art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Playlist: Checkpoint 303 – The Iqrit Files.

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/photo via Checkpoint 303/

Let it be known – I am amazed by this little discovery. Also – absolute love for Jawaher Shofani.

Checkpoint 303′s new album tells the story of the brutal clearance of 400 Palestinian villages by Israeli forces 70 years ago, using the example of just one, Iqrit, which lies to the north of Galilee. The album is a thrilling and hard-hitting collage of tough Tackhead/Meat Beat Manifesto-style beats, field recordings of Palestinian singers and speech sourced from newsreels.

Using site recordings predominantly from Palestine and the Arab world, Checkpoint 303 constructs soundscapes that weave cinematic audio with experimental sound processing and complex rhythms. Through its compositions, collected sounds and noise, Checkpoint 303 spreads a message of peace and a call for the respect of human rights.

Listen & enjoy!

Previous Playlist:

Mashrou’ Leila – Straight from Beirut

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Edward Said on Parochialism and Palestine.

edward said/Edward Said, photo via reformancers/

In ten days, on 25th of September, will be twelve years since Edward Said died. This month Middle East Revised will publish excerpts from Said’s books, interviews and films about Said and his work.

The following is an excerpt from Culture and Resistance, Conversations with Edward Said, Interviews by David Barsamian (South End Press, 2008.).

• • •

After you visited Israel, you went to Egypt, where you encountered some parochialism. Did that take you by surprise?

No, because I confronted it before. That is to to say, what you notice amongst Palestinians, whether inside Israel or on the West Bank and Gaza, is a sense of isolation. There’s no question that they live under the shadow of Israeli power. What is missing is easy and natural contact with the rest of the Arab world.

As a Palestinian, you can’t get to any place in the Arab world from Israel or the West Bank and Gaza without going through a fairly complicated procedure, which causes you to think three or four times before you do: crossing the border, you need permits, you go through endless customs. I must say, for Palestinians traveling throughout the Arab world – and this is also true of me, and I have an American passport, but the fact that it says on it that I was born in Jerusalem means that I’m always put to one side – you’re automatically suspected. So traveling and being in contact with the Arabs in the Arab world for Palestinains is very difficult.

More important even that is that very few Arabs who are not Palestinians come into Palestinian territories, and hardly any at all, practically none, go to Israel. One of the themes – and this is kind of complicated thing to explain, amongst the nationalist and radical intellectuals of most Arab countries, which would include the Gulf people, it certainly includes Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan – has been the opposition to what they called “normalization,” tatbee in Arabic, meaning the normalization of life between Israel and, in the case of Jordan and Egypt, Arab states who have made formal peace with Israel.

The peace with Egypt is described, as it is with Jordan, as a cold peace. The peace with Egypt is described, as it is with Jordan, as a cold peace. In other words, ordinary Jordanians or Egyptians, don’t go to Israel, have nothing to do with Israelis. Israeli tourists go to Jordan and Egypt and visit the historic sites in buses for short periods of time. But beyond that, there’s very little in the way of the kind of intercourse, say, exchanges between universities, learned societies, businesses, and so on, that occur between European countries or neighboring countries otherwise at peace in any other part of the world. One of the reasons for this has been the general refused, as an act of solidarity with Palestinians, of these intellectuals to have anything to do with Israel.

The problem this poses for Palestinians, trying to build institutions, is they are being cut off from the kind of help they can get from Arabs. For example, physicians and other medical professionals from Egypt, Syrian, Lebanon or Jordan could come and assist Palestinians in setting up clinics and hospitals. They could be involved in a whole range of activities from administration to the production of pharmaceuticals. But it doesn’t happen because of this stance against normalization. Similarly, university students who read important scholars, journalists, writers, and poets from various Arab countries don’t get the opportunity to meet them.

When I now encounter Arabs and go to those Arab countries, I say to them, especially to to the Egyptians, you can go to Palestine. You can go through Israel, because Israel and Egypt are at peace. You can take advantage of that to go to Palestinians and go to their institutions and help them, appearing, speaking, being there for some time, training them. No, they say, we can’t possibly allow our passports to be stamped. We won’t go to the Israeli embassy and get visas. We won’t submit to the humiliation of being examined by Israeli policemen at the border or their barrier.

I find this argument vaguely plausible on one level but really quite cowardly on the other. It would seem to me that if they took their pride out of it, if they did go through an Israeli checkpoint or barricade or border, they would be doing what other Palestinians do every day and see what it’s like. Second, as I keep telling them, by doing that it’s not recognizing Israel or giving Israel any credit.

On the contrary, it’s going through that in order to demonstrate and be with Palestinians and help them. For example, as Palestinians face the Israeli bulldozers as they expropriate land and destroy houses for settlements, it would be great if there were a large number of Egyptians and Jordanians and others who could be there with Palestinians confronting this daily, minute-by-minute threat. And the same in universities. Well-known writers, intellectuals, historians, philosophers, film starts could go, but they say, We don’t want to have to request visas from the Israeli consulate in Cairo. I said, You don’t even have to do that. You can ask the Palestinian Authority, which has an ambassador in Cairo, to give you an invitation to go to Gaza, and then you can go to the West Bank.

So there are ways of getting around it. It’s not so much only parochialism as also a kind of laziness, a kind of sitting back and expecting somebody else to do it. I think that’s our greatest enemy, the absence of initiative [my emphasis]. We’re always expecting that the Israelis are out there, the Americans, concocting conspiracies, the Ford Foundtion. Many people want to work with these people groups but are afraid to do it publicly. They do it surreptitiously.

And in public they express opposition and say, We are going to remain untouched by this. We are not going to normalize. We refuse to have anything to do with imperialism. We refuse to sit down and plan something that could actually help Palestinians and actually deal with Israel, not as a fictional entity but as a real power that is in many ways negatively affecting Arab life.

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Ali Ashour: Daily Life in Gaza (II).

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Ali Ashour is a young Palestinian photographer. I’ve already introduced his lovely work and written about his way of capturing beauty in Gaza and his happy-go-lucky perspective on things.

I am happy to be able to continue to present Ashour’s work and his new images of daily life in Gaza. Enjoy the photos, and for more – follow Ali on facebook.

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//all photos © Ali Ashour//

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art of resistance, Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

A Year Later: Rebuilding Gaza.

Jehan_Abu_Dagga-children/photo via IMEU/

Institute for Middle East Understanding has a powerful new story out – it features six out of the tens of thousands Palestinians struggling to rebuild their lives a year after the Israeli summer assault on Gaza.

The following are the fragments of some of those stories.

Jehan_Abu_Dagga-family2/Jehan and her family, photo via IMEU/

Jehan Abu Dagga is a lawyer. Her home was seriously damaged by Israel’s most recent offensive in Gaza.

We weren’t able to leave so we decided to wait for the situation to get calm. When the dark came, I thought ‘We have to escape. We can’t be trapped here. They want to kill everyone.’ We tried many times to get out from our home to a safe place but we couldn’t get far in such dangerous conditions.

The kids wanted to sleep but we prevented them because if something happened, we were afraid we would not have time to wake them up. The situation started to get more serious and dangerous from all directions. We knew that we were stuck and could not get out with all the shelling and gas bombs. We spent one week under the shelling.

In the first ceasefire after that terrifying night, which was only for three hours, I asked my husband to go to our house to bring our official papers, IDs, and passports. When he returned, he told me that our home was bombed but it wasn’t completely destroyed.

I sold my jewelry to build the house we wanted and now we don’t have enough to rebuild it. My husband is a farmer and we don’t have that kind of money. I studied law and I worked as a lawyer but I stopped to stay with my children. Now I wish I didn’t study law. Maybe if I was a nurse, it would be better so I could help in these situations.

The most challenging moment of my life was when I had to choose a safe room in the house to put my children in for the many days while we were stuck inside during the attacks.

Yassir_Mahmoud_El_Haj4/Yassir and his family, photo via IMEU/

Yassir Mahmoud El Haj, 25, is from Khan Younis Refugee Camp in Gaza. His family’s house was struck by Israeli warplanes without warning during the first week of Israel’s 2014 attacks. Yassir’s parents, Mahmoud Lutfi El Haj and Basma Abd El Qader El Haj, and his six brothers and sisters — Najla, 28; Asmaa, 22; Omar, 20; Tareq, 18; Sa’ad, 16; Fatma, 14 — were all killed.

Then they took me to the hospital and I started to search for my family between all the injured people and I didn’t find any of them there. I lost control of myself and screamed, ‘Where is family?’ The doctor came and gave me a sedative and some of my relatives told me that my family is fine and that I could see them when I felt better. When I woke up, they told me that they were all killed. Then, my brother-in-law took me to my house again and I found that they were still taking out the bodies there and I saw my father’s and brothers’ bodies being removed.

After the war, I lived in my uncle’s house and then in my sister’s house in Rafah. Then I rented a house, and I faced many problems in finding an apartment. I don’t work and I don’t have the ability to rebuild the house, especially since I was living inside a refugee camp where the houses are very close to each other and full of people. Thirty people were injured that day and seven houses are unsuitable for habitation in addition to the many partly damaged houses around my house.

I have no one now. I lost my family in this life so I don’t expect any good days in future  — I’m only waiting for time to pass. The hardest moment in the war for me was when I came back from my friend’s house and I didn’t find my home. I just couldn’t understand that I just left all my family inside for only one hour and then found it destroyed. I regret that I went out; I wish I was there with them.

I want the world to know that Israel targets civilians’ houses directly. The children and the families who were killed during the war are the evidence of Israel’s crimes toward civilians in Gaza, so I ask the whole world not to support Israel. All my sisters and brothers were smart and had good grades in school and they were still so young. None of them were involved in any political or resistance parties. Fatma, my sister, and Sa’ad, my brother got 98% averages at school. My eldest sister, Najla, was first in her class in college and and she worked as a teaching assistant at her university.

I remember when we had our last dinner during Ramadan and gathered on one table and talked about the news and situations as any normal family. I wish I knew the reason why they bombed my house and killed my family. I still want to know why.”

Aysha_Saeed_Owda_El_Kurd2/Aysha among the ruins, photo via IMEU/

Aysha Saeed Owda El Kurd, a mother of five from Rafah, works as a nurse. Her husband was a prisoner in Israeli prisons for 14 years. In 1988, shortly after Israel freed him, he was killed.

“I play the role of mother and father in my family. I have a lot of responsibility because all but one of my sons can’t find work. After my husband was killed, I lived with my five children in a rented house until we were able to buy a new house.

When the war started in 2014, my son Ibrahim was supposed to come to Gaza and tried twice but the closure of the borders prevented him from coming and he wasn’t here when his brother was killed. My other three sons came to my house with their families in Al-Shaboura neighborhood because it was safer than the eastern areas where their house is beside the borders. During the ceasefire, my son Yasser went to check on his house like everyone else, to see what happened in the area and suddenly the ceasefire was broken and the Israeli army started to bomb randomly. The house was bombed with two missiles and Yasser was killed with two other people.

When I heard my son was injured, I remember that I walked the street at night under the continuous bombing to search for him. I tried calling him on his phone. I just couldn’t believe that he was killed. I asked my colleagues in Abu Yosef Al Najjar Hospital to ask about him and they told me that they didn’t know anything because the hospital was bombed. I felt they were also afraid to tell me the truth.

When we arrived, they told me the full truth, which I already knew in my heart — that he was killed. I asked to see him and went into the mortuary in the hospital and I saw him for the last time. I kissed him and said goodbye. It was extremely hard for me. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t save him with medical treatment as I did for so many other people.

We’re currently 22 people living in the same house and we don’t have the ability to rebuild my sons’ house again because our income is not enough and because of the blockade.

• • •

For more – see the full article on IMEU.

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Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

The State of Denial: The Nakba in the Israel Zionist Landscape.

Today is the 67th anniversary of the Nakba, the Palestinian exodus. In a poem written forty years after he fled his village, Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali described that evening of the catastrophe:

We did not weep

When we were leaving

For we had neither

Time nor tears

And there was no farewell.

We did not know

At the moment of parting

That it was a parting,

So where would our weeping

Have come from?

occupied pal/Nakba, photo via Occupied Palestine/

To mark the 67th Nakba anniversary, I am posting an excerpt from Ilan Pappé’s essay The State of Denial: The Nakba in the Israel Zionist Landscape. This essay can be found in the book After Zionism: One State For Israel and Palestine.

Pappé writes about Nakba denial in 20th century (in Israel), and the way it changed in 21st century. I think it captures the essence of Nakba issues today – today we all know about Nakba, we know what happened and how it happened, but it’s what we do with that knowledge that differentiates us. What’s being done with what we know is what we should focus on.

Nakba Denial and the Israel/Palestine Peace Process

“Even before the U-turn in American pulic opinion after 11 September 2001, the movement of academic critique in Israel and the West and its fresh view on the 1948 ethnic cleansing was not a very impressive player on the local, regional or international stages. It did not in any way impact the Israel/Palestine peace agenda; and Palestine was the focus of such efforts at exactly the time when the fresh voices were heard. At the centre of these peace efforts were the Oslo Accords, which began rolling in September 1993. The concept behind this process was, as in all the previous peace endeavours in Palestine, a Zionist one.

Hence, the peace process of the 1990s, the Oslo Accords, was conducted according to the Israeli perception of peace – from which the Nakba was totally absent. The Oslo formula was created by Israeli thinkers from the Jewish peace camp, people who have played an important role in the Israeli public scene ever since 1967. They were institutionalised in an ex-parliamentary movement, ‘Peace Now’, and had several parties on their side in the Israeli parliament. In all their previous discourses and plans, they had totally evaded the 1948 issue and sidelined with the refugee questions. They did the same in 1993 – this time with the dire consequences of raising hopes of peace as they seemes to find a Palestinian partner for a concept of peace that buries 1948 and its victims.

It is noteworthy that the potential partners withdrew from the process twice at the last moment; ultimately, they could not betray the Palestinian Right of Return (nor is any leader empowered to do so, as the right is an individual one). The first was Yasser Arafat at the Camp David summit in the summer of 2000. He was later followed by Abu Mazen in the various, admittedly much less significant, attempts to reach a solution  with the Israeli governments of Olmerr and Netanyahu.

AlNakbaExpulsion3/Expulsion from Ramie, November 1948. Photo via Desip/

When the final moment came, and the Palestinians realised that on top of not witnessing a genuine Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, there was no solution offered for the refugee question, they rebelled in frustration. The climax of the Oslo negotiations – the Camp David summit meeting between then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Arafat in the summer of 2000 – gavethe false impression that it was offering the end of the conflict.

Naive Palestinian negotiators located the Nakba and Israel’s responsibility for it at the top of the Palestinian list of demands, but this was rejected out of hand by the Israeli team, which succeeded in enforcing its point of view on the summit. To the Palestinian side’s credit, we should say that at least for a while the catastrophe of 1948 was brought to attention of a local, regional, and, to a certain extent, global audience. Nonetheless, the continued denial of the Nakba in the peace process is the main explanation for its failure and the subsequent second uprising in the Occupied Territories.

Not only in Israel but also in the United States, and even in Europe, it was necessary to remind those concerned with  the Palestine question  that this conflict entailed not only the future of Occupied Territories, but also that of the Palestinian refugees who had been forced from their homes in 1948 (and indeed from the whole area that was once Palestine). The Israelis had earlier succeeded in sidelining the issues of the refugees’ rights from the Oslo Accords, an aim helped by ill-managed Palestinian diplomacy and strategy.

The Nakba had been so efficiently kept off the agenda of the peace process that when it suddenly appeared on it, the Israelis felt as if a Pandora’s box had been prised open in front of them. The worst fear of the Israeli negotiators was that there was a possibility that Israel’s responsibility for the 1948 catastrophe would now become a negotiable issue; this ‘danger’ was, accordingly, immediately confronted. In the Israeli media and parliament, the Knesset, a position was formulated, no Israeli negotiator would be allowed even to dicuss the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees to the homes they had occupied before 1948. The Knesset passed a law to this effect, and Ehud Barak made a public commitment to it on the stairs of the plane that was taking him to Camp David.

The mechanism of denial therefore was crucial not only for defeating counter claims made by Palestinians in the peace process, but, more importantly, for disallowing any significant debate on the essence and moral foundation of Zionism.

The struggle over Nakba denial in the 21st Century

When the twentieth century came to an end, it seemed that the struggle against Nakba denial in Israel had had a mixed impact on the society and its politics. The appearance of the ‘new history’ and a far more concentrated effort to protect the Nakba memory by the Palestinians in general, and those within Israel in particular, did crack the wall of denial and repression that surrounds the Nakba in Israel. The new atmosphere has also been helped by a clarification of the Palestinian position on the refugee issue towards the end of the Oslo peace process.

As a result, after more than fifty years of repression, it became more difficult for Israel to deny the expulsion and destruction of the Palestinians in 1948. However, this relative sucess  has also brought with it three negative reactions, formulated after the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada. The effect of these reactions is still felt today, and it characterises the state of the Nakba denial in Israel in this century.

45190f/An early refugee camp. Late 1940s, Palestine. Photo via Jacobin/

The first reaction was from the Israeli political establishment, led by Ariel Sharon’s two governments (2001 and 2003), through the Ministry of Education, to expunge the actual history of 1948 from the education system. It began systematically removing any textbook or school syllabus that reffered to the Nakba, even marginally. Similiar instructions were given to the public broadcasting authorities.

The second reaction was even more disturbing and encompased wider sections of the public. Although a very considerable number of Israeli politicians, journalists and academiccs ceased to deny what happened in 1948, they were nonetheless wiling to justify it publicly, not only in retrospect but also as a prescription for the future. The idea of ‘transfer’ entered Israeli political discourse openly for the first time, gaining legitimacy as the best means of dealing with the Palestinian ‘problem’.

Transfer was and is openly discussed as an option when the captains of the nation meet annually in one of Israel’s most prestigious academic centres, the Centre for Intersdisciplinary Studies in Herzliya. It was openly discussed in the early twenty-first century as a policy proposal in papers presented by senior Labour Party ministers to their government. It is openly advocated by university professors and media commentators, and very few now dare to condemn it. As the very end of the last century, the leader of the majority in the American House of Representatives openly endorsed it.

There was a third reaction that followed in the footsteps of the renewed denial and worse disregard for the Nakba; this was the appearance of a neo-Zionist professional historiography of the war, some of it written by a former new historian. This U-turn was led by Benny Morris, formerly one fo the most important new historians of the 1990s. Murris has not changed his narrative: Israel was still in his eyes a state that was built with the help of ethnic celansing of the Palestinians. What he changed was his moral attitude towards that policy and crime. He justified it and did not even rule it out as a future policy. This justification appears also in his latest book on 1948, aptly called 1948: every means is justified in a war against a Jihadi attempt to destroy the state of Israel.

Morris’s retraction was typical to the whole professional historiography of the 1948 war in Israel in the twentieth century. As I have shown elsewhere, the pattern in the new century is very much the same. The facts that the ‘New Historians’ exposed about 1948, in particular those concerning the depopulation of the indigenous people of Palestine, are not doubted any more.

What changed is the total acceptance of the moral validity of this policy. In many ways, the professional historiography in Israel once more regards 1948 as the miraculous pristine moment of the state’s birth.”

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Israeli Soldiers Speak Up About Gaza Atrocities & Orders for Indiscriminate Fire.

A new report based on testimonies of Israeli soldiers concludes the massive civilian death toll from last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza resulted from a policy of indiscriminate fire.

1425203171_b3e5b6f6-a380-46b1-833a-3087ef13d8931421845089/photo © Breaking the Silence/

The Israeli veterans group Breaking the Silence released testimonies of more than 60 Israeli officers and soldiers which it says illustrate a “broad ethical failure” that “comes from the top of the chain of command.” More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the assault, the vast majority civilians. On Israel’s side, 73 people were killed, all but six of them soldiers. During the 50-day operation, more than 20,000 Palestinian homes were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced.

Democracy Now! discussed the report with Avner Gvaryahu, director of public outreach at Breaking the Silence. He is a former IDF solder who served from 2004-2007 as a sergeant in a special operations unit around Nablus and Jenin. During the interview, we can also hear video testimonies from the soldiers.

In one of the testimonies, a first sergeant in the Israeli military, his voice distorted, describes what his commander told him:

The commander announced, “Folks, tomorrow we enter. I want you to be determined, task-oriented and confident. The entire nation is behind you”—the usual speeches. And then he spoke about the rules of engagement. And I quote: “The rules of engagement are: Any person at a distance that could put you at risk, you kill him with no need for clearance.” Meaning, anyone at a distance of 200, 300, 400 meters from us, isn’t an ordinary civilian. According to IDF logic, he must be there for a reason, because an ordinary civilian would flee the area, and so, we must kill him with no need for clearance. For me, it was just spine-tingling.

I said to him, “Let me get this straight. Any person I see in the neighborhood where we’re headed, I spot him and kill him?” He said, “Yes. Any sane person who sees a tank battalion in his neighborhood will run away. If he sticks around, then he’s up to something. And if he’s up to something, it’s against you. So shoot him.” So I tried to dig a little deeper and asked, “What if it’s an innocent civilian?” He said, “There are no innocent civilians. Your presumption should be that anyone within the area of battle, 200, 300, 400 meters from you, is your enemy.”

In one of the other testimonies, a staff sergeant talks about the first entrance to the Gaza strip during the operation Protective Edge:

During the first entrance [to the Gaza Strip] we were near Beit Lahia, in a place called the Bedou’iyya. We were there for a few days. When we got there, there were white flags on all the rooftops. We had been prepared for something very… For some very glorious combat, and in the end it was quiet. We set ourselves up in our spot and slowly, slowly, [the Palestinians] started returning. At one point early on an older woman came near, and one of the officers said she should be shot. They told him to fire [warning shots] in her direction, and after a few shots she backed off. Later on, lots of people with white flags came over and [warning] shots were fired near them, too.

• • •

For more on this story, visit Breaking the Silence.

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art of resistance, India, Iran, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia

Five For Friday: Conversations With History.

Conversations With History was conceived in 1982 by Harry Kreisler, as a “way to capture and preserve through conversation and technology the intellectual ferment of our times.” It’s a great series which includes over 500 interviews. Here are five of my favorites concerning various issues related to the Middle East (although there are more than just five great ones, of course).

1. Conversations With History: Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali talks about the creation of Pakistan, issues with India, and the dysfunctionality of the state today. He also talks about Israel, drawing parallels between states with strong religious and ethnic identities and the way that identity cripples them.

2. Conversations With History: Juan Cole

Juan Cole talks about journalism and academia, the way his life changed after the years he spent in Beirut and how he came to do his academic work on Islam.  He also talks about his great blog Informed Comment and the idea behind it.

3. Conversations With History: Amira Hass

Famous Israeli journalist Amira Hass talks about Israeli occupation, Palestinian terrorism, and the consequences of the conflict for the daily lives of both Israelis and Palestinians.

4. Conversations With History: Andrew Scott Cooper

Andrew Scott Cooper discusses his book The Oil Kings. Focusing on the geopolitics of the Middle East in the 1970’s, the book centers on the complex relationship between Nixon, Kissinger and the Shah of Iran. Revealing the contradiction between the Shah’s dependence on the rise of oil prices and the need to fund his new military role, Cooper explains how this contradiction resulted in the Shah’s downfall and the implosion of Iran.

5. Conversations With History: John L. Esposito

John L. Esposito, the author of Who speaks for Islam?, talks about the diversity of the Muslim world, extremism, and the complex forces shaping Islam and its relationship with(in) the West.

• • •

Previous Five For Friday:

Iraq War Documentaries

Graphic Novels on Israel & Palestine

Lectures and Interviews on Middle East & Islam

 

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