return to yaffa?

somehow this news item slipped passed me when it first hit in april: an israeli adapted ghassan kanafani’s novella return to haifa into a play that is now being performed in yaffa. there is something deeply disturbing about kanafani’s writing being adapted by a colonizer who lives his former land that he will never be able to return to because israel’s mossad murdered him along with his niece lamees. not only that it was altered in at least one way and who knows how else kanafani’s narrative was distorted:

Adapted by Israeli playwright Boaz Gaon from a famous novella by Ghassan Kanafani, it tells the story of Palestinians Said and Safiyeh who fled during fighting in 1948 and were forced to leave their baby boy behind.

New Jewish immigrants Miryam and Ephraim, who lost a son of their own in the Holocaust, move into the house, find the child, and raise him as their own. Two decades later, the five of them meet, and are forced to confront each other’s histories.

“At the beginning it seems impossible that these people would sit down to have a dialogue,” said Peter. “But the child is a sort of allegory. Who does he belong to? And there is a moment of grace where perhaps they could become one family.”

The original novella ends with Said, the Palestinian father, lamenting that only another war will settle the Israeli-Palestinian problem — a sentiment writer Gaon felt was inappropriate for the modern version.

His ending is far from rosy, but it opens the door to the chance of a more peaceful future.

“The last thing I wanted was for people to leave the theatre and rush to the front — we’ve exhausted that option,” he said. “I wanted to offer an opening for something else to happen.”

i discovered this play today because al jazeera did a piece on it:

it is so disturbing that this beautiful, eloquent, powerful story is being twisted in this way and being used by israelis. and i suspect that they have not acquired rights from his widow, anni, who once told me that people often adapt kanafani’s writings without going through the proper legal channels to acquire the rights. if this is true, then the adaption of this play goes along with the usual zionist modus operandi of theft. theft of the work of one of the most beautiful resistance writers who ever lived. a writer who was killed by the zionists for his artistic creations. a writer who was known as the “commando who never fired a shot.” a writer who was dedicated to the right of return for all palestinian refugees.

i had forgotten that this week was the anniversary of united nations resolution 194. the document is important in its entirety, but for me what is most important is its eleventh point:

Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

meanwhile in the lead up to this anniversary the united nations office of the high commission for human rights held a meeting to review israel’s human rights violations (and one would hope hold them accountable: i.e., remove them until they can stop behaving like a rogue state). unfortunately, the united nations did not yield the desired results as badil makes clear in its press release on the subject:

Badil joined several human rights organizations in presenting information and evidence of Israeli violations of international human rights law to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Council met on 4 December to scrutinize the performance of Israel under human rights law in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure, and is scheduled to release its report on the review of Israel on 9 December.

The National Report that was submitted by Israel to the Human Rights Council falls short from reflecting the reality and totally ignores the human rights situation in the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), while justifying its violations of international humanitarian law by security reasons.

By 2008, and always under the pretext of “security and self-defense,” Israel has displaced 70% of the Palestinian people, now living as refugees and internally displaced persons; confiscated and/or de facto annexed some 60% of the occupied West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem, and established a system of institutionalized discrimination affecting Palestinians within Israel, in the OPT, and refugees worldwide.

Badil, together with other Palestinian, Arab, Israeli and international NGOs, provided information to the Human Rights Council, encouraging particular state scrutiny of Israel’s self-definition as a “Jewish and democratic state”, and its system of institutionalized racial discrimination against the indigenous Palestinian citizens (almost 20 % of Israel’s population) in resource allocation and political decision-making. These human rights organizations also argued that Israel’s regime of institutionalized racial discrimination has been expanded into the 1967 OPT as a tool for more colonization of land and oppression of the Palestinian people.

israel’s response to the sixty-year long list of gross human rights violations was that there was “room for improvement” (that’s the understatement of the year):

They noted the large number of human rights groups operating in Israel; governmental, judicial, and non-governmental. Israel’s representatives acknowledged there was room for improvement and pledged to seriously discuss the council’s recommendations. The democratic countries praised Israel’s report, although they expressed reservations about certain issues, such as the situation of the Negev Bedouin. However, the blood of the Arabs and the Muslims was boiling. Their central recommendation was that Israel put an end to the “racist” occupation, as the Syrian representative expressed it.

another missed opportunity last week came from the european union, which upgraded israel’s status when it could have made a bold move to cut the zionist state out entirely because the zionist regime’s deplorable record on human rights violates the european union’s constitution. david morrison explains these violations and its context within this e.u. agreement in electronic intifada:

The EU’s disregard of Israel’s violations has a long pedigree. Israel became a partner of the EU in November 1995 with the signing of the Barcelona Declaration, which established the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. This Partnership encompassed 15 EU states plus 11 states in the Mediterranean region (Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey) and the Palestinian Authority. Signatories to the Barcelona Declaration agreed to behave according to international norms in their relations with other states, promising to “act in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other obligations under international law.”

The signatories also entered into a number of specific obligations in respect of their “partners” in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. This included:

(1) Refrain, in accordance with the rules of international law, from any direct or indirect intervention in the internal affairs of another partner;

(2) Respect the territorial integrity and unity of each of the other partners;

(3) Settle their disputes by peaceful means, call upon all participants to renounce recourse to the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of another participant, including the acquisition of territory by force, and reaffirm the right to fully exercise sovereignty by legitimate means in accordance with the UN Charter and international law.

In 1995, when Israel signed the Barcelona Declaration and undertook to abide by these principles, it was occupying southern Lebanon and had annexed the Syrian Golan Heights. By no stretch of the imagination could it be said that Israel was refraining from intervention in the internal affairs of its Lebanese and Syrian partners, or respecting their territorial integrity, or settling disputes with them by peaceful means. Manifestly, when it signed the Barcelona Declaration, Israel was openly contravening the agreement’s three core obligations.

At that time, Israel was also in breach of the general obligation in the Barcelona Declaration to “act in accordance with the United Nations Charter.” As an occupying power in the West Bank and Gaza, it remains in violation of Articles 2.4 of the UN Charter. It is also in violation of the requirement in Article 25 that UN member states “accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.” Indeed, by 1995, Israel was in violation of some 25 Security Council resolutions requiring action by it and it alone. These included demands to: cease the building of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, reverse its annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).

these developments in the un and the eu this week are disturbing for so many reasons. the siege of gaza has not changed. nor has the situation in the west bank or 1948 palestine for that matter. and yet the zionists still, quite literally, continue to get away with murder and theft. and not just surreptitiously either–as always they do so in broad daylight. one example of this is their so-called idea of “peace” which is really code for stealing more land, denying more human rights, and evading international law even further:

Israel has proposed annexing 6.8 per cent of the illegally occupied West Bank, the chief Palestinian negotiator has said in his first detailed comments about the stalled US-backed negotiations.

Israel proposed a swap of some of its own territory in return for the annexed area but the Israeli land was not an equal trade in size and quality, Ahmed Qurei said, adding that the Palestinians rejected the offer.

Tel Aviv has also said it would allow 5,000 Palestinian refugees to return to the territories as part of the plan to take the land in the West Bank, Qurei said on Friday.

The latest peace efforts were launched a year ago at a US-hosted conference in Annapolis, Maryland, where George Bush, the US president said he wanted to see a deal by the end of his presidency in January 2009.

so this is the state of affairs today. a sad state of affairs. i was chatting with a friend in gaza tonight. he said things were “fine” there–meaning they are “adapting,” though not “surrendering.” i cannot imagine what it must be like to “adapt” to a life of siege. to ever increasing, tightening restrictions.

and yet creative methods are continually being invented to make people remember–to never let them forget the history and this siege in its many forms from gaza to 1948 palestine to refugees. un escwa created a series of animated cartoons on the subject which are quite brilliant. they are in arabic, but other people can probably glean the main idea from watching (thanks muna) :


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