Over 1,000 cultural figures have signed a statement in solidarity with the community of Lydda, a Palestinian city south of Tel Aviv increasingly threatened by racist Israeli extremists. Artists Molly Crabapple and Rehab Nazzal; scholars Judith Butler and Angela Davis; and authors Rachel Kushner and Ottessa Moshfegh are among those backing the petition’s demands: that the United Nations establish a peace-keeping force to protect the Indigenous Palestinian community in Israel and launch an investigation into Israeli apartheid.
The letter echoes similar calls by global organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which issued an appeal on the International Criminal Court to investigate Israeli war crimes, including recent bombings of the al-Shati refugee camp and a major media tower in Gaza.
New York-based writer Nancy Kricorian and fellow organizer Rebecca Vilkomerson drew the petition’s text from a statement by the Lydda-based Palestinian hip-hop band DAM, published on May 13 after the musicians survived an attack by far-right Israelis.
“Last night, Indigenous Palestinians with Israeli citizenship faced multiple pogroms and lynching attempts perpetrated by Jewish Israeli mobs, with full protection from militarized police forces, and with full encouragement of the Israeli government,” DAM wrote.
Settler violence is far from new in the region. In 1948, between 50,000 and 70,000 Palestinian civilians living in Ramie and Lydda were driven out of their homes and 250 massacred by Israeli forces in what has come to be known as the Lydda Death March. But today, DAM notes, most of Lydda’s present-day residents are “refugees who escaped to the city from Jaffa and other ethnically cleansed Palestinian communities during the Nakba,” the mass exodus of at least 750,000 Arabs from Palestine.
A ceasefire between Hamas and Israel signed last week has put a temporary halt to the latest onslaught, but far-right violence and vigilantism are a growing scourge in towns with mixed Jewish and Arab populations. In April, a mob of Jewish fascists marched through the center of Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs.”
“We were contacted by Palestinian friends who were feeling personally endangered,” Kricorian told Hyperallergic. “There have been roving gangs of extremists that have been pulling Palestinians out of cars, attacking their shops, breaking into their homes. What’s so scary is that the Israeli police and army don’t stop them.”
An aerial view of Palestine showing the city of Lydda years before an Israeli attack on Indigenous Palestinians. (G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection via Wikimedia Commons)
The Israeli state’s inaction in the face of far-right brutality clashes starkly with its zealous roundup of Palestinian protesters, Kricorian added. On Sunday, the police force announced “Operation Law and Order,” a massive arrest campaign of dissenters and political activists on charges including vandalism and online incitement. At least 74 Palestinians have been detained so far; Hassan Jabareen, director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, called the operation “a militarized war against Palestinian citizens of Israel.“
Kricorian and Vilkomerson’s petition is among a handful of gestures issued by the cultural sector in solidarity with Palestinians. Last week, over 250 artists signed a letter condemning trustees of the Museum of Modern Art who have ties to “Israel’s apartheid rule.” A pledge to boycott the London-based Zabludowicz Collection, citing Poju Zabludowicz’s connections to a pro-Israel lobby and the Israeli Air Force, has also garnered hundreds of signatures.