Culture, Identity, Justice


Amreeka, a film by Cherien Dabis (official site) about a single mother who makes her way from the West Bank to rural Illinois with her teenaged son, is now playing in New York. By the end of the month, this Palestinian take on the old “Coming to America” formula will be in theaters across the country. I sorta can’t wait.
Lately I’ve noticed I’m becoming more and more in sync with all things Palestine. As long as it’s not explicitly about the long war or nationalist politics, I can’t resist a Palestinian cultural experience. I root for their athletes. I read their [English-language] blogs. Seeing Palestinian individuals succeed has started giving me a kind of nachat I tend to associate with taking pride in the accomplishments of Israelis – or Jews – or New Yorkers. You know, my people.
I guess it was bound to happen. Stay linked to someone long enough, even through violence and terrorism and occupation, and you start to rub off on each other. Daniel Pipes has a whole website devoted to showing how Palestinian nationalists use Zionist rhetoric and concepts. This bugs the hell out of him, but I wonder what else would anyone expect? We eat their food. They use our organizing principles. We employ them. They trade agricultural products with us. We love their homeland a little too much, they love ours just as terribly, and certainly we both know what it’s like to be disposessed of our homes and turned into geopolitical pawns. The tightly linked infrastructures, economies, and cultural resources of Israel and Palestine are sometimes pointed to by one-state advocates claiming that two countries between the Jordan and the Sea are one too many. I may disagree, but I think it’s clear that there’s something connective, something almost familial going on in Canaan. We and the Palestinians may be more “killing” cousins than “kissing” cousins most of the time, but to me it seems we’re cousins nonetheless.
So this is my hearty Mabrouk & Mazal Tov to Ms. Dabis and to the cast and crew of Amreeka (including Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, and at least one guy with the name of an American Jew). You’ll be getting my $9.50 down at the Landmark soon enough.
For further reading: Tablet Mag asks, “Is a film about Palestinians inherently political?” Aliza Hausman points out that “People ask the same question about Israeli [films.]” The Onion’s A.V. Club gave it a C+. It was designated a New York Times “Critic’s Pick“.

5 thoughts on “Amreeka

  1. We and the Palestinians may be more “killing” cousins than “kissing” cousins most of the time, but to me it seems we’re cousins nonetheless.

    I agree with Hillel “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” Granted, one can argue how far the term “fellow” extends, but I contend it is better to avoid acting in hate towards anyone.

  2. chillul Who?, thanks for sharing this. The movie looks good, and the narrative certainly is familiar.
    The back and forth you describe is bang on; the countries are certainly tied, but that’s what happens when one is occupied by the other, and is reliant for finances, infrastructure, etc. I’d rather point to this close relationship and say that it’s proof that two countries can exist next to each other in such close (small) proximity.

  3. Chillul Who?
    It doesn’t appear your enthusiasm for cultural exchange is much shared. Here is a more comprehensive discussion about the status and prospects for Israel’s regional acceptance and integration.
    NOTE: The rest of this comment is not with regard to the movie itself, but to the sentiment expressed by Chillul Who?.
    I know, I know. You mean well, and you are genuinely interested, intrigued, delighted and excited. In the end, no matter the level of civil discussion, genuine affection, even loving companionship, our national existence is mutually exclusive with theirs. Even if we don’t see this, they do. Most of us wish it were not the case. Many of us have worked to “bridge differences”, engaged in “dialogue” spanning our adult years, demonstrated a commitment to “peaceful coexistence”, heck, even seriously discussed conversion and marriage… to no avail. At the end of a very long process, at times hopeful, at times depressing, there is left only silence. That silence is reality, unshakable, unmovable, painful, and so very real.
    The Jews of Israel exist by ballot and bayonet, only. No matter our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, the Arabs imposed this reality, and only they – of their own, uncorrupted free will – can reverse it. Until then, we’re at war – physical, cultural, emotional, psychological, linguistic, artistic, religious, historical, economic. It is a war we can manage, in all spheres, even thrive in, but one that only they can choose to end. Coming to terms with this reality is one of the defining periods of my life.
    Please do check out that second link.

  4. Couldn’t have said it better myself Mika. Granted, in some circles that would mean that you are a rabid, foaming at the mouth Israel-firster. I’m not making an appeal to those myopic circles. I can say without a hint of irony that I love the Palestinians. I wish for them nothing but peace and prosperity. But like you, I recognize the all encompassing nature of the conflict and the often bizarre mutations that it produces. I have no doubt that had there been a national will to make peace amongst the Palestinians, such peace would have existed long ago. I don’t say this smugly. I say it with sadness – and not on the basis of some lame-o talking points but on the basis of extensive travel and interaction with our cousins.

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