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critical, progressive ideas from pondering jews

Tag: Palestine

World War Z & Unified Palestine

by roadsideservice



Firstly: the flick is not a work that is based, in any real or meaningful sense on Max Brooks’ work World War Z: An oral history of the zombie war (2006). It has the title (well, partly), but this is about it. One of the few things they took from the novel was a plot line that teetered on the edge of Brooks’ narrative on Israel/Palestine and stretched it through a large chunk of the film.

Brad Pitt’s character Gerry arrives in Jerusalem to complete a mission given to a virologist (KIA) to find patient zero in what seems like hours of the undead outbreak. It doesn’t really make sense, but there you go.

In Jerusalem, in the radical othering, zombies seamlessly replaced Palestinians as the threat par excellence. This transition is entirely unremarkable. Behind the Wall – now used to protect from the swarm of undead – is a fantasy of human purity, protected, safe, and a sanctuary from a world whose intent is to wipe the inhabitants from the face of the earth. The desert is in bloom and life needs protection. Beyond the borders, beyond civilization, are uncontrollable hordes, baying for blood. They are mindless. They hate life. Israel has a right to protect their borders, after all.

In both narratives Israel has managed to implement procedures early to stem the threat of the “African Rabies” (was this in the film? warning: it is in the book). In the novel, describing a situation where Israel had been driven out of the occupied Palestinian territories by the resistance and thus wielding considerably less power, the Israeli ambassador announced to the UN General Assembly that they were enacting a policy of “voluntary quarantine”. The Palestinian interviewee Saladin Kader tells the (unnamed) narrator twelve years after the outbreak:

I didn’t even hear the second part of the fat bastard’s speech, the part about offering asylum, no questions asked, to any foreign-born Jew, an foreigner of Israeli-born parents, any Palestinian living in the formerly occupied territories, and any Palestinian whose family had once lived within the borders of Israel. The last part applied to my family, refugees from the ’67 War of Zionist aggression…I had never been to Israel, or what was about to be absorbed into the new state of Unified Palestine…(2010, 39)

The film entirely skirts these narratives of the novel. Instead, Israel-proper is innovative, benign and site of salvation for the world’s refugees. Within the scenes of a benevolent, peaceful, harmonious Israel, power has not shifted, and Palestinians – we assume from the racialised discourses – are just happy to have their lives saved in a world gone to shit.

Given this is meant to be an adaptation, the filmmakers are directly antagonistic to this post-apocalypse speculation. The novel goes to Tel Aviv and Bethlehem, but not to Jerusalem – in fact in the novel Unified Palestine had withdrawn altogether from Jerusalem because it did not make sense strategically in the planned defense from zombie attack.

It does, however, (and I speculate) make strategic sense for Israel that an international film to be set in a contested space such as Jerusalem with benign nationalists at the helm. Herein the Israeli state and nationalism is not problematized in the way the book suggested were possible in a situation of extreme emergency. It would be interesting to know what incentives  the filmmakers were given to depart so significantly from this narrative.

What made Brooks’ work so distinct was a number of factors: it was speculative fiction; it was set 12 years after the Zombie War; it was a reflection on experience, rather than action-thriller. I suspect what would have worked well as a format for this story (perhaps ironically) is the Israeli film Waltz With Bashir, albeit without what Ghassan Hage calls the “postexterminatory existentially anxious warrior”. Set 25 years after the “Lebanon War”, it flits around in time and space, has a central character that is collecting stories, and does not require action scenes to propel it forward.

The filmmakers had a chance to be innovative with a radically new zombie apocalypse film format and story telling style, but instead made clichés collected from every zombie apocalypse flick since Night of the Living Dead, without the fun of Shaun of the Dead.


(But also:

I was really disappointed by World War Z. Many reviewers have cited (lazily) Romero’s work, but I think where this departs from Romero so spectacularly to the endless miraculous escapes by our protagonist Gerry. Zombie films need to suspend your disbelief and as someone who is pretty into the genre, it really doesn’t require much to get me there. We never, for instance, get any sense why Gerry is so important. Or why the mission is on is so urgent, why he was chosen, or why he is so materially supported in doing this is not entirely clearOr why, after the immediate outbreak a massive fuck off plane can be afforded so a virologist can go and find patient zero (or why this would be a pressing issue). Or why Gerry continued the work of the virologist (who thankfully toppled himself)– what the fuck does Gerry know? Come to that, what does he know that he is considered so important by the UN that he is shunted around the world? Or why is it that Gerry’s plane was allowed to land?  Or why he could move around with little more than a limp after being impaled after a plane crash (I wont go into that).

Also: Do not watch it in 3D, whatever you do.)


these brave women

by tobybee

Aamer Rahman: The Truth Hurts

by roadsideservice


Aarmer Rahman’s show is profoundly moving – his performance is erudite (as usual), and his punch lines diligent in their construction and delivery. You can see in this show – in its lengths and breadth – the manner in which Rahman has become a student of comedy. The ways in which his craft has taken place around different kinds of comedic forms and that his craft has taken form around serious considerations around constructing his comedy. Rahman doesn’t preach to the converted, but is comedian for the left. It is a humour for decolonisation, and a narrative of solidarity and pride. But, what I felt leaving Aamer’s show was this greater sense of being moved in the sense of being thrown off centre.

There is the deepest of tragedies underpinning Aamer’s show – in speaking back to the terror of white colonial society. As someone who has been privileged so much by the relationships of this society, I kept coming back to James Baldwin’s words at Oxford University in 1965. Baldwin, discussing police violence against civil rights demonstrations in Selma Alabama, Baldwin said “What happens to the man who does it is in some ways much, much worse. Their moral lives have been destroyed by the plague called color” (1965). Aamer’s work is such an indictment of colonial society and the infinite ways it manifests and reinvents itself.

At times I felt like the show needed a helmsmen to guide the audience through the murky waters of punchlines in uneasy seas. Aamer’s work hinges on the need to laugh at the oppressor, but I felt like a gentle hand was needed to guide people through the tricky times when it is impossible to laugh. I don’t think this is the same as apologising for content, or turning the volume down on anger, or ensuring the privileged feel comfortable. I went to another show whose major theme was racism and much of the humour fell flat in its lack of confidence.

What I think I am referring to is the feeling of awkwardness during the show when I realised I was continuing to smile and laugh when the narrative had moved on – where dark humour had shifted to tragedy. I wondered if whether Aamer could have guided the audience a bit more in mediating this.

But this too is a part of the routine, a challenge in an already boundary pushing performance.

He deals with issues of colonialism, Israel/Palestine, nationalism, cultural appropriation, hip-hop, refugees, protest, the police and history and much more.

I went to uni with Aamer. I am always a little bit excited to tell people this: those of us who studied and grew politically alongside of him are not shy of, well, dropping his name here and there. For myself, this is out of a genuine pride in being associated with such an amazing talent. Make sure you see this show.

 Aamer Rahman’s The Truth Hurts is on at the Melbourne Town Hall as part of the  Melbourne International Comedy Festival from March 27 to April 21 at the Melbourne Town Hall. There might be an extra show happening. Or something. Try calling at 7:30 if the show has sold out. For more information click here. For Aamer’s facebook page click here.

Palestinian Freedom Riders

by anzya

On Tuesday afternoon in the West Bank, a group of six Palestinian Freedom Riders inspired by the US Civil Rights movement attempted to ride segregated settler buses headed to Jerusalem and were violently arrested for their actions.

From their earlier press release:

In the 1960s U.S. South, black people had to sit in the back of the bus; in occupied Palestine, Palestinians are not even allowed ON the bus nor on the roads that the buses travel on, which are built on stolen Palestinian land.

In undertaking this action Palestinians do not seek the desegregation of settler buses, as the presence of these colonizers and the infrastructure that serves them is illegal and must be dismantled. As part of their struggle for freedom, justice and dignity, Palestinians demand the ability to be able to travel freely on their own roads, on their own land, including the right to travel to Jerusalem.

Palestinian activists also aim to expose two of the companies that profit from Israel’s apartheid policies and encourage global boycott of and divestment from them. The Israeli Egged and French Veolia bus companies operate dozens of segregated lines that run through the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, many of them subsidized by the state. Both companies are also involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail, a train project that links illegal settlements in East Jerusalem to the western part of the city.

From their recent press release:

In a scene reminiscent of the early U.S. civil rights movement, border police and army surrounded and shut down Jerusalem Bus 148, blocking the Freedom Riders at the Hizmeh checkpoint. The action clearly highlights the injustice and dispossession that Palestinians face under Israeli occupation and apartheid. The six freedom riders who boarded the bus originally as well as an additional rider, were arrested and are currently at the Israeli Atarot police station.

Reading about this I started thinking about the Australian Freedom Ride in 1965, and how powerful this kind of action and image can be, even around 50 years after the original Freedom Rides in the US. Here is Charlie Perkins talking about the Australian Freedom Ride (via Koori History Web):

For more on this…

Mondoweiss describes why transportation is such an important issue in Palestine:

In my visit to Palestine this past June, the problem of transportation was discussed in virtually every conversation. The limits on transportation for Palestinians tell you virtually all that you need to know about the racist Occupation. One graphic example is that there are different license plates for Israeli settlers from those of the Palestinians. A car with Palestinian plates cannot travel into Israel. And, in fact, there are roads within Occupied Palestine, on which Palestinian vehicles are prohibited. Another graphic example, which relates directly to the matter of the Freedom Rides, was explained to me at a border crossing where Palestinian workers were going into Israel for their jobs. I was informed that once in Israel they had to ALREADY have their transportation arranged. Naively I assumed that they could simply hop on a bus and go to work. Not so fast, it turns out. The Israeli buses will not stop to pick up Palestinian workers.

The Palestinian Freedom Rides aim to dramatize that there is no freedom of movement for Palestinians. They are a population suffering from an on-going occupation that has become, as I have asserted previously, a slow-motion annexation. Discriminatory transportation policies which privilege the freedom of movement of Israelis, and Israeli settlers in particular, are part of the low-intensity violence experienced by the Palestinians on a daily basis aimed at further and further marginalizing them until they feel forced to abandon their own land.

Also read +972 mag for photos and coverage. And electronic intifada.

The politicisation of cold weather gear.

by tobybee

A friend of mine, Justin Randle, is currently working in Israel/Palestine, and overnight he sent me this email:

It is really hard to find thermals in Jerusalem. It is even harder if, like me, you can’t do internet searches in Hebrew. Also, when you have just introduced a Palestinian friend – bound for freezing Geneva – to the existence of thermals as a means to keep warm and offset fear of the cold, you naturally want to help her procure a set. After an exhaustive google search, I finally find a place in Israel that sells thermals.

PS. They don’t harm their rabbits.

possibilities of peace-building?

by tobybee

Melanie Landau is a lecturer at Monash University. But, actually, she’s a whole lot more than that. I first met Melanie a few years ago (I think it was 2005) in the living room of a friends’ house, where she and Michael Fagenblat were running a series of seminars for Jews on the north side of the river. There was something quite symbolic and specific about the fact that we were located, and were locating ourselves, over here (here being the Carlton area, where I’m sitting as I write this, on the opposite side of the river to where the organised Jewish community generally is). We spent one evening a week, for a couple of months, reading texts together, talking and challenging ourselves and each other.

And that recognition and making of difference, but also that crossing over, is a big part of the work that Melanie does. Every time I hear her speak I am reminded of what a good educator sounds like, and of the ability of (her) words to simultaneously move me and challenge me.

Melanie and others from Monash are currently on a trip to Israel/Palestine – a group of educators/lecturers have taken 30 students, and Melanie is blogging her time over there. So far it’s mostly recounting what they’ve done, without much analysis, but I think it will definitely be worth following. Here’s her opening:

Thanks for taking an interest in my upcoming Monash University trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. I have been working on the itinerary for several months and making contact with the other facilitators as well as the students. They’ll be about 30 of us on the trip, mainly undergraduate students. We’ll all get a deeper appreciation of the challenges facing the Jewish and Palestinian people building a future of peace. I have lived in Jerusalem for 4 years (both our children were born there) and I have been to Bethlehem and Hebron with Encounter- a wondeful organisation that takes Jews from the diaspora (and now also Israeli Jews) to Palestinian cities to meet people and learn about their lives and their stories (Deep gratitude to Rabbi Melissa Weintraub and Illana Sumka). My experiences on those trips have been central to my thinking about this one. One of my heroes, Rabbi Michael Melchior said that nowadays we can’t choose between Jews and Palestinians but that if we love and want peace we need to choose both. I don’t have a clear idea of what choosing both amounts to in practical terms but it is a direction in which to approach this trip and all people we meet. We’ll be processing our experiences in dyads, smaller groups and at times in the large group. This is a journey of the spirit. What happens when we enter conflict-ridden spaces with open-heartedness and compassion. It is a journey also of the inside. I’ve lost my voice. My friend and teacher Jasmine Lance gave me a reading that evoked a sense of me giving up some old battles, finding my power in new/old places and residing in the place of feeling, going inside and taking inspiration from natural beauty.

‘speaking out’, and ‘the intimate politics of love and betrayal’

by tobybee

for the last few days i’ve been turning to some old jewish favourites for comfort: to melanie kaye/kantrowitz, ella shohat, ammiel alcalay, the boyarins, and assorted others who sit on my bookshelf. while spending much time scouring the interwebs looking for more analysis, i’ve also found it necessary to return to the words of jews who have asserted the importance of jewish diasporism: the creativity and the always-already liminality of living in the diaspora.

and then today in the mail (thanks to a certain online provider of books and cds, who i sadly had to use because these things aren’t available in shops here), came a parcel containing the new cd from the shondes, my dear one, and a new book, “Keep Your Wives Away from Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires”, edited by Miryam Kabakov. in short, two amazing pieces of queer jewish creativity (well, i haven’t read the book yet (but it looks rad), but the cd is all sorts of awesome), which will nourish and sustain my soul in the coming days.

in the liner notes for ‘my dear one’, the shondes write:

A note to listeners. we didn’t set out to make a breakup album. but when every song you write seems to tell a different part of the same story, you begin to think it’s a story worth telling. so we spent this year thinking hard about the intimate politics of love and betrayal. the truth is, everything we believe about justice is directly reflected in the bonds of our closest relationships, in how we treat the people we love. we have to try to honor the strength and fragility of these bonds, the risk of trusting and being trusted, and the opportunity to be accountable to each other. let’s take our heartbreak and make it beautiful.

sigh. full points for importance.

and then, just now, i watched this:

* hat-tip to liz p

Minority Targets

by tobybee

Here’s a film worth watching, about Palestinians living within Israel’s ’48 borders, who are a group of Palestinians who don’t seem to be spoken about as much as the Palestinians living in Gaza or the West Bank. This film was made for Adalah, ‘The legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel’. They describe it as follows:

“The online film “Targeted Citizen” (15 minutes), produced by filmmaker Rachel Leah Jones for Adalah, surveys discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel. With the participation of experts Dr. Yousef Jabareen of the Technion and Dr. Khaled Abu Asbeh of the Van Leer Institute, as well as Adalah attorneys Sawsan Zaher, Abeer Baker and Hassan Jabareen, inequality in land and housing, employment, education and civil and political rights are eloquently addressed. These interviews are reinforced by the contrasting informality of on-the-street conversations conducted by Palestinian comic duo Shammas-Nahas and punctuated by the hard-hitting rhymes of Palestinian rap trio DAM. The film’s theme song “Targeted Citizen,” written and recorded by DAM especially for Adalah, tells it like it is without missing a beat.”

So have a watch…

uprooting trees

by tobybee

to build a wall, a wall that divides people, that scars land, one needs to clear space. what to do when there is a family living in the way, a family that has a garden and olive trees and space for children to play? change where the wall will go? rethink the very idea of the wall? no, not if you’re the israeli army. if you’re the israeli army, you merely cut down the trees, take the playspace, drag away protestors, and work to build the wall so it is a mere two metres from the house’s back door. this is what is happening to a family in Beit Jala. Here is the information, via New Profile’s elist:

In the early morning on March 2, 2010, Israeli bulldozers started uprooting ancient
olive trees in the garden of a Palestinian family in the town of Beit Jala,
North-West of Bethlehem, in order to make room for the construction of yet another
section of the Apartheid Wall. Wednesday morning, the family, which had already lost
a significant portion of its lands when Israel seized them to build the “by-pass
road” 60 that connects the equally illegal settlements, found the little playground
for the children in the garden destroyed and three olive trees directly in front of
the house chopped off. A red cross was painted two meters away from the front door
to signal where the Wall is designed to pass. The remaining olive trees had been
marked with yellow-tags, to be uprooted another day.

More markings on remaining trees and on the ground announce that soon, the family
might lose the rest of its remaining land including the sight of its destroyed
playground, and live immediately facing the massive grey concrete Wall.

Between March 2 and March 3, the bulldozers uprooted an overall of 70 olive trees on
the lands of the family and their neighbors, rapidly creating facts on the ground
before lawyers could challenge the most recent of a series of confusing orders
designed to “legalize” the ongoing land theft under Israeli law. According to
Israel’s most recent plan, this section of the Wall would seize another 280,9 dunums
of Palestinian land on the property of 35 families.

On March 3, the al-Ma’sara Popular Committee and the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem
mobilized a group of Palestinian, international and Israeli activists to attempt to
physically stop the bulldozers from continuing their work. Dozens of soldiers,
security personal and border police officers spend two hours pushing and dragging
the activists up the hill and away from the operating bulldozers, and finally
produced an order to arrest anyone remaining on the family’s land after 9a.m.

Today, on March 4, a group of activists was again mobilized to arrive in the early
morning hours to protect the remaining olive trees. One activist chained himself to
an ancient tree marked for removal, while others formed clusters around this and
other trees. As soldiers and police officers gathered on the scene, activists
chanted slogans against the Wall and the occupation and replanted two uprooted

After a few hours, the activists learned that a legal decision had been reached that
effectively prohibits any further uprooting until the next court order is ruled.
Expecting this impending order, activists continue to prepare for further
intervention in case that the bulldozers resume their work.

For more information, see (3.3.10) (4.3.10) (4.3.10)

Or see the report by Shai H:

Already when driving on route 60, we saw the intimidating bulldozers riding on the
side of the road on their way to another day of “putting facts on the ground” as
chiefs of the Israeli government call it. As we arrived in Beit Jalla, a
heart-breaking scene came into view – a huge pile of sawed trees and olive and lemon
branches spread all across the yard of the house next to the wall’s path. A yard it
cannot really be called anymore – the grass is turned over, two children’s swings
were uprooted and put aside, and the only thing left standing is a brick oven, with
mounds of dirt and mud all around it. 10 olive trees were cut down here already
yesterday. A red X on the front floor of the house marks the path of the wall to
pass here, which will seize the whole yard area and cut the only access driveway to
it. It’s hard to imagine how life would look like in this place in a week or two.
We were 45 protesters – 25 Palestinians, 15 international activists and 4 Israelis.
We descended to the works path trying to stop the bulldozers. A group of twenty
soldiers prevented us from doing so, and began pushing us up the hill without
showing a closed military area order as they are required. While the bulldozer’s
claws were uprooting trees one after the other, we explained to the officers that
their actions violate numerous international laws, as well as the fact that they may
not tell us to move without the order. We were pushed up the hill a few more meters
to where we sat on the ground demanding to see a printed order before we move any
further. At 08:53 they brought the papers and the officers declared the area will
become a “closed military zone” within 7 minutes. One of them held two stun grenades
with a nasty grin on his face. We reminded them again that constructing the wall on
West Bank lands is a crime according to international law, as well as the
settlers-only road which it “protects” and that they still may put down their guns
and join us. A bearded IDF captain told us that the only law he follows is the
biblical law. Rabbai Arik Ascherman referred him to to read the chapter in the book
of Deuteronomy which refers to uprooting of fruit trees.
At 09:00 precisely they started pushing and dragging us up the hill again. 2
Israelis and one international activist were detained for a few minutes and were
released shortly thereafter. Two Arab TV network reporters stationed on the upper
road to report the events. Two young women from Beit Jalla were prominent among the
protesters. As one of the officers told on of them them “Min fadlak, ruch min hon”
(Please go away from here), she replied wisely “Min fadlak, ruch leIsrail” (Please,
go back to Israel), with her finger pointing north-west.
When we left, the bulldozers were still working with all their might.

and here is the video of the protest, and the protestors being dragged away.

In the footage you can see the wall in the background, you can see that it is a fact, that it already exists, and there is a certain helplessness to the protest. You know, watching them, that these trees will be taken, that this family will lose so much, that the wall will continue to be built. as if it all was nothing. so many people have to collude to make this wall exist, and they continue to do so. because they all have their jobs, their small parts to play. and so it goes.

show no mercy?

by tobybee

In Haaretz the other day there was an article detailing some recent statements by the Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defence Force (the IDF, or the IOF – the Israeli Occupation Force – as some more appropriately call it).

The Israel Defense Forces’ chief rabbi told students in a pre-army yeshiva program
last week that soldiers who “show mercy” toward the enemy in wartime will be

Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki also told the yeshiva students that religious individuals
made better combat troops.

Speaking Thursday at the Hesder yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Karnei
Shomron , Rontzki referred to Maimonides’ discourse on the laws of war. That text
quotes a passage from the Book of Jeremiah stating: “Cursed be he that doeth the
work of the Lord with a slack hand, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword
from blood.”

In Rontzki’s words, “In times of war, whoever doesn’t fight with all his heart and
soul is damned – if he keeps his sword from bloodshed, if he shows mercy toward his
enemy when no mercy should be shown.”

Rontzki’s remarks came during a ceremony to celebrate a new Torah scroll at the
yeshiva. The service was held in commemoration of Yosef Fink, one of two yeshiva
students kidnapped by Hezbollah in 1986.

Their bodies were returned 10 years later in a prisoner exchange.

Rontzki also referred specifically to the Israel Defense Forces’ conduct during
Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. “Apropos all that we’ve heard in the media of late,
thank God that the people of Israel has united recently around the simple
understanding of how it must fight. One of the major innovations of that offensive
was the conduct of war – not as some kind of mission or detention.”

“We all remember the beginning of the war, with a major attack of 80 planes bombing
various places, and then artillery, mortar and tank fire and so forth, as in war,”
he said. “Everyone fought with all their heart and soul, and that includes bravery
of course, but also fighting with all the resources one has – to fight as if to
truly determine the mission.”

Rontzki also referred to the qualities of the ideal combat soldier.

“In Israel’s wars, warriors are God-fearing people, righteous people, people who
don’t have sins on their hands,” he said. “One needs to fight with an understanding
of what one is fighting for.”

Pretty amazing, hey. As a post on Jewschool pointed out, this sort of argument comes rather close to the language of holy war, or jihad. Which leads me to think about the various ways in which Israel does the sorts of things which it accuses Palestinians of doing. That is, there are all these anxieties that Palestinians will perpetrate violence against Israelis, that Palestinian adults are indoctrinating Palestinian children to hate Israeli children, that Palestinians don’t know the ‘true’ histories of the past. But, it seems to me, these anxieties are often a reflection of what Israelis are doing themselves: the use of violence in particular is a stark example of a situation wherein Israeli actions are projected onto Palestinians.