Student protests Palestinian suffering through art

Twenty-one-year-old art student Emily Henochowiz sounds to be at ease with herself while giving an interview to the Village Voice as she says half-jokingly:

“I guess I can be grateful to the IDF for giving me the chance to see the world in a new way.”

Donning a pair of black rimmed glasses, the self-designed art on the left lens intentionally obscures what was once her eye before she lost it after being hit by an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) tear-gas canister.

Emily was born a grandchild of Holocaust survivors and from an Israeli father that emigrated to the U.S. raising her in Potomac, Maryland. Emily became a creative artist and eventually attended Cooper Union Art Program in Lower Manhattan. She then went over to Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem as an exchange student. Her main focus was to make art, study history, and improve her Hebrew.

During her stay, though, she witnessed how Palestinians were being treated by Israeli settlers. This slowly started to show through her drawings. In one case a group of settler’s taunted Palestinian children with prayers.

This experience ultimately drew her in to political action with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-based organization of volunteers (one having been the late Rachel Corrie) who push for nonviolent demonstrations against the IDF. As the Village Voice reports:

Emily says her ISM protest activities were about the Palestinians, to prove to them that ‘it’s not all of our people’ who are against them. ‘It was important for me to tell them, “I’m Jewish, and I support you,’’ she says. “We’re a people like any other, which is part of the reason we’re in the situation we’re in!” Not the self-serious type, she laughs and adds, “Just because we went through the Holocaust doesn’t mean we aren’t racist, too!”

Among her work is some creative graffiti against the Israeli construction of The Wall that separates Palestinians from their land. Emily took part in a dozen demonstrations throughout her semester, but it was the day after the massacre on the Mavi Marmara that brought her face-to-face with IDF soldiers firing tear-gas grenades.

On that day, she was waving an Austrian and Turkish flag at the Qalandiyah checkpoint near the West Bank in protest against the flotilla attack. A few boys from a distance started throwing rocks at the soldiers. Even though the rock throwers were not in close proximity to her, IDF soldiers fired tear-gas at close range directly at Emily. Two canisters hit on either side of her feet, but the third smashed directly into her left eye. Blood began running down her face, covering her Nakba T-shirt.

As Emily collapsed a Palestinian woman instantly ran over, caught her, and wrapped her arms around Emily’s body while simultaneously applying gauze to her injured eye and dragging her off to the side.

Emily was then rushed to Hadassah University Hospital only to find out after examination that she’d have to undergo surgery to remove the eye. Upon her fathers arrival from the States, he discovered that the room next to hers was holding an injured prisoner from the Mavi Marmara flotilla. At one point one of the doctors approached her father and asked:

“Are you Jewish? Because, then, how could your daughter be involved in such an activity?”

Emily however is not alone. There are many other Jewish Americans who have been outspoken against the Israeli government’s actions towards Palestinians. She has made her drawings a plea for others to take notice of the injustices visited upon Palestinians. Even though she has lost her eye in the process she remains upbeat:

After all, her political activism, she adds, “was a real change from who I was before—an experiment, in a way. And it ended in me losing my eye. But it’s OK.”

Emily continues to write and draw at her blogspot Thirsty Pixels and has no plans on giving up as an artist.

This story was made possible by our members. Become one today.