Demonising Iran

This was published in the Sunday Herald.

Two manifestations of Iranian Modernity
Two manifestations of Iranian Modernity

The mainstream media narrative of events unfolding in Iran has been set out for us as clear as fairytale: an evil dictatorship has rigged elections and now violently suppresses its country’s democrats, hysterically blaming foreign saboteurs the while. But the Twitter generation is on the right side of history (in Obama’s words), and could bring Iran back within the regional circle of moderation. If only Iran becomes moderate, a whole set of regional conflicts will be solved.

I don’t mean to minimise the importance of the Iranian protests or the brutality of their suppression, but I take issue with the West’s selective blindness when it gazes at the Middle East. The ‘Iran narrative’ contains a dangerous set of simplicities which bode ill for Obama’s promised engagement, and which will be recognised beyond the West as rotten with hypocrisy. 

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Maximizing Rights: The One State Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Palestinian-American law professor and commentator George Bisharat.
Palestinian-American law professor and commentator George Bisharat.

In April George Bisharat wrote an article for the San Francisco Chronicle titled Changing the Rules of War giving a legal perspective on Israeli conduct in Gaza.  He stated that “what is less appreciated is how Israel is … brutalizing international law, in ways that may long outlast the demolition of Gaza.”  I’m sure if you read it in April, you’d remember it, and if you haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it more highly.

Maximizing Rights is a previous work of his, published 2008 in the Berkley journal Global Jurist.  In it he states that it’s time to face the painful truth: the two-state solution has failed.  He argues for a new paradigm, with a rights-based approach, that favours a one-state solution as it provides “the widest array of rights to the greatest number of Palestinians and Israelis.”  Simply put: the one-state solution is the most just solution and is most likely to bring lasting peace.

The article can be downloaded for free on the journals website. I’ve included the abstract below.

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Illuminated Pages

Michael Palin, Robin Yassin-Kassab and Jeremy Harding in a 'qasr' near Ain Qenya, Ramallah
Michael Palin, Robin Yassin-Kassab and Jeremy Harding in a 'qasr' near Ain Qenya, Ramallah

Another fine LRB diary piece by Palfest participant Jeremy Harding. A visit to the al-Khalidi library leads Jeremy to consider “the war for control of East Jerusalem that Israel has been waging, slowly but surely, by non-military means.” More pieces by Jeremy are here , here, here, and here.

Haifa al-Khalidi says that she’s not a librarian. Fine. But the al-Khalidi collection on 116 Bab al-Silsilah Street in the old city of Jerusalem doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a library so maybe Haifa simply means she’s not a scholar, even if she’s now acquainted with a thousand rare manuscripts and many more works in print that are housed here. One of the first she shows us is a beautifully decorated Arabic translation of a work on poisons and remedies by a 12th-century Indian physician. (Later I learn it contains a tale about metabolic resistance and how it’s possible, carefully and slowly, to administer a poison to a subject whose antibodies enable him to survive, even though someone else who touches him will die. Actually, that ‘he’ in the story is a her, tanked up to become a poison pie and set before a king.) 

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Ending Apartheid

A great piece by best-selling crime writer and Palfest participant Henning Mankell, originally published in the Swedish paper Aftonbladet. Mankell was tremendously moved by what he saw in Palestine, and we hope he is able to transmit this passion to his millions of readers. Mankell is informed enough to realise that the two-state solution is no solution. He concludes, “The fall of this disgraceful Apartheid system is the only thing conceivable, because it must be.”

Henning Mankell (right) responds to Banksy's wall art
Henning Mankell (right) responds to Banksy's wall art

About a week ago, I visited Israel and Palestine. I was part of a delegation of authors with representatives from different parts of the world.

We came to participate in the Palestinian Literary Festival. The opening ceremony was supposed to take place at the Palestinian National Theatre in Jerusalem.

We had just gathered when heavily armed Israeli military and policemen walked in and announced that they were going to stop the ceremony.

When we asked why, they answered: You are a security risk.

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Voices of Dissent – Abbas Barzegar

A female supporter of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad displays her hand painted with the Iranian flag, also used as a sign for his party (Photo: AP)
A female supporter of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad displays her hand painted with the Iranian flag, also used as a sign for his party (Photo: AP)

Media fantasies in Iran – Abbas Barzegar

It was only a matter of time before revolution in Iran, believed dissidents and media in the west. They were wrong

It’s not about the election, Ahmadinejad, or the even the protesters. The world has been captivated by the events in Iran because for many, Iran is to Islamism what the Soviet Union was to communism and presumably today we are somewhere near the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Mohammed Omer correcting the record

Mohammed Omer, the great Palestinian journalist and recipient of the Martha Gelhorn prize, sets the record straight about the torture ordeal he suffered at the hands of the Israeli Shin Beth torturers.

June 26, 2008 is a day I will never forget. For the events of that day irrevocably changed my life. That day I was detained, interrogated, strip searched, and tortured while attempting to return home from a European speaking tour, which culminated in independent American journalist Dahr Jamil and I sharing the Martha Gellhorn Journalism Prize in London — an award given to journalists who expose propaganda which often masks egregious human rights abuses.

Mohammed Omer receiving the Martha Gelhorn Prize together with Dahr Jamail
Mohammed Omer receiving the Martha Gelhorn Prize together with Dahr Jamail

I want to address the denials from Israel and the inaccurate reporting by a few journalists in addition to requesting state of Israel to acknowledge what it did to me, prosecute the members of the Shin Bet responsible for it and put in place procedures that protect other journalists from such treatment.

Since 2003, I’ve been the voice to the voiceless in the besieged Gaza Strip for a number of publications and news programs ranging from The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to the BBC and, Morgenbladet in Norway as well as Democracy Now! These stories exposed a carefully-crafted fiction continuing control and exploitation of five-million people. Their impact, coupled with the reporting of others served to change public opinion in the United States and Europe concerning the dynamics of Israel and its occupation of Palestine .

After receiving the Martha Gellhorn prize I returned home through the Allenby Bridge Crossing in the Occupied West Bank between Jordan and Israel. It was here I was detained, interrogated, and tortured for several hours by Shin Bet and border officers. When it appeared I may be close to death an ambulance was called to transport me to a hospital. From that day my life has been a year of continued medical treatments, pain — and a search for justice.

The article can be read in its entirety here

Fantasising Israel

Israels militarized liberalism
Israel's militarized liberalism

How can the supposed liberalism of Tel Aviv coexist with apartheid and occupation? In this excellent essay Yonatan Mendel considers the Israeli “fantasising project.” “It is the “positive, ‘normal’ and likeable characteristics of Tel Aviv,” Mendel argues, “that make it a paradigm of the moral and political blindness of Israeli society.”

At this very moment, long queues are probably forming outside Tel Aviv’s latest culinary thing: the yoghurterias. Even in the middle of the night you have to wait in line to get a cold and refreshing ice-cream yoghurt from the busy shop on Rothschild Boulevard. Springing up like mushrooms after the rain, the ice-cream parlours have allowed the ‘white city’ of Tel Aviv to experience the white revolution of the yoghurt. It is sweet and sour, made of natural ingredients, both healthy and tasty, with only 1.6 per cent fat, and topped with pieces of fresh fruit freshly cut up. Mangoes and pineapples, kiwis, strawberries, pomegranates, dates, melons and watermelons, red, yellow and green, are generously placed on top of the thick white yoghurt. A small cup of the local delicacy costs 18 shekels (about £3), a medium-size cup is 21 shekels, and a huge cup is 27 shekels. This is the best gastronomic response to the humidity that prevails in Israel’s ‘first Hebrew city’.

You can read the rest here.

Iran: Influence or Threat

Al Jazeera’s Empire, with Marwan Bishara. The first short documentary is so bad that it could have been made by the BBC or CNN. Flynt Leverett is insightful as usual, but as much as I love and respect Hamid Dabashi, I think he adds little of value to the discussion.

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Michael Jackson, R.I.P

He cared about them, and we all care about him. R.I.P brother.

Tell me what has become of my rights
Am I invisible because you ignore me?
Your proclamation promised me free liberty, now
I’m tired of bein’ the victim of shame…
I can’t believe this is the land from which I came
You know I do really hate to say it
The government don’t wanna see
But if Martin Luther was livin’
He wouldn’t let this be, no, no

Imran Khan on US Drone Attacks in Pakistan

Democracy Now’s important interview with Imran Khan on the recent drone attacks and the general failure of US policy in Pakistan. Khan is the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Justice Movement), and is one of the very few politicians who dissented from the military operation in Swat which has now displaced more than 3 million people. (He is of course also a retired cricketing legend who led Pakistan to world cup victory in the early 90’s.) He offers a useful antidote to the otherwise unbroken parade of native informers who spew nonsense on mainstream media, progressive or conservative. Khan on the other hand provides useful context and realist alternatives to the present impasse. (Also see Pankaj Mishra’s excellent piece on the failed US policy that we ran here earlier).

The video clips for parts two and three and the transcript over the fold.

Part One (7.57)

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