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August, 2010:

Gaza game exposes siege restrictions

When I wanted to go to graduate school, I wrote a list of my dream schools, created a budget and spoke to my supervisor at work. I never had to consider whether I would be physically able to reach the school due to, say, Canadian restrictions on my movement within the U.S.

The piece explains, “Israeli security officials believe universities in the occupied territories are ‘breeding grounds for terrorists.'” Students in Gaza are not permitted to travel to the West Bank to attend a university.

I currently teach a Video Journalism workshop at An Najah University in Nablus, West Bank.  My students are committed and inspired to improve their journalism skills.  They are learning, simply, how to tell a story, as I learned when I attended Medill.  My students are not terrorists.

“I was shocked and frustrated. I have lost all my dreams because of this Israeli decision,” said Fatma Sharif in the piece.  She lives in Gaza and wants to go to graduate school in the West Bank.

Watch this Al Jeezera piece to better understand the restrictions placed on students in Gaza.

Waiting to Pray

People go to their respective places of worship everyday.  They go up the steps and walk in the door, maybe to the sound of birds chirping, buses whirring past or a choir beginning to sing.  Here in the West Bank, the Call to Prayer is a beautiful sound of celebratory prayer, especially the evening prayer immediately before Muslims break their fast during Ramadan.  Each time I hear it, I think about those waiting in line to pray at the mosque in Hebron.

This is what it sounds like when Muslims try to enter the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron to pray, guarded by Israeli soldiers with machine guns and two turnstiles.

Experience the Holy Land with the living stones

Abuna (Father) Firas is determined to make a difference for his congregation and his town, Zababdeh, close to Jenin in the West Bank. Through out my time in Palestine, I look forward to Sunday visits to Zababdeh for church and some time with Abuna Firas and his family. In the video below, Abuna Firas describes the activities of his church and welcomes visitors to experience the Holy Land with the living stones.

HEBRON: Israeli Military and Policemen Shut Three Palestinian Shops

CPTnet Digest, Volume 32, Issue 11
A newsletter written by members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams
21 August 2010

Every Saturday for the last several months, Youth Against the Settlements has led a nonviolent action “Open Shuhada Street” at the entrance to the Old City of Hebron. On Tuesday, 10 August 2010 the Israeli military and police forcibly welded shut three stores that stand directly behind the area of the weekly Saturday action and across from the gate of an Israeli military base.

A local friend alerted CPT at 2:45 p.m. that the shopkeeper had received a warning that the military would close his shops, and he had half an hour to remove all his merchandise. After arriving at the site, CPTers alerted other internationals, partner organizations and media to come.  A crowd of about
75 people assembled in front of the stores. As they waited, Palestinians removed and hid two of the shop doors.

A little after 4:00 p.m., 30 soldiers and three policemen arrived and pushed their way into the shops where internationals and Palestinians were waiting. The soldiers pulled the civilians out of the shops, scattered much of the merchandise, and dragged a Palestinian behind the gate. Red Crescent of the
International Red Cross came shortly thereafter and examined the Palestinian man who had been injured while being dragged.  They determined he had a brain concussion and advised the police that he needed hospitalization. The police replied they would take the Palestinian man to the jail, question him and then decide if he needed hospitalization.

Declaring the area from the military base to the stores a closed military zone, the soldiers formed two lines and progressively forced the crowd away from the stores being closed. Other soldiers retrieved the two hidden doors and welded shut the three shops. An Israeli policeman pushed the shopkeeper’s large cart of merchandise into one of the stores before the doors were welded shut.  One of the CPTers urged the policeman to bring the cart out of the shop or allow her to retrieve it for the shopkeeper, but the policeman refused. One British man and four Palestinians were arrested.

The British man was released the next morning at 2:30 a.m. on the condition that he immediately leave the West Bank and not return for 15 days. The four Palestinians are now in Ofer Prison. The brother of the man with the brain concussion reported to CPTers that his brother was never hospitalized.

In Palestine, Barriers Rise Between Ramadan Gatherings

Read the original article on www.antiwar.com

AZZUN ATMA, Northern West Bank – For seven years Majda Abdul Qader Sheikh, 38, has not been allowed to visit the home of her parents, just a few hundred meters from her house.

“I tried to get a special visitor’s permit for a quick visit during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan but I was refused,” says Sheikh, mother of seven children. “I have had no problems with the Israeli authorities, nor am I considered a security threat,” she added.

Sheikh is not trying to leave the West Bank or even travel to another city. Instead she is trying to access another part of the Palestinian village Azzun Atma where she lives with her husband and children.

This agricultural village of 2,000 residents falls in Qalqilya district in the northern West Bank. It is one of more than 50 Palestinian communities, comprising 35,000 people, trapped in a “seam zone” and surrounded by Israeli settlements on three sides.

The seam zone is located between the Green Line (GL) — Israel’s internationally recognized border with the West Bank — and Israel’s separation barrier, supposedly built for “security reasons” in 2003. The barrier, comprising fences, ditches and walls, veers off the GL and cuts deeply into Palestinian territory.

The barrier, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, has been designed to incorporate many of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as well as the Palestinian land which has been illegally acquired.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says the barrier leaves almost 10 percent of the West Bank territory on the Israeli side, but outside the Green Line. Qalqilya district alone has lost 70 percent of its land to the barrier and to the 50,000 inhabitants of the 14 illegal settlements around it.

In addition, there are parcels of territory within the seam zone — adjacent to the Green Line — which the Israeli authorities have declared “closed military zones” or “no-man’s land”. For the past seven years, the 10,000 Palestinians living in these zones have had to apply for permits to continue living in their own homes.

Eleven families from Azzun Atma are trapped in this no-man’s land. To access the rest of the village, residents have to pass through a security gate manned by Israeli soldiers which is open daily from 5 am to 10 pm. Palestinians, such as Sheikh, wishing to visit family or friends in the closed zones have to apply for special visitors’ permits. Only a few have been granted.

The communities trapped on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides of the barrier are suffering economically. “Only 18 percent of the 30,000 farm workers who were earlier employed in the seam zone area have been granted ‘visitor’ permits today,” says OCHA.

Even fewer farmers have obtained permits to enter the closed military zones. “The gates are opened several times a day for half an hour, during specific periods such as the olive harvest,” says Nidal Jallaoud, Qalqilya municipality’s public relations’ officer.

“This means that farmers are not able to tend their crops throughout the year. But even the gate opening times depend on the mood of the Israeli soldiers. Sometimes they are abusive and violent and turn people away,” Jallaoud said.

“Village residents also struggle to access health and educational facilities located outside the seam zone. Azzun Atma has a basic medical clinic which opens for only two hours a week,” he added.

“A farmer who was trapped underneath his tractor when it overturned, bled to death on the way to hospital as the villagers carrying him were forced to wait for an hour and 40 minutes at the Israeli checkpoint,” says Abdul Karim Atmawi, Azzun Atma’s village council secretary.

He added that would-be mothers leave the village weeks before they are due, to avoid complications caused by delays at the checkpoint.

But Azzun Atma is one of the luckier villages. Some months ago, the Israelis decided to open a gate leading to the Palestinian side of Qalqilya during evening hours, citing “improved security conditions.” But Majda Abdul Qader Sheikh is still unable to visit her family in the closed military zone, and farmers struggle to reach their land through a solitary checkpoint in the south of the village.

“Maybe one day I will be able to see my family down the road and celebrate Ramadan with them,” Sheikh said.

A Response to Friedman’s NYT Op-Ed, “Steal This Movie”

First, please Read Friedman’s article.

On August 7, 2010, Friedman stated, “If you convey to Israelis that you understand the world they’re living in, and then criticize, they’ll listen.”

I struggle deeply with this.  First, because I do believe it’s important to listen to both sides of an issue. But I also firmly believe, especially in the instance of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, that it’s important to then form an opinion, and act.  Friedman’s article requests that we do what is already being done, especially by the media: understand Israel’s situation.  Where does Palestine fit into this?  Is it forgotten, once again in the shadow of understanding Israel’s situation?

I live in Nablus, West Bank.  I’m not an academic.  I’m not a historian.  I make no claims of even understanding the conflict, to be frank.  But I see evidence of the Israeli occupation every day.  I talk to Palestinians about their life every day.  I take buses with Palestinians.  I go to the market with Palestinians.  The power dynamic of the occupation negates the relevance of constructive criticism, as Friedman requests.

Until they put the machine guns down, the Israeli side is that of the oppressor.  Until kids can go to school without being beaten. Until shepherds can feed their sheep on the hills they’ve lived on for years.  Until my Palestinian friends can travel to the beach to enjoy a day in the sun. Until settlers stop burning olive trees and water runs freely. Until Palestinians don’t need a different colored license plate to identify that they are prohibited from using the asphalt roads that allow quick travel around the country.  Until settlements and outposts do not sit on top of the highest hills, on the middle of land that Palestinian farmers have owned for years.

[According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal].

Friedman said, “I write about this now because there is something foul in the air. It is a trend, both deliberate and inadvertent, to delegitimize Israel — to turn it into a pariah state, particularly in the wake of the Gaza war.”

A pariah state.
Haaretz, Sept 25, 2007 “On the way to a pariah state

CNN, Jan 19, 2009 “Palestinians: 1,300 killed, 22,000 buildings destroyed in Gaza

I’m not in a place to respond to all of the trends Friedman mentioned, but it’s hard to call Gaza much more than a prison camp.  Singers should cancel their concerts in Israel – as they should have in South Africa during apartheid (Wall of Silence). If you just landed from Mars, who knows what you’d think, but I think you’d be struck by the huge wall separating two lands and the checkpoints and the machine guns.

In order to right the wrongs done by all the parties involved in this occupation (America, Israel, etc), we must speak out against it, rather than excuse wrongs because we are all wrong-doers.  Let us not use the violence in the world to excuse the violence Israel inflicts on common people every single minute of every single day. Let us, for once, learn from history.

I will be amazed and pleased when the world looks to the Palestinians and says, “I understand the world you’re living in.”  When that day arrives, people will have truly opened their eyes to the immensely different worlds that Israeli’s and Palestinians live in.

* * *

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ”
-Bishop Desmond Tutu

Israeli settlers break into Joseph’s tomb in Nablus

Nablus, August 11, (Pal Telegraph) A huge group of Israeli settlers broke into Joseph’s Tomb near Balata refugee camp east of Nablus, in the West Bank today morning.

Read the original article in the Palestine Telegraph.

Witnesses said that a big number of Israeli settlers stormed last night, Joseph’s Tomb and Adow religious rituals until dawn.”

Witnesses said that troops from the occupation army secured the process of entry and exit to the grave.

The Israeli settlers claimed that the grave is for the Prophet Joseph peace be upon him, while every one else confirms that the grave is for Joseph Dweikat, one of the imams, the tomb was a mosque for Muslims, and was seized by the Israeli occupation in 1979.

The Israeli settlers enter the tomb regularly under the protection of the Israeli army every week.

Ramadan 2010 USA: From New York to New Delhi

Read original article on Khabrein.info

11 August, 2010

Ramadan 2010 USA: From New York to New Delhi it is time to fast, Ramadan timetable 2010. Ramadan arrives, millions of Muslims start to observe fasting in holy Ramadan.

Month of purity Ramadan arrived for Muslims across the world on Wednesday. One billion Muslims all over the world will observe fasting for coming thirty days abstaining from foods, drinks, smoking and having sex from dawn to dusk.

Ramadan is a month to teach faithful Muslims lessons of sacrifices and piety. Muslims all over the world will spend most of their time in Ramadan in prayers to God, mainly in the evenings.

Religious authority of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where Islam was born, announced Wednesday as the first day of Ramadan. The announcement follows the sighting of crescent moon on Tuesday evening.

Declaring the beginning of Ramadan, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia said that it is the time for Muslims to seek mercy and blessings of God. “The holy month inspires Muslims with the noble meanings of compassion, mercy and kindness,” the King, who is the savior of Holy Mosques of Islam in Mecca, said.

Fasting in this Ramadan will be a challenge for Muslims in the Middle East countries due to soaring temperatures. Reports suggest that burning heat in Muslim-populated countries such as Lebanon, Egypt and United Arab Emirates will be a threat for fasting Muslims.

Many of those countries have permitted civil servants and laborers to reduce their working hours from normal months. The UAE has issued an edit that will allow laborers working in difficult situations to eat or drink if necessary.

Israel has also brought some restrictions on its approaches toward Muslims in Palestine. The military of Israel will stop attacking over fasting Muslims in Palestine.

Furthermore, men over 50-years-old and women over 45-years-old will be allowed to enter holy mosque of Muslims in Jerusalem, Masjidul Aqsa without former permissions. Military personnel of that country will also refrain from taking foods or drinks in public until Ramadan ends.

5.5 weeks and counting

A few weeks before I left for Palestine one of my professors suggested that, when I arrive, I make a point to write down anything that surprises me. These are the things, he said, that one forgets after becoming more accustomed to a new country or culture.


I take a “service” everywhere around town (pronounced ser-vees). They are yellow and black, with black decals separating them from the taxis that drive around town charging 5 times more for the same ride.  When I first arrived, I couldn’t tell which was a service and which was a taxi, so I just flagged down everyone and struggle in my minimal Arabic to decipher how much the ride will cost. If the driver speaks English, he will ask me questions and welcome me (Where are you from?  How long are you staying?  Do you like Nablus?).  If he doesn’t, he’ll ask me questions and welcome me in Arabic that I barely understand, making attempts to chat even when my ignorance is clear.

The biggest thing I’m struck with is the sincere welcome and kindness offered to me every single day by people I’ve never before met. Yesterday, I took a taxi home from downtown and a few hours later, walked out of my apartment to head back downtown. The same taxi driver pulled over and offered me a ride back. When I gave him money for the ride, he refused.

I mailed a package today and chatted with the man at the DHL store, who lived in Texas for six years. He talked about the wonderful hospitality he experienced in Texas and how his three kids are all abroad now. He invited me to celebrate a Ramadan dinner with he and his wife sometime this coming month.

A few days ago, around lunchtime I was in Ramallah on my way to Jerusalem. I wanted to buy a banana from a vendor accustomed to selling bananas by the kilo. When I asked for one, he said, “Wahad kilo?” (“One kilo?”) and I said “La, wahad wahad,” (Bad Arabic for, “No, just one”). He just gave it to me at not charge and smiled at the idea of me buying just one banana.

When passing through the checkpoint from Ramallah to Jerusalem, Palestinians encourage me to stay on the bus and pass easily though, even though they have to exit the bus and submit to a much longer screening. When stopped by a police officer on the way from Ramallah to Nablus, I ask what he wanted and the woman next to me said, “Maybe there was a problem.” She went on to ask where I’m from and when I say America, she looked me in the eyes and said a very sincere, “Welcome to Palestine.” After checkpoints and being stopped by police, I was warmed by the sincerity and humility with which she welcomed me to her land.

I only hope that visitors to the States feel the same sort of welcome that I’ve felt here.
(Want to help welcome people visiting the US? Host travelers from www.couchsurfing.org!)

From late morning until after sunset, Arabic tunes and pop music thumps through the entire city, including the little suburb where I live, so loudly I sometimes can’t hear the TV in my apartment over the beat of the music. The music is turned off when the call to prayer plays over a loud speaker from the local mosque and is quickly turned back on when prayers are over.  Taking a nap to escape current heat wave is a difficult thing!

As I walk through downtown Nablus, one large circle encompassed by a movie theatre, an ice cream shop constantly packed with people, the Arab Bank and lots of other shops and falafal stands, I see women wearing an extraordinary array of outfits. From black embroidered abayas and hijabs to black leggings and high heels. At the hairdresser, I watched women get their hair washed, straightened and glued into place, only to put their hijabs right back on before they left the salon.  I felt like I knew a great secret!

In Chicago, I got into the deliciously bad habit of smoking a hookah with apple tobacco a few times a week. I like the sound it makes and the way it smells, I like the taste of the apple tobacco, and I love the decorative bowl and tasseled hose. Here, I’m never quite sure where I can grab a hookah because the cafes are typically filled with men. As a foreign woman, I imagine I could go in for a hookah and tea and not seem any stranger than I already am. If I want to smoke with women, the only places I’ve found so far are the fairly expensive hotels in the neighborhood. I’m looking forward to finding the secret lair.

At home here in Nablus, a falafel sandwich costs 2 NIS (about 50 cents). When I went to Jerusalem, I paid 6 NIS for the same thing. Not only does it cost less in Nablus, but it tastes better! In Nablus, I know a great place where I can put all my favorite falafel fixin’s on myself.

Ramadan began today. Yesterday, the market was packed with people buying food. The town bustled and people seemed busy. It was also a bit cooler than the past couple weeks, which only added to the fun atmosphere. Today, things seem to be moving at a more purposefully slow pace. My favorite falafel stand was closed for repairs around lunchtime, when usually it’s packed with customers elbowing their way to condiments and salad for a sandwich.
(Pakistanis set for Ramadan amid flood misery)

I’m struggling with my Arabic. I ask questions and read my workbooks and listen to Omar Othman teach conversational Arabic on my computer, but still Italian and Malayalam come to my lips first. It’ll be a wonderful day when I feel comfortable chatting with a cabby.

Father of shepherd who videoed settlers stealing sheep threatened with fine

CPTnet Digest, Volume 32, Issue 3
A newsletter written by members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams
Edited from a release provided by Operation Dove
5 August 2010

[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma’on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]

On 21 July, three settlers stole a sheep from a young Palestinian shepherd while he was watering his flock at a well situated in Umm Zeitouna valley, located between the Israeli settlements of Ma’on and Karmel. According to the shepherd, a resident of Tuba village, two Israeli settler vehicles stopped on the nearby settler bypass road. A settler exited from one of the vehicles, walked toward the shepherd’s flock, grabbed a sheep by the ear and dragged the animal a few yards. He then loaded the sheep onto his shoulders and walked back to the road, where two other settlers, one of them armed, were waiting. The settlers loaded the animal into a vehicle. During this time the shepherd remained at a distance filming the theft with a video camera from the Israeli human rights association B’Tselem, given to Palestinians in the area to document attacks by settlers.

The young Palestinian pointed out that during the theft, on the road not far from the settlers cars, there was an Israeli military jeep. Although the soldiers were present during the incident they left the scene without intervening. The shepherd then reported the theft of the sheep to Israeli police, who arrived on the scene with Ma’on settlement’s security guard and two other settlers identified as Havat Ma’on residents. The police refused to talk to the shepherd who wanted to make a complaint, saying they did not know Arabic or English and insisting on speaking with the boy’s father, although he was not present at the time of the robbery. A few minutes later the police went to the village of Tuba to pick up the father and bring him to the police station in Kiryat Arba. The father was fingerprinted, photographed, and threatened with a fine, but was not permitted to give testimony. Then the young shepherd, accompanied by international volunteers, followed his father to the Israeli police station to make a complaint and submit the video from the incident.

Episodes like this are frequent in the South Hebron Hills, where settlers from the settlements and the outposts attack Palestinian shepherds and farmers to intimidate and force them to leave their lands. These kinds of illegal actions are usually left unpunished and many of them occur with Israeli military and police complicity. The Palestinian communities of this area have chosen to nonviolently resist the continuous abuses of the Israeli settlers and military.

Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills since 2004.