Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Giving to Gaza

Okay - after a post of moaning and groaning, it's time to actually do something.

For those of you in the UAE, the UAE Red Crescent Society has set up a relief fund for Gaza. You can donate money through the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank by sending whatever you can to account number 20000417.

If you're interested in sending donations in the form of clothing, etc. please call 800-733. A representative from the Red Crescent Society will call you back within 48 hours to arrange when they can come by your home and pick up your donations.

For anyone who knows me personally, I'm collecting money for Gaza to send to the Red Crescent Society. If you want to donate money but don't have time to go through the procedure of sending money to the organization's bank account, feel free to contact me. I'll be collecting donations in an envelope for the next few days, and you can leave your donations with me to pass on to the organization.

For those of you outside the UAE, contact your local Red Cross/Crescent to see what donation programs they have going on for Gaza.

And for something a little unconventional, check out FreeGaza.org. This is a group of human rights observers, aid workers, and journalists from around the world who are trying to break the siege of Gaza. Read through their mission and find out what you can do to help.

I know that what's going on in Palestine seems too big an issue for any one of us to be able to affect on our own. But just in the UAE, hundreds of people have called to donate whatever they can for those in Gaza. And around the world, there have been all sorts of protests and drives for the people of Gaza, from Saudi Arabia to England to Arizona. If each of us does something, no matter how small, all of our actions can add up and actually make a difference.


Now, one last thing. I was reading an article by Nir Rosen on Al Jazeera English, called "Israel's Failure to Learn". I don't know how much of it I agree with, but I found it very interesting and definitely recommend it to everyone reading this.

Below is an excerpt I found particularly good. Enjoy!

Terrorism is a normative term which is used to describe what the 'other' does, not what 'we' do.

Powerful nations such as Israel, the US, Russia or China will always describe their victims' struggle as terrorism.

However, they fail to acknowledge as acts of terror the destruction of Chechnya, the slow slaughter of the remaining Palestinians, the repression of Tibetans, and the US
occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Normative rules and what is legal and permissible are determined by the powerful. They formulate the concept of terrorism in normative terms and make it appear as if a neutral court derived such definitions instead of the oppressors.

For the weak to resist becomes illegal by definition.

This excessive use of legal jargon actually undermines the fundamentals of what is truly legal and diminishes the credibility of international institutions such as the UN. The law becomes the enemy of those who struggle.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gaza.

It's all over the news: Gaza is being pounded into rubble by the Israeli army.

The statistics: over 230 targets hit by Israeli air strikes, over 275 Gazans dead (including women and children), over 600 injured, over 150 in critical condition, and unknown numbers of people lying beneath the carnage.

Everyone around me is angry. Furious. I was in the mall with my family this morning and ran into some old Emirati friends: everyone replaced the customary small talk with a torrent of exclamations about Gaza. Back at home, we got a phone call from our Palestinian neighbors: they asked us to pray for their family members, who were cowering in their apartments in Gaza. I spoke to some friends and family: they were cursing the Zionists left and right, asking God to "punish the unjust aggressors." I logged on to Facebook: nearly all of my friends had some sort of tribute to Gaza on their profiles. Some had replaced their profile pictures with images of Gaza, others had updated their status to mourn the dead, and still others had written notes describing their horror and anger at the massacre that was taking place in the city.

But me? How do I feel? I'm numb. There's this little scratchy feeling deep in my chest somewhere, but other than that, I can't really feel anything. I should be riled up. Angry and furious like the rest. But I'm not. Maybe its because I feel that this keeps happening in Palestine, that everything is just hopeless, that to get angry is to hope for a solution that could extinguish that anger when I don't see any solution coming for a long, long time. Maybe I've given up.

All this and I don't even live in Palestine. I have so much respect - so much respect - for the people who live under occupation there, day in and day out, and still manage to have hope. I'm here in Dubai, living in complete comfort, with final exams my biggest worry of the day. I cannot imagine being walled in Gaza, with rockets raining over my head, and still be able to stand and fight for my survival, much less for my land and my people.

Palestine is an open wound in the hearts of many. Not just Arabs and Muslims, but people all over this planet who see a balanced reporting of both sides of the conflict. And this is the biggest bloodbath Palestine has witnessed since the 1967 war. Words, or at least my words, cannot come close to describing what we as a group are feeling.

As I write this, I'm realizing that I do feel something: immense sadness. Anger is there too, just bubbling slowly away under the surface of that sadness. I don't know what to do with that anger yet, or where to direct it, so I'm just letting it simmer for the moment. Writing is all I can do, so I'm doing it.

Right now, I'm turning you over to a person much more qualified to speak about the bombings in Gaza than I am. It's Mohammad, a writer on KABOBfest. As a resident of Palestine, he's experiencing all of this in a way most of us can only imagine. The passion and clarity in his post are extremely impressive. But most of all, it is the hope that underlies those things that gets me. If he didn't have hope for a solution to the problems of Palestine, he wouldn't be spending hours writing articles like this up:

Gaza: the slaughter of a people.

Thank you Mohammad, for keeping a flame burning for Palestine, while you wait for the rest of us to have the courage to do the same.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Quick Peek at Poetry

It's exam week now, so this is going to be a quick post. A friend of mine came across some older poetry I published online that she said she enjoyed, so I've decided to share those poems with you.

They're three poems: Nalchik Headline, Double Entendre, and Snow Globe. (At the moment, I'm very much identifying with Snow Globe.)

Here's the link at Unlikely Stories.

I hope you guys enjoy them!

Oh, and happy holidays to you all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The al-Zaidi Follow-up

Several news reports are saying that Muntadhar al-Zaidi has been beaten and possibly tortured while he was in custody after the shoe-throwing incident. This morning, I read reports that he has written an apology for his "ugly act." People are saying that the apology was written under the threat of further torture.

This is in no way tolerable. I don't personally agree with al-Zaidi's act (although I understand and sympathize with why he did it), but getting harassment like this is much, much worse. If I was saying that the power that comes with freedom of speech should be checked by responsibility, then what is there to say about the power that comes with physical and military might?

My last post, by the way, caused a huge comment war on my Facebook account. I was really impressed with all the different opinions people articulated - it's great to get conversations like this going. But on the other hand, I hope that we (myself included) don't get too sucked up in the media frenzy over flashy stories like this and forget about all the other things going on in Iraq.

There are lots of other, underreported incidents happening in the country that deserve the same attention, if not more. Just check out Haifa Zangana's City of Widows: An Iraqi Woman's Account of War and Resistance. That book shows you what's going on in Iraq from a mature and articulate Iraqi point of view - something you don't get to see too often in the mainstream media. Her articles in the Guardian are just as interesting.

What's important as we try to understand what's going on in Iraq is some form of balance and objectivity. Only then can we possibly work at creating solutions for the problems that have ravaged the country since (and before) 2003.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Flying Shoes = Resistance?

I just read that an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at President Bush at a press conference earlier this morning. President Bush was on a surprise visit to Iraq, and had said that the Iraqi war was not over, but "it is decisively on its way to being won." An infuriated journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, jumped up calling the President a dog and yelling "this is the end." The President ducked just in time as the man's shoes flew over his head.

Watch a video of the incident here:


al-Zaidi was detained, but thousands of Iraqis are demonstrating for his freedom in Baghdad today. They claim that al-Zaidi's detention is a violation of the freedom of expression that the U.S. had promised it would bring into Iraq. Hundreds of lawyers, including various Americans and the man who defended Saddam Hussein, have offered to defend al-Zaidi for free.

Freedom of expression is important, yes. And, of course, the atrocities that have been committed in Iraq are horrible. But freedom is part of a package that includes responsibility. People who have the freedom to do and say what they want must be mature enough to act in a way that does not abuse that freedom. Muslims and Arabs should be the first people to support this statement, especially with their enraged reactions to the Danish cartoons. They can't demand that the West keep its freedom of expression within the boundaries of respect then turn around and support something like this.

I understand that the Bush administration has abused its power in Iraq, and that Iraqis have suffered tremendously because of the U.S.'s actions in the country. But that doesn't mean Iraqis must resist through pure insult. Doing so does not further the Iraqi cause or improve the image of Iraqi citizens in any way. It only makes it more difficult for them to legitimately resist U.S. presence within their borders.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Eid Is Over, But Movies Aren't

Since I'm on the topic of movies, let me bring your attention to another film I recently heard about: Salt of This Sea. It's a story about a American of Palestinian descent who goes back to Palestine to rediscover her land and her identity. There, she meets and falls for a Palestinian man who wants nothing more than to get out of Palestine.

I haven't actually seen the film, so I don't know what happens next. But I have seen the trailer, and it looks pretty interesting. Salt of the Sea seems to mix politics, romance and self-discovery into a movie definitely worth watching. It gives the Palestinian issue a human face.

And that fact that it's a film by one of my favorite poets, Suheir Hammad, makes it all the more exciting.

Check out the trailer below:


Monday, December 8, 2008

Eid Mubarak!

It's Eid everyone! Go have fun! If you're in the mood for a movie, check out Traitor. It's about an Islamic "terrorist," but is actually one of the best film portrayals of Islam that I've ever seen. Plus, it's a great movie - which is always good.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Question of Culture

The United Arab Emirates is growing at an incredible pace. This tiny country spans just 83,600 square kilometers (an area slightly smaller than the state of Maine), but holds 5.6 million people - 85% of whom are expatriates. With the country's rapid industrial and economic development, as well as an influx of foreigners from all across the world, there is a fear that local UAE culture is becoming diluted and in danger of dying out.

Making up just 15% of the country's population, UAE nationals are trying to fight back against the erosion of their traditional culture. One way they're trying to salvage an Emirati identity is through Watani, a social development program aiming to engage Emirati youth in the preservation of local culture.

The program has done some interesting things in the three years since its inception. Among other things, it has hosted Ramadan iftars, set up summer camps promoting UAE culture among Emirati kids, launched a comic book series centering on an Emirati superhero, and created an Emirati version of YouTube to spread Emirati culture.

As the world moves towards becoming a global village, the question of identity is on many people's minds. Although any given culture is always changing, the speed at which that is happening today is causing alarm around the world. Usually it took generations for major changes in culture to become evident, so people within that culture did not feel that they were loosing a major part of themselves during their lifetime. This is no longer the case.

Experiments like Watani are interesting examples of where we will draw the line between keeping some semblance of our local identity and merging with the international community.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Obama and Clinton?

Obama has officially nominated Hillary Clinton as the U.S.'s Secretary of State. I don't really know how I feel about this. On one hand, I'm afraid of the baggage that Clinton will bring with her into the new administration. But on the other hand, the U.S. needs to have a government staffed by people with experience, as well as by people who come from all parts of the political spectrum. And I think that Obama is fulfilling those needs quite well with the appointments he's making for his national security team.

It's a tough balance to keep. I just hope Obama can bring all these different people into his administration without loosing sight of the direction he wants to steer America towards.

Some links: