Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Huwaida Arraf

Is Israel a society or an Army? What this swap of prisoners means at this junction?

Israel first Prime Minister Ben Gurion boasted in 1949: “The secret force of the State of Israel is that this tiny State established a society where the entire people is the Army…”  Since then, Israel never missed an occasion, and more often than not, created occasions to remind the Israelis that they are the army.

Consequently, budgets for the “Defense Forces” and internal security forces have been at steady increase since the recognition in the UN of Israel in 1949 by a single majority vote. Israel strategy, backed by the US and western European States, was to retain the “strongest army in the region, stronger than all combined armies in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon…”

Recently, Israel has grabbed many opportunities to “doing it again”: Reminding the Israeli citizens that they ARE the army, and not vice versa.  For example, Israel chief of staff Egal Yadlin said: “Every Israeli civilian is a soldier on leave for 11 months…” Yadlin was reminding the Israeli that every Israeli citizen below the age of 50 is to be a reservist, serving one month a year in the army.  In addition to the three years of forced induction in the armed forces as an Israeli reaches 18 of age.

The current release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gelaad Shalit (kidnapped in 2006!) in exchange of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners has many political overtone.

First, there are currently over 6,000 Palestinians in Israeli detention camps who were never put on trial or have been legally accused of any wrong doing.  Israel occupation strategy is to round-up all Palestinian youths in order to terrify families and seek to pick up potential informers…Palestinian prisoners have been sustaining a hunger strike for a month, and Israel can no longer afford to feed prisoners who should not have been detained in the first place.  Israel release of so many prisoners is to let the Palestinian Authority deal with the problems of finding jobs to these prisoners, release in mass for good reason in order to sidetrack the Palestinian Authority from focusing on the recognition process…

Second, this “emergency law” has been instituted during the British mandated power in the 1920’s to confront the many civil Palestinian resistance demonstrations and movements.  Israel inherited an emergency law and applied it consistently for over 70 years, while many dictator regimes in the Arab World emulated these colonial emergency laws in the last 40 years.

Actually, British mandated power dispatched 100,000 soldiers in 1936 to quell a mass Palestinian civil unrest that lasted 6 months…The emergency laws were weakly applied on the Zionist terrorist factions headed by Menahim Began…who blew up the David Hotel in Jerusalem(the first terrorist act in the Middle East).

Is applying emergency laws a good indicator of democratic system? Shouldn’t Israel had to revisit these apartheid laws long time ago, if it insists on claiming to be a democracy, surrounded by “seas” of absolute monarchies, dictatorship States, and theocratic States…?

Third, Netanyahu PM said when welcoming Shalit: “An Israeli soldier serves in the army willingly because he is assured that the State will do all in its power to get him back (dead or alive)”  Why Israel failed to strike a deal since 2006?  Political analysts love to give their pieces of thought on the matter: They say it is because Iran had pressured Hamas in Gaza not to reach a resolution during all this period in detention. Iran is loosing its grip on the “Moslem Brotherhood” Hamas since the uprising in Egypt…

Other analysts claim that “Israel is furious of Mahmoud Abbas for submitting a letter to the UN for the recognition of a Palestinian State. Consequently, Israel is strengthening the position of Hamas against the new wave of support to Fateh, the largest faction in the West Bank.  This swap of prisoners will weaken Mahmoud Abbas and encourage Hamas to wrestle with Fateh on political power in the next election.  Israel want the two Palestinian factions to fight it out and thus, give Israel a breathing space to handle the next phase in the recognition of the Palestinian State…

The Israeli citizens are waking up to the frequent political manipulation schemes of the military/industrial complexes for ever higher budgets to the army, regardless of the conditions…The Israeli middle classes have been demonstrating and marching in masses demanding better standard of living in health and education facilities, and particularly affordable renting apartments…Why Israel has to allocate huge budgets for building new colonies in occupied territories, which are to be returned to the Palestinian State, when its citizens cannot find housing in Israel proper?

In the last three decades, Israel successive governments failed to give priority to accommodating affordable housing and focused on liberal capitalist interests for luxury hotels and villas for the richest 1% elite class.

Note 1: Huwaida Arraf, an US/Palestinian activist, reported the following: “This morning Israeli soldiers and settlers attacked Palestinian farmers and volunteers harvesting olives in Jalud, near Nablus (West Bank occupied territories). Palestinian youth activist, Sari Harb reported: There were about 50 of us and we were all picking the olive trees.  All of a sudden, Israeli soldiers started setting land ablaze, and firing bullets and tear gas at us; Jewish settlers came down from the hills. Four Palestinian civilians have reportedly been injured, one with a serious head wound. Approximately 10 dunams of land are now burning…

Note 2: This post was inspired by a piece published in the Lebanese daily Al Nahar by its correspondent in Israel Antoine Shalhat

Session One: TEDx Ramallah in Beirut (Sunflower theater)

TEDxRamallah was held in Betlehem (Beit Lahm) in the Palestinian occupied West Bank and many participated live from Beirut (Sunflower theater) and Amman (Jordan).  Many speakers were refused visa entry by the Israeli authorities, and most of the speakers had hard time reaching destination, traveling to many airports and cities, waiting in many Israeli check points before reaching Bethlehem.  For example, the US author Alice Walker (The Color Purple) had hard time crossing the Allenby Bridge.

The Israelis submitted her to four hours of silly questioning, just one of Israel harassment tactics.  The Israeli soldier had never heard of Alice or read any of her books or seen the Color Purple.  By the by, the computer search revealed information on Alice; Alice was confronted with one of her pronouncement that she will never visit Israel as long as Palestinians are under occupation.  Alice retorted: “Am I in Israel?  I am invited to Bethlehem among Palestinians.”  Alice recollected that in 1967 she asked one American politician: “Obviously, Israel will withdraw from the recent occupied lands in Sinai and the Golan Heights.” The answer was: “Israel needs all these lands”.  Alice knows that all these check points, barriers, Wall of Shame separating the West Bank from Israel proper, and apartheid policies are not sustainable and will be removed by force of the indignant Palestinians.

I attended the event in Beirut that officially started at 10 am to the end at around 8pm.  In addition to speakers, we watched performances by singles and group singers and musicians.  A large panel was exhibiting constant streams of comments arriving from over 40 cities around the world.  Food were served during the two breaks and at lunchtime around 2pm and the quantities were generous:  The event was well managed and the organizers were dedicated young entrepreneurs.

All the talks are in video on the internet.  My contribution is to extending essential summaries of the speeches so that readers may have opportunity to selecting whom and which video they want to listen to.

The Palestinian organizers are Ramzi Jaber (25 years old) and Jamil Abu Wardeh…; in Lebanon we have Joumana Jabiri and Zena Tahhan…Huwaida Arraf gave a talk and was one of the presenters.

Huwaida Arraf was under great emotional pressures because one of her best friend and activist colleague, the Italian Vittorion Arrigoni, was kidnapped and shot in Gaza the day before.  Vittorio Arrigoni refused to leave the occupied Palestinian lands since 2002 and participated in the demonstrations and peaceful activities everywhere villages needed his presence.  He was ill lately and suffered from kidney stone and was about ready to leave to Italy for health treatments. Huwaida had lost another friend activist a month ago, the assassinated young movie director Juliano Khamis.

Huwaida was born in the US and graduated a lawyer and settled in the West Bank during the first Intifada around 1990 and never left Palestine since then; Huwaida’s mother called her from Ohio asking her to return home.  Huwaidda replied: “But mother I am at home”.  Huwaida’s husband Adam Shapiro is denied entry to Israel and is living in Lebanon.

Huwaida started International Solidarity with the Palestinians and over 4,000 foreign activists have joined her peaceful struggle against Israel ignominies such as building the Wall of Shame, demolishing Palestinian private houses, rooting out ancient olive trees for colony expansions, opening newer highways to circumventing Palestinian villages, and overrunning Palestinian camps in Jenine, Jabaliya…Huwaida Arraf is currently the Chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement and has led 5 successful sea voyages to the Gaza Strip: She was on the flotilla that was savagely attacked by Israeli troops that killed a dozen peaceful Turkish activists.

In the first session we lacked focus on the speakers, but things improved after the first break.  The first session hosted Raja Shehadeh, Gisel Kordestani, Mohammad Khatib, Fadi Ghandour, and Huwaida Arraf.

The second session hosted Amal Shehabi. Sam Bahour, Steve Sosebee, Mohammad al Dahshan, the Palestinian singer Rim Al Banna, Julia Basha (Director of the award winning movie Budrus), and Munir Fasheh.

The third session welcomed  Abdelrahman Katanany (the zinko artworks), the Lebanese-based Palestinian rap group Katibe 5,  Alessandro Petti, Saleh Jawad, Sheerin Al Araj, and the blind psychologist Laila Atshan.

The fourth session hosted Wael Attili (the Kharabeesh enterprise based in Amman), Khaled Sab3awi, the Mexican/US rap singer Mark Gonzales, Alice Walker, Suad Amiry, and the group of bagpipe players of Guirab.  The session ended with the Fayha group of 40 young singers singing three beautiful songs and led by maestro Barkev Taslakian.

Part two of this series will cover in some details the content of the talks.  See you soon.

William and Hanane gave me ride to the event.  We were supposed to leave at 8:15 but we started off at 9:30.  By 9 am I thought that William had forgotten to go.  As I arrived, my name was not listed as my application was approved.  It didn’t matter, the beautiful girl with blue eyes stamped a red X on my right hand.

During the first break, I had no idea the small breakfast buffet was served outside.  I had a small mankoush and a small cup of milk, five minutes before the second session.  At lunch, I used to sneak out one sandwich at a time, while people were waiting in line to fill their plastic plate.  I was very surprised that another buffet was waiting for us at the second break, and we had sweet “maacroun”.

When the official TEDx event was over around 7pm, we had a surprise.  While listening to a speaker, a large bunch of young people sneaked in.  I thought student s from around the corner came in by order of a dedicated teacher.  This group of about 40 began a song while sitting among us; they ended up on stage and sang two other songs.

I waited for William outside, knowing that he had to hurry in order to cover the launching of a CD at a restaurant.  I waited for 20 minutes and wondered whether William left without me.  I returned and looked for William or Hanane and could not locate them anywhere.  I waited another 15 minutes thinking that pretty soon they will miss their silent passenger and make a U turn to retrieve me.  Patricia was going out and she confirmed that William is still here, meeting with someone in a corner downstairs.

We were the last persons leaving the theater and I met Joumana Jabiri and Zeina Tahhane.  Zeina claimed that she ate nothing for the day:  I have to check on Zeina reliable claim on her eating habit. I also met with Joumana parents who are originally from Aleppo.  It was way after 10:30 when we arrived home.  I felt tired even though I didn’t work in the garden today:  Most probably, I missed my nap but I focused pretty well during the entire event.

Note 1:  A TEDx Lebanon is in the planning for this September 2011.  Among the organizers are Patricia Zogheib and William Choukeir…

Note 2: of DevlnetMedia/ worked with a group of 10 Palestinian young media students to covering the event in Beirut.




March 2023

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