Monthly Archives: August 2009

A Musical Interlude

Here’s a clip of song sung by a cute little girl with a good voice. It’s not subtitled, but it’s a religious song. Happily, it has a nice, upbeat tempo.

Music is a great way to improve your language skills. I should really listen/watch more, because just in this song, for example, are two phrases that have given me grief in the past, لبيك and نحري دون نحرك. Lesson learned.

Speaking of girls singing religious songs, and this is a whole different thing and I don’t mean to draw a parallel here–Lamb and Lynx Gaede of Prussian Blue turn 18 next year. Imagine the fun they’ll have.

I’m not going to link to their music, but it’s on YouTube if you want to look for it. So you know what to expect, here’s a comment on one of their songs:

Fathers and Mothers: Warn your children of the danger in associating with other races particularly Blacks I informed my Daughter to never trust a smile I told her to be polite but distant, and to remain alert; to avoid blacks whenever possible, and not fall for there rhetoric; white children are often targeted for attacked by minorities parents if you love your children warn them of the dangers.

And here’s another:

I only hope that you´re not White because seeing you write things like that makes me wanna kick your stupid fucker ass! And if you are White then I have two words for you:FUCK YOU!!! you fucking race traitor!!! It´s because of ignorant and stupid people like you that we live in a World where niggers,jews,muslims and all other discusting parasites are trying to take over the control of the World!

Those are YouTube comments, of course, which are pretty much all like this.
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Unrelated to the above: An Israeli Jew urges a boycott of Israel. Los Angeles Times.

Man, the people in Gaza really have it rough. What a crummy Ramadan this year.

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Iraqi Shoe Thrower to be Released Early

Muntazar al-Zaydi will be released.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi’s act during Bush’s last visit to Iraq as president turned the 30-year-old reporter into a folk hero across the Arab world amid anger over the 2003 invasion.

He has been in custody since the Dec. 14 outburst, which occurred as Bush was holding a joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

He was initially sentenced to three years after pleading not guilty to assaulting a foreign leader, then the court reduced it to one year because the journalist had no prior criminal history.

Defense attorney Karim al-Shujairi said al-Zeidi will now be released on Sept. 14, three months early.

shoe newspaper arabic

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Belated Book Report

I saw Gertrude Bell, Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations sitting on the bookshelf and decided I’d take another shot at posting about it. Here’s my previous and not very informative post.

First off, this one line threw me for a loop, and I couldn’t help but hold it against the book. It is mind-bogglingly wrongheaded and hard to recover from. And it occurs in the preface.

She was not a feminist; she had no need or wish for special treatment.

I trust everyone can see what’s wrong with that.

And oh, she was not a feminist, just an independent woman educated way, way beyond what a woman could expect at that time, who hobnobbed with the entirely male rulers of the Arab tribes and also, by the way, climbed mountains, but whatever. And oh, she had no need for special treatment, but she was the granddaughter of a man the author describes as “the Bill Gates of his day.” Surely if she’d been born in an alley to a tubercular, illiterate prostitute who promptly died she’d have achieved all the exact same things she achieved, because she was just so smart and talented and her grandfather’s obscene wealth played no part in her success. Right.

Then we are treated to what seems like many hundreds of pages about mountain climbing. I have always thought that there was no such thing as a boring subject, and that an enthusiastic speaker could make any subject interesting. After having read (most of) this book as well as Three Cups of Tea, I now know that there is a boring subject: mountain climbing. And you’d expect it to be interesting, too.

I confess that I didn’t finish the book. But actually, now that a lot of time has passed, I think I’m ready to read the rest. After all, she was instrumental in the creation of the modern state of Iraq. And she was not a fan of Zionism.

Lord Arthur James Balfour, Lloyd George’s languid Foreign Secretary, had issued a Declaration in November 1917 that the British government aproved “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” As Gertrude, thinking of the Sykes-Picot treaty and all the trouble that had caused, wrote in a letter to Sir Gilbert Clayton, former head of the Arab Bureau in Cairo: “Mr. Balfour’s Zionist pronouncement I regard with the deepest mistrust–if only people at home would not make pronouncements how much easier it would be for those on the spot!”

When the first draft of the Declaration had been put to the Cabinet, Sir Edwin Montagu, Secretary of State for India…mounted a vehement opposition despite being Jewish himself, stating that Zionism was a “mischievous political creed, untenable by any patriotic citizen of the United Kingdom.” Was his own loyalty, he demanded, to be to Palestine? And what would be the repercussions for the rights of Jews living in other countries? Many Jewish leaders in the West believed that to offer Palestine to the Jews would be a disservice to Jewry, moreover, the Jews already settled in Palestine anticipated, and dreaded, the trouble that Zionism was about to cause. In support of his argument, Montagu had read out to the Cabinet a strongly argued letter from Gertrude, whose persuasive words had resulted in the rephrasing of the document. She was angered by the tendency of the Zionists and the statesmen at the Conference to talk as if Palestine was empty of people; and she could see that Arabs and Jews could not live peaceably side by side.

Well, of course they can, and they have many times in places throughout history, but the ethnic cleansing aspect is probably what she was thinking of when she wrote this.

In Jan 1918 she wrote:

Palestine for the Jews has always seemed to us to be an impossible proposition. I don’t believe it can be carried out–personally I don’t want it to be carried out, and I’ve said so on every possible occasion…to gratify Jewish sentiment you would have to override every conceivable political consideration, including the wishes of the large majority of the population.

Okay, I’ve convinced myself to read the rest of the book. I guess when I left off it was just about to get interesting.

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Iraq Update

A couple things in the papers caught my eye. From the LA Times, Iraqi Refugees Find U.S. Life Not What they Expected:

Her husband had disappeared in the war. Her request to settle in Jordan had been denied. Now an advisor from the International Organization for Migration was telling her no U.S. firm would recognize her law degree or her nearly two decades of experience.

In a month, the 51-year-old woman was due to leave for Portland, Ore. In the hushed room, she protested helplessly, “I am a lawyer. What else can I do?”

Two of Shifa’s brothers were shot to death in the streets. In May 2005, gunmen in a speeding car seized her husband as he left for work at an electronics import firm. Shifa watched from a window. It was the last time she saw him.

To pay a $150,000 ransom, she sold the new home they had been building. But she did not get her husband back. She spent months scouring police stations, hospitals and morgues, studying hundreds of pictures of corpses, battered, burned and riddled with drill holes.

“I even went to the trash dump to see if his body was there,” she said.

Six years of war have produced an estimated 2 million Iraqi refugees. Jordan and other neighboring countries have been overwhelmed. Refugee advocates have long pressed the United States to take in a greater share.

This year, the U.S. has pledged to admit 17,000 Iraqis, a huge increase over the 202 permitted in 2006.

Anyway, it’s a good article. It’s nice to keep up to speed on the story that’s hardly covered in the news anymore.

I particularly liked this letter to the editor in the Washington Post, probably mostly because it agrees with what I’ve been saying all along:

I find reporting in The Post on Iraq generally balanced and of high quality, but occasionally it disappoints. The Aug. 20 front-page article “Iraq Carnage Shows Sectarian War Goes On” was misleading.

It is true that in 2006, al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremists came close to igniting a sectarian war in Iraq, but they failed. Their failure — and the failure of all extremists in Iraq — was due in large measure to the revulsion they faced from society at large.

Iraq has moved on, but the terrorists haven’t. They demonstrated last week that they can kill, maim and cause destruction. But they have singularly failed to cause “sectarian war.” There is no evidence that any such war is possible in Iraq. That is because Iraq’s communities are both aware of the dangers of such a war and because it goes against their values and traditions.

Explaining such wanton violence as we saw last Wednesday in terms of sectarian conflict is easy, but it is wrong, based on a superficial, one-dimensional understanding of the struggles going on in Iraq. Shiites were not the only ones to fall victim, but Sunnis, working side by side with their Shiite colleagues, were equally targeted and fell victim.

In addition, when referring to the Iraqi government, journalists need not always attach the prefix “Shiite-dominated.” We Iraqis find this offensive. Why not use the name “National Unity Government,” the name that the Iraqi government actually goes by, instead?

The bottom line is that the Iraqi people, by virtue of their sheer resilience and traditional values, will confound both the terrorists and the writers of “sectarian war” scenarios.

SAMIR SUMAIDA’IE
Ambassador
Embassy of Iraq
Washington

And thirdly, this non-strictly-Iraq-focused blurb on Alternet about Blackwater cum Xe:

Scahill, who has written a popular book about Blackwater, had scathing comments about the organization, calling it “Erik Prince’s Christian supremacist fighting force to eliminate Muslims and destroy Islam globally, and then they bill taxpayers again for this killing that they’re doing and they’re not held to the same standard as soldiers.”

“There are Iraqi and Afghan people that are forced to face down against them, when, I’m sorry, the U.S. Congress does nothing to stop it,” he continued, “and journalists have done nothing to hold the White House accountable now, Chuck, or under Bush. This has not been an issue and yet it constitutes more than half of the fighting force in Afghanistan.”

Scahill singled out Todd, a fellow panelist on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher”, for not taking the issue more seriously. “Chuck, you called it political cat-nip to talk about the CIA and Cheney’s role in this, because it distracts from the important issues,” he said. “This is a central issue and you called it cable cat-nip.”

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CNN’s Generation Islam

For more than a week I’ve wanted to post about CNN’s Generation Islam feature, and it has been thwarting me by making it impossible to copy and paste the text or save the graphics. I had to resort to typing. It is not clear to me why CNN is interested in disseminating a mix of accurate and inaccurate information about Islam right now, but they’re doing it and so here I am.

The Generation Islam premise seems to be that Muslims are exotic people in strange clothes who live far away and that there is a giant gulf between us and them, and that those Muslims resent us for mysterious reasons and we might want to do something about it so they don’t hurt us again.

Here’s the tagline right under the banner:

9/11 taught the U.S. that it ignores rising Muslim resentment at its own peril. America can’t have another generation of Muslims who hate it. Is it possible to win the hearts and minds of Muslim youth?

and the first link, immediately underneath it:

Experts: Why some turn to violence

This will take more than one blog post to squeeze all the possibilities out of Generation Islam. Let’s start with the simple stuff and go to the Islam: Key facts page.

Islam has a monotheistic (belief in one God) message and follows some of the same principles as Christianity and Judaism. Muslims, the followers of Islam, believe in Allah and believe Mohammed was his prophet.

I used to expect better from CNN. Of course, that was before Lou Dobbs starting telling lies in prime time and getting away with it. So now I’m dying to know which principles CNN thinks Muslims follow that Christians and Jews also follow, and which ones CNN thinks they don’t. CNN also leads us to think that Muslims believe in some crazy, alternative god named “Allah,” whose pronoun doesn’t get capitalized the way good old American God’s pronoun does.

CNN has several related articles on the page. Kind of a journalistic version of “scent layering,”* which a guy in my college speech class explained as he gave us all an Amway-style sales pitch as a class assignment.

I saw part of the story about the Muppet Show for Palestinian children the other day. Maybe I’ve gotten overly sensitive, but the vibe I got from what I saw was that Palestinian children are inherently prone to violence, probably due to their Arab genes, and need extra handling and guidance to guide them on the right path.

Daoud Kuttab, executive producer of “Shara’a Simsim,” knows that the Muppets are highly effective communicators. “Anything the Muppets do, anything they say, any idea they transmit, the children accept.”

An internationally respected Palestinian journalist, Kuttab began working with the show more than a decade ago. After covering the war-torn region for years, he realized that Sesame was a great way to reach Palestinian children who desperately needed an alternative to the harsh lessons they were absorbing.

“I would say 3-, 4-, 5-year olds — if we don’t catch them at that early age, we do risk losing them to all kinds of propaganda, whether it’s conservative, religious or fundamentalist,” Kuttab said.

Okay, I would argue that Palestinian children aren’t absorbing any worse lessons than Israeli children are. Different, sure. Palestinian children are seeing that they are second-tier human beings, and they can expect to spend their whole lives being pushed around, made to wait in interminable lines, walled off from their own property, arrested or shot for venturing outdoors, etc., but Israeli children are learning that apartheid is natural, that some people are far beneath others, and that disproportionate violence is the only way to deal with your unfounded fears.

“We are interested in teaching tolerance, respect, pride in their own country and their own nation, and also in understanding that there are people who are different, and that’s OK,” Kuttab said.

“Boys are a problem in our society. They see their parents being humiliated. They think they are the men of the house and have to do something about it. But they can’t do anything,” Kuttab said. “We’re trying to tell them, ‘your energy is OK, but let’s channel it in a different way.’ ”

Live-action segments introduce children to Palestinians who have channeled their energy into becoming teachers, doctors or business owners — people, Knell says, “who can act as role models, people who strive to remove themselves from the hardships children see.”

Sesame Workshop hopes to expand this type of localized programming into other areas that have witnessed recent conflict, such as Pakistan. Perhaps that means Iraq will get its own show someday and won’t have to hold on to someone else’s.

The bolding is mine. As far as I can see so far, this is the only acknowledgement in this entire Generation Islam cloud of “information” that the population of Gaza is in distress, and that those scary Muslims who might wish to do violence to us might have a reason for it. More information here would have done a world of good, CNN.

As for Shara’a Simsim, it’s basically nothing more than a new market for Sesame Street. At least it’s not Disney Princesses.

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*Off-topic plea: please go easy on the perfume and cologne. As in, I shouldn’t be able to smell your perfume or cologne unless I am snuggling you.

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Heartening News

Mike Huckabee’s trip to Israel has led to some thoughtful blog posts at various blogs I read. Polls are showing Huckabee, Palin, and Romney as all leading contenders for the next Republican primary. I found this here:

Mike Huckabee just told CBN: “One of the things I find most interesting is that generally Evangelicals are so much more supportive of Israel than the American Jewish community.”

In case you were wondering, CBN is the Christian Broadcasting Network.

This is what I find heartening:

I don’t know that Huckabee’s assertion is true, and I think it would depend on how one defines being “supportive,” but I don’t think he’s necessarily wrong either. It’s clear from my own personal experience that during the last 25 or so years, the number of American Jews in my circle who think that Israel holds the moral high ground and is a vulnerable but righteous democratic state surrounded by a sea of bloodthirsty Arab barbarians has declined dramatically, even as the pro-Israeli right has actively courted the conservative Christian community with those very same claims.

Well thank goodness. I think it’s true, too. And I sure hope it is. To paraphrase a comment I saw on a blog somewhere a while ago,

They say Israel is America’s only friend in the middle east. Before the creation of Israel, America didn’t have an enemy in the middle east.

Uh-oh, just found this, and it’s not good:

HUCKABEE: Basically, there really is no such thing as — I have to be careful in saying this, because people will really — but there’s no such thing as a Palestinian.

As a former governor of Arkansas, does Mr Huckabee also think there is no such thing as a Cherokee, a Chickasaw, a Chocktaw, or an Osage, and if so, does he say it out loud?


Since formatting may prevent you from reading the whole thing, here’s the link to the comic.

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Ramadan Greetings from the President

Heads must be exploding all over the country, especially in the lower right-hand corner. It’ll be interesting to see footage of the carnage on tonight’s news casts.

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Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

This song just played on my iPod shuffle and I like it so much I’m sharing it. On my iPod it’s the Peter Paul and Mary version, which I love, not this really excellent cover version, which is also pretty irresistible.

Makes me think about picking up my guitar and practicing again.

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Huckabee for Ethnic Cleansing

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is in Israel, visiting those brave Israeli settlers who, like our own pioneer ancestors, are moving in on other people’s land and kicking them out by any means necessary.

What he says doesn’t actually make sense, which is either a canny move to lend plausible deniability, or just the typical failure to think which has become all the rage among conservative Americans.

In his affable way, he insists that he isn’t against a Palestinian state — he just wants it somewhere else. “The question is,” he said, “should the Palestinians have a place to call their own? Yes. I have no problem with that. Should it be in the middle of the Jewish homeland? That’s what I think has to be assessed as virtually unrealistic.”

“Virtually unrealistic”? Any guesses what that means? I think he started out to say “virtually impossible,” then caught himself, afraid he might be going too far, and bobbled it to “virtually unrealistic.”

Actually, Mr Huckabee, I don’t think the question is “should the Palestinians have a place to call their own?” Nice one, you almost put it past me.

He went on to praise Israel for allowing Muslims to visit Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, which is a holy site for Islam as well as for Judaism. But should a mosque be allowed? Nope. It would be an “affront.” “Israel is a place where they’re going to allow other cultures and religions,” he explained, “but don’t ask the Jewish people whose homeland it is to completely yield over their ability to live within the context of their country.”

What a weird world. By the way, Mike Huckabee earned himself a spot on my Fanaticism page with this doozy of a quote: “I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

Amjad Atallah responds in the Huffington Post. Excerpts:

Both my parents immigrated to Indiana from the Palestinian town of Ramallah in the early 1960s, before Israel’s occupation in 1967. Like many Palestinians in the Diaspora, they would have been happy with a secular democratic state in the entirety of historic Palestine/Eretz Israel with equal rights for both Jews and Arabs. But also like many Palestinians, convinced that Israelis would never agree to granting equality to all Palestinians, they have supported attempts to create a rump Palestinian state in the parts of Palestine occupied by Israel in 1967 where Palestinians could exercise their right to self-determination.

Having been uncomfortable with the idea of immigrants from Europe displacing the native inhabitants of Palestine, Palestinians have never seriously entertained the idea that they should go somewhere else and displace another people to create a “Palestinian” state. But now that a prominent American politician is making the offer, I have some ideas on a locale.

Dream big:

I haven’t yet conducted a poll of Palestinians on the Huckabee-Solution, but it seems that California – at least everything from San Francisco and south would be most preferred, no offense to Huckabee’s home state of Arkansas. The landscape is very similar to historic Palestine with various Mediterranean climates, lots of orange and fig trees, beautiful vistas, and lots of ocean front property. California even has its own fault lines, just like Israel/Palestine which makes for good wrath of God sermons. It wouldn’t matter if you were originally from Haifa, Ramallah, or the Gaza Strip, there would be something to remind you of home.

Amjad Atallah

Amjad Atallah

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UPDATE: found this Huckabee-in-Israel quote in another article:

“I have not bashed America! I haven’t even bashed Obama’s anti-Israel and promise breaking policy, and I have certainly had the opportunity,” he continued. “I have expressed my view consistently wherever I am and don’t say different things depending on who I am talking to.”

Bolding mine.

Greenwald directed readers to a story in the Jerusalem Post quoting Huckabee as saying: “It concerns me when there are some in the United States who would want to tell Israel that it cannot allow people to live in their own country, wherever they want.”

Mr Huckabee, it’s not that Israel desperately wants to allow people to live in their own country wherever they want, it’s that Israel wants to prevent people from living in their own country wherever they want.

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Holy Book Given Bigger Role in Childrens’ Education

Every so often you hear or read a report from some backwoods place where they either don’t have any separation of church and state, or they’re trying to get rid of it.

Here’s a new article about one such place. A new law there requires that all schools must offer information relating to their holy book in their curriculum.

The law actually passed in 2007, but this will be the first school year it is enforced because the bill says, “The provisions of this act pertaining to a school district do not take effect until the 2009-2010 school year.”

School officials said schools have not enforced the law because of confusion over the bill’s wording and lack of state funding.

All you need is some wealthy Salafist benefactors or nearest analogue to that to provide the funds, then you’re all set.

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