The Palestinian Museum: Images, in spite of all

A project worth attention:

“The Palestinian Museum”

 

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“In order to know, we must imagine for ourselves…let us not invoke the unimaginable.”

 

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“Let us not shelter ourselves by saying that we cannot, that we could not by any means, imagine it to the very end. We are obliged to that oppressive imaginable” .

 

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“Images in spite of all: in spite of our own inability to look at them as they deserve; in spite of our own world, full, almost choked, with immaginary commodities”.

(Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in spite of all,  English edition 2008)

2011: Year of the Protester

Since this is the last post of 2011, I`d like to take few minutes to say goodbye to an year that has been truly amazing (sometimes in a scary way, too).

Most of the things I thought would be very unlike actually happened in 2011, the good and the bad things. When I first got an sms by a Tunisian friend last 14 January 2011 I could not believe what I saw on the mobile screen: we, the Tunisian people, are going to celebrate tonight for the dictator is gone.

credit: Time.com

I screamed and cried when I saw my computer screen streaming pure live joy from Tahrir square in Egypt, on February 11th cause another dictator was gone.

I walked the streets of my dear Damascus last February, curious to see what would happen in the Syrian days of rage and saw nothing. Yet, only few days later, and few meters away from my house, I saw a spontaneous explosion of anger, a protest for dignity called by real streets and not by Facebook. Then, again, as unexpected as that one, another unexpected thing happened, again near my house, again in Old Damascus. It was the 15th of March, and people said Syrian revolution was beginning.

I dont believe in slogans and in Internet calls for revolutions, but what I saw was the street revolting, real people being hurt, not avatars.

Since then, Syria has never been the same. People are still fighting for their freedom and dignity, in many ways, the most unexpected, the most creative, the bravest.

illustration by Khalid Albaih licensed under Creative Commons

illustration by Khalid Albaih licensed under Creative Commons

And then Libyans won their fight against Gheddafi and started to rebuild their country. The brave people of Yemen have been hitting the streets since January and are still there. A tough crackdown on Bahrain and the silence of international community have not stopped the people from asking their rights to freedom and equality. Women have been driving change in Saudi Arabia, and Kuwaitis have occupied their Parliament to demand reforms and an end to corruption.

And then Jordan, Morocco, Algeria. And Palestine, of course, always in our hearts.

The most amazing thing is that Europe for the first time took the energy out of the Arabs and shouted. Spain has been leading with the indignados. In my home country the situation is different, and I wish I could tell you we the people ousted Berlusconi -and not the international finance-. But we occupied public spaces and gave them back to the citizens. And we still have our jewel up working, Teatro Valle Occupato in Rome, where a new form of collaborative art and culture has born, and more to come.

There is something I will always remember of this almost gone 2011. When I was in DC, a month ago, at the #occupyDC camp, a blond haired guy told me, proud of himself: “I do not fear teargas: I am Egyptian”. So I answered in Arabic and I was surprised to hear that he didnt speak any. Then I discovered he was not even of Arab origin. He was just pretending to be an Egyptian, this guy, a W.a.s.p. American!

This solidarity, this empathy, this brotherhood I saw throughout the world, from the Arab Springs to the #occupy movement to the indignados, is the hope I want to take with me in 2012, despite all the bad things still happening and yet to happen.

 Kull 3amm w entu be kheir.


illustration by Khalid Albaih licensed under Creative Commons

Wrapping up the Third Arab Bloggers meeting

I`ve just returned after a long week  of travels, the most exciting of them being the days spent in Tunis for the third Arab Bloggers meeting (#AB11).

I attended the second one in Beirut, 2009, and thought this was awesome. The atmosphere at the time was that of “something in the making”.

It was two years ago and that feeling has proved right. This crowd has been the protagonist, each of them in his/her own country, of  this phenomenal 2011. Each of these people, together with the Arab youth of each country, had proven to be able to contribute, online and offline, to the shaping of a new future of the Arab region.

Two years ago I felt there was a kind of “cultural panarabism”, a feeling of unity pervading the meeting. This time it was even stronger.

When the Palestinian bloggers and activists were denied the entry visa by the Tunisian Ministry of Interior (without giving any acceptable reason), all the other Arab participants have raised in solidarity. We have made petitions,formal statements, press-releases, got all the mainstream media to talk about this (the evidence: when, few days ago, I walked into my Monaco hotel to join the jury of the Anna Lindht award, all the people there -a totally different crowd from the Arab bloggers- pointed out: it`s a real shame that the new Tunisia prevented the Palestinians to join the #AB11 meeting!). We have had a Skype call with them to let them join the sessions and put all their pictures on empty chairs in a symbolic protest for their unjustified absence.

picture by Ibtihel Zaatouri under CC BY license

I`ve attended so many conferences where officials make statements about Palestine and Palestians, and inter-Arab solidarity. This is the first time I`ve felt people being together, despite not being physically together.

There is something this Arab youth shares, beyond rhetoric. The Arab Springs have strengthened this feeling which has been in the making during the past years thanks to physical meet-ups but of course thanks to the Internet and the social networks.

Now there are best practices shared, together with pictures, videos, links, information.

This Arab youth is truly Pan-Arab. One`s revolution is everybody else`s revolution. One`s freedom is gonna be everybody else`s freedom.

The tools are there. Again, the #AB11 is a great mix of tech training (whether it is about learning cyber security or how to live video stream from the streets) and learning from others` experiences and direct participation. Sami Ben Gharbeia, Malek Khadhraoui and Astrubaal `s reflections on Tunisian revolution and the role played by their portal Nawaat have enlightened and inspired so many people in the #AB11 crowd. Bloggers from Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, have also contributed to the debate by  bringing focusing on each of these countries and on their own direct experience in terms of citizens and activists. Pearls that you will never get on mainstream media.

But the novelty of this edition is how do we move to the next step, i.e. how do we empower people to do a better and citizen-media based cover for the upcoming elections in Tunisia and Egypt, and generally speaking how do we get people actively involved in the democratic process of rebuilding the institutions and the country itself. A very interesting panel, coordinated by Global Voices` Solana Saurus, has been held at the #AB11 on this very issue, with lots of insights coming from Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans,too.

For me one of the most interesting panel was the one which featured the Tunisian bloggers who are running for elections debating about their different visions of the constitutional assembly, the alliances among them or with other groups, their ideas towards mobilizing people, etc. Thanks to Jillian c.York we have great notes of the session.

The key question during the upcoming months is exactly this: how do we turn the regime change that was accomplished in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, into political and social change? and how do we turn the blogging and activism that was “in opposition” to dictatorships into a proactive force that reaches out to the ground and helps democracy to emerge?

#AB11 variety of panels and voices has given a great contribution to this debate. In two weeks Tunis will make the first move, by hosting the first democratic elections in the Region since long time. And the Tunisian bloggers and activists will play an important role in these elections which hopefully will later be a key role in the future of the country, too.

 

You can find a great coverage of the meeting on the Arab Bloggers official website, on Global Voices and on some blogs (like Jillian C. York`s).

Arab Bloggers site has also collected many interesting videos from Tunisia Live and hopefully will publish soon the sessions that have been filmed.

Ibtihel Zaatouri has a great Flickr stream of the meeting and there is also a Storify report about it.

Thanks to Sami and the Nawaat team, all the wonderful Global Voices people, Doreen and Hiba from Heinrich Boll for organizing this inspiring meeting.

 

Polemics over Palestinian musalsal criticizing Palestinian Authority

from Palestinian news agency Ma`an: 

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A Ramadan TV series that became notorious for its criticism of Palestinian Authority officials has been discontinued on the PA-run Palestine TV, Attorney General Ahmad Al-Mughni said Tuesday evening.

Al-Mughni told Ma’an that the decision had been made to stop broadcasts of Watan Ala Watar [Homeland on a String] after Tuesday’s episode because “it is full of mistakes, is meaningless and is a waste of time for people to watch.”

The serial, aired during the holy month of Ramadan when broadcasters compete for captive audiences with soap operas and special series, had been praised the year earlier as an emblem of PA’s ability to tolerate self-criticism.

Al-Mughni said Tuesday that the series is “harmful to Palestinian society.”
“It mocks leaders terribly, and has a poor scenario,” he said, adding that episodes had crossed “red lines.”

“There are people and personalities that can’t be imitated in any way,” the Attorney General said.

The series had targeted the beleaguered Palestinian Authority health ministry, public sector workers union head Bassam Zakarneh and teachers union in recent weeks, and officials are reported to have complained to the Attorney General about the send-up.

Palestine TV is operated by the Palestine Broadcast Cooperation, and supervised by the Ramallah-based Ministry of Information.

Watan Ala Watar gained a huge following for its uncompromising look at themes of politics, corruption, nepotism, religion and morality.

 

Ciao Vittorio..

Oggi abbiamo perso una voce coraggiosa, una voce rara, nel nostro paese e nel mondo intero. Vittorio Arrigoni  era una persona che aveva sposato una causa, un paese, un popolo, senza mezzi termini. Dal 2008 viveva a Gaza, e dal suo blog raccontava le storie di ordinaria follia nella Striscia. Era diventato “famoso” durante l`assalto israeliano a Gaza del dicembre 2008, quando lui era uno dei pochissimi, gia` li, sul campo, in un vuoto informativo totale. Ma il blog di Vittorio non si era fermato per la “fine” dell`attacco a Gaza, cosi` come il suo impegno, la sua dichiarazione di intenti, la sua scelta di vita a fianco di un popolo e della sua causa. E Vittorio era rimasto li`, a Gaza, anche quando i riflettori dei media si erano spenti.

Putroppo il suo blog l`ha fermato invece la violenza, la violenza sorda e senza ragioni dell`estremismo. Vittorio e`stato rapito e brutalmente assassinato ieri a Gaza, vani i tentativi persino del governo di Hamas di scovarlo e liberarlo.

Il popolo palestinese e` in lutto per la perdita di questo italiano che aveva dato tutto per la Palestina. Era uno di noi, dice la comunita` palestinese su Twitter, dove oggi ribatteva l`hashtag #RIPVittorio.

Nella foga delle notizie di Al Jazeera, BBC Arabic -impegnate su tutti i fronti arabi, dallo Yemen alla Siria alla Libia- c`e stato pero` sempre spazio per ricordare Vittorio, e il lavoro che ha fatto negli anni, attivista e pacifista, blogger e laico, impegnato ma non nel dire, nel fare.

Queste sono la coerenza, la dignita`, l`impegno, a cui mi piacerebbe associare il mio paese.

Ho visto oggi le foto di palestinesi portare il silenzio la sua bara, circondata da bandiere della Palestina e dell`Italia, un colore solo.

(foto di Repubblica.it)

Ciao Vittorio…

Restiamo Umani…

“Rights stuff”: how the World Cup is undermining Al Jazeera Sport popularity in the Arab world

Palestinians are switching off Al Jazeera and switching on Israeli TV. The incredible move has occurred for one reason only: football. As reported by AFP yesterday, more and more Palestinians are buying Israeli TV subscriptions to follow the Word Cup. A subscription to Israeli TV costs 25 dollars, against the 100 boxes asked by Al Jazeera Sport.

Many polemics arose all across the Arab world at the time when Al Jazeera announced to have bought exclusive rights for the World Cup and to be willing to “resell” the championship for 100 dollars to end-users.  A very high fee to bear for low income viewers in many places in the Arab world -which is not made up only by the rich Gulf states-. Together with this, Al Jazeera Sports has been strongly fighting piracy or “rebroadcasting” practises that were quite enough tolerated all across the Arab world. The AFP reports that “Harun Abu Ara, the head of Al-Quds educational television, a local Ramallah station, had to stop showing the matches a few days ago when he was warned against doing so by lawyers from Al-Jazeera“.

“Since we stopped rebroadcasting the matches we have received dozens of calls a day from customers who were used to watching them on our channel,” he said. “If we are prohibited from rebroadcasting Al-Jazeera, the natural result is that the viewers, especially the poor, are going to turn to Israeli television, because it is cheaper.”

It seems that Israeli TV is winning over this copyright war amongst Arabs. There is also a “jamming” war happening over the Arab skies: Al Jazeera has denounced that its AJ Sport TV signal was deliberately  jammed on Nilesat and Arabsat. Although the two major Arab satellite providers are declining the allegations, there is a very good chance for this story to be true. That wouldn`t be a surprise in the relations between Al Jazeera and the other Arab media players (and the governments backing them, i.e. mostly Egypt and Saudi Arabia). Politics have always played a major role in media relations in the Arab world, and this won`t be the first time, despite Nilesat (Egypt) and Arabsat (Saudi Arabia) deny accusations.

But this time the game is bigger, because Arab viewers are passionate football consumers. And because Israeli TV is taking advantage of an inter-Arab fight. Of course, not the first time this happens, too.

The whole “rights issue” related to the World Cup exclusivity to Al Jazeera Sport is something that looked so much promising at the beginning (in terms of profit and popularity) but now it is seriously risking to become a losing game for the Qatari station.

Sleepless in Gaza..and Jerusalem

I’ve just got a message from Abdallah Schleifer. Abdallah is an old friend of mine, old cause I met him more than 10 years ago at a conference at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. I admired him for being a brilliant journalist and the smart director of the Adham Centre for TV Journalism at the American University of Cairo.

If you read his Wikipedia page you can have just a little idea of how cool is Abdallah, born Marc, an American secular Jewish who converted to Islam after many years spent as a militant in the Marxist movement all around the world, visiting periodically Cuba and being an active member of the Beat Generation’s.

I’ve always adimired Abdallah for being such enthusiast and passionate about whatever he does. So I’m not suprised to read his latest email, which I hope he won’t mind if I re-publish here below.

It’s about his latest project -or his latest “adventure”, same thing for such a character as Abdallah is!- “Sleepless in Gaza..and Jerusalem” which tells the story of four Palestian women, Muslim and Christian, living in two Palestian areas that cannot communicate –Gaza and Jerusalem-.

Those people can’t communicate but through Internet and phone, despite being part of the same country. Like them, we are unable to follow what’s happening to Gaza and its people, left alone and no more under “the spotlight” . TV channels, with few Arab exceptions, are not interested in Gaza anymore -it seems-.

But the Internet will help, once again. Abdallah and his partners at Pina TV Productions will broadcast each 26 mins episode of “Sleepless in Gaza” on You Tube each 6 days, starting from today.

I invite all of you to subscribe to “Sleepless in Gaza” ‘s You Tube channel www.youtube.com/SleeplessinGaza and mabrouk to Abdallah and his partners for this great iniative who proves him to be, once again, the great enthusiastic and innovative personality we all know.

frwd:

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

On March 1st — this coming Monday– the premier episode of a 90 part series, “Sleepless in Gaza…and Jerusalem” will be launched on YouTube. It will be a video diary about four young Palestinian women, Muslim and Christian, two living in Gaza and two in Arab Jerusalem/West Bank.

PINA TV Production camera crews will be covering Ashira Ramadan, a broadcast journalist based in Jerusalem; Ashira’s friend in Gaza, the documentary film maker Nagham Mohanna; Donna Maria Mattas, a 17 year-old student at the Holy Family school in Gaza who dreams of growing up to be a journalist, and Ala’ Khayo Mkari who works with Caritas in Jerusalem.
.
The intention of this series is neither rant nor rhetoric. It is rather an opportunity for all of us, who do not live in Gaza, occupied Arab Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, to grasp how these four young Palestinian women live out their daily lives, precisely because their lives are stories we journalists were taught almost dismissively to think of as “human interest” and almost necessarily conflict driven.

How, as human beings, these four Palestinians can also experience moments of personal and community achievement, and the warmth of friends and family life that in real life is possible even in the most difficult circumstances of siege and occupation.

Each episode runs 26 minutes and will be shot in Jerusalem/West Bank and Gaza, edited and uploaded the same day. So you will find a new sequence six days a week at www.youtube.com/SleeplessinGaza. On Friday, we all rest.

A “Sleepless…” trailer should be up on YouTube by the time you receive this letter. We also have just set up “Sleepless in Gaza…and Jerusalem” on Facebook. It’s got such a long URL that Facebookers should note– just type in “Sleepless in Gaza…and Jerusalem” in the Facebook search and you will be home. We don’t have our own domain website yet, but our partners PINA TV Productions’ website will serve as such for the time being at www.pina.ps.

This is a personal note as much as it is a press release, so it is going out on my email but after today you can reach us at SleeplessinGaza@gmail.com.

Please pass this letter on to your friends on email and to organizations that believe in peace on earth and good will to all, that they too might spread the word.

Regards,

Abdallah Schleifer
for Radiant Circle Productions and PINA