Dear All,

6 items, after reducing from 15, and debating whether or not to reduce further.  I guess I’ll leave to you to decide what to read, what not.  You are, after all, adults.

Item 1 is the Haaretz report about this year’s poverty statistics on Israeli poverty.  As in the past 5 years, the stats this year are worse than last year’s. 

Item 2 is a report about Hillel’s efforts to prevent a pro-Palestinian event from taking place at Rutgers university.  Hillel apparently lost this round.  More interesting are the comments on about the younger generation’s attitudes towards Israel.

Item 3 is a New York Times report about the trials and tribulations of the Corries in seeking to learn the truth about their daughter’s/sister’s death 7 years ago.  The experience that the family is undergoing here is appallingly difficult.  They are wonderful people, who believe in justice, and surely have a right to it.  But this is Israel, and judges here tend to be super Israeli defenders. 

Item 4 is a review of a documentary on an Israeli family that suddenly discovered that its extended family included Muslim Palestinians living in the OPT.  The experience that this family (both sides) underwent is probably typical for many persons, particularly those on the Israeli side, but is not typical for all.  Many of us Israeli Jews have found warm and loving friendship among Palestinians.  The issue is not whether one is or isn’t Jewish or Muslim, or, for that matter Hindu, Christian, etc.  The issue is what kind of a person one is.

Items 5 and 6 treat a single subject: IOF violations of human rights in the OPT.  These are especially interesting today, since Haaretz carries a report on a huge reduction in names on the “most-wanted” list

that items 5 and 6 would seem to contradict.  5 is a brief report about IOF night raids in one village, 6 is the PCHR report of human rights violations during a single week.  Even if  you read no more than the headings, you will have some idea of what Palestinians undergo. 

All the best,



1. Haaretz,

November 08, 2010

[The radio reported that this year, as also the past poverty report, a larger number of families where both spouses are working also are poor.  Very likely this is at least in part due to the implementation of the Wisconsin Plan as adopted by Israel. For info on it, see, e.g.,]  

[Today’s Ynet report on the Poverty report has additional information and statistics, for those interested,7340,L-3981263,00.html ]


Report reveals poverty is on the rise in Israel

National Insurance Institute report shows the number of families living below the poverty line increased by 15,000 in 2009.

By Dana Weiler-Polak

A report on poverty in Israel released on Monday revealed that the number of families living below the poverty line has increased by 15,000 in 2009.

The report, which was released by the National Insurance Institute, said the total number of people living below the poverty line is around 150,000. The report is based on date from 2009, which is considered the peak year of the international economic crisis.

Most of the families discussed in the report are either ultra-Orthodox or Arab, the two sectors of society which have the highest poverty rates. The report noted that the group with the highest poverty rate was Arabs living in East Jerusalem.

A common factor within most of the families discussed was that the main earner in the family had lost their source of income or their work conditions had deteriorated because of the global economic crisis. Even without these factors, 6,300 families with two sources of income are still living below the poverty line.

In 2009, there were 435,100 families living below the poverty line, with 850,300 children among them, an increase from the 783,600 children living below the poverty line in 2008.

The one positive note in the report is that poverty rates amongst the elderly have improved since 2008.

Esther Dominissini, The Director General of the National Insurance Institute, said in response to the report that in order to reduce the poverty rate, minimum wage must be raised, additional grants for poor children must be considered, and changes must be made to support low incomes.

“Its impossible to fight poverty without making a list of priorities,” Dominissini said.


2.   Forwarded by the JPLO List

November 8, 2010 

This article discusses Hillel’s efforts at Rutgers university to prevent a “pro-Palestinian” event from taking place.

This is at least the second time in a few weeks where  a Hillel chapter is making an effort of that nature.  A few weeks ago Hillel at the University of New Mexico made an attempt to get the university to dis-invite Ali Abunimah from coming and speaking.

Hillel pretends to be speaking for all Jewish students on campus, but as Kumar’s essay shows, there are plenty of Jewish students who disagree with Hillel’s stance.  It seems that the rigid politics of supporting Israel right or wrong are repelling young people, rather than attracting them to support Israel and its blind followers.

Racheli Gai. 

The US to Gaza Initiative and the Hillel Controversy at Rutgers
by Deepa Kumar

Last night I attended a fundraiser for the US to Gaza mission that intends to bring humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.  It was an incredible success.  About 350 mostly young people had crowded the hall, most of whom stayed on past 10 pm to listen to the invited speakers.

The presence of so many students who had chosen to attend the event despite intimidation by those claiming to represent Rutgers Hillel was truly heartening.  Colonel Ann Wright, who was one of the featured speakers, said that this was one of the largest and most well attended of such fundraising events she has been to.

This speaks volumes to the potential that exists right now to build a genuine grassroots movement that will not be bullied and that will stand up against the inhumane conditions that the people of Gaza have had to endure under Israel’s blockade.

Hillel’s line of attack was predictable.  In a press release Andrew Getraer, the executive director of Rutger’s Hillel, argued that there were “serious legal issues” involved.  First on the list was the claim that the “blockade runners will attempt to deliver goods, services or technical assistance to Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).”

This is a standard rhetorical ploy: trot out the bogeyman of Hamas in order to obscure and paper over the horrendous conditions under which Palestinian people in Gaza live.  In fact, the press release does not once make reference to these conditions and why it is so urgent and important to raise money for this humanitarian crisis.  Instead, it asserts that “Hillel is vehemently opposed to this event.”

Which leads me to ask: what kind of person would oppose an event that tries to bring much needed aid to people who are suffering from malnutrition, lack of access to clean water, inadequate housing and health care facilities, and massive unemployment?

International agencies from the UN to various human rights groups have documented the impact that Israel’s blockade (begun in 2007) has had, shedding light on the extent of the crisis.  A recent report by the United Nations Development Programme explains:

The blockade [has] resulted in the closure of most of the manufacturing industry, which was deprived of materials and export markets, and led to a surge in unemployment which currently stands at 40%.  John Holmes, the United Nations Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, described the blockade as “collective punishment” of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.  The blockade has created shortages in a number of critical items and constrained the rights of Gazans to education, health, shelter, culture, personal development and work.

The Red Cross recently pointed out:

The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development.  Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty and warfare, while the quality of Gaza’s health care system has reached an all-time low.  The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility.  The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.

“The closure is having a devastating impact on the 1.5 million people living in Gaza”, said Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC’s head of operations for the Middle East.

Why would anyone be opposed to efforts to not only bring aid to Gazans but also challenge the blockade?  As many commentators have pointed out, it is the blockade that is illegal and not efforts to challenge it.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a leading figure in the South African struggle against Apartheid as well as a UN envoy, called it “a siege” and a “gross violation to Human Rights.”

Yet, none of this is worthy of mention in Getraer’s press release.  There is neither empathy nor compassion for the plight of the 1.5 million men, women, and children who live in what is nothing less than a prison camp in Gaza.

Getraer’s second line of attack has to do with the environment for Jewish students at Rutgers.  He criticizes BAKA (Belief Awareness Knowledge and Action) for not only organizing this fundraising event but for holding other events as well on campus that he alleges “contribute to creating an environment that is becoming increasingly anti-Israel, and supportive of terrorist organizations, such as Hamas.”  One of the events that he lists, a talk by Prof. Gilbert Achcar on Nov. 10th, has been organized by me.

This line of attack is also utterly predictable and is in line with the now well-established argument that criticisms of Israel’s policy are unacceptable and are automatically anti-Semitic.  And in this instance apparently automatically supportive of “terrorist organizations” as well.

In making these unfounded charges against BAKA, Getraer claims to represent and speak on behalf of the 6000+ Jewish students at Rutgers.  He ends the press release by stating that his aim is to ensure that the atmosphere at Rutgers “remains a safe one for pro-Israel students.”

This is truly a despicable accusation and one made in bad faith.  Neither myself nor any of the students that I know in BAKA would ever participate in creating an unsafe environment for Jewish students.

Hoda Mitwally, a leading member of BAKA, who has worked with me as a research assistant for the last two years is an outstanding person.  She is extremely well read, thoughtful, and compassionate — to paint her and others like her in BAKA as attempting to create an “unsafe” atmosphere is insulting.

Perhaps Getraer might have spent a little more time talking to the people he is attacking, or for that matter talking to the Rutgers Jewish student body to elicit their opinions before putting out a press release that has now drawn national media attention.  If he had done so, he might have found that his views don’t strike a chord with everyone.

For instance, Avi Smolen, a former president of Rutgers Hillel, wrote a letter to the Rutgers campus newspaper the Daily Targum offering his support for the BAKA fundraiser.  In the letter titled “Allow BAKA event to continue,” Smolen takes on all the points raised by Getraer and refutes them, stating at the outset that the blockade of Gaza “violates international law.”

He adds:

Some people will also be quick to say that this event will be “anti-Israel.”  First, this “pro” and “anti” dualism is rarely useful in any case.  If a U.S. citizen doesn’t support the war in Iraq, is she “un-American” or is she simply expressing her views on a single issue?

Second, the aim of the event is to challenge the actions of Israel in enforcing a blockade against Gaza.  I recognize Israel’s positive movement in easing the restrictions on Gaza, but the blockade does still exist, and those who disagree with it have every right to protest it.

Smolen is not a lone voice among the young Jewish American students who attend Rutgers University.  If anything, he is part of a new generation that is open to having an honest discussion about Israel and its policies.  As Peter Beinart in an article in the New York Review of Books points out, today’s younger generation of liberal college-age Jewish students have “imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish political culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights.”  He adds that, “in their innocence, they did not realize that they were supposed to shed those values when it came to Israel.”

Beinart also states that “several studies have revealed, in the words of Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College and Ari Kelman of the University of California at Davis, that ‘non-Orthodox younger Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders,’ with many professing ‘a near-total absence of positive feelings.'”

Smolen has some good words of advice at the end of his letter.  He states: “I encourage all current University students, faculty and staff for whom this issue is meaningful to speak about it openly and with compassion for people with different viewpoints.  If we listen to one another, instead of shouting past each other, we may understand each other better and find a way to work together for the common good.”


In the face of what is now universally recognized as a horrendous humanitarian crisis in Gaza, I urge the Rutgers administration to permit BAKA to donate the money raised yesterday for the US to Gaza initiative and not give in to Getraer’s pressure tactics.  In my view, this is simply the right thing to do.

Deepa Kumar is an associate professor of Media Studies at Rutgers University.  This article first appeared on her blog

Jewish Peace News editors:

Joel Beinin

Racheli Gai

Rela Mazali

Sarah Anne Minkin

Judith Norman

Lincoln Z. Shlensky

Rebecca Vilkomerson

Alistair Welchman


3. New York Times,

November 7, 2010

For Family of Slain Activist, No End in Sight for Case


HAIFA, Israel — Seven years after an American student, Rachel Corrie, was killed in Gaza by an Israeli military bulldozer she tried to block, becoming a global symbol of the Palestinian struggle, her parents and her older sister sit in an Israeli court in this northern city with two hopes: to confront the men who ran over her and to prove that the army investigation into her death was flawed.

On both counts, it has been a frustrating effort. To guard their identities, the bulldozer operators are called only by their initials and testify behind a screen, disembodied voices claiming vague memories. The Corrie lawyer presses them with props: “Mr. A,” he said to a commander this past Thursday, arranging a plastic toy bulldozer, an orange lump of putty and a Raggedy Ann doll, “Where was she when you saw her?”

Mr. A’s answer differed markedly from that of Mr. Y, the driver of the bulldozer who testified two weeks earlier, although both denied seeing her before she was crushed under their vehicle. The army said Ms. Corrie’s death was an accident. The Corries believe the drivers either saw Rachel or were so careless toward the protesters as to be criminally negligent.

On the blond wooden benches of the Haifa District Court, the Corries take notes, volunteer translators whispering in their ears. They have mostly been here, away from their Olympia, Wash., home, since their civil case claiming the intentional and unlawful killing of their daughter began in March and there is no end in sight, with sessions already planned for January. They are exhausted but unbent.

“If I killed someone, I would remember that day for the rest of my life,” Cindy Corrie, Ms. Corrie’s mother, said during a break, eyes tearing, voice shaking. “This is not just about Rachel, but something bigger. What happens to the humanity of soldiers?”

This is indeed about something bigger but just what has been debated since the instant of Ms. Corrie’s death. Books, plays, videos and even an aid ship to Gaza have been dedicated to her memory and spirit, her focus on human rights and the plight of the Palestinians. A student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Ms. Corrie, then 23, joined the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian activist group, in January 2003 and moved to Gaza to help prevent house demolitions in the southern border town of Rafah.

It was the height of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israel, which at the time occupied Gaza. The Israelis say the houses in question were the source of sniper fire and arms-smuggling tunnels. Ms. Corrie, by contrast, wrote e-mails home saying that the families she met were gentle people whose houses had been shot at and whose children were harassed for no reason.

“The count of homes destroyed in Rafah since the beginning of this intifada is up around 600, by and large people with no connection to the resistance but who happen to live along the border,” she wrote in one e-mail on Feb. 27, 2003. “I think it is maybe official now that Rafah is the poorest place in the world.”

Rafah was never the poorest place in the world, but Ms. Corrie was writing as an incensed activist, not an economist. For many Israelis, however, the glorification of Ms. Corrie and her activism has amounted to an effort to portray Israel and its army as exceptionally brutal, part of a campaign to delegitimize the state and its security challenges.

The day that Ms. Corrie was killed, her fellow activists sent two photographs of her to news agencies that were then transmitted around the world. The first one showed her standing in an orange jacket with a bullhorn addressing an approaching bulldozer, and the second showed her crumpled on the ground, near death. The clear implication was that the two pictures were sequential, whereas the first was shot hours earlier with a different bulldozer.

The Israeli Army investigation found that the drivers of the bulldozer that killed her did not see Ms. Corrie because she was standing near a high mound of dirt as it approached. The drivers, it said, had limited lines of sight inside their heavily armored vehicle, and that by placing themselves in the bulldozer’s path as human shields, the eight activists bore primary responsibility.

But the Corries believe that the army carried out a lackluster investigation filled with internal contradictions and with insufficient care to what orders soldiers received when faced with civilians in their paths. That view, it turns out, was not only that of a grieving family. It won support from the United States government.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, wrote to the Corries in his official capacity in June 2004. He referred to their query whether the American government viewed the military’s final report “to have reflected an investigation that was ‘thorough, credible and transparent.’ I can answer your question without equivocation. No, we do not consider it so.”

Mr. Wilkerson recommended that the Corries pursue the matter in an Israeli court. An observer from the American Embassy in Tel Aviv has attended every session of the case.

Sarah Corrie Simpson, Ms. Corrie’s older sister, who is here with her mother and father, Craig, has taken a leading role in bringing attention to the case. Asked what she thought of how her sister was viewed, she said her family did not consider itself anti-Israel and was not responsible for the way in which Ms. Corrie’s name had been used by groups and causes.

To the contrary, she said, the family was using Israel’s court system to get its army to stand up to the standards it professes, a vote of confidence in the society.

“I don’t see this as about Israel’s legitimacy,” she said in an interview. “My family is not anti-Israel. What Rachel saw when she went to Gaza was extremely troubling and because of what happened to her we are now connected to the Palestinian issue. But Israeli peace activists shared her concern and are helping us with our case. From our family’s perspective, this is about human rights for all people and holding governments accountable.”

Cindy Corrie added, “An Israeli colonel said at this trial that there are no civilians in a war zone. But there are. If that hadn’t been the army’s attitude, maybe my daughter would still be with us.”


4.  The Guardian

8 November 2010

My family, the enemy

Israeli film-maker Noa Ben-Hagai went in search of a forgotten great-aunt and found cousins who are Palestinian Arabs. What happened next?

Jonathan Freedland

Secrets and lies … Film director Noa Ben Hagai in Tel Aviv. Back when peace did not seem such an impossibility, it was fashionable to cast the Middle East conflict as a family feud. Jews and Arabs were held to be if not brothers then long-lost cousins – the descendants, of Isaac and Ishmael, perhaps, or of Jacob and Esau – who would one day end their estrangement in an embrace. After the collapse of the Oslo peace process, a second intifada and a lethal military offensive in Gaza, you don’t hear that kind of talk so much these days.

Yet for at least one family that fanciful, even romantic, notion is a long-buried and painful reality. A new film, receiving its UK debut next week at the UK Jewish film festival, tells the true and astonishing story of a single family divided both by the kind of heartbreak that can split any family anywhere and by what is commonly regarded as the world’s most bitter and intractable conflict.

Blood Relation comes from Noa Ben-Hagai, a young Israeli documentary maker, who four years ago made a jaw-dropping discovery – a stash of letters and photographs hidden away by her late grandmother. They revealed what no one had ever told Noa: her grandmother had had a sister, Pnina, who, in circumstances hazy with mystery, had ended up “living as an Arab” in a Palestinian refugee camp in the city of Nablus. Pnina was a Jew but her husband was a Palestinian Arab, as were her eight children and their children. Noa suddenly discovered not only a great-aunt she had never heard of but also a large extended family on the other side of the national divide – among the enemy.

“It was hidden behind a high wall of silence,” Noa says, recalling the determination with which her grandmother Rachel – who died when Noa was 15 – had kept her sister a secret. Rachel had held on to the “letters of abandonment” her sister Pnina had written to her, but she had rarely replied.

The film seeks to uncover what happened to Pnina, how a Jewish girl ended up removed from her brothers and sisters, on the other side of the Israeli-Palestinian battle-line. It also lays bare what happens when the two sides of this torn family encounter each other today, revealing the guilt, resentment and stubborn sense of kinship that has not faded in 70 years.

Both these stories, past and present, are compelling as family dramas, the kind of tales packed with secrets and lies that lurk in so many families. But they also serve as a poignant parable for the wider Middle East conflict, highlighting the many ways in which, after all, the war of Arabs and Israelis resembles a family affair.

In seeking to get to the bottom of Pnina’s fate, Noa discovers what anyone digging deep into their family history soon learns: myths abound. Truths are handed down that are not truths, exaggerations harden into legends. So Noa’s Israeli relatives tell her that in 1940, Pnina, then 14, was kidnapped, perhaps while hitching a ride away from the family homestead in the poor Galilee farming village of Yavniel. She was snatched, they say, by an Arab man who promptly took her to his home in Jaffa. She was not heard from again for nearly 27 years. During the 1948 war that attended Israel’s birth, the Arabs of Jaffa – now including the Jewish-born Pnina – had fled to the West Bank, where they lived, following the 1967 war, under Israeli occupation. Why did she never come back to Israel? They asked her to, but she refused.

That’s the version told by the Israeli relatives, including an elderly sister who admits Pnina “never said [a man] kidnapped her – but we know he did”.

From Pnina’s daughters, Noa hears a different story. The way they heard it, Pnina was raised in a rich Jewish family with an Arab maid. The young Pnina would watch the pious Muslim girl saying her prayers, and was one day so moved she asked if they could pray together. Later, the maid’s father gave Pnina a lift back to their village, where she completed her spiritual journey by converting to Islam. Why did she never go back to Israel? Because her previous family refused to take her back.

The gulf between the two accounts will be recognised by anyone familiar with ancient but bitter family rows, in which the two warring sides can’t even agree on the basic facts. It also echoes the so-called war of narratives, in which Israelis and Palestinians have radically different perspectives on the past that preceded their present dispute. In this, the two sides of Noa’s unique family – with their incompatible versions of history – are utterly true to their national roles.

Eventually, through doggedly tracking down anyone with memories from the small village where Rachel and Pnina were raised, Noa assembled an account she could hold on to. She agrees that the year of her great-aunt’s departure was 1940 and that it happened when – in a widely forgotten episode – Mussolini’s fighter planes strafed the northern city of Haifa in what was then Palestine. But “I don’t believe Arabs kidnapped her, nor that she fell in love,” says Noa.

She thinks the heart of the matter was scandal: Pnina was pregnant. Noa interviewed an elderly villager who brutally declares that the teenage girl was notoriously loose. No beauty, she would do it “for candy”, he says – “Anyone could have her.”

Unable to deal with the shame, her family recoiled until Pnina ran away. She was taken in by an Arab man who, says Noa, “rescued her … accepted her”, despite the fact she was carrying another man’s child. To her family, the fact she had gone with an Arab compounded the disgrace; after that, they shunned her.

Pnina lived in fear of her father, afraid he would kill her for the double shame she had inflicted on the family. When her sister later told her to come home – to what was now Israel – Pnina refused, knowing that Arab tradition would oblige her to leave her children behind. Rachel warned her then that if she didn’t come, all ties would be severed: she would be dead to them. So began the long silence broken only by Pnina’s letters, ever more plaintive pleas to her siblings to visit her in the refugee camp, not to forget her – texts aching with longing and melancholy that continued to arrive until Pnina’s death in 1971. “Every day I ask, when will you come? I miss you every day. You are my family.”

Noa’s research took her to the West Bank, to meet Pnina’s children and grandchildren. Most did not want to talk, anxious that any contact with an Israeli – let alone an admission of Jewish ancestry – would raise suspicions of collaboration among their fellow Palestinians. The only one of Pnina’s eight children who agreed to speak to her was Salma, a middle-aged woman who had reached rock bottom: “She had no money, she had no work, she needed money for food – she had nothing to lose.” With a husband and sons in and out of Israeli custody, usually for trying to work in Israel without a permit, Salma reckoned that contact with an Israeli might prove helpful – especially as Noa’s uncle, Shmulik, is a former military governor of Ramallah, in charge for a time of military intelligence on the West Bank. Salma was keen to make contact, sensing that her Israeli cousins might be a lifeline.

The Israelis are not so sure. Noa’s camera records her mother, uncles and others debating the wisdom of the family reunion Noa is planning. “What will we gain from this, except helping them out?” asks Shmulik’s wife, Sarah. Great-uncle David is worried that, if they help Salma, 10 more Palestinian relatives will pop up demanding similar assistance: “That’s our problem with the refugees. They left with two or three children, now they’re clans!” In that sentence he speaks for those many Israelis who believe that, while the estimated 700,000 refugees of 1948 might be eligible for some kind of restitution, it’s too much to compensate the many millions who now make up the Palestinian nation.

The encounter in the film is tense, confusing and touching all at the same time. Simultaneously you’re watching a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian strangers – always awkward – and the reuniting of a family. You ask yourself a basic but profound question: are these people – so divided that on one side stands a retired Israeli military governor and on the other young Palestinian men who include some linked to terrorist organisations – a family or not? “If you look closely,” says Noa, “you can see they are the same. They look the same, they speak the same language.” And yet they are worlds apart.

The key tension arises between Salma and Shmulik. She needs his money and believes that, as they share the same blood, he should give it. He is torn: one moment he loudly resents her demands, the next he is phoning old contacts and paying bail in order to get Salma’s husband out of jail.

Partly this is an age-old family story: the rich man who believes his poor relations are sponging off him, the poor relative who resents her cousin’s wealth, the guilt and obligations that come with blood ties. But there is also an echo of the wider story, starting with the perennial Israeli fear that, if you grant one concession, the Palestinians will come back wanting more.

One of the most powerful moments in Noa’s journey came when she gathered her Israeli relatives together to debate what they should do about their newly discovered cousins. “Are we ready to accept them as our family?” someone asked. The debate reached a kind of climax when an uncle stated plainly, as if making a confession: “I have a cousin called Salma.” At issue here is the question that may well be at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute: recognition.

Noa found that her sessions with Salma and another daughter of Pnina’s became especially intense because the two women seized on the film-maker as a connection with, and a reminder of, their late mother. “All they want is to be accepted by the family. They got it from her, this longingness: they want to be accepted by us as equal human beings.” What they want is recognition.

The story of Pnina, Salma, Shmulik and Noa provides countless such insights into the conflict in which they are all tangled up. We see that fear lives even among the strong: when Shmulik visits Salma at her home, driving alone in the West Bank, he calls for directions, admitting he’s scared. As governor of Ramallah, he made no contact with his cousins, fearing that if his military superiors knew there were Arabs in his family, his career prospects would be harmed.

We see, too, the strange connections that tie these enemies close together. Fascinatingly, Pnina’s family were not Jewish immigrants to Palestine caught up in the early waves of Zionist settlement: they had roots in the country going back generations. They came originally from Tiberias, a mixed city of Jews and Arabs, speaking Arabic at home. Precisely described, they were Palestinian Jews. Yet far from that engendering a sense of kinship or solidarity with the Palestinian Arabs, it has, Noa believes, produced the opposite sentiment. Arabs, one interviewee told her, were associated with “poverty, neglect, primitiveness”. Noa’s grandmother, the rest of her siblings and her children were keen to see themselves as modern Israelis, not to be reminded of their proximity to the Palestinian “natives”. Pnina’s marriage to an Arab – in contrast with Noa’s mother and her uncle Shmulik, who both married Ashkenazi, or European Jewish, partners – seemed an unforgivable step backward. “Our family was once like the Arabs of Israel,” says Noa. “But all this time they ran away from this legacy.” When they see Salma and her children, “it’s like looking in the mirror; it’s very frightening”.

By the end of Blood Relation, there is no emotional breakthrough, no sudden comprehension of all these complex feelings. Shmulik struggles to relate to his Palestinian cousins in anything but the old way he learned during military service: he speaks to Salma in a kind of interrogator’s Arabic. At one point, he suggests that a possible solution to Salma’s economic woes would be for him to hire her as his cook and cleaner. When Noa says a real family relationship is impossible because of the occupation, Shmulik is indignant: “What’s the occupation got to do with it?”

Noa’s investigation has provided no catharsis: her family accuses her of opening a sore better left untouched. And she has not brought the Middle East conflict to a symbolic end with a Jacob-and-Esau-style embrace of long-lost brothers. Instead, she has revealed feelings that run through so many families, even those not rendered extraordinary by a long-running war. Pnina’s yearning is exquisite and explicit in those repeated letters. But her younger, Israeli brother, David, outwardly so tough, expresses similar pain when he recalls the first time he saw Pnina in Nablus: “I found a sister who was a complete stranger to me.”

Blood Relation is on at the Everyman Hampstead cinema as part of the UK Jewish film festival on 14 November. See


5.November 8, 2010

[translation, forwarded by Ofer]

***** Nabi-Saleh : Israeli Army Invades Homes of Protest Organzers *****

IDF soldiers raided the home of two brothers during the night, with a warrant containing a warning against their participation in the weekly protest of villagers against land confiscation.

Nabi Saleh, a village located north of Ramallah, bordering on an Israeli military post on the north and the settlement of Halamish on the south, is one of four villages whose inhabitants have participated in regular protest against land confiscation, every Friday afternoon, after prayer.

Last Thursday, late at night, local sources reported that Israeli soldiers had entered the homes of Bassem and Mahmoud A-Tmimi, members of the local organizing committee.

The two were told that the village had been declared a closed military zone, and any protest would be quelled.

Demonstrators who have marched from the centre of the village of Nabi Saleh towards its outskirts have been shot with tear gas, rubber bullets and even live ammunition, during IDF attempts to disperse the crowd.  Soldiers call the protests “illegal rioting”, to justify the use of demonstration dispersion mechanisms.

A spokeswoman for the army said she was unable to confirm that homes in the village had been raided, but said she was aware of the “routine nature” of conducting military patrols in the area during the night.

Inhabitants of Nabi Saleh say that nocturnal raids by the Israeli army have become more frequent and forceful in recent months, including arbitrary arrests of locals known to be protest participants.

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