Adonis Diaries

Archive for March 4th, 2014

It is Jawhariyyeh’s lack of status that makes his memoirs so unusual, revealing new facets of Palestinian life before the Nakba — the ethnic cleansing that led to Israel’s establishment — and challenging many preconceptions and stereotypes.

Wasif Jawhariyyeh was not from the elite families. His father was associated with the Husseinis, performing administrative jobs for the family alongside his activities as a merchant and silk farmer.

According to Wasif’s account, his father was a close and trusted advisor to Salim al-Husseini and his son Musa Kazem.

This association with a well-off family meant that, although the Jawhariyyehs’ financial situation was sometimes precarious, gifts from his father’s patron ensured that Wasif and his siblings rarely noticed.

The descriptions of his childhood center around a large house shared with tenants, situated around a courtyard and with communal facilities.

“If you entered the house on a Sunday,” writes Jawhariyyeh, “you would find families and relatives of both sexes with their children, some playing cards or backgammon, others singing or playing music with their friends, some smoking argileh [water pipe], or telling stories and anecdotes… .

Our Muslim neighbors, both men and women, used to join us at times of sorrow or joy alike. On the first night of Lent, we would all dress up — men and women.”

This is a rare glimpse into “middle-class” life in Jerusalem at the end of the Ottoman period, where the important things are food, family and getting an education, not palatial homes and political goings-on.

Talented musician

Wasif, however, was found at a young age to be a talented musician, playing instruments such as the oud and the rababah or rebeck.

This ability gives his autobiography an extra perspective, because he often worked as a personal musician to members of the Jerusalem elite, including men of the Husseini and Nashashibi families.

We may be used to seeing these names in history books, making decisions which affected the political fate of Palestine.

Wasif Jawhariyyeh played his oud in the bachelor pads — called odas — of the young men of elite families, and in the cafes they frequented, and taught music and singing to their mistresses.

Jawhariyyeh’s access to the upper echelons of Jerusalem society, as well as his formidable memory for anecdotes, also deliver personal insights into Britain’s colonial governors.

They include the “cunning” Ronald Storrs and the eccentric Edward Keith-Roach, who cycled round the roof of the government building in his pyjamas and locked his beloved cat in to protect her from the advances of felines from the neighboring Morcos Hotel.

Vibrant nightlife

Far from being an austere, religious place at the heart of political events, Jawhariyyeh’s Jerusalem is a city with a vibrant nightlife, performances by famous musicians from Cairo and Beirut, songs satirizing contemporary events and personalities and partygoers dabbling in recreational drugs.

Jerusalem in the 1920s, it seems, was less the traditional backwater depicted in some accounts of the British Mandate, and more a city whose affluent cultural scene was a smaller version of that to be found in other cosmopolitan capitals in the region and across Europe.

As well as this unique insight into the leisure lives of the upper classes, Jawhariyyeh’s depictions of late Ottoman and Mandate Jerusalem give us eyewitness accounts of the diverse society destroyed by the establishment of the State of Israel.

Muslims, Christians and Jews not only lived alongside one another, but participated in each other’s religious festivals and cultural celebrations, drawing no meaningful distinctions between one community and another.

According to these descriptions, the Jewish festival of Passover and Christian Easter were celebrated almost as one huge event in Jerusalem, with participants from the highest ranks of Muslim officials.

The Jewish festivities included a procession from Jerusalem to the shrine of Moses near Jericho, which was also the destination for Muslim pilgrims during the Islamic festival of Nabi Musa.

Sense of darkness

Perhaps there is an element of nostalgia to Jawhariyyeh’s reminiscences of the earlier years of his life.

Even allowing for this, there is a growing sense of darkness throughout the latter part of his memoirs, as political events — Zionist immigration and growing discrimination against the local population by the British Mandate authorities — start to impinge on everyday life.

Music — including technological innovations such as radio — remained central to Jawhariyyeh’s professional and personal existence but even this was touched by the impending crisis.

Jawhariyyeh recounts, for example, how a Jewish musician who had represented his home country, Iraq, at the 1931 Arabic music conference in Cairo went to play in a new orchestra, separate from the Palestinians, after political clashes split the artists.

With the exception of a few minor inconsistencies in transliteration, this is a book about which one can be unequivocally enthusiastic. For those with background knowledge of Palestine under Ottoman and Mandate rule, it will be source of fresh perspectives and details.

For those new to the period, the book — edited by Salim Tamari and Issam Nassar, and translated by Nada Elzeer — provides a highly readable, intimate account of life for urban Palestinians.

And for all readers, its portrayal of a diverse, vibrant society is a bitter-sweet glimpse into what Palestine might have been, in a world without European and Zionist colonialism.

Sarah Irving worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the occupied West Bank in 2001-02 and with Olive Co-op, promoting fair trade Palestinian products and solidarity visits, in 2004-06.

She is the author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine and co-editor of A Bird is not a Stone, a collection of contemporary Palestinian poetry in translation.

She is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Israeli Soldiers leading fighting units in Kiev

Has Zionist Israel shot itself in the foot getting closely engaged in the western Ukrain uprising?

First, a short history and potentials of Ukrain. This “independent State” is 600,000 sq.km, vaster than France and a bit smaller than Texas and 45 million strong.

The GDP is about $300 billion and 54% of its land is fertile and used in agriculture. Ukrain has always been the bread basket of Europe and Russia in wheat and corn.

50% of Russia gas and oil destined to western Europe flow in Ukrain.

The latest events have demonstrated that Ukrain has Russia majority in the eastern region and Crimea. Crimea and the States around the Black Sea were occupied by Catherine II Russian troops and snatched from the Othoman Empire territories.

Crimea is 70% Russian and the Russian fleet in the Black Sea is the most powerful navy. The Navy Ukrain chief rallied the Russian fleet. Cremea is now a de-facto a Russian province.

East Ukrain is mostly populated with Russians and a counter uprising is taking place at a large scale.

Second, let’s read what  reported from Kiev in the daily Ha’aretz this Feb. 28, 2014, before I develop further in the notes.

He calls his troops “the Blue Helmets of Maidan,” but brown is the color of the headgear worn by Delta — the nom de guerre of the commander of a Jewish-led militia force that participated in the Ukrainian revolution.

Under his helmet, he also wears a kippah.

‘Delta’, ex-Israeli soldier, headed ‘the Blue Helmets of Maidan’ of 40 men and women – including several IDF veterans – in violent clashes with government forces.

Delta, the nom de guerre of the Jewish commander of a Ukrainian street-fighting unit.

Delta, the nom de guerre of the Jewish commander of a Ukrainian street-fighting unit, is pictured in Kiev earlier this month. Photo by Courtesy

Delta, a Ukraine-born former soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, spoke to JTA Thursday on condition of anonymity.

He explained how he came to use combat skills he acquired in the Shu’alei Shimshon reconnaissance battalion of the Givati infantry brigade to rise through the ranks of Kiev’s street fighters.

He has headed a force of 40 men and women — including several fellow IDF veterans — in violent clashes with government forces.

Several Ukrainian Jews, including Rabbi Moshe Azman, one of the country’s claimants to the title of chief rabbi, confirmed Delta’s identity and role in the still-unfinished revolution.

The “Blue Helmets” nickname, a reference to the UN peacekeeping force, stuck after Delta’s unit last month prevented a mob from torching a building occupied by Ukrainian police, he said. “There were dozens of officers inside, surrounded by 1,200 demonstrators who wanted to burn them alive,” he recalled. “We intervened and negotiated their safe passage.”

The problem, he said, was that the officers would not leave without their guns, citing orders. Delta told JTA his unit reasoned with the mob to allow the officers to leave with their guns. “It would have been a massacre, and that was not an option,” he said.

The Blue Helmets comprise 35 men and women who are not Jewish, and who are led by five ex-IDF soldiers, says Delta, an Orthodox Jew in his late 30s who regularly prays at Azman’s Brodsky Synagogue. He declined to speak about his private life.

Delta, who immigrated to Israel in the 1990s, moved back to Ukraine several years ago and has worked as a businessman. He says he joined the protest movement as a volunteer on November 30, after witnessing violence by government forces against student protesters.

“I saw unarmed civilians with no military background being ground by a well-oiled military machine, and it made my blood boil,” Delta told JTA in Hebrew laced with military jargon.

“I joined them then and there, and I started fighting back the way I learned how, through urban warfare maneuvers. People followed, and I found myself heading a platoon of young men. Kids, really.”

The other ex-IDF infantrymen joined the Blue Helmets later after hearing it was led by a fellow vet, Delta said.

As platoon leader, Delta says he takes orders from activists connected to Svoboda, an ultra-nationalist party that has been frequently accused of anti-Semitism and whose members have been said to have had key positions in organizing the opposition protests.

“I don’t belong [to Svoboda], but I take orders from their team. They know I’m Israeli, Jewish and an ex-IDF soldier. They call me ‘brother,’” he said. “What they’re saying about Svoboda is exaggerated, I know this for a fact. I don’t like them because they’re inconsistent, not because of [any] anti-Semitism issue.”

The commanding position of Svoboda in the revolution is no secret, according to Ariel Cohen, a senior research fellow at the Washington D.C.-based Heritage Foundation think tank.

“The driving force among the so-called white sector in the Maidan are the nationalists, who went against the SWAT teams and snipers who were shooting at them,” Cohen told JTA.

Still, many Jews supported the revolution and actively participated in it.

Earlier this week, an interim government was announced ahead of election scheduled for May, including ministers from several minority groups.

Volodymyr Groysman, a former mayor of the city of Vinnytsia and the newly appointed deputy prime minister for regional policy, is a Jew, Rabbi Azman said.

“There are no signs for concern yet,” said Cohen, “but the West needs to make it clear to Ukraine that how it is seen depends on how minorities are treated.”

On Wednesday, Russian State Duma Chairman Sergey Naryshkin said Moscow was concerned about anti-Semitic declarations by radical groups in Ukraine.

But Delta says the Kremlin is using the anti-Semitism card falsely to delegitimize the Ukrainian revolution, which is distancing Ukraine from Russia’s sphere of influence.

“It’s bullshit. I never saw any expression of anti-Semitism during the protests, and the claims to the contrary were part of the reason I joined the movement. We’re trying to show that Jews care,” he said.

Still, Delta’s reasons for not revealing his name betray his sense of feeling like an outsider. “If I were Ukrainian, I would have been a hero. But for me it’s better to not reveal my name if I want to keep living here in peace and quiet,” he said.

Fellow Jews have criticized him for working with Svoboda. “Some asked me if instead of ‘Shalom’ they should now greet me with a ‘Sieg heil.’ I simply find it laughable,” he said. But he does have frustrations related to being an outsider. “Sometimes I tell myself, ‘What are you doing? This is not your army. This isn’t even your country.’”

He recalls feeling this way during one of the fiercest battles he experienced, which took place last week at Institutskaya Street and left 12 protesters dead. “The snipers began firing rubber bullets at us. I fired back from my rubber-bullet rifle,” Delta said.

“Then they opened live rounds, and my friend caught a bullet in his leg. They shot at us like at a firing range. I wasn’t ready for a last stand. I carried my friend and ordered my troops to fall back. They’re scared kids. I gave them some cash for phone calls and told them to take off their uniform and run away until further instructions. I didn’t want to see anyone else die that day.”

Currently, the Blue Helmets are carrying out police work that include patrols and preventing looting and vandalism in a city of 3 million struggling to climb out of the chaos that engulfed it for the past three months.

But Delta has another, more ambitious, project: He and Azman are organizing the airborne evacuation of seriously wounded protesters — none of them Jewish — for critical operations in Israel.

One of the patients, a 19-year-old woman, was wounded at Institutskaya by a bullet that penetrated her eye and is lodged inside her brain, according to Delta. Azman says he hopes the plane of 17 patients will take off next week, with funding from private donors and with help from Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel.

“The doctor told me that another millimeter to either direction and she would be dead,” Delta said. “And I told him it was the work of Hakadosh Baruch Hu.” (What that means?)

Note 1: Independent Ukrain, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, was one of the “friendliest” States to Israel. What Israel asked was a demand to be granted quickly and obediently.

West Ukrain has been historically closely tied to Germany and most of them consider themselves Teutons. They rallied Nazi Germany when the troops invaded Russia in late 1942, and they committed the worst atrocities against the Russians and Jews.

Why Israel has sent troops disguised as reservists to lead armed groups during the recent uprising?

And why Israel is now voicing apprehension that the 200,000 Jews in Ukrain might be facing “hate treatments” if a civil war breaks in this part of Ukrain?

Note 2: Can we interpret this uprising in Ukrain as tightly linked to the Syrian uprising?

Is the USA trying to pressure Russia for a few concessions and further compromises in Syria?

In any case, it does not stand to reason that Putin will allow the thousands of Islamic “terrorist” Chechen fighting in Syria to converge to bordering regions of Russia.

Ukrain needed the urgent attention of Merkel of Germany in order to ward off lingering troubles on its backyard. Instead of visiting Israel with 17 members of her government, Merkel should have been visiting Kiev and stayed there until a political resolution was finalized.

Merkel’s staunch strategy that Germany policies should be centered on the USA might have side tracked her from more pragmatic ties with Russia, the historical extension of Germany.

Now Merkel is loaded with a long lasting crisis, as bad as the Euro crisis.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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