November 2012

Poster in Tripoli, Lebanon; photography by Estella Carpi

Unearthing a misconceived “normalization” of violence in Beirut. The October car bomb in relation to generalized insecurity.

The 19th October 2012 car bomb in Beirut’s Ashrafiyye, within the Eastern district of the Lebanese capital, shed light on the re-articulation of the relations between the State, allegedly “inexistent” in the Lebanese context, and its society that lives in the constant effort to subjectively reformulate their citizenship, in the lack of a commonly shared nationhood.

New outbursts of violence seem to give a reason to the state to promote its technology of control, as Michel Foucault would put it. This complex re-articulation of relations has come to the fore with the October 26 White March from Martyrs Square (Beirut Downtown) to Sassine Square (Ashrafiyye, where the explosion was one week before). The “White March”, in which no political flag but the national Lebanese was waved, wanted to be considered as an act of social refusal of further violence and national solidarity, in addition to their political contestation of both the 14 and 8 March coalitions, which have politically and socially polarized the country into two sections after Hariri’s murder in February 2005. The White March mainly had the implicit aim of contesting the taken for granted watershed between what is “normal” and what is not in Lebanese parameters.

Social fear, as well as the perception of risk in Beirut, has specific historical explanations. Lebanese society seems to be doomed to live in a not-war-not-peace state, as Jeffrey Sluka used to define Northern Ireland during the clashes between Protestants and Catholics. Such an unstable state has engendered a social attitude towards violence that has been named by political scientists and journalists as “normalization”, which, in light of the Lebanese reaction to the last explosion, begs for a re-conceptualization. (more…)

The Yemeni cartoon above says it all: “I read in a book about the harmful health effects from qat and cigarettes, so I decided, God willing, to cease reading.”

The Yemeni photographer Bushra al-Mutawakkil is featured in a video about a recent photographic exhibit in Paris. Click here to see the interview.

Palestinian boy in Gaza

By YOUSEF MUNAYYER, The New York Times, November 23, 2012

MORE than 160 Palestinians and 5 Israelis are dead, and as the smoke clears over Gaza, the Israelis will not be more secure and Palestinians’ hopes for self-determination remain dashed. It is time for a significant re-evaluation of the American policies that have contributed to this morass.

The failure of America’s approach toward the Israelis and the Palestinians, much like its flawed policies toward the region in general, is founded on the assumption that American hard power, through support for Israel and other Middle Eastern governments, can keep the legitimate grievances of the people under wraps.

But events in Gaza, like those in Egypt and elsewhere, have proved once again that the use of force is incapable of providing security for Israel, when the underlying causes of a people’s discontent go unaddressed.

The United States government must ask: what message do America’s policies send to Israelis and Palestinians?

Washington’s policies have sent counterproductive messages to the Palestinians that have only increased the incentives for using violence. (more…)

In the United States, after having given thanks for a turkey feast in which only one of the native birds has been officially pardoned and allowed to live a little longer, today becomes Black Friday. One official holiday (blessed by Lincoln, who is the star of a new Hollywood film) has ended and the shopping spree for the next official holiday (which officially keeps the “Christ” in Christmas) has begun. Actually in some places the shopping began last night. Whatever the real reason for the dubbing, it is obvious that this shop-to-you-drop mentality is meant to keep stores in the black rather than bleeding red. As a result, lots of gifts will be be bought to be placed under the Christmas trees of families who really do not need them. Meanwhile in the Middle East (and not just in the Middle East) Black Friday will be followed by a Black Saturday and the blackness will continue all the way through to a Black Thursday to be followed by yet another Black set of days on end.

In the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy I was without electricity in my home for 11 days. Apart from a few candles and flames in a fireplace, I was surrounded by darkness for more than a week. But there are different shades of darkness, despite the semantic homogenization in our concept of “black.” Being in the literal dark or in a situation where there is no light and thus everything is pitch black keeps us metaphorically in the dark as well. I lost power and a few tree limbs, but thousands of people during Sandy lost houses, possessions of all kinds, cars and boats. Some still remain without a home or power as I write this three weeks later. What makes today “Black Friday” here in America is inconvenience at the malls. It was inconvenient not to have electricity or hot showers and to cook on a Coleman stove for a few days, but the unfolding events in the Middle East go far beyond this kind of inconvenience. (more…)

The election circus is over for another four years; at least it is less a rhetorical political cliff than a slippery slope. But I recently came across a C-Span Youtube video of Representative Ron Paul (who is sure to run again for the GOP nod) speaking in congress in 2009 against a resolution to support Israel’s invasion into Gaza (which is why he will never win). It is well worth viewing again, politics aside. You can see it here:!

Palestinians gather around an enormous crater after an Israeli air strike levelled a building in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip; photograph for REUTERS by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Israel-Palestine: What is the U.S. National Interest?

By Ralph Nader, The Nader Page, Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Israeli elections are coming up in January so it is Palestinian hunting season again. Israeli cynics call it a time “for mowing the grass.”

Out comes the well-worn playbook by Israel’s militaristic government that has worked to silence Israeli politicians and citizens who want a two-state solution. This is an opportunity to use and test advanced weaponry from the U.S., compliments of U.S. taxpayers, and squelch ongoing peace efforts, small and large, by Palestinians, Israelis and international peace advocates.

The playbook’s first chapter is provocation to upset a tense but workable truce with Hamas, the elected government of Gaza. Hamas was encouraged at its creation years ago by both Israeli and U.S. backers to counter the secular Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Bit of a blowback there.

Israeli government leaders are expert provocateurs when they wish to seize land, water or prisoners and upset any movement toward a peace that would create a viable Palestinian state back to the 1967 borders, which includes East Jerusalem. When Israel came into being in 1948, it soon broke a UN truce and doubled its territory by taking the large area known as the Negev desert, whose refugees ended up in the Gaza Strip. Now 1.6 million encircled and impoverished humans, blockaded and under siege by Israel, try to survive in an open-air prison little more than twice the size of the District of Columbia.

Israel’s strategy of breaking cease-fires and truces over the years has been documented by Princeton University history professor emeritus, Arno J. Mayer, in his scholarly book Plowshares into Swords: From Zionism to Israel (Verso, 2008). (more…)

Wadi Na’im, September, 1978; Photo by Daniel Martin Varisco

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