Monday, September 24, 2007

Fair and Balanced

This post is specially for Pascal the French Lutist:
The top-rated Lebanese oud player, Marcel Khalifé, has been 'disinvited' from a concert to be held in San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Theatre. The reason: There was no Israeli musician available that evening to play on the same stage.
Marcel Khalife Oud PlayerCan you imagine 'disinviting' Itzhak Perlman because there was no Arab musician available to play on the same stage?

Joan Kroc was the third wife of Ray Kroc, the entrepreneur who turned the McDonald brothers' hamburger cafes into a worldwide pestilence.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Palestinian Sunset

'Nuff said. (Click on photo for larger image)

The Israeli Lobby's Underside

The Israeli Lobby is not a single, coordinated organisation, but an octopus practicing hasbara, perhaps the most powerful national propaganda system on earth.

It also has branches, one of which targets 'Bad Jews' (Israelis and non-Israelis) who question their national objective of local conquest and domination, including the slowly-unfolding 'Final Solution' for the original inhabitants of their hijacked land, the Palestinians.

Take a look at this website:
Self-Hating and/or Israel-Threatening

It lists the names of 7000 Jews who don't toe the extreme rightwing Israeli line.

Here's an extract:

Abrams, Arthur J. "RABBI" Signed a petition, "Rabbinic Call for a Shared Jerusalem," which concluded that "the pursuit of both justice and lasting peace requires that, in some form, Jerusalem be shared with the Palestinian people." After all, "the Old City, the area of greatest contention, has a population of 30,000; of its residents some 90% are Palestinians." Is there a reader out there in Internet Land who can explain to Rabbi Abrams and those other imbeciles who signed this petition that (1) the Old City's Jewish Quarter was destroyed by the invading Jordanian Army in 1948-9 and all Jewish residents were either murdered or driven out. An another thing. Have this bald-headed baboon of a rabbi read "You've Been Had" which explains who his so-called "Palestinians" really are.

Just to correct the myth of the 'Jewish Quarter Massacre', the quarter was attacked by the Jordanian Army, and the 2000 residents were expelled. They joined about 711,000 Palestinians expelled by the Israelis.

Meanwhile, in another Jewish Quarter, but not within the Old City, Mea Shearim, another group of extremely Orthodox Haredi Jews, who settled there in 1871, stayed resolutely put.

The inhabitants of Mea Shearim lived securely within Arab Jerusalem for a hundred years, until they were 'liberated' in 1967. They do not, to this day, recognise the Israeli 'Nation'.

When I visited the area in 1973, this very wall, with perhaps the same old gentleman resolutely turning his back to the camera, was looking at a graffiti:


There were other, very similar graffiti scattered about, but I would imagine that the IDF and Shin Beth between them treat Jewish dissidents much as they treat their Palestinian subjects.

The Israeli Lobby in a 'Free Democracy'

Two American professors have done something quite unprecedented, and possibly quite courageous, in their newly-published book:
‘The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy’

“The real reason why American politicians are so deferential is the political power of the Israel lobby.”

The entire first chapter has been published by The New York Times
Here's an extract:

America is about to enter a presidential election year. Although the outcome is of course impossible to predict at this stage, certain features of the campaign are easy to foresee. The candidates will inevitably differ on various domestic issues-health care, abortion, gay marriage, taxes, education, immigration-and spirited debates are certain to erupt on a host of foreign policy questions as well......

.....Yet on one subject, we can be equally confident that the candidates will speak with one voice. In 2008, as in previous election years, serious candidates for the highest office in the land will go to considerable lengths to express their deep personal commitment to one foreign country-Israel-as well as their determination to maintain unyielding U.S. support for the Jewish state.


GR and Millie roast pig Siargao Island Philippines Well, it's fiesta time in GL, so I've been persuaded to invite Shedney's family from Union.
They're a truly lovely lot, and I don't begrudge any kind of invitation at all.
So, the night before, Shedney's nephew, GR, turned up with a small live pig. There was a slight misunderstanding when I thought GR might really be Shedney's local boyfriend (not unknown), but that passed over after a major spat.
He killed and cooked the pig.
While the ladies chopped up butong, immature coconuts, for a wonderful buko salad, mixed with cream and fruit.

Pascal does stuff Siargao Island Philippines Pascal the French Lutist took over the carving, and did a remarkably good job - much better than the locals, who use a bolo machete, to chop the whole thing into chunks.

By the time Thomas and Kerry arrived, there wasn't much left of the pig, and even the camera lens was smeared somehow.

Altogether a good day.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Is There a Hilot in the House?

Hilot Doring Siargao Island PhilippinesWe don't have a doctor on the island, which is no great loss, as we have a lovely bunch of hilots.

We 'developed Westerners' burned most of our equivalents, as witches, just a few centuries ago, replacing them with quacks, charlatans, and the horrors of the NHS and HMCs.

If you adhere to The Siargao Diet and keep to the kind of blameless, healthy lifestyle that I don't, then you shouldn't need a doctor anyway.

Hilot Doring is the doyenne of them all in General Luna, but nowadays, her very advanced age has made it difficult for her to make house calls, so I asked one of her acolytes, Inday, to come and fix my gammy leg. Doring once fixed a severely sprained ankle in a matter of minutes.

The problem occurred during an entirely innocent night in a Surigao City hotel, after I fell out of bed, and slammed my knee against the tiled concrete floor. It was in agonising pain, but Manny the Fixer organised me some Chinese herbal stuff, and all seemed OK after a couple of days.

Then we had the Ladies' Surfing Contest in June, with a lot of red-hot late night beach discos, in which I dutifully participated, to the full, and my knee became agony again.

Sharon the Vet gave me something to take away the pain, but I hobbled for a long time. The girls at Nine Bar vied with each other to give me lifts home (all of 150m) on their motorcycle. Then, somehow, by one of those miracles of pathology, the trouble migrated from one side of the leg to the other, and now, I'm hobbling again.
Hilot massage Siargao Island Philippines So, I called in the hilot, Inday.She massaged my leg so gently, and so expertly, with light, but knowing, finger pressure, that I can almost walk without trouble this morning.

But this time, I'm going to make sure, by following a daily course until I'm fit for the discos at the coming Fiesta weekend.
Shedney massage Siargao Island PhilippinesThen she turned to Shedney, massaging her back, and so on. But she didn't only do that. Somehow, she also managed to diagnose the root of her problem, a miscarriage that she suffered only a month ago, when her drunken Australian 'boyfriend' lost his temper, wrestled, and hit her.
And she did that just by massaging and feeling Shedney's hands, fingers, and finger tips, with, possibly, a little of the usual fortune-teller's solicitation skills.

This is not the kind of 'massage' that you might get from a parlour in Bangkok or London, but it is just as beneficial, and probably altogether better for you.

The massage cost me just P100 ($2). Well worth it.

Had I been pregnant, the hilot could have been midwife, and I would have popped out my brat within the hour, just like the local mothers do.

Now JC never ever did that.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Directions for Education in America

Everybody knows that most Americans are ill-educated and ill-informed, if at all.

The very latest assault on pitiful US education standards comes from a familiar source:

Congress mandates Holocaust education in grades K-12; science and math requirements to be dropped. New legislation would also replace arts and crafts in senior citizens' homes with workshops on Holocaust denial.

07.27.2007 The Jewish Advocate
By Kristin Erekson

With more than 62 years having passed since the Shoah, local and state lawmakers are working to give Holocaust education a boost.

Currently being reviewed by committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, the Simon Wiesenthal Holocaust Education Assistance Act – if passed – would provide select organizations nationwide with competitive grants to be used to develop Holocaust curriculum guides as well as training for teachers.

This should certainly give the Holocaust Industry a boost.

Welcome to Planet Gaza

This Thursday, the Israeli cabinet's decision to declare the 8-kilometer-wide, 23km-long, arid Gaza Strip a "hostile territory" has started to be translated by facts on the ground. The Israel Defense Forces have begun "gradually" to cut the supply of fuel and electricity to the 1.5 million population, one of the highest densities on Earth, 50% of them already living under the poverty line, 50% of them under-15s, 33% of them refugees.

Quoted from: THE ROVING EYE
Welcome to Planet Gaza - By Pepe Escobar - Asia Times 22/9/07

Collective punishment of democrats who voted wrongly - Israelis really did learn a great deal from their Nazi mentors.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oh! What a Lovely Neighbour!

Andreas Mikoleiwicz Patrick's on the Beach Siargao Island Philippines Would you rent a used seaside cottage from this man?

He is my friendly and cooperative neighbour., the owner of Patrick's-On-The-Beach, which surrounds me on three sides.

We haven't spoken to each other in over two years, ever since I went round to introduce myself, and he told me that he was just about to take over the quiet garden of the house I had just rented from Dado, demolish my thatched barn that I was about to use as a bead-craft sweatshop, and leave me with just the mere concrete shell of a house that goes with those two invaluable assets.

Next day, I used the back gate from my garden, for a swim. It leads about 10 metres through the cottages that Andreas rents from my landlord, Dado, to the sea. I was confronted by this fellow, who told me he was concerned about security for his 'resort' - Patrick's On The Beach, and unless I kept the gate padlocked, he would padlock it himself.
If he did, I said, I would effing cut off the effing padlock.
Next day, he marched up my garden to my bead works, where the girls were working away industriously, accompanied by the town's Chief of Police, and accused me of 'threatening' him.
Nothing came of that, of course; it was typical bluster.
But that summer, while I was away in Spain flogging beads to punters in the local markets, he reinforced the closure by boarding up 'his' side of the gate.

More on the lovely Andreas in later posts, including the intriguing tale of the source of the above smug self-portrait.

By the way, if you feel like you would like to donate to his orphanage scam, send a blank cheque to:

Messenger Of Joy Foundation
14721 S. Biscayne River Drive
Miami, FL 33168
Tel (305) 687-4107
Fax (305) 769-9924

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Well Cleaned Up

This week, I decided that our well in the garden needed a bit of cleaning out. It's only a few feet deep, and the fresh water level is usually just about the same as the sea just a few mtres away.
There's always plenty of rain, and super drainage through the old coral limestone core of the island, and the pure sand that underlies the foreshore, where I'm located.
Koi Koi well Siargao Island Philippines
The initiative for the clean-up came from Koi-Koi, my neighbour. He and his wife, Ta-Ta, and three children live in a one room hut right next door. She does my daily cleaning, and he does my water-carrying.
So it was Koi-Koi who scrambled down the well, and scrubbed it out by hand, while the Man With the Submersible Pump sloshed water and sludge all over the garden.
When it was finished, and you could see the sand on the bottom again, through limpid clear water, the MWSP suggested I pour half a glass of Zonrox chlorine bleach into it to finish off any lingering nasties.
Catfish Siargao Island Philippines We were surprised to see a single fish rise to the surface, gasping. We couldn't catch it for rescue, so I just prayed it would survive the chemical assault.
It was a freshwater goby, locally known as bunog.

Night Heron Siargao Island Philippines And how did it get there? Well, last year, I kept a 'zoo' in the garden for a time, and amongst its residents was a young heron, with a voracious appetite for fish.
To satisfy this, I encouraged the local kids from Mabua village to fish in the creek, and bring me the results. They brought so many that sometimes we needed a backup storage solution, so we dumped them down the well.
The little goby was the last survivor, and I'm indebted to him for keeping the well free of mosquito wigglers.

Easy Smokin'

It's something I've been intending to do for a long time, ever since I picked up a 99p 'Penny Pinchers' book on 'Fishing for Food'; set up a fish smoker. Now I've done it, and it's wonderful.

Smoked tayan-tayang fish Siargao Island Philippines I haven't yet refined the techniques yet, and the results are a bit variable; sometimes a tad over-cooked (I haven't got the knack of cold-smoking yet), but delicious.

In the absence of oak or hickory chips, we use coconut husks; perfect - some of them are green and smoulder slowly and smokily, and others are dry enough to set the thing going without too much flame.

As for the fish, well, we have:
Tayang-tayang - Dolphinfish, mahi-mahi, lampuga, dorado (Call it what you will)
Bangsi - Flying fish about the size of a herring
Budloy - Another herring-style fish
Yellowfin tuna
Liplipan - Sailfish
Blue Marlin

You can see what these look like at my website: Fish of Siargao Island

They're all very fresh-caught, and very cheap - from 40p to 80p per kilo, and so much better smoked than plain. To be honest, I was getting very fed up with fish altogether; there's only so much you can do with it, especially if you're only cooking for one, and with only a frypan.

Now that I have a lady cook in residence, I have a good excuse both to eat good food and enjoy it in company.

I have 'kippers' for breakfast (and sometimes lunch and tea, as well), smoked fish pâté, 'haddock'-and-potato soup, etc. The last is better made with Jerusalem artichokes (unobtainable), but maybe I'll try gabi, the local small taro tuber.

The smoker is only a small cupboard, knocked together by Ron from plywood and 2x1 sticks, with a door, and a couple of rails for the chicken wire based trays. The coconut husks go into a tray at the bottom.

Expensive Birds

I always knew there was one small tiny problem involved with keeping a pretty woman; decoration, maintenance and upkeep costs.
The town Fiesta is due on Friday, so there is a travelling fair of ukay-ukay stalls set up on the foreshore next to my neighbouring village of squatting fishermen, Mabua, between me and the creek. Ukay-ukay is basically second-hand clothes (yes - you know the ones you dutifully collect for the poor of the world? Well, they get bought up on arrival by Chinese traders, and farmed out to the local equivalent of Gypsies, who travel from town to town at fiesta time. They sell sheeting by the kilo, T shirts for 50p ($1),shorts for 100p, and so on.
On Monday night, I took Shedney out for our usual pub-crawl from Lalay's at the end of the Boulevard, to Nine Bar just up the road from me.
Only then did I notice that the short-short-shorts she was wearing had a broken zip, so when the tails of her shirt opened, everyone could see her her sweet little cotton-clad pussy.
So I blew up; just quietly exploded, thrust a 500p ($5) note into her hand and growled that she'd better get to the bulanon (ukay-ukay market) first thing in the morning, and get herself some new (and longer) shorts.

Shedney in new outfit Siargao IslandSo what did the little minx do? She went straight up to Larry's Reef Break Shop (good website), where he has an enticing show of beachwear, and bought herself a grand new ensemble, plus a T-shirt and pair of short-short-shorts. The short-short-shorts have a hand-embroidered motto: "I AM A SIARGAO ISLAND SURF BITCH", and she blew the whole goddam' $5!

But she does look good in it, I must say.

And so thought Harry the Canadian Real Estate Millionaire, as he gazed, tongue lolling out, at that little area just below her collar bone.

Happy Ramadan! Another Unsung Death

Compare this news report:
A 16-year-old boy was shot and killed by Israeli forces in central West Bank city of Ramallah in the early hours of Monday morning. The boy, later identified as Muhammad Jabareen, was shot when local stone-throwing youths clashed with invading Israeli soldiers. Both eyewitnesses and medical sources reported that the Israeli army prevented ambulances from entering the area and dispensing first aid to the gravely injured teenager. The boy subsequently bled to death.

with this:
A 16-year-old Palestinian youth was shot and killed early Monday morning during clashes with the Israel Defense Forces in Ramallah. Palestinian sources reported that the youth, Mohammed Jabbarin, was not armed and was shot after he hurled rocks at Israeli troops. The IDF had been carrying out a routine operation in the West Bank town when the clash erupted. The IDF said that troops had identified an armed militant and opened fire, hitting the target.

[My emphasis - The IDF is are invading, the boy was throwing stones, although hurling rocks sounds much more threatening, and of course the IDF would say he was armed. If he was, why wasn't he taken straight to jail, together with his gun?]

Thanks to: WakeUpFromYourSlumber

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bookless in Gaza

Gaza is the world's worst deliberate hellhole. It's not like it is because of lack of enterprise by its inhabitants, or lack of democracy; it has its own freely-elected government.

That government was elected, under close electoral observation, at the behest of the Israelis, and their US and European mentors.

Unfortunately for the 'free' electors, they voted for the wrong people.

Unfortunately, that government is not liked by Israel, its bullying overlord and neighbour, who, since the majority party (Hamas) within the government got rid of the corrupt puppets and stooges of Fatah in June 2007, has imposed a full blockade on the area.
Furthermore, since they have full control over all exits and entries to the territory (except for the crossings to Egypt, which they also control by proxy), the blockade is total.

I'll go into the full, horrific details of the effects of this blockade, and of Israel's almost constant military incursions, in later posts, but this is what provoked this particular post:

- a characteristically mild comment today, Tuesday, September 18, 2007, from Juan Cole's Informed Comment:

"And see George Bisharat's Op-ed in the Baltimore Sun: "Two hundred thousand Palestinian children began school in the Gaza Strip this month without a full complement of textbooks. Why? Because Israel, which maintains a stranglehold over this small strip of land along the Mediterranean even after withdrawing its settlers from there in 2005, considers paper, ink and binding materials not to be "fundamental humanitarian needs."
Gaza is the worst outcome of Western colonialism anywhere in the world outside the Belgian Congo.

Think of that - your child, born a refugee from an original family home probably only a very few miles away, (now occupied by imported Russians, Ethiopians, or Americans), cannot even be educated properly, because your overlords, who make every effort to minimise the freedom of criticism of their activities (especially in other countries) can exercise both controls, outside their own state, with absolute impunity.

Many readers will recollect that the US and Britain had similar policies when 'supervising' the materials that Iraq was allowed to import legitimately in the long period before they finally invaded, and employed total, ruthless, careless and violent chaos there.

We can expect Israel to take the very first opportunity to do the same to Gaza (yet again) whenever they feel they can get away with it.

Before Israel's totally phony 2005 'withdrawal' from the Gaza Strip, it looked like this. Ever get a feeling of claustrophobia?

The Gaza 'Strip' has possibly one of the highest population densities on earth. Look at the amount of sheer space taken up by Israeli 'settlements', security zones, etc.

Don't think that the 'withdrawal' has freed up these areas in any way at all. The pink Israel Security Zone along the border is a free-fire zone, although it is usually only unknowing innocent children who get killed by the Israeli Defense Force.

Wouldn't you want to cobble together an amateur rocket or two, and fight back?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Another Little Zionist Attack

In 1975, I lived and worked in Beirut, in a small office just off Rue Verdun in Hamra. Opposite was a small vacant lot, and then an office building, that I knew as a Palestinian archive and library.

At about 10am one morning, there was a huge explosion, and the front of that building was blown out, right there, in front of my eyes.

But I was a 'businessman' and had to go 'prioritize' an important desgn meeting over on the Corniche. I mentioned at the meeting that there had been a large explosion just in front of me, a few minutes before. At that very moment, there was a similar explosion just down the street from us, that reinforced the punchline of my story.

Only later did I learn the full story. Some gentlemen from Sayeret Matkal, the Israeli extra-territorial commando force', disguised as South African tourists, merely hired a car to carry out two rocket attacks; one on the Institute for Palestine Studies, and one on the PLO HQ itself.

Only half a dozen old scholars were killed in the library, and, so far as I know, the incidents were never reported in the West; just another minor happening in the long, terrible war of attrition by the Isaelis against the Palestinians.

They were frequent occurrences; I mentioned the air attacks in my last post, but, only a few years earlier, another Sayeret Matkal group had assassinated Palestine's leading poet, Ghassan Kanafani with a car bomb just up the same street.

His 1967 thesis, Race and Religion in Zionist Literature, formed the basis for his 1967 study "On Zionist Literature". In those days, the ignorant, and I count myself very much amongst them, had no idea quite how racist, terrible, and having so much in common with their Nazi mentors the Zionists really were.

I know now.

Happily, The library and archive have been rebuilt, at:
The Institute for Palestine Studies
Anis Nsouli Street-Verdun
P.O. Box : 11-7164
Postal Code: 1107 2230
Tel : 00961-1-868387
Fax: 00961-1-814193
Director: Mr. Mahmoud Soueid

The Israelis haven't targetted it again, but I'm sure they'll take the opportunity next time they devastate Lebanon on a whim.

Freedom of Movement!

Thanks to Derek, another Englishman who has taken refuge here, I have rented (very cheaply) a small Suzuki clone pickup 4WD pick-up truck, for an opportunity to get out and see around the island. I've never had independent transport before, so it's a great improvement.Phils recon Suzuki clone pick-up truck

The island roads are somewhat of a problem; some of them have concreted stretches, including the main route from General Luna to Dapa, the port and 'main town', but even that is littered with sleeping dogs, wandering pigs, chickens and children, and harvested rice or copra (coconut meat) laid out to dry in the sun.

The rest of the roads are a bit of a nightmare, with long unpaved stretches of rubble and potholes. Most of the island transport is by motorbike or jeepney. Motorbikes use only the one relatively smooth trail on the road, and the jeepneys are modified trucks, expected to bump and grind their way over anything.

Our little pick-up is great though; at least it gets us there, albeit at a maximum speed of 40kph. I'll go into some of our daytrips in detail, with pictures, and include a map, in later posts.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Recollections of Another Holy Day in Jerusalem

On my last visit to Jerusalem, in the spring of 1995, I stayed in a small pension house in Salaheddin Street, the main thoroughfare of East Jerusalem, running directly away from the walls of the Old City. It's a part of the city I have liked ever since I first visited in 1973, in the aftermath of the October War.

I have tried, since my experiences of that first visit, and others, not to consciously enter 'Israel' itself, but that evening, I did. I walked up to 'Zion Square', off the Jaffa Road, and had a few coffees and drinks with some entirely sympathique Israeli bohos, hippies, beatniks, call them what you will, and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. I even went on to The Underground, a very enjoyable cave disco, where, as usual, I failed to score at all.

There was a disquieting note; whenever I said where I was staying, and whoever I spoke to, I was warned that that East Jerusalem was a very dangerous area, and I should not walk there on my own; take a taxi, if one would take me.

So I set off home, straight down Yafo Street, past Sbarro, a sudden, terrible reminder of the depths the Israeli/Palestinian asymmetrical conflict can reach, and on past the old West/East Jerusalem border point, to the street (don't know it's name now) that runs along the side of the North walls of the Old City, down to the Damascus Gate.

It was the last day of Ramadan, the equivalent for us of the end of Lent, and the beginning of the quite pagan festival of Easter. This was the evening of the beginnings of Eid al-Fitr.

In the small sunken square between the street and the Damascus Gate, a small fair had been set out, with sweetmeat and candy stalls, balloons, and fairground junk of all kinds for sale, in the style of village festival fairs worldwide. There was a suppressed air of gaiety.

The reason for the 'suppressed air of gaiety' wasn't difficult to find. On the opposite pavement of the main street was lined a row of fully-armed soldiers, kitted out with full combat pack, from grenades to Uzzis, and visibly tense, spoiling for a fight.

I've seen that kind of confrontation before, so I walked on, a little faster, and turned left into Salaheddin Street, ambling by now. The street was eerily quiet and empty.

I looked into the occasionally lit shop display, window-shopping as I went. I was considering buying something in a goldsmith's when I heard a commotion back down the street.

A small scattering of pre-teenage youths were running up the street, and passed me. Behind them was a fully-armed, aggressive squad from the 'Israeli Defense Force', running, and swinging clubs.

I nipped into the shop, and the shopkeeper beckoned me behind, and under, his counter. When several angry, hyped-up soldier bully boys entered, he kicked me, to make sure I stayed hidden, and quiet. He covered me well.

I couldn't make out the IDF men's guttural Hebrew demands, but he could, and countered them with consummate diplomacy.

Afterwards, when they had well and truly gone, I got up, dusted myself down, and complained bitterly that he had, perhaps, given me a bit too lively a kick to keep me quiet.

He just said, very quietly:

"They learned, in Poland and Russia, sixty years ago, what it was like to live in a ghetto. No they're giving us our turn".

And they have been doing it ever since:

See this, written in 1997, ten years ago, and perhaps identifying only the very beginnings of the ethnic cleansing in its early stages:

"The streets of East Jerusalem's commercial center begin to empty in mid-afternoon, as the workday ends and people return to their homes. By evening, when Ramallah, Nablus, and Gaza are teeming with people strolling the sidewalks, chatting on street corners, and dining in restaurants, Jerusalem's main thoroughfare, Salaheddin Street, is as quiet as a graveyard. Hardly a soul can be seen along the road's shuttered shops. The coffeehouses are all but empty, the few restaurants filled with foreigners. Apart from an occasional Israeli patrol, the alleys of the Old City nearby are deserted.

Arab East Jerusalem's funereal atmosphere was once attributed to the intifada, which kept people in their homes during the evenings. Later it was said that Jerusalem's closure by Israel kept out Palestinians from the West Bank who lacked permits to enter the city.

According to Azmi Abu Souad, a former employee of the Jerusalem municipality who is now the general director of the civil rights department at PLO leader Faisal Husseini's Orient House, Jerusalem's eery quiet is a product of a far graver phenomenon. During the Israeli occupation, East Jerusalem Palestinians have left Jerusalem in the tens of thousands. Souad estimates that, today, while 170,000 Palestinians carry Jerusalem identity documents, the number of Palestinians actually residing in the city is, in fact, less than 100,000 and may be as low as 50,000".

Perhaps you might also look at Sum'ud the Jerusalem Refugee Camp. This was last updated in 1997; God only knows what has happened to those people now.


Whoever writes the weblog DesertPeace (and, judging from his cartoon portrait, he doesn't seem like a Jew-hating Islamofascist), gets it right in his piece on the coincidence, once again, of Yom Kippur and Ramadan:

" As we celebrate our Holiest of days, both Jew and Muslim, we reflect on the past as well as the future. We reflect on our common background, our common Father and the FACT that we are one.

Like any other 'family' that was disunited by wars and history, we must find ways to bring us back together.... to once again become ONE.

We are the Children of Abraham...."

There's an error on the page, so the article doesn't 'come out' on its own, so just scroll down until you see the headline: We are the Children of Abraham .

And then scroll down to the next article to see what actually happens to the Palestinian worshippers of that Unholy Land.

Growing Dissent among American Jews

Are the largest group of Jews on earth, those of the greatest democracy and freedom loving military enterprise the world has ever seen, the United States of America, finally beginning to realise what their connection with, and support of the state of Israel, really implies?

I am not qualified to speak on this, but Tom Karon is. He's Jewish himself, and a fully paid-up campaigner against apartheid in South Africa. His very thoughtful and entirely unpolemic essay at TomDispatch says it better than I ever could.

A Terrible Anniversary

Today, September 15th, is the 25th anniversary of the massacres in the South Beirut Palestinian refugee camp/squatter village of Sabra/Shatila by right-wing Phalangist (Kataëb) forces led by Elie Hobeika, aided, abetted and benignly supervised by the Israeli Defense Force, and including Israeli commandos and pro-Israeli mercenaries, led by Ariel Sharon.

The Israelis had only recently occupied West Beirut, despite promising the world that they wouldn't, after the main forces of the PLO had been packed off to Tunis, along with Yasser Arafat. You can read the whole story here.

The camps were full of Palestinian refugee women and children, who had either been there since 1948, or were born there. The lowest estimate of deaths was 700; the highest 3,500; nobody really knew how many lived there, and nobody counted the individual bodies afterwards.

A letter (and tribute to a brave and wonderful woman, Janet Lee Stevens) by Franklin Lamb, in DesertPeace actually made me weep, despite all the horrors I still read daily of death, destruction and terror in the Levant and Iraq; you have to maintain the normal appearances and attitudes of a hard nut, especially if you are powerless to do anything to right the wrongs.

This, particularly, struck me:

"Your friend, Um Ahmad, still lives in the same house where she lost her husband, four sons and a daughter when Joseph, a thick-set militiaman carrying an assault rifle bundled everyone into one room of their hovel and opened fire. She still explains like it was yesterday, how the condoned slaughter unfolded, recalling each of her four sons by name, Nizar, Shadi, Farid and Nidal. I asked Joseph if he wanted to sit with Um Ahmad and seek forgiveness and possible redemption since he has now become a lay cleric in his Parish. He declined but sent his condolences with flowers".

Um Ahmad, 'Mother of Ahmad' lost her first son, Ahmad, in 1975, during one of several Israeli rocket attacks on Sabra, billed as reprisals for 'terrorist' incidents in Galilee.

At that time, I lived in Beirut, just by the Commodore Hotel, in Hamra. The Israeli bombers flew at terrifyingly low levels over my apartment, releasing their rockets just before they passed over, and Um Ahmad came daily to clean my house.

She quietly told me, the next day, about this, but at that time, I still believed the Zionist propaganda about 'Palestinian terrorists', and how they needed to be 'punished'.

None of the perpetrators of the massacre was ever punished. Elie Hobeika, their leader, became a Minister in the Lebanese government, but, twenty years later, in January 2002, was assassinated by a car bomb, just before he might, it was rumoured, give damning evidence in the war crimes case then being prepared in Belgium against Ariel Sharon.

Twenty-five years later, Israel still pursues a policy of proxy terrorist attacks, aerial bombing, assassinations, and collective punishment, under the shelter of the world's benign ignorance, and with the approval of many.

This is what they did to a small section of South Beirut only just last summer:

Postscript: Ariel Sharon is still alive, comatose in a respirator after nearly two years. They tell me, that in the few minutes before you die by drowning, your entire life passes before your eyes and conscience. I do hope Ariel Sharon has had enough time now to reflect on his personal crimes over the past fifty years, from Qibya to Gush Emunim to his deliberate provocation of the Second Intifada to the massacre at Jenin which is not even mentioned in Sharon's Wikipedia entry.

That last massacre has been quietly 'cleaned up', but I saw the Israeli refrigerated trucks lined up outside Jenin that night in 2002. I didn't think they were there just to take away the rubble made of the refugee camp.

Pity Ariel Sharon is still too comatose to confess the horrendous truth of his lifetime as a war criminal.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

It Never Rains But It Pours

I mentioned last week that good things happen sometimes.

But they do seem to happen all at once:

Not only do I now have a lovely 'temporary wife'
Shedney Magpapungko Siargao Island Philippineswho continues to live up to my best expectations,

but I've acquired a puppy as well:
Shiloh puppy Siargao Island Philippines
His name is Shiloh (named by Shedney after Angelina Jolie's new baby - where has all the native Filipino culture gone?), before she knew its sex(where has all the native Filipino folk-knowledge gone?), so I've renamed it Cielo - Spanish for heaven.

He's a cross between a Golden Retriever and something else. Both of them are going to need a few weeks rigourous training.

Naming of the Parts: Pisangan Reef

I really shouldn't have been so surprised that the local people here in General Luna know their reef, and have a mental map of it. I can't translate all the names, but I can tell you that Daku na pasang is the high bit, and Gamay na pasang, the low bit. Taiwan commemmorates a local shipwreck, and Sabangan means reef passage. The main reef passage goes out to the Payaw, a fish attractor far out to sea, where the Payaw Men troll for bolis (skipjack tuna).

It's a very useful food source; at every full moon, when the spring tide is low at midday, whole families go out there to scavenge for fresh seafood. You can see some of what they get here and here and here

Not all of those foods come from Pisangan (alimango, shrimps, etc, come from the mangroves) but most of them do.

And all of them are delicious. The scavengers pass by every so often, selling tajum (sea urchins), saliwake (another sea urchin), ganga (spider conch), lato (Philippine Caviare) etc. They would cost a small fortune in a Parisian seafood restaurant, but here we get them very cheaply indeed, usually by the glass (a half-pint empty Nescafe jar) or by the Caltex (a pint plastic oil can).

Straight out of the sea, onto the table; what could be better?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Revisiting a Shipwreck

It's always a bit sentimental when an old sea salt like me (who couldn't sail a plastic boat in a bath tub) goes back to the scene of a notorious shipwreck.

It happened 10 years ago, when Willie and Pedro got up a bunch of us newly-arrived tourists for a trip to Sohoton Cove. It's a 4 hour trip, but Sohoton is a magical place; a completely enclosed tidal lake in a spectacular limestone karst area, sealed off from the outside world by a a natural cave tunnel, hanging with stalactites, and with a strong current.
The lake is overhung by jungle cliffs, where you can swim into caves with bats, strange fish, stalactites and rock oysters, and see weird corals, pitcher plants, cycads and wild orchids.
As expected, it was a wonderful trip, and things only really began to go wrong on the way home. We stopped off at Socorro, on Bucas Grande Island, for some more petrol, and Willie and Pedro took some refreshment. We left Socorro very much too late to reach home before dark.

About halfway, as it was getting dark, it started to rain, and the breeze began to get a bit fresher. Willie and Pedro kept their boats close together, within sight, or at least within calling distance (bancas like these don't carry navigation lights).

Suddenly, another totally unlit banca came in, full-frontal, between the two boats, and W & P panicked, veering off in different directions.

By now, it was pitch dark, and blowing up a considerable storm. We, in Willie's boat, tacked across a huge area trying to find Pedro.

There wasn't a hope in the darkness, rain and wind, and then something silly happened; the rubber band that tensioned the petrol feed, and controlled the engine speed, broke, and we found ourselves unable to control the accelerator. We could see a faint line of hills on the horizon, so we headed for it, full speed ahead.

We hit the reef at maximum speed; the propellor was ripped off, and we surfed, free-style, right over the reef into the shallow lagoon beyond.

We had no idea where we were, but traipsed, wet, miserable, and cold, along the beach, eventually finding ourselves in Union, the next small town down the coast from General Luna.

I visited Union with Shedney yesterday, and for sentimental reasons, went to the point where we were washed up. In spite of a bright sunny day, the impenetrable mangrove clumps and rock-strewn shallow water were just as horrible as they were that night. You might just be able to make out the surf line of the reef, about half a mile out:

Friday, September 7, 2007

Good Things Happen Sometimes

About 4pm last Sunday, a young lady came to see me. We'd met a few days before, at Nine Bar, just down the road, where she told me she was looking so sad because the obnoxious, loud Australian making an egregious nuisance of himself at the other side of the room was her boyfriend. On Sunday, she came to me for some more some sympathy.

Well, what could I do, but invite her to take refuge? She's been here ever since. Her name is quite unique; Shedney; but then Filipino names are often a little eccentric.

But she's a delight; a very modest young lady, who really can cook, and smiles continuously, with wonderfully large eyes. Yes, I'm sure she's got a bad side, somewhere, but I haven't seen it yet.

Shedney with Afro

Yesterday I was driving, fairly carelessly, (a rented pick-up, for the first time in a year) when we hit a ramp between a newly-concreted stretch of road and the old rock/gravel/sand surface, just a little too fast. The poor girl was thrown up into the air, hit both the windscreen and ceiling, and came back down with a noticeable frown. Two minutes later, she was smiling again, and pointing out flowers and trees along the way.

Right now, she's making lambay (swimmer crab) pancakes. We got the crabs from her mother, in Union, a small town just down the coast; you have to get there by a roundabout route, because the bridge across the entrance to the mangroves has not been repaired for more than 20 years.

And the reason she's getting a corn-row hairdo from Eyeh the bayut?
Well, I happened to come across a picture of one of those wonderful Benin bronze heads just the very same day, that reminded me of someone.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Why I Care About Tsunamis

Our lagoon here at General Luna, Siargao Island, is roughly the same size as the one at Sissano, in North Papua New Guinea, and the geological and tectonic conditions are very similar, so if I wake up at night worriedly thinking 'What was that noise?' I'm not being paranoid.
General Luna, Siargao Island satelliteThe town of General Luna is just to the right of top centre. I live a couple of hundred yards along on the coastal road that leads East, and then North to Cloud 9, the famous surfing wave. Daku is the big island on the South side of the lagoon, Guyam is the little dot, about halfway between Daku and the town, and Pisangan, the main reef, extends north from the entrance to the lagoon just north of Daku.

About 50km over to the right is the Philippine Trench, 10,000 metres deep (you could dump Mt Everest out there, but you would still need a kilometre of rope to drop anchor on the summit). Our 'continental shelf' extends just to the seaward side of the reef; from there the seabed drops away sharply.

A seabed slump or landslide, like that at Sissano, is all it would need to wipe us all way, especially if, as in the case of Sissano, it involved what seems to have been a catastrophic release of sub-seabed clathrates, a reservoir of water-bound methane ice that can suddenly be released as an explosive gas. Hence the bubbles, the haze, and the strange glow at Sissano.

But not to worry. Our valiant government is doing what it can to advise us of what to do if it ever happens. They've put these two signs up in town, promininently near the public market and the seashore Boulevard.
Siargao Island Tsunami notice
Siargao Island Tsunami notice So, not to worry; and while you're running in a state of sheer blind panic past the evacuation route sign, do please take note that the . has fallen off, and it's only 1.4km, not 14, to the nearest high ground.

Sissano Lagoon 1998

This is what happened to Sissano Lagoon and its inhabitants on the evening of 17 July 1998. Such disasters, or similar ones, happen regularly to coastal areas anywhere, and have quite random, but devastating effects. It's almost as if the Earth and the Sea are casually swatting a few irritants.

This is an area of low-lying coastal plain broken by isolated hills of basement rocks: Oligocene volcanic arc rocks and associated limestone. Further inland, foothills give way to the steep-fronted Bewani and Torricelli ranges. The coastal plain is bounded seaward by a coastal sand barrier that stands 1-2 m above sea level and is typically a few hundred meters across. The sand barrier is highest at the beachfront and slopes gently downwards away from the sea -- a common morphology for coastlines where sea level is rising relative to the land, and where there is a steady supply of sand distributed along the coast by longshore drift. Much of the sand barrier is planted with coconut palms and there are occasional large trees (kalopilam Callophylum inophyllum; breadfruit or kapiak Atocarpus altissima; talis Terminalia catappa; and mango Magnifera indica) and thickets of yar (Casuarina equisetifolia).

On the evening of 17 July 1998, on the Aitape coast of Papua New Guinea, a strongly felt earthquake was followed some 10-25 minutes later by a destructive tsunami. The tsunami comprised three waves, each estimated to be about 4 m high. The second of the three waves rose to a height of 10-15 m above sea level after it had crossed the shoreline and caused most damage. Maximum wave heights and greatest damage were recorded along a 14-km sector of coast centered on Sissano Lagoon. In this sector the wave fronts moved from east to west along the coast; all structures were destroyed, and 20-40 percent of the population was killed. Partial destruction extended 23 km to the southeast and 8 km to the northwest, and effects of the tsunami were felt as far as 250 km to the west-northwest, beyond the international border. More than 1600 people are known to have died, with some estimates as high as 2200; 1000 were seriously injured, and 10,000 survivors were displaced.

Before the tsunami, about 12,000 people lived in the coastal villages west of Aitape, from Malol to Sissano. Most houses were of traditional materials, and most were within a few hundred meters of the waterfront and on land that was not more than a few metros above sea level. Each village extended for a kilometer or more along the coast.

The main shock was sufficiently vigorous and prolonged that at Malol, Arop and Warapu people left their houses and moved into open space. At Arop and Warapu cracks opened in the ground, and water squirted upwards, house foundation posts shook and water rose around the posts, and there was a smell of hydrogen sulfide. At Sissano Mission the earthquake caused minor damage to the 62-year-old church, and in the nearby villages some houses collapsed. At Malol the shaking was strong enough to cause concern that the water tanks at the Mission might collapse. At Vanimo, 140 km from the epicenter, the earthquake was described by one long term resident as stronger and more prolonged than any he had experienced.

The main shock was followed, some minutes later, by a loud boom, as though of thunder; this was heard from Sissano to Malol. A few minutes or up to five minutes later there was a roaring sound, variously described as the noise of a low-flying heavy jet plane, the approach of a large ship, or as the woop-woop-woop of a heavy helicopter. The sound progressed eastward along the coast then back again to the west, and was heard all along the coast from Sissano in the west to Aitape High School in the east.

Although the sun had set at 6.37 pm, there was still sufficient daylight that the day's activities were continuing. Men were painting a canoe, young people were playing touch football and their elders were moving around in the villages. People went to the beach to investigate the unusual noise and observed that the sea was 'boiling' or bubbling, and had receded by 50 m or so, exposing the nearshore sea bed. They then saw a wave develop in the distance, as a dark line on a sea surface that otherwise reflected the light of the sky. The wave approached and, when 200-300 m from the beach, started to break, rolling from the top. 'Smoke' or haze rose from the top of the wave, and many saw a red glow in the top of the wave.

One observer (John Sanawe, a former Colonel in the PNG Defense Force) reported that he first saw the sea on the skyline rise and explode, sending spray high in the air where it caught and diffracted the late afternoon sunlight into rainbow colors. He then heard a sound like distant thunder. He wondered at hearing thunder on a day when the sky was clear, then linked this sound to the explosion. Then there was a sound like a heavy helicopter, or such as can be heard when a bottle is held under water, and the sea started to retreat from the shore. The rhythm of the helicopter noise slowed as the retreat of the sea slowed. Then there was silence for 4-5 minutes, followed by the noise of a low-flying jet aircraft. Sanawe looked to sea and saw that a wave had formed at or near the site of the explosion. The wave then approached at great speed.
People ran from the approaching waves but almost all were caught. A few escaped by climbing trees, or pushing their boats into the lagoon.

People in the waves were vigorously tumbled and turned in water that was laden with sand and debris. They were stripped of their clothing, lost skin by sand abrasion, were battered by hard objects and some cut or impaled by timber and metal objects. Those who were fortunate were carried into the lagoon and were able to cling to floating debris. An infant was deposited miraculously on the floating roof of a house. Those less fortunate were carried into swampland or into the mangroves that fringe the lagoon where some were impaled or were buried under piles of logs and debris. Some who had survived the initial impact were swept out to sea as the waters receded. Most had ingested water from the waves.

Wave heights, on shore, were 10-15 m above sea level and there was extensive damage for distances of up to 500 m from the coast. Damage was less on either side of a 14-km sector.

By 7.20 or 7.25 pm the water had retreated, though much standing water remained. At this moment, according to survivors, the sky was filled with a yellow or yellow-red glow that provided sufficient light for people to start searching for family members. They said that without the glow this would not have been possible.

At Sissano Lagoon a low haze had advanced with the wave and this now blotted out the stars, so that it became pitch dark, so dark that people moving inland, away from the lagoon, held on to each other to maintain contact.

Rescue began that night, the survivors helping each other. The first outside help arrived 16 hours after the event on the Saturday morning, and a major rescue effort began a day later, 40 hours after the event.

Three concrete slabs (right) are all that remained of the class rooms at Warapu school.

Amazingly, the coconut trees mostly survived.

This photo, taken from the sea's edge, at Arop village, shows the destruction inland of the belt of coconut palms at the top of the beach.

And there were other horrors accopanyng the waves, which arrived just after dusk:

John Kimene of Nimas was one of a group that was fishing at a drowned reef 8-10 km from the coast at about 10 am on Thursday 16 July 1998. This probably is the reef marked on the map just inside the 200 m isobath, which stands at 82 m depth. As the party trolled 1-2 km west of the submerged reef they were surprised to run into a succession of 2-3 m waves that loomed and steepened as though about to break. They took this to be evidence of a new shoaling of the water in an area that previously had been quite deep. There was a smell of dead fish.

On Friday 17 July 1998 at about noon Tom Kaisiera, a teenager from Nimas, paddled to the same general area and was surprised to find the sea bubbling with odorless gas. The area of bubbling was large, perhaps 100-200 m across. The canoe was drawn toward the center of bubbling area and it was only by paddling strongly that he could escape.

Three unusual lighting effects were reported. Many observers saw a red light on the horizon before the tsunami developed: "After the first earthquake, a long streak of red light like fire appeared just above the ocean on northern horizon, it flashed and then disappeared, then within seconds there was a loud bang". Also, many observers described a red glow or "fire" in the top of the wave.

After the wave passed, observers at widely separated locations (Warapu, Malol and Raihu) saw a yellow or yellow-red glow in the sky over the sea. "The sky lit up after the wave had destroyed the villages" (observer at Malol) and "after I climbed down from the tree I saw a big light over Arop and in the direction of Aitape" (observer on an island near the lagoon mouth). The Sisters at Malol recall that after the waves had passed they looked seaward and saw a calm golden sea. Warapu survivors recall that the yellow glow in the sky helped light their search for survivors.

I'm indebted to the following excellent report for the pictures and descriptions:
The Aitape 1998 tsunami: Reconstructing the event from interviews and field mapping.

Nine Bar

Some people's definition of paradise is to live on a small tropical island, with waving palm trees, white sand beaches, a lapping sea that is is as clear, blue, warm, and inviting as an elephant's eye, with friendly native people....and so on....and on.

Well, I tend to agree with them.

Especially if a couple of friends open a very cosy, friendly little bar just 100 metres down the road from my house.

I've known plenty of hopefuls who've tried to do the same (I did myself, and will tell the horror story sometime), but these fellows (Peter, Pontus & Frida, from Sweden) got it right.

They hadn't a clue about bars, and were very new to the locals. By chance, they hit on exactly the right group to operate their new enterprise.
Otherwise they would have been robbed blind, and the bar would have closed within a month or so.
Diding, Adie, and Maddie were the perfect crew. Diding and Adie used to make beads for me. Diding kept the books, and was paymaster. She's wholly and utterly trustworthy, and that's a rare commodity anywhere.

It's only a coco cabin, 2 storey, with an apartment and balcony above, and a 15ft x 15ft room, open on three sides, below, perfectly placed at the beginning of what is becoming a smart suburb (Acacia Avenue) of a new ribbon development of foreigners' houses leading out to Cloud 9, the surfing spot.

But it's worked, which is the only reason I'm telling this story.

Mind you, the prices are very high: a small beer is P40 (40p or 80c), a junior lapad bottle of rum is P50, and a generous shot of Chivas Regal or some of those strange Swedish Akvavits that Peter and Frida acquire from somewhere cost almost $2 a shot.

And you can see who's there from the outside:

In short, it's the perfect neighbourhood bar.

I do hope it lasts.