The murder of Shireen Abu Akleh is not an aberration

The words of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish convey well the atmosphere of a nation after the assassination by Israel of AlJazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last week:

“And if they ask you about Palestine, tell them:
Inside there is a martyr
cared for by a martyr
photographed by a martyr
sent by a martyr
and prayed by a martyr.

Those of us who watch the aftermath of his murder, followed by the horror of his funeral when Israeli security forces attacked his pallbearers, carrying his coffin from the hospital to the church, unveil the reality of Israel and Zionism. It is not an aberration; it is the result of 74 years of assassinations, robberies and deceits. It should show the world how Israel treats those who use various forms of media to reflect the reality in which they live.

Unfortunately, many people across the world, including in India, are ready and willing to accept the distorted view of Israel, whether in the news or in the movies. And all too often, we ignore that this Israeli point of view comes directly from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It is the power of culture that Israel knows all too well. That is why its Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is “responsible for” acquiring notoriety and high visibility abroad for Israel’s cultural and scientific activity, as an important tool for the promotion of its interests. policies”.

Just as the Palestinians do not have an equivalent army with which to fight their occupiers, the Palestinians do not have the resources to spread their narrative through embassies around the world. This is why we see institutions like the Indian International Center (IIC) cooperating with the Israeli Embassy to screen its films and we do not see any Palestinian film festival coordinated or not with the Palestinian Authority.

Indeed, whether it is Palestinian food – za’atar for Hummus – pottery, embroidery or architecture, the Israelis have stolen every inch of Palestinian culture as a means of simultaneously manufacturing the longevity of their presence and creating facts on the ground. The theft of Palestinian books from homes and libraries was one of the first ways in which Israel attacked Palestinian culture. Under Israeli rule, this practice continues in a variety of ways, from censoring the books and art that Palestinians are allowed to consume or create to shutting down cultural events.

In 2009, while attending the Palestine Literature Festival, I saw Israeli security forces invade Al Hakawati, the Palestinian National Theater in Jerusalem. They shut it down so the poetry reading – which featured writers from around the world – couldn’t take place in the national theatre. Poetry has long been particularly threatening to Israel, which is why they placed Mahmoud Darwish under house arrest and banned his poetry during his lifetime.

Cinema has also long been a medium that Israel has banned, especially when depicting realistic views of its military operations in Palestinian communities. In 2002, filmmaker Mohammad Bakri Jenin, Jenin was banned by Israel’s film censorship board, accusing him of portraying their attack on the Jenin refugee camp in a defamatory manner.

Such a truth, especially when it attracts the attention of the whole world, disturbs the hasbara (propaganda) that Israel uses to whitewash its crimes. Indeed, the Jenin refugee camp is the very place where the Israeli army killed Abu Akleh to prevent journalists from reporting on their latest invasion of the camp.

Such occurrences are not an anomaly. Indeed, the Israeli army has repeatedly targeted journalists by killing or imprisoning them. Israel has killed at least nineteen journalists since 1992. In addition, many other cultural workers have been among Israel’s targeted assassinations over the past seven decades.

One of the most infamous cases was the Mossad bombing of novelist Ghassan Kanafani’s car, which also claimed the life of his 17-year-old niece, Lamees, in Beirut in 1972. their obituary from Kanafani, Lebanon daily star said: “Ghassan was the commando who never fired a gun. His weapon was a ballpoint pen and his arena diary pages. And he did more harm to the enemy than to a column of commandos.

Indeed, culture is a powerful form of resistance, something Darwish, Kanafani and Abu Akleh knew only too well.

Unlike Palestinians who use various forms of writing, film, dance, cuisine, art and media to tell their stories, hasbara has been an official Israeli strategy to cover up its crimes – whether it was the initial theft of land during Nakbah (disaster) or more recent crimes like killing Abu Akleh and attacking mourners at his funeral. This is why filmmakers like Mira Nair or musicians like Zakir Hussein or writers like Kamila Shamsie have canceled events in Israel to honor the cultural boycott.

This is precisely the situation we find ourselves in with the cooperation of the IIC with the Israeli Embassy, ​​which helps Israel cover up its ongoing crimes. By showing films like Zero Motivation, they humanize the Israeli occupation army through humor and make the Palestinians invisible, much like the Zionist project more generally. It makes the military “cool” and erases the context in which Israel and its military exist in the first place. On the dramatic side, there are movies like Bethlehemwhich shows another side of the Israeli army: its abuse of children by forcing them to become informants about their friends and family, which led to their imprisonment and murder.

The IIC’s decision to screen these Israeli films in Kolkata and Delhi shares deliberately dishonest portrayals of what is happening in Israel’s apartheid regime. It dishonors Abu Akleh and the countless Palestinians who have risked their lives to tell the stories that Israel constantly covers up.

Marcy Newman is the author of The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans and a founding member of the American Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

James C. Tibbs