Under the Bombs playing at Sydney Film Festival

June 17, 2008

The Sydney Film Festival is screening Under the Bombs on 18 and 20 June 2008.

18 June 2008 |   9.00PM |   GU George Street
20 June 2008 |   6.15PM |   GU George Street

Director – Philippe Aractingi; Country – France, United Kingdom

Filmmaker Aractingi was in Beirut during the 2006 Israeli rocket attacks. He shot footage of resulting chaos and following the ceasefire miraculously secured funding to make a feature. Filming on the ruined streets, both improvised and scripted scenes, Aractingi tells the story of a Shi’ite woman searching for her missing son and sister. She finds a Christian taxi driver willing to take her to the far south. As they journey, we see destruction all around, as well as the community’s trauma. Despite the context this is not a political diatribe, but rather an emotional cry against the pain and displacement of a society.

An on-the-ground view of Baghdad’s slums

June 17, 2008

Nir Rosen has written a fascinating piece called “Life Under Muqtada: Inside Baghdad’s Shiite Slums,” posted to AlterNet.

B’Tselem’s “Shoot Back” project

June 13, 2008

The BBC is covering video footage of Israeli settlers beating an elderly shepherd, his wife, and their nephew with a baseball bat, as they graze their goats on land near the illegal settlement.

Footage from a video camera handed out by an Israeli human rights group appears to show Jewish settlers beating up Palestinians in the West Bank.

An elderly shepherd, his wife and a nephew said they were attacked by four masked men for allowing their animals to graze near the settlement of Susia.

The rights group, B’Tselem, said the cameras were provided to enable Palestinians to get proof of attacks.

A spokesman for the Israeli police said that an investigation was under way.

So far, no-one has been arrested.

Baseball bats

For the past year, B’Tselem has handed out video cameras to Palestinians as part of its “Shooting Back” project.

Read more at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7451691.stm (warning: video is graphic).  You can read more about B’Tselem’s inspired human rights campaign, “Shoot Back,” at http://www.btselem.org/english/Video/Shooting_Back_Background.asp.

–L.L. Wynn

Because it’s Friday…

June 6, 2008

The content of this blog is usually pretty heavy stuff.  Torture, occupation, war, terror.  It’s nice to, every once in a while, be reminded that the Middle East is also a center of great culture, not to mention sex-change operations.  So because it’s Friday and I’m feeling a little more light-hearted than usual, I can’t resist excerpting from NY Times film critic A. O. Scott’s review of “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.”

Let me be blunt: “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” is the finest post-Zionist action-hairdressing sex comedy I have ever seen. …

You might also think, as I certainly did, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict presents a singularly unpromising source of laughs. But as Yitzhak Rabin once said, enough of blood and tears. He did not go on to propose semen, urine, shampoo or hummus as substitutes, but those are, for Mr. Dugan, Mr. Smigel, Mr. Apatow and Mr. Sandler, the substances that come most readily to hand. (So does a made-up but scarily realistic Israeli soft drink called Fizzy-Bubbeleh.)

And the filmmakers spray all this stuff around in a brave and noble cause. American diplomatic efforts have so far proved inadequate to the task of bringing peace to the Middle East, but “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” taps into deeper and more durable sources of American global power in its quest for a plausible end to hostilities. Ancient grievances and festering hatreds are no match for the forces of sex, money, celebrity and exuberant, unapologetic stupidity.

How does it handle politics?  According to the Chicago Tribune:

“Zohan” simultaneously exploits and decries anti-Arab sentiment, right up until the moment we’re handed an image of Israeli-Arab solidarity  as the warring factions unite against the real enemy. Who is the real enemy? American greed, in the form of a venal real estate developer modeled on Donald Trump, determined to gentrify the living daylights out of post-9/11 Lower Manhattan.

It will be released in Australia on June 19th. Anyone want to write a review for Khaldoun when it comes out?

–L.L. Wynn

Torture and blogging: “I forgot my password”

June 4, 2008

There’s a brief but poignant article on Associated Press about an Egyptian blogger who was arrested after the 6 April protests and only just released after being tortured in detention.

“We were subjected to electric shocks, to beatings and there was no food and or drink for the first few days,” blogger Karim el-Beheiri told AFP a day after his release. “We went through weeks of torture and humiliation.” …

These little lines in the article give us a moment of insight into the psychological effect of torture on the blogger:

He said the first thing he wanted to do when he got home after the release was to blog the events.

“But I couldn’t remember my own password.”

A war of words

June 3, 2008

There’s an interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times on the use of the term “jihadist” to refer to terrorists:

“[T]o call a terrorist a “jihadist” or “jihadi” effectively puts any campaign against terrorism into the framework of an existential battle between the West and Islam. This feeds into the worldview propagated by Al Qaeda. It also serves to isolate the tens of millions of Muslims who condemn the violence that has been perpetrated in the name of Islam.

“Second, these words locate the ideological battle exactly where the extremists want it to be. The terms of discussion are no longer about the murder of innocents in terrorist acts; they are about theology. Read the rest of this entry »

Online Resource on the Nakba

June 2, 2008

From The Institute for Palestine Studies:

The Institute for Palestine Studies has created a special online resource to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948. “1948: Sixty Years On…” draws on the Institute’s rich archives and its flagship Journal of Palestine Studies to provide wide public access to incisive articles, analyses, memoirs, detailed maps, and chronologies. These materials illuminate the events culminating in the establishment of the state of Israel and the beginning of the Palestinian tragedy.

Readers can download PDF versions of landmark JPS articles such as Walid Khalidi’s 1961 “Plan Dalet: Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine” – the first article in English ever to call attention to a comprehensive Zionist military plan and spell out its details – and a rare memoir by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser about his own participation as an officer in the 1948 war. Scholars, journalists, policy makers and educators will find this online resource timely and useful. Read the rest of this entry »