Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: April, 2015

Trip to Nablus, plus observations after a week in Occupied East Jerusalem

My Arabic learning is slow but I’m making progress, and it is very enjoyable. My tutor, Mais, is excellent, and very patient with me. I’m also learning the Arabic script, and taking great pleasure in forming the beautiful letters. Quite a change from my usual untidy English scribble.

No class today (Friday and Sunday form the Palestinian weekend) so off to Nablus I went, an ancient and large city in the mid-north of Palestine via Ramallah, the de-facto capital, all by public transport, so I’m pleased to find I can get around on my own. A great trip spoilt by too many illegal Israeli settlements on the way.

The countryside is so beautiful, and for reasons beyond my ken I seem to bond with the limestone hills of central Palestine, so it is very depressing to see so many hilltops crowned with an illegal Israeli settlement or colony, lording it over the Palestinian villages in the valleys below. I’ve developed over my by now three visits to Palestine a quick way of checking if such settlements are Israeli: i) if it is on a hilltop, ii) if the houses and apartment blocks have red roofs, iii) if there isn’t a minaret visible, and iv) if the indigenous olive trees on the hillsides have been replaced by central European style conifers. Unfortunately it works every time.

There was only one checkpoint to have to negotiate, on the way back into Jerusalem. The soldier who marched through the bus checking ID papers looked straight at the word Australia on my passport and then asked me where I was from. Perhaps he couldn’t read English, though he could certainly speak it. Only one passenger had a problem, a young woman with a toddler on her hip, but eventually they let her through. We had to change buses too, presumably to guard against bombs or arms smuggling.

The wall and its watch towers are as depressing as the settlements.

I’ve also linked in to a good range of lectures, talks and historical/political tours from a Palestinian perspective here in Jerusalem, partly but not exclusively through the Jerusalem Studies Centre of Al Quds University, where I’m studying Arabic.

One was an author launching his book ‘Three Promises’ about the contradictory and conflicting promises made to different interests during WW1. and another also a book launch, ‘Stateless Citizens’, which pointed out that Palestinians living in Israel proper may well be citizens, but as it is a Jewish state, and they are not, of course, Jewish, they are therefore stateless.

I’m also reading Ali Abunimah’s ‘The Battle for Justice in Palestine’, and I’m getting a lot from his argument that the only solution is a one state one, with one vote per person, constitutional guarantees for minorities (who would be the present Israelis), and built-in safeguards to ensure social and economic justice, so as to avoid a neo-liberal economic system that only benefits the previous oppressors, such as has happened in South Africa and Northern Ireland.

Much to ponder on.

Some progress and a little hope in Palestine

I felt better about my Arabic classes today, in  that I think I made a little progress, thank goodness.

It was also Israeli Memorial Day today, when they commemorate their war dead. Thankfully it was ignored here in Occupied East Jerusalem, though we had to put up with their sirens.

I also attended a very worthwhile evening lecture at the Kenyon Institute, which I think is an off-shoot of the British Council. Entitled ‘A Tale of Three Promises’, it was by Karl Sabbagh, and was about the British/French carve up of the Middle East after WW1, with special reference to Palestine.

It ended by positing an alternative new Balfour Declaration to break the Zionist created impasse, and therefore a way out of the two state dead end.

I also found an Al Quds University announcement of its boycott of Israeli universities, and I was pleased to see it, given Sydney’s appalling treatment of Professor Jake Lynch.

So all in all a productive day

Arabic classes began today

After the Peace Conference in Istanbul I’m now in Occupied East Jerusalem, which to me and millions of others, is in Palestine, though the Israelis have annexed it, which the rest of the world doesn’t recognise. Unlike last year I wasn’t interrogated when I asked for an Israeli visa, though on leaving Turkey I had to provide documentary proof of the Arabic language program I have signed up for.

So I began my Arabic classes at Al Quds Uni (AQU) in Occupied East Jerusalem today. It was hard work, and as I’m the only student it is quite intense – no slacking! My tutor is Mais, a young lecturer who has also taught Arabic in the US. She is very patient with me, thank goodness.

Today we focussed on greeting type words, which I succeeded in learning, though whether I’ll remember them is a moot point. Pronunciation is a key aspect, but I’m beginning to get the hang of it.

Though I signed up for Conversational Palestinian Arabic, Mais is keen that I learn Arabic script as well, which I appreciate, not just because it will b e useful, but also because I will be paying respect to the culture if I pay attention to its script. Does that make sense?

I also learnt about cultural activities and study tours conducted by AQU’s Centre for Jerusalem Studies, which I’m keen to do. First one is next Saturday.

Later today I visited one of my favourite Palestinian places, which is also one of my favourite bookshops in the world – the Educational Bookshop in Saladin Street, which is near my hotel. I bought some books (about Palestine, of course), and also picked up leaflets o up-coming cultural events. Great!

I’ll try and do a progress report each day on what I have learnt and experienced.

Palestine trip in 2015

Off to Palestine today for a month’s course in colloquial Arabic at Al Quds University in Occupied East Jerusalem, via a peace conference in Istanbul. Hope the Israelis don’t hassle me again when I enter, for you can’t get in to Palestine without passing through Israeli border security.

This time I probably won’t write a daily blog, as language classes are not the most exciting stories, but I’ll see how I go – experiencing the Israeli occupation on  a daily basis may well provide plenty of copy.

Salaam (practising my Arabic),

Ray