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The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

MadisonRafah.org

Zoom: Christmas in Palestine!

December 18, 12 noon Central

Green Olive Tours sponsors a panel discussion featuring Christian Palestinian perspectives on liberation and theology.

Join members of Sabeel, the ecumenical liberation theology center in Jerusalem, to explore the ways they draw on Christian narratives and teachings as a source of resilience in the face of violent military occupation.

Rise of Israel’s far right puts focus back on the West Bank occupation

The Israeli-controlled checkpoint in Hebron (Bab al Zawiyah) divides Palestinians in their city. A new weapon placed on the side of checkpoint (upper right) was installed before recent Israeli elections. It can remotely shoot live ammunition as well as other special “crowd control” munitions. (Tanya Habjouqa/NOOR for The Washington Post)
The Israeli-controlled checkpoint in Hebron (Bab al Zawiyah) divides Palestinians in their city. (Tanya Habjouqa/NOOR for The Washington Post)


A new weapon on the right side of the checkpoint can remotely shoot live ammunition and special “crowd control” munitions. (Tanya Habjouqa/NOOR for The Washington Post)

Shira Rubin, The Washington Post, December 10, 2022

HEBRON, West Bank — Last month, as tens of thousands of right-wing Jewish pilgrims paraded through Hebron’s old city under the protection of the Israeli army, 18-year-old Aisha Alazza ventured onto her balcony to catch a glimpse. As she sipped coffee and watched the march spiral into violence, a gang of Israeli men approached from across the road, shouting “Whore!” at her in Arabic and throwing stones. She was struck in the face.

Since Palestinian cars are banned from this neighborhood, an ambulance was out of the question. Instead, Alazza’s four sisters took her inside, applied ice and oils to the swelling wound and waited for the men to go away.

Alazza knows she will see them again — after all, they are her neighbors. They are also directly linked to members of Religious Zionism, the once-fringe, far-right political bloc that has championed asserting Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and will be the second largest force in the new Israeli government.


Aisha Alazza, 18, in her garden. (Tanya Habjouqa/NOOR for The Washington Post)

Even before Religious Zionism assumes office — taking on influential cabinet portfolios that will give them unprecedented control over this contested territory — their promises to set the stage for annexation are exacerbating the daily dangers and indignities of life in the occupied West Bank, residents say. Many warn that Hebron’s bloody, biblically tinged conflict, between its 800 hard line Israeli settlers and its 200,000 Palestinians, is a test case for the future of relations between the two peoples under the next government.

Some of the faces in incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new administration are familiar ones to Hebron. Both Itamar Ben Gvir and Orit Strook are residents of the nearby hard line settlement of Kiryat Arba and have harassed and assaulted Palestinians for decades.

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Shireen Abu Akleh documentary raises pressure on Biden over inquiry

Film offers most detailed account yet of journalist’s killing by Israeli army, including video of moments surrounding shooting

Colleagues and friends react as the Palestinian flag-draped body of Shireen Abu Akleh is brought to the news channel's office in the West Bank city of Ramallah in May.
Colleagues and friends react as the Palestinian flag-draped body of Shireen Abu Akleh is brought to the news channel’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah in May. Abbas Momani/AP

 
Chris McGreal, The Guardian, 4 Dec 2022

A new documentary about the Israeli army’s killing of the Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is likely to increase pressure on the Biden administration to ensure that the FBI is permitted to fully investigate her death after Israel said it would not cooperate.

The documentary, Faultlines, by Abu Akleh’s employer, Al Jazeera, is the most detailed account yet of events during an Israeli raid on the West Bank city of Jenin in May.

Through video recordings before and during the shooting, and interviews with other journalists at the scene, the documentary dismantles the shifting Israeli official narrative that at first blamed the Palestinians for killing Abu Akleh and then falsely claimed she was caught in crossfire during a gun battle. Al Jazeera presents video evidence that at least one Israeli soldier was targeting the journalists.

The documentary also raises questions about why the Biden administration embraced Israel’s version of events and resisted an independent US investigation into the killing of an American citizen until pressure from members of Congress forced it to agree to an FBI inquiry.

Video shows Abu Akleh and other journalists gathering at a road junction about 200 yards from an Israeli military convoy. The area is calm as the reporters, clearly wearing large signs identifying them as “press”, advance a few yards down the street toward the Israeli convoy. The first burst of gunfire wounds an Al Jazeera producer, Ali al-Samoudi.

Abu Akleh shouts: “Ali is wounded, Ali is wounded.” She tries to seek shelter behind a tree with another reporter, Shatha Hanaysha. But before she can get there, Abu Akleh is felled by a burst of continuous fire.

When the shooting stops, a clearly distraught Hanaysha can be seen kneeling and reaching out to the fallen Al Jazeera reporter. But as she emerges from behind the tree, another round of fire forces her back.

At that point, Hanaysha did not understand how gravely Abu Akleh was wounded .

“I remember when I saw the blood on the ground, when the blood started coming out, that’s when I realised she had taken a bullet to the head,” she said.

When a young man jumps over a wall to try and pull Abu Akleh out of the line of fire, he is also shot at. He abandons the attempt and instead helps Hanaysha to safety.

The video compilation and eyewitness accounts provide compelling evidence that the Israeli official account of the shooting was riddled with falsehoods. Principally it challenges the claim, which Israel continues to stand by, that Abu Akleh was killed by stray fire in the middle of a gun battle.

The video shows there was no such battle, only bursts of shooting by Israeli forces clearly aimed at the journalists and only them.

The documentary includes a reconstruction demonstrating that, with the typical sights on Israeli guns, soldiers would have clearly seen that the journalists were wearing signs identifying them as press and that they were not carrying weapons.

In addition, several of the bursts of shooting are directed at those attempting to pull Abu Akleh out of the line of fire. They are not advancing down the street and pose no discernible threat to the Israelis.

Lina Abu Akleh, Shireen Abu Akleh’s niece, speaks to the Associated Press at the US Capitol in July. Nathan Ellgren/AP

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Watch Farha on Netflix

Farha tells the true story of a young Palestinian girl surviving the Nakba in 1948 by hiding in a small, locked storage room.

This eye-opening and heartbreaking film is based on the experiences of a friend of writer and director Darin Sallam’s mother, and shows events tragically familiar to Palestinians around the world.

Farha is under attack for accurately portraying the horror of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

More on the film, history, and opposition

Farha Vividly Depicts Palestinian History Through The Eyes Of A Teenager

Toronto International Film Festival Review

FARHA_Trailer_English subtitle from Picture Tree International on Vimeo.

Jared Mobarak, The Film Stage, September 11, 2021

The text reads: Palestine, 1948. That’s all you need to know to understand what’s coming. A year earlier marked the start of the Palestinian Civil War between Jewish and Arab residents after the United Nations recommended the land’s separation in a Jewish and Arab state. Israel declared independence in May of 1948 and, as some history books describe it, a mass exodus arose to render about half the nation’s pre-WWII Arab population (700,000) into refugees without a home. To simply call it an exodus, however, is misleading. Most of these people didn’t choose to leave as a means of finding settlement elsewhere. They were driven out by Israeli military forces who in turn destroyed villages and murdered so-called “rebel forces” in an ethnic cleansing that continues today.

As anyone following the news knows, using the term genocide for what happened / is happening has always been a hotly disputed topic thanks to some people’s inability to separate anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism. And being that America is a huge Israeli ally, advocating for the lives and freedoms of a Palestinian people who had their land stolen from them—only to subsequently be treated like second-class citizens upon the land they were given (that was then also stolen despite agreements made)—is likely to get you labeled the latter. We’re accordingly taught to dismiss Palestinians as terrorists like many other Muslim groups. It’s thus important for Arab artists and historians to dare combat that stereotype by telling their stories too. Darin J. Sallam’s drama Farha is one.

In it she details the real-life tale of Radiyyeh, a 14-year-old girl whose village was destroyed during the Al-Nakba (Catastrophe). Names are changed and events dramatized, but it remains the same tale this young woman told upon reaching Syria that’s endured for generations. At its start is our introduction to the renamed Farha’s (Karam Taher) headstrong teenage rebellious streak in telling her Quran teacher that women should be worrying less about marriage and more about education. Her cousin / best friend Farida (Tala Gammoh) is lucky enough to live in the city to experience the latter while life in the village leaves Farha with many fewer options. Her father (Ashraf Barhom’s Abu Farha) is their mayor, however, and thus has means to send her too.

They’re living in tumultuous times, though. The British are leaving and the Arab villages have no means of defending themselves from the progressing Israeli forces coming to fill that void. On one hand Abu Farha wants his daughter to remain close as they await the Arab League’s promised assistance. On the other, he knows her potential and desire to learn could ultimately help them all in the long run. There just isn’t enough time to get affairs in order before the explosions start. Suddenly Farha is left with a choice of her own: flee with Farida’s family north or stay by her father’s side. Why she picks the latter comes with additional motivation, but it hardly matters once desperation leads her to being locked inside the pantry.

This is how we experience the horrors of what went on: through the cracks of a wooden door and gaps between stones. Abu Farha says he’ll return for her, but that’s hardly a guarantee. And while hiding in this room will keep her safe (and fed), the prospect of what she might have to face with only a dagger left behind for protection remains unknown. Sallam’s film turns from the hopeful sun-drenched days of a hillside community thinking towards the future to a claustrophobic thriller forcing Farha (and us) to helplessly watch the present depravity of war. Whether smoke from fires set to burn the village down or Israeli soldiers cornering fleeing Arabs with unprovoked malice, what she witnesses will invariably alter her entire outlook on humanity.

Sallam pulls no punches in her depictions of the callous nature of this endless battle in the Middle East. It’s no coincidence that she shows young boys chasing after the British with toy gun slingshots, propelling tiny stones at the soldiers before cutting to a scene between Abu Farha and his brother-in-law (Ali Suliman’s Abu Walid) where they discuss the audacity of those pretending like they possess an armed militia. It’s no different from today with Israelis firing into crowds of unarmed civilians because someone threw a can. Oppressors will utilize whatever excuses are at their disposal to continue their oppression; their zealots will believe the flimsiest of them if doing so serves their needs. Everything is a weapon for those itching to respond with deadly force.

I doubt the obvious allusions to Holocaust films (sans concentration camps) are unintentional, either. We’ve seen countless depictions of Jewish Europeans hiding from Nazis as the Third Reich stormed into homes with impunity to line people up against the wall and organize a firing squad. Farha becomes that innocent made to watch as people who look and talk like her are butchered feet away. That one would happen so soon after the other is therefore something to contemplate and discuss; one people’s suffering should never validate the conscious acts of causing another people to suffer in similar ways. As the broken Arabic of loudspeakers states that all Arabs must vacate or be killed in their homes, however, nothing about this diaspora’s commencement was ever voluntary.

Farha‘s success is thus predicated on our ability to watch what unfolds and believe its veracity. That will probably be a tall ask for those who deny Palestinians their right to be angry about what was done to them. Hopefully seeing it through the eyes of a child will help sway hearts and minds to reality, though. First-time actor Taher is fantastic in the eponymous role, struggling with allegiance to her village and dreams of enjoying the city. Just because one wishes to escape their simple life doesn’t mean they aren’t intrinsically bonded to it. We leave for our educations in the knowledge that home will remain, either as a time capsule or a siren calling us back. For too many Palestinians today, returning to theirs became impossible.

Farha premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Jared Mobarak is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic for The Film Stage, Art Director for the Buffalo, NY film series Cultivate Cinema Circle, and member of OFCS and GWNYFCA. You can follow his cinematic viewing habits at Letterboxd.

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Farha ‘Smear Campaign’ Targets Netflix Film Depicting Nakba

Activists say hundreds of spam accounts are giving low ratings and bad reviews for the film on rating platforms


Many of the accounts giving Farha low ratings on IMDb were newly created (TaleBox)

Nadda Osman, Middle East Eye, 2 December 2022

Hundreds of spam accounts have left negative reviews of the film Farha on the movie rating site IMDb, in what appears to be an organised campaign.

Streaming on Netflix and set during the Nakba of 1948, the film revolves around a teenage girl who watches Zionist militias kill her entire family, including a baby.

Jordanian director Darin Sallam says her debut feature is based on actual events, which she first heard about from her Palestinian father.

The film has been slammed by Israeli officials but Palestinians reject such criticisms, arguing that abuses like those depicted in the movie are documented to have happened.

Following the Israeli censure, the film’s ratings have dropped dramatically on IMDb, one of the internet’s most popular film review sites.

On 1 December, the film’s ratings went from 7.2 to 5.8 in a matter of hours, in what many activists and campaigners have called a targeted campaign. 

According to activists, many of the negative reviews appeared to have come from the same source, containing similar comments, such as calling the film “one-sided” or a “big lie”.


    Netflix’s Farha: Palestinians bemused by Israeli anger over Nakba film
    Read More »

One review, titled “propaganda and fantasy”, awarded the film one star and called it an “over emotional drama”.

Former Al Jazeera journalist and influencer Ahmed Shihab-Eldin says the negative reviews were part of an orchestrated effort to discredit the film and stop people from seeing it. 

“The pacing of the posts reveals it was co-ordinated,” he told Middle East Eye.

“With each passing hour, dozens and dozens of vapid and vile reviews would appear, making wild accusations trashing the film. It was clear people had not seen the film, and only wanted to damage its reputation,” he added. 

According to Shihab-Eldin, many of the accounts posting negative reviews of the film were newly created.

He says that around 1,000 negative reviews suddenly appeared on the website during a 24-hour period, which contained “inflammatory and hateful language”.

At the time of publication, the average review rating of Farha on the IMDb page sat at 8.1, suggesting the website had removed inauthentic ratings.

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Light in Gaza Speaking Tour in Milwaukee


Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire book cover. (Photo: AFSC)

American Friends Service Committee, Sep 27, 2022

    11/17/22 update: WORT’s Gil Halsted talks with Yousef Aljamal and Asmaa Abu Mezeid, two of the Light in Gaza authors now on tour in the U.S.

Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire brings together sixteen essays and poems by twelve Palestinian writers. The book includes political essays, personal narratives, economic analysis, and poetry. The book is edited by American Friends Service Committee staff Jehad Abusalim, Jennifer Bing, and Mike Merryman-Lotze and published by Haymarket Books. Read the full press release here.

AFSC is excited to host a speaking tour featuring Asmaa Abu Mezied and Yousef Aljamal, contributors to the Light in Gaza anthology.

Join us for a discussion of this new literary anthology featuring two of the book’s co-authors: Asmaa Abu Mezied and Yousef Aljamal.

This book imagines what the future of Gaza could be, while reaffirming the critical role of Gaza in the struggle for Palestinian liberation.

“This is a different view than most Americans see in the news.  Usually we see people in Gaza being killed or living without electricity. So they are either victims or superhumans. You miss the everyday family gatherings, the importance of nature. We hope this book inspires people to want to learn more,” said Jennifer Bing, director of the AFSC Palestine Activism Program in Chicago and editor for the Light in Gaza book project.

We will talk with the authors about their contributions to the book, and discuss the current conditions in Gaza. We will also be discussing the role that we here in Turtle Island can play in support the struggle for Palestinian liberation.

This event is co-sponsored by: Milwaukee 4 Palestine (milwaukee4palestine@gmail.com); Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, Party for Socialism and Liberation (Milwaukee), Jewish Voice for Peace (Milwaukee), Students for Justice in Palestine (UWM), Students for Justice in Palestine (Marquette University).

About the speakers:

Asmaa Abu Mezied is economic development and gender expert working to address issues of gender, development, and climate change.  Her main area of focus is women’s economic justice through gendered economic policies, women’s rights in economic sectors, unpaid care and domestic work campaigning, inclusive markets, and feminist economics in fragile and conflict areas. Asmaa is a beginner gardener in the Gaza Strip and is interested in the intersection of Palestinian political, agricultural, and environmental identities. Asmaa is a policy member and a current fellow at Al Shabaka, a Palestinian think tank.  She was an Atlas Corps Fellow with U.S. President Obama’s Emerging Global Leaders, a Gaza Hub-Global Shaper Alumna in the initiative of the World Economic Forum, and a 2021 Mozilla Foundation Wrangler at “Tech for Social Activism” space. 

Yousef M. Aljamal is a Palestinian refugee from Al-Nusierat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He has obtained an MA degree from the Department of International and Strategic Studies Department at the University of Malaya. He is now a PhD Candidate at the Middle East Institute at Sakarya University in Turkey. Aljamal, besides his research interests in diaspora, security, and indigenous studies, has contributed to a number of books which highlight the Palestinian narrative. He translated two books on Palestinian prisoners entitled The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag (2013) and Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak (2016). He also co-edited the book A Shared Struggle Stories of Palestinian and Irish Hunger Strikers (2021). Aljamal has published a number of journal articles on topics that include Palestinians in the diaspora, travel restrictions imposed on Palestinians, and struggles for liberation. Over the years, he has spoken at various forums and platforms to highlight the plight of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.