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We provide links to articles we think will be of interest to our supporters, informing them of issues, events, debates and the wider context of the conflict. We are sympathetic to much of the content of what we post, but not to everything. The fact that something has been linked to here does not necessarily mean that we endorse the views expressed in it.
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The BEDOUIN

We have posted more than 30 articles on The Bedouin of the Naqab/Negev over the last three years

See the JfJfP briefing note on Bedouin Palestinians of the Naqab and download our 2013 leaflet on the Prawer plan
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Did you know?



Settlements Generate Virtually No Economic Activity
"A recent Israeli government report estimated there are…$250 million in annual exports — [only] 0.55 percent of the national total — from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, territories the international community generally considers illegally occupied."
Jodi Rodoren cited by Richard Silverstein, 22 Jan 2014

Daily acts of violence committed by Jewish Israeli citizens against West Bank Palestinians
"These incidents — now particularly heightened during the olive harvest season — are not the aberration from the norm, but a regular feature of life in the occupied West Bank. In 2012, over 7,500 Palestinian olive trees were destroyed. In the 5-year period between 2007 and 2011, there was a 315 percent increase in settler violence."
Mairav Zonszein, Israel Must Stop Settler Violence, 8 November 2013
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Police impunity
After their own investigations establishing a prima facie violation, Btselem has lodged over 280 complaints of alleged police violence in the oPt since the start of the second Intifada: "we are aware of only 12 indictments" Btselem April 2013
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Runners in the first ever Bethlehem Marathon were forced to run two laps of the same course on Sunday 21 April 2013, as Palestinians were unable to find a single stretch of free land that is 26 miles long in Area A, where the PA has both security and civil authority. See Marathon report
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30th March, land day.
On 30 March 1976, thousands of Palestinians living as a minority in Israel mounted a general strike and organised protests against Israeli government plans to expropriate almost 15,000 acres of Palestinian land in the Galilee.The Israeli government, led by prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and defence minister Shimon Peres, sent in the army to break up the general strike. The Israeli army killed six unarmed Palestinians, wounded hundreds and arrested hundreds more, including political activists. All were citizens of Israel.
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* Out of 103 investigations opened in 2012 into alleged offences committed by Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories, not a single indictment served to date
Yesh Din, 3 Feb 2013
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* In total, out of an area of 1.6 million dunams in the Jordan Valley, Israel has seized 1.25 million − some 77.5 percent − where Palestinians are forbidden to enter.
Haaretz editorial, 4 Feb 2013
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Posts

Taking the words out of our mouths: telling the Palestinian story

For previous account of the film, 29.1.13, see Palestinian intellectual treasure stolen in Nakba

Still from Benny Brunner’s film, The Great Book Robbery, shown on Al Jazeera

Robbery of Books and Ownership of Narrative

By Susan Abulhawa, Palestine Chronicle
February 16, 2013

I finally watched The Great Book Robbery at the University of Pennsylvania this weekend with some friends. It’s a film documenting Israel’s systematic looting of over 70,000 books from Palestinian public and private libraries after Jewish gangs in Palestine proclaimed the state of Israel and ethnically cleansed the native population.

The film itself is excellent and I have a lot of good things to say about it. But I was bothered by a certain element, at the very end, which was repeated by the Director, Benny Brunner, who was at the showing to answer questions. So I raised my hand and asked a question about it. Mr Brunner became very defensive.

His reaction made me think and re-think on a topic that already preoccupies me on a near daily basis – namely, the Palestinian narrative: who tells it, in what context is it told, how is it told, and, ultimately, who owns it. The importance of such a discussion regarding a people’s narrative should not be underestimated, particularly in instances of oppression and ethnic cleansing.

Putting aside the single, albeit important, element that bothered me in the film, and the film director’s unfortunate reaction to uncomfortable questions, I will first tell you everything that was right and good about this documentary. For starters, it unveils another facet of the Zionist project to strip the indigenous Palestinians of everything tangible and intangible, not merely out of pure greed and opportunism, but also to necessarily fill in the various gaps and requirements of manufacturing a Jewish state in the 20th century. This documentary deals with our books – some ancient, others contemporary; some rare one-of-a-kind books, others reproduced. Most of them were personal, all were historic, and each was a piece of Palestinian cultural and intellectual heritage and identity.

As Zionists did with our homes, bank accounts, photographs, farms, orchards, and all remaining worldly possessions, they also stole our books. A large number of them were looted from wealthy families from Jerusalem and Haifa, and in the process of watching this documentary, the viewer gets a sense of the cultured and highly-educated Palestinian society that was dispossessed of home and history by foreign Jewish newcomers. One man in the audience made reference to this in a comment to the director. This film clearly changed the image of Palestinians in his mind from something other than cultured, to people he could relate to. That says something about the film’s power.

Several Palestinian personalities were featured, including Nasser Nashashibi, whose tears fell as he spoke of the loss of his library. Ghada Karmi, too, was in the film. Footage showed her returning to her home in Qatamon and finding the same lemon tree and porch tiles from her youth. Another poignant interview was with a Palestinian by the name of Ahmed Batrawi. He described himself as a prisoner of war who was forced to work and to clear out other Palestinian homes, including his own, and turn over all loot to Zionist authorities. Although the director did not mention this, all evidence points to Batrawi having been in one of the many forced labor camps that Israel apparently established just 4 years after Nazis closed the last of their forced labor camps. Little is known of these camps and I first heard of them from Dr Salman Abu Sitta, whose research into the archives of the Swiss Red Cross revealed 5 camps with 6,360 prisoners who were forced into slave labor after 1948. But I digress.

The story was haunting and compelling. It provoked anger in me that plunged into a depth of sadness and loss. I think it would seem silly to some to mourn old books, especially when there is so much more to mourn, from stolen futures to extinguished lives. But perhaps it is precisely for the magnitude of our loss that our books, our intellectual heritage and narrative, matter so much.

Now I’ll tell you what bothered me about this film. Toward the end, text appeared on the screen to tell us that no attempts have ever been made to return any of these stolen books (marked abandoned property in the Israeli national library). Immediately after, there was text indicating that there has also been no organized Palestinian demand for these books to be returned. My well-honed antennae perked up with this statement and I sat through much of the Q&A session ruminating about the unspoken meaning of those words, particularly as they were coming from an Israeli filmmaker. In one of his responses to questions, he made another reference to Palestinian inability to coalesce around a demand for those books, “whose ownership is easily proven.”

It was here that I raised my hand. I asked the first of my questions, which didn’t pertain to what really annoyed me: “Palestinians can prove ownership of nearly all of Israel, what makes you think that demanding our books back would get a result different than demanding our homes back?” He said it didn’t matter whether we got them back or not, what mattered was the demand.

It seems that Israelis, especially those referred to as “leftists” can’t help but to lecture Palestinians. The kind of paternalistic finger wagging the director was doing seemed so natural. Even when I questioned him about it, he was indignant and self-assured in his right to criticize.

I reminded him that they – yes, he is part of the “they” – have taken everything from us and with what gall, with what right, did he think he could wag his finger at us when heroes like Samer Issawi are dying of hunger in their prisons.

He didn’t get it. And few in the audience understood my perspective. What an angry, ungrateful Palestinian I was being! This Israeli was on our side and here I was jumping all over the poor guy. Even the Palestinian young woman who organized the event stood up to defend Mr Brunner. I asked her to sit down if she was going to try to squash this discussion because he, the director, should be able to answer uncomfortable questions.

Mr Brunner defended his position and said he did indeed have a right to criticize Palestinians. He said the books were part of his history, too. I disagreed. The legacy of theft was all, and is all, he can claim of those books. Anything else is as ridiculous and laughable as “Israeli couscous” and “Israeli hummus”.

Mr Brunner further lectured that an ideal “solution” to the problem of these stolen books would be that photocopied replicas remain in the Israeli library while the originals could go to the “Birzeit library”. An astute Palestinian woman behind me asked why he thought they should be transferred to Birzeit when these books came from Jerusalem, Haifa, Yaffa, Lod, and other Palestinian towns quite a distance from Birzeit. His response? “It doesn’t have to be only Birzeit. The books can be split between there and Nablus, for example.” He clearly didn’t understand what the woman was asking or the deeply Zionist underpinnings of his response.

In his irrelevant response that followed, Brunner recounted how he was not permitted to participate in the showing of his film in Ramallah because his participation would have constituted normalization. He was indignant that Palestinians would not want to engage in a cultural event with an Israeli in Ramallah. Again, he didn’t get it.

It is not for Mr Brunner to lecture or criticize us. It is not up to him plot an ideal future for our books, one that is suitable to Zionist desires relocate Palestinian identity to the confines of “Birzeit” or “Nablus”, “for example.” Nor is it for him to decide or even express an opinion on how Palestinians should conduct a non-violent anti-normalization struggle.

This is an important lesson for us. Just because and Israeli makes a film and admits that Israel murdered, dispossessed, robbed, disinherited, marginalized, and terrorized Palestinians, it doesn’t mean they really understand. It doesn’t mean that they have a right to our story. Most of all, it doesn’t give them a right to express their endless subtext of ineffectual Palestinian efforts. We know our weaknesses and we know our (official) leaders have fallen short of leadership. Given the magnitude of his societies crimes against the indigenous population and the fact that Israeli society keeps electing one war criminal after another to lead them, perhaps Brunner should focus his criticism at his own and just stick to that.

I recounted this story recently to a friend who is African American. He laughed, cut me off, and said, “Susie, you don’t need to explain it to me. I’m a black man. You know how many do-gooder white people have tried to lecture me on everything wrong in the Black community and what we need to do to fix it?”

The fact is that Mr Brunner’s film is wonderful and he’s being compensated for it, with whatever funds, fame or recognition the film brings. And while there is nothing wrong with an Israeli contributing to our narrative, it is not okay for him or her to try to frame that narrative or the discussion of our narrative. When an Israeli filmmaker cannot understand why an occupied, imprisoned, oppressed society might not want to normalize relationships with members of the occupier’s society, that filmmaker does not have the right to condescend and criticize. That is something that must be earned by Israelis, and there are certainly some who have. They are those who have truly joined Palestinian society in one way or another. People like Neta Golan and Amira Haas come to mind.

The fact is also this: For societies that have been stripped of everything tangible and intangible, so little remains. Some of us still have a little property left. Some still have the privilege to wake up and see the land our forefathers and foremothers roamed (and the price of that privilege is living under the hell of occupation). But the one thing we all still have is our narrative. Our collective story. Our societal truth that’s made up of millions of individual histories. We should all guard, protect, and propagate that. It’s ours. We are the natural descendants of every tribe that ruled or submitted in that land, every conqueror who passed through and raped our mothers, every battle, every harvest, every wedding. We didn’t step off European boats and proceed to kill, terrorize, or steal everything in sight. I’d like every liberal Zionist or Israeli leftist to remember that before he or she presumes to adopt a paternal tone that criticizes or tries to shape the Palestinian narrative or Palestinian struggle.

Susan Abulhawa is the daughter of Palestinian refugees from the ’67 war and occupation. She grew up in Kuwait, Jordan, East Jerusalem, and the United States. She is the author of the best-selling novel, Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury, 2010) and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine.

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