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Globalisation Café

I’m very happy to announce the launch of a new website about globalisation!

It is designed to make discussion and analysis of globalisation more accessible. You can see the website by clicking hereGlobalisationCafeThere is a space for contributions so I hope some of you will get involved!!!

 

 

Syria after Ghouta: the urge to act, and the need to act wisely

AsadAccording to US Secretary of State, John Kerry, there is no doubt that the ruling Asad regime isresponsible for what was apparently a horrific gas attack in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, on 21 August 2013. Given the so called ‘red line’ that was articulated by President Obama a year ago, and several times since, over the use of chemical weapons, it is unsurprising that the western allies are preparing themselves for some kind of intervention….

Read the rest at ThinkIR

SÍRIA: A LÓGICA FALHA DE UMA GUERRA CIVIL

capaI’m honoured to report that one of my previous pieces – The flawed logic of a Sunni vs. Shi‘a ‘civil war’ – for ThinkIR has been translated into Portuguese and featured on the front cover of the latest edition of our Brazilian partner publication ‘O Debatedouro‘.

I’m extremely grateful to my friend and colleague Dr Lucas G. Freire – who is also featured in the magazine – for facilitating this exciting partnership!

You can access the edition (PDF Download) here and read the original article in English here.

Mahmoud Darwish

Given that this blog takes its name from a line of one of Mahmoud Darwish’s poems – made even more famous by the fact it became the title of Edward Said’s famous memoir – it seems only appropriate to mark the passing of five years since Darwish’s death.

Mahmoud Darwish

Mahmoud Darwish

Alongside Said, Darwish must be one of the most famous Palestinians with an appeal that reached out across the Arab world and even managed to break into popular culture in Europe and the US. Born some seven years before the formation of the state of Israel, in al-Birwa in the western Galilee region, Darwish experienced some of the hardships of al-Nakbah (the disaster) himself.

Zionist forces destroyed his village and the family fled to Lebanon. However, unlike the majority of Palestinians who were cleansed from the land in 1948 the Darwish family returned the Acre in 1949, sneaking across the border. The family eventually moved to Deir al-Asad in the Galilee, but were not able to return to the land that they had lost which was now the site of two Israeli settlements.

Darwish earned an education in an Israeli school. But this be no means meant that the family, or indeed any of the Palestinian population in Israel at the time, were treated as equal citizens. In fact Israel maintained a strict policy of keeping its ‘Arab minority’ under military rule until 1986.

Darwish’s mother was illiterate, though he learned to read from his grandfather. According to one obituary, it had been his older brother that first encouraged him to begin writing. Though the young Darwish was exposed to other Arab poetry eventually, though it is interesting to note that initially most of the poetry he would have experienced would have been in Hebrew, either as original texts or translations.

In his youth Darwish endured imprisonment and harassment for his political activism. He became a member of the Israeli communist movement and his poetry appeared in its literary publications. However, in 1970 Darwish moved to Moscow – to attend university for one year – and then to Cairo, he spent the next quarter-century moving between Paris and Beirut, having joined the PLO in 1973 and becoming part of its Executive committee in 1987.

Darwish served in a number of senior positions in the PLO and wrote both Yasir Arafat’s famous speech to the UN in 1974, and the 1988 Palestinian declaration of independence. However, like many other major Palestinian intellectuals, he felt betrayed by the PLO’s embrace of the 1993 Oslo accords and resigned from the organisation.

Darwish as the poet has been called the “Essential Breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging, exquisitely tuned singer of images that invoke, link, and shine a brilliant light into the world’s whole heart.”

Though I am no poetry expert (!) it easy to see how the major themes in Darwish’s work can be understood prima facie as political commentary. Exile, longing and loss are all notions that are clearly associated with the conditions and experiences endured by millions of Palestinians since 1948. Other poems evoke anger and resistance against injustice. Similarly, gendered tropes that feminise the land of Palestine as something to be longed for, like one’s mother’s bread, are also evident.

But Darwish wasn’t only a political poet. As he explained in an interview in 2001, his concern was only to contribute to Palestinian national identity, but also to the broader project of the development of Arab poetry in general.

The fact that Darwish’s poetry was often seen to represent all Palestinians, and embraced particularly enthusiastically by some Western observers and activists – often with an all too superficial grasp on the realities that most Palestinians actually faced and continue to endure – I have found often frustrates many of the Palestinians who I’ve spoken to about him. On many occasions I’ve found that when raising the topic of Darwish with friends and colleagues, it is met with a sigh or rolled eyes.

It is of course possible that it is my understanding of his poetry – which admittedly has mostly been through reading it in translation – that frustrates my interlocutors. On the other hand it might be that it is because Darwish has become such a well-known icon for Palestinian identity that discussions of his work could be taken to be reductive, even insulting. (I can only imagine my reaction if it was repeatedly implied that my own identity could be reduced to the work or actions of a single figure from British history. Sufficed to say I would find it at least annoying; even without necessarily acknowledging the broader power dynamics and my own white privilege!). Either way, at this point my thoughts are merely speculative and thus no reasonably honest analysis can be taken further.

However, what I can say with certainty is that Darwish’s poetry means something to me. It may not be perfect, but I have always found reading it and listening to it – particularly in the author’s own hard, and sometimes rasping, baritone – a rewarding and moving experience. During my studies his work served and an introduction, or re-introduction – for me to several important parts of my life. The most obvious was that his poems helped me see, and come to terms with, a more complex picture of Palestinian identity (though I recognise that this was merely an introduction to a particular set of identities).

It also served as part of my studying Arabic, particularly as I spent many hours working with one of my tutors at Middlebury college on the correct pronunciation for his beautiful “On this earth” which I then got to read in front of a room of other scholars (who were thankfully very generous/forgiving!). But also, it was the experience of enjoying Darwish’s work – as something of a crossover between social science and the ‘real world’ – which also helped trigger a rebirth of my own interest in poetry and literature more generally. I am grateful for that, as it something that has been, sadly, left unattended for too long.

The following youtube video presents one of Darwish’s poems ‘The Dice Player’ with beautiful illustrations. If you don’t click on any of the other links in this post, this is well worth a few moments out of your day.

الف شكر (A thousand thanks!)

ImageWell, on the 14 December I had my Viva Examination at Exeter where I successfully defended my Ph.D. thesis. My examiners were Dr. Adam Hanieh from SOAS, Professor Tim Niblock and it was chaired by Professor Ian Netton. 

I’m hoping to get the thesis published and so I’ll hold off on providing too many details… but I do want to say thank you to all those people who’ve helped me getting this done. So here is the acknowledgements page from my thesis. Please note that because I’ve adopted a blanket policy of anonymity towards Palestinian interviewees – a wise precaution in my view – I have not listed the names of individuals here. Thus if your name is not present this should not be taken for ingratitude. Rather, on my next visit, I hope to thank you in person. Indeed for everyone who has aided me in this endeavour I truly am thankful and humbled by your support.

… It should also be noted that one of the people to whom I extend my thanks currently resides in an Israeli prison. He has faced neither criminal charges nor trial. Yet his condition is not unusual – particularly for young Palestinian males – and it serves to remind me of the utterly loathsome and, frankly, ludicrous nature of this occupation. The situation in general, and his condition in particular, are intolerable, untenable, and an affront to basic human dignity. 

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Galtung’s ‘Structural Violence’ and the Sierra Leone Civil War c.1985-1992

This is an old paper (first published on Resolve the online journal of People and Planet in 2007). I’ve recently been reminded of it and found out that unfortunately Resolve appears to have gone offline. Anyway, here it is for the record… any and all comments very welcome!

Galtung’s ‘Structural Violence’ and the Sierra Leone Civil War c.1985-1992

Sierra Leone gained independence from the British Empire in 1961; shortly afterwards democratic elections returned the SLPP (Sierra Leone People Party) to power. The new nation’s initial democratic experience was, however, short lived. 1967 saw the overthrow of Siaka Stevens’ government by a means of a military coup d’etat. Stevens returned himself to office in the following year, this time he also was at the head of a military rebellion. The events of 1967-1968 began a period of dictatorship that transformed Sierra Leone into a de jure one party regime by 1978 (81 Adebajo, 2002). When Stevens retired in 1985 his erstwhile deputy Major-General Joseph Saidu Momoh took over the presidency of a country in economic turmoil. Momoh would lead Sierra Leone for only six years before the outbreak of one of recent history’s most bloody conflicts in 1991.

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Torture Widespread Based On New U.S. Waterboarding Evidence

Video

“Human Rights Watch said it has uncovered evidence of a wider use of waterboarding than previously acknowledged by the CIA, in a report Thursday detailing brutal treatment of detainees at U.S.-run lockups abroad after the 9/11 attacks. The accounts by two former Libyan detainees who said they underwent simulated drowning emerge only days after the Justice Department closed its investigation of the CIA’s use of severe interrogation methods. Investigators said they could not prove any agents crossed the lines authorized by the Bush administration in the “war on terror” program of detention and rendition. Any new instances of waterboarding, however, would go beyond the three that the CIA has said were authorized…”.* The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks it down.

*Read more here from SARAH EL DEEB and LEE KEATH of the AP published in The Huffington Post.

 

Edward Said: The Orientalist Express: Thomas Friedman Wraps Up the Middle East

I haven’t posted anything in a while. Sorry. Managing my job and finishing the PhD has pretty much eaten all of my time recently, but I’m hopeful that in a couple of weeks at least one of those things will have gone away and I’ve got a few ideas of what I want to get stuck into then.

Anyway, I just started reading ‘The Imperial Messenger‘ by Belén Fernández – a polemical assault on (that Captain of the good ship USS Cliché and Cheif Quarterback of the team mixed metaphors) Tom Friedman. Thus far its been a great read – punchy but also meticulous in its exposition of Friedman’s epic twaddlings. I know Friedman’s work divides opinions and I’ve found that often my distaste for him has upset some friends. So I’ll make sure I write a fuller review of the book when I’ve finished it.

But, in the meantime I’ve posted below a review of one of Friedman’s earlier works ‘From Beirut to Jerusalem: One Man’s Middle Eastern Odyssey’ (which is quoted by Fernández) – a book that is often seen as representing the ‘best’ of Tom Friedman – the review is by Edward Said and was published in Village Voice in 1989. 

Edward Said: The Orientalist Express: Thomas Friedman Wraps Up the Middle East

On the face of it, From Beirut to Jerusalem is a reporter’s journal of a decade in the Middle East spent first as UPI correspondent for a couple of years, then as New York Times bureau chief in two major centers. Between 1979 and 1984 Friedman was stationed in Beirut where he covered the civil war, the Israeli invasion of 1982, and the country’s tragic dissolution thereafter. He then moved to Jerusalem (traveling rather ostentatiously across the Lebanese-Israeli border with his golf clubs), where he wrote about the Israeli political scene, with particular attention to the intifadah. He remained in Israel until mid-1988. He then returned home to become the Times man in Washington. For his Middle Eastern coverage Friedman won two Pulitzer prizes, both of them, interestingly enough, about major Palestinian events: the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres, and the uprising or intifadah that began in late 1987 and continues to the present.

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Launch of the Palestine Studies Group website

I’m very happy to announce that the website for the Palestine Studies Group has been launched and is accessible here.

My colleagues at Exeter,  Jeremy Wildeman and Emile Badarin are the masterminds behind this… and I think they’ve done a great job!!

The aspect of the site I’m associated with is the Palestine Studies Bibliography Project. This is still in its infant stages and we a have a few bugs yet to iron out (not least, my spelling and grammar mistakes). But anyway you can have a look at its to get the basic idea. I’ll be posting some more annotations there as a write them and hopefully as this starts to role, there will be more and more people writing annotations and a wider selection of resources to show.

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