Moving forward

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Call to Stop "construction" in Jersusalem

PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip. E-mail:, Webpage
Ref: 082007
Date: 7 February 2007
Time: 12:00 GMT

PCHR Calls for Immediate Intervention to Stop the Destruction of Islamic Holy Sites in Occupied Jerusalem

PCHR calls upon the international community represented by governments and international organizations, specifically UNESCO, to intervene immediately to put an immediate end to Israeli destruction of Islamic holy sites in occupied Jerusalem, especially around Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Centre appeals to these bodies to take immediate action to stop Israeli excavations, and to provide protection for Palestinians and their rights, especially their cultural and religious rights; and provide protection for Islamic holy sites, which are an important part of human culture and civilization. The destruction of Islamic holy sites constitutes a flagrant violation of International Humanitarian Law and International Law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), which prohibits the destruction of civilian properties.

It is noted that Israeli bulldozers started to demolish a hill, a wooden bridge, and two rooms at the foot of the hill, which are property of the Islamic Waqf. The properties lead to the Magharba Gate, one of the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque that constitutes an integral part of the mosque. The demolition activities directly threaten Al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings. It is noted that the Israeli archeological authority announced that it started the destruction activities to establish a bridge connecting Al-Buraq area with Al-Aqsa Mosque. The destruction is a prelude to erecting support pillars for the bridge on the road leading to Magharba gate. At the same time, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) prevented the Islamic Waqf, which supervises Islamic holy sites in occupied Jerusalem, from conducting any renovation activities on the hill, which is a component of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

PCHR warns against the consequences of IOF attacks on Islamic and Christian holy sites in occupied Jerusalem. These attacks include passing legislation to annex the city, ethnic cleansing of the city’s Palestinian population, confiscation of Palestinian property, establishing and expanding Jewish settlements, and transgressions against holy sites through demolitions and excavations in Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Centre reminds the international community that similar attacks on the civil, political, and cultural rights led to the eruption of a mass popular uprising in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) at the end of September 2000.
PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), which prohibits the destruction of civilian properties including religious and archeological sites that are a component of human culture, to pressure Israeli occupation authorities to immediately stop all actions that threaten Islamic holy sites in occupied Jerusalem. The Centre calls upon UNESCO to fulfill its legal obligation towards the protection of Islamic holy sites from IOF crimes, and to work to stop all forms of demolition and excavations by the Israeli archeological authority.

Public Document

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It's not who you are, it's what you do...

Moving toward peace
Saffiya Shillo
Published February 28, 2006 Chicago -- Thank you for "Sanctions and the peace process; Don't blame only the Palestinians" (Commentary, Feb. 24), by Saree Makdisi. It is the only practical piece I have ever seen on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It addresses both sides by showing where each stands and what needs to be acknowledged, recognized and acted upon to really move forward for peace.
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune,1,2100399.story
Sanctions and the peace process
Don't blame only the Palestinians
By Saree Makdisi, professor of English and comparative literature atUCLA
Published February 24, 2006
Last weekend Israel and the U.S. took the first steps towardimposing sanctions on the Palestinians following Hamas' recentelectoral victory. As Israel tightened the flow of money--beginning with tax funds thatit collects on behalf of the Palestinians, who don't control theirown territory, much less their own water, airspace or borders--it continued to insist that it will not negotiate with a Hamas-dominated Palestinian leadership.

The imposition of sanctions will certainly hurt the Palestinian population; but the suspension of negotiations between Israel andthe Palestinians is almost completely irrelevant, because there'shardly anything left to negotiate anyway. Long before the Palestinian elections--by about a year ago, in fact--Israel had effectively annexed the Jordan Valley, an area comprisingabout a third of the West Bank. And for almost two years now, Israelhas repeatedly announced its intention to annex much of the rest ofthe territory, as well as all of East Jerusalem, a positionreiterated by the interim Israeli prime minister only a few days ago.

In fact, Israel's unilateralism predates the Hamas victory bydecades, not just years. Israel first expressed its intention to permanently retain controlof most of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem in a plan formulatedshortly after its conquest of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalemin 1967 by former Foreign Minister Yigal Allon. A single glance atthe map of the Allon plan shows that what Israel is talking abouttoday is more or less what it was talking about almost 40 years ago. Other than in terms of window dressing, hardly anything has made much of a difference in Israel's execution of its ambitions.

What is needed now is not further peace-process negotiations but, finally, a genuine, peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. If it is to be just and lasting, such a resolution must involve not merely an end to the horrifying and morally unacceptable Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, and not just a halt to Israel'sequally unacceptable--albeit much more devastating--provocations and escalations, but also something much more substantial.

For what all the hullabaloo following the Hamas electoral victory has covered up is the essential fact that it is not the Palestinians who are occupying Israeli land, bulldozing Israeli homes, uprooting Israeli olive groves, rounding up Israeli teenagers, imposing curfews on Israeli cities, assassinating Israeli activists, building barriers on Israeli land, demanding Israelis' papers every time they step outside their houses, stifling the Israeli economy, expropriating Israeli property, and illegally settling Israeli territory. It's the other way around. The simple fact of the matter is that Israel continues to occupy Palestinian territory, in violation of international law, inviolation of the principles of the UN Charter, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and in violation of the most basic codes ofdecent human behavior. The most effective way to address this reality is not to threaten sanctions against the victims of this illegal military occupation (who, after all, never chose to be thus occupied), but instead to impose such sanctions--immediately--on the perpetrators themselves.

Until the Israelis learn, the hard way, that the occupation that they have chosen to impose on another people for four decades is not worth the cost to themselves, hardly anything else matters.
Copyright 2006 Chicago Tribune

Monday, February 27, 2006

Vision for Palestine

Please take a look at the "Vision for Palestine" that was formulated by the American Task Force on Palestine. It was published in the New York Times as well as major Arabic language papers in the Middle East.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Thank you Secretary of State Rice!

I share the sentiments of the American Task Force on Palestine...

ATFP CONGRATULATES SECRETARY RICE ON GAZA ACCORD, URGES CONTINUED U.S. ENGAGEMENTWashington, DC, November 15, 2005 - The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) congratulated today U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn, European Union High Representative Javier Solana, Israel and the Palestinian Authority for reaching agreement on Gaza's border crossings, as part of a six-point accord dealing with Gaza's access to the outside world by land, sea and air. The accord reached was only made possible by intensive and sustained U.S. engagement, spearheaded by Secretary Rice's personal involvement in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.The implementation of this important agreement will be a critical first step in the rehabilitation of Gaza's economy and the providing of much-needed relief for the Palestinian people. It will also establish a vital link between Gaza and the West Bank, all issues crucial to paving the way for future progress between Israel and the Palestinians."The indispensable role of a sustained and active U.S. engagement was confirmed today," said ATFP president Dr. Ziad Asali. "What is most critical now is that U.S. engagement remain at its current level through the implementation of the agreement and leading up to the establishment of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel as laid out in the Roadmap." Dr. Asali also called on both sides to live up to their respective responsibilities in ensuring the agreement's success. "An ending of the closure of Gaza and the resulting improvement in Gaza's economic situation is in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians and will reflect positively on both the security and political fronts." for more.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

All Eyes on Gaza

What will history say for this moment? Was it the beginning of a two-state solution or was it the beginning of the never-ending, never honest, Israeli policies and ploys that continue to evade peace and keep a steady cycle of death and despair for all the people of the region?

I hope it is the beginning of a real two-state solution. If it is, it will happen because all eyes ARE on Gaza. I believe, as many other Palestinians, that this unilateral move was not meant to promote long-term peace. However, I do have hope in the people and governments all over the world watching. It will definitely prompt them to learn more about the real situation in the Holy Land. Questions will and have already come about how this came to be; who is paying the cost; and, why has this gone on.

As all eyes are riveted on settlers being pulled forcibly from their homes, images and soundbites of extremism are left for people to decipher. The homes they have built on stolen land go against international laws. The incentives the settlers were given to knowingly break international law and live on stolen land is mindboggling. The funds they are now being given to resettle is equally mindboggling.

Gaza land and the land in the West bank was stolen in front of its rightful Palestinian owners. Owners that were forced to live yards away and able to see and feel everyday the pain and hurt of being uprooted. There was no compensation for the Palestinians forced into refugee camps and, funds to help them resettle in Gaza do not come near that of funding for settlers. Israel needs to find parallels in the current situation. Israel needs to right the wrongs of the founding of their state. Acknowledging their part and compensating for land and homes lost is first. The sense of moving forward after that through good-faith negotiations can lead to closure and a future with peace for both sides.

The entire settlement movement required military protection, unnecessary homelessness, unnecessary deaths, unnecessary violence, hunger, fear, hate and an overwhelming sense of no hope for peace.

There are no winners in Gaza so far. The next step and absence of that next step have planted that seed of pending doom. This modern day era of mass communication (print and visual) can change that.

What this withdrawal means, if it continues throughout the West Bank, is PEACE! There will be no turning back after that. So, Gaza must not fail! Both sides need to make sure that there are no losers in Gaza. The Palestinians need to step up to the plate and demand and outline the necessary measures and funding it will take to keep order and rule of law in the immediate post-Gaza withdrawal. And, that will not happen without strong U.S. intervention. Extremists groups cannot win over democracy and rule of law.

It's sad to watch any people being removed from their homes... even knowing the history behind it. The worse thing about this whole situation to me, as a parent, is seeing children led by their parents to be exposed to hurt and hate. It teaches children to fight against peace. No matter what the ideology these parents espouse, confusion and rage will overcome and rob those children of their innocence. I cannot believe the images of children, crying, convulsing, and being put in a position to bear the brunt of pain without explanation and hope for a better life. What type of parent does that to their child?

What type of parent puts ideologies before their child? I can not understand that. I see it manifest itself in many different ways on the Palestinian side too.

Surely, the children of Abraham were not meant to kill one another for land, most especially in the case of Gaza, when they are both Jewish.

For both sides, what's done is done, and, Gaza can help us to move on or stay stuck in the past forever.

As long as all eyes are on Gaza, we can make our voices heard to keep not only the vision of peace moving but the actions towards peace constant.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Silence enables Violence.

It's very clear that violence is the root cause of this conflict. Violence begets violence. In this theater there are two parties that dictate the fate of all the people in that region. Israeli policymakers that use violence as an excuse for security and Palestinian militants that use violence to be heard. Unfortunately, violence is the only language understood by both parties and they have successfully drowned out the voice of reason. I'm so tired of the term "moderate." There is an elected Palestinian leadership that has spoken, in Arabic and English to the people--violence is not the way.

The Palestinian people are being misunderstood and misled by violence. The violence that engulfs their daily lives misleads them to think that violence is the only way. They are misunderstood as a people that espouse violence as a means of resistance when just surviving day to day under occupation is resistance. I know, I lived there.

It's becoming harder and harder to speak out, organize and effect change when violence continues to rule. So many children being killed, so many children being orphaned, so many parents burying children... more lives being wrought with hate. The whole world is watching, and, blood is all the camera wants. The voices and images of reason and peace are silenced to the eyes of the world. It's very frustrating. Seems like it's futile to keep trying to be heard... but we have to keep trying.

We have to raise our voices against violence no matter who is responsible for it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Palestinian Blinders

We all wear blinders sometimes. They filter out what you don't want to see or hear. I am on a number of Palestinian listserves and organize in Chicago. I see the blinders and watch the effects cripple us.

When I engage in dialogue with fellow Palestinians, I am attacked verbally. I am accused of being a spy or conspirator of of some kind becasue I express myself and the reasons for my views. Peace, coexistence, compensation, reconciliation... those are my views. I have to "prove myself a real Palestinian" upon being attacked. I seem to create total shock expressing my view. After explaining why I feel the way I do, and my vision of what the end to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict would look like, the attacks diminish. I am, however, more dismissed and tolerated than accepted.

The young people have embraced me and look to me for direction. They share my views but see no place to express themselves in a way that can flourish in order to really advocate for Palestinian rights. So I continue to organize and argue... for them. I feel the weight of being a role model and I feel like I'm winning on some levels but failing on others. People are still dying back home, children are still dying.

I observe the hatemongering that goes on. The lack of real discussion, real conclusions. Just a game of points on who responded to what article in the paper. It's so futile sometimes to even try to have discussion. It's all about being a media critic... that wins points... at least so far as I can see. It's about how loud you can scream for Palestine... like so many groups out there funded in social justice do. Are they really there to help Palestinians and their just cause or scream and collect money for it?

And thus you have it, no real healing, helping or looking to move forward in the Palestinian diaspora.

I recently saw a quote at the end of someone's post on a Palestinian listserve. Some people put quotes and other sayings in their closings. This one really struck me... especially because Palestinians in the diaspora are so angry that they justify suicide bombing--including the person that uses the quote. When they denounce it they still justify it. I can denounce it but I can't justify it. I can explain why it happens... but I can't justify it. They can. The quote is:

“The ink of the scholar is holier more than the blood of the martyr"- Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).

Does anyone really pay attention to what that means. When I spoke out against suicide bombing, I was attacked. When I speak out against people who think that it's a legitimate way to defend a just cause, I'm attacked. When I dismantled a group in Chicago claiming to be a "Coalition of Justice for Palestine" (the umbrella organization for all Palestinian groups) because the spokesperson glorfies the leaders of the suicide bombing movement, they are puzzled. Do they not see or know what Jesus and Mohammed taught?

The Palestinians in the diaspora are missing the boat. They are continually on the defense and can't see a way out. Their blinders are focused on defense and they have no room for the future. They cry about the past and the present... that's it. Any new vision or methods used by up&coming leaders here and back home are dissected and analyzed with a predetermination to denounce them.

They denounce any new ways of opening the doors for a better life for the people on the land--the ones that are really living a nightmare. They can't see it because they are so afraid of change and compromise. They feel belittled enough. There is a sense of holding out--all or nothing--that keeps them going. Even though they are not suffering in refugee camps and in Arab countries that don't allow them to vote or become citizens with basic human rights.

Sometimes just watching this becomes too much. It's generational and the Arabs have suffered and continue to suffer from these types of blinders. We, the Arabs, used to be the innovators, the cradle of civilization, as it's said, started in our world... why do we hold ourselves back.

I try to understand the "why." I think it has to do with a lack of role models, lack of democracy, interpretation of religion, cultural gender bias and other ills. Other communities suffer from the same. Some have found a way to prosper and some completely languish in it.

There are those that can make a difference and lead the Palestinians in the diaspora, but they don't. They are the Palestinians sick and tired of our people's inability to remove the blinders. What they're not understanding is that, perhaps, a real possiblity to create a grassroots network that is second to none is missed. Unfortunatley, they just don't want to deal with the likes of what is out there in the coffee houses, the lecture halls, the demonstrations, listserves, etc. They find it hard to channel all that negativity into proactivity. I don't blame them but I implore them to try as I do.

I spend my days writing and reaching out to some of the most influential Arab and Palestinian leaders. Some are not Arab or Palestinian. I do it because I know they understand that it takes resources, time, dedication and a few close confidants to move ahead. I understand why they hesitate, but, more now than ever, we need to tackle this monster. We, the people that want peace based on justice, based on compromise, based on reality, need each other to do this.

Because we don't have a grassroots effort to make 100 phone calls in one hour from people nationally, or 25,000 letters to a Congressperson in a week, we will not be able to create real change from our elected officials. Real success will come when the blinders come off and leadership emerges to offer focus, instructions and direction to the Palestinians in the diaspora.

I hope I succeed in convincing those that can make a difference do so... for the young people that don't want to cry for Palestine another 50 plus years. I know I'll keep organizing and speaking out.