(August 3rd 2010)

Today, two Lebanese soldiers and Al-Akhbar correspondent Assaf Abu-Rahhal were killed by Israeli shelling of the town of 3adayse in southern Lebanon.

Growing up, my brother played with army soldiers, those plastic sacks full of little green men. There was strategy, there was Risk. I organized little colored squares on a board labelled “Prussia,” “Indochina” and “America.” I suppose that is the most frustrating thing about this whole mess, variously labeled “the Middle East conflict.” The US strategy seems to be no strategy at all. The point is not to win but to keep the world in a perpetual state of war, the better to serve as cover for the exploitation of labour and resources and to profit from cycles of violence by selling weapons to all sides.

I don’t want to live in a pen fenced off from the majority of the world’s people. To eat tiramisu while the Syrian workers building the latest luxury apartment building live in a tin shack on the side of the road.

Our government, no longer the balanced and proportional representative unit safeguarding the interests of all classes and races of people which we were taught in high-school civics classes, has become the greatest evil on earth. It is the Empire, the Roman Senate in its last days, the Orwellian Party. No matter how much we tried to stop the slide… We ignored the warnings (Naomi Klein), so here we are.

In related news, I have transferred from the Middle Eastern Studies department at AUB (CAMES), also known as the CIA Department to the Anthropology Department. Not that anthropology is without it’s own colonial history, but hopefully it will allow me to continue my inquiries into voice, speech and representation in cross-cultural spaces.

Extremely Disturbing

March 22, 2009


Words cannot even describe how sick this is. What is going on? What bizarre rip in the fabric of the moral universe occurs over Tel Aviv when the Palestinians are involved? 

Another soldier, describing how a mother and her children were shot dead by a sniper after they turned the wrong way out of a house, says the “atmosphere” among troops was that the lives of Palestinians were “very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers”.


The New York Times tried to have a balanced debate on this issue. Unfortunately, the four panelists they picked were all Israeli apologists. The commentators set them straight, however. Check it out here:


 “I don’t know whether she was suspicious, not suspicious, I don’t know her story… I do know that my officer sent people to the roof in order to take her out… It was cold-blooded murder.”


It reminded me of a passage from Talal Asad’s excellent book On Suicide Bombing. He accuses the mainstream media and “scholarly” discourse of at worst, an attempt to reduce the complex history of resistance struggles and civil wars to the trope of the morally bankrupt savage against the liberal, humane West. “Liberalism too has it’s own culture of death.” (50) He single-handedly dismantles the “civilized vs. uncivilized” argument used by America and Israel to justify their massacres of innocent civilians in Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq. Unfortunately, regarding the material above: “Guilt is no bar to the repetition of transgression.” (53) How many times have the same arguments been twisted, played out in a bizarre dance of memory/amnesia? 

On a personal note: “I felt more grown up earlier in life, more self determining, more autonomous, and it was because I had not yet been beaten down.”


Children in War

February 23, 2009


Seeing the pictures of the extremely adorable young cast of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars brought up unfortunate memories of the suffering of children in Gaza. Made old before their time, an estimated 98% of Gazan children suffer from severe psychological trauma. 

“Children comprise 47 per cent of Gaza’s population and are extremely vulnerable,” Pringle adds. “It seems the international community is neglecting them, that somehow Palestinian children don’t deserve the protections guaranteed under the Geneva Convention and humanitarian law. We must remember that where we drop our bombs, plant our landmines, and aim our guns, is where children are born, play, and go to school.” 


This particular boy, Emad, tells the story of his family’s experience of having their house destroyed during the shelling of Gaza.

“I used to sleep here and put my bookbag here… When I am alone I think, what is going to happen? I can’t stand it.”

Continuing with the theme of children in wartime, Caryl Churchill’s new play “Seven Jewish Children” explores the psychological repercussions of war on children and the various well-meaning and/or slightly insidious ways that patriotism, blind faith and lies are transferred to the next generation. The entire script is available here. http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/is-a-play-about-gaza-anti-semitic-read-the-script/

Let’s hope that the ridiculous and stale charges of “anti-Semitism” will not stop this play from being performed in New York. It is high time that moralists and apologists like Christopher Hart and Justin Hoffman face their own discomfort with the fact that some Israeli parents might harbor racist feelings. Christopher Hart’s worry that Churchill’s organizing of medical aid for Palestinians makes the play dangerously one-sided is appalling. Should she have provided a booth for fundraising to help the 13 Israelis suffering from shock, I wonder? 

Billington said of Churchill: “What she captures, in remarkably condensed poetic form, is the transition that has overtaken Israel, to the point where security has become the pretext for indiscriminate slaughter.” While the play solves nothing, it “shows theater’s power to heighten consciousness and articulate moral outrage.”