Media Roundup: Palestinian Ambiguity, Refugees Again, and Your Contribution to Israeli Terrorism


Creative Ambiguity 

Art and Palestine: complicated positions, Jane Ure-Smith, Financial Times – 4 September

 ‘A Magical Substance Flows Into Me’ (2015) ©CRG Gallery, New York
‘A Magical Substance Flows Into Me’ (2015) ©CRG Gallery, New York

Jumana Manna’s work includes both sculpture and film. Like Jacir, for her Chisenhale show she uncovers a piece of “lost history”. Entitled “A Magical Substance Flows into Me” (2015), the film centres on Robert Lachmann, a forgotten musicologist who made a series of programmes for the Palestine Broadcasting Service in the 1930s.

For her film, Manna revisits the Palestinian and Middle-Eastern Jewish communities Lachmann studied, replaying his recordings, making new ones and weaving her own family into the story. “I think roots inform any artistic practice,” she says. “My body, my family, my whole story are explicitly in my work. It’s not a matter of choosing to talk about identity. My body is part of these political processes whether I like it or not.”

In earlier work, Manna, who was born in 1987, has tackled the power relations between men and women in a forthright way. She’s not afraid to wade in. I remind her of a comment in an earlier interview: “I grew up as a Palestinian in Israel, making me both a member and an enemy of the state . . . ambiguity is something I’ve always lived with.”

Is she happy with that ambiguity? “I think it makes for an interestingly complex position,” she replies, without missing a beat.

Between Several Worlds

Jehad Nga. The New Yorker.
Jehad Nga. The New Yorker.

An Exile in the Corn Belt. Israel’s funniest Palestinian writer decamps to the Midwest, Ruth Margalit, New Yorker – 7 September

Kashua used prejudice like a boomerang: the moment a viewer snickered at a joke, she became its next target. “I’m not sure whom I’m laughing at, exactly,” he once said. “I think I’m laughing at Amjad, but maybe I’m really laughing at Israelis for thinking these things.” Incisive as Kashua was about right-wingers, he was even more unsparing toward the left and its hypocrisies. After a Jewish neighbor mistakes Amjad for the building’s new staircase cleaner (“Don’t leave a puddle by the door,” she warns), she awkwardly backpedals by announcing her membership in a leftist party: “We vote Meretz. Just so you know.” […] 

One afternoon, I met Kashua outside the building of the university’s Jewish-studies department, where he teaches advanced Hebrew. He was smoking next to a notice that said, “This is a smoke-free campus.” The irony of his situation—a Palestinian writer leaves Israel only to find himself teaching Hebrew to American Jews—hadn’t escaped him. When he was offered the job, he said, he warned the department head that students might adopt his Arabic accent in Hebrew and be “kicked out of Birthright,” the organization that offers Jewish kids free trips to Israel. […] 

Mostly, he talked about his children, and his fear that they would grow up to resent him. “For confusing them,” he explained. “For the fact that they will have nowhere to be. Not there and not there and not here.” He once told his parents that, despite the hostility, he loved their home town more than anything else in the world. In the bar, he asked, “What kind of Tira do my kids have?” He seemed to weigh the question. “I wanted a more comfortable life for them. But you can’t raise children in Israel on values of full equality. Arab children, I mean. Jewish children maybe you can lie to. But when my children find out they’re not equal where will they go?

The Israel Lobby: From bipartisanship to a right-wing faction?

Influential Pro-Israel Group Suffers Stinging Political Defeat, Julie Hirschfeld David, New York Times – 10 September 

Republicans lined up unanimously with Aipac against the accord, which Mr. Obama had made his top foreign policy priority. The vast majority of Democrats supported it. 

AIPAC’s partisan defeat on Iran comes during a time when pro-Israel campaign contributions increasingly hew toward Republicans:

G.O.P.’s Israel Support Deepens as Political Contributions Shift, Eric Lipton, New York Times – 4 April

Republicans currently in the Senate raised more money during the 2014 election cycle in direct, federally regulated campaign contributions from individuals and political action committees deemed pro-Israel than their Democratic counterparts, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics and analyzed for The New York Times by a second nonprofit, MapLight. The Republican advantage was the first in more than a decade.

The strength of the pro-Israel lobby is due in great part to its bipartisan clout and current trends may foreshadow the eventual transformation of the traditional pro-Israel lobby (as opposed to, say, self-styled “pro-Israel, pro-peace” groups like J Street) into a right-wing faction akin to, say, the National Rifle Associations with Democratic lawmakers increasingly free to voice their criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights.

[Attend an upcoming event by the Institute for Palestine Studies: The Future of Bipartisanship on Israel. Thursday, October 15, 2015 from 12:00 PM to 2:30 PM (EDT). SEIU: Headquarters & Conference Center 1800 Massachusetts Ave NW Washington, DC 20036.]

A Kinder, Gentler Bibi? 

Netanyahu Makes Quick Pivot From Loss on Iran Deal, Jodi Rudoren, New York Times – 10 September

In the week since it became clear that Congress would not block the Iranian nuclear deal he loathes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has largely toned down his rhetoric on the issue and pivoted to others. […] 

There have been exceptions when Mr. Netanyahu has sounded more like his old self. On Wednesday, after Iran’s supreme leader predicted Israel would not exist in 25 years, he railed against “the tyrant from Tehran” and said Iranian aggression would “only increase as a result of the agreement.” But even then Mr. Netanyahu used softer language — “to my regret” — than in many previous, apocalyptic statements criticizing the world powers that negotiated it.



Netanyahu Hardens Stance on Palestinian Children

Netanyahu hints at easing rules on firing at Palestinian stone-throwers, Peter Beaumont, The Guardian – 2 September

While Bibi tones it down elsewhere, pebble-throwing children receive lethal threats from the premier.

Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has ordered his security officials to examine changing the rules governing when soldiers can shoot young Palestinian stone-throwers.

A statement issued by his office on Wednesday revealed Netanyahu was considering giving security forces a freer hand to open fire with live ammunition after meeting with his cabinet to discuss a recent increase in the number of incidents involving firebombs and stone-throwing in Jerusalem and on the West Bank.

Despite rules of engagement that in theory permit potentially lethal live fire to be used only in life-threatening situations, a number of recent incidents have led to young Palestinians being killed by Israeli soldiers – including a brigade commander – while fleeing and posing no immediate threat.

Not that Palestinian children don’t already suffer without live ammunition:

Israeli night raids a routine terror for Palestinian children, Maureen Clare Murphy, The Electronic Intifada – 1 September 

It’s a regular and terrifying scene in the occupied West Bank: heavily armed Israeli soldiers, often with large dogs, raid a Palestinian family’s home. They wake the children, arresting one or more of them.

This is what happened to Hamza Muayyad Shukri Hammad, 15, when his home in Silwad, a village near Ramallah, was invaded at 2am on Sunday.

As reported by the Arabic-language Quds news site, Hamza’s mother said that during the two-hour raid on her family’s home, Hamza and his 10-year-old brother, Bilal, were detained. […]

During a visit to Megiddo prison on Sunday, Hiba Masalha, a lawyer with the Palestinian Authority ministry for prisoner affairs, took the testimony of three teenagers who were beaten during their arrest and transfer to Israeli detention.

Ahmad Ismail Abu Amr, 17, from a village near the West Bank city of Nablus, was beaten all over his body, blindfolded and cuffed by Israeli soldiers who used their weapons to strike him on his head and shoulders when they arrested him two months ago. […]

The No Way to Treat a Child campaign has prompted rare defiance of the pro-Israel consensus among United States lawmakers.

Senior Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky raised her concern “about troubling reports of widespread mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli custody” in a July letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that was co-signed by three other members of congress.

Earlier this summer, 19 other representatives co-signed a similar letter to Kerry protesting Israel’s “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of Palestinian children.

Israel is the only state in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts and 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in Israel’s military detention system since the year 2000, according to DCI-Palestine.

Most Palestinian children sentenced by military courts are transferred to prisons inside Israel, like Megiddo, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

“The practical consequence of this is that many of them receive either limited or no family visits due to freedom of movement restrictions and the time it takes to issue a permit to visit the prisons,” DCI-Palestine states.



Your Contribution to Israeli Terrorism

Even Netanyahu calls them “terrorists”: How the U.S. aids Israelis convicted of violent crimes against Palestinians, David Palumbo-Liu, Salon – 1 September 

In an article that asks the question,“Is U.S. taxpayer money subsidizing Jewish terrorism against Arabs?,” the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports on a “recent expose by Israel’s Channel 10 about the work of the 13-year-old Israeli nonprofit Honenu, which provides financial support to Jews convicted of or on trial for violence against Palestinians, including so-called price tag attacks in the West Bank.”:

Since 2003, Honenu has operated a New York-based U.S. fundraising arm. In 2010, the last year for which data is listed, the tax-exempt organization has raised $233,700 in the United States, according to tax filings. […]

The article notes that “Much of [Honenu’s funding] is used for the defense of Jews on trial for activities such as violence against Arabs and refusing orders to vacate illegal Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank. The group helps approximately 1,000 individuals under arrest per year, according to the Honenu website.” In July 2014 the U.S. public interest journalism group Pro Publica featured a story about Honenu in an article titled “U.S. Taxpayers Are Subsidizing Defense of Alleged Killers of Palestinian Teen”:

The group says it … provides “spiritual” and “financial” assistance to prisoners and their families. Among those Honenu has helped: Yigal Amir, assassin of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; an Israeli convicted of murdering seven Palestiniansat a bus stop; and an Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter and obstruction of justice after shooting a British photographer in Gaza.



Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

Back to School — With River of Cash To Fight BDS, Nathan Guttman, Forward – 9 September 

The Campus Maccabees, backed by up to $50 million from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and others, are gearing up to campaign against perceived efforts to delegitimize Israel. With a declared aim to reshape the face of Israel advocacy in colleges nationwide, the new group is a wildcard. […] 

The more immediate challenge for the Campus Maccabees — whose name is still being debated — is addressing widespread concerns among Jewish campus groups that the new initiative will deploy its cash with a right-wing tilt that reflects Adelson’s worldview and reach over existing players.

Israel hits out at EU settlement labelling planJohn Reed, Financial Times – 10 September

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s right-wing leader, has reacted angrily to a resolution by the European Parliament calling for the labelling of goods made in Jewish settlements, invoking the second world war-era persecution of Jews by speaking of the “historical memory of what happened when Europe labelled Jewish products”.

Mr Netanyahu spoke after the EU parliament voted on Thursday in favour of labelling goods made in settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem, and Golan Heights, The vote saw 525 MPs vote in favour, 70 against, and 31 abstain.

Refugees All Over Again 

Matthew Cassel. Vice News.
Matthew Cassel. Vice News.

Escape From Yarmouk: A Family’s Journey to Germany From Hell on Earth in Syria, Matthew Cassel, Vice News – 13 September

As the train packed with refugees left Budapest’s Keleti station in the direction of Austria, only one family remained on the platform. “We couldn’t buy tickets because we don’t have any money, armed thieves took everything from us,” said Tarek al-Hajj Khalil, a Palestinian from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria.

The 19-year-old refugee sat flanked by his five sisters: Nour, 18, Reem, 17, Rama, 16, Raneem, 15, Bayan, 4, and her twin brother Aamer. The group arrived the night before after being released from a Hungarian detention facility, and looked to continue onward to Germany, where they hope to receive asylum. […] 

Back at the Keleti train station, a Tunisian-Czech activist named Mona helped direct Tarek to where he and his siblings needed to take the train. Other volunteers took up a collection to help them purchase the tickets for 3,300 Hungarian forint ($12). […]

“We have two countries, Syria and Palestine,” Tarek said. “One day we’ll go back to one of them.”



Media Roundup is a biweekly feature of Palestine Square.