Archive for zionism

There Are No Words

Posted in Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 10/12/2011 by arabrhizome

It’s very hard for me to write a coherent post today. I am angry and sad. Today Mustafa Tamimi, one of the many Palestinian Gandhis that liberal spineless orientalist westerners and their house arab lackeys keep asking for while simultaneously ignoring, has died as a result of the injuries he suffered yesterday. He is one of the many brave Palestinians who for years now have been staging peaceful weekly protests in West Bank villages affected by settlement activity and the Apartheid wall stealing their land, water supply, and cutting them off from their crops. He was shot in the face by a high velocity tear gas canister fired at close range from an armoured israeli military jeep.

Mustafa Tamimi was 28 years old. A life snuffed by the brutal military occupation force of the apartheid regime. That in itself, unfortunately, is not a remarkable event in the eyes of the world it would seem. We have grown accustomed to Palestinian deaths. They are numbers and statistics. Casualties of what is often represented as an intractable conflict that has plagued the land for centuries. Of course this analysis is flawed on several levels. The conflict is around 60 years old and is very simple. A native population is colonised and being ethnically cleansed at varying speeds since 1948 by a brutal racist ideology, zionism.

What happened today is not remarkable because for too long Palestinian deaths have been reduced to numbers or shorthand words that dehumanise the murdered. The dead are referred to as militants, protesters, rock throwing youths. Make no mistake all these terms are designed to obscure and hide the fact that these are human beings with stories, families, experiences, and histories. They are not just nameless statistics, or faceless numbers. They are human beings like Mustafa Tamimi with friends and families who will never be able to see them again. Who have to continue to live under a brutal military racist occupation. We must never lose sight of that.

The story however is even more disgusting than that. Mustafa’s sister was not allowed to get to her brother’s body after he was deliberately shot in the face with a high velocity American made tear gas canister at close range from an armoured military jeep. Medical services were deliberately delayed and were not allowed to tend to him straight away. Occupation soldiers laughed in the face of the other protesters as they cried because a young man, their friend, neighbour, and family member, was laying with a broken face on the floor unattended. The soldiers showed no remorse because they have been raised within a racist system that teaches them that they are the chosen people and that Palestinians are not human beings.

Mustafa’s father, and other members of his family, were not allowed to visit him in hospital. Eventually he died as a result of the injuries he sustained after being deliberately shot in the face with high velocity American made tear gas canister fired from a rifle at close range from an armoured military jeep. I hope that me repeating this fact bothers you and makes you uncomfortable because it should. These words should never be a sentence. These words however are the actual description of what happened. This is what the israeli army does to the Palestinian Gandhis. Remember that the next time you hear a liberal say something stupid like “where are the Palestinian Gandhis?” Remember Mustafa Tamimi’s name and deliberately shoot it in their face. Tell them this is where they are! Why don’t you open your eyes and see them?

I am angry. Mustafa is not the first to die, he won’t be the last. In fact, many have died this week in Gaza because of fighter jets bombing the besieged territory. There are no words to express how I feel. I am aware that no matter how angry or sad or outraged I might feel, it is nothing compared to how the families and friends of those who are being killed everyday must feel. I know that my anger, being righteous or not, is nothing. I did not know Mustafa Tamimi, now I never will. I recommend you read this article which articulates the anger that is felt today better than I ever could. I also recommend you read this article about the disgusting and stomach churning IDF attempts at justifying the murder of Mustafa Tamimi on twitter. And for those who think that this post is not balanced, please tell me what justification do you have for the deliberate shooting in the face of an unarmed 28 years old Palestinian named Mustafa Tamimi in the face with a high velocity American made tear gas canister fired from a rifle by an occupation soldier from an armoured military jeep?


63 Years Since the Nakba

Posted in Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 15/05/2011 by arabrhizome

So today is the day we remember the Nakba. I have already written a post about it on here, in fact it was my second post on this blog. I am not going to go into the history of the Nakba again. If you want to read what I have to say about that here’s a link to the post I wrote almost a year ago. I’m sure some of you will have fun comparing how different my style of writing has become (maybe it’s still just as bad. Who knows?). I thought that rather than write about the history of the Nakba I would write about the extraordinary events of today.

If you follow me on twitter you would have followed my frantic tweeting all day. If not let me summarise the events for you. It all started early this morning with some excitement. This particular Nakba day comes at a time of seismic changes in the region and it would have been naive to think that they wouldn’t affect the commemoration events across the Arab World. Many very interesting events were taking place. Palestinian refugees and Lebanese people were planing to hold a rally in Maroun Al Ras, a border village with israel that has some history of resistance, especially during the 2006 war. There were rumours of a simillar rally in Syria at the border with the occupied Golan Heights, but the recent events in Syria meant that we didn’t expect much. Jordan and Egypt were also set to have protests at the border. Of course Palestine was going to be the centre of it all.

It is interesting to note a couple of things about the commemorations in Palestine. Israel has passed the Nakba law which makes it illegal, more or less, for people to commemorate the Nakba inside Israel. Also, the fact that the Palestinian factions have signed an agreement meant that the Palestinians in the occupied territories would be able to concentrate on the Nakba without worrying about internal divisions. Finally the arab revolutions have energised the Arab populations and most see the Palestinian cause as the central arab struggle. The right of return of the forcibly displaced Palestinians in 1947-48 is the central demand of the Palestinian cause and Nakba Day is when it is made most forcibly.

As the day started a meme emerged on twitter it took the form of “I am israel and…” followed by atweet that exposes israel’s unacceptable practices and policies. Let me give you a few examples to explain it. “I am israel and my imaginary friend told me in his book that this land is mine. Therefore it is.” “I am israel & the Palestinians & Lebanese & Arabs make me kill them. I swear I’m a victim I’m always the victim”. “I am Israel and I brag about making the desert bloom, even though most of the land is fertile and green.” “I am Israel & I force my young impressionable 18 yr olds into a 2-3 yrs military service that dehumanises Palestinians.” And so on. You get the idea. That passed the time until the protests started. What was funny was seeing zionist twitter users try to highjack the meme but giving up very quickly and failing miserably.

Anyway, soon the protests started. I was following people who were on their way down to the South of Lebanon from refugee camps in Beirut. Soon they were at the border and Palestinians were starting to protest all over historic Palestine. It was interesting that Tel Aviv had a huge demo with Palestinian flags demanding the fulfilment of the internationally recognised right of return of Palestinians to their land and homes. The majority of the protests inside israel went without any violence. Most of the Egyptians were unable to make it to Rafah as the army didn’t allow them to get there. Jordan seemed to be going well but since they are at peace with israel no one thought anything would happen.

Then things went crazy very quickly and pretty much all hell broke loose. First, news from Gaza started filtering that people in Bait Hanoune were protesting and got too close to the Eretz crossing with israel for the israli army’s comfort so the IDF (remember they call themselves the most moral army in the world in an almost beautiful Orwellian move) shot 4 tank shells at them as well as live sniper fire. Very quickly around 30 or 50 people, mainly children and teenagers, because it was an unarmed peaceful protest, were injured and sent to hospital. This led to a rise in tensions. For the rest of the day, and as I far as I know still now, Palestinians protested using rocks and the IDF shot live rounds at them. So far over 100 are injured including one journalist and one teenager is dead.

But that’s not all. In Qualandya in the West Bank there was a peaceful protest as well that was met with unimaginable amounts of tear gas and rubber coated bullets, later in the day those were traded for live ammunition. Of course this made the protests more intense and soon Palestinians started throwing stones at the israelis while they shot at them with rubber coated bullets, live bullets, and tear gas. So far over 100 are injured and one is dead. What is interesting is that the Palestinian numbers kept swelling and they were swelling with young men and young women. Clearly something very important was happening there. I know that East Jerusalem saw some violence as well but I didn’t get much info on it.

But in the middle of all that we got some very strange news. The border between Syria and the occupied Golan Heights had witnessed some very fierce clashes and 4 people had died and at least 20 people were injured. It turns out that around 20000 Syrians and Palestinian refugees had made their way to that border and an unspecified number of them walked across a mine field cut the border fence and crossed into the occupied Golan. This is huge! The Syrian regime has made sure not to allow any protests on its southern borders. However they are clearly too busy killing their own people to have noticed what was going on. Basically, a number of Palestinian refugees had exercised their right of return and were refusing to go back to Syria.

The israeli army sent a whole bunch of reinforcements to try and round them up, or kill them, and move them back to Syria. However the people of the town they went into Majdal Shams protected them and started contacting the israeli army in order to try not to get them killed. But their exact number was unclear, even now we still don’t know how many made it through reports varied between 68 and over a thousand. Eventually, many were able to return without being injured because the citizens of Majdal Shams protected them and got them to the border. However, many who got in had said that they aren’t planning to go back to israel but to go back to their land. Are some of them still there? no one knows. This episode clearly rattled the zionist state. Israeli Kneset members were calling for the IDF to use severe force and to kill all those who crossed the border. They described the episode as a grave intelligence and security failure. The reason is that no one expected it to happen in Syria.

Finally, let’s talk about the events in Lebanon because they are by far the most dangerous in their significance. The commemorations were set to take place on a hill that overlooks a field that meets the border fence between south Lebanon and Northern israel. However a group of a few dozen at first and then a few hundred protesters made their way towards the border fence. They didn’t attack it or try to cross it but were very close to it. They were waving their flags and chanting to demand the fulfilment of the right of return. It was all rather jolly but then the israelis started shooting in the air one bullet fell over the border and injured a woman in her left shoulder. This was bad but it could very easily be described as an accident, although why they needed to shoot in the air in the first place is not completely clear.

But then something very dangerous happened. They started shooting across the border at the unarmed civilians. Over a few hours 10 people were killed and over 100 injured. Eventually the Lebanese army forced the protesters to move back from the fence. But this is a major breech of Lebanon’s sovereignty, not that this ever stopped them before, but this is also a clear breech of resolution 1701. It is incredible that the IDF thinks that it can simply flaunt the border and shoot across it killing 10 and injuring over a hundred. I really hope that Lebanon doesn’t stay silent about it, although I imagine they will crawl and grovel and do nothing.

The point though is that all these events add up to some very important facts. The Arab people have set a marker, there will be no peace without the recognition and fulfilment of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees that were forcibly evicted from their lands and homes in 1947-48. We know that the PA was ready to give up that right, the Palestinians and the Arabs have said today that this is unacceptable it is an unalienable and unnegotiable right. Also, israel continues on its self destructive path. They are showing themselves as a racist and violent state that is willing to kill and maim anyone who oppose them, including unarmed and peaceful protesters. The problem for them is that cameras were all over the place and we could see everything that happened so the usual talking points are not going to be enough to get them off this time. I hope that this turns out to be a turning point in the struggle for the rights of Palestinians. Until Palestine is free stay safe. Love you bye.

Language About Israel and Zionism

Posted in about the blog, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 14/05/2011 by arabrhizome

Right as I promised a few posts ago I am going to explain why I use a certain type of language when I speak about israel and zionism. This post is a result of a comment I got on my “Palestinians didn’t exist before 1948” post a few days ago. Weirdly, I didn’t plan this I promise, but most of my posts have been about Palestine lately. I say weirdly because tomorrow is Nakba day, one of my first posts was about it, and I have somehow built up towards tomorrow without really meaning to. So I do think that it is important to have this post today and then talk about the Nakba again tomorrow.

So as I said I got a comment on my earlier post from a reader called Tim Sullivan. I’ve already replied to him but I think that it might be a good idea to expand on my initial response and give a bit more context and flesh to that response. I think that his comment was meant in the spirit of constructive criticism and I am happy to have it. I know that internet comments and subsequent responses can devolve very quickly into arguments and insults and I am very keen to avoid that here. Anyway, here’s his original comment: “You make some forceful arguments but stop using hot button and un needed terms like proto-fascist. It is rather a cliche and unseemly considering countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran exist in that area of the world.”

I think that Tim is making two distinct, but related, points in his comment. Here’s my oiginal response for those who didn’t read it: “Thanks for your comment. I don’t think that the term proto-fascist is unneeded here. When you have state sponsored rabies saying that jewish women should be protected from arab men, and saying that jewish landlords shouldn’t rent to arabs. I also reject the idea that because there are horrible theocratic regimes like saudi and iran in the region, it is a cliché to call israel what it is. I understand that this term, as well as others, carry a certain historical weight with them, especially when it comes to the global jewish community and their suffering. However, I am calling it like I see it. Israel is sliding quickly onto fascism and the worshipping of the state and racial and ethnic purity. By any stretch of the imagination that is proto-fascism.
I hope that clarifies why I think the use of those terms is justified.
Thanks again for reading and commenting.”

As you can see my response looks at two different points. First the use of the term proto-fascist when referring to israel and zionism. I do not use this term lightly. I know that it is a term that has been over-used and thrown around in contexts where it isn’t exactly warranted. I also understand that the European Jewish community has been the major part of the population that has suffered from fascism in the twentieth century. My use of the term is not at all intended to trivialise or belittle that historic suffering. It is also not a term that I am using lightly. I use it because I think that it is completely justified to use it in the context of contemporary zionism and israel.

As I pointed out in my original response israel is quickly sliding towards a fascist state. Let’s stop and think about what fascism is. My laptop’s dictionary says “Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach”. Let’s look at everyone of these statements and decide whether they apply to israel and modern zionism. If they all apply without any caveat or qualification then it would be justifiable to use the term fascist to describe israel. However if they mostly apply but need some qualification then the term quasi fascist would work. If through our analysis we see that there is a movement towards fascism from a quasi-fascist position then proto-fascist would be the right term, as it connots a movement towards fascism without being quite there yet.

First, “Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group”. Well that applies strictly to israel and zionism today. israel is a state for the “chosen” people. Israel thinks of itself as the country of Jewish people and the native people of the land are either treated as second class citizens by the laws of the state, or ethnically cleansed (1948 more on that tomorrow, or Jerusalem and the Negev desert today), or occupied and subjected to military rule. The zionist narrative, from making the desert bloom to the dehumanisation of Palestinians (like mr. Jeffery Wiesenfeld who said in an interview with the New York Times about Palestinians: “People who worship death for their children are not human. They have developed a culture which is unprecedented in human history”), contains within it the idea that Jewish people are superior to Arabs and that they are better.

We can also talk here about the number of discriminatory laws that have been passed, or are in the process of being passed, by the Knesset. First, there’s the Nakba law which makes any commemoration of the Nakba an offence that can lead to the loss of state funding. The reason given is that these celebrations “deny the Jewish and democratic character of the State”. In other words arab schools and municipalities are not allowed to commemorate their own history. Basically it’s a move to deny the Nakba. Second, a law that allows villages to refuse admitting new members by citing a failure “to meet the fundamental views of the community”. In other words, Arabs can be denied moving into all Jewish villages. Finally, a law has been passed to punish anyone who calls for or supports a call for the boycott of israeli or settlement goods. This is a law clearly aimed at crushing descent. There are a few more laws but I’m not going to run through all of them. This is a great article about them.

Now these laws are important for my second point. So the second statement is that Fascism includes “a contempt for democracy”. Well that’s a bit of a complicated one. Israel likes to see itself as the only democracy in the Middle East. While that statement was taken at face value by many pro-zionist commentators it has always been complicated and not entirely accurate. Firstly the current events around the region make this statement utterly meaningless. But more importantly many see it, including myself, as completely untrue. Countries like Lebanon and Turkey for example can easily be characterised as democratic, also the fact that Arabs in israel don’t have the same rights as Jewish israelis is an issue for the democratic characterisation.

But more importantly we can see that israel is sliding more and more towards an undemocratic system. With the laws discussed above we see that a whole set of the population is being disenfranchised more and more. There is a definite move towards a completely undemocratic system, because a whole set of the population does not have the same democratic rights as another. Also, the revival of the old idea of the transfer of the Arab population away from israel is highly undemocratic. So as we see this is a qualified statement, however there is a clear move towards fascism here.

Third, “an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader”. This is not there yet. Although, as the laws are showing. There is a move towards the obedience to a state and the idea that whatever that state choses to do is right. We can see this in the outlandish justifications used for crimes in international law like the attack on and murder of civilians in international waters, or the unlawful targeting of schools, homes and places of worship in the wars on Lebanon and Gaza, or the continued efforts to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem and the West Bank of the native population (here’s an article about this effort in the West Bank).

Finally, “a strong demagogic approach”. This one is probably the hardest one to prove because of the disagreement over whether something is demagogic or not. I would argue that the current israeli refusal to give the PA the tax money it is owed because of the unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah is an example of demagogy. The constant demonisation of the Palestinians who live in israel by avigdor lieberman, and many israeli MKs, is another example of demagogy. I know that not everyone would agree, but I think they’re wrong. The point is that the modern zionist movement and israeli officials as well as religious figures use demagogic arguments against Palestinians.

Anyway, as we have seen it would be inaccurate to say that israel is a fascist state. However, it clearly is quasi-fascist and as I think I have shown on a slippery slope towards fascism. Thus I feel that the term proto-fascist is completely justified when describing israel. I don’t think that it is a red button term or and unneeded one. I think that it is important to call out this trend in israeli politics and to call it what it is. By failing to do so, I feel that we are allowing proto-fascist practices to go on. Some people might be turned off by the use of this term, but that’s their problem. It would be wrong to try to appease these people. Something very ugly is happening and to not call it what it is is just as ugly.

The second point raised by Tim is about the use of such terms in the context of the region. The fact that the Middle East has such horrible regimes as Saudi or Iran makes characterising israel as proto-fascist somehow “unseemly”. Again, I understand where Tim is coming from. However, I completely reject that line of thought. It is true that the Saudi and Iranian regimes are completely and utterly disgusting. We can also add many other regimes in the region, including Syria, Bahrain, KSA, Jordan, well to be honest pretty much all of them. Having said that though, I don’t understand how that has any bearing on the characterisation of israel. The fact that there are horrible and disgusting regimes, that are much closer to fascism in some aspects than israel, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t call out israel on it’s fascistic and proto-fascistic practices. The argument of comparison is a flawed one because it seems to justify the excesses of one state by comparing them to the excess of another.

Anyway, that’s my much longer and more rounded response. There are many other terms that I use to talk about israel, those include colonial, apartheid, racist, imperial, violent, and others. I have thought about each and every term that I use and I do not use them lightly. I think that every single one of those terms is valid and justified. I might in the future explain why I use each and every one of them, but I think that’s enough for now. Anyway, tomorrow is Nakba day and we shall all remember the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947-48. We shall all continue, in anyway we can, to struggle for the liberation of Palestine and the return of those who were forcibly removed from their ancestral homes. Until then, stay safe. Love you bye.

Palestinians Didn’t Exist Before 1948

Posted in about the blog, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 10/05/2011 by arabrhizome

So a new old zionist lie has been revived in the past week, which is that Palestinians didn’t exist before 1948. Now if you are a normal human being with an average intellect and basic human decency, you would probably be appalled at that statement. At least I would hope you are. This argument takes one of two forms. The first form is: Palestine never existed so it has no right to exist now. The second form is: Palestinians are in fact Syrians and Jordanians, they weren’t called Palestinians before 1948, so Palestinians didn’t exist before that, therefore they have no right to the land.

This argument has been around for a very long time but has usually been confined to the crazy right wing in israel and some silly american zionist apologists. Most israeli, European, American, Arab, African, Asian, Australian, South American academics, basically everyone in the world, agree that this is a load of crap. The problem is that with the rise in fascism in israel with the far right becoming mainstream and ideas of racial, ethnic and cultural purity becoming acceptable (at least in mainstream discourse, they are after all what the state of israel is built on), this argument is finding a new life. Hence why I called it a new old argument.

In fact, during a twitter discussion, although argument would be a better description of it, with Ali Abunimah the Jerusalem Post deputy news editor, Israel Kasnet, advanced that Palestinians didn’t exist 63 years ago. His exact words were “that’s because 63 years ago Palestinians didn’t exist!!!”. I think you know how I feel about the use of extra exclamation marks. If you don’t, let me explain: I believe that the number of exclamation marks used by an individual is directly proportional to their level of nuttery. So the more one uses the more mental they are. So this guy is clearly scoring quite high on the nuttery level.

Anyway, that’s besides the point. Let’s understand what the JP deputy news editor is saying here. I stress that he is the JP deputy new editor because that gives his comment an extra layer of significance. Indeed, we’re not talking about any zionist troll on the internet but a supposedly respectable journalist. Not only that, he edits one of israel’s largest newspapers. If a news editor is willing to make a public statement like that then we’re all entitled to ask ourselves if this “newspaper” is actually objective. If anyone read the JP they would know that it isn’t in fact an objective news resource but a propaganda publication fuelled by zionist ideology.

I don’t want to stick to that point too much as many people have written more eloquently about the objectivity, or lack thereof, of the JP. I’d like to look at what he is actually saying and what the significance of that statement is. There has been a rise in racist and fascist sentiment in israel. And this type of attitude which erases the Palestinian’s history has become very mainstream. By denying that Palestinians existed zionists try to deny their rights over the land. It is one of many dehumanising strategies employed by zionist commentators and ideologues.

Right now israel is in a very uncertain place, all around it regimes with which it had forged good relations are crumbling under the force of the people, the Palestinians have managed to start talking to each other again (although I’m sceptical of the unity agreement), there is a UN vote to recognise a Palestinian state in September, the BDS movement is getting stronger and stronger, israel is perceived by the majority of people as an aggressor, and they are consistently voted as one of the most dangerous countries to world peace along with states like North Korea and Iran.

Israel is going through a very tough time that is of its own doing. By committing war crimes in Lebanon, Gaza, on the mavi marmara, in the West Bank, and by undertaking extra-judicial assassinations using passports stolen from the citizens of allied countries, as well as continuing to build illegal settlements in the West Bank, israel has isolated itself. The successive israeli governments have tried to maintain an unsustainable status quo, but in doing that are now risking losing everything. So in this climate israelis are becoming more and more radicalised. When one listens to interviews by israeli officials, or even members of the public, it seems that they are disconnected from reality.

This radicalisation is obviously self defeating, as the more radicalised israelis become the more isolated they become, which in turns makes them more radicalised and so on. What this means is that now we are at a point when denying the existence of Palestinians has become an acceptable thing to say. This statement and the nasty sentiment behind it is a symptom of the proto-fascist turn in israeli public discourse. I think that this signals quite clearly the complete loss of moral direction in israel and in the global zionist movement. This is just another sign that the zionist project is losing its grip and that the apartheid state of israel might in fact be dismantled very soon. The only fear I have is that israel has a lot of nuclear weapons and that if it continues to become clear that the state will turn into a binational state they might use them.

Arna’s Children

Posted in Culture, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 19/04/2011 by arabrhizome

I went to the supermarket yesterday. When I came back I saw that I had some mail. In this mail was a DVD sent to me by a friend. We had been in touch quite extensively lately, going through revolutions in the arab world and discussing them through all the social media. After Juliano Mer Khamis was murdered in Jenin she asked me if I had seen Arna’s children. Discovering that I hadn’t she promptly sent it to me. So I had it but was working quite hard. I thought that if I hit a certain number of words, or if I stop working for one reason or another, I would watch it. That is what happened.

So I started watching this documentary and was taken in straight away. Before I talk about its details I’d like to urge every single one of my readers to get it, watch it, and then go contribute to the Jenin Freedom Theatre. This is their website. They do incredible work with the children of the West Bank refugee camp. Their work is a shining beacon of resistance against oppression, occupation, and humiliation. Juliano was murdered by an unknown enemy. Surely his work, started by his mother Arna, should not be allowed to die as well. His legacy of peaceful cultural resistance survives in the freedom theatre and if we are serious about wanting peace and liberation for the Palestinians then we must support organisations like this one.

The film is a documentary that stretches over about a decade. Juliano’s mother Arna built a children’s centre in the refugee camp of Jenin to educate and empower them. She is a Jewish israeli woman who fought for the creation of israel when she was 18. Later she joined the israeli communist party where she met his father Saliba Khamis, a Palestinian citizen of israel and intellectual. The documentary follows the life of 4 children who attended the children’s centre. Three of them were in his children’s theatre troupe that he managed in a small theatre he helped build in the camp using the money his mother received when she was given the alternative Nobel prize.

I don’t want to give away what happens in the film, not that it’s a thriller or anything like that, I just think it’s better to experience the whole thing. It is very well done as Juliano’s narration is very sober and scarce. He is happy to step back and let the people tell their stories. He is very happy to give control of the stories being told away and does not mind taking a back seat. The documentary is incredibly powerful and emotionally draining. T (my friend who sent it to me) and I discussed this a little. We both agreed that even though Juliano gives very little of himself, by the end of the documentary it felt like we knew him a little. His murder thus becomes an even greater tragedy as it is almost personal. It s almost as if a friend had died.

The documentary is not preachy. It doesn’t offer up easy solutions. It raises problems ad is very happy leaving them standing as they are. It presents the reality of occupation without romanticising anything. It is a study of youth, life, and death, the possibility and impossibility of escaping one’s situation through art. It shows us the tragedy of life under occupation and as T pointed out that tragedy is made even more tragic and poignant because it is preventable. There is no fated reason why children must have their homes demolished. There is no unstoppable force at work here, sweeping away the lives and dignity of the Palestinian people. Every tragedy that is seen in this documentary is contingent. It doesn’t have to be this way, yet it is. As I said, Arna’s children is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen. I highly recommend it.

Land Day and BDS

Posted in Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 30/03/2011 by arabrhizome

I thought I would take today as an opportunity to write about Palestine, I haven’t in a while. Today in Land day or Yawm al ard in arabic. On this day 35 years ago, six Palestinian citizens of israel were murdered by the israeli army and police, a hundred wounded, and hundreds arrested. This day has come to represent the multifaceted suffering of the Palestinians. The Nakba reminds us of the forced removal and ethnic cleansing of most of Palestine in 1948. The Naksa reminds us of the occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. Today reminds us of the suffering of the Palestinian citizens of israel who suffer from discrimination and a second class (sixth or seventh would be more accurate) citizen status.

Let us go through what happened 35 years ago. The israeli government declared that it was expropriating thousands of dunams of land, mainly arab owned, in order to use them for security and settlement purposes. In fact, this land was to be used to create new Jewish-only colonies. The Palestinian citizens of israel saw this as the straw that broke the camel’s back and organised themselves. They called for a general strike from the Galilee to the Negev and marched in their thousands in protest against the unjust and racist appropriation by the government of their land.

The israeli army and police reacted as they often do when confronted by arab protesters by opening fire on the unarmed civilians. As was mentioned above, six people died, a hundred were injured, and hundreds were arrested. This day became an important date for the arab and Palestinian struggle against zionism and israel. This day is commemorated globally and reminds those who forget that 20% of the citizens of israel are Palestinians who weren’t ethnically cleansed in 1948 and are living as second class citizens in a state that treats them as enemies.

Since 2005, today is also the global BDS day. Indeed today has become a celebration of the non-violent strategy of boycott, divestment, and sanctions, against israel, adopted and called for by the Palestinian civil society. Non-violent resistant has been a constant of the Palestinian cause since 1948, and before, against the zionist project, even if zionists would like you to think otherwise. What happened 35 years ago is a reminder that Palestinians, inside israel, in the occupied territories, and in the Diaspora, have been using non-violent resistance for a very long time.

Now, as you know I do not think that non-violence is always the right way. I think that the use of force is sometimes justified against state violence. However, today has become the day we celebrate and promote the BDS movement. As I have written here before, this movement is not an end in itself, it is a strategy. It’s aims are three-fold. First, the end of the illegal occupation and colonisation of the West Bank, Gaza strip, and Jerusalem. Second, the implementation of the internationally recognised right of return of the Palestinian refugees that were forcibly removed from their homes and land in 1948. Third, the end of the discrimination suffered by the Palestinian citizens of israel.

As you can see, today was not chosen randomly to be the global BDS day. Clearly, the uprising of the Palestinian citizens of israel on the 30th of March 1976 and their repression by the state that is supposed to protect them is a significant and potent symbol. Today we remember those who died and were injured because they stood up and refused to have their land stolen, again. It is our duty to support the oppressed people of Palestine and refuse to buy products which contribute to their oppression. I will leave you with this video of a BDS flash mob in New York. Please join us and help the BDS movement grow stronger.

The Promise

Posted in Culture, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/02/2011 by arabrhizome

I spent last night watching the four episodes of the Channel 4 mini-series The Promise. I had avoided it after hearing from people I really like and respect on twitter that the first episode was really bad. But yesterday those same friends on twitter were urging me to watch it, saying that it was brilliant. They said that while the first episode will get on my nerves I should stick with it and that I would be pleasantly surprised. I had realised that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep that night. So I thought that I might as well watch the whole thing because I wasn’t going to do any work anyway.

I sat and started watching it on the watch again feature for channel 4 (4OD). I have to admit that within 15 minutes of the first episode I wanted to grab my laptop and smash it repeatedly on the wall. It just looked like it was going to be a complete surface pro-israel account. There was a point when the main character, an annoying, rich, White, British, 18-year old, clueless girl from London on her gap year, who goes to israel with her best friend, who’s going there for her military service, says, while sitting on the beach next to the villa of the family she’s staying with in the rich part of Haifa: ‘this is paradise!’. At this point I just wanted to scream. The whole first episode is filled with things like that. I also noticed that the Arabs were conspicuously absent. The only arab character seemed to be a reformed Al-Aqsa brigades member, who only appears for a small part.

But anyway, before getting carried away, let me explain what the series is about. It follows the afore-mentioned British teenager’s trip to israel on her gap year. Before she leaves her grand father falls ill and she takes his diary, from his time in british mandate Palestine to read. The series therefore follows two parallel storylines, one in modern day Palestine and one in 1945-1948 Palestine. She’s a clueless, privileged, annoying teenager, and he is a British soldier who liberated a concentration camp during world war II and found himself in Palestine.

So the story begins with both of them, especially the grand father, being quite pro-zionist. She out of uninformed stupidity, he out of the horrors he witnessed in the death camps. So this is why the first episode was so annoying to me. It is because the story is really told from the perspective of the two characters, and no one else’s, that the first episode needed to be like that, from a story telling point of view. However, the next three episodes go on to shatter every single assumption and lie that seemed to be told by the first one. They also go on to tell the truth about the Palestinian tragedy without compromise. It felt so good to watch a drama the wasn’t afraid to show the truth and shatter this idea of false equivalence between both sides’ suffering.

I cried my eyes out through the whole last episode. I’ve always known the history of the Nakba, and Deir Yassine, and the truth of the brutality of the occupation in the West Bank and the giant interment and concentration camp that is Gaza, but I was still emotionally drained and affected by it. The most beautiful thing about it was the way in which it showed things that are important for all arabs but that most people don’t know. Like the centrality of the keys in the Palestinian struggle for the right of return of the people who were forced out of their homes and were ethnically cleansed in 1948.

Another really good thing about it was all the very subtle ways in which it showed the apartheid system of israel for what it is. For example, the main character’s best friend makes fun of the recruits on her first day of induction into the IDF calling them idiots for the way in which they act, she’s spent most of her life in England and thus feels like an outsider. However, during her basic training graduation party, she acts exactly like the people she made fun of in the first place. This is not in your face but is subtly represented. Another example, is the moment when ‘liberal israelis’ are forced to have dinner with a Palestinian for the first time. They ask him where he’s from and he tells them, being from a village cut in half by the  illegal apartheid separation wall, and they act politely outraged. Then he asks them where they’re from, one of the says I’m from here. He then pointedly asks, ‘no I mean where are you from originally?’

Anyway, the whole thing was brilliant in every single aspect. It is one of the best pieces of television ever made and takes its place amongst the other greats like The Wire and Battlestar Gallactica. The acting is brilliant, the story is wonderful, the sets are fantastic, especially the period ones, and the history is completely accurate. I cannot recommend it enough. It’s still on 4 OD for another few days and it is already out on DVD. Trust me you will want to watch this, whether you know about Palestine and its history or not. It is an education for those who don’t know and a reminder for those who do.