Geoffrey Wawro on the US in the Middle East

In the following audio, Jeff Blankfort interviews Prof. Geoffrey Wawro, author of Quicksand: America’s Pursuit of Power in the Middle East, (Penguin, 2010) with a focus on US support for Israel, the pro-Israel lobby and whether Israel is a strategic asset or liability.

Geoffrey Wawro on the US in the Middle East: MP3

Thus Alone, and Always, Have People Resisted Tyranny: Remembering Faiz on his Birth Centenary

Today is the first birth centenary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz: one of South Asia’s most beloved radical Urdu poets. Today is also, just two days after Mubarak’s resignation as a result of the inspiring revolution in Umm al-Duniya, Mother of the World, Egypt; and almost a month after Tunisia’s courageous revolution. How ecstatic would Faiz have been today?!

by Huma Dar

Today is the first birth centenary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz: one of South Asia’s most beloved radical Urdu poets.  Today is also, just two days after Mubarak’s resignation as a result of the inspiring revolution in Umm al-Duniya, Mother of the World, Egypt; and almost a month after Tunisia’s courageous revolution.  How ecstatic would Faiz have been today?!  Faiz, who had lived in Beirut, in exile from Pakistan — when ruled by the US-bolstered military dictator, General Zia-ul Haq.  Faiz, who wrote a beautiful lullaby for a Palestinian child, and a poem for those who were martyred outside their beloved Palestine.  Faiz, whose poem commonly mis-titled, “Ham Dekhenge,” is a battle-song for people fighting for social justice from Sindh, Pakistan to Kashmir to Chhattisgarh, India.

The title of this particular poem of Faiz is in Arabic: “Wa Yabqaa Wajhu Rabbika.”  It is most often brushed aside as it does not fit the simplistic profile of the “avowed atheist” assigned to Faiz.  Being a socialist does not preclude belief in Islam, but this nuance is lost on many who cannot easily imagine Faiz being a Muslim, leave alone leading a prayer in the mosque of his ancestral village, especially given the subtle Islamophobia that pervades élite political and literary discourses, both within and without South Asia.  For some, even more difficult “to reconcile [is] the glowing tribute [that Faiz wrote] to Muhammad Ali Jinnah,” but this has to do with the rigorous demonology of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in Indian historiography, and the hegemonic status of India and Indian academics, even those who vigorously critique nationalisms of all kinds, within South Asian Studies.

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“O, God! Have mercy on me! Distracted, I whirl” — Rumi’s Gift

Not frivolously, around the alleys and bazaars, I whirl.
Lover’s temperament, I have — to have one glimpse of my Beloved, I whirl.

After Maulana Rumi (actual poet unknown)

Singing: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Qawwaals

Translated by Huma Dar

Raqs al-Ruhani, al-Qahirah (Huma Dar 2005)
Naa Man Behooda Gird-e Koocha-o-Baazaar Mi Gardam (Huma Dar 2005)

نه من  بيهوده  گرد کوچه  و  بازار  می  گردم
مذاق عاشقی  دارم  پئ  ديدار  ميگردم

خدايا  رحم  کن  بر  من  پريشان وار  می  گردم
خطا کارم  گناھگارم  به  حال زار  می  گردم

شراب شوق  می نوشم  به  گرد يار  می  گردم
سخن مستانه  می گويم  ولے  هوشيار  می  گردم

گھےخندم  گھے گريم گھے افتم  گھے خيزم
مسيحا  در دلم  پيدا  و  من  بيمار  می گردم

بیا جانا  عنایت  کن  تو  مولانای رومی  را
غلام  شمس  تبریزم  قلندروار  می گردم

Continue reading ““O, God! Have mercy on me! Distracted, I whirl” — Rumi’s Gift”

Israel destroys a whole Negev Bedouin village

UPDATED WITH NEW PRESS RELEASE

Audio of Interview with Dr. Yeela Ranaan live at the scene of the demolished village:

This alert is from JVP’s Only Democracy? blog (h/t Alfred G.)

Alert: Thousands of police evacuating and demolishing the village of El-Araqib in the Negev

Thousands of police are in the village of el-Araqib right now – beginning a mass evacuation, demolition, and erasure of this historical Bedouin village. if you have access to the media, please send them to this village as soon as possible! the village of el-Araqib is between Rahat and Beer Sheva, and in a location that the Goldberg commission deemed outside of the areas allowed for the Negev Arabs… an area designated only for Jews… the JNF (Jewish National Fund) is planting a forest on this village lands – to make sure that the Bedouin cannot live on their village lands or use them for agriculture. the villagers turned to the israeli courts, as the JNF were planting this forest at the bequest of the Israeli government, but against Israeli law… the people of el-Araqib won the court battle… but this morning it seems that the Government of Israel has started a war — of the Government against its own citizens. for more information:

Dr. Yeela Raanan, Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages (RCUV). +972 54 7487005 yallylivnat@gmail.com

Continue reading “Israel destroys a whole Negev Bedouin village”

Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal – Espionage, Opacity and Future

What do newly declassified documents about weapons grade uranium and dual-use technology diversions from the US reveal about the role of espionage in building Israel’s secret arsenal? Did Israel’s proposed nuclear weapons sales to apartheid South Africa signal they are still for sale if the partner and price are right? Do FBI and CIA cover-ups of investigations into Israeli nuclear espionage signal official US government approval or political acquiescence? Are Israel’s nuclear weapons of strategic benefit to the US?

In an event organized by Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRMEP); ‘Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal – Espionage, Opacity and Future’, these questions were tackled by John J. Mearsheimer, Grant F. Smith and Sasha Polakow-Suransky, and moderated by Jeffrey Blankfort. PULSE has previously posted John Mearsheimer’s address; here is the full video of the event as well as individual speaker presentation audios over the fold.

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Outing the Muslimness, Finally: Some Viewing (and Hearing) Pleasures (The King is Out: Part VI)

The King is out: he is irreversibly a Muslim. His name is Khan: pronounce it correctly please. Long Live the King!

by Huma Dar

[Read Part I Part II Part III Part IV Part V]

Rizwan Khan Offering His Namaz

[I]n one scene I wanted to have just a half open door and I wanted to be shown saying namaz once. We couldn’t take that shot. Then we put that bit where I say the prayer: Nasrun minal lahe wah fatahun kareeb (God give me strength to win) [sic] [Victory is Allah’s, and the opening/victory is close] which is my own prayer too. I don’t think we should intellectualise entertainment.  See the fun of it.

This is how Shahrukh Khan describes his experience working in the film Chak De! India (Dir: Shimit Amin, 2007).  With apologies to King Khan for discarding his proposal to not “intellectualize” films, yet taking due “fun” in it, I argue that it is only in My Name is Khan (Dir: Karan Johar, 2010) that the King finally comes “out” as a Muslim.  No “half open door” is needed.  This coming out affords particular visceral pleasures to an audience (or at least a large section of it spread across the globe) long resigned to seeing SRK endlessly and persistently marked by the specifically filmic variety of Hinduness practiced in Bollywood: doing various pujas and aartis at different Hindu temples, or adorning his spouses’ hair-parting with sindhoor and smearing his own forehead with tilaks.  This performative Hinduization of Shahrukh Khan in Urdu-Hindi cinema is unrelenting precisely due to the dogged presumption of SRK’s Muslimness that is not easily obscured.  “In my films I have been going to temples and singing bhajans; no one has questioned that,” (my emphasis) SRK exclaims in the same interview.  No one “questions” the diegetic (filmic) Hinduness of SRK; it is expected and mandatory.  With the increasing and explicit polarization in India since 1990s, the anxiety around Muslimness is such that it requires perpetual masking: an iterative performance of Hinduness, secular or otherwise.  When the mask slips off, the performance is momentarily paused – as when SRK plays a Muslim character in a film and critiqued the anti-Pakistani politics of Indian Premier League (IPL) – Hindutva activists target SRK’s suburban Bombay home, Mannat, with massive demonstrations (See the earlier Part II for more).[1]

Continue reading “Outing the Muslimness, Finally: Some Viewing (and Hearing) Pleasures (The King is Out: Part VI)”

The Price of Translating a Narrative and its Context (The King is Out: Part V)

Karan Johar falteringly attempts to fashion a cinematic alliance of sorts between African-Americans and South Asians — very unusual in the Bollywood context and more so for Karan Johar, himself — but fails to seize the radical politics embedded. One wishes that the spirit of this song was continuously re-thought, re-energized, re-contextualized, re-translated. A revolution that stops moving, stops “revolving,” is nothing but an aborted one.

by Huma Dar

[read Part I Part II Part III Part IV]



In an interesting twist, Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan displaces or translates (one original meaning of “translate” is to bear or carry across from one place to another) the convoluted and complex, determining context from India, with a specific genealogy, on to the US.  The post-9/11 circumstances provide some unfortunate resonances, yet much of the untranslated/untranslatable context results in the particular aporias of the filmic text.  Even beyond Mandira’s furious and irrational directive to Rizwan Khan, he has to go around saying his name is Khan and “he is not a terrorist” because in that originary terrain of imposed defensiveness there is not much space for a “Muslim name” (besides certain limited spheres), leave alone for “My Name is Khan, and I am an American.”  This latter, more “affirmative” alternative to the “apologetic” cinematic version, is proposed by Suad Abdul-Khabeer in her excellent critique of the film.

Continue reading “The Price of Translating a Narrative and its Context (The King is Out: Part V)”

Jeff Blankfort: Whither the Israel Lobby?

George Kenney interviews Jeff Blankfort on the Israel Lobby at Electric Politics. We’ve only slightly truncated the talk here which you can listen to in full at EP. Jeff is always worth a listen and also comments on the recent developments involving General Petraeus and his report to Admiral Mullen, with this proposition for bringing down the Lobby:

If, flanked by General Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullen, Obama went before the American people, and told them in so many words what Petraeus told Mullen what Petraeus said in his testiomony – his prepared testimony — to the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the failure of israel to step up to the plate and withdraw from the Occupied [Palestinian] Territories and continue to build [illegal] settlements is against US national interests and is endangering our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. If he did that … the Lobby, if not collapse, it would be a major defeat for them … it would change American politics.

Economic Warfare: Israel vs America vs Iran

In the 1960s, the US government fought the Israeli drive for nuclear weapons while attempting to register Israel’s US lobby as a foreign agent. Fast forward 46 years and Americans are asked to defend Israeli nuclear hegemony against regional rival Iran—a hegemony that thwarted advice and consent governance.

Yesterday on KZYX radio Jeffrey Blankfort discussed his groundbreaking analysis of a Pew Research poll of Council on Foreign Relations members, which finds them less supportive of current US-Israel relations than the general public.  Blankfort later interviews Grant Smith about how in the 1960s the US government fought the Israeli drive for nuclear weapons while attempting to register Israel’s US lobby as a foreign agent.  Fast forward 46 years and Americans are now being asked to defend Israeli nuclear hegemony against regional rival Iran.  Smith discusses other newly declassified documents from his new book, Spy Trade: How Israel’s Lobby Undermines America’s Economy revealing AIPAC and Israel’s joint efforts against American industry groups to win preferential market access.

NB. The interview starts at the 17 minute mark, you can skip ahead by moving the audio player cursor.

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A Keynes Primer

John Maynard Keynes

Peter Clarke speaks to C. S. Soong of Against the Grain about John Maynard Keynes.

Download program audio (mp3, 46mb)

John Maynard Keynes died in 1946, but Keynesianism, in one form or another, is alive and well: the British economist’s name has been invoked repeatedly since the global economic meltdown began in 2008. But how much do we really know about Keynes, and what did he really say and write? Peter Clarke has written a new book about Keynes’s life and ideas.