Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Suffering: A Note

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a
window or just walking dully along.

-W.H. Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts

Edward Hopper: The Night Window (1928)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Jeff Halper at Internasjonalt Seminar

In the series Wise Men Talk About Israel/Palestine I am delighted to share with you another recording from another Internasjonalt Seminar in Tromsø last fall. The recording is of a lecture by Jeff Halper, Coordinator of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Professor of Anthropology and previously nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The heading of the lecture is "Is there hope for Palestine? Is there hope for Israel?"
Take some time to find out. Also, it's a quite good introduction to the conflict and its history. (And yes, it's in English)

You can also read a transcribed version of this recording, with illustrative maps, available (in pdf) here

Monday, June 11, 2007


By Mazen Kerbaj

Mapping the Occupation

40 years ago, on this very day, the brutal noise of the Six Day War faded. As the seventh day arose, it became clear that the peace Palestine woke up to was a reality no less brutal than the war itself: The Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, and in addition the later returned Sinai and the Golan Heights. 40 years have passed, and the illegal occupation is still going strong, thanks to the goodwill of the Western world (who ironically claim to be the ambassadors of Democracy and Freedom).

It is hard - if not impossible - to imagine what life in occupied Palestine is like if you haven't seen it with your own eyes, haven't felt the humiliation at the check points, heard the sound of bombs and gunshots, experienced the horror of not knowing whether your children will return home alive at the end of the day. Hard also is it to keep track of the facts on the ground, which in everyday political discourse is cleverly left out, denied or hidden under a carpet of completely useless coexistence projects. Fortunately, the Guardian have created a map device that takes the infrastructure of the Israeli occupation to a visible and easily understandable level. Click on the following link and then the arrow left of the title "The West Bank - mapping an occupation":

The Guardian - Mapping an Occupation

Then, you can click on the buttons to the left to show the elements of the Matrix of Control one by one. Note especially the discrepancy between the Green Line (the armistice line from the war in 1948-49) and the route of the Wall ("Separation Barrier"). If the wall indeed was created to define the final borders of a future sovereign Palestinian state, then why on Earth are parts of the wall built deep into the Palestinian Territories and far from the Green Line? Then why does it separate Palestinians from Palestinians, instead of the alleged purpose of separating Palestinians from Israelis? And then what's up with the Israeli Only highways dividing the entire West Bank? And then what about the settlements, which were doubled in number during the Oslo "peace process"? See for yourself. There is no longer anything left of what could have been a Palestinian state in the future. What is left is a conglomerate of Palestinian bantustans completely controlled by Israel. People of the world should learn to see this, and start calling what they see by its only proper name: Apartheid.

For further facts, resources and excellent (!) maps of the occupation, see the webpages of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). I especially recommend the Map Centre in there. Don't say you didn't know!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

40 years of Occupation, 18 000 demolished homes

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Israel's Occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, let me publish an ad from ICAHD concerning their new campaign to rebuild each and every Palestinian home demolished by Israel this last year:



For 40 years the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza has brought nothing but misery, death and destruction to Palestinians and Israelis. During that time Israel has demolished 18,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories – 95% of which had nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism or security.


On June 9-11, the 40th anniversary of Israel’s Occupation, we at the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) will join with grassroots organizations the world over to demand its immediate and total end. Only then will Israelis and Palestinians be able to move forward to the just peace both peoples crave.

On June 11th, ICAHD will launch a campaign to rebuild each and every Palestinian home demolished by Israel in the Occupied Territories during this 40th year of the Occupation – about 300 homes in total.

Support our campaign to end Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes. Tell your political representatives that only when the Palestinians are free will Israel enjoy peace and security. Tell them what former Secretary of State James Baker told the current Bush Administration: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict constitutes the “epicenter” of global instability.

Tell them that 40 years is enough!


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kåre Willoch på Internasjonalt Seminar

15.mars 2007 var Kåre Willoch i Tromsø og holdt en innledning om Palestina på Internasjonalt Seminar. Om du gikk glipp av denne enestående begivenheten, så fortvil ikke - her er hans foredrag på mp3!

Lydkvaliteten er dessverre litt dårlig, men opptaket er fullt hørbart på litt høyt volum.
Tusen takk til Kåre Willoch for tillatelse til å publisere foredraget på nett.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


"If I was an Arab leader I would never make [peace] with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country."
--First Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion

"Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves ... politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves... The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country."

-- David Ben Gurion, quoted on pp 91-2 of Chomsky's Fateful Triangle, which appears in Simha Flapan's "Zionism and the Palestinians pp 141-2 citing a 1938 speech.

"If we thought that instead of 200 Palestinian fatalities, 2,000 dead would put an end to the fighting at a stroke, we would use much more force...."

-- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, quoted in Associated Press, November 16, 2000.

"I would have joined a terrorist organization."

-- Ehud Barak's response to Gideon Levy, a columnist for the Ha'aretz newspaper, when Barak was asked what he would have done if he had been born a Palestinian

"It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands."

-- Ariel Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister, addressing a meeting of militants from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, November 15, 1998.

"If they had done to us what we did to them in 1948, we would never forgive them, and that is why I do not believe in peace."

--Rafael Eitan, former minister and head of the far right party Tsomet

"I don't mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremberg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me if you want, as a war criminal. What you don't understand is that the dirty work of Zionism is not finished yet, far from it.

--Former Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, speaking to Amos Oz, editor of Davar, on Dec. 17, 1982

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

About Numbness and Action

My friend Scott just wrote a blog post about violence, the school shooting in Virginia, and the feeling of being stunned. Originally this was meant as a comment to his post, but then it turned into a blog entry instead:

It's so easy to become numb. There is a difficult balance between empathy and distance: if you're too empathetic your ability to help will drown in the misery of those who need you, and if you're too distanced it's hard to be involved enough to care. Often we end up in a paralyzing middle: we are left dazed, stunned, helpless, the misery is beyond our control, there's nothing we can do about it. And so we cry for a while, and then we go on with our lives believing that we are good people because at least our tears expressed our sympathy.

But this is of course, as the old proverb goes, the real danger: that evil happens because good people do nothing. Sympathy doesn't change the world and crying doesn't define our virtue. We need to escape numbness, and that does not mean escaping that which make us numb. We need to find that constructive, productive balance of just enough empathy to make us able to care and just enough distance to give us room to act.

And then we need to make a choice. No-one can save the whole world. We have to avoid taking in all of the world's misery at once. We have to acknowledge that it is there, and also remember that it has always been. The history of human cruelty didn't start with the Iraq war, or the six day war, or WW1. Cruelty is human. And so is morality. Morality is what gives shape to our integrity, it is what should guide us while we balance down the line trying to distribute the weight of empathy and distance evenly in our hearts. Morality is what make you say I object to this. The I refuse, the j'accuse, the thing that make you able to act and make a change. Do not be blinded and benumbed. Choose your focus, distance your empathy, and be assured that you can make a difference at that one point you want to fight for.

Said Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, commited citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Photos from Rashedie (2003)

Monday, April 16, 2007


Some people have to manage without their salaries
because somebody else didn't like the way they voted
Some people have less than a dollar a day to live for
Some people think it's ok to spend 3,700 dollars on a drink.

I pray that I never, ever
forget the responsibility that comes with my good fortune:
to fight for those who are not as fortunate
and never to accept the habitual blindness of those who are.

© Silje Ryvold, Bangkok Contrast (2002)