The Tar Baby of Foreign Aid

How Palestinians Are Trying to Keep Their Hands Clean

by Charmaine Seitz
published in MER234

In his 2005 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush, hailing “the beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories,” pledged $350 million in US aid to the Palestinian Authority. One day before the heralded meeting of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at Sharm al-Sheikh on February 8, the State Department announced the immediate transfer of another $40 million in aid to the Palestinians.

"The Future is on Our Side"

An Interview with Mustafa Barghouthi

by James E. Bishara
published in MER234

Mustafa Barghouthi is the secretary and co-founder of the Palestinian National Initiative (Mubadara), formed in 2002 to advocate for an immediate end to the occupation of Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967, a Palestinian state on those territories, and expedited reform of Palestinian Authority governance. Mubadara called from its formation for “free, democratic elections for all political posts” in the Palestinian Authority (PA). A physician, Barghouthi is the long-time president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and founder of the Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute, a think tank focused on public health and public policy and based in Ramallah in the West Bank. During the second Palestinian intifada, he helped to organize the Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People program, which, like the International Solidarity Movement, brings activists from around the world to the Occupied Territories to bear witness to and attempt to deter Israeli army and settler violence directed at Palestinian civilians. Mustafa Barghouthi was a candidate for president in the Palestinian election held on January 9, 2005. He finished second to President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). James E. Bishara, an editor of Middle East Report, spoke with Barghouthi on February 20, 2005.

The Targeted and the Untargeted of Nablus

by Amahl Bishara
published in MER235

On April 14, 2005, Ibrahim Isneiri, a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was shot dead by Israeli forces in the Balata refugee camp on the outskirts of Nablus, a town located between two mountains in the northern West Bank. Palestinian eyewitnesses said Israeli forces opened fire first, while the Israeli military claimed that they were returning the Palestinian’s fire. Israeli soldiers had entered the camp looking for Isneiri because, Israeli security sources alleged, he was planning an armed operation to be carried out inside Israel.

The Hamas Headache

by Ranjit Singh
published in MER238

Two days before the January 25 Palestinian legislative elections, Birzeit University professor and Hamas campaign adviser Nashat Aqtash found himself in an unusual situation. Bound by US regulations forbidding direct contact with Hamas, the joint National Democratic Institute (NDI)/Carter Center election observer delegation asked Aqtash -- who pointedly describes himself as a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but not of Hamas -- to brief its members on the Islamic organization’s philosophy and electoral activities. After enthusiastically showing several Hamas TV advertisements, Aqtash provided the large group of observers gathered in Ramallah a list of reasons why Hamas may consider a long-term hudna (state of calm), but never a permanent peace with Israel.

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Hamas Risen

by Graham Usher
published in MER238

On January 27, 2006, Fatah activists and Palestinian security personnel converged on the Palestinian Authority’s parliament building in Gaza City. Within minutes, cars were torched, tires set aflame and stones thrown at election banners displaying the visages of victorious Hamas candidates. The cry was for vengeance, particularly against a leadership that had just presided over Palestine’s premier nationalist movement’s worst political defeat in its 47-year history.

The Only Place Where There's Hope

An Interview with Muhammad Khatib, Jonathan Pollak and Elad Orian

by Robert Blecher
published in MER240

Beginning in December 2004, and then every Friday since February 2005, Palestinians, Israelis and internationals have converged on the West Bank village of Bil‘in to demonstrate against the barrier that Israel is building there, as part of the chain of walls and fences (the Wall) that the Israeli government hopes will be Israel’s unilaterally declared eastern border. The protests in Bil‘in have been among the most effective and sustained of any in the Occupied Territories.

Social Security

How Palestinians Survive a Humanitarian Crisis

by Lori Allen
published in MER240

In the Jenin refugee camp, on the outskirts of the West Bank town of the same name, remnants of the rougher days of the second intifada persist. Akram Abu al-Siba‘ is here to tell a French delegation, one of the few making the trek to Jenin these days, about the latest in the camp’s long list of dramatic and tragic experiences. In early July, he relates, disguised Israeli operatives drove into Jenin camp, burst out of the car and sprayed gunfire at a group of men gathered to offer condolences to the family of a man killed the day before. The apparent target of this operation, Zakariyya Zubayda, leader of the al-Aqsa Brigades in Jenin and a man much wanted by Israel, escaped unharmed. Thirty-four others were not so lucky.

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At the Station of a Train Which Fell Off the Map

Mahmoud Darwish (1942–2008)

by Mahmoud Darwish
published in MER248

Grass, dry air, thorns, and cactus on the tracks
There, the shape of the object in the absurdity of non-shape is chewing its own shadow
There is nothingness there, tied and surrounded by its opposite
Two doves flying
over the roof of an abandoned room at the station
The station is like a tattoo which has dissolved into the body of the place
There are also two thin cypresses, like two long needles
embroidering a lime-yellow cloud
And there is a tourist photographing two scenes:

Mural

(1999, an excerpt)

by Mahmoud Darwish
published in MER248

I will walk in my footsteps down the old path through the sea air
no woman will see me passing under her balcony
I have of memories only those necessary for the long journey
Days contain all they need of tomorrows
I was smaller than my eyelashes and my two dimples
So take my sleepiness
and hide me in the story of the tender evening
Hide me under one of the two date palms
and teach me poetry
So I can learn how to walk beside Homer
So I can add to the story a description of Akka