Art Projects with Children of Palestine 2015
Project Spotlight: Palestine
“Safeguarding the rights of others is the most noble and beautiful end of a human being.” - Khalil Gibran
The Beautiful Project was invited by the Barefoot Artists Organization (led by the amazing humanitarian and artist, Lily to work at several sites inPalestine (Nablus and the West Bank) in 2015. We artists were to work with leaders, practice art making with the community, and learn more about Palestine. I was nervous about the trip and also bought into a ongoing narrative that the situation may seem confusing, complicated, and possibly dangerous at times and to be prepared. Upon arriving to Palestine, two things were made abundantly clear to me:
1 - That this was not a complicated situation at all as it was made out to me. That in fact, what I was witnessing was apartheid and the dehumanization of an entire people.
2 - That the Palestinians were not the terroristic violent people that they had been made out to be in the media over the years.
An Occupied Population, Loss of Land, Home, and Rights Over 75 years.
During our time there we were so genuinely and warmly welcomed by the Palestinians. We were invited into their homes, lives and hearts, and through those experiences and the hours of hours and hours of conversations and interviews, we learned of the ongoing Palestinian struggle that extended back for over 75 years. Daily, we witnessed the presence of an occupation that had control over Palestinian water and food supply. We heard first-hand countless stories of Palestinians being forcibly removed from their land that they had lived on for generations by Israeli settlers often through violence. Homes and entire neighborhoods are demolished to make way for more and more Israeli settlements. And, great crimes inflicted against the Palestinians like the Nakba (“The Great Catstrophe” of 1947) happening periodically. This becomes so clear as shown on the map shown below. Palestinians now only live on less than 5% of the land they once lived on as indigenous people.
Map of Palestine in 1947 published by
A Shrinking Palestine from 1947 - 2005
We visited refugee camps where some of the millions of displaced Palestinians languish with no way to support themselves and not even a stitch of land where they could hope to grow their own food to feed themselves. I saw how much the Western media told us lie upon lie and reported a complete 180 degree spin on the truth. That Israel was not defending itself as we’ve been taught…for how can an occupying force be defending itself? It would be as your neighbor came onto your land trying to steal your home and shot you and claimed self defense. We would never stand for this and yet how do we allow this to happen to others? It was like watching a playbook of how to remove and exterminate an entire people while the world sits complicit in the atrocity. It was like watching what happened to the Native Americans in the West and aboriginal people all over the world real time.
Al Aqaba Mural Project
Al Aqaba is a small village in the West Bank that is under the constant threat of being demolished.
"The world needs to learn from the endurance, wisdom, and the courage of the Jewish people who have suffered for centuries discrimination, subjugation, expulsion, and mass elimination. They have not only survived but have made enormous contributions to the world in the fields of science, law, art, medicine, and humanity. Their sense of deep-rootedness in life is profound. Even in the darkest times, the Jewish people are proud of who they are, always remembering their history, and identity.
I think this mural is trying to do that for the Palestinian people in exile today on their own land. Despite the loss and the suffering, one celebrates life through resisting injustice, and through remembering one’s ancestral land, history, and identity." - Lily Yeh
The Al Aquaba mural we created with Barefoot Artists and Lily Yeh titled, “Once upon a time, there was the land of Palestine,” before the 1948 Nakba, the Catastrophe, and before apartheid oppression and the brutal ethnic cleansing.
(rewrite this as it is a direct quote from Lily) Nablus is a modern city with ancient roots. It has functioned as a cultural and commercial center for the past two thousand years. Most of its charming Old City, with narrow streets and arches, was built during the Ottoman time. Many of the residents, whose families have lived here for generations, are fiercely proud and protective of their land and heritage.
During the Second Intifada, the city endured brutal attacks from the Israeli occupying military. Numerous buildings were destroyed and families perished. Despite continued harassment and arrests, the determined citizens, in their resistance to occupation, have earned Nablus the honored name Mountain of Fire.
Nablus, Palestine - To Resist is to Exist
Nablus - To Resist is to Exist
......Nablus is a built in the Ottoman Empire.....
Children's Art Workshops in Nablus City Square
......The children continually reminding us of who we are standing for and must protect.
the Barefoot Artist team created this spirited figure, covered partially in a kaffiyeh (symbol of unity), rising from the old city proudly holding the national flag that represents the land and people of Palestine. It immediately became an iconic image and spread like wild fire on social media.
It reminds us of the words of Mahmud Darwish, the pre-eminent Palestinian poet:
And they searched his chest
But could only find his heart
And they searched his heart
And could only find his people.
Al-Fara Prison Project
Torture and Intimidation in the West Bank: Case of Al-Fara'a Prison
Illegal Detainment of Palestinians and Palestinian Children over the Years
We interviewed person after person who had been imprisoned and tortured by Israel without any charges or due process - many of them were children who were detained for years without their parents or family being able to contact them. Since the Second Intifada, in 2000, when Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) began tracking Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military, Israeli forces have detained, interrogated, prosecuted and imprisoned approximately 13,000 Palestinian children. UNICEF reports of the appalling conditions psychologically scarring OPT children.
My beautiful Palestinian friend, Ayat and I, after she gifted me some of her handmade jewelry in Nablus. Her brother, AbduAllah, has been under illegal administrative detention, his identity card confiscated, and imprisoned by Israeli forces for over a year with no formal charges, nor trials, brought against him and they have not been able to make any contact with him or even know if he is still alive. She reports of other Palestinian prisoners coming out of Israeli prisons having been mistreated and tortured, many of them children.
visiting Al'. prison
On Palestinian Prisoners Day, marked annually on April 17th, we joined the celebration to honor the resilience of the Palestinians. Since 1967, roughly 20% of the total Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 40% of the male population, has been arrested at least once. Of utmost concern in recent years, the Israeli military has increasingly detained children at an escalating rate, including by administrative detention. Since 2015, in total a third of all detentions concern children under the age of 18.**
Face painting with the children during Prisoner's Day Gathering
Systematic Dehumanization of Palestinians and Media Spin
Since Oct 7, more than 20,000 people have been confirmed killed in Gaza, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza - more than 6,150 children, 4,000+ women, over 250 health aid workers and at least 75 journalists. 1.7 million people (80% of the population) have been displaced, mainly to Southern Gaza, where they have to seek shelter in overcrowded, unsanitary spaces. Renewed bombardment and shelling in this area that people were told to flee to, including in refugee camps, means the Palestinian civilians have nowhere to seek safety and no medical or humanitarian infrastructure to rely on. 2.2 million people have little or no access to food and water and are now suffering from infectious diseases. All three hospitals in Gaza have been bombed so that civilians cannot receive medical treatment. Listen to best-selling author, foreign correspondent, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges speak on the genocide in Gaza (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly6lfhOxTe0).
October 7, approximately people in Israel were 1,200 killed. Despite initial reports is now becoming evident that Israel is unclear about whether certain people were killed by Hamas or the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). An additional 240 hostages held by. As of today, 100 of those hostages have been release safely by Hamas (video here of a hostage release by Hamas). Though there were initially reports of rape and “beheadings of babies”, not one of these claims have been able to be proven. Both CNN and President Biden have had to recant themselves saying that there was a beheading after finding there was no such evidence. The issue with this, is that the damage is already done painting a narrative of Hamas being brutal terrorists and Israel merely defending itself. See this video by expert Abby Martin and _______discussing the propaganda and media spin at work.XXXXXXXXXX
U.S. Support and Tax Dollars Funding Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide
According to the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, October 7 Israel has dropped more than 25,000 tonnes of explosives on the Gaza Strip since, equivalent to two nuclear bombs. This is funded by the U.S. with our tax dollars.
The U.S. is by far the biggest supplier of military aid to Israel, contributing around $130 billion since its founding. Israel receives $3.8 billion annually for its military and weapons (and recently the a bill was proposed to send $14.3 immediately to Israel) and has some of the most advance military weapons in the world. With the U.S.'s help, Israel has formed one of the most formidable and technologically advanced militaries in the Middle East using advanced and mechanized weaponry to attack Palestinians. Palestine, on the other hand, has no army, no navy, not one helicopter, airplane, tank, and receives no military assistance from other countries. Palestine has no such weapons of war to meet their oppressors with. Rather than stating this as an Israel-Hamas war, this is more accurately a war upon the people of Gaza and one that has gone on for decades. This is a genocide (as defined) by international law (watch video here as _______speaks of this being a casebook case of Genocide)
Recently the Biden administration spoke of Israel needing to use more caution in killing civilians however this seems to be empty rhetoric as President Biden is simultaneously pushing for unfettered arms transfers to Israel: https://youtu.be/UlFdFM5kfkI?si=oARfsYVMoSQO9z2g. Additionally, on Dec 9, the U.S. was the only country to VETO a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire with the rapidly deteriorating situation for Palestinian civilians. The U.S. Government has been no less than a partner in the genocide in Gaza.fettered
A question often raised is "but what about the hostages taken by Hamas and the 1200 people killed in Israel on Oct. 7?" One's heart equally goes out to all the families affected by this but was is critical to understanding what happened on Oct. 7 did not happen in a vacuum. It was the result of decades of injustice inflicted upon the Palestinians having to take to more extreme measures simply to be heard. I say this as both an American and Thai national knowing that Thai citizens were amongst those killed on Oct 7 and also taken as hostages. There is the understanding with many along with with many Jewish voices from “A Jewish Voice for Peace” (a non profit inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law, and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals) in the stance that “all violence is based on oppression”. The Palestinian people have been oppressed for decades now as they are denied basic human rights. Here is another video of hostage release by Hamas where the hostages state they were well-treated. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNOwS8u-Ulg
May delete or make this section much much shorter entirely
Like so many, I have felt at times powerless to affect any change, to really be of help. What can one tiny, little person like me possibly do in a situation so immense, so dire where there are such extreme powers at play? So much darkness at hand? The story of the Palestinians who have had a wage waged upon them for 100 years is the same story as the indigenous, marginalized, colonized, and oppressed people all over the world and people with some degree of sensitivity can intuit this. Most of us feel this is not right in our hearts. It is not merely something “political” to leave up to the political experts, the historical experts, and the pundits but that it is something that deeply violates our sense of humanity – what it means to be actually and fully human. For we often misunderstand, we believe erroneously, that it is the oppressed that suffers alone (although their suffering is apparent and immense) but the oppressor and the majority of silent bystanders that implicitly support the oppressor in their silence suffer as well… and what is that suffering? For the oppressor and those complicit in injustice - we too are in great peril of losing sense of our own wholeness, our own humanity – without which life quickly becomes a meaningless shell, a dried and calcified husk of a human having to increasingly seek some outer source to fulfill that nagging sense of lack that comes from the absence of Being. Being whole, being fully human, with the capacity to feel and to love. To love, not only within our tiny little sphere of life, under the misapprehension that we are somehow all disparate parts lacking any connection… any cohesion, but to love our fellow mankind. As we widen the gap between “us” and the “other” we become ever more separated and alienated from ourselves. To cut off an entire group of people is like cutting off our own leg.
And yet how… How do we mend these ruptures?… How do we bridge these apparently ever widening gaps?… What can we possibly do in the face of so much darkness? I know these questions have bombarded my mind as much as the images of violence and suffering we are now bearing witness to. So much so, that it seems hard to have the energy to meditate and create… and yet I know that is what I must do. I was given a gift to paint in a unique way with a unique voice and also given the gift of the very desire and passion for painting. And so it is. It is my job, my profession, dedication, my little way of holding up my tiny corner of the universe. And that’s all each of us can do… our given role… whatever that may be…to follow the deepest calling of our hearts for good. And lately, as so much darkness has fallen upon us, even though I must fight to keep at the easel and not let the prevalent sense of density and inertia take over, as if painting through molasses, I can see it…revealed brushstroke by brushstroke. That the light of heaven still struggles through the 20-haired tip of the brush to express something of our deepest selves, our soul, our shared humanity calling out loudly for us to return to the Self, to restore our inherent and natural sense of goodness and harmony… the calling to become ever brighter beacons of light in these days of darkness with the unfathomable light of the heart leading the way.
"Although we may take on different appearances in that gorgeous and plentiful multiplicity of life that we are inextricably interwoven and that we all rise as One from the One.”
With Great Love,
- Pamela Sukhum
LEARN MORE AND TAKE ACTION:
Take to the streets: Check with your local chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, Palestinian Youth Movement, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other SWANA-focused organizations for local protests and actions happening every day.
Contact your representatives: For US-based community members, use this basic call template from US Campaign for Palestinian Rights or this email template from Jewish Voice for Peace to quickly express your solidarity with Palestine and call for an immediate ceasefire. For UK-based community members, use this template by Medical Aid for Palestinians to email your MP. For Canadians, use this call template to contact your MP. It takes less than five minutes!
Boycott Israeli Genocide and Apartheid: Reject Israeli funding, refuse collaborations with all Israeli institutions, and take part in the BDS movement.
Support colleagues who speak out: Community members across the US and Europe are being silenced, vilified, and attacked for supporting Palestinian liberation or for merely being of SWANA descent. Stand with your community members!
Support Urgent Relief Efforts And Grassroots Fundraising For Gaza
Send donations to this direct aid campaign facilitated by Beirut Art Center, this grassroots mutual aid campaign in Gaza, Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, Medical Aid for Palestine, and The Palestinian Social Fund.
LEARN MORE FROM TRUSTED NON-MAINSTREAM MEDIA OUTLETS:
SOURCES FOR STATISTICS
**Cairo Institute For Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
I wish to share these resources which have helped in informing myself on the true nature of this conflict from prominent experts in their field:
Ta-Nehisi Coates Speaks Out Against Israel's "Segregationist Apartheid Regime" After West Bank Visit
Israel/Palestine: The History and What’s Real - Norman Finkelstein (interviewed by Mikhaila Peterson):
The 100 year war on Palestine w/Rashid Khalidi | The Chris Hedges Report
Stand with the oppressed.
Igor Kufayev speaks to the dynamics of troubled times:
We Are All Palestinians:
Holocaust Survivor, Gabor Mate, Tells Piers Morgan Why He’s Not A Zionist:
This brave and talented photographer, Motaz Azaiza, captures the shared humanity so well, but I wish to prepare you that some of the imagery he has captured is deeply disturbing: