Tuesday, May 26, 2015

[ePalestine] GISHA: The Ministry of Economic Defense

GISHA

The Ministry of Economic Defense

Posted on May 21, 2015

There is zero reference to security in the entire response. Photo: Eman Mihammed
There is zero reference to security in the entire response. Photo: Eman Mohammed
After years of a complete ban, Israel began allowing transit of goods produced and grown in Gaza in the West Bank in late 2014. The approval was initially limited to agricultural goods, but has since been expanded to include other products like furniture and textiles. In our attempt to understand how the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) decides which goods may exit Gaza and which may not, we submitted a Freedom of Information Application on the subject. COGAT's long, detailed and surprising response arrived in late March. The full text of the response is available here (Hebrew).

First, it's worth noting that there is zero reference to security in the entire response. When the possibility of selling goods from Gaza to the West Bank was discussed just last year, "security" was front and center. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were prepared to risk a diplomatic confrontation with the Dutch government over the issue, claiming that Gaza goods could not be sold in the West Bank for security reasons even though the Dutch had donated a top-of-the-line scanner for just such a purpose. Now, Israel has allowed the sale of good from Gaza in the West Bank, and even some agricultural goods in its own territory, and somehow security considerations have disappeared.

Despite its impressive length, the response doesn't really answer the questions we asked. Even so, the response is fascinating. For example, the response states that, among other things, COGAT considers "manufacturing capacity, supply and demand in the relevant markets – both the originating market and the destination market". In other words, COGAT is claiming that, before it decides whether to allow goods to be sold in the West Bank, it conducts an economic assessment of the markets in the West Bank, the financial potential of the goods and the Gaza manufacturer's capacity to meet his own targets.

Does COGAT, a unit of the Ministry of Defense run by a major general in the Israeli army, have an economic planning department that does market research in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank? Will Ministry of Defense economists refuse to approve the shipment of goods if the demand is lower than the supply in the "relevant markets"? How often does COGAT conduct an assessment of the "relevant markets" and what is its methodology? Who appointed COGAT to regulate the Palestinian market? To those who say Israel "left Gaza", we offer this document up for discussion. Ten years after the implementation of the disengagement plan, Israel's Ministry of Defense has wide discretion to determine the bottom line on the monthly balance sheet of your average private entrepreneur from Gaza and it appears to have nothing at all to do with security.

http://gisha.org/en-blog/2015/05/21/the-ministry-of-economic-defense

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

[ePalestine] +972: A tragically unexceptional story of life and death under occupation (By Sam Bahour)

+972 (Hebrew link below)

A tragically unexceptional story of life and death under occupation

By Sam Bahour



My father-in-law, Mughira Barghouty, is dying. At age 91, his health has severely deteriorated over the last six months. He has three daughters: Sawsan, Serene and my wife, Abeer. Serene and Abeer  live in Ramallah and have become full-time caregivers to their now bedridden father. Sawsan lives in Amman, Jordan. Of late, Mughira has repeated a single request: to touch his daughter Sawsan's hand one last time. It was about to happen on the last day of April. Sawsan got all the way to the Israel border crossing, Israeli tourist visa in hand, but she was denied entry and told to go back to Amman. The family is crushed, but not surprised. 

READ ON AT:

ENGLISH: http://bit.ly/sawsan-en

HEBREW: http://bit.ly/sawsan-he

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Saturday, May 09, 2015

[ePalestine] HuffingtonPost: An Initiative Worth Supporting (James Zogby)

I'm honored and humbled. Thanks Dr. Zogby.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-zogby/an-initiative-worth-supporting_b_7247712.html

An Initiative Worth Supporting

By James Zogby

I have written before about some of my Palestinian American heroes, including men like Ibrahim Abu-Lughod and Zahi Khouri. I want to add to that list, my friend, Sam Bahour.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-zogby/an-initiative-worth-supporting_b_7247712.html


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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

[ePalestine] A Resolution Germany Owes History (By Sam Bahour)

A Resolution Germany Owes History

By Sam Bahour

One way or another, Germany’s Bundestag is about to make history with the upcoming vote on the issue of recognizing Palestinian statehood. A positive vote for Palestine would finally strengthen the European Union’s weakest link in contributing to Middle East Peace. A negative vote for Palestinian statehood would leave the Palestinians with no political horizon, which can only lead to more violence and/or a strategic shift where Palestinians drop their bid for statehood and convert their struggle to a total civil rights struggle: in essence, forcing a one state reality politically to match the military one state reality that Israel has had the luxury to construct, with nearly 50 years of its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem.

Palestine did not fall into a historic crisis due to a natural disaster. Dispossession, discrimination and prolonged military occupation was the result, to a great extent, of the colossal tragedy that befell Jews in Europe. We Palestinians are still paying the price for those acts today. It is long overdue that this manmade nightmare should end.

If the Bundestag chooses to refuse Palestinian statehood when called to act on it, this would be totally out of synchronization with the long-standing German position for two-states as a model to resolve the conflict. Germany’s political integrity is at stake.

Fear-mongers have unleashed their venom against Palestinian statehood in the discourse in Germany. By now, their mode of operation is well-known, and has failed over and over again. It failed with all 138 countries that voted overwhelmingly in favor of the 2012 Palestinian bid for observer state status in the UN (Germany abstained) and it is failing in country after country, where bilateral recognition (over 130 countries to date) of Palestine is growing by the day. With the newly re-elected Israeli prime minister winning on a campaign rally of no two-states, the burden of action now squarely sits on the lap of the international community.

Allow me to take a brief issue with the arguments made by those who urge Germany to not join the global momentum toward recognizing Palestine.

THEY SAY Palestinians never missed an opportunity for peace. The fact of the matter is that the boot of Israeli occupation was never, ever removed from the neck of Palestinians to give them a fighting chance to create a new reality—not in Oslo, not in the West Bank, not in East Jerusalem, and surely not in the Gaza Strip. The unrelenting extent of Israel’s effective control over all the occupied territory is no longer an issue for debate; historical record is clear.

THEY SAY the Palestinian political body promotes extremism and violence. The fact of the matter is that it is a miracle that the Palestinians have been able to maintain any sense of a political system at all, given Israel’s systematic, forced fragmentation of the Palestinians’ geographic reality, campaign of targeted assassinations and continued policy of imprisoning Palestinian political leadership, including over a dozen democratically elected members of the legislative council. In light of this reality on the ground, the Palestinians still beg the international community to uphold international law and UN resolutions, themselves bringing the two-state solution to the podium of the UN General Assembly for approval. What is clear is, now that the majority of the world accepts Palestinian statehood, that if key international players, Germany being on the top of the list, drop the ball of bringing Palestine into existence on the ground, no one should complain if the younger generation of Palestinians drop statehood once and for all and we are back in a cycle of never-ending violence.

THEY SAY the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and independence is linked to the horrific events unfolding in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The fact of the matter is that even the Israeli security establishment has acknowledged that regional events are very different and detached from what Palestinians are requesting. Actually, it is the Palestinian movement, not to mention the Palestinian refugees stuck for 60 years in the region due to Israel refusing to allow them to return home, who have the most to lose with the region engulfed in domestic and regional chaos.

THEY SAY Palestinians must be put through a test to prove our worthiness of freedom. The fact of the matter is that in the world of global governance there are no teachers and classrooms, only international law which applies to all. No excuse under the sun can justify one more day of military occupation, especially one that does not view itself as an occupation and continues to facilitate its citizens’ squatting on Palestinian lands.

In the Oslo Peace Accords, over twenty year ago, Palestinians recognized the state of Israel, in writing. In reply, Israel merely recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the representative of the Palestinian people. This lopsided starting point may have contributed to the failure of the entire Oslo exercise. Today’s Germany has the opportunity to correct that historic mismatch and save the region from future violence, let alone saving Israel from itself.

The previous UK Consul General in Jerusalem, Sir Vincent Fean, addressed his country’s upcoming debate on Palestinian statehood in The Sunday Herald (Scotland) on 19 April 2015 in an article titled, “We can restore hope in a just peace for Palestine and Israel.” He wrote, “Palestinians have the right to statehood, peace with justice and hope. Israelis have the same right to live in safety, with good neighbours and shared hope. We can do what is right for both peoples. Our next Government should recognise the State of Palestine alongside Israel, to preserve the two-state solution. Failure to resolve this conflict fairly remains the best recruiting sergeant for violent extremism. We regain our balance by upholding the international law we helped to write.”

The Bundestag has a choice to make. It can continue looking backwards in history on this issue and ignore its leading role in securing peace in the Middle East, or it can courageously look forward, maybe even recognizing something it owes history, and assume leadership in this debate. The choice is yours. We hope you will make the choice for peace. 

- Sam Bahour serves as a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. He blogs at ePalestine.com. 

GERMAN version: http://bit.ly/A-Resolution-Germany-Owes-History-de

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

[ePalestine] DEMOCRACY: Framing to Advance, Not to Batter (By Sam Bahour)


Democracy: A Journal of Ideas


American Progressives and Israel, Continued

In Issue #35 of Democracy, Matt Duss wrote a provocative essay, "American Progressives and Israel," that reviewed two recent books on Israel. He argued that both the far right and far left had lost sight of an important group: Israeli liberals. We asked a wide range of commenters to respond.

SEE: Sam Bahour: Framing to Advance, Not to Batter

http://www.democracyjournal.org/36/american-progressives-and-israel-continued.php?page=all


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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

[ePalestine] Restoration of Buildings vs Memories

Arabic: http://bit.ly/buildings-vs-memories-al-ayyam-Ar 
English: http://bit.ly/buildings-vs-memories

Restoration of Buildings vs Memories

By Sam Bahour


Home of Jamil Al Husseini, ‘Ein Siniya, Palestine (Photo credit: DHIP)

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. I’ve lived in Palestine for 21 years and passed by the village of 'Ein Siniya hundreds of times, but can’t recall ever actually visiting it, that is, until today.

'Ein Siniya is a small Palestinian village in the West Bank’s Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate, 10 kilometers north of Ramallah, northeast of Jifna, the village renowned for its apricots. It lies in a valley surrounded by olive and fig terraces. Its population has grown from 701 persons in 2007 to 885 today, a whopping 12% increase. It was the home of Faisal Husseini, the legendary Palestinian leader who spent his life defending Palestinian rights in Jerusalem. ‘Ein Siniya is what one would call a sleepy, laid-back village, but today it came alive and I was there to witness this refreshing awakening.

I arrived to 'Ein Siniya driving behind a minibus from The Danish House in Palestine that was transporting people who were heading to the same venue that I was. Turning off the main road into the village, we turned right and then took the first left. The first thing I noticed is what one usually sees in all Palestinian villages, a group of children. This group was a cheerful one of young girls seemingly excited at all the odd traffic crawling up their street. A few hundred meters up the hill, on the right, was the historic home that we were coming to visit, the home of Mr. Jamil Al Husseini.

Standing in front of this huge, run-down home was actress Faten Khoury. She was oddly standing halfway in the street, not to be missed. She was frozen in a pose, staring at the long, stone staircase that hugged the backside of the building and led to the first floor of this abandoned, eerie home. She held a suitcase in one hand and a white photo album in the other. As we exited our cars and the bus unloaded, many stopped to talk to Faten, but she would not budge. She just stared up the staircase, clearly leading us to where we were to go, without saying a word.

Upstairs we entered through an old, traditional doorway, narrow and with a heavy steel door. We then walked across a sheet of metal flooring, placed on an old outside terrace that led to a large room. Along the way there were rooms to our right, the first had two young girls, in traditional costume, sitting on the floor kneeling bread dough. The next room had a young man, also in traditional dress, manually milling freshly picked olives with a stone. At the end of the terrace walkway we entered a larger room, possibly what was once the family’s living room.

Emilie Simonsen (Photo credit: Mohammed Abbas)
The room was full of people sitting on the ten or so rows of chairs. In the front of the room was a table, with a foreign lady sitting alone. She had her headphones on and reverted back and forth between diligently typing away on her laptop and putting on a pair of white gloves, before picking up an artifact, pieces of a colorful broken ceramic dish, which she used a small brush to meticulously brush the edges of the dish pieces off. We later learned this she was Ms. Emilie Simonsen, a Danish actress visiting Palestine, playing the role of a historic restoration expert.

As we found our seats, more and more people flowed in, young and old. Emilie paid no attention to all the buzz in the room; she just kept doing her thing. Sitting behind me was a row of the most beautiful young girls from the village. The sat diligently waiting, trying to understand who were all these strange people who all of the sudden arrived out of nowhere. I asked them where they were from and what they were all waiting for? Without hesitation, one replied, “We are from here, 'Ein Siniya, and we await the skit, there is going to be a skit here. Where are you from?” I replied, “Al-Bireh, near Ramallah,” thinking they would only know the larger city near mine. One of the girls, around 9 years old, answered, “I know where Al-Bireh is; it’s where the Al-Bireh Secondary Girls School is located.” I was clearly not needed for these girls to navigate their geography.

Not before long, there was only standing room left. Then entered an older, well-dressed man. He was ushered to sit in the first row. This was the owner of the house, Jamil Al Husseini. It was then announced that the show was about to begin. The room fell silent.

Actress Faten hesitatingly entered the room, still holding her photo album as she placed her luggage to the side. She then spent the next ten minutes thrashing around the room, talking to herself, reminiscing about days long gone. She recalled her father’s descriptions of his home back in Palestine, this home. She walked through the rooms, shocked that, although she never lived in this home, she felt like she knew every nook and cranny—the wooden window frames, the arched windows that separated the rooms, the porch, the now-broken vase sitting on Emilie’s table waiting to be logged in her laptop, the tiled floors, and so on. She spoke of the home as if she could see all its long-gone residents still there. Actually, as Faten reminisced, a group of young actors and actresses from Ashtar Theater were playing out the home’s original family members, as if they had come back to life. As Faten moved from one room to another, she slammed a door, startling Emilie, the foreign actress.

Emilie abruptly stopped bushing the artifact in her hand, threw off her white gloves and removed her headphones to jump up and scold Faten for being in the house. Emilie explained that the house was very old and is being restored and no one was allowed in. Faten replied, in vain, that this was her family’s home and she could envision all the memories as if they were alive. Emilie was unable to see this, being only privy to the material artifacts that she was brushing and logging into her laptop. As photos of past times, when the home was full of life, were displayed on the stone wall of the living room, Faten, frustrated with Emilie’s inability to feel the living past of the home, summed up the stance: “You are only interested in the restoration of the buildings, not the memories.” The audience was moved. I had a serious outbreak of goose bumps.

Emilie Simonsen (L), Ashtar team, Faten Khoury (R) (Photo Credit: Mohammed Abbas)
A few minutes later, the skit ended. It took this talented team of actors and actresses merely twenty minutes to strike a deep chord in each of us. Lost homes, time passed, history maintained through oral storytelling, refugees coming home, today’s material world seeking to merely see the stones and not the families who lived in the homes or what happened to them, or where they went, or how they died. In those short, twenty minutes, a number of deep feelings that every Palestinian has was touched.

Following the skit, the floor was open for discussion. The first to speak, remaining true to our culture, was the owner of the home. He thanked everyone for coming and welcomed us to his home, a heavy-on-the-heart welcome given the condition of the building, but an exceedingly warm welcome taking into consideration that it was now filled, once again, by village boys and girls, adults, and everyone else, most importantly Jamil himself, the homeowner.

When I spoke during the discussion period, I challenged the young ones in the room. I told them I’m going to write this article about the event and want them to send me their reflections so I can include them. Immediately after the event, the entire group of young girls who were sitting in the row behind me came up to me. One of the girls, Bisan, an unquestionable future leader, garnered enough courage to speak to me on their behalf. With her red cheeks and beautiful smile, she said they wanted to ask how they can send me what they write. I gave them my business card and told them my email is listed. One of the girls asked if she can send hers to me on Facebook, or Face, as she called it. Another sign of the times. They were so excited, they made the rest of a normal day great.

I barely got home that evening when I found this message from Bisan:

‘I am Bisan Jabr Ahmed, I was in ‘Ein Siniya theater and I’m ten years old. I felt that this play expressed our Palestinian heritage and took me back to the old days, how our parents used to live, while now everyone is busy with Face. How in the old times my parents and I worked together in our home and how we cooperated and how we disagreed.’

She then asked me to let her know next time I come to 'Ein Siniya. Bisan and her generation are thirsty to live, while the military occupation that keeps its boot on their necks make it hard for them to even breathe.

Then a few hours later, I received this message:

‘I am Sama’a Khater. I’m nine years old. I loved the skit which was played in 'Ein Siniya. Although it was short, it expressed the feelings of people in old days, and made me feel very sad.’

The idea to bring Palestinian oral histories to life has been the passion and project of actress Faten Khoury for years. With the support of The Danish House in Palestine and many generous others, she was able to link with the professional Danish actress Emilie who works in Denmark to revive history through theater. This skit was a pilot for a much larger project that Faten is working on, the creation of a Theatrical Museum of Oral History. I support this project wholeheartedly and made it my firm’s current corporate social responsibility project. Please help bring it to life if you can by visiting www.aim.ps/aim-csr.html and making a donation.

Bottom line, 'Ein Siniya’s population in the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, was 114. Today in 2015, 'Ein Siniya’s population is 885 persons strong. Given every act of the Israeli military occupation for the last five decades has been designed to get Palestinians to leave Palestine, 'Ein Siniya is a living testament to our resilience and determination to not only remain on the land, but to grow despite all odds. I, for one, commit to redoubling my efforts to ensure that Bisan and her friends will all have a future worth living for.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant from Youngstown, Ohio living in Ramallah/Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He is an Advisory Committee member of The Danish House in Palestine and co-author of "Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians" (1994). He blogs at www.ePalestine.com.

Arabic: http://bit.ly/buildings-vs-memories-al-ayyam-Ar

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

[ePalestine] Palestine Solidarity Telesummit: Interview with Sam Bahour​ on Palestine's economy

Interview with Sam Bahour​ on Palestine's economy
by Katie Miranda
for the Palestine Solidarity Telesummit

https://vimeo.com/120995092 (34:33min)

https://vimeo.com/120995092

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