As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hurried to his helicopter ready to take off at the end of a visit to Iraq last year, it was becoming clearer that the Americans have lost control of a country they wished to mold to their liking. His departure on March 24, 2013 was the conclusion of a ‘surprise’ visit meant to mark the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Ten years prior, the US had stormed Baghdad, unleashing one of the 20th century’s most brutal and longest conflicts. Since then, Iraq has not ceased to bleed.
Kerry offered nothing of value on that visit, save the same predictable clichés of Iraq’s supposedly successful democracy, as a testament to some imagined triumph of American values. But it was telling that a decade of war was not even enough to assure an ordinary trip for the American diplomat. It was a ‘surprise’ because no amount of coordination between the US embassy, then consisting of 16,000 staff, and the Iraqi government, could guarantee Kerry’s safety. Continue reading
2013 has expectedly been a terrible year for several Arab nations. It has been terrible because the promise of greater freedoms and political reforms has been reversed, most violently in some instances, by taking a few countries down the path of anarchy and complete chaos. Syria and Egypt are two cases in point.
Syria has been hit the hardest. For months, the United Nations has maintained that over 100,000 people have been killed in the 33 months of conflict. More recently, the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights concluded that at least 125,835, of which more than third of them are civilians, have been killed.
The UN’s humanitarian agency (OCHA) says that millions of Syrians living in perpetual suffering are in need of aid, and this number will reach 9.3 million by the end of next year. Continue reading
The intellectual dishonesty of Israel’s supporters is appalling. But in some odd way, it is also understandable. How else could they respond to the massively growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign?
When a non-violent campaign – empowered by thousands of committed civil society activists from South Africa to Sweden and most countries in between – leads a moral campaign to isolate and hold into account an Apartheid country like Israel, all that the supporters of the latter can do is spread lies and misinformation. There can be no other strategy, unless of course, Israel’s friends get their own moment of moral awakening, and join the BDS flood that has already broken many barriers and liberated many minds from the grip of Israeli hasbara. Continue reading
The latest punishment of Gaza may seem like another familiar plot to humiliate the strip to the satisfaction of Israel, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, and the military-controlled Egyptian government. But something far more sinister is brewing.
This time, the collective punishment of Gaza arrives in the form of raw sewage that is flooding many neighborhoods across the impoverished and energy-chocked region of 360 km2 (139 sq mi) and 1.8 million inhabitants. Even before the latest crisis resulting from a severe shortage of electricity and diesel fuel that is usually smuggled through Egypt, Gaza was rendered gradually uninhabitable. A comprehensive UN report last year said that if no urgent action were taken, Gaza would be ‘unlivable’ by 2020. Since the report was issued in August 2012, the situation has grown much worse. Continue reading
In an initially pointless exercise that lasted nearly an hour, I flipped between two Palestinian television channels, Al Aqsa TV of Hamas in Gaza and Palestine TV of Fatah in the West Bank. While both purported to represent Palestine and the Palestinians, each seemed to represent some other place and some other people. It was all very disappointing.
Hamas’ world is fixated on their hate of Fatah and other factional personal business. Fatah TV is stuck between several worlds of archaic language of phony revolutions, factional rivalry and unmatched self-adoration. The two narratives are growingly alien and will unlikely ever move beyond their immediate sense of self-gratification and utter absurdity.
It is no wonder why Palestinians are still struggling to tell the world such a simple, straightforward and truthful story. Perhaps it is now out of desperation that they expect Israel’s New Historians, internationals who make occasional visits to Palestine or an unexceptionally fair western journalist to tell it. Continue reading
“Nothing is more precious than freedom,” is quoted as being attributed to Vo Nguyen Giap, a Vietnamese General that led his country through two liberation wars. The first was against French colonialists, the second against the Americans. And despite heavy and painful losses, Vietnam prevailed, defeating the first colonial quest at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954) and the second at Ho Chí Minh Campaign (1975).
General Giap, the son of a peasant scholar, stood tall in both wars, only bowing down to the resolve of his people. “Any forces that would impose their will on other nations will most certainly face defeat,” he once said. His words will always be true.
He died on Friday, October 4, at the age of 102. Continue reading
Egypt’s new ruler, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, may not realize that the bond between Egypt, Palestine and especially Gaza is beyond historic, and simply cannot be severed with border restrictions, albeit they have caused immense suffering for many Palestinians.
Gaza is being ‘collectively punished’, and is now facing economic hardship and a severe fuel shortage as a result of the Egyptian army’s destroying of underground tunnels. This is nothing particularly new. In fact, such ‘collective punishment’ has defined Gaza’s relationship to Israel for the last 65 years. Successive sieges and wars have left Gaza with deep scars, but left its people extremely strong, resilient and resourceful. Continue reading
The distance between Gaza and Ramallah in sheer miles is hardly significant. But in actuality, both cities represent two different political realities, with inescapable cultural and socioeconomic dimensions. Their geopolitical horizons are vastly different as well – Gaza is situated within its immediate Arab surroundings and turmoil, while Ramallah is westernized in too many aspects to count. In recent years, the gap has widened like never before.
Of course, Gaza and Ramallah were always, in some ways, unalike. Demographics, size, topography and geographic proximity to Arab countries with different political priorities have always made them separate and distinctive. But the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 had decisively removed Ramallah from its Jordanian element, and Gaza from its Egyptian political milieu. Continue reading
Suppose several armored vehicles belonging to a branch of the Palestinian Authority raided an Israeli border village at the eve of a new round of peace negotiations. One can picture PA President Mahmoud Abbas defending the killings, stating that the attack was made in the cause of protecting the security of the Palestinian public. Would the Israeli delegation return to the talks with handshakes and smiles?
The answer is an obvious no. Yet the Palestinian delegation did return to real recently renewed peace talks after Israeli forces’ raided a refugee camp in north Jerusalem on August 26, killing three. This was not the only lethal Israeli attack to take place during “peace talks”, and it will not likely be the last. Continue reading
How many Egyptians have been killed since the January 2011 revolt? My pursuit for exact figures has proven to be futile. Various sources suggest all sorts of numbers, some scrambled in such a way as to make a political point. It is as if the life of the ordinary Egyptian doesn’t matter on its own, as an absolute value that must be guarded aside from any political considerations. If it does matter at all, it is only within a larger context to simply prove a point.
But the deaths are certainly in the thousands, with many more maimed and wounded. On August 14 alone – one of the bloodiest days in modern Egyptian history – hundreds of people were mowed down, and thousands more were wounded in a security forces crackdown on anti-coup protests in Rabia Al-Adawiya and al-Nahda Squares, among other areas of Cairo and the rest of the country.
It was a bloodbath by any definition – the images, the footage, the stories and the shattered hopes. But equally harrowing was the fact that there was no consensus that killing hundreds of protesters was wrong because it violates every shared human value. Even such dreadful moments were barely enough for most people to set aside their ideology, religious preferences, sectarian affiliations or political identity and simply mourn for a brief moment, just a moment, at the precious lives harvested before their time. Continue reading
“Lord! You know well that my keen desire is to carry out Your commandments and to serve Thee with all my heart, O light of my eyes. If I were free I would pass the whole day and night in prayers. But what should I do when you have made me a slave of a human being?”
These were the words of the female Muslim mystic and poet, Rabia Al-Adawiya. Her journey from slavery to freedom served as a generational testament of the resolve of the individual who was armed with faith and nothing else.
Rabia’s story is multifarious, and despite the fact that the Muslim saint died over 12 centuries ago, few Egyptians are failing to see the centrality of her narrative to their own. In the north of the Nasr City district, tens of thousands of Egyptians chose the iconic mosque named after her to stage their sit-in and demanded the return to shar’iya (legitimacy) after it was seized in a brazen military coup which ousted elected President Mohammed Morsi on July 03. Continue reading
Those enchanted by pseudo-reality must have been at the edge of their seats as they watched ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, a Hollywood account of how US SEAL Team Six killed Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011.
But a recently leaked report shows that the ‘riveting’ Hollywood account of the ‘greatest manhunt of all time’ was hardly as glamorous as it was made to be. In fact, if it were not for the ‘shocking state of affairs’ in Pakistan itself, where local governance had ‘completely collapsed’, the raid would have been yet another botched attempt at killing a man that had been using primitive means – for example a ‘cowboy hat’ to evade drones – as he had managed to survive for nearly nine years. Continue reading
“The revolution is dead. Long live the revolution,” wrote Eric Walberg, a Middle East political expert and author, shortly after the Egyptian military overthrew the country’s democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi on July 3.
But more accurately, the revolution was killed in an agonizingly slow death, and the murders were too many to count.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a liberal elitist with a dismal track record in service of western powers during his glamorous career as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is a stark example of the moral and political crisis that has befallen Egypt since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. Continue reading
The distance between Cairos Tahrir Square and Istanbuls Taksim Square is impossibly long. There can be no roadmap sufficient enough to use the popular experience of the first in order to explicate the circumstances that lead to the other.
Many have tried to insist on the similarities between the two since it is fashionable these days to link news worthy events, however worlds apart, to other events. Following the popular revolt that gripped Egypt in early 2011, deemed with the ever inclusive title the Arab Spring, intellectual jugglers began envisaging springs popping up all over the region and beyond. In recent weeks, when protesters took to the streets of several Turkish cities, comparisons ensued once again. Continue reading
Last night at the hotel lobby of an Arab Gulf country, a family walked in aiming for the westernized café that sells everything but Arabic coffee. The mother seemed distant as she pressed buttons on her smart phone. The father looked tired as he buffed away on his cigarette, and a whole band of children ran around in refreshing chaos that broke the monotony of the fancy but impersonal hotel setting.
Chasing behind the children for no other reason but to be constantly vigilant to any unexpected harm was a very skinny Indonesian teenager wearing a tightly wrapped headscarf, worn out blue jeans and a long shirt. She was the maid, or khadama as maids are called here, meaning a servant. Continue reading
On April 21, the BBC obtained disturbing video footage shot in Burma. It confirmed extreme reports of what has been taking place in that country, even as it is being touted by the US and European governments as a success story pertaining to political reforms and democracy.
The BBC footage was difficult to watch even when faces of Muslim Rohingya victims were blurred. To say the least, the level of violence exhibited by their Arakan Buddhist attackers was frightening. The Burmese police (stood) by as shops, homes and mosques are looted and burnt, and failing to intervene as Buddhist mobs, including monks, kill fleeing Muslims, the BBC reported. A Rohingya man was set ablaze while still alive. The police watched. Continue reading
Air of uncertainty is engulfing most matters related to Egypt. Since the Egyptian revolt started over two years ago, the country remains hostage to a barefaced power struggle with many destructive implications that have polarized society in unprecedented ways, perhaps in all of Egypts modern history. And while in Egypt itself nothing is sacred and no one is safe from the massive campaigns of defamation, demonization and sheer lies that each political camp is launching against the other, Palestinians find themselves in a most precarious position. Continue reading
In an article published May 15, 2013, American historical social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein wrote, Nothing illustrates more the limitations of Western power than the internal controversy its elites are having in public about what the United States in particular and western European states should be doing about the civil war in Syria.
Those limitations are palpable in both language and action. A political and military vacuum created by past US failures and forced retreats after the Iraq war made it possible for countries like Russia to reemerge on the scene as an effective player. Continue reading
As they spoke to a BBC correspondent in their run-down room which they call home in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a man sobbed as his 12-year-old daughter sat close to him.
His face, wrinkled before its time, was a picture of utter anguish. It could only be understood by a parent whose child was dying under giant slabs of concrete where nothing could be done.
“If she is dead,” he said, “I just want to bury her with my own hands, so at least in my mind I know that I have finally found my daughter.”
Then the despairing man succumbed to his uncontrollable tears. Continue reading
During his talk sponsored by the New American Foundation in March 2008, author Parag Khanna addressed the rising challenges facing the US’s global hegemony. According to Khanna, China and the European Union are the new contenders with the battlefield being a global geopolitical marketplace.
Aside from Khannas insight, one statement particularly puzzled me greatly. “Why am I talking about Europe, China, and the United States? What about Russia, what about India, what about Islam ..what about all those other powers?” Initially, I thought it must have been an error. The speaker must surely realize that Islam is a religion, not a political entity with a definable geopolitical marketplace. But it was not an error, or more accurately, it was a deliberate error. Khanna went on to explain that Islam doesnt have that kind of coherence that allows it to spread its power and influence, unlike the dominant other powers which he highlighted. According to that odd logic, Islam and Brazil were discussed in a similar context. Continue reading