AMERICA’S TAX DOLLARS AT WORK~~ IN PALESTINE

The following are recent photos of the total destruction of a Bedouin village in Palestine, by the Israeli forces …. paid for by US Tax Dollar$.

Is this part of the ‘Peace Process’ Bush and Olmert speak of so often?

Confiscating things and putting them in containers

Confiscating things and putting them in containers

Leaving people with nothing

Leaving people with nothing

“Nice policewomen” soothing an old woman after taking all her belongs and demolishing her home

"Nice" policewomen soothing an old woman

Forced relocation

Forced relocation

Forced relocation of an infant after making it homeless – democracy at its best

Forced relocation of an infant after making it homeless - democracy at its best

Israeli police on duty – great heroes

Israeli police on duty - great heroes

Do these policemen and their superiors have hearts?

Do these policemen and their superiors have hearts?

Israeli victory, defeated humanity

Israeli victory, defeated humanity

Source: Picasa Web Albums


To ZioPedia

GAZA TODAY… TWO UPDATES

As the North American continent celebrates this week…. Palestinians have not yet reached that point of joy… Read the following two articles to see why. The suffering is far from over…

The following is from BBC News ….

The Gaza Strip is Safer Now

At Least this is What Many Gazans Believe for the Moment

By Mohammed Omer

The latest bloodiest weeks in Gaza, leaving hundreds injured and killed, concluded with the Hamas overthrow of Fatah and take-over of the Gaza Strip, including its security compounds. Accordingly, in the opinion of many Gazans, this has stabilized the situation and rendered Gaza “much safer.” A Gaza City university student, 25, on his way home from university related: “Gaza is more secure now. Journalists are arriving from all over the world, and we are all now free to walk in the streets without being shot at.”

Gaza’s beach abounds with people who’ve come to enjoy their time on the beach, to find a moment of peaceful respite and forget temporarily about the daily attacks and devastating experiences they have had in the past few weeks with the internal fighting between groups from Hamas and Fatah.

Palestinian kids escaping from death and enjoying their times in a relatively safer Gaza Strip.
Palestinian kids escaping from death and enjoying their times in a relatively safer Gaza Strip.

Image Credit: Mohammed Omer, Rafah Today 2007-06-26.

UN Aid agencies Friday warned of a “major humanitarian crisis” in the Hamas-held, thus internationally-snubbed, Gaza Strip, where food stocks will deplete in two weeks unless Israel’s cargo blockade is lifted. As vital goods are currently only able to trickle in through Kerem Shalom crossing, whose capacity is 15 trucks a day, it is crucial to re-open the Karni crossing, which can handle up to 200 trucks a day, UN agencies said.

Numerous people have fled Gaza, including many working for security forces loyal to Fatah and President Mahmoud Abbas. Many are stuck waiting at the tunnel between Israel and the Gaza Strip, among them people responsible for the killing of Hamas members in the past.

Meanwhile, the Rafah border—the main crossing to Egypt for Palestinians, and the only crossing in and out of Gaza under normal circumstances—has remained consistently closed by the Israeli Occupation Forces. Life continues to be extremely difficult at the southern Gaza border where, according to eyewitnesses, there are over 6,000 people held up and waiting to come back. Those people have no food and no water, and suffer greatly from the heat and no medical care. They are ever-waiting for rare signs that the border will open for a brief period of time.

In contravention of a 25 November, 2005 agreement to keep the border crossing open, the Rafah border, monitored by European Union observers, has been mostly closed by Israel, without any reasons at all. Among those waiting to cross are children and the elderly, all of whom need to return to their houses after more than three weeks of not having showers in addition to being forced to wait on the streets.

Israel, the transit point for imports and exports to and from the Gaza Strip, ordered its customs agents to disallow shipments following the Hamas coup of the Strip last week. As a consequence, the World Food Program warned last week that the Strip could start running out of flour, rice, food oil, and other essentials in as little as two weeks, unless Israel opens the borders.

It is unlikely the Karni crossing will re-open soon, having suffered major structural damage during recent looting by Palestinians attacking and destroying many PA buildings after the Hamas take-over of different security forces compounds and buildings.

Israel wants to isolate Gaza’s Hamas movement not only economically, diplomatically, but also militarily, while allowing funds and trade to flow to the western and American-backed emergency Government set up in the West Bank by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Haniyeh, the head of the elected Hamas government, has rejected Abbas’ call for his resignation. In a talk in Gaza City, he emphasized that the emergency Government set by Abbas is not legal, as it didn’t get any approval from the Palestinian parliament members. He added that it is not Abbas’ right to have an emergency government without votes of trust and approval. Even if there is such government, it can’t go for more than 30 days, according to the Palestinian law.

The US and the EU have separated between both Gaza and West Bank. In short, the West Bank will have better living circumstances, and Gaza will starve, because of its people’s choice in supporting Hamas to take over!

###

Editor’s Note: We received word from Mohammed today. He is alive and well but water is scarce, there is no water for washing and only a few days water for drinking left due to the halt of supplies to the Gaza Strip imposed and encouraged by the United States, the EU and of course, Israel.

As to the rumor going around on some news Web sites that Hamas has imposed Islamic law and is forcing women to wear veils Mohammed wrote, “I’m surprised to hear about this, no women are forced to wear veils and now there is internet, these were only lies by the media.” There has been no water through the water pipes for three days, “The horrible thing is that my mother has been waiting for the water to come through water supplies, but for the third day, no water! I would have liked to have a shower, but it’s not possible to do this in Gaza right now!”

Mohammed writes that it is very hot and there is supposed to be a program to let water run for two hours a day but for the last three days nothing has come through. It is truly sad that our so-called leaders in the United States would create this proxy war state of affairs for the US client state of Israel.

Democracy is only respected by the current US administration when they like the outcome, otherwise it is clear to the world that the US will use whatever devious and horrible means it has at its disposal, including imposing terrible hardships on a captive people in an open-air prison, to show their displeasure at democratic elections it does not wish to abide by. Using objective criteria, Fatah is no less “terrorist” than Hamas. Contrary to popular belief, Hamas has often hinted that it would recognize Israel’s right to exist, the question is, should they recognize Israel while they are under it’s army issued boot?

Mohammed Omer is a young journalist/photographer in the Gaza Strip. He and his family have a very rough time in living day to day and they have lost much. In October of 2003, one of Mohammed’s younger bothers, Issam, was injured and had to have a leg amputated. Later in the same month another younger brother, Hussam Al-Mouhagir, was killed in his home; shot to death by the Israeli Army that occupies and regularly devastates Palestine. These stories are written by Mohammed who knows no peace, only the continued devastation forced upon civilians who have little voice in the world. Mohammed has covered the Occupied Territories for several years. In 2006 Mohammed won the New American Media National Ethnic Media Award for best Youth Voice. On May 18th, 2007, Mohammed was shot at by unknown militants in Gaza yet he continues to report. Visit Mohammed’s Web site, or write to him to get a more complete picture of what is really happening that main-stream news sources rarely brings to its audience. We are proud to feature articles from Mohammed Omer here at BBSNews, his reporting is some of the only original, on the ground reporting available from the Israeli Occupied Territories.

The following is from Palestine-Info

The Rafah crossing nightmare

Khalid Amayreh, PIC

rafah-crossing-1_300_0.jpg

East Jerusalem, July 3, 2007

On Saturday, 30 June, Taghrid Abed, 30, died while languishing in unbearable heat on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world. Another Palestinian had earlier died in similar circumstances as the world community, enslaved by American Zionism, stood powerless to end this disgrace.

Abed was one of more than 5000 Palestinians stranded at the border crossing for two weeks as a result of Israel’s refusal to allow them back to the Strip.

Israel, which is shamelessly telling the world that it has ended its occupation of Gaza, is still in tight control of the Rafah crossing, effectively turning the entire Gaza Strip into the world’s largest concentration camp.

The Rafah Crossing Protocol, reached more than two years ago between Israel and the obviously incompetent Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by Mahmoud Abbas, gave Israel a veto power over operations at the Terminal.

According to the hapless protocol, the terminal can only be opened in the presence of European monitors. However, the Israeli army completely controls the monitors’ access to the Rafah crossing.

In other words, the powerless monitors can’t reach the Rafah border crossing unless they receive a permit from the Israeli army which apparently can’t resist the temptation of seeing thousands of Palestinians suffering and dying in the summer inferno of the Sinai desert.

Hence, the current nightmare.

There are many accomplices in this disgrace.

First and foremost, Israel, with its characteristic Nazi callousness is the main culprit because it refuses, without any logical reason, to allow these tormented Gazans back to their homes. In truth, sadism is the only explanation of what is happening. There is simply no other explanation.

Besides the conspicuous sadistic aspect of torturing these people, Israel is trying as much as possible to utilize the suffering of the stranded Gazans to exert pressure on Hamas and show Palestinians that Hamas could only bring suffering and pain to them.

But, in the final analysis, Israel is the Palestinians’ solid enemy, as King Abdulah of Jordan said recently, and Israel wouldn’t hesitate to commit the unthinkable in order to make Palestinians suffer. Indeed, Israel’s consistent behaviors ever since its misbegotten birth nearly sixty years ago should leave no doubt as to the Nazi nature of this evil state.

The second culprit is the western-backed government in Ramallah which claims to represent all Palestinians.

It is shameful, to say the least, to watch Abbas and Fayyad and others basking in their false glory and appearing flamboyantly on the screens of Zionist-controlled western TV networks, babbling about the virtues of peace, while showing utter indifference toward the nightmarish plight of these helpless Palestinians.

In this macabre situation, any Palestinian is prompted to ask Abbas and Fayyad and Co.: How many Palestinians have to die at the Rafah border crossings before you urge your “friends” in Washington and Europe to pressure Israel to stop the enduring crime against the stranded Gazans? Do they have to give loyalty to the emergency government and to Muhammed Dahlan in order to make Israel’s heart and America’s heart and Abbas’s heart relent?

More to the point, if your friends and allies in Washington and Brussels can’t help you in your time of need, then what is the good of having friends as such?

In fact, your inaction and silence are more than suspicious. And the writing is already on the walls of Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron.

The third culprit is the European Union which has allowed Israel, this venomous and murderous entity, to impose its will on European monitors, rendering them an additional tool of repression against a helpless people, already tormented by 40 years of a Nazi-like military occupation.

It is really disgraceful that Europe behaves in such a manner.

Finally, the Egyptian government could do much to alleviate the suffering of the stranded Palestinians. Egypt could go as far as opening another border crossing with the Gaza Strip. It is unacceptable and shameful that 80 million Egyptians allow themselves to be enslaved by American Zionism in such a humiliating manner.

After all, no dignified state with any semblance of sovereignty should allow other states to confiscate its free will. Egypt, in short, should review and rethink its accommodative policies toward Israel, an entity that never stops trying to undermine Egyptian national security by any means imaginable.

Undoubtedly, the nightmare at the Rafah border crossing is a sad reflection of the moral degeneration now engulfing the Arab world as much as it is an expression of the criminal-minded discourse and moral callousness permeating through the aisles of western governments.

Needless to say, these governments have apparently chosen to accommodate Israeli Nazism rather than uphold the human ideals they mendaciously claim to espouse.

Perhaps, European peoples should rise up against their evil-minded governments. Otherwise, they, too, will be consumed by the evil.


B B C REPORTER SET FREE IN GAZA


BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has been freed by his captors in Gaza after his abduction nearly four months ago.

Television pictures showed Mr Johnston, 45, leaving a building and entering a white car, accompanied by armed men. He said he was tired but in good health.
During his time as a hostage, three videos were released featuring images of Mr Johnston or of his belongings.

Calls were made for his release in rallies worldwide and in an online petition signed by some 200,000 people.

The journalist was handed over to officials of the Hamas administration.

Gunmen from the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement overran Gaza last month, expelling their rivals from the Fatah faction.
`
Hamas’ military wing had said it would spare no effort to secure the BBC reporter’s release.
`
A previously little-known militant group, the Army of Islam, claimed it was holding Mr Johnston and had released videos demanding the release of Muslim prisoners in British custody.
`
The group had said it would kill its captive if its demands were not met.
`
SOURCE

FROM RIO TO RAFAH

International Solidarity is alive and well!
Our brilliant Brazilian artist, Carlos Latuff, just sent me this GREAT image of our dear Brother and photojournalist,Mohammed Omer. He made it in appreciation for the work he does in the region to Free Palestine.
Thank you Carlos!

Carlos Latuff

Below is Mohammed’s post of today from his Blog

borders executive force
Borders are closed. Cooking gas tanks are sitting in the stations Excutive Force member patrolling at the Rafah border which has been closed for many weeks now and people are with no food nor water
Palestinian man
Rafah Border
Palestinian man helping evacuate the bodies of those were injured by the Israeli air strike Rafah border first gate at the Palestinian side being closed
Palestinian Children
Palestinian Prime Minister
Palestinian children playing next to the iron wall built by the sraeli occupation Forces between Rafah and Egypt Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Hanyeh waving during his speech to the press in Gaza

Shell-shocked in the Strip: Israeli Attacks and Border Closures Exacerbate Daily Suffering

At the Rafah border, in limbo and unable to make it home, Palestinians are suffering from another aspect of the Israeli government’s policy of imposed collective suffering through border closures, economic sanctions, air and land attacks, and extreme military control of Palestinian areas. These latest closures will achieve neither the peace nor security Israel professes to desire. Nonetheless, Israel continues the inhumane policy of denying Palestinians access to medical care, food, and supplies outside of Gaza, and continues to hold hostage the many Palestinians who have been waiting for over three weeks now to return home. At the Rafah border they wait, sleep, and live in the streets, most having allotted only money and food for a few days’ wait, at worst. Thus, weeks later, they’ve run out of money, and have no water for showering, nor food for their children. Today, a Palesinian woman, Taghreed Abeaed 31 years old died while she was waiting in very bad conditions at Rafah border. Taghreed is the mother of fice children was in trip to Egypt and now he body is not beling allowed into Gaza for buring!

“I haven’t been able to find water to bathe with for several weeks now,” said 49 year old Umm Rami, stuck on the Egyptian side. She is trying to return home after having knee surgery, now unexpectedly stuck without water or medicine. “I have no idea where to go; I’m alone here with my young daughter, without anything—we’ve run out of everything we need: food, water, money. We are unwashed and stink, besides being hungry and exhausted.”

Western Union and DHL have since last week been discontinued in the Strip by Israel, making it impossible for families to send money to those who are trapped at the crowded, service-less borders of Gaza.

New violence comes to Gaza in the form of new Israeli attacks, following previous recent Israeli strikes throughout the Strip. Israeli tanks and bulldozers rolled into Gaza City, into the southern town of Khan Younis, and into the north of Gaza in simultaneous incursions launched overnight, leaving many dead and wounded.

Dr. Mawia Hassanen at Al Shifa Hospital reported 13 deaths, including civilians and a 9 year old child, from the latest Israeli attacks, many of whom were unidentifiable due to the obliterating damage and burning from Israeli tanks’ shells. Another twenty Palestinians were wounded, including seven in critical condition.

Compounding the border and invasion suffering of Gazans, severe water shortages, as in Rafah refugee camp, are hitting people hard, particularly during the extremely hot summer months, when the need for water is greatest. Today marks the fourth day meager water supplies for drinking and cooking have had to be brought into Bader camp in Rafah.

Two days on, the Israeli air strikes ever-continue. Khan Younis eyewitnesses report the latest air strikes targeted Islamic Jihad members, with at least three rockets hitting a white Subaru, injuring passers-by in the street and killing three inside: Mohamed Al Raie, Raed Ghannam and his cousin Zeyad Ghannam.

As I write, yet another Israeli strike has targeted a car, killing a further three unidentified Palestinians and injuring many more. Saturday’s fatalities alone number 7, with uncounted civilian injuries.

With the Gaza Strip so isolated, and given the on-going attacks and bloodshed in Gaza, Gazans wait, fatigued and in fear of the next inevitable Israeli attacks to come.

CINDY SHEEHAN IS BACK IN BUSINESS!

Just had this sent to me by my cousin…. needs no introduction…
Cindy is back with the same enthusiasm she always had!
WELCOME BACK SIS!

Call Out the Instigator
Cindy Sheehan

Call out the Instigator
Because there’s something in the air
We got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here
You know it’s right!
Thunderclap Newman

I’m not backing off. I tried to remove myself from the political realm of the US, what BushCo is turning into an Evil Empire, but the blatant audacity of George commuting Scooter’s sentence (he’s not ruling out a full pardon —and you know he will) has dragged me kicking and screaming back in. I can’t sit back and let this BushCo drag our country further down into the murky quagmire of Fascism and violence, taking the rest of the world with them!I have sat quietly back these past five weeks as the slaughter in Iraq sorrowfully surges along with George’s bloody escalation—and as the philosophical opposition to the war has soared to almost four out of every five Americans. I have remained silent when senator Barack Obama said that impeachment is only reserved for “grave, grave” breeches! Well, BushCo has created hundreds of thousands of graves dug by their lies and greed. For cripes’ sake, George admitted to breaking the FISA Act (which is a felony) that also breeched the 4th Amendment to our Constitution that already prohibited illegal search and seizure. How was Bill Clinton’s offense graver than George’s, Dick’s,or Scooter’s? Did we ever think that the criminality and arrogance of the Nixon White House would be eclipsed in our time with nary a “baaaah” from the Sheeple in Congress?George has said that America doesn’t “do torture” when we have all seen the images of torture from Abu Ghraib(don’t believe your lyin’ eyes) and know that hundreds of people sold to the US Army for an immoral bounty are incarcerated within the inhumane confines of Guantanamo Prison which is right in our own back yard.I have had to bite my tongue—HARD—as the George and Dick crime cabal, (formerly known has the executive branch) have claimed that their offices are not to be held up to the same standards of accountability and control as any other entity in the human race, governmental or private.It has been recently reported that Nancy Pelosi said that impeachment is not “worth it.” Her faulty reasoning is that impeachment would take too much time because they don’t have the votes. If they could”whip” their own Democratic caucus into shape todefend and protect our Constitution and the people of Iraq and our soldiers as they whupped, cajoled,threatened and browbeat the caucus into attaching”non-binding” time lines onto the last war funding bill, then impeachment would not only be possible, but likely. The recent commutation of I. Scooter Libby’s sentence,however, was the straw that broke my camel’s back of exhausted ennui. Patrick Fitzgerald is a thoughtful and thorough prosecutor who did a heroic job of bringing at least one of the Bush Crime Mob to justice. Even though we were all very pleased, we knew that it was not enough and that Mr. Fitzgerald would delve deeper into the feces infested executive branch.The lawlessness of the Bush Administration has reached wild west proportions and the inmates definitely have control of the US(A)sylum.A very dear friend of mine, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, is being harassed by the Air Force for “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman”because “The Rev” fulfills his duty as an Officer and a Gentleman honorably by protesting Iraq and the fascist Bush Regime almost constantly. The Rev is still in Individual Ready Reserve so the Air Force believes it is within its parameters to pursue the charges, although every “Officer and Gentleman(woman)”should be protesting the atrocious mistakes in the middle East. After The Rev’s hearing on July 12th, (in Macon, GA) he is going to begin a “symbolic” walk from the Reverend Martin Luther King’s grave (Atlanta, GA)to DC—I am going to be there for him and to begin the march, but I am not going to make it symbolic.We are going to walk from Atlanta, GA to Congress beginning July 13th and ending up in DC on July 23rdto send the mis-leaders back home to face the music of justice in their own districts.It is about time us “peasants” (in the eyes of the fascist Ruling Elite) march on DC with our”pitchforks” of righteous anger and our “torches” of truth to demand the ouster of BushCo. I have a dream of the detention centers that George has built and filled being instead filled with Orange Clad neo-consand neo-connettes.If Congress won’t dig BushCo’s political grave, it isthe People’s job to do so. Thomas Jefferson said that we need a Revolution every 20 years, or so, to keep our Republic honest. Over 225 years have passed since our last Revolution (if you don’t count the war between the States) and we are long overdue for one.Turn off your TVs, kiss your pets goodbye, bring the kids and flock to the federal seat of corruption, or join us on our walk there, for a people’s accountability Movement to be in the face of the criminal BushCo and the Complicit Congress for the last week of session before they go on their undeserved vacations (why do they get vacations when the Iraqi parliamentarians don’t?)On the eve of our first revolution: You know it’s right!Author’s note: Please, I already see “Attention whore back.” If anyone thinks that I am going to walk hundreds of miles in the Deep South during July for attention, then please join us! We will be publishing our route and plans for Accountability events along the way, within the next few days. Stay tuned.

THE REAL PALESTINE

Image by the late Ismael Shammout

The following article was sent to me earlier by my Sister Blogger Robin

It’s truly an inspirational article and must be shared…. thanks Sis!

Quest for a Palestinian museum

An idealistic lawyer hopes art can help forge a new identity for his people, to show the humanity overshadowed by terrorism.
By Michael Z. Wise, Special to The Times
July 1, 2007

Jerusalem — A muezzin calls to prayer from a nearby mosque as Mazen Qupty fills goblets with Israeli Cabernet Sauvignon, pops a disc of oud music into the stereo and starts to lay out his plan for the brilliantly colored paintings that fill his East Jerusalem home.

Creating a national art museum for an as-yet-nonexistent country is an ambitious if not quixotic goal. But that’s what Qupty hopes to do with his growing trove of Palestinian paintings — the largest collection of its kind. The prosperous, silver-haired lawyer is also intent on emphasizing secular values at a time when the radical Islamist Hamas has gained the loyalty of many Palestinians.

“We want to show visitors and the media all over the world that we have a long heritage that goes back at least 100 years,” he explains between bites of hors d’oeuvres served by his wife, Yvette, stylishly dressed in capri pants and high-heeled mules. The couple own 170 Palestinian artworks by some 50 artists from the 1920s through the present. Already Qupty has founded a nonprofit gallery with temporary exhibits and workshops in East Jerusalem and has helped create a Palestinian art academy in the West Bank city of Ramallah with European government backing.

Although Qupty and his wife have a keen aesthetic sense — they favor a diverse range of canvases created by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, within the current boundaries of Israel and in exile around the world — he also has a clear political agenda. Qupty aims to use art to help forge a new identity for a people he fears are primarily regarded as terrorists. “In the last few years, Palestinians have been shown in the media as suicide bombers. We want to show the Palestinians have a human face through art.”

Talk of creating a national art museum might sound beside the point in view of the recent open warfare between Hamas and its rival faction Fatah. Official Palestinian support for cultural initiatives fell into a deep freeze following the international embargo on aid to the transitional Palestinian Authority in response to Hamas’ 2006 electoral triumph and its avowed threats to destroy Israel.

Yet operating privately, Qupty has signed a letter of intent with the National Museum of Norway to provide curatorial and other technical assistance for setting up a full-fledged museum. The British Council, the governments of Spain and France, and the U.N. Development Program are also providing support for his 2-year-old gallery, which is intended as a forerunner to the museum and counts among its trustees the esteemed Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and the billionaire businessman Munib al-Masri.

“Mazen and Yvette Qupty are making a major contribution to the dissemination of Palestinian art,” says Hebrew University art historian Gannit Ankori, whose book on Palestinian art was published last year. In her view, their collection is particularly noteworthy since it includes works created before Israeli independence in 1948, giving evidence that a Palestinian art scene flourished before that year, a date Palestinians call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” referring to their dispersion and exile.

Other liberal Israelis also have welcomed Qupty’s plans for a museum. “This will give the Palestinians a sense of pride,” says Dov Alfon, director of the Israeli publishing house Kinneret Zmora Dvir, who hosts a popular TV program on cultural affairs. “Entire families would visit a Palestinian museum. It is a huge step for the Palestinians to think about art outside of their religious dogma.”

‘The beauty, the humanity’

FEW of Qupty’s works themselves are overtly political, he notes, getting up from a rose velvet-covered chair to approach one that is — a wall hanging crafted by Nabil Anani in 1995 after the first intifada uprising against Israeli rule. Joining in a Palestinian boycott of Israeli products, the artist forswore his customary Israeli-made oil paints to make a mixed-media work of wood, leather and henna depicting a woman who carries on her head a bowl topped by the Arabic word for Palestine. The letters were cut out of the lower part of her body — as if torn from her heart.

The less hard-hitting works in the collection are of higher caliber, such as a geometric abstraction by Ibrahim Nubani, an Israeli Arab accorded a retrospective at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 2004. Others contain nostalgically rendered olive fields, orange groves and traditional garb. “These are the orange fields that we lost in Jaffa,” Qupty says of a large canvas by Sliman Mansour. Sensuality trumps politics altogether in a nearby phantasmagoric painting by Hani Zurob, a rare contemporary Palestinian nude.

Coming to a haunting painting by Asad Azi of an old Arab man riding a donkey within a minimalist field of pale yellow, Qupty urges a closer look to discern the underlay of Hebrew lettering and military boots that appear to seep through the buttery background. Azi, the collector explains, is a Druze whose father was killed in service of the Israeli army, and the painting bears witness to multiple layers of the artist’s experience and identity.

Qupty exhibits cosmopolitan flair derived from his own experience navigating divergent worlds. Born in the Israeli Arab city of Nazareth, he is a Christian who holds Israeli citizenship and studied political science at Hebrew University before earning a law degree at Tel Aviv University. He next worked in an Israeli law firm. In the 1980s, he helped teach a course at Harvard Law School on legal relations between Israeli Jews and Arabs.

Ironically, several of the artists in Qupty’s collection were trained in Israeli art schools that arose in part from a desire to reinforce the collective identity of a Jewish homeland. Well before Israel became an independent nation, Zionist leaders sought to create Jewish art centers in Palestine. The most notable institution, the Bezalel Academy, founded in Jerusalem, celebrated its centenary last year. Israel’s own national art collection, housed in the Israel Museum’s 20-acre campus in west Jerusalem, grew out of a nucleus of works that were once part of Bezalel.

Qupty’s collection had a more personal genesis. Pointing to his first acquisition, a whimsical painting of children playing by Taysir Barakat, which he bought in 1986, he says, “We did not have enough money to pay for it, so we paid the artist in three installments.” Now that Qupty, 52, has his own thriving practice, he leads a lonely pack of private collectors of Palestinian artworks among Arabs in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. “Very few people know about Palestinian art, so it’s a hard target to educate the new generation. When you see these works on the walls of my house, you see the beauty, the humanity of the Palestinians. This is proof that we are humans.”

The brush instead of the gun

IN the 1970s, the Palestinian Liberation Organization sought to give itself a human face through art at a time when PLO factions were hijacking airliners and attacking Israeli targets. The PLO’s information department put together an art collection in Beirut, including works by celebrated foreign artists supporting the Palestinian cause such as Joan Miró, Edouardo Chillida and Antonio Tapies. But according to French-based Palestinian artist Kamal Boullata, the ensemble was dispersed and partly destroyed in Lebanon’s civil war more than two decades ago.

More recently, the Palestinian Authority began work to establish an art museum after the PLO and Israel signed the Oslo peace accord in 1993. This came to an abrupt halt, however, with the second intifada against Israeli rule in 2000, says East Jerusalem curator Jack Persekian, who took part in the museum effort.

Persekian now runs the Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem’s Old City. Funded by the Ford Foundation, the European Commission and the Open Society Foundation, it maintains an artist-in-residency program and has its own collection of works by artists, including Mona Hatoum and Emily Jacir. The disputed city has a diverse array of other galleries, but none regularly showcase Palestinian artists.

Qupty shares Persekian’s belief in culture as a key tool in shaping national identity, while conceding that fine art is but one medium vying for the attention of today’s Palestinian youth. “We’re trying to compete,” he replies wearily when asked about recent children’s broadcasts on Palestinian television featuring a Mickey Mouse-like character espousing jihad and lauding suicide bombers. “We cannot change the society. We can influence some of the people to see things differently.”

To this end, a dozen students were selected in April for the inaugural class of the new International Academy of Art Palestine in Ramallah, whose board Qupty chairs. The Norwegian government, which helped negotiate the now-failed Oslo agreement, is providing $1.3 million. “In a few years, there will be young, talented artists, and we need to create a market with galleries and a museum to preserve their collective memory,” says Henrik Placht, project manager for the academy.

Although the Hamas-led Palestinian Education Ministry recently caused an uproar by removing an anthology of folk tales from school libraries because they were deemed to contain sexual innuendo, Qupty voices confidence that Islamic militants will not succeed in stifling free expression in the arts. (The decision was later rescinded after protests by writers and other intellectuals, but only after Hamas had destroyed some 1,500 copies of the book.) “Palestinian society is strong enough to stop any intentions of this sort,” Qupty says, citing the trouble-free exhibition this spring at the Al Hoash Gallery he founded, which featured a video by Mona Hatoum showing her mother’s bare breasts as the older woman candidly discusses her sexuality while showering. Al Hoash, meaning “courtyard,” just north of Jerusalem’s Old City, has presented over a dozen exhibitions since opening in 2005 and holds four art workshops per week for children at its modest quarters.

Qupty is looking for a larger home for the museum in East Jerusalem. In the meantime, he has registered his gallery as a nonprofit organization with the Israeli Justice Ministry. Operation of a museum would require additional approval from Israel authorities, so Qupty is keeping his distance from the Palestinian Authority, further arguing that this independence will give the museum greater credibility with both the public and potential donors.

As a counterpoint to the prevailing turmoil in the West Bank and Gaza, Qupty hopes that art can help guide young Palestinians away from the dead end of violence and hatred. “It’s easier for young Palestinians to be attracted by fundamentalism and having the gun rather than the brush,” he says. “Let’s face the truth. Palestinians are not taken by their parents every second day to a museum. We live in the Middle East, not in the West. A museum is one way of educating the new generation about their art heritage and to be proud of that heritage. We are trying to help the new generation see that there are other things in this world, that you can do things differently.”

Newer entries »