Lessons from South Africa: On the Path to Negotiations with Leverage

Solidarity disclaimer: This piece was written about a half a year ago, as I returned excitedly from a workshop in South Africa. These are my (a privileged beneficiary of the Israeli apartheid system) conclusions and analysis, and in no way presume to be an “ultimate truth”, or an attempt at dictation for Palestinian action. I only hope that it’s instructive and serves as yet another window, out of many, for thoughts, debate and input. The word “we” refers to participants of the workshop.

Often when I’m asked what the point of BDS is, I quickly answer “to get the Israeli regime  to the negotiating table with no preconditions” and then I move on to tactics. Sometimes we get so mired in the blood and brutality on our path of resistance, that we need to be yanked out of it, in order to stop and see our golden milestones.

Negotiations and the Death of Liberation Continue reading “Lessons from South Africa: On the Path to Negotiations with Leverage”

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Aleppo: Notes from the dark

Trailer of a feature documentary movie from Syria’s largest city – Aleppo. Written and directed by Wojciech Szumowski and Michal Przedlacki. (via Shaza)

If you find it important, follow us on twitter @m_przedlacki @alepponotesfilm and @szumowskiw. Will you help us spread the word about it? We need your help. We really mean it.

You can contact us at studio@szumowski.pl and przedlackim@gmail.com

See our work at szumowski.pl

On Syria’s Alawis

CM10 cover_0Here’s a brief extract from my essay on Syria’s Alawi community, its history and doctrines and its political fortunes under Assadist rule and during the revolution, written for the Sects issue of the Critical Muslim. If you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe, and encourage your library or college to do so. The next issue will be a Syria special.

Syria’s CIA-backed military coup in 1949 was the first in the Arab world. Although there was a later parliamentary interval, the coup brought the army (and therefore rural minority groups) into the centre of Syrian political life, and a pattern of coup and countercoup set in, only brought to an end when Hafez al-Assad, an Alawi air force officer, rose to absolute power in the 1970 ‘Correctionist Movement’, achieving stability through totalitarian control.

From one perspective, Assad’s early years were golden years for the Alawis, as they and other hitherto marginalised sects (Druze and Ismailis) as well as rural Sunnis moved into the cities and entered state elites. (“Syria’s Peasantry, the Descendants of its Lesser Rural Notables, and their Politics” by Palestinian Marxist Hanna Batatu is a wonderfully comprehensive, wonderfully written study of the mechanics and personalities of this movement). The regime settled Alawis (often low-ranking soldiers and their families) in strategic suburbs on the approaches to Damascus. In these early years too, the Ba‘ath demonstrated loyalty to its rural base and its proclaimed socialist values by building schools, clinics and roads for the villages.

Continue reading “On Syria’s Alawis”

Raging with the Machine: Robert Fisk, Seymour Hersh and Syria

Yassin al-Haj Saleh is a Syrian writer who spent 16 years in the regime’s prisons. In this exclusive for PULSE, Saleh, who has been described as the “conscience of Syria“, discusses the distorted lens through which most people are viewing the conflict.

In the West, Robert Fisk and Seymour Hersh are considered critical journalists. They occupy dissident positions in the English-speaking press. Among Syrians, however, they are viewed very differently.

The problem with their writings on Syria is that it is deeply centered on the West. The purported focus of their analysis – Syria, its people and the current conflict – serves only as backdrop to their commentary where ordinary Syrians are often invisible. For Fisk and Hersh the struggle in Syria is about ancient sects engaged in primordial battle. What really matters for them are the geopolitics of the conflict, specifically where the US fits into this picture.

On the topic of chemical weapons, Fisk and Hersh, completely ignore the antecedents of last summer’s attack on Ghouta .

A reader who relies exclusively on Fisk/Hersh for their understanding of Syria would never know that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons several times before the August 21, 2013 massacre in Ghouta. I was there at the time. I saw victims of sarin gas on two occasions in Eastern Ghouta and I met doctors treating them. The victims were from Jobar, which was hit with chemical weapons in April 2013 and from Harasta, which was hit in May 2013.

It is shocking that investigative journalists such as Fisk and Hersh know nothing about these attacks. They write as if Ghouta was the first time chemical weapons were used in Syria. Their credibility and objectivity is compromised by these omissions.

Continue reading “Raging with the Machine: Robert Fisk, Seymour Hersh and Syria”

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Piketty joins two Nobel Prize winners and other scholars to discuss his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

The French economist Thomas Piketty (Paris School of Economics) discussed his new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century at the Graduate Center. In this landmark work, Piketty argues that the main driver of inequality—the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth—threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. He calls for political action and policy intervention. Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia University), Paul Krugman (Princeton University), and Steven Durlauf (University of Wisconsin–Madison) participated in a panel moderated by LIS Senior Scholar Branko Milanovic. The event was introduced by LIS Director Janet Gornick, professor of political science and sociology at the Graduate Center.

Cosponsored by the Luxembourg Income Study Center and the Advanced Research Collaborative.

In Search of Shakespeare

In celebration of the Bard’s forthcoming 450th birthday, here is the BBC’s four part series on the lives and times of Will Shakespeare. It’s hosted by Michael Wood.

1. A Time of Revolution

Continue reading “In Search of Shakespeare”