You possess the world’s fourth most powerful military according to your own estimates, yet find yourself delegitimized in the international arena, unable to impose control over either your perceived enemies, or your internal settler-anarchist “brothers”. You are desperately arresting nonviolent leaders that resist your military occupation while also fearing for the travel plans of your leaders implicated in war crimes. It would seem current events are spiraling out of your grasp. How do you reverse this worrying order of events?
A hint was provided Saturday morning when a joint Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Shin Bet raid killed three alleged members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, one of two groups that claimed responsibility for the recent murder of a settler near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, two of the three shooting deaths by the IDF were carried out like executions, and eyewitness testimony alleges the two victims were executed from close range once identified, despite putting up no resistance. A senior IDF official lent support to these testimonies when he told Israel Radio that the militants had not fired on the IDF troops and that two of the dead were known to have been unarmed at the time. However, he explained that they were assassinated because they were believed to be responsible for the settler’s death. In response B’Tselem called for an army investigation into the allegations of extrajudicial execution.
Call them what you will for it, romantics, perhaps even naive in this regard, but Gramsci and Marx describe the ‘intellectual’ as one who possesses a heightened sense of consciousness – a sense that enables the intellectual to extract or recover reality from a world made purposefully hazy. For these thinkers, the mystical gift of acumen also comes with its burdens. The role of the intellectual is not simply to seek, collect and retain knowledge, but also to unveil and act in relation to these carefully hidden ‘truths’.
To this end, the aspiration of good journalism is not so different. The ethical role of the journalist is often expressed in terms of “reporting the facts”. In this formulation, ‘reporting facts’ is tantamount to ‘good journalism’ when ‘reporting’ is synonymous with ‘truth telling.’
We also know that ‘truth seeking’ maintains a centrality in our everyday experiences, both present in our most ardent and public socio-political concerns as well as our most private existential and interpersonal questions about life. But why does the notion of ‘truth’ matter to us? What purpose does such a concept have and for what reasons should it be retained?
Again inspired by Hanna Batatu’s excellent book, here are some notes on the first two of the three stages of the Ba’ath Party in Syria. I haven’t mentioned the party’s development in Iraq.
The first Ba’ath was the old Ba’ath, and it was led by ideals. The party’s founders, Michel Aflaq (a Christian) and the two Bitars (Sunnis) were the sons of grain merchants from the Damascus suburb of Maydan, and were genuinely motivated by the desire for a unified Arab state. They were of the commercial class that felt most immediately the loss of the natural Arab marketplace entailed by the Sykes-Picot partition and the actions of the French Mandate. The French had ceded Arab-majority areas north of Aleppo to Turkey, and in 1939 handed over the entire Iskenderoon governorate (which had an Arab and Alawi majority) in return for Turkish neutrality in the approaching European war. From 1925 to 26 the Druze had risen against the French under the anti-sectarian slogan ‘Religion is for God and the Homeland For All.’ The Ghuta peasant-gardeners, aflame with the nationalism of nearby Damascus, also struck, and the French bombarded the Ghuta with artillery and planes. The 1948 fall of Palestine added impetus to the pan-nationalist agenda. Sunnis from Deir ez-Zor, now cut off from their kinsmen and marketplaces in Iraq, were also attracted to Arabism.
On 4th of December, a rainy Friday evening, I visited Al-Khair school in Croydon. The school together with the Muslim Writers Awards were hosting a talk entitled ‘Creativity within Multi-Cultural Britain’. It had attracted me because of its absurdly ambitious vision: To jump start the creative processes which produced the likes of Iqbal, Ghalib and Al-Mutanabbi. The event was opened by Ms. Aisha Choudhry, head of Al-Khair, followed by Irfan Akram, Project Coordinator for Muslim Writers Award, Sufiya Ahmed, author of the Khadijah Academy series, Moazzam Begg, author and spokesperson for Cageprisoners, Zahid Hussain, author of TheCurry Mile and Andrew Pelling, MP. The event was chaired by Abdul Fattah Hussain, organiser of the event.
Irfan Akram set the tone by pointing out that whilst Muslims in Britain are facing immense challenges, the positives outweighed the negatives. He brushed aside suggestions that publishers didn’t want to hear the voice of the Muslims; rather he suggested that Muslims should not expect automatic publication just because they have penned something. “If it is good enough it will get published and MWA is here to help.”
December 27, 2009 marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of ‘Operation Cast Lead,’ Israel’s 22-day assault on the captive population of Gaza, which killed 1400 people, one third of them children, and injured more than 5300. During this war on an impoverished, mostly refugee population, Israel targeted civilians, using internationally proscribed white phosphorous bombs, deprived them of power, water and other essentials, and sought to destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian civil society, including hospitals, administrative buildings and UN facilities. It targeted with peculiar consistency educational institutions of all kinds: the Islamic University of Gaza, the Ministry of Education, the American International School, at least ten UNRWA schools, one of which was sheltering internally displaced Palestinian civilians with nowhere to flee, and tens of other schools and educational facilities.
While world leaders have tragically failed to come to Gaza’s help, civilians everywhere are rallying to show their solidarity with the Palestinian people, with anniversary vigils taking place this week in New York, Washington DC, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, and many more cities and towns in the US and world-wide.
Yesterday, I got the following message from The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee:
23 December 2009
Display of used tear gas canisters shot by the army earns Bil’in activist an arms charge in Israeli military court
Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a school teacher and coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall, was indicted in an Israeli military court yesterday. Abu Rahmah was slapped with an arms possession charge for collecting used tear gas canisters shot at demonstrators in Bil’in by the army and showcasing them in his home.
“As a revolutionary I will be today, tomorrow and forever on the front lines of my people, all the while knowing that I may lose my life.” – Walter Trochez, 25, murdered in Tegucigalpa on 12/13/09
The bodies of slain activists are piling up in Honduras. While it’s being kept quiet in most Honduran and international media, the rage is building among a dedicated network of friends spreading the word quickly with the tragic announcement of each compañero/a.
Now that the world heard from mainstream news outlets such as the New York Times of a “clean and fair” election on Nov. 29 (orchestrated by the US-supported junta currently in power), the violence has increased even faster than feared.
The specific targets of these killings have been those perceived as the biggest threats to the coup establishment. The bravest, and thus the most vulnerable: Members of the Popular Resistance against the coup. Their friends and family. People who provide the Resistance with food and shelter. Teachers, students, and ordinary citizens who simply recognize the fallacy of an un-elected regime taking over their country. All associated with the Resistance have faced constant and growing repercussions for their courage in protesting the coup. With the international community given the green light by the US that democratic order has returned via elections, it’s open season for violent forces in Honduras working to tear apart the political unity of the Resistance Front against the coup.
Halim writes in over the Guardian’s blatantly biased language in its coverage a week ago:
It is the second time in 2 days that the UK Guardian and its correspondent Ian Black have repeated the same claim without proof. They say:
“Palestinians claim 1,400 were killed, mostly civilians; Israel counted 1,166 dead, the majority of them combatants.”
“Palestinians claim 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the three-week offensive. Israel counted 1,166 dead, the majority combatants. Israel insists it acted in self-defence against Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza.”