Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Chutzpah

On March 6, 2014, three of those of us who participated on the January 2014 Academic and Labor Delegation to Palestine provided a report back at our academic institution about our experiences.

The report back was moderated by the Chair of American Indian Studies who began by laying out the protocols that were to be followed for the report back and discussion. The protocols adhered to standard academic guidelines for respecting intellectual property and freedom of speech but as well indigenous protocols regarding respect. These guidelines included not recording the event without the permission of the delegates. Two student journalists with the student paper on campus were present and requested and were provided with permission to record. The delegates also filmed the report back to document the event.

After the report back, the first question/comment was offered by a woman who later identified herself as “Faith.” In response to comments made by two of the delegates regarding Nelson Mandela’s well-known support of Palestinian rights and identification of Israel as an apartheid regime, “Faith” claimed that there was a youtube record of Mandela accepting an honorary degree from an Israeli university and not merely supporting but showing his love of Israel.

We subsequently researched this claim and found it not to be true. Mandela received hundreds of honorary degrees from around the world over the course of his lifetime. He accepted an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 1997, but no where in his acceptance speech does he assert a change in his position or the position of the African National Congress regarding Israel’s apartheid. In fact, his speech draws parallels between the Bedouin of the Negev and the experiences of Africans in South Africa.

After her remarks and the delegates responses about Mandela, “Faith” was called out by a woman faculty member from UC Berkeley for audio recording the report back with a device she had hid in her purse. The moderator asked her if this was true. “Faith” claimed she arrived late and did not hear any announcement about not recording without permission. She gestured to turning off the recording.

Later, along with an inflammatory statement issued to university officials and state representatives, AMCHA (an organization funded by several other Zionist groups in the United States) posted the audio recording on youtube and flagged the report back as evidence of "anti-Semitism" on campus. The recording shows quite clearly that "Faith" was recording the event from the very beginning of the report back, just as the delegates and moderator were getting situated, and so she most certainly heard the moderator's announcements regarding not recording without permission. The report back provided no instances of "anti-Semitism" though the delegates did, consistent with the United Nations, identify Israel as an apartheid regime engaged in actions of ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination, and displacement that violate Palestinian human rights.

Ideology

Several times since January, AMCHA has issued statements to university and state elected officials decrying the delegation and delegates as pro-terrorist and anti-Semitic, advocating for violence against Israel and Jewish faculty and students on campus.

It is incredibly difficult not to get pulled into a war over the facts in the context of these accusations. Because it is not a war over the facts, it is a war within ideology.

If they can manage to drag you into what will become a ceaseless argument over the facts (you said this, you've done this, etc.), then they have succeeded in changing the terms of the debate. Dragging you into a mode of defense that you can never win.

Because in a war of ideology, it does not really matter what you say, they are going to twist and turn everything you say into something else to make their own argument. Because they are most definitely not interested in debate, discussion, or "peace talks," they are interested in maintaining and expanding the status quo in Israel.

Target, Misfire

Several times since we returned from the delegation, AMCHA and other Zionists have attacked Palestinian colleagues and the program in Arab and Muslim Diaspora Studies on campus. The majority of these attacks, which actually date back recently to the fall, have only once identified me by name or department affiliation (and then only in an attachment of a letter they asked their constituents to sign and mail-in).

Of course, AMCHA and other Zionists do not want to go after "the Indian." What they want is to convince indigenous peoples in the United States that Israel is indigenous to Palestine. They want indigenous peoples here to stand in solidarity with them over there.

What they do not want, what they absolutely cannot afford to happen, is to have indigenous peoples in the United States (or really anywhere) identifying with Palestinians. Nothing betrays more clearly the ideologies and discourses on which Israel as a state is based than having Israel's claims on indigeneity challenged by indigenous peoples in the United States (or anywhere else).

So, of course, AMCHA and other Zionists continue to contort themselves into all kinds of positions over the purpose, funding, and result of the delegation without going after "the Indian." Anything to draw attention away from indigenous alliances, from indigeneity as the grounds on which internationally recognized human rights to governance and territories are based, here and there.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 15: From Nablus to Amman

The last day of our delegation was Thursday, January 23. We spent the morning taking an historical tour with Saed of the Old City of Nablus, the afternoon in Jericho, and the evening crossing the border into Jordan.

The Old City of Nablus


One of the most powerful characters of the old city are the written oral histories (pictured above) and memorials done to honor martyrs (pictured below) .


The memorials predominately represent deaths during the Second Intifada, when Israel indiscriminately bombed the city and responded to stone throwing and public demonstrations with gunfire and snipers.

The memorial pictured above (in full and in detail) is one of the few with women included. These women mostly died in their homes protecting their children and elders. In one instance, a family of eight -- including children and grandparents -- were literally buried alive by a personnel carrier, which ignored their and their neighbor's screams on their behalf.

Jericho Historical Sites

In Jericho, we went to the Mount of Temptation and Hisham's Palace.

I suppose the thing I found the most interesting and disturbing about Jericho was the juxtaposition of Israel's invented history of itself as an ancient holy land and state with the rampant commercialization of that history and statehood as altogether modern and progressive--as all things not Arab, which it works hard to represent as barbaric and uncivil. Tourists from all over the world run around Jericho collecting Kodak moment family shots and souvenirs, normalizing not only the occupation but the historical narratives about Israel and racist stereotypes of Arabs that uphold it.

Border Crossing

In the evening, a fellow delegate and I made our way across the border. Unsurprisingly, but exasperatingly, we had a terrible time getting through the border and to our respective hotels in Amman.

On the Palestinian side, before you get to the Israeli border control, we were made to wait for almost an hour on a bus before being allowed to cross through. Then we were directed to go through a metal detector while our bags were scanned. I got held back at the metal detector. They threatened a strip search. Apparently they thought I was wearing the latest in Terrorist Bra fashion and wanted to take a look. I threw a fit and they backed off but only after giving me a lot of grief. (The other five who were stopped were all women).


We then made our way through the passport check but had to wait over an hour for the bus that takes you from Israel to Jordan. By then our luggage was no where to be found so the bus driver, after telling us he expected a tip, took us to some holding cell where we found our luggage and only then to the Jordan side. We eventually got through but by then it was so late that we were the last ones around. Luckily I tipped the driver well so he called us cabs.

I figured it took us about four hours to get through borders, which are about a five minute drive apart. I can't imagine how horrible it is for Palestinian people to go through this and much worse every single time they travel. It is an apparatus of state power meant to communicate your lack of value as a human while "nickeling and diming" you into financial despair.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 14: Nablus

On Wednesday (January 22) and the morning of Thursday (January 23), we were in Nablus.

An-Najah University


Wednesday morning, we met at An-Najah University (ANU) with several key administrators and faculty. Our discussion took on two main issues.

The first was the possibility of establishing working relationships between our institutions in the US and ANU, for study abroad, faculty exchange, and summer institutes. We addressed some of the logistical challenges and outlined an organizing plan for moving forward.

The second was the real history of Israeli suppression of Palestinian human rights to education.

In 1997, the ANU established the UNESCO Chair on Human Rights and Democracy as a research center in coordination with the UNESCO Chair Program. The chair oversees a number of projects, including research on local and global human rights issues, documentation of human rights abuses of ANU students, training and conferences, a film festival, legal advocacy, and the Right to Education Campaign.

ANU faculty shared with us the history of the work they have done at tracking Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights to education. These violations have included restricting student (and faculty) travel to and from campus, physical harassment and violence, detention, arrest, and censure (see their reports for more details).

Women and Labor


Our next meeting was with several women labor rights leaders and activists. Due to time constraints, the meeting focused on our introductions of ourselves and our work to one another.

We heard about the many projects that the women are involved in, including organized address to salaries, work conditions, health and child care as well as gender and sexual violence and harassment. Labor under occupation is difficult at best, given how restricted travel is, exasperated by the limited access to health resources in the territories and the ongoing issues of environmental contamination from sewage and other waste dumped into their neighborhoods.

The Balata Refugee Camp

Some statistics:

  • Registered Refugee Population: 21,903
  • Special hardship cases: 699 families.
  • Number of damaged shelters that have been affected due to the IDF incursions in the West Bank since the beginning of the Intifada till March 2004: 81 in which 74 shelters were assisted.
  • Number of families receiving emergency food rations: 2906


Our next set of meetings was at the Balata Refugee Camp. We walked briefly through the camp and then met with the director of counseling at the Yafa Cultural Center. Afterwards, we met with a recently released political prisoner whose community leaders and family were hosting a reception at the sports center.

This was a difficult set of meetings. Again, we heard about the severity of force used by Israel against refugee camps--with constant policing, raids, detentions, arrests--that combine with a poor economic situation to contribute to rampant drug problems, crime, and depression. I liked that those we met with refused to put their story or the situation they confront into some happy-ending Hollywood archetype. The situation is bad; they need allies in the U.S. who are willing to say so.

Tanweer Center


Our last meeting of the day was with some of the staff and volunteers at Tanweer Center, which works at building political solidarity among and between Palestinian groups (in collaboration with the International Solidarity Movement).

Our discussion addressed the real need of Palestinian coalition, but was frustrated by a former attorney with ISM in London.

She reminded me of so many academics (and) activists in the U.S. whose "good intentions" in working with indigenous peoples are fraught with the righteousness of telling them what they ought to be doing, even what their goals and objectives ought to be, without having to live with the consequences of either.

At one point, the woman said "these refugees ought to just pack up and move home. It's not like Israel can stop all 30,000 of them." Ok. No. They probably couldn't in the moment. But given Israel's history of violence against Palestinians, why would you make such a suggestion, putting everyone in a line of fire? It is just that sort of irresponsible and pretentious political solidarity our delegation intended to question.

References

Alice Rothchild, "In Balata, the occupation is not just of body, but of mind" (June 21, 2013).




Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 13: Ramallah and Nablus

On Tuesday, January 21, we were in Ramallah and Nablus.

We met with the Women's Studies Institute at Bir Zeit University, went to Arafat's Memorial and the Mahmoud Darwish Museum, and met with representatives of various Palestinian political groups.

The faculty of the WSI are working on diverse issues related to gender based violence, political diversity, and prisoner rights within Palestine. We also discussed the social mechanisms Israel uses in normalizing colonization, including the NGO-ization of political struggles against the occupation.

We also discussed the potential role of BDS in distorting non-violent issues and politics within the United States. Signatures on a petition or a vote for a resolution does not solve anything "on the ground" in Palestine: "my land is still being confiscated." This was an argument I heard from many of the people we met with--the need for immediate address to the severe social conditions of occupation and frustration with the kind of long-term vision of a BDS campaign.

With representatives of various Palestinian political groups, we heard many perspectives and arguments aimed at the purpose of our delegation. They began by talking with us about the hope that the American Studies Association resolution gave them. That there is not a united voice or perspective in the U.S. on Israel, despite the advertising done by certain U.S. and Israel leaders to the contrary. That U.S. citizens can make up their own minds about what their country is doing, weighing Israeli actions in relation to their own values for democracy and justice.

We also discussed the way the "peace negotiations" have been used to defer the kind of agreement needed to end the conflict. The way the U.S. (Kerry being the most recent representative) has privileged Israeli proposals, particularly around territorial issues, but also the way the negotiations endorse by stalling and so facilitating the economic control of Palestinian resources and labor. They addressed how Israel and the U.S. have blamed Palestinians for the failure to reach an agreement, though since Oslo they are often not at the table or at the table in very provisional ways.

Each of the representatives said that they wanted people from the U.S. to "come and see" what is happening in Palestine for themselves. This invitation was repeated in almost every meeting we had--"don't believe us, don't believe your leaders, come and see for yourselves."

It is an invitation that surprised me. For many indigenous communities in the United States, they would prefer that people stop "coming and seeing" them. They experience even researchers as playing tourists with their poverty and struggles. Not the case in Palestine. They want people to come, to see, to learn, and to return home and pressure the U.S. and its citizens to change its policies and perspectives. To stop enabling the occupation.



References



The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 12: Ramallah

On Monday, January 20, we were in Ramallah. It was one of our busiest meeting days.

Addameer

Our meetings began with Sahar Francis, director and attorney of Addameer: Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

The historical situation of Palestinian political prisoners is the historical situation of Palestine's conflict with Israel and the creation of "refugees" and "terrorists."
  • the 1948-49 war between Israel and various Arab countries that resulted in Israel assertions of statehood not only within the 1947 UN recommended boundary but the West Bank and Gaza. Over 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced into refugee status within their own and neighboring regions.
  • the Six Day War of 1967 (June 5 to 10) between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Israel won through a decisive military campaign and further annexed the West Bank, Gaza, parts of the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights.
  • The First Intifada (intifada is Arabic for shaking off) that began in the West Bank and Gaza during December 1987. Some say it ended with the Madrid Conference in October 1991 and others with the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995. It started through many different acts of civil disobedience (strikes, boycotts, demonstrations, refusal to pay taxes, graffiti, underground schools) but moved into armed forms of resistance (stone throwing, barricades).
  • The Second Intifada began in September 2000 with the perceived failures of the Oslo Accords and lasted through February 2005. It involved primarily armed resistance which was met with severe military force.

 As reported by Electronic Intifada:

Palestinian stone-throwers were met with Israeli snipers; gunmen, with helicopter gunships and tanks. What began as a popular protest movement quickly began to look like a war. "When the soldiers began to fire on the crowds, people knew that their role was finished and participation quickly declined. It was a war," said Kamel Jaber, a member of the political wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in an interview in 2003…. Demonstrations were being met with overwhelming force by Israel and it made popular protest impossible. In February 2001, the Israeli public backed the strategy when General Sharon was elected prime minister.

  • Of those killed in the conflict, 4,228 have been Palestinians, 1,024 Israelis, and 63 foreign citizens. For every person killed, approximately seven were also injured.
  • … the total number of Israelis, both civilians and Israeli Defense Force (IDF) combatants, killed by Palestinian armed groups and individuals, is declining.


  • In contrast the total number of Palestinians, both civilians and combatants killed by the Israeli security forces or Israeli individuals, remains relatively high. In 2007, for example, for every one Israeli death there were 25 Palestinian deaths compared to 2002 when the ratio was 1:2.


  • The overwhelming majority of those killed have been men: for Israelis, including IDF personnel, 69% were men, for Palestinians 94% were men. 

Since 1948, Israel has detained, arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned thousands of political prisoners in the name of "national security." The Israeli prison system as an apparatus of the occupation and a key tool in suppressing Palestinian resistance.

Francis and others at Addameer spoke with us about the 5,033 political prisoners, 173 of whom are under the age of 16, who are serving extended sentences related to their resistance to the occupation.

Type of PrisonerNumber of Prisoners
Total Number of Political Prisoners5033
Administrative Detainees145 (10 PLC members)
Female prisoners16
Child prisoners173 (16 under 16)
Palestinian Legislative Council members14
East Jerusalem prisoners169
1948 Territories prisoners216
Gaza prisoners395
Prisoners serving life sentences494
Prisoners serving a sentence above 20 years445
Prisoners serving more than 25 years16
Prisoners serving more than 20 years48
Prisoners before Oslo53

In order to keep them imprisoned, in violation of international accord, Israel constantly changes military orders, transfers prisoners between facilities, and uses torture in an attempt to secure their consent on severely restrictive terms of release.

Addameer was founded in 1991 to address these situations and to support prisoner families with legal and other aid. They work as well to document torture, abuse, harassment, and legal violations. They track complaints against soldiers (none of whom have ever faced charges).

They also discussed with us the failures of the Oslo Accords for nullifying Palestinian criminal jurisdiction and allowing for Israeli military law and courts to expand operations.

Addameer, as so many other human rights groups in Palestine, has experienced harassment. Their offices were raided in December 2012 and all computers and files confiscated. Their travel and research is greatly restricted and their finances closely monitored.

BDS/Stop the Wall

Our next meeting was with Omar Barghouti (a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israeland Jamel Juma (coordinator of Stop The Wall Campaign).

Barghouti discussed PACBI's a call in 2005 for support on three demands: 1) an end to the occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza; 2) an end of racial discrimination and segregation against Palestinians; 3) an affirmation of Palestinian right of return (as a result of the conflicts over fifty percent of Palestinians are now in exile as refugees). The specific tactics used to achieve these goals are negotiable and context-specific, but the three goals are non-negotiable.

Barghouti, and Juma agreed, also said that the American Studies Association membership resolution in support of BDS was a "game changer," shifting the terms of international discourse in a way that is allowing for critical address of Israel's violations of international law and human rights as never before.

Juma discussed the many successes that BDS has had, particularly in Europe (see Who Profits). He also addressed the various labor organizing efforts within Palestine that have linked worker's rights to safety and fair pay demands to the structure and profits of the occupation. Agriculture, construction, clothes factories, and communication's industries have brought into focus the way the occupation has stolen Palestinian land and water and indentured Palestinian workers as a form of suppressing Palestinian political resistance.

The Society of Inash Al Usra El-Usra

We then met with many of the women at the Society of Inash Al Usra El-Usra, which was established as a non-governmental organization in 1965 and works to empower Palestinian women through cultural practice and child care: "to provide women tools to facilitate their being able to change their own realities."

The women that we met with, including founding leaders and members, talked with us about their work at the embroidery center, the museum, cooking classes, a salon, an orphanage, and shelters for abused women. They also have a radio show, library, journal, and do archival work. They talked about their goals to care for women, support themselves economically, care for their children, and provide a focus and space for their cultural heritage. The society provides education and training to women, including grants to go to college and trade schools.

One of the women discussed their advocacy against the international adoption of Palestinian children, emphasizing the importance of keeping their children in Palestine.

They hoped that we, as a delegation, would use the information we learn to change the representation of Palestinian women in the United States--to respect women's rights as human rights and to end Israel's occupation.

Popular Art Center

We then met with Iman Hamoury, director of the Popular Art Center.

PAC works to strengthen the cultural identity and history of Palestinians against the concerted efforts of Israel to criminalize and racialize Palestinians. It accomplishes this work through dance troupes, musical groups, playwriting, storytelling, festivals, and archival work.

The importance of cultural identity and expression as a tool of social change is not lost on Israel. Israel has imposed severe restrictions on PAC travels and events through checkpoints, curfews, detentions, and arrests. Dance gear and musical instruments have been confiscated and destroyed. PAC has been raided and materials taken. Artists, musicians, and dancers have been arrested for their work/performances, sometimes even for carrying recordings and writings with them.

alQaws

We met with one of the leaders of alQaws, a group that works on queer rights in the 48 territories.

S/he spoke with us about the links between sexuality and the occupation, including the need of queers to engage the boycott and oppose the occupation but also their need to connect with international movements working on human rights issues.

alQaws projects include Singing Sexuality, a group that connects culturally historical and contemporary songs to build community. Other projects include a hot line, support groups, and an annual retreat. Between 200 and 250 people participate. The focus of their work, on the whole, is on local issues and organizing, on their sex and love lives.

S/he also spoke with us about the occupation and Israeli pinkwashing, being particularly critical of the use of queer suffering under the occupation to rebrand Israel as progressive and Arabs and homophobic. S/he addressed the reality of queer homelessness, unemployment, harassment, and violence but as well the work they do to reconnect with their families.


Sam

Our final meeting was with a local Palestinian-American businessman who now lives in Ramallah. One of the best stories he told was about the response of the Tel Aviv business community to the wave of recent academic associations endorsements of BDS, including the Asian American Studies Association, the American Studies Association, and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. Apparently, a number of "the 1%" signed a letter to Israel's prime minister telling him that these endorsements made it imperative that Israel reach a settlement with Palestine or they would surely face a much broader boycott and so economic collapse.

References/Resources

The Palestine Monitor: http://www.palestinemonitor.org

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 11: Negev

Our first meeting on Sunday, January 19, was with Dr. Thabet Abu Ras, director of the Naqab (Negev) Office of Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights inIsrael. He is a political geographer and expert in land law and planning (he studied at the University of Arizona where he did comparative work on Navajo land rights). He co-founded the Association of Environmental Justice in Israel.

Ras provided us with an important historical overview of Bedouin land rights struggles in what is, post-1948, the southern desert region of Israel (see his newsletters and reports at Adalah's website).

He described for us how, since 1948, Israeli government officials—including Ariel Sharon—have represented the Bedouin as desert wanderers who are asserting erroneous (opportunistic) territorial claims to Israel’s lands. In other words, post-1948 land claims by the Bedouin through Israel and international courts are being represented by Israeli officials as fraudulent because the Bedouin are alleged to be desert wanderers who never made these kinds of claims before Israeli statehood. However, Bedouin scholars, activists, officials, and legal advocates like Ras have responded to these representations by showing how Israel’s occupation has created the unique historical and legal situation in which the Bedouin have asserted formal claims to  their traditional territories. These claims are grounded in a history that is thousands of years old.

As recognized by James Anaya in Indigenous Peoples in International Law (2), Bedouin are indigenous to a region that includes contemporary Israel’s Negev and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula regions. It has only been under "the 48" that the Bedouin's legal status and rights as indigenous peoples within these territories have been challenged, and challenged by an Israeli state only established in 1948. As Ras writes:

Until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Bedouin were, for the most part, the sole residents of the Naqab. In 1947, over 90,000 Bedouins, members of 96 different tribes, lived in the expanse stretching southward from Kiryat Gat and Ashdod. According to several sources, including Jewish sources, these Bedouin held approximately two million dunams of land [about 500 thousand acres of land], for which they adhered to a clear and agreed-upon system of property rights. The land was divided according to inter-tribal agreements. (1)

These agreements are well documented in Bedouin tribal law but as well in British law dating back to 1927.

Ras explained to us how Arab land rights within the 48 have been systematically undermined by the state of Israel. As he also writes for Adalah, Israel owns over 93% of the lands that define its state boundaries. "Arab citizens of Israel, who represent 19% of the country’s population, hold only 3.5% of the land, with only 2.5% of the land under the jurisdiction of Arab local authorities" (Rass 2006).

Ras then addressed the inherently problematic Israeli Prawer-Begin Plan intent to settle Bedouin land claims in Negev. If implemented, Ras explained that 35 "unrecognized" villages of the Bedouin would be forcibly destroyed, displacing 70,000 Bedouins from their historical lands.

+ + + +

After our discussion at Adalah (which is Arabic for Justice), Ras drove with us through Be'er-Sheva and pointed out to us Israel's take-over of Palestinian homes, businesses, and mosques. One mosque (pictured below) has been turned into a museum and frequently hosts wine tastings.


We then made our way to some of the unrecognized villages of the Bedouin. We passed this Israeli cemetery (pictured below). Ras was incensed that all of the road signs point to the cemetery and all of the water in the is diverted to the cemetery and not to the historic Bedouin villages nearby.

 

We were hosted for lunch by Atia Atameen (zanahatia@gmail.com), who manages a restaurant, hotel, and gift shop.

As at the Lydd Refugee Camp, Bedouins are almost unilaterally not permitted to construct, manage, or improve their homes or public buildings. The solar panels that they have installed are considered illegal.


Infrastructures surrounding the villages, including water, utilities, railroads, and roads, are not provided to the Bedouin, even as they are constructed on or cut through Bedouin villages.


After a meaningful day with the Bedouin, we drove past this site:


It is a site that was cleared for one of unrecognized villages, as part of Israel's attempts to slowly get all of the villages in the area to relocate from their historic sites into one centralized neighborhood. They promised that if they moved they would be provided with modern homes, water, and electricity. The Bedouin responded that they know where they are from, they know where their neighbors are from, that that is the land belonging to their neighbors, and they will not be a part of a plan that displaces their neighbors.

References/Resources

1) Thabet Abu-Ras, "Land Disputes in Israel: The Case of the Bedouin of the Naqab." Adalah's Newsletter 24 (April 2006).

2) S. James Anaya, Indigenous Peoples in International Law (Oxford University Press).



Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 10: West Jerusalem

For the afternoon of Saturday, January 18, we walked through the neighborhoods surrounding Ma’man Allah (Mamilla) Cemetery in West Jerusalem. These neighborhoods are incredibly wealthy—mansions and synagogues and manicured roads-- populated by Israeli diplomats and officials and many American Jews. Both the residential and business area had obviously appropriated Palestinian neighborhoods as their own. On many of the buildings, you could see the old calligraphy, tile, and artistry.

Because it was Saturday, the business area was completely shut down--not even the ATMs of international banks worked, and the streets were all but deserted. As one delegate put it, it just makes it all the more obvious that the neighborhood--rebuilt over Palestinian history--is not for Palestinians at all.


I suppose the vacancy of the streets made the shop windows all the more visible. As in Jaffa, the cultural appropriation was startling because it was unexpected.


It is my fault for presuming that Zionism would be more purist as an ideology than it actually was "on the ground." But it is much closer in character to American nationalism than it is not.

As in the U.S. cultures around the world are celebrated and referenced in products, store names, and kitsch in some liberal celebration of the internationality, multicultural flavor of the place. There was a Castro chain of clothing, several restaurants boasting authentic European cuisine, and Che posters in liquor/convenience stores. The references work so hard at pointing to everything not-Arab, not-Palestinian, that they pull from the worst of stereotypes, even about American Indian culture.

One store proudly displayed dream catchers in the window:



The dream catchers were displayed next to a model of a dreadlock-wig:


The difficult work at creating a cultural history that is not one is no where more evident than in the gesture to every other indigenous culture in the world (American, African) that it can find that is not Palestinian in order to celebrate itself as both historical and multicultural. The obvious aim is to assert Israel as not merely a democracy but as the lone democracy of the region. But even the homes that have been appropriated from Palestinians and redecorated have retained the ancient Palestinian tile work that cannot be disguised by the pink washing of so many rainbow flags.


(That evening we went to a concert in Ramallah of DAM, an Arabic hip-pop/rap group. They were amazing and just the medicine I needed to wash away the afternoon in East Jerusalem.)