April 2013

Sleeping With the Enemy? Review of “”Would You Have Sex With an Arab?

By Clara Abdulaziz,http://ta3beer.blogspot.com, April, 19

“One in five Israelis is an Arab, but it is difficult to find places where they touch fingertips.”

In her latest feature-length documentary, French filmmaker Yolande Zauberman ventures out into the nightlife of Tel Aviv and asks the people she meets a deceptively simple question: “Would you have sex with an Arab?” It is clear that sex serves merely as a proxy to grapple with a much larger question: can individuals transcend identities rooted in long histories of conflict, or is identity so rigidly constructed that it in fact defines one’s humanity?

Zauberman has said that she produced the film to “give space for awareness.” It is meant to be “a little bit sexy, a little bit funny.”

It is also, quite frankly, pretty depressing.

Zauberman’s choice of Tel Aviv for her film was not arbitrary. It is famous for its non-stop club scene, and is one of the most LGBT and queer-friendly cities in the world. She shows that even here, where most young residents seem more concerned with partying than religion and politics, the boundaries of Jewish and Arab identity remain stubbornly situated within the larger Arab-Israeli conflict. (more…)

One of the most entertaining Arabic compendia on animal life, taken in the loose sense of the term for things that breathe or are thought to breathe, is the Hayât al-Hayawân (Life of Animals) of the Egyptian savant Kamâl al-Dîn Muhammad ibn Mûsâ al-Damîrî. Writing a century before Columbus discovered America, al-Damiri spins stories about animals with a variety of folklore about uses of animal products and parts. A scientist would no doubt shudder at the magical and literary focus of the text, only occasionally finding description useful today. A partial English translation was made by a British officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Jayakar, and published in two volumes in 1906 and 1908 in India. Unfortunately, this text is virtually inaccessible. I have looked at two copies, one in the New York Public Library and the other at the Library of Congress, and only with trepidation have I turned the fragile pages in this poorly bound volume. So far there is no digital version, which is a shame, since it is a delight to read.

Our author was a prolific copyist, quoting from over 800 other authors and providing a thousand entries, some simply an animal’s name and its more common synonym. Ironically, Jayakar’s Victorian sensitivity makes the translation as much an oddity as the primary work. (more…)

If George Orwell had lived to see how 1984 plays out in 2013, he would no doubt shake his head, marveling at how a novel he wrote in 1949 could come so close to reality. Senator Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican (who may not gulp down Tea Party rhetoric but surely likes to sip some of its poison), was interviewed yesterday in the Washington Post before the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing was caught. His intent, as reported in the article, seemed more to downgrade the libertarian Rand Paul than to offer any kind of constructive comment on the unfolding tragedy of the bombing.

In his senate filibuster, Senator Paul had argued that America is not a battlefield, so Graham used his senatorial perch to argue “It’s a battlefield because the terrorists think it is.” Really? When exactly did a terrorist act, not an attack from another country or an armed insurrection from within, define what a “battlefield” is? Yorktown was a battlefield in 1781; Gettysburg in 1863; Normandy in 1944. If the sadistic setting of bombs targeted at civilians proves that America is a battlefield, then what about Waco in 1993 or Oklahoma City in 1995 or even the hijackings that led to the destruction of the Twin Towers in 2001? When a battle is fought in war there are battlefields stained with the blood of combatants and often civilians as well; when a terrorist detonates a bomb it is a criminal act no less than when a disturbed 20-year old walks into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and shoots 20 children and 6 adults, after having killed his own mother. If every act of violence defines a battlefield, there can be no peace anywhere. (more…)


Part 3 of a three-part trilogy by George N. El-Hage

أنا بيروتُ
حدّ ق في تكاويني
ألا تذكرْ؟
أنا بيروتْ …
أنا تاجُ السنين …
وزورقُ المرجانِ … والياقوت
أنا بيروتُ … هل تذكرْ؟ ….
عروسُ عرائسِ المدنِ
وأمُّ الحرفِ …. والسفنِ
أنا وطنُ الذي يشتاقُ للوطنِ
ألا تذكرْ؟
أنا بيروتُ … تعرفُني
فلا تنكرْ
ربيعَ الفكرِ… والأوتارِ … والأسطرْ
أنا حُلوةْ
أنا أحلى …
وكَم سَافرتَ في عينيَّ  كي تسهرْ
وفي شَعري …. وفي صدري
إذا ما شرقنا  هبَّت عليه
الريحُ …. أو أمطرْ
أنا بيروتُ … هل تذكرْ؟ …

وأمس أفقتُ
أمس أفقتُ
لا وجهي ولا اسمي
كما كانا …
ولا شَعري… ولا صدري
كما كانا
رأيتُ الرعبَ يرسمُ فيّ
أشكالاً … وألوانا …
ولم أعرفْ سوى أنّي
ضُربتُ … وليس من سَببِ
وكدتُ أموتُ من تعبي
وجرّوني إلى الساحاتِ
عرَّوني ….
سُلِبْتُ بكارتي منّي
أُهِنتُ …
أُخذتُ بالظنِّ …
عَروسَ الساحرِ الأكبرْ،
عَروسِ الساحرِ الأحمرْ …
إلى الحاكمْ
زعيمِ الحمْرِ … والبربرْ …
ولم يدروا بأنَّ اللهَ
في بيروتَ لن يٌقهرْ ….
أنا بيروتُ … يا اللهُ !
هل تذكُرْ؟ …

سأبقى، رُغمَ أحزاني
ورُغمَ الجرحِ
في وجهي وإنساني،
بحجمِ الشرقِ
إنَّ الشرقَ …. أدماني
بحجمِ الحبّ
إن الحبَّ لبناني
بِحَجم الحقِّ
إنِّ الحقّ لبناني.

For part 2, click here.

by Laura Beth Nielsen, Al Jazeera Opinion, April 17, 2013

The Boston Marathon bombing once again has Americans asking, “Is this terrorism?” And more broadly, “What is terrorism?”

We asked ourselves those questions the moment we heard the news. Our news anchors asked for the next 24 hours (though they were clear to say at first that they did not know if it was terrorism). President Obama – thankfully – was careful not to use the word in his first press conference on the day of the bombings. But later on the following day – on Tuesday – Obama said, “Any time bombs are used to target civilians, it is an act of terrorism.”

What does it mean when we say something is “terrorism” and why does it matter?

As a professor of Sociology and Law, I study how ordinary people understand the law and how the law itself, including law’s categories and terms affect how people understand the world around them.

Using terms like “terrorism” shapes what ordinary people expect of the police, the justice system and our government. It affects what kind of punishment we want and the level of fear we feel about what is going on around us.

But what is terrorism? The most obvious definition is that terrorism is a crime meant to terrorise. We know what these kinds of crimes are: they are the kind that make us afraid to send our children to school, like Columbine; make us afraid to go to work, like 9/11; or make us afraid even just to spend beautiful spring day competing with our friends competing in a footrace. (more…)

It’s hard to beat a good rhythmic musical performance. Or is it? You can learn the beats of Middle Eastern percussion without being a Mozart or an Abd al-Wahhab. On the riqq, a frame drum, for instance. There is a basic introductory lesson on Youtube by Yousef Sheronick. For performances by the same musician, check out his Youtube channel and website.

By Ziad Majed, al-Jadid

It is hard to imagine what happened to Fatima,* and it is hard to describe the silence that engulfed the witnesses of her death. I think the artistic works on Facebook that restored her head and depicted a rose garden or the moon or the sun have tried to compensate for that terrible silence and ease the pain of Fatima and her loved ones and all of us together.

What can be done to a Syrian child who “lost” her head?! And what can be said to a girl sprawled in her dress on the ground, arms spread wide, her small, drooping shoulders clinging to the wall directly?

Fatima Maghlaj did not understand what happened to her; she was headless all of a sudden. In an instant she lost the ability to dream and focus. She was paralyzed. She wanted to feel the dryness of her throat and ask for water. She wanted to call mother or father, but she could not make the words with her tongue and she could not find their picture in her memory. She tried to look around her to reassure herself that she was sleeping in a safe place to wait until these strange feelings of emptiness had ended. But her eyes and eyebrows and eyelashes were out of reach, scattered in the emptiness of the cold room. She found nothing but a tuft of hair that her mother had combed in preparation for her uncle’s wedding that evening. (more…)

Part 2 of a three-part trilogy by George N. El-Hage

For part 1, click here.

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