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The U.S. Seeks the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

The U.S. Seeks the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names | Arab America Music |
When Condoleeza Rice argued for a U.S. invasion of Iraq by claiming that “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” she touched on a real threat of the nuclear war that could wipe out entire countries and destroy civilization as we know it. Rice and the rest of the Bush administration knew that Iraq didn’t have nuclear weapons and never presented such a threat. They also knew that there was one country in the Middle East who did: a nuclear-armed rogue nation who has proven throughout its history to be possibly the most lawless and bellicose country of modern times.
That country, of course, is Israel. Since at least the early 1980s, Israel has had nuclear weapons. Instead of waging a war to get rid of them, as the Bush administration argued was necessary with Iraq, the U.S. has done everything it can to help Israel continue and grow its nuclear program and keep the Middle East from becoming a nuclear-free zone.

Last month, the United Nations General Assembly sought to counter “the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East” with a resolution recognizing that this “would pose a serious threat to international peace and security.” This threat necessitates “the immediate need for placing all nuclear facilities in the region of the Middle East under full-scope safeguards of the Agency.”

The resolution passed by a margin of 151-4. Only the United States, Israel, Canada and Micronesia voted against it. In a separate resolution, the U.S. and Israel stood alone against 177 other countries who supported further efforts to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That resolution calls for a “prohibition on the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons.”

In March 2003, George W. Bush proclaimed that he was authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 687 to use force against Iraq to rid the country of WMD. Iraq presented such an existential threat that an immediate war was the only conceivable means of dealing with the situation. After Bush did invade Iraq and kill 500,000 Iraqis and create millions of widows, orphans and refugees, what was obvious all along was proven: the administration’s claims about Iraqi WMD were nothing more than lies and distortions.

The administration knew full well that Israel, however, did have a large-scale, rogue WMD program when Bush cited UNSC Resolution 687 as his legal justification for invading Iraq. Four U.S. Presidents have all ignored the actual text in Resolution 687 which declares “the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons.”

The only country to ever have used nuclear weapons – by dropping two on a country that had been trying for weeks to surrender – has consistently provided Israel with a diplomatic shield in the United Nations. On top of guaranteeing their right to violate international law with impunity, the U.S. has showered Israel with over $140 billion in military aid that amounts to more than $3 billion per year.

Even without its WMD, Israel would pose a grave threat to peace with its army and conventional weapons alone. Israel has repeatedly violated the sovereignty of its neighboring countries, the most flagrant example being the aggressive invasion and occupation of Lebanon in 1982 which killed 20,000 people. Unlike Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Israel has even attacked the United States itself. In 1967, Israeli warplanes bombarded the USS Liberty, killing 34 American servicemen. Israel’s possession of WMD only compounds their destructive capacity.

Israel is one of only four countries in the world (India, Pakistan and South Sudan) that has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This landmark treaty, in force since 1970, binds signing nations to work together stop the spread of nuclear weapons and work towards disarmament.

Robert Wood, the U.S. lackey who defended Israel’s right to maintain nuclear weapons recently in the UN, claimed the UN resolution demanding Israel to renounce nuclear arms “fails to meet the fundamental tests of fairness and balance. It confines itself to expressions of concern about the activities of a single country.”
As Ali Abunimah noted in the Electronic Intifada: “The fact that Israel is indeed the single country with nuclear weapons in the region, and the single country that has not signed the NPT, apparently escaped his notice.”

Israel has not only amassed its own nuclear arsenal, but they have exported nuclear technology and capabilities abroad. Not to just any country, but to the racist, pariah state of apartheid South Africa, the most despicable regime of the last century, other than possibly Israel itself.

While it was long understood that the two ethnic exclusivist regimes maintained close military ties, the first concrete evidence that Israel tried to sell South Africa nuclear warheads emerged several years ago when American scholar Sasha Polakow-Suransky obtained declassified documents from the South African archives.

“South African documents show that the apartheid-era military wanted the missiles as a deterrent and for potential strikes against neighbouring states,” reported the Guardian.

The paper goes on to note that “the collaboration on military technology only grew over the following years. South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake uranium that Israel required to develop its weapons.”

South Africa easily could have followed through with potential nuclear strikes against its neighbors. In 1988, the SADF were being chased out of Angola by Cuban troops assisting the Angolan government. South Africa was illegally occupying the Southeastern part of Angola in a bid to topple that country’s government and install a puppet government friendly to the apartheid regime. Years later, Fidel Castro recounted the potential danger of nuclear strikes Cubans faced as their forces pushed forward to repel the aggression of the South African troops.

“The main problem was the fact that the racist South Africans possessed, according to our calculations, between 10 and 12 nuclear arms,” Castro wrote. “They had carried out tests in oceans or frozen areas to the South. President Ronald Reagan had authorized such tests, and the device necessary for blasting the nuclear charge was among the equipment delivered by Israel.”

Since it developed and used the first nuclear weapons, the United States government has supported weapons of mass destruction on principle. They also refuse the concept of nuclear weapons solely as self-defense, never having accepted a no-first-use policy for nuclear weapons as the Soviet Union had.

The U.S. has never had any moral or legal inhibitions about countries it chooses having a right to WMD. For countries that support the U.S. government’s self-professed right to rule the world, there is no danger to peace or to the survival of civilization itself that Washington will not tolerate and enable.

Matt Peppe 
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Arab American Action Network Youth Launch Anti-Profiling Campaign | The Chicago Monitor

Arab American Action Network Youth Launch Anti-Profiling Campaign | The Chicago Monitor | Arab America Music |
By Manar Daghash
“Every minority in America is treated like a problem long before they are treated like a person,” began a member of the Arab American Action Network’s (AAAN’s) Youth Organizing Program at a community event last week.  During the summer of 2012, a small group of youth at the AAAN was determined to begin a community-based campaign to put an end to racial, national, and religious profiling by law enforcement, which saw a sharp increase subsequent to the events of 9/11. The youth of the campaign have conducted surveys, data analysis, and extensive research, and have built alliances across racial lines with other organizations, communities, and youth to further their ultimate goal of equality and justice for all.  On Thursday, August 13th, AAAN youth publicly and officially launched the campaign at a community town hall meeting that attracted 175 people.
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Palestinian Christians, police clash over barrier construction

Palestinian Christians, police clash over barrier construction | Arab America Music |
Palestinian Christians scuffled with Israeli Border Police near Bethlehem on Wednesday after dozens of them, including priests, gathered to protest renewed work on Israel’s West Bank security barrier in a sensitive Christian area.
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How This 23-year-old is Busting Negative Myths About Arab and Muslim Women and Dominating the Internet

How This 23-year-old is Busting Negative Myths About Arab and Muslim Women and Dominating the Internet | Arab America Music |
“Dude, hurry up and come over,” Amani Al-Khatahtbeh texted me. I wanted to say no, but no is never an answer for the 23-year-old founder of, the number one online publication for Muslim women in the United States. Amani wanted me to join her on a humid summer night to produce a vlog for her site, and I was a bit too concerned with the way my face would look on camera. But if Amani wants something, she’ll get it. And it’s exactly that moxie that has driven her to successfully forge a powerful media presence for an underrepresented group.

Muslim women lead diverse lifestyles and have vastly different experiences, yet we live in a society with too few positive examples and too many caricatures of Muslim women in the mainstream media. Although female Muslim journalists often write critically-acclaimed takes on current events related to their faith, the mainstream news rarely includes their voices on the issues that affect them the most. Amani sees this blind spot, and, rather than accept it, has decided to do something about it. Her successes include taking on Pamela Geller, who organized the now infamous Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest, with a viral video that garnered a mention on Time magazine’s website, and a frank article on the Lebanese adult film actress Mia Khalifa, which received enough attention to crash MuslimGirl’s server.

Amani and MuslimGirl have been on the forefront of our society’s missing discussion on the intersection of Islam and Muslim women’s feminist identities. The site is not afraid to hit the strongest voices of the anti-Islam movement; as’s tagline boasts: “Muslim Women Talk Back.” So here’s Amani, in her own words, talking back about anti-Islam sentiment and the stellar growth of her website.
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Latin America and Palestine have shared interests, so let’s build on them

Latin America and Palestine have shared interests, so let’s build on them | Arab America Music |
This weekend, Middle East Monitor (MEMO) will be hosting an international conference on Palestine and Latin America around the theme “Building solidarity for the 21st century.” Though not the first of its kind, this event is convened at an important juncture in the history of the people of both regions, emphasising a common destiny and shared interests; for more than a century they have shared a common yearning for freedom and true independence.

Ever since the early 20th century, Palestinians have migrated and settled throughout Latin America. The process was accelerated after the Nakba of 1948 when three-quarters of the Palestinian population were dispossessed of their land and forced into exile in an act of ethnic cleansing that continues to this day.

There are now an estimated 700,000 people of Palestinian descent living in Latin America. They constitute the largest concentration of Palestinians outside the Arab world and are in Chile and Honduras in particular.

In recent years, a number of Palestinians have risen to the highest ranks of political office in their adopted countries: Carlos Flores Facuss, President of Honduras from 1998 to 2002; Elas Saca Gonzalez, President of El Salvador from 2004 to 2009; Said Wilbert Musa, Prime Minister of Belize from 1998 to 2008; and Yehude Simon Munaro, Prime Minister of Peru from 2008 to 2009.

Against this backdrop it came as no surprise to see Latin American countries showing exceptional support for the Palestinians as they struggle to rid themselves of Zionist colonialism. That support has been manifested in various ways, including most notably the recognition of Palestine’s statehood at the UN.

Similarly, there has been a huge outpouring of official and popular support across the region for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip both during and after the series of Israeli assaults against the coastal enclave from 2008 onwards. Every successive attack brought forth waves of solidarity in Latin American countries, with some going so far as to expel Israeli diplomats and recall their ambassadors from Tel Aviv.

As the international community edges towards an increasingly multi-polar world and the emergence of the Global South in the international arena, those powers that have long dominated Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy are looking increasingly redundant. The importance of the Global South has been exemplified in particular by involvement with and support for Palestine in international forums.

The MEMO conference seeks to provide an understanding of the past and present relationship between Latin America and Palestine, explore how this relationship can be developed, and look into what impact it will have on the Palestine question.

On a more practical level, the conference aims to foster greater Latin American-European-Palestinian collaboration in civil society, politics and media. And equally, to improve understanding of 21st century transformations taking place in the Latin American and Palestinian struggles.

Then there is the issue of governance. It is here that the Palestine experience is unique. The national authority which was set up after the 1993 Oslo accords assumed the ceremonial trappings of independence, yet it has had no sovereign control over the area in which it functions. Since its status was upgraded to non-member observer status Palestine has become, de jure, a state under occupation. All attempts by the Palestinians to end the brutal military occupation have been thwarted by American and European support for Israel.

There may though be lessons for the Palestinians and their supporters to learn from the Latin American experience. The decline of US hegemony in Latin America was hastened by the advent of China as a major trading partner in the region; Chinese trade was worth $180 billion in 2010, increasing eighteen-fold from 2000. At the same time US exports to the region dropped from 55 per cent in 2000 to 32 per cent in 2009. What would the future be if US influence in the Middle East is supplanted similarly?

In 2005, President Luíz Inácio da Silva called for a summit of South American and Arab countries in Brazil. Most Arab states, especially those aligned closely with Washington, did not show up.

It would thus be an achievement if our conference could prepare the ground for such collaboration, not least as senior diplomats and politicians from a number of countries will be participating this weekend. The revival of this project could well serve as a mechanism to help Palestine.

One of the means adopted by the new left to reduce US influence in Latin America has been the formation of regional groupings of various kinds. In this way, they have managed to bypass the moribund Organisation of American States (OAS). Perhaps Arab countries should explore similar formations since their dysfunctional regional bodies have failed to become effective vehicles for change.

MEMO’s conference will not be the last of its kind. It can not only set the stage for others in the future but also build on previous efforts. In 1984, the Palestinian Club of Chile and the Federation of Brazilian-Palestinian Associations called for the first congress of Palestinian entities from Latin America and the Caribbean. That led to the creation of the Latin American Confederation of Palestinian Institutions (COPLAC).

More than anything, we hope that this undertaking by MEMO will provide for the exchange of experiences and the activation of a long term dialogue that will secure the national rights of the people of both Latin America and Palestine.

This article was first published by the Middle East Eye on Wednesday 19th August 2015.
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The image from Kos that's making people rethink their views on migrants

The image from Kos that's making people rethink their views on migrants | Arab America Music |

An image of a Syrian father sobbing as he cradles his son and daughter on a Greek beach has been shared by thousands of social media users.

The photograph of Laith Majid, taken by freelancer Daniel Etter at around 4.30am on a beach in Kos, Greece, has provoked a strong reaction to increasingly dehumanised depictions of migrants.

Mr Etter, 34, who confesses he has “never been so touched” by one image, managed to find out about the middle-class familyfrom the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor.

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Nothing is sacred

Nothing is sacred | Arab America Music |

KHALED ASAAD saw the continuity between Syrian Arab culture and that of the many peoples who had previously inhabited Palmyra, the 2,000-year-old archaeological site he had tended for almost half a century. A month before Islamic State (IS) rolled into the oasis town in May, the archaeologist described on a Facebook page the spring rituals that would have taken place in the colonnaded city during Greco-Roman times. Those rituals “fit perfectly” with pre-Islamic Arab ones, he wrote.

Others were less open-minded than the bespectacled 81-year-old. After the jihadists entered Palmyra they arrested Mr Asaad. On August 18th IS hung his decapitated body, his head and glasses at his feet, in front of the small museum where he had spent much of his life writing papers or working with teams from Germany and France. The reasons his killers gave, scrawled on a notice beside his body, were tending the site’s “idols”, attending “blasphemous” conferences, visiting Iran and communicating with generals in the Syrian regime.

Mr Asaad had worked for years for the government’s antiquities department. Some say he was a staunch supporter of Syria’s President Bashar Assad. But it seems as likely that he was killed because he refused to give up the locations of precious artefacts still buried underground in unexcavated tombs, despite being tortured. Palmyra, which flourished as a caravan stop on the Silk Road trading route, is home to temples used to worship deities before the arrival of Christianity and then Islam, as well as tombs and the ruins of a citadel.

Even though IS has destroyed large swathes of Hatra and Nimrud, ancient Assyrian cities in Iraq, so far it is only known to have smashed one statue in Palmyra: a lion representing the goddess Allat that stood at the museum’s entrance. Similarly when IS ransacked the Mosul Museum in February, it did not show itself destroying the most valuable pieces. Despite its aversion to antiquities—it argues that statues and images encourage idolatry—iconoclasm may not be its main aim in Palmyra. There are signs that it finds antiquities more valuable when they are sold rather than smashed on camera for publicity purposes. Sales to smugglers, who often take the valuables out over the Turkish border, are probably helping IS fill the hole in its coffers left by air strikes against oil facilities under its control. Attempts to stop this trade are proving as ineffective as the efforts to stop murder and maiming in Syria, whether by IS or the regime.

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1,000 Black Activists, Artists, and Scholars Demand Justice for Palestine

1,000 Black Activists, Artists, and Scholars Demand Justice for Palestine | Arab America Music |
er 1,000 Black activists, artists, scholars, students, and organizations have launched a statement expressing their solidarity and commitment to ensuring justice for Palestinians. Signatories to the statement span a wide cross-section of Black activists and scholars, including Angela Davis, Boots Riley, Cornel West, dream hampton, Emory Douglas, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Pam Africa, Patrisse Cullors, Phil Hutchings, Ramona Africa, Robin DG Kelley, Rosa Clemente, Talib Kweli, and Tef Poe. 38 organizations signed on, including The Dream Defenders, Hands Up United, Institute of the Black World 21st Century, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and Organization for Black Struggle.
The statement is printed in full below:
"The past year has been one of high-profile growth for Black-Palestinian solidarity. Out of the terror directed against us—from numerous attacks on Black life to Israel’s brutal war on Gaza and chokehold on the West Bank—strengthened resilience and joint-struggle have emerged between our movements. Palestinians on Twitter were among the first to provide international support for protesters in Ferguson, where St. Louis-based Palestinians gave support on the ground. Last November, a delegation of Palestinian students visited Black organizers in St. Louis, Atlanta, Detroit and more, just months before the Dream Defenders took representatives of Black Lives Matter, Ferguson, and other racial justice groups to Palestine. Throughout the year, Palestinians sent multiple letters of solidarity to us throughout protests in Ferguson, New York, and Baltimore. We offer this statement to continue the conversation between our movements:
On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel's ethnic cleansing)—and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States—we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.
We can neither forgive nor forget last summer’s violence. We remain outraged at the brutality Israel unleashed on Gaza through its siege by land, sea and air, and three military offensives in six years. We remain sickened by Israel’s targeting of homes, schools, UN shelters, mosques, ambulances, and hospitals. We remain heartbroken and repulsed by the number of children Israel killed in an operation it called “defensive.” We reject Israel’s framing of itself as a victim. Anyone who takes an honest look at the destruction to life and property in Gaza can see Israel committed a one-sided slaughter. With 100,000 people still homeless in Gaza, the massacre's effects continue to devastate Gaza today and will for years to come.
Israel’s injustice and cruelty toward Palestinians is not limited to Gaza and its problem is not with any particular Palestinian party. The oppression of Palestinians extends throughout the occupied territories, within Israel’s 1948 borders, and into neighboring countries. The Israeli Occupation Forces continue to kill protesters—including children—conduct night raids on civilians, hold hundreds of people under indefinite detention, and demolish homes while expanding illegal Jewish-only settlements. Israeli politicians, including Benjamin Netanyahu, incite against Palestinian citizens within Israel’s recognized borders, where over 50 laws discriminate against non-Jewish people.
Our support extends to those living under occupation and siege, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the 7 million Palestinian refugees exiled in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The refugees’ right to return to their homeland in present-day Israel is the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.
Palestinian liberation represents an inherent threat to Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid, an apparatus built and sustained on ethnic cleansing, land theft, and the denial of Palestinian humanity and sovereignty. While we acknowledge that the apartheid configuration in Israel/Palestine is unique from the United States (and South Africa), we continue to see connections between the situation of Palestinians and Black people.
Israel’s widespread use of detention and imprisonment against Palestinians evokes the mass incarceration of Black people in the US, including the political imprisonment of our own revolutionaries. Soldiers, police, and courts justify lethal force against us and our children who pose no imminent threat. And while the US and Israel would continue to oppress us without collaborating with each other, we have witnessed police and soldiers from the two countries train side-by-side.
US and Israeli officials and media criminalize our existence, portray violence against us as “isolated incidents,” and call our resistance “illegitimate” or “terrorism.” These narratives ignore decades and centuries of anti-Palestinian and anti-Black violence that have always been at the core of Israel and the US. We recognize the racism that characterizes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is also directed against others in the region, including intolerance, police brutality, and violence against Israel’s African population. Israeli officials call asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea "infiltrators" and detain them in the desert, while the state has sterilized Ethiopian Israelis without their knowledge or consent. These issues call for unified action against anti-Blackness, white supremacy, and Zionism.
We know Israel’s violence toward Palestinians would be impossible without the US defending Israel on the world stage and funding its violence with over $3 billion annually. We call on the US government to end economic and diplomatic aid to Israel. We wholeheartedly endorse Palestinian civil society’s 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and call on Black and US institutions and organizations to do the same. We urge people of conscience to recognize the struggle for Palestinian liberation as a key matter of our time.
As the BDS movement grows, we offer G4S, the world’s largest private security company, as a target for further joint struggle. G4S harms thousands of Palestinian political prisoners illegally held in Israel and hundreds of Black and brown youth held in its privatized juvenile prisons in the US. The corporation profits from incarceration and deportation from the US and Palestine, to the UK, South Africa, and Australia. We reject notions of “security” that make any of our groups unsafe and insist no one is free until all of us are.
We offer this statement first and foremost to Palestinians, whose suffering does not go unnoticed and whose resistance and resilience under racism and colonialism inspires us. It is to Palestinians, as well as the Israeli and US governments, that we declare our commitment to working through cultural, economic, and political means to ensure Palestinian liberation at the same time as we work towards our own. We encourage activists to use this statement to advance solidarity with Palestine and we also pressure our own Black political figures to finally take action on this issue. As we continue these transnational conversations and interactions, we aim to sharpen our practice of joint struggle against capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, and the various racisms embedded in and around our societies."
Visit for the full list of signatories and more information. You can also follow the statement on Facebook and Twitter. Kristian Bailey is a co-author of the statement along with Khury Petersen-Smith.
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Syrian Rockers, Fleeing War, Find Safety And New Fans In Beirut

Syrian Rockers, Fleeing War, Find Safety And New Fans In Beirut | Arab America Music |
At the launch party of his band's first album in a crowded Beirut café, singer Anas Maghrebi steps up to the microphone in front of a crowd of hip guys and women in vintage glasses, sipping icy drinks in the sultry evening.

The songs swell; the audience cheers and sings along. Maghrebi is 26 years old, tall and thin with a beard and cap, soaking up the adulation. He's not, perhaps, a typical Syrian refugee, but his journey to realize a dream of making a rock record has been fraught with hardship.

His story begins at Damascus University, where he was a student back in 2010. The small-town boy listened to Pink Floyd with his friends and formed a progressive rock band that rehearsed in a basement. But police were suspicious, so they never played a gig.

"They want to know what you're trying to say in this gig," says Maghrebi. "You're gathering people and you're telling them stuff, so what kind of stuff are you telling them? 'We need to know. We're the government.' "

Then, 2011 brought the wave of uprisings known as the Arab Spring.

"When it started, it was more clear," says Maghrebi. Before patchworks of gunmen took over Syria, he says there was just the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and the popular demonstrations against it.

The band sided with the demonstrators. The drummer, Rabia al-Ghazzi, in particular, threw himself into the protests.

"He was an activist, like, really active," says Maghrebi. Ghazzi personally organized and livestreamed demonstrations.

But one night in May 2012, he was followed and killed in Damascus. He was found in his sister's car with a bullet in his neck.

His bandmates blame pro-government militias for their friend's killing. Meanwhile, their lead guitarist, Bashar Darwish, had been drafted into the army.

"It was kind of the dream vanishing," Maghrebi says.

No Place For Music

Maghrebi wanted to stay in Syria and make music for Syrians. But civil war overwhelmed his country.

"There was no place for music as much as for weapons and for war," he says.

So, like hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Mahgrebi fled across the border to Lebanon. Darwish, his guitarist, eventually deserted the army and joined him, and they formed a new band.

It's called Khebez Dawle, or State Bread, an oblique reference to the subsidized bread in Syria — and a metaphor for the foundation of a better society. Their songs, all in Arabic, tell the story of Syria. The first were written as the euphoric demonstrations began; the last, as violence descended.

"They were inspired by the turn of events," Maghrebi says. "So you see the changes that are happening."

The hopeful title track exhorts people to "Get up, build a country." One from later in the album says, "You killed me, then you blamed me because I spoke." Another speaks to the endurance of Syrians, despite the ruin of their country: "In spite of all the deaths," the band sings, "you are still alive."

A Dream Coming True

Life is easier in Beirut. Arab cultural organizations gave the band grants to record its album. Lebanese artists — including prolific musician and producer Zeid Hamdan, half of an electronic band called Soapkills — welcomed an influx of Syrian musicians.

"The Syrian musicians have a much better technique," says Hamdan. Many of them have studied classical Arabic music. Khebez Dawle's Maghrebi is himself trained in traditional Islamic singing, a difficult discipline with dozens of scales.

Hamdan invited some Syrian musicians to play with him, and he let Khebez Dawle use his recording studio for months. Finally, the band played its first-ever concert in Beirut in May 2014.

"It was a really critical moment," says Maghrebi. "When you see your dream coming true — at the very first moments, you don't believe it."

It restored some of his faith in people, and reminded him that there are those who "want peace or want music, want something beautiful."

Right now, Khebez Dawle is popular, its self-titled album just released. But the band members are still refugees, stuck illegally in a tiny country. So Maghrebi plans to seek asylum in Europe and build a new life — despite the dangers such migrants often face.

The album launch this month marked Khebez Dawle's last concert in Lebanon, but they leave their songs behind. After the last chords die away, one fan, a Syrian refugee named Hani Telfah, says he loves the album's lyrics.

"It talks about the street," he says, "not about the romantic world. They talk about how difficult it is to live in this situation as refugees."
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Love, sex and the burden of shame on the Arab woman: changing the narrative

Love, sex and the burden of shame on the Arab woman: changing the narrative | Arab America Music |
Aya Al-Hakim calls for radical change in the Arab world's approach to sex and sensuality. And she finds intellectual guidance in the region's rich literary tradition.

A monster lives among the Arabs. Its sole purpose is to terrify people from love and sex. No one has seen it, but we’ve all heard it. The monster whispers at the back of your head the two most popular words: ‘aib (shameful)! and haram (sinful)! Which are basically saying that you’re going against God, the family and all that is good and righteous in the world. You’re doomed if you choose to love or be in a sexual relationship that is outside the sacred institution of marriage. 

The monster, also known as the fear of sexual instincts and love, is born out of an early Bedouin society and is still fed by many Arabs today. Bedouin honour codes have shaped our traditional values. A woman’s honour and that of her family is lost if she commits a sexual offence. She becomes the embodiment of shame. Her personal feelings and motivations over her choices amount to nothing, since they are attached to something greater: honour. 

I always felt there was something wrong with the enshrined honour codes of our society. The head of a Bedouin tribe was a sheikh and a council of male elders – a male dominated social structure – making all the major decisions. Women weren’t involved. They did not have a say over their place in society. However, today we as women can change that, as Arabs are supposedly no longer the Bedouins who lived in the desert, but dwellers of major cities. 

When I moved to Canada, the monster did not roam people’s mind. Some Arabs brought it with them, but I let it go. Thus, I was given the space to re-examine the place of a woman’s passion and in light of my Arabian heritage. I dug into our rich history and literature for women empowerment. Looking back at my teenager years in Jordan, Amman, the understanding of my freedom, as well as that of fellow Arab girls, stalled under the weight of shame, guilt and fear.

Treading on sensitive ground

Love and sex are two of the most intimate and personal areas. In the Arab world, they are enjoyed underground. This hidden world is where the woman’s double lives – the freely sensual woman. In order for the woman to slip into her sensuality, she needs to be an expert at lying and making things up. She has to lie to her parents on where she is going and with whom. She needs to pick the right place that has the lowest risk of being seen by family members or gossiping friends. Not to mention, she needs to have a “plan B” in case she gets caught. It sounds more like a military mission than a date.

"Bedouin honour codes have shaped our traditional values"
Losing one’s virginity in a pre-marital relationship is unthinkable. It would destroy the honour concept, which binds the family and society together. The “honourable virgin” image is seen as precious and desirable. As the famous saying goes, chanted by many men (even women), “a woman is like a piece of candy, if you threw it on the floor would you want to eat it?”. Women are compared to objects as if they are objects themselves. The woman is either a saint or a whore, a manufactured object that comes in two colours. 

Romantic relationships are diverse and their nature shouldn’t be generalized. However, I’ve seen that in many Arab pre-marital relationships, sex and love are completely separate and for a good reason. In Amman, sex education, which means teaching about safe sex and consent, does not exist. Thus, leaving many young couples ignorant and afraid. Or worse: unprotected. It is different in Canada. High schools, even universities, have health centres, which give a non-judgemental guidance on sexual health and decision-making. The option for safe sex is made accessible. My university’s student union has free condoms hung outside for everyone to see and take. But in the Middle East, this wouldn’t be an acceptable sight. 

For a couple to become emotionally and sexually intimate will not only risk sending them into a spiral of guilt or fear, but it can cost the woman her life. According to UN statistics, 5,000 honour killings a year are reported worldwide. The actual number might be higher, as families tend to hide such crimes. They are widely reported in regions throughout the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. The perpetrators are put in a more lenient legal category than murder, as they are seen to be upholding traditional values. 

A BBC article shows that many Jordanian teenagers 'support honour killings'. The crimes are justified as being morally correct. However, according to a Your Middle East article, this cultural attitude is also being counter-attacked by more assertive Jordanian youth. Many men and women of various ages and backgrounds are supporting awareness campaigns, such as “No Honor In Crime,” organised to bring the society into discussion about honour killing and its legal status. Younger generations – the future of Arab societies – are being stirred into action. 

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340 U.S. rabbis send letter to Congress supporting Iran deal

340 U.S. rabbis send letter to Congress supporting Iran deal | Arab America Music |
In a letter to Congress, 340 U.S. rabbis from the major streams of Judaism expressed support for the Iran nuclear deal.
The letter sent Monday urges the House of Representatives and Senate to endorse the agreement, in which sanctions are lifted in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.
Noting that “we are deeply concerned with the impression that the leadership of the American Jewish community is united in opposition to the agreement,” the letter states, “We, along with many other Jewish leaders, fully support this historic nuclear accord.”
In a news release issued by Ameinu, a liberal Zionist organization, one of the letter’s signatories, Rabbi Steven Bob of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, said, “We commend the U.S. and the other negotiating teams for their dedication to reaching an agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  This deal is good for the United States and our allies in the region, and is the best arrangement possible given current international realities.”
Rabbi Samuel Gordon of Wilmette, Illinois, said in the news release that if Congress rejects the deal, “the consequences for the United States, Israel, the Jewish community and the world will be significant.”
“We fear that the outcome will be the collapse of the international sanctions regime, an Iranian race for nuclear weapons and an associated arms race in the Middle East and isolation of Israel and the United States from international partners,” Gordon said.
Numerous American Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee, have publicly opposed the Iran deal negotiated between Iran and six major powers. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is lobbying the Congress to reject the deal and has spent millions of dollars in its campaign.
Congress has until late September to decide whether to reject the deal. President Barack Obama is campaigning for the deal, while the Republicans mostly oppose the deal.
Among the rabbis signing the letter are Burton Visotzky, a professor at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary; Sharon Brous of Ikar, a large congregation in Los Angeles; Lawrence Kushner, the author of more than 18 books on Judaism; Sharon Kleinbaum, the longtime rabbi of the largest LGBT synagogue in North America; Nina Beth Cardin, an author and Jewish environmental activist; and Amy Eilberg, the first woman rabbi ordained by the Conservative movement.
The full letter and its signatories can be found here.
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Young women cooking up dreams in Gaza - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Young women cooking up dreams in Gaza - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East | Arab America Music |

RAFAH — What is more important: the presentation of a dish, or its taste? On social media, presentation seems to be the focus — especially as Facebook photos of food spread in the Gaza Strip. Some young girls have even turned into professional cooks after publishing photos of their dishes online.

The whole thing apparently started spontaneously with Bisan Afana, when she began cooking for her family when her mother traveled. She would make different dishes and photograph them for her Facebook page. Now she has thousands of followers.

“I discovered my talent by accident. No one imagined that I would ever cook. Even my mother was not convinced, although she was the one who taught me how to cook and decorate dishes,” Afana told Al-Monitor at her house in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

She added, “I started with Palestinian dishes, then moved to cordon bleu, fettucine and Negresco. I would automatically post photos of the dishes I prepared on my Facebook page. Followers started asking me about recipes and I started posting photos of dishes along with the recipes.”

According to Afana, her profile quickly attracted cooking fans from Palestine, Iraq, Morocco and Sweden; many of them tried to cook the same dishes and then posted their photos in the comments section.

Her hobby soon took a professional direction. She was contacted by AlKitab TV in March and asked to host a weekly cooking show. “I host a cooking program that now has hundreds of audience members. At first I was confused and could not prepare any dish on air, but I quickly got used to it,” she said.

Afana also works as a cooking teacher at Kids Academy, a private school in the central Gaza Strip.

“I feel that I have great responsibility, and I still find the prospect of turning into a professional cook daunting. Some have been asking me to be the caterer at their events, but I’m still hesitant,” she said.

Afana made cheesecake for Al-Monitor. She told us, “I did not find the special jam for the cheesecake. It is difficult in Rafah to find some rare ingredients such as food dyes and white marshmallows.”

Hazem Afana, Bissan’s brother, is the first taster of all her dishes. He said with a smile, “I feel like as if I’m taking part in a field experiment, but I’m happy to do it. Her talent is evolving and her food tastes just as good as it looks. She even became interested in making healthy foods.”

On her Facebook profile, Mosheera Mansour, a first-year student at al-Aqsa University, posts photos of her popular Palestinian dishes. She cooks all the traditional dishes and personalizes special garnishes for each dish.

She said, “I have loved painting ever since I was a child. I started cutting fruit in an artistic manner and posting photos on Facebook. This attracted many Facebook users. I quickly started drawing with food, as it were.”

“I make Palestinian and Arab popular dishes such as maftoul [couscous], kabsa [a rice dish] and musakhan [chicken with caramelized onions] and garnish them in a distinctive way. I present traditional dishes in a modern way. For example, I cut potatoes in a rose shape then boil them and put them at the top of the dish,” she told Al-Monitor at her house in Rafah.

Mansour wishes she could find the right carving tools for vegetables and fruits. “I searched the market but I only found woodcarving tools. I only use knives to decorate my dishes,” she explained.

So far she has not found a TV show to sponsor her talent as she dreams. “I presently work as a sweets caterer and I make cakes on special occasions.”

Her mother, Intisar Mansour, said, “Mosheera helps a lot. She cooks every day, and sometimes satellite channels come to film her.” The mother pointed out that this activity is expensive, but as a family they are happy for their daughter and what she is achieving.

Mosheera showed Al-Monitor how to carve an apple to look like a duck.

On a Facebook page called Aklat (Food), which had just shy of 15,000 "likes" as of this writing, recipes for the most famous Palestinian cuisine are displayed through videos, photos and posts. The page curates cooking competitions for nonprofessionals, which adds a dynamic that attracts Palestinian women from all over the world.

Page administrator Rana Abu Sido, who now resides in the United Arab Emirates, told Al-Monitor via Facebook, “The idea started from the exchange of cooking recipes on a page created by my sister Tahlil Abu Sido, who later made me the group administrator.”

She confirmed that the group page has allowed her to achieve her goal of becoming an entrepreneur because she had always dreamed of working on a personal project, which the page has become.

Indeed, the page, initially made for the exchange of culinary expertise, was quickly turned into a bigger project. Rana Abu Sido told Al-Monitor that she decided to manage the Facebook page not only because she was motivated by her childhood dream, but also because she wanted to help women.

Abu Sido is working on creating applications connected to the page and a website where women can sign up for a personal account. Each woman will be able to display her culinary experiences and expertise in cooking, garnishing and food marketing, as well as provide consultancy and get paid for it.

She continued, “We wanted to turn cooking from a lifestyle, which made housewives feel isolated, into an art. We tell housewives that they should be feeling like stars in their kitchens. Our page allows them to share photos of their dishes and cooking tips. They can also share their expertise.”

Abu Sido pointed out that the project started taking a business-oriented form after ranking fourth in the Hadafi Women’s Entrepreneurship Program sponsored by, indicating that the development strategy focused on bringing together amateurs and professional cooks in one place to provide a number of services and create jobs for women unable to be directly involved in the labor market.

The food and restaurant sector is booming in the Gaza Strip. The blockade may affect a lot of things, but not people’s good taste when it comes to food ranging from hummus dishes and falafel sandwiches to the maklouba, a rice dish cooked with meat, eggplant, cauliflower and garlic, and turned upside down when served.

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Black activists send clear message to Palestinians: “Now is the time for Palestinian liberation, just as now is the time for our own in the United States”

Black activists send clear message to Palestinians: “Now is the time for Palestinian liberation, just as now is the time for our own in the United States” | Arab America Music |
The actual distance between Ferguson, Missouri, and Gaza is about 6,000 miles. But last summer, the repressive and deadly violence visited upon blacks and Palestinians, respectively, made that distance seem to disappear. Immediately, lines of solidarity began to emerge between those groups, and in August a set of activists and organizations in Palestine issued this statement:

We the undersigned Palestinian individuals and groups express our solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man gunned down by police on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri. We wish to express our support and solidarity with the people of Ferguson who have taken their struggle to the street, facing a militarized police occupation.

From all factions and sectors of our dislocated society, we send you our commitment to stand with you in your hour of pain and time of struggle against the oppression that continues to target our black brothers and sisters in nearly every aspect of their lives.

We understand your moral outrage. We empathize with your hurt and anger. We understand the impulse to rebel against the infrastructure of a racist capitalist system that systematically pushes you to the margins of humanity.  

And we stand with you.

At the same time, I wrote an article in Salon that spelled out the similarities between the forms of oppression both groups live under, including dispossession from lands and homes; de facto forms of inequality; state violence; the constant interruption of daily life; and the ways the perpetrators of such violence are often immune from prosecution.  

Nevertheless, such comparisons were criticized by some here in the U.S., and acts of solidarity were sometimes regarded with suspicion: In what ways might solidarity with Palestinians be harmful to black political projects here? Individual activists such as Angela Davis and Cornel West addressed that issue and spoke out on the need for black solidarity with the Palestinians.  As West put it:  

In terms of the various kinds of Zionist critiques, we make it clear that this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Jewish hatred or anti-Jewish prejudice. This has to do with a moral and spiritual and political critique of occupation. Secondly, there is no doubt that Gaza is not just a “kind of” concentration camp, it is the hood on steroids. Now in the black community, located within the American empire, you do have forms of domination and subordination, forms of police surveillance and so forth, so that we are not making claims of identity, we are making claims of forms of domination that must be connected…. there is no doubt that for the Ferguson moment in America and the anti-occupation moment in the Israel-Palestinian struggle there is a very important connection to make and I think we should continue to make it.

But until today there has not been a mass statement of support from black activists and groups to echo the one issued by Palestinians last year. Now, in a historical event, well over 1,000 black activists, artists, scholars, students and organizations have released a comprehensive, carefully crafted and passionately intoned statement reaffirming their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people,” and supporting “freedom and equality for Palestinian people.” In this sweeping and momentous document, the signatories make a point of drawing out the historical connections between the issues of black and Palestinian freedom and rights, and the urgency of their present-day struggles, calling the fight for Palestinian liberation “a key matter of our time”:

On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing)—and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States—we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.

The list of signatories includes scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Organizational signers include the Florida-based Dream Defenders and St. Louis-based Hands Up United and Tribe X, which were founded after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, respectively, as well as the 35-year-old Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.

The statement calls on the U.S. government to end diplomatic and economic aid to Israel, for black and U.S. institutions to support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law, and for supporters of black and Palestinian liberation to target the private security company G4S for boycotts and divestment, as well as other companies doing business in the occupied territories.

Besides endorsing both academic and cultural boycotts (which in the U.S. is facilitated by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel), as well as divestment and sanctions, the statement makes emphatically clear the signatories’ commitment to the three goals of BDS and especially addresses the issue of Palestinian refugees:

Our support extends to those living under occupation and siege, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the 7 million Palestinian refugees exiled in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The refugees’ right to return to their homeland in present-day Israel is the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.
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Arab League meeting to activate Israel boycott

Arab League meeting to activate Israel boycott | Arab America Music |
Communication officers of the regional offices for boycotting Israel are to hold their 89th meeting in the Arab League headquarters on Tuesday, has reported.

The Arab League official with responsibility for the occupied Palestinian territories, and the general commissioner of the head boycotting office, said on Monday that the officers meeting in the conference would spend three days discussing ways to activate an Arab boycott of Israel. Mohamed Sbeeh indicated that a number of issues are related to different Arab-owned companies which violate the boycott rules, and ways to impose sanctions on them. A number of US companies with branches in Israel will also be considered for sanctions. He indicated that they would discuss the modification of the general boycott principles in order to reactivate them.

According to Sbeeh, the boycott of Israel is one of the mechanisms adopted to express the Arab rejection of Israeli "practices and violations" in occupied Arab lands. EU and US boycott campaigns have cost the Israeli economy more than $20 billion, he pointed out. The boycott by those Arab countries which do not have diplomatic relations with Israel should be added to that cost.

"A boycott," explained Sbeeh, "is an internationally-recognised economic weapon." It was used previously against the Apartheid regime in South Africa, he noted.

The conclusions of the meeting will be presented at the upcoming meeting of the Arab foreign ministers in September. It is expected to be attended by all Arab countries expect those having relations with Israel.
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The rise of Arabic literature in the West

The rise of Arabic literature in the West | Arab America Music |
But what are the consequences of this for writers and their readers? Does awareness of a wider (non-Arab) audience affect the way that Arab writers write? And in what ways do different audiences - not to mention publishers in different countries - have differing perceptions of their work?

These were some of the tantalising questions tackled during a panel discussion at the Shubbak festival in London on July 25.

"When I was a student," British-Syrian writer Robin Yassin-Kassab recalled, "just about the only stuff in terms of literature that was translated and available in bookshops was Naguib Mahfouz, the Nobel prize winner, and Nawal el-Saadawi (the Egyptian feminist) ... and now, when you look on Amazon, there suddenly seems to be a lot more stuff, and there are all these events – Arab arts festivals, and so on."

The size of Shubbak's audience - almost 200 people willing to pay for tickets - testified to the level of interest, but why should non-Arabs bother with Arabic literature? Marcia Lynx Qualey, who runs the arablit website, gave what might seem the obvious answer. Reading is freedom, she said, and reading outside her own cultural tradition exposes her not just to different points of view but to a different way of constructing literature: "Arabic literature has 1,500 years of different ways of using words."

But not all the panellists viewed it in such idealistic terms. There's little doubt that 9/11 and subsequent turmoil in the Middle East has stimulated western interest in Arabic literature, though not for its literary qualities but for what Iraqi poet and novelist Sinan Antoon described as "forensic interest" – reading it "as anthropology or ethnology or getting into the Arab mind".

Antoon clearly disapproved of that, and it can certainly lead to a kind of neo-orientalism or "prurient salacious interest", as Daniel Newman, another of the panellists, described it. But is it necessarily bad? Non-Arabic speakers can't realistically be expected to appreciate the finer points of Arabic literature – some of its linguistic power is bound to be lost in translation – so they are likely to focus on other aspects, including what it reveals about Arab society. Some books can give them a distorted view but others may be illuminating. A book like Alaa al Aswani's Yacoubian Building, for example, certainly makes Egypt more comprehensible to outsiders.

A more troubling question, though, is to what extent the books and authors selected for translation are representative of Arabic literature as a whole. In this context the name of Nawal el Saadawi (now aged 83) cropped up rather a lot during the discussion. In the west, Saadawi has become synonymous with Arab feminism, and for Robin Yassin Kassab the fact that almost all her books have been translated suggested that her work "fitted into a preconceived category in the western mind".

"Does awareness of a wider (non-Arab) audience affect the way that Arab writers write?"
Antoon, on the other hand, attributed much of this sort of thing to publishers' laziness and writers who know how to play the system:

"Nawal el-Saadawi was important to our generation when we were teenagers. The problem whenever I see Saadawi's books or her name in a conference is that in the past 35 years there have been at least 30 courageous feminist writers and activists from the Arab world but none of them gets the time or the space. Saadawi's views were important in the 1970s and now they are frankly quite problematic and simplistic and even ridiculous."

He continued:

"You have others - I'm not going to mention names - but there are some Arab writers, men and women, who are very smart at tapping into this market, and then they learn the circuit of all the international festivals and their books come out in English before they come out in Arabic -- which is very telling. It tells you who they are writing for: they are writing specifically for an American and British audience that is receptive to these new orientalist narratives."

While Arab writers often have to contend with censorship in their home countries and small publishing houses accustomed to print runs that by western standards are ludicrously small, where translation is concerned they also have to overcome ideological and perhaps cultural hurdles in the selection process.

Daniel Newman, who is head of the Arabic department at Durham University, detected several trends in the types of books that are being translated and published in the anglophone world:

"There is a high number of women authors, there is a great deal of political literature. There are trends, and I think publishers in general – there are of course exceptions – do try to orient themselves towards a certain impression of what Arabic literature should be ...

"There are a lot of inter-connecting mechanisms supported by narratives which are often - I wouldn't perhaps use the word sinister – but are often not clear and at least not overtly admitted to."
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US concerned over reports of Israel denying entry to Americans

US concerned over reports of Israel denying entry to Americans | Arab America Music |
The United States expressed concern Tuesday regarding Israel’s treatment of US citizens travelling to the country following recent reports of Palestinian-Americans being denied entry.

“The US government seeks equal treatment and freedom to travel for all US citizens regardless of national origin or ethnicity,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

“Specifically, the US government remains concerned at the unequal treatment that Palestinian-Americans and other Arab-Americans receive at Israel’s borders and checkpoints.”

The comments came in response to a question about reports of US citizens, particularly those eligible for a Palestinian Authority ID card, being denied entry into Israel after landing at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv.

Kirby did not address the specifics of individual reports, instead referring reporters to Israeli authorities.

He did cite warnings posted on the State Department website that note Israel views anyone “believed to have claim” to a Palestinian Authority ID card — meaning anyone with a parent or grandparent born or who lived in the West Bank or Gaza — as a Palestinian resident, whether or not they are also a US citizen.

As such, they are required to enter via the Allenby Bridge on the Jordanian border rather than through the airport.

“Many Palestinian nationals or dual nationals seeking to enter via Ben Gurion have been sent back to the United States upon arrival,” the wesbite warns.

“Others have been allowed to enter Israel but told they cannot depart Israel via Ben Gurion without special permission, which is rarely granted.

“Some families have been separated as a result and other travelers have forfeited expensive airline tickets.”

These observations are reflective of recent reports of some Palestinian-American travellers’ experiences.

Kirby said this was an ongoing subject of discussions between the US and its ally Israel.

“We regularly raise with Israeli authorities concerns about the issue of equal treatment for all US citizens at ports of entry,” he said.

Relations between the countries have cooled recently following the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the signing last month of the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel vehemently opposed.
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Palestinian Museum Set to Open in May 2016,

Palestinian Museum Set to Open in May 2016, | Arab America Music |
Palestinian Museum Set to Open in May 2016: Construction continues apace at the $30 million Palestinian Museum designed by Dublin architects Heneghan Peng, which is to be directed by Jack Persekian. An opening date for the institution, located north of Jerusalem in the West Bank town of Birzeit, has also been set: May 15, 2016, the 68th anniversary of the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians by the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948, an event known as the Nakba, or “catastrophe.” The institution is developing its collection via acquisitions and donations, and plans to establish a strong digital presence in the form of an online timeline and thousands of family albums compiled in a digital archive, among other initiatives. “The museum refuses to be constricted by geographical and political borders,” Persekian told The Art Newspaper.
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A Historic Bond: The Tangier American Legation Institute and U.S.-Morocco Diplomacy

A Historic Bond: The Tangier American Legation Institute and U.S.-Morocco Diplomacy | Arab America Music |
Phoenix, Arizona – With the words above a permanent physical partnership was forged between the United States and the Kingdom of Morocco which lasts to today. Indeed, the Tangier American Legation Museum serves as a reminder of the precious historic bond between the two nations, Morocco being the first state to recognize the United States in 1777. The Legation building is difficult to miss in the medina of the city. Located at number 8 Zankat America Street, this gift to the United States from the Sultan Moulay Slimane one hundred and thirty-five years ago is the oldest American diplomatic property in existence and the only National Historic Landmark located outside the bounds of the United States.

A trip inside the museum now housed on site will provide the visitor with breathtaking works of art, early-nineteenth-century furnishings, period photographs, books, and assorted diplomatic documents of interest to both the researcher and nonacademic guest alike.

Although the current Legation architecture is noteworthy for its finely-crafted Moorish arches, fountains, gardens, ornate zellij tilework, finely-crafted metalwork, and sprawling layout, the building looked far different in 1821 than it does today, and began its existence as a simple single-story structure to house visiting diplomats during the early Jacksonian period of American history. The updated building that visitors witness is primarily the product the late 1920s and instituted by the consul at the time, Maxwell Blake. The property is currently administered and maintained by the Tangier American Legation Museum Society in Washington, D.C.
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US documents reveal: US demanded from Israel not to deploy nuclear weapons

US documents reveal: US demanded from Israel not to deploy nuclear weapons | Arab America Music |


Publication of documents detailing US-Israel discussions on the Jewish State's nuclear program comes amid public disagreement between the countries on Iran nuclear deal.
The State Department’s publication of documents on Tuesday detailing US-Israel discussions on the Jewish state’s nuclear program comes amid public disagreement between the allies over the Iran nuclear deal.

Jerusalem and Washington worked together to formulate Israel’s nuclear doctrine, the newly released archival documents reveal.

The documents detail the classified discussions that took place on the nuclear program between officials of the two countries.

“We would decide that we could tolerate Israeli activity short of assembly of a completed nuclear device,” one of the US memos said.

The documents reveal that Israel planned to produce 10 Jericho surface-to-surface missiles (based on a French model) equipped with nuclear warheads.

The publication of the documents comes as part of a routine release of historical information by the State Department. However, the timing of the revelations against the background of the disagreement between Israel and the US over the nuclear deal with Iran, lends them extra meaning.

There are those who would claim that the timing of the release is not a coincidence, and is in fact intended to embarrass Israel, which staunchly opposes the deal with Iran, and embarrass Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who continues his efforts to challenge the Obama administration and influence Congress to reject the deal.

According to the documents, which cover events from 1969 to 1972, Israel was asked to provide a written obligation neither to arm its Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads nor to deploy them.

Until that point, Israel’s official policy, formulated and presented to the US in the early 1960s by then-deputy defense minister Shimon Peres, was, “We will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the region.”

This policy has been defined up until the present day as Israel’s “nuclear ambiguity.”

As a result of this statement, defined by Peres, it was agreed during the Kennedy administration that American inspectors would once or twice a year visit the nuclear reactor in Dimona, where, according to US suspicions, fissile material for a nuclear bomb was being produced.

However, in 1969, as a result of the Six Day War and with the background of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, as well as efforts to promote negotiations between Israel and the Arab states, the Nixon administration looked to formulate a new approach centered on preventing, or at least limiting, the further development of Israel’s nuclear program, asking Israel to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was signed in 1968 and went into effect in 1970.

Israel had agreed several years beforehand to join the treaty, but employed stalling tactics in order to get out of the obligation.

In secret meetings attended by officials of the Pentagon, State Department, the CIA and then-national security adviser Henry Kissinger, the US reaction to an attack on Israel by the Soviet Union, which was arming the Arab states, was also discussed.

The Nixon administration established a special committee to explore the issues. The committee determined that “Our goal is to convince Israel to join the NPT by the end of the year. And to ratify the treaty.” Later, a meeting was set up between administration officials and then-Israeli ambassador to Washington Yitzhak Rabin. According to the documents, Israel was asked “to provide us with written assurances that it will stop creating and will not deploy Jericho missiles or other strategic missiles with nuclear warheads.”

In another document, American concern is expressed that even if Israel were to join the NPT, it was liable to continue covertly producing nuclear weapons and missiles.

Kissinger wrote in a memo, “We judge that the introduction of nuclear weapons into the Near East would increase the dangers in an already dangerous situation and therefore not be in our interest. Israel has 12 surface-to-surface missiles delivered from France. It has set up a production line and plans by the end of 1970 to have a total force of 24–30, 10 of which are programmed for nuclear warheads.”

He also pointed out that “when the Israelis signed the contract buying the Phantom aircraft last November, they committed themselves ‘not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Near East.’ But it was plain from the discussion that they interpreted that to mean they could possess nuclear weapons as long as they did not test, deploy or make them public. In signing the contract, we wrote Rabin saying that we believe mere “possession” constitutes “introduction” and that Israel’s introduction of nuclear weapons by our definition would be cause for us to cancel the contract.”

Commenting on the Israeli statement that it would not be the first state to bring nuclear weapons into the Middle East, Kissinger claimed that this vow was not enough, because it was clear from the discussions that they took this to mean they could have nuclear weapons as long as they didn’t carry out tests, deploy or make the issue public.

Thus the US demanded: “Reaffirm to the US in writing the assurance that Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Near East, specifying that “introduction” shall mean possession of nuclear explosive devices. [For our own internal purposes, we would decide that we could tolerate Israeli activity short of assembly of a completed nuclear device.] “Give us assurances in writing that it will stop production and will not deploy “Jericho” missiles or any other nuclear-capable strategic missile. [NOTE: I do not believe we can ask Israel not to produce missiles. Israel is sovereign in this decision, and I do not see how we can ask it not to produce a weapon just because we do not see it as an effective weapon without nuclear warheads. We might persuade them not to deploy what they produce on grounds that the rest of the world will believe that the missiles must have nuclear warheads.]” It is not clear from the documents whether Israel indeed made the commitment the US asked it to make. But the fact is, as a result of the visit by then-prime minister Golda Meir in the US and her meeting with president Richard Nixon, the US stopped its inspections of the Dimona reactor in 1969. In later foreign reports, it was claimed that Rabin and Meir promised that, in exchange for a halt to the inspections, Israel agreed not to be the first to deploy or arm nuclear weapons, and likely vowed not to hold nuclear tests.

To this day, Israel has yet to join the NPT and is believed to be, according to multiple foreign reports, the sixth biggest nuclear power in the world, with a stockpile numbering up to 100 nuclear warheads.

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African-American rights activists endorse boycott of Israel | Al Jazeera America

African-American rights activists endorse boycott of Israel | Al Jazeera America | Arab America Music |
by Renee Lewis @Renee5Lewis55
Young African-Americans facing heavily armed police in the streets of Baltimore and Ferguson over the past year have compared their situation to that of Palestinians under Israeli fire, telling reporters that their conditions were “like Gaza.” On Tuesday, black racial-justice activists took the comparison a step further, issuing a statement linking their cause with that of Palestinians, and putting their weight behind the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The BDS campaign, modeled after the mass movement to isolate South Africa during the apartheid era, aims to pressure Israel through tactics of economic and cultural isolation into ending its occupation of Palestinian territories and adhering to international law in its treatment of Palestinians.

Tuesday’s statement — signed by more than 1,000 black activists, artists, scholars, politicians, students and representatives of organizations — proclaimed their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.”

“We offer this statement first and foremost to Palestinians, whose suffering does not go unnoticed and whose resistance and resilience under racism and colonialism inspires us,” the statement said. The activists said they are committed to working through cultural, economic and political means to help the Palestinians’ cause.

Signatories included ‘60s black power icon Angela Davis; writer and philosopher Cornel West; death row inmate and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted in 1982 for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer; rapper Talib Kweli; and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.

The statement called ending the occupation of Palestine a “key matter of our time,” urged the U.S. government to end diplomatic and economic aid to Israel, and said black institutions and other entities should support BDS.

Meanwhile, pro-Israel groups have attempted to align themselves with black Americans, with billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson — who has funded a campaign to push back against the bid to isolate Israel — reportedly flying a delegation of NBA stars to Israel on a goodwill tour last month. Israeli media initially reported the visit as an explicit anti-BDS effort, but organizers later said the tour had no connection with the boycott issue.

A Pew study at the height of last year’s Gaza war found that 43 percent of African-American respondents favored Israel in the conflict, while 20 percent supported the Palestinians.

But Israeli media report fears that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign against President Barack Obama’s Iran diplomacy has alienated black elected leaders, and the Reverend Al Sharpton has called on black churches to lobby in support of the nuclear agreement — which Israel has taken a lead in trying to stop.

Organizers of Tuesday’s statement sought to win support by drawing connections with apartheid South Africa. Co-organizer Kristian Davis Bailey singled out companies that have become a focus of the BDS movement for allegedly enabling the occupation, including Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions, noting that the three firms had also done business with apartheid-era South Africa.

Bailey also said British security firm G4S — which supplies security systems to Israeli prisons that hold Palestinian political prisoners — “profits from the imprisonment of Palestinians, South Africans, black and brown Americans, and migrants around the world. We have to stop corporate exploitation of all people and that's what unites us."

Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and G4S had not responded to Al Jazeera's requests for comment by the time of publication. However, G4S noted in a 2014 corporate social responsibility report that an independent review of its business in Israel found “no causal or contributory role in human rights violations.”

Motorola Solutions said its global business is conducted in accordance with U.S., local, country and other applicable laws, and that it supports all efforts in the Middle East to find a peaceful resolution.

"Motorola Solutions has a comprehensive set of policies and procedures that address human rights, which are designed to ensure that our operations worldwide are conducted using the highest standards of integrity and ethical business conduct, applied uniformly and consistently," Kurt Ebenhoch, head of communications at Motorola, said in an emailed statement.

However, organizers of Tuesday’s statement did not rely only on a sense of solidarity with black South Africans under apartheid. They also tried to link the experience of Palestinians under occupation with that of African-Americans at the hands of police. That message was echoed by Palestinian-American human rights lawyer Noura Erekat, who said: "In both instances, Blacks and Palestinians are dehumanized as a matter of institutional order."

Last summer, the police crackdown on protests in Ferguson spurred by the police shooting death of unarmed, black teen Michael Brown coincided with Israel’s military assault on Gaza, prompting messages of solidarity. Statement co-organizer Khury Petersen-Smith said Palestinians had even offered Ferguson protestors advice on coping with tear-gas.

Since then a delegation of Palestinian students has visited black organizers in St. Louis, Detroit and Florida, the statement said. In December, Florida-based rights group Dream Defenders voted unanimously to endorse the BDS movement and weeks later sent a delegation of activists to the Palestinian territories.

“There’s a whole history of black and Palestinian solidarity, and this is one of the latest expressions and we hope to add to that and build on that,” said Petersen-Smith.
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Mint lifts recipe for Lebanese lamb kebabs

Mint lifts recipe for Lebanese lamb kebabs | Arab America Music |


Some people think of pulp fiction for summer reading. I love to browse cookbooks that transport me to another land and its cooking, cookbooks that tell a story and are not simply recipe compilations.

My guilty pleasure this month is Maureen Abood’s Rose Water & Orange Blossoms, which not only explores Lebanese cooking, a rich cuisine with which few of us are familiar, but is full of charming stories about growing up in a Lebanese-American family in Michigan and of finding family ties in Lebanon.

One memorable meal there begins with fresh fava beans: “We plucked them from their pods, popped them from their thick green skins, salted them and ate. It was the finest palate cleanser I’ve ever tasted,” she writes.

Abood made me want to see Lebanon if only to taste man’oushe, “street corner bakery food. You get it wrapped in paper and off you go.” It is a flatbread, “chewy, but with a crisp exterior, blistered and warm, topped with za’atar or cheese, filled with tomatoes and pink pickled turnips and mint and folded over on itself. ... Warm-from-the-oven man’oushe is something bread dreams are made of.”

Abood was greatly influenced by her grandparents and talks of “their childhoods in mountainous and verdant Lebanese villages, their marriages (arranged: I was, and remain, fascinated), the arduous journeys they made a century ago to start new lives in the United States, and their infrequent return visits back home, where the ravages of war would hold them, and all of us, at arm’s length.”

Most of all, she lets us begin to know Lebanese cuisine, which is aromatic — rose water, lemons, mint, orange blossoms — and inherently healthy: yogurt and chickpeas, bulgur and nuts, eggplants and tomatoes and pomegranates.

I made a warm potato salad from the book that was simply fabulous, just potatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, green onions and mint. I also enjoyed the whitefish crusted with pistachios and the tabbouleh salad lightened with cubed avocado. Cooking from this book is easy as the recipes are clear and most of the ingredients readily available. The recipe here makes a grand summer feast: lamb kebabs brightened with mint and olive oil.

S’mores memories

If I had to choose a favorite childhood taste memory, it would likely be the first time I had s’mores on a Girl Scout camping trip in the pine barrens of southern New Jersey. That caramelized hot marshmallow melting the chocolate on a graham cracker, eaten in the glow of a campfire on a crisp fall night, was as addicting as any dessert I’ve had in a 5-star restaurant. If you aren’t wishing for a s’more right now, you’ve been deprived.

S’mores are on my mind since we just crossed National S’mores Day off the calendar. All kinds of s’more derivations touted by various media flashed on my computer screen, from cocktails (oh, no) to a complicated truffle that would take hours to make.

To my mind, nothing will compare to the original, especially when eaten around a campfire, but the quick little bonbons here, from Family Fun magazine, have a lot of appeal. You make them in a flash, no camping required.

By the way, the first published recipe for a s’more is found in a book of recipes published by Campfire Marshmallows in the early 1920s, where it was called a Graham Cracker Sandwich. But the accompanying indicates the treat was already popular with both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Reader requests

Q. I recently had the house salad at a Fort Lauderdale restaurant that was incredibly different. I thought the dressing was made with chia seeds but when I tasted it (I didn’t order it, a friend did) I could tell it was poppy seeds. Can you get the recipe?


A. The restaurant did not respond to your request, but I think you’ll be happy with this one, from the Old Florida Seafood House in Wilton Manors, which closed last year after a long run. Make it a day in advance so the poppy seeds get soft and release their flavor. The dressing is sweet, with a nice kick from the mustard, and works well with strong flavors like kale and broccoli.

Q. I am looking for an old Florida type to tell me how to make mullet burgers. These were a favorite childhood food many years ago, when my grandfather would take us out fishing on his boat and we’d pull up to a little island somewhere and camp overnight. He made them with a lot of Tabasco, I remember that. I’ve never found them on a menu anywhere, or in a cookbook.


Send questions and responses to or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

2 pounds leg of lamb, cut into 2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Few grinds of black pepper

1 large red onion, cut into 2-inch cubes

1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Place the meat on a parchment-lined sheet pan, season generously all over with salt and pepper, then set aside to come to room temperature. Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Thread the skewers, preferably stainless steel, with a pattern of 2 pieces of meat, then 1 chunk of onion, repeated, leaving a bit of space between all of the pieces (about 1⁄8 inch).

Brush the meat and vegetables with olive oil. Place on the grill; for medium-rare meat, cook for 10 minutes with the lid down, and then flip with tongs and grill another 8 minutes, lid down. Alternatively, cook the skewers on a broiler or sheet pan under a high broiler for about 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through cooking.

Remove the skewers from the heat and let them rest for 10 minutes. Remove the hot meat and onion from the skewers by pushing them off with a fork. While the meat is resting, make the mint sauce by dissolving the sugar in the vinegar in a small bowl, and stirring in the shallot and mint. Serve alongside the grilled lamb. Makes 8 servings.

Note: The key to proper grilling of most meat is to bring it to room temperature for up to two hours before cooking. This ensures even cooking and prevents the exterior from burning before the interior is cooked. If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 15 minutes before cooking so they don’t burn before the meat is ready.

Per serving: 218 calories (46 percent from fat), 11.2 g fat (2.4 g saturated, 7.3 g monounsaturated), 82 mg cholesterol, 25 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 0.6 g fiber, 1064 mg sodium.

Source: Reprinted with permission from “Rose Water & Orange Blossoms” (Running Press, $30).

1/4 cup poppy seeds

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon dry mustard

3/4 tablespoon garlic powder

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

2 cups vegetable oil

At least 24 hours in advance: Place all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake until well blended. Keep refrigerated. Makes about 1 quart, 64 servings of 2 tablespoons each.

Per serving: 80 calories (79 percent from fat), 7 g fat (0.8 g saturated, 1.3g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g protein, 4.2 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 112 mg sodium.

Source: Cook’s Corner archives.

1 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup crushed graham crackers

12 marshmallows

Line a tray with parchment paper. In a small bowl, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave according to the package directions. Place 1/2 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers in another bowl. Quickly dip one marshmallow at a time in the chocolate, then in the cracker crumbs. Let them cool on the tray. Makes 12.

Per serving: 107 calories (36 percent from fat), 4.7 g fat (2.6 g saturated, 1.6 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 17.8g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 24 mg sodium.

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Palestine, the alternate universe

Palestine, the alternate universe | Arab America Music |
am in Ramallah. Restaurants with creative menus and talented chefs abound. You can run into tiny spots with out-of-this-world food, places worthy of a role on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”

There’s a Domino’s, a KFC, and a Starbucks (well, it’s called “Stars and Bucks,” but that’s a minor detail). There’s even a five-star Swiss hotel, the world-famous Movenpick. The nightlife is lively, with bars and lounges seemingly on every corner. In fact, without looking too hard, you’ll even find art galleries, hip cafes, and discos.

There’s no reason to think there’s anything wrong. Almost no reason. Except for one thing. There’s a military occupation going on. Forty-eight years later, unfortunately, this still has to be explained. And I don’t want to try to explain it to you by exploring international law or geopolitics. Wikipedia has that pretty well covered. Instead, let’s just talk about some of the things that go on in Ramallah and the rest of the West Bank and Gaza that simply don’t happen anywhere else in the world. In fact, let’s just call it the WBG (West Bank and Gaza). See, we even abbreviate our occupation. That’s weird enough, right?

To be Palestinian is to live ludicrously. What might seem preposterous to anyone else is typical to us. The ordinary is bizarre, and the bizarre is ordinary. Being Palestinian means being an actor in the theatre of the absurd.

First, the WBG, even the apparently free-for-all atmosphere of Ramallah, is just one big prison. Sure, it has liberal visiting hours, good food, and minimal security. (Of course, the condition of minimal security only applies as long as you don’t protest your captivity.) They say you can put lipstick on pig, but it’s still a pig. Well, you can put $30 steaks in a prison, but it’s still a prison. Why is the WBG still a prison? Because it possesses the one main distinguishing feature of one: The prisoners can’t leave.

If you have ever entered the West Bank, you will remember that the Israelis (the prison guards) don’t bother you too much when you enter the gates. Leaving, however, is a totally different story. Unless you have some sort of almost-impossible-to-get restricted special permission, entry into the non-prisoner population of Israel is forbidden. This means that when I come from outside the West Bank to visit a friend inside the West Bank, after he has shown me great hospitality and grace, I cannot offer him the simplest of remarks: “Next time at my house.”

If you’re not convinced yet, the WBG has an added layer of abnormality. There are a bunch of non-prisoners roaming throughout the prison, living on the prison grounds, using a disproportionate amount of prison resources, and assaulting the prisoners with impunity. These people are called “settlers.” To add to the inexplicability of the whole thing, when the Israeli government offers any mild criticism or curtailing of the settlers’ activities (which are all illegal under international law, by the way), the settlers engage in “price tag” attacks. But while these attacks are meant to be in “protest” of government intervention, they are directed not against the powers that be, but against the prisoners, the indigenous Palestinians. That is some real alternate-universe type stuff.

Finally, we have the ultimate level of madness. Many who watch our saga in the news think that there is a country named Israel, a country named Palestine, and they’re fighting each other. But this is not the case. The Palestinians who live in the WBG are legally stateless. They are citizens of nowhere. They do not vote for the parties who ultimately rule them. The Israeli prime minister and parliament control the everyday fate of about 12 million people throughout Israel and the WBG. Only about 7 million of them actually have the ability to vote for him. Bizarre, right?

Being stateless comes with one last point of ridiculousness. Palestinians who live in the WBG live, well, nowhere. If you don’t believe me, you can just ask Google. If you look for Palestinian cities on Google Maps, you will find them. But there will be some things you won’t find, like street names. The Gaza Strip contains over 1.8 million residents (who are citizens of nowhere). I think I found two street names on Google. You would think 1.8 million people would buy you a few street names. Even Nairobi has street names! (Sorry, Kenya, but hey, you got an American president.)

What this means for residents of the WBG is that they cannot surf on Amazon, order something, and have it sent to them, because the internet has no idea where they live. They don’t have addresses! Even Kenyans can order from Amazon! (Sorry again.) Even the smallest of the (illegal) Israeli settlements in the West Bank have street names. They have points of interest too. The 4 million residents of the WBG are given no such thing. It’s almost as if nothing is going on here at all. As a firsthand witness, I can assure you the opposite is true.

I hope I’ve been clear. Describing the phenomena of an alternate universe is extremely difficult. It’s like trying to explain what happens in a dream. Unfortunately, what’s going on in Palestine is not imaginary at all. If only it were.

Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, and speaker living in Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."
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US ‘concerned’ about Israeli treatment of Arab-American travelers

US ‘concerned’ about Israeli treatment of Arab-American travelers | Arab America Music |

The United States expressed concern Tuesday regarding Israel’s treatment of US citizens traveling to the country following recent reports of Palestinian-Americans being denied entry.

“The US government seeks equal treatment and freedom to travel for all US citizens regardless of national origin or ethnicity,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

“Specifically, the US government remains concerned at the unequal treatment that Palestinian-Americans and other Arab-Americans receive at Israel’s borders and checkpoints.”

The comments came in response to a question about reports of US citizens, particularly those eligible for a Palestinian Authority ID card, being denied entry into Israel after landing at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv.

Kirby did not address the specifics of individual reports, instead referring reporters to Israeli authorities.

He did cite warnings posted on the State Department website that note Israel views anyone “believed to have claim” to a Palestinian Authority ID card — meaning anyone with a parent or grandparent born or who lived in the West Bank or Gaza — as a Palestinian resident, whether or not they are also a US citizen.

As such, they are required to enter via the Allenby Bridge on the Jordanian border rather than through the airport.

“Many Palestinian nationals or dual nationals seeking to enter via Ben Gurion have been sent back to the United States upon arrival,” the website warns.

“Others have been allowed to enter Israel but told they cannot depart Israel via Ben Gurion without special permission, which is rarely granted.

“Some families have been separated as a result and other travelers have forfeited expensive airline tickets.”

These observations are reflective of recent reports of some Palestinian-American travelers’ experiences.

Kirby said this was an ongoing subject of discussions between the US and its ally Israel.

“We regularly raise with Israeli authorities concerns about the issue of equal treatment for all US citizens at ports of entry,” he said

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These 7 Lebanese Fashion Designers Rocked Paris Fashion Week

These 7 Lebanese Fashion Designers Rocked Paris Fashion Week | Arab America Music |
As Paris Fashion Week comes to an end, we look back at the Lebanese designers who revealed their collections for this season.
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Rivalry Is Renewed for Soccer Final in West Bank as Restrictions Are Eased

Rivalry Is Renewed for Soccer Final in West Bank as Restrictions Are Eased | Arab America Music |
HEBRON, West Bank — As a member of the Palestinian national soccer team, Alaa Attiyah has traveled the world, playing in more than 20 countries, including Nepal, China, Iran and Norway.

But for years, Mr. Attiyah, a 24-year-old who also plays for the leading club team in Gaza, had been unable to make the journey of a few dozen miles to the West Bank.

Israel has restricted travel in and out of Gaza since the outbreak of the intifada in 2001, as officials sought to prevent attackers from reaching Israeli-controlled areas. For Mr. Attiyah, this has meant declining offers to play for leading clubs here, and has prevented him from representing the national team in games played in the West Bank. He said he has tried more than a dozen times to obtain permission to cross Israel and enter the West Bank, without luck.

“As a soccer player, I don’t know why I’m considered dangerous,” Mr. Attiyah said.

But on Friday night, Mr. Attiyah and his team, Ittihad Shejaiya, were allowed to come to the West Bank to play in the final of the Palestine Cup, the first time the competition between the best teams from Gaza and the West Bank had been played in 15 years.
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Water in the West Bank: New Network for Khalet El Mei

Water in the West Bank: New Network for Khalet El Mei | Arab America Music |
The summer’s heat can be tough, and dehydration and droughts are common in many Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

To stay alive, people, animals and the land need lots of water, but accessing that water in the West Bank is a lot harder than simply turning on the faucet. Like many other villagers in Khalet El Mai, Hajja Sabha and Ismail Barawee relied on rainwater and tankered water to survive. With no network, running water did not reach their homes.

Life Without a Water Network for a Palestinian Farmer
Hajja Sabha fell asleep every night worrying about tomorrow’s weather. Would it bring much-needed rain?

Uncertainty and water scarcity were a part of daily life for the villagers of Khalet El Mai. Under a scorching sun, on so many occasions, Hajja Sabha walked long distances to fetch water. Though she was thirsty by the journey’s end, the 58-year-old woman would often only take a sip and save the rest for her family, crops, and animals.

“We earn our money from livestock and farming. I could see my livestock getting thirsty and it would pain me. At times I would not drink the water so I could save it for them,” Hajja Sabha says.

Hajja Sabhaglows with delight now that she can provide enough water for her family and farm.

When it rained, several families had a system for collecting rainwater from rooftop rain gutters and in wells, but this did not provide enough water for the community’s needs year round.  When the rainwater inevitably ran out, most people would pay about $800 during the summer for more water.

Then, something wonderful happened for Hajja and her neighbors: ANERA’s Palestinian Community Infrastructure Development (PCID) program stepped in to build water infrastructure for Khalet El Mai and four nearby villages. This means clean, running water is finally reaching people at their homes.

“It’s my job to ensure that my family, crops and livestock are fed and that there is sufficient water for them to use,” Hajja Sabha explains. “With the extra money I save now, I will take care of my land and livestock,” adds the farmer, mother and grandmother.

What was once a dry, broken-up earth is now a muddy terrain, irrigated with water from the new water network. Seeing the land brings a smile to this Palestinian woman’s face. “Water is the best gift anyone can receive; I thank God,” she says happily.

Ismail’s Children No Longer Have to Hunt for Water in the West Bank
With only one leg, it was already hard for Ismail Birawee to provide for his large family. Eighteen years ago, the 60-year-old father lost his leg in a tragic accident. “A man only has his work. Without it, how can he be expected to provide for his family?” the Khalet El Mai villager asks. “My older boys had to leave school to find jobs so they can provide for the family.”

60-year-old Ismail lost a leg in a tragic accident, and has trouble providing water for his family.

Like the other 4,300 residents of the village, Ismail was affected by the scarcity of water in the West Bank. His younger children spent several hours “water hunting,” as he called it. “They could have invested that time doing more productive activities, like studying or just doing the things kids do,” he adds with regret. “Each time they went out water hunting, I felt this heavy guilt.”

Together with his extended family, 22 people live in Ismail’s household.  Many times, the water that was fetched was contaminated. “My younger children and my grandchildren kept getting sick,” Ismail said. “We think it was from the tankered water because we heard from others with similar problems.”

When all seemed lost, ANERA installed a water network  just in the nick of time for Ismail Birawee and Hajja Sabha. “I can now save more than $100 a month with this new network,” Birawee says. He is happy he can save money towards his children’s education and plant the garden he always wished for. “Water is life,” Birawee says with a smile.
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