As President Obama heads to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan on what seems mainly to be presidential tourism, Rashid Khalidi at Democracy Now! explains how the United States is undermining Mideast peace and harming the Palestinian population.
Meanwhile, some Palestinians are protesting Obama’s visit. The USG Open Source Center translates a report from the Ma’an News Agency:
“Palestinians Protest Near US Consulate in Jerusalem in Rejection of Obama Visit
Ma’an News Agency
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Document Type: OSC Summary
A report posted at 1927 GMT says that the Palestinian Prisoner Club organized a rally opposed the US Consulate in Jerusalem in the afternoon of 19 March. The report notes that the demonstration was held under the slogan “We Are All Samir,” in honor of Samir al-Isawi, Palestinian prisoner held in Israel. The report further cites Prisoner Club Director Nasir Qaws saying: “We reject Obama’s visit, which makes Jerusalem the capital of Israel. We are demonstrating to show that this city is the capital of the Palestinian state.”
(Description of Source: Bethlehem Ma’an News Agency in Arabic — Website of independent, leading Palestinian news agency; funded by the Dutch and Danish Foreign Ministries; URL: http://www.maannews.net/) “
Rachel Corrie’s parents speak out on the tenth anniversary of her killing by the Israeli operator of a military bulldozer, who ran over her as he approached a Palestinian home he intended to demolish. There were two men in the cockpit, one to observe and the other to drive the machine.
Rachel risked her her life to make a statement about the systematic Israeli degradation of the living conditions of the Palestinians (tearing down homes of relatives of anyone who resists the occupation is just one such policy).
But let us recognize the harsh reality: the condition of the Palestinians under Occupation is much worse now than 10 years ago. The Palestinians have suffered dramatic loss of real income even compared to the 1990s. Those in Gaza are still under an Israeli blockade that keeps them from exporting most of their products and keeps half their children in a condition of food insecurity. Nearly half of Gaza families were enclosed there after having been chased out of their homes in southern Palestine by the Jewish fighters trying to found Israel in 1947-48. Many of them can see their former property from Gaza in what is now Israel, could walk there in an hour if allowed to. They never received in reparations for land and property now worth billions. In the West Bank, aggressive Israeli colonization of Palestinian land continues apace, and a Palestinian state is no longer even plausible. Millions of stateless Palestinians have no basic human or civil rights, lacking citizenship in a country that could defend those rights.
Rachel’s work was only beginning. She can’t do it. We must.
For them, the US is a 900 pound behemoth that can boss the world around with its high-tech military at will. Their foreign policy is to shoot first and ask questions later, to cowboy it all alone, to never have regrets and never question American supremacy. They believe in a civilizational hierarchy, with Americans at the top of it, and for some of them ‘Americans’ means white Americans.
They strongly supported the illegal US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and many opposed the 2011 US withdrawal from that country. McCain admitted that some of the pettiness toward Hagel derived from grudges over his break with George W. Bush: “There’s a lot of ill will toward Sen. Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly, at one point said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover, said the surge (of U.S. troops in Iraq) was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which is nonsense, and was anti-his own party and people.”
I think Herbert Hoover was a very fine president compared to George W. Bush, and so does McCain. That is, McCain privately agrees with Hagel on this issue, and is slamming him in part because he is guilty over his own inability to live up to his ideal of party loyalty. As for Bush’s war on Iraq, the crackpot notion that the entire enterprise was anything but an epochal failure that left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and millions displaced, and gave al-Qaeda a new lease on life, should be laughed out of the Senate.
Hagel’s ideas on foreign policy are pragmatic and cautious, and sane. The real reason that he had a hard ride in his confirmation was that the looney tunes Tea Partiers and Neoconservative dead-enders want to keep alive the insane options as long as they can, the dream of striding in camel boots and khaki through the halls of an abject Islamabad, the dream of reducing Iran to a less prosperous version of the Congo, the dream of erasing the Palestinians altogether, the dream of total and absolute global dominance.
Their sense of innate superiority makes them unable to look about a broken-down America, its treasury looted of trillions by crooked financiers, its 30,000 significantly wounded Iraq War veterans needing trillions in health care over the next decades, its bridges falling down, its school students illiterate in mathematics and science, its factory jobs shipped abroad by scheming corporations, its minorities increasingly denied the right to vote, and its industry spewing 5 billion metric tons of hothouse gases into the atmosphere annually, threatening to wipe out New Orleans and Manhattan with artificial sea level rises.
There is enough to do at home, without small men from small states dreaming of world conquest. Hagel knows this, and so they smeared him with their slime.
Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have been protesting in some numbers for the last week and a half or so against arbitrary and harsh Israeli imprisonment tactics against Palestinian human rights activists. Some Palestinian prisoners have been hunger fasting, and one of those is reportedly near death.
“News of his [Jaradat's] death comes a day after 94 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces during demonstrations in the West Bank to demand the release of the four hunger-strikers. Statistics published by Israeli rights group B’Tselem show by the end of 2012, 4,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails.”
The USG Open Source Center translates and summarizes the reports about Palestinian protests on Friday and during the past week:
Palestinians Rally in Favor of Hunger Strikers, Clash With IDF in West Bank Cities
West Bank and Gaza Strip — OSC Summary
Friday, February 22, 2013
Document Type: OSC Summary . . .
On 22 February, clashes broke out between Palestinian activists and Israeli forces in the course of processions held throughout the West Bank in solidarity with the hunger strikers in Israeli jails.
Bethlehem-based and independent Ma’an News Agency in Arabic at 1306 GMT reports that following Friday prayers clashes and confrontations broke out all over the West Bank between Israeli forces and Palestinians who were holding “peaceful” processions in solidarity with the hunger strikers in Israeli jails. According to the website, around 100 Palestinian activists performed their Friday prayers opposite the Ofer Prison, but subsequently clashes erupted with the Israeli soldiers who fired rubber-coated bullets and tear-gas grenades, causing the injury of 12 Palestinian youngsters.
Other clashes took place in the Bab al-Zawiyah area in downtown Hebron between Israeli forces and hundreds of demonstrators, as well as foreign solidarity activists who were demanding the opening of the Al-Shuhada Street.
Clashes also broke out in other parts of Hebron after Palestinians held rallies in support of the four prisoners who have gone on hunger strike. Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa al-Barghuthi, who participated in the rallies and sustained moderate wounds, stressed that “these demonstrations send a message to the Israelis that our people will not abandon their prisoners in Israeli jails and will not let them suffer and face the risk of death all by themselves.” He further said that “popular resistance is capable of breaking the occupation’s defiance and of forcing it to stop its crimes against our people, land, and prisoners.”
For his part, Isa Amru, coordinator of the Youth Association Against Settlement Activity, accused Palestinian police of “assaulting” the protesters in Hebron and called on it to prevent Israeli troops from entering Palestinian Authority-run areas.
Ma’an further reports that youngsters in Tulkarm hurled stones at Israeli soldiers, who reacted by firing tear-gas grenades.
Ramallah WAFA in Arabic, website of the Palestine News Agency, at 1236 GMT reports that Israeli forces arrested 36-year-old citizen Adil al-Saldawi following clashes with Palestinians activists, who were holding a peaceful demonstration in support of the hunger strikers, inside the compound of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. In the course of the clashes, nine Palestinians were moderately wounded.
WAFA in Arabic at 1202 GMT further reports that a number of Palestinian protesters suffered suffocation as a result of clashes with Israeli soldiers at the southern entrance of Nabulus City.
Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! has been interviewing the makers and subjects of Oscar nominees for best documentary, including the Palestinian film “5 Broken Cameras” and the Israeli one, “The Gatekeepers.” They are in remarkable agreement that the Likud government’s dedication to colonizing the Palestinian West Bank is a disaster for all concerned, including Israel.
Layla Quran (pictured outside Ofer Prison, left) is a sophomore global studies major at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Palestinian-American who moved to the U.S. from Jerusalem when she was four-years-old. She spent 10 weeks in Palestine this past summer researching the impact and role of the arts on people living under military occupation, and presented her research at the NC Research Symposium last semester. Here is what she found.
Reality hit as I crossed the border between Jordan and the West Bank to begin my research last May. Crossing the border was something I had done before with my family in 1999, 2005, and 2010, but it’s a different experience each time. This summer I went with only my father.
When we were in Jordan we could move freely. When we crossed over to the West Bank I saw iron bars and iron stares everywhere. I saw less land and more people. And then, even once we were through, we could not immediately set foot in the city of my birth — Jerusalem.
(It’s as if Palestinians have nothing but time on our hands, with all the waiting we must do at checkpoints, and then even when we get through, where we can actually go is limited.)
Although I have a U.S. passport, my Palestinian passport made the application process for entrance to Jerusalem long and difficult. I was finally ‘awarded permission’ to enter Jerusalem by the Israeli government during my 9th week in Palestine.
I was not only rejected entrance twice, but I had to visit an Israeli settlement to file for a special card, contact one of the government ministries, and wait over 3 hours at a factory farm (prison-style) checkpoint before entering the city. Many, I realize, are not so fortunate to get this kind of permission.
Art as Political Resistance, Luxury, Escape?
One of the most memorable experiences last summer was my visit to the outskirts of Ofer prison in Beitunia with visual artist Ibrahim Bornat. Ibrahim takes artillery fired by the Israelis and uses it to create beautiful works of art (below photo).
The Israeli troops are typically parked outside of the jail. They fire tear gas canisters and bullets at protesters outside of the jail who in turn throw rocks back at them. Ibrahim visits the outskirts of the jail to collect those tear gas canisters and ammunition to create art.
As I was speaking to Ibrahim and helping him collect the canisters, a nearby Israeli jeep launched a tear gas canister that landed and broke apart just beside me.
I had not fully appreciated the beauty of fresh air until that moment. While I don’t believe it was directly aimed at me, it did land right beside me as I was walking toward Ibrahim, and I had to run through it. It only happened once, so I was lucky. I came out of the experience fine, and with an interesting story to tell my friends back in the States, but Palestinians who live there have to face this much too often.
The populous city of Ramallah by far is the cultural center of the West Bank. Other cities and villages of the West Bank have little to no arts exposure. Since many Palestinians are not able to travel to Jerusalem, many arts organizations and artists have relocated to Ramallah.
Interestingly, the occupation is not the biggest obstacle for artists In Palestine, or at least for the artists I interviewed. Many say that funding is a huge problem, as the Palestinian government gives little to no money to arts and culture. This could be because the government, like some Palestinians I spoke with, sees the arts as a luxury for the elite, rather than a necessary tool of political resistance.
For many artists whom I interviewed, their art is an escape from a harsh reality.
A young musician at working for the Ramallah-based Al-Kamandjati organization — a group that makes music more available to Palestinian children, by performing at various refugee camps and even at checkpoints — told me she feels alive when she is playing her instrument.
A dancer from El-Funoun Palestinian Popular Dance Troupe told me he considers dance a window into the rest of the world.
I spoke to renowned Palestinian artist Sliman Mansour at the International Academy of Art in Al-Bireh, Palestine. I asked him why he is a political artist? He paused for a second before telling me, “I did not choose to be a political artist. I paint what I see around me.” He went on to say it would be strange for him to be living in Ramallah and painting beautiful flowers and happy people everywhere — a scene which, he says, in no way represents the situation on the ground.
In all I interviewed 50 different Palestinian artists this summer, including musicians, visual artists, dancers, actors, poets, photographers and even a Palestinian comedian. I was able to attend their concerts, dance rehearsals, plays, festivals and art exhibitions. I saw the beauty of political resistance through art, and people simply doing art just for the enjoyment of it. I felt hopeful many times, despite witnessing numerous human rights violations on the ground.
So, I wanted to share this video compilation of some of the interviews I completed this summer, called “A Masterpiece of Resistance — The Artists of Palestine.”
From Bethlehem to Jerusalem to Ramallah, I hope this shows a side of Palestine known and loved by its people living there and all over the world.