Monday, September 11, 2006
Sharon and My Mother-In-Law

The internet has bestowed upon us countless benefits for which I am forever grateful…However, the one website that I have a love-hate relationship with will always remain to be ‘Amazon’. Everything one can expect from online shopping is compressed on one little screen. They (the lovely, and simultaneously, devious people behind this ingenious concept) record-against our will-what items we’ve bought or searched for in the past then tell you what other customers that have bought this product also purchased. And of course we ever conforming humans are immediately wooed by this and are immediately drawn in some trance to click the ‘add to basket’ (and add to credit card bill) link. Sceptical I may be of this tactic Amazon frequently employs, I do feel a tad bit grateful for it as they introduced me to Suad Amiry’s memoir of Ramallah ‘Sharon and my mother-in-law’.

A little extract to sell the book quoted ‘Sharon, I may forgive you for the 42 day curfew you imposed upon us in Ramallah, but I’ll never forgive you for leaving my mother in law with me for what seemed like 42 years.’ This definitely was the selling point of the book since it drew parallels with what my recently married sister is facing. When my sister married a Gazan this summer, his mother inevitably travelled to England to attend the wedding with the intention of leaving the following week. Gazans don’t enjoy the advantage of flying to or from Israeli airports and since their airport was demolished, they’re to cross the Gaza-Egypt border. Israel however, has closed this border recently leaving thousands of Gazans waiting at this border for over two months. Thus (the unbearable) mummy in law had no option but to outstay her welcome at my (unfortunate) sister’s new house in compliance with Israel’s commands.

The book however does not focus predominantly on the relationship between the two resisting forces, but rather gives an original humorous perspective on the occupation. Suad is a professor in architecture who was born to Palestinian parents that were forced to leave their homes in Jaffa to live in the neighbouring country of Jordan then later Lebanon. Amiry’s writing style of this memoir is concise, candid and, unconventionally, not poignant; refusing to manipulatively play on her audience’s emotions or seek sympathy. Her encounters with the Israeli occupying force leave us with a fusion of emotions: not knowing whether to envy her resilient nature, laugh at the bizarre situations she falls in or cry in outrage for the inhumane conditions she and many others are forced to live under.

The comical insertions (including her dog getting a Jerusalem permit) into this Palestinian memoir makes it unique and stand out from others as it draws our attention to the absurdity to the occupation of the Palestinian territory.

Further recommendations:

Joe Sacco: Palestine

Samir El-Youssef and Etgar Keret: Gaza Blues

Raja Shehadeh: When the bulbul stopped singing

Raja Shehadeh and Anthony Lewis: Strangers in the House
posted by Hana Agil at 1:25 AM | Permalink | 4 Crack(s) on the Wall
Monday, August 21, 2006
Victory - are you sure?
According to this week’s The Economist, Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, won the war. Several reasons are given to explain this amazing opinion on the end of this month-lasting war. To begin with, Hezbollah was able to survive Israel attempt to destroy the armed militia. This being, as Ehud Olmert stated when the conflict began, Israel’s primary objective, the Jewish hawks have clearly failed to accomplish their objectives. Hence Hezbollah’s victory, which could be seen more as a moral victory than a war one. The demoralization of Israel’s belief on the power of its army should be another victory, not only for the Hezbollah but also for the Syrian and the Iranian. Last, but not least, the image of Israel as a colonial, imperialistic nation that went through the western media certainly hasn’t contributed to the supposed loss that was inflicted upon the Jewish state. On the other hand, we have Mr. Olmert stating that the war was a victory for Israel, as it managed to bring help from the West in the shape of a resolution that will deploy an army of about eighteen thousand peacekeepers on southern Lebanon.

But is this a logical argument? Let me start by saying, as impartially as possible, that no one is absolutely right and that while Hezbollah’s objectives are condemnable, the same happens with Israel’s disproportionate use of force to fight the Lebanese militia. From what I’ve been reading the whole week, I think we should have a broader vision of the conflict, thus including Iran and Syria. Both these countries aren’t, as it is common knowledge, Israel’s allies. Quite the contrary, actually. The fact is, these two countries have played significant roles on this war. Syria by flaming Lebanese emotions with its wiping out of its neighbors and Iran because of the likely involvement on the weapon selling to the Hezbollah. Weapon which were, though the Russians have already denied, previously bought to Russia. As it seems, both Syria and Iran have been using Hezbollah and Nasrallah to achieve its purposes. They could do it on their own, but the Syrians lack the means and the Iranians are still trying to develop their nuclear bomb. This way, both of them are able to damage Israel without being attacked in return. Lebanon, with it’s fragile, weak government serves as a test, to check how effective Israeli forces currently are, if, in any case, any of these countries plans on making any moves in the future.

On the actual conflict, I doubt it that any of them has won. Southern Lebanon was seriously hit and damaged by Israel an it’s government has lost credibility and strength (despite sayings that it will try to use UN 1701 resolution to disarm Hezbollah, which would be seen as a strong attempt to stabilize Lebanon); Israel, on the other hand, had several soldiers killed by some rockets and lost strength. If it tries to do things through force, once more, it can be defeated, especially by an army which has no home or territory.
In the end, as usual, they both loose. However, analyzing Iran and Syria’s roles on the conflict, it seems to me that Hezbollah was transformed on a lab rat, with severe consequences for the Lebanese people, above everyone else.
posted by João Silva at 4:06 AM | Permalink | 0 Crack(s) on the Wall
Friday, August 11, 2006
Opening Speech
(João hands the scissors over to Hana, so she can freely cut the red ribbon)
Walls are usually built to divide values. We can find them in prisons, where their function is to separate good from evil. On lands, dividing my property from yours. Finally, we find them in wars, dividing not only values, but also beliefs. The problem starts when people who have the same values, the same beliefs and who can live happily with difference are separated by bricks and cement. That is currently happening in the borders of Israel and Palestine. Whose fault is it? We don’t care. That’s why we looked for a hole on the wall, somewhere that allowed us to communicate with the other side, where we we’re told hate grew like olives in the summer. Which side is it? We don’t actually know, because we’re on both of them. Not because of ideology, not because of faith, but mainly because we believe through this hole a compromise can be achieved. And we’re not talking about peace, but dialogue. Nowadays, peace needs cameras; fancy leaders sitting on chairs, shaking hands for the newspapers. Dialogue, though, is much easier. You just have to open both your mind and mouth, talk and, above talking, listen. We know it seems ridiculous, when you think of it, but it feels great when you actually do it.

Having met at Wilton Park, where the divided are bridged, we hope not for utopic solutions, rather than for an enthusiastic, reflected argumentation, where differences are gathered, side by side, and where perspectives can be given to those who didn’t think they could exist. By putting you ear next to the hole, you’ll listen carefully; though you may not understand everything you’re being told. It won’t matter. The effort will have been worthwhile.

We sincerely hope that you enjoy the blog. As we’ve stated above, we’re not hoping for miraculous solutions, but for tiny pieces of challenging thoughts that can help us help to draw a final solution. We’ll be posting material from books, magazines and other sources as well as our own opinions. Any comments are good comments. As we’ve been told at Wiston House, sometimes the most important things are said, not in speeches held in the Conference Room, but during tea time. So, please, have a sip.

João Silva and Hana Agil
posted by João Silva at 4:51 PM | Permalink | 6 Crack(s) on the Wall