“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 »

Palestine coverage through 10 Feb 08

February 12, 2008

Today’s selection provides articles covering the renewed Israeli decision to cut power to Gaza, renewed Israeli air strikes on Gaza killing over a dozen Palestinians in the period canvassed, and the admission by PA prime minister Fayyad that the PA has no expectation that a new accord will be reached with Israel during the remainder of the Bush presidency. Fayyad’s near exclusive concern with Israeli incursions into the West Bank, as opposed to what is happening in Gaza, speaks volumes of the PA strategy.

Of course, the humanitarian crisis and Israeli policy continues to be depicted in securitized terms in the English-language media, which can only bring itself to describe Israeli assassination-by-airstrike policies (known elsewhere by the more precise international law term of extra-judicial killing) and the cutting off of power to Gaza in the language of “defensive operations,” “retaliation” or as a “trimming” of supplies. Read the rest of this entry »

Palestine coverage through 7 Feb 08

February 10, 2008

Today’s selection reprises what I think have been some of the better (or sometimes simply noteworthy) pieces since the end of last week. I begin with Darryl Li’s assessment of the situation in Gaza following his own visit there in January. Li was stuck in Gaza during one of the more severe of Israel’s closures, preventing even humanitarian deliveries or entry/exit by internationals from the area. His account of what he witnessed, written for the Israeli organization Adalah, is well worth the read.

The next couple of articles detail the ongoing killing of Gazans by Israeli air strikes and Israeli plans to ensure the total isolation of Gaza by establishing their own fence at the Egyptian-Gaza border. The Christian Science Monitor covers the Dimona suicide bombing as a renewed basis for Israeli construction of the Wall through annexation of Palestinian lands. Princeton’s Dan Kurtzer has a piece about negotiations in the “peace process” in the Lebanese Daily Star, which I
have included. Then there is the Israeli effort to externalize costs of occupation through a call for an international body to be made responsible for “resettlement” of Palestinian refugees. Read the rest of this entry »

Does the Middle East Matter? The Struggle Continues.

February 7, 2008

On reading a piece by Jim Al-Khalili in the Guardian on Jan 30, 2008, I was immediately sympathetic to the author’s view but was also struck by the futility and fatality of dealing with this issue, in the context of the dominance of the American-European world view, that the US- Europe are at the centre of world history, and the remaining four-fifths of the globe exist in the shadow of the western enlightenment. While I certainly agree that recognising achievements by the great women and men of the Middle East, or of China or India, is an important task in reconfiguring the power relations in global affairs I wonder whether taking the position that al-Khalili takes actually helps or hinders such a task. More than anything I was disappointed that the debate continues to be framed as Arab/Islamic culture opposed to a European/Christian culture as if they can ever be neatly separated. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert Fisk on the Saddam biography he never wrote

February 5, 2008

I loved this article. Robert Fisk discovers, via an Egyptian friend, that a florid biography of Saddam Hussein penned by Robert Fisk is selling in Cairo bookshops. The only problem: Fisk never wrote it. He hops a plane for Cairo and starts a mad goose chase trying to figure out who did. A lovely portrait of Cairene life that made me feel homesick.