Archive for the ‘Racism’ Category

❝This destructive belief that skin color makes one group of people superior to another has dominated American culture, our institutions and our narratives consciously or unconsciously for centuries.❞

Gail C. Christopher

☞ There is no question that the Palestinian problem is one of the great humanitarian crises of today. Like some of the historical problems of this nature, it has to do with the attempt to manufacture, promote and impose a dominant narrative through unjustifiable and savage means. In this case, as the Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa notes — in her review of a film which shows how the Zionists tried to demolish the Palestinian identity and intellectual heritage through the robbing of their books — the interpretation of the Palestinian narrative might depend on “who tells it, in what context is it told, how is it told, and, ultimately, who owns it.” To Abulhawa, unless the narrative is told from a historically-informed Palestinian perspective, there are bound to be gaps that do not allow the more complete picture of Palestinian nationhood from being conveyed.

(Image: Via Al Jazeera)

(Image: Via Al Jazeera)

“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.”

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✽ “[There is an] alarming shift in some major Canadian institutions towards even greater complicity in Israeli colonialism, atrocity and mass oppression. Where this is the case, it is often done through a silencing of any criticism of Israel, coupled with the sophisticated weaving of a false and racist narrative that demonizes Arabs and any other victim of Israeli brutality.

During the week of Israeli raids on Gaza earlier last month, CBC radio’s flagship Toronto morning radio show, Metro Morning, participated in that silencing with remarkable consistency. All the segments referenced in the analysis below are available online.”

✽ “…Metro Morning chose to end the interview with a statement from Lia [Trachansky, who grew up in an Israeli settlement] that she is in love with Israel in a “profounder way” now that she sees “its ugly parts.” The show chose to cap off a week of weaving a false narrative by picking out the one statement from her interview that engendered feelings of love for Israel, and in doing so diverting attention away from the desperate need for an inquiry into the mass killings that Israel had just perpetrated.

To be sure, the abhorrence of engendering feelings of love on a morning radio show to cleanse the image of a colonial state, one that only hours before concluded a deliberate massacre of civilians, goes without saying.

Furthermore, the declaration of a “profounder” love for Israel by Lia on a major radio show after a week of intentional mass killing of civilians and the horrifying response from segments of Israeli society and major Israeli institutions during the raids, is not only disgraceful, but is yet a further degradation of Palestinian dignity and life. It is a slap in the face of those Palestinian mothers in deep and yet-fresh mourning over their slain children.”

✽ “In the end, CBC’s Metro Morning actively participated in silencing a truth-based analysis of what was happening in Gaza, removing it from any regional or historical context, and bringing Canadian society into closer complicity and acceptance of oppression, atrocity and apartheid in Palestine and Israel. The result was a narrative that left listeners more confused, or worse, led them to dangerously racist conclusions. For those that already harboured racist viewpoints, it did much to fuel their bigotry.”

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