Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Saja kindly translated my last article from Al-Akhbar:
"Bush in the laps of Arab Kings
They prostrated themselves to his majesty one by one, king by king and sheikh by sheikh. The oil sheikhs flocked to greet the beloved American as if meeting a date, their hearts throbbing with desire to set their eyes on him. As the Arab poet Al-Akhtal Al-Saghir wrote “they lowered their heads to perform prayer rituals.” The praise him day and night and seek his favor [mercy]. Even the king who prays only [from atop] a gold-plated throne sped to the airport adoringly. He hurried to the plane’s stairs and could hardly believe his own eyes. Bush in his flesh and bone and arrogance blessed the kingdom’s soil. But alas, if only the president had brought along his steadfast army. Like America’s other “democratically elected” allies in the area, the “democratically elected” king showed unprecedented excitement. At the airport he almost jumped out of his skin. The very earth shook beneath his feet. Nobody is too noble before his majesty.
We don’t know what they talked about, though it’s conceivable that Arab oil princes chanted “we sacrifice our lives and blood for you, Bush” (by the way, can you imagine a more hideous chant?) The dialogue between the two seemed warm. Did the custodian of the royal family request the honor of shining the president’s shoes? Did he encourage him to wage more wars? Did he ask him to issue [fatwas] for publication in Arab media?

Women became infertile after Bush’s birth, they told him. What an honor it was for Arab kings and princes to receive a visit from their peerless master. He came to bestow his greetings and issue his orders. “Normalize with Israel, lower oil princes and appear to be afraid of Iran,” he commanded. The orders were clear and direct. Those kings, princes and sheikhs were told “Iraq poses a danger to you” so they answered in unison “Iraq poses a danger to us” (we also have sheikhs in Lebanon thanks to the family of that “who thinks money guarantees immortality.” Today they are told “Iran poses a danger to you,” so they respond in unison “Iran poses a threat to us” and they add on their own initiative that Israel, with its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, brings peace and harmony.

Saudi media were ecstatic. They cheered, rejoiced and celebrated. Al-Arabiyya channel anchor Najwa Qasim, who graduated from the Hariri media school of thought, could hardly keep herself together. She repeated “Air Force One” in English more than once and invited viewers (only male viewers because they think of females as “pedunda”) to await the holy plane’s engines to turn off. It was a plane that, unlike any other place, descended from heaven. A flight of angels carried the plane to the kingdom’s soil, which became even holier and loftier when their lord set foot on it. If they could, Arab princes and kings would have toured Bush on a magic carpet and fed him manna and honey. It was a scene like we’d never seen before, with Arab kings and princes appearing as small as we’ve always known them to be. They rejoiced, for their worshipped lord came to them during the last days of his presidency to personally announce his intent to sell them weapons. They sprinkled rice, saphron and herbs on his head. They did even more to honor him; they laid down torn-off body parts of Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi children.

This is the hand of a child from Gaza; there is the hand of a child from Qana; there is a head of a child who was killed in Jenin Refugee Camp; and the charred corpse of an Iraqi child is right there. The esteemed guest walked over the body parts proudly as the host cackled for doing the impossible to please him. The sons of Zayid (the United Arab Emirates’ late sheikh) took him to a tent and showed him their falcons (Zayid’s sons descend from the Shakhbuti dynasty. Yasin Al-Hafith insisted on calling the Saudi era the Shakhbuti era to indicate its extreme reactionism, though Hazim Saghieh cites Hafith to garner support for Hariri and Saudi Arabia the same way another ex-leftist relied on Karl Marx to garner support for Amin Al-Jamil and Samir Ja’ja’. Then again, he relies on any accessible sources including Yuhanna Fam Al-Thahab (in English he is known as John Chrysostom) for whom he wrote religious hymns in Al-Safir Newspaper without telling readers that this Yuhanna had written the worst diatribes against Jews to the extent that Nazis found him useful. However, the Arab Right accepts western anti-Semitism at the same time it protests eastern anti-Zionism.) Zayid’s sons surrounded Bush like bodyguards. They reinforced stereotypes about Arabs and projected that they actually live in tents. (The official American September 11 report stated that one of those UAE princes had hunted with Bin Laden in the nineties).

Bush praised the Dubai experiment, and why wouldn’t he? Dubai is a strict class, ethnic, racial and religious hierarchy that opens side its arms and legs to multi-national corporations. Muhammad Bin Rashid’s book, which Daniel Pipes praised because he doesn’t mention Palestine, illustrates Dubai’s scheme; savage capitalism, service and sex tourism, a model Rafiq Al-Hariri tried to implement in Lebanon. Dubai’s model, not democracy, is predominant especially after discovering that democracy couldn’t secure a position for the likes of Salam Fayyad, who won about 1% in the recent legislative elections and desires to lead Palestine along with Dahlan, Ayad Allawi and Ahmad Chalabi. The Dubai model is the young Arab generation’s opium. One must abandon the garb of revolution, and even mere sympathy with Palestinians, in order to gain entrance to Dubai’s artificial paradise.

Claimants of piety and religiosity, who besides yourselves are you trying to fool? Your precious gifts are closer to your hearts than your prayer times, as Hariri in his Maqamat said, then you imposed on us the most stringent, conservative, intolerant and sexist creed. You are the ones who opposed enlightenment, open-mindedness, socialism, and class and gender equality among people. You imposed on us a form of fundamentalism that hardly existed or was otherwise on its way to oblivion. You trained, funded and armed Abdul Nasser’s and Communism’s enemies. You gave rise to Bin Laden and today you disagree with him only on foreign policy. Distributors of religious supremacy, don’t you realize that you’re losing legitimacy? What are you without your riches and your oil? Do you actually believe the homages recited about you? Your Mecca is in the west’s nightclubs, not in the Arabian Peninsula.

What have you done to us, oil kings and princes, what have you done to us? Like Egypt is the gift of the Nile, you are the gift of the colonization. By figs and olives, not a single revolution has raged in the Third World without you fighting it both financially and by secretly collaborating with the western colonizers everywhere from Dhofar to Palestine to Lebanon to Polisario to Yemen. You are a burden to your people’s causes and you never cared about their opinions in the first place. Not a single liberation movement contacted you without becoming polluted. Today we read American foreign policy documents and learn the extent of your influence on Fatah on the United States’ behalf, which in turn influenced you on Israel’s behalf.

How you have harmed the Arabs’ image in the west due to your never-ending quest for pleasure. The West’ nightclubs and brothels know you more than your own sand dunes do. You’ve exploited your own resources and holy sites for colonialism and you’ve made oil a toy in westerners’ hands, enriching them and impoverishing us. You don’t even control your own dates.

You buy weapons for the sole purpose of enriching the west’s treasuries. When foreign powers threaten your thrones you don’t fire a single bullet. Instead, you implore like children self-interested western governments to rescue you. When Sarkozy visits you he doesn’t represent the values of the French Revolution, rather he represents oil companies and latent colonial nostalgia. You’re powerful and tyrannical before your brutalized people but western rulers send goosebumps down your spines. You dance for them with your swords. The king of Bahrain presented the precious ruler who came from overseas with a gold-plates sword.

Arab oil princes and kings, may your oil deplete, may our oil deplete. You’ve used it only to serve old and new colonizers; to pursue pleasures that all religions forbid, and you even prohibit for your people permitted ones while you innovate means of pleasure known only in your bedrooms. You prohibit love between people but allow yourselves love for objects and animals. Leave us alone. Free your slaves and concubines and return to the desert with your camels. You’ve learned nothing from nomadic life besides shortcomings and sexism. Leave us and return to ages that are better equipped to suit your moods, mentality and fanaticism. When your oil vanishes you’ll hear, and the Arab public will be thrilled to hear, the true opinions of your influence in Lebanese politics and journalism. Only then will liberal Wahhabi Arabs alert Arab press to human rights abuses in the kingdoms of oppression. Only then will you abhor public beheadings and stoning of lovers from both sexes. Only then will they confront you and notice that your monarchies cannot be reconciled with notions of modernity. Leave us alone and let your people create their own path without you and your agency of colonialism that appointed you and kept you in power in spite of your people’s will. You’ve polluted our natural, political and moral environments. Go back to the desert and let us be because we can’t take you anymore. Haven’t you oppressed your people enough? Do you never get enough of oppressing your citizens and all Arab citizens, you allies of all dictators in the world? Idi Amin and Jafar Al-Nemeiri could find no other safe haven besides you, allies of Mobutu and Franco.

Oil kings and princes, if I could only tell you what Arabs and westerns alike say about you. Oh if I could only record the east’s and west’s words about you. When your oil disappears you’ll realize how the world despises you. You’re symbols of reactionary fanaticism and polygamy. You’re as far as possible from “the light of reason” as Ibn Al-Arabi termed it. You don’t exert influence on a country without corrupting it with your money and rendering it stricter and more authoritarian and oppressive. You practice repression and religious and sectarian exclusion while you preach coexistence to Lebanon. You produce nothing but oil and Bin Baz’s religious decrees. If the average Arab could access you, you would hear from him (and especially from her) the depth of the tragedy you’ve inflicted on us. You’ve been the best ally for Arabs’ and Muslims’ enemies, and your oil gave you the opportunity to speak for Arabs and Muslims. We’ve been in a prolonged coma because of your oil riches and totalitarianism and you’ve been in a prolonged coma because you have no connection to reality. If your oil were to disappear you’d know how people and even some religious scholars perceive Bin Baz’s religion decrees on photography, the sun’s orbit and prayer in outer space. If oil were to disappear anytime soon, revolutions and rebellions would probably break out at oil wells, and the Palestinian revolution would cleanse itself from your filth.

What can we say about you? In any case, we won’t bid you farewell when you leave. The only ones who will miss you are those who received your and Saddam’s gifts (before he withheld them). You’re a group that breaches its promises, and backs out when it is supposed to advance (paraphrasing the classical Arab poet Al-Muhalhal). We won’t miss your oil, and your thrones and palaces will remain only in your memories. You dragged the Egyptian army in the Yemeni War into attrition and you supported right-wing movements around the world for the love of Ronald Reagan. Arab kings and princes, get away from us; you’ve given us nothing but syphilis, coughing and pus. If the classical Al-Hutai’ah were still alive, he would’ve known how to handle you. The Arabian Peninsula will reclaim its glimmer after you’re gone. Before you ruled it, Mecca was a city for dialogue; intellectual, philosophical and legal discourse; poetry and love, and you made it a place for fanaticism, intolerance and bigotry. Arab kings and princes, give the Arabian Peninsula back to the Arabs and release your citizens from bondage. The Empty Quarter Desert beckons you."