Playing Identity Politics: Israel’s Targeting of Palestinian Christians

Around one fifth of the population of the Jewish state of Israel is not actually Jewish. Most of these around two million people are the descendants of the Palestinians who remained after the 1947-1949 ethnic cleansing that resulted in the founding of Israel. Because they are not Jewish, these Palestinian citizens of Israel are treated as second-class citizens and subject to dozens of discriminatory laws. However, even within this minority, the laws and policies of the state distinguish and discriminate based on religious and ethnic identity. Most recently, attempts have been made to drive a wedge between Christian and Muslim Palestinians within Israel and the occupied West Bank. Continue reading “Playing Identity Politics: Israel’s Targeting of Palestinian Christians”


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”

Elections without Democracy in Jordan

This past week, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan held a general election to select a new parliament, four months after King Abdullah II dissolved the previous government by royal decree. The elections themselves were largely unremarkable. Turnout was underwhelming, with only 37% of registered voters casting ballots. The political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, participating in its first elections since 2007, failed to meet its target number of seats. This was despite the overturn of the electoral system instituted in 1989 to limit the Brotherhood’s influence. Overall, the make-up of the new parliament remains similar to those of the previous two decades, leading analysts to predict that “no radical changes” will occur.

What is remarkable in these elections is the sense of apathy by Jordanians about the latest iteration of the parliament and lack of faith that anything positive will come of it. 87% of those surveyed in June thought that the previous parliament did nothing of note. The massive drop from an already meager 56% turnout in 2013 indicates the widely held belief that its successor will be equally ineffectual. This apathy is a logical reaction to the failure of repeated parliaments to address the same recurring issues of economic hardship and political corruption that have plagued the kingdom for years. As with all of Jordan’s ills, tribal politics remain the go-to scapegoat for explaining the incompetence of the elected parliament. And while family and tribal loyalties do play a role, the major limits on Jordan’s stuttering and unconvincing democratic process have their origins elsewhere. Continue reading “Elections without Democracy in Jordan”

The Neoliberal Lesson not Learned

Flickr - M. Soli - 28th of January - "The Day of Rage" (5)

It was not long before Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in protest of his inability to make a living that the IMF was hailing Tunisia as a poster child for neoliberal restructuring and economic growth. The protests Bouazizi’s actions inspired quickly spread to Egypt, a country similarly lauded for its economic reforms and privatization. The overarching narrative of these revolts in western media fixated on the roles played by youth and social media in these events, depicting them as spontaneous outpourings of discontent calling for democracy.

What this narrative overshadows, however, are the troublesome economic conditions in these countries that resulted from programs of reform and restructuring promoted by International Financial Institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank and IMF and the authoritarian governments of the Arab republics. Dangerously, the failure to recognize the shortcomings of these policies and the continued economic stagnation of these countries is leading commenters and policymakers to push for the same “fixes” that caused so many problems in the first place. Continue reading “The Neoliberal Lesson not Learned”

Netanyahu and Ethnic Cleansing

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video in which he stated that those opposed to Israeli settlements in the West Bank are in fact advocating “ethnic cleansing” of Jews. In the video, Netanyahu attempts to contrast this nefarious goal with the supposed liberal pluralism of Israel by referencing Israel’s two million strong Palestinian population. The two-minute video earned an “unusually forceful” rebuke from the U.S. State Department with a spokesperson calling Netanyahu’s terminology “inappropriate and unhelpful.”

It is duplicitous for Netanyahu to use such terminology given the fact that Israel was founded as a result of an ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Zionist forces in 1948 which caused the expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homes. The subsequent barring of reentry of these Palestinians, the destruction of more than 400 villages, and the setting of booby-traps and posting of border patrols to further discourage Palestinian return cemented this ethnic cleansing and the Jewish majority in Israel. Continue reading “Netanyahu and Ethnic Cleansing”

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”