Dear Coen Brothers, It’s Nothing Personal (It’s all Political)

Ethan and Joel Coen recieve the $1M Dan David Prize on May 15th 2011 at Tel Aviv University. ~ Photo by REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Ethan and Joel Coen recieve the $1M Dan David Prize on May 15th 2011 at Tel Aviv University. ~ Photo by REUTERS/Amir Cohen

On May 15th, while thousands of people were getting shot and gassed in the streets, the Coen Brothers (and many others) took a million dollars from Tel Aviv University, in the form of the Dan David Prize. I’m sure someone would have cared to protest, had  over 15 people not been killed and hundreds injured, during the Nakba Day commemoration demonstrations, that same day.

Update (17.5.11): 21 dead, and over 200 injured.

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Jeffrey S Wiesenfeld is Harassing Me

Like many activists, I get hoards of hate mail. As someone who’s committed to abolishing violence, whether it be peer-to-peer or on a global scale, I believe that none of us should fear exposing violence towards us, or our friends and loved ones, who don’t have the privilege to do so. In my case, I truly believe I have absolutely nothing to fear, and so I bring to you a “correspondence”, initiated by Jeffrey S Wiesenfeld, after I had sent a stencil letter to the CUNY Board of Trustees members, including himself, regarding the Tony Kushner affair. I believe this is called harassment.

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Egypt: Seeds of Change

Revolutions do not come about from determination and desire for change alone, they need organization and planning. If you are one of those who believes that the Egyptian revolution was the consequence of a spontaneous outpouring of discontent, the following episode from AJE’s People and Power, which is a unique study in the art of revolution, should help disabuse you. Western activists in particular — whose failures were noted by Antonio Gramsci in the early decades of the century, and who have maintained an unbroken record of defeat since — will find a lot to learn from this.

People Power in the Middle East

M. Shahid Alam

From his weekly perch at CNN, Fareed Zakaria, speculated last Sunday (or the Sunday before) whether George Bush could take credit for the events that were unfolding in Tunisia, whether this was the late fruit of the neoconservative project to bring ‘democracy’ to the Middle East.

It is quite extraordinary watching Zakaria – a Muslim born and raised in India, and scion of a leading political family – mimic with such facility the language of America’s ruling classes, and show scarce a trace of empathy for the world’s oppressed, despite his propinquity to them by reason of history and geography. He does have a bias for India, but here too he only shows a concern for India’s strategic interests, not the interests of its subjugated classes, minorities and ethnicities. This I offer only as an aside about how easy it is for members of the upper classes in countries like India, Pakistan or Egypt to slip into an American skin whenever that dissimulation offers greater personal advantages.

As a cover for deepening US control over the Middle East – here is the latest civilizing mission for you – the neoconservatives in the Bush administration argued that the Islamic world produces ‘terrorists’ because it lives under autocracies. To solve the ‘terrorist’ problem, therefore, the US would have to bring democracy to the Middle East. This demagoguery only reveals the bankruptcy of America’s political class. It is a shame when the President of the United States and his neoconservative puppet-masters peddle such absurdities without being greeted by squeals of laughter – and shouted down as hypocritical, as farcical.

Who has been the leading ally and sponsor these past decades of nearly all the despotisms in the Middle East – those of royal pedigree and others seeking to become royalties?

Regardless, the real plan of United States failed miserably. It was dispatched to its grave by a people’s resistance in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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TJP

You are among the conscious minority who can see amid the collective insanity of the masses who are blind.

You have a heart and you use it for so much more than the simple necessity of pumping of blood.

You are truly blessed yet this blessing is often lost in the illusions of popular culture.

You have been given the greatest gifts of all, the gifts of life and humanity… and you are wise enough to exercise and nurture them.

You are often ignored or vilified or imprisoned or worse, yet you are who you are, you are human.

You are the conspirator and co-creator of a better world, a just and peaceful world.

You are the ancestor of those yet unborn.

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“Truth Alone Triumphs”: of David, Goliath, Stones, and Speech

“Azadi” is also the chant whose echoes swirl in the Kashmir Valley with greater resonance each day, from the minarets and playgrounds, boulevards and alleys, schools and courts, despite the crushing screeches of teargas and bullets of the Indian (in)security forces. It is “scriptured” into utterance by each breath of Kashmiri women, children, and men; calligraphed by their blood on their emerald valley; embroidered by their bones in Kashmiri Arabesque on worn cobblestones of the downtown; and papier-mâchéd in paisley tears on the blue of their beloved lakes.

by Huma Dar

“A Defiant Kashmiri woman being frisked by Indian Security Forces.” 2007. Uncredited photograph from a Kashmiri blogger

 

And the night’s sun there in Srinagar?  Guns shoot stars into the sky, the storm of constellations night after night, the infinite that rages on.  It was Id-uz-Zuha: a record of God’s inability, for even He must melt sometimes, to let Ishmael be executed by the hand of his father.  Srinagar was under curfew.  The identity pass may or may not have helped in the crackdown.  Son after son–never to return from the night of torture–was taken away.

… But the reports are true, and without song: mass rapes in the villages, towns left in cinders, neighborhoods torched.  “Power is hideous / like a barber’s hands.”  The rubble of downtown Srinagar stares at me from the Times.

… And that blesséd word with no meaning–who will utter it?  What is it?  Will the women pronounce it, as if scripturing the air, for the first time?  Or the last?

… What is the blesséd word?  Mandelstam gives no clue.  One day the Kashmiris will pronounce that word truly for the first time.  (Excerpt from Agha Shahid Ali’s “The Blesséd Word: A Prologue,” in The Country Without A Post Office,  1997: 16-17)

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Demonstration in Burlington, Vermont, USA

Here is a video of yesterday’s action in Burlington, VT, my home state. The second speaker is Yonatan Shapiro, a former IDF pilot who was in the same squadron that conducted the atrocious raid on the Mavi Mamara.

The activists took their message beyond the streets. They walked into a department store and the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream store. I’m sure you’re all familiar with Ben & Jerry’s. Given Ben & Jerry’s economic and social justice activism, I’m hoping this will wake them (and all Vermonters) up to the realities of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.  Another rally will take place tomorrow.  I’ll update this post when I get new information.