Exterminate All the Brutes: a critique by Mara Ahmed

i wrote this piece in the middle of the bombing of gaza. it’s a critique of raoul peck’s “exterminate all the brutes” and it pivots on his terse (and highly problematic) treatment of palestine. it got published by mondoweiss today. i know that a lot is going on right now that’s urgent, but i also think it’s more important than ever to root out liberal zionism from what’s considered the left:

No, Palestine is not complicated, Mr. Peck. It’s settler colonialism unfolding “live” before our eyes. As the Nakba continues in 2021, with full on ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah and war crimes in Gaza, it’s more egregious than ever to hide behind evasive language or recycled Zionist tropes. More here.

there is a ceasefire but what’s next?

there is a ceasefire in place at the moment with a break in the bombing of gaza, thank god, but that does not change the reality of settler colonialism, ongoing ethnic cleansing, apartheid, an illegal blockade, military occupation, the imprisonment of children, checkpoints that negate freedom of movement, and non-stop human rights violations. this has been going on, in various forms, since 1948.

it’s been painful to read posts on social media, by well-meaning people who couch their support in abstract language, never mention israel as the aggressor/colonizer, or engage in bothsidesism (pray for both sides, mourn lives lost on both sides, there are extremists on both sides, etc). essentially, they are affirming the equivalent of ‘all lives matter.’

the majority of people have been silent which is even more unsettling.

consider this:

israel has one of the best equipped militaries in the world (thx to our tax dollars), palestinians do not have an army, air force or navy. they don’t control their borders, with no sovereign title over the west bank or gaza strip. this is why we see the obscene disparity in numbers of people killed and wounded.

another set of numbers might be helpful:

per capita GDP for gaza: $876
per capital GDP for israel: $34,185

gaza is sealed from all sides by israel. every few years they ‘cut the grass’ by bombing one of the most densely populated areas in the world. then they don’t allow concrete in, so palestinians can’t rebuild their homes. materials needed to construct vital water infrastructure are not permitted either so there’s a chronic water crisis in gaza. israel limits the amount of electricity gaza can access per day. they even restrict the amount of calories allowed for its population by blocking food.

another interesting fact:

children constitute about half of gaza’s population. the median age is 17.

there is no reason for not knowing – this information is freely available, a lot of it provided by the UN.

i look at this media/social media landscape and understand why grotesque crimes against humanity have been possible in history. it’s easy to look back and decry slavery and genocide. it’s much harder to recognize it, speak about it, and resist it while it’s happening.

those who have spoken up, written posts, made calls, protested, declared their position and invited wrath from their communities, thank you. we see you and we find hope in ur integrity. “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” inshallah.

Obaida

Last year, I worked with JVP to organize a Palestinian film festival. One of the films I suggested was the story of a 15-year old boy named Obaida. The festival didn’t go anywhere, but we develop a sense of connection to the people on the screen. We learn a small part of their story. We feel like we know them a little. I just found out from a post by the film’s director that Obaida was killed earlier today. An Israeli soldier shot a bullet through his heart. I have no words, just deep grief and immense rage. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. May u rest in peace, sweet child.

Matthew Cassel (May 17):
I write this through tears after learning that Obaida Jawabreh, who I met in his refugee camp two years ago when he was just 15, was killed earlier today by an Israeli soldier’s bullet to his heart. Obaida was so curious, I was supposed to be the one conducting the interview but he spent our few days together asking me more questions than I asked him. He wanted to become a chef, but surrounded in every direction by Israeli military, checkpoints and settlements, even chasing such a simple dream was always going to be tough. He died before his 18th birthday. My heart goes out to his family, especially to his dear father Akram, who would send me the sweetest messages on holidays long after our meeting. He loved his son and wanted nothing more than to watch him grow up away from the occupation. Together with Defense for Children International – Palestine I made this video on Obaida in 2019. May he now rest in the peace that he was denied throughout his life.

men and logical fallacies

thinking about my overwhelming experience that ad hominem attacks are often made by men. in political arguments, especially over palestine and other decolonial questions, men will very quickly resort to personal attacks rather than offer cogent counter arguments. it’s no coincidence that women are perennially stereotyped as ‘emotional,’ by men, when the most common logical fallacies are what they reach for instinctively. perhaps that’s the nature of guilt – to project one’s shortcomings/offenses onto the other.

Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying by Noor Hindi

thank u Chen Chen for sharing this poem. i am writing a paper about language right now, esp the violence of having to use the colonizer’s language and thus inserting them between oneself and the world, erasing oneself by losing one’s mother tongue and one’s collective memory bank. but i am also writing about cesaire and achebe and how they took the colonizer’s language and exploded it — forced it to understand them, the people it had violated. i shall add this poem by noor hindi to the list.

[POEM] Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying by Noor Hindi

Colonizers write about flowers.
I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks
seconds before becoming daisies.
I want to be like those poets who care about the moon.
Palestinians don’t see the moon from jail cells and prisons.
It’s so beautiful, the moon.
They’re so beautiful, the flowers.
I pick flowers for my dead father when I’m sad.
He watches Al Jazeera all day.
I wish Jessica would stop texting me Happy Ramadan.
I know I’m American because when I walk into a room something dies.
Metaphors about death are for poets who think ghosts care about sound.
When I die, I promise to haunt you forever.
One day, I’ll write about the flowers like we own them.

End hate in Palestine

Respectfully, I would like to ask what workshops, guest lectures, actions or even op-eds have been forthcoming from the Levine Center to End Hate as a response to the spectacular hate and violence we are seeing from Israel, violence enacted on the bodies of Palestinians, including children (nine kids have been killed in Gaza). Pls call them and ask: (585) 461-0490. The Levine Center is part of the Jewish Federation, which supports the occupation of Palestine. Yet the Center has embedded itself in anti-racism work. We need to hold them accountable. One cannot fight racism in one context and buttress it in another.

Noura Erakat and Mariam Barghouti in the Washington Post: As May 15 marks the 73rd commemoration of the mass expulsion of Palestinians from cities such as Haifa, Tarshiha and Safad in 1948, let the world bear witness to Jerusalem today. This is how refugees are made, this is our ongoing Nakba. Our freedom struggle is not for a state but for belonging to the land, to remain on it, to keep our homes, to resist erasure. But somehow calling it by its name on social media, revealing to the world what has been happening for decades, seems more offensive than our ongoing displacement at gun point. There’s no denying the reality: This is Zionist settler colonialism, where if one settler does not take our homes, another settler will. When will the world open its eyes to this injustice and respond appropriately? We do not need more empty both sides-isms, we need solidarity to overcome apartheid.

A Thin Wall now free on the Bandra Film Festival channel

Dear friends, A Thin Wall is now free to watch on the Bandra Film Festival channel on YouTube. Produced by Surbhi Dewan and myself and shot on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, it is our love letter to all those who were lost and displaced, forced to leave home and cross colonial lines. From the wonderful review by @ind.igenous: “Filmmaker Mara Ahmed’s documentary, ‘A Thin Wall’ is a haunting and thought-provoking account of the partition. Strung together are stories, memories and experiences of those who suffered, leaving behind what they called home, plunging into the unknown. Yet, like wilted flowers inside an old book, love still remains on each side of the border. The documentary reminds one of Zarina Hashmi’s art, of a constant search for home, and the pain of separation.”

tomás el apóstol church and abiquiu lake

a quick trip to the village of abiquiu to see santo tomás el apóstol church, and then off to abiquiu lake. reptile fossils dating back 200 million years have been found here. i kept looking, but no luck:) the water is a gorgeous blue-green color and the entire area is layered with colorful rock formations – dark reds, oranges, pinks and browns. my phone couldn’t do justice to the landscape. needed a wide-angle lens. too much beauty to behold.

plaza blanca

not far from dar al islam is plaza blanca: ‘Made famous by local artist Georgia O’Keeffe who made a series of paintings called “The White Place,” these landscapes are located in a valley of the Rio Chama hills, near the village of Abiquiu. This area of New Mexico is now on the grounds of the Dar Al Islam education center and mosque. Although private land the center welcomes visitors. Plaza Blanca is part of the Abiquiu Formation, which consists of re-deposited volcanic ash and other sedimentary rocks that are about 20 million years old.’ — a resplendent temple as sacred as any place of worship, right next to a mosque.

dar al islam

today we walked to the french pastry shop and creperie to pick up some tarte aux fruits and eclairs and had breakfast outdoors, in the santa fe plaza. then off to abiquiu. first stop: dar al islam. it’s ‘a Muslim village begun in 1977 by American and European converts who wanted to live amid the Native American pueblos in northern New Mexico. The village, which was constructed in Abiquiu, New Mexico, boasts an adobe mosque as its centerpiece. Completed in 1981 and situated on 1,600 acres, the mosque and adjoining madrassah include vaulted ceilings, domes, archways, gardens, courtyards, and a library. The Dar al Islam community of several dedicated families consists of educators, artists, poets, and writers who want to “build bridges between Muslims and the wider North American community by communicating the deep spirituality and beauty of the Islamic tradition by living it.”’

folk art vs. art

i’ve never understood the difference between folk art and ‘art.’ after all, expressions of cultural heritage, folklore and tradition also come into play in the creation of ‘high art’ (it’s not suspended in some kind of vacuum). the distinctions between artifact, craft, ornament and art are so many borders and hierarchies that we shouldn’t respect. at the museum of international folk art, i saw such beautiful objects from all across the world. their permanent collection is impressively lavish. they also had a special exhibit called ‘sewing stories of displacement’ – it tells stories of ‘forced migrations, new transitions, and memories’ through embroidery and weaving. the people looked familiar in one of them. i read ‘railway station’ written in urdu across the top. it’s about displacement – ‘the forced migration of kahuta residents (in pakistan) after the area became a site for the national atomic bomb project in 1976,’ something i had never heard of before. the power of art.

canyon road in santa fe

walked along canyon road, in santa fe, which is just 5 min away from our house. over 100 galleries, boutiques and restaurants in one spot. an art lover’s dream. couldn’t possibly afford most of the art but loved absorbing it. one thing that struck me: there are so many galleries full of beautiful native art – they should be owned by native people. i hope they are. everything is in bloom here. nature seems to be unstoppable.

yokai and war rugs

at the museum of international folk art, ‘yokai: ghosts and demons of japan’ and ‘the art of afghan war rugs’ – an exhibition that should be properly problematized in the united states (the imperial war machine) but isn’t. i had already seen some of it at the memorial art gallery in rochester. the work is beautiful. the violence that seeps into cultures and artifacts heartbreaking.

museum of international folk art, santa fe

it’s a bit cooler today, with an off and on drizzle, so i decided to go to the museum of international folk art on museum hill. aitezaz wanted to stay home, relax and read. even before i entered the building, i was blown away by the plaza around which all the museums are located. the sky was doing its own thing and the light perfect for capturing darker hues and sharp details. the public sculptures in this city are exquisite.

santafe #museumofinternationalfolkart #folkart #art #drizzle #overcastday #perfectlightforphotography

rio grande gorge bridge

our last bit of adventure yesterday: the rio grande gorge bridge, fifth highest bridge in the US. fought insane winds and my fear of heights, to walk on the bridge for spectacular views of the gorge below. and then it was back to santa fe, taking the low road this time which winds thru the rio grande valley ?

riograndegorge #riograndegorgebridge #lowroad #riograndevalley #santafe #newmexico