Islam Edit Bureau
02 May 2016
of Palestine in Their Israeli Jails
Down but Not Out
Open Letter to President Obama
Afghan Peace Process
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Palestine In Their Israeli Jails
01 May 2016
In his now
legendary painting, Women of Algiers in their Apartment/Femmes d'Alger dans
leur appartement (1834, oil on canvas), Eugene Delacroix captured something so
provocative, so elemental, about Arab and Muslim women at the height of the
European Orientalist painting that a century-and-a-half later the eminent
Algerian novelist, artist, and feminist Assia Djebar (1936-2015), used the very
same title for her groundbreaking collection of short stories, Women of Algiers
in Their Apartment(1980), turning the Delacroix painting upside down and
celebrating the beauty and resilience of Algerian (Arab) women in face of
Assia Djebar, the master Egyptian artist Inji Aflatoun (1924-1989) had used her
own experiences as a Marxist feminist revolutionary painter jailed by Nasser
for four years (1959-1963) to produce some of her masterpieces depicting women
in prison cells. The aesthetic genealogy and political power of Aflatoun's work
partook in an entirely different universe than what Delacroix had inspired in
after both Aflatoun and Djebar, the eminent Tunisian filmmaker Moufida Tlatli
made her exquisite masterpiece, The Silences of the Palace/Samt el Qusur
(1994), in which she expanded upon Aflatoun's and Djebar's pioneering work and
investigated much deeper into the trials and tribulations of two generations of
Tunisian women domestic workers at the palace of a rich and abusive family at
the height of Tunisian ant colonial struggles.
similar works of art have just been given a powerful new twist by the doyen of
Palestinian cinema, Mai Masri, whose career as a documentary filmmaker expands
for over 40 years, and now, in her first feature film, she ups the ante in
telling the story of Palestinian women in Israeli prisons.
25, the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University was privileged to
host the New York premiere of Masri's new feature film, 3000 Nights (2015).
Beirut-based Palestinian, Masri's distinguished career as a filmmaker began in
the early in the1980s with her pioneering documentary, Under the Rubble (1983),
and has continued apace until today when she has directed her first feature
internationally at the Toronto International Film Festival, and based on a true
story, "3000 Nights" chronicles the life of Layal (as interpreted
masterfully with unsurpassed poise and grace by Maisa Abd Elhadi) who was
sentenced to eight years of prison by the Israeli military court, falsely
accused of aiding and abetting with what the European settler colony calls
incarceration of human beings inside the confinements of a prison has been the
subject of many philosophical, poetic, literary and cinematic reflections
across many cultures and conditions.
cinematic engagement with the subject places the location of women
imprisonments squarely in the context of the Israeli colonial conquest of
Plato's Crito (360 BC) that takes place inside Socrates' prison cell, to the
legendary prison poems of Masud Sa'd Salman (1046-1121) to Lord Byron's The
Prisoner of Chillon (1816) to Frank Darabont's Shawshank Redemption (1994), we
are witness to myriad of attempts to understand the nature of incarceration on
recently, in his Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, the French
social historian Michel Foucault investigated the penal code as integral to the
disciplinary formations of European modernity.
cinematic engagement with the subject places the location of women
imprisonments squarely in the context of the Israeli colonial conquest of
Palestine - in the framework of what the distinguished Palestinian sociologist
Elia Zureik, extending Foucault's insights, has studied in detail in his most
recent book, Israel's Colonial Project in Palestine: Brutal Pursuit (2016).
book, Zureik studies in detail the tripartite trajectory of the Zionist
colonial conquest of Palestine: violence, territory, and population control,
which he analyses as a specific form of what he calls "racialist
Zureik has advanced the Foucauldian frame of reference of surveillance and
governmentality much deeper into the domain of racialised violence and settler
colonialism, Masri's "3,000 Nights" offers a number of crucial twists
on such theoretical insights into the nature of Israeli settler colonialism.
concentrating on women prisons she successfully genders the politics of
penitentiary violence and occasions a much needed and necessary full-bodied
encounter with the horrors of a surveillance state in its full violent
mastery of her cinematic craft enables a vision of colonial incarceration that
no mere critical thinking can do.
of prison in cinema challenges the visionary gifts of a filmmaker to the
maximum for she (or he) has to tell a long story almost entirely through
interior shots, limited in space, mise en scene, camera movements, choice of
lenses, options for lighting, and the very physicality of acting to a bare
to her first feature film from an extended documentary background, mostly shot
in the open air of urban settings and refugee camps she knows like the proverbial
palm of her hand.
and her director of photography Gilles Porte and editor Michele Tyan are at
their professional best to be able to tell a full-bodied story within the
confinements of a few adjacent cells, a hallway, and a small courtyard (the
film was shot in a military prison in Jordan).
this exquisite cinematic feat that Masri and her colleagues have achieved, it
is no longer necessary to belabour the point and insist on how powerful the
entire metaphoric choice of the central character of the story Layal is to keep
her child when she realises she was incarcerated while pregnant, give birth in
an Israeli prison, and raise her beautiful boy she names Nour/Light in the
midst of this dark misery.
continued Zionist thievery, murder, and mayhem in Palestine face is the
effervescent power of Palestinian people to give birth (just like Layal to Nour
while in an Israeli jail) new force and vision to the single most atrocious
colonial carnage of our time.
propaganda has convinced itself that it has sold its lies to the world at large
when it labels the defiance of the nation it has conquered as
takes is one ingenious cinematic gem by a Palestinian master filmmaker to
dismantle the entire house of cards that it keeps mounting around itself.
2 May 2016
after the killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, the network he founded is
far from dead even if it has suffered a series of setbacks. Replaced as the
preeminent global terrorist power by Daesh, Al-Qaeda nonetheless remains a
potent force and dangerous threat, experts say.
year's Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris and a wave of shootings in West Africa,
Al-Qaeda has shown it can still carry out its trademark spectacular attacks.
And in Syria and Yemen its militants have seized on chaos to take control of
significant territory, even presenting themselves as an alternative to the
brutality of Daesh rule. By the time US Special Forces killed Bin Laden in
Pakistan on May 2, 2011, the group he founded in the late 1980s had been badly
damaged, with many of its militants and leaders killed or captured in the US
“War on Terror.”
grew in the ranks as new Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri struggled in Bin Laden’s
place, until one of its branches, originally Al-Qaeda in Iraq, broke away to
seizing large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, the group declared a “caliphate”
in areas under its control, calling itself simply Daesh. It has since eclipsed
its former partner, drawing thousands of militants to its cause and claiming
responsibility for attacks that have left hundreds dead in Brussels, Paris,
Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and on a Russian airliner over
Egypt. Its self-declared "emir" Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has won pledges
of allegiance from extremist groups across the Middle East and beyond, with especially
powerful Daesh affiliates operating in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and in Libya.
Filiu, a Paris-based expert on militant groups, said Daesh has been especially
effective at using new technology to surpass its less tech-savvy rival.
“Al-Qaeda propaganda has become invisible on social networks thanks to the
media war machine that Daesh has managed to successfully create,” Filiu said.
“Al-Qaeda has lost everywhere to Daesh, except in the Sahel” desert region of
northern Africa, he said.
McCants, of the Brookings Institution in Washington, agreed that Al-Qaeda had
lost some ground to Daesh, but said the organization has recovered. “Al-Qaeda
has a strong showing in Syria and in Yemen,” he said.
the group's local affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, is one of the strongest forces
fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime, holding large parts of the northern
province of Idlib. The local branch in Yemen, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
(AQAP), has meanwhile seized significant territory in the south. AQAP suffered
a setback last week when Yemeni troops recaptured the key port city of Mukalla
it occupied for more than a year.But AQAP remains the key militant force in
Yemen with thousands of members compared with only several hundred affiliated
with Daesh, McCants said.
considered by Washington to be Al-Qaeda’s most well-established and dangerous
branch, has also claimed responsibility for one of the group’s most important
attacks abroad in recent years.
2015 gunmen stormed the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with
assault rifles and other weapons, killing 12 people in an attack claimed by
AQAP. Another branch, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has carried out
assaults on hotels and restaurants in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast since
November that have left dozens dead, including many foreigners.
in West Africa "have reasserted the regional presence of AQIM and shown
its expanding reach," New York-based intelligence consultancy The Soufan
Group said in March. "AQIM has used the attacks to challenge the influence
of Daesh, to demonstrate and build its local support and to show that it is
united after earlier damaging divisions,” it said.
International Crisis Group also argues that although Daesh has reshaped the
terrorist landscape, Al-Qaeda “has evolved” and its branches in North Africa,
Somalia, Syria and Yemen “remain potent, some stronger than ever.”
grafted themselves onto local insurrections, displaying a degree of pragmatism,
caution about killing Muslims and sensitivity to local norms,” said the
Brussels-based think-tank. Al-Qaeda chiefs in Yemen and elsewhere have
condemned Daesh for some of its actions, including bombings of Shiite mosques.
clearly still sees Al-Qaeda as a key threat, pursuing a vigorous drone war
against the group in Yemen. The strikes have killed many senior operatives,
including Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Nasir Al-Wuhayshi in June 2015. In March
a US strike on an AQAP training camp in Yemen killed at least 71 recruits.
Writing for French news website Atlantico in early April, former intelligence
officer Alain Rodier said that while Daesh may have stolen the spotlight,
Al-Qaeda may be in a better long-term position.
Letter to President Obama
2 May 2016
President Barack Obama, I am pleased that you decided to visit my country, the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, recently. I hold no official post and am simply a
Saudi attorney in private practice in Jeddah who has the greatest respect for
America, as I was fortunate to be educated in your country.
western perceptions, we here in Saudi Arabia do have freedom of speech, and
that’s why I’m free to write you this letter.
In 2009 you
delivered a famous speech at Cairo University where you expressed your hopes on
many issues that are inspiring to all Arabs. Since then, however, many of us
have seen stark contradictions in what you said and what positions your
government has taken.
decision to engage with Iran threatens not only our security, but America’s as
l It is
dangerous, bad policy to ignore 90 percent of the 1.5 billion Muslims — led by
Saudi Arabia — whose interests are irreconcilable with Iran’s domestic and
l We agree
with you that diplomacy is better than waging wars, but this does not mean that
the United States — the world’s superpower — should be transformed into a
wounded lion while Iran threatens its neighbors and continues its expansive and
aggressive policy to destabilize the entire Middle East. Your diplomatic
efforts threaten to expand, rather than eradicate, terrorism.
support western notions of a civil society, order and social tolerance are put
at high risk by a worldview, which promotes disorder and revolution and is
driven by the goal of world domination.
President, do not assume that cooperation is possible with an Iran bent on
destroying its adversaries.
recently said in The Atlantic Monthly that regional “competition” between Saudi
Arabia and Iran has fuelled the conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, and you
expressed the belief that the Saudis should “share” the region with their
fierce regional enemy! Would you have us share the Middle East with President
Assad, a murderer of women and children, who is fully supported by Iran even as
you recognize that there is no place for him on the world map?
relying on your intelligence capabilities, but the terrorists remain many steps
ahead of the United States, especially in social media outreach to our
disaffected youth. For the sake of America and your true friends in the Middle
East, please don’t defer any decisive action against Iran just to pass your
remaining months in office with the illusion that you have contained Iran’s
Even if you
have defused Iran’s nuclear weapons temporarily, Iran has the financial
resources to threaten not only Saudi Arabia, but also Israel, Europe and
ultimately the United States. All we have to do is look at Syria to see how
Iranian involvement has destroyed that sad country and destabilized other
countries around it.
l How can
you allow the continuation of monstrous crimes against humanity occurring in
Syria, Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere?
America really want to be seen as doing nothing to stop aggressive Iranian
expansion fuelled by unlimited Russian support?
l Don’t you
realize that Saudi Arabia is the safety valve of the Middle East? It has always
maintained stability and security in the region. Saudi Arabia will stand
shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States, but you must lead the fight
against Iran, not appease them. They are bent on dominating the Middle East,
not stabilizing it; they are committed to destroying those who have different
religious, cultural and political beliefs. They are the world’s greatest
sponsors of terror.
President, I am an Arab Saudi citizen without any connection to the Saudi
government who simply wants America to continue exercising its great influence
internationally. With great power comes great responsibility. Our long-standing
relationship with you is not only deep between our governments, but also among
our citizens. Now, more than ever, America must remember who are its friends
and who are its enemies.
last few years, Pope Francis has reinvigorated the Catholic Church’s core
message with passionate criticism of unbridled capitalism and a new, more
progressive worldview. In the United States primaries, Vermont Senator Bernie
Sanders’s presidential campaign is doing much the same for the Democratic Party
— and for US politics more broadly.
message borrows substantially from the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and
its call to arms against economic inequality. But even before Sanders emerged
as a contender for the Democratic nomination, Francis won the hearts of millions
with a similar message. Francis has denounced the “widening gap between those
who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs.” It should
therefore not be surprising that last year, he invited the author and OWS
activist Naomi Klein to attend a conference on the environment that he was
hosting in Rome.
Sanders addressed the same gathering, arguing that climate change is the most
serious security threat facing the world. His long-held beliefs on the topic
mirror those of Francis, who, in a groundbreaking encyclical, aligned himself
with the scientific community on climate change. Both Sanders and Francis link
environmental degradation to unbridled capitalism, emphasizing that the world’s
poorest suffer disproportionately from the environmental impact of activities
that often enrich the world’s wealthiest.
another interesting commonality between Sanders and Francis: Both are well into
their eighth decade. At first glance, it seems odd that these pensionable men
are among the leading figures echoing and inspiring the young in seeking
revolutionary change. Yet, on reflection, the connection is not surprising.
After all, when it comes to indignation about the world’s injustices, the old
can be just as passionate as the young. The impact of Sanders and Francis on
young people is intensified by the sense that, for both men, truth and morality
matter more than self-importance or enrichment. They both appear modest —
Francis has rejected his predecessors’ monarchical lifestyle, and Sanders’s
estimated net worth is significantly below average for a US senator — and, for
all their progressiveness, thoroughly un-modern.
Sanders and Francis are relative outsiders. Sanders may have a long career in
US politics, but he represents the small liberal state of Vermont, and he
passionately denounces the big money that is most politicians’ lifeblood. For
his part, Francis is the first pope from Latin America, and the first to
condemn economic inequality with such intensity. Of course, Francis is not the
first pope to address the topic. In fact, this year’s Papal conference
celebrated the 15th anniversary of an encyclical by Pope John Paul II about the
ethical pitfalls of the market economy and globalization.
Paul II, originally from Soviet-bloc Poland, also staunchly opposed communism;
indeed, he played an important role in bringing about that system’s downfall in
Central and Eastern Europe. While neither Francis nor Sanders is advocating
communism, both seek to revive, to varying extents, communism’s original
aspiration to create a brotherhood among all people.
Gorbachev — another revolutionary of humanity and decency — had a similar
aspiration in the 1980s. Interestingly, he took inspiration from John Paul II’s
argument that people are not free unless they determine their system of
government and help create their own laws, and tried to advance democratization
within the rigid Soviet system.
a message of justice to communism’s victims, Gorbachev firmly believed that he
could reinvigorate the Soviet Union’s dying ideology. And, for a moment, he
did. When the Gorbachev-led 19th National Communist Party Congress was
broadcast on television in 1988, the country breathlessly watched its young
leader publicly debate his reform ideas, most notably with Andrei Sakharov, a
famed nuclear physicist and dissident human-rights activist.
of course, the Soviet Union’s ossified structure could not be saved; but,
thanks in large part to Gorbachev’s fundamental decency, the USSR’s demise in
1991 was rather peaceful. He created an environment in which demands for
radical change led to compromise, not rage — in sharp contrast to, say, the
violent breakup of Yugoslavia.
Francis and Sanders, Gorbachev was an improbable reformer. Despite rising to
power with the support of the KGB, he did not surrender his thought processes
to that machine, in the way that President Vladimir Putin clearly has.
Likewise, far from fitting the mould of the Democratic machine, Sanders is working
to pull the party back “to the social democratic left where it belongs.” And
many in the Vatican today cannot fathom Francis’s approach.
opponents of Sanders and Francis may not be old, but they represent the old,
while the improbable reformers, though elderly, are speaking for the young. In
August 1991, an attempted coup against Gorbachev failed because he had the
support of young people, both on the streets of Moscow and other cities and in
the tanks and junior officer corps of the Soviet Union. That is the power of
young people — a power that Sanders has tapped. Should Hillary Clinton beat him
for the Democratic nomination, as seems likely, she will ignore it at her
Taliban bombing in the heart of Kabul that killed over 64 innocent civilians
has sent a strong signal to the world. The back of Taliban is far from broken —
they stand resilient and stronger than ever at any point since 2001 to stage
large-scale attacks across Afghanistan.
violence is not just having repercussions for Afghanistan’s internal security
situation, but it is taking a toll on the already distraught relationship
between Afghanistan and Pakistan as well.
the attack, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah canceled his
much-anticipated trip to Pakistan, while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has also
made a policy shift of ending Pakistan’s role in the ongoing peace talks with
Taliban. The change in policy coincides with rumors that a delegation from
Qatar-based Taliban political office is visiting Pakistan to discuss peace
prospects with the Afghan government after the group had recently dismissed
negotiations under the quadrilateral group of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and
the United States. This development is not likely to drastically change the
situation as the Afghan government faces a backlash for pursuing peace dialogue
with the Taliban, who have launched their annual spring offensive encouraged by
military gains in the country.
government is seeking to pressurize Pakistan even though no concrete evidence
has so far surfaced to implicate the country’s premier spy agency or any
Pakistan-based militant organization in the Kabul bombing. From Pakistan’s perspective,
the sharp US criticism of not doing enough against Haqqani network is
disappointing. Over the past few months, the US administration had lauded
Pakistan for bringing the Taliban back to negotiating table and pushing for
peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan itself feels a victim of terrorism and
interference by regional countries. The arrest of an Indian and Afghan
intelligence operative along the border has only fuelled its suspicions that
neighbouring countries are involved in stirring unrest in Pakistan.
It is high
time that the Afghan and U.S officials recognized the regional peace
initiatives and sacrifices of Pakistan in the war against terrorism. Rather
than playing the blame game, the focus of all stakeholders should be on
reaching a political solution to the Afghan crisis and building the capacity of
security institutions in the war-torn country. The Taliban are ready to wait
and fight till the end, while cracks begin to appear in the coalition.
Restoring peace in Afghanistan would require patience, trust and openness from
all parties. It must be understood that Pakistan stands to be the biggest loser
in the region due to violence in Afghanistan; long-term stability in Pakistan
is not possible without peace in its neighborhood. Any efforts to engage the
Taliban by isolating Pakistan from the whole process are most likely to fail
because the country still somehow maintains credibility and clout over the
peace in Afghanistan is not the sole responsibility of Pakistan and all stakeholders
must work together to create a conducive environment to end violence in the