Category Archives: warfare

Blood – Suja Sawafta

I.
Plasma, fluid full of cells,
Red, white, medical anatomy
Of iron that carries oxygen,
Drumlike, through the body,
In a wave of beats,
Flaps like a hummingbird,
Continuous, life is oxygen that moves through phases in a being,
Red, maroon, purple, blue.
Iron, salt, preservation is necessary
For life, circulation of platelets,
Or broken pain, which after all
Is nothing more than a blow to the nerves,
Bruising until it becomes a plush plum
Cloud under the skin,
Marble disfiguration, pollution.
Blood is rushing pleasure or
Settling fear, a feeling,
A metaphor for something that
Spills and spreads too easily, but
Nonetheless can stop dancing through your
Nerves in a beat, one moment,
Final, that defines a conclusion.

II.
Blood is a line,
A genetic history, belonging,
Love between two people,
A child, a muse, or traces
Of a caravan that traveled
From Baghdad to Jerusalem,
The descendants of which might now
Live in the Jordan Valley, a link.
Legacy, a story told and retold
From one generation to another,
A call in the wind, an echo,
The reincarnation of a soul,
Ethnic relevance, like the
Boshnak who once came from
Bosnia and now call themselves Palestinian.
Blood is sumac that flavors
A national dish, tomatoes
Grown in Jenin, Gaza
Star gazing, sleeping on a rooftop,
A shower of bullets, glittering,
That puncture people trying to live.
Blood is a walk in the grove, or
A tradition, it colors skin,
A bride blushing pink, or
A young man from Yaffa
Who is gold, his mother
Brown, withered like leather,
Lasting and authentic.
Here blood is loyalty,
It is brotherhood, it
Is steadfastness.

III.
Blood is a Palestinian child running,
For fear of spilling, of slipping
For loosing an irreplaceable amount
Of platelets, because she took
A walk in the grove or because
She refused to show the soldier
By the wadi her breasts.
Blood is humiliation
That she cannot be human,
Unpleasant like a scar from
A stray bullet.
Blood is inhumane, unpure,
A differing translation due to context,
Blood is the flow of resistance,
The sound of footsteps, a whisper,
it is the coping method of a mother
Who insists that her sons
Blood smells of lavender
Laced with the pure sweetness
Of being a martyr.
Blood is the reason for too much salt
In this earth rich with minerals
Because of the abundance of death.

Blood is a release from
the binding of life.

have fun in ramallah or die in gaza

There is another article is out about Ramallah, this time in the Jerusalem Post. Entitled “Palestine’s New Bride”, we glimpse a view of the thumping nightlife of Orjwan, value real estate prices, and a new Swedish luxury hotel. What kind of child thinks these are valid, positive economic indicators and not instead revealing of a class crisis in Palestine? After all, unemployment remains up to 40% in some parts of the West Bank, checkpoints are still manned by private security forces and Israeli teenagers, and kids are dragged out of bed in the dead of night without charges. The Jpost article doesn’t mention this, it just talks about how less corrupt the new Palestinian government is to be able to foster this “economic development”.

Surprisingly, it’s the only source I’ve seen so far that offers a perspective so often left out of other write-ups.

“Whether we like it or not, Ramallah has become the real capital of Palestine,” said Munir Hamdan, a local businessman and Fatah operative. “The president and prime minister have their offices here. So do the parliament and all the government ministries.”

Hamdan and other Palestinians accused the Palestinian Authority of “collusion” with Israel in turning Ramallah into the political and financial capital of the Palestinians. The latest project to build a government complex in Ramallah has left many residents here wondering whether their leadership has abandoned the dream to turn Jerusalem into their capital.

“If they are building a new government compound here, that means they have no plans to be based in Jerusalem,” complained Hatem Abdel Kader, a Fatah legislator from Jerusalem. “Unfortunately, the Palestinian government of Salam Fayyad has abandoned Jerusalem in favor of Ramallah.”

Abdel Kader is perhaps one of the few people who know what they are talking about when it comes to Jerusalem. About two years ago Fayyad appointed him as minister for Jerusalem affairs.

However, Abdel Kader resigned a few weeks later, saying he had discovered that his ministry did not even have enough money to buy a desk and a chair for him.

“I have to be honest with you and tell you that we have lost the battle for Jerusalem,” Abdel Kader lamented. “One of the reasons is because the Palestinian government doesn’t really care about Jerusalem.”

Two stark examples for the kids in the villages: Gaza and Ramallah. In Gaza, the government cares about Jerusalem. In Ramallah, the government doesn’t. Examine the differences between the locations. Losing Jerusalem is hardly a material loss – it was lost a long time ago – but losing the hope for Jerusalem indicates a loss of heart, which means Orjwan will be doing good business in the upcoming months. Really, a great investment opportunity for anyone who’s interested.

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

conspiracies no. 1

“It’s not hard to understand. The United States needs to intentionally destabilize countries in order to maintain regional hegemony. Look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, parts of the Philippines and Indonesia, et cetera. This provides a easy launching ground for covert activities against rising state and non-state actors and supplies illicit goods for the black market. Look at Afghanistan and Colombia – drug plantations. We send paramilitaries out from Colombia in an effort to destabilize other regions and fund the paramilitaries with our drug consumption. We ship out opium from Afghanistan to fund the warlords there and ensnare colonized populations elsewhere. And look how the NGO’s and IGO’s fit in. Parts of Sub-Saharan Africa are whole wrecks of destabilized states and the humanitarian orgs create cover to build roads to move out coltan and the like. Wherever there’s a huge humanitarian presence, I get suspicious. It means intentional destabilization has occurred – yes, even in Haiti – and the West is moving in with their neo-missionaries to build roads to the ports. Same old story.”

weak justification

Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission.

From “CIA report into shoring up Afghan war support in Western Europe, 11 Mar 2010”

A few weeks ago I had an argument with someone regarding using photos of maimed women for political purposes. My point was that using women and their personal tragedies as ways to justify political actions (including war) further denied them personal agency as they had little to no control over the delivery of their messages of pain and suffering, nor did they have control over the kinds of things that would be done in their name. During the buildup to invading Afghsnistan we read story after story on how the Afghan’s treated their women. It hearkened back to justifications during the Spanish-American war of women being “hassled”, thereby justifying the death of hundreds of thousands.

When one looks at a photo like what is on the cover of Time this week, we should first stop to consider not only the events and conditions that allowed such violence to happen, but also the motives behind such a cover. “What happens if we leave Aghanistan” hangs like a warning, as if we are forcing the illustrated situation upon more women if we leave. However, the United States has been in Aghanistan for decades. Even before our invasion in late 2001, the United States was present in Afghanistan through our CIA-client organization, the Taliban. This woman illustrated, whose name and identity is swallowed up by the political overtones of her portrayal, was maimed during American presence in Afghanistan. Indeed, according to the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan, violence against women in Afghanistan has not abated since our invasion. The warlord government set up by NATO forces has just as bad of a track record with women as the Taliban does.  Executions continue, poverty is endemic, and 103 women have set themselves on fire between 2009 and 2010.

Among their usual problems, Afghan women now must worry about being bombed by NATO forces or caught in the crossfire between fighting warlords and gangs. Their economic and educational system is still in ruins. As the recent wikileaks documents show, the way we have been counting casualities in Iraq and Afghanistan is untruthful. Thousands of civilians have died in Afghanistan and thousands more have been killed by the ensuing humanitarian crisis.

The above cover is a shameful appeal to emotion on a complex and dire issue. Like the leaked CIA documents show, as illustrated above, women who have suffered under war are being cynically exploited to justify more war and destruction. It is vital that victims of violence have a voice in speaking their experiences, but the editors of time could have just as easily used a photo of a woman maimed in a NATO attack and told a different story. Next year we will see a decade of official military presence in Afghanistan, and the situation seems to be degrading rather than improving. While Afghanistan warps into an opium plantation state, the Afghan women enjoy just as little if not less human rights than they had before our official involvement. Another note on the cover: Joe Klein’s piece on our “challenges” in Pakistan seems especially chilling given the juxtoposition with the rest of the format elements.

Either way, the woman who shares her pain so poigently on the cover will soon be forgotten, cynically pushed aside to justify further pain and suffering in Afghanistan.

More on Remote Warfare: Spot & Shoot

Israel continues to lead the way arm in arm with the United States when it comes to state of the art remote warfare tactics.

It is called Spot and Shoot. Operators sit in front of a TV monitor from which they can control the action with a PlayStation-style joystick.

The aim: to kill.

Played by: young women serving in the Israeli army.

Spot and Shoot, as it is called by the Israeli military, may look like a video game but the figures on the screen are real people – Palestinians in Gaza – who can be killed with the press of a button on the joystick.
The female soldiers, located far away in an operations room, are responsible for aiming and firing remote-controlled machine-guns mounted on watch-towers every few hundred metres along an electronic fence that surrounds Gaza…..

The Spot and Shoot system – officially known as Sentry Tech – has mostly attracted attention because it is operated by 19- and 20-year-old female soldiers, making it the Israeli army’s only weapons system operated exclusively by women.

Female soldiers are preferred to operate remote killing devices because of a shortage of male recruits to Israel’s combat units. Young women can carry out missions without breaking the social taboo of risking their lives, said Mr Brom.

The women are supposed to identify anyone suspicious approaching the fence around Gaza and, if authorised by an officer, execute them using their joysticks…..

The Haaretz newspaper, which was given rare access to a Sentry Tech control room, quoted one soldier, Bar Keren, 20, last week saying: “It’s very alluring to be the one to do this. But not everyone wants this job. It’s no simple matter to take up a joystick like that of a Sony PlayStation and kill, but ultimately it’s for defence.”

Audio sensors on the towers mean that the women hear the shot as it kills the target. No woman, Haaretz reported, had failed the task of shooting what the army calls an “incriminated” Palestinian.

from The National

Perhaps an under examined aspect of remote warfare is its possible feminist “benefits”, allowing women to serve on the front lines of battle as pilots and infantry. However, since they themselves are not at immediate risk of death (unlike the Palestinian wandering into an unmarked “no-go zone”) can we really call it feminist, if even defense as Ms. Keren mentions? More interesting would be the mentality behind the idea that sitting in a room in Nazareth and killing Palestinians hundreds of kilometers away can be considered and internalized by the participants as “defense”.

Regardless, by allowing women to participate in killing without being subject to the horrors of war, we further eliminate possibilities of international female solidarity while also implicating first world women as equal-opportunity participants in extrajudicial remote warfare.

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.

Americana 2010

This morning I woke up to my second Fourth of July in Nablus. Last night I’d jerked awake to the sound of dogs barking and a smattering of sharp sounds. I recalled, tense in my bed, the first night I slept in Nablus last year to wake up to dogs barking, gunfire, and sound grenades. Fajr came on just as the racket stopped and lulled me back to sleep.

So this morning I thought a lot about my last time here and how my feelings changed about America since I last posted on the Fourth of July. I knew going back to America would be hard when I boarded the plane last time, but I hadn’t any idea how difficult it would actually be. I felt a lot less shy about airing my feelings and opinions in public and the response was sharp and dismissive in return. I stopped being able to stomach a lot of the activities and social events I used to enjoy and the response was a lot more loneliness and isolation. My first outing back, people would drunkenly ask me how Pakistan was, or wasn’t I in Germany or something? What’s a Palestinian? Going out and seeing my fellow citizens get in on in the clubs instilled great feelings of loathing and pain in me as I could still see the kids in the villages and the damaged buildings, the sallowness of a corpse’s face when I closed my eyes.

I watched when Nablus came under direct attack in December of 2009 and two men were murdered in their beds. The television showed the streets I’d walked every day in Nablus with tanks and kids and stones. “I’d hate to be there, those terrorists would chop my head right off!” a woman said next to me. American taxpayer commentary. Your ignorance and racism paid for those tanks, those bullets, that wall, those bodies. It keeps the wheels turning.

I don’t want to make it seem like nobody cared or listened to me when I got home, but a lot of people I expected to didn’t. Not my problem, not your problem, so let’s get over it. Get back to whatever. And now even as millions of gallons of oil stains my backyard a dead black people still don’t care. A nation of sleeping fat babies.  I only wish that our high-flautin ideals we brag about on t-shirts – freedom, liberty, self-determination, independence – were still ideals we were willing to fight and die for. I took them so seriously as a child, sitting at my grandpa’s knee and listening to him explain the great responsibility of being an American. Now, at 25, I get the feeling I wasn’t supposed to take it all so seriously. Perhaps for the majority it’s easier to just accept living life one day at a time instead of focusing on all the evil done in our name. Maybe it’s too much to bear. Maybe we just don’t know. I’d like to dedicate the rest of my life to trying to inform others, but it’s hard when people seem so disinterested in listening.

I’m not afraid to say I don’t feel any sense of celebration on the Fourth of July anymore. When I think about what this nation was founded upon and what it eats for dinner and how it makes a living, I feel sick to my stomach. Today’s the day everyone wants to hear it the least, but it’s also the day I feel it’s most important to reaffirm my position and my ideals. I’d like to assert I feel the same way everyone should about things like liberty and freedom and justice, I just don’t feel like being an American and celebrating America’s continued existence (234 years of the same old game) represents those anymore.

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.