The Mideast and Abroad
- Published on Sunday, 09 December 2012 10:40
On 2 November 1917, Arthur Balfour wrote a letter to Baron Rothschild promising that His Majesty’s government favored the idea of establishing a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The consequences of what has since come to be known as the Balfour Declaration live with us today. Israel and Hamas have just clashed over Gaza. Israel’s closest allies, the US and the UK, have been upset by its plans to build 3,000 new homes for settlers in East Jerusalem and West Bank, a move that is illegal under international law. More importantly, representatives of 95% of the world’s population have just voted to accord “Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations,” a similar status to the Vatican. The UN support for Palestinian statehood is largely symbolic and will not change much on the ground in the short run. For now, the carnage will continue.
- Published on Saturday, 08 December 2012 00:00
A curious thing has happened in the realm of political and intellectual debate since the beginning of the Arab Spring. For years after 9/11, many comparisons were made between the “war on terror” and the Cold War, particularly in terms of the ideologies of the enemies facing America and the West in both struggles. One of the most prominent writers taking such a position, Paul Berman, provided a critical element of this line of thought in his 2003 book, Terror and Liberalism, arguing that Osama bin Laden’s Islamism and Saddam Hussein’s Baathism both shared a deep, basic philosophical root with Bolshevism, Nazism, and other 20th-century European totalitarian ideologies. Berman and others maintained that, just as the Soviet Union had been stared down and defeated through a combination of political, economic, intellectual and military measures, violent Islamic fundamentalism could likewise be prevented from ever again posing a threat to Western liberal civilization.
- Published on Saturday, 08 December 2012 00:00
As Obama-Biden volunteers from all ages, ethnic groups and religions rested their weary eyes and feet, their ears remained glued to the sound of President Obama’s voice claiming a group victory, in Chicago, on election night. “You organized yourselves block by block. You took ownership of this campaign five and ten dollars at a time. And when it wasn't easy, you pressed forward,” shared President Obama. Obama described grass-roots organizing where neighborhood blocks held local voter registration drives and phone parties to call neighbors to action. He also referred to “blocs” of key voting groups, like growing minorities, that had increased their civic engagement presence by advocating on issues. Muslim Americans were one of the communities that pressed forward and demonstrated pride in vocalizing their participation by typing #Forward and #MuslimVote on their web browsers and mobile phones as both organized groups and as individual citizens. Mirroring other grassroots movements by the African-American and Latin-American communities, “Muslims For Obama” also operated as a movement that created the Twitter hash tag #MuslimVote to galvanize support of Muslim Americans. The purpose of “Muslims for Obama” was to identify as a distinct voting bloc for Obama in this 2012 election around a set of key issues beyond the neighborhood block.
- Published on Friday, 07 December 2012 07:47
Public interest in Palestine usually seems directly correlated to the number of bombs dropping and rockets firing. When the conflict simmers, people's attention spans increase. This tendency comes in tandem with a flawed paradigm, one that deems the conflict as intractable. Whether it is dismissed as insolvable because Muslims and Jews have supposedly been fighting for “thousands of years,” or because neither side can agree upon anything (or simply because it is too complex), the reality of the situation is consistently obscured by half-truths and whole myths.
The misconception that the conflict in Israel has persisted for millennia carries tremendous traction in the mainstream media. Implicit in this dismissal of the Palestinian conflict is that this is a war of religious ideology: both sides fighting for the supremacy of their own faith over another. In reality, faith serves little more than to embolden soldiers and legitimize otherwise outrageous political actions (like encroaching continuously into the West Bank with Jewish settlements or aiming rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.)
- Published on Thursday, 06 December 2012 00:00
Armenians abroad and Turkey's Armenian community were the most targeted communities in articles or news items that are considered to be hate-speech between May and August 2012, according to a recent report from the Hrant Dink Foundation, released on Thursday.
The Hrant Dink Foundation regularly monitors the media for stories that target religious and ethnic minorities, or other disadvantaged groups such as the disabled or non-heterosexual individuals. Between August and May this year, there were 101 op-ed columns and news articles identified by the foundation's experts as targeting national, ethnic and religious groups. There were 35 items targeting women and individuals with sexual orientations that differ from the general population.
READ MORE Today's Zaman
*Photo Credit: NS Newsflash
- Published on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 00:00
Egypt’s President Morsi enjoyed an unusual amount of congratulatory back-patting for his part in mitigating the recent Gaza conflict. Perhaps his newfound international credibility provided him the confidence he needed to make a revolutionary decree.
This decree freed him from any culpability or oversight from Egypt’s judiciary. Essentially, allowing the presidency to make powerful executive orders without restraint or meaningful opposition. As such, Morsi gained a level of power that was not enjoyed even by his tyrannous predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. The public reaction has clearly demonstrated that any self-gratifying power grabs wouldn’t be taken lightly. Morsi has been dubbed “Pharaoh” in the streets of Cairo and “Morsillini” on Twitter; he’s facing an internal judicial strike, pitting him against powerful Egyptian liberals. Violent anti-Brotherhood demonstrations have led to the death of one brotherhood member, the ransacking of the party’s headquarters, and the concurrent promise of counter-demonstrations from the MB.
- Published on Monday, 26 November 2012 00:00
A recent and tenuous ceasefire between Hamas and Israel is already on the brink of collapse. As I sat down to write this article, I was emailed a video showing Israeli Defense Forces firing on Palestinian civilians gathered too close to a “security fence” in Khan Younis. This action resulted in the death of 20-year-old Anwar Qudaih and carries potentially serious repercussions for the tentative cease-fire agreement. Israel claims that the death resulted from a “warning shot” as Palestinians came close to breaching the border, but the clip’s importance here lies in the its depiction of physical structures that engender cyclical resistance and retaliatory violence: visible here is an aspect of the saga all too often ignored, and which critically sustains the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—infrastructure, architecture and the spatial-political logic of occupation.
- Published on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 08:27
A few years ago I was traveling through Africa and found myself in a rickety cab. As I bounced up and down in the lumpy back seat, shifting spots to avoid the broken springs and whatever was festering in the exposed paddings, another passenger got in and sat in the front seat. He was in a jovial mood and had just passed some sort of certification exam. “I passed! I passed!” He declared.
First I thought it was a college exam, or some life changing professional achievement. Turns out it was an HIV/AIDS test. And if you know anything about Africa, then you know the importance of such a test. The conversation turned from AIDS to lack of employment, poverty, state corruption, war; then the passenger sighed and said, “You know, I really admire Ben.” The driver agreed. “Oh yes. Ben. He is a great man. We need somebody like him here in the Congo.”
- Published on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 00:00
In the past week, Sunday was thus far the bloodiest day since Israel launched its brutal assault on the besieged Gaza Strip: 30 Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes; civilian casualties skyrocketed; and the number of injured surpassed 700.
Though the Israeli death toll has sat firmly at three since early Thursday morning, Palestinian casualties and injuries have soared. Furthermore, Palestinian medical sources are reporting a critical shortage of basic supplies.
Thus far, the total Palestinian death toll has reached in the hundreds and the number injured hovers around 900. Israeli strikes have destroyed two media buildings, crushed countless homes, mangled part of a soccer stadium, and killed several families.