Atrocities in Afghanistan: A Troubling Timetable

April 30, 2010 § 1 Comment

by Kathy Kelly and Dan Pearson

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Peace activists can hasten an end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan by demanding a timetable for U.S. military withdrawal. [A bill in the U.S. Congress] introduced by Representatives McGovern and Jones, requires such a timetable. In the Senate, a similar bill has been introduced by Senator Feingold. Arguments in favor of a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan should include readiness to examine disturbing patterns of misinformation regarding U.S./NATO attacks against Afghan civilians.

It is worth noting that even General McChrystal acknowledges that U.S. forces have killed civilians who meant them no harm. During a biweekly videoconference with US soldiers in Afghanistan, he was quite candid. “We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force,” said General McChrystal. “To my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it.”

Those families and individuals that General McChrystal refers to should be our primary concern. We should try to imagine the sorrow and horror afflicting each individual whose tragic story is told in the “timetable” of atrocities committed against innocent people. How can we compensate people who have endured three decades of warfare, whose land has been so ravaged that, according to noted researcher Alfred McCoy, it would cost $34 billion dollars to restore their agricultural infrastructure. We should notify our elected representatives that the $33 billion dollar supplemental funding bill sought by the Obama administration to pay for U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could be directed toward helping Afghanistan replant its orchards, replenish its flocks, and rebuild its irrigation systems. We should insist on an end to atrocities like those which follow.

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Outing the Muslimness, Finally: Some Viewing (and Hearing) Pleasures (The King is Out: Part VI)

April 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

by Huma Dar

[Read Part I Part II Part III Part IV Part V]

Rizwan Khan Offering His Namaz

[I]n one scene I wanted to have just a half open door and I wanted to be shown saying namaz once. We couldn’t take that shot. Then we put that bit where I say the prayer: Nasrun minal lahe wah fatahun kareeb (God give me strength to win) [sic] [Victory is Allah's, and the opening/victory is close] which is my own prayer too. I don’t think we should intellectualise entertainment.  See the fun of it.

This is how Shahrukh Khan describes his experience working in the film Chak De! India (Dir: Shimit Amin, 2007).  With apologies to King Khan for discarding his proposal to not “intellectualize” films, yet taking due “fun” in it, I argue that it is only in My Name is Khan (Dir: Karan Johar, 2010) that the King finally comes “out” as a Muslim.  No “half open door” is needed.  This coming out affords particular visceral pleasures to an audience (or at least a large section of it spread across the globe) long resigned to seeing SRK endlessly and persistently marked by the specifically filmic variety of Hinduness practiced in Bollywood: doing various pujas and aartis at different Hindu temples, or adorning his spouses’ hair-parting with sindhoor and smearing his own forehead with tilaks.  This performative Hinduization of Shahrukh Khan in Urdu-Hindi cinema is unrelenting precisely due to the dogged presumption of SRK’s Muslimness that is not easily obscured.  “In my films I have been going to temples and singing bhajans; no one has questioned that,” (my emphasis) SRK exclaims in the same interview.  No one “questions” the diegetic (filmic) Hinduness of SRK; it is expected and mandatory.  With the increasing and explicit polarization in India since 1990s, the anxiety around Muslimness is such that it requires perpetual masking: an iterative performance of Hinduness, secular or otherwise.  When the mask slips off, the performance is momentarily paused – as when SRK plays a Muslim character in a film and critiqued the anti-Pakistani politics of Indian Premier League (IPL) – Hindutva activists target SRK’s suburban Bombay home, Mannat, with massive demonstrations (See the earlier Part II for more).[1]

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The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. the New Afrikaners

April 30, 2010 § 6 Comments

John J. Mearsheimer

This is the transcript of the Hisham B. Sharabi Memorial Lecture delivered by John J. Mearsheimer at the The Palestine Center today.

It is a great honor to be here at the Palestine Center to give the Sharabi Memorial Lecture.  I would like to thank Yousef Munnayer, the executive director of the Jerusalem Fund, for inviting me, and all of you for coming out to hear me speak this afternoon.

My topic is the future of Palestine, and by that I mean the future of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, or what was long ago called Mandatory Palestine.  As you all know, that land is now broken into two parts: Israel proper or what is sometime called “Green Line” Israel and the Occupied Territories, which include the West Bank and Gaza.  In essence, my talk is about the future relationship between Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Of course, I am not just talking about the fate of those lands; I am also talking about the future of the people who live there.  I am talking about the future of the Jews and the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, as well as the Palestinians who live in the Occupied Territories.

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Ultra Zionists Take Manhattan, and Demand the Holy Land

April 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

Indepedent journalist Max Blumenthal has just released his latest video.  This one deals Jewish extremists at a New York city rally that closely resemble members of the American Tea Party movement.

Blumenthal writes the following.

On April 25, over 1000 New York-area Jewish extremists gathered in midtown Manhattan to rally against the Barack Obama administration’s call for a freeze on construction in occupied East Jerusalem and to demand unlimited rights to colonize the West Bank. With Obama and top White House officials engaged in a charm offensive to repair their relationship with mainstream American Jewish organizations, speakers at the rally lashed out at the Jewish groups and Democratic politicians, warning that cozying up to Obama would endanger Israel and imperil their cherished settlement enterprise.

I’ll let Blumenthal’s video tell the rest.

Last year, Blumenthal, along with Joseph Dana, produced the famous “Feeling the Love in Jerusalem” video that was banned on YouTube and Huffington Post. He also produced “Bomb a Ghetto, Raise a Cheer,” a video documenting pro-Israeli teabaggers rallying in support of Operation Cast Lead. For more of Blumenthal’s works click here.

Ghosts: Documenting Unseen Stories

April 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

Canadian documentarian Morvary Samare’s brave new film, Ghosts, premiered last month at the Human Rights Film Festival in Montreal. The film reveals the stories of three Canadian-Arab men who were detained and tortured in Syria and Egypt for months and years only to later be released without  charges. The film raises a number of important questions concerning the use of torture and the role of the Canadian government in these cases. As Samare notes, while the case of another Canadian citizen detained and tortured in Syria, Maher Arar, received enormous attention in the media, the cases of the three men featured in Ghost – Abdullah Almalki, Muayyed Nureddin and Ahmad Abou El-Maati – received none at all. Recent reports have revealed that although the Canadian government was aware that these men were detained and possibly being tortured, officials did little or nothing to question the validity of their detention. Instead, the government maintained that all of information pertaining to their cases concerned national security and as such, were state secrets.  

Here’s a link to a recent CTV interview with Morvary Samare, the producer and director of the film (as well as one of the founders of RamzMedia)

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The Only Democracy in the Middle East: 23-25.04.2010

April 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Emad Rezqaafter being shot with an aluminium canister. Photograph by Hamde Abu Rahmeh

Friday in Bil’in, friend and fellow activist, Emad Rezqa was hit in the forehead by an aluminum tear gas projectile shot directly at him by Israeli soldiers during the weekly anti-Wall demonstration. He suffered a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage, and is currently hospitalized at the Hadassa Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem. The demonstration Rezqa was injured in concluded the three-day International Bil’in Conference on Popular Struggle, and was attended by hundreds of people. Several other demonstrators were injured from gas inhalation, direct hits by gas canisters, and falling

This is the man who fired the canisters:
Bil'in 23.04.2010 - The day Israeli soldiers started shooting randomly into the crowd. one fractured skull and five arrested. - 16
I was later arrested along with Palestinian journalist Moheb Barghouti, two fellow Israelis and a Mexican activist, after staging a sit-in. (more details soon)

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The Pen and the Sword

April 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

This review was originally published at the indispensable Electronic Intifada.

Edward Said was one of the great public intellectuals of the twentieth century – prolific, polymathic, principled, and always concerned to link theory to practice. Perhaps by virtue of his Palestinian identity, he was never an ivory tower intellectual. He never feared dirtying his hands in the messy, unwritten history of the present moment. Neither was he ever a committed member of a particular camp. Rather he offered a discomfiting, provocative, constantly critical voice. And against the postmodern grain of contemporary academia, his perspective was consistently moral, consistently worried about justice.

Said was primarily a historian of ideas. More precisely, he was interested in ‘discourse’, the stories a society tells itself and by which it (mis)understands itself and others. His landmark book “Orientalism” examined the Western narrative of empire in the Islamic Middle East, as constructed by Flaubert and Renan, Bernard Lewis and CNN. Said’s multi-disciplinary approach, his treatment of poetry, news coverage and colonial administration documents as aspects of one cultural continuum, was hugely influential in academia, helping to spawn a host of ‘postcolonial’ studies. Said’s “Culture and Imperialism” expanded the focus to include Western depictions of India, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and the literary and political ‘replies’ of the colonised.

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