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March 2012

Merah is a Product of France, Not Islam

bandannie agrees with this article up to a point; one cannot deny the influence of some muslim extremists who exploit the wrath and the exasperation of young people like Merah

By ⋅ March 28, 2012 ⋅ Post a comment

Mohamed Merah was born in Toulouse.

He died in Toulouse.

In 2008, he attempted to join the French army, but was rejected. The motivations for his murders: the French military presence in AfghanistanAfghanistan, and French society’s attacks on Islamic forms of dress.

These are all French issues. Mohamed Merah is a product of modern French society, a symptom of the many terrible problems that that society faces. A society that propels far-right fascist politicians to seriously compete for the presidency, only 67 years after the end of a war where the French themselves fought fascism.

And yet in no way has he been described as a Frenchman gone bad; a product of the French environment. No, he is a Muslim, an Islamist, an Algerian, an Arab.

See, the word ‘terrorist’ cannot be associated with the word ‘French’. Put it next to the others and we’re good.

But isn’t France’s failed attempt at creating a one-size-fits-all homogenous society also partly to blame? Aren’t these attacks also a result of a society that places its poor, deprived ethnic minorities in squalid banlieues, out of sight on the outskirts of the main cities? A society where an unpopular president plays on racist and Islamophobic themes to garner more votes, rather than confront them.

That is the reality of today’s France.

You put people in a corner, and eventually, horribly, they’ll lash out in a terrible manner.

And how exactly are French Muslims being put into a corner? Well, let’s look at some recent examples.

We have Sarkozy’s recent statements on immigration, where he declared that there were ‘too many foreigners in our territory.’ The irony, of course, being that Sarkozy’s father was a Hungarian immigrant, and his own wife, the glamorous Carla Bruni, is Italian. Those who the speech was directed to understood who Sarkozy was attacking. The French far-right don’t care so much about European immigration – it’s the Muslims that are their main concern.

In fact, Sarkozy is trying so hard to win the anti-Islam vote that he is stealing extreme right policies, even when he has previously criticised them. When Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National announced that halal meat was invading French society, Sarkozy said that she was whipping up controversy. However, he then went on to announce that halal meat was the “issue that most preoccupies the French.” Well, the ones he’s seeking to get the votes of, anyway.

And of course, there is the ban on Muslims praying in the street. Whilst it is definitely preferable that Muslims not pray on the streets, in many instances they are forced into it, because of a lack of mosques. There are only 4 in France’s second city, Marseille, a city that’s population is 10% Muslim. If the issue of praying on the streets were about public safety and congestion then Sarkozy would seek to rectify this issue of a lack of mosques. Instead, the ban can only be seen as yet another attack on Muslims as elections near.

But isn’t France’s failed attempt at creating a one-size-fits-all homogenous society also partly to blame?

These issues aren’t new. Muslims have lived in France for over 100 years, and the problems remain the same. Muslim resentment of the situation is also longstanding. Whether it’s the riots that rip through France’s cities every so often, or the government’s continued refusal to apologize for the atrocities committed in Algeria during the colonial period; French Muslims are made to feel like the enemy within.

What Mohamed Merah did was a vicious crime, and one that shouldn’t be swept away by simply describing the man as crazy – unlike certain soldiers in Afghanistan. This piece should not be read as a justification for his crimes. However, let’s remember that, even if it has been barely mentioned, Merah killed Muslims too, Muslims who put their lives on the line for liberté, égalité, fraternité. Yet many in modern French society do not see them as equal. They are still the guestworkers, the foreigners, only in France temporarily.

But that does not take away from the reality – the Merah killings are a product of France, and not of Islam.

Threat to Assad remains despite claims of victory

Threat to Assad remains despite claims of victory – Financial Times

Bashar al-Assad is acting victorious, marching under the gaze of state television crews into the ruins of the Baba Amr district of Homs, the city bombarded by his forces for nearly a month. In TV footage this week, the Syrian leader is seen surrounded by loyalists described as residents, though most of the inhabitants have fled. He blames his enemies for the devastation and promises to rebuild Baba Amr.

Mr Assad’s tour was another grotesque show of force aimed at humiliating the rebellious people of the district, who faced collective punishment for allowing Free Syrian Army fighters to protect them. It was also a manifestation of a renewed self-confidence following the regime’s seizure of a series of strongholds that had fallen under rebel control and brought the armed opposition dangerously close to the gates of Damascus.

The problem for Mr Assad, however, is that the Annan plan gives no relief from the most dangerous threat he faces. That threat has never been from the armed rebels but from the peaceful demonstrators who continue to stage protests more than a year after the eruption of the revolt. “As soon as a ceasefire takes hold, Bashar falls because the people will be on the streets in millions, even in Damascus,” says Samir Seifan, a Syrian economist who has joined the opposition. “There will be no need for the FSA whose members know that demonstrations are what will bring down the regime.” Mr Assad, insists Mr Seifan, can score military gains but he cannot win the war against the popular uprising.


Rare peek at nightly raids of West Bank village (Nabi Saleh) w/English subs


This is footage of Israeli soldiers raiding homes in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on the night of March 20th, 2012. This video captures a raid on the home of imprisoned Palestinian nonviolent leader Bassem Tamimi. His wife, children, and likely his mother, can be seen in the video reacting in horror to the ransacking of their home, albeit it rather common across the West Bank and in Nabi Saleh itself.

The video was originally posted by Bilal Tamimi and is available here:

This version is essentially unchanged but with English subtitles translating both the Hebrew and Arabic spoken.

Paintballing with the IDF

By ⋅ March 27, 2012 ⋅ Post a comment

A response to this, inspired by this

We figured they’d cheat; they were Israelis, after all. But none of us – a team of four Arab journalists – thought we’d be threatened by nuclear weapons when we initiated this ‘friendly’ paintball match.

The battle takes place in a field that used to be a Palestinian village, ethnically cleansed to pave  way for progress, democracy, and a Jewish state. Being threatened by a nuclear weapon when you merely have a paintball gun to defend yourself sure is stressful.

As I struggled with this conundrum hiding behind a barrel on the cusp of wetting myself, I could hear two IDF soldiers bearing down on me. I shot wildly, not daring to hit them lest they unleashed radioactive hell on my teammates and I.

I expected them to conform towards the accepted norms of international law, or at the very least follow the rules of paintball. Instead, they shot the referee.

As he crumped over, they proceeded to unload their steel-coated paintball bullets. The blue paint and red blood mixed together made an interesting violet color. I must admit, I grimly thought that such a shade was alluringly trendy. The referee’s muted yelps snapped me back from fantasizing and I began to fire wildly again.

David’s in here. Somewhere.

Admittedly at the time, I was confused and slightly in shock. I wasn’t expecting them to go all out, but they mumbled something about not giving an inch to anyone or it’ll be ‘the Samson option’.

Yes, I reminded myself, this is really happening: Four Arab journalists, plus one former Iranian IRCG -turned- resistance expert, are playing paintball with members of the Israeli military army frequently described by the Israelis themselves as “The most moral army in the world.”

It took nearly half a century to pull together this game, and all along I’d been convinced that things would fall apart at the last minute. Not actually killing someone is hard for the Israeli top brass to accept, so to arrange this match I’d relied on a man we’ll call David, one of my lower-level contacts within the IDF.

For full article

Muslims in America are seen as potential terrorists?


Empire – Syria on the brink


Syria : Damage Control


We as activists outside of Syria have been busy since the uprising, campaigning governments, organizing protests, speaking to media, raising awareness, providing support to the revolution on the inside (even if at times it’s been only moral support), activities that run the gamut to keep the revolution alive.

Over a year on – the world knows, protests in countries have dissipated due to local law enforcement’s short temper, media have established contacts on the inside and support – well support is always needed even if it’s just moral.

Now our role, as activists outside of Syria, has changed, like the revolution has changed. As it’s become increasingly more violent and situations spin helplessly out of control on the ground – expat activists have turned into the bullhorn for activists on the inside.  Through a network of confirmations and connections information is readily churned out for external consumption – attempting to always keep Syria at the top of the news cycle. We slowly run the risk of sounding redundant.

So what else can we do?

Now is the time to think big and start small. We have what other revolutions didn’t have. The horrible curse of having time. The regime may be on its last leg, but the revolution is not ending anytime soon. We have this time to think strategy, to think Post-Assad. It is a fact the regime will fall and when it does, in its wake will be left a disaster.

As there were no international forces around during the destruction, there will be no one around to pick up the pieces.

Our roles will have to change to suit, once again, the realities on the ground.

The Assad regime is not one with institutions – it is an institution in itself. It will be gone and what’s left for us to build the institutions. It will be left for us to think strategy and plan on how to rebuild a country with little real infrastructure, no aide to the weary and no one for anyone to turn to but each other and to us.

We will need the help of psychologists and psychiatrists to heal the children. We will need the help of urban planning professionals to help rebuild the infrastructure of cities reduced to rubble. We will need the help of agriculture and irrigation specialists to best advise the farmers of regions whose crops were burned or flooded to obliteration. We will need the help of social activists to educate on democracy on what is a reasonable request from a government and what we must do for ourselves. We will need the help of microloan organisations to assist small and medium business owners to reclaim their lost businesses, get back on their feet and help contribute to an economy which will, by the end of this, will probably be the worst its been in the country’s history.

Now’s the time to start planning – start seeing how we can contribute and work on it. Now’s the time to start small and slow and right because when the cards fall and when this is over, the rush to scramble to piece a country back together will be massive chaotic and doomed to fail if we don’t.

Regardless of what the future Syria government looks like, the needs of the people will be immediate and there is no reasonable expectation from an interim government to provide all the assistance needed.  What we really need is to unite our own efforts, as activists with the most know-how of our country, and start early.

What we really need is damage control.



Hundreds of soccer fans crowd Jerusalem mall: ‘Death to Arabs!’

by on March 24, 2012 100 comments


We’ve missed this and everyone is talking about it: a massive anti-Arab gathering that took place in Israel on Monday. Chanting “Death to Arabs,” hundreds of Beitar soccer fans crowded into a mall in Jerusalem after their team won a match and what spilled out …words escape me:

The Independent:

Hundreds of fans, mostly teenagers, descended on busy Malha Mall, jumping on tables, waving scarves, and chanting “Death to Arabs”.

When a group of fans started to heckle and spit on Palestinian women dining with their children in the food hall, the centre’s Arab cleaning staff rushed to their defence and chased the fans off. But moments later, the fans returned, and started to attack the Arab staff.

“They [the fans] caught some of them and beat the hell out of them,” Yair, the Jewish owner of a bakery in the shopping centre, told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. “They hurled people into shops, and smashed them against shop windows. … One cleaner was attacked by some 20 people, poor guy.” The brawl might have turned deadly, but food hall staff refused to respond to fans’ demands for knives and sticks. It was only when police arrived 40 minutes later the situation was brought under control.

“I’ve been here many years and I’ve never seen such a thing,” Haaretz quoted Gideon Avrahami, Malha’s director, as saying. “It was a disgraceful, shocking, racist incident; simply terrible.”

The police defended its failure to make any arrests, saying it had received no complaints from any of the public, a response that drew immediate derision. “No complaints and no arrests. Does this mean riots against Arabs in malls is acceptable behaviour in Israel?” tweeted Joseph Dana, an Israeli blogger.

Shmulik Ben Rubi, a Jerusalem police spokesman, later told The Independent the police would investigate the incident, which might lead to arrests.

After 40 minutes the police arrived.

One commenter at Haaretz noted “if it was skinheads beating Jews the whole world would know about this. ” Joseph Dana and others are questioning the implications of why there have been no arrests.

Lisa Goldman at +972 :

Meanwhile, amongst the Israeli media only Haaretz newspaper published a report about this incident – even though it occurred five days ago. One would think that a major race riot in Jerusalem’s largest shopping mall, patronized by Jews and Arabs alike, would garner some significant local media attention. But no.

More shocking and insidious is the fact that, even though the riot was recorded by the Malha shopping centre’s CCTV cameras, no-one has been arrested. Why not? Well, said the police, because no-one filed a complaint.

Okay, let’s try a little thought experiment here. Imagine that a few hundred Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel rioted at the upscale Ramat Aviv mall in northern Tel Aviv. Imagine that they were fans of the Arab soccer team Bnei Sakhnin, that they waved team jerseys and scarves as they chanted “death to Jews” in Arabic and cursed and spat at some nice middle class Jewish women sipping cappuccinos with their children and sharing pains au chocolat at the Arcaffe. Imagine that they ran around the mall, asking for knives to attack the cleaning staff that was trying to protect the women from being attacked. And that they slammed some of those cleaners into plate-glass shop windows.

Imagine that all of this was was recorded on the Ramat Aviv shopping centre’s CCTV cameras.

And then imagine the police announcing to the media that they had not made any arrests because no-one had filed a complaint.

Yes, I’ve imagined.

There were plenty of warning signs. Remember that this is the truth about Israeli society that Max Blumenthal has sought to convey and that so many denied–stuffing his video, Feeling the Hate. Last month in Newsweek, bureau chief Dan Ephron’s story ” No Arabs Allowed” reported “Jerusalem’s favorite football team has hiring policies reminiscent of Apartheid and Jim Crow”.

Israeli football teams started hiring Arabs only in the 1970s; these days they are among the highest scorers in the league. But Beitar, the team of Israel’s capital city, has been a holdout, shunning Arabs even as it hired other non-Jewish players from abroad. “It’s hard to explain the policy as anything but racism,” says Yoav Borowitz, an Israeli journalist who writes regularly about football.

Supporters of the team have a more nuanced explanation. They say the ban is bound up with Beitar’s history and with tensions in Jerusalem, a city where Arabs and Jews live mostly in their own segregated neighborhoods (Israeli Arabs make up 20 percent of Israel’s population). Until a few years ago, most Israeli football teams were affiliated with political parties. Beitar’s sponsor was the right-wing Likud, the party now headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Though Likud was never an overtly Arab-hating party, Beitar became a magnet for right-wing extremists, who would often shout chants like “Death to Arabs” at players of opposing teams.

How much worse can it get before it gets better? And some still say it’s not apartheid– on both sides of the green line.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Writer at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area.

Amal Hanano :The Real Me and the Hypothetical Syrian Revolution

Nine months ago my daughter, Tal Malouhi, a student in high school, was arrested by one of the branches of the security for reasons we do not know until this moment and I do not know anything about her fate. Sir, I knocked on the doors of all the security agencies and the presidential palace and all the official channels possible in order to be assured about my daughter or know anything about her fate or the cause of her arrest, but to no avail. Finally, I received a promise from one of the security authorities that my daughter would be released before the month of Ramadan starts. But, Ramadan is about to end now and Eid will come soon after, while our family is still suffering for our lovely daughter. Mr. President, I cannot describe to you after this disaster on our family, the amount of suffering caused to all of us. Your daughter Tal is a smart student and she loves her country and its people. She writes what comes to her young mind in honesty and transparency and in line with her age. Sir, We have no one left for us, but to address you as the father of all the Syrians in order to save the life of my daughter as she is at a tender age and does not understand anything in politics. And may you long live for our country.

Letter to Bashar al-Assad from Ahed al-Malouhi, September 2010

In February 2011, Ahed al-Malouhi found out her daughter’s fate. Tal was sentenced to five years in prison by the State Security Court on charges of “disclosing information to a foreign country,” or treason, after being detained since 27 December 2009. Her crime? Blogging poems about Palestine.

Tal was seventeen when she was arrested becoming the youngest known prisoner of conscience in the world. In addition to enduring over two years in Assad’s dungeons, the innocent girl from a conservative family in Homs has been slandered by society and her reputation has been ripped to shreds.

Tal blogged in Arabic, under her own name. Sometimes I wonder, if she had known her fate, would she have chosen a pseudonym?

read on here

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