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Refugees: Justice and Ethics Library Display 2021


Aamina Shehadah


Clay sculpture of the map of Palestine breaking apart while violence breaks out within.


During the Holocaust, Palestine became a place of refuge for Jews fleeing persecution. However, that situation of refugees caused another. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled or forced out from their homes in Palestine, causing a current total of 5,149,742 Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). This is why the old key in the front of the art represents the right to return after thousands of people were left displaced. Since Israel’s establishment in 1948, most Palestinian territories have been under its control. Much of this land has been a place of violence for decades, especially in areas like Gaza which is the largest open-air prison where wars are far too common. The land is separated by a huge border wall that certain Palestinian citizens can only cross with a special permit. That includes Jerusalem, the capital, which contains very important holy sites for Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Although these places are supposed to be peaceful, violence often occurs there. One of which is Al Aqsa, the second most important Mosque in Islam.

The sculpture is shaped as the map of Palestine, or what used to be Palestine, as it breaks apart. In the middle of the land, where it opens up, includes Al Aqsa, a missile, a machine gun, bullets, a broken limb, and a tombstone in between border walls. The broken Palestine represents the loss of land over time, with the loss of citizens as well. Objects are shown in the area where the land opens up to represent the concurring violence. The Aqsa or the Dome of the Rock Mosque represents how Palestine is a holy land, for the three Abrahamic religions. The missile and machine gun are placed in this art because those are the objects of violence that cause the deaths of many across the land. 5,600 Palestinians and 250 Israelis died in 2020 from war, gun violence, and other incidents under the Israeli occupation (OCHA). This connects with the lost limb that is also a part of this sculpture. During protests, thousands of Palestinians lose their limbs to Israeli gunfire. This is because IDF troops are trained to target demonstrators' legs after warning shots. In a 2018 protest, 2,200 had gotten injuries to their legs (The Washington Post).

A huge part of the violence that occurs in Palestine/Israel is due to Zionism which is a belief in an established Jewish nation that is now considered Israel. Zionism contains beliefs that vary depending on who is asked. For example, in “Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims” by Edward Said, establishes the point that Zionism causes harm to Palestinians that people don’t usually look into. He writes about how Europeans saw the future of Palestine as the land for Jews while the current inhabitants were living in their homeland. He writes the idea of most Zionist ideologists is that the land is empty with nonexistent Arab inhabitants, and the restorative project that will rebuild a Jewish state. 

In the film Speed Sisters, we witness the effects of occupation for Palestinian women race car drivers. On the way to meet with a journalist, one of the drivers, Betty, is seen being shot by a rubber bullet by an unprovoked Israeli soldier. After the injury, they began feeling discouraged, until they realized that’s exactly what the occupation wants them to feel. Although it is dangerous, they don’t allow the IDF to get in their way of continuing their passion for racing. This film really conveys how violence by the Israeli occupation affects Palestinians. Depending on their citizenship status, they have little to no freedom of movement which is shown when the driver, Marah, has to get a special permit to go to Jaffa which is checked at a military checkpoint. The border walls and checkpoints separate certain Palestinians from an entirely different experience of life. They could live just a few miles away from the beach but never be able to go there. 

One ethical concern represented in this art is structural violence, which is a form of indirect violence carried out by not one individual but a system. The idea of Zionism and the establishment of Israel have led to the structural violence of Arab Palestinians. When one group of refugees moved in, another group of refugees was created. However, no single person was responsible for this. The entire system by the Israeli government created thousands of displaced Arabs that have little freedoms compared to Israeli citizens. 

Works Cited

OPT Home. "Data on Casualties." United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Occupied Palestinian Territory, Accessed 1 Jan. 2022.

“Palestine Refugees.” UNRWA. Accessed 17 Dec. 2021.

“Scores of Palestinians Have Been Shot in Their Legs, and Some Face Amputation.” The Washington Post. Accessed 1 Jan. 2022.

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