MAPA Voices: “The Conundrum of the Keys” by Charlotte Moore

by Charlotte Moore

Artist Statement:

“This is the story of keys belonging to refugees hoping, sometimes beyond hope, to return to their homes either demolished or lived in by others. This particular story affects me personally and has compelled me to speak out in the best way I can, through my art.

This is the story of the now stateless Palestinians and the house keys they carry symbolizing the Nakba (catastrophe), when some 750,000 Palestinians became refugees, losing their homes and their statehood. This is also the story of where to settle Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, facing antisemitism and homelessness, when no country wanted them.

I learned as a child that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land. ”

But there were people there and they are still there –and suffering.

To this day, Palestinians are still being pushed out, both by government actions and by Israeli settlers in the West Bank and the horrific war in Gaza. Some live in walled refugee camps. They have their aged olive groves uprooted, their homes bulldozed, their animals killed. Some live in caves because their homes are destroyed, others because they fear for their lives. I have been there. I have seen it.

This is my story, my obsession, and my conundrum. I am appalled by the actions of my own people, Jews. I understand that there is antisemitism, that my people have suffered so greatly over the centuries. But speaking out is my responsibility. I must acknowledge the pain of others in this land and work toward the end of the killing and the occupation so that all can live in dignity and equality.

As a Jewish woman, I must try to adhere to sacred axion tikkun olam, “repair the world.”

While fighting for a homeland in Palestine, Jewish militia fighters (once seen as heroic freedom fighters) invaded Palestinian communities, forcing people from their homes and moving Jewish refugees in. Palestinians fled, taking their house keys with them as symbols of their right of return (by international law).

– for a variety of reasons.

The story has left me dismayed, not only for the plight of the Palestinians but also for the unending and often dangerous and cruel actions by the Israeli Government and the illegal West Bank Jewish settlers. As a Jew, myself, how can I not speak out against the actions of my own people?

In 2020, the United Nations declared Gaza unlivable due to water pollution, lack of facilities of any kind, serious overcrowding – an open-air prison. Gazans are still barricaded in.

In 2016, backed by the Trump Administration, the Israeli government enacted the nation state law, relegating Israeli Arabs (Palestinians living in Israel) to second-class citizenship. Those Palestinians behind walls in the occupied (by Israel) West Bank are stateless, due to the 1967 War between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

June 2022, I was in Israel/Palestine. I heard them, I met people who have suffered greatly, people whose families have been torn apart since before 1948 when Israel declared itself a nation, whose homes are bulldozed and ancient olive groves uprooted, who are attacked by ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlers. And people like me, who are trying speak out and help – both here and there.

Then came the 2023 Israeli election. There are proposals for “cleaning up” Israel’s Supreme Court (protecting a corrupt Prime Minister) and are Minister of National Security who has called for the expulsion of “disloyal” Palestinians and asked for a militia to help claim the West Bank for Israel.

Despite the United Nations Resolution 3236 (1948) that “reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return,”
This is no democracy although our own country has declared it so. This is an apartheid state.

The numbers of dead are contested. Some say 67 Israeli soldiers to over 2000 Gazans. I was horrified at the evident imbalance of power. I dropped making my usual “wearables” and rugs and began making pieces to reflect my disgust. I read the history and talked with people. I tell the story to whoever listens. But there is more to it than just the Gazans.”