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Dear Arab men, it's time to build a new kind of masculinity

We must challenge masculinity that derives its power from the backs of the weakest segments in our society, while at the same time proposing an alternative masculinity that fights back against our humiliation.

By Abed Abu Shehadeh

After every catastrophe that befalls Arab society in Israel, I find myself typing away. I write to try and describe and analyze political events, focusing specifically on mechanisms of oppression. Time after time I ask myself why I even write in the first place, when I am well aware of the fact that I am using rationalistic tools to analyze irrational events. After all, there is no logic in oppression, beyond the fact that people develop these systems to control others and maintain their privileges. When we show oppressors the facts about the way they oppress, they will do everything in their power to explain it away using all kids of excuses. As long as they don’t need to take responsibility or change the existing balance of power.

And yet, despite the frustration and feeling of helplessness when it comes to dealing with violence in Arab society, writing about murders — and specifically the murder of Arab women — is a duty. Every article, every post on Facebook, even if only those who are already convinced read them, can have an effect. We must write with the hope that these words prevent the next catastrophe.

I prefer not to focus on the facts having to do with recent murders, and instead will focus on the question of Arab masculinity. I do not write about femininity, nor do I try to explain the behavior of women, for two reasons; first, far be it from me as a man to preach to women over who they are or what they need to be. They know to do this far better than I do. The second resin is that there is very little writing surrounding Arab masculinity.

After all, there is something completely illogical in the fact that Arab men were occupied by a foreign entity and undergo a lifetimes worth of humiliation by state institutions, while accepting the situation as a given — and ostensibly without having their ego bruised. On the other hand, despite the danger of lengthy imprisonment and strict prohibitions in both Islam and Christianity against violence and murder — the phenomenon of violence against women not only continues, it is getting worse.


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Tel Aviv's week of Pride and militarism

Next week, as tourists descend on Tel Aviv for the yearly pride parade, a separate international contingent will touch down in the city for a high-profile arms fair.

By Tanya Rubinstein

The upcoming Tel Aviv Pride parade has set social media, the streets and the queer community alight. In preparation for the June 9 march, the city’s streets are already filling up with rainbow flags and cute tourists.

Luckily for the parade’s organizers, this year’s event is taking place in the second week of June rather than the first, which marks 50 years since the start of the 1967 occupation. We already saw the March of the Flags in all its glory on Jerusalem Day last week, including the shuttering of Palestinian businesses and the clearing of Palestinians off the streets, and severe police violence against Jewish demonstrators who were trying to stop the march from passing through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

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These aren’t really the pictures of masses of flags that the Tourism Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs want tourists to see. Indeed, pride events in Israel over the last few years have been a hasbara tool, aimed at showing the world a (false) picture of Israel as a Western, pluralistic, democratic country that respects human rights. It’s what LGBTQ activists refer to as “pinkwashing.”

So it is that during Pride week in Tel Aviv, which will bring thousands of tourists from around the world to celebrate on the beach, a separate international contingent will be in town to admire the Israel’s arms industry’s wares at the ISDEF exhibition.

The expo, held every two years at the Tel Aviv Convention Center, proudly displays cutting-edge military technology to representatives from dozens of countries. It’s one of the largest arms expos in the world, and the biggest in Israel. Throughout the exhibition, Israel will sell its technological developments to foreign countries, including those under arms embargoes for violating human rights.

It’s no accident that Israel is one of the world’s biggest military exporters. The territories and people under Israeli occupation enable the military to develop, test out and perfect new technologies on the battlefield. As a result, Israel can compete...

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Fighting media silence on the Palestinian hunger strike

Trump’s visit to Israel is just the latest thing to keep the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike — already largely ignored by the media — out of the headlines.

By Tanya Rubinstein

Donald Trump’s arrival in Israel on Monday filled social media with mockery and resentment, surrounding everything from ministers’ ridiculous statements and road closures to bizarre conversations and more.

The media also had a field day with Likud MK Oren Hazan’s selfie with Trump, and with the politics of who’d get to shake hands with whom during the welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport.

During the reception, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Trump that a Monday morning traffic accident in Tel Aviv may well have been a terror attack – despite the police having stated well over an hour beforehand that it had been an accident. But, as we all know, much of the internal security minister’s role these days involves wanton incitement and fabricating terror attacks, as we saw following the killing of “terrorist” Yaqoub Abu al-Qi’an in Umm al-Hiran.

But what’s happening behind all the media spin?

Only one Israeli media outlet, Haaretz, reported on how the ramping up of security for Trump’s visit — mostly based in Jerusalem — involved the deployment of around 11,000 additional police officers and the issuing of administrative orders against citizens who it was thought “may interfere with the visit.” Aside from the blocking of roads and traffic jams that inconvenienced everyone, we must also think about those whose own security and daily routine were affected because it was feared they might disrupt Trump’s visit.

Nir Hasson, writing in Haaretz, described how American and Israeli security services teams had descended on Jerusalem’s Old City ahead of Trump’s visit, describing “shops being searched with the help of a dog, before being shuttered and a blue security services sticker being placed over the lock, so that it couldn’t be opened without tearing the sticker.”

Hasson also described how surrounding roofs “had a camouflage net spread over them, while large temporary structures were erected wherever the president was expected to get out of his car.”

We were also told, one day prior to Trump’s visit, that the Israel Prison Service had started transferring hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, who were then on the 36th day of their strike. Are their claims, demands and deteriorating health...

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New web series spotlights disappeared Yemenite children

In the years following Israel’s establishment, thousands of Yemenite babies, children of new immigrants, were reportedly taken from their parents by the medical establishment and disappeared. Now two filmmakers are working to bring to light the stories of the families who were torn apart.

By Tammy Riklis and Yonit Naaman

Yemenite children's affair.

The past half year saw the release of acclaimed Hebrew web series “Neviim: Operation Amram,” which takes a closer look at the Yemenite Children’s Affair and the families whose children disappeared in the early years of the state. The 12-part series, which was released piecemeal over the past year, follows the activists from the Israeli non-profit organization, Amram, as they went from town to town to collect painful testimonies from families whose children disappeared.

Each episode of the series shines a light on a different stage of this long journey, which begins with a meeting of Amram activists on the balcony of Naama Katiee in Haifa. The group ponders the problem of explaining to children that other children had been kidnapped in this country (“How can I tell her that doctors kidnapped children? She will refuse to go to the doctor.”) and moves on to the stories of people, families, and entire communities that went through hell. This is a past that some are living every day, a past that had been silenced and repressed for decades.

What gives the series its strength is the camera’s unwavering focus on the conversations between the activists and those who give their testimony, without any background noise or commentary, creating a strong feeling of intimacy. The men and women telling their stories are Israelis from age groups and ethnicities not commonly seen on the screen. In fact, for years their story was not part of Israelis’ collective memory, which is full of trauma and bereavement. Now, for the first time, it is being documented as a unique piece of history that affords a peek into the life of new immigrants from Arab countries in the 1950s. Speaking about a kidnapped child or sister without apology or cross-examination is made possible by members of the third generation who “become the mouthpiece of the first generation. “It’s a heavy responsibility but it...

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Remembering the history Israel swept aside in 1948

In the late 19th century, travelers on the long road from Jaffa to Jerusalem could stop at a rest station to relax and have a cup of (overpriced) coffee. This past, and the story of Jerusalem opening itself to the world, has been lost in the Zionist retelling of history.

By Yonathan Mizrachi

There is an ongoing debate in Israel over whether an Ottoman-era site along the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway should commemorate the actions in 1948 of the late, deeply controversial Rehavam Ze’evi, or the Harel Brigade of the Palmach, the pre-state incarnation of the Israel Defense Forces. But the inn at Bab al-Wad, or Sha’ar Hagai in Hebrew, has a pre-Israeli and pre-military past that has been brushed over in the debate.

Built in 1869 by the Ottoman government, the inn was intended as a rest station on the route from Jaffa to Jerusalem; the journey was made by carriage on a dirt road, and took at least 12 hours. The Turks built the inn as part of their efforts to improve the conditions for travelers on the route after many years of neglect, and its construction attests to the significant political and cultural changes that the land — and in particular Jerusalem — underwent in the second half of the 19th century.

The same period was also marked by the increasing involvement of world powers in the Holy Land, with more and more representatives from European countries arriving for short- and long-term stays. The number of tourists and pilgrims also jumped, and that same route from Jaffa to Jerusalem, renovated by the Ottomans and with the Bab al-Wad inn beside it, became the major highway it is today in Israel, which is once again under renovation.

The work on the route back then included widening the road and establishing refreshment and rest stations along it. Bab al-Wad was the first such station, with a stable and water well on the first floor and a cafe on the second floor, which was later joined by a hostel. Written sources describe free parking at the inn, although patrons were required to purchase an exorbitantly-priced coffee — meaning that even back then, the idea of charging astronomical sums in the middle of nowhere was an accepted one.

Bab al-Wad was managed by various Jewish families who had to pay taxes to the Turkish district governor. But the laying...

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The unknown history of the Palestinian school funded by an Iraqi Jew

Ellis Kadoorie hoped that by establishing an agricultural school in Tulkarm, he would be helping to educate and improve the conditions of Palestinians and Jews alike. Little did he know it would become a microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

By Tamar Novick and Arie M. Dubnov

The Kadoorie Agricultural School holds a special place in Israeli national memory; a second home for figures like the poet of the 1948 war, Haim Gouri, the future generals Yigal Allon and Yitzhak Rabin, and many of the Palmach generation, the school is seen as the spiritual soil from which sprouted the mythological Sabra. “Kadoorie was more than just an educational institution,” wrote Allon in his memoir; it was an “educational and life-forging structure,” which molded the character of its students. With the passing years, many students became leading commanders of the Israeli Defense Forces in its first years, and their manners, clothes, speech acts, and celebrated “straightforwardness” supplied the associations and images through which the ideal of the “1948 generation” was constructed.

This generation’s presence in Israeli society only grew stronger as new generations followed. Yosef Milo, who directed the classic Israeli film “He Walked Through the Fields” (1967), pushed this point home in his take on Moshe Shamir’s novel, which tells the story of a paratrooper who upon his return from the battlefield in the Golan Heights, is seen paying a visit to the principal of Kadoorie Agricultural School on his way home to his kibbutz. The new Uri, a brave soldier of the Six Day War, is shown standing in the principal’s office, looking at a wall covered with photos of famous graduates, including that of the old Uri, the mythological Palmachnik who died at war. The choice of Assi Dayan, the son of the one-eyed general Moshe Dayan, for the role of the conflicted and feisty Uri, was not accidental, and established a connection between the generation of the sons and that of the combatant-fathers. The choice of the Kadoorie School as the filming site was also significant. This cinematic act concluded, in fact, the process of turning the school into what historian Pierre Nora calls “a site of memory” (lieu de mémoire) — that is, a space or physical object that codifies, sums up, and anchors national memory.

Rothschilds of the East

Yet only very few Jewish Israelis know about the existence of a twin school, also named after Kadoorie, located in the West Bank...

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A tunnel in the service of nationalism

Israeli politicians use problematic archeological findings to drum up support for exclusionary nationalist narratives under East Jerusalem.

By Yonathan Mizrahi

“I didn’t think I would be so excited,” said Culture Minister Miri Regev. “Mr. President Obama, I am standing here on the path that my forefathers walked 2,000 years ago. There is not another nation on earth that has such an attachment to its country. Not the Ukrainians, not the New Zealanders, not the English. There is not a nation on earth that has a connection to its land like the Jewish people do to the Land of Israel.”

Regev said these words in East Jerusalem at the opening ceremony for “Olei Ha’regel” (“The Pilgrims”) in the City of David — a network of tunnels that have been dug over the past few years under the Palestinian village of Silwan. The goal of the ceremony was to mark 50 years since the unification of Jerusalem, to strengthen Jewish settlements in the eastern part of the city and rally its supporters — from under the ground — with political declarations against the Jewish people’s token enemy (in this case, Obama).

From below the ground it is so easy to forget the crowded, derelict village that for years has been struggling for basic rights. The tunnels, which were dug by the Israel Antiquities Authority for settler organization Elad, expose parts of an ancient street that, according to the diggers as well as the politicians who frequently attend ceremonies at the site, dates back to the Second Temple period. During these ceremonies, politicians tend to speak about the right of the Jewish people to its land. The two politicians present at this ceremony — Miri Regev and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who these days is running a campaign to lead the Likud party from the mayor’s office — focused on this historical connection in order to justify the occupation. They argued that the entire world needs to come see the remains of the streets, which are surely enough to prove to whom this country truly belongs.

But the Roman street that was dug was a main road on which many walked — not only Jews. It was a busy place that did not necessarily have much to do with holiness or Judaism — yet these aspects of daily life aren’t good enough for the politicians. The street that was exposed in Silwan is...

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Israel opens files on disappeared Yemenite children. But is it enough?

The declassification of hundreds of thousands of documents on one of the most chilling and tragic chapters in Israeli history is a victory for Mizrahi activists. But many files, including on alleged kidnappings of Yemenite children, are still out of reach for the public.

Yemenite children's affair.

Israel’s State Archives last week released over 200,000 previously classified documents on to the disappearance of Yemenite children during the early years of Israeli statehood. The documents, which were supposed to be declassified only in 2031, have now been made accessible on the state archives website.

The declassified documents provide us with an opportunity to gain some insight into the atmosphere that surrounded the now famous Cohen-Kedmi Commission, which was established in 1995 to investigate the disappearance of hundreds of newborn Jewish babies — including allegations of kidnappings — most of them children to immigrants from Yemen to the nascent state of Israel between 1948 and 1954.

Beyond the heartbreaking stories of disappeared children, the documents also allow us to better understand the power relations between the commission’s investigators and the testifiers, as well as between the Zionist establishment and the new immigrants during the years of the disappearances.

Haokets sat down with Racheli Said, an activist with Amram, an NGO that has been fighting for the state to open up its archives on the Yemenite Children Affair — and which actively documents hundreds of cases of missing children — to discuss the significance of the state’s decision.

After such a long struggle to open the archives, do you consider last week a historic one? Was it a victory?

This was a huge step for the struggle, for the families, and for civil society in general. The first serious step that was taken toward recognition and understanding of the injustices that took place here. Until now, many families had not seen the documents that led to the commission’s conclusion, and were supposed to be classified for dozens more years. Once you see them with your own eyes, you can understand what happened here. This is information that needs to be available to the public — these are things that were done here, they are part of this state’s history. There is no need...

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Bid to expel Arab Knesset member an ominous sign of what's to come

After a year in which the government incited against Arab society and the media pandered to the Right’s agenda, the attempt to expel Joint List MK Basel Ghattas points to a worrying future.

By Abed Abu Shehada

When the Knesset passed the so-called “expulsion law” last summer, widely seen as targeting Arab lawmakers, many believed it didn’t matter, because no vote on expelling a member of the Knesset would reach the two-thirds majority (90 MKs) needed. They also said it was the media’s role to be objective and to cover the news reliably, so as not to become a tool in the hands of the government against its opponents.

But in the past few days, the exact opposite has happened: the media has mobilized and created a wall-to-wall consensus along with lawmakers from the Left and Right, who are working to expel Joint List MK Basel Ghattas — accused of smuggling cell phones to Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails — from the Knesset. On Wednesday, the Knesset House Committee voted to strip Ghattas of his parliamentary immunity. They are setting an example for the rest of the Arab Knesset members — that if they don’t toe the line, they too will be out. 

The suspicions against Ghattas, who is a member of the Balad faction in the Joint List, first came to light on Sunday, when the police and Israel Prison Service (IPS) announced that they suspected him of passing cellphones and slips of paper to political prisoners. Ynet reported that Ghattas was “already being followed when he arrived at the prison” because the IPS’ intelligence unit had been tipped off that he was planning to smuggle phones to security prisoners. The next day, it was claimed that Ghattas had already gone underground and heavy hints were dropped about his family ties to former MK Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel after being accused of espionage and passing information to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In one article after another journalists are forgetting to note that they’ve received false reports, such as that of Ghattas fleeing, rather than appearing for questioning as he was ordered to. Or they suggest that they have already figured out what is happening inside the party, despite the party itself not yet knowing.

Most bizarre of all is that no one cares that Ghattas never...

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Syrian blood is worth no less than Palestinian blood

It is time to boycott all Palestinian leaders in Israel who support Assad’s war crimes or do not publicly take a stand against them.

By Marzuq Al-Halabi

There is not much left to say about Aleppo. But there is still much left to say about the campaign of destruction of the city. The disaster befalling the city has many faces, some of them reach me, in my office, especially as the descendent of a family who lived in Kufr Rum, one of the small villages surrounding the city. Every aspect of the destruction deserves its own comment:

1. According to reports coming out of Aleppo, a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing is taking place in the eastern part of the city, under the guise of humanitarian help. The Sunni population is being uprooted and sent to hell, after four years of living through the murderous attacks by the regime, Russia, Iran, and 50 well-armed militias under the control of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Ayatollah Khamenei. Ethnic cleansing also took place in many other places in Syria — in Al-Qusayr near the border with Lebanon, in Darayya near Damascus, etc. Ethnic cleansing is always accompanied with massacres, whether out in the open or the kind in which mass graves are unearthed in the days or weeks to come. According to reports, the forces fighting on behalf of the regime have “no God,” and are massacring the armed rebels and the civilian population in order to sow fear and force them to “flee willingly.”

2. It is now obvious that Bashar al-Assad has become a tool in the hands of two powers: Iran, which is looking for a direct passage to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean — in order to ensure a Shiite presence in a Sunni-majority area (and as part of a stated plan whose goal is to control strategic areas near the sea in the region) — and Russia, which has adopted a brutal doctrine vis-a-vis the countries and nations that surround it. Both these powers, along with China, have laid the diplomatic groundwork for the atrocities that we have seen in Syria since 2011, in which they have taken an active role. This has paralyzed the UN Security Council, and subsequently created the conditions for the massacres we are seeing in Aleppo.

3. The tragedy of Aleppo is an expression of the helplessness of the contemporary world and its...

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Towards a new understanding of Arab-Jewish culture

The severed ties between Arab-Jewish culture and the wider history and culture of Judaism and the Arab world are being repaired by a groundbreaking new university degree in Israel.

By Hadas Shabat-Nadir and Almog Behar

In the 1950s, Professor Shlomo Dov Goitein suggested establishing a chair of Arab-Jewish culture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. But what place does Arabic-Jewish culture have at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem? What does a school for Jewish studies have to do with Arab-Jewish tradition? Or with a course on Arabic literature, classical Arabic from the pre-Islamic period, the Quran and the Caliphate, and the Judeo-Arabic language?

Professor Goitein’s suggestion was rejected in line with the spirit of the age and its desire to build a west-facing Hebrew-Jewish-Zionist-Israeli national culture, while in parallel engaging in classical studies of Arabic and Judaism. Neither of these topics gave much standing to Arab-Jewish heritage, either as a language, a culture, or a linguistic-theological dialogue that stretched over many years — and in particular not to the later Arab-Jewish culture that came after the expulsion from Spain.

Like in Goitein’s time, the encounter between Jewish and Arab culture today can seem strange, threatening or undesirable. But with a 60-year delay, we are now in the founding year of the Program for Arab-Jewish Cultural Studies as a bachelor’s degree, which will begin in October 2017 at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva and at Tel Aviv University.

We began our studies around 15 years ago in various literature courses. We gradually noticed two things: a lack of academic engagement with Mizrahi literature in Israel, and a fixed discussion that featured Mizrahi representation solely in relation to Israeliness and Zionism, while being disconnected from the writing and tradition of the past. We also felt a lack of connection and continuity between the different creative works of Jews from across the Arab, Muslim and Ottoman worlds — whether between religious and secular, between Jewish languages (e.g. Judeo-Arabic, Ladino, Judeo-Persian etc) and Hebrew, or between Rabbinic and modern Hebrew.       

Literary works from entire periods of Eastern Jewish history, such as the lengthy stretch between the Spanish Golden Age and the beginning of the 20th century, have disappeared and are barely taught in literature courses. Even major works such as those of Rabbi Israel ben Moses...

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Silencing our mosques is the next stage in our dispossession

Moti Yogev’s ‘muezzin law’ is yet another step toward creating a public atmosphere that could lead to expelling Arabs from Israel.

By Abed Abu Shehadeh

As it does every year, the sounds of the muezzin reached the Knesset this past week. Last time it was Yisrael Beiteinu’s Anastasia Michaeli who brought the “muezzin law” before the Knesset; this time it was MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home). The dangerous bill, which was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, leaves little room for the imagination: “Houses of worship will be forbidden from using loudspeakers to call the worshippers to prayer or to transmit religious, national or sometimes inciting messages.” Yogev is the same member of Knesset who cares so much about the public interest that he previously proposed bulldozing Israel’s High Court of Justice. After all, why would the public need to defend itself from the tyranny of the regime once Yogev’s Jewish Home party gets into power?

Cynicism aside, time and again we have heard these kinds of remarks by Jewish Home MKs, and each time we have been astounded by the degree of ignorance and cruelty that has come to characterize the party: from Bezalel Smotrich, who does not believe a single Arab passed the psychometric entrance exams, to Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who gloated about killing Arabs during his military career.

Regardless of the ease with which we automatically pay attention to their comments, this law could not have even been proposed in the first place had it not received widespread public support, as part of a continuing attempt by Jewish Israeli society to mold the public sphere in its image. Or as Yogev put it: for the sake of “the quality of life of the state’s citizens” (as a military man, Yogev must know that should the bill pass, there would be massive demonstrations across the country that could actually harm the public’s “quality of life”). Therefore, it is clear to all that the main impetus for such a law is the feeling of supremacy of Israel’s Jewish citizens, such that the only their religious symbols are acceptable.

What is astounding to Arab society about this public discussion is not that we were caught off guard, but rather that the entire is issue is foreign to us: in Jaffa, especially in the Arab neighborhoods, there exists an Arab social fabric that includes both Christians and Muslims. Never did we imagine Jaffa...

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200 Israeli cultural icons call to release Palestinian poet under house arrest

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour has been in Israeli custody for over a year — all for publishing a poem against the occupation.

On October 11, 2015, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was arrested by Israeli police during a night raid on her home in the village Al-Reineh, near Nazareth. On November 2, 2015, an Israeli court indicted her for incitement to violence. At the center of the indictment was a poem Tatour wrote in protest of the killing of Muhammad Abu KhdeirHadeel al-Shalamon, and members of the Dawabshe family in Duma. The indictment cites the full translation of the song, which was edited by an officer who has no prior experience in translation or poetry. Even according to the translation — which is fully of inaccuracies, most of them giving the poem an extremist tone — there is a call to resist the occupation, but there is no incitement to violence.

Dareen spent three months imprisoned in various jails. After that she was transferred to house arrest far from her home, where she was forced to live with an ankle monitor and under severe restrictions. After more than half a year exiled from home, and only after numerous court hearings, was Dareen allowed to continue her house arrest in Al-Reineh (she was forced to continue wearing the ankle monitor and is not allowed to use the internet). She cannot work, and even in the six hours that she is allowed to leave her home, she must be accompanied by “overseers.” This cruelty continues all because she dared to publish a poem.

A situation in which a poet is arrested and put on trial for writing a poem contradicts the very foundations of democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of artistic expression. Over a year has passed since Tatour’s arrest, and over the past few months we have organized two events, one in Tel Aviv and the other in Haifa, in order to demonstrate against the criminal policy taken against an Israeli citizen.

The treatment of Dareen Tatour by the authorities expresses a policy of severe discrimination vis-a-vis Palestinian citizens’ freedom of expression. The attempt to present legitimate political protest as a criminal act prevents the possibility of honest discourse, and is intended to block dialogue between Jews and Arabs. The protest against Tatour’s persecution has spread throughout the world, turning her from an anonymous poet into...

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