Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Life Flows On

I have a new friend, Dandoon, a Palestinian lady who actually lives here in Montreal. Visit her blog.

Her most recent post has inspired me to get back to the roots of this blog as the emotional clearing house of a Palestinian living in Montreal. Now, I'm not saying I will stop discussing and exploring the political side of why I am here in this beautiful city, just that I will try to focus again more on the emotional side of what it is to be a Palestinian...who is not allowed to return home to Palestine...for now...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Israeli Apartheid Part 2

efore you read this post please read Part 1. It is important to get a full and complete understanding of the similarities and differences of the Israeli Apartheid versus the South African Apartheid. This article will deal with the DIS-similarities of the two, that on!

First of all, what are key differences between South African apartheid and Israel’s policies toward its Palestinian citizens?

I will concede without a fight that in Israel, there is a lack of formalized separation of the kind practiced in apartheid South Africa. Another key difference is that while white South Africans sought to exploit the labour of the nonwhite community under apartheid, Israel has more often sought to displace Palestinians from as much of their land as possible and keep the land for Jewish use.

Land confiscation began in 1948 and has continued ever since. In 1948, approximately 750,000 Palestinians (three-fourths of the Palestinian population) were either forcibly expelled by Israeli troops or fled in fear during the war. Israel bulldozed over 450 Palestinian villages into the ground and took over other freshly 'evacuated' villages for Jewish settlement. Confiscation of private property of Palestinian citizens of Israel continues to this day.

Beginning in 1967, confiscation of Palestinian land extended to the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, and especially Occupied East Jerusalem which is where I am from. In the Occupied Territories, Israel has seized private Palestinian property, built hundreds of illegal Jewish settlements and expelled Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza.

Here's one of the 'technical problems' posed by Israeli friends who have written to me: Is it fair to consider Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza a form of apartheid, when these areas are not 'technically' part of Israel?

Well, in the early years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it might have been unfair to regard its system of military government of the regions as a form of apartheid; discriminatory policies against the Palestinians might have been viewed as a temporary incident of the armed conflict in 1967 and its aftermath.

But Israel has now maintained control over these territories for nearly forty years, a period two-thirds as long as Israel’s entire history as a country (58 years as I write this). Even after the 2005 withdrawal of Jewish settlers from Gaza, Israel continues to control entry and exit of all people and goods and in other ways continues to determine the fate of Gaza Palestinians, I urge you to read my friends blog Raising Yousuf for all the day-today trials. Moreover, Israel has annexed East Jerusalem, and announced its desire to permanently control up to nearly half of the West Bank, possibly including the Jordan Valley. For all intents and purposes, Israel and the Palestinian territories it controls have functioned as one integrated economic and political unit. It is no longer possible to view an occupation of such long duration as a “temporary phenomenon”.

It is in its administration of these territories that Israel exhibits the strongest parallels to apartheid.
  • Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza have even fewer rights and freedoms than those with Israeli citizenship. They have no political voice in Israel, even though Israel effectively rules their lives.
  • Separation and discrimination is most apparent in the two distinct legal systems applicable to Jews and Palestinians – Israeli Jews illegally living in the West Bank are subject only to Israeli laws, and enjoy the right to vote, and the right to travel within Israel and abroad. Palestinians living in the same territory cannot avail themselves of Israeli law, have no right to vote in Israeli elections and can travel freely neither within Israel nor abroad.
Separation and discrimination are also evident in:
  • An extensive road system built by Israel throughout the West Bank that Palestinians are forbidden to use. These Israeli-only roads bisect Palestinian land and impede West Bank Palestinians’ freedom of movement. That's right 'special roads' that Palestinians are not allowed to use.
  • Palestinians in the West Bank often require permission simply to travel from one village to the next, and must pass through numerous Israeli military checkpoints. This is reminiscent of South Africa’s infamous “pass system” which controlled the movement of blacks.
Bishop Desmond Tutu, a South African anti-apartheid leader, described what he saw during a visit to Palestine as "much like what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about."

Israel has begun to confine Palestinians to small, encircled enclaves in the West Bank similar to the infamous “Bantustans” that South Africa created for blacks.
  • Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza do have the right to vote for the Palestinian Authority, but that body has only the trappings of sovereignty – postage stamps, passports, a police force – and lacks real power. The Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction over Israeli settlers and settlements in the West Bank, borders, airspace, water resources, its population registry and numerous other spheres that regularly fall under government control like tax collection.
  • Although occupied in 1967, East Jerusalem was illegally annexed by Israel. The Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are not citizens of Israel, only "legal residents" who must regularly prove connections to Jerusalem in order to continue to reside there. They face enormous legal obstacles to family unification and unequal access to housing, municipal services and other social benefits. They are treated as the equivalent of "foreign guests in their own country", without the right to vote in national elections.
South African law professor and United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) John Dugard said to the UN General Assembly that “Israel’s conduct in the OPT poses the same kind of challenge to the credibility of international human rights that apartheid did in the 1970’s and 1980’s. There are gross, egregious and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the OPT, committed not by undisciplined and uncontrolled militias but by one of the most disciplined and sophisticated armies in the modern world, directed by a stable and disciplined government.”

Another one of the disputed ideas is Palestinians calling Israel’s “security barrier” the “apartheid wall”. This wall, which physically dwarfs the former Berlin wall, secures Israel’s control over confiscated Palestinian land and separates Palestinian communities from each other. Special regulations require Palestinians to obtain permits even to approach the wall in some areas, while Jewish people are able to enter these same areas unrestricted.

If the sole purpose of building the wall had been to provide security for Israelis, it would have been built along the internationally recognized 1967 border (the “Green Line”); instead, it has been built on Palestinian land and in some instances right through the middle of Palestinian towns. Its additional result is to maximize Israeli control over Palestinian land, thus guaranteeing Jewish demographic predominance within areas of Jerusalem and the West Bank that Israel hopes to retain.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the wall is illegal and must be dismantled, and ordered Israel to compensate Palestinians damaged by the wall's construction. It also called upon third-party states to ensure Israel's compliance with the judgment.

The world opposed South Africa’s racist government and imposed sanctions on it (except for Israel, which maintained a close relationship with apartheid South Africa). Much of the world deplores Israel’s institutionalized discrimination. The U.S. government is aware of Israel’s record of discrimination, as its State Department reports demonstrate (see Part 1). But U.S. political leaders, to date, have not required Israel – for example, by placing conditions on economic or military aid – to abandon its discriminatory policies against Palestinians.

I believe this - Jewish nation in Palestine - 'experiment' has been a dismal failure and we need to admit that in order to move forward. The amount of money and energy spent to keep the people of Palestine (Jews, Muslims, Christians) apart can be better used. The 10's of millions dollars spent should be used to integrate the two populations through social programs, education and whatever other means possible and not to keep them apart.

The two state solution is NOT a solution. Opening the door to understanding between the European Jewish refugees (and their descendants) and the indigenous population of Palestine is the only solution.

Stand with me for a FREE and re-United Palestine.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Choose To Be FREE

(Photo by Gazagirl: A Palestinian boy rides his horse leisurely in front of an Israeli sniper tower located just across the Israeli border with Gaza.)

This is taken from another blog I frequent for spiritual inspiration:

"Choose to be Free"
by Velcrow Ripper

"Recently one of the comments on my blog stated - ‘one doesn’t choose to be free.’ Kind of like the idea that we are already enlightened, we just need to recognize that we are. Most certainly we are born free - then slowly, we begin to build our prisons, with more than a little help from society. We take a journey in life, away from the kingdom, out into the world, yet one day we can return to freedom.

Freedom, like love, is a choice. We choose to love - though sometimes it seems to just magically appear - falling in love - but we need to create the conditions. We need to open our hearts, our souls even, to the possibility.

Free will is a great gift. What a different game this life would be if humans were forced to be good, forced to do the right thing. How much more meaningful it is when we take the steps ourselves, when we choose liberation, when we choose to unpack all the filters and cultural limitations that stand in the way of us and freedom. I’m not talking about the kind of freedom George Bush is always going on about - his greatly touted freedom, for which he will lay waste to thousands of innocent humans - is by and large a chimera. Freedom does not mean the right to buy more stuff. Freedom does not mean another 100 channels of television.

Freedom means a heart, soul and mind that is liberated from illusion. Liberated from the controlling clutches of the ego. Liberated from the unconscious drives of hatred, agression, fear, desire, attachment, desperate grasping, that turns us into puppets on a string. The pupeteer is the ego. Cut the strings, and you will be free. Free from the constant looping refrains of the past, and free from the desperate striving for the future. Freedom is, in fact, surrender. Surrender, unconditionally, to what ‘is.’ A human being in a prison cell on death row has the ability to be free. It’s not conditional on circumstance. In fact, time and again I have seen incredible breakthroughs happen in the hearts of those who have every reason to contract into a tight ball of fear. For some, the opposite happens in the face of crisis - an opening magically occurs, and true freedom is experienced. Victor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning, wrote that everything can be taken away from us but one thing - the freedom to choose the way we respond to whatever comes our way. He was referring, in this case, to those remarkable survivors of Auschwitz who were somehow able to come through with their spirits intact,and even transformed. With these kind of remarkable examples, how can we, in our own lives, with our own smaller (though by no means unimportant problems), not choose to be free? And once we are free, once we are truly autonomous, we will very naturally be impelled to take action in this world to help others become free, in whatever way is our own true path. Choose to be free - the planet is depending on you."


As Malcolm X said, "You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom."

Choose a FREE and re-United Palestine! A Palestine for ALL of it's people, whether they be Jew, Muslim or Christian.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Israeli Apartheid: Part 1

have been chastised many times, on this blog and by people around me who are disgusted that I should refer to their beloved Israel in the same way as the world referred to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Also, seeing that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has released his new book on the subject ("Palestine Peace Not Apartheid") I feel now is the time for a direct explanation of this idea. Let me be clear I do not believe in the two state solution as does the former President and as such do not fully endorse his idea of peace in Palestine. I believe the only solution is a FREE and United Palestine. Now to the subject at hand.

First of all what exactly IS apartheid? “Apartheid” (literally means "apartness" in Afrikaans and Dutch) and it refers to the official policy of racial segregation formerly practiced in the Republic of South Africa, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites and, more broadly to any social system that separates and discriminates against people based on race or ethnicity, especially when that system is institutionalized by laws or decrees.

The big question with regards to this post is why do many people consider Israel to practice "apartheid"? Admittedly, Israel and South Africa are different in many ways (which will be discussed in Part 2 of this post). However, there is ample evidence that Israeli policies meet the broader definition of apartheid by separating and discriminating against Palestinian Arabs, through systems that are institutionalized by laws and decrees. Some of these policies bear resemblance to South Africa during its apartheid era.

Since its inception 58 years ago, Israel has striven to establish and maintain a strong Jewish majority within the state, treating the ratio of Jews to non-Jews as a national security issue. Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Threats, Avigdor Lieberman, considers the Palestinian citizens of Israel to be a great “demographic threat” facing Israel.

Over the years, Lieberman has advocated ridding Israel of its indigenous Palestinian inhabitants. He said in a November 5th 2006 interview with the Sunday Telegraph that Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population, were a "problem" that requires "separation" from the state. He added, "We established Israel as a Jewish country. I want to provide an Israel that is a Jewish, Zionist country. It's about what kind of country we want to see in the future. Either it will be an [ethnically mixed] country like any other, or it will continue as a Jewish country."

Many Israeli policies -- from the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinian Christians and Muslims in Israel’s founding years and the denial of their internationally-recognized rights to return to their homes, to the route of Israel’s current “security barrier” -- are designed to preserve Jewish demographic predominance.

This has led to discriminatory policies against all major categories of Palestinians either living under or affected by Israeli rule, including Palestinian refugees in exile such as myself.

Yes, as a Palestinian living in exile this Apartheid system also discriminates against me!

It's true that “apartheid” typically involves considerations of how states govern and treat residents of territories under their control. Israel, however, has exercised discriminatory policies in determining who may live within the country and who may not. Thus, Palestinians who had lived continuously on their land for generations were forcibly expelled or fled in fear from their homes in areas that fell under Israeli control and have never been allowed to return. Their continued exclusion has helped Israel remain a predominantly Jewish state. Meanwhile, Israel’s Law of Return grants rights of automatic citizenship to Jews all over the world – a measure used to stimulate Jewish immigration and thereby bolster Jewish demographic predominance.

To clarify, at this point in time Israel today rules over:
  • 4.6 million Jewish citizens
  • 1.3 million Palestinian Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel (sometimes referred to as Israeli Arabs)
  • 0.5 million citizens who are neither Jewish nor Arab
  • 3.8 million Palestinians in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
As has been pointed out to me, Palestinian citizens of Israel do not face institutionalized and formalized separation of the kind practiced in apartheid South Africa. However:

Jewish Israelis have greater rights and freedoms than Palestinian citizens of Israel. Although Palestinian citizens of Israel have the right to vote and run for office, they face de jure and de facto discrimination in many areas of life.

More than 20 Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews
. These include:
  1. The Law of Return which grants automatic citizenship rights to Jews from anywhere in the world upon request, while denying that same right to Palestinians
  2. The Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty which defines Israel as a “Jewish” state rather than a state for all its citizens.
This legal and symbolic commitment to Jews throughout the world leads to a variety of forms of discrimination against Palestinians.

According to the U.S. State Department’s annual Human Rights Report:
“[There is] institutionalized legal and societal discrimination against Israel's Christian, Muslim and Druze citizens. The government does not provide Israeli Arabs with the same quality of education, housing, employment and social services as Jews."
For example:

* Ninety-three per cent of the land in Israel is owned either by the state or by quasi-governmental agencies (such as the Jewish National Fund) that discriminate against non-Jews. Palestinian citizens of Israel face significant legal obstacles in gaining access to this land for agriculture, residence, or commercial development.

* Most non-Jewish children attend schools that are “separate and unequal” in comparison to those attended by Jewish Israeli children. Government budgets allocate far more money for the Jewish schools.

* Many towns in Israel with a majority Palestinian population lack basic services and receive significantly less government funding than do majority-Jewish towns. In fact, more than seventy Palestinian villages and communities in Israel, some of which pre-date the establishment of Israel, are unrecognized by the government receive no services, and are not even listed on official maps.

* The Nationality and Entry into Israel Law prevents Palestinians from the Occupied Territories who are married to Palestinian citizens of Israel from gaining residency or citizenship status. The law forces thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel to either leave Israel or live apart from their families. Israel’s Supreme Court upheld the law when petitioned by Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and other groups.

* Many Jewish Israelis express racist attitudes toward Palestinians and other Arabs:

- A recent poll revealed that two-thirds of Israelis favor segregated housing, nearly half would not allow an Arab into their home, and 40% support government policies to encourage emigration by Palestinian citizens of Israel.

- Israeli public school textbooks depict Palestinians and other Arabs in a derogatory fashion.

- Israeli political figures openly denigrate Palestinians:

+ Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and the spiritual leader of Shas, the third largest party in Israel’s Knesset, said that "most people know the Arabs are snakes...and snakes should be dealt with like snakes." (Maariv, 7/12/2001).

+ Knesset member and former Minister Efraim Eitam called the Palestinian citizens of Israel “a ticking time bomb” and said that they “resemble a cancerous growth…We shall have to consider the ability of the Israeli democracy to continue the Arabs' participation.” (Haaretz, 3/22/2002)

I will continue with part 2 of this post with the key DIFFERENCES between South African Apartheid and Israel’s policies toward its Palestinian citizens...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hamas Promotes Truce with Israel

ere's one that hasn't been picked up by any Western Media yet:

Hamas Promotes Israel Truce in Europe

CAIRO — A delegation from the ruling Palestinian movement has recently embarked on a European tour, including London and Belfast, to market a long-term truce with Israel in return for its withdrawal to the 1967 borders, recognition of the right of refugees to return to their homeland and the release of detainees in its jail, a top aid to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said.

"We visited London recently and are scheduled to visit a number of other European capitals to promote this truce, which is similar to the one championed by Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin before Israel assassinated him in March 2004," Ahmad Yusuf told

He was accompanied by Hams MP Sayed Abu Masameh on a ten-day unannounced visit to London.

Yusuf, who leads the delegation in its multi-leg tour, said the proposal has appealed to British officials who pledged to help market it.

"We told the Europeans that Muslims have been known for honoring their promises throughout the centuries and that the truce is a religious commitment and a political vision to resolve the conflict," he said.

The Hams official said the delegation has also met with European Union officials and "American figures".

"They promised us to reconsider their position on Hamas and start a dialogue in a prelude to remove the resistance movement in the future from the EU terror list."

Yusuf declined to name the European officials who met the Hamas delegation but said they are close to the quartet committee for Middle East peace, which comprises the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

"American dignitaries have also talked wit us about the truce as a mechanism to stabilize the region for the time being until we reach final and just settlement to the conflict," he added.

Yusuf expected that the Hamas-European dialogue would expand to include several EU countries.

"This dialogue could pave the way for in-depth talks with the US administration," he said.

EU officials could not be reached for comment on the Hamas talks.

Israel's Recognition

Yusuf said the delegation told the Europeans that Hamas cannot recognize Israel under such international circumstances, which deny the Palestinians their inalienable rights.

"Israel does not recognize our right to exist and our basic rights have not been fulfilled, not to mention other pending issues like the holy city of Al-Quds and the refugees," he added.

"We told them that Palestinian rights must be addressed first before reaching a settlement with Israel."

British officials, according to Yusuf, vowed to work on lifting the international blockade on the Palestinians and enhance dialogue with Hamas following the formation of a national unity government.

"The Europeans told us to prepare a list of Hamas cadres who can travel to EU countries to talk with clerics, MPs and politicians about the Palestinian cause and Hamas's platform," Yusuf said.

Talks between rival Palestinian factions on forming a unity government hit new snags on Monday.

An advisor to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas announced that talks between the parties had been suspended.

On the delegation's visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland, Yusuf said they met with a group of British negotiators to make use of their expertise in mediating between the Catholics and the Protestants.

"The talks with leaders from the Irish Republican Army were very much useful," he said, adding that the delegation invited Irish officials to visit the occupied Palestinian territories to have a first-hand experience.

He continued: "I think the European officials who visited the region have realized the Islamists can be a partner and that's why they had talks with some of Islamist figures."

Yusuf categorically denied Israeli reports that the delegation had met with Jewish figures in London.

"We met only Members of Parliament and peers during the London visit," he said.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero announced last week that France, Italy and Spain were seeking a ceasefire, an exchange of Israeli and Palestinian prisoners, a Palestinian national unity government and the dispatch of a fact-finding mission to the Palestinian territories.

The peace initiative, however, was snubbed by Israel, which called the Spanish endeavor "hasty."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Al Jazeera English Goes Live!

y goal here has always been to give my opinion of things and the background going on in the Arab World specifically to do with Palestine. Yesterday, that goal became much easier. Al Jazeera English has gone live! If your cable company does not carry it, demand it first of all OR get the feed off the internet here.

I hope that this channel becomes a trusted tool for understanding what is really happening in the Middle East and it's historical underpinnings.

Mabrook Aljazeera!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Israeli Soldiers Speak Out

To continue my theme of "speaking through the voice of others", I just discovered this on YouTUBE (gotta love it!) Here are a couple of Israeli Defense Forces soldiers Avichai Sharon and Noam Chayut, speaking out about their experiences "serving their country". After you watch this you may understand why I and other Palestinians, refer to the soldiers as Israeli Offense Forces (IOF). On an aside I was intrigued how much these two guys actually looked like me, I mean in a physical sense, skin colour, hair, etc. I mean we could be cousins...and in a sense we are...

Pay close attention when Noam talks about coming away from a rather extreme operation and then hearing on the radio news how it was being down played to the Israeli public. I think if Israelis truly understood what they were doing (and have done) to the Palestinian people they would be appalled!

The truth is YOU have the choice to speak out.

Watch this and feel what the Palestinian frustration is...then visit the Breaking the Silence website.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bridging the World's Divides

cross-cultural group of 20 prominent world figures has called for urgent efforts to heal the growing divide between Muslim and Western societies.

The chief causes of the rift are not religion or history, they say, but recent political developments, notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Their findings were presented to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at a ceremony in Istanbul on today.

No other dispute had such a symbolic or emotional impact on people, he said.

"We may wish to think of the Arab -Israeli conflict as just one regional conflict among many. But it is not," Mr Annan said.

"As long as the Palestinians live under occupation, exposed to daily frustration and humiliation, and as long as Israelis are blown up in buses and in dances halls, so long will passions everywhere be inflamed."

The Alliance of Civilisations, which includes Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, dismisses the notion that a clash of civilisations is inevitable, but says that swift action is needed.

The group argues that the need to build bridges between Muslim and Western societies has never been greater.

They say that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with Western military interventions in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, contributes significantly to the growing sense of resentment and mistrust that mars relations among communities.

Please take the time to download the report, read it (it's only 39 pages) and then forward it to your friends.

We can have peace in our time!

Download: Alliance of Civilizations Report [.PDF 431 k]

Learn more about the organization here:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Peaceful Resistance

have often been asked by people on this blog and from friends why do Palestinians always have to be violent? And I have always responded that "if it bleeds it leads". Just because the media decides to go with the most dramatic (if not one sided) story doesn't mean peaceful resistance among Palestinians is not happening. Recent case in point last week in besieged Bait Hanun women showed there is another way and they paid for it with their lives, 2 dead and 6 injured.

A twelve-year old by the name of Ibrahim Ghazi Beit-Ilo was hit in the neck by shrapnel from a live bullet following a peaceful protest march against the Apartheid Wall in Bil’in October 27th. He underwent surgery at the Ramallah goverment hospital and the shrapnel was successfully removed. Another 16 people were injured by shrapnel from exploding tear gas and sound bomb cannisters or were beaten with military truncheons. [Read].

Or how about this candle light vigil in Gaza.

Not to mention all of the other peaceful demonstrations happening around the world that are out of the reach of the IDF, many of which I have participated in. Technically this very blog is an act of peaceful resistance, the sad fact is that I need to hide behind a pseudonym for my own protection.

What Zionists miscalculated in planning the resurrection of the ancient Kingdom of Israel is that simply for Palestinians to exist is to resist...what I fear however is Israel's plan to correct this miscalculation most recently with "Summer Rain" and now with "Autumn Clouds".

Friday, November 03, 2006

Dispatches: The Killing Zone

No, it might not technically qualify as a GENOCIDE...but it's close. Some weekend viewing for you. Have a peaceful weekend.