Amoula il Majnoona

Amoula's blog from Ramallah

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Harassment Of Senior Academic at Ben Gurion Airport

another one for our records.

Dr Shahoub-Kevorkian is a scholar of international repute whose work spans criminology, social work, gender and violence in Palestinian and Israeli-Palestinian societies.

Dear friends,

It is time that victims start to speak up about their humiliations and abuse.... every non-Jew who has lived in Israel has gone through one form of humiliation or another in many contexts by the leading Israeli power. This is not a tirade against Jews or the Israeli people, it is an indictment of an abusive authority, it is a way of giving voice to the victims, the unheard.... in hopes of changing the way things are now.

Yesterday, my mother who is a Hebrew University professor of Criminology in
Israel, an Israeli citizen no less, went to the airport to fly to Tunisia to attend a conference on women's rights. What happened to her in Ben Gurion airport was a humiliating experience that many of us non-Jews have gone through in this Israeli airport, but always kept quiet about it and did not let them pay for their abuse towards us. It's time to say ENOUGH! It's time for the voices of the muted to be heard. Abuse is not only physical; there is also mental and emotional abuse that can be more painful in the long run...

Please read the e mail that my mother sent to her friends, waiting for her in Tunisia....

Maro Kevorkian





I am so sad to inform you that the Israeli security forces in the airport have effectively prevented me from participating in the conference on: Women and Sexual Reproductive Rights held in Tunis.

The process of humiliation by the Israeli security forces started when we reached the airport gate. As you all know, I live in the Old City of Jerusalem, and I use the available transport from my area. The moment the security forces learned that both the driver and myself live in East Jerusalem, they asked us to park the car on the side, take all our/my luggage, and follow them for a body and luggage search. A young soldier in a small room in the airport gate searched me, asked me to take off my shoes, took my and the driver’s mobile phones and asked us to wait for almost 40 minutes until they finished checking the car’s body and engine.

After all this process, I managed to get inside the airport, and there, the process of humiliation continued. I was the only one to wait for a long time. I knew that they were doing a security check on my name, address, and other information. A young female soldier tried to help out and started convincing her superior to allow me to pass. It took her a while; then she came, asked me to put my luggage in the x-ray machines and pass. Afterwards, another security agent asked me to bring all my belongings and follow him for an additional search.

Here, something like 3-4 security personnel were checking my one small bag, my computer bag and my carry-on purse. They started taking off the clothes and other items from my luggage - shoes, under-wear, make up, medicine - and placed them in such a messy manner on a long counter. I was the only one that was searched. I did not know what to look at or what to do. My reading material was all over the counter, mixed with my clothes and shoes. Young men were emptying my make up kit and spreading out my medication; one took a picture of my girls, and the other security guy pulled my shoes out of the luggage and put them on top of the picture. My visiting cards, my papers, everything was scattered with all my belongings in such a disrespectful manner... I stood there, not knowing what to do.

I nearly cried when I saw my reading materials falling on the floor, and the pages scattered... I asked the female security personnel who was checking my printed material not to mix between the various articles; she replied (with so much vulgarity) that I could find the pages and organize them later on. While I was trying to explain to her that my reading and printing material should be kept intact, I saw another security man fetching my wallet, while pulling out all the credit cards and putting them on the counter, and emptying my purse in such a humiliating manner.

His friend on the other side was picking up my underwear, one item after the other, and joking about my bras to his friends in Hebrew - thinking that I didn’t speak the language. They also took my cell phone and I was unable to call anyone for help. At one point, the phone was ringing and I asked one of them to give it to me, and he did – but I missed the call, and he took it back.

The whole scene of people mixing all my things together - while I was standing mesmerized, captivated by their inhumanity, failing to follow up on who is doing what, where and how - was horrible and painful. I could not hold back my tears, wondering how much humiliation, shame and degradation one could accept in the name of ‘security’. When I went to get me a tissue to wipe my tears from my purse, a security officer screamed at me that I must not touch the purse.

While I was in this state, and while my belongings were so dispersed and scattered all over the long counter, the security officer in charge came and told me that I could not take my reading material to the plane. I started explaining to him - with tears and so much anger - that I need to read on my way, and it is a 5-hour flight and my reading material is crucial to me. It took me a while arguing with him and another security officer. Eventually, I managed to get their approval to take all the pages that they had scattered and messed up with me to the plane.

Time was flying; I was about to miss my flight. A very polite young female security officer told me that she would book me a seat, so as to be ready. She actually did book me a window seat. In a short time, the head of the security officers came and told me that I could not take my laptop with me to the plane. Again - and while being so hurt, while seeing them joking when looking at my clothes, ridiculing me while dropping my tooth brush on the floor, my money scattered on the counter and much, much more- I started explaining to them that I could not leave without the laptop. In trying to calm myself down, and decrease my feeling of hurt, I asked the head of the security to call his superior.

His superior came (Tal Vardi (# 14544 - he gave me this name following my request). He was disrespectful, so rude and abrasive. I explained to him how important my laptop is to me, I told him that I needed to prepare my lecture, and that a laptop from Israel would never reach Tunisia (there was a high probability that it would be lost or stolen). He kept on telling me that I could not take the laptop with me. Then I told him that if that is a rule, they should inform people that laptops are not allowed on the planes and that security forces cant just invent this without prior notice. Tal Vardi replied on such a humiliating and sarcastic manner (while having all his staff around him): “So next time I need to call you and talk to you before you fly? Do you think that we have time for you?"

At that moment I decided that I should call for additional help, as Tal Vardi refused to talk to me entirely, and left me alone. At that time, three security people were packing my stuff up in such a mess, pulling the computer’s battery out and wrapping the laptop without even getting my approval. I called Bilha Cohen, the secretary at the Institute of Criminology, and she gave me the phone number of the Dean’s office. I then called Aliza, the Dean’s secretary. She gave me his home number, and I called him; his wife passed him over to me, and he said that he could not do anything, and that I should call his deputy, she should be the one that could help me out. By that time I was 20 minutes from my flight.

I called his deputy, and there was no one in the office, and my computer was now wrapped, and about to be sent to Tunisia - as planned. I then started yelling, while trying to explain, but this time with so much anger, and told them that their way of treating people was not human. I said that I had allowed them to check everything in my luggage, that I had cooperated, but despite this, they had treated me with such a rude and inhumane manner. Their refusal to allow me to take my laptop with me, even when I was willing for them to hand it over in the airplane was unacceptable; as was their refusal to even talk to me or calm me down - they all left me sitting on that long counter alone, 15 minutes from my flight, trying to find a way out.

Their way of talking, their methods of poking fun at me, and their disrespect, made me tell them: ‘I am not flying’. I pulled my luggage, unwrapped the laptop, and left the place.

This whole process of humiliation took between 1:40- 4:30 pm. I ended up with bad chest pains, dizziness and illness, which led to vomiting and the feeling of such humiliation. I called some friends to help me out, such as Einas from Mada Organization, and Mr. Jaafar Farah and Adella from Musawa Organization. They called me numerous times, trying to calm me down, asking some activists from the office and the airport to help out. I also called my friend Dorit Roer-Streir, but no one was able to change the situation. I left the airport eventually, unable to breath, walk or function.

I am sorry again to miss you, to miss learning from the conference and to miss sharing my work with you, but must state that there is a limit to the amount of humiliation that one could take, and I felt that the whole process of turning me - a Palestinian woman - into a naked entity, with no value, no voice, no respect and no power to fight back at this ‘demonization’, made me refuse to fly. How could I fly as a human, when all they wanted to do is to strip me from my humanity, using all the power they have, while stealing from me even my ability to protect my girls' picture, my writings, my reading material, my laptop and my other personal belongings? It was indeed horrible to experience the way a system of oppression tries to turn us from humans to a metamorphised terrified being.

Please accept my apologies, and please write back to my university and to the Israeli state and ask them to stop depriving us from our ability to participate in conferences, to acquire knowledge, to get each others' support, and stop using our bodies/lives and their security reasoning to marginalize, ostracize, and humiliate us.

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian (November 16th, 2006)


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ahmad Habash's "flee"

This video is so incredible and absolutely beautiful. My friend Ahmad made it for the Summer 2006 Palestinian Filmmakers Collective. The screening of all these films was a few days ago here in Ramallah.

Both established as well as new Palestinian filmmakers came together in a project that would reflect the “mood” of this summer. In three minutes or less, filmmakers were restricted to using one-shot to tell their stories. Despite the fact that Palestinians have been dispersed across the globe, with the majority of them unable to come to their homeland, “Summer 2006, Palestine”, initiated by the Palestinian Film Collective, was limited to those filmmakers who live in Palestine.

The result is a unique collection of short films from across Palestine, delving into the personal, the political, and the poetic – the spirit of a people struggling for freedom.

A mosaic of 13 short films less than 3 minutes in length, reflecting in one shot, the mood of summer 2006.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Genocide or Erasure of Palestinians

Some of you may remember my email of April 18th "Friends. let us call it like it is, this is genocide."
A few of you wrote to me expressing concern about my use of the word "genocide" and found it quite problematic in fact.
I quote from a friend: "Thank you for your email -- I have circulated it appropriately despite that fact that I don't agree, however, with calling the systematic destruction of Palestine which you describe as a "genocide", because I'm not sure what word we will have left to use when the systematic, large-scale murder begins."

I responded quoting Article 2 from the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on the definition of genocide:
Article 2
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Here is an article about this very matter :
"You can argue over terminology, but the truth is evident everywhere on the ground where Israel has extended its writ: Palestinians are unworthy, inferior to Jews, and in the name of the Jewish people, Israel has given itself the right to erase the Palestinian presence in Palestine -- in other words, to commit genocide by destroying "in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group."


November 27, 2006

Does It Matter What You Call It?
Genocide or Erasure of Palestinians

Counterpunch ~KATHLEEN and BILL CHRISTISON ~ Having at that point just completed our fifth trip to Palestine since early 2003, we should have had the courage and the insight to call what we have observed Israel doing to the Palestinians by its rightful name: genocide.
During an appearance in late October on Ireland's Pat Kenny radio show, a popular national program broadcast daily on Ireland's RTE Radio, we were asked as the opening question if Israel could be compared to Nazi Germany. Not across the board, we said, but there are certainly some aspects of Israel's policy toward the Palestinians that bear a clear resemblance to the Nazis' oppression. Do you mean the wall, Kenny prompted, and we agreed, describing the ghettoization and other effects of this monstrosity. Before we could elaborate on other Nazi-like features of Israel's policies, Kenny moved on to another question. Within minutes, while we were still on the air, a producer handed Kenny a note, which we later learned was a request from the newly arrived Israeli ambassador to Ireland to appear on the show, by himself. Several days later, on the air by himself, the ambassador pronounced us and our comparisons of Israeli and Nazi policies "outrageous."

What else? We were not surprised or disturbed by his outrage. We had just spent two weeks in the West Bank witnessing the oppression, and it was a sure bet that, even had he not been fulfilling his role as propagandist for Israel, the ambassador would not have known the first thing about the Palestinian situation in the West Bank because he had most likely not set foot there in any recent year. In retrospect, we regret not having used even stronger language. Having at that point just completed our fifth trip to Palestine since early 2003, we should have had the courage and the insight to call what we have observed Israel doing to the Palestinians by its rightful name: genocide.

We have long played with words about this, labeling Israel's policy "ethnocide," meaning the attempt to destroy the Palestinians as a people with a specific ethnic identity. Others who dance around the subject use terms like "politicide" or, a new invention, "sociocide," but neither of these terms implies the large-scale destruction of people and identity that is truly the Israeli objective. "Genocide" -- defined by the UN Convention as the intention "to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group" -- most aptly describes Israel's efforts, akin to the Nazis', to erase an entire people. (See William Cook's "The Rape of Palestine," CounterPunch, January 7/8, 2006 for a discussion of what constitutes genocide.)

In fact, it matters little what you call it, so long as it is recognized that what Israel intends and is working toward is the erasure of the Palestinian people from the Palestine landscape. Israel most likely does not care about how systematic its efforts at erasure are, or how rapidly they proceed, and in these ways it differs from the Nazis. There are no gas chambers; there is no overriding urgency. Gas chambers are not needed. A round of rockets on a residential housing complex in the middle of the night here, a few million cluster bomblets or phosphorous weapons there can, given time, easily meet the UN definition above.

Children shot to death sitting in school classrooms here, families murdered while tilling their land there; agricultural land stripped and burned here, farmers cut off from their land there; little girls riddled with bullets here, infants beheaded by shell fire there; a little massacre here, a little starvation there; expulsion here, denial of entry and families torn apart there; dispossession is the name of the game. With no functioning economy, dwindling food supplies, medical supply shortages, no way to move from one area to another, no access to a capital city, no easy access to education or medical care, no civil service salaries, the people will die, the nation will die without a single gas chamber. Or so the Israelis hope.

Surrender vs. Resistance
A major part of the Israeli scheme -- apart from the outright land expropriation, national fragmentation, and killing that are designed to strangle and destroy the Palestinian people -- is to so discourage the Palestinians psychologically that they will simply leave voluntarily -- if they have the money -- or give up in abject surrender and agree to live quietly in small enclaves under the Israeli thumb. You wonder sometimes if the Israelis are not succeeding in this bit of psychological warfare, as they are succeeding in tightening their physical stranglehold on territory in the West Bank and Gaza. Overall, we do not believe they have yet brought the Palestinians to this point of psychological surrender, although the breaking point for Palestinians appears nearer than ever before.

The anger and depression, even despair, in Palestine are palpable these days, far worse than we have previously encountered. We met two Palestinians so discouraged that they are preparing to leave, in one case uprooting family from a Muslim village where roots go back centuries. The other case is a Christian young person, also from an old family, who sees no prospects for herself or anyone and who feels betrayed by her Catholic Church for having abandoned Palestine's Christians. She would rather just be elsewhere. A Palestinian pollster who has tracked attitudes toward emigration recently reported that the proportion of people thinking about leaving has jumped from about 20 percent, where it has long hovered, to 32 percent in a recent poll, largely because of despair arising from intra-Palestinian factional fighting and from Hamas' inability to govern thanks to crippling Israeli, U.S., and European sanctions.

Nothing like one-third of Palestinians will ultimately leave or even attempt to leave, but the trend in attitudes clearly points to the kind of despair that is afflicting much of Palestine. One thoughtful Palestinian writer with whom we spent an evening feels so defeated and so oppressed by Israeli restrictions that he thinks Hamas should abandon its principled stand and agree to recognize Israel's right to exist, in the hope that this concession might induce the Israelis to lift some of the innumerable restrictions on Palestinian life, end the military siege on Palestinian territories and the land theft, and in general ease the day-to-day misery that Palestinians endure under occupation. Asked if he thought such a major Hamas concession would actually bring meaningful Israeli concessions, he said no, but perhaps it would ease the misery a little. It was clear he holds out no great hope. His village's land is gradually disappearing underneath the separation wall and expanding Israeli settlements.
We met westerners who have lived in the West Bank, working on behalf of the Palestinians for various NGOs for a decade and more, who are planning to leave out of frustration at seeing the situation worsen year after year and their own work increasingly go for naught. Many other western human rights workers and educators, particularly at venerable institutions like the Friends' School in Ramallah and Bir Zeit University, are being denied visas by the Israelis as part of their deliberate campaign to keep out foreign passport holders, including thousands of ethnic Palestinians who have lived in the West Bank with their families and worked for years. The Israeli campaign to deny residency and re-entry permits is a deliberate attempt at ethnic cleansing, a hope that if a husband or wife is barred, he or she will remove the rest of the family and Israel will have fewer Palestinians to deal with. In addition, the entry denial campaign targets in particular anyone, Palestinian or international, who might bring a measure of business prosperity to the Palestinian territories, or education, or medical assistance, or humanitarian assistance.

The campaign against foreigners who might help the Palestinians or bear witness for them became particularly vicious in mid-November when a 19-year-old Swedish volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement escorting Palestinian children to school was brutally attacked by Israeli settlers in Hebron as Israeli soldiers watched. The young woman, Tove Johansson, was walking through an Israeli army checkpoint with several other volunteers when they were set upon by a group of approximately 100 settlers chanting, "We killed Jesus, we'll kill you too!" A settler hit Johansson in the face with a broken bottle, breaking her cheekbone, and as she lay bleeding on the ground, the settlers cheered and clapped and took pictures of themselves posing next to her. The Israeli soldiers briefly questioned three settlers but made no arrests and conducted no investigation. In fact, they threatened the international volunteers with arrest if they did not leave the area immediately. The assault was so raw and brutal that Amnesty International issued an alert warning internationals to beware of settler attacks. The U.S. media have not seen fit to report the incident, which was clearly part of a longstanding effort to discourage witnesses to Israeli atrocities and deprive Palestinians of any protection against the atrocities.

Palestinian resistance does figure in this dismal story. In the same small village where one of our acquaintances is uprooting his family, others are building, building small homes and multi-story apartment buildings, simply as a sign of resistance. International human rights volunteers are still trying to reach the West Bank and Gaza to assist Palestinians. When we told one Palestinian friend about our conversation with the writer who wants Hamas to concede Israel's right to exist, his immediate reaction was "absolutely not." He is himself a secular Muslim, a Fatah supporter, does not like Hamas and did not vote for Hamas in last January's legislative elections, but he fully supports Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist until Israel recognizes the right of the Palestinian people to exist as a nation. "Why should I recognize you until you get out of my garden?" he wondered.

Our friend Ahmad's views reflect the general feeling among Palestinians: a poll conducted in September by a Palestinian polling organization found that 67 percent of Palestinians do not think Hamas should recognize Israel in order to satisfy Israeli and international demands, while almost the same proportion, 63 percent, would support recognizing Israel if this came as part of a peace agreement in which a Palestinian state was established -- in other words, if Israel also recognized the Palestinians as a nation. Surrender is not yet on the horizon.
On the possibility of pulling up stakes and leaving Palestine, Ahmad was equally adamant. "Why should I leave and then have to fight to get back later? Empires never last." He mentioned the Turks and the British and the Soviets, "and the Americans and the Israelis won't last either. It may take a long time, but we can wait." He was angrier than we have ever previously seen him, and more uncompromising -- and with good reason: the separation wall is now within a few yards of his home and demolition is threatened. Ahmad and some neighbors have been fighting the wall's advance in court and succeeded in stopping it for over a year, but construction is moving ahead again. He already has to drive miles out of his way to skirt the wall on his way to work and will be able to exit only on foot when the wall is completed -- assuming his house is not demolished altogether.

But he is not giving up. He thinks suicide bombers are "a piece of shit," but he believes the Palestinians have to resist in some way, if only by throwing stones, and he sees some kind of explosion in the offing. If Palestinians do nothing at all, he said, "the Israelis will just relax" and will feel no pressure to cease the oppression. Palestinians everywhere are keeping up the pressure. Haaretz correspondent Gideon Levy described a cloth banner displayed in Beit Hanoun immediately after Israel's devastation of that small Gaza city during the first week in November. "Kill, destroy, crush -- you won't succeed in breaking us," declared the banner.

Palestinians in Beit Hanoun, as well as throughout Gaza and the West Bank, have been putting up resistance to their own incompetent, quisling leadership, as well as to Israel. It has not escaped the notice of the Palestinian man in the street that, while Israel slaughters men, women, and children in Beit Hanoun and continues its march across the West Bank, Palestinian Authority President Mamhud Abbas has been cooperating with the U.S. and Israel to undermine the democratically elected Hamas government. The U.S. is arming and training a militia that will protect Abbas' and Fatah's narrow factional interests against Hamas' fighters, in what can only be termed an open coup attempt against the legally constituted Palestinian government.

Few Palestinians, even Fatah supporters, condone this U.S. interference or Abbas' traitorous acquiescence. "Fatah are thieves," a local leader who is a Fatah member himself told us. "Hamas won because we wanted to get rid of the thieves." He thinks that if there were an election today, "ordinary people" -- by which he means people not associated with either Fatah or Hamas -- would win. In each house, he said, "we find one son with Hamas, another son with Fatah, so how is a father going to support one or the other?" It is perhaps this knowledge that they cannot fight each other without destroying the nuclear and the broader Palestinian family, and that they must not succumb to Israeli and U.S. schemes to fragment Palestinian society, that have motivated the intensive Palestinian efforts to achieve some kind of unity government.

Around the West Bank
In Bil'in, the small town west of Ramallah that has seen a non-violent protest against the wall by Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals every Friday for almost two years, the village leader, Ahmad Issa Yassin, talked about the lesson his youngest son learned after being arrested last year at age 14 in an Israeli raid. "He is more courageous now, more ready to resist," Yassin said. "So am I." We first met this boy a few months before his arrest, a particularly friendly young man with a sweet smile. He greeted us again this year with another warm smile and bantered with us as we took his picture. He gave no hint of having spent two months in one of Israel's worst prisons or of the horror of having been arrested in a Nazi-style middle-of-the-night raid. Perhaps he threw stones at the Israeli soldiers who converge on his village at least once a week and respond to non-violent protests with live ammunition, rubber bullets, teargas, concussion grenades, and batons. This boy was no terrorist. On the other hand, the Israelis may have turned him into a young man willing to fight terror with terror a few years from now.

Yassin walked us to his olive grove, half destroyed, on the other side of the wall. The Israelis allow the villagers access to lands that now lie on Israel's side of the wall, but there is only one gate, manned by Israeli soldiers who may or may not bestir themselves to open it. The villagers' names are all on a list of Palestinians authorized to pass through the gate. At this particular village, one of many whose lands have been cut off from the village, protesters have established an outpost or, as they call it, a "settlement" on the Israeli side to stake a claim to the land for the village even though it now lies on Israel's side in the path of an expanding Israeli settlement. The Palestinian "settlement" consists of a small building, a tent where a couple of activists maintain a constant vigil, and a soccer field for a bit of normality.

Yassin took us uphill on a dirt path running alongside the wall, which in this rural area consists of an electronic fence, a dirt patrol road on each side where footprints can be picked up, a paved patrol road on the Israeli side, and coils of razor wire on each side -- encompassing altogether an area about 50 meters wide, where olive groves once stood. We waited at the gate in the electronic fence while Yassin called several times to the Israeli soldiers, whom we could see lounging under a tent canopy on a nearby hillside. When they finally came to the gate, they checked Yassin's name against their list of permitees, recorded our names and passport numbers, and officiously warned us against taking pictures in this "military zone." As we made our way across country to the Bil'in outpost, Yassin pointed out olive trees burned and uprooted by Israelis and, at the outpost right next to the stump of a tree that had been cut down, a new tree sprouting from the old one.
We talked for a while with a Palestinian activist from the village and a young British activist who had both been sleeping late into the morning, after enjoying a Ramadan meal, the Iftar, late the night before. When we returned to the gate, the Israeli soldiers were even slower arriving to open it, obviously totally bored with their duty. The following Friday at the weekly protest, they enjoyed a little more excitement as protesters managed to erect ladders to scale the fence. The soldiers responded with batons and teargas.

The resistance goes on, but so does the Israeli encroachment. We took away with us two striking impressions: the little olive tree being carefully nurtured as a sign of renewal and resistance, and in the near distance the constant sound of bulldozers and earth-clearing equipment working on the Israeli settlement of Modiin Illit, being built on the lands of Bil'in and other neighboring villages.

Elsewhere, signs of the Israeli advance override the continuing signs of Palestinian resistance. In the small village of Wadi Fuqin southwest of Bethlehem, a beautiful village sitting in a narrow, fertile valley between ridge lines that is being squeezed on one side by the wall, still to be constructed, and on the other by the already large and rapidly expanding Israeli settlement of Betar Illit, we saw more destruction. The settlement is dumping vast tonnages of construction debris down onto the village, so that its fields are gradually being swallowed. This was more evident this year than when we visited last year. The settlement's sewage often overflows onto village land through sewage pipes evident high up on the hillside. Israeli settlers swagger through the village increasingly, as if it were theirs, swimming in the many irrigation pools that are fed by natural springs dating back to Roman times.

In the village of Walaja, not far away to the north, nearer Jerusalem, Ahmad took us to visit friends of his. The village is scheduled to be surrounded completely by the wall because it sits near the Green Line in the midst of a cluster of Israeli settlements. We sat in a garden of fruit trees with a family whose house is on a hill overlooking a spectacular valley and hills beyond. Jerusalem sits on another hill in the distance. We commented that, except for the Israeli settlements across the valley, the place is like paradise, but our host responded with a cynical laugh that actually it is hell. Even beautiful scenery loses its appeal when one is trapped and surrounded.

In another encircled village that we visited last year, Nu'man, the approximately 200 residents are also trapped between the wall, now completed, on one side and the advancing settlement of Har Homa, which covets the village land, on the other. Although last year, with the wall incomplete, we could drive in, this year we were denied entry at the one gate in. With Ahmad, we tried to talk to four obviously intimidated young Palestinian men waiting across the patrol road from the gate to gain entry to their homes, but the Israeli soldiers told them not to talk to us; one of them said a few words to Ahmad but never took his eyes off the Israeli guardpost. We drove off and left them to their plight. We could have tried to get to the village with an arduous cross-country walk, but we did not.

"Grand" Terminals
With the near completion of the separation wall, the Israelis have systematized the West Bank prison. Since August 2005, the number of checkpoints throughout the West Bank has risen 40 percent, from 376 to 528, according to OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which carefully tracks the numbers and types of Israeli checkpoints, as well as other aspects of the Israeli stranglehold on the Palestinians. As part of the systematization, a series of elaborate terminals now manage the humiliation of Palestinians at major checkpoints, particularly around Jerusalem. The terminals are huge cages resembling cattle runs, which direct foot traffic in snaking lines that double back and forth. At the end of the line are a series of turnstiles, x-ray machines, conveyor belts, and other accoutrements of heavy security. Any Palestinian entering Jerusalem from the West Bank to work, to visit family, to pray at al-Aqsa Mosque or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to go to school, or for medical treatment must have a hard-to-obtain permit from Israel. The turnstiles and other security barriers are controlled remotely by Israeli soldiers housed behind heavy bullet-proof glass.

The cages are currently painted a bright, cheerful blue, but it's a fair bet that when they are older and worn, the paint job will not be renewed. Adding to the false cheer, the Israelis have erected incongruous welcoming signs at the terminals. Most egregious is the giant sign at the Bethlehem terminal. "Peace be with you," it proclaims in three languages to travelers leaving Jerusalem for Bethlehem. This is on a giant pastel-colored sign erected by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, as if travel through this terminal were the ordinary tourist lark. At the Qalandiya terminal between Ramallah and Jerusalem, a large cartoon-like red rose welcomes Palestinians with a sign in Arabic. Early this year when the terminal was opened, the rose was on a sign that proclaimed, in three languages, "The hope of us all." Apparently embarrassed at being caught so red-handed in their hypocrisy, the Israelis removed the sign, preserving only the rose, after a Jewish activist stenciled over it the words that once graced the entrance to Auschwitz, "Arbeit Macht Frei" -- work makes you free. There is still a sign saying in three languages, "May you go in peace and return in peace." The Israelis still don't really get it.

Nor do the Americans. The terminals, advertised as a way to "ease life" for Palestinians by prettying up the checkpoints of old and making passage more efficient, were paid for out of U.S. aid monies designated originally for the Palestinian Authority (before the Hamas election) but diverted to Israel's terminal-building enterprise -- helping Israel make Palestinian humiliation more efficient. Steven Erlanger in the New York Times, among others, fell for the scam, noting when the Bethlehem terminal opened in December last year that the terminals were aimed at "easing the burden on Palestinians and softening international criticism." He labeled the Bethlehem terminal a "grand" gateway for Christians visiting Jesus' birthplace -- not acknowledging that Christians had been visiting for two millennia without benefit of turnstiles and concrete walls.

The burden on Palestinians has not been significantly eased as far as we could tell. We spent some time watching at several of the terminals -- feeling like voyeurs of Palestinian misery. At Qalandiya, about 100 people stood waiting to pass through three locked turnstiles. A young Israeli woman soldier sat in a glassed-in control booth barking commands at them. Our friend Ahmad speaks Hebrew as well as Arabic and could not even make out which language she was speaking in. There was no reason for her anger or for her decision to lock the turnstiles. When she saw us observing, carrying a camera, she shook her finger in an apparent warning against taking pictures. They don't like witnesses. Immediately after this, she unlocked the turnstiles.

We walked through after everyone else who had been waiting, and Ahmad took us to the waiting area on the other side where Palestinians from the West Bank apply for permits to enter Jerusalem. About 50 people were waiting. A middle-aged man walked up to us and began telling his story. He was scheduled for neurosurgery at Maqassad Hospital in East Jerusalem in two days, according to a certificate from the hospital, written in English and clearly intended for Israeli permit authorities. He had already been waiting for six days -- three futilely sitting in this waiting area and a previous three when the Israelis had closed the terminal altogether for Yom Kippur. He was beginning to fear he would never get his permit and, as he expressed his frustration and desperation, he began to cry. He asked that we take his picture holding the certificate and tell the world. We did, but we will never know if he obtained his permit in time, or at all.

At another terminal, leading from al-Azzariyah, the biblical Bethany, into Jerusalem, a soldier screamed at us -- quite literally, his face red, blood vessels standing out on his neck -- when he saw us taking pictures of his soldier colleagues questioning Palestinians before they entered the terminal area, a pre-screening for the screening at the terminal. We told the soldier we thought pictures would be all right; this terminal was run after all by the Ministry of Tourism and so must be a tourist attraction. But our flippancy didn't go over well. He pushed us toward an exit gate, screaming that this was the "Ministry of Gates" and that we had to get out. We managed to remain inside until Ahmad, who was talking to another Israeli soldier, finished and exited with us. Maybe we saved one or two Palestinians from scrutiny by distracting a couple of soldiers -- or maybe unfortunately we just delayed them further.

At a third checkpoint, this a makeshift one set up temporarily at an opening in the wall where the concrete barrier is still incomplete, we watched as a growing crowd of Palestinians wanting to enter Jerusalem to pray at al-Aqsa Mosque tried to negotiate with two young Israeli soldiers. It was a Friday in Ramadan and, although these Palestinians had permits to enter Jerusalem, their names were not on the authorized list at this particular checkpoint. They had to go, according to Israel's administrative fiat, to the main terminal from their area into the city. As the crowd gathered, more Israeli soldiers arrived. The crowd included women as well as men, and several children. Being watched by a couple of Americans who probably appeared more patronizing than helpful clearly did not improve the mood of most of the crowd.

One little boy of about five, dressed neatly in a tie and pressed white shirt, stood looking at the commotion for a few minutes, standing slightly apart from his father, and suddenly burst into tears. A few minutes later, the soldiers exploded a concussion grenade, and most of the crowd dispersed. It's the Israeli way: make them cry, run them off in fear. We left, embarrassed by our own inadequacy.

Is it genocide when a little boy is made to cry because belligerent armed men intimidate him, intimidate his father, and ultimately run them off; when they are forbidden from performing their religious ceremonies because a belligerent government decides they are of the wrong religion; when their town is encircled and cut off because a racist state decides their ethnic identity is of the wrong variety?

You can argue over terminology, but the truth is evident everywhere on the ground where Israel has extended its writ: Palestinians are unworthy, inferior to Jews, and in the name of the Jewish people, Israel has given itself the right to erase the Palestinian presence in Palestine -- in other words, to commit genocide by destroying "in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group."

As we debate about and analyze the Palestinian psyche, trying to determine if they have had enough and will surrender or will survive by resisting, it is important to remember that the Jewish people, despite unspeakable tragedy, emerged from the holocaust ultimately triumphant. Israel and its supporters should keep this in mind: empires never last, as Ahmad said, and gross injustice such as the Nazis and Israel have inflicted on innocent people cannot prevail for long.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis. They spent October 2006 in Palestine and on a speaking tour of Ireland sponsored by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

They can be reached at

Friday, November 24, 2006

Ramallah Birthday DAM!!!!

Had the MOST incredible birthday yesterday!
First DAM had the debut of their new album in Ramallah.
The show was completely packed! People couldn't get into the Kasaba.
Tamer did a shout to me for my birthday from the stage : )


Then we danced all night at my birthday party.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Me, my sister, and Suheir Hammad's words

break (for love)

heavy breathing drum machines

west banked sisters hold each curly heads ducked ducked loose
bullets tight soldiers loz eyed oranges in blood explosion of hair

the weary shoulder sacred
the pulsing wrist sacred
the clasped hand temple
the smoking chest temple
sister holy fly sister holy

terra material prima wa an lapis azure flame wa scarlet star ana mud
wa huddled into shelters wa centers off balance bastana vision wa

zooted wa cased
air yo dynamic
w’ana mashi layale sawah
drum skin stretched far

rayah when my sapphire dusted dream static supreme

crashed bombs everyone around me
sash green wa gold coins surround me
flash dear god flood within me

tremor moon seas moan treble please sing trouble keys


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Our Independence Day" or "I almost got shot today" or "My dealer comes to Ramallah"

Today is November 15th.
Today is our supposed "Independence Day"
A joke.
Was almost killed today.
This will be brief and inarticulate. I am still in shock.

I do not remember now the exact time.... around 4:25 p.m. Ramallah time.I was so happy and excited. I had finally convinced my dealer from New York to come see me in Ramallah.
I wanted her to see our Palestine, she would understand my work better etc etc....
Carolyn arrived last night. We had spent the morning going to cultural centers, namely PACA and Riwaq. Then I took her to Amari Refugee Camp for the afternoon.
All was cool.

My sister, Carolyn and our friend Mohammed had lunch, and then we gave her a tour of the Muqata. Afterwards we returned to the center of town and were driving down the main street of Ramallah, Rukab Street. We stopped and Mohammed and I hopped out of the car to buy kanafa. Of course she had to try our delicious kanafa!! We hopped back in the car. It was a beautiful afternoon the streets were packed full of people. We stopped again to let Mohammed out so he could get his own car and we continued down Rukab street on our way.
We were headed to Mohammed's restaurant to chill out, eat our kanafa, and let Carolyn take in the intensity of all she had seen.

We were just a block away from Ziryab Coffee Shop when all of a sudden to our immediate right a van pulled up and stopped at a 90 degree angle. We couldn't drive forward because part of his van blocked us in. The doors opened and mostarabeen (Israeli army dressed as Arabs hopped out) with giant machine guns and started shooting. We were trapped.

After this point it is hard to remember what happened. We all ducked down, trapped our left another van full of mostarabeen shooting away. We were surrounded.
A man with his 5 year old daughter to our right throws his daughter to the ground. Then he grabs her and makes a run for it into a shop.
Damn it. I was calm. There was shooting from M-16's all around the car.
It was hot. I was hot hot hot. I couldn't focus on anything else. My scarf was suffocating me. I was burning up with heat. I took off my scarf. I focused on trying to figure out how to take off my coat. Annemarie's phone rang - it was Mohammed (he had just gotten out 2 minutes earlier) - "Be careful there are mostarabeen in town!" - When I heard my sisters voice in the way she responded to him - Ithe reality of what was going on set in. She was trying to cover her face and head because we were sure we were about to be covered in broken glass. I have never heard my sister voice sound like that in my entire life. Panic began to set in. All I could think of was my sisters safety. God forbid anything happen to her. I grabbed her hand. She was in the front I focused on her back (her dear blessed back)as we huddled as low as we could to the bottom of the car. Shooting shooting shooting. My sister. My sister. that is all I cared about.
Oh no!God damn it! Carolyn is next to me. I am responsible. I brought her to this place! Shit. I apologized to her over and over. She kept peeking to see what was going on! I begged her to keep her head down.

I was so hot. I focused on rolling the window down. Annemarie locked the car doors. I decided to roll the window back up.

Our car got hit.
I make a note of it out loud. So does Carolyn.
No word from Annemarie. I call out to her fearing that she is silent because she has been hit.
She hasn't been.
More shooting.

Shooting continued all around us. I kept repeating to everyone keep your heads down - keep your heads down....
Panic began to set in. We were completely exposed. I peaked up to see Israelis in uniform now shooting in our direction.
I started trying to make a plan as to when I would open the car door and make a run for it.

I peaked again to see some Israelis were beating the shit out of a Palestinian man and throwing him into their van.

The van full of mostarabeen next to us got back into their van. As we were in their way they smashed into our car and sped off. Meanwhile in front of us and to the right the Israelis started to pull back.
Kids started throwing stones. They shot at us again. They started pulling back again.
I started feeling safe a little again. Now we might have a window to get out.
The next thing I knew the kids and shebab were along side our car (they were heading towards the injured - when they looked in and saw us in their they were horrified. To see that we were in the front row - right in the line of fire this whole time - huddled in the car. A friend of Annemaries stopped running with the men and ordered us to reverse backwards. he helped us get out.
We parked and jumped out of the car and ran into a space between two buildings for shelter.
I saw a friend of mine. He asked if I was alright - I showed him the bullet hole in our car that made it's way along the length of the whole car and exited out the back.
He said we were lucky it did not hit the gas tank.
( I had not even thought of that! )

Anyways, in short the Israelis came in - in the middle of the day - onto the main street of Ramallah - the most crowded street and attacked us on our "Independence Day".
We are alive and not injured. We are okay.
I do not know if the rental car insurance covers bullets from Israeli M-16's, or dents from being crashed into by "mostarabeen".

And so it goes, another day in Palestine.
This is not a story.
It is a small nothing in the larger context of what happens on a daily basis here.
I am sure it won't be on any news.
Another day in Palestine.
Another Independence Day gone by.

But I am with a bottle of arak and good friends now. God damn. Damn. Damn.
What could be better after a day like today.
Thank the god for arak. Thank god for friends.

Palestinians transport an injured youth to a hospital after he was shot by Israeli special forces during an undercover Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Ramallah, 15 November 2006. Eyewitnesses reported that one Palestinian was arrested and two others were injured. (MaanImages/Fadi Arouri)

Screw Palestinians

Screw the Palestinians, Full Steam Ahead
The Democrats Don't Care

At a panel on the defense and foreign policy impact of the midterm election, sponsored two days after the election by Congressional Quarterly, Steven Simon, late of the Clinton administration and still a member of the Democratic, pro-Zionist mainstream at the Council on Foreign Relations, pronounced on prospects for Palestinian-Israeli peace and essentially declared it not worth anyone's effort. Using words, a tone, and a body language that clearly betrayed his own disinterest, he said that Hamas is "there" (exaggerated shrug), that the Israeli government is in turmoil after its Lebanon "contretemps" (dismissive wave of the hand), that both sides are incapable of significant movement, and that therefore there is no incentive for anyone, Democrat or Republican, to intervene (casual frown indicating an unfortunate reality about which serious people need not concern themselves). There is simply no prospect for more unilateral Israeli withdrawals and therefore for any progress toward peace, Simon said in conclusion -- signaling not only a total lack of concern but an utter ignorance of just what it is that might bring progress, as if Israeli unilateralism were truly the ticket to peace.

Thus spake the Democratic oracle. Not that anyone who knows the Palestinian-Israeli situation from other than the selective focus of the Zionist perspective had any expectations in the first place. No one ever thought the new Democratic Congress would hop to and put pressure on Israel to make peace. Just remember John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, to say nothing of Bill Clinton, when any question of the Democrats' stance arises. And don't forget Nancy Pelosi, who rushed to condemn Jimmy Carter for using the word "apartheid" in the title of his new book and for whom, according to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency profile, support for Israel is personal and "heartfelt." One Jewish activist and long-time friend described her as "incredibly loyal" (interesting term) and as feeling Jewish and Israeli issues "in her soul."

But Simon's brief disquisition on the futility of even making an effort was particularly striking for its profound dismissiveness and its profound blindness to what is and has been going on on the ground. Simon's "contretemps" in Lebanon was no mere embarrassing misstep but a murderous rampage that killed 1,300 innocent Lebanese and dropped over a million cluster bomblets in villages across the south, left to be discovered by returning residents. But the Democrats don't care, and Steven Simon considers this hardly worth a second thought. Israel gets itself in trouble, showing its true brutal nature in the process, and this gives Simon and the Democrats a handy excuse to avoid doing anything.
Eighteen Palestinian innocents in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip were murdered while sleeping in their beds a day before Simon spoke, killed by Israeli shellfire, round after round fired at a residential housing complex -- 16 members of one extended family and two others who came to help them after the first round exploded. The Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

In the six days preceding this incident, Israel assaulted Beit Hanoun the way it assaulted Jenin and Nablus and other West Bank cities in 2002 -- a murderous assault reminiscent of Nazi sieges or of the Russian siege of Chechnya, in which in these six days 57 Palestinians were killed, to one Israeli soldier. The dead include Palestinian fighters and a large number of civilians, including children and including two women shot down in the street while attempting to lift the Israeli siege of a mosque. The mosque was leveled. The Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

In the four months preceding this six-day siege, the Israelis killed 247 Palestinians in a prolonged attack on Gaza. Of the dead, two-thirds are civilians, 20 percent children. Of nearly 1,000 injured, one-third are children. The Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

Israel is planning a larger siege of Gaza, concentrating not just on Beit Hanoun in the north but on Rafah in the south, ostensibly to unearth arms-smuggling tunnels. This has been going on for years; Rafah has been the scene of Israel's murderous pummeling periodically since the intifada began -- in 2003 when Rachel Corrie was killed trying to protect the home of an innocent family from demolition, in 2004 when hundreds of homes were demolished in multiple sieges and a peaceful protest demonstration was strafed from the air. But the Democrats don't care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.

Gaza, of course, is not the only Palestinian territory being raped and pillaged. Its 1.4 million residents are the most distraught -- living imprisoned in a territory with the highest population density in the world, walled in with no exit except as Israel sporadically allows, being deliberately starved by the official policy of Israel, which dictates to the U.S., which dictates to Europe, vulnerable to constant Israeli assault. But the West Bank's 2.5 million Palestinians are not much better off. They continue to be killed by Israelis and squeezed by Israel's separation wall, by settlement expansion, by movement restrictions, by theft of agricultural land, by diminishing economic opportunity, and by massive Israeli-fostered unemployment. Their death toll is only minimally less than Gaza's.

This obscenity of oppression and murder does not faze the Democrats or any of Israel's Zionist supporters in the U.S. Whatever Israel wants is all right with the Democrats. The 110th Congress will screw the Palestinians just the way the Republican 109th did.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis. They spent October 2006 in Palestine and on a speaking tour of Ireland sponsored by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Body in Pain - Botero's Abu Ghraib

The Body in Pain
Arthur C. Danto
Colombian artist Fernando Botero is famous for his depictions of blimpy figures that verge on the ludicrous. New Yorkers may recall the outdoor display of Botero's bronze figures, many of them nude, in the central islands of Park Avenue in 1993. Their bodily proportions insured that their nakedness aroused little in the way of public indignation. They were about as sexy as the Macy's balloons, and their seemingly inflated blandness lent them the cheerful and benign look one associates with upscale folk art. The sculptures were a shade less ingratiating, a shade more dangerous than one of Walt Disney's creations, but in no way serious enough to call for critical scrutiny. Though transparently modern, Botero's style is admired mainly by those outside the art world. Inside the art world, critic Rosalind Krauss spoke for many of us when she dismissed Botero as "pathetic."

When it was announced not long ago that Botero had made a series of paintings and drawings inspired by the notorious photographs showing Iraqi captives, naked, degraded, tortured and humiliated by American soldiers at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, it was easy to feel skeptical--wouldn't Botero's signature style humorize and cheapen this horror? And it was hard to imagine that paintings by anyone could convey the horrors of Abu Ghraib as well as--much less better than--the photographs themselves. These ghastly images of violence and humiliation, circulated on the Internet, on television and in newspapers throughout the world, were hardly in need of artistic amplification. And if any artist was to re-enact this theater of cruelty, Botero did not seem cut out for the job.

As it turns out, his images of torture, now on view at the Marlborough Gallery in midtown Manhattan and compiled in the book Botero Abu Ghraib, are masterpieces of what I have called disturbatory art--art whose point and purpose is to make vivid and objective our most frightening subjective thoughts. Botero's astonishing works make us realize this: We knew that Abu Ghraib's prisoners were suffering, but we did not feel that suffering as ours. When the photographs were released, the moral indignation of the West was focused on the grinning soldiers, for whom this appalling spectacle was a form of entertainment. But the photographs did not bring us closer to the agonies of the victims.

Botero's images, by contrast, establish a visceral sense of identification with the victims, whose suffering we are compelled to internalize and make vicariously our own. As Botero once remarked: "A painter can do things a photographer can't do, because a painter can make the invisible visible." What is invisible is the felt anguish of humiliation, and of pain. Photographs can only show what is visible; what Susan Sontag memorably called the "pain of others" lies outside their reach. But it can be conveyed in painting, as Botero's Abu Ghraib series reminds us, for the limits of photography are not the limits of art. The mystery of painting, almost forgotten since the Counter-Reformation, lies in its power to generate a kind of illusion that has less to do with pictorial perception than it does with feeling.

The Catholic Church understood this well when, in the final session of the 1563 Council of Trent, it decided to use visual art as a weapon in its battle with the Reformation. One of the pillars of the Reformation's agenda was its iconoclasm--its opposition to the use of religious imagery, over which the church enjoyed a virtual monopoly. The Reformation feared that images themselves would be worshiped, which was idolatry. The Catholic response was to harness the power of images in the service of faith. Artists were instructed to create images of clarity, simplicity, intelligibility and realism that would serve as an emotional stimulus to piety. As the great art historian Rudolph Wittkower observed:

Many of the stories of Christ and the saints deal with martyrdom, brutality, and horror and in contrast to Renaissance idealization, an unveiled display of truth was now deemed essential; even Christ must be shown "afflicted, bleeding, spat upon, with his skin torn, wounded, deformed, pale, and unsightly," if the subject requires it. It is these "correct" images that are meant to appeal to the emotions of the faithful and support or even transcend the spoken word.

It took more than twenty years for artists to devise a style that executed these directives, and there can be little doubt that the art of the Baroque was successful in its mission. The art achieved extraordinary precision in the depiction of suffering and hence in the arousal of sympathetic identification. It is often noted that we live in an image-rich culture, and so we do. But most of the images we see are photographs, and their effect can be dulling, if not desensitizing. To elicit the kinds of feelings at which the Counter-Reformation aimed, photographs now often need to be enhanced. Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ is not realistic in the sense in which photography is realistic: It is enhanced and amplified, showing Jesus "afflicted, bleeding, spat upon, with his skin torn, wounded, deformed, pale and unsightly," in a manner that would have pleased the Council of Trent. Sontag was right: Photography must be augmented--with text, she proposed--if we are to feel the pain it shows. A picture may be worth a thousand words, as the cliché goes, but a photograph does not speak for itself. At the least it requires the skilled augmentations of Photoshop--at which point, of course, visual truth is sacrificed on the altar of feeling.

The Abu Ghraib photographs are essentially snapshots, larky postcards of soldiers enjoying their power, as their implied message--"Having a wonderful time.... Wish you were here"--attests. The nude, bound bodies of the prisoners are heaped up like the bodies of tigers in Victorian photographs of smiling viceroys displaying the day's hunt. There must be a quantitative impulse in the expression of gloating--think of the strings of fish held up in snapshots taken after fishing trips, yellowing on the walls of seafood stores. In another artistic response to Abu Ghraib, British painter Gerald Laing lifted the backdrop of Grant Wood's American Gothic but replaced the two farmers with the American MPs Lynndie England and Charles Graner, signaling thumbs-up with their blue-rubber-gloved hands above a pile of bare-bottomed bodies. The Americans are in bright poster colors, while the bodies are gray and evidently cut from a newspaper photograph, reproduced with the dots of a coarse Benday screen. It is witty and a bit sickening, but it does not call up the feelings of a Baroque evocation of martyrdom.

Or, for that matter, of Botero's Abu Ghraib series, which draws on his knowledge of the graphic, even lurid paintings of Christ's martyrdom by Latin American Baroque artists, in which Jesus bleeds from the crown of thorns, or from the wounds left by lance points in his ravaged chest. Abu Ghraib, in Botero's rendering, also evokes Baroque prisons, like those one sees in the paintings titled Roman Charity, where a visiting daughter breast-feeds her chained father in the gloomy light of his cell. Although the prisoners are painted in his signature style, his much-maligned mannerism intensifies our engagement with the pictures. This is partly because the prisoners' heavy flesh--broken and bleeding from beatings--looks all the more vulnerable to the pain inflicted. While their faces are largely covered with hoods, blindfolds and women's underpants, their mouths are twisted into expressions of pain or agony. Their arms and sometimes their legs are bound with thick rope, and sometimes a figure is suspended by his leg, or tethered by all four limbs to the criss-cross of bars that form a cell wall. Everyone is nude, except when wearing female underwear, which the Americans evidently considered the supreme form of humiliation. In some paintings, a prisoner is sprayed with urine by a guard who lies outside the frame. Broomsticks protrude from bleeding anuses; hooded men lie in their feces. Several of the paintings feature savage dogs that look like demons in medieval scenes of hell.

None of these works are for sale--Botero has said he has no interest in profiting from them. He has offered them as a collection to a number of American museums, but none have been willing to accept them, I dare say for the same reason that the Marlborough Gallery, when I visited the show, had someone searching bags and backpacks--not a common sight in commercial galleries.

Botero rather ingenuously suggested that, just as few would remember Guernica were it not for Picasso's painting, Abu Ghraib might be forgotten if he did not make this series. But Abu Ghraib was a world event, rather than an incidental horror of war like Guernica. Yet unlike Picasso's painting, a Cubist work that can serve a purely decorative function if one is unaware of its meaning, Botero's Abu Ghraib series immerses us in the experience of suffering. The pain of others has seldom felt so close, or so shaming to its perpetrators.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

2nd Anniversary of Arafat's Death

It is November 11th.
When I woke up this morning there was excitement racing all through Ramallah.
Buses were pouring in from all over the West Bank full of people singing and flags being flying out the windows.
There were processions, parades, boy scouts, dancing, music, speeches, the works... for this the second anniversary of Arafat's death. (Thankfully they did not allow any weapons into the muqata. It is always so annoying when people shoot into the air and someone always gets killed accidently. )

I am not sure why it was SO HUGE. Last year really wasn't anything compared to this! The streets were jam packed - almost looked like the day when he came in from Egypt in helicopter for his funeral and burial.

Foolish Abbas strung up posters all over the city with an image of himself sitting next to Arafat. How transparent...

I am not sure why but I felt hopeful and excited today when I saw all of us in the streets - there was an amazing energy in the air.

Anyways just sending you 2 news articles about today and a short little video clip I shot inside the muqata during the events.

This video is for the person who wrote to me from Beirut today and told me they cried when they watched Arafat's funeral on tv today.
I wanted to send you some lightness of being, some joy, some hope.

Tributes to President Arafat on the second anniversary of his death

Thousands of Palestinians commemorate two-year anniversary of Arafat's death

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Still Counting Dead

November 9, 2006
We are still counting our dead.
A breath.

I just want to first of all say thank you for the love, the support, the hugs, the time given to ask me "how are you" (and the time given to listen), the kisses, and everything else from my friends out there. Getting your emails and calls makes me so happy always. I love hearing from you no matter where I am on this earth or where you are. Thank you.
I am blessed to have you in my life.

At this moment in time I especially want to send a shout out to Tarek, Rula, Laleh and Annemarie for the past few weeks.

Sorry in advance that this email will be scattered and disjointed. Other then that I had wanted to write awhile back and talk about being in Nablus for a week for the Eid while the Israelis invaded (and of course it was not in the news). The morning of the Eid they circled above in the skies with their F-16's as a form of psychological warfare and terror. I heard they were doing the same thing in Beirut at the same time.

Another disturbing incident which I may write about later in detail was that I crossed a checkpoint with a baby for the first time in my life. My best friends baby. I love that baby. I have always thought of myself as rather fearless and unaffected while crossing checkpoints. No big deal. Normal. But my whole perception of reality changed when I was with that baby. Here I was with a beautiful, innocent, green, little human being. His eyes were open wide as he was taking in everything around him. I was terrified. I couldn't feel part of my body. It was Howara and we had M-16's trained on our heads the whole time like normal. The ugliness of the war machine was all around us. I only wanted for that baby never ever to be exposed to such violence. I had no way of protecting it. I had no way of shielding him from the horrible reality all around us.
Another element to this story, is that last spring I learned how to shoot a gun for one of my art projects. I think this has also changed how I feel when having all these 18 year olds pointing guns at you all the time. now I know how damn easy it is. Now I know how really unsafe I am.

Lastly on a lighter note, besides the usual flood of European women living here (and yes it is true it is mainly women who are in the NGO's, activist, etc) there seems to be quite a large contingency from France in particular at this time. You see them at all the bars and nightclubs with their Palestinian boyfriends. Lots to say on this phenomenon. Maybe I will later.

A couple of things:
For those of you who think the Democrats are different than Republicans:
Pelosi Attacks Iraq's Prime Minister For Not Supporting Israel's Destruction Of Lebanon

Israel Comes First

Israeli forces beat schoolchildren demonstrating in Jerusalem; use excessive violence against 10-year-olds

Palestinian Solidarity with Qaxaca in NYC this Saturday but first this statement:

The Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign Honors the Martyrs of Oaxaca.

Jerusalem, November 3, 2006: In this dreadful Autumn of death and destruction, the Palestinian and Mexican people are united more than ever in a common history, mourning and struggle.

In Palestine in the last 48 hours a new massacre has been perpetrated. 20 martyrs from the refugee camp of Beit Hanoun have been added to the hundreds of victims that have been killed since June, when the Occupation forces launched another ruthless offensive in the Gaza Strip.

In the same way, since June the Mexican government has started to use all the destructive force of its military against the 70,000 educational workers in Oaxaca who struggle for their rights. The same government that followed the demands of the US government to send its soldiers to invade and massacre the Iraqi people today turns these weapons against its own people in defense of imperialist interests.

We mourn the dead of Oaxaca as we mourn our own and we take courage from the determination in the struggle that this people has shown in response to the repression. They have united their voices in the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO): some 350 organizations have taken back the city and struggle to overthrow the corrupt government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.

If the government wanted to crush this movement with the invasion of the 29th October and the murder of the protesters, we now know that this goal has not been achieved and that the activists of the APPO know how to respond to the latest brutal attacks.

We know that the Mexican Intifada continues and spreads to other states of the nation.

As Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign representing some 50 popular committees that struggle day after day in the villages ghettoized by the wall and besieged by the complex mechanism of Zionist repression and expulsion, we want to let you know that you are not alone, that your struggle is our struggle.

60 years of occupation, dispossession, daily murder and eventually the attempt to transform Palestine into a giant open air prison were not enough to destroy the determination of the Palestinian people. The majority of our people has been expelled from their land and struggles for the return to their homes, the rest of us resists apartheid and a life in open-air prisons behind walls and razor wire.

The experience of these 60 years of resistance enable us to recognize our brothers in the Mexican indigenous communities who have resisted genocide for over 500 years. We salute the resistance of the people of Oaxaca against a corrupt puppet government and see in it a new point of reference for the struggle against imperialism.

We join the call of our Mexican comrades to demand:
1. That Ulises Ruiz Ortiz immediately step down from his post as governor of the state of Oaxaca. His authoritarian policies are at the root of the bloodshed and the struggle. His permanent presence is the main obstacle to a political solution.

2. The immediate withdrawal of the Federal Preventive Police from the city of Oaxaca.

3. The immediate end to all forms of repression, the liberation of the arrested and the detained and the return of the disappeared.

4. Unconditional respect for Human Rights and the guarantee of safety for all, in particular the members of the APPO.

5. The punishment of the intellectual and material authors of the murders perpetrated by the paramilitary groups of the state.
We further remind the Federal Government that it holds the responsibility for the repression and assaults on the population and organizations of Oaxaca.

We join all those that ask a political solution and the respect of the demands put forward by the APPO.

Jamal Juma’
Coordinator of the Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign

The Ad Hoc Coalition for Justice in the Middle East
in association with Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) present

From Palestine to Mexico
Stop Israeli and US Aggression

Saturday November 11
Judson Memorial Church: Washington Square Park, Manhattan
1:30 PM: Workshop
3:00 PM March

President Bush signed into law a House bill to build 700 miles of double-layer border wall between the United States and Mexico. Identical border-wall legislation helped to spark marches by millions for immigrant rights last spring. This multi-billion dollar US wall will further separate border communities, break apart families, and increase the number of deaths on the border as immigrant workers are pushed deeper into the desert.

Israel, with US support, continues it's assault against the Palestinian people, through daily killing and the construction of a 400 mile Apartheid Wall that reaches 15 miles into the Occupied Territories. The wall's path threatens to annex as much as 50% of the West Bank to Israel, and confiscate 90% of Jerusalem. In building this wall, Israel is razing Palestinians' land, destroying their homes, and turning Palestinian villages and towns near the Wall into isolated ghettos.

Elbit Systems limited, an Israeli company building and profiting from the Wall in occupied Palestine, has been awarded a contract, along with Boeing, to build the US’ wall. Elbit will import Israeli military technology, tested on Palestinians, for use against poor immigrants here.

Please join us for a slideshow and report-back by members of DRUM who will share their first-hand accounts of the walls in Palestine and Arizona from recent visits. Learn how the fight against racist travel bans, for dignity, and against militarized borders link the struggle for immigrant rights in the U.S. to the struggle for freedom in Palestine!

Bring signs and flags. After the workshop, we will take it to the streets and bring the Wall to New York!

This event is being held in conjunction with the International Week Against the Apartheid Wall called by Stop the Wall: Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (

Saturday, November 11th
1:30 PM: Workshop
3:00 PM : March
Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South
New York, NY
A, B, C, D, E, F and V to West 4th, or 1 train to Christopher St.

To endorse, and for more information and downloadable flyers please visit
Or email:

The Ad-Hoc Coalition for Justice in the Middle East includes: The New York Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, Jews Against the Occupation - NYC, International Socialist Organization, International Solidarity Movement - NYC, Solidarity, Socialist Action, the National Council of Arab-Americans, the Network of Arab-American Professionals of NY-PC, and the WESPAC Foundation.

Rhythms of August Postponed

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Woke Up To Massacre

November 8, 2006
I woke up this morning at 8:50 a.m. and already we had 22 dead. 18 in Gaza and 4 in the West Bank. And the toll is rising. The Israeli tanks opened fire on several homes as the residents were sleeping. You don't really expect a diary entry from me do you?

On Tuesday Israeli troops had completed their largest military operation in Gaza in a year on Tuesday after killing 60 Palestinians in a week-long incursion in the Beit Hanoun area.

We are now in three days of mourning this massacre this morning here in Palestine.

I am sending this out only because in my despair today, my friend told me that I should. That the world does care...and that I should send images....

Again I send you this poem which Mahmoud wrote in 2002

The siege is lying in wait.
It is lying in wait on a tilted stairway
in the midst of a storm.

We are alone. We are alone to the point
of drunkenness with our own aloneness,
with the occasional rainbow visiting.

We have brothers and sisters overseas..
kind sisters, who love us..
who look our way and weep.
And secretly they say
"I wish that siege was here, so that I could…"
But they cannot finish the sentence.
Do not leave us alone. No.
Do not leave us alone.

Our losses are between two and eight a day.
And ten are wounded.
Twenty homes are gone.
Forty olive groves destroyed,
in addition to the structural damage
afflicting the veins of the poem, the play,
and the unfinished painting.

(Mahmud Darwish, A State of Siege, 2002, translated by Ramsis Amun)

Date: 08 / 11 / 2006 Time: 09:28

A Palestinian father despairs after his
whole family was killed in Beit Hanoun

Gaza - Ma'an - Israel has renewed its assault on the Gaza Strip, killing at least 20 Palestinians on Wednesday morning.

Palestinian medical sources reported that dozens of Palestinian citizens had been killed or injured in an Israeli artillery bombardment of Beit Hanoun in the north of Gaza Strip. A large number of women and children were also injured in the shelling.

The sources said the preliminary number of the citizens killed is 18, but rising. In addition, more than 35 were injured. Many of the dead arrived at the hospital fragmented in pieces.

The bombing targeted the house of two brothers, Sa'ed and Sa'di Al-'Athamneh from Al-Kafarneh district in the town of Beit Hanoun.

Eleven members of the Al-'Athamneh family were killed, including a one-year old girl. The killed are:

Ne'meh Al-'Athamneh
Mohammed Al-'Athamneh
Mahmoud Al-'Athamneh
Mahdi Al-'Athamneh
Sa'ed Al-'Athamneh
Mohammed Al-'Athamneh
Fatmeh Al-'Athamneh
Nihad Al-'Athamneh
Arafat Al-'Athamneh
Dima Al-'Athamneh (1 year old girl)
Another young girl, Ala' Al-'Athamneh

The medical services are identifying the rest of the dead but it is proving difficult to identify them due to their fragmented bodies and the critical condition in which they arrived at the Kamal 'Udwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya. In Kamal 'Udwan Hospital, there are 12 dead and in Kamal Naser Hospital there are 4 dead. The number of people killed is raising by the minute.

Eyewitnesses said that the Israeli artillery bombed the houses while the residents were sleeping, resulting in the large number of casualties. Palestinians are comparing this massacre to the Qana massacre by the Israeli army in south Lebanon 3 months ago.

The government spokesman, Ghazi Hamad, appealed to the international community on the Al-Jazeera satellite channel to mobilize and stop Israel carrying out such massacres against unarmed Palestinians.

Reports are also coming in that armed Palestinians are firing at the European Union building in Gaza City.

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Amir Peretz have expressed their "regret" over the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun. The two men also said that they will offer the Palestinian Authority urgent humanitarian assistance and immediate medical care for the wounded.

Peretz also ordered an urgent investigation into the bombardment and a halt to artillery fire at the Gaza Strip until completion of the inquiry into the circumstances.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Gaza & Poem

November 4, 2006

The death toll since the start of the Israeli incursion to Beit Hanoun
and northern Gaza on Wednesday has reached 40 Palestinians killed, and
more than 200 injured; 30 of them in critical condition.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, incursions into Bethlehem, Nablus, Khalil
and more....doesn't make the news anymore.

Everything shut down today.

Love to all my peeps from Ramallah il muhtallah.

Here is a poem Mahmoud wrote in 2002.....

The siege is lying in wait.
It is lying in wait on a tilted stairway
in the midst of a storm.

We are alone. We are alone to the point
of drunkenness with our own aloneness,
with the occasional rainbow visiting.

We have brothers and sisters overseas..
kind sisters, who love us..
who look our way and weep.
And secretly they say
"I wish that siege was here, so that I could…"
But they cannot finish the sentence.
Do not leave us alone. No.
Do not leave us alone.

Our losses are between two and eight a day.
And ten are wounded.
Twenty homes are gone.
Forty olive groves destroyed,
in addition to the structural damage
afflicting the veins of the poem, the play,
and the unfinished painting.
(Mahmud Darwish, A State of Siege, 2002, translated by Ramsis Amun)