The reification of Palestine and Israel

I love Tamer Nafar. What an excellent performer! I love his music and his politics. Never spearing his audience the burden of politics, and the multilayered difficulty of being a Palestinian, combining criticism of the West and Israel, with that of Palestinian society, and of those observing it. I thoroughly enjoyed his show last week, which was part of his UK tour, where he tried new electronic material, this time in English. It was a huge hit, if you ask me. Very different to his previous works, and really taking his art to the next level, upping the game and giving the audience an extraordinary time.(*)

But what was particularly evident for me in comparison to previous DAM songs, is that it really expressed more forcefully how tired he is of it all, and how he just wants to live his life and be happy. Aren’t we all!? The best moment for me was just after he said to the audience that he ‘misses Palestine,’ when he curtailed and dismissed their responding cheers with – ‘not your Palestine, fuck you, you are mostly white people…. My Palestine!’ Although, most of the audience was not exactly white, it doesn’t really matter, and not only because they/we live in the whitedom, which makes us part of it.(**) But because I strongly identify with the problem of how speaking abroad about Palestine (or Israel) has a strong feeling of reification of the place, of departing it into an idea. I even wrote about it, shortly after moving to the UK from Israel, as I was toying with engaging with British-Jews politically, to contest their automatic misinformed Zionism with first hand experiences.

I still think that being ‘pro-Israel’, for example, is utterly meaningless. Where would you find anyone who is ‘pro Swedish’ or ‘pro British’? What would these even mean? Especially, as Israelis are in huge disagreements over what is best for their society, and many of them disagree with  Zionism, or with what it had become, or always was. Does being pro-Israel means supporting Zionism unconditionally? Is peace not pro-Israel? Human rights? I’ve also seen many ideas about what Palestine is, or what’s it like to be a Palestinian, which are often simplified romanticised generalisations, and so, pro-Palestinian is as weird to me.

The point is, for now, that these ideas of Israel and Palestine are reflections of those who imagine them, through lenses and contexts that are fairly dissimilar to how Palestinians (particularly in Palestine) and Israelis (particularly in Israel) envision and experience them, and they revolve around different concerns.

(*) Despite a cultural-mistranslation that resulted in an anti-Semitic expression, which really ruined it for many of us, and was also a little bit sexist. Trying to deliver a ‘make love no war’ message, or to upset the oppressor’s violence with humor and sexual desire, he (/DAM) used ‘I fell in love with a Jew,’ which works nicely in the Arabic (and Hebrew) context(s) and fits nicely in the appropriated melody, but would be better as ‘with a Jewish girl’ in English. Him laughing at its racism on stage, as if to defend the non-seriousness of it, or saying that he is ‘allowed’ because he is a victim of Jews, (which I heard from many Palestinians), didn’t make it any better. He wouldn’t have used ‘fell in love with a Nigger’ if some black people would have been his oppressors, I hope. And why would she love him back, if he is using potentially-offensive words?

(**) Also, many ‘whites’ are far more disadvantaged than Nafar imagines them to be. In our current times of heartless capitalism, many whites are ‘left behind,’ voting Trump or Brexit or to the far right, not to lose their benefits from the affiliation with and the first world.

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4 Responses to The reification of Palestine and Israel

  1. Owen Dempsey says:

    Reblogged this on My Own Private Medicine by Owen Dempsey.

  2. Owen Dempsey says:

    Thats Eyal, interesting post: a) Tamar Nafar worth knowing about (though I can’t access a UK playable vision of the film he is in: ‘Junction 48’ which I would like to see) , b) the dangers of terms like pro-Israel, ( and perhaps then also pro-West etc. I wonder if it might be worth highlighting (?better, more specific) alternatives to term like pro-Israel, with for example e.g pro/anti-imperialism.colonialism.neoliberalism etc.), c) the dangers of ‘white privilege’ (or peoples from any any colonialising power/nation) appropriating the ‘idea’ of the ‘other’ nation and thereby objectifying it and perhaps its peoples, d) the problems of language and racism – I wonder if using the term ‘a jewish girl’ isn’t just as racist as ‘a jew’ because they both generalise in terms of jewishness, and wonder another expression ‘ I fell in love with Martha, a Jewish girl.’ personalises and becomes less racist?

    • Eyal says:

      D) But it’s not about Martha, and he doesn’t necessarily know her name even, but about the gravity of desiring an enemy or oppressor, and telling his family.

  3. yosefhandal says:

    Tamer Nafar is great…I talked with him at a special screening of Junction 48 in New York when it first came out. Udi Aloni, Samar Qupty, and Suhai Nafar were there as well…they do important work

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