The Hamas Headache

by Ranjit Singh
published in MER238

Two days before the January 25 Palestinian legislative elections, Birzeit University professor and Hamas campaign adviser Nashat Aqtash found himself in an unusual situation. Bound by US regulations forbidding direct contact with Hamas, the joint National Democratic Institute (NDI)/Carter Center election observer delegation asked Aqtash -- who pointedly describes himself as a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but not of Hamas -- to brief its members on the Islamic organization’s philosophy and electoral activities. After enthusiastically showing several Hamas TV advertisements, Aqtash provided the large group of observers gathered in Ramallah a list of reasons why Hamas may consider a long-term hudna (state of calm), but never a permanent peace with Israel.

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Hamas Risen

by Graham Usher
published in MER238

On January 27, 2006, Fatah activists and Palestinian security personnel converged on the Palestinian Authority’s parliament building in Gaza City. Within minutes, cars were torched, tires set aflame and stones thrown at election banners displaying the visages of victorious Hamas candidates. The cry was for vengeance, particularly against a leadership that had just presided over Palestine’s premier nationalist movement’s worst political defeat in its 47-year history.

The Only Place Where There's Hope

An Interview with Muhammad Khatib, Jonathan Pollak and Elad Orian

by Robert Blecher
published in MER240

Beginning in December 2004, and then every Friday since February 2005, Palestinians, Israelis and internationals have converged on the West Bank village of Bil‘in to demonstrate against the barrier that Israel is building there, as part of the chain of walls and fences (the Wall) that the Israeli government hopes will be Israel’s unilaterally declared eastern border. The protests in Bil‘in have been among the most effective and sustained of any in the Occupied Territories.

Social Security

How Palestinians Survive a Humanitarian Crisis

by Lori Allen
published in MER240

In the Jenin refugee camp, on the outskirts of the West Bank town of the same name, remnants of the rougher days of the second intifada persist. Akram Abu al-Siba‘ is here to tell a French delegation, one of the few making the trek to Jenin these days, about the latest in the camp’s long list of dramatic and tragic experiences. In early July, he relates, disguised Israeli operatives drove into Jenin camp, burst out of the car and sprayed gunfire at a group of men gathered to offer condolences to the family of a man killed the day before. The apparent target of this operation, Zakariyya Zubayda, leader of the al-Aqsa Brigades in Jenin and a man much wanted by Israel, escaped unharmed. Thirty-four others were not so lucky.

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At the Station of a Train Which Fell Off the Map

Mahmoud Darwish (1942–2008)

by Mahmoud Darwish
published in MER248

Grass, dry air, thorns, and cactus on the tracks
There, the shape of the object in the absurdity of non-shape is chewing its own shadow
There is nothingness there, tied and surrounded by its opposite
Two doves flying
over the roof of an abandoned room at the station
The station is like a tattoo which has dissolved into the body of the place
There are also two thin cypresses, like two long needles
embroidering a lime-yellow cloud
And there is a tourist photographing two scenes:


(1999, an excerpt)

by Mahmoud Darwish
published in MER248

I will walk in my footsteps down the old path through the sea air
no woman will see me passing under her balcony
I have of memories only those necessary for the long journey
Days contain all they need of tomorrows
I was smaller than my eyelashes and my two dimples
So take my sleepiness
and hide me in the story of the tender evening
Hide me under one of the two date palms
and teach me poetry
So I can learn how to walk beside Homer
So I can add to the story a description of Akka

In the Labyrinth of Solitude

Time, Violence and the Eternal Frontier

by Peter Lagerquist
published in MER248

Our territory is inhabited by a number of races speaking different languages and living on different historical levels…. A variety of epochs live side by side in the same areas or a very few miles apart, ignoring or devouring one another…. Past epochs never vanish completely, and blood still drips from all their wounds, even the most ancient.

—Octavio Paz, Labyrinth of Solitude

From the Editor

published in MER248

It’s easy to forget, but the United States has a pressing year-end deadline to meet in Israel-Palestine as well as in Iraq. At Annapolis in November 2007, President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to “make every effort” to hammer out a comprehensive peace accord “before the end of 2008.” For Bush, the joint statement underlined a previous vow, uttered soon after the 2004 election, “to use the next four years to spend the capital of the United States” on creating a Palestinian state.