This story was taken for Arthur Neslen’s book In Your Eyes a Sandstorm: Ways of Being Palestinian a collection of interviews about Palestinian identity. Sadly, for space reasons, it could not be published there. But Souciant is happy to give it a home. In Your Eyes a Sandstorm will be released next week.
Inside a circle
Minorities can easily be overlooked in the heat of national struggle. No-one knows exactly how many Palestinians of African descent exist in Palestine. But they have lived on the land since the days of the slave trade, at least. They may not be singled out for particularly discriminatory treatment by Israel. However, within their own society, the picture is sometimes less clear. Reem Mohamed Amer was a founding member of perhaps the only support group for Palestinians of African descent in Israel/Palestine. She exuded a warm and unguarded bonhomie, often beaming with a sunny smile or cracking up with a rich infectious laugh. Reem sat in an office tea room, chewing gum and swiveling her chair slowly from left to right, changing direction every time her toes touched the floor.
Reem’s day job was behind the counter at a post office in Kfar Qassem, where her family had lived since her grandfather moved there from Ramle after the First World War. His wife — Reem’s grandmother — was shot dead by Israeli troops in the 1956 massacre, which claimed the lives of 49 other Palestinian civilians, for nominally breaking an unpublicised village curfew.
‘My father and uncle were survivors,’ Reem said shyly. ‘I don’t know the exact story because my father never wanted to talk about it but my uncle was in the group that cycled to the village. When they arrived, he saw shooting and hid behind a cactus. My father got in to Kfar Kassem in the last car that was let through. He saw his mother killed there. Later he developed alcohol problems. October was always a difficult time for him. ‘ The massacre took place on 31 October, 1956….. Continue Reading
Last March, Pink Watching Israel published an article in which they exposed the website Gay Middle East as having “shady politics” with close Zionist connections and “who has never carried any of the anti-apartheid statements by LGBT groups in the region. ”
That the largest Middle East LGBT (well, G mostly)”grassroots news” website is run by British Israeli Zionist Dan Littauer is already cause for concern. The fact that GME regularly collaborates with neo-colonialist Islamophobes such as Peter Tatchell [See Out of Place, Out of Print] (the guy with a penchant for threatening lawsuits against those who don’t think he is god’s gift to oppressed gay people) doesn’t help his credentials much. Bizarrely, he is also the human rights and press officer for the Association of British Muslims. Barring the logic of such a position, Littauer is also quite friendly with Islamophobic pornographer Michael Lucas, whose recent campaign against Siegebusters, a NY-based anti-apartheid group, successfully got them banned from meeting at the NY LGBT center. Lucas, by the way, is making a name for himself uttering such gems as “Muslims have not contributed to civilization in any way”. He is also famous for making gay porn film “Men of Israel”, which had its setting on the ruins of homes of Palestinians displaced in 1948.
MacMaster’s deception brought many issues to the fore, and the least interesting are the stories GayMiddleEast.com has been plugging about how, contrary to what MacMaster has portrayed, gays are actually really oppressed. Perhaps more relevant in this context is an honest discussion about how to do solidarity work in a way that is respectful of people’s lived realities. That includes knowing what the limits of solidarity are, especially when you are outside the community you claim to care about, and when you occupy a position of privilege.
Both MacMaster and Littauer have chosen the wrong path; they have both put themselves front and center, the former by actually deceptively adopting the persona of a queer Arab woman, and the latter by acting as a spokesperson and gatekeeper for queer Arab voices with a direct line to the Western media.
“In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story”Ghada Karmi, Verso 2002.
In Search of Fatima is a story of displacement and loss. A yearning for that place in one’s mind that can never be reclaimed. It is a yearning known to the displaced and the refugee, a yearning for their childhood and that place called home which is forever lost.
In Search of Fatima provides us with a personal and political history of Palestine from 1939. The suffering and injustice endured by the Palestinians from the time of the British mandate to the present is reinforced by Karmi’s personal account. In 1880 there was a Jewish population of 3000, in 1948 it was 806,000 and in 2003 it was 5.4 million counting for 38% of the world’s Jews.
We discover that the state of Israel was built on British betrayal , at the very least complacency by surrounding Arab states and terror by the invading Jews of Europe — the Haganah Irgun Zvei Leumi and Lehi or Stern Gang, Menachem Begin and David Ben Gurion (all long before Hamas and Islamic Jihad were ever dreamed of). Reading the activities of these terror groups you begin to see the irony of Israel’s insolent denunciation of “Palestinian terrorists”. In Karmi’s words the Irgun Zvei and Lehi or Stern Gang
“were known in Palestine as the terrorists and were responsible for a spectacular campaign of violence against anyone who stood in the way of their aims. It is ironic to think that the term “terrorist” which has now become virtually synonymous with Arabs, especially Muslims, started life as an appellation for Jewish groups in Palestine.”
The Palestine Think Tank [Haitham Sabbah, Yousef Abudayyeh, Mohamed Khodr, Mary Rizzo,] have published this excellent list of common errors made by activists / movements and how to rectify them. The errors and solution are applicable to movements and activists worldwide.
Activism and activists for Palestine have been getting some media attention recently. This is absolutely great news. It is an opportunity that we need to take advantage of, especially since Palestinians themselves are denied space in almost all mainstream mass media. Reflecting on this fact, we at PTT have decided to express some of our observations, thoughts and suggestions in order to enhance the work of all activists, ourselves included. This is a summary of some of the things that we believe are some common activist errors and our proposals for avoiding that errors lead to damage. In the coming weeks we will elaborate on each of these points in essays. We hope that our observations and proposals can be of use for ourselves and for those who commit their time and energy to the Palestinian cause. Read the full list here
The Keffiyeh, the traditional head dress made and worn in Palestine, where over the years it became a symbol of Palestinian self-determination and struggle during the 1930′s against British occupation up to the present. Now the Keffiyeh has been appropriated by Westerners who may or may not know of it’s origins and may not even care. Keffiyehs of all colours are sold on the streets of London and throughout Europe becoming on the one hand a metaphor for the general disinterest in the Palestinian struggle and on the other representing the dilution of historical and cultural meaning. If you cannot wear one and understand what you are wearing then don’t wear one at all because that’s like stealing – its like the theft of a people and a mockery of their identity and being.
I remember standing by the donation table watching people’s expressions change as they walked by. Most did their best to look the other way. Some expressed clear disgust at the pleas for donations. Others stopped to ask questions. A far fewer number actually donated.
At one point a tall, thin, attractive young woman wearing a black and white keffiyeh around her neck was spotted in the distance making her way towards us. One of the volunteers nudged his friend: “This one may donate.” When the girl was close enough he held out his donation bin with a smile and asked her whether she could spare some money for the children of Gaza. In response the girl looked momentarily confused and then scoffed, straightened her keffiyeh so it fit better into her fashionable leather jacket and hurried away, her stiletto heels clicking frantically against the pavement.
Rageh Omar presents Made In Palestine which looks at the origin of the Keffiyeh and its appropriation as a cheap trendy western fashion accessory now manufactured in China. Even Israel is now appropriating and rebranding it as it’s own – first they steal the history then the land and now the Keffiyeh.
What makes Aung San Suu Kyi so very special — and Buddhists will yawn — is that she is a meditator. This means her mind is well trained to grasp the implications of actions, especially violent ones, too many of our world leaders seem clueless about. They talk about annihilating, obliterating, beggaring, starving, impoverishing, raping and pillaging other human beings as if this behavior has no consequences to themselves or to those they represent. This is an incredibly antique way of looking at our problems: that we can bomb them away. War is a dead end, literally. And, what is more, we simply can’t afford it. Not morally, and not financially. How long will it take the citizens of the United States, one wonders, to recognize that the house their country bombed in Iraq is the same one they were living in until it was foreclosed? We see, if we care to look, that everything really is connected, and, not only connected, it is the same thing.
Today is Nakba – The anniversary of the creation of Israel. A day of mourning for Palestinians. A day to remember loss of land and destruction of property, displacement, wars, separation of families, refugees, statelessness, poverty, death, in short a Catastrophe.
Death comes easy where their is no respect for life – Basem’s life exemplifies the thousands of Palestinians who have died under occupation by the guns of Israel
Basem woke Hamis and gave him his medicine, then off he went to visit another friend in the village who is ill with cancer. Then a little girl from the village wanted a pineapple but couldn’t find any in the local stores. So Basem went to Ramallah to get a pineapple and was back before noon for the Friday prayers and the weekly demonstration against the theft of our land by the apartheid wall. Pheel never missed a demonstration; he participated in all the activities and creative actions in Bilin. He would always talk to the soldiers as human beings. Before he was hit he was calling for the soldiers to stop shooting because there were goats near the fence and he was worried for them. Then a woman in front of him was hit. He yelled to the commander to stop shooting because someone was wounded. He expected the soldiers to understand and stop shooting. Instead, they shot him too. Continue Reading Basem’s Life
For many of us the hourly news reports showing the horrific slaughter and devastation of the Israeli attack on Gaza is still very much fresh in our minds. Daily coverage on TV, radio and news media with endless analysis, pundits as well as live reports. At some point in the war I remember thinking how fickle is the news media as by the end of the 3rd week, reports had dwindled to a few hours a day, a few articles a day from a height of almost continuous cover in the early days. I began to think about the amount of time devoted to these and other Middle Eastern wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan compared to the coverage of wars in Africa such as the DRC, Somalia and Darfur. I came across a site called “Stealth Conflicts” which is based on the book of the same name by Virgil Hawkins. Stealth conflicts are those conflicts which remain marginal in relation to the overall agenda of the various industrial complexes that constitute global capital — the media, academia, NGOs, policy makers and so on.
Perception defines our reality. Where access to information that may enhance our perception is limited, the reality we see becomes distorted and warped. Our view of the state of armed conflict in the world today is one of the most unfortunate victims of such distortion. In spite of supposedly unprecedented access to information, the information presented to us on conflicts occurring throughout the world is so skewed that the reality is almost unrecognisable..
This is particularly true of the most conflict-torn region of the world — Africa, which has produced more than 90 percent of the conflict-related deaths since the end of the Cold War. Despite the scale of the human suffering, it seems that Western-centric consciousness (and outrage) ends at the Suez Canal.
Jacques Depelchin, peace activist and Executive Director of the Ota Benga Alliance For Peace, Healing and Dignity based in the DRC, has written a poem “From Africa to Haiti to Gaza: Fidelity to humanity”. The poem makes the connection between historical and contemporary struggles for liberation and justice from Africa to the Americas, to the Caribbean and to Palestine.
the consequences of
of Relentlessly violating humanity
Now Palestinians, then Africans centuries ago
Today displaced, refugees, best fodder
For humanitarian missions
The modernized version of abolitionists
On a mission which has not changed:
Eradicate it if too vocal
But Sabra, Shatila can still be heard
He concludes with a challenge to give name to the truth of what has and what is now taking place.
Palestinians, Africans, in the same boat
When the unending story of negating humanity started
Like Africans they are being processed and branded
Fit to be fodder for humanitarian crisis because what is being done
Must not be called
A Crime Against Humanity
For fear of trespassing which taboo?
No one dares to call the slaughter of civilians
In Gaza by its proper name
A Crime Against Humanity
For fear of trespassing which taboo?
From the times of the Arawaks
Violating, torturing, liquidating
Humanity with impunity
Has led to greater and greater
Crimes against humanity
Preparing the biggest holocaust
Humanity has ever known and,
When that unfolds, as before,
We shall hear the usual
Shameful lame lie
‘We did not know’.
Amidst all the post racial nonsense floating around the world it is not surprising the Martin Luther King’s birthday got a bit lost in the hooray hoorar. And hear this in a show of cowardly ignorance and an “Abandonment of Kings Legacy” the Congressional Black Caucus votes to absolve Israel “for its crimes against humanity in Gaza” and lay the blame solely on Hamas.
It’s hard to believe that a generation ago, the Congressional Black Caucus was known as “the conscience of the congress, a political and moral high ground long deserted by the current CBC, which has utterly collapsed under Israel-lobby pressure for the second time in three years.
All but two Black lawmakers voted either “Yes” or “Present” on a Resolution that absolved Israel for its crimes against humanity in Gaza – placing all blame on Hamas. In 2006, only two Black Caucus members opposed a Resolution supporting Israel’s savage destruction if Lebanon’s infrastructure and the killing of 1,000 people. Hypocritically turning their backs both on Black public opinion and on the work of Dr. King, whose name they invoke at every public opportunity, the CBC has put itself “out of the anti-war business,” and well outside the mainstream of Black opinion on the Israel-Palestine question Continued
Pambazuka News has a list of protests across African against the War on Gaza though I have to say it is somewhat sickening to see Sudanese people amongst the protesters given the “crimes against humanity”committed by their own leaders – would have been far more meaningful if they had also protested against the genocide in Darfur. We cannot be selective about injustices. Tajudeen Abdul Raheem develops this idea in his article “Saying no to the Israeli massacre” referring to the global protests taking place since the beginning of the war and in particular the one in London last Saturday which I also took part in.
This is a massacre perpetrated by the mighty, merciless Israeli army, a force armed and actively supported by the US and NATO with the supine collaboration of Arab leaders, including the so-called moderate Palestinian leadership under the main Fatah organisation from its Bantustan enclaves in the West Bank.
There were initial fears that the cold would deter many from turning up for the march, but so deep is the outrage of many that they poured out in their thousands in all the major cities of Britain to call for an immediate ceasefire and end to the blockade.
Tajudeen goes on to explain the importance of these and other demonstrations against injustices are not necessarily that they will bring immediate change or end the war. Rather they need to be seen in their cumulative impact – for example protests against the South African apartheid regime AND as an expression of solidarity at the injustice taking place.
It is not enough for us to just look on and say to ourselves that what is going on is bad and simply change the channel. You can join the protest or organise one wherever you may be, write letters to newspapers and make use of feedback sessions in the media. You can also boycott Israeli goods in the shops like Jaffa oranges. Even if our governments, much like their Arab counterparts, are too compromised and cowardly to stand up to Israel, what about you and me?
There are many Africans who are confused about the Israel—Palestine conflict, believing it to be purely a case of Islam vs Judaism or Arab vs Jew. As a people who have known slavery, colonialism, and apartheid, how can we be so complacent about the right of others to a life of dignity and sovereignty over their own affairs?
Links: Avi Shlaim – For some historical and recent context that is clearly forgotten or missing in most of the analysis on this war.
[There will be another protest march this Saturday 10th [starting in Hyde Park] Last week, there were between 20,000 and 30,000 drawn from a cross section of people from across the country. Also nightly protests outside the Israeli embassy which have included Jewish anti-Zionist groups and Rabbis from Neturei Karta
The other day I was reminded of this post on “Walls around the world” I wrote 18 months ago by a friend and I promised to post it again. Now there are even more walls. The whole of Gaza has always been a walled enclave in the midst of stolen lands. Now it is surrounded by walls of tanks and naval guns. Ironic that the siege of Gaza reminds me of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto. I wonder if the Israeli IDF spokeswoman makes the connection – doubtful with such self-righteous supremacist arrogance.
Another new wall is the one between Zimbabwe and South Africa where refugees escaping hunger, political oppression and disease are chased by white vigilantes with automatic weapons and dragged back across the wired borders. If they make it to the city they face xenophobic hysteria from their brothers in the post apartheid wasteland’s.
And then there are the invisible borders – where people are divided between the included and excluded. Legal and illegal. welcome and unwelcome. Those in the clique and those standing on the periphery trying to enter till eventually they tire and go create their own set of invisible walled enclaves excluding and including according to some set of arbitrary criteria which is what makes cliques so horribly oppressive.
Check site for Action in London and other European cities
1. Join or organize emergency protests and direct actions in partnership with Palestine solidarity and social justice organizations in your area. Click here for a list of local actions.
Please send announcements of actions you are joining or organizing (with date, time and location) to email@example.com so they can be announced on our web site. Also send reports of actions you participate in so this information can be shared with people around the world.
2. Donate money through the Middle East Children’s Alliance to pay for desperately needed medical supplies and their delivery. The current conditions in Gaza medical facilities are dire. The Middle East Children’s Alliance is working with health organizations in Gaza to procure the most-needed medicines and send them direct to Gaza with the help of the Free Gaza Movement.
3. Flood Israeli embassies and consulates with letters and calls decrying the attacks. Find contact info for Israeli embassies around the world.
4. Contact government officials and call on them to act by denouncing the attacks and demanding an immediate cease-fire.
5. Shift the framing of Israel’s actions in the media by phoning into a talk show or writing a letter to the editor.
6. Sign the petition in support of UN General Assembly President Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann who has spoken out to condemn Israeli “Apartheid” and call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.