palestine and absurdism

elia suleiman, one of my favorite palestinian filmmakers has a new movie out entitled “the time that remains.” the film premiered at cannes and i’m hoping it comes to a theater near me very soon. here is a clip from the film, though it is in arabic with french subtitles:

here is a synopsis:

THE TIME THAT REMAINS is a semi biographic film, in four historic episodes, about a family -my family – spanning from 1948, until recent times. The film is inspired by my father’s diaries of his personal accounts, starting from when he was a resistant fighter in 1948, and by my mother’s letters to family members who were forced to leave the country since then. Combined with my intimate memories of them and with them, the film attempts to portray the daily life of those Palestinians who remained in their land and were labeled « Israeli-Arabs », living as a minority in their own homeland.

one of the reasons i love his films so much is that absurdism as a style (think samuel beckett) is the best at capturing the insanity that sometimes contextualizes this history and its present. absurdism captures zionist crimes as well as its collaborating allies in the palestinian authority. a recent article in electronic intifada by ali abu nimah and hasan abu nimah lays out the absurdity, for instance, of salam fayyad trying to declare a palestinian state in its current and ever shrinking archipelago form:

Late last month, Salam Fayyad, the appointed Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister in Ramallah, made a surprise announcement: he declared his intention to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip before the end of 2011 regardless of the outcome of negotiations with Israel.

Fayyad told the London Times that he would work to build “facts on the ground, consistent with having our state emerge as a fact that cannot be denied.” His plan was further elaborated in a lengthy document grandly titled “Program of the Thirteenth Government of the Palestinian National Authority.”

The plan contains all sorts of ambitious ideas: an international airport in the Jordan Valley, new rail links to neighboring states, generous tax incentives to attract foreign investment, and of course strengthening the “security forces.” It also speaks boldly of liberating the Palestinian economy from its dependence on Israel, and reducing dependence on foreign aid.

This may sound attractive to some, but Fayyad has neither the political clout nor the financial means to propose such far-reaching plans without a green light from Washington or Tel Aviv.

Fayyad aims to project an image of a competent Palestinian administration already mastering the craft of running a state. He boasts, for instance, that the PA he heads has worked to “develop effective institutions of government based on the principles of good governance, accountability and transparency.”

But what is really taking shape in the West Bank today is a police state, where all sources of opposition or resistance — real or suspected — to either the PA regime, or the Israeli occupation are being systematically repressed by US-funded and trained Palestinian “security forces” in full coordination with Israel. Gaza remains under tight siege because of its refusal to submit to this regime.

In describing the Palestinian utopia he hopes to create, Fayyad’s plan declares that “Palestine will be a stable democratic state with a multi-party political system. Transfer of governing authority is smooth, peaceful and regular in accordance with the will of the people, expressed through free and fair elections conducted in accordance with the law.”

A perfect opportunity to demonstrate such an exemplary transfer would have been right after the January 2006 election which as the entire world knows Hamas won fairly and cleanly. Instead, those who monopolize the PA leadership today colluded with outside powers first to cripple and overthrow the elected Hamas government, and then the “national unity government” formed by the Mecca Agreement in early 2007, entrenching the current internal Palestinian division. (Fayyad’s own party won just two percent at the 2006 election, and his appointment as prime minister by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas was never — as required by law — approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council, dozens of whose elected members remain behind Israeli prison bars.)

From 1994 to 2006, more than eight billion US dollars were pumped into the Palestinian economy, making Palestinians the most aid-dependent people on earth, as Anne Le More showed in her important book International Assistance to the Palestinians after Oslo: Political Guilt; Wasted Money (London, Routledge, 2008). The PA received this aid ostensibly to build Palestinian institutions, improve socioeconomic development and support the creation of an independent state. The result however is that Palestinians are more destitute and aid-dependent than ever before, their institutions are totally dysfunctional, and their state remains a distant fantasy.

PA corruption and mismanagement played a big part in squandering this wealth, but by far the largest wealth destroyer was and remains the Israeli occupation. Contrary to what Fayyad imagines, you cannot “end the occupation, despite the occupation.”

A telling fact Le More reveals is that the previous “programs” of the PA (except those offered by the Hamas-led governments) were written and approved by international donor agencies and officials and then given to the PA to present back to the same donors who wrote them as if they were actually written by the PA!

Everything we see suggests Fayyad’s latest scheme follows exactly the same pattern. What is particularly troubling this time is that the plan appears to coincide with a number of other initiatives and trial balloons that present a real danger to the prospects for Palestinian liberation from permanent Israeli subjugation.

Recently, the International Middle East Media Center, an independent Palestinian news organization, published what it said was the leaked outline of a peace plan to be presented by US President Barack Obama.

That plan included international armed forces in most of the Palestinian “state”; Israeli annexation of large parts of East Jerusalem; that “All Palestinian factions would be dissolved and transformed into political parties”; all large Israeli settlements would remain under permanent Israeli control; the Palestinian state would be largely demilitarized and Israel would retain control of its airspace; intensified Palestinian-Israeli “security coordination”; and the entity would not be permitted to have military alliances with other regional countries.

On the central issue of the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the alleged Obama plan allows only an agreed number of refugees to return, not to their original homes, but only to the West Bank, particularly to the cities of Ramallah and Nablus.

It is impossible to confirm that this leaked document actually originates with the Obama administration. What gives that claim credibility, however, is the plan’s very close resemblance to a published proposal sent to Obama last November by a bipartisan group of US elder statesmen headed by former US national security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Moreover, recent press reports indicate a lively debate within the Obama Administration about whether the US should itself publish specific proposals for a final settlement once negotiations resume; so there is little doubt that concrete proposals are circulating.

Indeed there is little of substance to distinguish these various plans from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s concept of “economic peace” and a demilitarized Palestinian statelet under overall Israeli control, with no right of return for refugees. And, since all seem to agree that the Jordan Valley — land and sky — would remain under indefinite Israeli control, so would Fayyad’s airport.

Similar gimmicks have been tried before: who remembers all the early Oslo years’ hullabaloo about the Gaza International Airport that operated briefly under strict Israeli control before Israel destroyed it, and the promised Gaza seaport whose construction Israel forbade?

There are two linked explanations for why Fayyad’s plan was launched now. US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has repeatedly defined his goal as a “prompt resumption and early conclusion” of negotiations. If the kinds of recycled ideas coming from the alleged Obama plan, the Scowcroft-Brzezinski document, or Netanyahu, are to have any chance, they need to look as if there is a Palestinian constituency for them. It is Fayyad’s role to provide this.

The second explanation relates to the ongoing struggle over who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas as president of the PA. It has become clear that Fayyad, a former World Bank official unknown to Palestinians before he was boosted by the George W. Bush Administration, appears to be the current favorite of the US and other PA sponsors. Channeling more aid through Fayyad may be these donors’ way of strengthening Fayyad against challengers from Abbas’ Fatah faction (Fayyad is not a member of Fatah) who have no intention of relinquishing their chokehold on the PA patronage machine.

Many in the region and beyond hoped the Obama Administration would be a real honest broker, at last bringing American pressure to bear on Israel, so that Palestinians might be liberated. But instead, the new administration is acting as an efficient laundry service for Israeli ideas; first they become American ones, and then a Palestinian puppet is brought in to wear them.

This is not the first scheme aimed at extinguishing Palestinian rights under the guise of a “peace process,” though it is most disappointing that the Obama Administration seems to have learned nothing from the failures of its predecessors. But just as before, the Palestinian people in their country and in the Diaspora will stand stubbornly in the way of these efforts. They know that real justice, not symbolic and fictitious statehood, remains the only pillar on which peace can be built.

nablus, where i lived last year, is being held up as a sort of model for this. last month in the independent ben lynfield reported on this:

The shopkeepers in Nablus, the West Bank’s toughest town, are smiling for a change. But no one knows for how long.

Dubbed “the mountain of fire” by Palestinians for its part in the revolt against the British mandate during the 1930s, Nablus is usually known for its violent uprisings, choking Israeli clampdowns and prowling Palestinian gunmen extorting protection money.

It is difficult to reconcile that reputation with the reality on the streets today. The centre of town is filled with shoppers picking up everything from new trainers and perfumes to armloads of dates for Ramadan, the Muslim festival which began on Saturday.

Nablus now has its first cinema in more than 20 years, grandly called “Cinema City”, which offers a diet of Hollywood blockbusters such as Transformers and Arabic romantic comedies, complete with cappuccinos and myriad flavours of popcorn.

Israel has eased its chokehold of army checkpoints around the city, particularly the one at Huwwara in the south. It was once one of the worst West Bank bottlenecks, with long queues and copious permits required. But now Israeli soldiers wave cars through with the minimum of fuss.

Store owners in Nablus’s ancient casbah say sales are up 50 or even 100 per cent since the beginning of the year. Much of the upswing in trade can be attributed to the fact that, for the first time in eight years, Israel now allows its Arab citizens to drive into Nablus on a Saturday .

“It’s a better feeling when you sell more,” said Darwish Jarwan, whose family store sells toys, clothes and perfumes. “You are happier.”

The reminders of unhappier times are all around. There are bullet holes on the steps of the shop and he had to fix the door three times over the past eight years after it was damaged during Israeli army operations.

The Israeli easing at certain checkpoints is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s effort to demonstrate he is serious about encouraging Palestinian economic improvement in order to build peace “from the bottom up”. Israeli army officials credit the work of US-trained Palestinian Authority security forces, which have allowed them to lift the checkpoints.

The Israeli and PA moves have produced the most positive economic indicators for years, with the International Monetary Fund saying last month that growth could reach 7 per cent provided there was a more comprehensive easing of restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement.

But critics say Mr Netanyahu’s approach is aimed at evading the broad political concessions needed to really defuse the Israeli-Palestinian powder keg. Nablus residents are themselves cautious, especially given the Jewish settlements that surround the town. Back at his shop, Mr Jarwan says the economic boost alone will not be enough to satisfy his countrymen.

“Buying and selling isn’t everything,” he explains. “We want our own Palestinian country and to get our freedom. If the settlements continue to go on like this, I’m sure there will be another explosion.”

Nablus is known for its pastries, especially knafeh, a sweet made out of goats’ cheese. The Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, was the first to sample the “largest knafeh in the world”, which was prepared to draw attention to the city’s revival and as a celebration of the new sense of security and relative normalcy.

But at the city’s most revered bakery, al-Aksa Sweets, there was a sour after-taste as an unemployed teacher declared after finishing his helping: “The lifting of checkpoints is all theatre, nothing substantial, a show for the Americans and Europe. All of this is for a limited time.”

Another resident stressed that Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement that swept municipal and legislative elections in Nablus in 2005 and 2006, is still popular, although that is not visible since its leaders are in jail and its activities suppressed.

At the new Cinema City, the owner’s son, Farouk al-Masri, was also hesitant about painting too rosy a picture. “Things are better,” he says. “There is more security, police are keeping law and order, there are less Israeli incursions and less restrictions at checkpoints. The great number of Palestinians from Israel who are coming have breathed life into the city. We’ve been living in this fear, being isolated and not being able to go in and out but now there is more room to move.” But he added: “It’s all very flimsy. We saw it during the years of the Oslo agreement. There were signs of great things ahead and it all collapsed in the blink of an eye.”

The cinema is often cited as a symbol of the new Nablus, although at £4 a seat, tickets are beyond the reach of many residents. Nonetheless, the current bill, an Egyptian romantic comedy called Omar and Salma has sold out every night since it opened 10 days ago.

“They love comedy here,” said Mr al-Masri. “We had one movie that was very bloody. People didn’t accept it and only a few came to see it. Blood – we’ve had enough of that.”

but today it was reported that 55 palestinian homes in nablus will be demolished. and herein lies the absurdity of this model of palestinians trying to create “facts on the ground” or economic security rather than fighting for liberation and the right of return:

Despite the outcry raised by Palestinian and international human rights organizations, the Israeli military announced this weekend it plans to go ahead with 55 home demolitions in Nablus — a city deep inside the West Bank which is supposed to be under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

The homes in question are located in the Sawiya district in the city of Nablus, in the northern West Bank, an area with few Israeli settlements — although Israeli settlers have announced plans to expand the settlements located there.

“The Israeli decision constitutes a serious turning point in the development of Israeli attacks on Palestinian human rights,” said the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in a statement released on Friday. The group said that it is concerned that these 55 demolitions will set a precedent for further demolitions in areas that are supposed to be under Palestinian control.

god damn america and all the other racist states boycotting durban 2

there was a little noticed news item on ynet yesterday that i found rather disturbing:

London Times reports Israeli Air Force gearing for possibility of strike on Tehran ‘within days, maybe hours if given the green light.’ National Security Studies Institute member says that despite reports, attack unlikely without US support

The Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government, the London Times reported Saturday.

Among the steps taken to ready Israeli forces for what would be a risky raid, requiring pinpoint aerial strikes, are the acquisition of three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft and regional missions to simulate the attack….

The possible Israeli strike on Iran has drawn comparisons to its attack on the Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad in 1981. The strike eradicated the facility in under 100 seconds, with no Israeli losses.

“We would not make the threat (against Iran) without the force to back it. There has been a recent move, a number of on-the-ground preparations, that indicate Israel’s willingness to act,” said another official from Israel’s intelligence community.

He added that it was unlikely that Israel would carry out the attack without receiving at least tacit approval from the United States, which has so far advocated a more reconciliatory tone in dealing with Iran under its new administration.

An Israeli attack on Iran would entail flying over Jordanian and Iraqi airspace, where US forces have a strong presence.

of course israeli terrorist threats against iran are nothing new. they have fomenting over attacking iran for years now. and yet they zionist entity was enraged over mahmoud ahmadinejad’s address at the united nations world conference against racism today. here is a ma’an news report on it:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Israel of being the “most cruel and racist regime,” at the UN’s Durban Review Conference against racism in Geneva on Monday.

Ahmadinejad’s speech sparked a walkout by some European Diplomats. The Iranian leader’s presence at a meeting already charged with political tensions. The United States and eight other counties boycotted over the meeting over concerns that Israel would be criticized.

“The UN security council has stabilised this occupation regime and supported it in the last 60 years giving them a free hand to continue their crimes,” he told the delegates to the conference.

Ahmadinejad also criticized American “arrogance and condescension” in its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and blamed the US for the global financial crisis.

palestine video blog has a clip from cnn of ahmadinejad’s speech in which he discusses the hypocrisy of western nations to unevenly condemn racism and genocide in some parts of the world, but never when it comes to palestine. you can also see ex-colonial leaders walk out during his speech. perhaps what ahmadinejad was saying was too close to home given their colonial (and now neocolonial) crimes against the global south.

but the best news came when alan dershowitz was removed from the facility after threatening to challenge ahmadinejad (i would so love to see a video of this!) :

Federal agents in Geneva on Sunday escorted Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz away from the Geneva hotel were Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz were meeting, after he declared plans to challenge the Iranian leader about his views on the Holocaust and Israel.

but it is not only dershowitz. others have joined in the boycott of the durban 2 conference in geneva. julian borger in the guardian added some to the list of those nations boycotting as a result of ahmadinejad’s presence at the conference:

Last night it emerged that Germany, Poland and the Netherlands would join a boycott led by the US and Israel. France and Britain are attending but have said they will walk out of the conference in Geneva if offensive language is used at the podium.

and al jazeera is reporting still more boycotting nations:

Following Saturday’s announcement by the US that it would stay away, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands and New Zealand joined the boycott on Sunday, with Italy also expected to not show.

Israel’s allies say the forum, to start on Monday, could become a platform for criticising it, with the US citing “objectionable” language in a text prepared for the Geneva meeting which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, is set to address on its opening day.

funnily enough it seems that the zionist entity itself is not boycotting durban 2 as they are out in full force with their propaganda machine in geneva:

Israel, which had said it would boycott the event from the outset, announced it would launch a publicity campaign while it is going on. Israel is particularly concerned with the planned address by Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and said it will organize demonstrations during the speech, and will distribute materials on human rights violations in Iran – with particular emphasis on public executions and violence against women.

The campaign will be overseen by Israel Ambassador to Geneva Ronnie Lashno-Yaar. He will be assisted by Nobel Prize laureate Elie Weisel, U.S. law Prof. Alan Dershowitz and film actor Jon Voight. A special media room will also be set up in Geneva, to provide immediate responses to anti-Israeli statements.

A special delegation of 14 Israeli students will also be taking part. All the students speak foreign languages and have undergone extensive training by the Foreign Ministry and the World Jewish Congress.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a statement yesterday, saying “an international conference in which a racist like Ahmadinejad, who preaches daily about Israel’s destruction, is allowed to speak, says all that needs to be said about its character and purpose.”

ah yes, the zionist entity’s racist in chief is calling ahmadinejad racist. where is the irony? the zionist entity is plotting a bombing campaign of iran and the man who regularly calls for the ethnic cleansing of palestinians is calling ahmadinejad racist.

and still threats posed from the zionist entity are a part of the problem as the zionist entity pulled its ambassador from switzerland over this conference as ha’aretz reported:

Israel said it was recalling its ambassador to Switzerland on Monday in protest at a United Nations conference on racism in Geneva attended by Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

but these leaders of ex-colonial or current colonial or imperial regimes are those who have institutionalized racism in the most brutal ways within their borders and outside their borders as well. they are the culprits of racism and the exporters of racism and thus they know that this is precisely why they must boycott because they are implicated in all that is discussed. take, for instance, the united states terrorism in pakistan where jeremy scahill updates us on how many dead there are as a result of our killing machines:

As we have previously reported, in just the first 99 days of 2009, US drone airstrikes against Pakistan have killed 152 people, averaging 38 killings per month and 11 killings per attack, according to the Pakistani government. Pakistani officials say three were carried out in January, killing 30 people, two in February killing 55 people, five in March killing 36 people and four were conducted in the first nine days of April, killing 31 people. Moreover, the government says that since 2006, the strikes have killed only 14 “al Qaeda” leaders but have taken the lives of nearly 700 civilians.

perhaps this is why chris hedges framed his critique of the boycott of durban 2 in relation to reverend jeremiah wright:

The Obama administration at first refused to participate in the preliminary negotiations for the conference, chaired by Russia, Iran and Libya. It then agreed to attend for one week. It demanded the removal of references to Israel in the document outlining the goals of the conference. The references were removed. It also demanded other insidious changes, as Vernellia R. Randall, a University of Dayton Ohio law professor, pointed out. The Obama administration asked that the call for reparations for African-Americans be expunged. It insisted that the description of the transatlantic slave trade as “a crime against humanity” be cut. And it demanded the elimination of a call to strengthen the U.N. “Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent,” which deals with the African diaspora.

The document, however, ratified “Durban I,” which was the concluding document of the first World Conference Against Racism, held in South Africa in 2001. The 2001 document included a harsh condemnation of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. And this, finally, proved too much for Washington.

“Barack Obama knows full well that he risks nothing by disrespecting African Americans at will,” wrote Glen Ford, the executive editor of The Black Agenda Report. “Across the Black political spectrum, so-called leadership seems incapable of shame or of taking manly or womanly offense at even the most blatant insults to Black people when the source of the affront is Barack Hussein Obama.”

The United States, which has a museum to the Jewish Holocaust in Washington but has never found the moral courage to officially atone for its role in slavery and the genocide of Native Americans, perpetuates a disturbing historical amnesia. Our national myth and deification of the Founding Fathers studiously preclude an examination of the bloody conquest, open racism, misogyny, elitism and brutality that led to the country’s establishment and that fester like an open wound.

We failed to fully participate in every world conference on racism, including those held in 1978, 1983 and 2001. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his delegation during the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, walked out because of what the Americans termed “Israel-bashing.”

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, on April 13, 2003, gave a 40-minute sermon called “Confusing God and Government.” Only a clip from the sermon—the phrase “God Damn America”—made it onto the airwaves. It was repeated in endless loops on cable news channels and used to turn Wright into a pariah. Obama denounced his former pastor. The rest of the sermon, and especially the context in which the phrase was used, was ignored. Obama would be a better president if he listened to voices like Wright’s and listened less to his pollsters and advisers.

The sermon was a cry from those who cannot forget what white and privileged Americans—as well as, now, the Obama administration—want us to ignore. It was a reminder that there are two narratives of America. And until these narratives converge, until we all accept the truth of our past, justice will never be done. We will continue until then to speak in two irreconcilable languages, one that acknowledges the pain of the past and seeks atonement and one that does not. We will continue to be two Americas.

“This government lied about their belief that all men were created equal,” Wright told his congregation. “The truth is they believed that all white men were created equal. The truth is they did not even believe that white women were created equal, in creation nor civilization. The government had to pass an amendment to the Constitution to get white women the vote. Then the government had to pass an equal rights amendment to get equal protection under the law for women. The government still thinks a woman has no rights over her own body, and between Uncle Clarence [Thomas], who sexually harassed Anita Hill, and a closeted Klan court that is a throwback to the 19th century, handpicked by Daddy Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, between Clarence and that stacked court, they are about to undo Roe vs. Wade, just like they are about to undo affirmative action. The government lied in its founding documents and the government is still lying today. Governments lie.”

so being inspired by hedges i think it is time for us to revisit wright and try to listen to his brilliant, poetic sermon again. to hear what he is telling us about the u.s. and all the other racist colonial, (post)colonial, neocolonial regimes around the world perpetrate racism through genocide, internment, imprisonment, and war:

and here is the real news report showing obama discussing why the united states is boycotting durban (check hedges for clarification on the facts). if only obama hadn’t left wright’s church. if only wright had made some sort of impact on his thinking…

of course the focus has been on the zionist entity all along, but it is important to remember the united states’ other crimes against its own people and people around the world are also a big part of its fear of attending such a conference. but, of course, much of the focus is on the zionist entity because of the daily racist war crimes it commits. here is the latest–a newfangled ethnic cleansing scheme to ethnically cleanse al quds of its inhabitants. while the israeli terrorists destroy homes they are now scheming about how to destroy families and forcibly remove palestinians from their land through the identity card as jacky rowland reported for al jazeera:

yes, zionism = racism. yes, zionism must be squashed. and yes, all forms of racism must be abolished. towards that end the pre-durban 2 israel review conference ended today and here is what they came up with for their future work:

The Israel Review Conference brought together over three hundred people from five continents, including human rights activists and experts from South Africa, Malaysia and several European and Middle Eastern countries. The first day of the conference included two main panels that dealt with the applicability of the crime of apartheid to the state of Israel, and the development of legal strategies for obtaining the accountability of Israel and other states for their obligations under international law to respect the rights of the Palestinian people.

Practical recommendations were developed on the second day of the conference in workshops about the joint struggle of victimized communities for justice and equality; a global campaign against the Jewish National Fund as a major agency of Israel’s racial discrimination; popular initiatives for promoting prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity; and the growing global movement for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel pending compliance with international law.