Friday, December 7, 2007

LTE, Philadelphia Inquirer

RE: A threat equal to terrorism by Shimon Peres, president of Israel

That was the most disingenuous baloney I've ever read. So, according to the President of Israel, Arabs are to blame for terrorism and global warming. Why doesn't he go for broke and blame us for the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia, as well? Never mind the fact that Israel is intentionally starving 1.5 million Gazans (half of whom are children) who are stuck in an open air prison while Israel is preventing not only the movement of human beings in and out, but also of food, medicines, fuel and other essentials of life. They've made sure Gazans have no clean drinking water, no functional hospitals, no work, no joy, no hope. Only misery beyond misery because they dared to elect representatives that Israel doesn't like. Israel is cutting off electricity, plunging Gazans into darkness; It regularly flies sonic planes to break the sound barrier, a sound so intense that it makes Palestinian women miscarry and traumatizes children so badly that they become brain damaged. What gives Israel the right to do that? It's ironic that Shimon Peres will wag his finger at us considering that Israel was born from Jewish immigrants to Palestine who blew up hotels, buses, schools, and lynched Arabs and British officers before they secured the most modern weaponry to kill and terrorize on a much larger scale.

Susan Abulhawa,

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Arabs of Annapolis

by Susan Abulhawa / December 6th, 2007

Annapolis was hoopla, smoke and mirrors, much ado about nothing, a ho-down of politically bankrupt men trying to garner popularity among their respective constituencies. It seems that George Bush and Ehud Olmert have figured out how to join the ranks of those who exploit the Palestinian tragedy and suffering to further their political ends without actually doing anything to alleviate that tragedy. For all the ruckus, speeches, leaders and dignitaries, what came out of Annapolis was yet another meaningless statement, this time (drum roll, please) Israelis and Palestinians agreed to agree on something by 2008.

And yet . . . I wish the absurdity of it were truly so benign as a hullabaloo. If you were paying attention, you’d have heard the menace of ethnic cleansing and seen the malignancy of cowardice.

George Bush made it clear that the United States will not pressure Israel into doing anything it doesn’t like. Plainly, the United States, the country that gives Israel $14,346 for every woman man and child in Israel, will not insist that Israel withdraw from the West Bank , which it has been occupying illegally since 1967. It will not insist that Israel stop detaining and torturing Palestinian men, women and children, leaving them to languish for years without charge or trial. The US, a country founded on the principle that all men are created equal, will not insist that Israel provide full rights under the law for non-Jews equal to that it accords for Jews. The US will continue to give Israel more money and weapons that it has ever given to any country and we will not even insist that Israel comply with one single UN Resolution (out of over 200 resolutions censuring Israel) or the Geneva Conventions, or any other tenet of international law. We will not require, in concurrence with our own laws, that this recipient of massive foreign aid do something to correct its abysmal human rights record. We will, however, in 2008, issue the first instalment of a brand-spanking-new $30 billion aid package to Israel.

Onto Ehud Olmert, who made it clear that Israel will only hold “bilateral negotiations” with Palestinians — no third parties allowed. Plainly, again: Palestinians can turn blue in the face and die, but they will still be denied their natural right as natives of that land to return to the homes from which they were forcibly expelled for the high crime of not being Jewish. Their resources, particularly water, will of course, always be controlled by Israel. Similarly, all borders, hence all movement and every aspect of their economy, will be controlled by Israel. Other basic human rights, for which Palestinians are required to “negotiate” include the right to education, the right to move freely in one’s own country, the right to pray in their holy places, the right to live and thrive in Jerusalem as they have for all of time, the right to life, the right to live without snipers situated all around you and checkpoints everywhere you go, the right to get to a hospital when you’re having a baby or when your father is having a heart attack, the right not to be beaten arbitrarily, the right not to be humiliated because you aren’t Jewish, the right not to have your family’s farm confiscated because Jews from New York want to come over and play cowboy with state issued Uzis, the right to visit your grandparent’s graves, the right to play. You name any inherent right, Palestinians are required to negotiate with their oppressors to have it.

I suppose this is nature of imperialism, and how cruelly it operates when good people do nothing to stand in its way. It’s a bitter truth, but I get it. No one really expected Bush or Olmert to care whether Palestinians live or die. Israel’s primary aim has always been clear: Palestine without Palestinians.

What I don’t understand, however, is what were all of those Arab leaders doing participating in that charade in Annapolis? I don’t remember what Abu Mazen said. I don’t care. Turning on his brothers said more than I wanted to hear. What was going through their heads in Annapolis, knowing that, in the meantime, Israel has cut off food, medicine, and fuel to 1.5 million human beings trapped in the open prison that is Gaza. Children as young as five years old in Gaza are forced to leave school and work 10 back-breaking hours a day to bring two shekels ($0.26) home, which now has no electricity, no clean water, no food, no fuel, no joy, and is constantly under the threat of sonic planes that fly from Israel to break the sound barrier over them, terrorizing everyone on the ground; making women miscarry and small children so traumatized that they become brain damaged. What gives Israel the right to do this? To starve 1.5 million Palestinians, half of whom are children? How do Abu Mazen and other Arab leaders turn their backs on our tortured brothers and sisters to shake the very hands that drip with Palestinian and Iraqi blood. What are we to make of that? What are Gazans to make of it?

Palestinians in Gaza are dying like dogs, of hunger and lack of medicine. This is not happening because a tsunami hit their shores, or because a drought has created famine, or because a tornado has destroyed all infrastructure of civil society. This humanitarian catastrophe, for which the UN and human rights organization around the world have condemned Israel, is man-made. Our countrymen are being intentionally starved! Or, as Dov Weisglass joked, “[Israel’s] idea is to put Palestinians on a diet”.

Nor is Hamas innocent. They have put pride and power above the welfare of their people. And so, Gazans go hungry, cold, and sick. Fishermen are not allowed to fish. The sick cannot leave for medical treatment. There are no antibiotics, vitamins, or vaccines in hospitals. Students cannot leave for university. There is no work. No industry is functional. Classrooms are as empty as the bellies of the children who should be occupying them. Israel is cutting off electricity to Gaza and so they live in darkness.

Is there no mercy for 1.5 million besieged souls? Have we not one Arab leader with the courage to put a stop to this genocide? Not one leader with courage enough to intervene in the internecine fighting between Fateh and Hamas? To demand that the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people be included in any summit or negotiations? How is it possible that Arab men who command the greatest natural resource ever known to man manage to be utterly powerless to stop the wholesale robbery and rape of Palestine or Iraq? Is attending such a farce as Annapolis the best they can do?

“A” is for Apartheid or Annapolis

by Susan Abulhawa / November 28th, 2007

In the 80s, we gave up 78% of our homeland to try to pick up the pieces of our lives on the remaining 22% of Palestine. This was, and remains, the only true (brave or otherwise) concession ever made in the so-called ‘Middle East Conflict.” Next came Camp David, then Madrid, then Oslo, then another Camp David, Taba, Wye, (deep breath) Sharm el Sheikh, the Disengagement, the Road Map. Through it all, Israel continued to divide, carve out, confiscate and settle that 22%. They scattered us into a diaspora, shut down our schools, bombed damn near every inch of the West Bank and Gaza, herded us into ghettos, set up checkpoints all around us and employed every tool of imperialism, times ten, to get rid of or subjugate us as a cheap labor force.

Now we arrive at yet another surreal meeting in the clouds: Annapolis. Everyone is invited except the PLO — the sole and only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people — and the democratically elected members of the Palestinian Authority (that would be Hamas). At this meeting, Israel will throw us a few bones, like releasing some prisoners (who will most likely get rounded up again when the hype dies down) while it is intentionally starving 1.4 million human beings in Gaza, cutting off fuel, electricity and clean drinking water. Annapolis will serve only to move Israel a little closer to stamping out the “refugee problem,” those Palestinians and their descendants whose homes, farms, property and history Israel stole.

Palestinians are the natives of the land that was called Palestine for the last several thousand years until 1948 when Jewish foreigners changed its name to Israel. We are the natives in every sense of that word: historically, legally, culturally, ethnically, and even genetically! True there were Jewish tribes in that land some 3,000 years ago. There were also Canaanites, Babylonians, Sumarians, Philistines, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, and Brits. Palestinians are the natural descendants of all of these peoples who passed through that land, intermarried and converted between religions. When you understand this, it becomes clear why Palestine has always been a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society. In other words, the idea of “tolerance” and co-existence that the West fought to attain and claims to cherish and hold dear, was already a reality in Palestine. Israel has taken that ideal, turned it on its head, and beat it to a pulp so every Jew in the world can have a place where he or she can go and see none but fellow Jews. Remarkably, the world sees nothing wrong or out of the ordinary with this and would like us to simply live with it, negotiate with a juggernaut military power that has made no secret of its desire and intent to take all of Palestine and get rid of as many of us Gentiles as it possibly can.

Never in history has the world so cruelly called on an oppressed, robbed, and battered native people to sit down with their oppressors to “negotiate” for their freedom. Even worse, what we are expected to negotiate away are our basic human rights, in order to have a few checkpoints removed so we can call those ghettos — surrounded by a 20 foot concrete wall with guard towers — a “state.”

We are being asked to give up our natural right to return to the homes from which we were forcibly removed because, and only because, we are not Jewish. We are asked, as native Muslims and Christians, to give up our natural right to live and thrive in Jerusalem as we have for all of time. We are told that we should not expect to have the right to control our own water, economy, airspace, or borders. Why? Why should we accept such an inferior status and inferior fate? We are not children of a lesser god that we should be expected to relinquish God-given, self-evident rights accorded and upheld for the rest of humanity. We are not animals to be disposed of so that Jewish individuals around the globe can have dual citizenship, a sort of summer country in the Hamptons.

Would anyone have thought to support the desire of White South Africans to live as separate and superior humans and expect Black South Africans to “negotiate” with the Apartheid government for their basic human rights? Of course not! Anyone with a mind and conscience took for granted that Blacks have equal rights as Whites. That is self-evident and non-negotiable. So is our right as non-Jews in Palestine to be accorded the same rights and privileges as Jews in our ancestral homeland. Human dignity and equality simply should not be topics of negotiation in the 21st century.

Even more vulgar is Israel’s insistence that we recognize its right to be a state of the Jewish people. This country that stole everything from us – our homes, our holy places, our trees and farms, our institutions, our history and heritage, the cemeteries where our grandparents and forefathers are buried – because we are not the right kind of human in their eyes. They want us not only to attest that such an affront to humanity is legitimate and appropriate, but that it is somehow a right!

Let me, as one dispossessed and disinherited Palestinian, say with all the force of my love and anguish for my country, my family, and my countrymen, that I do NOT recognize such right. A right is something inherently and unquestionably just. Jewish exclusivity and entitlement at the expense of non-Jews is not a right, for God’s sake, it is racism!