USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

Electronic Intifada: “Homage to Hollywood heists — with a West Bank twist”

Posted by uscsjp on July 30, 2015


A scene from Love, Theft and Other Entanglements.

Love, Theft and Other Entanglements directed by Muayad Alayan, Palcine Productions It sounds like the plot of a heist film from the golden age of Hollywood: a small-time thief steals a car, little knowing what’s in the trunk. But instead of winding up pursued by the mob or a dogged private eye, Mousa — the protagonist in Love, Theft and Other Entanglements — finds himself with both the Israeli security services and a Palestinian militia group on his tail. Mousa, played by Sami Metwasi, is a thief whose latest job is a vehicle which contains a gagged and bound Israeli soldier, something he finds out only after he has started selling off parts of the car. The resistance fighters need the soldier back so that they can force the Israelis into an exchange of prisoners. The Israelis, of course, will happily use violence and blackmail to stop the swap. What follows is a deftly constructed, brilliantly acted chase through the chaos into which Mousa’s life descends. Brought up in a refugee camp, working for a bullying boss on an Israeli construction site and living with a (justifiably) angry father who wants him to pull his life together, Mousa just wants to get out of the occupiedWest Bank. The stolen car was supposed to be his golden ticket, furnishing him with the cash to pay for forged papers to Europe. To make things even more complex, there is also Manal, the love of Mousa’s life, played with tired, bruised emotion by Maya Abu al-Hayyat — also seen in Omar Robert Hamilton’s short movie Though I Know the River is Dry, but perhaps better known as an accomplished poet and novelist.

Source of vulnerability

Manal lives a luxurious life with her rich husband, and not only is she an emotional entanglement to complicate Mousa’s plans, but as events become more tense and dangerous, she is another source of vulnerability for him. To outline much more of the plot would give away too much for those who are lucky enough to see this film — and anyone with the opportunity should try. Filmed on location in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and with a small but dedicated cast and crew who worked on a shoestring budget, Love, Theft and Other Entanglements is nevertheless a tightly directed, intelligent, stylish piece of filmmaking. The unusual decision to film in black and white was, according to director Muayad Alayan, who spoke at the film’s UK premiere during the Edinburgh International Film Festival, intended to create a sense of distance and unreality. “Audiences are used to a certain feel,” Alayan suggested, as a result of the many documentaries and films about the occupation which have come out of Palestine in recent years. Instead, he wanted to highlight the absurdity of the situation, permitting his story some independence from its setting.

Snappy

In addition, the monochrome aesthetic increases the film’s feel of an homage to classic Hollywood heist movies, with their snappy style and sense of teetering on the line between farce and stark violence. In this film, we get a little of both, but not too much of either. On the side of farce, Sami Metwasi reveals a comic ability with touches of Danny DeVito or Charlie Chaplin. As Mousa’s plans are more and more comprehensively wrecked by events, Metwasi becomes a jumpy, staccato ball of tension, leaping and yelling in frustration and impotent fury. A trained dancer and musician as well as an actor, Metwasi brings a restrained physicality to the role which lightens what could become a forbiddingly dark plot. Credit for helping to create the half-panicked, half-farcical atmosphere of chases and kidnappings also goes to the film’s score, particularly the atmospheric jazz tracks by Black Flower.

One of the most impressive aspects of the film, especially given that it is Muayad Alayan’s first feature-length movie, is that this comic side never outstays its welcome. As Alayan and Metwasi reinforced at Edinburgh, Love, Theft and Other Entaglements is intended to be a film in which the occupation is the backdrop, not the story. But it is the underlying cause of many of Mousa’s dilemmas — his poverty, his desire to escape and his predicament trapped between Israeli secret police and Palestinian militiamen. But what comes out most strongly is that Mousa is one of the little guys, and he has no control over the greater forces which buffet him one way and another. He isn’t a hero, a villain or indeed entirely a victim.

Brutal self-knowledge

In a moment of brutal self-knowledge, Mousa recognizes a nobody like himself in Avi, the kidnapped Israeli soldier. Avi is a jobnik — the soldier’s own description — rejected by Israeli army radio for his lack of talent and for “just doing his service” as a low-level conscript. When Avi starts to sing tunelessly, Mousa comments that “this is why they didn’t send any tanks or planes to rescue you.” The cutting line could be delivered to himself, and he knows it. But, as it turns out, he has reserves of strength and dignity within him which no one — least of all Mousa himself — might have expected. When he is finally forced to make choices, in the face of pain, violence and loss, he manages (at least sometimes) to speak truth to power and to put the needs of those he loves above his own. As the director and lead actor have emphasized, this is not an “issue” film, even if both have also acknowledged that the occupation colors every element of the film’s environment. It is a subtle, pacey, entertaining and moving piece of cinema, far more confident than one might expect of such a young director and far more slick than one might expect of a film made with such a low budget. I’d urge anyone who wants to experience what creative, mature Palestinian cinema can look like to see it. Sarah Irving is the author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine and co-editor ofA Bird is not a Stone, a collection of contemporary Palestinian poetry in translation. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh.

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Ahmed Moor (Mondoweiss): “Once we were embattled, now we are insurgent”

Posted by uscsjp on July 29, 2015

Denver protest, July 2014: Young women march in Palestinian protest, one wears hijab other wearing keffiyeh on head and carries sign about racism, other marchers in background with American flag and Palestinian flags. Photo by Chris Goodwin

A year ago, many of us struggled to cope with the sure knowledge of an unfolding atrocity in Gaza. We watched as the men of the Israeli army – and the society that ejected them into that ghetto – extinguished the lives of 2,200 people. One presumes that the young men, a casual “threat,” were easier to do. But indifference may have been the rule; it’s hard to know the mind of a killer.

At that time, it was also hard to see out of the hole. It’s a cycle many readers know from experience. It starts when Zionist army regulars begin to pulverize the camps. Pictures of gray, badly gnashed people with misshapen skulls and bloodless wounds are circulated. Despair, wedded to the knowledge of an impending escalation, follows. The reservists are summoned…

The sense of loneliness and impotence that accompanies every Israeli attack varies in how long it lasts. During an assault a thick layer of petroleum coats everything and the act of seeing becomes impossible. We are left only to feel things, viscerally or deeply and only as a reaction.

A year later the sense of bewilderment and muddled cognition has eased. The distance from the facts permits the emergence of vision through clearer thinking. Ultimately, it allows the development of a cogent political analysis. And that analysis produces one idea: That Israel is a leaderless place, lurching from one crisis to another along the arc of a grand existential crisis – by definition, one that it cannot survive. It’s an analysis that emerges from the twin conditions of Zionism’s congenital failure – racism – and the accelerating rate of change in America. It relies on a set of immutable assumptions: that Israel depends on America for its continued existence; and, racism in Israel is elemental rather than incidental.

The anecdotal evidence for the argument is everywhere, but it is mostly visible in interactions with college-aged people. This summer I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside undergraduates who currently study at American universities. I’ve also interacted with a number of others through a language program created by a friend of mine here in Jordan. The students I’ve met are all sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view. Many are conversant on the history of the region and root causes. They understand BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, as a moral imperative.

It’s true that the observation itself doesn’t indicate very much – it may be the outcome of either confirmation bias or self-selection by the students or both. But what is notable is how uncontroversial the point of view they hold has become. Every year, being pro-Palestinian seems to require less courage than the one that preceded it. My own experience, first as an undergraduate student at Penn and then five years later as a graduate student at Harvard confirm the trajectory (together, an eleven-year boundary). Activists were embattled at Penn; at Harvard they were insurgent. The difference is greater than can be accounted for by institutional culture I think.

But one need not rely on anecdotal evidence, which is unconvincing on its own. Recent data indicate that foreign direct investment in Israel is down 46% on a year-over-year basis, likely a direct outcome of the massacre last year. Taken together with the fact that support for Zionism is waning among groups whose influence is increasing in America it becomes hard to see how Israel can survive in its current form.

Finally, the Iran deal provides further evidence for the thesis. The agreement is paradoxically both an outcome and driver of the accelerating isolation of Israel. A highly-regarded Israel would not have sought to block the deal – its position would be securely within the international consensus, a necessary condition for being highly-regarded. And yet by showcasing the extremely depleted state of its national hasbara reserves, Israel’s defeat provides forward momentum for arguments that until now shied warily from the public sphere. More fundamental questions, like the right of one people to exist in a state of permanent political and material supremacy over another, can now be asked.

How long will the transformation take? When will we see the end of institutionalized Zionism? As with the anti-Apartheid or gay-rights movements it’s impossible to know.

Yet the truth remains: The velocity of ideas in America is increasing. The propagation of liberalism is an unavoidable consequence of that fact.

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/07/were-embattled-insurgent#sthash.VN9c53M9.dpuf

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East Jerusalem YMCA: No to Explusion

Posted by uscsjp on July 23, 2015

No to Expulsion of Residents of Khirbet Susiya  JAI Logo NL
 Palestine 23 July 2015

call 23july2015

               “Love Your Naghbour”

340 residents including 140 children are about to become homeless once again in the South Hebron Hills. The Israeli High Court of Justice has refused to grant an interim order which means the army can come and destroy at any moment. The village has been partially demolished six times already from 1991-2011. In 1986 Israel declared the site of the original village a national park and forcibly displaced all the village’s 400 residents. The villagers resettled in caves. These caves were destroyed in 2011.

The European Union and the State Department of the US have taken a strong stand against the demolition of Susiya. Forced displacement of Palestinians from their historic homes and villages in the occupied State of Palestine is illegal under international law and must end.

Susiya and its residents are our neighbors. We are asked to take a stand not just in solidarity but because as Dr. Cornell West says “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

Suggested actions:

  • Attend the Israeli High Court on August 3rd for Susiya’s hearing.
  • Connect with elected officials on social media to tell them how you feel about the situation in Susiya.
  • The EAPPI is also calling for action via social media on Twitter and Facebook. Please share these links widely.
  • Contact your elected officials and ours!
    * If you are in the USA, contact your congressperson here.
    * Sign an urgent letter to Secretary of State of John Kerry here.
    * Contact your local Israeli embassy. Please look here for a listing of them.

Resources:

http://jai-pal.org/en/

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A Message from UNRWA: Give Hope to the People of Gaza this Eid

Posted by uscsjp on July 17, 2015

Give hope to the people of Gaza this Eid

On the blessed occasion of Eid, allow me to wish those of you celebrating a very happy Eid after a month-long fasting in Ramadan. In this time of joy and compassion, help restore hope for the people of Gaza. One year on, they continue to suffer the devastating effects of the summer 2014 conflict. 120,000 people are still homeless and will be celebrating Eid in the rubble of their homes. Please watch this moving video which tells of their struggle to rebuild their lives.

 

You can make a difference in the lives of refugees in Gaza and give hope by donating:

•          US$ 30 gives counselling to a traumatised child

•          US$ 40 feeds a refugee two meals for a week

•          US$ 149 provides a family with mattresses, blankets and a sleeping mat

•          US$ 1080 feeds a family for a whole month

My warmest thanks and greetings to you and your family.

Renaud RODIER

Acting Chief of Partnerships

UNRWA

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency’s General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 100 million.

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YMCA-YWCA Joint Advocacy Initiative: “Eye on Palestine” – June 13, 2015

Posted by uscsjp on July 13, 2015

US only country to oppose UN holding Israel accountable for war crimes, yet

eop 13july2015The US was the only country in the world to oppose a resolution calling for Israel to be held accountable for war crimes, at the 29th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), held from 15 June to 3 July 2015. The US voted against “ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in” the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

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US protestant churches not yet won over to divestment

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After a major US church overwhelmingly voted to divest from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation last week, two others rejected or delayed similar motions. At its national gathering in Cleveland, Ohio, on 30 June theUnited Church of Christ (UCC) voted to divest by a landslide margin of 508 to 124. Although the resolution had already been approved by 10 regional conferences, signaling broad grassroots support, victory was not guaranteed.

Sources within the UCC reported that many delegates had received personal calls from rabbis in their home communities pressuring them to vote against divestment. The vote itself was held shortly after a keynote address by Rev. Mitri Raheb, the Palestinian pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem.
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The Israeli Supreme Court Gives the Green Light to Begin Building the Separation Wall in the Cremisan Valley

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The Israeli Supreme Court issued a decision on Monday, the 6th of July 2015, giving the Israeli Ministry of Defense the green light to begin building the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley in Beit Jala. This ruling limits the effect of the Court’s previous decision to stop building the separation wall in Cremisan, whereby the decision to stop building the wall will only be limited to the surroundings of the Salesian Sister’s Convents, represented by the Society of St. Yves.

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One year since Israel’s Gaza massacre and ten years since the launch of the BDS movement

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One year ago today, Israel launched a brutal military attack on the Palestinian population of the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip. More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including 551 children, and more than 10,000 people were seriously injured and hundreds of thousands were made homeless, forcibly displaced and trapped inside Gaza. Deliberate attacks on Palestinian civilians of this kind are part and parcel of an Israeli policy that aims to force Palestinians into submission and to thwart the Palestinian people’s exercise of its right to self-determination.

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Reuters: Vatican signs first treaty with ‘State of Palestine’, Israel angered

Posted by uscsjp on July 1, 2015

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican signed its first treaty with the “State of Palestine” on Friday, calling for “courageous decisions” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and backing a two-state solution.

The treaty, which made official the Vatican’s de facto recognition of Palestine since 2012, angered Israel, which called it “a hasty step (that) damages the prospects for advancing a peace agreement”.

Israel also said it could have implications on its future diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

The accord, which concerns the Catholic Church’s activities in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, also confirmed the Vatican’s increasingly proactive role in foreign policy under Pope Francis. Last year, it brokered the historic resumption of ties between the United States and Cuba.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister, said at the signing that he hoped it could be a “stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties”.

He called for peace negotiations held directly between Israelis and Palestinians to resume and lead to a two-state solution. “This certainly requires courageous decisions, but it will also offer a major contribution to peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki said he hoped it would help “recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, freedom and dignity in an independent state of their own, free from the shackles of occupation”.

The Vatican is particularly keen to have a greater diplomatic role in the Middle East, from where many Christians have fled because of conflicts in Syria, Iraq and other countries.

There are about 100,000 Catholics of the Roman and Greek Melkite rites in Israel and the Palestinian territories, most of them Palestinians.

Gallagher said the agreement “may serve as a model for other Arab and Muslim majority countries” with regard to freedom of religion and conscience.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2012 recognizing Palestine as an observer non-member state. This was welcomed at the time by the Vatican, which has the same observer non-member status at the United Nations.

Since then the Vatican has de facto recognized a “State of Palestine” and the pope referred to it by that name when he visited the Holy Land last year.

Some 135 members of the United Nations recognize Palestine, nearly 70 percent of the total. By comparison, 160 of the UN’s 193 members recognize Israel.

Last October, Sweden became the first major European country to acknowledge Palestine, a decision that drew condemnation from Israel and has since led to tense relations between the two.

The European Union as a whole does not recognize Palestine, taking the same view as the United States that an independent country can emerge only via negotiations with Israel, not through a process of unilateral recognition.

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

–June 26, 2015

http://news.yahoo.com/vatican-signs-first-treaty-state-palestine-backs-two-103925237.html

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BDS ACTION ALERT: Freedom Flotilla 3 attacked by Israel

Posted by uscsjp on July 1, 2015

ANOTHER ISRAELI WAR CRIME IN PROGRESS

WE CANNOT LET ISRAEL GET AWAY WITH THIS AGAIN! We MUST CALL and write all we can. Please do this. This is International waters and Greece had their government employees THOROUGHLY check the boats — even underwater. NO MORE EXCUSES AND LIES FROM THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT! Anna Rogers

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Sun, Jun 28, 2015 at 8:36 PM
ACTION ALERT: Freedom Flotilla 3 attacked by Israel

The Marianne, flagship of the Freedom Flotilla 3, was about 105 nautical miles from Gaza, sailing there to break the siege, when it was attacked by the Israeli Occupation Forces a few hours ago. The boat, with all its passengers, has been taken.

Please make phone calls to pressure our government to demand that Israel release the boat and crew at once.

We are calling on your support for the passengers on board the Marianne who have just been kidnapped by Israel.

US State Department, Public Communications Department +1 202-647-6575

White House: Comments: +1 202-456-1111, Switchboard: +1 202-456-1414

The Congressional switchboard is 202-224-3121 – ask for your Representative

If in California, call:
Barbara Boxer 202 224-3553
Dianne Feinstein 202 224 3841
SF Israeli Consulate 415 844 7500 fax; 415 844 7555

In Marin, please contact Jared Huffman.
His numbers are:

San Rafael office: 415 258 9657
Washington DC: 202 225 5161.

Thank you for your immediate action. Col Ann Wright from USA is on board the Marianne.

Jane Jewell

Support Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) & Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) Campaigns!
Support Freedom Flotilla 3

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DN: “Israeli Report Finds 2014 Gaza War ‘Lawful’ and ‘Legitimate’ Ahead of Critical U.N. Investigation

Posted by uscsjp on June 15, 2015

The Israeli government has released a report that concludes its military actions in the 2014 war in Gaza were “lawful” and “legitimate.” The findings come ahead of what is expected to be a critical United Nations investigation into the 50-day conflict that Israel has dismissed as biased and refused to cooperate with. More than 2,200 Palestinians died in what was called “Operation Protective Edge,” the vast majority civilians. On Israel’s side, 73 people were killed, all but six of them soldiers. In its report, Israel says it made “substantial efforts” to avoid civilian deaths, insisting Hamas was to blame for the high number of civilian casualties and accusing Hamas militants of disguising themselves as civilians and of converting civilian buildings into military centers. We are joined by Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and the former executive director of The Jerusalem Fund. We also go to Tel Aviv to speak with Gideon Levy, Haaretz columnist, whose latest piece is “Israel washed itself clean of Gaza’s dead beach children”…

 

–Democracy Now!, June 15th, 2015

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2015/6/15/israeli_report_finds_2014_gaza_war

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“Supreme Court: U.S. Passports Must Say ‘Jerusalem,’ Not ‘Israel'” and other headlines from Democracy Now!

Posted by uscsjp on June 9, 2015

Supreme Court: U.S. Passports Must Say “Jerusalem,” Not “Israel”

 In the United States, the Supreme Court has struck down a law which would have let Americans born in Jerusalem list their birthplace as “Israel” on their passports. In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled the law infringed on the president’s right to make decisions about recognizing foreign nations. While Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, Palestinians claim it as the capital of any future Palestinian state.

Despite Hundreds of Deaths, U.N. Excludes Israel from List of Countries That Kill Children

 U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has left Israel off a list of countries which kill or injure children during conflicts. The decision defies the recommendation of a U.N. special envoy and follows intense pressure from Israel and the United States. It comes despite the U.N.’s conclusion last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza killed about 540 Palestinian children, making it the third deadliest conflict for children included in the report, after Afghanistan and Iraq, and ahead of Syria.

Report: Israel Tested Nuclear-Laced “Dirty Bombs” in Desert

Meanwhile a report by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reveals Israel recently detonated a series of so-called “dirty bombs” laced with nuclear material, purportedly to test the potential impact of a radioactive attack. The so-called Green Field project involved 20 detonations, most of them in the desert, over four years, ending in 2014.
–Democracy Now!, June 9, 2015

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Israel’s obsession with hummus is about more than stealing Palestine’s food

Posted by uscsjp on May 23, 2015

When Israel expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their villages and homes in 1948, many left with little more than the clothes on their back. Food was left on the stove. Crops were left unharvested. But the land emptied of its inhabitants was soon occupied by new residents.

From 1948 to 1953, almost all new Jewish settlements were established on refugees’ property. The myth of making the desert bloom is belied by the facts: in mid-1949, two-thirds of all land sowed with grain in Israel was Palestinian land. In 1951, “abandoned” land accounted for nearly 95 per cent of all Israel’s olive groves and almost 10,000 acres of vineyards.

During these early years, many Palestinian refugees attempted to return to their lands. By 1956, as many as 5,000 so-called “infiltrators” had been killed by Israeli armed forces, the vast majority of them looking to return home, recover possessions, or search for loved ones. Palestinian women and children who crossed the frontier to gather crops were murdered.

The Nakba in 1948 was the settler colonial conquest of land and the displacement of its owners, a dual act of erasure and appropriation. Citing “reasons of state”, Israel’s first premier David Ben-Gurion appointed a Negev Names Committee to remove Arabic names from the map. By 1951, the Jewish National Fund’s “Naming Committee” had “assigned 200 new names”.

But it did not stop with dynamite and new maps. The Zionist colonisation of Palestine has also included culture, notably cuisine. This is the context for the so-called “hummus wars”: it is not about petty claims and counterclaims, rather, the story is one of colonial, cultural appropriation and resistance to those attempts.

In the decades since the establishment of the State of Israel on the ruins and ethnically cleansed lands of Palestine, various elements of the indigenous cuisine have been targeted for appropriation: falafel, knafeh, sahlab and, of course, hummus.

Though these dishes are common to a number of communities across the Mediterranean and Middle East, Israel claims them as its own: falafel is the “national snack”, while hummus, according to Israeli food writer Janna Gur, is “a religion”.

In a 2002 article on recipes, the Israeli embassy in Washington acknowledged that “Israel lacks a long-standing culinary heritage”, adding that “only a few years ago, Israelis even doubted the existence of their own authentic cuisine”.

Such an admission is hard to find these days, as appropriation has become propaganda.

In 2011, Jerusalem-based chef Michael Katz visited Australia and told a local newspaper how the Israeli government had “decided, through culture, to start improving Israel’s image”.

“They started sending artists, singers, painters, filmmakers and then the idea came of sending chefs.”

In 2010, the Israeli government decided to distribute pamphlets at Tel Aviv airport, to equip Israelis who go abroad with, in the words of then-public diplomacy minister Yuli Edelstein, the “tools and tips to help them deal with the attacks on Israel in their conversations with people”. Included in the literature was the claim that “Israel developed the famous cherry tomato.”

Now, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency put it earlier this year, “Israel has been on the culinary ascent of late, with dozens of food blogs, new high-end restaurants, cooking shows and celebrity chefs, and a fascination with everything foodie”.

It is not just food that is enlisted in Israel’s global PR initiatives. A few year ago, pro-Israel students at Brandeis University, in Massachusetts, held a “hookah night” with the help of campus-based “hasbara fellows”, professional Israel advocates who noted without any irony that “hookah is not specifically an Israeli cultural facet”.

In addition to smoking and snacks, the “cultural” evening also included belly dancers. Explaining the rationale for the event, a member of the Brandeis Zionist Alliance said they had found that “students are more receptive to Israel-related education when we use a cultural lens”.

Now we have “International Hummus Day”, launched by an Israeli, Ben Lang, who is explicit about the propaganda value of his project: “The idea was to connect people around hummus and get more people talking about it and hopefully get people to see the good things that are happening in Israel.”

“I just wanted to make sure that people saw that the initiative started in Israel.”

As everything from food to the keffiyeh is used to “rebrand” the state that colonised Palestine in the first place, Palestinians and their supporters have fought back.

When an Israeli choreographer included the dabke traditional dance in his company’s repertoire in 2013, a New York-based dabke troupe responded with a thoughtful critique that noted how, by “appropriating dabke, and labelling it Israeli”, the “power imbalance” is only furthered.

They added: “This makes us feel taken advantage of. Exploited. Commodified.”

In December 2014, after a campaign by Palestinian students and their allies, the student assembly at Wesleyan University in Connecticut agreed to remove Sabra hummus from campus dining facilities. The product symbolises Israeli appropriation and ongoing brutality; its parent company, the Strauss Group, donates to the Israeli military.

Accusations of cultural appropriation can produce some misleading responses. It’s not about who is “allowed” to eat what, or even about an objection to the natural cross-pollination that occurs in culture through language, cuisine and more.

That is not the point. It is about the claim of ownership in a context of historic and ongoing violent erasure and displacement.

It is about efforts to create an artificial history that justifies the establishment and continued existence of a settler colonial state.

Even a mainstream Israeli food writer like Gil Hovav has pointed to this reality. “Food is about memory and identity,” he told the Israeli media last year. “Claiming ownership over a food is a way to assert a nation’s narrative. Israeli Jews have made hummus their own.”

Cuisine is where efforts to both deny the existence of Palestine and appropriate its land and heritage meet. It is both an act of theft itself, and a way of justifying that theft.

Ben White is a journalist and the author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide

On Twitter: @benabyad

 

–Ben White, The National, May 23, 2015

 

http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/israels-obsession-with-hummus-is-about-more-than-stealing-palestines-food#full

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