Brooklyn-Jenin: On the banality of good and evil

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Abraham went up from Beer-sheva to Moriah
three days
binding and unbinding his son in his mind
three days butchering and weeping
we are still bound and unbound
who are they weeping and butchering
who are they laughing and butchering

– from “A Man Goes” by Haviva Pedaya


Mustafa Staiti has been through a lot in his 23 years. No doubt, he proclaims, the encounter with the Freedom Theater has allowed him the physical and mental space without which he could not have worked and created as an ambitious youngster. Mustafa and his family will accompany us throughout the next posts; so will the remarkable and inconceivable tale of how Mustafa became one of the prominent voices in the struggle for the Palestinian woman’s rights. But, unfortunately, like in any other truly, remarkable story in Palestine the occupation spoils it all, or almost all. Mustafa was set to arrive in New York in October, along with Maryam, a young, fierce and remarkably talented actress, who speaks out freely about the things that bother and trouble her in her day to day life.

Together at Lincoln Center they were to present to the audience the next generation of Palestinian creators, as well as the pilot for their new Internet TV series, “I’m Black As Well”.

The first episode concerns the visit to Jenin of the most popular Palestinian rap group, DAM, and their electrifying first ever open sky concert in the city. DAM’s relentless struggle against honor killing in the Palestinian society is also depicted in the clip.

Unfortunately Mustafa most likely won’t make it to New York. In order to get an entry visa into the U.S one has to arrive at the American Consulate in East Jerusalem for an interview, for which one is required to obtain a one-time entry permit from Israel. Israel, however, denied Mustafa’s request without any sort of explanation. And so, a young Palestinian fighting to establish a cinema study center, and who struggles for women’s equality and whose presence in the U.S is necessary for his artistic promotion, finds himself, like countless others, a victim of the routine, mundane and bureaucratic policies of Apartheid. Palestinian culture cannot travel to Tel Aviv nor to New York, not to see and not to be seen. What we need to comprehend, once and for all, is that the occupation’s cruelty doesn’t lie in the sadism or stupidity of a soldier like Eden Abergil (the one who took pictures of herself with Palestinian prisoners and posted it on Facebook).

Indeed, the occupation doesn’t necessarily corrupt the individuals engaged in it, the structure of the occupation is the corruption for itself. Even without vengeful clerks, stuffed in dark basement offices, who particularly seek to harm Mustafa, and even if all soldiers were good Peace Now nerds, the occupation would still produce the same quantity of evil.

The structure of power does not need soldiers who believe in it, but rather it just needs soldiers.

The occupation is so imminent to our daily life that perhaps the only way out of cooperating with it one has to go through a “leap of faith”.

Until we decide whether we operate within or without the matrix, I hereby wish to address those decent matrix inhabitants: If one of you has the connections or the knowledge of how to help Mustafa come to New York, please do contact us.



This year correlates with the Jewish New Year and with the Muslim Eid Al Fitr. Which falls on the creation day of the first human (Adam and Eve) and the day of the sacrifice of Isaac and/or Ismael.

The day the Twin Towers collapsed, my family and I were living a mile away from the disaster zone, and today I’m not certain the scar that event carved in our souls has healed. Hence I sensed an urge to return to the site of 9/11. In front of the void of ground zero, now gradually being filled once more, my memories returned and flooded over me. My daughter volunteered at an emergency support center, and as she had nothing much to do, she brought home with her an entire family, a parrot included, to settle in our house until things returned to their normal course. I recall the candles and tears in front of the Fire Department Precinct. Not even one fire-fighter remained with us, the living. Out of sadness, a query on the “banality of good “ filled my head. The sort of pondering suited for a believer: each and all fire fighters seemingly acted according to the protocols of a city-employee, indeed a banality, and yet each and every one of them died the sacred death of a hero. In the same accord I would claim that one who follows “the protocol of the banilty of evil” is carrying full responsibility of contaminating our stand as human beings.

Perhaps that’s the reason why I read, full with rage and contempt, Shaul Rosenfeld’s Judeo-Fascist article about the misery of the moderate Muslim. An article which uses the blood of the victims to spread Islamophobic poison. According to Rosenfeld, the moderate Muslim, is a thousand fold more dangerous than the extremist Muslim. According to his article, a Muslim of whatever sort or breed, has a primordial and entrenched tendency for evil-doing, and is attempting to take over the world via terror, sitting in the splendid city of Cordoba.

Any attempt to tell a narrative of the Good Muslim, is doomed to include a degree of apologea and collaboration with the sick-secular “King’s Torah” of Mr. Rosenfeld.(King Torah is the book of Israeli Rabbis who are allowed to kill children of Gentiles) . With the omnipresent racism in our time, instead of approaching a left-winger to respond to these despicable Islamophobic publications, it is more advisable for the newspaper’s editors to ask a German anti-semitie, or perhaps a member of a Neo-Nazi party, to compose a piece similar to Mr. Rosenfeld’s, replacing or adding the word the word “Jew” to the word “Muslim” so that the two could sign jointly on a “hate declaration”.

Cordoba, Rosenfeld wrote is the memory of the brutal occupation of Christian Spain by the Muslims. I wonder if this is Cordoba? According to world common narrative the name Cordoba is a simbol for pluralism flurishing in its Muslim era.

Except of hatred in and for itself, I wonder what is Mr. Rosenfeld, and his kind’s, interest is? Is promoting Islamaphobia worth erasing the Jewish-Muslim common glorious history (The Cusari) or their tragic common history (the Expulsion from Spain)?

History, can be read in a thousand ways, sometimes it is dependant in the grace of the heart alone.

During the 9/11 disaster I ran an advertisement company whose offices were in the Liberty State Park. The trajectory of one of the crashing airplanes was literally above the heads of our staff. Most of the people entered into a sort of state of shock. Among them were Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and of course some total infidels. The factory manager was a religious Israeli who used to pray three times a day, and the shift director was a Muslim Moroccan man, who used to pray five times a day. Those of us who experienced the horror and tragedy of those days will forever be connected to that painful time and place.

Bush’s America didn’t wait long, and they went on a ramped revenge campaign again people who, much like us, died without knowing how and why. I hope that now, if and when the mosque is built, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and agnostics, will pray together, and if not pray together, at least mourn our dead together.

Today, the anniversary of 9/11, which happens to fall on the day of Creation of Adam and Eve, which happens to be, according to tradition, on the day of Issac/Ismael’s Binding, is a good day to stop dividing the world between Muslims and Jews, religious and secular. It can rather be divided between those who celebrate the creation and life of humankind, and those who butcher and laugh when sacrificing their/our children on the altars of nationalist or religious hatred.

I gaze now at the space near Ground Zero where the mosque might be built, and recall our Cordoba, thinking that, on the side of those butchering and laughing stand Al-Qaida Judeo-Fascist of Rosenfeld’s kind, and on the side of humanity’s lovers stand the Palestinian comrades of Jenin, and their peace and justice seeking friends from Israel.

Hatima Tova and Eid Mubarak to all!

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 Matan Cohen.