Hester Keijser Hester Keijser ? Slide-show: Middle Eastern Photography Wednesday, 30 January, 6PM, Goethe-Institut
Hester Keijser is an independent curator with a focus on contemporary photography, especially from the greater Middle East. She is currently engaged as creative co-director of?East Wing, a new space for photography established in Doha and Dubai. Since 2006, she has authored the photo blog?Mrs. Deane, cited by Wired and the British Journal of Photography as one of the top ten must-reads.
Visit Hester Keijser?s blog:?http://www.beikey.net/mrs-deane
Visit East Wing?s website:?http://east-wing.org
President Abbas received a standing ovation when he delivered the Palestinian application for full member state status to the UN in September 2011
The Palestinians plan to ask the United Nations to upgrade their status to become a “non-member observer state” on 29 November 2012.
It follows a failed bid to join the international body as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the UN Security Council.
Here is a guide to what is likely to happen and its significance. Continue reading “Palestinian bid for upgraded UN status”
Mubarak’s Ignominious Departure and the Fear Factor
by rahnuma ahmed
Mubarak is gone! Egypt is free!
Equally true is the fact that power has been assumed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. That the 30 year-old state of emergency has not yet been lifted, neither has any time frame been set, nothing beyond the invocation, “as soon as the current circumstances are over.” ?Equally true is the fact that Egypt’s new, transitional (military) rulers have been quick to affirm Egypt’s commitment to all regional and international obligations and treaties, an implicit signal that the treaty of all treaties, Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel?propagated as a bulwark for peace and stability in the region, but in reality, one which helps sustain Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the seige of Gaza?is not under threat. An affirmation swiftly welcomed by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described the treaty as “having greatly contributed to both countries,” as “the cornerstone for peace and stability in the entire Middle East”; close at his heels was US president Barack Obama who welcomed the Egyptian pledge to “stand by” its international obligations.
But, it is also true that while Egyptian demonstrators, both young and old, rallied to scrub off slogans and graffiti from walls, to clean up the streets of Cairo of rocks, debris of violence, charred remains of Mubarak’s effigy (“Clearing the streets is just a start. It is our country now”), protestors still camped out in Tahrir square, refusing to leave until the military issued official statements on their next steps. It is also true that pro-democracy activists insist that their revolt was not against one man but against the whole regime, which Mubarak and his predecessors, had instituted. It is also true that their invincible strength prevented Omar Suleiman?the CIA’s man in Cairo who devised and implemented the programme for renditioning and torturing terrorist suspects,?in whom Mubarak transferred authorities while still clinging to power?from taking charge. Pro-democracy activists insist that the revolution will not be over until all responsible for the hundreds of deaths will be investigated, tried and punished. It will not be over until Egypt’s stolen funds are restored. Swiss banks have frozen assets of the ousted president, who is currently hunkered down in his residence at the Red Sea tourist resort, Sharm al-Sheikh. Former interior minister Habib El Adly, former prime minister Ahmed Nazif have been banned from travelling, their assets have been frozen. Former information minister Anna El Feqy has been placed under house arrest while rumors fly of business tycoons fleeing. But it is also true that while figures are totted up of how much the former president, his Welsh wife and their son fleeced Egypt, that while the huge personal wealth amassed by other members of the corrupt coterie are calculated, one does not hear of corruption within the army. That these stories are silenced.
But it is undeniable that the mass uprising was organic. One that persisted after Mubarak’s ouster, attested to by scenes of youths in Alexandria, the mainstay of the uprising, stopping cars and telling their occupants, abide by traffic rules. Of telling pedestrians, do not give bribes, read up the constitution.
It is also true that the mass uprising did not occur overnight but was, as Marwan Bishara reminds us, “the culmination of countless sit-ins, strikes, pickets, and demonstrations.”
That behind the 18 day popular revolt lies long years of grassroots mobilisation, the tireless efforts of scores of coalition builders who worked with labour unions and opposition parties, both old and new, including the Muslim Brotherhood. That we must not forget people such as, says Bishara, the late Mohammad El-Sayed Said who helped to found the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies and, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights. Who underwent arrest and torture for writing the “much-acclaimed report about the punishment of dissidents by torture” (Al-Ahram). Who died last year after a long period of ill-treatment at the hands of the Mubarak regime, and a 2-year struggle with cancer. Who was “much missed in Tahrir Square.” There were many others. CAIRO, EGYPT - FEBRUARY 01: Anti-government protestors wave their shoes, in a gesture of anger, after President Hosni Mubarak announces that he will not seek re-election on February 1, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. Protests in Egypt continued with the largest gathering yet, with many tens of thousands assembling in central Cairo, demanding the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek. The Egyptian army has said it will not fire on protestors as they gather in large numbers in central Cairo. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
It is also true that Mubarak was suffering from severe delusions when he confided in a 20 minute telephone conversation to former Israeli defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a close friend and ally, that he was looking for “an honorable way out” (Press TV, February 12, 2011). ?This was on Thursday, February 10, the day he refused to step down as anticipated, offering his “children” constitutional changes instead, and transfer of authorities to Suleiman. It was the speech greeted with raised shoes, the ultimate sign of dishonor for leaders and politicians in our parts of the world. One that was globally iconised by Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoe at George Bush in 2008. A farewell parting. Continue reading “THE END OF AUTHORITARIANISM IN THE ARAB WORLD?”
“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality,”
an unnamed Bush official told reporter Ron Suskind,
quoted by Eric Alterman, Bush’s War on the Press, The Nation (2005)
Even when the US hadn’t been the only empire around, powerful members of the American administration had collectively attempted to create their “own reality.” One such plan, Operation Northwoods, consisted of staging terror attacks. To justify the launching of a war against Cuba. To (of course) defend America.
The secret plan was drafted by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962, signed by its Chairman, and sent to Robert McNamara, secretary of defense. Declassified in 1997 by a federal agency overseeing records relating to president John F Kennedy’s assassination, the plan proposed real or simulated actions against various US military and civilian targets: landing `friendly’ Cubans to attack US base (Guantanamo). Sinking a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida. Building a Soviet MIG aircraft to be flown by an American pilot, which would attack and destroy a US military drone aircraft. Launching a wave of violent terrorism (bombings, hijackings) in Washington D.C. In Miami. Elsewhere, too. The desired result? To convince Americans and the larger western public that the Cuban government was not only “rash and irresponsible” but a threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere. That America had no option but to `retaliate.’
Operation Northwoods was not implemented because, as the story goes, Kennedy had rejected it. But other false flag operations designed to create America’s own reality?to deceive the public, to manufacture support?have been successfully conducted. Of course, America is not the only culprit, as history attests. The Japanese blew up a section of the railway to annex Manchuria in 1931; kidnapped one of their own soldiers to invade China proper, 1937. The Soviets shelled their own village near the Finnish border, 1939. The Israelis secretly sponsored bombings of US/British interests in Cairo to sour relations between Egypt and the West, 1954.
Central to America’s “our own reality” story are two myths: it is America’s enemies who are `sneaky.’ The government goes to war only to `save the lives’ of US soldiers. Historical research proves otherwise: president Roosevelt let the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor (1941). Nearly three thousand American service men including civilians were killed which by fuelling public outrage at Japan’s so-called sneak attack, enabled FDR to overcome massive opposition to war.
According to America’s ideologues, if Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not been bombed?still described in official history as the “least abhorrent choice”?the lives of 500,000 American soldiers would have been at risk. But in reality, as people connected to history know, Japan was ready to surrender.
Dissenting opinion did exist, and in powerful circles, too: Japan was already defeated, dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary (Dwight Eisenhower). The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare are frightening (Admiral Leahy, chief of staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman). The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul. (Herbert Hoover, 31st US president). There was no military justification. I was not consulted (General Douglas MacArthur).
More than 103,000 people died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were unrecorded deaths. There were slower deaths, caused by radiation.
But surely, just because previous US administrations have committed false flag operations, it doesn’t mean that 9/11 too, is an inside job? Granted. True. Except that when one looks at the mass of evidence, including oral testimonies, diligently gathered by physicists, pilots, architects, structural engineers and a host of other professionals (firefighters, whistle-blowers) over these last couple of years, also by grassroots people, under the rubric of what has come to be known as the 9/11 truth movement, even the blind are bound to be convinced.
What persuaded me most was the strange response of the Bush administration. Why was the government reluctant, why should family members of 9/11 victims have to insist that a commission be established to investigate the failures that made 9/11 possible? Why did Bush want someone as disreputable as Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state (who should be tried for war crimes in Bangladesh and Cambodia for starters), to head the Commission? Why should Bush and vice-president Cheney agree to testify before the Commission on the condition that they should not have to take the oath, that their testimony should not be electronically recorded nor transcribed, nor made public? Why did the Commission co-chairmen allege later that the CIA had not cooperated with the Commission? Why did NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) officials provide inaccurate information in their testimony to the Commission, and in media appearances? Why should the Commission have to use subpoenas and force NORAD and FAA to release evidence? Why did the Commission chairmen say that the Commission was “set up” to fail? Why did the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) not hold enquiries into any of the 4 plane crashes, which is required by law?
Another thing that I find odd, like many others, were the words blurted out by Bob Kerrey, a 9/11 Commission member. Several months ago he was pressed by a member of We Are Change who said, according to the constitution, a cover-up of an act of war is treasonous, the Pentagon continually changed its story, the country needs to get to the bottom of 9/11 etc., etc.,
Bob Kerrey: It’s a.. the problem is that it’s a 30 year old conspiracy.
Jeremy Rothe-Kushel: No, I’m talking about 9/11.
Bob Kerrey: That’s what I’m talking about too. Well anyway, I gotta go.
Listening to Kerrey reminded me of what the Bush official, who I quote at the head of the column, had gone on to tell Suskind, “And while you’re studying that reality?judiciously, as you will?we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
General Leonid Ivashov, former joint chief of staff of the Russian Armed Forces did just that. Having found the free-fall collapse of the towers disturbing, he instructed his staff to search for answers. Three days later he came to the conclusion that the 9/11 attack was the result of “a clash of interests among US leaders.”
While more recently, a Vietnam war veteran, former director of studies of the US Army War College, Dr Alan Sabrosky, has come out with the bold statement that 9/11 was not only `an inside job,’ but more specifically, a CIA-Mossad job. Nine-eleven would have been impossible to stage without the full resources of the CIA and the Mossad. Its Building 7, he says. It was not hit by a plane but still went down. “If one of the buildings was wired for demolition, all of them were wired for demolition.”
And it was my column on Sabrosky that yielded me accusations of being anti-Semitic. I wonder whether part of the problem lies in the strong western belief, an indissoluble one, that `the government loves them.’ Despite the history of false flag operations.
May be the Bush official, utterly contemptuous and disdainful as he was, knew what he was talking about. We create our own reality. And our people fall for it.
First published in New Age
Anti-Semite, Jew hater, Holocaust denier are the epithets one is bound to gather if one voices criticism of Israel. Of Zionism.
Historian Tony Judt, of Jewish background himself, had written on Israel’s 58th birthday, Israel is like an adolescent. It is convinced that it can do as it wishes. That it is immortal. That no one understands it. Everyone is against it. It is unique (`The country that wouldn’t grow up,’ Haaretz, May 2, 2006).
And after all, as God’s “chosen people” how can they be blamed? Self-deluded into thinking that they are distinct?especially from their Arab neighbours who are barbaric, fanatics, dirty, smelly?imagine their shock when a research aimed at studying genetic variations in immune system genes among Middle Eastern people discovered otherwise, that Jewish people are genetically not distinct from their neighbors. What was to happen now to the Jewish claim that they are special? That Judaism can only be inherited? (`Mideast Jews, Palestinians Virtually Genetically Identical,’ The Observer, November 25, 2001).
And how did the scientific community react? Did members scratch their heads and say, Oh good, now the Israelis will realise that it was all a big mistake. They’ve been slaughtering and grabbing land from people who’re actually their brothers… All this horror can stop. We can have peace. Finally!
No. The paper was pulled from Human Immunology, the American journal in which it’d just been published. It was removed from the journal’s website. Academics who had already received journal copies were urged to rip out the offending pages. Libraries and universities throughout the world were asked to either ignore it or “preferably to physically remove the pages.” The author, Spanish geneticist professor Antonio Arnaiz-Villena was sacked from the journal’s editorial board.
If Arnaiz-Villena had found evidence that instead of being “ordinary,” Jewish people were genetically “very special,” wrote a fellow scientist, “you can be sure no one would have objected.”
Israel, as we can all see, has refused to grow up. If it had, it would have, at the very least, done what Judt had advised 4 years earlier: dismantle the major settlements. Open unconditional negotiation with Palestinians. Offer Hamas leaders something serious in return for recognition of Israel and a cease-fire.
It would have realised that it cannot count indefinitely upon the unquestioning support of the United States. That the worldwide scrutiny of its everyday behaviour towards the Palestinians, only a TV button or a mouse click away?curfews, checkpoints, bulldozers, home destructions, land grabbings and settlements, slaughter in Gaza dubbed the world’s largest open-air prison, apartheid wall, targeted assassinations, theft of western passports?would eventually lead to a situation where, as Judt puts it, “the fact that the great-grandmother of an Israeli soldier died in Treblinka,” or Auschwitz, is no excuse for his own abusive treatment of a Palestinian woman waiting to cross a checkpoint. That it would lead to a situation where Israel would no longer be able to cash in on the Holocaust.
It will be most unfortunate. Zionism will provide the excuse for the rise of genuine anti-Semitism, for exacting the price?from both Zionist, and non-Zionist Jews?for not having learnt lessons from history.
Judt had issued a warning: “something is changing in the United States.” Ten years ago, he said, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby would possibly not have been published. Not even from London. A sea-change is taking place. It is leading prominent thinkers, including erstwhile neo-conservative interventionists like Francis Fukuyama to hard-nosed realists like Mearsheimer and Walt (“prominent senior academics of impeccable conservative credentials”) to voice the concern that Israel is “a liability.” If America is to regain her “foreign image and influence” the umbilical cord which ties US foreign policy to the needs and interests of Israel must be severed.
US military circles apparently are not far removed from these changing concerns. As Dr Alan Sabrosky, former director of studies of the American War College said in a recent interview, his article, in which he alleges that 9/11 was a Mossad-CIA operation, is being read by people in the Headquarters Marine Corps, the Army War College. At first it is met with disbelief. But once people get convinced, they get angry. Very angry, he said. That’s because the military, unlike the Congress, the White House, and the media, has not been bought (see last week’s column, The `Mad Dog’ in the Middle East).
It is a conviction that seems to be shared by Gordon Duff, a Marine Vietnam veteran, and a widely published expert on military and defense issues. Israel’s powerful group around Bush ?the PNAC-ers, the neo-cons?is not present in the current administration, but the idea, as Duff explains, had been that regardless of who was voted to power, whether it was John McCain or Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel would be there, “to pull his strings” ?(Emanuel is the White House chief of staff at present). And they still have the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, the State department, and “AIPAC’s ability to put 75% of the members of congress around anything from a resolution that the moon is made of green cheese to `National Have Sex With Your Child Day.’ Equally importantly, the media giants controlled by Israeli assets and Christian Zionist allies are in position in Germany, the UK and the US, and along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, these assets are quick in “suppressing news, running any story and manipulating the masses.”
Things started to go wrong for Israel, writes Duff, when top military leaders increasingly became suspicious of 9/11 (April 24, 2010). Of the possibility that Israel was involved in 9/11. It is a suspicion which has festered like an open wound. General Petraeus, the senior operational commander, the person really in charge of the US military, has told Admiral Mullen that Israel is not subjected to any foreign threat. That it has become “a massive liability.” Obama, writes Duff, was confronted with a choice. He was told that neither the military nor the intelligence services are prepared to participate in attacks on Iran “under any imaginable circumstances.” That, if the US wanted to attack Iran, “he and Emanuel Rahm would have to invade Iran personally” (and I cannot help think who’d blame them with 18 attempted suicides per day among American war vets?).
As Israel lined up its collaborators in the US, Obama went after “Israel’s biggest prize in America, Goldman Sachs,” its prime asset for controlling America. For looting America. According to Duff, the alliance between the US and Israel has totally broken down. The most liberal and the most conservative members of congress have signed up in support of Goldman Sachs, and lined up against the President and Pentagon, who are are aligned together. In support of his argument, he asks: why [else would] extreme liberals and conservatives all attacking President Obama and, less visibly, our military leaders, all at the same time? Who is orchestrating this oddest turn of political events in recent history?
And in this oddest of situation backroom chatter has increased: a terror attack is imminent. Iran will be blamed for it. The primary suspect is Israel since “only a new 9/11 can bail Israel out,” writes Duff. According to rumors, the weapons are in place in Europe and the US. Arabs, Iranians, Pakistanis, some kind of Islamic terrorist group, have already been recruited. Or invented. News stories have already been drafted (I’d like to remind skeptics of 9/11, when BBC news correspondent Jane Standley had reported the collapse of Building 7, a good 23 minutes before the actual collapse time). Film crews are on alert. Witnesses will be briefed, they will say, Yes, it was an Arab dirty bomb. We saw them. Middle Eastern-looking. They must have bought the bomb from North Korea. After the story has hit the news, these stunned survivors will suddenly disappear. We all know where.
A super 9-11. But will this one, now that suspicions have been raised, now that Israel’s cover has been blown, will it generate `super’ sympathy for Middle East’s `mad dog’?
May be not. Once bitten, twice shy. Published in New Age
Palestinian mother and daughter walk past Israeli troops. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is calling for a one-state solution. (Photo: Patrick Baz / AFP / Getty Images) Tripoli, Libya – The shocking level of the last wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence, which ended with this weekend’s cease-fire, reminds us why a final resolution to the so-called Middle East crisis is so important. It is vital not just to break this cycle of destruction and injustice, but also to deny the religious extremists in the region who feed on the conflict an excuse to advance their own causes. But everywhere one looks, among the speeches and the desperate diplomacy, there is no real way forward. A just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, but it lies in the history of the people of this conflicted land, and not in the tired rhetoric of partition and two-state solutions. Although it’s hard to realize after the horrors we’ve just witnessed, the state of war between the Jews and Palestinians has not always existed. In fact, many of the divisions between Jews and Palestinians are recent ones. The very name “Palestine” was commonly used to describe the whole area, even by the Jews who lived there, until 1948, when the name “Israel” came into use. Jews and Muslims are cousins descended from Abraham. Throughout the centuries both faced cruel persecution and often found refuge with one another. Arabs sheltered Jews and protected them after maltreatment at the hands of the Romans and their expulsion from Spain in the Middle Ages.
The history of Israel/Palestine is not remarkable by regional standards – a country inhabited by different peoples, with rule passing among many tribes, nations and ethnic groups; a country that has withstood many wars and waves of peoples from all directions. This is why it gets so complicated when members of either party claims the right to assert that it is their land. The basis for the modern State of Israel is the persecution of the Jewish people, which is undeniable. The Jews have been held captive, massacred, disadvantaged in every possible fashion by the Egyptians, the Romans, the English, the Russians, the Babylonians, the Canaanites and, most recently, the Germans under Hitler. The Jewish people want and deserve their homeland. But the Palestinians too have a history of persecution, and they view the coastal towns of Haifa, Acre, Jaffa and others as the land of their forefathers, passed from generation to generation, until only a short time ago.
Thus the Palestinians believe that what is now called Israel forms part of their nation, even were they to secure the West Bank and Gaza. And the Jews believe that the West Bank is Samaria and Judea, part of their homeland, even if a Palestinian state were established there. Now, as Gaza still smolders, calls for a two-state solution or partition persist. But neither will work. A two-state solution will create an unacceptable security threat to Israel. An armed Arab state, presumably in the West Bank, would give Israel less than 10 miles of strategic depth at its narrowest point. Further, a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would do little to resolve the problem of refugees. Any situation that keeps the majority of Palestinians in refugee camps and does not offer a solution within the historical borders of Israel/Palestine is not a solution at all.
For the same reasons, the older idea of partition of the West Bank into Jewish and Arab areas, with buffer zones between them, won’t work. The Palestinian-held areas could not accommodate all of the refugees, and buffer zones symbolize exclusion and breed tension. Israelis and Palestinians have also become increasingly intertwined, economically and politically. In absolute terms, the two movements must remain in perpetual war or a compromise must be reached. The compromise is one state for all, an “Isratine” that would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part of it.
A key prerequisite for peace is the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the homes their families left behind in 1948. It is an injustice that Jews who were not originally inhabitants of Palestine, nor were their ancestors, can move in from abroad while Palestinians who were displaced only a relatively short time ago should not be so permitted. It is a fact that Palestinians inhabited the land and owned farms and homes there until recently, fleeing in fear of violence at the hands of Jews after 1948 – violence that did not occur, but rumors of which led to a mass exodus. It is important to note that the Jews did not forcibly expel Palestinians. They were never “un-welcomed.” Yet only the full territories of Isratine can accommodate all the refugees and bring about the justice that is key to’peace. Assimilation is already a fact of life in Israel. There are more than 1 million Muslim Arabs in Israel; they possess Israeli nationality and take part in political life with the Jews, forming political parties. On the other side, there are Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israeli factories depend on Palestinian labor, and goods and services are exchanged. This successful assimilation can be a model for Isratine.
If the present interdependence and the historical fact of Jewish-Palestinian co-existence guide their leaders, and if they can see beyond the horizon of the recent violence and thirst for revenge toward a long-term solution, then these two peoples will come to realize, I hope sooner rather than later, that living under one roof is the only option for a lasting peace. ——–
Muammar Qaddafi is the leader of Libya. Thursday 22 January 2009
related links: Complicity in slaughter Today in Gaza Home and the architecture of occupation How Beautiful is Panama The Face of a Terrorist? Checkposts I hear the screams Iran Palestine and the Hypocrisies of Power – an interview with Noam Chomsky
WHAT does home mean for Palestinians driven away from their land in recurring waves of Israeli onslaught ? 1948, 1949 to 1956, and again in 1967, due to the six-day war? What does home mean for first generation Palestinian refugees, and for their descendants, for people who ?yearn for Palestine??
It is a yearning that permeates, in the words of David McDowall, the ?whole refugee community?, one that stretches from 986,034 in the Gaza Strip, 699,817 in the West Bank, 1,827,877 in Jordan, 404,170 in Lebanon and 432,048 in Syria (2005 figures). What does home ? something that ?exists only in the imagination? ? mean for Palestinians who are subject to Israel?s ongoing colonisation of Palestine?
?What, for you, is home?? ?How would you represent it?? ?How would you represent it if you were to take one single photograph?? Florence Aigner, a Belgian photographer, put these three questions to Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. She gave them time to think and returned with her camera and notebook the next day to take two photographs: a portrait of the person, and a representation of what home meant for that person, both visually, and through words. Personal narratives are often lost in collective narratives, and Aigner says she wanted to explore both diversity and particularity through the experiences of daily living. Her approach, she says, allows her to create a dialogue between the person and her or his idea of a home, between the photograph and the photographer, and also, between photography and writing. And thus we find images of home in exile interspersed with images of home in Palestine, images where one home is often projected on the other. These images form her exhibition, Homes, sweet homes.
I had always felt homeless, says Eman, and had refused to cook, `to practise home?. But now, even though our house in Ramallah is temporary, I have started to cook, cooking for me is ?an act of love?. For Oum Mahmoud, home is her husband who was killed in a Mossad air attack. Her house in Ramallah was destroyed in a recent Israeli missile attack, the new flat has ?no memories?, ?no furniture?, it is like living in a hotel. For Wisam Suleiman, home is orange trees and lemon trees, and the faces of martyrs who have given their lives to assert their right to return. The way home, says Suleiman, is ?sweeter than home itself?. For Abu Majdi, forced to flee in 1948, home is the ?key of our house in Jerusalem.?
Photographs and interviews by Florence Aigner
Being on the margin, following my own footsteps, I always felt homeless. It made me develop a sense of rejection mainly for the kitchen, the heart of practising home. So I refused psychologically and practically to cook.
Last year, I had to move with my husband and our two children to Ramallah when passing back and forth between Ramallah and Jerusalem became an Odyssey trip due to the Calandia checkpoint and the harsh siege imposed on the city. Our house in Ramallah is temporary, I started to cook and feel good about it, cooking became an act of love I dedicate to my family. Is this home?
My home is my husband. I have only a few photos of him left. He was killed during an air attack by Mossad on the office of the PLO in Tunis in 1986. In the 90?s I could return to Palestine with the Palestinian Authority. Since then I live in Ramallah.
I have recently lost everything, my house burned when an Israeli missile hit it. I could only rescue some books and photos from the flames. Now I live in a new flat, but I have no memories or furniture left. I buy little by little some stuff to furnish it. I have the feeling to live in a hotel.
When I hear the word ?home? orange trees and lemon trees come to my mind as well as faces of hundreds of martyrs who have given their life for the right of return. For me, the way of return has to go through education, education, education…and books.
As Palestinian refugees we have to prepare the new generation to return to Palestine in a human way. We have to carry our culture and science with us, and work hard. The way home is more beautiful than home itself.
My home is my house in Malha near Jerusalem that we had to flee in 1948. I hope to return there one day, but I am not very optimistic, because Israel wants a land without its inhabitants. Sometimes I don?t understand anything. Before 1948 we had Jewish friends, we were living together. In 1948 we had to leave everything behind and we became refugees in Aida camp, Bethlehem.
An Iraqi Jewish family, the Rajwan moved then into our house in Jerusalem. We were friends and were giving gifts to each other. We saw them until 1967. I remember the grandfather used to say that he wanted to return to Iraq and to give us back our house. He said that they were keeping it for the day we could return. Eventually the old man died without having been able to return to Iraq. Me, I have kept the keys of our house in Jerusalem all my life.
The architecture of occupation
Migron in occupied West Bank is a fully-fledged illegal settlement of Israelis, comprising 60 trailers on a hilltop that overlooks Palestinian lands below. In 1999, several Israeli settlers complained to the mobile phone company Orange about a bend in the road from Jerusalem to their settlements that caused disruption to their phone service. The company agreed to put up an antenna on a hill situated above the bend. The hill was owned by Palestinian farmers, but their permission was not required since mobile phone reception is a ?security? issue. Mast construction began, while other companies agreed to supply electricity and water to the construction site on the hill. In May 2001, an Israeli security guard, soon followed by his wife and children, moved to the site and connected his cabin to the main water and electricity supply. Less than a year later, five other families joined him. This is how the settler outpost of Migron was created. Soon, the Israeli ministry for construction and housing helped build a nursery, while a synagogue was built from donations from abroad.
Eyal Weizman, dissident Israeli architect and architectural theorist of the relationships and exchanges between architectural and military planning, documents the processes of illegal Israeli settlement ? in his words, ?a civilian occupation?. His book Hollow Land: Israel?s Architecture of Occupation provides a detailed and exact account of ?how occupation works in practice?. Weizman had, at the invitation of the Palestinian authority, also been involved in planning houses for Palestinians, in re-using settlements after the Israeli evacuation of August 2005. What is to be done with settlements after evacuation? Are they to be abandoned, reused, converted, or recycled? The Palestinians, he says, had rejected these single family homes as suburbs. After intense discussions, it was finally agreed that the evacuated shells of settlement would be spatialised into a set of public institutions: an agricultural university, a cultural centre, a clinic for the Red Cross, etc. But the project of re-using the illegal settlements collapsed after the Israelis destroyed them.
Settlement planning and building of the Israelis, says Weizman, emerges out of ?organisational chaos?. The very nature of Israeli occupation is one of ?uncoordinated coordination? where the government allows ?degrees of freedom? to rough elements, to a whole host of actors ? Israeli settlers, mobile phone companies, utility firms, state institutions, the army, etc ? and then denies its involvement. Micro-processes, such as that of an Israeli civilian moving a cabin to an illegal site, settling down, home-building, foreign donations pouring in to build a synagogue become wheels in larger processes of occupation of Palestinian lands. In the Israeli government?s colonial policies.
And as these occur, home-building for Palestinians ? even in the sixtieth year of their mass exodus ? remains something that exists ?only in the imagination?.