The State of Palestine – A Hint of Liberation?

State of Palestine Stamp by Khaled Jarrar It occurs to me that I can’t address the issue of a Palestinian state without addressing my Anarchism. The national struggle is an issue of inevitable debate for many Anarchists who support the Palestinian struggle for liberation. Truth be told, as a local Anarchist, in a time when Palestine is still occupied territory, when asked about the Palestinian bid at the UN for a Palestinian state, I worry mostly about how more violent the Israeli army could get when we demonstrate with the villages. I worry about being denied entry into the occupied territory, in order to get to the demonstrations. I worry about not being able to see my friends, or being prosecuted for attempting to do so.

Many of us- “on the ground” as they say- Palestinians, Anarchists and allies, have been brushing off the reality of a Palestinian-state-positive vote in the UN , because we doubt it’ll change anything ”on the ground.” To those shot at, holding a flag or holding a stick is at best a semantic exercise.

That said, declaring a Palestinian state is not one of those small issues that can be brushed aside, especially because “state” is an internationally accepted legal term. As an Anarchist the idea of an international general assembly, in which whole populations have their say is remarkable to me. Had the United Nations been fashioned after a participatory society model, rather than a hierarchical, neo-liberal, democratic model, maybe it needn’t have had to hang its head in shame. But for now, one must hold the status of a “state”, in order to be recognized as a people- and consequently a person. So in a bid to understand the repercussions of next week, over our lives, more deeply, I’d like to delve into the legal opinions that have been published about the move.

Continue reading “The State of Palestine – A Hint of Liberation?”

Sun Deprived in Palestine

The PFLP's George Habash pulls an eyebrow

Balata Camp started as tents in the fifties, grew cement blocks in the sixties, installed sewage and water in the seventies, and has stretched ever upwards until now. The camp boasts the densest population in the West Bank: at least 25,000 people in a couple of square kilometres (the inhabitants claim up to 40,000). The buildings are so tightly packed that the kids forced out to play in the shadowed alleyways suffer from Vitamin D deficiency, sun deprivation. There are eight to ten people to a residential room. In school there are 50 children to a class. UNRWA schools and the graveyard take up most space. Most of the graves are those of people killed in the streets of the camp.

It’s a remarkably friendly place, but also discomfiting. Many of the young are prematurely aged and many of the old seem broken. There’s a higher proportion of wheelchairs than anywhere else I’ve been. In a comparatively wide street I found boys playing table football in front of a memorial to their murdered playmate. They laughed and screamed. Continue reading “Sun Deprived in Palestine”

Anna Baltzer: Palestinians “come second” at peace talks

This interview first appeared at iBrattleboro.com

Anna Baltzer on "The Daily Show"

A visit to the occupied territories of Palestine can change one’s perspectives forever. Such was the case of Anna Baltzer. Baltzer is a Jewish-American granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. In 2002, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Ankara, Turkey and soon after volunteered with the International Women’s Peace Service in the West Bank. There she was exposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She documented human rights abuses for the IWPS, returned to Palestine/Israel over the years, and published her experiences in a book called “A Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories.”

Baltzer is a leading human rights activist on the Mideast and travels across the country to raise awareness about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Her appearance on “The Daily Show” with Palestinian human rights activist Mustafa Barghouti was instrumental in raising awareness about life under the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. I caught up with Baltzer and we discussed several topics including her “The Daily Show” appearance; occupation myths; Israeli apartheid and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign; and the Mideast peace talks in Washington, DC.

Continue reading “Anna Baltzer: Palestinians “come second” at peace talks”

Rocking the Boat: A Brief History of Anti-Migrant Hysteria in Canada

In November, 76 Tamil refugees escaped Sri Lanka on a rusty freighter. They arrived in Victoria, where they were met by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials, who promptly jailed them for three months on allegations of terrorism. It would be fully half a year before the CBSA would admit that it had never had any evidence… In 2008, the federal and provincial governments were forced to issue apologies for the Komagata Maru. Now, two years later, if those words are to mean anything, we cannot afford to repeat history: let them stay.

by Fathima Cader

"MV Sun Sea" Uncredited Photo at: http://www.edynews.com/top-news/18-almost-500-sri-lankan-migrants-are-in-canadian-custody.html
"MV Sun Sea" Uncredited Photo at: http://www.edynews.com/top-news/18-almost-500-sri-lankan-migrants-are-in-canadian-custody.html

They’re at it again.

In November, 76 Tamil refugees escaped Sri Lanka on a rusty freighter. They arrived in Victoria, where they were met by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials, who promptly jailed them for three months on allegations of terrorism. It would be fully half a year before the CBSA would admit that it had never had any evidence.

By then, however, it was too late: anti-Tamil and anti-refugee hysteria had spread like wildfire. Now, mere weeks after that most tepid of mea culpas from the CBSA, the hysteria greeting the Tamil MV Sun Sea passengers is worse. As with the Ocean Lady, these migrants will be detained in Maple Ridge jails before their refugee claims are considered. The Conservatives have begun to create new rules to treat refugees who arrive by boat differently from others. Meanwhile, Paul Fromm, the infamous neo-Nazi, has been receiving uncritical coverage in mainstream media with his demands that the migrants be sent back.

As the paranoia grows ever more heightened, it becomes increasingly important that we resist it. The universal rights of safety and mobility must be upheld, not only for the Sun Sea migrants, but for all people fleeing violence.

Continue reading “Rocking the Boat: A Brief History of Anti-Migrant Hysteria in Canada”

After the Flood

Pakistan’s flood crisis is making the spread of disease a fast increasing problem and hospitals are struggling to cope with the sheer volume of affected people. Women and children, especially newborns, are suffering the most from malnourishment. Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull reports from northwest Pakistan.

Jemima Khan has a must-read piece in the Sunday Times. Here’s an excerpt:

The death toll, amounting to 1,600 people, has, Alhamdulillah (praise to God), so far been low relative to the magnitude of the disaster facing Pakistan. Mostly, though, the stories are grim. My ex-husband Imran Khan, whom I spoke to after he visited flood-hit areas in the northwest, sounded uncharacteristically defeated; more so, I thought, than even after his cancer hospital was bombed in 1996. “Pakistan could implode, Jem,” he said. “We are already on the brink of bankruptcy. The poverty and the suffering will be unimaginable. Best not to send the children this weekend. There’s too much to do.”

Continue reading “After the Flood”

Plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

Palestinian refugees are living in miserable conditions across Lebanon due to many factors such as scarce financial resources. Shunned by many employers, not allowed to own property and facing discrimination, Palestinian refugees are reduced to a miserable existence in overcrowded and unsanitary camps. On Sunday, thousands are expected to march to highlight their plight.

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin reports from Lebanon.

Continue reading “Plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon”

Leaving al-Tanf

When hundreds of Palestinians fled Iraq in 2006, no country in the Middle East would accept them.  The UN eventually set up tent camps in ‘no man’s land’ between the Iraq-Syria border. While the camps were supposed to be a ‘temporary’ solution, it was not until the end of 2009 that a small number of refugees were finally granted permission to move to Italy, while others were told they would be transferred to refugee camps in the region. Edith Champagn’s Leaving Al Tanf documents the stories of  several Palestinian refugees as they prepare to uproot their lives yet again, compelling us to think about how the idea of home, and of time and waiting is experienced by those whose lives have overwhelmingly been marked by uncertainty, liminality, and loss.

Inviting David Brooks to My Class

The Zionists are prisoners of a bad dream: they must first free themselves, break free from the prison in which they can only play the part of tormentors, if they and especially their Palestinian victims are to live normal lives.

M. Shahid Alam

On January 12, the New York Times carried an article by David Brooks on Jews and Israel. It so caught my eye, I decided to bring its conservative author to my class on the economic history of the Middle East. I sent my students the link to this article, asked them to read it carefully, and come to the next class prepared to discuss and dissect its contents.

My students recalled various parts of the NYT article but no one could explain its substance. They recalled David Brooks’ focus on the singular intellectual achievements of American Jews, the enviable record of Israeli Jews as innovators and entrepreneurs, the mobility of Israel’s innovators, etc. One student even spoke of what was not in the article or in the history of Jews – centuries of Jewish struggle to create a Jewish state in Palestine.

But they offered no comments about Brooks’ motivation. Why had he decided to brag about Jewish achievements, a temptation normally eschewed by urbane Jews. In my previous class, while discussing Edward Said’s critique of Orientalism, I had discussed how knowledge is suborned by power, how it is perverted by tribalism, and how Western writers had crafted their writings about the Middle East to serve the interests of colonial powers. Not surprisingly, this critique had not yet sunk in.

I coaxed my students, asking them directly to explore if David Brooks had an axe (or more than one) to grind. Was there an elephant in the room they had missed? What was the subtext of the op-ed?

Continue reading “Inviting David Brooks to My Class”

Pakistan and the Global War on Terror: An Interview with Tariq Ali

by Mara Ahmed, with Judy Bello

Tariq Ali and Mara Ahmad at Hamilton College, NY.

Mara Ahmed and I were given the opportunity to interview Tariq Ali when he spoke at Hamilton College in Upstate New York on November 11, 2009, during his recent speaking tour of the United States. Tariq, a native of Pakistan who lives in England, is a well known writer, intellectual and activist. He has traveled all over Southwest Asia and the Middle East while researching his books. Mara, who is working on a film highlighting the opinions of the Pakistani people regarding the current situation in Pakistan and the Western initiated ‘Global War on Terror’, had a lot of questions for Tariq about the internal state of Pakistan. I wanted to ask Tariq for his opinion about the effects of American foreign policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and what alternatives he thought might be available.

Mara: What is the role of Islamophobia in the Global War on Terror? Many American war veterans have described the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as imperialistic, racist and genocidal. Your comments?

Tariq: Well, I think Islamophobia plays an important part in things, because it creates an atmosphere in which people feel, “Oh, we’re just killing Muslims, so that’s alright.” And this situation is becoming quite serious in the United States and in large parts of Europe, where people feel that the fact that a million Iraqis have died is fine because they’re not like us, they’re Muslims. So, Islamophobia is becoming a very poisonous and dangerous ideological construct which has to be fought against.

Continue reading “Pakistan and the Global War on Terror: An Interview with Tariq Ali”

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