Interweaving: Somdeep Sen on Race, Fieldwork, and Colonization in Israel/Palestine

1095 As part of our occasional series of “Interweaving” conversations, I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Somdeep Sen, a Weave News blogger and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen, regarding a number of issues related to his field research in Palestine/Israel.

Our conversation touched on his experience of the politics of race and violence while in the field as well as his first-hand observations from Jerusalem and the West Bank regarding the current state of Israel's settler-colonial project. (All images courtesy of Somdeep Sen.)

NYT Palestine Spoof: Defending the Right to Satire

Acting in the tradition of culture jamming groups such as the Yes Men, who pulled off a famous 2008 fake edition of the New York Times, two American Jewish groups (Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No!) recently launched a website that brilliantly reveals the problem with the NYT's notoriously slanted coverage of Palestine/Israel. Not surprisingly, their efforts have been met with a swift response from the powerful gatekeepers who would prefer to silence those who engage in this sort of satirical creative work.

Interweaving: Ilana Feldman on the AAA's Israel Boycott Resolution

877 At its recent meeting in Denver, members of the American Anthropological Association voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution calling on the AAA to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Following the historic vote I reached out to Ilana Feldman, a member of the group that spearheaded the effort to bring the resolution forward. Feldman is Associate Professor of Anthropology, History, and International Affairs at George Washington University and author of the recently-released monograph Police Encounters: Security and Surveillance in Gaza Under Egyptian Rule (Stanford University Press) and numerous other publications. Below is a transcript of our conversation, presented here as part of my occasional “Interweaving” series of conversations on contemporary global issues.

The Wesleyan Occupation and the Limited 'Moral Solidarity' of the 21st Century Administrator

855 As someone who cares about justice in Palestine and who has written a lot about the global significance of Palestine, I pay close attention to the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that is seeking to put economic pressure on Israel. So when a group of nearly 40 student activists at Wesleyan University decided to occupy the office of President Michael Roth last month, with divestment from the Israeli occupation as one of their core demands, they had my attention. After digging further into the case, I’ve concluded that it does more than provide an inspiring example of student activism. It also reveals something about the failures of courage that leave many university administrators blunting organized efforts to seek justice in Palestine instead of standing on the right side of history. (Image:

Documentary on the treatment of African migrants and refugees in Israel

I first caught wind of this documentary when a member of a club I’m a part of shared it on the community Facebook page. What grabbed my attention was the title “Watch the video the New York Times didn't Want You to See.” I pondered why the NYT wouldn’t want me to watch the video; needless to say I clicked on the play button.

Librarians and Archivists in Palestine

Solidarity Statement from Librarians and Archivists to Palestine following their recent visit to Palestine.  I have been following their work with great interest and admiration in recent months. 


The "Pacification Industry" Comes to Chiapas

Sometimes the most seemingly innocuous “local” news reports are the ones that contain the seeds of the most profound global understanding. Such is the case with a May 8 report in the Mexican newspaper Excélsior detailing a meeting between a Mexican security official in the southern province of Chiapas (site of the famous popular rebellion led by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation) and a representative of the Israeli military.

The Other New Jim Crow? (UPDATED)

Ask anyone you know: when you hear the phrase “segregated buses,” what comes to mind?  Most people will respond by referring to the racist laws that prevailed in the southern United States during the infamous Jim Crow era that lasted (formally) until the mid-1960s.  While these laws affected many different aspects of people’s everyday lives, the racial segregation of public buses remains one of the best-known aspects of the Jim Crow era thanks to the efforts of courageous civil rights activists like Rosa Parks, who was recently honored with a statue at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, DC.  Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Parks’ birth, the unveiling of the statue appeared to mark a recognition that the days of segregated buses are now firmly part of “history.” Or are they? 

Breaking News! CNN Finds Israelis to Confirm the Obvious

I’m fond of quoting Gil Scott-Heron’s sarcastic observation that “America leads the world in shock!”  It’s a concise way of expressing how easily people in a position of privilege can bury their heads in the sand for years…decades…generations…and then suddenly realize the obvious – and then expect everyone else to congratulate them for discovering it.  So it’s no surprise to find CNN expressing shock – shock! – at the content of The Gatekeepers, the Oscar-nominated documentary that features the perspectives of six former heads of the Shin Bet (Israel’s "internal security service").  In a January 28 blog post, CNN’s Samuel Burke breathlessly tells us that the film contains “stunning revelations.” Money quote:

Against the backdrop of the currently frozen peace process, all six argue – to varying degrees – that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is bad for the state of Israel.

Gaza Lesson #2: Endless Deferral

As I continue to reflect on what can be learned from a close look at the discourse surrounding Israel’s November 2012 “Operation Pillar of Cloud” in Gaza, I want to leave the media discourse aside for a moment and report on something more local.  Back in December I participated in a UVA-style “Flash Seminar” at my university’s new Global Dialogue Center (a project co-sponsored by the Weave).  The topic was Gaza, and the conversation unintentionally revealed yet another way in which our ways of talking about Israel/Palestine often serve to obfuscate as much as they explain.  With that in mind:

Lesson #2: The dominant discourse on Israel/Palestine produces a tendency to defer endlessly any systematic attention to Palestinians themselves, as real human beings – their rights, their experiences, and the real conditions of their lives. 

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