Tracing a line through a fractured Palestine, from Arroub to Bethlehem

August 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tracing the line of the aqueduct. Photo: Matteo Guidi

Tracing the line of the aqueduct. Photo: Matteo Guidi

Late in the autumn of 2012, a group of six researchers set out on foot across the West Bank, starting near Arroub, a Palestinian refugee camp in the southern lobe of the territory, where an ancient and magnificent pool built by the Romans to store water now accumulates garbage blown in by the wind. From there, the group began walking towards Solomon’s Pools, three further massive stone tanks just south of Jerusalem, attempting to follow the route of a Roman aqueduct connecting between the two points. I joined them on their second day.

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6.8 million Palestinian refugees and counting – Towards a popular strategy for resisting forcible displacement

August 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Following World Refugee Day, June 20th, 2013 the central issue to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues to be the mass displacement of Palestinians. The creation of refugees, currently 6.8 million, and refusing their Right of Return is a main component of the ongoing Nakba. The violent uprooting of Palestinians from their homeland was waged in an evolving way from 1947 to the present.

BADIL’s Conference on Forced Population Transfer, 4 June 2013. ( RW/BADIL)

BADIL’s Conference on Forced Population Transfer, 4 June 2013. ( RW/BADIL)

Forced population transfer is one of the gravest breaches of human rights, punishable as both a war crime and a crime against humanity. It is a term of international law that describes the ongoing Nakba. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Crisis of Representation: Debating the PLO on al-Shabaka and Jadaliyya

July 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

As in 1993, the ‘crisis of representation’ continues to draw urgency and attention from the Palestinian public.In the post-Oslo era, the refrain refers to the Fatah-Hamas rift, general elections and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Over the past year leading English-language** websites such as Jadaliyya magazine and al-Shabaka: the Palestinian Policy Network have hosted discussions around the basic value of the PLO and its legislative body, the Palestinian National Council (PNC). This article will survey some of the most recent contributions to this debate aiming to highlight the main ideas wielded for and against elections to the PNC by contemporary Palestinian thinkers. I will review positions put forward in the 1 May 2013 al-Shabaka roundtable: “An Open Debate on Palestinian Representation”2 and, to a lesser extent, the Jadaliyya “Roundtable on Palestinian Diaspora and Representation” published on 11 September 2012.3 Additionally, I will reference individual articles addressing this theme published over the past year on the two platforms.In order to leave the ‘crisis’ behind, deciding on and building a political strategy is the main task before Palestinians.

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*From Palestinian Entity to Statehood: Before and After the UN

December 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

On the evening of November 29th, 2012 the Bethlehem streets became increasingly raucous as we continued to watch through the United Nations General Assembly on the upgrade of Palestine’s status from non-member “entity” to non-member “state.” By the time of the third post-vote speech, we couldn’t handle it anymore and took to the streets by car in order to survey the action. Festive, but not overly so – traffic filled the roads, horns honked, youth hung from the windows with the Palestinian flag or the iconic kuffiyeh flapping in the wind.

Earlier, a very symbolic screening of the UN bid was projected onto the Wall. I heard from one bystander that an Israeli soldier sitting in the watchtower above the crowd opened his window to take a photo at the spectators below – an unheard of interaction. Images of Ramallah’s central square were filmed by all local and international news channels, but circulating reports claimed that a significant portion of the attendees were civilian police or government employees. In Bethlehem, the Palestinian Authority security forces were on the streets primed to restrain potential demonstrations – as usual during politically charged moments – carefully keeping out of sight from Israel’s Wall (and the soldiers stationed in the turrets) that winds through the Northern portions of the city.

Despite being pleased with the symbolic victory, massive international support and receiving deserved attention, the Palestinians I spoke to exuded a restrained excitement conditioned by experience.


Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem

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The “State” of Palestine: fallacies at the footsteps to the UN

November 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

The potential of Palestine becoming a United Nations non-member observer state, but a state, nonetheless, is eliciting a similar feeling of excitement in the West Bank that local elections produced here in October (on a slightly larger scale, mind you). Both moments pose opportunities for change and a cause for celebration, but are illegitimate representations of Palestinians’ will – a play at politics that undercuts fundamental rights.

Mahmoud Abbas’ pursuit of UN upgrades last year and today, representing both the PLO and PA, deepens a binary Oslo-ization begun in the 1990s. The deeply faulty process towards ‘statehood’ forgoes Palestinian self-determination by dispossessing Palestinian refugees originating from Israel proper (the vast majority of 6.8 million refugees) and Palestinian citizens of Israel (1.5 million). Secondly, pursuing statehood risks further institutionalizing the pseudo-sovereignty that has become the status quo within the West Bank and Gaza Strip – Israel will continue to partition the West Bank into enclaves of PA jurisdiction while extracting resources, transplanting its settler population and perpetuating the structural and naked violence of occupation; as was witnessed last week, the people of Gaza will continue to live under siege and a constant threat of violence.

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In Hebron settler tours, “Palestine means terrorism.”

November 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hebron’s old city (H1 and H2) is one of the most obvious manifestations of Israel’s apartheid system. In cities such as Nazareth, Yaffa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Beer al Saba (Beer Sheva) institutionalized racial segregation may not seem apparent. In Hebron, racism is in-your-face blatant.

Escorted settlers pass under Palestinians previously cleared from the streets. Photo credit: Brona McDonald

Escorted settlers pass under Palestinians previously cleared from the streets. Photo credit: Brona McDonald.

On saturday 10 November, Israeli soldiers secured the old city streets of Hebron for settlers who took part in what is a weekly tour. Brona McDonald recorded the audio of a speech delivered by a settler tour guide to dozens of Hebron settlers and their visitors (not always Israeli, and often Jewish-American visitors). The full-text of the tour guide’s speech is transcribed at the end of this post.

According to a report, the leading Rabbi of the Israeli Shas party gave a speech in Hebron 8 days after the speech documented below, on 18 November, during which he said: “The IDF must learn from the Syrians how to slaughter and crush the enemy,” referring to the war on Gaza.

Five Israeli settlements have been built in the West Bank city of Hebron, currently home to approximately 500 settlers. 2000 Israeli Defense Soldiers guard these settlers. In addition to 500 settlers and 150,000 Palestinians living in the city, Hebron is home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) – a site holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians. In 1929, 59 Jews were massacred in the city by Palestinians. In 1994, Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian Muslims in prayer.

Today, the city is divided in half by illegal settlements whose residents have transformed the spatial orientation of the city and, along with the Israeli soldiers, are purveyors of daily structural and direct violence.

Soldiers clear old city streets in preparation for settler tours. Photo cred: Brona McDonald.

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the writing’s on the Wall

November 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Farid Esack’s open letter to the Palestinian People is painted across the Segregation/Apartheid/Separation Wall in Palestine. His letter and the video below provide the inspiration for the title of this blog. In “the writing’s on the Wall,” I will post my publications and writings focusing on human rights, spatial justice and decolonization.

“My dear Palestinian brothers and sisters,*
I have come to your land and I have recognized shades of my own. My land was once one where some people imagined that they could build their security on the insecurity of others. They claimed that their lighter skin and European origins gave them the right to dispossess those of a darker skin who lived in the land for thousands of years. I come from a land where a group of people, the Afrikaners, were genuinely hurt by the British. The British despised them and placed many of them into concentration camps. Nearly a sixth of their population perished.

Then the Afrikaners said, “Never again!” And they meant that never again will harm come unto them with no regard to how their own humanity was tied to that of others. In their hurt they developed an understanding of being God’s chosen people destined to inhabit a Promised Land. And thus they occupied the land, other people’s land, and they built their security on the insecurity of black people. Later they united with the children of their former enemies — now called “the English.” The new allies, known simply as “whites,” pitted themselves against the blacks who were forced to pay the terrible price of dispossession, exploitation and marginalization as a result of a combination of white racism, Afrikaner fears and ideas of chosen-ness. And, of course, there was the ancient crime of simple greed.

I come from apartheid South Africa.

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