Sunday, August 31, 2008
Either we Arab women have amazing powers that enable us single-handedly (or to be accurate single-hymenly) to shatter the honor of our families and bring their downfall or that this so-called family honor is so fragile, so delicate, so vulnerable that a breeze can destroy it. This is why it has to be protected by slaughtering women and piling their corpses for all to learn their lesson.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Here are some of the things that come to my mind:
She's strong. She's disciplined. She's persistent. She's driven. She's beautiful. She's talented. She has good genes. She trains hard. She doesn't blog.
But when it comes to Muslim women who veil, the media seems to be interested only in one thing: the piece of fabric on the woman's head. They want to know if its weight slow down runners; if it blocks the view of archers; if it interferes with the concentration of weight lifters. And let's not forget the color. It must matter!
And they are surprised when they find out that what they're obsessing with is irrelevant. Still, they write the article about the veil, not the woman competing.
I'm always waiting for the Muslim woman athlete who will refuse to talk about her veil and will insist that she be interviewed about her athletic accomplishments. Here's my fantasy interview:
Bob: We are really impressed by your presence here. Do you mind if we ask you a few questions?
ToughMuslimCookie: Sure. I'd be happy to answer.
Bob: How long have you been veiling?
TMC: I've been training for 10 years, but the last five years I've been doing it full-time.
Bob: How many hours a day do you wear the veil?
TMC: I train for about six hours every day. I slowed down earlier in the year because of an injury.
Bob: Who helps you put on your veil?
TMC: I have a great coach and she has been instrumental in getting me to Beijing.
Bob: Who decides the color of your veil?
TMC: My parents have been very supportive. In fact, my mother sold her jewelry to get me here.
Bob: Can you talk us through the different ways your government forces you to wear the veil?
TMC: Official support has not been as it should be, but I'm proud to be representing my country.
Bob: Don't you find that the weight of your veil slows you down?
TMC: I have improved a great deal this year and I have high hopes for a good performance.
Bob: Isn't the fabric itchy?
TMC: I'm really itching to compete. I've been waiting a long time for this dream of competing in the Olympics.
Bob: We've noticed that you tie your veil differently from the women on the Iranian team. Is this because you are Sunni?
TMC: I tied with the Iranian competitor once in the Asian games. But since my time has improved.
Bob: This maybe a sensitive question: Don't you worry that your veil might slip down? What will happen then? Can you talk about honor killing? (at this point an advisory: "remove children from room" appears at bottom of the TV screen.)
TMC: I will not slip. I worked on my concentration a lot last year and I'm determined.
Bob: There are concerns by some on the Olympic committee that your veil is soaked in steroids, which then seep into your hair and scalp and give you veil advantage. How do you defend yourself?
TMC: I just follow a healthy diet of home cooking (thanks Mom!) and I don't smoke or drink.
Bob: Some competitors have expressed concern that your veil may interfere with their performance. Can you address their legitimate worries?
Bob: Well, that it may unravel and trip the person on your right, or that it may fly in the Beijing breeze and block the view of the person on your left, or that it will distract as it did when you appeared among the spectators at the USA vs. Belgium beach volleyball game. Kerri and Misty almost lost. How do you justify your distracting presence?
TMC: I don't think the attention distracts me. As I said, I'm focused and determined to do my best. I worked very hard to get here and won't let anything stop me.
Bob: Final question: what thoughts are going through your veil right now?
TMC: You don't want to know, Bob.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The Guardian reports:
"The rapidly changing face of the American people is revealed in new census projections that predict that groups that are now labelled minorities will form the greater part of the country's population by 2042. According to the US census bureau, the dominance of non-Hispanic white people, who today account for two-thirds of Americans, will be whittled away, falling steadily to less than half in 2042 and 46% by 2050. In the opposite trajectory, those who describe themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian and Native American will increase in proportion from about a third now to 54% by 2050."
August 11, 2008
He says, on the verge of death, he says,
“I have no more earth to lose”
Free am I, close to my ultimate freedom,
I hold my fortune in my own hands
In a few moments, I will begin my life
born free of father and mother
I will chose letters of sky blue for my name
Mahmoud Darwish, State of Siege
Keep the sky close
within reach, keep it blank
the names of the storytellers
will form in the absence of smoke
the vapor of prayer and fortunes
catalogued next to saints, teachers
revolutionaries, bread makers and drummers
Keep the sky close above Birwe
for when your family is exiled
we search the expanse for names
of the aborigines, the indigenous,
the lost. Keep the sky close
to memorize the names of the children
and let the sky echo, repeating and repeating
until the settlers cover their ears.
You have searched the cracked shell
of the Beirut sky, violin strings
archery of war -- the remains of a shattered window
a crusty coffee cup, crisscrossed years of predictions
coating the insides, impossible to read
the long walk across the city, counting
the living and the dead
The sky over Ramallah is refrain
and verse, chorus and song we
come back to, an allegiance,
a lullaby, a good bye. Keep it close
to renew each word in your absence
in your presence, stranger
and citizen. Enchant identity
with fire and purpose. Ramallah
Keep the sky close over Cairo
And Moscow where minarets
jab the sphere and domes
raised fist, ideology and memory
there are lessons to learn
in every universe and we shudder
on the edge of knowing, not knowing
How many times can you break
open your heart? How many ways
is writing a surgery that is life-
giving and deadly. The sky above
Houston is charged electric.
Your open heart floats upward
cumulus nimbus, fine mist, thunder
showers us with the azure
chalking of your name, messenger.
Mahmoud, it was much to hold
and I thank your heart and
I kiss the sky.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
A New York Times article and video about Raja Shehadeh's walks in the hills of Ramallah, documented in his book Palestinian Walks: Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape. Check out the wonderful slide show. (thanks za3tar for the better link)
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The commander said: "Insert a bullet," and the soldier said, "I have one in the barrel," and fired. Only after the soldier had fired did his commander clarify to him that "one doesn't shoot a person who is tied up."
Monday, August 11, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
From a review I wrote years ago of Mahmoud Darwish's book Memory for Forgetfulness:
Memory for Forgetfulness records the poet's experience during one day in August 1982, in Beirut under siege, but from the first few pages it becomes apparent that this is more than a war diary. Through a juxtaposition of dream and reality, poetry and prose, past and present, Darwish probes issues that have been central concerns in his writing: the proper role of the intellectual at a time of war, the tensions between poetic and political expression, the relationship between memory and history. He looks at these issues through the prism of the Palestinian diasporan experience, which he chronicles, interrogates, and, more importantly, lives. His description of himself stranded in the hallway of his exposed apartment under intense bombardment one August morning is also a description of the collective Palestinian condition of exile at a particular moment in history, when the only places possible are intermediary and constantly narrowing, while the only space expanding is the minefield between "here" and "there," between exile and homeland.
The "here" in Darwish's text, and its obsessive center, is Beirut. No ordinary city of exile, it is at once a poem and a dilemma: "I try to unravel Beirut, and I become more and more ignorant of myself. Is it a city or a mask? A place of exile or a song?" As he sings of Beirut, Darwish movingly sings of his guilty yet defiant love for a city that is not his. His song is like his book (as he himself describes it): "nervous, tense, taut, on edge." Part of his uneasiness stems from his uncertainty about what the poet's role is in wartime. He rejects writing the kind of poetry that "liberated the land line by line," but also resists following the path of the poet who killed himself during the siege of Beirut when he realized that song is no longer possible. Although Darwish declares that the poet is marginal in war and can only write his silence, he continues to search for a new, ideal language in which "the private voice and the public voice become one."
Until that language is possible, he resists death in a myriad of small ways: by remembering the sounds and smells of an ordinary morning before the shelling started; by preparing with exquisite care a cup of coffee; by making love on the balcony in view of the murderous sea; and by designing, in his mind's eye, his own funeral, down to the last detail. The poet's ability to dream, however, does not obscure his vision of a grim future: "Hiroshima is tomorrow," he chillingly announces, and tomorrow is another journey with no shore in sight.
World Literature Today (1997)
Saturday, August 09, 2008
The poet is dead. No more new poems for us. We have to do with what he left behind. And do we must: for his poems are the oxygen mask that failed him but gets us through our days.
The poet is dead. Words weep. Like us, they know what they have lost. Like us, they have been orphaned, adrift, in a world that has only politicians.
The poet is dead and with him my dream that one day I will hear him live.
The poet is dead. But his poems stay. We will know them better now. We will pour over them and squeeze every word the way we squeeze an olive to get out of it its last drop of goodness.
(for more of my blog posts on Mahmoud Darwish, click on the label below)
Last night I did something I usually don't do: I planted my eight-year old son in front of the TV and ordered: watch. It was the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games. We watched over two hours of amazing choreography, high-minded symbolism, cute children, huge screens, thousands of performers (basically men doing the heavy lifting and women the pretty dancing). We commented, argued, admired, and shrugged as the spectacle unfolded in front of our comfy sofa.
Then the parade of nations began.
We stopped our snacking and waited.
We blushed when the Bahrain delegation marched holding a picture of the country's leader over the flag. The only people to do so! As my son explained: "they must love their ruler very very much."
We groaned when the commentator described Jordan as a somewhat "progressive country." (define "somewhat")
We snickered when the commentator pointed out that the two women flag bearers for the UAE delegation happened to be the prime minister's daughters (he concluded: "but that maybe a coincident." (then we fumed for continuing to be the butt of jokes)
We frowned when the Saudi Arabia delegation appeared with no women on it and we had to be reminded that "Saudi women need a male guardian to travel."
We were deeply saddened by the uniforms of the women on the Hungarian delegation.
But we mostly waited.
There were huge nations and small ones (the population of one participating country was 46,000 people). There were bullying and bullied countries. We patiently waited.
Finally, they appeared. The Palestinians.
Now jumping on the sofa, pointing at the screen, and screaming "Palestine, Palestine," my son and I drowned about everything that the commentators said and could hardly focus on the picture. All I remember is this: there were four participants: two runners and two swimmers. The flag bearer was the runner Nader al Masri, who trained in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, during Israeli "incursions." I could see two women dressed in traditional Palestinian dresses. They all walked around the stadium holding hands and raising the victory sign.
They appeared for a few seconds. The Cuban delegation followed and the Palestinians disappeared from the screen.
We know they may not win any medals, but they already won. For despite the occupation, the closed borders, the divisions, the poverty, the misery, the lack of official support, the lack of facilities and the empty promises, they came for Palestine. They had no Olympic-size pools to swim in. They had no shoes or safe roads. They had no budgets. They had to wait for exit permits that may or may not be granted. But they persevered and came.
My son and I cheered for this, not for an abstract nationalism or an "us against them" idea. We cheered for the tenacity of young women and men who insist on dreaming of a better future.
When it was obvious that we will not see more of the Palestinians, we settled down. My son, breathless and flushed with excitement, turned to me and said: "They were awesome!"
Yes, they were: Nader, Ghadeer, Hamse, and Zakiya. We thank you for your awesomeness!
Friday, August 08, 2008
But the director of this clip, Yehya Sa'adeh, wanted to be more realistic, more in touch with the reality of Arab men's lives. So he chose an ordinary couple, living in a modest, sparsely furnished house, somewhere in the countryside. Then he thrust a gun in the model's arms and sent him to war. Not clear what war. Doesn't really matter. What matters is the big gun and the rugged, romantic look: the unshaven face, supposedly made more attractive with a smattering of blood on it. The woman, naturally, stays home: war is not her business. She waits, sings (irnonically of how she will protect him), and pines for her sexy man to come back. Hopefully in one piece.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Ok, the visuals are not inspiring, but some of the lines are pretty good. The sexiest one is when Suhail says: "I want you as much as my group wants its land." Damn! That's lots of wanting!
"Take me from my night
to the light of your eyes
Protect me from my darkness
Your'e the sun behind my clouds"
The Israeli soldier who shot a bound and blindfolded Palestinian man with a bullet at close range was found guilty of "inappropriate conduct" and was reassigned.
So if you were holding your breath, you can exhale.
I hope now you understand how the occupation works:
If you shoot a bound and blindfolded Palestinian in the foot, your conduct is "inappropriate."
If you shoot a bound and blindfolded Palestinian in the eye, your conduct is "rather inappropriate."
If you shoot a bound and blindfolded Palestinian in the head, your conduct is "really inappropriate."
If you shoot ten bound and blindfolded Palestinians in the foot, eye, and head, your conduct is "very inappropriate."
If you shoot one hundred bound and blindfolded Palestinians in the foot, eye, head, mouth, and genitals, you are a national hero.
In all the above cases, you will be reassigned. Depending on how many you shoot and where you shoot them, there is a good chance you will be reassigned to be Prime Minister or Chief of Staff.
To put things in perspective:
If a Palestinian throws a stone at an Israeli armored tank, his conduct is labeled "criminal" and he is reassigned to an Israeli jail for a few years.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
"The future of the Jordan Valley, its Jewish settlements and Palestinian villages, will be decided in a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal. If and when that happens, might there be a way of accommodating both Jasser [the Palestinian farmer] and Yossi [the Isreaeli colonists] in this stunningly beautiful but often hostile strip of land?"Ending the article in this way equates the victim and the thief. Jasser has international law on his side: this land is his land; he owned if for generations and all settlements built under occupation are illegal. Yossi has the power of a colonial state on his side and a god who works in his free time as a real estate agent.
We know who is going to win.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
"Police say they have arrested a policeman [don't hold your breath] in connection with the death of a Palestinian boy at a protest in the West Bank last week. 10-year old Ahmad Moussa was killed by gunfire last week during clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians in the village of Na'alin...A second Palestinian youth, 18-year-old Yusuf Amira, was fatally shot at a protest that followed the first boy's funeral, and died in a Ramallah hospital on Monday.
The group Anarchists Against the Wall on Monday gave a picture of Amira to the press, taken just before he was shot, with a statement that "the faces of people struggling together unarmed against the stealing of land" should be seen."
Ha'aretz didn't see fit to print the picture. It's more convenient for their readers that Palestinians victims remain faceless.
Monday, August 04, 2008
These are pictures from the Arab press of Palestinian Fateh men running away from Palestinian Hamas men towards Israel. Israeli soldiers arrested them and are sending them back to the West Bank. Those who were sent back to Gaza were arrested by Hamas.
Perhaps this Hamas's new plan for dealing with the refugee problem: create more Palestinian refugees but this time send them in the other direction--back to Palestine. Brilliant!!