art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Najwan Darwish | We Never Stop.

301-dia-azzawi-red-sky-with-birds-1981-oil-on-canvas/Red Sky With Birds, by Dia al-Azzawi, 1981./

Najwan Darwish is a celebrated Palestinian poet, born in Jerusalem in 1978. Nothing More to Lose (published in 2014 and translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid), is his first collection of poetry to appear in English. We Never Stop is one of the poems from this (highly recommended) collection.

We Never Stop

I’ve got no country to return to
and no country to be banished from:
a tree whose roots
are a running river:
if it stops it dies
and if it doesn’t stop
it dies

I spent the best of my days
on the cheeks and arms of death
and the land I lost each day
I gained each day anew
The people had but a single land
while mine multiplied in defeat
renewed itself in loss
Its roots, like mine, are water:
if it stops it will wither
if it stops it will die
We’re both running

with a river of sunbeams
a river of gold dust
that rises from ancient wounds
and we never stop
We keep on running
never thinking to pause
so our two paths can meet

I’ve got no country to be banished from
and no country to return to:
stopping
would be the death of me

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art of resistance, Lebanon

Playlist: Jerusalem In My Heart.

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Jerusalem In My Heart (JIMH) has been a live audio-visual happening since 2005, with Montréal-based producer and musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh at its core.

Moumneh is a Lebanese national who has spent a large part of his adult life in Canada and has been a fixture of the Montréal independent music community for the last twenty years.  He’s also active in the Beirut and Lebanese experimental music scenes, where he spends a few months every year.

With performances occurring a couple of times per year, no two Jerusalem In My Heart events have ever been the same: configurations have ranged from 2 to 24 participants, with varying degrees of theatrical stage action alongside a film/video component.

Enjoy a little bit of the JIMH experience listening to this lovely piece.

Previous Playlist:

Maghawir by Mashrou’ Leila

Selda Bağcan

Saul Williams

Farida Muhammad Ali

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

The Book To Read: Palestinian Walks, Notes On A Vanishing Landscape.

DSC08257/Wadi Rum, photo © Ivana Perić, MER/

“Take a walk” is pretty much my answer to everything life throws in front of me. Walking can heal you, change your perspective, give space to new ideas, put your mind to rest, it can connect you with nature, landscapes, buildings, other people, yourself.

It is no wonder I really liked the idea of Raja Shehadeh’s book Palestinian Walks: Notes On a Vanishing Landscape (first edition published as Palestinian Walks: Forays Into A Vanishing Landscape). I’ve had it on my to-read list for couple of years and I finally managed to get it and start reading it just this last week. I actually bought it in a bookstore at the American University of Beirut campus, where Shehadeh studied forty years ago.

Shehadeh is a Palestinian lawyer and author, and a passionate hill walker. He is also a founder of the human rights organization Al-Haq, an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists. He has written several books on international law, human rights and the Middle East. Some of his books include Strangers In The House, Occupation Diaries and A Rift in Time: Travels With My Ottoman Uncle.

In Palestinian Walks, he captures the changes his beloved landscape endures under Israeli occupation. He started hill walking in 1970s, not aware of the fact that he was travelling through a vanishing landscape. Shehadeh writes: “As I grew up in Ramallah, the land from my city to the northern city of Nablus might, with a small stretch of the imagination, have seemed familiar to a contemporary of Christ. Those hills were, I believe, one of the natural treasures of the world.”

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But the landscape he traverses decades later is the site of a tense standoff between his fellow Palestinians and settlers newly arrived from Israel. Seven walks captured in this book span a period of twenty-seven years, in the hills around Ramallah, in the Jerusalem wilderness and through ravines by the Dead Sea. Each walk takes place at a different stage of Palestinian history.

On the changing idea of Palestine, Shehadeh writes: “Palestine has been one of the countries most visited by pilgrims and travellers over the ages. The accounts I have read do not describe a land familiar to me but rather a land of these travellers’ imaginations. Palestine has been constantly re-invented , with devastating consequences to its original inhabitants. Whether it was the cartographers preparing maps of travellers  describing the landscape in the extensive travel literature, what mattered was not the land and its inhabitants as they actually were but the confirmation of the viewer’s or reader’s religious or political beliefs.”

As decades pass, it becomes harder and harder for Shehadeh to enjoy his walks. He is often harassed by Israeli border patrols, during one walk he is horrified when his young nephew picks up an unexploded missile and on one other occasion, when accompanied by his wife, they come under prolonged gunfire.

He also describes intense legal battles he fights for Palestinian landowners, and the way it also became harder with time. It so happens that even when the client’s ownership of land is proved, it gets taken by some overarching new directive. Legal battles have worn him out, and that’s when his writing saved him from total desperation.

He feels the need to capture his experiences, to describe the land the way it used to be and how it changed, to show the effect it had on people, for there is a fear it will totally disappear and nobody will ever know, nobody will ever remember – no justice, just long and empty silence. The loss of such a simple pleasure as walking around freely is much more important than it might seem, for it exists within a much greater loss – deprivations of an entire people estranged from their land.

Take this walk with Shehadeh, it’s one of the rare chances to still walk around Palestine, to travel back in time and witness the changes of the land and its people.

• • •

Previous The Book To Read:

Night Draws Near

The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine

Anti-Arab Racism in the USA

A Tale of Love and Darkness

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

The Shadow of the West by Edward Said.

This month (25th of September) marked twelve years since Edward Said died. Middle East Revised will continue publishing excerpts from Said’s books, interviews and films about Said and his work, as a way of paying tribute to him.

After publishing an excerpt from the book Culture and Resistance, Conversations with Edward Said, (Interviews by David Barsamian)here is a link to The Shadow of the West, written by Said, and directed by Geoff Dunlop.

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Five For Friday: Graphic Novels on Israel & Palestine.

My love for graphic novels is like a plant in constant need of watering – I just can’t get enough. There’s a lot of great graphic novels from the Middle East, and about the Middle East, and they are as diverse as the area itself. This Friday, it’s five graphic novels – touching on and diving in – the complex issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

1. Footnotes In Gaza by Joe Sacco

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I love everything Joe Sacco does. His comics and his journalism are just a perfect match. In Footnotes in Gaza, he tries to dig up the truth about two bloody incidents that occured during the Suez Crisis. But this book is not just about the events that took place in Khan Younis and Rafah – Sacco does great work portraying the exhaustion of the people, slow killing through the decades of the conflict, disrupted reality, broken lives and blurred future.

2. Jerusalem: A Family Portrait by Boaz Yakin & Nick Bertozz

Jerusalem

Based loosely on Yakin’s family, the work follows a single family—three generations and fifteen very different people—as they are swept up in chaos, war, and nation-making from 1940-1948. Instability and poverty take a heavy toll on Izak’s family, driving its sons to seek empowerment via two major underground movements of the day: international communism and militant Zionism.

3. Waltz With Bashir by Ari Folman and David Polonsky

walz-with-bashi1r

I will never stop praising this graphic novel (and the film). One night in Beirut in September 1982, while Israeli soldiers secured the area, Christian militia members entered the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and began to massacre hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians. Ari Folman was one of those Israeli soldiers, but for more than twenty years he remembered nothing of that night or of the weeks leading up to it. Then came a friend’s disturbing dream, and with it Folman’s need to excavate the truth of the war in Lebanon and answer the crucial question: what was he doing during the hours of slaughter? This epic tale revolves around the issues of memory and rememberance, it’s about the conflict of two forces –  the need to remember and the instinct to repress horrific incidents. In the end – memory takes us where we need to go.

4. Not The Israel My Parents Promised Me by Harvey Pekar and J.T. Waldman

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This is a final memoir (the book was finished posthumously) by a great American underground comic writer Harvey Pekar. It’s a monologue by a man raised by Zionist parents. Whether Harvey was going to daily Hebrew classes or attending Zionist picnics, he grew up a staunch supporter of the Jewish state. But soon he found himself questioning the very beliefs and ideals of his parents. In this memoir he explores what it means to be Jewish and what Israel means to the Jews.

5. Baddawi by Leila Abdul Razzaq

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Fresh out of the box – Baddawi is a first graphic novel by Leila Abdul Razzaq, a young Palestinian-American artist. It is composed of stories of her father, about his life in a refugee camp in Lebanon where he grew up. Razzaq says she didn’t draw Baddawi because it is a unique story. She did it because it is a common story that is not frequently told. “As Palestinians, it is our responsibility to hang on to our heritage and our history, because it’s something that is being erased. We have to take control of our narrative because it is something that is being manipulated… At the end of the day, power is all about who controls the narratives and the discourse around a particular subject. I’m just another Palestinian trying to take back that narrative,” Razzaq says.

• • •

Previous Five For Friday:

Lectures and Interviews on Middle East & Islam

 

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Under The Gun: A Palestinian Journey.

Fourteen years ago, Ahdaf Soueif, famous Egyptian novelist (In The Eye of The Sun, The Map of Love), visited Israel and Palestine for the first time. Under The Gun: a Palestinian Journey (published by Guardian) is an essay she wrote about the journey.

ahdaf soueifAhdaf Soueif /photo via Russell Tribunal on Palestine/

The following paragraphs are the excerpts from it.

I have never, to my knowledge, seen an Israeli except on television. I have never spoken to one. I cannot say I have wanted to. My life, like the life of every Egyptian of my generation, has been overcast by the shadow of Israel. I have longed to go to Palestine, but have not wished to go to Israel. And now I am going there.

I have not felt such anticipation or such fear since I was a child. For the past two months I have been following the news of the intifada. I have compared the images on the BBC and CNN with those on al-Jazira and other Arab channels. I have unspun stories, fumed at the American newspapers and been grateful for some of the reporting in some of the British press. I have started and ended my days reading appeals for help on the internet. And over and again I have asked myself: ‘What is it that I can do?’ Now at last I can do something; I can go see for myself, and write. But going means going there.

We are sitting in a smallish, brightly lit room with vividly blue armchairs. Serious attempts at decor have been made: a cactus growing out of a half coconut shell tilts on an Arab-style carved wooden table, rubber plants and plastic flowers droop from dusty glass shelves, an empty drinks dispenser glows coldly in the corner. On the walls are three reproductions: two are Kandinsky-like, but the third is a large close-up of the two forefingers of God and Adam just failing to meet.

A polite young Israeli comes in and asks me in broken Arabic to fill out some forms. Then he comes back to escort us to the passport window. I say: ‘I don’t want my passport stamped.’ He says: ‘I know.’

I head out of the hotel and start walking. Every car I pass I imagine exploding into flames. How far away does one have to be not to be killed by an exploding car? But the sun is shining as I head down Salah el-Din Street – and I am at home. The street is lined with bakeries, haberdasheries, shoeshops, small grocers, hairdressers. Girls in school uniform and headscarves walk in groups, chatting, laughing. Boys loiter and watch them. The names on the shops and the doctors’ signs are the familiar mix of Muslim and Christian Arab, French and Armenian. The French cultural centre has wide-open doors and an inviting garden; there is a smell of roasting coffee. It’s like a smaller, cleaner, uncrowded Cairo. But two buildings look different from the others: they are modern, precise, their angles are sharp, they fly the Israeli flag, and they are the only ones with closed gates that are made of steel bars.

She talks of tear gas pumped into houses, of rubber bullets which the Palestinian children peel to extract the steel marble within, which they then aim back at the soldiers with their slingshots. She talks of the threat to her mosque, of an ambulance bringing a 78-year-old neighbour back from hospital, how soldiers searched it and stripped it down to the cooling unit: ‘they’ve grown afraid of the air itself.’ I feel dizzy with the detail piling up in my head and leave before I can be made to stay and eat.

The city is beautiful. Like old Jerusalem it is made of pink stone. The narrow streets wind up and down like the streets of an Etruscan town. The houses lean against each other, one house’s roof forming the other’s patio. Ornate stone balconies look out on to the empty street. The sun shines, the air is clean and fresh, the light is so perfect we could be on a film set. A dark green patrol car passes and does not stop us. The microphone blares out in accented Arabic: ‘O people of al-Khalil. Beware breaking the curfew.’ Round the next bend a yellow taxi is at a stop in the middle of the road, leaning to one side. A group of children has gathered round it watching, hushed and still. We pull in by a wall and park. A woman leans against the taxi with a baby in her arms. ‘I know it’s a curfew,’ the driver says, ‘but she has just come out of hospital, and she had the baby, so I drove her. Look what they’ve done.’ A soldier had taken out a knife and slashed the two tyres on the driver’s side. Naturally he only has one spare tyre. With the curfew how is he going to get another one? Two boys are helping him change one wheel. The other children look on in silence. The woman starts walking off slowly.

Maybe there are cafes in West Jerusalem or Tel Aviv where intellectuals, artists, people, sit around and debate the condition of the country and the ‘Palestinian problem’. Maybe they debate the ethics of an army of occupation holding a population hostage, or the civil rights of an Arab population in a zionist state, but these places – the places that are lit up at night – how do I find them? In the entertainment guide I look at the listings: films, recitals, cabarets. I consider taking a taxi and simply buying a ticket. But even the thought makes me uneasy.

Sedition! Snorts Mrs Jibril. ‘We were trying to help the mothers give their children a ‘normal’ childhood. You know what the children sing? They sing: Papa bought me a trifle/ A machine gun and a rifle. We were struggling to to get them to sing normal children’s songs. But normal children’s songs have nothing to do with the reality of their lives.’

‘You know what’s the worst of it’, they say, ‘is that they keep you guessing. You never know if a road is going to be open or closed. When they are going to shut off your water or turn off your electricity. Whether they are going to permit a burial. Whether they are going to give you a permit to travel. You can never ever plan. They create conditions to keep you spinning…’

I have seen women pushing their sons behind them, shoving them to run away, screaming at the soldiers: ‘Get out of our faces. Stop baiting the kids.’

I have heard a man say: ‘I have four sons and no work. I cannot feed them. Let them go out and die if it will help our country; if it will end this state of things.’

I have seen children calmly watch yet another shooting, another funeral. And when I have wept they’ve said: ‘She’s new to this.’“

For more – see the original essay on Guardian and read Soueif’s collection of essays Mezzaterra : Fragments from the Common Ground.

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

Walk the (Green) Line by Francis Alÿs.

Francis Alÿs is a Belgian artist who has created a diverse body of artwork that explores urbanity, spatial justice, and land-based poetics. In 2004 Alÿs walked along the armistice border in Jerusalem, known as ‘the green line’, carrying a can filled with green paint. The bottom of the can was perforated with a small hole, so the paint dripped out as a continuous squiggly line on the ground as he walked. 

Untitled-5

© Francis Alÿs

Sometimes doing something poetic can become political
and sometimes doing something political can become poetic.

In this work the artist walks the Green Line through Jerusalem, a temporary cease-fire boundary created initially by the UN after the Arab-Israeli war of 1947–48 but redrawn by the Israeli authorities in 2004 as a more permanent barrier that incorporates gains made at the expense of Jordan after the Six Day war in 1967.

Alÿs restricted his walking to a 15-mile stretch through a divided Jerusalem, a hike that took him down streets, through yards and parks, and over rocky abandoned terrain. In a film of the walk made with Julien Devaux, Philippe Bellaiche and Rachel Leah Jones, he seems to attract little notice. He takes no sides, he makes no political statements – he’s just walking, pointing out things without words.

Shortly after this walk, a filmed documentation of the walk was presented to a number of people whom he invited to react spontaneously to the action and the circumstances within which it was performed. Video interviews from The Green Line include talks with Rima Hamami (Jerusalem – anthropologist), Albert Agazarian (Jerusalem – historian),  Yael Dayan (Tel Aviv – member of Knesset), Jean Fisher (London – art historian),  Ruben Aberjil (Jerusalem – activist), Amira Hass (Ramallah – journalist), Nazmi Jobeh (Jerusalem – architect), Eyal Sivan (Tel Aviv and Paris – filmmaker), Eyal Weizman (Tel Aviv and London – architect), Michel Warschawski (Jerusalem – activist).

Watch it all, it is much more than just  “artsy stuff”, Alÿs and his socio-political intervention bring attention to great issues that became so normal, so familiar, that we even forget that they are issues. Let us be reminded, let us act.

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