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Reflections by mazin qumsiyeh

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Reflections  by Mazin Qumsiyeh

The old Hebron to Jerusalem  (now Hebron-to-wall-near Bethlehem) road was lined up with perhaps over 200 armed special forces.  These are not Israeli but Palestinian "security".  I was going to pick a friend at Dheisheh Refugee camp to eat Knafah (a Palestinian sweet). Every 10 meters (30 ft) for a stretch of over a mile there was one of those security men.  Young people 18-24 years old.  The "Palestinian Authority" spends most of its budget not on healthcare or education or any other item but on security.  We were told President Abbas is coming to the area (either to the headquarters in AlMuqata’a or to the "Presidential Palace" in Artas area very near an Israeli settlement).  After the big motorcade the streets had all been cleared of parked cars.  The police were slow to let the original traffic reopen and for cars to park again.  At the Knafa shop, we had to struggle to get parking and I think it happened only after the owner gave free Knafa to the policemen on duty.  No one knows why streets are closed or what is the occasion for the visits of such dignitaries to our little town of Bethlehem (aka Ghetto 12).  After the Knafa we visited the besieged village of Tqu’ just two miles southwest of Bethlehem and we saw the desperation of these villages which get no presidential visits.  This village and dozens like it are besieged by colonial Jewish-only settlements which took most of their best lands and water resources. Here the colonies of Tekoa, El David and Nodekim (where Avigdor Lieberman lives) sit on the lands of the village. The water resources have been confiscated and the village must buy its water from the Israeli company that has for some 40 years been pillaging the village water wells.   Near the entrance and one of the water wells, a roving Israeli checkpoint stopped my car and the young (perhaps Russian) kid sweating and out of his elements wearing heavy cloths and carrying a gun perhaps heavier than he is asks me to step out of the car and to then open the trunk etc.  The home we visited had a father with 10 children way below poverty level but with a dignity and generosity that is legendary for such simple decent village people. Unemployment is rampant and some village people are forced to work in the colonial settlements just to survive. But this family says they would prefer to starve than do that.  The colonial settlements have all their needs of water, infrastructure, and Israeli government support (and new buildings not withstanding Obama’s empty rhetoric). The lavish life-style reminiscent of Southern California a few hundred yards away from unbelievable man-made poverty is emblematic of the worst forms of apartheid and human cruelty to fellow humans. On stolen lands and using stolen water, they even have a Jewish only water Park overseeing the desert (the Dead Sea and Jordan are visible) attracting colonial settlers from both sides of the apartheid wall.  Oh yes, the three colonies are on the so-called Palestinian side of the wall!. I saw enough for one day and on the way back to Beit Sahour, I console myself with the site of the ruins of a castle of the tyrannical King Herod built near Tqu’ 2000 years ago.  He and his brutal rule have long disappeared while the native people (dark skinned and beautiful, the Canaanite descendents remain in the people of Tqu’).  I wished Palestinian self-declared leaders go to Tqu’ and other besieged villages.

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Israel grinds palestinian olive grove

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Palestinians sort olives during harvest season in an olive grove in the West Bank village & News Agencies

KAFR QADDUM — A rifle-toting Israeli soldier pointed to a dozen of Palestinian farmers heading to their olive grove in the northern West Bank.

"They are a security risk," he said, ordering the villagers off a hillside just outside Qedumim settlement in the northern West Bank, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

As delighted settlers watched on, soldiers forced the Palestinian farmers from nearby Kafr Qaddum village off their land.

"It has become worse," said British activist Hellela Siew, 64, who has travelled from Britain for the past six year to take part in the annual Palestinian olive harvest.

In recent weeks, settlers have stepped attacks at Palestinian farmers across the West Bank at the beginning of the annual olive harvest.

Worse still, Israeli soldiers often turn a blind eye the settler attacks.

"Soldiers usually watch the settlers attack, then kick people out and declare it a closed military area," said Jamal Juma, a Palestinian with the Stop the Wall Campaign.

The West Bank economy largely depends on the annual olive harvest.

"The production of olive oil is absolutely central to the Palestinian economy," European Commission representative John Kjaer.

This year’s harvest is expected to contribute 123 million dollars to the Palestinian economy, or 18 percent of the territories’ total agricultural production.

The United Nations says up to 100,000 families depend on the olive harvest to some extent for their livelihood.

But many farmers are cut off from their olive groves by the Israeli separation barrier and Jewish settlements, and need special permits to access their fields through barriers that only open at set times.

Israeli Shame

Foreign activists have joined the Palestinians in picking up their olive harvest and defend them against settler attacks.

"We do this because we want to defend Palestinians’ rights to their land," said Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann, of the Israeli Rabbis for Human Rights which organizes volunteer teams to work in olive groves.

"As a last resort we stand between Palestinian farmers and the settlers," said Grenimann, who was born in Australia.

Around him, half a dozen volunteers plucked olives — some with their fingers, others using small plastic rakes — which they dropped onto tarpaulins laid out on the rocky ground.

German activist Lukas Mall denounced the Israeli treatment of Palestinian civilians.

"They say Israel is a democracy, yet they prevent Palestinians from picking olives," said Mall, 24, who was among the volunteers turned back from a hillside near Qedumim.

As the army pushed the group away, Kafr Qaddum Mayor Mohammed Abu Nimer led villagers and Palestinian activists in chanting "This land is our land, the settlers are thieves. All we want is peace and our land."

"They don’t want peace, they want trouble," said Mall, as settlers Esther Karach glared at the Palestinians.

Picking olives with an energy that belied his 75 years of age, Israeli volunteer Jonah Ben Tal hopes that his help would counter the shame he feels for the way his country treats Palestinians.

"I don’t really see it as helping Palestinians, but I help myself. At least I can look myself in the mirror," he said.

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Professor rashid bhika honoured

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The South African Institute for Advancement (SAIA) held its Second Annual Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards at a gala event in Cape Town on Wednesday 5th November 2008.

The Inyathelo Award for Lifetime Philanthropy was awarded to Pretoria-born Professor Rashid Bhika Of the Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb.  Prof. Bhika was the founder and CEO of  BeTabs, the largest independent pharmaceutical company in South Africa. The Ibn Institute of Tibb is a non profit organisation and founded by the Bhika Family Trust.

His major commitment is to supporting and providing  affordable healthcare in South Africa. His particular expertise is in the alternative approaches to primary healthcare. He has established clinics in Langa and Manenburg in the Western Cape. These clinics also provide practical training for the University of the Western Cape’s UNANI-TIBB students. In July of 2008 he launched a R1 million  community clinic at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Abused Women and Children.

Awards were presented to 8 remarkable South Africans for their contribution  towards building South Africa’s young democracy and to ensure sustainable social development. The SAIA is supported by  Standard Bank and its patrons include Dr. Mamphela Ramphele and Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa. Mr. Raymond Ackerman of Pick n Pay was the first recipient of this Award. 

The Media Review Network congratulates and salutes Professor Bhika on his fine achievement.

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