Monday, July 14, 2008


Assalamu Alaikum

The Ihsan blog continues to get 70-75 visitors a day, however, I don't expect any new posts here for awhile --- maybe at some point, new writers will be invited to continue to blog --- but for now, it is going into hibernation. The ihsan podcast will continue to be somewhat active, with occasional new audio content.

Meanwhile, here are some other blogs that are worth reading and/or subscribing to... check 'em all out...

Al Musawwir

Imperialism and Resistance

Progressive Muslims: Friends of Imperialism and Neo-Colonialism


Dr. Maxtor

Izzy Mo

Sunni Sister

Vineyard of the Saker

Critical Montages

Press TV

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Liberal Left Islamophobia (part IV) : Lebanon

A number of liberal left blogs have been posting photographs of women supporters of Hizbullah who appear in "western" clothing (T-shirts etc.). The overt and subtext message of these photographs is something that I've addressed earlier on a blog entry titled "scantily clad orientalists."

The message is that: "their women dress just like ours, therefore we got nothing to worry about."

But there is also another message that is sent: Most of the photographs that make the rounds of left-liberal blogs depict women as passive participants in the rallies (as one blogger titled his entry: "Sexy Lebanese girl with Hezbollah t-shirt attends Nasrallah's speech.")

It is not that photographs showing women as active participants are not available:

And this one from Iraq:

"Parliamentary member Maha Adel al-Douri speaks, in front of a poster showing Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, late father of Muqtada al Sadr during a meeting in Sadr main office in Sadr City to discuss the proposed U.S.-Iraqi security agreement on Saturday, May 31, 2008. The final statement of the meeting showed the absolute rejection of this agreement, and it urged Iraqis to set off peaceful demonstrations till the cancellation of this agreement. Writing on the fingers on the poster in the back read, from the top, Terrorism, Sectarianism, Occupation, Zionism, Colonialism."

But it seems that, while the liberal left will clamor about rights of women, and "feminism" - the criteria is very different for Muslims. The prime directive of many on the liberal-left for Muslim women is that, liberation means appearing passive and "sexy" at rallies.

In effect what the Liberal-Left Islamophobes are advocating is that (Muslim and "middle-eastern") women must appear a certain way to get their approval.

If any (and many Muslim women do) appear at rallies, fists raised, wearing a chodor or hijaab, or niqab, advocating a revolutionary Islamic movement as their platform, they are relegated to the "fundamentalist bin" or to the "false consciousness" bin.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Reverend Jeremiah Wright at NAACP

Descriptive NOT divisive!

"I come from a religious tradition that does not separate the Kingdom of heaven that we pray for, from the tedious kingdom of humans that keep people in bondage on earth."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Please Call Me by My True Names

Please Call Me by My True Names

Don't say that I will depart tomorrow --
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the Politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his "debt of blood" to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

-Call Me By My True Names:
The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh -

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

People of Faith with Palestine in Struggle

Pledge of Commitment:

International Conference on Justice for Palestine, Hotel Toledo, Amman, Jordan

People of Faith with Palestine in Struggle

Our world is in crisis. We face a growing, more aggressive empire with an insatiable appetite for consuming the resources of our world, subverting justice and humanity by its desire to strengthen its global hegemony; destroying the environment; feeding racist ideologies and practices of discrimination and marginalisation based on ethnicity; and driven by a patriarchal system and misogynist construction, which reinforce the power of men over women and children, rendering them vulnerable and subject to abuse.

The manipulation of religion to legitimize hegemony and mystify power relations is a standard tool of empires. This is dramatically at work in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; imperialised religion is utterly entangled in the project of domination.

We, people of different faith traditions and ideological convictions, together with representatives of movements for justice and peace from 16 countries in Asia and the Middle East, Europe, North America, South America, and Africa, unite to seize this opportunity in obedience to the imperatives of our faiths and consciences to raise our voices loudly in the face of this danger and threat to all our lives and dignity.

For the US Empire, the 'primary, vital focus' is the Middle East; Occupied Palestine is at the centre of this imperial project and dreams of conquest. Today, meeting on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Resolution 181 partitioning Palestine and on the eve of the 60th year of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe), our commitment drives us to engage more strenuously in the struggle to break the yoke of empire, build a global community of justice and peace, and be in solidarity with the resistance for the liberation of the Palestinian people, based on our firm conviction that international law is applicable to all.

The Middle East within the World (Dis)order of Global Empire

The United States is by circumstance and design a truly global empire. Its imperial ideology, military doctrine, and economics are correlative, and have been shaped with the Middle East as the focus. Military might justified by a doctrine of pre-emption is put to work to ensure the success of the plan for world economic dominance. In this design, Empire, the Middle East, and Israel are of a piece.

The post-September 11 reality has been dominated by the doctrine and strategy of 'the war on terror', which has nothing to do with human security or counter terrorism, but an ideological veil for empire building: brutal, military occupation, regime change, direct control of economic resources, unbridled expansion, racism, and xenophobia.

With the military occupation of Iraq, a new world (dis)order is extending an arc of instability, chaos, and violence in the service of hegemony. Under the cynical banner of democracy and peace, the empire seeks to control the key resources of the Middle East, especially oil reserves. As Michael Klare puts it, "Controlling Iraq is about oil as power, rather than oil as fuel. . . . Control over the Persian Gulf translates into control over Europe, Japan, and China."

The imperial vision for a "new Middle East" -- as a geo-political key to global hegemony -- is a confluence of US-UK-Israeli interests; it has economic, strategic and military designs, which requires restructuring and redrawing of the borders and power relations for the whole region. Its success relies on the capacity of the US Empire to construct and instrumentalise Middle East client states and regimes to support its policies; a firm US alliance with right-wing rulers to provide military bases, intelligence, and political backing for the colonial occupation of Iraq as well as economic sanctions and a possible war against Iran; and the power and influence of Israel on US political institutions.

Israel is more than a simple pawn or client state of US Empire -- it has assumed the status of a sacred trust in imperial theology and a mythical place in its imagination. It is central in the imperial plan "to create a new playing field" in the Middle East as a key to global hegemony.

Israel's Colonial Occupation and Apartheid

Empire manifests itself in different forms in different parts of the world. Colonialism, occupation and apartheid are three of its brutal faces that show themselves in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is a continuation of a project of colonialism begun in the late 19th Century. Between 1947 and 1948, 750,000 Palestine's indigenous population suffered massacres, intimidation, and land grabbing of more than 78 percent of their territory; 531 villages and towns razed to the ground and wiped off the map, ensuring the decades-long displacement of millions of Palestinian children, women and men. Land continues to be stolen and settlements built on Palestinian land for the exclusive use of Jewish colonists. The Israeli project was never confined to historic Palestine, and even today other Arab territories remain under occupation.

Palestinians who remained in what became the Israeli state in 1948 have been forced to live as lesser citizens in an apartheid ethnocracy, a system founded on pillage and predicated on exclusivity of rights and privileges granted to or denied of people on the basis of their ethnicity.

Israel is an apartheid state: the rights to land ownership and use are determined according to one's ethnicity; so are citizenship rights, the decision of the locality where one lives, welfare benefits, access to basic services such as water, electricity, sewage, and roads -- as in the "unrecognised villages". Ethnic separation and privileging are established through various instruments such as the Absentee Property Law, the Citizenship Law, the Law of Entry, the Law of Return, the Military Service Law, and in judicial decisions.

Through the occupation, Israel violates Palestinians' right to free religious expression, as it denies them access to various holy sites such as Haram al-Sharif, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of Nativity and the Ibrahimi Mosque. Non-Palestinian and non-Israeli adherents of various religions are discriminated against, with clergy not being allowed to live and serve in the occupied territory.

Israel is trying various means to reduce the number of Palestinians in the occupied lands: illegal annexation of East Jerusalem after the 1967 war; Israeli control of the municipal council and its policies; isolation of the city from neighbouring Palestinian areas; house demolitions; land confiscations; expansion of settlements; racist residency legislation inhibiting unification of and free access to families. These measures force Jerusalemites out of the city while damaging its social, economic, health and educational sectors and jeopardising a future political settlement, thus rendering the achievement of a viable Palestinian state impossible.

The Apartheid Wall, eight metres high, snaking 750 kilometres across the West Bank when finished -- pronounced illegal by an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice issued in 2004 -- is separating Palestinian farmers from their land, children from their schools, choking some towns in a huge and blatant land grab.

The Wall is structured to separate the Israeli settlements only from the Palestinian indigenous population, for the colonial infrastructure includes a complex web of roads -- restricted to vehicles with Israeli license plates -- that connect Israeli neighbourhoods and centres; it colonises underground Palestinian water supplies mainly for exploitation by Israelis while Palestinians are forced to pay ridiculously high prices to Israel for their own water; it has established a pernicious system of checkpoints that terrorise the indigenous population on a daily basis, restricts their movement, deprives them of their livelihoods, forces women to give birth in ambulances, denies them a proper education, causes a sustained humiliation of Palestinians.

Israel, in its treatment of the Palestinian population whose land it has occupied, continues to be in violation of various instruments of international law. It has rejected with impunity, the United Nations resolutions relating to the borders of the Israeli state, the right of return of Palestinian refugees and the international status of Jerusalem along with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention relating to the rights of occupied populations. Despite possessing around 400 nuclear weapons, it refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Israel currently holds 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners, including hundreds of children; the vast majority of whom are held without due process, and many are subjected to torture and inhumane treatment. Military, political, and judicial authorities have contemptuously rejected the International Humanitarian Law regarding Torture and the Treatment of Prisoners.

Flagrant disregard for international law is upheld by the United States as evidenced by its consistent exercise of its UN Security Council veto power -- a privilege of being a permanent member -- in the service of Israeli impunity. The complacency of the entire Council makes it complicit in preventing the enforcement and implementation of international law.

Just peace for Palestine is an essential precondition for peace in the rest of the Middle East; and global peace requires Middle East peace as a prerequisite.

Liberating Imperialised Religion

The global empire not only justifies its actions in the name of peace, security, and democracy, it has also its own all pervasive and well articulated theology. The United States laces its foreign policy pronouncements with visions from God, references to the Almighty, and specific interpretations of Biblical texts. Theological language is used to legitimize war, defend 'Holy Jerusalem', and destroy wicked 'Babylon' (Iraq); the demonisation of Islam and projection of an axis of evil is imbued with a divine mandate.

As people of faith and conscience, we believe that forging a just peace includes liberating religion itself and requires counter-imperial expressions of faith. We seek to extricate ourselves from its imperialisation and manipulation. Each of us, from our own traditions and convictions, seeks to embrace a counter-imperial faith which is rooted in the call to fullness of life for all. We repudiate all attempts to put religion at the service of empire and domination, and we pledge to the specifically theological task of delegitimising the false religious claims of the project of domination.

This counter-imperial faith is based on a radical spirituality which places love and compassion for human beings and all of creation at the centre of its praxis. It embraces a clear analysis of empire and a firm determination against it. It is also in support of those struggling against empire and all forms of injustice. Nevertheless, while we recognise the injustice and oppression of empire in general and of the Israeli military machine in particular, we, nonetheless, affirm our common humanity with the perpetrators of this oppression and express the hope that the power of unconditional love will make them part of a global community of justice and compassion.

Mobilizing for a Just Peace

The occupation within the project of empire destroys life, institutionalizes human suffering, and assaults human dignity, but it cannot destroy the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people for freedom, justice, peace, and self-determination.

Our counter-imperial faith convictions are inspired and emboldened by the courageous, daily, dramatic and artful resistance of Palestinians to the apartheid and occupation in their lands. Thus inspired, we all commit ourselves to work for justice within our own contexts:

We join ourselves to their unquenchable hope and pledge our solidarity in the spirituality and practice of resistance to empire.

We commit ourselves to principled support of the Palestinian people in their resistance against military occupation and apartheid.

We reaffirm our support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination, and for the establishment of a sovereign, viable and contiguous Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

We accept the challenge of the 2007 Amman conference of the World Council of Churches to insist that Palestinian refugees have the right of return to their homes, and to raise our voices and "name with courage the injustices we see and experience" of the illegal occupation, which has destroyed lives and brought forth nihilism and rage.

Our Pledge

Because we cannot remain silent, we have been in dialogue and offer the words of this document. Because we cannot remain separate, we have come together in Amman after a peace pilgrimage to Palestine -- as Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Muslims -- who make this appeal to all faiths and to conscience. Because we cannot remain still, we call for key focused actions to strengthen a counter-imperial faith in solidarity with Palestine and all those who suffer under empire.

We specifically pledge ourselves

To convene an interfaith reflection event on the spirituality of resistance and counter-imperial faith preferably in Jerusalem, initiated by Peace for Life;

To take part in activities to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (2008) and link these with Peace for Life programmes;

To be responsive to and vigilant of the media to ensure that the Palestinian situation is justly interpreted and an alternative narrative finds space.

To inform and gather our network, especially from the global South, to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to have Palestine storytellers a chance to relate their stories to people in countries closely allied with Israel;

To organise active participation in existing BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel) campaigns, and for PfL to focus one specific action campaign;

To intensify lobbying efforts with government bodies, multilateral agencies, and the United Nations to enforce Israeli compliance with international law and UN resolutions.

Amman, Jordan

Peace for Life Secretariat
NCCP Building 2/F, 879 EDSA
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Telephone +632-9252008 / Telefax: +632-9278043
secretariat@peaceforlife.org / http://www.peaceforlife.org

Friday, April 11, 2008

Letters from Palestine, Turkey, and Japan

March 8, 2008

I went to Hebron yesterday and I was quite tired physically and mentally. Hebron is a town where the most aggressive settlers live. Palestinians are almost gone because of the settlers’ horrible violence.

The day before the tour, there was a shooting in Jerusalem. 6 Jews were killed by the shooting and 2 Arabs were killed by the police. During the tour, a man came to the organizer and started shouting at him a few inches away from him. The man shouted a hundred times, “He is helping the last night’s killer!” The organizer ignored the man but it was painful to watch. The organizer used to be a soldier in Hebron. Now, he started this tour and brings tourists to Hebron and say, “This is what is happening here.”

During the tour, some soldiers were looking at us and following us about 20 meters away. They knew who the organizer was and what kind of tourists we were. One of the soldiers were holding a gun and aiming at us. Nobody reacted because the organizer told us not to react and to just ignore. But it was the first time for me to be pointed at by a gun, and it was scary even though it was 20m away. I felt like Israeli soldiers can do anything they want. It wouldn’t happen in other countries. What kind of soldiers would point their guns at 'tourists'?

Anyway, what makes me sad is this. I am staying in Israel with Jewish people. People who don't think they have prejudice or any kind of discrimination started to 'protect Palestinians' after I told them that I am in Israel with Jewish people. That is what I am tired of.

This is the reality of the people in Neve Shalom -Wahat as-Salam. From other Jewish people, they are treated like traitors. With Palestinians, they have a difficult time dealing with the guilty conscience because they have nice houses and good jobs.

It is not easy to just live in this land. I have been here for 6weeks, but I got many kinds protest from 'outside', usually from the Japanese who never visited here. The things are so complicated and it is not only Israeli/Palestinian issue.

Yesterday, Daria and Henry and another volunteer went on the tour with me. It was just a day after the shooting and people were tense. It is very dangerous for Jewish people to go on this tour even without major incidents like this shooting. But I insisted to go on the tour, because I wanted to see the settlement myself. Daria and Henry also wanted to go, but they knew how dangerous it was for them. It is OK for a tourist like me, but it is not OK for Jewish people to get into West Bank, especially the day after a serious incident. But the tour is welcomed by Palestinians. Palestinians know what kind of tour this is. The organizer was always welcomed by kids and residents.

Palestinian situation is terrible but they cannot change the condition by themselves because of the laws that forbid every kind of human rights. If they break the law, they will get arrested immediately. What we can do is to encourage Israeli activists, spread information to the Jewish communities and to awaken them. They have the power to change. That is what NS-WAS and other Jewish activists are trying to do. On the other hand, Japanese NGOs are trying to help Palestinians develop skills to earn money.

It is not easy to explain, but I hope you will understand.


March 9, 2008

H. sent me his article.
It is about the trip we went to yesterday.

His origin is British, but moved in USA with his family, then came here from VA. He told me he felt like he was a minority all the time in his life.


The Hebron Trip

The TV news brought the story of one Pinchads Zlotosvsky, a former neo-nazi thug, living in Poland. One day his mother revealed to him his Jewish origins. He shifted gears and became an ultra-orthodox Jew. I thought of this story when we visited Hebron yesterday. Our tour was led by Yehuda Shaul, a former IDF sergeant who served in Hebron, who now leads groups of Israelis and foreigners on informative tours of the city. On the bus he described an evening when, as a soldier, he and his unit went joyriding in the city, shooting at street lights and the windshields of cars. He told how sometimes, in the early morning hours they would begin firing into the city, not in response to Palestinian fire, but in order to deter the Palestinians from shooting, in case they would start.

Our tour of Hebron took in some of the same streets that Shaul used to patrol as a soldier - just like those we saw in the city. They are from the same Nahal Brigade 50th Battalian in which he served. "This is probably the most leftist unit in the army", he chuckles. "That leftists came to do the things we are talking about may be the best proof that there is no good way of doing what we are doing." Breaking the Silence, one of the two organizational "hats" worn by Shaul on this trip (above his yarmulka) does not adopt a political line, but wishes to bring home to Israelis the direct consequences of the occupation, so that civil society can make its own decisions.

The soldiers who serve there are young. It is usually their first time in Palestinian cities, and many of them don't know why they are serving there. Shaul describes how, at the beginning of his service, he attended a welcoming talk for the army by settler leaders. When the speaker praised the IDF for sending its best soldiers to safeguard the city's Jewish heritage, many of the soldiers walked out in disgust.

The soldiers have very little in common with the settlers they are sent to protect, but what they do share with them is the alienness of their presence in Hebron. The settlers, who number between 800 and a 1,000 amongst a population of 166,000 Palestinians, seem only able to live there because, in place of this current reality, they see an image of the city's distant past, and a future when the city will be Jewish again. This is well illustrated by the sequence of four murals that now adorns the closed bus station on Shuhada Street. The first of the murals shows the Biblical city, the mythical world of Abraham. The second shows the return of the Jews to Hebron, a few hundred years ago. The third shows the destruction of the Jewish community in 1929. The fourth shows the future of the city, with settlers and soldiers and the Messiah entering on his white donkey. There are no Palestinians in this final, idyllic picture. But even today the centre of the city is largely off limits to them.

A few minutes after seeing these murals drawn by the settlers, we were in the home of a Palestinian who lives under the shadow of the Tel Rumeida settlement. There, on his living room wall was another idyllic picture, of a future peace. A tropical paradise - sun, sand, palm trees, distant islands, and Palestinians on the beach. Some of these are wounded and bleeding. Why? "It has two images", explained our host - "the present, where people are suffering - and the future, when there will be peace."

This vision of an imagined peace appears to have little to do with Hebron or Palestine. Hasham's house lies directly beneath the Tel Rumeida settlement and his yard is littered by garbage which he claims is tossed down from above. Among the smaller items is the front page of a settler newspaper, which testifies to its source. Among the larger items is an old washing machine, which Hasham says was aimed at his head. Despite acts of daily humiliation and occasional settler violence, Hasham is happy to meet with Israeli peace activists, tell his story and share his perhaps unrealistic vision of peace. He views these meetings as a political act, an act of nonviolent resistance.

After leaving Hasham's house, we stood on the main access road to the Tel Rumeida settlement - an ugly mass of linked caravans on an ancient archeological site of the city, perhaps from the Bronze age. While our guide was trying to answer whether the site was historically Jewish, a settler woman came down, passing the soldiers who stood between us and the settlement. With a baby in her arms and another two children in tow, she had come to express her anger that this day especially, after eight yeshiva students had just been shot in Jerusalem, we had chosen to come to show support for Palestinians. She had a bellyfull of grievances to declaim, although few of the group, unfortunately, understood Hebrew. Those who did, including my wife, began to argue, which I think is unfortunate because of all the people we had seen today, I thought this woman was the most interesting. I felt I understood the Palestinians. Their story is evident and hardly needs a commentary. I understood Shaul and his change of heart, after serving in Hebron, and through him I understood the behaviour of the police and soldiers we had seen. But this woman, who had chosen to raise her children as a feared and hated minority among 166,000 of her enemies, was finally interesting. Even, or especially, for a person like me who has chosen to live among Palestinians and Jews as friends.

The mind and motivation of the settlers of Hebron probably cannot be understood without entering into their world, but I think we can reach some sort of approximate understanding from our own human experience. These people are on a kind of trip.

Our own trip to Hebron that day had been surreal and hallucinogenic: passing through tunnels that burrowed under Palestinian towns, traveling along apartheid roads protected by concrete barriers and then on into a city centre become ghost town, its shops barred from the front and occupied from the rear by settlers. In this landscape, we were an alien presence, looked upon with scorn from the settlers, viewed with incredulity by most Palestinians, and regarded as a potentially troublesome bunch of leftist crackpots by the police and soldiers. The Jews who had chosen to live in Hebron are similarly alien but have decided to put down roots. Nobody minds being a stranger for a day, but to make a life of it requires courage, determination and the zeal of a zealot.

Settlers will tell you that their activities are just a natural extension of Zionism. (Their enemies probably agree with them.) America had its westward drive, Europeans had their empires. In Israel, the frontier is the 1949 armistice line, with the lands beyond it providing room for greedy expansion. The radical fringe of the settler movement establish outposts on remote hilltops or carve out ghettos in Palestinian cities like Hebron.

Settlement in hostile territory, the return to religion, political activism, and the bored violence of soldiers are all ways in which individuals seek to fill their lives with excitement or meaning. The neo-Nazi thug mentioned at the beginning of this article became the ultra-orthodox Jew of today. The Nahal soldier who served in Hebron yesterday is now a political activist educating about the evils of the occupation. The settlers, all of whom knew him well, taunt him constantly, "Hey Yehuda, tell 'em what you did to the Arabs when you were here..." The Bronx accents of these settlers reveal their city kid origins and their own journey of personal fulfillment. Guarded by the army, but still vulnerable, these settlers present an easy target for other Hebronites to escape their own inertia by joining the liberation struggle.

The Holy Land is the Hollywood set where bored actors seeking adventure can play out their wild fantasies, many of which are highly dangerous to the ordinary people, Jews and Palestinians, who just want to live out their lives, raise children, and enjoy their grand children, while maintaining a modicum of personal dignity.

It might not be so bad if only individuals were involved, and these individuals were not empowered and protected by powerful political or economic interests, but the Middle East is one of the few places in the world where radicals can determine the destiny of nations. The settler woman who came out to greet us in Hebron deserves respect. She has proportionately more power in Israeli society than untold numbers of mild leftists. As Shaul said, "the presence of the settlers in Hebron is a political act with which we cannot compete."

When Baruch Goldstein, a resident of Kiryat Arba, the large settlement that adjoins Hebron, went into the Cave of the Patriarchs and killed 29 Muslims at prayer, Rabin had the best possible opportunity to evacuate the settlers from Hebron, but found himself powerless. The following year he was gunned down by a rightwing radical who said he was inspired by Goldstein's act.

See the http://picasaweb.google.com/info.nswas/TheHebronTrip for pictures, and http://nswas.org/article745.html for an earlier article on the same subject by Felix.

March 10, 2008

Henry told me an interesting story.

He went to Arabic lesson this morning. The teacher is a Palestinian who lives in this village. Arabic teacher gave him some food made by grasses around here. It was so nice and tasty. Usually, we don't know much about grasses or trees around us, even their names. But natives like this Arabic teacher knew how to use it and what kind of nutrition we can get from the grasses.

He said that giving name is a very important thing because it is a kind of start to know what it is or who s/he is. I think it is true. Our interest usually starts from memorizing the name of some ‘thing’ or a ‘person’

March 12, 2008

…İ also want you to know the Jewish people’s effort of peace making. What they are doing is not very easy. They face double discrimination, from other Jewish people because they are considered as 'traitors’ and another from the outside world because they are 'Israelis.' They are trying to make peace, but no one but their friends can understand.

Palestinian situation is more difficult but you probably knew that sometimes people from Arab countries discriminate against Asians. Because of this, it was difficult to get along with the Palestinians the first time. Finally, İ managed to get along with them, but it was a bit difficult in the beginning.

Now, I am in Istanbul! İ can tell you a story about me overcoming my weakness. (İ am a bit sorry for the people now, but feel really good)

İ was at the Ataturk airport again, a catch salesman for a shuttle bus came to me. First time I refused, but I couldn’t find a way to get to the hotel, so İ decided to take the shuttle. It sounded too expensive as what I was told was 30 by taxi, but shuttle is 50. But he said it was cheaper than taking a taxi. “5minutes wait at the Starbucks around the corner, İ will call you.” I waited for 30 min. but nobody come. İ feel pretty bad because again, they used me because İ am a woman, alone, an Asian, and did not look so strong and looked stupid. İ decided to go to the counter, gathering my courage and shouted at them, “You said 5 minutes waiting, but I’ve been waiting for 30min! İ want my money back right now!”

after that, whole story has changed. İ will tell u later.

March 15, 2008
(blog diary)

This is my fist time visiting Turkey. I spent 2 nights and 3 days in Istanbul, just walking around the hotel where I stayed and seeing Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar and the Underground Cistern etc.

In this tourist area, people are very open-minded, probably to catch their customers. Perhaps, a Japanese woman who is walking alone in this area is one of the best targets for them, and I got caught several times.

I walked down to the beach this morning which is 5 minutes from here. A Turkish man who runs a small cafe offered me a cup of tea. We exchanged some usual conversations about our family, country and religion for almost 10 minutes. We had a nice time in front of the beach and I asked how much the tea cost, but he didn't accept because, he said, the shop wasn't open yet.

I am confused now.
People are very nice and open here, but totally materialistic. After the 6 weeks of visiting Israel/Palestine, it is very hard to accept the reality and the atmosphere of the capitalistic world. Conflict zone is now familiar to me and this sounds like Esther in "The Zahir."

March 14, 2008

I’m leaving Istanbul today. Only two days’ stay in Istanbul gave me a lot of energy and healing power. İ also learned about myself from this trip.

Anyway, Turkish people are very open, but economy doesn’t seem to be as good as it used to be.

İ am happy to be seeing mom at the airport. Thanks for telling me.

I will start to write something after go back to Japan.

March 14, 2008
(email from Turkey)

İ am leaving here in a couple of hours. This is one of the most beautiful places to visit. People are so open and some of them are trying to catch customers very hard. It is very difficult to protect myself from the salesmen everywhere around. İ almost bought a Turkish carpet for 1000 dollars.

But it makes me sad and makes it difficult for me to accept this kind of openness after visiting Palestine. People are sill dying but here, they are just talking about money and love, the same as other countries.

Turkey is Westernized, but some people are very religious (not many in Istanbul...)

İ am quite tired right now, so I would be happy to go back and rest in my bed.


March 27, 2008

I got back from Israel on March 15. The days in Israel seem like a dream after I've been back in Japan. However, this calmness shows me the differences of the situation in Japan and in the Middle East, so it makes me much sadder.

During the Hebron Tour, a man came from Australia said, “Palestinians just want to live an ordinary life. They don't ask anything special. Why, then?”

Usually, we don't think about Palestinians in our daily life although the invasion and the occupation are still going on there. It has been 60years since Israel established their country and that means almost an entire generation has passed.

I was stunned to find out that there are many Kurdish people in Turkey, but they are not allowed to speak their language outside. The Kurds have the third largest population after the Arabs and the Turks. Unfortunately, before they tried to be independent, people discovered oil and water in Kurdistan. The independence plan has changed. Since then, Kurdish people have not been able to have their own country (from Pelletiere, Stephen C., The Kurds: An Unstable Element in the Gulf. 1984, Westview Press: Boulder)

I think it would be better to go back to the beginning. Every land belongs to God, not to a certain ethnic group or people.

I see the same sadness in the eyes of Palestinians and Kurdish people.

My trip ended with this inexplicable feeling.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama, complete with all his public relation image making, is closely tied to the US imperialists (the same guys who have invaded and slaughtered million or more Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and more). This is why, while he pretends to be a beacon of 'non-violence' he has ended up supporting the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and has little or no word to say against the "Israeli" occupation of the land of Palestine.

The right-wing nature of the Dalai Lama and the government-in-exile was further exposed by its relationship with the US CIA. The Dalai Lama concealed the CIA's role in the 1959 uprising until 1975.

Between 1956 and 1972 the CIA armed and trained Tibetan guerillas. The Dalai Lama's brothers acted as intermediaries. Before the 1959 uprising, the CIA parachuted arms and trained guerillas into eastern Tibet. The Dalai Lama maintained radio contact with the CIA during his 1959 escape to India.

No mere spiritual leader, he was the head of Tibet's government when he went into exile in 1959. It was a state apparatus run by aristocratic, nepotistic monks that collected taxes, jailed and tortured dissenters and engaged in all the usual political intrigues. (The Dalai Lama's own father was almost certainly murdered in 1946, the consequence of a coup plot.)

The government set up in exile in India and, at least until the 1970s, received $US1.7 million a year from the CIA.

The money was to pay for guerilla operations against the Chinese, notwithstanding the Dalai Lama's public stance in support of non-violence, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

The Dalai Lama himself was on the CIA's payroll from the late 1950s until 1974, reportedly receiving $US15,000 a month ($US180,000 a year).

“The Dalai Lama, whom Larry King, on CNN, once referred to as a Muslim, has also received the Lifetime Achievement award of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.”

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Dalai Lama was interviewed on AlJazeera English. He was asked about this contradiction: he ostensibly he is opposed to war and violence and yet when it came to Iraq and Afghanistan wars this consistent puppet of US foreign policy could only say: let us wait and see. He answered that there are positive signs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

“”This new terrorism has been brewing for many years. Much of it is caused by jealousy and frustration at the West because it looks so highly developed and successful on television…”

“the Dalai Lama said he considers himself a “friend” of Israel (he has visited the country three times and was a 1994 honorary fellow of Hebrew University”"


In an earlier appearance in Jerusalem, the Dalai Lama urged Hamas to renounce violence and approach the situation “more realistically.

("Israel" of-course, was asked to renounce nothing)

“We know each other, and we have developed, I think, a very close friendship — something like a reunion of one family,” the Dalai Lama said, speaking of Bush.” (10/16/2007)

After reading the above, I put together a family album for the Lama... so he (and we) can meet his extended family (related to him through Bush). Maybe the Lama will have a big 'ol family reunion party one day.

Click on the play button to view the album (includes family music). Windows users having trouble: download the latest version of Quicktime, then download this file - and play in Quicktime.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Milad-un-Nabi Mubarak!

Milad-un-Nabi Mubarak!
Greetings on the occasion of the Holy Prophet's (sawaw) birthday.

Ya Shams ud Doha
Ya Badr ud Doja
Ya Muhammad

O the Sun of brightness
O the moon of darkness
O the Ever Praised

A tribute to the Prophet (sawaw) by Ibn Mashish:

I take refuge in Allah from the accursed
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

O Allah, blessings and peace in all matters, revealed and concealed on him from whom are split open the secrets hidden in his sublime essence and stream forth the lights of the full moons enfolded in the heavens of his sublime attributes.

Magnified is the Prophet whose blossoming beauty beflowers the gardens of Mulk and Malakut, and the pools of the Jabarut overflow with the dazzling light of his secret bursting forth and there is no thing that is not linked to him and by his effulgent secret all things encompassed.

Send a blessing worthy of You, from You to him, that is an unceasingly and constantly renewed creation abundantly pouring out upon him and unimpaired peace which is this blessing in its flowing and its grace as befits him and on his holy successors in spirit.

O Allah, truly he is Your Secret encompassing all secrets
and Your Light encompassing all lights,
and Your Guide who guides to You by You
and the Leader of Caravan who rides Your worlds to You.

O Allah, connect me to his spiritual lineage, and ascertain me by his soaring degree and cause me to know him with real knowledge so that by it I witness his eternal pre-existence and I become his mirror by his love and his consent and so by his realizations I am saved from the welling up of the spring of ignorance and I drink without stint from the overflowing spring of Muhammadan reality.

Carry me on the swift noble mounts of Your Most Tender Mercy on the carriers of Your Deep Love and Your Affection and bring me on his Way of the Upright which is the Straight Path to his presence that is the link to Your Most Holy Presence clearly manifested by the shining of his human virtues, carried surrounded by the warriors of Your Victory, accompanied by the worlds of Your Divine family.

Oh Allah, make my absorption in him laudable and praiseworthy before You.
Oh Allah, make his Spirit the Secret of my truth in taste and in state.

Oh Allah, blessings and peace from us on him the most gracious of blessings and the most perfect peace for truly we can not grasp his exalted degree nor do we comprehend that which befits him of respect and magnification.

Benedictions of Allah the Most High and His Peace and His Greetings and His Mercy and His Grace on our master Muhammad, Your bondsman and Your Prophet and Your Messenger, the unlettered Prophet and on his holy family and companions.

thanks to mysticsaint

Saturday, March 22, 2008


The sky wept for Al-Husayn for forty days, during which the sky appeared ruby red in the morning and the evening - Attributed to Imam Al-Baqir (AS)

The courtyard of Imam Al-Husayn (AS) is completely packed. And by the time of the afternoon prayers, there is not even a square inch, and instead of the usual coming and going of the momineen, everything comes to a stand still. Loud lamentations, and Labbaik Ya Hussain punctuate the afternoon air, until it is time for the adhan.

After the prayers, the crowds begin to thin out, replaced by huge processions, with some groups consisting of hundreds and thousands expressing their love and grief. Some are subdued, others more intense, and one cannot but help join in with the maatam, and sounds of Ya Hussein.

The courtyard gets packed once again at the time of maghrib, and there is barely any space of prostration --- but the sense of devotion and sincerity is so beautifully clear in the air. And this being a Thursday evening, we had the opportunity to recite Dua Kumayl inside the courtyard of our beloved Imam Al-Husayn (AS). May Allah accept our prayers.

But I was also reminded of a hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings on him and his family):

“If an oppressive ruler violates the Divne codes, breaches the path of Allah’s Messenger, and rules the people with evil and tyranny; the person who sees all this and does not act for reform and change, then Allah will justly herd the complacent along with such a tyrant on the Day of Judgement”

Because I found it almost surreal to see the US puppet “prime minister” of Iraq give a speech on TV talking about Imam Husayn ---- the same guy who instead of clearly calling for an end to the occupation, sits and smiles with the occupier. And he barely utters a peep when the US army kills Iraqi civilians. Perhaps the guy is ignorant, or his understanding of Imam Al-Husayn is that of those Shias who will cry and remember the specific event of Karbala, but blind themselves to the criminal acts of the Yazeedis of our times – a kind of dead end ritualization that Dr. Ali Shariati called “black shiism” – something that is the vestige of the “shahs” and “monarchs” who wanted to strip Shi’a Islam of its tradition of protest, and active resistance to injustices and oppression.

Islam without justice and acts of beauty (adl wa ihsan) becomes little more than sentimental emotion at best, and hypocrisy at its worst. There is a strong tradition in Iraq of those ulema who recognized the necessity of the Islamic leadership to take an active stand against oppressive behaviors. Allama Baqir al Sadr being one of the foremost in this regard, but there are also ulema who followed the notion of “live and let live” --- who seem not to realize that shaytan’s way is to hood wink people into thinking that they are living, while it subverts the very foundation of society and community.

For those Shi’as who claim to be followers of Imam Husayn (AS) and who remember the stand taken by Sayyeda Zainab, being "quiet" and false notions of "live and let live" has never been an option. Especially not in this day and age while the yazeedis are on a rampage - destroying not only communities of humans, but also the very earth we live on.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Labbaik Ya Hussein

Perhaps we might mute our criticism, for a moment, of the rush and pressure of the crowd, what we might interpret as disrespectful, what we call “pushing” and “shoving” of the momineen. Because it is not only a push, there is an immense pull also - that draws the momineen towards their Imam. And then, after all, love is about attraction - being drawn towards - an owerpowering magnetic pull. And here we speak about the love of and for our Imam - whose majestic beauty and purity is best left unexplained.

The answer to the call of the Imam: Labbaik Ya Hussein reverebets throughout the shrine, there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands who are in the courtyard, men, women, children --- if not saying those words aloud, then their tearful faces of devotion speak the story of their love for Imam Hussein.

Its not the mere political and historical personality - the Imams are immense, and one can only wonder at how low the killers of Imam Hussein and all of the other Imams, must have been - to have not felt that majesty. And it is no wonder then that the skies wept tears of blood on Ashura.

There are ten doors to the shrine area (courtyard) - with hundreds and thousands streaming towards their Imam - yet, even with this many people, there appears to be some organization. The security personnel carry a rainbow colored feathered stick (about as non-threatening as a stick can possibly get) directing people through the areas. At first one might find the push of the crowd distracting, but allowing one's self to go with the flow (literally) and not pushing back, with some patience, one gets the beautiful opportunity to be close. The devotional emotion is overpowering, and not a single person is left unmoved.

Time appears to slow down, and the moments are so potent, and packed. As if waiting for the right moment to be unpacked - that right moment is our own preparedness. The voices of Labbaik Ya Hussein contain both devotion, and a protest - once again this voice raised loud and clear… once again, because the petty tyrants of all stripes have repeatedly attempted to silence the people. Yet, time and again the people have risen - in the worst of times - the people have risen. The petty tyrants' only recourse have been to restrict, or disallow - but such a powerful call cannot remain without a response for long: Labbaik Ya Hussein.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Letters from Palestine (III)

February 23, 2008

The night I visited Mr. A. was one of the most unforgettable nights.

Mr. A. is the person who gave lectures in Japan last year (in Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka) on 'Dialogue among religious leaders on Palestinian/Israeli Conflict’. He is a lecturer at al-Quds University in Jerusalem and teaches Islamic Studies.

I caught a bus that runs on a highway to Jerusalem (Daria took me to the bus stop from nswas.) It was my first time to go outside of the village. I was a little bit nervous but excited. I got off the bus at the West Jerusalem bus center and went shopping to buy something for my friend who offered me to stay overnight at her place in Jerusalem. She has been working in Japanese Volunteer Center in Jerusalem for 5years, and goes back and forth between Israel and Japan. She was the translator for the lecture that Mr. A. gave in Japan.

I bought some presents and went to the bus station to go to East Jerusalem. When I was crossing the road, there was a policeman standing on the corner. When he saw me walking down the street, he came straight to me and asked me to show my passport. These things happen here frequently to people like me (i.e. Asians and Arabs). Fortunately, I was warned about this from some people and was prepared for this.

"Are you a Filipino?" I told him my nationality. Then he asked me to show my passport. I asked him where the bus station was to go to East Jerusalem, but he told me 'After you show your passport, I will tell you where it is.' Fair enough, Ha! I searched for my passport in my big backpack but there were many things in it, pajamas, books, a lamp (for a present), cookies, water, coin case etc. and it took me about 30 seconds to find it. During this time, he found another victim who wanted to pass by my side.

She had a bit of dark skin and thick black hair. The girl who was stopped by the police showed her ID card and explained something. The policeman seemed to be very mean to her. She was forced to sit on a stone by the pavement and looked up at him with fear in her eyes. She wasn’t doing anything wrong, but his attitude scared her. He didn't scare me as much because I am Japanese. What if I were a Filipino ? What if I came from Thailand?

I took a bus and left the bus station. It was almost 4:30pm when I reached the Yaffo Gate, the west side of the Old City. I ran into the Old City and went straight to the Damascus Gate. I couldn't find the shortest way, but I think I did well. But after I get out from the Old City, I wondered around on the streets for almost 20 minutes.

When I met Keiko at the Jerusalem Hotel, it was almost 5:00pm.

Keiko is really nice. She is something else. I have a kind of talent for recognizing nice people as soon as I meet. I had a kind of intuition, like 'I really like her' when I met her the last time.

Mr. A. is a handsome man who has 7 children and a beautiful wife. He lives on the edge of West Bank close to a refugee camp. We enjoyed ‘zahki’ dinner and conversation with his family.

He drove us to the bus stop where we could easily find the bus to East Jerusalem. When we went through a refugee camp, some Palestinian young boys around 12-15 years old were riding on the back of a pick up track. One boy got off the track and rushed to put a paper on the wall beside the pavement. "It is a poster of 'Mujahedeen' , isn't it?'" some one asked Mr. A., but he didn't answer. Probably, he was concentrating on driving on that narrow road where cars were coming straight to us with horrible speed. Or was he thinking about the police?

We safely reached the bus stop. We got on the bus and said good-bye to Mr. A..
After a few minutes, two young soldiers got on the bus at the check point. They asked us where we were from and we answered. They didn't ask us to show our passports and let us go with a smile. How is it possible for young men (they looked 23-27) like them to change into a person who could beat a little boy?

Traveling to Ramallah to visit Arafat’s grave and refugee camp was, again, postponed by the snow. I am not sure if I can visit there during the time of my stay. Instead, I asked my friend to reserve my seat of the tour around Hebron. She said I was on the waiting list, and she informed the agency of my leaving date.

I was told that I am quite lucky to be coming here around this time. "Some volunteers are good, but some of them are not. We've got the best members now," someone said. I admit that I am acting strange, probably as weird as I am in Japan or even more. But thanks to God, people are so nice and kind.

I will send you another story next time.


February 23, 2008

I got this from Henry. I asked him if it is ok to put it on the web. He said its ok, everything you want.

love and lotus,

Dear Kiriko,

I thought, when I began to read your journal, that it might be helpful to you if I would take some notes to correct any obvious errors, or comment on things that you might need to think about more. I found just a few items (less than I expected).

"Hebrew is also the official language in NS-WAS. Not many Jews can understand Arabic, especially people who are immigrants from different countries."

Well, if there is such a thing as "official language" in a village, we do try to keep both languages as official, despite many obstacles. In almost all written notices, for instance, both languages are used. Recently we passed a rule that all department heads must be fluent in both languages and, if they are not, they must learn Arabic within 2 years.

In the meetings, people can speak in either language, though when Arabic is spoken, there is the obstacle that some of the Jews won't understand. Protocols for general assembly meetings are kept in Hebrew, partly because these are records that must be available for review by state authorities. Israel itself has Hebrew and Arabic as official languages - but this is a rule which isn't properly implemented.

"Jewish people in NS-WAS study Arabic once a week, but it is not enough to communicate with Arabs. Actually, they don't need to speak Arabic because Arabs speak Hebrew perfectly. There is no need, but people in NS-WAS knew that it was not fair. That is why they try to learn Arabic."

Not all Jews here learn Arabic weekly. Daria is the only Jew from the village currently attending A.'s classes. Many Jews in the village do know Arabic at a level that permits them to understand, even if they can't speak it well.

Languages don't just communicate ideas. They also communicate feelings and various subtle things. Even when a person is fluent in another language, she might not be able to communicate well nuances of feeling, etc.

"Jewish people know what they are doing to Palestinians more or less. But some people are afraid of leaving Israel. Once they express or accept the things they are doing, they think they have to leave. .."

I'm not sure what you mean here. As a straight statement about Israeli Jews in general, I'm not sure that it is true. Many Israeli Jews know very well what they are doing, and can offer many arguments for continuing. Other Israeli Jews reject what their government is doing and decide to stay and struggle against government policy.

"...However, people that I met here became angry at seeing what the settlers and soldiers were doing to the people in Palestine. Every Friday, women gather and demonstrate against the settlers in front of the old city…"

I don't think the people you heard about in the Women in Black demonstration are simply targeting the settlers as "the bad guys".

The situation regarding settlers is complex. First of all, there are at least two kinds of settlers: those with ideological or religious motivations, and those with practical or economic motivations.

Historically, the first settlers had a religious and ideological motivation. But later, the government came with its own motivations, and offered cheap housing plans to settle Jews on land occupied since 1967 (Gaza, the West Bank, parts of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Sinai (though the latter was later returned). So many Jews went to settle in these places simply because it was an attractive option. The majority of the settlers are therefore just ordinary Israelis. Those who live in the parts of occupied Jerusalem don't even see themselves as settlers, since these parts were annexed. Some of those who live in the Golan Heights say that they would be willing to give up their homes in the case that peace is established with Syria.

The point I am making is that settlers are not necessarily villains, and that it is the Israeli government that allowed them to be there, or put them there, which must be held responsible. I think that this would be the position of most of those who attend demonstrations against the occupation.

There are comparable situations regarding deliberate settlement of occupied territories in other places in the world, such as Tibet, Northern Cyprus and the Kuril Islands (northern islands of Japan).

For an interesting sidenote on the legal aspects of Israel's settlement policies, there is an article that discusses Road 443 - the road you traveled on when visiting Wissam in Beit Sira.

"Tyranny in Tar" (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/948033.html)

Denise is a secretary of the mayor(?)

"Denise", like me, is working in the Communications and Development Office, mainly as a writer. Usually, she writes proposals, applications and reports for foundations and friends associations that support the village.

Best wishes,

February 24, 2008

I visited two Arab families. They treat their family and relatives so nice. Keiko in JVC explained that. They support each other because of the conflict. Sometimes they have lost a family member who used to support their family. A big family is good as they can support each other, even though they don't have enough people to provide support the family. They are helping each other.


February 25, 2008

I will go on this tour in march!
My friend, Shelly from the US (she is great!) booked a seat for me.

Tours to Hebron

For the past two years, Breaking the Silence has been giving guided tours to Hebron- a place where many of us have served as soldiers.

The purpose of the tour is to introduce our audiences to the complexities of the Occupation.

Route of the tour: Baruch Goldstein's burial site in Kiryat Arba, The Tomb of Patriarchs, a walk through Shuhada st. (including the five settlement areas and the wholesale market), and a visit to a Palestinian family in Tel Rumeida neighborhood.

The tours are in cooperation with the organization, "Bnei Avraham".

For further information, please contact :


The next tour will be on: 22.02, 07.03, 28.03 It is possible to organize a private tour for groups. All tours are coordinated with the Israeli Police in Hebron

February 26, 2008

I saw this (Gaza protest) on the web with Howard. There were almost 50,000 people to protest the siege.

I also got an email from a Japanese girl who is interested in this area. She sounds young and had a lot of anger inside of her. I don’t think I can handle it. I just want to leave it.

It sometimes happens. People are speaking about 'peace’ but spread their anger into the world. We have to protest against injustice, unfairness and everything like what the Israeli government is doing now. But I don’t think it is a nice way to throw the anger at people who have different opinions.

She didn’t even check the meaning of what I really said. I am tired of it.

By the way, I got a nice email from Mr. A.. He is so nice. Did I write about that?


March 2, 2008

I am back from Bethlehem and Jerusalem now.

I went to a refugee camp last Friday. JVC(Japanese Volunteer Center) helps Palestinian women to have jobs and teaches them how to make things like bags, coin case, cushion cover, etc. They have extremely professional techniques in embroidery, so if they teach the women how to make a bag or something using a sewing machine, they can sell all of those things easily. It is very difficult to find a job for the people in refugee camps. Sometimes young girls work very hard to make money to go to university.

I will tell you all the stories of this place later. It was really nice to meet a family there.


March 3, 2008
(blog diary)

My thought on peace-making

…From my experience, sometimes we have to face the difficulties of dealing with our feelings and emotions. Working with people in conflict zone requires many things like remaining calm, hearing their opinions, trying not to judge, having compassion, treating people with respect, sharing their stories, staying centered, finding exact meaning of a word, and so on. Probably, you will find some contradictions in these statements: It becomes very difficult if you have your opinion, but it would be much more difficult if you don't have one.

Also it was good for me to learn that I have to be careful in using words that "group individuals in one category" such as "Israelis do..." "Japanese are ..", "people here are like.." etc. I met many unnecessary emotional resistances from people by this kind of stereotyping comments. We need to be very careful when we say something if we really want to bring "peace" into the land. Some people are quite sensitive in this area, so we can easily hurt people not by guns, but by our words (by accident.) We must know what kind of language we are speaking, I don't mean "Hebrew" or "Arabic," but whether we are speaking "the language of the people in power" or those of the oppressed and without power. If we use the language of the people in power, it would not work very well even when we talk about peace. I think "violence" can take different forms. The violence that goes on here is not only physical violence, but cultural, economical and political violence. It is easy for me not to use the military weapons, but I can use the power of words and pens. It is still very difficult for me to find a peaceful, non-violent way (to express myself). Unfortunately, the people in power sometimes don't exactly know what kind of power they have and/or use, or they don't even realize they have power. I met a Japanese woman who has spent 5 years here (back and forth between Japan and here). She perfectly knows who she is. She knows what kind of "energy" she creates and how to bring it here. It is a bit complicated, I have no idea how to explain it, but probably someone else does.

Besides, there are hundreds ways to deal with the conflict and thousands of opinions as to how to make peace between the Jews and Arabs. We can't protest each method or choice even if it looks totally different from ours. Likewise, there are many ways to contribute to bring peace in this area, for example, one works as a volunteer in refugee camp, the other becomes a journalist or photographer while his/her friend is trying to be a mediator. Their approaches are very different. The mediator is expected to be centered, but the journalist can take one side. We usually don't judge or even decide which is better for the people here.

In order to overcome any shortcomings in finding out the best way for them, I am trying to look back to our history and find out who I am. This is my approach as a Japanese in studying conflict reconciliation or conflict transformation. This is only my point of view, but before I say something to the people and the soldiers in Israel, I have to see what we, the Japanese, did to the Asians during the WWII In contrast to Germany, we, our government, still refuse to apologize to China and Korea and other countries, as you know. In Israel, the textbook of Israeli history is not the same as what we are told. It sounds similar to what the Japanese government did as it erased the facts, like what happened in China and Korea, from our history. In my memories of school years, I couldn't find much about Nang King Genocide, 731 troops, Nakano School for Generals in my history textbook.

It is easy to put our issues aside and be here as a peace maker between Israel/Palestine. But how is it possible to make others try to reconcile with their enemies, when we can't make good friendship with neighbors because of our past?

That is why I thought it was 'not enough to blame the Israelis.' I really have to face these Japanese problems if I want to continue this challenge; it is kind of changing the world from the inside out. I know this is not your concern/problem, but is mine that I have to deal with.

Thank you for reading.

peace be upon you all,

March 5, 2008


It is so hard to accept things happening here. I hear the sounds of jets every 2 minutes, probably going to Gaza.

On the contrary, we don't have any bombing here, as you know. I went to Haifa (northern part of Israel) yesterday to attend a funeral. I met a nice woman who came from the U.S., who also spent several years in Mexico. She is a resident of nswas (Daria’s good friend), and her mother passed away a few days ago.

Daria and Rucy, another friend of Daria and who now become my friend, took me to the city of Haifa. It is an old city and has history. We enjoyed walking down in an Arab town. It was beautiful and people were so nice.

I had a very bad experience in Jerusalem from a tour guide. It is also my fault, but I don't think he was a good man. I almost wanted to stay away from all Arab people because of him. But I tried to use the bad memory in a good way. It took a couple of weeks. Now I am OK with everyone.

Anyway, it was nice to visit Haifa.
However, it is still hard to enjoy anything during a time like this.

My friend had a hard time in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It is related to the things that are happening here. Some of the volunteers tried to extend their visa, but was denied. It took a few more days to get the 'volunteer visa.'

I think I'd better go and write every experience in Japanese as well.


March 5, 2008

…I just want to tell you something about the activities here. I asked if it was OK or not to attend some demonstrations.

It is not safe to take part in some activities here even when there are many Jewish people within the group. A few years ago, a policemen shot at the people who were peacefully walking down the street and killed 13 people there. Also, last month, a Japanese tourist attended a demonstration and got attacked in his eyes and he is in danger of becoming blind.

It is not only about the risk to me, but about bringing the risks to Palestinians. JVC member (Keiko-san) in Jerusalem said there are many different ways if we want to bring peace to the land. It is OK to demonstrate in my country, but not here.

Things are not easy here...

Well, we will see....

March 6, 2008

…about Kiriko’s ‘bad experience’ in Jerusalem…

I don't think it is uninteresting, but it is not just his fault. He was not a good man, but I learned about my weakness from him. He was a guide of Old City in Jerusalem. I didn't ask him to guide, but he followed me and started to guide. After few minutes, I realized he was a guide but I didn't stop him. Then, he asked for 6600 yen ($66) for providing 20minutes of tour guide around the area. The place he asked for money was in a dark basement. I was so scared and wanted to go out because there was no one except us. I paid the fee and asked him if he was a Christian because the place he guided me through was a place where Jesus was taken. He wasn't a Christian, but a Muslim. I was disappointed when I found out about it. That's all.

I am OK with Arab people except for this memory. I know this is my weakness. That is why it is so painful for me. I am trying to accept my weakness but it is still difficult. It wasn't his fault even though he wasn't a good man.

bless him.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Iraq (part two)

Twenty four hours a day, during the commemoration of Arbaeen, the streets of Karbela are packed with hundreds of thousands of people going to and from the roza of Imam Hussein and Hazrat Abbas, and to the other sites of ziarat in and around the city. The side streets, and those leading directly to the roza are filled with small makeshift stores, selling all kinds of religious and other items --- turbahs, tasbeeh, books, attar, scarves, chadors, and artistic renditions of Imam Hussein and his companions.

And there are huge huge steaming pots, with the locals cooking huge amounts of food provided daily to the pilgrims. And stalls offering fresh clean water, and excellent sugar filled tea.

No cars, except for ambulances, security officials, and garbage disposal trucks are allowed within the city limits. And one can only enter Karbala after passing through several security check points - with body searches required of each and every individual man, woman and child to ender the vicinity of the shrine itself, and again before entering the actual shrine area. The security officials, while firm and efficient, were never rude, not to obviously foreign looking Pakistanis, Iranians, other Arabs, nor towards the local millions of Iraqis.

The officials often asked where I was from - once, I let slip: "Amreeka" and got a frown --- and I quickly learnt that I have to say Pakistan to get the welcoming smile, or say "na'am" when asked (usually with a smile) if I was "Hindi" ---- And sometimes clarify that I was Pakistani not Iranian and would be paying in Iraqi dinar, not Irani.

The pavements, along with shops, are also full of tents, small and some very large - and then there are people
sleeping just out in the open - blankets provided courtesy of the locals - And it rained a few times, clearing the air, but making things not so comfortable for those sleeping outside. But there were few if any tensions that I could see. And even with the pressures of the crowd, the huge numbers who gave in their shoes and cameras and cell phones to be guarded before entering the shrine, those behind the stalls were almost always courteous.

Hundreds and hundreds lined up at the tea stalls in the morning afternoon and night ---- but those providing the tea almost always had time to, if only briefly, to personalize the service, and express that they were "Khadim" (servers) to anyone who asked for an extra cup.

The sounds around the shrine is filled with recorded latmiya - the lamentation songs accompanied to a "beat" of maatam ---- at times small groups of people joining in and expressing their own love for Imam Hussein and his companions (AS). And small processions are the norm, with their own reciter of noah --- in Urdu, Arabic, Farsi... but almost always joined by onlookers who sometimes walked with the procession, or stayed on the outside - listening and doing their own silent maatam.