Bloggin’ Banat

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Palestinian Reality in Atlanta? June 16, 2009

Block PartyNo, definitely not.  In an absurd move, CBS has walled off an entire neighborhood in Atlanta to force the neighbors to spend time with each other.  It’s all for a new reality show tentatively called “Block Party.”

The image of the wall built for this show looks very similar to Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank.  Of course, life in Palestine, particularly in areas like, Gaza, Ni’lin and the Aida Refugee Camp is anything but a block party.

The details on the specifics of this show are not clear except that the families “will be trapped inside the 20′ maximum security-looking wall for about three weeks for a cash prize.”

I find it insulting to have an entertainment show with a premise built around a crippling and devastating reality faced by an entire population of Palestinians.  While these contestants will be confined behind this wall for three weeks and possibly end up with money for the sake of entertainment, Palestinians have been confined for years within Israel’s illegal wall with no end in sight.

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Palestinians Getting High May 10, 2009

marijuana-leafLiving under occupation is no doubt stressful.  So, it’s not really a surprise that some Palestinians would want to get high.  But I would think people would try to be a little discreet about it.  Apparently not.

Palestinian police recently found marijuana plants growing “near the main crossroads” of the village of Turmus ‘Ayya according to Maan News Agency.  Yep, right out in the open.  Sadly, the residents there said they thought they were just regular plants.  I’m almost certain there were those who knew what those plants were but kept it on the down low so as to maybe get some of the end product.  Police also found over 1,000 poppy plants and seeds in the gardens of nine residents in a village near Nablus.

I wonder if there’s any correlation between the drugs and the areas in which they’re grown.  My theory is that life in the Ramallah area isn’t so bad.  Therefore, weed is sufficient in relieving any stress. However, people in and around Nablus have it much worse due to the constant raids from the IDF and the like.  Therefore, a more hardcore drug like heroin is necessary to deal with the adversity.  But if that’s the case, what would the people in Gaza use to escape the hard knock life?  That’s a frightening thought.

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West Bank Formaggio May 6, 2009

pecorinoA group of Italian agronomists have helped start the first West Bank Italian cheese factory at the Golden Sheep cheese factory in Tubas.  Three Palestinian farmers have been trained in Italian cheese-making and so far the project has been a success.

The project initially started ten years ago when Stefano Baldinia from Ucodep, an independent Italian group that sponsors small-development projects around the world, trained Palestinian farmers to make mozzarella.  Apparently though, Palestinian cows aren’t cut out for making mozzarella.  I wonder if a male, milk-producing goat could do the trick.  Now, ten years later, the Golden Sheep cheese factory is successful in making pecorino, smoked ricotta and scarmorza cheeses.

The idea for this cheese-making factory was conjured up to help the West Bank economy. So even though a lot of Palestinians aren’t accustomed to the taste of these Italian cheeses and most likely can’t afford to buy them, the cheeses are a hit with wealthy Palestinians who’ve lived abroad and with the various internationals living in the West Bank.

Inevitably, as with many business endeavors in the West Bank and Gaza, Golden Sheep has its setbacks.  Power outages make it difficult to keep a steady temperature in the ripening room.  They don’t have a refrigerated truck and therefore can’t sell the cheeses all over the West Bank.  And the cheese that they can distribute is hampered by long delays at Israeli checkpoints.

Regardless, I think Golden Sheep has a bright future despite the various setbacks.  They’ve started making pecorino with za’tar to cater to the Palestinian palate.   Sounds good to me.

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NPR’s Series On Israel’s Separation Wall April 7, 2009

A Palestinian man walks towards the security fence, which separates the West Bank town of Mesah from nearby Israeli settlements. (David Gilkey/NPR)

(David Gilkey/NPR)

NPR is running a four-part series on Israel’s separation wall called “Israel’s Barrier.”  The series started on Monday and will air on the afternoon program “All Things Considered.”  The reports look into daily life along the wall and the effects it’s had on Palestinian and Israeli life.

The series is a compilation of works by reporter Eric Westervelt and photographer David Gilkey.  Westervelt writes that “the series captures the realities of life along the barrier, including the struggles of the people who find good and bad in it everyday.”  You can listen to the reports and see photos and videos at the series’ website.  It’s worth checking out.

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Israel’s Senseless Acts Of Brutality April 3, 2009

This week’s death of an Israeli teenager allegedly by an ax wielding Palestinian was reprehensible. Killing children can never be justified.  What I have a problem with is how Israel is going about finding who committed this act. First, let’s look at the facts. This attack took place in an Israeli settlement, Bat Ayin, which is illegal and shouldn’t exist in the first place.  Second, one of the settlers who fought with the assailant managed to take the ax away from him.  So, not only did he get a good look at the guy but the authorities also have evidence.idf1

How did Israel respond? Well, the IDF surrounded the nearby Palestinian village of Safa, where the attacker supposedly ran to, and closed off all the roads with bulldozers. Then they placed a 24 hour curfew on the residents. They took over the homes of three Palestinian families in the village and declared them military posts.  And they detained over 28 people and have taken them to an undisclosed location.  Basically, an entire community is locked down, not for its own safety, but to give the IDF full reign in interrogating residents and raiding their homes and destroying property in the process.  Obviously, this form of investigating, if you can even call it that, doesn’t do any good.  It’s collective punishment and it’s wrong.

You know, when a crime is committed in the States, within Israel and pretty much anywhere else in the civilized world, the proper authorities look any evidence available and follow leads.  If they have a piece of evidence, they look for fingerprints and check it with their database for possible matches.  If their leads take them to a particular area then they go around and ask people what they may know. And then eventually, if there is enough evidence piled up on a particular suspect, an arrest is made and a trial takes place where the evidence is brought forth and the defendant is given the opportunity to defend himself.  Unfortunately, that’s not  how Israel rolls when it deals with the Palestinian population it occupies.  With Palestinians, the army detains as much Palestinians as it sees fit. Holds them, many times indefinitely, without charging them with anything and usually without providing access to a lawyer.  Then they hold a military trial, issue the sentences and the case is closed.

Although Israel likes to portray itself as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East with a moral army, it surely is not.  Israel is an occupying power that only knows to deal with Palestinians through force.  And because Israel is an occupying power, it has thousands of troops throughout the West Bank for the sole purpose of protecting the illegal settlements and the settlers who live there.  Not only that, but as we all know, there are hundreds of checkpoints placed all over the West Bank along with Jewish only roads.  The Israeli government spokesperson, Mark Regev, has the nerve to put out a statement saying he expects a “zero tolerance policy” from the Palestinian Authority regarding such attacks. I’m sorry, but you can never prevent attacks from happening 100 % of the time.  And if all the measures that I’ve stated that Israel has in place in the West Bank for the sole purpose of protecting its settlers can’t stop this type of incident from happening then the Palestinian Authority, which has no real authority to begin with, sure as hell can’t either.

Regev called this incident a “senseless act of brutality against innocents.”  Sure, it was an immoral act. But it was committed by an extremist individual.  I’d like to remind Regev that collective punishment, destruction of property and the bombing of the Palestinians in Gaza are also senseless acts of brutality on innocents committed by the State of Israel with its over 40 year occupation of Palestinian lands.

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Palestinian Youth Orchestra Shouldn’t Be Disbanded March 29, 2009

youth_orchestraLast week a group of children musicians from the Jenin refugee camp, the Strings of Freedom, performed for a group of Holocaust survivors.  It was all part of Good Deeds Day, an annual event run by Ruach Tova or the Good Spirit charity in Israel.  The children from the camp did not know that they would be playing for Holocaust survivors.  However, their conductor, Wafa Younis, did.  As a result, officials in the Jenin refugee camp have decided to disband the orchestra.

I recall reading about this last week and having mixed feelings. I think it’s great that such an orchestra exists for the Palestinian youth in the Jenin refugee camp.  However, I also think it’s wrong that the director, Younis, arranged to have the orchestra perform for this event without informing the youths and their parents what the event was.  Adnan Hindi, an official from the camp, said that Younis “exploited the children” and I happen to agree with him.  I think Younis should have discussed the nature of the event to the children and their parents prior to making any commitments. If the children were interested and agreed to perform, then great, she should’ve gone ahead with the plans.  However, planning, organizing and committing the orchestra to perform for an event of which they knew nothing about was wrong.

The apartment where the children practiced has been boarded up and Younis has been barred from the camp.  I can understand if camp officials want to take disciplinary action against Younis but I don’t think the orchestra should be disbanded.  After all, the orchestra’s purpose is to help Palestinian children overcome trauma from war. Camp officials should look for another conductor to replace Younis and allow the orchestra to continue its work. It’s the Palestinian children who will suffer if the orchestra remains disbanded and that’s just wrong.  The Strings of Freedom orchestra should continue its work to help the children of the Jenin refugee camp.

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Palestinian Institute Wins Children’s Literature Prize March 24, 2009

The Tamer Institute For Community Education has been awarded the 2009 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award which is the world’s largest prize for children’s literature.  The award is named after the Swedish author of “Pippi Longstocking” and the cash prize is a little over $600,000.  On the their website, the Ramallah based institute states that its focus is “principally on the rights to education, identity, freedom of expression, and access to information, Tamer works across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, primarily targeting children and young people and developing alternatives and supplements to formal education.”  The institute publishes children’s books and educational material as part of its program.


The organizers of the award said in a statement that “With perseverance, audacity and resourcefulness, the Tamer Institute has, for two decades, stimulated Palestinian children’s and young adults’ love of reading and their creativity…Under difficult circumstances, the institute carries out reading promotion of an unusual breadth and versatility.”  A program director for the institute, Ruba Toha, said that the prize is dedicated to the children of Palestine.

Kudos to the Tamer Institute for supplying educational services and providing inspiration to young Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza through reading.  Their work in providing educational material to children without access to formal education, who cannot go to school due to the obstacles of the Israeli occupation, is particularly commendable.  It’s just great to see a Palestinian organization get the recognition it deserves for such a worthy cause.

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