From Diyarbikkir to Lalish: Walking in the Footsteps of Genocide

“That evening, I found myself exhausted both physically and mentally. But there was one place I still had to visit, an old pedestrian bridge that I describe in my novel.  I thought I would spend some quiet time there, but a wedding was being celebrated on the bridge’s top. The ten- arched bridge, “On Guzlu Copry,” was built by the bishop of Diyarbakkir, Yohanna Z’oro, late in the 4th century, so his parish could cross to the other bank of the Tigris and access the Church of 40 Martyrs. I found to my surprise — and dismay — that a plaque placed on the side of the bridge when it was renovated in 2010 claimed it as the first “Islamic” bridge in Anatolia!”

…learn, learn, learn…

Arabic Literature (in English)

Iraqi novelist Layla Qasrany traveled to Turkey to commemorate the Armenian genocide and visit sites that had appeared in her most recent novel. A side-trip into northern Iraq, where she visited a Yazidi shrine, brought depressing and hopeful news of ISIS:

By Layla Qasrany

Diyarbakir, Turkey

Diarbakýr, Turkey Diarbakýr, Turkey

We say in Arabic that there are five benefits to travel. No one seems to know just what these are, but I derived many benefits from a trip I took recently. The journey began with my arrival in southern Turkey to attend the commemoration of the centennial of the Armenian genocide, in which we paid tribute to the million-plus souls deported from Diyarbakkir who consequently died in the desert of Syria.  One benefit was that I got to walk in the path of the caravan I depicted in my latest Arabic novel.

The first thing I did on the 23rd of April was…

View original post 1,316 more words

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Israeli Occupation and The growing mistakes of the Seventh Day.

“Tragically the majority of Israeli citizens knowingly live in complete denial and deliberate ignorance of what is done in their names on the other side of the Green Line. An Israeli society that became desensitized towards the Palestinians, became also insensitive to injustices within its own society, allowing racism, poverty and violence to spread. Undeniably, there is a direct correlation to the Israeli behavior in the occupied territories and the deterioration of values within the Israeli society.

(…) David Ben Gurion, a founding father and the first Israeli prime minister, warned immediately after the end of the Six Day War, against the euphoria that engulfed the Israelis. At that point he was no longer in a position of power and was not known for his dovish opinions. Yet, he forewarned the Israelis that this famous military victory would become destructive for the Jewish state unless it returned the land captured during the war. Not many took notice of these words of wisdom. Consequently, despite continued prosperity and development, the curse of the military victory of 1967 is haunting the country, eroding it from within, and also strains relations with its closest allies around the world to a breaking point.”

Via

Six days that changed Israel forever – Al Arabiya News.

sixdaywartshirt

The ‘seventh day’: ” I knew that peace could not come from the defeat and humiliation of the Arabs.”

The ‘seventh day’: Censored voices from the 1967 war

Powerful new documentary recounts what happened on the day after the Six-Day War.

By  Jun. 7, 2015 | 10:21 AM
An Israeli soldier stands guard over Egyptian prisoners in El Arish, Sinai, during the Six-Day War

An Israeli soldier stands guard over Egyptian prisoners in El Arish, Sinai, during the Six-Day War in June 1967.Photo by Shabtai Tal / GPO

It was an early summer’s night. A group of men had gathered in a room inside Kibbutz Geva. Outside, the Jezreel Valley was quiet. The men sat indoors, confused and hesitant. Only 10 days had passed since the end of the Six-Day War they had fought in, and the impact of what they had witnessed had refused to leave them. It actually provided the impetus for their gathering. When the initial excitement died down, a young literature teacher who would become one of Israel’s leading authors opened the discussion.

“A few guys had an idea of putting together an unconventional book that would try to provide an authentic record of what people returning from war feel,” this guest from Kibbutz Hulda, Amos Oz, said. It was an introduction he would repeat dozens of times over the next few months. “Generally, this booklet will try and explain what we’ve all encountered – namely, that people returned from the battlefield without any [sense of] joy.”

Oz’s words can be heard in the documentary “Censored Voices,” directed by Mor Loushy. It has been playing since Thursday in cinemas and will be aired this summer on Yes TV’s Docu channel, which helped finance the production.

What lends this documentary its unsettling effect for Israeli viewers, particularly ones from a certain generation, is that it acts as a reality-changing time capsule, one that no one has disturbed for 48 years since the original audio recordings were made. This selection of testimonies has a power that can shatter truths at the very heart of the State of Israel.

Israeli soldiers with Egyptian captives in Sinai. June, 1967. Israel film service

The original “Siach Lochamim” (“The Seventh Day”) was a collection of testimonies compiled by Avraham Shapira, a historian and editor who had been a pupil of Martin Buber and Gershom Shalom. Assisting in the compilation were Amos Oz, David Alon, Amram Hayisraeli, Yariv Ben-Aharon, Abba Kovner and others, all of them kibbutz members from across the country. As Oz explained, it was born out of the sense of oppressiveness with which so many of them had returned, which stood in such stark contrast to the sense of elation felt by most of the public. “There was a tense emotional polarity across the whole country,” Shapira remembers in the documentary.

A few days after the war ended, Shapira and Oz were summoned to the Kibbutz Movement’s headquarters in Tel Aviv. The purpose of the meeting was to produce a commemorative booklet in honor of fallen soldiers. A few days later, Oz told Shapira he was going to meet some friends in Geva. This tentative meeting was the first in a series of meetings and unplanned nightly discussions, without any schedule, timetable or agenda. As the conversations unfolded, initial hesitation was replaced by gut-wrenching confessions about war and its costs, about the corrupting effects of violence, and about what happened to Israel after what started out as an act of self-defense. Some 200 hours were recorded, but when the editors got ready to publish the recorded material, the censors stepped in. Seventy percent of the material submitted to them was stored in the archives, so as not to tarnish Israel’s image.

Softened version

Three months after the war ended, the collection of conversations was published. “The Seventh Day” was a 286-page book, comprised mainly of reflections and soul-searching by agonized young men encountering violence and death; testimonies of harsh confrontations with enemy soldiers and civilians; and comments that would be considered heresy nowadays. These included questioning whether the conquest of [East] Jerusalem was really necessary, and whether, in exchange for peace, it [East Jerusalem] should be returned to Jordan. There were no testimonies describing war crimes.

IDF soldiers in Sinai. June 7, 1967. Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Even though this was a softened version, it turned out to be sufficient to make waves. In the sea of victory albums and tales of heroism – and in total contrast to its antithesis, the best-selling book “The Tanks of Tammuz,” by Shabtai Teveth – “The Seventh Day” became a sensation. The book’s print run was 150,000, and it was translated into English, Spanish, Swedish, German, French, Arabic and Yiddish.

When it was first published in October 1967, it was intended only as an internal booklet for kibbutz members. But reports of it and quotations from it led to its dissemination among the general public.

The book was received in two ways. Its supporters viewed its antiwar character and universal sensitivities to the horrors of war as decisive proof of moral superiority. Discussion about the burden of fighting, recoiling from violence and the oppression of victory – all were perceived as yet another justification for being victorious. However, most people saw it as something completely different. Among all the victory albums, the adoration of the military, of holy places and of liberated swaths of land, this book was perceived as a defiant downer. Some people considered the censored and lean testimonies to be sanctimonious, or miserable wailing. The book even got the derogatory moniker “Shooting and Crying,” while some people described it as an apology for winning the war. The subversive, competing narrative of the book was ridiculed, and the winners were also victorious in the underlying battle over national memory and the country’s history books.

Over the decades, the book slowly receded from memory, along with its voices – both the ones heard and the ones censored. Some tapes were kept by Shapira, but most were deposited in Yad Tabenkin, the Kibbutz Movement’s research and documentation center. Even though prominent journalists and media figures urged him to release his audio tapes over the years, Shapira refused to do so.

After finishing her studies at the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem, Loushy returned to Tel Aviv and did a degree in history and literature. She took a history course and came across “The Seventh Day,” which she hadn’t been aware of. “I read it and my stomach turned,” she relates. “I couldn’t understand how I hadn’t heard about it until then, this book that came out three months after the war, with its strong antiwar message. I told myself we had all grown up with one clear narrative, and only [Prof.] Yeshayahu Leibowitz was known to have had other opinion. But here were conversations with 400 soldiers, all of them talking against wars – that did something to me. I was angry that this book didn’t even exist for my generation.”

Mor Loushy, director of “Censored Voices” film about Six-Day War. Tomer Appelbaum

At first, Shapira ignored Loushy’s requests – until she ambushed him at a conference where he was speaking. After that, they met at his kibbutz. “From the first meeting,” she recalls, “I felt both of us understood that we were now at a point in time where these things should come out. I told him these issues were relevant to us, to our society, and that we should look at our past with open and realistic eyes. Also, that this moral discourse must be publicized again. He understood.”

Loushy, 33, lives with her production partner, Daniel Sivan (he also edited the film). This is her second film, after “Israel Ltd.,” which followed young Jewish people on their trips to Israel financed by the Jewish Agency. She has already started work on her next film, “The Oslo Diaries.” It will deal with the secret channel of talks between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s, viewed through the private diaries of diplomats and other central figures.

The long hours involved in making “Censored Voices” began in Loushy and Sivan’s apartment. She listened to and transcribed 200 hours of recordings. She admits to being greatly affected by the conversations and getting sucked in, as if she were reliving that period herself.

“It’s usually people looking back at their experiences as they remember them today, many years later. I had a document that captured authentic testimonies immediately after the [Six-Day] War,” she says. “The way they analyze their experience is sincere and true. This was a pre-media era; they didn’t know how it would turn out and they talked freely, uncompromisingly and unapologetically.”

This impacted the way she constructed “Censored Voices.” It doesn’t deal with “The Seventh Day” itself, and there are no talking heads, intellectual analyses, historians or experts. Instead, there are recordings from the original audio tapes, accompanied by archival photos or, in some cases, the faces of the speakers listening to themselves, nearly 50 years on. The confusion and enthusiasm are replaced by grave, mature faces, sporting shocked expressions.

Rafael Eitan (right) in Rafah. June, 1967. Michal Han, GPO.

The Holocaust question

It’s impossible not to reflect on this moral discourse. There seems to be a clear line stretching between the shock felt by the soldiers of 1967, testifying about war crimes that they or others committed, and Israel in 2015, including its social and political situation. The movie serves as a clear invitation to renew the debate about moral issues. That’s why it seems that, just like the original book, the new documentary also faces being rebuffed.

Earlier this week, in an interview to radio’s Channel 7, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan announced his intention to censor the documentary. Even though he hadn’t seen it, he called the movie “part of a trend aimed at discrediting Israel.”

It’s reasonable to assume that criticism will soon be brought against the testimonies that link some of Israel’s wartime actions with the Holocaust. “There is no comparison between war crimes and the Holocaust in this movie,” says Loushy. “The Holocaust is mentioned twice: once by Menahem Shalem, who was a child refugee himself. He, as a soldier, looks at refugees and remembers his experiences as a child. Another instance was very similar – these are very personal testimonies.

“The Holocaust was the dominant backdrop to the recordings in 1967,” she continues. “This was 20 years after it happened, a short time [six years] after the Eichmann trial, and questions of whether we were similar to them [Nazis] featured very prominently. We treated it with kid gloves. Not everything should be viewed through a prism of propaganda, or of Israel haters. We need to have the courage to contend with our own morality during wars. It’s in our interest as a society to review the past and face our demons.”

No place for humans

“I’ll tell you something I didn’t say in that book,” says Oz in the film. (During the war, he was a reservist in an information-dispensing unit.) “At 8 A.M. on June 5, as the fighting began, I stood among the tanks of Maj. Gen. [Israel “Talik”] Tal’s division opposite Rafah, and at 8:30 A.M. they moved in, with us behind them. For the first time, I saw a dead body along the road side. An Egyptian soldier lay on his back with outstretched arms and legs, his head on the ground with his eyes open. I looked at him and said to myself, ‘I’ll never be able to drink or eat again in my entire life.’ Six or seven hours later, I was standing in Sheikh Zuweid, surrounded by Egyptian casualties. I drank water from my canteen and listened to music on my transistor radio between news reports. The transformation I went through within seven hours was hard to comprehend.”

Amos Oz, from “Censored Voices” film about Six-Day War. Avner Shahaf.

Loushy asks Oz how he views the modern Israeli reality in relation to “The Seventh Day.” “I see more apathy in today’s society, more lack of sensitivity. What happens in the territories sometimes crosses a red line, constituting a war crime, but it’s [viewed as happening] there and not here. There is some mechanism of repression and disengagement at play. Many people don’t read news items relating to the occupation when they come across them. Thus, the media doesn’t adequately cover what happens there. Every day, every hour, Palestinians suffer humiliation, harassment at checkpoints, in their villages – the settlers’ sewage flows downhill into Arab villages.”

Did you already sense the consequences of the war back in 1967?

“Already during the fighting in Sinai, I felt that this victory was sowing seeds of deep hatred toward Israel. I thought we were justified in conducting that war, that we were acting in self-defense. I felt it was a just war, otherwise I would have refused to serve. I knew we were at the beginning of a long and difficult road of a bloody war with the entire Arab and Muslim world. I knew that peace could not come from the defeat and humiliation of the Arabs.”

Reflecting on the atmosphere in Israel after the 1967 war, Oz says, “The sense of relief was understandable, and I shared it. We thought we were facing annihilation. We were still under the shadow of the 1948 War of Independence, and many of us remembered living through it as children. We remembered siege, hunger, shelling, living in shelters, numerous casualties, terrible losses, prolonged suffering. No one thought this war would be so short. People were shocked when it ended after six days. It’s no wonder that a whole nation became euphoric – especially one that for thousands of years experienced force only as inflicted on its whipped backs. It’s probably natural that a people such as this gets a bit drunk with its physical prowess. But my friends and I saw the other side of the coin as well.

“I remember the sensation and I remember that a Holocaust hovered above us twice. Once was during the waiting period before the war, when many people feared annihilation – since the Arabs were more numerous and powerful, equipped with modern Soviet weapons. They had the initiative and felt cocky. The prevailing feeling was they would come and exterminate us, just like in the Holocaust. The second time was when we saw the convoys of refugees, those who fled. Just as Menahem Shalem said in the recording you just played, as a former child refugee he saw himself in a Palestinian child carried in his parents’ arms, fleeing from an abandoned village into exile. I strenuously object to such comparisons. I always believed in different degrees of evil. Anyone who cannot rank different degrees of evil may end up a servant of evil.”

What did you feel when the collection of stories was distributed across the country?

“I remember feeling a bit alarmed when I saw the completed book. I thought to myself, What have we done? Maybe we are party spoilers, putting a wet blanket over the national celebration? I knew that many people would be angry with us, that the book would be attacked. But I felt at one with myself, that it was good we had spoken out. I never thought it would become a best-seller. I thought it would be read mainly in kibbutzim.”

In retrospect, are you pleased with that heritage?

“Yes, I’m pleased with it, pleased that this voice was preserved. I’m sorry it is no longer heard at this time.”

via

The ‘seventh day’: Censored voices from the 1967 war – Diplomacy and Defense – – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

Once again, I copied/pasted a Haaretz article… for you to read, if you don’t have premium access.

I know that it’s not exactly legal nor nicely presented, but still, as usual… it’s a worthy read, and the message must be spread.

I must find that docu. Yes, I must. 

Enjoy!

Listen Israel! … May 15th is also Nakba day!

The more Israel represses the Nakba, the stronger the memories

By Gideon Levy | May 14, 2015 | 2:15 AM

How nice it would be if Israel would allow its minority citizens to commune with their misfortune and at least respect their pain.

The State of Israel should be bowing its head tomorrow. It should be bowing its head out of solidarity and empathy for the pain of a fifth of its citizens and to take responsibility for their tragedy; to bow its head in apology for what happened.

Tomorrow, May 15 – the date of the declaration of the State of Israel – is Nakba Day, the anniversary of the Palestinian people’s catastrophe; a day to commemorate its fallen, its lost villages and land. One needn’t be a Palestinian to identify with their pain; you can be an Israeli Jew, or even a Zionist, and respect those for whom your Independence Day marks their tragedy. Nor is there any need to accept the Palestinian historical narrative in order to recognize that the native people suffered a terrible calamity.

One can respect the other’s pain, about which there is no historical doubt, and, if we want to be honest and brave, one can also ask if the State of Israel has ever atoned for what it did, whether deliberately or accidentally, with forethought or lacking choice, in 1948. Has it ever abandoned the policy that caused the Nakba? Isn’t it the same policy of dispossession, occupation, oppression, destruction, and expulsion that continues to this day, 67 years after 1948, and 48 years after 1967?

Nakba Day ought to be a national commemoration, even if it involves a minority, the same way Mimouna, the Saharna, and Sigd (an official holiday by law) are marked, even though they are the traditions of minority groups. There should be sirens and memorial services in the state’s Arab communities and special television broadcasts for everyone.

Of course this sounds delirious, during a tour that foreign ambassadors took of Army Radio this week, a western diplomat asked in all innocence if the popular station broadcasts Arabic music. Her hosts thought she was rather out of it. Anyone who even thinks that the State of Israel should be marking Nakba Day is also out of it; worse, he’s a traitor.

But the truth is that there is no greater proof of Israel’s insecurity about the justness of its cause than the battle waged to forbid marking the Nakba. A people confident in its path would respect the feelings of the minority, and not try to trample on its heritage and memories. A people that knows something terrible is burning under its feet sees every reference to what happened as an existential threat.

Israel started to battle the Nakba immediately after it occurred; it did not allow the refugees to return to their homes and lands and confiscated their abandoned property. It destroyed nearly all of their 418 villages out of foresight, covered them with trees planted by the Jewish National Fund and prevented any mention of their existence.

The primitive concept was that one could erase the memory of a people with trees and suppress its pain and consciousness with laws and force. This country of monuments forbade any monument to their tragedy. This country of commemoration days and wallowing in grief forbade them to mourn. Every Arab carrying a rusty key is considered an enemy; any sign marking a destroyed village is an abomination.

Not only is there no justice in this, there’s no benefit in it, either. The more Israel tries to repress the memory, the stronger it gets. The Soviet Union tried to do this to its Jews and other minorities and failed. The third and fourth generations after the Nakba remember and are bolder than their elders. Forbidden summer camps have been held on the ruins of some of the villages; there is no great-grandchild that doesn’t know where his ancestors lived. A concealed wound will never scab.

How nice it would be if Israel took some token steps. How nice it would be if an Israeli Willy Brandt would get on bended knee, take responsibility and ask for forgiveness, and if the country would be covered with commemorative signs for what was and is no more. How nice it would be if Israel would allow its minority citizens to commune tomorrow with their misfortune – one of history’s largest, ongoing national tragedies – and at least respect their pain.

via

The more Israel represses the Nakba, the stronger the memories– Opinion – Israel News | Haaretz.

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“Everywhere you see houses and churches on fire”

The year is 2015. It has now been exactly 100 years since the genocide took place. The perpetrators and most of the victims are gone. The Turks and Kurds of today are not the ones guilty of genocide but a process of reconciliation has not occurred.

Some Kurdish leaders and organizations have recognized Kurdish clans’ involvement in the massacre but from the Turkish side there is only silence. It hurts in your heart. But not only the cruel massacres and the holocaust on the Christians; not only did you see your entire family and your relatives killed, thousands of villages being emptied of its indigenous people and your entire history annihilated, but today they say that it never happened. It hurts within you. You can still feel the smell. The process of extermination against you is continued today, 100 years later.

Far from all Turks and Kurds were responsible for the massacre. There are examples of Turkish, Kurdish and Arab families who adopted children or protected persecuted, to save them from a sure death. There are documented cases where governors refused to follow government orders of the massacres. There are also examples of Kurds who protected Christian villages against other Kurds.

The night of April 24, 1915, the first phase of the genocide began when 250 Armenian doctors, lawyers, politicians, government officials, teachers, writers, poets and other intellectuals who could become the core of a future resistance, were arrested overnight and executed within 72 hours. Therefore April 24 is counted as the start of the genocide.

The genocide that destroyed over two million Christians and that emptied the Syriac village of Kerburan, twice. The night is still your friend. For the night is when you still hear your mother’s voice, calling your beautiful name.

The year is 2015, but a part of me died in 1915.

via

Reliving the Armenian genocide: “Everywhere you see houses and churches on fire” – Your Middle East.

cristo_crucifixion_genocidio_armenio

Armenian women crucified by Kurdish clans in Deir-El-Zor, 1915… but at least they have acknowledged their role in the hell experienced by Armenians 100 years ago. 

Yazidi means “I was created”

Who are the Ezidis?

Many Kurds know the Ezidis as refugees, IDPs, even as devil worshippers – though mostly through biased media reports. Kawa wants to learn the truth about the people’s religion and daily life. In this ZLR episode Kawa goes to a Ezidi community in Lalesh, the main Yazidi temple complex in the KR. He meets a young man called Zaid, who shows Kawa various aspects of Ezidi life; from how they eat, to prayer in their temple, to who is protecting them from IS. Zaid and his family were on Mount Sinjar and along with others subjected to much horror and deprivation.

via

Who are the Ezidis? – Middle East Alliance.

2500576_2012_198

Never stop learning, people… never. 

Ok… now this could be a respected, respectful caliphate!

Muhammad never nominated a successor (caliph) nor specified a method for identifying one, hence Islam does not prescribe, nor does it need a caliphate. In addition, the caliphate often led to instability due to the absence of clear rules for the transfer of power, and contributed to the absolutists attitudes the region’s leaders traditionally have to power.

In addition, the prophet never established an “Islamic state”. In fact, his rule of Medina was incredibly secular. Moreover, Islam’s greatest successes were achieved by rulers who were largely secular, especially when compared to their times.

In fact, it could be argued that the only truly Islamic state, is a spiritual state, a state of mind.

Contrary to what Islamists tell us, secularism is the solution – but I don’t mind if you call it a “caliphate”.

In fact, if you build a caliphate like this, I can guarantee you, judging by the interest on Twitter, that you’ll be drawing immigrants from all over the Muslim world.

via

Memo To ISIS: A Successful Caliphate In Six Simple Steps – BuzzFeed News.

separation-of-mosque-and-state-e1404282756110

As usual, Mr. Diab nailed it again!

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Blue Abaya

I'm a Spaniard. My blood is purely Spaniard, hence, it is a perfect mix of the best drops from Iberians, Celts, Basques, Phoenitians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Jews, Berbers, Arabs, and other European immigrants... That's to be a pure Spaniard. I reached this conclusion when I met some Bedu from Saudi Arabia, back in 2005 I think. She used to praise her blood purity and her tribe lineage, making me think about my own roots... while opening a door inside me, right into the unknown life of Middle Eastern human beings. She helped me awake a pride for my own heritage, but never closing doors to others. This is why I am commonly called Tono by everyone, but here I can be again Youssef Antun Bin Antun Bin Youssef Ibn Untinyan, Al-Must'arib. Same as I decided to accept the challenge, now I offer the same chance to others... Marhaban! (مرحبا. ) And... one last thing: ALL THOSE ORANGE CHARACTERS IN THE POSTS ARE LINKS. Use them. Wisely.

Omaima Al Najjar

Saudi woman speaks out

Global Voices

I'm a Spaniard. My blood is purely Spaniard, hence, it is a perfect mix of the best drops from Iberians, Celts, Basques, Phoenitians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Jews, Berbers, Arabs, and other European immigrants... That's to be a pure Spaniard. I reached this conclusion when I met some Bedu from Saudi Arabia, back in 2005 I think. She used to praise her blood purity and her tribe lineage, making me think about my own roots... while opening a door inside me, right into the unknown life of Middle Eastern human beings. She helped me awake a pride for my own heritage, but never closing doors to others. This is why I am commonly called Tono by everyone, but here I can be again Youssef Antun Bin Antun Bin Youssef Ibn Untinyan, Al-Must'arib. Same as I decided to accept the challenge, now I offer the same chance to others... Marhaban! (مرحبا. ) And... one last thing: ALL THOSE ORANGE CHARACTERS IN THE POSTS ARE LINKS. Use them. Wisely.