Disappearing Palestine: From Dunkin Donuts To Fulbrights

As the Bushites push Israel and Palestine into a peace treaty that would secure an official Palestinian state, we wonder how much of this is just for show (or some last ditch effort to salvage Dubya’s name in history books). Does the U.S.-Israel alliance really want to build a future for Palestine? Two events this week suggest otherwise.

In a highly-publicized move, Dunkin Donuts pulled an internet ad with celebrity chef Rachel Ray after ultra-right-winger Michelle Malkin criticized the scarf Ray was wearing. Malkin described it as a keffiyeh, which “for the clueless, is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad.” Malkin’s statement was a prime case of racial stereotyping, aka self-imposed ignorance. The shocker: Dunkin Donuts actually bowed to the racism and cancelled the ad. (This move is fueling other acts of self-censorship.)

Today, another important story hit the NYTimes: U.S. Withdraws Fulbright Grants to Gaza. This is an outrage:

The American State Department has withdrawn all Fulbright grants to Palestinian students in Gaza hoping to pursue advanced degrees at American institutions this fall because Israel has not granted them permission to leave.

Israel has isolated this coastal strip, which is run by the militant group Hamas. Given that policy, the United States Consulate in Jerusalem said the grant money had been “redirected” to students elsewhere out of concern that it would go to waste if the Palestinian students were forced to remain in Gaza.

These events frame a grim picture. While the Israeli occupation builds walls, settlements, and checkpoints to contain and isolate Palestinians, we are also witnessing the gradual elimination of Palestinian culture and its intellectual resources. In short, its past AND its future.

These reminded me of an important work by artist Emily Jacir. In 2001, she exhibited “Memorial to 418 Palestinian Villages That Were Destroyed, Depopulated and Occupied by Israel in 1948″. The piece was a large burlap refugee tent. Onto its sides and roof, she penciled the names of 418 Palestinian villages that have disappeared. Then with the help of over 140 volunteers (many were Palestinians from these very villages or Israelis who had grown up on their remains), Jacir slowly stitched the names onto the tent as a collective act of remembrance.

jacirtent

It’s important to Jacir that people ask why they don’t recognize the villages’ names. “They have been erased from official Israeli history, a history that, in its expulsion of the Palestinians, repeats the act of dispossession”. The act of writing, stitching, and giving the piece the title, “Memorial to 418 Palestinian Villages That Were Destroyed, Depopulated and Occupied by Israel in 1948” reclaims the lost territory and deleted history.

60 years have passed. And the genocide continues.

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