Reading Rhythms Club: On Palestine

Tuesday, March 15

On Tuesday evening my friend and Research Station colleague Senka Milutinović finished the poster that advertises this Wednesday’s Reading Rhythms Club event. As the date falls into IAW 1 we decided to read texts on Palestine. The selection was composed of texts from the Fictional Dispatch Reader on Palestine and texts distributed for the event Reading Resistance that was organized by students in Rotterdam last year as a reaction to the bombings of Gaza. Senka proposed to send the posters to the WdKA screens for advertisement. I already anticipated a backlash, but was curious about the reaction. Especially after the ‘Holding Palestine’ performance initiated by Diana Al-Halabi last year in May, and the AWA group that grew out of it, WdKA is extremely sensitive to activism supporting Palestine. I have often heard sentences like ‘I don't want another banner’ or ‘I don’t want to repeat what happened last year’ from people employed in different, usually higher positions within the institution.

Wednesday, March 16

Wednesday morning, the day after I sent in the poster, the Research Station coordinator told me she had been approached by management about the poster, who found it ‘extremely offensive’. They especially took issue with the Israeli Apartheid Week logo, which contains a depiction of barbed wire, read by management as violent imagery and exclusive towards Israeli students. Explaining the context of IAW, the event, and mentioning the recent Amnesty International Report on apartheid in Israel, I could sense how the RS coordinator became more understanding. As we were both caught up in meetings and tasks, we didn't have a lot of time to discuss what to do next, but in the end, agreed upon adding the sentence 'open to everyone' and #unitedagainstracism. The poster was still not admitted to the screens.

A few days later Ali Şahin and Alfrida Martis from WdKA's Office for Inclusivity contacted me about the incident. They made clear that they were in full support of the event and poster and did not find anything offensive about it. Following our conversation they wrote an email to management, stating that the poster was neither offensive nor 'not education related', another argument brought forward. Through the supportive work of the Office for Inclusivity the poster was finally admitted to the screens today - a small victory.

Wednesday, March 23

On Wednesday I was busy all day with Senka printing out texts and preparing for the event. After the upheaval on social media following management's comments about the posters the event got quite a bit of attention and it was difficult to anticipate how many people would join. We felt the need to prepare well. Earlier that week I had received an email from an Israeli student who was considering joining even though they were sceptical about the phrasing ‘Israeli Apartheid’, they thought they could learn from the event. They were wondering if it was a good idea for them to join. Of course, I invited the student and wrote a long email explaining how people might feel strongly about the topic, but we would under no circumstances tolerate discrimination based on background or religion. With Senka we were discussing how to facilitate an environment where everybody feels safe, which is very difficult in such a situation. There was also some news about the dean considering joining, all of which heightened the pressure to be prepared, also on how to deal with potential tension.

In the end, neither of them showed up, the group consisted of around 20 students and teachers. We split up into three groups to read the texts. In my group we read parts of 'The Drone Eats with Me' by Atef Abu Saif, diary entries about the bombing of Gaza in 20142. The text was very heavy, the descriptions of the events factual, despite all the horror the narrator needed to be functional, responsible, and take care of his family. We talked about trauma, what it does to perceiving the environment, how it nests itself in the body. After a while we came together with the big group again and shared our experiences of reading the texts. All of them were rather literary, intimate descriptions of the violence the authors had experienced. One group had sat in silence after reading the texts. With many participants the texts resonated personally. Those who wanted to share their reflections shared them, those who wanted to remain silent remained silent. The atmosphere was respectful and generous. Afterwards, participants shared with me that the space felt very safe, that readings like this should be happening more often. Another participant told me that she barely knew anything about Palestine before joining and that she learned a lot.

1 Israeli Apartheid week is an annual series of events aimed at educating about the apartheid system in Israel and gathering support for the BDS campaign (boycott, divestment, sanctions).
2 The texts we read can be found here:

Images left to right:
Fig. 1: Milutinović, Senka. Censored poster for the Reading Rhythms Club: On Palestine. 15 March 2022.
Fig. 2: Milutinović, Senka. Accepted poster for the Reading Rhythms Club: On Palestine. 16 March 2022.
Fig. 3: wdka.teachermemes. Wdka.teachermemes covering the case. 22 March 2022. Screenshots from Instagram via
Fig. 4: wdka.teachermemes. Wdka.teachermemes covering the case. 22 March 2022. Screenshots from Instagram via
Fig. 5: wdka.teachermemes. Wdka.teachermemes covering the case. 22 March 2022. Screenshots from Instagram via