Shirly Bahar’s Statement in Support of a Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

Shirly Bahar is a PhD candidate at New York University.

I am often asked: why did you choose to write on Palestinian and Mizrahi cinema jointly? screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-9-23-31-amMatters of representation aside, part of my answer is that politically, I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle precisely because I am Mizrahi. Similarly, I support the MLA resolution in favor of the boycott of Israeli institutions and the BDS non-violent movement as a whole first of all as a Mizrahi person. That is, as a Middle Eastern Jew whose ancestresses and ancestors have lived amongst Muslims, and whose ideas on Judaism and Jewish identification were nurtured within Islamic cultures of what is today called the Middle East, for almost a millennia prior to the 1948 Palestinian Naqba and foundation of the state of Israel. A daughter of immigrants from Turkey born and raised in Israel and currently based in NYC, I have intimately experienced the discrimination and exclusion of my parents from Jewish-Ashkenazi-dominated Israeli society. As I state in my work after Ella Shohat (and others), the oppressions of Palestinians and Mizrahim are distinct yet inexorably linked: the crumbling of the very fabric of Middle Eastern Jewry occurred vis-à-vis the Palestinian catastrophe, as both were under Zionism and the State of Israel.

Secondly, I support BDS as an Israeli whose Jewish-Israeli citizenship marked on her ID card exempts her from the harsh oppression that Palestinians experience on a daily basis. I am not interested in the special privileges and safety that my Jewish identity mark grants me on the expense of Palestinian lives and basic human rights. Supporting non-violent resistance to occupation and oppression marks a political moral obligation to account for the suffering of others. Supporting BDS and pursuing my academic and curatorial work is in fact the very least I can do in expressing solidarity with Palestinian struggle to end the occupation and live a dignified life as equal citizens in a non-ethnocentric democracy. The people I love the most currently live in Palestine/Israel, and so I must do whatever I can to try and end or at least reduce the perpetual cycle of violence there. My ultimate hope is that the Palestinian, Jewish, and joint non-violent movements will gain more significant achievements, especially in extending protection to the most vulnerable of them – Palestinians, Black Jews and non-Jews, Mizrahim, the working class, women, and LGBTQ folks. Inshallah, one day all people between the river and the sea will be free.

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