“Once Upon A Country” A Palestinian Perspective Worthy Of Your Time

My latest non-fiction book which I started this week is one that dives into a region of the world that has held my attention since I was a teenager. After learning of the news from Plains, Georgia about President Jimmy Carter starting hospice and given the powerful role he played with the Camp David Peace Accords, places Sari Nusseibeh’s Once Upon A Country into a fitting time frame.  A bittersweet one, for sure. 

A few weeks ago, I read Thirteen Days in September by Lawrence Wright.  As I concluded that stupendous narrative which placed so many interesting and compelling spokes into the larger wheel of the drama that was the brainchild of Carter, I was mindful of needing to read Nusseibeh’s story that has been heralded as a necessity if wishing to feel and better understand the plight of Palestinians. 

I recall watching the historic journey of Egyptian President Sadat to Israel and listening to his speech in the Knesset and months later staying home to watch the handshake and signing of the famed peace accords at the White House.  All the drama that played out between leaders with deep political uncertainties in their own countries and much deeper historical animosities made what occurred at Camp David worthy of more understanding on my part. Even decades later.

I have always found most troubling the lack of awareness from the public about what happened to entire Palestinian villages and farms, and families in 1947 and 1948.  Between the United Nations voting and the time for the British mandate to end, we read the words of the author’s father, a judge and highly educated man, who wrote a 60,000-word personal account in 1949. Of those expelled, he writes the lost villages “mean more than red dots on the map. They mean the warm hearths and proud homes of an old established community.  The hearth has turned to ashes and homes ground to dust and the life once throbbed within them throbs no more.” The entire story is compelling and grounded with the candor of history and facts to guide his readers onward.

Sari does not allow for the misjudgments and harsh behavior from either side of the ancient hatred to have free rein.  There is no latitude given for the misdeeds and empty leadership that too often has been the source for even more glaring and consequential examples of hate and bloodshed.   

History oozes from the pages and for one such as myself, this is why lights in our home are on into the morning hours. Here is the story of a man who descended from one of the tribal leaders who accompanied Muhammad on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the seventh century as he heads to Medina. This is the family with the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  The richness of the ages rolls along as Nusseibeh stresses the complexities of the people, history, religion, and social tensions that create a backstory to the headlines.  Sadly, it is only the headlines that most people today care about or know about.  Not enough newspaper readers or viewers of BBC news.

This is why the book, Once Upon A Country is so needed and, in light of recent events most relevant. For those who know, as I do, that a two-state solution is a requirement for the region, the book offers more history than hope, given the nature of conservative Israeli leaders.  I trust that those who read this post will find the book at their local bookstore or on Amazon, as I did. It will add many perspectives, as most who pick up the read already will likely have a good foundation of the region’s background. It will make Zionists squirm, but thoughtful people (like many who reside in Israel and know the trajectory of their regional affairs and governing policies are flawed morally and fiscally) will find this book time well spent.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Running For CA Senate Seat, My Letter To Her Following 9/11 Terrorism

I was greeted this morning with truly good news upon learning that Californian Congresswoman Barbara Lee will be seeking the nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2024. Often over the decades, I have penned my thoughts and perspectives to elected officials, as with this letter to Lee from September 15, 2001, which I post below. It underscores my admiration and respect she creates among the citizenry. I am most proud of her record, along with her commitment to the values and ideals of our nation. My bedrock foundations regarding issues in the Middle East have long been positioned on history and reason. Lee will be a strong advocate of the same as a United States senator.

Honorable Barbara Lee
United States House of Representatives
426 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0509

September 15, 2001
Dear Representative Lee,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your courageous vote regarding the course of action that our nation should employ regarding the horrendous events that unfolded on September 11, 2001.  Public service is a noble calling and made more so by those who are motivated by conscience, and as such, work against the prevailing winds.

As an American who watched with revulsion as our nation was besieged by terrorism, I share the national outrage and anger that we commonly feel.  I strongly want the perpetrators found and dealt with forcefully.  While I believe that this deed must be met head-on with a strong American response, I am also very concerned about the national lust for blood and the foreign policy repercussions that would result from open-ended reprisals.

National discourse on foreign policy is a rarity.  Even during national campaigns the issues that confront the United States on the world stage are relegated to a low status.  Our national foreign policy intelligence quotient is quite low.  And yet the polls show that overnight we have become a nation of “experts.”  National anger, as demonstrated by polls, and a Congress that does not have the will to demonstrate leadership apart from the prevailing mood will insure long-term effects that we will regret.

The Middle East has always been a highly contentious and volatile area.  The history and religions of the area have often blinded both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from finding common bonds.  Generations of Palestinians have lived with the knowledge that America funds Israel and supplies them with armaments that are often used against Arabs and Muslims.  The utter frustrations and anger that have festered in the Middle East have helped to radicalize many against Israel and the United States.  Even the moderate elements of the PLO along with nation-states in that region are facing a more difficult time in urging restraint against the radical elements.  And if America strikes in a fashion that only makes it more improbable for moderate voices to be heard, the future looks bleak.

I propose that you use your position to urge a double-pronged approach to the new dynamics that we confront. While we must act against those responsible for this heinous crime we also must pursue a high-level and visible diplomatic mission to the Middle East.  We must insure that even-handedness is the basis by which we act. We must be willing to act as boldly in our diplomatic resolve as we are prepared to do with our military means. Such a dual track will ensure that a just response is leveled against those who did our country harm, but also will show our desire to work for a meaningful and just resolution to the Middle East conflict.

I am reminded of a diplomatic mission that was deemed impossible in the 1970s.  President Jimmy Carter, with unshakable faith and tenaciousness held firm to his goal of a peace accord between Israel and Egypt.  When Prime Minster Begin and President Sadat wanted to leave Camp David without an accord our President relentlessly pursued the goal of our better angels.  In the end, a treaty was agreed to that still provides benefits to both parties.

That scope of vision and determination once again has to be our mission.  As the leader of the free world, we have the means and power to shape a more hopeful world.  History will severely judge us if we do not try.

An often-told story should guide you and other members of Congress in the days ahead.  On his march through France, Napoleon ordered trees to be planted along the roads his marching troops were to use.  One of his advisors replied that it would take 20 years to achieve that goal.  To that Napoleon said, “Well, then we better start planting today.”  

Our nation has been deeply wounded.  Our fears have been heightened.  But our history shows that when difficult times confront Americans we pull together and respond with unity and hope for a better tomorrow.

The vote you took, and the stand you espouse, can be the first visible step towards a better tomorrow.  We urge your continued resolve and involvement with this chapter of our nation’s life.


President Biden Correct About Flag Issue In East Jerusalem

The Middle East trip by President Biden has included a conversation about a wide range of hot-button issues from the threat posed by Iran, global economic pressures from oil production quotas, and the need for movement among the different parties in the quest for Palestinian rights and security safeguards in a volatile area of the world.

It is a good week for the United States when our president can present the issues as the topic of the day, rather than being the topic of the day. It is good to have gravitas not only in the Oval Office and also when presented on the world stage.

Not only do the weighty conversations matter on such trips, or the policy moves and offers of assistance but so do the smaller messages and actions a president takes. The leader of the free world is not a trite phrase that no longer has meaning. The American president matters. That is why a serious person needs to always hold the office.

It was most appropriate, therefore, for the presidential motorcade, when entering East Jerusalem, to no longer bear the Israeli flags. Israeli sovereignty in the entirety of the city will need to be addressed if any meaningful and long-lasting peace accord is ever to be finalized between the two sides. While Israel has long enjoyed the land it seizes, does not mean the military conquests and occupations are geopolitically the best outcome for all the people in the region.

That Israel is not a fair player in the region has long been noted on this blog. The Biden administration has sought from the first days of the administration a reopening of the US consulate to the Palestinians. That office was previously located in western Jerusalem, but as is so typical of Isreal they have utterly refused to authorize the reopening. Diplomatic moves and creating structures for dialogue would further demand accountability from Israel, and that would be so much harder than just shooting and killing a journalist and continually undermining the dignity of the Palestinian people.

Israel, with its military might, has forgotten a truism about global affairs. Without a legitimate political process, there will be no peace. The simple, but meaningful act by President Biden of removing the Israeli flag when entering East Jerusalem underscores that fact.

Strong Female Congresswoman Challenged For Being Honest, Anti-Muslim Bias in Democratic Party

Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar made public a concern this week during a congressional hearing that has caused an uproar within the Democratic caucus. The incident underscores the bias within the elected class in Washington towards views that need to be heard but too often are marginalized.

It was during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Monday, when Omar, a Muslim woman elected from Minnesota, asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about an International Criminal Court probe of allegations against both the Taliban and the U.S. in Afghanistan and by Hamas and Israel in the most recent Middle East conflict.

Omar later shared the exchange in a tweet that read: “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”

Late last night a dozen of her caucus colleagues put out a late-night statement criticizing her for comparing war crimes in the fashion she did. In response, Omar called her fellow House Democrats’ reaction ‘shameful’,

She is correct.

I find it lamentable that one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress needs to feel that her views and perspectives on issues which she has every right to speak out about, are to be curtailed and shaped so as to mollify the larger group. She has every right to express facts, lodge questions, foster dialogue, and seek analysis over war crimes as much as the Baptists and Catholics from all points of this nation do.

Calling out the abuses and addressing the headlines from the Middle East–whether they always make this nation’s front pages of newspapers or not–is essential. Omar is doing her work with diligence when making the comparisons and asking the questions.

Israel Apartheid Showcased In Editorial Cartoons

Not for the first time does this blog speak to the issue of proportionality when it comes to the massive airstrikes unleashed by Israel. The pounding of Gaza, such a confined area, packed with poorly protected people has led to a death toll, as reported this morning in a front-page story in The New York Times, 20 times as high as that caused by Hamas. In Gaza over 1,200 people have been injured. Nearly 200 have been killed.

The international press has reported in-depth on the carnage in this latest decades-long struggle. The editorial cartoonists have perhaps caught the moment best with the following journalism. The drawings are determined to make the point. You know you have an international conscience if these hit a nerve. Taking land in war and through an immoral settlement policy is not a good way to win respect or peace.

Ten Members Of Family Killed, Eight Were Children

An orphaned baby is brought to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City after it was injured in an Israeli airstrike, which destroyed a 3-story house and killed ten members of the child’s family.

Today Israeli bomb hit a home in the Gaza refugee camp. The house where a family had gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

A baby (pictured) was brought to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City for treatment after being injured in that airstrike, which destroyed a 3-story house and killed 10 members of the child’s family, including eight children who were located in the al-Shati refugee camp.

At least 20 other Palestinians were wounded after several nearby houses were damaged in the airstrike.

In addition, for those readers who claim to honor laws and international norms let’s start by enforcing UN Resolution 242 stating Israel must withdraw from occupied lands. The over-reach and lack of proportionality from Israel make me sick.

Let me cut to the core here. Palestinian aggression, if one wants to argue that point, could be contained rather than the wholesale murder which is now taking place. Netenyahu, however, needs to distract from his crimes. Israel has already this week attacked the most revered mosque in the world, murdered children, and lynched innocent civilians, along with now attacking news offices such as Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

Of course, that last group was going to be targeted as Israel can not abide honest and free coverage of their war crimes. Israel wants to kill Palestinians without press coverage.

Palestinians inspect their destroyed houses following overnight Israeli airstrikes in town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Same Worn Language As Biden Makes Terrible Statement Regarding Israeli Actions

Israel continues to make for casualties and destruction in the Middle East. If the headlines over the years were not about warring for more land then they were about the undermining of rights and dignity of Palestinians. All this has been going on so long that as a teenager I was reading and learning of these actions in history classes. That was over four decades ago!

This morning I awoke to learn of the latest over-reach and lack of proportionality from Israel.

The high-rise housing the AP and other media outlets were bombed by Israeli military.

About an hour after that nation’s military ordered people to evacuate a bombing strike destroyed the building housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices. Must try to stop those reporters from showing the horror of the Israeli military in Gaza!

I would mention that the building also housed residential apartments, but that would not be news. Israeli military efforts aimed at the average person in Gaza, after all, is a policy more than an exception. Meanwhile a senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a hard-right corrupt politician told NPR that Hamas military intelligence used the building, but provided “no evidence to back the claim,” according to NPR reporter Daniel Estrin.

Well of course there was no evidence, just as there was no evidence in 1939 of atrocities in western Polish towns concerning Germans being victimized. But Hitler still created the mania for press coverage and that narrative resulted in his massive invasion. While it is imperative for the press to push hard upon the events now taking place in Gaza and demand facts, history shows that the worst elements will always obfuscate and lie.

This is why it is imperative for President Joe Biden to step away from the same language and pabulum used by other administrations when Israel uses its military hardware supplied by the United States in their efforts to strike at humanity. It is essential that Biden not get caught up in the same downward spiral that results when failure to stand with Palestinians makes the White House nothing more than an Israeli puppet.

But that did not happen.

This week Biden “condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,” and also “conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians.”

To say that Israel has a right to protect itself is like saying the baboonish bully on the playground has the same right after taking the lunches of other kids. At least 115 Palestinians, including 27 children, and eight Israelis have been killed, officials on both sides have stated. That statement was being made as the Israeli military bombardment of the impoverished Gaza Strip continued.

What I found insulting from the statement offered by the White House this week was the lack of even a mention of Sheikh Jarrah. The neighborhood was not lost on this blog.

The headlines now are catching the attention of many readers but the ills that have been caused from years of tyranny from Israel towards Palestinians also need noting. Israeli restrictions on building permits in East Jerusalem, as just one clear example, have forced Palestinian residents to either leave the city–which they should not need to do– or to build illegal housing and risk demolition.

The fight over Sheikh Jarrah matters as East Jerusalem must never be allowed to be controlled by only Jewish residents. After all, that land is Palestinian territory illegally occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967.  Palestinians know that East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state. In addition, for those who claim to honor laws and international norms let them start by enforcing UN Resolution 242 stating Israel must withdraw from occupied lands.

For the Biden Administration to join forces with the Zionists who have undermined the rule of law and human decency, again, is nothing short of a dark day for the Palestinians.

And so it goes.

Israel Demonstrates Lack Of Character in Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood

My very first post on this blog in July 2007 addressed a Middle East problem, the larger aspect of it that has not been resolved in these 14 years. The recent international headlines testify to that fact. Then it concerned a soldier captured in Israel and taken to Gaza, while now the tensions are rightfully high as Israeli efforts to remove Palestinians from strategic parts of Jerusalem continue.

In 2007 I wrote that Israel through its actions only invites more anger and resentment by Arabs pointedly stating, the harsh reality is that at some point soon America needs to have a stern conversation with Israel.

Israel desires to have complete Jewish control over East Jerusalem. That is, obviously, unacceptable.

Most newspaper readers are now aware of a single Jerusalem neighborhood that is central to the larger thrust by the current right-wing movement in Israel to again marginalize and damage the lives of Palestinians. As the news was being reported late this afternoon Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, had fired rockets at Jerusalem. Then Israeli airstrikes left at least 20 Palestinians, including nine children, dead.

That offense followed Israeli soldiers raiding and actually launching grenades inside the Aqsa mosque. Let me put that in the most basic and clear context I can. That site is the Islamic world’s equivalent to the Vatican. That is the level of behavior that Israel now engages in, and somehow think the world will accept.

One word, again, sums up the actions by Israel.


And with that word comes mine from over a decade ago. Israel through its actions only invites more anger and resentment by Arabs.

What Israeli government officials are allowing to happen in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem is appalling, immoral, heartless, soulless, and without anything other than pure meanness as a guiding force. Homes, families, children, pets, lives, aspirations, and plans for the future are being tossed aside as Jewish residents eye the homes and property of Palestinians. Hmmm…what does that sound like from the pages of history? Is it any wonder that many support Hamas and their threats to respond to Israeli provocations in Jerusalem?

The headlines now are catching the attention of many readers but the ills that have been caused from years of tyranny from Israel towards Palestinians also need noting. Israeli restrictions on building permits in East Jerusalem, as just one clear example, have forced Palestinian residents to either leave the city–which they should not need to do– or to build illegal housing and risk demolition.  See, I do not think that is how a ‘Godly ordained” country should act.

The Israeli occupation has been a decades-long cancer that has crippled and severely damaged the long-term interests of the rightful residents of the land–the Palestinians. To remedy, in part the behavior of the right-wing government in Israel there should be a severe cutting in the US taxpayer funding of the regime. While that will not happen due to the control of the Israeli lobby, the truth remains that nation has been a constant ache to everyone since 1967 and their wars aimed to take over lands they did not own.

That source of trouble is now front and center as it inflicts damage on the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The world stands with the men, women, and children who live there. And should be able to continue to do so.

And so it goes.