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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Support: Nakba Posters In New York!!

Parachutes Falling

Artist challenges US Zionists with depiction of the Nakba

James Reinl, Foreign Correspondent

  • Last Updated: May 24. 2008 8:05PM UAE / May 24. 2008 4:05PM GMT

NEW YORK // When Ildiko Toth designed a poster commemorating the 1948 destruction of Arab towns by Jewish militants, the Oregon-based artist said she wanted to “give a voice to the suffering of the Palestinian people”.

This week, it appears that the Hungarian-born designer has got her wish. More than 1,000 copies of her poster will be plastered on billboards across midtown Manhattan to coincide with next month’s Salute to Israel Parade.

Bearing the words “Nakba – 60 Years of Forced Exile”, the posters will probably be seen by hundreds of thousands of supporters of Israel as they march along New York’s glitzy 5th Avenue and celebrate what organisers describe as “an ancient dream realised”.

Members of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation freely acknowledge they orchestrated the poster campaign to rain on the Zionists’ parade, according to the national advocacy director, Josh Ruebner.

“Participants in the Salute to Israel Parade will see our ads and be forced to confront the reality which they deny, namely, that Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish state is only possible by refusing Palestinian refugees’ their right of return home,” Mr Ruebner said.

The posters will “educate New Yorkers that the establishment of Israel in 1948 was accompanied by the widespread and purposeful ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes and lands”, he said.

But parade organisers said Israel’s supporters will march undeterred, saying the event celebrates a “war of survival” in 1948 that saw Jews overcome “attacks on all sides” to create “the only democratic state in the Middle East”, according to Michael Miller, chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

“This is America, and everyone here has the right to free speech, which many in the Arab world do regrettably not have,” Mr Miller said. “If movements that have a different point of view want to put their message on a poster and stick it on walls throughout the city, that is their privilege.

“The supporters of Israel are not going to be guided by a poster. This parade is going to be one of the most exciting we have had in years. There is so much to celebrate: from what Israel has brought to the world to what Israel means symbolically to the Jewish people.”

Ms Toth’s poster, a winning entry in the US Campaign’s Expressions of Nakba art competition, depicts parachutes in the pattern of kaffiyehs carrying keys towards Jerusalem, together with a list of the Palestinian villages destroyed by Israelis in 1948.

The design plays with potent symbols for the Nakba exiles who still treasure property deeds to the flattened buildings and keys to doors that no longer exist – images that possess particular significance to Ms Toth, 34.

Following an internet romance, the designer married Samir al Sharif, 26, a Palestinian student, in Cairo in May 2006 before taking a honeymoon cruise on the Nile and heading to Ms Toth’s family home in southern Hungary.

After spending several months together in Hungary, Ms Toth returned to the United States, where she has been resident since 2000, while Mr Sharif visited his parents and 10 siblings in northern Gaza.

When he tried to leave, Mr Sharif was told he needed to apply for a new exit visa but bureaucratic failures and tighter regulations have kept him trapped in Gaza waiting for the valid paperwork to arrive. He blames officials on both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, for keeping him there.

“Why do they refuse me?” Mr Sharif said. “I have done nothing against Israel. Since returning to Gaza I have done nothing except sit at home. I have a right to be with my wife.”

Without direct access to consulates, Mr Sharif was forced to write dozens of letters pleading internationally for help from ambassadors, human rights groups and even Oprah Winfrey, the US television host. To date, nobody has been able to help.

By day, Mr Sharif works in his parents’ electronics store – an irony in an area beset by power blackouts – where an absence of customers and goods has seen sales plummet to the equivalent of– about Dh20 a day. In the streets outside, donkeys and carts have replaced cars due to a shortage of petrol.

By night, he waits until 3am for his wife to call during her lunch hour so the couple can reminisce about the few happy times they have enjoyed in two years’ of marriage.

“As a Palestinian, he acts very strong,” Ms Toth said. “He tells me: ‘Everything will be OK soon’ and ‘We will make it’. But I know it is really hard for him.”

The outlook for Mr Sharif remains uncertain. Ms Toth is pinning her hopes on securing US citizenship, believing the nationality change will improve her chances of getting her husband out of Gaza.

In the meantime, she contents herself with the knowledge that her poster – the product of her pain – will bear testament to the difficulties still faced by herself, Mr Sharif and many other Palestinians.

“In today’s age, people can easily form a one-sided opinion about an issue without fully understanding the other side,” she said. “I’m trying to raise awareness of the situation of Palestinians, humanise their tragedy and educate people who are not aware.

“I’ve always been interested in the deep, dark recesses of the world and to give a voice to such issues. Since I have known Samir, I have found a passion in him as well as his plight.”



You’ve Got to See Our Nakba Ads in NYC

May 19th, 2008

This past weekend, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation began a month-long advertising campaign in New York City to raise awareness about the 60th anniversary of the Nakba.

Over the course of the next month, more than 1,000 of these posters will be displayed on the streets of Manhattan, educating New Yorkers about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

We need your support to continue our creative educational programs on the Nakba and other projects such as challenging military aid to Israel, running corporate accountability campaigns against Motorola and Caterpillar, and organizing a high-profile anti-apartheid speaking tour this fall.

Donate $20 or more today and we’ll send you a suitable-to-frame copy of our Nakba awareness ad.Please make your generous tax-deductible donation now by clicking here.

The ads in New York have been strategically placed to coincide with the route of the June 1st “Salute to Israel Parade” so that everyone coming to celebrate Israel will be reminded (or educated) that Israel was established through an act of ethnic cleansing.If you appreciate these types of educational efforts, then please make a generous tax-deductible contribution to keep us going by clicking here.

The poster featured in our New York ad campaign is a version of the winning poster design entry from our Expressions of Nakba multi-media arts competition.The poster was created by Ildiko Toth, a Hungarian-born graphic designer who is married to a Palestinian man trapped in the Gaza Strip for more than one year.To see the original poster design and learn more about the artist, click here.You can also read a feature story about Ildiko and Expressions of Nakba in The National (U.A.E.) by clicking here.

If you haven’t yet taken the opportunity to view the amazing artwork we received for Expressions of Nakba, then please take some time to view our stunning new on-line gallery by clicking here.

Don’t forget that you can get your copy of this poster by making a tax-deductible contribution of $20 or more to support our work by clicking here.

To view a high-resolution image of the New York ad and the poster we’ll send you with your contribution of $20 or more, please click here. (Please note that this version of the poster is different from one displayed in our on-line gallery.)

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