portland independent media center  
images audio video

no title

Dec 10 2006 - palestine journal: 10 dec 2006

sometimes people ask me, or wonder, why I would choose to live in palestine, given the violence and occupation.....why would anyone want to live in a place like that??
they ask....

Nov 17 2006 - palestine journal: 16 november - the lame duck massacres

soooo...while the lame-duck congress in the US goes ahead with passing some of the most draconian laws yet, like the one they passed yesterday that makes protesting animal cruelty at a circus or an animal lab a terrorist act (!) -- which, by the way, goes right along with their stated priorities of 'who is a threat'......ie. not bin laden or the saudis who fund him.... but instead, as the FBI has stated publicly on multiple occasions, their 'Number One Domestic Terrorist Threat' is the 'animal
liberation front', an organization that has never ever been charged with killing or hurting anyone, but whose only purpose is to rescue animals from cruel conditions (!)....

Oct 07 2006 - palestine journal: 7 october (2)

today, i feel like a little prose, or poetry...call it what you will.
it's fiction, anyway (some would say, impossible)....

Sep 30 2006 - palestine journal: september 29 (2)

Previous Palestine Journal articles are being archived at:

Sep 24 2006 - palestine journal: 18 sep 2006

well....here i am, still in this prison known as the west bank. we went to ramallah this weekend, and to a christian village outside ramallah called taybeh, where there was an 'Octoberfest'.....the festival was well-attended (despite the anger among muslims over the pope's comments about islam last week, the festival in the christian town went fine...no christians in palestine have been attacked, but some churches were burned in a couple of places). at the festival, we watched young kids and teenagers performing the palestinian traditional dance known as 'dabke' - they were great! it reminded me of irish step dancing with the fancy footwork and stamping on the wooden stage. and the kids were all really excited about it, they loved doing it (unlike some of the kids in the irish step i used to do -- especially the boys -- who were just doing it because their parents made them).

Sep 10 2006 - palestine journal: sept. 8

"Of COURSE the U.S. will supply Israel with weapons" say the jolly hand-shaking yes-men in the senate - that's not even a question - no one in any position of power in the U.S. would dare to question that decades-old policy. It doesn't matter what Israel does with the weapons! It doesn't matter how many human rights reports, condemnations from the United Nations, and investigations show that Israel is using the U.S.- supplied weapons to attack civilians time and time again. It doesn't
matter! Israel should be allowed and encouraged to attack whoever they want. If they want to kill babies by the thousand, increasing resentment against them (and in turn the U.S.) in the region - that's their business! Who are we to tell them what to do with the weapons we keep giving them!

Aug 26 2006 - palestine journal: 25 august: israeli ceasefire violations don't count

Fri, August 25, 2006

Aug 22 2006 - palestine journal: 21 august

i, unfortunately, recently made the mistake of engaging a zionist in an online
forum...big mistake. but there was one statement that she made in the course of the
'discussion' that i'd like to expand upon a little.

Aug 16 2006 - palestine journal - August 4

[this was written 10 days ago, but it seems to be still relevant, so it's being reposted here for context.]

Aug 01 2006 - palestine journal: 2 august (1)

Jul 30 2006 - palestine journal 30 july - songs of sorrow (1)

Jul 26 2006 - palestine journal: 27 july - where were those two soldiers captured, anyway? (2)

Jul 22 2006 - palestine journal: july 21

Jul 20 2006 - palestine journal: july 20 - Maghazi refugee camp bombing

Jul 17 2006 - palestine journal: 17 july (1)

Dec 10 2006 - -

palestine journal: 10 dec 2006

sometimes people ask me, or wonder, why I would choose to live in palestine, given the violence and occupation.....why would anyone want to live in a place like that??
they ask....

but i think in such a question there is something missing - the value of the culture
of the palestinian people is utterly negated when one equates the whole reality of
palestine with the fact of the israeli occupation and ongoing illegal seizure of the
land. and in fact, it is a rich, deep and beautiful culture, with a long history
and a deep connectedness to this land.

i wake up in the mornings and open my door to the view of an ancient olive grove.
occasionally a shepherd is there, grazing his sheep, in permanent timeless peace, in
the midst of this war. if i look a little further, i can glimpse the church that is
built on the spot where the shepherds were reputed to have seen the star of
bethlehem some 2000 years ago.....it's easy to be transported to that time, with the
ancient stone buildings, the shepherds and the olive trees.....how much has really
changed in this spot since that time?

it's amazing to experience the kind of historical continuity that exists in a place
like this, where people are connected to their land and to their ancestors, who are
buried in the same ground that is now giving their children their roots.

it's something we don't really have in the US -- some native americans are making
noble and somewhat desperate attempts to retain their continuity in ancestry and
connection to the land -- but their efforts are often brutalized, beaten down and
discarded by the federal government that now controls 99% of what was once their
ancestors' land.

there is a kind of peace in this feeling of historical continuity. it's beautiful
here, and ancient. all around me are my husbands' family - layers and layers of
them - from the innermost circle, within the family's multi-layered home, where his
brothers live, and his parents, each in their own section, but connected.....to the
surrounding circle of uncles, aunts and cousins, and outward to the extended family
that stretches on for kilometers. the family elders have a traditional governing
system, which in many ways resembles the tribal system i saw and experienced when i
lived in africa. if there is any disagreement or incident involving members of
different families, the elders of those families will meet together with those
involved to try to get to the bottom of the problem, and come to a fair resolution
that is acceptable to all.

family is very important here - people usually live among their extended family, and
siblings tend to be close with each other through adulthood. every day there are
visits - i don't think a day has gone by without at least one relative or friend
visiting. and there doesn't have to be a reason to visit, either.....if someone is
passing in the area, they will inevitably stop by to say hello and have a cup of

there are lots of subtle, nuanced traditions in palestinian culture -- and LOTS of
feasts (ie. celebrations/traditional holidays), and feasts leading up to
feasts.....any excuse to get together with family....in a palestinian wedding, for
example, there are traditionally five parties (sometimes more), and that's just for
the wedding, it doesn't count the 2 or 3 parties that accompany an engagement! each
of the wedding parties has a specific traditional significance -- there is the
gathering at the groom's home, with the close relatives, in which there is drumming
and singing, traditional song and dance. then a more formal, larger family party,
usually in a hall.....there is the henna ceremony, in which the women gather at the
bride's home in traditional dresses, perch the girl up on a table and sing
traditional songs while they paint her hands with henna dye (a plant-based dye, used
in the US for hair coloring). and for the groom, there is a ceremony where the men
put him on a table and cut his hair and give him a shave, in preparation for the big
day (which usually ends up in a big mess of shaving cream sprayed and smeared on the
groom and all his friends). and the big post-wedding party is itself full of
nuanced traditions - from the stop at the groom's home between the ceremony in the
party, at which time relatives beat the man with sticks (symbolically of course),
and the couple enters their home for the first time, with a sprig of basil stuck
into bread dough stuck on the side of the door for good luck, to the brandishing of
a sword to cut the wedding cake, to a candle ceremony where all the young women
accompany the bride in a dance holding candles, while the bride herself holds two.

and it is not just in weddings and formal occasions that subtle and complex
traditions exist. in the wearing of the kaffia (traditional headscarf, which most
americans tend to associate with the late yassar arafat), there are a number of
traditions. one that i find interesting is that if someone is in trouble, if they
have made a problem with someone and are on the run, they can enter a household and
tie a knot in the corner of the house elder's kaffia. if the man on the run manages
to do that, he is then under that family's protection, and they will be obligated to
take his case to the council of elders.

there are lots of small things like this - and many that are unknown to me, I'm
sure. the culture of palestine is rich and dynamic. traditional dancing, dabke, is
popular among young people, and is a beautiful and complex foot-stamping dance that
is amazing to watch. traditional music, in the form of the oud (the precursor to
the guitar) and flute, abounds as well.

palestinian culture is a trust culture, that is, relationships are built on trust --
another refreshing difference from the fear culture which characterizes the U.S.
(although there are some subcultures within the U.S. that vary from this norm). In
the U.S., relationships are based on fear - fear of being betrayed, fear of losing -
people come up with complex contracts in order to protect themselves from loss,
complex systems of laws and regulations that are all based on the basic premise that
other people, and their motives, are to be feared and not trusted. small-town
america is a bastion of the 'fear of the outsider' -- if you are _in_, then great,
you're accepted and etc. .....but if an 'outsider' comes in, they are immediately
suspect....and it takes a lot of work and time for that outsider to be accepted, and
even when they are accepted, if something bad happens in that town, it is the
'outsider' who will be the first suspect -- no matter how long they've been in town
and how well they have proven themselves.

here it is different. an outsider is a welcome sight -- people welcome the outsider
into their homes, and consider it an honor for that person to drink coffee or tea,
or eat food with them in their home. people trust each other (and in many cases, in
the current circumstances, _have_ to trust each other, having been surrounded by
this prison wall and forced into extraordinary suffering by the occupying force).

there are so many examples of the way this culture of trust differs from the culture
of fear that permeates life in the US. today, for example, i had the rather
annoying experience of having my bank card get eaten by the atm machine in ramallah.
of course, it happened on a sunday evening, when the bank was closed. this is
something that could easily happen in the united states. but here's what happened
next, and how i believe this culture differs from that of the states. standing next
to the machine, trying to get it to eject the card, other people who wanted to use
the machine approached, and i told them what happened, pointing out the screen
saying 'this machine is currently out of service'. they didn't just walk away when
i showed them this, as people would have done in the states, they immediately tried
to help me get my card out. and one of the guys who was nearby said, "hang on, i
have a friend who works at the bank here, let me call him." so he got on his cell
phone and within a few minutes, his friend the bank employee showed up to help. he
wasn't able to get the card out either, and since it was a sunday, wouldn't be able
to retrieve it until the bank opened monday morning. but he didn't just leave it at
that. he withdrew money from his own account and gave it to me, with only his
account number and name written on a piece of paper (so i could transfer it to his
account monday morning) as assurance that he would get the money back. i never met
the man before, and he didn't know me either. but he trusted that the situation was
what i said it was, and lent me the money i was trying to withdraw from the machine,
and i trusted that i would find him in the bank come monday morning, and get his
assistance in retrieving the card from the machine.

now, even if something like this happened in the states, i'm afraid that i would be
untrusting enough to consider it some kind of elaborate scam -- that somehow these
guys had rigged the machine, and were giving me some money in order to rip me off
for more......but here, that is not the way things work, and, whether cynical
americans believe it or not (it took me awhile to get it through my own thick
skull), most people here genuinely want to help, and are willing to help each other
in this way, and many, many others.

sometimes american women ask me if i am not bothered by the sexism in the mainly
muslim culture here. now, i will not deny that there is sexism, but it is a very
different form of sexism than in the U.S. instead of being harassed by hoots and
whistles, and glaring, hungry looks while walking down the city streets (as women in
the U.S. often are), women here tend to be put on a pedestal by men -- you know, men
opening doors for women, 'ladies first' in lines and etc., stepping back when a
woman is approaching in the street to allow her to pass with dignity, looking down
in deference when she goes by....that kind of thing. which for some reason doesn't
bother me as much as the hooting and whistling. and, in my opinion at least, it is
actually quite nice to not be surrounded by thousands of billboards that are all
using women's bodies, usually scantily clad and looking lusty, to sell one product
or another. women's bodies just aren't used in ads in that way here. and i
appreciate that.

the rates of violence against women, and of rape, are much lower here than in the
U.S., and there is no prostitution (and virtually no drug abuse, very little
alcoholism -- which is quite an accomplishment, given the desperate poverty of much
of the population). that said, of course, no misogynistic violence against women is
justified, and there have been cases where women were killed by their spouses or
brothers in horribly twisted logic that blamed the woman for being raped (when, in
one case at least, the woman blamed for being raped proved to be a virgin, in the
autopsy report). each time some horribly twisted sick incident like that occurs, it
makes major media, and is publicized all over the world as an example of how sexist
arab societies are. and yes, these men are sick, their actions irreparably
reprehensible, disgusting and unspeakably cruel. but, unlike in the US, where 1 in
4 women are abused by their spouse during their lifetime, and 1 in 3 women are raped
at least once in their lifetime (according to the department of justice statistics),
here, these sick and sordid incidents of violence against women are rare, and are
widely reported.

i'm not trying to over-glorify the culture of palestine, or other arab countries. i
just want to point out that yes, believe it or not, there are many positive aspects
to life here. there is a rich and beautiful culture, a deep connection to the land,
uncommon respect for women, trust between strangers and a profound love for the
family, all of which are rare in many other parts of the world.

"For me, to end the war means to understand that all bloods are equal and that
killing in a guerilla fighting is not more cruel than killing by tanks and
airplanes, that sophisticated rockets and home-made bombs kill just the same, and
that it takes so little to kill a child and so much to keep her alive."
--Nurit Peled-Elhanan, whose 13-year old daughter was killed by a suicide bomber in
Jerusalem on her way to dance class in 1997