Amoeblog

Scimitars and Sand Dunes - Rethinking the Middle East, Arabs and Islam

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 6, 2009 10:41pm | Post a Comment
With President Obama's recent address at the University of Cairo, there has been a veritable sandstorm of media discussion about the Middle East, the Arab world and the Islamic world; three concepts lazily interchanged in the American mainstream media (including the supposedly smarter public radio). Despite some overlap, the indiscriminate use of the terms, both out of ignorance and deliberately,  minimizes substantial heterogeneity and differences -- to the detriment of our understanding of reality, and as a result contributing to the undermining and hindering of attempts at peace in the region. While I did find the president's speech fairly nuanced, intelligent and inspirational, until substantial actions reflect those attractive words, they offer nothing more than hope.


"Neighbour to the Moon," the legendary Christian Lebanese singer, فيروز.

Today Arabs, Muslims and Middle Easterners remain some of the last people in the west for whom racism is not only extremely common but also widely accepted, even governmentally endorsed. Merely advocating equality and human rights for Arabs and Muslims is often met with charges of racism and embracing hatred, probably the only people likely to ellicit that response besides Germans. Given this reality, centuries of negative stereotypes and repeated military and political actions that reflect undeniable double standards, it's no wonder that many view the frequent proclamations that "Islam is a beautiful religion" and hands extended in friendship with widespread suspicion at best.

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Nakba Day: yawm al-nakba يوم النكبة

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 15, 2008 09:27am | Post a Comment
This Nakba Day (which means "Day of the Catastrophe") marks the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian people's expulsion and dispossession of their homelands. According to the UN, an estimated 711,000 Palestinians fled their homes and 160,000 stayed behind to become internal refugees in the newly formed state of Israel.



Palestinians fleeing their homes in 1948

Situated at one of those great crossroads of civilizations, the Palestinian populace reflects the diverse cultural imprint in their ancient ancestors. Genetic evidence shows the Palestinians are descended from Amorites, Anatolians, Arabs, Arameans, Canaanites, Edomites, European crusaders, Hebrews, Jebusites, Lydian Greeks, Philistines and Romans. They practice various faiths like Christianity, Druze, and Islam.

Western media, however, tends to have a hard time accepting that not all Palestianians are Muslim. For example, when Ahmad Sa'adat, the leader of the PFLP (Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine) was arrested, the news I was watching described his organization as "Islamic Fundamentalists" even though it is secular, Marxist-Leninist and was created by George Habbash, a Palestinian Christian. No correction followed.



A Ghassanid Palestinian family in 1905

In 1919, the First Palestinian Congress issued a statement opposing Zionist immigration but, when speaking of the 10,000 Jews already in Palestine, they stated "they are as we are, and their loyalties are our own."

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SANTA'S GHETTO BETHLEHEM 2007

Posted by Billyjam, December 28, 2007 05:15am | Post a Comment
          

Aritst Ron English, recently interviewed here on the Amoeblog about his new books and interviewed again here for this report, has just returned to the US after a most interesting visit immediately before Christmas to Palestine where he was a part of the unique Santa's Ghetto Bethlehem 2007 art project. He joined several other "street artists" from around the world, including renowned British artist Banksy (the project's mastermind).

While in Bethlehem Ron posted his art on the controversial Palestine wall and fence as well as in places nearby the wall. The unique ongoing annual art exhibition was held in Bethlehem this year by Banksy reportedly in the hope that it would focus attention on the poverty of the West Bank and draw tourists back to the traditional birthplace of Christianity.

To the left and down below are some of the pieces by Banksy. Immediately above and below are two of the pieces by Ron English.  All of these pieces along with many others were posted on the website SantasGhetto which, note, in the days before posting this  blog, had just been been "closed" but may be open again. Meantime, check out both Ron English's Popaganda site where on the first page is a segment titled "This Christmas in Bethlehem" and also Banksy's main website.

Banksy created the Santa's Ghetto project six years ago when he felt that the spirit of Christmas was being lost. "It was becoming increasingly uncommercialized and more and more to do with religion, so we decided to open our own shop and sell pointless stuff you didn't need," said the artist in a statement at the time.  

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