"Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children's graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques - these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription 'Better use Durex,' next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter's T-shirt from the Givati Brigade's Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, '1 shot, 2 kills.' A 'graduation' shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, 'No matter how it begins, we'll put an end to it.' There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, 'Bet you got raped!' A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies - such as 'confirming the kill' (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim's head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants. "Oh but they do try so hard to avoid civilian casualties...
Links from my del.icio.us account for March 19th through March 20th:
- Rights group names 1,417 Gaza war dead - More ethnic cleansing.
- Palestinians accuse Israel of 'ethnic cleansing' - "JERUSALEM (AFP) – The Palestinian Authority accused Israel on Thursday of "ethnic cleansing" after it delivered dozens of eviction orders to residents of annexed, mostly Arab east Jerusalem."
- How IDF troops 'infiltrated alleged Syria nuke site' - Haaretz - Israel News - Report alleges Syria did have nuclear program.
- My Occupation's Known, but Not Why I Occupy - Eric Martin criticizes the COINheads as not being merely advocates of an operational doctrine that is dissociated from the strategic and political aspects of war, including the decision to go to war. I've had the exact same argument with Abu Muqawama on more than one occasion, and look for his reply to this American Footprints post.
- Nobody's client: the reawakening of Iraqi sovereignty by Lydia Khalil - Lowy Institute for International Policy Publication - "In a new Lowy Institute Analysis, Lydia Khalil explores the growing confidence of Iraq's government under Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. In 'Nobody's client: the reawakening of Iraqi sovereignty', Khalil describes the major shift that has taken place in Iraq's relationship with the United States and how today Baghdad is pursuing its own interests with much less regard for Washington's desires."
- Stop this nonsense « - My marathon argument about Islam, Downtown bars, Western journalism and Egypt with Rob of Arabic Media Shack.
Links from my del.icio.us account for March 17th through March 19th:
- Guest Post by Lawrence Wilkerson: Some Truths About Guantanamo Bay - The Washington Note - "Iraq, GITMO, Abu Ghraib, heavily-biased U.S. support for Israel, and a host of other strategic errors have insured al-Qa'ida's resilience, staying power and motivation. How we deal with the future attacks of this organization and its cohorts could well seal our fate, for good or bad. Osama bin Laden and his brain trust, Aman al-Zawahiri, are counting on us to produce the bad."
- IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement - Haaretz - Israel News - On Israeli soldiers routinely killing civilians: "The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way," he said. "
- Le Figaro - International : Une veuve syrienne divise l'Arabie saoudite - "Moderate" Saudi Arabia: 75-year-old Syrian widow sentenced to four months prison, 40 lashes and exile from Saudi for having received two young men in her house. They were doing her shopping for her.
- Egypt may boycott peace treaty anniversary over Lieberman pick - Haaretz - Israel News - The appointment of Lieberman as FM is a tough one to handle for Egypt: he's insulted Mubarak and once threatened to nuke the Aswan dam. This could mean future Egypt-Israel relations will mostly go through PM Netanyahu and the Ministry of Defense (as in Amos Gilad) in the future. Can't imagine Hosni Mubarak wants a photo-op with Lieberman in Sharm al-Sheikh.
- globeandmail.com: Mubarak on diplomatic offensive to promote Mideast peace - Article has some great analysis at the bottom.
Links from my del.icio.us account for March 17th:
- Salon.com | Obama's Middle East moment of truth - "Obama's refusal to stand up for Freeman indicates that he is unwilling to challenge Washington's quasi-official, bipartisan policy of unswerving support for Israel, and raises serious questions about whether he will be prepared to confront the incoming right-wing Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. But if he fails to do so, all his diplomatic overtures in the region will only be so much hot air." Kudos to Salon!
- Egypt envoy in US to seek softer stand on Hamas - Suleiman in Washington, after Gamal, Suzanne, Mohieldin, Boutros-Ghali and Rachid. But they clear the agenda for Baba Hosni himself to make his comeback after five years?
- The American Conservative -- Freeman’s Fight - Philip Weiss on Chas Freeman (note the irony of Weiss, a Jewish leftist, finding the American Conservative one of the only publication willing to carry his excellent critiques of American Zionism.)
- ReliefWeb » Document » OPT/Gaza: World's leading investigators call for war crimes inquiry - open letter - "Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson and Justice Richard Goldstone among signatories "shocked to core" by recent events." They call for a UN commission of inquiry.
- Time to rethink our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan | Stephen M. Walt - Stephen Walt is a Talking Heads fan! Here he tracks down the broad steps that led to the fall of the American imperium in Southwest Asia / Gulf region.
The Gaza war was an enabler of the anti-engagement trend among the Brothers. It bolstered the credibility of the group’s more conservative leaders when they lobby the base that the pragmatic wing’s participatory spirit has led the Brothers to a dead end, where they are just as powerless to affect Egyptian foreign policy as they were when underground. Instead of contesting the regime in the widest domain possible, the conservatives argue that the Brothers should prioritize peaceful “resistance” to the US-Israeli military order, in solidarity with those who have taken up arms against it.He also criticizes the generational approach to explaining rifts among the Brothers, taking to task Egyptian analyst Khalil al-Anani who developed in his book "The Muslim Brothers: Gerontocracy Racing Against Time" (loose translation of the Arabic al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun: Shukhukha Tussari3 al-Zaman) a theory of four generations fighting it out. (Personally I think al-Anani deserves more credit - his view is more nuanced than this.) Instead, Josh says a division according to political orientation, notably pragamatist politicians vs. conservative ideologues, may be more useful. I like his take on the General Guide being a CEO rather than an eminence grise and emphasis on consensus that has kept the group together. He also looks at another rift, that of "peasants vs. city slickers" that helps explain different attitudes and the conservative bent of the mostly Delta-based bulk of the movement, as well as possible class explanations for the divisions, since many of the leaders are after all middle-class professionals. I have differences with Josh over his analysis - for instance, it's not clear to me that Essam al-Erian is perennially losing entry into the Guidance Council because he is too "moderate" rather than because he has annoyed many with his dilettantism and frequent media appearances claiming to represent the MB on controversial issues. But this piece shows how complex a movement the Egyptian Muslim Brothers are, and that no single framework of analysis is in itself convincing: the MB is a big tent no less diverse than, say, the Republican Party (and no less likely to shift ideologically over time, as the Republicans have from the party of Lincoln into the current morass). Most importantly, it is another important reminder of the crucial importance regional developments can have in the internal developments of political movements and the role they play within their societies. In this turbulent Middle East of ours, it is good to be reminded that things change - sometimes very fast.
Links from my del.icio.us account for March 16th:
- Freeman Explains His Intelligence Post Withdrawal : NPR - Chas Freeman interviewed on NPR.
- Informed Comment: Did Schumer and Emanuel Sink Freeman? - Juan Cole: "Israeli Apartheid will continue unabated under Obama."
- Sic Semper Tyrannis : Freeman speaks out on his exit - "It is apparent that we Americans cannot any longer conduct a serious public discussion or exercise independent judgment about matters of great importance to our country as well as to our allies and friends."
- Egyptian chronicles: The Sawiris Clan in the Forbes 2009 World's billionaires - The Sawiris brothers tumble in the most-rich list. I remember Naguib once was #63, now he is 205 and his brother Nassef is nine places ahead.
- I Just Can't Wait to Be King - Forbes.com - On al-Waleed bin Talal, who just lost $8bn and slipped out of the top 20 billionaires' list.
- Did Cheney Run a Murder-on-demand Program?—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine) - Surely not. He's a nice guy.
- Buying Time with Iran: The F-22 Fighter - Lobby outfit WINEP fantasizes about what it could do with the F-22, the most insanely expensive jet fighter ever (in age of guerrilla warfare), and advocates transfering this bleeding edge technology to Israel (which has not contributed to its R&D) because they could use it to bomb bomb bomb Iran. Has there ever been a more delightful marriage of Zionism and the military industrial complex?
- Israel’s war crimes - Le Monde diplomatique - English edition - Richard Falk.
- Rêves contrariés à Dubaï, par Samir Aita (Le Monde diplomatique) - Gulf markets lose 50% of value in six months, Dubai real estate plummets by 70%.
- The Magnes Zionist: Traub on Khalidi in Today’s NY Times - Very good post on a NYT review of Rashid Khalidi's new book on America's Middle East imperium. The reviewer says Khalidi ignores the Arab role in the dismal situation of the Arab world, thus showing anti-Western bias. That would be completely ignoring, for example, Khalidi's "The Iron Cage" which goes on at depressing lengths about crappy Palestinian leadership.
- Netanyahu signs coalition accord with far-right - Lieberman to be foreign minister. Every country in the world should refuse to meet with him and treat him like Austria's Jorg Haider was treated. OK now back to reality: he will be in Sharm al-Sheikh within weeks.
- Egypt said planning to invite Netanyahu for official visit - Haaretz - Israel News - I wouldn't be so sure, but then again considering Egypt's tolerance for murderous Israeli leaders in recent years I wouldn't be surprised either.
Links from my del.icio.us account for March 15th:
- 'Just World News' with Helena Cobban: Readings of 'Oslo', and some eroding Israeli taboos - Helena Cobban has a great anecdote from Palestine on the perception of the Oslo Process: "They met with a gathering of canny village elders, one of whom greeted them by saying this: "Welcome! Well, as you know we are simple people, and not all of us are good at reading your way of writing. But when we look at the word 'Oslo' the way you write it, it is clear to us that it begins with a zero and ends with a zero... "
- Olmert says was ready to sign Palestinian peace deal - Remarkable talent for bullshit.
- U.S. warns it won't recognize PA unity gov't sans Fayyad - Haaretz - Israel News - Oh the games we play: "Senior Palestinian sources yesterday told Haaretz that the sudden resignation of Fayyad was a tactical move, designed to pressure Hamas into softening its opposition to Fayyad serving as prime minister in a unity government. The sources believe that the American threat, which is likely to be backed by the European Union and Egypt, will lead to Hamas changing its position and Fayyad rescinding his resignation."
- The Associated Press: Gaza aid promised, but may be a long time coming - Over $5bn in aid promised, very little delivered, and still no construction material allowed in.
- In Egypt, a village boasts the nation's first female mayor - Los Angeles Times - Profile of Egypt's first female mayor, which very appropriately points out she is a feudal heiress in the mold of Benazir Bhutto.
- Clinton rolls out foreign policy approach in trip | U.S. | Reuters - "She tried to charm European institutions in Brussels and literally hit the "reset" button in strained U.S.-Russia ties during a dinner with Moscow's foreign minister in Geneva, and then went to Turkey."
This kind of writing pisses me off: is there "literally" a reset button on US-Russia policy in some room in the State Dept? Come on Reuters...See comments, shame on Arabist.
- In Egypt, Elation at Bashir's Warrant - IslamOnline.net - News - Darfuri refugees in Cairo happy at Bashir indictment. Let's hope it allows them to go back home one day.
- Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore - Italian book on Hamas by friend-of-the-blog Paola Caridi.
- Book Review: 'Kill Khalid' by Paul McGeough - washingtonpost.com - Review of book on Khaled Mishaal, called "Kill Khalid", which seems a bit OTT. I have it on good source that a new bio of Mishaal is being researched now, with good access to the man himself.
- Christians in the Middle East - Network of scholars working on Christians in ME.
- Re-Imagining the Lebanon Track: Toward a New U.S. Polilicy - Nicholas Noe advocates, among other things, that Washington should stop its support for Lebanon's byzantine confessional system. [PDF]
- The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (March 13, 2009) - Aid To Egypt - Even (formerly neo?) conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan is a raving anti-Semite who wishes nothing but the annihilation of Israel: "Over ten years, that would be $13 billion in military aid, or much less than half the $30 billion pledged to Israel which is getting an increase. Israel's population is around 7 million and Egypt's around 79 million. So per capita, Israel gets close to twenty times the military aid given to Egypt. I know of no other ally that gets even a fraction of that kind of military aid. AIPAC is not a phantasm."
- Israelis 'firing live rounds' at West Bank protesters | World news | The Observer - Note that this practice is only highlighted in this article because it is used against non-Palestinians unarmed protestors. But it is routinely used against unarmed Palestinians.
Londonstani, a former Cairo drinking buddy and journalist who blogs over at our counter-insurgency obsessed friends Abu Muqawama (they who speak of themselves in the third person - just teasing, guys), has a great review of Ed Husain's The Islamist, a book about the radicalization of British Muslims. Londonstani makes a very good point about its superficial treatment of "traditional Islam" vs. modern Islamism (whether radical or not) and the importance of understanding the rigid traditionalist socio-cultural concepts that are perpetuated among migrant communities (sometimes even when these things evolve in the "home country"):
"This ‘traditional’ outlook is in general terms shared by most (if not all) immigrant Muslim communities. Husain comes from a Bengali family background, but the cultural outlook he describes is shared by Pakistanis, Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Somalis and Nigerians. That’s not to say all these cultures are exactly the same, but in the main they exhibit large measures of racism (often against each other), sexism, tribalism and a quietist approach to dealing with the outside world that fail to meet the challenges their children experience in reconciling their backgrounds with their everyday lives.
In a depressingly high frequency of cases, these ‘traditional’ outlooks result in harmful and exploitative practices. Two years ago, I got to know several young men from Bengali backgrounds who lived in housing estates in Husain’s old stomping ground. One of the guys, Fasial, I knew from the local gym. He was bearded and religious, and an upstanding member of his community. Three times a week he helped organise a bus that took elderly residents of his housing estate to their local church. And could be found most afternoons teaching football to pre-teens in the estate’s playground.
After knowing Fasial for about six weeks, he started telling me how he had been a gang member until a visit to Bangladesh, where he found religion. A couple of weeks after that initial conversation, he told me how he had ended up in Bangladesh against his will because his father wanted him to marry his cousin. At his extended family’s village, Faisal had been poisoned by relatives angry that his intended bride had chosen him instead of another cousin who lived in the village. Faisal was sick for weeks and thought he might die. He found religion on what he thought would be his deathbed. When he got better, his newly acquired religious persona allowed him the gravitas to resist community pressure and reject his father’s plans.
The other friends I had made had equally horrific stories. And some were plain surreal involving severe beatings as part of what can only be described as a voodoo ritual to banish the evil eye.
Islamism addresses the questionable ‘traditional’ practices of the families its raw recruits come from. This is a large part of its appeal. If you find yourself in a lecture hall where young Muslims are told the way of life they struggled to follow is actually itself ‘un-Islamic’, you will be able to hear the collective intake of air and the surprised mumblings of the crowd."
Go read the rest. Abu Muqawama recently became an official blog of the Center for a New American Security (the old security sucked should be their motto) and their comment counts have been going through the roof lately.
Links from my del.icio.us account for March 5th through March 15th:
- Passeports comoriens en vente libre pour les sans-papiers du Golfe - Afrique - Le Monde.fr - Comoros Islands sell citizenship to Gulf "bidoun" for 2000 euros. Ironic that a country that is partly disappearing (due to rising sea levels) is doing this...
- Egypt fatwa: Community can force divorce - UPI.com - More stupid hesba fatwas - except now this sheikh says people can be divorced by their communities not only for religious reasons but also "if the couple's differences appear irreconcilable."
- Middle East Report Online: Wanted: Omar al-Bashir—and Peace in Sudan by Khalid Mustafa Medani - Praises ICC decision but argues that real issue is how to further peace in Sudan's multiple conflicts.
- The assault on Charles Freeman (part 2) | Stephen M. Walt - More from Stephen Walt on the hysteric reaction to the appointment of Chas Freeman.
- European Conflict Management in the Middle East: Toward a More Effective Approach - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace - As I always say: "Although Europe actively tries to manage Middle East crises it undermines its economic, political, and security interests by assuming a secondary role to the United States and following its policy line." The US, with its extremist Zionist control over foreign policy, is out of play. The EU has to get balls.
- Die Gaddafi-Partei Österreich - Austria's Qadhafi Party. Yes, as in Lybian leader Muammar Qadhafi.
Waltz with Bashir (2008) opens with a strange and powerful image: a pack of ferocious dogs running headlong through the streets of Tel Aviv, overturning tables and terrifying pedestrians, converging beneath a building’s window to growl at a man standing there. It turns out that this man, Boaz, is an old friend of Ari Folman, the film’s director and protagonist. Like Folman, he was a teenager in the Israeli army during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. And the pack of menacing dogs is his recurring nightmare, a nightly vision he links to the many village guard dogs he shot -- so they wouldn’t raise the alarm -- as his platoon made its way through southern Lebanon. The pack of growling dogs -- animal Furies -- is a striking embodiment of the violence of repressed memories, the fear and anger involved in confronting a shameful past. The rest of the film tries to answer the question posed by this opening nightmare -- what memories is this former soldier, and by extension Israeli society, pursued by? What is he guilty of?
There is a storm brewing among the biggest editorialists of Egypt's press scene. It has been reported that a few days ago, Salama Ahmed Salama, the doyen of reasonable, non-partisan commentators at al-Ahram, had a violent clash with the chairman of the board of the august newspaper, Mursi Atallah. Atallah wanted Salama to stop his involvement in Shorouq al-Gedid, the new independent daily that, by going for a highbrow audience and staid style, is trying to place itself in competition to the flagship state-owned daily. Salama is said to have resigned immediately and walked out, depriving al-Ahram of one of its most respected icons whom for a long time ran the central desk (correct me if I'm wrong) that is so central to the way Egyptian newspapers tend to be run. (Although lately, due to illness, Salama had been a lot less present.)
Now Atallah has apparently issued a directive to some other frequent op-ed writers who are part of the al-Ahram stable asking them to stop freelance contributions to other papers. But these - for instance the good people at the al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies like Abdel Moneim Said Ali, Amr Chobaki and Dia Rachwan (who each come from quite different political trends, respectively NDP-liberal, left-liberal and Nasserist) - are rather pissed off about this. It would be rather odd, say for a British or American editor, to see the names of his employees appear in other papers. For instance Abdel Moneim Said writes for al-Ahram, Masri al-Youm and Nahdet Misr. But this practice is widespread in Egypt, offering these public intellectuals a platform across different media and of course diversified income. Considering al-Ahram still clings to a salary model that is highly reliant on bonuses (which themselves vary according to the chairman's whim), I can't say I blame them. This particular trio appeared on TV last night (on 'ashira masa'an, Dream 2) to protest the new directive from Atallah, which comes in the context of a long-running feud between the chairman and al-Ahram editor Osama Saraya.
More generally, this kerfuffle involving some "big names" in Egyptian political commentary points to a wider problem in the industry: bizarre salary scales, and for ordinary journalists the fact that it is a poorly paid profession that offers for the most part little prospects of career and social advancement, which in tuns contributes to a tolerance of low-quality journalism and (especially in al-Ahram and state papers) pages filled with repetitive commentary by people just filling in their weekly allocation of column inches.
Several years ago, when Mubarak sacked most of the chairmen and editors (often they were the same person) of the big government publishing houses, it was noted that these would need serious reform to survive in a more market-centered industry. Salama was one of the most important advocates of this reform. That reform still has to come - no one wants to let go of some of al-Ahram 1400 journalists, a major voting bloc for the politically hyperactive Journalists' Syndicate - but the distortions and wide-ranging freelancing of many of its writers suggests that many are simply taking matters into their own hands. The question will inevitably come: does Egypt really need al-Ahram, al-Akhbar or al-Gomhouriya? Or are these dinosaurs of Nasserism mostly serve today the function of keeping a large staff employed, providing the government with an outlet for its point of view, and perhaps slowing down the expansion of independent media by mopping up a lot of premium advertising income? The problem is, are we even sure that independent media can do better in terms of editorial quality and political independence? Not necessarily, and certainly not unless the everyday reporters are paid a living wage.
Links from my del.icio.us account for March 4th through March 5th:
- John Kerry @ Brookings - POMED notes on John Kerry's Saban center talks. I find that, basically and despite his recent visit to Gaza, he is advocating West Bank First and continuation of Abbas-Israel talks, which seems completely wrong-headed, as well as the idea of the outline of a final status is well-known -- I don't really see that when the next PM of Israel rejects the creation of a Palestinian state and the Israelis at best want massive concessions from UNSC Resolutuion 242, while the Palestinians at best want 242 with a few changes. [PDF]
- Daily News Egypt - NOUR ANNOUNCES REFORM INITIATIVE ON FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF APRIL 6 MOVEMENT - "CAIRO: Former leader of Al-Ghad party Ayman Nour announced a reform initiative under the title “Cairo’s Announcement for Democracy and Reform,” in a bid to continue efforts that were stalled during his more than four years in prison. Nour called upon parties and political bodies to discuss 10 articles to be included in the announcement ahead of its release on April 6."
- FT.com / UK / Politics & policy - UK to engage with Hizbollah - "Britain announced on Wednesday that it would engage in direct contacts with the political wing of the Hizbollah movement in Lebanon, recognising that the organisation has become part of the country’s national unity government."
- FT.com / Middle East - Saudis get first taste of foreign harvest - "Rice, harvested in famine-hit Ethiopia by a group of Saudi investors, was presented to King Abdullah recently and comes as other countries are still in the early stages of investing in overseas farms."
- Obama Starts 'Urgent Review' of U.S. Policy Toward Sudan - WSJ.com - Could also reconsider US membership of ICC, which would be a much bigger shift than anything on Sudan.
- Kuwaiti emir may dissolve parliament - Upstreamonline - Kuwait's young electoral democracy (if you can call it that) still fragile.
- Thomas Friedman’s Five Worst Predictions: Barrett Brown | Vanity Fair - A reminder of why I haven't read Friedman in months.
- The Arabist Review » Blog Archive » Bitter black coffee - Ursula has a post about Qahwa Sada, the hit Cairo play.
Hi, arabist (arabist). Habib El-Adly (ElAdly) is now following your updates on Twitter. Check out Habib El-Adly's profile here: http://twitter.com/ElAdlyHabib al-Adly, of course, is Egypt's interior minister.