Rear Left

A Ghetto is a Ghetto

Posted in Media & Movements, War & Culture by rearleft on November 17, 2009

بدم Bidam (With Blood), a documentary on the impact of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza on Palestinian public health, co-directed by Juliana Fredman and yours truly, is screening on December 10 at the Marchmont Community Centre, Camden, London UK. The event is organised by the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association, and proceeds benefit the Shehadeh Mosen Diabetes Clinic in Abu Dis.

I can’t be there, so help me out by passing the info on to your London folks who can.

Here’s a clip:


More Relative Calm, Part II

Posted in Media & Movements, War & Culture by rearleft on April 19, 2009


Basem Abu Rahmeh, pictured above, was buried in Bil’in yesterday.

WARNING: Graphic violence in link below

He is the 18th person (11 of them under 18 years old) to be killed since 2004 at demonstrations in Bil’in against the wall that cuts his village off from its farmland, effectively annexing land to the encroaching Israeli settlements.


ARIJ (the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem) make very nice maps. Segregation Wall is a remarkably accurate name for that system of structures, matrix of control, fence, security barrier, what-have-you, that Abu Rahmeh was protesting when he was shot in the chest.  In Afrikaans, apartheid means segregation.

Tristan Anderson (see More Relative Calm I) is still in a coma in Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv as he recovers from extensive brain and facial reconstruction surgery. Both Tristan and Basem were shot at close range with the new high speed 40mm tear gas shell, unarmed, at a time when there was no stone throwing, under full view of local press and international observers.

Palestinian news agency, Ma’an, reported it this way.

The Jerusalem Post reports a riot.

The BBC seem willfully ignorant of the video evidence, because they take it at face value that the Israeli fire was putting down “rock throwers”, which it clearly was not.

This is getting virtually no play in the western mainstream media, at least not nearly enough to bring down any sort of real international attention that might send a ripple down the chain of command to tighten up that local commander’s direction on how the folks with the finger on the trigger are interpreting how loose they can be with the pot shots on demonstrators with their new toys, the 40mm tear gas bullet. This experimental weapon is being tested in the most public way for its effectiveness as a deterrent against resistance to the wall both in the olive fields and in the media-field, and is so far flying disturbingly fast and low in both.

Plowshares Into Swords Into Plowshares


Nida Sinnokrot‘s installation Ka (JCB, JCB) pushes my reluctant spiritual buttons profoundly. Primal is a word that is overused, but in this case it rings true.

Ka (JCB, JCB), 2009

2 JCB 1CX backhoe arms

Commissioned & Produced by Sharjah Biennial

Sinnokrot is an artist whose films, installations and sculptures often explore the complex realities of conflict and diaspora. Ka transposes the raised-arms Egyptian hieroglyph of  an ancient belief system into a contemporary sculpture. An iconoclastic icon, a primal gesture as much about beckoning the heavens as it is a gesture of despair. All critique and political imperative follows from this simple clash between techne and sacred pose but within a uniquely Palestinian context, Sinnokrot imagines Ka as a humble monument to a future peace.

Note that the assembly was made possible by the labor of Indian workers in a labor camp who Nida bonded with over a shared love of metalwork shop skills.


Unsurprisingly, cricket features heavily in the laborers off-time pursuits.


Watch here for Nida’s kite project soon…

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More Relative Calm

Posted in War & Culture by rearleft on March 19, 2009

While the evening news devotes several minutes of coverage to the unfortunate accidental death of Natasha Richardson, you could be forgiven for not having received word of Tristan Anderson‘s fight for life following his own traumatic head injury, which was not an accident.

An Israeli soldier shot Tristan in the head at close range with a new form of tear gas canister. Compared to the big smoking grenades you and I grew up with, these are smaller (more bullet-like), silent, go much further (400m), and at a much higher velocity.

Hebrew: 40mm bullet special/long range

Hebrew: 40mm bullet special/long range

I’m not going to recount the details here. Too much. Too sad. Links are below. There is video of the minutes after the shot on the International Solidarity Movement’s website, but it’s too much for me to post here. Be warned. It is graphic.

Tristan was taking part in the weekly demonstrations in Ni’lin against Israel’s wall. The people of Ni’lin live under siege, their farming lands behind the wall, access restricted to the whim of the occupying army. Water supply threatened. Travel beyond the checkpoints in all directions denied.

The village has taken up non-violent direct action as their form of resistance to the drastic situation they face. In the past 2 years, 4 Palestinians (including 10 year old Ahmed Mousa) have been killed at their weekly marches at the wall. These demonstrations follow a certain rhythm, a ritual that is both a beautiful expression of resistance and hope in the face of an overwhelmingly oppressive situation and a gruesome display of the callousness of both the Israelis and the foreign press and audiences who chose not to value this story.

The New York Times headline for this particular story is an excellent example of the sort of bias that is a baseline for reportage of the conflict.

American Injured in Clash at Israeli Barrier

Story here. Let’s focus on that word “Clash”. Don’t even get me started on “Barrier”. I have read many reports of what occurred in the shooting of Tristan Anderson. All of them involve a group of activists, medics, and youth being herded by soldiers and border police into a closed area and then firing on them with both live fire and these new tear gas rounds from above. A local man was shot in the leg with a live round.

There are certain key euphemisms that are used by the New York Times (and others, check the “tree-sitter” references below) that show up time and time again, across different journalists work, which suggests that there is an editorial line on what words to use. “Clash” appears to cover any situation in which Palestinians are demonstrating, but it clearly implies the presence of a return of fire or some sort of equivalency of force. None of that here.

Below is ISM’s list of press reports from the past couple of days. Tristan was shot 5 days ago now. His girlfriend is with him in the hospital in Tel Aviv and the word from today is that he is able to squeeze her finger in response to questions and raised 2 fingers when the doctor asked him to do so, which is a massive improvement on a few days ago. This Friday March 19, tomorrow, New Yorkers will march on the Israeli consulate at 4pm in support of Tristan Anderson and the Palestinian people.

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Relative Calm

Posted in War & Culture by rearleft on January 28, 2009

The not-so-sophisticated logic of an Israeli soldier

The logic of young men with tanks

As the atrocities of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza fade from the headlines, we once again enter the mode of what the mainstream media often refers to as “relative calm” (see also here). This euphemistic phrase is often used to denote a period in which Israel suffers few or no deaths from Palestinian attacks. Palestinian deaths and suffering caused by siege, restriction of movement, and continued military actions continue during such periods , but do not warrant the attention of the Western press.

I’ve added a link in the Politricks category of my blog roll (see right) called In Gaza, which carries the eye-witness reports of Ewa Jasiewicz, a volunteer with the Free Gaza Movement. As her reports show, Israeli gunships sitting just offshore continue to shell Gaza, in spite of what you may have heard about the ceasefire. Some trucks full of food aid have been allowed in, but the siege on imports and exports continues. An IDF soldier was killed today in what Israeli press described as a remote-controlled bomb attack. Interestingly, the soldier was a Bedouin, not a Jew. In response, the Israelis killed a nearby farmer and launched airstrikes on Rafah.

Meanwhile, Britain’s main broadcasters refuse to broadcast the Disaster Emergency Committee’s appeal for Gaza:

I’ll admit, it’s quite odd and off-putting to see Palestinian children weeping in the “save the children” genre ad. Nonetheless, an evenhanded presentation from the organizations who had no problem airing similar appeals on Burma and Darfur:

The BBC and Sky’s refusal to play the clip displays the lesser weight afforded to Palestinian lives by the Western media. In the perverse logic of our press, portrayal of Palestinian suffering is political bias. Its absence is relative calm.

Conversely, I was pleasantly astounded to happen upon Bob Simon’s remarkably well reported 60 minutes piece on the increasingly non-viable two state solution. Never before have I seen an assessment of the options that Israel faces presented so starkly and correctly in the US media:

Demographers predict that within ten years Arabs will outnumber Jews in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Without a separate Palestinian state the Israelis would have three options, none of them good. They could try ethnic cleansing, drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank, or they could give the Palestinians the vote. That would be the democratic option but it would mean the end of the Jewish state. Or they could try apartheid – have the minority Israelis rule the majority Palestinians, but apartheid regimes don’t have a very long life.

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