Saturday, March 24, 2012


Check out my article published today in Jadaliyya: titled "Qalandia: The Potential to Transform Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance"

selected quotes: "In the event of a truly mass protest movement in Israel/Palestine—the kind we have seen in Tunisia, Syria and Egypt—Palestinians will need their own version of Tahrir Square, and Qalandia has that potential."

"Second, Qalandia has a unique geographically central location. It lies at the center of the massive urban landscape of North Jerusalem, which is easily accessible to Palestinians from ‘East Jerusalem’, as well as Ramallah, al-Bira, and al-Ram. Also a bit further away, although not prohibitively, are two major Palestinian urban centers in the West Bank: Bethlehem and Nablus. Many other locales that have become sites of mass protest offer less geo-significance. Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, for instance, is totally inaccessible to West Bank Palestinians. Additionally, places like Bil’in, Nil’in, and Nabi Saleh among others in the West Bank are further remote and harder for Palestinians and Israelis inside Israel to access. Just imagine, for instance, activists descending on Qalandia from all corners of Palestine to protest an end to the occupation."

Friday, February 17, 2012

On Israeli closures of Palestinian Institutions in East Jerusalem

In the past year or so Israel has shut down a dozen some institutions in East Jerusalem, including parks, NGOs, research centers and other facets of civil society.  The purported reason is that they accept money from Hamas.

The battle continues to keep these NGOs open, as the Meyzan Institute for Human Rights in Nazareth has just filed a petition to the high court in Israel to keep the "Institute for the Development of Jerusalem," which was closed down in October 2011.

I have to say, Israel is really shooting itself in the foot here by shutting down the apparati, the foundations, the skeleton, the basis of democratic and pluralistic society in East Jerusalem.  Shutting down these institutions means fewer young people will have opportunities to work in NGO work in the city. In feeds into anti-Israel propaganda, by providing groups like HAMAS with precisely the ammunition they need to convince youngsters that Israel seeks to push Arabs out of Jerusalem and control everything for themselves.  Indirectly, the Israeli injunction cuts more Arab East Jerusalemites off from important public services.  

Let's assume they are receiving Hamas money for the money.  The idea that Israel can somehow defeat Hamas by shutting down these NGO is so shockingly stupid that you have to wonder what Israel policy makers could possibly thinking.  To "defeat Hamas"?  Well, it is precisely BECAUSE of this NGO, and many others like it, that Palestinians in East Jerusalem have forums and institutions to advocate for human rights, reject of violence, demand the fair application of international law and promote an agenda that embraces non-violent resistance. 

In fact, if Israel ACTUALLY wanted to sideline Hamas, it would provide funding for dozens more NGOs in East Jerusalem, rather than shutting down the few that exist.  This would ultimately lay the foreground of a civil, democratic society, committed to peaceful, non-violent engagement with the Jerusalem municipality and Israel.  

Alas, Israelis fails to realize what is in their own best interest.  Perhaps Israeli politicians' real incentive here has nothing to do with Hamas and everything to do with pushing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem.  After all, Abbas just rejected meetings with Netanyahu recently because Jerusalem's status as eternally belonging to Israel was basically made a precondition for talks by Netanyahu.  This is one more tragic stone that Israel is building of its own grave.  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Palestinian Intellectuals Series (pt. 1): Faisal Hawrani

This will be the first post in a series of posts on Palestinians intellectuals, past and present, with a focus on bringing to light personalities that are less well known to Western audiences and discussing the landscape of Palestinian intellectual life.

Today's post will be about Faisal Hawrani, born in Masmiyya, a village in the north of the Gaza district. He was displaced by the 1948, making his way to Syria in 1948.  There he received his education and help found the Association of Palestinian Studies, becoming its President in 1964.  He subsequently worked as journalist, and then as the head of the research center of Palestine studies, associated with the PLO.

He has published a number of novels, including Muhasirun (Trapped), Bir al-Shum (A smell?) and others, as well as a number of works of non-fiction and history, including al-Judhur al-Rafd al-Filastini 1918-1948 (The Roots of Palestinian Rejection 1918-1948) and many others.

The following is a nice summary of his ideas on Palestinian 'rejection' before 1948.  He argues that the foundation of the Palestinian political lanscape before 1948 lied on these hinges: (1) the reliability of the broader Arab and Muslim worlds (and there exaggerated) unfulfilled hopes; (2) the contradiction on rejecting Zionism on the one hand, yet trying to reconciliate with the Mandatory authorities (who were facilitating the Zionist project); (3) the failure to consider Britain an enemy from the beginning; (4) the failure to realize the importance of the complete representation of the citizens, including the Jews; (5) a failure to forge significant alliances; (6) The Palestinians' exaggerated imagination on the Arab and Islamic world's support for Palestine. (7) A lack of willingness to use violence as a means to achieve their national demands; (8) the failure of the Palestinian leadership to look after the needs of the Palestinians; among other things.

He published a "Dialogue with Khaled al-Hassan," an early advisor to Yasar Arafat, in the July 1980 edition of Shu'un Filastiniyya, probably the most serious Arabic-language journal of Palestinian Studies that exists.

He is also a contributor to journals such as Kitab al-Sanawi, a new publication of the Yassar Arafat Foundation in Ramallah.         

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Avodah Aravit" or "Shughl Arab" or "Arab Labor"

The third season of "Avodah Aravit" (Arab Labor), perhaps the most popular TV series in Israel, launched yesterday.  The comedy show -- described by Haaretz as the single best TV series today in Israel, "the jewel in the crown of the rainbow," is a sitcom which focuses on an Arab family in Jerusalem, in particular on the life of Amjad, a Palestinian-Jerusalemite journalist.

The show pokes fun at cultural stereotypes; exposes the struggles of this Jerusalemite Palestinian man, who desperately wants to become Jewish Israeli in every way possible -- own a dog, learn how to swim, buy an "Israeli Jewish car," even moving to an all Jewish middle-upper class neighborhood (Rahvia) of Jerusalem.

Much like Israeli audiences raved about Ajami -- the Israeli film about violent Arab Palestinian life in Jaffa -- it seems that, precisely because the show deals with the red hot buttons of Israeli society -- chief among them Arab-Zionist/Jewish issues, the show has gained widespread success.  And, let's be completely honest here: this is by far the best Israeli TV show I've ever seen, far better than even other good shows like "Ramzor," the humor absolutely brilliant.

But it's more than just the humor.  I think there is a large segment of Israeli society that desperately wants to put these issues on the table -- is interested in Arabic, Palestinian culture, society and so on, a lot segment that wishes they had more "Arab friends" (just like White Americans love talking about their black friends, Israeli Jews love talking about their Arab friends).  In fact the show makes fun of this very stereotype all the time -- Amjad's Israeli neighbors are "liberal Israelis" and try to show him how "liberal" they are all the time -- hey, "we vote for Meretz!"

The show adeptly moves seamlessly between Arab and Jewish society in Israel.  In this sense language plays a profoundly important role in the show -- that, if one is merely reading the subtitles -- one will completely miss a great deal of fascinating social commentary (there are Hebrew subtitles whenever the characters are speaking Arabic, and Arabic (and Hebrew) subtitles whenever the characters are speaking Hebrew, although no Arabic subtitles when the characters are speaking Arabic).

Let's provide at least one example to illustrate the point.  The opening scene from one episode recalls Amjad begging his wife to have sex with him.  She clearly does not want to, frustrated by his failure to help around the home.  Finally she says, "alright, just do it," and angrily lies flat, awaiting his penetration.  He says something like "shway Heshek, eeehh?" a little "emotion" or "lust," (will you?).... Amjad asserts.  Amjad throws in the Hebrew word for "emotion"as a way of disguising his distaste for his wife's reaction. This is the first example that comes to mind, but the entire show is ridden with these kinds of examples.   More to come on this show in the future!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Testimony from Palestinian Women in East Jerusalem

We will now begin a featured series of testimonies from an excellent by the Women's Center for Legan Aid and Counseling in November 2010 titled Forced Evictions: Assessing the Impact on Palestinian Women in East Jerusalem.  These testimonies are all quotes from interviews conducted by members of the Women's Center with women from East Jerusalem.  These are the stories that often get lost in the press coverage of East Jerusalem, and it is important to acknowledge the voices of residents of East Jerusalem themselves:

We will begin with Maisa Al Kurd, who lives in Sheikh Jarrah, and is facing the threat of eviction from her home:  “On 24th November [2009]which was the night of Eid Al-Adha, a Muslim holiday, I was up late after my son Munjad came back after his late shift at  the hotel.  It was around 1am when I heard the sound of moving furniture in the extension and I went outside with my mobiles.   It was lit up outside from the lights from the settler house opposite and I could see that there were four settlers inside the house and one of them standing outside the house.  As I approached the settler stood outside, he pushed me away towards the wall in my chest. I could see him clearly, he had ginger hair.  My son M came out of the house and saw the settler push me and said: ‘what are you doing to my mother’ but then the settler put his hands around M’s neck.  I was frightened of what
was going to happen and phoned the police while I was still stood with my back against the wall.

On another day – December 1st [2009], I was attacked by a settler who hit me with a metal bar.  My sons tried to defend me but when the police arrived they arrested my sons because the settlers accused them of attacking them.  Always, they believe what the settlers say even though   it is them attacking us and them coming onto our property and trying to take it from us.  My sons were then ordered to stay away from the house and from Sheikh Jarrah for 47 days.   Once this expired, M was arrested again and banned for another two months meaning that he couldn’t work because the hotel he works in is in Sheikh Jarrah.  Even now the orders have expired, my sons are too scared to come back here in case they are arrested.”" [end of quote].

Saturday, February 4, 2012

East Jerusalem Settlements and the Imminent Demise of the Two-State Solution

Terrestrial Jerusalem has just published a new report in January 2012 titled East Jerusalem Settlements and the Imminent Demise of the Two-State Solution

Here are some of the highlights:

"Under the 2003 Geneva Accords, the area of Har Homa is to fall under Palestinian sovereignty. But today, a settlement neighborhood that did not exist in 2000 is now home to 12,000 Israeli  residents."  It will be very difficult to convince Palestinians to accept that -- after Oslo, after it was long clear that Jerusalem needed to be shared by both sides -- they should forfeit this land to Israeli settlers.

"Following a quiet, de facto settlement freeze imposed by PM Netanyahu in March  2010, in November 2010 settlement activities in East  Jerusalem resumed and have since exceeded even  previously high levels by 50%-200%. East Jerusalem  has not witnessed settlement activities of such a pace and scope since the 1970s."

The report also discusses a "welding" process in East Jerusalem, whereby new settlement construction in East Jerusalem is strategic in order to create a buffer between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem (through additional construction in Givat Hamatos, announced in October 2011).  What is particularly interesting about this construction is that some 1800 of the 4000 new housing units will be built as a part of Beit Safafa.  On the one hand, this is great news for Beit Safafa residents and more generally Palestinian East Jerusalem.  On the other hand, one wonders if this isn't a ploy to justify the additional Jewish settlement construction -- some 2200 units, as well as to inter-link, or "weld," as Terrestrial Jerusalem puts it, the Arab neighborhoods of the city into the Jews ones.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Do East Jerusalemites Want?

Evelyn Gordon, a regular blogger at Commentary Magazine, just published a piece titled "Consult Jerusalem's Palestinians Before Rushing to Divide the City."  The article sites some statistics that, depending on the poll taken -- and the immediate political context in which it was taken -- about 1/3 of the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem would prefer remaining in Israeli if a two-state solution emerged.  She suspects, based on the number of "declined to answer" respondents, that as many as a half of the residents of East Jerusalem would prefer to stay on the Israel side.

Gordon almost seems glee about the whole thing, and you can bet that most right-of-center readers on Israel/Palestine polemics are going to smirk when they read this data.  "Ha, all this talk about dividing Jerusalem, and the Palestinians themselves want to stay in Israel."   OF COURSE Palestinians in East Jerusalem would prefer to stay in Israel: where, despite being second class citizens, they have access to jobs and health care that is far better than in the West Bank.

But Gordon misses the broader point -- which should be (but of course isn't) profoundly scary to her.  If the Palestinian community in East Jerusalem itself is so fundamentally split -- which the numbers suggest -- that makes it even more difficult to the divide the city, something that would already be a nightmare and half, given that large Jewish settlements tugging Arab neighborhoods on all sides, as well as the growing presence of Jewish settlements in the Arab neighborhoods themselves.  What this means is that, if it's impossible to divide Jerusalem -- than it's impossible for a Palestinian political leadership to accept the two-state solution.  This is the key point Gordon seems to miss out on. 

And if a great many Palestinians in East Jerusalem want to stay in Israel, it's not a stretch to imagine Palestinians in the West Bank starting to talk about staying in Israel. 

Of course, Israelis don't ever consider this, but if a mass movement inside the West Bank emerged to pressure Israel to just give them equal rights inside Israel -- rather than demand this bantu-stanized, Jerualem-less, chopped up West Bank, without control of borders, resources, and what have you, then Israel will find itself in a very precarious situation (that is if it wants to remain a Jewish-majority state).  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Home Demolitions Continue in East Jerusalem

Today, the Palestinian News and Info Agency reports that the Jerusalem Municipality demolished a residential caravan in Beitu Hanina and a room in a house near Shufat, the only refugee camp inside of Israel (although, coincidentally enough, lies on the West Bank side of the separation barrier.  That resulted in another 13 homeless Palestinians, who now wait for international charities to provide them with tents to sleep in.      

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Wednesday, Jan. 25th, I posted that Silwan the Municipality of Jerusalem sought to turn the only (cement) "soccer field" in Silwan into a parking lot, but the request was rejected by a judge, citing the wishes of the inhabitants of the neighborhood.

Well, it seems the municipality figured out another way of taking over the soccer field.  Today, the front page of Ha'aretz online reports that Israeli police have taken over the soccer field -- and some 12 other institutions in East Jerusalem.  The police says that the soccer field (small cement yard) has been taken over by Hamas, which uses the site as a cover for the organization's activities in East Jerusalem.

The logic of the Israeli police would be laughable if it weren't so scary.  Their argument is that Hamas is gaining a footing in East Jerusalem by helping fund things like this soccer field, and it needs to be stopped.  Right, so by closing down the soccer field, all the children of Silwan will realize that, instead of spending their free time playing soccer, they should be memorizing Zionist folk songs and practicing their gurgling "resh," so that when they mature into adolescents and adults, they can join the ranks of Shabak or work for the Jewish National Fund.   

What's going to drive kids in East Jerusalem to Hamas is not a soccer field, its shutting down the soccer field!  I mean, even if you support the mission of the Israeli police, the idea is completely moronic. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Bird's Eye of 2010 in East Jerusalem

The following data is taken from the following UN report Israel: Assistance to the Palestinian people (A/63/75-E/2008/52) Compiled on 29 Jan 2012

I have noted some of the data that is especially pertinent to East Jerusalem below:

Eleven children were killed and 360 were injured as a result of the clashes. In September and October 2010 alone, 26 Palestinian children were injured and one 15-month-old baby died after inhaling tear  gas in occupied East Jerusalem; most cases involved private armed guards hired by the Ministry of Construction and Housing of Israel to protect Israeli settlers in the neighbourhood of Silwan (page 7)

A Palestinian family stands on top of the rubble of their home in Beit Hanina after it was destroyed by Israeli authorities on 13 July 2010. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

In the first half of 2010, 46 residency permits for Palestinians in Jerusalem were revoked, adding to the 13,115 permits that had been revoked between 1967 and November 2009 (page 9)

At  least 431 Palestinian structures were demolished in occupied East Jerusalem and Area C9 in the West Bank, including 137 residential structures, displacing 594  people and affecting the livelihood of 14,136 others (page 8)

In 2010, settlers took over at least 10 Palestinian housing units in occupied East Jerusalem, leading to the eviction of at least 70 Palestinians (page 11)

Israeli settlers burned down a Palestinian church in occupied East Jerusalem  and three mosques in the West Bank. Six mosques were vandalized, set on fire or both by Israeli settlers during 2010, the fifth such occurrence that year (page 11)

Friday, January 27, 2012

More Home Demolition Orders issued in East Jerusalem

Dozens of Palestinian residents of Bir Ayyub and Hawsh al-A'war neighborhoods of Silwan, just South East of the Old City, were issued new orders today that their homes have been placed under a demolition order.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Silwan is a Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem just southeast of the old city.  It has increasingly become the target of Judaization efforts.  Today, the Municipality of Jerusalem sought to turn the only (cement) "soccer field" in Silwan into a parking lot, but the request was rejected by a judge, citing the wishes of the inhabitants of the neighborhood.

Israeli Government's Home Demolitions and Judaization of East Jerusalem are Destroying Israel

Israel is rapidly sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Land confiscation, house demolitions, destruction of Palestinian property, and the Judaization of East Jerusalem are proceeding at unprecedented levels in 2011 and 2012. 
What this means is that it may soon enough be physically impossible to share control of Jerusalem between Jews and Palestinians, and consequently, to solve the conflict by the estabilshment of an independent state of Palestine. Thus, the policies of terror and destruction adopted by the Israeli government and Jerusalem municipality may be scary for the Palestinians – but they should be even scarier for anyone who supports the idea of the Jewish state.     
Ruins of Destroyed ICAHD Peace Center, "Beit Arabiyya," in Anata, Jerusalem, on Tuesday, Jan. 24
Let’s take a look at some of the facts: The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)reported that 2011 constituted “a record year of displacement,” with some 622 Palestinian structures demolished by Israeli authorities, 36% (or 222) of which were family homes. This means that a Palestinian home was destroyed four days out of every week this past year, resulting in some 1,094 displaced persons, double that of 2010. 
And yet, the destruction does not seem to be enough for Israeli politicians, who held a special session of the Knesset last week on how to better enforce Israeli law in East Jerusalem -- basically how to ensure more 'illegal' Palestinian structures in the East Jerusalem get destroyed. 
Of course, through an intricate system of zoning laws in East Jerusalem, “densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods are encircled by 'green space' or 'unzoned land' where building is forbidden.” ICAHD explains as well that per-plot housing density is also restricted, and is far lower in Palestinian than in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem. In other words, the Jerusalem municipality makes it almost impossible for Palestinians to build 'legally.'  
The demolitions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank continue in 2012 unabated. Just this past week, the Jerusalem Municipality demolished the Shepard’s Hotel in the Palestinian neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah – a property built in the 1930s by Hajj Amin al-Husseini, former Ottoman soldier, graduate of al-Azhar University, leader of the dominant Husseini faction in Palestinian national politics during the British Mandate period, and former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. (Of course, if you read the Western media, all you will learn is that he allied with the Nazis during World War II). The Jerusalem Municipality then sold the property to Irvin Moskovitz, who will build some 20 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the heart of Arab East Jerusalem.
The Shepard’s hotel destruction may have been the most high-profile, but the Israeli's policy of home demolitions is moving fast apace. On Monday night, January 23, the Israelis demolished for the fifth time the “Arabiyya house,” an ICAHD peace center, along with other structures in the East Anata Bedouin Compound.
Also this week, the Israeli authorities confiscated 76 dunams of agricultural land from the village of Khas, east of Bet Lehem, again under the pretext that it was "absentee property." The land will now be annexed to Jerusalem. One wonders why the people of Khas were "absent" from their agricultural land? The answer is that they were physically prevented from accessing their land since 2007 because Israel built a gigantic fence separating them from it.
The PLO also recently announced that, since the beginning of the year (i.e. some 3 weeks ago), 1,367 dunams of land have been taken over and 734 new housing units have been built.   
No Palestinian leader who wants to remain a Palestinian leader could possibly accept a Palestine without East Jerusalem as its capital (for better or worse). What this means, I think, is that the more Israel Judaizes East Jerusalem and the more Palestinian-owned land it confiscates – the more likely that the two-state solution becomes impossible. What’s left, for Palestinians, is equal rights inside Israel. That will be a scary day for people who hope Israel remains a Jewish state.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Unprecedented Settlement Growth Expected in 2012

A new report from the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center indicates that 2012 will likely be a year of unprecedented growth in the settlements.  The Netanyahu government has stepped up its efforts to build thousands of new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Also this week, the Israeli authorities confiscated 76 dunams of agricultural land from the village of Khas, east of Bet Lehem, under the pretext that it was "absentee property," now to be annexed to Jerusalem.  Why is it that the people of Khas were "absent" from their agricultural land?  Well, they were prevented from accessing their land since 2007 because Israel built a gigantic fence separating them from it. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jerusalem Court freezes plans to construct a "national park" in al-Tur and al-Issawiya

The Jerusalem Central Court recently announced that it has frozen plans to construct a so-called "national park" in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhoods of at-Tur and al-Issawiya (on the eastern slopes of Mount Scopus).  The decision was prompted by a petition from The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, which argued that it is the right of those effected by the construction of the park to understand its significance, as well as the right to object to its construction.  The city has until the beginning of February to respond.

The land upon which the park would be built is owned by the residents of at-Tur and Issawiya.  The construction of the park, then, would in effect prevent the property owners from building on this land.  This is one of the many strategies adopted by the Jerusalem Municipality to prevent the Arab population of Jerusalem from expanding.  The other purpose of the constructing this "national park," as Terrestrial Jerusalem has pointed out, "is to be a link between the two concentric encirclements of Palestinian East Jerusalem: the inner encirclement of the Old City and its visual basin, as designated by the governmental Old City Basin Project, and the outer encirclement in Greater Jerusalem, as disclosed by the E-1 plan between Ma'ale Adumim and East Jerusalem.  The new national park will be a bridge, creating a geographical link between the Old City basin and E-1."