A Leftist Response to Leftist Delusions on Syria

This excellent piece was written by Shiar in response to Stop the War’s Lindsey German (who can’t even get the Syrian president’s first name right) and was first published at the Syria News Wire.

“Being anti-imperialist yet West-centric,” writes Shiar, “just does not work: it is still Orientalism. This Orientalist (and statist) world view is so dominant within the Western Left that even a mass, popular uprising is reduced to a Western-manufactured conspiracy (which is, incidentally, the same line as that the Syrian regime has been repeating). It not only ignores facts on the ground and the complex political dynamics at play in those countries, but also overlooks those people’s agency and reduces them to either some inferior and stupid stereotype (Islamist terrorists) or some romanticised mythical version that is compatible with the dominant Western values (pro-democracy, peaceful, etc.).”

I have no idea where you get your news about Syria from, but it strikes me that it’s probably mostly from the Guardian, BBC and other establishment mouthpieces (when it comes to foreign policy anyway). For how else can one explain your sudden realisation that Syria is only now “descending into hell”? Really?! All this death and destruction over the past 26 months has not been hellish enough for you? Only now, when your beloved mainstream media start to recycle some state propaganda nonsense about the conflict in Syria taking (yet another) dangerous turn or crossing some ‘red line’, do your alarm bells start to ring?

You see, information sources are not just about information; they also shape your perspective. As a Leftist activist, one would have thought you would mention – at least once, in passing – the popular uprising or the revolution, what Syrians think and want, or anything remotely related to people. Instead, all you obsess about is big politics from a statist perspective: regime change, foreign intervention, regional war, Israel, Iran, bla bla bla. Continue reading “A Leftist Response to Leftist Delusions on Syria”

White Man’s Burden: Because Normalization is Hard to Do

On +972 magazine, IPCRI’s Dan Goldenblatt has invited “anyone who has criticism of how we at IPCRI try to advance this goal to tell us so, engage and challenge us, and help us and others improve.” As a long-time critic of the “liberal left” “peace industry” (I thank Goldenblatt himself for the latter term), I’m taking him up on his invitation, picking up from where PACBI left off. To start off, I’ll wonder whether IPCRI “brought [themselves] together” with PACBI to “meet, discuss, argue, build, take apart, share and cooperate”? Or did Goldenblatt just write up his public response to PACBI’s engaging and challenging critique of the organization?

Continue reading “White Man’s Burden: Because Normalization is Hard to Do”

Part II of NYTimes eXaminer interview with Belén Fernández

The following is a the second half of an interview conducted by the new NYTimes eXaminer with PULSE co-editor Belén Fernández about her book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work. Read the first half here.

Q: Did you come away with a lower opinion of Friedman or of the people and institutions that continually give him platforms to spew his idiotic, loathsome views?  I find it so telling that, when Friedman did his “suck on this” performance on Charlie Rose, Rose just nods and leans in for the next question instead of calling Friedman out for saying one of the most offensive things ever said on television.  Or to put it another way:  Do you think the New York Times would allow one of their columnists to consistently dehumanize entire groups of people – to the point of openly calling for civilian deaths in Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq – if those people weren’t Arab/Muslim?

Unfortunately, Orientalist dehumanization is institutionalized in US media discourse, the result being that there is no overwhelming public concern when over a million Iraq lives are lost thanks to America’s bellicose projects or when 1400 Palestinians perish in a matter of 22 days at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces.

It is utterly appalling that neither Charlie Rose nor anyone else in the US establishment media took issue with Friedman’s obscene proclamation, and that he was never required by his employer to apologize for it in the interest of maintaining a pretense of objectivity. One can imagine the uproar that would have ensued—and over which Friedman himself would have presided—had, for example, Yasser Arafat instructed Israelis to suck on things, or had Osama bin Laden justified 9/11 with similar terminology. Friedman, on the other hand, is permitted to continue blissfully peddling his contemptuous analyses of the Arab/Muslim world, such as his 2007 assessment—with regard to the US military—that Iraqis “don’t deserve such good people… if they continue to hate each other more than they love their own kids.”

Of course, it is safe to assume that most Iraqis exhibit normal human affection for their offspring, including for those millions of offspring that have been killed, maimed, displaced or otherwise made to suffer as a result of a US military-inflicted sucking, and that the half a million Iraqi children previously killed by US-championed sanctions were probably also loved by their parents.

Even if Charlie Rose et al. fail to comprehend that sucking orders do not qualify as proper journalistic etiquette, they should at least be able to comprehend that Friedman’s argument for why the sucking should occur is in complete defiance of logic. According to Friedman, Iraqis must be made to suck so that the US can effectively combat the “terrorism bubble” that has developed in “that part of the world” and that poses a “fundamental threat to our open society,” something Americans discovered on 9/11. However, this very same Friedman also explains that the real threat to “open, Western, liberal societies today” consists not of “the deterrables, like Saddam, but the undeterrables – the boys who did 9/11.” The resulting argument—made by someone who himself criticizes the Bush administration for implying a link between bin Laden and Saddam Hussein—is that war against deterrables whose weapons are not the problem will solve the problem of undeterrables who are the weapons and who by definition cannot be deterred anyway.

Continue reading “Part II of NYTimes eXaminer interview with Belén Fernández”

NYTimes eXaminer interviews Belén Fernández

The following is a the first half of an interview conducted by the new NYTimes eXaminer with PULSE co-editor Belén Fernández about her book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work.

Billed as “an antidote to the ‘paper of record'”, the NYTimes eXaminer‘s Advisory Council is composed of such distinguished figures as Richard Falk, Phyllis Bennis, and Edward Herman.

See Phil Weiss’ comment on the interview at Mondoweiss.

Q: Why Tom Friedman? And can you talk a little about how the book is organized? 

A: My decision to write the book was not the product of any sort of long-standing obsession with Thomas Friedman, whose journalistic exploits I remained mercifully immune to for most of my existence up until 2009.

Then, about midway through that year, the idea came to me suddenly when I noticed the $125 “Russian breakfast” option on the room-service menu at my five-star Havana hotel.

Kidding. In 2009 I watched with simultaneous fascination and horror as Friedman flitted on pedagogical missions from Lebanon to Iraq to Afghanistan to Palestine to Africa, where he discovered the root cause of oppression in Zimbabwe by going on safari in Botswana.

Later that same year, Friedman’s decades-long lecture to the Arab/Muslim world on how to behave reached new levels of absurdity with his pronouncement according to which:

A corrosive mind-set has taken hold since 9/11. It says that Arabs and Muslims are only objects, never responsible for anything in their world, and we are the only subjects, responsible for everything that happens in their world. We infantilize them.

Arab and Muslims are not just objects. They are subjects. They aspire to, are able to and must be challenged to take responsibility for their world.

Arab/Muslim subjectivity was of course called into question not only by the fact that Friedman in this very same article instructed the Islamic world to engage in a civil war equal in ferocity to the US civil war, but also by the fact that—approximately 10 days prior to criticizing the infantilizing of Arabs and Muslims—he had remarked to an amused Fareed Zakaria of CNN that Afghanistan was like a “special needs baby” adopted by the US. (Friedman had refrained in this case from throwing in his regular complaint that the US was “baby-sitting a civil war” in Iraq—a complaint he apparently felt was not irreconcilable with his own declaration of the need for an Iraqi civil war.)

Continue reading “NYTimes eXaminer interviews Belén Fernández”

BDS, LGBT, and Why You Should Care about Pinkwashing

by Shiri Eisner

The latest video hoax produced by the Israeli government and released unto YouTube has recently drawn wide attention to a phenomenon that many radical LGBT groups have been trying to combat for quite a while now: pinkwashing.

For those unaware of the hoax story so far, the gist of it goes thus: a mysterious video goes on YouTube in which a ‘disillusioned’ gay activist by the name of “Marc” tells his viewers about his attempt to join the Gaza Flotilla, only to be rebuked by the organizers on account of his being gay. “Marc” then goes on to tell us, that after being rejected in such a homophobic manner, he went on to find pictures of Palestine solidarity and human rights organizers embracing Hammas leaders. The shocked “Marc” then warns his fellow gay activists from believing the “lies” of these terrible human rights groups and, indeed, from joining or supporting either the flotilla or the Palestinian solidarity movement. However, all’s well that ends well: the video was quickly exposed as a hoax, tracking it back to a minor Tel Aviv gay celebrity by the name of Omer Gershon, by and by proving that the Israeli government has no fear of spreading outright lies in attempts to achieve its propaganda goals (for example, it’s worth noting that out bisexual author Alice Walker will be joining the flotilla).

So, What’s This “Pinkwashing” Anyway?

Continue reading “BDS, LGBT, and Why You Should Care about Pinkwashing”

Representing the East, Viewing the West

Renowned anthropologist Laura Nader (sister of Ralph Nader) discusses how Arab/Muslim women perceived the west during their encounters in the past centuries.

Downloadprogram audio (mp3, 47.8 Mbytes)

Laura Nader

Edward Said spent much of his distinguished career combatting Western stereotypes of the Arab world. Laura Nader explains what Said meant by “Orientalism,” and describes what Arabs who visited the West in past centuries came to think of Western practices. Also, Adel Iskandar talks about the volume in which Laura Nader’s article about Said appears.

Adel Iskandar & Hakem Rustom, eds., Edward Said: A Legacy of Emancipation and Representation UC Press, 2010.

eXing TEDx

TED is… TED is…. OK, I’m actually having a seriously hard time defining this… thing. And the site isn’t very helpful. So, as far as I can gather, TED was a conference in 1984, that brought together people from the Technology, Entertainment and Design industries for the Technology, Entertainment and Design industries people. It’s become a non-profit (owned by the Sapling Foundation), which holds double-annual conference, traditionally held in Long Beach and Palm Springs and Edinburgh, Scotland (but they’d rather say “Edinburgh, UK”, mind you). The goal of TED is to “spread great ideas”, they call those “ideas worth spreading”.

TEDx – The Image of a Perfectly Western World

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HotDocs and CoPro: Entertaining Palestinian Voices

CoPro and HotDocs

Since the second that I’ve realized that the only political action left for people who wish to see Palestinian rights realized is Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, it’s been immediately clear that the Palestinian produce and services, and culture and narrative would have to be simultaneously promoted. This would prove to be tricky after 60 years of ongoing ethnic cleansing and simultaneous economic buildup. The systems that have formed in Israel for the benefit of the Palestinian population have often artificially separated the “social” from the “political” and created institutions that are unable and unwilling to truly improve Palestinian lives. Without political analysis, we are left with institutions that’s sole purpose is to serve as a fig leaf, depicting Israel as a state which promotes Palestinian social care and voices, when in fact, all they do is pat themselves on the back for boxing the Palestinian population into a perpetual state of dependence and forced gratitude.

Continue reading “HotDocs and CoPro: Entertaining Palestinian Voices”

Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms

By Huma Dar

A woman in niqab being arrested in Paris, April 12, 2011, copyright EPA

Of Civilities and Dignities

On 22 June 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, asserted that burqas (or the burqa-clad?) are “not welcome” in France, adding that “[i]n our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity” and that “the veils reduced dignity.” France’s Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, estimated at six-million-strong.  And this is just an approximation, as the French Republic implicitly claims to be post-race and post-religion via a prohibition on any census that would take into account the race or religion of its citizens. (This anxiety mirrors the brouhaha in Indian media àpropos the much-contested enumeration of OBCs or Other Backward Castes in the Indian census surveys of 2011, or the urgency to declare some spaces post-caste, post-feminist, and post-racist while casteism, patriarchy and racism continue unabated.)

Continue reading “Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms”

“Veil in the Time of War” or “Veilin’ the Time of War”

In the context of the current multiple arenas of war and occupation in Muslim-majority regions, the issues of gender and sexuality are vitally linked to the casus belli, both within and without academia. Such linkages, with a long and complicated genealogy thoroughly imbricated in the politics of colonization, decolonization, and neo-colonization, also indicate an obsessive desire to re-enact the “discovery narrative” or the “rescue narrative.” Examining current contestations in popular media – including recent articles written by Maureen Dowd, Naomi Wolf and Phyllis Chesler et al and the poster designed by Alexander Segert, which was integral to the success of the anti-minaret Swiss referendum – this essay investigates whether, how, and where the neoconservative, neoliberal, and the mainstream feminist discourses converge, diverge, and intersect.

Segert's Anti-Minaret Poster

by Huma Dar

In the context of the current multiple arenas of war and occupation in Muslim-majority regions, the issues of gender and sexuality are vitally linked to the casus belli, both within and without academia.  Such linkages, with a long and complicated genealogy thoroughly imbricated in the politics of colonization, decolonization, and neo-colonization, theorized by Inderpal Grewal, Gayatri Spivak, Lata Mani, Leila Ahmed, Sherene Razack, Saba Mahmood, Sunera Thobani amongst others, also indicate an obsessive desire to re-enact the “discovery narrative” or the “rescue narrative.”  Examining current contestations in popular media – including recent articles written by Maureen Dowd, Naomi Wolf and Phyllis Chesler et al and the poster designed by Alexander Segert, which was integral to the success of the anti-minaret Swiss referendum – I investigate whether, how, and where the neoconservative, neoliberal, and the mainstream feminist discourses converge, diverge, and intersect.  I undertake to deconstruct the ongoing debates that obsessively revolve around the veil or the sexuality that is variously professed to be suppressed, annihilated, or even “discovered” beneath the veil by some liberal explorers.

Continue reading ““Veil in the Time of War” or “Veilin’ the Time of War””