Archive for September, 2013

Anthony Bourdain, Will You Marry Me?

By Amer Zahr
Posted on September 16, 2013

Something amazing happened on CNN last night. Palestinians were portrayed as human beings.

In his show “Parts Unknown,” Anthony Bourdain travels to exotic and controversial locales to examine the intersection of food, politics, and everyday life. Last night, he visited Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

He was immediately mesmerized by Palestine, which is a common phenomenon. It is an amazing place, where the gravity of the history and spirituality is heavy in the air. It feels majestic. But something is a little off. Bourdain felt the splendor, but, as he said, “Then you see the young draftees (teenage Israeli soldiers holding machine guns) in the streets, and you start to get the idea.”

He began his journey with an Israeli chef and author, Yotam. They started by tasting some falafel in Jerusalem’s Old City. Yotam told the audience, in a stunning admission, “Israelis made falafel their own, and everybody in the world thinks falafel is Israeli, but in actual fact, it is as much Palestinian, even more so, because it’s been done for generations here… The question of food appropriation is massive here.”

Now if they could only say the same thing about the land, the houses, and the air, we might be able to get somewhere.

Bourdain then made his way into the West Bank. And on his way to visit a settlement, he said something that Americans never hear on TV:

In 2003, Israel began construction on a wall along the green line representing the Israeli-Palestinian border. The wall now stretches 450 miles. When completed, it will span 700 miles, 85% of it in Palestinian territory… Since 1967, 500,000 Israeli settlers have moved into the West Bank, all in contravention of international law, many in contravention of Israeli law, though in effect it seems to make little difference, they’re here and in ever larger numbers.

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

Before he got to the settlement, he noticed some Hebrew graffiti on a Palestinian house in a neighboring village. His driver translated it for him: “Death to Arabs.”

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

Bourdain finally made it to the settlement of Eli. Eli is located north of Ramallah and in the heart of the West Bank. It is nowhere near the 1967 borders. He asked its chief executive, Amiad, what Palestinians might think of its existence. He told Bourdain, “Actually they are happy we are here. We gave them prosperity for the past 45 years.” I was worried the show might go in a bad direction, but then Bourdain said, “I’m guessing a lot of people would disagree with that statement.” Wow, I think he’s getting it. Then Bourdain said, “So, from the high ground, you can see anyone walking at night, you can see pretty far out.” Wow, he is getting it!

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

As Bourdain prepared to leave Eli, he brought up the disturbing graffiti he saw with Amiad. “Why not paint it over?” he asked innocently. The response? “Good question. Maybe we should. You’re right.” I’m sure Anthony knows he’s not the first person to suggest such a thing. Now, Anthony, I am a bit more experienced with Israeli talk than you are, so let me translate that. “Good question. Maybe we should. You’re right,” really means, “Silly question, we definitely won’t, get out of my face.”

Bourdain then made a quick visit with a now famous group of Palestinian female drivers called “The Speed Sisters.” Now this visit had nothing to do with food, but he was able to be in a car alone with Betty Saadeh, a hot Palestinian woman. And you don’t turn down an opportunity like that. He even looked like he caught a little case of Palestinian fever. I can relate.

After visiting Jerusalem, Bourdain took the short but interesting drive into Bethlehem, through a checkpoint, and past the infamous wall:

It’s right there for all to see. And it feels like something out of a science fiction film. This is the wall. From the other side, from inside this place, it doesn’t feel like anything other than what it is. A prison.

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

Bourdain visited Aida refugee camp, just north of Bethlehem. There he met Abdelfattah Abusrour, my friend, and the founder of Ruwwad, a group that uses theatre for young people to express their desires and feelings. Abusrour sees Ruwwad as nonviolent resistance, a way for young people to express themselves, creating what he calls “a peace from within.”

The honest portrayal of the residents of the camp, from their squalor to their own struggle to find productive channels of resistance, was something I had never seen on American TV. Bourdain noted that these Palestinian children do not have the luxury of idolizing pop stars and athletes. They turn to politics early, sometimes idolizing martyrs and politicians. And he’s right, there’s something wrong with that. We Palestinians are normal in so many ways. And we’re so not normal in so many others.

Then Bourdain went to Gaza:

Getting in and out of Gaza from Israel is truly one of the most surreal travel experiences you could have on Earth. Over 1.5 million people live in Gaza, most of them considered refugees, meaning they are not from the place they are compelled to live now. In most cases, they are either prohibited from or unable to leave. Israel decides who comes and goes, what gets in and what stays out.

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

In Gaza, he met Laila Haddad, a well-known Palestinian author and activist who has written books about Gaza life and cuisine. As she explained that Gaza’s cuisine should include a lot of seafood, she noted that fishermen can rarely get prize catches as the Israeli military limits how far out they can sail. If they go too far, the Israeli navy shoots at their boats and cuts their nets.

Bourdain and Haddad then visited the Sultan family, where they were served a Palestinian staple, maqloobeh. That dish happens to be one of my specialties (Yes, ladies, I can cook.) As they were eating, the man of the house was worried about being rude. Why? The cameramen were not eating. His wife asked Bourdain to open a restaurant for her. We Palestinians are always looking for a hook-up. We need it. Her husband continued to yell, but Leila assured Anthony. “This is a normal tone of voice. He’s not upset, by the way. This is how we talk. We yell.” I can relate.

Before Bourdain left Gaza, he met and dined with one more group of men. These men, like 75% of Gaza’s population, were refugees. As he sat, laughing and eating, he told us:

Many of these guys are not too sympathetic to my country, or my ethnicity I’m guessing. But, there’s that hospitality thing. Anywhere you go in the Muslim world, it seems, no matter what, you feed your guests, you do your best to make them feel at home.

It’s true. We Palestinians are overly hospitable when people visit our homeland. Sometimes too much.

The episode ended with Natan, the owner of a restaurant right outside of Gaza in Israel. Natan’s daughter was killed by a mortar bomb in the constant struggle between groups in Gaza and Israel. Since 2008, over 1,600 Palestinians in Gaza have also been killed in this conflict.

Natan spoke of the senseless deaths on both sides. He clearly disliked settlements, and he believed it was possible for like-minded people from both sides to get together and make peace. I would agree, if just more people like Natan existed. But the people who are pointing the guns at me aren’t named Natan… They’re named Netanyahu.

By the end, Bourdain did not seem too optimistic about the prospects of peace. “One doesn’t even have to speak metaphorically because there is an actual wall… or a fence, depending on who you’re talking to.” Natan told him, “No. It is a big wall. It is ugly. It is really ugly. You can see it, it’s not far away from here.” Unfortunately, it’s not far away from anywhere.

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

Part of being Palestinian in America is getting really excited whenever someone tells the truth about us on American TV. Kind of depressing, right?

Anthony, in the beginning of this episode, you gave the following announcement:

By the end of this hour, I’ll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, socialist, a fascist, CIA agent, and worse.

I didn’t see any of that. I just saw what happens to anyone who actually interacts with Palestinians. You fell in love with us, and we fell in love with you.


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  •  According to UNOCHA, 57% of Gaza households are food insecure as of July 2013, however, If the current Israeli and Egyptian measures remain as they are, this  number will rise to 65
  • As of August 2013, over a third of those willing and able to work are unemployed( PCBS) – one of the highest rates of unemployment in the world. Economists claim that the continuous closure of the tunnels will result in a sharp increase in this level.
  • The construction sector in Gaza, is working with less than 15% of its previous capacity, leading to more than 30,000 losses in job opportunity since July 2013
  • A longstanding electricity deficit, compounded by shortages in fuel needed to run Gaza’s power plant results in power outages of up to 12 hours a day, ( UNOCHA , july 2013)
  • Only a quarter of homes receive running water every day, during several hours only
  • Some 90 million litres of untreated and partially treated sewage are dumped in to the sea off the Gaza coast each day, creating public health hazards
  • Over 90% of the water extracted from the Aquifer is unsafe for human consumption
  • Over 12,000 people are currently displaced due to their inability to reconstruct their homes  destroyed during hostilities, ( UNOCHA July 2013)
  • The economy has endured severe losses worth 460 USD in all economic sectors within the past 2 months ( Ministry of Economy -Gaza)




  • AND PLEASE NOTE:  In july 2013, 27% ( 128 items) of essential medicines were at zero stock in the central drug store in Gaza and 16% ( 78 items) were at low stock ( between 1-3 months supply)

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All faiths rest peacefully here together, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Hindu soldiers from Germany, Australia, France, Greece, Turkey, Britain and India, shaded by well maintained trees and divided only by greenery, The-WAR CEMETERY in Gaza is a place of quiet solitude in a city fearing the worst and suffering a tightening siege. Row after row of soldier some ” known only to god” , many in their early twenties,  some with personal inscriptions lie forever together, away from home, away from family as a last reminder to one more consequence of war.

The first world war or the great war as it was known was also known as the “war to end all wars”….., yet 100 years later the allied forces are again contemplating  war. … more death, more separation , more “War Cemeteries”

Perhaps a sombre walk around a cemetery like this, to look at and actually see the men ( We also saw one womans grave) , their ages , their inscriptions, would open the eyes of the war mongers………

Via “Asmaa al-Ghoul for Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse Posted on May 2nd …
“These soldiers came to fight alongside the Allied forces against the Ottoman Empire during World War I in 1914-1918. They fought in three major battles, the largest being the battle of Wadi Gaza, as well as the Mantar battle. The battlefield was their final resting place. They were buried in the cemetery established by the coalition forces, known as the “Commonwealth.” The Gaza War Cemetery includes nearly 4,000 tombs, in addition to a smaller English cemetery comprising 750 graves. It is located in the center of the Gaza Strip in the region of al-Zawayida. According to the cemetery’s archives, battles were fierce due to the resilience of the Gaza-Beersheba defense line at the time.”

Some of the tombstones bear the Shahada — the Islamic declaration of faith — while others have Hindu statements engraved on them,others have the star of David and christian crosses.

A group of 22 graves of Canadian soldiers from the international peacekeeping forces takes up the eastern corner of the cemetery, among palm seedlings. These forces came to settle the war of 1956 that was waged by France, Israel and Britain against Egypt. The soldiers were killed between 1959 and 1966. These are the newest graves in the cemetery.

Not far from the Canadians’ graves are the tombs of Indian soldiers who fought in World War I. Among them is the resting place of a dozen Muslim soldiers who are buried without tombstones, according to Islamic tradition. Moreover, there are 25 Hindu soldiers who are also buried in one place without tombstones; instead, there is just a banner with text in ancient Sanskrit. There is also one grave for a Christian Indian soldier.”

We came across one tombstone marked ” Sister Annie Gledhill, a religious sister who died in October 1918 aged 43. The youngest dated tombstone seems to be a young boy of 17….., sons, brothers , friends. Interspersed around the graveyard are  inscriptions such as the one on the tomb of the United nations emergency force which reads”

In memory of our beloved soldiers who lost their lives in the cause of peace”

or the inscription on one soldiers headstone reading ”

let none forget, how vast the debt, we owe to those who died”

or more persoanlly

” Cherished memories of our happy, dearly loved youngest son.”

The cemetery keeper is  Ibrahim Jarada,  76, who was awarded member of the British Empire,  during a ceremony in Gaza in 1994. He has been quoted as saying:

“Five Jews are buried here. Moshe Dayan, when he was the defense minister, tried to exhume the bodies under the pretext that they did not belong here due to their different beliefs. I, however, strongly objected and told him that he should contact the cemetery’s management in the United Kingdom, but I will not give him [access to] any bodies. Death is human, and here we are bound by humanity, which must be respected.”

Although , Ironically, the War Cemetery here in Gaza, is the only place in Gaza of quiet serene and green peace, Lets , as Mr. Jarada says, “Be bound by humanity” and find another way…….. WAR WAS NOT THEN AND IS NOT NOW THE ANSWER!

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With the closure of the tunnels ( a lifeline for Gaza) and the frequent closure of the Rafah and Karem Shalom crossings into Gaza, The effects and consequences of the brutal Israeli siege on Gaza is felt even more these days.  Gaza’s economy suffers with no construction materials entering, food and fuel shortages are leaving people hungry and prices of basic commodities rising means even basic human needs are not being met. The world , with access to 24 hour television channels and world wide internet is still watching but refusing to see!!!!!!!!

Following are some headlines !!!


As noose tightens, Palestinians in Gaza face darkest days

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Thu, 09/05/2013 – 14:59


Palestinians wait at a gas station in Gaza City on 1 September 2013, as tightening blockade has worsened fuel crisis.


No fuel in which kills transportation & paralyzes life! More darkness to b cursed, no more generators, just emptiness all around!

Business here r dwindling, economy on its last breath (if not dead already), shortage in water & soon shortage in food & merchandise!

These tweets by blogger Omar Ghraieb capture the despair many of Gaza’s almost 1.7 million Palestinian residents feel as Israel’s blockade, compounded by Egypt’s intensifying crackdown, has brought the territory once more to the brink of catastrophe.

Since the 3 July military coup against Egypt’s elected president Muhammad Morsi, the military regime has destroyed almost all the vital underground supply tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.

This week, Egypt began demolishing houses along its side of its border with Gaza, a futile and criminal Israeli-style tactic, that is seen as a prelude to establishing a “buffer zone” to further isolate Gaza.

As a result of these and other Egyptian measures, supplies of some critical medicines have hit zero, the construction industry has collapsed, and the Rafah crossing, the only entry and exit for most Gazans, is frequently closed.

The population of Gaza still faces 12-hour daily blackouts due to Israel’s destruction of the electricity infrastructure, but even the relief provided by noisy and often dangerous portable generators is fading into darkness as fuel supplies run out.

Slow death

A new report, “Slow Death; The Collective Punishment of Gaza has reached a Critical Stage,” from the human rights monitoring group Euro-Mid Observer, highlights the acute crisis that compounds the effects of the prolonged Israeli blockade.

Ten facts about the Gaza blockade

The report is worth reading in full, but these ten facts about the impact of the blockade capture the scale of the mounting catastrophe and underscore the urgent need for pressure on Israel to end it and for Egypt to end its complicity.

  • According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 57 percent of Gaza households are food insecure as of July 2013, however, if the current Israeli and Egyptians measures remain as they are, 65 percent of Gaza households will be food insecure (World Food Program estimate June 2010).
  • As of August 2013, over a third (35.5 percent) of those able and willing to work are unemployed (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics) – one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Economists expect that the continuous closure of the tunnels will lead to a sharp increase in the unemployment level (43 percent by the end of 2013 compare with 32 percent in June 2013).
  • The continuous closure of the tunnels will lead to a 3 percent decline in the growth by the end of 2013 compared with 15 percent as of June 2013.
  • The construction sector is working at less than 15 percent of its previous capacity leading to more than 30,000 losses in job opportunities since July 2013.
  • A longstanding electricity deficit, compounded by shortages in fuel needed to run Gaza’s power plant, results in power outages of up to 12 hours a day (UN OCHA, July 2013).
  • Only a quarter of households receive running water every day, during several hours only.
  • Over 90 percent of the water extracted from the Gaza aquifer is unsafe for human consumption.
  • Some 90 million liters of untreated and partially treated sewage are dumped in the sea off the Gaza coast each day, creating public health hazards.
  • Over 12,000 people are currently displaced due to their inability to reconstruct their homes, destroyed during hostilities (UNOCHA, July 2013).
  • The economy has endured severe losses worth $460 million in all economic sectors within the past two months. (Ministry of Economy- Gaza)

Collective punishment, collective crime

Although it remains the occupying power, Israel declared Gaza a “hostile entity” in 2007 and its then prime minister Ehud Olmert declared, “We will not allow the opening of the crossings to Gaza and outside of Gaza to the extent that it will help them bring back life into a completely normal pace.”

These and other Israeli official statements quoted in the Euro-Mid report highlight that the catastrophe in Gaza is a calculated and intended effect of the siege, making it a war crime and collective punishment under international law.


Euro-Mid calls on the “international community,” to pressure Israel to end the blockade.

That call is right, but it is an unavoidable fact that the siege would not have lasted seven long years already without the complicity and support of the “international community” in the form of the United States and its allies, particularly the European Union and compliant Arab regimes.

The siege is collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza, but it is also a collective crime.



Published Sunday 01/09/2013 (updated) 04/09/2013 22:35
CAIRO (Ma’an) — Egypt plans to impose a 500-meter buffer zone along its border with the Gaza Strip, a senior Egyptian military official said Sunday.Egyptian residents living in Saladin, al-Barahmeh, Canada, Brazil, al-Sarsouriya and other neighborhoods close to the Gaza border have received eviction notices.Homeowners who received eviction orders demonstrated against the decision and burned tires in protest.Army bulldozers have also uprooted trees in the border area.The army has demolished 13 homes in the al-Sarsouriya neighborhood where tunnel entrances were found.An Egyptian military official told Ma’an that most cross-border tunnels with entrances in fields or open areas had been destroyed in a security campaign to stop smuggling. He said it was more difficult to locate tunnels that opened into houses.Egypt’s army spokesman Ahmad Mohammad said that forces have destroyed 343 smuggling tunnels. He said the Egyptian military has also prohibited fishing near the border to prevent smuggling via the sea.

Hamas said Friday that two Palestinian fishermen were wounded and five others arrested by the Egyptian navy off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

“Some Egyptian navy ships fired in the direction of Palestinian fishing boats near the Egyptian border off the coast of Rafah at dawn on Friday,” the Hamas government’s press agency reported.

“Two fishermen were wounded and five others arrested,” said Hamas.

They were both taken to the hospital in Rafah, medical sources said, adding that their lives were not in danger.

Hamas described the incident as an “unjustified act,” and called for those “detained to be freed.”

Egypt did not immediately confirm the incident, which took place amid growing tensions with Hamas.

Gaza fishing boats often venture into Egyptian waters to compensate for the restriction caused by a maritime blockade imposed by Israel on the coastal strip.

But the practice has been less and less tolerated, since former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood is close to Hamas, was ousted in a military coup on July 3.

Under the terms of the current Israeli restrictions, Gaza fishermen are not allowed to enter waters more than six nautical miles from the shore, and complain that the area is insufficient to support the needs of Gaza’s population.

International report says collective punishment of Gaza has reached critical stage

Thursday, 05 September 2013 12:16

Slow DeathTwo months after the military coup in Egypt, the Gaza Strip continues to live through the worst shortages of medical equipment and fuel as well as difficulties on movement in and out of the Strip, a report issued by three international organisations said.

EuroMid Observer for Human Rights in cooperation with the Palestinian Return Centre in London (PRC) and Malaysian Consultative Organization (MAPIM) issued the report, ‘Slow Death’. The report focused on the negative effects of the siege on Gaza which has led to severe shortages in the Strip.

According to the report, Gaza residents are facing “severe shortages” in their basic needs as well as healthcare equipment and medicines. It also said that all other sectors were suffering serious shortages.

The report said that food and fuel needs can barely be met as the Egyptian army has closed most of the tunnels used to smuggle in essential goods.

The report also explained how the closure of the Rafah crossing by the Egyptians had affected the freedom of movement of Gaza’s residents. Thousands of Palestinians and foreigners wanting to leave the Strip as well as thousands wanting to enter face major difficulties because of the closure of the crossing the report said.

The report, which had a detailed look at the effects of the siege since its early stages, summarised the current deterioration in living conditions in Gaza as being at its worst since November 2008, when Israel launched a full-scale military operation, Cast Lead.

The unemployment rate in Gaza has hit 35.5 per cent, according to the report, and the rate is set to continue to rise as more tunnels are being closed day by day.

As a result of the shortage of fuel and electricity, only a quarter of households receive running water for a couple of hours on a daily basis.

People started to feel the shortage of clean drinking water as mass filters cut daily work hours. “Over 90 per cent of the water extracted from the Gaza aquifer is unsafe for human consumption.”

On sewage water, the report said that, “Some 90 million litres of untreated or partially treated sewage water are dumped in the sea off the Gaza coast each day, creating public health hazards.”

The Gaza economy has endured severe losses worth of $460million in all economic sectors within the past two months.

The organisations that issued the report called for Israel to lift the siege on Gaza and to end the suffering of innocent civilians. They also called for Egyptian authorities to fully open the Rafah crossing without any restrictions.

They went on to call for the international community to put pressure on Israel to push it to stop “human rights violations.” They also called for the international community to separate the “collective punishment of the Palestinians by Israel from the political conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

On freedom of movement, they called for the international community, mainly the EU and US, to “initiate and support the need for a seaport in Gaza that guarantees the free import and export of goods and private international travel.” This would, to a large extent, contribute to solving the food, fuel and trade problems

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