It’s the BBC, but not as you know it

Posted on 28 August 2014 | 2 responses

Thursday August 28th

This evening I went to the BBC…that is, the Bethlehem Book Club. It’s been formed by a group of women living in the Bethlehem area, most of whom are married to Palestinians. They meet monthly, at one of the member’s homes which is large enough to accommodate everyone. Tonight I was an honorary member as I do not live in Palestine full-time at present, but one of my best friends is always trying to persuade me to come back now, rather than when R has finished her secondary education. So she took me along as part of her campaign to ‘Bring George Home‘!

There were twelve of us, a good turnout! We went round the group, introducing ourselves and sharing a highlight for the month before discussing the books each of us had had read. When it was my turn, I said my highlight was being asked only one question at Ben Gurion before being ‘welcomed’ to Israel. As it’s summer, quite a few of the others had recently travelled (mainly to the US as, bar me and three others, the rest were American). They all said they too had not had any problems returning.

Sadly that wasn’t the case for one woman (not part of the BBC), returning from the US with two young children. In the immigration queue her children were speaking Arabic and an Israeli woman behind them assaulted the mother because she was Palestinian. She was punched, had her face scratched and a handful of hair was yanked from her head. It was terrifying and indicative of the attitude of many Israelis: violence against and abuse of Palestinians is entirely acceptable. (They shared this horrendous incident with me as they are friends with the woman concerned and she had posted about it on Facebook.)

Another member, whom I’ve known for a long time, spoke of her recent visit to her parents in the Dominican Republic. Her husband is Palestinian and works here as a cameraman for the BBC. They were there when Israel began its onslaught on Gaza. The first day they anxiously watched the satellite channels for news. Channel 2 was BBC and channel 3 was Al Jazeera. Overnight both channels had been replaced with Channel 2 (Israeli news), Fox and other American news broadcasters. They enquired with people they know and were told that it had been ordered at the highest level.

The group is intended to help build a community of women who have Palestinian partners but who themselves grew up in the West. There’s not a huge number of women like this here, and we are can be rather isolated. As one said to me, you can hardly go up to every foreigner in the street and ask them if they actually live here! So it’s hard to find people with whom you can share experiences and who have an understanding of a culture and lifestyle similar to your own. The group was quite diverse: some work in the NGO sector, others work in education, another has just finished writing a book about oral histories of Palestine. They were all from different backgrounds and it was nice to spend some time with different people.

Coming to live in Palestine is not easy, particularly through marriage as you suddenly become part of a different community and of a new family, and the pressure can be quite intense sometimes. It’s good to know this group exists as it provides a place for women in similar situations who can really identify with the challenges of living here, and share the good and the bad times together. Some spoke of their horror at watching the genocide in Gaza from afar, something I had found so difficult myself. It’s always worse being outside of Palestine when there is something happening that is making global news, so it’s good to know that we’re not alone, even when we feel that we are.

The route to university isn’t easy

Posted on 27 August 2014 | No responses

Wednesday August 27th

Yesterday I drove to Birzeit University near Ramallah.We decided to hire a car rather than use the service (‘servees’ which are mini vans that drive from one place to another when full) as it takes so long, with at least three changes between vans, and it gets costly. Also, depending on the situation at any of the checkpoints, fixed or ‘flying’, being in your own car can give some semblance of ‘choice’. (Of course, living under an illegal military occupation actually ensures that you have no choice.) Read more

A cause for celebration?

Posted on 26 August 2014 | 2 responses

Tuesday August 26th
We’ve been home a few days and life in Palestine has been largely uneventful, by West Bank standards at least.

Tonight we went to an event hosted at the Alternative Information Centre in Beit Sahour. It’s an organisation that was established 30 years ago, and does some great work, especially around the theme of normalisation. Ilan Pappe, eminent Israeli historian and academic was speaking about the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis. Read more

Exposing the complex system of Israel’s domination over Palestinians and Palestine

Posted on 8 January 2014 | No responses

Also published by Palestine Chronicle here

Unfree in Palestine: Registration, Documentation and Movement Restriction – Nadia Abu-Zahra Adah Kay, Pluto Press, 2013

The opening lines of Mahmoud Darwish’s poem Bitaqat Hawiyyah (identity card) are a poignant reminder of reality for Palestinians throughout the world:

“Register me!
I am an Arab
And my identity card number is fifty thousand”

And it is most fitting that Nadia Abu-Zahra and Adah Kay quote these powerful words within the first few pages of their book, Unfree in Palestine: Registration, Documentation and Movement Restriction. Read more

The rumours of a third Intifada have been greatly exaggerated

Posted on 19 December 2012 | No responses

This article is also published on Palestine Chronicle

Over the past few days, the talk of a third Intifada breaking out in the occupied Palestinian territories has increased. But it isn’t Palestinians living under the occupation who are talking up the chances of a third uprising against Israel’s continued oppression in the territories. Read more

Good old Israel?

Posted on 5 August 2012 | No responses

In his latest piece written for the New York Times, Avraham Burg asks: “Where is the good old Israel?” Assuming he is not being tongue-in-cheek, and there is no suggestion in the rest of the article that he is, he continues to peddle the same old clichés that liberal Zionists are so fond of. Propaganda is a powerful tool, but so is the truth. Read more

Roads to nowhere

Posted on 21 July 2012 | No responses

The drive from Bethlehem to Ramallah, or from pretty much anywhere to anywhere in the West Bank now, takes you along many roads recently established courtesy of USAID. At intersections there’s big signs, telling Palestinian travellers that this road is a gift from the American people. The signs omit to mention the other gifts from America, including military and financial support used to prop up and maintain the racist government of Israel and its policies that discriminate against the indigenous population. Read more

Another brick in the wall

Posted on 21 July 2012 | No responses

Water is always an issue here. Not because there isn’t enough—there is—but because the access to water, for Palestinians, is strictly controlled: firstly by Mekerot, the Israeli water company, then secondly by the Palestinian water authority. According to figures quoted by Sam Bahour, settlers have up to seven times the amount of water that Palestinians do. Read more

Making the abnormal normal

Posted on 21 July 2012 | No responses

We finally left Ramallah, later than planned. I was supposed to be back in Bethlehem at 4.30 for Zumba. (Yes, Zumba: but that’s another story!) We didn’t leave until almost 3.45, so even with an empty road, no flying checkpoints, the “container”, Wadi Nar and all other probable and improbable obstacles, we’d not be back in time. Read more

Thine eyes wide shut?

Posted on 19 July 2012 | No responses

The Australian student group’s next meeting after Sam Bahour was with Abdullah Abdullah; PLO ambassador to Lebanon, Palestinian parliament representative for Jerusalem, and Fateh party member. Read more

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