Tuesday, June 8, 2010

some colonial histories should not be uttered

Today, after my morning walk and pulling out some more weeds from my flower garden, I popped on the radio and listened to parts of The Current, then to Jian Ghomeishi's Q. Anna Maria Tremonti was covering the Jewish artifacts of Iraq that had been damaged during the US invasion, that had been then brought to the US to be repaired -- with an agreement before they left Iraq that they would be returned as part of Iraq's cultural heritage. They are still in the US.

Some people don't want them returned to Iraq; Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress explained that they should be distributed to their original owners. I thought, what, and break up this amazing irreplaceable historical archive? Disperse it in pieces into the diaspora? Make it invisible? She interviewed Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq's ambassador to the US who argued that the Jewish heritage of Iraq goes back many centuries and that these artifacts will be cared for -- that Iraq has a long history and knowledge of caring for important cultural artifacts -- and further that they would be digitized so anyone, any researcher can access them. He argues that they are part of Iraqi history as are the Jewish people.

Tremonti's questions to him, I felt, were accusatory. She asked him why shouldn't they be kept in the US? Or sent to Israel? These comments, of course, speak to the interviewer's lack of understanding of Iraq's history and Jewish history and in my opinion were disrespectful, suggesting that Iraq is both incapable of, and unacceptable for, holding these Jewish artifacts as a collection. Sumaidaie's replies began to sound defensive, like he is tired of having to repeat the entire history of the world once again, that is, the history of the world beyond Western eyes. I turned the radio off. If you want to listen to the podcast, go to Part 3 here.

Shortly after, I listened to the opening of Q with Jian Ghomeshi. He started by talking about "the Helen Thomas" incident. After listening to what he had to say, I shut the radio off, sat at my computer and sent this off to the Q blog:

I thought your show was supposed to be cutting edge. The focus on Helen Thomas's comment and how it ends her career on a down turn speaks of how once again mainstream media -- no matter how it is disguised -- turns away from the real issue: the occupation, dispossession, and suppression of the human rights of Palestinians in the Gaza, the West Bank, in Israel, and in the diaspora.

Helen Thomas' off-the- cuff remark speaks of Israel's colonial history. Is this new to Americans and Canadians? Do we not know that many of the Jewish settlers to the newly created country of Israel were from Europe? That the state of Israel was created through violence? Reading Jewish history of the invasion of Palestine states the facts. Thomas' off-the-cuff remark speaks of occupation. Has it been forgotten that the Palestinians live under occupation? Or is that a convenient truth left ignored time and time again?

Let's look at "incidents" and never the real issue: the continuing dispossession of the Palestinian people by the state of Israel and its supporters, primarily the US and Canada.

Of course, the Israeli setters and immigrants can no longer go back to their original homes, any more than Canadian settlers and immigrants can go back to our original nation states. So, on this point I disagree with Helen Thomas, but I am sure, with her advanced knowledge of the Middle East collected over an esteemed career, that given the opportunity she would explain the context of her remarks.

I am not so quick to dismiss her like you have done.

One of the reasons Canadians and Americans refuse to look at Israel's colonial settler history is because that would mean looking at ours. It's easier to trash Helen Thomas.


After posting this, I read Angry Arab, who said on his post Helen Thomas and American Zionists:

"Regarding her comments: I have lived in the US since 1983, and I regularly hear American Zionists calling for the expulsion of Palestinians and their distribution around Arab countries far from Israel. It is a standard Zionist line. What is the difference? "


northshorewoman said...

interesting, my comment to Q, as well as another comment directing attention to Gaza, appeared on the Q blog this morning shortly after I sent it in. I went on the blog tonight to read other comments, but there are none. No comments at all. Mine, as well as the other one, are no longer there.

Was it removed? Is it a technological glitch? I'll check tomorrow.

Ari said...

If you are under CSIS "protection" !

northshorewoman said...

oh, I am sure someone is reading my blog now and then and taking notes.

I went back to Q and my and the other person's comments are there again. So? what happened? Who knows.

Tasnim said...

Great comments on Helen Thomas. I'll admit I have been struggling with what exactly to think about it.

Ari said...

Taina, Welcome back to Finland. Where is a journalist's free opinion. This is just like in China or in Soviet.
You are allowed to say only what your employer wants you to say. Is this the kind of democracy what our military forces are defending in Afghanistan. Maybe Mrs. Thomas said this on purpose, she certainly knew what is going to happen. She wanted to stop her career like this.

northshorewoman said...

hello Tasnim,

The dismissal of Thomas is really outrageous. Making the Palestinians disappear through ignoring the validity of their claims is central to mainstream media and governments, but disappearing the Israelis gets you labeled an anti-semite.

Ari, indeed, what sort of democracy are we spreading? Obviously, unwanted.