The day that Nur took responsibility

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Nur, Christmas 1993

They were four kids from Halisa, this struggling poor neighbourhood on the slopes of Mount Carmel, on the eastern entrance to Haifa. Nur was the biggest of the four. At the time that this story happened, in the spring of 1994, he was about six and a half. Yes, half a year is important at such an age. He was already going to school, a first grade student at the Carmelite school located between Wadi Nisnas and Downtown Haifa.

The other 3 kids were still going to kindergarten, in the Sacred Heart monastery. Hadaf and Yasar were the son and daughter of our good friends and neighbours. Adam, my other son, was not yet three years old, the youngest in this small bunch.

The school and the kindergarten were some 3 kilometers away (by air) and, naturally, we had to drive the kids there every morning and bring them back after school hours. I used to take the four of them in the morning on my way to work. Osama, the father of Hadaf and Yisar, had a more flexible job and would take them back home.

Once Osama came to our house and informed me that on the next day he will be busy and would not be able to take the kids from school.

On the next day I went out of work, initially heading for the Carmelite school to pick up Nur. When I arrived there children were already pouring in a steady stream to the street, some of them finding their parents waiting, others, some of the older kids, walking home or going to catch a bus.

I waited patiently, but there was no sign of Nur. As the stream of kids dried out, I went into the schoolyard and looked around, hoping to find him playing there. But there were very few kids at the yard and Nur wasn’t there. I entered the school’s office and asked about Nur. Yes, he was at school but probably went home… Nobody really noticed.

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Hadaf, Yasar, Adam, Fady, Luay – Probably 4 years later…

Going out I looked in the small streets around the school but there was no hint of where Nur might be. I decided to go and pick the other three kids from the kindergarten, some 500 meters away, before I will think of new ways to look for Nur.

I parked the car in front of the kindergarten. There were no kids waiting at the entrance, as most of the kids have already gone. I went in to take my three kids, but they were not there either. Finally one of the teachers told me: I think their brother came and took them.

It could seem crazy, a six and a half years old kid taking with him three small kids from the kindergarten in the middle of downtown Haifa, into the messy streets busy with traffic, far from home… But, to say the truth, for me this was a big relief after the daunting worries of the previous hour. So, Nur was not kidnapped after all. The four kids will not easily disappear together.

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Nur & Adam, Christmas 1993

I started driving along the road home, but there is more than one way you can drive to Halisa and even more ways to walk. If I remember well I didn’t find them until they came home.

Nur explained that he heard Osama saying that he was busy and will not take the kids. So he simply did what he had to do.

When I think again and again about this day, one of the most frightening in my life, sometimes I think it might show how little trust Nur had toward his parents. But apparently he didn’t think he was abandoned or that there was anything unnatural in his parents being busy or him taking the kids walking home. He used to be a responsible kid, the biggest one in the bunch.

 

 

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Haifa Poetry Night in Solidarity with Dareen Tatour

Many Palestinians are arrested and held for long periods in Israeli prisons just for expressing their views, especially if those views happen to be opposed to the Israeli occupation and racist regime. Israeli police and Shabak (the secret services) supervise all social media and especially Facebook. One girl from Akka published a status supporting the Intifada at about 2:00 am and had the police knocking at her door before 4:00 am the same night.

No wonder that the detention of Dareen Tatour before dawn on October 11, 2015, didn’t get special attention. But Dareen happened to be a poet. At the center of her indictment stands a poem that she is accused of posting in youtube, titled “resist my people, resist them”. (As a result of Dareen’s trial this poem was later translated to English). A Hebrew translation of the poem, made by a policeman with no qualification for translating or explaining literature, is fully cited in the indictment document itself.

So it was a good opportunity to call for poets and other writers to get involved and expose Israel’s complete disregard to Palestinian human rights and freedom of expression.

Poetry Night in Haifa Al-Ghad

Herak Haifa, a local activist group, is used to organize solidarity with political prisoners. Usually it will call a vigil or a demonstration in the city’s main streets. But this time we thought to emphasize the persecution of Palestinian arts – by calling for an artistic event.Picture_from_Haifa_poetry_night_for_Dareen

The Haifa Al-Ghad club is located in the middle of Wadi Nisnas, the only Arab neighborhood that mostly survived the 1948 ethnic cleansing and later systematic destruction of the Arab city. It was the Ghetto in which all the remaining Arabs in Haifa were concentrated. Now it is the center of the city for the growing again Arab population. The bare stone walls create arches and form a space well adjusted for an event emphasizing Palestinian identity.

On Thursday night, May 5, 2016, some 40 people gathered in the club, including five young Palestinian poets, Dareen’s father and some relatives and friends, local activists and poetry lovers. Dareen was very happy to hear about the even but she couldn’t attend – she is not allowed to leave the small house in a suburb of Tel Aviv where she is under house detention.

The program

The evening was opened by Muhannad Abu Ghosh, welcoming the guests in the name of the Herak. He spoke about the importance of speaking up and defending the voice of the Palestinian struggle for national and social liberation – against the occupation and against internal pressures within the Palestinian society.

The first speaker was Tawfik Tatour, Dareen’s father. He described the harsh experience of the family from the moment that the police and “border guards” raided their house before dawn. He described the prolonged persecution of Dareen in the courts and different Israeli prisons and the harsh conditions imposed on her today. He praised the solidarity campaign and the encouragement it provides Dareen and her family in their daunting experience.

The magic started when the turn came to the poets. There were 5 of them, each with his special style, reading some known poems and some new ones that were never published before. But they all formed one consistent agenda – combining the national, the social and the personal in one quest for freedom and justice, liberty and love. Some poems related to the experiences of Palestinians in the racist Israeli society, others unreservedly exposed weaknesses of the Palestinian society. They proved that the associative expressive force of poetry may go beyond many political lectures and essays. The audience was electrified.

Hazar Yousef started the poetry reading with her poem called “Gaza – the city of love forbidden from broadcasting”. It relates to the suffering of this city’s people under siege and as victims of constant wars. She continued with a more personal song named “your heart”.

Second was Mahmoud Abu-‘Arisha, reading four shorter texts: “I don’t see your hands”, another poem with a title in Hebrew (but words in Arabic) describing his feelings at Israel’s “Independence day”, “God’s laugh” and “Fluffy Feathers”.

Tarek Khatib was third, but I don’t have a list of his poems. Hopefully I will get them later. ‘Alaa mhana came forth, reading section from a new poetry book that he is expected to publish soon.

Last was Ali Mawasi, who volunteered to do double role. First he read several poems from Dareen Tatour’s book “the last invasion”. Later he read two of his own poems, “Haifa” and “Roles”, which he dedicated to “the stones’ kids”.

A video of the whole event is expected to be published soon.

One of the enthusiastic audience finally commented: “We should really appreciate the bravery of these poets. Judging by the experience of Dareen they might fear to speak up. Reading such poetry may put you in prison for years.”

Sometimes the best defense is to show that nothing will deter you and you will go on speaking your mind.

 

I was so afraid…

It was in the beginning of the eighties. We were cooperating with the Communist Party and its fronts in “The Committee for Solidarity with Bir Zeit” and “The Committee Against the War in Lebanon”. Usually we would agree on a common platform between their two-state position and our conviction in ODS. But, at that specific occasion, they decided to make a leaflet calling explicitly for “two states for two peoples” – so I told them I wouldn’t take part in its distribution.

The leaflet had to be distributed at “Beit Ha-Kranot” in the middle of “Herzl St.” – not exactly “Tahrir Square”, but at the time it was regarded the place most likely to see some spontaneous gathering in the middle of sleepy Haifa.

I don’t remember what drove me to Beit Ha-Kranot at the designated time, maybe I just passed by or I felt uneasy to leave the comrades alone…

As I arrived there, I saw that only one comrade was leafleting. He was almost fifty (at the time I thought it was an old age), a respected professor from the Technion. I knew him as a very calm and peace loving person.

He was surrounded by a small crowd that clearly didn’t like the message in the leaflets. People shouted at him. Some young guys were teasing him, closing on him and tried to prevent him from distributing the leaflets.

I pushed my way into the crowd, trying to use my supposed neutrality to defend him. The crowd was becoming ever angrier and the scene could become really violent at any moment.

To say the truth, I was relieved when the cops came. Maybe some of the cops recognized me, or maybe my neutrality was not so convincing, as they arrested me also.

As we climbed into the police van, I sat near the professor. He was clearly stressed, but now he stretched his body, as much as you can do inside a police car, and smiled at me:

– I was so afraid…

Well, I thought I understood him very well. But he continued:

… I was afraid that I would beat them!

I could not hide my astonishment.

He told me that while he was a student in the US he made a living as a professional boxer. Later he became a pacifist, avoiding any violence. He was satisfied that he endured this experience without beating his attackers.

I told him that if I knew that the only danger was that he might have beaten those right wing racists, I wouldn’t bother to intervene.

I hope I was wrong.

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The Most Dangerous Status Line

The Most Dangerous Status Line

Free Haifa exposes the secrets from Razi Nabulsi’s interrogation

All over the last week we followed the detention of Razi Nabulsi, a young Palestinian activist from Haifa. He was taken from his home on Wednesday 9.10.2013, with his computer, cellphone, books and papers.

His detention was extended twice, based on his statuses in Facebook and tweets in Tweeter. In four different court hearings during the week (two remands and two appeals) the Haifa court decided that his statuses constitute a danger to the state of Israel.

The most wired thing about it was that the prosecution refused to tell in the court what did Razi write in those statuses… They claimed that at the stage of remand the prosecution is allowed to conceal the “secrets of the investigation”. All the protestations of the lawyers from Adalah, which claimed that statuses that you publish can’t be defined as “secret” that you should not see and that there is no logic to accuse somebody of “incitement” without relating it to specific sayings, were in vain.

You might understand that we were all deadly curious to know what is in those statuses…

So today (Wednesday 16/10), after full seven days in detention, when Razi was finally released, we went to his family’s home in ‘Iblin (in the Galilee), where he is under house arrest, to say Hamdillilah ‘A Salameh and ask what those dangerous statuses were all about.

Razi gave us many examples to the statuses he was interrogated about, divided between the foolish, misleading translations, ignorance, gossip, whatever. But at least in one case I could understand the horror his status aroused in the people that are responsible to state security.

Razi wrote in his status: “One day the nightmare will be over”. The interrogator claimed he clearly wrote it to express his wish that the state of Israel will cease to exist!

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Razi himself has his own blog and I’m sure that he will write all the important details about his detention and interrogation… But as of now he is prevented by the court’s order from touching any computer or any other “media tool”, including a phone (until Sunday).

Actually the police didn’t even ask for this as a condition for his transfer to house arrest. But after so many judges in Haifa declared that the state of Israel is under real danger from his status lines, the judge today volunteered to add this media blockade and salvaged the state security from the idea that nightmares may go away, at least for another full five days!

***

For more details about Razi’s detention you may read previous posts in Arabic, Hebrew and English.

No Waze 2.0: More Holes in the Apartheid Map

No Waze 2.0: More Holes in the Apartheid Map

Haifa is not so old. Only 252 years passed since the new city of Haifa was built in 1761 as part of Daher Al-Omar’s plan to establish an independent state in the north of Palestine. But Haifa developed pretty fast, and soon people started to build outside the city’s walls. The main street that went out of Haifa’s west gate (at Khamra square, now Paris square) and later turn south along the sea shore was naturally called Yaffa (Jaffa) Road, as Yaffa was the main city in the center of Palestine, 100 km to the south, where the road was leading. Till this day Yaffa road is a pretty central street in Haifa down town, known, between other things, for a bunch of restaurants serving food 24-hours-7-days.

Tel-Aviv Street in Haifa is a small street, mostly known for its garages. It was built much later – it starts after the German colony – so you can guess where Haifa’s center reached before Tel Aviv became known, and it leads virtually nowhere.

Yesterday, when I had to pick a tourist guest from the Port Inn in Yaffa road, I didn’t have a problem to find the street, but I didn’t know where number 34 may be, so I decided to ask for advice from Waze. I’ve already written before how Apartheid Waze completely denies the existence of the city of Ramallah… but here we are in Haifa in the most normal place the Jewish “democratic” State… So I was astonished to find that Apartheid Waze doesn’t recognize the existence of Yaffa street and wanted to take me to “34 Tel Aviv Street, Haifa” instead.

After I found the inn and my tourist, I had some time to check things with Waze again. Apparently Waze Zionist SW decided that Yaffa does not exist any more and for every search containing the word Yaffa (Yafo in Hebrew) replaces this forbidden name with Tel Aviv before conducting the search. I even tried to look for Yaffa street in Jerusalem, which is even more central than Yaffa street in Haifa, and where there is no Tel Aviv street at all. Waze tried to suggest all kind of locations with names that includes Tel Aviv and Jerusalem together – but was in complete denial of the possible existence of Yaffa Street.

Some of the Apartheid’s distortions of reality are as strange as others are brutal.

The Free Haifa Republic

Free Haifa Republic

Residents in the north of Palestine demand independence of the Netanyahu Tel Aviv + Settlers government!

Netanyahu has just published the final list of 22 ministers in his new cabinet. It is as bad as any Israeli government can be – with the fat cats from Tel Aviv sharing the cake with wild settlers from the West Bank.

From all the north of Palestine – with maybe 2.5 million people, about half of them Arab – there is not a single minister. In these dark days not being integrated in the Israeli establishment may be some reason for pride.

So Israel is a one-city-state with wild gangs invading and robbing the neighbors. It is time that we, northerners, separate ourselves from this shameful bunch.

Let’s establish the Free Haifa Republic, the direct continuation to the independent state of Daher Al-Omar – the founder of the city of Haifa.

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The information and the idea for this post were contributed by Adam Bar – so if you want to join the Northern Omarist Independence Movement please contact him.

Leftist Racism?

“I have a problem with Israeli political parties – they are like socks, no way to know which is right and which is left…”

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A story goes with it:

On last Thursday, 14/3/2013, there was a special event in Haifa: Artists for the Palestinian political prisoners. There were some singing and several poets read their emotional poems describing the suffering of the prisoners, the fate the Palestinian people in general and some of the frustrations which we all share as a result of our inability to do more for the prisoners.

The wonderful young singer told the above mentioned joke, which I heard for the first time and decided to share…

Free Samer Issawi, Ayman Sharawne and all the freedom prisoners!

* * *

And another story, more to the point itself:

Some twenty years ago we had a surge of racist violence in Haifa and we thought that against this plague we may cooperate with anybody, no matter what their opinion is. So we came to know some people from “Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa’ir” (the young gourd) – the most leftist of the Zionist youth movements. After some experience working together they invited Abna Al-Balad to give a lecture in their local club.

It is not so easy to convince Abna Al-Balad activists to come to speak with young Zionists, but we succeeded to bring Ahmad from Um Al-Fahm. He told the audience about the suffering of the Palestinian people and about the program of Abna Al-Balad to let Arabs and Jews live together as equals in one democratic state.

The youth in the club went out of their way to be nice, to show their sympathy and understanding and to try to find some common grounds. Trying to stretch it to the end they asked: “If we give you not full equality but almost, let’s say 95% of it – will you accept?” Ahmed simply said it would still be a racist regime and no solution.

Trying to reach the kids from another, more human angle, he asked them: “Lets say we do nothing, we don’t even struggle for equal rights… But you know that we love children and we have many of them. What would you do if one day we will be the majority and just win the elections?”

There was silence in the room. Then the leader of the group, the same guy that was representing the movement in our “Anti Racist” coalition, honestly replied: “In this case, Kahane will handle you”!

* * *

Left Zionism? No – there is nothing like it.