Deja vu all over again: Why Albert Camus’s 1944 “Critique of the New Press” is more pertinent than ever

In view of the rampant (if not universal; there are exceptions) sub-standard journalism and bias aupres de French public radio media, in particular but not uniquely as concerns its uncritical coverage — or simply radio silence — when it comes to Israel’s comportment as a citizen of the world and envers the Palestinians whose well-being is its responsibility under international law, but also its almost complete lack of analysis in covering the French government’s recent (and laudable; the vaccine laxists largely responsible for the new explosion of Covid cases gave it no other choice) efforts to make access to certain events and places contingent on being fully vaccinated — in light, then, of the sub-standard radio journalism that seems to be the rule (though there are notable exceptions), we think Albert Camus’s “Critique of the New Press,” published by Combat on the heels of the August 1944 Liberation of Paris, is unfortunately today more pertinent than ever. To read the complete editorial, in the French original and in translation, on our sister site the Paris Tribune, please click here.

One more thing: For the past year-and-a-half, up to and including these recent proposed measures, French president Emmanuel Macron, his health minister, his finance minister, and his current prime minister have not flinched; in the face of a global and national crisis which blindsided them, they have reacted, lead, and legislated at the hauteur of their offices. By contrast, at French public radio, many of those who would claim to be journalists have simply abdicated (the notable exceptions including Radio France’s Danielle Messenger). To the degree to which an instinctive French (and American) skepticism regarding governments is responsible for the continued unwillingness of some to be vaccinated, I blame the mainstream public radio media; if it had properly — not uncritically, but thoroughly and by applying the highest journalistic standards — done its job in analyzing and explaining these government measures, I am convinced that a large portion of this reflexively, obstinately skeptical population would have been re-assured and convinced, and we would not be in the situation where we are now, looking an imminent fourth wave in its whale of a mouth. — PB-I

What a yellow star means / Ce que veut dire porter une étoile jaune en France

Le temps des manifs plus responsable: Affiche, mai ’68.

by Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2021 Paul Ben-Itzak

Pour Sidney, pour Pascal, pour Gloria Lyon, et en souvenir de John Franklin. (To translate the paragraph below into English, click the Google Translation button at right.)

Dans une des manifs du w-e dernière contre les nouvelles mesures gouvernementales destiné à pousser les gens a se faire vacciner — besoin impératif si on veut retrouver nos libertés car les chiffres de contamination sont en train de monter dans une pente raide — il y en a qui, il semble, ont choisi à porter les gros étoiles jaunes sur les dos. Façon à pointer, on suppose, un parallèle entre les juifs déporté a leurs mortes pendant le deuxième guerre mondiale — dont seulement 3,000 du 74,000 déporté par les Occupants et le gouvernement de Vichy dans le nom de la France, parmi laquelle s’était trouvé 11,000 enfants, ont revenu des camps de la mort — et le fait à obliger les gens à se faire vacciner pour pouvoir voyager sur le train, entrer aux musées et restos, et cetera ou être capable a continuer à travailler dans les métiers de santé ou avec contacte réguler avec le publique. Comme geste politique, ce n’est pas seulement bête, mais c’est honteux. Car, au contraire aux connards qui ont fait ca — parce que ne vous trompé pas, c’était une connerie du pire sorte — ces juifs la n’ont pas eu le choix ; l’étoile leur étaient imposé. Et dans leur cas, l’étoile n’était pas une signe de proteste mais une signe qu’on était designé et destiné d’être déporté et, en attendant, que les autres avaient le droit de vous traiter comme les sous-humains, même si vous etait citoyen.ne français.e, même si vos ancêtres ont etaient morte pour la France, même si vous était une grande artiste ou écrivain (comme Robert Desnos ou Max Jacob) et avais fait les contributions importantes a la culture française et mondiale. Et âpres que vous aurais été déporté, les autres aurient droit a vous despoiler tout ca qui vous appartient.

Voici l’histoire de ce qui était arrivé a une des ses familles française-juif.

Vaccination Dance: Back to Life

by Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2021 Paul Ben-Itzak (except for di Prima citations, copyright Diane di Prima)

I’d left my “Birthday Mix 2021” playing on the ordi (‘puter to you, Bub) and when I returned from the second vaccination appointment in Sarlat — my Dutch neighbor Theo took me — it began playing Steve Reich’s “Violin Phase.” Quelle serendipity! This is what it was, it was Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker flipping her skirt up as she rode the waves of a score that in her hands was anything but minimalist, it became maximist, a bundle of infinite gestures with her delicate fingers, her eyes emerveilling at her fingers flipping the skirt up and then a quick glance at us, “Pretty nifty, huh?” I am writing in a faux Beat poetic cadence at the moment because as for the first shot, my centre de vaccination go-to read was Diane di Prima’s “The Poetry Deal,” one of la belle-mere’s many gifts, some tangible, some plastic (in the artistic, malleable sense, above all don’t go into plastics, young man), where instead of picking up where I left I rewound to “Gracias,” di Prima, taking a Mexican lunch break after a “dry lecture” at New College on Valencia Street emerveilles at what we unenlightened mortals, only able to strive to see the light that ATDK draws to her and di Prima draws, too often have such trouble seeing, or at least emerveilling at, the little things, corn chips which make her think of blue corn flour a friend brought over from Berkeley, “high school women” — no doubt from my high school, Mission — “flirtatious in down jackets (it’s cold).” (It must have been summer, the coldest winter Mark Twain ever spent in San Francisco.) “Thank you so much,” Diane writes in italics. “Even the plastic plant in the window bows. Mission bus packed & a storm is coming in over Golden Gate Furniture Co. The song keeps saying ‘corazon’ and a beautiful woman brings food. ‘Gracias,’ I stammer, she is as gracious as if this were her dining room.”

Gracious, grace, that is ATDK meeting the world, that is di Prima sifting it until only gold comes out the other end or no, it all turns to gold in the lead of her pencil, even the chaff. All I can do is try to provide a local echo of their slant, the dancer’s inclination into life and the etincelles in di Prima’s eyes:

At the vaccination place — an abandoned Leader Price grocery store, a step-down from the Paul Eluard cultural center of my first shot but the audience is down too, some even don’t respond when their names are called to get shot — a wheelchair-reposing lady with short-cropped gray hair and a small round band-aid on the back of the palm of her crepe-skinned hand was rigoling with the nurse as her helper wheeled her out from the curtained-off shot station shortly after mine.

Gracias.

Back home, on my walk down the path onto the grand route and over to the white and black horses nibbling on grass in the valley below and the pig-like cows next door methodically munching down the weeds, the older lady who usually peers down suspiciously at me from the hill on the other side (at least that’s the way it looks from way down below her on the road to a myopic flaneur) when her chihuahuas alert her to my presence, today is swiping blade by blade at the roadside hedge of her place with a scythe at the end of her crepe-like arm, restraining the petit chiens at the gate left open above with a slow wag of one finger; when I walk back it’s too much for them and they’ve scurried down to join her at the end of the sloping drive only to be scolded.

“Ah, qu’ils sont mignon!” I offer and she gives me a glance, not even deigning to scowl, the scything is more critical.

Gracias.

Walking down the cobblestone path to my home I stop to ring the American neighbors’ who set up the vaccination appointments for me. R. opens the top door. We talk about how getting the vaccination was a civic duty, about how in the U.S. now the pace has slowed down so much that people need incentives to get vaccinated. Money, beer (“Free beer for the 4th of July!” Biden himself promised — never mind that it’s Budweiser, which I’d be vaccinated not to have to drink) and, in West Virginia the incentive is free rifles. “Save your life, take another!” Country roads, take me home, just not to West Virginia.

Virgin, if all these post-vaccination moments could just be that, virgin, experienced with unbroken eyes because

Extraordinary things are there for those with eyes to see.

In Belleville, it’s back to life, back to art reality

Among the 84 ateliers opening their doors from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. today through Monday for the Open Studios of the Associated Artists of Belleville to showcase the work of more than 130 artists, in the best neighborhood in the world high atop the city of Paris, are the most conscious and two of the most talented artists and teachers in the world that we know, Kristin Meller (that’s her work above) and Raul Velasco as well as other artists of the Atelier Cascades, on the rue of the same name because that’s where the water used to flow down from the abbeys to the rest of Paris. Now it’s the art that flows. Next to water, you can’t do better than that, sustenance-wise. Et nous? Ca vas de soi, malgré notre mauvais reputation dans les villages sans pretention.

Cry-baby artists occupy Paris theater, cancelling ‘Glass Menagerie’ before Huppert can masticate the stage and Laura can even light her candles

A popular poster from the May 1968 student and worker protests in and around Paris. In the author’s opinion, by continuing to occupy the Odeon Theater in Saint-Germain-des-Pres after France’s theaters re-opened nationwide Wednesday for the first time in seven months, thus forcing the cancellation of Ivo van Hove’s production of Tennessee Williams’s “The Glass Menagerie,” starring Isabelle Huppert, the cry-babies of a certain radical sector of the Intermittents (Freelance) Performers union are pissing on their own metier and making a mockery of the legacy of May 1968.

by Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2021 Paul Ben-Itzak

So it has come to this. A small group of spoiled Intermittent (freelance) performing artists (and their union), who enjoy unemployment compensation privileges unrivalled in Europe or anywhere else in the world, have decided to hold hostage one of the most important theaters in Europe, one of the most moving, relevant, transcendent, and resonant playwrights in the world (Tennessee Williams, for “The Glass Menagerie”), one of the most gifted actresses in France or anywhere (Isabelle Huppert), as well as a whole team of actors, technicians, and an audience eager to return to the theater after a seven-month, pandemic-necessitated fast because the extra year of benefits president Emmanuel Macron accorded them (in what other country do pick-up performing artists get presidential attention?) isn’t enough. For this is what the so-called Intermittent artists and ‘precaires,’ who have occupied the Theatre de l’Odeon in Saint-Germain-des-Pres in Paris night and day since March (until now, with the accord of its director), did in refusing to evacuate the theater only at night; Odeon director Stéphane Braunschweig has offered to let them stay in his space and continue their campaign during the day, correctly pointing out that permitting them to remain there during performances would put at risk the health of the audience and theater team, as Wednesday’s nationwide reopening of theaters, cinemas, and cafés was rightly conditioned on observing strict limits on audience and client size.

What exactly is the campaign of these selfish navel gazers about? Some local, global, and historical context is in order.

In the United States, to be eligible for unemployment benefits of approximately six months, one needs to have worked full-time for a single employer for at least a year. Thus what is known in the dance trade as “pick-up performers” — describing those who may indeed work full-time but may compile those hours with multiple companies or employers– are out of luck. Unless they have a full-time day job, they do not have the right to unemployment compensation, even if they in effect work full-time as performers. The same applies to actors and technicians.

In France — and unlike anywhere else in the Europe — Intermittent (or freelance) performing artists and technicians who accumulate 507 hours of work over 12 months (currently numbering 120,000) — no matter how many different employers the hours are logged with — have the right to one year of unemployment benefits. During the Covid pandemic, which has put many of these artists (and technicians and theater teams) out of work, with theaters closed since October as France has tallied the third most pandemic victims in Europe, more than 105,000, president Emmanuel Macron accorded these Intermittents de Spectacle ‘a white year,’ meaning the requirement to log 507 hours in order to qualify for unemployment benefits the subsequent year was waived for 12 months. This was recently prolonged by four months, or through the end of December. In addition to this individual aid, the theaters themselves, as well as cinemas and restaurants (also closed since October) have received generous aid packages (funded by the taxpayers).

These cry-babies, however — a small group of people who identify themselves as members of the Intermittents de spectacle — have refused to leave the theater, or even accept the compromise proposed by Braunschweig of continuing to be welcomed there during the day, unless the government adds a second ‘white year’ and abandons a general unemployment ‘reform’ law. That second demand reflects a long-time strategy by the Intermittents’ union, the radical CGT, to pretend that they’re not just concerned with their own well-being in their often insular, too often irrelevant world by adding “and precaires” to the name of their cause.

So let’s talk about precaires, the precarious.

Let’s talk about all the actors and staff of the Odeon, unable to work for seven months, who now see this unemployment perpetuated, this time not by a virus but by the virulent selfishness and myopia of people who pretend to be their own colleagues.

Let’s talk about Tom, the protagonist in “The Glass Menagerie” (and Williams’s stand-in), trying to forge his own identity, to set out on his own path, but reluctant to abandon his troubled sister Laura, ill with pleurosis (or as she puts it, “Blue Roses”) — and how her story, the story of trying to maintain a sanctity of dreams in a state of malady might have resonated with an audience in these pandemic-stricken times, where so many have died, lost loved ones, or been severely sick themselves and must find a way to transcend their own affliction.

Let’s talk about Amanda, a matriarch with her own troubles, a ‘precaire’ stubbornly (if magnificently) clinging to the illusions of grandeur of a Southern grande dame.

Let’s talk about the English-to-French translator, a generous, open, grande French dame of the theater whom I met in 2016 at a translation workshop at the Oscar Wilde library in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris, and who was so invested in finding a ‘true’ and just translation of Williams’s play that she asked me, a neophyte translator but nonetheless American native speaker who had stage-managed a production of the drama in conservatory, to read aloud the fragment we were working on, from Tom’s big monologue, so that she and my fellow novice translators could here its American cadence. (“Tricks up my sleeve? I have no tricks up my sleeve, mother.”) And how long she, Braunschweig — a major European director who in his repertory choices is anything but a navel-gazer, so much of European theater these days being pre-occupied with the inbred struggles of actors and authors — and their entire team have been waiting for this moment, not just for the work nor for the stagelights, but for the ‘retrouvailles’ with the public.

Let’s talk about Isabelle Huppert, a confirmed star of the Seventh Art, cinema, who still craves the direct encounter with her public, denied that encounter by these selfish navel-gazers not content to have their cake and eat it too unless they can deprive others of their just portion — and how her performances have always resonated with audiences in France and worldwide. (Check Huppert’s stage-masticating guest shot as a crazed mother trying to cling on to her child opposite Sharon Stone and Marisa Hagerty in a legendary episode of “Law and Order.”)

Let’s talk about how before Huppert could even ‘masticate’ this stage and Tom could even arrive at that gut-wrenching final line — “Blow out your candles, Laura — and so goodnight” — these cry-babies blew them out for them, for us, and for their colleagues before the curtain could even come up.

And let’s talk about what a gross perversion this travesty is of the storied heritage of the ancestors of these cry-babies who can’t surrender the stage to their colleagues (is that not a fundamental part of the essence of the theater?), specifically those of May 1968, and even more specifically François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and their colleagues in French and European cinema who instead of standing in the way of theaters’ encounters with their public, stood for Henri Langlois when culture minister Andre Malraux tried to fire him as director of the Cinematheque Francaise, even when the government sicked the national guard on them. And who, as opposed to this false solidarity with the ‘precaires,’ stood with the striking workers and students of May 1968 when, after long sessions of debate amongst themselves, the directorate, and the audience effected the cancellation of that year’s festival de Cannes — on May 19, 1968, exactly 53 years before these cry-babies, in this grotesque charade of solidarity, forced the closing of the Theatre de l’Odeon.

“Everything worth its name in France has stopped,” Truffaut told a packed Cannes auditorium that day, “and I don’t know if on the radio, in the hours to come, they’ll announce that the factories are occupied, that such and such is closed, that the trains are no longer running and the Metro and the busses as well; if at the same time we announce that the festival will continue, it will frankly be ridiculous.”

This time it’s the inverse: At the very moment when everything is re-opening, and with joy — you should have seen the expressions on the faces at the café terrace next to where I post these lines of the people sitting down at table together for the first time in seven months, even a curmudgeon like me was blissful to see the faces of some who often annoy me illuminated — where the cinemas are packed, thanks to these selfish cry-babies’ refusal to leave the theater just at night the director of this most humanist of theaters had to declare Wednesday, “The conditions are not such that the life of the theater can resume with serenity, neither for the personnel nor for the public and the artists. I therefore resign myself with an immense sadness to cancelling the performances of ‘The Glass Menagerie’ for as long as the occupation continues.” It should be added that we’re not talking here about a neo-reactionary theater administrator. “Since March 4, 2021, the théâtre de l’Odéon has been occupied at the initiative of the CGT union,” Braunschweig noted. “It seemed necessary to me that the demands of this social movement, which up until now had not impeded the activity of the theater,” the theaters having been closed by the pandemic, “be expressed.”

Let’s talk about expression. Here’s how Godard, standing next to Truffaut, explained the necessity for contemporary filmmakers to be more concerned in their work with contemporary concerns (a reproach which can legitimately be made of many contemporary theater authors): “There’s not a single film which talks about the problems of the workers, or the problems of students, as they are occurring today. There’s not a single one, whether made by [Milos] Forman (who had just stood up to announce that he was withdrawing his film from the festival), by me, by [Roman] Polanski, by François, we’re behind the times, our student comrades have given us the example in getting beaten up a week ago” by the national guard. Quelle insight!

There is little risk that Braunschweig, a confirmed humanist, will call in the national guard to eject fellow artists — and these cry-babies of course know this. So this protest, this occupation that this minority of Intermittents is engaged in embodies no real physical risks to their persons. If they were truly interested in risk, they might have left their “occupation” for a few hours last Saturday and taken the Number 4 Metro from the Odeon station over to Barbes, where 3,000 to 5,000 Parisians braved a government interdiction, blithely applauded by the putatively socialist mayor of Paris, to manifest their solidarity with a people that is truly “Occupied,” the Palestinians, and where with their sense of theater they might have shown a light on real injustices still being ignored by the mainstream media here who, whenever Israel is concerned, seem to turn into shills for the Netanyahu government, completely ignoring incidents like the bookstores, publishers, ice cream factories, hospitals, and refugee camps that have been bombed by Israel in Gaza, including a wheelchair-bound man, his pregnant wife, and their three-year old child, killed when Israel bombed their house as they were sitting down to lunch.
That would have been true risk-taking — lending their bodies to a protest — and for a cause that looked beyond their own self(ish) interest.

Taking the stage and giving one’s soul completely over to one character, with the goal of reflecting to the audience some part of its own story, as Williams (and Huppert) do so well — putting one’s soul on the line — this is also true risk-taking.

What these pretended occupiers are doing isn’t risk-taking, it’s pouting, it’s throwing a fit when you don’t get your way, it’s being discourteous to and abusing the kindness and consideration of a colleague who has let you occupy his space for more than two months. It’s blowing out the lights of this sacred space before Tom can even say “Blow out your candles, Laura — and so goodnight,” before Huppert’s Amanda can even “masticate” up the stage, it’s enferming Laura and her sickness before it can even get a chance to resonate with an audience, after so many of us and those close to us have been sick and lost, before her Gentleman can even come calling.

It’s — to mix my Southern playwrights and incorporate a Williams contemporary, Carson McCullers — destroying this wondrous Glass Menagerie before its author can Reflect the lot and plight of all of us in his Golden Eye.

Ha’aretz correspondent Amira Hass: ‘Gaza Lives Erased: Israel Is Wiping Out Entire Palestinian Families on Purpose’

Editor’s Avant-Propos: While newshosts on the publicly funded radio chain France Culture continue, with rare exceptions, to reduce Israel’s killing of 229 Palestinians, including 63 children (Hamas rockets had killed 10 Israelis and two foreign workers as of Wednesday), at least two doctors including Gaza’s principal Covid physician as well as a female medical student about to be married, deliberate bombing of homes, media centers, and of 18 hospitals and clinics including the Gaza Strip’s only Covid testing clinic, as well as Jewish settler mob attacks on Palestinian citizens of Israel to a “conflict between Israel and Hamas,” parroting the Israeli government line, Palestinian witnesses, Israeli human rights organizations (which have evoked war crimes) and at least one Israeli journalist are describing a different story. The following conversation between Ha’aretz’s longtime Occupied Territories correspondent Amira Hass and Democracy Now hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, reproduced in DN’s rush transcript, was first broadcast on May 19. (Please donate to Democracy Now today.) Hass’s original, illustrated story begins: “Fifteen Palestinian nuclear and extended families lost at least three, and in general more, of their members, in the Israeli shelling of the Gaza Strip during the week from May 10 through to Monday afternoon. Parents and children, babies, grandparents, siblings and nephews and nieces died together when Israel bombed their homes, which collapsed over them. Insofar as is known, no advance warning was given so that they could evacuate the targeted houses.” France Culture, which broadcast, without challenge, the Israeli president’s recent claim that it was uniquely the Palestinians who were conducting a pogrom in certain Jewish communities – the pot calling the kettle black quoi — could stand to use a few lessons from its Israeli colleague about journalistic standards and professionalism. And perhaps the Theatre de la ville – Sarah Bernhardt should think twice before inviting France Culture to participate in a week-end of emissions under the rubrique “Combat,” after the underground newspaper edited by Albert Camus at the end of the German occupation of France. This is not the kind of high-standard, objective, and responsible journalism that Camus stood for. Words matter. Today’s publication of the words of one courageous Israeli on the Dance Insider is dedicated to the memory of another courageous, peace-loving Israeli, Ofra Haza. — Paul Ben-Itzak

As Israel’s deadly attack on Gaza continues, we speak with Amira Hass, Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, who says Israel’s bombing campaign is purposely wiping out entire families. “Israel has all the information about every Palestinian family, whether it is in the West Bank or Jerusalem or Gaza, let alone Palestinians in Israel,” Hass tells Democracy Now! “When the Israeli army decides to bomb such a house without bothering to tell the people to leave it, it means they take into their head a calculation that their military target is more important” than people’s lives, she says.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we continue to look at Israel’s attack on Gaza. We’re joined now by longtime Israeli journalist Amira Hass, correspondent for Haaretz in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She’s the only Israeli Jewish journalist to have spent over 25 years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank. Her latest piece is headlined “Gaza Lives Erased: Israel Is Wiping Out Entire Palestinian Families on Purpose.”

Amira Hass, welcome back to Democracy Now! as you join us from Ramallah in the West Bank. Yesterday, there was a general strike, a protest in Gaza, in East Jerusalem, inside Israel, in the West Bank and around the world. Four Palestinians were killed in the West Bank, where you are. Can you talk about the situation overall?

AMIRA HASS: Hi, Amy and Juan.

Well, as you described it so well over the past 20 minutes or so, it’s a whole — it’s [inaudible]. It’s one country where the Palestinians are being attacked, on the one hand, but, on the other hand, they are rebelling, so — all over. And I think that we should not underestimate the political and military achievement of Hamas to paralyze Israeli normal [inaudible] for the past 10 days. It’s terrible, because we think about the hell through which people in Gaza live because of the Israeli offensive, but at the same time we have to remember that it was a calculated decision by Hamas to respond to Israeli escalation in Jerusalem during the Ramadan month, to respond by a military ultimatum, and then by the launching of rockets, which do put Israelis in a state of fear.

And this is — when we think about the balance of power, it’s an achievement for Hamas, and it is seen by — [inaudible] achievement by many a Palestinian. It’s a way to say to Israel, “You have not listened to — you have not responded to Palestinian requests for a just solution for addressing Palestinian demands in a diplomatic way or to Palestinian popular unarmed uprisings. So we escalate, because you escalate and because you don’t listen.” And I think this puts Hamas as the main Palestinian political actor in the region and in the world.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Amira, you’ve been writing also about the Palestinian families obliterated by the Israeli bombings. You wrote in Haaretz today, “The numerous incidents of killing entire families in Israeli bombings in Gaza — Parents and children, babies, grandparents, siblings — attest that these were not mistakes. The bombings follow a decision from higher up, backed by the approval of military jurists.” Can you elaborate on that?

AMIRA HASS: That’s right. Israel has all the information about every Palestinian family, whether it is in the West Bank or Jerusalem or Gaza, let alone Palestinians in Israel. So it has control over the Palestinian registry of population. Actually, no detail in this population registry is valid without Israeli approval. So Palestinians update regularly, update the Israeli authorities about any newborn. So Israel must know, or Israeli authorities and the Israeli military must know, that in a certain house there are three children, one of them was born just half a year ago, and there are two women and two elderly women. So, all these details are there.

And when Israel decides to or the Israeli army decides to bomb such a house without bothering to tell the people to leave it, it means they take into — they had a calculation that their military target is more important or is worthy — excuse my language — is worthy of killing 10 children and five women. It’s just an example. This was the characteristic of the war in 2014. There were 142 families which number between three to more people who were eradicated by Israeli bombings. And so far, there were, I think, 15 families in this current offensive, 15 families that were killed in a similar way. So, we can say maybe once one family or two were killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But when it is persisting and when we know that these people were killed before dawn in their own homes, it means that somebody just decided that this was OK.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you about the role of the United States, on the one hand, clearly preventing the U.N. Security Council from censuring Israel, and President Biden publicly saying that Israel has a right to defend itself, but then his aides claiming to the press that, privately, he’s being a lot tougher with Netanyahu, telling him he’s only got — his patience is wearing thin and that the attacks have to stop. This has happened so many times in the past, where the United States publicly says one thing but claims to be privately a lot tougher. I’m wondering your assessment of the U.S. role right now.

AMIRA HASS: You know much better than me. And I must say that in the last days also, I hardly followed international news, or I’m most of the time following what is happening in Gaza. But in principle, and as usual, you know, it is very disappointing, because we’ve heard that in other terrains, the Biden administration did manage to cut off from the traditional former government, former administrations, and certainly the administration of Trump. But here again, this absolute loyalty to Israel tells us that they have a lot of — that all of these military interests, common interests, still benefit the Israeli occupation machine. We do hope — we know that there has been a change in American public opinion, but we see it’s not enough and that the power of Israeli — or the appeal of Israeli military know-how and military expertise and military arms is still stronger than the voice of the people with common sense in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: While Biden has said he supports a ceasefire, he hasn’t demanded one of Netanyahu and has actively, at the U.N., prevented resolutions from getting passed at the U.N. Security Council. What difference would that make? And can you talk about how this conflict serves Netanyahu — who’s on trial for corruption, could not form even a coalition government — keeps him in power, that it’s in his interest, as he says, to continue the bombing into the future?

AMIRA HASS: First of all, if there is a ceasefire, we know that Palestinian lives will be saved. So every minute is precious. And this is — and we are all anxious for this to happen. And we all know that we will mourn the people that might be killed if the delay — if there is a longer delay. And it seems [inaudible]. I don’t know.

I mean, but, certainly, for Netanyahu and for the right wing, in general, the war — and usually wars, I think, benefit the right wing and benefit the oppressors. Of course, it completely erased the possibility that a different government will be formed here. It brought closer together the different right-wing factions that before maybe had some disagreement because of Netanyahu. I don’t know.

You know, some people, some Israeli journalists say that it was all calculated on the part of Netanyahu. I doubt it, because the big picture is that it is in the whole Ramadan — the Israeli policies in Jerusalem during the Ramadan, the repressive policies, are all in the same thread or the same logic that has been practiced here for so long, which is to repress the Palestinians and to dislocate them forcibly, and not only in Sheikh Jarrah. We hear about Sheikh Jarrah, but so many Palestinian communities in the West Bank are in danger of being dislocated by Israeli authorities and have been dislocated forcibly.

So, yes, but it has benefited so far the Israeli right wing. Israeli right-wing settlers — I mean, they’re all right-wing, but settlers from the West Bank are joining the forces inside ’48, inside Israel, and intimidate Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel and instigate clashes and attack them. Palestinians have done — some Palestinian groups have also expressed their anger in different ways, including vandalism, but for different reasons, because they had to express their anger about Israeli policies and Israeli repression.

So, so far, it has benefited Netanyahu. We don’t know how it will be in the longer run. But I care less about Netanyahu [inaudible] as I care about strengthening of the Israeli chauvinistic and, what I would say, the forces in Israel that advocate — how would I say? — the repetition of the Nakba, the repetition of a ’48 expulsion, who take this as an opportunity to promote these policies of ethnic cleansing. This is more worrying. And so far, it seems that this is what is happening. It’s not that the Israelis learned a lesson of fear and of having their life disrupted and say, “OK, let’s find a political way to get out of it.” It seems to me —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Amira —

AMIRA HASS: — here from Ramallah, not totally —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Amira, what I wanted to ask you precisely about this issue is — what we’re seeing here is, clearly, in terms of within Israel itself or the Palestinian communities within Israel, for the first time really expressing clear actions and solidarity with the rest of the Palestinian people. You don’t have a sense that this is giving — making the regular Israeli population feel that it is untenable to continue this oppression of the Palestinians in general, that in the long term Israel cannot be victorious in this?

AMIRA HASS: I want to believe, but so far, from — maybe we are still — maybe it’s too early. But so far, when I listen to the news — and I must say that I listen very little to Israeli news, because it can drive you mad how one-sided and [inaudible] aligned it is. But from the little that I read and I see, people still do not connect the dots. They do not connect it to ’48, to 1948. They do not connect it to the ongoing settler colonialism in the West Bank mostly. They do not connect it to the fact that Gaza has been under blockade and siege and closure, not just for the last 14 years, as people say, but since actually the beginning of the 1990s. Israel placed Gaza under a regime of very strict — very strict restrictions of movement. So, still I don’t see that this awareness is strong enough. There must be something much stronger, like an international intervention, political intervention, an economical intervention, to bring more sense to the Israeli mind. That’s my impression now. And I really hope I’m wrong. I really hope that once this is over, Israelis will understand that this is untenable, that the repression regime is untenable. But right now the attitude is that Israel is being attacked, not vice versa. This is the main — this is the main message that I receive from the little that I know, I must say, because I am here in the West Bank.

AMY GOODMAN: Amira, you put out the book of your mother, Diary of Bergen-Belsen, about the sole surviving diary of a Holocaust resistance fighter written from inside the Nazi concentration camps, about your mother, Hanna Levy-Hass. Can you talk about what we’re seeing on the streets in Israel now, where you have Jewish mobs attacking Palestinians? In one case, on live TV, they thought the person was a Palestinian; in fact, they attacked a Jewish driver. But can you relate this back to — because so much of this, certainly as it’s conveyed in the U.S. media, is always going back to the Holocaust and the persecution of the Jews, but similarities you see with the persecution of Palestinians?

AMIRA HASS: I’m reluctant to make, you know, these parallel — I could think more about Afro-Americans in United States or the position — the Palestinians here are much — have agency much more than the Jews during, like you said, the concentration camp, than my mother had when she was in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and much more than Jews had in Germany in 1934 or 1935.

So, I think that while we are all shocked by the horror scenes of attacks, let’s not underestimate the strength and the power and the unity that Palestinians now demonstrate and their political awareness, that young Palestinians, who feel that they don’t have a leadership, but nevertheless are united by their common experience. I think this should not be underestimated and overlooked.

And you had cases. You had cases in Israel where also Palestinians attacked Israeli civilians — Jewish civilians who did nothing wrong to them. I think there is a big difference, because the — again, because this is a community that has been repressed for so long, and it has to take it out.

I would say that what — if I want to say something about my family’s past, it’s not this one-to-one parallelism, but the lessons that I got from my parents and the principles that people are equal and should be equal and people’s rights and people’s — people should enjoy the rights to freedom and to development and to fulfillment, and that any oppression, without being compared to the oppressions, I don’t know, in South Africa or in the Soviet Union or whatever — every oppression, every supremacist oppression is wrong, and their perpetrators are our enemies.

AMY GOODMAN: Amira Hass, I want to thank you so much —

AMIRA HASS: This is my lesson. The oppressor is my own enemy.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us, a Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestine Territories. She is speaking to us from Ramallah.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, Andrew Brown. The verdict from the DA is in. Police officers who killed him in North Carolina will not be charged. We’ll speak with family attorney Bakari Sellers in 30 seconds.

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“No child, Israeli or Palestinian, should ever have to worry that death will rain from the sky”

by United States Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib

Editor’s Note: Following is the address that Rashida Tlaib, the Congressional Representative from Detroit, delivered to the United States Congress on Thursday. On Saturday, braving a government interdiction sanctioned by their own Socialist mayor, 5,000 Parisians joined those demonstrating across France and around the world in support of Palestinians. As of Monday morning, while the United States government continued to block a United Nations Security Council ceasefire resolution, nearly 200 Palestinians, including at least 58 children, had been killed in Gaza by Israeli bombs, among them eight children killed in one home and the doctor in charge of the Covid response at Gaza’s largest hospital, killed with his two children; 11 Israelis, among them two children, had been killed by Hamas rockets. Standing in front of her home in Gaza after it was levelled by Israeli bombs, a 10-year-old Palestinian girl, speaking between tears in perfect English, told Radio France correspondent Alice Froussou: “What do you expect me to do, fix it? I’m only 10 years old. I just want to be a doctor, help my people. I don’t know what to do.” (Text taken from Jacobin.com and previously broadcast on Democracy Now.)

WASHINGTON — This is so personal for me. I am a reminder to colleagues that Palestinians do indeed exist; that we are human; that we are allowed to dream. We are mothers, daughters, granddaughters. We are justice-seekers, and are unapologetically about our fight against oppressions of all forms.

Colleagues: Palestinians aren’t going anywhere, no matter how much money you send to Israel’s apartheid government.

If we are to make good on our promises to support equal human rights for all, it is our duty to end the apartheid system that for decades has subjected Palestinians to inhumane treatment and racism. Reducing Palestinians to live in utter fear and terror of losing a child, being indefinitely detained or killed because of who they are, and the unequal rights and protections they have under Israeli law: it must end.

One of Israel’s most prominent human rights organizations, B’Tselem, has declared Israel an apartheid state. Human Rights Watch recently recognized it, too. This is what Palestinians living under Israel’s oppression have been telling us for decades.

I have been told by some of my colleagues who dispute the truth about segregation, racism, and violence in Israel towards Palestinians that I need to know the history. What they mean, unintentionally or not, is that Palestinians do not have the right to tell the truth about what happened to them during the founding of Israel. They, in effect, erase the truth about the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Israel that some refer to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe.”

As Palestinians talk about our history, know that many of my black neighbors and indigenous communities may not know what we mean by Nakba. But they do understand what it means to be killed, expelled from your home and land, made homeless, and stripped of your human rights.

My ancestors and current family in Palestine deserve the world to hear their history without obstruction. They have a right to be able to explain to the world that they are still suffering, still being dispossessed, still being killed as the world watches and does nothing. As Peter Beinart, an American of Jewish faith, writes, “When you tell a people to forget its past, you are not proposing peace. You’re proposing extinction.”

The Palestinian story is that of being made a refugee in the lands you called home. We cannot have an honest conversation about U.S. military support for the Israeli government today without acknowledging that for Palestinians, the catastrophe of displacement and dehumanization in their homeland has been ongoing since 1948.

To read the statements from President Biden, Secretary Blinken, General Austin, and leaders of both parties, you’d hardly know Palestinians existed at all. There has been no recognition of the attack on Palestinian families being ripped from their homes in East Jerusalem right now or home demolitions. No mention of children being detained or murdered. No recognition of a sustained campaign of harassment and terror by Israeli police against worshippers kneeling down and praying, celebrating their holiest days, in one of their holiest places. No mention of Al-Aqsa being surrounded by violence, tear gas, smoke, while people pray.

Can my colleagues imagine if it was their place of worship filled with tear gas? Could you pray as stun grenades were tossed into your holiest place?

Above all, there has been absolutely no recognition of Palestinian humanity. If our own State Department can’t even bring itself to acknowledge that the killing of Palestinian children is wrong, I will say it for the millions of Americans who stand with me against the killing of innocent children, no matter their ethnicity or faith. I weep for all the lives lost under the unbearable status quo, every single one, no matter their faith, their background.

We all deserve freedom, liberty, peace, and justice, and it should never be denied because of our faith or ethnic background. No child, Palestinian or Israeli, whoever they are, should ever have to worry that death will rain from the sky. How many of my colleagues are willing to say the same, to stand for Palestinian rights as they do for Israelis’?

There is a crushing dehumanization to how we talk about this terrible violence. The New York Post reported the Palestinian death toll as Israeli casualties. ABC says that Israelis are “killed” while Palestinians simply “die,” as if by magic, as if they were never human to begin with.

Help me understand the math: how many Palestinians have to die for their lives to matter?

Life under apartheid strips Palestinians of their human dignity. How would you feel if you had to go through dehumanizing checkpoints two blocks from your own home to go to the doctor or travel across your own land? How would you feel if you had to do it while pregnant, in the scorching heat, as soldiers with guns controlled your freedom? How would you feel if you lived in Gaza, where your power and water might be out for days or weeks at a time, where you were cut off from the outside world by inhumane military blockades?

Meanwhile, Palestinians’ rights to nonviolent resistance have been curtailed and even criminalized. Our party leaders have spoken forcefully against BDS [the Palestinian civil movement to Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction Israel], calling its proponents anti-semitic, despite the same tactics being critical to ending the South African apartheid mere decades ago. What we are telling Palestinians fighting apartheid is the same thing being told to my black neighbors and Americans throughout America that are facing police brutality here: there is no form of acceptable resistance to state violence.

As long as the message from Washington is that our military support for Israel is unconditional, Netanyahu’s extremist, right-wing government will continue to expand settlements, continue to demolish homes, and continue to make the prospects for peace impossible.

Mr. Speaker, 330 of my own colleagues, Democrats and Republicans — 75 percent of the body here — signed a letter pledging that Israel shall never be made to comply with basic human rights laws that other countries that receive our military aid must observe. You know, when I see the images and videos of destruction and death in Palestine, all I hear are the children screaming from pure fear and terror.

I want to read something a mother named Eman in Gaza wrote two days ago. She said, “Tonight, I put the kids to sleep in our bedroom, so that when we die, we die together, and no one would live to mourn the loss of one another.” The statement broke me a little more because my country’s policies and funding will deny this mother’s right to see her own children live without fear, and to grow old without painful trauma and violence.

We must condition aid to Israel on compliance with international human rights and an end to apartheid. We must, with no hesitation, demand that our country recognize that the unconditional support of Israel has enabled the erasure of Palestinian life and the denial of the rights of millions of refugees, and emboldens the apartheid policies that Human Rights Watch has detailed thoroughly in their recent report.

I stand before you not only as a congresswoman for the beautiful 13th district strong, but also as a proud daughter of Palestinian immigrants, and the granddaughter of a loving Palestinian grandmother living in Occupied Palestine. You take that, and you combine it with the fact that I was raised in one of the most beautiful, blackest cities in America, a city where movements for civil rights and social justice are birthed: the city of Detroit. So I can’t stand here silent when injustice exists and when the truth is obscured. If there’s one thing Detroit instilled in this Palestinian girl from Southwest, it’s that you always speak truth to power, even if your voice shakes. The freedom of Palestinians is connected to the fight against oppression all over the world.

Lastly, to my sity in Palestine, ‘aqaf huna bsbbik.’ I stand here because of you. Thank you.

Vaccinated by Pfizer & Paul Eluard: Liberty

Fernand Leger and Paul Eluard: Liberty.

by Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2021 Paul Ben-Itzak

“my vow is

to remind us all
to celebrate
there is no time
too desperate
no season
that is not
a Season of Song.”

— Diane di Prima, “First Draft: Poet Laureate Oath of Office,” reprinted in “The Poetry Deal,” City Lights, 2014, copyright Diane di Prima.

SARLAT-LE-CANADE (Dordogne), France — Just came back from being vaccinated. Well, first shot anyway. Dutch neighbor drove me there and back. (Fortunately, at about the same time I was realizing that my plan to get to Sarlat by myself on the train three hours early so I could do the Wednesday market beforehand leaving me to wander around in our Frisco-drizzly autumnal temps was fershluganah, the neighbor, who had already agreed to pick me up, was offering to take me there as well.) Pfizer. Final outtake nurse looked like Annette Clark’s sister, and I told her so. (“You look like my marraine!” Which is supposed to mean godmother, but she took it as: “You’re saying I look like your grandmother!?”) Most of the people there were older than me — I felt embarrassed, as if I’d cut the line — some my age, a handful younger. It really makes you realize (by ‘you’ I mean someone who doesn’t live in a city) we’re in a pandemic, people just docilely, quietly (much too quiet!) waiting for their turn. And the organization.

When the nurse giving me the shot said I’d have to take off my pink button-down shirt and San Francisco Jazz Festival sweatshirt (good luck; I used it to transport my Alaskan – San Franciscan – New Yorker – Parisienne – Perigourdine Siamese Sonia in our many trips) off, I asked, “Can I keep my cowboy hat on?” When I yelped at the shot she chided me, “Cowboys don’t cry.” To which I responded, “Don’t tell the Indians.”

The only sour point, vaccine center interaction wise, was when my enthusiasm at getting the intake counselor who was the biggest dish (all done up in a black evening gown and pearls), thought it necessary to tell me, after lending me her pen, “And don’t forget to give it back to me!” I guess my reputation as the internationally infamous master-mind of the Great Rio Grande Pen Heist has gotten around.

I wore the bandana la belle-mere gave me and my waiting book (waiting before my turn and waiting while they made us wait to make sure there were no immediate side effects) was the Diane di Prima poetry book she gave me, specifically di Prima’s inaugural address as poet laureate of San Francisco ’round about 2009, full of more serendipitous connections: I didn’t realize that DDP first saw San Francisco in 1961, the year I was born (and the only year that if you turn it upside down still says the same thing. I heard that.)…. She also mentions performing in her San Fran theater with the cops at the door asking for her papers and feeling like Merle Oberon, the star of a New Orleans prisoner in swamp movie I just happened to find online this morning. (Andre de Toth’s “Dark Waters,” which also offers Franchot Tone as Merle’s doctor-savior, Thomas Mitchell as the divine villain, a splendorific semi-Cajun, i.e. no Blacks, dance party, and Elisha Cook Jr — who I interviewed years ago for Reuters when SF’s Roxie Theater was paying him an homage — as Mitchell’s henchman and who, fittingly for Cook’s perpetual sap, finds his just desserts in — spoiler alert — a quicksand bath.) I was particularly grateful for Diane in the waiting auditorium afterwards, where after inoculating us they tried to indoctrinate us as we waited to break clear (to cop a phrase from Leonard Cohen) by making us watch silent videos of bad French pop stars including the inappropriately primping and pomping eponymous “Pomme,” (that’s “Apple” to you, bub), the vaccine-o-drome being located in the Paul Eluard Cultural Center. Eluard who famously wrote about “La Liberté,” in poetry melanged with Leger art,

“On all the pages read
On all pages blank
Stone blood paper or ash
I write your name.”

I’m not just citing this to show-off my cultur-literati-ness: It seems like the reason for being vaccinated (at least the one that appeals to me the most) is “to get back our liberty.”

Department Pfizer synchronicity, I’d also like to share this:

We first crossed paths in New London or Groton, CT, where submarines and the drug company were based and I cut my teeth (this was when I still had them) as a cub reporter (and where I was also turned on to Grape Nuts Pudding; don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). We next crossed swords in Chicago, where I was interviewing for an officially full-time post with Reuters, and my would-be boss handed me a press release to write up a story on as a test assignment, “PFIZER ANNOUNCES VERSION OF PROZAC FOR DIETERS.” “What we want to know,” my would-be boss explained, “is how it will affect the stock.” “What I’d want to know,” I thought, “is how it will affect the user.”

I didn’t take the job.

That’s the news for the moment from Lake Virus-Be-Gone.

Love,

Paul

Post-Script, later yesterday: Walking around two directions in the rain back in my bourg 23 KM from Sarlat where I can see Josephine Baker’s chateau from the window, valley/horses/cows side then forest/muttons/trees side, looking for something that must have gone wrong in my body thanks to the Pfizer — it’s a Jewish thang, don’t worry (“So who’s worrying?”) — I felt like my left foot was going numb with occasional pangs in the leg, which I’d first felt on leaving the Paul Eluard Cultural Center – vaccine-o-drome. (“Hmmm. When the doctor asked about medical conditions, did I say “Sciatic” loud enough? Is Sciatic/a risk factor.”) Even though I countered those remarks in the parens with “Of course, it couldn’t be that I spent hours sitting yesterday afternoon in front of the ordi (‘puter); it couldn’t be that I spent 90 minutes this morning at same; nor nearly an hour in the car going to and coming back from the vaccination, nor taking two long walks in two directions, nor the drop in the weather nor the humidity.” Still, it helps to have a nurse (actually, we have three retired nurses, one American and two Dutch and an occasional Alzheimer’s specialist from Diane and my NorCal climes, in the ‘hood) around, so I simply checked my hypochondria with Nurse Rita. “It’s the Barometer, Stupid.” (She didn’t actually add the epithet, that’s me taking liberty, and smiling when I say it.)

Latter-day Antigones: Claude Cahun

Left: Claude Cahun, “Autoportrait,” 1926. Gelatin silver print, 11.1 x 8.6 cm. IVAM, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, Generalitat. Right: Claude Cahun, “Autoportrait,” 1927. Gelatin silver print, 10.4 x 7.6 cm. Soizic Audouard Collection.

by Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2012, 2021 Paul Ben-Itzak

First published on the Arts Voyager on February 3, 2012.

And what if the artist uses herself as the clay? Not because she’s a narcissist and thinks she’s the most fascinating subject in the world, but because as matter and model, she’s so malleable, and thus an ideal canvas for her own artistic explorations, macro ideas about the culture unearthed on an intimate terrain? This was the case with French-born Claude Cahun in the staged self-portraiture, photo-montages, and prose texts she produced, mostly between 1920 and 1940, more than 80 of which figure in Entre Nous: The Art of Claude Cahun, on view at the Art Institute of Chicago February 25 – June 3. Organized with Paris’s Jeu de Paume museum and co-produced with Barcelona’s La Virreina Centre de la Image, where it continues through Sunday, this first retrospective of the artist’s work in the U.S. reveals a vital source for later feminist explorations of gender and identity politics — to say nothing of how Cahun inspired the Surrealists. In her self-portraits, which she began creating around 1913, Cahun dismantled and questioned pre-existing notions of self and sexuality, at the same time re-assembling artistic ingredients and assembling dreamy mis-en-scenes. Posing in costumes and with elaborate make-up, she appeared masked as various personae: man and  woman, hero and mannequin, both powerful and vulnerable. More than 80 years after Cahun created them, these photographs and their adventurous, unrestrained execution are still pertinent today for their treatment of gender, performance, and identity — and as an example for artists across genres of how to use their small world to speak to the greater one.

Left: Claude Cahun, “Autoportrait,” 1929. Gelatin silver print, 11.5 x 8.5 cm. Jersey Heritage Collection, ©Jersey Heritage. Right: Claude Cahun, Sans titre, 1936. Gelatin silver print, 17.9 x 13 cm. Private collection, ©Beatrice Hatala.

Left: Claude Cahun, “Combat de pierres,” 1931. Gelatin silver print, 21 x 15.5 cm. Private collection, ©Beatrice Hatala. Right: Claude Cahun, “Aveux non avenus,” planche III, 1929-1930. Gelatin silver print photomontage, 15 x 10 cm. Private collection.

Left: Claude Cahun, “Autoportrait,” 1929. Gelatin silver print, 24 x 19 cm. Musee des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, ©RMN/Gerard Blot. Right: Claude Cahun, “Autoportrait,” 1939. Gelatin silver print, 10 x 8 cm. Jersey Heritage Collection, ©Jersey Heritage.