Boycott Israel? Amitav Ghosh & the Dan David Prize

The call for academic and cultural boycott is clearly a way to encourage civil society to play a broader political role—that is why it has the support of wide sections of Palestinian civil society. One of the most significant questions that call poses to us is simply this: How could those of us who oppose apartheid, occupation, and colonialism not support such a call?

Dear Amitav Ghosh,

We wish to express our deep disappointment in your decision to accept the Dan David prize, administered by Tel Aviv University and to be awarded by the President of Israel. As a writer whose work has dwelled consistently on histories of colonialism and displacement, your refusal to take stance on the colonial question in the case of Israel and the occupation of Palestine has provoked deep dismay, frustration, and puzzlement among readers and fans of your work around the world. Many admired your principled stand, and respected your decision not to accept the Commonwealth Writers Prize in rejection of the colonialist framework it represented.

Continue reading “Boycott Israel? Amitav Ghosh & the Dan David Prize”

PULSE: 20 Top Global Thinkers of 2009

On 30 November 2009 Foreign Policy magazine published its ‘Top 100 Global Thinkers’ list. We were naturally skeptical since the selection included Dick Cheney, General Petraeus, Larry Summers, Thomas Friedman, Bernard-Henri Lévy, David Kilcullen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salam Fayyad, The Kagan Family (yes, all of them) and Ahmed Rashid among others.  We don’t consider any of these people thinkers, let alone having global significance, and we couldn’t help but notice that the main thrust of all their work aligns with the global military and economic agenda of the US government. In response we asked twelve of our writers and editors to nominate their Top 20 global thinkers of 2009.  Our criteria included choosing those who inspire critical thinking, as well as those who have been able to buck received wisdom and shape public debate.  Always agreeing with their statements and positions was not a requisite, but in all cases our selections involved nominating those who have spurred people to challenge or enhance their own thinking in different ways.  The following is our unranked list.

Update: See Foreign Policy’s response, our rejoinder, and our reflections on the debate. (Also see our 20 Top Global Media Figures of 2009)

Arundhati Roy

The top nominee when it came to number of votes among PULSE contributors, Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy is as much known for her non-fictional political work as she is for her award-winning fiction. She is a spokesperson of the alter-globalization movement and a critic of hegemonial US foreign policy, as well as vocal on behalf of the anti-nuclear and environmental movements both in India and abroad. She is also a staunch critic of the repressive Indian policies in Kashmir. Most recently a contributor to We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples (October 2009), Roy continues to be passionately engaged and eloquently outspoken in building a social movement towards developing alternatives. Her latest book is Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy.

Continue reading “PULSE: 20 Top Global Thinkers of 2009”

After Iraq, it’s not just North Korea that wants a bomb

Steve Bell on the new nuclear arms race
Steve Bell on the new nuclear arms race

The ‘international condemnation’ of North Korea’s nuclear test on Monday was severely lacking in credibility for its fantastical double-standards, writes Seumas Milne, who argues only radical disarmament can halt their spread.

Here in Scotland the SNP made an attempt to seek support from this same ‘international community’ to rid the country of its nuclear weapons, which are stored in a naval base on the River Clyde. In October 2007 First Minister Alex Salmond wrote to representatives of 189 countries signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, seeking ‘observer status’ as defence is not an area devolved to Holyrood. The renewal of the Trident missiles is set to run into the tens of billions over the next 20 years, with the parent Westminster government insisting this is a necessary “deterrent” to protect “national security interests”. Sadly the list of replies were published last summer showing there to be little international support for this brave move from a minority administration.

This example reflects Milne’s Guardian article nicely I think.

The big power denunciation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons test on Monday could not have been more sweeping. Barack Obama called the Hiroshima-scale ­underground explosion a “blatant violation of international law”, and pledged to “stand up” to North ­Korea – as if it were a military giant of the Pacific – while Korea’s former imperial master Japan branded the bomb a “clear crime”, and even its long-suffering ally China declared itself “resolutely opposed” to what had taken place. Continue reading “After Iraq, it’s not just North Korea that wants a bomb”

Emperor Obama

Obama is certainly a good diplomat. He’s given an interview to a fawning journalist from the Saudi-owned Arabiyah channel (as opposed to the more credible Jazeera) in which he talks nice. Examine his words, however, and you see that the basic parameters have not budged an inch. ‘Israel’s security’ remains paramount; Hamas and Hizbullah are implicitly labelled terrorist (Iran supports terrorist organisations); the liberation of Palestine is reduced to an issue of economic development. On the ground, meanwhile, Obama’s first week was marked by the imperial murder of tens of civilians in Pakistan. Richard Seymour  provides an excellent analysis here:

The first Democratic president in the modern era to be elected on an anti-war ticket is also, to the relief of neocons and the liberal belligerati, a hawk. Committed to escalation in Afghanistan, his foreign policy selections also indicate bellicosity towards Sudan and Iran. During his first week in office he sanctioned two missile attacks in Pakistan, killing 22 people, including women and children. And his stance on Gaza is remarkably close to that of the outgoing administration. The question now is how Obama will convince his supporters to back that stance. Bush could rely on a core constituency whose commitment to peace and human rights is, at the very least, questionable. Obama has no such luxury. In making his case, he will need the support of those “liberal hawks” who gave Bush such vocal support.

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