The United Nations’ Darkest Day

The United Nations’ Darkest Day
By Robert Thompson*
Nov 27, 2008, 20:49

This Saturday, 29th November, is the sixty-first anniversary of the darkest day in the history of the then still youthful United Nations. The Organisation then member states carelessly breached the provisions of the Charter by voting in favour of a partition of Palestine without any attempt at asking the population what it wished to have as a future, after the British Empire wished to give up its mandate due to a general desire on the part of the government headed by Clement Atlee to decolonise, cut expenses and end the terrorism of the Zionist gangs, Irgun Zwai Leumi, the Strern Gang and Haganah. The British Empire had been bled dry by the cost incurred for the supply of very expensive arms from the USA manufacturers before their country finally joined in the Second World War half-way through. Also the cost in British lives and injuries at the hands of the terrorists was a strong argument in favour of leaving what had become a hell-hole not only for the indigenous people but also for the British before, during and after the War, as a result of the attrocities committed by these de facto allies of the Nazis.

For those who do not understand the extent of the injustice of the Proposition for which the United Nations then voted, the Zionist occupied land in Palestine was approximately 7% and that occupied by indigenous Palestinians some 93%, whereas, apart from the proposal to make Jerusalem and its immediate neighbourhood into an international area, the land was attributed almost equally between the indigenous people and the incoming Zionists, with the latter being given areas largely occupied by the former, especially in the centre and in the south, including the Naqab (or in Hebrew Negev) giving access to the Gulf of Aqaba.

We should all condemn this terrible breach of justice, as well as of their Charter, by the United Nations and work towards the establishment in all of Palestine of a single democratic state, where all those driven out by force in 1947-1948 (and their descendants) can, as the United Nations did later resolve, return and recover their homes and lands, and where full citizenship rights do not depend on one’s belonging to any specific religious group.


Gaza’s death throes, and no one’s listening


Sonja Karkar, The Electronic Intifada, 27 November 2008

Palestinians wait to fix their old portable “primus” stoves which burn diesel fuel at a shop in the Beach refugee camp in Gaza City, 25 November 2008. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

What kind of government in the 21st century can deny another people basic human rights — that is, the right to food, water, shelter, security and dignity?

What kind of government imposes draconian sanctions on another people for democratically electing a government not to its liking?

What kind of government seals a heavily populated territory of 1.5 million people so that no person can enter or leave without permission, fishermen cannot fish in their own waters, and world food aid cannot be delivered to the starving population?

What kind of government shuts off fuel, water and electricity and then rains down on the people, bombs and artillery fire?

The answer is: no government of integrity.

And yet, government after government in Israel continues to demand recognition and accolades as a first world democracy superior to all others, despite Israel’s flouting of international law, its human rights abuses and the criminality and corruption of Israeli leaders. Worse still, the world has acquiesced and has welcomed every Israeli administration into its fold as a favored guest.

This should give everyone pause to revisit our noble declarations of independence and human rights, ethics, morality, religious beliefs, civil liberties and the rule of law. Are they just for show or do they really mean something? Are they intended only for some people or for all people?

Israel’s President Shimon Peres is just one of the many leaders who have furthered Israel’s aggressive policies and programs and yet he has been honored with a knighthood from the Queen and is likely to be honored with a lecture series named after him at Oxford University’s Balliol College. Dubious honors indeed, for a man who helped to forcibly expel 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland in the 1948 war.

Today, we are witnessing in Gaza the kind of ghetto the world thought it would never see again and the comparison was conjured up early this year by Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai when he threatened “a bigger holocaust [shoah]” against the Palestinians in Gaza. Later, he explained away his use of the word as meaning “disaster,” when in fact it has emotional connotations well known to everyone. Either way, the threat was ominous enough.

The slow death that is being visited on the Palestinians in Gaza is finding its first victims in more than 400 critically ill patients who are being prevented from leaving Gaza for urgent medical attention in Israeli or Arab hospitals. Thousands of other patients are being turned away from hospitals suffering from a severe shortage of 300 different kinds of medicines.

The hospitals have been deprived of medicines and equipment for so long now, that the trickle of supplies finally being allowed through, can no longer meet the minimum daily needs of the Palestinian civilian population. Similarly, the energy fuel being shipped in, is barely enough to operate the Gaza power plant for one day.

This drip-feeding of aid was suggested by Israeli Prime Ministerial adviser Dov Weissglas who said in February 2006: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not make them die of hunger.”

Such a malevolent policy has led to a steady increase in malnutrition as people are being starved of their staples of life. Not only have the flour mills been forced to shut down because fuel and power have run out, but now all wheat supplies have been exhausted. Out of the 72 bakeries operating in the Gaza Strip, 29 have completely stopped baking bread and others are expected to follow. This means that even the most staple of all foods — bread — will soon not be available for a hungry population.

A Red Cross report describes the effects of the siege as “devastating”. Seventy percent of the population is suffering from food insecurity while the suspension of food aid distribution to some 750,000 refugees in the pitiful camps in Gaza since 4 November, has further devastated Palestinians with no recourse to other alternatives.

The United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all called Israel’s blockade “cruel.” Former United States President Jimmy Carter makes no apology for describing the situation as “a heinous atrocity” amounting to a war crime.

In Britain, Oxfam’s CEO Barbara Stocking has strongly criticized the Foreign Secretary David Miliband for not mentioning the “human desperation” in Gaza on his recent trip to Israel and Palestine.

Israel’s tactics though may be unravelling.

So draconian has been Israel’s closure of Gaza, the world’s biggest media organizations including The New York Times are outraged that their journalists have been banned from entering the Gaza Strip and have protested in writing to Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Christian leaders have also been excluded from Gaza. Last week, Israel prevented Archbishop Franco, the Papal Nuncio in Israel, from celebrating mass to mark the beginning of Advent in the holy weeks leading up to Christmas.

And in the occupied West Bank, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has approved the building of hundreds more illegal settlement units with a flagrant disregard of the peace process agreements, further frustrating the current US administration eager to produce a solution before the end of its term.

What is truly astonishing is the world’s silence in the face of all this. The shameful rush to grant Israel every honor and recognition so that it will be saved from the historical ignominy of having orchestrated the destruction of Palestinian society, is nothing short of unconscionable.

Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine and one of the founders and co-conveners of Australians for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia. She is also the editor of and contributes articles on Palestine regularly to various publications.

Related Links

Same Old Gang

Obama’s Odious Entourage


Yes, we mustn’t expect too much. We all know it is the establishment that comes first in United States politics. Obama’s presidency could easily be sabotaged by the powers that put him there.

But still. He would never have made it past the first, obscure primary without his army of selfless, grassroots activists, and his coffers were first filled by millions of small, personal donations. Surely these are the people he should honour with at least a few names. Even Clinton had his Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala (at least until she was tarred and feathered by the right). Obama’s one token progressive appointment was Melody Barnes of the Center for American Progress, who was chief counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy, and will head the toothless Domestic Policy Council.

Not one of the 23 Senators and 133 House Representatives who voted against the war in Iraq are on his transitional team or even on a short-list for an important post in his Cabinet. The only promise that might be kept is to close Guantanamo, though he could hardly do less. The entire US legal establishment seems to be pushing to end this outrage.

Keeping on uberhawk Robert Gates as secretary of war, despite the continued slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan under his capable mismanagement, his uncompromising position on missiles for Poland, and his shady past (including Iran-Contra) gives little cause for hope. Russia can probably kiss improved relations with the US good-bye. It looks like there will be neocon policy as usual. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state just confirms this.

Yes, everyone in Washington is solidly Zionist, so Rahm Emanuel’s devotion to Israel hardly changes much, as John Zogby argues. But, how is it he served with the Israeli Defense Forces — during a war — and yet never served with the US military? As an American, if he did this for any other country but Israel, he would have been arrested and his political career over at once. Instead, he is honoured with the key role of the president’s chief of staff.

On a positive note, hinging that the domestic crimes against personal freedom perpetrated under Bush are not entirely forgotten, John Brennan, who supported extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretapping, was forced to excuse himself in the race for CIA head. Still, no criminal charges against those who authorised or conducted torture during the Bush years are foreseen.

As Bloomberg notes, almost half the people on the Transition Economic Advisory Board “have held fiduciary positions at companies that, to one degree or another, either fried their financial statements, helped send the world into an economic tailspin, or both.” This includes, for example, Anne Mulcahy and Richard Parsons, both of whom were Fannie Mae directors when the company fudged accounting rules. Mulcahy and Parsons were executives of their respective companies, Xerox and Time Warner, and were charged with accounting fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Also on this team is Robert Rubin, who as Bloomberg notes, was “chairman of Citigroup’s executive committee when the bank pushed bogus analyst research, helped Enron cook its books, and got caught baking its own. He was a director from 2000 to 2006 at Ford, which also committed accounting fouls and now is begging Uncle Sam for Citigroup-style bailout cash.”

Larry Summers, who was Clinton ’s treasury secretary, will head the National Economic Council — the president’s senior economic adviser. This looks ominous. It was Summers who forced through the deregulation of financial markets in the 1990s and imposed disaster capitalism on Russia . Considering that he is a chief architect of the current financial meltdown, we should be wondering why Obama isn’t preparing an arrest warrant for him, instead of offering him the most powerful economic role in the world. As chief economist for the World Bank, Summers wrote a memo saying the WB should actively encourage the dumping of toxic waste in developing countries, particularly “under-polluted countries in Africa,” since poor people in developing countries rarely live long enough to develop cancer, making him a particularly bizarre appointment for Obama. This contradiction will be interesting to watch unfold.

Summers, Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary, and Peter Orszag as budget director are all protégés of Robert Rubin, who held two of their jobs under President Bill Clinton. All three advisers are believers in what has been dubbed Rubin-omics: balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation, a combination that supposedly was responsible for the prosperity of the 1990s.

But times have changed since then. Rubin is facing questions about his role as director of Citigroup, which is the benefactor of the government’s latest bailout. Obama has pledged to introduce an era of re-regulation. Instead of balancing budgets, Obama plans a two-year fiscal stimulus worth hundreds of billions of dollars to aid the jobless, states and cities. “Everyone recognises that we’re looking at deficits of considerable magnitude,” said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute. “Whether it’s Bob Rubin, Larry Summers or the most conservative economist, that is a widely shared recognition.”

The list of establishment appointees to his transitional team devoted to “change” goes on and on, begging the question: Is this really the best he could come up with? How about Nobel prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, or James K Galbraith, for starters? Someone who represents labour such as Arlene Holt Baker, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO? Something to suggest that change is really what this administration is about?

Remember Obama’s Bush moment, as they enthused about Bush’s bailout bill. Others, such as Senator Russ Feingold, realised the bill’s problems and voted against it. Feingold said that the Wall Street bailout legislation “fails to reform the flawed regulatory structure that permitted this crisis to arise in the first place. And it doesn’t do enough to address the root cause of the credit market collapse, namely the housing crisis. Taxpayers deserve a plan that puts their concerns ahead of those who got us into this mess.” Feingold was right. In short, Obama promised “Change we can believe in,” but it’s looking a lot more like “Business as usual.”

So far the only black to be appointed to a senior post is former deputy attorney general Eric Holder, will be attorney general. He is best known as the Chiquita Banana’s lawyer who approved of president Bill Clinton’s pardon for Marc Rich, the blatantly corrupt financier whose former wife, Denise Rich, had contributed heavily to Clinton’s presidential library.

Despite the extreme disappointment that many are now experiencing, there are a few straws to grasp at. Emanuel was forced to apologise publically for his father’s now legendary anti-Arab remark about mopping floors in the White House, and this incident will act as a bell-weather for anti-Arab policies. Is this, plus the appointments of Gates, Summers and Clinton possibly a wily Obama “keeping his enemies close”?

Despite the inexorable march of the empire with a black commander-in-chief at the helm, at least the Cabinet is filled with competent people, some — like Clinton — with considerable authority and prestige around the world. Holder seems to be genuinely against torture and hostile to the concept of the imperial presidency. Obama himself is intelligent and will not have circles spun around him as did Bush, nor will he take five-week vacations and rely on comic book memos for snap decisions to go to war.

Despite his team’s credentials as Rubin-omists, they are hard at work on a huge fiscal stimulus package and further tightening of government regulations on banks and the financial sector. Conservation and the long-overdue move away from fossil fuels are high on the agenda. These bureaucrats are not fools (like Bush, Rice and many others in the current administration), and taking a leaf from president Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal administration, will not be afraid to borrow from the liberal handbook as the need arises.

What the progressives in the US must now do is mobilise, mobilise, mobilise, and articulate a clear, cogent agenda for real change. The old adage holds true more than ever: No pain — no gain.

It seems the only thing we can truly feel some exhilaration for at this point is the fact that Obama’s father was a black Muslim and his mother an altruistic humanitarian who truly loved other cultures and devoted her life to better understanding among peoples. Let us hope for some sign that their spirit lives on in their son to help fight off the demons who surround him at present. Perhaps a good old-fashioned African exorcism is in order.

Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly. You can reach him at

See also

Obama’s Zionist Jew At Treasury By Brother Nathanael Kapner,

Uprooted Palestinians: Holocaust; Not Again but in Gaza

Holocaust; Not Again but in Gaza

Contributed by Michael

The state of Israel was allegedly established to give world Jewry, in general, and “holocaust surviving” European Jews, in specific, a safe homeland. But the international humanitarian cry of “Holocaust, never again” has become so blind and so disillusioned that it has been, for the last sixty years, perpetrating the same thing it is trying to prevent, namely another holocaust, against another nation; the Palestinian Arabs.

The holocaust was perpetrated in Europe against Jewish Europeans by Christian Europeans. Arabs, who, for generations, received persecuted European Jews with hospitality, harbored and protected them, should not be made to pay their heartland, Palestine, for the sins of Europeans. Palestinians had never sinned against true Jews, but when Zionist militant Jews attack Palestinians, destroy their towns, massacre their families, forcefully evict hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, and usurp their lands to build their terrorist Israeli state, Palestinians had no choice but to defend themselves with whatever means available to them.

Since the 1940’s organized Zionist terrorists have been executing a graduated deliberate well-planned genocide (holocaust) against the Palestinians. They terrorized and murdered Palestinian civilians in every Palestinian city; some had been completely wiped out such as the Palestinians of Deir Yassin, al-Tantura, al-Dawayima, and Saliha among many others. At least 450 Palestinian towns were completely wiped off existence in 1948. Palestine itself was wiped off the map and replaced with Israel. The theft and usurpation of Palestinian land is still going on until this very moment. Every day the Israeli army raids Palestinian towns, demolishes homes and evicts Palestinians out of their land to build illegal Jewish Israeli colonies.

When Palestinians exercise their basic human right of resisting occupation and defending their lives and the lives of their families, they are called terrorists, who must be killed. Israeli influential chief rabbis, such as Yisrael Rosen, Dov Lior, Shmuel Eliyahu, Daniel Satosbky, Eliyahu Kinvinsky, Israel Ariel and Yitzhaq Ginsburg among many others, routinely and blatantly call for the extermination (a complete wiping off) of all Palestinians without exception. Yet these genocidal religious calls are being ignored by international political institutions and all the Western media, who concentrate on and misinterpret Iran’s President Ahmadinejad’s statement that the “terrorist Israeli regime” should not be allowed to continue, as a threat to wipe Israel off the map.

Part of this Israeli graduated genocidal holocaust can, currently, be clearly seen in the Gaza Strip. Life in Gaza has been gradually and systematically getting worse beginning with the Israeli occupation in 1967 until it has presently become the worst ever. Gaza is now the theater exhibiting the extermination of Palestinians for exercising their Western-encouraged democratic right of electing a Hamas government. Since the 2006 Hamas election Gaza has been severed from the West Bank, and encircled with an eight meter high concrete wall to make it the largest ever open-air concentration camp in the whole world. It is extensively worse than the notorious Nazi Germany concentration camps in umbers and space. The Israeli army is the jailer controlling and restricting the passage of all life-sustaining goods into Gaza, and the punisher by death of each Palestinian contemplating any resistance.

Similar to the pre-Holocaust international apathy towards the fate of European Jews, the current international political apathy towards the fate of Gaza and its 1.5 million residents is encouraging Israel to close the noose yet tighter to finish them off. Israel has completely sealed off all crossings to Gaza preventing entry of necessary food, fuel and medicine. No one is allowed in or out of Gaza.

Due to Israeli blockade life in Gaza has deteriorated rapidly. The number of Palestinians in Gaza living in absolute poverty has increased sharply. Today more than 80% of Gazans are jobless. 95% of Gaza’s industrial operations are suspended because they cannot import raw material nor export products due to Israeli siege. Agricultural sector is paralyzed and about 40,000 workers, who depend on cash crops, have now no income. With the Israeli gun-boats patrolling the shores of Gaza and sinking or seizing every Palestinian fishing boat the fishing industry, many Gazans depend on for their living, has come to a complete halt. Many Gazans depend on goods that are smuggled through tunnels underneath the Egyptian borders.

Electricity and water service infrastructure are non-existent because of Israeli prohibitions of importing spare parts and fuel necessary to keep the systems running. Hospitals cannot generate electricity to keep their life-sustaining equipments running. Sewage and water treatment facilities had completely halted, thus people don’t have clean drinking water, and sewage has been pouring into the sea contaminating its water.

Schools have been closed due to lack of books and electricity and due to high students drop out looking for jobs. Illiteracy is increasing. Educational system is collapsing. Without schools and without jobs, poor, hungry and frustrated young Palestinians of Gaza have nothing to do except brewing more and more hatred towards Israelis, the cause of their misery, and contemplating more aggressive self-defense mechanisms in the hope to deter or at least to balance the daily Israeli terror they are facing.

Israel stated on Friday Nov. 21st it will maintain its closure of Gaza Strip despite all the international concern over the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the area. Israeli officials claimed that this decision came due to firing missiles at Israeli settlements. We should note that Palestinians had observed the cease fire agreement struck last June 19th, but Israel, who broke each and every previous cease fire agreements, had broken this one too when Israeli tanks rolled into the Strip, Wednesday Nov. 4th , and murdered several Palestinians. The missiles were fired as a response to the Israeli attack.

Since the year 2000, 3000 Gazans and 12 Siderot Israeli residents have been killed. Israel, an occupying power, is routinely and indiscriminately attacking Gaza’s civilians with the most sophisticated weaponry; tanks, fighter planes, drones, Apache helicopters and laser-guided missiles. When some of these civilians are forced to become militaristic in order to defend their families with whatever ingeniously they can manufacture such as rudimentary home-made rockets and mines, the pro-Zionist biased international political communities ignore all Israeli terrorist attacks, deny the Palestinians their right of self-defense and call them terrorists.

When the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), Javier Solana, stated in a New York press release in Nov. 22nd that the EU will not be able to do any more to break the Israeli blockade against Gaze, he is tacitly giving Israel implied acceptance and encouragement to continue its crimes. The international political bodies including the Arab League are just paying lip service confirming Israel’s right to self-defense while denying this right to Gazans, and are begging Israel not to launch a major military operation into Gaza.

Some Arab leaders are Zionist Arabs. Like Zionist leaders of WWII era, who ignored, encouraged, and benefited from the Jewish Holocaust, these Zionist Arab leaders are also ignoring the Gaza holocaust. Some of them, like Palestinian President Abbas and Egyptian President Mubarak, are actively contributing to this holocaust for a fistful of American Dollars. Abbas and his cronies in the Ramallah assigned government had opposed, plotted against, and attacked the democratically elected Palestinian government of Hamas in Gaza. Egyptian Mubarak’s government had repeatedly refused to give life to Gaza by opening border crossings into Gaza (a border between two Arab entities) citing international agreements and national security. The fallacy of these excuses were exposed when the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmad Aboul Gheit, disclosed last Wednesday 11th of November that the closure of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza comes for pure political reasons, and for the purpose of punishing one particular Palestinian side (Hamas). He explained that opening the Rafah crossing would mean recognizing Hamas as the legitimate Palestinian government. The speaker of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, Husam Zaki, also declared that the closure came in support for Palestinian President Abbas, who requested the closure.

The head of UNRWA, Karen Koning Abu Zayd, warned: “Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and –some would say – encouragement of the international community”.

The majority of Gazans are dependent in their livelihood on donations from the UNRWA. Such donations has been routinely interrupted due to Israeli restrictions and crossing closures. UNRWA representative John Holms warned, lately, that the situation in Gaza is dire and that the Agency will no longer be able to distribute more food to the poor due to the current Israeli closure.

Despite the many scientific analyses, study and research the European revisionist historians introduce and refer to as proof that the Holocaust is a hoax and had never happened, one must admit that many European Jews, like the rest of other people, had been murdered during WWII. The Holocaust is the only historical event, throughout the whole history of Man, whose study and research has been made a religious taboo and a punishable crime. Therefore refuting the revisionists’ evidence has been made an impossible task, making the Holocaust a controversial subject. Nevertheless, the murder of one family member constitutes a holocaust to the rest of the family. We should remember that 55 million people are estimated to have died in WWII, millions of them died to free European Jews from the “controversial” Holocaust. The surviving Jews are indebted to the Allied countries and not the other way around as Israel keeps implying.

Although history shows many documented evidence that total annihilation of populations, worse than the “controversial” Holocaust, had taken place to other nations throughout history, Jews in general, and Israeli Jews in particular, claim that they are the only perennial victims in this world, and after the Holocaust they feel they are justified to do any thing they want, even perpetrating other holocausts against other nations while denying the fact. Most of the Jews, who repeatedly cite the Holocaust to gain sympathy, and to raise it as a weapon to extort money and weapons and political support from Europeans, have no sympathy for Palestinian victims, who were driven out of their homes in 1948 and in 1967 and have been suffering from deliberate, well-planned holocaust, part of which is being now executed by their government in their names against 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

In almost every Western country one finds a Jewish museum of tolerance. Although many nations had suffered from worse than Holocaust-like massacres, none of them found a need to erect their own museums of tolerance and in such numbers. I wonder what is it that Westerners find intolerable about the Jews that they need such an amount of museums to beg their tolerance for the Jews!

The Israeli blockade policy has effectively destroyed the economy and all the infrastructures of Gaza. It had impoverished and starved the whole population of Gaza including all civilians, women, children and the sick, and even their farm animals. This policy is illegal under International Humanitarian Law and a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. This policy constitutes an indiscriminate collective punishment, a war crime, genocide, and a holocaust. This devastating holocaust is Israeli-made, but can easily be reversed if the necessary political will of the UN and/or the Arab League is exerted against the terrorist government of Israel. Isn’t time for the UN to assert its legitimacy, its dignity, and its respect by suspending and revoking rogue Israel’s membership for violating human rights, and for breaking the many UN resolutions and international laws? Isn’t it time for the UN to implement its solemn promise of “never again another holocaust” in the world starting with the most pressing Palestinian holocaust?


Fad said…

Touting for Jewish holocaust as the only holocaust has predisposed the world for the concept of ”never again only for Jews”We,ve never heared about museums for Russian or Chinese or Ukranian -or Iraqi-holocaustsOnly Jewish holocaust with its exaggerated number of victims ae imposed everywhere in memorial stuffs and schools and churchs

8:46 AM, November 26, 2008

Contributed by Fad

Our Roots Are Still Alive
The Story of the Palestinian People

Written by the Peoples Press Palestine Book Project:
Joy Bonds, Jimmy Emerman, Linda John, Penny Johnson, Paul Rupert
Illustrations: Ron Weil of Gonna Rise Again Graphics
Design: Leah Statman of Gonna Rise Again Graphics
Layout: Joy Bonds and Leah Statman
Institute for Independent Social Journalism

New Jersey Solidarity-Activists for the Liberation of Palestine Main Site



Chapter 1 – Our Roots Are Entrenched Deep in the Earth

Chapter 2 – Zionism: The False Return

Chapter 3 – World War 1: Pledges and Betrayals

Chapter 4 – Building Zion Under the British Gun

Chapter 5 – 1936: The Palestinian Revolt

Chapter 6 – World War II: Channelling Europe’s Jews to Palestine

Chapter 7 – Green Light from the White House

Chapter 8 – Clearing the Land of Palestinians: The 1948 War

Chapter 9 – The Exile: From Bitterness to Strength

Chapter 10 – Building the Jewish State

Chapter 11 – Birth of the Fedayeen

Chapter 12 – The Road to War

Chapter 13 – June 1967: Seizing New Arab Land

Chapter 14 – Palestine Lives

Chapter 15 – Black September

Chapter 16 – The October War: The Olive Branch and the Gun

Chapter 17 – Our Roots Are Still Alive

Chapter 18 – The Battle of Lebanon

Conclusion: Revolution Until Victory

Postscript: “We Shall Never Forget Palestine!”

Recommended Reading

Published by the Peoples Press, New York, 1977.

Israel spurns U.N. plea to ease Gaza blockade

Israel spurns U.N. plea to ease Gaza blockade

Ban Ki-Moon expresses concern over ‘deteriorating humanitarian situation’

JERUSALEM – Israel stood fast Wednesday by its decision to clamp shut cargo crossings at the Gaza Strip, brushing off pleas to ease the blockade from United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon

This all what the American UN can say about unhuman blockade:

UN head fears over Gaza blockade !!

In a telephone call, he urged Mr Olmert to ease the delivery of aid to the territory, Mr Ban’s office said.

Book review: Abdel Bari Atwan’s "Country of Words"

“Country of Words”
Atef Alshaer, The Electronic Intifada, 24 November 2008

A Country of Words: from the Refugee Camps to the Front Page is a remarkable Palestinian memoir, exceptional because of its abundance of compassion, humor and humility. Its author is Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Arabic-language daily al-Quds al-Arabi who also wrote The Secret History of al-Qa’ida. Individuals have their own lives and create their own narratives, and for Atwan, his story begins in Palestine. Born in the Gaza Strip refugee camp of Deir al-Balah in Gaza in 1950, Atwan’s life has been marred by tragic incidents, including the premature death of his father and later his brother, who supported his education.

Atwan grew up in Gaza, moved to Jordan to continue his education, and then to Alexandria for further schooling. He then moved to Cairo for university, then to Libya, Saudi Arabia and finally for work to London, where he grew in stature as a defender of Palestinian rights and Arab dignity. In his memoirs, Atwan comes across as a sympathetic, principled and international figure all at once, aware of the temptations of power and the universal value of humaneness, which cannot be cheapened or compromised.

Atwan recalls his experience in the refugee camps of Deir al-Balah and Rafah and situates that within the collective Palestinian refugee problem. Here, as it has been in other Palestinian memoirs, it is asserted that the collective forms an indispensable background to the individual: “my story is linked to that of my family’s, which in turn is entwined with the tragedy of Palestine’s recent history” (p.19). Atwan, whose family hails from Isdud in historic Palestine (near present-day Ashdod), moved to Jordan to continue his secondary school education after Israel occupied Gaza in 1967 and life became tenuous.

He recounts what his mother told him about her secure life in Isdud and how she was cruelly evicted from it. The Israeli occupation to Gaza in 1967 triggered worries of previous encounters with the Zionists who unleashed punitive measures on Palestinians, making life impossible for them and forcing their displacement. Atwan excels in describing life for the Palestinians and interspersing his narrative with doses of humor; for example, when a British parachute fell in Gaza, Gazans made silk trousers of it!

Egypt, through Atwan’s eyes, is wonderful and spirited, cheerful, and forgiving, as opposed to the austere kingdom of Jordan, where he endured manual labor to eke out a living for himself and his family back in Gaza. He reflects on the era of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt as a promising, hopeful time during which the Arab world felt united and dignified, because, Atwan writes, Nasser did not compromise on his principles: “General Nasser had led Egypt since 1954 and was seen by many as the great hope of the Arab world. His ideology inspired me then and still does today. Egypt had become the focal point of a renaissance: the capital of Arab culture and the pan-Arab political movement” (p. 86).

In Egypt, Atwan was treated as a representative of the Palestinians. However, after Nasser’s death, the political climate was no longer as welcoming and Atwan was deported by Egyptian authorities. It is a reminder of the precarious and vulnerable state of Palestinian refugees even in states run by supposedly friendly regimes. It also demonstrates how Palestinian activism has largely been at the whims of more powerful and cynical ruling elites in the Arab world.

Atwan sought refuge in Libya, where his pursuit with journalistic endeavors bore fruit. He wrote an article on the Shah of Iran at a time when Libyan-Iranian diplomatic relations soured; the article won Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s favor and was published in the front page of al-Balagh newspaper and Atwan was upgraded to “senior writer.” In Saudi Arabia, the next leg of Atwan’s exile, dissent was null. Atwan’s apparent gift for writing was appreciated, but his flamboyant, critical writing style earned him the wrath of the information ministry in Saudi Arabia.

Recruited by al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, Atwan moved to London, a move which proved critical to his career: “Journalists and editors had been exposed to greater press freedom and professionalism in London and this had a dramatic effect on the Arab media in general” (p.124). But it did not take much time for Atwan to fall out with al-Sharq al-Awsat given its conformist line to traditional Middle Eastern regimes. He became the “London bureau chief” of the Saudi-owned newspaper, al-Madinah and met the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Atwan’s term with al-Madinah ended after his boss was replaced due to disapproval by the Saudi state, eventually replacing him with a new editor with whom Atwan did not agree.

Atwan’s life as documented in his memoir has undergone a meteoric rise, crossing arduous lines. He returned to al-Sharq al-Awsat, but only for a short period of time, before forming his own newspaper, al-Quds al-Arabi. Al-Quds al-Arabi witnessed dramatic ups and downs and nearly folded; but the admirable sacrifices of its staff and their principled determination saw the paper through to more successful times. Atwan’s career encompasses rich encounters, close relationships with historical and controversial figures, attachment to ordinary people’s lives, which he recounts with vividness and excessive humor. His encounter with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is warmly, but critically, rendered. An entire chapter is devoted to Arafat, who Atwan views as an historic figure who through selfless devotion, despite his selfish domination of the Palestine Liberation Organization, contributed monumentally to the rise of Palestinian nationalism and identity. His encounter with al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden is documented in his first book. Bin Laden invited Atwan to meet him in Afghanistan, and that earned Atwan the title of “expert” on al-Qaida.

There is much charm, wit and eloquence in Atwan’s memoir, but there is also some contradiction. The Oslo Accords of the mid-1990s, for Atwan, stifled the Palestinian struggle, and was a far cry from their longstanding ambitions for a dignified independent state. But he sympathizes with his family in Rafah, Gaza, who saw in it an opportunity to live in relative peace: “I realized how the different mindsets and political goals of those who live abroad and those who have remained in Palestine could prove decisive on the road to a just settlement; this is a crucial aspect of the peace process which should not be overlooked.” Atwan urges his family “not to concede too much” (p.274). Atwan sided with the late Palestinian intellectuals Edward Said and Mahmoud Darwish, who dissented against Oslo and Atwan considered great friends whose company he sought and found enriching. Atwan’s vision for Palestine coincides with theirs and many other Palestinians: “we have to learn to live together in peace and cooperation in a multicultural society in one democratic secular state for two people. We manage it here in London, it is working in South Africa, and there is enough room for everyone in Palestine” (p. 282).

Atwan is an engaged, descriptive writer; but he does not seem inclined to reflect theoretically on what he writes. Since he sympathizes with his family’s political views, one expects his sympathy to be more developed, in that he does not offer insights as to how the Palestinians’ inside and outside views of the conflict and the solution to it can be bridged. The book is an invaluable narrative from a familiar and eminent Palestinian media figure, but it lacks the reflective subtlety of a scholar.

Atef Alshaer obtained his first university degree in English language and literature from Birzeit University in Palestine. He then obtained a masters in linguistics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where he is currently a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Languages and Cultures.

Related Links

%d bloggers like this: