21 September 2014

Gaza's children paint a grim future

Middle East Eye

In the wake of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s latest onslaught on the Gaza Strip, I acquired a series of photographs of drawings by children in the town of Khuza’a in southern Gaza.
Khuza’a had played unwilling host to one of the Israeli army’s many attempts to outdo itself in terms of brutality, with success measurable, perhaps, in the amount of rubble and massacred bodies left behind. The photographs were passed along to me by the Barcelona-based psychoanalyst Lluis Isern, whose colleague in Gaza had sent them to him.
The drawings share many of the features of typical children’s artwork: house, sun, clouds, grass. The scenic similarities come to an abrupt end, however, when one’s eye starts to register additional elements of the landscape -  tanks, missiles, fighter jets, and bulldozers.
In a drawing titled Aggression against Palestine,  a child has drawn an orange, red, blue, and brown house with five similarly multicoloured people standing outside smiling. Two are holding hands. Above them, four projectiles from a green aircraft descend toward the group, while three from a different aircraft head for the house.
Another depicts a variety of tanks, planes, and guns, interspersed with lines of text such as “Gaza will be victorious”, “Palestine resists”, and a tribute to the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.
Obviously, the prominence of the house in children’s pictures across the globe reflects the centrality of the home to a child’s universe. So imagine the mental upheaval that ensues when one’s universe comes under regular attack by the Israeli military - or is destroyed altogether. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

Neoliberal rape in Spain

Al Jazeera

While being interviewed on Spanish radio last month, Francisco Javier Leon de la Riva - the mayor of Valladolid, northwest Spain's largest city - announced that he was wary of getting into elevators with women because you never know when they might "tear off their bras or skirts" and then run out of the elevator claiming sexual assault.

In response, Twitter exploded with creativity (see, for example, memes featuring images of women in elevators and the words "Waiting for the mayor of Valladolid"), and Leon de la Riva protested that his statement had been taken "out of context". One is hard-pressed, of course, to think of a context in which such an utterance would not be terribly inappropriate.

As it turned out, the "context" was just as absurdly offensive, and had to do with a list of guidelines for females that had just been issued by the Spanish interior ministry. The subject? How to avoid being raped.

The document reads a bit more like a list of instructions for creating a nation of paranoid recluses. Suggestions include acquiring a whistle, "leav[ing] the lights in two or more rooms on [at night] to make it look like two or more people are at home", and conducting a thorough inspection of the interior of the car before getting in: "An intruder might be crouching in the back." READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

11 September 2014

Islamic State in the US

Middle East Eye

No sooner had the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) become the latest global obsession than it turned up - where else? - in the United States.
particularly brutal jihadist organisation and the keepers of a new caliphate in the Middle East, IS apparently already maintains sleeper cells in the US. At least, this is what former CIA operative Bob Baer says current intelligence-gatherers have told him.
Now a national security analyst for CNN, Baer remarked in a recent interview: “The people who do this for a living are very alarmed.”
The threat is thus far a bit nebulous, and Baer explains that IS designs for the homeland are unknown. But intelligence professionals “think [the jihadists have] come across the Mexican border in some cases. Some are American citizens that have come back from [fighting in] Syria.”
While making notes for this article a few days ago, I wrote: “Wouldn’t be surprised if we soon learn that IS is in cahoots with Mexican drug cartels.” Sure enough, Fox News produced the following headline on 8 September: “Security Expert: ISIS Could Pay Drug Cartel to Attack U.S. Power Grid.” READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

06 September 2014

Israel’s New Favorite Christians

TeleSUR English

On 3 September, a Haaretz headline proclaimed: “Israeli Christian community, neither Arab nor Palestinian, are fighting to save identity.”
Datelined Baram National Park, Israel, the article is structured around the Aramean Heritage Camp, a late-summer camp in the Upper Galilee for kids from Israel’s Aramean community.
All you need to know about this community, apparently, can be boiled down to two points:
1. They are neither Arab nor Palestinian, although they speak Arabic.
2. They all want to join the IDF.
The article begins: “One camper here says she plans to join the Israel Defense Forces and become a ‘fighter’ after she graduates high school. The boys relaxing in the grass nearby nod their heads to indicate that they plan to do the same.” READ MORE AT TeleSUR ENGLISH.

03 September 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge for a frigid society

Al Jazeera

A recent Forbes article poses the question-and-answer: "Think The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Is Stupid? You're Wrong".

The Ice Bucket Challenge is one of the modern era's greater marketing coups: a social media-based campaign to raise awareness and funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disease. The premise is that you either donate money to ALS charities or have a bucket of ice water dumped over your head; some people do both. The dumping is filmed and videos are posted on the internet, while their soaked protagonists nominate others to accept the challenge.

The operation has been celebrity-heavy, drenching the likes of US business magnate Bill Gates and Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima. According to Forbes, the Ice Bucket Challenge "is awesome" and criticisms of it are unfounded, because what ultimately matters is the monetary accumulation (over $100mwas donated in 30 days).

The article concludes that "the people trying to throw cold water on the Ice Bucket Challenge "simply need to warm the icy cockles of their own hearts" - although the predicate of the sentence has been crossed out and replaced with the tamer suggestion that critics "should stop".

An examination of various aspects of the campaign, however, reveals it doesn't exactly merit cockle-warming. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

Book review: The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising

Middle East Eye

A standard feature of imperialism is that empire-induced disasters are deemed to require imperial solutions, one effect of which is, inevitably, further disaster.
Take the case of al-Qaeda, a force whose development was encouraged by US policy and military machinations. Even the imperial apologist Thomas Friedman has admitted: “It seems likely that some of the Saudi [September 11] hijackers first came in contact with al-Qaeda and went through Terrorism 101 when they signed up for the jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviets.”
The hijackers’ practical application of the lessons from their terrorism course was, obviously, 9/11. In response, the US government prescribed the War on Terror. Thanks in part to that effort, we’ve now got ourselves a caliphate in the Middle East, proclaimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), formerly al-Qaeda in Iraq. The new territorial entity is being attended to by US  drone strikes and other schemes by the empire and its friends.
In his just-released book The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn sets the record straight with regard to the ongoing fiasco and the advance of ISIS - now called simply the Islamic State (IS) - and other jihadist groups. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.