Mondoweiss Online Newsletter



Israel, and its supporters in the U.S., prepare for the Freedom Flotilla II

Jun 16, 2011


Watch: Video shows IDF preparing for next Gaza flotilla
Haaretz 16 June — The naval exercise includes intercepting ships of various sizes and handling both non-violent and violent passengers.
Organizers: Flotilla no threat to Israel
Ynet 16 June — Free Gaza ‘determined to sail to Gaza’; meanwhile, Israel allows Turkish aid into Strip … “We do not present an imminent threat to Israel nor do we aim to contribute to a war effort against Israel, thus eliminating any claim by Israel to self-defense, we invite the HRC or any other UN or international agency to come on board and inspect our vessels at their point of departure, on the high seas, and/or on their arrival in the Gaza port,” the group said in a statement Thursday.
Senator wants US Navy to help block flotillas to Gaza / Alex Kane
16 June — Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois sure is earning the hundreds of thousands of dollars theIsrael lobby dumps into his coffers.  In a report based on a recent “fact-finding” trip to the Middle East, Kirk calls for U.S. naval and special operations forces to support Israel in combating the upcoming flotilla to Gaza.

And more news from Today in Palestine:

Israel won’t investigate IDF soldier photographed next to bound Palestinians
Haaretz 16 June — Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan decided Thursday not to launch a criminal investigation against former Israel Defense Forces soldier Eden Aberjil, who in 2010 photographed herself standing next to tied-up Palestinian detainees. Instead, he ordered an investigation against another two soldiers. The first of the IDF soldiers to be investigated was pictured pointing a rifle at a bound and blindfolded detainee who stood beside him. The other soldier to be investigated filmed a video of himself dancing to music around a tied-up and blindfolded Palestinian woman. Both photographs and the video were posted on Facebook.

Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlers
Silwan inhabitants fear confiscation of their land in court ruling
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC) 1 June — Silwan town committee has called for a sit-in before the Jerusalem court of construction and planning on Thursday which is supposed to issue a ruling on confiscation of 550 dunums of land in Silwan, Jabl Mukabir, and Wad Yasul in occupied Jerusalem. The committee described the scheme as the most serious over the past few years as it covers vast area of land and is close to the Old City gates.
Israeli court dismisses petitions to reopen Hebron road
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 16 June — Israel’s High Court threw out a petition seeking the re-opening of a market street in Hebron’s city center, which would have overturned 21 military orders mandating the closure of the area for “security reasons.” … Ash-Shuhada Street, once the main shopping area in the city’s ancient downtown, is now divided down the center with concrete blocks, one side for Palestinian residents who can prove that they live down the street, and the other for settlers who have taken over homes in the area. Most Palestinians are prohibited from walking on the street, which resembles a ghost town dotted with soldiers who patrol the area … The 21 military orders, which according to reports from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem have closed 440 shops in the area, are renewed by the army every six months. “This policy led to the economic collapse of the center of Hebron and drove many Palestinians out of the area,” B’Telem said in a report on conditions in the city.
link to
Jerusalem court rejects settlers’ bid to evict Palestinian family from Sheikh Jarrah
16 June — In a surprise ruling, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court yesterday rejected a request from Jewish settlers in Sheikh Jarrah to evict another Palestinian family from its home. Judge Yitzhak Shimoni also ordered the settlers to pay NIS 20,000 legal expenses to the family. The Farhan family lives in a small house over the burial cave of Simon the Just in Sheikh Jarrah, where they moved after leaving their village of Lifta in 1948. The settlement of Shimon the Just developed around their home over the years, and they are now surrounded by Jewish families.
link to
Factions say ‘no way’ to settler visits in Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 16 June — A committee in Nablus have said they “refuse and condemn” Palestinian Authority dialogue with settler groups who wish to visit Joseph’s Tomb, a holy site in the city where biblical figure Joseph is thought to be buried. In a statement released on Thursday, the Factional Coordination Committee, including six leftist groups, addressed a Tuesday night event which saw PA police facilitate a visit to the shrine by eight right-wing members of Israel’s parliament. The group called the move a “dangerous indication,” saying PA police should “protect our people from occupation forces and settler aggression instead of protecting the settler leaders.”
link to
PA official: Settlers burn farmland near Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 16 June — Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian farmland south of the West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday, a Palestinian official said.  Ghassan Doughlas, a Palestinian Authority official who monitors settlement affairs in the northern West Bank, said the incident occurred near the illegal settlement of Itamar, south of Nablus. The settlers burned 15 dunums of farmland of olive trees in an area known as Berkat Al-Marah, which belongs to residents from Roujeeb in the southeast of Nablus, Doughlas said.
link to
Jewish settlers burn olive trees west of Ramallah
RAMALLAH, (PIC) 16 June — Jewish settlers torched tens of Palestinian olive trees in Bilin village land behind the separation wall west of Ramallah city, the popular anti wall committee said in a statement on Thursday. The statement said that the fire started last night near a Jewish settlement, which was established on Bil‘in village land. It pointed out that the Israeli occupation forces stationed at the wall’s gate blocked entry of fire brigades to extinguish the blaze, which led to the spread of fire.
Palestinian worker seriously injured after being stabbed by Israeli assailant
IMEMC 16 June — A Palestinian worker was seriously injured on Thursday after being attacked and stabbed by an Israeli man in Netanya, north of the country. The injured worker was identified as Raslan Daoud, 37, from Beta village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. He was repeatedly stabbed in his chest and back directly after he exited a supermarket in the city. Israeli medics arrived at the scene and took him to a nearby hospital.
link to
Court actions against soldiers, settlers
Settler placed under house arrest in Palestinian murder case
[includes video] Ynet 16 June — A Jewish man arrested on suspicion of shooting and killing a 19-year old Palestinian, who threw stones at him in January, was remanded to a three-day house arrest Thursday, which he is to spend at his parents’ home in the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut. The Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court released the suspect after he posted bail at a sum of NIS 2,000 ($586). Police suspect the 26-year old shot Udai Qadous and neglected to report the case after returning home. He was arrested on Wednesday, some five months later.
link to
Israeli medical resident arrested for Naksa Day violence
Haaretz 16 June — A medical resident from the Druze town of Majdal Shams on the Israel-Syria border was charged Thursday with aggravated assault for attacking a public servant and disorderly conduct as part of his involvement in the Naksa Day events last week. Dr. Mahmoud Mahmoud, a 28-year-old who works at Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed, was indicted along with two other men for hurling rocks at Israel Defense Forces soldiers on Naksa Day, which marked the anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War … The Ministry of Health said Wednesday it will reconsider Mahmoud’s employment in the hospital.
link to
IOF soldiers renew detention of MP Qadi
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 16 June — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) arrested Hamas MP Dr. Samir Al-Qadi from his home in Sourif village north of Al-Khalil at dawn Thursday. Sources close to Dr. Qadi, 55, said that IOF troops encircled the lawmaker’s home then ordered him out before arresting him. The Israeli occupation authority is currently detaining 17 Palestinian lawmakers, nine of them from Al-Khalil with all of them held under administrative detention for six months. The IOA returned to the policy of kidnapping MPs seven months ago with some of them held on three occasions during the past few years.
The IOA has separately forced the isolation of all Jerusalemite deputies who were threatened with deportation from their city and sought refuge in the Red Cross premises where they have been there for the past year with the exception of one, Mohammed Abu Tir, who was captured and deported to the West Bank after revoking his Jerusalemite residence.
IOA holds former minister in administrative custody
JENIN, (PIC) 16 June — Salem military court on Wednesday ordered the administrative detention of former minister of prisoners’ affairs and Hamas leader Wasfi Qabaha and extended the detention of former public works minister Abdul Rahman Zeidan for 14 days. The wife of Qabaha, 47, told the PIC reporter that Israeli intelligence recommended the administrative custody of Qabaha without leveling any charge against him.
IOA holds 72-year-old MP in administrative detention
RAMALLAH, (PIC) 15 June — The Israeli court of Ofer, near Ramallah, ordered the administrative detention of Palestinian MP Ahmed Al-Haj for six months, without any charge. Ahmed Al-Beitawi, a researcher with the international Tadamun foundation, said that the same court also ordered the administrative custody of lecturer Mustafa Al-Shinawi for four months. Both would appear in court next Sunday where the verdicts would be pronounced … Both Haj and Shinar were taken from their homes on 7/6/2011 in a campaign of arrests aimed at foiling the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas.
Palestinian prisoners torch mattresses in protest at detaining old mother
RAMALLAH (PIC) 15 June — Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli Eshel jail set their mattresses on fire after the administration detained the mother of one of them at the pretext she was carrying unpermitted luggage with her. The administration cancelled the visit and returned prisoners to their wards and forced visiting relatives out of the jail and of visiting halls.
Hamas detains Fatah official in Gaza
IMEMC 16 June — Fatah have complained that one of its officials in Gaza, Abu A’itah, was detained in Gaza by Hamas security forces, according to Maan. Fatah officials have complained that the detention of Abu A’itah by Hamas makes Fatah’s effort to rebuild the party in Gaza impossible. The party also complains that it breaks the spirit of the recent unity deal between the two rival parties and puts it in jeopardy. Under a unity deal signed by Fatah and Hamas in April both parties were to desist from arresting opposing party activists. Additionally, both sides agreed to mutually release each other’s political prisoners. Hamas has complained that its activists in the West Bank continue to be extensively targeted for arrest by Fatah and PA security forces.
link to
Lull ends, rocket fired from Gaza
Ynet 15 June — A Qassam rocket exploded Thursday evening in an open field in the Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries or damage were reported in the strike, the first of its kind in southern Israel in recent weeks … “From the eve of Passover until today we had a calm period that we are not familiar with by any standard,” Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yalin told Ynet. “We are not surprised that the lull ended, we’re surprised by a month an a half of quiet. Qassam fire is not an unusual thing, because we know who’s living on the other side,”  [Oh these one-sided lulls, if only the Palestinians had them too….],7340,L-4083323,00.html

Medications to arrive in Gaza Monday, PA says
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 16 June — Ten truckloads of medicine will enter the Gaza Strip on Sunday, officials in the coastal enclave told Ma‘an on Thursday. Nazmi Muhanna, head of the crossings committee in Gaza, said that instructions from President Mahmoud Abbas were handed down and necessary arrangements with Israel’s Civil Administration and crossings officials were made to ensure that the goods were permitted to enter. Israeli restrictions, poor coordination and the fragile status of the health care system in Gaza combined to create a medications shortage crisis, prompting the International Red Cross to open its warehouses earlier in the week and donate its stockpile to public hospitals. “The first of the ten trucks will arrive Sunday,” Muhanna said, with the remainder scheduled to arrive the following day.
link to
Owners of destroyed homes close down UNRWA premises in protest
GAZA (PIC) 15 June — Owners of destroyed homes in Rafah and Khan Younis, in the south Gaza Strip, have decided to close down UNRWA main offices in protest at the latter’s delay in starting to re-build their homes, which were destroyed in the Israeli war on Gaza. A committee of those citizens charged UNRWA with not being sincere in its bid to re-build their homes, explaining that the agency had promised to start building in mid June, that is today but nothing happened.
Top ten reasons why the opening of Rafah Crossing just doesn’t cut it
GG 16 June — In no particular order of importance, we thought we’d list some of the reasons why the opening of Rafah, while significant and helpful, doesn’t meet all of Gaza’s needs for access and why, as some voices in Israel have recently suggested, it can’t serve as Gaza’s only access point. Despite four unanticipated days of closure last week, the crossing has been operating for the passage of travelers on a more regular but still semi-limited basis.
link to
IOF troops infiltrate east of Breij refugee camp
GAZA (PIC) 15 June — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) advanced east of Breij refugee camp in central Gaza on afternoon Wednesday and bulldozed land lots, local sources said. They told the PIC reporter that IOF soldiers in army tanks escorted military bulldozers 400 meters into Gazan land amidst random firing.
Al-Qassam member dies from electric shock
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 16 June — The militant wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, issued a statement Thursday saying one of its fighters had died in hospital after sustaining a life-threatening electric shock two days earlier. The group identified the man as Muhammad Al-Mahmoum, 20.  He sustained an electric shock while he was working with the brigades in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah … Tunnel workers often suffer electric shocks from faulty wiring in the underground passages leading between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
link to
Miles of Smiles convoy en route to Gaza convoy delivery
EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma‘an) 16 June — Preparations to receive the humanitarian aid ship Miles of Smiles have been completed, head of the Red Crescent society in the Egyptian Sinai told Ma‘an on Thursday. The ship is set to arrive in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria on Friday, after leaving from Venice, the RC’s Jaber Al-Arabi explained. Al-Arabi told Ma‘an that Egyptian authorities in Alexandria will transfer the contents of Miles of Smiles to another ship before it arrives in the northern port city of El-Arish, south of Gaza, on Sunday. The convoy contains medicine, medical equipment, wheel chairs, and ambulances, the official said. Over 60 Arab and European activists from different countries are said to be traveling with the convoy,
link to
Political / Diplomatic / International news
UN move is ‘for Palestinian membership not international recognition’
MEMO 16 June — A leading member of the PLO’s executive Committee has said that the Palestinian Authority’s plan to go to the United Nations in September is more about seeking UN membership for Palestine than international recognition of the state. According to Saeb Erekat, membership of the international body is being sought for a state of Palestine on the pre-June 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. “We don’t seek to declare a Palestinian state unilaterally, as is being claimed,” said Dr. Erekat, “but we want the United Nations to recognise us as a state qualifying for membership of the organisation.” That, he added, will lead to international acceptance and recognition.
link to
New Israel ambassador to UN still sees hope for September
Haaretz 16 June — Haaretz speaks with newly appointed Ambassador Ron Prosor, who views the possible unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood in September as a challenge, but not an inevitability.
link to
Turkey to vote for PA recognition in UN
Ynet 16 June — Ankara’s Abdullah Gül tells Japanese publication his country will support unilateral Palestinian bid in September
link to
PM: Israel aims to offset PA’s UN bid
Ynet 15 June — Netanyahu meets with EU Chair Buzek, says Israel wants to create 30-nation block in UN to balance out support garnered by unilateral Palestinian bid
link to
Official: Netanyahu fears third intifada
Ynet 16 June — Israel preparing for worst-case scenarios ahead of Palestinian declaration of state, says official, including loss of legitimacy for Jews to reside in Jerusalem neighborhoods
link to
Conference to offer alternative to 2-state solution
Ynet 16 June — A mini-conference next week on the subject of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria is the first step in an effort to present an alternative to the two-state solution, event organizers told Ynetnews Thursday. The event, titled “The Preferred Option: Israeli Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria,” will be held at the OU-Israel Center in Jerusalem on Monday night, June 20th at 7:30 pm.
link to
Israel warns Lebanon against violating 1701
BEIRUT (DS) 16 June — Israel warned Lebanon’s new Cabinet Wednesday to respect its international legal and border agreements, including the cessation of hostilities between the two one-time belligerents … Israel routinely violates Lebanese airspace with near daily reconnaissance flights and mock air raids and has been accused by the Lebanese Army countless times of crossing the Blue Line into southern territory. The Blue Line is not the border between Lebanon and Israel. Rather, it is the U.N. delineated boundary of Israeli military withdrawal from south Lebanon.
link to
Report: Egypt’s al-Karama party wants to cancel peace treaty with Israel
Haaretz 16 June — The Egyptian al-Karama party, whose leader plans to run in the upcoming presidential elections, has said the cancellation of the Camp David Accords is its top priority, according to a report by the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm on Thursday. Al-Karama party representative Amin Iskander said the party wishes to cancel the agreement “immediately because it’s not in Egypt’s interest.”
link to
Multilateral cooperation between the United States and Israel: Fighting delegimitization, moving forward together
15 June — Remarks by Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, Washington Institute for Near East Policy …Today I am going to focus on the Administration’s far-reaching efforts to normalize Israel’s status in and across the UN and broader multilateral system, and to counter head-on efforts of delegitimization and continued structural bias. As you can imagine, we spend a considerable amount of time in my bureau, in the seven U.S Missions to the UN, the State Department and across the Administration on these very issues. In particular, our Missions to the UN have close cooperation with their Israeli counterparts in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Paris, Rome, Nairobi and Montreal and across the full range of UN and multilateral fora. In fact, there are only a handful of other countries where our level of cooperation at the UN is so deep.

MK Herzog: Deep hostility to Bibi in US
Ynet 16 June — Labor Party Knesset member visiting US says Netanyahu slammed by top Democrats for leaving behind ‘scorched earth’; PM’s style insulted President Obama and his people, MK Herzog says
link to
Other news
Archbishop comments on Christians criticized
LONDON (Ma‘an) 16 June — The Palestine Solidarity Campaign issued a statement Wednesday criticizing the Archbishop of Canterbury calling Bethlehem Christians a “marginalized minority.” … He noted an increase in attacks against Christian populations in Egypt and Iraq, and extended concern to Palestinian Christians, citing encroaching Muslim communities, and making no mention of Israel’s occupation of Bethlehem as part of the Palestinian West Bank.  The oversight prompted angry responses from some Palestinian Christians, who felt that the Archbishop had overlooked the Israeli occupation as the principal reason for Christian emigration.
link to
Egypt: Bedouins begin to demand equal citizenship rights
SINAI (IRIN) 16 June – Moussa Al Dalah, a 35-year-old tribal leader from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, knew it would be a risky step to try and take his employer to court over alleged discrimination: He could easily end up in prison … Egypt’s Bedouins who inhabit the triangular Sinai Peninsula which links Africa with Asia and covers an area of 23,500 square miles, say they do not enjoy full citizenship rights and are treated as second class citizens. They say they are not allowed to join the army, study in police or military colleges, hold key government positions or form their own political parties. Locked in this arid expanse, the Bedouins claim they have have been left to fend for themselves. Mistrust between the government and the Bedouins, some of whom allegedly collaborated with the Israeli military when it occupied Sinai in 1967, continues to fuel negative stereotypes about them.
link to
Israeli arms companies report $7,2 billion in exports for 2010t
IMEMC 16 June — JPost reports that Israeli military companies sold a total of $7.2 billion worth of military hardware abroad and a further $2.4 billion to the IDF in 2010, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry. With total sales of $9.6 billion in 2010 Israel is said to be in the top four producers of armaments globally.
link to
Dog sentenced to death by stoning
Ynet 16 June — Rabbinical court rules spirit of secular lawyer who insulted judges 20 years ago transferred into wandering dog’s body
link to
PETA urges rabbis to overturn dog’s death sentence
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 16 June — A leading US animal rights organization is urging rabbinical authorities in Jerusalem to overturn a “death sentence” by stoning of a dog alleged to be a reincarnated lawyer. Head of the court Rabbi Avraham Dov Levin reportedly denied calling for the dog’s stoning. But one of the court’s managers confirmed the sentence, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has called the sentence “absurd.” “By sentencing an innocent animal to a painful death for such an absurd reason, this rabbinical court has not only completely discredited itself but also violated tza’ar ba’alei chayim (“the suffering of living creatures”) — one of the most important principles in Judaism,” PETA said in a statement Thursday.
link to
Analysis / Opinion
Haaretz editorial: Israel needs to keep religion out of the army
16 June — It’s time for IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to bring back the original version of the Yizkor memorial prayer, featuring the words, ‘the nation of Israel,’ to IDF ceremonies, after it was changed during the Six Day War … At first glance, this change seems to affect just one phrase. However, it is indicative of the major transformation taking place in the army and the entire country, which is turning from a secular country into a theocracy in which the rabbis set the rules.

Operation Birthright
Nation 16 June — How a small group of wealthy American Jews and Israeli politicians set out to create the next generation of Zionists.
link to (listserv) (archive)

After ‘Amina’: Thoughts from Cairo

Jun 16, 2011

Scott Long

Amina Arraf fooled me. I share this with plenty of others, but it’s still embarrassing. Now, as other straight men start to appear from behind their lesbian masks (“Oh, but I’m a very goodmanI’m just a very bad wizard,” they’ll all say), we’re going to have a Debate, one of those moral media Debates the U.S. specializes in, about what the Internet is doing to our souls and sexes and sanities.

Not here. I am in hot, dust-devilled Cairo at the moment. I’m speaking to people about how opportunities for raising issues of sexual and bodily rights have changed since the Revolution. Here, l’affaire Arraf seems both remote and very near. People worry about the persistence of torture, and the virginity tests that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces forced on women protesters after they were arrested. They worry about the ex-dictator’s rushed trial, the junta’s attempts to discredit the democratic movement. But it’s not just the fake Amina, Tom MacMaster, who turned out to live across the Atlantic; most of the controversy has played out there too. It’s been a perfect distraction for Western audiences, drowning out the Syrian regime’s brutality and killings—so perfect that if it turned out Bashar al-Assad himself had watched some pirated DVDs of The L Word and sat down at his MacBook to fantasy-blog, no one here would be surprised.

But the story does have echoes here, and consequences. The Syrian government, like others, claims that dissident movements are Western fronts, illegitimate and alien. The scandal is ready-made for their propaganda. Iran’s press says, “The story of Amina is part of the campaign of lies carried on by Western media against independent nations in the Middle East.” The argument that dissident sexualities are also derived from the West has long been ubiquitous here. It can only be so long before someone takes up the Amina tale to contend that all indigenous discussions of sexual diversity are merely imperialism in high-tech drag. Meanwhile, activists for lesbian and gay rights in the region who once read Amina’s concocted blog, and felt solidarity and some similarity with her position, now feel personally dispossessed. The place reserved for “Middle Eastern lesbian” in the parade of identities that interest the West is gone. One lesbian friend of mine here told me, “It’s like I go to my seat in the theater and it’s already taken. My life is double-booked.”

It’s worth wondering, then, what underlies the reception of Amina’s story. That individual disappointment may be the point to start. It has a long resonance. The sense of double-booking—that some Western travel agent resold your ticket on the train of History to himself—is part of the story of contemporary liberation movements in the Middle East, as elsewhere. Imperialism expropriates and assimilates what it can, before discarding the rest. T. E. Lawrence (another masked man, hiding his homosexuality behind heroic myth) charged out of Cairo into the collective European imagination, taking credit for the Arab Revolt while derailing the dream of independence. Bush claimed Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution as the result of—what? His tax cuts? Facebook and Twitter try to trademark the protests on Midan Tahrir. And so on.

Erasing Middle Eastern independence has always had been an erotic, not just political, business. Lawrence’s homoerotic fantasies of adopting nubile boys away from their culture and tradition were certainly one version. The notion, persistent among some governments and some Western feminists, that somebody has to save all Muslim women from subjection—the burqa justifies the bomb—is another.

And queers have always been easy marks for this Orientalist juncture of sex and salvation. This isn’t the first time that the figure of the “Middle Eastern gay” or “lesbian” has been enlisted in somebody’s ideological campaign. 2005 saw a viral wave of indignation over horrific photos of two young men hanged in Iran. There was never any strong evidence they were “gay,” or were executed for their sexualities. But the international panic—coinciding suspiciously with Ahmadinejad’s election, and with U.S. and Israeli military threats against Iran—has been widely exploited by Geert Wilders and other European Islamophobes to spread their propaganda in Europe. Israel has also seized on the issue of “gays” in Iran to promote its own foreign policy ends.

Consider, too, an apparently benign website such as the blog “Gay Middle East,” which proffers up news from the region to a Western, English-speaking audience. The blog has been widely cited as an authoritative source, from CNN to Al-Jazeera. Never mind the bias in its name, which suggests that gay men are its subject and target to the exclusion of lesbians and others. It also carries subtler slants.

Its London-based editor was born in Tel Aviv, and reportedly still carries an Israeli passport. The problem is that he doesn’t seem to feel bound to reveal this to the dozen or so sources in Arab countries who convey local news to him—and in many states, sending information to someone affiliated with Israel could lead to charges of treason. (That he is a friend of Michael Lucas, the rabidly racist Islamophobe, is an equally peculiar factor.) The site consistently portrays gay life in most Arab countries as a parade of horrors, while showing Israel as a paradise of equality and pride. You wouldn’t learn from it about the Palestinian queer movement to support BDS, about the upsurge of sexuality activism in Egypt, or about the hardships LGBT Gazans have suffered from the Israeli blockade. In another curious twist, the same editor—who is not a Muslim—doubles as “Human Rights and Press Relations Coordinator” for an enigmatic organization called the “Association of British Muslims,” which despite its name seems to have little membership in UK Muslim communities. The group serves instead to release media statements supporting gay rights, opposing so-called “extremists,” and urging denial of visas to certain preachers. Some of these are admirable goals, some possibly not. But the context suggests that the organization may in fact be an agent provocateur, aiming to divide British Muslims for some other cause.

Associating “gay rights” with Israel will do nothing good for most LGBT people in the Arab and Muslim Middle East—just as unnecessary internal splits will hardly help UK Muslim communities. But advancing rights is not really these groups’ agenda. “Gay Middle East” aspires not so much to promote freedom and diversity in the region (a website written even partly in Arabic would far better serve that goal) as to spread a certain version and vision of the region to the rest of the world.

It’s a vision where queer Arabs suffer, and others save. It’s neither true nor complimentary to those on the front lines, but it’s comforting to those outside. It’s not one that allows for the agency or activism of Arab LGBT people in defining their own identities, determining their own lives.

Think, too, about identity politics that a title like “Gay Middle East” implies, and how it might actually play out in the region. I’m not going to recapitulate the arguments of Maya Mikdashi and R.M. in their essay published on Jadaliyya and excerpted here. Enough to say that the democratic explosion in the region means profusions of new voices as well as old and suppressed ones, with desires and demands and styles of self proliferating. In response, Western media and many Western activists charge in to simplify–they seize social actors by the shoulders and demand, “Freeze! Who are you?” As Mikdashi notes, this has in many cases meant pitting “Islamists” and “secularists” against each other as incompatible foes. It’s meant treating “gays” as both barometers of secularism and standard-bearers for its cause. This is hardly helpful either to secularism or to LGBT rights.

Paranoia about Islamism infects almost all perspectives on the region that come out of the U.S. and U.K. Things look differently here. “The Salafists have always been here, the Islamists have always been here,” a lesbian friend in Cairo told me. “There’s nothing new about it. The difference is that now they can preach and organize on the street, and the task is on us to find ways to organize too, and oppose them.”

The obvious fact is that there can be no democratic space in the Middle East that doesn’t make room for Islam, and include Islamists. The only alternative is a return to a semi-secular authoritarianism that shuts down opponents with tanks and torture. Gays and governments in the West are already voicing quiet nostalgia for the military regimes. Few here share it. The problem secularists and progressives (they are by no means the same thing) face isn’t how to keep Islamists out of politics: it’s is how to bring them in, by articulating a limited set of shared values and commitments that can make their participation make sense.

Meanwhile, progressives also need to claim as much political space as possible. For LGBT people, that doesn’t mean the idiotic idea of hosting pride parades in Cairo or Damascus. Rather, it means finding terms and language—which may range from privacy to personal freedom to resisting torture—in which their claims can be intelligibly voiced to a larger public. There are as many visions of how these aims can be pursued as there are activists. But, as a militant young gay man in Cairo said: “Why should I listen to people telling me that my enemy is the Islamists? We may despise each other, but we are part of the same society now. My enemy right now is the military and its grip on society. Get rid of that, and we can open up a democratic politics. And I will conduct my battles with the Islamists there.”

A politics like this is a balancing act, complicated and giddy. The present moment and the coming years will be full of fine-knit strategies, sudden choices, and unraveling uncertainties for Middle Eastern progressives, queers among them. I think part of the appeal of “A Gay Girl in Damascus” for some in the region was that she actually seemed to inhabit those questions and contradictions. She spoke in a way to the highwire walk many queers across the Middle East perform daily.

In truth, she only lived out the paradoxes so easily because she wasn’t real. That she made it seem easy should have been the giveaway. The fact that she was a fiction, though, doesn’t make the paradoxes go away. Others still live them. Their voices and experiences are the ones that count.

Which means, if you want to know more about any of this, don’t listen to me. Listen to those in the region who are real, and talking about it. Go to, or, for a start, and read the voices of progressives, feminists, and queers on the front lines. They are working, talking, and thinking through one of the great revolutions of our time: one transforming people’s lives and bodies as they labor and worship, desire and love.

Scott Long, who served as founding director of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program, has worked extensively on sexual rights issues in the Middle East.

Matan Ofan – in Israeli military uniform – threatens mutiny, indiscriminate shooting to prevent ‘Sudanis or Syrians’ from reaching Tel Aviv

Jun 16, 2011


The man in the video is Matanya Ofan, co-founder of Hakol Hayehudi, a Jewish-supremacist hate-speech radio station based in Izhar (recently investigated by Israel’s police due to suspicions of being involved in making the military look stupid – and not due to their explicit involvement in “pricetag” porgroms). That book he’s holding is Torat Hamelech, the one with the halacha (Jewish law) discussion about how it’s permissible to kill non-Jews. The book recommends killing Arab babies, so they won’t grow up and kill Jews.

Here’s the full text:

[Military Seal or Insignia of Israel’s army]

The purpose of the army is to defend the lives of Jews and act decisively against the enemy.

The situation today is that field officers do not comprehend this simple things, and that the border remains unrestrained – enemies from Syria or Sudan cross the border and enter into to Israel.

This is all done under the cover of “morality”.

When I come at the border, with God’s grace, I will not listen to the nonsense that the commanders will tell me, and if I see an enemy coming towards the border I will do anything to stop him from passing and I will try and harm him – because this is how we can save the live of the Jews.

Only this way no Sudani or Syrian will get to Tel Aviv.

[Caption:] Jews, let’s win

Via Dena Bugel-Shunra, a Hebrew<>English legal translator based in Washington and can be contacted via

Bahraini blogger on State Dep’t tour says Hillary Clinton ‘betrayed’ and ‘crushed’ Bahrain democracy movement

Jun 16, 2011

Philip Weiss

I came to Netroots Nation with a keen sense that I’d be disappointed by what the progressive base of the Democratic Party has to say about the Middle East, but a Bahraini writer who is on a State Department-sponsored tour and is afraid to publish in her own country has already stolen the show here with her declaration that Obama and Hillary Clinton have “betrayed” the Arab spring by not supporting the uprising in Bahrain– even as a State Department minder stood at the side of the room.

Lamees Dhaif said, “We expected that Americans would stand by us. We thought that when five armies came into our country, America would give a definite No No No, this should not happen. We were shocked by Hillary Clinton’s statement. She gave the green light for the people who are crushing us. If Iran was coming to Bahrain, we wouldn’t mind [the Saudi and Emirates armies entering Bahrain]. But nobody is there but us.”

Dhaif, who is on an American tour with 20 other bloggers sponsored by the Washington Foreign Press Center, a branch of the State Department, said she had confronted State Department officials in Washington with details of human rights violations, but these officials already knew the information and said they couldn’t come out against Bahrain.

Dhaif worked as a columnist for four newspapers, including a Saudi one, but when the democracy movement began in Bahrain she had no choice but to support people who were speaking out for economic reform and human rights. As soon as she did so, “I had to be punished.” She lost three jobs on one day, and the other soon after.

She continued blogging but the regime persecuted her own family. “My brothers were hunted in their jobs, they were punished because of their sister.” Government thugs broke into the family house and tried to burn it. Dhaif’s reputation was savaged on the internet. “It was like a witchhunt in the 16th century.” Her sister was imprisoned for 50 days, and tortured. And similar punishments have befallen student bloggers. Even for tweeting or posting on facebook, the government finds their IP addresses, arrests them, tortures them, tosses them back on the street at night, publishes their phone numbers and libels about their social activities.

“They are kidnapped in the middle of night and tortured, no one knows about them, and of course they cant tweet any more. Some of the girls’ brothers, they couldn’t even go out of the house, because they are so ashamed of what is said about their sisters.

“We are in a very conservative society, it’s not something easily taken, that this girl has a relationship with a man, or she has many boyfriends. And they don’t have to give a proof, they just have to say it, and 90 percent of people will believe.”

These punishments have worked. Bloggers and tweeters shut up. And Dhaif is now afraid to write.

“I’m so terrified, yet I’ve been asking myself this question every day for the last 2 months. I can speak for the people who can’t speak for themselves. I know that I will pay for it with a very high price. But if I keep quiet, more and more people are paying every day. You know, this is the conflict between what you believe in and what you should do [to protect] yourself.”

Dhaif’s testimony was so inspiring that she got repeated applause from the Netroots audience, and all four panelists on the Arab Spring panel (more to come) got a standing ovation at the end.

I wonder whether the platform that Dhaif has commanded at a progressive forum– with a tall blonde State Department official who is leading the bloggers’ tour standing at the side of the room — will have any effect on American policy.

Dhaif said that she had brought her charges to the State Department the other day, and the officials she spoke to knew the story.

“They actually know about it, they know all the details, about the doctors and writers, but they say that the Bahrain governmet– we have layers of relationship with them, we cant conflict with them…. But because they are loking the other way from us, we are being crushed every day.”

Dhaif was just as judgmental of American policy toward Iran.

“Iran turned into a phobia. For 30 years they’ve been terrifying us and terrifying the world– Iran is going to take on Gulf countries. But Iran is a loud country, they talk a lot. For 30 years I haven’t seen them do anything. But on the ground, what did they actually do? And they are taken as an excuse to make us pay more for armies, for not having equal rights…”

When the Obama administration seeks to establish its pro-Israel bona fides, it’s no critics allowed

Jun 16, 2011

Josh Ruebner

Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer, who heads the department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, delivered a humdinger of a speech yesterday to the AIPAC derivative “think tank” Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).

During her speech, Brimmer recounted the Obama Administration’s multi-pronged efforts to increase Israeli participation in multilateral forums, bragged about its quest to undermine UN efforts to hold Israel accountable for its illegal actions, and equated Palestinian efforts to seek their long-denied rights at the UN with the “delegitimization” of Israel.

Missing from her speech completely was any reference to the many UN resolutions or provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention that Israel so regularly violates with abandon with the diplomatic support of the United States.  Presumably with a straight face, she told the assembled crowd that “Our human rights efforts across the UN System have focused on defending the oppressed against oppressive governments.”

Had I been there, I would have challenged Brimmer on the hypocrisy of her claim that the Obama Administration defends the oppressed while it openly acknowledges propping up Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
Alas, that was not the case, as WINEP denied my registration for the event.  Forget your civic lessons—this is how Washington really works. In an effort to shed some light on the rarified, self-contained, and sanitized-of-dissent policy circles of DC, here’s how a public challenge to the Obama Administration’s policies was thwarted.

On Tuesday, the State Department invited me to attend the event.  The invitation arrived in my inbox at 5:21PM.

Here’s the email I received back from WINEP confirming that I had registered online for the event by 5:57PM.  Notice that it is “pending approval.”
At 10:03AM yesterday morning, I received this email from WINEP:
So apparently within the 36 minutes it took for the State Department to invite me to this event, WINEP had already filled their spacious conference room. After having my “registration denied,” I called WINEP and asked an employee there why they were taking online registrations if the event was already full.  Oops, it must have been a “database error,” I was reassured to find out.
I’m sure that Brimmer’s speech enjoyed hale and hearty applause from the self-selected Israel lobby crowd at WINEP.  Happily stuck inside their inside-the-Beltway bubble, both the Israel lobby and the Obama Administration fail to realize how little their rhetoric resonates anymore and how much the discourse has shifted. It’s only a matter of time until the façade crashes down.
Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.

UC Santa Cruz students denounce anti-Palestinian hate message posted on pro-Israel student group Facebook page

Jun 16, 2011

Adam Horowitz

We’ve been following the story of the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation into charges of anti-Semitism at UC Santa Cruz following a series of events critical of the Israeli occupation. The issue has been contentious on campus, and Rebecca Pierce, a Jewish student at UC Santa Cruz who has been involved in a student-led Palestinian awareness group, sent us a post in March responding to the investigation, saying:

I cannot express how wrong and offensive I find this assessment of our work to be, especially given my identity as a Jewish student with my own unique relationship with and feelings towards the state of Israel. I also know that some of the Palestinian members of our organization are very upset that their desire to share the experiences of their families and people has resulted in their being labeled as anti-Semitic. Those who actually come to our meetings or interact with us face-to-face can see that spreading hatred towards the Jewish people has never been the goal of our organization, and I would like to note that we are not accused of anything other than putting on events that some people disagreed with on a political basis.

Rebecca has now sent us the video above, which she made to respond to a hateful statement posted on the Santa Cruz Israel Action Committee‘s Facebook page. The Israel Action Committee is a student group at UC Santa Cruz, and students leading the group have beenvocal supporters of the Department of Education case. The statement in question has since been scrubbed from the Action Committee’s Facebook page, but there are screenshots below. From the video, it seems that the threat of a governmental investigation hasn’t intimated Rebecca, and other UC Santa Cruz students, from speaking out.

Here are the screenshots:

‘Permanent’ despair: Did Egypt really open the Rafah crossing?

Jun 16, 2011

Ramzy Baroud

For most Palestinians, leaving Gaza through Egypt is as exasperating a process as entering it. Governed by political and cultural sensitivities, most Palestinian officials and public figures refrain from criticizing the way Palestinians are treated at the Rafah border. However, there is really no diplomatic language to describe the relationship between desperate Palestinians – some literally fighting for their lives – and Egyptian officials at the crossing which separates Gaza from Egypt.

“Gazans are treated like animals at the border,” a friend of mine told me. She was afraid that her fiancé would not be allowed to leave Gaza, despite the fact that his papers were in order. Having crossed the border myself just a few days ago, I could not disagree with her statement.

The New York Times reported on June 8: “After days of acrimony between Hamas and Egypt over limitations on who could pass through the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, Hamas said Egypt had agreed to allow 550 people a day to leave Gaza and to lengthen the operating hours of the crossing.”

And so the saga continues.

A few weeks after an official Egyptian announcement to ‘permanently’ open the border – thus extending a lifeline for trapped Palestinians under siege in Gaza – the Rafah border was opened for two days of conditional operation in late May, and then closed again for four days. Now it has once more ‘reopened’.

All the announcements are proving to be no more than rhetoric. The latest ‘permanent’ reopening has come with its own conditions and limitations, involving such factors as gender, age, purpose of visit, and so on.

“Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country,” states Article 13 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This universal principle, however, continues to evade most Palestinians in Gaza.

I was one of the very first Palestinians who stood at Rafah following the announcement of a ‘permanent’ opening. Our bus waited at the gate for a long time. I watched a father repeatedly try to reassure his crying six-year-old child, who displayed obvious signs of a terrible bone disease.

“Get the children out or they will die,” shouted an older passenger as he gasped for air. The heat in the bus, combined with the smell of trapped sweat was unbearable.

Passengers took it upon themselves to leave the bus and stand outside, enduring disapproving looks from the Egyptian officials. Our next task was finding clean water and a shady spot in the arid zone separating the Egypt and Palestinian sides. There were no restrooms.

A tangible feeling of despair and humiliation could be read on the faces of the Gaza passengers.

No one seemed to be in the mood to speak of the Egyptian revolution, a favorite topic of conversation among most Palestinians. This zone is governed by an odd relationship, one that goes back many years – well before Egypt, under Hosni Mubarak, decided to shut down the border in 2006 in order to aid in the political demise of Hamas.

The issue actually has nothing to do with gender, age or logistics. All Palestinians are treated very poorly at the Rafah crossing, and they continue to endure even after the toppling of Mubarak, his family and the dismissal of the corrupt security apparatus. The Egyptian revolution is yet to reach Gaza.

When the bus was finally allowed to enter about five hours later, Palestinians dashed into the gate, desperately hoping to be among the lucky ones allowed to go in. The anxiety of the travellers usually makes them vulnerable to workers at the border who promise them help in exchange for negotiated amounts of money. All of this is actually a con, as the decision is made by a single man, referred to as al-Mukhabarat, the ‘intelligence’.

Some are sent back while others are allowed entry. Everyone is forced to wait for many hours – sometimes even days – with no clear explanation as to what they are waiting for, or why they are being sent back.

The very ill six-year-old held on his dad’s jacket as they walked about, frantically trying to fulfill all the requirements. Both seemed like they were about to collapse.

The Mukhabarat determined that three Gaza students on their way to their universities in Russia were to be sent back. They had jumped through many hoops already to make it so far. Their hearts sank when they heard the verdict. I protested on their behalf, and the decision was as arbitrarily reversed as it was originally made.

Those who are sent back to Gaza are escorted by unsympathetic officers to the same open spot, to wait for the same haggard bus. Some of those who are allowed entry are escorted by security personnel across the Sinai desert, all the way to Cairo International Airport to be ‘deported’ to their final destinations. They are all treated like common criminals.

“I can’t watch my son die in front of my eyes,” screamed the father of 11-year-old Mohammed Ali Saleh, according to Mohammed Omer for IPS (June 10). He was addressing Egyptian troops days after the border was supposedly ‘permanently’ reopened – for the second time in less than a week.

Such compelling needs as medical treatment, education and freedom keep bringing Palestinians back. The Israeli siege has chocked Gaza to the point of near complete strangulation. Egypt is Gaza’s only hope.

“I beg you to open the crossing…You brothers of Egypt have humiliated us for so long. Isn’t it time we had our dignity back?” said Naziha Al-Sebakhi, 63, one of the many distressed faces at the Rafah border, according to Mohammed Omer.

As they crossed into Egypt, some of the passengers seemed euphoric. The three Russian students and I shared a taxi to Cairo. A tape of Umm Kulthum’s ‘Amal Hyati’ – Hope of my Life – played over and over again. Despite everything, the young men seemed to hold no resentment whatsoever towards Egypt.

“I just love Egypt…I don’t know why,” said Majid pensively, before falling asleep from sheer exhaustion.

I thought of the six-year-old boy and his dad. I wonder if they made it to the hospital on time.

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on

‘NYT’ report uncovers Bush plot to torpedo Juan Cole, but ignores some crucial questions

Jun 16, 2011

Hugh Sansom

James Risen of The New York Times reports today on a former C.I.A. official’s charges that the Bush administration sought to torpedo world-renowned Middle East scholar and blogger Juan Cole, professor at the University of Michigan and author of the blog Informed Comment. The story is notable for several reasons, including at least two the Times entirely omits or severely downplays.

According to Risen, Bush people were unhappy with a prominent academic voicing — and getting a wide hearing for — deep criticism of and opposition to the Iraq war. Former C.I.A. intelligence officer Glenn Carle, “a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole.”

This could be a serious violation of American law; the C.I.A. is barred from domestic spying (though lets remember we have seen a lot of attacks on protections against domestic spying in recent years, including by Democrat and champion of ‘transparency, Barack Obama). Had Carle leveled his charges while Bush while still in office and if Bush himself had played a role, such actions would arguably have risen to the level of impeachable offenses (among many Bush committed).

I find the story interesting for points Risen effectively ignores. In 2006, Yale University’s departments of sociology and history both approved Cole for appointment. Cole’s hiring was scuttled by the Yale administration. There is ample reason to believe the Israel Lobby went to bat against Cole. Certainly, right-wingers and Israel-idealogues were railing against him. There were reports of leading, wealthy Israel-idolaters and Yale donors were threatening to pull their funding. Any skeptical about the tactics of Israel extremists should recall wealthy Israel-supporter Michael Lucas’s March 2011 threats against Manhattan’s LGBT Community Center and the center’s cancellation of a fundraiser by critics of Israeli policy . Or the Alan Dershowitz tirade against Norman Finkelstein taking a post at DePaul University. Or the campaign against the play I Am Rachel Corrie in New York. This list could go for pages (attacks on academics, cultural programs, journalists, human rights institutions, etc.)

The Yale connection is also interesting. I believe that the role of a very small number of very elite universities in securing American oligarchy is being downplayed (and the issue of American oligarchy is downplayed to begin with). George W. Bush went to Yale. Leading Israel fanatic Joseph Lieberman did, too. For many years, Yale was a key source for C.I.A. recruits. Dubya’s daddy, President George H. W. Bush went to Yale and was head of the C.I.A. from 1976 to 1977. It is my contention (certainly not original) that universities like Yale serve as factories of “received opinion.” That is, they provide the intellectual foundations (to the extent that the United States embraces intellect at all) for power. You need an excuse for bombing civilians in Iraq? Line someone up from Harvard. The history of leading schools barring or even ousting great minds that offered threatening views is very long. (To provide a little grist without milling, look for stories of Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis and Harvard, Chomsky and M.I.T., Gabriel Kolko, William James and Nathaniel Shaler. Several public universities developed great departments in a variety of disciplines because the faculty could and were safely booted from private schools but not could not be from public ones without Bill of Rights protections.)

Some questions remain unanswered (and unasked by the Times). If the Bush administration sought dope on Juan Cole, was it asking for information already in the C.I.A.’s possession, in which case the C.I.A. was already doing domestic work? Or was it directing the C.I.A. to nose about domestically? How does this fit into a larger pattern of expansion of presidential power (an expansion Obama aggressively pursues, arguably more aggressively than Bush)? Will Glenn Carle be treated as Barack Obama has treated other whistleblowers — maliciously and ruthlessly?

All of this will earn me a charge of “conspiracy theorist.” Have a made any such claim? No. I am describing the lines of force in American power relations.

Hugh Sansom is an independent scholar of economics, justice, and journalism, a Thomas Paine wannabe, and a photographer. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. This post originally appeared on his blogApocalypse Road.

And now for something completely different . . .

Jun 16, 2011

Adam Horowitz

From the Ynet article “Dog sentenced to death by stoning“:

A Jerusalem rabbinical court recently sentenced a wandering dog to death by stoning. The cruel sentence stemmed from the suspicion that the spirit of a famous secular lawyer, who insulted the court’s judges 20 years ago, had been transferred into the dog’s body.
Several weeks ago, according to the Behadrei Hadarim website, a large dog entered the Monetary Affairs Court near the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. The dog scared the court’s visitors and, to their surprise, refused to leave even after they attempted to drive him away.
One of the judges suddenly recalled that about 20 years ago, a famous secular lawyer who insulted the court was cursed by the panel of judges, who wished that his spirit would move on to the body of a dog (considered an impure animal by Halacha). The lawyer passed away several years ago.
Still offended, one of the judges sentenced the poor animal to death by stoning, recruiting the neighborhood’s children to carry out the order. Luckily, the dog managed to escape.

Cobban to young Gazan writers: The internet is your Tahrir Square

Jun 16, 2011

Yousef M. Aljamal

Helena Cobban addressing an audience at The Center for Political and Development Studies. (Photo: Yousef M. Aljamal)

On Wednesday, June 15th The Center for Political and Development Studies (CPDS) in Gaza invited Helena Cobban, a well-known veteran journalist and author, who owns and publishes Just World Books, to talk about her experience in writing, and to raise Gaza’s academics and journalists’ awareness of the best way to get published in the West. Cobban talked about her experience in blogging and writing before dozens of academics, journalists and students who attended the event.

The seminar began with an opening speech by Iman Abu Issa, who welcomed the visitor and the audiences. Cobban thanked the audience for coming and CPDS for organizing the event. She talked about her experience in the field of journalism and the importance of writing as a weapon to fight with.

“One of the most powerful things is to have public voice. It’s stronger than weapons, Because it allows you to talk to other people”, She stressed. “I published my first book in 1984 and it was entitled “Palestinian Liberation Organization: People, Power and Politics” by conducting a lot of interviews and research.” She added, “The most powerful thing is that it’s still read until now.”

Cobban awarding Mohammed Rabah Suliman with a copy of Laila El-Haddad’s book Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between

Realizing the powerful effect of new technology, Cobban had the idea of working with good bloggers, putting their posts in order, organizing them coherently and making a book out of them. Recalling the significant role of social media, she listened to her son’s advice and started her own blog. She added, “Two of the best blogs from Iraq During the US invasion were ‘Baghdad Burning’ and ‘A family in Baghdad’”.

Blogging and the anti-war movement

Blogging has helped the Anti-war Movement in the US. It explained to Americans why it’s wrong and clarified its consequences. It crosses the borders easily and reaches to peoples’ minds and hearts. The first person testimony can do what all others can’t.

“The power of firsthand testimony that is well-written, direct, fresh and honest is great. It can cross the borders easily. If you write in English, that’s wonderful. But the question is how to get this published and distributed. English is important to talk to all people all over the world, not only English speakers”, She assured.

How to get published

Many people write perfectly, but some of them they don’t follow the best way to get their works published out. Publishing one’s work is as important as writing it. “You should create a blog that attracts the community around. Twitter is a very powerful, especially when you talk about current events. If you are proud of your work, you need to sell it. The Internet is your Tahrir Square” Cobban said.

US Misadventures in Palestine

The American policy toward Palestine has been characterized by bias to Israel. This is clear in the US more than any other place else. Though, some changes have happened recently, particularly after the US has invaded Iraq.

“I found that the culture in the US is more Zionist than it is in Britain. Some important changes happened recently in the US regarding Palestine and Iraq. Americans didn’t know what occupation is until they invaded Iraq. There is anti-war movement. Some important people started raising these matters”, Cobban said.

“A large part of the society is outside the beltway. There are people who are ready to listen to Palestinians as mainstream Churches such as the Quakers. The churches played an important role in anti-war movement in Iraq and Vietnam. Those who criticize Israel are called anti-Semitic and Jews are called self-hatred. This accusation is used to refute any discussion about Israel”, She added.

Jews for Free Palestine

The Jewish community in the US has recently witnessed the activism and creation of organizations of young people, who support Palestinians’ rights and condemn Israel’s violations of human rights, its atrocities against civilians and its suffocating siege imposed on Gaza, especially after the Gaza-23 day war that took the lives of more than 1400 Palestinians, most of them civilians and one-third of them children, and the murder of 9 Turkish activists on The Freedom Flotilla a year ago in the international waters.

“There are many Jewish groups in the US that observe what’s going on and stand in solidarity with Palestinians such as “Jewish Voice for Peace”, she stressed. “There are a lot of young people in the Jewish community who are supporters of Palestine. Jewish People are not the main supporter of Israel. The main supporter is the Evangelical Christians”, She mentioned

The role of donors in US elections

Donors determine who and how long a congressman shall stay in his/her office. Raising money to finance the election campaign plays an important role in the process of decision-making. This vividly explains why congress men stood for 30 standing ovations to Netanyahu, while he was addressing them.

“Congressmen thinking of re-running the election once more and they look for money. That’s why they stood up many times while Netanyahu were talking to the Congress. The President needs to be elected once every 4 years and he has better chance to be a leader more than congressmen”, Cobban said referring to how money plays a great role in the election.

US Power Waning

The US has recently suffered from budget deficit and crisis. This pushed thinkers to question its role in supporting Israel and its war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The US power is waning for many reasons: the financial collapse in 2008, people started to understand that our ability to govern the world is waning and there are new raising economies such as Brazil, India, Turkey, and Russia”.

Palestinian Reconciliation

Hamas and Fateh have recently signed a pact in Cairo ending the four-year rift among the Palestinians. At the end of her speech, Helena cobban asked the audience” what are your hopes and expectations about Palestinian Unity?”

Dr. Hani Albasous, CPDS vice chairman and a political analyst from Gaza, answered: “There has been hope here after Hamas and Fateh signed the unity pact. Most people were happy and thought that implementation will come soon within 1 year. Some Palestinians have a lack of hope and they felt that this would not be implemented on the ground. Now, and after rounds of talks, both parties have reached an agreement on some points; we are going to see most likely the announcement of Palestinian Government next week. It’s not an easy thing to fix the rift. I hope things will be completely fine, unless we have pressure from Israel and the US … this will take more time.”

Meanwhile, some analysts believe that the pact provides an opportunity to reach a real peace agreement. Others see that Israel is not ready to take the risk of accepting the Palestinian unity pact. “Israel prefers a weak side more than a stronger one. Unity disturbs the US and Israel”, added Dr. Esam Adwan, well-know figure in Gaza.

At the end of the seminar, Helena Cobban introduced to the audience and talked briefly about its role and directors: Phil Weiss and Adam Horowitz. Cobban cheeringly handed the Mondo Awards winners in Gaza their singed copies of Laila El-Haddad’s book: Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.