PULSE’s Top 10 Global Thinkers of 2010

In response to the curious choices in Foreign Policy magazine’s ’Top 100 Global Thinkers’ list last year, we decided to publish our own. In 2010, Foreign Policy‘s selections were even more abysmal: among others it included Robert Gates, Ben Bernanke, Hillary Clinton, David Cameron, Thomas Friedman, Ahmed Rashid, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bjorn Lomborg, Richard Clarke, Madeleine Albright, Salam Fayyad…and John Bolton! Would anyone outside FP’s editorial board confuse them for a thinker? Once again, it appears FP chose based on the alignment of an individual’s work with the global military and economic agenda of the US government. We therefore asked our writers and editors to nominate once again their own top 10 global thinkers. The following list was the result. (Also see our Top 10 Media Figures of 2010)

Tony Judt

A towering intellect, a moral giant, a master of prose, and an outstanding historian, Tony Judt did what only the greatest of thinkers do: he constantly evolved. More significantly, he never succumbed to orthodoxies, he was always on the edge. In his later years, he also outgrew his middle-of-the-road liberalism to adopt principled, at times radical, positions on war and capitalism. He also jettisoned his youthful Zionism to emerge as the proponent of a single binational state in Palestine. In 2006 he was the only mainstream figure to come to the defence of Mearsheimer & Walt for their groundbreaking London Review essay. He later excoriated Israel as the ‘country that wouldn’t grow up.’ He was also the author of Postwar, an elegant and expansive history of Europe since 1945. We mourn his loss.

Chalmers Johnson

An exemplary scholar, Chalmers Johnson metamorphosed from a hardline Cold Warrior into one of the most formidable critics of US militarism, mapping America’s expanding imperium of bases and spotlighting the fraying edges of its republic. His 2000 book Blowback was as prophetic as his subsequent books The Sorrows of Empire and Nemesis were prescient. His longtime JPRI associate Steve Clemons has described him as the ‘acknowledged godfather of the conceptualization of the “developmental state“’ and as ‘an apostate and heretic in the field of political economy’ in the neoliberal hive at the University of Chicago. Johnson was also a literary critic, a skill he deftly used in his later writings to show how the imperial imagination was reflected in the language of metropolitan literature. His departure  has greatly impoverished the intellectual world.

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Amira Hass Eqbal Ahmad Memorial Lecture

The brave and gifted Israeli journalist Amira Hass, daughter of Nazi Holocaust survivors and a past resident of Gaza (she authored a book about Gaza in 2000), was a featured lecturer at this year’s Eqbal Ahmad Memorial hosted by Hampshire College.

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Bring on The Third Intifada!

After hearing that the Palestine Liberation Organization has decided to abandon a resolution requesting the Human Rights Council to forward Goldstone’s report to the UN Security Council, the thought flashed through my head that if I was Palestinian, I’d vote Hamas. What could have possibly possessed them, but a sheer disconnect from their people? One must ask, is their money that good?

Fatah Vs. Hamas
On many occasions, we that are born free (all is relative) find it hard to understand Palestinian mentality. Just this week, I’ve had exhausting debates about the safety of children, during the Bil’in weekly protest. Though I can’t defend or agree with allowing your children to be near the fence, when the army is 101% likely to fire gas grenades, I firmly believe that mindsets under occupation are something we don’t fully understand. Maybe when I’m a mother to a child that’s been snatched from his bed at night, arrested, beaten and interrogated, I’ll have a different perspective on danger.

By the same token, I believe it may be extraordinarily hard to make that fateful choice, when you’re at the voting booth. Although Hamas has been cynical towards its people during the Gaza massacre (claiming to have “won the war” and other flamboyant rhetoric), as if militaristic ego was a top priority; If I were Palestinian this latest in a long line of PLO sell-outs would seem much more cynical, to me.

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Suicide Bombers and their Families

681686_02Amira Hass speaking at the University of California, Berkeley, in October 2003, on suicide bombers and their families.

Hass has gained a deep understanding of the phenomenon of suicide bombing and explains her intriguing findings; such as that often families of would-be bombers alert the police themselves, jail being preferable to the death of a loved one.

Suicide Bombers and their Families (58:04): MP3


We Came to Annihilate You

The following article by Amira Hass analyses soldier’s graffiti as more representative of the IDF mission in Gaza than the words of trained spokespeople, titled The Writing on the Wall.

We came to annihilate you; Death to the Arabs; Kahane was right; No tolerance, we came to liquidate. This is a selection of graffiti Israeli soldiers left on the walls of Palestinians’ homes in Gaza, which they turned into bivouacs and firing positions during Operation Cast Lead. Here and there, a soldier scribbled a line of mock poetry or biblical quote in the same sentiment. There were also curses on the Prophet Mohammed and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, along with shift schedules and favorite soccer teams.
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Return to Gaza

Amira Hass has a brilliant piece in the latest issue of the London Review of Books. I consider LRB and Le Monde Diplomatique easily the world’s best publications. They are also eminently affordable; I’d encourage everyone to subscribe.

On Friday, 16 January, Mohammed Shurrab and his two sons, Kassab and Ibrahim, took advantage of the daily lull in the Israeli assault – the ‘three hours’ promised by the IDF – to travel from their plot of land in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip back to their home in Khan Younis. They were driving a red Land Rover. On the road, soldiers in a tank waved them on. Later, in the village of Al Fukhari, in a street lined with small houses and gardens, their vehicle was shot at by soldiers stationed on the roof of a local home. Kassab was killed instantly. Ibrahim lay bleeding beside his father; he died at midnight. Mohammed Shurrab had called for help on his cellphone, but the army prevented ambulances from entering the area until 23 hours after the shooting. The closest hospital was two minutes’ drive away.
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