An exhibit of 17 paintings done by Palestinian children that was mounted in a library at Brandeis University last week was taken down over the weekend by the Brandeis administration. That’s from Lior Halperin, a 27-year-old Israeli sophomore at Brandeis, who fought resistance from the school to put on the show in the first place. I’m waiting for a call back from the Brandeis administrator who is said to have taken the show down.
Halperin says that MIT has offered to mount the show, she’ll take it there.
The show of pictures from kids in a refugee camp in Bethlehem was (shockingly) an effort by Halperin to bring the humanity of the victims of Israel’s occupation to the American Jewish community. “If we are going to find a partner for peace, we have to listen to the other side,” Halperin says. “These are voices who are longing for a land and longing for a home, we have to respect that.”
Here, for instance, is a painting by 16-year-old Hussam Al-Azza, who says, “I want to tell the world about Palestine, and I ask them to search for the reality about our case.”
Let’s be clear. The show was provocative: one kid painted a flag of Palestine on Israel, almost all the kids spoke in the accompanying texts of liberating Palestine, ending the occupation, returning to their grandparents’ homes in what is now Israel. But, did you notice—the Middle East is a violent mess. We need to do more listening, not less.
One unfortunate aspect of the Jewish community’s rigidity on these issues is that it is shutting out evolving ideas about Israel’s future from the left; and the left needs to be heard.
These days the political mainstream is all for a two-state solution. Right-wing Israelis are even for it, because of the “demographic” problem: the Arab birthrate in the occupied territories threatens to make Israel responsible for a “state” that is mostly Arab. So Israel wants to withdraw from a lot of the West Bank, and put up that big wall, and wash its hands of the Arabs forever. Can it do that? Probably not. It’s just a formula for more mistrust, more violence, more separation. Especially if the border is not negotiated through an international process. And meanwhile, voices on the left—the same voices on the left that were pushing for a two-state solution 25 years ago when the mainstream said they were crazy—are now beginning to push for a one-state solution, a unified land where Palestinians and Jews live in peaceful co-existence, which is what Halperin believes. I know, that’s crazy. And everyone else has such reasonable answers.