Picasso in Palestine: A Painting and the Bulldozers

The painting  “Buste de Femme” which Pablo Picasso painted in 1943 when he lived in Nazi-occupied Paris, arrived at the International Academy of Art, Palestine – in Ramallah. The painting is usually located at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven in the Netherlands. It was lent to the Palestinian gallery for one month.

On that same day, at almost exactly the same hour that the valuable painting arrived at the showroom in Ramallah, bulldozers of the Israeli Defence Forces made their way to the tiny village of Bir Al-Ad in the South Hebron Hills, and in less than an hour demolished its miserable huts, destroyed sacks of animal food, uprooted plants and shrubs, leaving behind heaps of rubble and ninety homeless people. The nearby caves, also used for housing, were on this occasion not demolished, but the soldiers made sure to cut and sever the electricity cables, which the inhabitants had installed to light them. “You here don’t deserve to have electricity!” said one of the soldiers to a resident who dared to protest.

This destruction is nothing new or unusual in the history of the Israeli occupation on the West Bank. It happens routinely, on one week in the southern West Bank and next week in its east, although such events receive very little attention and are rarely reported in any media.

As usual in such stories, settlers – in this case, the settlers of the nearby Mitzpe Yair, covet the land of Bir Al-Ad. Officially, Mitzpe Yair is an illegal outpost, even by the rather permissive standards of the Israeli occupation. Which in no way disturbs the same authorities to consider its inhabitants fully deserving of a regular supply of electricity, which the army takes care to provide.

Two days after these events, the Army’s Home Front Command conducts a civil defence exercise in unprecedented dimensions throughout Israel. And in this exercise horror scenarios were postulated of war on four fronts, against the Palestinians and the Syrians and the Lebanese and the Iranians simultaneously and the fall of seven hundred missiles. And citizens were to take the air raid alarms seriously and run immediately to the nearest shelter, if any. And a senior Home Front Command officer expressed dissatisfaction with the indifferent behaviour of many citizens, especially in Tel Aviv where they ignored the blaring sirens and continued to bathe in the sea. “When real missiles fall, we will see them running,” said the officer with some vindictiveness.

But maybe the fall of the real missiles can be averted. If the day comes when residents of Bir Al-Ad can live peacefully in their miserable homes, and when loaning paintings to a gallery Palestinians would no longer need to struggle through the coils of Israeli military bureaucracy, and when all Palestinians – rich and poor, rural and urban – are a free people in their homeland of Palestine.

MWC News

Media with Conscience

June 24, 2011

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