Thursday, June 17, 2010

An Email to My Dad

Dear Dad,

I left Palestine five days ago, forced out of my chosen home because I am not Jewish and so do not merit a work visa, this according to Ministry of Interior from which I sought the visa. At my desk now with the computer in front of me and just beyond it the TV, I watch the same story over and over.

The Israeli military storms an activist boat full of humanitarian aid. No one knows how many dead--up to 19 it is thought. Dozens wounded. There's no information except what the Israelis offer. Ehud Barak and five other Israeli officials are played with different backdrops but the same lines: "We did all we could avoid this." "These were not activists but terrorists." "They attacked us. Blame the instigators." I stare at the screen in shock. I know these to be blatant lies. It doesn't take much intelligence to see the logical fallacies in the state line.

Then my shock is replaced by the growing nausea in my belly. It's been sitting in my gut for days but now as it shifts, I feel I might not be able to go down to dinner or leave this room. I look around at my daily life and I think how it seems and sometimes feels so normal because it is our reality: the Jewish settlement across the hill, one of hundreds that steal land illegally and yet continue to be built and expanded; the murders and imprisonments, deportations and beatings with rarely a name attached to the body. How is this normal?

Dad, I've put my heart and soul, my income and energy, my very life into this place, believing that one must not only speak about justice but must lead a life that contributes to a more just world. But I feel helpless and wholly hopeless.

They crushed Rachel Corrie and they left the blade down as they reversed over her broken and gasping body. They shot my friend's five-year-old nephew in the back from less than 5 feet away. They massacred 1,400 people last year in Gaza, "guarding" one family in a house with parents dead and children starving to death. I watched a boy bleed to death 6 years ago, shot and then blocked off by the soldiers who waited for his death. And I have seen nothing of the horrors Israelis have done over the last century.

Dad, do you believe in justice?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Long time gone...

I know I haven't written in forever. What to write? When to write?

Today a grown man cried as he told of his mother's exhaustion, walking and walking--having been expelled from her home in 1948. He was one year old. She was too tired. She couldn't go on. She set her child under a tree and dragged herself on, relieved of his weight. The child stayed under the tree alone, witness to the massive expulsion. But his ten year old sister came back for him and bore his weight on her hip.

We were just eating lunch. His age came up and then...then he started telling of how he was one when the Nakba happened. 62 years ago. And how he was left. And how his poor mother was so tired that she would leave her own child. And how she was not alone in this. How could she? How could she not?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas! Santa and Reindeer... Oh, What? No Santa?

To make reindeer food, combine 1 c. glitter, 3 c. raw oats, and 1 c. sugar. Mix well and sprinkle on grass or roof tops.

On Christmas Eve my sister is making reindeer food for Dasher and Dancer and cookies for Santa--just to make sure they find the place. It's always smart to entice the animals as well as the old man. I thought about making some too. I mean, really it's a great idea! I asked her if she thought Santa would make it here. Would it be a waste of cookies and glittery oats? We were being silly, but her response took the humor out of the conversation for a second.


I stopped laughing. Why not? I guess Palestine is a bit sealed off. And if Santa flies, the likelihood he'll get shot down by the Israeli military which controls our airspace is pretty high. And that would be awful, for the whole world, not just Palestine. So, I guess the children in Palestine can forget Santa again this year because if they insist on his visiting, the rest of the world might lose their presents for tomorrow, and forever. So, we'll talk to the kids and ask them to forgo gifts again. After all, it's nothing new. They are used to being forgotten and sacrificed. And sadly, they aren't alone in the world.

I never thought about it before, but I guess Santa only has time for so called first world countries. But then again, he used to come here. But that was before...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Irony

I love it really. On my igoogle homepage I have various headlines. On the left: "Obama Approves $30 Billion Defense Aid for Israel." From another news source on the right: "Israeli pleads guilty to leaking classified U.S. documents." I do not understand the relationship between these two countries. The US is consistently screwed over by Israel and yet pledges absurd support. Moral of the story: don't ask why.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Teaching Under Occupation

I mean really, how the hell am I supposed to teach like this? I gave this bullshit speech in class today, our last class of the semester, and I believed it until now:

"No matter what your grade, you became better. You are better writers, better readers, better students. You are better, and that is success. Your points do not reflect that, so even if you think you have failed, please remember that you did improve and THAT is the success that counts."

Bullshit. I really feel right now that it's all bullshit. Maybe I can say those words in another world. But their points do matter, and those kids deserve more from us. And in the end, is there really any way to succeed here, points or none? Why do we have a system that defeats them? Is it not enough that we have a country, an occupier, a world that defeats them?


After class and I'm in my office. Students come. Some need papers they didn't pick up. Some have a question. Many wait. After a few, I walk out to grab some tea. I see one. I smile broadly, "Ahlan!" (Welcome) I usher him into my office. I'll get the tea later.

He looks at me with an exhausted face, smiling barely, his eyes framed by huge bags of fatigue. "What happened to you?" I say as I bend down to rummage through stacks of papers to return him his. "Didn't want to come to class, so you slept in?" He reaches into his pocket and produces a paper. I immediately assume it's a doctor's note. About to give him hell for being absent too many days and how that note is not going to help him pass, my eye catches the Hebrew in between lines of Arabic. I look up and stare into his face. His exhaustion is more obvious by the second.

He opens his mouth, "The Israelis had me." I nod like I understand but inside I'm on fire, "AGAIN?! HOW MANY OF MY STUDENTS ARE THE ISRAELIS GOING TO FUCKING TAKE?!" I invite him to sit, pushing a chair towards him. I immediately launch into a list of how we can catch him up, but my eyes catch his and I shut up.

"Are you okay?" and I touch his arm. "Really, are you okay?"

He nods, unconvincingly, "Yea, it's all good."

I laugh, a tortured laugh, because it's not. It's really not all good. "Listen," I tell him, "We need to talk. Not today. You need to relax and sleep first. Can you see me Saturday?" He nods. "Did you turn in your essay? Yes, right? You only missed one class, or was it two?"

"No, I missed three."

"How long did they have you?"

"They make me come everyday. I'll tell you the story another time."

"Bring the essay to me when you are ready. I don't want rushed and crappy. Do your best. If that takes time, it takes time. Bring it when you can."

He nods again.

"Saturday then?"

He nods and leaves.

Now it's my turn to nod. I begin to cry. It is a luxury I am not able to indulge. A former student walks by, sees me and smiles--tears in her eyes. I invite her to sit with me. We talk and I see that today someone has broken another piece of her, and I know really it's all bullshit. There is no success here. No possibility for success. If the Israelis don't have them, the Palestinians have them. If the Palestinians don't have them, the families, teachers, anyone else who can is beating them down--and I'm right there kicking.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Call to Action and an Inspiration

Please read (this is related to Palestine in so far as you can see the connection between all human suffering, especially at the hands of other humans). This was written by someone special to me:

During the last 10 days I've seen several things on the streets that make me step back and say "Wow!" I saw a carjacking or robbery about 40ft. from me and then people were yelling and running everywhere in a panic, one hour later someone shot off a gun very near to me and I was the only person who seemed to jump...and I jumped pretty high. There are always the drunks and the drug users and the fights and yelling and all the other things that seem to consume the streets, but last night I saw something that I've never seen before and quite frankly I wouldn't expect to see it in San Francisco. We came upon a person under a dark piece of plastic by the bus station and we asked as we always do, "Salvation Army are you hungry?" and the plastic started moving until a man’s face became clear to me. He said, “Yes, I'm very hungry and in his hands he was holding a dead pigeon that he had been trying to eat with the feathers and all. Let me just say that in my heart, this is not right and I am greatly disturbed to see somebody having to do this to survive. It almost made me sick.

I slept very little last night thinking about this and I want to share my thoughts about a few things with you. Some who read this might be board members, council member, officers, soldiers, employees or supporters. In some way we're all on the same team and in some way you're all working hard to make our city or state or world a better place and I thank you for all that you do. I believe that there has been no greater time in history than now for The Salvation Army. People are hungry, people are lost and people are sick and all of us are in some way part of the only Army in the world that can do something about the social ills that seem to be everywhere around us. I challenge you to hit the streets and reach out to those who are down and out, and to those who are up and out. The Salvation Army marches, they just don't sit in offices, The Salvation Army fights for those who can't fight for themselves and The Salvation Army does not retreat in the face of overwhelming odds. There are people everywhere that are counting on this Army...The Salvation Army. We'll march into war with bibles and food and love and compassion and we will not be stopped. Thank you all for your support, because I couldn't do what I do if you didn't do what you do. God bless.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Walk in the Hills

I went on a beautiful hike yesterday led by Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh. In his book, he paints a vivid picture not only of the landscape of Palestine, but of its continuing destruction at the hands of the Israeli state for the purpose of settlement construction.

As we hiked up hillsides and down into wadis throughout the morning, I found myself lost in the beauty and tranquility. Mounting our last hilltop, we walked along a terrace, a layer in the side of the hill that was planted with olive trees. I paused and looked up the few layers above me to the top of the hill. Then I glanced over at another hill top, cleared of its lovely terraces and ancient olive trees, which were razed and replaced with identical concrete constructions--an unnatural and intrusive settlement. I returned my gaze to my hillside thinking how the hill on which that settlement stands looked like the one on which I paused now, and just a few years ago at that. I wondered, how long will these trees stand before they too are cut with chainsaw and the land dug up and reformed with concrete?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gaza--it's still here.

Perhaps we in America have the privilege to contain wars. We have a luxury in perceiving Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, any of them--from a distant place and separating ourselves from what happens "over there." Sure, our "boys" are involved but we really aren't. Moreover, even though the Iraq "war" for example is not finished, we don't have to think about it daily, we don't have to feel frightened or threatened by it, and we certainly do not have to weigh its costs, effects, or consequences as we would have to were it to have transpired on our land.

Over here, war is a continuing, daily event. It's not even an event anymore, it's just life. And certainly the effects are ongoing, real and very immediate. I was watching this piece today and I thought about how on tv it seems distant, like a documentary about something far away in space and time. But it's not really far away because the occupation, the violence, the suffering, the war, the grief--none of it has ended.

Yesterday I went to a demonstration against the Palestinian Authority who has decided not to support the UN Goldstone Report on Gaza. I've never felt such hopelessness here. I'm not sure what we are fighting for anymore. I'm not sure how much longer I can raise my voice when there are so few voices shouting from within these walls and outside of them. Then I saw a man wearing a black shirt and I started screaming louder. It said: "Remember Gaza."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Update on Mohammad Othaman's Arrest

Joint Addameer and “Stop the Wall” Update on the Arrest of Human Rights Defender and Activist Mohammad Othman

[Ramallah, 30 September 2009] On Tuesday 29 September 2009, a court hearing at Kishon (Jalameh) interrogation center extended Mohammad Othman’s detention period for 10 days. A long-time human rights defender, Mohammad Othman, aged 33, was arrested on 22 September 2009 at the Allenby Bridge Border Crossing between Jordan and the West Bank. Mohammad, who is an activist with the “Grassroots Stop the Wall Campaign”, was on his way back to Ramallah from an advocacy tour in Norway where he had been engaged in a number of speaking events.

At the court hearing in Kishon, the Israeli interrogation police did not provide any reason for Mohammad’s arrest, but contended that an extension of his detention period was necessary for further interrogation. The military judge rejected the interrogators’ initial request to extend Mohammad’s detention period to 23 additional days, arguing that no clear allegations exist as only two short interrogation sessions had taken place during the previous eight days of his detention. The judge did agree, however, to a 10 day extension period, based on “secret information” that was made available to him by representatives from the Israeli Security Agency (ISA). Addameer attorney Samer Sam’an, who represented Mohammad at the court hearing in Kishon, questioned the ISA officers about the content of the undisclosed information and the reasons for Mohammad’s detention, but received no answer.


On 24 September 2009, Mohammad was transferred from Huwwara provisional detention centre to Kishon interrogation centre, located near Haifa in northern Israel. He was subsequently placed in solitary confinement. On 27 September 2009, five days after his arrest, he was interrogated for the first time. In the interrogation session, which lasted less than one hour, Mohammad was questioned about his friends and family and was asked to provide their telephone numbers along with his personal e-mail address. In addition, the interrogators asked Mohammad broad questions about his work. The second interrogation session, which took place a few hours before Mohammad’s court hearing on 29 September, lasted just 40 minutes and featured the same questions as his first interrogation.

Considering that, eight days after Mohammad’s arrest, Israeli authorities have been unable to cite any legitimate suspicions or allegations to justify his detention, both Addameer and Stop the Wall contend that Mohammad’s arrest was arbitrary and therefore illegal under applicable international law. Addameer and Stop the Wall also reaffirm their previously stated position that Mohammad was arrested because of his high-profile advocacy work, both locally and internationally, as a human rights defender voicing opposition to Israel’s ongoing human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory, including those resulting from the continuing, illegal construction of the Annexation Wall inside the West Bank.


Addameer and Stop the Wall contend that Mohammad’s arrest should be viewed in a wider context of persistent Israeli repression against Palestinian human rights defenders and activists who, like Mohammad, have been successful in their lobbying efforts, at home and abroad, against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, Israel’s continuation of land confiscation and the illegal construction of the Annexation Wall. For example, on 20 July 2009, Mohammad Srour, a member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Ni’lin, a village west of Ramallah affected by the construction of the Annexation Wall, was detained by Israeli border officials while crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan and taken to Ofer prison for interrogation. Srour was released on bail three days later. Although Srour was not charged, the courts said they were likely going to charge him, but they did not say on what grounds or when. In its final report submitted to the Human Rights Council, the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict expressed its concern that Srour’s detention “may have been a consequence of his appearance before the Mission”. Indeed, on 6 July 2009, together with an Israeli activist, Srour testified before the Mission in Geneva and described the fatal shooting of two Ni’lin residents by Israeli forces during a demonstration in Ni’lin on 28 December 2008 protesting the Israeli aggression in Gaza. Srour’s arrest, like the arrest of Mohammad Othman, is an indication of the oppression levied against Palestinian human rights defenders and marks an increasing infringement by Israel of the Palestinian population’s rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to peaceful assembly as inscribed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Most importantly, Addameer and Stop the Wall fear that Mohammad could be held placed under indefinite administrative detention, without charge or trial, for a renewable period of one to six months. No justification other than an unsupported declaration that “the detainee poses a threat to the security of the State” or “area” would need to be provided for this to occur. Furthermore, it is clear from Addameer’s experience that Israel has regularly used administrative detention in the OPT to facilitate the detention of community activists and human rights defenders in cases where the prosecution lacks “sufficient” – or, more likely, “any” – evidence against them.

In light of the above, Addameer and Stop the Wall urge foreign government officials, including members of foreign representative offices to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and foreign Consulates in East Jerusalem, as well as representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament, human rights organizations and United Nations bodies to:

• Raise Mohammad Othman’s case in their official meetings with Israeli officials.
• Demand clarifications regarding the reason for Mohammad’s arrest and extended detention in official letters addressed to Israeli authorities.

For more information, please contact:

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
Tel: +972 (0)2 296 0446 / 297 0136

Stop the Wall Campaign
Tel: +972-2-2971505

Friday, September 25, 2009

Violence and the Land

Yesterday I went to see my friend's family in a village I haven't been to in a year maybe. I know the way well. A few summers ago I went there often. Driving around the West Bank is really quite horrifying because not only do you see manifest racism and apartheid as you drive on the settler roads only to be forced off of them to potholed dirt roads where Palestinians drive but you feel the anger that such racism and apartheid create. Sadly this is nothing new nor even shocking anymore. What so disturbed me yesterday was that in getting to this village we were blocked at multiple turns. Roads that were used just yesterday were now inaccessible after the Israeli military pushed heaps of trash, dirt and rocks into the path.

Turn around and try another route. We literally went in a wide circle around the village to the north then the west before circling back to the east. It was the same leaving: a huge circuit around that was utterly unnecessary. Solely frustrating. And for what? How can you learn the land when such violence is imposed on it, daily violence against land. How can you live when you don't know which way to go? The path to your house is new today, and again tomorrow. The path you walked as a child and are forbidden now from using with its destroyed trees and broken soil. They are destroying the land.

And when we left, a military jeep had blocked a road and stopped us. In Hebrew and Arabic he gruffly demanded my id then said to wait. In a line of cars, more time, more gas, more humanity stolen.


A word of thanks to all those who have supported me and helped get the word out about Mohammad. In times like these I'm proud of our community's ability to come together in our fight for justice. I'm also aware that we can and must do better and I look forward to our efforts to learn from this.

A special thank you to Laila for showing up in my moment of need with zero alcohol beer and kitkat bars! I particularly enjoyed the water martinis she made. A toast: to good friends and solidarity!

Mohammad's Arrest

Monday night I called Mohammad. He had just landed in Jordan at the airport. We talked. We laughed, said we'd see each other soon. Next morning I called again. Phone was off. Uncommon, very uncommon. I called maybe 30 or even 50 times throughout the day; every time the same message in Arabic telling me the phone was off. And I felt it in my gut. I knew he was arrested. At 2:30 I received a text message from him saying he was arrested. Phone was back off again. Then we all went into action. We have mobilized thousands of people for him, and for the cause. Mohammad is being held in administrative detention. Administrative detention is ugly and violent.

"Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial and is often based on ‘secret evidence’. Israeli Military Order 1591 empowers military commanders to detain Palestinians, including children as young as 12, for up to six months if they have ‘reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security require the detention’. The initial six month period can be extended by additional six-month periods indefinitely. This procedure denies the detainee the right to a fair trial and the ability to adequately challenge the basis of his or her detention.

"There are currently at least 387 Palestinian men, women and children in administrative detention. For more information visit the DCI-Palestine website at Freedom Now."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Free Mohammad Othman Now!

Yesterday, October 22, Mohammad Othman was detained and arrested by soldiers on the Allenby Bridge Crossing, the border from Jordan to Palestine. He was returning from a trip to Norway.

Mohammad, 33 years old, has dedicated the last ten years of his life to the defense of Palestinian human rights. His village, Jayyous, has lost most of its land to the Wall and the settlements. He has worked constantly to let the world know about the Israeli crimes against his people and has developed relations of international solidarity.

It is not the first time, Palestinian human rights defenders are arrested after trips abroad. Muhammad Srour, an eye witness to the killing of Arafat Khawaje, 22, and 20-year-old Mohammed Khawaje, who were both shot on a Gaza solidarity demonstration in Ni’lin on 28th December. He testified in front of the UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza and, in a clear act of reprisal, he was arrested on his way back. This strategy of arrests complements the overall policy of isolation of the Palestinian people behind checkpoints, walls and razor wire.

We call on international solidarity and human rights organizations to act immediately to bring attention to this case and advocate for the release of Mohammad Othman by:

Recommended Actions:

* Encourage others to join this campaign through petitions, demonstrations and / or letter writing / phone calling. Please provide them with contact information and details;
* Urge your representatives at consular offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem/Ramallah to demand the immediate release of Mohammad Othman. (For your consular contacts, see:;
* Let the Israeli Embassy in your country know that you are campaigning for Mohammad’s release and for a just and lasting peace based on international law.
* Bring the case of Palestine’s first BDS prisoner of conscience to the attention of local and national media outlets;
* Follow the blog and facebook to free Mohammad Othman to see the latest updates and action alerts.



Mohammad Othman, however, represents only one of the 11,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. More than 800 are being held in “administrative detention”, meaning that they are imprisoned (indefinitely) without charge. International solidarity has to hold Israel accountable and achieve an end to the large scale repression and mass imprisonment of Palestinians as part of their efforts to bring about an end to the occupation and the restoration of Palestinian rights.

Sample letter:

Dear x,

I am writing to you to express my deepest concern about the detainment of Mohammad Othman yesterday, September 22, at the border between Jordan and the West Bank. He was returning home after a visit in Norway.

I fear that the detainment of Mohammad Othman is a result of his peaceful criticism of violations of international law by Israeli authorities. The charges against him have not been made clear, but there is reason to believe that he is a prisoner of conscience, arrested solely for his human rights work through legal organizations. I therefore urge for the immediate and unconditional release of Mohammad Othman.

In the meantime, I ask that Mohammad Othman is protected from any form of torture or ill-treatment, and that his rights as a detainee are fully respected for as long as he remains in custody.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.

The International Red Cross delegations are here :

Tel Aviv
ICRC delegation
185, Hayarkon Street
TEL AVIV 63453

Tel.: (+972) 35 24 52 86
Fax: (+972) 35 27 03 70

Head of delegation: Mr WETTACH Pierre
Media contact persons: Ms SEGEV-EYTAN Yael
Mobile: (++972) 52 275 75 17
Languages spoken: Hebrew/English

ICRC mission
Nabi Shu'eib st. 8
Sheikh Jarrah district
PO Box 20253

Tel.: (+972 2) 59 17 900
Fax: (+972 2) 59 17 920

Head of mission: Ms AMSTAD Barbara
Media contact person: Ms BONEFELD Anne Sophie
Mobile: (++972) 52 601 91 50
Languages spoken: Arabic/English

ICRC office
Jalaa street 50 / 43 Rimal
PO Box 29

Tel.: (+ 972) 8 2828 874 or (+ 972) 8 2822 644/5
Fax.:(+972 ) 8 2828 884

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Obama's Israel - Palestine Policy

How is it possible that none of us have really noticed Obama's policies on the Middle East? I myself only realized two days ago that there is a dark, blurry void--a silence. On one issue and one issue only Obama is vocal: settlements. Headlines in Israel's Haaretz, the BBC's Middle East edition, Al Jazeera English--they all repeat Obama's firm demands that Israel halt settlement construction. They also report Israel's unwillingness, Palestine's frustration, and, now, Obama's likely lenience on the issue. And while we are all so busy watching this re-run, we fail to notice how this is the ONLY thing Obama has even articulated a position on. While we are so busy praising Obama and then qualifying how, well, at least he's better than Bush if not actually praise-worthy in terms of Middle East policy (cough, everything? but you could only really get better after Bush), we have utterly failed to realize that our critique is empty because his policy is absent. I've been researching Obama's position on Israel and Palestine and this is what I've found:

On Settlements: (Taken from "From Obama's Prizes For Israel Are Not 'Pressure'" By Ali Abunimah on 16 July 2009 in The Electronic Intifada)

"For months the focus has been on Obama's demand that Israel agree to a complete cessation of settlement construction, including the subterfuge called "natural growth." It was during a similar "freeze" in the early 1990s that Israel built thousands of settler housing units on occupied land. Arab optimism and Israeli anxiety were amplified as Obama and his Middle East Envoy George Mitchell said repeatedly that this time they wanted a total halt.

"Yet the firmness shows signs of erosion. Israeli press reports spoke of a "compromise" taking shape in which Israel would be allowed to complete thousands of already planned housing units. Although those reports were denied by the United States, several participants in the White House meeting said Obama alluded to an unspecified compromise in the works.

"Anything short of a complete cessation of settlement construction will mark an achievement for Israel; what is important is not the number of units the United States may approve, but the principle that this administration, like its predecessors, will license Israel's illegal colonization. Once that principle is established, Israel may present more faits accomplis and build at will.
And even if Israel does agree to a verifiable cessation, the US has structured the matter as a quid pro quo in which Israel is not required to do anything without receiving a reward. The president has appealed to Arab states to normalize ties with Israel if it freezes settlements, including opening diplomatic missions and allowing overflights by El Al aircraft (recall that when en route to bomb Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981, Israeli warplanes reportedly falsely identified themselves as commercial aviation)."

On Jerusalem: "The city is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths."
[According to Obama:] "any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state" and Jerusalem "must remain undividied" (AIPAC speech as democratic candidate). The next day, June 5, 2008, in a CNN interview Obama elaborated: "obviously, it's going to be up to he parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those genotiations...As a practical matter, it would be very difficult to execute [a division of the city]. And I think that it is smart for us to work through a system in which everybody has access tot eh extraordinary religious sites in Old Jerusalem but that Israel has a legitimate claim on that city." (Taken from Journal of Palestine Studies Vol. XXXVIII, No. 2 (Winter 2009))

On the Wall: The wall is not YET an issue Obama has taken up. The focus is first on settlement activity, and also to a far lesser degree on Jerusalem. There is a void on the construction of a violent structure that is devastating people economically and certainly politically--both now and in terms of any possible future.

And finally, on the Right of Return: dozens of Israeli sources report Obama's complete rejection of the Palestinian right of return. Rather he emphatically supports Israel as a Jewish state and believes in a second, neighboring Palestinian state--thus, those millions of Palestinian refugees whom the UN has repeatedly asserted have a legal right to return to their homes and lands from which they were dispossessed are denied by Obama--champion of change--in support of a racist, exclusive state which relies on apartheid and a violent occupation to enforce its settler colonial existence.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I cross the checkpoint to Jerusalem often enough. Sometimes I pay attention to the experience, angering--even boiling--from humiliation and frustration; other times I zone out and transport my mind to other thoughts, diverting my attention to avoid the anger of occupation, especially this one that puts so much effort into its violent colonization of land and people. But the last few times I've crossed, I couldn't ignore the reality in front of me: an old man, too old to stand in this line. Clearly straining to hold his own body weight, shuffling forward a few small steps and resting himself--hunched over, visibly weak and tired. Even he must stand in the line. Another man, much younger. Patches of hair had fallen out. A black eye patch hugged his left eye and a face mask covered his mouth. He looked so sick and frail. I wondered where he was going...the hospital for a check up after surgery? Perhaps on going treatment? Maybe the Palestinian hospital could no longer do anything for him and so he was sent across the checkpoint--the awful, animal cage of a checkpoint with shouting soldiers screaming at you "ONE AT A TIME. HEY GIRL, GO BACK!!!!" There is no sympathy in this occupation; there is no humanity in it. Only anger and violence.

And Israel will not halt settlements, those illegal colonies. No! They will assert their authority to rule a people and control its land. They will assert their "right" to violate international law and continue building. They will refuse peace and hope. They will matter the human cost.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Border Crossings

I have been receiving articles from several sources, including the Israeli paper Haaretz and the online Electronic Intifada, from concerned friends. These articles detail new Israeli occupation policies at the border crossings. If you are going to or thought to be going to the West Bank, whether as a student, teacher, peace worker, or tourist, your passport is stamped with a new visa which effectively confines you to PA territories, meaning the West Bank—excluding East Jerusalem. If you enter through the airport and are so fortunate as to avoid this stamp, you are made to sign a document promising not to enter PA territories. Both methods are illegal under international law, and both can control my entire life as a professional in the West Bank who is required to have Israeli visas to be in Palestine. The joys of occupation. I was nervous to say the least. Imagine being a teacher: a pretty typical profession I would imagine. You go about teaching day in and out. You learn your students names and writing styles. You invest so much time in their education. Everyday you greet colleagues, work at your desk, prepare for class. Even though you are hired by the university, even though the Ministry of Education approved your hire, even though you have been teaching for years, you are denied the visa not only to work, but to even be present in your work place, in your home. I know that I am not alone in this experience. All nation states require so called foreigners to apply for visas to live or work or even visit. The problem here is that my nation state, the one where I live and work, has no authority to grant the visa because we are under occupation. Not only can I only be here as a tourist, and still I am not allowed to be in the area where I am, but that tourist visa expires every few months; moreover, it is not a simple trip to cross a border to renew a visa. Interrogation, harassment and humiliation not to mention the time and money make the inconvenience positively awful. How many years can I be a tourist? How many times do I have to lie about where I live, what I do, who I am? Sometimes I feel awful about the deception, and then I want to scream, “I’m a teacher! I am not doing anything wrong or bad or hurtful. I TEACH WRITING!” But it is mam-noo-a…forbidden, because I teach on the wrong side of the line. The lies become more intricate and the feeling more nauseating…and I wonder, when can I speak the truth? When can we be without fear at the border? When can Palestine have justice, freedom, peace?

Coming Home

Traveling is always a strange experience. Boarding a flight, staring at clouds through the small window, random conversations with random strangers who become your friend for the duration of the flight, de-boarding and finding yourself transported to a new universe. I rarely experience culture shock, but somehow, driving from the airport to my friend’s house struck me, overwhelmed me—even though I’ve been here a dozen times before. I just felt that I was so clearly and unmistakably in the Arab world—the architecture, the sandy hillsides, the sounds and smells. And though I forever respond routinely to the annoying observation that I live in the Middle East and that is just so incredible, wow, I was struck with the thought, “I live in the Middle East and this is just so incredible! Wow!” Still, it always feels like coming home. And it is coming home because as cheesy as it sounds, home is where the heart is, and my heart is firmly and forever here.

I went to my family, the family that has loved me and allowed me to be part of them for more than five years, and I was home. I love the welcome. I love the coming home. After two days, the exhaustion of jet lag and the days of Ramadan (without the structured time scheduling of the kids’ being in school) meant that I was insanely sleep deprived. After my first day teaching, I came home at 3 and crashed into a deep sleep. I remember waking up to the sounds of Arabic. A little boy was speaking, and I thought, “Arabic. Someone is speaking Arabic. I speak Arabic. I should go see who that is.” A second later, “More people speaking Arabic. I speak Arabic. I should go see.” Then I woke up a bit more and remembered where I was, smiling in my heavy drowsiness before re-embracing my exhaustion. I am home.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Excessive America

I went to the bathroom this morning to wash my hands...the water was cold. After a minute of running, it turned warm, then hot. An endless supply of hot water. We have no need to turn on the hot water heater--it simply stays on...all the time. Perhaps it's more accurate to say we have no need to turn off the hot water heater. I leave the bathroom and the luxury of endless hot water (I know there's an end and we're working our hardest to find it) and move to the kitchen. Big refrigerator, huge really. And it's bursting with food that will go bad and be trashed. Excess. Everything American strikes me as over-sized and excessive. And the most beautiful part of all, we are blinded to our over-indulgence, convinced that this is natural rather than realizing that the electricity we use as well as all natural resources are available to us because they are denied to so many others. Water--we had 8 water-less days in Palestine. We won't have one here. And frankly, that's just not natural at all.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Checkpoints and humanity

Walking along the beach-side cliffs of Pacifica, my father reminds me of an article I sent him months ago—I think when the Israelis attacked Gaza in December of last year. The article invited the reader to imagine occupation by projecting something like the Israeli occupation over Tijuana. My dad stops and looks around the beautiful, green hills of Pacifica and muses: “Imagine if we had to cross checkpoints to go from state to state.” I laughed, “No dad. The checkpoints prevent us from coming these five minutes from the house to the beach, from going to the other side of Pacifica, to Daly City. They don’t separate states, the separate everything because they are internal too. And if you can cross, it’s after waiting 5 months for an expensive, precious, and typically denied permit from the military occupiers.” It’s hard for us to imagine, but I want to try to paint the picture, because I live there.

If you don’t know anything, Palestine is a historic land whose people have long suffered a history of occupation. In 1948 a new occupier came, one that the international community supported. Though the illegal occupation of Palestine began in 1967 with an Israeli military and civilian invasion of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (two areas of historic Palestine that were carved out of the land and reserved for the indigenous population while the rest of their lands were declared for the Jewish state), the colonization had begun nearly 20 years earlier—though Israel vigorously disputes the language of occupation and colonization. The occupation is a military one with checkpoints at what seems to be every turn. The UN recently reported 93-staffed checkpoints and 541 blockades, all severely inhibiting internal Palestinian movement. I was in Hebron last week and the 1.5-2 hour trip took well over 3 hours as the 3 exits out of the city were all blocked by Israeli jeeps, doors open hiding 18 year olds behind with guns trained on the waiting traffic. These impromptu-jeeps-blocking-the-roads-for-hours-stops are not included in the above numbers, though they are quite common. Security perhaps? The more one looks into this situation, the more confused the word security becomes. I used to believe that the security of one people (Israeli Jews) was achieved at the cost of another (Palestinians), but I have come to understand that no one is truly secure there. I am not asserting that they are equally insecure, by any means. There is nothing equal about occupation. But the so called security that the state of Israel talks about is truly an illusion used to justify nearly every policy against the Palestinians, when in fact, the constant violence the state inflicts on the native population means that there can be no security—only the constant need to more violently impose occupation’s control and power. I am convinced of this after years of observing, that is, living under this occupation.

It is not only checkpoints that we fail to comprehend. Physical access is only one policy. You need a permit to build, even to modify your house. We need those in America as well, but not from an occupying military who denies them at every appeal. And since your land has been confiscated for “security” purposes, you can only build up when your son needs a place for his family. Still, without that permit, both your home and the new addition face demolition. I am a teacher. Dozens of my 150 students over the last one year alone have personal stories of demolition, brothers’ being imprisoned, harassment, siege and curfew, theft of land, murder, interrogation, and the list goes on for a hundred pages. Why am I writing all of this? Because two days ago I stepped off a plane and the so-called culture shock overwhelmed me. I’m not talking about secure borders here, I’m talking about occupation’s military violence that is daily coming INTO your home, not standing at the borders of your nation. So as President Obama promises to work towards peace for Palestine and Israel, step out of the constant insistence of the media and Israel and all of her friends, that Israel must be secure, and think about the words of Rachel Corrie: “Everyone must feel safe.” This is a human right, and Palestinians are, shockingly, human too.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Out of Palestine

I think about leaving a lot. Not just when I feel that life there is too hard or that I need a break, but I think about the act of leaving and the implications of that choice. The key word here is choice. Realistically, it's utterly un-sustainable for me to continue on in Palestine non stop. My family is not there to start. But emotionally, no one can say living under occupation is easy. It is not like I encounter the daily checkpoints on my way to work. I choose to cross them by choosing to go to Jerusalem. Still, occupation is like cancer, spreading its poison even if it remains unseen. Emotionally, you need a break. So, okay, I get it. I need this. It's very justifiable. But politically, you GET the break. Your race, your nationality, your privilege accesses that break while all your friends deal with occupation day in and out and do not GET the choice to leave or have a holiday. Again, I get it. I need to leave to be able to continue staying and contributing, but it's just hard to deal with the leaving or maybe with what you leave behind.

Last night I went on a walk with my dad. Since arriving here, I haven't seen one soldier, one gun, one checkpoint. Just saying that makes me want to cry. We just walked this amazingly beautiful path along stunning cliffs that hung over a gorgeous sea, on the horizon of which the sun set. I walked along that path and I thought of my best friend in Palestine. I thought of the absence next to me of someone with whom I would LOVE to share this walk. I thought of the absence of someone with whom I'd love to share this city, my family, this freedom. And then that got me thinking, what do I mean by freedom. I thought a lot about this word and my meaning, and I think I mean the absence of fear. I'm not sure that really communicates my meaning, but it's closer.

I have been crossing international borders since I was 8 years old. I've NEVER been afraid until the Israeli border interrogation that traumatized me for a solid month after I left. I've never felt that I had to be afraid of my identity and the reality of my life, or life itself. Fear. And it sticks. Fear is sticky. And the Israelis are first rate at creating fear, at destroying freedom and life itself. Denying humanity. And I'm bitter. Yes, I am very bitter. Sometimes I look around and think with a laugh, this has GOT to be something I imagined. This canNOT be reality. And yet it is, this reality that is so absurdly violent and inhumane that it seems it must be a game...only the stakes are death.