Departing from the contradiction which mainstream narratives have assimilated into
normalised recurrences, Ahmed Sa’di’s excellent treatise commences with a reminder that Israel has extended the existence of colonialism far beyond its alleged demise. Surveillance methods, historically implemented to control populations of colonised territories, have been adopted by Israel to consolidate the desired demographic changes aimed, thus emphasising the exclusive nature of the Jewish state assembled upon the devastation of Palestine.
Thorough Surveillance: the genesis of Israeli policies of population management, surveillance and political control towards the Palestinian minority (Manchester University Press, 2014) analyses the methods of population control applied by Israel to Palestinians living in the settler-colonial state between 1948 and 1970. The tactics, denied by Israel, were incorporated into Zionist colonial expansionist plans prior to the atrocities of the Nakba in 1948. Reliance upon surveillance, therefore, was rooted within the colonial ideology that deconstructed the history of Palestinians as the indigenous population into a travesty of identity. Defining Palestinians became mired in complicity between Israel and the international community in order to assert the destabilisation of the people and embark upon categorisation with the aim of fragmenting the population to achieve coordinated surveillance. Read more
Moving away from the emphasis placed by the mainstream upon narrative when
discussing Palestinian and Israeli literature, Anna Bernard’s academic treatise, “Rhetorics of belonging: nation, narration and Israel/Palestine” (Liverpool University Press, 2013) provides rigorous insights into often overlooked experiences of nation and narration.
Identity construction of Palestinians and Israelis has been shaped externally by hegemonic interpretation that simplifies history within illusory categories that are not indicative of memory, affinity and experience. Drawing upon the works of authors whose works are available in English translation such as Edward Said, Mourid Barghouti, Amos Oz, Orly Castel-Bloom, Sahar Khalifeh and Anton Shammas, Bernard juxtaposes the authors’ diverse works and backgrounds in a manner which reverses the manipulative exposure urged by imperialism; also the distancing from reading and comprehending these texts within a post-colonial context. Read more
A shared heritage in art, as well as the influences, divergences and subsequent
absorption of identity are prevalent in the intense work displayed in “Modern and Contemporary Arab Art from the Levant: the Majida Mouasher Collection” (Schilt Publishing, 2017).
Mouasher, a Dutch citizen of Jordanian origin and director of the 4 Walls Art Gallery in Amman from 2000 to 2006, describes the collection depicted in this book as “dynamic”, exposing cultural roots within and beyond the diaspora of the showcased artists. It is the expression across cultures and the ties to heritage that make this collection both outstanding and inspiring. In Mouasher’s words, “The emotions, colours and warmth of that region, as well as the sense of belonging, emerge as prevalent common factors that bind them together and reflect their heritage.”
Various factors have contributed to the evolution of contemporary Arab art. In her overview, Princess Wijdan Al-Hashemi discusses the political, economic and military ties of the region with Western countries and the influence exerted over artistic expression which served as an alienating factor from traditional artistic roots.
The rupture, while enforcing some forms of dissociation, also allowed space for artists in the Levant to absorb and understand Western concepts of art “as novices without any background”, leading to phases of expression in which the local identity was at first marginalised and later reclaimed. Al-Hashemi explains that Western artistic influence contrasted with identity and politics, the latter “in confrontation with Western hegemony.” Arab artists experimented with various forms of art, including surrealism and abstract, while at times shunning any form of identification. This phase, however, was followed by cultural awakening and differentiation from Western art, with some artists once again finding expression in Islamic art and calligraphy. Read more
Against a modified backdrop of Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet”, altered to evoke
symbolism of the political differences between Hamas and Fatah, journalist Donald Macintyre notes the absence of reconciliation. The prologue to “Gaza – preparing for dawn” (OneWorld Publications, 2017) is deftly constructed to give the reader insights into the social, political, economic and humanitarian aspects of life in the besieged enclave.
From the early attempts at Zionist colonisation, to the present circumstances, Macintyre has woven historical information, political manipulation and the repercussions of Israeli violence against Palestinians into a fast-paced narrative. The timeline followed by the author allows the reader to place Israeli aggression within the political context, highlighting aspects which also portray international complacency when it comes to the colonial entity’s violations of international law. After the Nakba in 1948 and the 1967 war, the author states, settlement expansion “convinced many Palestinians that Israel felt no real pressure to end the occupation.” Read more