Amoula il Majnoona

Amoula's blog from Ramallah

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

7 Palestinians Killed by Palestinians

28 injured.

I have been too depressed to write anything or post since this descent into madness began.
But today I want to mark.
Record that 7 Palestinians were killed by their own people.
The highest number of dead in a day since this started.

I only have 5 of their names. I will work on getting the names of the other two:

Ismail Abu Al Kheir
Mohammad Kassab
Mohammad Harazin
Shadi Mohammad Tahir
Omar Nadir

Here in Ramallah, things have been extremely tense. Everyone is trying to go about their day as normal: going to work, dropping off the kids at school, meetings, etc but the air is so tight....
Everyone is on feel it even as we all try to act normal. The laughter is too hard, the effort too forceful....and there is fear. Fear in our own streets from ourselves. No one knows anything anymore.

From my view it seems that everyone has a gun (and that nobody knows how to use them). Thank you America and Israel for pumping the weapons in here.

This thought leads me to maybe a positive note? If you took my neighborhood in NYC and completely sealed it off behind a massive apartheid wall and cut people off from their families and their jobs forever, and then forbade anyone from coming and going, and then stopped letting in food supplies, and then cut off the electricity for weeks on end, and then only allowed weapons to make its way into the ghetto..... MAN there would be hundreds dead. No way in hell could that neighborhood handle all these we are actually doing pretty good compared to how people in places like Berlin, New York, London would act in such horrific conditions.

Meanwhile, everywhere I turn I see friends of mine working on getting out of here. Khalas enough is enough.....there is no future they say. Who wants to live in a ghetto behind concrete with 18 year old armed Russians with M-16's threatening you and your children? With no room to move or grow.

Well...I stocked up on food and water just in case but hopefully the worst is over and this won't continue when I wake up tomorrow.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

for my father

I was 13 years old standing next to my father in Bethlehem one sunny and windy day when he took my hand and pointed to the settlement of Gilo and said: "See baba, see there?". Then my eyes followed his finger as it moved across the landscape and stopped at the settlement of Har Gilo; "and there. See? They are going to build settlements just like those all around us". Then with his arm still outstretched, we turned in a circle and I watched his finger pointing at the horizon line around Bethlehem and Bayt Jalla, he said "One day they will encircle us."

This post is for my father Yusuf Nasri Suleiman Jacir. My father who taught me what it means to be free, what justice is, how to fight, and who gave me his love for Palestine. He is my biggest hero. He is the most giving and loving person I have ever known in my entire life. His first priority has always been his family and he did anything he could to make us happy.

If he could have done what he wanted in his life he would have been a professor. That was his dream. For him this was the highest and most honorable profession. No one deserved more respect than a teacher. But a poor man from Bethlehem, with a family to support and family back home to take care of, could not afford to indulge in such bourgeoisie fantasies.

He fought hard to get where he is and he did it all by himself. Nothing was handed to him. He always had a lot of hardship in his life but he made it through and he did a great job. Because of him, I know that it is possible to do anything, at any age and that it is never too late.

My father was born and raised in Bethlehem where, although he came from a historically famous and wealthy family (our family tree goes back to 1500), he grew up poor. The Jacir family had gone bankrupt in the 30's and lost absolutely everything. What remains of their legacy is the historic "Jacir Palace". My great grandfather Suleiman built it in 1910 with the intention that him and his 5 brothers families would all live in the house together, and they did for a short time but then the family lost everything and his dream was lost forever. Suleiman had quite a reputation around the region for his incredible generosity, everyone knew that if you were hungry you could go there and he would feed you.

The Jacir “palace” is currently owned by Padico and is an International Hotel but prior to this it has had an interesting history of occupants. In the 40’s the British used it as a prison. In the 50’s it was a private school called Al-Ummah, and in fact my grandfather Nasri taught there. Al-Ummah was originally located in Al-Baqaa’ in Jerusalem but after the 1948 catastrophe it was reborn in Bethlehem. Later the house became a government secondary boys’ school and then at a later stage was transformed in to a government girl’s school. Ironically, I saw recently in an Israeli tourist guide the Jacir palace described as built by a "Turkish Ottoman Merchant". Not surprising as they are working on all fronts to erase and distort our history.

My father did not have the opportunity to go to college until the age of 33. He was newly married with kids on the way, and working a full-time job and yet he managed to get his B.A.. He kept struggling so that eventually he got his master's degree at the age of 39 from the University of Chicago which was a major achievement. Of course he could have never accomplished this without the help and support of my mother who worked a retail job selling clothes, and did things like hand sew clothes for us to wear. My father would work full-time and take night courses, and then he would come home where my mother would have dinner waiting for him. Right after he was finished eating, she would make him study until the wee hours of the morning. He said there was no way he could have done it without her. Her background was different then my fathers. She was well-educated at a young age and already had a bachelors degree at the time of her marriage. Her dream was to get a masters degree which she started to slowly work on after getting married.

Eventually my father decided he was willing to go and live in a country where he would be deemed a "guest worker" and be made to feel estranged. This was Saudi Arabia and he accepted it so that his kids could have a better life then he did. Most importantly he wanted us to have a chance to have what he couldn’t get until he was in his mid-30's - a college education. Saudi Arabia was not easy for my parents and they had to make huge sacrifices and adjustments. They were forbidden from practicing their religion and their culture. They were forbidden from holding hands, or displaying any signs of public affection. Their children could not study in an Arabic school because we were not Saudi nationals so the only option was the foreign schools. There was no cinema, no dance, and no theater. At one point my mother found out about a dance teacher who was secretly teaching and she immediately signed me and my sister up....but alas the teacher was found out and promptly thrown out of the country (along with my 8 year old dream of becoming a professional dancer). All foreign teenagers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at that time were forced to leave to pursue their high school education outside the country as it was forbidden for them to stay. Coming from a traditional Bethlehem family you can imagine what a sacrifice this was for my father to have to send his children away from him. It was unheard of and heartbreaking for him. I will never forget the day I left home for Italy at the age of 14, my father (who was always open and free with his emotions which is another reason he is my hero) wept openly as he hugged me good bye.

In Saudi Arabia, my mother could no longer pursue her Masters degree and had to give that up. She managed of course, and became the first Arabic teacher at the American School in Riyadh. She also got involved in several Saudi women's groups. Best of all, was that she refused to wear the black abaya. She thought it was too dark and depressing and decided to make her own abaya. Her abaya was also black, and followed the rules by covering her body head to toe, but her abaya was covered in giant brightly colored flowers - they were pink, purple and green. When I was a young girl I was embarrassed at the way she stuck out of the crowd and wished she would wear a plain black one like me and my sister, but now when I look back at it I am proud.

But we were close to Palestine. We were near our homeland and for my father the most important thing was being able to go back as much as we could. We went back (sometimes three times a year) in the 70's and 80's via Jordan and the infamous bridge where I have many deep memories of being stripped searched as a child, and having things like my chewing gum confiscated. Working in Saudi Arabia also gave my father the ability to support his family still in Bethlehem. When I was growing up, he worked almost 7 days a week, office hours were not 9 - 5, they were 8 a.m. to midnight. He would come home for dinner but then he would have to rush back to the office where I always felt he worked like a slave. In Bethlehem, it seemed our family and other people had no idea what our lives were like outside Palestine and I heard them say many things. It didn't matter what we said, they had a fantasy in their mind about how we lived and nothing would change that. When I would complain about this to my mother, she would just quietly say "let them talk".

I remember walking the streets of Bethlehem as a child and holding my fathers hands, I was always in awe as it seemed everyone knew him, everyone! My father never did resolve the fact that his children were growing up away from his parents and extended family. This fact hurt him and has always made him doubt if he made the right decision to leave Palestine.

Before my father got married and went to college he worked in Hebron from 1962 until 1969. He was working for UNRWA as the Area Welfare Officer for the Hebron and Bethlehem areas. The UNRWA headquarters was in Hebron and it's area covered Bethlehem and all the surrounding villages and refugee camps. My father's specific job was that he was in charge of case work, youth activities, welfare distributions, and sewing centers, in Bethlehem, Hebron, Arroub Camp, Fawwar camp and Deheishe camp. He also supervised case workers, youth leaders and sewing center supervisors. This job gave him the opportunity to travel to the USA for the first time in 1966 as a representative of Jordan to the Chicago International Program for Youth Leaders and Social workers. He spent 4 months in America and visited New York, Washington and Chicago. As a joke, they decided to dress in traditional Arab costumes when they flew to America to play with the American’s stereotypes of who we Arabs are.

During his eight year time period as a social worker, he used to commute daily to his work in Hebron from Bethlehem on the Hebron/Bethlehem bus. It was bus number 23. This bus originated in Jerusalem and made its way along the Jerusalem-Hebron road through Bethlehem and onwards to Hebron. He tells me that he had fun on his daily bus ride. In those days it was a long trip, depending on the weather and traffic it normally took anywhere from 40 to 50 minutes for him to get to the UNRWA office.

I tried to find this bus a few weeks back. It no longer runs. It stopped running ten years ago. There is also no way to get from Bethlehem to Hebron now on the Jerusalem-Hebron Road as the Israelis have chopped it into pieces and blocked it in several places. I tried to follow its route but instead of the wide open road, I found various checkpoints and at several points the wall completely closing the road. It seems like only a few years ago when I could follow this exact route.

My father was in Hebron at work when the war broke out on June 5, 1967. He managed to return to Bethlehem on UNRWA transportation from the Hebron office to the UNRWA office in Bethlehem. From the UNRWA office in Bethlehem he walked home to his house as the Israelis were shelling the city.
Meanwhile my mother at the same time was on her way from Amman to Bethlehem by car. Her car was attacked by the Israeli army and run over by a tank. She spent three days hiding in the hills and made it back to Bethlehem on foot.

My father eventually realized that UNRWA was created to ensure that we remain beggars and never create the means to help ourselves. UNRWA seemed to do nothing but keep us stagnate and in a state of permanent waiting.
He left.


This photo essay was taken the day I tried to follow Bus Number 23’s route, my father’s daily commute to Hebron.
He was right.
They have completely encircled us, not only by the settlements, but by the wall, and the by-pass roads.
Bethlehem is a ghetto.

Bus No. 23

Two kilometers outside Bethlehem coming in from Jerusalem is Jebel Abu Ghneim which was once a green forest with 60,000 pine trees, and hundreds of animals and plants. The land's owners are from Bethlehem, Bayt Sahour, Sur Baher and Um Tuba. In 1997, the Israelis began destroying the forest by uprooting all the trees in order to build Har Homa settlement. Now I see there is new construction on the bottom of the mountain as well.

I could not continue on the historical road which connects Jerusalem and Bethlehem and Hebron ( bus number 23's route) because the wall chopped it here.

Standing in front of the wall and looking to the right I saw the wall criss-crossing across the landscape and cutting Bethlehem off from her agricultural lands.

In order to enter Bethlehem, we had to make a left and get off the Jerusalem-Hebron Road. Here we are stopped at the first checkpoint and we are looking ahead. Soldiers are checking our passports.

After passing through the first checkpoint, we made a right and we were able to enter Bethlehem through the large gate. You can see a tourist bus on its way out exiting the city. Palestinian I.D. holders can not enter or exit from here.

In case you didn't notice in the other picture, the Israel Ministry of Tourism strung up a poster about "peace" ON the wall which has turned the city of Bethlehem into a ghetto. This is one of the most vile ironies of a tourist poster I have ever seen.

Once inside Bethlehem, I made a right to try to get back to the Jerusalem-Hebron Road.

We got lost and ended up in what seemed like an endless maze of wall.

Everywhere I looked I saw the wall, in all directions.
Here we got out of the car and had to walk. I wanted to get to the Jerusalem-Hebron Road and examine the area around Rachel's Tomb and we couldn't drive since the road was blocked, chopped and split in several places.

This is Claire Anastas' house. It is surrounded all all three sides by the wall.

Back on the Jerusalem-Hebron Road businesses have been shut down as the wall has completely shut them in (or out). As you can see there is no road here, it is more like an alleyway - the rest of the once wide road is on the other side of the wall - part of Rachel's Tomb.

Here facing the direction of Hebron, the Rachel's Tomb complex on the right behind the wall. The road to the left of the house leads to Manger Square. Rachel's Tomb and the surrounding area which they have enclosed behind the wall is all Bethlehem's land. In September 2006 the Israeli government offically annexed it as part of Jerusalem.

This is the southside of Rachel's Tomb. Rachel's Tomb now has two settler families living in it. They are building a yeshiva and plan to have 400 apartments for Israeli settlers. It won't be long until we end up like Hebron...

This is the view from the northside of Rachel's Tomb, and the Llama Brothers souvenir shop cut off from the rest of Bethlehem.

Along the side of the wall and the Llama brothers souvenir shop.

We backtracked and walked along the road in the direction of Jerusalem until we reached the wall. (This is what the other side of the Jerusalem-Hebron Road which I couldn't stay on looks like. See second picture.)

This is where Palestinian I.D. holders have to line up to enter or exit. There will only be two entrances in and out of Bethlehem.

We went back to the car and found our way back to the Jerusalem-Hebron Road past Rachel's Tomb, but to get to Hebron we made a right at Bab Al-Zaq and headed to Bayt Jalla instead of going straight. There was no way to stay on this road as the road was cut off again before Dheishe Camp. We stopped at the top of Bayt Jalla to see the olive trees the Israelis had chopped down. This marks the route of the wall as it snakes its way up here. All of Bayt Jalla's agricultural lands will be on the other side cut off from her people. The next time I stand here I will not be able to see this vista, I will only see grey concrete.

This is Hebron's old market. The last time I was here was 2000. It was a bustling commercial and cultural area then. Now it is a ghost town. The city of Hebron is surrounded with checkpoints, road blocks and military barriers cutting roads leading to other parts of the city. The most violent settlers in the West Bank live in the center of Hebron in homes they stole from Palestinians. They routinely attack Palestinians in an effort to get them to leave. They are heavily guarded by 2000 members of the Israeli Army.
Please see:

Is this Bethlehem's future?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Security Chaos

Fatah - Hamas
Hamas - Fatah
Fatah - Fatah

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"International Human Rights Day"

December 10th, 2006

Press Release

On the Occasion of the "International Human Rights Day"
Occupation and Siege are a Systematic Policy of Impoverishment of Palestinian People

Today marks the 58th anniversary of the International Human Rights day. It is the day the UN declared the issuance of the "International Declarations of Human Rights" to put new international foundations for enforcing and respecting the sacred life and dignity of human beings.

It might be a co-incidence for the birth of this declaration with the anniversary of the Palestinian uprooting in 1948, still experienced by Palestinians up until today.

This year, the occasion is designated to focus on efforts of eliminating poverty worldwide under the theme "Fighting Poverty is a Matter of Obligation not Charity" for the mere fact that poverty is a genuine dilemma penetrating all over the world, particularity in developing countries.

This occasion comes as Palestine and the whole region are immersed in continuing incidents of violence, political instability, and violations of human rights. Although the Israeli unilateral disengagement plan from Gaza led to absence of the physical existence of Israeli army from inside Gaza, it did not end the effective control of Palestinian civilian life; thus converting Gaza into a big prison with tremendous political, and socio-economical problems and challenges.

Israel has continued its policies of assassination, closures, expansion of settlements, and building the separation wall in the West Bank. Israel continued with its policy of strict political and economical siege, through policies of closures, restrictions, and more than 520 checkpoints partitioning the whole OPT and restricting freedom of movement. Israel persisted to use the policies of political assassinations, targeting innocent civilians and objects, confiscating land, uprooting trees, demolishing homes, and preventing citizens from using their natural resources such as land, water, and fishing wealth.

All such measures lead to impoverishment of Palestinian people through systematic policies of deprivation of resources including; natural resources and developmental and humanitarian assistance provided to Palestinians by the international community. In a recent report published by UNRWA, it was indicated that more than 64% of Palestinians live under poverty line. The report also mentioned that the conditions are alarming, where more than one million Palestinians in the OPT live in extreme poverty.

The unjust siege imposed by the international community, following the Palestinian democratic elections and the constitution of the Palestinian government by Hamas, contributed further to a huge increase in poverty and unemployment amongst Palestinians, particularly after the inability of the PA to pay the salaries of more than 160,000 public servants for the last 10 month. Consequently, such situation led to dangerous humanitarian and psychological repercussions.

Poverty has serious negative consequences on the psychosocial functioning of individuals, leading to an increase in mental disorders in general. For poor people, there is more increase in depression, anxiety, and somatization disorders. Moreover, poverty contributes to an increase in the rate of relapses among mental health patients.

The psychological suffering is reflected in the high levels of domestic, tribal, and community violence in general. Such violence is the main factor in the continuation of violence and instability in the whole region.

The international community has a responsibility today more than ever to find new mechanisms to enforce international law and ensure adherence to it. They should work on ensuring that all human beings, wherever they are, have equal opportunities and access to resources, which will lead to enforcement and protection of human rights, dignity, and achieving security & peace worldwide.

On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, we at the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, call upon the international community, especially the signatories of the 4th Geneva Convention, and human rights organizations to fulfill their responsibilities and urge all countries to respect articles of international law. We, also, urge them to pressure Israel to prevent its continued violations of Palestinian human rights with all of its forms, and to urgently act on lifting the political and economical siege imposed on the Palestinian People.

Again, on the International Human Rights Day, we hope to convert the slogan "Fighting Poverty is a Matter of Obligation not Charity" into a reality.

Gaza Community Mental Health Programme


2006 10 ديسمبر

بيان صحفي
بمناسبة اليوم العالمي لحقوق الانسان
"الاحتلال والحصار سياسة ممنهجة لإفقار وقهر الشعب الفلسطيني"

يصادف اليوم الذكرى الثامنة والخمسين لليوم العالمي لحقوق الإنسان وهو اليوم الذي أعلنت فيه الأمم المتحدة صدور الإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان ليضع أسس عالمية جديدة في تعزيز قيم وإحترام قدسية الحياة والكرامة الإنسانية.

وربما كان من المصادفة أن تتزامن ولادة هذا الإعلان مع ذكرى نكبة فلسطين التي ما زالت تداعياتها تتفاعل حتى يومنا هذا.

و في هذا العام تخصص الامم المتحدة هذه المناسبة للتركيز على قضية الفقر في العالم تحت شعار (محاربة الفقر قضية إلتزام لا إحسان) والتي أصبحت معضلة حقيقية تمس قطاعات واسعة من البشر في دول العالم كافة وخاصة الدول النامية.

إننا بهذه المناسبة نشدد على أهمية وضرورة أن تكون مبادئ الإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان وما تلاها من إتفاقيات ومواثيق ذات العلاقة تراثاً إنسانياً أخلاقياً وقانونياً ملزماً للعلاقات بين الدول خاصة فيما يتعلق بالصراع العربي الإسرائيلي.

كما وتأتي هذه المناسبة بينما لا يزال الشعب الفلسطيني يتعرض للعدوان الاسرائيلي وتخترق حقوقه الانسانية بشكل كبير. فلا زالت إسرائيل تطبق حصارها السياسي حاجز يقطع أوصال الارض الفلسطينية. هذا و تستمر اسرائيل 520والاقتصادي الخانق على الشعب الفلسطيني عبر سياسة الاغلاق والحصار والحواجز حيث يوجد أكثر من أيضاً في إتباع سياسة الاغتيال وقصف المدنيين والاعيان المدنية سرقة الارض وبناء جدار الفصل العنصري وإقتلاع الاشجار وهدم المنازل ومنع السكان من إستغلال مصادرهم الطبيعية كالاراضي والمياه والثروة السمكية.

إن كل هذه الممارسات تؤدي بالضرورة الى إفقار الشعب الفلسطيني عبر سياسة ممنهجة لحرمانه من مقدراته بما فيها مصادره الطبيعية والمساعدات التنموية والانسانية التي % من أبناء الشعب الفلسطيني تحت خط الفقر حسب ما ورد في تقرير وكالة الغوث الدولية (الأنروا) والتي ذكرت فيه أن هذا الوضع 64يتلقاها، وهو الأمر الذي أدى إلى أن يعيش ينذر بالخطر حيث يعيش أكثر من مليون فلسطيني في غزة والضفة في فقر مدقع وانخفاض معدل الدخل الفردي إلى أقل مستوياته.

ولقد ساهم الحصار الظالم الذي فرضه المجتمع الدولي عقب نتائج الانتخابات الفلسطينية والتي شهد العالم بنزاهتها وفوز حركة حماس وتشكيل الحكومة الفلسطينية الى إزدياد ألف موظف منذ حوالي عشرة أشهر الامر الذي أدى إلى 160هائل في معدلات الفقر والبطالة بين الفلسطينيين وخاصة بعد ان عجزت الحكومة عن تسديد رواتب ما يقارب من تداعيات إنسانية ونفسية خطيرة.

إن للفقر نتائج خطيرة على الحالة النفسية والاجتماعية للانسان، حيث يؤدي الفقر إلى ازدياد معدلات الاضطرابات النفسية بصورة عامة لدى طبقة الفقراء حيث يشيع الاكتئاب النفسي والقلق والاضطرابات الجسدية الناجمة عن أسباب نفسية، كذلك يساهم الفقر بحدوث انتكاسات مرضية على نطاق واسع لدى المرضى النفسيين.

إن هذه المعاناة النفسية تعكس نفسها في مستوى عالي من العنف الاسري والعشائري والمجتمعي بشكل عام . وبذلك تكون أحد عوامل التوتر الدائم والعنف وعدم الاستقرار، وإن أي تغيير حقيقي باتجاه السلام والهدوء يجب أن يترافق بالضرورة مع احترام الحقوق الاساسية للانسان ومن أهمها الحق في حصوله على إحتياجاتها الاساسية.

إن على المجتمع الدولي مسئولية كبرى لايجاد آليات فعالة لتطبيق القانون الدولي وضمان إلتزام كافة دول العالم به وكذلك العمل على حصول الانسان أينما كان على فرص متساوية من المصادر الحياتية والطبيعية مما سيؤدي إلى تعزيز وحماية حقوق الانسان وكرامته وتحقيق الامن والسلم في العالم.

إننا في برنامج غزة للصحة النفسية نطالب جميع الحكومات ومؤسسات الأمم المتحدة ومؤسسات حقوق الإنسان للضغط على إسرائيل من أجل منع انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان في فلسطين بكافة أشكاله من جهة وضرورة الاسراع في رفع الحصار السياسي والاقتصادي المفروض على الشعب الفلسطيني.

أخيراً وفي هذه الذكرى فإننا نتطلع إلى تحقيق المزيد من السلام والعيش الكريم للإنسان في كل مكان عبر تطبيق روح ونصوص الاعلان العالمي لحقوق الانسان وكافة الاتفاقات الدولية التي تلته ليتحول حقوق الانسان الى حقيقة واقعة تخدم الانسانية والعدالة والسلام.

برنامج غزة للصحة النفسية

Please visit our site:
Gaza Community Mental Health Programme

Friday, December 08, 2006

George Wassouf and Ramallah epidemics

I love George Wassouf. I love his crazy, deep, husky voice. I have been sick with bronchitis for the past week, which according to the doctor I saw yesterday is a big epidemic in Ramallah lately.

The other epidemic going on here these days is a string of robberies. Yes my friends, Ramallah is no longer the safe place it once was. In the past two weeks alone, 4 of my friends have had their cars stolen and everyday you hear someone mention that someone or other's car disappeared in front of their house, or restaurant, or at the checkpoint. There have also been several purse snatchings in the city (now you have to keep an eye on your belongings all the time when in restaurants or in the market, etc.). I have heard of several house break-in's. One of those break-in's include dear Vera Tamari who awoke in the middle of the night to find a man standing in the doorway of her bedroom! Luckily nothing bad happened and he ran out of the house.
A funny aside is that when the shurta (police) arrived to search her house and around outside they did not come equipped with flashlights. Not a single one of them. So Vera had a huge gang of shurta searching all around the outside of her house in the dark using the light of their cell phones as flashlights!

This is the store where the Wassouf debates take place, right next to the pharmacy.

Anyways, I had enough strength to make my way to my favorite music store in Ramallah yesterday to engage the owner in our usual argument as to whether George Wassouf is Syrian or Lebanese. I say Syrian. He says Lebanese. This has been an ongoing debate between us for the last several years. I don't want to put an end to it, I like this tradition of ours. I welcome anyone's comments on this matter.

(I also had enough strength to make it to my friend Shuruq's birthday party but left rather early. Dancing while coughing up your lungs is NOT sexy. Dancing in a living room thick with cigarette smoke also doesn't help when one is sick. I don't recommend it.)

Lastly, I have not written about the political situation on the ground here for awhile and I am sorry. It is just too depressing. The mainstream media focuses on pretend news stories about unity governments, Abu Mazen's meetings, and the endless stream of so-called ceasefires, meanwhile the real news takes place in the shadows. The journalists focus on reporting on what happened in the latest round of unity talks......meanwhile the march of death and destruction goes seemingly unrecorded. The real story (among MANY others) is the fact that there are entire sections of Beit Hanoun gone.
Just like that.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Iraqi Dates have arrived in NYC

My friend Michael Rakowitz had made one of the best art projects I have seen in New York city in a long time. He re-opened his Iraqi grandfather's import export company on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Here is the latest update on the store and more information:

Dear Friends,

It's been a long journey, but 10 boxes of Iraqi dates have made it through U.S. Customs, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspections, and are finally for sale on my store's shelves.

The initial one-ton shipment of Iraqi dates (khestawee type)was originally scheduled to be recieved in early October by my company, Davisons & Co.--a resurrected version of my grandfather's import export company that he operated out of Baghdad and subsequently New York after he fled Iraq in 1946. The dates were part of a deal to ship one-ton of the dates from Hilla, Iraq to our storefront in Brooklyn, NY, signed by our company and Al Farez Co. in Baghdad. The import was arranged through Sahadi Fine Foods in Brooklyn, NY.

The shipment left Baghdad in early October, literally days after the dates came down from the palm trees. They were to travel by truck to Amman, Jordan where they would then be shipped by air direct to JFK International Airport. On the way, however, the truck carrying the dates waited in a line of cars, reported to be days long, of Iraqis fleeing the sectarian violence and trying to gain entry into Jordan to seek refuge. Once at the border, the truck was turned away like so many of the Iraqi refugees, and was sent back to Baghdad because the shipment required a certificate declaring it free from radiation. After receiving said certificate, the truck returned to the border, only to have the Jordanian officials turn the driver away again, this time because of "security concerns." The truck then headed north to Syria, where it made it through to Damascus Airport and was then held by security officials because a form had not been completed by the truck driver that would cost Al Farez 1200 USD to have completed on the Syrian end. After yet another week, the Syrian officials released the shipment, whereupon the Sales Agent for Al Farez, Khairi, discovered that the dates had basically cooked after shuttling back and forth for three weeks in a hot truck and were not suitable to be exported. The dates were to have been sent from Damascus to Cairo, Egypt, then onward to the US.

In the end, the dates traveled the exact same path as an Iraqi refugee, many of whom sought entry to Egypt, once the Jordanian border was tightened in the early fall. They never reached their destination, much like the fleeing Iraqis.

However, in a new deal agreed upon on 7 November, 10 new boxes of 4 varieties of dates were shipped via DHL from Baghdad to the USA. We are pleased to announce that just yesterday, the FDA released the dates into our possession and they are now on sale in our store in Brooklyn. The dates are packed in boxes, clearly labeled "Product of Iraq," believed by many importers to be the first such item to enter the USA in over 25 years.We will be from 10 AM-7 PM daily, as always, and our last day of business is scheduled to be Sunday, 10 December.

Due to the very low quantity of dates in our store (we were supposed to have 200 boxes, now we only have 10), we will be limiting the amount per customer to accomodate the high number of pre-orders.

You can read more about the history of the transaction at the following blog. It is the project page for "Return" which is presented as part of Creative Time's "Who Cares" initiative.

I will be updating the blog tomorrow morning.

Also, please check out Christine Lagorio's excellent article about the project, posted today at

Very special thanks to Creative Time for their support and presentation of this work, and for extending the project six weeks beyond its intended closing date, in order to accomodate the arrival of the dates; to Atlantic Assets and Art Assets for the donation of the storefront space, and for agreeing to the extension of the project; to Pat Whelan and Sahadi Fine Foods for their collaboration on the import of the dates and handling all bureaucratic channels, facilitating their already difficult arrival; to Rick Morana at C-Air Customhouse Brokers for courageously agreeing to oversee an import that most would have rejected; and to Atheer Al Azawi, Khairi Fares, Suzan Othman of Al Farez Co., Baghdad/Amman, and Fallah Farms in Hilla, Iraq, for collaborating with me and establishing a new business partnership that will hopefully open as many as eyes as it will sweeten mouths.

Michael Rakowitz
Davisons & Co.
529 Atlantic Ave.
Brooklyn, NY
tel: 917-692-5592

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Israel Demolishs Bedouin Village

The Government of Israel Demolished an Entire Bedouin Village Today in Negeb

At 5:00am hundreds of police people accompanied six bulldozers and demolished 17 homes and 3 animal shacks in the village of Twail Abu-Jarwal. The entire village is demolished. People are sitting by the piles of tin that were their modest dwellings and wondering what to do, where to go even their family cannot host them, as no one has a house standing.

This is the fourth time this year that the government demolished in this village. This time they got it "right" - no house is left standing.

But the villagers have nowhere to go to. They lived on the outskirts of the Bedouin town of Laqia, the old folk paid for plots of land to build homes in the 1970s, they still hold on the receipt, hoping someday to receive the plots. For the last 30 years they have been living on land belonging to others, in shacks, the housing becoming ever more crowded, until there was no room left for another baby. They turned to the government for a solution - the option for joining the rest of the residents of Laqia, in a regular house, on a regular plot of land. But the authorities had no options for them. The owners of the land on which they were living requested that they leave - 30 years is enough. So eventually they left back to their own ancestral land - only a couple of miles south of Laqia - by the old ruined school, by their old cemetery. The adult sons built their old mother a modest brick home. The rest built tin shacks.

A year ago the government came and destroyed several houses - including the brick home. Some of the people of Twail Abu Jarwal rebuilt, some moved into more crowded homes with their adult siblings. The government came nine months later and demolished 7 more homes. Again, some rebuilt their shacks, some moved in with family. The government came back last month and just to harass, uprooted fences, holding the sheep. And now they came in order to make sure the work is complete.

Israel's Minister of Interior, Roni Bar-On, two days ago was invited to give answers to the Internal Affairs Committee in the Knesset, as to what solutions the government is advancing in order to solve the issue of the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, and why the government is demolishing homes while these people have no "legal" options for building homes. Bar-On claimed that everything is just fine, he is doing all he can to deal with this issue, but a criminal must be punished, and therefore all the "illegal" Bedouin homes in the Negev must be demolished. He claimed that as far as he is concerned, there are not enough demolitions in the Negev. And now he has proved that he is a man of his word - 17 homes demolished in one foul swoop.

Of the 150,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Negev, over 50% live in villages that the government as policy has left "unrecognized" , meaning that there are no options for building permits, as well as running water, electricity, roads, sewer systems and trash removal, additionally there are very minimal education and health facilities. This policy's aim is to force the Bedouins off their ancestral lands and to concentrate the Bedouins in urban townships, regardless of their wishes or their culture. However, there are also no options for living in the concentration towns the government has built, as there are no available plots of land for homes, as in the case of the families of the Twail abu-Jarwal village. Therefore the government can "legally" demolish the homes of 80,000 members of this community, while they cannot build one "legal" home.

We need help! Both financial and political.

* Please donate to help the people of the village re-build their homes (tin shacks that stand as homes...) Checks can be sent to RCUV - al Awna Fund (the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages), POBox 10002, Beer Sheva, zipcode 84105, ISRAEL.
* Please write to your representatives! And tell of the quiet and brutal demolitions of homes and lives in the Israeli Negev, demand that they do something about it.

For more information: Yeela Raanan, 054 7487005.
Civil Society Activities Coordinator, Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages.

The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages is an NGO and was created in 1997 as the representative body for the residents of the 45 Bedouin unrecognized villages in the Israeli Negev. Hssein al-Rafaia is the elected head of the RCUV.
Emily Jacir

Monday, December 04, 2006

OLMERT is BAD for the JEWS

I went to Haifa today to help my sister with auditions for her film. I will spare you the (yawn so boring and typical) checkpoint fiasco stories from our trip.
We were waiting at a red light once we were "inside", when I noticed this bumper sticker. At first I thought it was from some cool anti-occupation Israeli group. Then I thought, no, more likely this sticker comes from the contingency of the Israeli public who come from the extremist position of thinking Olmert is too lenient with the Palestinians and not ethnically cleansing fast enough...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Investigation of STARS & BUCKS

Last June, my friend Cathy sent me an email entitled "Only in Ramallah", attached to it were photographs of the new "Stars & Bucks Cafe" which had opened up in the center of Ramallah. Today was a sunny but cold day and so I decided it was time to investigate and take my own photos of this coffeeshop which now overlooks the Manara.

This new illumination in the Manara which beckons me at night with its powerful green glow...

I went inside to find out that although the logo is akin to that of "Starbucks", that is where the similarity ends. This is the entrance...once inside you are immediately greeted by a layer of smoke hovering in the air from all the arghiles....

Unlike Starbucks, the menu items here include arghile, as well as other Ramallah restaurant staples such as nachos, chicken fingers, french fries, ice creams and cakes, and a myriad of sandwiches (including of course mortadella). Here is a view of some tasty looking cakes, fruits ready to be turned into succulent juices, and arghiles waiting to be smoked.

The best thing about Stars & Bucks Cafe was the view of the Manara. You can sip your coffee, smoke your arghile and watch the world below you in all its hustle and bustle swirling around the lions.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Suheir and me

break (balance)

everything is

looking for balance
in my body

this the thing

once broke open deluge original ark stark naked fallen stars

ana beside river myself
humble prayers broke
pity please don’t become me

way poet starts poem
in full moon
in box empty
waving for a call
a soweto sunset

space habibi in head wa heart
not math space in daily

at dawn reach for ra wa kiss sky

my homegirl’s morning counting gaza bodies
she will tell you the dead do not kiss
wa curly hair needs tending

there in no remainder melting dice craps all gamble tipping
point internal compass wa complicit wa content wa violent

way poem ends poem


Leila Khaled tag on the wall

Here is a photo I took of one of my favorite tags

Friday, December 01, 2006

waiting for a servees in Bayt Hanina