Saturday, June 5, 2010

Emily Henochowicz

It doesn't sit right for me, as someone in the U.S., to single out for special praise and honor the occasional U.S. solidarity activist who is injured or killed by Israeli military or police forces. It seems wrong to call out by name only the Rachel Corries when we don't even know the names of the thousands of Palestinians, resistance fighters and civilians, adults and children, who have fallen. Rachel Corrie is a hero, a martyr, I believe, but she is one of so many and those so many generally go unnamed, at least here, at least to us in this country.

At the same time, there is something beautiful, something stirring and admirable, about these young people from around the world who travel to Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement and, under Palestinian leadership, do what they can to help. To one degree or another, they sacrifice in the name of solidarity, and that is a wonderful thing.

Emily Henochowicz is the latest of these brave young volunteers to have sacrificed a lot. One of her eyes. Shot out by an Israeli tear-gas cannister on May 31 as she protested the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre.
I think it is right to salute Emily by name for a few reasons. For one thing, the Palestinian people are doing so; there has been an outpouring of love for her from them. For another, she is a U.S. Jew. She, Adam Shapiro and other young Jews who have broken with Zionism represent a turning point, it seems to me, the leading edge of a long overdue and oh so welcome development that's accelerating and can't be stopped. She is an artist--how specially terrible it must be for a visual artist to lose an eye--yet from all reports she remains strong and committed as she recovers, so for this too I must salute her.

I've spent a little time on Emily's blog, where quite a bit of her art is displayed, and I'm falling a little in love with her, in an aunty way of course. There's whimsy galore. There's deep political engagement. There's joy. Enthusiasm. Sass. There's this, too, in a terrible irony. Her image of an eye, with the words "A Visual Adventure" in the "about me" space. If my impression of this young woman is at all on the mark, I won't be surprised if she leaves this walking eyeball just as it was, or adjusts it in some funny way. She's already logged onto Facebook, three days after losing her eye, and posted this brief update: "Attack of the Cyclops!"

You can take us Jews out of the Zionist camp, but you can't take the wisecracks out of us Jews.

What she won't do, I don't think, is turn away from the injustice she went to Palestine to combat. Well done, my dear young sister. You do us proud.