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BDS vs. the lie of ‘woke Zionism’

“Woke Zionism” is a lie that seeks to conflate anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

BY OLIVIA KATBI SMITH AND DYLAN SABA.

We must respond by reaffirming the reality and demands of Palestinians living under apartheid.

Amidst the post-Trump euphoria and inauguration festivities, President Biden’s Secretary of State nominee quietly affirmed the new administration’s intent to keep the U.S. embassy to Israel in the disputed city of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the military occupation and colonial settlement of the West Bank continues unabated, despite immense cost in lives and human dignity as well as near-ubiquitous global condemnation.

Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas on earth, remains under siege; its nearly two million inhabitants (over 40% of which are under the age of 14, and most of them are refugees from other parts of Palestine) do their best to carry on despite serial Israeli bombing campaigns from which Gazans are materially unable to rebuild.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new front to Israeli apartheid, as Israel refuses to provide vaccinations to millions of Palestinians within its sovereign domain.

The incoming Biden administration has signaled no desire to deviate from the unflinching American political, military, and diplomatic support for Israel that has maintained these degrading conditions for decades.   

In response, the American left, freshly torqued off four years of a Trump presidency and an insurgent Bernie Sanders presidential run, has seen the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Red Nation, and other left organizations join the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.

This call to end Israeli apartheid was originally initiated by wide swaths of Palestinian civil society in 2005.

The BDS movement emerged after the relative failure of two intifadas (the first unarmed and the second armed), bilateral negotiations mediated by the US, and appeals to US-controlled international bodies.

It calls for an international boycott of Israeli institutions that uphold the apartheid regime until three demands are met:

1) the end of Israeli occupation and colonization of lands, including the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights and the dismantling of the Wall of Shame;

2) recognition of the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3) recognition and promotion of the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Since its initiation, it has gained notable steam both globally and in the US as various unions, churches, NGOs, movement organizations, and celebrity activists and academics have pledged support for the effort.

Unsurprisingly, BDS has been systemically opposed by those in the US who support apartheid.

For years, critics have argued that the BDS movement is unfairly targeting Israel for its human rights and humanitarian abuses, since other such atrocities exist around the world without corresponding boycotts.

Critics claim on this basis that support for BDS within the US is veiled antisemitism directed at the only Jewish majority nation and that opposition to the occupation of Palestine operates as a cover for this hidden animus.

They point to growing incidents of antisemitism nationally and to openly antisemitic statements and demonstrations from neo-Nazi movements as part of a rising tide of cross-ideological antisemitism, of which they view the BDS movement as one expression.

It should go without saying that these criticisms are completely unfounded.

There is no reason why Palestinian civil society should be expected to organize boycott campaigns against other repressive regimes aside from the one imposing apartheid on their homeland.

The BDS movement directly targets those state institutions and private corporations which uphold the apartheid regime. This includes security and technology firms, but also universities and agricultural businesses that support the infrastructure of apartheid and occupation.

Any entity that refuses to participate in the oppression of Palestinians is by definition not a target of BDS. Neither is any person in their individual capacity as an Israeli subject to BDS. 

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Nevertheless, the smear of antisemitism has been increasingly levied against BDS and its proponents in the United States and Britain.

Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of Britain’s Labour Party, has been an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian cause throughout his career, including through partial support for BDS. As a result, he and his allies in the party have been plagued by unsubstantiated accusations of antisemitism (based entirely on this support) since his 2015 ascendancy to party leadership.

These accusations from conservative forces within the Labour party escalated into an all-out witch hunt, resulting in a purge of hundreds of party members.

Corbyn himself was eventually suspended from the party and forced to apologize, even after it was revealed that his own party intentionally sabotaged his campaign.

New Labour leader Keir Starmer and his allies have made it their mission to eradicate any trace of respect for Palestinian rights and dignity from the party, creating purge lists of Labour MPs and members. 

This strategy has been so successful in Britain that pro-Israel counterparts in the US are now seeking to replicate it.

In the Fall of 2020, New York City DSA was lambasted by the Israel lobby and friends when the chapter’s city council questionnaire was leaked, asking candidates if they would pledge not to travel to Israel.

Following this, 50 Democrats in the New York State Assembly signed a statement suggesting DSA should be banned from its halls. And just last month, Queens DSA became the subject of a city council candidate forum after Soma Syed, a candidate who sought DSA’s endorsement, walked back her previous, favorable position on BDS, dragged DSA through the mud, and pledged her loyalty to capitalism.

Another frequent critic of DSA and self-proclaimed “pro-Israel progressive” Ritchie Torres has called BDS “an insidious form of antisemitism,” arguing “the act of singling out Israel as BDS has done is the definition of discrimination.”

Andrew Yang, who is now running for mayor of New York City, even went so far as to compare participants in BDS with Nazis refusing to patronize Jewish establishments in the lead up to the Holocaust.

Perhaps the best way to understand this phenomenon is as a marriage of convenience between the institutional forces within center-left parties opposed to socialists in their ranks and an Israel lobby concerned about growing momentum for BDS.

To this end, the framing of BDS as a front for left antisemitism accomplishes a dual function: first, it serves to castigate the anti-Zionist left in the ostensibly progressive language of nondiscrimination, and second, it serves to delegitimize the preeminent form of nonviolent Palestinian resistance by conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism. 

In order to criticize the left in ostensibly progressive terms, the antisemitism smear employs a perverse form of what Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò dubs deference epistemology: the discursive practice of “listening to the most marginalized” or deferring to those in the proverbial room whose lived experiences are most at issue.

In the United States, Palestinians suffering under occupation tend not to be in the room, and advocates for BDS are generally engaging in political solidarity.

By redefining all solidarity action with Palestine as antisemitism, BDS critics demand ultimate deference to Jews directly experiencing antisemitism, cropping both Palestinians experiencing violent apartheid and their advocates out of the conversation.

Excluded by this institutionalized mandate for deference, oppressed Palestinians are prevented from defining the scope and source of their own harm; instead, that power is awarded to their oppressors. This allows critics from within nominally left-leaning institutions to oppose solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement, and indeed to oppose leftist political currents more broadly, all while maintaining their claims on a progressive identity and brand.

Wielding the language of identitarian politics against the left is not unique to proponents of Israel. In their 2016 presidential primary, Hillary Clinton infamously derided the Bernie Sanders campaign with the quip “if we broke up the banks tomorrow, would that end racism?” ( And Hillary lost the Presidency because Sanders followers refused to vote for her)

We can look to just a few months ago, when Democrat mayors were renaming streets and painting Black Lives Matter on roads while simultaneously increasing the budgets and military equipment of their police forces to see how the cooptation of identity and branding works to quell real movements for change.

Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that this strategy of specious progressivism forms the backbone of messaging against the anti-Zionist left. 

This framing aims to conflate anti-Zionism and antisemitism, and does so with some success. Political institutions in the United States and Britain have been systematically adopting formal definitions of antisemitism that are vague enough to include targeted criticism of the state of Israel—most notably the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, a definition so controversial that its original author now opposes its formal use.

By adopting these expansive definitions and then referring to them as evidence for the claim that BDS is antisemitic, institutional actors tautologically identify BDS as the left expression of a cross-ideological wave of antisemitism.

This is of course absurd: neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer and his ilk are both openly antisemitic and support the Zionist project, going so far as to use it as inspiration for their imagined American ethnostate.

This association, which is common enough to be stated openly, is a much more damning one than any between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Additionally, there are many anti-Zionist Jews who support Palestinian liberation as well as BDS.

Nevertheless, these contradictions are routinely ignored, and the false association between anti-Zionism and antisemitism is assumed to be self-evident. 

Critically, the success of this rhetorical strategy, which we might call “Woke Zionism”, depends on the irrelevance of material Palestinian suffering. If proponents of BDS are antisemites operating based on anti-Jewish animus, the substantive basis of their claim—namely the inhumanity of the occupation—can be ignored as pretext for a covert bigotry.

Under the logic of Woke Zionism, the American BDS advocate is merely appropriating alleged harms suffered by Palestinians as a guise for covert bigotry.

As such, Palestinians, their experiences, and their harms endured are quickly evacuated from the discourse. There is a marked shift in subject: the material harms of occupation are supplanted by the supposed harms a national boycott inflicts on non-nationals of the same religion thousands of miles away.

This becomes an increasingly attractive rhetorical move for supporters of the status quo as conditions on the ground in Palestine worsen and the indignities of the Zionist project become harder to dismiss or justify on their face.

While the particular rhetorical tactic of Woke Zionism is a relatively modern innovation, the erasure of Palestinian existence, both physically and discursively, is one of Zionism’s fundamental features. “

“A land without a people for a people without a land” is more than a foundational myth for the Israeli state; it is the aspirational horizon that Zionism, as a settler-colonial project and as an ideology, is constantly operating towards.

It is to this end that more crass Zionists will insist, as a rebuttal to the charge of oppression, that Palestine does not exist and the Palestinians are an invented people.

The physical Zionist project operates to concentrate Palestinians living in historic Palestine into Bantustans, clearing the way for the expansion of the Israeli state.

To the same extent, its ideological commitment is to the de-subjectification of the Palestinians, scouring clean the discursive terrain to allow for Zionist logic to take root. Palestinian suffering must always be folded back into the frame of Jewish subjectivity.

For this reason, it is critical that we respond by reaffirming the subjectivity of Palestinians living under apartheid. Pro-Israel critics have clearly decided to attack BDS with specious claims of antisemitism because they are not comfortable defending apartheid directly.

Likewise, conservative forces within center-left institutions see an opportunity to scold the left in its own increasingly popular lexicon. As socialists, and as supporters of the Palestinian cause, we must reject this entire discursive frame. 

In DSA, we have already seen our own candidates and elected officials smeared along these lines, and we should only expect this to escalate as our movement builds power. Democrat and so-called progressive candidates for elected office will most often default to “security for Israel” and “the two-state solution” as their “safe space”: their uncontroversial, unexamined, and unquestioned position on Israel/Palestine.

If progressives are serious about challenging the status quo, their default position should not be to defend the status quo, which in this case happens to be an apartheid regime. If they feel the need to default, it should be to their values: equality for all and respect for human rights.

In any other context, this would be uncontroversial, and upholding these values consistently is all that the BDS movement asks.

So from those who claim to be progressives who support Israel, we’d like to know: which of the three objectives of the BDS Movement do you so vehemently oppose? Is it the demand to end Israel’s illegal occupation and colonization of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights, and to dismantle the apartheid wall?

Do you oppose recognizing the fundamental rights and full equality of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel? Or is it the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were forced from their homes as stipulated in UN resolution 194 that you can’t abide?

Like it or not, these are the only demands of the BDS Movement. Claiming that the movement represents anything other than demands for equality, freedom, and justice for Palestinians is simply false.

Our job as socialists is not to be defensive and apologetic when faced with baseless accusations meant to derail our advocacy, but to be proactive in promoting the virtue of our cause. We stand with Palestine because the Israeli apartheid regime is an ongoing and pervasive affront to law, justice, and fundamental principles of human dignity.

Anyone seeking to smear us, our candidates, and our organizations with ugly accusations of antisemitism should be made to answer why they do not.

The original version of this article ran in Partisan on March 30, 2021 under the title “Reclaiming the Palestinian Subject.” 

Partisan is a forum for communist discussion created by members from four caucuses in the Democratic Socialists of America: the Communist Caucus, the Red Caucus in Portland, Oregon, Emerge in New York City, New York, and Red Star in San Francisco, California. 

UN highlights rise in Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians

Experts document 771 incidents of settler violence causing injuries to 133 Palestinians and damaging 9,646 trees , mostly olive trees, and 184 vehicles in 2020.

14 Apr 2021

A Palestinian demonstrator scuffles with an Israeli settler during a protest against settlements [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]
A Palestinian demonstrator scuffles with an Israeli settler during a protest against settlements [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

The United Nations human rights experts have warned that violence, including assaults and property destruction, by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank has increased substantially in recent months.

During the first three months of 2021, more than 210 settler violent incidents were recorded, including one Palestinian death, they said.

Palestinian shot dead by Israeli settlers in West Bank. Video shows police beating. Israeli politician in Jerusalem. Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver, wound his wife

“In 2020, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented 771 incidents of settler violence causing injury to 133 Palestinians and damaging 9,646 trees and 184 vehicles mostly in the areas of Hebron, Jerusalem, Nablus and Ramallah,” the experts said in a statement on Wednesday.

The group of experts behind the report included Michael Lynk, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, special rapporteur on adequate housing and right to non-discrimination, and independent expert Claudia Mahler.

They called on the Israeli military and police to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the violent acts.https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.452.0_en.html#goog_1033953874Play Video

According to the experts, the violence has been mainly motivated by ideology and intended to “intimidate and terrorise Palestinians”, and prevent them from accessing their land while pushing others to move.

They primarily target the livelihoods of rural Palestinians, vandalising livestock, agricultural lands, trees and homes,” they said.

In their statement, the experts noted a violent incident in Hebron on March 13, which saw a Palestinian family of parents and 8 children attacked by 10 Israeli settlers, some of whom were armed.

“The injured parents were treated at a medical facility in Hebron, and the children left traumatised,” it said.

Nearly 500,000 Israeli settlers live in more than 200 settlements and dozens of unauthorised outposts scattered across the Palestinian territories.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip – territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Palestinians, who have limited self-rule in the West Bank, say Israel’s settlements deny them a viable state. Most countries view the settlements as illegal under international law.https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.452.0_en.html#goog_1395210409Play Video

Sheikh Jarrah evictions

The rights experts also highlighted that dozens of Palestinian families living in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah face the threat of eviction from their homes.

“Similarly worrying are reports that over 70 families living in the Karm Al-Ja’buni area of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem are under threat of forced eviction to make place for new settlements,” said the statement.

“7 households have already received eviction orders and asked to vacate their homes by 2 May 2021. Such forced evictions leading to population transfers are strictly prohibited under international law,” it added.

Sheikh Jarrah, located on the slopes of Mount Scopus just north of the Old City, is home to 3,000 Palestinians, all refugees who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in other parts of historical Palestine during the 1948 Nakba.

In October last year, the Israeli magistrate court of Jerusalem ruled to evict 12 of the 24 Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and to give their homes to Jewish settlers. The court also ruled that each family must pay 70,000 shekels ($20,000) in fees to cover the settlers’ legal expenses!

According to Grassroots Jerusalem, an NGO that is a platform for Palestinian community-based mobilisation, there has been an influx of Jewish settlers since 2001.https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.452.0_en.html#goog_2043857681Play Video

Duty to protect

Invoking the Fourth Geneva Convention, the experts called on Israel to adhere to international law, which requires it to protect the population under occupation.

Calling on the international community to “impose meaningful costs on Israel’s protracted occupation”, the experts also demanded Israel halt its settlement expansion in the West Bank.

“Palestinians must be protected from settler violence and the perpetrators must be held to account for their actions.”

Note: Since its creation by the colonial powers, Israel has been flaunting all UN resolutions and engaging in mass violence and indignities heaped on the Palestinians to flee and immigrate.

Justice to baby Ali  Dawabsheh: Burned to death by Israeli settlers

18 month old Ali was burned to death after Israeli settlers fire-bombed his home.

Ali, an 18 month old baby was burned to death after Israeli settlers fire-bombed his home. Graffiti on the charred house reads “Revenge”. (Revenge for what?)

Settlers call this a “price tag” — the price Palestinian families must pay for confrontation or violence against settlers.

This time the price was tiny Ali.

He could have been a teacher or an inventor. Someone who loved music or hated math. But we’ll never know because he was merely a “price tag” to settlers.

(The father of Ali died today, a week later, and his mother suffered 80% third degree burns all over her body)

According to the UN, there have been 120 attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers this year, and an Israeli human rights group claims that 92% of Palestinian complaints to Israeli police go without charges.

A full and impartial investigation by the ICC — an unbiased judicial body  is desperately needed.

Every week we hear of a new incident in the West Bank.

Just days ago a video on Facebook showed a young man being beaten up by Israeli soldiers, even though he was clearly walking away from them.

The violence continues to mount, and this is our chance to support investigations to hold Israel to account.

Add your voice now to bring justice to baby Ali and the hundreds of others who’ve suffered at the hands of Israeli settlers and soldiers:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/icc_price_tag_loc/?bFAfecb&v=63079

It’s sickening to imagine Ali’s suffering and the pain his family is feeling now, but this is our chance to say enough is enough. 

If we show the ICC that people everywhere support them to carry out these investigations without delay, we can empower them to work more effectively and help prevent tragedies like Ali’s from happening again.

To make this happen, we need to show prosecutors that we’re depending on them, in huge numbers, to serve the justice that Ali and thousands of Palestinian families deserve

Right now the ICC is investigating Israeli crimes in Palestine, and a massive show of support to carry out the investigations swiftly can help prevent more tragedies like Ali’s from happening again.

The USA must respond strongly to these infamies and facilitate the investigation and sanction Israel’s lax policies involving real terrorist acts on Palestinians

Sa’ad Dawabsheh, the father of Ali, died early on Saturday morning, his brother told Al Jazeera.
aljazeera.com

 

Israeli forces kill 13-year-old Palestinian

If not killed and murdered by live bullet, car over run, bulldozed… Palestinian youth are rounded up and put in administrative detention prisons.

Relatives of 13-year-old Palestinian Ahmed al-Beitawi mourn during his funeral procession in Ramallah, West Bank on October 17, 2014. (Photo: Anadolu Agency – Issam Rimawi)

Published Friday, October 17, 2014

A Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli occupation forces in the village of Beit Laqiya northwest of Ramallah on Thursday evening.

Medical sources said Bahaa Samir Badir, 13, was shot in the chest after Israeli forces raided the village.

Badir was reportedly shot in the chest from close range, and suffered from severe bleeding shortly before dying at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah.

Clashes broke out in the village of Beit Laqiya after news of Badir’s death spread.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that Israeli forces “encountered an illegal riot in Beit Laqiya,” and “while they were exiting the village, rioters hurled Molotov cocktails at the forces.”

“They responded to the threat with live fire,” she said, claiming that the 13-year-old child posed a serious threat to the armed Israeli soldiers.

“Reports of a dead Palestinian are being reviewed. There will be military police investigation,” she added.

She also said that the Molotov cocktails had posed a “direct threat” to the lives of the armed soldiers.

The death of Bahaa brings the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank so far this year to 42, in addition to the nearly 2,200 Palestinians slain during Israel’s summer offensive across Gaza.

More than 4,300 Palestinians have also been injured by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank since the beginning of 2014, as well as more than 11,000 during the nearly two-month assault on Gaza.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967.

(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar)

Meet 5 year old Inas Khalil

Inas Khalil, 5 years old, died today in Ramallah after being run over by an Israeli settler’s car.

Naomi Wolf reported:

The second child who was hit along with Einas Khalil, RIP, Nilin Asfour, is in intensive care.

Many good suggestions below for excellent charities and aid organizations operating in Palestine to whom to donate money. Some understandable critiques below of why send flowers in a war zone.

Instead of food, money, medical supplies….the answer is long and delicate and I will explain more fully when I am less tired.

But it has to do with an instinct about depersonalization versus personalization.

All civilians everywhere who are killed are killed after depersonalization. So peace starts with each of us in our hearts really knowing Einas’ family are our close neighbors and their loss is our loss.

It may be pointless in the great sweep of violence to make loving respectful personal gestures heart to heart but I don’t think so. The settlers dancing are making personal gestures of hate and they don’t take long but have huge impact.

I think this is true of personal gestures of love as well. My own awakening about Palestinians and Muslins generally being part of my family came through acts of personal kindness on their part.

So of course I think that if there were waves and waves of caring responsible gestures and actions to counter waves of hate it would be powerful. That is what I hope this community can be…a cloud of love that can be sent around the world…person to person.

Also of course it can be transformational for the oppressor to do one small thing….it is about transforming the oppressor not just helping the oppressed. That is why flowers to the family could well be wrong but our making a personal gesture that says we care honor love and remember is right.

Plus it shows the US and Israel that we are watching and caring and not colluding in dehumanization of our collective children.Which dissidents do say helps to keep them safer.

This town belong to me: Israeli settlers walking into a Palestinian village

This footage, filmed and published in 2009, gives you an intimate yet disturbing close-up of colonial expansion and occupation.

Watch as over a dozen Jewish settlers make their way into a Palestinian home in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and lay claim to a section of the property.

  posted this March 11, 2014

(and selected as one of the top posts)

See: Israeli settlers walk into a Palestinian home and decide it belongs to them

The home belonged to the Al-Kurd family. Rifqa Al-Kurd, 90, attempted to keep the settlers from entering the home but the settlers quickly moved around her, bringing their own belongings into the house and removing the family’s belongings from the premises.

According to the video’s description, a previous court order administered by an Israeli judge transferred ownership rights over part of the house to a family of Jewish settlers.

It is unclear if any appeals were made on behalf of the Al-Kurd family, but considering Israel’s longstanding history of ignoring land ownership deeds held by Palestinians, it is unlikely that the situation would have changed.

A first? Palestinians portrayed as human beings on CNN?

Amer Zahr posted on September 16, 2013 in the Civil Arab: “Anthony Bourdain, Will You Marry Me?”

Something amazing happened on CNN last night. Palestinians were portrayed as human beings.

In his show “Parts Unknown,” Anthony Bourdain travels to exotic and controversial localities to examine the intersection of food, politics, and everyday life. Last night, he visited Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

He was immediately mesmerized by Palestine, which is a common phenomenon.

It is an amazing place, where the gravity of the history and spirituality is heavy in the air. It feels majestic.

Something is a little off.

Bourdain felt the splendor, but, as he said, “Then you see the young draftees (teenage Israeli soldiers holding machine guns) in the streets, and you start to get the idea.”

bourdain1

Anthony Bourdain?

He began his journey with an Israeli chef and author, Yotam. They started by tasting some falafel in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Yotam told the audience, in a stunning admission, “Israelis made falafel their own, and everybody in the world thinks falafel is Israeli, but in actual fact, it is as much Palestinian, even more so, because it’s been done for generations here… The question of food appropriation is massive here.”

Now if they could only say the same thing about the land, the houses, and the air, we might be able to get somewhere.

Bourdain then made his way into the West Bank. And on his way to visit a settlement, he said something that Americans never hear on TV:

In 2003, Israel began construction of a wall along the green line representing the Israeli-Palestinian border. The wall now stretches 450 miles. When completed, it will span 700 miles, 85% of it in Palestinian territory…

Since 1967, 500,000 Israeli settlers have moved into the West Bank, all in contravention of international law, many in contravention of Israeli law, though in effect it seems to make little difference, they’re here and in ever larger numbers.

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

Before he got to the settlement, he noticed some Hebrew graffiti on a Palestinian house in a neighboring village. His driver translated it for him: “Death to Arabs.”

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

Bourdain finally made it to the settlement of Eli.

Eli is located north of Ramallah and in the heart of the West Bank. It is nowhere near the 1967 borders.

He asked the chief executive of Eli, Amiad, what Palestinians might think of the existence of Eli.

Amiad told Bourdain, “Actually they are happy we are here. We gave them prosperity for the past 45 years.”

I was worried the show might go in a bad direction, but then Bourdain said, “I’m guessing a lot of people would disagree with that statement.”

Wow, I think he’s getting it. Then Bourdain said, “So, from the high ground, you can see anyone walking at night, you can see pretty far out.”

Wow, he is getting it!

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

As Bourdain prepared to leave Eli, he brought up the disturbing graffiti he saw with Amiad. “Why not paint it over?” he asked innocently. The response? “Good question. Maybe we should. You’re right.”

I’m sure Anthony knows he’s not the first person to suggest such a thing. Now, Anthony, I am a bit more experienced with Israeli talk than you are, so let me translate that. “Good question. Maybe we should. You’re right,” really means, “Silly question, we definitely won’t, get out of my face.”

Bourdain then made a quick visit with a now famous group of Palestinian female drivers called “The Speed Sisters.”

This visit had nothing to do with food, but he was able to be in a car alone with Betty Saadeh, a hot Palestinian woman.

And you don’t turn down an opportunity like that. He even looked like he caught a little case of Palestinian fever. I can relate.

After visiting Jerusalem, Bourdain took the short but interesting drive into Bethlehem, through a checkpoint, and past the infamous wall:

It’s right there for all to see. And it feels like something out of a science fiction film. This is the wall. From the other side, from inside this place, it doesn’t feel like anything other than what it is. A prison. (The Ashkenazi Jews ghetto style within Israel?)

Bourdain visited Aida refugee camp, just north of Bethlehem. There he met Abdelfattah Abusrour, my friend, and the founder of Ruwwad, a group that uses theatre for young people to express their desires and feelings.

Abusrour sees Ruwwad as nonviolent resistance, a way for young people to express themselves, creating what he calls “a peace from within.”

The honest portrayal of the residents of the camp, from their squalor to their own struggle to find productive channels of resistance, was something I had never seen on American TV.

Bourdain noted that these Palestinian children do not have the luxury of idolizing pop stars and athletes. They turn to politics early, sometimes idolizing martyrs and politicians.

And he’s right, there’s something wrong with that.

We Palestinians are normal in so many ways. And we’re so not normal in so many others.

Then Bourdain went to Gaza:

Getting in and out of Gaza from Israel is truly one of the most surreal travel experiences you could have on Earth.

Over 1.5 million people live in Gaza, most of them considered refugees, meaning they are not from the place they are compelled to live now. In most cases, they are either prohibited from or unable to leave. Israel decides who comes and goes, what gets in and what stays out.

In Gaza, he met Laila Haddad, a well-known Palestinian author and activist who has written books about Gaza life and cuisine. As she explained that Gaza’s cuisine should include a lot of seafood, she noted that fishermen can rarely get prize catches as the Israeli military limits how far out they can sail. If they go too far, the Israeli navy shoots at their boats and cuts their nets.

Bourdain and Haddad then visited the Sultan family, where they were served a Palestinian staple, maqloobeh.

That dish happens to be one of my specialties (Yes, ladies, I can cook.) As they were eating, the man of the house was worried about being rude. Why?

The cameramen were not eating. His wife asked Bourdain to open a restaurant for her. We Palestinians are always looking for a hook-up. We need it.

Her husband continued to yell, but Leila assured Anthony. “This is a normal tone of voice. He’s not upset, by the way. This is how we talk. We yell.” I can relate.

Before Bourdain left Gaza, he met and dined with one more group of men. These men, like 75% of Gaza’s population, were refugees. As he sat, laughing and eating, he told us:

Many of these guys are not too sympathetic to my country, or my ethnicity I’m guessing. But, there’s that hospitality thing. Anywhere you go in the Muslim world, it seems, no matter what, you feed your guests, you do your best to make them feel at home.

It’s true. We Palestinians are overly hospitable when people visit our homeland. Sometimes too much.

The episode ended with Natan, the owner of a restaurant right outside of Gaza in Israel. Natan’s daughter was killed by a mortar bomb in the constant struggle between groups in Gaza and Israel.

Since 2008, over 1,600 Palestinians in Gaza have also been killed in this conflict.

Natan spoke of the senseless deaths on both sides. He clearly disliked settlements, and he believed it was possible for like-minded people from both sides to get together and make peace. I would agree,

if just more people like Natan existed. But the people who are pointing the guns at me aren’t named Natan… They’re named Netanyahu.

By the end, Bourdain did not seem too optimistic about the prospects of peace.

“One doesn’t even have to speak metaphorically because there is an actual wall… or a fence, depending on who you’re talking to.” Natan told him, “No. It is a big wall. It is ugly. It is really ugly. You can see it, it’s not far away from here.” Unfortunately, it’s not far away from anywhere.

Anthony, you will be hearing from certain individuals and organizations in the coming days. They will be upset. They’ve been trying to keep this stuff a secret.

Part of being Palestinian in America is getting really excited whenever someone tells the truth about us on American TV. Kind of depressing, right?

Anthony, in the beginning of this episode, you gave the following announcement:

By the end of this hour, I’ll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, socialist, a fascist, CIA agent, and worse.

I didn’t see any of that. I just saw what happens to anyone who actually interacts with Palestinians.

You fell in love with us, and we fell in love with you.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2021
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