The New York Times today ran an interesting piece on hipster Palestinian culture in Haifa by Diaa Hadid that portrayed a vibrant secular community of young Palestinians in the city — but the article was at least partly designed to make Israel supporters feel good about what an inclusive modern society they’ve created. Haifa is
a comfortable place for liberal Palestinians who want not only to escape the constraints of conservative Arab communities but also to be among their own people.
The featured quote from the article was about how Palestinians in Haifa are allowed to be gay. Ayed Fadel runs Kabareet, a nightspot:
“We want a gay couple to go to the dance floor and kiss each other, and nobody to even look at them,” he said. “This is the new Palestinian society we are aiming for.”
Well, Fadel has responded angrily and eloquently on Facebook that the Times wrenched his comment out of context. The entire article removes Palestinian Haifa from the broad struggle of cultural resistance to Israeli Zionist domination; Fadel objects to being used to “pink wash” Israel; (the word means exonerating Israel of its oppression of Palestinians by citing freedom for gays):
Yes I did say that, but it was a whole build up for the conversation until I reached this sentence, and I was actually trying to explain how Haifa became a place where everyone can feel safe and comfortable, so I used one of the most extremist views that our society could accept. Also mentioning the Kooz queer film festival that we hosted without mentioning that one of the most important topics in it was the Israeli pink washing – IS MISLEADING – especially when I’ve been totally used as a “pink washer” with the quote above!!
In fact, Fadel said, his interview with Hadid was mostly about Palestinian cultural resistance — but the Times censored his political comments.
90% of the interview we were talking about how the culture of the cultural resistance is growing and taking a place in so many levels, such as music, art, spaces etc. And how the Palestinian underground scene is being bigger and bigger and full of creativity and how literally it is being a place full of intelligence and rebel agenda.
The words “resist” or “resistance” don’t appear in the article. Fadel concludes that the Times was behaving like “white media.”
I don’t know if what I am writing now is even enough to cover all what have been written in this article, but hopefully that could explain the situation and make it more clear that it was another trap by the white media, that is always trying to show us as the cool yay hipsters full of tattoos and piercings – far away from the grounded reality that we are facing and fighting every day!
We agreed to do this [interview] thinking the results would be different but they weren’t. Last chance given to white media and media in general, next time we’ll be more cautious, and we don’t allow anyone to categorize us under “Israeli City of Haifa, a Liberal Palestinian Culture Blossoms” – dear editor, please liberate your liberalism aspects.
When Ayed Fadel posted his remarks, he gave a co-byline to another person quoted in the article, Fidaa Hammoud, who said in the Times that she had freedom in a Jewish community she would not have in an Arab one — her published remarks will also comfort Israel supporters. Though Hammoud does not specifically respond to the article here, we sense that she also feels quoted out of context. Hammoud is opposed to Israeli apartheid on her Facebook page; she doesn’t get to say so in the article.
P.S. The outgoing Jerusalem bureau chief for the NYT, Jodi Rudoren, just got a sendoff in Jerusalem. And not surprisingly, a lot of very powerful Israelis toasted her.
A settler leader applauds her work as “great”.