Colonizing the Mind: Israel’s Assault on Palestinian Education

Yesterday, I stumbled across a title in Ma’an that shook me to the core:

Palestinian schools switch to Israeli curriculum in Jerusalem

To anyone who knows the Israeli curriculum, this is one of the most chilling statements anti-colonialists can imagine. The Israeli school curriculum is what allows millions of Israelis to enlist to the army, to cheer on as it slaughters Palestinians en-masse, and to be OK with being “a little bit fascist” .

I want to make a very important stop here, before we continue examining the article and the questions which it raised in my mind, so my readers, who didn’t grow up through Israel’s public school indoctrination, can get a basic idea of how it works. So sit back for 28 minutes and get to know the incredibly important research of Nurit Peled-Elhanan about the colonialist racist discourse in Israeli textbooks:

  Continue reading “Colonizing the Mind: Israel’s Assault on Palestinian Education”

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Intervention?

gasIf the US-led West wished to invade and occupy Syria, or to engineer regime change from afar, it would have taken advantage of the two-and-a-half-year chaos in Syria to intervene long before now.

When the US-led West invaded Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussain was contained. He’d committed his genocides in the past, when he was an ally of the West against Iran, and in 1991, under Western military noses (as he slaughtered Shia rebels and their families en masse, the allied forces in Kuwait and southern Iraq gave him permission to use helicopter gunships, and watched). But in 2003 Saddam was contained and reasonably quiet. There was no popular revolution against him. The West invaded anyway, on the pretext of inexistent Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The Syrian regime’s ultra-violent repression of a peaceful protest movement spawned an armed resistance. The regime met the armed resistance with genocide and ethnic cleansing. Then a week ago the regime struck multiple targets in the Damascus suburbs with chemical weapons, perhaps killing as many Syrians in three hours as Palestinians were killed in Israel’s month-long rampage in Gaza (2008/9).

The conflict has been well and truly internationalised for a long while now. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have provided limited and intermittent military supplies to various parts of the opposition (the US has prevented them from delivering heavy weapons). The international brigades of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham – an enemy both of the regime and the democratic opposition to the regime – has been empowered in pockets of northern Syria. The regime has received much more serious financial and military help from Russia and Iran, and has brought in Hizbullah and Iraqi sectarian militias to help it fight its battles. Hizbullah’s switch from defence against Zionism to repression of a revolutionary Arab people has propelled Lebanon back to the verge of civil war. Meanwhile, between a quarter and a third of Syrians are displaced, destabilising Turkey and Jordan as well as Lebanon.

Continue reading “Intervention?”

Doing the Rounds

familiarSo much lazy thinking. Here’s an agit-prop picture doing the rounds, the sort to appeal to the George Galloway crowd. And here’s my comment: “Except it isn’t familiar. In one case they wanted to invade and used chemical weapons as an excuse. There were no chemical weapons. In the other case a genocide has been going on for over two years, they don’t want to invade, don’t even want to arm the people resisting, they don’t have the economic power or pliant international scene to do so even if they wanted; and chemical weapons not only exist, they have been used on a vast scale. Oppose potential US air attacks against Assad bases if you like, but don’t insult the victims of genocide while you’re doing it.”

Another one doing the rounds is this supposedly very clever letter: short guideA Short Guide to the Middle East. And here’s Idrees’s response to that:

“To the hundreds of people who’ve been passing this fatuous bit of village-idiocy around, let me explain a few things:

1) States, like individuals, balance competing and contradictory interests. Like you, after two of your friends brawl, they don’t disown one to please the other.

2) States are not unitary, self-aware entities, whose interests are constant and indivisible. Like you, they carry in them multiple impulses and their attitudes towards others change based which impulses predominate under a given circumstance.

3) You might resent the tendency to treat the east as somehow exceptional and throw words like “orientalism” around, but like bad breath, you only notice it when others others have it. (Or perhaps the US is really a middle eastern country since it treated Communism as the ultimate evil but allied itself with Stalin to defeat Hitler; and then with right-wing Germans to defeat Communism. It was allied with France, yet supported Algerian independence. And so on ).

4) You have very little regard for facts. (Obama is anti-Sisi and is backing the Muslim Brotherhood? Really?)

5) Since you expect that states should be as one dimensional as Ayn Rand characters, you are unfit to comment on the Middle East or international affairs.”

Legitimizing A Military Occupation With Music: Zubin Mehta in Kashmir

It is most unfortunate that the German Embassy should seek to collaborate, perhaps unwittingly, with the Indian State in Kashmir, recognized as an international dispute by the United Nations and the international community, without any sensitivity to the aspirations of the people, or issues faced, or the machinations of the Indian State.

"Facing the Music!" by Suhail Hassan Naqshbandi
“Facing the Music!”

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26 August 2013

To
Ambassador Michael Steiner,
German Embassy,
New Delhi, India.

Subject: URGENT Protest Letter to German Embassy on scheduled Zubin Mehta concert in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on 7 September 2013

1. On 22 August 2013, a press release was issued by the German Embassy that Zubin Mehta would be conducting an orchestra on 7 September 2013 at Shalimar Bagh, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.

2. The press release quoted you as stating that the concert was for the people of Jammu and Kashmir by way of a cultural tribute. The press release also reads that the concert was intended to give a message of hope and encouragement to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The concert, said to be a part of a “broader engagement” is being organized by the German Embassy and supported by the “competent authorities both at Central as well as at Union State level.” The costs of the concert are covered by “benevolent sponsors mainly from the business world in India and Germany, as well as “Incredible India” and the German Foreign Office”.

3. The people of Jammu and Kashmir take immense pride in our rich history of resisting oppression. We also have historically cultivated a sublime tradition in, and love for, music. Music – which appeals to the higher truths of love, justice, dignity, and peace; which genuinely acknowledges the long suffering, and yet bravely resisting, Kashmiris; and which is performed for the actual public – is wholeheartedly welcomed. However, legitimizing an occupation via a musical concert is completely unacceptable. Art as propaganda, as abundantly documented, was put to horrific use in Nazi Germany. We are sure you will understand that we cannot welcome anything even remotely analogous in Jammu and Kashmir. Sadly, the occupation will be amply reflected in the demographics of the audience of the proposed concert – the list of “invitees only” is bound to be restricted to the members of the apparatuses of the Occupying State: from perpetrators of crimes, as heinous as murder, rape, and torture, to the local collaborators of the State and perhaps some powerless, vulnerable and compliant few. Continue reading “Legitimizing A Military Occupation With Music: Zubin Mehta in Kashmir”

Herzog: Cave Of Forgotten Dreams

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a 2010 3D documentary film by Werner Herzog, about the Chauvet Cave, a cavern in southern France that contains the oldest human-painted images yet discovered, some as old as 32,000 years. The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and consists of footage filmed inside the cave as well as interviews with various scientists and historians. The film also includes footage of the nearby Pont d’Arc natural bridge. Herzog is considered to be one of the most important film director alive. *

Herzog on the Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Cave of Forgotten Dreams [full]

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A Curse on Dostoevsky

Andrey Volkok's Dostoevsky
Andrey Volkok’s Dostoevsky

This review was published at the Guardian. As so often, in places it’s been edited so it makes little sense and becomes clumsy. (Not a Guardian-specific problem, but a general problem with subeditors. I’ve never worked out why writers are paid to write, then non-writers are paid to mess up the writer’s writing.) Anyway, the unedited version is below.

As its title suggests, Atiq Rahimi’s “A Curse on Dostoevsky” puts itself in conversation with the great Russian writer, specifically with “Crime and Punishment”. Instead of Saint Petersburg, the action unfolds in Kabul. In place of Raskolnivok, Rassoul (though in his solipsism and misanthropy he may bear more resemblance to Dostoevsky’s underground man); in place of Sonia, Rassoul’s fiancee Sophia, a character who never quite comes into focus; and in place of the detective Porfiry, a series of commanders and militiamen. The murderee is, like Dostoevsky’s, a pawnbroker, also a landlady and a madam. Rassoul doesn’t know why he kills her, but potential motives include saving Sophia from her clutches, theft, and justice.

The text justifies its relationship with Dostoevsky’s novel thus: “This book is best read in Afghanistan, a land previously steeped in mysticism, where people have lost their sense of responsibility.” The murder of the pawnbroker sparks an investigation of crime and punishment (and law and lawlessness, sacrifice and vengeance) in Afghan society. Dostoevsky claimed that if God didn’t exist, everything would be permitted. Yet in Afghanistan God exists not to prevent sins but to justify them. Sophia’s father poisoned the director of the National Archives with counterfeit alcohol, a punishment for selling documents to the Russians. “These days,” he says, “any idiot thinks he can take the law into his own hands, with no investigation and trial. As I did then.” (The setting seems to be the period after the Russians and before the Taliban, when Islamist warlords struggled for power.)

According to the novel’s logic, Rassoul’s motto – “I’d rather be a murderer than a traitor” – could just as well be Afghanistan’s: “You can kill, rape, steal… the important thing is not to betray. Not to betray Allah, your clan, your country, your friend.” Yet the pages brim with real or perceived traitors, those who desert their friends for ideology or material gain.

Continue reading “A Curse on Dostoevsky”