Welcome to Bab Al-Shams

“I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door – or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present” – -Rabindranath Tagor

A village born of resistance, Bab Al-Shams was established two days ago in defiance of Israeli colonial policies and restrictions on Palestinian building in the Jerusalem area.

Regardless of the outcome, the Bab Al-Shams village has instilled a hope in us that many thought was lost. Today, the village was visited by people from all over Palestine, including Al-Khalil, Lyd, Nablus, and Nazareth among others. Village residents received letters from the Palestinian community in the Diaspora, in addition to those living in refugee camps all over the Arab World, the United States, Europe and Latin America.

For this small act of defiance, Israeli Occupation Forces are on high alert. All entrances to the village were closed. Checkpoints were set up as far as Ramallah and soldiers checked buses and cars leaving Ramallah and other towns and villages. Ultimately, visitors were forced to take a detour through the mountains. Despite the many obstacles put in their place, they, along with residents, were able to enjoy an unforgettable day together.

A letter from the Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee expressed residents intent to make Bab Al-Shams a permanent village:

We, the sons and daughters of Palestine from all throughout the land, announce the establishment of Bab Alshams Village (Gate of the Sun). We the people, without permits from the occupation, without permission from anyone, sit here today because this is our land and it is our right to inhabit it.

A few months ago the Israeli government announced its intention to build about 4000 settlement housing units in the area Israel refers to as E1. E1 block is an area of about 13 square km that falls on confiscated Palestinian land East of Jerusalem between Ma’ale Adumim settlement, which lies on occupied West Bank Palestinian land, and Jerusalem. We will not remain silent as settlement expansion and confiscation of our land continues. Therefore we hereby establish the village of Bab Alshams to proclaim our faith in direct action and popular resistance. We declare that the village will stand steadfast until the owners of this land will get their right to build on their land.

The village’s name is taken from the novel, “Bab Alshams,” by Lebanese writer Elias Khoury. The book depicts the history of Palestine through a love story between a Palestinian man, Younis, and his wife Nahila. Younis leaves his wife to join the Palestinian resistance in Lebanon while Nahila remains steadfast in what remains of their village in the Galilee. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Younis smuggles through Lebanon and back to the Galilee to meet his wife in the “Bab Alshams” cave, where she gives birth to their children. Younis returns to the resistance in Lebanon as his wife remains in Bab Al Shams.

For more information about the E1 plan and its strategic location for Israel’s plans to expand its settler colonies, go here: http://www.poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=570

In an environment of Israeli colonialism, Palestinian Authority corruption, and increasing helplessness among the Palestinian community, Bab Al-Shams is proof that the Palestinian people are steadfast in their resistance to a colonial occupation that has attempted to destroy their society for nearly seven decades.

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Threat of forced eviction in Sheikh Jarrah & letter from family member

Palestinian family in danger of forced eviction in Sheikh Jarrah this Monday

10 members of the Shamasneh family in Um Haroun, Sheikh Jarrah, were ordered
to leave their home before the end of the year. Their home has been released to a settler organization.

For the first time in more than three years, a Palestinian family in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah is facing immediate eviction and dispossession at the hands of the Israeli authorities and extremist Jewish settlers. According to the Jerusalem district court, the 10 members of the Shamanseh family must leave the home they have been living in for almost five decades – before the 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem – by December 31 st at 14:00.

The Israeli General Custodian, which has claimed ownership of the property, was represented in the legal processes by private lawyers who are known to represent settler organizations, including Aryeh King’s “Israel Lands Fund.” The group that intends to take over the Shamanseh house and populate it with Jewish settlers.

During and following the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah in 2009, the international community issued strong statements condemning Israel’s actions. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton expressed opposition to the settlement of Sheikh Jarrah and a report issued by representatives of the EU last year described such steps as “systematically undermining the Palestinian presence” in Jerusalem and recommended the potential of issuing sanctions on Israel in response to such actions in East Jerusalem.

Media contact: Irene Nasser, 052.533.9054, irene.nasser@gmail.com

Do Not Let the Settlers Expel Us From Our Home in Sheikh Jarrah

To whom it may concern,

My name is Ayoub Shamasneh and I live in Um Haroun, Sheikh Jarrah. My wife and I are living here with our son, Mohammed, his wife Amaal, and their six children ranging from the ages of 11 to 22 years old. We have lived in this house since 1964, it is where we built our family and raised our children. In 2009, after decades of living in our home, the Israeli General Custodian’s Office informed us that our rental’s agreement will not be renewed. They have now sued us in order to take ownership of the property via individuals whom they claim are the descendants of the original Jewish owners pre-1948. Our case has been reviewed by an Israeli court in two separate hearings and judges have refused to accept evidence we have submitted to show proof of our residence in our home since 1964. Therefore, they are claiming that we are not eligible for protected tenant status. Consequently we have been ordered to evacuate the property by 2pm on December 31st, 2012. As far as we know,
the property will be handed over to a right wing settler organization that has previously taken over properties in the neighbourhood.

Now more than ever we are aware of the double standard of the Israeli law that does not lend Palestinian refugees or their children a claim to property they owned before 1948, yet allows children of Jewish Israelis to sue and evict Palestinian families from homes they have lived in for decades. As a result of this discriminatory double standard of the Israeli law we are about to lose our home and be thrown out onto the street.

Forced eviction from our home will not only be a human tragedy but also a political maneuver which aims to strengthen and expedite the settlement project in East Jerusalem, specifically in Sheikh Jarrah. Israeli Jewish settlement takeover in Sheikh Jarrah serves to interrupt the presence of a continuous and connected Palestinian community in East Jerusalem. Numerous families have already lost their homes and 30 more are living, day-to-day, under the eminent threat of eviction. Our case will set yet another precedent that will play directly into the hands of the settlement project and will be another nail in the coffin of a viable East Jerusalem.

We are turning to you, as writers, activists, public figures, artists and concerned citizens of the world, to do all that you can to call on the Israeli government to instruct the General Custodian not to evict our family from our home and thereby facilitate the agenda of extremist settlers who are destroying all chances for a peaceful and just future in Jerusalem.

Ayoub Shamasneh

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A sad day for Palestinians – #PrayingForGaza in Ramallah

Yesterday was a sad day indeed. After leaving work, I went to my friend N’s apartment. This is when I heard the news about Gaza. A few minutes later, we got sent text messages informing us of a protest in support of Gaza at al-Manara square in Ramallah.

My friends and I met up and joined the protest. We began marching and soon, the organizers decided we should go straight to the Beit El settlement, which serves as the occupying powers administrative base and less than a mile away from Ramallah.

As we got closer to the settlement, a disgusting sight greeted us. The Western-backed Palestinian Authority called in the big guns and were blocking the street. That of course, did not deter the protesters, who immediately attempted to bypass these human checkpoints (4 in total).

The PA police had their batons and rifles ready to strike anyone that got in their way. Luckily, there were many journalists around and I kept hearing their commanders say, “hey, hey, don’t hit, don’t hit.” This of course was for the benefit of the camera. The unlucky protesters were either beat up out of the sight of cameras, or followed home, beat up, and had their cameras snatched away.

Watch video here: Western-backed Palestinian Authority stops Palestinian protesters in Ramallah

I kept thinking to myself, don’t these police officers and “soldiers” have family members who were affected by Israeli colonialism? A friend yelled at them saying, “It’s not your fault, all of you have a martyred family member, a brother in jail, olive trees that were burned by settlers, land that was stolen by the Israeli state. It’s the fault of Western powers who give you a small amount of cash to sell your souls.”

And that’s what it comes down to. How much money can a person be sold for? How much money does it take for Palestinians to turn their guns on fellow Palestinians so they can protect a settlement?

This morning, I pray for our sisters and brothers in Gaza, for our sisters and brothers in Syria, Jordan, Bahrain, Iran and everywhere else there is an injustice in the world.

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reclaiming resistance: what the hunger strikers taught us

The last few months have seen thousands of Palestinians and their supporters rally for prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails. This has resulted in several victories including a deal that ended the mass hunger strike and allowed for release of the two prominent figures former Islamic Jihad spokeperson Khader Adnan and football player Mohammad Sarsak.

Western media reported these success stories as a victory for non-violent resistance, lauding Palestinians for having used it. Reuters published an article entitled Palestinian prisoner deal shows non-violence works while the AFP reported that the mass hunger strike “not only headed off a confrontation with Israel,” but also proved that the strategy of non-violence is effective. (to avoid repetition)

Whatever one’s opinion, one thing is clear, the Palestinian community cannot rely on international politics and Western powers to “save us” any more than any other indigenous population relies on its occupying power to relinquish rights to their land. If the hunger strike movement taught us anything, it is this: Don’t rely on Arab Nationalism or the puppet regime put in place by Western States. After all, Abbas was quick to warn the Israelis that Palestinians would get out of hand should one of the hunger strikers die, begging the Israelis for more weapons to prevent “terrorism” in the occupied territories. “If they help me to get weapons, I’m helping them because I’m promoting security… We want security to stop terrorism. We have a need for these legal weapons. I have complaints from the security apparatus: ‘We don’t have guns and bullets.’ ”

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do not rely on the West and the United Nations, who since World War II have attempted to push a liberal, “human rights” agenda that serves the purpose of imperial powers. After all, it is these same powers that aim to preserve the Israeli state as a Jewish “democratic” state at the expense of its indigenous population. These same member states that espouse Palestinian “self-determination” and provide millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority while giving Israel millions of dollars in military aid.

In conclusion, I’d like to point out that none of what I mentioned above hasn’t been said or written by various scholars, activists, and politicians. Rather, the point of this article is to point out the importance of the hunger strike movement, which has elements of grassroots organizing in the West Bank – and other areas the Palestinian diaspora resides. This movement comprises young and old Palestinians coming together to fight for their rights, all over the world. In the West Bank, this type of organizing has been missing since the first intifada.

Let us take matters into our own hands. Let us not rely on third parties, or our so-called leadership in the West Bank and Gaza, nor the powers that may be to free us.

I will end this rant with a quote from Fanon, whose words, written decades ago, still apply to our situation. “The immobility to which the colonized subject is condemned can be challenged only if he decides to put an end to the history of colonization and the history of despoliation in order to bring to life the history of the nation, the history of decolonization.”

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Israelis deny Palestinian right to have fun

On Saturday, a group of Palestinians and internationals went to the Jordan Valley in what they hoped would be a fun-filled day with an event organized by Sharek Youth Forum.

The crime? RIDING BIKES IN THE JORDAN VALLEY! As we began riding, we noticed several settler cars heading back from what we assumed was a camping trip. A few minutes later, Israel army jeeps arrived to block the road.

Why did they prevent us you ask? We were given three reasons, not in any specific order:
1) for your security
2) riding bikes here is a security threat
3) this is a closed military zone

In short, our bike tour didn’t happen. Nonetheless, the town of Jiftlik provided us with za3tar and cheese sandwiches. And while we were watching performances, the soldiers were sitting outside overdressed and sitting directly in the sun. No wonder they were cranky!

viva palestina

you can find a factsheet on the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area here: http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Full%20Report_551.pdf

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Deir Yassin: the peace that never was

Two days ago, we visited Deir Yasin, or to be more specific, what remains of Deir Yasin, with Zochrot, an Israeli organization dedicated to educating the Israeli public about the nakba. The tour was organized in commemoration of the Deir Yasin massacre.

We walked along the main street of the village (now Kanfey Nesharim Street), and passed the few homes still standing, where many people were massacred.

The girls school, built in 1941, still stands. What used to be the city center is now a bus station. As for the homes, they are surrounded by a fence and have been incorporated into the Kfar Shaul mental hospital. After passing the homes (hospital), we walked by the remains of the Palestinian cemetery and ended the tour in the grove behind the hospital.

In April 1948, the town was attacked despite its peace treaty with the Jewish community. The killings at Deir Yassin are regarded as one of two pivotal events that led to the exodus of around 700,000 Palestinians from their towns and villages in 1948, along with the defeat of the Palestinians in Haifa. News of the killings, amplified by Arab media broadcasts of atrocity, triggered fear and panic among Palestinians, who in turn increasingly evacuated their homes.

55 young children were orphaned as a result of the massacre. 31-year-old Hind al-Husseini found them near the Holy Sepulchre church in Jerusalem’s Old City. On 25 April, two weeks after the massacre, Hind founded Dar Al-Tifl Al-Arabi at her family’s mansion which catered to Deir Yasin orphans, and later to orphans from all over Palestine.

For a current day picture of Deir Yasin homes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kfar_Shaul_cropped(1).jpg
For more information about Deir Yasin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deir_Yassin_massacre

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Returning to Palestine

I have been in Palestine for nearly 5 months now. The last time I spent more than a few months here was 1999-2002, at which time, my family left due to the intifada.

Friends and family continue to ask me whether I will stay in Palestine or leave in a year or so. Having “returned,” it seems criminal to even think about leaving. After all, how many people have the opportunity to return to the motherland? My family and I are those few Palestinians that have benefited from the Oslo process by gaining Palestinian “citizenship” – the right to live in the bantustans of the West Bank without worrying that the occupying force will deport you for living in your ancestral land “illegally.”

I am now working in what my friend Nour calls the “most tense city” in the world, Jerusalem. Although I didn’t live through the time period, in 2012, I can imagine Jerusalem being a southern city in the U.S., in the 60’s, with a large population of KKK members and their supporters. But before you tell yourself that’s not so bad, I’d like to add to the 60’s pre-civil rights image. Let’s add today’s minute men on the U.S. border with Mexico “taking care” of “illegal immigrants,” in addition to the colonial practices of  French Algeria and Rhodesia (what is now Zimbabwe).

The “conflict” between Palestinians and the Israeli government cannot be described in one way. It seems to me, that Israel has combined everything that was wrong with past colonial powers, in addition to everything that is wrong with the current nation-state, and is practicing it on its territory (Israel) and the occupied Palestinian territories (the West Bank and Gaza).

Meanwhile, the PA, which semi-controls the Bantustans of the West Bank – in collaboration with Israel of course – are too busy directing traffic to pay attention to settlement expansion and the colonial entity that is literally surrounding the future Fayadistan.

In answer to friends and family about leaving or staying, wallah mani 3aarif (I have no idea).

In the coming months, I will attempt to record the ongoing nakba, catastrophe, of the Palestinian people.

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Anabta, Tulkarem/ عنبتا، طولكرم

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