Tag Archives: Palestine

WHAT?! They’ve lost it…like completely

18 Nov

US says Israeli settlements no longer considered illegal in dramatic shift

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Mike Pompeo takes questions during a press conference in Washington DC Monday. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

I don’t even know what to say.  It’s like mega-dufus and his cabinet get up every morning and think: “What completely, internationally destabilizing, unthought-out, randomly dangerous piece of shit-policy are we going to announce today?”

I won’t be able to blame Arabs (as all of you know I like to do) for even the extremest reactions.

“In making the case for the policy shift, Pompeo repeated some of the language he had used to justify the recognition of Israeli control of the Golan, saying it reflected “the reality on the ground”, and that it arose from the unique facts, history and circumstances” around the establishment of settlements.”

“…it arose from the unique facts, history and circumstances” around the establishment of settlements.”

What does that even mean?

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Howard Jacobson: two interviews, on how screens are making us stupid and the stupidity of democracy

24 Sep

One on Hardtalk with the BBC’s Stephen Sackur, the other from BBC’s Newsnight.  I’ve forwarded first video to 15:58 because the first half of the talk is a bunch of ridiculous clichés on the part of both men on Zionism, anti-semitism and Israel.  If you like you can always start it from the beginning.  Ultimately both interviews leave you wanting more.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

England and Irish blood p.s., Palestine 1948

16 Sep

Geez…  I forgot the other major twentieth-century British mess we’re still living the brutal consequences of: Palestine in 1948.

British mandate2

We ALL know —  many of you detest me for it — that I’m the last person to come to if you want sympathy for Arab/Muslim dysfunction and inability to face modernity being blamed on “colonialism” and taken out on the rest of humanity.  But the Brits’ track record is so awful, as I say inIs England ready for fresh Irish blood on its hands?“, and this might, in certain ways, have been the worst of all.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

“When Western evil is fused with Arab stupidity…”

29 Nov

Iraqi TV Host Breaks Down in Tears at Plight of Christians

And a super-outspoken (now that he’s safe in Erbil) Bishop from Mosul: “..Western evil is fused with Arab stupidity…”

Might wanna retake a look at my Who are the MESA Thought Police?:

“…or if you were caught even suggesting, heaven forbid, that maybe — just maybe — Arabs had simply conquered what were already the most sophisticated and civilized parts of the Greco-Roman and Sassanian worlds…”

And yes, “kanun,” law, is a Greek word.

Oh, yeah.  And so is “kalam,” pen…

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

“Might they open the doors of the wine shops And loosen their hold on our knotted lives? If shut to satisfy the ego of the puritan Take heart, for they will reopen to satisfy God.” — Hafez

3 Nov

WineryimageFrom Pulse News: Beer, wine flow in West Bank Christian hamlet”  by TIA GOLDENBERG | November 3, 2014

TAYBEH, West Bank (AP) — A tiny Christian enclave in the overwhelmingly Muslim West Bank has for years crafted the only Palestinian beer and brought thousands of visitors flocking to its annual beer fest. Now, it is adding wine to its list of libations, hoping a boutique winery will be another tourist draw and contribute to keeping the small village afloat.

While Christians around the Middle East have seen their numbers dwindle due to conflict and the lure of better economic opportunities abroad, Taybeh has remained an exclusively Christian village, the last in the West Bank.

The family behind the wine and beer says they are carrying out “peaceful resistance” by investing in their homeland and staying put.

“This is how we believe the state of Palestine can be built: by people like us to invest in the country and encourage other Palestinians to come and invest in their country,” said Nadim Khoury, who founded the brewery and winery.

I’ve always been fascinated by the association, in so much Persian(ate) poetry, of alcohol with non-Muslims — and by extension, licentiousness, sexual desire, subversiveness, sin, etc.  There’s probably a dissertation out there somewhere that I should try looking for.  I thought about it a lot in my rant on the Gezi Park protests and the symbolic importance of Pera in the İstanbul imaginary that I wrote from Kabul last November.  In fact, it was pretty much the thesis of the piece:

“And here we run into our first paradox, or the origins of a chain of paradox: that this now central “heart” of Istanbul began as a space of marginality.  The Byzantines originally put some of their unwanted Catholics there: Galata’s mother city is actually Genoa.  In Ottoman times, Christians and Jews lived there and made wine and everybody else came there to drink it.  While not an exclusionary, extramural ghetto of any sort – to their credit the Ottomans didn’t often do that kind of thing – it was sort of the wrong side of the tracks: the Ottoman equivalent of the suburbs or the across-the-river Zoroastrian neighborhoods in Iran where Hafez and company went to drink the infidel’s wine and torment themselves with the beauty of the innkeeper’s son: the other side of town, the refuge of disbelief and transgression, of unorthodoxy and the unorthodox in every sense.  The alcohol…”

…….

If 2013’s protests then – at least Istanbul’s –were at their core about protecting aspects of the essential urbanity of Istanbul, and Greeks played such a large role in shaping that urbanity, shouldn’t that be acknowledged?  If Turkish society is playing out – again, at least in Istanbul – its most intense culture wars on a ghost blueprint of vanished minorities, then wouldn’t making that a more explicit part of the contest be immensely productive – all around.

See it all:Nobody really cares about Gezi Park: Greek thoughts on the protests of 2013

 

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Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Good old Lebanon

3 Nov

And then you think of the horrible price it’s always had to pay for its openness and cosmopolitanism…screen-shot-2014-10-30-at-3-16-29-pm

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

“Syria Is Not A Country” — Andrew Sullivan lets fly another one of his kotsanes and then rushes to cover his tuches

27 Jan

Sykes-Picot

He got enough flak for the post (read through all the ctd.’s too — very interesting) and I feel kind of bad giving him more after so many months, but it’s been in the back of my mind since the fall and the argument is so irritating that I had to put in my own two cents.

It seems that every Sullivan-type pundit rushed out in 2001, or more probably 2003 when they were making their Iraq predictions, and bought some book about the Paris Peace Conference: “Paris 1919” “The Peace to End All Peace” — it’s an entire genre in itself.  And there they found out about some magic secret, like in a Dan Brown novel, called the Sykes Picot line, that supposedly explains everything about the Middle East’s dysfunction, and like a little kid who realizes he’s said something that the adults have found smart or funny, they go around repeating it ad nauseum: “Sykes-Picot Line”…”Sykes Picot Line” … “this guy Sykes and this guy Picot”…”The Sykes Picot Line…”  Listen to Sullivan’s own pedantic tone:

“Syria as we now know it was created by one Brit, Mark Sykes, and one Frenchman, Francois Georges-Picot in 1920. Originally, it included a chunk of Iraq (another non-country), but when oil was discovered there (in Mosul), the Brits wanted and got it. With that detail alone, you can see how valid the idea is of a Syrian “nation” is.”

The whole point is that most of the nations of the present Middle East are artificial, colonial creations — arbitrary lines drawn on a map –and that explains everything.  First, these lines are not arbitrary.  Whatever you might want to say about Sykes or Picot, or Churchill or Lloyd George or Clemenceau — that they were gross imperialists (which is not even redundant really but simply a tautology: “The King is a gross monarchist…”) or anything else, they weren’t ignorant or anistoretoi.*  The units they put together corresponded, as so many of Sullivan’s readers point out to him, with regions with long, historically recognized identities.  Where you look at a map of the Middle East and do see straight artificially drawn lines, they were drawn through places where nobody lives.  Otherwise, within every one of those lines, there has always existed a shifting, changing, re- or de-centralizing identity, but one with clear continuities nonetheless.

(*Anistoretoi – ανιστόρητοι – is a Greek word that I like very much, because it literally means “un-historied” — historically ignorant, obviously, but there’s something about “un-historied” that just seems to me like a sharper condemnation of inexcusable lack of knowledge — no? — so you’ll see it on this blog here and there.)

Thankfully, no one says this about Egypt, because it so obviously has a longer continuous history of unified consciousness than even China.  But what Sullivan, so damn pompous — or just so gay and so Magdalen — dismisses as the “non-country” of Iraq, the flatlands of the Tigris and the Euphrates basin, even when semi-splintered into northern, central, and southern parts, as Iraq seems to be doing now, was always seen as a unit: certainly geographically but even culturally.  The two regions the Greeks called Libya and Cyrene may correspond to a west-east division that is still apparent in modern Libya (Tripoli and Benghazi), but their union is not necessarily artificial or inherently problematic.  The headland to the west of Libya we call Tunisia was the first region called Africa by the Romans, where their ancient enemy Carthage had once stood.  And the region where the northwestern section of the Fertile Crescent bends over and meets the Mediterranean has been called Syria since the Greeks and was probably seen as a recognized cultural entity far before them.  The mountainous Mediterranean littoral of this Syria — what’s now Palestine and Lebanon and maybe a new Alawite state waiting to be born — was always a space slightly apart and more heterogeneous, but Syria nonetheless.  (The arid plateau across the Jordan, inhabited by the Moabites and Edomites and Nabataeans and all those other peoples the Israelites are always defeating in the Old Testament because God loves them more, was also a region of a recognized coherence of sorts not just made up by the Brits when they decided to call it Trans-Jordan.)  Syria was the birthplace of Christianity as an organized religion.  Syria was the Romans-Byzantines’ richest and most sophisticated eastern province.  Syria was the prize catch for the Crusaders; the real studs among them who could, got themselves a piece of booty there, not the “Holy Land.”  When Zainab bears her lament to the people of Shaam (Syria or the Levant) in Agha Shahid Ali’s beautiful poem she cries out: “Hear me Syria…” addressing the people of the seat of Umayyad power in Damascus — the one in Syria — that had massacred her sacred family.  Sykes and Picot didn’t make this stuff up.

What Sullivan wants to say, and what’s truly problematic about his assertion, is that Syria is not a country because it’s not ethnically or confessionally homogeneous, and dismissing it as a state for those reasons is a far more eurocentric, and anistoreto, an idea than he may know.  Because if those are our standards for nation-hood, there are very few countries in the world.  By those standards, if Syria is not a country, then England and France aren’t countries either.  Because a polity called the Kingdom of England, or the Kingdom of France — both of which one could argue were “artificially” created by the powers that be of the time — had existed for far longer than Englishmen and Frenchmen have.  And the process by which a unified national consciousness was created to match these pre-existing political units — England or France — was a long and complex one and one that followed the particular course it did only in Western Europe and trying to force it onto the peoples of states in other parts of the world is impossible and extremely dangerous.  Forget what Sullivan thinks is the Machiavelian divide-and-rule politics of the colonizers that pitted ethnic groups in Syria and Iraq against each other; these colonizers were probably never as devilishly smart as we like to imagine them.  What Sullivan finds inconceivable is that one can be a Latakian Alawite or a Sunni from Homs or an Aleppo Christian or a northeastern Kurd and still function as a citizen of a legitimate country called Syria; that these groups have always had boundaries that fluctuated or were permeable; and, that though relations between them historically were better at some moments than others, they were brought together in this place called Syria by organic historic processes and not corraled together there by outsiders.  And by believing that it’s inconceivable they can all function as citizens of this place, he’s actually participating in the creation of a discourse that pits these groups against each other in a manner far more fatal than the supposed manipulations of the British or French.  He’s creating a poetics of sectarianism, pure and simple.  One only has to look at how reinforcing ethnic differences, often with the naive supposition that satisfying each group’s demands will lead to peace, only exacerbated the tragedy — the tragedies — of Yugoslavia in the 90s to see where thinking like Sullivan’s leads.

To his credit, Sullivan gives the Ottomans credit for maintaining a semblance of peace and stability in the region for several centuries.  But the Ottomans had molded, over the centuries, a complex and flexible system of negotiated corporatism and autonomy that recognized the different groups of their empire and yet that held them together in one unit successfully until modern nationalism started making that impossible.  What Sullivan is doing with blowhard statements like the above is just continuing that process: making it impossible for the peoples of the region that have to live together to do so peacefully and productively.

Finally, as a somewhat tangential but important aside, I’d really be interested in finding out why Sullivan doesn’t think that India is “not a country.”

And, folks, what is going on in Syria?  I’ve been in France for a month and my French isn’t good enough to follow the news and the American stuff on-line seems to have less and less coverage.  Has some sort of stalemate been reached?  Is some kind of compromise being forged?  Are people just tired?  Anyone want to enlighten me?

Photos: Men…occupied Palestine

5 Aug

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Occupation, Not Culture, Is Holding Palestinians Back

5 Aug

From the New York Times August 3, 2012

By MUNIB R. MASRI

Nablus, West Bank

EARLIER this week, while Israel’s cheerleaders and Las Vegas casino moguls were parsing every syllable uttered by Mitt Romney in Jerusalem as fastidiously as the Olympic judges were scrutinizing every back flip in London, millions of Palestinians issued a giant collective yawn.

There was little anger when Mr. Romney made thinly veiled racist allusions to the supposed inferiority of Palestinian culture and genuflected at the altar of distant fund-raising thrones in New York and Los Angeles.

Of course, Hamas sputtered rejections and the Iranians hyperbolically accused Romney of “kissing the foot” of Israel — shrill criticisms easily dismissed in the West.

On the legendary “Palestinian street,” however, there was only weariness after Mr. Romney’s slight. It was nothing we haven’t heard before, nothing we haven’t seen in so many other pre-election panderings.

American Jews like to split hairs over which candidate is more pro-Israel or who better represents their interests: Is Mr. Obama’s facial expression lacking? Is that omitted adjective by Mr. Romney significant? But ask 9 out of 10 Palestinians and you will get an identical response: “There is no difference between Obama and Romney.”

President Obama brought his clarion call for hope and change to Cairo early in his tenure. He said nice, positive things about respecting the Muslim world and encouraging a true peace between Israel and Palestine. And then he did nothing in slow motion for more than three years.

Now Mr. Romney has waded into the debate. His claim that there can be “no daylight” between Israeli and American policies amused us here in the West Bank. In fact, there is no daylight today under Mr. Obama, nor was there under George W. Bush. America’s veto of Palestine’s bid for statehood in the United Nations Security Council continues to stifle our legitimate ambitions for self-determination. Like peas in a pod or twins in a crib, American foreign policy and Israel’s desires move in tandem. Palestine plays no role whatsoever in this cozy equation.

Mr. Romney believes that Israel’s impressive economic growth is because of the country’s strong culture and that the Palestinian economy lags because — implicitly — our culture is inferior.

As one of the most successful businessmen and industrialists in Palestine today (there are many of us), I can tell Mr. Romney without doubt or hesitation that our economy has two arms and one foot tied behind us not by culture but by occupation.

It’s hard to succeed, Mr. Romney, when roadblocks, checkpoints and draconian restrictions on the movement of goods and people suffocate our business environment. It is a tribute to the indomitable spirit of our Palestinian culture that we have managed to do so well despite such onerous constraints.

It was predictable that Mr. Romney would eventually visit our area — although he didn’t actually set foot on our land or see how we live up close and personal — in order to score points.

Palestinians were genuinely saddened, however, by the fact that he deliberately chose to ignore us. There was nary a word about our plight, our day-to-day challenges, our rights and our future. We were here, just meters away from his entourage, yet we were not on his radar or on his agenda.

To paraphrase an ancient observation: Romney came. He saw only what his advisers permitted him to see. And he conquered his fund-raising goals by saying what his boosters insisted on hearing, while completely ignoring one of the two peoples who live here.

But peace is not made by ignoring one party while lionizing the other. In Palestine, we stubbornly continue to hope that the occupant of the White House will one day recognize this.

Munib R. Masri, a businessman and industrialist, is the chairman of Padico, the Palestine Development and Investment Company.

 

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Moron…panderer, etc.

30 Jul

From The Washington Post: Romney faces Palestinian criticism for Jerusalem remarks

“As you come here and you see the [Gross Domestic Product] per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” Romney said, according to a pool report.

In fact, the difference is far more stark than that. According to the World Bank, Israel’s GDP per capita is actually $31,282. The same figure for the Palestinian areas is around $1,600.

Romney said he had studied a book called “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations,” searching for an answer about why two neighboring places–the U.S. and Mexico, for instance, or Israel and the Palestinian areas–could have such disparate prosperity.

“Culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference,” Romney said, repeating the conclusion he drew from that book, by David Landes. “And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.”

Romney also said he recognized “hand of providence in selecting this place [Israel].”

And Palestinian official Saeb Erekat responds:

“It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation,” Erekat said.

“It seems to me this man (Romney) lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people,” he added.

To say the least…  Romney also stated that he would back Netanyahu on “anything” he chose to do on Iran.  Nice.

 

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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