Yonatan Mendel’s “Diary” in the LRB

February 29, 2008

A shout out to Asli Bali who alerted me to this piece by Yonatan Mendel in the London Review of Books. Mendel discusses the language of Israeli journalism and how it works to sustain the political status quo when it comes to the matter of Palestine. Mendel is doing his PhD at Cambridge on language and security, but he previously worked for the Israeli news agency, Walla, and that’s what he draws on in this piece. Here are a few quotes:

LRB logo

“In most of the articles on the conflict two sides battle it out: the Israel Defence Forces, on the one hand, and the Palestinians, on the other. When a violent incident is reported, the IDF confirms or the army says but the Palestinians claim: ‘The Palestinians claimed that a baby was severely injured in IDF shootings.’ Is this a fib?” …

“Another example: in June 2006, four days after the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped from the Israeli side of the Gazan security fence, Israel, according to the Israeli media, arrested some sixty members of Hamas, of whom 30 were elected members of parliament and eight ministers in the Palestinian government. In a well-planned operation Israel captured and jailed the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem, the ministers of finance, education, religious affairs, strategic affairs, domestic affairs, housing and prisons, as well as the mayors of Bethlehem, Jenin and Qalqilya, the head of the Palestinian parliament and one quarter of its members. That these officials were taken from their beds late at night and transferred to Israeli territory probably to serve (like Gilad Shalit) as future bargaining-chips did not make this operation a kidnapping. Israel never kidnaps: it arrests.” …

“Remarkably, there are no Occupied Territories in Israel. The term is occasionally used by a leftist politician or columnist, but in the hard news section it doesn’t exist. In the past they were called the Administered Territories in order to conceal the actual fact of occupation; they were then called Judea and Samaria; but in Israel’s mass media today they’re called the Territories (Ha-Shtachim).

– L.L. Wynn

Event: Contemporary Issues in Lebanon’s Politics

February 29, 2008

The Macquarie University Centre for Middle East and African Studies is hosting a public lecture at its North Ryde campus on March 12.

The main speakers are Hon. Abbas Lel Hasham, MP, Free Patriotic Movement Party, Parliament of Lebanon and Dr Pierre Raffoul of the American University of Beirut, Adviser to the Free Patriotic Movement Party, Lebanon.

They will be discussing “Contemporary Issues in Lebanon’s Politics.” The event coincides with the build-up to upcoming elections in Lebanon.

The lecture will be held on Wednesday 12 March from 7:00pm-8:30pm, in W5A T2. The event is free, but donations on the night are welcome. For more information contact mecentre@hmn.mq.edu.au.

Lebanese- Israeli relations on the slide

February 28, 2008

An interesting short news article was sent to me today suggesting a further erosion of Lebanese- Israeli relations. For more go to The Daily Star at http://www.dailystar.com.lb

Here’s the story


Copyright (c) 2008 The Daily Star
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Lebanon to skip Paris book fair over Israel
By Agence France Presse (AFP)


BEIRUT: Lebanon is to stay away from this year’s Paris book fair in protest at the invitation of Israel as guest of honor, Culture Minister Tarek Mitri announced on Wednesday. “Lebanon will not participate this year in protest at the cultural event’s organizers’ decision to select Israel as guest of honor,” Mitri said in a statement.

Lebanon is the first Arab government to announce a boycott of the event, which runs March 14 through March 19, after organizers announced that 39 Israeli writers were being invited to mark the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state.

On Tuesday, the 50-nation Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization called for a boycott of the event by Islamic states.

“The crimes against humanity that Israel is perpetrating in the Palestinian territories … constitute, in themselves, a strong condemnation of Israel, making it unworthy of being welcomed as a guest of honor at an international book fair,” the group said.

Twenty-five Egyptian groups have announced that they would not take part, as has the Union of Algerian Writers.

In Sanaa, the head of the state-run Public Book Authority, Faris al-Saqqaf, said that Yemen would not be participating in the event at the request of the Arab League.

Bahrain and Qatar said they do not normally take part in any case. – AFP


Copyright (c) 2008 The Daily Star

Ralph Nader enters the U.S. political fray

February 25, 2008

[cross-posted at Culture Matters]

Ralph Nader has announced that he is again running for president in the United States. As the BBC notes, the 2% of votes that he received in the 2000 elections when he represented the Green Party was a deciding factor in Bush’s win over Gore, and this time around, Republicans again welcome his candidacy, since it is again expected to split the Democratic vote.

So, on the occasion of Ralph Nader’s entry into the 2008 U.S. presidential election, let me tell you how I first found out who Ralph Nader was.

It was the summer of 1994, the year before my last year of undergrad at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and I was in Walnut Creek, visiting my grandparents. I was also getting ready to apply to grad school to do a PhD in anthropology, and we had a family link to Berkeley, since my parents had met there in the 60s, and it just so happened that one of my anthropology heroines was on the faculty of the anthropology department there. So I made an appointment to go talk to Professor Laura Nader. Read the rest of this entry »

Palestine coverage through 23 Feb 08

February 24, 2008

Today’s news roundup begins with the grim tally of Palestinians killed and injured by the most recent rounds of Israeli strikes within their territories. The story of the Japanese translator shot in the eye by the IDF as he observed a nonviolent protest of the Wall at Bilin is especially typical of the senseless brutality of life day-in, day-out under Israeli occupation. It is also representative of the stories that are never picked up from the wires in the mainstream press because they might suggest to English-speaking audiences that Palestinians are engaging in nonviolent resistance.

Additional pieces that reflect the daily struggle to survive under occupation include news of the extension of the Israeli closure of all Palestinian representation in East Jerusalem as well as the denial of 94% of all requested permits to build in the West Bank and East Jerusalem submitted by Palestinians even as settlement activity to create Israeli facts on the ground in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank goes forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Lebanon: Encouraging Signs for the Future

February 22, 2008

Despite tensions Lebanon remains at peace. Political uncertainty at home and unwanted regional and international intervention have as yet failed to ignite the supposed tinderbox that is Lebanon. Is this because Lebanon may, in fact, not be the tinderbox every one assumes it is? Read the rest of this entry »

A 3-year history of Egyptian blogging

February 22, 2008

Veteran Egyptian blogger Tarek Amr has reached his 3-year anniversary of blogging and stops to reflect on the recent history of the Egyptian blogosphere.  It’s an excellent introduction to some of the more popular Egyptian bloggers in both English and Arabic.  He talks about bloggers’ involvement in the pro-democracy movement Kifaya and tells us who was the first to be jailed for blogging (Abdul Karim Amer).  He also points to the religious blogging scene as well as the more Western-oriented bloggers and notes the different audience bases.

— L.L. Wynn

“They Call Me Muslim”

February 21, 2008

“They Call Me Muslim” is a short film focusing on the experiences of two Muslim women, one in Paris and one in Tehran, who hold very different opinions on veiling. Samah, living in Paris, feels that the ban on headscarves in French schools forces her to choose between her religion and her education, whilst K must wear the headscarf when in public in Iran. The filmmaker, Dianna Ferrero, explains some of the issues arising from the film in this article. The overall message of the documentary is one that at times seems to be overlooked in the headscarf debate – that women are negotiating political and cultural obstacles in order to regain control over their bodies in both religious and secular contexts, and that ultimately it is the freedom to choose to veil or not veil that should be promoted.

Palestine coverage through 16 Feb 08

February 20, 2008

This selection (longer than usual, but covering more days) brings together the interesting and/or noteworthy (for better or worse) news and commentary of the last 3 or 4 days. I include a few articles that provide an overview of the current tension in Lebanon where the anniversary of the Hariri assassination coincided with the assasination –being attributed throughout the region to Israel — of senior Hezbollah official Imad Mughniyeh. The ongoing destabilization of Lebanon serves the interests of many of the same players that are only too happy to extend the status quo in Israel-Palestine at the expense of the Palestinians.

Imad Mughneyah

In terms of news, it is a case of plus ca change — Israel looks for international support for a massive operation in Gaza while simultaneously proceeding with a tender for expanding its illegal settlements in East Jerusalem with over 1000 new units. A Palestinian woman is deprived of medical care by the IDF and dies while 8 are killed in a blast in Gaza (part of the “relative quiet” enjoyed by Israel, no doubt). The UN notes that the situation in Gaza is grim, while Gazan produce rots under Israeli sanctions. The last piece in the selection is Olmert’s claim that borders are not an important stumbling block in the “peace process.” Not entirely plausible, but few such claims ever end up mattering in any case.

In terms of commentary the NY Times reporter covers with great sympathy Israel’s “quandary” in Gaza — Israeli suffering at the hands of the rudimentary “rockets” lobbed over from Gaza is the focus, with military strategy being the “solution” considered at greatest length by the interviews undertaken by Erlanger, published first in the Herald Tribune and then picked up for the domestic audience in the NYT. Read the rest of this entry »

Palestine coverage through 12 Feb 08

February 19, 2008

Today’s selections focuses on a number of notable news items — the
projection by both Israeli Vice PM Haim Ramon and PS premier Salem Fayyad that no peace deal will be likely in 2008, Israel’s failure to meet its basic “road map” commitments, and the fact that Olmert’s political future remains in doubt.

Then there are a couple of more surprising pieces indicating that the Palestinian population in the territories has increased by 30% despite killings, injuries and mass emigration since 2000, and perhaps less surprising but still striking, Israeli predictions that they will eliminate Hamas as an effective entity in Gaza within months. Read the rest of this entry »