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Postcards from Palestine

Resources for Keeping Up with Palestine and Israel

A lot of friends have been asking me how to keep up with what’s happening in Israel and Palestine. To that end, I and my network have compiled a list of the news organizations, people and pages we follow that keep us informed. Educating yourself is key to processing and responding to what’s going on:

News Organizations - Israeli liberal/left newspaper - frequently critical of the gov’t and usually the first outlet I look at
Ma’an News Agency - English version of the largest outlet in Palestine, also among the first outlets I check as the Palestinian narrative of events frequently differs from what Israeli sources say and outlets cover
+972 Magazine - Another great alternative Israeli outlet
Electronic Intifada - Most constant source of news on activism and updates about what’s happening in Palestine. The biggest watchdog to the mainstream press reporting on Palestine.
Mondoweiss - Similar to EI, largely with a Jewish focus
Ynetnews - English version of Israel’s largest news site
The Jerusalem Post | - Mainstream Israeli site
The Times of Israel - Ditto
Middle East Monitor - Shorter updates, usually on diplomatic/human rights news
The Guardian - One of Britain’s main newspapers - great reporting
Al Jazeera English - Refreshing perspectives beyond the US mainstream
Sixteen Minutes to Palestine - Palestinian news blog run by friends of mine
Al-Monitor - Has specific pages devoted to news in Israel and Palestine

Updates from the grassroots - Palestine - Grassroots updates direct from Palestine that mainstream media are slow to report or don’t at all
Humans of Gaza - Y’all are familiar with Humans of New York. This is more important.
Gaza Youth Breaks Out (GYBO) - Fantastic, fantastic group. Their manifesto begins “Fuck Israel. Fuck Hammas. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound…” A must read.
SJP @ USF - Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Southern Florida provides great and frequent updates
Jewish Voice for Peace - Jewish organization that organizes against the occupation
Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK - Self explanatory. Great updates
Friends of Sabeel - North America FOSNA - National org supporting Palestinian Christians 
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation - National coalition working to end the occupation
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel - academic and cultural work to pressure an end to human rights violations in Palestine 
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association - focuses on supporting political prisoners held by Israel 
Institute for Middle East Understanding ( IMEU ) - an great organization that provides journalists with quick access to information about Palestine and the Palestinians, as well as expert sources, both in the United States and in the Middle East. 
B’Tselem בצלם' - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, endeavors to educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
Breaking the Silence - an organization of Israeli veterans who served in the IDF since 2000 and aim to raise awareness amongst the public about the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.
Coalition of Women for Peace - Israel-based group that organizes protests in solidarity with Gaza
אנרכיסטים נגד הגדר Anarchists Against The Wall - Radical Israel-based group that participates in direct action solidarity with Palestinians 
Israeli Apartheid אפרטהייד ישראלי التمييز العنصري في اسرائيل - Israel-based group calling for anti-apartheid activism
If Americans Knew - Publishes information about US funding and involvement about the occupation of Palestine as well as other facts that mainstream media frequently ignore or distort
Christian Peacemaker Teams - Palestine - faith-based organization that supports Palestinian-led, nonviolent, grassroots resistance to the Israeli occupation
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) - a human rights and peace organisation dedicated to ending the prolonged Israeli Occupation over the Palestinians

Mohammed Zeyara - Palestinian raised in Gaza, living in Canada. He has a huge public following and provides updates direct from friends in Gaza 
Mohammed Omer - Gaza-based journalist who provides great coverage and analysis from the ground.
Ben White - UK based journalist on Palestine with frequent updates
Haim Schwarczenberg - an Israeli activist photographer living in Jaffa, taking part in the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation and oppression.

There are protests happening all over the world. If you’re interested in going, GO. You can find some of the information here:

Mr. Belafonte, will you speak on Palestine?

Last week, civil rights activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte spoke at Stanford University as part of our African and African American Studies Program’s annual memorial lecture. During his 30-minute address on “Activism and Racial Justice in America,” Belafonte discussed the urgency of contemporary battles against mass incarceration, the ability of people like the Koch brothers to manipulate democracy in the interest of profits, and reversing the culture of individualism and materialism present in society. The lecture was one of the sharpest and most critical I have heard during my four years as an undergraduate—until he evaded discussion of the Palestinian issue.

After Belafonte spoke about his legacy of international solidarity and action for ending apartheid in South Africa, the event moderator posed the question: “How would you see the occupation of Palestine in relation to two things: Martin Luther King’s dream and the civil rights movement’s struggle and Mandela’s dream and vision for South Africa?”

The audience briefly stirred and waited as Belafonte paused to consider his response. Unfortunately, Belafonte then deflected the question, speaking for five-and-a-half minutes about the role of capitalism and unbridled wealth in pitting people against each other, the need to address class and race in the United States, the history of the Pilgrims and indigenous Americans, the resilience of Americans through genocide and slavery, the Dream Defenders—everything except Palestine, Israel and occupation.

As a young black male, a leader of Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and member of the larger statewide and national SJP movements, Belafonte’s silence greatly disappointed me, especially given the earlier content of his lecture.

“The one thing missing from your DNA, missing from your daily diet, missing from your constant exposure to the greater truths is y’all don’t have any radicals. I can’t find today’s radicals,” he said at one point.

But currently no issue is more “radical” on American campuses—or even in American society—than supporting justice for the Palestinian people in the face of occupation and colonization. The student divestment movement and larger Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seek to bring justice for Palestinians by holding Israel accountable to international humanitarian law. This legal and moral based approach remains consistent with what Belafonte said made the civil rights movement successful:

“We were dependent on laws, we were dependent on radical thought, and we were dependent on doing a lot of things that justice was about.”

I understand that Palestine is central to all of our struggles for justice. The same companies build the US/Mexico wall and the apartheid wall in Palestine. The police who brutalize our communities go to Israel for training with its military. Our government pledges $30 billion in military aid to Israel while schools in Philadelphia and Chicago close due to budget shortfalls. We cannot win the struggle for justice at home or anywhere without addressing the effects of capitalism, colonialism and imperialism in Israel/Palestine.


Students across the US understand this, as most divestment campaigns have the support of black, Chicana, indigenous, immigrant and LGBT student groups—among many others. SJP chapters struggle alongside these groups against mass incarceration, the militarization of our borders and other progressive issues. I have not had more critical conversations about structural racism, the violence of capitalism, legacies of colonialism abroad and on occupied indigenous soil here than I have within the SJP movement. And in terms of action, I have seen no better way to reclaim our universities and our lives from the damaging effects of global capitalism than through the divestment resolutions many of us have sought.


Many global leaders in the struggle for racial justice have also made comments to this effect, but Mr. Belafonte’s careful silence on the topic is becoming increasingly concerning. Angela Davis has issued a call with ten other women of color supporting divestment from Israel, and both Alice Walker and Desmond Tutu wrote personal statements of support for Stanford’s divestment campaign in 2013. Dr. Vincent Harding, who drafted King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, and Dr. Clayborne Carson, who is in charge of editing and publishing all of Dr. King’s papers, traveled to Palestine in 2012 with the Dorothy Cotton Institute, leading Dr. Carson to write the play “Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine” based on his visit.

The African National Congress endorsed BDS in December 2012 and Nelson Mandela is famously quoted for saying “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Just this January, a delegation of black artists and journalists like Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Jasiri X returned from Palestine and are speaking out about what they witnessed. Cultural critic dream hampton, who was scheduled to share the stage with Belafonte at Stanford, was also on that delegation. dream fights simultaneously for Renisha McBride’s justice and speaks out for Palestinians. This is one of the defining social issues and movements of our time and Mr. Belafonte’s silence - even as he sits as a patron of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine – makes it seem like he is “PEP” or “progressive except Palestine.”

At the beginning of the event, the moderator read a long list of organizations who have bestowed accolades upon Mr. Belafonte. Among organizations like the NAACP and ACLU, Mr. Belafonte has also been honored by Anti-Defamation League, which stops just short of labeling my Students for Justice in Palestine movement as a hate group. While I recognize the pressure Mr. Belafonte may feel not to offend some of his backers, I respectfully remind him that Judaism and uncritical support for Israel are not synonymous and that many Jewish and Israeli people and groups actively oppose the occupation through boycotts or divestment. One of his comments from the night on racism feels especially relevant: “The issue of race is not just from the perspective of the oppressed, it’s what it has also done to the oppressor.” It is time for Mr. Belafonte to take a courageous stand.

I and many others have already started to pick up the mantle of radical black and young people struggling for justice. Our movement is moving closer to the political mainstream than ever before, but we are facing increasing repression. Our boards of trustees, our elected representatives silence us or refuse to hear our demands. We need someone who can help move this cause and issue to the stage it deserves. Belafonte, Stevie Wonder, Rosa Parks and others helped do this for South Africa. Action or statements from Mr. Belafonte would help break the cultural and popular silence on Palestine. As the moderator said before the Palestine question, Mr. Belafonte: “You mean so much to struggling people around the world, you have an extremely vocal stance against much of US foreign policy over the years.”

In a similar, but gentler way to how Belafonte charged Jay-Z and Beyonce of shirking their social responsibility as globally respected entertainers, Belafonte must be consistent with his record of support for international solidarity, universal rights and critical thought. The time for him to do so is now.

Mr. Belafonte, will you please speak on Palestine?


Do you actually want to help me?: On Palestinian, black and queer liberation

As someone who also exists at the intersection of two marginalized identities — being black and queer — I can resonate pretty well with a lot of the sentiments activists in al-Qaws raise. While many Americans have the perception of the black community as being homophobic, I do not identify my primary struggle as fighting heteropatriarchal tendencies that sometimes arise in our community. (These tendencies exist in the larger American society as well, yet we fixate on the black community because it is an easy ‘Other’ to identify.) I identify my primary struggle as fighting the structural racism that continues to oppress our community as a whole.

While the stresses of systemic injustice may amplify these tendencies within the black community, often we attribute them to the inferiority or less civilized nature of black culture, implicitly justifying the community’s continued marginalized and exploited social position. If you really want to be an ally to me, join anti-racist work — the fight to end mass incarceration and police brutality, the struggle for economic justice, insist that black people are people. Let me and other black queers handle our internal struggle in the way that we see fit. If we need help, we will ask for it. Chances are, though, that what we ask for might not fit so well with the larger society.

Academic Delegation to Palestine Endures 10-Hour Interrogation by Israeli Security

Note: A professor at San Francisco State that I know and work with was among an academic delegation that Israel detained and questioned for 10 hours on January 12. With many US academic associations discussing academic freedom in Palestine/Israel and considering whether to join the academic boycott of Israeli institutions, this experience only serves to drive home the need for concerned people around the world to speak up and respond to such actions.  And as the press release notes, this experience is only a fraction of the injustices Israel commits in its occupation/colonization of Palestinian land. I’ve included links for more context at the end of their statement.

For Immediate Release: Contact: Joanne Barker
Jerusalem, Palestine
Junaid Rana

Academic Delegation to Palestine Endures 10-Hour Interrogation by Israeli Security

On January 12, 2014, a delegation of six academics and a labor activist traveled from Jordan to Palestine through the Israeli checkpoint. The delegation is led by Professor Rabab Abdulhadi of San Francisco State University and is meeting with Palestinian academics to better understand conditions on the ground and to facilitate future collaborations. Four members of the delegation, including Abdulhadi and Professor Junaid Rana of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, were held at the checkpoint and interrogated by Israeli security, the Ministry of the Interior, and the military, for over ten hours.

Abdulhadi, Rana, and two other delegates, including Professor Joanne Barker of San Francisco State University, support the 2005 call of Palestinian Civil Society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israeli (ACBI) institutions that are complicit in the continued colonization of Palestine. Various delegation members belong to U.S. academic associations that have endorsed ACBI such as the Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS), American Studies Association (ASA), and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA).

As the four members of the delegation were interrogated, the Delegate Assembly of the Modern Language Association (MLA) voted to support a resolution noting grave concern regarding the ability of U.S. scholars to travel and collaborate with Palestinian counterparts. 

Four members of the delegation were individually interrogated up to four separate times over the ten hours during which they were held. They were pressed about their scholarly research, academic networks, family backgrounds, nationalities, and ethnic origins. The Israeli security officer demanded contact and cell phone information and two delegates were coerced into accessing their email accounts using Israeli security computers. One member had to insist twice to be allowed to sign-off from an email account before being allowed to leave the interrogation room. Another delegate was told explicitly not to pursue research on colonial gender violence. The delegates were additionally asked about travel to Arab countries, intended research, political activities, and names and phone numbers of academic and family contacts.

Professor Rana was asked whether he had recently signed any petitions regarding Israel, to which he replied that he was a member signatory to BDS resolutions of the AAAS and the ASA. Along with other members of the delegation, those interrogated have been actively involved in the academic boycott of Israeli institutions—as opposed to individual scholars—of higher education. Rana was also asked why he attended a conference on “Transnational American Studies” at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, and whether he had any political writings related to Israel. Such actions are a clear violation of academic freedom, including the freedom to travel for scholarly research, and demonstrate tactics of intimidation and harassment of scholarly inquiry.

The delegation recognizes that their experiences on January 12, 2014, pales in comparison with the everyday surveillance and criminalization of Palestinian academics who are consistently denied the freedoms to research, publish, and travel. The delegation commends academic associations who have endorsed ACBI and encourage others to follow.


For more on academic freedom in Palestine:

MLA Delegate Assembly narrowly votes to criticize Israel" (1/12/14)

How Israeli universities oppress Palestinian students" (1/2/14)

ASA Members Vote to Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel" (12/16/13)

The Native American Studies Association Boycott of Israel" (12/29/13)

Why ‘Positive Investment’ Is Not Enough for Palestine

I drafted this piece in August during a delegation visit to Palestine and Israel with the Interfaith Peace Builders. It’s message is especially relevant as the UCLA student union considers a bill to promote dialogue and “positive investment” towards peace in Israel and Palestine. For Palestinians living under military occupation, monetary investments are not enough.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman who was born and raised in Youngstown Ohio. In the 1990s, Sam married his wife - a Palestinian from the West Bank - and moved there to start a family. In most countries, Sam could apply for a green card or to be officially recognized as a foreign resident of the state; in Palestine, whose international travel is controlled by the state of Israel, Sam could only apply for a three-month tourist visa to live on the land where his father grew up, where his wife was born and raised, and where his family decided to raise their children. “Every three months I had to leave the country and re-enter for 15 years,” Sam told us.  At first, Sam would travel—but very soon going to the United States became too expensive; going to Jordan became too boring. Eventually, Sam would just cross the border between the West Bank and Jordan, buy a cup of coffee on the other side of the border, visit the duty free shop for some chocolates for his children, and immediately return to the West Bank. “I had it down to four and a half hours,” Sam said. The border control agents all knew him by name.

After 2006, Israel started denying entry to foreign nationals like Sam in response to the democratic election of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “They wanted to suffocate us so we’d [leave] voluntarily,” Sam said, explaining that Israel wanted to empty Palestine of Palestinians. If foreign nationals realized that they would soon be denied entry to Israel, they would likely pick up and move their families to places where they did not face this risk. Foreign nationals like Sam often had more money than Palestinians living in the West Bank—if these people left, the size of the Palestinian middle class would decrease, creating conditions that would make poorer Palestinians also want to leave. Sam soon got a “last permit” stamp when re-entering the country. Israel had meanwhile ceased to process tens of thousands of residency applications like his.

During the failed “peace process” in the late 2000s, Israel used these residency applications to force Palestinians to participate in the talk. In exchange for retreating from their position of non-negotiation, Israel processed 30,000 applications, including Sam’s.

One day, Sam got a call saying that his Palestinian ID was ready to pick up. Sam showed us his ID saying, “This is not a Palesitnian ID—this is an Israeli military idenfitication card.”

“Even before looking at my ID, they’d know if I’ve been to prison,” he said noting the green color of his ID booklet, distinct from the orange color of ex-incarcerates.

Sam drove from the West Bank to Jerusalem to pick up his ID as a 100% legal driver on Israeli roads. His tourist visa entitled him to drive with the yellow license plates of Israeli residents. But Sam drove home as an illegal driver. With Palestinian status, his required plates change to green and white. Sam was no longer allowed to travel outside of the country from Ben Gurion airport, to travel into Jerusalem and Israel, or to drive on roads with Israeli plates in the West Bank and Israel—-even though the state had no problem with him doing this for 15 years under a tourist visa. He lost all movement and access.

“The only place in the world that I cannot be American is in Israel and the West Bank,” he said.

Sam, who as a businessman made frequent trips into Jerusalem, could no longer do so. He learned that he could apply for 1-day permits as long as he had an invitation letter, paid a 10 shekel fee, and filled out an application. These took one day to process, so Sam always had to make plans one day in advance.

During his first application process, the officer asked Sam for his “magnetic card.”

Being an American, Sam assumed her asking for his credit card meant that the application fees had gone up and erupted in outrage. The woman gave him a weird look and sent him out to the main lobby, where other Palestinians were waiting. The Palestinians laughed at him for not knowing, and Sam learned that the “magnetic card” is one that demonstrates he is not a “security threat” to the state of Israel.

Having secured a magnetic card, Sam ran into another block his second time around. He had his Palestinian ID, he had his magnetic card, but he was missing his “business man’s card.” Not a business card, as Sam had thought was being asked, but yet another form of identification that showed the Israeli government he actually was who he said he was.

“It’s not about security,” Sam told us at this point, expressing his disbelief in how arbitrary the system is.

“There is no one button,” Sam said to us when we discussed what it would take for peace and justice to come to the region.

Ending the occupation is the first step, though, he said. Only after the occupation of Palestine ends can any genuine conversations begin about how people are going to live together.

* * *

Since meeting Sam, the World Bank released a report that Israel’s occupation of Palestine deprives the Palestinian economy of $3.4 billion. Lifting the restrictions on the West Bank would allow the Palestinian economy to grow by at least a third, the international monetary institution says.

If more investments can’t help a businessman like Sam Bahour, among the most connected and well-resourced of Palestinian society and who feels the effects is of the occupation as much as he does, those without as much money or resources are certainly feeling things even worse.

To my fellow classmates at UCLA discussing positive investment and dialogue right now, I hope you can understand that the only goodfaith way towards peace in this disputed region is through ending the crippling effects of military occupation.



BILIN, West Bank (AP) — Residents of this Palestinian village have planted flowers in hundreds of spent Israeli tear gas grenades to honor those killed during their weekly protests against Israel’s West Bank separation barrier.

Mohammed Khatib, a village organizer, said Wednesday that the unusual garden is meant to show that life can spring from death.

Bilin has become a symbol of Palestinian protests against Israeli policies in the West Bank. The village’s struggle to regain land taken by the barrier was the subject of “Five Broken Cameras,” a documentary nominated for an Oscar last year.

Palestinians say the barrier, which cuts into the West Bank, amounts to a land grab. Israel says it’s needed to keep Palestinian attackers out. 

The Bilin garden commemorates Bassem Abu Rahmeh, a protest leader who was killed in 2009 when a tear gas grenade struck him in the chest during a demonstration. Bassem’s sister, Jawaher, died nearly two years later, a day after a weekly protest during which villagers said she inhaled Israeli tear gas.

During West Bank protests, Israeli troops often fire tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and occasionally live rounds, portraying them as appropriate means against Palestinian stone throwers.

The Big Story / AP


(via theimeu)

Breaking the silence

For the past three weeks I haven’t been doing something that I’m used to spending most of my time on: writing. I had expected to write a lot during my final days in Palestine and immediately upon my return, but I’ve run into a block on producing anything—not just Palestine-related pieces, but my usual burst of Facebook updates, my column for the school newspaper, details about my summer research experience in Detroit, emails to friends and colleagues.

About a month ago now, I experienced something I haven’t told many people who I otherwise frequently updated about my summer: I got mugged. I lost a laptop and two cellphones—one American and one Palestinian.  I wasn’t physically harmed, but I lost something that was incredibly important to me as someone on a solidarity visit to Palestine and as a journalist: my recordings from the majority of my trip.

I had the opportunity to share the direct voices and experiences of tens of Palestinians and Israelis with people in the United States—voices that I can try in vain to reproduce through my notes but that hit most powerfully coming directly from the source. I also lost the opportunity to do a number of stories I had arranged to work on in my final days: showcasing the hard work of a group of tireless men in Hebron who worked for six months to rehabilitate an abandoned building in the Israeli military controlled section of their city into a brand new kindergarten for local Palestinian kids; profiling the founding of a new international solidarity movement—Solidarity Movement for Free Palestine—started by two veteran organizers I met during my visit; and finally, I was unable to travel  to Tel Aviv to talk with East African migrants about their experiences of discrimination within Israeli society and to the working class Israelis who cohabit the overcrowded and under-resourced area of the city.  (Israel approved the running of separate schools for the children of African immigrants while I was in the region.)

In the week between getting mugged and returning to the US, I alternated between being too afraid to leave the house, too sad about losing all my recordings, and too self-aware to let many of my local friends know how I was feeling (i.e. my suffering was an ounce of what life under colonization and military occupation feels like, who was I, an American, to complain about my tiny grievance?)

But the effect was that I feel dissatisfied with how I left Palestine.  I didn’t go to Hebron to say goodbye to Issa and Badia and all the other comrades I’d spent a few days with in the weeks before; I didn’t write about the stories and experiences of theirs I had promised to write; and I didn’t make it back to any of the nearby places I’d intended to revisit after our delegation in August—Jenin, Bil’in, Nabi Saleh, Bethlehem.

And just as I initially wasn’t sure what to do about sharing my experiences of racism in Palestine, I was even less sure what to do about my mugging. I did not want the largest takeaway from my travels for people at home to be that I went to Palestine and got mugged. Having spent this year traveling at times alone in Cape Town, Oakland, Detroit and New York, I understood from the moment I was mugged that it could have happened to me anywhere else. I understood that petty crime is more likely to occur in communities that are oppressed. I understood that my particular experience stemmed from living choked under a military occupation.

We already live in a world that is selective about what it recognizes as “violent” or “criminal.” Many of us are slow to recognize the larger and systemic violence of our states (through drones strikes, military occupations, mass incarceration, structural racism and economic exploitation) but are quick to condemn the actions of those who suffer the most under these state-sponsored crimes. In the US, we might decry gang related violence or “black on black” crime, but refuse to recognize our governments, banks and corporations as global gangsters.

Violence and safety are usually two sides of the same coin—especially for global powers like the United States and Israel: “our” safety, security, “peace” usually come at the expense of someone else experiencing violence, being unsafe, living in fear. 

American reluctance to take action against the illegal and immoral occupation of Palestine stems from a similar cognitive dissonance about whose violence and whose safety are legitimate. Our government values and legitimizes the security of one group (the occupying force) while delegitimizing the security concerns of another group (the occupied people). The corollary to this is that our government condones (and even abets) the violence of the occupying force against the occupied people, while condemning the violence of occupied people resisting their occupier. And not only does our government condemn the resistance of the occupied people, it marks their resistance as qualitatively different and worse than the violence of the occupying military state. 

This is not equal treatment and this is not justice. Someone mugging me and posing a threat to my individual security does not justify unequal treatment under the law. I could hate them to my core for harming me, but that does not justify them being treated any differently. (And for the record, I don’t harbor any ill feelings towards my muggers.)

And so just as I hate the portrayal of my own people as inherently violent or criminal and deserving of our social conditions, I did not want to contribute to the same portrayal so many at home already have of Palestinians.

* * *

Having seen the extent of blatant inequality in occupied Palestine for myself is what compels me to continue working for universal justice in this region. Towards working for a world where people don’t feel so robbed of their humanity that they turn to robbing others. 

Life under occupation is not easy. It’s gritty. It’s complex. But the bottom line is that no one deserves to live under a military occupation, treated unequally and surrounded by walls. And I will do the best that I can with the resources that I still have to do my part in tearing down those walls.


Help a Palestinian feel like he has traveled the world

From my friend Amy in Palestine:

Dear Redditors everywhere,

my friend Michael Atyeah has been denied the right to travel abroad due to political reasons. He’s Palestinian and so am I. He’s not any different from any other Palestinians here. He studies media and works as a sound and light technician.

This is common for politically active Palestinians or for Palestinians who have politically active families. That’s just the way it is because of the Palestinian government’s (Palestinian Authority) previous peace agreements with Israel. I know because I recently found out that that I can no longer leave because ”my political activity and opinions threat the state of Israel”. I’ve had my share of travelling mostly to Europe and I can live with what I’ve seen of the world, but he has never left the West Bank.

This post is not a bit political and I don’t mean for it to come across as political. I just want to help him feel like he has been everywhere, because he’s one of the most free-spirited people I know and he deserves to feel freedom, if not for himself, at least for his name. Something along the lines of this here has already begun happening thanks to international volunteers who used to work in the region. The paper can say anything, but should at least say “From the city of (X), in country of (Y), to Michael Atyeh”. I’m going to collect the pictures and collage them for him because they not only give him hope, but give everyone else around here who shares the same fate some hope.

TL;DR Our plan is to get people around the world to take pictures with a paper or of a paper next to a known landmark where they live or around them and send it back to us.”

<insert appropriate curses here>

Here’s a link to an Oxfam report with more explanation of these numbers:


<insert appropriate curses here>

Here’s a link to an Oxfam report with more explanation of these numbers:

"What does it feel like to be free?"

Today I met a new friend who saw the mediterranean sea for the first time when he was 23 years old - he started working for an american company that sponsored his ‘permit’ to travel outside the west bank into present-day israel. he was bittersweet about it - at first going to the sea every weekend, but then realizing that he shouldnt have to be happy that he has a permit to visit the sea - his family could have freely accessed it before the occupation..
what does it feel like to be free?" this man told me he asks himself from time to time. and i wanted to cry. here we were sitting at a restaurant eating kebab and i, on one side of the table, can access most of the world by obtaining a visa upon landing at the airport; he cant even go to his family’s original home without a permit, much less leave palestine. i told him i dont think the occupation is sustainable - and that even if the ideals behind our activism dont make things change, the combination of israeli settlements in palestine, and the evergrowing palestinian population means israel will inevitably have to confront all of this.
and i said i dont think we’ll see a 100th anniversary of the nakba where palestine is still occupied. (the nakba is the palestinian term for ‘the catastrophe’ - or the day israel declared independence and symbolic of the expulsion of 750,000 palestinians. even though the amount of land palestinians control is steadily shrinking (and increasing for israel), my friend and i agreed that as people, they cant disappear. israel will not wake up one day and find that all the palestinians have left. so something has to change…). then i did the math from 2013 to 2048, realized that the hundredth anniversary of the nakba is 35 years from now, and that this friend and i would either be past or approaching 60 and shuddered. he said he doesnt like asking himself that question (“what does it feel like to be free?”) because he fears he may never know.
ive had a lot of heartwrenching conversations with palestinians about how the only place they can really travel to is jordan. everywhere else requires a visa and europe/the US make it really hard to get one. the mobility i take for granted is nowhere close to being a universal experience.
this man (a friend of one of my friends and colleagues) told me i can stay with him the next time i come here. that his house is my house. and as i felt in detroit, where i spent the summer before coming to palestine, i really pray i can return this hospitality one day. i told him this.
my friend then touched upon this hospitality and linked it to experiencing common humanity - to something that were all capable of giving and experiencing. and i thought back to the first book i had to read for college—homer’s odyssey. (so much of my journeys this summer - sitting far from home, across various seas, in the living room of someone i just met and drinking tea - have felt like a modern day odyssey). but in the text, hospitality was the most honored and important thing a human could give to another human. 
and while ive had my share of difficult impersonal experiences in palestine, it is this cornerstone of humanity - hospitality - that ive experienced in every individual encounter ive had.
i really pray that my friend and i - before 2048 - can gather at the same restaurant, look back and laugh that we even doubted whether and when peace with justice could come to this region. i hope we can sit across from each other as equals in terms of global mobility. i hope that - within the constructs of whatever systems exist around us - we can each say to each other we know what it feels like to be free.
this conversation was one of the best ive had while in palestine - i have many more reflections to share about it coming soon…