Eileen Fleming: Babies Up Against the Occupation

By Eileen Fleming
Special to PalestineChronicle.com

On January 3, 2008, I received the following email from a friend, Husam Jubran of the Little Town of Bethlehem in Occupied Territory:

“I want to share with you some good news. On Dec. 31 at 3:00 pm Jerusalem time my wife gave birth to our second daughter…Both of them are doing good. Up to this very moment I am not able to see either of them because of the Israeli policies of preventing Palestinians from entering Jerusalem. It seems I am too dangerous and being with my wife represents a security threat to the state of Israel.”

I connected with Husam in 2005 through Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund, a non-political, non-religious 501 3-C whose aspirations are purely humanitarian. Husam travels through the West bank collecting embroidery, olive wood crafts, Mother of Pearl jewelry, soap, honey, olive oil and more made by the poor that he ships to the Texas home of PCWF’s Founder, Riad E. Hamad. Riad then  disseminates the goods out of his garage  to a growing global community of volunteers who sell the wares at churches, temples, mosques and anywhere possible with hope and faith to help improve the living standards of the children of Palestine and the poor and voiceless.

I spoke on the phone with Husam on January 6, 2008, and he told me, "All the profits made go to support the poor. PCWF adopts needy families, provides medicines, sponsors university students, plants citrus and olive trees, builds water collection and irrigation systems in the West Bank, and the goods we sell show the world what Palestinians are capable of."

Husam does much more, but like most Palestinians I have met; it was like pulling teeth to get him to blow his own horn. Not until the end of our over half hour conversation did he tell me that, "I also work with Al-Rowwad Center in Aida camp. I focus on teaching theater of the oppressed."

The Al-Rowwad Center is an Independent Center for artistic, cultural, and theatre training for children in Aida Camp in the Little Town of Bethlehem: Occupied Territory, which provides a safe and healthy environment to the oppressed children by cultivating their creativity and discharging the stress caused by the Israeli Military Occupation of them which is supported by the USA government and USA tax dollars that contribute to the war conditions the children and voiceless are forced to endure.

I asked Husam about his childhood background and he told me, "During the first Intifada [Arabic for rising up] I was 17 ½, and spend 1988 and 1989 in jail for throwing stones at tanks and soldiers who were 100 meters from me. They retaliated with gas and bullets and many of my friends were arrested too. I am on the Israeli ‘black list’ because I organized people to withhold taxes from them and I painted graffiti against the occupation and raised the Palestinian flag.

"I am now a freelance nonviolent trainer and obtained my Masters Degree in Conflict Transformation and Peace Building at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisburg, Virginia in 2004. I travel all through the West Bank teaching in refugee camps, villages and with the Palestinian Security forces; police and intelligence organizations how to nonviolently resolve conflicts.

"My first daughter was born in America in 2003 and we have applied to the Israeli court ever since to obtain her papers and documents, but still no answer. She entered Bethlehem on a tourist visa and if she were ever to leave, she would not be allowed back in. When I went to Chicago last summer to be a facilitator with Hands of Peace, which brings together Americans, Israelis and Palestinian kids, my family couldn’t accompany me.

"My wife is a Jerusalemite and although she could have delivered our baby in Bethlehem and I could have been with her, she had to go to Jerusalem to deliver our baby so that she would retain her rights and our second daughter would have some.

"My first daughter is in no man’s land even though she is legally an American citizen, she cannot leave Bethlehem, because she hasn’t got permission yet from Israel. It was crucial our second daughter be born in Jerusalem so she could be registered on my wife’s ID and receive Jerusalem papers which enable her to receive health care and education."

On July 31, 2003, the Knesset enacted the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law. This law prohibits the granting of any residency or citizenship status to Palestinians from the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) who are married to Israeli citizens. The Law affects thousands of families comprised of tens of thousands of individuals. On March 21, 2007, the Knesset passed a new law which maintains the ban on family unification where one spouse is a Palestinian from the OPT and added a more stringent denial of family unification where one spouse is a resident or citizen of Lebanon, Syria, Iran or Iraq – states all defined by Israeli law as "enemy states" – and/or is an individual defined by the Israeli security forces as residing in an area where activity is occurring.
On August 14, 2003, "The UN…issued a decision…enjoining Israel to revoke the "Family unification law" considering its discriminatory nature, in violation of basic provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ratified by Israel. As a matter of fact, the purpose of the new law is to prohibit Palestinians from the Occupied Territories from obtaining citizenship, permanent residency, and/or temporary residency status in Israel by marriage to an Israeli citizen("family unification"). It will also discriminate the Arab minorities citizens of Israel, who want to marry Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. Thousands of families will be affected, forcing them to separate or to leave the country, if the law remains in force…the decision follows the recent decision of UN Human Rights Committee of 6 August 2003, which also states that Israel "should revoke the Nationality and Entry into Israel law…and should reconsider its policy with a view to facilitating family reunification of all citizens and permanent residents".

Husam continued, "I don’t care for myself, I am content with my Palestinian ID and being in Bethlehem, but it was most important that our second daughter get her Jerusalem ID although I was refused a permit."

I asked Husam what was his take on President Bush’s upcoming trip to Israel Palestine and he responded, "We welcome him here but the message is clear that until the core issue of the Occupation is addressed and the Occupation ends, nothing will be achieved. The conflict will erupt again if this is just a political process and photo-op and not a true peace process.

"One state, two states is not the issue. The issue has been and is the Occupation! All we Palestinians want is an end to the Occupation! We recognize and accept Israel and they should recognize and accept Palestinians and give us the minimum which is our human rights.

"I persist because of my daughters. When they grow up they will ask me, ‘What did you do for us?’

"I want to tell them I did my best to create a different future for them. I sustain and am encouraged by the kids and women who touch my heart when I teach nonviolent resistance and conflict management. They give me courage, stamina and determination to do something to end the Occupation."


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