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Michal Rozworski: Podcast: Canada’s spring of occupations

  Welcome back to the first podcast episode after a two-month hiatus! This week, three guests talk about two significant occupations of public space that have happened in Canada in the interim: the Black Lives Matter occupation of police headquarters plaza in Toronto and the occupations of Indigenous and Northern Affairs offices across the country. In this […] . . . → Read More: Michal Rozworski: Podcast: Canada’s spring of occupations

drive-by planet: Atlanta billboard features Banksy’s mural of West Bank wall: ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ conference

West Bank Wall and holy family in Atlanta Banksy billboard

This is a two-part post dealing with resistance to the Israeli occupation. The common thread is Christian-related… in one case billboard art with a controversial slant on the the nativity story and in another the growing evangelical resistance to Israeli occupation.

Thanks to ifAmericansknew.org, a billboard in Atlanta is host to the artwork of British mural artist Banksy. It shows Joseph and Mary enroute to Bethlehem, but in this nativity tale the path they are on leads directly to the West Bank wall. In a realistic touch, the rendering of the wall includes a watchtower and graffiti. The disturbing juxtaposition of the Christian nativity story with draconian Israeli security, is underscored by the ironic inscription “O little town of Bethlehem.”

Bethlehem today is a far cry from the biblical version revisited in Christmas pageants. The present day version is ringed with security, not unlike a barricaded fortress.

The motivation behind bringing issues such as the Israeli occupation to the attention of the American public is addressed on the website of ifAmericansknew.org: 

The mission of If Americans Knew is to inform and educate the American public on issues of major significance that are unreported, underreported, or misreported in the American media.

It is our belief that when Americans know the facts on a subject, they will, in the final analysis, act in accordance with morality, justice, and the best interests of their nation, and of the world. With insufficient information, or distorted information, they may do the precise opposite.

On ifAmericanslknew.org there is also this commentary about the brutal political and social realities underlying the Banksy mural.

Security structures, even Israeli ones, can’t suppress creativity. The West Bank wall features some impressive artwork. Along with spontaneous graffiti there are murals with themes of resistance… for example this mural of the famous Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khalid.

Leila Khalid Palestinain resistance

The mural of Joseph and Mary beneath the West Bank wall is just one of a number of murals by Banksy that deal with Palestinian themes. During time spent in Palestine, he produced a number of murals including some on or near the West Bank wall. Beneath are a few examples of his work… view others here.

Banksy artwork on West Bank
Banksy mural of girl searching Israeli soldier

The Atlanta billboard graphically exposes the brutal reality of Israeli occupation. Although there is no publicly stated connection with evangelical activism, the Christian-themed billboard art appears at a time when many American evangelicals have been openly questioning the unconditional allegiance that their churches have traditionally given to Israel. A number of influential evangelical leaders have been looking more critically at the dehumanizing reality of Israeli occupation, with a number stepping up and expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people.

This is a development that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Christian Zionist organizations such as Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Its executive director, David Borg, recently made a statement that acknowledges a profound change in the position taken by increasing numbers of evangelicals on the subject of Israel.

Borg: “With every passing month, more evidence is emerging that these anti-Israel Christians are succeeding in reaching beyond the evangelical left and are influencing the mainstream. In particular, they are penetrating the evangelical world at its soft underbelly: the millennial generation. These young believers (roughly ages 18 to 30) are rebelling against what they perceive as the excessive biblical literalism and political conservatism of their parents. As they strive with a renewed vigor to imitate Jesus’ stand with the oppressed and downtrodden, they want to decide for themselves which party is being oppressed in the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

The term “anti-Israel” used by Borg might be considered misleading. Activists I read and likely those also of Christian evangelical persuasion are challenging the system of occupation and systematized oppression that has evolved from a great historical injustice. This is quite different from an anti-Israel position that for example calls for the destruction of the state.

In March of this year a ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ conference was held by the Bethlehem Bible College. It was a 5-day event and as Electronic Intifada reported: “… attracted major speakers both from within the Palestinian Christian community as well as international evangelicals, including Tony Campolo, Gary Burge, Stephen Sizer, John Ortberg and Shane Claiborne. Messianic Jewish speakers were also invited.”

More about the goals of the conference here. There is also this in-depth article about the conference posted on the Israeli news website 972 Mag.

The Bethlehem conference raised considerable alarm in Israeli media and government circles. The prospect of one of Israel’s most supportive constituencies – evangelical Christians –  showing signs of identifying with the Palestinians has sparked some vitriolic criticism. A number of Israeli media outlets accused the Bethlehem conference of being ‘anti-Semitic.’ An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: “The attempt to use religious motifs in order to mobilize political propaganda and agitate the feelings of the faithful through the manipulation of religion and politics is an unacceptable and shameful act. Using religion for the purpose of incitement in the service of political interests stains the person who does it with a stain of indelible infamy.”

The increasingly reactionary, racist and militaristic Israeli state presents a moral dilemma – and not only for evangelical Christians. Religious Jews, particularly of the Orthodox persuasion, understand that tying their identity to Israel involves compromise… a compromise many aren’t prepared to make.

The impact of Zionism on Jewish identity is powerfully addressed by Yakov M. Rabkin – Professor of History at the University of Montreal – in his book Threat Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism.

In this passage Rabkin describes the impact of Zionism on pure Torah-based Judaism:

Worse than the toll of suffering, exploitation, death, and desecration of the Torah, has been the inner rot that Zionism has injected into the Jewish soul. It has dug deep into the essence of being a Jew … It has wreaked havoc among Jews both in Israel and America, by casting us in the role of Goliath-like oppressors. It has made cruelty and corruption the norm for its followers.

. . . → Read More: drive-by planet: Atlanta billboard features Banksy’s mural of West Bank wall: ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ conference

drive-by planet: Atlanta billboard features Banksy’s mural of West Bank wall: ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ conference

This is a two-part post dealing with resistance to the Israeli occupation. The first part covers news of a controversial Israel-related Banksy mural in the Atlanta area. The second stays with the Christian theme to discuss the growing numbers of American evangelicals who are openly critical of Israel and expressing increased solidarity with the . . . → Read More: drive-by planet: Atlanta billboard features Banksy’s mural of West Bank wall: ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ conference

drive-by planet: Jerusalem’s checkpoints and ‘Kafkaesque’ restrictions through the eyes of visiting authors: video

Stills from Jerusalem: Uprooted, Walled Out and Cut off  – (view video beneath).

The video Jerusalem: Uprooted, Walled Out and Cut off was first released by the Palestine Festival of Literature (Palfest). The camera follows a group of authors in the course of their visit to Jerusalem and records their reactions as they encounter . . . → Read More: drive-by planet: Jerusalem’s checkpoints and ‘Kafkaesque’ restrictions through the eyes of visiting authors: video

drive-by planet: Max Blumenthal’s Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel – reviews: liberal hypocrisy on Israel

Max Blumenthal‘s  Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel is a remarkable and courageous book that reveals hard truths about Israel’s dark side. What makes Goliath especially impressive is the amount of time Max Blumenthal spent in Israel and the occupied West Bank in order to gather information and get a first hand understanding. . . . → Read More: drive-by planet: Max Blumenthal’s Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel – reviews: liberal hypocrisy on Israel

drive-by planet: CBC interview with Dana Golan of Breaking the Silence: "Our Harsh Logic" compiles testimonials of Israeli soldiers

Dana Golan, a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and former director of  Breaking the Silence, was interviewed last Sunday on the CBC radio program The Sunday Edition.

When asked by the CBC’s John Enright about the mandate of Breaking the Silence, Golan offered the following:

So, Breaking the Silence was . . . → Read More: drive-by planet: CBC interview with Dana Golan of Breaking the Silence: "Our Harsh Logic" compiles testimonials of Israeli soldiers

drive-by planet: Israeli soldiers testify: powerful new Breaking the Silence videos featuring female ex-soldiers

I’ve posted before about the work of a remarkable site called Breaking the Silence. It features candid video testimonials by former Israeli soldiers about the experience of being the uniformed enforcers of occupation and state control. The site has released a series of new testimonials by females who served in the Israeli military and . . . → Read More: drive-by planet: Israeli soldiers testify: powerful new Breaking the Silence videos featuring female ex-soldiers

Art Threat: Art at War surveys creativity under Nazi occupation, from Picasso to Dubuffet

“History isn’t the lies of the victors … I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated.” – The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

On the last Sunday in the year, the Parisian bourgeoisie were out in force. The queue for the Impressionism . . . → Read More: Art Threat: Art at War surveys creativity under Nazi occupation, from Picasso to Dubuffet

Cowichan Conversations: Misguided Journalist Terry Glavin Misunderstands ‘Idle No More’

Don Maroc-Cowichan Conversations Contributor

MISGUIDED VICTORIA JOURNALIST MISUNDERSTANDS IDLE NO MORE

by Don Maroc

Terry Glavin is a well know media commentator on all things cultural and political. He claims to be left-leaning although he doesn’t always come off that way in his books and regular column in the Ottawa Citizen.

In his . . . → Read More: Cowichan Conversations: Misguided Journalist Terry Glavin Misunderstands ‘Idle No More’

The Disaffected Lib: 40-Years of Peace Tossed in the Garbage

Apparently forty years of peace has been too much of a good thing for Benjamin Netanyahu.  Israel has enjoyed peace with its Arab neighbours since 1973.Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t realize that the Middle East has enjoyed four decades o… . . . → Read More: The Disaffected Lib: 40-Years of Peace Tossed in the Garbage

Art Threat: Life in Gaza is no day at the beach – Beach by video artist Guli Silberstein

In this 2006 work by Israeli-born, London-based video artist Guli Silberstein, painful footage from the infamous Israeli shelling of a beach in Gaza is juxtaposed with scenes of a happy family relaxing on the sand in Tel Aviv. According to the artist, “the video work refers to the thin line between tranquillity and chaos, and […] . . . → Read More: Art Threat: Life in Gaza is no day at the beach – Beach by video artist Guli Silberstein

Art Threat: Emotionally devastating documentary explores Israeli bombing of Gaza – Friday Film Pick: Tears of Gaza

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed or wounded in Israel’s latest bombing campaign of Gaza, while the Israeli military stubbornly insists the child-killing attacks are necessary to stop “terrorism”.

Such bloody assaults on Gaza are unfortunately common, and those that took place over 2008-2009 may have been the most devastating. Documentary film . . . → Read More: Art Threat: Emotionally devastating documentary explores Israeli bombing of Gaza – Friday Film Pick: Tears of Gaza

Thus Prate the Pundit » Social Critique: What Would Happen if You De-occupy the Cognitive Surplus?

The “West” is known for its consumers. Much of the rest of the world is trying its best to head in that direction too. Reading Clay Shirky’s recent blog post, Gin, Television, and Social Surplus, got me thinking about the stance of the passive consumer. I’m wondering if the new consumer will be a producer… . . . → Read More: Thus Prate the Pundit » Social Critique: What Would Happen if You De-occupy the Cognitive Surplus?