AL-KHALIL REFLECTION: Cat and mouse play

A young boy met the people leaving the Friday prayers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in al-Khalil, giving them a colourful paper with offers of flat screen TV's, vacuum cleaners and dishwashers. Young and old read the pamphlet with interest while two Israeli soldiers watched people passing and handed back to some of them the ID's they had taken on their way in.

Another boy about seven years old came, stood in front of the soldiers, ripped up the pamphlet with the vacuum cleaners and threw the pieces on the ground.

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: Dignity in the face of humiliation

Boys push Hani to school. Israeli authorities built a barrier at the end of Hani's street, preventing him from traveling directly 100 meters to school. He has to travel an extra 500 metersAs the day dawns on our last school patrol, I reflect back on my last two and a half months of patrols here in Hebron.

Setting off at 6:50 a.m. we are greeted by the smiling faces of children who take the time to stop and give us a high five or shake hands with us. As we walk through the Souq (market), an array of colourful fabrics reflects the warmth of everyone as they invite us into their shops for tea. Then we turn the corner and everything changes.


Despite the heavy heat outside, the basement was cool, almost damp, with the smell of old crumbling concrete and years of dust storms. It was dark but a light glowed, soaking everything in a sinister red film, showing the way through, showing their faces, twisted with fear, and pain, and loss.

Pictures hung on the walls, one per wall. Large, almost life sized images of fallen bodies, decaying children, bloated cows. I stood in silence. I know the history, the decades of brutality, of ethnic cleansing, the systematic murder of Kurdish men, women and children in the 1980s; Saddam’s al’Anfal campaign. I had even seen those pictures before. But this was different; the horror was close and chilling.


The approach of Naqba Day, the Day of the Catastrophe, brought a sense of trepidation to the Al-Khalil Christian Peacemaker Team. This day commemorating the displacement of Palestinians following the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948 is often marked by demonstrations and violence on both sides. While patrolling the evening before, we had observed Israeli soldiers conducting drills, moving portable barricades and simulating the rescue of fallen comrades. This stoked our anxious anticipation of the day to come.

As morning dawned on Naqba Day, additional military presence was evident throughout the Old City. Soldiers at their checkpoints checked every schoolchild’s bag. Having heard of a march planned in the city’s Palestinian-controlled sector, we proceeded as a group to the planned route. Various political parties, clearly separated and defined by their distinctive flags, participated in the march. When part of the Hamas Party group broke away and moved toward the Israeli-controlled zone in the Old City, we became concerned that heightened tensions could lead to violence.


“The entire history of man is war,” the speaker told us, “conflict driven by racial, religious and territorial ambition.”

He sounded regretful, as if he wished it could be otherwise, but knew it was foolish and negligent to trust any force other than violence for the common good. As he went on, outlining the dangers of Islamic immigration to Western countries, he branded those who disagreed with his analysis as “naïve,” even “traitors.” I saw that most of the crowd agreed.

IRAQ REFLECTION: A moment for the martyrs

This is the story of Sardasht Osman. On 5 May 2010, his body was found, shot, outside the city of Mosul. He had been abducted from outside his university two days earlier, in front of a crowd of witnesses. 

The prospective journalist's final opinion piece, “I Am in Love with Massoud Barzani’s Daughter,” criticized the KRG president’s wealth in biting satire. “All my friends said, ‘Saro, let it go and give it up or you will get yourself killed. The family of Mulla Mustafa Barzani [Massoud Barzani’s father] can kill anyone they want, and they surely will.’ ”

It appears they did. 

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): The Israeli Paradigm, Part II

In the first part of my reflection, I noted that historian Ilan Pappé challenged us to bring into the discourse of Israel and Palestine the words “Settler-colonialism,” “occupation” and “apartheid” and that the situation in Hebron supports the truth of these words:

Our neighbor in the old city of Hebron—where her family has lived for hundreds of years— requires a permit to live on Shuhada Street in but cannot go out of her front door.  When we walk through our neighborhood, I we see gun watchtowers and checkpoints.  On one street running near the Ibrahimi mosque, a concrete barrier divides the street in two.  The left half of the street is for Israelis and the right side is for Palestinians.  Israelis can drive on their part of the street but the Palestinian side is too narrow for cars.

Soldiers guard Palestinian house that settlers have occupied, March 2012

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: The Israeli Paradigm, Part I

 I have been reading Ilan Pappé’s (1) book Forgotten Palestinians.  I find his writing to be informative and thought provoking and so was excited a couple weeks ago, when the team and I got a chance to hear Pappé speak at the Alternative Information Centre in Beit Sahour.

What Pappé said offered an alternative to much of the discourse surrounding Israel and Palestine.  Pappé argued that most people, even those who see themselves as being pro-Palestinian, still speak and think within the paradigm (2) created by Zionists.

According to Pappé, in this paradigm of peace the Zionists saw that they must establish full control over the West Bank, to fulfill their vision of the State of Israel.  He likened the situation in the West Bank to that of a prison.  If Palestinians within the West Bank are willing to work within the framework of the paradigm and ‘behave,’ they will receive rewards and benefits, and the prison will resemble an open detention center where people have some freedoms and can move around somewhat freely.  These benefits, Pappé stated, could even incorporate a state, but it would be a state without sovereignty, and a state that was still within the Zionist paradigm, and therefore still ultimately under Zionist control.  However, if the Palestinians dare to challenge the paradigm they will find themselves in a maximum-security prison where Israel severely restricts their rights and limits their freedoms.

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: "…live justly and peaceably with all creation."

The organizers hoped that the Green Festival would bring some of these issues to the attention of the Kurds of Suleimaniya.  And they were successful.  Around 2000 people left their leisurely stroll around the park to listen to Kurdish and American music and look at the displays.  They were able to see that the ubiquitous 250-millilitre water bottle could be threaded onto a wooden frame to create a green house.  They heard from high school students that wind and solar power might work well in the region.  They saw the advantages of placing trash into receptacles that would go to the dump.  They took in the beauty, through nature photographs and paintings, of their region, which reminded them that they must find ways of preserving it.

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: Warmongering and the KRG/Iranian border

The whole world knows that war is a terrible thing.  Every nation on the earth has witnessed first hand the truths of war.  Yet even with these first hand experiences, governments claiming to represent the best interests of their people are still willing to inflict war on others.
Currently the war drum is beating against Iran.  Pundits and politicians, backed by various lobbies as well as Israeli and European allies are calling for it.