Still Speaking For The Others, But At Least Doing It Honestly

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I remember Ben Ehrenreich. He was the writer who wrote perhaps one of the best pieces about the Palestinian resistance struggle in the town of Bilin in the West Bank against Israel’s hideous and inhumane apartheid wall. He was also the guy I quoted in a piece I wrote on Western photojournalism’s obsessive Eurocentricism when it comes to reporting on Brown and Black societies. It was in the context of speaking about the need for ‘White’ interlocutors that I quoted Ehrenreich, and wrote:

“The West’s desperation for ‘white’ interlocutors and the silence of the other – was very strongly bought to the fore by Ben Ehrenreich of The New York Times, the writer of a powerful and rather unusual for the magazine, piece of reportage on the Palestinian resistance to Israeli military rule and occupation in the West Bank. The article, This Is Where The Third Intifada Will Start was a powerful piece and rare in the voices of the Palestinians it allowed to come through. In an interview he gave afterwards he was asked a very pertinent and powerful question which touched on this very issue – the constant representation of the other by an European – and his response was powerful and clear. The question that was posed to him was this:

Let’s talk about the Jewish narrator. In 2006 the Times published a very important essay by Tony Judt in support of Walt and Mearsheimer’s LRB piece on the Israel lobby, and Judt later said that they asked him to insert in there, I’m Jewish. Judt told the story because he knew that Jews were privileged, and that the Times needed to send this signal to its readers. As the NYRB does by publishing David Shulman when it’s critical of Israel, as the New Yorker does when David Remnick is the authority. As Mondoweiss does by stating, we’re a progressive Jewish site at root. As JVP does. It’s a racket, we’re all in on it, and my question is, When do Palestinians get to hold the microphone. Aren’t you and I to blame too? Because if they were holding the microphone, a basic human rights issue like the right to resist that is so core to your piece would have been noncontroversial many many years ago. As it is, Americans have to warm up to the idea, and a Jew has to bring them this news. Comment?

And Ehrenreich’s response was unequivocal and clear. He responded:

I’m glad you asked that question, and yeah, it’s super-problematic. It’s a specific instance of a bigger problem, that black and brown people’s stories can generally only be told in this society via the authority of a white narrator, that we–white people, in this case of Jewish ancestry–are tasked with the representation of black and brown and in this case Palestinian people, who in this dynamic are stuck in the passive role of being represented and are not allowed to interpret their own realities. So certainly we are complicit, and I don’t see any way out of that complicity except to use what privilege I have to tell stories that tear holes in the broader narratives which allow this arrangement to continue. And to do so with scrupulous attention to my own role in it, to the power differentials at play. (My emphasis)”

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The End Of The ’60s

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“Let us remember that Zionism and anti-Zionism have been part of Jewish life for more than a century, that debates about Zionism have broken up many a Jewish dinner table and constituted a matter of ongoing dispute within the Jewish community. Jewish internationalists, communists, and those who favor binational or federated forms of government for Israel and Palestine, and many orthodox Jews have openly opposed some version of Zionism – do we no longer count that as part of Jewish history? Even the respected Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, sponsors debates for and against Zionism. What grounds, then, do we have for censoring such debates on the UC campus? Our mission at the university is to consider all points of view and make informed decisions and grounded judgments on the basis of what we hear and read. We do not censor viewpoints from the start. That leaves us ignorant and ill-equipped to interpret our complex world. Rather than produce an instrument for censorship and limit the activities of students, staff, and faculty, ban meetings and debates, and demean scholarship that represents a range of views about Palestine and Israel, we should instead be safeguarding this most important task of the university as one of the few places where conflictual issues such as these can be articulated, debated, and understood over time. Let us not betray this most important public task of the university.”

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Mazen Maarouf & The Continuing Legacies Of The Nakba

The Easy Beauty Of The Unpolitical, The Effective Seduction Of The Obfuscatory

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Till Palestine

The Palestinian Mohammad Assaf wins the Arab Idol content. Details »

Diaspora

On the Side of the Road – OFFICIAL TRAILER from Naretiv Productions on Vimeo.

True that the people were forcibly evicted, and it is true that official histories have been re-written to write them out of memory and documentation. But where did they go? And why have we ‘disappeared’ their histories, voices and experiences?

The Palestinian diaspora – a mirror to the one that once was the proud heritage of the Jewish people – spreads from Latin America, to the Middle East, and South East Asia. And though there are no multi-million dollar, corporate sponsored, celebrations, memorials, museum, or vigils that commemorate, the Nakba lives within millions of people. The Palestinian diaspora is perhaps one of the strongest and least known in the world today.

I am often asked why Israel, and why not spend more time worrying about some other crisis and conflict. This question is always only asked by apologists for Israel. And though there are many reasons for why Israel first, there are a few that are very obvious. First, it is the Palestinians who have worked hard, day and night, to make it an issue for the world’s conscience and concern. I can list dozens of intellectuals, writers, artists, activists, politicians, and others who have tirelessly spoken out about their dispossession and suffering and convinced, through evidence and reason, the just nature of their struggle. I think of Darwish, Said, Abu-Lughud(s), Suleiman, Bishara, Haddad, Ashrawi, Habibi, Bargouti, Abunimah, H Sharabi, Shamas, Nusseibeh, Khalidi, Karmi, and so many more. And so many friends who echoed their arguments – Ahmed, Zinn, Barsamian, Chomsky, Judt, and others….So the Palestinians have earned the concern of the world, and they have spent decades arguing it in any and every way possible. The other reasons are obvious: this is an American funded military occupation and repression, this is a remnant of an era of colonial arrogance and brutality we are trying to close, this is a metaphor for the continued repression and erasure of people’s histories who are still trying to discover that ‘dawn’ Faiz so eloquently spoke about.

Palestine is not a place, nor a people. It is an ideal that embodies within it the struggles for hundreds of millions of people around the world, and it captures the anger, disappointments, frustrations and determinations of most all of the post-colonial world whose dreams of emancipation today lie mostly in ruins. As goes Palestine, thus goes most of the rest of the still-struggling world.

I have written about this documentary before. In a post called The Greatest Denial – Israel And The Erasure of The Past, The Present And Any Future, pointing out that:

The refusal to speak, teach, discuss or even recognise the Nakbah as it is referred to by the Palestinians, remains the single more important obstacle to any chance of hope in the region. This refusal underpins the disdain and violent disregard with which the occupied Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are treated – their rights, their grievances and their very humanity, disregarded as relevant or even equivalent. It underpins the now infamous conviction that this was ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’ so that the Zionist enterprise need not have to confront the injustices – injustices that were well-known to the founders of the enterprise, it was being constructed on. In fact, the refusal to teach or acknowledge the Nakbah is tied to this need to see this land as empty and without people.

The fraud of the peace-process – one that has enriched war criminals such as Tony Blair – is consistently given life when it appears that the Palestinians may begin to take matters into their own hands. The purveyors of this fake peace process – like the diseased war criminal and mass murdered Tony Blair and his money making scams that have murdered hundreds of thousands, continue to sell us a dead horse that today can’t even be taken seriously as a corpse. At least not by those who have the most to lose. We are today returning to the realisation that this battle will have to be fought – in the streets, in the corridors of power, and in the minds and hearts of the tens of millions of Europeans and Americans who fund this occupation, who collude in its violence and brutality, and who chose to pretend that it is Israel that is in fact under threat, and not accept the reality that since 1948, and for some years earlier, a hapless, helpless people have had everything stolen from them and continue to lose more each and every day. The battle for history is the battle for lives when it comes to this conflict. To repeat it, again and again and again, is critical.

The Diary: Teju Cole Goes To The Palestinian Literary Festival But…

Teju Cole went to the Palestinian Literary Festival and wrote a piece:

The Diary: Teju Cole – FT.com.

I do like Teju Cole, but here is a good example of how even someone as lucid and intelligent as he can easily fall prey to the need to offer ‘balance’

“How does one write about this place? Every sentence is open to dispute. Every place name objected to by someone. Every barely stated fact seems familiar already, at once tiresome and necessary. Whatever is written is examined not only for what it includes but for what it leaves out: have we acknowledged the horror of the Holocaust? The perfidy of the Palestinian Authority? The callousness of Hamas? Under these conditions, the dispossessed – I will leave aside all caveats and plainly state that the Palestinians are the dispossessed – have to spend their entire lives negotiating what should not be matters for negotiation at all: freedom of movement, the right to self-determination, equal protection under the law.”

No, actually, every sentence is not open to dispute. It is however open to manipulation of facts and representations of history. Every place name is not objected by someone – just ask the people who actually settled the place, lived there, had their lives there and even their land and home deeds. The specious parallel between the Holocaust and the perfidy of the PA etc. etc. are precisely what the powerful propaganda machinery of a colonial settler state always attempts to do – distract with historical confusion, legal obfuscation, teleological trickery to ensure that the bare, basic facts are just not reveal: a people had their land stolen under the false-flag of a League of Nations mandate, nearly a million were thrown off their lands, violent occupation and invasions sanctioned many times over and most recently in 1965. And even if all that is in dispute you can’t ignore the fact that what is not in dispute is that people who live in this land, under occupation, refuse to accept the occupier. It is not freedom of movement, or self-determination or equal protection under the law that we are negotiating. those are the trinkets that the occupier wants to dangle as cheap offerings.

What we are negotiating is a full return of all displaced refugees of 1948, full reparations for all these losses, for each generation that has suffered, full equal rights as citizens of one sovereign state that is neither jewish nor muslim, but Palestinian (the Israeli Jews are now Palestinians so they have to accept this fact – they are not in Europe, but in the heart of Arab Middle East and their weapons and mass media hypnosis can only go so far to push and erase what is an anciest culture, tradition, ways of life and rhythm of existence!). We are negotiating for justice, and for one that is rightfully belongs to the dispossessed. To suggest anything less is to concede to the colonial list a legitimacy that they do not possess. I expected more courage from Teju Cole

The Greatest Denial – Israel And The Erasure Of The Past, The Present And Any Future

On the Side of the Road – OFFICIAL TRAILER from Naretiv Productions on Vimeo. Details »

The Moral And Intellectual Cowardice Of Josef Koudelka

I wanted to give this post a gentler title. I wanted to do that because I have been an admirer of Koudelka’s work for years, considering his book Gypsies to be one of the most important influences in pushing me to become a photographer. For me he has always been the photographer famous for his independence of thought, his personal moral and political integrity and his public reputation as a man whose works embody a moral and social conscience. So it was shocking to read his recent interview in the New York Times Lens blog about his work on the Israeli wall that scars the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza (Koudelka only documented as far as I know the wall as it exists in the West Bank). To find that this otherwise intelligent individual, with enough intellectual and emotional independence to come to an honest conclusion about what is taking place in the West Bank, choses to hide behind an apolitical and frankly cowardly language of ‘environment’ and ‘its too complex’ was staggering to confront. It was down right shameful to read. Details »

US Campaign For The Academic and Cultural Boycott Of Israel – AAUP Journal’s New Issue

An impressive set of articles in the latest issue of the American Association of University Professor’s (AAUP) Journal. All the essays are in PDF format and can be read and downloaded from their site. Joan Scott offers a powerful reason for why this question has to be examined by the American academy, and why supporting the calls for a boycott and university divestment are crucial.

The American academy has been particularly complicit in perpetuating the fiction of Israeli democracy—its leaders seek to protect Israel from its critics, even as they also seek to protect themselves from the wrath of the organized lobbies who speak on behalf of the current Israeli regime and its policy of establishing academic outposts in illegal settlements. This, it seems to me, is ill advised, since so much of Israeli politics right now is at odds with the best values of the American educational system. Paradoxically, it is because we believe so strongly in principles of academic freedom that a strategic boycott of the state that so abuses it makes sense right now.  Details »

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