The last jew of Bagdad

2014-12-15 21.28.14

One of my stories was published on Laghoo magazine

Memory for Forgetfulness

1441452_10152327182085904_9153935621981010488_nAn afternoon of readings & music to gather our attention back to the events of last summer in Israel and Palestine, particularly in Gaza, the events of this moment, continuous and discontinuous with this past, and the events of many possible futures


Readings by

Ammiel Alcalay — a poet, novelist, translator, critic, and scholar. He teaches at Queens College and The Graduate Center, CUNY. His books include After Jews and Arabs, Memories of Our Future, Islanders, and neither wit nor gold: from then. His translations include Sarajevo Blues and Nine Alexandrias by Bosnian poet Semezdin Mehmedinović. A new book of essays, a little history, and a 10th anniversary edition of from the warring factions came out in 2013 from re:public /UpSet. He is the General Editor of Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, a series of student and guest edited archival texts emerging from the New American Poetry

Sousan Hammad — a writer and translator. Her reportage, essays, and works of short fiction have appeared in Guernica, Al Jazeera America, Boston Review Blog, and [wherever] magazine. her translations of the Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish are available in book form by (Fabrications El Feel 2013) and in The White Review No. 10.

Mati Shemoelof — a poet, playwright, editor, and journalist
His works have been translated from Hebrew into six languages, and his editorial work includes “Echoing Identities” (Am-Oved 2007), one of most highly viewed and quoted academic works regarding 3rd generation Mizrahi writers in Israel, and “Aduma” (Red) – a working class poetry collection. “Remnants of the Cursed Book,” his first short story book, was published by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan in Israel. Some of his recognitions include the award for Best Debut Poetry Book of the Year by the Israeli National Art Trust of the National Lottery (2001), Best Poetry Book of the Year by the Haifa Cultural Foundation (2006), and Winner of the Acum Prize for advocating literature in Israel (2013).

Miriam Atkin — a writer and performance artist based in New York City. Her work has been largely concerned with the possibilities of poetry as an oral medium in conversation with avant-garde film, music and dance. Since 2010, she has collaborated with artist Kurt Ralske on various multimedia experiments combining poetry with the moving image. Their 2011 artists’ book, Rediscovering German Futurism: 1920-1929, accompanied a series of performative lectures which were presented in New York at The Poetry Project, Soloway Gallery and Spectrum Performance Space, as well as in Providence at the Empire Black Box Theater and the Granoff Center at Brown University. In 2013 the collaboration expanded to include improvising musicians Jonathan Wood Vincent and Daniel Carter, generating various performance pieces which were staged at Outpost Artists Resources and Spectrum Performance Space in New York. Miriam regularly contributes art criticism to Art in America and ArtCritical, and her poetry has been published in the Boog City Reader and This Image journal. She is a 2014 Emerge-Surface-Be fellow at St. Marks Poetry Project

Iris Cushing — a poet and editor living in Queens. She is the author of Wyoming (Furniture Press Books, 2013). Her poems and critical writings have appeared in the Boston Review, Jacket2, Bomblog, Hyperallergic, and Barrelhouse, among others. Iris is currently a Process Space resident through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and has been a writer-in-residence at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, her former home. She is a founding editor for Argos Books and studies in the Ph.D. program in English at the CUNY Graduate Center

Nicola Masciandaro — is Professor of English at Brooklyn College (CUNY) and a specialist in medieval literature. Recent publications include: Sufficient Unto the Day: Sermones Contra Solicitudinem (Schism, 2014) and Dark Nights Of The Universe, co-authored with Daniel Colucciello Barber, Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker (NAME, 2013). Current/forthcoming works include: Floating Tomb: Black Metal (Theory) and Mysticism, co-authored with Edia Connole (Mimesis, 2015) and Dark Wounds of Light, co-authored with Alina Popa. He is the founding editor of the journal Glossator (

LynleyShimat Lys — is on the poetry track of the Queens College MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Translation. They come from Berkeley, California, and return to New York after five years in the Middle East studying and working in Jerusalem. Lynley has a B.A. in Comparative Literature (Hebrew, Russian, English) from UC Berkeley and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies (Palestinian Poetry) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Lynley’s current interests include contemporary African-American women poets, intersections between Israeli and Palestinian poems of place, and plays in verse.

Sami Shalom Chetrit — is a renowned Hebrew poet, writer, inter-disciplinary scholar and teacher. He’s been teaching for the last fifteen years courses on Hebrew modern language and literature, culture and politics of Israel. He writes and publishes scholarly work, poetry and prose and makes documentary films

Music by

DisOrient Demet Arpacik, Ozan Aksoy, Onur Sonmez, Mehdi Darvishi, Insia Malik

Demet Arpacık is born and raised in the Kurdish region of Turkey. She grew up with listening to traditional folk music and instruments. Inspired by the Kurdish dengbêj (bard) tradition, Demet started singing for her friends and relatives. She gradually extended her repertoire to include songs from other traditions in the Middle East. She is currently singing in the band DisOrient, which has brought musicians of different backgrounds together

Mehdi Darvishi is a player and instructor of Iranian percussion instruments like daf (frame-drum), tombak (goblet-drum). In his extensive performance career, Mehdi worked with music groups such as Khalvat Gozideh, Par Savoush, Darvish Khan, and Masnavi. He has contributed to soundtracks in the Iranian national television as well as working with Tebrizden Torosa ensemble broadcast on Turkish Radio and Television

Onur Sönmez is a musician from Turkey based in New York. After performing in Izmir’s music scene for years and obtaining his masters degree in ethnomusicology, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for PhD studies in the U.S. and moved to New York in 2012 pursuing a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at the CUNY Graduate Center. He plays bass guitar along with classical guitar, drums, and piano

Ozan Aksoy was trained on the bağlama or saz (long-necked lute) by his father. He then developed an interest in the rich musical tradition of Turkey as he attended Boğaziçi
University in Istanbul. There he joined the University’s Folklore Club and the band Kardeş Türküler [Ballads of Solidarity] as an arranger and a performer. He received his
his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at the CUNY Graduate Center in 2014 where he is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Middle Eastern and Middle Eastern
American Center

Insia Malik, violonist, plays in an array of musical idioms and performs regularly with several Arab music ensembles, both in New York and across the United States. She is also a PhD student in ethnomusicology at the CUNY Graduate Center

Öykü Tekten, Tom Haviv, Liz Peters

$12 advance/$10 door

Cover image by Amer Sweidan. “A State of Devolution.”

tear of escape

no hope
no future
no money
no work
no peace
no normality
no talks no
the moment when politics turns into
tear of escape




Il sapore aspro di un budino di latte: Il costo della vita in Israele

Un post di Facebook sui prezzi a buon mercato di Berlino ha avviato una polemica in Israele. Il costo della vita era solo una piccola parte di essa

di Meron Rapoport
Giovedi 9 ottobre 2014

“Milky” è il nome di un popolare budino di un caseificio israeliano, una dolce crema bianca sulla parte superiore, budino marrone al cioccolato sul fondo. E ‘anche il nome del più caldo dibattito politico in Israele, uno che è iniziato dall’alto costo della vita e si è concluso con i fondamenti del sionismo, toccando questioni che si occupano della giustizia sociale, dell’occupazione e della guerra a Gaza

L’attuale ciclo di discussioni è cominciato all’inizio di questa settimana, quando un gruppo di israeliani che vivono a Berlino ha postato su Facebook la ricevuta della loro visita in mattinata al negozio di alimentari locale. Il punto forte era il prezzo di una tazza di latte-come quello del budino: 0,8 shekel (0,19 Euro) a Berlino rispetto a 4 shekel in Israele. Il succo d’arancia, un tempo simbolo dell’agricoltura israeliana, costa ai Berlino meno della metà del suo prezzo a Tel Aviv. In media, i prezzi erano il doppio

Economisti importanti e uomini d’affari del commercio al dettaglio si sono affrettati a spiegare che il confronto era viziato e senza senso, ma per molti israeliani, la ricevuta di Berlino era un ricordo che la vita in Israele è insopportabilmente costosa. Ha inoltre fatto eco in una corda sensibile nella società israeliana. Tre anni fa, nell’estate del 2011, Israele ha sperimentato le sue più grandi manifestazioni di sempre, quando centinaia di migliaia di israeliani sono andati in piazza, scandendo slogan come “il popolo vuole la giustizia sociale” e “Ecco che arriva lo stato del welfare

Queste manifestazioni sono state una sorta di rivelazione per la società civile in Israele, che è sempre stata molto debole. E [la società civile] è diventata improvvisamente consapevole della sua capacità di protestare, per chiedere il cambiamento. Ma i risultati concreti, come quello che è accaduto con le proteste sorelle -in Spagna o Occupy Wall Street – che hanno avuto luogo al tempo stesso, erano scarsi. Il governo non ha cambiato, lo stato sociale non ha recuperato ed i prezzi sono rimasti alti

Gli autori del post di Berlino finalizzavano proprio a questo sentimento di frustrazione, nato dal fallimento delle proteste del 2011 e rafforzate dal bilancio prossimo del 2015, dove l’esercito avrà un aumento di 6 miliardi di shekel ($ 1,7 miliardi) e i servizi sociali non ne otterranno quasi nessuno. Vivere in Israele, hanno scritto sulla loro pagina di Facebook, “priva voi e i vostri figli del cibo, istruzione e alloggi … vivere in Israele è un abuso economico continuo. Ci vediamo a Berlino!

Questo è, naturalmente, una sfida premeditata per la società israeliana. L’emigrazione da Israele non è nulla di nuovo, e più di un milione di israeliani sono emigrati negli Stati Uniti, in Europa e altrove nel corso degli ultimi sessant’anni. Ma questi emigranti che non si vantavano circa la loro decisione, sono stati trattati con mancanza di rispetto, se non come traditori del sionismo. L’immigrazione in Israele è chiamata Aliya (arrampicata), come se ti elevassi venendo in Terra Santa. L’emigrazione da Israele è chiamata Yerida (discesa). Emigrare con orgoglio a Berlino, con tutto il suo significato nella storia ebraica e sionista, è quasi un sacrilegio

Si stima che circa 40.000 israeliani vivono a Berlino, la maggior parte dei quali provenienti negli ultimi dieci anni. E ‘diventato una sorta di voga tra i giovani israeliani urbani. Mati Shemoelof, uno scrittore e un poeta che si è trasferito a Berlino un anno fa, è consapevole, ovviamente, del significato storico di vivere a Berlino, ma sostiene che non è fatto per una sfida. “Ci sono più possibilità a Berlino, è la città più economica in Europa centrale e una destinazione preferita per l’immigrazione da tutto il mondo, non solo da Israele.” Ottenere un visto per rimanere in Germania è relativamente facile, spiega

Boaz Arad, un giornalista israeliano che ora vive a Berlino, ha pubblicato un articolo questa settimana su Haaretz dal titolo “Perché si parte per Berlino (e non per il ‘Milky’).” Egli nomina il trasporto pubblico come funzionante, la forte rete sociale, lgli ‘istruzione gratuita, alloggi a prezzi accessibili, le tariffe di affitto controllate per legge, le condizioni di lavoro dignitose “e non meno importante: nessuno sporge il naso nella vita privata, richiede una spiegazione del perché il tuo coniuge non è ebreo o perché non disponi di un coniuge

Ma questa è solo una parte della storia. Secondo Shemoelof, molti israeliani che vengono a Berlino negli ultimi dieci anni sono stati formalmente attivisti politici in Israele. A Berlino, egli dice, si trovano in fraternità con gli immigrati provenienti da tutto il mondo. Alle manifestazioni contro l’ultima guerra a Gaza, gli israeliani hanno marciato a lungo con manifestanti palestinesi o iracheni o curdi. “Berlino è diventata una città di rifugio”, aggiunge

Mentre gli israeliani che vivono a Berlino non si trasferiscono fuori dalla sfida, Shemoelof è consapevole del fatto che in Israele questa emigrazione è concepita come “una metafora dell’esistenza ebraica fuori di Israele.” Secondo il sionismo, la vita ebraica poteva essere soddisfatta solo in Israele. Gli israeliani possono ingoiare il fatto che milioni di ebrei vivono in Gran Bretagna o in Francia o negli Stati Uniti, dice Shemoelof. Ma è difficile per loro quando vedono persone che sono nate in Israele emigrare liberamente e con orgoglio, soprattutto quando Berlino è interessata

Solo un anno fa, il ministro delle Finanze, Yair Lapid, il cui padre era sopravvissuto all’Olocausto, ha attaccato quegli israeliani che sono “pronti a gettare nella spazzatura l’unico paese che gli ebrei hanno perché è più facile a Berlino.” Le reazioni questa volta non sono state meno dure. Gli immigrati israeliani a Berlino sono stati chiamati bugiardi, deboli, anti-sionisti e anche traditori. Gli autori della pagina di Facebook che hanno iniziato il dibattito erano senza vergogna. Essi hanno chiesto a 300.000 israeliani di “arrampicarsi”, cioè di emigrare a Berlino. Solo se lasciamo Israele, dicono, il governo capirà la crisi. L’emigrazione si è trasformata in uno strumento politico

Questa pagina Facebook è più di un aneddoto. Nelle ultime settimane, dopo la guerra di Gaza, voci che chiedono per l’emigrazione da Israele come l’unica scelta politica a sinistra per gli israeliani “normali”, si sentono ancora e ancora. Il più importante è stato un articolo di Rogel Alper, un giornalista di Haaretz, che ha intitolato: “Devo lasciare questo paese.” La destra religiosa-messianica è sempre più forte, la battaglia per porre fine all’occupazione è senza speranza e ora, dopo Gaza, è diventato pericoloso rimanere in Israele. “Non si può condurre una buona vita qui”, ha scritto Alper, “si può morire qui, non si può trovare un riparo, e si può solo andare via

Shemoelof vede, come un modello portato dal fallimento delle proteste del 2011, la rielezione di Benjamin Netanyahu come primo ministro, l’ultima guerra a Gaza e l’attuale discussione sui prezzi di Milky e l’emigrazione a Berlino. “C’è una sensazione che Israele sta cadendo a pezzi,” dice, citando alcuni libri israeliani recenti su una apocalisse a venire, “il futuro appare oscuro

E ‘troppo presto per dire se l’emigrazione da Israele diventerà un grande movimento, se intende rappresentare una vera sfida per i partiti di governo. La maggior parte di questi nuovi emigranti orgogliosi provengono dalle fila della sinistra, in modo che il governo attuale può anche gioire di questo. Ma rappresentano anche le future élites di Israele, e nessun governo sarà felice di vederli rendere i loro servizi in paesi diversi da Israele. Ciò che è chiaro è che tutta la storia di MIlky, con tutte le sue ramificazioni, è un altro segno della crescente disperazione strisciante in sempre più ampi settori della società israeliana

The sour taste of milky pudding: The cost of living in Israel

2014-08-03 16.33.30It is estimated that some 40,000 Israelis are living in Berlin, most of them coming in the last decade. It has become kind of vogue among young urban Israelis. Mati Shemoelof, a writer and a poet who moved to Berlin a year ago, is aware, of course, of the historical meaning of living in Berlin, but claims that it is not done out of defiance. “There are more possibilities in Berlin, it is the cheapest city in Central Europe and a preferred destination for immigration from all over the world, not only from Israel.” Getting a visa to stay in Germany a relatively easy, he explains
Boaz Arad, an Israeli journalist now living in Berlin, published an article this week in Haaretz titled “Why did we leave for Berlin (and it’s not the Milky).” He names the functioning public transportation, the strong social network, free education, affordable housing, rent fares controlled by law, decent working conditions “and not less important: no one pokes his nose in your private life, demanding you an explanation why your spouse is not Jewish or why you don’t have a spouse

What to expect from the Israeli Right after Protective Edge

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (photo: Yotam Ronen / activestills + photo: Naftali Bennet at a campus debate in January 2013, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (photo: Mati Milstein/The Israel Project)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (photo: Yotam Ronen / activestills + photo: Naftali Bennet at a campus debate in January 2013, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (photo: Mati Milstein/The Israel Project)

Progressive forces in Israel need to be prepared: The Israeli Right has yet to exhaust all of its options for dealing with the Palestinians. The alternatives to Netanyahu’s status quo involve moves toward a Greater Israel and full segregation based on extreme nationalism and hatred

Translated by Rotem Nir and first published on Haokets and 972magazine

If there is one thing we should have learned from the past couple of months, it’s an appreciation of just how high the stakes are in Israel

The Israeli Zionist Left is not capable of leading this country to serious change; change will only come when the Right betrays its own voters. The real political choice at our disposal, to an extent that one even exists, is between two similarly destructive right-wing ideologies

One doesn’t need a time machine to look a few steps into the future and realize that the Israeli Right has yet to exhaust all of its options for dealing with the Palestinians. Operation Protective Edge was as much about revenge as it was an attempt to force a military solution, but the Right has options and plans that go far beyond the preservation of the status quo, which is what Netanyahu is all about

One of the political factors that led to this war-that-wasn’t-really-a-war was a continued internal power struggle among the ruling elites, who constantly seek ways to take advantage of Netanyahu’s weakness and the fragility of his coalition. In other words, the war was not only a geo-political military action but also a continuation of an ongoing domestic political battle to unseat the Israeli prime minister

What the Right has to offer

In this context we can point to two major ideologies emanating from the current leaders of the Right – ones that could potentially be adopted on a government level following Netanyahu’s downfall. Both ideologies are based on the old right-wing idea that Zionism can exist solely in a state of war and not in a peaceful reality; proper Jewish nationalism and its historical ideals can only be realized in the radical revolutionary blaze of a sword. The sentiment is encapsulated in a famous Jabotinsky line, found in a song of the Beitar movement: “Because silence is filth / Give up blood and soul / For the sake of the hidden beauty / To die or conquer the mount.” (full translation here)

The first of these right-wing ideologies is Naftali Bennett’s Greater Israel, which advocates for the complete annexation of a great part of the occupied territories, dominating the Palestinians, while marching towards Greater Israel. As a first step, Bennett suggests annexing Area C and giving Gaza over to Egypt. Areas A and B of the West Bank would remain under Palestinian Authority (PA) jurisdiction and control. However, in this program Israeli security forces would still dominate the PA in order to prevent Hamas from getting a foothold in or taking over PA-controlled areas of the West Bank.
Naftali Bennet at a campus debate in January 2013, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (photo: Mati Milstein/The Israel Project)

Bennett doesn’t support a democratic single-state solution. He is willing to give the residents of Area C (about 50,000 Palestinians) Israeli citizenship, but the rest would have to do with living under the PA. Israel would invest in the construction of bypass roads so Palestinians could travel between Areas A and B without encountering checkpoints, and in infrastructure and joint industrial zones. To sum it up, it’s an effort at showing us what the vision of the Greater Land of Israel would look like, for both peoples.

The second right-wing idea is Avigdor Lieberman’s full segregation and separation program, which is an unprecedented departure to authoritarian and militaristic Realpolitik – not that Bennett’s plan avoids applying massive force to undemocratically control millions of people. Lieberman’s separation of nations plan goes beyond any two-state idea that precedes it. The plan is based on the idea of absolute separation between the Jewish and Arab populations and territories, including Israeli Palestinian citizens

On January 5, 2014 Lieberman again brought up his plan, saying he would not support any peace plan that did not include such “an exchange” of populations by having the borders re-routed in a way that would offload to the Palestinian state some of the larger Arab towns and villages that have been inside Israel since 1948. Lieberman advocates extreme measures of control toward the Palestinians who will remain in Israel, ranging from separate communities to penalties for those who refuse to sign a loyalty oath to the Jewish state. His segregation is both internal and external

Naturally, there will be considerable force required to implement such ideas, if only in anticipation of the response they might generate among the Palestinian population. It’s not even clear to what degree Lieberman supports an independent Palestinian state. For him, the two-state solution is a necessary element in his scheme of segregation, not a goal in and of itself

There is something elusive about Bennett, and even more so about Lieberman. Some people may be enchanted when the pair talks about actually solving the Palestinian issue and not just prolonging the occupation, as Netanyahu does. But make no mistake: Neither of their plans have anything to do with ensuring peace or democracy; both of them deliberately ride scary waves of hatred and nationalism in their quest for power. Both of their alternatives represent dangerous forces – ones that should neither be accepted nor legitimized. The Right hasn’t put in its last word on Gaza, and progressive forces must be prepared

Berlin Jerusalem Berlin

My poem: Die Worte des Verlassens was translated by Helene Seidler. It first appeared on my fifth poety book


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