Wednesday, February 28, 2007 Pictures and Words

A previous post (Old Newspaper Clippings) has had a lot of reaction both on and off the blog mostly thanks to the photographs, so I decided to try and give some depth to what actually happened when the Jewish state was declared in 1948. To do this along with some more photographs, I have decided to use an excerpt from the book "Blessed are the Peacemakers ...The History of a Palestinian Christian" written by Father Audeh Rantisi.

A special note for those who come to this blog and have bought into the idea that Palestinians hate Jewish people (Palestinians are also Jewish by the way) we Palestinians
are fighting for justice and for our dignity...we don't hate Jews, we hate Zionism, an ideology which brought this kind of destruction to our peaceful part of the world...the "Holy Land".

That said, here's a bit about Father Rantisi: He was born in Lyda, now the site of Ben Gurion Airport, in 1937. From 1955 to 1958 he attended the Bible College of Wales, moving in 1963 to continue his studies at Aurora College in the state of Illinois. He then served as a missionary in Sudan. In 1965 he opened the Evangelical Home for Boys in Ramallah, West Bank. In 1976 Father Rantisi was elected as Ramallah's deputy mayor and he is now the director of the orphanage of the Evangelical Home of Boys.

I cannot forget three horror-filled days in July of 1948. The pain sears my memory, and I cannot rid myself of it no matter how hard I try.

First, Israeli soldiers forced thousands of Palestinians from their homes near the Mediterranean coast, even though some families had lived in the same houses for centuries. (My family had been in the town of Lydda in Palestine at least 1,600 years). Then, without water, we stumbled into the hills and continued for three deadly days. The Jewish soldiers followed, occasionally shooting over our heads to scare us and keep us moving. Terror filled my eleven-year-old mind as I wondered what would happen. I remembered overhearing my father and his friends express alarm about recent massacres by Jewish terrorists. Would they kill us, too?

We did not know what to do, except to follow orders and stumble blindly up the rocky hills. I walked hand in hand with my grandfather, who carried our only remaining possessions-a small tin of sugar and some milk for my aunt's two-year-old son, sick with typhoid.

The horror began when Zionist soldiers deceived us into leaving our homes, then would not let us go back, driving us through a small gate just outside Lydda. I remember the scene well: thousands of frightened people being herded like cattle through the narrow opening by armed soldiers firing overhead. In front of me a cart wobbled toward the gate. Alongside, a lady struggled, carrying her baby, pressed by the crowd. Suddenly, in the jostling of the throngs, the child fell. The mother shrieked in agony as the cart's metal-rimmed wheel ran over her baby's neck. That infant's death was the most awful sight I had ever seen.

Outside the gate the soldiers stopped us and ordered everyone to throw all valuables onto a blanket. One young man and his wife of six weeks, friends of our family, stood near me. He refused to give up his money. Almost casually, the soldier pulled up his rifle and shot the man. He fell, bleeding and dying while his bride screamed and cried. I felt nauseated and sick, my whole body numbed by shock waves. That night I cried, too, as I tried to sleep alongside thousands on the ground. Would I ever see my home again? Would the soldiers kill my loved ones, too?

Early the next morning we heard more shots and sprang up. A bullet just missed me and killed a donkey nearby. Everybody started running as a stampede. I was terror-stricken when I lost sight of my family, and I frantically searched all day as the crowd moved along.

That second night, after the soldiers let us stop, I wandered among the masses of people, desperately searching and calling. Suddenly in the darkness I heard my father's voice. I shouted out to him. What joy was in me! I had thought I would never see him again. As he and my mother held me close, I knew I could face whatever was necessary. The next day brought more dreadful experiences. Still branded on my memory is a small child beside the road, sucking the breast of its dead mother. Along the way I saw many stagger and fall. Others lay dead or dying in the scorching midsummer heat. Scores of pregnant women miscarried, and their babies died along the wayside. The wife of my father's cousin became very thirsty. After a long while she said she could not continue. Soon she slumped down and was dead. Since we could not carry her we wrapped her in cloth, and after praying, just left her beside a tree. I don't know what happened to her body.

We eventually found a well, but had no way to get water. Some of the men tied a rope around my father's cousin and lowered him down, then pulled him out, and gave us water squeezed from his clothing. The few drops helped, but thirst still tormented me as I marched along in the shadeless, one-hundred plus degree heat.

We trudged nearly twenty miles up rocky hills, then down into deep valleys, then up again, gradually higher and higher. Finally we found a main road, where some Arabs met us. They took some of us in trucks to Ramallah, ten miles north of Jerusalem. I lived in a refugee tent camp for the next three and one-half years. We later learned that two Jewish families had taken over our family home in Lydda.

Those wretched days and nights in mid-July of 1948 continue as a lifelong nightmare because Zionists took away our home of many centuries. For me and a million other Palestinian Arabs, tragedy had marred our lives forever.
Throughout his life my father remembered and suffered. For thirty-one years before his death in 1979, he kept the large metal key to our house in Lydda.
After more than four decades I still bear the emotional scars of the Zionist invasion. Yet, as an adult, I see what I did not fully understand then: that the Jews are also human beings, themselves driven by fear, victims of history's worst outrages, rabidly, sometimes almost mindlessly searching for security. Lamentably, they have victimized my people.

Four years after our flight from Lydda I dedicated my life to the service of Jesus Christ. Like me and my fellow refugees, Jesus had lived in adverse circumstances, often with only a stone for a pillow. As with his fellow Jews two thousand years ago and the Palestinians today, an outside power controlled his homeland-my homeland. They tortured and killed him in Jerusalem, only ten miles from Ramallah, and my new home. He was the victim of terrible indignities. Nevertheless, Jesus prayed on behalf of those who engineered his death, "Father, forgive them..." Can I do less?

We are fighting for justice and for our dignity...we don't hate Jews, we hate Zionism. One of the other sad truths of this is that Israeli children aren't taught the story of their countries original inhabitants despite it only happening 58 years ago. If anything they are taught despise and look down on 'the Arabs'.

Refugees being forced out of their villages (near Lod and Ramla). "Nakba in Pictures"

1948 UNRWA photo

Israeli soldiers looting an unidentified Jerusalem area Palestinian village in 1948. GPO/AIC photo.

Palestinian refugees separated from their home by the "green line". 1948 UNRWA photo

Israeli Soldiers in abandoned Palestinian home in Qatamoun, West Jerusalem, in 1948. GPO/AIC Photo.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Palestinians Are Not Children of a Lesser God

This is an op-ed piece that I just discovered. It was published by The Jewish Daily Forward

We Palestinians Will Honor Our Word

I know of no way to measure suffering, no mechanism to quantify pain. All I know is that we Palestinians are not children of a lesser God.

Had I been a Jew or a Gypsy, I would consider the Holocaust to be the most atrocious event in history. Had I been a Native American, it would be the arrival of the European settlers and the subsequent near-total extermination of the indigenous population. Had I been an African American, it would be slavery in previous centuries and apartheid in the last. Had I been an Armenian, it would be the Turkish massacre.

I happen to be a Palestinian, and for Palestinians the most atrocious event in history is what we call the Nakba, the catastrophe. Humanity should consider all the above as morally unacceptable, all as politically inadmissible. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not comparing the Nakba to the Holocaust. Each catastrophe stands on its own, and I do not like to indulge in comparative martyrology or a hierarchy of tragedies. I only mention our respective traumas in order to illustrate that we each bring to the table our own particular history.

The fact that the accords reached last week in Mecca between Hamas and Fatah were met with a variety of reactions, ranging from warm to cautious to skeptical, makes it imperative to revisit and learn the lessons of the diplomatic history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Time and again the three “no’s” of the Khartoum summit in 1967 — no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel — are invoked as proof conclusive of Arab intransigence toward Israel. Such a claim, however, conveniently forgets that Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt and Jordan accepted United Nations Security Council resolution 242 just months after the Khartoum meeting.

Also forgotten is that Syria, after the October War in 1973 — the purpose of which, it should be remembered, was to reactivate a dormant diplomatic process and to capture the attention of American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — accepted U.N. resolution 338, which incorporated resolution 242. Ignored, too, is that the entire Arab world endorsed a peace plan put forth by the then-Saudi crown prince Fahd at a 1982 summit in Fez, Morocco, as well as unanimously backed the initiative put forth by then-Saudi crown prince Abdallah in Beirut in 2002.

For the Palestinian national movement, the October War in 1973 was a demarcation line in strategic thinking. It is then that we concluded that there was no military solution to the conflict. Until then we had advocated a unitary, democratic, bicultural, multiethnic and pluri-confessional state in Mandatory Palestine.

After 1973, a pragmatic coalition within the Palestine Liberation Organization emerged. Composed of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, Nayef Hawatmeh’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and As Sa’iqa, the Palestinian branch of the Syrian Ba’ath Party, the coalition demanded not absolute justice but rather possible justice within the framework of a two-state solution. The fact that As Sa’iqa belonged to that school of thought, it is worth noting, is proof that Damascus can be a constructive player in the region if properly engaged and its concerns addressed. Syria is not necessarily the eternal spoiler that needs to use the Lebanese theater or the Palestinian scene in order to remind everyone of its presence.

Led by this pragmatic coalition, the PLO was ready for a historical compromise as far back as 1974. It was not the rejectionist player, as many have labeled it, but rather the rejected party until the Oslo peace talks in 1993. Throughout its presence in Lebanon, the PLO aimed to remain a military factor so as to be accepted as a diplomatic actor.

I have told my many Israeli interlocutors that I believe that the Israeli posture in peace negotiations was to expect a diplomatic outcome that would reflect Israeli power and intransigence, American alignment toward Israeli preferences, declining Russian influence, European abdication, Arab impotence and what they hoped to be Palestinian resignation.

It is this attitude that has resulted in having a durable peace process instead of a lasting and permanent peace. Peace and security will stem not from territorial aggrandizement but from regional acceptance — and make no mistake about it, we Palestinians are the key to regional acceptance of Israel. For years now, the Arab world from Morocco to Muscat has been ready to recognize the existence of Israel if it withdraws back from its expanded 1967 borders. The perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is due not to the Arab rejection of Israeli existence, but to the Israeli rejection of Arab acceptance.

The absence of a credible diplomatic avenue has allowed for the emergence and the strengthening of radical movements. The electoral defeat of Fatah in January 2006 was caused by a plurality of factors, not least of them the fact that Fatah became identified with negotiations and a peace process that was non-existent for the last six years and totally unconvincing during the years preceding. To the Palestinians, the last 15 years of “peacemaking” were years during which we witnessed the expansion of the occupation — with the number of settlers doubling — not a withdrawal from the occupation.

Now, however, there is a chance to move beyond this history. As a result of the agreement reached last week in Mecca, the Palestinian government will be more representative than at any period before. The new foreign minister, Ziad Abu Amr, both enjoys the confidence of Hamas and is a political friend of Mahmoud Abbas — who as PLO chairman is charged with negotiating on behalf of the Palestinian people and as P.A. president has prerogative over the conduct of foreign affairs.

Both Fatah and Hamas are in favor of a cease-fire, for which they can now ensure disciplined Palestinian adherence — especially if it is reciprocated by the Israeli side and extended to the West Bank, where alas we have recently witnessed an escalation in assassinations and arrests. And in Mecca, Hamas and Fatah agreed that the Palestinian government will honor all agreements signed by the PLO, will abide by all the resolutions of previous Arab summits and will base its activity on international law.

The term “honor,” rest assured, has as much a ring of nobility to it in Arabic — if not more — as it does in any other language.

A territory that was occupied in 1967 in less than six days can also be evacuated in six days — so that Israelis can rest on the seventh, and we can all finally engage in the fascinating journey of nation-building and economic recovery.

Afif Safieh is head of the Palestine Liberation Organization Mission to the United States.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Debunking the Myth of Israeli Democracy

As part of Israeli Apartheid Week 2007...tomorrow night in Montreal:

Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights presents:

"Debunking the Myth of Israeli Democracy"

Dr. Jamal Zahalqa
Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, and member of the National Democratic Assembly (Balad) Party

Thursday February 15th 2007
Concordia University, Hall Building (on DeMaisoneuve) room H-937

Dr. Jamal Zahalka is a Palestinian Israeli and member of the Israeli Knesset. Zahalka will be speaking about the nature of Israeli apartheid and how it operates within Israel to discriminate against the indigenous Palestinian minority. His lecture will expose the brutal reality faced by the Palestinian citizens of Israel and debunk the myth of "Israeli democracy".

As Israel and its global backers like Canada and the United States tighten the strangulation hold on the Palestinian people in an attempt to provoke Palestinian infighting; and while the Israeli military continues its brutal daily assault on Palestinian life, it is crucial that people in the rest of the world wake up to the apartheid nature of the Israeli state, and it is our collective responsibility to expose and isolate this regime until apartheid is dismantled.

The analysis of apartheid put forward during Israeli Apartheid Week in previous years has played an important role in raising awareness and disseminating information about Zionism, the Palestinian liberation struggle, as well as the connections with the Aboriginal sovereignty struggle on Turtle Island and the South African Anti-Apartheid movement. The analysis put forward in the week is spreading on a global scale, and this Israeli Apartheid Week is taking place simultaneously in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, New York, Oxford, Cambridge and London.

Visit the "End Israeli Aparthied" Website for events near you.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Israel and the Media: The Ten Commandments

ell, considering that the subject of my last post barely made the news this week, here are ten rules everyone should memorize before watching the evening news or reading the morning paper. They make everything perfectly clear:

Rule # 1: If the story is about the Middle East, the Arabs always attack first and Israel always defends itself. This is called "reprisals".

Rule # 2: Arabs, Palestinians or Lebanese have no right to kill the soldiers or civilians of the other side. This is called "terrorism".

Rule # 3: Israel can kill civilian Arabs. This is called "legitimate self-defence".

Rule # 4: When Israel kills too many civilians, the West asks Israel to be more "proportionate" in its attacks. This is called "the reaction of the international community".

Rule # 5: Palestinians and Lebanese are not allowed to capture Israeli soldiers, even if it’s only three soldiers, since this would pose "an existential threat to the state of Israel".

Rule # 6: Israelis have every right to kidnap as many Palestinians as they like. They now have approximately 10,000 such prisoners, including 300 children. There is no limit to the number that can be kidnapped and no need to prove the guilt of the kidnapped individuals. It is enough to use the magic word "terrorist" and that settles the matter.

Rule # 7: When you say "Hezbollah", you must always add the words "Islamists", "Shiites" and "backed by Syria and Iran".

Rule # 8: When you say "Israel" you must not add "the Jewish State" or "the Jewish army" and above all must not use the words "backed by the United States, France and Europe" since this implies an unequal conflict.

Rule # 9: Never mention the "occupied territories" or UN resolutions except for Resolution #1559, which called for the disarming of Hezbollah. And do not mention violations of international law or of the Geneva Conventions. This upsets TV viewers and radio listeners by forcing them to think.

Rule # 10: Israelis speak better English than Arabs. This is why we give them and their defenders as much time as possible to speak on the air. This allows them to help us better understand Rules # 1 - 9.

And this is what is called "journalistic neutrality".

Written by Sabri Khayat

Thanks to PAJU Montreal

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Beginning of "The End"?

Israeli forces demolished the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque after destroying the Moroccan Gate bridge leading to the Muslim holy site. Chief Palestinian Justice Sheikh Taysir Tamimi said that the timing of the destruction in the Old City of East Jerusalem was purposeful as all eyes are on the meeting in Mecca and political leaders are enroute.

The Sheikh told a press conference in Ramallah this afternoon that the Israeli government is continuing with its plan to demolish the historic road at the Moroccan Gate with a major threat to the western side of the Mosque.

Israeli forces expelled all Arab workers and journalists Monday, increased the military presence in the face of nonviolent protests over the past two days, and closed all roads on Tuesday.

Sheikh Tamimi pointed out that today's demolitions began a few years ago when the excavation plan was laid to destroy Al Aqsa Mosque one part at a time and build over its remains. He said that Israel is committed to ethnic cleansing.

The Israeli government is destroying Muslim neighborhoods and historic sites, demolishing Palestinian homes and closing Jerusalem to Palestinians with the Wall. It is also penetrating the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and building a synagogue and putting Jewish settlers in place.

The Sheikh said that he trusted the ability of Palestinians to defend the holy places and face the occupation. A number of Palestinian leaders issued statements and sent letters of protest, as did the Jordanian King and government, but this has not stopped Israeli forces in the systematic takeover of Jerusalem.

Listen to this ABC report by David Harker:
Real Audio | Windows Media | MP3