Monthly Archives: August 2010

violence of illegitimacy

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are slated to begin next week. Do you know about “shotgun weddings”? It’s a term used in the South when a girl becomes pregnant and her father stands at the back of the groom with a shotgun and forces them to marry. In my mind, there is no clearer metaphor to describe the upcoming talks. The Palestinian Authority is pregnant with Israeli/Western money and influence and now you can hear the church bells a-ringing in the distance.

The major problem is that both parties – the Israelis and the Palestinians – are not interested in such an affair. Netanyahu barely holds onto a government and the Palestinian Authority lacks legitimacy among the people. The settlement freeze is coming to an end in the middle of September and it is questionable if it will be extended. The Israeli diplomatic corps are boycotting Netanyahu’s visit to Washington and Hamas is shrieking all over the news, which is happily reprinting their threats and objections. Things have settled in here for the last few years, technically speaking. There has been a slow creep to colonize, but no major outbreaks in violence. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority want to upset the current status quo and are scrambling for excuses to delay or cancel the direct talks.

Indeed, without American money so heavily entrenched in both sides, it’s hard to believe such talks would take place without the proverbial shotgun to the back. A lot of people play optimistic, but this is my opinion: these talks will lead to nothing but bad. They are illegitimate and unwanted, and both sides will do anything to avoid them, including commit acts of violence.

Israel is suddenly increasingly concerned about the newly trained Palestinian Authority, but why worry when they’ve so far just been used to bust rallies and protests against direct talks? If anything, the Palestinian Authority is finally playing ball… it’s the Israelis who will look for a way out. The Palestinians do not support the peace talks, but Hamas is locked away in their coastal enclave or in the depths of the presidential compound Yassir Arafat used to be trapped in. Israeli settlers continue to escalate their attacks on Palestinians, but the IDF stands by with guns and Shabak ready to thwart any major upsets. The real question is: will those with the guns be able to keep down those without?

Ramadan is coming to a close and the people of Palestine will loathe to wake up out of their groggy fasts to see themselves at the alter. As the settlement freeze comes to an end, there will be an increase I’ve never worried before about being here, but the conditions surrounding the direct talks are the first things I’ve felt actual concern about. How long can Ramallah keep the rest of Palestine asleep? How long will Netanyahu be able to hold onto his government before it dissolves under pressure from the extreme-right?

Good luck yall.

Blood – Suja Sawafta

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

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

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

Blood is a release from
the binding of life.

have fun in ramallah or die in gaza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the new world, we don’t have to worry about victory

Today the last combat soldiers are leaving Iraq. What an empty feeling! 56,000 soldiers are left behind to intervene at the behest of the Iraqi government or to fire their guns in self defense. Once we’ve thrown International Law out the window, why bother on reporting on such events at all? There were no ticker-tape parades on 5th Avenue and no cheering in the streets of Baghdad. Except for a few murmurs here and there in the press, it might not have happened.

After all, what changes? A large scale civilian force remains, protected by thousands of mercenaries. Iraq remains in tatters. Sectarian hit jobs are a fact of life and the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad is nearly complete. The universities and hospitals are not bustling with pride as they were in the seventies and unemployment is staggering. Women are being slaughtered where they used to be judges and doctors and teachers. The oil is flowing. The economy is in pieces, even moreso than the sanction era. We’ve left in the darkness of night and there is no dawn breaking at the horizon. Iraqis are not freer or healthier or happier than when we first got there. There are just a lot more of them dead.

Since Vietnam there has been no signing of treaties with enemies, only Status of Forces Agreements with puppet governments. There have been no victories, nothing worth a parade or a kiss for the camera. Just a lot of crying mothers and a lumbering war machine that keeps going, getting fatter and more sluggish with each binge on blood and oil. You’ve forgotten Iraq already and the millions dead will just fertilize the fields of a brave new world of bitter tears, clenched fists, and hanging heads. No need to even look her in the eye, America, just keep going.

commodification and facebook

What does it take to dehumanize the enemy? Eden Abergil might know something about it. Ha’aretz might know something too, since they blurred out her face in the above photo, but not her captives.

It’s hard to say where the Geneva Conventions would fall on this, especially since Israel operates (like the United States) so outside the realm of traditional warfare. Either way, it’s a disgusting example of how to further dehumanize the enemy. Unlike the war photos of old, with  soldiers standing smiling over mutilated corpses, these photos do not find their way into Dad’s dusty old shoebox in the back of the closet. Instead, they are publicized on Facebook.

Some are making the case that this is akin to Abu Ghraib, but I would disagree. After all, while what happened in Abu Ghraib was beyond the pale in terms of human decency, the photos taken of soldiers jeering next to naked prisoners were never intended for public viewing on Facebook. Even now, Eden Abergil has locked her macabre mementos up behind a privacy wall, and there is no proof that she shows remorse or has even removed them from her personal galleries. Has the internet enabled us to further dehumanize the enemy by rationalizing that posting such things is “OK”? Or are we all  becoming more and more commodified by publicizing every detail of ourselves online, making these abused and violated Palestinians as just “window dressing” in the background of our internal lives? We’ve commodified our family, friends,  romantic relationships, personal interests, and our appearances in order to take part in this new world of socialization – why not commodify the POWs as well?

“That looks really sexy for you,” says a comment posted by one of Abergil’s friends on the social networking site, alongside a picture or the soldier smiling in front of two blindfold men.

Abergil’s repose, posted below, reads: “I wonder if he is on Facebook too – I’ll have to tag him in the photo.”

from Ha’aretz

ramadan kareem

O moon-faced Beloved,
the month of Ramadan has arrived
Cover the table
and open the path of praise.

O fickle busybody,
it’s time to change your ways.
Can you see the one who’s selling the halvah
how long will it be the halvah you desire?

Just a glimpse of the halvah-maker
has made you so sweet
even honey says, “I’ll put myself beneath your feet, like soil;
I’ll worship at your shrine.”

Your chick frets within the egg
with all your eating and choking.
Break out of your shell
that your wings may grow.
Let yourself fly.

The lips of the Master
are parched from calling the Beloved.
The sound of your call resounds
through the horn of your empty belly.

Let nothing be inside of you.
Be empty: give your lips to the lips of the reed.
When like a reed you fill with His breath,
then you’ll taste sweetness.

Sweetness is hidden in the Breath
that fills the reed.
Be like Mary – by that sweet breath
a child grew within her.

Rumi

collective guilt

Collective guilt is a funny thing and is often wielded as a weapon of privilege. Israelis, for instance, use collective punishment as a way to infer collective guilt upon communities they attack. Americans, too, have conferred collective guilt onto the populations of Afghanistan and Iraq due to support of “terrorist regimes”. I write about collective guilt today because of the current movement in the United States to force collective guilt down the throats of the Muslim-Americans. Muslims have been a legitimate part of American society since the era of slavery, when the first Muslims were shipped over in slave ships to work plantations in the south. Since then, their presence has been known mainly through the African-American community and more recently through Arab-American and Asian-American communities. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, home makers, teachers, and lawmakers. Recent immigrants from Muslim-oriented countries have been assimilated into American society far better than say, Muslim immigrants in Europe.

Despite this, Muslim-Americans have come under attack in because of 9/11. After 9/11, thousands of Muslim-Americans were imprisoned, attacked, and discriminated against by virtue of their being Muslim. A fatwah issued after 9/11 even suggested that Muslim women in America wearing the veil should remove it lest they be singled out for violence or discrimination. Now, nearly 10 years after the attacks, Muslim-Americans are still accused of failing to feel sufficiently guilty for these attacks that they had little to nothing to do with. After all, the Muslims who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks were not American. Yet, with stories hitting the news about a mosque being built near “Ground Zero” and Muslims holding celebratory days at theme parks on 9/12 (which coincides with the end of Ramadan), the pressure is still there and it is still an emotional issue for Americans to cling to. Even the Anti-Defamation League, a group dedicated to fighting racism against Jews – and as they state, all people in general – has come out against the building of a mosque near “Ground Zero”.

The hypocrisy here is astounding. After all, there are too many Americans who would refuse to pay reparations or even apologize for hundreds of years of slavery, the genocide of indigenous Americans, the atomic attacks on Japan, the Vietnam War, and yes, the generations of Muslims abroad who have been annihilated by American aggression. The ADL will come out in support of the firebombing of Gaza and continued oppression of Palestinians at Israeli hands. To admit collective guilt as a community is to accept your place in the food chain of privilege. Who can blame Muslim-Americans for refusing to apologize for the attacks of 9/11? They have simply picked up an American trait during their process of assimilation. Despite many being absorbed as full members in American bourgeois society, Muslim-Americans have their patriotism questioned. Yet, there is nothing more American than a mosque built near “Ground Zero”. Perhaps a more American gesture might be to build a mosque on the ruins themselves à la the American embassy being built in Baghdad.

Either way, there is nothing new about fear-mongering near election season. What remains disgusting is the hypocrisy inherent in such a discussion, as Americans will still steadfastly refuse to accept any responsibility for anything, including the events that could have inspired 9/11 in the first place.