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How the internet’s leading account on Palestine maintains its message – TRT World

Posted By on January 18, 2022

In the era of memes and flowered Free Palestine squares, it's a constant struggle to ensure the message is not lost to an internet set on producing "more digestible" content.

Five years ago, a search for Eye on Palestine on Instagram would have led users to dazzling, professional shots of the Holy Land, from the Jordan River to the glistening Mediterranean.

But when the original administrator turned the account over to his brother in 2017, there was a slight shift in content. Instead of snaps of Palestine, the new administrator began posting daily updates on life under Israeli occupation, with the hope of diverting attention from straight politics, to the nuanced and often intimate ways that Palestinians suffer in their daily lives.

Usually the English accounts [on Palestine] are run by the PA [Press Association] or men in fancy suits, so I think when people see our broken English, they see how hard were trying to get our message out, says Hamza Mahmoud, the Eye on Palestine marketing and campaign specialist. Mahmoud, along with the administrator and assisting content creators, is based in Palestine.

Its funny, because there are so many of us who have no exposure to the West, and all of a sudden were dealing with millions of [Westerners] per day, he laughs.

What started as grassroots activism has taken the internet by storm: with 2.3 million followers and counting, the account is now the worlds go-to source for an understanding of the lived experience of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. There's a good reason for this - many captions are written in Arabic, English, Turkish, Russian, French, and Indonesian, to create a more personal connection to Palestine worldwide.

As all staff members work on a volunteer basis, multilingual captions come from followers across the world who want to join Eye on Palestine in spreading the word on injustice.

A quick scroll of the accounts most recent posts shows brutal beatings and arrests of Palestinians, some of them children; Israeli bulldozing of Palestinian homes; and a Palestinian march in Ramallah, held in protest of the continued detention of a Palestinian cancer patient.

The account is familiar with sensitive content warnings.

We used to post really aesthetic posts, says Mahmoud. But what makes our content special is the details of the occupation. Were not talking about politics, were talking about the lives of people. Every individual is suffering, he says.

His take is both refreshing and timely. Since Palestinian digital activism took off in 2015, and surged once again in May 2021 during the 11-day Hamas/Israel war, there has been an unspoken agreement that mass awareness, and a prominent online presence is a good thing for Palestinian activism. American-Palestinian model Bella Hadid, with a whopping 48.3 million followers, has reposted all pro-Palestine content. While this hasnt been without its fair share of Zionist backlash, the hope has been that putting the occupation of Palestine in the same bracket as other grave human rights abusesand by demystifying the understanding of an equal-power conflict in the processthey will slowly pull back the blindfold of the international community.

The question, then, is whether digital activism has had the intended effect, or if, in the era of memes and flowered Free Palestine squares, the message has been lost to an internet set on producing more digestible content.

Eye on Palestine is clear: its not here to be the internet police. Content creators have learned a thing or two about purpose-driven online activism.

Memes: aesthetics have their place

For Eye on Palestine, the use of aesthetically pleasing graphic designs, photographs, or artworks have their place in digital activism.

When used intentionally, that is.

Aesthetic posts should be used as a break, and thats critical, says Mahmoud, noting that the majority of their content displays brutality, something the majority of the audience will need a break from.

If activist accounts take care to do so, publishing such posts can also help foster effective altruism within the community. Eye on Palestine says they routinely pay local artists for the work that is published on the account, and make sure to tag the artists account to further support them.

When asked if such posts, which are often devoid of context, risk losing the message of the account, Mahmoud says no.

People know that our message should not be lost, he says of both aesthetically designed posts and memes, which he is unquestionably in favour of, because they are often thought-provoking and do not solicit the same response across the board. The content consumer chooses for themselves what reactionor actionto take from the post, which makes for a stronger connection to the content.

I need your thoughts, not your tears, he says.

And just because something is humorousor not what is typically considered intellectualit doesnt mean it shouldnt be welcome in the digital activist world, particularly the Palestinian one.

Why would a meme make us lose credibility? Even when Israel is bombing usthis is darkbut I need this as humour.

If youre going to ride the wave, ride it right

During the 11-day war in May last year, Eye on Palestine saw its followership soar by nearly 500 percent in one week. Several other prominent Palestinian activist accounts similarly saw a significant uptick in followers. For Mahmoud, the phenomenon was not a trend, but evidence of information-thirsty individuals trying to meet their needs.

He realises that some peopleboth creators and consumerswere just riding the wave for exploitative reasons, but he doesnt pay them much attention. If their content is accurate, then, to him, its action over intention.

But, he says that, more often than not, fake activism is fairly easy to spot.

Many people [who ride the wave] dont have the right discourse, and have no exposure to international politics, he says.

While not suggesting that an international law degree is necessary to join the conversation on Palestine, it seems he is suggesting that well-intentioned people without a background in occupational politics hand the microphone to locals who do. Even then, though, its important to pay attention to particularities in the language.

In Arabic, many people useyahoudiwhich means Jewishto describe a Zionist, he says, noting the difference in the words. Someone who is Jewish belongs to the Jewish faith, whereas a Zionist is someone who believes in the establishment and advancement of the state of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people.

The problem, Mahmoud says, is in the translation.

People who dont know this nuance will translate directly from Arabic and end up using the word Jew in place of Zionist which, of course, changes the whole meaning, he says.

And because the internet and screenshots are endless, there is little that experts on the topic (such as Mahmoud) can do to rectify false information or alter the impact it may have on the Palestinian narrative.

Lies can never be covered. In time, if these people get [likes, followers], we can never change it.

Accountability is key

For those interested in speaking more on Palestine in the digital space, Mahmoud has two key pieces of advice to share.

Firstly, you need to keep good resources. We have a whole group chat with the best Palestinian journalists, so we know how to verify our information, he says.

For him, the key word is Palestinian.

Do not trust Hebrew media, he says emphatically.

People see it as irrefutable because they have security, cameras, and an army. So people think if it happened, they would have seen it. But they lie, and we know it. We do not rely on their media.

[NOTE: *Name has been changed due to the interviewees fear of increased attacks against Palestinian digital activists, both online and off.]

Source: TRT World

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How the internet's leading account on Palestine maintains its message - TRT World

Bella Hadid sports ‘Palestine’ jewelry while out on the town with friends – Fox News

Posted By on January 18, 2022

Bella Hadid was spotted out on the town wearing a necklace that showed her support of the Palestinian people.

The model was out in West Hollywood with her brother, Anwar, and some of their friends when she stepped out of a car and was photographed in white knee-high boots, a brown plunging neckline high low halter dress that went down to her belly button. The outfit was complete with a leopard-print purse that she wore slung over her right shoulder.

However, the accessory that turned the most heads was the subtle political statement that she wore on her neck. In addition to a necklace that had her full name on it, "Isabella," the 25-year-old wore another that read "Palestine."


Bella Hadid had a subtle political message hidden in her jewelry. (BACKGRID)

While subtle, this isnt the first time that Hadid, whose father is Mohamed Hadid, a Palestinian real estate developer, has spoken out in favor of the Palestinian people. In May 2021, amid heightened violence taking place in Israel and the Gaza Strip, the supermodel took to her Instagram to share a collection of photos and videos showing her walking down the streets of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn with demonstrators holding pro-Palestinian flags.

"The way my heart feels To be around this many beautiful, smart, respectful, loving, kind and generous Palestinians all in one place ... it feels whole! We are a rare breed!!" the model wrote at the time.

"Its free Palestine til Palestine is free!!!" she added.


Bella Hadid wore a "Palestine" necklace while out with friends. (BACKGRID)

Her presence at the demonstration came hours after she shared a different post on Instagram of her grandparents on their wedding day in 1941, along with an image of her father as a child next to his seven siblings and their mom. The star noted that the siblings were "taken out of their homes in Palestine in 1948, becoming refugees in Syria, then Lebanon, then Tunisia."

"I love my family, I love my Heritage, I love Palestine," she wrote.


The dual posts also came hours after another post that Hadid shared drew accusations of anti-Semitism. That post was highly critical of Israel, calling it a land settled by colonizers that practice "ethnic cleansing, military occupation and apartheid over the Palestinian people."

Bella Hadid has spoken out in favor of the Palestinian people in the past. (BACKGRID)


Many Instagram users pointed out inaccuracies in Hadid's posts, with some accusing her of perpetuating anti-Semitic tropes.

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Bella Hadid sports 'Palestine' jewelry while out on the town with friends - Fox News

Abbas will not find the political horizon he is looking for – Al Jazeera English

Posted By on January 18, 2022

On December 28, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz held a meeting at the latters home. This was their second official encounter since the current Israeli government took power in June. The two had previously met in August and had had a phone call a few weeks beforehand.

Gantz and Abbas discussed deepening security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Israeli government and measures to ease the severe economic crisis in the West Bank.

The meeting was seen as controversial on both sides. Hamas and other Palestinian factions declared the meeting futile, as it did not advance in any way the Palestinian national cause, while various Israeli political figures, including members of the ruling coalition, saw it as the first step towards making undue concessions to the Palestinians.

It is unlikely that Gantz and Abbas did not expect the controversy that their meeting would cause. So why did they proceed with it anyway and what does the continuing engagement between the two mean for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

Having suffered international isolation under the previous United States administration, Abbas has been eager to return to the international arena after US President Joe Biden took office in January 2021 and a new Israeli government was formed without longtime Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the year.

The Palestinian president likely considered Gantzs outreach in July as his best chance to do so. It is also possible he hopes that the Israeli defence minister may follow in the footsteps of the late Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who was willing to engage the Palestinian leadership and even sign a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat.

Abbas visited Gantzs home seeking a political horizon in order to continue down the path of the Oslo Accords, of which he was the godfather. But in Israel, no one is talking about a political process with the Palestinians and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has made it quite clear there wont be one under his government.

That is why, Abbas only managed to secure some economic measures from Gantz, which are meant to help alleviate the PAs economic crisis. These included Israel sending an advance payment of $32m of tax money to the PA and providing more work permits for Palestinian workers and entry permits for Palestinian businessmen.

According to Israeli media, Gantz also informed Abbas that the Israeli government agreed to allow some 6,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and 3,500 from the Gaza Strip to be registered in the Palestinian population registry and issued identification documents. The registry is directly controlled by the Israeli authorities and the PA cannot add anyone to it without Israeli permission, leaving tens of thousands of Palestinians without documents.

For Gantz, engagement with Abbas allows him to take over the Palestinian file completely and build his domestic and international political standing using it. This initiative wins him favour with the Biden administration, which has been putting pressure on both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to resume talks. It also allows him to stand apart from Bennett, who, fearing that his right-wing allies may abandon him, is reluctant to engage directly with the PA.

The Israeli government, despite its far-right rhetoric, does have an interest in keeping close relations with the PA, particularly a security one.

The meeting with Abbas came amid an escalation of resistance operations in the West Bank throughout last year and an uptick in the violence of settlers and occupation forces against Palestinian civilians. These attacks have resulted in a number of Israeli and Palestinian deaths and injuries.

Both Gantz and Bennett know that the security of the hundreds of thousands of illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank depends on the PAs cooperation. The Israeli defence minister sought and received such security guarantees secured from Abbas in exchange for the economic measures he offered.

The Israeli government is also propping up the PA because it fears that an internal collapse could lead to a Hamas resurgence in the West Bank.

The only stakeholder in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that seemed to welcome the engagement between Abbas and Ganz was Washington. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan worked hard to bring the views of both sides closer on various issues and ensure that the meeting would take place.

But even the Biden administration is not pushing for a major reset in Israeli-Palestinian relations and the resumption of political negotiations. It seems it is satisfied with this low-level engagement, recognising that resuming talks may be impossible at the moment due to internal Palestinian divisions, the right-wing government in Tel Aviv, and Washingtons own preoccupation with regional and international issues that it deems more pressing than the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Although Bennett is publicly opposed to engagement with the PA, he has not stopped it because he does not want to upset Washington, especially at a time when the Iranian nuclear deal is being renegotiated. He sees no point in entering into a political confrontation with US allies so long as the ceiling of the Abbas-Gantz engagement does not go beyond discussing the economic conditions of the Palestinians.

This strategy of swapping limited economic benefits for deepening security cooperation may serve well the interests of the Israeli government and its US allies, but it does hardly anything for the Palestinians. A few hundred work and entry permits and an advance on tax money are hardly going to improve the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. They also cannot fix the deep legitimacy crisis that the PA is suffering from.

Asking for more security cooperation from the Palestinian security apparatus at a time when settler attacks on Palestinians are peaking would not help fix Abbass dismal public image in Palestine either. It may temporarily help Israel stem the attacks in the West Bank, but with the root causes of the violence remaining unaddressed, it is bound to surge again.

Furthermore, the mobilisation across historic Palestine that we witnessed in 2021 against the Israeli occupation shows that the strategy of divide and rule no longer works. Treating the economic crisis in the West Bank as a separate issue from the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and within official Israeli borders would not bring peace and stability. In fact, the more the political demands of the Palestinians remain unaddressed, the greater the tension grows and sooner or later it may erupt into a third Intifada.

The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeeras editorial stance.

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Abbas will not find the political horizon he is looking for - Al Jazeera English

Will there be ‘lasting peace’ between Israel and Palestine? – Middle East Monitor

Posted By on January 18, 2022

Clashes between Israelis and Palestinians are nothing new. These episodes have been happening since the Zionist militias started the Nakba in 1948 with the violent expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians and the destruction of more than 140 towns and villages. This ethnic cleansing campaign made way for the Ashkenazi, Khazar and Sephardi Jews, displaced from Europe, to settle in historical Palestine.

The episodes of direct confrontations in May 2021 between Palestinian resistance forces and Israel reignited the debate on the legitimacy of each and the effectiveness of a lasting peace agreement between the two parties. As usual, the mainstream media lavishly trumpeted the chant about "Israel's right to defend itself", while continuing to treat resistance forces, especially the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas, as responsible for aggression and "terrorism".

In January 2020, former US President Donald Trump, without the participation of Palestinians, announced an arrangement termed the "deal of the century". Trump's proposition was a unilateral initiative arising from pressure from the US Jewish lobby aimed at continuing the annexations of Palestinian territories and recognising and legalising the crimes that the Jewish state has been committing since 1948. What appeared to be an alternative to "lasting peace" was, in fact, a macabre plan to end Palestine as a nation.

The colonialist plan did not end after the self-proclamation of the Jewish state nor with the massacre perpetrated during the so-called Six-Day War, or with the occupation of the Gaza Strip, Sinai (Egypt) and the Golan Heights (Syria). Israel continues to carry out the process of complete Judaisation of Palestine in all fields, adopting legislation such as the Basic Law of the Nation-State passed by the Knesset on 19 July, 2018, through which it legally became an exclusive state for Jews.

As can be seen, the goal of the Israeli occupation is the complete destruction of Palestine so that there is finally the establishment of a state of Jewish supremacy in the occupied territories, without defined borders and in permanent expansion. The intention is to transform what is left of Palestine into small islands of land as if it were a mini-state pulverised, surrounded and suffocated by the occupier on all sides.

A new Hamas programme was approved in 2017 and called the General Document of Principles and Policies. It asserts that the establishment of the so-called "State of Israel" based on unilateral decisions is completely "illegal, infringes the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and goes against their will and the will of the Nation,"[1] as it is a violation of human rights and the right to self-determination.

Hamas has declared that it will not recognise Israel or anything that happened in Palestine in terms of occupation. This includes the construction of colonial settlements, the Judaisation of historical and sacred places and the change in characteristics or falsification of historical and cultural facts. It understands that Palestinian rights over their land and places will never lapse.

The Hamas programme rejects a lasting solution other than the liberation of Palestine "from the river to the sea", without compromising its rejection of Israel and without abandoning any rights of the Palestinians. It agrees with the establishment of a Palestinian state along the borders of 4 June, 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees and displaced people from their homes, from which they have been expelled since 1948.

The leadership of Hamas has declared that it is committed to the re-establishment of relations and joint actions by Palestinian organisations based on pluralism, democracy, national partnership, acceptance of the other and the adoption of dialogue. The aim is to strengthen the unity to meet the aspirational needs of the Palestinian people, as occurred in the historic meeting of 5 September, 2020, when the main Palestinian forces came together for a joint initiative to contest the Israeli occupation.

Some insist on the thesis of the alleged attempt by Hamas to delegitimise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). However, the movement shows the recognition of the organisation in its programme, stating that it is a reference for the Palestinian people that needs to be preserved, developed and rebuilt on a democratic basis, inside and outside Palestine, to ensure the participation of all forces fighting to protect the rights of Palestinians.

While Palestinians seek solutions to end the colonial apartheid of the "Jewish state", Zionist leaders deny, by all means, the most elementary rights of Palestinians. This can be seen in the statements of the current premier, Naftali Bennett, who said in 2018 that he "wouldn't give an inch of land to the Arabs" and told US magazine The New Yorker in 2013: "I will do everything in my power so that they never have their own state."

For these and other reasons, Palestinians do not trust the Zionists. They do not comply with agreements, such as the Oslo Accords, which have become a dead letter without recognising the right of existence of the Palestinian state. After Oslo, Israel accelerated the expansion of the occupation, the creation of Jewish colonial settlements, the confiscation of land, the creation of quotas for exports to the Israeli market and control on the import of agricultural machinery and tools, which ended up ruining Palestinian agriculture.

Despite this, there are still those who advocate the recognition of Israel by the Palestinian resistance as a pre-condition for the existence of "lasting peace agreements". There are also those who support normalisation to take effect when it is known that this arrangement is ineffective for the simple realisation that Israel will not stop the occupation at a negotiating table. Such rhetoric serves the interests of the Israeli occupation, which is aware of its inability to win new battles against the Palestinian resistance.

To accept the occupier's reality is to annihilate the dream of freedom and liberation, betraying the martyrs and those who fought long and hard for freedom, self-determination and dignity. This would betray the principles of legitimate resistance to achieve what is enshrined in international law and the Charter of the United Nations.

[1]TENRIO, Sayid Marcos. Palestina: Do mito da terra prometido terra da resistncia. 1st ed. So Paulo: Anita Garibaldi, IBRASPAL, 2019. P. 382.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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Will there be 'lasting peace' between Israel and Palestine? - Middle East Monitor

New Palestine hires officer; second post to be filled – Greenfield Daily Reporter

Posted By on January 18, 2022

Philip Boor was sworn in last week as the newest member of the New Palestine Police Department. Hell go through several months of training.

NEW PALESTINE Its been several months since Bob Ehle, the New Palestine town marshal, had a full police force to work with. The department took another step toward better protecting the community with the recent swearing in of Philip Boor as the towns newest officer.

Boor wont be the only new hire as the department expands to seven full-time officers with another hire coming.

The growth at the police department comes as the demand for services increases in the growing town.

The force had been down an officer after the deputy town marshal, Greg Evans, stepped down in December. Evans, who had been with the department since 2007, had missed several months of work for medical reasons before officially resigning.

Boor, who will have to go through several months of local and state training, has a degree from Anderson University. Hes also a fitness trainer and a member of the Indiana Army National Guard, where he is trained as a combat medic

Boor was officially sworn in on Jan. 5 during the town councils monthly meeting.

I shall do my utmost to be a credit to the community, Boor said during the ceremony.

Boor is currently going through a 40-hour basic law enforcement course. Hell then go to road school, working with each officer on the department. In May, hell head to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

Ehle, who has been with the town since 2001, is supposed to be the administrator of the police department, overseeing scheduling, training, the budget and community outreach. But because the department has been short-staffed, he has often gone on patrol as well.

Ehle plans to continue some patrol work until Boor is fully trained. Ehle will then hire one more officer within the next month to bring the force up to seven, the largest its ever been.

That officer is expected to start at the end of the month and has already gone through state training.

Its going to be tough to replace all of that experience that Evans had, but weve got some eager, young officers coming in now, and its going to be good, Ehle said.

With Evans stepping down Ehle moved the next officer with the most seniority, Sgt. Jessy Walley, into second in command. Walley has been with the department since 2015 and has been a steady presence on the force, Ehle said. Theyve also taken officer Wade Whitaker, who was hired as a school resource officer for New Palestine High School in 2019, and made him a full time officer for the department to focus more on town coverage.

Whitaker is still overseeing the resource officers position at NPHS. The towns other officers and deputies from the Hancock County Sheriffs Department also fill in as resource officers.

There is no lax in coverage there, just different coverage, Ehle said.

Ehle would like to see his force grow to at least nine officers within the next year or two and feels it will out of necessity.

Our current council does understand the need, Ehle said. Its always just a matter of money and when that comes in because we are seeing lots of growth, but it takes years for those taxes to filter back in.

Bill Niemier, council president, noted the importance of having a police department large enough to cover the rapidly growing area.

Growth in the police department needs to follow growth in the town, Niemier said. Well add the next officer here in few weeks and hope that is sufficient for a while, but well just have to see.

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New Palestine hires officer; second post to be filled - Greenfield Daily Reporter

A letter to the Sydney Festival about Palestine solidarity – +972 Magazine

Posted By on January 18, 2022

To the Board of the Sydney Festival,

Each time I sit down ready to write to you, I get back up again.To write this letter means having to negotiate the grief, disappointment, and frustration. But thankfully, reflecting on these last few weeks also offers a reservoir of joy, energy, and gratitude.

Having met you with my colleagues just short of a month ago, you may already know why this is the case. We came to you as an intersectional, intergenerational collective of artists all with histories of deep engagement in creative, activist, academic, and community practice to tell you why it is harmful that one of Australias most iconic, annual cultural events has embraced the Israeli Embassy in Canberra as a Star Partner of its 2022 program. We were informed that the embassys $20,000 sponsorship was going toward a show conceived by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin and produced by the Sydney Dance Company.

We explained to you that the very source of these funds is, in fact, an apartheid regime that is systemically oppressing and dispossessing the Palestinian people. We elaborated, that while the Israeli state purports to promote free artistic and cultural exchange, in the same breath, it persecutes and punishes Palestinian artists and performers like Dareen Tatour and Hafez Omar for daring to speak out against its violence. That this states occupation forces are systematically attacking Palestinian cultural institutions, disrupting their events, destroying historical archives, and denying Palestinians access to their own creative legacies. That the regime you accepted funds from prevents Palestinians from practicing their own art, let alone traveling to perform, participate, or collaborate in artistic opportunities abroad.

In requesting our meeting with you, we paused our pain and trauma for the sake of due process, to have a good faith discussion about the violent dehumanization of Palestinians. You revealed to us, however, that you had actively pursued thispartnership with Israel in May 2021 when the world watched as Israel bombed the besieged people of Gaza, shot at protesters in the occupied West Bank, threatened Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah with dispossession, and arrested hundreds of Palestinian citizens inside Israel.

Israeli police detain a Palestinian woman in Sheikh Jarrah, May 10, 2021. (Oren Ziv)

We urged you not to be indifferent to Israels atrocities, nor to ignore the violence inflicted upon our families in exile, nor to be dismissive of our liberation struggle spanning decades and continents. We hoped it would be a teachable moment; that you would embody ethical leadership and have the courage to commit Sydney Festival as an anti-racist apartheid-free zone, and reject this partnership with the Israeli Embassy. No logo, no matter how colorful it is, should be allowed to distract from Israels war crimes, nor can Israel be allowed to public relations its way out of apartheid.

As we pointed out to you at our meeting, opposing settler colonialism here in Australia but embracing it elsewhere exposes a shallow understanding of how these systems of subjugation and segregation are interconnected. Paying lip service to those values while failing to put it into practice undermines your credibility as a cultural leader and your relationships with marginalized communities, proving that we are nothing but a box-ticking exercise a diversity quota to fill.

We were honest with you about the consequences of crossing that picket line. Boycotts are a powerful tool in holding cultural institutions accountable to the ethical standards they claim to subscribe to. Artist-led resistance against oppression has a long and important history, from abolishing slavery in the United States to ending apartheid in South Africa. Given your decision to stand with an oppressor that is actively enshrining apartheid in the 21st century, we in turn collectively refused to participate in your festival, and have worked to disrupt the oppressive, racist, and violent systems that you have sided with.

What you may not have expected is the love, dignity, and respect that so many artists have shown for each other in this moment, across communities both in Australia and abroad. We have heard artists across the spectrum express their distress over Israels Star Partnership, and their disappointment that the festival did not disclose this information until too late. We have spent this past month poring over color-coded spreadsheets, juggling over a dozen different group chats, sending countless DMs, and making phone call after phone call with hundreds of artists and arts workers, particularly First Nations and people of color, asking how best to support them.

Supporters of Palestine and Palestinian justice in the streets of Melbourne, Australia (20,000 to 25,000 people) for the second rally in two weeks, May 22, 2021. (Matt Hrkac/CC BY 2.0)

This mutual solidarity is why we have been able to mobilize so many artists, organizations, and community members who are standing with us uncompromisingly and with integrity, despite the hardships they are facing in the midst of a pandemic and with little to no government support. As of today, a thousand people have signed our Artist Statement declaring their solidarity with each other and opposing colonialism from one stolen land to another.

With over 100 artists, creatives, and crew withdrawing, we have disrupted almost 40 percent of the festival events and productions. Artists like First Nations rapper Barkaa, First Nations writer Amy McGuire, comedian Nazeem Hussein, the Dandana Ensemble, and Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani have cancelled their participation, alongside the productions 7 Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner and Michaela Coels Chewing Gum Dreams, who said in their statement: To the Palestinian community: We see you. We hear you. We are with you.

We know that siding with our campaign comes at a material and emotional cost. We know that there will be those who will be more focused on civilizing our modes of resisting apartheid, rather than apartheid itself. And we know that there will be those who will use the language of liberalism to dilute and dictate the terms and parameters of the conversation. But ultimately, we know the real responsibility falls on you, the Sydney Festivals Board, for prioritizing this partnership over principles, and for forcing artists to choose between their moral convictions and a unique opportunity to share their art. It is the Israeli state, rather, that must be forced to make a choice: either dismantle its colonial project, or face repercussions from the international community.

We also know that individuals alone cannot overcome oppressive structures. That can only be achieved through shared struggles grounded in local and transnational relationships, rooted in care, trust, and visions for mutual liberation. We are indebted to First Nations artists and leaders for their counsel and wisdom in this campaign and beyond, and we draw further strength and inspiration from movements like Black Lives Matter and abolitionists for building communities of resistance, including, inextricably, through the arts.

Graffiti artwork, Bethlehem, West Bank, August 18, 2017. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills)

A century of Palestinian resistance has taught us that our people are steadfast and that, in spite of the violence against us, we will always rise. It is true this campaign will not bring down apartheid walls, but it has brought people together and moved them to action. One of your colleagues, Benjamin Law, resigned from the Festival board this past weekend, acknowledging the arguments that Palestinian, Arab, Jewish, and other Australian artists and activists have raised to you. People of conscience cannot accept that our arts spaces be co-opted, diluted, or used by colonial machinery to distract from and suppress communities in their struggle for self-determination. Solidarity requires praxis. The preservation of each others humanity relies on it.

And so, while silence, dismissal, and deflection has been the only answer from some of you on this board, to invoke the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: our people are dying, we cannot and will not go quiet.

With respect,Sara Saleh

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A letter to the Sydney Festival about Palestine solidarity - +972 Magazine

Community rallies together against hate | News | – Palestine Herald Press

Posted By on January 18, 2022

Palestine residents in attendance showed support with signs of love and prayed for the community.

Despite the cold, 75 residents of Palestine gathered for a Community Unity Rally Monday morning in Reagan Park.

The unity rally was hosted in response to a group of masked demonstrators seen spreading hateful messages Saturday at the intersection of Crockett Road and E. Park Ave.

The love we are showing here today will spread through Palestine and Anderson County, said Sister Brandy Dudley.

Hosted by former city councilman Mitchell Jordan, leaders and members of the community were present to show their support for unity, inclusion and love.

Lynn Willhite, WE CARE Palestine founder of the organization encouraged residents to build relationships with their neighbors and other community members.

You cant hate someone you care about, Willhite said.

A group of around 20 individuals waved signs and yelled at traffic mid-day Saturday. Some waved Confederate flags, others held signs, some of which were anti-Semitic. One signed stated, Diversity kills white children.The group also handed out pamphlets for White Lives Matter.

According to Palestine Police Chief Mark Harcrow, his office was notified of a group of demonstrators at Reagan Park around 12:30 p.m.

We do believe that this group is not local and traveled to Palestine, Harcrow said. We do not believe any of the group members were of our community.

Harcrow said officers went to Reagan Park and made contact with the group, informing them that they needed to stay out of the park grounds for their protest.

Officers remained on the scene, monitoring the group, which disbanded around 1 p.m.

Despite their messages of hate, no violence was reported in conjunction with the groups protest.

I am sorry that the good people of Palestine had to witness the display of ignorance and hate that showed up in town today, Mayor Dana Goolsby said. I could hear concern, anger and fear in peoples voices as they called about masked protesters, and I knew I needed to see what was going on for myself. I did not recognize anyone involved in the display.

After receiving reports from community members about the protesters, Goolsby decided to go check out the situation. She said she spoke to the group and asked them to please reconsider what they were doing and leave.

We appreciate our citizens for remaining calm and handling this difficult situation with such professionalism, Harcrow said. Hate has no place in our community.


Community rallies together against hate | News | - Palestine Herald Press

Judaism: Are Jews a Nation or a Religion?

Posted By on January 18, 2022

Judaism can be thought of as being simultaneously a religion, a nationality and a culture.

Throughout the middle ages and into the 20th century, most of the European world agreed that Jews constituted a distinct nation. This concept of nation does not require that a nation have either a territory nor a government, but rather, it identifies, as a nation any distinct group of people with a common language and culture. Only in the 19th century did it become common to assume that each nation should have its own distinct government; this is the political philosophy of nationalism. In fact, Jews had a remarkable degree of self-government until the 19th century. So long as Jews lived in their ghettos, they were allowed to collect their own taxes, run their own courts, and otherwise behave as citizens of a landless and distinctly second-class Jewish nation.

Of course, Judaism is a religion, and it is this religion that forms the central element of the Jewish culture that binds Jews together as a nation. It is the religion that defines foods as being kosher and non-kosher, and this underlies Jewish cuisine. It is the religion that sets the calendar of Jewish feast and fast days, and it is the religion that has preserved the Hebrew language.

Is Judaism an ethnicity? In short, not any more. Although Judaism arose out of a single ethnicity in the Middle East, there have always been conversions into and out of the religion. Thus, there are those who may have been ethnically part of the original group who are no longer part of Judaism, and those of other ethnic groups who have converted into Judaism.

If you are referring to a nation in the sense of race, Judaism is not a nation. People are free to convert into Judaism; once converted, they are considered the same as if they were born Jewish. This is not true for a race.

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Judaism: Are Jews a Nation or a Religion?

Society For Humanistic Judaism Receives Grant From the Simon Foundation to Launch Michigan Programming Detroit Jewish News – The Jewish News

Posted By on January 18, 2022

The Donald R. and Esther Simon Foundation has awarded a grant to the Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ) to expand its Jews for a Secular Democracy social justice initiative by piloting a state-specific program in Michigan.

The goal is to build a pluralistic network of partners in the state across Jewish communal institutions and denominations to bring a Jewish perspective to education and advocacy defending the separation of church and state.

SHJ Executive Director Paul Golin explains, The results of this grant will be a Jewish community more aware of how social-justice issues of great concern to Jews, such as reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ equality, tie into First Amendment religious freedom; a greater understanding of how to advocate for positive change on these issues; and a working coalition to learn together and foster that positive change through shared Jewish values.

The grant provides the opportunity to create a state-based model and learning lab for the Jews for a Secular Democracy initiative nationally as it seeks to then expand into other states.

Sarah Levin, program coordinator for the initiative, adds, There are, unfortunately, church-state separation issues in every state that should be of concern for Jews, as a religious minority. We have an obligation to share our diverse perspectives and historical experiences to help more grassroots activists educate decisionmakers to not favor one religions approach over others or none.

Society for Humanistic Judaism ( is the central body for the Humanistic Jewish movement in North America. Founded by Rabbi Sherwin Wine and volunteers in suburban Detroit in the mid-1960s, Humanistic Judaism combines the Jewish values of loving-kindness (gemilut chassadim), charity (tzedakah), and making the world a better place (tikkun olam), with the recognition that the responsibility for putting those ideals into practice lies in human hands. It is a nontheistic movement in which cultural Jews and their families can affirm, celebrate and enrich their Jewish identity and values.

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Society For Humanistic Judaism Receives Grant From the Simon Foundation to Launch Michigan Programming Detroit Jewish News - The Jewish News

Judaism Rejects the Idea That Human Nature Is Good – Algemeiner

Posted By on January 18, 2022

In a December column published in The Algemeiner, Rabbi Pini Dunner presented a case that Judaism holds people and human nature to be fundamentally good.

While no doubt sincerely held, his argument reflects a dangerous secular notion that has intruded into parts of modern Orthodox life, just as this and other secular ideas have influenced Catholic and Protestant Christian life.

In fact, no Abrahamic religion not Judaism, not Christianity, not Islam asserts that people are basically good. This idea is a product of the secular age and a major reason for the moral confusion that characterizes our era.

With regard to Judaism, the Torah completely rejects the notion that man is basically good. God Himself states that the will of mans heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21) and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time (Genesis 6:5).

In addition, the Torah and the rest of the Bible repeatedly warn us not to follow our hearts. In fact, Orthodox Jews cite this admonition from the Torah three times every day: Do not follow your hearts and your eyes after which you prostitute yourselves (Numbers 15:39).

If the human heart is basically good, why does the Bible repeatedly warn us not to follow it?

How can one reconcile an understanding of human history with the contention that people are basically good? Did basically good people murder six million Jews?

But we dont need references to the Holocaust to make our case. In the 20th century alone, more than a hundred million people civilians, not soldiers were murdered by vile regimes and their vile followers. These include the approximately 20 million killed in the Gulag Archipelago; the slaughter of the Tutsis in Rwanda; the genocidal murder of Armenians; the deliberate starvation of about 60 million Chinese; the Japanese mass rape of Korean comfort women and hideous medical experiments on Chinese civilians; and the torture and murder of approximately one out of every four Cambodians.

And that is only a partial list. What about the universality of slavery and the tortures and rapes that accompanied slavery or how men have behaved in wartime throughout history? Were all the people who engaged in these evils aberrations?

In fact, most were quite normal. The aberrations in history have been the truly good individuals. During World War II, the Germans, French, Poles, Hungarians, Lithuanians and others who aided the Nazis genocide let alone those who did nothing were normal people. The handful who aided Jews were the aberrations.

And what about childhood bullying? Are fat, or slow, or unattractive boys and girls generally treated with kindness and empathy? Or child sexual abuse? The WHO in 2002 estimated that 73 million boys and 150 million girls under the age of 18 years had experienced various forms of sexual violence. Quite remarkable for a world of basically good people.

The belief that people are basically good is not only not Jewish and foolish, it is dangerous.

One reason is that the most important, and most difficult, task of parents and of society is to raise good human beings. Yet, those who believe we are born good will not concentrate on making good people. Why bother if were already good?

A second reason is that those who believe people are basically good blame the evil that people do on outside forces, not on the individual who committed the evil. Belief in the basic goodness of human nature is the major reason people claim that poverty, or guns, or racism causes crime anything except the perpetrator.

Rabbi Dunner cites a Yale study purporting to show that babies are not only moral agents but are actually moral beings. This study explains why more and more Americans have lost respect for universities. The idea that babies know right and wrong is preposterous; the idea that babies are moral is even more so.

Babies are selfish as they have to be to survive. And babies are innocent; but to be innocent is not the same as being good. The rabbis argument conflates innocent with good.

It also conflates in Gods image with good. He writes: the Torah stating that human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) (is) a statement that underscored humanitys inherent goodness.

Not so. Created in Gods image has never meant man is basically good. Rather, it means that human beings, like God (and unlike animals), know good from evil and have moral free will. In Genesis 1:27, Rashi explains in Gods image as the power to comprehend and to discern.

Second, it means that human life (again, unlike animal life) is infinitely precious.

Finally, if people are basically good, what is the Torah for? What are all the commandments for? Why didnt God just say, Follow your heart? If people are basically good, why would God need to command us not to murder? Dont basically good creatures know this?

It is troubling to see an Orthodox rabbi offer an idea that runs contrary to what the Torah and Judaism teach concerning one of the most fundamental issues of life. As more Orthodox Jews attend college and graduate school, we will probably see this more and more. Thats why it is imperative that Jewish schools teach the distinctiveness of Jewish values.

Increasingly, they do not.

This is a condensed version of anarticlefirst published at

Dennis Prager is the founder of Prager University, one of the largest educational video sites in the world, with a billion views a year. He is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. The third volume of his commentary on the Torah, The Rational Bible Deuteronomy will be published in October 2022. His commentary on the Haggadah, The Rational Passover Haggadah, will be published this March. He may be contacted

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