Pledge Edition: Karma Chavez talks with Steven Salaita about his new book, “Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom.” His new book addresses his controversial termination from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and important issues that affect both higher education and social justice activism.
Karma Chavez, WORT 89.9FM A Public Affair, September 9, 2015
Today Karma Chavez talks with Palestinian activist Haitham Salawdeh. Haitham is a relative of the infant killed by Israeli settlers who fire bombed their house in the West Bank last month.
In late July, 18-month old baby Ali Saad Dawabsheh was burned to death in his home in Duma Village, Palestine. His father and mother both passed away following the attack as well, making his 4-year-old brother the only survivor.
Haitham Salawdeh is a neighbor and relative of the victims. He left Duma and has lived in Wisconsin since 1992, and is an activist with the US-Palestinian Community Network.
Broadcast on the WORT 89.9 FM program Third World View:
Relations Director at the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights –
Mahound Abu Rahma recently wrote in “Understanding Israel’s Actions”:
“It is essential that U.S. citizens understand that this
conflict should not continue to be viewed as a symmetrical one anymore
and while they largely do not hear about it there are vicious violations of
international law against Palestinians every day; including closures/
blockades, settlement activities (population transfer on our land)
displacement, killings, detention and torture.”
John Quinlan, WORT 89.9 FM – A Public Affair, November 19, 2012
On Monday November 19th, host John Quinlan was joined in conversation with visitors from a peace delegation sponsored by the Interfaith Peace-Builders.
The delegates just returned this past week from Gaza and and the West Bank. Permission for foreigners to obtain passage to Gaza is rare, and thus these interviews provided listeners with a vital opportunity to understand daily life in the Palestinian territories and how this existence is being affected by the current conflict. John spoke with Tsela Barr and Michele Bahl who just came back from a peace delegation to Gaza on November 12th. During the second half of the hour John spoke with Veena Brekke who recently returned from a peace delegation to the West Bank.
According to their website, “Interfaith Peace-Builders believes in the power of eye-witness experience and transformation. Given the opportunity to speak directly with Israelis and Palestinians, delegates return to the United States better informed, more energized, and with a deeper understanding of the possibilities for true justice in the Middle East.” Tsela, Michele, and Veena shared with WORT listeners their fascinating experiences from both Israel and Palestine.
Read more about Interfaith Peace Builders on their website: http://www.ifpb.org/
Listen to the entire show:
Still image from Rachel; inset: Simone Bitton
I think they had a pro-Palestinian agenda, and I don’t think that having a pro-Palestinian agenda means having an anti-Israeli agenda. Actually, as an Israeli, I have a pro-Palestinian agenda, and I think that when life will be normal and reasonable for Palestinians, it will be much better for Israelis too.
I don’t think it’s an insult to say that somebody has a pro-Palestinian agenda. If it means that somebody is committed to more justice for the Palestinians, who have been oppressed, bombed, caged, occupied, it’s very good to have a pro-Palestinian agenda. It’s not only good, it’s absolutely needed if you don’t want the Middle East to explode in the face of the world, more than it has exploded already.
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon, May 3, 2009
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Simone Bitton’s documentary “Rachel,” which premiered this week at the Tribeca Film Festival, is what’s not in it. Bitton, a Moroccan-born Jewish filmmaker who spent many years in Israel and now lives in France, conducts a philosophical and cinematic inquiry into the death of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American activist who was killed under ambiguous circumstances in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip in March 2003. But the political firestorm that followed Corrie’s death, which saw her beatified as a martyr for peace by some on the left and demonized as a terrorist enabler by some on the right, is virtually absent from the film.
We do not see the infamous photograph of the keffiyeh-clad Corrie burning an “American flag” — not a real flag, but a crude children’s drawing of one — at a demonstration about a month before her death. Nor do we see the torrent of exaggerated and often shocking verbal abuse to which Corrie was subjected, postmortem, on right-wing bulletin boards and Web sites. Corrie, who suffered massive internal injuries when she was either crushed by a bulldozer or buried under construction debris, was routinely dubbed “Saint Pancake” in such venues, or described as “terrorist-loving swine.” (That’s without getting into the grotesque sexual fantasies and elaborate conspiracy theories.)
Bitton approaches Corrie’s death from an Israeli point of view, which means she sees it quite differently from the way Americans do. For her, it’s partly a forensic puzzle — an episode of “CSI: Gaza” without a clear resolution — and as a philosophical challenge to the military and political status quo. It’s important to understand that within Israel, Corrie’s encounter with a military bulldozer (an enormous armored machine called the Caterpillar D9, built in the United States to Israeli specifications) and the subsequent investigation were a relatively minor news blip, not the full-on media frenzy we enjoyed.
While it’s unusual for a Westerner to die in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Corrie was neither the first nor the last, and no individual death can make much impression amid the constantly clicking body count on all sides. In the film, one of Corrie’s friends recalls that the Gaza hospital mortuary had to move her body out to make room for someone else, a Palestinian man who had reportedly left his house to smoke a cigarette and was shot by an Israeli sniper.
After an internal inquiry, the Israeli military announced that Corrie’s death was a tragic accident, and that the bulldozer driver who ran her over (or maybe buried her beneath a mound of dirt) never saw her or heard her. Corrie’s fellow activists and Palestinian onlookers continued to insist that she was plainly visible, standing on a raised berm of earth in a bright orange vest, and that the driver killed her deliberately. The whole thing floated away on a cloud of irresolution — another not-quite-explained killing in the occupied territories — and other stories took over the Israeli front pages.
Until she visited the U.S. late in production to meet Corrie’s family, friends and classmates in Olympia, Wash., Bitton was unaware that Corrie embodied an ideological divide in American discourse about the Middle East. When I asked her about the flag-burning photo, she didn’t seem to understand that many Americans view that act as tantamount to treason. (Other nations do not tend to view their flags with the same quasi-religious fervor.)
Herself a former Israeli peace activist, Bitton is clearly sympathetic to Corrie and her Western activist friends, who conducted a nonviolent and arguably foolhardy campaign of resistance, at immense personal risk, against Israeli demolition projects in the no man’s land along the Gaza-Egypt border. Suffice it to say this movie will not make her many friends among the Likudnik Israeli right, or in the “Israel lobby” of the American establishment. But while it makes no pretense of neutrality, “Rachel” is not first or foremost pursuing a political agenda. Like Bitton’s previous film, “Wall” — about the construction of the barrier fence between Israel and the autonomous West Bank — it finds human surprises and philosophical depth within a symbol of that intractable conflict.
Bitton makes no effort at political calculus, at resolving questions of who is most to blame in the Palestinian dilemma, or whether the Israeli occupation’s crimes are worse than those of Hamas or Hezbollah. She also does not claim to have answered the question of exactly how and why Corrie died, and at this point all possibility of certainty seems to have vanished. Maybe the bulldozer driver snapped and ran her over on purpose; maybe he really didn’t see her; maybe he was trying to frighten her and went too far. In asking various of Corrie’s friends to read excerpts from her letters, Bitton tries to redeem a real young woman — who was undeniably idealistic but also surprisingly eloquent and thoughtful — from the warring stereotypes of peacenik angel and anti-Semitic Hamas agent.
During our conversation in a Manhattan hotel lobby, Bitton scolded me for asking too many questions about Corrie’s political significance. “Let’s talk about cinema,” she said. For American viewers of “Rachel,” though, there will be no escaping the political connotations of Corrie’s death. Because of where she died and how she died, the American-made girl flattened by an American-made bulldozer became a powerful counter-symbolic reminder of America’s moral, financial and material sponsorship of the Israeli occupation regime. Whether or not you think that regime is itself justified, it remains a primary reason why our country is loathed and mistrusted throughout the Arab and Muslim world.
I just want to get your story straight, Simone. You were born in Morocco?
Yes. Chronologically, I am Moroccan, Israeli, French. That is the story of my life, so I have the three citizenships, cultures. I am all three.
The fact that you can speak both Arabic and Hebrew has played a large role in your filmmaking, right? You can cross that divide pretty easily.
Yes, of course. It has played a role in my life.
What drew you to make a film about Rachel Corrie?