Haj Sami Mahmood Sadik Sbaih

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

San Francisco–Haj Sami Mahmood Sbaih is an older man, disabled from an Israeli bullet as a youth, who sat in his wheelchair as I talked to him, but the mayor’s disability has not kept him from a life of achievement as Head of the Al-Aqaba (on the West Bank of the Jordan River Valley) Village Council, as well the “Supervisor” of a local Women’s Society, and the Chair of the Village Agricultural Council. Sami is also Director of the Disabled Unions in both the Jericho and the Tubas Governorates!

He has come to the US in an attempt to save his application for a kindergarten, which is in the process of being built, but which is scheduled for demolition by the Israeli military occupiers along with the mosque, the medical center and most of the small town’s private homes. 

Israel rarely grants permits for new Arab construction such as his kindergarten, but approves the majority of appeals from Jewish settlements.  If the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) denies his request, as it certainly will, the edifice will be bulldozed.  Mahmood has come to America to obtain support for his village of three hundred souls from our “grassroots;” so that his home may survive and thrive, but California’s Senators Feinstein and Boxer (both left-leaning Jews) have pledged to assist the Islamic settlement as well.  Sami begged us here to assist his fellow occupants of his rustic municipality:  “[Our] people desire assistance!…We wish to live in peace,” but there is no peace in Aqaba!  The IDF has even sprayed their mosque with 150 bullets!  He urged us to directly contact Israeli diplomats in the U.S.  “…call about peace….call about Aqaba!”

He has even gone to the Israeli High Court for the one hundred and thirty children in his kindergarten!  The Hebrew Court has ruled that the Al-Aqaba structures have to remain, but it is too often the case that the IDF commanders in territories under their control disobey not only their domestic law, but the Geneva Conventions as well!  When the school opened, though, all the V.I.P. (Very Important Persons) in the surrounding vicinity came to express their due respect to the accomplishment of the Council.  The kindergarten can help the children to form their future concepts of peace!

Militarily, Israel has divided Palestine into various sections.  Under the Oslo Accords, Tel Aviv is allowed control of these zones.  Al-Ababa is in Region C that the Israeli High Command has decided is vital to the Motherland’s defenses.  Thus, the Center of the Jewish State in Jerusalem has allowed many of their co-religionists’ Settlements to flourish to the detriment of Islamic and Christian communities within the Abrahamic Holy Soil, however!

The IDF has declared these “boroughs” to be State-run domains!  Therefore, his township became, by an act of semantics, situated on Jewish “government ground.”  Using plans that the British drew up in contingency to defend the Palestine Mandate in 1943, the Central government cynically revived these colonial directives to appropriate Arab land (this historically was not the English intention at all)!  Thus, finding a “legal” precedent, the ugly Judaic Communes grew up there (although declared illegal by United Nations [U.N.] Resolutions).

Orders to flatten many historic structures have been handed down in the C District against the Palestinians to benefit Israeli expansion.  For individuals, the Caterpillar Bulldozer (Made in America!) can arrive at the door to destroy their residence of many generations at any time.   

The Israeli government has planned well in advance their intentions, but has kept them clandestine until their implementation.  There are different reasons for the destruction of numerous homes.  In his locale, nevertheless, 2,200 domiciles have been razed.  Often it is to enforce a predetermined ratio between settlers and Arabs.

There they determine safe havens for the settlers within and at odds with the Palestinian traditional terrain.  Often what determines this is an established Arab hamlet’s proximity to a recently placed Jewish outpost.

There are 130 localities within the Region that are “unrecognized” by Israel that are, consequently, in danger of annihilation, but because of the solidarity from diverse international nation-states, the Israeli Courts themselves have given the population some “breathing Space.”  Therefore the villagers were able to construct their kindergarten despite the hostile and proximate presence of IDF soldiers.

The UN, US, EU and Russia, who have been working on a peace formula for the Fertile Crescent Initiative, have especially has been focusing on Region C where Al-Aqaba is located.  In the small town itself, Japan and Belgium have been contributing to assembling a second floor to the pre-school building while Japan and the nations of the EU have been encouraging and facilitating a transition to a democratic civil society within the Palestinian terrain.  It remains to be seen whether Washington will acquiesce to the prevailing international sentiment of mercy to a village kindergarten, or instead to bow once more to Israel’s demands.


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