Nir Nader and Zuky Serper took the Sweetshop windows for the month of May. They proposed a process of working together via email and conversation, some of which is captured in the first May Conversations post. This second and last post is called Conversations Dislocations Refugees. Half way into May Conversations, Donald Trump announced his intention of opening the American Embassy in Jerusalem, thereby giving recognition to Israel as the country whose capital is Jeruslasem. As this question has long been in contention, and while Israel is in contravention of International Law maintaining the Occupations, violence broke out along the fence with Gaza, with the Israeli Defence Forces firing Dum Dum bullets on Palestinian protestors, killing 58 and maiming thousands.
The text below in no way attempts to respond to this overwhelming force. None the less the violence is with us. Nir Nader has written some of his thoughts below, the images are from Zuky Serper.
From Nir Nader
Zuky thought of Refugee Conversations as a title, after Bertolt Brecht(*). I thought no, we are not refugees in the usual sense of the word. Now, approaching the end of the month of May, I have a different understanding. If workers have no land, then we are refugees, landless, in our birth place as well as an outcome of our act of emigration. This way or that, the history of refugees is the history of class war.
I now understand that we have to call the project Refugee Conversations because of the objects and texts presented in the exhibition: The newspaper photograph of Trump with the metal workers, Shakespeare’s words on our material origins and the spectres we accumulated ever since, Varoufakis’s interpretation of Marx and Engels, the photograph of the larder full of food, a hidden cellar. We are here, but we are also there.
The photograph of Gaza and the American Embassy opening in Jerusalem describe horrors in the land of refugees. The jouissance of the occupier while the occupied are being murdered, and all in real time, streamed live to the rest of the world. Selfie in Jerusalem and murder in Gaza. Gaza is the essence of refugeeness, enforced poverty and an attempt to finish off the working potential of the people, their access to a life.
When I was two years old Gaza was occupied by Israel. The Jewish Israelis went out to visit the occupied sites and to photograph themselves there. Five years later, my father was involved in a fatal collision in Gaza. A van packed with woman labourers crossed a junction in red light, and was run over by his truck wheels. Seven workers, mothers, where killed instantly. My father was arrested for one night, then released. He did not cause the accident and could have not prevented it. We did not talk about this ever again. He left haulage work and started working for a gardening company. Workers from Gaza worked with him, sometimes staying overnight in our house when there was work the following day.
I was sent to guard Gaza as a soldier. I sat on a pile of sand with an older reservist, shelling sunflower seeds above the open sewage of Jibaliya, a refugee camp in Gaza. It was the weekend, and when it ended I ran away from the army. Unpermitted leave. When I handed myself in sometime later, I was sentenced, and spent time in jail.
What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Shakespeare’s 53rd sonnet I encountered at the end of the 1980’s. Days of the first Intifada in Gaza. I read the sonnet in the literary magazine that I found in my employer’s home, which I was cleaning. One day I called in, saying that I was not coming to work, as I was summoned to serve in Gaza as a reservist, and since I did not intend to serve, I spent a month in a military prison.
My life as an Israeli was divided between participating in the occupier’s majority, taking part in the violent act of occupation. Or opposing it. I made my choice. This was thirty years ago.
The people of Gaza were allowed to serve as labourers in Israel immediately after the military occupation; refugees, sons of refugees, grandchildren of refugees, packed into cars, in delivery containers, arriving to work in Israel, outside the occupied territory. From 1967 up until the disengagement in 2005. Now going out to work has stopped, as well as attending hospital appointments, and ever since then the people of Gaza are imprisoned in a closed guarded terrain, poor and wrecked, devoid of electricity, elementary life support systems. Generations of despair growing up on the ruins of hope. I left Israel because I couldn’t do what the protestors of Gaza did on the day when they marched to the border.