The Right to Boycott: Resisting the Crackdown on BDS

Join CODEPINK and Meera Shah of Palestine Legal on Zoom December 14th at 2pm ET/11am PT for an important and timely call on recent anti-BDS legislation and its impacts on movements for Palestine solidarity, and various forms of divestment.

Since 2014, U.S. legislators have introduced over 200 bills targeting boycotts for Palestinian rights – and the volume of these bills have only increased, with a huge wave of legislative attacks in recent months. What are the latest developments with these anti-boycott laws, and what do they mean? Join us as we explore the impacts these bills are already having on Palestine advocacy work, on other forms of divestment activism, and what we can do in this critical moment.

Meera Shah joined Palestine Legal in 2019. She supports the organization’s casework and public education and oversees the advocacy work on free speech, academic freedom, and the right to boycott.

Morocco celebrates with Palestinian flag after historic World Cup victory

Morocco becomes first Arab nation to make it to the last eight of international soccer tournament

Morocco's players celebrate with a Palestinian flag at the end of the Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Morocco and Spain at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha on December 6, 2022. (Glyn Kirk/AFP)
Morocco’s players celebrate with a Palestinian flag at the end of the Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Morocco and Spain at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha on December 6, 2022. (Glyn Kirk/AFP)

Associated Press and Times of Israel, 6 December 2022

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — Morocco became the first Arab nation to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals, beating Spain 3-0 in a penalty shootout on Tuesday.

Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets missed their penalties for Spain, with Sarabia hitting the post and Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou stopping the other two.

The teams drew 0-0 in regulation and extra time.

Morocco has been the biggest surprise of the tournament and will next face either Portugal or Switzerland.

As the Moroccan team gathered on the field to celebrate, players raised aloft a Palestinian flag alongside several Moroccan ones, the latest sign of solidarity with the Palestinians at the first World Cup held in the Middle East.

The move came despite Morocco’s increasingly close relations with Israel after signing the Abraham Accords that normalized ties.

FIFA regulations prohibit the display of banners, flags and fliers that are deemed to be “political, offensive and/or discriminatory nature.” In the past, soccer’s governing bodies have issued fines for displays of the Palestinian flag inside stadiums.

Morocco’s players also displayed the Palestinian flag after the team’s win against Canada during the group stage last week.


Morocco’s Romain Saiss fights for the ball with Spain’s Marco Asensio during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Morocco and Spain, at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Dec. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Morocco is also the only team from outside Europe or South America to make it to the last eight. The team made the round of 16 once before, at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

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The Mask Is Off

The newly elected Netanyahu government will include bigoted, intolerant, and violence-advocating ministers

Dr. James J. Zogby, Arab American Institute, December 5, 2022

Since its founding, Political Zionism has had two distinct and contradictory personas. One portrayed it as a national liberation movement that was liberal, democratic, tolerant, and inclusive. This was the face its adherents saw when they looked in the mirror, and it was the way they presented themselves to and wanted to be seen by the rest of the world. 

In reaction to antisemitism and the resultant ghettoization and pogroms that victimized European Jewry, Political Zionism promised an alternative for Jews in which they would be free to realize their full potential as a people while practicing the values and fruits of liberalism in a home of their own. 

The problem was that the European liberalism on which Political Zionism was modeled was, itself, based on a contradiction in that the benefits and progress it provided for Europeans were based on the colonial subjugation of Asians and Africans and exploitation of their conquered lands. As the early Zionists were immersed in that same European culture and worldview, it was without any hesitation or embarrassment that they saw themselves as an extension of the European colonial enterprise. That was why Theodore Herzl sought guidance on how to secure support for his proposed colony from Cecil Rhodes; or why he would write in the Jewish State that the enterprise he wished to establish would serve as “a rampart of Europe against Asia…and outpost of civilization against barbarism”; or why he proposed using the natives that his followers might find in their new colony to clear the land and engage in menial labor and then evacuate these natives to other lands. 

Political Zionism was the dream of Jewish liberation, but its implementation was to be the nightmare of Palestinian dispossession. These two sides of the same ideology coexisted, with the upside acknowledged and celebrated, and its reverse ignored and/or denied. This was true not only for the founders of Zionism but also for its most recognized “liberal” champions: Chaim Weizmann, David Ben Gurion, and Golda Meir. Even Benjamin Netanyahu made his name in political circles as a proponent of the cause of “liberal Western democracy” versus the authoritarian, savage, terrorist Arab World. 

Because such a worldview was so ingrained into Europe’s dominant sense of itself, the two faces of Zionism (the liberal and the racist) never raised an eyebrow. It was, if anything, understood and embraced by the British and French (and later by the US) who saw the need for, as Herzl had envisioned it, a civilized outpost to protect Western values and interests from the barbarians.

Maybe this is what is meant when Israeli and US leaders speak of our “shared values”—the fact that we both have been able to mask the “dark side” of our behaviors with the outward facing veneer of our “claimed values,” values that apply to “us” not to “others.” And we’ve both gotten away with this game, until recently.     

For the US, it was the Iraq War and its attendant horrors, the epidemic of mass killings, systemic racism, and the emergence of the anti-democratic, racist, and xenophobic Trump movement that began to unravel the mask of our claim to be the bastion of “liberal ideals.” Despite Israel’s record of abominable behaviors toward Palestinians, it has taken much longer to peel away the veneer of liberalism from Israel’s image. One reason is that their propaganda machinery has been quite effective, and another has been the fear that pointing out the obvious (i.e., that Israel is engaged in oppressive and racist subjugation and dispossession of Palestinians) will result in the accusation of antisemitism. 

In this context, it may be considered ironic that it was Israel’s own democracy that has finally exposed for all to see its underbelly of intolerance and racist violence. By electing a far-right coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline Likud party and including fanatic nationalists and intolerant ultra-religious parties, the most recent Israeli election served as a clarifying moment for the Political Zionist movement. 

The newly elected Netanyahu government will include bigoted, intolerant, and violence-advocating ministers and deputy ministers who will oversee police, settlements, administration of the occupied territories, finance, and “Jewish Identity.” They include ideologues who advocate expulsion of Arabs from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories; support rapid settlement expansion and annexation of the West Bank; back settler violence against Palestinians to demonstrate who’s boss; adhere to a theology that maintains that while Jews are full human beings with souls, Arabs are not; claims that human rights organizations pose an “existential threat” to Israel and therefore want them banned; maintain that only their rigid interpretation of Orthodox Judaism is true religion, and deny other Jews their rights; and insist on altering the status quo at the Haram Al Sharif, turning Jerusalem into another Hebron. 

With ministers and policies such as these, the mask is off.

This is Political Zionism, without the frills. It is intolerance, bigotry, repression, and aggression without the accompanying rhetoric of “liberalism” to smooth things over or put on a pretty face for the world. 

It’s been fascinating to watch how the major pro-Israel US groups have responded (or failed to respond) to this challenging situation. There were immediate protests over the ultra-Orthodox push to change conversion law, to outlaw LGBTQ rights, to restrict which “legitimate” Jews could immigrate to Israel, and to require the segregation of Jewish women at prayer. But these same leaders have been silent in reaction to the bigoted anti-Arab beliefs being espoused by key members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition and the policies they seek to implement that will further dispossess Palestinians.  

It’s true that many of these ugly attitudes and policies have shaped the Palestinian reality for decades, but they were always covered by the pretty words and the outward face of Zionist liberalism. But now the mask is off and those who, for decades, have been covering for Israel have the responsibility to acknowledge the ugly reality their silence has allowed to fester.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Arab American Institute. The Arab American Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan national leadership organization that does not endorse candidates.

Tragedy in Gaza after 21 people die in fire

The Abu Rayya tragedy is a direct result of the blockade, as frequent power cuts have forced families in Gaza to use alternative fuel sources to fight the dark, often in hazardous conditions.


MOURNERS ATTEND THE FUNERAL OF 21 PALESTINIANS WHO DIED IN A FIRE THAT BROKE OUT IN AN APARTMENT IN JABALYA REFUGEE CAMP IN THE NORTHERN GAZA STRIP, NOVEMBER 18, 2022. (PHOTO: ASHRAF AMRA/APA IMAGES)

TAREQ S. HAJJAJ, MONDOWEISS, NOVEMBER 19, 2022

It was a rough night in Jabaliya refugee camp, north of Gaza City. Neighbors could not sleep peacefully after what they saw on Thursday, November 17 — the image of the woman holding the steel bars of the window on the fourth floor, screaming and pleading for help as the fire raged on in the room behind her, lighting up the area with red flame. In a second, she was engulfed by the flames and fell down.

Neighbors tried to get into the building to help her and her family, but the locked steel doors shut them out. The fire burned alive her extended family of 21 people, leaving the exact cause of the fire uncertain.

They had all gathered inside a single apartment to celebrate one of the family’s sons who had completed his PhD and arrived from Egypt a week earlier, as well as the birthday of one of the grandsons. The father, Subhi Abu Rayya, 51, the mother Yusra Abu Rayya, 44, and their sons and families, were among the dead.


Palestinian firefighters extinguish a fire that broke out in an apartment in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza strip, on November 17, 2022. A large fire that ripped through a home north of Gaza City killed at least 21 people, including seven children, official and medical sources said. (Photo” Palestinian Ministry of Interior/APA Images)

Neighbors in the area told Mondoweiss that a huge flame had gone up and people were trying to go into the apartment to help, but were unable due to the locked doors. The police were the first to arrive and break the doors down, while firefighters and their trucks took over 40 minutes to arrive on the scene.

The tragedy of the Abu Rayya family quickly became what everyone in Gaza was talking about, as speculations abound as to the origins of the fire. Thousands of people came from all over the Gaza Strip to participate in the funeral.

“Everyone is so shocked. Look at their faces, look at how it has affected them,” Abdulnasser Abu Rayya, 41, a family relative of the victims, said as he walked through the funeral procession on the way to the cemetery. Abdulnasser has tried to understand what happened, but all that comes to his mind is a flashback from when entered the apartment that day as it was already on fire, witnessing his relatives burning alive.

“One mother was holding her two kids. Both of them were lying down on her lap. It looked like the mother was trying to protect her children from the fire. They were in there for an hour before the fire was extinguished,” Abdulnasser said. 

The Internal Ministry in Gaza commented on the accident, stating that initial results from investigations have confirmed that the family was storing a large amount of gasoline inside the apartment, which presumably is what caused the huge conflagration.  

“When we entered the apartment, we could not definitively figure out what caused this fire,” Abdulnasser told Mondoweiss. “We start to ask whether they kept gasoline in the house, or whether the cooking gas had leaked at the same time.” Abdulnasser confirmed that no sound of an explosion had been heard at the time of the fire.


Mourners attend the funeral of 21 Palestinians who died in a fire that broke out in an apartment in Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, November 18, 2022. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

Using alternative fuels to fight the dark

Storing deadly materials in living quarters, such as gasoline, unsaved electricity cables, and batteries to light up glow-lamps during power outages, are fairly common in Gaza, explained by the 15-year blockade that has harshly restricted power sources in Gaza. 

Due to frequently scheduled power cuts, people use alternative energy sources to fight the darkness and light up their homes. In 2006, 3 kids in the Al-Hindi family burned to death in their room at Al-Shati refugee camp, in a fire that was caused by a candle they used in their room. 

Abu Rayya’s neighbors said the family used a generator that ran on gasoline, which is likely why the family had stored reserves of it in the house.

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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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December 11, 2022
Film: Come and See; Go and Tell

Online Film & Panel Discussion
2:00 pm Central

So many people travel, take tours, and make pilgrimages to the “Holy Land” each year. What are the ethical, political, and personal implications of a journey to holy sites surrounded by 30-foot-high concrete walls, where soldiers patrol the streets and residents live under military occupation?

Three recent, short documentaries present a variety of perspectives through the eyes of people living there today. Post-film discussion features Rifat Kassis of Kairos Palestine, Palestinian-American Sam Bahour, and Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon of Churches for Middle East Peace.

Complete info and registration here