A Pro-Israel Anti-Semite? Not as Strange as you Might Think

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President-Elect Donald Trump

While President-elect Donald Trump has made lots of news this week as he begins his transition to the White House, one appointment has stood above the rest. Trump has appointed Steve Bannon, his campaign CEO and executive chairman of the white nationalist and anti-Semitic website Breitbart News, to the position of “chief strategist.” Steve Bannon is an idol of the white nationalist right and holds deeply anti-Semitic views. In addition to dealing in common anti-Semitic tropes on Breitbart News, Bannon reportedly refused to enroll his daughter in a school because of “the number of Jews that attend.” Upon news of his appointment, the head of the Anti-Defamation League immediately and strongly opposed his appointment on the grounds of his virulently racist views. Even the staunchly pro-Israel and right wing AIPAC was “apoplectic” about his appointment. However, the news website Bannon runs  was conceived in Israel, is avowedly pro-Israel (featuring a particularly right-wing Zionist narrative) and even has a Jerusalem bureau. Continue reading “A Pro-Israel Anti-Semite? Not as Strange as you Might Think”

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Syria’s Palestinian Refugees: Stateless and Under Threat

For many Palestinians, the experience of being displaced is not a singular event in the past but an ongoing process. Many Palestinians who became refugees in the Nakba in 1948 were displaced once again in the 1967 June War, Black September in 1971, or the Lebanese Civil War. The Syrian Civil war is the latest incident of mass Palestinian displacement. Syria was once home to more than half a million Palestinian refugees and was an important political, economic and social base for the exiled Palestinian national movement. While lacking citizenship, Palestinian refugees received relatively wide-ranging rights in Syria. However, fleeing alongside Syrians during the ongoing civil war, Palestinian Refugees from Syria (PRS) have faced special hardship due to their Palestinian identity and lack of citizenship. Continue reading “Syria’s Palestinian Refugees: Stateless and Under Threat”

Identity and Gender: Women’s Unequal Right to Citizenship in the Middle East

A Lebanese woman holds up a banner durin

A recent UN High Commissioner for Refugees report revealed that 27 countries limit women’s ability to pass their nationality onto their children or spouses. Twelve of these are in the Arab Middle East and North Africa. If you include the partially recognized State of Palestine, 13 of the Arab League’s 22 member states have such restrictions. In many of these countries, citizenship is conditioned on birth to a citizen father. Therefore, unlike men who marry foreigners and have children, women in these countries are often unable to pass their nationality onto their foreign-born or stateless husbands or their children.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of people across these countries lack the rights that come with full citizenship in the countries in which they were often born, raised and spent their entire lives. Some recent reforms have attempted to alleviate in part the difficulties that accompany these regulations. However, for political and ideological reasons, these limits remain in place.

Lebanon is one such country. Continue reading “Identity and Gender: Women’s Unequal Right to Citizenship in the Middle East”

We bark, but we don’t bite. (And you better not, either)

Two very typical things regarding Palestine occurred recently. The first relates to the passage by the UN Human Rights Council of a resolution to condemn companies that benefit from and facilitate the building of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. It also calls on the Council to compile a list, updated yearly, of such companies. The EU and the US, at Israel’s urging, sought to blackmail the PA into removing the article about the database in return for supporting the rest of the resolution (after failing to bully the into PA withdrawing resolution in its entirety).

What this illustrates, once again, is that western powers are perfectly happy to condemn the illegal actions of Israel that they tacitly support and facilitate, but refuse to take action and seek to ban all others from taking action. Countless times, we have heard that settlements harm the peace process. Countless times, the US, UK, EU and Canada have condemned the appropriation of Palestinian land for the building of such settlements. The US even has a law stating that products made in settlements may not be labeled “Made in Israel.” Despite all this, no action is taken by the liberal, democratic, human rights defending western powers. These laws are not enforced. No pressure is put upon Israel to stop its expansionists policies. Israel known this, and the Netanyahu government seems to take special pleasure in announcing the appropriation of West Bank land and the issuing of permits for building more settlement houses on occasions of visits by Vice President Joe Biden. Continue reading “We bark, but we don’t bite. (And you better not, either)”

Rhetorical Terrorism

Terror is a name that is never assumed but always tendered. The taxonomy that transforms it from a practice into an identity is always particular. State power designates certain practices as terror and christens those who commit them as terrorists.

-Joseph Massad, The Persistence of the Palestine Question

 

We are accused of terrorism

If we defended the land

And the honor of the dust

If we revolted against the rape of our people

And our rape

If we defended the last palm tree in our desert

The last stars in our sky

The last syllabi of our names

The last milk in our mothers’ bosoms

-Nizar Qabbani, “I am with Terrorism”

 

“Semantic satiation” is the process by which the repetition of a word causes it to temporarily lose meaning, rendering it empty sounds it to ears of the speaker. This process is being performed in front of our eyes (or ears) by media, politicians and the public at large with a particular pernicious word: ‘terrorism.’ According to conventional definitions, terrorism is politically motivated violence aimed at creating terror. However, as more and more violence is being carried out across the world by states, non-state actors and individuals, the use of the word has proliferated in tandem. Whether or not these acts of violence are actually terrorism according to the definition is irrelevant; the word is used regardless. When actual acts of terrorism are carried out therefore, describing them as terrorist seems to be pointless as semantic satiation has rendered the word meaningless. Continue reading “Rhetorical Terrorism”

By Way of Introduction

Discourse is not simply that which translates struggles or systems of domination, but is the thing for which and by which there is struggle, discourse is the power which is to be seized.

Michel Foucault

The empire struck with discourse and it is possible to discourse directly back. Discourse sugarcoats violence.

Zeina B. Ghandour

One could argue that I live in an echo chamber of my own creation. The news sources, online resources, writers and activists from which I get my news are chosen for a simple specific reason: I like what they say and how they say it. When I read something that is particularly offensive or reactionary from whichever politician or mainstream news source that may have said it, I usually read it by way of progressive, critical, thoughtful writers and advocates who package the offending quote with cogent criticism. As such, I am largely unable (or perhaps unwilling) to gauge the mainstream reaction to events such as the brutal murder of a 16 year old girl in Palestine because of the suspicion that she was attempting to stab a settler. I, however, do not see this as limiting my intellectual analysis or ability to critically engage with opinions with which I do not agree. Rather, I see this community of journalists, activists and writers engaging in a vital process of producing and honing, in conversation with one another, alternative discourses that challenge the dominant narratives produced by those in power. The producers of these alternative discourses worry not about balance or objectivity. They rightly recognize that in order to be perceived as balanced, they would have to shed all frameworks, histories or narratives that the dominant discourse deems unacceptable. In doing so, they would sacrifice the very crux of the issue they were trying to discuss. Continue reading “By Way of Introduction”