24 November 2014

Haitham al Khatib, Witness for Palestine

There are many fine books of photographs that show life under Occupation and now a new publication, the first in a series by Palestinian artist Haitham al Khatib,  is available:  Haitham al Khatib is a tireless witness who uses his camera to show the world the conditions in his village of Bil'in.

Visit his site to see his work.  Here is the link:

Haitham al Khatib, Witness for Palestine

Buy his book, please.  Here is the link:

The Children of Bil'in

All proceeds from the sale of his book go to a charity created in his son's memory.  Haitham lost his son to cancer.  His efforts to help others should be supported by any one who cares about Palestine and her children!

At the time of posting this, an article about the obscene wages of the directors of the 'Save the Children' charity has been published.

Here is one such article:
 Huge Wages given to Save the Children Charity Directors

Rather than giving money to a large charity that siphons off an enormous percentage of donations for the benefit of the people running it, I suggest that money be given to a cause like this.  The book itself is a witness to events in Palestine and life under the Occupation.  There is a Zionist settlement next to the village of Bil'iin and the illegal Wall that separates Palestinian from Palestinian is there as well.  Demonstrations in opposition to the Occupation and the ongoing programme of genocide against the Palestinian people occur on a weekly basis.  The people of Bil'in are engaged actively in the struggle for justice.

It is not easy to be a photographer in the line of fire.  Men and women who are willing to document the abuses of the Zionist Occupation places their own lives in danger on a regular basis.  We have seen how many journalists and photographers have been the targets of assassination or assassination attempts that are passed off as collateral damage throughout the Arab Nation.  It is our duty to support the efforts of the brave men and women who continyue to stand against injustice and Occupation.

30 November 2012

Thoughts about American Thanksgiving by a young American student

This article originally was published by the Free Arab Voice.  Unfortunately, although it was written by a young American student a number of years ago at the time of the second American invasion of Iraq, it still remains applicable.  


Thanksgiving and Iraq

by Amira, a 13 year old American student

There's a holiday coming up here in America that some people think is the best holiday Americans ever invented.  It's called Thanksgiving.  We were taught about it in school since 1st grade, how the Pilgrim Fathers met the Native Americans and they all came together to share their food in 'thanksgiving' for the beginnings of a new life in a New World.  Never mind how the Pilgrim Fathers later took all the land away from the American tribes for England and then later rebelled so they could rule it themselves.   That's called the American Revolution now.

And that's the story of the Great American Democracy, myths built on more myths.  I've been reading about Thanksgiving and how it's portrayed in our schools and how different that story is from what really happened.  Pilgrims didn't wear the sort of buckles they are shown wearing on their shoes and hats, it turns out, because those fashions were from a later period and they probably didn't eat turkey either.  I forgot how they proved that, but scholars have said it was unlikely, and it was only because of a footnote in some one's diary that the turkey was introduced to Thanksgiving.
If you dig further, you'll discover that most of the people who 'founded' the United States didn't believe in freedom at all.  The Puritans certainly didn't.  They prohibited most things that bring joy to humanity, and had humiliating and cruel tortures for those who disobeyed their rules.  Half the States in America only became part of the United States because the U.S. occupied them!  And when the South tried to leave the 'United States' to form its own nation, the U.S. fought one of the bloodiest wars in history to make sure that it didn't.  That's American-style democracy at work.
But what does this have to do with Iraq?  Everything and nothing, I guess.  Here we are, celebrating this holiday called Thanksgiving while we occupy some one else's country AGAIN and force our brand of 'democracy' down their throats.  Never mind that it's all lies.
That's another thing they make us do in school every year now.  Our school starts in September and there's a new holiday, called 9/11.   It usually is the second week of school but we have to drop everything to celebrate democracy and mourn for a lot of people who were killed in the Twin Towers.  Yes, it's sad that people lost their husbands and kids but what about the people our army and the Zionist army (paid and armed by U.S. dollars!) kills every day?  Isn't that sad?  9/11 is done and over but if killing people's families is such a sad thing, why do we keep doing it? 
9/11 now has become one of those patriotic holidays along with all the days on the calendar for Veterans.  I can't keep them straight, but I know there's Veterans' Day and Memorial Day and now there's 9/11 as if those people were killed in a war to protect democracy.  I don't understand why I can see that it's all illogical and I'm only 13 but most of the country seems to think it makes sense.    The fact that those people just were hard at the capitalist dream of making money when the events happened doesn't seem to make any difference.  They are dead patriots now and American flags sprouted everywhere after that.  Nobody ever tried to work out why a lot of the world rejoiced to see a war brought 'home' to American soil.  If they had, maybe there wouldn't need to be a 'war on terror'. 
Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11 but right after that, America started going about telling other countries to join its gang, or else.  Then it invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and it's still continuing those wars, even though they are not declared wars, which only makes a difference apparently because it allows the U.S. to do anything it wants with the people it takes hostage.  They call it taking prisoners, but what's the difference really? 
I've heard that they took thousands of hostages here in the U.S. after 9/11 with the excuse that they thought those people might be terrorists.  Some of them still are in jail and can't even get a trial.  How's that for democracy?
So here we come to Thanksgiving and we are supposed to be all thankful because we live in the richest and most powerful country in the world and it's a democracy and this is the land of the brave and the free.  How can it be a democracy when people don't support the President but he still carries on doing as he pleases?  How can it be a democracy when you have to be rich or have somebody rich in your pocket if you even want to become President?
I think that democracy is another word for capitalism and by the way, they teach that in our schools as if it's the greatest system in the world.  That's really what America is.  It's the land of the free and the brave if those words mean that you have the right to make as much money as you like and spend it however you please, and you can step on any one else along the way and use people as stepping stones to get to the top. 
I'm not particularly proud of being part of this country where 12% of the people actually go hungry and don't have a decent place to live.  Another example of how this government tries to hide the truth is the way they won't even call it hunger anymore.  They coined a new phrase for it:  food insecure.  That makes it sound like it's some sort of mental problem rather than a physical need!   There's a new hope for the poor, though, and it's called the 'compassionate Conservative.'  That's a guy who has the right to do whatever he likes with his money and to pay less taxes than ordinary people but who, out of the goodness of his heart, throws a little charity towards the poor.  That way, he doesn't have to answer to anybody, but he can help the poor!  I don't understand how THAT can be democracy, to be honest.  If a man doesn't have to answer to the people, then he's in a more powerful position than everybody else. 
So let's talk about Thanksgiving and Iraq.  The people of Iraq are supposed to be thankful, I guess, because America invaded them for their own good and set up a democratic government for them just like the government we have here.  It doesn't seem that different, actually, because the members of our government and the American-sponsored government in Iraq are thieves and liars.   Just recently, a court in Iraq sentenced the President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, to death by hanging.  I guess that's a sign that democracy really has arrived. 
Any Iraqi who is rejoicing because the leader of his nation is going to be hanged like a criminal is not thinking straight.  After all, you only need to ask one question to see what's really going on.  What would have happened if the court had pronounced Saddam Hussein innocent and set him free?  Would he have been allowed his freedom?  That should show you what kind of freedom the Iraqis have now.
It's kind of interesting to read about how Saddam Hussein treated women when he actually was able to govern his country without the interference of economic sanctions by the U.N.  He told women that they could do whatever they wanted in life and that he was proud of the role that they had played in the revolution.  He supported a society where women could become doctors, engineers, university professors, scientists, lawyers and government officials.   He wanted to see all people educated and to give dignity to every kind of position people had in helping the nation become strong, whether it was a worker or a writer.  That doesn't sound like the monster that the U.S. is trying to create for all of us to hate!  
If Iraq became 'backward' at all, it's not because of Saddam Hussein but because of all those years of foreign sanctions.   The U.S. and its bully boys saw to that long before they invaded Iraq for the second time.  The Iraqi Resistance is managing to prove that the U.S. is wrong when it says it came to liberate Iraq and not to destroy it and I don't think the U.S. ever can win this war, especially if it keeps supporting the Zionists who never had any right to Palestine at all.
What really doesn't make sense either is the idea that the U.S. is busy promoting its idea of democracy left, right and centre but that if they don't like your leader, you had better watch out, because you will be next on the list to be invaded!  They go into somebody else's country and basically TAKE AWAY that country's leaders and government and then tell them, 'Here you go.  We're giving you FREEDOM.'  Well, if you can't just say 'NO' to the U.S., that's no freedom at all!
I thought democracy meant equality, but the U.S. is allowed to have nuclear weapons and the Zionists, who are no more than a foreign Occupier in Palestine, are allowed to have nuclear weapons, too.   They're making a big stink about Iran having nuclear power, though and everybody is furious with North Korea because that is a nation that decided to do what was best for its own interests.  Why is it that the Zionists never have to comply with any international laws, by the way?    It seems that America and the Zionists can fly over any nation in the world and drop bombs and the Zionists actually can invade Lebanon if they feel like it, but Saddam Hussein wasn't allowed to take back part of Iraq from the corrupt government that ruled in Kuwait.    How many States in America were taken away from other governments by force of arms?
A long time before America invaded Iraq for the second time, the government was giving support to so-called 'revolutionary groups' in Iraq who wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein.   Those groups weren't called terrorists but any group or person who wants to overthrow the Zionist foreign government in Occupied Palestine is a terrorist and the U.S. and its allies would call the Iraqi Resistance now terrorists if they could get away with it.  The only reason they are forced to call them the 'insurgents' is because there are so many of them!  When the whole country is against you, it's kind of hard to explain them away as 'terrorists'. 
Of course, the revolutionaries who overthrew the British government in the States were not terrorists but heroes who now are known as our 'Founding Fathers'.  According to all the propaganda they dish out in school, America is supposed to support the oppressed and the idea of 'liberty and justice for all'.  So why isn't
America sending money to Hizb'ullah to keep the land of Lebanon free from foreign invasion?  Why isn't America sending money to the Palestinians to help them overthrow a foreign Occupation? 
The answer is simple and it's rather sad.  It's because America isn't on the side of the angels after all.  America supports oppression and repression when it suits its own interests and only makes a fuss about freedom when it's trying to blind its citizens to its real goals.  And if I try to say anything that doesn't agree with the official story in school, I am told to talk about something else.   That's democracy for you.

The significance of Palestine's status in the U.N.

Once upon a time, I would have repudiated the entire charade that occurred in the U.N. yesterday, declaring unequivocally that the road to liberation can be achieved solely through armed resistance to the Zionist entity, that the only just solution is a single, democratic State and that, therefore, any declaration that purportedly accepts the travesty of the two-state solution should not be countenanced AT ALL.

I was disgusted by Abbas and his shameful performances of sajeda to the Zionist entity and the U.S. but when I studied the text of the U.N. declaration, I realised that nothing whatsoever was lost in actuality although nothing much was gained. 

On Facebook, Mike Hanini Odetalla, explaining the significance of observer status to a customer of his, observed pungently that: 'My explanation: If the UN were a Brothel, the Palestinians would be allowed inside, but unlike other members, they cannot engage in sex, they can only watch...'

Is that dubious privilege worth the sacrifice of just Palestinian rights for return to the entire Homeland of Palestine?  Absolutely not.  And yet, in Law, all contracts are subject to the rule that, should one party be in 'fundamental breach' of the situation for which the contract was designed, the other party no longer is bound to the terms.   

We all know that the Zionists never have abided by a single contractual promise made to any international body, including the U.N.  Every statement in Abbas' speech that related to the Zionists dealt with a fantasy situation wherein the Zionist entity would cease to occupy the lands it has been raping systematically since 1967.  No more illegal settlements, no more foreign Occupation of those lands...  In other words, Abbas' undertakings might as well have been based on a situation where the planets suddenly would begin to revolve round Earth rather than the Sun.  Any individual anywhere in the world, even with no knowledge of international affairs knows that the Earth revolves round the Sun.  Any individual anywhere in the world, when presented with the hard facts of the Zionist programme, if  that individual were honest, would be forced to admit that it is the Zionists who are in fundamental breach of every U.N. resolution and who continue to defy international law and the U.N.

Today, in fact, one day after the U.N. vote, the Zionist entity announced the construction of 3,000 new illegal settlement homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  In other words, the result of Abbas' declaration simply produced a new fundamental breach of international law (and every Israeli promise relating to peace) by the Israeli regime. 

I am an avowed radical and I could not support Abbas, but I feel now that he performed a necessary task yesterday in terms of the international community.  It was a degrading and humiliating job but somebody had to do it.  Now, Palestine simply must continue all efforts towards the goal of ending the Occupation, not only of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza but of every inch of Palestinian land.  If the world were to apply ordinary standards of justice to the Israeli regime, it would recognise the entire premise of the so-called State as one that could not be supported by any Nation that purports to believe in equality and justice for all individuals.  

Over a decade ago, a Palestinian friend of mine who refused to embrace the concept of armed struggle declared that the Zionist entity ultimately would meet a natural demise, based as it is upon a framework of lies and supported only by policies of apartheid.   While I respected his idealism to some extent, I still believed that only armed struggle was necessary if only to accelerate the process of this demise.  In fact, a significant number of those who call themselves 'Israelis' have become disgusted and disillusioned with their government both because of continuing Palestinian resistance and because of the endless crimes against humanity committed by that government.   The Zionist regime would continue to build illegal settlements and pursue its programme of ethnic cleansing irrespective of any Palestinian response to those actions, but the Palestinian people cannot be expected to act as lambs who go meekly and silently to the slaughter.

Furthermore, the Palestinian leadership may be corrupt but the Palestinian people are strong, steadfast and for the most part determined not to cheat their children of their birthrights.    Sadly, one can find corruption in all the Palestinian political fronts and organisations  which is why I believe that Unity in pursing the goal of creating a single, democratic State remains the only viable solution.  My trust is placed in every Palestinian Mother and every Grandfather who continue to hold the keys to their Occupied or Destroyed Homes and every Palestiinian Child who is determined to build a future, despite the horrors of Occupation and Death as well as the Fighters who are willing to water their native soil with their blood, whether they be Fatah, PFLP, Hamas or members of any other or no organisation.  The Cause of Liberation is just and will remain so however many leaders demonstrate corruption or cowardice.  Palestine will be free one day.  The Zionist entity HAS to crumble because it is contrary to every law of humanity and is founded only upon a web of illusions and outright lies.  American fundiing can continue to bolster its hold upon Palestine temporarily but one day the American people must recognise the stupidity of supporting a foreign Apartheid regime with billions of dollars that could be spent better on feeding and sheltering their own people.   America may have deep pockets but they are not inexhaustible and in a time of economic recession, the sheer enormity of the investment in a foreign regime that does NOT serve the true interests of the American people in any way, shape or form must become clear.  Media propaganda, however sophisticated is no substitute for shelter, food and employment.  Ultimately, one need not have faith in any fundamental sense of justice on the part of the American public.  One simply can have faith in the instinct for survival.

The U.N. vote yesterday is good for Palestine in that it brings it once again to the attention of the world and shows that the stranglehold of the Zionists on the media no longer exists.  The true nature of the philosophy of Zionism  conceived in the last years of the 19th century cannot be concealed forever.  Every crime against humanity committed in its name erodes the sophisticated propanganda that protect it.  In that sense, the Zionists may prove the authors of their own destruction as much as Palestinian resistance.

 leopard suddenly would lose its spots and become a truly 'democratic' state with equal rights for all individuals, irrespective of race or religion.  

27 October 2012

Al Quds before the Nakba

Archival footage of Palestine before the Nakba:

18 September 2012

The Voice of Resistance and Unity

Visitors to my site who are familiar with Palestinian politics may find artists here who have embraced a number of different factions or ideologies. My own view on this is that political ideology is only part of the picture and that an artist may be flawed in the political or social choices he/she makes without invalidating his/her artistic achievements.

Human beings are flawed after all and it is easy to make bad choices politically and socially in our lives, whether we are blinded by high principles or instincts of self-preservation.

Three or four decades from now, the great literature, art and music of Palestine will remain to inspire a new generation while the specific political platforms that the artists embraced may be forgotten. Great art is universal.

Whether an artist supported Fatah, PFLP, Hamas or any other political group or platform does not invalidate the fundamental message of Resistance, even if there are disagreements with specific goals. Even if the artist was or is deluded enough to support the 'two-state solution', he/she still may have created a message that transcends all of that and speaks to the world of PALESTINE and the ARAB NATION.

or do I subscribe to the strictest interpretationn of Islam that severely limits the scope of Art and Music. Allah SWT created Music and Art as part of the rich kaleidoscope of Beauty that leads us closer to the Divine. Art and Music can be a form of prayer as well as a resounding shout of Resistance against Injustice.

Do not tell the Mother of a Martyr of Palestine that the blood of her son or daughter was shed falsely or in vain. From the murky depths of the maze of politics in which specific leaders or members of organisations scheme for power, personal benefit or act as traitors comes the message to Resist the Occupation and to fight for the Homeland. Ordinary individuals seldom truly know what goes on behind the scenes. Even artists can be deluded as to the virtue of a leader or political group without themselves being corrupt. If they are corrupt or became corrupt at some point, does that completely invalidate whatever power or beauty is in their Art?

One can become disillusioned because of the flaws or betrayals of leaders and political parties or one can distill renewed purity of intent and purpose from the collective acts of Resistance and the Art that seeks to represent the Voice of the Homeland.

The blood of the Martyrs waters the soil of Resistance and the artists of the Arab Nation carry the torch of faith forward, despite any and every betrayal on the part of individual Leaders or political groups.

Look to the best of the Past and learn from all the betrayals but at the end of the day acknowledge that the Martyrs of Palestine and the Arab Nation are the symbols of an essential principle that transcends factionalism and differences in our ultimate vision of what government should or should not be. There is one Truth that cannot be denied: the foreign Occupation and those who finance and profit from it must be removed from the Arab Nation.

The goal of educating the West with respect to the truth about Palestine and the Arab Nation always has been a primary one for me. For those in the West who have been brainwashed by the Zionist propaganda, I believe that it is Art that can find the chink in that armour of ignorance and ultimately bring down the entire edifice of corruption that is so much at the foundation of mainstream Western media.

Beyond this, within the world of the Resistance, it is vital that we move beyond factionalism and embrace unity of purpose wherever possible if we ever hope to defeat the Occupation and bring justice to the Palestinian people. Art has the power to unify, to speak above the confusion and often treacherous maze of politics. Let us not be Sheep. Let us not bow to pressure from any group or organisation that dictates we cannot find inspiration elsewhere. Brand loyalty is NOT a positive principle where the Voice of Resistance is concerned.

If an individual requires fuel to power his/her vehicle for a journey that will bring liberation or freedom to the cause, is it more important to insist upon a specific brand or to MOVE FORWARD? Inaction leads too easily to defeatism. (I am speaking here solely of spiritual energy and not of the treacherous pitfalls of accepting foreign aid from governments that have their own agendas.) Find inspiration wherever you can and keep hope alive in your soul.

First and foremost, Palestine must be liberated from Occupation. Palestine is not merely the West Bank and Gaza. It is Galilee and the Golan Heights. It is Akka, Haifa and Jerusalem, every dunum, hectare or acre that is claimed by the Zionists. Whatever an individual's political affiliations, Palestine MUST be made whole and the refugees must be given the means to return to rebuild all that has been destroyed. Period.

16 September 2012

The Voice of Palestinian Resistance in Song

The song, 'Yama mwayl il Hawa' is a beloved classic from Palestine given expression by a number of different artists. The song, 'Muntasiba al Qamati Amshi' is an anthem to resistance written by the poet Samih al Qasim and set to music by Marcel Khalife. Perhaps more than any other, to me these two songs embody the pain and longing of the exile and the very soul of Palestine, with an ultimate promise of steadfastness and triumph against defeat.

The tradition of folksong in Palestine as elsewhere in the Arab Nation is to allow freedom of expression in songs like this one. The singer can create new verses or use verses that are familiar to all. 'Yawma muwayl il Hawa' is a song that lends itself to folkloric traditions in that respect. 'Muntasiba al Qamati Amshi' on the other hand, basically SAYS IT ALL as it stands, a brilliant collaboration between two Masters of artistic expression.

There are certain symbols that instantly evoke the Homeland. One of them is the Key. The Key to the House that is lost to the Exile, a house that may have been demolished but almost certainly is occupied by a foreign Invader is a constant reminder of the unequivocal Right of Return for all Refugees. The Key is a symbol of Loss but also of Hope.

The image of the Wind is rooted in Palestinian poetry and folklore as it is in art and literature throughout the world. When I listen to this song, I am reminded of an old Palestinnian folktale named 'Jbene'. I wrote a version of the tale in English for a small American periodical named 'Al Qandeel'.

The heroine of the tale, Jbene has been chosen by many Palestinian artists as a symbol of the exile throughout the decades since the Zionist State was superimposed over the map of the Homeland. Jbene is an innocent young girl who is forced into exile. She sings of her longings to the wind and the message is carried to all the creatures of earth, sea and sky. There are many different versions of the tale and the version I chose was one of the most traditional. Many Palestinians find that version dissatisfying as ultimately the young girl, in time-honoured fairytale and folklore fashion is 'rescued' by a Prince of another land and restored by him to her Homeland. Some of my readers wondered why I chose to portray the young woman as essentially helpless, her fate determined by others. I did so because THAT was the original tale, and not for political reasons but I am thinking of writing a new version of Jbene in which she claims her own justice. After all, the Palestinian people MUST look to themselves for justice and not continue to believe that they will be rescued by an outside force. If they passively await deliverance, they simply will continue to be betrayed by Nations and Leaders who have their own agendas.

The 'Wind' or 'Hawa' is a symbol of a power that is not bound to the constraints known to humans. It can rise above the pavements, above the soldiers at the chequepoints and blow freely without need for sustenance or dwelling place. The Wind can be an ally and friend, a cleansing agent that blows away the poisons of the gases used by the IDF and Occupation Forces, or a force giving wings to voices raised in appeals for aid, declarations of resistance or music to inspire or soothe the soul, but at the end, the Wind has no Homeland and does not take sides.

There are Leaders who have spoken of 'the Wind of Change' but the Wind blows whither it will. A stronger image used in this song is that of the Will to Walk, to move forward in the most basic way, whatever the cost. There is a wonderful poem by Samih al-Kasim, set to music by Marcel Khalife: 'Mumtasiba al Qamati Amshi'.

The song is a resounding slap in the face to the Invader, a declaration of resistance:

'Muntasiba al qamati amshi, marfou'a al hamati amshi.
Muntasiba al qamati amshi, marfou'a al hamati amshi.
Fee kaffi qasfatu zaytounin wa a'la na'ishi,
wa ana amshi, wa ana amshi, wa ana, wa ana wa ana amshi.

'Upright I walk, With my head raised, I walk,
In my hand an olive branch and on my shoulder my coffin,
and I walk, and I walk, and I, and I, and I walk.'

Whenever this song is sung, the heart beats faster and every individual must be fired with renewed determination to face all odds and refuse the map of defeat.

All music of resistance is interwoven into a grand tapestry in which the aspirations and pain, the tears, sweat and blood of every poet, fighter, martyr and every mother and wife who fights by their side or supports them with their strength are to be found. Although the style and tone of 'Yawma muwayl il Hawa' is very different from 'Muntasiba al qamati amshi', a lament of sorts rather than a marching anthem, both carry the listener forward into the future while acknowledging the pain nd loss of the past.

What becomes clear even to a listerner unacquainted with either song if he/she listens to every version I collected here is the vibrancy and originality of contemporary Palestinian music.

The first rendition I have included here combines traditional flute with some Western-influenced instrumentals:

Here is the same song, reinterpreted by the still vibrant Master, Marcel Khalife:

A tribute to Palestinian activists and leaders:

A psssionate rendition of the same song carrying a promise of ultimate victory over the Occupation:

A very quiet, haunting version of the same song and yes, there is hesitancy here and a few minor musical errors, but it is a genuine expression nonetheless with beauty to affect the heart:


Now that I have mentioned Marcel Khalife's marvelous composition in 'Muntaba al qamati amshi', I must end with that.

Because it is an anthem to Palestinian resistance and therefore belongs to every one now, I am including a tribute performance as well as a performance by the Master himself:

From the Al Bustan Seeds of Culture concert, led by Hanna Khoury:

Here is the recorded versionn by Marcel Khalife:

Finally, here is a live version in concert:

Marcel Khalife, so long a fighter in the trenches of the world of artistic expression, raises his hand to invite the participation of the audience and the world. Will you sing with me:
Muntasiba al qamati amshi, marfou'a al hamati amshi
Fee kaffi qasfatu zaytounin wa a'la na'ishi,
wa ana amshi, wa ana amshi, wa ana, wa ana wa ANA AMSHI!

Upright I walk, With my head raised, I walk,
In my hand an olive branch, and on my shoulder my coffin,
and I walk, and I walk, and I, and I, and I WALK!

16 September, Day of Infamy and Remembrance

16 September 2012: This is the 30th Anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre wherein up to 3500 defenceless refugees were murdered in cold blood. The actual massacre took three days to complete, executed by right-wing Lebanese Phalangists with the assistance of the SLA and Zionist invading forces in the form of the IDF who made certain that the camps remained sealed, allowing no one to escape to safety.

The forces who led the massacre were under the direct leadership of Elie Hobeika, intelligence chief of the Lebanese Forces. While the Israelis fired illuminating flares over the camps, the slaughter began and did not conclude until 18 September.

The Kahan Commission, later set up in 1983 by the Zionists themselves in response to widespread international pressure, concluded that Ariel Sharon, aka Butcher Sharon was PERSONALLY responsible, among others, for the massacre. Elie Hobeika later became a long-serving Member of the Lebanese Parliament as well as serving in many minsterial roles. Despite the findings of the Kahan Commission, Ariel Sharon held many influential ministerial roles in the Zionist government, serving in fact as Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006. Thus were the engineers of one of the bloodiest and most appalling massacres in contemporary history rewarded.

The people who actually were inside the camps at the time of the massacre were NOT fighters for the most part, but old men and women and children.

Some of the details of the massacres are as follows:

During the Lebanese Civil War, the Lebanese were split into warring factions. One of these factions was the right-wing Christian Phalange ('Fingers'), who on 15 September called for revenge for the assassination of Bashir Gemayel. They did not propose to fight against armed opponents but rather to target the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila where no one would be in a position to resist effectively.

By noon of 15 September, the IDF had surrounded the camps, controlling all means of entrance and exit with the Phalangist militia members. The IDF had occupied the seven story Kuwaiti Embassy as well as a number of other multi-story buidings, giving them an 'unobstructed and panoramic view' of the camps.

The IDF then began to shell the camps. Pursuant to an invitation by Ariel Sharon and IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, the Phalangist militia were given a 'green light' to enter the camps. 1500 members of the Phalangist militia under the leadership of Elie Hobeika arrived at the camps in jeeps supplied by the IDF, with detailed plans supplied as well by the Israeli forces. Three days of slaughter ensued.

A fortnight prior to the massacre, a member of the Phalangist militia, in conversation with an Israeli official remarked that: 'The question we are putting to ourselves is: how to begin, by raping or by killing?'

Israeli General Amos Yaron's statement to the effect that the IDF knew that the Phalangists intended to destroy the camps was on record as well prior to the massacre.

The slaughter began at 6.00 p.m. on 16 September. First, the few young men who remained in the camps were executed. Unimpeded slaughter of old people, women and children then began. Throughout the three-day massacre, detailed reports were sent to the Isreali government and seen by more than 20 senior Israeli officials. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Israelis were fully as responsible as the Phalangist units and some members of Saad Haddad's so-called 'Free Lebanon Forces'.

On Friday, 17 September, the IDF declared that the Phalange should 'continue mopping up', despite some internation concern that a terrible massacre was taking place. He further declared that he had 'no feeling that something irregular had occurred' in the camps. The Phalangists were told to complete their 'mopping up' and to exit the camps at dawn on Saturday morning but they did not do so until they had completed their grisly work.

When foreign journalists finally were allowed into the camps on 18 September, they found ghastly scenes of carnage. It went far beyond mere death and heaps of corpses. Many of the bodies had been severely mutilated, boys having been castrated and scalped, women raped and carvings of crosses incised into the bodies of some of the victims.

An American journalist, Janet Lee Stevens, reported: 'I saw dead women in their houses with their skirts up to their waists and their legs spread apart; dozens of young men shot after being lined up against an alley wall; children with their throats slit, a pregnant woman with her stomach chopped open, her eyes still wide open, her blackened face silently screaming in horror; countless babies and toddlers who had been stabbed or ripped apart and who had been thrown into garbage piles.'

Prior to the massacres, the PLO had been forced to leave Beirut, their departure supervised by international forces from Italy, France and the U.S. Yasir Arafat begged those same forces to return to protect the helpless inhabitants of the camps against the Israeli forces who had invaded Lebanon.

In a report of a news conference before the massacres: Yasir Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, demanded today that the United States, France and Italy send their troops back to Beirut to protect its inhabitants against Israel...The dignity of three armies and the honour of their countries is involved... I ask Italy, France and the United States: What of your promise to protect the inhabitants of Beirut?'

There was no response from the nations that had forced the PLO out of Beirut and no protection whatsoever given to the refugee camps even though they were well aware of the escalating violence of the Phalangists and the Zionist invading forces.

The Palestinian Red Crescent gave the total of dead as 'over 3000' and the Israeli journalist Ammoon Kapeliouk of Le Monde Diplomatique in his book about the massacre wrote of approximately 2000 bodies from official and Red Cross sources, estimating 1000 to 1500 additional victims disposed of by the Phalangists themselves for a total of 3000 to 3500 victims of the worst sort of atrocities known to humanity.

Whatever the total, there is no doubt whatsoever that the massacres of Sabra and Shatila represent the cold-blooded calculation of the Israeli government to further its Zionist aims of the eradication of the Palestinian presence in pursuit of 'a wholly Jewish State' created under the false banner of 'a land without a people for a people without a land'.

Zionist maps in the late 19th and early 20th century, long before the events of the Second World War on which they base their justification of continuing genocide and ethnic cleansing, showed the land of 'Eretz Yisrael' as encompassing not only Palestine but parts of Syria, Jordan and Southern Lebanon.

The Phalangists had their own agenda and indeed, there were many groups in Lebanon during the Civil War that welcomed the Israeli invasion and sought either to drive the Palestinian refugees from the country or simply extinguish their lives.

The victims of the Phalange were not only Palestinian either. There were many Shi'a Lebanese who were massacred by the militia and the invading IDF.

Although Palestinians for centuries have included both Christians and Muslims, there was and still is a fallacious belief among some right-wing Christian groups that Palestinians are solely Muslim and moreover Muslims that seek to create an Islamist State throughout the Arab Nation. Although there are Palestinians who embrace this goal, the aim of creating one single, democratic secular State is enshrined in the original principles that governed the PLO. In fact, the PLO never comprised a single group or political party but was an umbrella organisation with many different Palestinian political groups under its aegis. The PLO in that sense always has been far more an example of true democracy than the rigid two-party system of representational government in the U.S.

It would be wrong to declare Christianity to be in any way responsible for the massacres executed by the fanatics of the Phalange as it would be to declare Islam responsible for any excessive zeal shown by Muslim groups or nations. Religion as always is simply a smokescreen to disguise the true motivations for wars and atrocities, which tend to be economic and social in nature.

It is indisputable, however, that any group or organisation that supported and continues to support the Israeli dream of Zionism must be held accountable for the blood of the victims of Sabra and Shatila. They must be held accountable for the original demolition of approximately 500 villages in Palestine and the continuing demolition of Palestinian homes and expulsions of the Palestinian people from the Homeland. The massacre of Qana during the 'Grapes of Wrath' military adventure of the Israelis in 1996 as well as the continuing deaths of Palestinians at the hands of the IDF and Jewish settlers, the continuing bombings and the state of siege in Gaza demonstrate that the atrocities committed in Sabra and Shatila were not an isolated incident.

When the world remembers Sabra and Shatila, it must vow to stop the continuing programme of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people and to acknowledge the unequivocal Right of Return to the Homeland. Only then will we be able to declare that the deaths of the innocents during that terrible three-day massacre was not in vain.

The massacres have been enshrined in the work of many artists, among them Dia Azzazi. His work will be exhibited at the Tate Modern in London. Here is an article about it:

LONDON.- Dia Azzawi’s epic work Sabra Shatila will be displayed at the Tate Modern (level 3) this July. The Tate Modern collection comprises international modern and contemporary art dating from 1900 until today. The permanent collection is displayed on levels 3 and 5, level 4 displays temporary exhibition, and level 2 holds the work of contemporary artists. Sabra Shatila Described by Azzawi as ‘a manifesto of dismay and anger’, Sabra Shatila was created by the artist in response to the 1982 massacre of civilians in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps during the Lebanese civil war.

The motivation behind the brutal murder of innocents, at the hands of the Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia, was presented as a reprisal for the assassination of president Bachir Gemayel, leader of the Kataeb Party.

The day after the news of the massacre Azzawi was compelled to construct a work based on the killing: ‘I had at that time a roll of paper and, without any preparatory sketches, the idea for the work came to me. I tried to visualize my previous experience of walking through this camp, with its small rooms separated by a narrow road, in the early 1970s.’ Sabra Shatila displays the massacre through a series of fragmented scenes joined together to create a narrative which invokes the merciless cruelty and brutality of war and human suffering. Silent screams and hands outstretched in desperation pervade the composition; the careful use of blood red and the fragmented bodies of humans and animals reinforce the horror of the slaughter. Indeed Azzawi, who has often used textual referents in the construction of works, was deeply moved by the French writer Jean Genet’s 1983 account of the massacre which also aptly describes the scene presented in Sabra Shatila: A photograph doesn’t show the flies nor the thick white smell of death. Neither does it show you how you must jump over bodies as you walk along from one corpse to the next.

If you look closely at the corpse, an odd phenomenon occurs: the absence of life in this body corresponds to the total absence of the body, or rather to its continuous backing away. You feel that even by coming closer you can never touch it. That happens when you look at it carefully. But it should you make a move in its direction, get down next to it, move an arm or a finger, suddenly it is very much there and almost friendly. As one of the more politically inclined artists of his generation, Azzawi has since the 1970s created works which address the issue of human suffering as a result of political instability.

Previous works which explore the Palestinian plight include Witness From Our Time (1972), based on Black September and the series of works about the Tell al-Za’tar massacre of 1976. His more recent works Wounded Soul, Fountain of Pain (2010) and Elegy to My Trapped City (2011) relate to the post-2003 destruction of Iraq. Azzawi’s politically motivated works (his oeuvre demonstrates an interest in a range of subjects including archaeology, Arabic literature and poetry, and nineteenth-century European painting) are often likened to Picasso’s seminal painting Guernica (1937).

Dia Azzawi Dia Azzawi (b. 1939, Baghdad), is internationally recognised as one of the pioneers of modern Arab art. Defined by its powerful visual impact and brilliant colour, Azzawi’s art covers a range of subjects executed in a variety of media—including painting, sculpture, prints, drawings, and book art. He lives and works in London but continues to derive inspiration from his homeland, Iraq. (Article published by Art Daily)