Category Archives: terrorism

one family in gaza

One Family in Gaza (2010, Jen Marlowe, 22 minutes) is a short film that documents the personal tragedy of one family in Gaza. What makes this film so powerful is that it is told entirely by the family themselves. There are a million or more stories like this in Palestine. Nearly everyone you meet has been affected in some way by decades of war and suffering, but it is worthwhile to hear it yourself from those who experienced it instead of reading it in a report or seeing it on television. The humanity conveyed in the tears of a mother or the anguished prayers of a father is hard to miss. You may contact the film maker here.

the almighty dollar, part 2: global islamist strategy

Part I of this series on the American Dollar can be found here.

Turkish water, Arab Gulf capital, Egyptian labor, and Israeli know-how will join hands in a sheer material enterprise with no identity or sense of direction. Consequently, there will be no feeling of pain caused by loss of dignity.

from The Imperialist Epistemological Vision” by Abdulwahab al Masseri

The Muslim world is a giant untapped well of power. Geo-strategically, the Middle East has always been important – straddling important trade routes and acting as a bridge between several continents. Even the Muslim minorities of the world, that is where Muslims make up a minority stake in a society, contain roughly 40% of the global ummah. Acting as a unified actor, the Muslim world is over a billion strong and contains much of the world’s capital and resources.

The issue is a splintering of the ummah that followed the rightly guided caliphs and the Golden Age of Islam. At one point, the Muslim world was one unified empire stretching from the Himalayas to the Straits of Gibraltar. Societies kept their identities and ways of life provided they were not against basic principles of Islamic governance. Identities were forged within the Muslim world – indeed, Egyptians in particular have always been fiercely nationalistic – but the kind of nationalism imported since the end of direct colonialism in the area is new and unfamiliar to many Muslims who still see themselves as Muslim first – Indian, Pakistani, Iraqi, Filipino second.

At the top of this Islamic world sits some of the greatest concentration of capital in the Gulf countries. Glimmering skyscrapers towering over empty streets, air-conditioned stadiums, and the sheikhas gliding through malls covered in black and gold, their filipino servants trailing behind buckling under the weight of shopping bags. It’s no wonder this Islamic elite has come under attack in recent decades by AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) as both an attempt at capital accumulation and an ancient drive from sects from the Sufis to the Khajarites who sought to deliver divine justice to the corrupt heads of the Caliphate. These today being those who control the capital and the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina.

Yet the strategy has shifted in recent years and rage has grown considerably in these offshoot groups. Instead of seeing the House of Saud as solely responsible for their predicament of addictive shopping and rampant tastes of luxury, the global Islamic resistance movement have lifted their eyes to the very top – America and Europe. By smashing at the dollar they are forcing the rich and corrupt among them to either reconsider their lifestyles or run for the hills, as seen recently in Tunisia.

What part does Israel play in such a strategy? Abdullah Azzam, famous mujahid in Afghanistan, became somewhat disillusioned as he was told to keep his desire for jihad against Israel on the back-burner and continue his focus against the Soviets. Is it any surprise that he and others who shared his view suddenly turned up dead in Peshawar – their suspected killers being Iranian Intelligence, Mossad, or even Osama bin Laden himself? Why is Israel so protected from the brunt of Islamic militarism? The simple answer may be that it represents a strategic interest to foreign colonial powers. Considering that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment is kept in storage in Israel and their physical presence as a thorn in the side of the Middle East, this could be true. Yet they are becoming more and more brave, unafraid of keeping their American masters pleased with their progress. Why is this? I’ve come to understand that Israel poses little threat and possesses no real strength in its current position – it’s very presence in the Middle East is part of the strategy.

The decaying, autocratic Middle East and the Muslim world in general is propped up by a wilting dollar. Israel is the gun held to the heads of the Arab capitals, ensuring that they will not jump ship. Imagine an intricate game of mouse-trap, with the final string of yarn tied around the trigger of a Tavor held by the Israeli government. It is in their interest as well that the dollar sustains, considering much of their foreign capital is held abroad and – if one is to imagine (as Israelis themselves do) that Jews worldwide are simply expat Israelis, a large portion of their population and subsequent charitable income and moral support depends on it as well. The methods Israel uses for colonial advancement are dollar-heavy and follow traditional, if not sloppy, methods of free-trade strategy.

Like the housing bubble, nearly anything will be done to keep the system afloat in the Middle East, to keep the money from the Gulf tied up in luxury yachts and the rest of it tied up in weapons. In such a high pressure situation – that is to keep this attempt to keep the bubble inflated – nearly everyone’s interests will be to sustain the status quo, especially when it comes to the dollar. The Saudis want to stay in power, the Assads want to stay in power, the Hashemites want to stay in power, Mubarak wants to stay in power, and the Israelis want to continue making money and building settlements. Everything about Middle East diplomacy is about keeping thirty cats from scratching each other to death while someone else keeps stealing all the cheese. So where do those who want to change the status quo hit the hardest?

Maybe it takes years for the seeds to sprout, but as unrest begins to ripple across the Maghreb from Algeria to Tunisia to Libya to Egypt, we can see the house of cards start to tremble something terrible.

another day at the checkpoint

Palestine is icy cold when there is no insulation and drafty windows and heat comes in the form of electric heaters and hot water bottles. People dance from foot to foot at the checkpoint and nobody minds being crowded too much because the wind whips clear through the chicken wire, occasionally slamming a plastic piece of siding so loud that everyone jumps. Above the heads Qalandiya airport sits decaying in the distance. The air control tower stands empty and scrubweed has started to grow on the runway.

This is ridiculous someone mutters in Arabic. They’ve got the old here today.

An old fellahiya woman, crumpled with age and with white hair peeking out under her white hijab fumbles with her blue shopping bags. Is she one of the women you see in Jerusalem sitting on the ground with their herbs and vegetables, selling a kilo and a half for a handful of shekels to make ends meet at home? Her beautiful dress, embroidered with the colors of flowers and sunny days, is the only bit of spirit at the checkpoint on a gloomy, windy day.

Despite the desperation to move – it’s been an hour waiting now before the turnstile – she is shielded from pushing and hobbles through, moving slow with arthritis. She alone hauls her bag onto the X-ray machine and shuffles through the metal detector. A crackling voice over the intercom begins to bark orders in Hebrew. With trembling, oak-like fingers she presents her papers to the girl behind the bulletproof glass. The barking orders escalate into a shrieking insistence and it is clear the woman does not know Hebrew. Those behind the turnstiles watch in silence as the painfully loud, unfamiliar tones grow louder and more painful. A door opens and a young woman with long curly auburn hair comes out with a gun, towering over the woman like some ancient war idol, shrieking and pointing back, back! The woman wordlessly gathers her things from the x-ray machine and shuffles back through the checkpoint to the wordless gasps of the group still waiting. With as much dignity as she can muster, she walks back out through the traffic, soldiers, watchtowers, and children selling gum and information.

With a buzz and a click, the turnstile opens again and now two – no, three are allowed through. An old man drops his change in the metal detector and painfully stoops to collect it from the muddy, cold concrete. More shrieks, low growls, and sarcastic crackling tones.

Wait again for some twenty minutes before the next buzz-click, when more are let through. In line now, waiting with difficulty. It has been almost two hours. Too many through and waiting, a mistake perhaps? The shrieking slams down again, feedback accompanying the orders. A youth who knows Hebrew turns to the crowd. “We have to all go back,” he says in Arabic. Nobody moves. It’s been too long. Such a struggle to wait and squeeze through with bags, two or three to the gaps in the turnstile. No one will be first to move. Soldiers appear alongside the chicken wire with large, other-worldly guns, waving them at the crowd and yelling “RUH!” – move, go, get out. Nobody moves. Who is going to be the first?

The door opens again and out comes a young man in glasses, fat around the waist and with an annoyed look in his eye. He sputters in Hebrew and lifts his gun at the crowd, finger on the trigger. Nobody moves. Who is going to be the first? He steps closer, angry now at the disobedience. There are young and old animals here, animals on their way to class or to work, sick animals, hungry animals, but all the animals are cold and tired of waiting. Go home and bullshit with the friends at Mike’s Place over a beer – You wouldn’t believe how difficult the Arabs were today!

The youth turns again to the crowd, raising his hands. We need to go back through he says.

Back through the turnstiles? someone answers disbelievingly.

“Yes, back through the turnstiles. One by one. They want us through one by one.”

The crowd behind the turnstiles, those still waiting behind the wire, murmur with despair as one by one they are forced to make room for shuffling feet and unwieldy bags. Each one is another five, ten minutes added on to the time it takes to go three miles to Jerusalem.

When all of the people are back through the turnstiles, the door to the booth opens again and out come young women with hair up or down, standing with hips cocked sipping Fantas and lighting cigarettes. It’s time for a break, or perhaps a shift change. They pull out cell phones to call girlfriends in Tel Aviv and bitch about the weather.

La ilaha il Allah! one woman cries out, a reminder to everybody that it is only God who can protect them from the evil that he has created.

what peace process?

Now that full-scale building has resumed in the West Bank, and land in East Jerusalem housing 30 Palestinian families has been handed over to Jewish settlers by the State of Israel, the “peace process” hangs in a delicate balance. Yet the very nature of such a process was created as tenuous by definition.

The Palestinian Authority has taken a stand against popular Palestinian sentiment to continue with talks despite continued land evictions, settler violence, and state terror. Now they are being set up for humiliation. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman addressed the United Nations yesterday, calling for an interim peace process that would “take a few decades” and involve a population transfer of Arab Israelis to Palestinian Authority control. These statements were not even contradicted by the Prime Minister’s office, and private sources say Netanyahu does not even necessarily disagree with such a proposal. Now Mahmoud Abbas and Barack Obama are standing like fools on stage with their hands out, while Israel brushes by as if they do not even exist.

The emotional problems are first and foremost the utter lack of confidence between the sides and issues such as Jerusalem, recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People and refugees. Under these conditions, we should focus on coming up with a long-term intermediate agreement, something that could take a few decades. We need to raise an entire new generation that will have mutual trust and will not be influenced by incitement and extremist messages.

With this statement, Lieberman says plainly that the world must wait for a tamer, more passive Palestinian generation to emerge before a peace agreement can be worked out. Citing “emotional problems” (that sounds quite like a man shouting “hysteria!” at an enraged woman), he fails to bring up any mention of Jewish extremism – such as the celebrations marking the end of the building freeze attended by thousands in the West Bank – and whether it presents an obstacle to peace.

As for an “exchange of populated territories”, what he means is jettisoning most of the 1.4 million Palestinian citizens in Israel to become the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, without their say in the matter. In exchange for this process, which would be ridding Israel of what they call a “demographic time-bomb”, Israel would be keeping hold of their Jewish settler population in the West Bank that currently carves up the land into a hellish archipelago – and, one assumes, the military presence there to “protect” the settlers. Win-win.

We can tell who the powerful party is by noticing who sets the rules, who keeps watch over the “emotional” landscape of the peace process. Even Barack Obama, who tried his hand to halt the Israelis from resuming full-scale settlement and colonization of the West Bank, faces humiliation at the hands of the Israeli leaders who take two billion dollars a year in aid with one hand while slapping him with the other.

Unfortunately, the Palestinians are simply window dressing – like the humiliation of Joe Biden earlier in the year when he visited Israel, the real story is about the Israeli right flexing its muscles publicly while America watches, unable to stop them or even speak up in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, the Palestinians continue to be forced off their land, continue to be imprisoned, and even their Israeli-passport-holding brothers and sisters are suddenly pale as their government – to whom they pay taxes and to whom they entrust the education of their children – talks about expelling them without even consulting them first.

The Palestinians are stuck with peace talks. They understand that the way the narrative is written, they will be laid with the guilt if the peace process fails. If they simply show up, try and put on a smile and extend a hand, the Israelis will slap it away and heap shame on their heads until they can’t stand it anymore. Yet, the alternative is nearly unthinkable as anti-PA activists continue to be imprisoned and tortured, as the PA continues to stifle protests against the peace process, etc. All for a sweet slice of foreign money and a world of humiliating defeats.

In the new world, we don’t have to worry about victory

Today the last combat soldiers are leaving Iraq. What an empty feeling! 56,000 soldiers are left behind to intervene at the behest of the Iraqi government or to fire their guns in self defense. Once we’ve thrown International Law out the window, why bother on reporting on such events at all? There were no ticker-tape parades on 5th Avenue and no cheering in the streets of Baghdad. Except for a few murmurs here and there in the press, it might not have happened.

After all, what changes? A large scale civilian force remains, protected by thousands of mercenaries. Iraq remains in tatters. Sectarian hit jobs are a fact of life and the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad is nearly complete. The universities and hospitals are not bustling with pride as they were in the seventies and unemployment is staggering. Women are being slaughtered where they used to be judges and doctors and teachers. The oil is flowing. The economy is in pieces, even moreso than the sanction era. We’ve left in the darkness of night and there is no dawn breaking at the horizon. Iraqis are not freer or healthier or happier than when we first got there. There are just a lot more of them dead.

Since Vietnam there has been no signing of treaties with enemies, only Status of Forces Agreements with puppet governments. There have been no victories, nothing worth a parade or a kiss for the camera. Just a lot of crying mothers and a lumbering war machine that keeps going, getting fatter and more sluggish with each binge on blood and oil. You’ve forgotten Iraq already and the millions dead will just fertilize the fields of a brave new world of bitter tears, clenched fists, and hanging heads. No need to even look her in the eye, America, just keep going.

commodification and facebook

What does it take to dehumanize the enemy? Eden Abergil might know something about it. Ha’aretz might know something too, since they blurred out her face in the above photo, but not her captives.

It’s hard to say where the Geneva Conventions would fall on this, especially since Israel operates (like the United States) so outside the realm of traditional warfare. Either way, it’s a disgusting example of how to further dehumanize the enemy. Unlike the war photos of old, with  soldiers standing smiling over mutilated corpses, these photos do not find their way into Dad’s dusty old shoebox in the back of the closet. Instead, they are publicized on Facebook.

Some are making the case that this is akin to Abu Ghraib, but I would disagree. After all, while what happened in Abu Ghraib was beyond the pale in terms of human decency, the photos taken of soldiers jeering next to naked prisoners were never intended for public viewing on Facebook. Even now, Eden Abergil has locked her macabre mementos up behind a privacy wall, and there is no proof that she shows remorse or has even removed them from her personal galleries. Has the internet enabled us to further dehumanize the enemy by rationalizing that posting such things is “OK”? Or are we all  becoming more and more commodified by publicizing every detail of ourselves online, making these abused and violated Palestinians as just “window dressing” in the background of our internal lives? We’ve commodified our family, friends,  romantic relationships, personal interests, and our appearances in order to take part in this new world of socialization – why not commodify the POWs as well?

“That looks really sexy for you,” says a comment posted by one of Abergil’s friends on the social networking site, alongside a picture or the soldier smiling in front of two blindfold men.

Abergil’s repose, posted below, reads: “I wonder if he is on Facebook too – I’ll have to tag him in the photo.”

from Ha’aretz

Movie Review: Budrus

Budrus (2009, Julie Bacha) is a film about the village of Budrus and its struggle against the apartheid wall cutting through 300 acres of its land. The film follows three people, a Fatah member, a Hamas member, and a young woman who is the daughter of the Fatah member. The viewer explores the unique situation of Budrus, how it was the first village to exercise inclusive non-violent protests against the confiscation of land. It shows the brutality of the IOF perfectly as the filmmaker captures IOF soldiers beating the fellaheen with sticks and shooting at them with live ammunition. The film emphasized the people of the village and their bravery admirably, however, there were a few criticisms I must mention.

In Budrus, the filmmaker uses the rather neutral term “barrier” when referring to the wall. In addition, by the end of the film one is unclear if the filmmaker is for or against the wall, as it seems by the end that the villagers have earned a victory by forcing the Israelis to build closer to the green line (1967 borders). I think the film would have been better if it had taken a stronger stand against the wall. However, seeing as the film also took great lengths to illustrate the bravery of the Israeli leftists who joined the protests and saught to humanize one of the soldiers who was captured on film beating Palestinians, I suppose there must be a desire to reach a broad audience. Unfortunately, when one seeks to capture a broad audience they fail to accurately portray the truth, the truth being that the wall is a disgusting blight on humanity and will hopefully be seen one day in the same light (popularly) as the Berlin Wall.

I watched this movie at the Ramallah Cultural Palace with a 50/50 mix of Palestinians and foreigners. Queen Noor of Jordan was also in attendance, and it seemed many were more keen on getting a photo of her than sticking around for the question and answer session afterward. Although the main characters and filmmaker were present on stage after the showing, the woman MCing the event had to appeal to the audience to  stay for Q&A instead of rushing out to watch the World Cup match. Indeed, nobody stayed. There were only a handful left seated for the Q&A and the rest rushed off to chatter excitedly about the match while hustling to one of the Ramallah clubs to watch.

“Come on, guys! This is more important than a football match!” she pleaded.

The foreigners and Palestinians begged to differ.

wiped away

Like the lives of the activists, in one single sweep Israel’s pirate ship massacre is wiped from the front pages. Even the loss of an American citizen, the Golden Goose of victims, is seemingly unimportant.

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Thursday that the deadly Israeli raid on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip was “tragic”, but he stopped short of condemning the actions of Israeli forces.

defending the indefensible

From Foreign Policy magazine:

1. We didn’t do it! (Denials usually don’t work, but it’s worth a try).

2. We know you think we did it but we aren’t admitting anything.

3. Actually, maybe we did do something but not what we are accused of doing.

4. Ok, we did it but it wasn’t that bad (“waterboarding isn’t really torture, you know”).

5. Well, maybe it was pretty bad but it was justified or necessary. (We only torture terrorists, or suspected terrorists, or people who might know a terrorist…”)

6. What we did was really quite restrained, when you consider how powerful we really are. I mean, we could have done something even worse.

7. Besides, what we did was technically legal under some interpretations of international law (or at least as our lawyers interpret the law as it applies to us.)

8. Don’t forget: the other side is much worse. In fact, they’re evil. Really.

9. Plus, they started it.

10. And remember: We are the good guys. We are not morally equivalent to the bad guys no matter what we did. Only morally obtuse, misguided critics could fail to see this fundamental distinction between Them and Us.

11. The results may have been imperfect, but our intentions were noble. (Invading Iraq may have resulted in tens of thousands of dead and wounded and millions of refugees, but we meant well.)

12. We have to do things like this to maintain our credibility. You don’t want to encourage those bad guys, do you?

13. Especially because the only language the other side understands is force.

14. In fact, it was imperative to teach them a lesson. For the Nth time.

15. If we hadn’t done this to them they would undoubtedly have done something even worse to us. Well, maybe not. But who could take that chance?

16. In fact, no responsible government could have acted otherwise in the face of such provocation.

17. Plus, we had no choice. What we did may have been awful, but all other policy options had failed and/or nothing else would have worked.

18. It’s a tough world out there and Serious People understand that sometimes you have to do these things. Only ignorant idealists, terrorist sympathizers, craven appeasers and/or treasonous liberals would question our actions.

19. In fact, whatever we did will be worth it eventually, and someday the rest of the world will thank us.

20. We are the victims of a double-standard. Other states do the same things (or worse) and nobody complains about them. What we did was therefore permissible.

21. And if you keep criticizing us, we’ll get really upset and then we might do something really crazy. You don’t want that, do you?

contradictory stances

Israel keeps changing their story.

First the flotilla victims were IHH (which was suddenly a radical Islamic terrorist organization) and then they were just simply Hamas/Terrorists. First the international protesters were simply uninformed, now they’re Islamic extremists/sympathizers. First the Israelis were going to “deliver” humanitarian aid (see Amira Hass’s views on this one here) and now the Israelis claim  up to 50 on the ship “could have terrorist connections with global jihad-affiliated groups”. I guess if the flotilla was such a publicity stunt, like Israel keeps claiming, they would have taken care to not pack night vision goggles and bulletproof vests (which today you can’t find a source for) and admit terrorists to their ranks, right?

If you can’t see through this I don’t know what to tell you. Israel boarded a ship in international waters (piracy) and killed unarmed civilians with head shots (murder/warcrime) because they are so desperate to keep their Gazan prison tight and secure and starving and hopelesss.

Even though Turkey is talking tough, my guess is that next Israel will be blaming Lebanon. I honestly don’t know at this point. They’re going to keep sending ships and Israel says next time they’ll use “more force”, as if killing up to 20 unarmed civilians  isn’t enough. Turkey threatens to escort the next flotilla with their navy, but we’ll see how NATO responds. Meanwhile, the United States couldn’t be bothered to respond with any kind of indignation past “deep condolences” for the families affected. Business as usual.