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Posts Tagged ‘Palestine’

Remembering Rachel Corrie

August 26th, 2012 6 comments

When I first heard about Rachel Corrie, she was already gone.

At the time of her death, Rachel was 23 years old, a senior at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She was living in Rafah, Gaza Strip, volunteering for a pro-Palestine activist group. She had been there for less than two months. Among her duties were protecting Palestinian municipality workers as they repaired their water well, damaged by Israeli bulldozers. She, along with other volunteers, also attempted to stop the unlawful destruction of Palestinian homes. Meanwhile, she lived and ate with the Palestinians of Rafah, a border town, overcrowded with refugees.

It was on March 16, 2003 when Rachel was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to protect the home of a Palestinian family against demolition. Witnesses say and photographs show that Rachel was clearly visible in her orange florescent jacket.

When I first read about Rachel, I felt an immediate connection to her; I saw her as a kindred spirit. Like me, she was from Washington State and went to Palestine as a young person. And like me, she was both deeply moved by the people of Palestine and horrified by the tactics of the Israeli occupation.

However, unlike me, Rachel didn’t simply wallow in the injustice of it all. Her compassion went further. As part of an independent-study program, Rachel signed on to volunteer her time, energy and enthusiasm to help the Palestinians. She bravely stood up for her convictions in a way few of us can.

Rachel was also a talented writer. She wrote about her dreams, her impressions and her analysis of the situation in Palestine. Rachel’s journals and emails from her time in Palestine have been published in the book Let Me Stand Alone and performed in dramatic readings and the play My Name is Rachel Corrie, which was performed in dozens of cities around the world.

We know that Rachel put herself in harm’s way on that day in March, 2003. However, according to her journals and letters, she believed that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would not dare harm her or any “international.”

Within six weeks after the killing of Rachel Corrie, three other international activists were shot by the IDF: Brian Avery, an American, age 24, was shot in the face in Jenin and permanently disfigured; Tom Hurndall, a British student, age 21, was shot in the head and killed in Gaza Strip; James Miller, a Welsh filmmaker, age 34, was shot in the neck and killed in Rafah. Meanwhile, on the same night of Rachel’s death, nine Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including a 4-year-old girl.

Since Rachel’s death, her parents Craig and Cindy Corrie have spent their time promoting peace and raising awareness about the plight of the Palestinians—with a special emphasis on standing up against the demolition of Palestinian homes and the use of bulldozers for these demolitions. At the same time, the Corrie family has fought tirelessly in the Israeli courts to seek justice for their daughter.

Nine years ago, Rachel’s parents were promised a “thorough, credible and transparent investigation.” And yet the IDF blamed Rachel’s death on “falling debris.” Meanwhile, no action has been taken against the bulldozer driver or any other military personnel present at the time.

In an attempt to seek some measure of justice for Rachel’s killing, the Corrie family filed a civil lawsuit in 2005 charging the state of Israel with responsibility for Rachel’s killing and failure to conduct a full and credible investigation in the case. The trial, which began over two years ago, is scheduled to release a verdict this Tuesday, August 28th at the District Court in Haifa.

As I spend this week, along with thousands of others, remembering Rachel, the more I am reminded how Rachel Corrie was a courageous human rights defender and how she is a model of compassion and a shining star for all of us.

Two days before her death, in an interview (below) conducted by the Middle East Broadcasting, Rachel Corrie expressed her concerns for the Palestinians in Rafah.

To know more about Rachel Corrie and find out what you can do, visit the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice.

UPDATE August 28: An Israeli court has ruled that Israel was not at fault for the death of US activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed in the Gaza Strip by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003. Her parents have said she “was a human being who deserved accountability.”

Guide to the Global Village ~ Palestine Pavilion!

January 11th, 2012 8 comments

Oh, how I love the Palestine Pavilion. Since I don’t visit my husband’s country often, I get my Palestine fix wherever I can.

If you are unfamiliar with the Global Village, it’s a shopping and cultural extravaganza located outside Dubai. It runs during the winter months and represents 26 countries and two continents. To find out more, see my post Dubai’s Global Village ~ Where the World Comes together.

Granted, the Palestine Pavilion used to be bigger and better in the past. Sadly, the pottery vendor stopped coming several years back. Likewise, the thob (hand-embroidered caftan) seller from Jerusalem no longer comes.

Alas, nothing stays the same!

What most visitors to the GV don’t realize is that it’s a great expense for vendors to come and sell their wares here. A large sum is required to rent a stall. If vendors come from outside Dubai, they must stay in hotels and pay for daily transportation. Some vendors simply cannot turn over a profit. On top of that, it can be quite complicated for those from Gaza and the West Bank to get their goods to Dubai.

And yet. There are still Palestinian vendors who make it. Many of them sell foodstuff, like these jokesters below.

For me, a visit to the Palestine pavilion has become food-shopping event. This year I bought delicious olive oil from Palestine, homemade strawberry jam, sumac and zataar (spices), pomegranate syrup, pickled eggplant, nuts and seeds. Here’s the nut vendor who insisted to give me complimentary sweets when he found out my Palestinian ties.

And I tasted a lot of samples of cheese in pita bread. A lot.

I also bought maftool, the large couscous pictured below in jars (whole wheat and regular).  In the US, this is sold and labeled as “Israeli couscous.” However, please note that this type of large couscous is actually Palestinian, as Palestinians were making it by hand before the state of Israel was invented.

As usual, the Palestine Pavilion includes items carved out of olive wood “from the Holy Land.”—mostly rosary beads, nativity scenes, ornaments, crosses, etc. These are the typical items sold in Bethlehem and the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem.

 Meanwhile, vendors here still sell Palestinian embroidery, typically red cross-stich on black, but also other colors and variations. Over the years, I have bought many hand-stitched dresses for my daughter at the Global Village—the iconic Palestinian thob. One year I bought a thob for myself—every inch hand-stitched, straight from Jerusalem. I love that thob.

Below is a sample of what is for sale this year.

Not surprisingly, it seems there is a gradual trend toward machine-stitching. While there are hand-stitched pillow covers for sale here, it seems that the floor-length caftans are mostly (if not all) machine-stitched. Again, nothing stays the same!

One thing we do every year is load up on patriotic accessories for my children to wear on International Day at their school. (All the nationalities do it!) This year my kids bought t-shirts, hats and scarves from this stall.

Finally, I caught the Palestinian cultural show inside the pavilion. It was a dramatic stage performance with dance. Even though I understood  only a little of the dialogue, I enjoyed the music, dance and costumes.

If you’d like to know more about the Global Village see my posts: The Yemen Pavilion, The Iraq Pavilion, The Africa Pavilion, and The Turkey Pavilion.

What is your favorite thing to buy at the Global Village?

My Favorite Book by a Palestinian Writer

June 10th, 2011 No comments

My favorite book by a Palestinian writer happens to be one of my favorite memoirs: IN SEARCH OF FATIMA by Ghada Karmi.

I first heard Karmi in a BBC radio interview, part of the series “Living in an Alien culture.” In her interview, she relates her lifelong quest for cultural identity–first as an Arab schoolgirl in London trying to assimilate, later as the wife of an Englishman, and finally as a Arab-English woman who returns to the Arab World as a physician and activist. I was riveted to Karmi’s story and to her beautifully written book.

Her memoir spans fifty years of Karmi’s life, from the 1940s through the 1990s. The story begins in Jerusalem where her family is driven from their home soon after the nakba (catastrophe) in 1948. Karmi, her two older siblings and her parents end up in London, where Karmi’s father takes a job with the BBC Arabic Service and where her mother lives as a tragically displaced refugee. Much of the book takes place in London, where the family longs for home and each family member copes in a different way.

Karmi copes by taking on an English identity, so much that she marries an Englishman whom she meets in medical school. However, soon the Six Day War of 1967 shocks the Arab World and creates great turmoil in Karmi’s life. Feeling alienated by the pro-Israel sentiment around her, she suffers an identity crisis which results in the end of her marriage.

Karmi’s story culminates in her return to Jerusalem in 1998, when at last she seeks to find her childhood home that she was forced to leave in 1948. This was the part of the book where I found myself glued to the page, staying up late in the night to see what would happen.

Those familiar with Palestinian history know that this is a common narrative: Palestinians driven into exile, attempts to resist, and a return to see (and mourn over) the family home. What’s different here is that the story is told by a woman, one from a well-to-do educated family. Also, Karmi uses exquisite detail to describe their unique privileged life in Jerusalem and their exile to London.

By weaving together Palestinian history with her personal family story, Karmi presents a Palestinian perspective that rarely reaches the mainstream. This memoir was published in 2002, but is as relevant as ever. I recommend it to anyone interested in memoir, cultural identity or the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

Ghada Karmi is also the author of the book MARRIED TO ANOTHER MAN.