Media Roundup: What’s A Palestinian? From Arabic to Hebrew, & Ramadan in Ramallah

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“What’s a Palestinian?,” by Zachary J. Foster, Foreign Affairs – 11 March

We didn’t notice this essay when it first came out (and, in any case, we didn’t have a blog back then!), but it merits attention here.

Princeton PhD student Zachary Foster offers an erudite and concise account of the emergence of Palestinian national identity and rebuttal to those Israelis and Zionist partisans who argue that the invented nature of Palestinian national identity disqualifies Palestinians from laying claiming to the land of their birth and ancestors:

Is Palestinian identity an invention? The answer, however, is self-evident—of course it is. American, Chinese, German, and Israeli identities are inventions too. All national identities are invented. Nations do not exist in nature; they exist only in our minds.

The question then becomes why Republican presidential candidates, Israeli prime ministers, and Western pundits offer constant reminders that Palestinian identity is an invention if all concepts of nationality and identity are human-engineered fabrications. For that, we have those who have spent their careers trying to keep Palestine and the Palestinians off the map and out of sight to thank.

Mr. Foster deconstructs, inter alia, the idea that Palestinians are not actually Palestinians but “southern Syrians”:

Southern Syria was therefore born out of the preference of Palestine’s Arabs to live under Arab rule from Damascus, rather than under British rule from Jerusalem—the same British who, only a few months earlier, in 1917, had declared in the Balfour Declaration their intention to make Palestine a national home for the Jews. Palestinian Arab attempts to join Syria were shattered when the French deposed Faysal in July 1920, taking Syria for themselves.

Since then, Southern Syria has been remembered only sporadically, and for political purposes. Arabs who believed that an Arab state in all of Greater Syria was the best way to stem Zionist immigration and land purchases occasionally embraced the term, while Zionists such as Assaf and Meir revived it to show that the Arabs never cared much for Palestine. Of course, it was precisely Arab concern about Palestine, and desire to shield it from British imperialism and Zionist colonization, that gave birth to the idea of a Southern Syria in the first place.

These are snippets,  the whole article is worth the read.

Congressional Letter 

“19 Reps Speak out for Palestinian Children Behind Bars,” Friends Committee on National Legislation – 22 June. 

It is a rare day when members of Congress publicly speak up in defense of the rights of Palestinians. That’s why this week’s news of a Congressional letter signed by 19 members of the House of Representatives traveled far among Palestinian solidarity activists.

The letter was organized by the Friends Committee on National Legislation; an American Quaker group, which reflects the growing activism within churches in the U.S. on behalf of the Palestinian cause to end the 1967 occupation. It was addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry and its focus is Israel’s systematic mistreatment of Palestinian children detained by the Israel Defense Forces:

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Dear Secretary Kerry:

In 2013 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a profoundly disturbing report entitled “Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations” in response to the estimated seven thousand Palestinian children, ages 12 to 17, from the Occupied West Bank who during the previous decade were subjected to arrest, detention, interrogation, and/or imprisonment by Israeli army, police, and security agents. UNICEF initiated their report in response to concerns regarding the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment of Palestinian children while in the Israeli military detention system.

Israel’s military detention system targeting children is an anomaly in the world. In fact, UNICEF states, “It is understood that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”

Based on international law and treaties, the UNICEF report makes 38 recommendations for action by Israeli officials while offering the following conclusion:

“The ill treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systemic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until a child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”

The security interests of Israel are clearly a national security priority of the United States and the American people. There could be no more clear demonstration of American commitment to Israel than the more than $3 billion of U.S. taxpayer funds which are invested annually to ensure the security of the Israeli people. Nonetheless, respecting and defending the human rights of children, regardless of their ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality, is a fundamental American value, as well as a priority for all Americans.

In 2014, Israel arrested a Palestinian American child who suffered physical violence and ill treatment while in an Israeli detention center. This incident only highlights our belief that the state sponsored abuse of children cannot be tolerated.

Earlier this year UNICEF issued a follow­ up report outlining areas where Israel has adapted, modified, or discussed changes to its system of military detention of Palestinian children. This is a positive step and a clear acknowledgement that legitimate human rights concerns exist. Progress to ensure Palestinian children’s rights are not abused is in the interest of the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinian people. We urge the Department of State to elevate the human rights of Palestinian children to a priority status in our bilateral relationship with Israel. Furthermore, we fully expect the State Department’s annual human rights report to address the status of Israel’s military detention system and treatment of Palestinian children.

Sincerely,

Representatives:

Betty McCollum (MN-4)
Blumenauer, Earl (OR-3)
Beyer, Don (VA-8)
Carson, André (IN-7)
Conyers, John (MI-13)
Davis, Danny (IL-7)
DeFazio, Peter (OR-4)
Ellison, Keith (MN-5)
Eshoo, Anna G. (CA-18)
Grijalva, Raúl M. (AZ-3)
Johnson, Eddie Bernice (TX-30)
Johnson, Hank (GA-4)
Lee, Barbara (CA-13)
McDermott, Jim (WA-7)
McGovern, James P. (MA-2)
Norton, Eleanor Holmes (DC)
Pingree, Chellie (ME-1)
Rush, Bobby (IL-1)
Waters, Maxine (CA-43)

The letter is part of the “No Way to Treat a Child” campaign launched by FCNL and the American Friends Service Committee along with other religious and human rights organizations on June 1, the International Day for Protection of Children.

Fictional Rebuttal

“Israeli Government Cartoon Mocks Foreign Coverage of Gaza,” by Robert Mackey, New York Times – 15 June. 

During Operation Protective Edge (OPE), a video circulated on Israeli Facebook pages. The video recorded a small, non-explosive missile knocking, if you will, on a Palestinian home. This first salvo was meant to alert the Palestinian family that a larger second and explosive missile would hit their home in a few minutes. Thus the family was expected to flee with whatever belongings they could quickly grab and watch from the sidelines as their home was reduced to rubble. Israel made this first-and-second shot a routine practice of the war. Many Israelis who circulated the video did so to pat their country on the back for its supposed humanity and compassion. The fact that a house or apartment harboring a family or several families was being destroyed was immaterial to the supposedly humane way of destruction. For many Israelis, it reflected their country’s self-proclaimed “most moral army in the world.” In the end, OPE cost the lives of over 2,000 Palestinians, of which more than half were civilians and over 500 of them children.

This video and the reaction to it by some in Israel reflects the deeply ingrained belief among many Israelis that despite all the carnage their armed forces inflict on Gaza’s civilian population, Israel has committed no crime (or at least no great crime) against the Palestinians and remains morally beyond reproach. A image of wanton destruction of civilian buildings is re-framed by many in Israel to put forth a standard where the conduct of warfare need only provide a warning shot of imminent destruction and all actions are absolved of moral culpability after that.

And if the rest of the world is not so easily convinced by such logic, then a resort to fiction is in order:

As part of Israel’s intensifying effort to undermine potential criticism from the United Nations of its military assault on Gaza last summer, the country’s Foreign Ministry released an animated YouTube video on Monday mocking coverage of the conflict by Western reporters as absurdly inaccurate.

[…] Taken as a whole, the latest video, like its predecessors, would seem to raise the question of why, if wildly inaccurate, comically misinformed reports on the conflict from foreign correspondents are so common, Israeli officials cannot simply point to actual examples but instead find it necessary to resort to fiction again and again to illustrate this reality.

Obama Coffee

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Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, a radio and TV personality in Israel and the wife of the right-wing interior minister, Silvan Shalom, was rebuked by many Twitter users after her above post, which she subsequently deleted and followed with a new Tweet stating “I apologise, that was a stupid joke somebody told me.”

In 2012, Mrs. Mozes was compelled to rescind her nomination to join Unicef, the UN body dealing with children’s affairs, after comments surfaced conveying her support for Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip and her belief that Palestinian children are congenitally disposed to “hate” Israel and Israelis.

By Any Other Name 

“Bedouin village of Atir to be replaced with forest of ‘Yatir’,” by Amjad Iraqi, +972mag – 16 June.

In the most recent issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 44, No. 3, Issue 175), Israeli-American scholar Gabriel Piterberg address Israeli settler colonial consciousness and its attendant historical writing whereby the story of Zionist colonization (“us”) is related separately from what Zionist colonists did to the native population of Palestinians (“them”). Even Israeli scholars versed in the history of Palestinian dispossession treat the two stories as if they were separate rather than being one common thread in the history of Palestine’s transformation into Israel. But they are one story and, as Piterberg writes, “Arab Palestine . . . was so central for the [Israeli] 1948 generation’s identity that they erased it in 1948 and then nostalgically craved it, and that therefore “our” [i.e. Israeli Jewish] collective identity and the so-called Arab Problem are inseparable stories. . .”

Or, as rendered most succinctly by a member of that 1948 generation, poet Haim Guri: “We loved the villages we blew up.”

An illustration of how Israeli-Jewish colonial identity and Palestinian dispossession are two sides of the same coin is reflected in the long-standing Israeli practice of expelling Palestinian residents from their villages and subsequently adopting the name of the Arab village and rendering it in Hebrew, and thereby appropriating the village’s history for the exclusive association with Israeli-Jewish society. Within Israel after 1948, the city of Jaffa – most of its Arab inhabitants expelled – became Yafo, the northern coastal city of Akka became Akko and so forth. Today, this practice is widespread in the occupied West Bank where Israeli settlements are constructed or expanded nearby centuries-old Palestinian villages, and with the former bearing the Hebrew version of the latter’s name. It’s an effort to manipulate history: a new settlement bearing a new name would be incongruous with the historical record, but a settlement bearing the ancient name would appear to slip into history, so to speak, as the original village and fits neatly with the Zionist narrative of ‘redeeming the land.’

Thus is it no surprise that as Israeli authorities prepare to demolish the Bedouin village of Atir in the Negev in so-called Israel “proper,” the plan is to replace it with an expansion of the man-made forest of ‘Yatir’:

In a 2-1 ruling last month, the Israeli High Court acknowledged that the Bedouin residents were not on the lands illegally, as the state had claimed. However, the Court nevertheless approved the state’s ‘right’ to carry out its agenda. Justices Rubinstein and Hendel argued that the plan for the land was “sufficiently important to justify the alleged harms involved in its achievement.” In other words, they had no objections to violating the Bedouins’ rights in order for Jewish citizens and the Jewish National Fund to benefit in their stead.” 

The official state history of Israel may go: ‘Yatir’ has always been there. Go ahead and check the books! The proof is in the name.

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The village of Atir. Photo Credit: Amjad Iraqi.

 

Yatir-Forest

Atir/’Yatir’ has, indeed, always been there while its erstwhile residents may be made invisible.

So Much for the ‘Only Democracy in the Middle East’

“Netanyahu orders shutdown of TV channel for Palestinians in Israel,” by Patrick Strickland, Electronic Intifada – 25 June.

Israel plans to shut down a new Arabic-language television station that services Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The station’s name – Palestine 48 – refers to the parts of the country occupied by Israel during the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland. It launched pilot broadcasts last week and began programming today.

Yet Israel’s hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already asked the ministry of communications to shut the station down.

[…] 

Israeli efforts to close down the television station, which receives funding from the Palestinian Authority, are only the latest in a lengthy history of cracking down on Palestinian media in present-day Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

[…] 

“Israeli authorities either try to cut the funding of these cultural or media groups or, if not possible, threaten them with immediate closure by force,” Kayyal told The Electronic Intifada, adding that Israel “tries to intimidate” any media outlet that “doesn’t heed the political line of the right-wing ruling class.”

Separate Law and Practice for Arabs and Jews

“Presumed Guilty: Remand in Custody by Military Courts in the West Bank,” B’Tselem – June 2015. 

Recently, the New York Times reported on an arson attack against “a Catholic church at a revered site near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel … in what the police are treating as an arson attack and possible hate crime. Graffiti denouncing idol worship using the language of a Hebrew prayer was found spray-painted in red on an outside wall of the church, strengthening the suspicion that Jewish extremists may have been responsible for the attack.”

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Photo Credit: Ariel Schalit/Associated Press.

This is hardly the first such act and while suspects were apprehended “the youths were soon released because of a lack of sufficient evidence.” The Times added,

One of the monks assigned to the church, the Rev. Matthias Karl, said there had been more than 50 attacks against Christian institutions in Israel over the past three years, including damage to cars and cemeteries. . . . 

Mosques in Palestinian villages in the West Bank have also been the target of arson attacks by Jewish extremists in recent years.

Few of the cases have led to indictments or convictions, leading Christian and Muslim representatives to question the Israeli authorities’ commitment to catching the perpetrators. Israeli security officials say they have difficulty amassing evidence that will hold up in court because the suspects they interrogate rarely talk and because the crimes often require little more than a screwdriver, some gasoline or a can of spray paint.

Israeli authorities may have difficulty amassing evidence, but such a commitment to ascertain the perpetrator is anything but lacking whenever Palestinians are suspects for any alleged crime, which in their case includes stone-throwing. While Israeli Jews are released for lack of evidence, occupied Palestinians do not even have the presumption of innocence as a new report by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem details:

Every year, thousands of Palestinians are brought before military courts on various charges, including entering Israel without a permit, stone-throwing, membership in an “illegal association”, violence, firearms-related offenses and traffic violations. The military court has jurisdiction over residents of the entire West Bank, including areas over which partial control was transferred to the Palestinian Authority, and even if the offense was committed outside the West Bank. […]

Remand proceedings expose the injustice that takes place in Israeli military courts. In this context, remand is the detention for the duration of all legal proceedings in the case of a person whose questioning and investigation has been completed and who has been formally charged. Individuals on remand are not serving a prison sentence. They have not been sentenced, not been found guilty. They are being held in custody when they should be presumed innocent.

tower
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The Military Courts Unit does not publish figures on the number of motions for remand put forward by the prosecution nor the number of motions approved by the courts, claiming that this information is not available electronically. However, partial figures provided to B’Tselem indicate that, with the exception of individuals accused of traffic violations, remand is the rule rather than the exception. The military prosecution routinely asks for remand in custody and the courts approve the vast majority of the motions.

Reverse Appropriation

“Moroccanoil — Israeli hair products that glamorize apartheid,” by Sarah Irving, Electronic Intifada – 26 June 

Hummus, Knafeh, and other Middle Eastern dishes with Arabic, Armenian, Farsi and Turkish names have been branded “Israeli” either by Israeli companies marketing products or by American media outlets. Now, a new designer hair product company called Moroccanoil appears to do the opposite: presenting what is an Israeli invention as a product from an Arab country.

But the product called Moroccanoil — and some other argan-oil based hair treatments — is actually manufactured in Israel (and only contains a proportion of the raw oil, combined with lots of the nasties that go into most other mainstream cosmetics).

Moroccanoil’s Israeli links, however, take a back seat on the company’s website

The product’s origin only is mentioned just twice on that site . One is tucked away in the terms and conditions section.

… there is the fact that in calling its products Moroccanoil, the company seems to be deliberately disingenuous, laying claim to an identity which — if it has any links to Israel at all — is to the country’s marginalized North African Jewish communities, not to the rich elites who make money from international trade.

And, lastly, (Happy) Ramadan Kareem! 

Palestinian-American journalist and producer Jamal Dajani shared photos on his Facebook page of the commencement of Ramadan in Palestine:

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No permits! We’ll enter Jerusalem whether you like it or not.

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And Palestinian photographer Ibrahim Faraj snaps a photo of a Gazan family in the Shaja’iya neighborhood breaking their fast (Iftar) amidst the rubble of their destroyed home.

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Media Round is a weekly feature of Palestine Studies.