Monthly Archives: January 2011

Updates

It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home. Great Expectations

Things have been very busy since school has started up again, in the middle of writing my thesis, and catching up with friends who had left for the holidays.

But probably the topic most on the mind here right now is the Palestine Papers, some 1,600 previously secret documents that al-Jazeera has obtained, a decade of meeting notes and internal documents of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Al-Jazeera has been ‘leaking’ these documents since Sunday and, while for the most part things have remained calm in Ramallah, there is a general sense of confusion, betrayal, sadness, etc. It’s important that this information is presented, and I think everyone should go and read for themselves or watch al-Jazeera’s coverage of it. The Guardian, a UK news source, has also been given access to the documents, so you can check out their articles on it as well here. I’ve heard very different opinions from my Palestinian friends, some of whom think much of it (claims that the PA negotiating team offered was willing to concede illegal Israeli settlements in Jerusalem, was willing to compromise on the right of some 5 million Palestinian refugees’ right to return, etc) is taken out of context, and some who believe that this is proof of the weakness of the PA in negotiations. Definitely go check it out.

So far, nothing has changed daily life here. Though there are mannnnnyyyyy more people just in the streets in main Ramallah (the offices of al-Jazeera were protested against yesterday in Ramallah), and a much higher police/security presence around town, daily life is continuing. I think people here feel like these Palestine Papers show that, really, Israel holds all the playing cards in negotiations, that even if the PA were to offer all of these concessions to Israel, they still refuse a deal, because Israel knows they hold all the power… I think that’s something the coverage of the Palestine Papers is missing, blaming the PA for betraying the Palestinian people, when what power does the PA have to begin with?

Between these documents, the coup d’etat in Tunisia, the nomination of the new Prime Minister of Lebanon, protests in Egypt, there has been a lot of political change (turmoil?) in the region.

Otherwise, I’ve seen two good films in the past couple weeks. One was “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” a film by Ken Loach, about the civil war in Ireland with many, many similarities to the situation in Palestine – that a divided people will never win. Similar to claims that a British general said, during the war, that Britain doesn’t need to defeat the Irish, let the Irish defeat themselves by splitting up, that the Palestinian people, divided as they are between the West Bank and Gaza, will defeat themselves before Israel. Very, very well done film.

The second was “One Family in Gaza,” a 23-minute, extremely powerful (SAD) documentary film. The director, Jen Marlowe, filmed a family talking about their experience during the Gaza War/Operation Cast Lead in Dec-Jan 2008-2009. It’s free to watch on vimeo, so click the link above if you have time and watch it.

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And so it is

“Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change.” The Time Machine

Tomorrow classes start back up! I’m quite excited to be back into a routine, and back in the classroom. It was good to go to the university on Saturday and register for classes and run into a few friends from last semester. Apparently there are quite a few of us who are returning for the spring semester, which is a good thing considering I skipped orientation last week so I haven’t met any of the new kids! I’m also still in my Arabic book club, which is kicking my butt, but hopefully I’m getting a lot out of it. My lying skills are probably the best they’ve ever been – pretending that I understand something that I really don’t has become an art to which I aspire (just joking, kind of).

On Friday, I had to go to Tel Aviv for the morning to pick up my friend’s passport from a European embassy. My friend is Palestinian and so for the most part is not allowed into Israel or Jerusalem. Palestinians can apply for permits – whether for religious reasons (which are quite difficult to obtain, and then I think are valid just for Jerusalem and for certain days/hours), or through their work. The permits that are actually obtained are quite arbitrary – you could get a permit for an entire weekend, or you could get a month-long permit that is valid only until 7pm every night. My friend received one of the latter permits for the month of December. Since he is planning a trip to a European country in February, he applied for a visa and dropped his passport off at that embassy back in December when he was able to. His visa wasn’t complete until after the new year, meaning that he was unable to pick up his own passport in Tel Aviv because his permit had expired and there’s no guarantee that he’ll receive a new one for January. So I went and picked it up at the embassy for him, which was a piece of cake, and spent a little time in Jerusalem on my way back.

I’m attaching some pictures of the ridiculousness that was Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. It was fun to just get copies of these pictures from my friend yesterday and looking through them, remembering that I was there… it just seems surreal!

Manger Square Christmas Eve

Our walk to Manger Square on Christmas Eve, the way was PACKED with people and cars all going the same direction along the same narrow alleyways!

Manger Square at night Christmas Eve