Monday, 23 July 2012

2 Sides to Every Story and 12 Versions of Every Song

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Heather
(Joint Advocacy Initiative Intern in Palestine)



What it feels like to live here you ask? It’s like being a shadow of your own, caught on the ground not being able to break out and see yourself lying there, but you cannot fill the shadow with life. 
Child detainee aged 17

Recently I watched 70 adults partaking in activities such as: Dunking for Apples, Apple on a String, Bring Me and other such games fit for at a child’s Halloween party. While this was occurring, hundreds of Palestinians were on hunger strike some reaching to over 70 days, (if you have ever fasted for one day imagine multiplying that feeling by 70!) These 2 oxymoron events are examples of what is going on simultaneously in Palestine all the time.  The first event described was a team building day at the YMCA – what might be considered a fairly normal event in any work place across the world yet everything in Palestine has a dark cloud hanging over it. The occupation and effects of it are never far away from people’s minds especially when nearly the entire population (adults and children) have experienced time in prison. Imagine 2/3 of the population of your country, your classmates or work friends, have been or are in prison, this is an extraordinary figure.

As of June 2012 there were 4600 Palestinian prisoners and at least 303 administrative detainees in Israeli prisons. Administrative detention is a procedure under which detainees are held without charge or trial. No charges are filed and there is no intention of bringing a detainee to trial. The term of the order is a maximum 6 months yet on or before the expiry of the term, the detention order is frequently renewed. This process can be continued indefinitely which is a punishment in itself. Imagine being in prison, not knowing why, thinking you will get out tomorrow and then you are told you have another 6 months and this process has been known to go on for up to 8 years. This was the reason behind 2500 prisoners who went on hunger strike in April of this year. This figure also included several hundred children and was one of the longest mass hunger strikes the world has ever seen.


Tear gas being shot at protesters at a weekly demonstration 
Another constant reminder of the occupation are the weekly demonstrations that take place on Fridays after mid-day prayers in villages near the wall or settlements (areas of West Bank land that are built on and inhabited by Israelis which is illegal under international law). Having spoken to Palestinians at the protests I have attended they have acknowledged that they feel protests are more symbolical as a fight of resistance to keep hope alive rather than having a belief that these protests alone will really make a difference and yet every week for many years the village comes together along with many internationals to demonstrate. These demonstrations are usually met with teargas and rubber bullets from the Israeli military. I admire them for their strength and courage and yet unfortunately these acts alone, although there have been some success stories, have brought little change or attention from the international community.

I have also witnessed and experienced in a small way the daily struggle of many Palestinians who have to queue at checkpoints because of arbitrary ID checks or in the early hours of the morning before checkpoints open in order to get through on time for work in another area of the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Many have suffered at these checkpoints. I have, in my short time here visited Jerusalem a mere 10 kilometres away from Bethlehem, more times than all of the Palestinians I know here put together. Palestinians living in the West Bank are not allowed to go to Jerusalem or anywhere else in the state of Israel unless they apply for permission which is often only granted during religious holidays such as Ramadan, Christmas or Easter. Even when the permission is granted, they may be denied entry at the checkpoint. There have also even been reports of people not being allowed through to go to hospital when needing important surgery and women who have given birth at checkpoints while waiting to be allowed to get to hospital.  

Settlement on a hilltop in the West Bank
Talk of the occupation therefore occurs every day and the impacts of it ripple through daily activities for many Palestinians. Yet somehow life must go on, people have jobs, children, want to go on holiday etc and so normal life and life under occupation do unfortunately coexist but the struggle is to remain hopeful that they are not one of the same. Unfortunately sometimes the fight can become too much. I emphasise with the Palestinian people but I am not naive enough to say that they all want peace and to love one another. Many do, yes, but others are tired of the so called peace process, the negotiations about negotiations. They are growing weary, people start fighting among themselves, they throw rocks at demonstrations and use other violent measures to provoke the soldiers while others simply don’t have the energy anymore to fight it and want to focus on taking care as best they can of their children and families. Despite this I have witnessed many determined people in Palestine determined to remain.


Mosque in a  Palestinian community in East Jerusalem
On the other side of the wall things are very different.  East Jerusalem was captured by Israel in the 1967 war but it is still mainly Palestinians living here and because of this it has retained the hustle and bustle of markets and friendly atmosphere that is present within the West Bank.  However just a short walk away is West Jerusalem – a very different place altogether. The places here include clothes shops such as Topshop and Mango with some overpriced cafes thrown in with a mix of people of different races and nationalities filling the clean and tidy streets. When I visited recently the already clean spot of ground outside the cafe I was in was swept twice in the half hour I sat there whereas just a short walk away within Palestinian communities of East Jerusalem, the Israeli municipality refuses to collect the rubbish.  

Yet  my perceptions of Israel were challenged. Israelis here do not have to deal with the impacts of the occupation in the way Palestinians do, they have other issues yes but they do not see the wall as they go shopping or go for lunch. It made me wonder if I was Israeli how much would I fight the occupation.  I doubt they know the full extent of it unless they have specifically taken the time to go and educate themselves about it and so they only know what their government wants them to know...“All Arabs are terrorists and the ‘security fence’ is to protect us from them”. When I entered a synagogue one day I was asked was I carrying any guns or knives on my person. How safe do people really feel if they feel the need to carry around weapons? Do they genuinely see Palestinians as a terrorist threat? Many of the Israelis I have met in my travels in Israel say they want peace, yet they do simultaneously however appear to see Palestinians as exactly that – a security threat. From being here for several months this seems ridiculous and to tar a whole group of any nationality as terrorists is absurd yet is it that crazy that they believe what their government tells them?

Mediterranean Coastline in Tel Aviv
How many of us know the policies our governments have in place about refugees or conditions for prisoners etc? Unless we have taken a particular interest because we are studying it or someone has told us about their own experience, I would say not many of us do. Not because we don’t care but simply because we are busy with our own lives and it does not directly affect us and so we eventually forget about it. This is why I greatly admire the few Israeli activists who join Palestinian demonstrations; they are taking a risk to even come in to the West Bank let alone the risk of being targeted with tear gas and rubber bullets by their own Israeli peers. Other organisations such as the Boycott from Within and Breaking the Silence (Soldiers who give tours around the West Bank explaining what orders they were told to carry out there) are starting to appear from within Israel showing that the conflict is not all Israelis against all Palestinians (although the statement presented the other way around may not be true).

And so the conflict is complicated, it is not simply Palestinians against Israelis or Arabs against Jews. When the Israeli activists came to demonstrations many Palestinians were initially shocked and found it hard to believe not all Israelis hated them. Many of the Jews living in Israel are from Europe, America, Ethiopia and India as they were promised a cheaper and better life, some I would not be surprised to believe, know nothing of the occupation and of course there are many who do but I believe it is only a small amount of extreme Zionists (a secular and very powerful movement, many of whom are not orthodox Jews) who believe peace cannot occur until all Palestinians leave their homeland.

It is therefore much more complex than it is often made out to be when talks of the peace process are discussed in the media. If a solution was simple it would not have taken 64 years to find it. The argument of the 1 state solution v 2 state solution seems more and more obsolete the longer I stay here. Ironically Israel is actually ensuring that the 2 state solution will never be a viable option because of the expanding settlements into areas of the West Bank as it is making the total area for Palestinians to live in smaller and smaller by the day and completely unviable as a state.  I don’t know what the solution will be but Palestinians, although they know that moving to another country could be an easier way of life, know it is what Israel wants and so they are not giving up on the land of their ancestors. The Palestinians still here have lasted 64 years and many show every effort of continuing to do so, let’s hope their livelihoods do not remain threatened by the occupation for another 64 years!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Over 100 UK student leaders condemn Israeli SU racism

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UK student leaders have signed a letter condemning a recent decision by Zefat Academic College to limit their Students’ Union presidency to those who have served at least two years in the Israeli military, effectively barring Palestinians from standing in elections.


The recent policy which prevents Palestinian students from running for the role of president in Student Union elections has led to widespread concern amongst student representatives in the UK for the welfare of 
Palestinian students studying at Israeli colleges and universities.  ‘Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel’ currently constitute around 60% of Zefat College’s student body.
Palestinian citizens of Israel are not required to complete National Service in the Israeli Military, and as a result are often in a disadvantaged position in several areas across society such as employment, where many businesses require that applicants have completed a minimum two years of Military Service.
The letter stresses that the Union’s decision “raises the wider question of the attitude towards Palestinian students (…) at institutions such as Zefat College”.  Student leaders in the UK have been shocked by the racism of the policy, particularly upon learning that 2012 is the first year that Palestinian students at the College have presented a group of students to run for several positions within the Student Union – including the position of President.
Critics of the policy have taken into account the wider issue of treatment of Palestinian students at Israeli colleges and universities.  The ongoing campaign amongst dozens of municipal chief Rabbis to encourage Jewish property owners to refrain from renting property to Palestinian students in the city of Zefat due to a perceived ‘demographic threat’ posed to the Jewish community in the city has highlighted the racism to which Palestinian students are exposed on a daily basis.  Eli Zvieli, an 89 year old holocaust survivor who rented out his spare rooms to 3 students in Zefat, was threatened with having his house burned down and deemed a traitor to Israel for his refusal to discriminate against young Palestinians.
The hostility towards these students is manifested not only in the policy recently adopted by Zefat College but also through daily intimidation and abuse of Palestinian students who attend the college.
The letter condemns the policy as one which “clearly targets Palestinian citizens of Israel”.
One of the major concerns of the signatories is that whilst the motion was passed through the Student Union, Zefat College has made no step toward challenging the decision.
The statement goes on to call for the policy to be revoked and for “Palestinian students to be granted the same opportunities to represent, and be represented, as their fellow students”.
Signatories of the statement include Liam Burns and Dannie Grufferty, who were last week re-elected as President and Vice-President (Society & Citizenship) respectively of the National Union of Students (NUS), as well as Union of Jewish Students and NUS committee member Rachel Wenstone and NUS Scotland President Robin Parker. The NUS is the confederation of Britain’s students’ unions, representing over 7 million students, although the statement has also gained support amongst Unions which are not affiliated to this body.
Students across the UK who are increasingly involved with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in defence of Palestinian rights on university and college campuses welcome the support of student leaders in the move to condemn Zefat College Students’ Union, hoping that this legislative example will highlight the extent of the xenophobia which Palestinians endure in every area of society.
The discrimination towards ‘48 Palestinians living in Israel is evident throughout State policy on education, land, housing and employment.  Palestinians are massively underrepresented in the governmental and public sectors, and Palestinian men earn 42% less on average than their Jewish counterparts.  Whilst this discrimination is explicit it is rarely challenged, and endless promises from successive Israeli governments calling for this inequality to be addressed ring hollow to the ears of the Palestinians living in Israel, who experience discrimination on a daily basis because of Israel’s foundational intolerance of the Palestinian people.
Earlier this year, NUS, ULU and KCLSU voted overwhelmingly on a BDS motion to condemn King’s College’s participation in the NanoReTox project due to the involvement of Ahava, a cosmetics company which uses resources from the occupied West Bank. Burns described Ahava as being “deeply complicit with violations of international law, specifically concerning declaration of their products origins within occupied Palestinian territories”.




Below is the statement, which now has almost 150 signatures:
We, the undersigned, condemn the policy recently adopted by Zefat Academic College which requires that any individual who wishes to obtain candidacy in the Students’ Union president elections must have completed national service in the Israeli military. This requirement automatically excludes most Palestinian citizens of Israel.
As elected representatives at our own educational institutions, we understand the vital role that Student Unions play in ensuring the welfare of students. In order to create and maintain safe campuses and learning environments, it is essential that all students are represented throughout bodies such as Students’ Unions. To deny some students the opportunity to participate is clearly undemocratic, and is an impediment to the creation of a representative Student Union.
Whilst there may be some students studying at Zefat College who have not completed service in the Israeli military for various reasons, the policy clearly targets Palestinian citizens of Israel as the largest demographic within the student body who are unlikely to have served. The implicit racism of this policy is deeply concerning as it raises the wider question of the attitude towards Palestinian students who study alongside Israeli students at institutions such as Zefat College.
We call for the policy to be revoked, and for Palestinian students to be granted the same opportunities to represent, and be represented, as their fellow students.
For a complete list of all the signatories of the statement, please visit: http://weareallhanashalabi.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/over-100-uk-student-leaders-condemn-israeli-su-racism/

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Welcome to Palestine!

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Heather
(Joint Advocacy Initiative Intern in Palestine)

On the eve of my one month milestone in Palestine I finally sit down to process my thoughts...I have absorbed a crazy amount of information which I don’t want to just relay back to you (I think if this would evoke any response from you, the international community would have intervened here long ago). So instead I want to share some of my experiences and what I have witnessed here with my own eyes. It won’t necessarily be PC or well articulated it is just an expression of my views – a piece of me to help you see a piece of Palestine.

So I arrived in Beit Sahour, which was much colder than I had thought (thanks a bunch lonely planet) and I was shown my accommodation options which turned out to be my accommodation option (a bit of a dive) but thankfully I am living near super nice people who volunteer at the JAI and so I settled in immensely quickly to my new surroundings.  I am still of course asking stupid questions like, ‘When do the bins go out?’ Or, ‘When is the set lunch time?’ I am learning everyday about the indirect, ‘go with the flow’ culture here and similarly in my office, deadlines, structure and forward planning are pretty unheard of concepts so is any kind of praise or recognition of my work at all!

By and large, in relation to where I am staying in the West Bank, you could be forgiven for being blissfully unaware that you are standing in occupied territory. My first experience of the occupation was the day after I arrived, on a trip to Hebron where the very centre of the city is occupied. As I had nothing to compare it to and because everything was still a blur after just arriving, it was only on later visits that I realised how crazy it was. Palestinians are barred from going down certain roads in their own neighbourhood, arbitrary checks of Palestinians’ IDs occur constantly and a part of a mosque was converted into a synagogue.

Closer to home is Bethlehem which instead of being like, ‘Oh little town of Bethlehem’ which I was made to believe every Christmas, it is more like Oh large town of noise, pollution and pervy men. Of course I was also expecting to see the exact hill where Jesus had been crucified, not a blade of grass out of place and the ‘stable’ where he was born. These of course are long gone, (things change apparently over a couple of thousand years!) only a metal star or a few candles commemorates the place where it was thought that these events may have happened and so I was more than a tad disappointed as it all seems just for show and to give tourists (of which there are many) a good photo.

Unlike Palestinians, Israelis appear somewhat more direct about their intentions. Simply put they want to protect land which they believe is Eretz Israel. This includes what is biblically known as Judea and Samaria (aka the whole of the West Bank) where over 2 million mainly non – Jews (mostly Muslims and Christians) live. To accomplish this goal, many Jewish, pro Zionists from Israel and around the world have moved into illegal settlements across the West Bank with a very clear intention of land grabbing and many of whom have made public threats on the lives of Palestinians.

I have heard of many atrocities already in my short time here. I witnessed a march on the 30th March to commemorate land day when protestors against land confiscation were shot dead by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) in 1976. Many pro-Palestinians all over the world marched towards Jerusalem to show solidarity for the Palestinian people. I was in Bethlehem for this were I believe 15 were severely injured due to teargas and rubber bullets (ordinary bullets with a small coating of rubber, not bullets made out of rubber, as I once thought) and many more injuries were reported throughout the West Bank.

Another event on the 17th April marked Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. I recently heard from a woman whose son has been in prison for the last 20 years. His crime: Driving a car carrying a person who was wanted by the IDF. He was only 20 years old at the time of his arrest.

I have also seen several Internationals being arrested here for raising awareness on particular issues, they however are released pretty quickly and can enjoy freedom again a luxury which Palestinians have not been allowed since the occupation began over 60 years ago.

Many people make draw similarities here (possibly to try and maintain hope) to the Northern Ireland and South African conflicts and resolutions. I think of the song ‘Waka Waka This time For Africa’ by Shakira and I think to myself maybe one day some equally bootylicious popstar will sing: This time for Palestine....

Follow Heather's journey by checking out her blog at : http://piecesofmepiecesofpalestine.blogspot.co.uk/

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Weekend in the Jordan Valley

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This weekend revealed to me the desperate but unyielding struggles of the Palestinian people residing in the Jordan Valley. The basic necessities that every human being should be entitled to are denied here – water, health, education and freedom – and it is not because of poverty, poor infrastructure or an underdeveloped economy, it is because they are intentionally stolen away from the Palestinians. The situation in the Jordan Valley is critical. Harmful Israeli occupation practices are intensifying, settlement expansion is increasing and strategic ethnic cleansing is succeeding as a result of the intense pressure exerted on Palestinians to leave their homeland. When Israel occupied the Jordan Valley in 1967, 320,000 Palestinians lived here. Now there are only 56,000 Palestinians residing in the region on a permanent basis.
On entering Jordan Valley, it is made clear to us that we are entering Israeli land. We must walk through a checkpoint to go any further. We take off our bags and coats, hand over our passports and walk through the metal detector. It is much easier for us to get through than for the Palestinian man who was travelling with us. He is forced to empty his pockets, remove his shoes and walk back and forth through the metal detector until the Israeli soldier is satisfied. On the other side we are greeted by a group of Israeli soldiers. It is impossible not to feel intimidated when you are being stared down and interrogated by your peers who are dressed in military gear and holding assault rifles. Surprisingly, we are provoked by a female soldier in the group. She asks us if we are going to meet an Arab friend and when we walk away, sarcastically wishes us to ‘have a great time, honey.’
Once in Jordan Valley, we make our way to the Bedouin Village of Khirbet Samra. The West Bank is divided into three territories as declared by the 1993 Oslo Accords: A, B and C. Area C covers 60 per cent of the West Bank. Unlike Areas A and B which allow for varying amounts of Palestinian control, Area C is under full Israeli administrative and security control. They control the roads, any land in the vicinity of settlements, and strategic areas considered ‘security zones’. As the most fertile area of the West Bank, many Palestinians are dependent on the land to provide for their livelihoods. We are shown a road that has been closed off by the Israelis. It is an essential road used by Palestinians to travel and access their agricultural land. Palestinians are only permitted to cross the road during a 30 minute window, two times per day, and three days a week. We are told a story of one family living nearby. A couple of months ago, their son was crossing this road on a tractor to reach their farm. The vehicle crashes and the boy falls and hits his head. When his family discover that he doesn’t return they approach the road but it is closed off. They can see their son injured at the side of the road but are denied access by Israeli soldiers. His family are forced to watch him bleed to death. 
Our car drives along a mud path, approaching a cluster of tents located at the head of a valley. We are in Khirbet Samra, a Bedouin village that has existed for centuries. It is currently overlooked by a settlement, and is also bordered by an army base at the entrance to the valley. The community is regularly harassed by settlers and the military, they have been issued several demolition orders, and have had many of their buildings destroyed. We are shown an animal enclosure that was destroyed the day before by Israeli settlers. 
At one point during the day, a settler car stops on top off the hill and tries to steal one of the sheep belonging to the village. It is just one of the strategies deployed to force Bedouin families to leave. One of the neighbouring villages we visit, Mak-hul, has a water pipe passing through it leading to the Israeli military base on the top of the hill surrounding the village. Water is a serious problem in the Jordan Valley. Since the occupation, Israel has monopolised the area’s water resources and controls where wells can be placed and how much water can be pumped from them. As a result, Palestinians suffer from a lack of access due to Israeli restrictions and extreme usage. While settlers are receiving hefty discounts on their water bills, Palestinians have no other choice but to install expensive water pumps and pay unreasonable fines for exceeding their allowed water usage.

We are greeted by the 25 children that live in Khirbet Samra. They offer us flowers and it is the warmest welcome that I have received so far in Palestine.

The aim today is to build a tent school for the children in Khirbet Samra with Jordan Valley Solidarity. Once finished, the organisation will send teachers to the school on a regular basis. The children have not been able to attend school as the nearest one is 20km away and they occasionally receive harassment from soldiers and settlers on their way to the school. In Area C, it is not an easy feat to set up a school. It is illegal to build without an Israeli building permit which is almost impossible to obtain. If you do build, the structure is vulnerable to receive a stop work order for demolition. 


After a few hours, the school is completed and the children are eager to help us with the decorating. They get stuck in with the paint to their parent’s dismay. These children are beautiful. They want to play with us and continue to pick flowers and hand them to us. They are not a security threat and they are not terrorists. They deserve every opportunity in life. 

It is a bittersweet feeling once the school is finished. It represents resistance and resilience, a fight for the right to education, and the love and dedication displayed by the children. It is sad to think that in the near future this school will be demolished. 
At the end of my trip, I speak with a local Palestinian teacher who is volunteering with Jordan Valley Solidarity. He asks me what people in the UK think about the occupation and is clearly upset when I tell him that many people are not actually aware of the atrocities taking place here. He asks why the world does not care about the Palestinian’s suffering in the Jordan Valley and I also wonder why.





Saturday, 24 March 2012

Vigil for Gaza at the LSE

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Yasmin Ahmed
LSE Palestine Society

27 candles
On Thursday 15th March, the LSE Palestine Society held a candle-lit vigil on campus to mourn the victims of Israel's latest deadly bombardment of Gaza. The attacks, which began on March 9th, continued for five days, leaving 27 dead and dozens injured. Those dead included 12-year-old schoolboy Ayoub Useila, killed by an airstrike which also injured his 7-year-old cousin.


Twenty-seven candles were lit on Houghton Street just before sunset to mark the lives of those killed, and a two-minute silence was observed. A black banner with the words "Silence Is Complicity" was also displayed throughout the day, referring to the media blackout surrounding the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the complete lack of observance paid towards the relentless attacks upon it and its population of 1.5 million.

Second R2E lecture broadcast to Gaza!

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Yasmin Ahmed
LSE SU Palestine Society


On Tuesday 13th March, following last month's International Relations lecture broadcasting to students at the Islamic University of Gaza by Dr Marco Pinfari [http://the-london-school-of-emancipation.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/right-2-education-project-gets-underway.html], Dr Menolis Melissaris from the Law Department at the LSE delivered the second in a series of five lectures as part of the LSE Palestine Society's 'Right 2 Education' (R2E) Campaign.

Dr Menolis Melissaris delivering a
lecture via Shype to students to Gaza
His lecture, entitled "An Introduction to Western Legal Thought" was broadcast live at 9am London time (11am Gaza time) to an audience of around 30 students. This was quite an extraordinary turnout given that over the three days prior to this lecture, and indeed during and after, Gaza was being pounded by Israeli air attacks, which eventually left 27 dead and dozens wounded. 

The third lecture in this series will be delivered by renowned Human Rights lawyer and LSE Professor Conor Gearty, who will be discussing the historical, philosophical and legal derivations of Human Rights Theory. 

For more information about this student-led project and to get involved, please email su.soc.palestine@lse.ac.uk

LSE Palestine Society hosts Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset

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LSE SU Palestine Society

On Monday 5th March, the Palestine Society at the LSE had the honour of hosting Deputy Speaker of Israeli Knesset Dr Ahmed El Tibi in a talk entitled 'Israel & the Arab Spring: The Way Forward'. 

From left to right: Chair Samer Abdelnour, Ambassador Manuel
Hassassian, and Dr Ahmed El Tibi
Tibi, who was introduced to the audience by the Palestinian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Manuel Hassassian, began by discussing the discrimination that Palestinian citizens of Israel suffer from, such as the fact that "Arab citizens of Israel make up 20% of the Israeli population yet make up only 7.5% of public sector employees". He went on to describe the Knesset as at its "most racist, radical and extreme", giving the example of the Israeli law against family unification which essentially "forbids an arab citizen of Israel who is willing to marry a Palestinian woman from the West bank from having his life in his town in Israel unless he is willing to leave his country and live with his wife in Israel". Regarding this, he commented that "only Israel deals with romance and love as a conspiracy against the security of Israel".

The speaker then went on to talk about issues of democracy and security, arguing that Israel and indeed the world is selective about these things when it comes to Palestine whilst making a reference to Hamas' election in Gaza in 2008 which was wholly unaccepted by a number of countries. Tibi also alleged that "the word security is only compatible with Israel" given that "in Gaza there is much more need for security than in Tel Aviv".

After a 30-minute speech, a lively Q&A session ensued, with Ambassador Hassassian referring to the 60-year Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as "the most ferocious occupation in modern history". 




Refugee Rhythmz hit the LSE!

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On Friday 2nd March, the Palestine and Arabic societies of the LSE and Kings' College joined forces to bring a night of hip hop, spoken word and poetry. 


The lineup included live performances from renowned Iraqi-Canadian rapper The Narcicyst, up-and-coming British-Iranian MC Mic Righteous and Egyptian Arabic rapper Deeb, as well as a number of new up-and-coming UK-based artists. Speakers included Rafeef Ziadah and Sanasino and stalls were also available on the night, selling merchandise.

We would like to express our thanks to everyone who made this event possible and to the artists and poets who performed on the night, which raised over £500. Proceeds from this fundraising gig will go towards funding a full-time academic scholarship for a Palestinian refugee to attend Birzeit University, one of the best academic institutions in Palestine. 

List of performers: The Narcicyst, Mic Righteous, Deeb, Logic, Ed Greenz, Rafeef Ziadah, Sanasino, Lyricist Jinn, Tabanacle, Caspa.

Glasgow University latest to boycott Eden Springs

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Glasgow University Palestine Society
In September 2011 Glasgow University Palestine Society relaunched a campaign which began several years ago to encourage the University to cancel their contract with Eden Springs.  Eden Springs UK are a subsidiary of Mayanot Eden, an Israeli company which extracts water from illegally occupied Golan Heights, bottling the water in nearby settlement Katzrin. Eden Springs has become a major target in the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement across the UK and Europe, responding to the call from Palestinian civil society.

The campaign consisted of public meetings, a student petition, an appeal for support to the Student Representatives Council, and a letter from staff at the University which voiced their support for the motion to cancel the contract.  Following a report submitted to the University in January 2012, a meeting was arranged between members of the Society and the Principal of the University, Anton Muscatelli.
The meeting took place on 13th March 2012.  The Principal assured the Palestine Society that the University acknowledged the concerns of the students and staff, and to this end would make a commitment to refraining from any future contract with Eden Springs.
The agreement from the University follows similar commitments from other Scottish Universities including Strathclyde University, Caledonian University, University of Edinburgh, Dundee University and others.  Similar campaigns have been run at Universities and Colleges across the UK.
Glasgow University Palestine Society would like to thank everyone who supported the campaign by signing the student petition and staff letter.  In addition to this, we would like to thank all of the individuals who assisted the campaign through offering advice and resources.  Thanks also to individuals who endorsed the campaign, and organisations such as Boycott From Within for their endorsement.
We consider this success significant not just for Glasgow Palsoc, but for all groups campaigning for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israeli companies internationally.  The Palestine Society at Glasgow University will continue to pursue BDS campaigns against Israeli companies, the existence of which propagates Israel’s ongoing system of occupation, apartheid and oppression of the Palestinian people.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Irreplaceable

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By Fidaa Abuassi


I have got into the habit of letting my students guess the meaning of any new word from its context rather than stating the meaning directly. On the board I wrote these three sentences: “Appreciate the beauty of nature. Appreciate your mother and be grateful to her. Appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had.” Then, I asked them to try to guess the meaning of the word “appreciate”. As they guessed right, I asked them whether they are appreciative of what they have before it is irretrievably gone. Given that my mother means more than the world to me, I, assuming the role of my grandmother probably, prolonged the talk on this topic, offering some pieces of advice on how each should take good care of the mother and seek her pleasure obediently. “Appreciate the irreplaceable,” I heartedly throated, then, suddenly –or rather shockingly –stopped upon hearing a girl sobbing uncontrollably. I panicked. “Habibti, what’s wrong?” I knelt down next to her, begging.

Trying to wipe her non-stop shedding tears off her checks, she seemed inconsolable. “Please talk to me,” I begged again as my heart wrinkled out of fear, for it was almost my first time I happened to be the only grown-up around where I had to be wise enough to handle all alone whatever went wrong. It was such a staggering burden for so young a teacher. “I… lo…s..lo..lost my mom,” she was still sobbing. “Oh my God!” I gasped. That was the last thing I needed to hear. Intuitively, I sensed it, yet I feared it. Sometimes I hate when my hunches fail to fail me. Speechless, I patted her shoulder with a failed attempt to calm her down. I wished I had not been destined to be a teacher. I regretted my way of teaching. I hated the contexts on which I placed the word ‘appreciate’. I cursed the topic I prolonged and the role of my grandmother I assumed. I thought I was too young to bear such a responsibility, such a mission, a teaching mission. I took her in my tiny, helpless arms, this time assuming the role of a mother, the mother she lost, most likely. I cried, sharing her the sobs, while beckoning to the other students to have a break or better to leave. I needed a break. A leave.
  
Till now, I haven’t dared to ask what happened to her mother. I knew some shattered pieces unfolded by one of her classmates. Selfishly, I didn’t want to hear any further details. Thank you! I have lived enough details. Details that have bestowed me with age beyond that of mine. Details that made me sound more like my versatile grandmother who seems to have much knowledge about anything and everything in life. Details that made my mind bulge with bitter-sweet memories. There, lying in my bed, totally drained, I couldn’t stop thinking of my bereaved student whose image seemed unavoidable as though imprinted in my weary memory, forever.

Since the moment I tasted death during the bloody war Israel waged against us, I came to realize that I would lose everything and everyone anytime all at once without notice. The war taught me that everything is temporary and nothing I would ever have I could count on, neither parents nor siblings nor friends and of course not home nor even life. Since that, I tried harder to accept such a poignant fact with much patience and rectitude. Still, I am not yet ready. I failed, and I am still failing, even in faking. Since the day I experienced how others experienced real deaths and losses, I fear experiencing it myself one day. I resist me growing attached to a thing or a person, fearing to experience its loss, not because I lack this sense of appreciation about which I talked earlier with my students, yet because I have this sense of insecurity and uncertainty that the occupation implanted in me by making life so elusively vulnerable to death.

The kind of life I have had made me the person I am today. Such a life makes me see things with exaggerated nostalgia. A life that freaks me out when it whispers to me that the family I am with today while enjoying a Friday meal together, might not be there tomorrow. Why is that when I enjoyed a walk with a friend, a laugh with a brother, a dance with a sister, or the like, I see these moments as mere memories, having the feeling of missing those people while I am actually still with them? Why do I seem to have always craved a sealed promised that I will have my family and my friends for life and never ever to lose them? Why can’t I accept the universally acknowledged fact that nothing lasts forever. Impossible to have it forever? Hasn’t the Israeli occupation taught me this, a zillion times, so practically? Or hasn’t the occupation been a qualified teacher yet? Appreciate or don’t. It wouldn’t make any difference, had someone been destined to have such a life under such a merciless occupation that masters causing suffering to people by making them experience losses, consistently.

Yesterday, I went with a group of internationals to visit the Sammouni family. They wanted to hear the countess-times-told story directly from the mother. Sorrowfully, I happened to be the interpreter of the story. Of grief. Of agony. Of injustice. With tears streaking her face, the mother stopped narrating. I stopped translating. Spontaneously, I gave her a tight hug, thinking, with much naivety, that by hugging her, I could soothe her aching heart (I don’t know what role I assumed that moment, a husband?). As I turned my face to tell my friend Komal, whose eyes were already swollen with tears, that what we heard was enough, I found everyone was apparently agonized by her agony, speechlessly mesmerized. This mother lost her husband and her child. Both were murdered in front of her eyes. All what she hopped for at that very moment was to have a final look at her husband’s gun-shot corpse which was totally drowned in his innocently spilt blood. The solider didn’t let her, despite her heart-rending weeps. “Allah yesamho (God forgives him)! He didn’t allow me to see my husband for the last time,” she recalled, still feeling the same pain she once felt and tore her heart apart till the rest of her death-drenched life. Three years have elapsed, and yet she can’t survive the horrible memories of losing the irreplaceable. Her husband. Her son.

“Fidaa, please ask her how we could help her”, asked one. I wanted to tell him that there was nothing he could offer, had he not been able to bring her husband and son back, had he not been able to erase that painful part off of her memory, had he not been able to make her forget how her husband and son were shot to death in front of her. However, he wanted me to ask her and so I did. “How you could help!” she heaved, “Khalas faGadna el ghali (we lost our beloved)”. I inhaled her pain and exhaled a deep sigh. Between me and myself, I vowed to never come back to that place again, believing that I have been weighed down with enough pain and sorrow. Later, however, I reproached myself for being too susceptible to bear hearing a story of pain, let alone living it with its details. Yet, I felt compelled to never get tired of telling the story. The story of injustice. Of losing a beloved. The irreplaceable.