What is the happiest moment in your life?

happiest_moment

Work by artist Iris Bar

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Why I didn’t celebrate my birthday?

Why I didn’t celebrate my birthday?

Any new technology has its merits and its drawbacks… Before Facebook spread all over the place, I could celebrate or not celebrate my birthday and nobody would even notice. Since I was eleven or twelve, and surely before accepting the obligations of the Jewish religion in Bar Mitzvah, I stopped celebrating birthdays and everything went just fine.

With the new wave of the Arab Spring, Facebook was revealed as an indispensable platform for connecting and struggle, crossing all borders and army blocks and not stopping at any regime. I opened the “Yoav Haifawi” page on Facebook and faithfully filled in my personal details, DOB included. Congratulations started to pour in on the eve of the date and continued all along the day. As I have no good manners, and I don’t follow up on my friends’ birthdays, I was ashamed not to return the kindness and last year I invited all those that sent congratulations to join a festive gathering…

But this year the apartheid state decided to celebrate its racism and its successful ethnic cleansing of Palestine on the 6th of May. We, naturally, gathered in our masses for the 17th march of return in the destroyed village of Lubiya. (For a video in Arabic…) These were no conditions for a celebration. This is clear and simple and requires no explanation.

What is not known to many people, and I wanted to make it clear here, is that May 6th is not a well known cursed date in the history of this country. The Zionist state, after 66 years, still doesn’t have borders, neither does it play by any rules, and it doesn’t even have a well defined date for its celebrations… This time, without prior notice, it belligerently occupied the date of my birthday and prevented me from celebrating… Fortunately this occupation is shorter lived than many others… I want the people that came to congratulate me for my birthday today to know that when we will meet again next year in the 18th march of return it will be, most probably, some other people that were robbed of their birthdays.

As I was unjustly deprived of my birthday, I still can ask for my birthday present… First and foremost people need security and stability. I wish, for the sake of all of us, that we will soon see an end to the celebrations of Nakba and ethnic cleansing and that we will all celebrate instead liberation, freedom, the return of the refugees and the establishment of one democratic state in all of Palestine… Only then all people will be able to celebrate – or not celebrate – their birthdays the way the want and at any time they like.

This post was originally published in Arabic

The Writing on the Wall

The Writing on the Wall

During the last month I was in Karmiel more than through the previous twenty years.

Karmiel is a small sleepy town in the Galilee, located on the Akka-Safad road, some 30 kilometers from Haifa. It was built in the 1960’s, as part of the Israeli governments drive for the Judaization of the Galilee, confiscating large chunks of Land from all the neighboring Arab villages and townships.

Unlike many other Israeli cities in the periphery, Karmiel is mostly well-to-do and Ashkenazi (of Jews from European origin). It is late to become a mixed city, maybe also because its better economic situation keeps house prices high. As I attended this Monday a lecture on “Arabs in Karmiel” in the municipality’s auditorium, there was an argument whether Arabs constitute 3% or 6% of the population (in a region where the Arabs are a clear majority) – most of them well-to-do families from nearby villages where living conditions are miserable and it is very hard to legally build a house.

Ramiya

Ramiya is a very small village that is now wholly surrounded by Karmiel. I wrote a short history of the struggle of Ramiya’s people in Free Haifa. Here I can just say that after long years of “sumud” – sticking to their land in spite of endless attempts to uproot them – now the people of Ramiya face an immediate danger of expulsion and that they renewed their mass struggle for their right to stay on their land.

In those visits to Ramiya I started to know its people and to admire and love them. They remind me of the small village of Asterix that is still resisting the Roman Empire, even as the whole of their Gaul country is occupied. Seeing how those people are enduring harsh conditions for a whole life is putting our easy life in perspective.

The existence of the small village, mostly made of tin shacks, as the residents are not allowed to build, is a live reminder for Karmiel of all the land-robbery and discrimination through which is got its reaches. Yet Karmiel’s municipality and the “Israel Land Authority” are sized by their own racist attitudes and grid and prevent Ramiya’s residents from building an orderly neighborhood inside Karmiel – they still want them to go away.

The struggle to save Ramiya is now becoming the center of struggle against Israeli apartheid for the people of the region. After the success of the mass struggle in stopping the Prawer plan for ethnic cleansing in the Naqab (even though the government now say that they will still continue to pursue this plan) – Palestinian youth are convinced of the need and possibility to go out to the streets to stop farther evictions.

The Chinese Tent

On Wednesday, 18.12.2013, there was a vigil in solidarity with Ramiya’s people on a main crossroad on the western entrance to Karmiel. On the same night the people of Ramiya built the solidarity tent that should be the center of the struggle over the next months.

Today (Thursday 19/12) we went to see the tent and help with the last preparations for tomorrow’s public meeting – the first even to which the wide public is invited to come and take part in the struggle.

We found a very big tent, maybe with the capacity to hold an activity for two hundred people. It has Chinese writing on its walls.

Being curious, we took a picture of the obscure Chinese writing and sent it to a friend that is learning the language. The answer was not late to come: “Take care, inflammable materials”!

Believe the Chinese, Apartheid in the Galilee is becoming unsustainable.

A positive story for these cold days

A positive story for these cold days

One of the classic stories that I was brought upon is Maxim Gorky’s short story about the commemoration of Lenin. It speaks about the decision of the Communist Party to commemorate Lenin’s birthday by erecting his sculpture in every city and village. The heroes of the story are the workers in some remote village that took the money allocated for Lenin’s sculpture and used it to eradicate mosquitoes which were spreading disease in their region.

My story here is much more trivial – it is about the fate of a medium size red “polygal” plastic board.

After many a demonstration, as my car would be parked nearby, I would collect the placards with the slogans and take them with me. They might be needed for some other demo. I have a room full of them at home.

After some demonstration, long before the Arab Spring, I found in my newly acquired stock this red polygal with the writing “The Revolution is Inevitable!” I placed it on some high shelf and forgot about it. Probably it was written by some Trotskyites… We were demonstrating in support of the prisoners, against house demolition, for family unification, against the wall and the war… The revolution didn’t seem relevant.

Then came the Arab Spring, toppling within a few week the formidable tyrants of Tunisia and Egypt and shaking half a dozen other oppressive regimes. While collecting slogans for one demonstration, my eye exposed the red banner at the top of the shelf. Suddenly it seemed to be the most relevant of all, conveying the spirit of the period. It became my favorite banner.

Later Assad’s regime succeeded to stop the inevitable march of the revolution and convert the Syrian conflict into a prolonged and bloody civil war. This summer the betrayal of many liberals and leftists in Egypt enable General A-Sisi to stage the coup and return the reins of government to the old DeepState, stain the streets with the blood of demonstrators and fill the prisons with political prisoners.

This week we witness the coldest, longest Arab Winter in living memory. Cairo was covered with snow. The people that warmed their hears with the hopes of the Arab Spring feel a cold fever now thinking about the millions of Syrian and Palestinian refugees from the civil war, spread all over Syria and the neighboring countries in inhuman conditions, prey to the cold and floods. Gaza is devoid of electricity and flooded with sewage water as A-Sisi tightens the siege around it, preventing the entrance of basic equipments, in collusion with the Israelis.

We also experienced our small winter suffering as we waked up in the first rainy morning to find half the house flooded. We have an attic above the bathroom that we never use. It has an open eastern window. Every year more water enters the attic and leak through the bathroom’s ceiling. Just before the winter came I requested a friend that works in house repairs to close this window – but, like in previous years, nothing was done. So, after I finished cleaning the water from the floor, and as the rain seemed never to stop, I took this red polygal and stuck it in the open attic window.

The revolution, for the time being, is not inevitable, but the house is almost all dry.

Too Big a Palestinian

Too Big a Palestinian

The police and courts in Haifa are going through hard times…

Threats to national security and public safety are proliferating – so we shouldn’t be surprised that they are always so busy and sometimes look tired, even lunatic.

After working hard to save the country from the threat of Razi Nabulsi’s statuses on Facebook, the Haifa district court found the time to finish deliberations in the case against seven residents of Shefa’amer who were accused of assaulting terrorist-soldier Natan Zada​​. Zada was killed by local residents after carrying out a massacre on a bus in Shefa’amer on August 4, 2005. He opened fire indiscriminately in the bus, in this Arab town 15 kilometers North-East of Haifa, in order to kill as many Arabs as he could. Shooting from his IDF rifle, he killed Mikhail Bahus, the bus driver, and three passengers: Nader Hayek and sisters Dina and Hazar Turki. Many others were wounded by the shots before passengers were able to overcome the killer and neutralize him.

Confronted by this serious crime, the police and courts worked tirelessly – not to expose Zada’s  accomplices or prevent the next massacre but to create a deterrent and ensure that whoever will carry another massacre against the Arabs could be assured to emerge unscathed. On Thursday, November 28, 2013, the panel of three judges convened for the last time – to finally send to jail those accused of assaulting Zada.

At the entrance to the court some thousand demonstrators gathered to protest the arrest of those they consider as their defenders.

With the dissolution of the demonstration, when the protesters were moving toward the buses, the traffic on the nearby road stopped. The special Riot Squad – “Yasam” – exploited it to attack the demonstrators, making more violent arrests.

But that’s not what I wanted to tell today.

One of the detainees during the Thursday demonstration was “Abu As’ad” – Muhammad Kana’ane, one of the leaders of the “Sons of the Country” movement (Abna Al-Balad) and its former general secretary. On Friday morning, he was brought to the Haifa court for remand.

Initially the police claimed that Abu As’ad took part in blocking the road and “rioting”. However these events occurred after the end of the court session, at about 14:00. It turned out that Abu-As’ad was arrested, according to police reports, at 11:50. Beyond that – he parked his car and stamped his parking ticket at 11:40. Clearly he was arrested immediately as he left the parking lot and came towards the demonstration…

As he had to answer the defense lawyer’s questions in court, after his initial claims proved obviously false, the police prosecutor found it difficult to explain why Abu As’ad was arrested. He could only say that the police “felt threatened” by Abu As’ad’s appearance. Well, the truth should be told that Abu As’ad is high and wide bodied. You can understand the obvious danger to state security. We should also be thankful that we live in a state which upholds the rule of law, in which you’re only arrested if the cops don’t like the way you look. In more orderly places, Sodom for example, they used to cut the extra inches.

This is, of course, only the spoken out cause for Abu As’ad’s detention. The police also handed the court secret materials – such a procedure is at the heart of the Israeli legal system. For obvious reasons, I can’t say anything about the contents of these materials. From my long experience with such cases, I assume that they may contain damning evidence proving that Abu As’ad is an Arab.

I forgot to mention that the police’s request for remand was, of course, accepted by the low court. And, of course, the appeal against it was rejected in the district court. It seems so obvious that it is no news…

This post was also published in Arabic and Hebrew.

My November 7 Story: The Incident of Officer Stoller

My November 7 Story: The incident of Officer Stoller

First a small question to tease your friends with: When did the great October Revolution happen? The answer is, of course, November 7.

As a devoted Socialist I see November 7, 1917, as the most important date in the calendar. It was the first time in history that the poor masses did not only revolt against exploitation and tyranny (as they did for thousands of years) but actually took control of the state apparatus in order to create a new type of political and social order. As we all keep trying till this day, November 7 may be defined as the beginning of modern history, of the period when the toiling masses are not only the subject matter of history, but a first class active and independent player.

But here I don’t write to repeat what you all may know, but to add a small historical fact that may have slipped off the pages of history.

First I have to explain how I came across it.

When I was young and became a Socialist in the Seventies, it opened the door for some old people to tell me stories that they kept deep in their hearts in the Zionist desert.

My grandmother, Fania Marek, used to live in Moscow before and during the Russian revolution. As the 18 years old daughter of an established Publisher, she was one of the first “victims” of Bolshevik dictates. There was a law against “parasites” that forced everybody to work or study. So, in 1918, as everybody was fighting the civil war, my grandmother enrolled to study arts in the Moscow University. She told me it was the most beautiful days in her life, as the revolution was all about “Sbovoda” – Freedom.

Her sister was engaged to a tall bearded Jewish officer in the Tsar’s Army named Stoller. When I knew him, some fifty years later, he was still a very impressive person, living in a Kibutz near the Sea of Galilee. When he heard that I’m a Socialist, he had a story to tell.

He told me that in the heydays of the revolution he was stationed in Moscow and joined the Bolsheviks with his soldiers. On November 7, 1917, he entered with his soldiers to the Winter Palace in the act that symbolized the seizure of power by the proletariat.

Then he told me what happened next. He said that his soldiers were mostly interested in the wine in the palace’s cellars. When he tried to stop them from drinking the Socialist Peoples’ wine, one soldier tried to shoot him. The next day he was a deserter from the Red Army.

I don’t see any special lesson from this story. I tell it just because it is what I heard.

It didn’t convince me to desert my position in the Socialist struggle, as uncle Stoller might have wished to do. Maybe it was good for me to see, from the beginning, how in the heights of the revolution the most heroic, the horrible and the ridiculous may meet and mix.

If I was a Zionist…

If I was a Zionist…

If I was a Zionist I would be concerned…

Today the police unit that is responsible for monitoring Palestinian political activity in Haifa stormed the home of Ward Kayyal’s family, searched the house and confiscated two computers as well as some papers and books (you may see more pictures on Facebook).

As we learned from the recent detention of Razi Nabulsi, the Haifa police is now mostly interested in status lines on Facebook. Probably we are not making enough demonstrations recently to keep them busy. But is there no other way for them to read our statuses and emails than to take our computers? In fact for any political “investigation” confiscating the activist’s computer is like killing the goose that lays golden eggs and stopping the flow of information from streaming into the police’s net. Could they be that dumb?

Anyway, if you will suddenly find especially foolish or tactless statuses on my Facebook page or some nasty posts in Free Haifa, you may assume that “Captain David” took control of this computer also…