Saturday, February 21, 2015

Palestinian activists establish Jerusalem Gate Protest Camp

Dear friends,
Due to other commitments, I have not had time to post about the Jerusalem Gate protest camp which was set up on 8th February. My apologies for the lateness of this post.  Please find below the original press statement issued by the activists, as well as some photos. As you will no doubt be aware, Israeli occupation forces have sought on numerous occasions over the last two weeks to dismantle the camp. Each time the activists have returned.  I will follow this post up as soon as I can with more updates from the camp.

in solidarity, Kim

PRESS RELEASE


 February 2015

Popular Resistance activists are rebuilding tents of Jerusalem Gate on the lands of Abu Dis and Al Eizarieh for the Fourth time post being demolished by the Occupation.

 The Popular Resistance activists and the people of Jerusalem on Tuesday, February 3, 2015 were able to construct a number of tents. They called them "Jerusalem Gate". These tents were constructed as a manifestation to protest against the occupation and colonial settler policies which are practiced on Palestinian lands in East of Jerusalem, Abu Dies and Al Eizarieh, which are threatened to be confiscated. The Israeli occupation forces announced that they will demolish these tents hours after their construction.
 In the early morning hours of February 4/ 2015, a day after the establishment of the Jerusalem Gate, the area was raided by the Israeli army’s bulldozers. The occupation army used gas bombs and stun grenades against the activists. The occupation army demolished the tents and the iron structure which the activists used to sleep in. After the brutal assault on the protesters and activists, they returned immediately to the land of Jerusalem Gate and rebuilt the tents including the remaining ones.
They declared that the battle against the occupation will continue until their schemes are foiled. The popular resistance activists and the residents of the threatened land in Al Eizarieh and Abu Dis East of Jerusalem will continue to construct these tents aiming to express their rejection of and the struggle against the policy of the occupation army and its decisions which are leading to the confiscation of the Palestinian lands and the expulsion of Bedouin communities in East Jerusalem. The activists and the community managed to build several tents under the name of Jerusalem Gate in the area of Khalet Al Qamar in Abu Dis.
 This activity or initiative is a first step to protest against the policy of the Israeli colonial occupation. Activists will support the residents of these areas and will continue the struggle with them against the threats of the occupation army to confiscate the land.
The Israeli Occupying continues its daily assault against Palestinians in these areas through the demolition of their homes, as was the case of the demolition of houses of Arab Al Ka’abneh two weeks ago. The residents of Arab Al Ka’abneh were expelled to join a larger collective of people in the Jordan Valley against their will and without any consultations with the community.
The Israeli occupation, using its armyare planning to deport the community of Jabal Al Baba towards Arab Al Jahaleen area East of Jerusalem. The violations committed by the Israeli occupation continues using various tools and methods including forcing harsh living conditions on the residents of certain areas to force them to leave their land. The Israeli army uses various excuses to expel people from their land such as the unlicensed building and that the community is building their property on ‘absentees property

This Israeli plan aims to control the land for the benefit of the colonial settlements in Jerusalem from the eastEspecially large settlements like " Maale Adumim ", aiming to link east Jerusalem area in preparation for the establishment of Greater JerusalemThe Israeli occupation is working on keeping the largest possible number of Palestinians outside the city of Jerusalem to ensure a Jewish majority .

This new racist plan started in the year 2007, it is threatening more than 15,000 Palestinians, half of them are children, all living in 45 communities since Al Nakba in the year 1948, The European Union has condemned the demolitions and forced expulsion from areas occupied by "Israel”.

UNRWA has expressed its concern about the threat of forced displacement, and the forced displacement of people from the territory under occupation as that is a violation of International humanitarian law
.




Photos by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee via Alternative Information Centre

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Israel killing Palestinians "as a matter of policy"


Dear friends, 
please find below my latest article on Palestine for RedFlag, about Israel's killing of Palestinians with impunity.

in solidarity,
Kim

**
The funeral of 19-year-old Ahmad Ibrahim al-Najjar PHOTO: APA

Thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral of 19-year-old Ahmad Ibrahim al-Najjar from Burin village on 1 February. Al-Najjar was shot dead the previous day. He was the second Palestinian in the West Bank to be killed in January by Israel’s military.

On 14 January, 17-year-old Osama Ali Mohammad Abu Jundiyya was shot in Hebron. He later died after the military prevented a Palestinian ambulance from reaching him.

The death of al-Najjar came just days after the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories reported that Israel’s military has inflicted the highest number of injuries in a decade on Palestinians in the West Bank.

According to the agency’s December Humanitarian Bulletin, Israel’s occupation forces killed 56 Palestinians and injured 5,868 in 2014. Of those killed, 12 were children. According to the report, the increase in fatalities and injuries was a direct result of a “sharp increase in the Israeli forces’ use of live ammunition in crowd control situations”.

The report also noted that while Israel has increased its use of excessive force, accountability for the deaths and injuries remains low, with Israel investigating only two-thirds of fatalities and subsequently issuing an indictment against only one soldier.

In 2005, Human Rights Watch noted, in a report title Promoting Impunity, that Israel had systematically fostered a climate of impunity within the ranks of the military, refusing to investigate the murder of Palestinians killed by soldiers. The HRW report said that, from 2000 to 2005, Israeli’s occupation forces had killed or seriously injured thousands of Palestinian civilians but that fewer than 5 percent of the fatalities led to investigations.

In February last year, an Amnesty International report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, confirmed that little has changed. According to Amnesty, Israel’s occupation forces “displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity”.

The report also said that soldiers had engaged in arbitrary and abusive force. In a number of cases, there was strong evidence that Israeli soldiers had engaged in war crimes, carrying out “wilful killings”.

Amnesty Middle East and North Africa director Philip Luther noted: “The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers – and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy.”

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Palestine: Love Under Apartheid

  

Dear friends, 
February 14 is celebrated around the world as a day of love and friendship. However, for the people of Palestine even the most initimate and private part of their lives are impacted on by Israel's occupation and apartheid regime, including their relationships with their loved ones. 

Over the last couple of years a number of campaigns have sought to highlight the impact of Israel occupation and apartheid regime on these aspects of Palestinian life, as well as the draconian apartheid laws which result in couples and families being forced apart.

On such apartheid law is the racist Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order).  As I noted in my chapter on Palestine and BDS for the Australian book, Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left (edited by Antony Loewenstein and Jeff Sparrow), the law: 

prohibits the granting of any residency or citizenship status to Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) who are married to Israeli citizens. Adalah notes that this specifically affects Palestinian citizens of Israel and prevents thousands of families from living together. Since 2003, the law has been extended annually. Amendments in 2007 and 2008 increased restrictions on Palestinians from Gaza and extended the ban to include citizens and residents of Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

In January 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge by Adalah and the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, ruling six to five to uphold the law, on the basis that, while couples had a constitutional right to live together, this did not mean they had to make their residential home in Israel.

In effect, the court decided that Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel who wanted to live with their spouses from the Occupied Territories or Iran, Lebanon, Syria or Iraq would have to do so outside of the Jewish state.


I have included below videos from the campaigns:  Love Under Apartheid and Love in the Time of Apartheid. 

You can check out their websites to see more videos and to read more about the campaigns and the impact of Israel's occupation and apartheid on Palestinian families and their loved ones.

In solidarity, Kim
**

LOVE UNDER APARTHEID










LOVE IN THE TIME OF APARTHEID



Love in the Time of Apartheid action - 2013
with some english commentary via subtitles

Love in the Time of Apartheid action - 2013




Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Palestine solidarity activist Kayla Mueller, held hostage by ISIS, reportedly killed in retaliatory airstrikes.

Dear friends,
very sad news. Palestine solidarity activist, Kayla Mueller, who has been held captive in Syria by Daesh/ISIS since August 2013 has died.  It has been reported that Kayla was killed during retaliatory strikes by Jordan last week. The airstrikes were carried out in retaliation for Daesh/ISIS brutal and barbaric murder of Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh.

Anwar Tarawneh holds a photo of her husband, Moaz al-Kasabeh, the Jordanian pilot murdered by ISIS

Kayla was a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement in Occupied Palestine in 2010. She worked with the ISM in Bil'in, Hebron and other villages, as well as in Occupied East Jerusalem.  After her time with the ISM, Kayla also worked with African refugees at the African Refugee Development Center in Tel Aviv.

I have included below the ISM's tribute to Kayla, as well as a report on her death from the New York Times.

As the many tributes to Kayla have revealed, she was a young woman who dedicated herself the struggles for justice and human rights, standing always in solidarity with the oppressed.

In solidarity, Kim

**

ISM honors Kayla Mueller

9th February 2015 | International Solidarity Movement | Occupied Palestine
Update 10th February 2015:

Today, 10th February, Kayla Mueller’s family confirmed she has been killed.
Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator of the popular committee in the village of Bil’in where Kayla joined the protests, told ISM: “Kayla came to Palestine to stand in solidarity with us. She marched with us and faced the military that occupies our land side by side with us. For this, Kayla will always live in our hearts. We send all our support to her family and will continue, like Kayla, to work against injustice wherever it is.”

Photo by ISM volunteer
Photo by ISM volunteer

*****
Kayla Mueller volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement from August to September of 2010.

Kayla, sitting under a poster of Ashraf Abu Rahma from Bil'in
Kayla, sitting under a poster of Ashraf Abu Rahma from Bil’in.

On 4 August 2013 Kayla, 26, originally from Prescott, Arizona, was working with Syrian refugees when she was kidnapped after leaving a Spanish Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo. Since that time she has been held in captivity by Da’esh (ISIS). This information was not previously released publicly out of concerns for her safety. On February 6th, Da’esh announced that she had been killed by Jordanian airstrikes in Raqqa, northern Syria. The validity of their announcement has not been confirmed.

Our hearts are with Kayla, her family, friends, and all those who have lost liberty, lives and loved ones in the global struggle for freedom and human rights.

With the ISM, Kayla worked with Palestinians nonviolently resisting the confiscation and demolitions of their homes and lands. In the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Occupied East Jerusalem, she stayed with the Al Kurd family to try and prevent the takeover of their home by Israeli settlers.

Kayla sitting in a protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah - Photo by
Kayla sitting in a protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah.

Kayla accompanied Palestinian children to school in the neighborhood of Tel Ruimeda in Al-Khalil (Hebron) where the children face frequent attacks by the Israeli settlers and military. She stayed with villagers in Izbat Al Tabib in a protest tent to try to prevent the demolition of homes in the village. She joined weekly Friday protests in Palestinian villages against the confiscation of their lands due to Israel’s illegal annexation wall and settlements.

Kayla with two other ISM activists in Bil'in
Kayla, standing beside two other ISM activists in Bil’in.

Kayla published writing online about her work in Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement in August and September 2010. “How can I ignore the blessing of freedom of speech when I know that people I deeply care for can be shot dead for it?” she wrote.
Below are excerpts from two of Kayla’s posts.

October 29, 2010:
“I could tell a few stories about running desperately from what you pray are rubber-coated steel bullets launched from the gun tip of a reckless and frightened 18-year old.” 

“I could tell a few stories about sleeping in front of half demolished buildings waiting for the one night when the bulldozers come to finish them off; fearing sleep because you don’t know what could wake you. . . . I could tell a few stories about walking children home from school because settlers next door are keen to throw stones, threaten and curse at them. Seeing the honest fear in young boys eyes when heavily armed settlers arise from the outpost; pure fear, frozen from further steps, lip trembling.”

“The smell and taste of tear gas has lodged itself in the pores of my throat and the skin around my nose, mouth and eyes. It still burns when I close them. It still hangs in the air like invisible fire burning the oxygen I breathe. When I cry tears for this land, my eyes still sting. This land that is beautiful as the poetry of the mystics. This land with the people who’s hearts are more expansive than any wall that any man could ever build. Yes, the wall will fall. The nature of impermanence is our greatest ally and soon the rules will change, the tide will turn and just as the moon waxes and wanes over this land so too the cycles of life here will continue. One day the cycle will once again return to freedom.”

“Oppression greets us from all angles. Oppression wails from the soldiers radio and floats through tear gas clouds in the air. Oppression explodes with every sound bomb and sinks deeper into the heart of the mother who has lost her son. But resistance is nestled in the cracks in the wall, resistance flows from the minaret 5 times a day and resistance sits quietly in jail knowing its time will come again. Resistance lives in the grieving mother’s wails and resistance lives in the anger at the lies broadcasted across the globe. Though it is sometimes hard to see and even harder sometimes to harbor, resistance lives. Do not be fooled, resistance lives.” 

On New Year’s Day of 2011, Kayla received news that Jawaher Abu Rahma, from the village of Bil’in where Kayla had demonstrated in solidarity with her and her family, had been killed by tear gas asphyxiation. On the first of January 2011, Kayla wrote:

“I felt compelled to blog on this today. The first day of 2011, the actual day that she died, just a few hours ago in a village called, Bil’in.”

“Every Friday in Bil’in villagers and international/Israel activists march to the barbed wire fence where an enormous and expanding illegal settlement is visible to protest the theft of their land and their livelihoods. The Palestinians are armed with rocks, the other activists with cameras and collectively they are armed with their bones. Each Friday the demonstration is met with violence; rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and sounds bombs are the usual choice of artillery. Lives are taken as a result of the violence and Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s life was taken today.

I have been to this village,
I demonstrated in this village,
I demonstrated arm in arm with her brothers,
and I knew her.”
……………
“My first demonstration in Palestine was in Bil’in and that is when I met Ashraf, Jawaher’s brother. Despite his broken English he always made a point to make sure we were ok when we were at the demonstration in his village, to help us cough up the tear gas and walk off the anxiety. He showed us his village and we played with the kids. Ashraf would bring us water or tea and help us find rides out of the village back to the cities. In the summer of 2008, Ashraf was participating in the demonstration and was detained by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). After he was blind-folded and his hands bound, an IDF soldier shot him in the foot from a distance of about 2 meters shattering his toes and leaving him in trauma as one could imagine.”



(As with all of these video clips, the content may be too graphic for some, please use discretion).

“Just the next year in 2009 Ashraf’s brother, Bassem Abu Rahma, was participating in the demonstration and was attempting to communicate with the IDF soldiers telling them to stop shooting the steel-coated rubber bullets as an Israeli activist had been shot in the leg and needed medical attention. Not soon after an Israeli soldier illegally used a tear gas canister as a bullet hitting Bassem in the chest, stopping his heart and killing him instantly.”



And now just today, the daughter of the Rahmah family, Jawaher, has been asphyxiated from tear gas inhalation. Jawaher was not even participating in the weekly demonstration but was in her home approximately 500 meters away from where the tear gas canisters were being fired (by wind the tear gas reaches the village and even the nearby illegal settlement often). There is currently little information as to how she suffocated but the doctor that attended her said a mixture of the tear gas from the IDF soldiers and phosphorus poisoned her lungs causing asphyxiation, the stopping of the heart and death this afternoon after fighting for her life last night in the hospital. The following is a clip from today showing hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis and international activist carrying her body to her families home where they said their final goodbyes.



“This family has a tragic story, but it is the story of life in Palestine.”

“Thank you for reading. Ask me questions and ask yourself questions but most importantly, question the answers.
Forever in solidarity,
Kayla”

***
With Proof From ISIS of Her Death, Family Honors Kayla Mueller






Kayla Mueller, with her dog, wrote about her captivity in a letter her family made public Tuesday.
For one tortured weekend, the parents of Kayla Mueller refused to believe that their daughter was dead. From their home in Prescott, Ariz., they issued an impassioned plea to the Islamic State, which had held her captive since August 2013, and urged the extremist organization to contact them privately with proof of her death. The militants acquiesced and sent at least three photographs of her corpse.

Those photos are among the few clues about her life and death in captivity, as is a letter that she wrote from her cell last year and that her family made public on Tuesday.

Two people briefed on the family’s communication with the Islamic State said that her parents had received at least three photos. Two showed Ms. Mueller, who was 26, in a black hijab, or Muslim head covering, that partly obscured her face. Another showed her in a white burial shroud, which is used in traditional Muslim funerals. The images showed bruises on the face, but both people, who reviewed the photographs and asked not to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter, said it remained unclear whether her injuries were consistent with being killed in the rubble of a flattened building, as the Islamic State reported.







Play Video|0:50

Tributes to Kayla Mueller

Friends and family of Kayla Mueller, the American hostage of the Islamic State who was killed in Syria, paid tribute to her in her hometown, Prescott, Ariz.
Video by Reuters on Publish Date February 10, 2015. Photo by Brian Skoloff/Associated Press.

The group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, said on Twitter last week that Ms. Mueller had died in a building that had been demolished by Jordanian airstrikes, a claim that both the White House and Jordan’s government said was unfounded.

Yet the images sent to her family did not completely rule out death in that manner.

One of the two people briefed on the evidence said that Ms. Mueller’s face did not show puffiness or other concussive effects associated with a bomb blast, making it unlikely that she was killed when the area was hit, as the Islamic State said. But the same person said that she could have been in a nearby building or struck by flying debris.

American officials confirmed that the structure was bombed in coalition airstrikes last week.





Ms. Mueller’s aunts, Terry Crippes and Lori Lyon, remembered her. Credit Jarod Opperman for The New York Times

The authorities insisted that the building, a weapons storage facility, was a legitimate target and explained that they had conducted detailed surveillance to make sure that no hostages were seen going in or out. But a senior American official who requested anonymity to discuss classified information acknowledged that they had not been able to survey the building around the clock.
“We have no definitive evidence of how, or when, she died,” he added.

Described by friends and family members as a deeply idealistic young woman eager to help those less fortunate, Ms. Mueller was just shy of her 25th birthday on Aug. 4, 2013, when she disappeared in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
She had arrived in Syria a day earlier with a Syrian man who has been described as her boyfriend or colleague.





Document: Kayla Mueller’s Letter to Her Family


He had been contracted to fix the Internet connection at a Doctors Without Borders office, and employees of the international charity were flabbergasted when Ms. Mueller showed up with him.
Syria was then a no-go zone for most international aid workers, said employees of the charity, who explained that they had reluctantly housed her overnight and agreed to drive her to a bus station for what was supposed to be her trip back to Turkey.

Her car was ambushed on the way, and she and her Syrian companion were abducted. He was later freed and has declined to speak about what happened.

Once in the hands of the militants, Ms. Mueller was forced to wear the hijab and was placed in a cell with female detainees, according to two former hostages held in the same facility. She was moved a number of times, and witnesses saw her inside a potato chip factory near Aleppo and later at a prison set up on the grounds of a gas installation in Raqqa, the capital of the group’s self-declared caliphate.

While many of the male hostages were tortured, the female captives, including three staffers of Doctors Without Borders, were treated relatively well, according to a European hostage who met Ms. Mueller during his monthslong captivity last year. The women were not beaten, he said, and he said he believed that they were not sexually molested.

This seemed to be confirmed in a letter that Ms. Mueller wrote to her family last spring and that her parents released on Tuesday. On a piece of lined notebook paper, she wrote in crowded, cursive script: “Everyone, if you are receiving this letter it means I am still detained but my cellmates ... have been released.”

“Please know that I am in a safe location, completely unharmed + healthy (put on weight in fact); I have been treated w/utmost respect + kindness.”

She begged her family for forgiveness: “If you could say I have ‘suffered’ at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through,” she wrote. “I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness.”






Ms. Mueller in a photograph provided by her family.

In Arizona, her extended family and friends gathered by the steps of the Yavapai County courthouse to ponder what had driven her to such a dangerous place. They and others described a deeply committed young woman who refused to avert her eyes from the suffering of others.

“Kayla has touched the heart of the world,” said her aunt Lori Lyon, speaking on behalf of the family.
Her desire to help solve world problems was already on display in high school, where she became involved with a campaign that aimed to stop Flagstaff, Ariz., city officials from using recycled waste water to make snow on a set of peaks considered sacred to the Hopi people. By the time she enrolled at Northern Arizona University in 2007, the Save the Peaks campaign was just one of an array of causes she was engaged with, said her former classmate Leslie Alamer, who helped set up a website honoring her friend’s legacy.

“Every time I ran into her on campus, she was organizing something, or talking about a new issue, or else inviting me to an event. She was so active,” said Ms. Alamer, 28, rattling off the causes Ms. Mueller had joined, including one that called attention to atrocities in Darfur, Sudan.
In college, she began researching accusations of mistreatment of detainees at the military base in Guantánamo Bay, Ms. Alamer said.

After graduating in 2009, Ms. Mueller moved to India, and soon after to Israel. In 2010, she volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement in the Palestinian territories, according to Abdullah Abu Rahma, the group’s coordinator in the village of Bil’in.

He said Ms. Mueller had joined them in using nonviolent means to protest the Israeli occupation. She lived with families in East Jerusalem in order to try to prevent the demolition of their homes. On her blog, she described sleeping in front of half-destroyed homes, using her body as a shield against the bulldozers they feared were coming.

Kathleen Day, head of the United Christian ministry at Northern Arizona University, remembered how Ms. Mueller used her blog as a way to encourage her peers to get involved. She did not just write a blog post and leave it at that: She sent it to friends and family, asking them to forward it to others and to take action.

“It’s not that she’s so angelic,” Ms. Day said. “She saw things and did what she could, whatever she could, however she could.”

The Fates of 23 ISIS Hostages in Syria
Kayla Mueller was one of at least 23 foreign hostages from 12 countries who were kidnapped by Syrian insurgents, sold or handed over to the Islamic State, and held underground in a prison near the Syrian city of Raqqa.



Thursday, January 29, 2015

Write Down! Poems From The Heart Of Palestine


Dear friends,
you may have already seen this wonderful post from the Institute for Palestine Studies on Buzzfeed.  The post features some of Palestinian's incredible poets, including Mahmoud Darwish who is recognised as Palestine's national poet, died in 2008. I wrote the following account of his life at the time: 

All the hearts of the people are my identity: the life and death of a poet  (Click on title to read)

In solidarity, Kim 

**

Write Down! Poems From The Heart Of Palestine




Write Down!

Mahmoud Darwish, 
the preeminent Palestinian poet of his time.
Write Down!
A Palestinian within Israel (so-called “Arab Israeli” in Israeli parlance in reference to those Palestinians who came under Israeli rule after the 1947-1949 war; Palestinian citizens of Israel prefer to call themselves “1948 Palestinians”), Darwish’s poetry antagonized the Israeli state from day one. 

As a young child he was instructed by his teacher to present a poem celebrating Israel’s Independence Day (what Palestinians call the “Nakba” or Catastrophe). He wrote it in the form of a letter addressed to a Jewish boy relating that for a Palestinian this was a day of tragedy for it marks the loss of their homeland. 

The seven year old Darwish was hauled to a police station and threatened with loss of his father’s work permit. In the early years of Israeli rule, Palestinian citizens lived under martial law and public references to Palestine and the Palestinian connection to the land were severely circumscribed by the Israeli state.


Darwish’s rebellious and nationalist prose, including his membership in the Israeli Communist Party, eventually landed him under house arrest and later in life the common Palestinian fate of exile. Darwish returned to historic Palestine with the signing of the 1993 Oslo peace accords. Throughout his life, no one poet or leader or writer or intellectual of any kind evoked the Palestinian experience of dispossession, exile, occupation, tragedy, and, above all, hope for redemption more than Mahmoud Darwish. 

His most celebrated poem, “Identity Card,” was a cry of dignity and pride that stirred the hearts of a people who had suffered the loss of a homeland and were told to keep their heads down. The crowd shouted, “Encore!” 

Mahmoud Darwish passed away 9 August 2008 in Houston, Texas, where he was undergoing heart bypass surgery. He was 67. 

“Identity Card”
Write down!
I am an Arab
And my identity card number is fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth will come after a summer
Will you be angry?

Write down!
I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks …
I do not supplicate charity at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?

Write down!
I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged
My roots
Were entrenched before the birth of time
And before the opening of the eras
Before the pines, and the olive trees
And before the grass grew

My father … descends from the family of the plow
Not from a privileged class
And my grandfather … was a farmer
Neither well-bred, nor well-born!
Teaches me the pride of the sun
Before teaching me how to read
And my house is like a watchman’s hut
Made of branches and cane
Are you satisfied with my status?
I have a name without a title!

Write down!
I am an Arab
You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors
And the land which I cultivated
Along with my children
And you left nothing for us
Except for these rocks …
So will the State take them
As it has been said?!

Therefore!
Write down on the top of the first page:
I do not hate people
Nor do I encroach
But if I become hungry
The usurper’s flesh will be my food
Beware …
Beware …
Of my hunger
And my anger!



One of Darwish’s most famous poems, “Passport,” was adapted by the Lebanese artist Marcel Khalife. English lyrics are in the video: 

“Probably one of the best lyrical retakes of the the 1948 Palestinian refugee exodus yet it’s still applicable to anyone who feels detached from a literal or figurative home. Marcel tells of how deep his connection is to the land and yet how he is denied the sense of belonging because of his passport. He ends the song with a declaration that his nationality is now dependent on the kindness of others and that his passport is meaningless.


This song illustrates how for many Palestinians their passports no longer reflect who they are. Despite how rooted in the land the song describes the refugee he is still removed from it by the passport. He appeals to his superiors “gentlemen” but ends the song with no resolution, just like refugee situation remains today.” 

Read a landmark 1996 interview with Darwish: “Exile Is So Strong Within Me, I May Bring It to the Land.”

Journal for Palestine Studies editor Rashid Khalidi reflects on the life of Darwish: Remembering Mahmud Darwish.

My Happiness Bears No Relation To Happiness

 Taha Muhammad Ali - Photo via: res.cloudinary.com

My Happiness Bears No Relation To Happiness
 Born in the Galilee village of Saffuriyya, Muhammad Ali was exiled and a refugee in Lebanon after the 1947-1949 war. He surreptitiously snuck back into what was now Israel and settled in the city of Nazareth after his village, like hundreds of Palestinian villages, was razed by Israeli authorities who subsequently planted a forest over the ruins. 

Self-taught (he never finished primary school), he dedicated his life to mastering the art of the poem and cultivated the friendship of many men of letters. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Muhammad Ali entered the word of poetry much later in life - he published his first collection in his 50s. 

And reflected on that long journey in his poem “Twigs”: 

And, so
it has taken me
all of sixty years
to understand
that water is the finest drink,
and bread the most delicious food,
and that art is worthless
unless it plants
a measure of splendor in people’s hearts.

His poetry was accessible and subtle: “aim over here to strike over there,” in his words.
“Exodus”
The street is empty
as a monk’s memory,
and faces explode in the flames
like acorns—
and the dead crowd the horizon
and doorways.
No vein can bleed
more than it already has,
no scream will rise
higher than it’s already risen.
We will not leave!

Everyone outside is waiting
for the trucks and the cars
loaded with honey and hostages.
We will not leave!
The shields of light are breaking apart
before the rout and the siege;
outside, everyone wants us to leave.
But we will not leave!

Ivory white brides
behind their veils
slowly walk in captivity’s glare, waiting,
and everyone outside wants us to leave,
but we will not leave!

The big guns pound the jujube groves,
destroying the dreams of the violets,
extinguishing bread, killing the salt,
unleashing thirst
and parching lips and souls.
And everyone outside is saying:
“What are we waiting for?
Warmth we’re denied,
the air itself has been seized!
Why aren’t we leaving?”
Masks fill the pulpits and brothels,
the places of ablution.
Masks cross-eyed with utter amazement;
they do not believe what is now so clear,
and fall, astonished,
writhing like worms, or tongues.
We will not leave!

Are we in the inside only to leave?
Leaving is just for the masks,
for pulpits and conventions.
Leaving is just
for the siege-that-comes-from-within,
the siege that comes from the Bedouin’s loins,
the siege of the brethren
tarnished by the taste of the blade
and the stink of crows.
We will not leave!

Outside they’re blocking the exits
and offering their blessings to the impostor,
praying, petitioning
Almighty God for our deaths.


Perhaps his most famous collection was Fooling the Killers that opened up with a “Warning.” “It was now four decades since Taha had set foot in Saffuriyya, and Fooling the Killers stood as a tribute both to the memory of the village and to the poet’s own present-tense resiliency: the title poem is one of those classic Taha creations that both refers to something (and someone) specific even as it opens out into other, more enigmatic and all-inclusive realms. It takes shape as a ruminative speculation on the fate of his childhood best friend,” Adina Hoffman writes in her biography of Muhammad Ali, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century.

Lovers of hunting,
and beginners seeking your prey:
Don’t aim your rifles
at my happiness,
which isn’t worth
the price of the bullet
(you’d waste on it)
What seems to you
so nimble and fine,
like a fawn,
and flees
every which way,
like a partridge,
isn’t happiness.
Trust me:
my happiness bears
no relation to happiness.

Qasim,
I wonder now
where you are…
I haven’t forgotten you
after all these years,
long as the graveyard
wall is long.

But even if they did it,
Qasim,
if, shamelessly,
they killed you,
I’m certain
you fooled your killers
just as you managed
to fool the years.
For they never discovered
your body at the edge of the road,
and didn’t find it
where the rivers spill,
or on the shelves
at the morgue,
and not on the way to Mecca,
and not beneath the rubble. 


“Although Taha himself had not vanished as Qasim did in 1948, his friend’s disappearing act seems to have offered a model for how to wiggle out of all kinds of torments, how to live (and eve die) on one’s own terms - without leaving tracks.” 

Taha Muhammad Ali passed away on 2 October 2011


A Picture of the House at Beit Jala

Ghassan Zaqtan
 
Born in the hilly Palestinian Christian village of Beit Jala near Bethlehem, Zaqtan’s early life was interrupted by the 1967 Six-Day War. At the dawn of his teen years, Beit Jala came under Israeli occupation and the cultivated and pristine lands of his hometown were slowly expropriated by Israeli settlements and the Separation Barrier. Upon completion of the Barrier, Beit Jala “will have lost about 46 percent of its land in the course of the last four decades of the prolonged Israeli occupation.” 

Later in life, Zaqtan was active with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and edited their literary publication “Bayader.” Like many Palestinians, he lived abroad and returned in the hopeful Oslo days. 

Although Zaqtan has been involved, as a writer, in the Palestinian resistance struggle against Israeli occupation and self-determination, he has spoken often about his avoidance of politicized poetry and eschewing any vanguard role.

“I am not the kind of person who will walk in front of the demonstration. I feel that’s not my place. I walk behind the demonstration in order to collect the small things that may fall, whether it’s the handkerchief or a child’s backpack or a purse. That’s my attitude,” he once said in an interview with broadcaster PBS. 

For Zaqtan, this represents a new trend in Palestinian poetry. Poets had long been called up to convey nationalist imagery and slogans, to be the voice of the resistance, and many Palestinian poets served that role during the days of armed resistance in the 1970s and ’80s. 

In recent years, Palestinian poets have moved away from grand narratives and have refocused their eye on the more intimate, mundane, and small realities of life. And Zaqtan has been a pioneer in that effort.

Photo Via palestinesummer.org
Separation Barrier around Beit Jala

“A Picture of the House at Beit Jala”
He has to return to shut that window,
it isn’t entirely clear
whether this is what he must do,
things are no longer clear
since he lost them,
and it seems a hole somewhere within him
has opened up

Filling in the cracks has exhausted him
mending the fences
wiping the glass
cleaning the edges
and watching the dust that seems, since he lost them,
to lure his memories into hoax and ruse.
From here his childhood appears as if it were a trick!
Inspecting the doors has fully exhausted him
the window latches
the condition of the plants
and wiping the dust
that has not ceased flowing
into the rooms, on the beds, sheets, pots
and on the picture frames on the walls

Since he lost them he stays with friends
who become fewer
sleeps in their beds
that become narrower
while the dust gnaws at his memories “there”
… he must return to shut that window
the upper story window which he often forgets
at the end of the stairway that leads to the roof

Since he lost them
he aimlessly walks
and the day’s small
purposes are also no longer clear.


Zaqtan lives in a village close to Ramallah and his tenth and most recent collection is titled Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me.

Read articles, statistics, and maps pertaining to Israeli settlement activities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

“Travel Tickets”

 Samih al-Qasim Photo Via huffpostmaghreb.com

"Travel Tickets"
Born in the Galilee, at age nine al-Qasim’s life came under the control of Israel after the 1947-1949 war. Around that same time, he discovered his calling in life. A teacher announced, “We have a poet in this class.” 

“And everybody looked at - we looked at each other. Who is the poet here? And he wrote a few lines on the black board. And I discovered, I’m the poet.” 

His poetry is identified with the “resistance literature” of Palestinians within Israel. One of his poems conveys the repressive environment these Palestinians faced (In the 1950s and ’60s, as Palestinians lived under martial law until 1967, al-Qasim was repeatedly censored by Israeli officials):
“Slit Lips” 

I would have liked to tell you
The story of a nightingale that died.
I would have liked to tell you
The story…
Had they not slit my lips.

For him, poetry was “real revolutionary work.” 

“At the very beginning, it was a matter of surviving, just to stay in your homeland. And then you discover that you deserve more, not only to stay in your homeland, but to live free and equal in your homeland. So, language became an instrument.” 

al-Qasim was jailed and placed under house arrest several times by Israeli authorities, along with being harassed by the country’s domestic intelligence service, for his poetry and writings. A member of the Druze faith, al-Qasim strongly identified with the Palestinian struggle for equal rights within Israel and self-determination for all Palestinians. While Muslim and Christian Palestinians are exempt from military service in the Israel Defense Forces, Druze are conscripted. al-Qasim was one of the first Druze to refuse to serve. His son was similarly jailed for refusing to serve and his home village of al-Rama “has a proud, decades-long history of activism against the conscription of Druze to Israel’s military.” 

A powerful essayist as well, al-Qasim conveyed a passionate yearning, without being exuberant, for a more decent world. In the last years of his life, he reflected hopefully on the Arab uprisings: “I said once that when there will be a revolution in Tunisia, I will go there and I will dance barefoot in the Habib Bourguiba Avenue.” And was indifferent to how he would be remembered: “If the Palestinian people will be free, if the Arab world will be united, if social justice will be victorious in all the world, if there will be international peace. I don’t care who will remember me or my poems. I don’t care.”

Perhaps nothing captured his unsentimental decency more than an anecdote from his memoir It Is Just an Ashtray:
 
“One day I was marching in a large protest in Haifa and I was chanting with protesters ‘Jewish-Arab Brotherhood.’ Suddenly a Jewish Israeli challenged me from across the side walk yelling ‘this will never happen. There will be no such brotherhood!’” al-Qasim says, adding, “In a flash…I told that provocative person ‘hell if I care’ and continued on my way marching enthusiastically…”
One of his most beloved poems reflected that hope for humanity’s forward march no matter the tragedy of human beings pitted against human beings: 

“Travel Tickets”
On the day you kill me
You’ll find in my pocket
Travel tickets
To peace,
To the fields and the rain,
To people’s conscience.
Don’t waste the tickets. 


al-Qasim was laid to rest in al-Rama on 21 August 2014.

Read “Redrawing the Boundaries of Citizenship: Israel’s New Hegemony.”
Read To be an Arab in Israel.

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