The "Olive Branch" That Ought to Cross the Wall

by Abdul-Latif Khaled | published December 21, 2004

The autumn olive harvest used to be a time of celebration in this West Bank village. Entire families would spend days together in the groves. Even Israelis would make special trips here at this time of year to buy our olive oil. But with new Israeli restrictions on access to the fields, Palestinian farmers now have to leave their families at home, and may never even get to their olive grove.

Today, picking olives is no celebration. In the past few weeks, Israeli bulldozers began clearing agricultural land that belongs to Jayyous residents in anticipation of building 50 new houses for Israeli settlers.

Withdrawal from Gaza Won't End the Occupation

by Lama Hourani | published August 13, 2005

Gaza City—“I’ll go visit Auntie Lina in Ramallah after I obtain a tasreeh (an Israeli permit) and when Erez checkpoint is open, OK mama?”

This is what my son, who is almost three years old, told me the other day after having a chat with his cousin Laila who lives in Ramallah, in the West Bank. The problem is that during the last five years I have received permission to go to the West Bank only four or five times. Although I have a West Bank identity card from Nablus, I live and work with my husband and son in Gaza City. My son already knows the world: tasreeh , tukh (shoot) and Erez checkpoint is closed.

Israeli Settlements Illegal and Getting Worse

by Stephanie Koury | published September 24, 2005

On his way to the UN summit in New York, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon said to reporters, “Building is continuing there [West Bank settlements]; we will build as much as we need.” Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz proclaimed the day before, “We have to make every effort to direct resources to the development of the settlement blocs.” While the media portrays dismantling Gaza settlements as an Israeli concession to the Palestinians, scant attention has been focused on the real problem—that the whole settlement enterprise pursued by successive Israeli governments since 1967 is illegal. Israeli withdrawal of settlements from Gaza is partial compliance with international law, not a concession.

West Bank Road Vs. Peace

by Stephanie Koury | published November 11, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's brokering of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on border crossings into the Gaza Strip is a good step for the economic development of Gaza and a positive sign of American engagement in the peace process. But the real test for the U.S. administration’s commitment to this peace process isn’t the Gaza Strip—it’s Israel’s settlement expansion and its separation plan for the West Bank.

Forty Years of Occupation

A Forum

by Lori Allen , Yoav Peled , Samera Esmeir , Robert Blecher , Mouin Rabbani | published June 6, 2007

An outpouring of retrospectives—good, bad and indifferent—has marked the fortieth anniversary of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Predictably, and perhaps appropriately, most looks backward have also attempted to peer forward, and consequently most have focused on the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians. This question, though predating 1967 and not the only one left unresolved by the war, is nearly synonymous with “the Middle East” in the global media. Plentiful as the 1967 commentary has been, the relative silences have also spoken volumes. Middle East Report asked six critically minded scholars and analysts for their reflections on what has been missing from the conversation about Israel-Palestine occasioned by the passage of 40 years since that fateful June.

Grave Breaches

A View from Jenin and Nablus

by Kathleen Cavanaugh , Jamil Dakwar
published in MER223

There are several things that strike you when first entering Jenin refugee camp: images of the Star of David spray-painted on the walls, the exposed fronts of houses which had been bulldozed, half-set tables, children’s toys scattered and then, as you approach Hawashin, a strong sweet odor. The Hawashin area of the camp, some 400 by 500 square meters in size, and comprised of about 140 homes and several hundred families, has been erased. An elderly man stands near the remains of a house at the area’s western edge; his daughter’s body lies underneath.

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Postmortem of a Compassionate Checkpoint

by Peter Lagerquist
published in MER223

In late October 2000, the intifada was in its then bloodiest throes. In his offices in Stockholm harbor, architect Alexis Pontvik followed the news from the Middle East with growing disquiet but little surprise. What perhaps would have been his most prominent project to date had already been stowed in a large steel drawer, but he had pored over it often enough to understand the frustrations that eventually came to a boil in the Palestinian territories.

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Carving Up the Capital

by Thomas Abowd
published in MER230

Samera remembers a time, during the tumultuous and violent years of the first intifada (1987-1993), when her Jerusalem was a place quite different than it is today. Though tens of thousands of Palestinians under Israeli occupation were imprisoned in those years, many of them tortured, a measure of hope and optimism pervaded Palestinian Jerusalem in ways that seem foreign to Samera and other Palestinian Jerusalemites in 2004, over three years into the costly, low-level warfare of the second uprising.

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Bethlehem Dispatch

by Maad Abu-Ghazalah
published in MER214

Although millions of people around the world watched Bethlehem's millennial celebration on CNN, those not present on the scene missed some interesting background details. The event was held in an open square surrounded by five-story buildings, and by 10 PM, tens of thousands of people had crammed into the square. As we waited for the festivities to begin, a large, 20-foot high, bright neon sign flashed out the message: "The Municipality of Bethlehem Welcomes His Excellency President Yasser Arafat." I wish they would make up their minds: Is he king or president?

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Less a “Big Bang” Than an Earthquake

by Peretz Kidron | published January 18, 2006

The two successive strokes and the cerebral hemorrhage that struck down Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came just a few weeks after the somber ceremonies marking the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. The causes of the two occurrences were very different, and so was the actual physical outcome, for Rabin died within minutes of sustaining his wounds, while doctors still hold out glimmers of hope for Sharon’s survival, albeit with grave handicaps.