Queen Rania, a Palestinian by birth, is an international celebrity and has been often noted for her commitment to charity work geared toward women’s education, but also Rania had dedicated her precious time to seek justice for Palestinians. As a first lady, consort to the King of Jordan, she probably can not speak broadly without diplomatic repercussions for her country, but she does it in her role of social activist and she does very well. Her vocal support for Palestine has been latent in the news since she married king Abdullah of Jordan.
As a Jordanian, Queen Rania whose family is of Palestinian origin, she is concerned with the plight of Palestinians, On 2011, Queen Rania led a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Jordan’s capital, Amman. She urged the international community to end the massacres being committed in the occupied territories.
In Jordan, where nearly a third of the population is composed of Palestinian refugees, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank is “a hurt we feel each day,” Queen Rania Al Abdullah told a packed audience at Yale on Sept. 22, 2009. (Video attached)
“Larry King Live” on April 16, Queen Rania seemed to almost usurp Jordanian foreign policy from her husband. When King asked her about Jordan’s position on Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians, she replied:
“Jordan has been very, very clear in this regard. We stand against any aggression committed against any innocent civilians, irrespective of the perpetrator or the victim. We do not approve of any aggression. We made that very clear.” Then — almost as an afterthought — she added, “King Abdullah also made that very clear.” said the Globalist
On 27 July UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl met at UNRWA Headquarters in Amman with Jordan’s Queen Rania Al Abdullah to discuss the severe crisis and to express the Agency’s gratitude for the support of the Kingdom of Jordan.
During the meeting, which included several members of the UNRWA team, Her Majesty said that the attacks on helpless civilians on UNRWA premises and other humanitarian spaces in Gaza “demonstrate the blatant disregard for human life in this conflict. What more proof does the world need that there is no safe place in Gaza? No safe place for tens of thousands of desperate and defenseless civilians seeking refuge from the violence?”
Queen Rania addresses the audience during her visit to Yale University.
NY, USA/ September 22, 2009
Queen Rania makes an urgent plea on behalf of all the civilians living in Gaza for a “humanitarian ceasefire” and for the international community to do all it can to help alleviate the suffering.
Amman, Jordan/ January 5, 2009
Brian Peter George Eno, professionally known as Brian Eno or simply Eno, is an English musician, composer, record producer, singer, and visual artist, known as one of the principal innovators of ambient music.
The following is a letter sent that Brian Eno sent via email to his friend David Byrne, after reading it he shared with his staff and he decided to published in his website. In an attempt to five more forum and audience to this important letter he published entirely along with a response from Peter Schwartz who is Brian’s friend.
Dear All of You:
I sense I’m breaking an unspoken rule with this letter, but I can’t keep quiet any more.
Today I saw a picture of a weeping Palestinian man holding a plastic carrier bag of meat. It was his son. He’d been shredded (the hospital’s word) by an Israeli missile attack – apparently using their fab new weapon, flechette bombs. You probably know what those are – hundreds of small steel darts packed around explosive which tear the flesh off humans. The boy was Mohammed Khalaf al-Nawasra. He was 4 years old.
I suddenly found myself thinking that it could have been one of my kids in that bag, and that thought upset me more than anything has for a long time.
Then I read that the UN had said that Israel might be guilty of war crimes in Gaza, and they wanted to launch a commission into that. America won’t sign up to it.
What is going on in America? I know from my own experience how slanted your news is, and how little you get to hear about the other side of this story. But – for Christ’s sake! – it’s not that hard to find out. Why does America continue its blind support of this one-sided exercise in ethnic cleansing? WHY? I just don’t get it. I really hate to think its just the power of AIPAC… for if that’s the case, then your government really is fundamentally corrupt. No, I don’t think that’s the reason… but I have no idea what it could be.
The America I know and like is compassionate, broadminded, creative, eclectic, tolerant and generous. You, my close American friends, symbolise those things for me. But which America is backing this horrible one-sided colonialist war? I can’t work it out: I know you’re not the only people like you, so how come all those voices aren’t heard or registered? How come it isn’t your spirit that most of the world now thinks of when it hears the word ‘America’? How bad does it look when the one country which more than any other grounds its identity in notions of Liberty and Democracy then goes and puts its money exactly where its mouth isn’t and supports a ragingly racist theocracy?
I was in Israel last year with Mary. Her sister works for UNWRA in Jerusalem. Showing us round were a Palestinian – Shadi, who is her sister’s husband and a professional guide – and Oren Jacobovitch, an Israeli Jew, an ex-major from the IDF who left the service under a cloud for refusing to beat up Palestinians. Between the two of them we got to see some harrowing things – Palestinian houses hemmed in by wire mesh and boards to prevent settlers throwing shit and piss and used sanitary towels at the inhabitants; Palestinian kids on their way to school being beaten by Israeli kids with baseball bats to parental applause and laughter; a whole village evicted and living in caves while three settler families moved onto their land; an Israeli settlement on top of a hill diverting its sewage directly down onto Palestinian farmland below; The Wall; the checkpoints… and all the endless daily humiliations. I kept thinking, “Do Americans really condone this? Do they really think this is OK? Or do they just not know about it?”.
As for the Peace Process: Israel wants the Process but not the Peace. While ‘the process’ is going on the settlers continue grabbing land and building their settlements… and then when the Palestinians finally erupt with their pathetic fireworks they get hammered and shredded with state-of-the-art missiles and depleted uranium shells because Israel ‘has a right to defend itself’ ( whereas Palestine clearly doesn’t). And the settler militias are always happy to lend a fist or rip up someone’s olive grove while the army looks the other way. By the way, most of them are not ethnic Israelis – they’re ‘right of return’ Jews from Russia and Ukraine and Moravia and South Africa and Brooklyn who came to Israel recently with the notion that they had an inviolable (God-given!) right to the land, and that ‘Arab’ equates with ‘vermin’ – straightforward old-school racism delivered with the same arrogant, shameless swagger that the good ole boys of Louisiana used to affect. That is the culture our taxes are defending. It’s like sending money to the Klan.
But beyond this, what really troubles me is the bigger picture. Like it or not, in the eyes of most of the world, America represents ‘The West’. So it is The West that is seen as supporting this war, despite all our high-handed talk about morality and democracy. I fear that all the civilisational achievements of The Enlightenment and Western Culture are being discredited – to the great glee of the mad Mullahs – by this flagrant hypocrisy. The war has no moral justification that I can see – but it doesn’t even have any pragmatic value either. It doesn’t make Kissingerian ‘Realpolitik’ sense; it just makes us look bad.
I’m sorry to burden you all with this. I know you’re busy and in varying degrees allergic to politics, but this is beyond politics. It’s us squandering the civilisational capital that we’ve built over generations. None of the questions in this letter are rhetorical: I really don’t get it and I wish that I did.
And now, Peter’s reply:
Dear Brian and friends,
I am writing to respond to your note about Gaza and how America is responding. It deserves a response. My feelings and the actual realities are complex on several levels; the realities of the Arab-Israeli history and conflicts, global politics and modern American history/demographics. All three levels interact to create the current situation. And to understand the US posture you have to consider the history. Let me say, that, as you know I am an immigrant and child of Holocaust survivors. I am culturally Jewish, but with no religious or spiritual inclinations, an atheist. And I believe that creating the Jewish state of Israel was a historic mistake that is likely to destroy the religion behind it. The actions nation states take to assure their survival are usually in contradiction to any moral values that a religion might espouse. And that contradiction is now very evident in Israel’s behavior. Israel will destroy Judaism.
First, the history has two important intersecting threads, Zionism and the end of the Ottoman Empire. Zionism began near the end of the nineteenth century as a response to a millennium of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. An end to the diaspora and a return to the biblical homeland were seen as the only hope of escaping the persistent repression of places like Hungary, the Ukraine, Russia, etc. The British government with its Balfour declaration (1917) and the League of Nations Palestine Mandate (1922) gave impetus to that hope. And of course WWII and the Holocaust sealed the deal. The murder of 6 million Jews was seen as sufficient reason to pursue a Jewish state and the UN granted that wish with the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab States in 1947. The seven Arab states declared war and urged the Palestinians to flee. After defeating the Arab armies Israel made it very hard for them return. Hence we ended up with a large Palestinian refugee population.
Those Arab states themselves were the result of a combination of British/French artistry in drawing the maps of the post Ottoman world as well as the subsequent tribal military campaigns that left the Saudis in charge of the Arabian peninsula (vast oil wealth soon to be found) and the Hashemites driven up into Trans Jordan. Other than the war with Israel, the conflicts and rivalries among the various Arab and Persian factions have shaped Middle Eastern and North African politics ever since then.
Over the subsequent decades following the 1948 war there was a persistent Arab bombing campaign and two more large scale Arab attacks on Israel, 1967 and 1973. Until the mid seventies Israel was seen as having the moral high ground based on the holocaust and Arab behavior. But beginning with the Israeli incursion into Lebanon in the early 80s that moral position began to erode. Israel’s behavior in Lebanon was the first major example of aggressive action and attacks against vulnerable populations. Israel began to develop a more right wing and aggressive political faction of which Netanyahu is the worst current example. The settlements in Arab territory in the West Bank are the direct result of that evolution. (And of course the mass migration of the 1990s mainly from Russia) Suicide bombings and missile attacks were the Arab response. Walling themselves in was yet another ironic Israeli response. Today’s horrors are a continuing extension of those conflicts following a cease-fire of a few years.
Once Israel declared itself a Jewish state in 1948 the Palestinians had only three options; accept a division of the land into two states, accept being second-class citizens in the Israeli state or perpetual conflict because they could not win. The Arab states chose the third option because it is in their interest to maintain unity against their common enemy, Israel. They could even share a common enemy with the hated Persian Shiites in Iran. So rather than helping the Palestinians develop by investing in education, health care, jobs, infrastructure etc. the Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia help keep them poor but well armed. Palestinian refugees would remain a festering sore in the Middle East to remind the world of Israel’s perfidy. And of course any aid that did come ended up in corrupt pockets not in helping development. The obvious counter example was Jordan, which developed itself, with little help from their Arab brethren and eventually made grudging peace with Israel. The difference in Jordan was good Arab leadership that recognized that Israel was not going way and war forever was not a good development policy.
At the geopolitical level several threads played out. The UN became a place where the Israel and Arab conflicts became a symbolic pawn in the Cold War, especially in the Security Council with the US on the Israeli side and the USSR on the Arab side (with exceptions i.e. the Saudis). That hardened the US position and associated in American minds Israel with our side and the Arabs with the other guys.
Even though I have no support for the Israeli position I find the opposition to Israel questionable in its failure to be similarly outraged by a vast number of other moral horrors in the recent past and currently active. Just to name a few; Cambodia, Tibet, Sudan, Somalia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Argentina, Liberia, Central African Republic, Uganda, North Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Venezuela, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Zimbabwe and especially right now Nigeria. The Arab Spring ,which has become a dark winter for most Arabs and the large scale slaughter now underway along the borders of Iraq and Syria are good examples of what they do to themselves. And our nations, the US, the Brits, the Dutch, the Russians and the French have all played their parts in these other moral outrages. The gruesome body count and social destruction left behind dwarfs anything that the Israelis have done. The only difference with the Israeli’s is their claim to a moral high ground, which they long ago left behind in the refugee camps of Lebanon. They are now just a nation, like any other, trying to survive in a hostile sea of hate.
We should be clear, that given the opportunity, the Arabs would drive the Jews into the sea and that was true from day one. There was no way back from war once a religious state was declared. So Israel, once committed to a nation state in that location and granted that right by other nations have had no choice but to fight. In my view therefore, neither side has any shred of moral standing left, nor have the nations that supported both sides.
So now let’s at look at why the US behaves as it does with a nearly uncritical support of Israel. You are right to criticize our media in so many ways, but that only makes things worse it does not really explain why. They are simply doing what they think their audiences want to hear. And they are mostly right.
Part of it has to do with post war American evolution and perceptions of Israel and the Arabs. When I was a boy in the fifties, through my teenage years antisemitism was still common in America. If you were Jewish you did not go to work for IBM or GE. You did not join the Navy. You did not go to Harvard, Princeton or Yale. I could not play tennis at my local country club. I regularly heard derisive, anti-Semitic comments from some of my classmates. But by the mid sixties along with the civil rights movement, toleration in general increased and antisemitism declined, almost vanishing. Support of Israel was part of that tolerance and was seen as a noble response to the Holocaust. The Arabs were seen as the oppressors and enemies of the US. That perception was given particular impetus by the oil embargo of 1973 and of course the Iranian revolution, even though it was Persians not Arabs, because Americans don’t see that distinction. (We should never forget that we have a Republican dominated Congress, half of whom do not own a Passport and see ignorance as a virtue.)The Israelis were seen as innovative and benign, people who made the desert bloom. To this was added the growing and ironic support from the US religious right who saw the route to salvation as the Israeli defeat of the Arabs leading to a second coming of Christ. (Of course, we Jews would have to convert to Christianity to survive the second coming.) 9-11 amplified the American antipathy to the Arab world. Seeing the delight throughout the Arab world at the fall of the twin towers did not endear the Arabs to the American people. We can add Saddam, Khaddafi and Osama Bin Laden to the pantheon of iconic American villains. The UN is no longer seen as legitimate and almost always acting against US interests.
So my generation and most of today’s American leadership grew up with the Israeli’s as heroic good guys and Arabs/Persians as greedy bad guys. The younger generation, my son Ben’s age (24) have a much more balanced view. Israel’s behavior in their youth, the last two decades, has destroyed whatever moral standing the Israeli’s had with them. In addition the pro Israeli lobby in America has been very effective in the political arena and their Arab counterparts have been counter productive. So our leaders who group up with noble Israel and evil Arabs and supported by Jewish political contributions are unequivocally pro Israeli while young people are more divided as is at least some of the Jewish community. Eventually demography will win out as a new more skeptical generation comes to power, a generation for whom Israel will not carry the same moral weight as it did for their parents.
I don’t think there is any honor to go around here. Israel has lost its way and commits horrors in the interest of their own survival. And the Arabs and Persians perpetuate a conflict ridden neighborhood with almost no exceptions, fighting against each other and with hate of Israel the only thing that they share.
It is also worth noting that the largest Muslim populations are not Arab and the largest, Indonesia is fairly peaceful. So it is not about religion. The Arabs have been engaged in tribal conflicts for centuries that have been from time to time quelled by Imperial powers like the Ottomans and strong men like Saddam and Ibn Saud. And in those wars they have committed horrors on their own people. Observe the genocidal destruction of Homs by Hafez Assad just to point to a recent example. The Zionists brought another tribe to the war. It is of course a tribe that is also divided, like the Arabs, in to factions, some of which are fanatical and war like and others more moderate. The comments about the racism of the Zionists are fair, but the Arab world does not lack for similar attitudes. One need only see how the vast number of South Asian, Philippine and African near slaves are treated even in the more benign countries like the UAE.
So given that history and current reality and even though I believe the creation of Israel was a historic disaster, I am a member of the tribe, (perhaps its more pacifist, atheist wing) I find objectionable the unique singling out of Israel for condemnation. So if we are prepared to boycott, condemn, shame, etc, the Saudis, the Qataris, the Iranians, the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Russians, the Nigerians, the Taliban, the Venezuelans, the Zimbabweans, the Sudanese, the south Sudanese, the Central African Republicans, and lets not forget the Americans and the British, all of whom are as guilty as Israel, then I will join the demonstration. (Two small things that might help would be if the rich Arab states provided some funding and development assistance for the Palestinians and if the Palestinian government didn’t steal all the aid.)
We find ourselves at a historic impasse. There is no way back. Israel will do whatever it takes to survive. They will not leave. And the Arab identity has become opposition to Israel. It will be centuries, if ever, before they accept the existence of Israel. So both sides will always rightly feel threatened. There will be no other state there but perpetual tribal war with an occasional truce. And in that perpetual state of tribal war there be ample opportunity for horrors on both sides. We can only hope to lower the level of violence, but true peace will remain illusive.
by Oded Na’aman
I was born in Israel. I served in the Army. Israel is the only home I know. You would think my speaking to students at Hillel would be welcomed. Yet my presentation to students at Washington University’s Hillel in St. Louis last month sparked a storm of controversy.
I had been invited by J Street U and was graciously hosted by Hillel at their beautiful new building. As a member of Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli combat veterans that collects and publishes the testimonies of soldiers who served in the occupied territories, I was on campus to discuss the practices and principles of Israel’s military rule.
In the days leading to my visit, many in the Jewish community called for the event’s cancellation, claiming our sole goal was to “bash Israel.” Jacqueline Ulin Levey, executive director of St. Louis Hillel at Washington University, backed the event. She did, however, impose certain restrictions, asking that I not show any photographs or mention any testimonies besides my own. Hillel also flew in an Israel Fellow from Yale University to “balance” my talk by debriefing the students before and after.
Despite the constraints, the talk went well, with a long question and answer session. After the event, Lawrence Wittels, the chair of the school’s Hillel board, congratulated me.
But in the days following, the assault on Hillel and J Street U escalated. Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel International, subsequently wrote to members of the Hillel community defending the organization’s decision. “While we join with the majority of the community in deeply resenting the actions of the former IDF soldiers in Breaking the Silence, who come to college campuses in America to disparage the IDF,” Fingerhut wrote, “it is, regrettably, part of the broad tent of dialogue regarding Israel.” By housing the event within Hillel, he argued, the staff could control and mitigate an unfortunate debate.
I applaud Hillel’s work facilitating a broad dialogue within the American Jewish community. But Fingerhut and those whom his letter addressed, seem to be more concerned with their own feelings toward Israel — their “tent” — than with Israel. Mention of the actions of the IDF, the values to which Israel is committed, and concern for the well being of Israel’s residents, whether Israeli or Palestinian, are noticeably absent from Fingerhut’s letter.
I don’t doubt Fingerhut’s genuine concern for Israel. I am sure those who called for the event’s cancellation are also sincerely dedicated to my country. But their concern does not protect Zionism. Rather, it threatens it. If Zionism is the dream of Jews to overcome a state of mere survival and forge our own destiny, then claiming that the occupation is necessary, that Israel “has no other choice,” is the betrayal of Zionism. Israel’s rule of force over a civilian population threatens our democratic integrity, moral character, and international standing – in short, it threatens that future.
Israel is a strong and thriving country. We can take responsibility for our actions, hold our institutions and military accountable, acknowledge our mistakes, and correct them. We can forge our own future, but only by ending the occupation.
Naturally, our claims are met with doubt. But we encourage critical debate based on evidence. We have testimony from over 950 soldiers about their service, many of them on film. Incidents we exposed have been confirmed by the Israeli media and we have been invited to speak at the United States Air Force Academy. Carmi Gillon, former head of the Shin Bet, has praised our work.
The testimonies portray a system of control and expropriation of land that is founded on the use of military force. Arbitrary violence is of the essence of military rule, which cannot rely on democratic legitimacy.
Instead of an actual dialogue about our reality and future, they are content to have a conversation about the conversation about Israel. Rather than respond to what they hear, they argue over whether they should plug their ears. This may serve some staff and some donors of Hillel International, but it doesn’t serve Israel. It takes some chutzpah to claim that by silencing our voices you are protecting our own country from us.
Oded Na’aman served in the IDF between November 2000 and October 2003. Since 2005 he has been a member of Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli veterans that collects soldiers’ testimonies from the West Bank. Oded is currently pursuing his PhD in Philosophy at Harvard University.
Shared from JTA-Jewish Telegraph Archive
Zionists Adopt Agency Proposal 164 to 87
Carlsbad (Aug. 17)
The protracted debate on the Jewish Agency question which has been the principal object of discussion since the first day of the Zionist Congress almost a fortnight ago, was settled in the early hours this morning, when the Assembly by a vote of 164 to 87 voted to approve the proposal to have the Zionist Organization draw in outside forces willing to help in the upbuilding of the Jewish Palestine.
As finally adopted the proposal provides that the representatives of the non-Zionist organizations shall be invited to form a council which with the Executive of the Zionist Organization shall form the Agency. The resolution provides also that within three years a World Congress of Jewry shall be convoked, the Agency serving until this gathering creates a permanent one.
Supporters of the proposal included the orthodox Mizrachi group, which had been among the leaders hitherto in the opposition to the Weizmann Administration and plan. Their action indicating a departure from their demand for an immediate Congress was a surprise to all. Those opposing the Agency on the final roll call were the labor groups consisting of 33 Zeire Zion (Young Zionists) delegates. 9 Poale Zion delegates and 9 Socialist Zeire Zion.
Of the Executive, Dr. Weizmann, Dr. Soloweitchik, Isaac Naiditch and Dr. Georg Halpern voted in favor. Opposing were Dr. Lichtheim and J. Sprinzak, a labor member of the Executive. Nahum Sokolow, M. Ussishkin and Dr. Arthur Ruppin were absent during the balloting. While this absence may have been entirely accidental and due to the hour (2 A.M.) the roll call took place, it is possible also, it is said, that they remained away in order not to commit themselves.
The question of the new Executive is the only matter that remains to be decided before the adjournment of the Congress. The question of the reelection of M. Ussishkin, at present in charge of the Zionist activities in Palestine, is one of the most bitterly fought in the election slate. Dr. Weizmann favors his elimination, Mr. Sokolow, on the other hand, demands the continuance of the present Executive without change.
Indications are that the plan first sponsored by Dr. Weizmann and Sokolow for a “homogeneous” executive will not be carried and that a “coalition” executive will be approved instead. Dr. Weizmann contends that the headquarters of the Executive must remain in London, but that the Palestine office must be increasingly strengthened. It is believed Dr. Weizmann favors for the Palestine branch Dr. Arthur Ruppin as colonization expert and Colonel Kisch, as political representative, with Mr. Ussishkin eliminated. For the London cabinet he is said to favor Dr. Georg Halpern as financial expert and Dr. Berthold Feiwel as organization chief.
While the Permanent Committee was busy drafting the final form of the compromise agency proposal and others busy slating the Executive. Thursday was given over to consideration of reports and adoption of concrete proposals.
The Land Commission, reporting through Dr. Schmarak recommended that Â£160,000 be appropriated for colonization work, Â£120,000 to be expended on actual colonization work and the balance used to create a reserve fund for the purchase of land, under the Keren Hayesod’plan. A plan for the establishment of an industrial bank to provide credit for small industry and agriculture was adopted as also the proposal to extend credit to those engaging in handicraft.Dr. Rufeisen who reported on the credit scheme recommended that at least five per cent of the Palestine budget should be used for such credit facilities for mechanical laborers and that 20,000 pounds should be set aside for credits to suburban residents.
A proposal was carried for an “arbitration court” to be established jointly by the Zionist Organization, the Vaad Leumi and the labor organizations for the settlement of labor disputes and the elaboration of a minimum wage scale.
The report of the Immigration Committee evoked heated discussion, a portion of the Center and labor parties urging the continuance of the present policy of favoring the immigration of Chaluzim The Mizrachi who opposed preferences for chaluzim were voted down.
The Congress adopted a resolution providing for the creation of the office of a travelling inspector whose duty it will be to act as coordinate of immigration to Palestine.
Dr. Sapir on behalf of the Sanitation Commission urged that the Congress ratify the agreement of the American Zionist Organization, the Hadassah and the Joint Distribution Committee under which all three agree to contribute in virtually equal part to the continuance of the medical work in Palestine. The Commission also recommended that the Congress should voice its especial thanks to the Joint Distribution Committee and to Nathan Straus.
Recommendations for the improvement of the service connected with the quarantine activities in Palestine and also improved medical supervision over immigrants were adopted.
A cable from Henrietta Szold, read by Morris Rothenberg, announcing that Jewish physicians of the United States had agreed to give $10,000 for a Roentgen (X-Ray) institute in Jerusalem was received with cheers.
Children of the revolution
Cinematic re-imaginings of 1968 have flooded our screens in recent years to mark the 40th anniversary of the global phenomenon of revolutionary action. Such films are often coloured in a dangerous hue of nostalgia or, even worse, attempt to market their subjects as seductive youths titillated by violence, cheapening the political vigour that drove them. Shane O’Sullivan’s documentary Children of the Revolution is certainly immersed in the same fascinations, yet comes from a different vantage point, offering a unique point of reference: the daughters of the revolution.
Generational conflicts are always complicated, and even when the times allowed it, certain memories can be very unpleasant, if not painful to revisit. Especially when you are confronted with a past little out of the ordinary.
As in the case of Bettina and May, whose life as girls was marked by the radical choices of their mothers, who, at some time in their lives, they decided to go underground.
Children of the Revolution looks at the immediate aftermath of 1968 in Germany and Japan, from where revolutionary politics burst globally in the 1970s to have a long-lasting impact on our contemporary age. O’Sullivan positions Germany and Japan alongside each other for their shared histories as aggressors in the Second World War, as broken nations in its aftermath and, most importantly for this documentary, as countries that experienced large-scale civil revolt in the 1960s and into the 1970s. Both the Baader-Meinhof Group and the Japanese Red Army, leading activist groups of their respective nations, came up against limitations while operating within their own national borders and broke through internationally, ending up in Palestine to join its liberation movement. Both activist organisations involved women as central leading figures, namely Ulrike Meinhof and Fusako Shigenobu, and O’Sullivan details their personal histories through interviews with their daughters, Bettina Röhl and May Shigenobu, who were born and raised amid the chaos. Sep 06, 2011 Electric Sheep Magazine
It is in this intimate territory, but at the same time political, which pushes the powerful documentary by Shane O ‘Sullivan, “Children of the Revolution”, which tells, through the eyes of their daughters, the stories of two women who become figures center of the revolutionary movement in Germany and Japan in 1968, Ulrike Meinhof and Fusako Shigenobu.
Their stories are pretty much public, even if Europe is more familiar with the figure of Ulrike Meinhof than Fusako, but the private aspect of it which moves Shane to offers us new insights on the vicissitudes of a history destined to leave many questions open.
The film opens with the disturbing images of an attack plane and continues at a rate very close and decided to tell the events, with lots of interesting archival material, photographs and never before seen interviews with people around you.
One can not help but breathe violence. Nevertheless, the documentary manages to capture something different, more profound that goes beyond the story we all know. Shane enters the complex mother-daughter relationship, investigating their memories and their opinions about the choices of their mothers and of those who may be the limits of revolutionary action. What comes out is also the portrait absolutely unusual at the time, by reflecting, in a broader analysis, on how the media basically build a certain image of the story and its protagonists. “This is where you decide to start the story that makes the difference.” (May Shigenobu) Both Bettina and May did not follow in the footsteps of their mothers policies, but their opinions about it are very different. Bettina Meinhof and her twin sister Regina were little more than teenagers when their life changes completely after the choice of Ulrike, an established journalist and intellectual figure on the left, to devote himself to the cause of German revolutionary movement. By daughters of the middle class become daughters of the revolution and almost end up in Jordan to be trained as soldiers. May is already born as a daughter instead of revolution. His mother Fusako was part of the armed forces when the Japanese as’ the light in response to the report with a rebel Arabic. In the coming years would move from time to time, constantly changing identity for security reasons, but the relationship with his mother, though fleeting, still managed to stay strong and to create understanding and comprehension.
While Ulrike seems to have been less aware of what would be the consequences of his choices, to the point of being torn between her identity as a mother and that of revolutionary Fusako seems to have had a more consistent and conscious path, connecting the two women who were her mother, and the revolutionary.
In fact, the testimony of Bettina May and create a strong emotional contrast. Both know, however, that those years were complex, where the revolution was everywhere in the air and the actions of those who remained involved should be clear, sharp, impressive, because every age has its own means of communication and their voices to be heard. Filmed in Tokyo, Beirut and Germany, “Children of the Revolution” is the third documentary written and directed by Shane O’Sullivan, who agreed to answer some probing questions about his work.
As to the idea of working on a topic as complex as the revolutionary movement in Germany and Japan, where it started the idea? My research on these stories are started before 9/11. The anti-capitalist demonstrations in Seattle and Genoa drew the student revolutions of the ’60s and the spirit of that time. Then the attack of 9/11 made it all fall into the nightmare of terrorism and anti-globalization movement is eclipsed. When the war in Iraq reported on protests in the streets, the government ignored them and “Operation Free Iraq” began. So I became interested in the energy and idealism of ’68 and what ensued. In Germany and Japan, the movement had a more international footprint so as to bring their own representatives in the Middle East.
In the documentary you wanted to mainly occupy the two female protagonists of the movement. What made them so interesting to you?
I considered the strongest characters of the movement and, after reading childhood of their daughters, Bettina and May, I found a way to tell a great political event through an exclusive point of view. The mother-daughter relationship, which is the focus of the documentary, highlights not only the personal aspect of the story, but it also reveals other motivations of the two protagonists.
In the documentary, have always maintained a neutral position and distant but telling the story of two women from a very intimate point of view. Do you think this is an aspect of the story that was left out and instead is important in the analysis of events that happened?
I believe that, as often happens, it creates the myth around so controversial figures. These two women have been slandered and defamed, but there were very human and complex motivations behind their actions that have been taken in a political and cultural context very different from that of today. Aspects of the society of which we are now almost careless were instead a source of conflict at the time. I do not condone their actions but I try to understand them.
I think the strongest aspect of the film is the subjective point of view of Bettina May and in telling the story of their mothers. A unique point of view that comes from personal experience and extensive research and knowledge of the history and politics of the time.
Their personal stories help us to reflect in a more wide variety of political issues: the nature of protest and resistance and how to defy an unjust war, the company or an economic system. Relazionandoci to them and the mother-daughter relationship you can imagine, up to a certain point, as it may have been their lives.
The mother-daughter relationship of the two protagonists seems to have been very complex to analyze. Where have you found it harder?
The relationship between Fusako-May was easier to understand why, despite the ongoing events, May continued to maintain a relationship of love and support to his mother and his comrades of the movement. Ulrike between Bettina and the relationship was much more complex and psychologically unstable. The transformation of Ulrike, divided between the maternal feelings and ideals of the movement, has a great influence on children and the growth of Bettina, distorting the relationship between the two.
As they affect the differentiating cultural and Bettina May is the approach to the past of their mothers and the idea of revolution in general?
I would say a lot of influence. May grew up in the Middle East where his mother was seen as a heroine. The environment in which she grew up shared the same ideals of his mother, and the revolution was seen as a just cause against imperialism, despite the West were seen as terrorists. In Germany, Bettina lived in a society much more bourgeois, capitalist, with a father in a suburb alienated in Hamburg, away from his mother and his revolutionary ideals. To date, the generation of ’68 found opposite judgments between right and left, and Ulrike is seen as an idealist or a terrorist psychopath.
The documentary explores parallel both the past and the present in a manner that causes it to reflect on those which can be broadly human errors. What is your opinion?
The issues behind the student movement of ’68 are still alive: the struggle for education within the reach of all, the protest against a corrupt economic system that threatens to implode Europe, trying to stop a war. The nature of the protests has been transformed: from hijackings and sieges embassies to the popular revolutions in the Middle East; operations of hacker Western societies and looting shops in the streets of London, as part of a youth discontented. But the question is always the same: what are legitimate means to fight social injustice?
In the 70s, the only way that the Japanese or the Palestinians had to attract the public was hijack a plane and then give a press conference to present their demands and be known as a movement. Now things have changed. We have more sophisticated tools to communicate, organize and mobilize the people that make the operation of control by the authorities, a job much more difficult. The movements of the “Arab Spring” pointing to a more effective way to be heard and demand changes. But how do we evolve into a movement that comes to have a permanent voice in the political system? The protests are much more powerful now, but we are still waiting for a new wave.
Karin Bauer author of “Everybody Talks About the Weather..We Don’t: The Writings of Ulrike Meinhof”