Students post eviction notices at U of Michigan dorms, draw attention to Palestinian plight

Guest contribution by Students Allied for Freedom & Equality at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

On Tuesday morning, December 10, approximately 1,500 students woke up to mock eviction notices in six University of Michigan residential dormitories.

Inspired by the Rutgers-New Brunswick chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, members of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) dispersed the notices in the early morning in order to have students momentarily experience the feeling of receiving an eviction notice upon waking up — a feeling that thousands of indigenous Palestinians have had to face under Israeli occupation.

Although it is impossible to recreate the emotions Palestinians experience from forcible internal displacement and exile, the purpose of this action was to raise much-needed awareness regarding the ongoing forcible expulsion of indigenous Palestinians from their land to clear the way for the construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied territories. [Read more...]

Stereotypes that hurt the Palestinian cause and how one student overcame them

Guest contribution by Amal Ali

Every Palestinian knows the gist. Every city has its qualities and the natives of each have their characteristics. People from the depopulated city of Lydd are like this. People from Bethlehem usually do that. People from Gaza tend to be this way.

The stereotypes get around. By the time we meet a new Palestinian and ask that the inevitable question, “Min ay balad inti/inta? What town are you from?” we maintain the entire interaction with a preconceived perception of his or her character based solely on municipality.

It’s not a new concept: stereotypes have been part of functioning society since the first caveman began to attach assumed traits to loincloth style and club size. And while several people operate on the “stereotypes save time” mentality and don’t believe in abandoning them for convenience, the long-term effects of these ideas becomes clearer and clearer with every hesitation to reveal details of one’s identity.

My father’s family traces to Surif, a town in the Khalil district in the West Bank. When I was growing up, people’s first response to me after hearing where I’m from was always a “Fi wahd Khalili” joke that feebly mocked Khalaylas as hardheaded, old-fashioned, and sometimes even dense. As a child, I was always surrounded by Palestinians from other cities and towns, so I never heard the flip side to being from Khalil — the good parts — and consequently spent the better part of my life ashamed of the fact that my paternal lineage had no other legacy but stubbornness and backwards living. [Read more...]

A visual commemoration of Palestine’s sixteen districts

Guest contribution by Jumana Al-Qawasmi

A couple weeks ago, I whipped together a quick cover photo commemorating my Palestinian hometown of Al-Khalil (I am a proud Khaliliyya and will always be). To my surprise, this quick project was really popular. So, I embellished on this idea and began a mini project, creating similar images for cities throughout the Middle East, like Cairo, Muscat, and Damascus. I liked the idea of remembering towns as they were, are, and will be (another ‘reclamation project’, really).

I was then asked to create these images for all sixteen districts of Palestine. When compiling the photographs necessary for this mini project, I quickly grew astonished at how little I knew about each district. Could I rally off some unique features of Safad, of Beersheba, of Jenin with relative ease? Unfortunately, I could not.

One could chalk this up to the egregious aftermath of the Nakba: I, as a Palestinian, am so estranged from Palestine that I do not know the culture, geography, and rich narrative of my homeland as well as I otherwise could.

But to do so would be to rid myself (and you) of all blame. It’s easy to get on the internet and research the distinguishing features of each district. You’ll learn about the White Tower of Ramleh, of Napoleon’s defeat at Akka, of the railroad systems linking various districts to the rest of the Middle East. The plethora of images — ranging from the late 1800s to present day — is alone enough to acquaint yourself with Palestine from afar. I recommend searching with the Arabic form of the district name; you come up on more Palestinian sources that way, rather than tiresome Israeli ones. [Read more...]

How to make a StandWithUs video in 10 easy steps

Guest contribution by Ilias S.

Things not going your way? StandWithUs knows how you feel. Lucky for you, they’ve given us a model for how to cope. So if you ever find yourself coming up short like all the time, follow these ten simple steps!

Step 1: Accept the fact that you are losing

… and come up with the fully thought-out idea of announcing it on YouTube.

Step 2: Visit thesaurus.com

… and come up with as many dramatic ways of saying the same thing as possible. [Read more...]

Home is Where the Heart is

Guest contribution by Jana Daoud

They say home is where the heart is.

A third generation Palestinian refugee with dual citizenship in Jordan and the United States, I was raised in a home where my culture and religion were prominent aspects of my life. Being as I am, I never really felt at home in either of the countries I’ve lived in. In the United States, I didn’t feel comfortable being myself. A Muslim with an Arab name meant you were the terrorist that terrorized the entire country. And in Jordan, a place my parents called home during throughout their childhoods, I felt even more out of place there than I ever did in the States.

But in the summer after my first year away for college, under the scorching heat of the summer sun, all of that changed. All my mom had to ask was if I wanted to go to Palestine.

The planning was done on the down-low through whispered plans in the corridors and text messages that were immediately erased for fear of the younger kids catching wind of the trip. This was supposed to be a learning experience and the trip of a lifetime for my mom and I. My mom didn’t want this trip to be ruined with whining six and eight year olds, so my younger siblings didn’t know about the trip until the night before we had planned on making the one hour and forty-five minute drive to the border. [Read more...]

The 2013 SJP National Conference will create change

Guest contribution by Ghassan Rafeedie

The upcoming Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) National Conference is a showcase of talented pro-Palestine advocates, writers, and artists from around the country who will spend a weekend learning from each other in order to advance the cause of equality for Palestinians. While students will be learning from both the successes and setbacks of the past year, the good news is that we have more successes than ever to learn from. These lessons will serve as a springboard for the activities on college campuses during this academic year for the more than 130 SJP chapters around the country. By supporting this conference, we can help those students go above and beyond the already impressive list of actions on campuses recently.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) victories came early and often for SJPs last year, with each victory getting Palestinians one step closer to equality. Boycott victories were won at Evergreen State College in Washington State and Earlham College in Indiana. SJPs also oversaw three victorious, permanent divestment votes at University of California chapters in Berkeley, San Diego and Irvine (with Irvine’s vote being unanimous). Oberlin College in Ohio passed a divestment resolution, which shocked even the most optimistic Palestinian activists like myself. [Read more...]

Playlist: 10 must-hear Palestinian songs

Guest contribution by Jumana Al-Qawasmi

Earlier on Sixteen Minutes to Palestine, I wrote about the importance of engaging with the Palestinian [national or personal] narrative when looking at the broad context of resistance. It is one thing to be well-read in the history of the Palestinian struggle. But it is another thing entirely if the narrative of loss completely dominates the Palestinian identity.

Personally, I love my Palestinian heritage not because it is something that has been taken from me. Rather, my Palestinian heritage is a source of joy and positivity. Music is one way I ensure that my identity remains one of hope and productivity, not of loss and mourning.

So I’ll attempt to give a diverse sampling in this short list of Palestinian songs. This is not meant to be a list entirely comprised of Palestinian artists either; the Palestinian struggle has always been intertwined with the narratives of other countries. Thus, it would seem disingenuous to discount the artistic support of musicians from neighboring countries. I also mean to deviate from the canonized Palestinian playlist; you will not, unfortunately, see Mohammad Assaf, famed dabke instrumentals, or well-known hip-hop tracks (Assaf: if you’re reading this, I still love you). Instead, you will get a list of hopefully new and interesting music to add to your library. [Read more...]

Bearing Witness to Similarities between Native Americans and Palestinians

Guest contribution by Wafai Dias

When I first visited a Native American reservation in South Dakota with my school, Temple University, the similarities that I observed between Native Americans and Palestinians were so vast that they just kept piling up in my mind as the trip went on.

Both Palestinians and Native Americans are victims of ethnic cleaning, colonization and settler colonialism. The two peoples are far too familiar with war, death, occupation and bogus peace processes and negotiations that have only resulted in the loss of more of their land.

On our trip I learned that the Black Hills are extremely sacred land to Native Americans. Initially respecting this religious significance of the Black Hills, the United States government signed a treaty with the Natives in 1868 that clearly stated to all parties that the Black Hills belonged to the Native Americans.

However, when gold was discovered in the Black Hills the U.S. passed a treaty that in effect stole the Hills, to a point where today the Native Americans barely own 10 percent of their sacred land. In the early 1900s the faces of four Presidents were carved into these Hills — known today as Mount Rushmore — and the rest of the remaining land was turned into state and national parks. Although Natives today are allowed to practice their religious ceremonies in the parks within the Black Hills, they are regularly interrupted by the masses of tourists that flock to visit these landmarks. [Read more...]

Bisan’s charm

Guest contribution by Lena Ibrahim

I can feel the painfully real connection my family has to the land in what was once Bisan, Palestine, and as I lose my thoughts staring at this charm on my necklace, I can actually see the land we still call home. I begin to personify the charm imagining all the pain it had once seen. I think about what the charm would say if it could speak, how much it would cry if it could cry. I imagine my father as a child, gripping the charm with his tiny fingers and my grandfather picking him up running out of their soon to be stolen home.

On the back of the charm, written in Arabic, is my family’s name. This charm had been passed down from all of my great grandfathers, all of whom were Palestinian men who lived and died in Bisan, Palestine. 1948 was the year my father’s family was forced to leave their home in Bisan. My father recalls not being able to take any of his belongings, except for his charm, which had been gifted to him with at birth. The charm had always been a family tradition but the meaning of this charm changed after my family became refugees. Sixty-six years later, it now sits on my neck almost like a land deed, like a piece of the Nakba, attesting to every generation of my family coming from the land of Bisan before our forced displacement. [Read more...]

Let’s walk through Balata Refugee Camp

Guest contribution by Dana Saifan

Balata Refugee Camp, in Nablus, is the largest camp in the West Bank, housing over 20,000 refugees. Approximately 3,000 additional refugees living in the camp do not have any identification papers at all — they do not hold refugee status nor do they hold a Palestinian ID.

Balata is constantly surrounded by Israeli settlers and soldiers, as right outside the camp are several important Jewish sites, such as Jacob’s Well and Joseph’s Tomb. Pictured here is Joseph’s Tomb.

Because of the Oslo Accords, when Jewish Israeli settlers and tourists come visit these sites each day, Palestinian police are obligated to turn their heads and allow them unfettered access to Balata. According to residents of the camp, around 200 to 400 Israelis make their way through the camp each night. [Read more...]

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