Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our Queer Family In Palestine

No, this is not a follow-up to 'Our Mutual Friend', written by some edgy experimental heir to Charles Dickens. It's a phrase taken from a flyer distributed by Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (yes, that's really their name), at a demonstration in front of the Castro Theater on Friday.

Why was QUIT protesting at the Castro Theater? I'll let them try to explain that themselves:

 In case you cannot read it, the cute little pink umbrella says "Israeli pinkwashing does not make me wet!". 'Pinkwashing', a term shamelessly stolen from breast cancer activists, is the new hip term in the BDS movement, for 'mentioning that Israel has a sterling human rights record on LGBT issues'. This is so true that they can't stand it, and must create little derogatory terms suggesting that allowing same-sex partners adoption rights, sending transgendered Israelis to represent the country at major music festivals, and acknowledging same-sex marriage from out of the country are all things Israelis have done simply to change the subject, and try to cover up their unspeakable evil.

Hey, we're not here to ruin anyone's good time, the flyer continues. We just want the same freedom to go out and have fun for all queers. But our queer family in Palestine doesn't have it. Many of them live under military occupation, and all of them live under a rigid system of discrimination and segregation very similar to apartheid South Africa.

This is the passage that makes me consider this otherwise fairly innocuous flyer perhaps the most chutzpahdik piece of writing that I've ever seen in a world full of terrible lies about Israel. Even coming from QUIT, this is a remarkable piece of chicanery. The deception comes in two layers. First is the expected one, which involves  throwing out words like 'military occupation', 'segregation' and 'apartheid', mischaracterizing and spinning the situation of Palestinians living under their own governments in disputed territories.

Second, however, is an almost breathtaking lie of omission. Apparently, you see, the reason our 'queer family in Palestine' is not getting to go out and have a fun day at the Palestinian Gay and Lesbian Film Festival*, is because of the Israelis.

Not because sex between men is a criminal act in Gaza. Not because there is no legislation either by the PA or Hamas to protect gay and lesbian Palestinians. Not because government-sanctioned and enacted violence against LGBT Palestinians is common in both the West Bank and Gaza. Not because gay Palestinians are routinely accused of being collaborators with Israel, a charge that carries the death penalty. Not because gay Palestinians have been pressured into becoming suicide bombers to expiate their shame. Not because in order to live as an out gay man and survive, many young men have made their way illegally into Israel, the luckier ones finding support and shelter within the gay community there.

No, it's not because of this nightmare of socially sanctioned hate and violence against queers of all stripes that 'our queer family in Palestine' isn't having a lovely time marching in the Ramallah Pride Parade*. It's because of Israel.

QUIT's website and print propaganda contains no mention whatsoever of any sort of oppression of LGBT Palestinians by anyone except the ever-convenient Israelis.

They clearly believe that mention the LGBT Palestinians dead at the hand of the PA police, murdered by their own families, or living on the street in Tel Aviv, trying to stay alive and find a place to belong, would be too morally complex and inconvenient to their narrative.

They are betraying those they pretend to claim as family.

*The Palestinian Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Ramallah Pride Parade do not exist, except in the blogger's overactive imagination. May they someday exist, in a region filled with peace.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Guten Shabbos

A very very young Ofra Haza sings "Shabat ha-Malka".

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Video from Israel In The Gardens

Courtesy of the Younger of Zion. Be sure to watch or forward to the very end--that's when the littlest 100% Palestinian bear got picked up and carried off to bed.

Israel in the Gardens, 2011--Release Your Inner Camel

The inflatable camel was with Hillel, and I took a picture of it because it said 'Release your inner camel' on the side of it, and I had never considered having an 'inner camel' before. Also, the camel is a Bactrian. Middle Eastern camels are dromedaries. I discussed this with the Hillel guy, who explained that this was the only inflatable camel on the market. We agreed that it was a Bactrian that had made aliyah.

Welcome to Israel in the Gardens, 2011, a cultural fair featuring Israeli rock, face painting, kids making spice blends, folks selling earrings, and approximately a bazillion people in line for The Flying Felafel. Targeted for hate and protest by Bay Area Women In Black and their peace-loving friends. Let the good times roll!

We, the Mighty Morphin' Zionist Defenders were ready to go. We had t-shirts. We had flags. We had Caterpillar hats. We had khaffiyot yisraelit. We were ready to go. All we lacked was a dance partner.

Here is a lady being wanded, prior to entering the event. I've been to a lot of cultural fairs in my day. Let's just say that at the Scottish Games in Santa Rosa they don't wand you and search your bag when you come in. Same way they don't have security guards outside First Methodist on Christmas Day, but they do for Rosh Hashanah services. But I am grateful for our excellent security teams, because while needing them sucks, needing and not having would suck much more.

Anyway, our dance partners began to arrive...

 BAWIB is always punctual, dreary, and carrying signs that are correctly spelled, although not always fact-checked.

They had great shopping malls in the Warsaw Ghetto, I remember reading about that. Or perhaps what we have here is sheer denial of reality, combined with the pathetic belief that invoking the Holocaust will make the actual situation on the ground irrelevant.

Meanwhile, things were going nicely on the other side of the barricades:

Happy Zionists with a banner


Our waltz with BAWIB was coming to a close. As I've mentioned, BAWIB is quite punctual. If they say noon to one, they show up at noon and leave on the stroke of one. We were not going to be left without dance partners, however. The replacement shift was already getting ready across the plaza, and they were working on...something.

What it was wasn't entirely clear. At this stage it consisted mostly of red and black balloons. They began to add green ones, but were having trouble controlling them. An occasional balloon drifted up to the sky.

As BAWIB marched off into the distance, the first members of the replacement shift arrived. Younger. More excitable. Bearing flags and signs printed by International A.N.S.W.E.R.
Perhaps it's just as well they had the signs printed by A.N.S.W.E.R., since it turns out that they can't spell very well. One would almost think these people were members of the Tea Party.

I couldn't get a clear shot of this man's sign, but it reads "Israel: 63 Yrs. of Ethnic Cleansing & APATHEID". The all-caps was important, but apparently the evil West Bank settlers stole the R.

"Paletinian Ethnic Cleansing". What, is spellcheck a Zionist conspiracy? Don't they PROOFREAD these things? (BAWIB may be hateful, but their signs are always spelled correctly.)

Sadly, the third example of spelling issues that I wanted to post did not come out legibly in the photos. The young man below and one of his friends were both wearing jackets with photographs printed on the back, and a heading accusing "Isreal" of horrible crimes.

By this time there were quite a lot of people in their little area in the street, yelling and screaming. What were they yelling a screaming? I'm glad you asked. They were yelling and screaming "Intifada, intifada, we support the intifada." They were shouting "Falastin Arabiye!" (Palestine is Arab). They were shrieking "From the river to the sea! From the river to the sea!" And they were screeching "Ba ruh, ba dam, nafdeek ya Falastin." (With spirit and blood we will cleans you, Palestine.) And the old crowd favorite "Khaybar, khaybar ya yahud, jaysh Muhammad saya'ud." (Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Mohammed will return.) You know. Peaceful slogans like that.

And then the piece de resistance showed up. You will recall the mysterious balloon item mentioned earlier? Well, this is what it looked like fully assembled.

In case you can't tell, I am pretty sure it was supposed to be a Palestinian flag. It didn't turn out perfectly, but heck, who am I to judge? My side didn't have any balloons at all. We were struck into silence by the sheer threatening force of all those balloons. For a couple of seconds. Then the Israeli guys behind me started screaming, "Balloons! Balloons! Ooooh, can I have a balloon? I want a balloon!"

More yelling. Several people gave us the finger. And then, as the SFPD became politely insistent, the group took their balloons and their signs and their whistle and bullhorns and moved across the street, ultimately leaving behind two young men who wanted to act out. They acted out. They chanted. One of them pulled up his sleeves to show us that he had the words "100% Palestinian" tattooed on his forearms.

It was as this point that the most wonderful thing I had seen all day, inflatable camels included, happened. A young woman detatched from the crew across the street, came back, and grabbed one of the young men (the one shown above), and pushed him in the right direction. The other guy wasn't moving, so she wrapped her ams under his, and hoisted him off his feet.

The cheering from our side (also the hooting) was deafening, and for a moment I thought the young woman was going to put him down and come back to the barricades to yell at us, but she gritted her teeth and carted him off, over the center divider, and across the street.

My inner camel felt good about the whole thing.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Great Hatred, Little Room

Spent today at San Francisco's Israel in the Gardens Independence Day celebration. A lot happened, and I will be blogging about it, and posting pictures (I hope).

While we were there, my father had a conversation with an Irish woman, there to protest Israel's independence. She said the situation in the Middle East was just like the Troubles, and Mr. Bluejeans Sr. told her that Hamas was the Real IRA, the Provos, the UVF and Ian Paisley rolled into one. She said, "I don't support Hamas", while standing next to people who unabashedly do.

Anyway, summoned by my own random associations, the poem started up in my head, and would not leave, because Yeats could put his finger on it sometimes. Something for me to think about as I sort through the day. This is by William Butler Yeats, who could be a bit of a pretentious eejit, really, but the gift was from God. I had always thought this piece was called "Fanatic Heart", like the Black 47 piece that's based on it in part, but it's actually

Remorse For Intemperate Speech

I ranted to the knave and fool,
But outgrew that school,
Would transform the part,
Fit audience found, but cannot rule
My fanatic heart.
I sought my betters: though in each
Fine manners, liberal speech,
Turn hatred into sport,
Nothing said or done can reach
My fanatic heart,
Out of Ireland have we come.
Great hatred, little room,
Maimed us at the start.
I carry from my mother's womb
A fanatic heart.

I suppose this may sound a bit mournful; it's Yeats, after all. I'm actually in a very good mood tonight. But it fit, so there it is.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Mafroum follow-up

The mafroum turned out decently--at least I think so. One difficulty with this dish for me is that I've never eaten one before, so I'm guessing about what it's supposed to taste like.

Notes for future ones:

1. Beef is probably better, but the turkey turned out OK. The spice mix in the turkey tastes a little overdone to me. I don't know if this because the mix is geared to a more flavored meat, or because I threw in too much pepper 'to taste', or because my taste buds aren't geared for authenticity. It's not bad, just a bit hot and sweet for my overall taste.

2. The potatoes and the vegetables come out amazingly flavorful and lovely.

3. A liter of stock is simply too much, and didn't reduce nearly as much as I'd imagined. Perhaps half or two-thirds of that amount next time. Once the mafroum are eaten, I'm going to have the makings for soup.

4. The baharat is delicious. I've never cooked with it before. NICE.

5. I can hear generations of little old Tunisian ladies gasping in unison, but I'm not sure that stuffing the damn potatoes is necessary. Meatballs and quartered potatoes, slow-cooked the same way would work fine for my lazy modern behind.

I'm Guest Posting!

Hey! Check it out! Over at Anarchzionist's place, the Balabusta rants about circumcision bans and cartooning bigots.

Mafroum, Mark One

Today, the Balabusta is trying her hand at mafroum.

Mafroum is a Jewish dish from North Africa, featuring ground seasoned meat stuffed into potatoes and then simmered to tenderness in a tomatoey sauce. It's one of those dishes that are descended from the grand Persian court cooking of the high Middle Ages, and that gradually evolved into a way for a woman to spend hours of her life stuffing things into vegetables and chopping other things into sauces. I discovered the recipe I'm using at Mimi's Israeli Kitchen, and I just had to try.

So far, so good. I am using ground turkey for the first attempt, mostly because it's cheaper. The meat blend is easy to put together, except for having to grate a potato.

Frying the potato is the more complicated part. You peel potatoes, cut them almost all the way through--well, in my case, all the way through most of the time, and then stuff them with the meat. Then you're meant to roll them in seasoned flour, then in beaten egg, and then fry them golden.

This is easier said than done. Let's just say that my potatoes got sort of fried, but beautiful like someone's grandma's from Tunisia they were not. Then you create the sauce, pour in some chicken broth, put the potatoes in, and let the whole thing simmer for a couple of hours.

The original recipe calls for cabbage, which I am leaving out because the Balabos hates cabbage. I am thinking that carrots or leeks might work for a future occasion.

Anway, the simmer is underway, and everything looks basically like the pictures, so we'll see how it goes. My kitchen smells nicely of baharat and onions.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The 'New Egypt' Looks A Lot Like The Old Egypt

After years of hostility, it looks as though the new Egyptian government may finally simply not allow Jewish worshippers into Egypt for a hilula at the grave of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira.

"After the January 25 revolution, which toppled over the Hosni Mubarak regime, the Jews will not be allowed to enter Demito any more and endanger the public morals and hurt the feelings of its 5,000 residents," Moustafa Rasslan, a lawyer, said.

He called on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has been ruling the country since February 11, to enforce a 2001 court ruling that compelled the Culture Ministry, responsible for the site where the annual gathering takes place in late December and early January, to cancel the Abu Hasira celebrations all together.

"If the SCAF does not enforce the ruling, Damito residents will not allow the Jews come to their village to attend the week-long Abu Hasira Mulid (festival), where they used to behave in a way that contradicts Islamic traditions and public morals under the very nose of security officials of the ousted regime," he said.

Yeah, those guys up there look like a pretty raunchy bunch. Terrifying, really.

A few days after Mubarak went down, a young man yelled at me (as a representative Zionist) on the Berkeley campus that now that Egyptians were free, they were 'free to hate you'. He was, of course, quite correct. Foolish of me, I suppose, to hope that for once a people might gain freedom without attacking the Jews first thing.