Zachary Wales

'Annan's Story: Freedom stolen at thirteen

One day before Valentine’s Day, ‘Annan’s father went to his 13-year-old son’s school in Beitunia, Ramallah, and only found his oldest boy’s jacket and backpack on the school grounds. Along with four other boys ranging from the ages of 11 to 14, ‘Annan had been arrested by Israeli soldiers who gave him a beating that was evidenced in the bruises seen by his parents when they were finally able to see him only briefly during ‘Annan’s 15-minute court hearing two days later. He told them that the soldiers beat him with their fists and feet, as well as the butts of their guns. 

Vanunu speaks about his November 18th arrest

Mordechai Vanunu, often dubbed the “Israeli nuclear whistle-blower,” was arrested on Friday 18th November for traveling to the East Jerusalem suburb al-Ram. Vanunu, 51, was released on the following day and returned to his de facto house arrest at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, where he has sought refuge since being released from his 18-year detention and torture under Israeli authorities. In addition to his anti-nuclear campaigning, Vanunu has repeatedly called for the dismantlement of Israel’s racist policies, and the fundamental right of return for Palestinian refugees. 

Reflections: Leaving Las Vegas, I mean, Israel, but actually Palestine

In my experience, the transition from the West Bank to Israel has never been pleasant. It is the act of voluntarily leaving a society where nearly everyone is outgoing and hospitable, then entering one where most people are paranoid, judgmental and usually armed. I was therefore grateful to notice that my driver extended the former qualities, as he pointed to the Palestinian villages we passed along the fringe of the West Bank. “Shoof!” (“Look!”) Beit Hanina hone (“here”),”? he said, pointing to the West, “Ou (“and”) Beit Hanina hunak (“there”),” now pointing to the East. Still smiling, he motioned ahead naming villages we would pass along the way, “Biddu, Beit A’nan, Beit Leqia ou Bil’in”. 

Breathing life into Nablus

Nablusi architect Naseer Arafat’s current project, “a ten year dream,” as he calls it, is the restoration of an estate that was once owned by an influential sheikh and housed a residence, soap factory and reception hall. The compound, which Arafat describes as having a “unique composition,” is nestled in Nablus’ Old City, home to 20,000 Palestinians and some 2,560 historic buildings, mostly constructed during the Ottoman period, as well as some from the Mameluke, Crusader, Byzantine and Roman eras. 

Helping Forward move forward

On July 22, E. J. Kessler, deputy managing editor of the oldest and most revered American Jewish weekly, Forward, reported that “a far-left pro-Palestinian group” sought to pass a divestment resolution at the AFL-CIO quadrennial convention, which takes place in Chicago next week. As a co-founder of this “far-left group,” Labor for Palestine — which is not a “group” but a campaign as its Web site’s watermark indicates on every page — I find it worth noting some errors and points of conjecture that my colleague’s article contains. LFP represents one of many organized movements that are dissatisfied with the AFL-CIO’s well-documented complicity with US foreign policy. 

How do you like your blue-eyed boy: The Rally in Bil'in

The demonstration in Bil’in against Israel’s illegal Annexation Wall has developed an almost ritualistic pattern that’s very typical of peaceful protests in Occupied Palestine, where Israeli soldiers tolerate passive resistance for so long before they fire tear gas or rubber-coated bullets — which break the skin and often kill — into the crowd. Doing this invokes stone throwing from local youths, who weather a day-to-day narrative of harassment, beatings and arrests, quite apart from what the internationals experience. If one believes in the adage that “the powerless don’t choose violence, violence chooses them,” then it could be applied here. 

"What kind of army does this?"

On Wednesday night, the relative tranquillity of Birzeit came to an end when two unmarked armoured jeeps rolled lazily into the town center. Three Israeli commandos emerged from one of the vehicles and entered a corner store. “What are you people doing in Birzeit?” the shopkeeper asked. “We’ve come to fight for Israel,” a soldier responded. Although Birzeit is a peaceful village of approximately 5,000 farmers, storekeepers and university students in the hills north of Ramallah, the arrival of the Israeli convoy wasn’t a complete surprise. 

Flying Checkpoints

There’s a checkpoint between Birzeit and Ramallah. Out of the blue. Up until this moment, everything seemed normal: the honking of taxis, the flow of traffic over snakelike mountain roads, the odd calm of drivers as they vie for imagined lanes on hairpin curves. Suddenly it bottlenecks, then halts. “Hajiz,” shouts a taxi driver coming from the opposite direction. Checkpoint. The calm is replaced with frustration, both audible and visible. Arms flail out of car windows. Honking becomes more frequent. A baby, which until now I hadn’t noticed, cries in the back of my taxi. A gust of bluish bus exhaust empties into my open window. Nausea takes hold. 

Kids with machine guns

My last contact with Phoebe was in New York City last May, when we met for drinks in Morningside Heights. She is by birth an Israeli citizen, and despite our political differences, we’ve maintained a warm friendship, with the exception of a week-long, I’m-mad-at-you silence here or there. More inevitable is the extent to which our paths cross at graduate school, and now the Middle East. At first I thought about asking her to meet me in predominantly-Arab East Jerusalem, because that would annoy her to no end. But I had turned over a new leaf. Dinner was on her turf. Zachary Wales reports from Palestine. 

Reconstructing Internationalism with Labor For Palestine

Those who follow Palestinian activism, from the McCarthyist “Campus Watch,” to the intrepid Jews Against the Occupation, are aware that Labor For Palestine (LFP) has emerged over the past year as a new campaign in labor internationalism. Yet as LFP prepares for its first national conference in Chicago on July 23, 2005, few know how it began. Officially, LFP was born in June 2004 when I met Michael Letwin in Manhattan’s Union Square to discuss drafting the Open Letter, LFP’s founding document. But the notions behind LFP were in the works long before this. They started in South Africa, where an international divestment movement threw a wrench in apartheid’s brutal turbines.