Brooklyn-Jenin: Wars of the Jews

Israel/Palestine
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America, America

How odd are the leaders Jewish right-wing in the United States. On the one hand, they raise six million dollars to finance a PR war over Jews like me, members of Jewish Voice for Peace. This is an organization which acts, or so they claim, to delegitimize Israel for anti-Semitic reasons (and not because Israel is, heaven forbid, racist). On the other hand, they have the great temerity to call the greatest of rabbis, Sephardic rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a racist, and demand that the Ashkenazi Zionists denounce him thoroughly.

Truth be told, I never thought the Anti-Defamation League, headed by Abraham Foxman, would join our well-timed campaign to delegitimize Israel. But there you go, miracles happen even nowadays, and here he is, bad-mouthing the leader of Shas, the third or fourth largest political party in Israel and a partner in Israeli governments for generations. He calls it a racist party, and if it is racist then the government is racist and that means that the state is racist. That’s how it happens that Foxman and his organizations start understanding the depth of unimaginable racism which has seeped into Israel on the one hand, and on the other hand they denounce the humanist Jewish Voice For Peace organization, which has been fighting against that self-same racism for years, which Foxman, now suddenly can see.

What was it that the Honorable Rabbi Ovadia said, which so horrified the Jews of America? He said that in Messianic times, the role of the goyim (gentiles) will be to serve the Jews. I imagine that if the Honorable Rabbi would have said Muslims rather than Goyim Mr. Foxman would have overlooked it. But – with all due respect to Foxman if the Messiah decides otherwise, I assume that the Honorable Rabbi would accept his decision. In contrast with the elderly rabbi, three men in the prime of their life are currently at the helm of Israel – three hooligans, entirely secular ones, a holy fascist trinity: Lieberman, Netanyahu, and Barak. These men are not waiting for the Messiah. As far as they’re concerned, the only role gentiles have is to serve the Jewish state. They continue plundering lands in broad daylight and making a mockery of every nation in the world. On the one hand they collect huge amounts of money for upkeep of the state, as reparations for the Holocaust, and on the other hand they complain when nations ask them oh-so-gingerly to stop being a glorious apartheid state. While secular, bleeding heart Israelis struggle against the deportation of the 300 children of undocumented foreigners (a struggle which is undoubtedly just), they ignore the millions of resident Palestinian children, who have been living for sixty-three years as deportees in refugee camps and in exile, now being made to require them to pledge allegiance to the new lords of the land. And thus it happens that as part of the complex hasbara system of this racist entity, demagogues with flawless English are sent abroad, to persuade the Western world that our crazies are only the religious people and the settlers, thus covering up the real crime: that the State of Israel is being turned into a Judeo-Fascist state by its secular elites, of all people.

On the day that the government of Israel declared that the state was a Jewish and Fascist state, several filmmakers were interviewed, including the maker of Lebanon. They all declared very proudly on the Ynet news portal that they are the best ambassadors for the State of Israel. Well, I’ve got to tell you: if that is the purpose of Israeli creativity, the people who argue for a cultural boycott of Israel are right.
And to Mr. Foxman and the people who call up six million dollars for a PR campaign against us, alluding to the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust by the very number of dollars that they have raised, I have a suggestion: let us donate the money to the poor people of our country, and we will show up in the United States for any verbal debate. You can bring your swords and your spears, Alan Dershowitz, Bernard-Henri Levy, Gadi Taub, Shmulik Maoz. We will come in the name of human brotherhood and in the name of the living God.

Cultural Intifada

Jenin in New York

When faced with a reality where almost everyone collaborates in the construction of a racist state, where the Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot feel safe and are threatened daily with one form or the other of ethnic cleansing, I have nothing left to say beyond this: I have not found a better way to save my art and my Judaism than joining simultaneously the Jewish Voice for Peace in the United States and the Freedom Theater established by Juliano in the Jenin refugee camp.

I believe that only a Jewish-Palestinian coalition against racism, occupation, and apartheid can perhaps prevent the rise of a Jewish fascist state in Israel. The Zionist Left must understand that dialectically, a real and planned rip in the fabric of the Jewish society itself is a necessary perquisite for creating the space and conditions where the wounds of the ongoing trauma can be healed, and an equitable, dynamic democracy can be created.

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Udi Aloni, Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou discuss “What if Antigone were a refugee?”

We ended our last blog with Mustafa’s desperate trip to Amman, to get to the American consulate, as his way to the one in Jerusalem had been blocked. As we said already, miracles do happen, and Mustafa received a visa to the U.S. and joined Mariam to take part in the main event for the theater, where I took part in a symposium along with philosophers Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou discussing “What If Antigone Were A Refugee?”. As part of our focal work in finding ways of promoting particular struggles into a universal one, we tried to examine how two particular struggles – the struggle for the liberation of Palestine and the struggle for women’s liberation – could go hand in hand. We should state that we intend to shoot a feature film in Jenin, and that Palestinian author Ala Hlehel is working on the script at this very moment.

The discussion can be summarized, without encompassing all of its many facets and layers, by saying that there are those who claim that for women to struggle for her equitable place, national emancipation must first be achieved. In other words, Sophocles’ Antigone cannot make heard her independent, feminine, and political voice of the sovereign, King Creon, is not the king who has established the sovereignty of his nation. In contrast with this linear-revolutionary way of thinking, Antigone can be interpreted as a feminine force of justice, which could have neutralized the inevitable element of a revolution that feeds upon its own children had she appeared in the course of reconstructing sovereignty and not after it. In other words, one can hope that the excess of violence of the revolution will not turned upon itself, after its victory.

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Mariam at the demonstration against Ahava cosmetics. The protest was sponsored by Brooklyn For Peace on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights on October 26, 2010. (Photo: Bud Korotzer)

Miriam and Mustafa went from university to university and from stand-up comedy performance to participation in a demonstration against the Ahava Dead Sea products, which are actually beauty stolen from the natural treasures that belong to the Palestinians.

And that is how Mustafa, Miriam, and I engaged in all three modes of non-violent resistance, to promote full equality during our visit to New York. We demonstrated with our bodies, shoulder-to-shoulder, Palestinians, Jews and others in New York, we called for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against apartheid products, and we made art, which is a means of struggle but primarily, an aim for its own.

We may always fail. Colonialist powers may always be stronger than we are. But on that day, at St. Paul’s Cathedral in New York, one thousand of us gathered together – Jews, Muslims, and Christian, straights and queers, and Pastor Gilbert, who hosted us, told us that when he was young he was a black Mexican Indian laborer, who supported the legendary Cesar Chavez, who used a boycott of grapes to bring the vine-workers from slavery into liberty. And we said, in silent prayer: “Free-Free Palestine! No more killing! No more crimes!” and everyone knew that this prayer unites a growing group of people, all around the world, who believe in justice, quality, and brotherhood, wherever there is injustice.

This article is from Udi Aloni’s Brooklyn-Jenin column he is writing for the Israeli website Ynet about his experience living between New York City and the Jenin refugee camp, where he is teaching a film production class. You can read the entire Brooklyn-Jenin series here. This article was translated by Dena Shunra.

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