photo: Palestinian mourners carry the body of eight-month-old Palestinian baby Leila Anwar Ghandoour, who died from tear gas inhalation in Gaza City on 15 May 2018 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

As of Sunday, a succession of events has once again reanimated a question that often comes to mind, namely: what would make me go into exile? Throughout the week, I’ve been trying to find some time to write about the massacre in Palestine, but one of two things happened: either I didn’t have enough time; or I was already too sick to write, after reading testimonies and seeing photographs of the events.

Unfortunately, the colonization of Palestine and its consequences have been a recurrent theme @ Nihilsentimentalgia. At some point I met an Israeli artist, Li Lorian, and for some time we’ve been entertaining the idea of publishing a conversation about her work, her relationship with the territory, travelling, crossing borders, etc. I feel like an absolute ignorant when it comes to the history of Palestine, so more often than not I avoid entering into big discussions around the subject. But then there are weeks like these…

On Sunday I woke up in a country where an Israeli singer had won the Eurovision Festival – surreal as it may be, and it is. So, to be clear about what the problem is, let me say it: a country who commits war crimes is allowed to join a festival that is supposed to promote European values through music. Yes, I know, I sound crazy, but think again… Yes, I know, what about France and England and their participation in the war economics? Yes, I know… we could keep evoking comparisons non stop, but shouldn’t we draw a line somewhere? Israeli soldiers, following orders, are killing unarmed civilians and the world is watching. Should we really be drawing parallels?

Some days prior to the final event of the festival, I became aware that one of the parties from our governmental coalition, Bloco de Esquerda, was supporting a movement that appealed to the local European Broadcasting Union (EBU) representatives to give ZERO POINTS to the song of Israeli apartheid. Because I also live in a fucked-up country, I’m very much aware that this politic statement, here, is a joke. Those who care and understand the importance of taking direct action against criminal people and boycotting nations who disrespect humanity, are just a few. And don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to go into these ideological discussions, but when it comes to radical actions, most of us just play the player’s game, not questioning the operative structure. 

Some people call themselves radical thinkers and oppose the boycott. Some are the same people that think we shouldn’t judge a person from Israel just because he/she is Israeli. Well, so far so good. I am not my country, but my country is me. Isn’t it? A nation is nothing without its supporters. Its authority ceases the minute its vassals recognize their condition. So one thing is to accuse a random person from Israel of being as criminal as his/her country (that’s plain stupid, right?), but can’t I judge, in all righteousness, a woman who decides to stand for that country and sing on its behalf?

The movement who call out for the boycott of the Israeli participation in the Eurovision started in Israel. Of course a part of the population opposes the regime (ex: a report from Uri Avnery, soldier of the Israel army, who dissociated himself from the army). But then I can’t avoid asking the next question: would I keep living in my home country if they were committing such acts? Would I join the Palestinian fight? Would I leave? What would I do? I have no clue…

Today, in Israel, people went out to the streets to protest the siege and demand Gaza’s rights to live. I came across a statement from a protester, not worth identifying, who in the end said something that keeps echoing in my mind. She said: “We all have to remind ourselves that till you are not free none of us is free.” Should we really compare Palestine lack of freedom with anything else? I know I can’t

But allow me a detour to talk about freedom in the country I live in: Portugal. Throughout the week, as violence escalated in Palestine and the massacre unfolded, once more, something happened here that took over the news: a group of around 50 people forced their way into Sporting Lisbon’s training centre on Tuesday and assaulted players and staff. I had to teach classes to photography students and I felt, the entire time, we should be doing nothing if not talking about what is happening in Gaza. In the tv, in the coffee shops, everywhere in Portugal there is only one subject now: football. It’s surreal and this surrealistic dimension is dangerous: it’s clearly stating that we’ve lost sight of what our humanity is, what condition is ours and ours alone? Should we not all be protesting the streets 24/7, boycotting governments who support Israel? When is it time to stop?

Author Sandy Tolan, for Truthdig, wrote a powerful article addressing the gruesome context that led to these events and he states:

Side by side on the screen, the images could hardly be more grotesque. In Jerusalem, a beaming Ivanka Trump, clad all in white, extends her hand like a game-show hostess, unveiling the plaque of the new American embassy that bears her father’s name. Scarcely 40 miles away, dozens of unarmed Palestinians, children and a baby among them, are slaughtered by Israeli soldiers near a fence in Gaza.
In the hours following the massacre, U.S. officials followed a familiar script to convey upon Israel, yet again, a blanket impunity. As Gazans were still counting their dead, a White House spokesman blamed “a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt” by Hamas. Jared Kushner declared the Gazans to be “part of the problem.” At the U.N., U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley managed to blame Iran. And the president, icon of oblivious disregard, praised the “big day” for Israel. “Congratulations!” he tweeted. […]
But now, before the images of thousands of defenseless Gazans being shot down by one of the world’s most powerful armies, the impunity may be crumbling. Perhaps it is the sickening juxtaposition itself—the raw imagery of carnage alongside the imperious celebrations of the callous elite—that is finally too graphic to ignore.
 […] Yet the disgust with Israel’s slaughter of innocents in Gaza, as it was celebrating the 70th anniversary of its birth from the ashes of the Holocaust, is palpable. The images of Gazans yearning to live in freedom and dignity being gunned down while trying to are not something open-hearted people can un-remember.
Perhaps this moment will fade quietly into the mosaic of terrible images and memories from generations of the tragedy that is Israel and Palestine. But sometimes a single moment, and the understanding that comes from it, can change everything. Nick Ut’s image of the screaming, naked “Napalm Girl” helped shift the understanding of the American role in Vietnam. In Birmingham, the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church helped turn the tide in the American civil rights movement.

Hopefully Sandy is right and the graphic images that haunt us this week can really make a change. I believe images are social agents: they intervene, they manipulate, they force us to invent new terms, news languages. On the other hand, as happened in Portugal, a minor violent event in a sports academy was enough to corrupt the news content in all its shapes and forms; I can only imagine the same is happening a bit everywhere. I am now, once again, ashamed of my country and of my inertia, of my silence; also of my withdrawal from my role as a teacher. Would the students care to talk about the events in Gaza? No. Would it be more relevant to them? For sure.

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