Friday, June 19, 2009


This series of interviews spans a period of one year. It is posted for those interested in my views on several issues, specifically about the Nakba and Land loss by Palestinian Citizens of Israel.


Untold stories: Hatim Kanaaneh
IMEU, Jul 15, 2008

To interview Hatim Kanaaneh contact the IMEU at 714-368-0300 or


Palestinian-American doctor and author Hatim Kanaaneh, seen here outside of his home in Arrabeh, in the Galilee.
Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh remembers the day in 1948 that his native village of Arrabeh in the northern Galilee fell to Zionist forces intent on turning Palestine into a Jewish state. "Everyone had a white sheet hanging on a stick on their roof," he recalls sixty years later from his home in Arrabeh. "The village elders in the neighboring villages of Arrabeh, Sakhnin and Dier Hanna had met and decided that no one would leave. My father was among them."

During the previous months, the eleven year-old Kanaaneh had seen streams of refugees from Palestinian villages further south flowing through Arrabeh, intent on reaching the safety of the Lebanese border in the north.

Eventually, as they witnessed an escalation in attacks on Palestinian villages by Jewish militias, Dr. Kanaaneh's family had begun preparing to flee the country themselves, at least until the fighting had ceased. "I had a dilemma as to whether to take my birds," he remembers. "Everyone else was making decisions about pots and pans and mattresses, and I cried as I was told that I could not take my birds."

Word soon arrived, however, that the Lebanese border had been closed, leaving the Palestinians in Arrabeh with no way to escape. It was at this point that the decision was made by several of the Galilee villages near Nazareth to surrender to Israeli forces.

That is how the village of Arrabeh found itself inside of the newly formed Israeli state.

For nearly two decades, the Palestinian residents of the new state were placed under a military regime. "I remember standing in line and waiting for hours to get a permit to go from Arrabeh to Haifa. We had to go to Shefa Amr and stand in line to get a permit to go five additional kilometers."

Dr. Kanaaneh remained in his home village despite the difficulty of living as a non-Jew in Israel, before leaving to the United States to earn his medical degree. He soon returned to the Galilee, however, and established the Galilee Society to offer better health services to the underprivileged Palestinian residents of the region.

Kanaaneh often misses the personal and individual freedoms he was granted in the United States but still has yet to attain in his homeland, and feels it is important for Americans to learn about the Nakba (Arabic for "catastrophe," and the word Palestinians use to refer to the loss of their homes and homeland in 1948) for this reason. "I felt a sense of powerlessness when I returned to the Galilee - that I couldn't do anything but accept it," he says. "But I never really regretted the decision to come back."

Pluto Press of London has just published Dr. Kanaaneh's book of memoirs, A Doctor in Galilee, which shows what life is like for a Palestinian living as a citizen of Israel. The book is available from University of Michigan Press and at

Palestinians remember Land Day
Jonathan Cook writing from Arrabeh, The Electronic Intifada, 30 March 2009


Hatim Kanaaneh, a former physician who witnessed the Land Day protests, stands by a monument in Sakhnin's cemetery to six Palestinians shot dead by the Israeli army during the confrontations of 30 March 1976 (Jonathan Cook)

Palestinians across the Middle East were due to commemorate Land Day today, marking the anniversary of clashes in 1976 in which six unarmed Palestinians were shot dead by the Israeli army as it tried to break up a general strike.

Although Land Day is one of the most important anniversaries in the Palestinian calendar, sometimes referred to as the Palestinians' national day, the historical event it marks is little spoken of and rarely studied.

"Maybe its significance is surprising given the magnitude of other events in Palestinian history," said Hatim Kanaaneh, 71, a doctor, who witnessed the military invasion of his village.

"But what makes Land Day resonate with Palestinians everywhere is that it was the first time Palestinians inside Israel stood together and successfully resisted Israel's goal of confiscating their land."

The confrontation took place between the army and a group usually referred to as "Israeli Arabs," the small minority of Palestinians who managed to remain in their homes during the 1948 war that led to the founding of Israel. Today they number 1.2 million, or nearly one-fifth of Israel's population.

"We were given citizenship by Israel, but have always been treated as an enemy, perceived of as a threat to the state's Jewishness," said Dr. Kanaaneh, who last year published his memoir, A Doctor in Galilee, which offers a rare account in English of Palestinian life inside Israel during the Land Day period.

In 1976, Dr. Kanaaneh, having completed his medical studies at Harvard University in the United States, was the only physician in Arrabeh.

Israel crushed organized political activity among Israel's Palestinian citizens between 1948 and 1966, Dr. Kanaaneh said. Nonetheless, popular frustration had mounted as the state expropriated privately-owned Palestinian land to build new communities for Jewish citizens, many of them recent immigrants.

During military rule, historians have noted, vast swathes of land were taken from Palestinians, both from refugees in exile and from Israel's own citizens. Jews had bought only six per cent of Palestine by the time of the 1948 war, but today the state has nationalized 93 percent of Israel's territory.

"Government policy was explicitly to make the land Jewish -- or Judaize it, as it was called," Dr. Kanaaneh said.

The announcement in the mid-1970s of the confiscation of a further 2,000 hectares led to the creation of a new body, the National Committee for the Defense of Arab Lands, which provided a more assertive political leadership.

The minority's decision to strike, Dr. Kanaaneh said, shocked the Israeli authorities, which were not used to challenges to official policy. "Both sides understood the significance of the strike. For the first time we were acting as a national minority, and Israel was very sensitive to anything that suggested we had a national identity or a unified agenda, especially over a key resource like land."

Although the strike was strictly observed by Palestinians throughout Israel, the focus of the protest were three villages in the central Galilee that faced the loss of a large area of prime agricultural land: Arrabeh, Sakhnin and Deir Hanna.

The prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and his defense minster, Shimon Peres, acted on the eve of the strike.

"What was surprising was that they didn't send in the police, as you'd expect when dealing with citizens of a country, but the army," Dr. Kanaaneh said.

The government's original plan, he said, was to break the strike and force employees to go to work, but when villagers began throwing stones, the army imposed a curfew.

"When a neighbor called me to attend to his wife who had gone into labor, I walked out of my house towards an armored vehicle waving my stethoscope," Dr. Kanaaneh said. "A soldier aimed his rifle straight at me and I hurried back inside."


Ahmed Khalaila stands by a road sign dedicated to his brother, Khader, who was shot dead by the Israeli army during Land Day protests in the village of Sakhnin in 1976. (Jonathan Cook)
Ahmed Khalaila, who was 18 and living in Sakhnin, remembered being woken early by loudspeakers. "Soldiers were calling out that we must not leave the house ... We couldn't even look out of the windows," he said.

When a neighbor stepped outside her house, she was shot and injured, Khalaila said. He and his older brother, Khader, tried to help the woman. When they were about 50 meters from her, Khader was shot in the head.

"He was still breathing and we hoped he could be saved, but there were checkpoints at all the entrances to the village. We knew no ambulance would be coming for him."

Eventually the family managed to get him into a car and drove towards the nearest hospital. Held at a checkpoint, Khalaila said, the family watched as Khader bled to death as he lay across his younger brother's legs on the back seat. Khader was 24 and recently married.

No one ever came to investigate what had happened, or offered the family compensation. "It was as if a bird had died," he said. "No one was interested; no questions were asked in the parliament. Nothing."

As well as the six deaths, hundreds more Palestinians were injured and sweeping arrests were made of political activists.

Dr. Kanaaneh said the stiff resistance mounted by the villagers eventually forced the government to revoke the expropriation order.

Victory, however, was far from clear cut. The next year, Ariel Sharon, as agriculture minister, announced a program of new Jewish settlements called "lookouts" in the Galilee "to prevent control of state lands by foreigners," meaning Israel's own Palestinian citizens. The three villages were surrounded by the lookout communities, which came to be known collectively as Misgav regional council.

"They were intended to be agricultural communities, but Land Day stopped that," Dr. Kanaaneh said. "Instead they became small bedroom communities, and much of the land we defended was passed to Misgav's jurisdiction.

"Today the owners of the land pay taxes to the regional council rather than their own municipalities, and Misgav can decide, if it wants, to try to confiscate the land again. We may have got our land back, but it is not really in our hands."

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi at the following link:

A Doctor in Galilee: A physician's struggle for community health and a people's survival

Posted April 2nd, 2009

A rare glimpse into the dire health situation of Palestinians living in Israel, Hatim Kanaaneh's memoir - "A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel" - reveals the politics of health care and community development affecting the Arab minority in a Jewish-only state. MENASSAT's Tania Tabar interviewed the author earlier this week to discuss Kanaaneh's work.



The cover of Hatim Kanaaneh's memoir, "A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel," published by Pluto Press (2008).

BEIRUT, April 2, 2009 (MENASSAT) - In his memoir, “A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel," Hatim Kanaaneh tells the story – the hardship, the irony, the internal struggle - of being part of the Arab minority living in Israel.

Known as the ’48 Palestinians, or those “of the inside," Kanaaneh's narrative provides a rare glimpse into the history of Palestinians that remained in Israel (historic Palestine) after the state was formed.

He also produces a compelling record of his experience working for the Israeli Ministry of Health, establishing the NGO, The Galilee Society and eventually founding a child rehabilitation center in his village in the north of Israel, Arrabeh.

What connects the narrative threads is the Palestinian struggle for land.

Born in 1937 in Arrabeh, Palestine, Kanaaneh’s family were one of the 150,000 Palestinians – now numbering 1.3 million - who remained on their land when the state of Israel was created in May 1948.

The first person in his village to study abroad, Kanaaneh obtained two Harvard degrees in medicine and public health, and decided to return with his Hawaiian wife Didi to his village near Galilee.

In his attempt to provide much-needed services to the Palestinian minority in Israel (historic Palestine), Kanaaneh explains he worked “to bring the benefits of public health and community development to my people.”

And as he learned about Israel's “intentional neglect of the health and well being of its Arab citizens,” the reader is exposed to what Kanaaneh characterizes as medical apartheid - Israel's "politicization of health."

He quotes a “wise" senior medical co-worker: "Apartheid is unhealthy, full stop."

Kanaaneh’s book is honest in every sense of the word, and does not not shy away from self-criticism. The book in fact encompasses his personal journey and struggle - wrestling with the ethics of working as a medical doctor within the Israeli system - a position in which complicity out of necessity is implied.

“Such self-searching episodes are frequent in the book and led eventually to me facing up, not only to system but to my own role in it,” he told MENASSAT.

MENASSAT interviewed Kanaaneh to discuss his book, the recent Land Day commemoration, Israeli public opinion and what's next for the physician/writer.

MENASSAT: Can you tell me about how the idea to write a book came about? How has it been received?

Hatim Kanaaneh: "Since high school I have written memoirs. Mainly when something disturbed or pleased me I would take time out to write about my feelings."

"Later in my professional life when I didn't have the time to sit down and write I started recording on audiotape."

"Over the years, I accumulated a lot of material and only when I retired some 5 years ago was i able to start listening to the tapes and reading what I had written."

"It occurred to me that there was a lot of material that would be of interest to western readers and that would tell them about the life of Palestinian people in Israel."

"That's when I started selecting pieces from what I had written or taped and the book came out of that."

MENASSAT: The book touches on so many issues Palestinians in Israel are faced with. What really fascinated me was how you discussed the relation of Palestinians to a state that is built with the goal of physically eliminating or displacing the native population. Was it difficult to write about internal Palestinian issues such as the local rivalries, collaborators, informers, and so on?

Hatim Kanaaneh: "There was some of that especially in terms of the groups of people that were co-opted and not so much the individuals. For example, teachers and religious leaders were particularly targeted as potential collaborators and I addressed those issues clearly in the book."

"I didn't set out to write a book of memoirs. What I wrote at the time...I wrote it, or recorded it, was not meant for others but a form of psychotherapy. In that sense, I did not feel the urge to address issues that might be interesting to lots of people as long as they were not directly affecting me personally."

"I did mull it over in my mind, and in my memoirs, the deeper meaning of my own working within the system in as much as that implied being part of the system and thus being co-opted even when I was intent on serving my people."

"Such self-searching episodes are frequent in the book and led eventually to me facing up, not only to the system but to my own role in it."

"As soon as I made that clear to myself, I initiated a project - what eventually became the Galilee Society for Health Research and Services, a non-governmental organization that was independent of government influence and even confronted that governmental system about its shortcomings vis-a-vis the Palestinian citizens of Israel."

"So the issue you raise is addressed in my book only so far as it impacts on me personally and on my role as an 'Uncle Tom.' I was quick to recognize that and managed to deal with it in mid-career."

MENASSAT: Yes, that was a very interesting element to the book - your internal struggle...working in the system. Has this left you to believe that it is useless to work within the system in Israel to achieve self-determination and equality for Palestinians in Israel?

Hatim Kanaaneh: "The moment I realized that I was working within a system that is based on an ideology, the Zionist ideology, of building up a state and a culture designed to disenfranchise me and my people, it became clear that it was useless to try to render service to my people even in such presumably apolitical field as health and community development."

"I deemed it unwise to break away completely from the system because then I would have lost touch with the bigger picture and what was happening within the system."

"That's why I and a few fellow Arab health professionals built an alternative mechanism to serve the Arab community in which we lived. At the same time, we had to keep in touch with the system and even maintain some influence within it, limited as it was."

"The alternative mechanism as I mentioned was the Galilee Society, which has since become a leading organization for the civil society structures of the 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of Israel."

"It has served as a hot house for the establishment in the early years of functioning of such prominent NGOs as Ittijah, the Arab Union of Community-Based Organizations, and Adalah, the Organization for Arab Minority Rights."

MENASSAT: In my opinion, one of the most bold and powerful statements your book is: ''It now occurs to me that there is a different form of genocide practiced against us, a chronic and hidden genocide. …Israel’s intentional neglect of the health and well-being of its Arab citizens amounts to the intentional liquidation of many people, especially children. Infant mortality rates among Arabs in Israel have been twice the levels of Jews in Israel since the establishment of the state.'' Can you comment on this?

Hatim Kanaaneh: "I think the statement speaks for itself."

"It is factually correct. At its core is the willful neglect by the state of parts of its citizenry set aside strictly based on its ethnicity."

"As I have said repeatedly in my book, groups of Jewish immigrants who arrived in Israel with health conditions worse than our own have been targeted by the state for preferential treatment and sophisticated socio-economic programs that brought them to a health-care level much better than our own."

"The statement you quote puts the emphasis strictly on infants because of the starkness of the comparison that the Infant Mortality Rate allows."

MENASSAT: I think you did a great job of portraying the feeling of Palestinians in Israel vis-a-vis Jews living in Israel. You even referred to it as, ''the emotional schizophrenia of our daily lives.'' Why was it important to discuss this? Do you think it will help people understand the position of Palestinians in Israel?

Hatim Kanaaneh: "Yes, indeed it does in my opinion. Once again what you are reading in the book reflects my own internal struggle in my effort to seek some psychological internal balance."

"It would be strange and highly improbable if we were to work and be in daily contact with the Jewish majority in Israel and not admit to any positive feelings towards those individuals."

"Yet, the collective that makes up the Zionist political majority of Israel embodies all the comparative disadvantages and inequities that befall us."

"So, in reflecting on my own mixed feelings, I do to a great extent illustrate the bind in which my entire community finds itself. And it is good for the world to realize the daily tension of our lives."

MENASSAT: What about the situation now? Israel has turned more openly to the right. The idea of transfer is even more normalized in public opinion than ever before. Where does this leave Palestinians? Do you still have hope?

Hatim Kanaaneh: "The Israeli Jewish public opinion has never been this racist before."

"True, the danger of transfer or wars is ever present and it causes me, personally, to fear for my life and that of my community. Yet, there are signs that the world is waking up to fascist threat of such people as Lieberman and Netanyahu."

"That provides a glimpse of hope for us."

"We should not forget that there are Israeli peace activist who oppose this. Even if they are small in number, their voices probably reach a larger audience in the world than mine and yours do. Again, that has an element of reassurance in it."

MENASSAT: Also, Monday was Land Day. What does the day mean to Palestinians? It has been over 30 years since the 1976 incident that saw thousands of Palestinian protest government appropriation of Arab-Israeli land, and Israel is still trying to confiscate their lands.

Hatim Kanaaneh: "It is 33 years to be exact!"

"What Land Day signifies is the ability of our community to act in unison when it comes to the issue of land. No other occasion has elicited such a unified response from Arab-Israelis."

"True, land confiscation still happens, though to a lesser degree than before, and with a greater degree of resistance than before."

"Let's remember that I am speaking of the Palestinians within the Green Line, the 1948 community and not of Gaza and the West Bank. Especially in the West Bank the confiscation of land is rampant under the heavy hand of the occupying armed forces and the rightist settlers."

MENASSAT: Last question. What are you working on now? What's next for you?

Hatim Kanaaneh: "I am busy with promoting my book to the widest possible readership in the West. It was entered in the competition for the 2009 George Orwell Prize for Political Writing and placed on the long list of 18 out of 180 competitors."

"I will be traveling for book events in the U.S. I maintain an active blog in which I write in the same spirit of my memoirs of old. Perhaps something will come out of that as well. I do gardening and I hunt for fossils. That keeps me busy."

MENASSAT: Thank you so much for the interview. Is there anything else you would like to add, that I may have missed?

Hatim Kanaaneh: "I should have mentioned that this interview is the first of its kind in an Arabic country. It is my hope that one day A Doctor in Galilee will be made available in Arabic."


Shattering the Myth of Democracy and Equality in Israel
An Interview with Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh
by Angie Tibbs / April 6th, 2009

Hatim Kanaaneh was an eleven year old boy when his peaceful village of Arrabeh, Galilee, was invaded by Jewish terrorists and the villagers forced to surrender in 1948. What followed was living under a military regime, which had absolute powers, a life filled with terror and humiliation, coupled with a curtailment of freedom and infringements on human rights. Discrimination was evident in all aspects of everyday life, even in the education system, something Dr. Kanaaneh experienced first hand when he was denied entry to the Hadassah medical school because he was deemed to be unqualified.
He later attended Harvard and received his medical degrees, following which he returned to Galilee where he worked as a physician for thirty-five years. He founded the Galilee Society for Health Research and Services, and also the Elrazi Center for Child Rehabilitation, the first such facility specifically designed to serve rural Palestinian children. He is now retired from clinical practice but continues to be an active member of the Galilee Society and serves on the Board of Directors of Elrazi.
Dr. Kanaaneh’s memoirs have been published in a book, A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggles of a Palestinian in Israel, (Pluto Press, June 20, 2008), which gives readers an in-depth look at the struggles he, and the Palestinian minority in the Jewish state, have faced over the last 60 years, and which they continue to face. His first-hand experience of life inside Israel contrasts with ex-US President Jimmy Carter’s contention that the term “Apartheid” only applies to Israeli practices in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza.
I spoke with him via e-mail.
Angie Tibbs: Dr. Kanaaneh, it’s been almost 61 years since Arrabeh was forced to surrender to Jewish terrorists. What is life like today, not just for the people of Arrabeh, but for all Palestinians who are living inside what is called Israel?
Dr. Kanaaneh: A prime feature of our life is our imposed separate residential areas, separate towns and villages. Even in so-called ‘mixed cities’ some Arab slums are separated by concrete walls and barbwire from the better-off Jewish neighborhoods. Our communities, with one or two exceptions, fall in the bottom three centile rungs in the socio-economic grading of Israeli communities.
AT: Tell me about that.
Dr. K: Our towns and villages have fewer internal resources, be it industry, commerce, tourism, or agriculture. And they receive much less financial assistance from common central budgets, only 3-5% of the total.
Sixty-one years after the establishment of the state, one has to be blind not to see the physical differences between an Arab town, even the best-off one, and a Jewish town: pot-holed roads without sidewalks, no public spaces, no private lawns, overcrowding, children playing in the streets for lack of playgrounds, … and the list of signs of neglect is endless.
But these are only the physical symptoms. At a deeper level we constitute an undesirable element, a foreign element in the body of a state whose planners and decision makers define it to exclude us. Israeli Zionist Leaders have variously likened us to a cancer in the body of the state or a fifth column not to be trusted. At best we are seen as a hindrance, a stumbling block for planners to maneuver around in formulating their visions of the future of the state. At worse, we are a demographic ticking bomb to be dismantled at all costs.
The late Rabin was the most tolerant of Israeli leaders, accepting our presence up to a limit of twenty percent of the total population of Israel, a limit we have nearly reached now. That kind of pronouncement by presumed liberal leaders of Israel is ready fodder for incitement by openly racist politicians, the likes of Avigdor Lieberman, an immigrant from Moldova, who legitimized and popularized the concept of transfer to where over two thirds of Israeli Jewish adults approve of it.
How do I feel living in such openly hostile socio-political environment? I feel quite insecure: mentally anguished and physically threatened. I function with an ample reserve of paranoia, constantly on the lookout for signs of harmful intent behind every move by anyone outside my immediate circle of family and friends. When I start doubting those, I will know that I have lost the fight.
AT: Progressive writers, Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri, wrote a 12-part series entitled “Defining Israeli Zionist Racism” which deals at length with racism inside Israel. What, if any, discrimination and/or racism have you observed and/or encountered?
Dr. K: Discrimination is a built-in part of life and the laws of the country. Remember that what we are dealing with here (and the basic issue of contention in the conflict between Zionism and all of us native Palestinians) is a conflict over land.
As a Palestinian I am disqualified by law from equal access to land ownership or use. This is given a deeper expression in the form of the Law of Return granting any Jewish person anywhere in the world automatic citizenship with all the benefits that accrue with it of access to land, housing, financial and social assistance, and to the symbols of the state while no Palestinian who is not born here can dream of ever becoming a citizen.
Recently laws were passed specifically to prevent our children from marrying other Palestinians and from the right to bring their spouses under the standing laws of family unification applicable to Jewish citizens.
The absolute majority of land we, the Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel since its establishment in 1948, once owned has been confiscated for the benefit of our Jewish co-citizens through a maze of some three dozen laws specifically designed for the purpose. Were it not for the 1976 uprising that has come since to be commemorated as Land Day, we would have lost the remainder. We, nearly one-fifth of the total population of Israel, now own about 3 % of its land. After all, we are dealing with what has been defined by Zionism as ‘the land of Israel’ in an ethnic sense, a definition that excludes us, Palestinians. The last stroke in the continuing saga of disenfranchisement is the requirement from us to pledge allegiance to Israel as the state of the Jews. And once we take such an oath, it would be up to the same racist crowd to define what constitutes a breach of it, a process inevitably leading to our expulsion one way or the other.
Beyond such basic discriminatory laws the whole official system and all Zionist civilian structures, many of which are legally entrusted with state-level powers and duties, are imbued with a sense of messianic zeal. Our experience with such bodies is not unlike a preview of the current practices in the Palestinian Occupied Territories where Palestinians are not allowed to drive on roads for settlers. The multitude of new settlements, named ‘Mitzpim’, or hilltop lookouts, are intended to guard the land in Galilee from us, its indigenous population, and they are surrounded by barbwire and interconnected by special roads that bypass our villages. True, we were not prevented from using those roads, but they were of little use to us because they led only to the various settlements.
At the practical level this translates into set rules and regulations that exempt Palestinians like me from all sorts of benefits if they are not openly anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian. Much of this is practiced under the blanket justification of security, the holiest of all holy cows in the country.
AT: What about employment opportunities for Palestinians, in particular, young people?
Dr. K: A psychologist colleague just informed me that he had gone through two years of theoretical and practical training as a lie-detector expert/operator before he found out that one needs to have served in the Israeli armed forces to qualify for a license.
Our youth, unlike Jewish youth, are exempt from the draft. Positions from which they are disqualified on this basis when they seek employment run the gamut from civil aviation all the way down to the manufacturing of ice-cream.
The worst part of the daily discrimination that we meet with is the fact that much of the final decisions on so many little items are left to the discretion of low-level bureaucrats. These, by and large, have been brought up on a deeply self-centered world-view that sees the world as one of constant struggle between ‘us’-the Jews and ‘them’-the Goyim and considers one’s duty as serving his own people. This, of course, leaves me out of ‘the favors’ many officials consider it their duty to do their clients. Intentional obstructionism is more often what we face.
Another area in which this phenomenon is evident is the differential implementation of the law. Take, for example, the practice of house demolition within Israel. Mind you, we are not speaking here of the savage collective punishment practiced by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. We are speaking of the practice of demolition of homes built without permit within Israel proper.
In absolute numbers there are more illegally constructed structures in Jewish communities, but the demolition is practiced almost exclusively against Arab home owners. The basis for the construction of homes without permit is also rooted in discriminatory practices in the laws of zoning which in many cases have retroactively criminalized all residents of many villages whose existence predated the state, itself. Such “Unrecognized Villages” are frequently the site of home demolitions.
The cumulative end result of all the openly discriminatory laws, the hidden disadvantages, and the differential application of the rules and regulations are clearly seen in comparative figures from officially published data of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics.
As a Public Health practitioner I can point to the single most telling indicator of the well-being of a community, that of Infant Mortality Rate, or the number out of a thousand infants born in a certain year who die before their first birthday. This statistic regarding the most vulnerable segment of a population reflects such community attributes as the income level, the level of education, the sanitation, etc. etc.
The relative ratio of the IMR between Arabs and Jews in Israel has run at the level of almost exactly 2 since ever statistics were collected on both groups. In the last decade it has been on the rise, a reflection of increasing discrimination. One could look at many other statistics such as the level of poverty, education, housing, etc. and the gap is obvious, but IMR sums it up best.
AT: Do you see East Jerusalem being annexed completely by Israel, and, if so, what will happen to the Palestinians living where they have lived for millennia although the land has been rechristened Israel?
Dr. K: Jerusalem has already been unilaterally and completely annexed by Israel. What many people do not realize is that the city’s municipal boundaries have been expanded tremendously since its annexation to include many formerly independent Arab communities as well as some pristine wilderness turned into housing projects.
Generous funding from Jewish communities around the world and from Western governments made this possible. Yet part of the overall plan is to render the expanded city the Jewish-only capital of the state and of world Jewry. The residents of the old city of about 300,000 Palestinians were granted residence status but not full citizenship in Israel. They are slowly but constantly coerced by various means, legal and otherwise, to evacuate their Jerusalem homes and neighborhoods.
AT: How do Palestinians living in Israel view the ongoing Israeli attacks on their kin in Gaza and the West Bank?
Dr. K: At the personal level I can answer that best by referring you and your audience to my blog where the attack on Gaza featured in more than one posting. To sum that up I can testify to a sense of anger, frustration and impending danger. The daily scenes of war atrocities and destruction are enough to move the conscience of anyone with a morsel of humanity. When the violence is visited on one’s own brethren and next of kin the effect is doubly infuriating.
As a community we reacted by withdrawing into self-imposed isolation in our villages and slum neighborhoods in the cities. There was also an outpouring of donations of food, clothing and medicine though little if any was permitted to enter Gaza. More important, perhaps, were the daily demonstrations in our communities against the carnage, a way for our youth to vent their anger in non-violent ways.
Psychologically, a common theme I have heard expressed by many individuals around me is the fear for our own future.
AT: How so?
Dr. K: The worst case scenario we fear is of the world averting its eyes from our suffering and allowing Israel one day to drive us out of our homes under an imposed news blackout when the next war breaks out with a neighboring country, say, Syria or Lebanon. If the world could sit still and not be moved to protect our brothers and sisters in Gaza from the white phosphorous and DIME bombardments and from the endless air, sea and land assault against them, why would it lift a finger to protect us from summary expulsion from our homes? And such contingency plans for our expulsion are known to exist.
In recent weeks the plot of such conspiratorial theories has thickened even further: In recent years drugs have slowly become available on our streets with little interference from the police. More recently guns and live munitions have become easily available to our youth and the police seem to keep its eyes closed. Older and wiser members of our community theorize that this is done consciously in preparation for the final assault so that the Israeli authorities can claim that an armed uprising is brewing in our community and this would be enough of an excuse for calling in the tanks, the F-16s and the Apaches.
I cite this only as an example of the degree our paranoia has reached as a result of the attack on Gaza.
AT: You mentioned a very real fear is that the world will turn a blind eye to your suffering and allow Israel to one day drive you out of your homes. Who do you see as the strongest supporters of the Palestinian people in their struggle?
Dr. K: At the official level few countries, with the exception of Iran and of South American nations recently liberated form the clutches of USA hegemony, such as Chavez’ Venezuela, openly support the Palestinian people. None of the world’s heavy weights stands behind us. At the individual level, again, few in the world are informed and concerned enough to give our issues much thought. That leaves the fringe activist community in Europe and North America as our best defenders in the corridors of effective power brokerage.
Potentially, the Arab and Islamic masses are a shoo-in as our back-up crowd, but they lack the freedom and democratic means to pressure their dictator presidents, kings and emirs to respond to their wishes. Their countries’ governments mostly follow the straight and narrow path dictated by their American allies with their a’ priori acceptance of all things Israeli.
In the end, we Palestinians, inside and outside historical Palestine, are left burdened with the task of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps; we are our own best spokespeople and supporters. Despite our spacial dispersal, internal factionalism and disunity, we have so far managed to put our issues on the world’s agenda, albeit belatedly and haltingly. Our resilience and stoicism have proven to be valuable assets in a less-than-caring world.
The Jewish people have elevated their past suffering and future potential to axiomatic heights in the world’s conscience. It is now our turn.
AT: What do you see happening in the future with respect to Palestinians living in Israel? Are you anticipating any improvement or do you expect things to get worse?
Dr. K: It is likely to get worse before it gets better. In the long run, I remain optimistic that general decency and common sense will triumph. The ‘democratic and Jewish state’ that Israel declares itself to be is an oxymoron by definition.
I see it as a three-piece puzzle that has space for only two. One part has to go. So far the Zionist system in Israel has skimped on democracy and successfully hidden the way it has disenfranchised a fifth of its population from the international community. That is no longer possible especially with the rise of civil society organizations and the advent of the Internet.
Also, I do sense a new readiness in the West, and specifically in the USA , to listen to an alternative discourse coming from quarters other than the standard pro-Israel lobby, even if it is still very reluctant to change its stand on ‘minor matters’ such as the issue at hand.
Rightists in Israel who make up the clear majority in Israel have expressed their views clearly in our last elections. Such leaders as the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, seem to share my analysis of the three-piece puzzle. The only difference is that they plan on throwing the Palestinian minority out and thus maintaining a truly Jewish and democratic Israel.
I am gambling on their failure and betting on the commitment of the majority of humanity to justice and equality. In taking such a risk I am counting heavily on the promising views of President Obama, for example.
It may not happen in my lifetime, but I foresee the eventual decline of fascism and fanaticism in the world, including in our region, and the rise of secular humanitarian views and solutions to common problems.
I know many decent people around me, both Jewish and Palestinian, and I would like to think that our shared humanity and decency are slowly contagious. If good people like you keep the world alert to the short-range dangers and help us avoid a calamitous quick end of our combined dreams through the actions of the Liebermens and Netanyahus, then the rise of true democracy in Israel can be expected.
This will ultimately be the nucleus of the one-state solution for Palestine and Israel.
AT: Thank you very much, Dr. Kanaaneh.

• Dr. Kanaaneh can be reached at
Angie Tibbs is a writer/activist. She can be reached at: Read other articles by Angie.

This article was posted on Monday, April 6th, 2009 at 8:00am and is filed under Discrimination, Education, Israel/Palestine, Racism,
The interview has appeared on other websites including:
Uruknet as well:
Redress (UK):
Iraq War:

Here is a commentary about it in
Institutional Racism in Israel
I have frequently compared Israel as a state to apartheid South Africa. Citizens of the country are defined and confined by race. it is not just that all ethnic Jews, wherever they were born, have a right to live in Israel whereas many ethnic Palestinians who were actually born in Israel do not. Jews in Israel have a right of immigration for their spouses; arabs in Israel do not. Arab Israelis are actually forbidden by law from marrying Palestinians outside Israel. Many Arab communities are physically cut off by barbed wire.
It is worth reading this interview with Dr Hatim Kanaaneh. ... just concentrate on the substance of what old Dr Kanaaneh, who uses language with care and neutrality, has to say.
Here are some key parts:
Discrimination is a built-in part of life and the laws of the country. … … but IMR sums it up best.
It is worth reading the whole interview carefully. Israel now has a Foreign Minister from a party whose major election platform was the need for further action against Israeli Arabs.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hawaii sans Vim and Vigor

Youth, vim and vigor all come handy if you happen to find yourself in the islands of Hawaii with extra time on your hands and enough cash to survive on. Time and cash were always at a premium for us before we turned the corner on the vim and vigor requirement for the full savoring of what is always on offer at Waikiki, the bathing and frolicking Mecca of the rich and famous. Compromise is a magic thing and it kicked-in automatically for us as a built-in mechanism, both physical and intellectual.

Arriving in Hawaii this time with the lame excuse of attending a wedding of a second cousin of Didi’s, both of us felt uncomfortable at encroaching on a friend’s or a relative’s privacy by crashing in for more than a couple of nights. We also wanted our own private space. We checked the hotel prices and found them at about half the usual level and settled for one of medium range a walking distance from Ala Moana , the tamest of beaches, socially a family picnic location and physically over a mile’s stretch of sandy shore protected by a wide reef that guarantees the mildest of swimming conditions, second only to a mile-long swimming pool but without the awful chlorine smell. This ideal floating space is contained on the land side by the huge beach park just across the road from Ala Moana Shopping Center, the largest in the world when it was first opened and when as students we could afford only to window-shop in it with the rare coconut ice-cream cone to mitigate the feeling of total estrangement from this plush hangout of international spendthrifts. The park offers no end of cool shade from palm trees in constant hula performance mode to huge monkey pods sheltering the elderly sailors, the tendons of their tattooed biceps frayed to where they play at competing with their remote-control toy sail-boats on the adjacent pond in imitation of the real thing they once did for a living, and the ever expansive banyan trees with swarms of children swaying from their aerial roots.

I never swam or felt comfortable in water before I came to Hawaii as a college junior. On a date at the beach with an East West Center student whose phone line was always busy and the full details of whose features I now forget except for exceptionally succulent lips I learned to float in still seawater. A different girl, an Indian constantly chewing cardamom seeds to freshen her lovely breath, herself unable to swim, would extend her virginal arms under my back and encourage me to splash backward with my arms enough to create a semblance of motion. By the time I befriended Didi I had developed my own back stroke that would keep me afloat even in the moderate waves of Kaneohe bay where her house was.

By now it is what I call ‘my swimming style’ and Didi calls ‘splashing about in the sea’. Whatever you call it, it allows me to move the length of Ala Moana beach and back in less than an hour. And that is exactly what I did every day of our stay in Honolulu on this trip. I wander a bit in the water unable to maintain a straight line while contemplating the landscape on the horizon with Diamond Head’s profile, half-hidden by the row of coconut palms at Magic Island, merging imperceptibly with the green spaces around Waikiki’s high rise hotels. Then the ostentatious glass facade of downtown Honolulu office buildings comes into view from the left while a sea liner, a tugboat or a departing jet crosses my visual field on the right disturbing the otherwise uniformly blue horizon. I float on immersed in dreams of the imagined reality of what it must be like for Gaza’s fishermen now limited to two miles from their coast or for Gazan children with the salt burning their fresh stumps as they enter the Mediterranean the first time after release from hospital.

Dosing off into happier daydreams of past youthful years doesn’t seem to affect my rhythmic backward splashing: four limbs brought together, then forcefully thrust to full extension, then clumped back together and thrown out open again, in again, out again, the repetitive jellyfish-like motion becoming as effortlessly routine as breathing, till the sudden splash of an oar brings me back to present-day Hawaii again with the sight of another paddle-boarder. I focus and see attached to the oar striking the water at my side a muscular arm tattooed with a shark diagonally crossing my field of vision. I look around, adjust my zigzag direction away from the reef, dose off into imagined half reality again, splash away endlessly, and am called back to Hawaii by another athletic figure upright on her board, oar poised in her forward-extended arms ready to split my head if I don’t watch where I am going “boy!” I imbibe the full image as it slides by me: a beautiful dark-skinned wahine with the Hawaiian island chain tattooed on her torso back-to-front, the island of Lanai over the upper spine, then Kauai and Molokai, then Maui and Oahu on the side of her constricted waist and the Big Island around over her bikinied pubis, a heavenly seen to drive away my Gaza nightmare.

Still, as I say, with my semi-random backward splashing I manage to float to and fro from one end of Ala Moana’s magic pool to the other and back again. Exhausted, I lay on my back on the sand and let the Trade Winds cool my torso. As the sun arches across the late afternoon horizon to drop into the Pacific its rays twinkle through my wet eyelids creating the perception of endless concentric rainbows. At midday the effect is too traumatic for enjoyment; the prism-like dispersion of the vertical sunrays by the saltwater drenching my lashes is blinding, the brightest white shower of glowing meteorites across the noon sky, a veritable white phosphorus explosion over Waikiki and Ala Moana. Enough! It is time to escape the tortured memories my guilty conscience keeps conjuring up to murky my reclaimed pleasures of yesteryears.

The tempo of our daily joyful dash to the beach sadly dampened, we walk back the half mile to our hotel, the Equus, in our bathing outfits: no fancy bikinis, no showy tattoos, and no bulging deltoids, biceps or abs for us. And the pursuing images of Gaza to boot. It all adds up to a the equivalent of my usual daily worried village strolls to the post office, the store, the bakery, or a brother’s, a sister’s or a friend’s home back in Arrabeh. It all keeps me preoccupied and fit enough to occasionally forget that I too have some limitations on my physical capacity and endurance. At least that is how it felt when Djon, my Catholic-Chinese-Indonesian ex-college-roommate from Yankton College and UH days and current cardiologist brother in Hilo, and I made the snap decision to go on a two-day hike.

It all started a couple of years back. The last time the two of us hiked the hour-long steep incline into lush Waipio Valley, we spoke about a more serious hike from there on to Waimano Valley where we would stay overnight in its even more lush and wilder environs and then hike back the next day. The climb up the intervening mountain looked hard enough but not quite prohibitive and we promised ourselves to do it ‘the next time’ we are together again on the Big Island. This time around my host in Hilo, a retired Palestinian Soil Science professor who uses his expertise to entice eggplants to grow on volcanic rock and hence has a ragged truck, drove all of us down Waipio Valley for Djon to capture a view of a taro field at its prime with the mountain range and its full-height beautiful waterfall as a backdrop. We failed to locate the right field despite detailed directions from a local beauty whose solitude and daily bath in the stream we disturbed and who mixed her directions with a barrage of complaints about her hash-smoking ex-boyfriend. We drove to the ocean at the mouth of the green valley to take-in the scene from there, the very spot where two years earlier we promised ourselves the dream hike of our lives. One of us brought the subject up, the other felt we had no time this time around and we should put it off till the next time, then one said: “Brother, what if there is no next time?” and we both agreed on the spot to cancel our scheduled appointments the next two days and stared at each other in the hope of one of us flinching but neither did.

As we drove out of the ravine we stopped for some basic information from the park rangers who gave us a schematic map of the hike that they described as "strenuous but not scary for a couple of young guys like you.” At this stage we informed our wives and started thinking about basics: food, water, cameras and sleeping bags. The next morning we were driven to the bottom of Waipio Valley again and we set a time for the same eggplant magician to collect us at the same spot the next afternoon.

The first heroic act was to cross the river that bisects Waipio Valley at its widest point as it enters the ocean, a feat we had to repeat again in Waimano Valley and then twice more on our way back. I wouldn’t be reporting this had I not tripped and fallen right at the start and ruined my camera for good. But Djon was the photographer of this campaign and I had packed our last but one electronic camera for the trip and felt little guilt at the small fortune my clumsiness had cost me.

Landing in LA few days later we stayed at Didi’s late uncle Willy’s family. There I had the time and means to attempt drying my shoes and the thick support padding in them for my flat feet. Karen, a loyal daughter of her mother’s with all the servile attitudes traditional rural Japanese roots assign to the female of the species, took on the forbidding task with washer, dryer and ample supply of Odor Eater brand powder. The only hint of complaint that I heard from her on the smelly topic was when she inquired if I had been on a whaling boat or had stepped in a pile of dead fish. I got the hint and bought a new pair of shoes and a new leather belt for my scheduled lectures in the area.

The day before our pleasure hike the park ranger had pointed out a clump of coconut palms at the far end of the valley as the start of our hiking trail. After crossing barefoot the mile or so of seashore from the opposite end of the valley to the foot of the steep mountain we thought was the only climb there was for us to negotiate, Djon, as the local in our group of two, led the trek. I followed silently up a trail that seemed totally random scurrying between tree trunks and wild forest growth in a diagonal upward general direction, sliding down every few steps about the same distance I had just climbed. After about an hour of this we came to a cleared path, the one the ranger had pointed out to us the previous day from the top of the opposite mountain where we had stood. From there it had looked like a knife’s zigzag slash in the thickly forested face of the mountain. Now we both realized Djon had followed an imagined trail apparently marked by wild boars in their night foraging. That night we related the experience to a Hawaiian hunter camping in Waimano Valley. He asked us to please be on the lookout for one of his four hunting dogs that hadn’t come back. He thought that as lost hikers we have a good chance of straying into the same endless maze of wild boar tracks in which his dog must have been spinning.

As we reached the top of the mountain we met a couple of young hikers on their way back. They reported they had started from our destination six hours before. Still they reassured us that we had cleared the hardest part and the rest of the way was “rather civil.” Still I worried. By now I had discovered a physiologic feature of my Indonesian brother I had forgotten over the years, one that gave his wild boar ramblings meaning: The man sweats like a pig. Despite all the frequent drinking he looked like a welted weed. I started worrying that I may need to carry him down and I was just contemplating if it wouldn’t be wise to get red of my backpack and forage for food and shelter instead; it felt that heavy. Then I realized that there were four helicopter rescue points along the trail. But we had no means of communication and these were the only people we had met on the trail so far. We rested, drank more water and shared a sandwich. We both felt better and crossed over to the opposite side of the mountain expecting that downward hike to take us to our destination.

Far from it! We crossed a total of twelve gulches, each promising to be the climb into our final destination and turning out to lead us across a stream to start another climb out to the top of the range, then another descent, and so on ad-infinitum, or so it felt to us at the time. Every time we made it to the top we would rest a little and I would size up my reserve stamina and brother Djon’s remaining weight and find he had shrunk proportionately and I could still imagine lugging him instead of my backpack should the need arise. As we rested and while trudging down and up gulches we ‘talked story’ as the Hawaiians would say, covering the range of shared memories: our first exposure to American culture in Yankton, South Dakota; the sweet initial depravity, both emotional and financial, of life as guests on the campus of Yankton Collage and then later at the University of Hawaii; the first bumbling experiments with the new thing they called 'dating'; the rebuffs of first dates and sweet successes later on; the affairs of Indonesia and Palestine/Israel; the welfare of Jagy, our Indian brother who pulled out of the trip to Hawaii the last moment; the revival of Hawaiian culture and the state of affairs of the Hawaiian people; Djon’s medical practice and his far off retirement plans; our lovely wives and children; and no end of medical issues I raised with Djon as the one still actively involved in the practice of its art and science.

But the one item that engaged our attention on this two-day ‘pleasure hike’ was the Hawaiian flora. Since ever we first landed in Hawaii nearly half a century ago Djon took to photographing Hawaiian flowers and he has never stopped. Every time we visit him he combines a dinner party in our honor at his home to which he invites friends and colleagues with a slide show of his latest best shots, the ones his photo journalist advisor on the Mainland rates as worthy of publishing and marks with a red dot for distinction. This time was no exception and the man is still out to capture new species and awesome combinations in the wild despite having spent most of his weekends and vacations island hopping in search of them. He now thinks he has two more years to go before his book on Hawaiian Flowers And Flowering Trees will be published.

The entire trip Djon, dehydrated, welted and incontinent of sweat, never stopped talking about the flowers and trees we saw on the way: native species, indigenous ones, imported ones, aggressive invaders, sturdy bushes, fragrant flowers, showy blooms, etc. etc. He went on spewing no end of details regarding every plant we saw and we did see an endless variety indeed. My main contribution was the discovery of two different species of colorful tree mushrooms with concentric bright rings adorning their glistening upper surface clinging to the rotting tree trunks in the wet entrails of those gulches. Djon thought highly of my discovery though it wouldn’t fit exactly in his target species of flowers and flowering trees. The man had accumulated an encyclopedic range of information about everything that grows on the Islands. If he knows as much about cardiology I would certainly trust him with my heart. He noted the location of those mushrooms and designated half a dozen other floral items for photography on the way back in hope of a more sunny day and an earlier hour when the sunrays would be in the right direction. “Available light is best. No flash light for perfect shots,” he insisted.

Having survived the hike into the valley and roughed it out at the beach campsite, a facility defined only by a series of empty rectangular clearings in the stony ground with assigned numbers and one outhouse, we hiked back out of the valley to the constant drizzle and occasional downpour of a generous semitropical rain. No pictures this time around. But would Djon ever dare to repeat the daunting experience? I volunteered the services of our third brother from college days, Jagy the super hiker who is renowned for carrying twice his weight on his back. He used to brag about the fact that at his Hawaiian hiking club a team member devised a rule that required each hiker to carry enough of the shared provisions to bring the total with his or her bodyweight to the same number of pounds. Fat-Free Jagy, as we used to call him, even survived the Sherpa test of endurance up the Annapurna mountain range in Nepal only two years ago.
“Besides he comes from that part of the world where suffering seems to count for less than ‘our’ own and life is valued less than in ‘our’ Western culture.”
“Hold it a f…ing minute, man! We are Jagy types too.” ‘Jagy type’ is the term Djon has started using of late for Indians in general and now he was extending it to encompass all silent sufferers of the East. “Suffering knows no racial boundaries. Just because you can escape out of the Middle East and not see the daily slaughter of your people you start identifying with the master races! I told you about the Dutch in Indonesia last night as we were falling asleep, you remember? How long did you stay awake anyhow?”
“Till you reached the part about Spaniards and Nutmeg or something like that.” I confessed.
“ What did you do to me, man? That was at the very start of the historical account I thought I was giving you. Don’t tell me I was sharing the story with the wild boars! I heard snoring and I couldn’t tell if it was you or them so I kept on talking. I talked for over an hour and got all the way past the Dutch colonial rule, the two world wars, President Sukarno and Suharto and into the present democratically elected president. And you fell asleep at the start! Damn you! I have to go over it again now.” And he started all over from Spain and Europe’s interest in spices.

On our way in we had noticed the occasional marker specifying the remaining distance to the camp ground. The last was at the top of the range after the last gulch just before the steep descent into Waimano. It showed 0.9 miles remaining. As we swung from one bamboo stalk to the other on the sides of the path to support our dead weight down the steep and sharp zigzags, Djon kept repeating: “This is the longest darn 0.9 miles I ever walked in my life! And I have been to some rough places in my life.” His estimate of “three miles at least” was shared by the only three additional hikers that we saw on the trail, a disappointed fisherman with water and a fishing pole as the only supplies, a woman with a huge dog fitted with a weight-carrying saddle on its back for its own food supply, and a young man who had been camping alone for over a week and who guided us to the water source at the camp, a length of plastic tubing someone stuck at the mid point of the closest waterfall.

Reunited with our wives we both were chided for irresponsible and childish behavior. Djon insisted he has to go back to thosw choice shots he missed this time, especially a combination of three genre of trees, indigenous, pan-pacific and imported, all lined up on the side of the trail near its distant end, just after that 0.9 (= 3) mile sign, with a waterfall the height of the entire 0.9 (=3) mile high mountain cliff at the other side of Waimano Valley for a backdrop. He discussed the matter with Sherry privately and came back all smiles:
“At the right time of year I will rent a canoe from Hilo Harbor, enter Waimanu Valley from the ocean and walk up to that point. It was a short 0.9 miles on the way back, wasn’t it, Brother?”

The sheer pleasure of withstanding the physical challenge is comparable only to another demanding three-day Hawaiian hike I once took into Haleakala, House of the Sun, on the Island of Maui. Permit me please to venture once more into the faint landscape of memories from yesteryears when youth, vim and vigor were such integral part of life that they were taken for granted. Three local boys were drafted into this hiking mission by the fully liberated only Norwegian student on campus. The bold blond woman was the unofficial mascot of every University of Hawaii male-dominated club at the time including the Foreign Student Association of which I was head. Her apparent preference though was for the unofficial circle of Fiji Boys, the group of dark and muscular Polynesian young men who partied nonstop on the grounds of the newly constructed East West Center and who were famed for roasting some of the decorative Koi fish in the pool of the Japanese Garden presented to the center by the emperor of Japan himself. When I found out about the planned hike I enquired if I could join and was encouraged to do so by no other than the representative of Norway on the Foreign Student Association herself. Problem was that my financial means were such that I foraged daily for lunch in the wild guavas forest on Tantalus Heights. A casual survey of the financial situation of other members of the Foreign Student Association yielded an immediate solution to my problem; one had enough cash and offered an interest-free loan. Off we flew to Maui where the family of one of the local participants hosted and provisioned us for the hike.

I do recall that this hike was extremely demanding physically. Yet what surfaces from the depths of my memory regarding the whole thing is the more demanding emotional strain the presence of a tall blond with four single men all vying for her attention must have put on the interpersonal relationship between us. I do not recall contemplating the act of pushing all the other three male companions off the edge of the many cliffs we negotiated on the hike, but I would not be surprised now if such evil thoughts had crossed my mind. Be that as it may, I did wind up being favored with sharing her supply of specialty goat cheese and French wine that she had stashed in her backpack. And yet, that sexuality-laced memory does not outdo the present pleasure of Djon’s welted fraternal company.

Back in Hilo we had three more days to spend with the Tamimis, our Palestinian volcano rock farmers. One afternoon we went and helped with harvesting the eggplants growing on the lava. The magic achievement the man blames on his scientific knowhow is less of a miracle when one contemplates the linguistic derivation of the Arabic name for this vegetable. ‘Bathenjan’, probably the source for the French aubergines, is a slight corruption of ‘beith el-jan’, Arabic for eggs of the genie. In colloquial Arabic it could also mean the balls of the genie. And genies are magical creatures that can grow anywhere. What more appropriate medium for any part of the genie to flourish with great exuberance than in the environs of Madam Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of the volcano.

Speaking of goddesses, Didi and our hostess, Siham Tamimi hit it off from the start. Yusuf, better addressed in the Palestinian common style between friends as Abu-Nimr, is a friend from college days. I knew him more as a mentor who passed his rented University Avenue apartment down to us three misfits in Hawaii back in the days when we all were single and when the code word before turning the key to open the door was: “Are you two decent in there, brother?”

By now Abu- and Um-Nimr are a part of the stable Hilo Kamaaina (old-timer) community. They toured the island with us stopping at sights we have never visited before including ranches and agricultural nooks where Yusuf once offered his expert advise to farmers and ranchers. We also did such compulsory spins as a visit to Mauna Kea observatory and its snow-covered mountainside. We did not bring skis; only the deranged can contemplate a ski vacation in Hawaii.

If the usage of Abu- and Um-Nimr for Yusuf and Siham sounds strange to your ears, then let me explain: ‘Abu’ is ‘father of’ and ‘Um’ is ‘mother of’ and each comes before the name of their first born son, actual or imagined. All Palestinian adult males are Abu- one thing or the other to their friends even when they have no children. I was known as Abu-Ty long before my son was born and even before I was married. Certain combinations of names go together; to Arabic speakers ‘Hatim’ and ‘Ty’ go well together because of a legendary figure in Arabic literature named Hatim Ty. Another ploy for inventing a name for one’s unborn male child is to use one’s father’s name for it. In this manner a set combination of two first names is often used in a repetitive manner such as Ali’s first-born son is Husain and Husain’s first-born son is Ali, and so on ad infinitum. All of this without me delving into the equally confusing custom of using the same ‘Abu’ as a nickname to imply fondness of a certain item, be it food, drink or otherwise. So you may well call your child Abu- or Um-Chocolata. My own grandfather was known throughout Galilee as Abu-Shelfi because of his fondness of his rough-hewn sword, shelfi meaning a length of iron. And Abu-this or that is the nom de guerre that all Palestinian fighters adopt. This Arabic tradition once exasperated Menahem Begin, the Stern Gang head terrorist turned Prime Minister of Israel, to such degree that he was heard cursing all Abus.

As we left Honolulu on to Hilo I mentioned the name of our host there. A friend who follows Palestinian issues had heard the same family name that day as the name of the Sheikh who spoke frankly in a meeting with the Pope in Jerusalem about Gaza and the war crimes of Israeli leaders. She wondered if the two Tamimis were related. When we arrived I asked Yusuf. He was pleased to acquaint another fellow Palestinian with the proud legacy of his blood line. Indeed, he and Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi were scions of the same famed ancestor, Tamim El-Aref of El-Khalil (Hebron), the recognized founder of the line now numbering in the tens of thousands in Palestine. (Yusuf did not elaborate on the number of Tamimis in the Diaspora but Hilo has a good start with a fully cohesive clan of half a dozen.) The line goes back some fourteen centuries to this legendary founder of the clan who was a contemporary of the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him. Though he lived in El-Khalil he had ample opportunity to gain the honor of personal contact with the prophet himself. El-Khalil is known throughout the region for its excellent grapes and our man was a wine merchant. During the annual Pan-Arab trade and worship celebratory season in Mecca Tamim would arrive to the shores of the Arabian Peninsula with a ship load of his select wines to sell. This went on even in the early years of Islam before its total ban on all alcoholic drinks. Sayyidna Gibril, the angle who transmitted the chapters of the holy Koran piecemeal to the prophet who would recite them to the Muslims by way of a special team of contemporaries who in turn would memorize or record them using the period’s primitive print technology of engraving on bone or palm fronds, must have leaked a hint of what was to come to this wine trader. Tamim up and ripped open every goatskin and cracked open every ceramic jar of wine his ship was carrying before arriving to hear the new Islamic edict banning the precious stuff in any shape or form. And that is how it came to pass that the prophet nicknamed him El-Arif, the knowledgeable.

In Anaheim, California I spoke at Al-Awda (The Palestine Right to Return Coalition) Seventh International Convention. This brought about another throwback to the old days. In high school I often did my home work with Faiz Khouri, a classmate whose parents always doted over us and spoke words of encouragement and praise of our seriousness and future potential. They were refugees from Maa’lul, a Palestinian village outside of Nazareth that was totally erased from the face of the earth with the creation of Israel. It shares the same name with a village in Northern Syria, the only modern-day community that still speaks Aramaic, the Language spoken by Jesus and his disciples. Their nine-member family lived in a small rented house and survived on the very limited income of the mother who did janitorial work at the military governor’s office in the ‘Mascobeyeh’, the old Muscovite compound that became the seat of government com jail and torture quarters in Nazareth, just as the parallel compound still does in East Jerusalem today. But Faiz faired infinitely better than I and my two student brothers did in our single rented room in the same neighborhood, Jabal Dar Farah, known for its mix of rich men and drunks. Obviously I welcomed the attention and pampering that Um- and Abu-Faiz bestowed on me in the hope that my company would help focus their son’s attention on his studies. Some very good-looking girls lived in the neighborhood.

There was a slew of children all around us in the warm home of Abu- and Um-Faiz. The family of Faiz’s paternal uncle who was married to the maternal aunt, Um-Faiz’s sister, and shared the same small house also had a number of children. One of this crowd was Fawwaz. Most of the brood, Faiz ,who has since died, included, eventually emigrated to the USA and settled in California. Fawwas is currently active with al-Awda and recognized my name on the speakers’ list for their seventh convention. He called a friend in Nazareth who called one of the half dozen Hatim Kanaanehs listed in the phone book under Arrabeh. This turned out to be my nephew who gave him my daughter’s phone number in New York. Rhoda gave him my mobile number and he reached me in Hawaii. At every link in this human chain he had to explain who he was and justify his motive for wanting to reach me. At the conference we hung around, reminisced and tried to catch up with exactly half a century’s worth of our two lives.

Fawwas had introduced his wife to us. Didi commented to me that they must be newly weds for they were too lovey-dovey. At the banquet we sat at the same table and Fawwaz explained: This is his second wife. The first was a devout Catholic. When their first-born son converted to Islam, the unexpected event reeked havoc in their marital relations ending in a divorce. Fawwaz then met Diane on the internet. She was a Moslem single woman, the daughter of refugees from Nablus, the home town of Yusuf Tamimi. She grew up in Beirut to where Fawwaz made a pilgrimage a couple of months ago, met her in person, met the family, got married and brought the petit pretty young woman back to California. ‘Tiko’ as we say back home; he has evened the score: one-one.

We then dropped in at Adel’s for two nights. Adel’s story is another tale that evokes a myriad of memories. In high school he was the youngest among my Nazarene friends. I was on good relations with everyone then and circled in two mutually exclusive ‘gangs’, one of village boys and the other of the city. Three out of the four in my circle of village boys have since risen to respectable positions in the Israeli educational system and settled with their families and Mercedes cars in the city while three out of the gang of four Nazareth boys that I called close friends emigrated to North America where they have established themselves and built families. I was the odd man out; I experienced the American dream to abandon it and return to my village.

Adel’s Nazarene city credentials were questionable. His family moved there during his childhood when his father, a Catholic village priest of limited financial means, was assigned to serve the small Malkite community in Nazareth. In fact the church in which he held mass was the one in the old market of Nazareth. It is on the ‘must visit’ list of every tourist and pilgrim that makes it to Nazareth because it is reputed to be the site of the synagogue where Jesus delivered a sermon. On Christmas and Easter I often would attend mass for the company and atmosphere and for the smile of acknowledgement that Abuna Basilius Bawardi would beam at us. Later on after I returned to Galilee as a physician I would occasionally venture with Didi and our two children to the same church on Sunday and now receive full acknowledgment before mass and then accompany Abuna Bawardi home for lunch. On such occasion, and only after the feast that Um-Hanna would have prepared, I would check on their health, hear their physical complaints, review their medications and provide medical advice in exchange for a hefty dose of prayers for my and my family’s good health and long life.

While at the University of Hawaii I became familiar with another smaller campus, that of Chaminade College. When I discovered that it was a Catholic institution a spark flashed across every synapse in my nervous system. It said : “Adel!” I proceeded to enquire and made an appointment. When I mentioned that my friend is not only a Catholic from Nazareth but that his father was a priest, I got some quizzical and even down-right dirty looks. I had to explain to a couple of Catholic monks that to the best of my Islamic upbringing there was nothing wrong with all of this and that in the Eastern rite of the Catholic Church lower-rank priests can be married men.

This awkward first contact must have endeared me to one of the officials at the admissions office, the late brother Honnort who kept in touch and would occasionally report to me the progress of his hobby, boat building. At one point he had to undo a couple of year’s worth of work because the boat he built in the basement was too large for the door. Brother Honnort took it upon himself to facilitate Adel’s application for admission and for financial aid. It actually all worked itself out and Adel arrived in Hawaii on the very day I left to medical school. Two years later, when Didi and I got married, he was my best man. At the reception at Wo Fats in Chinatown, like me, he embarrassed himself by ducking under the table when the traditional Chinese good luck fireworks started.

At Chaminade Adel met a Hawaiian beauty, the real Hawaiian type and not the half-Chinese half-American like my wife. They fell in love, got married, savored the best Hawaii can offer, went horseback riding, sang together at parties, traveled, had a child and divorced. Then Adel hunkered down to the task of single-parenting his beautiful Arab-Hawaiian-Portuguese child. A while later I enticed him to make a trip to California to meet a young woman from back home, the good hostess whose hospitality we have been enjoying every so often ever since. Adel’s two children from this second marriage are grown up and brag a lot about the surfing skills and body build of their Hawaiian brother.

Adel and I reminisced about shared memories, called another expatriate Nazarene ,now in Vancouver, gloated about our achievements and drank to the future of our children. The Louvre and Waikiki might be dazzling spots for the glamorous tourist. But nothing is as glamorous or satisfying as lugging a grandchild on one’s neck and heading to the park, as Didi and I will be dong momentarily.

The Hawaii-Palestine Connection Revisited

By now you may have correctly surmised that I am already an old hand at enjoying Hawaii and getting some additional side chore achieved while at it, such as getting a college education or starting a family. But whoever heard of five speaking engagements and TV appearances in the space of two weeks while in the Islands for a wedding! And, believe me, the balance was heavily tipped in favor of the pleasure component of our sojourn. In addition to adventures recounted elsewhere we were hosted in the homes of generous island friends in the best of Palestinian and Hawaiian style, we made new friends both young and old, and we dined out with more friends than the number of days in our two-week stay.

After leaving Hawaii the spirit of Aloha continued to accompany us as we stopped to visit the family of Didi's late uncle, then to visit a dear friend from high school who had arrived to California via Hawaii, and lastly the Hawaiian-born son of my friend Jagy.

In Anaheim I spoke at the seventh Al-Awda (Right of Return) international convention twice, once at the plenary session and again at the banquet. The first was attended by a couple of hundred committed members, journalists, inquisitive outsiders and newcomers to Palestiniana. There was ample evidence that even old-timers were not that familiar with the issues of the Palestinian citizens of Israel making up nearly 20% of the its total population. So the Q&A period was very intense and challenging for me. At the banquet it was more of a formal short speech and no chance for interactive dialogue with the much larger audience of members, guests and contributors. Also I was overshadowed by the second speaker, British MP George Galloway, who is campaigning for the Viva Palestina USA Convoy scheduled for July 4th. He is a superb and delightful speaker who is committed and knowledgeable beyond belief. The third speaker, Ramzi Clark, apologized the last minute because of an unexpected family demand on his time.

Altogether, my most demanding speaking engagement was at Cal Tech where, thanks to the efforts of Jai Shanata, Jagy's son who is the chair of the Cal Tech Graduate Student Association, I spoke to a mixed group of over 50 graduate students and some faculty. It was challenging but just short of controversial. Most of the audience were truly neutral in attitude but obviously misinformed as most Americans who draw their knowledge on my subject matter from the mainstream American media usually are. Some were rather hostile but sufficiently collegiate and intellectual in their demeanor to make it all more interesting than frustrating. I came away with the sense that word of mouth is a major channel for accessing the privileged group of college students , the leadership of tomorrow's America, and that Cal Tech is an excellent entry point.

One of my speaking engagements in Hawaii was at Revolution Books where Carolyn, the manager of the bookstore, had arranged a reading and book-signing event for me. As I stopped to thank her I mentioned that the book she had recommended to me last year proved to be a revelation and asked her for an encore. Without hesitation she handed me the revised edition of ‘Nation Within: The History of the American Occupation of Hawaii’ by Tom Coffman. I read it as I made my way east to New York where I write now about my impressions of its contents.

Needless to say, colonialism in modern times the world over was an unjust, racist, and self-serving evil invention of Western civilization. European empire-builders initiated the movement and spread it across the globe. The American Revolution initiated the ebb of its overwhelming flood and for that the USA has never stopped being the inspiration of all the downtrodden and subjugated peoples of the world. Yet, sad to say, by the end of the nineteenth century, the same USA raised the banner of colonialism and commenced to occupy other nations, from Cuba to the Philippines with Hawaii in between as an aside, thanks to the aggressive and warmongering personality of such leaders as President Theodore Roosevelt.

I am not a historian by a long shot and wouldn’t have dared to venture into such uncertain grounds or delve into a one-paragraph summary of the history of modern colonialism were it not for the urge to come to a quick indictment of the USA as the major guilty party, albeit indirectly at first, in the colonial crimes committed against both the Hawaiian and the Palestinian peoples. Yet this last generalization conceals more than a reasonable amount of contradiction and dissimilarity.

Bear with me please and I will try to elucidate the unfathomable depths of this conundrum. I know from experience how frustrating it is to try making sense of this most unlikely simile to neutral outsiders. Yet the unity of the suffering of the Hawaiians and the Palestinians is simpler than it first appears and the principle underlying it has the potential of applicability to all colonized peoples: Land-theft, the dispossession of a native population of its land, is the death blow that all colonial powers deal to their subject nations when the goal is permanent occupation. This is true regardless of how benevolent the occupier, how developed the occupied, or where and when the crime is committed.

I had no problem communicating this to two Hawaiians with whom I shared the podium on Olelo, the Hawaiian public access TV program, while in Honolulu. One was a Hawaiian colleague, a young fellow Public Health Specialist whose insight was clearly more professionally focused as he still practices medicine, and a Hawaiian moderator who turned out to be an elementary school classmate of my wife’s. Didi was surprised that she immediately shouted the wahine’s name, “Lynette Machado!” (she is now Cruz), after some fifty-years’ absence. The moment I mentioned the historic un-justice done my people by a colonial system that dislodged them off the land I was assured that in essence I was talking about the plight of the Hawaiians. Obvious differences are there in terms of the timeframe, the identity of the offenders, and the extent of the offence, the ethnic cleansing, the genocide, and the marginalization of survivors. Yet the experience is highly comparable.

It is striking to compare notes, which we found ourselves doing, regarding the modus operandi of the colonialists in our two examples: A small minority (less than 2% in the case of Hawaii and >5% in Palestine) aggressively claims mastery of the land through violent means and reliance on the support of far-away powerful sympathizers who have vested geopolitical interests in the project; religion is enlisted as the fundamental tool for anchoring the claim to and control of the land and for dismissing the rightful owners as sinful objectors to God’s will as obvious in His “manifest destiny” in the one case and in “the promised land” in the other; military and economic schemes lurk behind the religious fa├žade in the minds of distant powerbrokers, Pearl Harbor and sugarcane in Hawaii and oil in the Middle East; facts are falsified and altered to suit the narrative of the colonialists, witness such declarations as “a land without citizens” for Hawaii and “a land without people” for Palestine: contrary historic accounts are willfully eliminated, facts contorted with ample use of ambiguity, duplicity and doublespeak, the spin-doctoring art of yesteryears, to promulgate a false but jingoistic conventional wisdom; and finally, appropriating the moral high-ground and justifying genocide by benevolent intent credited to the colonization crime as in civilizing the savages for one case and in making the other’s desert bloom, two clear examples of the discredited edict of Social Darwinism.

Let me try here to steer clear of some landmines in this historical terrain: The first missionaries to the Hawaiian people, like missionaries everywhere, can be accused of narrow-minded conceit in their assumption of sole ownership of the truth. But it is unlikely that they had designs on the lands of the natives. A generation later their selfless intentions were turned around by their immediate descendents who became the founders of the biggest five capitalist concerns in the islands, The Big Five. The original religious purity of intent quickly evaporated to the disadvantage of those that were “saved”.

In Palestine too, the motive of the original “missions to the Jews” or the Christian Zionists of old in Europe and of their current heirs, the “born again Evangelists” in the USA, may have started with a fanciful prophecy that bore more ill will towards the Jews than the Palestinians. But with the hypnotic magic of their quest to hasten the return of their awaited Savior to earth, and clearly with the undercurrent of an anti-Semitic wish to cleanse their communities of Jews, they took on the role of promoting the Zionist project of colonizing Palestine, willfully trampling on the rights of the native Palestinians in the process. Despite the difference in the two cases, both in Hawaii and in Palestine the faith of an intruding foreign group played havoc with the fate of the native peoples. (I may have just stepped on a landmine! Had I written this six months ago when an Evangelist still lived in the White House I would know for certain I did. Since I have been already ‘amputated’ from any religious affiliation, not much can be done.)

It is equally instructive to consider the weapons of the weak in the two cases: Across the entire native terrain around the globe, resistance is embodied by the stone-throwing Palestinian child. The image of the Palestinian preteen, arm fully stretched above his head with fist clutching an oversized stone and slight torso emphatically magnified by the towering gun barrel of a monstrous Israeli tank pointing at him, the ultimate parody on the reversal of roles in the biblical ‘David and Goliath’ simile, has come to symbolize the natives’ cry of “we shall overcome!”

An account survives of the very same stone-throwing intifada by Hawaiians with the participation of no less central a personage than the young prince Kalakaua to repulse the first attempted take-over by the British.

More to the heart of the matter in this comparison is the centrality of land to the dispossessed natives: All nationalist Hawaiian declarations spoke of the “life of the land.” The Hawaiian activist groups, that sprung up in resistance to the imposed annexation by the American oligarchy had names connecting them to the land. Each was called a ‘Hui’, Hawaiian for a gathering or a group; one was Hui Kalaiaina, or “gathering of those who shared the land” approximated in English to “Hawaiian Political Association”, and the other Hui Aloha Aina, literally “the group that loves the land” translated into “Hawaiian Patriotic League.” And there was a “Women’s Patriotic League” as well.

In Palestine too, land is at the heart of the experience of dispossession. The iconic image of the old farmer woman holding on for life to the trunk of her olive tree in the face of the menacing armored caterpillar inspires natives and the just the world over. Six decades after their forced departure, third generation refugee children in camps across the Middle East still give their locale as that of the village in Palestine from which their grandparents were driven. Elders or their decedents still hold on to house keys as the emblem of their lost land and home to which they still dream of returning.

And for those Palestinians lucky enough to have remained on their land, mostly by accident, the loss of large swaths of it led in 1976 to a mini-revolt commemorated ever since as “Land Day.” Land loss for them is second only to the threat of losing their identity and dignity as they are subjected to demands on them to swear an oath of loyalty to their oppressors. That was what the Hawaiians were subjected to a little over a century earlier.