Remembering Palestinian mental health pioneer Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Icp87DPicM8

It’s hard for me to believe that it was in 2002 that Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, the legendary Palestinian mental health pioneer, visited Chicago and spoke at the International House.

It seems like yesterday. Although that is the only time I met him, he was someone I long admired not only for his visionary work but his political courage. In person Dr. El-Sarraj had the same buoyant energy and wry humor that came through in his writing.

Dr. El-Sarraj passed away yesterday in the besieged Gaza Strip, from cancer.

Born in 1944 in Beir al-Saba (“Beersheva” in present-day Israel), El-Sarraj became a refugee, along with his family, during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.

He studied medicine in Egypt and psychiatry at the prestigious Institute of Psychiatry in London.

In 1990, he founded the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, which, as he explains in the video interview above, was based on a simple premise: “If you’re not enjoying human rights, then you’re definitely not enjoying sound mental health.”

The video was produced last year by Pam Bailey for the “Child’s View from Gaza” art exhibit.

Indefatigable

El-Sarraj recognized the vast need for mental healthcare among Palestinians living under traumatic and oppressive circumstances and he did as much to destigmatize mental illness and mental health as to create an infrastructure to provide services.

El-Sarraj particularly focused on the situation of children and young people, who form the majority of Gaza’s nearly 1.7 million residents.

He was indefatigable. Earlier this year Rana Baker wrote about a meeting El-Sarraj hosted at his home for young people like herself.

He asked them to help organize a conference on the effects of Israel’s November 2012 military assault.

Never shy to speak out against the Israeli occupation or the Palestinian Authority, El-Sarraj was jailed three times by the PA for his opinions between December 1995 and June 1996 where he experienced torture and solitary confinement.

He was one of the very few Palestinian figures as respected among Palestinians as he was abroad, where he won numerous prizes for his work including the 1998 Martin Ennals Award for International Human Rights Defenders.

When he won the 2010 Olof Palme Prize, El-Sarraj said, “I am proud and happy to receive this prize, but I consider that the real heroes are the victims of violence, torture and war … This prize gives me hope and encourages me to continue to fight to defend those whose rights have been abused, and to work for justice and peace.”

He did that to the very end.

(Source / 18.12.2013)

Al-Qaeda leader in Syria speaks to Al Jazeera

In his first-ever media interview, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, says conflict is nearing end.

Al Jazeera’s Tayseer Allouni met Abu Mohammed al-Joulani in an undisclosed location in Syria [Al Jazeera]
The leader of al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, one of the most powerful groups in the war-torn country, has told Al Jazeera that that the conflict is nearing an end and that his fighters hold the upper hand.

In his first-ever televised interview, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, ruled out peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad and warned that Arab states should be cautious of the recent improvement of Iran-US ties.

“The battle is almost over, we have covered about 70 percent of it, and what’s left is small. We will achieve victory soon. We pray to God to culminate these efforts with victory. It’s only a matter of days,” he said in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera’s Tayseer Allouni from an undisclosed location in Syria.

Al-Joulani added that al-Nusra – designated by the UN, the US and other western countries as a terrorist organisation – would not accept the outcome of the upcoming international conference in Geneva scheduled for January.

For the interview with Al Jazeera, al-Joulani asked that his face be hidden because of security fears. Little is known about the al-Qaeda leader, but it is believed that he had joined the self-declared jihadist group several years ago to fight US forces in Iraq.

Sunni states ‘in jeopardy’ 

Al-Nusra, which wants to establish a Syrian state that is ruled under Islamic law (Sharia), keeps secret the number of its fighters in Syria, but estimates suggest that it could be anywhere between 5,000 up to 20,000 fighters and have strongholds in different parts of Syria.

Known for using suicide attacks as part of its fight against Assad’s troops, al-Nusra, along with other Syrian rebel groups, has been accused by the UN of committing war crimes against government forces and civilians.

In his interview, al-Joulani warned that Sunni-led Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, should be cautious of recently improved relations between the US and Iran.

Jabhat al-Nusra have strongholds in different parts of Syria

Last month, a breakthrough agreement was reached between Washington and Tehran, under which Iran would curb its atomic activities in return for some easing of the international sanctions that have battered the country’s economy.

“Those [Sunni-led] regimes are now running out of options as a result of the super powers turning against them. The ferocious tide of the Safavid [Iranian Shia] regime is now coming. All these states are now in jeopardy since the international community replaced them with a new ally, Iran.”

The conflict in Syria, which began almost three years ago, has taken increasingly sectarian overtones.

Assad belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam, while most of the rebels trying to overthrow his regime belong to the Sunni majority.

“If the Assad regime remained in power, which is in the interest of the super powers and the Safavids, then the next target will be the Arabian Peninsula, now known as Saudi Arabia.”

The US and Saudi Arabia have been allies since the kingdom was declared in 1932, giving Riyadh a powerful military protector and Washington secure oil supplies. But the recent improvement in relations between Washington and Tehran was one of the low points in US-Saudi ties.

“The majority of oil is located to the east of Saudi Arabia, in al-Ihsaa, Qateef, and Dammam. These areas would be targeted… taken away and given to the new ally, Iran”, al-Joulani warned.

Strict security measures

Al-Nusra suffered a blow in the recent months when hundreds of its foreign fighters defected with their weapons, to join another al-Qaeda linked group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

But along with other powerful rebel brigades, al-Nusra remains strong and does not recognise the Syrian opposition in exile.

“We will not recognise any results that come out of the Geneva 2 Conference, nor will the children or women of Syria do. Those taking part in the conference do not represent the people who sacrificed and shed blood. Besides, who has authorised them to represent the people?

“Those are confined to newsrooms. In reality, they have no presence on the ground. We cannot allow the Geneva 2 game to fool the nation, to push us back 50 or 100 years,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Allouni is the first journalist to have met al-Joulani. He said he underwent strict security measures and was heavily searched ahead of the interview.

“The security measures were far stricter than those taken by the security team of Bin Laden,” Allouni said, referring to his interview with the now-deceased Osama bin Laden, the former al-Qaeda global leader, in 2001.

(Source / 18.12.2013)

Israel proposes law to tax NGOs criticising its treatment of Palestinians

Children with Palestinian flags

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni stated that she is going to appeal the committee’s decision. This step might stop the supporters of the law from putting it for a vote in the Knesset

An Israeli government committee approved a draft law on Sunday that will impose an additional 45 per cent tax on the external donations of those Israeli NGOs that criticise Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

According to media reports, the extreme right wing political allies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed the bill.

The draft law reportedly targets NGOs that support boycotting Israeli institutions, imposing sanctions on Israel and prosecuting Israeli soldiers before international tribunals.

According to the terms of the draft law, external donations to NGOs of this kind are considered to be outside interference in the internal affairs of Israel and thus constitute a violation of Israeli sovereignty.

In response, opponents of the new draft law pointed out that it violates the freedom of expression in Israel. The opposition recommended for the committee not to approve it.

However the committee voted to approve the draft, with eight in favour and four opposed.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni stated that she is going to appeal the committee’s decision. This step might stop the supporters of the law from putting it for a vote in the Knesset.

Livni described the draft law as “dangerous legislation”. She wrote on her Facebook page that: “It will isolate Israeli and make it more difficult for Israel’s allies to stand beside it.”

(Source / 18.12.2013)

Jordan wants Israel to remove Aqsa surveillance cameras

AFP – Jordan, the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, demanded on Tuesday that Israel remove surveillance cameras at the city’s sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

 “Jordan rejects Israel’s installation of surveillance cameras on December 8 to monitor waqf officials, Hashemite reconstruction workers  and worshippers, particularly women,” Information Minister Mohammad Momani told state news agency Petra.

“Jordan does not accept that Israel has set up a police station inside the compound. It is a flagrant military violation of the freedom of worshippers as well as an interference in the affairs of the Jordanian Islamic waqf” (Islamic endowment).

The kingdom, which has a 1994 peace treaty with Israel, “calls for removing all such military measures.”

“Israel should not ignore Jordan’s diplomatic efforts to stop violation of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound,” Momani said.

“Jordan will not stop efforts to prevent Israel from imposing a new status quo in Jerusalem.”

Israel captured Jerusalem’s Arab eastern sector from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War.

It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community but, under the 1994 treaty, Jordan retained authority over all Muslim sites in Jerusalem.

(Source / 18.12.2013)

Notes from the field

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Floods on Gaza streets and houses from storm Alexa, Elshiek Radwan Area

Gaza City, capital of innovation

Yesterday, I arrived in Gaza. It was the first day that people were permitted to enter from Israel, although travel in the opposite direction was still not allowed. The crossing had been closed for three days.

Having met up with my colleagues in MAP’s Gaza office, we went to the Sheik Radwan area in Gaza City to evaluate the situation and assess the needs of those who have remained in their second or third floor apartments, surrounded by flood water.

Water has now been pumped out of most of the areas in Gaza that were seriously flooded, but the water level is still high in Sheik Radwan.

I went with our programme assistant, Mohamed Askari, in one of the boats that is being used to transport supplies and people to and from their apartments.

When the floods started, Gaza’s fishermen – whose living is being decimated by the Israeli and Egyptian maritime blockade – were called upon to support those worst affected by the floods. They came to help immediately and have continued to run a ferry service through the water-filled streets, joking that Gaza City has become like Venice.

Our boat took bread, water and other supplies to people in different streets. Residents lowered buckets or baskets down to the boat and hoisted their supplies back up.

Some of our fellow passengers who were returning to their apartments climbed up trees to get into their homes. Others jumped down from their balconies into the boat, to be taken to dry land to buy what they needed.

One man who jumped into the boat with his two sons showed me the school books they had in their bag. He was trying to get them somewhere dry in order to study.

Other families told us they had evacuated their children as it was so cold in their apartments. The electricity has been totally cut in the area (elsewhere electricity is only available for 3 hours a day) and people are burning charcoal in their homes in order to keep warm.

The flooding was so high in some areas that we saw a car entirely submerged by the water. We passed by all sorts of debris, even fridge-freezers floating in the streets.

Our Programme Director in Gaza, Fikr Shalltoot, talked to people in the crowd waiting for the boats. One man told her that he had just come to the end of his credit payments on the furniture he had bought for his apartment and now everything has been destroyed by the floods.

It is impossible to keep furniture and belongings even once they have dried out, because sewage has mixed with the flood water.

What struck me most in all of this, as we went from house to house, was the extraordinary resilience of the people of Gaza and their determined ability to improvise. In spite of everything, people still waved, laughed and raised their fingers to sign peace from their roofs and balconies.

The Israeli authorities have now announced that the Erez crossing will be open today as ‘normal’, which means that foreigners, Palestinian patients who have been referred to hospitals in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or Israel, and a few business men will be allowed to travel through the crossing out of Gaza.

But people here, living under threat of bombardment and a blockade that has now entered its seventh year, deserve a better life than this. It is quite simply shameful that the international community is not putting effective pressure on Israel – which is responsible as the Occupying Power for the health and well-being of the Palestinian population – to lift the blockade in its entirety.

(Source / 18.12.2013)

Complications of the Saudi Alliance With Israel

Never before has the Saudi government felt comfortable flaunting its alliance with Israel. This alliance is not new and has long historical precedences. But the Saudi royal family, in the age of the second generation of princes, has been changing tactics: Historically cautious and duplicitous, the Saudi regime is now open about its alliance with the United States and Israel (closer to Israel than the US as of late).

Before the Iraqi invasion of 1990, the Saudi government and its neighbors wanted a US military presence but always “over the horizon.” They were afraid of local and Arab public opinion had they invited US troops to their land. Those qualms and apprehensions were removed once the Saudi regime invited US forces into the kingdom, and other Gulf regimes followed suit and hosted various US military and intelligence bases (some of the military and CIA bases in the Gulf region are among the biggest in the world).

After September 11, the Saudi government calculated, for reasons related to winning over US Congress and media, that an alliance with Israel would remove all the resentment against Saudi Arabia for the complicity of the royal family (with the full support of successive US administrations) in the establishment of a global jihadi network. The Saudi calculation worked. Suddenly, criticism in the US Congress disappeared, and a legal case against the Saudi minister of defense was dismissed and the media started to, yet again, sing the praises of Saudi moderation and reasonableness. The Saudi government added its “peace plan” to prove its credentials as a state willing to walk in the footsteps of Anwar Sadat, and to make an ostensible break with its past grotesque rhetoric of anti-Semitism (not that this anti-Semitic rhetoric was eliminated or that this anti-Semitic rhetoric ever bothered Zionists, provided that services to Israel are rendered).

But the meeting between Saudi Prince Turki and past and current Israeli officials in Monte Carlo may indicate that the Saudi government has gotten quite comfortable in its dealings with Israelis. The Saudi government is now showing its displeasure with the Obama administration by flaunting its agreement with the government that can wield the most influence in US Congress. But this policy carries risks for the royal family:

1) It is not clear what is left in terms of ideology for the royal family. Wahhabiyyah is now aligned with Zionism, and the clerics are made to make changes in interpretations of the religious doctrine in response to demands of US Congress.

2) There will come a contradiction. The Saudi government, while sponsoring jihadi and non-jihadi Salafis all over the region, is aligning itself with a state and an ideology that Salafis (of whatever stripe) have a hard time reconciling themselves to.

3) How far will the Saudi family go before it causes harm to its religious and Arab nationalist image – an image which it can only brandish with payments of large sums of money to Arab media and publishing houses.

4) After a period of time, the Saudi government will be seen as a partner in the Israeli occupation of Arab (and in the minds of many Muslim) lands.

5) The alliance with Israel can be used against certain Saudi princes by other Saudi princes, especially that the struggle for power is now in full swing.

6) The conflict between the various Gulf regimes seems to have increased, and this alliance will be used by the rivals of Saudi Arabia against it.

7) How will the Saudi government seek to gain popularity in the Arab world (always through sums of cash tossed at dictators) while maintaining its alliance with Israel?

8) What can Israel give to Saudi Arabia that it can’t get from the US? And what can Israel get from Saudi Arabia? The benefits from this relationship are at best tactical for both sides.

9) How can the Saudi regime use the argument of jihad in Syria while preserving an alliance with Israel, and refraining from any talk of a military solution to the Palestinian problem?

The Saudi royal family is facing a political crisis that coincides with the crisis of succession in the kingdom. The recent uncharacteristically bold moves by the kingdom in its foreign policy are signs of indecision and conflict at the level of leadership. This could only lead to strategically wrong moves by either the government as a whole or an individual prince who is too impatient to wait for the right time to seize the throne.

(Source / 18.12.2013)

Palestinian killed as Israel raids Jenin camp

JENIN (Ma’an) — One Palestinian was killed and at least six others were injured after Israeli forces raided Jenin refugee camp and entered the house of a Hamas leader and prisoner.

Locals said undercover Israeli forces arrived at Abu al-Hayja’s home in a car with Palestinian license plates before clashing with Palestinians who noticed them.

Palestinians threw an improvised explosive device at the Israeli forces who called for reinforcements.

Around 25 military vehicles arrived in the camp and fired live ammunition at Palestinians, injuring three people critically. Two people were shot in the stomach and one in the head.

One person died on the way to hospital, an Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma’an. She said military medics were treating the injured Palestinians after the incident.

Witnesses said Israeli forces were refusing to allow ambulances near other injured people.

The spokeswoman said Palestinians fired at army personnel who “retaliated in self-defense.”

Army spokesman Peter Lerner said that “operations like this are aimed at preventing the terrorists from reaching our towns and abducting our civilians and attacking Israeli commuters on the road.”

(Source / 18.12.2013)

Israel confiscates private Palestinian land near Nablus

NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities confiscated ten dunams and restricted access to 500 dunams of private agricultural Palestinian land in the village of Qusra south of Nablus on Tuesday, an official said.

Ghassan Daghlas, a PA official who monitors settlement activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that the Israeli liaison department in Nablus officially notified its Palestinian counterpart of the confiscation order.

The land, he added, is located between the village and an illegal Israeli settlement outpost called Esh Kodesh.

Daghlas added that the Israelis told their Palestinian counterparts that farmers were not allowed access to an area of more than 500 dunams around the confiscated land.

“This means,” he said, “they are confiscating 500 more dunams.”

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

(Source / 18.12.2013)

Interview with Hashem Azzeh: “They want me to move but I will never give up, we are still fighting until we get our freedom”

Hashem Younes Azzeh is a 50-year-old resident of Tel Rumeida, he is married with 4 children and is a graduate of Hebron and Jordan Universities.

Hashem Azzeh

Hashem Azzeh

Can you tell us about the situation in Hebron in general and why it is unique in the West Bank?

The city of Hebron is divided into two parts. One part is called H1, it is under the Palestinian Authority control and H2, which is under the Israeli military control. And here in my house we are in Tel Rumeida. Tel Rumeida and Shuhada Street  are under Israeli control. This was agreed on in the Hebron agreement 1997.  The other unique thing about Hebron are the settlements [Hebron is the only place in the West Bank where settlements have been created within the city]. There are four settlements around the area where we are here. One of them is right next to my house (Tel Rumeida). There are only two or three meters between me and the settlers. The second settlement is called Beit Hadessa. The building used to be a boys school before it was confiscated and turned into a settlement. The other one is Beit Romano. Like in the case of Beit Hadessa they took a school building which was controlled by the Palestinian Authority before.

The next settlement is called Avraham Avinu; it is in the middle of the city. The Palestinians used that space as the main vegetable market in Hebron, the old market. It was confiscated in the year 1994, after the Ibrahimi mosque massacre [In 1994 a settler named Baruch Goldstein, entered the mosque and started shooting. He killed 29 and injured over a hundred Palestinians before he was shot. Today in the settlement of Kyriat Aba, there is a memory stone for him, saying that he died fighting the enemy. He is celebrated as a hero.]

Can you tell us a bit about the development in Hebron, especially in H2 over the last years?

I will talk about Shuhada Street first. Shuhada Street was the main street in Hebron. It connected the northern and the eastern part of the city. When the army closed the street, 1800 shops were blocked. 500 shops were closed through military resolutions. The army blocked the shops with metal, to prevent the owners from reopening them. Though not only shops, also houses were blocked by the army, so people could not get back into their homes.

In 2000 they imposed a curfew on the city, which lasted until the end of 2003. The official statements state that the curfew lasted for 167 days. That is correct but only for the old city. It is not the case for Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida. There the curfew lasted for three years in total. No one could get out of his house. The army gave us one hour a month to let us do our shopping. After the end of 2003 they started to soften the curfew. We now had one hour every two weeks. In the whole year of 2004, we lived under a night curfew.  That lasted until the middle of 2005. When I say night curfew I mean from 6 o’ clock in the evening to 6 o’clock in the morning. After 6 o’clock in the evening you could see no one on the streets, it was completely empty. No one could go out of his house, no one could go to the hospital, no one could do anything. They finally abolished all the curfews in the middle of 2005.

At that time the International Committee of the Red Cross decided to help the Palestinians who are living here, by distributing a box of food for each family once a month. They stopped it in the late 2012. They thought the situation was much calmer and the assistance was not needed any more. That led to many Palestinians moving from here. They moved for two reasons: The first one is an economical one. They couldn’t survive because everybody had lost their jobs. The other was for security reasons. The army and the settlers, particularly the army came all the time and attacked the houses and their inhabitants. The Palestinians wanted to save their lives. That is why they moved. 350 families lived on Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida.  Last year, there where only 48 families left. Also the school in H1 has changed. It used to be a school for just girls. There used to be over four hundred students, who attended this school, but over time the number dropped to seventy. We, as the popular committee of parents, decided to talk to the Ministry of Education to turn it into a mixed school, to increase the number of students and therefore save the school. That is what happened. It is now a mixed school, with 171 students.

How is the daily life of Palestinians who live in H2?

The situation in Hebron is extremely tense, especially in Tel Rumeida. There are no shops open and no public transportation. We don’t have any clinics here and no ambulances can reach us. If someone needs to go to the hospital, we have to carry the patients by hand through the checkpoint and the ambulance will wait for us behind it. There is no way for them to come to the patients directly in H2.

The Palestinians who live here, have to go to H1 to buy their goods. In order to get there, they have to pass the checkpoint at Shuhada Street, which is called checkpoint 56. The soldiers check every bag that we carry.

In general the daily life is really horrible. Our children get harassed on their way to and back from school. We get controlled and searched at the checkpoint every day. The army drew red lines in front of some of the checkpoints. We have to wait behind this line until we get called by the soldiers one by one to pass. Some streets in Hebron are now separated by a fence. The Palestinians are only allowed to walk on one side of the fence. The soldiers have the power to arrest any Palestinian who walks on the other side of the street.

What experiences have you had living door-to-door with the Israeli settlers?

Well, about the settlers. When they came in 1976, they started confiscating land and houses. Since then the amount of settlers increased constantly and still is. The settlers harass us by throwing stones, garbage and sometimes human shit.

The settlers are the commanders in charge here. They even have power over the soldiers, they will do whatever the settlers will tell them to do. They abuse our children on their way to school. That is why we invited internationals to come here. EAPPI [Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel] has been here since 2003. We also started contact with ISM and CPT [Christian Peacemakers Team] after that. We wanted them to observe what is going on here. We used to have daily harassments from the settlers towards our children. A lot of them suffer from psychological diseases. The children here, including my own, can’t sleep well at night. The light has to be on all the time. If we turn it off they get scared. They can’t fall asleep if we don’t stay with them until they fall asleep. They always expect soldiers or settlers to come and attack. Many children still wet their pants at the age of fourteen and fifteen. We treated these problems with the doctors from Doctors Without Borders. But that is not enough; we want to treat these troubles more in the association that we created in Tel Rumeida.

In what way does the constant presence of the Israeli army affect your daily life?

There used to be monthly searching in our houses. The army came at night with big dogs. They stormed the houses, woke up everyone- even the children are not spared. We have to leave our house, even when it was cold outside. These searches can take up to three hours or more, all the while insulting us and our children. Sometimes they write graphite on our doors for example “gas the Arabs”. The Israelis offered us money once to leave our houses, a huge amount of money. When we refused they closed all the entrances to our house. I used to climb a six meter wall to access my home. When my wife was pregnant I had to carry her all the way, when she was about to give birth. It took us three hours to get to the hospital. At the checkpoint the army would not let us pass without checking our ID and searching us, even though they recognized that my wife was in a labour.

Another issue is that we have to get a permit to harvest our olives from the Israeli army. [Without having to give a reason, the army can refuse these permits; many farmers are unable to access their land throughout the West Bank]. Settlers regularly destroy our trees and steal the olives. I personally have not been able to get any of my olives. I have fifty trees and could not harvest any of them. The olive trees are an important part of our culture. If you grow an olive tree you will have to wait fifteen years before you can harvest the olives. So when you have to watch the settlers stealing your olives or uprooting the trees, you become crazy because there is nothing you can do. The army also built a watchtower on my brothers’ house; they are everywhere all the time.

What is your personal experience with the illegal settlers and the Israeli army?

The settlers who live next to me cut the water pipes that lead to my house. I lived without water for three years. I therefore got in contact with international and human rights organizations. At least we were able to replace some of the pipes. Then the settlers came and uprooted all of my fruit trees. They attacked my wife when she was pregnant with our first child; she lost it in her third month. She was pregnant again but the settlers beat her when she was four months pregnant and she lost that baby as well. Later they stormed my house shooting bullets in the wall and destroying all my furniture. These are just examples from an endless pool of incidents.

I am next to the settlement. All of the settlers here are extremists. They closed all of my accesses to my house. My neighbour is the leader of the Jewish National Front. He has two stickers posted to his wall. One of them says “God gave us the right to kill Arabs and we love it”.

Once the army came to my house arrested my son, who was five years old at that time. They accused him of throwing stones. When the soldiers came to take him, my son was playing on his computer. The soldiers just laughed while arresting him. When I asked him, if there were sure that they actually saw my son throwing the stones they said no, the settlers told them it was him.

The army and the settlers have done a lot to me here. They want me to move but I will never give up, we are still fighting until we get our freedom.

What kind of hopes and expectations do you have for the future? Or what solutions do you see?

Actually as Palestinians, we accept many solutions. The PLO accepted the two state solution. And after that the Palestinian Authority also came to agreement with Israel to approach a two state solution. But even after 20 years of negotiations nothing has happened. On the contrary, the Israelis started confiscating more land and more houses to spread the settlements, they want to control everything. The Israelis were rather open with their demands; they want to keep the wall in Jerusalem and the natural resources. They also won’t give up the settlements, the army and the borders that they created. Another issue is that they still refuse to accept the right of return for the Palestinian refugees. So how is a two state solution going to work, if all these demands have to be met? For me there is a logical and acceptable answer, for us Palestinians, if Israel removes their troops and the borders from 1967 and they remove the wall and leave East Jerusalem as a capital for us, if they give us our borders, the airports the two state solution is a possibility. But that is not what Israel wants. They are talking about a pure Jewish state. A pure Jewish state will have a huge impact on us, it means that they want to cleanse this land from all the Palestinians, Christian or Muslim. I believe they wanted to cleanse the Christian Palestinians first to show that this is a conflict between Judaism and Islam, but that is not true. We are not against Judaism; we are only against the occupation. Every Palestinian has close Jewish friends. We are simply against the occupation not the religion. But the Israeli plan is to dismiss everybody from here. At times we had lots of discussions with Israelis. I said to someone before if you want to keep all of these things, let us think about one democratic state.  Let us live together in harmony. I think that will be the best for everybody. You will see how peace will come.

What about your plan for the future?

For me personally it is clear, I will never move until I die or we get our freedom. I will keep my house with my family and my resistance. We encourage the other Palestinians who moved from here to return back to their houses. This is what our associations does here in Tel Rumeida, we offer Palestinians support in case they move back here. We help them find a job, we have free health services and we support and protect each other.

(Source / 18.12.2013)

1800 PALESTINIAN REFUGEES KILLED IN SYRIA: STATISTICS

       Damascus, 16 Safar 1435/19 December 2013 (MINA) – Activists in Syria said that three Palestinian refugees were killed in that war-torn country over the past 24 hours.

       The Action Group for Palestinians in Syria said in a statement on Wednesday that Syrian regular army continued to shell and attack Palestinian refugee camps, Palestinian Information center reported as quoted by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA).

It said that the last casualties raised the number of Palestinians killed in Syria since the crisis started there to 1,807.

The group said that two were killed in Yarmouk refugee camp and a third was killed under excruciating torture in Syrian security jails.

It pointed out that Yarmouk camp came under violent shelling on Tuesday, adding that its inhabitants were reeling under a tight Syrian military siege for 156 days, which blocked the entry of foodstuff, medical supplies, heating, and other basic life necessities.

The group warned of a humanitarian disaster in all Palestinian refugee camps in Syria as a result of the inhuman blockade that has been continuing for months.

(Source / 18.12.2013)