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Teju Cole explains (and shows) that one side has been dispossessed in Israel and Palestine

on 14 Comments

Teju Cole, the Nigerian-American novelist, has published a diary of his trip to Israel and Palestine at the Financial Times. It contains this hugely helpful statement, an understanding that I believe any clearthinking person visiting the countries must reach:

How does one write about this place? Every sentence is open to dispute. Every place name objected to by someone… Whatever is written is examined not only for what it includes but for what it leaves out: have we acknowledged the horror of the Holocaust? The perfidy of the Palestinian Authority? The callousness of Hamas? Under these conditions, the dispossessed –I will leave aside all caveats and plainly state that the Palestinians are the dispossessed – have to spend their entire lives negotiating what should not be matters for negotiation at all: freedom of movement, the right to self-determination, equal protection under the law.

Excellent. Meantime, I’ve been following Cole’s twitter feed, which is more condensed, poetic and graphic than his diary piece. Like this reflection:

The sad privilege of traveling in Palestine, knowing that people we met in one place are kept by vicious law from going with us to the next.

Here’s a poetic tweet about ethnic cleansing: 

In bright bright sunlight, the darkness echoing. In emptied streets, crowds of ghosts.

Here’s a picture from Nablus. Reminds me of John Ging telling our Gaza delegation that the Palestinians are a deeply civilized people.

Nablus, by Teju Cole

Nablus, by Teju Cole

“The road to Nablus, Occupied Palestine.”

The road to Nablus, occupied Palestine, by Teju Cole

The road to Nablus, occupied Palestine, by Teju Cole

Cole reports: “The destroyed Maronite Christian village of Kafr bir’im is now a national park. The people are not allowed to return.”

Maronite village, ethnically cleansed, by Teju Cole

Maronite village, ethnically cleansed, by Teju Cole

More on ethnic cleansing. “Maronite boys in Galilee. This community was expelled and their village destroyed by the Israeli Air Force in 1953.”

Maronite boys in Galilee, by Teju Cole

Maronite boys in Galilee, by Teju Cole

And this last image is incredible. “Defying Israeli orders, Abu Nader opens his almost empty shop on an abandoned street near a Hebron checkpoint daily.”

abu Nader's shop, by Teju Cole

abu Nader’s shop, by Teju Cole

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14 Responses

  1. Zach S on June 6, 2014, 11:31 am

    It’s almost like losing wars has consequences. Reminds me of this:

    • The Hasbara Buster on June 6, 2014, 1:01 pm

      Except that the Bir’im Maronite Palestinians did not lose any war. They were (and are) Israeli citizens whose village was destroyed by the Jews in 1953, while no war was being fought. Their land was expropriated for Jewish-only use.

    • amigo on June 6, 2014, 1:22 pm

      “It’s almost like losing wars has consequences.” zacks

      You have not won this one yet.

    • talknic on June 6, 2014, 2:30 pm

      @ Zach S You’re completely insane. Maronite Christians, unlike Nazi Germany, did not invade anyone! You seem determined to prove you have nothing but bullsh*t to spout

    • Woody Tanaka on June 6, 2014, 3:32 pm

      “me of this:

      link to”

      Yes, it was a massive crime against humanity. Too bad the likes of you don’t have the character to understand that. May you learn why that is a crime, without you and your family having to suffer the same fate (no matter how much cosmic justice that would entail.)

    • Hostage on June 6, 2014, 4:44 pm

      It’s almost like losing wars has consequences. Reminds me of this:

      link to

      Correction and Clarification: Ethnic cleansing and collective punishment are war crimes, not a legal consequence of loosing a war. The overwhelming majority of plenipotentiaries attending the 1948 Red Cross Diplomatic Conference felt so strongly about that, that they voted to adopt the proposed prohibitions against pillage and collective punishment contained in Article 33 and the prohibition of ethnic cleansing contained in Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention. They agreed to do that precisely because of situations like the one you cited. FYI, Israel was a beneficiary of the reparations imposed on the German people by the Allied Powers. It was given the bulk of $25 million in non-monetary German gold. It also participated in the 1951 UN Diplomatic Conference on Refugees and spearheaded efforts to continue to hold German civilians collectively responsible as either Nazis, Nazi collaborators, or accessories to war crimes. It argued that such persons should be excluded from the legal definition of the term “refugee” and that they should be subject to payment of reparations and territorial compensation under the terms of the post war multilateral agreements:

      F. The provisions of this Convention shall not apply to any person with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that:
      (a) he has committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, as defined in the international instruments drawn up to make provision in respect of such crimes;

      — See Article 1 of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention

      It goes without saying that the UN has always recognized the displaced persons of Palestine as refugees, not war criminals and that the universal ratification of the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter have made the prohibitions a matter of binding customary international law that isn’t subject to any statutory limitations.

      • pabelmont on June 7, 2014, 5:19 pm

        Hostage: Thank you for pointing up this valuable document (1951 UN Refugee Convention) and referring back to Zack’s link to “Flight and expulsion of Germans (1944–50)“.

        “The tide started to turn when the charter of the Nuremberg Trials of German Nazi leaders declared forced deportation of civilian populations to be both a war crime and a crime against humanity, and this opinion was progressively adopted and extended through the remainder of the century.

        This is valuable material. It would be good, if you have time, to create a single web-page to point to all relevant UN and other documents of this type, perhaps with a one-paragraph description of each document. And, of course, this may already have been done.

    • Shingo on June 6, 2014, 7:43 pm

      It’s almost like losing wars has consequences

      So does occupation, ethnic cleansing, land theft etc, which is why Israeli leaders are panicking about the ICC.

    • pjdude on June 7, 2014, 1:22 am

      your so sweet to imply they chose to be invaded by terrorists. your side invaded them and than illgally expelled them. the palestinians than and now don’t want war. they just want to be left alone in there own country.

    • Talkback on June 7, 2014, 4:06 am

      Zach S says: It’s almost like losing wars has consequences.

      Yeah. When Poland lost its war against Germany what happened to Jews were only “consequences” according to your ‘logic’:

    • on June 7, 2014, 7:39 am

      Oh, there will be consequences when the Zionists are defeated. That’s for sure. Let’s just hope the victors are more human than the Zionists. Would hate to see the next empire hunting down 90 year old men 70 years from now and charging them with mass murder for the “crime” of being enlisted men and women in the IDF

  2. amigo on June 6, 2014, 12:03 pm

    Where is Zack S to suggest that Teju Cole is on the Pallywood payroll and these photos are all doctored and the work of Jew haters and anti semites.

    For Zack s and fellow zios , black is white and white is black.Down is up and up is down.

    Israel and it,s IDF heroes always tell the truth???. Right Zack.

    Their God requires it of the new master race and light unto the nations.

  3. just on June 6, 2014, 12:55 pm

    Teju is doing the harrowing work of documenting the cruel, illegal, and undeserved dispossession of a wonderful people.

    Through his own clear eyes and voice, he is giving all of us stark truth.

    “In bright bright sunlight, the darkness echoing. In emptied streets, crowds of ghosts.”

    And millions of those ‘ghosts’ are very alive…. a tragedy.

  4. seafoid on June 7, 2014, 12:02 am

    That hotel looks so inviting. I can image breakfast with ahwa (dayman) and labneh.

    A great piece in the FT. The bots and their brittle ideology

    “Whatever is written is examined not only for what it includes but for what it leaves out: have we acknowledged the horror of the Holocaust? The perfidy of the Palestinian Authority? The callousness of Hamas?”

    And the banal cruelty

    “Dr Tawfiq Nasser, who runs the hospital, tells us about a man from Gaza who had the wrong ID and thus for eight years couldn’t see his son, whose ID was similarly restrictive. The man was diagnosed with cancer and finally got a permit to enter Jerusalem. He went to see his son in the West Bank, spent three weeks with him, came back to the hospital for one week of chemotherapy, and returned to Gaza and died”

    And this is the fulfillment of Scripture, of course.

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