Israel’s scream as performance art and Palestine’s agony

Israel Protest Scream
Sustained scream performed by Israeli protesters in front of Tel Aviv’s Museum of Art, January 2024

An art event staged in front of Tel Aviv Museum of Art in January 2024 called on the crowd to perform a sustained scream in unison to dramatize Israeli pain and frustration at the hostage situation. To me, this performance was emotionally and psychologically inauthentic, not only because it is rehearsed — i.e., the scream is not a real-life situation like the scream of agony heard coming from Palestinian crowds in Gaza as they are being shelled — but because it is truthful only in so far as it conforms to the artistic tradition of hasbara and its false narrative of Israeli victimhood.

Within the Zionist framework of victimhood and entitlement, Israeli protesters continue to voice their pain out of fear for the safety of their captives in Gaza and for being driven out of their kibutzim. They scream for “compensation,” whereas Palestinians have been screaming for “restitution” for decades. For those who don’t know the difference between the two terms, compensation refers to payment or something given to make up for a loss or injury, while restitution means restoring something to its original state or returning something that was taken. While both terms involve some form of payment or action, the key difference is in the goal: compensation aims to make up for a loss, while restitution aims to restore what was taken.


Israeli protesters also continue to be deaf and dumb to the real-life situation in Gaza and the West Bank. However, despite repressive methods almost everywhere in the West, the truth is emerging. In a memorandum published on Jan 21, 2024 titled, “Our Narrative… Operation Al-Aqsa Flood,” the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas explained why there was no choice but October 7, including:

– The Israeli Judaization plans for the al-Aqsa Mosque and attempts to divide it.
– The actions of the extremist and right-wing Israeli government, which is taking practical steps toward usurping the entirety of the West Bank and occupied al-Quds [Jerusalem] amid plans to expel Palestinians from their homes.
– The thousands of Palestinians unjustly detained by the Israeli occupation and deprived of their most basic rights amid paramount assaults and humiliation.
– The unjust air, sea, and land blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip for the past 17 years.
– The expansion of Israeli settlements across the West Bank in an unprecedented manner.
– The daily escalations and violence perpetrated by settlers against Palestinians.
– The seven million displaced Palestinians living in horrific conditions in refugee camps and wish to return to their lands.
– The international community’s failure to establish and the complicity of major powers in preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Hamas argued that the Palestinian people could not be expected to keep waiting and counting on the United Nations, which it described as “helpless,” saying their only option was to “take the initiative in defending the Palestinian people, lands, rights, and sanctities.” Hamas underlined that its actions fall into self-defense, which is a right enshrined in international laws and conventions. The pain Israel will experience at its inevitable dissolution is real.

Israel is well on its way to becoming a pariah, shunned by both the Global North and South. Whatever the decision is regarding South Africa’s application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to stop Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza, the consequences for Israel are going to be the same.

As analysts are saying, if the Court grants the South African request, Israel will almost certainly refuse to comply and the US will continue to support it, resulting in civil society anger and an escalation of global solidarity with the Palestinian cause and also of coercive actions taken against Israel. Every week, large and passionate demonstrations against Israel continue to take place in over 150 countries and multiple cities in each country.

If the court does not grant the request for technical or political reasons, the same result is expected, with

further destabilization in the region and a dramatic escalation in the nature and militancy of global solidarity initiatives throughout the world including recourse to sports and cultural boycotts, and calls for an arms embargo and international sanctions. This civil society activism has the potential leverage to transform the discursive approach to the underlying conflict of many governments in the Global South and possibly in Israel and its governmental supporters. This happened to the surprise of many in South Africa, although under very different circumstances.

Unlike the pain staged by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the real-life pain Israel is likely to experience at its inevitable dissolution will be authentic, driven not by entitlement, but by redemption, by the act of making amends for wrongdoing, thus allowing for personal growth and transformation. In artistic terms, I could express it as breaking with Zionist tradition and creating works of art that are innovative and experimental.

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Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

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