Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is the Syrian government now trying to arrest people for political dissent at the rate of one per day?
"The independent study finds that the Taliban, which two years ago was largely viewed as a defeated movement, has been able to infiltrate and control sizable parts of southern and southeastern Afghanistan, leading to widespread disillusionment among Afghans with the mission." (An Afghan I met in Amsterdam asked me why the world does not admit that the relatively best government in Afghanistan's history has been the communist, especially if you measure by the standard of women's rights.)
If there is no oil in Saudi Arabia, the world would realize that House of Saud and Al-Qa`idah are theologically (and practically) indistinguishable: "A Nigerian woman and a Pakistani man were executed in the Muslim holy city of Mecca today for drug trafficking, the Saudi interior ministry said. Ghulam Nawaz was beheaded by the sword after being found guilty of drug smuggling in the ultra-conservative kingdom, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency. In a separate statement, the ministry said Tawa Ibrahim, the Nigerian, was beheaded for cocaine trafficking. Their executions bring to 18 the number announced by Saudi authorities since the start of the year, after a record 153 people were put to death in 2007. Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking can all carry the death penalty in the oil-rich Gulf Arab country, where executions are usually carried out in public."
"Europe and the United States increasingly tolerate autocrats posing as democrats out of pure self-interest, in countries such as Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria and Russia, as human right abuses go on, Human Rights Watch charged Thursday."
"There is someone in Israel more exploited than the migrant workers or janitorial staff and it is Arab women."
Time's Macleod tries to absolve Islam of responsibility for terrorism so he blames it all on Habash: "You could call George Habash, a Palestinian leader who died in Amman on Saturday at the age of 82, the godfather of Middle East terrorism."Publish Post
"Orlev calls for MKs who attended Habash funeral to be put on trial"
Safieh responds to Lantos: "On Wednesday Safieh countered with a statement. "The PLO Mission rejects this unfortunate and insensitive characterization by Mr. Lantos, which is deemed as a direct insult to the Palestinian people as a whole," he said. Habash was "undeniably the second most important figure" in the history of the Palestinian national movement, Safieh said. "Honoring the memory of a national leader of the historical magnitude of Dr. George Habash does not constitute an endorsement of every ideological position or method used by Dr. Habash over the past 60 years of political struggle on behalf of the Palestine cause.""
Rashad Abu Shawir on Fakhri Karim's suit against Al-Adab.
PS Why did Abu Shawir bring up the Kurdish ethnicity of Karim as if it was some stigma? Why did you bring it up in the first place? I don't get it.
Who woke up Human Rights Watch? "Israel's blockade of Gaza denies 1.4 million Palestinians the food, fuel and medicine they need to survive, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday, calling it collective punishment and a violation of international law."
Israel's Supreme Court reminds me of Saudi Supreme Council of Fatwawawas, or Iran's Council of Experts: "Israel's Supreme Court Upholds Gaza Fuel, Electricity Cuts."
Overwhelmingly, Lebanese favor both sides making concessions to reach a compromise agreement. Let me translate: it will not happen, if this is what the people want.
Obama's political ambitions are directly proportional to his ostensible appreciation of Israel's quest for "peace." ""I'm confident," Obama said, "that Israel is ready and willing to make some of these concessions if they have the confidence that the Palestinians can enforce an agreement."" Ready and willing, o Senator from Illinois? Ready and willing? Is that how you spoke about Israel when you were a Chicago-based politician? Ready and willing, huh? And this is your honest and sincere position, I take it.
"Libya rescinds bid for UN condemnation of Israeli blockade on Gaza"
PS Let me guess: US Congress will suddenly find improvements in the human rights situation in Libya now.
Husam `Itani on Lebanon's "Winograd."
According to a poll by the Beirut Center, Nayla Mu`awwad is the most disliked Minister in Lebanon. 66 % of all Lebanese don't want to see her return as a minister. (We have to factor in the variable of sexism here as much as I dislike her).
Does mini-Hariri now writes the editorials of the Los Angeles Times? (thanks Yasmine)
I feel that we should overthrow an Arab regime--at least one--in memory of George Habash.
For those who don't care, I shall appear on AlJazeera (Arabic) on the show From Washington, next Monday at 11:00AM (2:00PM Eastern Time). Unfortunately, they did not invite me to speak about George Habash.
When Israel Honors Terrorism: "This week, the Knesset marked the 100th birthday of Lechi founder and commander Avraham Stern, known by his codename Ya'ir. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke warmly of the former anti-British fighter, saying, "His way was not the general path taken by the Zionist movements, but we are all obligated to honor his greatness. He was like a match that ignites a large flame."" (thanks Asa)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I dedicate this news item to Lebanonese readers: "Singing in Damascus for the first time in more than 20 years, the Lebanese diva Fairuz, 73, electrified an audience that included Vice President Farouq al-Shara on Monday night as that Syrian capital celebrated its designation as Arab Capital of Culture 2008, Agence France-Presse reported. Fairuz, above, widely considered the greatest Arab singer after the death of Umm Kalthoum in 1975, is to give eight concerts, all sold out."
"Klein versus the capitalists"
Clovis Maqsud on the "Dean of the Resistance."
Ilyas `Atallah wrote a silly word in An-Nahar on Geroge Habash. He dared to compare George Habash to Rafiq Hariri.
Today, I was watching the LBC Newscast. They said that a human rights commission in Lebanon issued its annual report assessing the human rights situation in the country. I looked and the report was read by none other than Pierre `Atallah--a supporter of the Guardians of the Cedar (a fascist party in Lebanon which, among many similar slogans, advocated that "killing a Palestinian earn you entrance into heaven.")
"Saudi Arabia on Wednesday beheaded two men"
Human Rights Watch used to issue statements of condemnation and concern if Muhammad Mughrabi (a right-wing lawyer in Lebanon who had supported the fascist militia of Bashir Gemayyel in Lebanon, and who reportedly had supported the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982) had a stomach flu. They even gave him a human rights and right-wing advocacy award. Yet, I have not heard a single word from Human Rights Watch about Lebanese Army shooting at unarmed demonstrators. Amnesty International at least called for an investigation.
Bashshar Al-Asad and Rafiq Hariri have one thing in common: they both promised "a spring" to their people, and they both gave them stormy winters.
Do you notice that Israeli inquiry commissions always produce window dressings? Do you notice that they state the obvious, and always wind up absolving the government? And did the Arab media need to wait for an Israeli report to know that Israel, which used massive, reckless, and indiscriminate violence on the whole of Lebanon was humiliated and defeated in its military endeavor?
Remembering "the Arab Guevara"
How many times per week does AlJazeera plan to air this one-hour report on the assassination of Ysufu Siba`i? I have had it with that report. I mean, I did read Siba`i's trashy novels as a kid, but come on. There are other victims in the world, unless the intention is to whip up anti-Palestinian sentiments among Egyptian people.
I found somebody who is a worse speaker than the Saudi King. It is Hizbullah MP, Muhammad Haydar. Who is he and why is he such a fumbler? He also said that he was not angry with states, like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, which supported Israeli war on Lebanon.
"'Abused lives' of Jordan's maids" (thanks Laleh)
"US Congressman Tom Lantos harshly criticized Safia, calling it “stupidity” and arrogance to expect US leaders to express sorrow over the death of Habash. Safia’s desire to honor an anti-American terrorist leader is disturbing to those who wish to see true peace between Israel and the PA, he said." Any peace that is supported by Lantos is a recipe for perpetual war. Count me out of his peace process NOW. (thanks Ali)
So now that Rudy's campaign is down the drain, literally, does that mean that Daniel Pipes will not be serving as Secretary of Homeland Security? But then again, Hillary or McCain could easily put the people of Campus Watch in charge of the Justice Department.
On March 2nd, 1974, Al-Hadaf (the mouthpiece of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), published the transcript of an interview conducted by an Italian leftist newspaper with the late George Habash. Here is what he said about the Rome bombing*: "And regarding every operation that our organization undertakes, we are responsible for the evaluation of the magnitude of gain and damage that an operation nets, on all levels--Palestinian, Arab, and international. But at the same time, we don't constitute the whole Palestinian people which is uprooted and dispersed, and we don't plan all external operations, and consequently we can't guarantee the health and safety of all operations that occur outside [of Palestine]....As for the recent Rome operation which does not match the revolutionary lines that we adhere to in our external military action, we inside the Executive Committee of the PLO, were staunchly in favor of forming a commission to investigate this operation." (p. 12).
* To show you the ignorance of the Western AND Arab media. That Rome attack is still referred to as one of the "operations" of the PFLP when it was perpetrated by a Fath defector, Abu Mahmud (Ahmad `Abdul-Ghafur) who, under direction from the Libyan regime, formed a small gang, known as Arab Nationalist Youth for the Liberation of Palestine. Later, Arafat sent hit men after Abu Mahmud and he was gunned down in September 1974, in Beirut. If you are in doubt, would you kindly check the facts first? Or even call me. No, don't you ever call me. Never mind.
New TV had this headline for its evening newscast: "Syria and Saudi Arabia [the governments] agree on penalizing democracy."
Electronic Ali asked me to write something about George Habash. Here, it is.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A previously unpublished interview with George Habash. (Read the important answer to the last question in the interview).

Cheap shot: Arab Neo-Conservatism in a word or two. Hazim Saghiyyah, the dean of former Arab leftists, in his regular column in a Jordanian newspaper, takes the opportunity of George Habash's death to....praise the Jordanian regime. (But don't get me wrong: Al-Ghadd is a serious newspaper, and has a special supplement (cover above) for the birthday of King PlayStation, under the headline "A Sun Illuminating the Future." There is a fundamentally juicy irony of bashing George Habash under this picture and this banner, no?)
`Umar Nashshabah on Juzu (thanks As`ad--not me)
For real literature, you should turn to An-Nahar newspaper (the right-wing, sectarian Christian, anti-Syrian (people), anti-Palestinian (people) propaganda sheet. Here, a poem/tribute to the Saudi ambassador in Lebanon.
It is all over Hariri media. Rafiq Hariri's eldest son, Baha', named his newly born son, Rafiq. As soon as he was born, the dept of the Lebanese Republic increased ten fold. The new Rafiq Hariri said that he will not rest until all Lebanese live below the poverty line.
Mrs. PlayStation, otherwise known as the queen of Jordan, courageously speaks on behalf of the forgotten victims. Here, she speaks about victims of traffic accidents. Who but the courageous Queen of Jordan can take on the powerful lobby of reckless drivers?
"Mr. Rezko, a Syrian-American..." Now why did the New York Times mention that? Would the New York Times editor identify him as "Jewish-American" or "Swedish-American" (if he were either)?
Nayif Hawatimah started to write a tribute to George Habash but wound up writing a tribute to himself. This man can't help himself.
"Saudi reformists are to send a new petition to King Abdullah calling for the release of fellow activists and an end to the harassment of bloggers and journalists, one of them told AFP. The petition also demands the promulgation of a law "guaranteeing people's rights and freedom... on the basis of Islamic tenets," said Mohammed bin Hudeijan al-Harbi, one of 12 Islamist reformists who drafted the document. The petition, which complains that the scope of freedom and "peaceful expression" in the ultra-conservative kingdom has narrowed over the past year, is timed to mark one year since nine reformists were arrested."
"the state of Israel canceled your performance in the country due to lack of budget and because several politicians in the Knesset had believed at the time that your performance might corrupt the minds of Israeli youth.”"
"The proposed amendment to Basic Law: Jerusalem, would enable the Jerusalem Municipal Council to ban gay parades and rallies for considerations of disturbance to public order, offending the public's sensitivities or for religious considerations."
"The UN-model ended with a gala dinner, attended by all delegations, Arab and foreign ambassadors and the Israeli commerce attaché to Doha, Roi Rosenblit."
"With regard to policy, Obama repeated his well-known stands. He believes in Israel "as a Jewish state"; he does not accept that the Palestinian right of return should be interpreted "in any literal way"; he opposes talks with Hamas until the organization recognizes Israel; and yes, he believes in a two-state solution but only after the Israelis "will have security" that the Palestinians will not only sign an agreement but implement it. Obama also said he would offer Iran "carrots and sticks."" (thanks Laleh)
"Nous ne pouvons rien faire". (thanks FLC)
"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that by insisting on control of the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt, Hamas has shown that it is not concerned with the needs of the Palestinian people." He added that nobody is more concerned with the needs of the Palestinian people than Israeli occupation soldiers who should control the ports. (thanks Ali who sent it to me with the heading "filthy collaborator")
My sister, Mirvat, sent me this: "(Ammo [Uncle] Naji told me this long time ago), my mother remembered (as it was in 1958 during the "revolution"[in Lebanon] and mom and dad were in Tyre..Naji refused to study medicine in USJ as his father (our gradfather wanted). So he escaped to Jordan to Habash who sent immediately a telex to my grandparents to tell them not to worry and that their son is in Amman and will be back in a month to study later in Egypt journalism as he was not meant to be a doctor. While Habash accompanied Naji in a tour in Al-Wahdat camp, he introduced him to Wadi Haddad. After two months, while Habash was visiting Haddad, he was surprised to see my uncle still with thim, so he asked him immediately: Why are you still there? You were supposed to be back as I promised your parents? So my uncle answered that Wadi Haddad convinced him to stop his studies to be an activist (mounadel) with the Palestinian resistance. So Habash summoned him and ordered him to go back home immediately asking him to continue his studies. And that what happened! In the late seventies, while my uncle was in UNESCO, I took him to see Habash the great leader of our time, so modest, so nice, so warm and so polite."
OK. I need somebody's advice. Is there a good reliable Arabic enabling program for Windows mobile? I have tried two already and both fucked up my phone. (Oh, and I need the advice NOW).
About interviewing Habash in his late days.
Comrade Faraj analyzes the "Cedar Revolution."
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."

Monday, January 28, 2008

I am so glad that I was not there. I would not want to see George Habash like this. That is not he image that I retain of him. I will remember him fiery and angry and eloquent. I stayed until 4 AM last night to watch live coverage of his funeral. It was a mistake. It was too painful for me. This man opened my eyes on Palestine at an early age, and his example made me detest `Arafat at the age of 12. And what was Yasir `Abd-Rabbuh doing at the funeral? And why was he not pelted with eggs--very rotten eggs?
A word about the bloodshed in Lebanon. First, the opposition (Hizbullah, `Awn, Amal and the rest) has no credibility WHATSOEVER on issues of social justice. Hizbullah was silent during the long Hariri years, and did not speak in protest when Hariri was looting the country and deepening its poverty. When I would ask Hizbullah leaders on issues of social justice during those years, they would say that they are not focusing on that. Amal: has no credibility whatsoever: it was Amal that participated in the looting of the state during those years, and in imposing that tool of Nabih Birri at the helm of the labor unions. Ghassan Ghusn was imposed in order to abort a rising labor union in the 1990s--and told him that when I saw him at the office of the Minister of Labor back in 2006 when he said that they are planning to act. I reminded him that he has been asleep for years: the Syrian regime (and its tools) decided to help Hariri by undermining a promising, non-sectarian movement headed by Ilyas Abu Rizq. `Awn's economic program, as analyzed by the late Joseph Samahah at the time, is to the right of Hariri. Secondly, Hizbullah and their allies are lying: they know who shot at the demonstrators and they are dancing around the issue and making insinuations. It was not Ja`ja` (or Ga`ga` in Egyptian accent) but the Lebanese Army who killed the demonstrators. Thirdly, the Lebanese Army, as was reported by Riyad Qubaysi of New TV at the time although the station later played it down, acted thuggishly and recklessly. And this behavior should be blamed on the Army and on the government AND the opposition in Lebanon: they all watched and cheered when the Army was destroying Nahr Al-Barid and recklessly and ruthlessly killing civilians. Fourthly, the Hariri government in Lebanon is taking the country into civil war: you have to give it them and to their sponsors in Saudi Arabia: they have succeeded in their campaigns of sectarian agitation and mobilization: read it daily in Hariri rag, Al-Mustaqbal. Fifthly, my sources in Lebanon tell me that Gen. Michel Sulayman is not trusted by opposition anymore because he was caught playing games, but if he is elected president he should know that he was not elected by the Lebanese people but by the Arab foreign ministers, US, and France. Sixthly, if the Lebanese Army is deployed, it will not fight as one, but will do what it has always done--fight along sectarian lines. This is what happened I think, as I watched the scenes on Sunday on New TV. Seventhly, let me tell the people in the opposition in Lebanon: issues of social justice are real and genuine issues: they are the stuff of daily and consistent advocacy and not for seasonal exploitation for pure political exploitation in order to get that silly "blocking one-third" in the cabinet. Let me also say that thus far only comrade Khalid Saghiyyah and Fida' `Itani of Al-Akhbar (read this tough piece here) have been critical of Michel Sulayman. Finally, Habash is dead and I am not in the mood for those ugly sectarian squabbles in Lebanon.
Lately, I don't have the interest to drive all the way to San Francisco to do a press interview. Today, they tempted me by saying that Hitchens would be on the other side (I had debated him before for an hour on an NPR radio station in SF). So I drove only to be interviewed alone. I think I kicked my own ass. Afterwards, I was not even on speaking terms with myself.
For those who care, I shall appear live on AlJazeera (English) TV tonight (7:00PM Pacific Time and 10:00PM Eastern Time) to comment on Bush's State of the Union. The other guest is Christopher Hitchens.
It was confirmed to me that Hamas was the only Palestinian organization that did not send a representative to Habash's funeral in Amman. They said that all their representatives were busy memorizing Saudi fatwawawas and receiving orders from Iran.
PS Mish`al himself was busy lying to Prince Salman's mouthpiece, Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, and denying that the Palestinians were angry with the Egyptian regime.
So the Saudi Muftititi (seen above) was speaking on some Fatwawawa TV station. He said that he is opposed to the idea that women can stay at a hotel without a male guardian.
Look at this disgusting article about "sexual deviance" among workers from Bangladesh in Saudi Arabia. And read the racist comments that some readers in Saudi Arabia wrote under the story.
Nostalgia and disillusionment. I had to remind myself of the grave political mistakes of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. I dug out my issues of Al-Hadaf magazine from the 1970s. In terms of political propaganda, it was really good and effective, and it makes you politically nostalgic to a previous era where people had hope, and where religion and sectarianism were marginal. But I also saw what disturbed me: two pages in each issues contained paid political propaganda from North Korea. And one of the senior editors of the magazine, `Adnan Badr, would write the most propgandistic article on the Iraqi regime: the front was getting money at the time from the Iraqi regime. A few months ago, I spoke to a guy who knew me from my college days at the American University of Beirut. I sounded politically nostalgic to that era: he reminded me that I was politically very disillusioned and bitter in those days. I said that our politically disillusionment is so deep these days, that I I am nostalgic to my past politically disillusionment. When I saw comrade Fawwaz Trabulsi in Berlin, I asked him--and he is somebody who has been around struggle since the early 1960s: was it ever as bad as it is these days? Never, he answered. But then again: you see the resolve and determination of the Palestinian people, and you can't but be politically optimistic about the future. Zionism is verily doomed.
"Vancouver is 'best place to live'". (thanks Ema) (My city of Modesto, California is often ranked the worst place to live in the US).
Khalid Mish`al, the religio-political demagogue who leads Hamas, and who manages to pledge allegiance to both Iran and Saudi Arabia (both countries did not lift a finger to help the Palestinians in Gaza) arrived in Saudi Arabia. He said that he wanted to check if the Saudi King shoe's needed shining.
George Habash is dead. In other news, Muhammad Dahlan is an excellent health.
"Ending the stranglehold on Gaza" (thanks Naseer)
Lamis Andooni on George Habash.
`Aziz Sidqi is dead. The man behind Egyptian industrialization who was forced to watch the massive privatization of Sadat and Mubakar.
Any Arab, or any supporter of Palestinian struggle, who did not get to watch Habash give one of his long speeches at `Abdun-Nasser's Hall at Arab University of Beirut, has missed something.
When the Movement of Arab Nationalists was founded in the early 1950s, Kuwaiti physician, Ahmad Al-Khatib, was one of the founders. After graduation, George Habash and Wadi` Haddad started a clinic for the poor refugees in Amman. Al-Khatib had a salary of 100 Dinars in Kuwait: he would keep 10 dinars for himself, and send 90 Dinars to Habash and Haddad. Imagine. Those were the days, my friends...
I have not been keen on doing interviews as of late but I may go on Aljazeera English tonight to go against... Christopher Hitchens regarding Bush's State of the Union. I shall let you know once it is confirmed.
I am still in deep mourning over George Habash's passing to write on anything else including on the rising sectarian tensions in the Batata homeland, and the recent eruptions. I noticed that Jalal Talbani (Iraq's puppet president) sent a representative to Habash's funeral in Amman. For those who don't know, Talbani was a big supporter and fan of Habash, and in the late 60s and early 70s did work for none other than Wadi` Haddad (by work, I mean carrying explosives and transporting materials to Europe and such). Ironic, huh? And the Al-Arabiyya correspondent in Amman reported yesterday that all Palestinian organizations sent representatives to the funeral of Habash except Hamas. Can somebody confirm this to me? If true, I have a few words to say about Hamas. Al-Arabiyya correspondent mentioned that Habash was imprisoned in Syria: he did not mention that he was also imprisoned in Jordan too.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Two amazing--and unsavory--political characters. `Abdul-`Aziz Al-Hakim is loyal to both, the US and Iran. And Khalid Mish`al of Hamas is loyal to Iran...and Saudi Arabia. How do they manage those loyalties?
"C'est à ce moment qu'il dénonce la coopération avec les gouvernements arabes, lançant ses fameux slogans : "La route de Tel-Aviv passe par Amman et Beyrouth" ; "La lutte palestinienne a besoin, pour triompher, d'un Hanoï arabe"."
Bullock's obituary in the Independent: "Habash, who trained as a doctor, was then a white-haired, chain-smoking figure who exerted a tremendous fascination on all those he met. Before the war in Jordan, he would hold open house at his offices in Amman, conducting non-stop seminars with any who went to see him. So strong was his personality, so great his charm, that many an impressionable young man or woman would have been quite ready to plant bombs on his behalf if he had asked. But, for all his reputation, Habash was not the mastermind of terror that he was made out to be." And "For all his fearsome reputation, he was a gentle man more at home with ideas than action."
This is why one always notes the major difference between the US and the European press. I did some press interviews recently in Berlin, and one is always struck how better informed European reporters are: and it is not genetics. It has to do with the political and press cultures, and the emphasis on training. Read this obituary of George Habash (which has some criticisms) by David Hirst, and compare it to that lousy obituary (titled "terrorism tactician") in the New York Times today.
The Clintons' southern strategy in this election is more blatantly racist than Nixon's southern strategy of 1968.
Angry Arabs and the Arab League. Something significant happened today. It was like a semi-rebellion by Egyptian journalists on live TV. So the Arab League met in Cairo, and the Egyptian state TV was carrying the press conference by `Amru Musa following the meeting of the foreign ministers. From the first question, you knew that there was anger among the journalists and it was publicly expressed. The coverage by the Egyptian station was immediately halted. The first journalist asked Musa why the final statement referred to Gaza in 10 points without mentioning the role of the US. Musa gave the most non-sensical and rambling answers that went on and on and avoided the question. And subsequent questions were along the same lines. Musa looked as comfortable as Bush when quizzed on foreign policy.
ًWhen George Habash was a medical student at the American University of Beirut, he heard Syrian poet, `Umar Abu Rishah, read his poetry. He often spoke about that experience years later. I don't have time to translate, but this is a link to one of the political poems of Abu Rishah. Personally, I like his poem The Eagle.
Another brilliant move by the US administration. It thinks that it can select Shi`ite leaders for Lebanon. This is quite funny.
"Not a better message. It figured that he would snowbird his strategy, taking his New York subtext of blacks-want-to-mug-you-and-I-can-protect-you down to Florida and switching it to Arabs-want-to-kill-you-and-I-can-save-you.And I wasn’t surprised that he continued to run on fear and divisiveness, zeroing in on Florida the way he used to target Staten Island, Bay Ridge, Queens and parts of Manhattan where the elderly lived."
Look at the headline of Habash's obituary in the New York Times. It is weird: when I lived in Lebanon nobody cared how the Middle East is covered in the New York Times or the Washington Post. And then you live in the US, this deceptively seems important. And by the way, a quotation attributed to him in an interview with a German magazine was invented by the well-known fabricator, Oriana Fallaci, who interviewed him for Life in 1970. Shame on John Kifner, who should know better, for this lousy and inaccurate obituary. Notice that nowhere in the article does the authors mention that Habash expelled Wadi` Haddad from PFLP over disagreements about hijackings and "international operations." And some of the hijackings mentioned in the article were undertaken by the separate organization set up by Wadi` Haddad and which used its own name (Foreign Operations-PFLP). And Al-Hakim is NOT Habash's nom de guerre, as was claimed. Habash never used a nom de guerre as he was too well-known from his student days to use a cover. The name was used since he started operating among the refugees in the camps.
"As the Lebanese army celebrated its “victory” over Fatah al Islam, its commander, Michel Suleiman, seemed poised to become the next president. Today posters and banners in Lebanon declare him the “savior.” He would not be the first president to have punished the Palestinians. Between 1958 and 1964, President Fuad Shehab created an elaborate, ruthless secret-service network to monitor the Palestinian camps. During his 1970-76 reign, President Suleiman Franjieh clashed militarily with Palestinian factions, even using the air force to bomb a neighborhood thought to be pro-Palestinian. I have heard followers of assassinated president-elect Bashir Gemayel, whose Maronite Christian militia massacred Palestinians in 1976, brag that he was stopped at a checkpoint in the early years of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war with a trunk full of the skulls of dead Palestinians. Even today, the Lebanese opposition’s preferred candidate for president is Michel Aoun, a Christian retired general who also participated in the 1976 killings." (thanks Nir)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"Bush is admittedly so unpopular that even Republican presidential candidates rarely mention him."
Some possible good news: "It has been an uncomfortable few days for President Husni Mubarak..." (thanks Yasmine)
Khalid Mish`al, the liar: in the footsteps of Arafat. Here, Mish`al (the leader of Hamas) tells the mouthpiece of Prince Salman that he assured the Egyptian regime that the Palestinians are not mad at it. Oh, no, o Mish`al. The Palestinians are angry at the Albanian regime over Gaza, not the Egyptian regime. Thanks for the clarification.
Goerge Habash is dead: the revolutionary ascetic. I was very sad all day today. I would feel my tears on my face every time I would see his pictures on Arab TV stations which reported on his death. I told part of the story here before: on the first time I met Habash in Beirut when I was in high school. `Aziz woke me up after midnight. I did not know where I was going, but `Aziz was smiling. He knew that I would be happy. We went on his motorcycle. We entered the living room in that apartment in Hamra Street, and there was George Habash and his wife, Hilda. I was 17 years old in 1978. Habash was drinking whiskey. I was mesmerized--by him, not by the whiskey. I never was affected by meeting a person, like that meeting. I never since then found anybody with his charisma. In my eyes, nobody had Habash's charisma, although I am objectively critical of his political role and the experience of the PFLP. Of course, the Western media will portray him as a terrorist, and House of Saud neo-conservative writer, Waddah Shararah (I disliked him when he was a Stalinist and I dislike him even more as a neo-conservative Arab but my consolation is that nobody reads him and those who read him don't know what he wants to say--Sadiq Jalal Al-`Adhm once told me that Shararah writes as inside joke between himself) will repeat what he said before on Habash, that he was a terrorist. I know better. I even know that he was a gentle man, not a violent man at all--current Zionist obituaries in the Western press notwithstanding. Ironically, the era of the early hijacking and "international operations" made him notorious worldwide in the early 1970s although he had nothing to do with that. That was the brainchild of Wadi` Haddad, who did not have the patience for "mass work" that Habash so favored, what is now called "collective action" in the political science jargon. So during the conversation, Habash brought up the issue of that right-wing student at IC (my obnoxious elitist high school) that I have "bothered." I prevented the student from displaying books by right-wing organizations during an Arabic book exhibit at the school. I was merely observing--as I still do--the "isolation" of the Phalanges Party--the fascist party of Lebanon--in the wake of the `Ayn Ar-Rummanah massacre. The student's father was Habash's dentist, and the father complained to Habash. So Habash brought up the issue: and I so arrogantly--I get embarrassed when I remember--told him: there is no "wisatah" (mediation) in revolutionary matters. Who am I to talk like this to a symbol of world revolution at the time? Who did I think I was? How arrogant of me. I still remember what he said. He said: we can't say that he (the fellow in question) is "in`izali"(isolationist) nor we can say that he is "watani" (patriotic). I was deeply affected by the encounter, and my (personal) admiration for him grew. You often meet people you have read about, and then you lose your admiration when you see them up close. It was not like that in the case of Habash, although politically I was growing increasingly toward anarchism and opposed Marxist-Leninist organizations in college--one Stalinist organization threatened to kill me because they said that I was having a bad influence on their members who had left. But I managed to smoke Habash's pipe afterwards--I hate smoking, but did not want to miss the opportunity to smoke his pipe. So Habash was not in favor of "international operations" and he was adamant about that and was forced in late 1971 to expel his very best friend Wadi` Haddad over "the hijacking and international operations." Haddad believed in actions, and nothing else, and that was not Habash. Habash's family was of course expelled by Zionist gangs under the leadership of Itzhak Rabin (he talked about the expulsion in the Hebrew edition of his memoirs, but not in the English language--why harm Zionist propaganda in the English speaking world, he must have calculated) in 1948. I saw Habash a few times over the years, and the last time was a few years ago when the publisher, Riyadh Najib Ar-Rayyis and Fawwaz Trabulsi suggested that I talk with Habash about writing his biography. Nothing came out of that, and he said that his wife did not agree: she wanted to monopolize the process. Habash was somebody you can disagree with: in fact, he had read a very critical article I had written on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine back in 1987 in the Middle East Journal. I also gave him in that meeting another very critical article I have written about him for the Journal of Palestine Studies (titled "Neither Unity, Nor Liberation"). Prior to the meeting, his entourage and my sister kindly asked me to not be too critical: they were worried about him because he had become too emotional and excitable. I noticed that. He would get very emotional. But he was mentally alert, although he would forget a date here and there. I offered some criticisms in that last meeting: about how the Front did not promote women's rights, as it should have. He fully agreed, and told me that they are working on promoting more women in leadership positions. I told him that secularism was not pushed hard enough, and he also agreed. But what bothered me was his sense of resignation: he basically felt that he was willing to leave the Palestinian question in the hands of Hamas and Hizbullah because "we the left, have failed." It bothered me that he was not willing to be critical of the Islamists, or be interested in saving or reviving the Left. I am very critical of the experience of the PFLP: many things along the way. Oil money (directly or indirectly) reached and corrupted all organizations of the Palestinian revolution. And during the experience of the Rejectionist Front (from 1974-1977), Habash and the PFLP allowed the regime of Saddam Husayn to exercise control over all of them in return for hefty subsidies. That was it. Between Zionism and imperialism, oil money, the Syrian and the Iraqi regime, and the lousy leadership of Yasir `Arafat, they succeeded in aborting the Palestinian revolution. Habash uniquely resigned from the PFLP leadership. He wanted to found think tank. He gave me a copy of the plan--it was super secret in his mind, as he told me to not share with anybody. I read it later, and felt very sad. He basically had a vision of a think tank, organized Leninistically--with a politbureau and a Central Committee, etc. It never took off of course: he had no money. He barely had money to live, I know that. He also refused offers of financial help from wealthy Palestinians. But lest Zionist hoodlums begin their celebrations too prematurely: I still remember his last words to me: he said, as if to take himself out of a gloomy mood: "and there is and there will be a new Palestinian generation." How true. Stay tuned.
From the era of George Habash to the era of David Petraeus. I am not making this up. I watched a rather brief report on the life of George Habash on Aljazeera (Arabic), and then switched to Al-Arabiya TV. Not only did AlArabiya ignore Habash's death in that broadcast, but they were airing a lengthy report on...Gen. David Petraeus. It said that the general is now roaming the streets of Baghdad freely without a helmet and without a bullet-proof vest. It showed Petraeus walking in a small street, along with Al-Arabiyya correspondent, who looked more like this bodyguard.
Only a month ago I mentioned the story of my first meeting with George Habash when I was still in high school.

George Habash is dead. Too sad to say more now.
The religio-political demagogue, Khalid Mish`al (leader of the lousy Hamas organization) spoke to New TV. He said that the Palestinians are not angry with Arab regimes, and that he is grateful to Husni Mubarak. Mish`al is another Dahlan in the making--with a religious garb.
"On his perceived image as an impotent leader in thrall to the U.S. administration, Karzai, said he was willing to shoulder insults in return for U.S. assistance...."The U.S administration has helped Afghanistan and if we are called puppets, or if I am called a puppet because we are grateful to America, then let that be my nickname." (thanks Randy)
Sectarian polarization is so acute in Lebanon that during the funeral of the security person who was assassinated the crowd chanted "the blood of Sunnis is really boiling, boiling."
"Barack Obama's Middle East Expert" (thanks Amer)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pierre Abi Sa`b salutes Saudi Arabia (it is an ironic title).
This is Lebanon. A Western correspondent in the Middle East sent me this: "just watching al jazeera english covering the latest bomb.. Rula Amin the corespondent on the scene says she just met a family who have discovered their father had died in the blast.. "their first reaction was to beat up the Syrian man on the corner selling bananas" she reported..."
The New York Times put this caption under a picture: "A guard tried to control the hordes of Palestinians who poured into Egypt for televisions, cigarettes, livestock, food and fuel." Hordes is never used to describe Western people or Israelis for example.
Sometimes I notice that I have a hard time criticizing people with whom I have broken bread. Is that bad?
"With its international mandate in Iraq set to expire in 11 months, the Bush administration will insist that the government in Baghdad give the United States broad authority to conduct combat operations and guarantee civilian contractors specific legal protections from Iraqi law, according to administration and military officials."
""Looking hip is not just about vanity anymore, it's critical to every woman's personal and financial survival." They would never say that about men. (thanks Ema)
To their credit, none of the US media I saw referred to the ethnic background of the corrupt Chicago contributor, Rezko. Al-Hayat (in the Saudi edition that I read two days ago in DC) referred to Rezko as "Syrian" on its front page headline.
The headscarves study (thanks Maria)
My mother tells me that Lebanese she knows are fed up with both: the government side and the opposition. Who can blame them?
So tell me more about you: "I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

This is interesting. A "House for Secularists", literally, in Beirut. A place where Lebanese can find a haven away from their sects.
Classism (and kookyism) in political discourse in Lebanon (by comrade Khalid)
"The Philippines has banned its citizens from going to Jordan to work amid claims of widespread abuse of domestic staff by Jordanian employers" (thanks Mal)
"Obama: Israel was forced to close Gaza" (thanks Shadi)
Iraq was "liberated" and US granted the country its sovereignty. Is that not nice? "U.S. officials strongly encouraged the approval of a law dealing with former Baathists and circulated a draft bill to politicians." Like was it not nice that US officials circulated a draft bill to Iraqi politicians? If that is not a kind gesture, what is?
"and people need to understand I'm not and never have been of the Muslim faith," he told CBN's David Brody." (thanks Nader)
Modern-day slavery. (thanks Toufic)
Maria (my 2nd ex-wife) did not like an article I posted two days ago in criticism of Martin Luther King. She sent me this (cited with her permission):
"This opinion piece is crazy. 1) The civil rights movement was accomplished, in large part, by the threat of violence. Not only the Deacons for Defense (who were armed guards protecting many of the leaders of the civil rights movement, including King), but also the National Guard. Troops and jeeps with guns on the back were what it took to get those kids into the school in Arkansas. Pretending that King was some kind of a wuss who accomplished nothing is a joke. 2) Gandhi was distinguishing between nonviolent resistance, which he explicitly said requires trength and bravery, and therefore is NOT a weapon of the weak, and passive resistance, which is to go along with evil even if you hate it. The use of that quote is deeply misleading. He was wishing his movement were more truly based in his principles, rather than falling apart, as it seemed to be doing at the time. 3) If black people, who were not only a minority, but also a minority that was already stereotyped as "violent," had turned to primarily violent means to accomplish their goals, they would have been killed. Members of the Black Panther party, who threatened violence but in fact engaged in very little violence, were shot dead in their beds. 4) Some people are actually weak. Thoughtful, committed nonviolence may be the only practical strategy in some situations. I'm not a pacifist. I accept that there are times people need to engage in guerilla warfare or tactical assassinations. But I am deeply opposed to killing civilians, and there is no way that a violent civil rights movement wouldn't have led to the deaths of many, many civilians, most of them black."
"“In the first Saudi era there was more of a tendency to buy individuals,” said As‘ad AbuKhalil, a politics professor at California State University, Stanislaus, and author of The Battle for Saudi Arabia. [4] “Before 1990 there were competing ownerships of Arab media – Libya, Iraq, UAE and Saudi Arabia. These were the major contenders. Ever since that time it is fair to say the media came entirely open for Saudi Arabia and the multiplicity [of media outlets] reflects the multiplicity of princes [that own media outlets].”"
""He also met with Secretary Gates to discuss global poverty". With all the time on his hand, why does not Bono learn to play one musical instrument. ONE? Just one. Even the triangle would be nice.
My article in Al-Akhbar: "Bush in the laps of Arab Kings."
This Syrian was killed by "an unknown assailant" in Lebanon. Notice, how Hariri media report the news with a tone of glee.
There is so much to write about, and I have received many good links but...I woke up late and I have to run. I will take care of updates at tonight, after returning from Berkeley.
Just returned home. No time to write or even to sing. And I start my class at Berkeley tomorrow. Good night.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

News from "liberated" Afghanistan: the rule of pro-US Taliban. Where are the US feminist organizations (like the Feminist Majority) which agitated for war on Afghanistan: "Reporters Without Borders is very worried about the pressure being placed on the authorities by conservative religious leaders in the case of Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, a young journalist in the northern province of Balkh who has been detained since late October on charges of blasphemy and defaming Islam. The Council of Mullahs says he should be sentenced to death. "The calls for the death penalty for Kambakhsh highlight the growing influence of fundamentalist groups on intellectual debate," the organisation said. "The blasphemy charges are an ill-disguised attempt to hide the desire of the local authorities to restrict press freedom."...Reporters Without Borders is also very concerned about Ghows Zalmay, a former journalist and attorney-general's spokesman, who is being held for publishing a translation of the Koran into Dari. He was arrested in early November after conservative religious leaders said the translation was "un-Islamic" and misinterpreted verses about adultery and begging. Parliamentarians have even accused him of being "worse than Salman Rushdie." Afghan journalists are exposed to threats and harassment from religious fundamentalists who try to prevent any debate about Islam and the status of women. The authorities often violate freedom of expression on the grounds of protecting the Islamic nature of Afghan society."
Khalid Mish`al of Hamas, who strikes me as somebody suffering from an acute case of religio-political demagoguery, called on the likes of Saudi Arabia and Egypt to save Gaza. Mish`al has a particular weakness toward House of Saud, it seems. He sees in them "saviors" of the Palestinians. Maybe he is grateful for years of Saudi financing of Hamas (before the US ordered Saudi Arabia to stop the funding). Mish`al thinks that Arab governments are supporters of the Palestinians. He confuses present-day Arab regimes with the former Marxist government of South Yemen--which truly supported the Palestinians.
The Palestinians stormed through the gates and walls of Rafah, and Husni Mubarak audaciously lies and claims that he let them in on his own. This is the quality of Arab leaders.
Did I not tell you? Nobody--I mean nobody--can stop the Palestinians.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"“Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year."
"The siege of Gaza has reached a vicious new intensity. Last Thursday, Israel blocked the delivery of fuel oil supplies to the Strip. The result is that Gaza's only power station has not functioned since the weekend. Hundred of thousands of homes in the territory have been left without power. Hospitals have been forced to rely on diesel generators. Bakeries and petrol stations have closed. International aid organisations working in the Strip have warned of a threat to sewage and water supplies if the blockade continues." (thanks Yasmine)
"What is striking, however, is how the black and white communities live such separate lives that they do not even share the same electoral calendar for the primary contests. Separate lunch counters for blacks and whites and other aspects of institutionalised racism may have been banned decades ago, but here in the South, more subtle ways have been found of keeping the colour bar intact."
"[H]e uses nouns as verbs and verbs as nouns, puns on etymologies, and even plays with spelling, all in an effort to jar the reader out of conventional ways of reading and thinking."
Washington, DC today is colder than Amsterdam and Berlin last week. Let us face it: California has the best weather in the world.
A major Saudi propagandist (and a former spokesperson of Saudi ambassador in US) and editor of Al-Watan newspaper (a mouthpiece of Prince Khalid Al-Faysal) brags that he was a friend of Bin Laden.
"The Egyptian security forces fought off the protestors, beating them and using dogs and water hoses to push them back." (thanks Electronic Ali)
The new AlJazeera. Cairo's Bureau chief, Husayn `Abdul-Ghani, is a courageous reporter who has been harassed by the Egyptian government. But today, AlJazeera relied on a different guy to cover the oppression of Egyptian police at Gaza crossing. He basically propagandized on behalf of the Egyptian government.
"Assali's family say they try to keep someone at his bedside at all times in case the power cuts out. His eight brothers and sisters and even his cousins help out. "I'm giving him some oxygen," said his 13-year-old brother Udai as he squeezed the rubber pump in his fist. "I don't want him to die."" (thanks Karim)
A tribute to the great Joseph Samahah. (thanks Jamal)

Monday, January 21, 2008

His brother in a Gaza hospital is holding a manual pump for fear of another blackout that will stop his breaching. (Rueters).
Conspiracy? What conspiracy? Look at the headline of Al-Arabiya net. (thanks Amer)
I have never felt that the Palestinians are as alone as they are now. No, wait: the Arab League will issue a lousy statement in sympathy with the Palestinians, and the Iranian Supreme Guide will make one of his lousy (and boring) speeches.
In his entire career, Yasser `Arafat said one thing that I agree with: don't ever have faith in the Arab masses. They will always fail you. But then again: Arab and Muslim masses are either preoccupied with Danish cartoons (or Dutch movies) or...with Hayfa Wahbah.
She was hit by an Israeli missile in Gaza.(Reuters)
"Our love for King notwithstanding, if we are honest we will concede that King built nothing, and taught us only how to take a beating. As Gandhi said: "I have admitted my mistake. I thought our struggle was based on non-violence, whereas in reality it was no more than passive resistance, which is essentially a weapon of the weak."" (thanks Laleh)
According to the LA Times, Benazir Bhutto was "the first elected leader of a Muslims state"." (thanks Nouri)
"Egypt sent about 300 riot police to boost security at its border with Gaza on Monday as Palestinians demanded the opening of the Rafah crossing for patients needing hospital treatment." (thanks Yasmine)
The Clinton attack machine is hard at work: "A confidential memo questioning Senator Barack Obama’s potential approach to Middle East policy was circulated earlier this month among staffers at a major American Jewish organization." (thanks Ziyad)
It is abundantly clear that neither Fath nor Hamas are equipped or qualified to deal (politically or militarily) with the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine. Both movements have proven their utter uselessness. It is also clear that all Arab regimes (including the lousy regime in Syria) and Iran don't give a damn about what happens to the Palestinians. They all use and abuse the Palestinians for their own regime calculations.
Some Palestinians (collaborationists of course) are celebrating the misery of Gaza: "Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah expressed hope that the looming humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip would prompt Palestinians to turn against the Hamas government."
Electronic Ali on Gaza: " Almost ignored are the comments of John Dugard, UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories, who countered that the "killing of some 40 Palestinians in Gaza in the past week, the targeting of a government office near a wedding party venue with what must have been foreseen loss of life and injury to many civilians, and the closure of all crossings into Gaza raise very serious questions about Israel's respect for international law." He condemned Israel for violating "the strict prohibition on collective punishment contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention.""
""Now the street is blaming what's happening on the top clerics and the government," said Ali al-Najafi, the son of Bashir al-Najafi, one of four leading clerics collectively called the marjaiya." (thanks As`ad--not me)
Life as usual, indeed. "We won't allow the Palestinians to fire on us and destroy life in Sderot, while in Gaza life is going on as usual."" (thanks Emily)
"“Too often, workers sign one contract in their home country, and migrate to find they have to sign a new contract with lower wages and worse labor conditions,” Varia explained." to DC. Returning on Wednesday.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Anything for Mr. Bush: ""Syria and Saudi Arabia have taken a number of steps to reduce the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq," US military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told a press conference in Baghdad."
Can somebody find me the full text of an article on the waning influence of Grand (not at all) Ayatullah Sistani published in Houston Chronicle in December? (Oh, and I want it NOW).
"One Al-Azhar professor told the paper anonymously that staff were opposed to the centre's links with "brutal US foreign policies in the Middle East"." Of course, Al-Azhar clerics would not dare attack the brutality of the Egyptian regime, or even the brutality of some of the fatwawawas of Al-Azhar.
" Environmental groups have warned the heavy dredging involved in creating the islands could damage marine habitats while other experts warn of increased pollution and strains on the local environment."
"Guido Knopp, who has written a number of books on Hitler and his inner circle, said the video, which surfaced on YouTube last week, "inevitably" recalled Goebbels' speech in a Berlin sports stadium when he asked "Do you want total war?" and the crowd thundered "Yes!""
"Britain 'as inept as US' in failing to foresee postwar Iraq insurgency." But you really can't say that Mongolia or Slovenia were inept in Iraq.
Joumana Haddad informs her readers that she has heard of Simone de Beauvoir. Readers of An-Nahar went "Wow." (I don't understand why de Beauvoir is in the title: nothing in the whole article relates to anything that de Beauvoir ever said or wrote. Secondly, she states that her critics--you guessed right--are just jealous of her, and of her TV appearances. This is a well-known Lebanonese formula for enhancing self-esteem: you don't deserve criticisms, and if anybody dares to criticize you, it only means that he/she is jealous of you. OK)
It is official. The dean of House of Saud's propagandists, `Abdur-Rahman Ar-Rashid, decides that Palestinians are to blame for the attacks on Palestinians. (You bet that MEMRI and Friedman will be quoting him? I forgot that Friedman is on leave. One good news amid the news of horrors in Gaza).
When you grow up, you will know that Israeli occupation forces (with the full support or silence of US, EU, UN, and Arab countries) destroyed your house.
Does anybody has the reference to a book on Hadith science that has just been published by a Dutch Orientalist? Mohammad Arkoun mentioned it in his interview on Al-Arabiya TV (II part). I don't have time to critically comment on the interview but Arkoun speaks about "humanism" as if it is apart and above state and power relations. He even invokes terms like "objectivity of science."
"Libya says "no exceptions" in migrant expulsions". The Libyan dictator expelled the Palestinians first.
Saja kindly translated my last Al-Akhbar's article, for those who are interested. I did not edit it.

"Femininity and Feminism...and Culture Industry in Lebanon

There is an urgent need to study a phenomenon described by Theodore’ Adorno as “Culture Industry” in Lebanon and the Arab world in the age of Rotana (a popular Arabic satellite channel) and Al-Nahar newspaper’s institutional monopoly in the age of the rising Gulf (does anyone notice, by the way, the tremendous control a single Saudi prince commands over musical and artistic taste?) Many in the Arab world, especially oil sheikhs, suffer from the complex of Lebanese excellence, which is a lie Lebanese chauvinists created and some Lebanese and Arabs believe. This is why we find Lebanese (male and female) media personalities in oil media, while anchors from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates hardly exist. Egyptian culture in the sixties was able to compete with Al-Nahar culture and the values and concepts it publicizes.
Cultural Mafia
What I term “Cultural Mafia” is apparent in Lebanon on more than one front. The quid pro quo principle of “publicize me and I publicize you” is culturally both predominant and lethal. We find one writer in Al-Nahar, for example, flattering another writer in the very same newspaper. Al-Nahar also devotes many of its pages to Dar Al-Nahar’s publications in a classic display of commercial coordination. This network of semi-prohibited relations explains Al-Nahar’s silence about the lawsuit Fakhri Karim, the official intellect of Iraq’s occupation’s president, brought against Al-Adab magazine because its editor Mr. Samah Idris overstepped the boundaries of “valid criticism,” per Karim’s definition. No magazines responded about “valid criticism,” with the exception of Al-Akhbar. The Frankfurt school of philosophy could devote an entire chapter to study the authoritarianism of the concept of “valid criticism” in Ardono’s book about The Authoritarian Personality and the question of who may authorize whom. But the cultural pages of the Saud and Hariri families’ pages have more important matters to publish. Hakem Paul Shaul writes culturally about Fouad Al-Seniora “Bravo, Seniora, foundation of state, democracy and sovereignty” (Al-Mustaqbal, Dec. 29, 2007).
Without discussion, Al-Nahar decided in the sixties that it was able and qualified to decide the essence and definitions of the civilized and the sophisticated in art, culture and politics, contrary to other media outlets in Lebanon and the Arab world (which is called “the Orient” in Lebanon to signify its Europeanization). The presumption is that taste is not intrinsic, as if we didn’t live without difficulties before the spread of Starbucks cafes and the onslaught of addiction to coffee beverages (the Lebanese boast visiting Starbucks and refuse to boycott it as a company that supports Israel. Boycotting Starbucks, in their opinion, is backwards and belongs to the culture of death, which Karim Marwa rejects today, after having praising it in the nineties). The manufacture of taste is an indispensable part of modern capitalism, which subsidizes workers as prisoners of consumerist production, as Herbert Marcuse analyzed in his book One Dimensional Man, or Marx’s الهوى الشهواني). The influence of the Nahar taste industry is widespread; it decides, for example, that Mansour Al-Rahbani, who trivialized and leveled even Socrates and Al-Mutanabbi, was an inspirational poet because of his poem “I love you, Lebanon, my homeland.” The Lebanese cultural factory also decides which parts we should accept from the west and which we should reject. Goods that Lebanon imports from the west or elsewhere demean and transform Che Guevara to a politically void symbol (does anyone in Lebanon know that the man was a strict Marxist-Leninist who, according to Lebanese definitions, didn’t love life?) For example, Al-Nahar newspaper changed Muhammad Al-Maghut to a Lebanese nationalist upon his death. It accentuated his love for Lebanon but failed to mention that he had named his daughter Cham because that could have alarmed the ears of racists among the newspaper’s editors and readers. As Saadi Yousif eulogizes Sarcon Paul, "رامبو مقتلعا عن متاريس الكومونة". (Rambeau uprooted from the trenches of the Commune)
Al-Nahar newspaper promotes and demotes whomever it wishes according to its own random, arbitrary, personal and political standards. For instance Joumana Haddad, in her interview cited below, talks about “objective” standards in deciding poets and writers to decide to who “deserves” to be written about in the cultural section of Al-Nahar newspaper. Unfortunately, Al-Nahar newspaper’s standards spread in several publications in Lebanon and the Arab world. Glorification of Al-Nahar’s writers takes up an entire section in Al-Nahar’s cultural industry. Even Pierre Sadek’s infantile paintings are considered art of the highest caliber. Hence, pieces like Shaoqi Abu Shaqra’s “Plant quince in movie theatres. Men watch before noon and women after a hot bath” or “He slept on his back, heavier than mercury and potatoes, carried the weapon, could hardly lift his legs, and a slaughtered, plucked turkey, his pants made of white linen” (from the collection of poems: Practices Magic and Breaks Ears as He Runs Away) become valuable literature that deserves to be posted on Beirut’s acorn trees, as were the mu’alaqat, ancient Arabian poems considered the finest in Arabic literature. Of course, poet and art are subjective and vary by taste, but neither taste or its recipient are free from class oppression and the control and monopoly of backward capital on the industry of culture. The Lebanese state does not create culture, except for Tarek Mutri’s Hariri-esque speeches, which are the mother and father of all literature, as long as they do not deviate from the edicts of the cultural palace. Can anyone question or criticize Shaoqi Abu Shaqra’s poetry, for example, even according to the criteria of “valid criticism” which Fakhri Karim outlined for us? There is a tremendous gap in common cultural media to criticize vertically-formatted poems or conservative political poems (except Yahya Jabir’s “epic” about Rafiq Al-Hariri; what delicate literary feelings!) but you can’t object to Al-Nahar’s predominant taste. Could anyone scream – within the limitations of permitted screaming, of course, so that “valid” expression advocate Fakhri Karim doesn’t bring a lawsuit against us – to object to Mansour Al-Rahbani’s plays, which are no different than low-income elementary schools’ theatrical productions; schools which don’t need to import an entire symphony orchestra from Armenia to give the impoverished work a facade.
Joumana Haddad and Challenging Sexism
This introduction was necessary to discuss the grand launching of Joumana Haddad’s new book. She fills TV channels and newspapers whether you like it or not. She was also hosted on the program “Stay at home (with Hariri)”. We should first acknowledge that women’s work in the cultural arena, both in and outside Lebanon and even in the west, is subject to oppressive standards and criteria that deny women’s rights. Joumana Haddad spoke about problems facing work in “a patriarchal society” as the Lebanese consider the west’s standards ideal, as if the west has no sexist or patriarchal structures. Hisham Sharabi’s attempt to differentiate between patriarchy and what he termed “modern patriarchy” was unsuccessful and seemed drawn from cheap orientalist books which attribute special terms to the Arab world, like The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai. In addition, his generalizations were not extrapolated from field studies. The American novelist Michelline Markom told me that, before the success of her first novel, her female agent in New York said when she met her for the first time “It’s good that you’re pretty; that will make it easier to market your book.” Therefore, women’s animosity towards other women, including commercialization and sexual marketing, is a global problem, even though it varies by methods and languages. Discourse about “female literature and poetry” stems from severe narcissistic sexism, and several female writers have suffered under this phenomenon including Fadwa Toqan, Ghada Al-Samman, Leila Ba’albaki, Souad Al-Sabbah - will she republish her poems praising Saddam? - Ahlam Mustaghanami and others.
Studying literature through a gender prism is not rejected in the post-modern school of literature, but it tends to formulize and restrict female literary scholarship. Viewing a woman, regardless of profession and rank, as a physical body is an expression of sexism, such as Abbas Baydoun’s focus on Benazir Bhutto’s beauty, posture, elegance and sexual appearance; he seemed happy that she wasn’t flabby before her death. In addition, the element of sexual repression influences marketing writings which are based on a popular desire for sexual excitement. Otherwise, what does it mean to find Nawal Al-Sa’dawi’s Woman and Sex book on the streets of several capitols surrounded by vulgar sexually provocative magazines? This factor adversely affects male writers as well: Nizar Qabbani’s Nahd’s Childhood was released and known several years before his post-1967 political writings. But Joumana Haddad didn’t want to explore sexist issues, probably because her host started the conversation with an expression of disgust with feminists because they’re “masculine” per his description, or “ugly” per her description.
Discussions with Joumana Haddad take the same format as conversations in cultural cafes in Lebanon. There were a number of commemorations of designers in a commercial sense because the Lebanese sell shoes and people according to trademark, which makes a Filipina maid more expensive than Srilankan slaves who work in the houses of the free citizens of a homeland noisy with slogans. During her show, we saw Joumana entertaining her viewers by running a search on her name in Google’s search engine. She asked us to seek a particular translation of her work which was published by the “eminent” Galimar publication house. We’ve heard more than once that she is fluent in seven languages, with the eighth in the works. Narcissism and self-praise is a fundamental part of Al-Nahar’s culture.
The Lebanese is a genius by nature, due to the high content of parsley in local foods. What does it mean to be “fluent” in seven languages? Anyone who has studied four or five languages ore more knows that identical fluency in several languages is impossible. Doctoral programs at universities here and in Germany do not accept the languages fluency claim, rather they give the student language tests (albeit there is sometimes leniency). Iraqi scholar Muhsin Mahdi narrated that he met the orientalist Hamilton Gibb, who was a member of the Arab Language Conference, after he assumed the post of Hamilton Gibb at Harvard University, only to find out that Gibb didn’t know Arabic. The poet should respect those languages by acknowledging that learning a number of languages is a gradual process, from the mother language through the second language and third … etc. unless the point was to impress the viewers with the genius of the Lebanese. Repeatedly reminding us of languages serves no purpose besides making the acquisition of languages seem as easy as buying dresses. Learning and perfecting languages requires hard work, not Haddad’s method of talking about seven languages and the eighth in the works.
In response to sexist questions, Joumana Haddad spoke about her “beauty” very comfortably and confidently, exacerbated by insulting observations focusing on her outside appearance from male and female guests on the program – and who said sexism was behavior limited to men? One may consult Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex or Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, which has not yet been translated to Arabic, without considering beauty a relative issue. She went a step beyond and protested the burden of her “beauty” because there were those who assume that beautiful women are superficial and “ugly” women, to quote her verbatim, are intelligent. In the name of what she deems beautiful, she invites you to evaluate her inner and outer beauty equally. It is not necessary to elaborate here; the judgment is yours to make. But she added discourse about femininity and feminism that does not reflect depth of reading in such a philosophically and intellectually rich area, or any awareness thereof outside demeaning journalism. She says she objects to feminism because it demands equality instead of seizing it. The host did not seem at all familiar with feminism to be able to discuss. He can only listen mesmerized, with his mouth open. This is the summary of theories and movements in Lebanon. Slogans. Merely slogans. Haddad is to feminism what Socrates is to Mansour Al-Rahbani (in the seventh episode of said program, Mansour said he was infatuated with Sufism and Sufi poetry. The host inquired who his favorite Sufi poet was. “All of them” was the immediate answer. After only minutes about Sufism, the host asked him what the most important thing in life was. “The hummus plate,” replied Mansour. If only Al-Hallaj had known of the plate of hummus before his crucifixion!)
Haddad criticized generalizations, but spoke about feminism in generalizing terms. Which feminisms did Haddad talk about in terms of clichés which lack knowledge, let alone accuracy? Did she mean liberal feminism, existential feminism, post-modern feminism, Marxist feminism, psychological feminism, separatist feminism, socialist or grassroots? Feminism’s theoretical production is vast and abundant, and the only part that Haddad extracted was to caution us from “ugly” women. Save us, Joumana, and set the discourse and dialogue straight. What is this feminism that you caricaturized? How are intellectual and philosophical currents reduced to simplistic notions? Also, feminist movements (such as liberal feminism in the United States, grassroots in Australia, existentialist in France, socialist in Iraq or in Yemen when it was prosperous) never demanded equality, but they seized it and forced changes in the law. Law professor and feminist scholar Catherine Mackinnon did not plead to be rescued. Rather, she brought about changes in the law in the seventies to outlaw all forms of sexual harassment.
Haddad added that she preferred femininity over feminism. Feminism is a stigma in Cedar Land even among those who take on women’s issues – for example, Diana Muqallid rushed to deny her feminism on Transit before talking about programs she was preparing about women for News and Tears channel. There is false feminism, similar to colonial feminism, which Leila Ahmed discusses in her book Inspiration about Women in Islam. False feminism is clear in Su’ad Qarut’s program on NBN’s channel, as Arab women are only shown crying and complaining i.e. lacking in agency, to use Simone De Beauvoir’s concept in this regard. Joumana Haddad failed to considered that in modern psychology (many in Lebanon are still prisoners of Freud’s school of psychology) views femininity and masculinity as social constructs, independent of genetics or nature. She’s welcome to view whatever she desires and to reject feminism and “ugly” women – according to her, as beauty is decided by Al-Nahar and its writers – but discussion about intellectual and political movements that had great influence on the social and legal exchange between the sexes around the world should not lack information, specially from those who head the cultural department of Lebanon’s foremost culture-manufacturing newspaper. Haddad, and those who were summoned to praise her, added talk about rebellion and defying prohibitions. But we are unable to ascertain which prohibitions, unless sweet talk about challenging religion’s authority is considered rebellion. Sectarian demonstrations are considered revolutions in Lebanon, where Said Aql’s superstitions are considered “philosophy,” Al-Seniora is considered a “man of state,” and the tabbouleh plate is evidence of Lebanese genetic supremacy. Randomly assigning attributes has become a main feature of the predominant culture, especially since the Lebanese legend substitutes for the absence of a historic miracle launched on the pages of Al-Nahar newspaper, just like Fakhruldin’s play (where he was dragged in bonds) a true national independence war (or even a defensive war) while the Lebanese considered the destruction of Cold River Camp (Nahr Al-Bared) a source of national pride.
Of course, it is unfair to focus exclusively on Joumana Haddad, but she spoke against the consensus and logic of 99.99 percent. Isn’t the culture of Al-Nahar newspaper just an expression of 99.99 of culture and predominant consensus? In the sixties Al-Nahar used to timidly express limited liberal criticisms of state and society, but today it is a militant Hariri beacon. Discourse about rebellion on the pages of Al-Nahar newspaper is akin to talking about revolution from within a shopping mall in Dubai or talking about beauty among frogs or defending an innovative form of “leftism” (by Elias Zahra) in Al-Mustaqbal newspaper. If Haddad considers her “discussion” of God rebellion, where does she stand on Mihiar Al-Dimashqi’s songs about Adonis, or Amal Danqal’s writings about Sparticus’s Last Words (Danqal is neglected in Lebanon, probably because he refuses peace with Israel). Her discussion of Lilith is not innovative, as many in Lebanon assume, as Joy Kogawa wrote about it a decade before Haddad’s “discovery.” I’ve never met Joumana Haddad. I sent her an email during Israel’s monstrous attack on Lebanon (when Sa’ad Al-Hariri requested intervention from Cyprus’s president along with Basm Al-Sab’, who walked hand in hand with Rustum Ghazala in a rally to “support and pledge allegiance” to Bashar Al-Asad in 2003) and asked her why the cultural section of Al-Nahar ignored لأتون النار المستعر. Joumana Haddad responded explaining that she...was not an Arab Nationalist."