Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Loonney Tuner

When I was younger, the animated cartoons called Looney Tunes were all the rage. Well, we still have some loonies but they are not at all funny.

Like Dorit Naaman, for example. Dorit Naaman teaches at Queen's University in Kingston. She is in Israel to research the visual representation of Palestinian and Israeli women fighters as well as to introduce her daughter, Lily, to her grandparents and Israeli life. You can even hear her here on a 2003 radio program Film Forum: Images of the Middle East, From the national cinemas of Iran and Egypt, to images of Arabs in Hollywood, how does film shape our ideas about the Middle East? Gretchen Helfrich and guests examine the cinematic Middle East.
Guests: Jonathan Rosenbaum — Film critic of the Chicago Reader Dorit Naaman — Film scholar and filmmaker at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario Hamid Naficy — Professor of Media Studies at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She starts speaking about three minutes into the program.

Here's some excerpts from a recent rant of hers in which she explicitly promotes violent resistance:-

At the village people socialized, drank coffee and ate together, and there was an exhibition of pictures from previous demonstrations. Finally, we started marching towards the fence, down from the village. The soldiers were waiting on the other side of the fence, covering a peninsula of about 270 degrees with their guns loaded and pointed at the crowd. The speeches lasted less than five minutes, before someone tried to climb the fence, and the soldiers started shooting [bullets? or what?]. The majority of the thousand people backed up, but the soldiers blocked the retreat route with tear gas and shell bombs. I started running through the terraces, barely seeing through the tears choking on the gas.

...in Bil'in, for instance, the soldiers come in whenever they want, often in the middle of the night, terrorizing civilian families and invading their private lives, all in an attempt to crash this spirit of resistance.

When I finally reached the top of the hill I stood with others who tried to watch the events, but the tear gas got closer and closer and eventually I retreated to the village...The battle continued for two or three hours with a few Palestinians wounded, but no arrests.

Going to Bil'in shattered my belief or hope that there could be non-violent resistance to this occupation. On the one hand I saw how ineffective such an attempt is, how futile, and how, eventually, even the morally superior non-violent side is forced into acting its role in the cycle of violence.

But more fundamentally I realized the incredible violence that's enacted daily by the fence itself, and is magnified by the dozens of soldiers on their armed vehicles with their guns pointing towards us, who are there every Friday for these demonstrations. The local Palestinian leaders of the popular committees are committed both philosophically and practically to non-violence. But it is not easy to contain the anger of a young generation who has nothing, and I do mean nothing to look forward to no prospects of education, work, income, or even access to their own lands.

The fence and the soldiers behind it symbolize this lack of hope, and so, even before (or if no) rocks are thrown, the situation is violent.
Furthermore, it became so crystal clear that the heavy presence of the press was precisely because they knew they would have good (i.e. violent and volatile) footage, and not a calm non-violent demonstration.

I still don't know what to do with all this new awareness. I want to oppose the occupation, and I am not willing to be violent. I have the privilege of being able to choose not to be violent, so I do my work in education from afar. But I am not sure what to educate for, what to aspire to beyond the very abstract idea of a dignified existence, freedom, safety, independence, etc. How do we get there if we refuse the means of the occupier? I just don't know and find it difficult to find hopeful sights.

This is not to say that there isn't non-violent resistance worth enacting.
I am in awe at what Tali Fahima has done, what many organizations (like Zochrot, Machsom Watch, Anarchists Against the Wall, and many others) do relentlessly, even when they see no hope for change. I've seen some excellent and brave documentaries by Israeli filmmakers who dare to look straight into the monster's face. I just don't know that these will ever be more than marginal sites of sanity and morality. I can no longer see how the militaristic society of Israel will change, and I no longer know what it'll take to make this society less militaristic and more humane.

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