I am leaving this Monday to Jordan for a whirlwind of activities.

Monday:  meet with boycott organizers in Jordan,  speak to 140 students at a school about resistance, and then go to the Palestinian Exhibition.

Tuesday: to give a keynote address on women and war at the Philadelphia University in Amman (see program here: برنامج المؤتمر النهائي ) and to meet with more boycott organizers (Jordan Boycotts), who organized this excellent petition against the $15 billion gas deal between Israel and Jordan. They are organizing this event. It should be good, minus the mis-spelling of my name :-)

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Wednesday morning: back to Beirut


– and yes, I will be sharing my talk on this website soon.

Dear friends,

The Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship invites academics and civil society activists to offer their insights and viewpoints through research papers and panel presentations around any of the following six areas of intervention. Both regional perspectives and country-specific case studies are welcome. Five hundred word abstracts will be reviewed by a committee, and selected contributions will be published. The conference is particularly interested in geographic and topical diversity, and such diversity will be taken into consideration in choosing abstracts. Contributions and presentations will be accepted in either English or Arabic. Simultaneous translation will be available during the conference.


1. Civil society in the Arab region today
Historical development and current assessments of civil societies in the region; means methods, objectives and salient features; “civil” vs. “communitarian” or Ahli society; charity, community service and advocacy organizations and their varied impacts; effects of the various globalizations on societies in the region (economic, political, global civil society, cyber/digital civil society); assessing achieved and potential impacts on public policy.

2. The morning after revolt: civil society vs. civil society?
The ‘revolutions’ four years later: who is still engaged, and how; counter-revolution by governmental bodies and also by forces within civil societies; organizing associational networks and understanding citizenship in the context of increasing violence, internal armed conflict, and sectarianism.

3. The exercise of citizenship and collective responsibility
The conflation of concepts of nationality, citizenship, identity and loyalty; effects on citizen engagement in the public sphere; perceptions of individual and collective responsibilities; identity and citizenship within – and beyond borders; Arab expatriate engagements, citizenship ‘in exile’ and returnees.

4. The rulers and the ruled: cultural and legal paradigms
Kings, emirs, and presidents vs. subjects and citizens; ownership of the State; securitization of associational life and public spaces; laws of association and freedom of assembly and expression; role and effect of the human rights movement and advocacy organizations.

5. Collaboration and networking
National and regional civil society networking and mutual support; global civil society networking, its effects and implications; Arab participation in international civil society; ‘digital civil society’ and/or ‘cyber civil society’; assessing equal and unequal relationships.

6. A future agenda
Identifying gaps in knowledge and understanding towards a future research and knowledge building agenda; future directions for collaboration and activities; an agenda for empowering civil society actors; existing and potential empowering; models for hope.

Important deadlines:
• 500-word abstracts due: October 24, 2014
Please email abstracts as attachments to asfariinst@aub.edu.lb
• Accepted abstracts to be notified by November 7, 2014
• Papers due December 29, 2014


Please find attached the Call for Papers PDF in Arabic  ( Call for papers Arabic Version (Agenda for Active Citizenship) 20-22 Feb 2015 Final (24-9-2014) and in English (Call for papers English Version (Agenda for Active Citizenship) 20-22 Feb 2015 Final (24-9-2014) )


Posted by: r.m. | September 19, 2014

Accepting the Zionist narrative from within…

Allow me to vent, from one Arab to another.

Equating a people with a leadership, and using that to justify bombardment or siege is racism. It is a refusal to see others as human beings. It is a lazy way of thinking to justify the dominant, comfortable narrative. And it is dangerous – because it feeds into the structures of violence. Corruption in the Palestinian leadership should not cause us to turn our back to Palestine, not if we believe in the struggle for liberation and justice.

Claiming to be informed about history and politics, and continuing to say that the Israelis “retaliated” to the abduction of two Israeli soldiers in 2006, and “retaliated” to the “provocations” from Hamas, is not only ignorant but also deeply ill-informed of the basic Zionist strategy and approach, and history! The Israeli regime – from the start of its inception on Palestine until today – has only engaged in wars of its own choosing. We do not drag Israel into a war; it goes willingly, and with the full intention to kill and destroy.

Claiming to care, and then saying that the Palestinians caused the Lebanese civil war and have ruined every country they have entered — and on the 32nd anniversary of the horrendous massacre of Sabra and Shatilla! — well, that is the very combination of arrogance, ignorance, and racism (because of course, the Lebanese could not possibly have contributed to their own civil war, right?)

Why am I saying all this?

Because last night I had a conversation with three Egyptians who justified the closure of Rafah while telling me that their “heart breaks for the Palestinians” but that they have to protect their country from those “tunnels.” [Incidentally, they also believe that all the civil rights violations that Sisi is imposing on Egypt are only temporary, and that he will "loosen his hold" once "security issues" are concluded. Ha!]

Because a Syrian jumped into the conversation to speak at length about how the Palestinians have ruined the Arab world, how it is because of the Palestinians that we have military dictatorships in the Arab world, and how they have given up on “their cause” so why should he care. He also said he won’t give a “penny to Gaza” because of the corruption of Hamas and Fateh and the PA. He said lots of other statements that had no basis in fact.

Because I am still hurting over a comment a Lebanese made to me when she said that the Syrians are ruining the country now just as the Palestinians ruined the country and caused a civil war.

Enough with this racism. Enough with this acceptance of the Zionist narrative. Enough with this deliberate refusal to study history.

If you as an Arab consider Palestine to be “their cause – the cause of Palestinians” and you continue to ask for thanks for some acts that you may (or may not) have done in support of “their cause,” then step away from the struggle. Step away.

If you claim to feel with the Palestinians trapped under siege in Gaza, and still find a way to justify the Egyptian siege on Gaza, then step away. We don’t need your heart. We don’t want your tears.

It is painful, I must confess, to hear such verbal violence from the mouths of Arabs. As I was responding to them, and as my voice rose along with my anger, I was told that my response is the very reason why we have conflicts in our region, because we are unable to accept the other viewpoint. I said, I don’t have to accept your viewpoint if it is wrong. I am not responding with violence nor with insults – I am simply rejecting your statements as false and racist.  I definitely do not have to be respectful of racism and zionist-justifying statement and falsities. No. I don’t have to be civil.

Being told – by them – that I must be Palestinian because I am so enraged – and because I was responding with facts to every one of their lies (such as it was the Israelis that have consistently violated the ceasefire, and not the Palestinians, and I gave dates and actions, and what were the Palestinians asking for anyway – their right to life!) – is quite telling. I do not have to be Palestinian to love Palestine. I do not have to be Palestinian to know Palestine. I do not have to be Palestinian to be enraged at lies and murderous justifications. And I do not have to be Palestinian to consider Palestinians my own and Palestine my own.

They didn’t understand that — So I did, in the end, tell them: you all make me feel Palestinian. Thank you for that.

Posted by: r.m. | August 28, 2014

Victory or not in Gaza?

Victory or not? That is the question. Are the Palestinians victorious in this ceasefire agreement? Do we have cause to celebrate?

Yes and No.

Yes.  There is a victory on several counts.  

(1): Israel has previously conditioned that there wouldn’t be a ceasefire agreement without first disarming Hamas.  Now, Israel agreed to a ceasefire without that condition– rather, that condition has been tabled for negotiations in one month.

 (2): One of the objectives of the Israeli offensive was destruction of the Palestinian Resistance. That objective has also failed.  Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid wrote that, “the Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Israel accepted on Tuesday did not deliver a single achievement,” Ravid wrote, and actually represented a “regression” from Israel’s position before the war.   This agreement did not win the favor of 4 of the 8 Israeli ministers nor has it been well-received in the Israeli press.

(3): Most critically, the importance of armed resistance as a pathway to liberation has been reasserted.  It was because of the armed resistance to the Israeli offensive that a ceasefire was even reached: the Israelis in the settlements closest to Gaza demanded an end to the bombardment of Gaza so that they would no longer receive rockets.

There is room for joy, and yes I salute the Palestinian Resistance and the Palestinian Steadfastness – and I pause here and recognize both those pillars of strength. However, this is not the time for a full celebration.

(1) “Israel agrees to “open more of its border crossings with Gaza to allow the easier flow of goods, including humanitarian aid and reconstruction equipment, into the coastal enclave.”  What does this actually mean? Which border crossings will be opened? What does an “easier flow of goods” actually mean? How much easier? Who defines what constitutes “reconstruction supplies” and “relief” and “humanitarian aid”?  Will ‘dual use’ items be banned? Palestinian journalist Mohamed Omer spoke on Democracy Now that in 2010, easing of the siege meant that ketchup and coriander were allowed into Gaza!

(2)  “Israel will extend the fishing limit off Gaza’s coast to six miles from three miles, with the possibility of widening it gradually if the truce holds. Ultimately, the Palestinians want to return to a full 12-mile international allowance.”  Again: critical to recognize that Palestinian fishermen are entitled to a full 12-mile fishing access.  Will fishing within six miles even result in increased fishing – given the overfishing? And, critically, will the Israeli navy adhere to this agreement? The Israeli government has regularly violated previous commitments on this front.  

(3) Who will ensure these agreements? The ceasefire agreement says that Egypt is the guarantor. Egypt is not a neutral party, and, unfortunately, has been siding with the Israeli occupation and not with the Palestinian people. 

And then there  are the more dangerous aspects of this agreement.  

(4) “The Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, is expected to take over responsibility for administering Gaza’s borders from Hamas. Israel and Egypt hope it will ensure weapons, ammunition and any “dual-use” goods are prevented from flowing into Gaza.” What is “dual-use”? Who defines it? We need to remember our long experience with ‘dual use’ items in the sanctions imposed on Iraq.  If the same material that is needed to rebuild the thousands of homes destroyed can also be used to rebuild the tunnels, will that material be prohibited?  The emphasis remains on Israeli “security” at the expense of Palestinian economic empowerment.  Furthermore, what good can be expected from Mahmoud Abbas? Israel and Egypt are positioning Abbas here to weaken the political gains obtained by Hamas.  

(5) “The Palestinian Authority will lead in coordinating the reconstruction effort in Gaza with international donors, including the European Union.” This point is quite important, and what should cause us to worry is the excitement that Tony Blair has shown on this regard.  Blair has tweeted: “Blair: Quartet to concentrate on long-term plan for #Gaza & reconstruction to enable proper and decent life for Gazans, security for ”  As Rania Khalek pointed out, “Beware the vultures circling Gaza for “reconstruction”. Disaster capitalists are salivating beside their PA cronies.”

(6)  There remain further critical questions.  These issues have been tabled for “negotiations” in one month “* The release of hundreds of Palestinians by Israel. They were detained in the West Bank following the abduction and killing of three Jewish seminary students in June.; * The building of a sea port in Gaza and the rebuilding and reopening of the Yasser Arafat International airport – opened in 1998 but bombed by Israel in 2000.; * The un-freezing of funds to allow Hamas to pay 40,000 police, government workers and other administrative staff who have largely been without salaries since late last year.”  What happens from those negotiations depends on the strength and power that the Palestinian team brings to the negotiating table.

(7) Also note that the border between Gaza and Rafah is not discussed in this ceasefire agreement. That border has not been opened, only eased, and the Egyptian government want another set of talks with the Palestinian team to discuss that critical crossing.

So, yes, the Palestinian in Gaza breath a bit easier because the bombs over Gaza have stopped, but the destruction and death on Gaza has been enormous!  A total of 2,142 people, including more than 490 children, have been killed in Gaza. 1,800 children have been made into orphans – and the institutions that take care of orphans have been bombed, along with the main hospital centers.  Will Israel be tried in the ICC? Will Israel’s reign of impunity finally end?

Don’t stop organizing, protesting, writing, and boycotting! The struggle is still long!


I have been amazed at the interest generated by some of the talks I have recently given on Palestine.

The 9 minute talk in Austin, Texas has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Farsi! And all by individual efforts (thanks to Ageel Shatry and Francesco Puglia and Ichiro KASAI) It has gotten more than 47,000 hits so far.

The 30 minute talk in Raleigh, North Carolina (previously discussed here) has just been translated into Portuguese (see here) and Spanish (see here). Again, these translations were done by individuals (thanks  to Tali Feld Gleiser) This speech has gotten more than 12,000 hits.

What does this mean? Quite simply: there is an inspiring energy level  – one that is further empowered by both social media and   the strategy of BDS!

On August 2, I spoke at an event sponsored by the Interfaith Community for Palestinian Rights in Austin, Texas.  I spoke about the impacts of the Israeli assault on Gaza, its relationship to the rest of Palestine, relationship with Egypt, and the ways that concerned individuals – in Texas, nationwide, and around the world – can work to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, with special attention to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and can connect the struggles.   Of all the long talks I’ve given recently, this is the talk that is most comprehensive.

Here is the audio of that talk: https://archive.org/details/PeopleUnited20140808

And here is the video of that talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkarL_F2t_g 

(Unfortunately, the video is not complete. The audio, however, is complete.)

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“There has become such an ingrained racism against people of color – not just against Palestinians – that even when our children die – even when they are being killed –  we are told that we have a culture of martyrdom and a culture of death. That is why one of the narratives that has become popular is that Hamas is using human shields – although there is no evidence of that – but it fits within the narrative that we must love our children less, which is basically racism.”

“We remember the children. … We remember the families…As a woman and as a feminist and as an Arab, it upsets me very much when we constantly talk about the women and children, as if women should be placed with children.  And I refuse that. We talk about men and women, and we talk about children. And we remember our women, but we seem to have forgotten our men, as if when Israel kills our men, it is okay. It is not okay. So I have to remember our men. Our men are also innocent … the journalists …  the paramedics … brothers … fathers…  We remember those shot by snipers …  We remember those killed by Israel outside of Gaza – those killed in the West Bank … We remember those killed by Israeli soldiers and Israeli settlers… All these men, women and children were unarmed, and much attention has been given to the fact that approximately 85% of the Palestinians killed have been civilians. … I don’t like the fact that we seem to accept that if you’re a combatant, then your death is okay, but it is not okay. Because if we recognize the basic aspect here, that the Israeli state has no right to claim self-defense — an occupying State cannot claim self-defense against a territory that it occupies – and yes, Gaza is occupied territory — and we also recognize as the UN General Assembly reaffirms the legitimacy of the people’s struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle, and if we recognize the moral and ethical and legal right for an occupied population to resist occupation, then we have to remember those brave men that are resisting. I will not condone their murder, just as I salute their resistance and their bravery. So we remember the fighters … 

… “On the one hand, we have Israeli crimes and Israeli murder, and on the other hand we have something magnificent – truly magnificent – coming out of Gaza and extending to the West Bank and to Jerusalem and to Haifa and to Yaffa and all parts of Palestine – and that is Palestinian unity

…. “We have been here before.. 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012…  

“Palestinians in Gaza have been given two choices: either die silently through the siege, or die loudly through the bombardment”

“We need to include Egypt when we are protesting. Demand that Egypt open up its borders.”

“We need to connect the struggle. Ultimately, our struggle against the Zionist State of Israel is a struggle against racism and a struggle for justice. So we connect it here. The very same construction company that built the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank built it here in Texas – along the border with Mexico.”

This is a human rights struggle. All those who believe in human rights must work in solidarity to dismantle apartheid there and to dismantle racism here.

We need to change the narrative.  This is a struggle for liberty, for equality. It is a struggle against racism, against segregation in its most vicious forms.

Remember in our language that Gaza is Palestinian, the West Bank is Palestinian, Jerusalem is Palestinian.

Fundamentally, we have to continue to remind people that if Israel chooses to be a Jewish State cannot be a democratic State.  It cannot be a Jewish State and be peaceful.

No level of discrimination is acceptable.

I may post the transcript of the talk soon. (I typically speak from notes rather than from a word-to-word text)

 On August 9, I was interviewed on Columbus, Ohio community radio. The interview was aired/posted on August 15. I am introduced at 11.40 minutes, and then the speech I gave on Texas is aired (12.45 to 21.53) and then the interview began.  Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 11.29.49 AM


Here is the link: http://www.wcrsfm.org/content/conscious-voices-rania-masri-palestine

My interview yesterday on “Takes on the World’ hosted by Jeff Blankfort is posted here: http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/76773

and can also be accessed directly here:


Posted by: r.m. | August 11, 2014

NYT – the good and the terribly ugly

New York Times. The walls may be breaking within the New York Times.  Its opinion pages are publishing powerful, necessary editorials on Israel.

There is this one by Noura Erakat on August 5 – “U.S. Should Stop Funding Israel, or Let Others Broker Peace

“As Israel’s primary patron of economic, military and diplomatic support, the United States has a duty and the capacity to help resolve the Palestinian-Israel conflict. It should either comply with its domestic laws and cease military aid to Israel or simply step aside and allow international mechanisms to function without obstruction.

Between 1949 and 2008, the U.S. has provided Israel with $103.6 billion, more than all of the foreign aid it has provided to Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America combined. Since 2000, it has provided Israel with $3.5 billion worth of F-16s and $77 billion in Apaches. Military aid to foreign states is subject to several U.S. laws including the Arms Export Control Act , the Foreign Assistance Act and the Leahy Law. Each of these laws conditions the receipt of aid on the furtherance of human rights.

The Department of State annually notes Israel’s systematic abuse of human rights against Palestinians. Congress has nevertheless renewed aid to Israel without scrutiny either by willful ignorance or disregard. In the eyes of our 535 elected representatives, Israel can do no wrong.”

There is this one by Ali Jarbawi on August 4 – “Israel’s Colonialism Must End

“RAMALLAH, WEST BANK — Centuries of European colonialism have provided the world with certain basic lessons about subjugating colonized peoples: The longer any colonial occupation endures, the greater the settlers’ racism and extremism tends to grow. This is especially true if the occupiers encounter resistance; at that point, the occupied population becomes an obstacle that must either be forced to submit or removed through expulsion or murder.

In the eyes of an occupying power, the humanity of those under its thumb depends on the degree of their submission to, or collaboration with, the occupation. If the occupied population chooses to stand in the way of the occupier’s goals, then they are demonized, which allows the occupier the supposed moral excuse of confronting them with all possible means, no matter how harsh.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is one of the only remaining settler-colonial occupations in the world today.

And it is not limited to East Jerusalem and the West Bank: Although Israelwithdrew its settlers and army from Gaza in 2005, it is still recognized by the United Nations as an occupying power, due to its complete control of Gaza’s airspace, sea access and of almost all of its land borders.


There is now an extremist, racist ideological current in Israel that not only justifies the recent onslaught on the Gaza Strip, but actually encourages the use of enormous and disproportionate violence against civilians, which has led to the extermination of entire families.”

And yet the New York Times is still working to dismantle the truth! Boys to men– ‘New York Times’ tally of Gaza dead says 15- to 17-year-old’s aren’t children!  Check out this Mondoweiss article published on August 11 

“On August 5, The New York Times published a highly problematic article “Civilian or Not? New Fight in Tallying the Dead from Gaza Conflict”, that presented information supporting dubious Israeli government claims that 900 Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza, or around half of all Palestinian killed in Gaza in Israel’s current offensive, were “terrorists.” This assertion flies in the face of consensus reporting over the last month indicating much higher Palestinian civilian casualty figures.

Yet another example of bad New York Times’ reporting on Gaza, the article by Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren deserves debunking on many levels. It is built on unsupported claims by the Israeli government about whom Israel killed. Rudoren’s article fails to explain consensus positions in international law on who is a combatant, or explain Israel’s position on them. It also presents information in a way that profiles all Palestinian males age 15 – 60 as possible terrorists potentially deserving of death, and inappropriately limits the age of children to 0-14 years. More broadly, Jodi Rudoren’s article supports an Israeli government PR push to revise the history of Israel’s attack on Gaza to make Israel look better by asserting that Israel killed far more combatants and far fewer children than has been widely reported.

The article demonstrates The Times’ inability to hold itself accountable to basic standards of accuracy and fairness in reporting on Israel and Palestine.”

It is another day in the United States.  Another headline of yet another innocent, unarmed, black man killed by the police.  The news has become scarily familiar.

Michael Brown was on his way to his grandmother’s house in the city of Ferguson when he was gunned down at about 2:15 p.m., police and relatives said.

What prompted the Ferguson officer to open fire wasn’t immediately clear.

Multiple witnesses told KMOV that Brown was unarmed and had his hands up in the air when he was cut down.

The officer “shot again and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air,” said witness Dorian Johnson. “He started to get down and the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots.”


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Another unarmed black man shot by the police in the United States.

Another investigation promised by the police.

And there will be yet another unarmed black man shot by the police in the United States.


I remember the words of Robin D. G. Kelley in his latest,  brilliant – article ‘When the Smoke Clears in Gaza

“To fight for a truly democratic, nonracist, humane, sustainable, economically viable, safe and secure world for the people of Palestine/Israel is merely to demand what we have been struggling to achieve in this country for decades. As long as the lives of Salem Khaleel Shamaly and Eric Garner and countless others can be snuffed out by the state or vigilantes for merely being rendered a criminal threat, then none of us are really free.”


I remember the words of Brittney Cooper who recently wrote  in Salon Magazine, ‘I was wrong about Gaza

“To be black in America, even when you are rich, is to live in constant awareness that you have little protection against violence, either from desperate people in your own neighborhoods or from police who see you as a body to protect themselves from rather than a citizen worthy of protection.”

Sounds like being a Palestinian under Israeli weapons or in the face of Israeli occupying forces

Just as we oppose racism against Palestinians, we oppose racism against all peoples.

It is racism against Palestinians that allows the murders of  more than 1900 Palestinians – including 430 children – and the siege and occupation and segregation imposed on Palestinians, a racism that allows Zionists and all who support Zionism to try to create justifications for such murders

It is racism that allows the media to determine whose deaths are ‘newsworthy’ and whose deaths can be ignored.

Racism that allows the militarization of the border between Texas and Mexico, where more Mexicans have been killed at that wall than Germans at the Berlin Wall — and the militarization is ongoing…

I remember the words of Ella Baker:

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a White mother’s son—we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.

Until the killing of any man, any son …



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