how the world sees america

Palestinian Pride Before Peace

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JERUSALEM - Every time former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker appeared in Jerusalem, Jawad Siyam says he ended up in an Israeli jail. He'd been in those concrete cells many times before, often for good reason: he and his teenage Palestinian peers made a game of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers in the late 80s. But jail time courtesy of Baker's visit was different because it was preemptive. It made the U.S. official’s arrival, and America, particularly irksome.

One time stands out for Jawad. He was coming back from a late night out in a café in West Jerusalem. At Dung Gate, separating the historic Old City from the New, Jawad saw more Israeli soldiers than usual, but he didn't know why. Then two soldiers asked where he was coming from.

"They wanted to hear the hospital," or something they thought was permissible, Jawad says. "Just saying 'I was at a café' was not enough."

"I was at a café," Jawad said.

"We've been looking for you," the soldiers replied.

Moments later Jawad found himself in a familiar cell with twenty other teenagers who lived near him on Wadi Hilwah Road. "We were all friends in the jail -- in one small cell, with concrete beds and one stinking pot."

The idea of being jailed for no reason bothered Jawad. We weren't protesting [that time]; we weren't making trouble."

"Israel and America just treat us like ants," says Jawad. Now a self-proclaimed secular, non-violent leftist, he leads a Palestinian community center in East Jerusalem that works with forty youth. Unlike West Jerusalem, the eastern part of the city is poorly administered by the Palestinian Authority. Trash lines the streets. Twelve preteen boys tug at my camera and ask for one dollar each.

Jawad has fought hard to keep his family’s land. Forty years ago he was born in the jig-saw-like house we sit in. When his union-organizing father died in 1998, a group of Israeli settlers appeared at Jawad's door, claiming the recently-deceased man had sold them the deed to the house. Jawad took them to court and won. He says it taught him that, “you can use the system to resist.”

Jawad's home sits on contested ground. Israelis call the area "David City." Jawad and other Arabs call it "Silwan." As Palestinians and Israelis push for peace, these names matter, for the future of Jerusalem, and for Jawad.

The night before the Annapolis Conference began, Jawad gazed out from his living room at personal and political landmarks across the city: Al Aqsa Mosque just up the hill beside the Jewish holy site, the Western Wall. An Israeli flag flying above his grandmother's old house, which Israelis now own. The ground where invaluable archaeological remains are steadily being uncovered.

The disputed city’s fate is back on the negotiating table thanks to Tuesday's U.S.-sponsored Annapolis conference, meant to kick start the long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But Jawad isn’t hopeful.

“Bush did this [peace conference] because America failed in Iraq and Lebanon," he says. The U.S. President is "just trying to pull Arab countries to his side" as the U.S. increases pressure on Iran.

And the fractured Palestinian political landscape means that his people are unlikely to see life improve anytime soon. Israelis like a weak Palestine, he believes, because it "helps them win more concessions." Arab nations want to use an unstable Palestine as a bargaining chip with the West. And even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “is more concerned with fighting Hamas than making Palestine free."

Israeli-Checkpoint.jpg
Muslims moving through an Israeli checkpoint to get to Al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan.

"Until Palestinians come together to resolve their internal disputes, there will never be peace," he says. "Fatah is weak. Hamas has no vision…Palestine needs a third way." They need a political force that can negotiate as a whole, and for that to happen they must be able to speak to one another as Palestinians.

That's why Jawad runs Madaa, a Palestinian cultural organization that teaches youth about arts and theater. "They [youth] must see themselves as agents, not victims."

“We have here in Silwan children who are not connected to any civic organization. They are not connected to anything, lost between the Israeli authorities on one side and a divided Palestinians on the other.” So each time they are stopped at a checkpoint, “They think of themselves as more and more useless; they lose trust in themselves.”

But Jawad believes arts, music, collective self-expression can bring them together and give them the confidence to act. Peace may take another generation to materialize, Jawad worries, and it’s his job to make sure youth don’t give up hope in it, or themselves.

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Comments (25)

Tariq Shah:

Somehow I cant feel sorry for Israel, it is string and powerful and has been and stil is constantly stealing its nbeighbours lands, beating up the Palestinians, killing them, robbing them of their pride, lives and is a plain old bully.

Sorry, Israels troubles are of its own makings, I would not throw stones if someone took over my house, I would throw bombs, lots of them.

Erica:

Its easy to whip people up into a fury, that doesn't mean it is the path that people will want to take, when thinking clearly.

Both the Israelies and the Palistinians are at fault and aggregated insensitivities and violence definately makes things worse. But it's political leaders of the two groups, and also leaders in the greater Middle East and decisions made by some of our own politicians (the United States), which start conflicts and really get them going, not the ordinary citizens.

People might want revenge for the death of family members, but that doesn't mean they started the war. Most people just accept the situation as it is given to them. People like Jawad are not at the center of the conflict. He is wise to rise above it, as continuing to throw stones wouldn't be very productive, even if it felt better. And Israelie's have to serve in the army, so its not necessarily even a political statement. I think they go in as teenagers.

Westerner:

She may not have been whipped as in Arab lands but there were thousands of sudanese wanting to execute her themselves. The muslim mind at work; execution because a teddy bear was named Mohammed. Religion of peace my ass.

Non Arab Muslim:

"A Sudanese court on Thursday convicted a British schoolteacher of inciting religious hatred by allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad and sentenced her to 15 days in jail."

At least she was not punished with whipping as they do in Arab Lands. Israel is the only true democracy in mid east. Arabs will not make peace with Israel as they are too stupid to realise that they will never defeat Israel.

Anonymous:

Nadabrain,

Don't fool yourself. Polls have repeatedly shown that the majority of Israeli Arabs PREFER Israel to remain a jewish state. The fact that you can quote an article from an Israeli newspaper speaking on behalf of an inequalities PROVES what a fair and democratic nation Israel is. You'd be hard pressed to find anything remotely similar in their neighboring Sharia run racist apartheid states.

nadabrain:

Anon - I don't disagree. The way Jews have been treated in the past 100 years, both in the Arab countries after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, as well as all over the world, I don't blame them. There's still no denying that the Arab Jews (and the other Arabs living in Israel, Muslim & Christian) are not being treated the same as their European counterparts. I suppose it is the remainder of the European colonial mindset.

There's no denying that most, if not all, Arab regimes need vast reform. All the Arabs living there are suffering as well.

Anonymous:

Nadabrain,
Don't fool yourelf. Polls show Israeli Arabs PREFER Israel to remain a jewish state. It doesn't take much to see why when looking at their neighbors Muslim run fascist racist apartheid states.

nadabrain:

Let's get the history straight. Jews have been living in the Middle East since the time of Moses, at times in good relations, at others, treated unfairly, just like the rest of the world was treating them. Until Zionism began strengthening in the late 1800s, Jews and Arabs (both Muslim and Christian) lived side by side. Granted, in many cases, Jews were treated as second-class citizens, but there are several examples throughout history where people were treated unfairly because of their race, religion, etc. You can't blame the persecution of the Jews on the Arabs/Muslims, as Jews were being persecuted EVERYWHERE. Not to mention the other examples, such as African slaves in the US, Chinese Muslims, Chechnya, Rwanda. I hope that we've come to the realization, as a society, that we should not stereotype and persecute people based on their beliefs.

Again, the examples of the doctors in Europe shows only there are terrorist extremists. In this case, their cause is in name of "Islam," but they are completely wrong. As I mentioned in my previous post, there are one billion Muslims in the world, and they are as diverse as any. There are Arab, Persian, American, Hispanic, black, Asian, etc. Muslims around the globe.

Getting back to the topic at hand, I think Jawad's knowing that he will be jailed is his own form of resistance. Kind of like Walden going off to the woods and refusing to pay taxes. Israel would love to take over all of Jerusalem, but as long as the Palestinians there resist the occupation of their land (peacefully, like Jawad and Rachel Corrie), that hopefully won't happen. And to the person who said that they should just move: how about we kick you out of your house and then you can see how you like it.

SAM:

PALISRA is the only feasible and lasting solution for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.Both parties have been fighting and killing each other for more than 60 years now and unfortunately, no light could be seen at the end of this dark tunnel.
The geography and demography of the area that extends between River Jordan and the Mediterranean indicate the complexity of the current situation. Every party is trying hard to grab by mere force what is in the hand of the other. Many wars have been waged and thousands of innocent lives have been shed for this purpose.
Nowadays, almost everybody is talking about setting up two countries for both Israelis and Palestinians. This simply means that the land of historical Palestine will be divided between the two parties, Israelis and Palestinians.
I doubt very much that either party will be satisfied with his share of the cake. There are chronic problems like Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, water resources that nobody on earth can sort out to the satisfaction of both parties.
The short vision of setting up two separate states could sow the seeds for more bloody conflicts in the future. Nobody can guarantee or secure permanent and lasting peace under this proposition.
A far better viable solution that should satisfy both parties and put an end to all complicated issues is available. It is the establishment of one secular country for all on the whole territory of historical Palestine that includes the West Bank and Gaza besides Israel. Jerusalem will remain united for both parties, settlements could remain where they are now provided an appropriate compensation is made to the original land owners, natural geographical borders are already in place for the whole country and the issue of refugees could be settled by allowing all refugees to return home and to be compensated for the 60 years of misery they had to spend at refugee camps. All citizens of the new state, PALISRA (Palestine +Israel), would enjoy equal rights and bear the same responsibilities.
The newly established state, PALISRA will emerge as a prosperous and safe country within a very short period of time, and citizens of this state will learn how to tolerate,respect and even cherish each other. PALISRA will become a key player and an integral part of the Middle East as yesterday's enemies will become today's friends and allies for ever.

Sanjay:

Nadabrain,
Still better than the treatment Jews would get in Muslim lands. They would be beheaded in Palestine.

Daily attacks by Muslims all over the world are not an exception anymore. They are every day occurence, almost always targeting civilians. As for Doctors, take the case of Indian Muslim Doctors in England and Scotland who tried to blow up thousands of their own fellow citizens.

Westerner:

Finally, a palestinian, who in spite of his situation has focused on contributing in a positive way.

It's interesting that Jawad doesn't connect his and his friends' behavior of making trouble and throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers to their distrust of him which is why they were so highly suspicious and contributed to his incarceration when he did nothing. Further, he knew the answer that the Israelis wanted and yet he still didn't give it to them to avoid incarceration and then complains when he's in jail for nothing. Again, when a palestinian sees a choice between bad and worse. He will take the worse.

Somewhere in that muslim mind there is this disconnect. To the sudanese, that poor British woman should be lashed for naming a teddy bear Mohammed, the muslims right away see an insult as if there's no other explanation. I see this in Jawad's narrative. The Israeli soldiers make him feel like ants because they want to insult him, it doesn't occur to him that there might be other reasons, like his history of stoning them and making trouble. And the weird thing about this is anybody who is a sane, non-muslim can connect the dots but to the average muslim it's okay and doesn't protest the stupidity because it's not crazy to them.

Mendel:

Just a quick question; can't the Arabs in Jerusalem live elsewhere? I know "occupation, colonialism, AIPAC, Apartheid, blah, blah, blah". Look, Israel took over the eastern part of Jerusalem from the Jordanians (not the Palestinians) in 1967 after telling Jordan that they wanted no conflict since the Israelis had their hands full with Egypt and Syria. Jordan responded with artillery and thus lost the west bank. Jordan had taken over Jerusalem, previous rulers being England (before that the Ottoman empire, never the Palestinians) in 1948 and proceeded to empty it of Jews (the majority since Ottoman times) and dynamite the centuries old synagogues in the old city.

I am sure that Jawad is like most Palestinians a 100% perpetual victim, where nothing is his fault. However, he is never going to be happy under Israeli rule, and Israel is never going to leave Jerusalem. So why doesn't he move elsewhere? One out of every 10 residents of the US is from another country (1 out of 12 in England). Where is it written that no Arab can move to....another Arab country. There are 22 of them!!! Sorry Jawad, if you don't like living under the Israelis. But if you threw stones at police in any other country, you would end up in prison there too. Move. Get on with your life. Raise your children. Live in one of the wonderful 22 Arab dictatorships in the neighborhood.

My country, the US, is full of people who might have wanted to stay where they were, but left for political/economic/etc. reasons. Move and get on with your lives. You can visit Jerusalem as a tourist, pray at the mosque (much easier than a Jew or Christian can pray in an Arab country), and go home. You lost the war, deal with it.

nadabrain:

Sanjay, what an intolerant, bigoted jerk you are. The people that hijack and massacre are extremists, and they do not speak for the entire Muslim population. There are over one BILLION Muslims in the world, and the vast majority are peaceful and want to live in peace with their neighbors. Some Muslim countries have dictators, but then again, so do some Western countries. Let's not forget Italy, Russia and Germany in the 1920-40s. Heck, let's look at how the US treats its own people: 22% of children living below the poverty line; millions without health insurance; police brutality towards African-Americans. If we're going to base accusations on a small number of people's actions, does that mean that all of the police forces in the US are horrible? I don't think so. Be thankful that you live in a country where you are able to say whatever you want, however ignorant and racist it is.

Israel does not treat its own people fairly, so how can they be the "beacon of democracy in the Middle East"? Arab Jews that live in Israel face discrimination to this day, not to mention Arab Israelis. How are we to expect them to treat the Palestinians with dignity? Read this account of two Palestinian children who had cancer that were treated horribly by an Israeli doctor. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/924564.html . Notice the source? An Israeli newspaper.


Bravo to the Post for writing about this! It is refreshing to see a hope in a conflict that is so often pessimistic.

Sanjay:

"...treated like ants..." And let's see how Muslims treat the rest of humanity: hijacking commercial planes and massacre innocent civilians, daily suicide bombings, beheadings in some part of the world....

I say we already have 50 intolerant Islamic nations and there is no need for one more. If it is created, then Israel should make sure that millions of Muslims living inside Israel now are deported to new Palestine nation.

Tom Miller:

This is an encouraging story and I'm glad that Sajad hasn't lost his pride or hope. His cannot be an "easy" road.

And yes, the motives of politicians should be questioned but surely having a summit where dialogue takes place among those who pull the strings that impact us all is not a cause for pessimism. We all need to continue to hope for and actively promote the idea that reason with all of it's imperfections will prevail.

Anonymous:

Israel unilaterally withdraws from Gaza - only to have rockets fired at the Israeli citizens on a daily basis. Israel withdraws from Lebanon - only to have rockets fired on them and their soldiers captured. Its quite clear who the terrorists are -- the Palestinians and Hezbollah and Iran who live their lives for hate,for murder and whose sole purpose in life is to destabilize the region and call for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Eileen Fleming:

A few miles from Jerusalem is the Little Town of Bethlehem: Occupied Territory.

On July 25, 2007, Reverend Dr. Mitri Raheb, addressed over forty international youth attending Sabeel's [http://sabeel.org] Second International Conference:

40 Years in the Wilderness…40 Years of Occupation…

Born in Bethlehem, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, has been the Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas church in Bethlehem since 1988.


Raheb is also the General Director of the International Center of Bethlehem/ICB, which provides the people of occupied territory training in arts, crafts, training and degrees in media and communications and health and wellness programs for youth and the elderly.

Raheb spoke with passion, "People need to see the potential of Palestine and Palestinians come to this center to create facts on the ground; creative and cultural facts on the ground while Israel creates destructive facts on the ground.

"We are not spectators, we have a role to play…we are nonviolent but I have problems with nonviolence; people from abroad come here and give us sermons on nonviolence and I appreciate it, but why don't they preach nonviolence to Israel and America?

"It's a miracle that the Palestinians are so nonviolent in spite of the abuse we live with on a daily basis. If you lived here every day you would get fed up too. The world assumes it is the Palestinians who are the violent ones, but nonviolence is who we are. If you operate in a system of violence you will also be violent when you go home.

"Palestinians who throw stones; and many think that is ok, but I say why do that? One day you will throw stones at Palestinians too and that is exactly what happened in Gaza, but the reason is the occupation! Where do you think Hamas learned to torture? In Israeli prisons from their captors!

"There is no way to end the violence without first ending the occupation. Our Palestinian government was boycotted for a year and a half by America and the EU: this is violence! As long as the violence is exercised against us that is OK with the world. When the Presbyterians talked divestment the Zionist rose up and said 'you can't do that!'

"I started interfaith dialogue in 1985 because Christians should not be islands and you don't dialogue just with yourself, you must dialogue with the other and the biggest temptation for the church is to stay within their walls and only be dedicated to their own members; which leads to a dead church. We are called to go out, and we do not just preach with words, people here are fed up with words; they hear one thing and see another with their eyes.

"They hear peace, peace, peace and for 85 years the politicians have been working for peace and the situation gets worse. Blair, and all the politicians are into PR for themselves; they do nothing for our situation. Blair got himself a good job marketing himself and he will come and go and Israel will continue building the wall, settlements and carving the West Bank into Swiss cheese; Israel gets the cheese and we Palestinians fall into the holes!

"Fifty million American dollars went to build the checkpoints to 'make our lives easier' we were told, but these checkpoints and terminals are not for people, they are for cattle!

"We have too much religion and it suffocates us! If God would speak today he would say, 'I am fed up with your religion!' The more religion there is; the less spirituality.

"During the Israeli invasion in 2002 when the Church of Nativity was occupied by the IDF and Palestinians were sheltered within, as an eyewitness I wrote 18 short stories that will keep you awake at night, in my book Bethlehem Besieged.

Immediately after Rev. Raheb spoke, I and my friend Daniel-who was born and lives in downtown Bethlehem-walked about a mile from the International Center to the nearly 60 year old Aida refugee camp, home to 100% Muslims who fled from their homes in 1948 and have been denied the right to return by Israel.

Just before entering the winding narrow alleys of the refugee camp an old woman eating ice cream under the covered porch of a small grocery story caught my eye, as she only had one good one.


But, that's another story and i told it on WAWA
http://www.wearewideawake.org/
BLOG July 27, 2007

Just WHO Is the Terrorist?

Anonymous:

Poor Palestinians. They thrive on violence and live for pushing israel to the sea. Then they proclaim what victims they are to the Israelis. No peace in the region until they stop the hatred and start teaching their children coexistance instead.

Baqi Barzani:

Peace is achievable only through mutual respect and understanding. One of the prerequisite of attaining this goal is by completely denouncing violence, putting a stop to it and resuming talks. Both parties must be willing to sit down and reconcile. The Annapolis peace summit was a very affirmative initiative and hopefully it will bear some constructive results for both Palestinians and Israelis

Baqi Barzani:

Peace is achievable only through mutual respect and understanding. One of the prerequisite of attaining this goal is by completely denunciating violence, putting a stop to it and resuming talks. Both parties must be willing to sit down and reconcile. The Annapolis peace summit was a very affirmative initiative and hopefully it will bear some constructive results for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Isaacsohn:

JBE, EXTREMELY well put. It is high time the Palesitnians helped themselves. Until they do that, no one else will ever be able to help them. That involves more people like Sajad helping build up the Civil society and infrastructure. It can't be done from the outside, it needs to be done from the inside.

Daweeni:

Hussein, you seem to feel that treating the people of one's enemy's population as one would one's own citizens, including all the requisite rights of such citizenry, is how nations at war treat each other. Ask some of the old-timers in Dresden and Hiroshima, or the American civilians caught in Manilla, about that one.

Despite your contentions, Palestinians are not starving like people did during the long ago Biafra conflict, or today's Darfur. They might not have all the things you would like on the grocery shelves, but that doesn't mean they don't eat. The suffering you contend is nothing like the suffering of people who are in a live war. The Palestinians could have had a state before 1967, if the Arab nations had allowed it. Land that was occupied ("the problem is the occupation"?) by Jordan and Egypt was never turned into the State of Palestine. Now many Palestinians live with less rights, in Arab countries, than they do in the areas that are now controlled by the Israelis, instead of their Arab brothers.

No, the Israelis don't treat the populace of the West Bank and Gaza in the same manner as any country treats its own citizens, but then again, they are people of a "nation" that is still technically at war with Israel. Both sides need to make painful compromises, if the Palestinians want a country recognized as such by Israel, and the rest of the world, and if the Israelis want to have their nation's existance, and Jewish identity, accepted by all, not just some, of its neighbors. Land for peace could have happened in 1967. All Israel heard was "NO, NO, NO". But, at that point in time, Jordan didn't seem ready to take back the West Bank any more than Egypt was ready to reoccupy Gaza. Of course, that would still have left the Palestinians stateless. Now you seem to expect more from your foes than you expected from your brothers.

JBE:

I have evangelical radical christians, muslims, catholics, jews, and a buddist in my immediate family. Let me get that out first.

The muslims are absolutely pride-bound. This is because of a massive inferiority complex. They are so unconfident that they actulally consider the total destruction of southern lebanon (brought on by Hezbollah's simultaneous terrorist attack of 100 rockets and border incursion/kidnapping of soldiers that they first tried to tell me they were "tricked" into... my god what will they say next) a "victory" against Israel.

My advice to Palestinians is this: When you have your flag flying over east Jerusalem you'll be proud. Now get after the goal and shut up about the pride.

Are you proud that your leadership is rife with corruption and terrorism? Are you proud that Hamas got you cut off from the world? Are you proud that you have nothing to eat?

Obviously not.

Forget about the right of return because it will never happen. Start insisting that the homes in the west bank settlements be evacuated and make those homes your pride and representative of the homes you lost in Israel.

Palestinians never let a chance to wreck their own future go by without taking full advantage of it.

Pride is your undoing. Forget the right of return. It isn't possible. Forget about bringing "Israel in her knees" because it will NEVER happen. Instead earn your own pride though success and make your own nation with your capital in east jerusalem. When you see that flag over east Jerusalem you'll be plenty proud and the world will be patting you on the back for your mature pragmatism and total rejection of the tribalism that has kept you squatting in the dirt for a generation.

The muslim world needs pragmatists - not ideologues. I mean how far did you get with arafat, anyway? Right you got a lot of corruption and pride out of him, and NOTHING else.

Vic van Meter:

Hey, Hussein, it's sad, but look at the positive message this particular Palestinian is pushing. If you work peacefully within the system, you can win. It will take many, many decades to heal the wounds these two sides have opened in each other with indiscriminate killings, judicial infractions, random hit jobs, und so weider.

This man is taking the highest road possible. He's not lost his dignity and self-respect due to Israeli injustice. He's wished only for peace, respect, and political unity in his country with a positive agenda. This is a man who deserves respect.

Wagging the finger has been the method in which this conflict perpetuates itself. Focus instead on how this man has chosen to combat the injustice. Not the way bin Laden did, but in the way Martin Luther King Jr. did. By setting aside violent protest and working, through civic organizations, to better his own people and show Israelis the upturned face of the Palestinian man.

I read this and have hope for peace. This man knows how to take responsibility and make his own world a better place without spitting on Israel. Notice he talks about Israeli soldiers, American/Israeli policy, but he brings up, as a solution, himself. He realizes that by being a bigger man, he cannot be defeated by anyone, no matter how big their guns are. The Israeli soldiers, at a checkpoint, have legal authority to take everything from you but your self-respect.

It doesn't just apply to him. His message is global and applies to everyone. No matter what your position in life, everything can be taken from you. Your money, your land, your life, your freedom, anything. But they cannot take your soul. Nobody can. And as long as you never give it away, never sell it for any price to any bidder, you can never be harmed. You will always have something to fall back to, something to reside in. Your spirit, your self-respect, can not be defeated from outside your body. It can only be defeated within yourself.

And if this man's opinions could become part of the greater Palestinian awareness, then the only thing still necessary to do is convince Israel to cede its border security to countries rather than occupying them and then to have said countries patrol their borders in good faith. That will take generations. But this guy's on the right track.

The "f%$@ you, you won't bring me down" approach has always garnered my praise. You just can't beat it!

Hussein, AUB:

It's funny how 'democracy' in politics is equivalent to a carte blanche for collective punishment. Who would have thought that a democratic choice could warrant an entire people's starvation and suffering.

God bless the US's vision of democracy.
Pity the Nation

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