Teaching Indian students about Palestine

The other night I was invited by an old friend to dip my toe in the academic waters again to help launch BRISMES Campaigns, which was set up to advocate critical education on the Middle East, as well as implement BRISMESresolution to adopt BDS. The event was held at the annual BRISMES conference and our panel focused on the relationship between education and activism. I was happy to share the Zoom stage with Omar Barghouti, Sara Salem, and John Chalcraft who recently co-authored an important report about Zionist meddling in Britain’s history curriculum.

On the panel, I spoke about my experience teaching Indian students about Palestine, in the literature classroom, at Rishi Valley School, in order to offer a more truthful understanding than their history class which grossly misrepresented West Asia on a number of fronts. Using a lot of the resources I discuss in my book, The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans, including Susan Abulhawa’s Mornings in Jenin, and films like Mai Masri’s Frontiers of Dreams and Fears, Arna’s Children, and Occupation 101, and Al Jazeera’s series Al Nakba.

I wrote about this at the time. RV, like a few thousand other private schools in India uses India’s Council for the Indian Certificate Examination ISC exam. It is that particular syllabus, as well as the British textbook used to teach the course, that portrayed a Zionist point of view. I hope to have a chance to study syllabi and textbooks used over time to get a clear sense of how India began to teach an ahistorical, incorrect narrative, especially as it relates to changes in India’s foreign policy with respect to Israel and Palestine. It’s in is incipient stages, but here are some findings from my talk. Also, if you want to watch the talk here’s the panel in its entirety.

And here is a trajectory of key events in the relations between India and Israel-Palestine since Independence on to which I hope to trace how India’s history curriculum went from what I expect to have been anti-Zionist to its present-day Zionist state. What I suspect is that this will look a lot messier than one might anticipate given the way in which India has been inconsistent in its relationship with Israel and the Palestinians from the beginning.

For me this education is important because without understanding the settler-colonial history and present in Palestine, it’s an uphill battle to recruit people to not only sign onto things like the Indian Campaign for the academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, but also to do things like campaign against the MoUs and study abroad programs between Indian and Israeli universities. In the UK, there’s a terrific resource at the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign that helps activists research the relationships between British and Israeli institutions, which should be replicated globally. Likewise, just as it’s terrific news that Indian farmers recently signed on to BDS, it’s important that such a gesture translates into action, such as refusing to work with Israel’s Centre of Excellence being set up around the country.

Support the American Studies Association #ASA2013 #BDS

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Zionists have come out in full force to attack the American Studies Association that courageously voted to support an academic boycott of Israel. In the past few days American-Zionist-cum-colonists like Martin Kramer have written articles like “Boycott. Me. Please.” Ali Abunmiah reported the source of this pressure:

Last week anti-Palestinian group StandWithUs, which works closely with the Israeli government, sent out an email blast calling on its followers to “Urge university presidents, donors and government to denounce the ASA and sever ties with the organization.”

The ASA has five thousand individual members along with 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers.

Under such pressure two universities, Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg,have canceled their institutional memberships of the ASA.

Some university presidents are allowing faculty to form their own opinions, although others are cracking down as institutions. But as would be expected, most American academic institutions are towing the political party line and distorting the issue by trying to pretend it’s about academic freedom when it’s not.

As a result of blurring the issue and starting some hysterical Zionist hasbara, it is necessary to show one’s support for the ASA now. To do so, please follow the following cues (though if you are interested in becoming a member don’t do it until January 1st if you want a full year’s membership for your fees):

Renew your membership in ASA, especially institutional members of the organization, and encourage other programs to become institutional members. (ONLY 83 schools are institutional members.)

To renew Institutional Memberships: http://www.theasa.net/pages/institutional_membership_invitation/

To renew Individual Memberships: http://www.theasa.net/pages/membership_invitation/

Announce your support of the ASA and the right of the association to act according to the will of the membership. Academic freedom guarantees not only the individual right of faculty members to express their views, but also the autonomy of professional associations.

Support ASA-related activities.  The ASA remains at the forefront of critical scholarship in many areas crucial to the study and teaching of labor relations, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, popular culture and technology, political organizing and social movements. ASA scholars’ interdisciplinary work addresses US history, politics, and culture, both within and beyond its borders. Over the last two decades, American Studies has internationalized, responding to the global conditions of the present. And asRichard Falk, the international legal theorist, has noted: “The ASA outcome is part of a campaign to construct a new subjectivity surrounding the Israel/Palestine conflict. It is the sort of act that lends credibility to claims that a momentum is transforming the climate of opinion surrounding a conflict situation. Such a momentum is capable of breaking down a structure of oppression at any moment.

Defend the right of the ASA to develop independent political positions based on the scholarship and research of its members. The resolution is based on documented history of Israeli human rights abuse and violations of international law, which are acknowledged in the Israeli press and by scholars.  For example, Professor Henry Siegman, the well-known scholar of Mid-East politics and former National Director of the American Jewish Congress, has written in an article titled “There is no Bigotry in the Boycott,” (Haaretz Dec 20, 2013): “As to Israel’s democratic credentials, there is no more egregious violation of elementary democratic norms than a predatory occupation that denies an entire people all individual and national rights, confiscates their properties, bulldozes their homes and dispossesses them from their internationally recognized patrimony east of the 1967-border.”

Denounce the campaign of intimidation against the ASA.  The ASA is a small academic professional association, but because it dared to express criticism of Israel, powerful and well-funded academic and non-academic organizations have mounted a public campaign aimed at destroying the Association. These organizations falsely accuse the ASA membership of being anti-semitic, bent on the destruction of Israel.  But the goal of the boycott is to show solidarity with the beleaguered Palestinians, who have been subject to decades of occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many Jewish members of ASA support the resolution. These include Eric Cheyfitz, who posted this comment to the ASA website: “I am a Jew with a daughter and three grandchildren who are citizens of Israel. I am a scholar of American Indian and Indigenous studies, who has in published word and action opposed settler colonialism wherever it exists, including of course the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.” Seehttp://www.theasa.net/from_the_editors/item/asa_members_vote_to_endorse_academic_boycott/

Write to your congressional and state representatives and urge them to do the following:

  • Defend the academic freedom of the ASA and its membership.  The campaign against the ASA as an organization and the attacks against the national leadership and harassment of individual members, some of whom are graduate students or junior faculty, is an assault on academic freedom in the US and violates the basic principle that the American education system should not be held hostage to foreign interests.
  • Ensure that ASA activities are not subject to discriminatory practices.  All university programs receive federal and/or state funding.  Government officials should not discriminate in the allocating of public funds simply because they disagree with the positions of a professional association.
  • Encourage and facilitate more critical discussions of the US-Israeli relationship.  See for example Sarah Roberts’s recently published essay in support of the boycott resolution.

For more information or to report intimidation:

Contact the ASA Activism and Community Caucus (asaactcaucus@gmail.com)

Some great new articles to read on the ASA boycott this week:

Noura Erakat, Alex Lubin, Steven Salaita, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, and Jasbir Puar’s “Substantive Erasures: Essays on Academic Boycott and the American Studies Association”

Samuel Nelson Gilbert’s “Calls to Boycott Israel Grow on U.S. Campuses”

Sarah Roberts’s “The Turning Tide: The ASA, Scholarly Responsibility and the Call for Academic Boycott of Israel”

Noura Erakat’s “Demanding Equality: Interview with Steven Salaita on the ASA Academic Boycott”

Omar Barghouti’s “Is BDS’ Campaign Against Israel Reaching a Turning Point?”

NSJP Statement of Thanks and Solidarity with the American Studies Association”

 

Thank you, American Studies Association #BDS #ASA2013

On 28 May 2006, I sent the following email to the American Studies Association ASA listserv:
Dear Colleagues
As many of you may be aware, there has been a Palestinian campaign for an academic boycott of Israel for a few years now. I would like to suggest that ASA support this boycott, which many Israeli professors support.
My concern about what it would mean for Israeli institutions to be included in such an organization stems from my own sense of how things are for my friends who teach at Birzeit University, Bethlehem University, and Al Quds University. By making a clear statement that supports Palestinian professors and institutions as an organization, I think, will send a vital message. For those who are interested, here is the precise text of the call to boycott, which you can find on Birzeit’s website:

We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:

1.Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;

2.Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;

3.Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;

4.Exclude from the above actions against Israeli institutions any conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their stateÂ’s colonial and racist policies;

5.Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;

6.Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

I hope that the American Studies Association will consider engaging with these issues, especially in light of the recent email from the AJS.

I’m sure I was not the first person to suggest such an act of solidarity in that forum. Regardless, the ASA listserv received a flurry of emails in response to mine. The majority of these emails were strongly against my proposal and several executive committee members threatened to quit the ASA if this boycott moved forward. My memory was that this correspondence began during the July war that year, but clearly it began a short while before. 

But not everyone was so closed off. Many people engaged with me privately and publicly and with others. Many of us organized to form panels about Palestine in relation to the U.S., educating our peers about the necessity of solidarity and about educating oneself on the subject. While I was still an academic I participated in these forums. Many of us went on to create the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) which persevered with respect to pushing the ASA to take a stand. 

And all that effort has paid off!

It’s been hard to watch from afar, but so wonderful to see that they achieved success and the after effect of it in academia and in the media. I don’t have the time to share all the details of this historic moment, but I will share links and quotes below for those who would like to read more and who feel inspired to take the ball and run with it in their organization. I never imagined this would be any kind of turning point in the BDS movement, but it certainly seems to be that way given the flood of press from around the world.

First, here is USACBI’s official statement:

December 16, 2013 – The  US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) congratulates the American Studies Association following today’s announcement that its membership has endorsed the Association’s participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In an election that attracted 1252 voters, the largest number of participants in such a referendum in the history of the organization, 66.05 percent of voters endorsed the resolution, while 30.5 percent of voters voted no, and 3.43 percent abstained.

Nada Elia, professor and USACBI organizing committee member noted, “This is not only a victory for Palestinians.  It is a victory for all who believe in justice for an indigenous people who have faced ongoing dispossession. It is a victory for global justice, for academic freedom, for freedom of expression, for believing in the power of the people to bring about the much-needed changes that politicians refuse to consider. Through the grassroots organizing efforts of many, we are building a more just world.”

The original resolution, which the ASA Activism Caucus proposed a year ago, was discussed at the 2013 ASA convention in Washington D.C, and modified in response to ongoing discussions. In turn, the ASA National Council adopted it. The National Council opened the question to the entire membership to ensure that the adoption of the resolution adequately represented the association. During the voting process, many academics and groups demonstrated support for the adoption of the resolution through articles and statements, including the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors, and Students for Justice in Palestine – National and local chapters.

Sunaina Maira, ASA Activism Caucus member, added, “Today, we are grateful not just for the ASA membership’s decision to endorse BDS, but also for the process that the ASA National Council chose to adopt, as it created the space and time to learn about the conditions Palestinian students and academics face as a result of Israeli policies and to engage with the serious questions about our responsibilities and methods for bringing about change.”

In response to the Palestinian call for the international community to engage in and utilize the tactics of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, US-based academics and student organizers have brought critical discussions on Palestine, Israel and US complicity to campuses across the country through boycott and divestment resolutions.

This historic vote follows the Association of Asian American Studies endorsement of a boycott resolution in May and numerous student divestment resolution endorsed by student senates in California.

The US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)has organized to challenge growing ties between Israeli and US academic institutions and to challenge the Brand Israel project of normalizing Israel through cultural events.

Second, here is the ASA’s official statement about supporting the academic boycott of Israel:

Council Statement on the Academic Boycott of Israel

ASA National Council Votes Unanimously To Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel

One year ago, the Academic and Community Activism Caucus of the American Studies Association (ASA) asked the Executive Committee (EC) to consider a resolution to honor the call from Palestinian civil society to support the academic boycott of Israel. The EC forwarded the resolution to the National Council. Following the deliberative procedures detailed below, the Council unanimously decided to issue a revised version of the resolution, which we now recommend to members of the ASA.  Please follow this link to read the resolution.

The Council voted for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions as an ethical stance, a form of material and symbolic action. It represents a principle of solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.

We believe that the ASA’s endorsement of a boycott is warranted given U.S. military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and the support of such a resolution by many members of the ASA.

Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

The resolution does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange, including conference presentations, public lectures at campuses, or collaboration on research and publication. The Council also recognizes that individual members will act according to their convictions on these complex matters.

The ASA is a large organization that represents divergent opinions. Anticipating strong and potentially divided feelings on this question, the Council unanimously decided to ask ASA members to endorse the resolution by a vote.

Background on the Resolution

The resolution is the culmination of a long history of discussion and debate in the ASA. In 2006, in response to Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, the ASA International Committee (IC), including a former ASA President, discussed the possibility of endorsing a boycott. In 2009, in the wake of Israel’s military assault on Gaza and in response to requests from ASA members, several bodies in the Association again took up the question of a boycott: the IC, the Program Committee for the 2009 convention, and the Executive Committee, which included the current ASA President. The consensus then was that members needed more opportunities to learn about and discuss the issues and so the Program Committee organized two featured panels: “Palestine in Crisis” and “Academic Freedom and the Right to Education: The Question of Palestine.” Scheduled in prime times on Friday and Saturday of the convention, the panels addressed the plight of Palestinian universities and academics and the profound pressures on teaching and research contexts in the U.S. and Palestine where education and intellectual freedom were under attack. The second panel focused in particular on the boycott movement.

In the wake of such discussions, the Academic and Community Activism Caucus (ACAC) met at the 2012 ASA convention to consider a resolution and gather signatures. This resolution was then submitted to the Executive Committee and, in December, posted on the Caucus’ page on the ASA web site. Information about the resolution was also included in the December 2012 ASA Newsletter distributed to all ASA members.

In March of 2013, the Program Committee for the 2013 ASA convention met and discussed ways to create opportunities at the meeting to discuss issues related to calls for boycott. The resulting program included 8 sessions on “Middle East American Studies,” with four focused specifically on United States/Israel/Palestine. At the same time the Ethnic Studies Committee organized two panels about settler colonialism that discussed the Israeli occupation of Palestine, while the ACAC organized a panel called “Boycott as a Non-Violent Strategy of Collective Dissent.”

In May 2013 the Executive Committee met and discussed the proposed resolution submitted by the ACAC at great length. It agreed that it would be in the best interest of the organization to solicit from the membership as many perspectives as possible on the proposed resolution to aid the National Council in its discussions and decision-making. With the past President and a prominent, senior member of the Association serving as moderators, it held an open session during the November National Convention at which the National Council was present to hear directly from the membership. Members were notified of the open discussion well in advance of the convention and it was highlighted as a featured event in both online and print versions of the program. Additionally, members who could not attend the session or the convention were encouraged to contact the EC directly via email, and many did so.  

The Saturday November 23rd open discussion was attended by approximately 745 ASA members. Members distributed information about the boycott in advance, and the hall was filled with leaflets representing different views. The moderators carefully and clearly articulated the different actions that could be taken and the process for deliberation. To guarantee an orderly and fair discussion members who wished to speak put their name in a box from which speakers were randomly selected. Speakers were limited to 2 minutes, providing the opportunity to hear from forty-four different speakers during the time allotted for the special session. The discussion was passionate but respectful.  Speakers included students, faculty, past Presidents, former members of the National Council, former and current members of the AQ editorial staff, American Studies department chairs, and an ASA member also representing the organization Jewish Voice for Peace. While different opinions were articulated, the overwhelming majority spoke in support of the ASA endorsing an academic boycott.

Remaining in session over the course of 8 days after the open session, Council members spoke and wrote from different perspectives, debated different possibilities, and critically yet generously engaged each other. The resulting resolution reflects, we think, the history and present state of conversations within the ASA, offering a principled position for the Association’s participation in the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions while respecting the unique conditions and diverse positions of our membership on this issue.

In the last several decades, the ASA has welcomed scholarship that critically analyzes the U.S. state, its role domestically and abroad, and that reaches out beyond U.S. borders. Our commitment to cutting-edge and transnational scholarship has been accompanied by the comparative study of borders, migration, and citizenship. The ASA also has a history of critical engagement with the field of Native American and Indigenous studies that has increasingly come to shape and influence the field and the Association, and the Council acknowledged the force of Israeli and U.S. settler colonialism throughout our deliberations. Finally, the resolution is in keeping with the ASA’s continuing commitment to ethical research and the right of scholars to dissent and to take public positions.

The Council believes that the resolution is of particular significance to scholars of American Studies. Together, we endorse it, and recommend that ASA members endorse it as well.

The ASA National Council

Jennifer Devere Brody, Stanford University 
Ann Cvetkovich, University of Texas, Austin 
Jeremy Dean. University of Texas, Austin 
Lisa Duggan, New York University 
Avery Gordon, University of California, Santa Barbara 
Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University 
E. Patrick Johnson, Northwestern University 
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University 
Marisol LeBrón, New York University 
Karen Leong, Arizona State University 
Sunaina Maira, University of California, Davis 
Martin F. Manalansan IV, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 
Curtis Marez, University of California, San Diego 
Roya Rastegar, Bryn Mawr College 
Chandan Reddy, University of Washington, Seattle 
Juana María Rodríguez, University of California, Berkeley 
María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, New York University 
Nikhil Pal Singh, New York University

Due to a family emergency, Juri Abe, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan, was not present for the National Council meeting where the resolution was passed. 

Follow the American Studies Association on Facebook

Here are a number of links that have come out about the resolution thus far:

Steven Salaita’s “Why the ASA’s Israel Boycott Won”

Alex Lubin’s “Breaking ‘America’s Last Taboo'”

Benjamin Doherty’s “In a Surprise Move, Opponent Votes to Endorse ASA’s Israel Boycott”

Philip Weiss’s “ASA’s Members Vote 2-1 for Academic Boycott of Israel”

Omar Barghouti’s “On Academic Freedom and the BDS Movement”

Alex Kane’s “American Studies Association National Council Endorses Boycott of Israel”

Lena Ibrahim’s “What Happened There Was Historic: A Report from the American Studies Association Boycott Debate”

Adam Horowitz’s “In Response to ASA Boycott Vote, Lawrence Summers Calls Boycotts ‘Abhorrent’ and then Calls for Boycott of ASA”

Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine’s “Students Support the American Studies Association Boycott Resolution”

Judith Butler’s “Academic Freedom and the ASA’s Boycott of Israel: A Response to Michelle Goldberg”

Native American and Indigenous Studies Association’s “Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions”

Keith Feldman’s “Fragments from the Breach: On Anti-Racism, American Studies, and the Question of Palestine”

Philip Weiss’s “Butler: ASA Boycott Resolution Pressures Israeli and U.S. Institutions Supporting Occupation”

Alex Kane’s “Former Israeli Ambassador Calls for Legislation to Impose ‘Penalties’ on Promoters of Academic Boycott”

Harriet Sherwood’s “Major U.S. Academic Body Backs Boycott of Israeli Educational Institutions”

Nora Barrows-Friedman’s “Steven Saialta on How the ASA Boycott Vote Shifts the Rules for Engaging on Palestine”

Steven Salaita’s “Why Logical People Should Oppose the ASA Israel Boycott”

Eric Cheyfitz’s “Why I Support the Academic Boycott of Israel”

Toshio Meronek’s “Palestinian Activism Grows at U.S. Universities”

Eliza Collins’s “U.S. Professors Vote to Endorse Israeli Academic Boycott”

Elizabeth Redden’s “Backing the Israel Boycott”

Richard Pérez-Peña’s “Scholars’ Group to Disclose Result of Vote on an Academic Boycott of Israel”

Yousef Munayyer’s “Boycott a Sting to Israeli Apartheid”

Note to “The Hindu”: There is a Cultural Boycott of Israel.

As soon as I finished yesterday’s blog post, I returned home to unwind while reading the Sunday newspaper with a cup of tea. I turned to the culture pages first where I found an interview with Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai who was apparently in India for the Kolkata International Film Festival. Apparently, the folks in Kolkata are not aware that there is a cultural boycott of Israel in India. This interview, by Anuj Kumar, as with all other articles about Israeli “culture,” treats Gitai as if he were a normal filmmaker from a normal country. Although Kumar gestures towards the Israeli colonization of Palestine by asking Gitai about hiring Palestinian actors, he seems to be completely oblivious to the conditions that Palestinians endure whether in the film industry or life.

Here are some reminders why the cultural boycott is necessary, first from Ben White:

Culture does not operate in some special, apolitical space – just like academic institutions in Israel are also not removed from complicity in systematic human rights abuses. As the Habima general manager put it, the invitation by The Globe is an “honourable accomplishment for the State of Israel in general”.

Furthermore, the Israeli government and advocacy groups are deliberately seeking to use culture as a means of ‘rebranding’ a country increasingly linked in the pubic imagination to its crimes against the Palestinians.

Likewise filmmaker Ken Loach expresses his support for the cultural boycott of Israel:

First of all you are a citizen, a human being. When you are confronted by such crimes you have to respond as a human being, regardless of if you are an artist, a VIP or whatever. First of all you have to respond and do what you can to bring this to people’s attention. A boycott is a tactic. It is effective against Israel because Israel presents itself as a cultural beacon. It is therefore very susceptible to cultural boycott. We should not have anything to do with projects that are supported by the State of Israel. Individuals are not concerned; we have to concentrate on the actions of the Israeli State. That is what we have to target. We target it because you cannot just stand by and watch people live their lives in refugee camps forever.

Finally, here is a succinct response by the national boycott committee in Palestine addressing those who would rather be independent than join the call to boycott:

Some artists argue that, instead of boycotting, they prefer to visit Israel and use the performance opportunity to express their views against Israeli injustices. This ostensibly noble idea is not only — unfortunately — too rare to be viewed as significant; it is ill conceived. Such a hypothetically courageous stance cannot possibly outdo or neutralize the far more substantial harm done due to these performances taking place, as Israel, with its formidable influence in mainstream Western media, cynically uses them to project a false image of normalcy that enables it to maintain its occupation and apartheid.  Ultimately, a conscientious artist is expected to heed the appeals of the oppressed as to what they really need from them in the struggle to end injustice and colonial oppression. This was true in the South African anti-apartheid struggle, too.

“The Hindu” Promotes Tourism to Apartheid Israel

Yesterday morning I was enjoying reading the Sunday edition of The Hindu newspaper. That is, until I got to the final page of the paper where I saw an article by Lakshmi Anand entitled “Ten Things to do In Israel,” which  ahistorically, acontextually promotes Indian travel to a settler-colonial, racist, apartheid state.

Here is my response to that piece, which I just emailed to the newspaper’s editor:

9 September 2013

Dear Editor:

In yesterday’s The Hindu Magazine section, you published an article by Lakshmi Anand entitled “10 Things to do in Israel.” I found the article to be shocking and offensive. Since when did it become normal for Indians to promote travel to a settler-colonial apartheid state? I would suggest a more apt article for you to publish in your newspaper’s pages entitled, “Ten Reasons Not to go to Israel.” The list could include the following justifications:

  1. Israel practices apartheid and is a settler-colonial state. Just as the British were a settler-colonial state in India and just as South Africa was an apartheid regime, Israel is a combination of these two racist state systems of the past. Just as the British Empire created its settler-colonial state in India, they too enabled the set up of a colonial entity by partitioning the Levant after World War I. Since 2002, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has unequivocally compared the practices of apartheid by Israel with the former regime in South Africa.
  2. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 stipulates that Palestinian who were forcibly removed from their homes during the ethnic cleansing of 1948 (Israel’s premeditated “Plan Dalet” to eliminate the indigenous population), should be allowed to return to their homes and be compensated financially for the losses they incurred, much like Jews were offered compensation after World War II.
  3. The ethnic cleansing operations of 1948 have never ended: it is ongoing. For the most recent example of this, one need only look at the Negev desert where yet again the Bedouin community is being forcibly removed from their land. But this is also an ongoing project in places like Jaffa and Jerusalem, places that Anand seems to only see as tourist destinations.
  4. Israel likes to promote itself as an country that has “made the deserts bloom,” which, ignores the centuries of cultivation established by indigenous Palestinians. Israel’s ability to cultivate stolen Palestinian land comes from their ongoing theft of natural resources, like water, which they exploit for their settlement swimming pools while Palestinians are left with little to no water for bathing and drinking.
  5. Anand recommends tourists visit Israel’s Nazi holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, which is located on the land of the Palestinian village, Deir Yassin, which notably endured one of the most infamous massacres during Israel’s ethnic cleansing operations of 1948. The depopulated village ironically hosts this museum about the ethnic cleansing of Jews in Europe.
  6. The article also recommends that people spend time sampling food like felafel. Anand fails to mention that this is an Arab food not an Israeli one. Like most Israeli “culture,” felafel was studied and adopted by Zionist Jews who colonized Palestinian land. Likewise, the Jaffa oranges mentioned in the article were world renowned produce that Palestinians exported globally prior to their forced removal from their land. In addition to coopting Palestinian culture and branding it Israeli, Israel has consistently been on a mission to commit cultural genocide by imposing various laws—many of which date from the British Mandate era—to prevent Palestinian literature, music, dance, and theatre from being produced and shared publicly.
  7. Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom have been on ongoing hunger strikes for the past few years, and many of whom are children, are being held for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is resisting the ongoing colonization of their land. Just as Indians were political prisoners of the British during the Raj, Palestinians are also fighting to get their country back and those who work towards this end, regardless of age or gender, are often imprisoned.
  8. Since its formation, Israel has repeatedly promoted the ironic idea that it is always at risk of being thrown into the sea by its neighbors. The reality is that since its inception, Israel has been a belligerent regime and the fourth most powerful military in the world, propped up by the United States, of course. On a daily basis, Israel’s army fires at fishermen in Gaza; they regularly capture shepherds in Lebanon, and most recently they have bombed Syria and are pushing for the U.S. to invade Syria as well.
  9. Palestinians who live in Israel, who call themselves 1948 Palestinians because they are the people who managed to remain on their land against all odds are second-class citizens, just as Indians were under the British Raj. 1948 Palestinians do not have equal rights because they live in a state that defines itself as Jewish and Palestinians are either Christian, Druze, Baha’i, or Muslim.
  10. Don’t go to Israel. Go to Palestine. Show your solidarity with the Palestinian people. Join the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement inspired by India’s boycott movement and later South Africa’s. Join the Indian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Traveling to Israel promotes their economy and therefore enables it to continue its brutal and ruthless colonial system. India remembers all too well what colonialism means. Why would Indians want to promote its continuation in another location?

G4S in India

 

 

 

So far I have seen three G4S offices in Bangalore alone. I have also seen their cars driving around the city. When I was in Darjeeling recently, I discovered that they also ran security for the Darjeeling zoo. They seem to operate as an ordinary security company, but they are anything but ordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC00074

 

At present there is a campaign to vote for G4S as the worst company in the world. There are many reasons for this, but the main points of interest are related to G4S role in maintaining Israel’s colonization and occupation of Palestine, particularly its prisons, apartheid wall, and checkpoints. Writing for Electronic Intifada, Adri Nieuwhof explains their role:

The British-Danish security giant G4S has become the target of rights activists in different countries because of its provision of services to Israeli prisons, military checkpoints and to firms in illegal settlements in the West Bank.

In 2008, G4S Israel advertised its involvement with Israeli miitary checkpoints on its website. The text on the left of the screenshot above reads: “Systems for checking persons, manufactured by Safeview USA, first of their kind, were installed at the Erez checkpoint. The systems are in operational use by the army and enable the performance of full scans of the human body.”

G4S confirmed it had provided security equipment with “associated maintenance services” to the Israeli police, prison service and defense ministry, in a 21 December 2010 letter to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center in London. At the same time, the company claimed it did “not control” — and was not  “necessarily aware” — where its security equipment was deployed “as it may be moved around the country.”

In a follow up article, in part responding to G4S concerns about the claims made in the above-quoted article, Nieuwhof adds more details about G4S involvement in oppressing Palestinians for Israelis:

In the brochure, published by the Danish watchdog DanWatch, G4S describes the supply of a perimeter defense system for the walls around the Ofer prison compound and the installation of a central command room to monitor the entire Ofer compound. In addition, the company writes it also provided all the security systems in Ketziot prison and a central command room in Megiddo prison (G4S delivers technology to Israeli prisons,” DanWatch, 21 November 2010).

G4S boasts that the three prisons can detain 2,700-3,700 “security” prisoners — the majority of whom are Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip illegally transferred to detention centers within Israel’s internationally-recognized boundary. International humanitarian law forbids an occupying power from transferring prisoners outside of the occupied territory and the conditions in Israeli prisons do not meet international legal standards. Accordingly, G4S’s involvement in the Israel Prison Service apparatus abets violations of international law.

G4S’s promotional material contradicts its claim that it does not know where its X-ray machines and body scanners are used. Who Profits? — a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace — has also documented that G4S luggage scanning equipment and full body scanners are used at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank towns of Qalandiya, Bethlehem and Irtah. G4S also provided full body scanners to the Erez checkpoint at Gaza. Who Profits? told The Electronic Intifada that this information is published in G4S’s own website and brochures.

Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on  human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, highlighted G4S role in maintaining Israeli apartheid in his report on various corporations that profit off of Palestinian suffering.

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As a result of these findings, BDS activists have been working to target G4S in various ways. And in 2012 there were several success:

The British firm Good Energy announced that it would end its business relationship with G4S, the private security giant with a track record of complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses.

After sustained media attention and pressure from BDS activists, several Danish charities and a bank decided to end security service contracts with the British-Danish security company G4S for the company’s role in Israel’s occupation.

The University of Oslo in Norway announced it would drop its contract with private security company G4S in July 2013 over the company’s involvement with Israeli prisons and its providing of services and equipment to checkpoints, Israel’s wall in the West Bank, settlement and settlement businesses.

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One of my favorite actions targeting G4S last year was one done in London during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Michael Deas’ report on the action in the above video offers inspiration to those wanting to take action based on others who have been fighting G4S:

Danish bank, several major Danish NGOs and a UK energy supplier have all dropped their links with G4S after pressure from campaigners. The EU declined to renew a contract with G4S following a campaign supported by members of the European Parliament. Students at Edinburgh University in Scotland voted to block the union’s contract with G4S and students at Oslo university in Norway are campaigning for the university not to renew its contract with the security company when it expires in February 2014.

For those who want to read a detailed report about G4S role in Palestine, Who Profits published a report on the subject.

BDS is new in India, but it is growing especially among cultural workers and academics. I hope that it soon spreads to the economic sector, especially targeting multinational corporations like G4S.

A Week in Lucknow

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I spent last week visiting a friend in Lucknow in the northern part of the country (more pictures in gallery below). Our first day we ventured out to the village of Malihabad so she could conduct some research she is doing about nurseries and seeds. Much of the agricultural land is being converted from local food production to decorative house plants and flowers for export. Prior to our trip, she was online doing a bit of last-minute research on the village when she stumbled upon this little gem:

Shahnaz Ali, a senior research fellow at the National Institute of Immuno-Hematology, Mumbai, has been awarded a scholarship by the government of Israel for the academic year 2009-2010, to study the DNA of Afridi Pathans of Malihabad in Lucknow to confirm whether they are of Israelite origin or not.

It is not clear what the purpose of this research is or how the Israeli government would use such information. In any case, the researcher involved clearly doesn’t know about the academic boycott of Israel given that he’s taking funds from the Israeli government to conduct his research. He also seems to be under the mistaken impression that there is some kind of historical enmity between Jews and Muslims when that is not the case.  But the largest problem in the blog piece is its erroneous concluding paragraph:

Navras said that as per history, ten Israelite tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel were exiled by the Assyrian invaders in 721 BC. It is believed that some descendants of these lost tribes settled in India between AD 1202 and AD 1761. Afridi Pathans of Malihabad are said to be one of them. Some Israeli academicians have visited Malihabad in the last few years to study customs and traditions of Pathans to find if they have any resemblance to Israelite traditions.

In fact, if he had read Israeli historian Shlomo Sand’s book The Invention of the Jewish People, he would know that:

 the Romans never deported entire peoples. We might add that neither did the Assyrians and Babylonians move entire populations from the countries they conquered. It did not pay to uproot the people of the land, the cultivators of produce, the taxpayers. But even the efficient policy of deportation practiced by the Assyrian, and later the Babylonian, empire—in which whole sections of local administrative and cultural elites were deported—was not followed by the Roman Empire. (130)

Notice that while the Assyrians did deport some people, it idid not exile entire peoples and its deportation policy was not about one’s religion.

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From one colonial context to another.

After Malihabad we went to what is known as the Residency. It seems that each Indian city has a place with this name as it was once the home of the British colonials ruling the area. But the one in Lucknow is special. You can see it in photographs below more clearly. It was the site of the 1857 uprising (mutiny as the English refer to it) against the British. This expansive space includes the shells of all the former buildings that were destroyed during the Indian uprising against their colonial rulers. It’s quite impressive that one can still see this colonial history–and resistance to it–preserved in such a remarkable way.

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My friend’s childhood friend was speaking at a commemoration of Swami Vivekananda’s famous 1893 speech in Chicago at the Columbian Exposition, which celebrated Christopher Columbus’ colonization of the Americas. I had read about him in Vijay Prashad’s The Karma of Brown Folk, but did not remember much about him at the time. Prashad paints him in an interesting light–as one who plays almost a trickster role to the Americans wanting to Orientalize him and fetishize his Hindu beliefs. And, according to Prashad, he was quite critical of the way Americans approached religion:

You Americans worship what? The dollar. Int he mad rush for gold, you forget the spiritual until you have become a nation of materialists. Even your preachers and churches are tainted with the all-perfading desire. (35)

Yet I was struck by a different set of beliefs that he conveyed in that speech as I heard it in the Bengali association hall last week. Here is the part that I was taken aback by:

 I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to the southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny.

Obviously, in 1893 when Zionism was in its incipient stages, there were no Shlomo Sands to historicize the Roman presence in West Asia, alerting us to the fact that the Romans never expelled any people. And yet on this trip I was hearing yet another allusion to Jewish expulsion (although often it is also that they are the 12th tribe who wandered and got lost) from Western Asia, which is often the historical argument used for how Jews arrived in India over a century ago.

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The other main attraction I visited in Lucknow was the Bara Imbara, which is a fantastically preserved, beautifully designed Nawab palace from the eighteenth century:

the very romantic history associated with it – of Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daula commissioning the Imambara during the time of the great famine of 1783 to enable Awadhis to earn a living as they were too proud to have taken alms – makes it a fascinating piece of architecture.

This space, much like the Residency, is filled with fabulous nooks and crannies that seem to make the best hide-and-go-seek playgrounds for children. But in the Imbara there is also a labyrinth, which you need to hire a guide to take you through. One must travel up and down several flights of steep stairs and through a series of narrow hallways to navigate this area. There are interesting nooks, such as a passage way that leads underground, which people used to use to travel surreptitiously from one city to the next. However, the British closed it up. There are also several clever engineering feats that enable communication from one far off location along the same wall. Supposedly there is also a buried treasure there, but in order to discover it the entire property would need to be destroyed.

The photographs below are a bit mixed up, but they are of the places I mention above, plus random snapshots of the city, a couple of AIDS protests we saw because I was there during World AIDS Day, and its incredible food–especially the chaat and paan!

Sounds of Deepawali, Sounds of Gaza

Last week was Deepawali or Diwali for short. A simplified explanation of the holiday is that is a festival of lights.  But one cannot have lights without sound especially given the fact that this holiday is celebrated with firecrackers and fireworks. If I had thought about it in advance, I would have recorded the sounds, especially as I experienced them on a brief auto rickshaw trip in which the driver had to dodge children lighting various explosives in the streets. Like a lot of sounds in Bangalore, especially traffic, they are constant and quite loud. And even government officials attempted to intervene in lessening the noise pollution. I let off a few firecrackers for the first time in my life in spite of my trepidation. But the sounds of Diwali–which lasted for three days–reminded me of other places and times.

The sound of fireworks and firecrackers sound just like bombs and gunfire to me. I can’t help it. The sounds are indistinguishable for me. So as much as I enjoyed the way they look when they are lit up, in the back of my mind it conjured up less pleasant memories of Palestine and Lebanon.

It is a week later, and although I’m miles away, the sounds of Israel’s latest bombardment of Gaza are the only sounds I am imagining even though I know that sound is far worse and, of course, has lethal effects. Rana Baker had the foresight to record some of those sounds  of what it is like in Gaza right now.

It seems like deja vu–as if it is 2008 again. Of course so much has changed since then, but then again so much has not, which Haidar Eid writes about lucidly, especially in light of the Arab uprisings. For those who are unaware of what happened and how it all began, Ali Abunimah has a timeline that clearly illustrates how Israel broke its truce with Gaza and began its latest escalation. You can also see Abunimah on Al Jazeera explaining this timeline to a rather ill-informed interviewer:

This new war is, in many ways, an ongoing one as anyone who monitors Palestine knows. Gaza, in particular, has been kept on a “diet,” as Sherene Seikaly points out in Jadaliyya. As before, too, the language coming from the Zionist regime spans the gamut from calling for a holocaust to “flattening” Gaza like Hiroshima. Even a local paper in Bangalore had a headline yesterday about Israel bombing Gaza back to the Middle Ages.

This time it is more difficult as I am so far away from Palestine. Although during the last war, even though I was in Nablus, I might as well have been in India given how far removed we were from the people with no ability to connect with them in any way other than phone calls and email. And the one protest I know of in India happened in Delhi today, miles away from Bangalore. But the media here, especially English language media, is focused on so many more local issues, many of which are equally disturbing and troubling. And the international media available here is anything but helpful, spewing as it does Israeli propaganda at every turn. And still my heart and my mind are occupied with Gaza hoping that the fruits of the Arab uprisings make a difference this time.

For those who wish to do something, as always, BDS is the way to go. The Boycott National Committee created a handy sheet about 5 ways you can effectively support Gaza through BDS.

Also see: the Guardian‘s interactive map on Gaza

Shahad Abusalama’s blog, which is keeping track of Palestinian casualties in Gaza

IMEMU’s fact sheet on Gaza and Israel’s policies towards Gaza

A Bit of Beirut in Bangalore

One of the first things I noticed driving around Bangalore is the way in which all the foreign-owned shops resemble those one would find in Hamra. In particular, the store Vero Modo/Jack Jones, since the time I first moved to Beirut in 2006, multiplied like rabbits along Hamra Street. It isn’t that bad here yet, but here is what one creative genius imagined Hamra Street might look like in the future if things continue at this pace. I hope it is not what is in store for Bangalore.

Below are more photographs of more foreign shops that one can find in Bangalore and in Beirut. Most were taken at high-end malls. The set of interior/night time shots were taken at a place called UB City, which used to be a brewery factory. But it was transformed into this luxury mall that reminds me of Solidere in Beirut a great deal. In some ways it is even worse in the sense that it is structurally inhibiting and challenging for people to just wander in and walk around. Thus, it keeps out people for whom the mall is out of their league. It also reminded me quite a bit of the malls in Las Vegas. Anyone wanting excellent context for the damage that Solidere caused to Beirut society should read Saree Makdisi’s article on the topic. I cannot find a similar kind of analysis of UB City or the gentrification of Bangalore. However, the article below hints at some context:

The current joke is that the only buildings to remain unscathed by the onslaught may be Vidhana Soudha, the building that houses the legislature, and UB City, a complex that is a hideous combination of the Empire State Building and Internet kitsch, built by a liquor baron….

The new IT prosperity has created a young, energetic, educated, and wealthy working class, transforming Bangalore into a consumer’s paradise of shopping malls and office complexes with glass-fronted exteriors. The insatiable demand for “good English” has renewed the anxiety that Kannada may die out in the city.

The scary part of what is written above is not only the bit about gentrification and the way it changes the urban landscape. (I’m reading Sarah Schulman’s brilliant The Gentrification of the Mind at present and offers interesting ways to connect the methods of gentrifying urban and mental landscapes.) I’ve been collecting photographs on Kannada architecture that shows how the outskirts of Bangalore have shifted from village to city; I’ll post those soon. But I am equally worried about the dangers of a people losing their language, especially to the imperial language of English. I saw an interesting film this past weekend that touches on some of these themes. The film, English Vinglish, features a protagonist who is ridiculed by her family for not knowing the English language. Here is a trailer:

My favorite scene in the above clip is when she goes to pick up her American visa and the American sitting behind the counter asks how she’ll survive in the U.S. without knowing English; the retort by his colleague is brilliant (at the end of the clip): “the same way you survive in our country without learning Hindi.”

One last piece of Bangalore that, unfortunately, resembles Beirut. It is the presence of G4S, which I saw this morning for the first time. Here is a bit about what G4S is and why there is a boycott campaign against them:

G4S is a British-Danish private security company that provides services and equipment to Israeli prisons, checkpoints, the Apartheid Wall and the Israeli police.

In 2007, G4S signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide security systems and other services for major Israeli prisons. G4S provides systems for the Ketziot and Megiddo prisons, which hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel. Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier.

In Beirut I see G4S everywhere from the security at office buildings to friends’ apartments. Here is a bit about their role in Lebanon:

The scale of the work G4S do in Lebanon is unclear, with even Bawab saying he didn’t know exactly what they did in the country. But the head of a rival private security firm says they have “a couple of hundred guys” in the country, and it is not uncommon to see men in clothes with the company’s logo guarding private companies in Beirut’s Hamra.

Al-Akhbar discovered that the firm carried out a security review for the country’s preeminent university, the American University of Beirut. The 60-page confidential document details potential improvements that could be made to security and recommends that G4S operatives take over the running of the university’s security.

Home, but not

Home is a bit of a tough word for me–even more now than usual. It’s the first time I’ve been home in almost two years and it’s the first time for me to return home without my family house to go to. Last time I came home I attended my grandmother’s funeral and then buried her along with my grandfather, mother, and uncle. Although my mom died twenty years ago, her ashes were not interned anywhere public. And my grandmother kept the ashes of my uncle and grandfather so that they could all be buried together. I visited the cemetery the other day thinking it might be comforting, but it isn’t really. It’s the first time I have had a chance to visit my family in a cemetery–which I longed for after my mother’s death–but two decades of learning how to deal with the death of a loved one where ever you are in the world made me feel a bit detached from the experience.

It is also challenging to be back in an environment that feels increasingly like little Tel Aviv. There was always a large Jewish community in Los Angeles, but the Israeli population seems to have increased exponentially. Two summers ago I found it impossible to escape youth clad in “Israeli Defense Forces” t-shirts–something I know I never saw as a girl even in the Zionist circles I was involved in. That summer was also the first time I saw the street sign in Beverly Hills commemorating the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl (see above).

This summer I was greeted at the airport by my usual transportation and to my surprise saw the Veolia logo painted on it. Having already paid the fees, I did not have a choice at the time to ride it, so I did. But it gets worse: the public transportation system in Los Angeles seems to have been hijacked by Veolia. What’s wrong with Veolia? In a nutshell, according to the folks at Mondoweiss:

Veolia operates bus lines that connect Jewish-only settlements to Israel. These buses do not stop in Palestinian towns and use Israeli-only roads, built on land confiscated from the Palestinians for the exclusive use of Israelis and settlers. West Bank Palestinians are denied access in a throwback arrangement reminiscent of the Jim Crow South.

Then there is the Jerusalem Light Rail Project Veolia is constructing which will link illegal Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem to Israel. That tramway not only helps make the illegal settlements permanent but also serves as a critical component of the Israeli settlements infrastructure, “undermining any chances of a just peace for the Palestinian people,” according to the international human rights group Global Exchange.

Not having a car in Los Angeles puts me at the mercy of this system making it difficult to boycott one of the companies that most deserves it. Additionally, Cirque du Soleil is playing in Hollywood now, another target of the BDS campaign because they performed in Israel. At the Los Angeles County Museum of art there is currently an Israeli artist’s exhibition on display as well.

It’s not just these aspects of being home that make it difficult. It’s also the every day stuff. Walking around my friends’ neighborhood every day it is impossible not to feel like one is surrounded by Israelis. As soon as I turn the corner onto the main street by her house, I’m confronted with Israeli flags.

It’s interesting to think about all of the Jewish area businesses and the constant whining about people conflating Judaism and Zionism, but can people really be blamed when those lines are blurred by Jewish Zionists?

Another example of this is Simon Wiesenthal’s Museum of “Tolerance.” I went there in 2000 or 2001 not knowing who ran it or anything about it. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but certainly not a Nazi holocaust museum masquerading as a museum that is inclusive of other historical and current oppressions. There was about 5 feet devoted to African Americans and then the rest was all about Nazi Germany. I’m not sure if it is still this way, but one look at their teacher resources and it is clear that they continue to expend most of their energy only on anti-Jewish oppression. It is not just this that I find deeply upsetting about the Museum of Tolerance. It would be ironic, if Wiesenthal were not a Zionist, that the Museum of Tolerance’s plans to build a branch of their museum in al-Quds (Jerusalem). Why is this a problem? Because they are going to build it on the grounds of an ancient, significant Muslim cemetery. In other words, illustrating the complete lack of tolerance for Muslims, Palestinians, and the dead. Saree Makdisi wrote about this two years ago in the Los Angeles Times:

In 2002, the Wiesenthal Center — which had been given part of the cemetery by the city of Jerusalem — announced that architect Frank Gehry would design a complex to be called the Center for Human Dignity-Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem. Ground was broken in 2004. Palestinian and Muslim concerns were ignored until a lawsuit led to the suspension of excavation in 2006. In 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court — dismissing the appeals not only of Palestinians with relatives buried there but also the protests of Jews appalled by desecration of any cemetery — cleared the way for the project.

The center claims to see nothing wrong with erecting what its leader, Rabbi Marvin Hier, calls “a great landmark promoting the principles of mutual respect and social responsibility” on top of what remains of another people’s cemetery. It has resorted to endless dodges to support its claim.

There is a campaign fighting this called the Mamilla Campaign, which explains the details of the crime being committed by the Wiesenthal/Museum of Tolerance people. There is also a petition to sign on the site. Also the always fabulous Never Before Campaign released a video explaining and supporting the Mamilla Campaign a couple of years ago that is worth a watch:

There are so many other forms of visual assault I feel as I walk down the streets where so many Jewish/Zionist shops have co-opted the names of the places in Palestine that Zionists stole. A sampling of what I see in this Los Angeles neighborhood is below.

The final photograph above is of an Israeli coffee chain, Aroma, that seems to have opened a new branch in Los Angeles. Here is how the Jewish Journal describes the original cafe:

First established in Encino in 2005, Aroma is more than a cafe — it’s like an unofficial branch of the Israeli Consulate. Walk in, and you might as well be in Israel. Cute Israeli waitresses serve customers like they’re still jet-lagged from their flight here. Tel Aviv-style Israeli posses dressed in nightclub gear spread their chairs and legs out like they own the place, cigarettes in tow, cell phones on tabletops. And like back home, the action takes place late into the night.

Finally, there is also one other landmark of note here. It is a school that I wrote about in my recent book, but I never saw it in person. I kept walking by, thinking it was familiar, but couldn’t place the name. Then I remembered.

Shalhevet is a Jewish day school that, for me, is famous because they fired a teacher, Alexander Maksik, for teaching Naomi Shihab Nye’s young adult novel Habibi. Since I already deal with this at length in the second chapter of my book, I’ll just lead people to the two links about this episode (here and here).

So this is my home, but not. Because it is hard to feel at home somewhere–especially when you grew up there–when your family and the people you shared the important memories with are no longer around. But also because this city has become Israelized in ways that seem implacable.