Friday, May 25, 2018

Thoughts on taking the re-eye to New York City tomorrow

     When I used to have a steady job at the law office, I could always travel in style -- flying to places, using major airlines and even staying in actual hotels.  Those days are long gone.

     These days it's all about taking the Greyhound or the MegaBus or using cheapo airlines that don't allow luggage, and sleeping on couches.  But still.  It gets me there.  Use it or lose it.  Anything to get to New York.

    On this trip I'm going to do some new things while I'm there -- stay in Harlem, follow the trail of the Harlem Renaissance, relive my youth spent in the second balcony of the Apollo Theater and, hopefully, eat at the Red Rooster.

     But I'm also going to do some things that are the same -- attend the grand BookExpo America at the Javits Center, eat borsch and rice pudding at B&H Dairy on the Lower East Side and take a bus past the United nations building, giving it the one-finger salute for its role in enabling all those NATO/American/Saudi/Israeli brutal, inhumane and criminal massacres in the Middle East to go on and on and on and on and on.

     At the BookExpo, I'm gonna once again attempt to peddle my four wonderful books to the publishers and attendees there.  "Librarians!  Listen up!"  I've just finished re-reading my first book, "Bring your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips for Touring Today's Middle East" -- and it's as funny and accurate and crucially important today as it was back in 2007.

     Yes, all of that shite that I wrote about back then is still going on today -- and from Afghanistan to Gaza, America is still the biggest problem in the Middle East.  And we Americans are still sleeping on couches and pinches pennies to pay for it too.

     And New York City is still well worth a trip on the red-eye.


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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

"Mapping Our Return": My report on the 2018 al Awda conference

    The conference was held in Long Beach, CA recently.  It was an emotional and informative experience.  I have written down some of my notes here, of course.  But the title of the conference itself was the most important aspect.  "Mapping Our Return".

     How can one possibly map a return to a country that has been brutally seized via murderous force coldly administered by heartless invaders, ones who now have the full military and financial support of American Zionists -- as well as the possession of approximately 200 nuclear bombs?  How indeed.

    I would suggest that one road we could outline on this map of return is to hold the next al Awda conference in Jerusalem -- entitled "The Year of Our Actual Return".  And Palestinian-Americans with dual citizenship could all attend this conference too.  Just an idea.

     The conference itself opened with a moment of silence for the thousands of victims of Zionist apartheid in Gaza.  I still cannot believe, in a modern world such as ours where our children watch all that caring and sharing on Sesame Street for crying out loud, people and governments and especially the UN still allow such injustice and brutality to exist.

     "Al Awda (the Return) binds Palestinians legally, culturally and morally together -- even despite 70 years of being constantly attacked by well-funded detractors," said the first speaker.  "And we Palestinians, like all other human beings, have the right to leave our homes in the morning and to know that our homes will still be there when we return."

     Even though Zionist thieves stole everything Palestinians have, the victims are just supposed to forget this?  No, no and no.

     "Who owns Jewishness?" the next speaker asked.  "Zionists claim to own it but they do not."  And Palestine is not a "revolution industry" either.  Palestinians just want to go home.

     Oslo was a disaster.  Among other things, it sold Palestinians out to the NGOs, like in Haiti.  "There are 10,000 NGOs in Haiti -- where the money goes to the NGOs instead of the people.  The same thing happened in Palestine after Oslo -- deliberate structural violence.  Oslo is an unbelievable colonialistic document.  You should read it some time."

     Then we watched a film entitled "1948: Creation & Catastrophe," showing the horrors of the Nakba itself.  Old footage of sad Palestinian refugees and dead Palestinian bodies.  Not a dry eye in the house.

      The next speaker was a professional comedian.  "You get a lot more people to listen to you if you use humor to get your point across," he said.  But if you dare to get too political, forget about ever going mainstream.  You gotta sell your soul to the Zionists in order to do that."

     A fashion designer spoke next.  "I could not get a visa to show my designs at New York Fashion Week.  But when I showed them in Milan, Israelis claimed credit for my designs!"  But Israelis still won't let Palestinians in the West Bank work for her to produce garments.  No surprise there.

      Two more ideas were presented regarding how to support al Awda:  Money and Truth.  Money will help support the creativity of Palestinian artists -- and money will also help get out the truth.  "Elevate and make visible the political reality" of the Nakba, of the West Bank, of Gaza, of Shatila and Yarmouk.

     Next a cartoonist from Brazil spoke and he said all the right stuff about Palestine -- but then started riffing off on happenings in Syria and Russia, something he obviously hadn't researched very well.  Several of us audience members descended on him afterwards and tried to set him straight.  "No, Assad is not an evil dictator.  No, Russia is not the imperialist here."  But did he listen to us?  Who knows.

      Other speakers talked about taxation without representation, ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and the brutal attacks on Gaza.  "Israel fears all Palestinian resistance -- but especially nonviolent resistance.  The Great March of Return terrified Israelis."

     Next speaker.  "What we have done for the last 70 years hasn't been working because we are here and not in charge of Palestine.  We must attack -- attack every lie.  Every time.  All the disinformation.  It's not the Zionists' promised land, Zionists are not the only descendants of Abraham.  Israel is not a democracy.  It is not even Jewish.  And it is definitely not a friend of the United States."

      Then there was a Gala dinner and a fashion show.  Time well spent.  Time to take the #61 bus back to my hotel.


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Friday, May 18, 2018

Rwanda & Israel: "Off with their feet!"

     Back in Rwanda in 1995, when the Hutus used machetes to hack off the feet of the Tutsis, the whole world was stunned and shocked by these brutal acts of total barbarity.

     Yet when Israeli snipers recently used high-powered rifles to fire expanding bullets into the legs of nonviolent protesters in Gaza, the whole world seems to be defending the Israelis.  "Hamas made us do it," the Israelis cry.  "And they were being anti-Semitic too!"

     The Hutus are condemned as being barbaric.  The Israelis get away with it because they claim to have God on their side.

     Either way, the results are the same.  Thousands of Tutsis had their feet cut off -- and now thousands of Gazans also face having amputated feet.

     Isn't it amazing what a little propaganda can do.


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Monday, May 14, 2018

1948: How Jews brought the Nazis with them to Palestine

     Last week I attended an Al Awda conference in Long Beach and (mostly) had a wonderful time.  Rode down there on the MegaBus, stopped in Burbank to visit Central Casting, was taken to dinner by friends and toured the historic Queen Mary -- but then, once at the conference itself, we all got down to the sad business of listening to 70 years' worth of Palestinian horror stories. 

     Right off the bat, we were shown a documentary film entitled "1948: Creation & Catastrophe".  It was scary.  I'm still in shock.  At the beginning of this film, we watched many happy images of European Jews arriving in Palestine -- but these joyful scenes were soon followed by many brutal and horrific images of these same European Jews doing the exact same thing to Palestinians that the Nazis had done unto them.

     "Throw your son into the oven," one Jewish soldier screamed at a Palestinian father, a baker.

     "I cannot," said the father.  And so the Jewish soldiers threw the son into the flames themselves -- and then threw the father in after him for good measure.

     Over 500 Palestinian villages were gutted and destroyed -- even worse in scope than the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto.

     The Jews arrived in overcrowded boats.  The Palestinians left on overcrowded boats.  The similarities were not lost on the film's viewers.  And the UN jumped into the mix too.  Instead of splitting Palestine equally between Jews and Palestinians, the UN gave the European Jews all the good areas and herded Palestinians into the scrubs.  The Jews got Haifa and Tel Aviv.  The Palestinians got the Negev desert.

     What else can I say?  The documentary showed us the faces of thousands of Palestinian refugees being driven from their homes (that is, the Palestinians that were not slaughtered).  "Down all the roads they came..." carrying their babies and owning only the clothes on their backs.  And these roadsides were littered with the corpses of dead babies.

     So much for erasing the tainted memories of the Holocaust inflicted on European Jews by the Nazis.  Now these very same Jews were deliberately creating a Palestinian Holocaust.  Watching this film, I suddenly realized that the Nazis too had come to Palestine.  The Jews hadn't escaped the Nazis after all.  The Nazis too had come to Palestine -- hidden in the souls of the surviving European Jews.

     And now, 70 long miserable years later, there seems to be hardly any Jews left in Israel today.  "But how can that be," you might ask.  Because most Israelis appear to have turned into the same fascist types like their leaders Netanyahu and Lieberman -- who will do anything for power and money.  So much for Moses and the Torah.

PS:  Israeli neo-colonialists today are clearly biting off far more than they can chew -- attacks on Syria, attacks on Lebanon, attacks on Gaza, attacks on Jenin, Nablus, Hebron, Ni'lin and Bethlehem.  Nuclear weaponry, torture centers, gigantic jails, night raids.  Imagine if Israelis had used all that $$$ for good.  Imagine if they finally stopped behaving like Nazis.

     Am I being anti-Semitic here?  Hell, no.  I'm just being pro-justice.  Old-school Jewish prophets such as Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah and even Moses all warned us that justice is really really really important, right?  So were all of these great prophets being anti-Semitic when they said this?  Hardly.  And neither am I.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Mothers Day: Nobody told me that childbirth would hurt so much

     Now that Mothers Day is almost upon us, I've been thinking a lot about the fine art of giving birth -- and now have reached one seminal conclusion based on both experience and scientific research.  "There is no way that it's not gonna hurt."  Take myself for example.

Baby # 1:  I was so totally naive before going into labor.  Was at a late-night party in Greenwich Village (and unsuccessfully trying to chat with Bob Dylan) when my stomach suddenly started getting really bad menstrual cramps.  Huh?  I'm nine months pregnant.  I'm not spozed to be having cramps!  So I street-hiked off to the Women's' Infirmary, suffered through two hours of intense labor, fought off major attempts to give me anesthetics, screamed a lot and then gave birth to a girl.

Baby # 2:  Moved back to California, got pregnant again, went into labor, finally recognized the symptoms, couldn't find a ride to the hospital and ended up persuading my speed-freak neighbors to give me a lift.  Why not.  They were gonna be up all night anyway.  Once at the hospital, I started screaming and hollering once again.  The nurses told me to shut up.  They were old-school.  Two hours later, out popped another baby girl.

Baby # 3:  While suffering from stage-nine pregnancy and looking as big as a house, I moved all my stuff into a new apartment in Berkeley, finished unpacking the last box, gave a deep sigh of relief -- and went into labor.  "Another girl?" I asked.  When they told me it wasn't, this unexpected announcement surprised me so much that I actually asked the nurse, "If it's not a girl, then what could it be?"  

     "It's a boy!" she replied.  Who knew.

Baby #4:  I was finally beginning to realize where babies come from -- but too late.  "You need a C-section," stated the doctor.  Over my dead body!  "That can be arranged."  But I somehow managed to fight off the obstetrical team (literally) and three hours later yet another baby girl popped out -- butt first.

     And as my children grew up, I tried my very hardest to be a good mother.  I really did.  I honestly did.  Must have done something right.  I guess.  Years later, all four of my adult children are alive and doing well.  But how do other women manage to be so good at motherhood and take to it like a duck to water instead of almost drowning?  Hats off to you.  I salute you on Mothers Day.  Good job!

     And I have also discovered another way that childbirth can really hurt.  As the British phrase it, I'd given birth to "One heir and three spares" -- thinking that surely at least one of the four will come visit me when I finally get carted off to the rest home?  But this is never to be.  Just as I'm starting to get old, boring, needy and poor, they've all thought up some cheesy reason or other to bail.  All that childbirth pain for nothing!  Rats.  Not even any Mothers Day cards for me.  I warned you.  I told you that childbirth hurt.

     But still and all, I'm definitely not the worst mother in the world.  I never gave birth to or raised any babies that grew up to be monsters.  None of my kids have blown up the World Trade Center, helped cover up the plot to murder JFK or were personally responsible for the slaughter of over a million human beings in the Middle East!  At least I'm not Barbara Bush.

PS:  Will be spending Mothers Day in Long Beach of all places.  Am going there to attend the Al Awda conference on Palestine 

     What is happening in Gaza right now is totally painful too.  And insanely criminal as well.  In the past four weeks, Israeli snipers using high-powered rifles have deliberately succeeded in knee-capping and/or maiming approximately 7,000 non-violent Palestinian protesters.  That's just gotta hurt.  If anyone needs some five-star mothering right now, it's those poor wretched Palestinian rebels.  Mothers Day in Gaza is gonna be painful for sure.  Oy vey!


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Monday, May 07, 2018

Photos of ancient and damaged churches in Aleppo
     These photos that a friend in Aleppo just sent me are amazing!   Everything seems so freaking OLD in Aleppo -- but in a good way.  We have NOTHING like this in America.  Makes me want to win the lottery and get on the first flight to Aleppo.  I love old stuff.  When I was a kid, I always dreamed of going to Egypt and living in a pyramid.  Obviously that didn't happen.

     Please pray for the brave Syrian army.  Over 60,000 of its soldiers have been slaughtered and murdered while trying to defend Syria from ISIS and the United States.

1.  At the centre of the photo, there is the star of David formed out of the window’s steel bars.  The symbol was seen in so many historical areas.  It was a normal sign used by all faiths in decorations and religious shield (mostly by Christians in this case) centuries before the creation of the state of Israel.  The building is on the Little Cross square.
2.  Epitaphs inside the Armenian Forty Martyrs Church (AFMC).  Some of them, like this one, are written in three languages: Armenian, Arabic, and either English or French.
3.  Damage at the top floor of the AFMC.  Its main door was damaged and the opening was filled with temporary blocks and cement, as shown in the previous examples.  The façade is dated back to 1840s, with a renovation dated 1992.

4.  The bell tower of the AFMC.  1912.
5.  The bell tower of the Greek Orthodox Church (GOC) in the background, seen from the shared yard of the AFMC.


6 and 7.  Samples of the mortars that were shelled upon the heads and roofs of the people and their houses and churches, are shown in the AFMC yard.

8 and 9.  Some decorated architectural features from the 19th century in the AFMC.

image1.jpeg  10.  In memory of Armenian genocide 1915.  Another genocide took place a century later against them and the rest of Syrians from the grandsons of the Ottomans, in Aleppo and everywhere else on the Turkish-Syrian borders.

11.  Destruction to the AFMC gate and entrance seen from the Little Cross square.
12.   The GOC’s domes and roofs are of the most damaged ones among the churches.

 13.  The alter and eastern niche in the GOC looks in good condition.

14.  One of the copies of the original work that dates back to 1750.  I didn’t have the chance to know if the original one was looted or just hidden in a safe place.
15.  The Lady’s Lament Church, for Greek Orthodox Community (GOC)
16.  Epitaphs and the internal gate of the GOC, dated 1852.

     Then my friend sent me these ones too.  The titles and descriptions are also his: 

      From the ancient Christian sector of the city -- or to part of it, to whatever left of it.  It’s called al-Jadeedah, or le-Jdaïdé (the New) for female, meaning the new part of the walled city of Aleppo, New neighbourhood, new sector, new Aleppo.... it was new when it had been built after the Mongol conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) sacked Aleppo in 1400AD. 

     People started coming back to the ruins of Aleppo little by little, and the Christians started building that sector to the north of the walled city, outside of it. Most of its buildings now belong to the ottoman era (16th-20th centuries), having beautiful traditional courthouses, schools, and churches. 

     Christian Arabs and Armenians lived in it for centuries before it was destroyed recently in the war, mainly by the armed gangs supported by Turkey.  It seems that their hatred to the Armenians is timeless!  The ancient sector housed around 11-15 different Christian sects with their churches.  Some of them are pretty small (like a group of 4 churches, mostly Armenians, sharing one court, smaller than one courthouse in a big traditional house).


     "The Maronite Cathedral 1873-1923 (50 years building it). In front of it is a statue of a seated Maronite bishop called Gabriel Germanos Farhāt (1670-1732), whom the square is called after him (Farhat Square). The left tower had a clock that chant every 15 min. part of the Ave Maria tone. It had been restored recently by an Armenian clock technician, who was among the crowd today, and received a great salutes and greetings from everyone.


Signs of the damage on its façade.


Quote from the Bible: Wisdom of Yeshua son of Sirach: 48: 4:  (Elijah!  Your miracles were marvelous!  No one else can boast of such deeds!).

Statue of Saint Elijah in side the Maronite Church - 1929


The second gate of the Maronite Cathedral (1873). It used to be called by then as the church of the Alive Saint Ilïās (Elijah).

Restoration inside the Maronite Cathedral. Interesting that the engineer who is working over there is a Muslim.  The crisis united people from different faiths against the terrorists. It divided them somewhere else though.  You can see the sky over here because the roof was destroyed and collapsed completely.


Inside the roofless Maronite church - western entrance.


Decorated water well in side the Maronite church. Interesting note said that the designer was European, he put his design on a transparent sheet. But the local professional sculptor knows no Latin a century ago, so by mistake, he mirrored the Initial letters of the Holy Name of Jesus (IHS) (Iesus Hominum Salvator) ! They left it as it is.


Melkite Greek Catholic Church (MGCC), on Farhat Square.


Statue of Maximos III Michael Mażloum (1779-1855), the patriarch of the MGCC (1833-1855).  The engraves below show his meeting with one of the Popes, and the other scene shows his meeting with one of the Ottoman sultans.  The whole statue was built in memory of him a century after his death.  1955.


The entrance of the MGCC, dated 1852, as a restoration after it had been burned in an uprising in the mid 19th century.  The decoration above the door considered by some as the Syrian/Alepian rococo style.


Inside the MGCC.

Restoration of the roof and dome of the MGCC.  The altar is decorated with the same rococo style is hidden behind the scaffolding.






Through the cobbled paths, arches and vaults intervene the way.  Parts of those houses are built above them. Damage at the roofs and upper edges are clear in some photos.  Those upper rooms on the vaults break the boredom and the long paths, and gave several spots with shades and shadows among the sunny ways.



Properties (houses, shops, churches , and restaurants) had been looted in the war, many original doors had been damaged or broken. Temporarily owners had closed the opening of the doors with stones and cement till they fix and prepare the original doors.


This little square is formed out of two intersected paths in X-like square, called the Little Cross, dates back to early ottoman era (16th century). The amount of destruction is huge around here, where the Armenian churches and houses are. People were having tears in their eyes, while others were cursing the terrorists and whom ever supported them (mainly the Gulf states, Turkey, and the US).


One of the big traditional courthouses, from the mid 18th century, that had been turned into a school in the last decades, and it’s housing some refugees today.

Different details for each and every opening.


The Īwān, which is the biggest vaulted niche located in each traditional courtyard house on the southern direction.  Some old inscriptions inside it mentioned the Virgin Mary’s name, as a proof that the owners were Christians.


More decorations that takes the Star of David style, although the house originally was for Christian family.  That was centuries before the creation of the state of Israel.


Internal motifs on the wooden cornice that have paints of fruit dishes
... and poetry just below the ceiling.


Another house which was housing Institute Saint Basile, for one of the Catholic sects.




Fig tree in the courtyard!


Damages at the roofs of Basile institute.


     I have to mention that half or more of the Jdeïdé area was closed for people.  It had been heavily damaged and destroyed after been looted by the terrorists.  The civilian resistance is to stay and rebuild it again as it was and even better.  Arab Christians and Armenians staying in the region are the best resistance to all the the foreigners’ agendas to cleanse the Levant from minorities and Christians.  

     I know that many had already left to Europe and other countries, but many of them are still living here and asking their families to come back and help in rebuilding their properties.  It’s a long difficult struggle, but not an impossible one. 🤞🏻


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Me, in Damascus, 2014