Muhammad Salah, a vignette

[Editor’s note: This is a sketch of a longer piece I am working on. I need to post this now. The full article will be posted at the appropriate time.]

muhammad salah

Muhammad Salah

I met Muhammad Salah in the summer of 2000, when I went to interview him for our summer series on Chicago’s ethnic groups at what eventually became the Star/Southtown.

I intended on making my career off that interview. I was ambivalent about Israel and oblivious to the meaning of occupation. I was stunned when I entered that conference room. Literally. I could not move. Instead of finding the monster the media portrayed, I found a man from whom emanated the light of Allah

I’ve spoken and written about this before, but I know that moment is what softened my heart so it could start receiving the message of Islam. Without that meeting, I don’t know if I would be Muslim.

After speaking for hours with Muhammad and his lawyer at the time Matt PIerce, and going over the FBI documents and court files, I realized how complicit we Americans are in the occupation of Palestine.

That day set the life-altering course of my life.

A little more than one year later, in the days immediately after 9/11 I was covering the pro-America rally at the Mosque Foundation, when I saw Muhammad carrying his little son on his shoulders. His son had a flag in his hand. When I told him I had converted to Islam, he started to cry.

In those first years, after Eid prayer at the Mosque Foundation, when I had nowhere to go and nothing to do, I would go to the Salah’s house and knock on the door. They always accepted me graciously and allowed me to spend some of that special day with them at their family.

There is so much more to write on this subject, which I will do later, inshaAllah. But as much as we will remember Abu Ahmed for his grace and dignity and patience, I will treasure Um Ahmed for her resilience, her sumood and her fortitude.

There is so much noise in our umma. Too much rancor; too many media hounds with hot air and empty barks.

But always, you would find the Salah family slowly and surely working their way to our Lord, working to help those around them, working to raise honorable and respectful children.

We are enriched because we know them. I am sad beyond belief at Muhammad’s passing, like so many others. But I am hopeful and happy that he is going to his just reward.

May Allah forgive him, be pleased with him, and grant him very, very best place in Jannah.

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As promoter of Israeli policy in US, AIPAC should register as a Foreign Agent

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(WASHINGTON DC 03/22/2016) — As the annual convention for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee draws to a close today, the American Muslims for Palestine, a national education and advocacy organization, questions AIPAC’s status as a lobby organization and takes to task the presidential candidates who degraded themselves with pandering, sycophantic speeches at its convention over the past two days.

Despite some analysts’ predictions AIPAC was losing influence when it failed in diverting President Barack Obama’s Iran deal last year, four out of the five remaining presidential candidates appeared at the Washington DC Convention Center to pledge their fealty to Israel in ways that contravened US foreign policy, weakened our moral stance and seriously called into question the American role in pursuing Mideast peace as an ‘honest broker.’

AMP condemns in the harshest terms candidates’ pledges to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, to ‘rip up the Iran deal,’ to criminalize the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – all part of AIPAC’s platform — as well as their false characterizations of Palestinians as violent and their absolute silence on Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. They sold our American values of liberty, democracy and self-determination for pro-Israel votes and money during the AIPAC’s convention, whose leaders once were arrested for espionage and handing over US intelligence to Israel, putting the interests of a foreign government ahead of the interests and values of their own country. The charges against AIPAC employees Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman were dropped; Lawrence Franklin, the Pentagon employee who passed the information to AIPAC, which allegedly gave it to Israel, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, according to news reports.

The lobby organization has no compunction in meddling in US policy issues and has done so repeatedly, from the appearance of a plethora of anti-BDS bills in state legislatures as well as in Congress to trying to sabotage the Iran Deal and pressing for more US aid to Israel. Its self-stated mission is to “strengthen, protect and promote the US Israeli relationship in ways that enhance the security of Israel and the US.” What it more accurately does is to influence legislation in favor of Israel even over American interests.

AIPAC appears closely tied to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and his far-right Likud party. Indeed, during the Iran Deal negotiations last year a “senior Democrat” told the New Yorker magazine: ““There are people in AIPAC who believe that it should be an arm of the Likud, an arm of the Republican Party.” And some analysts say the organization should register as a foreign agent instead of as a lobby organization, which has looser reporting requirements. Even leaders of major establishment Zionist organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, feared a 2004 espionage FBI probe would result in it having to register as a foreign agent, according to the Jewish Daily Forward. Throughout the years, attempts by a US senator, a former CIA chief and activist organizations to compel AIPAC to register as a foreign agent have fallen short.

AIPAC has more than 100,000 members, at least 17 regional offices and an expansive pool of wealthy donors, according to the New Yorker magazine. But it’s nearly impossible to track how much money it spends on candidates and influencing policy and legislation. Its annual revenue in 2014 was nearly $78 million and spent more than $11 million to support “the lobbying and education mission of AIPAC,” according to its IRS 1099 tax form. That figure is not broken down and the tax form’s Schedule C enumerating “Political Campaigns and Lobbying Activity” is blank. Registering as a foreign agent would change that and force the organization not only to disclose how it disburses its funds but also the source of its revenue.

We need elected officials who put the values and lives of American citizens above that of a foreign country. AIPAC’s meddling is divisive and disruptive and the presidential candidates’ pandering is abhorrent. It is time for clarity and transparency and to question the status of one of the largest lobby organizations in the United States.

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Military aid to Israel must be cut for regional stability

israel-soldiers-2015-sep[NOTE: This article was originally published on Middle East Eye on Sept. 21, 2015. I am reposting it here in advance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States on Nov. 9, where he and President Barack Obama will discuss an increase in American aid to Israel. Follow me on Twitter at @kristin_scribe]

Much has been written about how Israel and its supporters in the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), suffered a blow when they were not able to stop the Iran deal this month.

Despite threats, tantrums and a congressional visit last March that defied presidential official protocol, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to sway Congress to defeat the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a pact that avoids war in part by allowing for international inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites. AIPAC and its newly created Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran spent nearly $40 million on television ads and funding trips for US congressmen to Israel, but they came away empty-handed.

Israel may end up being the biggest winner after all, at the expense of regional stability and peace for the Palestinians. If President Barack Obama and Congress move forward on promises of appeasement by, among other things, increasing the sale of F-35 aircraft, delivering “bunker busters” and increasing US aid to Israel to $4.5 billion annually beginning in 2018, they will enable Israel to unilaterally attack Iran as well as ensure Israel’s military occupation of Palestine for decades to come.

To be sure, Israel is not the only country clamouring for increased military aid because of the Iran deal. The Gulf states, too, will receive increased assistance. But American law ensures that Israel maintains a qualitative military edge. In other words, American handouts to Israel go above and beyond anything we give all other countries in the Middle East.

Furthermore, several former Israeli intelligence officers say the Iran deal is “their best option” and is in their “national security interests”. Israel is the region’s only nuclear power, a fact it once hid from the United States, despite securing American aircraft to protect the Dimona nuclear site in the Naqab in the 1950s. A variety of analysts estimate Israel has between 80 to several hundred nuclear warheads, but it has never signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty nor allowed international inspections.

Israel’s budget is fungible, so our funds allow it to spend its own money in other areas, such as in supporting settlement construction, subsidising settler mortgages, building the apartheid wall and so many other aspects of its occupation.

US foreign military financing accounts for 25 percent of Israel’s defence budget. More than one quarter of those funds can be spent on Israeli-manufactured equipment, known as off-shore procurement, definitely helpful in building its own military industrial complex. Our largess, unique to Israel, has allowed it to grow into the world’s sixth largest arms exporter.

Israel is not a tiny country surrounded by hostile neighbours as its propaganda continues to suggest. It is a powerhouse that not only has the most advanced military capability in the Middle East but has a nuclear arsenal as well.

$28bn to Israel

So why the demands for “bunker busters” and increased military aid, including funds for missile defence systems?

Simply put, with the newly reconstructed 30,000-lb “massive ordnance penetrators,” Israel would be able to attack Iran on its own with bombs powerful enough to reach fortified bunkers well below the earth’s surface. Currently, the US is near the end of a 10-year, $30-billion aid package to Israel. It expires in 2017 and already President Obama has pledged to renew the Memorandum of Understanding at the increased level of $45 billion through 2028. It’s true that this is separate from appeasement dealscurrently being cut. But taken as whole, it is clear Israel will continue to exploit the Iran deal until it gets what it wants.

Time and again, international studies, such as the Goldstone Report, the UN’s Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, and reports by Defense of Children International – Palestine section, among others, have shown that in contravention of international law Israel uses its weapons against a civilian population; that it has used chemical weapons such as white phosphorus; and that military forces routinely subject children to arrests, abuse and torture, for example. The US Arms Export Control Act forbids a recipient of US foreign aid from using American weapons or weapons purchased with American money against a civilian population.

Israel violates these laws with impunity. Until the United States ties its rhetoric on human rights, settlement expansion and ending the occupation with an economic incentive – that is, withholding US aid until Israel complies with international and American laws – things won’t change and, in fact, could get worse. Throwing more weaponry and money at Israel to quiet its anger over the Iran deal will just inflame the situation.

A diverse group of 11 social justice organisations in the United States is trying to avert new weapons and funds transfer to Israel. To date, nearly 50,000 people have signed the #NoWeapons4Israel petition targeting President Obama.

While coalition members realise it will likely not stop a process already in motion, the hope is that by gathering such a significant number of signatures the Obama administration will have to accept the fact vast numbers of Americans do not want to pay for the military subjugation of the Palestinian people or for Israel’s war on Iran. And as the grassroots says “no weapons for Israel,” tens of thousands of people also are saying the only way toward peace and regional stability is to end the occupation by stopping the transfer of US aid and military assistance to Israel.

 – Kristin Szremski is an award-winning journalist, who has covered Middle East issues for the past 15 years. She currently is the director of media and communications for the American Muslims for Palestine, a national education and advocacy organisation. She is based in Washington DC. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. 

Photo: Israeli forces prepare to attack a group of Palestinians, protesting Israeli violations at Al Aqsa Mosque and Israeli forces for storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in Ar-Ram town of Jerusalem on 15 September, 2015. (AA)

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/military-aid-israel-must-be-cut-regional-stability-1064249700#sthash.ZS0wfsLR.dpuf

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In Douma, they miss Riham’s smiles

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog has been dormant for a long time. I’m in the process of creating a new site, which will have a broader scope and encompass many issues facing contemporary Muslims, such as Palestine, Islamophobia, identity.  I was waiting to conclude the transition before posting anything new. But this column was written in Arabic by a friend and colleague of mine, who was at Riham’s funeral. Its urgency lies in its poignancy and timeliness. So, with his permission, it is reprinted here in English. By the time Riham had died on Sept. 6, 2015 from the wounds she sustained after Israeli settlers firebombed her house, the world’s attention had moved on. Let us remember Riham, the way we remembered Ali, 18 months, and her husband Saad. Four-year-old Ahmed is still recovering from burns covering most of his little body.]

By Khaldoun Barghouti
Ramallah, Palestine
Occupied West Bank

The graves of the three members of the Dawabshe family, after Riham's funeral on Sept. 7, 2015.

The graves of the three members of the Dawabshe family, after Riham’s funeral on Sept. 7, 2015.

It’s not the smell of the Dawabshe’s burned house that will remind the visitors of what happened 40 days ago, neither will the walls of it’s original colours, which disappeared under a thick, black layer that will remind the 4-year-Ahmad of what happened to his family.

A Molotov cocktail, a bunch of Israeli settlers, and the last 40 days are enough to engrave the image Douma and Palestine of what settler terror can do.

A few days ago, Riham Dawabshe turned 27, but she didn’t finish her first day in the new year of her life. She joined her husband who died on their anniversary, and her 18-month-old son, 40 days after settlers burned him alive.

“I miss her smile, she always kept smiling, and I will miss the time I used to spend with her, asking for advice” said Alia Dawabshe, Rahim’s 13-year-old sister.

Alia turns back and disappears into the crowd of women dressed in black in her parents’ house. Their eyes are directed to the road, from where the coffin of Riham will be brought for the last good-bye.

dawabshe family

Saad, Ali and Riham Dawabshe

A few minutes later, Riham was there. The girls from Jourish school were all crying for  her. She was a math teacher, but
for these girls she was more than that.

“She treated us as if we were her daughters or little sisters. She used to spend time listening to us, and finding solutions to our problems, and now she’s gone, and it seems the killers will escape with their murder” said Nisreen, 17.

Riham’s mother had the last chance to see her covered body. She wasn’t allowed to see the face of her daughter; 90 percent of her body had been burned trying to rescue her children.

Ahmed Dawabshe, the sole survivor of the Israeli settler firebomb attack, is still recovering from his wounds.

Ahmed Dawabshe, the sole survivor of the Israeli settler firebomb attack, is still recovering from his wounds.

The relatives carried the coffin and rushed out of the house, while the cries rose higher and higher. They passed the blackened windows of the burned house. The body was laid for the funeral prayer service in the school yard. The school was renamed recently after her son Ali and her husband Saad Dawabshe. Now the name Riham will join them.

The Imam lead the prayer, and in the end he asked God for  peace to be upon her. A peace that seems so far from becoming true in Palestine.

Riham was carried on shoulders and taken to the cemetery. There were two fresh graves. A small one where Ali was buried, and the other held Saad.

While Riham was being buried, some people addressed the mourners. The loud speakers were so nearly deafening, but six feet under Ali and Saad were not listening. They were busy welcoming Riham, asking her about Ahmad, and whether he is going to heal from his burns.

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Knesset votes to uphold unprecedented suspension of MK Haneen Zoabi

From: The Office of MK Haneen Zoabi
Press release
29 October 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE USE

68 MK’s voted against MK Zoabi’s appeal, 16 supported Zoabi and 1 MK abstained. 

MK Haneen Zoabi speaking at an AMP 2011 Nakba Day event.

MK Haneen Zoabi speaking at an AMP 2011 Nakba Day event.

The Israeli Knesset today voted to uphold the six-month suspension of Palestinian Arab MK Haneen Zoabi, the longest such suspension ever imposed in the parliament’s history.

MK Zoabi appealed to the Supreme Court earlier this month against the suspension, arguing that it was political persecution and prevented her from carrying out her parliamentary duties on behalf of her voters.

The Knesset Ethics Committee imposed the suspension on July 29, in the midst of a strongly anti-Arab climate during Israel’s 50-day attack on Gaza, Operation Protective Edge.

Under direction from the Supreme Court, MK Zoabi appealed to the Knesset’s full plenum in an attempt to exhaust all available channels for lifting the suspension before returning to the court.

Members of the Ethics Committee had argued that the suspension was deserved because of comments MK Zoabi made before and during Operation Protective Edge. Those included a Radio interview in June in which she disagreed with he actions of those behind the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank but refused to denounce them simplistically as “terrorists”. The teenagers were later found murdered.

In a further indication of the efforts to make an example of MK Zoabi for her political views and her opposition to the attack on Gaza, a criminal investigation was subsequently opened against her in a different matter.

She is accused of incitement for allegedly”humiliating” policemen, during the massive arrest of Arab teenager protestors.’ The police and state prosecution have recommended that she be indicted, and the case will now being considered by the Attorney-General.

“Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, last week described Israel as a ‘sick society’ for its racist policies and attitudes,” said MK Zoabi. “It is not about sickness or disease, it’s about a cultivated political racist culture, and an apartheid legal system, which led inevitably  to the latest anti-democratic efforts to silence me.

“The real incitement has been a flood of ugly statements from senior government figures since the summer – as well as regular acts violence they have provoked on the street – against  Palestinian citizens. No one is being suspended from the Knesset for that, nor investigated.”

During her speech before the general assembly, Zoabi emphasis that “to be in the Knesset’ is not a favor  from the Israeli authorities nor from the state, and that she drew her rights from being an indigenous people, and Israel has no contribution in this fact”

Also she stated that the problem lies in the Israeli Racism, oppression,  and occupation, and not on her criticism against such racism,and that her political criticism are part of freedom of speech, and that she “didn’t cross the borders” of any law or ethics, except the borders of rigid and racist consensus’

Another Knesset committee, the Law, Constitution and Justice Committee, this month submitted two bills intended to target MK Zoabi. Both were initiated by a government minister, Faina Kirschenbaum. The first would deny anyone the right to stand for the Knesset if they are found to have supported “an act of terrorism”, while the second would strip them of their citizenship.

Arab MKs from MK Zoabi’s Balad party boycotted the opening session of the Knesset on Monday, following the summer recess. Other MKs gave speeches condemning MK Zoabi’s treatment.

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#Inequality – Targeting a beloved women’s rights activist simply because of her heritag

rasmea odehIn just a few short weeks, a beloved and respected community organizer from Chicago will begin an ordeal that will determine whether the US government will strip her of her citizenship, imprison her for 10 years and ultimately deport her to country unknown.

On Nov. 4, 2014, Rasmea Odeh will appear in federal court in Detroit to face one charge of ‘unlawful procurement of naturalization,’ for allegedly omitting an answer on her citizenship application. The end results could be devastating: Odeh, 67, faces a decade in prison and the revocation of the citizenship she gained 10 years ago.

Odeh, an attorney by trade, is known throughout the country for her activism, particularly for defending civil liberties and immigrant rights. She’s been a staple in Chicago activism circles for years. Her Arab Women’s Committee has more than 600 members and she’s a mentor to hundreds of immigrant women. She is well loved and respected, not only in Chicago, but throughout the United States.

To understand how a woman, who just last year was the recipient of the Chicago Cultural Alliance’s “Outstanding Community Leader Award,” came to this point, one must understand the geo-politics of America’s “special relationship” with Israel and how being Palestinian, as Odeh is, can sentence someone to a lifetime of inequality.

The life she successfully created for herself in her adopted country came crashing to a halt on the morning of Oct. 22, 2013, when agents from the Department of Homeland Security arrested her in her home. In one quick court appearance later that morning, where she was charged with lying on her citizenship application, past memories of physical and sexual torture by Israeli military officials, a confession compelled by that torture, which she later recanted, and 10 years of brutal and illegal incarceration came back to haunt the beloved community organizer.

“Rasmea was horrifically tortured for 25 days, she was denied access to a lawyer for 45 days. She – as were all the other (500 people) arrested – confessed under torture and then recanted her confession, but nonetheless, spent 10 years in prison. Then she was released in a prisoner swap,” and she came to join her father and brother in Detroit, who were naturalized US citizens,” her defense attorney Michael Deutsch told Flashpoint radio.

Odeh eventually relocated to Chicago, where she became the associate director of the Arab American Action Network. Ten years after arriving in the United States, she applied for citizenship. It was in this context that Odeh answered questions regarding previous arrests and detentions.

“She had been in the US for 10 years when she answered those questions and it was obvious to her the questions were about ‘were you ever arrested in the US?’ ‘Were you ever convicted and imprisoned in the US?’ They were trying to see how she comported with US society over those 10 years,” Deutsch said. “Nevertheless, they are going back 45 years and saying that she lied about the fact she had been arrested in a war situation and convicted of charges that were part of a systematic use of torture by the illegal occupation courts that the [Israeli] military set up on the West Bank,” he added.

The fact the Department of Justice is pursuing a case nearly half a century old, based upon a confession forced by torture in a foreign country, shows just how the US’ “special relationship” with Israel can hurt American citizens. Other notorious cases in the US have relied upon secret evidence supplied by Israel, such as the case against American citizen Mohammed Salah and the case against what had been the country’s largest Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation. In the latter case, the court also allowed Israeli witnesses to testify under disguise and in secret. Mohammad Salah eventually was acquitted of the charges against him, while five men from the Holy Land Foundation were convicted and are serving unusually lengthy sentences ranging from 15 years to 65 years.

Recently, Judge Drain dismissed a motion to dismiss Odeh’s case on the grounds it’s based on illegal evidence obtained in a four-year-old investigation into 23 anti-war and Palestine solidarity activists. In the latest development, prosecutors are trying to create the impression that Odeh and her supporters present a danger to anyone serving on the jury and, therefore, are asking for an anonymous jury that would be sequestered. Calling her supporters, ‘hordes” and “mobs,” the prosecutor also is showing a bias against Palestinians and their supporters.

“There is a distinctly racist, anti-Arab undertone to the prosecutor’s motion, where spirited and dignified protests,” said key defense committee organizer Hatem Abudayyeh, who was one of the 23 activists targeted in the investigation. “Again, the federal government is trying to sow fear among people in the U.S. by criminalizing and stereotyping Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. As one of Rasmea’s lawyers said when he was informed of the motion, it ‘is only intended to play the ‘terrorism’ card and is unacceptable.’”

For her part, Odeh is continues her work with the women’s committee and her work at the Arab American Action Network to keep her mind off the impending trial. Looking at a flyer for an upcoming event at the end of the November, schedule two weeks after her trial is expected to end, she sighs.

“I hope I will be able to come. I am keeping busy to keep my mind off things. And I have hope. We must have hope.”

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Crying out in the darkness that is Occupied Khalil

I spent my life between occupation and occupation
And all the times of my life only know occupation and blood and fear and terror

murad.main

The above lines come from a poem written by Murad “Palestina” Amro. A young man from Hebron. His poems are published below. But first some background.

I’ve written about Murad ‘Palestina” before. This time, I’m not writing about him as much as I am just forwarding on his own words.  Words of Anguish. Words of Fear. Words of Despair. Words of Outrage at our silence; our complicity and our attempt to ignore the very real devastation wreaked at the hands of Zionist Occupation forces.

murad.butterflyI first started ‘talking’ to Murad in October 2011, a few months after my last trip to Palestine. Somehow pictures he posted of Hebron’s grape festival appeared on my facebook page and I posted a comment. From that time, I have come to know Murad as someone who finished a degree in agronomy, who loves to ride and train horses. He’s peaceful, generally happy and is not afraid to post pictures of butterflies or cats online.

In the past several months, Murad and his colleague in Youth Against Settlements have been arrested, some multiple times, harassed, threatened, beaten and, in the case of Issa Amro, tortured and threatened with death.  About 500 Jewish settlers are living illegally within the city of Hebron. Another 6,000 or so live in settlement blocs surrounding the outskirts of the city. Because of them, the Old City market – an area of a mere .6 miles –  now has 101 closures; more than 20 security cameras, some of which are mobile and follow you around. More than 1,700 shops have closed either by military order or because the closures keep shuhada streetout customers. The main thoroughfare – Shuhada Street – is off limits to Palestinians, who are relegated to a dusty path alongside the street, demarcated by cement barriers. In the pictures on the right, you can see Shuhada Street, taken during my visit in October 2010. In the second picture, you’ll see that internationals can walk down the street. These were members of the Christian group I traveled with. However, I was not allowed on Shuhada Street either. Not because I’m Palestinians – because I’m not. But because I wear a headscarf.

shuhad street2

After Baruch Goldstein, an American Jewish physician, gunned down 29 Palestinians in cold blood a they were prostrate in prayer in the Ibrahimi mosque in 1994, Occupation Authorities closed the Muslim worship center. When it reopened, a third of it was left for Muslims, who now must go through three security checkpoints to access their prayer hall, where 12 cameras record every move and every word.  Jewish worshipers are able to access the two-thirds of Ibrahimi mosque – now off limits to Palestinians – freely and without having to endure any security measures.

Since my first visit to Hebron in October 2010, things have gotten steadily worse, thanks to rampant settler violence and Zionist military incursions and night raids. During President Obama’s recent trip to the Holy Land, IOF forces rounded up school children in Hebron, all without comment from the purportedly  most powerful man in the world.

A new report by the United Nations Human Rights Council about the impact of settlers on Palestinian life categorizes the interlopers into three categories. This one best describes the settlers who daily intimidate and harass residents of Hebron:

 A third group seems to be motivated by political and religious ideologies; they live in the central part of  the West Bank, often very close to Palestinian communities.

The report lists some of the methods settlers use against Palestinians, especially those who live in Hebron:

The mission heard numerous testimonies on violent attacks by settlers, including  physical assaults, the use of knives, axes, clubs and other improvised weapons, as well as shootings and the throwing of Molotov cocktails. The testimonies also recounted the  psychological impact of intimidation by armed settlers trespassing on Palestinian land, at  Palestinian water springs or in the midst of Palestinian neighbourhoods in Hebron and East Jerusalem. In some cases, testimonies described years of violence and intimidation directed at the same Palestinian family living in proximity to settlements that had pushed it to abandon its properties.

The Israeli army also has a hand in evicting Palestinians from their homes and villages surrounding Hebron, according to the report:

The Israeli army routinely demolishes their shelters and  property, including those provided by or built with the assistance of aid agencies and  international donors. In the South Hebron hills, eight villages are at risk of eviction to make way for a new firing zone.

Murad has lived with this for most of his life. But his poems came shortly after his cousin Issa was released this week from Israeli custody, where he was tortured and threatened with death. I’ve reported in the past that one of the wifi networks used by settlers is named, “Kill Issa.”

Issa founded the non-violent youth movement called Youth Against Settlements. In addition to protesting the occupation non-violently, YAS also runs a community center where  youth are taught skills and coping mechanism. Because of his activism, Issa has been marked for arrest and intimidation.  In fact, prior to his most recent arrest, he had been taken into custody at least 20 times. His situation is so dire, the Geneva International Centre for Justice issued an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine on his behalf.

issaOne of the most prominent cases is that of Issa I.H. Amro, a Palestinian residing in Tel Rumeida, Hebron. Issa Amro is the coordinator of a youth movement (Youth Against Settlements) opposed to occupation and settlements and strongly committed to purely non-violent protests.

He started his activities while he was a student in 2003, after the army had forcedly closed the Palestine Polytechnic University (PPU), claiming it would only provide knowledge to terrorists. Together with international supporters, Issa fought the decision until six months later the PPU was finally re-opened. Since then, Issa has become the most prominent face of the popular resistance in Hebron, closely working with international and Israeli organizations.

His activities make Issa a constant target for occupation forces and settlers alike. 

In 2012 alone, he was arrested over 20 times, for periods between several hours and five days, once during a trip to Jordan, as part of a broader policy of intimidation, aimed to stop his activities.

Numerous times during his arrests he was left blindfolded and handcuffed for hours, while Israeli soldiers, incited by settlers, launched death threats and curses against him, calling Baruch Goldstein, the author of the 1994 massacre, a hero.

Issa was warned several times by Israeli soldiers either to cease his activities or they would raid his house or shoot him. Complaints were never pursued. Instead, he was convicted of “incitement” and released under harsh bail restrictions even in cases when video evidence was given that he had never been involved in aggressions.

And so,  on the day the media report about Issa’s release came out, Murad sent these poems to me. The very least I can do is to help bring help facilitate his voice. The world isn’t listening. But maybe you will hear what Murad has to say.

murad1The story of a young Palestinian man
I really do not know where to start and how
I really do not know how you ought to be a prelude to talk with you to reach your hearts and your minds
I really want to reach the message of the Palestinian people for the world
I really want you all to know how we live here in occupied Palestine
I really want to know how life is within us
I really want you all to know how to spin organs of the human body in us
How the digestive system works and the respiratory and nervous and skeletal systems and all organs of the body
How life goes inside our bodies, not only on the nature and on the ground and the reality
I want you really want to know how we think and what we think and how to be our mood
I want you to know what is our own
I want you to know what we like and read
I want you to know that the most difficult story on the face of the earth since that human habitation of this land
I want you to know how  the occupation [affects] our hearts and minds
On our men and our children are our future and our dreams
I want you to all [know] accurately for the Palestinian cause and the reality in which we live
I am a young Palestinian from the general public
I’m not the president and I’m not a minister
I’m not a leader and not a famous man or a star
I, Murad, young Palestinian: simply living a simple life
I am a young Palestinian man I have many dreams
I am a young man dreaming of peace, security and stability, justice and freedom, friendship and love and hope
I am a young Palestinian man to die every moment a thousand times because of the occupation and because of the difficult and bitter [reality] in which we live
I am a young Palestinian man like millions of young Palestinians who live a hard life and harsh circumstances in the political, economic and security and all the conditions that all Palestinians live
I am a young Palestinian man carries painful memories
Memories kill me every day
I feel sad memories when I remember that I die
Detailed memories of murder and blood, suffering and loss of loved ones, displacement and displacement
Memories of terror and fear because of the Israeli occupation
Memories made my heart bleed every day crying we lost friends and loved ones were killed in cold blood and for no reason.

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murad3.horseKilled by occupation
Wandering memories in my mind every day when I remember my cousin when he was killed in cold blood in 2002 in front of my eyes and I’m a small child.
Memories, I remember my cousin the other who greeted the refrigerated [morgue] after his death in Israeli jails.
I was a young man, I forget, when I was five years old and Israeli soldiers searched the house and break everything –
Doors, furniture, glass and electronic equipment and I grabbed gown my mother and my mother was crying.
Mom, Dad

The soldiers who look at me with all the anger and hatred; and I do not know of them what they want.
Why look at me that way and I’m just a child at the age of five?
Why get all this way with me?

What is the crime committed by the child is 5 years old?

I am a young man did not forget [how they] arrested me and I am 11 years old.
That was on September 13, 2001
When the soldiers beat me for eight hours continuously and the reason the charge committed at that time because I carry my backback from school to home and I’m tired of study and school quotas.
The dream that brought me home to eat lunch and see my mom
But unfortunately I went to prison and I am a child.
I kid did not forget how you experience the tank with my body and I am a child and I said to the soldiers in the tank ‘kill me, you villains.’
I am a young man in every day I have a story with the occupation and the suffering that I hold, so large and not borne by mountains.
I am a young man I spent my childhood to the sound of tanks and aircraft bombing
I am a young man I spent my childhood to the sound of the guns and bullets
I grew up after a young man that I was several times shot  and cases of choking tear gas
I am a young man I spent my childhood between fear and terror and suffering and blood pouring
I am a young man I spent my childhood to the sound of bombing the homes of Palestinian civilians.
Among these houses was my uncle’s house

I am a young man I spent my childhood between nightmares and fear of occupation
I am a young man occupation woke me up out of sleep many times when you broke into the house
I am a young man I spent all the time of my life thinking that the occupation will come to attack
I am a young man I spent much of my time at military checkpoints waiting to cross from street to street
I am a young man and fear faced many difficulties
I am a young man taught me a harsh occupation on many things
I am a man to bring the experiences of my life, and I was 80 years old, but I was 24 years old
I am a young man and the occupation killed all my dreams and my ambitions and all hope
I had a young man, with a lot of sad stories.

But there are[other]  young men and the Palestinian families with  outlines of more stories
I am a young for many things in life
I am a man and I have nothing but my stories.
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Occupation lives in our hearts
I’m thinking every moment and every step that the occupation will come
I sleep, I wake up and occupation occupies all my thoughts and my emotions
Occupation is not only the occupation of land and resources
Occupation occupies the minds and hearts and love and hope
Occupation destroys the dreams and kils thel hope of everything
Occupation controls everything
Water, air, and food
The trees and stones and people.
The economy and border, industriy, trade and agriculture.

Occupation controls children and the future.

Every day brings Israeli barriers between the street and another street … Between one village and the other
Between the cities are the barriers and settlements.
I am a young unemployed.
Like a lot of young people I could not complete my graduate studies because of the economic situation
I could not pursue master’s and doctoral study because of poor economic conditions

I am a man never to find a job because of the occupation and its impact on policy, borders, economy and everything.

I am a young and cannot progress one stepin  my life
A lot of young people like me
Dream like all the youth everyehere of the world –  a happy life, happy marriage, happy  home, safety and love.
Dream of a comfortable job
Dream of a better tomorrow … Dream to return home every day without risk or any problems of the occupation and the settlers
I do not really know that when I leave the house, will I come back? Will I  return safely, wounded or as a  martyr?
I do not know what awaits me.
Death surrounds us everywhere, fear and horror.

Occupation killed our future and our lives
Occupation destroyed everything
The  psychological impact kills us every moment and we feel nothing but  insecurity and fear.
And I want you just to imagine  for a moment – How would you feel if you were under occupation???

murad2.1948

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