A Map of Home

August 31, 2009 § Leave a comment

090831-jarrarThis review was also published in the Electronic Intifada.

Randa Jarrar’s “A Map of Home” is a beautifully achieved coming of age novel which follows a clever girl through a war, a domestic battlefield, and repeated forced migrations. For our heroine, these events are aspects of the normal everyday stuff (because everything’s normal when it happens to you), like school, friends, family, and shopping. Despite the geographical and cultural particularities of the story, the themes – of awakening sexually, of learning how to love a parent yet firmly say no, and of struggling for independence and a place in the world – are universal, and the book will appeal to all but the most easily shocked readers.

At the novel’s centre is a family. The father, Waheed, is a Palestinian from Jenin exiled to a string of temporary residences. Resentful of his failure to develop a career as a poet, he projects his ambition onto his daughter, about whom Waheed is convincingly self-conflicted: he wants her to be a famous professor, but doesn’t want her to study away from home.

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The Saints Are Coming

August 30, 2009 § 3 Comments

The great Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories along with three former heads of state Mary Robinson (Ireland), Fernando Cardoso (Brazil) and Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway). They are also joined by Indian activist Ela Bhatt. Our good friend Philip Weiss notes that advocacy on behalf of the Palestinians by The Elders, a group established by Nelson Mandela and underwritten by such maisntream business figures as Richard Branson (Virgin) and Jeff Skoll (eBay), is a gamechanger. Skoll, he notes, is Jewish, part of a growing disenchantment with Zionism. ‘Today we tell the Establishment Jews’, Phil writes, ‘that the weather has changed again, and Israel cannot continue destroying human rights in our name.’

The Elders hear first hand about life in Gaza, Bil’in and East Jerusalem

The Elders were unable to visit Gaza but spoke with young people and others via video link. They then went to the West Bank village of Bil’in where a local protest movement against the separation wall is gaining momentum. In the evening they visited a Palestinian family in East Jerusalem evicted from their homes by Israeli authorities.

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Scenes of Resistance: Notes from Tegucigalpa

August 29, 2009 § 2 Comments

marchBy Joseph Shansky

I came to Honduras as part of a delegation of concerned activists who went to witness and accompany the daily protests, monitor human rights violations, and report back to the international community on conditions since the June 28th military coup. On that day, democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya was forcibly removed from office by the Honduran military and expelled from the country.  In the aftermath there has been an immediate popular uprising in his support, with many instances of severe police and military repression which continue today.  The following is a reflection on time spent in and around Tegucigalpa during two critical weeks in August.

Last night as I was packing my bags to go to Honduras, I heard that the military repression was getting worse.  One hundred and fifty arrested, many wounded.  I sit in the airport waiting room and scan CNN.  Not a mention on the world news.

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Walled Horizons

August 29, 2009 § 1 Comment

This documentary narrated by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd is produced by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territory (OCHA-OPT).

Walled Horizons is narrated by and features Roger Waters (founding member of the rock band Pink Floyd), who visits the Wall in the Palestinian territories and comments on his observations as a musician and a songwriter who has written on walls. The film explores how Palestinians in urban and rural areas have been impacted by the Walls construction since the International Court of Justices Advisory Opinion in 2004, which declared the Walls route illegal. Several senior Israeli security officials are interviewed in the film, two of whom were directly responsible for planning the Wall route and who explain the Israeli position for constructing it. The film was made by the United Nations Jerusalem.

The British amateur terror trackers: A case study in dubious politics

August 28, 2009 § 1 Comment

A Spinwatch investigation: Tom Mills and David Miller on the British amateur terror trackers.

Dominic Whiteman as he appeared on BBC Newsnight

Dominic Whiteman as he appeared on BBC Newsnight

Investigations by Spinwatch reveal that a group of freelance terror trackers who promote stories about the threat from violent Islamists have been involved in exaggerating and even fabricating such stories, which they then comment on in the national press and on network television and radio. The group – which has now fallen apart – was centred on freelance spy Glen Jenvey and Conservative Party member Dominic Wightman, who uses the pseudonym ‘Whiteman’.

The barrage of stories from official sources and from terror ‘experts’ suggesting that Britain is under serious and extensive threat from Islamists and that Islam as a religion is particularly prone to extremism has been boosted by some stories that have little basis in fact. These have included:

  • An alleged attempt to plant a story about terrorist grannies planning to blow themselves up in British supermarkets
  • An attempt to suggest – quite falsely – that campaigners against the Israeli attack on Gaza were actually planning to target British Jews
  • The creation of a fake allegedly Islamist website in a bid to entrap suspects.
  • Spying on Tamil activists in the UK.
  • A fraudulent fundraising effort in the 1980s which was claimed to be to aid the African National Congress

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The Kennedys vs Israel’s Lobby

August 28, 2009 § 35 Comments

Editor’s note: PULSE is delighted to welcome Grant F. Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRMEP) and author of many books, including America’s Defense Line, as our new feature contributor. In his first post Grant reveals the emerging details of the secret battles between the Kennedys and the Israel lobby.

AIPAC Founder Isaiah L. Kenen and Ted Kennedy

AIPAC Founder Isaiah L. Kenen and Ted Kennedy

The lobby’s accolades for the late Ted Kennedy and his support of Israel mask the generally unknown conflicts fought by the senator’s older brothers.  It is likely that lessons from the fiercest of all battles, fought behind the scenes by President John F. Kennedy alongside his brother and Attorney General Robert—guided the younger sibling’s political choices.  Details of the JFK-RFK duo’s effort to register the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) parent organization, the American Zionist Council (AZC) as an Israeli foreign agent were shrouded in mystery until declassified in mid-2008.

Between 1962 and 1963 Senator J.W. Fulbright uncovered a massive network of financial “conduits” moving funds directed by the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem to Israel lobby startup groups across the United States.  Even as JFK attempted to place Israel’s Dimona nuclear weapons program under US inspection, RFK ordered the AZC to openly register and disclose all of its foreign funded lobbying activity in the United States.

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Pity the Nation

August 28, 2009 § Leave a comment

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the Beat Generation legend and founder of City Lights Books, reads one of his recent poems.

The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation

August 27, 2009 § 2 Comments

This was published in Prospect Magazine.

meccaThe contemporary religious revival is a complex business. In the same period that Muslim societies, in their weakness, seem to have re-embraced Islam, America, in its strength, has re-embraced Christianity. Western Europe remains avowedly secular. Despite the contradictions within the West, mainstream Orientalism holds that all cultures are developing towards the universal (or, more specifically, globalised) model of secular modernity and the market. The Muslim world experiences backwardness to the extent that it resists secularisation.

“The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation”, a subtle and erudite book by former Iraqi minister Ali A Allawi, challenges this thesis. Surveying the Muslims’ social, economic and moral failures, and the terror espoused by certain Islamist groups, Allawi suggests the problem might not be too much Islam, but too little.

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An Abnormal Nationalism

August 26, 2009 § 20 Comments

The ultimate goalis, in time, to take over the Land of Israel and to restore to the Jews the political independence they have been deprived of for these two thousand years…The Jews will yet arise and, arms in hand (if need be), declare that they are the masters of their ancient homeland.”—Vladimir Dubnow, 1882

Zionism is best described as an abnormal nationalism. This singular fact has engendered a history of deepening conflicts between Israel – leading an alliance of Western states – and the Islamicate more generally.

Jewish ‘nationalism’ was abnormal for two reasons. It was homeless: it did not possess a homeland. The Jews of Europe were not a majority in, or even exercised control over, any territory that could become the basis of a Jewish state. We do not know of another nationalist movement in recent memory that started with such a land deficit – that is, without a homeland.

Arguably, Jewish nationalism was without a nation too. The Jews were a religious aggregate, consisting of communities, scattered across many regions and countries, some only tenuously connected to others, but who shared the religious traditions derived from, or an identity connected to, Judaism. Over the centuries, Jews had been taught that a divinely appointed Messiah would restore them to Zion; but such a Messiah never appeared; or when he did, his failure to deliver ‘proved’ that he was false. Indeed, while the Jews prayed for the appearance of the Messiah, they had no notion about when this might happen. In addition, since the nineteenth century, Reform Jews have interpreted their chosenness metaphorically. Max Nordau complained bitterly that for the Reform Jew, “the word Zion had just as little meaning as the word dispersion…He denies that there is a Jewish people and that he is a member of it.”

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Enemies of Free Speech

August 26, 2009 § 1 Comment

Gaza police check their organs

Gaza police check their organs

Remember the Islamophobic cartoons published by the neo-con Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten? The controversy rumbled on from 2005 into 2006, and involved angry demonstrations, embassy-burnings (in countries where you can’t look at an embassy without a government permit), deaths, boycotts, and campaigns of support to counteract the boycotts. Although I found the cartoons deeply offensive, and not in the least related to free speech or constructive debate, I was more upset by the responses of some Muslims.

The cartoons were a media provocation, and should have been combatted through intelligent use of the media. The outpouring of Muslim anger at a West which insulted Muslims after slaughtering them was certainly understandable, but was aimed at the wrong target. I lived in Oman at the time, where the state-appointed Mufti as well as editorials in the state-controlled press encouraged people to boycott Danish goods. The supermarkets put up signs announcing that they no longer stocked Danish goods (although an English friend assured me that Danish bacon was still on sale in the foreigners-only pork room of one supermarket). Meanwhile the shelves groaned under American products, and Oman continued to stock  British and American military bases. American planes were incinerating Iraqi Muslims in their mosques at the time. The cartoon fuss seemed very much to be an organised distraction from more serious issues.

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