How low can Israel go? Need you ask? They can go so low that armed Border Police thugs break up a literary festival celebrating Palestinian culture and artistic expression.
What were the artists doing that threatened the security of the State? It appears they had the support of the Palestinian Authority. Say what? The very same Palestinian Authority the Israeli government holds up as its partner for peace? The one it tries to display as the “kosher” alternative to Hamas? That one? Yes, the very one.
A bit of Israeli political hermeneutics is in order here. You see, it is treif for Palestinians to make any claim that Jerusalem is theirs–even East Jerusalem where Palestinians are in the majority. So even a literary festival that expresses Palestinian cultural values alluding to Jerusalem–even that is verboten.
The Guardian points out an important political context for the police action:
Israel regularly prevents political Palestinian events in East Jerusalem, but has recently also started to clamp down on cultural events in an apparent attempt to extend control over the city.
The development comes at a time of growing international concern over the Israeli government’s demolition of Palestinian homes and the continued growth of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.
In March, the Israeli authorities banned a series of Palestinian cultural events in Jerusalem, including a children’s march, intended to mark the Arab League’s designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture for this year.
Israel said the events breached its ban on Palestinian political activity.
Earlier this month, Israeli police closed down a Palestinian press centre that had been established in East Jerusalem for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.
The fact of the matter is that the literary festival was funded by the British consulate and UNESCO, not the PA. Invocation of the latter had nothing to do with disruption of the festival. The mere presence of Palestinian artisitic expression was enough to doom the event.
Thank God, the French cultural attache had the presence of mind to invite everyone into his courtyard to continue the event. Egyptian author, Adhaf Soueif writes about the festival audience transforming the shutting down of the festival into an act of constructive artistic resistance:
We started walking down Salah el-Din street towards the French Cultural Centre. I looked behind me and there was the Festival: a brightly-dressed, ornamented procession of authors and audience strolling along Salah el-Din Street, chatting and laughing and cradling in their arms trays of baclaveh and kibbeh and salads and bouquets of flowers.
We sat on the raised patio of the French Cultural Centre and our audience sat and stood in the garden. Henning Mankell spoke of how his involvement with Africa makes him a better European. Some workmen engaged on the first floor of the house next door paused to listen. Birds swept through their goodnight flight around us. Deborah Moggach spoke about children and the changing shape of the family. A cat shared the stage with us for a brief moment. Audience and authors were engaged and the energy flowed from the patio to the garden. Carmen Callil spoke about her Lebanese grandfather in Australia. A wedding party passed honking its horns outside. Abdulrazak Gurnah, M G Vassanji and Claire Messud read from their work. When the sunset prayers were called the audience started asking and commenting and suggesting. We could have gone on for hours – but we stopped at half past eight. We dispersed; energised, happy, shaking hands, signing books, promising to all meet up again.
Today, my friends, we saw the clearest example of our mission: to confront the culture of power with the power of culture.
Border Police stationed themselves outside the consulate until the event concluded. When a regime criminalizes culture, then you know it’s been debased beyond redemption.
So, given that this nation is debased beyond redemption, what’s a liberal Zionist to do?
Seriously? What next?
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t consider myself a liberal Zionist. But I do think the current regime is rotten to the core. All I can do is keep writing my blog. I don’t have any global solutions for fixing the entire State of Israel. At least not ones anyone in power is willing to entertain seriously.
I have great hope that Obama will either finesse a resolution to the I-P conflict or else impose one on both parties. If that happens & Israel can stop being a national security state, then perhaps it can have a normal life someday. Until then…who knows?
RE: “When a nation criminalizes culture, then you know it’s been debased beyond redemption.”
MY COMMENT: That’s really bleak. What a ‘downer’!
Richard Silverstein says
I realized that the word “nation” was too sweeping & an overgeneralization. So I changed it to “regime,” since I believe the NATION of Israel doesn’t hold by these draconian actions (though if citizens refuse to protest this obscenity then the nation IS culpable). But certainly the current regime does.
The ‘nation’ of Israel, Richard?
The Israeli Jewish population was polled during Gaza and they were overwhelmingly in support of the massacre.
There have also been polls conducted on the views of Israeli Jewish youth towards Palestinian Arab youth and vice versa.
And NOT SURPRISINGLY, the Israeli Jews were much more racist towards the Palestinian Arabs.
Also, tell me Richard, what exactly is a ‘liberal Zionist’? I mean, have you looked at the early history of this conflict? Or other conflicts throughout history?
People always give the Palestinian resistance so much criticism for ‘terrorism’ without considering that Israel was founded via terrorism.
I just looked at a Lawrence of Cyberia blog entry that went through 61 Palestinian children killed by Zionist terror. And a lot of it was strikingly similar to the terrorism of the various militant Palestinian nationalist groups.
That’s what militant nationalist groups do, you see. They USE terror as a tactic. One exception though – I do not recall Hamas or Hezbollah or the PLO raping Israeli Jewish girls. There were a lot of cases of rape (by the Israeli Army) reported in one of Benny Morris’s books about how the refugee problem came about.
I see zero redeeming characteristics in the Jewish State – and I specifically say JEWISH because it seems like the Jewish community wants to keep a Jewish majority no matter what.
So no justice for the Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Western intelligentsia as well as the CORRUPT Western body politic is wringing their hands at the Palestinians for their use of ‘terror’.
As I think any sane person knows, all militant nationalist groups use terror but we can surely compare and contrast these tactics – ESPECIALLY with the case of the Jewish terrorists and the Israeli army versus the Palestinian terrorists. How are they different? How are they similar? Context too – find it.
Now, maybe you like Israeli daily/ordinary life or something? Like it’s pleasant there? You feel at home because you’re amongst other Jews? But do you keep this history in your perspective too?
I know one day people will forget all this stuff – in fact, through the corrupt and cowardly Arab puppet regimes, the history of Palestine is being erased. So are you just keeping this blog up now, to make yourself feel better? Like, ‘I did something at least.’
And then, when Palestine is eventually 100% ethnically cleansed, will you go back to loving the Jewish State? Do you see yourself as a Jew first or a humanist?
I think Jewishness these days is defined mostly by Zionism. If this is the case, then a Jew has to change his or her identity to become a humanist Jew. I mean, what is there to like about Zionism that ISN’T intrinsically tied to the persecution of the Palestinians?
Phil did an interesting piece of Herzl and how Zionism (as Phil interprets from reading Herzl) was about Jewish dignity initially.
Now, I can understand that. I think the Arabs and Muslims are getting kicked down and colonized with subtlety (if they are lucky). And I can’t help but see that these wars and policies were pushed forward by the Jewish Zionist (almost the same thing unfortunately) community.
So please tell me what there is to like about Zionism, that ISN’T destroying the Arab people and the ME.
Bibi’s “economical peace” seems not to include cultural peace even with the Israeli Arabs, not to mention the occupied Palestinians. Looks more and more that Palestinians (citizens and slaves) are only allowed to work for the “Jewish and Zionist” state, without no their own identity and history.
This event described in the blog, loyalty oath law (suggestion) and Nabka denial resemble more and more the “mental climate” during the first years in the Third Reich. But anyway I see that Bibi and the Moldavian gift to Israel make excellent job. They put to open the real face of the policy of the past decades. If the two gentlemen continue with the same speed they have done for the past months Israel’s carefully planned and executed propagandist public image will collapse totally and flow of influential foreign leaders visiting Israel will be equal to the amounts of visits to North Korea.
Palestinians should give their greatest distinguishing marks to the Israeli regime members. Bibi, Lieberman and the merry fellows have advanced more the Palestinian cause than a couple of intifada.
It’s not really surprising that a state that defines itself along ethnic-religious lines has trouble telling culture and politics apart. For jingoists of all stripes culture is politics, and Samuel Huntington wrote an unfortunately very popular book about it.
It’s not news either that Jewish Israel is terrified by that “other” population, not because of anything they do but because their mere existence threatens the sectarian set-up of the state. Any way Israel’s Palestinians assert themselves as such will be unwelcome because that inevitable highlights their connection to those over the Green Line, and even to the Arab world at large. This obviously flies into the faces of those Israelis who want all the land (or as much as ever possible before Israel might be compelled to finally define its borders) without any of the people.
Through this police action, and similar ones recently, Israel is telling the Palestinians: you don’t exist.
I second your thankfulness for the presence of mind of the French cultural attache. I’m assuming that the ‘Henning Mankell’ that Soueif mentions in his little description of the continuing Palestinian literary festivities in the Frenchman’s courtyard is the famous Swedish mystery-crime writer. I’ve been watching the BBC adaptations of Inspector Kurt Wallender on Masterpiece Mystery the last couple Sundays on PBS. That’s pretty cool Mankell was there, along with Jeremy Harding and others. The more that prominent Westerners stand up with the Palestinians the better, at least insofar as it’s less likely that the IDF will go in guns blazing with internationally known and loved Europeans on the premises. Although who knows these days. (Plus, it probably helps give added publicity to the Palestinians’ plight, in this instance their cultural persecution.)