Haaretz Declares Simon Shaheen Treif
While this post about a particular person, it also embodies within it many of the prejudices that are writ large throughout Israeli society, even in the attitudes of its liberal Zionist intelligentsia.
Haaretz’s culture blogger, Ilene Prusher, wrote a promotional piece about the UK Limmud Festival in which she extolled the musical genius of a performer called Nuriya. Personally, I have no strong opinion about her. She may be as good as Prusher claims. She may not.
What struck me was the headline and especially the sub-headline:
Israel’s soon-to-be famous songstress turns heads at Britain’s Limmud
The cousin of Israel’s most renowned oud player could soon be Israel’s answer to Shakira or Rihanna.
It turns out that Nuriya’s cousin, Israel’s “most renowned oud player,” is (according to Prusher) Yair Dalal. I have heard many oud players and Dalal is certainly a great one. But Israel has had many, many great oud players. In fact, one who is equally renowned and who was born and lived in Israel until he was an adult, is Simon Shaheen.
I began to wonder why an Israeli-Palestinian oud player cannot be “Israel’s most renowned oud player,” while an Israeli Jew is. After tweeting my comments to Prusher, she essentially replied that Shaheen is not Israeli because he doesn’t consider himself Israeli and doesn’t perform in Israel. She did grant that he may perhaps the most renowned “Palestinian” oud player.
That raised a whole host of interesting notions: first, how can a boy born in an Israeli-Palestinian village in Galilee (and raised in Haifa) and who obtained his musical education in Jerusalem until age 24 (after which he left for America), not be Israeli? Second, does the fact that Shaheen doesn’t perform inside the Green Line exclude him from Israeli-ness?
I responded to Prusher that Shaheen does indeed perform in Israel, though in East Jerusalem. Here is musical-video proof of that and yet another Jerusalem performance. Last I checked Israel had annexed East Jerusalem, putting it under Israeli sovereignty. So by any reasonable standard, this should make him a kosher Israeli. Though I haven’t confirmed this, my guess is that he will not perform inside the Green Line as part of the world-wide cultural boycott. But does Shaheen’s possible respect for BDS exclude him from being Israeli?
Prusher added that Wikipedia called him “Palestinian-American” and that she’d never heard Shaheen call himself “Israeli.” Though Wikipedia is by no means a perfect arbiter on these questions, even if Shaheen himself wouldn’t use even a hyphenated designation “Israeli-Palestinian” (and I don’t know this claim is actually true), the question must be asked: why is that? Why is an Israeli-Palestinian who emigrated to America no longer Israeli? Why would he perhaps not wish to be considered Israeli?
In Prusher’s obliviousness to the nuances of this predicament, she illustrates perfectly the tone-deafness of Israelis, even liberal Zionists like herself, to the political oppression that has driven Israeli-Palestinians (and even some Israeli Jews) so far away from their (Israeli) nationality. If Shaheen does not consider himself Israeli it is far more Israel’s fault than his own. But when Israeli Jews like Prusher exclude him from the national ‘census,’ they only perpetuate the same indignity that drove him away in the first place.
Simon Shaheen is a product of Israel. Israelis (both Jewish and Palestinian) should embrace him as one of their own. If they refuse, then it only further reinforces the cultural racism that underpins Israeli attitudes and further confirms that BDS is a reasonable response to it. It may even reinforce the belief among some (though not myself) that Israel must become Palestine in order to eradicate these prejudices.
A final irony is worth noting here. Nuriya is of Iraqi-Jewish ethnicity. Her family left Iraq and settled first in Mexico and later came to the U.S. (at age 17). Much later, well after adulthood she came to Israel and met her famous cousin. Only sometime after that did she decide to make aliya. When did she make aliya? One year ago. So, as you’ll note in Haaretz’s headline, Nuriya is “Israeli” even though she has only considered herself so for 365 days. She merely had to move to Israel in order to gain that distinction. While Shaheen, who was born in Israel and comes from generations of Israeli-Palestinians born and bred here, loses his Israeliness by virtue of leaving Israel and not adhering to Ilene Prusher’s definition of Israeliness.
That’s an interesting set of ironies and contradictions, wouldn’t you say?
32 thoughts on “Haaretz Declares Simon Shaheen Treif – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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He’s excellent on violin but I’m partial to the oud– his “Dance Mediterrania” is STUNNING!
Perhaps of his own choosing …
Simon Shaheen biography: Palestinian, born in the village of Tarshiha in the Galilee.
Richard; “Why is an Israeli-Palestinian who emigrated to America no longer Israeli?
Because he an AMERICAN citizen, not an Israeli citizen;
“Why would he perhaps not wish to be considered Israeli?”
Perhaps because Israel considered him a non-person, he considers it a non-state.
Shaheen said; “I lived under Israel and from our village, Tarshiha, to Beirut where my aunt lived, and many other relatives, it’s exactly one hour and a half drive with the car. And, you know, it took me a long voyage, if you will, to come to New York and obtain the citizenship and obtain my American passport, in order to finally travel to Beirut and meet with my relatives and people that I knew. Otherwise it would have been impossible to do”. See more at:
@ Dave Terry:
Not true. Anyone born in Israel is an Israeli citizen as he was. He presumably still is an Israeli citizen unless he’s renounced citizenship. There is such a thing as dual citizenship, you know.
All Jews including you are Israeli citizenships potentially. Israel is unique in this regard. Please don’t try to make us be like the nations.
We are not a democracy. We are a Jewish state. Created by Jews. For Jews. By Jews. If the imperialist Arabs don’t like us taking our land back let them renounce the lands they conquered even since they set out to conquer the world before spouting hypocritical nonsense.
@ JBLKI: Yes Israel is “unique” in that regard. Uniquely bad.
Not really. Those Jews who created Israel claimed they were creating their state not just for Jews, but for all those living there including non-Jews. So you have a little problem there unless you propose doing some housecleaning in the guise of ethnic cleansing.
You may earn the distinction of going directly from a commenter to being banned in five minutes time. THis is a flagrant comment violation. You’ve earned moderation.
And yes, you are not a democracy. But in stating that you show yourself to be a follower of Meir Kahane. Such views are monitored here very intensively. Review my comment rules before publishing another comment rule. And do so carefully.
You are also being leashed per the comment rules. You may not publish more than three comments here in a 24 hour period. If you do, you will go from moderated to banned.
What hoot. I have met a number of Israeli Jews that live in the US — some for many decades with no intention of returning. They are US citizens but no one is offended if they are referred to as ‘Israeli’. Obviously non-Jewish people born in what is now called Israel is not given that assumption. I have met a number of Palestinians born in, well ,Palestine and no one would refer to their nationality as ‘Israeli’.
This difference in thinking seems to be adopted by both sides. The Zionists for the obvious reason that they have been engaged in 60 project to cleanse their nation of non-Jews and the more Palestinians they can define as not Israeli the better it makes them feel. On the part of the Palestinians they do so because at some level they do not recognize their Israelness.
This kind of nationalism is not unprecedented. After WWI and the German and Austian empires were broken up the allies assigned Hungarian speaking counties to Serbia, German speaking counties to the Czech and Poles, and so on. These people continued to refer to themselves by the language they spoke. We all know how that worked out.
I for one would certainly protest if someone wrote about a Palestinian citizen of Israel as “Israel’s most reknowned oud player”.
I’ve already had this debate more than once with Zionists who’ve tried to present the Trio Joubran as Israelis (Samir, Wissam and Adnan Joubran are far more known than Simon Shaheen). They are Christian Palestinian from Nazareth (the hasbara loves to ‘explain’ how much Christian Palestinians love Israel who protect them from the mean Muslims). They forget to mention that Samir had to move to Ramallah when he married because his ‘West Bank’ Palestinian wife was not allowed to live in Israel.
The Trio Joubran always refer to themselves as Palestinians, I have never heard or read any of them speaking of themselves as Israelis, they refer to Nazareth or Haifa as Palestine.
Other example: Omar Sa’ad, the young Druze from the Galilee who wrote a letter to Bibi last year saying that he would not be a soldier in the Israeli army because he’s Palestinian and would never participate in the oppression of his own people. Omar Sa’ad and his two brothers played with Nigel Kenndy at the Royal Albert Hall in August as members of the Palestinian String Orchestra. Omar Saa’ad is actually in prison for refusing to serve, and Druze objectors are punished harder than Jewish objectors…
Saleh Bakri, the actor and son of Muhammad Bakri, born in a village outside Akka and who’s lived his whole live in the Galilee explained in an interview recently with Frank Barat (link on Electronic Intifada) why he would never play in another Israeli movie and he said this: I was born a Palestinian and will remain Palestinian. I don’t believe that I could ever be called an Israeli or that any other Palestinian could be called Israeli because first of all Israel is a Hebrew name and I’m not Jewish, I’m Arab (…..). Above all, Israel is not something that I feel any attachment too, anything good towards. It destroyed my life, my father’s life, my family, my nation’s life”.
Rawan Damen who’s Palestinian herself made a excellent documentary for Al-Jazeera about the Palestinian citizens of Israel. It’s very long (about four hours) but it’s really worth the time: known and unknown Palestinian citizens of Israel, politicians, activits, intellectuals, speak about their life, the discrimination, how they’re NOT Israelis, and not considered so by the Jewish majority nor by the legislation.
As the High Court reaffirmed recently; there is no Israeli nationality, only Israeli citizenship. Israel is not the state of its citizen, it’s the state of the Jews, all the Jews in world (even if they haven’t been asked…..).
Firts of three parts: “Owners of the Land”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cNynBh1Wfe
There are many Israeli Arabs who call themselves Israeli. The Miss Israel did, and so does Khalid Abu Tomeh. Please do not pretend that you represent Palestinans.
There are Israeli Palestinians who call themselves that, but I doubt many would be naive enough to drop the hyphen since no Israeli Jews would be willing to do that on their behalf either. As for Uncle Tom-Abu Tomeh, he’s Israel’s “good Arab” who writes wonderful anti Palestine propaganda for Jerusalem Post.
My criticism isn’t directed at Palestinians, whether they call themselves hyphenated Israelis or not. They have every right to call themselves whatever they wish.
My criticism is directed at the Israeli Jewish mindset which prefers to offer praise regardingly cultural achievements to Israeli Jews and new Jewish immigrants, over Israeli-Palestinians born and raised in Israel.
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It reminds me of the dust-up that occurred when the late Emile Habiby won the Israel Prize for Arabic literature in the early 1990s. Another winner, not willing to be on the same stage, refused the prize. Habiby, a Christian Palestinian who also won a PLO prize, had served at least a half-dozen terms in the Knesset by then! (You will usually see the name anglicized to Habibi on line although he and the family always spelled it Habiby when using English… another insult that even Wikipedia won’t correct.)
Good piece. However, too bad not an oud recording. I think (not sure) I heard him on NPR doing classical music on the oud and it was fascinating the way Ravi Shankar’s classical Indian music on sitar was.
Well the state of Israel obviously doesn’t allow a person to be registered as an Israeli. Israeli High court rules: It is impossible to be Israeli. Also RT’s Paula Slier had a report about this “Israeli” subject some weeks ago.
Using the term Israeli washes away in many ways the core problem of the Israeli society – official religious based apartheid and segregation. Israeli nationalistic Jews use “cleverly” and selectively the term Israeli. Using the term Israelis distracts the focus from the reality of the Jewish State to a modern equal secular state where all citizens are equal. A Finnish Jew can live all his/hers life as an equal and no one can see his/her religion from the ID papers or limit his/hers rights and changes in life because of religious laws. In Israel that is not the case for the religious and ethnic minorities. They have to pay every day the price of their “wrong” religion or skin color or for both so long they live in Israel.
Is saying Israelis approve settlers behavior enough “describing”, if the majority of Israelis (for example 80 percent of Jews) approve it? For outsiders is a huge difference how they interpreter the described situations of the countless conflicts in Israel if term ISRAELIS is the main term and the term ISRAELI JEWS is avoided. Do ISRAELIS march through East Jerusalem every year and shout hysterically death to Arabs while waiving flags and the ISRAELI police is watching and laughing. Or do the Israeli Jews and their police do that? As this JBLKI character and other Zionists say Israel is a Jewish State. That is the reality and the problem, so avoiding the term Jewish and Jew is impossible when Israel’s problems are discussed.
I did not say that ‘Israeli’ nationality does not exist. I said Israel is a Jewish state. Israel nationality does exist. We are israelis.
Your High Court refuses to allow the Israelis to be registered as Israelis so do not preach to us gentiles, that the nationality Israelis really exists. You and your tribe demand Israel to be a Jewish state. There are a couple of million ISRAELIS who do not want that “Jewish” reality. If ISRAELI as a legal status is possible, why not make registering as ISRAELI legal?
I and a Finnish Jew are Finns and ONLY registered as such. Not registered as a Protestant Christian and as a Jew. I have no special privileges in front of the Finnish laws compared to my countryman whose religion happens to be Judaism (or Islam). Actually nobody here does know (or care) what is his/hers neighbors, friends, collages etc religion if they do not want it to be known. I get a building permit as fast and easily as my Jewish neighbor. Our priests do not recommend not to rent apartments to Jews. Our government does not give “secret” birth-control pills to our black countrymen. We do not steal Jews’ lands by building Christian settlements on their estates. Etc. That is a huge difference compared to what is the real everyday situation in Israel. Surely you as the member of the ruling tribe/religion do not give a shit about your minority countrymen’s real rights and status. That is obvious. Neither did the N-boys in Germany in the 30’s did not care much about the rights of their minorities.
As said Israelis do not march drunken through Jerusalem every year screaming Death to Arabs. Israeli Jews and their visiting tribes-persons do. It is OK to say ISRAELIS like ice-cream, but it is not OK to say ISRAELIS are equal. Israel’s problem is religious (ethnic) inequality and apartheid. Discussing about it is not possible without mentioning the religions and the religious groups.
Israeli High court rules: It is impossible to be Israeli
Ruling exposes contradictions of the Zionist State
For years when I travelled abroad, people would often inquire about my name and nationality. I, of course, would answer without hesitation: “I am Israeli”.
Recently, however, I learned that there are no Israelis in Israel. Sounds odd? It does to me, particularly considering that there are Egyptians in Egypt, Germans in Germany, Mexicans in Mexico, and Canadians in Canada. So why are there are no Israelis in Israel? Because the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on the matter in early October, stating that there is no proof of the existence of a uniquely “Israeli” people.
Three High Court justices rejected a petition filed by several Israelis who had requested a change in the registration in their identity cards. The plaintiffs in the registration case were asking that the Interior Ministry write “Israeli” instead of making the distinction between Jewish, Arab, or Druze in their nationality category.
Headed by Supreme Court President Chief Justice Asher Grunis, the three-judge panel declared that it was not the court’s mandate to determine new categories of nationality. Justice Hanan Melcer also noted that in the current situation “citizenship and nationality were separate”, adding that there was no reason to create a new nationality that would unite the different people living in Israel under a single inclusive identity. Such a move, he insisted, “was against both the Jewish nature and the democratic nature of the State”.
The crux of the matter is that the High Court fears that if Israeli citizens are allowed to be categorised in the state registry as Israeli instead of Jewish, Arab, or Druze then the Jewish character of the state will be jeopardised. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, maintain that in its ruling the Court has, in effect, totally ignored the obligations outlined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which promises full equality among all of the state’s citizens, regardless of religion, race or sex.
Fear of unity
Precisely because the Court understands just how important political identities are, both in terms of a politics of recognition and as a form of social control, it adamantly refused to open this Pandora box. The engineered distinction between the Arab and Druze has, for example, been crucial for producing separate social groups and hampering efforts to forge solidarity among Israel’s Palestinian population. Moreover, after years of political activism, I have come to understand that the most feared solidarity in Israel is actually the one between Jews and Palestinians. Granted that most Palestinians would not want to identify as Israeli, the Court, as an instrument of the state, was unwilling to allow the creation of a category that potentially could – officially and formally – unify these currently divided groups
In the deliberations, Justice Uzi Vogelman justified his position by explaining that a “person cannot be a member of two nationalities. If we recognise an Israeli nationality, then the people of Jewish nationality in Israel would have to choose between the two: if they are Israeli, then they are not Jews; or if they are Jews, then they cannot be Israeli; and the same for the other minorities [in Israel]”. Justice Melcer agreed.
Professor Uzzi Ornan, a Jerusalem-born 90-year-old linguist, who initiated the appeal over a decade ago, found this statement peculiar and recently decided to submit an appeal to the Court. He notes that the ruling has implications for diaspora Jews who according to Israeli law have “the right of return” and can become Israeli citizens whenever they wish. On what basis, Ornan ponders, can the Israeli High Court of Justice determine the nationality of diaspora Jews, who are members of different nationalities? Jews in Turkey choose to be Turkish, in France, French, and in Italy, Italian. How, Ornan asks, can the Court deny these Jews the right to be members of more than one nationality, since according to the view expressed by the two Justices, one cannot belong to more than one nationality.
The ruling exposed one of the contradictions currently informing the Zionist project. On the one hand, the Court was desperate to deny the identification of all residents of Israel as Israeli since this could inadvertently advance the idea of a state for all its citizens and undermine the existing national distinctions. On the other hand, the Court had to adopt a position that is incongruent with another well ingrained Zionist policy: Namely, that all diaspora Jews not only have a right to move to Israel without giving up their previous nationality, but that these Jews are in some sense connected to Israel simply by being Jewish. In order to uphold the existing divisions among the residents of Israel, the judges were willing, in effect, to undermine the age old Zionist policy of binding – willingly or not – diaspora Jews to Israel.
While this contradiction of Zionism is being played out, Jewish Israelis travelling abroad will have to decide how to self-identify, because Israelis they apparently are not.
@ Dave Terry: Could you try to abridge such comments in future by quoting portions of an article along with a link to the original so those truly interested can read it in full. I think quoting entire articles tends to impede discussion & debate rather than promote it, since only hardcore readers will bother reading that long a comment/article.
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An article from Haaretz on the non-existence of an Israeli nationality (the same case as mentioned in Simon and David Terry’s links): Supreme Court rejects citizens’ request to change nationality from Jewish to Israeli: there is no proof of a uniquely ‘Israeli’ people.
(This is a confirmation of a Supreme Court ruling from 1970 stating there is no Israeli nationality as there is no Israeli nation separated from the Jewish nation and that Israel is not the state of its citizens but the state of the Jews – all the Jews).
Tells us about democracy the Israeli way….
Thankfully, Jews have no Pope and Israel’s chief rabbi isn’t one either. I (& other Jews and Israelis) can have views at odds with Supreme Court decisions. Whether I’m whistling down the wind, I don’t know. But I maintain that there can and should be an Israeli nationality. Or call it an Israeli-Palestinian nationality if you like. I don’t care.
Yes, but if there were a unique and common Israeli nationality shared by all the citizens, how could they discriminate ‘legally’ against non-Jewish citizens (cf. the Law of Return, land rights etc). Probably the reason they never wrote that constitution.
By the way, I often read people calling Shlomo Sand a radical or an extremist (because of his books that most people haven’t read anyway) but he’s really not: he’s against the One State solution and against the Right of Return. He only wants to transform Israel into a State of all its citizens, and abolish the Law of Return.
Concerning the distinction between citizenship and nationality, and the institutionnalized discrimination linked to being of non-Jewish ‘nationality’, it’s something that most people don’t know, and the hasbara always takes a lot of effort to dismiss it.
R.S.> “Thankfully, Jews have no Pope and Israel’s chief rabbi isn’t one either”
We would ALLl be better off IF the Orthodox Rabbinate had as little “temporal” power as the Pope. Unfortunately, Israel is MUCH larger than the Vatican. You are VERY mistaken, if you seriously believe that the two examples are remotely similar.
Yes, YOU, as an American, can have different views than the Israeli Supreme Court, but IF you lived in Israel, YOUR opinion would not matter. The ONLY Jews, free to “exercise” their own views are in the Diaspora.
people are free to define their nationality. If Shaheen chooses not to be israeli, that is his choice. Perhaps he does not want your embrance
@ Arthur Phleps: So if Shaheen defines himself as “Palestinian” and all current residents of Israel as Palestinian that’s OK too? Or shall we give all Israeli Palestinians the right to call themselves Palestinian and all Israeli Jews the right to call themselves “Israeli?” And all that within one state? That OK by you too?
That OK by you too?… what is wrong with that?
As long as the Zionist “mind frame” exists, it is impossible to be Palestinian AND Israeli. The confusion lies in the very word, “nationality”. The term used in two very different ways. One use denotes CITIZENSHIP, the other use denotes the country of origin of one’s self OR one’s ancestors.
For example, I am (to the best of my knowledge) – 1/4 Cherokee, 1/8 Chickasaw, 1/8 Irish, and 1/2 English, YET, I am ALSO 100% American. Yet even today many of my cousins are called “Native Americans” or the current politically correct term American-Indian.
As for the “nation” of Israel; to its Jewish-Zionist founders, the term itself is indicative of a homogenous/homogenous
“Jewish State”; where halakhic (Torah) law is supreme (as defined by the Chief Rabbinate).
For the purpose of this discussion, the term “nationality” means citizenship (with all the rights and privileges that citizenship implies). Clearly it is NOT possible to resolve the contradiction between the “Jewish State” and the idea of universal citizenship for all residents of Israel.
@ Dave Terry: You are absolutely wrong about Israel’s founding Zionists believing in a halachic state. In fact, most were totally secular and would react in horror to that notion. Very few Israeli Jews want Israel to be a halachic state or have ever done so. That doesn’t mean that Orthodoxy doesn’t have a dominant & toxic role in Israel. But I think we need to be precise about these issues & your statement wasn’t.
I don’t mind debate on these issues. But yours was a major error in interpreting Zionist doctrine.
Surface appearances can be very misleading.
If one reads the proclamation of May 14, 1948, one MIGHT conclude that the vision of the founding fathers was, in- fact secular; Israel was to be a modern democratic state, an expression of Jewish nationalism rather than Jewish faith.
The phrase ‘as conceived by the Prophets of Israel’ is little more than rhetoric. Which Prophets were they talking about? How can a “secular zionist” call upon “religious icons” as inspiration for their views. Immediately after a clause proclaiming the ‘establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine’, the document promises that a constitution will be drawn up by a constituent assembly ‘not later than 1 October, 1948’. Sixty-five years later, the world is still waiting, not least because of a reluctance by successive governments to define the “Jewishness of the Jewish state.” This delay is due to the clash between a secular constitution and the Halacha.
Ironically, and tellingly, even the Soviet Union had a VERY liberal ‘Constitution’, (not that it mattered in practice)
You concede that Orthodoxy has a dominant (and toxic) role in Israel. I would counter that Secularism is just as toxic in regards to Israel. This is because both groups CLAIM to speak as Jews, whereas NEITHER of them can speak for “Jews”; at least, not until the term “Jews” is properly defined and delineated. Further, I would submit that the Haredim and Halakhic Jews certainly have better credentials to speak as and for “Jews” than all of the “Secular Semites”.