Palestinians Still Not Denied Right to Dream

Israel saying the ICJ remained “silent during the Holocaust” when the court didn’t exist yet, shows Israel has no answers to the ICJ orders, writes Vijay Prashad.

Malak Mattar, Palestine, “Gaza,” 2024.

By Vijay Prashad
Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

Judges at the International Court of Justice on Jan. 26 (ICJ) found it “plausible” that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. 

The ICJ called upon Israel to “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts” that violate the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948).

As part of its “provisional measures,” the ICJ called upon Israel to respond to the court within a month and outline how it has implemented the order.

Though Israel has already rejected the ICJ’s findings, international pressure on Tel Aviv is mounting.

Algeria has asked the U.N. Security Council to enforce the ICJ’s order while Indonesia and Slovenia have initiated separate proceedings at the ICJ that will begin on Feb. 19 to seek an advisory opinion on Israel’s control and policies on occupied Palestinian territories, pursuant to a U.N. General Assembly resolution adopted in December 2022.

In addition, Chile and Mexico have called upon the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate crimes committed in Gaza.

Israel’s reaction to the ICJ’s order was characteristically dismissive. The country’s national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, called the ICJ an “anti-Semitic court” and claimed that it “does not seek justice, but rather the persecution of Jewish people.” 

Strangely, Ben Gvir accused the ICJ of being “silent during the Holocaust.” The Holocaust conducted by the Nazi German regime and its allies against European Jews, the Romani, homosexuals, communists and others took place from late 1941 until May 1945 when the Soviet Red Army liberated prisoners from Ravensbrück, Sachsenhausen, and Stutthof concentration camps.

The ICJ was established in June 1945, one month after the Holocaust ended, and began its work in April 1946. Israel’s attempt to delegitimise the ICJ by saying it remained “silent during the Holocaust” when it was, in fact, not yet in existence, and then to use that false statement to call the ICJ an “anti-Semitic court” shows that Israel has no answer to the merits of the ICJ order.

Malak Mattar, Palestine, “Gaza” (detail), 2024.

Meanwhile, the bombardment of Palestinians in Gaza continues. My friend Na’eem Jeenah, director of the Afro-Middle East Centre in Johannesburg has been reviewing the data from various government ministries in Gaza as well as media reports to circulate a daily information card on the situation. 

The card from Jan. 26, the date of the ICJ order and the 112th day of the genocide, details that over 26,000 Palestinians, at least 11,000 of them children, have been killed since 7 October; 8,000 are missing; close to 69,000 have been injured; and almost all of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been displaced. 

The numbers are bewildering. During this period, Israel has damaged 394 schools and colleges, destroying 99 of them as well as 30 hospitals and killing at least 337 medical personnel.

This is the reality that occasioned the genocide case at the ICJ and the court’s provisional measures, with one judge, Dalveer Bhandari of India, going further to say plainly that “all fighting and hostilities [must] come to an immediate halt.”

Amongst the dead are many of Palestine’s painters, poets, writers and sculptors. One of the striking features of Palestinian life over the past 76 years since the Nakba (“Catastrophe”) of 1948 has been the ongoing richness of Palestinian cultural production. 

In the past, a brisk walk down any of the streets of Jenin or Gaza City would reveal the ubiquity of studios and galleries, places where Palestinians insist upon their right to dream.

In late 1974, the South African militant and artist Barry Vincent Feinberg published an article in the Afro-Asian journal Lotus that opens with an interaction in London between Feinberg and a “young Palestinian poet.”

Feinberg was curious why, in Lotus, “an unusually large number of poems stem from Palestinian poets.” The young poet, amused by Feinberg’s observation, replied: “The only thing my people have never been denied is the right to dream.”

Malak Mattar, Palestine, “Gaza” (detail), 2024.

Malak Mattar, born in December 1999, is a young Palestinian artist who refuses to stop dreaming. Malak was 14 when Israel conducted its Operation Protective Edge (2014) in Gaza, killing over 2,000 Palestinian civilians in just over one month – a ghastly toll that built upon the bombardment of the Occupied Palestinian Territory that has been ongoing for more than a generation. 

Malak’s mother urged her to paint as an antidote to the trauma of the occupation. Malak’s parents are both refugees: her father is from al-Jorah (now called Ashkelon) and her mother is from al-Batani al-Sharqi, one of the Palestinian villages along the edge of what is now called the Gaza Strip. 

On Nov. 25, 1948, the newly formed Israeli government passed Order Number 40, which authorised Israeli troops to expel Palestinians from villages such as al-Batani al-Sharqi.

“Your role is to expel the Arab refugees from these villages and prevent their return by destroying the villages… Burn the villages and demolish the stone houses,” wrote the Israeli commanders.

Malak’s parents carry these memories, but despite the ongoing occupation and war, they try to endow their children with dreams and hope. Malak picked up a paint brush and began to envision a luminous world of bright colours and Palestinian imagery, including the symbol of sumud (“steadfastness”): the olive tree.

Since she was a teenager, Malak has painted young girls and women, often with babies and doves, though, as she told the writer Indlieb Farazi Saber, the women’s heads are often titled to the side. That is because, she said,

“If you stand straight, upright, it shows you are stable, but with a head tilted to one side, it evokes a feeling of being broken, a weakness. We are humans, living through wars, through brutal moments… the endurance sometimes slips.”

Malak Mattar, “Two Gazan Girls Dreaming of Peace,” 2020.

Malak and I have corresponded throughout this violence, her fears manifest, her strength remarkable. In January, she wrote, “I’m working on a massive painting depicting many aspects of the genocide.” 

On a 5-metre canvas, Malak created a work of art that began to resemble Pablo Picasso’s celebrated Guernica (1937), which he painted to commemorate a massacre by fascist Spain against a town in the Basque region. 

In 2022, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) published a profile on Malak, calling her “Palestine’s Picasso.” In the article, Malak said, “I was so inspired by Picasso that, in the beginning of my art journey, I tried to paint like him.” 

This new painting by Malak reflects the heartbreak and steadfastness of the Palestinian people. It is an indictment of Israel’s genocide and an affirmation of Palestinians’ right to dream.

If you look at it closely, you will see the victims of the genocide: the medical workers, the journalists and the poets; the mosques and the churches; the unburied bodies, the naked prisoners, and the corpses of small children; the bombed cars and the fleeing refugees.

There is a kite flying in the sky, a symbol from Refaat Alareer’s poem “If I Must Die” (“you must live to tell my story… so that a child, somewhere in Gaza while looking heaven in the eye… sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above and thinks there is an angel there bringing back love”).

Zulfa al-Sa’di, Palestine, “King Faysal I of Iraq,” 1931.

Malak’s work is rooted in Palestinian traditions of painting, inspired by a history that dates back to Arab Christian iconography (a tradition that was developed by Yusuf al-Halabi of Aleppo in the 17th century).

That “Aleppo Style,” as the art critic Kamal Boullata wrote in Istihdar al-Makan, developed into the “Jerusalem Style,” which brightened the iconography by introducing flora and fauna from Islamic miniatures and embroidery. 

When I first saw Malak’s work, I thought of how fitting it was that she had redeemed the life of Zulfa al-Sa’di (1905–1988), one of the most important painters of her time, who painted Palestinian political and cultural heroes. 

Al-Sa’di stopped painting after she was forced to flee Jerusalem during the 1948 Nakba; her only paintings that remain are those that she carried with her on horseback.

Sa’di spent the rest of her life teaching art to Palestinian children at an UNRWA school in Damascus. It was in one such UNRWA school that Malak learned to paint. Malak seemed to pick up al-Sa’di’s brushes and paint for her.

It is no surprise that Israel has targeted UNRWA, successfully encouraging several key Global North governments to stop funding the agency, which was established by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302 in 1949 to “carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees.”

[See: By Hurting UN Agency, the West Sides With Genocide]

In any given year, half a million Palestinian children like Malak study at UNRWA schools. Raja Khalidi, director-general of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS), says of this funding suspension:

“Given the long-standing precarious nature of UNRWA’s finances… and in light of its essential role in providing vital services to Palestine refugees and some 1.8 million displaced persons in Gaza, cutting its funding at such a moment heightens the threat to life against Palestinians already at risk of genocide.”

I encourage you to circulate Malak’s mural, to recreate it on walls and public spaces across the world. Let it penetrate into the souls of those who refuse to see the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations.  His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and, with Noam Chomsky,  The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

This article is from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

Views expressed in this article may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

12 comments for “Palestinians Still Not Denied Right to Dream

  1. robert e williamson jr
    February 4, 2024 at 16:59

    This is the method chosen by the Israelis to obscure any truth they have issues with. “And end to a means”, defined by Merriam Webster as something that is done only to produce a desired result.

    In the case of the Israeli government the arrogant belief that they are the “chosen” and “the only chosen” people is a publicity stunt that strays into darkly forbidden territory in this instance to avoid being excused of engaging in self legitimized activity, In this case genocide.

    Doing so in this case is especially egregious. The Israeli officials falsely identify a historical event, using of a totally fabricated example, from of an incredibly small slice time and accuse the IJC of ignoring events before the IJC ever existed.

    These actions by Israel, convoluting facts bearing little or no relationship in order to achieve a desired affect, in this case an erroneous recounting of history, are clearly self evident.

    This has been done more times than can be counted much to the shame of the MSM who are strangely acquiescent to desires of the Israeli governments machinations.

    Our president and his minions must wake up to the fact they are being played hard like an old ragtime piano.

    This is exactly as it appears, a large group of Israeli government gangsters, supported the U.S. among others, in the blood thirsty act of genocide and the U.S. lies naked to the world because of these exposed lies.

    Great confidence builder or great threat to our nation, which is it?

    The same mechanisms at work in Israel are being used in the Ukraine also. Time to ask our government what the hell is going on.

    Thanks Vijay and CN

  2. Charles E. Carroll
    February 4, 2024 at 13:34

    Free Palestine!

    • Mireya
      February 5, 2024 at 11:17

      Viva, Viva Palestina!

  3. February 4, 2024 at 11:36

    How far our once-proud US of A has fallen!! It took a mere three decades for the complete take-over of our republic by a few dozen Khazarian Neo-Cons. We have gone from being the nearly universally admired paragon on Planet Earth, to its most feared and despised mass murderer of all time – all genocides that we perpetrated or munitioned for our masters in Israel.

    It is heartbreaking for this U.S. Army veteran.

  4. Vera Gottlieb
    February 3, 2024 at 10:58

    The Zionists will resort to ANY lies to obscure their nefarious actions – and Moses would be smeared too it need be.

  5. floyd gardner
    February 3, 2024 at 10:53

    I too remained silent before I was born; but I will not remain silent today. STOP the GENOCIDE!

  6. Randal Marlin
    February 3, 2024 at 10:29

    I’m wondering if Ben Gvir might have been referring to the October 7 mini-Holocaust?

  7. robert e williamson jr
    February 2, 2024 at 17:49

    This comes a no surprise to me. Anyone who has kept themselves aware of the shenanigans the Israelis have engaged in over the years can readily identify this behavior as typical of what the do in order to manufacture consent and justification of their pugnacious activities and deceptive practices they use to gain any undo advantage for their causes. All while they make no secret of the fact that since they are the “Chosen ones” they have authority to do as they damned well please.

    This behavior is an example of the extraneous bull shitting they engage in to deflect just and due criticism of their outrageous behavior.

    More misrepresentation of fact the facilitate their illegal immoral behavior. Typical of the trouble makers nonsensical defense of the indefensible.

    These people present a very real threat to the health and safety of everyone else on the planet.

    In complete support of Vijay’s stand here.

    Thanks CN

  8. Voltaria Voltaire
    February 2, 2024 at 17:20

    And also, I LOVED your article. I LOVED Malak’s painting of “Two Gazan Girls Dreaming of Peace”. The beauty and communication value of art goes a very long ways towards dispelling the results of evil. It IS hope. Thank you.

  9. Voltaria Voltaire
    February 2, 2024 at 16:49

    Thanks Vijay. I appreciate your journalism. I do want to say though that I think EVERYONE, including the U.N Security Council Representatives and all the Media need to understand the word “plausibly”. It is not the same as “possibly” or “could be” or “might”.

    As language in legal matters tends to be used, and misused, in legal battles, perhaps we should look MUCH, MUCH closer at the words Genocide, and Plausibly. Just because a person grows up with a language does not guarantee they know what the words they use and forward mean.

    As words tend to change and acquire new meanings because of the afore mentioned difficilty, it is helpful to use a variety of dictionaries and even Etymology reference books to gain the most precise understandings.

    In the Microsoft Encarta dictionary from 2001 the first definition of plausible is : “1. believable and appearing likely to be true, usually in the absence of proof”. Okay, that fits. However, for the first time, perhaps, in history, we have the very UNUSUAL case that we DO have proof of Genocide occurring in real time. This is due to technological advances in our communications systems of our current age. There are documented evidences, statements, recordings of officials, eye witness accounts and their recordings. Okay, so, if one then looks at the derivation of the word “plausible”, in The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology 1985, one sees : “laudable, acceptable, agreeable; having an appearance of truth or value”. It comes originally from the Latin “plaudere” which means to clap the hands in approval. Applaud and explode are related in that derivation. Both words indicate some appreciable noise. We see that noise in the evidence. The World Court (ICJ) presented that in the evidence. An EXPLOSIVE amount of evidence. Fifteen members of 17 agreed to the orders.

    Plausibly DOES NOT mean possibly. In another’s words “LET’S BE HONEST”. Truly honest.

    The bought mainstream media is attempting to downplay and attack the findings of the highest court on the planet. We treasure our independent truth telling journalists!!!! So don’t let that happen with you too, please, not even unintentionally.

    Besides, there is NO WAY to stop the killing without a CEASEFIRE. The order was explicit that Israel was to stop killing the Palestinians. The highest court on the planet made it clear that Israel’s claims of self defence are INVALID.

    It is true that Israel considers it’s current, provably genocidal actions valuable, and this also appears to be true in the words and actions of other colonizing powers. They are applauding it. They have been freely confessing to the most alarming of genocidal crimes.


  10. jaycee
    February 2, 2024 at 16:16

    Can anyone familiar with procedural matters at ICJ explain what will occur in a few weeks time, when Israel is required to detail for the court what initial measures it has taken to address the accusations of committing a genocide? While one might imagine that Israel, to the extent it cooperates in this at all, will present a list of generalities, it is surely the case that, on the Palestinian side, detailed records of each and every event taking place daily are being kept and shared with South Africa’s legal team. Is a presentation by the legal team of these records part of the upcoming hearing, along with whatever Israel has to say?

  11. Georgie
    February 2, 2024 at 16:00

    That’s strange … because Americans are denied the right to dream. Here, the rule is, you can dream after you are dead. Until then, you are to work and work, pay taxes, and send your children to die for the rich, and generally work hard to make the rich get richer. But, since the rich do not profit from dreams, Americans are no longer allowed to dream of anything other than a lifetime of servitude to the rich. If an American has a moment to dream, the boss assigns more mandatory overtime.

    Even the Progressives now hate the speech that dared to declare “I have a Dream.” That speech says that skin color should not matter, only the content of character, That Dream is denied by modern Democrats, who insist that identity is set at birth, and that everything that matters is determined by “Who’s your Daddy (and Mommy)?” Skin color is everything, character is worthless in the modern Democrat beliefs.

    “That’s why they call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
    ? George Carlin

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