Of weddings: royal, bombed & droned

rahnuma ahmed

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Millions watched the wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and former American actress Meghan Markle on television the world over. While many heralded it for demonstrating ‘how Britain has become more egalitarian and racially mixed‘ and lauded the ”Meghan effect‘ on black Britons,’ others rejoiced at the wedding ceremony for having been ‘a rousing celebration of blackness,’ and still others hoped that the ‘spirit of Harry and Meghan… [would] revitalise our divided nation,’ that prince Harry’s choice of spouse would ‘[initiate] real change in UK race relations.’

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip with newly-wed grandson Prince Harry and grand daughter-in-law Meghan Markle, and other family members including Ms. Markle’s mother Doria Ragland, and bridal party. ©AFP

Meghan Markle – now Duchess of Sussex, with her own Royal Coat of Arms – is the daughter of a white American father and an African-American mother, her parents divorced when Meghan was 6, and she was raised singly by her mother.
Continue reading “Of weddings: royal, bombed & droned”

The spirit of a ghostly fabric

Rare depiction of terracotta weaver. Terracotta art was at its peak from 4th - 8th century. Courtesy of Ruby Ghuznavi, Dhaka. Bangladesh. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Rare depiction of terracotta weaver. Terracotta art was at its peak from 4th – 8th century. Courtesy of Ruby Ghuznavi, Dhaka. Bangladesh. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Having heard Saif speak of muslin over the last three years, I had gained some knowledge, albeit second hand. Going out filming with him to museums, arboretums and libraries, I had met some of the world’s leading experts. Lived part of the history. A surprise awaited me. It is not a book written by an expert, but a labour of love, written by a hungry enthusiast, not yet jaded by the weight of authority. It has all the facts. The rigour of research. The scholarly precision. The concern for one’s fellow human. Continue reading “The spirit of a ghostly fabric”

Pictures that question the world

BY PAWEL KUCZYNSKI

ArtFido
Good set, except that Israel is curiously missing.

Pawel Kuczynski is a Polish artist who specialises in images that make you think hard about the world we live in.

Continue reading “Pictures that question the world”

Behind the Gaza ceasefire Israel and Hamas talk potential peace

By James m. Dorsey Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Synopsis

Israel and Hamas have significantly moderated their attitudes towards one another despite official denials. Indirect talks in Cairo designed to achieve a lasting ceasefire between the two war weary parties effectively constitute negotiations about the parameters of a potential future peace agreement. Continue reading “Behind the Gaza ceasefire Israel and Hamas talk potential peace”

Mandela’s First Memo to Thomas Friedman

Arjan El Fassed

The Electronic Intifada

29 March 2001

Editor’s note, 28 June 2013: This article was written by Arjan El Fassed in 2001 in the satirical style then being employed by Thomas Friedman, of writing mock letters from one world leader to another. Although it carries El Fassed’s byline, it has been repeatedly mistaken for an actual letter from Mandela. It is not. It is a piece of satire and has never been presented by EI as anything other than satire. El Fassed has written this history of the piece and how it subsequently was mistaken for a real letter, on his personal blog.

Memo to: Thomas L. Friedman (columnist New York Times)
From: Nelson Mandela (former President South Africa)

Dear Thomas,

I know that you and I long for peace in the Middle East, but before you continue to talk about necessary conditions from an Israeli perspective, you need to know what’s on my mind. Where to begin? How about 1964. Let me quote my own words during my trial. They are true today as they were then:

“I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Today the world, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future. In South Africa it has been ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security. That mass campaign of defiance and other actions could only culminate in the establishment of democracy.

Perhaps it is strange for you to observe the situation in Palestine or more specifically, the structure of political and cultural relationships between Palestinians and Israelis, as an apartheid system. This is because you incorrectly think that the problem of Palestine began in 1967. This was demonstrated in your recent column “Bush’s First Memo” in the New York Times on March 27, 2001.

You seem to be surprised to hear that there are still problems of 1948 to be solved, the most important component of which is the right to return of Palestinian refugees.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not just an issue of military occupation and Israel is not a country that was established “normally” and happened to occupy another country in 1967. Palestinians are not struggling for a “state” but for freedom, liberation and equality, just like we were struggling for freedom in South Africa.

In the last few years, and especially during the reign of the Labor Party, Israel showed that it was not even willing to return what it occupied in 1967; that settlements remain, Jerusalem would be under exclusive Israeli sovereignty, and Palestinians would not have an independent state, but would be under Israeli economic domination with Israeli control of borders, land, air, water and sea.

Israel was not thinking of a “state” but of “separation”. The value of separation is measured in terms of the ability of Israel to keep the Jewish state Jewish, and not to have a Palestinian minority that could have the opportunity to become a majority at some time in the future. If this takes place, it would force Israel to either become a secular democratic or bi-national state, or to turn into a state of apartheid not only de facto, but also de jure.

Thomas, if you follow the polls in Israel for the last 30 or 40 years, you clearly find a vulgar racism that includes a third of the population who openly declare themselves to be racist. This racism is of the nature of “I hate Arabs” and “I wish Arabs would be dead”. If you also follow the judicial system in Israel you will see there is discrimination against Palestinians, and if you further consider the 1967 occupied territories you will find there are already two judicial systems in operation that represent two different approaches to human life: one for Palestinian life and the other for Jewish life. Additionally there are two different approaches to property and to land. Palestinian property is not recognized as private property because it can be confiscated.

As to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, there is an additional factor. The so-called “Palestinian autonomous areas” are bantustans. These are restricted entities within the power structure of the Israeli apartheid system.

The Palestinian state cannot be the by-product of the Jewish state, just in order to keep the Jewish purity of Israel. Israel’s racial discrimination is daily life of most Palestinians. Since Israel is a Jewish state, Israeli Jews are able to accrue special rights which non-Jews cannot do. Palestinian Arabs have no place in a “Jewish” state.

Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.

The responses made by South Africa to human rights abuses emanating from the removal policies and apartheid policies respectively, shed light on what Israeli society must necessarily go through before one can speak of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and an end to its apartheid policies.

Thomas, I’m not abandoning Mideast diplomacy. But I’m not going to indulge you the way your supporters do. If you want peace and democracy, I will support you. If you want formal apartheid, we will not support you. If you want to support racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing, we will oppose you. When you figure out what you’re about, give me a call.

Arjan El Fassed is a Dutch-Palestinian political scientist, human rights activist and is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada.

West Bank: 11-Year-Old Boy Bled to Death by Israeli Army, Attempts to Rescue Prevented by Live Fire

eleven-year-old Khalil Muhammad al-Anati.

Thousands gathered shortly before afternoon prayers on Sunday in Fawwar refugee camp south of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron to mourn the death of eleven-year-old Khalil Muhammad al-Anati.

Israeli soldiers shot Khalil with live ammunition outside his home that same morning on 10 August after forces invaded the camp. He was buried not far from his home that afternoon by thousands of friends, family and neighbors. Continue reading “West Bank: 11-Year-Old Boy Bled to Death by Israeli Army, Attempts to Rescue Prevented by Live Fire”

Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?

Abu-Lughod, Lila. Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others.?American Anthropologist September, 2002 Vol.104(3): 783-790.

The main concern of the article is to determine if Muslim women do actually need saving. The focus is on the mandatory wearing of the veil, or burqa. The author discusses many groups that maintain that the Muslim women do need saving from the oppression that binds them to wear the burqa. The author also maintains that anthropologists, among others, should not be overly culturally relativistic but that they should recognize and respect cultural differences. Do those same petitioners that try and save the Muslim women also try and save the African women from genital mutilation or the Indian women from dowry deaths? No, they do not because they have been taught not to judge cultures based upon their own.

The basic argument of the author is that there should not be so much focus on the burqa, but on the other mandates that the women are forced to oblige. The burqa is not an imposition. The author states that should the women be released from this mandate, they would most likely choose another form of headcovering to wear. A headcovering is the appropriate form of dress for their community. The burqa symbolizes a woman’s modesty and respectability and provides protection from strange men in the public sphere. A burqa is a symbol of a “good woman” who is able to stay at home, not working outside with the public. The author refers to the burqa as a kind of “mobile home” in that the women would be in the “inviolable space of their homes, even though moving in the public realm”.

The author described the burqa and the practice of wearing one in Afghanistan and other Muslim societies. She also noted that the Taliban did not invent the burqa but they did impose the wearing of one on all women as being “religiously appropriate.” The author presented her arguments in a clear manner but also admits that she is not an expert on Afghanistan

Download PDF: Do Muslim Women need Saving

By Amy Goodman

Award-winning journalist and Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman records a podcast in conjunction with her weekly column, which you can read here: www.democracynow.org/blog
July 31, 2014
By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan
The Israeli assault on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip has entered its fourth week. This military attack, waged by land, sea and air, has been going on longer than the devastating assault in 2008/2009, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians. The death toll in this current attack is at least 1,300, overwhelmingly civilians. As this column was being written, the United Nations confirmed that a U.N. school in Gaza, where thousands of civilians were seeking shelter, was bombed by the Israeli Defense Forces, killing at least 20 people. The United Nations said it reported the exact coordinates of the shelter to the Israeli military 17 times. Continue reading “”

The Gaza Bombardment – What You're Not Being Told

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXRO1YFreNA
The corporate media isn’t just distorting the facts on the Gaza assault, they’re flat out covering them up.

On July 7, 2014 Israel began a massive assault on the Gaza strip of Palestine. In the first week aloneIsrael dropped over 400 tons of bombs, killing over 130 Palestinians. Most were civilians, about half of them were women and children. By the time you are watching the the number will be higher.

Israel’s official justification for this wholesale slaughter: the murder of three Israeli teenagers which Israel blames on Hamas. That’s not the real reason. First of all Israel has not produced one single piece of evidence implicating Hamas or even a Palestinian in the murders, and in fact the the evidence we do have indicates that that murderers were Israeli. You see on Tuesday July 1st, The Jerusalem Post released the audio of the kidnapped teen’s distress call to police, and in that call the kidnappers can be heard telling the boys to put their heads down in HEBREW. According to the Jerusalem Post prior to being leaked to the public this audio was being held under a gag order by the Israeli government.

So why is Israel really attacking Gaza? It’s not about self defense and it’s obviously not about avenging those three teenagers. Those are just cover stories for the naive. What this is really about is natural gas.

It turns out that Gaza has quite a bit of natural gas on its coastline. One of the largest sources in the region. British Gas, which holds a joint exploration agreement for the area estimates that the fields hold at least 1 trillion cubic feet of gas. That gas belongs to the Palestinian people and they should be the ones to benefit from it. Israel disagrees.

(An interesting side story on this issue: At one point Russia was bidding for a chance to develop Gaza’s gas fields.)

After the death of Yasser Arafat, under questionable circumstances, Israel has controlled those fields, and British Gas has negotiated with Tel Aviv.

With power divided between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Palestinians have been too weak to put up any meaningful ,resistance and Israel would like to keep it that way. The Unity Government between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority threatens Israel’s control of those fields, and as such it has to be destroyed.

It’s pretty basic really. These are the real motives of all wars: resources, territory and power. They’ll always come up with an excuse, and it’s easy to fall for them if you don’t do your research, but there’s also a really easy way to avoid getting duped: always stand against wars of aggression. Period. Make it a matter of principle, and the facts and morality will always end up being on your side.

And speaking of morality, even if those teenagers had been killed by Hamas, what kind of psychopath thinks that this gives Israel the right to go and kill over a hundred people who had nothing to do with it? We’re talking about little kids here.

I’m not going to show you the pictures of the dead or dying children here in this video, but I have looked at them, and as a father it’s almost unbearable to see. If hearing about those bombs falling doesn’t phase you emotionally, if this is just a political debate for you, then go look at the pictures (these for example). You have no right to defend what Israel is doing, if you don’t have the courage to even glance at the consequences.

And anyone who would justify these crimes after seeing the civilian casualties should be ashamed of themselves.

The bombing heavily populated residential areas is a war crime, and the U.S. government is funding it with your tax dollars. That’s right. Israel receives over 3 billion dollars in foreign aid from the U.S. each year. (But hey, it’s not like the American people actually need that money, the national debt is only 17 trillion dollars.)

Of course it’s no accident that you’ve never had face what’s being done to the Palestinian’s in your name. If you turn on the mainstream media at any point during this crisis all you’ll see is constant stream of reports focusing on the Palestinian rockets being fired in response. These reports conveniently fail to mention that as of yet these primitive rockets have not killed one single Israeli.

The Obama administration is also running with this artificial narrative.

But the rockets, the rockets! Let’s all bring this back to the puny homemade rockets that the Palestinians are launching out of desperation and frame this as a question of Israel’s self defense.

Pretend for a moment that this wasn’t happening in the Middle East, but rather in the south west of the United States. Hey, just for kicks let’s say it was happening in Palestine Texas. So three teenagers from Mexico are visiting Palestine Texas and they get killed, by somebody, we don’t know who. Mexico of course takes this as an invitation to launch airstrikes, on the entire on the entire region. For ten days the Mexican air force dutifully pummels Palestine Texas, and the surrounding villages, but unfortunately these darn rednecks were unaware that this was perfectly within Mexico’s rights, so they started taking pot shots at Mexican fighter jets with their shotguns and deer rifles, and some started shooting in the general direction of the Mexican border. The bullets didn’t reach their targets, but still they tried to defend themselves, and THAT is unacceptable.

Sound absurd? That’s what you people sound like when you parrot the mainstream media and talk show pundits without thinking. Totally incoherent.

Israel isn’t defending itself against the Palestinians any more than the Europeans were defending themselves against the natives of the Americas. Year after year the Israelis have taken more Palestinian land, bulldozed more homes, set up new settlements, and systematically expelled the inhabitants. You can make up justifications or deny it all you want, but the maps don’t lie.

This isn’t defense, this is ethnic cleansing.

Of course there are those who are actually ok with what these maps tell us. There are people who like to assert that Israel has the right to steal every square inch of Palestinian land because supposedly one thousand five hundred or so years ago their Jewish ancestors were expelled. They call this the right of return.

Ok, let’s go with that.

Rights are an interesting topic. The thing about rights, is that if human right actually exists then it would have to universal to all of humanity.

So what about the Palestinian’s right of return?

Don’t you find it a bit odd that one of the primary stipulations that Israel always imposes upon the Palestinians during negotiations is that in order to reach a peace agreement the Palestinians have to accept that they have no right to return to the land that was taken from them in the past 50 years? We’re not talking about people who have some kind of abstract ancestral claim, these are the actual people who lost their homes, and their farms, and their businesses in this lifetime.

So is the right of return an actual right or is it not? You can’t have it both ways without exposing the dirty underbelly of this issue: which is that Zionism is a fundamentally racist and fascistic ideology.

The video below is an extreme display, but it’s not unique in Israel these days. If you do a little research on the topic you’ll find that hardline Zionism very much resembles a neo-nazi movement.

And no, Zionism is not inseparable from Judaism, and it has nothing to do with who you are genetically.

So what can we do to help the Palestinians? Start by actively engaging this debate everywhere it comes up. Don’t avoid the conversation just to be polite. Women and children are being massacred in Gaza right now, and silence in the face of oppression is to take the side of the oppressors.

It’s time to start confronting those who support what Israel is doing right now. This isn’t a matter of opinion or preference. To defend the use of the military against civilian populations, is shameful, it’s immoral and it has consequences.

A particular weight of responsibility sits on the shoulders of those in the so called conservative churches of the United States, because this is where the bulk of the support for Israel is found. It’s up to you who see what is really going on to wake the people in your church up. If the Pastor in your church defends bombardment of Gaza, or any war for that matter, you need to confront him, and if he doesn’t respond when you confront him in private then confront him publicly. If that sounds extreme to you, then go look at those pictures of the little kids who are on the receiving end of this. Go take a glimpse, but understand that the horror of seeing a photo of a dismembered child is nothing like what their parents are feeling.

And to the people of Israel, you need to do some serious soul searching. Is this the image you want the world to have when they think of Israel? An image of a brutal oppressor that murders civilians without hesitation? But more importantly, is this what you want to be?

Bonus Videos
1. Miko Peled Son of a high ranking Israeli general tells the real story of the Palestinian occupation:

2. Norman Finkelstein ends the argument properly:

You take my water

You take my water
Burn my olive tree
Destroy my house
Take my job
Steal my land
Imprison my father
Kill my mother
Bomb my country
Starve us all
Humiliate us all
BUT
I am to blame: I shot a rocket back
You take my water