Artists4Israel responds to Haaretz hatchet job

June 24, 2013

(Carl) I suppose it was just a question of time until Israel’s Hebrew ‘Palestinian’ daily noticed Artists4Israel. In the weekend edition, Haaretz attacked the group that has done so much for so many people here, because they paint in Judea and Samaria. While I cannot get to the article, because like everything else at Haaretz it’s behind a paywall (the only things I can get to there are Barak Ravid’s reports if I click on them from Twitter), you can get a flavor for it by reading Craig Dershowitz’s response. Full disclosure: Craig and his artists have been guests in our home a couple of times, and when one of our kids saw that I had their blog open, he immediately asked when the artists are coming back again.

At your own words (words you use twice in one sentence – high school writing 101 mistake), Artists 4 Israel is a “small organization”, yet, you spend a whole half a page above the fold decrying our work. Must have been a slow news day or, perhaps, there is something more here. After all, if you are going to give us so much press (PS, thanks for that), you should at least really make your accusations sting and not just ridicule our size. Yet, the best you do is describe us as “right-wing” (again, using that phrase twice – seriously, can we buy you a thesaurus – maybe the JNF will pay for it) yet your only proof of this political orientation is that we paint “Pro-Israel” messages. Your equation then is that “Pro-Israel” is synonymous with “right-wing”. We do not ascribe to a notion of right and left wing as such divisive politics is an invention of bigots like yourself who choose to separate and alienate. We choose to unite. We believe that beauty of art is pan-wing. However we do see your bias through this false equivalency. Yours is a sad belief which paints (pun intended) everything life affirming with the gloomy sepia of politrix (typo very much intended).

Spray-paint (I want to write “sic” here but I think it is more relevant to point out that you don’t even copy edit your own work. It is spray paint – two words, no hyphen) is a form of creation. It is creation, like the Third Temple might be. It is creation like our paintings in Judea, Samaria, Tel Aviv, Ariel, Shiloh, Arab villages across Israel, mixed schools and community centers. We have created art in child daycare centers, in refuges for battered women and homes for at-risk children. It is creation like the JNF’s planting of trees, building of parks, growing of flowers, green grass and a hopeful earth-driven future. It is the opposite of your attempts to destruct and to destroy. Grab a can of spray paint (hyphenate if you must) or a handful of seeds and earth and create something other than the fictions in your reporting. No one can hate life that much so, maybe there is something else going on here.

Your story’s lies go from the wishful (saying we come to Israel to paint every few months (if only!) to the mundane (there are no videos on our website) to the slanderous (painting on a “Palestinian’s” home never happened). The only truth in your fable comes from your uncredited appropriation of a JPR video. The JPR, unlike you, are serious, investigative journalists. Their story was timely (aka the “new” part of “news”), their reporters were on the ground, their sources were primary, their reporting comprehensive and multi-sided. You couldn’t even post the video that matched your description of it! That is not me speaking on the video. That is SKI, a member of the UR New York art collective, a New Yorker of Dominican descent and Catholic beliefs. Yet, you hinted at some sort of racist, evil religious Jewish plot in our painting of the Temple. That makes no sense. Maybe there is something more going on here.

SKI’s words are precious. He informs everyone (well, except for your editorial staff it seems) that he is there “spreading the word of peace through art”. Peace. Art. Creation. How dare you respond to such unbridled life affirming actions with destructive lies and hate?

SKI’s words are also prescient. Being in Israel to “see the reality – it is not what you read about.” According to your words, Haaretz is “the world’s leading English-language Website for real-time news and analysis of Israel and the Middle East” As such, it is the monolith of your bastardized reporting that is creating the misrepresentation of Israel that SKI had to venture into Hebron to expose.

And, SKI learned the truth well. While bricks and giant rocks were being hurled at him in an attempt to maim and kill an artist of the world by “Palestinians”, SKI was being treated to watermelon and lemonade by his new Israeli friends. When a group of stick weilding “Palestinian” youth tried to ambush SKI, he was saved by an IDF soldier. When SKI asked the soldier why he wore his helmet in the sweltering heat he was told because it was too unsafe for him to take it off. SKI learned, even in the heart of Hebron, a site of so much ridicule from your paper, that he loves Israel. “this place is amazing. It is this little gem.” And, he hadn’t even seen the Tel Aviv beach.

Read the whole thing.

I believe that the second picture in this post comes from the incident involving SKI in Hebron. It’s described here.


Artists4Israel paint Hebron

May 20, 2011

Residents of Hebron woke up Thursday to discover their city painted in bright colors. For the past two days 15 artists from the US and Europe have been hard at work painting large-scale graffiti art on bulletproof cement walls, homes, and IDF bases.
Craig Dershowitz, a Jewish resident of Manhattan and the president of Artists4Israel, told Ynet that most of the artists who worked with him on the project were not even Jewish. “We have no political message,” he said.
Danny Cohen, Chabad envoy to Hebron, met some of the group members by chance two years ago, when they painted over Sderot, and invited them to the city.

“They had no trouble with the fact that this is Hebron, because these guys have a goal – which I very much agree with – to take places that have a bad reputation, and are associated with fear and chaos, and insert a little color into them,” Cohen said.

The artists were confronted with violence just once, outside the city’s Kasbah, where Palestinian youths threw stones at them.
“I was sure the incident would put an end to this beautiful project, but this unpleasant occurrence only increased their motivation and the guys just continued to paint. They have this message, ‘Art and color will vanquish all stones’,” Cohen said.

I hope this group gets lots of funding. I would love to go.

Male-on-Female Atrocity in Gaza

April 2, 2011

Last month, at least eight Muslim Palestinian female journalists were physically beaten with clubs, iron chairs, and fists, stabbed, and tortured with electric shocks by male Hamas security forces in the Gaza strip.  Their cell phones, laptops, documents, and cameras were confiscated. They were also arrested. Some were forced to sign a document “pledging to refrain from covering such events again.”
The “events” were a series of pro-unity rallies organized by Palestinian youth on Facebook (!) which demanded an end to the dispute between Islamist Hamas and a presumably more moderate Fatah.
So much for the Arab “spring,” and the purposefully misguided Western (and these heroically naïve youthful demonstrators’) belief that the increasingly well organized Islamist Middle East will really rise up on behalf of human rights and women’s rights—without which there can be no democracy.
But this is not my main point.
The mainstream media did not cover this male-on-female atrocity in Gaza. In the English-speaking world, only a handful of journalists, including two Israelis, one writing in the Jerusalem Post, one writing at Big Peace, covered it. A few smaller newspapers in America and an English-language Egyptian paper did so as well.
To be fair, Reuters had an article which featured their own agency in Gaza having being attacked by “armed men.” Later on, we learn that these “armed men” were Hamas officials. And near the end of the piece, we also learn that Hamas also beat “photographers and camera men.” They do not mention female journalists, nor do they give us their names.
Slate also had an article about how Fatah is undermining Islamism on the West Bank. Parenthetically, later on, they mention that Hamas raided the offices of Reuters and destroyed equipment. They do not mention the attack on the Palestinian women journalists.
It did not happen, it is not important. The mainstream media does not really care about what happens to Arabs, Muslims, or Palestinians—not even when they are fellow or sister journalists, women, and feminists. The media only cares when and if Israelis are allegedly the perpetrators, the murderers, the checkpoint “humiliators.” Even when Israelis kill an armed Iranian-backed Palestinian member of Hamas in self-defense, even when Israelis accidentally, with no malice aforethought, kill a British journalist or an American “activist,” the Israelis are not only blamed—films, plays, and documentaries are made about the “martyred” American Rachel Corrie or the “martyred” British filmmaker James Miller or British “anti-war” activist Tom Hurndall. Countless demonstrations have been held. In Miller’s case the British government insisted on an investigation, and his family brought a civil lawsuit against an Israeli soldier.
The media was all over this even though an investigation strongly suggested that James Miller was killed by Palestinians “from the direction of the populated Rafah.” Although people know that Palestinians routinely hide behind civilian hostages, deliberately target Israeli civilians, especially children, create their own “martyrs” (the Muhammad al-Dura case as well as the Rachel Corrie case immediately come to mind)—nevertheless, the media refuses to hold Palestinians accountable and refuses to believe that the Israelis are innocent. The media knows full well that they will be killed or not allowed to “report” in Palestinian areas if they publish anything negative, anything true. By now, this habit is ingrained.
One of the recently beaten, tortured, and arrested Palestinian female journalists, Asma Al-Ghoul, is someone whom I first interviewed in 2009. Al-Ghoul is a secular feminist and a journalist who has written brave articles about honor killings on the West Bank and in Gaza. She asked me to edit and publish some of her work and I proudly did so. Al-Ghoul has been harassed and arrested by Hamas before. Why? Ostensibly because she dared to laugh, wear jeans on the beach, and entered the sea, fully clothed, to swim. These were her crimes—plus the fact that she was a single woman (divorced, actually), out in public, not wearing hijab, and relaxing on the beach with—unbelievably—male friends.
It took the left-wing Mother Jones about a year and half after my interviews to find Al-Ghoul. Guess what the journalist, Ashley Bates, immediately focuses upon? You guessed it. In her third paragraph she writes: “For three years, Israel has enforced a devastating blockade of the Gaza Strip aimed at isolating Hamas.” One might hope that she would leave well enough alone and focus on Al-Ghoul’s heroism and Hamas’ Islamist persecution of women. But not exactly. She sees Al-Ghoul as a heroine primarily because she has remained a “secularist,” and of all the things they may have talked about, Bates instead writes this:
Asma wrote her way through the trauma of the 2008-2009 war between Israel and Hamas militants, which claimed the lives of 13 Israelis and about 1,400 Gazans. Often, she slept at her office for fear of getting killed on the way to her home, a mere five-minute walk away.
“I felt as if Israeli military planes were blind,” Asma recalled. “They attacked everything and everybody. I saw dead children…As a woman and as a human being, I don’t believe in revenge, because it just brings more blood. But people said to me during the war, ‘You see? This is your peace.’”
While Asma has befriended liberal Jewish activists in Gaza, she has never entered Israel. In 2003 and again in 2006, the Israeli government denied her permission to travel through Israel to the West Bank, which is territorially separate from Gaza, to receive awards for her writing.
Yes, we know that Mother Jones is a left-wing magazine. But, in case we forget it—the reporter is careful to remind us that, despite Hamas’ Islamification, she is pro-Palestinian, not pro-Israeli. When I interviewed Al-Ghoul I was careful not to bring in Israeli-Palestinian politics.
What can one do? How can we be proactive, visual, informative, preemptive?
Earlier this week, Artists4Israel and members of the Birthright Israel Alumni Community just did something amazing in Washington Square Park in New York City’s Greenwich Village. They erected a bomb shelter and decorated it just as they’ve done in Sderot, Israel, a city which has absorbed thousands of Hamas rocket attacks in the last ten years, including many after Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. The graffiti artists and muralists spoke about Sderot and about Israel and talked about how people have only 15 seconds to find a bomb shelter after the “code red” siren goes off. They talked about how permanently traumatized the Israeli children are. Here is a video of this wonderful demonstration/performance art, and of the wonderful artists.
Sadly, Artists4Israel were unable to sound the siren every fifteen seconds (to simulate what life is actually like in Sderot and in southern Israel) for more than a half hour. Equally sadly, this brave band of artist-warriors were also forced to contend with an almost immediate, pro-forma counter-demonstration which shouted, yelled, insulted, and behaved in every way like the Arab Street at its bullying worst. The counter-demonstrators were not respectful, did not engage in dialogue, and did not listen to anything having to do with the suffering of innocent Israeli civilians at the hands of Hamas.
Perhaps they are all journalists or will become journalists when they graduate from college.

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Prof. Phyllis Chesler is the author of fifteen books, including Women and Madness (Doubleday, 1972), The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and most recently, The New Anti-Semitism. She is the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women’s Health Network.