British Writers In Support of Palestine

April 29, 2011

Support needed for Dr Ahmad Qatamesh

Filed under: Call to Action,Palestinian Literature — Naomi Foyle @ 1:22 pm
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Israeli Occupation Forces Arrest Palestinian Writer Ahmad Qatamesh
PACBI Statement in support of Dr Qatamesh

Author and Human Rights Activist Ahmad Qatamesh

In the early hours of dawn on Thursday, 21 April 2011, a large force of Israeli soldiers and intelligence officers raided the home of the prominent Palestinian writer and academic Dr. Ahmad Qatamesh [1] in
Al-Bireh and arrested him. An hour earlier, Qatamesh’s wife, 22-year-old daughter and two other female relatives, including a 14-year-old child, were taken hostage by Israeli troops in another
apartment to compel him to surrender himself. He was led to “Ofer” detention center in Beitunia.

Ahmad Qatamesh was born in 1950 in a cave in Bethlehem to a refugee family expelled during the Nakba from the village of Al-Malihah, near Jerusalem. Qatamesh earned his diploma in Arabic literature from the UNRWA-run Teacher Training Center in Ramallah. In 1992, he was arrested by a massive Israeli force in the presence of his then 3-year-old daughter. Accusing him of being a particularly “dangerous” national leader, the Israeli Shabak tortured and ill-treated him for a hundred days, an experience that he articulately exposed in his well-read prison notes titled I Shall not Wear Your Tarboush (fez). After the Shabak failed to produce incriminating evidence, however, an Israeli military court issued an “administrative detention” order against him, in accordance with an emergency law that allows Israel to detain for renewable terms anyone under its
jurisdiction without charges, trial or access to the charges against him/her. This unjust procedure was repeatedly condemned as a violation of internationally accepted standards of justice by leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.

Qatamesh’s detention was renewed continuously for almost six years, making him the longest serving administrative detainee ever. In
April 1998, after a persistent public pressure campaign by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights activists and organizations, Qatamesh was finally released.

Ahmad Qatamesh earned his master’s degree and later his PhD in political science from a Dutch university through distance learning, as he was under a travel ban by the Israeli occupation. He then became a thesis supervisor for several Palestinian graduate students of the same university. He authored several books on diverse literary, political and philosophical topics, and he was a sought-after speaker in local universities and research centers. In 2010, he taught a course in the
School of Humanities at Al-Quds University.

Qatamesh’s wife, Suha Barghouti, who is a board member of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization and of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, as well as a Steering Committee member of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), considered his arrest “an attempt to silence his critical voice and prevent his compelling vision for emancipation and self determination from spreading further in the Palestinian public.” She called on human rights organizations to pressure the Israeli authorities for his immediate release and held those authorities fully responsible for his safety and well-being. His daughter, Haneen, who is on a short break from her studies at the American
University of Cairo, commented on her traumatizing experience of being held hostage by Israeli soldiers saying: “They tried to intimidate me by exploiting my deep agony over the idea of being denied my father again, but I firmly confronted them and reminded them of the fate of all colonial powers on our land. In response, their commander shouted that I was as ‘obstinate’ as my father.”

Gerarda Ventura, Vice President of the Euromed Platform of NGOs, expressed deep solidarity of European civil society with Palestinians like Ahmad Qatamesh, whom she called “one of the most sensitive and intellectual people I have ever met,” in their civil struggle for “freedom, justice and peace.” The Addameer-appointed lawyer who visited Qatamesh the day after his arrest stated that he was not
interrogated and that he was informed instead that he would get an administrative detention order. This indicates that the Shabak, again, lack any evidence to build a case against him and proves that
he was arrested indeed for his writings and peaceful activism and not any “security” reasons as was claimed by the Israeli authorities.
Praising Ahmad Qatamesh as “an excellent writer, principled researcher and devoted human rights advocate … struggling for freedom and respect of fundamental rights,” Palestinian Legislative Council
member Dr. Mustafa Barghouti condemned his arrest by Israel as “a shameless attempt at muzzling him in an unjustifiable attack on his freedom of expression.”

Ahmad Qatamesh’s family has appealed to international agencies and human rights organizations to work for releasing him and all the other Palestinian prisoners of conscience. They also called for ending the draconian policy of administrative detention, which is based on emergency regulations from the era of the British Mandate, as a blatant violation of freedoms and human rights, in particular the right to a fair and just due process.

PACBI has asked readers of this blog to contact their MPs, and/or other political representatives asking them to pressure Israel to release Ahmad Qatamesh and end the policy of administrative detention.

1 Also spelled “Katamesh” and “Qatamish.”


December 24, 2010

Thinking of Bethlehem …

The best of this bright season to all our readers from everyone at BWISP. We are thinking especially of the people of Bethlehem at this time, and highlighted their plight to the people of Brighton on Dec 10th as part of the city’s annual Beach Hut Advent Calendar event.

We decorated the hut with an olive tree, a dove, Christmas lights, candles, cushions, and symbols of the three Abrahamic religions. We brought PSC leaflets and magazines, and photos from Active Stills and Against the Wall by William Parry, who lit up London with his recent images of Bethlehem this week. The local BBC covered our event, though naturally they airbrushed all references to Palestine … But the many passers by engaged deeply with what we had to say, and in particular with the writing of Mahmoud Darwish, whose ‘State of Siege’ we read from at the end. BWISP poets Naomi Foyle and Judith Kazantzis also read from their own work about Palestine. Here, with all our hopes for peace and justice in the Holy Land, is Judith’s poem for your seasonal reflections:

The Magi return
for Palestine 2010

In Bethlehem was born a slaughtered babe
his breast’s a wound.
See the war horse saddled with crimes.

In Palestine was born a babe,
a dozen, a hundred,
the mothers do a body count –

Of all the children born that day
we cared for only one.
The library in the palace of our brains

said, he’s the only one,
and we misread, and to redress,
we must come back again.

In Bethlehem and round about
each village and every farm
every mill and bakery,
every cobbler tapping leather,
every wheel the wheelwright worked,
under the table they hid their infants,
behind the chair,
in every house in Palestine
a babe was born,
wrapped and buried,
a dozen, a thousand,
you couldn’t keep count.
That winter, what did we know?
And so we come again.

As to that year, we left quietly,
steered by our learned star
trying to avoid all other sights,
the incandescent phosphorus stars
that rained all strange night on house and barn,
We left quietly once and long ago.


Ride here again, wrench the eye
in the new cruelty of the stars
to the flash, the uproar of breaking houses
down the alleys of the souk
down the souk of the mind.

Ride back and still we see thee lie,
O little town of Bethlehem,
children running from the sword the gun
a bitter night for what was festival.
In the library of the night,
O walled up Bethlehem,
we’ve read of a infant constellation,
a second coming in your silent sky.

Wise or not, knowing only truth,
this time we mean to witness a birth
when all your children shall dream
in the freedom of all the stars that are,
the safe shepherds of their dreaming.
And this is why we come again, we stay.
This time we will not go away.

Judith Kazantzis

October 8, 2010

BWISP members in Palestine … or en route!

BWISP member Robin Yassin-Kassab is currently blogging on Pulse from the West Bank, while BWISP co-founder Irving Weinman’s Word Convoy will record his journey to deliver surgical supplies to Gaza with the Road to Hope Convoy to Gaza. Both writers will be delivering asute, compassionate and informed observations and analysis of their experiences. You can sign up to follow their accounts via these links:

Special thanks to Robin for posting a link to Project Hope, where international and local volunteers work together teaching children and young adults in Nablus. And all strength and good spirits to Irving and The Road to Hope Convoyin their upcoming trek across North Africa to Gaza!

September 16, 2010

Call to Action: Please share these links with friends in California

Dear BWISP Members,

The inspiring Californian Israel Divestment Campaign needs the signatures of 434,000 Cali voters to qualify for a state-wide ballot. Petitions will be available soon so please share these links with your Californian friends. And take heart all – Netanyahu’s nephew is a Refusenik! Los Angeles Launches Nation’s First Israel Divestment Campaign

July 16, 2010

Call to support PACBI members conference travel expenses

Filed under: Boycott Israel,Call to Action — Naomi Foyle @ 1:42 pm
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I am forwarding this message from BRICUP – please help if you can.

Support is needed for a European initiative. AURDIP, BRICUP’s French sister organisation, is convening a conference on academic boycott in Paris this coming September 25-6. The aim is to bring together the several organisations in Italy, Catalonia, Britain and France now in existence, to forge relations with smaller academic groups elsewhere in Europe, and to improve our coordination and effectiveness. Academics from Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have already indicated their intention toparticipate.

Of course it is essential that PACBI should be directly involved in the conference. Three PACBI members, two already in Europe, one inRamallah, have indicated their wish to attend. They will be able to stay with French supporters, but shortage of funds could make it difficult for them to make the trip. Current estimates suggest that about £600 is needed to defray their basic travel costs.

BRICUP itself operates on a shoe-string, and does not have the funds to support this expense. Can you help? We hope that individualsupporters might be able to donate £20, but please don’t feel prevented from giving less (or more). We can’t be sure how much we willreceive, or precisely how much the PACBI expenses will be. If there is a deficit BRICUP will have to stump up. If there is a surplus we guarantee to put it to good use.

If you wish to support this activity please either send a cheque to the Treasurer at BRICUP, BM BRICUP, London WC1N 3XX, UK
make a bank transfer to BRICUP at Sort Code
08-92-99 Account Number 65156591
IBAN = GB20 CPBK 0892 9965 1565 91

So that we know it is on the way it would help if
you could drop a line to

July 8, 2010

Global BDS Day of Action: 9th July – get involved!

Filed under: Boycott Israel,Call to Action — Naomi Foyle @ 12:31 pm
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To mark the fifth anniversary since the call for BDS against Israel until it complies with international law, the Boycott National Committee has called on supporters to organise a BDS day of action

BWISP is pleased to re-post the call of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign  to  all its supporters  to mark the date by participating in the following actions –

1. Join supermarket actions: London lunchtime action outside Tesco’s, 1-2pm opposite Russell square (tube: Piccadilly line).

2. Supermarket phone in:

  • Phone Morrisons; 0845 611 6111 (Lines open 7.30 a.m. – 6.30 pm)
  • Phone Sainsbury: 0800 636 262 (lines open 8 a.m. – 7 pm)

For suggestions on questions to ask, and points to make during the phonecall follow this link >>

3. Attend the ‘Dates: Check the label’ launch: July 15th, 6.30pm

Toynbee Hall, 28 Commercial St, London E1 6LS (nearest tube: Aldgate east)

RSVP to: Fo more information about the campaign and the e-launch on Monday 12th July at 8pm visit:

For more info visit:

BNC’s call to action:

Blog at