Feature Article: Here are Some Works Based on the Sabra and Shatila Massacre

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From “Waltz with Bashir.” (Sony Pictures Classics)

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Thirty five years ago, Lebanese president-elect Bachir Gemayel was assassinated. In response, a militia associated with the Lebanese Kataeb Party, called Phalange, began massacring thousands of innocent Palestinian refugees and Lebanese Shiites, aided, in part, by Israeli forces who provided night-time illumination and failed to prevent a massacre that occurred on Israeli-occupied ground. The result was what we now call the Sabra and Shatila Massacre—a dark, lamentable chapter in an Arab history full of dark, lamentable chapters.

Here are some works—not all, and only the ones I know—inspired by and based on that tragedy.

A man lies on a makeshift hospital bed in Shatila—a former freedom fighter named Yunes who may never regain consciousness. His companion, a doctor named Khalil, begins a one-sided conversation narrating his storied past, the story slipping into and out of the present in Khoury’s stunning examination of memory’s relationship to violence.

Khoury, born in Lebanon, spent time in the camps to write this book, drawing on the stories of the Palestinian diaspora to try and weave his Palestinian Odyssey. The New York Times said the book, “[holds] to the light the myths, tales and rumors of both Israel and the Arabs with…discerning compassion. In Humphrey Davies’ sparely poetic translation, Gate of the Sun is an imposingly rich and realistic novel, a genuine masterwork.”

They’re right.

This one’s really interesting.

An Israeli Flash cartoon, for starters, narrated by (get this) actual IDF soldiers who witnessed the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Concerning a soldier named Folman who knows he has witnessed the massacre but can’t recall anything about it, Waltz with Bashir pieces together the story of Sabra and Shatila from the memories of his former fellow soldiers, told in little interviews. It’s a compassionate attempt.

Although largely factual, the film is more akin to a fictionalized adaptation of a real event than it is a documentary. This blending of reality and fiction works wonderfully; when I watched Waltz with Bashir at the cinema, my fellow audience members—mostly Canadians removed from the disaster that is the Middle East—greeted the end credits in hushed, almost awed silence.

Perhaps the most famous piece of writing about Sabra and Shatila.

Genet (author of Prisoner of Love, another book about the Palestinian cause) was among the first foreigners to enter the camps in the wake of the slaughter, and experienced the horror firsthand. His vivid, awestruck description of what he witnessed struck a chord—and, lucky you, can be read here for free.

Radwa Ashour was one of the great treasures of Arabic literature, and this, one of her two major works, attempted to tell the entire life story of a Palestinian refugee.

The Sabra and Shatila section is small, but powerful, and I won’t discuss it here for fear of spoiling it. Needless to say, give Ashour’s books a read if you can.

Adania Shibli is the author of two novellas, We Are All Equally Far from Love and her superior effort, Touch.

Touch is an autobiographical book about a young girl who, like Shibli, attempts to understand what Sabra and Shatila actually mean. That’s a subsection of the actual book, which is really about the power of experience—the unnamed narrator’s examination of rust and grass and sunlight. It is the story of a Palestinian family in exile.

Masri hands a camera to two children and lets them tell their stories in this examination of grief, displacement, and horror.

Issa has trouble learning because of a car accident; Farah lives with her family. Both, however, are well-versed in tragedy and loss, children of 1948 and then of 1982 burdened with carrying the memory of Palestine with them, even as the entire world seems to want them to forget.

You can watch Children of Shatila (1998) for free on YouTube.

Read related stories:

The Wonder of Imperial Feminism: Why Jordanians Should Boycott Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot. (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.)

Gal Gadot. (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.)

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Feminism’s biggest issue, ironically enough, has been exclusion. Historically, resistance to feminism—the idea that one’s gender does not determine their worth, value, skills, and roles, and that therefore women and men have the same rights and responsibilities—has meant compromise. In the tides of history—where European countries have conquered others and white supremacy largely ruled in “the West”—this has meant that feminism has been largely white. It’s why liberals largely roll their eyes at Americans who celebrate the suffragettes’ contributions to feminism, saying they secured women’s rights to vote. They didn’t; those efforts were towards white women, and white women only, at the expense of others.

The cheers for Wonder Woman being a feminist story posit the exact same problem. It is ironic that an anti-nationalist film about unity stars a Zionist, an ideology which seeks to give an ethnicity rights over others and is therefore inherently racist; it is doubly ironic that this film is then held as a torch for Hollywood blockbuster feminism.

Because by casting Gal Gadot—whose family “ascended” to Israel and changed its name from Greenstein to “indigenise” itself—the film has managed to thrust a former IDF soldier who supported the 2014 war on Gaza and served in the 2006 in Lebanon into the limelight and lend her particular brand of exclusive feminism some legitimacy.

This essay, by Palestinian-American novelist and essayist Susan Abulhawa (author of Mornings in Jenin and The Blue Between Sky and Water), discusses why. It is a great argument for boycotting the film, which opens today in Jordan, written with conviction and worth reading over and sharing.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Milestone! Suits Stars Celebrate 100th Episode

Suits suitably suits-up for celebration. (USA Network)

Suits suitably suits-up for celebration. (USA Network)

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Meghan Markle and her Suits co-stars celebrated Sunday ahead of the show’s 100th episode.

The 35-year-old actress, who plays Rachel Zane on the USA Network series, promoted the legal drama at the ATX Television Festival in Austin with Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams, Rick Hoffman, Sarah Rafferty and Gina Torres.

Markle stunned in a white and red toile-print dress and red sandals at the event. She discussed her early bond with her co-stars and Rachel’s character arc during the show’s panel, according to People.

“We all lived in the same corporate housing. So on top of working together we were living together, which makes a whole different dynamic, I think. We just became this whole family right out of the gate,” the star shared.

“[Rachel’s] worked so hard and I love that, as a role model, how she’s been crafted to balance it all,” she added. “She’s really earned that spot [as an associate].”

Suits will return for a seventh season July 12, and air its 100th episode Aug. 30. Adams, who portrays Mike Ross, will direct the milestone episode.

“I couldn’t be more excited and honored to be directing the 100th hour of Suits,” the actor said in a statement to E! News. “We are blessed on this show with an incredible crew and an absurdly talented group of actors and writers.”

The festival marked Markle’s first public appearance since attending Pippa Middleton‘s wedding reception May 20 with Prince Harry. She and the 32-year-old British royal confirmed their relationship in November.

Exclusive: Jordan Will Not be Banning Wonder Woman

Jordan gives the OK on

Jordan gives the OK on “Wonder Woman,” despite controversy. (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.)

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Jordan has decided to let Wonder Woman screen in cinemas, Al Bawaba has learned.

Mohammed Qtaishat, the Director General of the Media Commission, told Al Bawaba in a phone call (in Arabic): “The film was allowed to screen in Jordanian cinemas due to a lack of legal precedent to do otherwise, as outlined by Regulation No. 63 of 2004, on the Clearance and Control of Audiovisual Works.”

Jordan has reportedly considered banning the film, but has decided not to, despite reports stating otherwise.

The film, the fourth entry in the DC Cinematic Universe (a franchise which has included 2013’s Man of Steel, 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and 2016’s Suicide Squad) proved controversial when it cast Israeli star Gal Gadot, a former Israeli Defence Forces soldier, in the lead.

The film was banned in Lebanon and might potentially be banned in Tunisia

Gadot served in the Israeli army during the 2006 war with Lebanon, which saw the killing of 1200 civilians, a third of them children; Israel reportedly used over 4.6 million cluster bombs during the war.

She was at the centre of controversy in 2014, when she expressed her support for the IDF during 2014 Gaza War. The war saw the killing of over 2000 Palestinians, most of them civilians.

Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

Wonder Woman released June 2nd to generally positive reviews. It will release in various cinemas in Jordan within the month.

Tunisia Suspends (and Maybe Bans) Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot: denied. (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.)

Gal Gadot: denied. (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.)

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Tunisia has followed in Lebanon’s steps in banning Wonder Woman (dir.: Patt Jenkins) from theaters. The film’s upcoming premiere in Tunis was cancelled after a protest by the People’s Movement, a political party.

In a statement, the party said, “We must continue the mobilization on this type of affair, as on everything related to the Zionist entity.”

Lassad Goubantini, a distributor, combated this assertion, saying it was based on “bogus accusations.”

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot is largely the focus of this entire argument. The star, who has has served in the Israeli Defense Forces, has been a supporter of Israeli attacks against Gaza, infamously stating her support for the 2014 Gaza War in a Facebook post.

On the other hand, a spokesperson for the Tunisian Ministry of Culture stated that the cancellation of the film’s premiere was due to an administrative issue: the film’s visa had been filed only two days ago, as opposed to the requisite eight.

Either way, Tunisia won’t be playing Wonder Woman for the foreseeable future.

Jordan Might Be Banning Wonder Woman, Too

Is that a ban she sees coming her way? (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.)

Is that a ban she sees coming her way? (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.)

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Jordan is considering banning the film Wonder Woman because star Gal Gadot served in the Israel Defense Forces.

Jordan’s Communications Commission is currently reviewing the film to determine whether it meets the country’s standards and laws, the Israeli news website Ynet reported.

The review comes in the wake of Lebanon’s decision to ban the film as part of its total boycott of all things Israeli. Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and bans Israeli products.

“We remind the Jordanians of their obligation to boycott the film, and we refuse to be partners to the crimes of the Zionists and to increase their profits from this film. The Arab audience will not be involved in projects that represent Zionism and the Israeli army,” said a statement from one of the Jordanian campaigns against normalization with Israel, according to Ynet.

Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement in 1994.

Gadot, 32, does not shy away from touting her Israeli heritage. She praised the Israeli military in a widely shared Facebook post during the 2014 Gaza War.

The film, which opened in the United States on Friday, took in an estimated $103.1 million over the weekend and $223 million worldwide.

Thank You for the Music: Was This Israel’s Final Eurovision?

Israel win a place in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

Israel win a place in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

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As he has been doing since 2009, the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Ofer Nachshon presented Israel’s awarding of points in the contest live – with top marks to Portugal and Sweden. But Nachshon also used the opportunity to publicly mourn the IBA’s closure on Sunday to hundreds of millions of viewers around Europe. 

“For the past 44 years Israel has participated in the Eurovision song contest, winning three times,” he told the Ukrainian hosts. “But tonight is our final night, shortly IBA will shut down its broadcasting forever. So on behalf of all of us here in IBA, let me say thank you Europe for all the magical moments and the beautiful music…. and hopefully we shall meet again in the future.”

Many on social media were stunned by the news that Israel will seemingly be leaving the Eurovision contest. And while it is true that IBA, a member of the European Broadcasting Union, is shutting down on Sunday, the fate of Israel’s Eurovision participation is more complicated. It remains to be seen if Kann, the IBA’s replacement, will be accepted into the EBU; the division between its news and other broadcasting departments demanded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may leave it ineligible. 

The EBU told The Jerusalem Post last week that it “has some reservations” about the new public broadcaster and is “following closely” the developments. It added that the body will only consider Kann’s application for membership once the network “becomes operational.”