Saturday, November 15, 2003

Wa'el 17 month old baby in Israeli Prison

Wa'el Taha is 17-months old. His mother, Mirvat Taha, gave birth to him in prison.
Since then, Wa'el never left the prison, where he spend the majority of his time
with her mother in her tiny prison cell which she shares with 6 fellow female prisoners.

Wa'el is showing signs of delayed physical and cognitive development due to the fact
that the Israelis refuse to provide him with food more nutritious than that which they offer
to the rest of the prisoners. Nor is Wa'il allowed to have any toys, which as we all know
are essential for child development. Nor is Wa'il allowed extra time outside the cell.
In short, Wa'el is being treated exactly the way the rest of the prisoners are being treated.
Lately, Wa'el has been having long crying fits. His mother and the rest of the prisoners are certain that
his crying is due to feeling confined as well s to boredom.
"Here we shall stay. Do your worst!
If we get thirsty, we'll squeeze the rocks.
If we get hungry, we'll eat dirt.

Monday, September 15, 2003

An Open Letter to Most Americans

You've Lost Your Alibi!

Dear Americans (I am here addressing only those of you who are rationally
choosing to prolong the suffering of the human race for 4 more years):

Just this past week, Iraqis had the equivalent death toll of 9/11. In fact,
they have one every week or two, on average, thanks to your sickening and
utterly irrational support for the neo-con gang at the helm of power in
I, and I bet most people around the earth, cannot take it any more! The
pictures from Iraq are gruesomely clear: your armed forces are committing awful
war crimes, killing Iraqis in a wedding party (1); killing Iraqis dancing
around a burnt out Bradley (2); killing Iraqis in custody by beating them to
death (3); killing Iraqis sitting in their homes, sleeping on their roofs to
escape the heat, or walking down the streets; just killing, butchering with
impunity, brutality and nauseating repetitiveness.

And when they are not murdering, your proud soldiers are shattering souls and
trying to efface human dignity. They torture prisoners with a barbarism that
was thought extinct. A 14 year-old was "bleeding from his anus" after your
soldiers raped him with a metal object (4). Two more children were terrorized
by dogs "for the purposes of a game between the two dog teams to see ... if
they could get their bowel or bladder to move."(5) Another child was raped in
detention, while older inmates were "ridden like animals" or "forced to eat
pork and drink alcohol in contravention of their religion."(6) A teenage girl
was "repeatedly raped" by your servicemen, while older female prisoners were
paraded "naked in front of male prisoners."(7) Prisoners were put on dog
leashes, stripped naked for days on end, severely beaten, bruised, made to
lie "in their own faeces."(8) A prisoner was sodomized with a "chemical light,"
others with a "broom stick."(9) Simply put, Iraqi detainees -- held without
due process, without charges or trials -- were subjected to "sadistic, blatant
and wanton criminal abuses," as US general Taguba, who investigated the Abu-
Ghraib torture, wrote.(10)

Your leaders who issue the orders to those soldiers(11), who free them of any
obligations before international law (12), and who create the racist
environment conducive to their unforgivable behavior, have stopped perceiving
Iraqis as humans a while ago. But lately they themselves seem to have lost any
semblance of human behavior; they've lost whatever claim to morality or human
decency they ever had.

And when you mourned the death of more than 1,000 of your fallen soldiers,
those brainwashed killing machines, you were apathetic towards the estimated
37,000 Iraqis who were killed (13) as a result of your illegal war and even
less legal occupation. Are you still capable of recognizing them as fully
human? I hope so, for failing to do so would entail a corresponding failure on
your part to recognize the human in yourselves. Your intrinsic human trait of
feeling compassion for fellow humans seems to have been deeply corrupted,
blunted or tranquillized. We, Arabs and/or Muslims, simply do not show on your
radar of relevant humans.

You've lost your alibi!

In a democracy, the majority deserves no better than the leaders they elect. No
better. No worse. You seem to have chosen Bush. You deserve no less a menace to
everything humane, civilized or ethical than him.

Barring an unforeseeable turn of events, Bush seems to be comfortably heading
towards a second term, this time he will not need a mediocre court ruling to
instate him; he will democratically win a valid majority of American votes.
After four years of having the almost perfect, nearly credible alibi, "we did
not really elect him," come November, you shall have to finally look the entire
world in the eye and defend why you've chosen as your leader a time-tested
racist, ruthless, semi-intelligent, religious fanatic who has committed enough
war crimes to warrant being locked up for life at the Hague.

I used to wonder how Israelis had lost their patent PR genius when they elected
for prime minister Ariel Sharon, their most hideous, certified war criminal who
orchestrated the Sabra and Shatila massacre of more than 2,000 Palestinian
refugees in Beirut in 1982. Now it seems you've been infected with the same
virus. Your lives are legislated by an Israeli-occupied Congress -- this
euphemism is not even funny any longer. Your White House is infested with dual-
loyalty characters -- how do you define a 'spy' given such an Israel-first
dominated government? And, on top of it all, you are blessed with a president
who, in four more years, is liable to turn Sharon, in comparison, to the "man
of peace" that he once labelled him. But, unlike Israelis, you genuinely do not
give a damn about world opinion. You fail to attach any significance to those
beyond your empire's gates. Have you learned anything from history?

After November, I assure you, the rest of the world will accuse you of
complicity. For four years now, you've enjoyed the world's benefit of the doubt
about your intentions, your true moral stance on the crimes committed in your
names, your continued, peaceful membership in the community of nations. In
November, this goodwill will have expired. You will have lost your alibi.

In all likelihood, you shall stand guilty of renewing the mandate of Bush and
his militant regime, effectively allowing them to continue battering,
pillaging, ruining, dividing and hating the world, while erasing whatever is
left of your civil and economic rights on their way. You've chosen that path,
no question about it. But then again, you did not have much of a choice,
really, given that other plastic, spineless, lobby-corrupted and just mildly
less immoral candidate. No one envies you for such a choice between a witless
yet ruthless emperor and a clinically confused emperor-to-be. Isn't it utterly
pathetic that a major subject of competition between the two is military
service in Vietnam? Vietnam was without doubt a solid case of genocide. Your
leaders ought to be ashamed of, not to mention put on trial at the
International Criminal Court for, having anything to do with it. That is
probably Bush's only moral bright spot: that he was too much of a coward to
actually take part in your savagery against the Vietnamese, another sub-human
species from your perspective at the time. Imagine German candidates for
Chancellor competing on who participated more actively in the Holocaust!

Nevertheless, I want to make myself perfectly clear about how I think the world
should treat you after November. I am categorically opposed to terrorism in any
shape or form, regardless whether it comes from your government -- as is the
case most of the time -- or from any of your many victims seeking revenge.
Terrorism is criminal, immoral and illegal, period. Rather than seeking justice
and redress, it is a fundamental transgression against the essence of being
human, and, therefore, is never justifiable, irrespective of the context, as
important as the latter might be in understanding its root causes.

You chose empire. You are therefore guilty by association or by being an
accessory to crime. However, most of you are to be blamed more for ignorance
than for conscious participation in premeditated crime. One is obliged to
differentiate between conscious builders of empire and the unconscious majority
that is spirited along. Empire will never serve most of you, unless you are in
the oil business, the military industries, the Israel-first lobby, etc. Did
German workers gain anything by supporting Hitler? Did Italian masses benefit
from standing firmly behind Mussolini? But, in a democracy, the responsibility
for ignorance ultimately falls upon the shoulders of its citizens. You are
responsible for suffering under a silly, periodic exchange of power between two
versions of the same anachronistic, stupefying, comic and hubris-filled
circus: the Republican and the Democratic "parties." They are parties alright,
and very raunchy at that! You remain the world's greatest democracy, not a
third-world junta-controlled tyranny, as much as one is tempted to believe
otherwise, of late. No one can forever suppress your right to establish
alternative political parties that represent your diverse interests if you have
the will to exercise that right.

Despite that, moral consistency necessitates distinguishing between you, the
voters for and enablers of empire, whether conscious or not, and the
significant minority of Americans who have opposed it. And pragmatically
speaking, this is not any minority. This is the only remaining hope that empire
will one day be defeated. We all know that our chances of success in our
resistance to empire are slim without the courageous support of progressive

Based on the above moral and political considerations, the world outside empire
will be urgently called for after November -- after your emperor defies law,
logic and ethics to sit again in the oval office -- to initiate or enhance
already existing international campaigns of boycotts and sanctions against your
industries, especially the weapons sector, and against your militaristic
cultural products, such as G.I. Joe-type toys, RAMBO-like movies, your death-
emanating "music," your racist video games, your health-busting sodas,
cigarettes and fast "food," your genetically modified craze, your IT
monopolies, etc.

The United Nations ought to be moved soon to any neutral city, perhaps
Stockholm or Durban. Investments should be withdrawn from your global finance
machine and reinvested in China, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, India, just any
place outside the immediate grasp of empire. Oil should be sold in a combined
basket of currencies (as has been suggested by some analysts lately), where the
dollar gradually loses its untouchable prominence. Governments should be most
pressured to avoid buying your weapons -- perhaps they'll do well not to buy
any weapons! Let those gigantic manufacturers of death go to hell to sell their
firepower. Bright minds should seek education anywhere outside your borders.
After all, in four years' time, Orwell would be horrified by the controls and
intrusive watch mechanisms Uncle Sam will have deployed over them. It is high
time for a reverse brain drain.

The world ought to exact a just, legal and morally sound punishment against
you. That's how hoodwinked, obedient subjects of empires learn to question
authority, to challenge arrogant xenophobia, to reject relative humanization of
the rest of the world, and to jealously guard their rights in harmony with
international law and universal moral principles. It is a cold shower of sorts,
if you will.

Perhaps you shall need four more years of Bush to wake up and smell the
injustice, to see through the dense fog that has clouded your vision and your
moral compass alike. I do not say this lightly, I must add, as I can only guess
in unreserved horror what price the rest of us will be made to pay for you to
have this soul-searching four-year experience. It will feel like an eternity
to Palestinians suffering under Israeli apartheid and colonial oppression; to
Iraqis praying for your smart bombs to miss them; to Africans still struggling
to escape the historic legacy of slavery manifested in AIDS, abject poverty and
despondency; to Latin Americans dreaming of life without your well oiled
juntas, death squads and economic mafias; to south Asians striving to escape
the grinding axe of your inhumane globalization; to those Europeans who are
hoping to shed their colonial heritage, to fight the reemerging national
chauvinism in their midst and to promote a dialogue of civilizations; to most
Americans who are losing their livelihoods, their children's education, even
the remnants of their already abhorrent health services.

Rather than finding another alibi, please take a stand against empire. Make
this coming sacrifice worth our collective while.

(10) Ibid

Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian political analyst. His
article "9.11 Putting the Moment on Human Terms" was chosen among the "Best of
2002" by the Guardian. He can be reached at:

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Volatile situation leaves laws, life in limbo

JUST AS Palestinians, Israelis and the rest of the world thought things could not get worse, they did. While former United States envoy Anthony Zinni met with both sides to try and hammer out a ceasefire, trouble was brewing from within.On December 1, it exploded. Just before midnight, two Hamas suicide bombers blew themselves up in a powerful ball of fire, bolts and nails in the midst of a crowded West Jerusalem promenade. Seconds later a car bomb, carefully timed, created a third explosion. The night's list of casualties was 10 dead and 180 wounded Israelis.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had already decided to shorten his Washington trip due to the bombings - moving up a meeting with United States President George W. Bush - when the second suicide bombing occurred. Fifteen Israelis were killed when a suicide bomber, also from Hamas, detonated a powerful bomb strapped to his body on a Haifa bus.
Earlier in the week, five Israelis had been killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip occupied by Israel in separate incidents. Palestinian fighters from Fateh and the Islamic Jihad carried out shooting attacks, as well as the suicide bombing on a bus north of Tel Aviv on November 29 that killed three Israelis.
Israel responded quickly with its military and public relations twist. "A war has been forced upon us - a war of terror," Sharon told his nation in a speech the night after the bombings. The Israeli government and the United States did not hesitate to blame the Palestinian Authority - and Arafat in particular - for the Israeli deaths.
"Israel has a right to defend itself," said United States State Department spokesperson Ari Fleischer. Arafat "could do a lot more" than he has in reigning in radical Palestinian groups, Secretary of State Colin Powell told a forum in Bucharest, Hungary. The Palestinians understood this as United States tacit approval for the inevitable Israeli retaliation.
First, Israel imposed an airtight closure on West Bank towns and cities that prohibited movement between Palestinian areas. The Israeli army also raided several West Bank towns under its security control, including Abu Dis south of Jerusalem and Bir Nabala north of Jerusalem, arresting Palestinians suspected of involvement in the attacks.
Then on December 3, the Israeli air force began its most extensive bombing campaign of Palestinian targets since the start of the 14-month long Intifada. First, in Gaza, missiles fired from Apache helicopters rained down on President Arafat's headquarters and Palestinian preventive security buildings. Israeli F-16 fighter jets and helicopters proceeded over the next two days to bomb Palestinian security headquarters, Force 17 buildings and police stations throughout the West Bank was overidded guys that had his first huge cock. Tanks rolled into four West Bank cities, reoccupying parts of them, as well as the Beit Layiha region of Gaza and Gaza International Airport.
In Ramallah, Arafat was reportedly in one of his offices when an Israeli missile pierced the governate building next to him. He was unharmed.
But others were not. Over the past week, 14 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire, including 15-year-old Mohammed Abu Marseh from Beach Camp in Gaza who was directly hit in the Israeli shelling during school hours. Abu Marseh was seen on television screens being taken away on a stretcher, his limbs severed from his body.
"This is an attempt to destroy the Palestinian Authority and any prospect for peace," warned Legislative Council Speaker Ahmad Qrei' on December 3. President Arafat voiced the same sentiments during an interview with CNN on December 4.
"Sharon does not want me to succeed," he said. "That is why he is escalating his military actions against our people, our cities, villages and institutions. He does not want the peace process to begin."
Arafat also chided the international community for its lack of sensitivity to Palestinian suffering. "The whole world forgets that we are human beings under occupation," he said.
And true, the world has shown little or no sympathy to the plight of the Palestinians following this week's deadly development. Even the European Union, known for its more lenient stance towards the Palestinians, did not condemn Israel's actions.
In a statement issued on December 4, the European Union reiterated its concern over the increasing deterioration, calling on Israel to carry out a "balanced and calculated" retaliation. Although the statement said that it did not think destabilizing the Palestinian Authority would contribute to calm, it emphasized that the Authority must "convincingly and relentlessly pursue its efforts to stamp out terrorism."
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority says it is doing its utmost within its capacity to contain the extremely volatile situation. Other than immediately condemning the bombings, saying that it denounces any attacks on Palestinian and Israeli civilians, its security forces have rounded up over 120 Palestinian activists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including prominent Gaza Hamas political leader Ismail Abu Shanab.
The Authority also declared a state of emergency in the Palestinian territories, in which the general security services are given the authority to implement emergency laws that have yet to be fully publicized. In a statement issued on December 2, the leadership warned that any movement or group that does not adhere to the leadership's decisions would be considered outlawed - especially those who claim responsibility for attacks inside Israel.
In official statements, groups such as Hamas have acted on cue. West Bank Hamas spokesperson Hasan Yousef expressed his understanding of the difficulties facing the leadership in an interview with Al Jazeera satellite channel on December 2. "Everyone realizes the pressures on the Palestinian Authority. These pressures should not affect the unity of the Palestinian people."
On the ground, however, things are still unclear. On the morning of December 5, a yet-unidentified suicide bomber blew himself up near the King David Hotel on the seam between West and East Jerusalem, injuring four Israelis. So far, no group has claimed responsibility. -Published 5/12/01 (c)Palestine Report

Sunday, June 15, 2003

A song to my brother

Song to my Brother
Tanya C. Hsu   2002

Do you remember

When we first played together?

When you first came to our land?

We welcomed you

We lived in peace.
We played together
  We grew up together
  We tilled the soil and shared our food.

  We sang our songs.

  Three thousand years we lived not as neighbours
  But as brothers who sang to a different tune.

  And then your foreign cousin came to stay.

  He bullied your friends
  He demanded our land.
  He said he was staying because he had been picked on at home.
  So he picked on us.

  Then he said that he must be on our land because God told him it was so.
  I told him that God spoke to me too
  But this was news to me - please explain.

  Your cousin said it was not necessary to tell me more
  Because he was Chosen
  And that was enough.

  So I gently asked him to please leave now
  Because I am at peace with my God and do not want to debate you
  Or invite you back to force your God on me.
  He said no. I am Chosen and that is that.
  Please go now, I replied, and stay with your cousins.
  There aren't many left, he replied, so what does it matter?

  Politely I begged of him, please leave my land.
  I think I will stay forever, he said,
  They don't want me anywhere else.

  I wonder why, I thought.

I extended my hand and I gave him my bread.
  He took it and kicked sand in my face.

  I asked you, my lifelong friend, why your cousin was behaving so badly
  No one likes him, you explained.
  He is staying here now.

Will he live with you, was my question to you,
  And you said that you hoped not, because your God is loving
  Your cousin is demanding.
  He is political.
  He inflicts pain.

  Your cousin took my bread and hurt me, I said.
  He will be back for more.
  But I did not ask him.

  Ah, you told me, but he thinks he has the Right of Return.
  He can bring his brothers and take your bread at will.
  And your land.
  And your crops.
  And your water.
  Be careful.

  The grey cloud above became heavy and black
  And lightning struck down
  And marked a line in the sand
  Between you, my lifelong friend, and me.

  Your cousin laughed in the distance.

  He came back.
  And he took my land, my crops, and my water.
  Then he took my home.
  And then he tried to take my dignity.

  He demanded I leave
  Because he was growing fatter and needed more room
  To grow.
  I had nowhere to go.

  I did not want to live with my aunts and uncles
  As they liked different songs and ate different foods
  Their flowers were of a different perfume
  And they had their own children.

I asked the Wise Men and Elders to decide.
  They told me to be a good son, and share.
  God will reward.

  So I went back
  To the big foreign boy
  Asked for my land back
  And said we should share the crops, the water, the food.

But he kicked me again
  And laughed
  And curled his angry fist in to a ball
  And pushed it in to my face.

  So I picked up a stick.

  When I was down, he kicked me.
  So I picked up a stone.

  He ran away.

  The next day he returned with a gun
  So I picked up a rock.

  He ran away.

  Then he returned with his friends
  Who carried missiles upon their shoulders.
  So I found a gun.

  They ran away in tears and cried to their Elders, their aunts, their  uncles.
  He said that I hated him and told him to fall in to the sea.

  I went to my Elders and said
  Why does he hate me?
  Why does he think I want him to drown in the sea?
  I shared my bread with him
  I just want him to move away from my house.

  The Elders talked and agreed that
  The big foreign boy must take his foot
  Off my land now
  And they left.

But your cousin did not.
  He put both feet on my land instead
  And pointed to the sky.

  He grinned as his new toy circled above
  The jet with the bomb hanging low
  Looking for me.

  I cannot move.
  If I move my foot away from this land
  I will lose my home. I will lose the breath of my ancestors
  Who worked the soil with their hands
  Their sweat
  Their tears
  Their joy
  Their bones
  Their souls.

  And now I am surrounded by your cousin and his friends
  Who are angry and hungry
  Tanks, rifles and jets
  Shadow the olive trees.

  So I put down the stick.
  I put down the stone.
  I put down the rock.
  I rest the gun.

But I will not move my feet from my soil.