Monthly Archives: August 2010

Blood – Suja Sawafta

I.
Plasma, fluid full of cells,
Red, white, medical anatomy
Of iron that carries oxygen,
Drumlike, through the body,
In a wave of beats,
Flaps like a hummingbird,
Continuous, life is oxygen that moves through phases in a being,
Red, maroon, purple, blue.
Iron, salt, preservation is necessary
For life, circulation of platelets,
Or broken pain, which after all
Is nothing more than a blow to the nerves,
Bruising until it becomes a plush plum
Cloud under the skin,
Marble disfiguration, pollution.
Blood is rushing pleasure or
Settling fear, a feeling,
A metaphor for something that
Spills and spreads too easily, but
Nonetheless can stop dancing through your
Nerves in a beat, one moment,
Final, that defines a conclusion.

II.
Blood is a line,
A genetic history, belonging,
Love between two people,
A child, a muse, or traces
Of a caravan that traveled
From Baghdad to Jerusalem,
The descendants of which might now
Live in the Jordan Valley, a link.
Legacy, a story told and retold
From one generation to another,
A call in the wind, an echo,
The reincarnation of a soul,
Ethnic relevance, like the
Boshnak who once came from
Bosnia and now call themselves Palestinian.
Blood is sumac that flavors
A national dish, tomatoes
Grown in Jenin, Gaza
Star gazing, sleeping on a rooftop,
A shower of bullets, glittering,
That puncture people trying to live.
Blood is a walk in the grove, or
A tradition, it colors skin,
A bride blushing pink, or
A young man from Yaffa
Who is gold, his mother
Brown, withered like leather,
Lasting and authentic.
Here blood is loyalty,
It is brotherhood, it
Is steadfastness.

III.
Blood is a Palestinian child running,
For fear of spilling, of slipping
For loosing an irreplaceable amount
Of platelets, because she took
A walk in the grove or because
She refused to show the soldier
By the wadi her breasts.
Blood is humiliation
That she cannot be human,
Unpleasant like a scar from
A stray bullet.
Blood is inhumane, unpure,
A differing translation due to context,
Blood is the flow of resistance,
The sound of footsteps, a whisper,
it is the coping method of a mother
Who insists that her sons
Blood smells of lavender
Laced with the pure sweetness
Of being a martyr.
Blood is the reason for too much salt
In this earth rich with minerals
Because of the abundance of death.

Blood is a release from
the binding of life.

have fun in ramallah or die in gaza

There is another article is out about Ramallah, this time in the Jerusalem Post. Entitled “Palestine’s New Bride”, we glimpse a view of the thumping nightlife of Orjwan, value real estate prices, and a new Swedish luxury hotel. What kind of child thinks these are valid, positive economic indicators and not instead revealing of a class crisis in Palestine? After all, unemployment remains up to 40% in some parts of the West Bank, checkpoints are still manned by private security forces and Israeli teenagers, and kids are dragged out of bed in the dead of night without charges. The Jpost article doesn’t mention this, it just talks about how less corrupt the new Palestinian government is to be able to foster this “economic development”.

Surprisingly, it’s the only source I’ve seen so far that offers a perspective so often left out of other write-ups.

“Whether we like it or not, Ramallah has become the real capital of Palestine,” said Munir Hamdan, a local businessman and Fatah operative. “The president and prime minister have their offices here. So do the parliament and all the government ministries.”

Hamdan and other Palestinians accused the Palestinian Authority of “collusion” with Israel in turning Ramallah into the political and financial capital of the Palestinians. The latest project to build a government complex in Ramallah has left many residents here wondering whether their leadership has abandoned the dream to turn Jerusalem into their capital.

“If they are building a new government compound here, that means they have no plans to be based in Jerusalem,” complained Hatem Abdel Kader, a Fatah legislator from Jerusalem. “Unfortunately, the Palestinian government of Salam Fayyad has abandoned Jerusalem in favor of Ramallah.”

Abdel Kader is perhaps one of the few people who know what they are talking about when it comes to Jerusalem. About two years ago Fayyad appointed him as minister for Jerusalem affairs.

However, Abdel Kader resigned a few weeks later, saying he had discovered that his ministry did not even have enough money to buy a desk and a chair for him.

“I have to be honest with you and tell you that we have lost the battle for Jerusalem,” Abdel Kader lamented. “One of the reasons is because the Palestinian government doesn’t really care about Jerusalem.”

Two stark examples for the kids in the villages: Gaza and Ramallah. In Gaza, the government cares about Jerusalem. In Ramallah, the government doesn’t. Examine the differences between the locations. Losing Jerusalem is hardly a material loss – it was lost a long time ago – but losing the hope for Jerusalem indicates a loss of heart, which means Orjwan will be doing good business in the upcoming months. Really, a great investment opportunity for anyone who’s interested.

In the new world, we don’t have to worry about victory

Today the last combat soldiers are leaving Iraq. What an empty feeling! 56,000 soldiers are left behind to intervene at the behest of the Iraqi government or to fire their guns in self defense. Once we’ve thrown International Law out the window, why bother on reporting on such events at all? There were no ticker-tape parades on 5th Avenue and no cheering in the streets of Baghdad. Except for a few murmurs here and there in the press, it might not have happened.

After all, what changes? A large scale civilian force remains, protected by thousands of mercenaries. Iraq remains in tatters. Sectarian hit jobs are a fact of life and the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad is nearly complete. The universities and hospitals are not bustling with pride as they were in the seventies and unemployment is staggering. Women are being slaughtered where they used to be judges and doctors and teachers. The oil is flowing. The economy is in pieces, even moreso than the sanction era. We’ve left in the darkness of night and there is no dawn breaking at the horizon. Iraqis are not freer or healthier or happier than when we first got there. There are just a lot more of them dead.

Since Vietnam there has been no signing of treaties with enemies, only Status of Forces Agreements with puppet governments. There have been no victories, nothing worth a parade or a kiss for the camera. Just a lot of crying mothers and a lumbering war machine that keeps going, getting fatter and more sluggish with each binge on blood and oil. You’ve forgotten Iraq already and the millions dead will just fertilize the fields of a brave new world of bitter tears, clenched fists, and hanging heads. No need to even look her in the eye, America, just keep going.

commodification and facebook

What does it take to dehumanize the enemy? Eden Abergil might know something about it. Ha’aretz might know something too, since they blurred out her face in the above photo, but not her captives.

It’s hard to say where the Geneva Conventions would fall on this, especially since Israel operates (like the United States) so outside the realm of traditional warfare. Either way, it’s a disgusting example of how to further dehumanize the enemy. Unlike the war photos of old, with  soldiers standing smiling over mutilated corpses, these photos do not find their way into Dad’s dusty old shoebox in the back of the closet. Instead, they are publicized on Facebook.

Some are making the case that this is akin to Abu Ghraib, but I would disagree. After all, while what happened in Abu Ghraib was beyond the pale in terms of human decency, the photos taken of soldiers jeering next to naked prisoners were never intended for public viewing on Facebook. Even now, Eden Abergil has locked her macabre mementos up behind a privacy wall, and there is no proof that she shows remorse or has even removed them from her personal galleries. Has the internet enabled us to further dehumanize the enemy by rationalizing that posting such things is “OK”? Or are we all  becoming more and more commodified by publicizing every detail of ourselves online, making these abused and violated Palestinians as just “window dressing” in the background of our internal lives? We’ve commodified our family, friends,  romantic relationships, personal interests, and our appearances in order to take part in this new world of socialization – why not commodify the POWs as well?

“That looks really sexy for you,” says a comment posted by one of Abergil’s friends on the social networking site, alongside a picture or the soldier smiling in front of two blindfold men.

Abergil’s repose, posted below, reads: “I wonder if he is on Facebook too – I’ll have to tag him in the photo.”

from Ha’aretz

ramadan kareem

O moon-faced Beloved,
the month of Ramadan has arrived
Cover the table
and open the path of praise.

O fickle busybody,
it’s time to change your ways.
Can you see the one who’s selling the halvah
how long will it be the halvah you desire?

Just a glimpse of the halvah-maker
has made you so sweet
even honey says, “I’ll put myself beneath your feet, like soil;
I’ll worship at your shrine.”

Your chick frets within the egg
with all your eating and choking.
Break out of your shell
that your wings may grow.
Let yourself fly.

The lips of the Master
are parched from calling the Beloved.
The sound of your call resounds
through the horn of your empty belly.

Let nothing be inside of you.
Be empty: give your lips to the lips of the reed.
When like a reed you fill with His breath,
then you’ll taste sweetness.

Sweetness is hidden in the Breath
that fills the reed.
Be like Mary – by that sweet breath
a child grew within her.

Rumi

collective guilt

Collective guilt is a funny thing and is often wielded as a weapon of privilege. Israelis, for instance, use collective punishment as a way to infer collective guilt upon communities they attack. Americans, too, have conferred collective guilt onto the populations of Afghanistan and Iraq due to support of “terrorist regimes”. I write about collective guilt today because of the current movement in the United States to force collective guilt down the throats of the Muslim-Americans. Muslims have been a legitimate part of American society since the era of slavery, when the first Muslims were shipped over in slave ships to work plantations in the south. Since then, their presence has been known mainly through the African-American community and more recently through Arab-American and Asian-American communities. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, home makers, teachers, and lawmakers. Recent immigrants from Muslim-oriented countries have been assimilated into American society far better than say, Muslim immigrants in Europe.

Despite this, Muslim-Americans have come under attack in because of 9/11. After 9/11, thousands of Muslim-Americans were imprisoned, attacked, and discriminated against by virtue of their being Muslim. A fatwah issued after 9/11 even suggested that Muslim women in America wearing the veil should remove it lest they be singled out for violence or discrimination. Now, nearly 10 years after the attacks, Muslim-Americans are still accused of failing to feel sufficiently guilty for these attacks that they had little to nothing to do with. After all, the Muslims who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks were not American. Yet, with stories hitting the news about a mosque being built near “Ground Zero” and Muslims holding celebratory days at theme parks on 9/12 (which coincides with the end of Ramadan), the pressure is still there and it is still an emotional issue for Americans to cling to. Even the Anti-Defamation League, a group dedicated to fighting racism against Jews – and as they state, all people in general – has come out against the building of a mosque near “Ground Zero”.

The hypocrisy here is astounding. After all, there are too many Americans who would refuse to pay reparations or even apologize for hundreds of years of slavery, the genocide of indigenous Americans, the atomic attacks on Japan, the Vietnam War, and yes, the generations of Muslims abroad who have been annihilated by American aggression. The ADL will come out in support of the firebombing of Gaza and continued oppression of Palestinians at Israeli hands. To admit collective guilt as a community is to accept your place in the food chain of privilege. Who can blame Muslim-Americans for refusing to apologize for the attacks of 9/11? They have simply picked up an American trait during their process of assimilation. Despite many being absorbed as full members in American bourgeois society, Muslim-Americans have their patriotism questioned. Yet, there is nothing more American than a mosque built near “Ground Zero”. Perhaps a more American gesture might be to build a mosque on the ruins themselves à la the American embassy being built in Baghdad.

Either way, there is nothing new about fear-mongering near election season. What remains disgusting is the hypocrisy inherent in such a discussion, as Americans will still steadfastly refuse to accept any responsibility for anything, including the events that could have inspired 9/11 in the first place.

digging up bodies for a museum of tolerance

Yesterday the Jerusalem Municipality bulldozed 15 tombstones and structures in Mamilla Cemetery, a Muslim cemetery dating from the 7th century. The reason for doing so is to make way for a planned “Museum of Tolerance and Human Dignity”, sponsored by the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.  Mamilla Cemetery is the one of the oldest Muslim cemeteries in Jerusalem, with Sufi saints and companions of the prophet among those buried there.

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality said Thursday that tombstones razed by authorities a day earlier in a 12th-century Muslim cemetery were “built illegally with the aim to take over the plot.”

At least 15 tombstones and structures were torn apart Wednesday in the Mamilla (Ma’man Allah) cemetery, the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage said. The latest demolitions follow the disinterment of over 1,500 graves in 2009 to make way for a controversial Museum of Tolerance. The foundation quickly denounced the move, describing it as a “heinous crime.”

Mandated with renovating burial grounds, the foundation said its crew led by Fawaz Hassan and Mustafa Abu Zuhra tried to block the bulldozers with their bodies but were removed by police. Israeli authorities razed the tombstones in the northeastern part of the cemetery, despite the crew’s objection, and left an hour after.

A spokesman for Israel’s national police did not return multiple calls seeking comment, but the Jerusalem municipality said in a statement that it had “located illegal activity at the site,” filed a complaint with police, and “turned to the Israel Land Administration, who owns the land, to restore [it] to its prior condition. The ILA cleared the vacant tombstones, which were built illegally with the aim to take over the plot.”

Dating back 1,000 years, the Mamilla cemetery was an active burial ground until 1948, when West Jerusalem became part of the newly declared State of Israel. According to Muslim tradition, it is the burial site of the Prophet Mohammad’s companions, Salah Ad-Din’s warriors, Sufi saints, as well as judges, scholars, and Palestinian dignitaries.

Plans for the museum, funded by the Simon Wisenthal Center, a Jewish charity in the US, were unveiled in 2004 and sparked immediate controversy. Palestinian descendants with relatives buried at the site have launched a lengthy legal and public relations battle in a bid to stay the museum’s construction. In 2008, however, they lost a case before Israel’s High Court, which ruled in favor of the museum.

One descendant is US academic Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. He told Ma’an that “If it is true that further graves in the Mamilla cemetery have in fact been bulldozed, then clearly the ongoing process of desecration of this sacred space has not been halted by the efforts of the families of those interred there to bring this issue before a variety of international forums.”

“As far as the Israeli authorities are concerned, some graves merit respect, and some do not. Those of our ancestors in this cemetery, going back in some cases for many hundreds of years, obviously do not.”

In February, Mamilla descendants filed a petition with the UN, later submitting evidence compiled by the Israeli daily Haaretz, which revealed in a three-part expose the extent of disinterment, publishing photographs of remains being stuffed haphazardly into cardboard boxes. The families of those buried at the site say the Israeli government has yet to inform them of the location of their relatives’ remains.

Gideon Sulimani, an archeologist with Israel’s Antiquities Authority who carried out the initial digs in 2009, told the newspaper at the time: “They call this an archaeological excavation but it’s really a clearing-out, an erasure of the Muslim past. It is actually Jews against Arabs.”

In June, Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook revealed that a second dig was in the works, with Israel planning a courthouse on the historic site. At least three tombstones were removed that same month.

Most of the graves are unrecognisable and in disrepair, owing to decades of neglect. Descendants of those buried there say personal attempts to replace or maintain tombstones have been repeatedly quashed and swiftly removed by Israeli authorities. The Al-Aqsa Foundation’s renovation crew says the municipality regularly thwarts their attempts to maintain the site.

The municipality says it “will not allow extremist elements to act illegally to change the status quo.”

from Ma’an News

Despite the fact that the Weisenthal Center has been offered alternative plots of land to build on, they have steadfastly refused to build elsewhere. The new Museum intends to focus on the differences and similarities between Jews within Israel. As usual, Palestinians are left out of the dialogue.

The Israeli High Court claims that since the cemetery has been abandoned for years, there should be no problem in building over it. The Weisenthal Center itself claims:

Given Jerusalem’s history, it is safe to assume that many prestigious academic and civic institutions may, in fact, be built on ancient remains. Human dignity demands that we respect and treat with reverence these remains of ancient civilizations without impeding the right of Jerusalem, or any other city, of building a future. If cities were not allowed to be built on the relics of previous civilizations, there would be no modern-day Rome, Jerusalem, or Cairo

Indeed, much of West Jerusalem has been bulldozed and built over, their previous occupants erased from architectural history. Like conquerors of the past, Israelis seek the kind of stewardship of the land that allows for bulldozing. Like renaming, destruction and rebuilding implies a deep ownership. The Weisenthal Center argues (1) There are no bodies buried under the tombstones where they are constructing the museum (Israeli archeologists contest this strongly) and (2) That ruling Muslim powers in 1964 had declared the cemetery as open for public development. However, the stories here differ and the families themselves were not consulted in any case. The Waqf in charge of the site argues that they have not been allowed access in order to care for the graves. As Rashid Khalidi – who has relatives buried in the cemetery – says, “the fact that it was desecrated in the ’60s doesn’t mean that it’s right to desecrate it further.”

No one can deny that bodies are often disinterred as part of adjusting cityscapes. A walk through the catacombs of Paris can prove this. However, in a city such as Jerusalem, which is so hotly contested, it seems unfair for the occupying power to “bulldoze” over people’s concerns in the name of “Tolerance and Human Dignity”.

I went into West Jerusalem, and I see a wall that’s probably twenty-five feet high, surrounded by surveillance cameras, which is where they’re building this so-called Museum of Tolerance. Right up to the edge of it, you see Muslim graves, Palestinian graves, all around it. And within even the part of the cemetery that still exists, which is only a few acres, because the Israelis have paved over other parts or built a park, it’s been desecrated. And every time they, Muslim people, attempt to fix it, it’s desecrated again. And within the site itself, I mean, the archaeologist that Rashid referred to called this an archaeological crime. This is an Israeli archaeologist. And you see they took out bones in cardboard boxes, relatives of the ancestors of the people on this petition…And they have no sense of where those people are. And the archaeologist said there’s at least 2,000 other graves under this site. So, to hear the rabbi from the Simon Wiesenthal Center talk about “there’s no bones, there’s no bodies under here” is just—it’s just a lie. That’s all I can say. That’s what it is.

More:

Democracy Now! with Rashid Khalidi

Mamilla Campaign

Simon Weisenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance Counterpoints