Posts Tagged ‘occupation’

From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. (With major assistance from Fareed Taamallah, my colleague in Ramallah)

For the Palestinians, not only is land a source of food, but it also stands for resistance, freedom and sovereignty, while farmers are considered defenders of the land.

—Fareed Taamallah


June 30, 2019, Sunday, Palestine-Israel, Jerusalem, Old City

Fareed Taamallah with Maryam Abdallah Abu Lateefa and her grandchildren, in Kalandia refugee camp
With Mustafa Mahmound Abu Awwad in Tulkarm refugee camp

Returning to Ramallah yesterday [June 29, 2019], we stopped at an organic farm Fareed had learned about on Facebook (I constantly remind myself that Fareed and the Palestinian woman from Gaza who I’d worked with on water issues more than 15 years ago, Amani Alfarra, had inspired me to begin my own feeble FaceBook career.).

Fareed is adamant about boycotting all Israeli products (a mark of his integrity in my view) and using Palestinian products whenever possible. Other Palestinians (and perhaps even some Jewish Israelis) do the same, a tough practice while Israeli products dominate the Palestinian economy. He explained that at the outset of watermelon season about a month ago (I ate my own watermelon last week in Ramallah, unaware of the source, assuming local—my big mistake), his kids pestered him for watermelon. Unable to find locally-sourced melon he took a chance. Is this Israeli or Palestinian? his kids had asked. I hope Palestinian was his answer. But now, we’d discovered a certifiable source of local melon, both green and yellow, along with zattar, cucumbers, sunflowers (for the beauty and bees), etc.

The farmer showed us the seed packet—from the USA, specially bred for a non-salty environment like this region of Palestine. Fareed asked me to photograph him with the staff and include the farm and a giant melon, posing smiling, proud—like a sports fisher with a prize fish freshly caught.

Fareed with his certifiably organic watermelon

During the long drive we compared notes about Palestine, the Israelis, our families, what we read, and our hopes. He was very interested in my report about the Israeli-organized Shurat HaDin’s 3rd Annual Law and War Conference I’d attended in Jerusalem, the first person I’ve spoken to about this, in some detail.

As the director of public relations department of the Central Elections Commission-Palestine, he reads less now, mostly history and politics. About 1 book per month, he claims. His college-age son reads a book a week. Most Palestinians do not favor reading, he explained. Rather, vocal storytelling is the primary means for conveying knowledge. When I asked about his experience during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 (after I’d read Mike Merryman-Lotz’s moving account of his own experience in Ramallah then, the city nearly destroyed and under curfew, a response to suicide operations) Fareed at length and yet cogently told more his own story.

Graduating from Birzeit University with a masters degree in international relations, journalism and political science in 2000, he then worked for a governmental agency, maybe the Palestinian Authority, as a journalist and lived in Ramallah during the week and with his family in Qira (his home village, in his father’s house) on the weekends. At the beginning of the Second or Al Aqsa Intifada in 2000 he was able to maintain this routine for awhile, but the expanding number of travel restrictions like road blocks (which we experienced again yesterday, unannounced, unexplained, unrelated to security, as is usual) and checkpoint mushroomed until he could no longer maintain this regime.

Checkpoint, Hebron, 2008 c. photo by Skip Schiel

Examining for explosive belts, Harawwa, West Bank, 2007

He then, giving up his journalist job, lived exclusively in Qira and worked in freelance journalism. His daughter Lina was born during the first year of the Second Intifada, 2002. To get his wife to the hospital in Nablus, they had to arrange multiple ambulances and drop-offs, which meant she’d need to walk from one ambulance to the next, pregnant and about to deliver (this all a precedent for her later harried trip with an ill Lina to the hospital 6 or so years later, another story—Fareed said both stories are online, I’ll search for them.) To support his wife during Lina’s birth, he walked thru the mountains, in the rain, I believe at night, to be with her in the Nablus hospital. That story sets the stage for the later one, equally telling and dramatic, about Lina’s kidney transplant. He calls this the most terrifying period of his life.

Explaining his love of farming, he considers himself primarily a farmer and activist, or an activist farmer. He uses farming politically, as in his story about the local watermelons. His mother was his guide, silent (Holy Silence). That is, she never verbally instructed the young Fareed, simply worked with him in silence. She felt silence was most appropriate while in the field with the plants, a holy moment. Even tho now with his kids who are all very conversant with farming, knowing plants, etc, they talk while they work. He suggested that after I’ve finished with my refugee project I return to photograph farming. He promised me many contacts. This I will consider, tho not at this point seriously—since I can not imagine the end of this Ongoing Nakba photo project. Too much to do, too little time remaining. To entice me, he reminded me how observable the topic is—plants, water, weather, earth, people, planting, cultivating, harvesting, selling, eating. Appealing altho not yet compelling.

Farm in the Jordan Valley, photo by Fareed Taamallah

He also expressed a wish to tour the United States and give talks about activist farming. He has contacts in Europe and has apparently previously given talks in some European countries, but the USA would be a new audience. I promised to help, requesting first a synopsis of his background, mission, and themes he’d deal with. I mentioned the American Friends Service Committee and Tree of Life as 2 possible organizations that could work with him. Also Jewish Voice for Peace but they tend not to sponsor speakers, unless directly related to their organization, like Brant Rosen on his book tour.

Of course, traveling between the West Bank and the United States, requiring exit and reentry permission from the Israeli and the United States governments—the U.S. now not overly friendly to Palestinians (and most people from Arab-Muslim regions)—can be daunting. Same for traveling locally, meaning to the city of his father’s birth, Haifa. Israeli blocks him from entering Israel, as it does most Palestinians in the occupied territories. Paradoxical because Andrew Haddad, who I’ve also profiled in this blog, a Christian Palestinian Israeli living in Haifa, can visit Ramallah to visit family.

For all this I paid, as agreed, $150 or 600 shekels for a full day’s work. Three interviews plus the day with my good friend Fareed.

Skip Schiel and Fareed, 2019

Witnessed in May 1950 by a woman in a kibbutz in the south as Israeli soldiers unloaded Palestinian refugees from trucks at a camp, quoted in Benny Morris’ 1993 book, Israel’s Border Wars: 1949-1956. (Incidentally, Israel may have by now excised these original documents from its archives.):

We were waiting for a hitch beside one of the big army camps… Suddenly two large trucks arrived, packed with blindfolded Arabs (men, women, and children). Several of the soldiers guarding them got down to drink and eat a little, while the rest stayed on guard. To our question ‘Who are these Arabs?’ they responded: ‘These are infiltrators, on their way to being returned over the borders.’ The way the Arabs were crowded together [on the trucks] was inhuman. Then one of the soldiers called his friend ‘the expert’ to make some order [among the Arabs]. Those of us standing nearby had witnessed no bad behavior on the part of the Arabs, who sat frightened, almost one on top of the other. But the soldiers were quick to teach us what they meant by ‘order. The ‘expert’ jumped up and began to…hit [the Arabs] across their blindfolded eyes and when he had finished, he stamped on all of them and then, in the end, laughed uproariously and with satisfaction at his heroism. We were shocked by this despicable act. I ask, does this not remind us exactly of the Nazi acts towards the Jews? And who is responsible for such acts of brutality committed time and time again by our soldiers?


I consider Fareed, the activist farmer, a visionary. As well as anyone in the West Bank, he understands climate crisis impacts on Palestinian agriculture and here makes recommendations to address the problem.

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From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. (With major assistance from Fareed Taamallah, my colleague in Ramallah)


We shall have to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.

—Theodor Herzl, Diaries

June 23, 2019, Monday, Ramallah, Occupied West Bank

Trying to recall significant details about the 3 people Fareed and I met last Thursday [June 19, 2019] proved futile. Even with the aid of the photos and the few notes—names, places, and dates, mostly—I couldn’t recall much of significance. Partly this is because interviewing 3 in a row without breaks to record merges those individuals. They all mix together. Who had lived in a village near Jews but had no interaction? Who lived near Jews and had lots of interaction? Who had the father who returned to retrieve property? Etc. So far Fareed wrote that he doesn’t have time to write speaker notes from his notes. He’ll save the notes if I have questions later.

Khadija Mohammad Al-Azza (Um Ghazi) in the Amari refugee camp

I considered asking him to photograph the notes and send me the photos, for possible later translation, but he might have scribbled so that anyone trying to decipher the notes may not be able. Luckily, I have the audio recording with his periodic translations, so, when needed, I can refer to that. All I need at this early point in developing the series is a few brief quotes, not a summary, but a few dramatic and distinctive details. Bits of stories.

Had I asked the questions rather than he I might have better recall. While he interviewed one person I spoke casually with her daughter, that beauty who I failed to photograph well (blurry). I heard her story clearly and was able to record her stories in my speaker notes. About her wish to move out of the Amari refugee camp and how dangerous playing is for the kids. By the way, I asked about the Amari Play Center, once connected with Friends (Quakers), either the Ramallah Friends School or Ramallah Friends Meeting or both. An old woman ran it, Rosi Greenberg organized a mural-making project. I recall it well. What became of it and the center? I could ask at the school or search my website.

Otherwise I believe I made a decent set of photos.

Fareed asked for photos of himself with the people, which I provided yesterday, in color and black and white, unsure which he’d prefer, and also curious about how they’d look in black and white. I began new collections with these sample photos. (And sent the zip file to Minga a few minutes ago with an invite to swim and bike when I return home, spurred by the recent news that the Charles River annual swim was at first postponed and then finally cancelled because of heavy rains—which can pollute the river, an indicator both of the climate so far this summer in New England and the vulnerability of the river to pollution.)

Fareed with Khadija Mohammad Al-Azza (Um Ghazi) in the Amari refugee camp

June 30, 2019, Sunday, Old City of Jerusalem, Palestine-Israel

Yesterday [June 29, 2019] with Fareed was my final day photographing Nakba survivors; tomorrow with a rented car I begin phase two, find their original sites, Arab villages destroyed by Israel in 1948, and make landscape photos that connect with the portraits. We were in Tulkarm, near the sea, thus flatter, warmer, and much more humid. During the second of 3 interviews, I became drowsy and nearly fell asleep. This loquacious guy, the man we interviewed—Fareed told me later—extended stories past their breaking points. He also insisted on elaborating contexts rather than specifying experiences or stories.

As I mentioned to Fareed later in reviewing our work, when he delays translations I tend to lose interest. The session becomes boring to me. I’ve run out of photographic ideas and struggle to maintain my concentration. I only snapped back when I thought of 3 questions to add to the interview: one was about mode of transport, how people moved themselves and belongings; another I’ve forgotten; and the third, one I’ve never asked before, motivated by a statement someone made to me at lunch during the war and law conference held in Israel Jerusalem, was, would you like to move out of the camp, and if so, why don’t you?

The obvious answer is expense. Land is very expensive, even in Tulkarm which seems not a highly desirable area (unlike Jerusalem and Ramallah, more like Jenin). In my answer, I mentioned outside pressures and governmental restrictions, which might corroborate what the Israeli asking me the question assumed: that the Palestinian Authority forces people to live in the camps to make a political point.  Fareed and I discussed this at length later. The man we interviewed of course would deny governmental pressure. Fareed told me he rephrased the question to our sitter so it would not appear political. He explained that had he asked it straight, does anyone force you to live in the camp, the man would automatically say no because even if someone did force him, he would be at risk politically if he admitted it.

(Later, asking Fareed to clarify this question of political influence, he wrote: “I don’t think that the Palestinian Authority forces people to stay at the camp, most likely the poor people stay at the camp because they can’t afford buying an apartment in the city, while the middle class and rich people move without any problem.”)

The other question might have been about his political activity, in the form of, did you resist the occupation? He said he had, experienced many years in prisons, as had his sons. When I asked specifically what did you do to resist, he said, I worked for Fatah. Fareed explained later that activists cannot be more specific without risking Israel learning about them. So I gather that even tho he’d been punished and was now a very old man, in his 80s, full admission would put him at risk by the Israelis.

Fareed’s father with his grandson, Mohammad
Fareed’s home in the village of Qira, Occupied West Bank—the huge settlement of Ariel in the background

I’ll save further details about the people for my speaker notes. Fareed promised to send me names of people and places by the end of today, and I promised to send him photos of him with the people. We visited 2 refugee camps in Tulkarm, looking much like the other camps—building up, narrow streets, many people, a smattering of shops. The main difference might be the weather.

Fareed told me he’d written on Facebook about another person we’d interviewed and photographed. I should compile his posts, even tho he writes in Arabic. The automatic translation feature might bring back details I’d overlooked. He is surely invested in this project. I think of the first man I interviewed for my coordinator “position,” Mohammed who I’d met outside the Ramallah Friends Meeting and briefly considered working with. Among other benefits Fareed brings to the project—besides expertise, knowledge, investment—he is affable, trustworthy, gregarious, genuine. And he exudes this with people we meet, our local guides and the people we interview and photograph. Whereas all of my previous assistants, such as Mousa, Murad, Ayed, Meras, knew the people we met and thus had already established trust, in most cases with Fareed we had to develop trust instantaneously.


Facebook page of Fareed Taamallah

Water in Salfit, sewage from Israeli settlements—my blog in part about Fareed as he guided a small group of us investigators/activists in 2007

Palestinian refugees and the right of return (American Friends Service Committee)
Approximately 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and became refugees as a result of the 1948 war which led to the founding of Israel. None of these displaced persons were ever allowed to return to the homes or communities from which they were displaced and the Palestinian refugee population has continued to grow in the time that has passed since 1948….

Palestinian Refugees (contrary view by the Anti-Defamation League)
The Palestinian refugee issue originated in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, when five Arab armies invaded the State of Israel just hours after it was established. During the ensuing war, as many as 750,000 Palestinian Arabs fled their homes in the newly created state as a result of many factors….

Israel’s ‘Independence’ Day, by Ramy Tadros (1995)

To be continued

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From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. (With major assistance from Fareed Taamallah, my colleague in Ramallah)

From Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz

The need to tell our story to “the rest”, to make “the rest” participate in it, had taken on for us, before our liberation and after, the character of an immediate and violent impulse, to the point of competing with our other elementary needs. The book has been written to satisfy this need: first and foremost, therefore, as an interior liberation (SA, 5-6).

(His recurring dream while in Auschwitz:)

This is my sister and some unidentifiable friends and many other people. They are all listening to me and it is this very story that I am telling… I also speak diffusely of our hunger and of the lice-control, and of the Kapo who hit me on the nose then sent me to wash myself as I was bleeding. It is an intense pleasure, physical, inexpressible, to be at home, among friendly people, and to have so many things to recount: but I cannot help noticing that my listeners do not follow me. In fact, they are completely indifferent: they speak confusedly of other things among themselves, as if I was not there… My dream stands in front of me, still warm, and although awake I am still full of its anguish: and then I remember that it is not a haphazard dream, but that I have dreamed it not once but many times since I arrived here… and I remember that I have recounted it to Alberto and that he confided to me, to my amazement, that it is also his dream and the dream of many others, perhaps of everyone. (SA, 53-54)

“The Anti-linguistic Nature of the Lager in the Language of Primo Levi’s
Se questo è un uomo”, by Fabio Girelli-Carasi


June 21, 2019, Friday, Palestine-Israel

Yesterday [June 20, 2019] Fareed did much more than translate: he took over the task of interviewing, leaving me the duties of photographer and audio engineer (my audio skills have improved markedly since the year before.). Our modus operandi was to run thru the questions together before we met the person, agree that Fareed would ask most of a set of questions that I’ve been using and that are obvious, beginning with name, village, how old during Nakba, the Nakba itself, where to, when, and how, any return visits, family transmission of stories, and sometimes current health and whether it is affected by the Nakba experience and the question of burial in the village.


Shaker Issa Odeh (Abu Maher) with his son, in his son’s home in Ramallah—Fareed Taamallah on the left,  FaceBooketeer who lives in Ramallah

I’d throw in follow up questions, Fareed as well. He’d interrupt the speaker to translate for me, sometimes letting the speaker continue if he felt the speaker wished not to be interrupted. He took notes. I watched for emotional displays by our sitters. Earlier, I’d studied and, when possible, altered the lighting and placement of people, aware of the background. We’ve not discussed what to do with Fareed’s notes but I’ll suggest he provide me simple notes, key points, not a fully written account. He reminded me that he once worked as a journalist; he certainly has the skills and impulses. I believe he is also definitively committed to this project, feels it deeply, which is crucial. He needs to sell the project to the person and family, i.e., persuade them about my goodwill and authenticity, that I won’t exploit them. Persuasion can be a chore, as happened during the last of the 3 interviews yesterday. A son was skeptical, asked to see examples. I’d forgotten to bring my prints from portrait sessions the year before. So I struggled with my website, finally got one image to display. This seemed to convince him.

Later, Fareed confided that he thought all the interviews the day before went very well, but he didn’t like this last son [who does not appear in any of my photos]. He felt the son had prejudged the project and me when he learned I was from the States. Unlike working with Ayed, Murad, and Mousa, some of my other Palestinian colleagues (Mousa is now touring New Zealand or Australia and another country presumably with his videos and photos), yesterday (possibly on other days) Fareed didn’t know the people. He relies on friends of friends. Yesterday at Amari refugee camp (because the contact had turned off his phone and we couldn’t reach him, infuriating Fareed), we began at a sports club. (The manager of the Educational Bookshop in Jerusalem had suggested asking at sports clubs in refugee camps for participants.) Little by little, Fareed made connections and we found the old woman and her adult children, resulting in a very lively interview.


Khadija Mohammad Al-Azza (Um Ghazi) with Fareed Taamallah, who has published or will her interview on his Facebook page

Soon I intend to cruise thru the multitude of photos I made yesterday, write speaker notes, and ask Fareed for his notes. We meet again on Sunday afternoon for Kalandia refugee camp.

Yesterday at 2:30 pm I met Fareed at the Ramallah Friends School upper camp, expecting to work together until about 9 pm in the evening, including a visit to his home in Ramallah for dinner. Getting to know Fareed better is one of the chief blessings of this trip. Also meeting his family again, including his son studying civil engineering at Birzeit University. His daughter, Lina, is tall and beautiful and shy; she has recently graduated from high school. Her story illustrates the occupation perfectly:  less than one-year-old, kidney problems from the cistern water which had become polluted and they had no other water, potential kidney failure, mother at night in the rain races to reach the hospital in Ramallah, circumvents the checkpoints, carries Lina for an exam.

Lina needs a transplant, mother offers but not compatible, father offers but his kidney too big for the child. He spreads the word, Anna, an activist Brit living in South Africa offers, problems getting Lina to an Israeli hospital (no facilities in Palestine), problems getting Anna into Israel (because of her activist history), finally succeed, the transplant, Lina lives with Anna’s kidney, and so far as not met Anna (because Anna is banned from entry to Palestine).

I believe I met Fareed thru this story, told me by Hannah Mermelstein, a friend of his—as an activist, journalist, activist farmer, and good person, he has many friends worldwide. As he reiterated parts of Lina’s story, we considered the possible effects if the story had ended tragically. Still, I argued, it would be a useful story to tell: the consequences of the occupation. We also debated the value of storytelling, agreeing that some people with their Nakba stories find the storytelling too painful and might resist doing it. While others, I believe most, find the telling healing and cathartic, as I hope is true for people we interview and photograph. I quoted Primo Levy in Survival at Auschwitz, in short: a recurring nightmare of many prisoners was to find themselves released, yet no one wanted to hear their stories. With the refugees, I do not get this sense of either not wishing to talk or others not wishing to hear. Many times other family members and people outside the family sit in on our interview.

I mentioned to Fareed that 2 nights previously Ayed, another colleague, had toured us thru Aida refugee camp where Ayed lives, because Steve (who I worked with on the Alternatives to Violence Project) hoped to visit a camp. Steve confided to me that his image of present-day Palestinian refugee camp was tents. As might be true for many, who are perhaps influenced by contemporary imagery from Africa and parts of the Mideast or have just not updated their information about Palestine.

Riding back in Fareed’s car, I shared a possibly sinister thought about the right of return: since a fairly high proportion of survivors expressed to us a wish to be buried in their original villages, how about a limited right of return?—their corpses. Fareed winced at this, and pointed out (as someone had earlier that Israelis might vandalize the burials) that this might represent defeat of the right of return. How so? I asked. By suggesting that the only way Palestinians can return is as a corpse.


Fareed and me

During the entire interview sessions, I suffered from a sore eye and a bloated, gassy feeling. Was I about to shit mush? Would my eye become worse? These thoughts distracted me. Extraneous thoughts often distract me. I rarely experience single stream, serial thinking. Nearly impossible to concentrate on the photography while also listening to sitters and Fareed and attending to the audio recorder. Would be much better to expand our field team from 2 to about 5, all proficient in their roles.

Thirty-five years ago, in the pages of the Journal of Palestine Studies, Edward Said made a surprising admission about the limits of fact-based evidence to change world opinion in the conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians. Despite withering criticisms of Israeli atrocities during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon documented in the 1982 MacBride report of international jurists, and the detailed descriptions of the unremitting abuses committed by the Israeli military in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) in works such as Noam Chomsky’s Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, Said reasoned that such “objective” presentations of Israeli criminality invariably failed to convince the public of Israel’s moral turpitude. Probing how Israel had largely escaped international condemnation alongside its success in depicting itself as the beleaguered victim of implacable Palestinian aggression, Said concluded that Palestinians had to frame the conflict in a discourse different than that of fact-based positivism. For Said, such a project had to reside in an epistemological break that would redirect representations of the conflict away from a detached empiricism and toward the virtues of national culture and national historical narration. Two years later, Said himself hinted at what this impulse might entail. In After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives, Said pondered how, “for all the writing about them, the Palestinians remain virtually unknown” and used this observation as a prelude for his narration of arresting images of Palestinians captured by photographer Jean Mohr. In this way, Said concedes to the camera a role in rendering the Palestinians visible while crafting a narrative of the Palestinian encounter with Zionism in a new language.

—Lockdown: Gaza through a Camera Lens and Historical Mirror, by Gary Fields (May 2020)




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From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. (With major assistance from Fareed Taamallah, my colleague in Ramallah)

We have returned, Young and Powerful
We have returned, We the Mighty
To conquer our Homeland, In a storm of War,
To redeem our land, with a lofty hand,
With blood and fire, Judea fell
With blood and fire, Judea shall rise

—A song sung by a radical political party in Israel, The Zealots, in the 1930s, and published by Uri Avnery, in his magazine, Ha Olam Hazeh, February 5, 1975



Shaker Issa Odeh was born in 1933 in Al-Malha, a village to the west of Jerusalem. It is bordered by Beit Safafa, al-Katamon, Ein Karem, alJoura, Lifta, Diryasin, and Beit Jala. Most of the villagers were farmers who planted vegetables and fruits. Some of them were laborers working in quarries and stone carving manufacture. The village contained five main clans and was headed by sheik Abdul Fattah Darwish. Al-Malha (means salty) was named after the water spring in the village that contains salty water. The people of the village were all Arabs and no Jews lived there before 1948. Near Almalha, Jews established the settlement of Sharafat, and headed by a man named Sofer. People heard about the massacre of Deir Yassin and were afraid of murder and rape. Some villagers wanted to defend their home and participated in battles that took place in the vicinity, such as in Qastal and Qatmoun.

It was the fasting month of Ramadan (July) when the Jews attacked Al-Malha. People of the village decided to fight, and there were some rebels “Mujahideen” in the village with a few old Egyptian rifles. Each one had only 5 bullets, most of them unusable. Bullets were extremely expensive, half a Palestinian pound for 5 bullets. With their modest rifles, villagers tried to defend the village but could not withstand the Jewish militia. On that day in the month of Ramadan, when the attack was heavy on the village from the western side, men of the village asked women and children to leave temporarily to nearby Beit Jala for protection. At night, the Jewish gangs violently attacked the village and expelled the rest of the inhabitants who had remained. At least three people from the village were martyred. That night, the village was occupied, and men were forced to follow their families who had gone to nearby Beit Jala the previous morning.

Shaker said: “on that day, my father asked my sisters and my mother to move temporarily to Beit Jala. I followed them later in the afternoon walking alone to Beit Jala. We rented a room temporarily. During that night, my father came to Beit Jala, after Zionists occupied had Al-Malha. Then we moved from Beit Jala to Bethlehem where the Egyptian army accommodated refugees in a building named Binny which had been previously a prison for women. 25 refugee families from Ein Kerem, Lifta, Diryasin and Almalha lived in the building. We lived there for 1 year, after which we moved to Ras al-Amud in Jerusalem and then moved to al-Bireh and Ramallah.


After 1967, Abu Maher visited Al-Malha village for the first time and found it not destroyed. The houses were there, and Jews from Iraq and Tunisia lived in them. He found that the village mosque had been turned into a bar. Although Shaker holds a Jerusalem ID card and lives in Jerusalem, he is not allowed to return to live in his hometown, simply because he is a Palestinian. Ironically, when he became elderly, he returned once to Almalha, stayed for several days, and watched the sunset and sunrise in his old village. Those were among his best days when he had been admitted to an Israeli hospital built on his village’s lands.


With his son, in his son’s home in Ramallah—Fareed Taamallah on the left, my colleague, journalist, activist farmer, and FaceBooketeer who lives in Ramallah


Fareed’s son in the darkest shirt, with his son’s friend



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From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. (With major assistance from Fareed Taamallah, my colleague in Ramallah)


As Israel prepares to extend its rightful sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), we bear a historic – and moral – responsibility to accurately call this event what it is: reunification. Israel is reuniting families, communities, and the Jewish people. It is reuniting with its history, which stretches back thousands of years. It is reunifying the traditions and culture that have survived and even thrived through adversity, animosity, and the horrors of countless wars….

It’s not ‘annexation’; it’s reunification, By Gerard Filitti, in The Times of Israel (June 28, 2020)


Khadija Alazza (Um Ghazi) was born in 1932 in a small village between the flat land of the coastal plain and the mountains to the east, which she described as a paradise. “We lived the best of life; we planted wheat, barley, corn, sesame, tomato and okra, in addition to olives, apples, figs, cactus and almonds, and we were self-sufficient.”

The village of Tal Essafi is located on a hill between Hebron and Ramleh, bordered by the villages of Ajoor, Dirdaban, Moghlis and Berkusia. Moreover, Jews built a kibbutz named Kfar Menachem on Palestinian land between Tal Essafi and Masmiyi. At the edge of the village, there was a water storage shed where water pumped from the well was stored in the water tanks. Khadija’s father owned much land, and plowmen and harvesters worked with him. She was not required to work in farming, and so was spoiled.


Tal Essafi, 2013. photo by Liadmalone

800px-Cafit033-2010 from mound.jpg

Tal Assif, 2010, from the mound looking east, photo from the internet

Tell es-Safi-2.png


The Jewish gangs, especially the Haganah [one of the precursors of the Israeli army], began to attack the Palestinian villages after they had conquered cities. Agrarian people heard about the massacre of Deir Yassin and were frightened. Jewish gangs displaced Arabs from one village to another. “It was midsummer and the people had already harvested; they had laid down the piles of wheat to be threshed. Some Palestinians resisted the gangs but had only a few old guns. They were not able to respond to the large attacks by Jewish gangs. Khadija says: “The gangs surrounded the village from the west side and left the eastern side open, and killed a number of people of the village. Our fighters withdrew, and we fled to the nearby village of Ajoor, walking on foot and without carrying anything with us. After a day and a night of walking we arrived in Ajoor.”


Khadija spent three days with her family in Ajoor. “The people of Ajoor kindly received us; they fed and accommodated us in their homes.” Then the Zionist gangs attacked Ajoor, and the people again fled to the east, this time to the village of Beit Jibrin, which is located in a high area. People walked two days without water. They stayed in Beit Jibrin 3-4 months, and then Jewish gangs started attacking Beit Jibrin. There was strong resistance which lasted for three days. “They bombarded the town with artillery and warplanes, and people fled into the caves in mountains. The gangs entered the town from the west, and we again fled east. We walked for 3 days, and we passed through the village of Ithtna and slept there for a night. We continued 2 days more walking until we arrived in Hebron.”


Ajoor/Ajjur, 2019, photo by Skip Schiel

“We sat under the vineyards for twenty days, and there were lots of displaced people. A friend of my father from Hebron named Haj Osman al-Hamour, was looking for us, took us to his house, and we lived all summer and winter in his house. There was much snow that year.

“Due to cold weather, the Jordanian army came and took the people to the mosques. Some people went to the caves, and when the snow came down, they died there.

“We spent a year and a half in Hebron, during which my brothers were ‘infiltrating’ into the ‘occupied land,’ that is, into our own village, to bring food, wheat, and money from our house in Tal Essafi. My father did not like what my brothers did, and decided to go down to Jericho to prevent his children from infiltrating. We had settled in Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho and my brothers worked in the citrus fields because they were good farmers.

Jericho_6298 2004 SM

Refugee camp, Jericho, 2005, photo by Skip Schiel


Jericho, 2015

“I married Mahmud Sharqawi, a refugee from Kafr Ana, and we moved to the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. After the 1967 war, my parents and siblings were displaced to Jordan, while I stayed in the West Bank. In 1975, my husband died, and I remained with my children and daughters in the Amari camp.


After the setback of the 1967 war, Khadija went to Tal El Safi several times with her children—the last of which was in 1998—and found the village completely destroyed. On the ruins were some fig trees and cactus. Part of the mosque was still standing. Um Ghazi lives now with her children in the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah and visits her siblings in Jordan from time to time because they are forbidden by Israel to return or visit Palestine. Um Ghazi bemoans the homeland and her life there. She remembers the pile of wheat which remained un-threshed. She wishes the time will come when she can die and be buried in her hometown.

Cafit030.jpgArcheological site of Gath, in Arabic Tal Essafi, photo from Wikipedia


With Fareed Taamallah, my colleague, from Ramallah


Khadija Alazza bemoans the pile of wheat, which remained un-threshed, (from which I draw this blog), by Fareed Taamallah (2019)

Lost land: Nakba survivors recall rural struggle in Mandate-era Palestine, also by Fareed Taamallah (2020)

Tell es-Safi

Ibriq (Community)

Palestine Film Institute


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From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. (With major assistance from Fareed Taamallah, my colleague in Ramallah)


Neama Zaid

…refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible; Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations…

—UN General Assembly, adopted Dec 11, 1948, 35 for, 15 against, 8 abstained



1880 Palestine Exploration Fund (click map for enlargement)

Notes from our interview.

She lives alone in a large house in the Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah.

She was 10 years old in 1948 when Israel forcibly expelled her and her family from Beit Nabala.

She recalls many details of her life in the village

Beit Nabala was a prosperous, agricultural, self-sufficient village.

Her grandfather owned a quarry. He partnered with Jewish people but during the Nakba lost the business; she doesn’t know what happened.

The Jews from nearby Tel Aviv spoke Arabic.

Villagers west of Beit Nabala fled earlier, her village was one of the last to flee toward the east. Rushed and frantic, her mother accidentally brought salt instead of flour.

Her family fled first to Budrus and then Ramallah.

The British supported the Jews; she believed they plot against the Arabs. The British caused or facilitated or allowed the Nakba.

Arabs had no weapons; the British would execute Arabs with weapons. “The Jewish” as many Palestinians call the Jewish militia and military bombed the village. Jews came from mountains, and the Arabs fled to other mountains.

Later, post-Nakba, Jordan stationed its army on the “truce line” (Green Line?), as if an agreement to stop Arabs from returning to their homes.

Budrus residents fled to Ramallah, and then were told to return; thus, her father expected to return to Beit Nabala, but her mother realized they wouldn’t return. (This during 1948-1951)

Why did she settle in Jalazone?

No jobs in the refugee villages; some jobs in Jordan.

She married, stayed with (friends or family?), and had 5 boys and 3 girls. Some of her children live in nearby villages, her sister in Jalazone. She travels to visit kids and siblings mostly in Jordan, some live in Jalazone. Some of her family live in Jordan and can’t come into Palestine, but she can go there.

(At the end of our interview) she sang for us a sad song about her village, as had another woman we met. And made us coffee.


‘Raining Bullets on Beit Nabala’ – Beit Nabala, Ramle district (VIDEO FROM BADIL-2013)
Miriam Backer was 15 years old when Beit Nabala came under sustained Zionist military assault and was eventually entirely depopulated in 1948. Her memories of those days are still very vivid but also very painful. Fleeing whilst cradling her newborn baby daughter in her arms, Miriam remembers the ‘bullets raining down’ on the village and her fellow villagers who never lived to tell their stories.

For the first time in 70 years, Palestinians return to their villages [including Beit Nabala], by Shatha Hammad (2018)
To commemorate Land Day, group of Palestinian refugees returned to the villages they were expelled from in 1948.

The return to Bait Nabala by former residents—video by Zochrot (2016)-below

Beit Nabala (Zochrot)

Beit Nabala (Palestine Remembered)

society Palestine جمعية بيت نبالا-فلسطين/beit nabala society palestine

Also from Beit Nabala, Fatima Nakhli (Um Yousef)

Memories of Nakba from those who survived it, a review of the book Palestine is our Home, edited by Nahida Halaby Gordon, published in 2016, reviewed by Rod Such (2017)

Israel, annexation and the West Bank explained, BBC (June 16, 20200
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is planning to effectively annex parts of the occupied West Bank in what would be a major – and highly controversial – act.

Minnesota police trained by Israeli police, who often use knee-on-neck restraint (June 2020)


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From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. And as in this case, people expelled during the Nakba who’ve found ways to resist and remain in Israel as citizens. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. Intending to return to the region this spring, I’ve decided, because of the coronavirus crisis, to postpone my next visit until fall, 2020, assuming widespread travel can resume.

Interviewed and photographed on July 2, 2019 and interpretation written in April and May 2020. (The immediate threat of Coronavirus infection has eased in Israel and Palestine, so Andrew has been able to reopen his guesthouse, his only source of income. But as of this writing, he has no guests.) This is part four. (Revised with new photos on June 2, 2020)

Flowers are appearing on the earth, The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance. Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.

—The Song of Songs 2:12,13


Family and Identity


Andrew’s grandfather, Andrew Haddad, the first, a policeman during the British Mandate period—born in 1903, posted at Tulkarm

ANDREW: The grandfather of my wife actually is British. He was here during the Mandate period between the two wars. And he was some kind of officer. I don’t know. We have no idea about him.

SKIP: Your wife’s grandfather?

Yes. So he just disappeared. We don’t know if he was killed or he just left his daughter, my wife’s mother, in some monastery and he went back. We don’t know. We only know his first name and his family name and maybe his rank. He was a British soldier, major or something like that. And his full name is Alfred Williams. So you know, we have roots also in Britain.

Could you outline more of your wife’s story regarding immigration and travel?

My wife’s story. Her father is from a small village in the Galilee named Jish or Gush Halav in Hebrew. Very near the Lebanese border. They are from a Maronite church. Her father passed away a few years ago. He was a worker, a builder. Her mom was the only person from her family that she knew about. Her father was British and her mom was a German Jew. They had a gene test and they found out that 25 percent of her family is Ashkenazi Jewish.


Location of the village of Jish (Click here for enlarged map)

Your children?

Actually, not my children. My children did not have their genes tested. It was their second or third cousins. They have the same genes. And [Andrew’s wife’s mother] was left in a monastery to be taken care of when she was 4 or 5 years old. And her father didn’t show up and her mother never showed up. So she was an orphan, actually, for most of her life. She refused to dig into her history. We could not convince her to try to find out about her family. She thinks that it will open a lot of wounds and she refused.

She stayed in the monastery until she married. Lived in a monastery until she met somebody. They had seven kids. Large family. I think that she had a lot of kids because she didn’t want to be alone. [Other than her immediate family] she has no family, no sisters and brothers, no aunts and uncles, nothing. She has nothing. The nuns that raised her are her family.

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Andrew’s wife’s grandmother, Jean Mary Nigem (originally Barbara Williams)

And she feels like she is an Arab. I think that the nuns were aware of her being left alone and maybe they thought that being raised as an Arab will give her more chances to be involved in the community. Still, she is a Christian and most Christians are Arab in this land. On the other hand, Arab is not a genetic issue, it is language, costumes, food, and habits. I believe she learned all of that and she sums up the story of a lot of nations that adopted Arab culture and became Arab. She speaks French because she was raised in a French monastery, St Joseph in Haifa. Later the monastery moved to the nearby town of Isfiya.

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The monastery of St Joseph in Isfiya, now part of Rambam Medical Center

She feels more Christian than Arab; I can understand that.

You identify as Christian. What does that mean?

First of all, I’m a human being. OK. But a lot of tags are put on us.

Part of our identification is where I am from and my family name. My religion or faith. So the basic and fundamental thing is being a human being. We could not be anything else if we are not a human being. Sometimes we make a lot of problems for our humanity. That’s another issue. But I’m a human being. I am an Arab, a Palestinian by sector. By faith I belong to the class of Christianity, slash Catholicism, from Haifa, an Israeli citizen.

So you go to church?

I’m not practicing so much.

OK. Do you believe in the supernatural?

Yeah. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t mean that I believe with the blind or covered eyes. No, I am a big questioner. I ask a lot. Listen, we are not going to discuss about religion because it is something very private. So discussion about religion that means you get to the private zone.

Like sex. (laughs)


And money.


I won’t ask you how much you earn every year or how’s your sex life. (more laughter)

Why should you need to know that?

That’s not relevant.

Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, exactly.

Andrew's wife and her grandma SM

Andrew’s wife (second from right) and her family with her mother in the middle.

I know you’re limited in time, but I wonder if you have about ten more minutes to help me find two villages that are near here. And if you are willing, I have to get my computer from the car so I get the names right.

Yeah. Okay. So let’s meet in my place [guesthouse office].


Okay. That would be easier for you.

Let me pay for the breakfast.

(And off we went to search for—using maps and his extensive knowledge of the region—destroyed Arab village sites that I needed to find for my Nakba work.)

(Unofficial translation by Dr. Susan Hattis Rolef)
Basic Principles
1. (a) The Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.
(b) The State of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish People, in which it realizes its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.
(c) The exercise of the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People….

NEXT: More Nakba survivors



Bayan logo.png
The Arabs in Israel—Bayan (2017)
Bayan is a quarterly review of Arab society in Israel, published by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University


Adalah—The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel


Assoc Human Rights Israel SM.jpg
Association for Civil Rights in Israel


Visualizing Palestine.png


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From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. And as in this case, people expelled during the Nakba who’ve found ways to resist and remain in Israel as citizens. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. Intending to return to the region this spring, I’ve decided, because of the coronavirus crisis, to postpone my next visit until fall, 2020, assuming widespread travel can resume.

Interviewed and photographed on July 2, 2019 and interpretation written in April 2020 (Because of the Covid-19 threat, without guests he needed to close his guesthouse, his only source of income.) This is part three.

OCHA Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) COVID-19 Emergency Situation Report 4 (7 – 13 April 2020)

2020 coronavirus pandemic in Israel+


His Royal Highness the Emir Feisal, representing and acting on behalf of the Arab Kingdom of Hejaz, and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, representing and acting on behalf of the Zionist Organization, mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people, and realizing that the surest means of working out the consummation of their national aspirations, is through the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab State and Palestine, and being desirous further of confirming the good understanding which exists between them, have agreed upon the following articles…

Faisal-Weizmann Agreement

Educate to change the mindset—the “DNA”—of Palestinians and Israelis about sharing the land, everyone with equal rights

Listen. If you ask me what is my dream or my vision for solving this problem [of diverse people sharing one land], there is no place for two states between the sea and the river. We know as Palestinians we could not throw out the Jews. That’s a fact of life. And Israelis could not kick out the Palestinians. Also, that’s a fact of life. So there two ways to struggle—fight [using violence] or start thinking differently.

On the lightrail, thru much of Jerusalem, Israelis and Palestinians riding together-IMG_4955.jpg

On the light rail, thru much of Jerusalem, Israelis and Palestinians ride together, 2019

The Israelis tried to dominate for 70 years and they could not succeed because altho they have stubborn heads, we are their cousins. In fact, before that we were brothers, Isaac and Ishmael. We have the same stupid heads. We are stubborn too.

So we can share. We can make one state for two people. And it doesn’t matter who is the ruler. I don’t care if his name is Bibi Netanyahu [former and maybe future prime minister of Israel] or Mahmoud Abbas [president of the State of Palestine and Palestinian National Authority, mainly ruling the West Bank but not Gaza] or anybody else. The state should be a tolerant state. Not ethnic and not religious. It should be a state for all its citizens, period. 

Why isn’t that happening? A lot of people are calling for that.

Because, listen, if you suggest a state for all its citizens to Arabs—local Arabs, Palestinian Arabs here [in Israel] and in the West Bank—what percentage do you think would accept that idea? Ask the Jews or the Israeli Zionists the same question. I am sure that on the Arab side you will find more acceptance for the idea, maybe in two digits, while on the Israeli Jewish side it would be one digit only.

Why? Because Jewish Israelis have the support of the most powerful state in the world. And now your president. So why should they? (Even tho I’m not a capitalist and I’m not against the West, I love to drink Coca Cola and I drive a GM car, but I’ll still against one-sided USA support.)


Andrew pours himself a drink

We have to change the idea, the DNA. How can we change the DNA? Look, not by power, not by force, not by domination. The only way to do that is thru education. Both sides. I’m not blaming the Israelis or that I’m all in favor of the Palestinians. But I believe that it would take time, at least one generation minimum to start to educate in schools.

Teach the Palestinians or the Arabs that they are not only cousins of the Israelis, but brothers. Much closer than cousins. And the same thing to teach the Jews. Everyone has to understand this.


Downtown Hafia, remains of a mosque, 2006, photo by Skip Schiel

The idea would be that the only difference is religion, not any kind of…. So the name of the game is education. We have to stop educating our kids, both sides, about hatred, about difference, about superiority. I’m worth no more than any other Jew in the world. But at the same time, he is not worth more than me.

Do your son and your wife share your views?


How have you educated your son? Because he seems very knowledgeable. [His son recently graduated from university.]

Yes, he is. As I told you, the only weapon we have is education. I told him, listen, you hear whatever you want. You decide whatever you wish. You’ll have to be open to multiple ideas and you have to build up your personality.

An exercise practicing making I statements--When you..., I feel... Ramallah Friends School-DSC_9643

Conflict resolution class, Ramallah Friends School, 2007

You’ll need to know two things. First, you are a human being, and that’s above everything else. You’ll have to treat everybody as a human being. And second, why we are here. The rest is up to you. I never told him to be more Palestinian. That’s up to him. I told him you have to learn, to get an education. That’s the only source of power.

I don’t want to fight anybody. I don’t want to fight [violently]. I read that war doesn’t kill those who are right; it kills those who are left, the survivors. The war will do nothing for the dead [right or wrong]. Any future war will take those who have remained. I don’t want to be with that pain. I don’t want anybody to be hurt.


Mediterranean Sea, near Haifa, 2006, photo by Skip Schiel


But at the same time, I don’t want to be hurt all the time. I want my rights. I want my people back. I don’t understand why Jews won’t accept that idea. If they claimed for 2000 years they were exiled from here and they want to get back to their homeland, if they dreamed about it for 2000 years, how can they ask me to stop dreaming for 70 years? It is just yesterday. We still have people who have their own house keys. They can remember even the names of the street and on which floor they lived.

Ahmad Ali Hawad-IMG_1648.jpg

Ahmad Ali Hawad, originally from the destroyed village of Ellar, now lives in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, Occupied West Bank of Palestine

And you’re talking about a historical issue of 2000 years [Jewish history]. I don’t know if it’s true or not, because it’s actually a biblical thing. It’s not a historical thing.

And I say, OK, if you want to claim that. Then nobody can ask me not to ask for our rights, in particular, the right of return. This has to be for all the Palestinians who want to come back. I think these expelled Palestinians are right. They were forced by power to flee from here and now it’s time to get them back, to make peace between people. They should not be trapped in some foreign places. And they say 22 countries are Arab countries, etc., etc. No, we have one Arab country. We have 22 divided semi countries that the British and French decided about. And we have one homeland. It’s an Arab world.

Arab Israel world map.jpg

You know what? Even the Jews living within them. I have no problem. I don’t care if a Jewish person would live in Ramallah or in Nablus.

How are you treated by Jewish Israelis here [in Haifa]?

Listen, here in Haifa, it’s totally different than in other places. We have to admit that. The people here, the atmosphere here is totally more tolerant than in other places. But still, you can find sometimes that we are second-class citizens.

Could you give an example?

Very easy. Very simple. The anthem says nothing to me. The flag does not belong to me. The law that named itself the national law of Israel. That put me in second degree or third or I don’t know. I’m talking about a civil right. I’m not talking national rights now because I am a citizen. So I have the right to say that.  

Gaza-Boston-Jewish Voice for Peace-5956

2014 (Boston)

Now, if Israel says that Israel is a Jewish and Democratic state, I’m sorry, I’m not a Jew and I don’t want to have any religion, but I am a citizen. How about that? Is it my land? Is it my country? Is it my state or not?

They said that I don’t do all the duties, which duty? What duty do you think that I’m going to fulfill?

The army?

Yeah, but I didn’t choose to not serve in the army. Nobody asked me to serve. You declare that the Arabs can’t serve in the army. So I’m breaking no law. If I’m not breaking any law, the Israelis have no right to take my rights.

Your guesthouse—getting permits, paying taxes. Do you ever experience discrimination?

Guest house 1.png

Haddad Guest House, Haifa, both photos courtesy of Haddad Guest House

Guest house 3 SM .jpg

No. In that case, no. No, because there’s a lot of bureaucracy….

What about your customers, your clientele? Would there be Israeli Jews who come here and hear the name Haddad? “We saw your name, sir. Sorry I don’t want to stay here.”

You never know but I’m on the safe side. You know why? Because that name is also Jewish. A lot of them, they think that I’m an Algerian Jew or Tunisian Jew because it’s a very common name. But I explain to them that I’m an Arab. And the name actually means blacksmith. Yeah. So, you know, I have a British first name so I can change the family name to blacksmith. And I become British.

And your son is Aseem?

 No, Essam.

And that means a proud boy?

Proud and independent.

Yeah. OK. And you’re Andrew.

Yeah. Because of my grandfather. So it’s a heritage thing, you know? And I am the first male born from my father. And he was the first one to his father. So it’s the custom that he named his son after his father. And the same thing is true for my son. And he’s done the same thing for his son. So actually, I have a grandson. His name is Andrew. 

(From the Greek, Andreas, meaning manly, strong, courageous, warrior.)


Haifa, 2013

NEXT: Andrew Haddad—I’m a human being. I am an Arab Palestinian by sector. By faith I am a Christian/Catholic from Haifa, and an Israeli citizen.


Historical Memory Project on Haifa

Coronavirus in Palestine: Ramadan, and the joy that comes with it, could be just what we need (April 21, 2020)

Voices Across the Divide, by Alice Rothchild (2013)
A powerful documentary movie and oral history project by Alice Rothchild & Sharon Mullally exploring the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through rarely heard personal stories—interviews with Nakba and Naksa survivors
Now available for free streaming at Kanopy (thru your local library)

Turning Points in Middle Eastern History, by Eamonn Gearon
A lecture series beginning with Mohamed and the beginning of Islam to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, a useful background to any work about Palestine-Israel
Available thru the streaming service (thru your local library), Kanopy, or for purchase

Read Full Post »

From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. And as in this case, people expelled during the Nakba who’ve found ways to resist and remain in Israel as citizens. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. Intending to return to the region this spring, I’ve decided, because of the coronavirus crisis, to postpone my next visit until fall, 2020, assuming widespread travel can resume.

A special note from Zochrot, responding to the exacerbation of the Ongoing Nakba because of the Coronavirus crisis (shortened message).


Andrew Haddad, working for a new nation

Interviewed and photographed on July 2, 2019 and interpretation written in April 2020 (Because of the Covid-19 threat, without guests, he needed to close his guesthouse, his only source of income.) This is part two.

We think, as Israelis, that Jews and Arabs should live together. Palestinians have rights of self-determination just like we have. We have to fight also for their rights. One of our slogans is “we refuse to be their enemies.”

—Jeff Halper, Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, 2006 AFSC Nobel Peace Prize Nominee


How do you work for that change (for Palestinian Israeli rights thru political action)?

The only way that I can do that by law is to send a representative to the parliament, the Knesset. In that arena we can fight. I don’t want to fight on the street. I don’t want to fight with rifles. I don’t want to kill anybody. I don’t want to throw anybody in the Sea. And I don’t want anybody to feel less than me or more than me.

So that means the political game. That’s why we send our representatives. Most of them are actually in the left-wing of the Israeli policy. The majority of our representatives are Arabs because nobody else feels your pain like people like you.

Other than voting. How are you active in electoral politics?

In what?

In the US we call that electoral politics. Holding signs for example, writing letters, signing petitions going door to door for your candidate. Do you do any of that?

Yes, we do that for our candidates. We try to make some educational campaigns. To make those candidates known. The problem is still we have a lot of people who are afraid of being Palestinians or afraid to say that they are Palestinians. And in that case, they prefer to be silent or in a shadow instead of speaking out. They think that it’s breaking the law. And actually, they are short-minded. Sorry to say that.

We have our own newsletters and newspapers. We have our own nonpolitical organizations. They focus on education. Sometimes we make some demonstrations. They do not reach the level they should. You have to understand, this is not the United States. It’s not Canada. When you’re talking about demonstration of Arabs, that means it’s [understood as] anti-Israeli always. Not a civil action. That’s what how it’s understood here. Totally different from when you make any strike or any demonstration in the United States against some issue because you are a citizen. You do that because you feel it’s your duty. Here, when we do such a thing, it’s thought to be anti-Israeli. We are talking about our rights to be fulfilled. And people are afraid of that.


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Credit: Ilya Melnikov


Andrew, could you fill out your family tree going back as far as you know. Where did your earliest ancestors live?

The earliest that I can recall is about two hundred plus years ago. They were living in Nazareth, but I know that the root of our family and actually most of the Christian Arab families here in the Middle East, the source—it sounds very unusual—should be here in the Holy Land. This is the land of early Christianity, the land of Jesus Christ.

Because of a lot of factors that happened since that era, like the Crusades, many Christians are not actually from here. So the origin of my family is in the Syria of today. You have to understand, when we say “the Syria of today,” we are talking about political borders, artificial borders, not natural borders. So Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria were all part of Greater Syria. People were moving from one part to another part and they did not feel they were immigrants.

Like if you live in Boston and you moved to Louisiana you’d still to be in the United States; you haven’t changed your status, your identity, only the city or the town or the state where you live. The United States is part of your identity. You are an American. So people, when they moved from part of Syria of today to somewhere that is part of Palestine today, they felt they were moving from the living room to the bedroom or to the kitchen. They were still in their own home. We are not newcomers to this land, we are deeply rooted.

We are part of this land, we stayed here, we have never gone anywhere. So the idea that people came over here from different places and they do not belong here is false.

Our family existed in this land for about between 470 to 500 years.

Greater Syria 3

Greater Syria/Assyrian Empire 617 BCE and 824 BCE (click image to enlarge)

Part of them lived in Haifa—actually Haifa didn’t exist at that time because Haifa is a new city. It’s about 270 years, 260 years old. That’s it. The old one, the historical one, was a small fisherman village, but it was demolished. We are talking about Nazareth and the Galilee. So they stayed in Nazareth and the Galilee. Part of us stayed in Jenin [the West Bank] of today. Also in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Ramallah, Tulkarm, and down to the shore. Jaffa, Lod, and all that area.

Are they all Haddad?

Haddad is actually the second largest Christian family in the Middle East.

Are they still in Jenin?




Because I’m going there today.

Yeah. You can meet my cousin over there. He has a big hotel in Jenin, a large tourist village. Ibrahim Haddad. Yes.

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Haddad Village, Jenin (photo: Haddad Village)

I will try.

You should.

Can you go to Jenin to visit?

Yes, yes. According to the law, no. You know, because an Israeli should not go inside the West Bank. But I’m not sneaking in. I go to the checkpoint and then get in. So I’m not breaking any law. The Israeli troops set the rules. If I’m breaking the law, they should stop me. Right? So I come to the border and I get in. Nobody says anything.


Jalameh checkpoint with the West Bank north of Jenin in the background; the luxurious-looking homes in the upper left are presumably in an Israeli settlement. Click here for my blog entry about crossing this checkpoint.

They don’t check your identification?

Yes, sure, they do.

But they don’t stop you.


And coming back?

Sure. Yeah. They will stop any Jewish because they are afraid that any Jewish person inside might be lynched. But the soldiers know that the West Bank is part of us. People there are my cousins My wife’s brother lives in Ramallah. Should I consider him an enemy? Come on.

And you go to Ramallah?

Sure. I’m invited to a wedding in Ramallah ten days from now. Sure we do. It’s part of us. We feel home. And they come over here always. When I say Palestinian, I leave myself out of this sector. I’m talking about Palestinians from the West Bank.

I mean, the Palestinian Authority Palestinians.

“we have on our land what makes life worth living"-DarwichSM.jpg

We have on our land what makes life worth living. (Mahmoud Darwich)



COVID-19 in times of settler colonialism by Zochrot and Osama Tanous (March 2020)

Baladna, Association for Arab Youth
A developmental and capacity building agency for Arab-Palestinian youth in Israel

Association for the Defence of the Rights of the Internally Displaced (ADRID)
Operating in the 1948 areas among the masses of the displaced

7amleh-The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media

“The last generation”: How occupation is driving Christians out of Palestine, by Peter Oborne (2019)

What It’s Like to Be a Palestinian Journalist, According to an East Jerusalem Editor, by Carolina Landsmann (2016)

Israel Must Choose: Give The Palestinians A State – Or Equality, by Sam Bahour and Tony Klug (2019)

The Chilling Effect among Palestinian Youth in Social Media, by Palestine News Network

What Can South Africa Teach Palestinians: Reflections on our Palestinian youth organizer delegation to Johannesburg, by Palestinian Youth Movement (May 2019)

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From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. And as in this case, people expelled during the Nakba who’ve found ways to resist and remain in Israel as citizens. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. Intending to return to the region this spring, I’ve decided, because of the coronavirus crisis, to postpone my next visit until fall, 2020, assuming widespread travel can resume.


Andrew Haddad, about being Palestinian

Interviewed and photographed on July 2, 2019 and interpretation written in March 2020 (Because of the Covid-19 threat, without guests, he needed to close his guesthouse, his only source of income.) This is part one.

A strange stillness lies over all the mountains and is drawn by hidden threads from within the empty village. An empty village; what a terrible thing! Fossilized lives! Lives turned to fossilized whispers in extinguished ovens, a shattered mirror, moldy blocks of dried figs and a scrawny dog, thin-tailed and floppy-eared and dark-eyed. At the same time–at the very same moment–a different feeling throbs and rises from the primordial depths, a feeling of victory, of taking control, of revenge, and of casting off suffering. You see empty houses, good for the settlement of our Jewish brethren who have wandered for generation upon generation. War! That was our war!

—Josef Weitz, land official of the Jewish National Fund and chairman of the first Transfer Committee, 1948


[Being Palestinian] is about our history and our story. It’s become part of our DNA. We actually suck it with our mother’s milk. We know that. It’s not fake. It’s our truth. We know who we are, why we are here and what happened. Even without anyone telling us, we know our identity, we can smell the air, we can taste the land, and we know the people. We are proud, and we cannot hide our core identity. It’s part of us. And we don’t want to redesign our DNA again. This is who we are and this is what we are and this is what we want to be—Palestinian.

To be Palestinian is not just a title. It’s not just the word. It’s beyond that.

And I think being Palestinian escalated more after the Nakba. If there had been no Nakba I think that we Palestinians would be regular people like everybody else. Like Tanzanians or Louisianans or Germans. It doesn’t matter. The word Palestine or Palestinian became only a title. Now it’s more than that.

I have relatives spread all over the world. All of them fled from here because of the Nakba. Actually, I was supposed to have fled because I’m the first generation after the Nakba.

Some of us fled because of the 1948 war. I was supposed to be a Palestinian refugee, to live in some camp in Syria or Lebanon because my father and my grandfather, they left. I don’t know. But I believe there was no other choice for them but to leave. And they left from Nazareth to Lebanon and then continued to Syria. But eventually they could come back to their homeland, their hometown, Nazareth, before it was captured [by the Israeli army]. So in that case, if the border had already closed, I suppose I would have been born in Syria or somewhere else. But I was born in Nazareth and I am a full Palestinian, born to a Palestinian family within the borders of Israel.

Nazareth mural

Nazareth’s mystery mural as an emblem of Palestinian resistance
The Israeli authorities have painted over a mural dedicated to the 1948 Nakba seven times – but local activists continue to repaint it, writes Gawain Mac Greigair.

And so I become an Israeli. And for a long time, nobody would tell us that we are Palestinians. We were just Arabs or Christians or Muslims or whatever. It took a while because the first generation was mostly afraid to speak out.

I remember as a kid we were told not to speak about politics or other controversial issues because even “the stones would hear.” So it was a type of mind control of our people during that era. And after that, we had no resources. Most of our resources were gone. So the only resource that we still had was our location and our mind.

The first, second and third generations after Nakba became more educated than the first. The only weapons we can control are our education and mind development. We began to understand the issue in a totally different way. So we struggled for our identity and existence. Now we see this country struggling against our will in a lot of the laws controlled by the majority. The last one, The National Law of Israel. What does that mean?


I am Israeli by citizenship, but Israeli citizenship is not part of my identity. Whether I am Christian, Muslim, Arab, Jewish, whatever, Israel has decided to put Jews and Judaism before democracy. Israel says it’s a Jewish democratic state, but it cannot be both democratic and favor Jews. I believe Israel should be a democratic state. Period. No more. No need for any identification more than that. If that were true, I will feel like an Israeli. If I lived in Canada, I’d feel like a Canadian, not an alien.

Let’s go back to 1967 and the Six-Day War when Israel took over the West Bank and Golan Heights. It’s called Naksa or Defeating Day.

Then a lot of Arab youth discovered that they have no hope here. So the Israelis start encouraging Arab youth to lead a better life outside Israel. Actually, my father’s family consists of seven brothers. Four of them, they are in Canada. They left Israel in 1968 and 1970 for a better life. So my family, more than 50 percent of it, is in Canada. Instead of being in their homeland. And that is true for a lot of families and communities here. If you take Beit Jala [part of Bethlehem] as an example in the West Bank, the majority of people originally from Beit Jala now live in Chile, not in Beit Jala. In Chile they actually have a football (soccer) team called Palestino. One of the best football teams in Chile. So we are just regular people, normal people, but we have no normal life here in Israel.

Palestino players.jpg

Why did you stay, not go with your brothers to Canada?

Actually, in the beginning, I thought to go. I made an application and I’m so happy that the Canadian government rejected me because I was poor.

I love this place. I love this land. I’m connected. My roots are here. The political situation here is a problem. But it cannot be like this forever. And that doesn’t mean that I want to demolish Israel, because I have to be careful using that word. But I want to change Israeli politics [to benefit all its] citizens. That’s my right as a citizen and as a law keeper. I’m not breaking the law if I say that I want Israel to be more democratic than it is now. I believe that I’m developing the state to a higher position, not lowering it to be an ethnic state. Now it’s semi-democratic, a Jewish Democratic state for Jews and a Jewish state for Arabs. So I do not understand this idea.



Op-Ed: Israel just dropped the pretense of equality for Palestinian citizens, by Yousef Jabereen (a Palestinian Israeli Knesset member), July 2018

Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People

Palestinian Internally Displaced Persons inside Israel: Challenging the Solid Structures by Nihad Boqa’i

These Jewish and Arab Israelis Are Creating a New Type of Grassroots Activism, by David B. Green (March 12, 2020) 

Still Locked in Conflict, Israelis and Palestinians Need Each Other To Fight COVID-19, by Daniel Estrin (NPR, March 26, 2020)

Welcome to Lockdown: COVID-19 quarantine and the Gaza experience, by Abdalhadi Alijla (March 20, 2020)

Haddad Guest House

The Rise of Palestinian Food by Ligaya Mishan (February 2020)

In Her Footsteps, by Rana Abu Fraiha, a documentary movie made in 2018 about a Palestinian family living in a Jewish Israeli town

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