Palestinian Christians Send Open Letter to World Council of Churches

Posted on June 16, 2017

Palestinian Christians have published an open letter to the World Council of Churches asking that the international ecumenical body recognize Israel as an apartheid state.

“As we meet this month in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, we are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unjust and unlawful Balfour declaration,” the letter begins.

The document makes no specific reference to Christian Zionism, but it does assert that Palestinians are suffering “because of one political declaration from a Western empire, based on a twisted theological premise,” and calls upon the WCC to “take the strongest theological stand against any theology or Christian group that justifies the occupation and privileges one nation over the other based on ethnicity or a covenant.”

The phrase “twisted theological premise” is a pretty good way of characterizing Christian Zionism, and I probably couldn’t have come up with a better descriptor myself.

Additionally, the letter makes reference to two other documents, one of them being the Amaan Call, issued by the WCC ten years ago following a meeting held in Amaan, Jordan. The other document mentioned is the Kairos Palestine document, a letter signed by Palestinian Christians and published in 2009.

This latest letter urges Christians of conscience not to “hide behind the cover of political neutrality,” and also calls upon the WCC support the BDS movement.

The WCC is scheduled to hold a meeting next week in Bethlehem.

The Friends of Sabeel of North America is calling upon members of the public to sign onto the letter. I reproduce the letter in full below. You can go here to sign onto it.

***

 

Letter from Palestinian Christians to the World Council of Churches

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. (Isa. 1:17)

Background

As we meet this month in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, we are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unjust and unlawful Balfour declaration. The injustice was intensified through the Nakba and the influx of refugees, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza, the fragmentation of our people and land through policies of isolation and confiscation of property, and the building of Jewish-only settlements and the apartheid wall.

We are still suffering because of one political declaration from a Western empire, based on a twisted theological premise. Even some churches and Christian leaders supported the establishment of the colonial state in our land, and totally ignored—even dehumanized—the nation, our people who had already existed here for centuries and paid the price for atrocities committed in Europe.

Hundred years later, with thousands of lives lost, towns and villages razed from the face of the earth (though not our memory), millions of refugees, thousands of homes demolished, and continued incarceration of prisoners, our Nakba continues.

A hundred years later and there is still no justice in our land! Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression are the rule. Today, we stand in front of an impasse and we have reached a deadlock. Despite all the promises, endless summits, UN resolutions, religious and lay leaders’ callings, Palestinians are still yearning for their freedom and independence, and seeking justice and equality. Humanly speaking, we have reached the “moment of impossible,” as Emeritus Latin Patriarch Sabbah said recently.

Could it be that we have reached this “impossible moment” because things were built from the very beginning—a hundred years ago—on an unjust premise? Should we expect that such an unjust declaration will create anything but strife and destruction?

Today is also an opportunity to remember the 10-year-old Amman Call. We are thankful to those who stood with us back then in costly solidarity—those who stood for truth and justice. We are also concerned that 10 years later the situation is still deteriorating. Like other initiatives advocating end of occupation, the Amman Call did not achieve its goals in building and achieving just peace. We must ask ourselves today why that is.

We are also concerned by Israel’s systemic assault on Palestinian creative resistance, and on our partners worldwide who use this method to pressure Israel to end the occupation. Many new laws were issued in Israel and around the world to oppose this creative non-violent resistance unlawfully, and to stop all effort toward peace. Not only is this an attack on the freedom of conscience and speech but it is also an assault on our right and duty to resist evil with good. Israel is even now trying to prevent pilgrims from visiting Bethlehem, the city of Emmanuel!

While we are grateful for the ‘costly solidarity’ articulated in the Amman Call and exercised by many churches around the world, we are concerned that some churches have weakened their positions in the last 10 years as a result of Israeli pressure. Many still hide behind the cover of political neutrality, not wishing to offend their partners in religious dialogue.

Finally, we meet in an environment of religious wars and persecution in our region. Religious extremism is on the rise, and religious minorities have paid a painful price. We thank you for your efforts toward the refugees and toward ending the conflicts in our region. We also thank you for your support of persecuted Christians in places like Iraq and Syria.

Our Call

“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (Justice), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”. (Matthew 5:10-11)

As we stand in front of this “impossible moment,” it gives us no pleasure to say that “we told you so” eight years ago when we declared the moment as a Kairos moment! We stand facing the impossible, but we have not lost hope, since as followers of the Risen One, we are the people of hope. However, we need you and we need you now more than ever. We need your costly solidarity. We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians. We urge you to hear our call and adopt the following:

1. That you call things as they are: recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law and in agreement of what a person like Desmond Tutu said and as the UN ESCWA report said: “Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people.. We are disturbed by the fact that states and churches are dealing with Israel as if the situation were normal, ignoring the reality of occupation, discrimination, and daily death in the land. Just as churches united to end apartheid in South Africa and whereby the WCC played a courageous and pivotal prophetic and leadership role, we expect you to do the same!

2. That you unequivocally condemn the Balfour declaration as unjust, and that you demand from the UK that it asks forgiveness from the Palestinian people and compensates for the losses. We ask that churches and Christians support the Palestinians in their request for justice.

3. That you take the strongest theological stand against any theology or Christian group that justifies the occupation and privileges one nation over the other based on ethnicity or a covenant. We ask that you adopt and live the theology suggested by Kairos Palestine and that you organize conferences to bring awareness toward this end.

4. That you take a stand against religious extremism and against any attempt to create a religious state in our land or region. We ask that you support us in combating the foundations of extremism and that you seek our council when acting against religious extremism so that you do not jeopardize and harm our standing here.

5. That you revisit and challenge your religious dialogue partners, and that you are willing to even withdraw from the partnership if needed, if the occupation and injustices in Palestine and Israel are not challenged.

6. That you lead campaigns for church leaders and pilgrims to visit Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities on this side of the wall in cooperation with Palestinian tourist and pilgrimage agencies, in response to recent attempts by Israel. We ask that you publicly challenge any attempt by Israel or other Christians that discourage pilgrims from visiting Palestinian places.

7. That you defend our right and duty to resist the occupation creatively and non-violently. We ask that you speak in support of economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation and that you support atheltic, cultural, and academic measures against Israel until it complies with international law and UN resolutions urging the ending of its occupation, apartheid, and discrimination, and accepts refugees to return to their homeland. This is our last peaceful resort. In response to Israel’s war on BDS, we ask that you intensify that measure.

8. That you create lobby groups in defense of Palestinian Christians. We ask that you publicly and legally challenge Christian organizations that discredit our work and legitimacy.

9. We therefore propose as a matter of the greatest urgency that you create a strategic program within WCC similar to the program “To Combat Racism” to lead efforts to lobby, advocate, and develop active programs toward justice and peace in Palestine and Israel and maintain the presence of the Palestinian Christians through supporting their organizations, church work, and peaceful efforts.

As faithful witnesses, we acknowledge, affirm, and continue the long-standing prophetic tradition, especially the one started by the Amman Call and articulated in the Kairos Palestine document. We fully grasp the pressure church leaders are facing here and abroad not to speak the truth, and it is because of this that we are raising this call.

Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. The current status quo is unsustainable. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land. Our only hope as Christians comes from the fact that in Jerusalem, the city of God, and our city, there is an empty tomb, and Jesus Christ who triumphed over death and sin brought to us and to all humanity, new life.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

12 June 2017

Signed By:

Jerusalem
Arab Catholic Scouts Group
Arab Orthodox Society, Jerusalem
Caritas, Jerusalem
Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees—Middle East Council of Churches
Greek Catholic Sayedat AlBishara Association
International Christian Committee
Laity Committee in the Holy Land
National Christian Association
Pontifical Mission Palestine
Sabeel—Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Seeds of Better life
Union of Arab Orthodox Club, Jerusalem
Young Men’s Christian Association—YMCA
Young Women’s Christian Association—YWCA

 

Gaza
NECC office

 

Bethlehem (NCOB) Network of Christian Organizations in Bethlehem
The East Jerusalem YMCA—Beit Sahour Branch
The Arab Educational Institute
Holy Land Trust, Bethlehem
Wi’am Center, Bethlehem
Saint Afram Assyrian Society
Holy Land Christians Ecumenical Foundation, Bethlehem
Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI)
Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Sahour
Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Jala
Arab Orthodox Club, Bethlehem
The Arab Orthodox Charitable Society, Beit Sahour
Bethlehem Bible College
Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies
Alternative Tourism Group, ATG, Beit Sahour
Senior Citizen Charitable Society
Environmental educational Center, Beit Jala
Saint Vincent Charitable Society, Beit Jala
Shepherds’ Children Society, Beit Sahour
Kairos Palestine

 

Click here to add your signature to the letter

Thomas Surez’s State of Terror reviewed by Eve Mykytyn

June 16, 2017  /  Gilad Atzmon

Thomas Surez’s “State of Terror” is a meticulously documented history of Zionism from its early stages in Israel until 1956.  It is the story ofhow a number of secular Jews successfully installed a religious state located on the land of another nation.

The established myth is that after centuries of antisemitism culminating in the Holocaust, the Jews ‘deserved’ Israel, the ‘land without a people for people without a land.’  Historical accounts often deepen and are refined with time and study. Suarez’s book (along with a few others such as Alison Weir’s “Against Our Better Judgement”) convincingly refutes the generally accepted history entirely.

Suarez points out that in 1897 an early Zionist cabled the news to his coconspirators that Palestine was already densely populated. What followed was a terrorist conspiracy to take that land that is shocking in its scope and violence.

Starting around 1918, in what is now Israel, the Irgun, the Lehi (Stern Gang) the Hagana and the Jewish Agency operated at various times as competing and cooperating gangs of thugs. They raised money by robbery and extortion, extracting ‘tributes’ from local businesses, bombing those who failed to pay. The Zionist gangs assassinated Palestinians, police, the British, and Jews whose opinions diverged from theirs.

The war did not temper their violence. When the British consolidated three boats of refugees onto the ship Patria in Haifa with the intention of taking them to a displaced persons camp in Mauritus, the Hagana bombed the ship of refugees.  Over 267 people died, among them 200 Jews. Zionists spun the story as a reenactment of the biblical story of Masada, claiming that the passengers of the Patria heroically committed mass suicide by bombing their own ship when they failed to reach Israel.

During and after World War II, the Zionists demanded with remarkable if not complete success that Jews be segregated from other soldiers and then segregated within displaced persons camps. Suarez cites pro-Zionist Churchill’s discomfort with such segregation, Churchill wrote that nearly every race in Europe had been shipped to concentration camps and “there appears to be very little difference in the amount of torture they endured.” (page 120).  Jews who wanted to stay in their home lands or who successfully negotiated the resettlement of European Jews anywhere but Israel were denounced and thwarted.

How did the Zionists succeed in insisting that they spoke for all Jews when it is clear that they did not? What gave them the right, as murderers of Jewish refugees, to speak for displaced Jews after the war?

Zionists consistently claimed to speak for all Jews. No wonder the Zionists insisted on the use of Hebrew (a number of early German and Yiddish language newspapers were bombed). Suarez points out that the settlers spoke the language of the biblical era because they claimed to be its people (page 25).  Ben Gurian claimed that the “Bible is our mandate.”

Israeli’s official birth in 1948 purged a million Palestinians and destroyed 400 of their villages. The UN had established Israel’s borders, but Israel already stretched beyond the borders and claimed sovereignty over all the land it held. Both England and the United States knew that Israel would not give back any land.  Reuven Shiloah, thefirst director of the Mossad, not only told them so but declared Israel’s right to take more land as necessary (page 277).

Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and assets was not simply a result of claiming land Israel was granted by the UN.  Suarez makes the point that:  “economic analysis… illustrates that the Israeli state owes its very existence to its wholesale theft of Palestinians’ worldly possessions… Despite the massive infusion of foreign capital into Israel and its claims of modern efficiency, it was the end of the Palestinians [assets] that saved the Israeli state from stillbirth” (page 288).

Israel’s treatment of its Palestinian benefactors after 1948 was atrocious. It is painful to read through Suarez’s partial listing of atrocities: rape, torture, murder and robbery. Arab villages, Christian and Muslim, friendly and not, were destroyed.  In one instance, Arab villagers were murdered by being forced to stay in their homes as they were bombed. (page 309).

At the time, Israel itself was the site of “alarming proportions” of murder, rape and robbery within its own citizenship. One Israeli speculated that this arose from a   “general and contemptuous disregard for law” (page 298).  A British report stated: “intolerance explodes into violence with appalling ease in Israel.”

Israel reached into Iraq (with false flag operations against Iraqi Jews to prompt immigration) and into North Africa to obtain citizens for its new settler state. The Iraqi and North African Jews were kept in miserable conditions until they were deployed as place holders to live on newly acquired land.

In 1954 Israelis planted bombs in Egypt in a false flag operation intended to convey that Egypt was unstable. When the plan was exposed in 1955, the United States and the United Kingdom considered military action against Israel to stop its murderous seizure of land. In a cold war series of events detailed by Suarez, France and England ended up siding with Israel againstEgypt in the Suez Crisis, ending any chance that England and the United States wouldconduct any action against Israel.

So far in his book Suarez has delivered a careful, albeit painful, history.

And then Suarez delivers his indictment, “with the conclusion of Suez,… Israel had fully established its techniques of expansion and racial cleansing that continue to serve it today: its maintenance of an existential threat, both as a natural consequence of its aggression and of provocation for the purpose; its expropriation and squandering of the moral weight of historic anti-Semitism and the Holocaust; its dehumanization of the Palestinians; its presence as the prophet-state of the Jews; and its seduction of its Jewish population with the perks of blood privilege.”

16-Year-Old Palestinian Girl Dies After Being Shot and Critically Injured by Israelis

Posted on June 2, 2017

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A 16-year-old Palestinian girl who was shot and critically injured on Thursday by Israeli forces, succumbed to her wounds Friday morning, according to the hospital where the girl was being treated.

The teen, identified as Nuf Uqab Abd al-Jabar Infiaat from the Jenin-area village of Yaabad, was shot after she stabbed and lightly injured an Israeli soldier near the entrance of the illegal Mevo Dotan settlement in the Jenin district of the northern occupied West Bank.

The Hillel Yaffe medical center in the Israeli city of Hadera released a statement on Friday saying the girl had succumbed to her wounds.

Infiaat’s body was returned by Israeli forces through the Salem military checkpoint on Friday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said, adding that her body had been taken to the Martyr Dr. Khalil Suleiman Hospital in Jenin to undergo an autopsy.

Following the stabbing on Thursday, Israeli emergency medical service Magen David Adom said in a statement on social media that the soldier was in “light condition,” while the Palestinian had been “neutralized” — the term used in Israel to refer indifferently to when a Palestinian has been injured or killed.

Security camera footage shared by Israeli media allegedly showed the young Palestinian passing the gate of Mevo Dotan, out of the camera’s sight, shortly before fleeing, pursued by Israeli security forces.

Meanwhile, AJ shared a video showing Israeli settlers insulting the young Palestinian as she lay wounded on the ground, calling her a “bitch” and telling her she deserved to die.

A Palestinian girl was shot by Israeli soldiers. And while she was bleeding, settlers insulted her and told her to die.

Eyewitness in the (un)Holy Land

JUNE 2, 2017

“I don’t care if I have to rot in here for a 100 years, I would never stand up for that judge. They occupy us and then they dare to judge us.”

From the play 603 by Imad Farajim

“…I dream of my unborn children and they do not know my language….the wind has told me secrets: we will soon be the new Jews-wandering, hated, nostalgic nomads with anger and sadness in our prayers.”

From the play, Tennis in Nablus by Ismail Khalidi.

“Especially on television, where most Americans get their news, there has been little detailed reportage on conditions in the Israeli-occupied territories (indeed of the very fact that there is an Israeli occupation, maintained by violence)…”

From The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (2015), by Rashid Khalidi

“The shadows on Palestinian stages remain most silent when they take voices apart to retell not only what is unbearable but what is possible—acts of justice.”

From Natalie Handal’s Introduction to Inside/Outside: Six Plays from Palestine and the Diaspora(2015), ed. by Naomi Wallace and Ismail Khalidi

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

–Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The occupation of Palestine by Israel maintained by ever-increasing violence, the attempt by Palestinians to snatch a bit of dignity in the midst of imprisonment by refusing to stand for judges who are themselves the perpetrators of injustice, other small acts of cultural and political resistance that help keep hope alive for some measure of justice to come in the supposed kingdom of God on earth….these thoughts, echoed in the quotes above, took on such an enduring visceral shape during my brief recent journey through occupied Ramallah, Jenin and East Jerusalem,  that I am having a hard time sitting down to pen this article I promised to write expeditiously for the Friday Times of Pakistan.

  So I’ll begin by giving you a soft target of our shared cosmopolitanism: a nice, non-threatening symbol of globe-trotting coffee consumerism, the ubiquitous Starbucks, just outside Amman airport as we exited, and where I was dying to grab a coffee. But I couldn’t, as my Palestinian friend (with whom I was traveling to her parents’ home in Ramallah from Amman), was already beginning to exhibit “the anger and the sadness” of the “nostalgic nomad” that Ismail Khalidi’s character Yusef, fears will become the Palestinian zeitgeist of the future in his play Tennis in Nablus, as he awaits execution in the jail cell where the British have imprisoned him at the tail end of the failed Arab revolt in 1939. How quickly one crosses from Starbucks to Starvation—the latter condition both real and symbolic of the fate of the Palestinian people. And here I go, entering the last colonial settler state in the world where a Palestinian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike is entering its 36th day.

“We have to hurry, Fawzia”…pronouncing my name the Arab way– which I quite like—my friend hustles me to a taxicab, impatiently reminding me (which she would repeat many times during the course of this journey)—that we could be detained for hours by the Israeli authorities on the other side of the Allenby Bridge (perhaps even refused entry). As the American blogger Salah writes—and she could have been speaking for me as I approached the Allenby Bridge crossing:

For myself, the Allenby Bridge crossing from Palestine to Jordan is a cultural experience, but for my Palestinian friends it is the sole entrance and exit from the West Bank to the rest of the world.  The crossing begins in Jericho, where one passes from the Palestinian to the Israeli border, and from the Israeli border to the Jordanian border.  This process can take anywhere from a few hours to all day long.

Of course this “cultural experience” for those who are tourists, is actually a memorialization-another kind of nostalgia if you will-for the remnants of colonial power since the British general Edmund Allenby rebuilt the bridge in 1918 after the Ottoman Empire had collapsed along with the bridge the Ottomans had built, in 1885.  Post-colonial subjects of the British Empire such as myself, are of course, never quite as “post” as we’d like to imagine ourselves.

The border-crossing experience, which began calmly enough on the Jordanian side as we’d decided to pay 150$ each to use the “VIP” service that my friend had been told would help us avoid the long and humiliating wait reserved for the poorer majority of Palestinian border crossers—turned scary in Jericho, where one passes from the Jordanian to the Israeli  border security in order to enter the Palestinian West Bank

(yeah, that is what Occupation means: Palestinians can’t get into their own lands except by permission from Israeli authorities still steeped in the original settler myth popularized by Golda Meir: that Palestine was a land without people, ripe for the taking by a people—European Jews- who were a people without a land).

My Palestinian friend was tense throughout the crossing, not knowing if and when and after how much humiliation and questioning she’d get to go home to her parents and siblings; and she kept warning me not to make eye contact with her, not to admit to the border guards that I knew her, to simply say I was traveling to Israel to give a lecture at a university there where I had gotten a progressive Israeli colleague of mine to write a letter of invitation claiming the same.

Well, ironically, she got through fairly easily, but I was stopped. Our plan was that if one of us was detained, the other would wait for just a short while before departing via taxi for her parents’ home in Bir Zeit, and wait there for the other to follow whenever the latter got through. Ofcourse, when I saw her being hustled out, and me left in the grips of the Israelis, it took all of my acting skills to pretend calm, and to refuse steadfastly to admit under questioning, that I knew her—I stubbornly insisted I had simply met her on the bus to Jericho. I’m sure they didn’t believe me–why would we have been on a bus given that we both had paid for a VIP “crossing” via taxi?

The good cop/bad cop routine that ensued thereafter was quite amusing—after the fact, ofcourse. The short, slight “good cop” female guard (they were all women, actually, and all save the “good” cop, unsmiling specimens of hostility)—who took me in to wait in the VIP lounge, kept asking me what I’d like to have, “khaffee? Bakklava? Cooookies? We bakh them fresh for you madam….” And so on. Me, I was texting—then erasing my texts in case they asked to look at my phone– my Israeli friend, to tell him to expect a call from the Israeli authorities to verify that letter of invitation I’d handed them from him. I’d already taken the precaution of removing my FB app with all of my political posts many of them critical of Israel and pro-BDS–just in case they remanded my phone, which thankfully, they didn’t. After an hour and a half and much downing of bitter coffee that made me more jittery than I already was, a stern skinny woman in army fatigues pops in to the room and barking out my name, tells me to follow her. I’m taken into a small, windowless office at the back of the building, where she and another woman similarly attired talk to each other in Hebrew each time I answer a question.

“Why are you here”

“Who are you going to see”

“Where exactly are you going”

“Where will you be staying”

“With whom?”

“How long for?”

“how many people will attend this lecture”

“are you being paid”

And then, pointing to the letter of invitation from the Israeli professor, the main officer sitting at the computer where she had been inputting my answers, proclaims triumphantly, “but this letter does not state the date and time of the lecture, so…” Before she can say another word I volunteer hastily that its an informal gathering of students in my friend’s class and therefore it will happen on one of the days that suits him once I get there, with no public audience (no need to fear!)– and that for sure, I am not getting paid, as it’s a pro bono talk I’m giving on the innocuous topic of…performance.  I don’t add, “and this performance of power you’re enacting will be part of that lecture!”.

The guard seems to have run out of objections but then as a last hurrah, demands to know why I go to Pakistan so often. “I’m born there” I answer, to which she replies condescendingly, “Yes. I know that.” Why is she asking me then, I wonder? I smile with as much obsequiousness as I can muster, “My mother is getting old and stays unwell, so I must do my daughterly duty…I’m sure you can understand.”

My naked appeal to filial duty is met with a cold “you can leave now, you’ll get your entry permit”—and she waves me out before I can complete my request for her not to stamp my passport—

“I know” she spits out quite angrily.

Yes, they all do know that their country is a moral blot upon the collective conscience of the world—maybe that is the source of their hostility and dis-ease?  No visitor wants a stamp from them that will prevent them from entering other countries in the world, most of which, despite doing business with Israel, do not want to be seen publicly as accepting of its ongoing illegitimate occupation and torture of Palestinian lands and people. I wouldn’t be too happy either letting in tourists who need to pretend they’ve never been to my country, who, whether they know or want to or even acknowledge it, will witness the horror, the horror….

The taxicab ride takes me past small olive trees and the Al Ghaur valley area with limestone hills and sparse vegetation dotting the brown hillsides, through the towns and hamlets of Jericho, Silwad, Yabroud (this latter a Muslim village with a simple minaret of a mosque rising gracefully from a center point), down to the Dead Sea, then up and down hill terraces planted with crops- so, I breathe in, this is Palestine. It really is beautiful, as my friend had claimed. We pass by a guy in red pantaloons and waistcoast jacket wearing a fez with a hookah-type tube wrapped around him, and was told by my cabbie that the man was selling kharoub, a popular summer drink made from a sweet black plant also known as carob. Definitely made me thirsty—even though, especially as we climbed up to Bir Zeit, the temperature became quite lovely with a cool breeze blowing down from the surrounding hills. Just as I was beginning to relax and enjoy the natural beauty, I was reminded of the abnormality of the place I was in; a car carrying four young men came careening past, their faces hardened into what could only be described as a mixture of ennui and anger. Shades of L’etranger….

My friend’s parents’ home was a lovely ramshackle two storey stone house, every inch of the living room walls filled with photo frames of children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and  built of the same kind of yellow limestone as many of the houses in Lebanon—indeed, much about the Palestinian countryside reminded me of the beauty of that Levantine country. They were all relieved to see me—my friend and her brother in law had been frantically calling and texting me throughout my journey, trying to ensure I was safe and guiding the driver who spoke little English as to where to bring me exactly. He had not looked pleased when I informed him I was going to Bir Zeit instead of Tel Aviv; in fact, I’d been rather frightened he would call up and report me to the border authorities as having lied about my intended whereabouts, and that they would then get him to turn around and bring me back to be ejected unceremoniously out of the land that wasn’t theirs!

Spending that afternoon and evening with my friend’s family—her parents, her 5 sisters, all of them accomplished career women in different fields–bonding over a delicious meal of grape leaves and roast chicken (her mother had rolled and stuffed over a 100 grape leaves and baby zuchinis in anticipation of her daughter’s return, standing for hours on her legs shot through with varicose veins, preparing her daughter’s favorite meal)—singing songs, me in Punjabi, her mother and sisters singing some Umm Kulsoum (at my request) and their own favorite Palestinian songs—followed by a squealing grabfest of clothes and shoes that my friend had brought back for her family in her two overstuffed suitcases—all of it was just a wonderful induction into the famed Palestinian hospitality and love; I was in the presence of something great—a healthy self-love in the face of systematic and enduring oppression. Grace under pressure it certainly was—given a new meaning when my friend took me up to the roof and pointed out, on the one hand, her mother’s blossoming vegetable and herb garden, and on the other, Israeli settlements dotting all the hilltops that surround Bir Zeit township.

“Do you know what it’s like to wake up at night at 2 am with an Israeli holding a gun to your forehead?” she asked me at one point, her voice quiet. “That’s the reality we live with everyday and every night as the settlers come and confiscate our lands, steal our homes, eject us from our beds.”

While I struggled with how to respond, she shrugged, and pointed out the beauty of the setting sun….”come, let’s take you to your hotel in Ramallah, and on the way, I must point out the beautiful Palestine History museum that’s recently been completed near the university. See….” pointing in the distance behind some trees….”there it is” and turning to me she asks, “Didn’t I tell you my country was so beautiful?  Don’t you agree?” and smiling and hugging, we descend the stairs, to see her mother modeling gleefully yet another of the elegant skirts and blouses the successful computer science professor daughter has brought home for her.

***

My friend AS, a professor at Bir Zeit university, responded immediately to my email informing him I was going to be in his town. I had hoped to see him that first evening when my friend and her sisters took me to the Swiss Family Robinson-style outdoors Snow Bar—an old and popular haunt apparently–where we all got to know each other over Palestinian beer and sheesha as the night thickened with smoke and laughter of fashionable Ramallah-ites old and young, including the foreign-aid workers who are plentiful in the region that their countries’ aid helps to keep destabilized in the name of “development.”

AS couldn’t make it there, but the next morning, a bright and sunny one, he comes by to pick me up from my hotel in downtown Ramallah, a town that is officially under the jurisdiction of the PA (Palestinian Authority)—but which everyone knows is under the boot of the Israelis who often conduct post-midnight raids on local homes and shops to pick up anyone they find “undesirable.” The incongruity of walking through the colorful fruit and vegetable market and buying fresh-pressed juice at a local vendor’s on one side of a busy street, while across it in a makeshift tent, at that early hour, an old woman sits with a leathery face, wearing a dark-colored skirt and a peasant scarf around her head wrapped like a bandana, shakes me:  she is holding aloft, her lined face expressionless save for her watery eyes, a placard with a young man’s photo, who is sitting on a wheelchair with his legs cut off. “That is where the relatives of the prisoners who are on strike sit everyday” AS tells me matter of factly. That afternoon, when two other colleagues make it in from my university to join us in Ramallah and my other Palestinian friend also joins us, we five perambulate the streets again and see the tent now filled up with people. We go to sit with them, in solidarity and silence surrounded by posters of the Al Aqsa martyrs and of Ahmed Saadat (also known as Abu Ghussan)—a Marxist who has been in prison since 2004 when he was picked up by Israelis from a Palestinian prison—so much for the “independence” of the PA! Secretary General of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), he is in prison for a sentence of 30 years.

But it is the old woman who is now surrounded by other women who draws us in, signaling us to come to their group, and a young woman who speaks English welcomes us “Ahlan Wa Sehlun” –when she learns we are visitors from abroad. She explains that the man in the old woman’s placard is her son who has been in jail for the past decade, and that because the Israeli wardens are negligent in the care they give their Palestinian prisoners, they did not treat him for his diabetes and consequently, he developed gangrene—hence, no more legs. “And why is that man sitting here?” asks our writing instructor colleague hesitantly, still absorbing the sadness and cruelty of the previous story, as she points to a middle aged man sitting near the women, gazing listlessly into space through his shades. The young woman’s reply, “his son just passed his one year anniversary in the prison; he turned 13, and that man there,” pointing to another, “well, his son was only 9 when he was thrown into prison by the Israelis” –shakes us all.

And why are the prisoners on hunger strike? Here are some facts from the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association:

An estimated 1500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers have declared the beginning of an open hunger strike on 17 April 2017. The call for hunger strike came amidst resentment of Israeli’s cruel policies towards political prisoners and detainees. The hunger striking prisoners’ demands include: family visits, proper medical care, an end to Israel’s practice of detaining Palestinians without charge or trial in so-called administrative detention and stopping the use of isolation

Despite the hot sun, as we get up and walk out of the tent, I feel a cold shiver as I think how not just these prisoners, but their families—and almost every Palestinian family has someone in jail—live in a vast, open air prison, their jailers the ones who should be in jail for committing crimes against humanity. This hunger strike we’ve walked in on is only the latest in a series of similar strikes that Palestinian prisoners and detainees have been resorting to since 1968—the only way left to them to reclaim a bodily integrity and resistance against an implacable foe. The writing instructor sums up our feelings perfectly when she says, shaking her head, “the imprisonment of nine year boys held  in adult prisons is appalling and shocking! I had not realized that the human rights abuses extended to children. We just don’t get to know the extent of human rights abuses by the Israeli state outside do we? ” I can feel a a vein throbbing on the left side of my forehead and hope it won’t develop into a full blown headache . The world is truly upside down here in ways impossible to ignore.

We see the Apartheid Wall that snakes through Palestinian lands carving up one village after another in disconnected, impassable parcels of land, dispossessing the families who’ve owned the land and farmed it for centuries. We are en route to what’s left of AS’s ancestral lands and he points out the checkpoints and nice settler roads that are made for Israelis to bypass these… he takes us to see the Al Jeeb road block preventing Palestinians getting to their villages that are near the greater Jerusalem area such as his own village. Sometimes he and others from the OT take their chances riding in cars with Israeli license plates on these settler roads trying to bypass the checkpoints; if they get caught, they get fined or detention or both…and if they ignore the warnings, and are caught repeatedly, then it could be prison for many months. AS is jumpy and angry as is our other native Palestinian friend; their rapid-fire commentary pointing to the endless examples of settler-occupation is symptomatic of those we are told who suffer from PTSD. AS drives fast—in a very nice beamer he laughingly reveals is an acquisition enabled by easy high interest loans that have recently become available to the residents of Ramallah; he isn’t joking when he tells us he will be paying off the loan over the next 30 years.

The entry to his village-Beit Sourik- is charming…narrow lanes climbing uphill then down, and as we approach his family compound—where several of his brothers live in adjoining houses, surrounded by open land with olive trees they plant each year to replace the thousands that have been/continue to be cut down by Israelis as they build the dreaded Wall. We drive past a wedding party led by adorable little girls in white net dresses and patent leather shoes and bows in their hair, walking to a house from where we hear sounds of music punctuated by the shouts of men performing the dabke.

His older brother, his sister who has recently recovered from throat cancer despite the huge challenges AS recounts of getting medical treatment for her at an Israeli hospital, as well as his college-going niece in hijab and several nephews of varying ages, are waiting to greet us at his eldest brother’s house. They give us water and pick fresh apricots from the trees in the yard for us to taste and then we all embark on a meandering walk down the hillside, as AS points out Jerusalem in the distance; it looks like a fortress on the hilltop, surrounded by dusty lands and homes in various states of disrepair, the settler road that serves as the barrier between inside/outside snaking through in the near distance. As we settle in for a family picnic on a cemented clearing overlooking the valley which used to stretch far beyond the wall that now blocks it, AS and his brother recount the tragedy of the Nakba on whose 69th anniversary we have arrived in this beautiful, troubled land. AS tells us how his nephews must be very careful how far they stray in their play…if they get anywhere close to the road/wall—they risk getting shot. As we walk among terraced patches where his brother has planted olive trees in hard earth, kept alive by water from a family well where they collect rainwater since other sources of water are continuously cut off by the Israelis—we cannot escape knowing that the tank-like vehicle parked across us on the snake-road, is watching us. As AS’ brother tells us in Arabic, which AS translates for us, the huge loss of land their family and the rest of the Beit Sourik villagers have suffered since the creation of the state of Israel, worsened dramatically since the building of the Wall following the shameful Oslo agreement— which most Palestinians I met still blame Arafat for capitulating to. Searching the net for some facts about my friend’s village, I realized that the General Assembly of the UN had decided on Dec 8 2003 to request an Advisory Opinion of the Intl Ct of Justice at The Hague, regarding legal and moral consequences of the construction of Israel’s variously termed “Separation Wall” or “Barrier Wall” Or “Fence” especially regarding its effects and it legitimacy in regards to Beit Sourik whose residents had brought a case against the state of Israel for its encroachment of their lands via the building of this so-called “security fence.” AS brother tells us as we return the settlers’ gaze with our own appreciative gaze at the beauty of the land, that 19000 dunams of land has gone down to 4,000 over just the past few years, thanks to settlements whose protection and expansion is the real goal of the Wall (The Dunam, according to Wikipedia, is an  Ottoman unit of land equivalent to the Greek stremma or English acre that varies considerably in size from place to place). Indeed, according to authors of International Law Reports (vol. 129), an “expansive factual basis was laid before the court” in the case of Beit Sourik, regarding both the scope of the impingement of the residents’ rights due to the construction of the fence on their lands, and Israel’s so-called “security-military needs.” They tell us

The Court examined both positions and “on the basis of the totality of the evidence before it, the scope of the impingement of local residents’ rights was established.”

As these authors of the report further inform us, “this impingement was by no means a light one.” Here are the unambiguous words of the International Court of Justice cited in the report:

The length of the part of the separation fence to which the orders before us apply is approximately forty kilometers. It impinges upon the lives of 35,000 local residents. Four thousand dunams of their lands are taken up by the fence route itself, and thousands of olive trees growing along the route itself are uprooted. The fence cuts off the villages in which the local inhabitants live from more than 30,000 dunams of their lands. The great majority of these lands are cultivated, and they include tens of thousands of olive trees, fruit trees, and other agricultural crops. The licensing regime the military commander wishes to establish cannot prevent or substantially decrease the extent of the severe injury to local farmers. Access to the lands depends upon the possibility of crossing the gates, which are very distant from each other and not always open….

International Law Reports vol 129, eds. Elihu Lauterpacht, C.J.Greenwood, Andrew Oppenheimer and Karen Lee. Cambridge University Press, 2007. Pp. 292-298

And never mind the endless humiliating security checks to which residents are constantly subjected trying to traverse even very short distances within their own villages and towns. In rebuttal of the Israeli High Court’s insistence to find legal justification for continuing to build the wall that has so adversely affected tens of thousands of these Palestinian villagers’ lives, American scholar Norman Finkelstein also points out in his book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (U of CA Press, 2008) that the ICJ arrived at its conclusion

after reaching the absolute qualitative finding that the wall couldn’t be justified on [Israeli] grounds of military necessity and violated fundamental provisions of international law.

(Finkelstein 268)

Burdened with the now visceral knowledge of what we could see with our own eyes, and despite the watchful gaze of the illegitimate Israeli state from the other side of the snaking wall of ever-increasing Occupation, we manage to enjoy a wonderful meal of Palestinian tabbouleh, humus, manousheh, zatar, pickled vegetables, labane and smoked eggplant. “Sorry it’s such a simple affair,” AS apologizes, while we gobble the delicious repast unapologetically—“you see that we are in the midst of the hunger strike, and must pay homage to the strikers by at least not cooking lavish meals!” he grins ruefully; then turns to make tea for us with sage leaves plucked from the sage bushes growing nearby, boiling well-water he has drawn up on an open fire that we all hover around as the sun descends in a spectacular blaze; the coziness of the fire that suddenly flares up as the boys throw more sticks on it, is welcome on a rapidly-cooling evening in the hills, once the sun stops teasing us with its warm rays. Night shadows lengthen as we gather up the remains of the day, us oldies walking carefully back uphill to the house to drive back to Ramallah, the young boys riding up as only the young can do, insouciantly splayed out on the hood and in the open boot of the beat-up black Toyota driven uphill by the older brother.

***

AS has arranged for one of my colleagues, a well-known postcolonial studies scholar, and myself, to speak to faculty and students at Bir Zeit university the following afternoon, after taking us in the morning to visit Jenin Refugee Camp at my insistence. Being a theatre scholar and performer, having worked with various theatre groups in Pakistan and having written a book about political theatre including theatre of the oppressed in my native country, I was very keen to meet the founders/director of the Jenin Freedom Theater company. I’d been following their work, and supporting them in NY, and knew they had recently visited Karachi for a theatre festival held at NAPA (The National Academy of Performing Arts). AS picked us up at 8 am from our hotel where the three of us colleagues were staying (except for our fourth friend the Palestinian computer scientist who was obviously, staying with her parents); we quickly downed some coffee and a hasty—but quite satisfying-breakfast of cereal, toast and foul before embarking on yet another road trip with my friend. This time we went north and east, passing by the Jalazon refugee camp surrounded by barbed wire, duly noting the nefarious role of US aid in providing security and surveillance to Israeli checkpoints dotting the main road we drive through again at great speed; it seems as if the speed is a way to avoid being stopped…to somehow escape, like the wind, from the clutches of all that security apparatus.

AS points out mixed Muslim and Christian towns en route to Jenin and tells us we are traveling on the Old Nablus road which is one of the few roads used by settlers as well as Palestinians. And we see the normalization of the settler community as we pass by Ariel, which is now a proper town with its own university. As we approach the Zaatara road block, AS describes to us how it messes with Palestinian travelers as no soldiers can be seen there most of the time, but suddenly shots can ring out at you from a distance, and indeed, last year 10 people were killed here. He points out the settler town of Yizar, some of whose heavily armed residents

On the evening of the 10th September, broke into the Al Zawiya Secondary School nearby, forced open the door and set the school on fire. Bedouins living close to the school saw the fire and alerted the fire brigade. By the time it was put out, the principal’s office and teachers’ rooms were completely burned. “We lost six computers, four printers, all the teachers’ books and materials, but most of all, the administrative documents and files of the students and about the school situation over the past years. The whole damage is around 140,000 shekels,” the principle Adnan Hussein told ISM. The school was closed for three days after the arson attack.

This act of arson was justified by some machine-gun toting settlers who complained that a student of the school wearing a dreaded red T shirt threw stones at their car!

Still trying to absorb the barrage of distressing information AS kept unleashing on us, we arrived in approximately 2 hours at a large girls school on the outskirts of Jenin, where Palestinian municipal elections were being held, though boycotted by Hamas. The internal dissensions amongst various Palestinian political parties and factions within those, has had its own demoralizing effe

ct on the people, never mind the fact that the ruling Fatah faction—also known as the Palestinian Authority—is seen as in cahoots with the Israelis over security issues and hence as a sell-out, with allegations of corruption against Mahmoud Abbas and his sons sealing the anger against the man who is now in his 12th year of a 4-year Presidential term! Here is what Bernard Avishai of the New Yorker in a story published on May 23rd 2017, has to say about the sorry state of affairs Abbas and his Fatah faction are held responsible for by most Palestinians:

Some P.A. officials have managed the flow of aid to monopolistic enterprises that provide perks and inflated salaries to friends and family— reportedly including Abbas’s son. According to the Times of London, European Union auditors can’t account for nearly two billion pounds in aid distributed between 2008 and 2012. But the World Bank reports that about thirty per cent of Palestinians are categorized as unemployed, and youth unemployment in Gaza is nearly sixty per cent. Abbas has also appeared powerless to prevent new Israeli settlements, military aggression, and the siege on Gaza.

But as we entered the school premises to meet up with the man-Zacharia-who was to take us into the camp proper and to meet with the leaders of the JFT, we all noticed a most interesting sight: two tall evergreen trees filled with white birds sitting on every branch outside the school gate—harbingers of peace??? Clearly we all wanted to feel the presence of some hope for peace and a way forward.

Zacharia Zubeidi of the burnt face and bullet-riddled arm, is one of the Freedom Theatre’s founders who was also one of Arna’s children, seen as a kid in the film of the same name that Arna’s son Juliano Mer Khamis, made in 2004.  Arna Mer Khamis, who grew up in a Jewish Israeli Zionist family, ended up rejecting the Zionist ideology and marrying Saliba Khamis, a Palestinian from Nazareth. During the first Intifada, she moved to Jenin refugee camp where “she established an alternative education system for Palestinian children, after their schools were closed by the Israeli occupation.” Arjan Al Fessed in a review of the film further informs us how

Through her dedication to the children, Arna Mer Khamis play[ed] an important role in the Jenin community. The theatre group that she started engaged children from Jenin refugee camp, helping them to express their everyday frustrations, anger, bitterness and fear.

Zacharia himself was one of those children in her school and theatre group, the only one of four boys seen in the film who is still alive, who became a leader of the Al Aqsa Martyr’s brigade that fought against the Israelis during the Second Intifada. He is a veteran of Israeli jails, imprisoned for four years because of his role as a leader of Jenin camp’s 2002 battle against the invading Israelis, his mother shot and killed by an Israeli sniper’s gunfire, his brother and two best friends killed in the same battle. After his best friend Sabbagh was killed by an Israeli gunship in Nov 2002, Zacharia replaced him as the head of the Al-Aqsa Brigades, and soon became known in Israel as the Black Rat for his skill in dodging the army’s attempts to kill him. As we walk around the camp-now a regular town of concrete houses-Zacharia points out an iron horse in the middle of a street, built with scrap metal of destroyed vehicles including the Red Cross ambulance that had been carrying Dr Khalil Suleiman, a Palestinian doctor in Jenin in the West Bank to service the wounded.  Head of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society Emergency Medical Service (effectively the ambulance service) in Jenin, Dr Suleiman was killed and two other medical personnel seriously injured when the ambulance he was riding in was hit by a rifle-mounted grenade fired by the Israeli Defence Forces.

The sculpture, Zacharia tells us, commemorates the spirit of Jenin’s resistance and its martyrs. It was pretty mind-blowing to be shown around Jenin by one of its living heroes (who is however, now on the payroll of the detested PA), and who was also a close friend of Juliano Mer Khamis, son of Arna, with whom he co-founded the Jenin Freedom Theatre.

Juliano, who often referred to himself as “100% Palestinian, and 100% Jewish” and was seen by many on the Left as “a symbol of the binational dream, a walking advertisement for solidarity and coexistence”, was killed by an assailant in 2011 in Jenin, the identity and motive of his killer still both unsolved mysteries though many theories abound, some seeing the hands of Israel, others a disaffected Palestinian who may have represented  those in Jenin who felt suspicious of Juliano’s work and motives.

We are greeted by Nabeel Al Raee, the Artistic Director and his wife the Portugese-born Micaela Miranda, Theatre School Director of the Jenin Freedom Theatre, in front of the building that houses its theatre space as well as administrative offices and a seating room for visitors upstairs. As we are being shown around the premises, we are joined by Mustafa Sheta, General Secretary of the company, and in response to some of my questions, we learn that the theatre school has instituted small income generation schemes like fees for workshops for interested groups, and  now boasts a 3 year training professional theatre school in devise work as a form of cultural resistance.

Indeed, as Micaela, (who is married to Nabeel) tells us,

“We want to try to understand what it means to do theatre as a form of cultural resistance, to ask of ourselves and encourage our students to ask, what is resistance, and by imparting tools of critical thinking to students- to have them challenge idea that cultural resistance is something separate from other kinds of resistance. The stage for us is a laboratory for Life!”

After a quick tour—we are on schedule to return by 2 pm to Bir Zeit for an afternoon with the faculty and students there who are coming to hear us share something about our work—Nabeel, Miranda and Mustafa (who I recall meeting last fall in Brooklyn at a fundraiser for the JFT when they were here on tour)—invite us to join them for orange juice or coffee at a nearby café. Over a refreshing cool OJ, Nabeel, smoking non-stop (most Palestinians we’ve met seem to smoke)—describes some of his early training in the Hakawati Arabic tradition of storytelling, then going to Tunisia for further training, then at the Al Kasbah theare academy at Ramallah before joining JFT. I’m impressed at the seriousness with which actor and theatre training is taken here in the Occupied Territories. Micaela also joins the conversation, as does Mustafa—and they describe how they like to start with coaxing personal stories out of their participants to shape a theatre piece, building the political from the personal, like all good feminists! Last year was their 10th year anniversary and as their Annual Report also states:

More than 10,000 children, youth and adults in Jenin refugee camp and across the occupied west Bank were involved in our workshops, trainings and performances in theatre, film, and creative writing, all aiming to generate critical perspectives, reimagine reality and challenge oppression.

Each of them nods when Nabeel tells me

“We are now professional artists and fighters (gesturing toward Zacharia, who smiles), and political activists who are engaged in building a holistic culture of resistance.”

I then ask Nabeel about his experience in Karachi at the theatre festival there; his face lights up and I can sense his pleasure was genuine in being there and meeting the theatre activists of Pakistan. As he put it to me, “It was a great experience in all dimensions to be there to see the political and cultural scene and meet face to face with people in the art world; and our play, Return to Palestine enjoyed a wonderful reception!” Grinning, he gives a reciprocal thumbs up to NAPA artistic director Zein Ahmed’s production about the life of a married couple: “I felt every moment despite the language difference; it was a deep and dramatic story that applies to every couple in the whole world!”

After saying to each other that we would stay in touch and try to come up with some possibilities of doing joint work between Palestinian and Pakistani theatre activists, we parted company with the Jenin folk and AS drove us to Bir Zeit University, stopping only for a quick bite to eat at a small café he knew that made delicious falafel. Exhausted but exhilarated from our morning travels and meetings, we made it looking somewhat bedraggled I’m sure, to the crowd of 25-30 undergrads and professors seated around a large oval table in a classroom awaiting our arrival.

Re-energized by our expectant and interested audience, my colleague  and I make our respective interventions, my own beginning with a shout –out to Marwan Barghouti and the other hunger strikers, followed by a description of my career to date that has included varying levels of harassment/intimidation I’ve faced—as have countless other academics and activists in the USA—who dare to criticize the Zionist narrative and try to provide information on the brutal reality of the ongoing occupation of Palestine. I projected onscreen a letter a group of fellow student activists and I had published in the Tufts University student paper back in 1987 when I was starting my graduate studies there. An old Lebanese friend with whom I’d recently gotten back in touch had found it in his files.  I print it below:

But I also noted how things have changed for the better on United States campuses, from those days when I was a grad student freshly arrived from Pakistan, to now, when BDS is gaining strength and students who used to confuse Palestine with Pakistan have morphed into ardent defenders of the human rights of Palestinians in the face of Zionist aggression. Thankfully the canard that anti Zionism equates anti Semitism has been largely laid to rest, though ofcourse, we now have the rise of Jared Kushner to contend with. One step forward, two steps back, I guess.

I conclude my intervention by performing a poem I’d written (and set to a music track by Talvin Singh) called “Billy Bush Sam-ton” which id published years ago in an anthology entitled Poets Against the War (after the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had first broken out post 9/11)—and which, especially in light of the morning trip to Jenin and the fact that I had finally made it to Ramallah, seemed apt to recite in this location, in its song title, “O-Sam-A”::

Billy Bush Sam-ton or “O-Sam-A”
By Fawzia Afzal-Khan

(first published in Poets Against the War, ed Sam Hamill (Nation Books, 2003).

Osama
Sam A
Uncle Sam

will you
defend me
against that SOB
who fondled my breasts
and squeezed my ass

he said Lie
through your tongue
baby its okay

you’re defending the
integrity of your
Man
-ly Nation hood
Not
hoodwinking but

upholding the
Truth (of)
Justice
Law
Democracy

That’s why
its okay
to nukefry
those damn boys
in Af-ghan-is-tan
and Su-dan
I-raq
and   I-ran

barbarian chauvinists
not like us oh no
MONIKA

don’t be disappointed
I’ve vindicated your
Honor
see by striking
those afroasian Breasts

so very different from
your soft White ones
I am a
Real Man now
are you Proud
of Me

Mein Kaun Hoon, mujhe jaan ley
Mujhe Jaan ley, pehchaan ley
(trans: who am I, get to know me, recognize me!) 

Barbarian…flight IC 402
The flight to Jenin
The flight to Ramallah
Is ready for waterboarding
Please proceed to Gate 911

Have a listen to it here.

The Q and A afterwards is lively and we all discuss the need to see connections and build progressive coalitions between our dispersed locations in the global south. Some enthusiastic students provide me with a list of new and upcoming musical artists and bands which I can now research to my heart’s content—and introduce in the next iteration of my course on Pop Culture of the Muslim World!

We bid au revoir to AS as our other Palestinian friend takes over tour guide duties, ushering us into the university art museum which she’d managed to get to stay open past its closing hours for us. There, we see a very moving exhibit of historical paintings by Samia Halaby on the Kafr Qasem massacre of 1956. And from there we make our way to meet yet another fabulous artist, the Palestinian-American dance choreographer Samar King, who lives and produces dance pieces of great beauty and intensity in Ramallah. After that meeting at a charming restaurant where we enjoy some cold beer and delicious zaatar-sprinkled fries, my colleagues return for a rest to our hotel before dinner, while I, on some crazy burst of energy, wandered into the adjoining cultural center where Mahmoud Darwish had kept an office (we’d gotten to see the lovely museum in his honor and the Arafat museum too the day before)–and where that evening, I stumble with great good fortune onto a jazz trio—a pianist, an oudh player and a drummer– who were giving a concert. What a sublime hour I spend, eyes closed, ears open, in a darkened room with flickering tea-lights on the floor lighting up the band members on a tiled surface, the percussionist making gorgeous rhythms on a variety of drums, keeping time with his left leg jangling to the tune of the ghungroos tied around his ankle. Music really is an oasis….

***

The next morning dawns quite hot and sultry, and as we speed off in a taxicab accompanied by our computer scientist Palestinian colleague, heading to our final destination of East Jerusalem, I can sense her dis-ease mounting right away as she keeps repeating how we need to avoid taking any photos as we approach checkpoints, even the perfunctory one on the settlers-only road we were using to avoid having to wait for hours at the official Qalandia crossing. As we approached the entry point into Jerusalem, she told our writing instructor friend and myself to put on our dark glasses, saying, “we have to look like western-style tourists to avoid suspicion.” We do as we were told, and thankfully, are waved past by the Israeli security guard. As we drive into the environs of E. Jerusalem, our Palestinian friend starts pointing out the houses on the left that she referred to as “1948”—meaning those that were confiscated by Israel at the founding of the state, and those to the right which were what she designated as “1967” homes—taken from Palestinians after the crushing defeat of the Arabs in the 1967 war by the IDF. Compounding matters was evidence of the latest settlement road plan that was going into effect in Occupied East Jerusalem even as we were driving right through it.

According to an Al Jazeera report:

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer with the Haifa-based Adalah legal centre, said that the map for the planned project indicates that the road will serve only Israelis and Israeli settlements.

The plan will wipe out all the roads that connect the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem together, turning the areas into islands that will be geographically and economically disconnected, making it difficult for Palestinians to access their schools and health centres, she told Al Jazeera.

Nabeel Basheer, another resident of Salaa, mentions in the same report how the ultimate Israeli goal of connecting its settlements also entails the demolition of Palestinian homes, which ofcourse, the project plans do not mention.

Israel frequently uses home demolitions to control and punish Palestinians living under its occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Since 1967, when Israel occupied the Palestinian territories, at least 48,000 Palestinian homes and housing structures have been demolished.

The reasons that the Israeli state gives to the homeowners vary – from building without permits to punishment for an attack.

Already the bitter reality, as our friend underscores to us, is that after Oslo, only 25% of its total land has been left to the Palestinians—which this continued Israeli carving up of cities like East Jerusalem, is further removing from Palestinian ownership.

We pull up in front of a hidden gem called the Jerusalem Hotel run by an old friend of our friend, and we are charmed by its quaint, rustic feel, complete with an ornate wooden entrance door draped in green vines, an a monastic interior that was delightfully cool after the heat outdoors. The garden café was very cool and shady and we sat and ordered some delicious fresh mint lemonade to cool off as we waited for the owner, Raed Saadeh, who turns out to be a gracious host and most charming and knowledgeable guide as he leads our little band by foot on what he calls an “alternative tour” of the old city. I felt so sad to learn that he was a 100,000$ in debt—a consequence of the economic choking mechanisms practiced on Palestinian Israelis with increasing efficiency and success by the Israeli government, in the hopes to get them to leave.

As we begin our walking tour on a day getting hotter by the second, he points out the famous Schmidt School across from his hotel where Hanan Ashrawi and other famous Palestinians went to school, and then as we cross over to the Suleiman Gate, he tells us a bit about the history of the city of Jerusalem which dates back to the 4th century BC and is thus one of the oldest cities in the world.

As we entered the old city through Herod’s gate, Raed looked at me and said, “See that building?” I smiled, noticing the plaque that read “Indian House” and then he proceeded to tell us that this had been a Zawwiya that came into being in memory of Baba Farid Ganjshakar of the Chishtia order of Sufis, who walked in to Jerusalem on a visit around the year 1200 all the way from India, shortly after Saladin (Salah-uddin) had sacked the Crusader armies and forced them out of the city. Baba Farid apparently spent his time here sweeping the floors around the Al Aqsa mosque, from whence Prophet Mohammed supposedly made his ascent to Heaven on the winged steed, Al-Buraq. Strange to think of my ancestor Baba Farid here, all those centuries ago…I know my father’s side of the family claims we are his descendants.

And as we walked inside the old city lanes and byways, we noticed Israeli flags planted on buildings that our friends explained, signal possession of homes of Palestinian residents by settlers who seize these properties if their residents leave even for a few days. Raed made sure to point out many other buildings and signs that announced the presence of Sufis in this city who flourished here during the Mamluk and Ottoman eras when a more tolerant spirituality prevailed. We walked on the path known as the Via Dolorosa, along which are marked the stations of the Cross past which Jesus Christ is supposed to have hauled his wooden cross, all the way up to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Rather irreverently, I kept expecting Mel Gibson to make an appearance, and was thankful to finally reach the church where we entered with a throng of other tourists and worshippers to observe the spot where Jesus was believed to have been crucified; then descended to the spot where his battered body was supposedly laid to rest in a trough-like surface and where women old and young were now rubbing pieces of cloth and other objects as they bent their foreheads to the trough, kissing it, and looking much like Muslim worshippers performing the sijda.

From there, after catching our breath and gulping down bottles of ice-cold water Raed procured for us, we proceeded to walk through yet more maze-like alleyways to the region of the Al-Aqsa mosque, running into surly-looking Israeli soldiers to whom Raed explained we were Muslims wishing to enter the mosque. We finally made it to the mosque entrance, where Raed and our male colleague had to wait outside as this was a Muslims-only entrance. Us three women were grilled by the man guarding the entrance to recite some ayahs to prove we were indeed Muslims, then ordered to cover every stray hair on our heads and button up our clothing in such a way that not one millimeter of bare skin should be visible. I however, became quite visibly agitated by these commands but was told by our Palestinian friend to remember that the reason the man was behaving this way was a reaction to the instances when extremist Jews had made their way into the mosque and opened fire on worshippers. The sun beat down on us mercilessly as we huffed and puffed our way into the sanctuary of the ancient mosque, where it was all I could do to muster my will to pray to a God that seemed to have forsaken the Holy Land and its inhabitants a very long time ago.

The cab driver who Raed hires to drive us back to Ramallah after we’ve finished our walking tour of the city, and caught our breath in the welcome shade of his hotel’s garden patio, washing away the angry heat by downing cold beer and lemonade before getting in the cab– tells our colleague upon finding out he is from Britain:

“It’s the British who are to blame for what you see around you here!”

Our English friend smilingly accepts the verdict, upon which the cabbie throws him a bone: “well, your Galloway is great…” referring to the progressive politician George Galloway, he continues,

“his shoes are better than all the Palestinian and Arab leaders put together!”

Like other Palestinians we’d met throughout our visit, our cab driver drives home his disgust of the Palestinian Authority leadership, spitting out,

“the PA is there to do Israel’s dirty job- they are only interested in taking money, they don’t care for their own people and indeed, they have been brought to power to kill the possibility of Palestinian independence/freedom.”

We are now approaching the Qalandia checkpoint, since all other roads are closed. The cabbie grins as we stay stuck in traffic for an awfully long time, observing the Palestinians without passes or access to Israeli number-plate cars (like us)—having to get down from their vehicles as they try to make the crossing from the other side into Jerusalem and walk across a barbed wire tunnel on the road, guarded by white teenage Israelis in soldier uniforms, holding guns too big for their bodies, swaggering and laughing and slapping each other in the male sport of militarist bravado.

Sensing our exhaustion and ennui, our cabbie announces,

“Because of what Britain did a 100 years ago, you all are suffering now because a 15 minute journey is taking you an hour and a half!”

Qalandia camp is full of poverty and crime as no one provides its residents even basic services, and Israelis turn a blind eye (encourage?) the proliferation and easy access to drugs in these areas designated as “C” areas due to their proximity to Israeli border.  These areas are not under Palestinian jurisdiction either, therefore the PA does not provide any public services here either. It is basically like the Wild West we’re told—or maybe like the Black ghettoes of inner city America. The only encouraging sign in this desolate, depressing area is a sign we pass once the traffic starts to move, on a wall advertising classes in Parkour and Capoeira—a sign that some strategies of physical resistance are present here.  Practicing ways to jump over walls—Amen to that!

Our final evening in Ramallah after we get back from Jerusalem, rest for a bit, shower and change, is spent enjoying dinner consisting of an incredible dish prepared fresh for us at a local restaurant. It’s called Makhloubeh—an upside-down one-dish meal made with eggplant, rice, onions and meat. Mouth-wateringly divine it was, and the local white wine we ordered to wash it down was cool and delicious. It was good to be able to unwind over a wonderful meal with each other after an amazing but trying day.

Indeed, one could use the same words to describe the entire trip. It was so important and amazing to have been able to get to historic Palestine, the cradle of the three great monotheistic faiths, to have been able to witness Israeli settler occupation and its effects up close and personal, to have spent time with amazing residents of the Occupied Territories and to see and feel their pain as well as witness their resilience. But it was also an emotionally overwhelming experience.

The drive out to the Jericho border the next morning with my two colleagues, was nerve wracking because of long delays and traffic jams due to the Nakba Day strike. Then once we finally arrived at the Jericho, facing the Israelis border authorities was tension-provoking as anything could go wrong at any minute, and the Gestapo-headquarters feel of the border office was palpable to all three of us. After we made it out without incident, and reached a hotel on the Dead Sea in Jordan where we decided to stop for coffee and breakfast before getting to the Amman airport to catch our respective flights, we all let out a collective sigh of relief at having made it out safely.  The writing instructor captured our sentiments exactly; as she put it, “I’m glad I went; but I’m glad I’m out.”

We are the lucky ones. We can enter and exit Resident Evil.  How do we defeat it, you ask? By becoming anamnesiacs in solidarity.

Fawzia Afzal-Khan holds a Phd in English from Tufts University, is University Distinguished Scholar at Montclair State University in NJ, and currently a Visiting Professor of the Arts at New York University in Abu Dhabi.

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Pax Christi, Catholic NGO, Condemns Israeli Occupation…plus…another Palestinian Girl Shot

[ Ed. note – Pax Christi, the Catholic peace group, has issued a press release today calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Overall I’d say it’s a good press release, although I do have a few minor criticisms. While the press release refers to the “occupied Palestinian territories,” it doesn’t say whether it includes East Jerusalem in that.

Additionally, while it does include a quote about “steady settlement expansion,” it also calls for “the parties to return to the negotiating table”–which is precisely what Israel has been calling for as well. While Palestinians had previously demanded that Israel halt its settlement expansions before resuming peace talks, apparently this demand was dropped by PA President Mahmoud Abbas during his meeting with Trump earlier this month. I personally think it would be unwise for the Palestinians to resume negotiations without a commitment to halt to the settlement building as a precondition, and I think the press release could have been improved upon had it mentioned at least that this had been one of the key demands in the past.

Finally, the press release calls for “a ban on the sale and delivery of arms to Israel and Palestine.” I guess the Pax Christi folks are trying to avoid criticism of taking sides, but it’s absurd to include such a call. No country is currently shipping arms to Palestine. On the other hand, the US just last year signed a $38 billion military aid package to Israel. Far better would it have been for the press release to call for an end to all aid to Israel, or, failing that, at least an end to all military aid to Israel–and leave it at that.

Still all in all for a prominent Catholic organization like Pax Christi to call for an end to the occupation is a milestone. As the article below from Ma’an News makes clear, Pax Christi isn’t the only organization to issue such a call. The British aid organization Oxfam has also done so. Both calls, from Pax Christi and Oxfam, were issued in conjunction with the upcoming 50 anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the 1967 war.

Both calls also, by the way, come as Israelis have just shot another young Palestinian girl. I don’t have any information on the incident other than what’s in the two tweets, but I’m assuming something will be coming out pretty soon. ]

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‘We Must Not Let Another 50 Years Pass’: NGOs Condemn Israeli Occupation

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Days ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, Catholic NGO Pax Christi International called the dire humanitarian situation brought on by the occupation “not sustainable,” and called for renewed peace talks.

Meanwhile, NGO Oxfam slammed the international community’s inaction during the past five decades, whose “toothless” condemnations of Israeli violations of human rights and “Band-Aid humanitarian solutions” it blamed for the continuation of the occupation half a century on.

June 5 is remembered by Palestinians as “Naksa” Day, meaning “setback,” marking the Israeli invasion and occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and the Golan Heights that began on June 5, 1967 during the Six-Day War, displacing some 300,000 Palestinians, as well as thousands of Syrians, from their homes.

Since then, Pax Christi wrote, “the international community has been witness to the denial of human rights and the deterioration of conditions throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The Christian NGO quoted a statement by UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories Michael Lynk from earlier this month, which detailed the “systemic human rights violations that accompany this occupation — collective punishment, confiscation of property, excessive use of force and unlawful killings, lack of freedom of movement and steady settlement expansion, among others.”

“We are commemorating a sad milestone this month with 50 years of devastating occupation. It is urgent that it is resolved, as for both Palestinians and Israelis their future and hope depend on it,” Pax Christi International Co-President Marie Dennis said in a statement on Thursday. “This is the moment for an increased commitment to reach a just and sustainable solution in accordance with international law.”

Pax Christi went on to “strongly” recommend a ban on weapons sales to Israel and Palestine and an end to any military cooperation with either party as a means to apply international pressure to obtain a resolution — likely alluding in part to the unprecedented $38 billion American military aid package to Israel signed in September.

Meanwhile, Oxfam Country Director Chris Eijkemans said in a statement on Thursday that the lack of international accountability for Israel’s illegal occupation, including through the lack of effectiveness of foreign NGOs, played a major role in the continuation of the conflict.

“There are few examples of poverty or injustice in the OPT (occupied Palestinian territory) that do not stem from the occupation. If it weren’t for the occupation, most aid agencies would not need to be here,” Eijkemans said. “The issues facing Palestinians are enormous and complex, but on each count, despite the billions of dollars invested, the lives of Palestinians cannot meaningfully improve as long as the occupation persists.”

“The international community shoulders a large portion of the blame for the ongoing situation faced by 4.5 million Palestinians living in the OPT and must take clear and urgent action. Toothless condemnation of the litany of abuses is not enough,” Eijkemans added.

Continued here

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Pax Christi International in collaboration with its members, calls for the immediate end of the 50-year Israeli occupation and for a renewed peace process

Pax Christi press release

In this month of the commemoration of 50 years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, Pax Christi International in collaboration with its members, urges the international community to call for the immediate end of the 50-year Israeli occupation and for the parties to reengage in a peace process in compliance with international law.

Brussels, June 1stBeginning with the Six Day war, 5-10 June, 1967, five decades of military occupation in disregard for international laws and U.N. resolutions and the willful expansion of settlements has led to dire conditions on the ground that systematically violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.

“It is time for the international community to say, ‘Enough!’”, states Pax Christi International, in the light of this month’s 50th anniversary of the occupation.

This call comes at a moment when commemorative activities are being held around the world to raise awareness of the impact that five decades of occupation has had on the lives of Palestinians. In this symbolic month, Pax Christi International calls for governments, civil society and all people of good will to exercise their influence, through any means available – political, economic, public and private advocacy – to seek an end to the occupation.

For 50 years the international community has been witness to the denial of human rights and the deterioration of conditions throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.  We have watched the slow ebbing of hope as lives are damaged by the policies of this occupation which:

  • deny freedom of movement;
  • limit access to critical services, especially health care;
  • monitor and curtail access to basic necessities, especially water and electricity;
  • diminish opportunities for education and employment;
  • obstruct normal family life and the exercise of religious worship;
  • negatively affect the Palestinian economic infrastructure, especially in the agricultural sector;
  • punish legitimate, nonviolent expressions of resistance and protest;
  • and impose regulations that create segregation and inequality.

Recently, Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, has expressed his deep concern about the deteriorating situation: “The systemic human rights violations that accompany this occupation – collective punishment, confiscation of property, excessive use of force and unlawful killings, lack of freedom of movement and steady settlement expansion, among others – are intensifying an already perilous situation.”[1]

Rania Giacaman Murra, Director of the Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem, explains,

“The occupation severely affects especially Palestinian youth and women. Palestinian children and youth don’t know how it was before the occupation, what it means to live in a land without walls, how it feels to breath the air of the sea, what it means to pray as Muslims and Christians without being checked and humiliated at checkpoints. Mothers often live in fear that their children will not come back home safe, that they are killed or injured or humiliated.”

The current situation is not sustainable. Reaching a political solution is the only path to peace.

Therefore, Pax Christi International calls for the parties to return to the negotiating table to establish a peace agreement that recognises and protects the human dignity and rights of the Palestinian and Israeli people as equals. We believe that the revival of a peace process must be based on a steadfast commitment to abide by international law and U.N. resolutions.

To promote and support such efforts for peace, Pax Christi International strongly recommends a ban on the sale and delivery of arms to Israel and Palestine and an immediate cessation of any military cooperation which contributes to violent conflict.

Marie Dennis, Co-president of Pax Christi International, stated:

“We are commemorating a sad milestone this month with 50 years of devastating occupation. It is urgent that it is resolved, as for both Palestinians and Israelis their future and hope depend on it. This is the moment for an increased commitment to reach a just and sustainable solution in accordance with international law.”

In recognition of this solemn occasion and to highlight the impact of 50 years of occupation Pax Christi International and its members will be involved in a number of activities and events. An overview can be found here

Contact: Alice Kooij Martinez, Senior Advocacy Officer, Email: a.kooij@paxchristi.net

Trump’s Art of the Deal: Selling Wars and Terrorism

The  Man 0f Shalom = Peace for JEWS

By Finian Cunningham

May 25, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – It would be funny if it were not so sickening. US President Donald Trump’s whirlwind tour through the Middle East was a “triumph” of make-believe rhetoric over reality. Donald “the peace-maker” is sowing decades of further violence in the war-torn region.

The horrific repercussions of American foreign policy are all around us, from the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories to the ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, to the latest terror attack in Britain where 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester.

With a typical inane understanding of the web of international terrorism that American foreign policy has generated over many years, Trump glibly condemned the bombing atrocity in Manchester as the work of “losers.”

Trump – on his first overseas tour as president – regaled Middle East leaders with florid words about peace and prosperity and a faux pretense of historical appreciation, referring to the region as thecradle of civilization,” a sacred land and rich heritage.”

There were minimal details in how Trump would achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, or defeat terrorism in the Middle East. It was all the just feel-good rhetoric that papered over the systemic causes of conflict and terrorism.

The one tangible takeaway was the American president’s mammoth arms deal signed with Saudi Arabia – $350 billion-worth over ten years. It was hailed as the biggest ever weapons contract, with an initial payment of $110 billion. Put in perspective, Trump is selling the Saudi rulers a total three times what Obama managed to achieve over his two administrations – some $115 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia, which itself was a record high.

The proposed weapons supply is truly staggering, not least because of their destination to a regime up to its eyes in terror sponsorship.

During his next stop to Israel, Trump’s entourage visited the Wailing Wall abutting East Jerusalem, thus giving Washington’s imprimatur to the creeping annexation of the entire city by the state of Israel. Moves are underway to shift the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in what would sound the death knell for Palestinian aspirations to claim East Jerusalem (al-Quds) as the capital of a future independent state.

That would also signal the abandonment of long-standing US policy avowedly advocating a two-state solution. Something which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rightwing Likud government are lobbying for. Everything about Trump’s kowtowing indicates he is a willing patron to Israeli expansionism.

From Jerusalem, Trump drove to the Israeli-occupied West Bank where he met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. Families protesting the incarceration of hundreds of hunger-striking Palestinians by Israel were kept at bay, while Trump delivered the ultimatum: “Peace can never take root where violence is tolerated.

Trump would never have the integrity or understanding to deliver the same ultimatum to Saudi and Israeli leaders. Even though the admonishment of “not tolerating violence” there is manifold more pertinent and meaningful.

During the past fifty years since the Six Day War, America has condoned the relentless illegal annexation of land by Israel. The last round of futile “peace talks” ended in failure in 2014, when then US Secretary of State John Kerry adopted the usual policy of turning a blind eye to Israeli settlements and military occupation. The Trump administration is prepared to capitulate even further.

The Saudi and other Arab rulers are also jettisoning any pretense at pursuing a just peace accord for Palestinians.

They utter not a word of protest over Israel’s land grabs and moves to kill off Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem – the site of Islam’s third holy

Trump’s visit to the Middle East – ahead of his trip to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis and then NATO leaders in Brussels – is yet another sign of a geopolitical realignment. It seems an antiquated notion that Saudi Arabia and allied Arab regimes are somehow in opposition to Israel. As if the former are defenders of Arab and Muslim rights.

What’s going down is a tawdry tie-up in the region between American-backed client regimes. This has nothing to do with forging peace and all about consolidating Washington’s hegemony over the oil-rich region. That hegemony is primarily underpinned by Washington’s militarization and saturated selling of weaponry.

Significantly, the $350 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia caused no concern for Netanyahu’s government.

How can it hurt?” Amos Gilad, a former Israel defense official, told the Times of Israel. For now, there’s an alliance between the US and the Arab world against Iran, said Gilad.

The Times also quoted Yaakov Amidror, the former national security adviser to Netanyahu, as saying, Israel has no reason to worry about the massive Saudi-US arms deals.” He added that the latest Saudi arms deal could help pave the way for Israeli-Arab cooperation in the future.

Besides, Washington’s strategic doctrine is that Israel will always be given US priority to retain a so-called qualitative military edge over all other states in the region. That means US arms transfers to its Arab allies will be met with ever-more military aid to Israel, which currently clocks about $3.8 billion a year.

In other words, Trump’s arms dealing are a win-win for the US, more than ever. Mammoth sales to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab monarchies will drive up American weapons business with Israel. But a virtuous circle for Washington is a vicious cycle for the region whereby an already militarized conflict zone is being deluged with American firepower.

Given that the US-backed regimes are in various ways indelibly connected to territorial strife, sectarian conflict and in particular the sponsorship of Wahhabi terror groups it is almost certain that Trump’s reckless weapons trading will fuel more violence. It is well documented that Saudi Arabia serves as a conduit for American weaponry to Al-Qaeda-affiliated terror networks in Syria and elsewhere.

Still more ominous is how Trump’s military racket is pushing the region into a war with Iran. This fatuous president is giving full vent to Israeli and Saudi propaganda accusing Iran of “fueling the fires of sectarian conflict and terror” in the region, citing Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. This is a breath-taking inversion of reality, given the nefarious role of Saudi Arabia in those same countries.

In the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Trump called on assembled Arab regimes to stamp out terror by targeting Iran for regime change.

While in Jerusalem, Trump said:

There is a growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have a common enemy with you in the threat posed by Iran.

Israel premier Netanyahu also remarked that

old enemies [sic] have become allies against a common enemy.

We can be sure that the “common enemy” spoken of is not terrorism, but rather Iran.

Donald Trump, the business tycoon-turned-president, never stops boasting about his prowess on boosting the “bottom line.” He may well boost the profits of American weapons manufacturers by flooding the Middle East with ever-more military arms. But the bottom line for the region and beyond is more wars, destruction, and bloodshed.

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.

This article was first published by RT

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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General Strike in Palestine as Yarmulke-Wearing Trump Visits Western Wall

 

Trump, along with his wife and daughter, have visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, with the president sporting a Jewish yarmulke–this as Palestinians prisoners are on day 36 of a hunger strike and as people throughout the occupied territories held a general strike in solidarity with the prisoners.

Mothers refusing food in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. “I cannot eat while my sons are starving,”

In Manger Square in Bethlehem, protestors gathered to protest Trump, who is scheduled to make a stop there tomorrow.

“We came to tell you that the one who decides the fate of Palestinian people are the Palestinian refugee camps and not the Americans, the cause of the camps is the cause of all Palestinians,” said one protestor.  “The fate of Jerusalem can’t be decided by Trump, for Jerusalem is Arab; Jerusalem is Palestinian, and we decide its fate, not the Americans. The only ones who supported Palestinian people are the heroic prisoners, they are strugglers, fighting with only their bodies.”

Meanwhile, US and Israeli companies are reportedly working together to siphon off natural gas from Gaza’s territorial waters, while a 16-year-old Palestinian boy has been shot and killed after allegedly attempting to carrying out a stabbing of Israeli forces at a check point near Bethlehem. Additionally, some Some 20 other people were shot and injured as protestors attempted to march from the West Bank city of Ramallah to Israel’s Qalandiya checkpoint. Witnesses said Israeli soldiers fired at the demonstrators, using live ammunition as well as rubber coated steel bullets, from rooftops overlooking the main street .

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu greeted Trump and then told reporters that he and the president share a “commitment to peace.” Palestinians have called for a second “day of rage” to coincide with Trump’s visit to the West Bank on Tuesday.

So are these unruly Palestinians just illogical, irrational anti-Semites who simply hate Jews for no reason–or are their protests, hunger strikes, and days of rage motivated in some manner by Jewish behavior? I wonder if Trump, Ivanka, or Melania pondered that question in their visit to the Western Wall? Probably not.

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