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How to Fight a Gun with a Bare Hand

Culture

How to Fight a Gun with a Bare Hand

Image by Meital Yaniv + Kim Ye

How to Fight a Gun with a Bare Hand

An exercise in imagination for Ahed Tamimi, Anne Frank, and all femmes everywhere young and old who refuse to be flattened by even the most acute oppression.

 

 

“for me     for me     for me   for me   for me, for him, for us.”

                                                        Davie-Blue

 

 

Before you open your eyes in the morning hold a sacred space for yourself. For this life. For the water that bleeds inside you. For this offering you can only give yourself that no one can steal from your open hands. May you never have to forgive anyone but yourself.

Imagine the hand of a sixteen-year-old. No gender assigned. Imagine the size of the palm, the length of the fingers, the shape of the nails. Imagine the strength of an able bodied hand. Imagine the sensors of touch and pain. Imagine the tiny blood vessels inside the hand. Imagine that hand slapping your face.

How did your body react? Did you stand still or begin to walk backwards? Did your face move? Are you sensing shock? Is your heart beating faster? How did your psyche react? Was it pleasurable or painful? Was it shameful? honorable? humiliating? Was it an act of love or war? Was it both? Do you want more?

Imagine a soldier. No gender assigned. Imagine the boots on the feet, the uniform, the belt. Imagine the heaviness of the vest on the torso and back. Imagine the helmet on the head. Imagine the weapons in the pockets. Imagine the gun hanging from the shoulder. Imagine the hand on the trigger. Imagine that soldier walking into your home.

How did your body react? Did you stand still or begin to walk backwards? Did your face move? Are you sensing shock? Is your heart beating faster? How did your psyche react? Was it pleasurable or painful? Was it shameful? honorable? humiliating? Was it an act of love or war? Was it both? Do you want more?

 

 

“Our childhood wars have aged us but it is the absence of change which will destroy us”

Audre Lorde

 

 

Dear Ahed Tamimi,

I will not speak about the blindness. I will not give space for the hate that allows them to see only the soldier. I will not repeat the nicknames you have been given or the way they chose to describe you. I will not name the voices of patriarchy, oppression and racism that try to define you. I will not give voice to what they want to do to you in darkness. I will not rewrite the graffiti under your name. I will not describe the binaries they are trying to place upon you. I will not speak for you.

Dear Anne Frank,

I will not speak about the blindness. I will not give space for the hate that allows them to see only the soldier. I will not repeat the nicknames you have been given or the way they chose to describe you. I will not name the voices of patriarchy, oppression and racism that try to define you. I will not give voice to what they want to do to you in broad daylight. I will not rewrite the graffiti under your name. I will not describe the binaries they are trying to place upon you. I will not speak for you.

Anne Frank would have immediately been shot for slapping an SS soldier.
Ahed Tamimi lived another day after slapping an IDF[i] soldier.
We cannot erase an evil by comparing it to another one.

The 70-year-old leftist poet Yehonatan Geffen experienced a backlash for a poem he wrote on social media. In it he compares Ahed Tamimi to Anne Frank, Hannah Szenes and Joan of Arc. After being criticized and threatened to be banned by Minister of Culture Miri Regev and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, he was quick to apologize. How fortunate for the israeli government that they only had one voice of resistance to publicly censor in this monstrous occupation industrial complex. Mister Geffen I am angry with you. I am angry at your audacity to apologize so quickly and even more angry at the way you describe Ahed Tamimi in your poem. Your apology is a luxury and, even in your caring, you have diminished her into an object of your gaze.

These men, and their words

We were never your witches or your whores

We were never your girls

We were never yours to begin with.

Our blood. Our lucidity. Our roars. Our saltiness. Our voyages. Our moons. Our tongues. Our intuitions. Our lineages. Our fantasies. Our crafts. Our freedom.

 

 

“Yes this is a witch hunt. I am a witch and I’m hunting you.”

Protest sign seen at the Women’s March, Los Angeles, 2018

 

 

Dear iDF soldier,

Your name is being protected from the public, but I know you and you know me. You are described in honorable terms, as a hero; how proud they are of your restraint and composure. Yes, we have the most humane army in the world! Yes! Yes! Yes!

This blindness is sickening and I wonder if you’re starting to feel the nausea, it might be too soon for you, I understand, you killed a part of yourself to view another as an inferior other, to perpetuate the trauma. You offered the ultimate sacrifice we were brainwashed to desire. You made it. Are you tired now, let me hold you, come lie down. Shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh…

It will probably take a few more years for you to realize your complicity, your crimes. There’s a reason why they enlist you before you can own your own thoughts. Don’t feel shame, most of us have been exactly where you stand. Your parents are holding you tight when you come through the door, food waiting for your lips, warm bubbles waiting for your dirt, clean sheets waiting for your growing body, your friends are buying the beers, you can even smoke now in front of your parents, you earned this freedom. How do you expect anyone in your family to look you in the eye and tell you about the blood on your hands, if they do that the blood will start running from their hands. Can you imagine the flow? Your home will submerge. Shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh…

Lie down, my soldier, lie down. Tremble on the ground swaying from crime to crime, tremble, gently, behold your complicity my love. Lick my expat milk as I drown your shame. Watch as every single truth crumbles into unlearning. Remember my face revealing your face, the shade of the mirror breaking on your fragile skin, the touch of something you can’t quite feel, yet by holding it tight, you become. Lie down my soldier lie down, let me remind you about The Green Line[ii].

Let’s count the steps, let’s try and walk from The Green Line to Ahed Tamimi’s family home in Nabi Saleh. Every step we take towards the village is another step on stolen land, another step on a land we rule by force and occupation, another step into this crime we call defense and protection.

On December 15th, 2017 you were on a mission. Most of your missions in the village are to intimidate or, in the language of the iDF, to create a sense of persecution. Your mission is to remind your occupiers of the cage we created for them, of the force of punishment, you are a walking reminder of the barriers and consequences in the fight for freedom.

Let me ask you about the slap. As you walked into Ahed Tamimi’s family home did you know that her fifteen-year-old cousin was comatose in a hospital bed after being shot in the head by a rubber bullet aimed by one of your friends? As she was slapping your cheek what were the forces that pushed you away? Were you thinking about your mom? Your general? Your dad? Your comrade? Your boyfriend? Your battalion? Your girlfriend? Your commander? Your best friend? Would you have reacted differently if the gender of the 16-year-old human who slapped your face was different? I believe that camera or no camera you would have locked their hands right there and then. Do you agree?

 

 

“This can, by the way, constitute a disposition of humility and generosity alike: I will need to be forgiven for what I cannot have fully known, and I will be under a similar obligation to offer forgiveness to others, who are also constitute in partial opacity to themselves.”

Judith Butler

 

 

Dear western media,

If Ahed Tamimi was a different gender would I even know her name?
If Ahed Tamimi covered her blonde hair would you show me her face?

We are laboring and crafting our own tools, heeding the words of Audre Lorde: “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” but you still hold the rusty, bloody tools of the master. The tools of patriarchy, oppression, racism and objectification are the tools at play in making Ahed Tamimi’s voice of resistance heard across oceans and seas. The only way to be heard by you is to create an armor of your liking so you can sell your ink, your radio waves, your scrolling screens. What does that mean about the voices you choose to ignore for the armors they hold? Should we all be wearing blonde curly wigs if we want our messages to be heard?

There are currently more than 350 Palestinian children in israeli prisons and detention centers, how many more names do you know? How many more stories will you tell us about? I do not blame you more than I blame myself, I want us all to feel the heaviness of the responsibility, to understand what is at stake here.

On February 13th Ahed Tamimi was brought into an israeli courtroom after being locked up for 57 days in an israeli jail. The first ruling the judge Lt. Col. Menachem Lieberman made was to lock your cameras, your pens, and your eyes outside. Neither one of us can witness the crime. The judge said “it will be in the minor’s best interest to have only her lawyers and family present.” Western media, I want you to find a way to ask Ahed Tamimi what would be in her best interest and report back to us.

 

 

“Just because you believe in self-defense doesn’t mean you let yourself be sucked into defending yourself on the enemy’s terms.”

Assata Shakur

 

 

Dear israeli,

Tell me something sincere, tell me about your nights, tell me about your fears, please, tell me about your dreams. I know that I’ve placed you in an uncomfortable situation and you may want to scream at me. I know that facing our crimes is brutally painful. But I want you to know how grateful I am that you are still reading my words, that you haven’t left me paragraphs ago, that you are still here with me. Thank you for pushing through these ideas with me. And for the next minute I want you to shout and scream. I will hold this space for you.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

 .   .   .   .   .  .   .   .   .   .

 .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

 .  .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

I recognize your screams, they do not scare me, I used to shut people up using my voice too. This aggression we speak from can be released, we can be kinder to one another, we can participate in this vulnerable act of listening.

Imagine the birth of a human being. Imagine feeding them, holding them, washing them. Imagine protecting them, disciplining them. Imagine teaching them right and wrong. Imagine educating them about the trauma of their history, about the trauma of their present. Imagine teaching them to fight with you, to resist with you, to protest next to you. Imagine explaining to them how to avoid rubber bullets, how to protect their mouth and eyes from gas, how to run away from the aiming barrels. Imagine fighting for a homeland you keep losing more and more of, imagine seeing how just like you they lose their freedom of movement, their freedom of speech, their freedom to be. Imagine explaining to them what it means to be occupied on their own land. Imagine what it will take for you to risk their lives for the sake of freedom. Imagine standing in your home watching them fight a gun with a bare hand, when the only weapon you have in yours is a a camera phone[iii].

 

“Some knowledge lies deep down at the bottom of your soul. In your greatest depths. This knowledge is passed on. A heritage. Otherwise, would you call it “a burden”? You know what crimes have been committed in your name, or with your complicity. It’s not a memory that is immediately conscious. It is diffuse. It lies dormant.”

Houria Bouteldja

 

 

Before you close your eyes at night hold a sacred space for someone other than yourself. For a life. For the water that bleeds inside all of us. For this offering that everyone can share from your open hands. May you never have to forgive anyone but yourself.

We can approve or condemn intersection weaving between survivors, the point is bigger than a headline. The point is that we are all complicit in whats happening right here right now, we are accountable for every piece of suffering in the world, and all of our hands are chained. The ripple effect will shake our chains, will reach all of us simultaneously, lovingly. There is an us that includes all of us and its on us to discover it. Our struggles are different, our privileges are incomparable, and our histories are important to remember and retell but not to relive. Michelle Dizon asks us “to always ask the temporal question of what stakes our work with history has for the future.”

We should not allow the pain of our origins to prevent us from recognizing the pain we are causing. Only in this dual understanding can we change the present and thereby change the outcome, forgive ourselves and become better than our wounds.


 

[i]

 

[i] IDF – Israeli Defense Forces

 

[ii]

 

[ii] The Green Line is the Armistice border line, drawn out in the 1949 Armistice agreements between Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Israel. The Green Line served as the border line of Israel until 1967, when the Six-Day War began. Today the Green Line is an elastic concept; the wall was built outside the Green Line and the settlements are continuing to expand and bloom outside of its borders. It is a thread of accountability the Israeli government is deliberately trying to erase from our collective memory. The Green Line has been almost completely removed from the curriculum at schools, and even the Israeli Defense Forces is not educating its soldiers about its history. To provide soldiers with such an education would convey Israel’s defiance of this agreement, perhaps inciting the realization that they are participating in the criminal infrastructure of the occupation industrial complex. Without this knowledge, most IDF soldiers are brainwashed to believe that they are protecting land rightfully given to them by the UN, land which it is their duty to defend.  It is characterized as a profound and necessary sacrifice. The Israeli Defense Forces are currently maintaining more than a hundred checkpoints outside, inside, and along the Green Line. Thirty of those checkpoints are permanent and over a hundred thousand Palestinians are forced to cross daily.

 

[iii]

 

[iii] Nariman Tamimi, Ahed Tamimi’s mother, took the video of Ahed Tamimi slapping the IDF soldier and posted it on social media. After Ahed Tamimi’s arrest her mother came to visit her in jail and got arrested for propaganda. Nariman Tamimi is being held in jail until the end of her proceedings.

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Meital Yaniv (b. 1984, Tel-Aviv, Israel) is a Los Angeles based interdisciplinary artist whose practice embodies language, performance, and video. Yaniv’s labor weaves and merges the personal and the political to find the common thread in disparate struggles, connecting ideas, bodies, and forms of resistance. Since 2015, Yaniv has been organizing intimate reading events with the aim of conceiving alternative communities where vulnerability holds us all accountable. Her book, Spectrum for an Untouchable, was published in October 2016. Yaniv holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts and a BFA from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Lara

    March 5, 2018 at 4:19 am

    There are so many layers to this piece. Your voice, with the quotes you’ve used, speak to many audiences. I could keep reading it again and again, pretending I was different people, and finding new meanings.

  2. Dorit

    March 10, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    I hear you loud and clear dear Meital. I weep along with your words dripping with pain. Tenderness saves us.

  3. Settlement Sonya

    March 23, 2018 at 4:01 am

    I didn’t know anything about Ahed Tamami. Had never heard the name. A search quickly led me to a BBC video where I met Oren Hazan, youngest member of the Knesset. “If I was there, she would finish in the hospital,” he says. “For sure,” he says. “Nobody could stop me.”
    I love the rhythm of this piece. A feeling of ritual in the midst of…it all, I suppose. Something in Oren’s speech – a cadence, perhaps – felt the same…but different. “I would kick, kick, her face,” he says. “There is no occupation,” he says. “A slap is a terrorism,” he says. “Believe me,” he says. “A slap is a terrorism.”

    Shhhhhh.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43487885

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