‘Ein Siniya’s population in the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, was 114. Today in 2015, ‘Ein Siniya’s population is 885 persons strong. Given every act of the Israeli military occupation for the last five decades has been designed to get Palestinians to leave Palestine, ‘Ein Siniya is a living testament to our resilience and determination to not only remain on the land, but to grow despite all odds.

Restoration of Buildings vs Memories

By Sam Bahour

Home of Jamil Al Husseini, ‘Ein Siniya, Palestine (Photo credit: DHIP)

Home of Jamil Al Husseini, ‘Ein Siniya, Palestine (Photo credit: DHIP)

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. I’ve lived in Palestine for 21 years and passed by the village of ‘Ein Siniya hundreds of times, but can’t recall ever actually visiting it, that is, until today.

‘Ein Siniya is a small Palestinian village in the West Bank’s Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate, 10 kilometers north of Ramallah, northeast of Jifna, the village renowned for its apricots. It lies in a valley surrounded by olive and fig terraces. Its population has grown from 701 persons in 2007 to 885 today, a whopping 12% increase. It was the home of Faisal Husseini, the legendary Palestinian leader who spent his life defending Palestinian rights in Jerusalem. ‘Ein Siniya is what one would call a sleepy, laid-back village, but today it came alive and I was there to witness this refreshing awakening.

I arrived to ‘Ein Siniya driving behind a minibus from The Danish House in Palestine that was transporting people who were heading to the same venue that I was. Turning off the main road into the village, we turned right and then took the first left. The first thing I noticed is what one usually sees in all Palestinian villages, a group of children. This group was a cheerful one of young girls seemingly excited at all the odd traffic crawling up their street. A few hundred meters up the hill, on the right, was the historic home that we were coming to visit, the home of Mr. Jamil Al Husseini.

Standing in front of this huge, run-down home was actress Faten Khoury. She was oddly standing halfway in the street, not to be missed. She was frozen in a pose, staring at the long, stone staircase that hugged the backside of the building and led to the first floor of this abandoned, eerie home. She held a suitcase in one hand and a white photo album in the other. As we exited our cars and the bus unloaded, many stopped to talk to Faten, but she would not budge. She just stared up the staircase, clearly leading us to where we were to go, without saying a word.

Upstairs we entered through an old, traditional doorway, narrow and with a heavy steel door. We then walked across a sheet of metal flooring, placed on an old outside terrace that led to a large room. Along the way there were rooms to our right, the first had two young girls, in traditional costume, sitting on the floor kneeling bread dough. The next room had a young man, also in traditional dress, manually milling freshly picked olives with a stone. At the end of the terrace walkway we entered a larger room, possibly what was once the family’s living room.

Emilie Simonsen (Photo credit: Mohammed Abbas)

Emilie Simonsen (Photo credit: Mohammed Abbas)

As we found our seats, more and more people flowed in, young and old. Emilie paid no attention to all the buzz in the room; she just kept doing her thing. Sitting behind me was a row of the most beautiful young girls from the village. The sat diligently waiting, trying to understand who were all these strange people who all of the sudden arrived out of nowhere. I asked them where they were from and what they were all waiting for? Without hesitation, one replied, “We are from here, ‘Ein Siniya, and we await the skit, there is going to be a skit here. Where are you from?” I replied, “Al-Bireh, near Ramallah,” thinking they would only know the larger city near mine. One of the girls, around 9 years old, answered, “I know where Al-Bireh is; it’s where the Al-Bireh Secondary Girls School is located.” I was clearly not needed for these girls to navigate their geography.The room was full of people sitting on the ten or so rows of chairs. In the front of the room was a table, with a foreign lady sitting alone. She had her headphones on and reverted back and forth between diligently typing away on her laptop and putting on a pair of white gloves, before picking up an artifact, pieces of a colorful broken ceramic dish, which she used a small brush to meticulously brush the edges of the dish pieces off. We later learned this she was Ms. Emilie Simonsen, a Danish actress visiting Palestine, playing the role of a historic restoration expert.

Not before long, there was only standing room left. Then entered an older, well-dressed man. He was ushered to sit in the first row. This was the owner of the house, Jamil Al Husseini. It was then announced that the show was about to begin. The room fell silent.

Actress Faten hesitatingly entered the room, still holding her photo album as she placed her luggage to the side. She then spent the next ten minutes thrashing around the room, talking to herself, reminiscing about days long gone. She recalled her father’s descriptions of his home back in Palestine, this home. She walked through the rooms, shocked that, although she never lived in this home, she felt like she knew every nook and cranny—the wooden window frames, the arched windows that separated the rooms, the porch, the now-broken vase sitting on Emilie’s table waiting to be logged in her laptop, the tiled floors, and so on. She spoke of the home as if she could see all its long-gone residents still there. Actually, as Faten reminisced, a group of young actors and actresses from Ashtar Theater were playing out the home’s original family members, as if they had come back to life. As Faten moved from one room to another, she slammed a door, startling Emilie, the foreign actress.

Emilie abruptly stopped bushing the artifact in her hand, threw off her white gloves and removed her headphones to jump up and scold Faten for being in the house. Emilie explained that the house was very old and is being restored and no one was allowed in. Faten replied, in vain, that this was her family’s home and she could envision all the memories as if they were alive. Emilie was unable to see this, being only privy to the material artifacts that she was brushing and logging into her laptop. As photos of past times, when the home was full of life, were displayed on the stone wall of the living room, Faten, frustrated with Emilie’s inability to feel the living past of the home, summed up the stance: “You are only interested in the restoration of the buildings, not the memories.” The audience was moved. I had a serious outbreak of goose bumps.

Emilie Simonsen (L), Ashtar team, Faten Khoury (R) (Photo Credit: Mohammed Abbas)

Emilie Simonsen (L), Ashtar team, Faten Khoury (R) (Photo Credit: Mohammed Abbas)

Following the skit, the floor was open for discussion. The first to speak, remaining true to our culture, was the owner of the home. He thanked everyone for coming and welcomed us to his home, a heavy-on-the-heart welcome given the condition of the building, but an exceedingly warm welcome taking into consideration that it was now filled, once again, by village boys and girls, adults, and everyone else, most importantly Jamil himself, the homeowner.A few minutes later, the skit ended. It took this talented team of actors and actresses merely twenty minutes to strike a deep chord in each of us. Lost homes, time passed, history maintained through oral storytelling, refugees coming home, today’s material world seeking to merely see the stones and not the families who lived in the homes or what happened to them, or where they went, or how they died. In those short, twenty minutes, a number of deep feelings that every Palestinian has was touched.

When I spoke during the discussion period, I challenged the young ones in the room. I told them I’m going to write this article about the event and want them to send me their reflections so I can include them. Immediately after the event, the entire group of young girls who were sitting in the row behind me came up to me. One of the girls, Bisan, an unquestionable future leader, garnered enough courage to speak to me on their behalf. With her red cheeks and beautiful smile, she said they wanted to ask how they can send me what they write. I gave them my business card and told them my email is listed. One of the girls asked if she can send hers to me on Facebook, or Face, as she called it. Another sign of the times. They were so excited, they made the rest of a normal day great.

I barely got home that evening when I found this message from Bisan:

‘I am Bisan Jabr Ahmed, I was in ‘Ein Siniya theater and I’m ten years old. I felt that this play expressed our Palestinian heritage and took me back to the old days, how our parents used to live, while now everyone is busy with Face. How in the old times my parents and I worked together in our home and how we cooperated and how we disagreed.’

She then asked me to let her know next time I come to ‘Ein Siniya. Bisan and her generation are thirsty to live, while the military occupation that keeps its boot on their necks make it hard for them to even breathe.

Then a few hours later, I received this message:

‘I am Sama’a Khater. I’m nine years old. I loved the skit which was played in ‘Ein Siniya. Although it was short, it expressed the feelings of people in old days, and made me feel very sad.’

The idea to bring Palestinian oral histories to life has been the passion and project of actress Faten Khoury for years. With the support of The Danish House in Palestine and many generous others, she was able to link with the professional Danish actress Emilie who works in Denmark to revive history through theater. This skit was a pilot for a much larger project that Faten is working on, the creation of a Theatrical Museum of Oral History. I support this project wholeheartedly and made it my firm’s current corporate social responsibility project. Please help bring it to life if you can by visiting and making a donation.

Bottom line, ‘Ein Siniya’s population in the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, was 114. Today in 2015, ‘Ein Siniya’s population is 885 persons strong. Given every act of the Israeli military occupation for the last five decades has been designed to get Palestinians to leave Palestine, ‘Ein Siniya is a living testament to our resilience and determination to not only remain on the land, but to grow despite all odds. I, for one, commit to redoubling my efforts to ensure that Bisan and her friends will all have a future worth living for.


Read in Arabic HERE              Visit Sam’s Blog HERE




Anti-Apartheid Dance and Songs Meet Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company in Protest at Brooklyn Academy of Music

On busy Lafayette Avenue outside Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), 80 New Yorkers gathered last night to dance and sing in protest of Batsheva Dance Company’s performances in BAM’s 2014 Next Wave Festival (photos). Batsheva’s appearance is part of the “Brand Israel” initiativedesigned to distract from the facts of Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, and its denial of rights to Palestinians the world over. The demonstration was organized by Adalah-NY and endorsed by 15 other local human rights organizations including the BDS Arts Coalition, Brooklyn For Peace, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and the Ya-Ya Network.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs touts Batsheva as “perhaps the best known global ambassador of Israeli culture.” Batsheva is funded in part by that government office as well as by the Ministry of Culture and Sports. While Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin has criticized Israeli abuses of Palestinians, Batsheva Dance Company continues in its role as a prominent cultural ambassador of the Israeli state.

The demonstration began with a dabke (traditional Palestinian dance) lesson led by Adalah-NY member Riham Barghouti, with musical accompaniment by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra followed by songs from Dave Lippman. Chants highlighted the disconnect between the Batsheva dancers’ virtuosity and their company’s political role, including, “Their range of motion cannot hide / Their support for apartheid” and “Batsheva gets no ovation / Ambassador for occupation!”

Protester Carlos Pareja, an independent media maker, said, “I support drawing attention to the abuses against the Palestinian people. We can’t have only the ‘nice’ face of Israel, which is what we often see here.” Barghouti echoed that point, telling the crowd, “Today, only a few months after the most brutal of all Israeli attacks against the Gaza Strip—which killed over 2100 Palestinians including 500 children and leveled whole neighborhoods, leading Amnesty International and others to accuse Israel of war crimes—yet again BAM has invited the Israeli dance company Batsheva to whitewash Israel’s crimes.”

Interactions with Brooklynites were mostly positive, as curious people tookflyers and asked questions about the activities. Passersby and BAM ticket holders alike stood and watched the high-energy Freedom Debka Group and the Columbia Palestinian Dabke Brigade, two Palestinian dance troupes. The protest ended with two moving dances by Cetiliztli Nauhcampa Quetzalcoatl, a Mexica danza group, who offered “dance and prayers for dignity and solidarity” with Palestinians during their performance. Dancer Karen Lopez explained afterward, “We are indigenous people who have been displaced and seen our traditions threatened with destruction. We are always there in solidarity and resistance with other displaced peoples, including Palestinians.”

Wednesday night’s protest is part of the global movement of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. The Palestinian civil society call for BDS includes boycotting Israeli academic and cultural institutions complicit in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights. Adalah-NY is also organizing a protest next Tuesday, November 18, at the concert of the Touré-Raichel Collective, which features another premiere Israeli “cultural ambassador,” musician Idan Raichel.

More photos from the protest can be found here.


Photos © by Bud Korotzer, Commentary by Adalah-NY





























Pete Seeger, a personal friend and comrade died yesterday at the age of 94, just months after the passing of his wife of 70 years, Toshi.


Despite his advanced age, he did not live long enough to see the free world that he envisioned throughout his active political life.


He was more than just a Folk Singer, he was a singer for the folk. Those of us that had the opportunity and blessing of knowing him will miss him dearly. His legacy and music will live on for eternity which will ease our sorrow a bit, and will serve as a  continual reminder that his work is undone and we must continue with it.



Bella Ciao Dear Comrade



The New York Times published the following obituary today … (including photos)


Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94


Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died Monday. He was 94 and lived in Beacon, N.Y.

His death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10 to college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.

For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.

In his hearty tenor, Mr. Seeger, a beanpole of a man who most often played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo, sang topical songs and children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in. His agenda paralleled the concerns of the American left: He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond. “We Shall Overcome,” which Mr. Seeger adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.

Mr. Seeger was a prime mover in the folk revival that transformed popular music in the 1950s. As a member of the Weavers, he sang hits including Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene” — which reached No. 1 — and “If I Had a Hammer,” which he wrote with the group’s Lee Hays. Another of Mr. Seeger’s songs, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” became an antiwar standard. And in 1965, the Byrds had a No. 1 hit with a folk-rock version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” Mr. Seeger’s setting of a passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Mr. Seeger was a mentor to younger folk and topical singers in the ‘50s and ‘60s, among them Bob Dylan, Don McLean and Bernice Johnson Reagon, who founded Sweet Honey in the Rock. Decades later, Bruce Springsteen drew the songs on his 2006 album, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” from Mr. Seeger’s repertoire of traditional music about a turbulent American experience, and in 2009 he performed Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” with Mr. Seeger at the Obama inaugural. At a Madison Square Garden concert celebrating Mr. Seeger’s 90th birthday, Mr. Springsteen introduced him as “a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along.”

Although he recorded more than 100 albums, Mr. Seeger distrusted commercialism and was never comfortable with the idea of stardom. He invariably tried to use his celebrity to bring attention and contributions to the causes that moved him, or to the traditional songs he wanted to preserve.

Mr. Seeger saw himself as part of a continuing folk tradition, constantly recycling and revising music that had been honed by time.

During the McCarthy era Mr. Seeger’s political affiliations, including membership in the Communist Party in the 1940s, led to his being blacklisted and later indicted for contempt of Congress. The pressure broke up the Weavers, and Mr. Seeger disappeared from television until the late 1960s. But he never stopped recording, performing and listening to songs from ordinary people. Through the decades, his songs have become part of America’s folklore.

“My job,” he said in 2009, “is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.”

Peter Seeger was born on May 3, 1919, to Charles Seeger, a musicologist, and Constance de Clyver Edson Seeger, a concert violinist. His parents later divorced.

He began playing the ukulele while attending Avon Old Farms, a private boarding school in Connecticut. His father and his stepmother, the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, were collecting and transcribing rural American folk music, as were folklorists like John and Alan Lomax. He heard the five-string banjo, which would become his main instrument, when his father took him to a square-dance festival in North Carolina.

Young Pete became enthralled by rural traditions. “I liked the strident vocal tone of the singers, the vigorous dancing,” he is quoted in “How Can I Keep From Singing,” a biography by David Dunaway. “The words of the songs had all the meat of life in them. Their humor had a bite, it was not trivial. Their tragedy was real, not sentimental.”

Planning to be a journalist, Mr. Seeger attended Harvard, where he founded a radical newspaper and joined the Young Communist League. After two years, he dropped out and came to New York City, where Mr. Lomax introduced him to the blues singer Huddie Ledbetter, known as Lead Belly. Mr. Lomax also helped Mr. Seeger find a job cataloging and transcribing music at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress.

Mr. Seeger met Mr. Guthrie, a songwriter who shared his love of vernacular music and agitprop ambitions, in 1940, when they performed at a benefit concert for migrant California workers. Traveling across the United States with Mr. Guthrie, Mr. Seeger picked up some of his style and repertory. He also hitchhiked and hopped freight trains by himself, trading and learning songs.

When he returned to New York later in 1940, Mr. Seeger made his first albums. He, Millard Lampell and Mr. Hays founded the Almanac Singers, who performed union songs and, until Germany invaded the Soviet Union, antiwar songs, following the Communist Party line. Mr. Guthrie soon joined the group.

During World War II the Almanac Singers’s repertory turned to patriotic, antifascist songs, bringing them a broad audience, including a prime-time national radio spot. But the group’s earlier antiwar songs, the target of an F.B.I. investigation, came to light, and the group’s career plummeted.

Before the group completely dissolved, however, Mr. Seeger was drafted in 1942 and assigned to a unit of performers. He married Toshi-Aline Ohta while on furlough in 1943.

When he returned from the war he founded People’s Songs Inc., which published political songs and presented concerts for several years before going bankrupt. He also started his nightclub career, performing at the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village. Mr. Seeger and Paul Robeson toured with the campaign of Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party presidential candidate, in 1948.

Mr. Seeger invested $1,700 in 17 acres of land overlooking the Hudson River in Beacon and began building a log cabin there in the late 1940s. In 1949, Mr. Seeger, Mr. Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman started working together as the Weavers. They were signed to Decca Records by Gordon Jenkins, the company’s music director and an arranger for Frank Sinatra. With Mr. Jenkins’s elaborate orchestral arrangements, the group recorded a repertoire that stretched from “If I Had a Hammer” to a South African song, “Wimoweh” (the title was Mr. Seeger’s mishearing of “Mbube,” the name of a South African hit by Solomon Linda), to an Israeli soldiers’ song, “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena,” to a cleaned-up version of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene.” Onstage, they also sang more pointed topical songs.

In 1950 and 1951 the Weavers were national stars, with hit singles and engagements at major nightclubs. Their hits included “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” and Mr. Guthrie’s “So Long (It’s Been Good to Know Yuh),” and they sold an estimated four million singles and albums.

But “Red Channels,” an influential pamphlet listing performers with suspected Communist ties, appeared in June 1950 and listed Mr. Seeger, although by then he had quit the Communist Party. He would later criticize himself for having not left the party sooner, though he continued to describe himself as a “communist with a small ‘c.’ ”

Despite the Weavers’ commercial success, by the summer of 1951 the “Red Channels” citation and leaks from F.B.I. files had led to the cancellation of television appearances. In 1951, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee investigated the Weavers for sedition. And in February 1952, a former member of People’s Songs testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee that three of the four Weavers were members of the Communist Party.

As engagements dried up the Weavers disbanded, though they reunited periodically in the mid-1950s. After the group recorded an advertisement for Lucky Strike cigarettes, Mr. Seeger left, citing his objection to promoting tobacco use.

Shut out of national exposure, Mr. Seeger returned primarily to solo concerts, touring college coffeehouses, churches, schools and summer camps, building an audience for folk music among young people. He started to write a long-running column for the folk-song magazine Sing Out! And he recorded prolifically for the independent Folkways label, singing everything from children’s songs to Spanish Civil War anthems.

In 1955 he was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he testified, “I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature.” He also stated: “I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”

Mr. Seeger offered to sing the songs mentioned by the congressmen who questioned him. The committee declined.

Mr. Seeger was indicted in 1957 on 10 counts of contempt of Congress. He was convicted in 1961 and sentenced to a year in prison, but the next year an appeals court dismissed the indictment as faulty. After the indictment, Mr. Seeger’s concerts were often picketed by the John Birch Society and other rightist groups. “All those protests did was sell tickets and get me free publicity,” he later said. “The more they protested, the bigger the audiences became.”

By then, the folk revival was prospering. In 1959, Mr. Seeger was among the founders of the Newport Folk Festival. The Kingston Trio’s version of Mr. Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” reached the Top 40 in 1962, soon followed by Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of “If I Had a Hammer,” which rose to the Top 10.

Mr. Seeger was signed to a major label, Columbia Records, in 1961, but he remained unwelcome on network television. “Hootenanny,” an early-1960s show on ABC that capitalized on the folk revival, refused to book Mr. Seeger, causing other performers (including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary) to boycott it. “Hootenanny” eventually offered to present Mr. Seeger if he would sign a loyalty oath. He refused.

He toured the world, performing and collecting folk songs, in 1963, and returned to serenade civil rights advocates, who had made a rallying song of his “We Shall Overcome.”

Like many of Mr. Seeger’s songs, “We Shall Overcome” had convoluted traditional roots. It was based on old gospel songs, primarily “I’ll Overcome,” a hymn that striking tobacco workers had sung on a picket line in South Carolina. A slower version, “We Will Overcome,” was collected from one of the workers, Lucille Simmons, by Zilphia Horton, the musical director of the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn., which trained union organizers.

Ms. Horton taught it to Mr. Seeger, and her version of “We Will Overcome” was published in the People’s Songs newsletter. Mr. Seeger changed “We will” to “We shall” and added verses (“We’ll walk hand in hand”). He taught it to the singers Frank Hamilton, who would join the Weavers in 1962, and Guy Carawan, who became musical director at Highlander in the ‘50s. Mr. Carawan taught the song to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at its founding convention.

The song was copyrighted by Mr. Seeger, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Carawan and Ms. Horton. “At that time we didn’t know Lucille Simmons’s name,” Mr. Seeger wrote in his 1993 autobiography, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” All of the song’s royalties go to the “We Shall Overcome” Fund, administered by what is now the Highlander Research and Education Center, which provides grants to African-Americans organizing in the South.

Along with many elders of the protest-song movement, Mr. Seeger felt betrayed when Bob Dylan appeared at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival with a loud electric blues band. Reports emerged that Mr. Seeger had tried to cut the power cable with an ax, but witnesses including the producer George Wein and the festival’s production manager, Joe Boyd (later a leading folk-rock record producer), said he did not go that far. (An ax was available, however. A group of prisoners had used it while singing a logging song.)

As the United States grew divided over the Vietnam War, Mr. Seeger wrote “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” an antiwar song with the refrain “The big fool says to push on.” He performed the song during a taping of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in September 1967, his return to network television, but it was cut before the show was broadcast. After the Smothers Brothers publicized the censorship, Mr. Seeger returned to perform the song for broadcast in February 1968.

During the late 1960s Mr. Seeger started an improbable project: a sailing ship that would crusade for cleaner water on the Hudson River. Between other benefit concerts he raised money to build the Clearwater, a 106-foot sloop that was launched in June 1969 with a crew of musicians. The ship became a symbol and a rallying point for antipollution efforts and education.

In May 2009, after decades of litigation and environmental activism led by Mr. Seeger’s nonprofit environmental organization, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, General Electric began dredging sediment containing PCBs it had dumped into the Hudson. Mr. Seeger and his wife also helped organize a yearly summer folk festival named after the Clearwater.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s Mr. Seeger toured regularly with Arlo Guthrie, Woody’s son, and continued to lead singalongs and perform benefit concerts. Recognition and awards arrived. He was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972, and in 1993 he was given a lifetime achievement Grammy Award. In 1994, President Bill Clinton handed him the National Medal of Arts, America’s highest arts honor, given by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1999, he traveled to Cuba to receive the Order of Félix Varela, Cuba’s highest cultural award, for his “humanistic and artistic work in defense of the environment and against racism.”

In 1996, Mr. Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence. Arlo Guthrie, who paid tribute at the ceremony, mentioned that the Weavers’ hit “Goodnight, Irene” reached No. 1, only to add, “I can’t think of a single event in Pete’s life that is probably less important to him.” Mr. Seeger made no acceptance speech, but he did lead a singalong of “Goodnight, Irene,” flanked by Stevie Wonder, David Byrne and members of the Jefferson Airplane.

Mr. Seeger won Grammy Awards for best traditional folk album in 1997, for the album “Pete,” and in 2009, for the album “At 89.” He also won a Grammy in the children’s music category in 2011 for “Tomorrow’s Children.”

Mr. Seeger kept performing into the 21st century, despite a flagging voice; audiences happily sang along more loudly. He celebrated his 90th birthday, on May 3, 2009, at a Madison Square Garden concert — a benefit for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater — with Mr. Springsteen, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, Emmylou Harris and dozens of other musicians paying tribute. In August he was back in Newport for the 50th anniversary of the Newport Folk Festival.

Mr. Seeger’s wife, Toshi, died in 2013, days before the couple’s 70th anniversary. Survivors include his son, Daniel; his daughters, Mika and Tinya; a half-sister, Peggy; and six grandchildren, including the musician Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, who performed with him at the Obama inaugural. His half-brother Mike Seeger, a folklorist and performer who founded the New Lost City Ramblers, died in 2009.

Through the years, Mr. Seeger remained determinedly optimistic. “The key to the future of the world,” he said in 1994, “is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”


Another tribute can be read HERE


Darwish will live on this way among his people. Mahmoud Darwish died on 9 August 2008, yet his spirit remains present even in the absence of his being.

The poetry of absence: remembering Mahmoud Darwish five years on

Sonja Karkar*

Portrait of Mahmoud Darwish illuminated by candles

Mahmoud Darwish wove the poetry of politics and protest with the wonder of life and love.

 (Jamal Nasrallah / EPA)


Exiled. Stateless. Displaced. Dispossessed. Uprooted. Refugee.

Each word shatters the myth of human progress and our essential humanity. Mahmoud Darwish’s anguished, poetic narrative of his and his people’s exile is the defining expression of that continuing human tragedy that callously, violently turned Palestine into Israel with no place — then or now — for those who belong.

Darwish (1941-2008) described exile thus: “Absent, I come to the home of the absent,” and when he was asked who he is, he responded, “I still do not know.”

His answer can best be understood in his words “Perhaps like me you have no address” while more questions follow and linger heavy with pathos over the human condition:

What’s the worth of a man
Without a homeland,
Without a flag,
Without an address?
What is the worth of such a man?

As an internal refugee in Israel, Mahmoud Darwish’s status was bizarrely given legal recognition as a “present-absent alien.” And then, after 25 years in exile, moving from one foreign city to another — Moscow, CairoBeirut, Tunis and Paris — he came to see his journey as an epic voyage of the damned: neither here nor there.


To him it was all about dignity. With his poetry, Darwish created a space of belonging that had been lost to him in the reality of his life — an existential reality in which he said “I cannot enter and I cannot go out.”

It was in that space that he wrote his famous early poem “Identity Card”:

Write down I am an Arab
You stole the groves of my forefathers,
And the land I used to till.
You left me nothing but these rocks.
And from them, I must wrest a loaf of bread,
For my eight children.

In that very space of belonging, his fellow exiles flooded in, embracing their Palestinian identity and heritage with the honor that had been returned to them. Mahmoud Darwish had encouraged them to “be present in absence.”

In an interview with Newsweek in 2000 he said poems “can establish a metaphorical homeland in the minds of people. I think my poems have built some houses in this landscape.”

Yet, even as Darwish’s poetry was fueled by his exile, earning him the title of the poet of Palestinian resistance, the genius of the man is in the way he was able to weave the poetry of politics and protest with the wonder of life and love and hope and bring the people with him on the journey of his own aesthetic development that was so important to him the poet.

Fragile dream

In his poem “I Waited for No One” he told those who might feel that hope is but a fragile elusive dream to:

… look behind you to find the dream, go
to any east or west that exiles you more,
and keeps me one step farther from my bed
and from one of my sad skies. The end
is beginning’s sister, go and you’ll find what you left
here, waiting for you.

Perhaps it was his quest for the humanity in all of us that brought him to the attention of literary circles around the world. Here was a Palestinian who, despite the human rights cruelly denied him and his people, was able to see the same ebb and flow of life in the victim and oppressor alike — where love and hate, reason and fear, compassion and tyranny, life and death are no different.

His poetry stroked the human ego even as he admonished it. His words often sung of love and helped the burdened souls soar to places that only his imagination could take them. He challenged people to look inside themselves, to see themselves as they would have others see them.

It is through him that the world is able to peer through a window of Palestine and be drawn not only into the human catastrophe it helped create, but to see the Palestinians as no less human than themselves.

Non-Arab audiences saw in his poetry that forgiveness, reconciliation and a moving forward are all possible when the Palestinians are treated with respect and dignity that is their due, neither more nor less than is due to others.

Darwish’s art was born and nourished out of his exile. Darwish said: “The man who is in harmony with his society, his culture, with himself, cannot be a creator. And that would be true even if our country were Eden itself” (“A poet’s Palestine as metaphor,” The New York Times, 22 December 2001).

Nevertheless he lamented, “How difficult it is to be Palestinian, and how difficult it is for a Palestinian to be a writer or a poet … How can he achieve literary freedom in such slavish conditions? And how can he preserve the literariness of literature in such brutal times?” (“The laureate of all Arabs,” The Guardian, 12 August 2008).


Despite these misgivings, Mahmoud Darwish did build on his literary accomplishments.

He was not just a poet revered by the Arab world. His books and poetry have been translated into more than 22 languages.

He won numerous awards, including the 1969 Lotus Prize from the Union of Afro-Asian Writers; in 1983, the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize; in 1993, France’s highest medal, the Knight of Arts and Letters; the Netherlands’ 2004 Principal Prince Claus Award in recognition of his “impressive body of work.”

Even Israel considered introducing his work into the high school curriculum in 2001, until then Prime Minister Ehud Barak declared that “Israel is not ready” for Darwish’s work (“Mahmoud Darwish: Palestine’s poet of exile,” The Progressive, May 2002).

But, it was the 2001 Lannan Foundation Prize for Cultural Freedom carrying a $350,000 award that brought Darwish’s extraordinary talent into the United States, where he had been virtually unknown. On accepting the award, he said, “I also read the prize at a political level, as perhaps representing a better understanding of the role I have played in my country.”

Poetry has been and is a living, breathing form of expression in the whole Arab world, something that has been lost in the West, if indeed it ever existed in the daily life of Western culture.

It is recited in the form of greetings, advice, warnings, accolades, compliments and for just the sheer pleasure of hearing and saying the words, of being able to finish the lines forgotten, of delighting in remembering a line or two or being praised for being able to recite an hour’s worth of poetry.

Darwish will live on this way among his people. Mahmoud Darwish died on 9 August 2008, yet his spirit remains present even in the absence of his being.

*Sonja Karkar is the founder of Women for Palestine, a Melbourne-based human rights group and co-founder of Australians for Palestine, an advocacy group that provides a voice for Palestine at all levels of Australian society. She is the editor of the website

Written FOR


In what can only be described as contempt for the child, Israeli authorities closed an East Jerusalem puppet festival. The reason given was its activities were being organized under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority.”
Theater director Mohammed Halayiqa condemned the decision as “disgraceful”, saying the PA had no involvement in the International Puppet Festival which was funded by donations from abroad and aimed at children.
The move is being protested by various sections of the Israeli community ….

Ariel Doron, the voice of Elmo on the Israeli version of the popular children’s television show, and Yousef Sweid, who plays an Arab Muppet on the show, created a Facebook group namedPuppets4All calling on Israel to permit the festival.  

Two other Israeli “Sesame Street” puppeteers, along with a number of fellow Israeli actors, uploaded photos to the Facebook group holding puppets and signs protesting the closure.

“I think every boy and girl deserves to see puppet theater,” said Doron. “There is no sense to this.”

In actuality, there is no sense to zionism, period.


Two reports can be read here …

One from AP,

The other from AFP.


Bethlehem (Aramaic for House of Laham, the Canaanitic God of Sustenance) area is decked in colors and the best and most beautiful lights are the smiles on the faces of our children.  On Saturday evening, we attended a Christian service that was a joint service with the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The Palestinian children bell choir was uplifting.   Children led the lighting of the candles at churches, the singing, and the choirs and they outnumbered adults in most activities.  We were blessed by visited homes of poor children of different faiths. On Monday 3500 members of marching bands/scouts (most youth under 18) led parades near the apartheid wall separating Jerusalem from Bethlehem towards the Nativity square. Some of the marching youth were Muslims.  The marching band from Gaza (Christian and Muslim) was not allowed to participate by the Israeli occupation authorities.  Earlier in the day, children in the square formed a large peace symbol and the words “LOVE ALL” with their bodies in front of the massive Christmas tree in the square.  The United Nations Work and Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) had banners asking people to remember the suffering children in Gaza and Syria. 
Above text written by Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD


Hopefully, this year, we can all be thankful. Looking forward to the day when all of humanity can celebrate as one big family.
Following is our yearly offering for this very special day 
If you get the urge to sing along….. here are the lyrics….
This song is called Alice’s Restaurant, and it’s about Alice, and the
restaurant, but Alice’s Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant,
that’s just the name of the song, and that’s why I called the song Alice’s
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
Walk right in it’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on – two years ago on
Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the
restaurant, but Alice doesn’t live in the restaurant, she lives in the
church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and
Fasha the dog. And livin’ in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of
room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin’ all that room,
seein’ as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn’t
have to take out their garbage for a long time.

We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it’d be
a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So
we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW
microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed
on toward the city dump.


“I am not under the illusion that our street art or the unarmed demonstrations are going to end the occupation tomorrow morning. None of these things isolated from the rest of it is going to end the occupation. But they build a system of resistance. They are all part of a larger web of popular  resistance.”

Taking back Palestine’s streets: exclusive interview with underground Jerusalem graffiti artist

Maath Musleh *

“There’s no voice greater than the voice of the intifada” (Image courtesy of the artist)

Graffiti has been a tool of the Palestinian liberation struggle for decades; during the first intifada in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Palestinians painted graffiti on all the walls as a means of protesting the occupation. Graffiti artists were met with brutal suppression if caught.

Young Palestinians are carrying on the legacy of art as a form of resistance today. On 12 January, an unknown group penetrated the heavily-fortified heart of West Jerusalem overnight and painted graffiti bearing political messages on walls, doors, construction sites and other surfaces. Most of the paintings pictured a woman’s face masked with a kuffiyeh, the traditional Palestinian checkered scarf. Below some of the images was the word “revolt” in Arabic.

The group hit the walls of Jerusalem again five days later, and issued an anonymous statement vowing to carry on their action to send messages to the Israeli and Palestinian communities.

In the following weeks, other groups took up the spray can torch in various cities including Haifa and Jaffa.

And in June, the Jerusalem activists took a daring step by painting graffiti on the doors and walls of governmental buildings as well as the doorways of Israeli houses in Jerusalem and Palestinian houses occupied since the ethnic cleansing of 1948. They sent the same messages calling upon Palestinians in general, and Palestinian women in particular, to revolt. They also painted “Remember Gaza” across the wall of one of the buildings in big letters.

Underground graffiti artist speaks out

A member of the group, a confident young Palestinian feminist activist who operates under the pseudonym “Laila,” spoke to The Electronic Intifada on condition of anonymity. Laila has been active in street art in Palestine before the creation of the anonymous Jerusalem group, focusing on painting both the walls of West and East Jerusalem.

“Some of the street art I have done was in what has now become West Jerusalem in Jewish-dominated areas,” said Laila. “Some other stuff I have done is in East Jerusalem where messages have been more about feminist messages to [Palestinian] women, mostly to wake up and not be drowned out by the patriarchal nature of our society.”

The Jerusalem graffiti group started operating since the beginning of this year.

“We are a group of Palestinian youth, both men and women, active on the ground in the popular resistance movement,” explained Laila, adding that there is a mix of backgrounds and perspectives within the group. “We cannot be categorized into one unique box; we are quite diverse,” she said. “What bring us together is our activism and our deep desire to continue the resistance movement and to be active as much as possible.”

The members of the group met during demonstrations taking place in Palestine. In the past year, they have been actively participating in the popular resistance in the West Bank and prisoners’ hunger strike solidarity actions. Although they have not known each other for very long, they managed to build a level of trust amongst each other. “I think each one of us realizes there is a lot of trust within the other person,” said Laila.

For the time being, the group has no plans to expand. “First we have to work small and focused until we are able to mobilize more people,” said Laila.

“This is Palestine and we’re still here”

According to Laila, the group’s street art activism in West Jerusalem aims to mark the streets with the existence of the Palestinian people and make Israelis feel uncomfortable.

“We want to remind them these were Palestinian neighborhoods, this is Palestine and we are still here,” said Laila. “It is kind of taking back our streets and not allowing the status quo to continue.

“I am not under the illusion that our street art or the unarmed demonstrations are going to end the occupation tomorrow morning. None of these things isolated from the rest of it is going to end the occupation. But they build a system of resistance. They are all part of a larger web of popular resistance.”

The Jerusalem group has so far undertaken three actions this year, all carrying similar messages. Laila said, “The three actions were in different parts of the city [Jerusalem]. We wanted to take the same message and spread it around the city. Some of the paintings were painted over within 48 hours. We wanted to make it a point: by repainting them … even if you do, the problem will not go away and we are still here.”

It is still too early to know if the work of this group will expand into different areas or using different tools. “We are planning. There will be something new in the coming weeks, so stay tuned,” Laila said.

Laila does not think of her activism as just a means to end occupation; she hopes that her work could encourage change within Palestinian society.

“The end goal is also to create a different society and a different way in which we function in it,” said Laila. “For example, when I think about the role of women within the popular resistance movement, I think about the fact that it is important that women also have an equal role within creating a new Palestinian society. Will they be part of the leadership? Will they be part of the action? Will they be part of building the structures and institutions of the society?”

Support of unarmed resistance

The unarmed popular resistance that has mushroomed in recent years in opposition to Israel’s wall and settlement colonies in the occupied West Bank has been hit with the arrows of criticism, accused as inefficient and helping to sustain the status quo. The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee organizes weekly demonstrations against the occupation in several West Bank villages. These demonstrations have not yet produced tangible changes on ground, critics say.

“Since the 1930s, the Palestinians have used multiple strategies and tactics that are all categorized as nonviolent resistance such as strikes, hunger strikes and marches,” said Laila. “For instance, the nonviolent tactics of the first intifada succeeded in mobilizing thousands of people out in the streets.

“The [nonviolent] tactic itself can bring a lot more people together. It allows higher levels of participation in oppose to the armed resistance.”

Laila believes that the unarmed resistance is the way to end the occupation. “I do not want to speak for anybody else in the group because we might not agree on this point,” said Laila. “But I think that unarmed resistance is going to be a lot more strategic and influential.”

And yet even unarmed protest, during which youths sometimes throw rocks at the army, is construed in the international media as violent. Laila believes that this characterization is unfair because the young Palestinians throwing stones at the fourth strongest army in the world are met with live ammunition or rubber-coated steel bullets.

Laila finds a double standard in the Western media. “I think the Egyptian revolution is a great example,” she said. “We saw protesters throwing stones at the army and the police, and yet the media painted it as a nonviolent revolution.”

Some have also criticized the participation of Israeli activists in the Palestinian popular resistance.

“It is important that the strategies and tactics are directed by the Palestinians,” said Laila. “But we are also talking about many Israeli activists who are anti-government and who come in full solidarity. They support the full rights of the Palestinians and justice.”

Future of Palestine

As for the future of Palestine, Laila believes that a two-state solution is impossible. According to her, the idea of a Jewish state has damaged the morality of Jewish Israeli society.

“I want to destroy the current structure and oppression inflicted by the state, not the people,” said Laila.

“There are so many Jews who want to go back to Syria because that is their homeland,” she added. “They want to go back to Tunisia or Morocco because that is where they are originally from. I know Israeli Jews who cried when they saw the bombing of Baghdad in 2003 because that is their home city.”

The graffiti activist believes that all Palestinians in exile have the right to choose whether they want to return to their homeland or be compensated. She believes that the right of return might not be easy but it is not impractical as many Zionists claim. It is a right, she says.

“I do not think anyone will be left homeless; there are a lot of structures,” said Laila. “Instead of thinking about destroying the settlements the day the occupation ends, we should think about how we can use these structures. There are also Palestinian Nakba houses [property depopulated in the 1948 ethnic cleansing] that are standing completely empty and nobody uses them. Why should their owners not have the right to come back?”

Laila is not interested in sending messages of co-existence through her graffiti art. “This is the only place in the world that I know of where reconciliation and dialogue programs and messages of co-existence have existed before actual oppression has ended,” she said. “It is impossible to tell somebody [to] learn to co-exist before their sense of oppression has ended.”

It is Israeli society which needs to reconcile with history, according to Laila. “The Israeli society will suffer an identity crisis before they start realizing what the occupation meant here for all of those years,” she said.

“I do not talk just about the occupation in 1967,” she added. “My village was not impacted in 1967; it was impacted in 1948. My village was occupied in 1948.”

As for the Palestinians, following the so-called Arab Spring, many Palestinian youth groups emerged. Nonetheless, mobilization seems to be slow. Many analysts ask the same question: “When is the Palestinian spring?”

Laila believes that Palestinian society needs more time to prepare for the next phase of their liberation movement. “If it [the revolution] happened tomorrow morning, it would be a disaster,” Laila said. “What we are doing today is preparing. It is utterly important to be ready for the day when it comes.”

*Maath Musleh is a Palestinian journalist and blogger based in Jerusalem currently seeking a master’s degree in political journalism from City University in London.

Written FOR


What is it about the Freedom Theatre that causes its artistic director to be arrested in a night time raid, one co-founder to be held in prison and the other, Juliano Mer Khamis, to be brutally gunned down at the entrance to the theatre last year?
Resistance Through Art in Jenin’s Freedom Theatre

The Bravest Theater in the World


First the good news.  On July 12, Nabil Al-Raee, the Artistic Director of The Freedom Theatre in Jenin, was released after more than a month in detention following his arrest at his home in the early hours of the morning in June by Israeli Armed Forces,

Not accused of any crime, but arrested initially on suspicion of ‘illegal activity’ and withholding information about the murder last year of Freedom Theatre co-founder, Juliano Mer Khamis, for the first two weeks of his captivity Nabil was not allowed to have any contact with his lawyer or family, and throughout his detention he was subject to a long set of interrogations.  When the military judge declared in a court hearing that no evidence had been established, the military prosecution put forward a third accusation of him being involved in ‘terror activities’.

The bad news is that Nabil has only been freed on bail, and that he will remain under house arrest wearing an electronic foot chain until his next trial at the end of the month.

Meanwhile former commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade Zakaria Zubeid, who  received an amnesty when he renounced violence in 2005  and committed himself to cultural resistance through theatre, has been held without charge by the Palestinian security forces in prison in Jericho since May 13.  Zubeidi, is co-founder of the Jenin Freedom Theatre.  On December 29, 2011, Israel rescinded Zubeidi’s pardon for unstated reasons.

“The theatre is an important project,” said Zubeidi.  “ It can bring the children together under one roof, give them the possibility to dream, develop them and lighten their psychological burden.”`

What is it about the Freedom Theatre that causes its artistic director to be arrested in a night time raid, one co-founder to be held in prison and the other, Juliano Mer Khamis, to be brutally gunned down at the entrance to the theatre last year?

Built on the inspiration and legacy of Juliano Mer Khamis’mother, Arna Mer-Khamis, a Jewish woman who in 1987 went to Jenin and set up a theatre and activity centres for the children of the camp and worked there until her death of cancer in 1995, the initiative to set up the Freedom Theatre as a European-Jewish-Palestinian-Arab venture in the Jenin refugee camp was born of the enthusiasm of two people – the artist Dror Feiler, and Jonatan Stanczak, a Swedish-Jewish peace activist , who set up an association and solicited contributions  after viewing  Juliano Mer Khamis’ excellent film “Arna’s Children”.

“The Freedom Theatre was created with the inspiration of Arna,” said Juliano, whose father was a Palestinian, speaking before he was murdered,  “but even so, despite  the partners of the project’s request to name the theatre after her, I refused.  Arna hated commemoration.  We will not make a personality-cult for her.  We are setting up a theatre in the spirit of her actions.  One of the reasons why we called the project Freedom Theatre, apart from the obvious political connotations, was the intention to create a theatre that would be free from all the elements of the occupation that is imprinted on the population.  Part of the work with the children will be to liberate them from the scars of the occupation, from the social patriarchy they live under, from the oppression they live under at home and outside.”

“The real essence of the theatre is to create a free zone for children so they can create and bring about change.  I think that the best way to influence the behaviour of a child is to create for him a living space without laws, which is the opposite of the reality he comes from.  This is not a pedagogical effort or an attempt to deal with neurological or pathological phenomena. We have no pretensions. Certainly not me.”

“I think that adults, too, need theatre. It’s not enough that they send their children here, we want to work with them.  Because a network of relationships in the camp are based on violence and hierarchy – between the camp and the occupation, between the parents, between the parents and the children and among the children – a way of group work in psychodrama workshops can teach the participants to create different networks of inter-personal relationships.”

The Freedom Theatre has mounted critically acclaimed productions of plays that raise the dilemmas of the individual spirit faced with the soul-crushing imposition of arbitrary power, including an original musical production inspired by Alice in Wonderland, Animal Farm, and a Palestinian adaptation of Waiting for Godot. Several of these productions have toured in Europe and the United States – although Israel has frequently obstructed the international performances by denying actors and technical staff access to consular offices to apply for visas or permission to cross the border into Jordan, the only access West Bank Palestinians have for international flights.  Performances within the West Bank have been harassed by Israeli armed forces surrounding the performance space with troops.

A French circus group, scheduled to perform at The Freedom Theatre, was denied entry into Palestine by Israel.

A leading actor in the Godot play was arrested by Israeli armed forces and held in jail throughout the final two months of rehearsal.

Israeli troops have surrounded the theatre and abducted staff members in the middle of the night.

“This behaviour is mounting to systematical harassment of The Freedom Theatre by The Israeli army.  It is scandalous,” said  co-founder Jonatan Stanczak, who lives in Jenin.  “This proves that the Israeli army and security apparatus is either lost in their investigation or that they have the actual intention of damaging the theatre. It also seems that after the murder of Juliano Mer Khamis The Freedom Theatre is no longer exempted from the kind of oppression the Palestinian society is subjected to in general.”

Since the murder of Mer-Khamis the Israelis have repeatedly summoned Palestinian staff members of The Freedom Theatre to the Salem army base for intimidating interrogations.  All come to the appointments as scheduled and answer the given questions to the best of their knowledge even though they are intimidated and even threatened.

“Usually these interrogations start with ‘We know you are the one who killed Juliano, why did you kill him?’” said Stanczak.

“Since this has happened so many times in the past, I can’t interpret it as anything else than an ongoing harassment of the employees of The Freedom Theatre and their families by the Israeli army.”

“Maybe they thought we would break down when Juliano was assassinated, but we kept on and now they are trying to suffocate us slowly by harassing our employees, members and supporters with various accusations, one more absurd than the other.  This systematic harassment has gone on for a year now.”

The Freedom Theatre is warmly received in the Jenin refugee camp.

“The residents of the camps and the military organizations understand that the occupation oppresses also the cultural-intellectual infrastructure and does not allow the residents to develop,” said Mer-Khamis.

As Ashraf, one of “Arna’s Children” expressed in the film:

“When I am on stage I feel like I am throwing stones. We wont let the occupation keep us in the gutter. To me acting is like throwing a Molotov cocktail. On stage I feel strong, alive and proud”.

The Freedom Theatre will continue the message of Juliano Mer Khamis and his mother Arna to promote freedom – not only for the Palestinian people but for all human beings. We will continue our resistance through art, continue our struggle, continue to do our better than best.

As Juliano would say: “The Revolution must go on!”


Written FOR


Ray Bradbury at a book signing in California in 1997 Steve Castillo/Associated Press

Not everyone gets an obituary when they pass on, but surely not everone gets a three page obituary in the New York Times.  Ray Bradbury got one today attesting to his greatness.
Just over five years ago, my favourite author died.  Kurt Vonnogut also received a three page obit honouring his greatness. 
Ray Bradbury was with us longer and was an integral part of our growing up process. He was able to divert our minds from the evils of the Cold War and McCarthyism. His works left much to the imagination and became very real to us despite being fiction, a fiction much more acceptable than the actual horrors of the day. Our universe was expanded as Mars became a familiar territory to us, again a much friendlier place than Washington, DC
Truly one of the greats. He will be missed.
Following is his obituary from the Times;
RAY BRADBURY | 1920-2012

Brought Mars to Earth With a Lyrical Mastery


Ray Bradbury, a master of science fiction whose imaginative and lyrical evocations of the future reflected both the optimism and the anxieties of his own postwar America, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his agent, Michael Congdon.

By many estimations Mr. Bradbury was the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream. His name would appear near the top of any list of major science fiction writers of the 20th century, beside those of Isaac AsimovArthur C. ClarkeRobert A. Heinlein and the Polish author Stanislaw Lem. His books are still being taught in schools, where many a reader has been introduced to them half a century after they first appeared. Many readers have said Mr. Bradbury’s stories fired their own imaginations.

More than eight million copies of his books have been sold in 36 languages. They include the short-story collections “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man” and “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” and the novels “Fahrenheit 451” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

Though none of his works won a Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Bradbury received a Pulitzer citation in 2007 “for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”

His writing career stretched across 70 years, to the last weeks of his life. The New Yorker published an autobiographical essay by Mr. Bradbury in its June 4 double issue devoted to science fiction. There he recalled his “hungry imagination” as a boy in Illinois.

“It was one frenzy after one elation after one enthusiasm after one hysteria after another,” he wrote, noting, “You rarely have such fevers later in life that fill your entire day with emotion.”

Mr. Bradbury sold his first story to a magazine called Super Science Stories in his early 20s. By 30 he had made his reputation with “The Martian Chronicles,” a collection of thematically linked stories published in 1950.

The book celebrated the romance of space travel while condemning the social abuses that modern technology had made possible, and its impact was immediate and lasting. Critics who had dismissed science fiction as adolescent prattle praised “Chronicles” as stylishly written morality tales set in a future that seemed just around the corner.

Mr. Bradbury was hardly the first writer to represent science and technology as a mixed bag of blessings and abominations. The advent of the atomic bomb in 1945 left many Americans deeply ambivalent toward science. The same “super science” that had ended World War II now appeared to threaten the very existence of civilization. Science fiction writers, who were accustomed to thinking about the role of science in society, had trenchant things to say about the nuclear threat.

But the audience for science fiction, published mostly in pulp magazines, was small and insignificant. Mr. Bradbury looked to a larger audience: the readers of mass-circulation magazines like Mademoiselle and The Saturday Evening Post. These readers had no patience for the technical jargon of the science fiction pulps. So he eliminated the jargon; he packaged his troubling speculations about the future in an appealing blend of cozy colloquialisms and poetic metaphors.

Though his books became a staple of high school and college English courses, Mr. Bradbury himself disdained formal education. He went so far as to attribute his success as a writer to his never having gone to college.

Instead, he read everything he could get his hands on: Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway . He paid homage to them in 1971 in the essay “How Instead of Being Educated in College, I Was Graduated From Libraries.” (Late in life he took an active role in fund-raising efforts for public libraries in Southern California.)

Mr. Bradbury referred to himself as an “idea writer,” by which he meant something quite different from erudite or scholarly. “I have fun with ideas; I play with them,” he said. “ I’m not a serious person, and I don’t like serious people. I don’t see myself as a philosopher. That’s awfully boring.”

He added, “My goal is to entertain myself and others.”

He described his method of composition as “word association,” often triggered by a favorite line of poetry.

Mr. Bradbury’s passion for books found expression in his dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451,” published in 1953. But he drew his primary inspiration from his childhood. He boasted that he had total recall of his earliest years, including the moment of his birth. Readers had no reason to doubt him. As for the protagonists of his stories, no matter how far they journeyed from home, they learned that they could never escape the past.

In his best stories and in his autobiographical novel, “Dandelion Wine”(1957), he gave voice to both the joys and fears of childhood, as well as its wonders.

“Dandelion Wine” begins before dawn on the first day of summer. From a window, Douglas Spaulding, 12, looks out upon his town, “covered over with darkness and at ease in bed.” He has a task to perform.

“One night each week he was allowed to leave his father, his mother, and his younger brother Tom asleep in their small house next door and run here, up the dark spiral stairs to his grandparents’ cupola,” Mr. Bradbury writes, “and in this sorcerer’s tower sleep with thunders and visions, to wake before the crystal jingle of milk bottles and perform his ritual magic.

“He stood at the open window in the dark, took a deep breath and exhaled. The streetlights, like candles on a black cake, went out. He exhaled again and again and the stars began to vanish.”

Now he begins to point his finger — “There, and there. Now over here, and here …” — and lights come on, and the town begins to stir.

“Clock alarms tinkled faintly. The courthouse clock boomed. Birds leaped from trees like a net thrown by his hand, singing. Douglas, conducting an orchestra, pointed to the eastern sky.

“The sun began to rise.

“He folded his arms and smiled a magician’s smile. Yes, sir, he thought, everyone jumps, everyone runs when I yell. It’ll be a fine season.

“He gave the town a last snap of his fingers.

“Doors slammed open; people stepped out.

“Summer 1928 began.”

Raymond Douglas Bradbury was born Aug. 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Ill., a small city whose Norman Rockwellesque charms he later reprised in his depiction of the fictional Green Town in “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” and in the fatally alluring fantasies of the astronauts in “The Martian Chronicles.” His father, Leonard, a lineman with the electric company, numbered among his ancestors a woman who was tried as a witch in Salem, Mass.

An unathletic child who suffered from bad dreams, he relished the tales of the Brothers Grimm and the Oz stories of L. Frank Baum, which his mother, the former Esther Moberg, read to him. An aunt, Neva Bradbury, took him to his first stage plays, dressed him in monster costumes for Halloween and introduced him to Poe’s stories. He discovered the science fiction pulps and began collecting the comic-strip adventures of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. The impetus to become a writer was supplied by a carnival magician named Mr. Electrico, who engaged the boy, then 12, in a conversation that touched on immortality.

In 1934 young Ray, his parents and his older brother, Leonard, moved to Los Angeles. (Another brother and a sister had died young.) Ray became a movie buff, sneaking into theaters as often as nine times a week by his count. Encouraged by a high school English teacher and the professional writers he met at the Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League, he began an enduring routine of turning out at least a thousand words a day on his typewriter.

His first big success came in 1947 with the short story “Homecoming,” narrated by a boy who feels like an outsider at a family reunion of witches, vampires and werewolves because he lacks supernatural powers. The story, plucked from the pile of unsolicited manuscripts at Mademoiselle by a young editor named Truman Capote, earned Mr. Bradbury an O. Henry Award as one of the best American short stories of the year.

With 26 other stories in a similar vein, “Homecoming” appeared in Mr. Bradbury’s first book, “Dark Carnival,” published by a small specialty press in 1947. That same year he married Marguerite Susan McClure, whom he had met in a Los Angeles bookstore.

Having written himself “down out of the attic,” as he later put it, Mr. Bradbury focused on science fiction. In a burst of creativity from 1946 to 1950, he produced most of the stories later collected in “The Martian Chronicles” and “The Illustrated Man” and the novella that formed the basis of “Fahrenheit 451.”

While science fiction purists complained about Mr. Bradbury’s cavalier attitude toward scientific facts — he gave his fictional Mars an impossibly breathable atmosphere — the literary establishment waxed enthusiastic. The novelist Christopher Isherwood greeted Mr. Bradbury as “a very great and unusual talent,” and one of Mr. Bradbury’s personal heroes, Aldous Huxley, hailed him as a poet. In 1954, the National Institute of Arts and Letters honored Mr. Bradbury for “his contributions to American literature,” in particular the novel “Fahrenheit 451.”

“The Martian Chronicles” was pieced together from 26 stories, only a few of which were written with the book in mind. The patchwork narrative spans the years 1999 to 2026, depicting a series of expeditions to Mars and their aftermath. The native Martians, who can read minds, resist the early arrivals from Earth, but are finally no match for them and their advanced technology as the humans proceed to destroy the remains of an ancient civilization.

Parallels to the fate of American Indian cultures are pushed to the point of parody; the Martians are finally wiped out by an epidemic of chickenpox. When nuclear war destroys Earth, the descendants of the human colonists realize that they have become the Martians, with a second chance to create a just society.

“Fahrenheit 451” is perhaps his most successful book-length narrative. An indictment of authoritarianism, it portrays a book-burning America of the near future, its central character a so-called fireman, whose job is to light the bonfires. (The title refers to the temperature at which paper ignites.) Some critics compared it favorably to George Orwell’s “1984.” François Truffaut adapted the book for a well-received movie in 1966 starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie. As Mr. Bradbury’s reputation grew, he found new outlets for his talents. He wrote the screenplay for John Huston’s 1956 film version of “Moby-Dick,” scripts for the television series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and collections of poetry and plays.

In the mid-1980s he was the on-camera host of “Ray Bradbury Theater,” a cable series that featured dramatizations of his short stories.

While Mr. Bradbury championed the space program as an adventure that humanity dared not shirk, he was content to restrict his own adventures to the realm of imagination. He lived in the same house in Los Angeles for more than 5o years, rearing four daughters with his wife, Marguerite, who died in 2003. For many years he refused to travel by plane, preferring trains, and he never learned to drive.

In 2004, President George W. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush, presented Mr. Bradbury with the National Medal of Arts. Mr. Bradbury is survived by his daughters, Susan Nixon, Ramona Ostergen, Bettina Karapetian and Alexandra Bradbury, and eight grandchildren.

Though the sedentary writing life appealed to him most, he was not reclusive. He developed a flair for public speaking and was widely sought after on the national lecture circuit. There he talked about his struggle to reconcile his mixed feelings about modern life, a theme that animated much of his fiction and won him a large and sympathetic audience.

And he talked about the future, perhaps his favorite subject, describing how it both attracted and repelled him, leaving him filled with apprehension and hope.


“We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonization of occupied land.”

Israeli theater must be removed from London festival, top U.K. cultural figures say

In open letter published in the Guardian, leading directors cite what they say is Habima’s ‘shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements.’*

In an open letter published over the weekend, dozens of prominent members of the U.K.’s theater and film industries protested the inclusion of Israel’s national theater, Habima, in an upcoming Shakespeare festival, over what the signatories say was the theater’s “shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements.”

The letter, which was published late last week in the British newspaper the Guardian, was signed by such leading cultural figures as film director Mike Leigh, actress Emma Thompson and actor-director Richard Wilson.

In it, the signatories write of their “dismay and regret” over Habima’s planned run of The Merchant of Venice at the Globe to Globe festival, due to take place this May, citing the national theater’s willingness to play at settlement cultural halls despite a boycott by several Israeli actors and playwrites.

“Last year, two large Israeli settlements established ‘halls of culture’ and asked Israeli theatre groups to perform there. A number of Israeli theatre professionals – actors, stage directors, playwrights – declared they would not take part,” the letter said, adding: “Habima, however, accepted the invitation with alacrity, and promised the Israeli minister of culture that it would ‘deal with any problems hindering such performances.'”

By inviting Habima, the letter added, “Shakespeare’s Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law.”

The letter added that it supported the festival’s wish to include Hebrew-language plays in the upcoming event, adding, however, that “by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practiced by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company.”

“We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonization of occupied land,” it added.

In response to the missive, Habima’s artistic director Ilan Ronen said, “The attempt to portray Habima as a mouthpiece of this or that policy wrongs the creators, the actors, and anyone who is a part of our endeavor.”

“Performing in all of Israel is not the initiative of Habima, as the letter presents, by is a result of state law, to which all public cultural institutes are subject.”

This story is by: Ido Balas


Graffiti by night…..
As the photos show, the art includes the map of Palestine with the Arabic prounoun أنا (“I” or “me”) and an image of a woman wearing a kaffiyeh with the word “revolt.” This image is a reminder of the central role women have played in Palestinian popular struggle. The artists plan to undertake similar actions in coming days and weeks.

Photos: Palestinian graffiti artists penetrate heavily fortified heart of West Jerusalem

Submitted by Ali Abunimah 

Palestinian artists penetrated the heavily fortified heart of West Jerusalem overnight and painted graffiti bearing political messages on walls, doors, construction sites and other surfaces.

The artists struck in two areas, the West Jerusalem city center (near Jaffa Road and King George Street) and the German Colony/Talbiyye area.

The city center is today full of bars and restaurants frequented by Israeli Jews and tourists. Talbiyye was a once prosperous Arab neighborhood. These areas and large swathes of West Jerusalem were ethnically cleansed of their Palestinian populations in 1948 and are now almost exclusively Jewish.

As the photos show, the art includes the map of Palestine with the Arabic prounoun أنا (“I” or “me”) and an image of a woman wearing a kaffiyeh with the word “revolt.” This image is a reminder of the central role women have played in Palestinian popular struggle. The artists plan to undertake similar actions in coming days and weeks.




As Americans sit down to their Thanksgiving feast  today, one of the things they can be thankful for is the fact that their country has one of the richest People’s Cultures in the entire world.  Just one example of this is Arlo Guthrie…. As you prepare for this wonderful day, enjoy the following.  Be thankful you are in the 99%.

If you get the urge to sing along….. here are the lyrics….
This song is called Alice’s Restaurant, and it’s about Alice, and the
restaurant, but Alice’s Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant,
that’s just the name of the song, and that’s why I called the song Alice’s
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
Walk right in it’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant

Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on – two years ago on
Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the
restaurant, but Alice doesn’t live in the restaurant, she lives in the
church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and
Fasha the dog. And livin’ in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of
room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin’ all that room,
seein’ as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn’t
have to take out their garbage for a long time.

We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it’d be
a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So
we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW
microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed
on toward the city dump.



The attack comes just a few months after unidentified gunmen, apparently Palestinians, shot dead Juliano Mer-Khamis, the Palestinian-Jewish actor who ran the theater.

Mer-Khamis’ mother founded the camp in the 1980s in order to support children in the refugee camp. Mer-Khamis documented the theater and its destruction by the Israeli military, during the first intifada, in his film Arna’s Children.


Jenin Freedom Theater raided

By Jared Malsin


Israeli special forces raided the Freedom Theater early on Wednesday morning, according to workers at the  cultural institution in Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank and the Israeli army.

The theater said the following in a press release:

Special Forces of the Israeli Army attacked The Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee
Camp at approximately 03:30 this morning. Ahmed Nasser Matahen, a night
guard and technician student at the theatre, woke up by heavy blocks of stone
being hurled at the entrance of the theatre. As he opened the door he found
masked and heavily armed Israeli Special Forces around the theatre.

Ahmed says that the army threw heavy blocks of stone at the theatre, “they told
me to open the door to the theatre. They told me to raise my hands and forced me
to take my pants down. I thought my time had come, that they would kill me. My
brother that was with me was handcuffed.”

The location manager of The Freedom Theatre, Adnan Naghnaghiye, was arrested
and taken away to an uknown location together with Bilal Saadi, a member of
the board of the Freedom Theatre. When the general manager of the theatre,
Jacob Gough from the UK, and the co-founder of the threatre, Jonatan Stanczak from
Sweden, arrived to the scene, they were forced to squat next to a family with four
small children surrounded by about 50 heavily armed Israeli soldiers.

Jonatan says: “Whenever we tried to tell them that they are attacking a cultural
venue and arresting members of the theatre, we were told to supt and they
threatened to kick us. I tried to contact the civil administration of the army to
clarify the matter but the person in charge hung up on me.”

The Israeli military confirmed the raid, according to Ma’an News Agency.

The attack comes just a few months after unidentified gunmen, apparently Palestinians, shot dead Juliano Mer-Khamis, the Palestinian-Jewish actor who ran the theater.

Mer-Khamis’ mother founded the camp in the 1980s in order to support children in the refugee camp. Mer-Khamis documented the theater and its destruction by the Israeli military, during the first intifada, in his film Arna’s Children.




Teaching children in the Theater he founded…..

By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

Humanity mourns.  We are shocked.  Juliano Mer-Khamis, a friend and fellow peace activist, was murdered in Jenin.  The masked killer/s whoever they were were cowards whose madness will not deter those of us who continue to work for justice and peace for all. If they thought they could kill coexistence and love in the holy land by killing a symbol and a great activist, they are mistaken.   Juliano symbolizes what many of us have worked for: a  transformation of our homeland into a pluralistic democratic state where every human being regardless of his religion (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) would be treated with dignity and respect.  Fundamentalist notions of superiority were at odds with this message. His killers will not get their way and justice will prevail.  But Juliano’s loss is a shock to all of us. 

Juliano was a superb human being who embodied the best qualities of activism and dedicated leadership for human rights, justice and peace.  He was my age and I first met him a few years ago when we brought him for the Connecticut screening of the film Arna’s children, the story of his mother and the Children of Jenin Refugee camp.   On numerous occasions over the past few years I visited Jenin Freedom Theater that Juliano cofounded and that injected so much beauty and hope into the lives of the people at Jenin Refugee Camp. See


Juliano took the characters of compassion and caring of his Israeli Jewish mother (she herself worked to challenge Zionist supremacy and fundamentalist idiocies for decades) and gentile love of land and people and pacifist characters of his Palestinian father.  He exemplified everything that I and millions of others aspired to: coexistence, tolerance, nonviolence, peace, love, passion for life, richness in diversity and so much more.  He had a two year old child and his wife as I knew was pregnant or may have just delivered their second child.  His absence will be felt but I for one will work to ensure that his work continues and accelerates.  The best answer to violence is to intensify our work and build on the vision thus never allowing these forces of hate to destroy the future.  As to who killed Juliano: all humans are guilty.. our inability to rise as a species beyond violence is largely due to our apathy and indifference to the suffering of fellow human beings.  It is telling that many political leaders (from Hamas, Fatah, Israeli leaders) remain silent on the murder of Juliano when they so readily spoke at other convenient political junctures.  Those who are apathetic are just as guilty as those fundamentalist racists who ordered this killing or pulled the trigger to shoot fellow human beings.  I for one will have a lot of pain in my heart for Juliano, for Bassem, for Jawaher, for Rachel and all the other friends we lost along the way.  We must make sure that their murders do not go in vain and the best thing we can do is increase our efforts to continue the path and bring others to this path.  Killers must know that 10 will rise in place for every peace activist they kill.  Those of us active in the same cause of coexistence and peace must intensify our work. 


Gideon Levy remembers Juliano Mer-Khamis: An Arab, a Jew, a human being

Juliano Mer-Khamis was one of the most talented theater actors to ever emerge here was also the most courageous of them.

By Gideon Levy

A little over a month ago, Juliano Mer-Khamis stood on the stage of his Freedom Theater at the edge of the Jenin refugee camp.

Directing his remarks at the young, noisy group of children making its first-ever visit to a theater, he said: “This is a dangerous show, with subversive messages. Whoever talks will be thrown out of the hall.”

A hush came over the audience. For the next 75 minutes, I watched one of the loveliest, most stylish, political plays I had ever seen.

None of the children interrupted the show, with the exception of one infant who burst into tears at the sight of the servant hanging on a rope.

The Freedom Theater presents “Alice in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll. Directed by Juliano Mer-Khamis, with Udi Aloni as playwright.

I first saw Mer-Khamis in another time and another place. It was in the late 1980s, when he stood for a number of days in the front yard of the Israel Fringe Theater festival in Acre, his naked body dipped with oil as part of a one-man show that knew no end. Years later I caught “Arna’s Children,” a brilliant film which he co-directed with his dying mother, Arna Mer, the founder of the theatre in Jenin and the daughter of the doctor who cured malaria in Rosh Pina. It is arguably the most moving film ever created about the Israeli occupation.

Since then, I have met him on numerous occasions, always in the camp. This tall, strapping, handsome man who oozed charisma, a Jew and an Arab on account of his parents – perhaps a Jew in the eyes of the Arabs and an Arab in the eyes of the Jews – decided to devote his life to Jenin, where he lived as an Israeli and as a human being. One of the most talented theater actors to ever emerge here was also the most courageous of them.

The seven bullets extinguished the light of courage that he radiated. “Jule was murdered,” a trembling voice belonging to a refugee camp resident on the other end of the phone told me. My voice also trembled.


The Jenin Freedom Theater Today…..

“Arna’s Children,” a brilliant film which he co-directed with his dying mother, Arna Mer, the founder of the theatre in Jenin and the daughter of the doctor who cured malaria in Rosh Pina. It is arguably the most moving film ever created about the Israeli occupation.


Had Ian McEwan heeded those that urged him not to attend the opening of Jerusalem’s International Book Fair, and refused to accept the prize, his statement would have been much louder and more meaningful than the words he uttered.

Ian McEwan accepting the Jerusalem Prize in the capital on Feb. 20, 2011.

Photo by: Tomer Appelbaum

Accepting Jerusalem Prize, McEwan slams Israeli policies

At opening of International Book Fair, British author criticizes ‘confiscation, land purchases and expulsion.’

British novelist Ian McEwan, this year’s recipient of the prestigious Jerusalem Prize, used the opening of the the 25th Jerusalem International Book Fair last night to sharply criticize Israel’s policies of “confiscation, land purchases, and expulsion in East Jerusalem,” and a national policy that grants a “right of return to Jews but not to Arabs.”

Speaking at the capital’s Binyanei Ha’uma convention center, and in the presence of President Shimon Peres, Culture Minister Limor Livnat and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, McEwan delivered an acceptance speech that was greeted with polite but tense silence.

At the same time, the 62-year-old McEwan, whose 11 novels include “Atonement” and “Amsterdam,” said he felt “somewhat overwhelmed” to have been judged worthy of the Jerusalem Prize, which is awarded every two years to a writer whose work deals with the “freedom of the individual in society” – as long as he or she agrees to travel to Israel to pick it up.

“I couldn’t escape the politics of my decision,” said McEwan, referring to the pressure brought to bear on him since the prize was announced a month ago, to bow to the international boycott campaign against Israel. He added that he had come in order “to learn and to engage.” McEwan noted his amazement at how “the matzav” – using the Hebrew word for “the situation” – seems to be “always pressing in” here, declaring that “when politics enters every last corner of existence, something has gone profoundly wrong.”

The fair, which has taken place every two years since 1963, offers a forum for publishers and writers both from around the world and Israel. This year, some 600 publishers from 30 countries are represented in Jerusalem, including, for the first time, a delegation from Angola, it was announced at the opening ceremony.

The fair will be open to the public starting today and continues through Friday morning; admission is free. Aside from the hundreds of stands belonging to publishers and retailers that fill the convention center – which visitors can stroll past and get lost among – there will also be a number of special events featuring guests, including a variety of conversations between Israeli and foreign writers at the Literary Cafe (McEwan, for example, will be talking with Israeli novelist Meir Shalev this evening at 8 P.M. ). There will also be a program for visiting editors from 16 different countries, including China and South Korea.

Peres, Livnat and Barkat also addressed the invited audience at the opening ceremony, with the mayor acknowledging that Jerusalem “has conflict, big-time.” He boasted of the city’s “pluralism” and “openness,” and of his conviction that the “renaissance of arts” taking place in the capital is acting to “mediate tensions.”

Minister Livnat announced the establishment of a new NIS 500,000 fund to finance the translation of 10 or more works of Hebrew literature each year into English and other languages. She also expressed support for a proposed law that aims to guarantee the ability of “writers, artists and publishers to live in dignity,” by limiting the extent to which new titles can be discounted during the first years after their publication.



The last thing the BDS Movement needs is fence sitters, or in the case of Israel/Palestine, Wall sitters.

Where there is a Movement, either you support its aims and purposes or you don’t. Two cases in point of those who don’t are discussed here….

Pete Seeger…. Lifelong humanitarian and friend of Palestine…. BUT a few months ago he was invited and took part in a virtual concert organised by various zionist groups. He was asked not to participate by close friends of his, fellow activists for the most part, but his response in the end was “dialogue and non-violent actions are the only way to solve conflicts”.

As is stated in the linked post about Seeger, my personal feelings for the man prohibit me from condemning him, but I do condemn this particular decision of his. When there is a Movement that one claims to support, one respects the decisions of that Movement, one does not go off on a tangent and act independently on the issues. Either you’re with us or you’re not! In this particular case, Seeger was not!

Second case is British novelist Ian McEwan. He is presently in Israel to receive the main prize at the Jerusalem International Book Fair. McEwan, as well, was urged by Israeli activists to turn down the prize and refuse to come to Israel at this time. The logic he used to attend is summed up in this sentence… “If you didn’t go to countries whose foreign policy or domestic policy is screwed up, you’d never get out of bed.” That was taken from a Reuter’s report found HERE.

On Friday, in a ‘show of solidarity’ with the Palestinian Cause, McEwan took part in the weekly demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah. Fellow Blogger Noam Sheizaf  posted the following on his Blog Promised Land….

Novelist Ian McEwan plays for both teams in East Jerusalem

The British author visited the Sheikh Jarrah protest – but also intends to receive the Jerusalem Prize for Literature from the patron of the city’s settlers, mayor Nir Barkat

Authors Ian McEwan and David Grossman at the Sheikh Jarrah protest (photo: Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah)Authors Ian McEwan and David Grossman at the Sheikh Jarrah protest (photo: Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah) 

The celebrated British author Ian McEwan joined today the weekly protest in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families have been evacuated from their homes to make room for Jewish settlers.

Ironically, McEwan arrived to Israel to receive the Jerusalem Prize for Literature from the hands of the city’s mayor, Nir Barkat. Mayor Barkat is one of the driving forces behind recent attempts to expand Jewish settlements and housing projects into Palestinian East Jerusalem. Currently, he even refuses to carry out an Israeli court order demanding the immediate evacuation of a house in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, illegally built by rightwing settlers. Many grassroots activists blame Barkat for the rising tension between Jews and Arabs in the city.

Before flying to Israel, McEwan rejected calls from a group called British Writers in Support of Palestine to turn down the Jerusalem Prize. In his replay he wrote:

“There are ways in which art can have a longer reach than politics […] Your ‘line’ is not the only one. Courtesy obliges you to respect my decision, as I would yours to stay away.”

The protest in Sheikh Jarrah started a year and a half ago, following the evacuation of two Palestinian families from their homes. Since then, more eviction orders have been issued, and construction began for a new housing project for Jews at the site of the old Shepherds Hotel, also in Sheikh Jarrah. Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah, which leads the protest in the neighborhood, has recently organized demonstrations in other parts of the city where Palestinians are threatened by eviction orders and by new municipal plans, among them in Silwan.

As is stated in the title of this post, either you’re with us or you’re not! YOU CAN’T PLAY FOR BOTH TEAMS!

Now more than ever before, with the United States coming out officially against the settlement freeze, your support for the BDS Movement is needed 100%…. not 50%!


Recently held was the Palestine Festival of Literature. One of the participants traveled from New York to the West Bank Occupied City of Nablus.

The works of Remi Kanazi are known to all active in the Palestinian cause. Despite living in America, he is Palestinian, just waiting for the RIGHT TO RETURN. As a Palestinian, Gaza is foremost on his mind at this time. Presented here is a video of a poem he presented at the Festival….

A Poem For Gaza

A short bio: Remi Kanazi is a poet, writer, and the editor of Poets For Palestine. His new collection of poetry & CD Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine is due out in late January. For more information, visit


You can Tweet Remi @
twitter: @remroum



Gaza: A Child’s Point of View


Video features Palestinian children’s drawings depicting their fears of the Palestinian Israeli conflicts. 

The total collection of artwork by the Palestinian children is available for a gallery or museum show. We would be delighted to discuss the possibilities for a venue to exhibit these incredible artworks.

To arrange an exhibit of the works shown, Contact:


The following post is long…. but definitely worth your time.

What’s happening in Israel and Palestine today may happen tomorrow in any other land on earth unless it is challenged and rebuked. It is not the Palestinians who are being attacked. It is our collective humanity.

It’s thrilling to think that these Israeli theatre artists have refused to allow their work to be used to normalize a cruel occupation which they know to be wrong, which violates international law and which is impeding the hope for a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike. They’ve made a wonderful decision, and they deserve the respect of people everywhere who dream of justice. We stand with them.

The Thin Green Line:
It’s Not Just the Settlements (or the Occupation), Stupid!

Nima Shirazi *

“Before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived…We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house.”

– Moshe Dayan, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, speaking at the funeral of an Israeli farmer killed by a Palestinian in April 1956

The public debate over the Israeli Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign was reignited recently with the news that the illegal West Bank colony of Ariel would soon be opening its newly-constructed, multi-million dollar cultural center and would host performances by several of Israel’s leading theater companies in its auditorium, built – tragically – by the very Palestinian construction workers that Israel has occupied and dispossessed. The announcement marked the first time these notable Israeli drama groups would be performing outside of the 1949 Armistice Line in Israeli-occupied Palestine.

Within days of the report, over 50 Israeli actors, directors, playwrights, and producers had signed onto a letter addressed to the boards of Israel’s repertory theaters declaringtheir refusal to perform in Ariel, which is the fourth largest settlement in the West Bank. The letter stated:

“We wish to express our disgust with the theater’s board’s plans to perform in the new auditorium in Ariel. The actors among us hereby declare that we will refuse to perform in Ariel, as well as in any other settlement. We urge the boards to hold their activity within the sovereign borders of the State of Israel within the Green Line.”

Condemnation and outrage were quick to come from the Israeli government, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticizing what he called the “international delegitimization assault” on Israel through academic, cultural, and economic boycotts and stating, “The last thing we need now is an attempt of boycotts from within.” Other ministers chimed in with their own, often fascist, statements, all implicitly (some explicitly) treating the militarized and messianic Jewish communities in the Palestinian West Bank as part of Israel, which they are not. (Though, this should hardly be surprising considering that Netanyahu himself referred – with a straight face and utter contempt for international law – to Ariel as the “capital of Samaria” and an “indisputable” part of Israel during a visit to the colony early this year. Additionally, Israel’s racist, child-beating Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who openly calls for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, lives in the illegal West Bank settlement of Nokdim.)

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called the boycott letter “unthinkable” and “a case of unfounded hatred,” before suggesting that the government withdraw funding from theater companies which refuse to perform in Ariel. He also expressed his desire for the dissenting performers to be fired. “I hope that those who fail to fulfill their contracts will be removed from the theater,” he said, continuing, “There’s a limit to everything.”  Everything, that is, according to Steinitz, except decades upon decades of land theft and apartheid.

Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, regretful of “the fact that people mix culture with politics,” called the boycott “inappropriate” and scolded one of the signatories for not serving in the Israeli military. It can be assumed that Hershkowitz doesn’t find it inappropriate for Israel to use its science and technology to harvest andtraffic human organs and spy on the telephone calls and emails of “governments, international organizations, foreign companies, political groups and individuals” in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Echoing Hershkowitz, the mayor of Ariel, Ron Nachman claimed, “Culture has nothing to do with politics. If the actors and artists want to deal with politics, let them go to the Knesset. The vileness, baseness and hypocrisy of those who work in culture and call on a boycott of us, is intolerable,” while Naftali Bennett, the Director-General of the Yesha Council which speaks collectively for the municipal organizations of illegal West Bank settlements (which is all of them), blamed the motion on the “unfounded hatred and factionalism” that have historically affected the Jewish people. A counter-campaign by a group called Our Land of Israel declared that the “‘liberals and enlightened” are “always on the Arabs’ side,” called the letter’s signers “traitors,” and suggested these enemies of Israel should perform in Gaza.

In one of the more ironic condemnations, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai opined, “Those who work in a theater financed with public funds cannot refuse to perform in places decided by the theater’s management,” and expanded on his broader belief that, “A person who is part of the public system and works must respect the management’s decisions.” One wonders if Huldai extends this responsibility to Nazi soldiers and concentration camp guards who were “just following orders.” Perhaps he should bone up on his knowledge of the Nuremburg Principles, the fourth of which affirms,

“The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

The Israeli signatories of the boycott letter are clearly better versed in international law than the mayor of Tel Aviv. Citing both Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”) and the very first Nuremberg Principal (“Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.”), Israeli dramaturgist Vardit Shalfi, one of the letter’s initiators, clearly explained,

“Ariel is not a legitimate community, and as such, is against international law and international treaties that the State of Israel has signed. This means anyone performing there would be considered a criminal according to international law. The theater’s boards should inform their actors that there are apartheid roads for Jews only that lead into the settlement of Ariel. The moment we perform there, we are giving legitimization to this settlement’s existence.”

Despite the aggressive condemnation (including the heckling of two actors who signed the letter by an Israeli parliamentarian and his aide during the performance of a play in Tel Aviv), the boycott quickly received support from influential sectors of Israeli society, as well as internationally. By the following week, over 150 Israeli academics, including professors Zeev Sternhell, Shlomo Sand, and Neve Gordon, signed a letter in solidarity with the Ariel boycott which states, “We will not take part in any kind of cultural activity beyond the Green Line, take part in discussions and seminars, or lecture in any kind of academic setting in these settlements.” In another supportive statement signed by several dozen noted Israeli authors David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua, and Amos Oz, the signatories warn that “legitimization and acceptance of the settler enterprise cause critical damage to Israel’s chances of achieving a peace accord with its Palestinian neighbors.”

Additionally, about 300 people gathered outside the Habimah Theater in Tel Aviv to protest its decision to perform in Ariel. Protest participants included current and former Knesset ministers, actors, playwrights, veteran peace activists, and the former editor-in-chief of the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv. “Where there is occupation, there is no culture,” read some rally banners.

Perhaps even more impressive, and certainly surprising, is the support for the Ariel boycott coming from over 150 stage and screen actors, directors, writers, producers, and composers in the United States. Organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, a “national membership organization dedicated to a just peace in Israel/Palestine based on equality and international law,” a statement has been released, calling the Ariel boycott “brave” and “courageous” and correctly noting the clear illegality of the West Bank colonies “by all standards of international law.” The statement continues,

“Most of us are involved in daily compromises with wrongful acts. When a group of people suddenly have the clarity of mind to see that the next compromise looming up before them is an unbearable one — and when they somehow find the strength to refuse to cross that line — we can’t help but be overjoyed and inspired and grateful.

It’s thrilling to think that these Israeli theatre artists have refused to allow their work to be used to normalize a cruel occupation which they know to be wrong, which violates international law and which is impeding the hope for a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike. They’ve made a wonderful decision, and they deserve the respect of people everywhere who dream of justice. We stand with them.

The signatories, among them “four Pulitzer Prize winners, several recipients of Guggenheim Fellowships, a MacArthur Fellowship, a National Medal of Honor, and scores of recipients of the highest U.S. acting honors, including Tony Awards, Emmy Awards, Grammy Awards, Obie Awards, Drama Desk Awards,” include Tony Kushner, Vanessa Redgrave, Stephen Sondheim, Roseanne Barr, Julianne Moore, Ed Asner, Cynthia Nixon, Mary Rodgers, Jennifer Tilly, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Theodore Bikel, Stephen Webber, Mira Nair, Hal Prince, Bill Irwin, James Schamus, Eve Ensler, and Sheldon Harnick.

A story in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s leading daily newspaper, reported that, once news of the Jewish Voice for Peace letter surfaced, several noted Hollywood actors asked the Israel consul general in Los Angeles whether or not they should sign the statement. They were told, ”Instead of getting involved in such matters it would be more helpful to support Israeli culture which needs such help. They shouldn’t involve themselves in domestic Israeli politics. What’s more, Ariel is within the Israeli consensus.” The consulate then turned to “key members of the Hollywood entertainment industry asking them to persuade others not to sign.”

Beyond the sheer creepiness of these American actors taking their marching orders from the Israeli consulate (not to mention the willingness of the consulate to give those orders), the hypocrisy of the consul general is staggering. For instance, when actor Jon Voight, who is a fervent Zionist, declared his support of Jewish colonization of Palestine and opposition to Palestinian self-determination by stating, “God gave this land to the Jewish people,” later accusing President Barack Obama of lying “to the Jewish people” and promoting anti-Semitism by pursuing policies that, in his mind, are “putting Israel in harm’s way,” the Israeli consul general was silent. Clearly, Voight’s opinions are in line with official Israeli policy and didn’t constitute unnecessary interference in Israeli affairs. Furthermore, the consul’s statement that “Ariel is within the Israeli consensus” is a lie. It’s not. It’s illegal under international law and is, at present, undoubtedly not a part of Israel proper, regardless of what any future boguspeaceagreement may determine.

Actor Wallace Shawn, a Jewish Voice for Peace statement signatory and one of the letter’s drafters, explained his view on the ongoing efforts to legitimize West Bank settlements, saying, “Most of us, including actors, just want to lead a quiet life. And most of us go through our entire lives without doing anything really courageous, without risking anything important to us. But when asked to perform in an illegal settlement for an all-Jewish audience, as if this were one more ordinary theater, they had the guts to say no.” He continued, “To do a play in that new theater helps to make the settlement seem like a permanent part of the landscape, but the settlements are obstacles to peace and morally unjustifiable on top of that,” adding, “Theater is the art of truth, and the Israeli artists are following their own truth.” Boy Oh Boycott!

While the frustrated reactions of those who encourage garrison-colonialism and support in Jewish exceptionalism and supremacy over the inalienable human rights, sovereignty, and self-determination of Palestine’s indigenous population is both predictable and easily dismissed, the debate now raging within so-called progressive circles, among the alleged advocates of “peace and justice,” is far more important.

While the Israeli artist boycott of Ariel (and its supporters worldwide) has been widely praised as an unprecedented act of courage and conscience, the morality and effectiveness of a broader international campaign is still a hotly-contested subject. Essentially, regardless of the absurd attacks one might receive from the Eretz Yisrael crowd, the condemnation and even symbolic boycott of West Bank settlements like Ariel, is relatively easy. After all, funding for such illegal projects comes, in part, from Christian Zionists like pastor John Hagee, who has donated at least $500,000 to the Ariel colony. In return for his financial (and ideological) support, “a special dedication ceremony was held naming the main building of the [Ariel settlement’s] Lowell Milken Family Sports & Recreation Complex in honor of John Hagee Ministries” prior to Ariel’s “Night To Honor Those Who Honor Israel” celebration in April 2008. The settlement’s own website states that “those in attendance gave resounding applause as Mayor Ron Nachman and Pastor John Hagee uncovered the sign naming the almost completed building” and quotes Nachman as telling those gathered, “Here in the hills of Samaria, in the heart of Biblical Israel, you are now well-rooted in the Land. Not just by talking but by doing, you have made this possible.” One can be sure that the subsequent ovation for Hagee, who has said that “turning part or all of Jerusalem over to the Palestinians would be tantamount to turning it over to the Taliban,” was, well, rapturous.

The settlement’s website lays the hasbara on thick when describing its vital support from organizations like Hagee’s Christians United for Israel:

“Ariel has been so very fortunate in developing strong relationships with Christian Zionist communities around the world whose deep and abiding love for Israel and the Jewish people is completely unconditional. These dear friends visit us frequently, (despite the fact that we live in a tough neighborhood), are often the first to call when times are particularly difficult, express interest in the needs of the residents of Ariel, respect our choice to live in an area of Israel that is sometimes disputed and fund projects that truly make a difference in our city and in our everyday lives. In short, they are true friends of Israel and Ariel.”

It’s probably safe to say that the Israeli consulate general hasn’t told Hagee and his flock to mind their own business and refrain from involving themselves in “domestic Israeli politics.”

If the militant, messianic, and wholly illegal aspects of West Bank settlements aren’t enough to demand a boycott, basic morality might do the trick. Beyond stealing Palestinian land for colonization, settlers also steal natural resources, such as water, which is also a gross violation of Israel’s obligations as an occupying power. So offensive are these settlements and so racist their residents, that, not only do they and the occupying infrastructure upon which they rely obviously discriminate against the native Palestinian population from whom they steal via an apartheid highway system, checkpoints, road blocks, and curfews, they also discriminate against each other. For instance, the Israeli Education Ministry has recently upheld a request by a religious school in the illegal Israeli settlement of Immanuel to segregate white Jewish students from non-white Jewish students in classrooms. As such, “74 white girls who have been studying in a building next to the school will now be allowed to study in whites-only classrooms that are privately funded, as their parents claim they do not want their girls to study in racially-mixed classrooms.”

To oppose and rightly boycott exclusive and stockaded Jewish settlements on Palestinian land is, to be quite frank, unimpressive. The clear illegality of the colonies makes any argument to the contrary irrelevant, not to mention wholly immoral, regardless of whatever arcane religious land deed one happens to personally believe in. After all, despite its ongoing actions of encouraging and facilitating, the Israeli government itself recognized this unequivocal contravention of international law back in 1967, a mere three months after aggressively (not defensively) conquering and occupying East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

However, campaigns to boycott Israel itself – whether economically, militarily, diplomatically, culturally – are a different story. The Jewish community worldwide, for example, has long had mixed reactions to calls for both international and domestic boycott.

In early 1933, less than two months after the Reichstag Fire, but more than half a decade before the German annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland, the terror of Kristallnacht, the invasion, occupation, and ghettoization of Poland and the extermination camps, and almost nine years before the Final Solution, American Jews were already mobilizing against racist Nazi programs. In response to the then-rising threat of anti-Semitism and the horror of discriminatory policies within Germany, New York City’s Jewish War Veterans, after considering the consequences for the persecuted German Jewry, became the first American organization to announce a trade boycott of the Third Reich and organize a massive protest parade, in which over 4,000 veterans marched on City Hall and were welcomed by Mayor John P. O’Brien. Soon thereafter, a coalition of the American Jewish Congress, the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League, and the Jewish Labor Committee sponsored simultaneous protest rallies in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland and numerous other locations, encouraging the boycott of German goods. The New York rally, held at Madison Square Garden, was broadcast worldwide and featured speeches delivered by American Jewish, Christian, and labor leaders, along with Senator Robert F. Wagner and former New York governor Al Smith, calling “for an immediate cessation of the brutal treatment being inflicted on German Jewry.” Four years later, another rally sponsored by the AJC and the Jewish Labor Committee was held at Madison Square Garden, at which union leader John L. Lewis, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, and Rabbi Stephen Wise all spoke in support of boycott.
Nevertheless, the boycott movement – both in the US and worldwide – was largely unsuccessful, in part due to governments’ unwillingness to cut economic ties with the heavily industrialized Germany, but also because the Jewish community itself was divided on the issue. Historian Lenni Brenner writes that “there were those in the Jewish community in America and Britain who specifically opposed the very notion of a boycott. The American Jewish Committee, the B’nai B’rith (Sons of the Covenant) fraternal order and the Board of Deputies of British Jews refused to back the boycott. However, of all of the active Jewish opponents of the boycott idea, the most important was the World Zionist Organisation (WZO). It not only bought German wares; it sold them, and even sought out new customers for Hitler and his industrialist backers.”

The WZO, intent on pursuing policies which would promote the establishment of a Zionist state in what was then Mandatory Palestine, “saw Hitler’s victory in much the same way as its German affiliate, the ZVfD [Zionistische Vereinigung fuer Deutschland, or the Zionist Federation of Germany]: not primarily as a defeat for all Jewry, but as positive proof of the bankruptcy of assimilationism and liberalism,” Brenner tells us. These sentiments were expressed with staggering enthusiasm by the renowned German biographer Emil Ludwig during a visit to the United States. “Hitler will be forgotten in a few years, but he will have a beautiful monument in Palestine,” he said. “Thousands who seemed to be completely lost to Judaism were brought back to the fold by Hitler, and for that I am personally very grateful to him.” (Meyer Steinglass, “Emil Ludwig before the Judge,” American Jewish Times, April 1936)

Israel’s “Right to Exist”…But As What?

Recent evidence that the international BDS campaign is gaining traction includes the Olympia Food Co-op, TIAA-CREF meetings, and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) in which over 175 Irish creative and performing artists have pledged not to accept invitations to perform in Israel. The boycott in Chile, divestment in Norway, and the recent cutting off of diplomatic relations by Mauritania, Qatar, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia are all proof that the movement is having an effect. Still, the boycott divide has resurfaced in the Jewish academic community, though the arguments employed are strikingly similar to those considered over 70 years ago.

In condemning the academic boycott of West Bank settlements by Israeli scholars, authors, and lecturers, Professor Yossi Ben Artzi, Haifa University’s outgoing rector and one of the founding members of the Israeli anti-occupation advocacy group Peace Now, stated his belief that “academics should not use an academic boycott as a tool to further ideological or political agendas,” the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

“I too believe that settlements are the source of all evil in Israel,” he stated, continuing, “Nevertheless, the use of a boycott is not only ineffective but bolsters the target of the boycott.” Ben Artzi also accused the Israeli academics of “throwing stones and shattering the basis for their existence.”

Ben Artzi is wrong. The settlements are not the root of the current Israeli dilemma, often cast by Israeli intellectuals as a supposedly stark choice “between two terrible options: Jewish-dominated apartheid or non-Jewish democracy.”

These scholars, exemplified recently by Gadi Taub, an assistant professor of communications and public policy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and author of “The Settlers,” argue that “the status quo cannot last” and that the settlements are not merely “obstacles to a final peace accord, which is how settlement critics have often framed the issue,” but, rather, that they are a “danger [that] will doom Zionism itself.”

In his August 29 OpEd in The New York Times, Taub argues that “the settlement problem should be at the top of everyone’s agenda, beginning with Israel’s. The religious settlement movement is not just secular Zionism’s ideological adversary, it is a danger to its very existence,” claiming that “the secular Zionist dream was fundamentally democratic.” Well, democratic for Jews, at least. Taub explains, “Its proponents, from Theodor Herzl to David Ben-Gurion, sought to apply the universal right of self-determination to the Jews, to set them free individually and collectively as a nation within a democratic state.”

Taub’s conceptions of both “freedom” and “democracy” here are seriously flawed. As Joseph Agassi, professor of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University, notes, “[The Zionist] ideology deems anti-Semitism unavoidable and Israel the only place where a Jew can be safe. This view is essentially undemocratic: it denies a priori any value of the emancipation of Jews in the modern world…As an Israeli patriot and a philosopher, I find it imperative to make Judaic anti-Zionism a part of the badly needed debate about Israel’s past, present and future.” The idea that the Jewish communities of the world could only achieve their right to self-determination, freedom, and political representation under the banner of fierce nationalism based on ethnicity and consolidated by the so-called “Arab threat,” is inherently paranoid, jingoistic, racist, xenophobic, and, ultimately, ethnocentric and supremacist in its inception. Secular Zionism, as described by Taub, therefore confirms the prescient late 19th century warning of Moritz Gudemann, chief rabbi of Vienna, who predicted that “the Zionists would ultimately create a Judaism of cannons and bayonets that would invert the roles of David and Goliath and would end in a perversion of Judaism, which never glorified war and never idolized warriors,” and who, quoting from an Austrian poet, concluded that the Zionist leadership was following a path that leads “from humanity through nationality to bestiality.”

Additionally, Taub deliberately omits that the Zionist goal of a “Jewish state” relied heavily – some may argue, primarily – on denying the indigenous population of Palestine the very “universal right of self-determination” that these European immigrants were claiming for themselves. Nevertheless, Taub later claims, “In Israel proper, the Arab minority represents about a fifth of its 7.2 million citizens, and they have full legal equality.”

To call this last statement disingenuous would be an insult to that word’s actual definition. The claim is an outright lie.

For starters, whereas the Israeli Proclamation of Independence (unilaterally declared on May 14, 1948, in defiance of the international community and the “universal right” of Palestinian self-determination) declared that the new state would “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” and “guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture,” the Israeli Supreme Court has repeatedly stated, in a series of decisions, that “the proclamation does not have constitutional validity, and that it is not a supreme law which may be used to invalidate laws and regulations that contradict it.” Furthermore, the Israeli “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty,” enacted in 1992 and which carries with it the ostensible force of a bill of rights (as Israel has no Constitution), tellingly makes absolutely no mention of “equality,” and affirms “State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” a concept which explicitly grants legal and collective superiority upon Jewish nationals to the implicit detriment of other Israeli citizens.

In its concluding observations on Israel’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, published on July 29, 2010, the UN Human Rights Committee noted with concern that Israel’s Basic Law “does not contain a general provision for equality and non-discrimination.”

The US State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report on Israel and the Occupied Territories, released in March, states that: “Institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, Palestinian Arabs, non-Orthodox Jews, and other religious groups continued, as did societal discrimination against persons with disabilities. Women suffered societal discrimination and domestic violence. The government maintained unequal educational systems for Arab and Jewish students.”

The 2003 “Official Summation of the Or Commission Report,” an Israeli government-sponsored investigative finding, even categorized the government’s treatment of its Palestinian citizens “primarily neglectful and discriminatory.”

Back in 1998, the United Nations Human Rights Committee observed that, in Israel, there exist “deeply imbedded discriminatory social attitudes, practices and laws against Arab Israelis that have resulted in a lower standard of living compared with Jewish Israelis, as is evident in their significantly lower levels of education, access to health care, access to housing, land and employment.” Continuing, the Committee noted “with concern that most Arab Israelis, because they do not join the army, do not enjoy the financial benefits available to Israelis who have served in the army, including scholarships and housing loans. The Committee also expresses concern that the Arab language, though official, has not been accorded equal status in practice, and that discrimination against members of the Arab minority appears to be extensive in the private sector.”

Israeli Professor Uzi Ornan, writing in Ha’aretz almost twenty years ago, explained that the “blatant discrimination against non-Jews” is evidence that “Apartheid is so powerful a mindset in this society, that its existence and preservation is championed by all the members of the ‘Zionist parties,’ including those who believe themselves to be in the vanguard of the struggle for socialism, peace and equal rights.” (‘Apartheid Laws in Israel – The Art of Obfuscatory Formulation’, Ha’aretz, May 17, 1991)

Not only have conditions in Israel not improved in the past two decades, they have actually worsened. Three months ago, Avishay Braverman, Minister of Minority Affairs,described Israel as “the most unequal society amongst western nations.” In March, a report by two prominent Israeli civil rights groups found that, in the last few years, “the Israeli government passed at least 21 bills aimed at discriminating against the country’s Arab citizens making the current Knesset…the most racist Israeli parliament since the country’s founding.” In the first three months of 2010, an additional 21 racist laws had already been proposed. The report’s authors Lizi Sagi and Nidal Othman said, “There has never been a Knesset as active in proposing discriminating and racist legislation against the country’s Arab citizens.”

Recently, Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer, vice-president of the Israel Democracy Institute, stated that the “ugly trend” of discrimination and delegitimization of Israel’s Palestinian citizens is comparable to “a McCarthyite campaign against civil society,” while Ilan Saban, a law professor at Haifa University, said that, “Unlike most – if not all – other democracies, Israel lacks a political culture that respects limits on the power of the majority.”

As such, in Israel today, “only Jews enjoy full rights,” observes George Bisharat, professor at Hastings College of the Law, explaining that “Palestinian citizens of Israel endure more than 35 laws that explicitly privilege Jews as well as policies that deliberately marginalize them.” This is not an exaggeration and may, in fact, be a gross understatement, considering Israel’s two-tiered legal system.

The Israeli Knesset has proposed loyalty oaths meant to affirm Jewish superiority. There is separate citizenship status for Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis. There is discrimination in real estate laws (especially the fact that about 93% of pre-1967 Israel is deemed the “inalienable property of the Jewish people” and the rights of residency, business ownership, and often even employment is explicitly denied to all non-Jews solely because they are not Jewish). Interfaith marriage is prohibited. The legacy of military control looms over the Palestinian Arab community’s public education system, in which there is overt apartheid and funding inequity. Israeli police officers and soldiers kill Palestinians with impunity and Palestinian men are convicted of rape for “claiming to be Jewish” and having sex with Jewish women. The erasure of Palestinian history,culture, and identity is both profound and deliberate. Palestinian cemeteries are desecrated. The Shin Bet security service is authorized to “thwart the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel, even if such activity is sanctioned by the law.” Racism is systematic and institutionalized. These are the policies and realities of life within the Green Line and all are evidence of the “fundamental” injustice in Israeli society.


Mitchell Plitnick, a former editor of the online information service Jewish Peace News and former co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace, who has worked for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, recently applauded Norway’s divestment from an Israeli company involved in “building settlements in the West Bank and working on construction of the Separation Barrier.” Nevertheless, he made clear that his support for BDS stops abruptly at the Green Line, because, in his opinion, “the movement as a whole has become associated with one-state ideologies and support for the Palestinian Right of Return, two points that fall well outside the international diplomatic consensus and are non-starters for most of Europe’s elites.”

Arguing, essentially, that a “Jewish Israel” should not be affected in any way by some future, hypothetical peace agreement, Plitnick claims that “the problem is the settlements” and that the way to “address the historic, and massive, injustice done to the Palestinians” is not “by promoting a single state where Jews lose their political self-determination and quickly become a minority in the area in question.”

Another Jewish Peace News editor, Lincoln Z. Shlensky, agrees. He writes that, to be effective and compelling, a clear distinction “between the settlements and Israel proper” must be made by the BDS movement, which he claims “implicitly anticipates the end of Israel as a predominantly Jewish, democratic state and therefore serves to radicalize Jewish Israelis against it and to make its aims unacceptable to almost all Western governments.” That way, he suggests, “such a strategy can succeed if the occupation, and not the existence of Israel itself, is the clear target.”

In his new article, “The New Zionist Imperative Is to Tell Israel the Truth,” published in Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun Magazine, J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami refers to the BDS campaign as an approach “that rel[ies] on anger” and one that will not encourage the “very difficult and painful compromise that is necessary to achieve peace.” Are we to infer that the hard choice Ben-Ami, who mentions his commitment to a “Jewish, and democratic” Israel four times in his short piece, believes that Israel – its government and public – must make is to actually respect international law and human rights? To most reasonable observers, this might seem to be a “compromise” that Israel shouldn’t have the choice not to make.

Incidentally, Rela Mazali, another editor of Jewish Peace News, is quick to point out that “there isn’t and never has been “a Jewish Israel.” What there is, what I live in, is a Jewish-controlled Israel. Which is not a democracy.”

Ben-Ami’s claim that the BDS movement is born of anger has historic parallels. During deliberations among American Jewish leaders in 1933 as to whether or not to support a boycott of Nazi Germany, Joseph Proskauer and Judge Irving Lehman of the American Jewish Committee publicly opposed the move. Lehman pleaded, “I implore you in the name of humanity, don’t let anger pass a resolution which will kill Jews in Germany.” Sound familiar?

Also, it should be noted that, if a century of colonialism, over six decades of ethnic cleansing, 43 years of occupation, and systemic discrimination, intolerance, and racism aren’t enough to elicit “anger,” either one has no morality to speak of, or the word itself has lost all its meaning. It is not the “anger” that is the problem, here, it’s the historic – and unabated – injustice.

Huffington Post blogger M.J. Rosenberg does “not support boycotting the State of Israel,” because he believes it would hurt “those brave Israelis (B’tselem, Peace Now, Rabbis for Human Rights, Gush Shalom, Machsom Watch, Gisha, Israelis Against Home Demolitions, etc.) who fight the occupation with everything they have.”

“These Israelis (I particularly think of Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis For Human Rights) actually put their bodies on the line to fight settlers and soldiers when the need arises. I think of Uri Avnery, the old Haganah fighter, who has struggled against the occupation from the beginning.”

Apparently, Rosenberg considers supporting Israelis who “fight” and “put their bodies on the line,” more important than respecting the non-violent tactics of the actual Palestinians who have lost their homeland to a militarized, colonizing enterprise, who fight oppression, dehumanization, and degradation on a daily basis, and whose bodies are actually in the line of fire from Apache helicopters, F-16 jets, Predator drones, white phosphorous and tank shells.

Similarly, Israeli historian and writer Bernard Avishai, a longtime critic of Zionism and its effects, also opposes a substantial boycott campaign directed at Israel. In his June 2010 article in The Nation, entitled “Against Boycott and Divestment,” Avishai argues that academic and economic boycotts and international divestment are “seriously counterproductive…Because those actions generally undermined the very people who advanced cosmopolitan values in the country. To get social change, you need social champions, in management as in universities.”

“Even under apartheid,” Avishai writes, “you had enlightened people who needed the world’s backing, and B[oycott] and D[ivestment] cut the ground out from under them.”

For some reason, Avishai’s concept of life inside the Green Line runs parallel to Taub’s when he states that “despite institutionalized discrimination and the disquieting excesses of its security apparatus – the Israeli state still accords its citizens, including about 1.5 million Arabs, a functioning democracy, the right to vote, a free press and an independent judiciary.”

“Democratic Israel is under threat from growing numbers of rightists for whom settling “Eretz Yisrael” is of a piece with containing, if not disenfranchising, Israeli Arabs and Jewish dissenters skeptical of their version of the Jewish state. But, then, how to strengthen dissent? By isolating dissenters?”

Avishai omits that Israel’s democracy functions only by disempowering its minority citizenry, as already discussed, and that great pains are taken to punish internal dissent and stifle media coverage of its illegal and inexcusable behavior.

Echoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s concern regarding a potential Israeli brain-drain, Avishai writes, “Polls show that about 40 percent of Israeli Jews have abidingly secular and globalist (if not liberal) attitudes. Who gains from economic decline and the inevitable consequence of most educated Israelis fleeing to, well, the Bay Area?”

Interestingly, Avishai does allow that, “Targeted sanctions against the occupation are another matter, however. Foreign governments might well ban consumer products like fruit, flowers and Dead Sea mineral creams and shampoos produced by Israelis in occupied territory, much as Palestinian retail stores do.”

A ‘Jewish State’ of Mind

So, when allegedly progressive commentators write “Yes to Israel. No to settlements,” and favor the boycott of West Bank colonies, but oppose the same campaign when its targets fall inside Israel’s borders (which aren’t even internationally recognized), what do they see as the ideological difference between the two, and where is the evidence that there really is one? What kind of state do these commentators actually wish to preserve and protect: one that privileges one demographic group over another or one that represents all its citizens equally?

For instance, in a recent Ha’aretz article, Yossi Beilin, a former leader of the ultra-dovish Meretz party and an architect of Oslo, spoke for the Zionist left in Israel, calling a one-state solution “nonsense,” adding, “I’m not interested in living in a state that isn’t Jewish.” Similarly, in the very same issue, Hanan Porat, one of the iconic founders of the ultra right-wing, messianic settler movement Gush Emunim, dismissed the idea of a single, democratic state. “There is no point in threatening us with the idea of a state of all its citizens,” he scoffed.

Neither governmental policies of discrimination and racism nor the declarations of left or right-leaning activists need speak for the Israeli public. Yet numerous opinion polls from the past few years give the distinct impression that the majority of Israelis have questionable attitudes towards concepts like equality and democracy.

In March 2010, a poll conducted by the Maagar Mochot research institute revealed that while 80% of Israeli high school students prefer a democratic form of government (while 16% actually desire a dictatorship), over 49% do not support equal rights being granted to both Jewish and Arab citizens of the State of Israel. 56% of the high school students polled believed Arabs should not be allowed to vote, while 32% said they would not even want to have an Arab friend. One out of every six students would not want to study in the same class with an Ethiopian or an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, and 21% of them think that “Death to Arabs” is a legitimate expression. Additionally, 48% insisted they would refuse official orders to evacuate illegal West Bank settlements if they were serving in the Israeli military (for which 91% of respondents were eager to enlist).

Perhaps these results should not be surprising, considering that a 2008 poll cited byYediot Ahronot discovered that “40 percent of Jewish Israelis did not believe that Arab Israelis should be allowed to vote.”

In late April 2010, a survey commissioned by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University found that over 57% of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely, the majority felt that “there is too much freedom of expression” in Israel, 43% said “the media should not report information confirmed by Palestinian sources that could reflect poorly on the Israeli army,” 58% opposed “harsh criticism of the country,” 65% thought “the Israeli media should be barred from publishing news that defense officials think could endanger state security, even if the news was reported abroad,” and 82% said they “back stiff penalties for people who leak illegally obtained information exposing immoral conduct by the defense establishment.”

The poll also found that “most of the respondents favor punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country, and support punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the defense establishment.” Additionally, of those polled who described themselves as right-wing, 76% said “human rights groups should not have the right to freely publicize immoral conduct on Israel’s part.”

“Israelis have a distorted perception of democracy,” said pollster Daniel Bar-Tal, a professor at the Tel Aviv University’s School of Education, as he analyzed the survey’s findings. “The public recognizes the importance of democratic values, but when they need to be applied, it turns out most people are almost anti-democratic.”

In 2006, according to the Israel Democracy Institute, 79% of Israelis trust the IDF more than any other institution. This poll came shortly after the Israeli devastation of Lebanon, in which the IDF killed over 1,180 people (about a third of whom were children), wounded over 4,050, and displaced about 970,000 others as direct result of the more than 7,000 air attacks by the Israeli Air Force and an additional 2,500 bombardments by the Israeli Navy in the short span of a month. The assault, with its utter contempt for international humanitarian law and willful commission of war crimes, also deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon, destroying or severely damaging airports, seaports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities, power plants, fuel depots, over 200,000 meters of road, 120 bridges, 900 commercial enterprises and factories, and over 30,000 residential properties, offices and shops (including 15,000 civilian homes, houses, and apartments). Israel bombed a milk farm and grain silos. Two government hospitals were completely destroyed, while three others were severely damaged.

Another 2006 poll found that 68% of Israeli Jews fear that Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel would “initiate an intifada” and 64 % believe that “Arabs endanger the security of the state because of their high birth rates.” Other polls from 2006 and 2007 revealed that 50% of Israeli Jews support the “transfer” of Arabs out of the country, 42% desire the “nullifying Arab Israeli citizens’ right to vote,” and 55% supported the “notion that the government should encourage Arab emigration.” The Israel Democracy Institute’s June 2007 report found that 55% of Israeli Jews surveyed support the idea that the government should encourage Arab emigration and 78% are opposed to Arab political parties (including Arab ministers) joining the government.

Additionally, surveys found that 75% of Israeli Jews “oppose living in the same apartment buildings as Arabs,” 55% believe that “Arabs do not have the ability to reach the same level of cultural development as the Jews,” 61.4% were unwilling to have Arab friends visit their homes, 55% supported segregated recreational facilities for Jews and Arabs, while 37% of them “view Arab culture as inferior.”

A few years ago, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel reported that 49.9% of the Jewish population feels fear when hearing Arabic spoken in the street, 31.3% feels revulsion, 43.6% senses discomfort and 30.7% feels hatred.

A different poll, conducted by KEEVOON Research and Strategy company, showed overwhelming support in the Hebrew-speaking Jewish population of Israel for the Jewish National Fund’s policy of selling land to Jews only. 81% of respondents favored the 100-year old policy, with only 10% opposed.

Is it any wonder, then, that the 2007 Israel Democracy Index Survey, conducted by the Israeli Institute for Democracy, revealed that 54% of the Arab Israelis polled felt that it was “impossible to trust the Jewish majority,” while 51% believed that Jews were racist?

That year, Ha’aretz journalist Bradley Burston wrote of the Jewish inclination to demonize Palestinian citizens of the Israel:

“Too many of us want our Arabs to be traitors. Too many of us see Israeli Arabs, as a group, as hypocrites, parasites, their dual-loyalty a thin disguise for support of terror in the service of Palestine.

There is a quiet sense among many of us, that Israeli Arabs are fleecing the state, even as they grouse about inequality and nurse plans to de-Judaize the national home of the Jewish People.

It is, in many ways, a form of classical anti-Semitism in which the Semites in question happen to be Israeli Arabs.

We complain that they live off the rest of us, that they flaunt our zoning laws and evade the taxes we pay, that they are happy to take our welfare while spurning the notion of defending the country.

It makes us feel somehow more secure in our own identity as Jews in a Jewish state. It makes our dislike of them, our educational, economic, and social discrimination against them, seem more of a reasoned response than what it actually is, which is institutional racism.”

These sentiments echo those of the distinguished South African sociologist Stanley Cohen, who was the Director of the Institute of Criminology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the 1980’s. In 2001, The Guardian quoted Professor Cohen as stating, “Denial of the injustices and injuries inflicted upon the Palestinians is built into the social fabric… There are, of course, good historical reasons why Israeli Jews should have a defensive self-image and a character armour of insecurity and permanent victimhood. The result is a xenophobia that would be called ‘racism’ anywhere else, an exclusion of Palestinians from a shared moral universe and an obsessional self-absorption: what we do to them is less important than what this does to us.”

Aharon Barak, Israeli Supreme Court President from 1995 to 2006, summed up the conundrum thusly: “We have still not worked out properly the interrelationship between the Jewishness of the state and the fact that it is a state of all its citizens.”

Sadly, many years later, these findings and observations hadn’t changed much.

Just last month, Gideon Levy, the brilliant, truth-telling Ha’aretz commentator, wrote, “Defining Israel as a Jewish state condemns us to living in a racist state.” He continued,

“Does anyone actually know the meaning of the term “Jewish state” that we bandy about so much? Does it mean a state for Jews only? Is it not a new kind of “racial purity”? Is the “demographic threat” greater than the danger of the state’s becoming a religious ethnocracy or an apartheid state? Wouldn’t it be better to live in a just democracy? And how is it even possible to speak about a state being both Jewish and democratic?”

How, indeed? These are questions J Street’s Ben-Ami and Hebrew University’s Taub should answer. Instead, as we have seen, they -as representatives of the so-called “left” – suggest compromise. Does the Jewish Israeli population polled above really seem like the compromising type? How exactly should Palestinians be expected to compromise when, at best, they are being told to accept the “generous offer” of 42% of the 80% of the 22% of 100% of their original homeland? Should those demanding justice and equality really just sit back and wait for their oppressors and occupiers to suddenly change their minds, especially when 77% of Israeli Jews even oppose the artist boycott of settlements?
Just like Ben-Ami, Taub, Avishai, Plitnick, Shlensky, and others, a new Ha’aretz editorial laments that there is a growing international movement that “no longer distinguishes between the settlements and the Green Line, between the “occupation” and Israel’s very right to exist.”

This statement once again blames Israel’s current crisis of conscience on the consequences of the Six Day War. But the 42-year occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights accounts for almost 70% of Israel’s entire existence. It is not a simple anomaly, a misstep off the path of righteousness. The occupation, land theft, colonization, displacement, dispossession, and disenfranchisement of and violence against Palestinians is not anathema to Zionism, it is Zionism.

Levy is essentially emulating the honesty of his journalistic predecessor Yeshayahu Bar Porath who, in 1972, wrote, “It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.”

Zionist leaders from Herzl to Ben-Gurion, have all understood and acknowledged this.

In 1898, Theodor Herzl recognized that, in order to establish a “Jewish state” in Palestine, the inconvenient indigenous population would have to be removed. “We shall try to spirit the penniless population (i.e. Arab) across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country,” he suggested.

Vladmir Jabotinsky, in his 1923 Zionist manifesto, The Iron Wall, wrote, “Zionism is a colonization adventure and therefore it stands or it falls by the question of armed force. It is important to speak Hebrew but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot – or else I am through with playing at colonization,” adding, “Zionist colonization, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population.”

In 1938, years before Jewish terrorist organizations and Zionist militias rampaged through Palestine, blowing up hotels, massacring Palestinians and destroying entire villages, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s beloved first Prime Minister, said, “Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves. Politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves. The country is (the Palestinian’s), because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country.”

Nevertheless, many in the Israeli left (and their counterparts here in the US) still insist on differentiating between the nobility and righteousness of “Herzl’s Zionist vision” and the frustrating, “unhelpful” post-1967 occupation.

Levy, as usual, is able to tell it like it is. Earlier this year, he explained that the problem is “rooted in the left’s impossible adherence to Zionism in its historical sense. In precisely the way there cannot be a democratic and Jewish state in one breath, one has to first define what comes before what – there cannot be a left wing committed to the old-fashioned Zionism that built the state but has run its course. This illusory left wing never managed to ultimately understand the Palestinian problem – which was created in 1948, not 1967 – never understanding that it can’t be solved while ignoring the injustice caused from the beginning. A left wing unwilling to dare to deal with 1948 is not a genuine left wing.”

In a just-published interview, Levy elaborates: “I think there could be a solution, but it requires Israel to have good will – which it doesn’t have. It would involve, first of all, Israel recognising its moral responsibility. That’s the first condition. It’s about time for Israel to take accountability for what happened in ’48 and realise and recognise that there was a kind of ethnic cleansing…”

The Nakba and Beyond

“It’s not a matter of maintaining the status quo. We have to create a dynamic state, oriented towards expansion.” -David Ben-Gurion

That the creation of Israel and the guarantee of establishing complete hegemony of a Jewish minority in 1948 required the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from most of their homeland is neither a secret nor a matter of debate. It is a known fact.

The forcible removal of the indigenous Palestinian population by Zionist violence and intimidation was not an unhappy accident of history, nor was it an unforeseen consequence of the Zionist dream; it was integral to Zionism’s success and a well-planned, non-negotiable aspect of its implementation. As scholar Norman Finkelstein wrote in Image and Reality of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, “One can imagine an argument for the right of a persecuted minority to find refuge in another country able to accommodate it; one is hard-pressed, however, to imagine an argument for the right of a persecuted minority to politically and perhaps physically displace the indigenous population of another country. Yet…the latter was the actual intention of the Zionist movement.”

The United States-sponsored King-Crane Commission in 1919 concluded that the Zionist project demanded and anticipated “a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants to Palestine.”

In 1937, Ben-Gurion declared that “In many parts of the country new Jewish settlement will not be possible unless there is a transfer of the Arab peasantry…The transfer of the population is what makes possible a comprehensive [Jewish] settlement plan.” He is also credited with saying, “Land with Arabs on it and land without Arabs on it are two very different types of land.”

Moshe Sharett, Israel’s second prime minister, said, “We have forgotten that we have not come to an empty land to inherit it, but we have come to conquer a country from people inhabiting it…if we cease to look upon our land, the Land of Israel, as ours alone and we allow a partner into our estate – all content and meaning will be lost to our enterprise.”

After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, and the expiration of the British Mandate, the Palestinian people have, for over 63 years, been denied self-determination and sovereignty in their own land.  In 1947, the United Nations recommended that the indigenous majority (then consisting of about 70% of the population in historic Palestine) establish a state of their own on 44% of its homeland, while the 30% minority (consisting mostly of recent Jewish immigrants from Europe) would get 56% of Palestine, despite the fact that the minority owned less than 8% of the land at the time. When that suggestion was unsurprisingly rejected by Palestinian representatives, a unilateral declaration established a Jewish State of Israel in Palestine and, in the ensuing war, Israel grabbed an extra 22% of Palestine as its own.

During what Israelis proudly refer to as their “War of Independence,” over 450 Palestinian towns were destroyed, including villages that had signed non-aggression pacts with their Jewish neighbors, and over 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their own homes. The terror campaign of Plan Dalet, put into effect in early 1948, consisted of “large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding population centres; setting fires to homes, properties, and goods; expulsion; demolition; and finally, planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning.”

Denying refugees their legal right to return to their homes after the war’s end was necessary for Israel to steal Palestine away from its inhabitants. As Ben-Gurion said, “We must do everything to ensure they [the Palestinians] never do return…The old will die and the young will forget.” Unfortunately for him and his Zionist followers ever since, they did not forget.

Following the massacre of Deir Yassin in April 1948 during which over 100 unarmed villagers were murdered by commandos of the Zionist terror groups Irgun and Lehi (The Stern Gang), journalist and author Jonathan Cook tells us that Ben-Gurion trained his sights on the Galilee, “where some 100,000 Palestinians, as well as tens of thousands of refugees from the fighting, were living on land that had been assigned to the Palestinian state under the Partition Plan. ‘Then we will be able to cleanse the entire area of Central Galilee, including all its refugees, in one stroke,’ he announced.”

In mid-July 1948, over 60,000 Palestinians were expelled from the twin towns of Lydda and Ramle at gun point and tank muzzle, upon the orders of future Israeli Prime Ministers Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin and under the direction of future IDF generals and Israeli politicians Yigal Allon (commander of the Palmach militia) and Moshe Dayan (commander of the 89th Armoured Battalion).

A few months later, the large village of al-Dawayma of about 3,500 residents, located northwest of Hebron, was invaded and captured by Israeli forces. The villagers were unarmed. Palestinian scholar Nur Masalha has revealed that the massacre of at least 80 Palestinians was carried out, “not in the heat of the battle but after the Israeli army had clearly emerged victorious in the war. Various evidence indicates that the atrocities were committed in and around the village, including at the mosque and in the cave nearby, that houses with old people locked inside were blown up, and that there were several cases of the shooting and raping of women.”

Despite the mythology perpetuated about Israel’s miraculous birth, Zionist fighters were not struggling against devastating odds for the survival of their nascent state. Not only had the Palestinian fighting forces been “decimated by the British in the 1936-1939 revolt,” during which over 10% of the Palestinian population had been killed, wounded, imprisoned or exiled, but the violent British repression also affected the Palestinians’ ability to resist further assaults in the future as Rashid Khalidi explains, a “high proportion of the Arab casualties include the most experienced military cadres and enterprising fighters.”

Scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have also pointed out that, “Israel is often portrayed as weak and besieged, a Jewish David surrounded by a hostile Arab Goliath. This image has been carefully nurtured by Israeli leaders and sympathetic writers, but the opposite image is closer to the truth. Contrary to popular belief, the Zionists had larger, better‐equipped, and better‐led forces” than their Arab opponents. In fact, “the Zionist/Israeli fighting forces outnumbered the Palestinians between December 1947 and May 1948, and they outnumbered the Arab armies from May 1948 to January 1949, when the fighting stopped.” As Israeli historian Benny Morris put it, “it was superior jewish firepower, manpower, organization, and command and control that determined the outcome of battle.”

For the next 17 years, Palestinians in Israel lived under martial law.

Nur Masalha has found evidence of further Palestinian expulsion from Israeli-controlled territory for years following the creation of Israel. For example, 2,000 inhabitants of Beersheva were expelled to the West Bank in late 1949, while 2,700 inhabitants of al-Majdal (now Ashkelon) were driven into Gaza a year later; as many as 17,000 Bedouins were forced out of the Negev between 1949 and 1953; several thousand inhabitants of the Triangle were expelled between 1949 and 1951; and more than 2,000 residents of two northern villages were driven into Syria as late as 1956.

In the early 1950’s, Ben-Gurion stated, in two separate state documents, his belief that that Israel was created “in a part of our small country” and “in only a portion of the Land of Israel,” later noting that “the creation of the new State by no means derogates from the scope of historic Eretz Israel.” These statements harken back to his 1937 declaration that “the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them,” as well as his 1948 proclamation that “We are not obligated to state the limits of our State,” thereby affirming the tenet of territorial expansion and compulsive land theft in Zionist doctrine and practice.

That the State of Israel exists almost exclusively on stolen Palestinian land is indisputable. In an article in Ha’aretz, Israeli scholar Dan Rabinowitz wrote, “What happened to the Palestinians in 1948 is Israel’s original sin…Between the 1950s and 1976, the state systematically confiscated most of the land of its remaining Palestinian citizens.” In 1969, Moshe Dayan was quoted in Ha’aretz:

“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.” (Edward Said, ‘Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims,’ Social Text, Volume 1, 1979)

According to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property, by exploiting the authority of the Absentee Property Law of 1950, the Jewish National Fund Law, through the establishment of the Development Agency and Israel Lands Authority, almost 70% of the territory of pre-1967 Israel consists of lands classified as ‘absentee property’ which had been confiscated from its Palestinian owners and residents. The Jewish National Fund, perhaps in an effort to brag, estimates as much as 88% was taken from Arab landowners.

The 22% of Palestine that remained was conquered in 1967 and remains occupied territory under international law. Following the Six Day War, several Israeli leaders refused to turn the armistice lines into permanent borders. Prime Minister Golda Meir said the pre-1967 borders were so dangerous that it “would be treasonable” for an Israeli leader to accept them. Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban said the pre-1967 borders have “a memory of Auschwitz.” Prime Minister Menachem Begin later described a proposal for a retreat to the pre-1967 borders as “national suicide for Israel.”

So, is the founding Zionist ideology, which the anti-BDS progressive left pines for and fears the demise of, really a legitimate form of self-determination and a functioning democracy to be maintained and treasured? Perhaps the “Yes to Israel” crowd, which so abhors the occupation and the settlements, would respond as Golda Meir did in 1971: “This country exists as the fulfillment of a promise made by God Himself. It would be ridiculous to ask it to account for its legitimacy.”

The Invisible and Voiceless Victims

“It’s not just about occupation; it’s also about the system of apartheid within Israel and the most important form of injustice, the denial of Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned rights to return.” – Omar Barghouti

Through reading the articles and arguments of the progressive community against BDS, one thing becomes quite clear. The commentators feel like their grand design for a perfect Zionist future has been hijacked and sullied by the settler movement and its government (and foreign) backers. These forward-thinking humanitarians believe themselves to be the victims of a right-wing conspiracy to dash the hopes of any peace agreement. This is absurd. These Israelis and Americans suffered no actual injustice. Nothing has, in fact, been taken away from them, save perhaps their own integrity. They have been oppressed by no one. Unlike the Palestinians.

And yet, the progressive discourse consistently omits Palestinian perspectives in their appraisal of the current situation. What do they want? Almost nowhere does the “Zionist left” of J Street and Huffington Post discuss what the actual victims of past and ongoing Zionist atrocities, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing want, or what tactic they believe would be the most effective to reach an acceptable, democratic, just, and peaceful solution in which all parties would be afforded equal civil and human rights, the same economic opportunities, and full political representation, as determined by international law. Apparently, these viewpoints – the voices of the victims and their descendants – are unimportant in the intellectual sphere of Ha’aretz and New York Times opinion. As Gideon Levy wrote a decade ago, “For most Israelis, the Palestinians are almost non-existent. They’re like thin air…” (‘An existential exercise,’ Ha’aretz, 16 October 2000)

In supporting the Ariel settlement boycott, the “Yes to Israel, No to settlements” crowd proves how easy it must be to praise the noble perpetrators and their subsequent beneficiaries, yet somehow not even give a moment’s thought to supporting the demands of the actual victims. To advocate for a “Jewish and democraticstate, created through colonization and ethnic cleansing, is to explicitly encourage the victims of such atrocities to voluntarily relinquish their rights, forget their history, and accept second-class citizenry in their homeland out of deference to the sensibilities and sensitivities of their colonizers and cleansers. Does this seem like a reasonable request?

It is precisely here that a closer look at the BDS movement is necessary.

As described in a recent statement by leaders of the campaign itself:

“The BDS movement derives its principles from both the demands of the Palestinian BDS Call, signed by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in July 2005, and, in the academic and cultural fields, from the Palestinian Call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, issued a year earlier in July 2004. Together, the BDS and PACBI Calls represent the most authoritative and widely-supported strategic statements to have emerged from Palestine in decades; all political factions, labor, student and women’s organizations, and refugee groups across the Arab world have supported and endorsed these calls. Both calls underline the prevailing Palestinian belief that the most effective form of international solidarity with the Palestinian people is direct action and persistent pressure aimed at bringing an end to Israel’s colonial and apartheid regime, just as the apartheid regime in South Africa was abolished, by isolating Israel internationally through boycotts and sanctions, forcing it to comply with international law and respect Palestinian rights.”

As a result, the campaign urges “the morally consistent rationale and principles of the Palestinian boycott campaign against Israel,” when addressing the question of boycotting institutions inside the Green Line that support the systematic discrimination within Israel and the continued colonization of the occupied territories. The call for BDS, according to PACBI founding member Omar Barghouti, “has as close to a consensus as you can get, and it’s not just among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza, including East Jerusalem, but also Palestinians inside Israel, and the largest component of the Palestinian people, those in exile in the Diaspora.” The campaign focuses on affirming three basic rights of the Palestinian people, as already demanded by international law. These rights are: (1) Ending the 43 year old Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands conquered in 1967 and dismantling the Apartheid Wall that illegally annexes large portions of the West Bank to Israel; (2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, thereby ending the system of racial discrimination within Israel proper; and (3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in United Nations Resolution 194.

The refusal of advocates of Liberal Zionism, those alleged progressives who profess to want change yet ignore or re-imagine Israel’s true history, to recognize the incompatibility of both a “Jewish” and “democratic” state or embrace the demands of the wronged party (Palestinians, not Israelis) in this conflict makes their arguments sound like little more than cowardly equivocation. They represent a sort of solipsistic intellectual narcissism, tranquilized by the “drug of gradualism,” and talking into an echo chamber of pragmatism and compromise.

“The academic community in Israel,” Omar Barghouti recently explained, is “very Israel-centric. I mean, the world revolves around them.” The BDS campaign, he said, is “about Palestinian rights and Israeli oppression and injustice and the role of the Israeli academy as a partner in the system of oppression. In fact, no Israeli university has ever come out against the occupation, ever.”

In Gideon Levy’s estimation, “they lack courage, some of them,” despite having good intentions. He elaborated, during a recent interview with Jamie Stern-Weiner of the New Left Project:

“I think that Oz and Yehoshua and Grossman, who I know very well personally, mean well. But in many ways they are still chained in the Zionistic ideology. They haven’t released themselves from the old Zionistic ideology, which basically hasn’t changed since ’48 – namely, that the Jews have the right to this land, almost the exclusive right. They are trying to find their way to be Zionistic, and to be for peace, and to be for justice. The problem is that Zionism in its present meaning, in its common meaning, is contradictory to human rights, to equality, to democracy, and they don’t recognise it. It’s too hard for them to recognise it, to realise it. And therefore their position is an impossible position, because they want everything: they want Zionism, they want democracy, they want a Jewish state, but they want also rights for the Palestinians… it’s very nice to want everything, but you have to make your choice and they are not courageous enough to make the choice.”

Levy, in contrast to commentators like Avishai, Taub, Rosenberg, and Ben-Ami, has the conviction to envision Israel as “a state for Jews that will be a just state, a democratic state, and if there will be a Palestinian majority, there will be a Palestinian majority. The idea is that Jews have to have their place, but it can’t be exclusively theirs, because this land is not exclusively theirs.”

Courage, Truth, and Justice

There is hope. A growing number of Israeli intellectuals, scholars, and activists don’t feel beholden to the 19th century colonial, exclusivist, and racist ideology of Zionism and stand with the Palestinian demand for BDS as a non-violent strategy to achieve justice.

Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions explains that “the purpose of this effort is to deny Israel the ability to brand itself as a normal nation while flouting the law and suppressing an occupied people. Brand Israel is their strategy; ours is to insist on no business as usual with the regime, as was done successfully in the struggle against apartheid South Africa.”

Professor Neve Gordon, who teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, understands that it is not simple for an “Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own nephew, Jonathan Ben Artzi, currently a PhD student at Brown University, recognizes that Israel “must give equal rights to all. Regardless of what the final resolution will be – the so-called “one state solution,” the “two state solution,” or any other form of governance.” He suggests that the only way to encourage – no, force – Israel to comply with international law is for the United States to withdraw military funding, corporate investments, and diplomatic support.

Michel Warschawski, veteran Israeli activist, journalist, and co-founder of the Alternative Information Center in Israel, has recently written, in solidarity with the BDS movement, that “our goal is the fulfillment of certain values like: basic individual and collective rights, end of domination and oppression, decolonization, equality, and as-much-justice-as-possible.” He continues:

“For us, Zionism is not a national liberation movement but a colonial movement, and the State of Israel is and has always been a settlers’ colonial state. Peace, or, better, justice, cannot be achieved without a total decolonization (one can say de-Zionisation) of the Israeli State; it is a precondition for the fulfillment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians – whether refugees, living under military occupation or second-class citizens of Israel. Whether the final result of that de-colonization will be a “one-state” solution, two democratic states (i.e. not a “Jewish State”), a federation or any other institutional structure is secondary, and will ultimately be decided by the struggle itself and the level of participation of Israelis, if at all.

“This is where the BDS campaign is so relevant: it offers an international framework to act in order to help the Palestinian people achieving its legitimate rights, both on the institutional level (states and international institutions) and the civil society’s one. On the one hand it is addressed to the international community, asking it to sanction a State that is systematically violating international law, UN resolutions, the Geneva Conventions and signed agreements; on the other hand, it is addressed to the international civil society to act, as individuals as well as social movements (trade-unions, parties, local councils, popular associations etc) to boycott goods, official representatives, institutions etc. that represent the colonial State of Israel.

“Both tasks (boycott and sanctions) will eventually be a pressure of the Israeli people, pushing it to understand that occupation and colonization have a price, that violating the international rules may, sooner or later, made the State of Israel a paria-country, not welcomed in the civilized community of nations.

“The BDS campaign was initiated by a broad coalition of Palestinian political and social movements. No Israeli who claims to support the national rights of the Palestinian people can, decently, turns it back to that campaign: after having claimed for years that “armed struggle is not the way”, it will be outrageous that this strategy too will be disqualified by those Israeli activists. On the contrary, we have all together to join ‘Boycott from within’ in order to provide an Israeli backup to that Palestinian initiative. It is the minimum we can do, it is the minimum we should do.”

Ofer Neiman, contributing editor of Occupation Magazine and The Only Democracy? website, believes that a boycott that targets only settlers, and not Israeli society as whole, is not only myopic, but would be ineffective since, including those colonizing East Jerusalem, the settlers “make up only 7% of Israel’s citizens. Most of the settlements are small communities, and many of their inhabitants make their living either through work in Israel (west of the green line) or as state employees in their communities.”

As a result, he explains his support for the “morally justified” BDS campaign this way: “The Palestinian BDS call is first and foremost a call for the promotion of universal principles of human rights. From this universal perspective, it should not be difficult to see that there is something inherently flawed about Israel’s entire constitutional fabric when it comes to the treatment of its Palestinian citizens, not to mention the specific policies pursued by successive Israeli governments on this issue.”

Heeding Wise Words

The sole reason there exists an ongoing, bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the ideology of Zionism. It is irrelevant to try and figure out what came first, the rejection of indigenous self-determination or resistance against ethnocentric, settler-colonialism, as they both follow the concept of Zionism. In order to truly seek peace with justice, the real root of the problem must be honestly identified as the Zionist ideology itself, and not, as Yossi Ben Artzi suggests, the settlement enterprise after 1967. Ironically, Zionism, though originally conceived to protect a persecuted minority against rampant persecution, inherently embodies the very worst aspects of human nature: ethnic superiority, racism, exclusivity, intolerance, xenophobia, jingoism, entitlement, and arrogance, to name just a few.

The ugly militarism, fierce nationalism, and fascist ideals required to achieve Zionist goals in Palestine have long been acknowledged by many Jewish intellectuals and humanists like Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt. Albert Einstein, for instance, denounced the Irgun-aligned Betar youth movement in 1935, describing it as being “as much a danger to our youth as Hitlerism is to German youth” and believed that “the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power….I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain – especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks.”

Judah Magnes called the Zionist collective in pre-1948 Palestine an “artificial community” and he predicted that sanctions imposed by the United States would halt “the Jewish war machine.”

Rabbi Stephen Wise, arguing that “the whole tradition of the Jewish people is against militarism,” expressed disgust at what he saw as a slogan to fit the 1930s: “Germany for Hitler, Italy for Mussolini, Palestine for Jabotinsky.”

In 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of the “fierce urgency of now” in demanding that all people benefit from “the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” He declared:

“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

Three decades earlier, in a meeting to discuss holding a anti-Nazi boycott rally in Madison Square Garden in New York City, Rabbi Stephen Wise said much the same thing:

“The time for prudence and caution is past. We must speak up like men. How can we ask our Christian friends to lift their voices in protest against the wrongs suffered by Jews if we keep silent?…What is happening in Germany today may happen tomorrow in any other land on earth unless it is challenged and rebuked. It is not the German Jews who are being attacked. It is the Jews.”

And now, decades upon decades later, both King’s and Wise’s sentiments are still relevant. The promises of democracy still must be realized, racial justice must still replace segregation, equal rights for all must still be demanded, and freedom must ring from every mountainside and through every wadi.

What’s happening in Israel and Palestine today may happen tomorrow in any other land on earth unless it is challenged and rebuked. It is not the Palestinians who are being attacked. It is our collective humanity.

It is time to speak up.


* Nima Shirazi is a writer and musician from New York City.  His political commentary is published on his website, Wide Asleep in   His analysis of United States policy and Middle East issues, particularly with reference to current events in Iran, Israel, and Palestine, can also be found in numerous other online and print publications.

He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife and books.

Written for his Website … Wide Asleep in America

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