Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Listen to what I say, Don't watch what I do...

CNN's crawl below the televised image of Ehud Olmert's speech reveals the nature of the "peace" he discussed at the U.S. Congress, 24 May 2006.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Is It Beyond Your Imagination?

Imagine for a moment if you could that there were no religions. No doctrines to follow, no reason to feel slighted, some call religion an antiquated idea that's primary purpose was to simply explain life after death.


Imagine for a moment if you don't mind that there were no countries. No borders, no fences or boundaries, no reason for armies with their weapons that kill.


Imagine for a moment if you would there was no history. Only people living for 'the now', enjoying the sun on your face, the feeling of cool grass at your back and watching the clouds float by.


You might say I'm impractical, dreaming of a utopian society but I dare say I'm not the only one that wants peace. At the very minimum it is something to strive for. This is the time, we have been handed the place to make it come true in the - Holy Land -, what better place to make God's wish for us to come true?

I believe humanity has come to a crossroads. We need to either accept our mistakes and adopt a peaceful, inclusive, loving nature or continue down this road to self-destruction.

We must throw off the dark cloak of 'fear' and open our hearts to give and receive only 'love'.

Maybe we are "the chosen people" to lead the way to a more peaceful world...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

You Can Help Palestinians Right Now

As I am working on my latest post I came across this and wanted to put this up as soon as possible.

ACTION ALERT: Don't Let the House Impose Sanctions on the Palestinians!

When President Truman wrote his memoirs he answered why he had thrown his support behind the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, despite his strong reservations, he said it was because none of his constituants where Palestinian.

Well, here's your chance to stop things from becoming worse!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Never Far From Home

n 1967, as my family was huddled in the hallway of our home in Jerusalem to avoid getting hit by stray bullets, Montreal was welcoming the world to it's Worlds Fair. As we were in 23-hour a day curfew with almost nothing to eat or drink, Montrealers were sharing their good nature, food and drink with hundreds of thousand of tourists. As the bodies of Jordanian soldiers rotted in the streets of Jerusalem after the 6-day war, here in Montreal they were basking in the sunny glare of the world.

The theme for the 1967 Worlds Fair? "Man and His World"...if they only knew...

One of the many talk pieces of the Worlds fair that year was the building pictured above, aptly called Habitat '67. Unlike many of the other buildings erected that year for the fair, this building continues to stand today. It is one of the more interesting parts of the Montreal landscape for me as a Palestinian, for it's uncanny resemblance to a Palestinian village carefully perched on an ancient hillside in the Holy Land.

After years of wondering, I decided to do some research and discovered that it was designed by renouned architect Moshe Safdie based on his Masters thesis at McGill University here in Montreal. Now here's the irony, Moshe Safdie was born in the town of Haifa, he moved with his family to Montreal when he was a teenager, a move he disliked as a dedicated Zionist! 18 years after Zionists in Palestine had destroyed nearly 500 Palestinian villages trying to create the illusion of a "land without a people", a self proclamed Zionist was re-building this one here! I was amazed and puzzled at this find. Was he subconciously lamenting what had been done? Wishing to make amends somehow?

An additional irony, as if mirroring what happened in Palestine, Habitat '67 was designed as 'affordable housing', housing for everybody, but has become a building for only Montreal's elite.

I feel somehow this building is here as a monument to remind me of who I am, where I come from and the work that needs to be done to rebuild Palestine to it's former inclusive nature...a FREE and United Palestine!

Dispossessed All Over Again

As I was doing research for my next post I came across this article written by an Australian-Palestinian girl who goes back to visit her destroyed village in Israel.

Since my queries of 'going home' again seems to have drawn so much attention I thought reprinting this would be appropriate.

Rihab Charida
October 2004

After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation. It has been shocking to witness what Israeli colonialism has done to the land of the West Bank yet inspiring to see what it has not been able to do to the people. The land: divided, exploited, exhausted, tortured. The people: imprisoned and controlled yet united, defiant and beyond control.

What has to a large degree been more shocking and difficult to witness is the occupation of Palestine '48. The Arab character of Palestine '48 has been completley erased, replaced. The streets, buildings, people and lifestyle are mostly European. In some areas there was not one trace of a Palestinian people or history, very similar to Sydney and the sacred Aboriginal land that lies just beneath the concrete paths and buildings there. Everywhere I looked there were basketball courts, soccer feilds, McDonalds, Burger King, skyscrapers, everything but Palestine.

And then we reached Yaffa. Beautiful anceint Yaffa on the coast of Palestine. The old Palestinian homes there are used as Israeli cafes, restaurants or nightclubs. The fliers advertising these places don't even hide the fact that these homes are occupied "an old Arab (never Palestinian) home has been converted into one of Jaffa's finest restaurants." I stood on the beach and thought about all of my freinds from Yaffa who mostly live in refugee camps and I prayed for their return. I cried and screamed inside that they couldn't be here watching the sun set behind the sea on this first day of Ramadan. Israelis swim and shop while Palestinians are trapped behind concrete camp walls. I felt like exploding.

From Yaffa we drove up to Acre where we spent one night. Acre has a large Palestinian poplulation however it is still scarred by European-Jewish colonialism. The area is beautiful yet it is dressed up with the bright colours and neon lights of commercialsim. When Jewish Israel was created, most of Palestine '48 was razed to the ground except for the large, strong and attractive buildings. The newly arrived colonialists were quick to use them for profit or leisure. For me to stand there and watch how they have been expolited was to feel disspossessed all over again.

In the morning we made our way up towards the north of Palestine to visit my village and the nearby town of Safad, the town of a sister living in Australia who too has been dispossessed. The drive up was the most breathtaking experience I have ever had. The untouched nature was beyond anything I had imagined. I didn't realise that I came from such a beautiful part of the world. It somehow hurt more because it was so beautiful. In Safad I stood on a hilltop and thought about Salwa. I thought about her family and filled a bottle with soil for a Palestinian father buried far from home.

From Safad we began making our way to Safsaf. It was in the refugee camps in Lebanon, before even coming to Palestine, that I realised that I had already seen the most important part of my village, its people. Most of the people from Safsaf live in Ain El Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon where the camps are divided up into areas which get their name from the people who live there. When I walked through the alleys of Safsaf in Ain El Helweh I knew that a very big part of me and my history lives within those walls. My cousins and other people from Safsaf asked me to bring them some soil from the grounds of our village and to film it so that we can watch it together during a Safsaf gathering when I return to Lebanon.

I felt angry and somehow guilty that I was able to visit Safsaf and they were not. I remembered photos that my relatives showed me of themselves at the Lebanon/Palestine border standing there with Palestine behind them, the closest they can get. Safsaf can actually be seen from the Lebanese border.

During the drive up I began to recall stories that my father had told me about the day they fled Safsaf. In October 1948 the men of the village fought to protect the lands and people of Safsaf. My father, who was nine at the time, remembered the day when his father returned home after weeks of fighting. His gun had melted and he no longer had the means to fight. The men of the village were insufficiently armed and outnumbered so they decided to gather their families and seek refuge in Lebanon until the situation calmed and they could return after what they believed would only be a few months.

On the 29th October 1948 Safsaf fell. On that day almost half of the 250 villagers were massacred, ten of whom were from my family. Many of the young men were lined up against the wall and shot down in front of their mothers. Those that were able to get away fled to Lebanon and have been dispossessed ever since, living in a refugee camp that is only three hours drive away. Safsaf is one of over 500 localities that were ethnically cleansed and destroyed in 1948-49, each with a history and a story that has been buried for over half a century.

The only reference point that we had to find Safsaf was an Israeli area called Sifsufa (its not just the lands that were stolen, but even the names), which was built by the Jewish Agency in 1949 beside the lands of Safsaf. The only way to find Sifsufa was by using an Israeli map which had all the names of the Jewish areas that had replaced Palestinian ones.

When we arrived to Safsaf I felt a rush through my body. The village is surrounded by beautiful green hills with tall Safsaf trees, the trees that give the village its name. Only three buildings still stand there, half demolished from the attack in 1948 which destroyed everything else in the village. Humbled by the beauty, history and sacrifice of the place I got down on my knees and cried into the earth and into the stones of the buildings.

One of the buildings was being used as a change room and bath for a sports team. Dirty clothes were thrown on the grounds of one room and a dirty bath in another. Each of the buildings had been spraypainted with hebrew words that I cared not to understand. While standing there a few Israelis walked over to the area and began walking through the unused building. "What are you doing here?" I asked.

"What are you doing here?" they asked me.

"What am I doing here? I come from here. This is my village".

What they were doing there was turning one of the buildings into a restaurant.

"But these are Palestinian homes!"


"No definitely. My father was born here, my grandfather and great-grandfather, all born here. These are our homes".

"Maybe," and with that he walked away to examine the building.

I felt so frustrated and powerless at the same time. They walked around the building right before my very eyes in total disregard for what I had just told them. I shouldn't have been shocked, they have been doing this since 1948, taking what's not theirs with full knowledge of who it belongs to.

I wanted to speak to my father and let him know where I was. I called him and heard his loud voice turn soft. When I heard that he was holding back tears I began to cry. He told me "Baba why are you crying? Haven't I always told you that we will back one day? That it's not over?"

"Of course you did Baba. Of course you did."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Two Sides

As Israeli Jews celebrate Independence Day today, the Israeli Arab community will be marking its own 'Nakba' day or day of 'catastrophe'. Reading this article from Jack Khoury on the haaretz.com website I was amazed and even appalled at some of the comments...58 years later! Israel has evolved into an envious state, but at what price?

There are two sides to every story and I believe that the truth lies somewhere in between.

Here in Montreal, the Arab speaking community continues to grow(according to Statistics Canada) second only to the Italians. The Jewish community continues to be a strong leader for social causes and not just for Jewish social causes I must add. I have great respect for the work Jewish Montrealers continue to do. This among a predominant Christian population and a dynamically developing Muslim community.

All of these groups is what makes up the unique mosaic of what Montreal is...a multi linguistic, multi religious, multi ethnic city of nearly 4-million people. I find it hard to believe that something similar can't happen in the Holy Land.

We all want the same thing: to prosper, to grow, to live....in Peace. Am I naive to believe that because we can do it here it can't be done there?