Thursday, September 24, 2009

A poem by Mazen

We are angry

By Mazin Qumsiyeh

We are angry at rhetoric of oppression
Hafrada-Segregation-Apartheid and Security
Two-states, one state, cantons and autonomy
The chosen state’s right to exist

While colonialism can persist
Addictws now to talk about talking
And hold meetings about more meetings

Maybe to revive the “peace process” charades

to ensure no peace for a few more decades

giving the monster created by Western powers

time to gobble more of the holy pieces

and belch its pleasure in more negotiations

devoid of human rights or UN resolutions


We are angry at statistics of oppression
11,000 political prisoners
534 Destroyed villages and towns
35% seeking stolen jobs
450 km of apartheid walls
7 million displaced or refugees

1.5 million uprooted fruiting trees

1.5 million in Gaza besieged
62 years of justice denied

We are angry at manufactured misery
Epidemics and pandemics 
Genocides hidden with polemics

Swelling ranks of the disempowered

Phosphorous bombs on Gaza showered

An apartheid wall that snakes around

Running sewage in the streets abound

Children barefoot in a refugee camp in 2009!
While the unelected leaders repeat the same line

We are angry at spies
Some come take pictures and pretend to care

Others just watch and hope to avoid the glare
Some punished by law or by a guilty conscience

Others abandoned by their racist masters
Some feed stomachs but starve their souls

Others fall for carnal desires as fleeting as the empty goals
Some serving the colonial racist regime

Others think it safer with the quisling theme
Some commit suicide or die forgotten
 Others repent and are soon forgiven

We are angry at hypocrisy
Those who claim then need their human right

While not sparing children from their plight

Those who champion International laws

While leaving heavy trails of bloody claws
Those who smile plunging knives in your back
While screaming loudly that they are under attack

Those who use a religious heritage to support overt racism

While defaming anyone who dares to speak out: “anti-semitism”!

We are angry at collaborators
Those with nice suits and those with guns
Those who sell their people for shekels
Those who do it out of ignorance

And those who with malice and malfeasance

Presidents, Pundits, and peasants

Large or small petty criminals

We are angry at being angry
While it may help us break the chains 
Yet our love through anger diminishes

And our faith in humanity shrinks

And even what we want for ourselves

So maybe this final anger motivates ….
To shed anger and keep high our heads and spirits 
In our world there are many who deserve merits 
good, honest, brave activists
Philanthropists, protestors, poets…

men and women of all life stages  

tailor-made therapists for all ages
Political Prisoners and Martyrs

Intellectuals and small farmers

Working to plant the blood-soaked lands

With cactus, figs, olive trees, and  almonds

watering hopes and dreams like a growing grape vine

tendrils reaching out to free beloved immortal Palestine
 Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Men, it is serious"

It is a sad realisation that since the year 1945, women like the one who wrote the following article, have been saying the same things over and over again. Just when are the men in our lives going to take the essence of this 1945 article seriously so that progress becomes an integral part of an evolving society, and articles on the importance of educating the youth of today, such as the one in Today's Jordan Times, become a thing of the past. We all know what the problems are, but as Bint al Urdon noted back in 1945 ... do we have the courage to fix them ourselves? Perhaps it's time for a good dose of reflection .....

Al-Ra'ed Magazine, Issue 1, Year 20/6/45

Article by Bint Al-Urdon

"Men, It is Serious" (unofficial translation)

"I am delighted that Al-Ra'ed Magazine has started issuing and I am happy to express my pleasure that it tackles women's issues, especially as what concern women, concern men too. I believe that when men start to consider women's issues and women begin to speak for themselves, the result would be more understanding and collaboration that leads to progress for all."

"There is a reason or a purpose behind any action, and if a man is asked about the drive that stimulates him and the reason that helps him to achieve his goals, he would whisper "the woman." I wish I could make women as courageous as men to enable them to express in Al-Ra'ed Magazine what they think and feel. However, I am aware that I will not succeed in doing so as I know that women are cowards and are afraid of being questioned, due to the fact that women prefer to remain silent since they are brought up to be chained."

"We should be role models for the upcoming generations by following the footsteps of refined nations that treat men and women equally, giving women the right to be educated, to work, to be cultured, as well as to express themselves freely."

"Isn't the man the girl's father and doesn't he bring her up as he likes. Likewise, isn't the woman the boy's mother and doesn't she raise him up as she prefers? Hence, if we wish for our nation to be strong and to have solid grounds, we should arm both men and women with knowledge, even if they are different in their tendencies and interests. So, if there were eighty educated men in every one hundred Jordanian man, it would not be useless or excessive to have eighty educated women in every one hundred Jordanian woman. It is better to have mothers who convince their children to "sleep as to have some rest" than to "sleep or else they will be attacked by a ghoul." This example could be silly, but it, in fact, is a realistic one that many of those who were negatively affected by their uneducated mothers have referred to. And there are many other examples that show the difference between an ignorant woman who raises her children to be cowards and an educated one who makes wise men of them."

"For that reason, if you aim to prepare the youth to be good citizens that can defend the land and the nation, you should start by preparing girls and paving the way for them to be educated in schools." I also want, if the readers allow me, to stress the effect women's knowledge has on men's actions, as I can anticipate that some readers would refuse what I have just mentioned, saying that many great and famous men were raised up by ignorant mothers."

"To this I say that if these great and famous men were raised up by educated women, they would have become greater and more famous than they are now. And if we probe into the hidden sides of these men, we would find some weakness that resulted from the improper upbringing they received from their ignorant mothers."

"I here pose the following question: who is happier; a man who comes home to share his worries with an educated wife who would listen to him and help solve his problems or a man who comes back home to be received by a wife whose only role is to reproduce and cook? I am afraid that what I said might frustrate some of my sisters who did not get educated and had to spend their time juggling household chores. But I have to admit that some of these women are smarter, wiser, and more flexible than some educated women. This article is not aimed to humiliate or underestimate uneducated mothers, as I was raised up by one of them. On the contrary, it is aimed to make the mother, father, and the brother to empathize with the young girl who deserves to be well-raised in order to contribute to the national development we all wish for."

"I now address fathers who are able to educate their daughters but refuse that, thinking that knowledge and education poison women's minds and believing that their wealth arms them, a belief that endangers the nation and its future. Fathers should remember that knowledge is enlightenment for all, be they men or women, and rich or poor, and that knowledge is not limited to one social level in civilized nations."

"Who of you would prefer ignorance to knowledge?

Who of you would prefer wrongfulness to rightness?

Who of you would like one of his eyes to see while the other is left blind?

Who of you would like to use one of his hands while the other is paralyzed?

Who of you would accept his daughter's mind to rust while his son's shine?

Who of you would like his daughter to be neglected while his son is being taken care of?

Who of you would bear his son to be given the right to live while his daughter is a victim of infanticide?"

"I do not suppose that any father would prefer the worst of what I have just mentioned to the better, for fatherly kindness is just but is more directed to those of the children who are weak. And since your daughters are considered weaker by nature than your sons, you should arm them with education and knowledge to strengthen themselves, to take their own rights, and to find their place among men."

"Teach us fathers

Encourage us brothers

And inspire us colleagues, as to make wise men of you."


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Unreasonable Customs

For the past few years I have shopped over the Internet for items that are unavailable here. The Jordan government’s efforts to create and support the IT sector have made this possible. Shopping online is not usually cheaper than buying from the local market, but it is efficient, fast, and an option that I appreciative having. The Jordanian companies, who provide the services I need for payment by credit card and shipping, charge me, but I am able to estimate the costs before I place my order. Last week the Customs Department suddenly imposed an uncalculated expense when they charged me 60% on my package. There was no prior announcement about this, no reason given, and no data available about which particular items might be subject to customs. Where is the ‘transparency’ that is supposed to take place in Jordan? I will not be able to shop online anymore if 60% duty is added to the cost. I know that the loss of my business will hardly be noted, but if 60 % duty is added to all packages purchased online, I am sure it will make a difference to the Jordanian companies involved. I would like customs to inform the public what to expect when they shop over the Internet. I find a 60% duty on purchases arbitrary, punitive, and definitely excessive.


Remember, remember the month of September

The month of September marks the anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982. Here below is a book review by Dr Mazin Qumsiyeh as we commemorate the 'hundreds of men, women and children killed by death squads armed, trained, financed, and instructed by the Israeli colonial masters. '

"Sabra and Shatila: September 1982" Bayan Nuwayhed Al-Hout, 2004, Pluto Press, London and Ann Arbor, MI, 462 pp., 36 photographs, 5 maps
Book Review published in the Holy Land Studies Journal, Spring 2005 by Mazin Qumsiyeh

"It would be correct but rather reductionist to state that this remarkable book is the most comprehensive and thorough documentation of the events of the massacres at Sabra and Shatila. The mark of a good book is that it leaves the reader changed and this volume does that. Upon first hearing about this book, my first and incorrect inclination was that perhaps I do not need to read it. Many of us Palestinians assume we know the suffering of our people over the past six decades, we have seen it and we have lived it. This thought quickly evaporated after flipping through the first few pages of this book and then it was hard to put it down.

It is appropriate that this edition came out in English after its initial publication in Arabic. Knowingly or unknowingly, many in the Western world lend their name and their tax money to support atrocities like the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Would it help those taxpayers see what is being done with their tax money and US diplomatic support? Would it help bring people to a better understanding of the "situation"? More importantly would it bring us closer to see the victims of this particular massacre as people and not mere numbers? Having lived in the US for many years I wanted to look at this English version from that perspective. I also wanted to compare it to other books that relate personal testimonies of survivors of atrocities.

Those murdered in Sabra and Shatila are not around to tell us their stories so we are left with the survivors, those relatives and friends and acquaintances who witnessed the event and/or came to pick the bodies and the pieces of their shattered lives. Telling their stories is not easy. A writer or editor of such a compilation has the heavy responsibility (and duty) to his or her subjects to let them tell the story with as little interference as possible. It is not easy to craft careful and neutral questions that allow for free and open answers. It is also not easy to select from all your interviews individual accounts to include in a readable book. It is not easy to research names then cross check all references and resources to ensure presenting a picture that is as close as possible to the reality of what happened. All this and more are achieved in this book.

The first part of this book consists of six chapters that relay the statements and testimonies of the families and witnesses. The first two chapters cover the place and time and events leading up to the massacre including the encirclement of the camps by the Israeli army. Chapters 3-5 cover chronologically the events of September 16-18; the horrific 40-hour period in which nearly 2000 men, women, and children were systematically massacred or abducted and "disappeared". Chapter 6 covers testimonies covering the search for victims following the massacre. Forty-six actual testimonies were selected and included in these six chapters out of total direct testimonies gathered on 430 victims (about half Palestinian, 28% Lebanese, and the remainder belonging to other nationalities).

The second part of this book summarizes the research (including field study) conducted by the author into the massacre. Chapter 7 reviews results of the detailed field study conducted in 1984.

Chapter 8 analyzes the issue of the number of victims killed. The chilling method used by Israeli governments to minimize the casualties (in the Kahan report) is analyzed in detail. In one part, the author recounts what the historian Toynbee once said in debate with Yaacov Herzog in 1961. Hetzog lashed out at Toynbee for mentioning the Nazi atrocities in talking about the massacre of Palestinians in Deir Yassin in 1948. Herzog’s contention was that the deaths of a few hundred Palestinians could never be even discussed in relation to the horror on Nazi atrocities. Toynbee’s answer was that "Every increase in numbers produces an increase in suffering but it is impossible to be wicked or criminal more than 100%." She ten explained how the wickedness of trying to obfuscate reality or minimize the numbers of victims (as happened in the Israeli Kahan report). There are lessons to be learned from that. Yet, the most astonishing fact is that no authority (Israeli, Lebanese, or Palestinian) took it upon itself to compile a list of the victims. As such, the list compiled by this author must remain the most complete such list to date.

There are four appendices to the work. Appendix 1 contains 28 tables related to the field study. Appendix 2 provides the most comprehensive listing of names of those known killed (906 names) or abducted and missing (484 names). Given that only a handful of the missing were ever found, over 1300 human beings lost their lives with this tragedy.

The book ends with a series of remarkable photographs. Most are ones I have never seen before and I am sure other readers will find equally transforming. Most books place such photos in the Middle of the book or close to the beginning. A photograph it is said is worth a thousand words. But a photograph can elicit all sorts of emotions that then detract from the importance of reading the text itself. In this case, the placement of the photos at the end was the right decision and I urge readers to read this text in the order it is presented. For me, this was particularly powerful. I, as a reader was able to read the testimonies and review the facts and figures taking time to draw the relevant lessons learned before I saw at the end a series of pictures of what the scene of the crime looked like. To me the most remarkable and damning evidence of Israeli culpability and the accompanying lies about the massacre are found on pages 304-317 and buttressed by pictures and maps of the Israeli command center overseeing the camp. Anyone examining this evidence and International law understands the culpability of the Israeli politicians, commanders and soldiers. They knew the camps were undefended, they knew that massacres would be committed by the 150 Phallange militias they invited in, they knew the bloody outcome would happen, and finally they watched without interfering as this unfolded over three days.

I never met the author, Dr. Bayan Nuwayah Al-Hout, a faculty member at the Lebanese University for the past 25 years. I can only marvel at the amount of efforts over two decades that such a project demanded. It is usually something done by well-financed teams with a cadre of paid staff. For the author to have done this with very limited resources and help is truly admirable.

It was once said that the sign of a good book is that when you close the last page it is like saying goodbye to a dear friend. Well in this case, it is like saying goodbye to hundreds of friends: those who died in that tragic massacre and those who survived to recount the stories and live their lives awaiting justice. If we are to honor them all then we must engage in the quest for peace with justice.

When in a few years, a museum is built for the Nakba (catastrophe) that befell the Palestinian people, it will have a prominent place in it for Sabra and Shatila. This book will be the key resource for this. Those who care for human rights should buy it, read it, and learn the lessons from it.

There is a section at the end of the book, not given a chapter status and seeming as orphaned as the Children of Sabra and Shatila, that is simply titled "Conclusion: who was responsible." For those looking for the simplified answers of assigning blame to just one person or party, they will be disappointed. For those who want to use the lessons learned from this tragedy to prevent future tragedy, the careful analysis here is a must reading. From the Lebanese militia, to the local Israeli commanders guarding the camps, to Ariel Sharon who gave the go ahead, to the Lebanese government, all share some of the guilt. But ultimately, all of us who heard the news and who took no action are responsible for the continuation of a string of atrocities against civilians. On page 324, the author quotes from the song lyrics of the Argentinean singer Alberto Cortez:
"Where was the sun when anger burst at Sabra and Shatila? Where was I? At what party, careless, when I red the news? And where were you – you so eager to defend the oppressed – when the massacre happened? Where is the pride of men? Where were you my friend with the sleeping conscience?.."

The road between the atrocities of Sabra and Shatila runs rather short to those of Jenin, Nablus and Rafah of today and to our suppressed humanity. Such books can be our tour guides."

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD, is author of "Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle"


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Thought for the day

"Ye Hypocrites! Are these your pranks?
To murder men and give God thanks
Desist, for shame - proceed no further
God won't accept your thanks for murder"

Robert Burns 1793
'Thanksgiving for a National Victory', written 215 years ago - as relevant today as the day it was written!

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Flickr Wish ......... what is your thoughts?

My Flickr Wish ......... what is your thoughts?
Originally uploaded by SkeletalMess

hello Jordanian flickrers ...what do you think of this?


Poem "If I could fly like my friend him"

If I could fly like my friend, him and survey man’s dominion

I would feel a oneness, a harmony and empathy with life and mother nature;

Away from man’s demonic reasoning and death deemed just and dehumanizing.

And I could tell my friend him I see the light, and feel the breeze of freedom in thought

And fancy; of trainers with suits and odd socks and caps and tongue of many languages.

And as we scale the clouds on high and view the sea below

I hold the hand of him, my friend and touch the mountain top,

Caress the lay of the land, the desert, a tree, a wheat field and flower;

and as I do I hear a distant yearning whispering on the wind, comforting

yet ushering me on lest I dwell on the struggling below, not from poverty, but greed;

Misconception and hate, a ruthless state and development plans

And so I fly with him my friend, never stopping, drifting on,

Amongst the clouds with rain, betwixt a tear shed here and there,

For this my friend is fate.