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September, 2010:

Freedom rally in Nablus, 9/29/10

When I hear the cadence of a drum squad, my heart skips a beat remembering my days in marching band at Dallastown High School. I loved marching through the parking lot to the football field to the beat of the school’s cadence.

Today, while walking through downtown Nablus, I heard the enticing sound of drums coming from the main square. I quickly changed my afternoon plans and hastened to the square, where I found myself in the midst of a Freedom Rally. Everyone was holding signs protesting Palestinian imprisonment in Israeli jails.

Children from many different schools were marching around the square in their uniforms. Mothers held framed photographs of their imprisoned sons. Music played and a stage hosted a few speakers. Downtown Nablus was packed like figs in a basket and the place was thumping with energy.

As I weaseled my way through the crowd to capture videos, I noticed something different about the subjects of my photos. Usually people give me strange looks when I ask to make a video of them. Sometimes they ask, “why?” Today, the women holding Palestinian flags and photographs of their sons looked me in the eye and nodded, as if to say what many in Nablus have said before, “Take this photo and show it to everyone you know.”

Please watch the video clips from the rally in Nablus today.

The walls are closing in

Today I sat in an auditorium full of Nablusi’s and Internationals, all watching the film To Shoot an Elephant, about the Israeli siege on Gaza. To my right, was my friend Ayyash, an activist who lives in Balata Camp. He translated some things for me and, having seen the movie a few times before, predicted some of the most horrific scenes as I shook with tears.

Watching a movie about Gaza while in the West Bank is surreal. The Palestinians sitting next to me cannot go to Gaza, and it would be extraordinarily difficult for me to get in. They are blocked by highways they cannot use, randomly erected checkpoints, machine guns wielded by 18-year-old Israeli’s with dreadlocks, an enormous wall, an identity card that clearly delineates where they are and are not allowed to go.

Today Netanyahu announced that the moratorium on settlement building would not be extended. I heard Palestinians talk about whether this would bring a third intifada. I heard about escalated violence. I felt the walls surrounding the people I love close around us.

Their land has slowly been taken away for years. My country has helped fund this. And now, though America is the top funder of the Israeli occupation, we seem to believe we can lead peace talks between Israel and Palestine.  I wait in anticipation from the West Bank.

I have witnessed the occupation.

Palestinians have a different colored license plate than Israeli’s. The white plates can only drive on designated roads. The yellow plates can go anywhere. This is an occupation.

The other evening my friend pointed out the Mediterranean Sea in the distance. “We cannot go there, of course,” she said. Another friend remembered going there back in 1998. Though it’s about 2 kilometers away, Palestinians do not have access to the coast. This is an occupation.

I went to dinner at a friend’s house and watched olive trees burn. Settlers had set fire to them. The Israeli army drove by and did nothing. This is an occupation.

Since I’ve been here, four residents of Iraq Burin, a village a few minutes from Nablus, have been arbitrarily arrested. Two of them young men, and two of them village council members. The people in this village are farmers. They have lived there for years. Israeli’s have stolen their land, burned their trees, and recently killed two of the young men in the village (16 and 19).  This is an occupation.

One of my 16-year-old students was late for class because a surprise checkpoint was erected on the way from her home to school. This is an occupation.

Yesterday my boyfriend had to run away from soldiers. This is an occupation.

One of my friends was arrested last week for being affiliated with Hamas. He’s in a PA prison in Nablus, but I don’t know when he’ll get out. Maybe, hopefully, in a few days. This is an occupation.

Messages to America

During the last three months, I taught a Spoken English class for adults who teach English to young people in Nablus and the surrounding villages.  During the class, we had intense debates, told jokes and shared stories about our families and life experiences, from the loss of our parents and grandparents to personal stories about the occupation.

I once asked my class, what, in their opinion, I can do to help make a change for Palestinians.  They all responded with the same answer.  They all said that I should share the stories of the Palestinian people.

Today we had our last class and I asked them each to write a message to those reading this site.

Here are their messages to you.

  • Hello friends,

I don’t know you individually and you don’t know me myself, but my short message for you is this.

Let politicians work in policy, this is their job, and let the world love its people.  We are two different groups of people but we share in our feelings of humanity.  We are all human and we should do our jobs for the world.  Give love, peace, happiness and hope toward humans, since we are not strangers who came from space or Mars.  My message for you, in brief, is this, “Warm words don’t cost much yet they accomplish a lot.”  We try to heal our wounds and pain from the occupation, especially Palestinian, Iraqi and Afganistani people.  So, we people have to like each other apart from politics since politics is a bad game.

All Palestinians love you and send their regards.

-Nisreen Ghanem

  • Dear Americans,

Freedom started from where you are and then spread to the whole world.  Americans are well known for freedom and equality.  No country is still under the occupation except for Palestine.  We trust the American people, that they can do something to help us get rid of the occupation.

A Palestinian,

-Mahmoud Bsharat

  • A message to America.

I hope you will treat all the citizens of the world the same.  Don’t humiliate people politically, then give them aid.  Please try to change your political policies around the world.  Life isn’t eternal, so make people happy.

-Muna Numan

  • Dear Americans,

I hope that you never experience being under an occupation as we are.  I hope you know the truth about our issue and I wish for you to come to my country to see and judge for yourselves.  I wish you won’t take any side, just be a fair judge.

I hope you won’t suffer as we do.

-Hasan Ali

  • A Message to the American people.

I am so happy to have this opportunity to write to you.  First of all, I would like you to know that we, the Palestinian people, are not terrorists. On the contrary, we are a peaceful and social nation.  We like foreigners, but our case is like that of any other occupied nation whose land is taken by strange people who don’t have the right to it.  We don’t want any financial help from anyone, but we only want your empathy and support.

-Samah Tuffaha

A few of the articles students’ chose for class discussions:
Liberating America From Israel, by Former Congressman Paul Findley
The Real Cost of US Support for Israel – $3 Trillion, by Christopher Bollyn
US hails ‘constructive’ direct Middle East peace talks, BBC News
US Military Aid and the Israel/Palestine Conflict
Support builds for boycotts against Israel, activists say
If Americans Knew – statistics

Two Iraq Burin men arrested for attending peaceful demonstration

IRAQ BURIN —  On September 24, 2010 at 4:30pm, two villagers from Iraq Burin, a village near Nablus in the West Bank, were arrested by Israeli soldiers.  A checkpoint was erected at the entrance to the village in the morning of the same day.

In response to these arrests and the killing of two young men by Israeli soldiers in March 2010, Iraq Burin is launching a website: www.iraqburin.wordpress.com.

The soldiers identified the two men, Iman Qadous, 45, and Yousef Qadous, 50, both village council members, from a photo taken during one of the weekly peaceful demonstrations held in Iraq Burin since November 2009, protesting Israel’s confiscation of their land.

The soldiers said they were arresting the two men for having attended the demonstration.  Villagers do not know where the men were taken or for how long they will be gone.

In March 2010, two villagers, Mohammed Qadous, 16, and Usaid Qadous, 19, were killed with live ammunition when Israeli soldiers entered the village after the weekly demonstration.

Read the detailed report about the killings filed by the UNESCO Chair on Human Rights, Democracy and Peace at An-Najah University.

Support At-Tuwani Women’s Co-op Italy Speaking Tour

We may not currently have the might of the Israeli army nor the power of traditions confining us in certain roles, however, we know that one woman standing behind another in a line of solidarity is a force more powerful than both.

– Keifah Addera, At-Tuwani Women’s Cooperative

Dear friends and supporters of At-Tuwani village,

We would like to invite you to support a force more powerful than violence: the voices of Palestinian women. In late November 2010 , Humanity Together will host Keifah Addera and her husband Nasser on a speaking tour in Italy. Keifah will be speaking about the experiences of women in At-Tuwani as they nonviolently resist both the Israeli occupation and sexism. We hope that you will consider financially supporting this exciting project.

The people of At-Tuwani have often told their allies that the most important way we can support their struggle is to share their stories in our own communities. Keifah Addera, the organizer of the At-Tuwani Women’s Cooperative, is a powerful voice uniquely able to speak about the resistance of Palestinian women. While in Italy, Keifah will speak about the effect of the Israeli occupation and settler violence on women and children in Tuwani as well as the women’s cooperative’s work for justice and gender equality. Keifah’s husbandwill speak about his experiences as a prisoner in Israeli jail after being arrested for his participation in nonviolent demonstrations. Keifah and Nasser will present at the annual Italian Pax Christi peace conference as well as other public meetings in Rome, Trento, Ravenna, and several other locations.

Few Tuwani residents are as experienced in speaking with visitors as Keifah. She often hosts groups in Tuwani and has a rare talent for creating relationships with the people she meets. For this reason we are excited by the opportunities for building international support and women’s solidarity that this trip will provide. We are trying to raise 2,500 euros to cover the cost of flights, visa procedures, lodging, transportation in Italy, and food expenses. To donate, follow this link to our Pay Pal. Thank you so much for your support

In solidarity,

Humanity Together

Read more about the folks in At Tuwani.

UN flotilla fact-finding mission report

Click here to read:
Report of the international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance.


This report was prepared by the fact-finding mission established by the Human Rights Council in resolution A/HRC/RES/14/1 of 2 June 2010 to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, resulting from the interception by Israeli forces of the humanitarian aid flotilla bound for Gaza on 31 May 2010 during which nine people were killed and many others injured.

The report sets out background information relating to the interception of the flotilla as well as the applicable international law.

The fact-finding mission conducted interviews with more than 100 witnesses in Geneva, London, Istanbul and Amman. On the basis of this testimony and other information received, the Mission was able to reconstruct a picture of the circumstances surrounding the interception on 31 May 2010 and its aftermath. The report presents a factual description of the events leading up to the interception, the interception of each of the six ships in the flotilla as well as a seventh ship subsequently intercepted on 6 June 2010, the deaths of nine passengers and wounding of many others and the detention of passengers in Israel and their deportation.

The report contains a legal analysis of facts as determined by the Mission with a view to determining whether violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, took place.

The fact-finding mission concluded that a series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla and during the detention of passengers in Israel prior to deportation.

HEBRON: Open Shuhada St. movement changes tactics

CPTnet Digest, Volume 33, Issue 11
A newsletter written by members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams
20 September 2010

The regular Saturday movement, “Open Shuhada Street,” changed tactics on 21 August 2010. Since the police had threatened two of the organizers with large fines and a possible ten-year imprisonment if the demonstrations continued, the organizing group felt it better to use a new approach during the remainder of Ramadan.

The activists used the day to build relationships in the Old City by delivering certificates of appreciation to the shopkeepers for continuing to open their shops every day in the midst of this Occupation. Led by an energetic group of Israeli activist drummers and rhythm instruments, approximately seventy-five Israeli, Palestinian and international activists marched through the Old City, Hebron. Activists distributed the certificates and flyers to all the shopkeepers, encouraging them to continue their resistance to the Occupation.

The police had been trying to get the shopkeepers to close their stores, telling them that their shops were in danger of being welded shut like the three shops in Bab il Baledeyya at the entrance to the Old City.

The real image of the occupation

This piece was written by one of my Advanced English students in Nablus.


This is what happened in 2003, during the Israeli-Palestinian classes (the second intifada).

My family and I were sleeping peacefully when we heard a very huge blast.  All the neighbors woke up and started calling each other on the phone, fearful that war had started.  Like all my neighbors, I opened the door to see what was going on.  I was astonished to see a thick cloud of dust next to my neighbor’s house.

We were very scared when we saw soldiers clapping, laughing and shouting, “We succeeded, we succeeded!”

We tried to look through the windows, but the soldiers started shooting.  We returned to our house in horror and waited until the withdrawal of the Israeli tanks and jeeps.

When they left, we went to see what happened.  The disaster was enormous.  The soldiers had demolished the neighbor’s house with explosives.  Most of the neighors’ houses had been damaged, either wholly or partially.  Only God prevented a true disaster, as all the surrounding houses were crowded and inhabited but the demolished house was empty.

My house is about 100 meters from the demolished house, but the intensity of the explosion threw the door of the neighboring home into my garden.  Imagine what would have happened if someone was in the garden.

I will never forget that experience.

I will never forgive the occupation.

How frightening that experience was!

How cruel the occupation is!

I hope we get rid of the occupation as soon as possible.

Ahlan wa sahlan

From my apartment in Nablus, West Bank, the Call to Prayer echoes through the city as I read about a wave of Islamophobia in the U.S.

I walk out of my apartment complex, ready to go to a meeting.  A taxi driver honks as he passes me to see if I need a lift.  I nod and he stops.  “Balad?” I ask.  He nods to say he’s headed downtown.  He asks where I’m from.  “Amrika,” I respond.  “Ahlan wa sahlan,” he says, welcoming me to Nablus.  Sometimes, if the driver speaks more English, he’ll ask if I like it here, “You like Nablus?”  I always respond with an enthusiastic yes.  I love Nablus.

I am embarrassed by the fear and hate aimed at Muslims while I am here, being hosted and heartily welcomed by my Muslim neighbors.

As Nicholas Kristof said in his September 18th Op-Ed, we owe Muslims an apology.

At home in Chicago, one of my friends graciously invited me to many of the feasts and celebrations she attended with her fellow Muslims.  I would typically be the only non-Muslim in the room.  We’d welcome each other with, “As-Salamu Alaykum” and eat together.  I would come home with henna decorating my hands and an invitation to the next feast.  One time, a woman recognized me from an event a few weeks before.  “What, do you just like hanging out with Muslims or something?” she asked, incredulously.  My answer was simply, “Yes.”  She laughed.  I walked out the door with a plate of leftovers.

To those Muslims who welcomed me into their homes in Chicago, and to my friend who so enthusiastically toted me with her, I apologize.

At home in Chicago, I once attended bible study with my friend’s young adult group.  The discussion was about Christian values.  More specifically, that Christian values are more ethical than others.  That they are better.  I thought about those I love who are not Christian, who teach me on a daily basis how to be a better person because of their personal values and ethics.  I disagreed vocally.  The youth pastor responded by quoting a book he read and telling me that a Muslim he knows agrees with him.

To those Muslims who are treated as though their values are inferior, I apologize.

Once, a taxi driver pulled up to the place where he was dropping me off and, before I got out, said, “I like the American people, but I do not like the policies of the American government.  Go home.  Tell them what you see.”

To my Muslim friends and neighbors in Palestine, I apologize for the acts of hate and the words expressed in ignorance of your faith.  The slurs against Muslims that you hear in mass media coming from America, do not represent the beliefs of all Americans.  They do not represent my beliefs.

I shared Kristof’s article, “Is This America?” on my facebook page and I made this comment along with it, “I am embarrassed to hear about acts of intolerance and hate against Muslims while being welcomed and hosted by my Palestinian friends and neighbors who are Muslim. This cannot be America.”

Nearly immediately one of my Nablusi friends replied, “We are all alone against the whole universe :(.”

Others quickly replied with words of encouragement for my Nablusi friend.  One of my Facebook friends sent me a message urging me to remember the tolerance in America, and saying that this anti-Islam sentiment is exaggerated by the media.

Undoubtedly the media is making the most of this debate.  Just like my Facebook friend said, mass media is not jumping to tell the heartwarming stories about people getting along and learning from each other.  But, in the end, I’m glad I know about the pastor who said he would burn the Koran, because only then do we have the opportunity to verbally revolt against his ignorance.

And I am proud of those who practice tolerance and acceptance in America.

Every Friday night in Chicago, for example, Cafe Pride is hopping.  Cafe Pride welcomes homeless, LGBTQ kids, many of whom are racial minorities, into Lakeview Presbyterian Church for an evening of music, movies, snacks, games, socializing and most importantly, acceptance.  These kids are often outcast from their own home for their sexual identity.  But they are welcome in this church.

Americans should not forget that there are amazing places, like Cafe Pride, that celebrate diversity and exemplify acceptance.

But, in celebrating that there is acceptance, we must not forget to challenge ignorance.  The two go hand-in-hand.

We cannot miss the opportunity to express dissent against racism, intolerance and ignorance.  I want to look back at this time, September 2010, and be able to say that I spoke up against intolerance against Muslims in America.  I didn’t simply consider all the great things America is doing, I spoke up to encourage us to do even more great things.

The America I know and love, is one that celebrates each other’s differences.  This place filled with Islamophobia, that I hear about everyday in the news, cannot be America.  We can do better.

Please read the article below.  You can read the original article at the Palestine Chronicle.

Regarding US Muslims: A Misguided Debate

By Ramzy Baroud

Laurie Goodstein’s article, ‘American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?’ was intended as a sympathetic reading of the concerns of US Muslim communities facing increasing levels of hostility and fear. While generally insightful and sensibly written, the article also highlights the very misconceptions that riddle the bizarre debate pitting American Muslims against much of the government, the mainstream media and most of the general public.

This is how Goodstein lays the ground for her discussion: “For nine years after the attacks of Sept. 11, many American Muslims made concerted efforts to build relationships with non-Muslims, to make it clear they abhor terrorism, to educate people about Islam and to participate in interfaith service projects. They took satisfaction in the observations by many scholars that Muslims in America were more successful and assimilated than Muslims in Europe.” (New York Times, September 5, 2010)

This argument is not Goodstein’s alone, but one repeated by many in the media, the general public, and even among American Muslims themselves. The insinuation of the above context is misleading, and the timeline is selective.

True, it largely depends on who you ask, but there seem is more than one timeline in this narrative. The mainstream interpretation envisages the conflict as beginning with the hideous bombings on September 11, 2001. All that has happened since becomes justified with the claim that ‘Muslims’ started it. These same ‘Muslims’, some argue, are now twisting the knife by wanting to build a mosque not too far from Ground Zero, and they must be stopped. The media fan the flames of this fear, while unknown, attention-hungry zealots propose to burn the holy book of Islam. Scheming rightwing politicians jump on board, fiery media commentators go wild with speculations, and the public grow increasingly terrified of what the Muslims might do. Even the sensible among all of these groups advise Muslims to basically try to make themselves more likable, to assimilate and fit in better.

That timeline and logic may be omnipresent in mainstream society in the US, but many on the fringes dare to challenge it. More, throughout Muslim-majority countries, in fact most of the world, September 11, 2001 was one station, however bloody, among many equally bloody episodes that defined the relationship between Muslims and the United States. Again, it all depends on who you ask. An Iraqi might locate the origin of hostilities with the Iraq war of 1990-91, and the deadly sanctions that followed, taking millions of civilian lives over the next decade. Some Muslims might cite the US military presence in holy Muslim lands, or their intervention in Muslim countries’ affairs. They may also point to the US government’s support of vile and brutal regimes around the world.

But the vast majority, while acknowledging all of these, will refer to the genesis of all hostilities – before Saddam Hussein existed on the map of Arab politics, and before Osama bin Laden led Arab fighters in Afghanistan, with the direct support of the US, to defeat the Soviets. It is the tragedy in Palestine that has continued to pain Muslims everywhere, regardless of their background, politics or geographic location. They know that without US help, Israel would have no other option but to extend its hand to whatever peace offer enjoys international consensus. With every Palestinian killed, an American flag is burned, since the relationship has been delineated with immense clarity for decades. When US General David Petraeus argued last March that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was fomenting anti-American sentiment, he spoke as a military man stating a fact. He was right, although many continue to ignore his remarks at their own peril.

True, timelines can be selective, but empathy requires one to understand another’s perspective and not just one’s own.

The Florida Priest on a mission to burn the Koran needs to see past his own terrible prejudices. Media commentators need to stop pigeonholing Muslims, and realize that there is no such thing as a Muslim polity in America. There is no truth to the idea that all Muslims hold the same religious values and political aspirations which are at constant odds with ‘American values’, and which need to be amended in order to make peace with their ‘new’ surroundings.

Needless to say, talks of ‘assimilation’ are misguided. Muslims have lived in the United States for generations and have become an essential part of American life. Millions of US Muslims are also African American. Do they too need to assimilate? And if not, should we divide American Muslims to groups based on ethnic background, skin color, or some other criterion?

One cannot offer simple recipes by calling on the general public to adopt this belief or ditch another. Public opinion is formulated through a complex process in which the media is a major player. However, it is essential that one remembers that history is much more encompassing and cannot be hostage to our diktats and priorities. Such selective understanding will surely result in a limited understanding of the world and its shared future, and thus a misguided course of action.

That said, Muslims must not fall into the trap of victimhood, and start dividing the world into good and evil, the West and Muslims, and so on. How could one make such generalized claims and still remain critical of the notion of a ‘clash of civilizations’? It remains that many Americans who have a negative perception of Muslims are not motivated by ideological convictions or religious zealotry. Most American clergy are not Koran-burning hateful priests, and not all media pundits are Bill O’Reilly.

There is no question that the conflict remains largely political. Misconceptions and misperceptions, manipulated by ill-intentioned politicians, media cohorts and substantiated by violence and war will not be resolved overnight. However, hundreds of interfaith dialogues and conferences will not change much as long as American armies continue to roam Muslim countries, support Israel and back corrupt leaders. Reducing the issue by signaling out a Muslim community in this country and then calling on frightened and fragmented communities to ‘make more effort’ is unfair and simply futile.

– Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com.

A tour of Al Fara’a prison

Saed Abu-Hijleh was a prisoner at Al Fara’a prison in the West Bank near Nablus.  He was there four times as a young man.  Join him on a brief tour of the prison, which is now a camp for kids.

For more information about Al Fara’a prison, check out Totem(s) Trope(s) by Michael Kennedy.