write down their experiences and tape them to the wall. The stories stretch for miles. Street art on the wall calls for freedom and justice, a world where they “build bridges, not walls.” Tears flowed down my face in a gentle stream. I came upon an inscription: “Judaism ≠ Zionism,” as a Crescent Moon and Star of David were drawn side-by-side. I collapsed to my knees. The messages in front of me were cries of desperation, of humanity. And yet, only on this side of the wall could these cries be heard.

I asked myself, ‘Why? What is the reason?’ The answer always was: there was no reason.
Even in the West Bank, Palestinians struggle to move around. Checkpoints arbitrarily turn people back or detain them for hours on end, despite international law limiting detention without reason to 20 minutes. People are beaten and humiliated at these checkpoints. These are not defensive measures. They occur unprovoked and upon innocent bystanders. With checkpoints and limited roads available to the Palestinians, a 60-mile trip from Hebron to Jenin can take six hours.

Foreign aid workers are hardly welcome in the West Bank. The friends I had were forced to lie under the pretenses of their stays in Israel or face being turned away. Each time they leave, they fear they won’t be allowed back in. Suspicion of going to the West Bank leads to detention in the airport or on the border for hours, with the very possible result of being turned away. I knew an American lawyer who was stopped at Ben Gurion Airport. They demanded to look through her computer. Knowing her rights, she said no. They told her they would take her computer and send it back to her. When it was sent back, there was a bullet hole through it.

Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams—a human rights organization with funding from the United Nations—have had their credentials turned down at the border. Even when they get into the West Bank, there are risks. They have been arrested by the IDF for simply escorting Palestinian children to school to prevent violence from settlers and soldiers alike.

I cannot count the amount of times I witnessed and learned things in which I’d fall silent. I asked myself, ‘Why? What is the reason?’ The answer always was: there was no reason. I’ve witnessed what the government and thus media declare to be security measures. They’re not security measures. They're oppression.

The prisoners Palestinians refer to as “the kidnapped” are those who are under Israeli administrative detention. Administrative detention was a law carried over and expanded from the times of the British Mandate. It allows Israel to throw anyone in prison—in use, Palestinians—for up to six months without charges or due process. They simply renew the sentence every six months, making imprisonment indefinite. These cases are nonviolent in nature and are largely used as a measure to suppress political activism in the West Bank.

The first night I was in Hebron, I met a man who was in administrative detention for five years. He was silenced after being politically active on his college campus against the occupation. There were others I had met who had been imprisoned under similar terms. None of them committed any wrongful crimes.

I had tea in the home of another man who had been imprisoned under administrative detention for four years. Hamas had been helping to pay for his college tuition, so he was thrown in jail. What people don’t realize about support for Hamas in the West Bank is that it does not come out of a desire to kill all Jews. In times of relative calm, most support actually comes from Hamas’s social welfare programs, such as helping kids pay for school, running soup kitchens and organizing community activities such as soccer leagues. This dynamic changed as the war in Gaza began.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Narrative: A Break of Good News

by Samia Khoury

After thirty years of marriage, and thirty years of struggling with lawyers and the Israeli ministry of interior’s oppressive measures for family reunification,  my daughter  Dina was able to get a one year permit for her husband to live with her in Jerusalem.   Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, which were supposed to bring about peace to the region, Jerusalem was placed  out of bounds for  Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.   So my daughter’s husband, Yousef Nasser,  who is from Birzeit and  has a Palestinian Identity Card could not live with her and his three  children in Jerusalem, nor could they join him in Birzeit, because that would deprive them of their right of residency in Jerusalem, the city of their birth, and that of their forefathers.   How unfair.  So her only choice was to be a week-end wife and make the best out of it under the circumstances.  How many family occasions he missed that it became normal for him not to be part of those functions.  Yet it was very hard for the whole family when he was terribly missed on certain occasions like the time his daughter was hospitalized for a month and a half after a serious fall, as well as  on  many other happy occasions.   

When Dina told me on Monday morning  that they had an appointment at the ministry of interior I kept praying and hoping that their ordeal would be over soon.  So when she called to say they got the paper, I thought it was the paper approving the family reunification, but it turned out to be indeed an approval for family reunification which begins with  another ordeal of a yearly permit.  At the end of the year and to renew this permit they  need to provide all the necessary documents that they are  actually living in Jerusalem.  a document that would grant him a one year permit to be in Jerusalem.  What an anti-climax was my daughter’s first reaction.   After such long years of  deprivation of a normal family life, and  when all three children  are pursuing their studies abroad, and  no more around us, we can now  be together ”   But when  as Palestinians  we were never granted the justice that we deserved, and never had the best of choices,  a permit becomes an achievement and a sign of hope for further permit renewal.    This is the story of our life as well as that of  thousands of others.   

The great escape.

See Reflections from Palestine by Samia Khoury

Monday, September 1, 2014

Narrative: Dr. Maria Khoury writes from Taybeh

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

As I wish you a blessed peaceful holy new ecclesiastical year, I remain stunned at the silence my church has towards the horrific and unspeakable evil Israel continues to carry out.  May our Lord have mercy upon those who ignore this injustice.  I am just shocked that after Israel attacked schools, hospitals, ambulances, mosques, media offices, the power plant, UN buildings and staff that Israel continues to enjoy blind support from America.  I guess it is pretty much like the late Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon once said:  "...I want to tell you something very clear.  Don't worry about American pressure on Israel.  We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it."  So I assume everyone will break out their checkbooks since this last war on Gaza cost Israel over 2 billion dollars.  

How sad, today, Israel also announced the biggest land grab in twenty years; 1,000 acres of land will be confiscated in the Bethlehem area for more illegal Israeli settlements.  May we continue to pray for peace and justice.  May we forgive the barbaric and uncivilized killings of Christians in the region which all the latest news point the finger at the United Stated and Israel for funding.  I guess the more fanatic Muslims the Middle East has makes some people happy.  It just simply scares me...As we have gone way back before the times of Constantine the Great, I do pray for steadfast witness to the True Light of Christ.  May Love always conquer hate.  May inner peace exist in our heart as the new Church year reminds us to focus on saving our soul.  
With sincere good wishes on this holy day,

Everyone can have different perspectives but some of the facts stay the same
According to UNRWA during the 50 days starting July 7th:
2,200 Palestinians killed mostly children and women.
64 Israeli soldiers killed and 6 civilians.
11,000 Palestinians injured 
500,000 people displaced from Israeli attacks
20,000 homes completely destroyed by Israeli attacks

Friday, August 22, 2014

Narrative: To live now as we think human beings should live

by Dr.Mazin Qumsiyeh of Beit Sahour

Also posted at http://popular-resistance.blogspot.com/2014/08/to-live-now.html

I have not written much lately and this email maybe personal and emotional.
Our days start early and end very late. Our nights are also occasionally
interrupted by calls from friends in Gaza or others who need some support.
In the past 48 hours, over 100 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli
occupation forces. Many of those are in Rafah. Sometimes I feel guilty that
I am affected more by those I know than those who die that I did not know.
For example, I cried after I hung-up the phone with Islam, a friend in
Rafah who has four children and they can't sleep and their house shook and
windows shattered as missiles rained on homes nearby. I cried because I
know him and his handicapped son and his dilemma at whether to try to carry
his son and run to the street or not. But then I cried some more thinking
of the many innocents who got killed and injured and who I dd not
personally know and did not cry for them earlier. Islam and his family will
be traumatized for life. Hundreds of thousands will be even more
traumatized. I can't even imagine a life of a girl who lost all her family
members and carries emotional and physical scars for life.

Sometimes I think I carry scars too. Perhaps I cope because I am so lucky
to have positive things to do daily to keep me from thinking too much. I am
lucky because I can help others. I am lucky that I am surrounded by dozens
of young volunteers that show us what life could be like in the future.
Volunteers passing out fliers about boycotts, volunteers reclaiming
agricultural lands, volunteers helping us build a natural history museum in
Palestine, volunteers helping other volunteers cope with a difficult life,
volunteers giving time and money to needy children, and volunteers doing
media work (that should have been done by paid professionals). Aida refugee
camp where some of those volunteers live is really unlivable because of
daily dumping of toxic gas and toxic stink water by the Israeli occupation
forces. Its health impact is dramatic and far worse than respiratory

People ask me about politics and claim it is too complex. I say it is
simple and predictable. For thousands of years we had a struggle between
wealthy greedy people who employ others to shoot and injure poor people so
that they wealthy people get richer. It was like that at the time of Jesus
and it is like that today. Some (minority) who get offered a chance will
join forces of repression and go with the flow of power. Others (also a
minority) lead an active life that helps change things for the better for a
lot of people. The majority in the middle remain apathetic. More people
need to see the truth and act on it. It is not too difficult even for those
who were on the side of repression to change. Yonatan Shapira former
Israeli Air Force captain became a refusnik and BDS activist and once
wrote: "Most of my family came from Poland and many of my relatives were
killed in the death camps during the Holocaust. When I walk in what was
left from the Warsaw Ghetto I can’t stop thinking about the people of Gaza
who are not only locked in an open air prison but are also being bombarded
by fighter jets, attack helicopters and drones, flown by people whom I used
to serve with. I am also thinking about the delegations of young Israelis
that are coming to see the history of our people but also are subjected to
militaristic and nationalistic brainwashing on a daily basis. Maybe if they
see what we wrote here today they will remember that oppression is
oppression, occupation is occupation, and crimes against humanity are
crimes against humanity, whether they have been committed here in Warsaw or
in Gaza". I only add resistance is resistance' Warsaw ghetto residents also
dug tunnels and were also called terrorists by their tormentors.

In my 2004 book “Sharing the land of Canaan” I wrote:
“Palestinians were subjected to cruel and unreasonable treatment over so
many years that many begin to doubt that justice is possible and many
certainly believe coexistence impossible. Similarly, since many Israelis
have been feeling embattled and attacked that many also feel that
coexistence is impossible. A defeatist attitude develops and envelops not
only Palestinians and Israelis but also may of their supporters. But either
the societies coexist as peaceful human beings or they will perish as rival
primate societies.…..A sense of hopelessness and desperation leaves many
looking for “crumbs” of both material and psychological “food”. This is
especially stressful when combined with the deep commitment by many to
historical myths of grandeur or glory. I am not going to spend much time on
the history of the Jewish, Arabic and Islamic civilizations (volumes have
been written on these). Suffice it to say that our psychological profile is
one that contrasts our existing condition with the perceived greatness of
our ancestors and our prophets. We thus assume ourselves as a privileged
group but this immediately contrasts with what we observe to be the
destitute present situation as described throughout this book. This is
especially true for the Palestinian people who are dispossessed. We can
address the bigger issues of why 1.3 billion Muslims or 300 million Arabs
(Muslims and Christians) have so little to say in the direction of world
economies and social and cultural developments so dominated now by the US
as a sole remaining power. But perhaps this too can be resolved slowly once
the knot of friction in Israel/Palestine is resolved. Imagine the example
set if this one place in the world, previously an example of violence,
endemic hatred and tribalism, can transcend all this to build a truly
shining example of coexistence and non-violence. Imagine the billions of
dollars spent on armaments going to desalinate seawater, to build high tech
industries, and truly harness the great minds of the inhabitants (Jews,
Christians, and Muslims) for positive developments.…....Perhaps we need to
teach children to value themselves, value teamwork, respect others and
defend the rights of minorities. This is not as simple as it seems. Adults
perhaps need to learn to accept, in a very positive fashion, views that are
foreign to them. In other words, someone who speaks his views regarding
issues should be listened to and respected regardless of how sacred the
holy “cows” may be.”

I end with a quote from Howard Zinn (You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving
Train: A personal history of our times, p. 208): "To be hopeful in bad
times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human
history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion,
sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex
history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our
capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places - and there
are so many - where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the
energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of
a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way,
we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an
infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings
should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a
marvelous victory."

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Mazin Qumsiyeh
A Bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Bethlehem University
Director, Palestine Museum of Natural History

Monday, August 11, 2014

Narrative: Dina writes again from Gaza

Today [August 9, 2014]  is day six in Gaza, the day it all starts getting to you. Yesterday we went out to look around and started saw the devastation. Homes destroyed, pharmacies, doctors’ surgeries…all blatant violations of the Geneva Conventions. I was still detached, I went around with my colleague Dr. Haytham, accompanied by old friends from Gaza. Dr. Yehia drove us around; we started in the Shejaieh neighborhood and Hay al Tuffah. The destruction, the putrid smells – I could see his pain as he showed us where was born and where his children were born. They destroyed my memories, he said. I could see him taking in a deep breath as he said this was enough for today…we were both seeing this destruction for the first time.

Today I knew why he was so reluctant to go through this. I realized what was around the corner. We drove by the site of where the Wafa hospital was. Total destruction – unrecognisable. The site included the old hospital building, the new hospital building, the old people’s nursing home and a centre for disabled children. Also near them was a school that was shelled…..WHAT THE HELL! Next to it was a huge home with the family sitting outside, looking, hoping, talking. Yet the smell of rot and flies all around were nagging on everyone’s mind. Could it be someone was still under all this rubble? They were trying to justify it. Perhaps it’s a cat or some crushed animal. Will it work, I wonder – the smell lingers in the air.

Then we reached Shejayieh. It looked like Hiroshima. Like the bomb had struck again. Again, no words could describe the scale of the devastation. I could not focus anymore, which heroic stand this was and which borders? One thing was for sure, it was total annihilation. HOW COULD THE WORLD have sat back silently?! How? As we approached, the people there ran up to our bus thinking we were the ambulance coming to the rescue as they had identified some body parts…

We got out and faced the public. We did not dare take out our cameras. There was a lot of tension and anger. People started telling us their stories, the children, the women, the men. We then came to the destroyed home of a great grandmother who had lost her son and his family and now they were digging up her daughter who herself was a grandmother…and most probably the body of her daughter next to her. It was pieces of a body. Hearing that great grandmother relate her story really moved me and made me realize how much I was part of this reality. In the operating room it was easy to shut out the emotions and let the adrenalin work its way into action.

We waited until the ambulances arrived. We did not want to leave before. The situation was very tense and delicate. What a stench, what a sight. I remembered the man sleeping in the hospital who had told me the first day and the third day, where do I go? Have you seen Shujaieh? We do not know where the house was or where the road was….

The children there were very proud. One did not have shoes on his feet. They related heroic stories of the resistance and of the Israeli army running away and fleeing, leaving their stretchers behind them. In fact, the borders were very close, just there. The camera in the sky was watching us. We were taken later to a hill in the liberated part of Gaza where the colony of Gush Katif stood. We were thanked for our efforts and invited to lunch. We met up with our colleagues from the south who had done a similar tour visiting Khuzaa, where resistance fighters were assassinated on their way to fight.

Inside the bus we were sweating in the heat, outside all we could see was destruction. The Gaza beach did not look as liberating or happy as it usually did. As we drove along, there was the coffee shop that was shelled, killing the youth who were watching the world cup match. A few meters more, another site, another home and so on – how could anyone look at the beach…..

We finally got back to Shifa hospital. I asked my colleague Shabaan to come and meet us as we went out to get something for Haneen to cheer her up. We went to a toy shop and a lady asked if she could buy something for the children in the hospital to cheer them up. After I chose what to get, she bought them and gave them to me, asking me to deliver them to the hospital.

We went to see Haneen, and her aunt was there. Her face looked more swollen and her hands warm, she had a fever. She thanked us for the colourful image poster, and I hung it up so she can look at. We also got her a balloon and a teddy bear. Some toys were already there. Again, she asked me about my daughter and wanted to see a picture. I could not pull up one of Haya, so I promised her to come tomorrow and show her. Her father arrived and she asked him about her mother, hoping she were ok…I later found out that Haneen still has a third sister in the hospital being treated for shell burns and that she was undergoing surgery tomorrow for a muscle transplant. I really hope she does not lose her arm. I asked her father what was happening, he said they will send her to Scotland for surgery. I asked when; he did not know.

On my way going to say goodbye to my colleagues in the operating room, I saw a boy being brought in for a wound debridement. As he was in a lot of pain, I looked at his foot, and it was gangrenous. He was writhing in bed. I got close to him and asked what was happening. I am scared, he told me. Of what? I asked. It is painful. Even without being touched? Yes, he said. When I asked him his name, it was Omar. They were trying to hurry him in I asked them to stop. I am ‘Im Omar,’ my eldest son is also called Omar, I said, so I am allowed a few seconds. I knelt closer to him and assured him that they will give him some medicine in the IV that will put him to sleep so he will not feel the pain of the dressing and we will see what to do when he wakes up. I stepped out of the theatre and called my friend Shaaban, hoping he will bring me a balloon and a toy for Omar. As soon as Shaaban answered the phone I was chocking up with tears. It was too much to bear these children surviving the shelling like this. Omar will lose a limb and Haneen might too – the pain has just started.

When Shaaban came, I went to see Omar. He was fast asleep. He will be coming to Jerusalem tomorrow. They do not know to which hospital yet. I told his parents to insist as each day he will lose more of his limb.
I asked about Scotland. It will take six months for any transfers. I hurried to my computer to find Magda – my colleague, a surgeon from Scotland. I know she will help………but who will take care of the children??????