Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Totally personal post, Grant McLennan, RIP

I just found out yesterday that early in May one of the best composers of popular music died suddenly. Grant McLennan was part of a group that I've loved for a quarter of a century, The Go-Betweens. Often, I've read that his song "Cattle and Cane" has been considered to be one ten most beautiful Australian songs. I have no doubt about it, even if I don't know what the other songs in the running were, because Cattle and Cane is simply the most beautiful song ever. All I ever needed to know about rural Australia was there, or about alliteration in poetry, or about how a bassline sings using the same timbre as the voice, or about the unfolding of a melody that stills the heart. I know he will be missed by his many fans and his loved ones. His gorgeous music will live on, never diminishing in its beauty.

Monday, May 29, 2006


To All Commenters

I am through with your comments. I am tired of them. I don't even read them anymore. I have asked all of you, not twice, but at least ten times as many, to follow a few very simple restrictions of decency and respect. Have you been able to abide by them or respect me? NO! Enough, I say. I have asked you to ignore deliberate baiters to give me time to delete their comments. Have you been able to do that? Hell no! I have asked you not to use multiple ID's call one another Nazis, to not make racist comments. That has been ignored as well, and we get the an exhibition of the same tired, redundant, repetitive diatribes that go no place and simply waste energy, yours and mine.

You can't for the life of you stay on topic! What the hell does the Holocaust have to do with Depleted Uranium, a Pain Ray or Calipari's assassination? What does a new website I would like you to visit have to do with "Islamist terrorism"? Why do you have to keep banging the same drum as if we are stupid? Comments features are theoretically nice. That is how I discovered a lot of great blogs and met some good people. Those days are over. I am not your babysitter who has to keep reminding you to act like decent human beings, grownups who can chew with their mouths closed.

You can all say your "goodbyes" if you want, because in three days, this comments feature is history. I expected people to act responsibly, but it is just too much to ask. Get your own blogs if you want to repeat ad nauseum all of your rants. It is easy and it is free of charge. You might actually see things my way once you get reams of verbal vomit on your comments boxes.

Some tell me to get moderation. Some have offered to do it for me. I tell you, I can't be bothered with it, (or arsed, as Rowan prefers). Why? Because I have time enough just as it is to blog, write, translate and edit. I am part of a much bigger site than this that takes a lot of my time and in addition to all of this: I have a real job, a real family and my time is limited. If you can't act like adults, I shouldn't have to spend my time policing you, and you shouldn't expect me to.

So, from now on, you are ALL banned! Comments, adios. Don't say you hadn't had thirty or more warnings.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


"The School where Jews and Palestinians Learn Peace"

From “il Venerdì della Repubblica
26 May, 2006

“My Arab friends know that I study along with Jewish children,” Moustapha explains, while nibbling a pencil. “And they ask me: what are the Jews like? Are they intelligent or stupid? Do you ever quarrel with them? Yet, I have fun at school.” Moustapha is 11 years old and lives in Bet Zafafa, an Arab village located in Jerusalem’s suburbs. In his classroom, at the desk near his, there’s Even, a freckle-faced Jewish kid with a marked American accent.

Even and Moustapha attend Hand in Hand, the multicultural and bilingual school which in Israel is becoming an extraordinary reality. It is built on a very simple concept: peace between Arabs and Jews is before all else made at school, by teaching the two national languages of Israel, Arabic and Hebrew, to everyone. And by learning to respect and know the three monotheistic religions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

Hand in Hand is a private school recognized by the Israeli Ministry of Education. To date, there are 676 students, divided between nursery school and elementary school: students have doubled in just the past two years and last fall, 120 enrolment requests had to be turned down on account of a lack of space. The school is located in three branches: in Jerusalem, in Galilee and in the Arab village of Wadi Ara. And in the next five years, in consideration of catering to all the demands, ten new schools are expected to be constructed.

“And to think that only back in 1997, when we started, we had to persuade the parents one by one,” the director dealing with the school development, Bob Fenton recounts. “There was a great deal of fear. In this country, a Jew is worried when having to address an Arab, and vice versa; on the contrary, it’s fundamental that there are more and more relationships between us.”

Everything that happens in the Israeli schools is crucial for the coming times, Fenton continues: “The population is 20% Arab and 80% Jewish. Most of the families send their children to schools being attended by either only Jews or only Arabs. This increases the division. Instead, in Hand in Hand schools this fracture can’t be perceived: each school has two principals, one Jewish and the other Arab, the classrooms are perfectly divided in the same amount of students for each of the two sides; and two teachers, one Jewish and one Arab, give lessons together. This fact compels parents, students and teachers to multiply relations with one another.”

The Hand in Hand school of Jerusalem is situated in the Baka quarter, only ten minutes away from Bethlehem’s check-point, where the wall raised by the government is the most blatant mark of that tragic absence of communication. “Although they don’t understand the causes, the children deeply experience the conflict and fear,” explain Yaffa-Shira Grossberg and Enji Watad, who teach in the same second year classroom in Jerusalem. “In class, we make them speak to one another, we urge them to ask questions in order that they can listen to one another. This favours dialogue and dissolves the tension.” Yet, finding common answers isn’t an easy job.

“One only has to think of how history can be interpreted,” Fenton remarks: “to Jews, Independence Day is a holiday in memory of the land again recovered after thousands of years; to Arabs, the same day is the Nakba, the catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes. When speaking to the children, we talk about both the Arab villages which were destroyed and the Holocaust; and we also tell them how Jews and Arabs used to get along with one another in Spain. We tell them that ours can be the country for us all.”

“Our children learn to see reality in a complex way,” we’re told by Dalia Peretz, sister of the Labour Party leader, Amir Peretz, and who for years has been the co-director of the Jerusalem school.

“More and more families are making requests to us to give this kind of education to their children. In the beginning, maybe they were from a cultural elite only. Now, on the contrary, the context has changed: those arriving here are parents from all the social classes, both well-to-do ones and not.” The yearly fee is one thousand dollars, little more than the state school’s one; yet, should a family have economic difficulties, it receives some help. Hand in Hand’s closing balance for 2005 amounted to 1.6 million dollars, in large part represented by the offers from benefactors. “The most numerous group of students belongs to the middle-class,” Dalia continues, “while there are very few orthodox students, of all religions.”

Doctor Shafiq Masalka, a Muslim Arab, is a long-standing upholder of the project and enrolled his children there from the start. Psychologist, he teaches at Tel Aviv University and at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and lives in a residential quarter together with his wife and four children. “We Arabs from Israel are a segregated minority,” he says. “I really only had a chance to make acquaintance with a Jew when I came to Jerusalem to attend university; before that, I studied at Kufar Qari, my village, south of Nazareth, and there was no possibility to meet Jews. That’s why I decided to enroll my daughters in this school, so that they can regard Jews as human beings. And, in turn, be seen as persons.”

Wendy and Simon Weiss met and married each other in a kibbutz of the Negev desert. When they moved to Jerusalem in 2000, they were faced with the problem of finding a school for their eldest daughter, Noa: “The second Intifada had just broken out,” Wendy says, “and we thought, with this school, to have found a sort of solution to what is happening in this part of the world. We have to be able to live together.”

“Having a chance to speak with the Arabs, this is the great idea,” Simon continues. “If I think about the fact that my daughter will be able to talk with her neighbours in their national language, then, in the future, it will be easier to find common ground and come to some solutions.”

Nonetheless, there are also some fears: “Many are concerned about the fact that such a school may cause the children to lose their identity,” doctor Masalka explains. “On the contrary, I believe that my daughters are more aware of their identity than many children of the same age, just because they are able to see themselves through the differences between themselves and others. And the same goes for the Jewish children.”

Translated from Italian by Diego Traversa and revised by Mary Rizzo, member of Tlaxcala (www.tlaxcala.es), the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation is on copyleft.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Conversation: The what-ifs of the Holocaust and Israel

I reprint here a conversation which took place on a discussion board. I think it is deeply meaningful.

Dear E,

I don't know how old you are, whether you were around sixty years ago. But that really doesn't matter. I am sure you know our recent history. Had we had our Jewish state then, it is quite possible that my paternal grandfather and all my father's siblings together with their families would have been spared their gruesome fate. I am sorry, E, to resort to the Holocaust. But THAT is what it boils down to.

While I fully AGREE with you that our Jewish state is not democratic, I am NOT ready to conclude from that that we should abandon this state of ours, - as long as the world is run the way it is, i.e., divided into ridiculous little nation states, each one waving its silly piece of coloured rag...

There should be no discrimination between one Israeli and another. Period. Hopefully we will get to that eventually. I agree with you that one may have doubts... The same as on ending the Occupation...

Best regards, Z

Dear Z,
60 years ago I was 9 growing up in Haifa Palestine where I was born, and my family too except for my parents was murdered in Europe (Latvia).

"If we had the Jewish state then" - we did not, so it is not relevant to anything happening today.

What does give me a lot of thought and bother regarding the holocaust, is that what Hitler did to the Jewish people is possibly not finished. The damage to the Jewish people collective psyche and mental structure is not finished and is continuing to wreak havoc on our people - "ad shileshim v'ribe'eem" (to the 3rd and 4th generation) as it is written in the bible, (not without good reason!) when disasters and punishments are discussed.

I see the situation now similar to your's mentioning the holocaust, but with a difference. Here I am sorry to say, the blame is not only on Hitler who continues to destruct the Jewish people from his cursed grave, but our people are to blame too - in not being able to finish that horrible chapter in our history, but continue to dwell on it practically every day in every deed every step every action every non-action for the past 60 years, and worse - with no end in sight, and with cumulative disastrous results and consequences.

You probably know that what people fear most they usually bring on themselves. There is no mystery or unknown power doing it, but the constant dwelling on it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy and and self sustaining driving force, just like "the whole world is against us", is. we do all we can to daily prove that it is true by giving the world the reasons to hate us. True for nations just as it is for people.

If Israel (and the diaspora Jews) does not wise up, mature and becomes capable of putting the holocaust in the past where it belongs, with one remembrance and mourning day a year, and continues to use and abuse it on all levels of thought ideology action and inaction, the future cannot be better than the past and possibly actually be worse.

You write, "of course there should be no discrimination between one Israeli and another".
Great words, except you live in Israel, so you should know that this is not going to happen any time soon, or ever.


Saturday, May 20, 2006


Pain Ray - US torture weapons used against civilians

“Star Wars in Iraq” is a new investigative report by Maurizio Torrealta and Sigfrido Ranucci. The document takes off from the disturbing eyewitness report from Majid Al Ghezali, first violinist of the Baghdad Orchestra, who had witnessed the conquest of the airport by the US Armed Forces. Al Ghezali tells that he had seen the victims of the battle with their bodies shrunken and to have heard talk about the use of laser weapons.

Even the chief surgeon of the General Hospital of Hilla, Saad al Falluji, speaks of an episode involving the horrible mutilations that had occurred to the passengers of a bus that had been hit at an American checkpoint with a mysterious and silent weapon. The Iraqi physician was shocked at the absence of bullets or bullet wounds upon the dead and wounded. The journalists of Rai News 24 had requested information from the Pentagon about the possible use of lethal laser weapons, on their effects and on their usage in war zones, but as of today, they still have not obtained any replies. Taking off precisely from these eyewitness accounts, the Rai News 24 investigation analyses the current use of a new typology of weapons, destined to signal the epochal passage from “kinetic” weapons to those run by energy.

Laser devices mounted on the Humvees have already been tested in Afghanistan and Iraq, officially to set off landmines and hidden explosive devices. In the inquiry there is the detailed description of a weapon considered to be “non-lethal”: the “Pain Ray”. The characteristics of this weapon, that uses an invisible ray that provokes an extremely intense painful sensation, but does not cause death, has brought about the preoccupation of the organisations that work in human rights defence and see in this new weapon the risk of an instrument of gradual and legal torture. It is an alarm that is also motivated by the fact that the studies on the effects of these weapons on the human body are still covered by military secret.

SEE THE FILM http://www.rainews24.it/ran24/inchieste/guerre_stellari_iraq.asp
in English, Italian or Arabic.

An excerpt:
Retired Colonel John B. Alexander The Active Denial System is a Millimetre Wave System, operates at about 93 GHz. It sends out a beam for a very long distance, and what’s important about it is that when it hits the skin it penetrates only a very slight, for a few millimetres under the skin and it it’s the pain receptors and causes, you know, people to be adverse to the pain.

It hurts, it hurts a lot.

The tests that had been run they were to go for 3 seconds, each individual was given a kill switch and nobody made 3 seconds. The answer to the pain is extremely rapid, and you don’t have to do it very long, I mean, it gets your attention instantly.

To understand the consequences this new weapon could have for human rights we went to the Empire State Building in Manhattan, home of the offices of Human Rights Watch, one of the most important human rights organizations.

Marc Garlasco We can see the effects of a gun very easily and understand them, but when you cannot see the effect of a weapon because it is not visible and because the science is not very well understood because technology is so new, then it becomes a grieve concern that enrages the states for potential human rights violations and abuses. And that is something that we have to understand about the Active Denial System, that it exists to create pain and is very different in most other non-lethal weapons where the desire is either to immobilize someone or make it so that they cannot walk in the area. With the Active Denial System the main desire is pain, and we have to be very careful because in international law is very clear that devices created solely for the creation of pain can eventually lead to torture and are therefore illegal, and it’s very critical that the United States does a careful legal review of the Active Denial System and is open with their findings. To date they have not been open.

William Arkin Some people say “ooh acoustic weapons, or High Power Microwave weapons, the Active Denial System, we can use it for crowd control…”

What crowd control? What does that mean?

It pretends that anyone in the crowd is eighteen years old, and male and in good health, and we’re just going to shoot these microwaves or shoot these acoustic weapons on this crowd, and it’s going to be carefully calibrated at a power level, in the intensity and at a range to affect all these eighteen years old men in the crowd.

Well, what crowd is made up of just eighteen years old men?

Look at the Intifada, look at any riot in Iraq today: children, women, pregnant women, old people, and so the effect… the effect that you would need in order to have an impact on a healthy male, you target, would be too much for a child or a pregnant woman or an old person.

Marc Garlasco There’s been a lot of discussion also about the potential for eye damage. They have done some tests on the skin to show that is not harmful, but where is the eye test? And there are concerns raised by scientists about potential harm to the eyes. And we also have concerns about the effects to children, to the infirm, to the elderly… Why are they not producing the data? Why are they not sharing it with us?

As regards the use of the pain ray in the field of war, the military review Defence Industry Daily reports that three Sheriff vehicles were ordered at a price of about 31 million dollars, and that approval has been requested for another 14 vehicles by Brigadier General James Haggin, chief of staff of the multinational forces in Iraq.

Retired Colonel John B. Alexander In my view the next global conflict has already began and we don’t have an understanding of what that conflict looks like. Because of the issues of terrorism for instance the adversaries are going to be I think mixed in with civilian populations. We need weapons that allow us to be able to sort, minimize what they call “collateral casualties”. I think the battlefields are going to be in urban areas.

Monday, May 15, 2006


The Nakba at 58

thanks Zaki


Gideon Levy - Game Theory

This was an especially short masked ball: Two or three months and the "boycott" party of the Palestinian Authority ended. It was also an especially stupid masked ball: Hamas can now brandish a real achievement. Israel and the world have surrendered unconditionally, and the flow of money to the territories is being renewed.

The problem is that some of the masks have remained, and the foolishness continues: Israel and the world will not transfer monies "directly" to the Hamas government, but rather by means of a special "Hamas bypass" mechanism. This unnecessary mask will also be removed quickly.

What has Israel gained from this game? Nothing. It has only lost. The pictures of shortages and distress have been chalked up, and rightly so, to Israel. And how does the world look when it dances, just like that, automatically, to Israel's pipe? Apart from another several thousand families who have joined the circle of poverty in the occupied territories, nothing has come of this cat-and-mouse game that the world played, under Israel's coaching, with the elected Palestinian government. A Nobel Prize that was given to an Israeli for game theory was certainly not intended for games like these.

Now the world needs to pause for a moment and ask itself, how come one small country can make a mockery of it in this way and cause great powers to act in such an unintelligent way? Anyone who examines the decision by the Quartet to boycott the Hamas government cannot but wonder where Israel gets the power to squeeze out more and more decisions that are contrary to the international interest and, in fact, to its own interests. The world, which is not interested in a humanitarian disaster in Rafah, should have immediately rejected the Israeli demand to stop transferring aid to the territories, instead of being dragged into this farce that has not yet ended. Will Israel's imagined diplomatic strength serve it in the long term? Certainly not. The day will come when the world will tire of the unnecessary games Israel and the United States force upon it.

It is necessary to go back to the two eternal verities: First of all, the Palestinian people elected Hamas in democratic elections, which were held at the initiative of the United States and with Israel's agreement; secondly, the state of Israel bears the responsibility for the fate of the population in the occupied territories. You wanted elections? Hamas was elected. You wanted to topple the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization? Here are the results. You want occupation? You have to pay the price. There is no way of escaping this.

The 165,000 families whose meager living comes from the PA have had to live for the past two months without a salary. In such a poor and shaky economy this is of tremendous significance. The vast majority of 3.5 million Palestinians are living in acute economic distress, to which the shortage that derives from the aid freeze has now been added. In the occupied territories a people is living that has no way to support itself, as all of the possibilities are closed to it, it has no way of entering the labor market in Israel, it has no sea port or airport and scores of barriers prevent it from moving around. It has no way out.

The world has chosen to take indirect responsibility for what is happening: Instead of bringing about an end to the occupation, it prefers to grant aid. For the fans of the occupation in Israel this is a very convenient solution, so it is impossible to understand why Israel has tried to sabotage this, too. Why is transferring money through the incorrupt Hamas unacceptable and transferring money through the corrupt Fatah acceptable? The assumption that economic pressure on the PA will lead to the fall of the elected government was a crazy idea. Pressure of this kind only reinforces Hamas and hostility toward Israel. There is no "Hamas bypass" road. Israel and the world must recognize this. Any diplomatic or economic progress will henceforth go through the headquarters of the movement that was elected to govern. Just as the economic boycott held up for only a few weeks, the diplomatic boycott will also not last long. Sweden has already welcomed in its territory two representatives of Hamas, the other European countries will follow suit, the United States will have to join in, and Israel's turn will also come, hideously late, of course, and it will recognize the Hamas government. Therefore, it is necessary to ask: Why wait? The lesson from the short-lived economic boycott must be learned now. Israel has already missed the Abu Mazen train and he is now the Palestinian Shimon Peres: It's pleasant to talk to him but what he says no longer has much influence or significance. Yet, nevertheless, having allotted half a year to diplomatic negotiations, Israel must immediately initiate a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) if it really wants to negotiate. Instead of traveling to Washington and Cairo, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should have gone to Ramallah first.


Sunday, May 14, 2006


Gaza Hospitals' Agony; Medicine stopped by the sanctions

A Palestinian boy, center, cries as he waits to be treated while doctors work on other wounded children at the Shifa hospital in Gaza city Tuesday June 10, 2003 following Israeli troops attack of a Palestinian residential area in the northern Gaza Strip, between the town of Beit Hanoun and the Jabaliya refugee camp. Three Palestinians in their teens were killed and 30 people were wounded, doctors said. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

From Italy's La Repubblica print edition. 13 April, 2006

By Alberto Stabile

GAZA—Now, who will tell Halam and Mariam, two sisters of 15 and 11 coming from the village of Beit Hanun to have their diseased blood cleaned up at the urology ward of Shifa hospital in Gaza, that it’s due to the fighting against Hamas’ government that perhaps soon they won’t be allowed to undergo blood dialysis treatment and their lives will be in danger, such as those ones of other dozens of men, women and children who find themselves in the same conditions?

We have come to Gaza to see for ourselves the effect of the so-called economic sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led government, and we find ourselves in a dejected town, sunk in its sandy sarcophagus. On the lamp posts, the symbols of the internal struggle are waving; yellow, green and black flags worn out by the wind which prove, through the portraits of the “martyrs”, the bloody and losing fight between al-Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad: this morning too there have been gunfights, in spite of the vows of a truce.

Judging by the shop-windows, the city doesn’t look poorer than it has always been. The shops are replete with everything that is necessary but customers. There is not enough money for people to buy anything.

Because of the block of economic aid, state employees haven’t been getting their wages for two months.

Yet, the closing (even though in fits and starts) of Karni’s trade crossing has forced even the private field to its knees (the textile industry, farming, the building sector). “People prefer to shut themselves in at home rather than coming out and going about for shopping without being able to buy,” we’re told by our longstanding guide, Mohammed Dawass.

Nonetheless, nothing like Shifa hospital, the biggest one (with its 600 beds and 2,000 patients coming here each day) not only in Gaza but even amongst those under PA jurisdiction in the Territories, can display the distress imposed by the sanctions’ regime.

What results from this is the proof of the theorem, already demonstrated many times and in other different parts of the Middle East, according to which sanctions against governments are actually detrimental to the civilian population and, after all, by striking the weakest, they only strenthen those rulers one would allegedly like to oust.

Wards and corridors are crowed with reporters and cameras, and being aware of the discretion that Palestinians in particular usually adopt and the discretion of Arabs in general, the exposition of sickness tends to be very odd. But couldn’t this ostentation serve as evidence of the degeneration in which the conflict has brought things down to?

The human body has become a weapon of political struggle and redemption.

“Stop attacking doctors” is written on a banner strung between two poles in the middle of the courtyard.

The reason for this is that many times, in the past, the factions’ and relatives’ anger has flung at the innocent health care personnel while this courtyard, that looks like a colonial barracks’ drill-ground surrounded by low buildings with white walls, has been many times the scene of gunfights.

Today, yet, it’s not the internal fighting between Palestinians that draws swarms of reporters to Gaza’s hospital.

“We have run out of some kinds of medicine,” Dr. Jumaa al Saqqa, general surgeon and director of public relations of the hospital, states dejectedly from his office. “This shortage seriously endangers patients’ life. I’m speaking of the urology ward where we are using up Erytropidina’s and Alfa D3’s stocks, and of an oncology ward where we have already had to stop any chemotherapy treatment.”

According to the doctor, four persons suffering from renal insufficiency died because of the lack of medicine.

“In order to be able to go on treating our 227 patients who need blood dialysis, we have had to reduce, from three to two a week, the procedures necessary for each of them. All this sometimes provokes very serious complications.”

It’s not a matter of information provided only by Palestinian sources.

The Israeli branch of the organization, Physicians for Human Rights, has denounced the dreadful situation of Gaza in one of its accounts that was published last week.

In the account, it’s explained how the decision of blocking the financial aid to the Palestinian Health Ministry, since it is part of Hamas’ government, was made in order to persuade the religious extremists to recognize the three conditions put forward by the international community (recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and terrorism, approving previous accords) is tantamount to paralyzing 64.5% of the healthcare needs of the Palestinians.

The Palestinian public health service, as a matter of fact, gets financial support for 7 million and 600 thousand dollars, excepting the wages of health personnel, hires 11 thousand employees (that’s 57% of the entire labour force employed in the health system) and completely covers the expenses required by approximately 20 thousand patients, compelling them, because of the weaknesses of the Palestinian system, to undergo treatment outside the Territories, in Egypt, in Jordan or in Israel.

Closings imposed by Israel, after Hamas’s victory at the polls, according to the Palestinian health authorities, have entailed that, in recent months, 274 patients have been rejected. Even though the different cases were acceptable within the framework of the imposed security yardsticks: over 40 years of age and upon approval by an Israeli hospital for the transfer.

At the oncology ward of Shifa hospital we meet with Rami Ghof, a Palestinian publisher, who informs us about his sister’s case: Rimah Majdalwish, 47 years old and with three children, affected by lung cancer and on the verge of being transferred to Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer hospital, but blocked at Heretz’s border crossing.

The existence of several other similar cases is confirmed to us by the director of the Gaza branch of the International Red Cross, Georgios Georgiantas.

Yet, it’s at the urology ward that emergency and pain are mingling with each other. “Also the last probes and machine filters are about to be used up,” says Mazel al Alul, a paramedic in charge of guiding us.

It’s immediately clear that the poorest patients are those who pay the highest price.

Laid down on two parallel little beds, Mariam and Hala have transparent little tubes that connect their hands and legs to the dialysis device. Sunk into the skin which has become grey from the disease, their eyes look confused.

Zahar Shahat, a woman who has been taking care of her husband for years in his weekly ordeal, and this is why she knows everybody here, tells us that the two little sisters come from a very poor family.

So much so that the public mercy ambulance has to go and fetch them every week to take them to the hospital.

Lost in a stretcher covered with a dirty sheet, a baby girl only few months old arrives, accompanied by her tearful parents and doctor Nahla, from Nasser Hospital, the hospital for children.

The girl, Hala, ten months old, has just been diagnosed with a serious renal insufficiency. She is tossing and turning in prey to mysterious aches.

Her father caresses her hair. She will be put in dialysis in shifts, as long as there will be enough medicine for such a thing.

Translated by Diego Traversa and revised by Mary Rizzo for Tlaxcala (www.tlaxcala.es) the network of translators for linguistic diversity.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Sam Bahour - Why Palestinian Strife is escalating

Recent Palestinian infighting is a dangerous development, one that has the entire region on edge. Armed confrontations in the street have been mirrored by escalating disagreements between politicians, most notably Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, over control of security agencies.

Through nearly four decades of continuous Israeli military occupation, which dominates every aspect of life, Palestinians have miraculously held together. Today, many are asking if they can withstand the unrelenting external pressures, coupled with an increasingly complicated domestic political makeup. The infighting stems from the dramatic change in government following the January elections when the Islamic party, Hamas, defeated the historically dominant secular party, Fatah. For the first time in modern Arab politics, the political majority and minority traded places peacefully. This should be applauded.

However, without a sovereign framework to grow within, it is unclear whether this episode is a one-time event or a prelude to a full-fledged democracy. Palestinian civil service was built by and for Fatah and is not a nonpartisan bureaucracy serving the public interest. This is especially so of the nearly 73,000 members of the security forces. Many were former Fatah activists rewarded for their loyalty with their current jobs. Corruption and inefficiency were rife in the Palestinian Authority, and contributed to Hamas' electoral victory.

Another cause of the infighting is economic deterioration. Israeli actions - sudden closure of the borders to labor and trade, drastic restrictions on movement, and destruction of capital and assets - are the main cause of this deterioration, according to Nigel Roberts, former World Bank country director for the occupied Palestinian territory. Roberts says these measures "led to an enormous loss of income... something like 40 percent of personal real incomes was lost in the course of [a] two-year period."

Israel also refuses to turn over $50 million a month in taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority as required under the Oslo accords. Increasingly needy Palestinians are demanding that the Palestinian Authority deliver government salaries and basic services, regardless of who is in power.

The police force has demonstrated publicly for its salaries, while other government employees say they are unable to afford transportation to work. Palestinian hospitals are running so low on basic medicines and supplies that some say they may have to close their doors. Domestic crime, historically unheard of in Palestinian territories, is on the rise. Store owners report customers wanting to pawn their belongings to put food on the table.

Neighborhood shopkeepers, who regularly provided customers with lines of credit, have mostly stopped this age-old practice. Palestinians recognize that they are caught between a rock and a hard place. They elected Hamas to oust a corrupt government and after years of a "peace process" that only made their lives worse, with the dramatic expansion of Jewish-only settlements and roads on their land.

Now, they are being punished by the international community that prefers the old corrupt government. On May 2, Palestinian private sector associations and business leaders met with Abbas and Hamas representatives to recommend the formation of a unity government of apolitical technocrats. It remains to be seen if this will be pursued. This private sector intervention is unprecedented and illustrates the severity of the crisis. Palestinians, like all people, just want to be able to put food on the table, educate their children, and live in security. They cannot do so without repairing these new internal rifts and without the support of the international community. They also cannot do so without freedom from Israel's military occupation. When pushed to the wall, they will not sacrifice one for the other.

The Hamas government may not survive the international pressure against it. That does not mean, however, that support for Hamas will diminish, especially as Palestinians enter their 40th year of occupation. In fact, the lesson that Palestinians - and others around the world - may draw is that democracy does not bring justice and real peace. That is not a conclusion we want anyone to draw.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian American businessman living in the West Bank
Sam Bahour sbahour@palnet.com is one of the editors of "Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and the Palestinians."

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Halliburton Solves Global Warming

SurvivaBalls save managers from abrupt climate change

An advanced new technology will keep corporate managers safe even when climate change makes life as we know it impossible. [Speech, photos]

"The SurvivaBall is designed to protect the corporate manager no matter what Mother Nature throws his or her way," said Fred Wolf, a Halliburton representative who spoke today at the Catastrophic Loss conference held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Amelia Island, Florida. "

This technology is the only rational response to abrupt climate change," he said to an attentive and appreciative audience. Most scientists believe global warming is certain to cause an accelerating onslaught of hurricanes, floods, droughts, tornadoes, etc. and that a world-destroying disaster is increasingly possible.

For example, Arctic melt has slowed the Gulf Stream by 30% in just the last decade; if the Gulf Stream stops, Europe will suddenly become just as cold as Alaska. Global heat and flooding events are also increasingly possible. In order to head off such catastrophic scenarios, scientists agree we must reduce our carbon emissions by 70% within the next few years. Doing that would seriously undermine corporate profits, however, and so a more forward-thinking solution is needed.

At today's conference, Wolf and a colleague demonstrated three SurvivaBall mockups, and described how the units will sustainably protect managers from natural or cultural disturbances of any intensity or duration. The devices - looking like huge inflatable orbs - will include sophisticated communications systems, nutrient gathering capacities, onboard medical facilities, and a daunting defense infrastructure to ensure that the corporate mission will not go unfulfilled even when most human life is rendered impossible by catastrophes or the consequent epidemics and armed conflicts.

"It's essentially a gated community for one," said Wolf.

Dr. Northrop Goody, the head of Halliburton's Emergency Products Development Unit, showed diagrams and videos describing the SurvivaBall's many features. "Much as amoebas link up into slime molds when threatened, SurvivaBalls also fulfill a community function. After all, people need people," noted Goody as he showed an artist's rendition of numerous SurvivaBalls linking up to form a managerial aggregate with functional differentiation, metaphorically dancing through the streets of Houston, Texas.

The conference attendees peppered the duo with questions. One asked how the device would fare against terrorism, another whether the array of embedded technologies might make the unit too cumbersome; a third brought up the issue of the unit's cost feasibility. Wolf and Goody assured the audience that these problems and others were being addressed.

"The SurvivaBall builds on Halliburton's reputation as a disaster and conflict industry innovator," said Wolf. "Just as the Black Plague led to the Renaissance and the Great Deluge gave Noah a monopoly of the animals, so tomorrow's catastrophes could well lead to good - and industry must be ready to seize that good."

Goody also noted that Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society was set to employ the SurvivaBall as part of its Corporate Sustenance (R) program. Another of Cousteau's CSR programs involves accepting a generous sponsorship from the Dow Chemical Corporation, whose general shareholder meeting is May 11.

source: http://www.halliburtoncontracts.com/about/

Sunday, May 7, 2006


Ernesto Paramo - The man who would deliver his people to Israel

According to a press release, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said today: “President Abbas called Mr. Olmert, congratulated him on the formation of the new cabinet and offered to resume the partnership between the two sides and to resume negotiations.”

Many observers always suspected that Abbas was an instrument of Israeli policy and the man Ariel Sharon hand-picked to take charge of a Fatah government in Palestine that would be subservient to his designs for a greater Israel. However, it seems that Abbas is now confident enough that the Hamas government will not survive for long and that the Palestinian people will be so hurt that they will not complain if he brings back, again, the corrupt oligarchs of the Fatah old guard to run a government of “National Salvation”, that he no longer sees any need for any more pretence.

Before the elections in January 2005, Bush and Ariel Sharon had extreme difficulties trying to disguise in public their intention that Abbas should be chosen as the successor to Yasser Arafat. Since Arafat’s mysterious death, politicians and diplomats praised Abbas as a “moderate” for his longstanding calls to end Palestinian armed resistance to Israel’s occupation. Abbas was also endorsed by US-friendly Arab governments like Egypt and Jordan and openly smiled upon by senior politicians of the European Union.

At the time, the international media rushed to give the election significance: “Palestinian landslide for Abbas” declared CBS news, “Abbas wins his mandate” said the Daily Telegraph and even the Guardian joined in the international chorus by stating in an editorial “Mr. Abbas owes his victory to the silent majority of Palestinians who yearn for normal lives in a state of their own.”

However, the Guardian was wrong, as the silent majority of the West Bank and Gaza remained silent on 9 January 2005. It was clear, even then, that the silence was overwhelmed by the media coverage and propaganda which was indifferent to the way the elections were conducted and the actual count of the vote. This was because both the electoral exercise and its international promotershad very little interest in what the majority really wanted.

The first public admission that there were problems and that fraud was evident came on January 15, with the resignation of 46 members of the Palestinian Central Elections Committee in protest of widespread voting irregularities and intimidation by Palestinian Authority officials. If the resignations showed how precarious Abbas’s mandate was, things got worse when the al-AqsaMartyrs’ Brigade, the military wing of his own Fatah party, defied Abbas’s Call for a ceasefire despite the neverending round of Israeli army killings of both Palestinian militants and civilians all over the Occupied Territories. The al-Aqsa Brigades joined with Hamas and Islamic Jihad to attack Gaza’s Karni border terminal on January 13, killing 6 Israelis.

True to form and to make a point in a very brutal fashion, Ariel Sharon responded by cutting all ties with the Palestinian Authority and let his army loose in Gaza, the day Abbas was sworn into office. At the same time Colin Powell, the then US State Department chief, demanded that Abbas crack down on the militants. All this was a pointed reminder of the constituency to whom Israel and the US believed the Palestinian President should answer.

One more shadow on the question of Abbas’s “mandate” was the popular Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned in Israel since 2002, who finally withdrew his candidacy under duress in December 2004. Opinion polls always put Abbas as the frontrunner, and yet they also showed that the day before the elections, as many as 80% of eligible voters in the West Bank and Gaza remained either undecided or indifferent to the whole exercise.

Bush described that Palestinian election, as “further proof” that the people of the Middle East want democracy. However, scores of people in Palestine referred to Abbas as the “Palestinian Karzai”, in other words, a US puppet. People in the street could not forget that Bush spent his first term in office marginalizing the last democratically elected Palestinian leader, so why take part in the process when the elected leader can be shot down and declared irrelevant or unacceptable by Israel and the US at will.

Other factors were that the Palestinians supporting the Islamic resistance movement Hamas, decided they were not going to turn out after the party decided to boycott the elections on the grounds that it would give recognition to the Oslo accords to which they have always been opposed. Also the strong showing of Marwan Barghouti in earlier opinion pools showed clearly that even a great chunk of Abbas’s own Fatah constituency was less than happy with his candidacy.So, what in 2005 was a democratic feat (the Israel-US candidate was declared the winner), became a totally unacceptable result in 2006 (The choice of the Palestinian people actually won). In 2005 a clear and shameless fraud took place, in 2006 the cleanest and most democratic election victory anywhere in the Middle East took place. Hamas decided to take part and won. Palestinians were utterly tired of so many betrayals and so much corruption, so they chose to make a clean break. Perhaps they underestimated the unlimited capacity of the Israelis and the US for brutality, stupidity and inhumanity.

While Abbas at his meeting with Sharon at Sharm-a-Sheik, after his election, did as he was supposed to do, smile sweetly and surrender the rights of his people, Hamas has stood firm. While Abbas has used the Palestinian security forces and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades to agitate and make problems for the new government, Hamas has been trying to find ways to replace the aid that the US and the cowardly European governments have cut off. Abbas still is smiling sweetly as he prepares for the final betrayal, hoping that Olmert will treat him better than Sharon, at least in public. Hamas needs to make sure that the people do not make any more sacrifices than absolutely necessary, after all they have the ultimate weapon: the ability and the willingness to say NO and mean it.

This article also appears on Rebeliòn and Axis of Logic (links to follow)

Friday, May 5, 2006


Nakba, 58 years later, 2 accounts

The Other Side of the Story
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

It is that time of year again. Oversized Israeli flags fluttering above buildings, homes and cars, firecrackers lighting up the night May sky and Israelis packing up their cars with picnic baskets and beach balls as they kick off the 58th anniversary of Israel’s independence. In a place full of contradictions, double standards and hypocrisy, for many Palestinians, this occasion represents the worst hypocrisy of them all.

On May 14, 1948, Israel declared its independence. Although it is not unprecedented in history that countries gain their independence through war, either by conquest or by flinging off the yoke of colonization, there are few examples in history that match the circumstances under which Israel was created.

The Palestinians, the people at whose expense the Jewish state was established, have another word for Israel’s Independence Day – Al Nakba or The Catastrophe. In a matter of months, over 800,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes throughout Palestine. Hundreds of others were massacred by Jewish gangs in Deir Yassin and Ein Al Zaytoun as a tactic to terrorize people into fleeing. Villages were destroyed, people killed and homes left behind as horrified Palestinians fled the fighting between Jewish troops, Arab armies and Palestinian resistance groups, believing they would be allowed to return home in a matter of days.

That was not to happen. As Jewish troops continued to launch attacks against both Palestinian resistance groups and unarmed civilian populations, pushing back the much weaker and far less organized Arab armies, more and more people fled the battle scenes, crossing borders in the north into Lebanon and Syria, across the river into Jordan and into the West Bank and Gaza in the south. As the fighting raged on, little did the Palestinians, the Arabs or even the international community realize a deep-rooted problem that would prove to be one of the thorniest issues in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, was in the making.

Still, even after the war ended and Israel declared its independence, the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who had left behind their entire lives still believed they would be allowed to return home. Thinking they would only be away from their homes for a few days at most, people took the bare minimum, trudging across the borders with thin mattresses slung over their backs, children on their hips and the keys to their homes securely hanging from their necks.

The journey was to become the Palestinians’ worst nightmare. After months of sleeping in makeshift tents with whatever provisions they could scrap up or were provided them by their unexpecting host countries, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194 in December, 1948 which, “declared that in the context of a general peace agreement ‘refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so’ and that ‘compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return.’”

And as history will later lend evidence to, this was just one of the many hypocrisies perpetrated by the international community and Israel against the Palestinians. Not only was the resolution disregarded by the fledgling Jewish state, it was swept under the rug by the West and the rest of the world. Fifty-eight years later, Palestinians across the board are asking for no more than for UN resolutions to be enforced as they so often are in other areas of conflict.

However, as it became apparent that the refugees would not return to their homes in Palestine, now either destroyed or inhabited by new Jewish immigrants, the world was at least obliged to deal with the disaster that had come into being. On December 8, 1949, UN General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) called for the establishment of UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. The agency has since provided homes, schools, food and work for the approximately 4.3 million registered Palestinian refugees throughout its areas of operation.
Now, 58 years later, the double standards of Israel – the self-proclaimed democracy of the Middle East – and the world at large have never been so stark. As Israel celebrates its day of independence, the Palestinians continue to languish in sprawling refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza under extremely poor living conditions and even poorer political horizons. The right of return for Palestinian refugees has been a “national constant” for the Palestinian leadership and people for over half a decade and a most serious sticking point for Israel, which claims it cannot allow the refugees to return to their prior homes for fear that this would sabatoge the demographic composition of its Jewish majority.

In addition to the refugee problem, Israel has little to be proud of when it comes to its neighbors, the Palestinians. Crammed into demeaning cantons, each city severed from the next, fighting off poverty, unemployment and international condemnation for resisting 39 years of Israeli military occupation, the Palestinians are clear proof that Israel is a country based on racism and double standards. As it oppresses, occupies and aims to annihilate the national cause of an entire people, it portrays itself to the world as a democracy and a peace-loving nation under fire.

Even Israelis themselves have truly come to believe this fallacy. On May 3, as Israelis marked the beginning of independence celebrations, Acting Knesset Speaker Shimon Peres said Israeli citizens can look back on their past with satisfaction. Peres was also quick to add the Palestinians into the mix as well.

"I turn, first and foremost, to our neighbors the Palestinians. This evening too we are proffering beautiful days of peace, the squeeze of a handshake of peace rather than a squeezing of the trigger," he said.

After 58 years of displacement, expulsion and oppression, when will the world finally realize that the Palestinians have and continue to be on the receiving end of the gun?

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Programme at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She could be contacted at


My Nakba ...After 58 years of Al Nakba
By: Fadi Abu Sada *

Bethlehem – The hour was approaching 10:00 at night, and as usual I was updating the Palestine News Network site, with what was the latest news. My child snored quietly in his sleep after a long day playing with the children in the house. At the same time I was keeping my eye on one of the political programs on a satellite channels. This is what I remember.

And in a moment, split seconds, huge explosions began and violent shooting hit near the house. Our home is just meters the expanding Israeli Abu Ghoneim (Har Homa) Settlement and Bethlehem on the other side. Often Bethlehem resistance fighters exchange fire with the settlement. But this time was different because the shooting was thicker, the sound fuller with noisier explosions.

The first thing that flashed through my mind was my child asleep in his bedroom which is in the general direct line of fire when there is an exchange between the Israeli soldiers at the settlement and the Bethlehem area resistance. I ran quickly and seized my small son from his bed, waking him from his free childhood dreams, so that I could put him in a safer place in the house. Usually I chose the kitchen as it is the safest room.

I was thinking that as usual the shooting would stop within moments and life could go back to normal, as with regret I say that this is routine and part of our daily life.

But my thoughts suddenly seemed out of place and I was filled with doubts about what I had become accustomed to because the shooting was increasing with a peculiar sharpness, and the sound of explosions rose in volume. Nothing came to my mind about what was happening outside other than the first night of the war on Iraq when American planes began to rumble through the sky, directing their fire on to what they turned into a battle field.

I felt that I did not possess many choices and that I was not moving quickly enough to decide what to do, considering the time-factor extremely important. I was trying to clear my mind in order to know if I wanted to leave the house and my family, taking a huge risk, in order to see which direction the firing was coming from, still having no idea of the truth of what really was taking place outside.

In my decision-making it came to me alone that I must go outside to the main balcony, directly in the line of fire between Abu Ghoneim’s settlers and Bethlehem. This seemed my only option as to go outside blindly with my entire family was impossible without knowing the exact direction of the shooting.

All of this took place in just a few moments, while the shooting and explosions seemed to be coming from all sides. I began sneaking several meters toward the gate leading to the main balcony, the line of fire, but still sticking to the wall that would soon end and leave me exposed to the line of fire. But at least if I knew, I could make a clear decision.

For a few moments I could see the settlement and what can I describe other than that I found the sky lit up as if it were Doomsday. And then it came to me. I knew what was taking place. And as I stood, still feeling the terror that had seized me, I realized the painful truth that my last moments were in vain. In that moment I did not know whether to laugh at the intensity of my stupidity or to weep from the pain I had felt from what I saw.

But the truth is I could not hold back my tears because I realized then that Israel, through a beautiful display of fireworks in all colors, was lighting the sky. They were celebrating their Independence Day, while I am still living in the Nakba, my Disaster, that I toil to forget, and do often forget. But even if I can and do forget the creation of their state, which is our Nakba, our Disaster for 58 years, they will remind me of it, even in this way.

* The director of the Palestine News Network site.


Thursday, May 4, 2006


How Palestine Became Israel - Deir Yassin Day 2006

With but a wave of his hand…
Bloomsbury Theatre – Sunday April 9th /Monday April 10th

by Paul Eisen

How Palestine Became Israel, part of the Deir Yassin Day 2006 commemorations, was performed at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London’s West End on 9-10 April, and directed by British-Palestinian playwright/director Razanne Carmey and Dan Coleman.

Carmey traveled to Palestine to meet theatre groups from towns, cities and refugee camps, and to run a playwrights’ competition, the winner’s work to be showcased at DYD 2006.

How Palestine Became Israel was a compilation of four pieces: In Our Own Little World and Friday Morning by Carmey, The Water Urn by Issa Abu Srour, and Far Away from a Nearby Village by Abdel Fattah Abu Srour, who won the playwrights competition.

The production opened to a packed house with Ahmad Masoud and the al-Zaytouna Dabke Group but then, somewhat primed for a nostalgic evening of song and dance, we heard a little more than we had bargained for:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the members of the Al-Zaytouna Dance Group are from Brouj, Majdal, Deir Snaind and Jaffa but they have never been there. They were born and raised in refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. The reason for this is that their country no longer exists. This is what happened.”

With a call to prayer this story begins. So much of this piece takes place in that hour before dawn. In that hour, members of the family from the Palestinian village of Sindyana reflect on their lives and loves – the joys and sorrows of family life whilst at that same hour, on the other side of the stage the Zionist leadership plans and plots to steal the land. Zionists pore over maps of Palestine and, focussing on the Haifa district, they discuss the village of Sindyana – its past, present and its future and they fix on a name more suitable for that future. Sindyana, they discover, means ‘tall oak tree’ which in Hebrew is alon, so why not call the new village Alona?

Meanwhile, at the other end of the stage, Maleeha, a Palestinian mother writes to her son, oblivious of the tragedy about to overtake her. And not once does either side look at the other – not even a glance as the Jews, seemingly oblivious of the horror they are about to do and the Palestinians, equally oblivious of the horror about to be done, both go about their business.

Thus was Palestine lost.

All this is given hard-edged backing as maps and plans on the one side (we see on the map that ominous transformation of the name Sandyana into Alona) and family snapshots and letters on the other are, by projected images, shared with the audience.

“Don’t talk to me about your father,” writes Maleeha and soon her no-good, lute-playing husband appears played by Palestinian composer and lutist Nizar Issa who, with singer/songwriter Shadia Mansour charts this narrative with music and song woven intricately into the storyline. The songs are a treat: Assmar el Lone (For She is Dark and Comely) Rosana-(a love song), another song of the ubiquitous cactus of Palestine which, even when cut, will always return, the songs Jaffra and Dalouna, and finally the oft-repeated Wain A Ramallah

But it is with the entrance of David Ben-Gurion that this production first goes up a notch.

Immaculately played as an irascible and hyperactive trades union official who, having abandoned his Jewish god and now worshipping a new deity – a god of Socialism, collectivism and Zionism, Ben-Gurion is a man who ‘knows’. He ‘knows’ what is best for the workers of the world, he ‘knows’ what is best for the Jews of Europe and he certainly ‘knows’ what is best for the Palestinians of Palestine.

Nor need there be any moral obstacles to the Zionist takeover.

Zionism must and will not impinge upon one degree of legitimate Arab rights.

….We do not recognise absolute ownership of any country. The only right by which a people can claim to possess a land is the right conferred by willingness to work. Palestine is still undeveloped…..Since the Jewish labourer is more intelligent and more diligent than the Arab, then the land is ours.

How convenient, because in this beautifully drawn character of Ben-Gurion we see the whole semi-conscious, self-delusional morality of the entire Zionist enterprise ….and its inevitable moral collapse.

Act one closes and the darkness looms. A young wife bewails her miscarriages whilst Ben-Gurion and his comrades bemoan that, after nearly sixty years of building the Jewish state, the Jews are simply not coming.

Where are the Jews? Where are the Jews? Why don’t they come? We’re creating a Utopia here! Where are the Jews?

The hard truth is that in order to secure the necessary two-thirds Jewish majority they need to lose one million Palestinians, but how?

Don’t be coy. We all know what must be done…We need a few massacres – highly publicised, newspapers with stories of death, rape and burning. As soon as you shoot a few in the village square – that’s how you empty a village.

Perfect. And, best of all, no-one’s morality need be compromised

No-one needs to give the order. When the soldiers are hot enough there is no need to give an order.

So now massacre is the order of the day. Friday Morning, scripted by Razanne was first performed five years ago at Deir Yassin Day 2001. Set in the village of Deir Yassin itself, a father is led outside his home to be shot whilst his wife and child sing Wain A Ramallah to drown out the sounds of his execution.

Shocked, we prepare for the climax: an animated image of the march of ethnic cleansing across the map of Palestine. As the map steadily turns pink, Arab Palestine transforms itself into Jewish Israel, accompanied all the time by flashing pinpoints of light - each of the seventy known massacres making its own special contribution to turning Palestine into Israel.

And for a soundtrack, jazz musicians Gilad Atzmon and Yaron Stavi step onstage to improvise an agonised Wain A Ramallah - that happy-clappy song used first at a family party, then to drown out the sounds of an execution and finally now to accompany the Palestinian people in their long journey into exile.

Now all that is left are bedraggled refugees moving across stage recounting their tales of horror on their road to exile. A mother from Beit Natteef has lost her two sons, an old man takes a sprig of fig tree to remind him of the smell of home, and a young woman carries her dead baby girl in her arms insisting she’s still alive:

My daughter cannot die now to be buried on the road of exile. She cannot be put in a grave on a nameless road? How can I come and visit her tomorrow?

And, for the last time, Nizar and Shadia sing. I don’t know any Arabic but even I know what biladi means. I also know what Deir Yassin means and I know that I heard that name in the extra verse added to his composition by Nizar especially for the occasion.

That night I thought back on all that I had seen. One scene kept coming back to me - a dramatization of an incident from the memoirs of Yitzhak Rabin. Some Haganah commanders go to see Ben-Gurion in his office. They’ve captured some villages in the Galilee and they don’t know what to do next. “Prime Minister,” they ask, “What is to be done with these people?" Without a word Ben-Gurion stands and, with a sweep of his hand he gives them their answer and their orders.

Sitting in that audience and watching Ben-Gurion consign an entire people into exile reminded me of an old Jewish story: A man goes to his rabbi. “Rabbi, how can I believe in the Holy Books? After all, they tell us things like Moses raised his hand and the waters of a mighty sea parted. Who can believe such nonsense?” “Listen,” says the rabbi. “Just one week ago the Czar with his pen signed a decree clearing out the inhabitants of some Jewish villages to make way for a new railway. Perhaps in days to come people will say ‘With one drop of ink, the Russian Czar drowned a thousand villages.’”

So will Palestinians perhaps one day, when telling their children of the Nakba say how, with but a wave of his hand, a Jewish captain drove one million Palestinians from Palestine? Who knows? But one thing is for sure: the Jewish narrative has, for years, been used and abused in the service of Zionism and of Israel. It has long been the role of Deir Yassin Remembered, now joined by Deir Yassin Day, to piece together and tell a truthful and meaningful Palestinian narrative. Deir Yassin Day 2006 and the performance of this remarkable play How Palestine Became Israel did just that.

Paul Eisen is a director of Deir Yassin Remembered

Tuesday, May 2, 2006


Ahmadinejad: Lost in translation

From Today's Little Red Email
It was October last year when we came home, flicked on the radio and listened aghast to the news that the Iranian president denied the Holocaust had happened and said the state of Israel should be wiped off the map. ‘Christ,’ we thought, ‘this nut job’s playing into their hands with this kind of rhetoric.’ Since then “the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion” as one US academic has described the Iran/US imbroglio has ratcheted up to high alert with Seymour Hersch of the New Yorker reporting that the White House is all prepared for nuclear strikes. It would take just 12 hours to deploy nuclear weapons for a bunker busting strike that would kill a million Iranians according to conservative estimates commissioned by the Pentagon. Nuclear armed planes are now on constant alert and public opinion has been framed around those mad, mad statements on Israel by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But what if the pronouncements by Ahmadinejad that cast him as this season’s baddie incarnate had been a) mistranslated and b) taken out of context?

When properly translated the Iranian president actually calls for the removal of the regimes that are in power in Israel and in the USA as a goal for the future. Nowhere does he demand the elimination or annihilation of Israel. He called for greater governance for Palestine. The word map does not even feature. And the president makes plain that the Holocaust happened, but, he argues western powers have exploited the memory of the Holocaust for their own imperialistic purposes. What the mainstream ran with is complete deception.

The deception has been aided by the fact that much of the media use an ‘independent’ company called Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri) for translating Middle Eastern languages. Memri just happens to be owned by two right-wing neo-con Israelis: Meyrav Wurmser, the wife of one of Dick Cheney’s aides (and ex-special assistant to ‘Strap-on’ John Bolton), David Wurmser and former(?) Israeli Military Intelligence officer, Colonel Yigal Carmon. Indeed a look at Wikipedia’ s incomplete staff list seems to suggest a heavy Israeli bias in staffing and at least two more ex-Israeli Military Intelligence people. Still the little red email is sure that’s just a coincidence, as is the fact that the Israeli army (presumably military intelligence) has also used this mistranslation tactic in the past.

And once Ahmadinejad had been brushed with the wacko Jew destroyer tag, it was a short hop, skip and ein Sprung before he was alongside Adolf Hitler in the pantheon of baddies. Like Milosevic and Hussein before him, Ahmadinejad’s Hitler comparison is as sure a sign war is imminent.

Unlike Hitler though Ahmadinejad doesn’t rule Iran, nor does he control its foreign or military policy. The man in charge of all that is Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran is a theocracy, and Khamenei is the theocrat-in-chief. To give you an idea of where Ahmadinejad lies in Iran’s political hierarchy, note that no one can even run for the presidency in the first place without the approval of Khamenei and the Guardian Council, a group of six clerics and six conservative jurists that are selected by Khamenei.

Ahmadinejad serves the purpose of being a believable bogeyman. He’ll find his Ph.D. in civil engineering and being a founding member of the Iran Tunnel Society useful if Seymour Hersch’s bunker-busting nuke allegations come true.

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