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June 2013

Mohammed Assaf wins Arab Idol

Jubilation among Palestinians as singer who grew up in refugee camp wins over voters

    •,             Sunday 23 June 2013 04.27 BST

Link to video: Arab Idol: Mohammed Assaf wins talent searchPalestinian cities erupted in joy after the Gazan singer Mohammed Assaf won the Arab Idol singing contest final held in Beirut on Saturday night, providing a welcome break from conflict with Israel. The fresh-faced 22-year-old from humble roots in a refugee camp endeared millions of voting television viewers with his Palestinian patriotic anthems and folk songs. After watching Assaf’s victory from giant screens in the Gaza Strip and Israeli-occupied West Bank, tens of thousands of Palestinians set off fireworks, danced in the streets and blasted his music from cars idling in frantic traffic jams.

“This shows that Palestinians don’t just fight and struggle, but we rejoice and make great art,” said a beaming Awad Najib, a government employee, after a mass viewing outside the Ramallah presidential palace in the West Bank. Some Muslim clerics in Friday sermons had dismissed the pageant, saying its title encouraged idolatry and that people’s energies would be better spent confronting Israel’s occupation. Political activists too complained that the glitzy spectacle had little to do with the Palestinian plight. But most Palestinians would have none of this and Saturday’s revelry was like the end-of-Ramadan holiday combined with the World Cup final.

The scale of the celebrations easily outstripped most political or protest rallies of recent years and far exceeded those held after Palestinians gained non-member statehood in a vote at the UN general assembly in November 2012. Many political leaders, who have increasingly alienated Palestinians with their bickering, have sought to try to hitch a ride from Assaf’s galloping popularity. Some greying officials changed their Facebook profile pictures to his smiling face and spiked hair, urged people to text him their votes and praised his nationalist credentials.

“This win is a source of pride and a victory for our people on the road to achieving its dream of establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” President Mahmoud Abbas said. Abbas was jolted this week by his prime minister’s surprise offer to resign and faces pressure from the US secretary of state, John Kerry, to jumpstart stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But for locals, Assaf was all and politics took a backseat. “In the middle of the political failures Assaf achieved something that made Palestinians everywhere feel hope was still possible,” said Imad Ahmed, a teacher from Gaza watching the show with his family at a beachfront restaurant. After the victory Assaf was named by the UN as its first youth ambassador to Palestinian refugee camps in the territories and neighbouring countries. He is expected to visit the West Bank to perform.

Thousands of Syrians forgotten and stuck on the border

The Difference between Supporting a Revolution and Supporting Tyranny


The Difference between Supporting a Revolution and Supporting Tyranny: An Ethical Criterion [An edited translation from the Azmi Bishara Arabic facebook page]


1. Generally speaking,  supporters of a revolution against tyranny denounce crimes committed by those groups which purport to act on their behalf. They openly discuss even those ideas which are anathema to themselves.

2. Supporters of a tyrannical regime, meanwhile, never criticize the crimes which such a regime commits, far less denounce them. Instead, they often justify those crimes or sometimes deny they took place.

3. Not only do supporters of a tyrannical regime act to defend tyranny, they in fact provide a further example of tyranny.

4. This corroborates what I have long said: the differences between those who support tyranny, and those who oppose it are a matter of ethics, and not analysis. Ignorance often makes the water even murkier


Al Jazeera’s The Listening Post on Ed Snowden and intelligence leaking


The importance of leaking to ensure transparency in a democracy is something we should never forget.

The great Al Jazeera media program The Listening Post this week tackles Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Wikileaks. They asked me to comment on the ways in which the Snowden story unfolded in the press. My clip is at 10:28. Previous contributions here:

Echoes of German darkness in today’s Israel

Powerful Gideon Levy column in yesterday’s Haaretz:

What do dogs remind you of? And what do German shepherds remind you of? And what about armed soldiers who sic German shepherds on people trying to sneak through a border in order to earn a living?

These lines are being written in a hotel room in the capital of the Czech Republic, a country that knows a thing or two about occupation, oppression and struggles for liberation. In this city’s Museum of Communism, which is next door to a casino, one can view a photograph of East German soldiers siccing German shepherds on people trying to sneak into West Germany. The Nazi soldiers were replaced by Communist soldiers; the dogs remained.

A few days before my museum visit I was in the West Bank village of Beit Ula, near Hebron. I met a young man, Mohammed Amla, whose back and neck are scarred along their entire length from the bites of an Israel Defense Forces dog − a German shepherd, of course. Amla, married with two daughters, has worked in Israel for the past 12 years, doing manual labor.

When Amla has money he bribes his Israeli contractor, paying him a small fortune (NIS 2,000 a month) to obtain an Israeli work permit for him. When the family ran out of money because one of the daughters, who is deaf, needed an expensive ear operation, Amla sneaked into Israel. The result: a stay in the hospital with torn skin on his back and neck.

One evening last month masked IDF soldiers lay in wait near an opening in the separation fence. When Amla and two companions approached, before they crossed into Israel, the soldiers set their dogs on the trio. After it seemed that the IDF had stopped siccing dogs on “illegal residents,” the army has resumed the horrific practice of setting dogs on unarmed civilians. After all, the IDF’s storied Oketz canine unit must be kept busy during periods of relative calm.

One cannot ignore the historical connotations; one cannot remain oblivious to the unavoidable associations. Bullets are more deadly but less cruel than setting dogs on human beings. The very thought of Israeli soldiers doing this should have aroused more than a flicker of shock and shame. But it did not, not even when the connotation shrieks to the heavens. We’ll send our soldiers first to the March of the Living in Auschwitz, and then we’ll train them to sic dogs on people. The IDF Spokesman’s Office, which once at least made an effort to protect the reputation of “the most moral army in the world,” has apparently given up on that as well. Its arrogant, apathetic response to the story of that night of the dogs was the ultimate nonresponse: “The matter is being evaluated.”

While we wait for the “evaluation” to end − it never does, usually − we must honestly ask ourselves: Is this what we genuinely want? If an Israeli citizen’s sneaking into the Palestinian Authority were to end in his being set upon by dogs and hospitalized, as sneaking into Israel did for Amla, the entire country − and perhaps the world − would be in an uproar. The full weight of history would be brought to bear against the image of a Palestinian soldier siccing a dog, God save us, on a Jew. The Palestinians, those beasts, set dogs on human beings. But that (too) is of course permitted to the IDF.

For the meantime, Amla is at home recovering from his injuries. He cannot work yet. He says he won’t sneak into Israel again, as thousands of Palestinians looking for work do every night, out of fear of the dog that attacked him. When the dog gripped Amla’s neck in its jaws, he was sure he was about to die. Ostensibly, that’s a great accomplishment for Israel: Amla won’t return to renovate homes illegally. But from my hotel room in Prague − the city where I found the names of my murdered grandmother and grandfather engraved on a stone plaque, the city whose memories of the Nazi and Soviet occupations and of the “Prague Spring” echo in every corner − the thought of Israeli soldiers siccing their dogs on Mohammed Amla takes on an added meaning that is very disturbing and burdensome.

A Dream Of Powerful Monsters حلم الوحوش القوية

في فيلم “حلم الوحوش القوية” من انتاج “بدايات”، تقودنا المخرجة لينا العبد في رحلة قصيرة داخل منامات الأطفال السوريين اللاجئين برفقة أهاليهم الى مخيم شاتيلا في العاصمة اللبنانية بيروت.
تصور لينا العبد بعمق وحساسية أطفالاً صاروا كباراً على حين غرة، متأثرين بما شاهدوه وعاشوه من قتل وتهجير ورعب، فصارت أحلامهم أقرب الى الكوابيس.
حكايات بسيطة وعميقة، وأحلام تتقاطع وتتكامل في حلم (كابوس) واحد، يتصدى له الفيلم مستخدماً لغة بصرية وسمعية جريئة، يمتزج فيها جمال السرد بحساسية الصورة، وصولاً إلى نموذج تعبيري يتقارب مع عوالم الأحلام ذاتها.
وجوه الأطفال الصامتة تنظر في عيوننا مباشرة دون أن ترانا، أصواتهم تأتي من البعيد، وتمنحنا شعوراً وكأننا نمضي متلصصين في عوالمهم الداخلية الخاصة، نواجه في كل لحظة كوابيسنا ومخاوفنا الشخصية. تقول لينا العبد عن فيلمها القصير: “هي محاولة لمواجهة كوابيسي الشخصية التي تحّرض أرقي المستمر، لربما تصبح الحياة في المنام ـ على الأقل ـ أفضل من الواقع” .

From within the shelters that are home to Syrian children at the Chatila camp in Beirut, Lebanon; the director Lina Al Abed vividly portrays the haunting dreams of these forcefully migrated children, intersecting their deep stories and nightmares into one dream in the movie – The Dream of Strong Monsters – a short film by Bidayyat Productions. </p><p>Using daring audiovisual language that combines the beauty of the portrayal of the children, with the sensibility of the image, Lina Al Abed seeks an expressionistic pattern that resembles their dream worlds.

“It’s an attempt at facing my own nightmares that invokes my continues insomnia”, Al Abed says, “Maybe then, life spent dreaming will be better than reality”. The pale, silent faces of the little children staring us in the eyes without really seeing us, the echo of their voices coming from far away, makes us feel like we’re sneaking into their private world, facing with every moment our own fears and night-mares

Lina Alabed’s new film – The Dream of Strong Monsters – portrays the life and dreamworld of Syrian refugee children living in shelters in the Chatila camp in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital. She fuses their profound stories of loss and displacement having fled the violence in their neighbouring country, with their haunting dreams to create a fusion of reality and the subconscious. The result is an expressionistic film that resembles the children’s own dreamworld. “It’s an attempt at facing my own nightmares that invokes my constant insomnia”, Alabed says, “Perhaps a life spent dreaming will be preferable to reality”. The children’s pale, silent faces and their intense gazes, along with the echo of their voices that seem to come from far away, gives the impression of sneaking into their private world, and by trespassing on their dreams, confronting our own fears and nightmares. The Dream of Strong Monsters is produced by Bidayyat Productions.

First Lebanese Battalion in FSA After Hezbollah’s Call

15SaturdayJun 2013

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Lebanese individuals might have been involved in Syria’s war from early days. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Aseer declared Jihad and went himself there couple of months ago with his fighters too for a show-off exercise, but permanent or independent Lebanese fighting battalion are not known to be present as of yet.

Hezbollah has institutionalised the Lebanese involvement in Syria with his recent public involvement in the battle of Qusair. Hassan Nasrallah has publicly called his Lebanese opponents “to meet them in Syria to fight”. Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese state and government and obviously has a regional weight – which means Iran.

The lebanese government, which is supposed to be adopting a dissociation policy, is in coma status with no comment whatsoever. Even more, “sovereign” Michel Aoun has defended Hezbollah’s intervention on the basis they are fighting the takfirees (beyond our borders.)

Sadly, some Lebanese will meet Hezbollah’s divisive call and go to Syria. This will expand Syria’s war into a sectarian regional one, and allow the war to spread to Lebanon too without a shadow of a doubt.

Below is the video of the 29 years old Lebanese Fadi AbdulKader declaring the formation of the Free Battalion of “Ikleem el Kharoub” under the Free Syrian Army command to fight Hezbollah. If you don’t know it, Ikleem el Kharoub is a Sunni area in the mostly mixed Druze and Christian Chouf district.

In what could be the first video of its kind for a Lebanese, Fadi AbdulKader shows a copy of his Lebanese passport (which expired last month) confirming his ID and date of birth. The video is done on the style of previous videos for defections from the Syrian army. He declares he wants to defend his religion and land in both Syria and Lebanon. Funnily enough, he gives The Lebanese Republic a new name by calling it the Arab Republic of Lebanon.

Hezbollah, which always prided itself not be part of the Lebanese civil war, is now creating a Lebanese civil war on Syrian land and contributing to the Syrian civil war. Hezbollah has officially turned into a militia, and seeking other Lebanese militias on the opposite side. This can only get worse for everyone.



Should The U.S. Intervene in Syria?

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