Saturday, April 22, 2006

My colleague, Mr. Rashid Shahin, wrote an analysis for the Palestinian Prime Minister's speech on April 14th:

Haniyeh's Friday Noon Speech - Many layers of Meaning

In his Friday Noon Prayer Speech, Palestinian Prime Minister, Mr. Ismael Haniyeh, called on the Palestinian people to make olives, thyme and olive oil a staple of their meals, pointing to the strangling economic crisis hovering on the horizon. This crisis was being caused by the suspension of US and EU aid to the Palestinian government and people, in a step that Palestinians view as supporting and backing the Israeli decision to collectively punish Palestinians for democratically electing the Hamas Movement on 25 January 2006.
Thyme, olive oil and olives, for those who don't know, is a substantial meal- especially when eaten in the morning, which is when it is most commonly eaten in Palestine. These are the most common components of breakfast in Palestine, and they have great nutritional value.
The Israeli mass media quoted the speech out of context, and made irresponsible and pathetic comments about it. Had it been the Americans or Europeans who discussed his comments in this way, it might have been understood and accepted by Palestinians, as they may have little knowledge about Palestinians food, meals, or way of life.
The Israeli mass media should have looked at the topic of food, if not as occupiers, then at least like neighbors, who are familiar with the people they are talking about. They are totally aware of the diet of Arabs and are well-able to give a detailed menu of Palestinian and Arabs foo.
This is the least they can do, having stolen even the food that Palestinians have eaten for thousands of years, and claiming it as their own cultural heritage, which they have brought from the Diaspora when they fled Egypt, according to their own Judaic beliefs.
The Israeli governments now impose steep fines on Palestinians who try to collect thyme, which is eaten in most meals. Israelis justify these fines by saying that Palestinians are investing it and using it for medicinal purposes.
The Israeli media's treatment of the speech was subjective and superficial - either because they could not read between the lines or because they were not willing to do so.
Haniyeh's speech had layers of meanings and like those who listened to him, Haniyeh himself knows well that the sky does not send rain of silver or gold; and that the world will not turn upside down and allow the fish in the sea to fall into the hands of people so that they will have fish to eat.
For those who wanted to know what Haniyeh was thinking, there was a layer of meaning, but for those who want to ignore reality, there was nothing in his speech- not even thyme and olives.
Haniyeh placed responsibility for the consequences of any starvation that may occur in Palestine, squarely on the shoulders of countries in the region and those in the International community that support the blockade and suspension of aid to the Palestinian Government. He was warning those behind these decisions to be afraid of the rage, anger and revolt they will awaken in the people if they were hungry and unable to feed their families. He was also warning of terrible reactions from the people if children became sick because of the lack or shortage of food. He was saying, as it is the duty of a Muslim to say “God is a witness, God know that I have informed you.”
Those who trivialize and under-estimate the importance of Haniyeh's words are mistaken, as they failed to hear what he wanted them to hear, and heard only what they wanted to hear.
The huge demonstrations in the streets after the speech and prayer showed that the speech accurately reflected the level of frustration and pent-up anger in the hearts of people. The demonstrations are a reflection of how dangerous the next phase will be, as the slogans that the crowds shouted out and the statements they made pointed to a looming danger.
Some historically moderate leaders of Hamas say that it is the start of a new era and that the conflict will start to take a different shape. They say that the threat of “Zarqawi- style” operations is new to the Palestinian mentality. It is also a pointer which shows what the Palestinian may do if he is going to suffer anymore: He is going to eat the flesh of his guard, as he would not accept to eat just thyme and olives.
And to those who are trying to underestimate the seriousness of the impact of starvation, they should be more careful as the next meal for the starving Palestinian, may be his own flesh and blood.

Rashid A. Shahin - Bethlehem

Friday, April 21, 2006

"In the final analysis silence from the Palestinians about their own recent electoral sea-change which put the Hamas into power tends to sound a little bit like the Arab press throughout the middle east which uses Israel as a foil to deflect attention away from their own dismal political failures. These small stories, while like little Vermeers are briefly interesting, are a distraction. One wonders about the blogs of the future after all the Jews are gone and the Palestinians are left with Hamas sharia-lite or worse, some kind of utterly dysfunctional government which sees every problem as something carbombs and gunfire can solve. Which in and of itself is fine if that's the destiny they've chosen. But who will you blame then? "

I'm really glad to have found this comment by Reynaud on my blog this morning. For I have been waiting for objectors to step up.

Well, dear Reynaud, I agree with you on the fact that Arab media are not doing their job of exposing our own political defects and failures. And they must! But I object totally and wholly on saying they are using Israel as a foil to deflect the attention from them.

Israel is doing terrible things in the Palestinian Territories. These "small briefly interesting" stories I'm mentioning are taking place everyday everywhere in Palestine, and need to be told. I must let the world know what's going on here, for the Israeli media, which are very smart - on contrary from the Palestinian media, play the game the right way. They know exactly what to show and where to point the spotlight, dragging the whole world's attention to the Israeli suffering and away from the suffer Israel is causing to the Palestinians.

The whole world saw crying settlers and weeping soldiers hugging during the withdrawal from Gush Katif. The whole world saw families being pulled out from the homes they grew up in. And I totally believe this was very shocking and sad for these settlers. Yet, no Israeli channel related to the historical aspect of this whole issue: that it was a step of ending occupation that lasted in Gaza for 37 years, during which the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip lived a horrible life. In order to put those settlers in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians were killed, starved, treated like animals and even worse. No one saw this on TV, not in Israel and almost nowhere in the world.

Moreover, I disagree on the fact that Palestinian media are not relating to the huge triumph Hamas achieved in the recent PLC elections. Politicians and journalists are discussing this issue nonstop. You better read more Palestinian papers and writers.

The Palestinian Authority was ruled by Fateh for 12 years, during which and for many reasons this movement failed politically and socially. So after this long time waiting for a change, after being told for years that the Oslo Agreement would be followed with an independent state for the Palestinians and all the good life aspects coming with it, whereas this people has seen only corruption from the PA, occupation, widening settlements, building an apartheid wall, and all in the name of security from the Israelis, they had to choose someone else to rule.

During the few previous years, Hamas has been working with a smart strategic plan. It filled the economical gaps corruption caused, it established social organizations and institutes which worked on giving money to the people who were starving, and started gaining more and more support among the Palestinian people.

With the lack of another alternative, and with great determination to kick Fateh out of the ruler chair, Palestinians chose Hamas. This was a way to express great disappointment with Fateh, and announce a new era.

I cannot say I'm satisfied with Hamas. I'm not a religious person, and I don't want to have a religious Palestine. I believe religion and state should definitely be separated. However, I was happy to see Fateh kicked out of the government, for it expressed the maturity of the Palestinian people. If you make mistakes, you're gonna have to pay.

As for choosing Hamas, I believe –as Nabeel Amr said yesterday, and as my collegue Mr. Rashid has been saying for months- the Palestinian people are not fanatically religious, and Hamas is definitely going to fall. This won't turn into another Taliban as the Israelis like to convince the world. And we all will see.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


I apologize for not writing for long, guys. been really busy.
I admit I'm writing now because I feel so angry and helpless. "Single soldiers' oppression" is not a new issue to me or to any other Palestinian. What I mean by this term is single soldiers deciding -by themselves- whether to allow Palestinians to pass through checkpoints or not.

If you ask any Palestinian about new Israeli army orders concerning passing checkpoints or entering Israel, they would tell you it is all up to soldiers' mood. This might sound like a joke to you, but you would be surprised to find out it is true in most cases.

Here's a story:

On my way back to Jerusalem from Bethlehem two days ago (Thursday, April 6th), I got to the outer (1st) entrance to the Rachel's Tomb Checkpoint (or crossing). Ahead of me in line were a Father, his son, his daughter and her own son. The four were on the way to Hadassa hospital where the mother was staying.

The daughter showed her ID and permit to the soldier, and passed with the little kid. In turn, the father showed his ID (All Palestinian -green- ID's) and permit and was told to pass. The son was asked (in Hebrew, which he doesn't understand) for his own ID, and the father answered (in an English-Arabic mix) that his son was 15, which means he hasn't got an ID yet.

Impatiently, the soldier answered: "Where's your permit?!" when told again that the boy hasn't got one for a person can't get it if he/she hasn't got an ID yet, he told the boy he cannot pass and ordered him to go back.

The father explained that when he went to the Israeli office to get his own permit, he was told that the boy can pass with his father's ID, because he's registered in it. He tried to show his son's name on his ID to the soldier who simply refused to look at it!

Watching all of this, I repeated everything the father has already said in Hebrew for the soldier, in order to avoid any misunderstandings. He answered me with the ULTIMATE answer you hear at checkpoints: "It's impossible". Not explaining why, and only saying it's because the boy has no permit. (dunno about you, but for me he was just like a robot poorly programmed which works only if fed with the narrow information its engineers put in its metal empty head)

When the three of us insisted he was wrong, and repeatedly demanded an explanation for the refusal, the soldier eventually opened the 10cm thick window and asked to see the ID and permit of the father.

Can you guess what happened next?

He succumbed.

And the family passed..

Now, this is not just one rare case. This is the usual thing. And if you find it hard to believe, I want you to come to Palestine and start watching what's going on around you while crossing checkpoints. (because it won't happen to you if you ain't Palestinian)

I believe the only way to fight Single-Soldier-oppression (which is also found in the shape of Group-of-Soldiers-oppression) is for Palestinians to become aware of their rights, aware of the laws and rules, and STAND UP for what they deserve.

Palestinians are terrorized. One type of this terror -found on checkpoints- is not as bloody, not as screaming and therefore not enough tempting for media coverage.

Can you take another story?

Yesterday, I passed through another checkpoint on the tunnels' road (Beit Jala-Jerusalem). When the bus stopped and I saw the commander standing with the usual soldiers, I sensed trouble. He had hatred in his eyes. I'm not trying to be too dramatic, people. and again, if it's too much fiction in your eyes, visit Palestine!

As usual, all the men got off the bus, and stood in line for ID/Passport inspection. My friend Yohan, the sweetest French guy I've ever met, showed his passport and was asked -by the commander of course- what he has been doing in Bethlehem. after this regular question, he was asked whether he has ever been arrested in France, whether he belonged to an anarchist group and other weirdo questions. But of course he passed.

After him stood one 16-year-old Jerusalemite boy (Israeli ID holder) and his 15-year-old brother (Holding a Permit). They were asked questions as wired as this: Who lives on the upper floor in your building? and who is your neighbor on the left?

Now, I don't know how you would feel being yelled at by an armed commander as if you have just killed his mother, but those kids were TERRORIZED. They tried to explain they were telling the truth and the commander insisted they were lying.

The bus driver was told to leave without the kids who were detained for further inspection, and their 5-year-old brother who was with them had to stay there too. I was yelled at too when I tried to explain that this could be the last bus on a Friday evening and these kids would get stuck in the middle of nowhere. And have been told it wasn't my business.

The Israeli army might respond with the following message: "The detained were held until the information they gave was confirmed".

The detained were two young boys, who were asked about their neighbors and answered with what they know.

Maybe after being such a nasty yelling pig, that commander could sleep better last night. Either way, his behavior only shows that the main goal was to make Palestinians' life as unbearable as hell. Maybe after such an experience they would prefer to stay home and never arrive to checkpoints.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


I'm posting a comment my dearest friend Khaled wrote as a reply to another comment posted by "Al-Falastiniyyah" on the elections post. She disagreed with Khaled. He answered with the following:

Hey Fayrouz... and everyone. Looking at the situation and how it has been ever since there were Arab MKs I got to the conclusion I got to. The situation today is not better than before, I guess it is clearer because people now hear about it. I don't credit the MKs for that. I think a nation can be heard and even in a better way today as a mass than a pathetic representation that does not represent the feelings of the people. If we are talking about the social side of the Arab mintority in Israel, no law was passed in the Kenesset in their favor. What was good and created in the Kenesset was never addressed for the Arab minority and never proposed by an Arab MK. In my opinion the presence of the Arab MKs is doing more harm than helping in today's reality. The people are less active and involved because they rely on the representation that is not achieving anything and maybe because they can't in the context of the Kenesset. Only a mass movement can do a change (many examples from East Europe and South America nowadays) and since everything else failed so far, it is time to try the hard way for a change and do something on the basic level of contributing to devolop the people in education and finance. People have to have the stable ground before they attempt to work together as a collective that can't be ignored anymore and that is why they have to achieve their security by gaining financial and educational basis. I started going in that direction the moment I was able to, I urge the rest to do the same. Educate as much as you can and where you can, then people are more aware to the reality and to their rights and are more able to fight for them.
1:01 PM

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dear all,

I am posting something my dearest Peter wrote about Jeff's question: "How safe is it for foreigners to visit Palestine?"

Peter is from the US. He worked at the same Agency I'm working at in Bethlehem, Ma'an.
I assumed it would be good for Jeff and other wonderers to get an answer also from a foreigner like them, so the impression created wouldn't be "oh, she's Palestinian. of course she'd say it ain't dangerous"

Pete wrote:

I'd be lying if I claimed that my nerves were at ease when I first entered the West Bank. I paced nervously on the Jordanian side of the Allenby Bridge imagining myself dodging mortar rounds as I surveyed taxi prices to Ramallah, where I assumed things would be even worse. "Will I make it out of here alive?" I wondered. I thought about the levels of injury I could sustain and wondered if visiting Palestine was worth spending the rest of my life drinking meals through a straw. Sitting here, one year later, I am amused by those imaginative concerns.

I feel no shame in admitting my fears about spending time on either side of the Palestine-Israel Green Line. As an American, I grew up on media that insisted that life in the Near East was nothing more than timing the short intervals between car bombs. Upon arrival, I feared the heavily fortified checkpoints in the West Bank and thought twice before stepping onto crowded buses in Jerusalem's center. The exclusive media emphasis on the region's conflict limited my ability to understand that the war is but one aspect of Palestinian-Israeli life. Believe it or not, the majority of people on both sides of the divide are thinking about other, more mundane things.

This is not to suggest that danger does not exist. Terrible things do occur and with far more regularity than those of us who live in peaceful societies are accustomed. These incidents, however, typically occur in areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip that are known for such things. These days, one is more likely to encounter heavy clashes and/or Israeli operations in Jenin or Nablus than Ramallah or Bethlehem. While heavy street fighting between armed Palestinians and Israeli forces is relatively common in the former, it is, at present, a rarity in the latter. Travel through areas where Palestinian armed brigades are more active means that the likelihood of a violent Israeli operation is significantly higher.

Even the most dangerous areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are relatively accessible to foreigners. The biggest challenge is passing the myriad Israeli checkpoints that rigidly encircle areas in which armed brigades are exceedingly active. While foreigners have at times been abducted by Palestinian brigades in the Gaza Strip, these incidents never result in injury or death and are often shortlived. The longest recent detention of a foreign national in Palestine took place last August when a French-Algerian soundman was held captive for eight days. Such a long detention was and remains highly unusual. Most abductees are released, unharmed, within hours of their disappearances. Furthermore, foreign abductees often report exceedingly humane treatment by their captors.

A far more likely scenario is what regional expats call being "kidnapped by Palestinian hospitality." This entails being approached by one or many Palestinians in a city or camp area, given the full tour, replete with personal stories, and then invited home for tea and food. Expats refer to this as "kidnapping" because once engaged, it becomes exceedingly difficult to refuse the onslaught of generosity. There is always one more friend or family member to visit, one more cigarette to smoke and several more cups of coffee to share before parting ways. Last October, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, some friends of mine and I were "kidnapped" in the Qalandia refugee camp near Ramallah for more than seven hours. We waddled out of the camp after being stuffed with more dates, mansaf and sweets than any of us could handle. It was a terrific day.

Apprehension prior to traveling in Palestine is completely normal. The West Bank and Gaza can at times be hot war zones in which F-16 fighter jets drop munitions on civilian areas and tanks patrol the streets. At the moment, however, this is not the situation. A trip to the region at this time will expose a foreigner to a beleaguered Palestinian populous living under complete and total Israeli control. One will get a clear sense of the power disparity and blatant racism that characterize Israeli rule over the Palestinians. One will discover the unparalleled kindness and generosity imbedded in Palestinian culture and realize how ridiculous Israeli claims of barbarism truly are. One will uncover the difficulty of progress and reconciliation while gaining simultaneous exposure to the hopefulness of common people on both sides of the divide. One will feel things strongly as certain situations are perfect illustrations of human suffering and humiliation.

The rewards of travel and interaction in Palestine far outweigh the risks necessary to attain them.

Friday, March 24, 2006


It's a beautiful day in Bethlehem; sunny and pretty warm. though its beginning wasn't that lucky for me. I arrived to the DCO (District Coordination Office Checkpoint) in Beit Jala and found out it was closed 2mins before my arrival. No cars or pedestrians were allowed in or out of Beit Jala.

Anyway, i promised a story about the elections:

I was sitting with my friends, Khaled, Alaa and Ahmad (all Palestinian Israelis) in Jerusalem, and we started discussing news about the elections and the results of recent polls. The conversation developed to become a debate around "whether it is essential to have Palestinian-Israeli (PI) Members in the Israeli Parliament - The Knesset.

Khaled, who is a very smart practical law-student, asked Alaa and Ahmad to mention one law that was suggested by any PI Member of the Knesset (MK) and confirmed by the Knesset without the power of the High Court for Justice (the supreme court in Israel).

Alaa and Ahmad, not less smart or impressive, i promise you, mentioned many changes in Israeli laws, that were conducted by PI MK's. Khaled wouldn't accept this answer.

Alaa and Ahmad's claimed was that if it wasn't for PI MK's, the Palestinian identity inside Israel would have been lost and that's because of their field work and continuous struggle to keep the people aware of the Zionist plan to "kick them out" in 56' and 67'. (many issues i'm mentioning in general coz i can't explain them all at once, but i'm ready for answering inquiries).

They said that there's a huge importance for PI presence in the Knesset, and it proved its value when the PI MK's constructed the "Blocking Bloc" (i don't know the expression in Eng so i translated that literally, it's the group that would prevent a decision from being passed in the parliment) in the vote on the Oslo Agreement in 93'.

Khaled also said that ubfortunately, MK's like Tamar Gujansky or Dov Hanin (Israeli's in the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) represent him as a Palestinian Israeli more EFFECTIVELY than Palestinian Israeli MK's like Barakeh or Bisharah who haven't achieved any results in Legislation.

Now, i can understand what Khaled is saying. He's a practical person, who believes the goal is what matters. He suggested that Palestinian Israelis have to choose Israeli (Jewish) members to represent them, coz it is the only way to assure accomplishing anything.

I said that this way Palestinians inside Israel may adopt the view saying they could never achieve anything by themselves, and this means low self-esteem. Moreover, it supports the goals of those who claim we don't deserve to be part of the parliament or the state.

I do believe PI MK's can make a difference. Their effect might be minor, unfortunaely, but not having them at all would achieve more negative results than positive. I think it is much harder to be a Palestinian Israeli MK than a Jewish MK, but it's just a part of the difficulties facing us as a whole minority in this country...

We deserve to be heard, and issues on our schedule should not arise any complaints or sighs. The Israeli Knesset, like the state itself, marginalizes the issues that are critical to us as citizens in Israel. We have to fight this in a smart way.

Hopefully, i'm gonna relate to the worrying figures i saw in a poll conducted by the Center for Fighting Racism in Israel (Manager: Baker Awawdeh) which showed racism is not a bad word in Israel..

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dear all,

Thank you all for the comments and e-mails. this is really exciting.
I'm working much lately and having almost no time to breathe. And having no pc :( , I can use the computer only at work. that's why my posting process is yet too slow. that will change soon, inshallah. as I'm planning to get me a bloody laptop!

Eitherway, i had a much interesting conversation with my friends about the elections in Israel last night, and I'm gonna write about it tonight or tomorrow.

I think it would be interesting to write about it here, for the argument was about whether it is needed for Palestinian-Israelis to have representatives in the Knesset (Israeli Parliment) or not.

So keep your faith and check the blog again soon. please..