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15 years on, it seems October 2000 killings weren't an aberration

Israel’s ‘new’ policy of shooting stone throwers is directed exclusively against Arabs from East Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev), while ensuring that customary rules of engagement are applied to Jewish stone throwers.

By Mohammad Bassam

The Israeli security cabinet, backed by the attorney general, recently approved a series of measures that, according to the government, are meant to deter Palestinians from throwing stones. Along with the collective punishment of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents, the government permitted the police to use open gunfire with live bullets, to ignore the distinction between adult and child stone-throwers, and to use .22 caliber “Ruger” sniper rifles. These steps demonstrate that the events of October 2000 15 years ago, in which 13 young Palestinian men — 12 of them Israeli citizens — were killed by Israeli police forces, were not inadvertent mistakes, but rather the outcome of a longstanding and systemic racist policy.

As a rule, the use of potentially lethal methods such as live fire — which according to Israeli law is supposed to apply to the whole population regardless of nationality or race — are prohibited unless a number of terms and conditions exist that derive from the doctrine of “necessity” in criminal law. According to this doctrine, the use of lethal weapons is permitted only in extreme and highly exceptional circumstances in which there is a real, immediate physical danger to human life and well-being, and when all less lethal means have been exhausted. The new regulations relating to stone throwers starkly deviate from the law, and instead seek to apply harsher laws to “offenders” in the Arab population.

The new regulations once again prove that Israel implements a racist policy which views Palestinian citizens and residents as a security and demographic threat to the state. The implementation of the new policy is meant exclusively against Arab stone throwers from East Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev), while ensuring that Israel’s customary rules of engagement continue to be applied against Jewish stone throwers. This policy is driven by double standards in regards to how Israeli law enforcement authorities handle demonstrations, public gatherings and clashes with various population groups. It should be obvious that the motive behind throwing a stone, or the national-ideological identity of the stone-thrower, has no differing effect on the potential danger that this act can pose to civilian passersby. The state’s racist approach is also clear...

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Black labor: How a white elite uses black soldiers to enforce its will

A new photo project focuses on the soldiers of Israel’s Border Police, the main military unit used to enforce the occupation of the Palestinians. Shot in various locations across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, ‘Black Labor’ looks at the points of impact where Israel’s elite pits black Jews against Palestinians.

Photos by Mati Milstein, text by Tom Mehager

Mati Milstein’s “Black Labor” project reveals the face of the “Second Israel,” the antithesis of those Israelis who have always been viewed as the “salt of the earth.” When the parents of those photographed arrived to this country, the establishment viewed them as both morally and intellectually inferior — people who need to be re-socialized in order to become a part of the State of Israel’s moral regime.

Take, for instance, the first leaders of the Education Ministry. Back in 1945 Eliezer Riger, one of the foremost proponents of vocational education — and who would eventually come to head the Education Ministry — spoke of the need to separate Mizrahim (Jews from Arab and Muslim countries) and Ashkenazim (Jews of European origin): “Pre-vocational [education] leadership could bring a special blessing to the Oriental population, after all… the Oriental children, at least most of them, do not know how to appreciate simplified learning and cannot derive actual uselessness from non-practical education.”

At the end the 1950s, the head of the ministry, Yaakov Sarid, said that the government must erect a “dam to prevent the storming of academic high schools by all elementary school graduates.” The State of Israel effectively prevented parents from sending their children to academic high schools. It continues to do so today.

Then education minister Zalman Aren praised the new collective that the state was helping establish: “During my visits to the pre-vocational classes, I saw a process of merging the Diaspora communities. And the purpose is not necessarily merging children from the East with those of the West. I am speaking about merging children from the different Muslim countries.”

Meanwhile Ashkenazim spent their time in both separate educational frameworks and different military tracks. One does not need a photo series featuring the graduates of Israel’s Army Radio, as they appear on our television screens at nearly every hour of the day. The members of the”First Israel” — whether they are from the right, left, or center — speak proper Hebrew, do not sweat in the sun, are...

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Are IDF intelligence vets helping Uganda hunt down LGBTs?

An investigative report reveals that an Israeli company is involved in supplying spyware to the Ugandan government, which is being used for the persecution of LGBT activists in the country. 

By Tanya Rubinstein

In Uganda today, homosexual relations are illegal. Ugandan legislators are trying to make LGBT activities illegal, including LGBT organizations themselves. Activists are persecuted, the media “outs” LGBTs, and there are reports of widespread violence against members of the community.

A recent investigative report by Buzzfeed’s Sheera Frenkel revealed that the Israeli company NICE Systems, along with the Italian company Hacking Team, were involved in supplying spyware to different countries — including Uganda — which according to Buzzfeed, (based on correspondences published by Wikileaks) made use of the technology to track LGBT activists.

So who are the main actors in this story?

NICE is an Israeli company that was founded in 1986 by a group of former soldiers belonging to Israel’s prestigious Unit 8200, part of the IDF’s intelligence corps. Before the company began creating products for the civilian market, it worked on developing communications systems for security industries and intelligence services.

Hacking Team is an Italian company that provides information gathering solutions for government bodies. The company created a program for intelligence gathering, which is installed directly on any electronic device. In July of this year, Wikileaks published correspondences revealing that groups in Israel are interested in Hacking Team’s programs, although it is unclear whether they were bought and used.

On its website, Hacking Team obligates itself to not export its intelligence gathering technology to anyone who will use it to violate human rights. According to Frenkel, however, Hacking Team representatives did not bother to check just how its programs will be used, despite widespread reports of oppressive measures being used against the LGBT community in Uganda.

For dissidents against oppressive regimes, and specifically for members of the LGBT community, gathering intelligence on private individuals by government bodies not only thwarts their activities, it puts them directly at risk. We saw this last year, after a group of Unit 8200 veterans published a letter in which they admit that as part of their service, they blackmailed gay Palestinians in exchange for information, or in order to turn them into collaborators.

The transition of soldiers into private enterprise upon their release from the army is a well-known phenomenon, which is based on the close relations...

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Why a pro-settler group wants to talk about ISIS

An Israeli group working in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan is presenting ISIS destruction of antiquities as a cautionary tale for its own struggle with Palestinians.

By Yonathan Mizrachi

A group that manages the City of David’s archaeological site in the heart of the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem, the “Elad Foundation in the City of David,” is holding its annual archeology conference, entitled “ISIS: Is it possible to stop the destruction?” It will deal in part with the destruction of antiquities in Iraq and Syria.

That the so-called ISIS group is destroying ancient ruins is indisputable. The organization documents it with videos and is proud of what it sees as symbolic conquests. Just this week the destruction of a major temple in the biblical city of Tadmor (Palmyra) in Syria was reported. But the conference title implies that aside from concern for antiquities and heritage, someone is also considering measures to prevent the destruction.

Elad is not interested in the destruction of antiquities in Iraq, but rather, here, in Silwan, on the Temple Mount, and in East Jerusalem. They say “ISIS” but the intention is perceived here in Jerusalem as “Islamic extremists.” Israeli organizations has not prevented the destruction of antiquities in Iraq and Syria, and, so far, neither has the international community. However, if we focus on the Israeli discourse on the destruction of antiquities, then, according to Elad there is much to be done.  The group has seen itself for a long time now to be on the forefront of fighting Muslims’ destruction of ancient ruins.

After construction undertaken by the Islamic Waqf led to the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif in the 1990s, it was Elad which invested funds and acted to sift the debris dumped into the Kidron Valley. To this day, it is one of the key projects that Elad finances and operates in East Jerusalem. But this activity, presented as an attempt to rescue the antiquities of the Temple Mount, has no archeological value and its importance is primarily educational and political, both in terms of having archaeologists engaged in sifting through the dirt, and with its links to settlers in East Jerusalem.

The message is clear: Muslims aims to destroy antiquities and Israel intervenes to prevent such...

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What if the state is counting on our brain damage?

This week, the state announced that hunger striker Mohammad Allan would be released only if he has suffered irreversible brain damage. But what if this is only part of a greater state system that criminalizes and punishes those who oppose it?

By Idan Gillo

It sounds like bad satire, or at least a provocative play: a man is arrested under “administration detention,” thrown into prison without any reasonable legal processing, without trial, without a hearing of the evidence against him, and without a proper debate. He started a hunger strike, his situation deteriorated, and at some point the state declared that if it was proven that he had suffered irreversible brain damage, he would be freed. His cognitive capacities, and not the determination of his guilt or innocence, is what stands between him and his freedom. Woefully, this is reality in the state of Israel in the summer of 2015: the state defines irreversible brain damage as a condition for release of Mohammad Allan.

The issue raises a number of fundamental questions. First, what kind of regime publicly declares irreversible brain damage as a condition for release of a man assumed to be innocent? The state shows its sadism, without batting an eyelash, in declaring irreversible brain damage as a legitimate adverse effect of administrative detention.

On the question of “what kind of government is this?” I would like to go beyond the debate within the field of “security,” and the security forces’ influence on the legal system, to the point that they are almost indiscernible.

The case of Mohammad Allan shows that release on the condition of irreversible brain damage, rather than his innocence, crosses a red line. Of course, the reader will be quick to calm himself on the fact that this standard does not apply to his family, his friends or his acquaintances.

But, really? We then arrive at a second question: On what basis does the state decide to arrest or not arrest a citizen or resident?

There’s good reason to believe that the case of Mohammad Allan is not extraordinary, but, rather, paradigmatic. It is reasonable to assume that the states’ limits of tolerance for its citizens are revealed here.  What if it only tolerates those who have already – excuse the coarseness – already suffered some form of brain damage?  Would it be an exaggeration to say that only...

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A dark stain on all of Judaism

Friday’s arson was a terrorist attack familiar to the likes of ISIL. Now is the time for ideas; condemnations aren’t enough. The question is not only what was said that led to the murder, but what we did not say.

By Meir Buzaglo

Perhaps if I were a better Jew, I would fast today. With every such attack by “religious” people, the wound within Judaism grows. Last summer, after Muhammad Abu Khdeir was burned alive, Rabbi Israel Maimran told me: “I am ill.”

At this moment, we condemn and let the police do the talking. But perhaps the police, and even the Shin Bet, cannot help us heal this wound. They are too little, too late. Even condemnations do not suffice.

Like in cases of domestic murders, we pass the issue onto the police. To my knowledge, they are fairly helpless. They can look for the perpetrators, use D.N.A. samples to reveal their identities — but this is not enough.

When the world battled malaria, we did not chase after every single mosquito. We must find the swamp from which they originate and dry it up. On top of this dried swamp we can establish a town based on environmentally friendly principles, which will allow us to forget that there was ever a swamp there to begin with.

In our case it seems that, first and foremost, the swamp is full of the inciters. Our next phase must be to directed against those who choose to remain silent. Friday’s arson is a terrorist attack against Arabs, but in terms of our lives here in Israel, it is more like ISIL, al-Qaida and Hamas.

We must resist the easy solutions. Claims of “I told you so, it’s those religious people,” do not suffice. Perhaps the job of the believers is to explain that these are not religious people, but rather those who besmirch God’s name.

Furthermore, we must not use this tragedy as payback against the Right. There is a fierce battle going on between the Right and Left in Israel, and it is important to make a distinction between stances one doesn’t agree with and stances that are beyond the pale.

Now is the time for ideas. Condemnations aren’t enough. The right-wing spiritual-political leadership (and perhaps that of the Left as well) must come together and take a good look at itself. The question is not only what was...

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How the Jewish Agency is throwing Ethiopian immigrants onto the street

By Yossi Dahan
(Translated from Hebrew by Shaked Spier)

The Jewish Agency for Israel states on its website that its work concentrates on four fields: aliyah (the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to Israel), social action and giving, Israeli experience, and bringing Israel and Jewish communities abroad together. Let us focus on the Jewish Agency’s social giving.

In a meeting of the parliamentary control panel on June 15th, one of the biggest Israeli real estate scandals in recent years was exposed (as described in The Marker). Control of publicly owned real estate assets, owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and designated for the absorption and integration of Jewish immigrants, were transferred to the Jewish Agency’s pension funds.

The real estate assets are part of the immigrant absorption center in Mevaseret Zion, which houses 1,300 Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. The pension fund put these assets on auction, which, de facto, means throwing the residents onto the street. For some reason, no one can explain or provide any documents that might clarify how publically owned real estate earmarked the absorption and integration of Jewish immigrants was handed over to a private institution, which leases it out in order to finance the Jewish Agency’s employee pension funds. These real estate deals are currently under legal examination and will be examined by the State Comptroller’s Office.

This real estate scandal is one in a long line of such scandals with which the Jewish Agency is involved – dubious real estate deals that are very profitable of the Jewish Agency. The common denominator in all of these deals is that their victims are from the weakest groups of Israeli society: immigrants and public housing tenants.

The Jewish Agency is also one of the major beneficiaries from the public housing selloff. The Jewish Agency, which owns Amigor (a real estate management company in charge of public housing projects in Israel), received an astronomical NIS 2 billion ($500 million) from the State of Israel in a deal between Amigor and the Ministry of Finance. In the deal, Amigor sold the state public housing apartments that were never sold to their tenants. It is important to note that the revenues from selling those apartments were suppose to be invested in building new public housing apartments for the needy; not a single apartment was built using the NIS 2 billion.

The State Comptroller wrote in...

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A patriotic death, not only on the battlefield

Israeli economic and social policies are turning a growing number of people into a burden, a surplus cost that can be saved by withdrawing benefits and tightening up welfare criteria. These people are branded as work-shy, cheats and parasites. Against this background, it is clear that even though the National Program for the Prevention of Suicide meets a critical need, it is also emblematic of the government’s cynicism.

By Yossi Loss
(Translated from Hebrew by Orna Meir-Stacey, edited by Amy Asher)

In his first book, published in 1952 in two different editions and under two different titles (Utopia 14 and Player Piano), Kurt Vonnegut describes a reality in which many people are superfluous. In such a world, all human consumption is provided by machines and most humans become useless. The only people whose work is required are engineers and managers, who hold PhDs. In order to somehow employ the rest, they are sent to the army or to repair roads. But actually they are surplus, and if they committed suicide tomorrow morning it would be a patriotic act on their part, as this would unburden the state from seeing to their needs – at least from the point of view of the powerful people controlling it.

Utopia14VonnegutVonnegut referred to the same idea in different ways in subsequent publications. For instance, in the story “2 B R 0 2 B” in the book God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, he describes a planet where there is strict control over the size of the population, as all problems had been resolved and all can live forever and in good health. Therefore, when children are about to be born, which does not happen so often anymore, others must volunteer and commit suicide, in order to maintain the population size. There is a federal office for the purpose of ending life, which uses gas chambers among other methods. In another story, there are so many surplus people that the government encourages its citizens to commit suicide. Suicide centers are placed on busy junctions near fast-food restaurants, where genial stewardesses offer death without pain.

Vonnegut likes to take to the extreme the modern motivations to cure all diseases, improve manufacturing, and in fact solve all problems scientifically and rationally. By doing that he shows that these so-called ultimate achievements defeat the very objective modernity has aspired to: control...

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The 'new Zionism' is turning Negev Bedouin into a myth

As the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran prepares to be replaced by a Jewish town with a near-identical name, its residents are offering solutions based on real co-existence. 

By Ariel Dloomy

In July 2007 I witnessed one of the saddest events of my life. Hundreds of security force personnel descended upon the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in order to evict the residents and demolish their homes. The police removed cradles together with the infants while bulldozers razed the homes and uprooted olive trees from the yards. Dozens of Jewish youth hired by the demolition contractor loaded residents’ personal belongings into containers that were then transported from the area. When everything was packed up, the youth danced in front of the stunned residents while chanting, “this is the new Zionism.”

Eight years and many court hearings have passed, but the threat of demolition and eviction lingers over the residents’ heads. Currently, this threat is more tangible than ever after the High Court recently rejected the appeal of the community’s 700 residents. This decision enables the government to proceed with its plans to forcibly relocate the residents of Umm al-Hiran residents to the neighboring village of Hura, while building the Jewish town of Hiran atop the ruins of the old village. This decision was unaffected by the mayor of the Hura local council, who said that his village does not have room for the evicted residents. The residents’ claims that in 1956, the military governor of the area ordered the tribe to move to its current location, after it had already forcibly removed them from the area of Wadi Zubaleh, near Kibbutz Shuval.

Just a few kilometers from the village, where the Yatir Forest road begins, 25 Jewish families from the Hiran Group are living in a temporary camp, awaiting “final authorization” to settle on the land Umm al-Hiran. According to the group’s website, “the intention is to build a settlement designated for the national-religious community in the northern Negev Desert as part of establishing a continuity of Jewish settlements in the area.” These descriptions are in complete contradiction to the state’s claim to the High Court that the new settlement will be a “general” (non-denominational) one without unique characteristics, and will not be closed to any potential resident based on religious affiliation. Thus, once again, the story of Umm al-Hiran epitomizes the national-ethnic struggle over land and settlement...

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For Palestinian artists, freedom of speech is anything but guaranteed

By forcing Arab actors to perform in West Bank settlements and closing down Arab theaters, the government is proving once more that freedom of speech is solely reserved for Israel’s ruling class.

By Hasan Masri

As an artist, I write these words with great trepidation that I may be judged based on my background, religion, skin color or political beliefs. I want to express myself — I want to write, perform, sing, and dance however I see fit. I love my job, I love the world I live in, I am opposed to all injustice or forms of oppression.

Until when will we continue to be oppressed in our homeland? Until when will we continue to be shackled? When will we live out the idea that the “personal is political?” And art is…?

Allow me to present a political scenario, which could easily come from the world of theater: an oppressive king from a faraway land appoints a new minister who wants to exert her power and kick out all the clowns — who are known to posses a controversial identity — from the streets (the majority of these clowns come from a community that once lived in a forest upon which the kingdom was later established). During their performances, the clowns tend to publicly express themselves about the goings-on in the kingdom. “Art is another way to engage with the world around us,” says one of the leading clowns. This story is far from over.

Since the election of this latest new-old government, we have witnessed how quickly things have turned extreme. Arab actors are required to perform in settlements, while Arab theaters are being shut down. ”In Arab countries they destroy art, while we provide them a stage,” the regime will say in response. But is freedom of speech guaranteed for all in the State of Israel, or is it only reserved for the ruling class? Is it possible to occupy and inherit the land, not to mention freedom of speech or movement? Is it conceivable that an “Arab Israeli” will perform before a crowd for whom he does not want to perform on land full of crimes and blood? This brings up a simple question: are we artists, or just actors in the hands of the system? We are witnessing an attempt to force an Arab actor to perform on occupied land, where crimes that dehumanize...

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The economic costs of military rule

Israelis cannot treat the occupation as something that merely affects them in the eyes in the world while their economy keeps paying a heavy price for its continuation.

By Shlomo Swirski and Yarom Hoffman Dishon

The social-economic cost of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is spoken about far less than the human cost or the price Israel pays on an international level. And when the social-economic costs do get brought up, the leaders of the economy always stress that this is a relatively small price to pay that have a short-term negative effect on the market. This position only lends to the idea that the conflict can be “managed,” and does not require a peace agreement. Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrogantly expressed this idea when he likened the Palestinian problem to “shrapnel in the ass” that must be taken out. This approach is nothing short of delusional, and both Israeli society and the Israeli economy are paying a heavy price for the continuation of the conflict. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Economic instability

A lack of a peace agreement makes Israel vulnerable to harm and instability. Growth, investments, trade, tourism and work days all take a hit. Furthermore, the image of Israel as a stable, reliable and safe economy for investment is also harmed. The GDP per person may have grown over the past decade at the same rate as in Germany and the United States, but this is not comforting when taking into account that the GDP per person in these countries is significantly higher than that of Israel. In order to reach the same standard of living as in other Western countries, we must grow at a higher rate than them for an extended period of time. The continued conflict with the Palestinian makes this very difficult.

2. Credit rating

The conflict makes improving Israel’s credit rating, which is relatively low, a difficult task. If, according to the UN’s Human Development Index, Israel is rated 19 out of 187 countries — respectable by all accounts — it finds itself 30th on Standard and Poor’s credit rating.

3. The boycott threat

If in the past the heads of the country tended to diminish the dangers of the international boycott movement, today the situation is different. In January 2014, former Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned that: “If the negotiations with the Palestinians get stuck or end and we wake...

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Why won't Israeli peace groups talk about the Nakba?

It’s 2015 and Israeli peace groups still refuse to talk about the mass dispossession of Palestinians in 1948, including those who became Israeli citizens. Tom Mehager says it is time for a real conversation about the right of return.

By Tom Mehager

Israeli non-profit organizations that strive for a society based on coexistence most often focus on the most pressing issues vis-a-vis Jewish-Arab relations: educating toward democratic values, mutual recognition and teaching the Arabic language; equal allocation of resources and land; integration into the workforce and strengthening economic investment in Arab towns and villages; proper representation in decision-making processes; legitimacy for Arabic in the public sphere; changing state symbols, and more. In this respect, these organizations are making important conversations.

But what those same organizations, which demand equality between Jews and Arabs, do not speak about or deal with is the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland. 1948 is the elephant standing in the center of the room. Many of our Palestinian colleagues in these organizations come from families who were uprooted from their homeland, with much of their nation still living in the diaspora.

I do not want to speak in the name of Palestinians and claim that they want to open up a conversation with us, Jewish Israelis, about the right of return. But I do want to ask why it is that we never raise questions about 1948 when speaking of a life of coexistence or about our vision of equality.

Jews realized and continue to realize their right of return in the wake of several historic events: most of us are here after 2,000 years of exile, as per the Zionist movement’s definition, due to the Law of Return, which allows the Jews of the world to receive Israeli citizenship. Moreover, many young Israelis who are the grandchildren of the victims of World War II have obtained citizenship in their grandparents’ countries of origin in Europe. And let’s not forget that the government of Spain has announced that it will allow the descendants of the victims of the expulsions in the 15th century to apply for Spanish citizenship. Thus, if we believe in true equality between Jews and Arabs, we must support the right of return for Palestinians to their homeland.

In reality, however, these organizations that strive for integration and equality remain silent when it comes to the privileges that...

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How Jewish and Palestinian cultural artifacts became Israeli property

A new book looks at the ways in which ancient religious manuscripts belonging to Yemenite Jews, as well as thousands of books owned by Palestinians and Holocaust survivors became part of Israel’s National Library in Jerusalem.

By Gish Amit (Translated by Shaked Spier)

The book “Ex Libris: History of Robbery, Preservation, and Appropriation in the National Library in Jerusalem,” addresses three affairs that took place within the walls of the Israeli National Library in Jerusalem: the robbery of Yemenite Jews’ manuscripts, which migrated to Israel during the 1940’s and 50’s; the collection of many thousands of book owned by Palestinians, which became part of the library’s collection; and the political struggles surrounding the redistribution of books belonging to Holocaust victims after World War II.

I argue that these three events are deeply intertwined in the way they reveal the manner by which Zionism has separated between people and their culture and heritage as part of the formation of national identity. The book’s epilogue, which is published here, aspires to think about the relationship between literature and socio-political violence. By doing so, it paints a new portrait of the National Library: not a site of secluded history, which is permanently decided and determined, but rather a continuous present tangled up with its own past — a space of injustice that also enables processes such as reparation, recognition and forgiveness.

+          +          +

Mary Douglas wrote that objects are always encoded signs of social meanings. As a site of power creation and identity formation, the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem isn’t a place of knowledge, which is chosen in a naïve manner and free from hidden agenda, but rather a plac, in which knowledge is created, organized and sorted along the lines of ethnic, class, and national categories; a space that transforms objects into an inseparable part of a social reality that provides them with value according to its standards and needs. The three affairs described in the book “Ex Libris” couldn’t have happened unless Zionism had portrayed itself as the voice of the secret wishes of individuals and their communities, under the ethos of denial of (Jewish) exile; unless individuals had been transformed into objects serving a nation in its constituting phase, a nation that has left its mark on individuals and communities while claiming to speak in their name and redeem their culture, while at...

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