Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Arab Media Notes: The Relationship between Prince Al-Walid Bin Talal and Rupert Murdoch is closer than ever. Al-Walid is now the largest single share holder in Newscorp (at more than 5%). And Murdoch has recently invested in Al-Walid's music (and sleaze) company, Rotana which monopolizes the production of Arabic music and music videos. And As-Safir today reported that the CEO of LBC-TV has decided to refuse to surrender the station to Lebanese Forces. I had reported on frictions between Ja`ja` and Pierre Dahir before.
"Q Can you give us a readout on the President's meeting this morning with the Iraq experts?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Oh, my goodness, I forgot to bring the list. But actually -- do you have the list, Fred? Yes, it was an interesting meeting. What you ended up having was -- I've got all the names but one written down here. We had Wayne Downing, Barry McCaffrey, Michael Vickers, Amir Taheri, Fouad Ajami and Raad Alkadiri. And you had a combination there of military men and also scholars who are students of Iraq. And it was an interesting discussion that touched upon cultural issues, on political issues, on the state of affairs in Iraq. You had a number of people who've been there recently, General McCaffrey having returned just last month from his latest visit. Fouad Ajami last year had the occasion to sit down and speak with the Ayatollah Sistani, Ali al Sistani." (Yes. Last year Ahmad Chalabi took Fouad Ajami to see Sistani, as part of a group. The visit lasted a full 5 minutes). (thanks Fadi)
Mini-Hariri's World Tour. Mini-Hariri continued his world tour. Any reason to stay away from Lebanon. Today, he was in Germany. He immediately asked to go Berlin. As soon as he arrived in Berlin, he started yelling a prepared speech. It began: "Mr. Gorbachev. Tear down this wall."
Blogger was down. I am in Thousand Oaks, near LA. I am giving a talk this evening on Bush Doctrine toward Lebanon and Syria at Newbury Park Library at 7:00PM. Returning tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This is hilarious. MEMRI was jumping up and down today hailing a Saudi writer for maintaining that Hamas is opposed to democracy (he wrote that in AlRiyadh newspaper). And House of Saud is in love with democracy?
Guston, Philip, Painting, Smoking, Eating, 1973.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Those who know Arabic, and who follow the Arab-Israeli conflict, should watch this episode (two parts) on Al-Jazeera with Ghazi Al-Husayni. Sure it had its shortcoming: like the typical Fath man that he is, he easily (and justifiably) offers open criticisms of Syria, but refrains from cirticizing Arab governments event when it was about Jordanian complicity in the assassination of the 3 PLO leaders in April 1973--I know, he lives in Jordan, and has to be careful. But not even criticizing Arab gulf regimes? He did criticize in passing Qadhdhafi's Libya when he urged PLO leaders and fighters in Beirut during the seige to commit suicide. Also, within Fath, he only seems to critize the Fath leaders who were close to Syria, like Abu Khalid Al-`Amlah and Abu Salih, although both men were known for being keen on staying away from corruption--so rampant in the movement during the Beirut sojourn. But Husayni tells a very sad story: a story that began with his father during the Battle of Qastal in 1948, and ended with his own role with Amn (Security) Apparatus of Fath, under Abu Iyad. He was low key during the civil war, and was one of the middle level leaders in the movement. This is a tale of Arab betrayal: and Arab governments today are more subservient to the US than Arab governments were in 1948 (in their subservience to UK).
LBC-TV only interviewed the people in the village of Rmaysh in South Lebanon in its report on people in South Lebanon. It was a bastion for Sa`d Haddad in the past. They did not want to interview other people, I guess.
This is the season in the Arab world for communists to apologize and repent. Here, Hazim Saghiyyah tells his story. Forgive him, please. (Is it not ironic for a former communist to mock communism in a Saudi newspaper, of all places?) And he is a good writer--that I can't deny. But then again, the first well-known Arab writer to publish his "I-break-with-communism" book was Qadri Al-Qal`aji, who became a pro-Saudi, right-wing propagandist. But Saghiyyah is now disillusioned with Bush although he permits that he "may" have been well-intentioned. Well-intentioned my...baba ghannuj.
"The number of Guantanamo Bay detainees participating in a hunger strike has ballooned from three to around 75, the U.S. military said Monday, revealing growing defiance among prisoners held for up to 4 1/2 years with no end in sight."
"More than half a century after hostilities ended in Korea, a document from the war's chaotic early days has come to light - a letter from the US ambassador to Seoul, informing the State Department that American soldiers would shoot refugees approaching their lines. The letter, dated the day of the army's mass killing of South Korean refugees at No Gun Ri in 1950, is the strongest indication yet that such a policy existed for all US forces in Korea, and the first evidence that that policy was known to upper ranks of the US government."
A light unto the nations?? Are you kidding me? "One complaint to the ombudsman and state comptroller concerned a exercise in which Israel Defense Forces soldiers practiced occupying a house in a Galilee Arab village. A resident of the Arab village of Jish in Galilee was awoken at 2:30 A.M. in May 2005 due to unusual noises in his yard. He got up and discovered a group of soldiers trying to "occupy" his house as part of a military exercise. The family had not received any prior warning of the exercise and also no one in the IDF had bothered to ask for the family's permission before infiltrating into their private property. Similar complaints have been received from other Arab villages in the Galilee in previous years."
"Poverty and unemployment in the Palestinian Authority continues to worsen, according to a United Nations annual report to be presented in Geneva Tuesday....four out of 10 Palestinians in the territories live under the official poverty line of less than $2.10 a day. In addition, the number of poor people in the PA rose from 600,000 in 1999 to 1.6 million in 2005, the new report says."
Israel does not seem to stop killing and injuring Palestinians but you would not know it from reading the US press.
"In the Village of Nowhere, a Fate Soon Sealed: Wall to Enclose Palestinians Inside Jewish State"
"Congress has stalled Pentagon plans to put conventional warheads on inter-continental missiles for use in Washington's "war on terror", out of concern that they could trigger a nuclear war." (By the way, as far as the spread of "freedom" is concerned, is a nuclear war a good thing or a bad thing?)
News from "liberated" Afghanistan. "An early morning traffic accident in Kabul involving a US military vehicle rapidly degenerated yesterday into the worst upheaval in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban, as angry protesters burned vehicles and buildings, ransacked shops and aid agencies and hurled rocks and invective at American soldiers. By the time the authorities imposed a rare night-time curfew in the normally peaceable capital, eight people had been killed and more than 100 injured. The upheaval was a shock to a city long considered an oasis of security, and a serious blow to the authority of the president, Hamid Karzai, who is struggling to contain an escalating insurgency in the south."... Yesterday the US-led coalition said it killed up to 50 Taliban fighters in a bombing raid on a village in Helmand province, where 3,300 British troops are deploying. The air strikes took the death toll from the past two weeks to more than 350, according to the highest estimates.... After four years and $12bn, £6.5bn, in foreign aid, the majority of Afghans still scrape through life without electricity or clean water. More than seven million people are chronically hungry, according to the UN, and 53% live on less than a dollar, or 54p, a day. The sight of foreigners earning large salaries and driving large vehicles protected by private security companies has focused frustrations. More recently, a spate of civilian deaths in US anti-Taliban bombing has aroused public anger in a country with a history of violently ejecting foreign occupiers." (I can imagine Bernard Lewis reading this and advising: "they only undertand the language of force." I am sure that there are many who will advise more bombing of Afghanistan. I mean more "liberation.")
Reasons for Homosexuality. Why People Become Gay According to a Lebanese Newspaper. An-Nahar newspaper (the right-wing, sectarian Christian, anti-Syrian (people), anti-Palestinian (people) Lebanonese newspaper) published what it thought was a "sensitive" and "liberal' study of homosexuality in Lebanon. Then this Lebanonese newspaper interviewed a Lebanese expert on the subject. He told An-Nahar that a person becomes gay if (among other reasons): he/she was raped as a child (this is a matter of "scientific consensus" the expert adds); if he/she was beaten as a child; being a child in a dysfunctional family [according to this particular illogic then, everybody is gay or lesbian]; if a person wants to attract attention to oneself if he/she lacks self-confidence; if a person is introvert and reclusive; poverty--I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. THOSE WHO READ ARABIC CAN READ THE ARTICLE; sexual frustration. And then An-Nahar interviewed YET ANOTHER Lebanese expert on homosexuality and she tells the paper that stinginess (and stingy societies (as in the West she implies) causes homosexuality because people want to save the money needed to buy gifts for females. Every day I cringe and squirm when I read this newspaper that considers itself a "civilized" paper. Do you feel my pain now?
The new Lebanonese security regime subjected a communist student to physical abuse, and then lied about it. I bet that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch will allow the new Lebanese regime a big leeway for cases of torture and murder of prisoners. The Lebanese government gets along with the Bush administration after all. If this was in Cuba or Syria, Human Rights Watch would have sent a delegation to the UN secretary-general.

Angry Afghans facing their "liberators." Was I naive when I thought that the occupation of Afghanistan has been going on very smoothly?
An excellent critique of Hariri TV by Zaynab Yaghi.
An author of a book on Lebanese wine claims that he won a special international "best in the world" award. Oh, ya. Today I ate a mango. It was rated the "best in the world."
Now you can go to sleep. Saudi Minister of Interior, Prince Nayif, denied that the powers of the "moral police" have been curtailed.
Mundafi` (leaping or forward moving): this is how Al-Arabiyya TV described US military shooting of Afghan civilians. The US military propaganda person supplied by US propaganda center in Dubai told Al-Arabiyya viewers that US troops shoot "over" the heads of demonstrators. But he failed to explain how bullets "over" the head can kill.
Fox News in AlArabiyya. Al-Arabiyya TV inaugurated news visuals and sound effects for its "news delivery." It is so influenced by Fox News. I bet you that some Fox News "consultants" were behind the changes. I was in fact expecting the American flag to appear somewhere on the screen.
National Potato Day. (thanks Julie)
It seems that the Institute for Gulf Affairs has become a mere propaganda tool of AIPAC and its cronies. I reported a week ago, based on a story in the Washington Post, about a new report by Freedom House (mostly prepared by their new ally, the Institute for Gulf Affairs) about Saudi textbooks. The report was widely reported. Today, the highly able and effective Al-Jazeera's Hafiz Al-Mirazi devoted his program, From Washington, to the subject, and he invited the director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs. Mirazi unearthed some of the Saudi books that were cited in the report and revealed that Freedom House and Institute for Gulf Affairs actually lied in some of their references to Saudi textbooks and made things up. Of course, this does not mean that Saudi textbooks do not contain stupid, hateful, and intolerant elements, just as Israeli textbooks do. In fact, Mirazi invited a specialist to speak about hate and intolerance in Israeli textbooks. But according to US Congress, Israel is cute and adorable when it hates and oppresses.
Draw your own conclusions: For political purposes, US officials now appear almost exclusively on Al-Arabiyya TV and LBC-TV. British officials favor the highest rated, Al-Jazeera.
Wake up the children. Wake up the children. Raise the Red Lanterns. Raise the Red Lanterns. Hassan Fattah is back. Hassan Fattah is back. He is now covering Lebanon from....Israel, literally and figuratively. But this is only fitting. After all, he learned the trick of the trade from Martin Peretz at the New Republic. You really learn about protecting Israeli interests over there. Fattah (and his colleague) then said: "The clash began when a militant group in Lebanon fired several Katyusha rockets into northern Israel around 4 a.m. Sunday." Oh, no Mr. Fattah. Oh, no, Mr. Fattah. I know that you need to always portray Israel as a victim, but--and I don't mean to upset you here knowing how much you wish to make Israel appears as a peaceful and pacifist state--the clash did not begin when your beloved Israel was hit by rockets. The clash began two days earlier when Israel detonated a car bomb in Sidon killing two Lebanese brothers. Get your facts, o New York Times reporter.
"In the last six weeks, a resurgent Taliban has surprised the Americans with the ferocity of its annual spring offensive and set some officials here to worrying that the United States might become tied down in a prolonged battle as control slips away from the central government — in favor of the movement that harbored Al Qaeda before 2001. And the number of American troops has quietly risen, not fallen. "Afghanistan is the sleeper crisis of this summer," says John J. Hamre, who was deputy defense secretary from 1997 to 1999."
"How would you define the difference between a probing question and a rude one?
I don't think there are any rude questions. I don't even like reporters to say thank you."
"Iraqis' Accounts Link Marines to the Mass Killing of Civilians"
How nice: "The Pentagon is pressing Congress to approve the development of a new weapon that would enable the United States to carry out nonnuclear missile strikes against distant targets within an hour.
I swear. I never see Haykal on Al-Jazeera when he is NOT talking about `Ali Mahir. It seems to be always about `Ali Mahir. That only proves my theory: that Haykal should stop talking, NOW.
Gris, Juan, Violin and Glass, 1915.
Inexplicably, Najah Wakim (see p. 6) supports Syrian arrests, and refers to the Syrian dissidents as "traitors." This is surprising because Wakim--I know full well--was harassed and persecuted by Syrian mukhabarat in Lebanon.
"in a recent Turkish poll, 74% of respondents said they saw America as the biggest threat to world peace."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

"Recent hopes that the Arab League might pay Gulf aid direct to civil servants' bank accounts have been dashed—after the Americans blocked it, says the presidency."
"Sudan's military intelligence has been supportive of both the CIA (spilling a few beans on al-Qaeda) and the janjaweed militias who have done most of the killing in Darfur."
"And for the most part Hollywood is incapable of dealing with even the most heavyweight subjects—terrorism included—without indulging in a mixture of sensationalism and idiocy."
"Almost nobody has heard of the woman with whom [Voltaire] shared most of his life, Emilie du Châtelet. But you can make a good case that she was a more rigorous thinker, a better writer, a more systematic scientist, a formidable mathematician, a wizard gambler, a more faithful lover and a much kinder and deeper person. And she did all this despite being born a woman in a society where female education was both scant and flimsy. Her mother feared that anything more academic than etiquette lessons would make her daughter unmarriageable."
"In 1900 the new American governor of Cuba, General Leonard Wood, summarised this view in a report to President McKinley: “When people ask me what I mean by stable government, I tell them, ‘Money at six per cent.'”"
From Dictatorships that you like: "“THE United States is a damned country that deserves only to be cursed. It declares its own occupation of our lands legitimate, but brands our resistance as terrorists.” This was not the Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi, speaking 20 years ago, when his country was a pariah and he was the butt of international scorn. The words were spoken only last month, by the Libyan parliament's deputy speaker, Ahmed Ibrahim, at a gathering in Tripoli, Libya's capital, to commemorate its bombing by American aircraft in 1986."
"According to the Sunday Telegraph, Blair made "significant" last-minute changes to his major foreign policy address and "objections by President George W. Bush's inner circle played a key role in the alterations.""
"A powerful member of Congress alleged yesterday that there has been a conscious effort by Marine commanders to cover up the facts of a November incident in which rampaging Marines allegedly killed 24 Iraqi civilians."
"Federal authorities are actively investigating dozens of American television stations for broadcasting items produced by the Bush administration and major corporations, and passing them off as normal news. Some of the fake news segments talked up success in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies' products."
And UK used to brag that it found the winning formula for colonization in Iraq: "British forces in Iraq have been attacked by insurgents nearly 60 times a month since the start of the year. The new figure, covering the first four months of 2006, is a 26 per cent increase on 2005."
I have one question for Darfur groupies: do they plan to protest Israeli jailing of more than 200 Darfur refugees who sought asylum?
Haaretz: "Tel Aviv within range of new Hezbollah rocket" (Angry Arab: All Arab capitals and cities are within range of old and new Israeli rockets)
"Heavy Marijuana Smoking Not Linked To Raised Lung, Neck Cancer Risk"
"Mideast Debate Takes Root at UC Irvine" (I am of the opinion that we should, out of respect for the victims of the holocaust, leave it out of our discourse on the Arab-Israeli conflict. And Israeli political exploitation of the holocaust does not justify any other political exploitation of the holocaust).
US and western government are quite amused that they are starving the Palestinian people to punish their democratic vote. But in the long historical term, this will become a major event. People will be remembering this event the way they remember other major Western injustices in the region.
US is pleased with Syrian actions on the border with Iraq, which only proves my theory: the Syrian government is willing to sell Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine to stay in power.
Former communist Karim Muruwwah completes his Hariri transformation. Here, he supports the sectarian single-member electoral districts.
Hariri rag, Al-Mustaqbal, is now the most blatantly racist newspaper in Lebanon--yes, more racist than An-Nahar.
In this article, Salim Huss tells the story when Walid Jumblat (he calls him "one of the ministers" here) threatened to kill him in a cabinet meeting.

Nur Al-Ashqar was injured by Israeli occupation bombing in Dibbin near Marji`yun (in South Lebanon).
After detonating a car bomb in Sidon, Israeli occupation forces bomb the Biqa` valley.
I have an idea to protect the environment since Al Gore claims to care for the environment, he who supported wars of devastation. He can stay home and achieve two goals: save fuel and save our ears.
The new rules of US-exported democracy: when US does not like results of democratic elections, as in Palestine, urge the puppet stooge (Abu Mazen here) to starve the people and then hold a (unconstitutional) referendum to nullify the results of the vote.
I am most angry at the international silence at the Israeli car bomb in Sidon which killed two Lebanese men. I mean, Annan was loud and vocal at every violent event that was attributed to Syrian intelligence. This should only confirm the cynical attitude that many Lebanese and Arabs feel toward UN, EU, US, and other international clowns and buffoons.
"His best maids are Mexicans." When I am on the road I get to be exposed to more US media. Newsweek, for example, would like you to know that Bush is sensitive to Mexicans and Latinos in general because he has a maid from Mexico. This reminds me of a Lebanese academic who, after expressing prejudice against Shi`ites in a conference, immediately said that he can't be prejudiced against Shi`ites because the maid in his house when he was growing up was Shi`ite.
Gang leader, Muhammad Dahlan: caught on tape (thanks Yousef)
"Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, dissidents called Iraq "the republic of fear" and hoped it would end when Hussein was toppled. But the war, it turns out, has spread the fear democratically. Now the terror is not merely from the regime, or from U.S. troops, but from everybody, everywhere." (thanks Nir)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

While visiting Poland, the current Pope confirmed that the previous Pope will be declared a "saint." Why do I have the feeling it is going to be very easy to attribute those three miracles to the pope? Has it ever been difficult to find those needed "three miracles?"
""We Specialize in Access, Insight and Intelligence into the Defense Industry, DoD and Government programs," the Web site for a Cohen investment advisory service said until recently. The Web site said the Cohen Group's "Competitive Advantage" included "Senior level relationships throughout industry and government." One day Cohen is appearing at a Lockheed Martin Corp. event in India, smoothing the way for a fighter-jet sale; another, he's attending a charity ball at the request of a company that wants him at its table because, an executive at the company says, "You are judged by the friends you keep.""
"US Marines could face the death penalty after one of their number took horrific photographs of a massacre in Iraq on his mobile phone, The Independent on Sunday has learned. The photographs, seized by the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), show many victims shot at close range in the head and chest, execution-style, according to sources who have seen them. One image shows a mother and young child bent over on the floor as if in prayer. Both have been shot dead."
"The children of Guantanamo Bay: "The 'IoS' reveals today that more than 60 of the detainees of the US camp were under 18 at the time of their capture, some as young as 14"
"FORCES loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, are preparing for an onslaught against the military wing of the Islamist rival group Hamas in a desperate attempt to sustain his waning power. “Civil war is inevitable,” a senior Palestinian security official said last week."
No credence should be given to any political "iniative" coming from Palestinians in Israeli jails. They are in prison, which means that they are NOT free. Yet, Abu Mazen-Dahlan Mafia wants to use a "statement" by prisoners in Israel for their own purposes.
The Palestinian people are starving, and the Jordanian king is on a mission in Washington, DC. Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that "Official Jordanian sources told Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat that the Jordanian King, `Abdullah II, will discuss during his visit to Washington which began yesterday, Palestinian developments with President George Bush, especially the desperate need for aid by the Palestinian Authority, indicating that the Palestinian presidency does not have the necessary liquidity to cover `Abbas' moves, whether inside Palestine or outside, and that `Abbas' personal guards have not received any salaries or fees."
Imagine: the so-called Presidential Force of the "leader" of one state is intended to protect another (occupying) state. That is called a surrogate Israeli occupation force. "Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas intends to expand the Presidential Guard directly under his authority with thousands of new members, with the ultimate goal of a 10,000-strong force. Abbas is trying to create an independent security force, under his full control, that could serve as a counter to the various militias under Hamas and Fatah control. Such a force could concentrate on providing security at the crossing points and preventing the launching of Qassam rockets against Israel from the northern Gaza Strip."
I was quite pleased to be in the same program with Iraqi poet, Lami`ah `Abbas `Amarah. I was ten years old when I heard her read her poetry in 1970 on Lebanese TV. And I was so impressed, and even developed a crush on her at the time. I ran to get a copy of her book, `Iraqiyyah, as soon as it came out. And she then lived in the civil war years in Lebanon, and did not produce, and remained silent. She came after the Israeli invasion to San Diego where she is settled now. I met Ms. `Amarah today for the first time, and told her about my early admiration. The hosts even asked me to introduce her as many Arabs may not know of her poetic skills and great reciting skils too. She was probably the first contemporary public female poet. She has been writing as of late, and will collect her works in one volume, she told me. Her relatives are working to launch a website for her work. She still has the same great reading talents after all these years. I shall, whenever I have time, translate some of her poetry on this site. She wrote one about the plight of Arabs in America after Sep. 11 that I will certainly translate.
Fatwa-for-a-fee. Even prior to the arrival of dirty oil money, many clerics would issue whatever fatwa for a fee. Take the Lebanese Shi`ite cleric, Hani Fahs: he has been a cleric-for-hire all his life. From `Arafat, to the Iranian regime, and for Hariri Inc.
From Economist of this week: "In the 1980s America let the USSR “secretly” buy banned technologies—but only after it had sabotaged them so that they failed to work properly. And in 2001 a Boeing plane built for China's then-president Jiang Zemin was rejected after it was found to be stuffed with surveillance devices."
From Economist of this week: "Repeatedly, small groups of demonstrators in central Cairo have been blocked by serried ranks of riot police, then charged, beaten and dragged off singly by young, club-wielding plainclothesmen. Some 400 peaceful protesters are now in prison under the same emergency laws that ministers say are wielded only against terrorists and drug-runners."
I read somewhere that Ahmad Chalabi did not win more than 600 votes in the last election-under-occupation. And he probably spent $10,000.00 per vote.
Hani Al-Hasan, one of the historic figures of the Fath Movement, warned in a meeting with Fath cadres that the US government is trying to control the movement through generous funding and buying of elite members of the movement, Al-Quds Al-`Arabi reports. How things have changed in Fath: from the strugglers like Abu Yusuf, Majid Abu Shrar, Kamal `Udwan, Abu Dawud, Sa`d Sayil, Kamal Nasir, Abu `Ali Iyad, Khalid Al-Yashruti, Abu Iyad to the crooks and killers, like Muhammad Dahlan, Abu Mazen, and Jibril Rajjub.
It is official. The best manaqish in the whole of the US are found in San Diego at Mama's Berkery and Lebanese Deli. I have been there before, and I had a delicious meal today. The masses everywhere may celebrate.
Kooky news from An-Nahar: An-Nahar, the right-wing, anti-Syrian (people), anti-Palestinian (people), sectarian Christian newspaper, reports with a straight face that the Lady of Bishwat Church in Lebanon keeps performing miracles and curing the sick. Her pictures have mysteriously been dripping Hummus and olive oil at night. And this person came to the church with crutches and left without them. Miracles from Lebanon: the land of Phoenician lies and fabrications.
Ricky Martin feels that he was an Arab in a past life (thanks Shant) And mini-Hariri feels that he was (fill in the blank) in a past life.
"Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then the top U.S. commander in Iraq, signed a memorandum in Sept 2003 allowing soldiers to "exploit Arab fear of dogs", but withdrew the reference in a revised version a month later." (thanks Maryam) (Unfortunately, I am afraid of dogs too.)
Kissinger: "Second, in 1976 [the Israelis] want to provoke the Arabs--in Lebanon, in Syria--because they think if there is war they can win and create great turmoil. Third, they want to pass legislation in America to antagonize as many Arabs as possible."
From yesterday's USA Today (find me the link, please), p. 4A: "Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., cautioned against precipitous action because the United Nations supports many U.S. interests."
"Photos Indicate Civilians Slain Execution-Style: An official involved in an investigation of Camp Pendleton Marines' actions in an Iraqi town cites `a total breakdown in morality.'"
Kissinger: "We don't need Israel for influence in the Arab world. On the contrary, Israel does us more harm than good in the Arab world...We can't negotiate about the existence of Israel but we can reduce its size to historical proportions."
From Dujayl to Hadithah: "Iraqi Townspeople Describe Slaying of 24 Civilians by Marines in Nov. 19 Incident"
"Across the border from Britain's troops, Taliban rises again"
"In what is being viewed as the gravest allegation to date of war crimes in Iraq, a military investigation is expected to present findings in Baghdad next week that a small group of troops shot dead 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including five men in a taxi, and women and children at homes in the town last November 19. Other marines then tried to cover up the killings, the investigation has found."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Hummus Hit the Fan Update: After banning all political events at the Lebanese University, today the Lebanese American University was closed down. There was a major violent clash between supporters of Jumblat and supporters of Amal, and at least 4 were injured. It was really a Druze-Shi`ite clash. What is most significant is that this is an upper class campus. These are signs of things to come.
Palestinians: mourning daily.
Kissinger Giving assurances to Saddam's government.
"Massive Collection of Formerly Secret and Top Secret Transcripts of Henry Kissinger's Meetings with World Leaders Published On-Line; 28,000 Pages of Documents Show Kissinger as Negotiator and Policymaker in Real-time, Verbatim Talks with World Leaders"
"Kissinger pressed: "Our attitude is not unsympathetic to Iraq. Don't believe; watch it."He said U.S. public opinion was turning more pro-Palestinian and U.S. aid to Israel could not be sustained for much longer at its massive levels. He predicted that in 10 or 15 years, "Israel will be like Lebanon — struggling for existence, with no influence in the Arab world."
Mindful of Israel's nuclear capability, a skeptical Hammadi peppered Kissinger with questions, including whether Washington would recognize Palestinian identity and even a Palestinian state. "Is it in your power to create such a thing?"
Kissinger said he could not make recognition of Palestinian identity happen right away but, "No solution is possible without it."
"After a settlement, Israel will be a small friendly country," he said." (thanks Amina)
The Lebanese scandal that will live longer than Rafiq Hariri is the massive corruption that Rafiq Hariri managed for Solidaire. It was amazing how the law, justice, morality, and ethics were all trampled on for the Hariri family to increase its fortune. Kudos to Ghada `Id for exposing corruption in Lebanon in her New TV's Al-Fasad (Corruption) program which recently featured the case of Solidaire. And Hariri government wanted to put her in jail.
Armed thugs of the Abu Mazen-Dahlan Gang took to the street to shoot at other Palestinians.
The Afghan puppet took time from his busy schedule of being sequestered behind American bodyguards: ""He told us not to be worried about the situation, that let's wait and see, and that we will bring security," said Hajji Agha Lalai Dastagiri, a member of the newly elected provincial council in Kandahar who was present at the meeting."He promised the people that he would build Afghanistan, that God would rebuild it, that the international community was with us, and they would build Afghanistan and bring security to this region," Mr. Dastagiri said. "People were telling him we really need security, but that we do not need foreign troops and helicopters and tanks anymore: we Afghans should take care of it.""
Today Israel--yes, Israel and you can quote me on that--killed a Lebanese citizen (and his brother) who is a leader of Islamic Jihad. Israel never stopped its assassination in Lebanon, and one should never rule out Israeli involvement in any bombing or killing or mayhem in Lebanon. Will the US protest this particular car bomb which included sharp nails to kill and injure more people? Will the Secretary-general send a team of investigators? Will the EU issue a statement? Will the Nation magazine publish an obituary of this man? Will the Socialist International send a delegation to Lebanon on this occasion? Will Chirac and Saudi media feign outrage? If you don't know the answer to these questions, you are suffering from an acute case of pressure in the brain area. And this bombing only affirms my belief that Palestinians in Lebanon should retain their weapons, in and outside the camps because Israeli murders in Lebanon have never stopped. Will the Security Council meet on this murder and issue a resolution?
If you follow Arab political developments closely, you would have noticed that early on (few months ago), Arab gulf governments indicated that they did not feel any danger or threat from Iran. But when pressured by US, they suddenly felt the danger and the threat. This was like what happened in 2002. If you remember, even the Kuwaiti government then said publicly that it did not feel a threat from Saddam's regime, and that he is contained. But under pressure from US, Kuwait and others suddenly felt the threat. Those government will do anything, will say anything, to appease the US.
Just as the Mossad invented the prime minister post to give to Abu Mazen when Arafat was alive (according to the account of the former Israeli intelligence chief in his latest book), the Mossad must be behind the idea tossed by Abu Mazen in his speech two days ago: that a referendum should be held to decide what the Palestinians want. This is not Switzerland. The PA charter does not include any reference to referenda. This is a clear gimmick given to Abu Mazen by Mossad. The Palestinian people had their national referendum in the last election, and they opted for Hamas, and they knew what Hamas stood for, regardless what you think of Hamas. This idea is trying to steal the electoral legitimacy from Hamas, but Hamas officials are too dumb to notice--we have established that.
Bi`id, Bi`id, Wahdina. I have never been a huge fan of Umm Kulthum--I know, I should be ashamed. I find her songs too long, and tedious for me. But due to cultural nostalgia, I have become more appreciative of some of her songs. Take her song Anta `Umri: what a great song this is--a great match of lyrics and music (music by `Abdul-Wahab and lyrics by Ahmad Rami), and I like it that it offended Al-Azhar clerics when she pleaded: "bi`id, bi`id, wahdina" (far away, far away, alone together).
PS Kamal, who knows about matters small and big in Arabic politics and culture, corrects me. He said that Anta `Umri's lyrics are by Ahmad Shafiq Kamil. I stand corrected. As usual, this error should not detract from my record of infallibility.
Flash. Flash. Thomas Friedman finds two Arabs that he likes. One is Mithal Allusi: the only Iraqi who publicly (from behind bodyguards) calls for "peace with Israel" and the second is Sa`d Id-Din Ibrahim who is mightily inspired by Bush's invasion of Iraq. But the incidence with `Allus is misreported: he in fact did not pull him from his jacket; he hit him. So Friedman is in favor of beatings in parliaments provided that the beater is pro-US/pro-Israel.
Edward Said talked about the nature of"political knowledge" of the Middle East in the West. Look at this grants from Carnegie: look how every single one is about a study of Islam. What about those who want to study non-religious aspects of the Middle East? Who will fund them? Do you see how the agenda of research on the Middle East is not independently set. I mean, if you want to study poets in the Abbasid Period, who will fund you, as opposed to "Jihad in Tripoli." to San Diego. I shall be at:
"MIDDLE EAST CULTURAL DINNER at the First Unitarian Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, 4190 Front St., Hillcrest, 619-243-0827. At 6 p.m. Saturday, May 27, celebrate Middle Eastern culture with featured guests professor Abu Khalil and Iraqi poet and writer Lamea Amara. $10."
Gris, Juan, The Pot of Geraniums, 1915. (And no. I am not endorsing Le Figaro).
"A military investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqis last November is expected to find that a small number of marines in western Iraq carried out extensive, unprovoked killings of civilians, Congressional, military and Pentagon officials said Thursday." (thanks Maryam)
"WASHINGTON played a key role in persuading the AttorneyGeneral that military action against Saddam Hussein in 2003 was lawful, according to an official government disclosure yesterday. An internal note from Tony Blair that Iraq was in breach of a UN Security Council resolution also played a part in the decision to invade. Forced by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, to disclose more detail about the decision, the office of Lord Goldsmith, QC, the Attorney-General, spelt out who he had consulted and relied upon for advice before declaring that an invasion was covered by international law." (thanks Laleh)
This is how political discourse gets formulated in Lebanon. Walid Jumblat would make a statement, like today on AlArabiyya, and say: "I was told, but I don't know if it is true, that Iranian Revolutionary Guards have established bases in Lebanon." The right-wing interviewer, Gizelle Khuri in this case, asks him: "Will they perpetrate assassinations?". Jumblat then answers: "Maybe." The next day, week, and month, members of the Hariri chorus will yell: "Bush, Bush, Bush. Iran is planning assassinations in Lebanon, and the Iranian Army has troops in Lebanon. Bush. Bush. Bush. We need a UN Security Council Resolution."
PS And then US pressures Annan, who convenes the Security Council of the UN, and a resolution is issued that calls on Iran to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, and to end its assassinations in Lebanon.
Just when it was needed, Near East Consulting released poll results that served Abu Mazen's agenda. Does anybody know about Near East Consluting group? Who are they?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hamas officials are so dumb that I can imagine them being dragged to the guillotine while screaming: "We have full respect for brother-president, Abu Mazen."
"I had an argument with a good Syrian friend (a highly educated, cosmopolitan, well-travelled lady), who has been living in Beirut for the past few years. As she poured her heart out about how she felt frustrated and insulted by the general anti-Syrian attitude that has overtaken many Lebanese people, she ended up, apparently unconsciously, defending the Syrian regime and its recent actions. I confronted her, arguing that while I had no doubt she has been subjected to a Lebanese form of racism, this didn't justify becoming a regime apologist. Alas, she was too hurt to retreat to a neutral position, and I encountered this exact attitude amongst many Syrians who have simply become fed up with what they perceive is their neighbors' sense of superiority and self-righteousness. The huge wave of sympathy that had initially blown westward has now been replaced by exasperation and indifference.
Truly, the attitude of many Lebanese has served the Syrian regime's interests very well! "
The Minister of Transportation in Lebanon, Muhammad Safadi (one of the wealthy Lebanese who were imposed on the political scene by Syrian mukhabarat) has a reform plan for his ministry. It includes contracting services at Beirut airport to companies owned by his... WIFE. The manager of his campaign in 2000 told me that he can easily qualify as the dumbest Lebanese politician, and the competition in Lebanon is quite tough.
Today, mini-Hariri left Russia. But before departing, he made a statement in which he firmly stated his support for Gorbachev's Glasnost. He said that he is confident that Gorbachev will follow through with his reforms.
In the meeting between Noam Chomsky and Walid Jumblat in Mukhtarah, Jumblat did not say a word. Not a word. I am not making this up.
Don't you get the impression that the Washington Post is being edited and managed at the Press Office at the White House?
"Bush and Blair admit that Iraq presents 'immense challenge'". (I am confused; I thought that Bush has been "making progress" all along, no?)
A Lebanese who (claimed to have) climbed Mt Everest, said in a Lebanese interview--I am not making this up--that he was the first in his team to reach the summit. But in fairness: he did admit to LBC-TV that he cried when he and his team left another climber to die in the cold. I saw a picture of this man planting the Batata flag allegedly on Mt. Everest, but the place looked like Bhamdun to me. But what do I know.
I have said this before: `Imad Mustafa is a fine diplomat that the oppressive and incompetent Syrian regime does not deserve. He is too competent and too decent to serve that regime. But in this article, he effectively mocks the Hariri crowd in Lebanon.
Read all about it. George W. Bush said that he now is sophisticated--as if it is a simple deicion. ""I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know. 'Wanted, dead or alive' - that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted. And so I learned from that.""
Yesterday, I stayed late watching the speech of Abu Mazen. I must confess that I found him a more skillful puppet, and more slimy and lying politician, than I had thought. He reminded me, in his acting performance during the speech, of Anwar Sadat. He would (pretend to) cry one minute, and then laugh heartily in another minute, and would use folksy expressions to make himself appear "one of the people". Embezzlers of millions are not "one of the people." But it was such an acting performance; his acting performance was as sincere as when Bill Clinton chokes up in public. And the previous night, I watched Tariq `Aziz pathetically defending himself and his former boss, Saddam Husayn. It was quite a scene. This former "ideologue" of the Ba`th Party is so incompetent and so ineffective. And this was supposed to be the "sophisticated" foreign policy brain of the regime. A potato would have done better. You can only imagine Saddam and his cronies during their rule.
Lebanonese (in)Justice: Two Syrians were arrested in Lebanon yesterday simply because they were walking close to the site of Rafiq Hariri's assassination.
"Ford stopped funding those organizations and got back some of its previous funding. It also hired Stuart Eizenstat, a lawyer who served in the Clinton and Carter administrations, to help develop new guidelines for vetting organizations, and to help promote the new guidelines to the Jewish community. Ms. Berresford said at that time that Ford Foundation money would no longer go to "groups that promote or condone bigotry or violence, or that challenge the very existence of legitimate, sovereign states like Israel."" (thanks Amer)
In the recent speech by Bin Laden, he said that there are only 2 individuals in US custody who knew before hand of the Sep. 11 attacks. But that is not true; there are three, if I am not mistaken.
() in Lebanon who does not want to be identified (not even with an initial) sent me this from Beirut:
(*) US Amb. in a very powerful Arab capital (flew with me) told me that he believes the Bramertz report (June 15) will not contain anything new ... because there isn't anything new ...
(*) this goes very well with what I heard from multiple GREAT sources in Beirut that Bramertz is "discussing politics" with the 4 generals .... apparently to determine the "political motives" ... having failed to discover any "evidence" to inculpate...
(*) same sources say that he is not "very courageous" and that he is counting the days to be through with this investigation...
(*) SAME US amb. is "bewildered" by the Saudis: days after the "assassination", the Saudis came on HARD on Bashar ... However, today, they treat him as the "ultimate potentate." The US is shocked... (the Amb. is confidentially aware that the NEW Saudis despise Saad Hariri ... and are NOT MINCING their words in public anymore ...
(*) from a Sudeiri (2nd Generation prince) who told us (in private and jokingly) that we should be ashamed of ourselves to elevate a "pimp" (saad) to the level of a leader ... (this Sudeiri 2nd generation ECHOES what the office of Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz REALLY thinks of Saad. Notwithstanding King Abdullah's total disgust with Saad.)
(*) Film on Moqawamah is very well made ... (Ibrahim A on LBCI)"
Duri Sham`un referred to Palestinians in Lebanon as "zu`ran" (thugs) on LBC-TV. He was part of the February 14th delegation that "honored" John Bolton last week, and gave Bolton the Hummus Shield.
Does this not show beyond the shadow of a doubt who Abu Mazen really work for? "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz accepted recommendations from defense officials to allow for the transfer a limited amount of weapons and ammunition to the Palestinian Authority's presidential guard in light of growing threats to Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' life."
"Africans are increasingly frustrated with democracy even as voters long for freer elections, broader civil liberties and more responsive political leaders, according to findings from multi-nation opinion polls released Wednesday."
"Man Killed by [US] Air Marshals Was Shot 11 Times" (and he was innocent)
"Leftist Candidate Surges in Colombia"
"Douglas J. Feith's table at the Georgetown University faculty club is shaping up as a lonely one....Gen. Tommy R. Franks of the Army, the top commander of the Iraq invasion, once referred to him as "the stupidest guy on the face of the earth.""
"Oriental Sexpotism" (A silly and sexist article on Haifa Wahbi. But this is the New Republic. What do you expect.) (thanks Fadi)
He was shot by Israeli occupation troops yesterday.
"The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the west's growing confrontation with Iran, and efforts to divest North Korea of its nuclear weapons are all approaching crucial turning points that could combine to create a perfect storm of simultaneous international crises, independent defence experts said yesterday."
"Taliban grows in strength, US admits"
A southern Lebanese woman expresses her feelings toward the state of Israel.
He saw his homeland, Palestine, from the border area in Lebanon.
After Liberation in 2000, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon stormed to the border to see their homeland, Palestine.
(Playing with an Israeli tank, above).
Today, is the `id (Spedial Day) of Liberation in Lebanon; it is called Liberation Day. It commemorates the day when the Israeli Army was humiliatingly and resoundingly kicked out of Lebanon. I know that there are new revisionist accounts of why Israel left. Fouad Ajami (the Zionist Arab, or the neoconservative Arab, as Stephen Walt called him in his latest book) claims that Israel did not withdraw because of the resistance in South Lebanon but because of a pledge made by Ehud Barak during his electoral campaign at the time. But what logic? That begs the question. Why did he make the pledge? Was it not because of the resistance? On this day I can only think of Iyad Mudawwar, a Marxist Lebanese (a Sunni from Beirut): the first person to join the National Resistance Movement back in 1978, after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in that year. But he was killed before reaching his target, literally and figuratively. (thanks to Muhammad Y. for the pictures).
Yesterday, 17 tents occupied by Syrian workers in Lebanon were set on fire. Lebanese Police (which covered up the Misbah Ahdab scandal) claimed that a Syrian was responsible. I of course don't believe Hariri Lebanese Police.
Lebanese University president yesterday banned all political events and rallies at the university. This after series of clashes between students at campus. The latest was between supporters of Amal and supporters of Hizbullah, and resulted in many injuries.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mini-Hariri in Moscow. I have been following the trip by mini-Hariri to Russia. I reported yesterday that he requested to meet with Leonid Brezhnev having commented earlier in the trip about Russia, being "the superpower." Today, his Russian hosts finally told him that Brezhnev is dead. Mini-Hariri was beside himself. He was devastated. "First, my father, and now Leonid," he yelled. He asked why he was not informed of Brezhnev's death? He kept pleading with his hosts. Why did they keep the news from him. He immediately asked to be taken to Brezhnev's tomb, where he requested that it be turned into a monument of kitsch, vulgarity, and bad taste. Upon accomplishing his mission, Mini-Hariri rested. (Above, mini-Hariri gives a lecture on quantum physics at a Russian university).
Hani Abu-Assad's Reply to my Review of His Film, Paradise Now. A friend of mine sent Hani Abu-Assad a copy of my review of his latest movie, Paradise Now. He replied with a most thoughtful and careful message although I still disagree with him, especially toward the end when he seems to imply that Palestinians should fight Israeli brutality with books and pencils. I shall reproduce his letter below, after obtaining his permission. I was so impressed with his sincerity that I will spare him my annoying ritual of nit-picky and tedious rebuttals and counter-rebuttals:
"Dear (),
Thank you for sending me Dr. As'ad Abukhalil's review. In general, I don't react to reviews. I find films are an individual experience, and everybody is entitled to interact with and read them as they wish. Reviews usually tell more about the reviewer than the film. To react will always put me in a defensive position, which I hate. But in this case, because some people I care about have similar judgments, I felt there was a need to put this on paper once and for all. For myself, in the first place, and also for you.
I can't take anyone seriously who speaks on behalf of "the audience". As long as I've been in this field, I've been surrounded by people (producers, writers, critics, professors) who claim to know how the audience will interpret a film, and reduce the audience to one person. One thing I can assure you is that nobody can predict how audiences will react or comprehend, including me. I don't believe in the "one audience", and for sure not the "Western" audience. What does that mean—who is the "Western Audience"? People who live in a certain place, or have certain thoughts, or share a certain political leaning, or the racist, dominant white men, or those exposed to western film genres? After defining the Western Audience, does that mean there are no differences between the well-educated and the less-educated, the influential and the less-influential, the professionals and the hobbyists, the rich and the poor, the average or the eccentric, etc.? Not to mention the fact that much research has proved that one's personal external circumstances at the time of viewing a film will greatly influence their reaction. It has even been proven that with time, through their greater enrichment of experience, the same person will change their interpretation of a film. Neglecting these facts, reducing all these people to one person and claiming that you know how they're going to read a film, without doing any serious research, will not result in me taking the review seriously. Funny enough, there is an Israeli writer named Irit Linor who approached the film from the same logic as Dr. As'ad, but concluded differently. She found it an anti-Semitic, Nazi film because she thought the audience would conclude that it only corroborates the prejudice that exists against the Jews and defends the idea of exterminating them. I only take seriously the critic who writes how he or she personally reads the film, not those who claim to know how others will, unless there is proven research from the field. (Even research does not constitute complete proof. It is always swayed by methods and agendas.)
For marketing purposes, we did conduct a small study before the film was distributed and before people started writing about it (as this too influences how one views the film.) Every film is an experiment, and because I don't believe you can be sure how audiences will react, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't unintentionally serving the dominant politics. We couldn't conduct a large-scale study—even big studios don't have the money for that. We exposed the film to a group of 80 people with all different levels of knowledge, cultures, and social classes, both supportive of and against suicide bombing. The results were remarkable. Those who were more supportive of suicide bombing, mostly Arabs, identified more with Khaled, yet 68% of them felt he made the right choice in not committing the act. Those who condemned suicide bombing, mostly Europeans and Americans, identified more with Said, and 61% felt he had no other choice than to go on with the mission. One of the reactions from a "white, unconsciously racist, dominant, western" man, was both to identify with the "terrorists" and feel uncomfortable for doing so. Another reaction, from one of the most influential men in the world, whose name we can't disclose, was, "I've never understood Palestinian suicide bombers or their acts. This film makes me identify, and at the end of the film to feel that what the protagonist did was right." A Palestinian man who was pro-suicide bombing was surprised to find that he felt pain at the sight of bombs being strapped onto the protagonists' torsos. Most likely for this reason, he also indicated that he had to reevaluate his position on suicide bombing. Still another remarkable reaction from a Jordanian man who called himself in favor of suicide bombing was that there was no need to continue it now that the film itself had visually done the job. I have to say, there were a variety of contradictory reactions. The Iranians were the first to buy the film, not the American distributors. The only conclusion we could draw was that the film serves as a mirror to the viewer. Of the 80 subjects, 41% identified the most with Said, 28% with Khaled, 12% with Said’s mother, 7% with Suha, 2% with the leader Abu Karem, 1% with Jamal, and 8% with nobody. Of the latter 8%, less than half were Israelis. These numbers mean nothing—I know the question can’t be answered with black or white responses, and these people can’t be an accurate representation of all human beings. But still, the most revealing number to me was the high percentage of viewers who said the film had caused them to reconsider their stance on Palestinian suicide bombing. This made me sure that the film did not serve simply to deepen and perpetuate prior prejudices.
In any case, I never have nor will ever make a film for the purpose of changing the opinions of an audience (not an Eastern, nor certainly a Western audience—mostly they will follow their political interests despite what they think about us.) Nor will I make films to perpetuate or destroy prejudice. Most of all, I won’t make films to prove our quarter, half or full humanity. What is our reference point, what are the criteria? To whom should we prove this? Who is more human than we? Who decides the scale of humanity? It is not worth it to convert any person who views another as less human than he. The question has to be: is the character a stereotype, or does he behave according to his own logic? Nonetheless, as we all are, I am wary of unintentionally aiding the political agenda of the enemy.
I make films in order to survive, in order to exist, in order to resist, and to make beauty from ugliness. To tell the oppressor, "no matter how powerful you are, human beings will always be able to create beauty from the destruction you wreak." The best way is to try to be honest, to use a specific reality to tell a universal tragedy in a pioneering way. Occasionally, as a consequence, this will result in opening the mindsets of some, gaining respect from others—in my case, the accolades I received in Cairo, Dubai, Beirut, Tehran, South Africa, Europe and Hollywood. It is important to note that those who bestowed the Golden Globe were a group of non-American film journalists working in the United States, while the Academy Award nomination came from a group of American Academy members (people working in the film sector) who mostly looked at the innovative quality of the film. Of course, the quality of “innovation” is subjective. And clearly, there have been scores of innovative Arabic films. But pure originality is not enough. In order to be nominated, the film must also appear at the right time and place (luck). And by “luck” I mean that the film needs a distributor who has enough connections to push it to be seen. Most foreign films never get the chance to be seen, as they have no distributor.
The American distributor of Paradise Now decided to pick it up not because he was fulfilling expectations. According to him, his profession dictates that he watch more than four films a day. He mostly watches them while talking, eating, making calls, etc. Foreign, subtitled films hold even less of his attention. Yet Paradise Now engaged him from beginning to end. He explained that as a producer/distributor, his company spends millions on special effects, action, score, and other devices to help spark attention. Paradise Now has none of this, yet even so the distributor was nailed to his seat throughout its 90-minute duration. The film shocked him not only with its artistic quality, but with its ability to make him see things he’d never seen before, to make him understand and identify with a character he’d never dared try to understand. He said he felt the film could make a difference in changing preconceptions. This was Paul Federbush of Warner Independent. When he bought it and reported back to his boss, he was expecting to be fired. When his boss in turn saw the film, he acknowledged both its power and the risk it represented and chose to assign all the responsibility to Paul.
I thanked Sally Field because....
We are all living under the dominant Western civilization. Never before in history has a civilization dominated and influenced the world as has what they call the current "Western civilization". For example, it has destroyed an entire parallel civilization here in the Americas—the Indian civilization. Their technology influences even my mother's prayer. Sixty-five years ago, the then-dominant part of this civilization tried to totally eliminate the Jews among them. When they didn't totally succeed, the other part of this civilization tried to combine their dual interests of keeping the Middle East under control for military and economic reasons and smothering their awakened conscience by designating Palestine as a homeland for the Jews. We lost our control over the land, over our lives, and became prey to those who were militarily stronger. The differences in military, political, economic, and technological strength between us and Israel is inhuman. The Israelis now have time and historical circumstances on their side, allowing them to be strong and well-organized as group. They use the ugly side of civilization (fighter planes, tanks, missiles, checkpoints, secret service, economic and political pressure) to oppress us, to make us forget our rights to the land, our rights to self-determination as a people, our equality as human beings, and if not, to destroy us. We the creative people of Palestine have no choice but to use the beautiful side of civilization (literature, art, science) in order to resist, help maintain our case and protect our differences. In the coming times we can't be well-organized as a group, but as individuals we have to be superior in our fields. If I want to make a film, it has to be the best film. This will guarantee (and I don't decide this, just history) that the film as a piece of art will survive and remain in history, which will help keep our cause alive.
.Fifty years from now, I can assure you that the fighter planes all the Israeli intelligentsia spent their energy, time and money on will have turned to dust, and our good books or paintings will remain, their value only greater. They should know that.
I once asked myself why the Jews, among all the other groups and religions stemming thousands of years ago, are one of the few that survived. How did their Hebrew language, which slept for two millennia, become alive again? I think it's because of the Book. Dominant nations of that time (Babylon, the Pharaohs, the Romans) invested in domination. They have all now vanished, as nations and as languages. After the Jews lost control of the land and did not succeed in becoming a big, dominant nation, they invested their energy and knowledge in the Book—the Bible. At that time, one of the most popular art forms across cultures was mythological stories. The writers of the Book gathered these stories and wrote their part-factual and part-fictional accounts of history. The artists didn't put their names on it and claimed it to be the word of God—a masterpiece. This inspired Jesus and his apostles, and Mohammad did the same. The Bible—a piece of art—created a nation from dust and a claim for all time. They (the “chosen” people) now claim their rights to the land (the “promised” land) because of a piece of art.
We, the Palestinian artists, cannot do the same for many reasons. It's a different time, and we don't want to repeat the tragedy. But what I hope we can do is create a superior art, not for exclusionary purposes, but to help find answers to the problems posed by modern society and a vision for the future of the human race. The dominant stagnant social, economic and political system is in crisis, destroying all cultural difference and enslaving human beings to the endless pattern of consumption. This complex system has become even more powerful than its human subjects. Its incompetent leaders have no serious solutions to the growing political, socioeconomic and environmental problems. Their behavior consists in simply shifting attention from the real problems to the ludicrous confrontation between rich and poor and calling it a “clash of civilizations.” If we have no answers, then we must question and search. We must pass on the voice of wisdom, give rise to a new vision, discover a new mode of communication, reproduce meaning.
There are no rules regarding how to make superior art—it depends on time, place, talent—but we have to keep the hope within us. Part of the Jewish people (most of the Israelis) exchanged the Book for the land and control over others. Instead of investing in humanity, science and art, they decided to invest in the science of oppression. We the Palestinians, then, have no other choice but to rewrite the Book.
In my field, cinema, one of the important general conditions necessary for films to remain in libraries and film students to watch them again and again is that they transform a specific experience into a universal and timeless one. They must always transcend their subject matter and move the viewer to a place and time they've never before experienced. They must contain a large proportion of beauty and achieve in their artistic form something no other film has achieved. I don't know how to accomplish this, but I know what I did with Paradise Now (which doesn't guarantees that the film is a work of art—history, critics and a majority of reactions will decide that.)
What I did with Paradise Now is take a formulaic film language—a genre, the thriller, a very artificial language—and remove the artificiality to tell a story as close to reality as possible. I used the formula, but created new rules in an attempt to translate the tragedy.
I have to say, translation is always a tragedy in itself. Why? Because you use the dominant formula, which was created to reduce people into a single audience of consumers. It simplifies all in terms of the good, the bad and the ugly in an effort to turn the viewer from a thinker to a passive receiver. Certainly, creating a film language that comes out of the experience is safer, but also tragic, because almost no one will understand it—not even the owners of the tragedy.
By changing the rules, you hope that the translation is less catastrophic. I did so through the following:
1. I made the genre less artificial and manipulative (no music, no special effects, etc.) and didn’t choose to solely highlight the high points of the drama. I tried to shoot in real time and in the actual locations as much as possible.
2. The experience is not that of the "average white man from Ohio," but that of a specific Palestinian in Nablus (Said).
The translation of a different experience allows many people outside of that place to feel familiar with it, and to reject Tel Aviv when they see it at the end.
3. All of the characters are multi-dimensional (except Suha's character). The "good" and the "bad" is in them, not outside of them, which makes them complex and very similar to the character of Hamlet. All the characters have conflict within them and behave differently than how they talk. All of them move. Mostly, in this genre, the characters are flat and one-dimensional.
4. The film tries to ask more questions than answer them.
5. The film carves a small story out of a gigantic experience.
Through this, I tried to use a popular art form to document part of my personal history. I attempted to repaint the story no longer from the mythological point of view but from that of current reality. To kill yourself with your enemy is a Biblical story. The story of Samson already tells us that people prefer to kill themselves together with their enemies rather than accept humiliation. I believe the story of Samson never happened, but was written as a fable in order to tell us something about human beings and humiliation. Unfortunately, the same story is now happening on the same land, with different people. It’s no longer a fable, but a reality. If I wanted to repaint it, I had to take it beyond its subject. Instead of concluding that people choose to kill themselves with others rather than accept humiliation, which has already been done, I began with this point and then tried to open the discussion about morality and its relevance. To be or not to be. The Last Supper also happened 2,000 years ago in Palestine, not in Italy. Leonardo Da Vinci painted as if the light came from God. I tried to repaint it in a new medium in a place not far from where it happened, but with the light coming from a neon lamp.
We the Palestinians are a human phenomenon facing a gigantic colonizer, and we refuse to give up.
What’s more, our colonizer doesn’t simply want to pillage our resources under the guise of “civilizing” us, it wants us off the land altogether. We are facing a project of ethnic cleansing. Our only weapons are persistence, knowledge, culture and art. The role of art in this case is to be so creative as to change our specific case into a universal one without losing authenticity or the differences of details. It must feel real without generalizing or stereotyping. Oppression necessitates a militarily strong, organized group, but art necessitates talented individuals whose conscience is not for sale. A superior book or a beautiful painting will persist throughout history as a metaphor for humanity in all times and all places. Let the Israelis put all their energy into the science of oppression, serving the interests of a civilization that not long ago made them into soap in order to protect the narrow idea of a Jewish state. Let the Palestinians instead put all of their energy into the science of the human....
Hany Abu-Assad"