The week in brief, 14-20 February 2011 – a summary of recent postings
This week Middle East Report Online has produced two articles on Egypt: Red-White-and-Black Valentine; and Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Egyptian Media. The former is unalloyed celebration. “There are moments in world affairs that call for the suspension of disbelief,” write Mero’s editors. “At these junctures, caution ought to be suppressed and cynicism forgotten to let joy and wonderment resound.” The second argues that “Access to and use of communication and information networks — cellular phone services; the Internet and new social media; TV and newspapers — was pivotal as events unfolded.” In the article Ursula Lindsey explores the possibilities and the contradictions involved in the new battle of the media; the army’s initial attempts to control, by shutting down the phone service, text messaging, the internet — and why that failed to abort the revolution…
It is a theme taken up by Richard Silverstein’s interesting assessment of Digital Activism in the Age of Revolution.
A surprising source perhaps, but some wonderful writing about Egypt came from Thomas Friedman in Cairo: “[And] when young Egyptians looked around the region and asked: Who is with us in this quest [for freedom, dignity and justice] and who is not?, the two big countries they knew were against them were Israel and Saudi Arabia. Sad. The children of Egypt were having their liberation moment and the children of Israel decided to side with Pharaoh – right to the very end…”
After the glorious revolution in Egypt we might have expected some shift in US policy towards Israel. But when push came to shove, and having failed to get Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw PA support for a UN resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policy, Obama’s cavalry rode to Israel’s rescue. The world 14, the US 1 – which meant that the Security Council resolution was defeated. Commentators are justifiably horrified and outraged, and the US painfully isolated. Jeremiah Haber has done us all a service by digging up the 1968 Security Council resolution on the same topic in which the US ambassador at the UN did not mince his words in condemning the earliest Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem.
In a blog for JNews, Mitchell Plitnick, former Director of the US Office of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories and previously Director of Education and Policy for Jewish Voice for Peace, looks at reactions to events in Egypt within the Jewish community in the US. He contrasts “The myopia of these organizations [like the ZOA, ADL, AIPAC etc] in seeing the Egyptian uprising only through the lens of Israeli interests [which] stands in stark contrast to newer Jewish groups which shared most people’s unbridled enthusiasm for Egypt’s march toward freedom.
The occupation, of course, continues. So too does its misrepresentation in the Israeli media. A week ago Israel’s most-watched news program on Channel 2, aired a 10-minute “Special Report” on the weekly demonstrations in the Palestinian village of Bil’in. Haggai Matar of Anarchists Against the Wall was there, shadowed by the progamme makers. Despite his best efforts, Palestinian protestors were simply written out of the story. All the media wanted was to pit Israeli demonstrators against Israeli soldiers… But this invisibility of Palestinians in media representations merely echoes reality on the ground. Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, an Israeli NGO that monitors the investigation of offences against Palestinians in the occupied territories, finds that very few ever reach the stage of an indictment. Failure to proceed is particularly high in the case of investigations into offenses of violence against Palestinians and damage to their property.
In The wall and the theft of Palestinian lands JfJfP signatory, Lynda Renham-Cook’s report does something to redress the balance, as she speaks to the Amireh family who have fought against the construction of the Ni’lin wall – and been imprisoned and shot because of it.
Meanwhile, the Huwara checkpoint, one of the most notorious on the West Bank, has been removed. Is it a victory for MachsomWatch? Does it represent a change of policy? Not at all, says Susan Lourenco, a regular witness at the checkpoints, in an interview in Ha’aretz.
Novelist Ian McEwan is in Israel to receive the Jerusalem prize for literature despite a strong campaign calling on him to refuse to go. In an article in the Guardian, he defends his decision while taking part in the weekly protest in Sheikh Jarrar and saying he intends to “make my own thoughts clear” when accepting the prize from Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat…
A battle among genocide scholars as to how to characterise the dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948 has been raging for some time now and has finally been aired in the pages of the American paper, the Jewish Forward as we report in Was 1948 a genocide?
Finally, the conflict on film and in the theatre.
Reading Hebron is a new play about the Hebron massacre in 1994, when Dr Baruch Goldstein, a Brooklyn-born Jewish settler, walked into the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and shot 29 Palestinians at prayer. It has just opened at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond; until 12 March. Michael Billington’s review in the Guardian gives it four stars…
A Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International film launch of This Is My Land… Hebron will take place in London on 30th and 31st March. “Featuring interviews with both Israelis and Palestinians living in Hebron, as well as activists on both sides, members of the Israeli parliament and prominent Ha’aretz journalists, this film lifts the lid on Hebron as it is today – a city fraught with violence and hate…”
Finally, The Promise: Anthony Lerman looks at the TV series The Promise, of which two of the four episodes have now been screened: “That such a major and challenging series—in which the Israeli characters are drawn sympathetically and realistically, with not a hint of demonization—appears on one of the country’s mass audience television channels and is positively received throws an interesting light on what I believe are grossly exaggerated claims that London is the hub of international efforts to delegitimize Israel and that British Jews are subject to a constant barrage of media-driven anti-Zionist propaganda that borders on, or overlaps with, antisemitism…”