The Only Democracy in the Middle East: 26.3.2010

In heavy rain and under heavy threat, all the weekly demonstration insistently ensued, across the West Bank. The village of Al Ma’asara demonstrated against the latest arrest and torture of the local demonstration organizer, Omar Alaaeddin:

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ESRC, Islamophobia, and the British sense of humour

A couple of years back a leading Scots philosopher, a friend, applied for funding to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the main public research-funding body in the UK, to study the tradition of non-violence in Islam. After much delay, he received a letter from the ESRC in which an anonymous reviewer informed him that his bid had been rejected because ‘there is no tradition of non-violence in Islam’.

On 23 March 2010, the British Home Office’s counter-terrorism communications unit RICU announced its top 20 most influential “pro-Islamic” political bloggers. Topping the list are Ali Eteraz and the Angry Arab News Service. Eteraz is a US-based writer, an aggressive self-promoter, who is known less for his ‘pro-Islamic’ views than for his self-conscious cultivation of a ‘moderate’ image which has included forging friendly ties with the notoriously Islamophobic hate site Harry’s Place. Angry Arab News Service is run by As’ad AbuKhalil, a California-based Lebanese anarchist, and atheist. AbuKhalil’s daily output includes ritual denunciations of clerics and Islamists from North Africa to Saudi Arabia. He is an all opportunities offender (sometimes indiscriminately so).

The list was compiled based on research conducted by one David Stevens of Nottingham University whose work, according to his website, is focued ‘within the area of contemporary normative political philosophy’. The man obviously gazes from such Olympian heights that he can’t distinguish between the Pope and a pagan. And to his funders, it appears not to matter.

So who commissioned this exercise in fatuity? Why the ESRC of course.

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Leaving al-Tanf

When hundreds of Palestinians fled Iraq in 2006, no country in the Middle East would accept them.  The UN eventually set up tent camps in ‘no man’s land’ between the Iraq-Syria border. While the camps were supposed to be a ‘temporary’ solution, it was not until the end of 2009 that a small number of refugees were finally granted permission to move to Italy, while others were told they would be transferred to refugee camps in the region. Edith Champagn’s Leaving Al Tanf documents the stories of  several Palestinian refugees as they prepare to uproot their lives yet again, compelling us to think about how the idea of home, and of time and waiting is experienced by those whose lives have overwhelmingly been marked by uncertainty, liminality, and loss.

The Collapse of Journalism/ The Journalism of Collapse

by Robert Jensen

A version of this essay The Collapse of Journalism/The Journalism of Collapse: New Storytelling and a New Story was delivered as the Lawrence Dana Pinkham Memorial Lecture, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, India, March 18, 2010.

There is considerable attention paid in the United States to the collapse of journalism — both in terms of the demise of the business model for corporate commercial news media, and the evermore superficial, shallow, and senseless content that is inadequate for citizens concerned with self-governance. This collapse is part of larger crises in the political and economic spheres, crises rooted in the incompatibility of democracy and capitalism. New journalistic vehicles for storytelling are desperately needed.

There has been far less discussion of the need for a journalism of collapse — the challenge to tell the story of a world facing multiple crises in the realms of social justice and sustainability. This collapse of the basic political and economic systems of the modern world, with dramatic consequences on the human and ecological fronts, demands not only new storytelling vehicles but a new story.

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Palestinian Organizer Tortured in Israeli Jail

Omar Alaaeddin, a 25 year-old Palestinian from the village of al Ma'asara during his medical examination a day after his release from Israeli jail, on 23.03.2010.

I don’t usually do breaking news, because of a nasty habit I call “intellectualizing”. Every once in a while, however, I get a piece of news with details that rattle the soul. My emotional response, I guess (since there’s no one to hear anybody cry) is to post it here and hope for more exposure. I got the following words from the Popular struggle Coordination Committee’s Facebook group and the images from Activestills on Flickr

Omar Alaaeddin, who is involved in organizing demonstrations in the village of alMa’asra south of Bethlehem, was arrested a week ago on Sunday at the Container Checkpoint, as he was making his way back home from Ramallah, with a group of students and university professors. The groups was in Ramallah to see a theater play. 

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A Process of Change – Nasrallah to Petraeus

It’s important to remember that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s speeches consist of more than mere rhetoric. One of the reasons for Nasrallah’s enormous popularity in the Arab and Muslim worlds is that, unlike other Arab leaders, he says what he means and means what he says. Hizbullah is the only force to have defeated Israel – once in 2000, when the brutal occupation of south Lebanon was brought to an end, and once in 2006, when Israeli troops attempted to reinvade in order to dismantle the resistance, but bled on the border for five weeks instead. During the 2006 war Israel bombed every TV mast it could find, but failed to put Hizbullah’s al-Manar off the air. Nasrallah spoke on al-Manar of “the Israeli warship that attacked our infrastructure, people’s homes and civilians. Look at it burn!” As Nasrallah uttered these words, a Hizbullah missile did indeed disable an Israeli warship, forcing Israel to move its fleet away from the Lebanese coast.

In mid-February 2010, Shaikh Nasrallah made a speech which may well mark a fundamental change in the Middle Eastern balance of power. The speech, quoted below, should not be read as a string of empty threats, but a signal of new weaponry and fighting capabilities.

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Hasbara goal?

Starting today, and for the next two days, UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) will hold its Congress and Executive Committee meeting in Tel Aviv. The draw for the Euro 2010 qualifying groups will also take place.

From an article in Ha’aretz:

This is the first time that Israel has ever hosted the annual gathering, which is taking place two months before the World Cup kicks off in South Africa.

Congress participants include FIFA President Joseph (Sepp) Blatter, UEFA President Michel Platini, former German footballer Franz Beckenbauer and the heads of international football teams.

Hosting the UEFA Congress is the culmination of a years-long effort by the Israeli Tourism Ministry.

“Israel is an ideal country for training camps and sporting activities and matches, year-round and especially during the European winter,” said Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. “I am sure that the combination of the climate and the infrastructure for training and matches, alongside the many tourist sites and entertainment and leisure options, will make our guests choose Israel for both personal and professional visits in the future.”

The Tourism Ministry is working to increase Israel’s cooperation with European countries in order to boost tourism by improving Israel’s international image as a safe and modern country to visit.

Keep America Scared

Earlier this month, a bumbling Liz Cheney embarked upon a campaign to “Keep America Safe.”  According to this latest attempt at fear mongering, Cheney claims that 9 lawyers who are currently working for the Justice Department and who have previous experience with representing Guantanamo detainees, are basically ‘terrorist’ sympathizers…if not worse.  As usual, one of the best responses to this brand of lunacy comes from the inimitable Rachel Maddow, the great belier of absurdity.

Ghazal for Iranians Who Don’t Hate Arabs

To Rom, and Parichehr

Today I met Iranians who don’t hate Arabs.
They smiled and said “hey, selam,” even knowing I was Arab.

They didn’t have green eyes, yet they seemed to bear up
pretty well without them, and they don’t fault Arabs,

not all of us, at least, for Nahavand, and the bloody flare-up
at Karbala; after all, remember, Imam Husayn was Arab.

I was a little scared at first, but soon I scraped my chair up
closer and acknowledged half our poetry and science isn’t Arab.

Half? Two thirds! Three quarters! All Persian! I went clear up
to The Arabian Nights, to Ibn Sina; who says he was Arab?

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The Only Democracy in the Middle East: 19.3.2010

In spite of the latest Israeli army attempts to stop the demonstrations against the wall, about 50 Israelis and 25 internationals joined Bil’in residents in protest. After the demonstration was declared over, the army infiltrated the village and fired gas and shock grenades at the youth, protecting their village with stones.

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