Friday, September 26, 2008

Death by Kunafa

Woke up at this morning to a dark, wet New York, pouring rain and the roar of the wind. The streets were full of rubber booted and raincoated New Yorkers on their way to work. I splashed my way from Grand Central up to 46th Street and 1st Avenue, trying to avoid the worst puddles, huddling against the wind, holding on tight to my umbrella.

Ella, ella, eh, eh.

Or actually, it's Auntie Toni's umbrella ella. She offered me her bright yellow raincoat and her pink rubber boots, but they kind of didn't go very well with my black pants, my smokey violet shirt, my wool pullover and my steel gray shawl. So I went with her purple umbrella instead.

I'm still going through all the General Assembly addresses for references to terrorism. Trying to fake my way through some French statements that haven't been translated to English. I'd like to think I'm doing pretty well. (Key words being I'd like to think).

Meanwhile, I'm also reading the news and came across a Ramadan murder plot that unfolded today in Nablus, the biggest city on the West Bank. A Palestinian metal worker walked into one of the kunafa bakeries (Nablus is famous for its kunafa) and ordered one large platter of this syrupy sweet pastry filled with cheese. He said he was going to send it by taxi to his mother-in-law for the breaking of the fast on this last Friday of Ramadan, but most likely didn't mention that he was convinced that this same mother-in-law was behind the recent divorce from his wife and that he had vowed to avenge her.

The metal worker asked to be present when the bakers prepared it, slipped in (as you do when you're plotting to kill your mother-in-law for having destroyed your marriage) some rat poison when nobody was looking, and probably thought he was doing pretty well with the whole murder scheme. But then the bakers (oh, these proud kunafa bakers) noticed that the color of the cheese was different than usual, and wouldn't for the world sell inferior kunafa and risk damaging their fine reputation, no matter how much the metal worker insisted that he was absolutely fine with the unusual looking cheese and didn't want it exchanged for another platter.

Finally, the kunafa bakery argument resulted in the metal worker's arrest for plotting to murder his mother-in-law, and the man has confessed and is currently waiting to be prosecuted.

As if taken directly from Arabian Nights, I know. But it's true. Check it out on

Saudi Arabia has requested a Security Council meeting on the issue of the Israeli settlements in Palestine. President Mahmoud Abbas is speaking to the Security Council right now. I'm listening via the UN webcast site. He's showing maps of how the Israeli settlements divide the West Bank (and thereby the territory where a Palestinian state will be formed, if it will be formed) into four cantons, which really isn't a very good base for a cohesive state at all. Especially when these cantons would be separated, not only by the settlements themselves, but by electric fences, concrete walls and settler roads that Palestinians aren't even allowed to access. And in spite of the agreement in Annapolis, Israel continues with its settlement policy and settlements have in fact increased since the Annapolis agreement.

And now Israel's representative. Settlements are not the primary obstacle, Gaza bombings are. For sure, this is counter-productive indeed and there is never an excuse for killing human beings.

Ahmadinejad is. Yes, he is saying some very untactful things (like Condoleezza Rice just noted you simply don't say "in polite company"), but if Abbas can't control Ahmadinejad's statements and Iran's foreign policy, there will be no peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority?

The kidnapping of Gilad Shalit is. Yes, this is an obstacle, but so are the about 11 000 Palestinians prisoners held by Israel, hundreds of which are children.

And finally, settlers have a historic bond to the biblical land. Whereas Palestinians who have lived there for generations don't?

In the words of Costa Rica's representative to the Security Council: we cannot ignore that the conduct of both sides is motivated by the conduct of the other.

In my own words: but that shouldn't prevent a recognized state and a member of the United Nations to comply with international law, adhere to Security Council resolutions, respect the Geneva Convention and cease to transfer portions of its citizens into the territories it is occupying.

In the words of Italy's representative: it is in Israel's own interest to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority.

Okay, back to my real assingment. The General Assembly and references to the UN Counter-Terrorism Task Force. I'm noting a very clear pattern: blaming terrorism on under-development and poverty. Did everybody collectively forget that those behind the two attacks that have shaken the West the most and took place in New York and London were well-educated middle class men? Do people actually believe that if you have to struggle to feed yourself or your family, you can't pay for healthcare, you can't send your kids or your brothers or sisters to school, you're going to bother with raising money and organizing and orchestrating international terrorist attacks?

I don't know, but I think there are other reasons behind terrorism, even if that shouldn't stop us from dealing with poverty and under-development, too. But for other reasons.

Well, I'm off to the bathroom. I have no window in my room, remember, and I'd like to see if it's still pouring down outside.

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