The good, the bad … and the leftovers

lapham.jpgpretty in pink.jpgChe.jpg

Lewis Lapham, erstwhile editor of Harper’s, is back after a couple of issues off with a classic lead editorial on the profitable business that is war in Iraq, George Galloway is sucking wind in the Guardian and Nassrallah calls on the anti-imperialist workers of the world to unite… or did he?

The Lapham piece, unfortunately, isn’t online, and I’m not in the mood to retype the whole thing for the benefit of those who won’t fork out the measly fifteen bucks a year for the world’s best magazine– well, one of them anyway–but I will offer a couple of teaser quotes.

“For the friends of the free market operating in Iraq it doesn’t matter who gets killed or why; everyday is payday, and if from time to time events take a turn for the worst … back home in America with the flags and the executive compensation packages, the stock prices of our reliably patriotic corporations rise with the smoke from the car bombs exploding in Ramadi and Fallujah.�

Continue reading The good, the bad … and the leftovers

Naguib Mahfouz’s funeral

Sorry I’m short of time thesedays due to work commitments, so can’t blog regularly.
Anyways, here are pix by Nasser Nouri of Naguib Mahfouz’s funeral today.

Naguib's funeral

And here’s a report by Reuters…

Pomp, ceremony but no public at Mahfouz’s funeral
By Aziz Kaissouni
CAIRO, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz was given a state funeral on Thursday but the everyday Egyptians his novels depicted were kept out of sight by heavy security.
Mahfouz’s flag-draped coffin was carried on a horse-drawn carriage past rows of soldiers in ceremonial dress, ahead of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, to the sound of drums and trumpets.
The writer’s dedicated readers braved the scorching Cairo sun for hours, only to be told they would not be allowed to attend the procession.
“He doesn’t want a state funeral…he wants the people to bear him on their shoulders,” shouted Mahfouz fan Amal.
“Did he write for the flag? Did he write for the horses? He wrote for the poor. We should walk in his funeral.”
In keeping with Mahfouz’s wishes, a small ceremony had been held earlier in the day in the Al-Hussein mosque, in the heart of historic Cairo where many of his novels were set.
Only a few dozen people attended the ceremony, held under tight security. A Reuters witness said a group of men had attempted to enter the mosque in protest at prayers being held there for the novelist, whom they said was an infidel.
The author, the only writer in Arabic to win the Nobel Literature Prize, in 1988, survived an assassination attempt six years later when Islamist militants stabbed him in the neck.
Religious authorities said one of his novels broke Islamic rules by clearly depicting God and the prophets.
After the prayer ceremony, Mahfouz’s coffin was quickly bundled into a van for the state funeral. Thousands have attended similar funerals for other celebrities in recent years.
For Mahfouz, tearful members of the public were replaced by thousands of black-clad security men who had brought traffic in the area to a standstill. Only mourners from Egypt’s political elite were clearly visible.
Less than 60 die-hard fans tried to get close to the procession which was not visible from where they were allowed to stand. Some of them had travelled from far-flung provinces to attend.
Mohsen Khas, from one of Cairo’s poorer suburbs, had arrived too late for the morning ceremony and had taken a big sign praising Mahfouz to the state funeral instead.
Once again the coffin passed without him catching a glimpse.
“Farewell, Arab Shakespeare,” his sign read.

Arabic is a dangerous language

So dangerous, in fact, that you can’t board airplanes wearing a T-shirt with an Arabic slogan:

Arabic T-shirt sparks airport row

A demonstrator wears a similar T-shirt at a New York protest in July
An architect of Iraqi descent has said he was forced to remove a T-shirt that bore the words “We will not be silent” before boarding a flight at New York.

Raed Jarrar said security officials warned him his clothing was offensive after he checked in for a JetBlue flight to California on 12 August.

Mr Jarrar said he was shocked such an action could be taken in the US.

US transport officials are conducting an inquiry after a complaint from the US Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

JetBlue said it was also investigating the incident but a spokeswoman said: “We’re not clear exactly what happened.”

By the way, isn’t Raed Jarrar the famous counterpart to Salam Pax on the original Iraq war blog “Where’s Raed”?

Naguib Mahfouz, 1911-2006

Naguib Mahfouz passed away this morning after more than a week of hospitalization, finally succumbing to complications that included internal bleeding.

There’s a good essay about Mahfouz on the Nobel Prize site.

More later.

Update: I have a reflection on Mahfouz on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website and was also interviewed by Radio France International’s English broadcast about his significance in Egypt and the Arab world. Let me know what you think. The funny thing is that while I’m not actually a great fan of Mahfouz’s work, I loved the man and his persona. If you really want to know tons of great anecdotes about him, pick up Gamal Ghitani’s recent book (in Arabic only, for now) about the literary salons he held throughout his life, which Ursula wrote about here.

Link dump

Sweating out the truth in Iran – excellent op-ed by Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari on Hizbullah’s relationship with Iran and hairy mullahs in saunas.

I was a propaganda intern in Iraq – interview with former Lincoln Group Baghdad intern Willem Marx, who planted US Army articles in the Iraqi press.

Key US legislator says will block aid to Lebanon – Top Israel supporter Tom Lantos doesn’t want aid money to go to Lebanon, even though Israel itself says Lebanon should receive international aid to avoid collapse.

Accidental emigrant – Amira Hass on how a Jerusalem-born Palestinian man was permanently kept out of his country.

‘Missing Israeli pilot’ on film – Ron Arad, Israeli air force pilot who was shot down over Lebanon in 1986, may be alive.

Australian Muslim teen is a slur on Islam – Miss Australia contestant being hounded by imams. I’m with Sandmonkey on this one.

ADL Calls Amnesty International Report “Bigoted, Biased, And Borderline Anti-Semitic” – If the Anti-Defemation League says it, it must be true. Oh, and Abraham Foxman says Israel, not Lebanon, is the victim.

The Situation in Iraq – Gilbert Achcar on Iraq and the need for US troop withdrawal.

What if the Middle East invaded North America?

228050887 2574969C77 O

No, the above picture is neither the deluded fantasy of a member of the al- Saud family, nor the paranoid hallucination of an AIPAC staffer. It’s a picture from a new ad campaign for the old strategy board game “Risk” devised by advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi.

I played Risk regularly in Cairo during Ramadan, when some of my Egyptian friends (Muslims and Christians) used to spending their evenings in bars must loiter at home instead (only foreigners are accepted in bars during the holy month.) So they’d make sure to stock up on booze before Ramadan begins and spend several nights a week playing all-night Risk games. (Productivity isn’t very high during Ramadan anyway, so why bother getting up early?)

It’s clear from playing Risk that the Middle East is the least desirable territory to conquer. It’s right there in the Middle and anyone who wants to expand needs to go through it at some point. Australia and South America may not get you many points, but at least they’re secure. Africa is a bit better, but still tricky. North America is probably the best place, with five points and only three places to access it. Europe is more difficult to keep hold off, as is Asia and its seven points. But the Middle East doesn’t even count as a continent and is constantly being overrun by European, African and Asian hordes — as well as the odd American passing through Africa on his way to Asia. It’s a place for war and conquest.

Plus ça change…

[via Boing Boing]

The other migration

A neat story:

TENERIFE, Canary Islands — It rains little on this island. There are no natural rivers, and the air is full of the dry heat of the nearby Sahara.

But in a ravine on the island’s northern tip, tree limbs drip with water and a tropical forest flourishes, sustained almost entirely by condensation from the low-lying clouds that are regularly pinned against the mountainside.

The area, called Cruz del Carmen, is only one example of the unusual evolutionary habitats on the Canary Islands that fascinated Charles Darwin more than 100 years ago, and that today reveal a new species or subspecies to scientists an average of once every six days.

But the unique plant and animal life here is being steadily overtaken by an invasion of foreign species, which have been entering these Spanish islands in increasing numbers since border checkpoints within the European Union were abolished under the Schengen Agreement a decade ago, according to government officials and scientists here.

Usually you hear about the Canary Islands’ human migration problems. Over the last 2-3 years, hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants have crossed over from southern Morocco to the Islands, were they are usually caught and then released onto the Spanish mainland if their country of origin cannot be identified (they destroy all ID before they get there.) Not only is the trip dangerous and kills many migrants each year, but Spanish and European authorities are naturally concerned about how to stop the migration.

Ironically, animal and plant migrants are potentially much more dangerous to a country’s economy than people are. After all people tend to be productive, and migrants provide much-needed cheap labor. But imagine if a type of sub-Saharan African insect is introduced that turns out to be deadly to Spanish olive trees…


Arab NGOs want Israel out of UN

A coalition of Arab human rights organizations are starting a movement to freeze Israel’s UN membership. I looked quickly through the list, and while some major ones are missing, the list does contain some of the most courageous rights groups in the region. Here’s an excerpt from their statement, and links to download the press release containing the full list of NGOs.

It is not longer possible that Arab human rights organizations ignore the governmental approach, both Arab and western, towards the Israeli practices considering them in isolation and overlooking the systematic policy they follow.
It is time we consolidate a more progressive and positive approach towards those practices and the continuous violations by the successive Israeli governments throughout their history.
We look forward to serious and tangible actions that aim to expose this Israeli state, isolate it and work towards freezing its membership in the UN.
We realize that this is a difficult and long term task that has to being by simple and slowly mounting, although clear and solid, actions.
We take this statement to be an initial and simple step on the way towards this achievement of this task. We wish it to be the beginning of an international campaign that may involve, among others, regional and international meetings and joint actions.

I leave it to readers to debate whether this is useful or not. You may want to keep in mind the current situation in Gaza.

It is time to freeze Israel’s membership in the UN (1)-1.doc

تجميد عضوية اسرائيل-1.doc

“Jihad for modernity and enlightenment”

Most articles about what the Arabs need to do to get out of their current predicament tend to be rather tiresome at best and badly-disguised attack jobs for some ideology that is unsympathetic to Arabs at worst. If they’re written by Thomas Friedman, they’re both tiresome and offensive.

The article below, I think is different and worth reading. The author is Ahmed Zewail, the Egyptian-American Nobel Prize winning chemist, often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in Egypt (I don’t think he could run as a dual national anyway, and he’s no politician.) Sure, the article is vague, but it draws rather clear outlines of what needs to be done and most importantly rejects the “gradual reform” offered by the current regimes out of hand. There’s been enough flawed processes in the region — two decades of a “reform process” that was an excuse for one elite to replace another, a “peace process” in Israel/Palestine that was empty of any real content and now a “democratization process” whose entire purpose is to prevent anyone from ever reaching the end of the process: democracy, warts and all.

(Highlights mine, thanks to reader B.I. for emailing this.)

Ahmed Zewail: We Arabs must wage a new form of jihad

We must not be distracted by old ideologies and conspiracy theories

Published: 24 August 2006

The cataclysmic wars in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq have uncovered the reality of Arab unity and plight, and the collective conscience of international society. It is abundantly clear that the Arab people must themselves build a new system for a new future. The current state, as judged by a low GDP, high level of illiteracy, and deteriorating performance in education and science, is neither in consonance with their hearts and minds nor does it provide for their political, economic, and educational aspirations.

Yet this is the same Arab world that produced leading civilisations, world-class universities, and renowned scholars and scientists. Clearly, something has gone seriously astray.

Continue reading “Jihad for modernity and enlightenment”