“What is going on in Palestine now cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct…”
“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and in-human to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home. The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France are French in precisely the same sense that Christians born in France are French. If the Jews have no home but Palestine, will they relish the idea of being forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are settled? Or do they want a double home where they can remain at will? This cry for the national home affords a colourable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews…..And now a word to the Jews in Palestine. I have no doubt that they are going about it the wrong way. The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs….” Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi (November 1938)
Complete Text (Gandhi shows compassion for both Jews and Palestinians and desires for justice and human rights for all)
(see Palestine Remembered for more pix & info)
It is time to weep for Palestine…
Once the muezzin’s morning competition in praising God is over calm returns except for the melodious singing of blackbirds in my garden. By then I have prepared my morning cup of coffee and switched my computer on. I start with a quick glance at my email inbox for any special messages, loaf around cyberspace for a few minutes, and then proceed with the morning’s writing assignment for the next few hours.
On Saturday, April, 09, 2011 I connected to The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice to check if the website had acknowledged the piece of bitter sarcasm I had just added on my blog about the last two sessions of the Corries’ court case against the State of Israel. Bam! Rachel’s glorious smile went right through to my heart. I was devastated. How could I have such emotional crush, fatherly as it was, on a young woman I never met in person? I craved for a hug from that beautiful woman to quench my longing for her. It was two months since the last time I had held Rhoda, my daughter, in my arms. I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes. Here was Rhoda being run over by the blade of that D-9 Caterpillar. Oh, my God! How can they do that to my sweetheart? I held Rachel closer to my heart to protect her from the biblical cruelty she sacrificed herself to protect other humans from. I squeezed hard and broke out crying. I was afraid I might wake my wife. I gulped silently for air and let my tears flow quietly down my unshaven face. What kind of man was I? I had to take control of myself. I gave Rhoda a tight hug and kissed Rachel on the cheek before I opened my eyes and walked over to the washbasin to splash some cold water on my face. I refilled my coffee cup, went back to my computer and wrote a couple of emotional pages in my novel about Galilee, Palestine and Israel.
After a breakfast of fresh citrus fruits and fried eggs from my two surviving free-range chickens I puttered around in the garden for a while. By now I felt exhausted. I took a rest. [How did He manage to slug at it for six days straight before taking a rest? Perhaps He didn’t have much on His mind. Bad thoughts are more exhausting than ditch digging; take it from one who practices both regularly. It must have been before the Internet and all its disturbing tidings.] Soon I was up again with my laptop. I saw another video, this one posted by Kate on Mondoweiss, the online periodical that proclaims itself as the locus for “The war of ideas in the Middle East” and hence the place where I occasionally give expression to my frustration and bitter protesting. April 9th is the memorial day of the Deir Yassin massacre. [He simply couldn’t have seen this video and kept quiet. Please, don’t be upset with me. I am giving Him the benefit of the Doubt. After all, He must have slept on the job and didn’t see the actual event in 1948, just as he did earlier when the holocaust was in progress. But at least, later on, when He found out about the holocaust He tried to do something about it; He compensated His favorite children politically and financially. Never mind that He screwed us, the Palestinians, in the process.] Here is the link for it should you want to rid your body of excess salt and accumulated fluid. I for one cried my eyes out: http://mondoweiss.net/2011/04/63rd-anniversary-of-the-deir-yassin-massacre.html
The over-half-an-hour-long video opens and ends with the saddest o‘ud music. In between it maintains a balance between Arab and Jewish narrators and covers a range of relevant information, from the three existing Deir Yassin memorials in New York, Scotland, and Wales to the orphanage and school established by the grand Palestinian philanthropist, Hind el-Hussainy for Deir Yassin’s children. In an entry in her diary she specifies 138 Palestinian liras as her total savings at the time. But she had the goodwill and the moral reserve to make a go of it after she found the 55 lost children let loose by the Irgun and the Stern gangs at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem.
I am pleased that Hiam Hussein, the proud daughter of the neighboring Galilee Palestinian village of Deir Hanna, has done Hind justice in playing her role in Julian Schnabel’s controversial new film, Miral. It is a film based on the autobiographical novel by the same name written by his girlfriend and former Dar el-Tifl el-Arabi resident, Rula Jebreal, another proud Palestinian with local roots, Haifa to be exact. Also I noted with displeasure that the video producers gave no credit to my own brother, Prof. Sharif Kanaana of Beir Zeit University, to the best of my knowledge the first researcher to document the actual number of Deir Yassin Palestinian residents murdered by the Zionist armed gangs and the Haganah and to stipulate that the numbers previously quoted were inflated by both sides of the conflict for their own convenient ends: by the crime perpetrators to sow panic among Palestinians and by the victims to maximize the blame for the crime.
Mind you, I am beating around the bush here. I am speaking of tangential issues to avoid crying again: The mere sight of the serene stone homes, now housing the Givat Shaul Mental Health Center, released a flood of tears. When I got to the part where a former Deir Yassin resident, likely the wife, the daughter and the sister of the village’s stonecutters of old and the descendent of seven centuries worth of stonecutting toil and sweat, was aided to walk next to her villages current barbwire perimeter and she reached to touch a tree branch to her face, I nearly collapsed stifling my urge to sob and to scream out my pain.
The next morning, Sunday, April 10, I rose before the muezzins. By the time the village regained its morning quiet I was scouting the Internet for fresh news. A mailing from a friend contained a title that piqued my curiosity: “Juliano Mer Khamis Predicted His Assassination,” it said. I clicked and followed the link to a half-minute long English language You Tube video that said it all exactly as it would actually happen to him. Here is that link. See for yourself what raw courage is. For some ten minutes I shook with silent tears of outrage and disappointment. How could someone be so stupidly misguided? And to kill such an enlightened bright promise presumably in the name of Islam! Seven guys in Arrabeh alone had just finished noisily shouting the praises of God’s mercy and justice to be totally discredited by the bullet of a “fucked-up Palestinian” as Juliano had put it! . And the guy is not only insightful. He is a good actor; you can see it even in the half-minute video. And his blonde wife is reportedly pregnant with twins. Oh God! Now I am sobbing for the orphaned unborn twins.
That indeed was the ultimate conspiracy. Juliano was literally the embodiment of integration and understanding, himself the product of interracial love and idealism. I had met his parents, the Russian Jewess Arna and the Christian Palestinian Saliba, both protesting commitment to higher ideals of revolutionary justice, humanitarianism, and internationalism, all under their communist convictions before that pipedream turned sour. And I had met Juliano on more than one occasion. I remember him informing an audience in New York that, as a parachute trooper in the IDF before he discovered peaceful resistance, he took it for granted to carry an extra handgun in his backpack to plant on any civilian Palestinian he may kill. He was an acquaintance, not close enough for me to claim him as a friend. Now I was crying for having failed to open my heart wider for this former soldier, this brave comrade in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
The weekend before his senseless murder my wife and I had planned to travel to Jenin to see his adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland performed at the Freedom Theater, his life’s unique project and answer the world’s barbarity, to occupation and to apartheid. Alas, a friend dissuaded us from taking the trip with the explanation that on Saturdays it would take several hours to clear the checkpoint at the border. There were that many Palestinian shoppers from Galilee making the trip on their day off to take advantage of the cheaper prices in the depressed economy of the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Now I was crying for the poor Palestinian brothers and sisters who toil endless hours to wind up with worthless produce, not intrinsically worthless but rendered so by the imposed boundaries and regulations. That was what Juliano tried to tear down. Why didn’t I bother to know him more closely? Why had I never hugged him or kissed his handsome face? I had to hear him posthumously on You Tube to fall in love with him! What a rotten deal we both have had.
Saturday, the 16th of April I slept late. The night before I had stayed up past midnight at a nephew’s wedding celebration. Juliano would have felt at home at the banquet hall: a mix of village locals and communists from across the land, Arabs and Jews. The groom is one. My sister, mother of the groom, had spent the better part of a week dancing the local feminine style, alternatively clapping her hands and twirling them over her head. Finally her rheumatism kicked in and her wrist swelled up with an acute flare of inflammation. We call that “repetitive motion injury.” Doctors are striking. I had to rush over at three in the morning to put her arm in a splint and give her a painkiller. Was she crying in physical pain or for her last gosling abandoning the nest?
By sunrise I was up but not fully alert, still dazed and in a contemplative mood. A dove was romancing another on the red bougainvillea bough sweeping across the full width of my view through the window of my study. I opened the window to hear their melodic chatter. An announcement on the mosque’s loudspeaker lamented the death of a young man in another car accident. It ruined my joyous repose and I decided to check the news. Quickly I reached http://mondoweiss.net/2011/04/gaza-mourns-vittorio-arrigoni.html/ Another stab in the heart of solidarity, freedom and moderation. I read and reread all the standard platitudes: “One of the most passionate supporters of justice for Palestine.” “Full of the joy of life.” “The man with the big smile and gentle nature.” I never met Vittorio Arrigoni, but he had a cause: “Stay Human,” he was known to admonish all concerned. Why would anyone kill such a refreshing soul? And why the torture and willful cruelty?. Who stands to gain from this or from the murder of Juliano Mer Khamis? Or from the murder of the settler family in the outpost next to Awarta in the occupied West Bank for that matter? Not who the press reports say it is, I am sure. Check with me in fifty years when the secret documents are released and I will score another I-told-you-so point, I am sure. Or else join me in signing the appeal to keep the Wikileaks founder free.
I run the video, a collection of photos of the Italian freedom fighter set to music: He is handsome, muscular and imposing with a disarming smile and a big tattoo. Just like my son, Ty, nearly of the same age. I haven’t seen my boy for four months. What keeps me away from him and his kids, God damn it? Then I reach Carlo Latuff’s cartoon portrait of Vik holding the hand of Hanthala, Naji El-Ali’s immortal symbol of Palestinian diaspora, dispossession, resistance and survival against all odds. The floodgates open again and I cry my eyes out, not only for Vik but also for Hanthala who lost another friend and protector and for all those among us who have not learned to heed those two friends’ admonition to “Stay Human.”
I wanted a fruit. I headed to the citrus side of my garden. On the way I walked over with the key and opened the cage for my dozen new chickens. I had learned a lesson: Freedom may cost a chicken its life. Only in the security of the full light of day can my chickens be safe from the murderous mongooses. I rummaged through the navel orange branches for the last fruits of the season. The perfumed scent of the flowers was overwhelmingly pleasant. Still, picking the very last orange of the season on my tree saddened me. Unexpectedly, the pleasure of admiring my citrus trees in full bloom in the rays of the rising sun evoked sadness in my heart. And my flowering apple trees and ripening kumquats and all the red poppies underneath them. How long will I have the pleasure of connecting to my chickens and trees and to the poppies in my field? Avigdor Lieberman and his fascist followers claim them as their sacred property. After all, geographically, I live in Israel and he thinks it is his exclusive property: “Israel Beitainu –Israel is our home,” he proclaims victoriously.
How many times must I repeat: “Stay Human!”
“Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.”
“Corruption, elite domination, and white favoritism are the most important factors in understanding Arizona’s strange political history, including this latest episode. But class struggle against it is key to understanding why the nation’s strangest state may soon be in the vanguard of struggles for real freedom. Those involved in such struggles stand like saguaros in this beautiful state, even as the snakes and scorpions scurry about us.”
Thanks to Jed for pointing out this essay. The piece first appeared on Facebook.
Corruption and Class Struggle:
What It’s Like to Live in Arizona Right Now
By Joel Olson
With the passage of the notorious anti-immigrant bill SB 1070 last spring, the outlawing of ethnic studies as of January 1, the gutting of the school and university systems, the collapsed housing market, the high unemployment rates, and now the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, you might be wondering what it’s like to live in Arizona right about now.
It ain’t easy.
But it helps to put Giffords’s shooting in historical perspective, which is defined by two things in Arizona: corruption and class struggle. And ironically, this perspective gives me hope about the radically democratic future of my home state.
Arizona’s economy was founded on the “Five C’s:” copper, cotton, cattle, citrus, and climate (tourism). These C’s were controlled by big mining and agricultural interests and real estate developers. Corruption was commonplace as they manipulated the political system for their benefit.
A group of these capitalists, called the Phoenix 40, controlled state politics until the 1970s, when the political establishment opened up some. But even after their rule, the state capitol has always been a place to lie, bribe, and scam your way to what you want. If the names Don Bowles, Evan Mecham, AZ scam, Fife Symington, or the Keating 5 (which included Senator John McCain) mean anything to you, then you know that corruption is as plentiful as the parking here. And I haven’t even mentioned Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio or State Senator Russell Pearce, the tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum of racist nativism.*
SB 1070 and Giffords’s shooting, in other words, are but the latest of a storied history of corrupt cowboy capitalism.
Such tomfoolery is part of the class struggle in the Grand Canyon State. Three classes matter in Arizona: elites, the white middle class, and the working class. The elites come mainly from the agriculture/mining, tourism, and construction/real estate sectors (with an emerging tech sector). They are the masters of the corruption I described. But in a system of majority rule, elites need a junior partner to dominate. This is where the white middle class steps in.
The white middle class is the engine of suburban development here. The new housing developments, strip malls, and big box stores that pop up almost daily (until the recession, at least) are built for and fueled by this class. Many in this class run small businesses related to the main sectors of the economy, such as ranching, construction, landscaping, and pool maintenance. Many are retirees who used to manage businesses in other states. This small business atmosphere contributes to the libertarian, Barry Goldwater-style political culture of the state.
For years, this relationship has been mutually beneficial. While legal segregation never took deep root in this state (most of Arizona’s explosive growth took place after Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954), unofficial practices have kept many neighborhoods and schools comfortably white for decades, and the best jobs have been traditionally denied to Chicanos and Natives. (With a Black population of just three percent, the racially “out” groups in this state have historically been Chicanos, Mexicans, and indigenous peoples.) Politicians have successfully tied these practices to the laissez-faire economic policies of the elites, giving whites the sense that their success is due strictly to their own work ethic rather than being facilitated by white privilege. As a result, many white middle and working class Arizonans identify with the success—and conservative politics—of the elites.
This collusion has created an anything-goes capitalism mixed with a suburban consciousness. Call my state the Wild West or suburban hell—they’re both accurate to a large degree.
But the partnership has been fraying in the last two decades. Pressures to diversify corporations, universities, and governments have led elites to support various multicultural initiatives, which middle class whites resent. (Arizona voters in November voted to outlaw affirmative action by a wide margin.) The state’s Latino population has outpaced white growth, and the state is now nearly one-third Latino. Areas that were once comfortably white now have Spanish-language business signs. More and more schoolchildren have brown faces—even in the “good” schools. Cars roll down formerly white streets bumping music whose percussion comes from a tuba.
Further, middle class whites increasingly see elites in collusion with the Brown working classes rather than them. They have reasons for believing this. Agriculture, construction, and tourism all depend on a highly exploitable, low-paid working class, which makes migrant labor desirable. Undocumented labor makes up 27% of all construction workers, 60% of agricultural workers, 25% of restaurants workers, and 51% of all landscaping workers in Arizona. This sets small business interests—who usually can’t take advantage of such labor—into a tizzy. It sets off many other middle and working class whites as well, who feel that “they” are stealing “our” jobs. This is the political power behind SB 1070—a law that Arizona’s elites largely oppose.
The frayed alliance between these two classes has created the political mess this state is in today. It is the story behind SB 1070, HB2281 (the anti-ethnic studies law), the elimination of affirmative action, the attack on the public education system, the attack on public workers for enjoying “Cadillac” pension plans, and Giffords’s shooting. The alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is not only of the white middle/working class, his addled mind is a gross exaggeration of its contradictions and confusions. Of course Loughner is probably crazy, but his mental health—and even his ideology—are not the point. What matters is that the conflict over this frayed class alliance—and all the political vitriol it has generated by Tea Partiers and others—pointed his illness toward Gabrielle Giffords.
In the face of this mess, it is the working class—largely Brown, largely poor, largely poorly educated, largely ignored—that represents the best hope to build a new Arizona within the corrupted shell of the old. Exploited by the elite, despised by many whites, and largely shut out of the political system, this class has had to make its own way through the state’s crazy political landscape.
With a weak Democratic Party, a labor movement crippled by “right to work” laws, a small civil rights contingent, few political nonprofits, and almost no organized left, Arizona’s working class is turning to grassroots democracy, operating outside the “official” political channels and fearlessly making political demands that challenge the pillars of laissez-faire capitalism itself. This path they are carving is quite possibly a model for working class struggles throughout the nation.
Take the grassroots fight against SB 1070, for example. The Tierra y Libertad Organization in Tucson has been a leader in opposing SB 1070. But it is also creating a new model of democracy. Declining to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, they raise funds through the community, which they use support their struggle for the self-determination of its base communities. In Phoenix, Puente has organized the major immigrant rights demonstrations in Arizona, but they are also organizing neighborhood meetings throughout the Valley of the Sun. In Phoenix and Flagstaff, the Repeal Coalition (I’m a member of this group) demands that all persons in a global economy be free to live, love, and work wherever they please, and they demand that ordinary people have a full say in those affairs that affect their daily lives. The undocumented workers, moms, and college students who make up the group don’t seem to worry that these demands are deeply radical and disrupt the very functioning of Arizona politics as it currently operates. These groups work with others, such as Border Action Network, No More Deaths, and Arizona Interfaith, that are organized in a traditional nonprofit format but nevertheless encourage face-to-face democracy and are courageously fighting 1070 and myriad other evils.
These working-class struggles suggest a new Arizona. They suggest a world in which working people decide the fate of the community, not the rich. They suggest a world in which democracy rather than white privilege decides how to allocate resources. They suggest a world in which borders are tools of the bosses rather than walls that “defend sovereignty” or “prevent terrorism.”
This class will not win for a while. The elites and the white middle classes are yet too powerful. This coming year, Arizona politicians will gut the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship, defund public education until it barely operates, and do many more stupid things. But as elites and the white middle class continue to bicker, the Arizona working class continues to learn lessons, develop leadership, practice grassroots democracy, and make demands that seem “unreasonable” today but might tomorrow become as obvious as the multiplication table.
Corruption, elite domination, and white favoritism are the most important factors in understanding Arizona’s strange political history, including this latest episode. But class struggle against it is key to understanding why the nation’s strangest state may soon be in the vanguard of struggles for real freedom. Those involved in such struggles stand like saguaros in this beautiful state, even as the snakes and scorpions scurry about us.
* * * * * * * *
Joel Olson has lived in Arizona for over 25 years. He is a member of the Flagstaff Repeal Coalition and teaches political theory at Northern Arizona University.
* For the uninitiated or un-Arizonan: Don Bowles was an Arizona Republic reporter who was murdered by a car bomb in 1976 while investigating connections between Arizona elites and the Mafia. Evan Mecham was a racist governor (he was a John Birch Society supporter) from 1987-1988 who was impeached for obstruction of justice and misuse of government funds. The Keating 5 were five U.S. Senators, including Arizona Senators John McCain and Dennis DeConcini, who were accused of corruption in 1989 for illegally intervening on behalf of Charles Keating, whose Lincoln Savings and Loan bank collapsed, causing thousands to lose their life savings. “AZ scam” was a bribery and money laundering scandal that several state legislators were convicted of in 1991. Fife Symington, the governor of Arizona from 1991-1996, was impeached and indicted for 23 counts of fraud and extortion.
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 7,300 times in 2010. That’s about 18 full 747s.
In 2010, there were 170 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 180 posts. There were 153 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 19mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.
The busiest day of the year was November 23rd with 93 views. The most popular post that day was Interview with Slavoj Zizek: Capitalism is Driving the World to Total Destruction .
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were en.wordpress.com, facebook.com, WordPress Dashboard, obama-scandal-exposed.co.cc, and mail.yahoo.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for thanksgiving, palestine, denis diderot, malcolm x quotes on love, and diderot.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Real Men Love Palestine: Malcolm X Quotes March 2010
The Mayan Age of Transformation… April 2010
Pasolini recorded his observations in the documentary A Visit to Palestine while scouting locations for his moving biography of the life of Jesus, The Gospel of St Matthew.
The sophisticated hasbara / sophistry that created the hologram of ”democracy” and “chosenness” was the very first of Israel’s chief exports (to be followed by human organ smuggling, pornography, espionage and shocking weapons) and that it was and is a very “successful” endeavor in every part of globe, meant to convince not only hawks and politicos, but the academic world. Could Pasolini’s ambiguity re the brutal colonial nature of Zionism be due to the fact that in the 50s and 60s he and many intellectuals saw Israel as a progressive experiment in socialism that needed time to live up to expectations? The halo effect over Israel still hangs on in Europe and the USA for decades after al-Nakba.
Although the true nature of Zionism was little known in the West for decades– either in popular culture or among the intelligentsia — the mask of righteousness has slipped off Israel’s PR-drenched narrative and a truly demonic face has been glimpsed by more people than ever before.
Could these two films of Pasolini’s — one celebrating Jesus’ life, and one recording contemporary Palestine — be connected to Pasolini’s very tragic, unexpected and unsolved murder?
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1963 film Sopralluoghi in Palestina (English title: A Visit to Palestine, though it would be more accurate to call it Scouting for Locations in Palestine) showcases the director’s preparation for filming The Gospel According to St. Matthew. (Parenthetically, in Italian the latter film’s title is Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo, about which my film professor has posed a good question: do Italians erase the ‘saint’ in Matthew’s title or is Pasolini being irreverent?) The film is more evocative and personal than the average making-of documentary that often accompanies a major film as a voyeuristic sidebar. It is also not without its problems on the question of Palestine.
It’s clear from the outset that Pasolini is filming here because he is fed up with the industrial world: you can’t shoot a film about Christ near Milanese factories. He has come here for the Jesus ‘look.’ It’s not an aberration to point this out since it’s a stake Pasolini constantly claims: only in the Terra Santa itself can he strike the ‘poetic and archaic… extreme smallness, poverty and humility.’ His favorite part of the journey is a narrow strip close to Jordan because that’s ‘where Jesus spent his last days.’
In a rapid, breathy voice-over that runs the entire course of the film, Pasolini sounds almost like a tourist, both eager and disappointed to find comparisons with sites and sounds from home. He compares the rolling, grassy landscape of Palestine to southern, rural Italian cities like Bari, Calabria and Sicilia. Unfortunately, while he is certainly not the average tourist and though he does struggle some to decode what he sees, one gets the sense that he’s not really struggling enough—at least not any more than necessary to furnish scenes for his film. Coming to terms with not being able to film in ‘modern’ Nazareth, he says in a defeated tone: ‘You understand that in this period of our trip, I had set out as a problem, as the purpose of my research, the finding of those villages, places and faces which could replace modern villages, faces, places.’ (Avrai capito che in questo periodo del nostro viaggio, io mi ero posto come problema, come scopo della mia ricerca, il trovare dei villaggi, dei luoghi, delle facce, che potessero sostituire i villaggi, le facce, i luoghi moderni.)
His scouting tour takes him to much of pre-1967 Palestine/Israel, from the Jewish kibbutzim to the habitats of impoverished Palestinian farmers. While he interviews a young family at a kibbutz at length (conducted in Italian) he never films himself talking at length to Arabs. There is the linguistic problem, of course, but this distancing act reinforces something troubling that Pasolini repeats at least twice in the film: the Palestinians just seem ‘more authentic.’ They are ‘allegre, animalistiche‘—happy and animalistic—far closer to his archaic Gospel characters than the new inhabitants of the modern settlements/colonies dotting the hillsides.
Indeed, it can often seem like Pasolini takes the colonial project for granted. In the poem ‘The Southern Dawn’ (L’Alba Meridionale),* published a year after the trip to Palestine, he writes about finding ‘millions of men employed only to live as barbarians descended recently on a happy land, strangers to it, and its owners’ (milioni di uomini occupati / soltanto a vivere come barbari discesi / da poco su una terra felice, estranei / ad essa, e suoi possessori). Are the recent Jewish immigrants the ‘barbarians’ descending in ‘millions’ on a ‘happy land’? How does Pasolini reconcile their relationship to this land as both ‘strangers’ and biblical ‘owners’? The film is fraught with these same unanswered musings.
In this screen grab, Pasolini stands in front of a map of Jerusalem, surrounded by those likely objects of his disdain, modern advertisements for cigarettes. It’s hard to pinpoint a poetics to Pasolini’s critiques, but if there is one solid critique it is, again, his disappointment at what has become of his imagined Palestine. For the most part, his monologue is deeply concerned with the technical and aesthetic concerns of making his film. But the jabs he makes about modern, industrial Israel can be found if one is looking for them. They express sorrow at a lost aura he is sore that small, white Israeli settler/colonial houses on the plains appear soulless and uniform. ‘You could easily find [them] in the Roman countryside, or in Switzerland.’
One of the most moving moments is Pasolini in a Bedouin desert, encroached on ‘day by day by the Israelis.’ The footage is beautiful, but as he says again in that breathy disappointment, unusable.The Bedouins make look authentic, and they may even be the victims of colonialism and land grabs, but he still hasn’t found what he’s come looking for.
Where Pasolini’s musings lack any overt colonial critique, the camera highlights it. The shots of Jerusalem surrounded by barbed wire are particularly compelling. As Pasolini’s voiceover expresses awe at the natural beauty of these surroundings, the camerawork displays the indignities of everyday life for Palestinian inhabitants. As seen above, the camera zooms in and out of a shot of birds perched on top of barbed wire, in and out and in and out, a syntactical repetition of a sublime and sordid reality.
*Thanks to http://www.twitter.com/revsocialist for sending me the reference to that poem.
(All screengrabs by South/South)