Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mouin Rabbani & Chris Toensing on Obama's Middle East Policies

I've been without power or heat at home since early Tuesday morning, and came in to the office today to do a bit of email. No time for serious posting. In the meanwhile, read this latest Middle East Report Online, from the inestimable Mouin Rabbani and Chris Toensing.

Here's a pithy excerpt:

The real test for Washington will therefore be not how often Mitchell shuttles to and around the region, but how rapidly it acts to freeze Israeli settlement expansion in all its forms and reverse Israeli impunity in the Occupied Territories. If the issue of settlements, the elephant in the room left unmentioned by the speakers at the State Department on January 22, has still not been seriously addressed by the time Mitchell returns from his first trip (and in 2001, recall, he only said Israel should “consider” a freeze if the Palestinians effectively disarm), it will be time to write the two-state paradigm’s definitive obituary.

The problem is that the death notice will not be accompanied by a birth announcement for a binational state. With the vast majority of Israelis committed to retaining a Jewish state, and the vast majority of Palestinians in response demanding that their ethnicity be privileged in their own entity, a South African-type transformation on the Mediterranean is at best many years away. The more likely scenario, for the coming years, is a descent into increasingly existential, and regionalized, conflict.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Fuck Your Arab Money" (Plus: kufiyaspotting)

From Revolution of the Mind--recording name for an Iranian-American named Ali. He remixes and completely recasts and politicizes Busta Rhyme's rather silly song "Arab Money," and discusses Gaza, Falluja, Oscar Grant. All you sheiks and emirs, watch out!

It's great. I hope Busta has been properly reeducated. This dude can really rap. Check out Revolution of the Mind's myspace page for more.

Rich fucks ain't leavin' without payin' the price...

All the democratic leaders overthrown and killed
They needed house sand niggers to close the deal...

You can do that dumb dance with emirs and sheiks
But only time you see that on the Arab street...

Yeah, fuck your Arab money
Wealth of the people you take that from me..

See our babies and our women dyin' in Gaza right now.
Where's your fuckin' Arab money, huh?

Misc: Facebook Politics in Egypt; Taqwacores; Art in Palestine; The Nasty: Gaza?

1. Facebook Egypt: The New York Times Sunday Magazine yesterday had a very interesting article about Facebook politics in Egypt, focusing on the April 6 Youth Movement in support of striking Egyptian textile workers. (Among other things, this line from Egypt's beloved Nubian singer, Mohammed Mounir: “I didn’t need to repent; loving Egypt is not a sin.”) And it tells us that the US government is deeply interested:

James Glassman, the outgoing under secretary of state for public diplomacy, told me he followed the group closely. “It’s not easy in Egypt, and in other countries in the Middle East, to form robust civil-society organizations,” he said. “And in a way that’s what these groups are doing, although they’re certainly unconventional.”

Other State Department officials told me they believe that social-networking software like Facebook’s has the potential to become a powerful pro-democracy tool. They pointed to recent developments in Saudi Arabia, where in November a Facebook group helped organize a national hunger strike against the kingdom’s imprisonment of political opponents, and in Colombia, where activists last February used Facebook to organize one of the largest protests ever held in that country, a nationwide series of demonstrations against the FARC insurgency. Not long ago, the State Department created its own group on Facebook called “Alliance of Youth Movements,” a coalition of groups from a dozen countries who use Facebook for political organizing. Last month, they brought an international collection of young online political activists, including one from the April 6 group, as well as Facebook executives and representatives from Google and MTV, to New York for a three-day conference.

2. Taqwacores: A post on this is long overdue. The LA Times on a teenage Muslim punk/taqwacore in Sugarland, Texas. "Muhammad was a punk rocker, he tore everything down. Muhammad was a punk rocker and he rocked that town."

PS: The Kominas, oldschool taqwacores, will be playing at South by Southwest this March. More on this later.

3. Palestine Art: I just learned about this book, Palestine, rien ne nous manque ici (Palestine, We Lack Nothing Here), ed. Adila Laidi-Hanieh. It is described as follows: "Ce livre est le premier à penser une Palestine contemporaine de manière introspective, multidisciplinaire et critique, telle que vécue et perçue par des artistes et intellectuels Palestiniens et non Palestiniens internationalement confirmés et émergents, a travers des textes en majorité inédits - dont trois nouveaux textes de Mahmoud Darwich."

The editor, who has taught at Birzeit University and is now working on a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies at George Mason University, will speak on "The Palestinian Paradox: Post Modern Globalized Cultural Practices under Colonialism," on February 6, at
7:00 PM, at Cabinet Magazine’s Open Event & Exhibition Space, 300 Nevins St, Brooklyn, NY. Sponsored by Arteast.

4. Cincinnati: The Arts section of yesterday's NYT reminds us that Cincinnati was a major, but forgotten player in the development of rock and soul and R&B in the US. And that the scene, developed by King Records beginning in the 1940s, was as cross-racial as that in the much better known hothouse of Memphis. I was cheered to learn that it was Bootsy Collins who has played a major role in preserving, and reviving, the memory of King Records, run by the irrascible genius Syd Nathan. Didn't know that Wynonie Harris' "Bloodshot Eyes" was originally a country song, or that The Stanley Brothers recorded Hank Ballard's "Finger Poppin' Time."

5. Forget Gaza?: Robert Fisk reminds us why we had a right to expect Obama to talk about Gaza, Israel and Palestine at his inauguration address:

Did Obama's young speech-writer not realise that talking about black rights – why a black man's father might not have been served in a restaurant 60 years ago – would concentrate Arab minds on the fate of a people who gained the vote only three years ago but were then punished because they voted for the wrong people? It wasn't a question of the elephant in the china shop. It was the sheer amount of corpses heaped up on the floor of the china shop.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inauguration Memorabilia: "This Land Is Your Land"--The Unexpurgated Version

I'm so glad Pete Seeger lived to see the day, and to teach millions the real lyrics to "This Land Is Your Land." To strike a blow for social solidarity and against the dogmas of private property. If only the backing choir had all been wearing red!

Ben Affleck, Annie Lennox, Tony Shalhoub on Gaza

Ben Affleck comes correct! From Angry Arab, I learned about this report by Mary Ann Akers, from the Google inaugural party:

Affleck was railing about the Israeli invasion of Gaza. And, thanks to his special access, he said he has already registered his concerns with the highest echelons of the Obama administration. He said he gave White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel an earful about Israel at a private dinner the night before."

It pays to have an agent who is the brother of the new White House chief of staff. Affleck's agent is Ari Emanuel, the model for obnoxious Hollywood super agent Ari Gold in the hit HBO show "Entourage."

I had understood that Ben Affleck was of Arab origin, from the same family as Michel 'Aflaq, founder of the Ba'ath Party. I've not found conclusive evidence, however. Poking around, however, I did find this youtube clip, and learned that he has spoken out about such issues before. Check it out. I have been somewhat lukewarm about Affleck as an actor; my estimation of him as an honorable human being has just risen.

Meanwhile, I also learned, courtesty of the amazing music blog, BigO, that Annie Lennox was criticized for her high-profile activities against Israel's assault on Gaza, in an open letter published in The Jerusalem Post. BigO reproduces her very sensible response, which she published on her myspace page. (Presumably the Post didn't want to publish it.)

The Muslim Public Affairs Council has organized a Benefit Concert for Gaza, to be held today on USC campus, with Michelle Shocked as the headliner. Tony Shalhoub, Casey Kasem and Salam Al-Marayati have issued a letter endorsing the event. Here's an excerpt:

On January 7th, a senior U.N. official in Gaza declared, "I want to tell the world's leaders something: You are not to sleep, eat or drink until you stop the killing of innocent people in the Gaza Strip." On that same day, Cardinal Renato Martino, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on Peace and Justice, said "Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp."

Let's hope we hear more from Tony Shalhoub (Monk) too.

Monday, January 19, 2009

After the War on Gaza, the Kufiya is More Alive than Ever

If you've been watching any news about Gaza and the protests against it over the past three weeks, especially if you've been checking out Al Jazeera English (or Arabic), you've seen lots of kufiyas. Solidarity with Palestinians is at an all-time high--except in the US.

Robert Fisk, reporting from Lebanon in The Independent, notes today:

"Europe laughs while Palestinians mourn their dead. No wonder that in the streets of Beirut, shops were doing a flourishing trade in Palestinian scarves and flags. Even some of Palestine's most serious enemies in Lebanon wore the Palestinian keffiyeh in solidarity with the people of Gaza."

Be sure to read the entire article.

Here's a photo of a kufiya-garbed Lebanese woman, at a demonstration organized by Lebanese leftists at the Canadian Embassy in Beirut, January 13. They were protesting the fact that Canada's delegation cast the only vote against the UN Human Rights Council resolution criticizing Israel's actions in Gaza. Courtesy Radical Beirut.

Invincible, "The Emperor's Clothes": MORE GAZA MUSIC

Invincible (Detroit) has just put out a rap track about Gaza, produced by the inimitable K-Salaam and Beatnick, called "The Emperor's Clothes." You need to download it, you need to listen, you need to circulate everywhere. Go here to get it, to read more about it, and to check out additional music and videos from Invincible. (The download requires that you sign up for divShare, which will only take a few seconds.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hip-Hop benefit for Gaza

I'm posting the day before the event, but I just wanted to note that it is occurring: 2 hip-hop benefits for Gaza. About time! If you can't attend, you could still send money to American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), to help the Gazans.

Note in particular the participation of Immortal Technique. I really like the sound and the politics of his album, The 3rd World.

And also, Sabreena da Witch (Abeer), who appears in Jackie Salloum's film about Palestinian rap, Slingshot HipHop. Check out her myspace page here.

And, DJ K-Salaam, an Iranian-American. His mixtape with Beatnick, NY Is Burning, is terrific. (And the cover features a kufiya.)

Here's the announcement I received via Facebook:

Enraged by the news about Gaza?

Come out on MLK weekend to find strength, community, and the will to challenge our government’s unconditional support of Israeli's actions.

Musicians, hip hop artists, poets, and visual artists concerned about the ongoing attacks on Gaza come together for two public performance events this Sunday, January 18th

Two Sister Events:

HANDS OFF GAZA: Excerpts from the documentary “Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land," performance, poetry, and video messages from Palestinian musicians Shadia Mansour and DAM. 5-7 pm, Alwan for the Arts, 16 Beaver St, 4th floor (between Broad and Broadway), Manhattan. $20 suggested donation… no one turned away.

I (HEART) GAZA: A night of hip hop, dancing, and artistic resistance.
9pm- 4am @ Sugarland 221 N 9th St (between Driggs Ave & Roebling St)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 21+ (bar) $10 ($5 if you go to HANDS OFF GAZA)

Confirmed performers include:
HANDS OFF GAZA: Immortal Technique, G.O.D, M1 from Dead Prez, Aalikes, Rebel Diaz, Remi Kanazi, Tahani Salah, Khalil al Mustafa, Hasan Salaam, Marcel Cartier, Sabreena Da Witch, and DJ Johnny Juice (Public Enemy)

I (HEART) GAZA: DJ Unconquer'd, Rebel Diaz, DJ K-Salaam, Remi Kanazi, Koba, Queen Godis, Sabreena Da Witch, DJ Oja, Donny Goines + projections: Art and Resistance

The events will be “bridged” by a Subway Freedom March leaving Alwan for the Arts at 7:30pm and ending at Sugarland in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

**100% of the money raised at the events will be donated for Humanitarian aid to Gaza through MAP UK and

Gaza Rally at University of Arkansas; Arkansas' Complicity in White Phosphorus Attacks on Gaza

Demonstrations in solidarity with the people of Gaza and against the deadly Israeli assault continue to occur all over the globe, including the Ozarks. Yesterday about 50 people braved the very cold weather (only slightly above freezing) to protest Israel's bloody attacks on Gaza.

Abel Tomlinson, Amjad Faur, and yours truly addressed the crowd.

Here's an excerpt from my remarks:

I want to add that as Americans, and as Arkansans, we have a special responsibility in this regard. Israel simply would not be able to carry out its murderous attacks without the F-16 jet fighters, the Apache Helicopters, and the high-tech bunker-busting missiles that we supply it. And then there are the bombs containing white phosphorus. White phosphorus is used as a weapon to create a smoke screen hide military operations. But if it hits humans, it can burn the flesh down to the bone.

Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of using white phosphorus in areas of Gaza heavily populated by civilians and it has demanded that Israel stop, as such use constitutes a violation of international law. Palestinian doctors treating burned patients in Gaza say that the burns they see are unlike anything they have seen previously. On Monday, medics in Gaza said at least 60 Palestinians, many of them children, had been burned by suspected phosphorus shells. I urge you to look for reports on the internet, to see what children burned by white phosphorus look like. You will be horrified. And yesterday, Israeli bombs started fires in a hospital and in a UN compound, and hospital and UN officials claimed these fires were started by phosphorus bombs.

Friends, we are complicit in these war crimes. Israel gets its white phosphorus shells from the US, and these come Pine Bluff Arsenal, in Arkansas, which is the only active site where such weapons are loaded. We need to demand that the US immediately cease supplying weapons to Israel, until it agrees to live in peace with its Palestinian neighbors, and we should put particular pressure on our elected representatives from the state of Arkansas, as well as President elect Obama and soon to be Secretary State. Please write to them and demand that we stop shipping weapons from our state, weapons that are burning children's flesh, to the bone.

Not in our name. In the words of Jeff Lebowski, this aggression will not stand, man. Peace.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Red Flags, Red Kufiyas: Leftists in Lebanon demonstrate in support of Gaza

Angry Arab has been reporting that many demonstrations in Lebanon in solidarity with Gaza have been led by leftists and in particular, the Communist Party. If you read Arabic, here's a report from As-Safir on yesterday's demonstration in Beirut, where thousands marched despite the rain.

The article says that representatives from the Lebanese CP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the Popular Democratic Party (about which I know nothing), as well as leading trade unionists. In addition to the red kufiyas and the red flags with hammer and sickle, posters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Che Guevara, as well as Venezuelan flags, were much in evidence.

Kufiya note: Hamas in Gaza has seized on the red-and-white kufiya as its symbol, in contrast to the Fateh/Arafat black-and-white one. In Lebanon, the leftists go for the red-and-white. Not in solidarity with Hamas, but because red is the socialist color.

(Photo credit: 'Ali Lama')

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Brian Eno, Annie Lennox at London Protests Yesterday

Yesterday in London, an estimated 20,000 (BBC) or 100,000 (the organizers) marched in protest against the Israeli offensive on Gaza. Among the marchers: the venerated musician, Brian Eno, who is presented as one of the many British Jews who participated in the march.

This is not the first time Eno has been involved in protests of this sort. He played in a benefit concert on the same bill with Rachid Taha, Nitin Sawhney, and Imogen Heap back in November 2005, to support England's Stop the War coalition.

Check out the footage from the BBC, with comment from Brian Eno, here.

Annie Lennox was there, too, like last week, and she addressed the crowd:

The main issue that Annie raises is of the children killed in the Israeli invasion, and she holds up a poster with some of the more grisly photos that are circulating. So beware, when you watch the vid. (They are real, they are not phony.) At the end, she calls what is going on "genocide." Please see Juan Cole's post for a defense of this claim. (I learned about Annie's address courtesy of Juan's post.)


I've just read John Hutnyk's post on the London demo, and his comment on the Observer's account of the violence that occurred at the Israeli Embassy. As Hutnyk says, the main factor was "anger at the atrocities and at the introduction of riot cops and mounted police." And Hutnyk includes this photo of one of the young protesters, down for some action. (Thanks, John.)

I learn from the article in the Observer that Bianca Jagger was in attendance, again, and that she addressed the crowd. As did Rev Garth Hewitt, canon at St George's Cathedral in Jerusalem. I didn't meet him, but I'm glad to say that when I was in Jerusalem for two weeks this past June, I stayed at the St. George's Cathedral Guesthouse.

Sunday New York Times: Prevaricating on Gaza, Hiding Gaza

I usually devote a chunk of Sunday a.m. to reading the pages of the New York Times. But whenever there is an outrage involving Israel, it ceases to be a relaxing occupation.

Today, none of the commentators or the editorial columns mention Gaza. There are demonstrations throughout the world, the UN is again raising questions about whether Israel committed war crimes, the US' reputation in the Middle East is in tatters again due to our complicity with the aggression...and nary a word. Maureen Dowd's column mentions the word once--seemingly to cast blame on Cheney for whatever it is she thinks he has to do with it, but it's entirely unclear. Tom Friedman, Frank Rich, Nick Kristoff, and guest columnist Bono: nothing.

There is a column from the ombudsman or Public Editor who addresses claims from "both sides" that the Times' coverage is biased one way or another, and argues that it is essentially "balanced." See the Angry Arab for daily demolitions of that claim.

Here's what really got my goat. On page 2 of the Week in Review section, "An Eyeful in Gaza," which recaps events of the past week, the Times writes: "In hopes of weakening Hamas, Israel has blockaded shipments of goods into Gaza in varying degrees since the militant group violently seized full power in the territory in 2007..."

Sanctions against Gaza were imposed by Israel, the US and the EU in the wake of parliamentary elections in January 2006. The sanctions included restrictions on the movement of goods and people. Such restrictions, aimed at a democratically elected government, were a prelude to the more severe restrictions imposed after Hamas fully took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007. It's important to recall that this was in response to threats of a Fateh coup. Read Ali Abunimeh on this here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gaza vigil in Fayetteville, AR

GAZA children, 260 killed
Originally uploaded by tsweden
50,000 in Alexandria, Egypt
10-12,000 in London
300 in Austin, TX
20,000 in DC today, maybe
45 in Fayetteville Arkansas

Stop this war!

Here's Al Vick's post on the vigil.

My photos on flickr are here.

And a report by local t.v. news, a bit hazy on details.

Friday, January 09, 2009

In case you need a Gaza soundtrack

Gaza has never been known as a central node in Palestinian cultural life, but here are a few musical offerings, from Gaza, and related to Gaza.
1. L’Ensemble Musical de Palestine, founded in Gaza in September 2004, plays traditional Palestinian folk tunes as well as numbers from the Arabic modernist canon (Sayed Darwish, Muhammad Abdul Wahhab, Umm Kalthoum). They have a very fine CD, called Gaza, available for downloading from iTunes,, and emusic, released by the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation. Highly recommended.

2. You can listen to the Gaza rap group P.R.-The Palestinian Rapperz, on their myspace page. Their composition and flow are quite good, and they make interesting use of Arabic instruments in their mix. I have no idea how they are surviving the current onslaught. They were scheduled to perform at Al Helal Center, Gaza, on January 15.

Here's an article about them from Time magazine; there are more on their myspace page.

PR are featured in Jackie Salloum's documentary about Palestinian rap, Slingshot Hip-Hop.

Check out the Gaza rap group RFM too, on their myspace page. You can listen to the group and watch videos.

3. Here's an article about how well-loved Israeli popular music has been in Gaza, specifically music performed by Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern background, or Mizrahim. Particularly well-loved was Zehava Ben, an Israeli Jew of Moroccan background, who actually performed in Gaza sometime after 1994. Also mentioned is Dodo Yasmine.

In the 70s and 80s and into the 90s, when Gaza Palestinians in large numbers worked in Israel, in construction and agriculture and the like, it was not unusual for them to make friends with Israelis they worked with, and particularly Mizrahim, who after all are essentially Arab Jews. Since Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in August 2005, turning Gaza into a virtual prison, such connections of culture and friendship have become increasingly tenuous. But they are important to remember such ties between Gaza Palestinians and Israeli Jews, and especially Mizrahim.

4. I mentioned a couple Gaza-themed songs in an earlier post (Muslimgauze's "Curfew, Gaza," from the album Zul'm, and Shackelford's "Hamas Rule" from Soundboy Punishments.

I've found a couple more worth mentioning. From the Salt Lake City metal/sludge/grindcore band named Gaza, there is the track "Kasam Rocket," off the EP East. I presume (without knowing, really) that the names Gaza and Kasam Rocket are meant as provocations rather than any sign of support for Hamas. Then there is the experimental/dub track, "#1 in Gaza This Week," from the group Elders of Zion, off the album Dawn Refuses to Die (2002). (Download the track from Amazon.) It's very wild, dissonant and explosive. The album was released to coincide with the publication of band member Joel Schalit's book, The Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a Geography of Opposition.

From Checkpoint 303, a collaborative project of "tunisian sound cutter SC MoCha" and "Bethlehem based palestinian sound catcher SC Yosh," there is the track "Gaza Calling" (download here). It features a phone call of a Gazan, trying to reach the United Nations, trying, in vain, to get some help. (Sound familiar?) Read electronic intifada's report on Checkpoint 303 here, and check out their webpage for more music and more info.

And then there is this brand new one, a rap number called "A Song for Gaza," from a rapper who seems to be based in the UAE, called Illuminarcy. Download it here. I love the blog's photo, which is a drawing of Umm Kalthoum saying "Bus al-wawa," (Kiss the booboo), which was a hit for Haifa Wehbe. Cracks me up. I like the sentiment of Illuminarcy's song but don't love the song itself. But you decide.

So....adjust your personal soundscape to the current crisis. Let me know if you think of other songs I should add.

Purple and Heart Kufiya: Courtesy Hot Topic (Big Hair is Extra)

This is absolutely perfect for wearing to all those rallies you are going to in support of the people of Gaza. The hearts will demonstrate your empathy for all the casualties of Israel's aggression.

Buy it at Hot Topic. (Thanks, Laine!)

Essential reading before you head out to the demo:

Naomi Klein, "Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction"

Rashid Khalidi, "What You Don't Know about Gaza"

Avi Shlaim, "How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe"

Saree Makdisi, "What Kind of Security Will This Barbarism Bring Israel?"

RIP Ron Asheton, Stooges' guitarist

Ron Asheton, original guitarist for The Stooges, was found dead on January 6.

I love his guitar work on "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

But here's the hawgblawg angle. I remember reading in one of the Incredibly Strange Music volumes--but I can't find the source right now--that when Iggy was rehearsing with Ron Asheton, his brother Scott (drums) and Dave Alexander (bass), he used to put on an album of Bedouin music from the Sinai, to inspire them.

Strange influences...(I hope I can track down the actual source soon.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Gaza crisis miscellaneous

I don't attempt in any way on this blog to do what very fine Middle East-related blogs like Abu Aardvark or Angry Arab or Informed Comment or Just World News (see my "Fellow Travelers" on the right) do--keep up a running account and commentary on current events. Yet when a crisis like what is going on in Gaza breaks out, I spend most of my time obsessing about it and reading, listening and watching the news. And so before I post on my usual, "frivolous," culture-related subjects, I feel somehow compelled to comment on what is going on. So to put my mind at rest, and before I move on to the normal if irregular flow of comment on kufiyas and music and whatnot, I do have a few things to say about Gaza.

First, one of my favorite commentators is Frank Rich. For the last few years, the virtually first thing I have done every Sunday is to get the New York Times off the front porch and go straight to Rich's column and read it over tea and, usually, pancakes. During the Bush years, the commentary has been bracing and incisive. But this Sunday, my disappoint over Rich was almost as great as my disappoint about Rachel Maddow's Gaza coverage. In the case of Rich, it was not what he said but what he didn't say. In a column that was a postmortem on all of Bush's failures over the past eight years and the horrific mess he has left the US in, he failed to address the effect that Israel's Gaza outrage is having--and will continue to have into the foreseeable future--on the US image in the Middle East. He does actually mention Gaza but he states that Bush's failure here was to push for elections in Palestine, which brought Gaza to power in a landslide. In other words, Bush's failure when it comes to Palestine is that he brought Hamas to power. Not his failure to do anything to limit Israel's ongoing colonization of the West Bank or its embargo of Gaza and its periodic deadly assaults. So Rich goes right along with the US media and political elite consensus on Gaza: it's all Hamas' fault. Not even a word about Palestinian civilian casualties.

I read this article later in the day, from Editor & Publisher, which makes clear that Rich's failure to say anything really, is quite in line with what the New York Times has been doing ever since the invasion began:

Israel launched its much-anticipated invasion of Gaza on Saturday. For over a week, U.S. media had provided largely one-sided coverage of the conflict, with little editorializing or commentary arguing against broader Israeli actions.

Most notably, after more than eight days of Israeli bombing and Hamas rocket launching in Gaza, The New York Times had produced exactly one editorial, not a single commentary by any of its columnists, and only two op-eds (one already published elsewhere). The editorial, several days ago, did argue against the wisdom of a ground invasion - - but even though that invasion had become ever more likely all week the paper did not return to this subject.

Amazingly, the paper has kept that silence going in Sunday's and even Monday's paper, with no editorial or columnist comment on the Israeli invasion -- beyond a hawkish pro-invasion contribution by William Kristol. It's as if the Times is waiting for the invasion to be over and adapt its position to the outcome.

So where do you go if you want to follow the crisis and get decent information? (And feed the obsession...) I keep finding new sources. I mentioned some last week, and of course there are the blogs I mention in the first paragraph. The Guardian and The Independent are regularly producing good reporting and commentary, quite unlike anything we have access to in the US. And one of my favorite blogs, Kabobfest, has really been on top of this one, updating constantly. And as

One of my most recent discoveries is that you can watch Al Jazeera English's streaming broadcasts, in real time, on the internet. You can go to their website and do this, but better yet, download the Livestation application (which works on PC and Mac--yay!) and you can watch it, full screen. If you are interested at all in Gaza, and don't have satellite, you really want to do this. Why? Because Al Jazeera is the only international network with reporters inside the Gaza Strip. So unlike watching all the other networks, where the reporters are standing around on the border with Gaza and watching the bombing taking place from the position of the aggressor, from Al Jazeera you get actual footage and reports from the inside. It's really horrific and appalling and infuriating and tear-inducing. You must watch it!

What I wonder sometimes, however, if all this information that is available--if you know where to get it--doesn't turn us into, well, passive observers. I wonder whether I don't spend way too much time trying to stay up to date and read and watch and listen to all the commentary. As opposed to, say writing letters to the editor, trying to convince others who know next to nothing about what is going on, or organizing protests. I have to admit, I have trouble keeping myself away from the (not mainstream US) media coverage...Don't get too hooked.

On the other hand I don't have much trouble staying away from the mainstream media, because every time I watch or read, I am infuriated. Angry Arab is doing a great job of exposing how horrible a job Taghreed El Khodary is doing for the New York Times. Just because an "Arab" is reporting doesn't mean it isn't basically Israeli propaganda. I had the unhappy experience of watching Octavia Nasr comment on CNN for a few minutes yesterday. She is unbelievably dumb, and does nothing to correct the most basic, Orientalist, anti-Arab prejudices of the anchors.

But here is a brief ray of hope: check out this report on CBS, where they do a phone interview a Norwegian doctor, Mads Gilbert, who is working in a Gaza Hospital. He says it's hell, like Dante's Inferno. That he's seen only one military casualty. That fifty percent of the 2500 wounded are women and children, and so on. (I should add that if you watch Al Jazeera English, you are likely to see, as I did, an on-camera interview with Mads Gilbert, at the hospital, with a nonstop stream of wounded showing up. Much more vivid, much more compelling. But then, Israel won't let foreign correspondents into Gaza, to better manage the spin of the news. And none of them are complaining.)

I learned about this CBS broadcast from Juan Cole's Informed Comment. He suggests that you take this information about civilian casualties and write your Senators and Congresspeople and President. He also gives a link making it easy to do so. I took a bit of time off from watching the news flow and sent notes to Bush and Sens. Lincoln and Prior and Congressman Boozman. Please do the same and write your elected representatives.

(I promise, more future posts on music and culture and the like. But with a political flavor...)

UPDATE: I just found this youtube video of an Al Jazeera interview with the Norwegian physician, from Dec. 31.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Celebrities among the tens of thousands of Europeans demonstrating against Israeli assault on Gaza

Annie Lennox (C), Bianca Jagger (2nd R) and British politician George Galloway (L) march through London with thousands of protestors in London, Britain, 03 January 2009. A series of demonstrations took place across Britain against the Israeli air strikes on Gaza. The protests are being held at 18 locations including Portsmouth, Manchester, Hull, London and Glasgow. EPA/ANDY RAIN

In London, today, among the 10-12,000 demonstrators were Bianca Jagger, Annie Lennox (ex-Eurythmics) and comedian Alexei Sayle, according to the New York Times.

For the record, Bianca Jagger's daughter Jade donated money at charity event for Palestinian children sponsored by the Hoping Foundation back in May 2007. So apparently critical thinking on Palestine-Israel runs in the family, or at least the female side of it.

You gotta love it, demonstrators threw shoes at 10 Downing St. (Britain's government is part of Israel's cover too, along with the US). And there were lots of kufiyas. Please note the kufiya on the woman standing next to Annie, below, and the Palestinian flag.


Postscript: about 1/2 hour after I first posted this.

'In Paris, more than 20,000 demonstrators, many wearing Arab keffiyeh headscarves, chanted slogans like "Israel murderer!"' (Reuters, via NYT). And Israeli ground troops are now headed in...

Friday, January 02, 2009

Another Justin Timberlake Kufiyaspotting

Check out this video, "Jizz in My Pants," from The Lonely Island. Justin Timberlake appears throughout, as the d.j., and he is wearing one of those trompe l'oeil kufiya t-shirts. (Thanks, Laine.) You can see the t-shirt best at 2:24. (The video aired on Dec. 6 on SNL.)

Justin, of course, has been kufiyaspotted before, at the 2007 MTV Music Awards.

Any chance he has any positive views of the Palestinians?

Members of The Lonely Island wear faux kufiyas on occasion, too. I can't say I'm too fond of this song. Lame juvenile humor is how I see it.

Hollywood stars dissociate themselves from diamond store connected to Israeli settlements

One reason I make an effort to kufiyaspot celebrities is that I don't think that stars are inevitably and necessarily idiots. We simply can't assume that when a celebrity like Cameron Diaz puts on a kufiya, it is "just" a matter of fashion, and could not be in any way political. (And in fact I have argued that on at least one occasion when Cameron was kufiyaspotted, there might well have been a kind of political gesture.)

This report would seem to bear out my claim. It also provides a bit of New Years cheer, a bit of relief from the Gaza onslaught which I can't seem to pull myself away from. I found this out courtesy of the invaluable Kabobfest, who got it from al-Arabiya. I reproduce the al-Arabiya article in full below. More comments follow.

Actresses refuse to be linked to 'unethical' business
Hollywood stars shun pro-Israeli diamond store

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Hollywood stars have called for their pictures to be removed from the website of a diamond company that is associated with settlement expansion in Israel and human rights violations in Africa.

The diamond stores owned by Jewish-American billionaire Lev Leviev had to remove pictures of several actresses after they complained of being linked to a company that funds settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories, a statement issued by the pro-Palestinian human rights group Adalah- New York said.

The actresses include Salma Hayek, Sharon Stone, Whitney Houston, Halle Berry, Drew Barrymore, Brooke Shields, Andie Macdowell, and Lucy Liu. The celebrities were contacted by the rights group Adalah and the New York based 'Jews Against the Occupation' and asked them to distance themselves from a corporation that supports the Zionist project.

The organizations sent letters to the actresses and held negotiations with their representatives to inform them of the human rights violations Leviev is involved in in Palestine and South Africa. As a result the actresses demanded that pictures of them wearing his diamonds were removed from the company's website.

In October, the ambassador of Oxfam International aid agency Kristin Davis demanded that the Leviev's company remove her pictures from its website.

In June, UNICEF announced its refusal to receive any future donations from Leviev for his involvement in building settlements in the West Bank.

UNICEF justified its decision by stating that it does not receive donations from any parties in conflicts.

"We are gratified that these stars have joined UNICEF, Oxfam and a growing list of others who have distanced themselves from Leviev over his companies’ settlement construction in violation of international law in Palestine, and rights abuses in Angola and Namibia," Ethan Heitner from Adalah-NY said.

"Some immediately expressed concern when we explained that Leviev was using their photos to whitewash his unethical business practices," he said, adding "their actions show that Leviev’s wealth and diamonds can’t buy impunity."

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid.)

Go here for Adalah-NY's press release on its successful campaign. Arabiyah does not quite get the story right. According to Adalah, it contacted the artists listed above, and representatives of four of them (the identity of the four is not given) contacted Leviev asking to have their photos removed from the celebrity section of the Leviev website ( Following the complaints, Leviev's staff removed the entire celebrity section. (Adalah had not yet contacted the following stars whose photos were also up on the site: HRH Princess Michael of Kent, Ginnifer Goodwin, Katharine McPhee, Teri Hatcher, Lauren Graham, Estelle Lefebure, Zara and Dita Von Teese.)
I wish I knew which four! I'm guessing "yes" on Salma Hayek (whose father is of Lebanese descent, and who was simply terrific in the Mexican film version of Midaq Alley, based on Naguib Mahfouz's celebrated novel) and "no" on Sharon Stone, who not so long ago visited Israel and was fawning all over Shimon Peres.

But who knows? The point is, pro-Palestinian groups contacted celebrities and persuaded them to make a positive political gesture.

(And if the motivation had more to do with Leviev's nefarious Africa activities than with his involvement in settlements, so what?)

Bravo, Adalah-NY and Jews Against the Occupation.

Go here for Adalah-NY's very thorough report on Leviev and his extensive involvement in illegal settlement activity.

The difference between US and UK coverage of Gaza

These two headlines about sum it up.

Britain's The Guardian, yesterday: "Israel defies peacemakers and prepares for invasion."

From today's New York Times: "In a Broadening Offensive, Israel Steps Up Diplomacy."

The Guardian goes on to tell us, "Israel has defied a formidable international consensus in favour of a ceasefire in Gaza by opting to continue its unprecedentedly fierce air attacks on Hamas targets and stepping up preparations for a possible ground offensive." Read the rest of the article here.

Meanwhile, the New York Times tells us, "With Israeli troops and tanks massing along the border with Gaza in preparation for a possible ground invasion, Israel also pursued diplomatic avenues to explain its positions." The article does go on to tell us that the EU is calling for an immediate ceasefire, and that Sarkozy is pushing for the same thing, but the piece is spun entirely from the point of view of Israel and the efforts of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to argue that Israel needs more time to carry out its military operations in Gaza. That is, what matters most for the New York Times is Israel's position, and the "formidable international consensus" apparently matters not one bit.

"Diplomacy," for the New York Times, means arguing for more time for war. War is peace.