This is a one-minute teaser for a series of video interviews with Gazans that I’m releasing in the month before my 50th birthday.
A Muslim Palestinian originally from Gaza, Ms. Besisso, 44, currently lives in Ramallah. Her parents came from well-known families who became refugees after the 48-49 war. Her grandfather often remarked that he felt sorry his grandchildren were raised poor while he had land, home and a business before the war. She is an only child and, as such, it was her parents’ dream that she marry and have a family; so she married at 17 and raised 6 children. They range from 26 to 8 years old.
She believes it is important to work hard to improve herself and her society. Ms. Besisso has worked for several international and local organizations including: American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Save the Children USA, Defense for Children International, the Jerusalem Media Communication Center, and others. After earning diplomas from Al Azhar University and Kann’an Educational Development Institute in Gaza, she is working on a B.A. in Social Work from Al Quds Open University. She also earned a technical training certificate in Field Research and Project Coordination from the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.
Ms. Besisso has spoken to audiences in the U.S. and Europe through Peace x Peace and Joining Hands Against Hunger (a Presbyterian Church initiative). She currently works as Freelance Community Trainer and advocacy activist where her main task is to organize, carry out, train, and evaluate nonviolence training and other advocacy projects. She is also the founder of Women for Justice.
One advantage of living here in Palestine is that I often hear about problems or trends long before they hit the news. For example, one full year ago I proposed (unsuccessfully) to a fellowship program that I do a series of articles about Sudanese workers who live in Palestinian villages inside Israel. Few people knew about the phenomenon, but I saw them every time I visited my in-laws: young men selling themselves as day laborers, isolated and without support, their stories untold. Nowadays, coverage of asylum seekers in Israel and their poor treatment is front page news. I still haven’t seen anyone cover the Palestinian connection, though.
Today I want to raise a different issue that is similarly under-reported. Red-Dead is the nickname for the project, “Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance Project (RSDSCP),” a $10 billion World Bank project that will carry water from the Red Sea to refill the disappearing Dead Sea. The World Bank claims the project will solve many regional water and environmental problems; Palestinian water and environmental experts disagree. I learned about this project when I worked with EWASH, a coalition of international and local NGOs working on Palestinian water rights. And I found it shocking to learn that such a costly, region-changing, risky project is moving forward with so little global scrutiny.
It might sound technical and boring, but it’s important! The World Bank pushed this through in a very non-transparent way, and the Palestinian Authority signed on without the approval of the Palestinian community. Besides being a huge waste of money–unacceptable in world where there is no much need–the long-term consequences of Red-Dead on Palestinian rights and prospects for a just peace are huge. Rather than tell you myself, I asked a friend and expert, Ziyaad Yusef, to explain Red-Dead in a straightforward way.
The interview is 30 minutes and at the end he suggests you can get more information from these sites.
Please share your comments here, and please spread the word widely. We can still stop this harmful project. And we must.
My talk, intentionally provocative, was supposed to give an outside perspective on dialogue to women on both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland–women who have been meeting over time to work on reconciliation.
I hope I communicated that while there is certainly a time for parties in conflict to talk, there is also a time when we should refuse to talk.
For Palestinians who are suffering from fake “negotiations” that are clearly intended only to prolong the status quo, there is reason to refuse to talk. As long as Israel has no intention of enabling a just, sustainable solution, then boycott tactics make much more sense.
I also want to thank the amazing folks at Community Foundation for Northern Ireland for taking me on a truly life-changing political tour of Belfast. Among other things, I learned that Belfast is full of walls — reminiscent of Israel’s Annexation Wall — and they are called “peace walls!”
It might sound crazy, but I look forward to the day when everyone who suffered in this long, stupid Israel-Palestine conflict can talk about “the past” and have a nice lunch together while talking about reconciliation. But as I said to the women in Belfast, now we’re busy enough dealing with the present.
The American Colony Bookshop hosted a conversation with Raja Shehadeh, Penny Johnson and Rema Hammami, editors of New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home on May 22, 2013. Here are the best 27 minutes of the event.