In last month’s column, I showed the cause and effect between a BBC World broadcast of a documentary on Israel’s nuclear program and Israel’s need to censor uncomfortable truths. Even though Israel’s Secret Weapon featured previously known factual data, the show challenged carefully crafted propaganda that had to be protected; thus, the show and the BBC were vilified.
But the war on truth is waged on more than one front, which means zionists can’t put all their mud in one sling. Even if zionists manage to block the media from getting the truth to the public, the public can get at it in other ways, especially through art.
Whether in music, painting, sculpture or literature, the ability to appeal directly to the aesthetic sensibility makes art the most potent form of political expression. In 1973, the first volume of Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s autobiographical novel the Gulag Archipelago appeared. The Soviet press viciously denounced it, and Solzhenitsyn was expelled a year later. Where political dissent is repressed, artistic repression is inevitable.
Here in Canada, artistic freedom should be automatic, but those who depict life from a Palestinian perspective know better. Take the case of Phyllis Simon and her crusade against Elizabeth Laird’s children’s novel A Little Piece of Ground.
The book, aimed at 11-14-year-olds, centres on Karim Aboudi, a 12-year-old boy in Ramallah, and is set against Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank. The title refers to his longing for a “little piece of ground” away from Israeli soldiers where he can play soccer.
Laird, a New Zealand writer, depicts Israelis as brutish and brutalized oppressors, and features numerous instances of inhumanity toward Palestinians. Karim watches Jewish “settlers” confiscate his family’s olive grove, and witnesses many men, including his father, forced to strip to their underwear at a checkpoint. The sixth chapter ends with him thinking to himself, “I hate them. I hate them. I hate them.”
Because A Little Piece of Ground does not have any positive Israeli characters, Simon, co-owner of Kidsbooks, is spearheading a campaign by Jewish pressure groups to have bookstores not sell the book, and to demand that its publisher withdraw it from sale. (Despite a request, Simon refused to comment for this column.)
In a vituperative screed to Macmillan publishing in Britain, Simon calls the book a “racist, inflammatory and totally one-sided piece of propaganda,” though fails to cite any useful evidence to justify this slur. Although she will take orders for it, she has refused to stock the book, because she believes it will warp a child’s mind about the Middle East. Curiously, Simon does stock Laird’s Kiss the Dust, a book about Kurds that paints a negative picture of Iraqi Arabs. One-sided propaganda has a double standard, it seems.
The idea that every story about Occupied Palestine should have positive Israeli figures is a standard propaganda ploy–”hide Israeli criminality in a false equivalency. To take this nonsense to its illogical conclusion, every Holocaust story should have to include positive portrayals of Nazis, and the Killing Fields is to be faulted for not providing a good Khmer Rouge role model.
For readers, children or otherwise, the one-sided depiction of Israelis in A Little Piece of Ground represents the real state of life under occupation, because the events Laird describes occur with frightening regularity. For example, the Sept. 12. Ha’aretz, article “Twilight Zone/Birth and death at the checkpoint,” details how a Palestinian woman was arbitrarily detained at a checkpoint and as a result delivered a stillborn child.
The good news is A Little Piece of Ground is being stocked at Duthie’s and other bookstores, which means young readers can learn about Palestinian life from a Palestinian. All Simon did was betray her own bigotry and give Laird tons of publicity.
A second example of attempted artistic censorship concerns Carel Moiseiwitsch’s “Life in Occupied Palestine” exhibition at the grunt gallery this summer. In paintings and writings, Moiseiwitsch, who returned in April from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as part of the International Solidarity Movement, depicted visually what Laird did in writing–”humiliations at checkpoints, and malicious conduct by Israeli soldiers toward Palestinian civilians.
The grunt gallery is a small non-profit venue in East Vancouver and runs on a tight budget, but the Jewish Western Bulletin nevertheless saw fit to excoriate Moiseiwitsch and her exhibit in two front-page stories and two editorials. Dominant again was the propaganda of equivalency. As if oblivious to reality, Bulletin reporter Pat Johnson wrote: “Moiseiwitsch’s drawings depict Israeli violence as though it is ever-present and ominous. Palestinian people are depicted exclusively as victims.”
No kidding! Anybody with a basic understanding of Middle East history knows that Israel provokes Palestinian violence and is a cruel, malicious occupier. That’s also happens to be the view of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, which stated in its annual report that most civil rights violations by Israeli soldiers “arise not from any operational necessity, but from hardheartedness of soldiers, who receive from above the message of utter disregard for the dignity, freedom and lives of innocent Palestinians.” (Ha’aretz, July 22.)
Interestingly, the merits of the exhibit came second to the economic standing of the gallery. More than half of Johnson’s July 25 hatchet job focused on grunt’s sources of public funding, and an accompanying editorial advocated pressure tactics to have it cut off. Such premeditated bias amounts to intimidation, and proves that the Bulletin has no journalistic ethics.
The ham-fisted overreaction to “Life in Occupied Palestine” is meant to tell the art world that Palestinians may not be depicted as anything other than negative stereotypes–”terrorists and suicide bombers. Moiseiwitsch assailed this dogma, and for that political reason she was targeted for abuse.
The fact that Moiseiwitsch art, like Laird’s book, was based on factual events did not matter–”it could not matter. Zionists know there’s no point censoring the minds of people if their hearts are allowed to remain free.