Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dancing under the gun

I received this article from A World to Win News Service. It is posted here for those readers who are not subscribers to World to Win

"Anyone who is familiar with Holocaust archival photos remembers images of Nazis forcing Jews to dance in the ghetto as they laugh derisively."

This comment was made by Israeli blogger Richard Silverstein about an incident at the Tel Aviv international airport 7 September. The Alvin Ailey dance ensemble from New York arrived for a performance they were to give at one of Israel's main venues, the first stop in a six-country tour celebrating the famed New York African-American dance ensemble's fiftieth anniversary.

Abdur-Rahim Jackson, a senior dancer, passed through security with the rest of the troupe. Then he was pulled aside and taken to a holding room.

The problem, security police told him, was his name. "I explained to them," Jackson later recounted, "that my father converted to Islam and gave me that name. They repeatedly asked me what my father's name is, what my mother's name is and why they gave me that name." One security officer told him he should change his name.

But they weren't through with him. They said that his airline pre-flight passenger data, passport, prestige in the field of dance, his travelling with the troupe, his pictures in the dance company's brochures, etc., weren't enough. If he wanted to enter Israel, they said, he would have to dance for them, right there in the interrogation room, surrounded by mocking police. Unwillingly, and highly upset and embarrassed, he said later, he did. (Associated Press, 9 September)

Then he was interrogated by a second set of officers – and again, forced to dance. After about an hour of humiliation, they released him.

The incident made news in Israel for the wrong reasons. Jackson, it turns out, is not now and never has been a Moslem, and his fiancé, although classifiable as Black by zealous profilers, is Jewish. Her Israeli family were waiting at the airport. Nevertheless, Israeli officials adamantly refused to comment, let alone apologize.

Blogger Silverstein points out, "Perhaps it doesn't rise to the same level of humiliation [as the famous Polish ghetto photo]. But that's only because Israeli personnel knew this was an American citizen. You can be certain that if this had been an Israeli Arab dancer the treatment would've been much worse." (richardsilverstein .com)

Much worse: Mohammed Omer, a 24-year-old from Gaza, was one of two winners of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism (along with Dahr Jamail). International governmental support, including Dutch diplomats who travelled to get him, forced Israel to let him out of Gaza so he could attend the award ceremony in London. Omer became a journalist as a teenager after an Israeli bulldozer crushed his home while his family was still inside, seriously injuring his mother. Yet, according to a former Dutch ambassador, "He is a moderating voice, urging Palestinian youth not to court hatred but seek peace with Israel." (johnpilger. com, 2 July)

But as with the dancer Jackson, Israel doesn't care if someone really poses a threat or not. They have a system to enforce. Part of that is that no one among those they consider subhuman is allowed to consider themselves as good as the master race. Nor can any of the master race's enforcers entertain the idea that those whose oppression their identity is based on are human beings. Their system stands or falls, ultimately, on guns, but this ideology is essential to its survival.

When Omer tried to re-enter Israel, at the Allenby Bridge from Jordan, again travelling with a Dutch diplomat for protection, eight Shin Bet (Israeli Gestapo) officers surrounded him and demanded his prize money. One put a gun to Omer's head. They forcibly stripped him and made him stand naked. They laughed when he complained that he was a human being. After twelve hours without water, food or a toilet, he vomited and passed out. Then the Shin Bet men used their thumbs to gouge under his eyes and the nerves under his ears and stepped on his throat to cut off his breathing – torture procedures designed not to leave marks. All the while, his Dutch diplomatic escort was waiting. Maybe that's why he ended up in a hospital instead of dead.

Before they tortured him, they made him dance.

No comments: