The novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union should come with a large, bold warning label affixed to the outside cover, like those labels on cigarette packs. WARNING: READ WITH CAUTION IF YOU ACTUALLY LIVE UNDER A JEWISH ISRAELI MILITARY OCCUPATION.
Five years ago I posted a book review about NO MORE ENEMIES. The time has come to bring this masterpiece to the Israeli public …. it can only be done with your help.
Anyone who cares about the fate of Palestinians, and of Israelis, of all our children and grandchildren, in the Middle East and everywhere else, has an interest in making No More Enemies available to Israeli Jewish readers in Hebrew. This crowdfunding campaign was launched to pay the fee for the guy who is translating the book into Hebrew. I urge all advocates of a sane shared future in Palestine/Israel and globally to help today. Donate! Spread the word!
(See below for details)
Moving beyond despair — the Hebrew version…
By Deb Reich
Since publishing No More Enemies in English in 2011, I have been approached often by Israelis who have read the English original. Seeing its importance for Israelis (and Palestinians), whose country serves as the case study around which the book is written, these readers have implored me to get the book translated into Hebrew so that every Israeli can read it… urgently.
The idea is to move beyond fear and hopelessness to open a new doorway into an alternative shared future in Israel, Palestine, and beyond…
Because I write only in English, the object of this crowdfunding project is to pay the cost of a professional Hebrew translation and its wide distribution in a digital edition, and (next phase, once the translation is paid for) a print edition in Hebrew, translation into Arabic, and more.
Please join with me in moving us all forward another step on the path to a better shared future for our children and grandchildren.
What readers are saying about No More Enemies:
–Drop everything and read this book! The world will be a better place. – Melinda Thompson, Chair, Middle East Committee, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, USA
–I love No More Enemies. It’s an inspiring, splendid book. – James Adler, Cambridge, Mass, USA
–I’ll be spreading the word about No More Enemies — especially among those most fearful of giving up the conflict (isn’t that a paradox!). – Gale Courey Toensing, journalist, Connecticut, USA
–A must read. –Patrick M., International aid worker, South Asia
–In No More Enemies, Deb Reich states it clearly: ‘It’s not the people . . . it’s the paradigm.’ –
Civil rights activist Minnijean Brown-Trickey of the Little Rock Nine,
writing as a scholar in residence, Clinton School Center on Community
Philanthropy, “Confronting Racism, Past and Present, to Heal Ourselves
and Heal the World.”
–If you want to move beyond war, then I recommend No More Enemies by Deb Reich. –Lora Lucero, nomad blogger at Why Gaza?, former adjunct professor of law at UNM-Albuquerque, USA
–Inspiring and powerful… a priceless book, showing the way to reparation without retribution. –
L. Janelle Dance, Assoc. Prof., Sociology and Ethnic Studies, Univ. of
Nebraska-Lincoln, USA, and Senior Researcher, Center for Middle Eastern
Studies, Lund University, Sweden.
Here’s how you can back this project ….
“Remember, whatever you do in life, for them you will always, but always, be an Arab. Do you understand?”
If you are Palestinian or Israeli, Jewish, Muslim or Christian, or simply human, you will enjoy these short stories tremendously. If you are none of the above, then just buy the book and place it on your bookshelf for all to note in awe the powerful one word title, Native, which says it all!
To Cry And Laugh, Simultaneously
By Sam Bahour
Palestinian-Israeli writer Sayed Kashua should be commended for writing this book, as should be the publishers who took on the task of bringing it to the English reading community. Where diplomacy has failed, politics has stumbled, and common sense remains a rare commodity, one hopes that Kashua’s shrewd satire and political barbs can break open closed minds and pave the way for a breakthrough for Palestinians and Israelis. If not, Kashua is fully content in just making the reader laugh, then freeze, knowing the words are reality, then cry, as he pokes fun at everyone, mostly himself.
Kashua’s poor wife! She seems like such a wonderful person, loving and caring, but she is the target of his relentless attacks and haphazard lifestyle. I’m actually considering starting a humanitarian drive to support her, a sort of Brexit, maybe we’ll call it Kaexit. You’ll understand after you read the book.
This book of short stories is organized into four parts based around specific timeframes, as is each story. The parts are: Warning Signs (2006-2007), Foreign Passports (2008-2010), Antihero (2010-2012), The Stories That I Don’t Dare Tell (2012-2014). For anyone living in Israel/Palestine, or even having an inkling of knowledge about the places, the ability to relate to the story lines is immediate. Kashua dives much deeper than the superficial political issues; he enters his home, family, culture and so much more. The most volatile chapters are when he enters his own mind; read with caution, always remembering that satire comes from reality.
Given I read this book while on a vacation with my family in the US, it took on even more of a meaningful read. Kashua writes, “There are Israelis who say that only after leaving the country did they realize how illogical life is there, how stressed they were, and how all of a sudden there are different concerns now. Concerns related to work, to everyday life, to the weather, and mainly to the family.” He could have easily replaced “Israeli” with “Palestinians,” as he frequently does, and all would have remained true. Kashua comically amplifies the convoluted reality in both Palestine and Israel, which is causing the younger generations to voluntarily walk out and relocate to saner corners of the world—I would add, only to find those new corners are called Brussels, Paris, London and Orlando, all with their own share of convolution.
As Kashua walks the reader through his family’s decision to leave Israel and emigrate to Chicago, he writes, “I must help my children understand that Israel is not the end of the world—that if, God forbid, they don’t succeed there and they feel ostracized, different, or suspect, or when reality blows up in their faces, they’ll know that there are other options. It’s true that they’ll be different, but in a different way. They’ll be immigrants, and maybe they’ll have an accent, and they’ll feel a little strange. But they’ll be strangers in a strange land, and not in their homeland.” That last line says it all! Palestinians, be they citizens of Israel or residents living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, awaiting their long-delayed state, are all being made to feel like strangers in our own land. The result will be tragic.
Kashua repeats a phrase that his father repeatedly told him, “only the beginnings are hard.” Let’s believe that and hope that new beginnings don’t have to include one reaching a point where they can no longer live in their own homeland, but rather restart their lives right at home.
Reviewing this book evoked a serious contradiction in my mind. On the one hand, the book deserves to be read and commented on in its own right, having been written in Hebrew and translated into English. It’s a book aimed at our funny bone, but the underlying truths are too close to home. A hopeful takeaway from this heartfelt effort is that more Palestinian citizens of Israel are making their voice heard, in other than Arabic, which holds the hope that as more people, especially Jews around the world, get a peek into what Israel has become, change will be forthcoming.
The Saqi Books website states, “Sarah Cleave, publishing manager of Saqi Books, who acquired rights from Abner Stein in association with the Deborah Harris Agency, said ‘Native is a wickedly sardonic, moving and hugely entertaining collection that offers real insight into the lived experiences of Palestinians in Israel.’” This is so true.
If you are Palestinian or Israeli, Jewish, Muslim or Christian, or simply human, you will enjoy these short stories tremendously. If you are none of the above, then just buy the book and place it on your bookshelf for all to note in awe the powerful one word title, Native, which says it all!
Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life
By Sayed Kashua
Saqi Books (acquired UK and Commonwealth rights)
Review written for Huffington Post
If you are an Israeli and are a product of the Israeli education system, especially under the age of 40, read this book.
If you are a Jewish-American and have been blindly consuming your institutional, mainstream “idea of Israel,” read this book.
If you are a U.S. lawmaker, writing the annual checks to Israel and playing jack-in-the-box every time the Israeli prime minister speaks in the Congress, read this book.
If you are a Palestinian who thinks Israelis are not worth engaging because they all know the history, read this book.
On THE IDEA OF ISRAEL
By Sam Bahour
This book will go down in history as a monumental recording of the Israeli History Industry for generations to come. At its core, the book is a snapshot into a decade of inner Israeli dynamics, from 1990 to 2000, when the basic assumptions that Israel propagated for decades about how the ‘miracle’ of Israel came into being started to be challenged. The history of how this decade was reached is as fascinating as how horrific has been its aftermath.
Except for its last chapter, this book is not for everyone. Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, takes the reader through the maze of knowledge creation in Israel and how that journey has interacted with power. The invaluable intellectual contribution and framing that Professor Pappe provides cannot be overstated. He documents for all serious researchers who follow how the dust (or more like blood) of Israel’s foundational moment has yet to settle. The events in and around 1948 that led to the creation of Israel and the colossal loss of Palestine were such a historic tragedy that even the well-oiled Israeli and Zionist public relations machines have been unable get traction to settle the historic account.
In today’s messy and distracted world, those who write (or for that matter, make films and movies, produce theater and art, compose music, write poetry, and the like) frequently have a moment when they question the value of their creative works. Well, Professor Pappe makes it abundantly clear where all these creative works fall in the bigger picture and why it is of utmost importance that we never lose sight that every progressive act of creativity which speaks truth to power is a data point towards rectifying the injustices of the world. When the injustice is the source of a nation’s creation, the process of correction is excruciatingly slow, but inevitable if strategically addressed.
The last chapter of The Idea of Israel is titled, “Brand Israel 2013”. This is a brief but shockingly telling account of how much money and brain power Israel is willing to dump into a bottomless bucket while trying to force feed a fabrication into mainstream knowledge. The notion of actually correcting the historic mistakes, any of them, is not even considered.
As I noted above, the book is not for everyone;
If you are an Israeli and are a product of the Israeli education system, especially under the age of 40, read this book.
If you are a Jewish-American and have been blindly consuming your institutional, mainstream “idea of Israel,” read this book.
If you are a U.S. lawmaker, writing the annual checks to Israel and playing jack-in-the-box every time the Israeli prime minister speaks in the Congress, read this book.
If you are a Palestinian who thinks Israelis are not worth engaging because they all know the history, read this book.
My hat is off, again, to Professor and friend, Ilan Pappe, for an invaluable contribution to peace with justice.
Happy purposeful reading.
The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge
By Ilan Pappe
Publisher: Verso (January 2014)
BDS was the ‘talk of the town’ on Israeli TV last night. The guest was the author of zion’s latest attempt to discredit the movement and link it to terrorist activities within Israel. The man was Edwin Black, the book he wrote is called Financing The Flames.
It was a direct hit against all NGOs involved in supporting the Movement with the outright accusation that Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel, pulls the cover off the robust use of tax-exempt, tax-subsidized, and public monies to foment agitation, systematically destabilize the Israel Defense Forces, and finance terrorists in Israel. In a far-flung investigation in the United States, Israel and the West Bank.
He singles out a few of the NGOs in question; such as the Ford Foundation, George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, the New Israel Fund.
The host of the program he appeared on was a bit confused by the statements issued by Black and literally made him look like a fool. It was definitely a case of the smoke from those flames blowing right back into his face.*
According to Black’s ‘logic’ it’s OK for the US government to send Israel 30 Billion (plus) Dollar$ a year to finance the illegal settlements and terrorist activities, but funds collected to combat this (PEACEABLY) is terrorism?*
Just look at the reviews for the book, they say it all…. It is truly comforting to watch the defenders of zion literally grasp at straws to support the insupportable. If this is the best they got, then victory will truly be ours very soon!
If you think you can stomach it, here’s a video of Black ‘fanning the flames’ …
Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide
What role have Zionism and Christian Zionism played in shaping attitudes and driving historical developments in the Middle East and around the world? How do Christians, Jews, and Muslims understand the competing claims to the land of Palestine and Israel? What steps can be taken to bring peace, reconciliation, and justice to the homeland that Palestinians and Israelis share?
Zionism Unsettled embraces these critical issues fearlessly and with inspiring scope. The booklet and companion DVD draw together compelling and diverse viewpoints from Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Israel, Palestine, the US, and around the globe. By contrasting mainstream perceptions with important alternative perspectives frequently ignored in the media, Zionism Unsettled is an invaluable guide to deeper understanding.
Released in January 2014 to immediate critical acclaim, Zionism Unsettled consists of a 74-page illustrated booklet and a free companion DVD.
A how-to guide for class leaders and focused discussion prompts make it an ideal resource for multi-week exploratory education programs in churches, mosques, synagogues, and all classroom settings.
Item No. 26466-14-001
or call 800-524-2612
Click here to download full-color flyer!
Click here to read more praise for Zionism Unsettled.
By Chris Hedges
Israel has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It has been morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood, which it uses to justify an occupation that rivals the brutality and racism of apartheid South Africa. Its democracy—which was always exclusively for Jews—has been hijacked by extremists who are pushing the country toward fascism. Many of Israel’s most enlightened and educated citizens—1 million of them—have left the country. Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists—Israeli and Palestinian—are subject to constant state surveillance, arbitrary arrests and government-run smear campaigns. Its educational system, starting in primary school, has become an indoctrination machine for the military. And the greed and corruption of its venal political and economic elite have created vast income disparities, a mirror of the decay within America’s democracy.
And yet, the hard truths about Israel remain largely unspoken. Liberal supporters of Israel decry its excesses. They wring their hands over the tragic necessity of airstrikes on Gaza or Lebanon or the demolition of Palestinian homes. They assure us that they respect human rights and want peace. But they react in inchoate fury when the reality of Israel is held up before them. This reality implodes the myth of the Jewish state. It exposes the cynicism of a state whose real goal is, and always has been, the transfer, forced immigration or utter subjugation and impoverishment of Palestinians inside Israel and the occupied territories. Reality shatters the fiction of a peace process. Reality lays bare the fact that Israel routinely has used deadly force against unarmed civilians, including children, to steal half the land on the West Bank and crowd forcibly displaced Palestinians into squalid, militarized ghettos while turning their land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Reality exposes the new racial laws adopted by Israel as those once advocated by the fanatic racist Meir Kahane. Reality unveils the Saharonim detention camp in the Negev Desert, the largest detention center in the world. Reality mocks the lie of open, democratic debate, including in the country’s parliament, the Knesset, where racist diatribes and physical threats, often enshrined into law, are used to silence and criminalize the few who attempt to promote a civil society. Liberal Jewish critics inside and outside Israel, however, desperately need the myth, not only to fetishize Israel but also to fetishize themselves. Strike at the myth and you unleash a savage vitriol, which in its fury exposes the self-adulation and latent racism that lie at the core of modern Zionism.
There are very few intellectuals or writers who have the tenacity and courage to confront this reality. This is what makes Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” one of the most fearless and honest books ever written about Israel. Blumenthal burrows deep into the dark heart of Israel. The American journalist binds himself to the beleaguered and shunned activists, radical journalists and human rights campaigners who are the conscience of the nation, as well as Palestinian families in the West Bank struggling in vain to hold back Israel’s ceaseless theft of their land. Blumenthal, in chapter after chapter, methodically rips down the facade. And what he exposes, in the end, is a corpse.
I spent seven years in the Middle East as a correspondent, including months in Gaza and the West Bank. I lived for two years in Jerusalem. Many of the closest friends I made during my two decades overseas are Israeli. Most of them are among the Israeli outcasts that Blumenthal writes about, men and women whose innate decency and courage he honors throughout his book. They are those who, unlike the Israeli leadership and a population inculcated with racial hatred, sincerely want to end occupation, restore the rule of law and banish an ideology that creates moral hierarchies with Arabs hovering at the level of animal as Jews—especially Jews of European descent—are elevated to the status of demigods. It is a measure of Blumenthal’s astuteness as a reporter that he viewed Israel through the eyes of these outcasts, as well as the Palestinians, and stood with them as they were arrested, tear-gassed and fired upon by Israeli soldiers. There is no other honest way to tell the story about Israel. And this is a very honest book.
“Goliath” is made up of numerous vignettes, some only a few pages long, that methodically build a picture of Israel, like pieces fit into a puzzle. It is in the details that Israel’s reality is exposed. The Israeli army, Blumenthal points out in his first chapter, “To the Slaughter,” employs a mathematical formula to limit outside food deliveries to Gaza to keep the caloric levels of the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped inside its open air prison just above starvation; a government official later denied that he had joked in a meeting that the practice is “like an appointment with a dietician.” The saturation, 22-day bombing of Gaza that began on Dec. 27, 2008, led by 60 F-16 fighter jets, instantly killed 240 Palestinians, including scores of children. Israel’s leading liberal intellectuals, including the writers Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman, blithely supported the wholesale murder of Palestinian civilians. And while Israelis blocked reporters from entering the coastal Gaza Strip—forcing them to watch distant explosions from Israel’s Parash Hill, which some reporters nicknamed “the Hill of Shame”—the army and air force carried out atrocity after atrocity, day after day, crimes that were uncovered only after the attack was over and the press blockade lifted. This massive aerial and ground assault against a defenseless civilian population that is surrounded by the Israeli army, a population without an organized military, air force, air defenses, navy, heavy artillery or mechanized units, caused barely a ripple of protest inside Israel from the left or the right. It was part of the ongoing business of slaughtering the other.
“Unarmed civilians were torn to pieces with flechette darts sprayed from tank shells,” Blumenthal writes. “Several other children covered in burns from white phosphorous chemical weapon rounds were taken to hospitals; a few were found dead with bizarre wounds after being hit with experimental Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) bombs designed to dissolve into the body and rapidly erode internal soft tissue. A group of women were shot to death while waving a white flag; another family was destroyed by a missile while eating lunch; and Israeli soldiers killed Ibrahim Awajah, an eight-year-old child. His mother, Wafaa, told the documentary filmmaker Jen Marlowe that soldiers used his corpse for target practice. Numerous crimes like these were documented across the Gaza Strip.”
By the end of the assault, with 1,400 dead, nearly all civilians, Gaza lay in ruins. The Israeli air force purposely targeted Gaza’s infrastructure, including power plants, to reduce Gaza to a vast, overcrowded, dysfunctional slum. Israel, Blumenthal notes, destroyed “80 percent of all arable farmland in the coastal strip, bombing the strip’s largest flour mill, leveling seven concrete factories, shelling a major cheese factory, and shooting up a chicken farm, killing thirty-one thousand chickens.”
“Twelve [years old] and up, you are allowed to shoot. That’s what they tell us,” an Israeli sniper told Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass in 2004 at the height of the Second Intifada, Blumenthal writes. “This is according to what the IDF [Israel Defense Force] says to its soldiers. I do not know if this is what the IDF says to the media,” the sniper was quoted as saying.
The 2008 murderous rampage is not, as Blumenthal understands, an anomaly. It is the overt policy of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who advocates “a system of open apartheid.” Israel, as Blumenthal points out, has not lifted its state of emergency since its foundation. It has detained at least 750,000 Palestinians, including 10,000 women, in its prisons since 1967. It currently holds more than 4,500 political prisoners, including more than 200 children and 322 people jailed without charges, Blumenthal writes, including those it has labeled “administrative detainees.” Israel has a staggering 99.74 percent conviction rate for these so-called security prisoners, a figure that any totalitarian state would envy.
Blumenthal cites a survey of Jewish Israeli attitudes on the Gaza bombing, known as Operation Cast Lead. The survey, by Daniel Bar-Tal, a political psychologist from Tel Aviv University, concluded that the public’s “consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians, and insensitivity to their suffering.” Bar-Tal tells Blumenthal “these attitudes are the product of indoctrination.” And Blumenthal sets out to chronicle the poison of this indoctrination and what it has spawned in Israeli society.
The racist narrative, once the domain of the far right and now the domain of the Israeli government and the mainstream, demonizes Palestinians and Arabs, as well as all non-Jews. Non-Jews, according to this propaganda, will forever seek the annihilation of the Jewish people. The Holocaust, in which Israeli victimhood is sanctified, is seamlessly conflated with Palestinian and Arab resistance to occupation. The state flies more than 25 percent of Israeli 11th-graders to Poland to tour Auschwitz and other Nazi extermination camps a year before they start army service. They are told that the goal of Arabs, along with the rest of the non-Jewish world, is another Auschwitz. And the only thing standing between Israelis and a death camp is the Israeli army. Israeli high schools show films such as “Sleeping With the Enemy” to warn students about dating non-Jews, especially Arabs. Racist books such as “Torat Ha’Melech,” or “The King’s Torah,” are given to soldiers seeking rabbinical guidance on the rules of engagement. Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, the authors of the 230-page book, inform soldiers that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and may have to be killed in order to “curb their evil inclinations.” “If we kill a gentile who has violated one of the seven commandments [of Noah] … there is nothing wrong with the murder,” Shapira and Elitzur write. The rabbis claim that under Jewish law “there is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”
These narratives of hatred make any act of deadly force by the Israeli army permissible, from the shooting of Palestinian children to the 2010 killing by Israeli commandos of nine unarmed activists on the Turkish boat the Mavi Marmara. The activists were part of a flotilla of six boats bringing humanitarian supplies to Gaza. The Israeli propaganda machine claimed that the small flotilla was a covert terror convoy. Never mind that the Mavi Marmara was in international waters when it was attacked. Never mind that no one on the boat, or any of the five other boats, was armed. Never mind that the boats were thoroughly searched before they left for Gaza. The Israeli lie was trumpeted while every camera, video and tape recorder, computer and cellphone of the activists on board was seized and destroyed—or in a few cases sold by Israeli soldiers when they got back to Israel—while those on the boats were towed to an Israeli port and detained in isolation. The ceaseless stoking of fear and racial hatred—given full vent by the Israeli government and media in the days after the Mavi Marmara incident—has served to empower racist political demagogues such as Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, a camp follower of Meir Kahane. It has also effectively snuffed out Israel’s old left-wing Zionist establishment.
“In Israel you have three systems of laws,” the Israeli Arab politician Ahmed Tibi observes in the Blumenthal book. “One is democracy for 80 percent of the population. It is democracy for Jews. I call it an ethnocracy or you could call it a Judocracy. The second is racial discrimination for 20 percent of the population, the Israeli Arabs. The third is apartheid for the population in the West Bank and Gaza. This includes two sets of governments, one for the Palestinians and one for the settlers. Inside Israel there is not yet apartheid but we are being pushed there with … new laws.”
As Blumenthal documents, even Israeli Jews no longer live in a democracy. The mounting state repression against human rights advocates, journalists and dissidents has reached the proportions of U.S. Homeland Security. The overtly racist cant of the political elite and the masses—“Death to Arabs” is a popular chant at Israeli soccer matches—has emboldened mobs and vigilantes, including thugs from right-wing youth groups such as Im Tirtzu, to carry out indiscriminate acts of vandalism and violence against dissidents, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and the hapless African immigrants who live crammed into the slums of Tel Aviv. Israel has pushed through a series of discriminatory laws against non-Jews that eerily resemble the racist Nuremberg Laws that disenfranchised Jews in Nazi Germany. The Communities Acceptance Law, for example, permits “small, exclusively Jewish towns planted across Israel’s Galilee region to formally reject applicants for residency on the grounds of ‘suitability to the community’s fundamental outlook.’ ” And all who denounce the steady march of Israel toward fascism—including Jewish academics—are attacked in organized campaigns as being insufficiently Zionist. They are branded as terrorists or collaborators with terrorists. As a headline in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz read: “The settlers are the real government of Israel.”
“Woody [a law school graduate from New York] became my initial liaison to Tel Aviv’s radical left, introducing me to a loose-knit band of a few hundred anarchists, disillusioned ex-soldiers, disaffected children of ultra-Zionists, queers, academics, and generally idealistic and disillusioned young people who came of age during the Second Intifada when the liberal Zionist ‘peace camp’ closed ranks with the militaristic right wing,” Blumenthal writes. “This tiny band of social deviants comprised the only grouping of people I met who sincerely embraced multiculturalism and who took concrete action against the discriminatory foundations of their country’s political apparatus. Right-wingers and many Jewish Israelis who considered themselves part of the social mainstream referred to members of the radical left as smolinim, which simply means ‘leftists,’ but the word carried a deeply insulting connotation of an unacceptable caste, an Other. As branded social outcasts, inflexible in their principles, disdainful of ordinary politics, and brazen in their racial liberalism they resembled nothing so much as the pre-Civil War abolitionists.”
The late Amnon Dankner, the former editor of Maariv, one of Israel’s major newspapers, Blumenthal notes, denounced “neo-Nazi expressions in the Knesset” and “entire parties whose tenor and tone arouse feelings of horror and terrifying memories.” David Landau, the former editor-in-chief of Haaretz, has called on Israelis to boycott the Knesset “to stand against the wave of fascism that has engulfed the Zionist project.” And Uri Avnery, a left-wing politician and journalist, says: “Israel’s very existence is threatened by fascism.”
The disillusionment among idealistic young immigrants to Israel dots the book. As one example, Canadian David Sheen is recorded as saying that everything he had known about Israel and Palestinians was, in Blumenthal’s words, “a fantasy cultivated through years of heavy indoctrination.” But perhaps what is saddest is that Israel has, and has always had, within its population intellectuals, including the great scholar Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who sought to save Israel from itself.
Leibowitz, whom Isaiah Berlin called “the conscience of Israel,” warned that if Israel did not separate church and state it would give rise to a corrupt rabbinate that would warp Judaism into a fascistic cult.
“Religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism,” said Leibowitz, who died in 1994. He understood that the blind veneration of the military, especially after the 1967 war that captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, was dangerous and would lead to the ultimate destruction of the Jewish state and any hope of democracy. “Our situation will deteriorate to that of a second Vietnam, to a war in constant escalation without prospect of ultimate resolution.” He foresaw that “the Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 million to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would have to suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.” He warned that the rise of a virulent racism would consume Israeli society. He knew that prolonged occupation of the Palestinians would spawn “concentration camps” for the occupied and that, in his words, “Israel would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.”
But few, then or now, cared to listen. This is why Blumenthal’s new book is so important.
Max Blumenthal’s ‘Goliath’ Is Anti-Israel Book That Makes Even Anti-Zionists Blush
Eric Alterman Dubs Screed the ‘I Hate Israel Handbook’
By J.J. Goldberg
There’s an unpleasant little debate sloshing around the Web lately that tells you all you need to know — and perhaps more than you want to hear — about the current state of relations between Israel and the left.
The debate revolves around an unpleasant book published October 1 by Nation Books, titled “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.” The author is Max Blumenthal, gonzo journalist, video provocateur and son of onetime Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal. The book is the product, the author says, of four years’ work, including more than a year living in Israel and the Palestinian territories to study the facts on the ground.
As his title makes clear, he didn’t think much of the place. He’s written a collection of 73 short vignettes, weaving together reportage, history and interviews to show the suffering and unbroken spirit of the Palestinians and the callous cruelty of the Israelis. Lest anyone miss the point, many of his chapters have titles like “The Concentration Camp,” “The Night of Broken Glass,” “This Belongs to the White Man” and “How to Kill Goyim and Influence People.”
The hottest debate, though, isn’t over the book itself. It’s about a magazine column devoted to the book. It appeared October 16 in the left-wing weekly The Nation, whose publishing arm put the book out. It’s by Eric Alterman, the magazine’s sharp-tongued media columnist. Its title: “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook.”
A prolific author, academic and liberal pundit, Alterman is regarded as a chronic Israel-basher by the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd, while devoted Israel-bashers call him a “member of the Israel lobby.” He stipulates that Israel’s “brutal occupation” inflicts “daily humiliations” on the Palestinians, but says Blumenthal “proves a profoundly unreliable narrator.” The book, he writes, shows “selectivity” toward truth. Its chapter titles are “juvenile,” its accounts “often deliberately deceptive.”
Alterman elaborated the next day in a blog post. That’s when things heated up. He said the magazine had asked him to write about Goliath, but he’d hesitated, wary of the “avalanche of personal invective” that comes whenever he writes about “BDS types,” meaning those engaged in the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions campaign against Israel. He finally decided to proceed, wanting to be a “team player.”
Then the book arrived. “I expected to disagree with its analysis,” he wrote. “I did not expect it to be remotely as awful as it is…. It is no exaggeration to say that this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed).”
The left-wing blogosphere erupted. Alterman was called an “ignoramus,” a “smearmeister” and, repeatedly, a “liberal Zionist.” One blogger, writing at the anti-Zionist group blog Mondoweiss.net, where Blumenthal is a regular contributor, questioned Alterman’s right to call himself a critic of Israel, since he sometimes defends it. Another, also at Mondoweiss, questioned The Nation’s judgment for assigning the review to a “liberal Zionist” known for “impassioned devotion to Israel.”
One blog after another took whacks at Alterman’s credibility: He misspelled the name of novelist Yoram Kaniuk (true). He unfairly ridiculed Blumenthal’s descriptions of the long-dead Israeli philosophers Berl Katznelson and Yeshayahu Leibowitz (arguable). He misrepresented Blumenthal’s substantive assertions about Israeli “fascism,” “racism,” “militarism” and more (entirely untrue).
But once you get past spell-checks and gotchas (for the record, Blumenthal refers to poet Allen Ginsberg as “Alan”; mentions the Canaanite god Moloch, from a Ginsberg poem, as “Mollock”; describes the moshav, a small-holders’ farming village, as a “collective farm,” and much, much more) the critics’ main complaint seems to be that Alterman’s review is the only one that’s appeared in print so far. Outside the far-left and anti-Israel blogosphere, “Goliath” has been ignored.
Blumenthal himself, answering Alterman in a Nation post October 23, seemed to want to blame the book’s invisibility on Alterman, claiming he was somehow “trying to frustrate debate.” Alterman, he wrote, is just the latest in a long line of “self-appointed enforcers” who have been trying—“especially since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin” — to “suppress an honest, free and full debate.”
Blumenthal, on the other hand, intends “to loosen the blockade of suppression.” Among other things, he’s interviewed “all sorts of people who are not the usual sources cited by much of the US media, including Israeli dissidents, Palestinian citizens of Israel, Bedouin villagers, Palestinian popular protest leaders, members of the Knesset from across the spectrum, and a host of right-wing Israeli officials, especially from the younger generation.”
Where to begin? First, to the extent that “self-appointed enforcers” tried to limit debate on Israel, it was much worse in the 1980s. The last two decades have seen an explosion of robust discussion. How Eric Alterman might suppress that is unclear. As for the book’s supposedly unusual interviewees, they appear regularly, everywhere from Charlie Rose to The New York Times, Haaretz and the Forward.
Blumenthal doesn’t know the history and ignores the inconvenient bits of the present, which is one reason his book has flopped. Worse, he thinks he knows all he needs to know, and just what readers need to know. He describes Israel’s assault on Gaza without telling of the thousands of rockets bombarding Negev towns for years beforehand. He touchingly recounts the 2004 assassination of Hamas founder Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi but doesn’t mention the hundreds of Israelis killed by Rantissi’s suicide bombers. The Palestinians are guilty of nothing. Israel’s actions are entirely unprovoked, motivated by pure racism.
Strangest of all are his accounts of his interviews with prominent Israelis, from novelist David Grossman to politician Shai Hermesh, in which he preaches to them, browbeats them and then finds them storming out on him — or in Grossman’s case, asking Blumenthal to throw away his phone number. Why? Obviously, they’re unwilling to hear the truth.
Of all the aftershocks in the Blumenthal saga, though, none is more telling than his October 17 appearance at the University of Pennsylvania. His host was political scientist Ian Lustick, author of the September 15 New York Times essay, “The Two-State Illusion,” which argued for a single Israeli-Palestinian state.
Almost halfway through their 83-minute encounter (minute 34:00 on YouTube), Lustick emotionally asks Blumenthal whether he believes, like Abraham at Sodom, that there are enough “good people” in Israel to justify its continued existence — or whether he’s calling for a mass “exodus,” the title of his last chapter, and “the end of Jewish collective life in the land of Israel.”
Blumenthal gives a convoluted answer that comes down to this: “There should be a choice placed to the settler-colonial population” (meaning the entire Jewish population of Israel): “Become indigenized,” that is, “you have to be part of the Arab world.” Or else…? “The maintenance and engineering of a non-indigenous demographic population is non-negotiable.”
Lustick appears stunned. And not only Lustick. Philip Weiss, founder and co-editor of Mondoweiss, who was in the audience, wrote afterwards, in a rare rebuke of his own writer, that he saw “some intolerance in that answer.”
We live in a “multicultural world,” Weiss wrote. There should be room for Israelis. “The issue in the end involves the choice between an Algerian and a South African outcome.” Mass expulsion versus coexistence. “I’m for the South African outcome.”
Blumenthal isn’t. It’s a chilling moment, even for the anti-Zionists among us.
‘I wanted to show Americans what they’re paying for’–Max Blumenthal on why he wrote ‘Goliath’
Celebrating Pete Seeger, America’s Troubadour, on his 94th Birthday
An ‘industry’ built on hate: How the right-wing successfully brought anti-Muslim bigotry into the American mainstream
by Alex Kane
Ahmed Sharif was a 44-year-old Muslim Bangladeshi taxi driver in New York City. It was August 24, 2010, a time that marked the height of vitriolic protests against a planned Islamic center to be located in lower Manhattan, a few blocks away from the site of Ground Zero. Sharif picked up 21-year-old Michael Enright for an early evening ride. Everything was going smoothly until Enright, three blocks away from his stop, yelled at Sharif, “this is a checkpoint, motherfucker, and I have to bring you down.”
Enright, a filmmaker who kept a diary filled with strong anti-Muslim sentiment,pulled out a knife and slashed Sharif across the throat, face and arms. Enright tried to escape, but was arrested by the New York Police Department. Sharif survived, but he packed up and moved to Buffalo, in upstate New York. It was a crime that seemed to fit in with the general climate of hysteria over Muslims that developed that summer.
This is how Nathan Lean begins telling the story of how a small group of bigots seized upon the frustrations and fears of post-9/11 America and exploited those feelings to create a circular industry of hate. Lean’s new book, The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims, is a compact and punchy look at this industry stretching across continents that has sowed hatred of Muslims into the fabric of Western society.
The book, written by the editor-in-chief of Aslan Media, comes at an opportune time. Released in September 2012, the book landed just one month after American Muslims witnessed a stark increase in hate attacks during the holy month of Ramadan. A report by the Council on American Islamic Relationsdocumented that the Ramadan of 2012 “saw one of the worst spikes of anti-Muslim incidents in over a decade.”
From the beginning of 2012 to July 20, which is when Ramadan began, there were 10 incidents in which Muslim places of worship were targeted. During Ramadan–specifically over 13 days in August–“Muslim places of worship were targeted eight times.” These incidents include the destruction of a mosque in Missouri by fire; the leaving of pig legs at a planned mosque site in California; and the firing of air rifles outside a mosque in Illinois.
How, exactly, did we get here? By the time Ramadan of 2012 rolled around, it had been almost 11 years since the September 11, 2001 attacks were carried out by a group of Islamic fundamentalists part of Al Qaeda. You would expect anti-Muslim bigotry to decrease after the wounds of 9/11 healed, after it became clear that the vast majority of American Muslims have no inclination to attack their own country. You would be wrong.
Jumping from the U.S. to Israel to Europe, Lean traces the arc of the Islamophobic sentiment that has exploded in the West. The foreword from scholar on Islam John Esposito lays out the importance of Lean’s work: “It exposes the multi-million dollar cottage industry of fear mongers and the network of funders and organizations that support and perpetuate bigotry, xenophobia, and racism, and produce a climate of fear that sustains a threatening social cancer.”
Lean properly places anti-Muslim bigotry in the context of American hysteria over religions and ideologies that refused to conform to mainstream standards. Before jumping into the contemporary context, he reminds readers that Catholics were once the target of acceptable religious bigotry. The conspiracy theories spun out of thin air about Catholics would ring a familiar bell to those consuming Frank Gaffney’s utterly insane theory that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government and is subverting it from within.
But by far the most important contribution Lean makes is his unmasking of the bigots who have infused American politics with virulent anti-Muslim sentiment. Lean zeroes in on a number of high-profile episodes and figures to make his points, from the pro-settler Clarion Fund’s distribution of an anti-Muslim film to the 2010 Values Voter summit to Anders Behring Breivik’s killing spree in Norway. Lean points to an “industry” of hate mongers that have gone to “great lengths to sell its message to the public.” The difference, though, between this industry and others is that “in many cases the very networks that spread their products are themselves participants in the ruse to whip up public fear of Muslims….It is a relationship of mutual benefit, where ideologies and political proclivities converge to advance the same agenda.”
The most important nodes in this industry are the online peddlers of hate. The author particularly focuses on Pamela Geller, the blogger at the front of the network of Islamophobes in the U.S. You can see Geller’s fingerprints in many of the public battles over Islam in this country, most prominently the ginned-up hysteria over the Park 51 Islamic center. Currently, Geller is in the spotlight for a series of anti-Muslim ads she has put up in New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.–with more on the way. She has used her celebrity, boosted by Fox News (a principal player in the Islamophobia industry), to create cross-continental activist networks against Islam. Robert Spencer, Geller’s partner in crime, is also a focus of Lean’s. “People such as Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, or Martin Kramer, all online Islamophobes, spread each others’ postings and write-ups to their own audience,” writes Lean. “With each new click of the mouse, the story grows.”
But the Islamophobia industry does not just exist in the fever swamps of the online world. There’s real on the ground work being done. And there are disparate players in this industry. They come, principally, from right-wing Zionism and evangelical Christianity, uniting to form a Judeo-Christian front in their battle against Islam. Their funders, too, come from these worlds–though the right-wing Zionist world has fueled the majority of anti-Muslim activists.
Right-wing Christian ideology places Muslims beyond the pale. “The idea that Muslims may also be in possession of God’s revelation and truth, is not only unacceptable, it is an offense so blasphemous that it must be stopped,” Lean notes. Evangelical Christians, as a core part of the Republican base, have actively pushed their ideas about Islam into the mainstream of American politics. They have been aided by figures such as Newt Gingrich, who while reinventing himself as an ardent Christian conservative has also spread panic about Sharia law taking over the United States. Many Christian conservatives are also, of course, Christian Zionists who see Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy that will continue until the Messiah comes down again.
It is this Christian Zionism that closely binds right-wing evangelicals with strong supporters of the Jewish state. The Zionists who spread anti-Muslim bigotry can be placed in three camps, according to Lean: religious (Jewish) Zionism, Christian Zionism and political Zionism. “For Religious Zionists, prophecy is the main driver of their Islamophobic fervor. For them, Palestinians are not just unbidden inhabitants; they are not just Arabs in Jewish lands. They are not just Muslims, even. They are non-Jews–outsiders cut from a different cloth–and God’s commandments regarding them are quite clear,” he writes. And there is the political Zionism that sheds religious language but is still hostile towards Muslims. As Max Blumenthal wrote, these figures, some of whom are neoconservatives, believe that “the Jewish state [is] a Middle Eastern Fort Apache on the front lines of the Global War on Terror.”
Lean’s spot-on analysis about how Zionism is connected to Islamophobia is a refreshing departure from other works and institutions that shy away from examining the connection. The most prominent investigative reporting on Islamophobia and its sources of funding has come from the Obama-linked Center for American Progress (CAP). But the Zionist motivations of many of the funders CAP highlights are not interrogated. You have to turn to this piece by activists Donna Nevel and Elly Bulkin on those connections to get the full picture.
Lean also pinpoints how anti-Muslim bigtory has spread from the Internet world to the very heart of some government policies on terrorism. From the New York Police Department’s surveillance program to Peter King’s hearings on “Muslim radicalization,” anti-Muslim bigotry has become institutionalized in some quarters of government.
But Lean’s discussion of how parts of the U.S. government have become infused with Islamophobia does not tell the full story–and this is the main critique I have of an otherwise excellent book. Lean correctly focuses on how the right has manufactured fear and hatred of Muslims. But it would be wrong to leave out the other side of the equation: how liberals in this country who are part of the Democratic Party have also helped anti-Muslim sentiment to spread.
This is not to say that Democrats spew Islamophobia in their election campaigns. No, the Democratic Party does not go that far. But they are largely silent when ugly anti-Muslim bigotry comes into play, which allows the right to step into the vacuum in a debate over Islam in the U.S. When the Democrats run away from the issue, there is no one left in the mainstream to challenge the right’s Islamophobia.
As Deepa Kumar, author of her own book on Islamophobia, pointed out in The Nation, Islamophobia is a “bipartisan project.” Liberal Islamophobia, Kumar writes, “may be rhetorically gentler but it reserves the right of the US to wage war against ‘Islamic terrorism’ around the world, with no respect for the right of self-determination by people in the countries it targets.” You can see this liberal Islamophobia in action when you look at the fact that “Obama has continued Bush’s policies of torture, extraordinary rendition and pre-emptive prosecution. American Muslims continue to be harassed and persecuted by the state.” And then there was Obama counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan pronouncing that the NYPD’s targeting of Muslim in their surveillance program was legitimate. “My conversations with Commissioner [Ray] Kelly indicate he’s done everything according to the law,” Brennan told reporters.
While the White House walked back his comments, Brennan’s continued presence in the administration tells you all you need to know. Liberal Islamophobia’s march continues ahead–and ignoring how the Obama administration has failed to combat anti-Muslim bigotry is setting people up for failure. The way to combat Islamophobia is through activism and coalition-building, but if you ignore its manifestations no matter where they emanate from, you won’t get very far.
Besides that oversight, though, Lean’s The Islamophobia Industry is a vital contribution to the still-growing body of literature on anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. If you want to understand the genesis of the right’s toxic Islamophobia and how it has spread, pick up Lean’s book. You won’t regret it.
Schools to teach about Zionist leaders. Ben-Gurion (Photo: AFP)
State mandates schools to teach Zionist values
With school year fast approaching, Education Ministry orders schools to put emphasis on national anthem and symbols
The title for this post appears as is assuming that ‘zionist values’ =hatred.
The report from Ynet can be read HERE
Book review: how Israeli school textbooks teach kids to hate
At the height of Israel’s brutal 2008-09 assault on the Gaza Strip, then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni claimed that “Palestinians teach their children to hate us and we teach love thy neighbor” (232).
The first part of this myth is propagated by people like US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and more recently Newt Gingrich, who both spread the baseless claim that Palestinian schoolbooks teach anti-Semitism. This calumny originated with anti-Palestinian propagandandists such as Israeli settler Itamar Marcus and his “Palestinian Media Watch.”
In an important new book, Palestine in Israeli School Books, Israeli language and education professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan buries the second part of Livni’s myth once and for all.
Peled-Elhanan examines 17 Israeli school textbooks on history, geography and civic studies. Her conclusions are an indictment of the Israeli system of indoctrination and its cultivation of anti-Arab racism from an early age: “The books studied here harness the past to the benefit of the … Israeli policy of expansion, whether they were published during leftist or right-wing [education] ministries” (224).
She goes into great detail, examining and exposing the sometimes complex and subtle ways this is achieved. Her expertise in semiotics (the study of signs and symbols) comes to the fore.
Inculcation of anti-Palestinian ideology in the minds of Israel’s youth is achieved in the books through the use of exclusion and absence: “none of the textbooks studied here includes, whether verbally or visually, any positive cultural or social aspect of Palestinian life-world: neither literature nor poetry, neither history nor agriculture, neither art nor architecture, neither customs nor traditions are ever mentioned” (49).
Palestinians marginalized, demonized by Israeli textbooks
On the occasions Palestinians (including Palestinian citizens of Israel) are mentioned, it is in an overwhelmingly negative, Orientalist and demeaning light: “all [the books] represent [Palestinians] in racist icons or demeaning classificatory images such as terrorists, refugees and primitive farmers — the three ‘problems’ they constitute for Israel” (49).
“For example in MTII [Modern Times II, a 1999 history text book] there are only two photographs of Palestinians, one of face-covered Palestinian children throwing stones ‘at our forces’ … [t]he other photograph is of ‘refugees’ … placed in a nameless street” (72).
This what Peled-Elhanan terms “strategies of negative representation.” She explains that “Palestinians are often referred to as ‘the Palestinian problem.’” While this expression is even used by writers considered “progressive,” the term “was salient in the ultra-right-wing ideology and propaganda of Meir Kahane,” the late Israeli politician and rabbi who openly called for the Palestinians to be expelled. Peled-Elhanan finds this disturbing, coming as it does “only 60 years after the Jews were called ‘The Jewish Problem’ ” (65).
She reprints examples of the crude Orientalist cartoon representations of Arabs, “imported into Israeli school book [sic] from European illustrations of books such as The Arabian Nights” (74). Arab men stand, dressed in Oriental garb, often riding camels. The cartoons of Arab women show them seated submissively, dressed in traditional outfits. Meanwhile, two Israelis on the same page are “depicted as a ‘normal’ — though caricaturistic — Western couple, unmarked by any ‘Jewish’ or ‘other’ object-signs” (110-11). The message is clear: Arabs do not belong here with “us.”
Justifications for massacre
Peled-Elhanan concludes: “The books studied here present Israeli-Jewish culture as superior to the Arab-Palestinian one, Israeli-Jewish concepts of progress as superior to Palestinian-Arab way of life and Israeli-Jewish behavior as aligning with universal values” (230).
While Israeli war crimes are not entirely ignored, the textbooks do their best to downplay or justify massacres and ethnic cleansing. “[T]he Israeli version of events are stated as objective facts, while the Palestinian-Arab versions are stated as possibility, realized in openings such as ‘According to the Arab version’ … [or] ‘Dier [sic.] Yassin became a myth in the Palestinian narrative … a horrifying negative image of the Jewish conqueror in the eyes of Israel’s Arabs’ ” (50-1).
Deir Yassin was a Palestinian village where, in 1948, a notorious massacre of around 100 persons by terrorists from the Zionist militas Irgun, Lehi and Hagana took place. Yet note in the example above that is is only the negative image of Israel that is “horrifying.” The massacre of unarmed men, women and children is otherwise not a cause for concern.
Israeli education going backwards
With reference to previous studies of Israeli school textbooks, Peled-Elhanan finds that, despite some signs of improvement in the 1990s, the more recent books she examined have if anything got worse. The issue of the Nakba, the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948, is for the most part not ignored, but instead justified.
For example, in all the books mentioning Deir Yassin, the massacre is justified because: “the slaughter of friendly Palestinians brought about the flight of other Palestinians which enabled the establishment of a coherent Jewish state” — a result so self-evidently good it doesn’t need explaining (178).
Contrary to the hope of previous studies “for ‘the appearance of a new narrative in [Israeli] history textbooks’ … some of the most recent school books (2003-09) regress to the ‘first generation’ [1950s] accounts — when archival information was less accessible — and are, like them ‘replete with bias, prejudice, errors, [and] misrepresentations’ ” (228).
There is some sloppy editing here, and the academic jargon at times slips into the realm of mystifying. But those quibbles aside, Peled-Elhanan’s book is the definitive account of just how Israeli schoolchildren are brainwashed by the state and society into hatred and contempt of Palestinians and Arabs, immediately before the time they are due to enter the army as young conscripts.
*Asa Winstanley is a journalist from London who has lived and work in occupied Palestine. His website is: www.winstanleys.org.
Taking its cue from the unified Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, Targeting Israeli Apartheid examines the Israeli economy and details the Israeli and international companies complicit in Israeli state repression. Based on original research in Palestine, the book shows how these companies can be targeted and provides the international BDS movement with the information necessary to bring the Palestinian struggle to the doorsteps of those who profit from Israeli apartheid.
The rationale for this book is simple: information for action.Targeting Israeli Apartheid: a BDS Handbookprovides the international BDS movement with the information necessary to bring the Palestinian struggle to the doorsteps of those profiting from Israeli apartheid.
The book begins by examining the Israeli economy industry by industry and suggesting where the movement should focus its campaigning energy in order to be most effective. Part two contains five in-depth geographical case studies. The final section looks at how campaigners can bring the fight home to the UK.
– Ewa Jasiewicz – Coordinator of the Free Gaza movement
Book of censored Gaza children’s artwork published
Artwork made by children in Gaza who lived through Israel’s attacks in the winter of 2008-09 and exhibited by the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) in the Bay Areais now available in book form in order to reach a wider audience.
The collection of original artwork was scheduled to be exhibited in September by the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland (MOCHA), but due to intimidation and pressure from Israeli lobby groups, the museum canceled the exhibit at the last minute.
MECA immediately sprung into action and arranged for the artwork to be shown at a vacant gallery space around the corner from the children’s museum. Days before the doors opened, MOCHA’s board told MECA’s executive director Barbara Lubin that they could reinstate the exhibit at the original museum space, but that the collection would have to be “modified.”
Lubin and MECA responded:
In a press release for the book’s publication, MECA states that the drawings featured in A Child’s View from Gaza: Palestinian Children’s Art and the Fight Against Censorship “serve as part of the historical record of the horror inflicted on the Palestinian people during Operation Cast Lead as experienced by children. Photos of the aftermath and the recent efforts by pro-Israel groups to censor the children’s art are also highlighted in the book.”
The book is available for order on the MECA website.
Remi Kanazi’s poetry of struggle
Remi Kanazi performs live. (Valerian Mazataud)
It’s early June, a few days after Gil Scott-Heron’s death. There’s something about the passing of an icon like him that makes the search for new, vibrant rebel art all the more urgent. In a strange twist of serendipity, I just happen to be sitting down to read Poetic Injustice by Remi Kanazi. The first lines hit me like a punch in the gut:
I never saw death
until I saw the bombing
of a refugee camp
craters filled with
and splattered torsos
but no sign of a face
the only impression
a fading scream
I’m hooked. Without gilding the lily, it’s safe to say that there are a lot of parallels between the works of Scott-Heron and those of Remi Kanazi. Both of their bodies of work are a simultaneous expression of identity and a puncturing of borders — real and imagined. Both frequently blur the line between poetry and music. And both rely on a kind of plain-spoken articulation that dodges between pleasure and pain, drama and humor, vicious oppression and inspiring resistance.
It’s difficult to believe that poetry and spoken word were things that Remi more or less stumbled into. “I grew up in a small town in Western Massachusetts,” he says to me over the phone, “and for me, growing up on lefty hip-hop, to have the voice of spoken word really filled a huge void. My brother and sister had just taken me to see Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, and that was the transformational trigger point. I started writing every day after that.”
No doubt that this voice has been honed over time. By now, as Poetic Injustice indicates, Remi has achieved a deft power, vividly versatile and completely unafraid while never drifting into sentimentality. Throughout this short, 50-page book, the author travels through a variety of settings; pompous American mouthpieces are humorously rebuked (“The Dos and Don’ts of Palestine”), solidarity powerfully invoked (“From Rikers to Bagram”), the horrors of US-Israeli imperialism graphically depicted (“A Poem for Gaza”). These are only a sampling.
Reinventing art as identity
Tying it all together are the 48 three-line poems peppered throughout the book — 48 symbolizing the year of the Nakba (catastrophe) when approximately 750,000 Palestinians were kicked off their land by Zionist militias. Divided into four parts (each dedicated to one of his four grandparents, all among that original displaced generation), each short verse provides a snippet of emotional truth of existence and resistance under occupation:
From my rooftop I can see an Israeli sunbathing
on the balcony my grandfather built…
A pregnant woman dies at a checkpoint
Sometimes a hand in the face is as powerful as a pistol…
Kids slingshot hip-hop, mix beats and break
in refugee camps. Reinvent art as identity
and tag the wall with the footsteps of their future…
As rewarding as reading Remi’s words can be, it’s little substitute for seeing him perform. His energy seems boundless, the humor and vigor of his words coming to life in the performer’s animation. To that end, Poetic Injustice comes with an audio CD of Remi reading fifteen of his favorite selections. It’s a perfect complement, adding immeasurable weight to the book itself.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the pleasure (albeit via email) of working with Remi on the Punks Against Apartheid petition urging Jello Biafra to cancel his show in Tel Aviv — a push that we can thankfully now say was successful.
Given the circumstances, it’s near-impossible not to think of another parallel to Gil Scott-Heron, namely the 2010 efforts that successfully convinced him to do the same. There’s also something of an irony — namely that even though the most powerful tool an artist has is his or her voice, what the movement for the cultural boycott of Israel demands is the withholding of that very same voice.
Stand on the right side of history
Nonetheless, Remi believes that an artist’s power is enhanced by his or her refusal to play Israel. “The most effective thing we can do is use our voice in an ethical way,” he tells me. “I think the most prominent and positive thing an artist can do is stand on the right side of history and stand with oppressed peoples. So rather than just staying silently on the sidelines or going and whitewashing apartheid in Tel Aviv and talking maybe one or two lines about peace, we have the opportunity to use our voices in a more general sense.”
In fact, the push for a cultural boycott is taking place at a time when rebel poets like Remi have the potential to reach a wide audience. The revolutions across the Arab world have been accompanied by a flourishing of art, music and culture. Politically charged groups like DAM and Arabian Knights have never been more popular. And while right-wing pundits like Pam Geller still insist that Arab culture consists of little more than camels and scimitars artists on both sides of the pond may still go a long way to countering this racism.
“I think that what some of the artists are doing today is brilliant because they’re refusing to be tokenized. If you listen to the music of Omar Offendum or The Narcycist or, in Arabic, the music of DAM, they completely shatter this notion that they’re going to be this post [11 September 2001] image of what is Arab or Muslim or Palestinian.” In other words, it’s this insistence on humanity despite all obstacles that makes these artists so potent.
The same goes for Remi’s book. And that’s precisely why it would be wrong to simply call this work “poems about Palestine.” Much like Scott-Heron’s portrayals of an oppressed black America inspired people well beyond the borders of Watts and Harlem, so do Remi Kanazi’s words speak toward a struggle that is, for lack of a better term, universal.
“The reason I become a poet was to educate, inspire, to act,” he says. “I’m not a nationalist, I’m not an ethnocentrist. This isn’t about me being a Palestinian or me being an Arab. It’s about a system of oppression and what’s being done to a people. So whether you’re talking about police brutality or the US-Mexico border or Afghanistan or the war in Iraq or the plight of Palestinians, what they’re going through and the injustice that’s being perpetrated against them is what matters. And that’s what we’re working against — systems of oppression, what’s being done to a people.”
This subtle yet dynamic interplay between art and struggle is what makes Poetic Injustice such a crucial contribution. It’s the feeling that for all its specificity, we’re reading not just about the Palestinians but about ourselves. And indeed, every struggle has its own art, it’s own poetry. As Remi Kanazi well knows, it’s this ability for beauty that makes the fight worth it:
I’ll exist in a world that
fights against racism
like Martin and Malcolm bleeds ghetto tales of Steve Biko
as a song that never dies
no matter what apartheid
makes of our bodies
feeds mouths in Belfast streets
and resurrects Bobby Sands’ message
so that we will never
be hungry again
Remi Kanazi’s Poetic Injustice can be purchased on Amazon.com.
*Alexander Billet is a music journalist and activist living in Chicago. He runs the website Rebel Frequencies and is a columnist for SOCIARTS. He has also appeared in Z Magazine, CounterPunch and PopMatters.com.
In the Land of Double Narrative
We are in the Olive Room of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem for a meeting with two history teachers — an Israeli and a Palestinian — who have written a double narrative of this land. The Israeli, Eyal Naveh, in his open-necked shirt, has a casual toughness you find in many Israelis over sixty, yet with keen, blue-grey eyes that are empathetic despite having fought seven wars to defend his right to stand here.
We don’t know what his Palestinian coauthor looks like, because he is on the speakerphone. After waiting two hours at the checkpoint, Dr. Sami Adwan knew he’d be too late for us and returned home to Bethlehem. “This is typical of the problem here,” says Naveh. “I was stuck in traffic; that is all right. My Palestinian colleague was stuck at the checkpoint. That is not all right.”
Our group of thirty-five sighs and nods. We are lawyers, entrepreneurs, peace activists, professors, political operatives, and writers, mostly American and many Jewish, who are on a ten-day, fact-finding trip to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. Our host is J Street, an American organization committed to a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, one with strong security for Israel and a viable state for the Palestinians.
I’m here in 2010, partly because of a 1924 photograph over my desk: of my father visiting Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem, one of hundreds who watched the ceremony of laying the cornerstone of Hebrew University that year and imagined a Jewish democracy built on justice and fairness. I also liked the J Street itinerary. We are meeting all sides from Israel’s president to the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister: from Jewish settlers, to West Bank resistance fighters, to UN officials in Gaza. “A whiplash trip,” is how Jeremy Ben Ami, the head of J Street, described it. And so it is, each voice informing and contradicting the next, except for two other Palestinians who had to cancel because of checkpoint issues.
A new textbook on Israel/Palestine offers two parallel historical accounts with space in the middle for students to join the conversation.
So today’s hitch is not a fluke; it is part of the double narrative of this land. You hear it in words like the Nakba, or Catastrophe, which is how Palestinians describe the first war in 1947, the one the Israelis call the War of Independence because it began after the Arabs rejected the UN pronouncement of the State of Israel — and attacked. And in what the Israelis call the Security Wall, designed to stop the suicide bombers from blowing up discos in Tel Aviv and bus stations in Jerusalem — and the Palestinians call the Racist Wall or the Apartheid Wall because it cuts into their land and prevents their moving freely into Israel proper for jobs and family, as they did before the Intifada, a word that conjures up the liberation movement for Palestinians and the existential threat of annihilation for Israelis.
The book that Naveh and Adwan wrote, together with two other scholar/activists, Dan Baron (Israeli) and Adnan Musallom (Palestinian), is called Learning Each Other’s Historical Narrative: Palestinians and Israelis. It begins: “Schoolchildren studying history in times of war and conflict learn only one side of the story — their own — which is, of course, considered to be the ‘right’ one.”
They wanted to correct the way “one side’s hero is the other side’s monster,” so, in 2002, after the Oslo Accords, they recruited twelve teachers to try out the double narrative text in their ninth- and tenth-grade classes. The Israeli version is on the left:
The war … is known as the War of Independence because it resulted in independence for the Jewish community in the land of Israel, in spite of the fact that at the beginning local Arabs, and then armies from Arab countries … attacked isolated Jewish communities, Jews in the cities, and on the roads…. They also employed terror tactics — all Jewish people, settlements and property were considered to be legitimate targets.
The Palestinian version is on the right:
Fighting and clashes between the Jews and the Palestinians began after UN Resolution 181 was passed by the General Assembly on November 29, 1947. The situation deteriorated into an unequal confrontation. Zionist forces were organized, armed and trained. Not only were they superior to the Palestinians, who for over 30 years had been exhausted by unjust British policy and Zionist terrorism, but these gangs were also superior to the Arab armies, which entered the war on May 15, 1948.
And in between is white space for students to join the conversation. Naveh tells us that people are ordering the book around the world, but you won’t find it in Israeli or Palestinian schools because of political fury on both sides. “No permission yet, but we keep trying,” says Adwan on the speakerphone.
Such a book could get beyond the sound bites of vengeance and fear, our group agrees. It could promote understanding and empathy. If only… I think of what Napoleon said: ‘that history is myth that men agree to believe in” and how the double narrative undercuts that myth — and the agendas that depend on telling one side of the story.
It’s the oldest of stories — and begins this way: Abraham, the patriarch, comes from Ur (somewhere in Iraq) to the land of Canaan (now Israel/Palestine) with his wife Sarah. They are childless for so long that Sarah, beyond the age of childbirth, agrees to let Hagar, her Egyptian handmaiden, have a child with Abraham. His name is Ishmael. Years pass and, miraculously, Sarah gives birth to Isaac.
So far, Jews, Christians, and Muslims agree, even about God testing Abraham’s devotion by commanding him to go to the mountain and sacrifice his only son. But then comes one word — Isaac — and the story splits apart.
Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (Genesis 22:3-212).
“We believe it wasn’t Isaac, but Ishmael who was to be sacrificed by Abraham,” said Dr. C., the Pakistani Muslim teacher of “Understanding Islam,” a course I took at our Adult School before this trip. Its aim was to promote interfaith understanding and dialogue. “Ishmael was ‘the only son.’ Isaac wasn’t even born yet,” he added. The Jews and Christians in class flinched. This was not our story. Genesis says “Isaac” and we believed it, our forefather was not to be displaced by the forefather of the Muslims. “And what’s more,” Dr C. continued, “unlike Isaac, who struggles against his fate, Ishmael goes willingly to God. In fact he volunteers. So it is written in the Qu’ran.”
That night, I reread Genesis and found no signs of Isaac struggling. In fact, Isaac was duped. When he asks Abraham where the burnt offering for sacrifice is, Abraham says, “God will provide.” End of that episode. So I didn’t see where Dr. C. was coming from.
I read on into the problem of God’s double promise. First there’s a covenant with Abraham that Isaac, and his descendants, will inherit the land (which is why religious Jews claim both sides of the Jordan River as their birthright):
And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding, and I will be their God.
Then there’s the promise that Ishmael will rule. After he and his mother Hagar are expelled from Abraham’s camp and dying of thirst in the wilderness, God says through the Angel of Death:
Come lift the boy up and hold him fast with your hand and I will make a great nation of him. (Genesis: 28:18)
And a well of water appears.
Muslims reenact this part of the story every year in Mecca, said Dr. C. with pride, “I myself took part.” And he told us how, dressed in a plain white loincloth like the other pilgrims on the Haj, he circled seven times as Hagar did “until Allah, Blessed Be He, was convinced of her devotion and made water miraculously appear.”
When Abraham dies, Isaac and Ishmael return to Hebron to bury him next to Sarah. I didn’t know that until Dr. C. showed us a PBS film about the three great faiths. I liked the story and the question asked by one of Christian theologians in the film: “Is it the beginning of a new story or the end of an old one?” He didn’t know, but I heard reconciliation in the two heads bowed, side by side, and wished this were the scene we all kept imagining, retelling it often to our children.
The thriving Arab marketplace that used to exist here on Shuhada Street, at the edge of Hebron, closed down after Israel imposed a checkpoint at one end.
Our bus takes the Settlers’ road that bypasses the checkpoint with its long line of trucks and cars and heads for Hebron, the West Bank’s biggest city. Our guide, Ilana, is a passionately peppy, Israeli-American in her late twenties who leads an organization dedicated to bringing Jews to the West Bank to see life through Palestinian eyes.
Ilana points out the Wall, and the expanding Jewish settlements that have exclusive rights to this road (Palestinians can’t drive on it) — and the two-color water towers. Palestinians often have their water shut off by the Israelis and so need extra water tanks on their roofs for storage. Those are the black ones. Israeli settlers don’t have these problems and have one tank, in white. “That’s how you tell who is who in this occupied land,” she explains.
And yet, looking out the bus window, I am struck by the lush countryside, the neat rows of vineyards, bright white houses, and fields of olive and fruit trees. I expected more shacks and trash. Whether it’s from foreign aid or the Palestinian Authority’s growing power to keep order in the West Bank, Palestinian life (despite Jewish settlements, some rising like fortresses) looks thriving, even prosperous.
We stop on the edge of Hebron, at the Cave of the Patriarchs where Abraham and Sarah are supposed to be buried, along with Isaac, Sarah, and other founding mothers and fathers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. According to the Bible, Abraham paid good money for this spot: four hundred silver shekels to Ephron, the Hittite, turning down a free burial site. As an outsider, Abraham must have wanted proof of ownership:
So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre — both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field was deeded to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. (Genesis: 23:17)
It was about real estate, even then.
We don’t go inside the Cave of the Patriarchs — this is not that kind of trip — so I don’t see the subterranean caves, or spaces where Jews, Muslims, and Christians, depending on the century, come to pray. Ilana’s focus is on the Israeli soldiers standing on Shuhada Street that abuts the Cave complex. “Israel needs five hundred soldiers to protect six hundred settlers and two hundred rabbinical students. Why? Because they live in this Arab neighborhood.” Several of us shake our heads. What a waste!
The Israeli soldiers, less than a dozen, are heavily armed and solemn. No one smiles or waves, the way I remember in a younger Israel. It was 1972, and my family spent a sabbatical year in Haifa. Israel had taken over the West Bank in the 1967 war, but the moral and political ambiguity of occupation had not yet set in. We hiked with Israeli friends in the Jordan Valley, we shopped freely in Arab souks in the Old City of Jerusalem, and the army stood guard, holding a moral compass that pointed one way: to defend Israel’s right to exist. We all felt proud of the soldiers and they felt proud of themselves, smiling easily.
“Can you imagine?” Ilana says, “This was once a thriving Arab marketplace.” She looks down the long street of boarded-up stalls. Except for one souvenir stand, it’s like a ghost town from a movie set. An old man and a child walk towards us, single file, along a narrow walkway defined by concrete barriers. Someone says, “apartheid,” and Ilana points to the checkpoint at the other end of the street that everyone must pass through. I ask one of Ilana’s helpers, a red-bearded rabbinical student from Jerusalem, where the people of Hebron shop now that this marketplace is closed. He shrugs, “Nowhere.”
“Did the shop owners get compensated at least?” Another shrug.
Israeli settlers plastered what was once a thriving bus station with murals and placards aimed at challenging Arabs’ right to live in Hebron.
Across the road from the shuttered stalls is a long wall with murals. “This was once a thriving bus station,” says Ilana. She mentions that the Jewish settlers put the murals up and moves on. I stop to study the colorful pastel scene of Hassidic Jews on crowded streets and read the heading: “Christians and Jews are welcome to live here as they did in the old city of Hebron.” (No Arabs though.)
The wall’s history is in four parts, beginning with the “Roots of the Jewish People.” Here in Hebron, it says, our forefathers and mothers are buried. Here is the capital of Judea where King David began his reign. And here in 1929 “Arab marauders slaughter the Jews. The community is uprooted and destroyed.” There is a plaque with two candles and picture of a rabbi and his wife, among the seventy or more killed in those riots. The British, then in control, evicted the remaining Jews, wanting no more trouble here.
The last mural has the heading “Liberation, Return, and Rebuilding” and beneath it: “1967: liberation of Hebron and reestablishment of the Jewish community.”
“Ethnic cleansing” pops into my head, which I resist. Yet what else to call it when a people are wiped out of Hebron after centuries of living here? A sign leans against the stone wall:
This land was stolen by Arabs following the murder of the Hebron Jews in 1929. We demand Justice! Return our Property to Us!
The lettering is in bright red, full of fury and self-righteousness. I recoil from the certainty of hate.
Still, Ilana told only half the story when she blames the Jews for living in this Arab neighborhood. Before 1929, it was the Jewish neighborhood; the settlers are arguing for the right of return, much like the Palestinians who had to flee Jaffa and Ramallah in 1947. It’s ironic how, whichever narrative it is, the themes stay the same: displacement, exile, right of return, victimhood, injustice.
“Before 1929,” says Herzl, a psychiatrist from Wisconsin who is part of our group, “Jews and Arabs lived in peace. “In fact, my grandparents were rescued by Arab neighbors during the 1929 riots.” I want to know more, but we get separated at the checkpoint. Instead, behind me I hear:
“Wasn’t Hebron where the bloodiest riots of Intifada took place?”
“Wasn’t that rabbi killed here?”
“Yes, and then that Goldstein guy slaughtered twenty-seven Muslims who were praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque….”
Ilana interrupts to point out four Arab schoolgirls in blue uniforms. “They must pass through the checkpoint to and from school and until recently, they had to go through an x-ray machine. Some parents were so concerned about radiation, they kept the children home.” We feel their parental despair — with outrage.
Half a block beyond the checkpoint, everything changes. We are in the middle of a bustling marketplace, both modern and timeless. There are rows of bright yellow buses and cabs, windowed storefronts, and streets crowded with stalls and tables piled high with blue jeans, embroidered dresses, pita, or shoes. There’s even one with string beans. Why isn’t this part of Ilana’s story? Does it lessen the impact of the empty street? Or the Arab schoolgirls? Not for me. I’m drawn to the gray narratives, the contradictory truths: the deserted souk and the thriving marketplace; the evils of the Occupation and the Massacre of Jews in 1929. And now, the third narrative told by Herzl: of Jewish rescue by Arab neighbors. How can there be peace without recognizing it all?
“This restaurant is Hebron’s best,” says the assistant mayor, who greets us in a room full of lattices strung with grapevines, the sun’s rays streaming in. Each table has two Palestinians who will tell their story, says Ilana, as we sit down to mounds of hummus, pita, and black olives, all the good stuff. Beside me is a young Palestinian teacher, slim and earnest, who speaks excellent English and says, shyly, that he spent a few months in the United States.” I’m about to ask where, when the mayor stands to welcome us. An urbane man in Western dress, he tells us how important it is for us to be here together. “Even the Jews among us should feel welcome.” I wince.
Then Herzl stands up — it’s his turn to introduce our group and say how pleased we are to be here. People keep dipping into hummus, familiar with the routine until we hear, “This day is special for me because my family comes from Hebron.” The restaurant quiets. The mayor’s contingent looks up. We all do, as Herzl tells with great pride how his grandmother was one of the four hundred Jews who were hidden by twenty-eight Arab families during the massacre of 1929.
Ali, a Palestinian whose brother was killed by Israeli soldiers, is part of a growing nonviolent resistance movement.
His great grandparents came to Hebron from Eastern Europe in the 1800s, very religious people. They multiplied and prospered, he says, until 1929 when those who survived had to leave. He pauses, his voice shaky with emotion: “I am the first of the family to come back here, to break bread with descendants of those who may have saved my grandmother and others in my family. To you,” he looks at the mayor, “I want to say thanks.” Everyone is silent, unsure about how to respond. Stories like this, of “the Other” being decent, are not spoken around here; they get whispered or lost, fitting no one’s political agenda. And yet, as the history teachers said, how else are we to change how “one side’s hero is the other side’s monster?”
Herzl didn’t dwell on those who were killed, although the descendants of the murderers were also probably in the room. “That wasn’t what I wanted to think about,” he told me later. “Dwelling on victimhood only leads to victimhood, revenge to more revenge.” It turns out that the three young Palestinian men who speak next have come to the same conclusion. They are part of the growing Arab movement that promotes nonviolent resistance to win their Palestinian state. Ali, a brooding man with an electric smile, comes “from a family of fighters” (Israelis would say “terrorists”). He and his mother have been in Israeli jails and his brother was killed by Israeli soldiers, and yet Ali has turned fury into a peace-focused political strategy. “Being pro–one side is not enough. You must be pro-solution,” he says. Jews must like his message for Ali is invited to speak in Israel proper and abroad. “I never knew I’d be in so many synagogues, telling what I tell you today.”
After all the speakers, I talk more with the Palestinian beside me. He grew up on a small farm next to a Jewish settlement and says there was a hole in the barbed wire fence between them. He and the Israeli children would crawl through, trading marbles for figs and plums. To this day, his family has a photo of both families in their farmhouse, taken at some shared celebration. During the Intifada, the fence was replaced; there’s no connection anymore. I ask what it would take to change that. “Take down the fence,” he says. Simple, really, when the answer comes out of individual experience that is good.
From my window in the Intercontinental Hotel, I see a mosque across the street, the afternoon light glowing red on its stone. Not much movement. Has it been abandoned? I ask the concierge, who says it may be used sometimes; he doesn’t know its name. When I take a swim at the hotel pool, surrounded by bikinis and voluptuous white towels, I imagine the Muezzin’s call to pray, maybe even hear its low murmur on the other side of this stucco wall.
From my window, to the right of the mosque, I see Tel Aviv’s beaches: white sand and calm blue waters. To the left is a building complex with its back against the sea and a semi-circle, like a small stadium, in the middle. Every Israeli knows what’s here: the burnt shell of the Dolphin Disco blown up by a suicide bomber in 2001. They know twenty-one Israelis, mostly teenagers, were killed and 120 were wounded. They know there were many other attempts to bomb it — and that a Palestinian terrorist group claimed responsibility for its “success.” And that, after this tragedy, the Army tightened security, increased checkpoints, and building the Security Wall became a priority. And that, nine years later, enemy rockets are still falling on the borders next to Gaza and Lebanon, but no more suicide bombers have gotten through to this heart of Israel.
The name of the mosque is Hassan Bek. It was an important mosque, but when many Arabs fled in 1947, it sat idle — until Israeli developers made plans for this site. Then the Muslim community in Jaffa (who are Israeli citizens) joined together, through fundraising and political protest, to make it a place of worship again. It has become a symbol of their rights as Israeli Arabs in the future Israel. Will they be respected? Will they be knocked down?
In the States we have a great debate about allowing a mosque close to Ground Zero. The memories of victims collide with the rights of those who, fairly or not, are seen as guilty by association. America is a big enough place with a short enough history to absorb a few such clashes. But in this small land, there is no room to maneuver; ground zero is everywhere you stand.
I am on the midnight flight home from Amman, laptop open at 2 a.m. writing about Jordan:
Today we met King Abdullah and Queen Rania, and what a Camelot couple they are. She is beautiful, a Palestinian who talked with great enthusiasm about building schools and health centers. He is urbane, very savvy, and of all the leaders we met, he seems most willing to articulate both sides of the conflict. Is it because he is across the border?
King Abdullah and Queen Rania speak at the 2009 World Economic Forum. Credit: Creative Commons/World Econmic Forum.
The guy beside me touches my sleeve. “Will you send me a copy of what you are writing?” He’s dark, slim, and Mediterranean-looking, with a tiny scar on his cheek — and an appealing earnestness as he hands me a slip of paper: “Abdul A.” neatly handwritten, with an email address below it. “I was looking over your shoulder and want to read more.” He smiles. “You are writing about my king.” Abdul lives in Florida now, a U.S. citizen, he says, but with family still in Jordan.
I’d like to keep writing, use this time to sort out the many voices we heard, all interesting, all persuasive; but this man continues. He tells me how he was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in Amman, but his roots are in Hebron. “I am a Palestinian,” he says solemnly, “and I tell my three children the same!” His family left Hebron in 1937, the same year my father left Germany, I realize. Which is probably why, when he asks me where my roots are, I answer “Germany” instead of “New York,” my usual response. “My parents left because of Hitler.”
He nods. “You are Jewish.”
“Yes,” I say. He nods again.
Now I could shut my computer and then my eyes, as on other long flights next to talkative strangers. But here is a Palestinian who is not royalty, not in the high-powered political loop we’ve been in all week — and yet an essential part of it. “Why do you still feel Palestinian?” I ask.
“Roots are roots. Do you not identify as a German?” He immediately rethinks. “No,” he says before I can shrug, “I can understand why not.”
Again, a good place to stop talking — except he says, “My family once saved a Jewish family. My grandmother would often tell the story of what she and my grandfather did.”
Now I am really engaged. “Was it during the massacre of Jews in 1929?” I pause before the word “massacre,” not wanting to offend with ten more flight hours to go. Abdul shrugs. “I don’t know when exactly, maybe it was 1929. I only know the family story.”
I can’t help imagining Abdul grandparents saving Herzl’s grandfather and think: How great would that be! I scan the aisle looking for Herzl’s silver hair; he is somewhere on this plane.
“Have you been back to Hebron recently?” I wonder if he has seen the Israeli soldiers on Shuhada Street and the dozens of empty stalls.
“No, the last of my family left under the Jordan rule, a difficult time. But the family house… maybe, Allah Be Praised, is there. I’d like my children to see it one day.”
Abdul returns to the story of rescue. “My grandmother said a Jewish family came to the door, saying, ‘Please save us!’ So my grandfather took them to the basement and hid them. If someone comes to your door for help, it is written in the Qur’an that you must help.”
I wish friendship rather than religion had made the difference, but I won’t quibble. In my father’s German village, during Nazi times, Christians brought soup at night to hungry Jews, someone shared a ration card, another saved a Torah, but in dozens of interviews for a book I wrote, I found no one who defied an angry mob outside the door.
“There was a Jewish man on our trip whose family had lived in Hebron for generations.” I say, “and his grandfather was rescued in 1929 by Arab neighbors. In fact he’s on this airplane!”
“Is that him?” Abdul points to heavyset man in a black T-shirt who had asked me for the pretzel snack I wasn’t eating. I shake my head, turning to look for Herzl one more time. “I don’t see him.”
Another possible stopping point, but Abdul keeps on, shifting from past to present. He is a computer programmer who has suffered an aneurysm, so he’s on medical leave. And his three-year-old daughter has diabetes since birth and he must give her eight shots of insulin every day. He was never religious, he says, but now goes to the mosque daily to pray for her. He takes out her picture, a sweet chubby child, and I see tears in Abdul’s eyes. “I would gladly give up my life for her to have a good one. Why not? I’ve been all over the world, I’ve done so much.” I doubt he is older than forty, and think, how powerful his willingness to sacrifice his life. “She’s adorable. I wish all the best for her and for you.” He sits up. “Whatever is God’s will,” and thanks me. “You are kind.”
Some parents choose to keep their children home from school to protect them from the daily radiation of x-rays at this checkpoint in Hebron.
We become less cautious. We talk about the settlers taking over Palestinian land. Terrible, he says, and I agree. We talk about the checkpoints and he emphasizes how they stop people from earning a living, and I agree. “If this region has peace, I think the whole world would have peace,” Abdul says and I, very comfortably, challenge what I hear as subtext: that if Israel went away, everything would fall into place. “What about the Shias and Sunnis?” I ask. “They will battle without the Israelis.”
“You are right. This is a problem,” he says.
“What about Hamas and Hezbollah?” I ask. “Israel can’t pretend they are not there.”
Abdul says the same thing that Prime Minister Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority told us: “These groups will lose power if there is peace.” Abdul and I are on the same track, nodding, pleasant, sensible. And then out of the blue: “You know what created Hamas?” his voice rising now. “The Americans!” “You know what created Hezbollah? The Israelis!” I hear the words bounce off the ceiling. Whoa! I can’t let that go by, another version of the blame game, that everything is everyone else’s fault.
“I don’t believe this to be true,” I say, telling him, lecture-like, that Palestinians must also take responsibility. “Everyone must give a little to build trust on small issues before the big problems can be tackled.” His eyes glaze over. “It’s like in marriage,” I say. “My husband hates when I leave my shoes in the bathroom. If he complains nicely, I’m more likely to say “Sure, I can fix that…” Abdul’s eyes light up. “You are right. It’s the same with my wife, only I am the messy one!”
We venture below the “We-all-want-peace mantra” until anger builds, we are quiet for a while, and then we start again. Maybe because I know about his daughter, and he knows about my marriage, even about my shoes.
Waiting for our baggage at JFK airport, I finally see Herzl. I tell him about Abdul and his family story about saving a Jewish family. “Where is he?” Herzl asks, with great excitement. “I must talk to him.” At first I can’t find Abdul among the hundreds waiting, but then I spot him, a smaller man than I thought, not someone you’d notice in his black chinos, dark shirt, unhurried. He must have a long layover. “There he is!” I say, “next to the cart with the boy sitting on a green trunk.” Herzl hurries over. They talk. I see Abdul smile. I can’t see Herzl’s face, until he walks back to me, beaming. “I am so happy you told me that,” Herzl says, and, taking a deep breath, whispers loudly, “I told him thank you.”
Baggage in hand, we get ready for home or other flights, but for this moment we’ve found some common ground to stand on — and a small narrative we all can tell.
NO MORE ENEMIES ~~ A NEW BOOK ~~ A MUST READ
The idea of No More Enemies belongs to everyone on the planet.
It’s a simple idea, really – but it could change our entire world. The idea is that the concept of “enemies” is obsolete, that it does not serve humanity any more, that it has become very destructive, that it should be retired. The evidence is out there in plain sight… we just have to connect the dots.
There are many signs, from many directions, that the old enemies-oriented worldview is being displaced by emergent new paradigms of partnership, shared responsibility, and co-evolving. This shift is made possible and made easier by the new global Internetwork of communication.
“No More Enemies” unfolds for you dozens of doorways into this idea – whoever you are, wherever you are.
Please think of the book as a personal invitation meant for you. The No More Enemies train is rolling now – hop on board! Read about the idea from multiple perspectives. Think about it and consider its implications. Share your thoughts with your friends. Once you embrace the idea, you own it!
The new post-enemies era belongs to everyone.
It’s an era of hope and challenge and renewal.
*Deb Reich is a writer and translator in Israel/Palestine. She has lived in New York, Wadi Ara, Abu Ghosh, Karkur, Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom and Jerusalem, among other places.
No More Enemies is available from Amazon …. Details HERE
Also on FaceBook
Ali Abunimah, author and co-founder of the Electronic Intifada
“There is more truth, and perhaps finally more news, in Remi Kanazi’s poems than the pages of your daily newspaper.”
Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winner
“Breathtakingly honest prose…run out and get this collection today.”
Cynthia McKinney, former US Congresswoman
“This book of poems is a shining example of tomorrow’s Palestine.”
Ronnie Kasrils, former South African government minister
“A voice which refuses to be silenced.”
John Berger, novelist and Booker Prize winner
“Feel the power and pain of Palestine’s struggle.”
John Pilger, award-winning journalist and filmmaker
“Back from Gaza, Remi Kanazi’s poems make tears come to my eyes.”
Stéphane Hessel, former French ambassador
“A poet with immense power and bravery.”
Elmaz Abinader, author and poet
Hope you order your copy today AT
The latest from Remi Kanazi…
Advance Praise for Poetic Injustice
“It is through art not the news that we feel and begin to understand the long night of suffering and humiliation endured by the Palestinians. There is more truth, and perhaps finally more news, in Remi Kanazi’s poems than the pages of your daily newspaper or the sterile reports flashed across your screens.”
-Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winner and Nation Institute senior fellow
“Some poetry is meant to make you sit in quiet contemplation. Not so with Remi Kanazi’s. Read his words out loud for yourself and your friends. Let their compassionate anger, their intricate dance of ideas, their unflinching witness, wash over you, dance with you, pick you up, and spur you to action.”
-Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse
“With Poetic Injustice, Remi Kanazi has burst onto the scene with breathtakingly honest prose that shakes the reader’s preconceived notions of the Middle East and pokes holes into the conventional wisdom that far too many people refuse to question. Run out and get this collection today—it will shake you up in a good way.”
-Cynthia McKinney, former US Congresswoman and Green Party presidential nominee
“You want to hear a voice which refuses to be silenced, and only such voices carry the deep truth about what’s happening these days, about what’s happening in Gaza or Iraq or East Jerusalem? OK. If you do, listen to Remi Kanazi and the lucidity of his anger.”
-John Berger, novelist and Booker Prize winner
“Remi Kanazi’s poetry, full of defiance and longing, allows us to feel the power and pain of Palestine’s struggle.”
-John Pilger, award-winning journalist, author, and filmmaker
“Repression creates resistance. It also generates beautiful artistic works, which become a cultural weapon in the struggle for the realisation of dreams.This book of poems is a shining example of tomorrow’s Palestine.”
-Ronnie Kasrils, African National Congress activist and former South African government minister
“Back from Gaza, Remi Kanazi’s poems make tears come to my eyes. Poetry more than any other means communicates what is deepest in man, what gives us hope beyond crime and despair.
-Stéphane Hessel, former French ambassador and participant in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“In Poetic Injustice, Remi Kanazi lines up his word soldiers and marches into the battle of identity, occupation, loss and exile. Stripping the spin and gloss from policies and politics, Kanazi volleys truths from his own life as a Palestinian-American and as a witness to the oppression and occupations, state terrorism and racism. A poet with immense power and bravery, he underlines each phrase, word and line with devotion.”
-Elmaz Abinader, author, poet, and PEN Award winner
A personal note from Remi….
I’m very excited to share that my debut poetry collection & CD, Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine, will be out this January and is available for pre-order today!! This collection is the culmination of my work over the last five years and I’m really happy to be sharing the news with all of you. To purchase the collection, visit