Children of catastrophe: Book review of Jamal Kanj’s personal account as a Palestinian refugee

Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America, memoirChildren of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America

Garnet Publishing, Authors: Jamal Krayem Kanj, ISBN: 9781859642627, Paperback, September 2010

From: Now Lebanon, March 2, 2011

ithout a doubt, Jamal Krayem Kanj has had an interesting life. He was born 10 years after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and grew up in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. As a youth, Kanj flirted with the idea of joining the armed resistance in Syria, survived Israeli airstrikes and fled war-torn Lebanon to finish schooling in Iraq, before eventually settling down in the USA. If Kanj were to put all this down in writing, then it’s definitely worth the read.

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Another review on Refusing to be Enemies from Quaker Life

Source: Seid, Tim, Quaker Life, November/December 2010, p34, Richmond, Indiana

Refusing to be Enemies – Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation.  Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta.  Ithaca Press (Garnet Publishing, Reading, UK), 2011.


Quakers who have become accustomed to the acronyms of Friends (FUM, FGC, AFSC) will feast from a different bowl of alphabet soup (AlC, ISM, ICAHD) in this important resource on Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activism.

Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta is a Quaker-Jewish activist who works among Jews and Quakers in social issues and nonviolence training in the Vancouver area. Her role as a translator for the Alternative Information Center in the Jerusalem

office for seven years (1988-95) has given her insight into the people and groups working in the region for an end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Maxine then traveled to Israel/Palestine three times from 2003-7, to interview over 100 people in consultation with key figures in Israel and Palestine, in order to tell their story about why nonviolent activism is the preferred method for working against the Israeli occupation; how Palestinians, Israelis and internationals have worked together; and what their hopes are for future peace.

The first part of the book begins with two chapters describing the personal choice Palestinians and Israelis made regarding nonviolence and the recent history of those actions since the First Intifada and before. The second part is devoted to the practice of nonviolence and the strategies that have been used.

Part three looks toward the future of creating even more effective strategies and what various individuals think might be the future for the region. Finally, the last section includes some very insightful assessment by individuals like Jeff Halper and Jonathan Kuttab.

This book is not just for activists but for anyone with some knowledge of the history of the region interested in learning more about the people and organizations struggling together for peace and justice in the land. A paperback version is in progress.

Tim Seid

Richmond, Indiana

A review on Refusing to be Enemies, by Dave Greenfield

Refusing to be Enemies – Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation.  Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta.  Ithaca Press (Garnet Publishing, Reading, UK), 2011.

Courtesy of: Journal: Dave Greenfield, The Canadian Friend, page 22, December 2010 (Volume 106, Number 5), Argenta, BC  Canada, Canada

Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta is a Canadian Jewish-Quaker activist, with over twenty years experience working with nonviolent anti-occupation activists in Israel and occupied Palestine.
The book has two underlying premises: the belief that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – since 1967 – is fundamentally wrong and illegal under international law; that Israel must withdraw from these lands. She believes the only way to force Israel to withdraw is through massive nonviolent resistance in Palestine, Israel, and the international community.
The book opens with Maxine introducing us to several Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activists who tell us why they chose nonviolence, and why they got involved in activism against the occupation. Through their voices the book reflects on the last several decades of nonviolent activism in Israel/Palestine, the successes, failures and challenges of nonviolent organizing, and on the activists’ hopes and visions for the future.
It discusses the work of Israeli organizations like New Profile, which uses the power of the word to challenge the increasing militaristic nature of Israeli society; the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition which works in solidarity with Palestinians, using direct nonviolent action to resist the bulldozing of Palestinian homes; joint organizations like Combatants for Peace, which consists of former combatants from both sides who have now committed themselves to peace-building; Palestinian civil societies, like the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People, which teaches the skills of nonviolent resistance to the people of occupied Palestine.
One theme that recurs throughout is that nonviolent resistance is popular resistance. Active nonviolence allows entire oppressed communities to mobilize through boycotts, strikes, blockades, peaceful demonstrations and trespassing.
Many of the activists look back favourably to the First Intifada, from 1987 to 1993, when a largely nonviolent grass roots uprising occurred in occupied Palestine. The decision-making power was very much in the hands of the community. In 1994, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership returned to Occupied Palestine and imposed a very strong  state structure on the West Bank and Gaza. This marginalized the civil society that had emerged in the preceding years. The Second Intifada since the fall of 2000 has been a much more state-centred operation,
with a more militarized focus. While a new wave of nonviolent resistance has emerged since 2000, its practitioners have often felt marginalized by the official channels of the state-based Palestinian struggle. (I use the term, state, in this paragraph rather loosely, since the Palestinian Authority might best be called a kind of quasi-state, with authoritarian institutions typical of a state, but without real autonomy or international recognition.)
While the book celebrates the many people and groups dedicated to nonviolence, it is honest about their frustrations. In Chapter Five, you feel the warmth and joy of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals gathered around a camp fire in the village of Bil’in, where grassroots Palestinians have maintained an ongoing nonviolent protest since 2005. In Chapter Six, you share the pain and frustration of activists who
talk about how marginalized the path of nonviolent resistance often is, in both Palestinian and Israeli society. Then in Chapters Eight and Nine, you share the hopes and dreams that the anti-occupation activists have for the future of Palestine and Israel.
Four reflective essays by individual thinkeractivists round out the book, and help ground the spiritual energy of the journey the book has taken. A bibliography and a list of related web sites invite the reader to explore these topics further.
There is perhaps one weakness in the book. It would have been helpful to have a first chapter that set forth the chronological background to the current situation, stating what happened in 1947, 1948-49, 1967 and 1987. An explanation is needed of how and why the Israeli occupation is illegal under international law, and describes the general nature of the occupation. Just as many in North America are unaware of nonviolent activism in Palestine and Israel; many are profoundly ignorant of the general historical facts. As it is, the reader pieces things together chapter
by chapter, or has to go elsewhere for historical background.
I agree with Ursula Franklin’s opening words. “This is an important book.” Every open-minded North American should read it, and more importantly, act upon it.

Dave Greenfield
Saskatoon Monthly Meeting

Refusing to be Enemies, a review (circulated with permission)

Refusing to be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation

In the November issue of the Friends Journal, a review on the book Refusing to be Enemies by  Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta was published by Robert Dockhorn. You can read the review here. The author has sent a reply to the reviewer and graciously shared her reply with us to publish here:

Letter to Friends Journal Forum from Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta (circulated with permission)

Refusing to be Enemies – Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation.  Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta.  Ithaca Press (Garnet Publishing, Reading, UK), 2011.

“I’d like to thank Robert Dockhorn for his very positive and helpful review of Refusing to be Enemies and also for his encouragement to submit a few words in response.  The first thing I’d like readers of Friends Journal to know is that—in addition to requesting that their local libraries acquire the book—there is another way to avoid the prohibitive price of the $70 hardcover edition.  The paperback is due for release in February of 2011, and is listed at $24.99 US (down from the original list price of $35, although the UK price remains unchanged at 19.99 BP), which will make it far more accessible.  It is already listed on Amazon, and your local bookseller can order it from Ithaca Press’s North American distributer, ISBS in Portland, OR.

Regarding the FJ review, I would like to make one correction, clarify a couple of points, and clear up a misunderstanding.

A meaning-altering word substitution was inadvertently introduced in reproducing my capsule definition of “normalization” in the Israeli-Palestinian context. The correct quote is: “Normalization is a derogatory term denoting a relationship between Israelis and Palestinians (usually organizations) carried on as if all were normal between Israel and Palestine, even as the oppression [not “conflict”] continues.”  I.e., the issue isn’t the persistence of the conflict, but of the power imbalance between Israelis and the Palestinians under Israeli rule.

I also would like to note that the protests that have “temporarily blocked construction of the wall, and in a few instances actually changed its path,”  are not limited to Bil’in, although that village’s now 5-year nonviolent struggle is an extraordinary example.  In fact, similar, if smaller-scale and less well-publicized, nonviolent efforts have been going on in many villages along the route of the wall since 2002.  A number are mentioned in the book, including that of Budrus, where daily actions blocking bulldozers led to return of 95% of the land slated for expropriation from it and neighbouring villages. The film Budrus is currently being shown throughout the world, and the trailer and a schedule of showings may be viewed at .  Similarly, for a close-up of the Bil’in struggle, check out, where you can also take a look at a clip of the also excellent, if somewhat older, film, Bil’in Habibti (

Lastly, despite the overall positive tone of the review, one interpretation of the book gave me pause. It states: “Kaufman-Lacusta probes carefully the different interests of Palestinian and Israeli activists and how their activities should not always be conducted jointly.  At the same time, she urges Israeli activists to do their part by steering nonviolent activities into Israel proper, in the form of noncooperation with the occupation, both to have a greater effect on the Israeli government and to heighten the awareness of other Israelis  of the conditions in the occupied territories.”

I want to emphasize that this is not quite what I intended to convey, and I apologize if I gave the impression that this was the case.  I definitely did not mean to imply that the interests of Palestinian and Israeli activists necessarily differ and that “their activities should not always be conducted jointly.” What I was saying is that working jointly in uni-national organizations seems to work better in many instances than working in joint, bi-national organizations; and, more importantly, that Israelis (and internationals) must be sensitive to the desires and needs of their Palestinian hosts, and neither impose their “help” nor take advantage of their greater access to influence with the authorities.

Likewise, in encouraging Israeli activists to engage more widely in noncooperation with the Israeli authorities inside Israel and work to combat racism and militarism within the borders of the state, I did not mean to suggest that Israeli activists should avoid participation in Palestinian-led nonviolent actions in the West Bank; quite the contrary!

These forms of activism are complementary, not an “either-or” choice. In fact, it is precisely those Israelis who stand side-by-side with Palestinians and see the conditions of their lives first-hand who are best able to “heighten the awareness of other Israelis” of these conditions.

Happily, by the time I wrote the Afterword for the paperback edition last fall, I was able to point to recent progress in both joint struggle and noncooperation inside Israel  [* suggested footnote, if there’s room: BDS, the Palestinian-led international campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, was the third form of nonviolent resistance dealt with in the Afterword:  see ].  In that connection, I especially encourage you to check out reports of the ongoing (weekly since January 2010) demonstrations in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem (e.g., or just Google “sheikh jarrah”) and the expanding movement of noncooperation initiated in May by Israeli activist Ilana Hammerman (Google her by name), who concludes a recent article in the prestigious Israeli daily Ha’aretz:

I am nurturing the hope that the police will recommend that I stand trial. Because then, before they “prosecute me to the full extent of the law,” I will be given an opportunity to tell my story, and to bring up in the courtroom − the most appropriate place of all − my doubts concerning the legality of many of the laws of the State of Israel.

Thus encouraged,  I’ve been ending the PowerPoint presentations I’ve been giving at book events since that time by wondering out loud—quoting the Afterword:

Could this be the beginning of the end “of the multi-tiered Israeli system of oppression” that [prominent BDS activist Omar] Barghouti describes? Have the “Israeli Jews with a conscience” that [pacifist Palestinian lawyer] Jonathan Kuttab referred to [see Epilogue section entitled “Joint Struggle in the Occupied Territories—Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea”] begun, at last, to “make a clean break with  . . .. broader Israeli society” and to act upon their “more thoroughgoing critique of Israeli society,” as he proposed back in 2007? Could this, indeed, be the beginning of the “movement of Israeli nonviolent action, especially multiple forms of noncooperation, inside Israel” that I allude to in my Conclusions as a necessary complement to joint struggle in the occupied territories in the achievement of “a just, viable, and enduring peace” in the region?”

“Peace will not come unless we are prepared to welcome it” Seja Majeed’s speech at the Universal Peace Federation

To know more about Seja Majeed, visit her website

September 21

Seja Majeed’s Speech delivered to the Universal Peace Federation , celebrating United Nations International Day of Peace on September 21st 2010

“We are joined here today, because it is the United Nations International Day of Peace. We sit among one another, celebrating together Mankind’s accomplishments to overcome barriers looking forward to the future through the eyes of the next generation.
I am proud to be invited here today, to celebrate with you this momentous occasion. But I know, truly in my heart we are far from accomplishing ‘Peace’.
Before I begin my speech, I would like to start off with a quote from my Father. He said,
“It took billions of years to create life and yet Mankind chooses to take life in a split second without deliberation or thought about its sanctity.”
When my father said that, I remember feeling my body tremble with emotion. His words resonated within me, and I often think about them when I sit alone in my room contemplating about our world and the way we treat each other today. I sometimes ask myself is whether it is in our human nature to observe ‘Peace’?
In this word filled with differing views, motivated by wealth, inspired by power, can we truly sit amongst one another and promote peace when many of us do not want it because it does not fall within our interests. We live in a very difficult time, terrorism, poverty, exploitation, and weapons dealing to name a few. And so, sometimes it is difficult to see through shattered glass, without a distorted image being presented to oneself. But even so, Mankind has accomplished a great deal. Slavery has been abolished when it used to be as free as flowing water, advances in science means that we have the resources to save lives and combat diseases, a President has been elected in a country not based upon the color of his skin but on the quality of his character.
These are great changes, they are legacies which has inspired the scribes of our history to be written in gold, and so it our duty to celebrate them, because the change did not take one night or one year, it started from the beginning of Mankind until the date it was officially accomplished. So, it is something we must all be proud of because if we focus on our shortcomings, then Mankind will never be encouraged to make better his future.
So you see there is a duty upon each and every one of us here, to be a part of the nourishing of peace. It is a struggle that involves us all, a battle which is fought not by weaponry but by the beauty of our minds and the extending of our arms. The greatest tribute we can make for peace is by planting a seed of change from our hearts and watching it grow through our actions.
Our duty does not rely on our leaders, the legacy begins with us all and it will translate through people. So, encourage your children to be ambassadors of peace and not war. Inspire them to believe that they can unite humanity, and not tear it apart. Give them the tools to be future leaders, so that they can one by one remove the bricks our societies have built up. This is your obligation, as much as it is my own.
Peace will not come, unless we are prepared to greet it. Our opportunity is confirmed here today let it not be a regret that haunts our souls.
On a final note, I would like to say this to the future generation. History speaks of the triumphs of Emperors and Kings but know that these leaders are powerless without the people’s support.
What becomes of a leader if he does not have followers? In reality he becomes powerless, but it up to us, as people, to be conscious of doing what is right and not always submitting without first questioning what it is we have been asked to do. Just because a leader tells you that it is right to kill another man does not mean that glory will await you in the end instead of deep regret for your actions. So, today let us celebrate our past, inspire our present and be hopeful of our future.”
Thank you very much for listening.
Seja Majeed