Sunday, September 03, 2006

"Insisting on Life" with the Palestinian Fair Trade Association: A Photo Essay

The Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA) is an inspiring Palestinian organization based in Jenin, Palestine. By creating a network of Palestinian farmers and international grassroots partners, the PFTA has allowed small Palestinian farmers to access international markets and insured that decent wages and profits are provided to everyone involved with the olive harvesting process. In addition to focusing on local economic development, the PFTA works to develop an ever-growing array of fair trade products in keeping with Palestinian traditional agriculture practices. Currently, PFTA farmers provide fair trade certified honey, sun-dried tomatoes, couscous, olive oil soap, olives, and of course, virgin and extra virgin olive oil. Under the Israeli military occupation of Palestine, the PFTA work, best encapsulated in their motto "insisting on life" represents an exciting form of economic development and resistance.

I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Jenin to visit the PFTA and learn more about their programs and daily life for Palestinian farmers. Here is what we saw:

Any visit in Palestine starts out with playing with a crowd of beautiful and lively children,
And then progresses to a meal of epic (and delicious) proportions.

After visiting our host's home, we drove to their fields to see the olive groves and develop a better understanding of the lives of Palestinian farmers and the work of the Palestinian Fair Trade Association.

This olive tree was planted as a part of the PFTA's Trees for Life Program. Through this program, a portion of all of the PFTA's sales go to plant new olive trees to replace those destroyed by the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and empower Palestinian farmers. Between Tree Day (Feb. 15th) and Land Day (March 30th) thousands of Trees for Life are planted in Palestine. All of the recipients are members of the PFTA and priority is given to small farmers, women land owners, brand-new young farmers, and farmers who have lost trees in the Israeli occupation. Because olive trees can live for hundreds of years and provide important income for Palestinian families, trees like this one are an important form of empowerment and a meaningful link between Palestinian farmers and the global fair trade movement.

There is hardly a season in Palestine when it's not time for harvesting something.
In the north, August is the time for harvesting tomatoes (which taste wonderful fresh off the vine)

and time for picking grapes (which taste even better).

From visiting the fields and receiving pounds of grapes, we visited the Palestine Fair Trade Association's olive oil bottling factory.

It wasn't easy to say good-bye to the beautiful Jenin valley. But at least we can take Jenin's bounty with us. The Palestine Fair Trade Association has partnered with organizations to ship to UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, the USA and other countries. Check out the Palestine Fair Trade Association website for more information and become a part of the fair trade movement. You will never find a better tasting revolution.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Therapy, Bethlehem-Style

Frankly, this seems very silly and I'm not sure why I'm posting it. But these are pictures from our little adventure tagging in Bethlehem. That's tagging the Annexation Wall, I mean. Apparently, the hiss of a can of spray paint lifts the occupation-blues better than just about anything else.

I don't think one really needs an excuse to leave your mark on what is literally one of the largest instruments of oppression around, but we still had one. Viv, a friend of mine from Beit Jala, was leaving Palestine for an exciting and important peace-educator position in the U.S. We wanted to help her say goodbye to her home. But when my friend Francisco (names changed to protect the innocent) told me we'd be tagging the Wall near Rachel'sTomb, I started to have some second thoughts.

Rachel's Tomb, for the uninitiated, is an important site for Christians, Muslims, and Jews and is located inside Bethlehem. The Wall runs around it, snaking into Bethlehem. It's where the Israeli army tends to hang out. That makes it one of the most, shall we say exciting places to write on the wall in Bethlehem. But the blank, clean wall was simply irresistable. Viv asked the guys who own the gas station next to Rachel's Tomb if they minded. They said, "yalla (go ahead), just stay out of sight of the watch tower" and we began. And once you hear the sound of spray paint coming out of its can, soldiers just don't seem as scary.

(I wish these photos were better - taking pictures at night is never easy.)

"This is not a fence" because sometime you have to point out the obvious
"American $$, Israeli Wall, Palestinian Land" and "Aqui Estamos Y No Nos Vamos, We R NOT Going Anywhere!"

"And Still I Rise" by Francisco
Viv says her goodbye

Francisco paints a picture of someone digging under the wall. Its a lovely painting; wish I had a better picture.

Four cans of spray paint later, we were feeling wonderful and so were the guys at the gas station. At first they didn't know what to think of us, but then they started shouting slogans for us to paint. "Write, 'this is the logic of power, not the power of logic.'" "Now write, 'what goes up must come down.'" When we finished, they gave us black baseball caps and soda pop. "You've made it beautiful for us." they said. I hope they find more beauty in their lives, despite the ugliness of their oppression.

"Not All Jews Support The Occupation" - Nonviolent Resistance in the United States

I just learned that over the last month a series of nonviolent actions resisting the occupation have taken place. But these demonstrations haven't taken place in Palestine: the resistance has finally come to the United States! And Jewish Americans are the force behind these actions.

On August 22nd, coordinated actions took place in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New York. A few week ago, activists demonstrated in Boston and I understand that other actions will be taking place soon. To follow these inspiring demonstration, go to Here are some more links to check out:

Philadelphia banner drop:

San Francisco lock-down at Jewish Federation: (Thanks to for the image on this entry.)

New York die-in at Penn Station:

Boston Die-in:

And remember what one action participant had to say: "The U.S. gives more than $10 million to Israel every
single day, most of which is used militarily... You don't have to be Jewish to stand against Israel's war crimes! (But it helps with the banners)" Here's to more inspiring actions!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Occupied Voices: Musings of a Palestinian Princess

Well, Occupied Voices, a periodic feature here at "I Saw it in Palestine" is back. And this time I want to point you towards a blog that I really enjoy reading: Musings of a Palestinian Princess The writer of this blog, Lucy, is "just your average princess, just under occupation." Lucy blogs from Bethlehem, usually, and I'm disappointed that I didn't get to met her while I was there. That's the sort of blog that "Musings of a Palestinian Princess" is: the sort that makes your want to actually met the person writing it. Check it out, yo.