Wednesday, January 14, 2009

We will not go down - A song for Gaza

WE WILL NOT GO DOWN (Song for Gaza)

(Composed by Michael Heart)
Copyright 2009
Click here to listen/download song or watch a video

A blinding flash of white light
Lit up the sky over Gaza tonight
People running for cover
Not knowing whether they’re dead or alive

They came with their tanks and their planes
With ravaging fiery flames
And nothing remains
Just a voice rising up in the smoky haze

We will not go down
In the night, without a fight
You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
But our spirit will never die
We will not go down
In Gaza tonight

Women and children alike
Murdered and massacred night after night
While the so-called leaders of countries afar
Debated on who’s wrong or right

But their powerless words were in vain
And the bombs fell down like acid rain
But through the tears and the blood and the pain
You can still hear that voice through the smoky haze

We will not go down
In the night, without a fight
You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
But our spirit will never die
We will not go down
In Gaza tonight

Thank you Ani for sending me this link.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

For Gaza Psychologist, Hope Amid Despair

By James S. Gordon, M.D.
January 12, 2009
The NewYork Times

Jamil sounds different on the second day of the attack. It isn’t the occasional voice-obscuring thunder in the background — Israeli shells exploding near his Gaza City apartment. It’s a subtler note, a bewildered, despairing flatness I have never heard in the six years that this kind, understated, endlessly resourceful child psychologist has coordinated our center’s work with Gaza’s psychologically traumatized population.

“Do you know our team member Waleed?” he asks. I do. The image arises of a sweet, soulful young social worker who cares for traumatized kids.

“He has been killed,” Jamil tells me.

Gaza has never been easy. Most of its 1.5 million people, the families of refugees from Israel in 1948, live many to a room in buildings separated by alleys little wider than a big man’s shoulders. Even in 2002, when I first visited, when tens of thousands of laborers still streamed daily into Israel, unemployment was as high as 40 percent and most residents received supplementary food from the United Nations.

Since Hamas won elections in 2006 and Israel has sealed Gaza’s border, conditions have grown much worse. Unemployment reached 60 percent or more; fuel, food and water were often in short supply. Fed by impotent rage, family violence and clan conflicts escalated.

In 2007, we surveyed 500 children. Fully 70 percent said they had witnessed a killing — by Israelis or in factional fighting. Almost 30 percent had post-traumatic disorder: agitation, inability to concentrate or sleep, violent outbursts, nightmares of traumatic events and flashbacks of them during the day, withdrawal from ordinary activities and emotional numbing.

Still, Jamil, Waleed and the other 90 professionals we trained felt happier and more hopeful as they used the techniques that our international faculty taught them: slow deep breathing to quiet anxiety; guided imagery to seek intuitive solutions to intractable problems; words, drawings and movement to express and share their feelings.

Our Gaza clinicians soon began to share what was helping them in hundreds of small groups that they created for thousands of traumatized children and adults. On my recent visits, they introduced me to mothers who, learning in our groups to relax, were able to successfully breast-feed babies who had been failing to thrive; to a teenage boy whose group leader had taught him mental images that gave him alternatives to suicidal rock throwing at Israeli tanks.

Now, two weeks after the initial bombings, with almost 900 dead, several thousand wounded, and Israeli ground forces swarming Gaza, it is hard to find hope. Yet in the midst of despair, many of our colleagues do find some.

“When the bombs fall,” Jamil tells me, “my children and I breathe deeply, and then we share our feelings. We have each other — our families and our Mind-Body team, too — and of course we have to trust in God.” And then his voice rises, and he is asking about my family and planning for the time when we will return to Gaza, to train 150 more clinicians. “We will need them so much more,” he says.

He’s getting ready to sign off: “The children are crying.” He thanks me for listening and for encouraging our Israeli colleagues — Arabs and Jews — to get in touch with him.

As we hang up, I remember what another Gazan colleague told me not long ago: “In our Scripture, it is written that when you do not have hope, you look for it in the face of your friend.”

James S. Gordon, a psychiatrist, is the founder and director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington and the author of “Unstuck".

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Talking to the dead

They've been called the work of the Michelangelo of antiquity and they were brutally ripped apart as the spoils of empire. Now the fragments and paintings of Neb-Amun's burial house have been sympathetically brought together in a new gallery at the British Museum. Their history has much to teach us about international relations today, writes Ahdaf Soueif.
The Guardian, Saturday 10 January 2009

In Room 61 of the British Museum you will soon be able to see some of the most beautiful paintings ever to come out of Egypt. The 11 brilliant fragments, dating to approximately 1350BC, were acquired in 1822 and - until 1997, when they became the subjects of the largest conservation project ever undertaken by the museum - they were on constant exhibition. And so the tall young man fowling in the marshes with his son holding on to his leg will be familiar to many visitors, as will the four musicians and the naked dancing-girls. What's new is the curatorial approach adopted in Room 61.

I never used to like the Egyptian galleries in the British Museum. For a start, mummies on show make me uncomfortable, whether in London or Cairo. I won't go on about that since we all know that mummies are a major crowd-puller. But for all the exhibits (as well as being supremely so for the mummies - but no matter) there was a painful sense of displacement. Powerful kings from 5,000 years ago struck solitary poses as they stood captive in the cold and gloomy halls; for each, instead of his five complex and highly significant names, a small placard bearing one Latinised name that meant nothing. Every one of these figures had been painstakingly sculpted and installed in a palace or a temple in Egypt for a purpose completely negated by their present plight. When you came across pharaonic artefacts in Egypt, even ruined ones, they were part of the landscape. Here, they were the spoils of victory, the visible proof of Egyptian defeat.

Once my attention was caught by a guide leading his group through the Egyptian hall. He was encouraging them to express disgust at the transparent dresses of the Egyptian ladies, revulsion at the perfumed cones on their heads. He made the bemused, elderly Americans pass and repass in front of Sekhmet, an aspect of Hat-hor, goddess of love and beauty - lion-headed, wrathful, manifesting the destructive potential of love. He urged them to step across the goddess's line of vision: "The Egyptians thought she'd curse you, but she can't. Step right up to her . . ." It wasn't an official museum tour, but still . . .

The curator of the new gallery is Richard Parkinson, assistant keeper of pharaonic culture at the museum, and his approach can be said to address - and perhaps even to redress - all this. It is empathetic, imaginative, highly professional and very post-colonial. Parkinson's specific area is the poetry of Egypt's classical age (1940BC to 1640BC) and a few years ago he wrote a paper arguing that the time had come to examine this poetry as literature rather than merely ethnographic documentation. He also argued that to appreciate the poetry you had to be able to imagine it in performance, and urged a parallel with the difference in experience between seeing the lyrics of an Umm Kulsoum song on the page and attending a concert by the great 20th-century Egyptyian diva.

Now, in Room 61, he tries to recreate the setting of the fragments, to help the viewer experience something as close as possible to actually walking into the burial house of Neb-Amun now lost in the desert west of Luxor. An interactive computer simulation shows you what the house would have looked like in its natural setting - and then there are the paintings: Neb-Amun fowling in the marshes; a party with musicians, dancing-girls, stacks of wine-jars and lots of elegant guests; Neb-Amun examining the livestock and produce of his lands, and so on. They've been called the work of the Michelangelo of antiquity, and Parkinson, in the book that accompanies the exhibition, The Painted Tomb-Chapel of Neb-Amun, shows us why.

The burial house (or tomb-chapel as it's called here) had to conform to certain requirements: an inviting façade and front yard, one or two (or more) pleasant rooms for the family of the deceased to come and visit and offer food and prayers, and an underground, sealed room for the burial. Within these parameters, the artists could deploy their inventiveness.

In Neb-Amun's house the meticulous design combined with the flair and fluidity of execution to produce dazzling results. Parkinson points out how the party scene and Neb-Amun's table of offerings would be the first scenes to catch the sunlight, and how the cleverest bits of each scene are positioned at eye-level to the viewer. He explains the techniques used to achieve certain effects, to draw the eye of the beholder: the "highlighted" quality of Neb-Amun himself achieved by painting the red ochre of his skin over a layer of brilliant white. Or the lustre of the women's hair and décolletage achieved by brushing them with glittering beeswax.

One of the most touching things about this exhibition is that it enables you to see the artist at work. As some of the creamy white used for the background, for example, has worn off, it has revealed the bars of a chair put in the wrong place, painted over and repositioned, or the staff held by Neb-Amun pulled in closer to his body. The corrections, Parkinson says, are always in the direction of making the composition tighter, the picture fuller.

Neb-Amun must have been pleased. Solid in his position in the accountancy department at Karnak, married to "the lady of the house, whom he loves", and blessed with at least one child, he was in a position to commission the must-have of the gentleman, his burial house. And what a house he got. The commentary on the exhibition makes a little too much, I think, of the fact that they express an "idealised" portrait of the life of the "elite"; that they are "aspirational" representations of a life that the common, labouring Egyptian was not in a position to have. You could say the same of any formal portrait of well-to-do folk in any society that had reason to be pleased with itself - and Egypt, in 1350BC, had plenty.

This was the reign of Amenhotep III. In a few years his son, Amenhotep IV, would change his name to Akhenaten and set in motion the crisis that would almost destroy the state. But when Neb-Amun was building his burial house the country was enjoying an economic boom, international relations and trade were at their most expansive, and the land hummed with great construction projects. Egypt was at the pinnacle of the classical phase of its civilisation. Three reigns previously, Tuthmosis III had taken on the kings and chieftains nibbling away at his borders and won decisive victories that spread Egyptian hegemony to the Fourth Cataract south and well into Syria in the north, establishing, in fact, what was then a "global" empire. Ra, Egypt's sun-god, instead of overseeing the Nile Valley, became - as Tuthmosis described - the god "who seeth the whole earth hourly". Thebes was not just the heart of the empire but a cosmic capital. And Karnak was its Whitehall. And Neb-Amun was in charge of a portion of the treasure flowing into and out of it.

The pleasant burial house is part of the Egyptians' constant attempt to turn death into something they could live with. At this happy moment in Egypt's history, Neb-Amun's artists presented him with a burial house exuberant with comfort and optimism. It puts the question: What death is this that so teems with life?

Parkinson says that the new gallery aims to present its exhibits as art, and to spark a dialogue between the living and the dead. The director of the museum, Neil MacGregor, has argued that it was established for the benefit of all nations, and he is seeking to return the institution to the founding principles parliament set for it in 1753: "to allow visitors to address through objects, both ancient and more recent, questions of contemporary politics and international relations." Well, the new gallery is in the eye of the storm of both contemporary politics and international relations. It's just as well that MacGregor believes the museum's remit to be "about understanding the world, both through the past and through what's going on now", because everything about the gallery, from the acquisition of the exhibits to its funding and naming, represents a spectacular learning opportunity.

By a curious coincidence, another "message" that reaches us from 1350BC - besides the Neb-Amun paintings - is the "Amarna Correspondence": some 300 letters on clay tablets that were stored in the royal archives in Akhenaten's city, n ow Amarna. Mainly from Canaanite chiefs to Egypt's pharaohs and written over a period of about 30 years, they paint a picture of Egypt's relationship with Palestine and her investment in the rich coastal trading cities of Gaza and Acca. Among them are nine letters asking for Egypt's help in repelling marauders.

I am writing this article in Cairo. Out of my window I can see the 15th of May flyover. The traffic is slow because a kind of checkpoint has been set up on one of its exits as the government tries to control the protests sweeping the country. In my living-room the TV is switched off because I'm trying to finish this piece. I began it inspired by my visit to the gallery in early December and I'm trying to finish it now and not be distracted by what's going on, by the news, by the cause of the protests, by Gaza.

There have been demonstrations in support of the people of Gaza across the world. And in many places the embassy of Egypt was targeted by the protesters alongside the embassies of Israel and the US. Under tremendous popular pressure our deeply unpopular government has agreed to open the Egyptian border with Gaza for a couple of hours every day to bring in the more seriously wounded. But it continues to provide petrol and gas to the Israelis for a fraction of market price and to carry out mass detentions of protesters.

The political configuration which led to the British Museum acquiring the Neb-Amun paintings, and displaying them today, also led to what is happening in Gaza. The interest that rival European powers took in Egypt and the Holy Land from the beginning of the 19th century, the casual racism that led them to believe that they could do what they wanted with the natives' lands and their history, the ignorance of the local rulers and the carelessness of the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople, were all part of this configuration.

The Painted Tomb-Chapel of Neb-Amun does not shrink from describing how the men working for Henry Salt, the British consul, hacked into the paintings on the walls of Neb-Amun's burial-house "with knives and saws, outlining rectangular pieces that they then prised away . . . with implements such as crow-bars". To carry off choice sections of a scene, whole contexts were destroyed. A young woman sits next to her friend at the party. The saw hacks through the crown of her head, severing the stalk of the lotus flower in her hair, cutting through the colourful headband, slicing down behind her ear then dividing into an inverted delta of damage, one branch snaking down her chest and arm, the other reaching across her shoulder to her friend. The brutality is astonishing.

In a later stage of the same historical moment, another set of English and Frenchmen took a hack-saw to the lands of the defeated Ottoman empire. They couldn't carry away the fragments, but they tried to own them, and they gave away one: Palestine. We are still living the effects of their actions.

The funding for the exhibition in Room 61 is also related to this process: the gallery enjoys the generous financial assistance of the R and S Cohen Foundation established by Sir Ronald Cohen and his wife Sharon Harel-Cohen. It is named the Michael Cohen Gallery in an English variant of the name of the Labour peer's father: Michel Mourad Cohen, a Syrian Jew who left Egypt in 1957 in the aftermath of the Suez war, when Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt. Sir Ronald himself, known as the father of venture capitalism, was born in Egypt. He was 11 when the family left for England, but remains invested in the affairs of the Middle East.

"If you look at my history," he has said, "born in Egypt, a refugee, married to the daughter of the commander of the Exodus who's an Israeli, there's an obvious connection between me and the region. I can empathise with the Arab world to a greater degree than the average person would, yet at the same time I can empathise with the Israelis." In 1998, he was among a select group presented with Israel's highest tribute, the Jubilee award, recognising him as "one of the visionaries who have done the most to facilitate Israel's integration into the global economy and to realise its world-class business potential".

In 2005 he established the Portland Trust to help the Palestinians "build up a powerful economy . . . based on a deep level of interdependence with Israel". Even though the United Nations has cited Israel's policy of encirclement and checkpoints as the principle reason for the devastated economy of Palestinian cities, Sir Ronald, with an entrepreneur's optimism, wonders if you can have "a different approach to checkpoints, which turns them into points of economic interchange rather than just for security?"

The historical process which broke up the Neb-Amun paintings, made a refugee of Ronald Cohen and is killing the children of Gaza, is still in motion. Where will it take us next? The British Museum, in this gallery that took 10 years of planning and fundraising, has elicited happy outcomes from the first two events. There can be none from the third. But maybe we can learn? If that is the BM's remit, can the gallery dedicated to Cohen, a Syrian Jew from Egypt, by his British son, help us learn something about ourselves, and about history, that would help us stop the bloodshed?

مصر التي في لندن.. وغزة التي تحترق

الروائية أهداف سويف تكتب لـ «البديل»و«الجارديان»
مصر التي في لندن.. وغزة التي تحترق

تكتب الروائية أهداف سويف هذا المقال لـ«البديل» وصحيفة «الجارديان» البريطانية،وتنشره الجريدتان بلغتين مختلفتين في الوقت نفسه. في هذا المقال تربط سويف بين افتتاح المتحف البريطاني في لندن قاعة مصرية جديدة اليوم وبين الوضع المصري في الداخل وتلقي الكاتبة بهدوء شديد في مقالها أحجاراً عديدة في المياه الراكدة، وتعطيه الفرصة ليعيش نفس اللحظة في عالمين مختلفين أحدهما ـ في إنجلترا ـ حيث يلتف الزوار حول مومياوات لملوك مصر القديمة ويقرأون رسائل من حكام غزة وعكا إلي الفراعنة يطلبون منهم العون لمواجهة غزو من خارج البلاد، أما في العالم الآخر ـ مصر ـ فتقرأ الروائية مشهداً جديداً لمصر غير ذلك الذي يقدمه المتحف البريطاني، حيث تنتشر قوات الشرطة في محاولات مستمرة لمنع مظاهرات الغضب علي اجتياح غزة التي تعم جميع المحافظات منذ بداية العدوان الإسرائيلي علي القطاع في 27 ديسمبر الماضي.

وتنشر «البديل» نص المقال لتتيح للقارئ المصري فرصة أن يري بلده من زاوية أخري، وبطريقة تربط العام بالخاص، والماضي المجيد الذي يحتفي به العالم بالحاضر الذي يحاصر فيه الجنود الآلاف الغاضبين الذين يطالبون بعودة مصر لدورها التاريخي وإنقاذ ما يمكن إنقاذه في غزة.

في المتحف البريطاني رسائل من حكام غزة وعكا تستغيث بفراعنة مصر لصد الغزو.. وعلي كوبري 15 مايو ينتشر الجنود لمنع مظاهرات الغضب
القاعة المصرية الجديدة في المتحف أسسها يهودي بريطاني من أصل سوري عاش في مصر وكرمته إسرائيل باعتباره أحد المساهمين في ربطها بالاقتصاد العالمي
سفارات مصر تحولت إلي هدف للغضب العالمي.. وحكومتنا غير الشعبية فتحت المعبر لساعات وواصلت إمداد إسرائيل بالغاز والبترول
يقلقني عرض مومياوات ملوك مصر العظام كسجناء في القاعات الباردة .. والآثار الفرعونية في متحف لندن دليل علي هزيمة مصرية

يفتتح المتحف البريطاني بلندن، في عشرين يناير الحالي، قاعة مصرية جديدة، في غرفته رقم 61، يعرض فيها بعض أجمل ما خرج من مصر من لوحات فنية. حصل المتحف علي هذه اللوحات - أو بالأصح هذه الأجزاء من جداريات كبيرة تعود بالتقريب إلي عام 1350 قبل الميلاد - في عام 1922، وعرضها عرضا مستمرا إلي أن رفعت في عام 1997 لتجري لها أكبر عملية صيانة قام بها المتحف في تاريخه. اللوحات مشهورة، وسيتعرف الكثيرون علي الشاب الرياضي الطويل، الذي يصطاد البط بينما يتعلق ابنه بساقه، وعلي عازفات الموسيقي الأربعة، وعلي الراقصات. أما الجديد فهو الاتجاه الذي يتبناه هذا العرض.

أعترف أنني لم أحب أبدا القاعات المصرية في المتحف البريطاني. أولا تقلقني مسألة عرض المومياوات، سواء في لندن أو القاهرة - ولن أطيل في هذا لأني أدرك أنها تجتذب جمهورا كبيرا. المعروضات كلها (وبالذات المومياوات - ما علينا) مغتربة بشكل مؤلم. عظماء الملوك من خمسين قرناً مضت يقفون، موحوشين، سجناء، في القاعات المظلمة الباردة. لكل منهم، عوضا عن الخمسة أسماء العالية التركيب والدلالة، بطاقة صغيرة، تحمل اسما محرفا إلي اللاتينية، خاليا من المعني. كل واحد من هذه التماثيل قام عليه نحاتون وفنانون، ووضع بدقة وتصميم في قصر أو معبد لغرض ينفيه تماما وضعه الحالي. في مصر، حين نري الآثار الفرعونية، حتي المخرب منها، هي جزء من المكان، أما هنا، في المتحف البريطاني، فهي غنيمة فائز ودليل ملموس علي هزيمة مصرية.

وفي مرة من المرات تبعت مرشدا يقود مجموعة من السياح في القاعة المصرية، وكان يستحثهم علي ازدراء السيدات المصريات بفساتينهن القطنية الخفيفة، وأقماعهن الشمعية المعطرة. ظل يشجع السيدات الأمريكيات، وهن متعجبات، أن يمروا ذهابا وإيابا أمام تمثال سخمت (وسخمت، كما نعلم، هي الوجه الآخر، الوجه الغاضب والمدمر لحتحور، إلهة الحب والجمال والأمومة) ويقول: كان المصريون يخافونها، لكنها لا تستطيع أن تؤذيكم. مروا، مروا.. لم يكن مرشدا تابعا للمتحف، ومع ذلك.

وأمين القاعة الجديدة هو ريتشارد باركنسون، الأمين المساعد للحضارة الفرعونية بالمتحف. توجهات باركنسون ومواقفه تعالج هذه المآخذ، فهي توجهات متعاطفة، ومبدعة، ومهنية، وتنتمي بالتأكيد إلي عصر ما بعد الاستعمار. يتخصص باركنسون في شعر العصر الكلاسيكي لمصر القديمة (1940 إلي 1640 ق م) وقرأت له من عدة سنين بحثا قوامه وجوب التعامل مع أدب قدماء المصريين علي أنه أدب رفيع وليس مجرد مادة للبحث الإثنوغرافي. ورأيه أن تذوق هذا الشعر مشروط بتصوره يغني أو ينشد، فعليك فقط أن تعي الفرق بين قراءة كلمات أغنية لأم كلثوم مكتوبة علي الورق، وسماع الأغنية بصوتها، لتدرك حجم ماينقصنا حين نقرأ هذا الشعر المصري مكتوبا.

والآن، وفي الغرفة 61، يحاول باركنسون أن يستعيد السياق الأصلي للوحات، ليشعر المتفرج بخبرة أقرب ماتكون إلي دخول مدفن نب آمون، المفقود الآن في البر الغربي للأقصر. تري علي الكمبيوتر المنظر الخارجي للبيت والحوش، ثم تدخل إلي اللوحات الجدارية: نب آمون في رحلة الصيد، الحفل والمأدبة، الفرقة الموسيقية والراقصات وضيوف الحفل بملابسهم الفاتنة، نب آمون يعاين المحصول وتمر من أمامه المواشي، إلي آخره. قيل عن هذه اللوحات أن من رسمها يستحق لقب »مايكل آنجلو العصر القديم»، وفي كتابه المرافق للمعرض الجديد يشرح باركنسون سبب هذه المقولة.

للمدفن دائما مواصفات محددة، فواجهته الخارجية ترحب بالقادم، وبه غرفة أو غرفتان (أو أكثر) لزيارة الأسرة والتلاوة، والتصدق، ثم غرفة تحت الأرض للدفن. وفي حدود هذه المواصفات، للمهندس والفنان أن يطلق العنان لخياله. وفي مدفن نب آمون نري الناتج المبهر للتصميم البارع والتنفيذ المتقن للمكان بكل تفاصيله. يشير باركنسون إلي موضع المأدبة ومائدة الصدقات، وكيف أنه الموضع الذي يستقبل أول أشعة للشمس، كما يشير إلي وضع أكثر أجزاء الرسم حرفية وبراعة (مشهد القط الصياد، أو مشهد قافلة الأوز مثلا) علي مستوي عين المشاهد. ويشرح باركنسون كيف يصل فنان 1350 ق م إلي التأثيرات التي يبتغيها، مثل تركيز الاهتمام علي الشخصية الرئيسية ـ نب آمون ـ بإضاءتها بشكل مغاير، وذلك بطلاء جسده بطبقة من اللون الأبيض الناصع قبل طلائه بطبقة أخف من الأحمر المعتاد، أو مثل جذب النظر إلي شعر ووجوه السيدات بطلائها بطبقة خفيفة من شمع النحل.

ومن أكثر مايمس القلب في هذا المعرض أنه يريك الفنان أثناء العمل، ففي الموضع الذي أزال فيه الزمن جزءا من طبقة اللون الأبيض المستعملة لخلفية اللوحة، نري أرجل المقعد الذي ألغاه الفنان مثلا، أو الرسم الأولي لعصا نب آمون التي نقلها الفنان إلي موضع آخر أقرب إلي جسده. ويقول باركنسون إن هذه التعديلات كانت دائما في اتجاه أن يكون التكوين الفني أكثر إحكاما، واللوحة أكثر غني.

لابد أن نب آمون قد سر بمدفنه الجديد. وجد الرجل أنه في وظيفة مرموقة بقسم الحسابات في الكرنك، ومتزوج من «سيدة البيت، التي يحبها»، وأنعم الله عليه بولد واحد علي الأقل، فأصبح في وضع يسمح له ببناء مدفن لائق. ويركز التعليق المكتوب حول هذا المعرض تركيزا مبالغا فيه، في اعتقادي، علي أن هذه اللوحات ترسم صورة «مثالية» لطبقة «النخبة»، وأنها تمثل الطموح إلي نمط حياة لم يصل له أغلبية المصريين. فهذا القول ينطبق علي أي لوحة يرسمها لأنفسهم أفراد الطبقة الميسورة في أي مجتمع مستقر، ومصر في عام 1350 ق م كان لديها الكثير من دواعي الاستقرار والرضا.

إنه عصر أمنحتب الثالث. بعد بضع سنوات سيغير ابنه، أمنحتب الرابع، اسمه إلي «إخناتون»، ويشعل الأزمة التي تكاد تقضي علي الدولة المصرية. لكن هذا لم يحدث بعد. اليوم، ونب آمون يبني مدفنه، تستمتع مصر بانتعاش اقتصادي كبير، وبعلاقات خارجية غير مسبوقة، وتشيد مشروعات معمارية كبري، فهي في قمة من قمم مجدها المتجدد. وكان تحتمس الثالث (قبل مائة عام) قد قاد حملات ضد القبائل المغيرة علي الحدود، فأمن الحدود المصرية عند الشلال الرابع جنوبا، ودخل سوريا، وامتد نفوذ مصر فكون إمبراطورية، عالمية في وقتها.

ولتحتمس مقوله بأن رع، الذي كان يشرف فقط علي وادي النيل، هو «الإله الذي يري الأرض كلها في كل ساعة». لم تكن طيبة قلب الإمبراطورية النابض فقط، بل كانت عاصمة كونية. والكرنك مركز إدارتها، ونب آمون يشرف علي جزء من الثروة المتدفقه إليه ومنه.

المدفن اللطيف، الرحب والآهل، هو أحد مظاهر محاولات الإنسان المصري الدائمة للتعايش مع الموت. وفي هذه اللحظة من التاريخ المصري بني نب آمون مدفنا يشع بالتفاؤل والأريحية التي اتسمت بهما اللحظة، فحق السؤال: أي موت هذا الذي يزخر هكذا بالحياة؟
يقول ريتشارد باركنسون إن هذه القاعة الجديدة تقدم معروضاتها علي أنها فن رفيع، وتأمل أن تبدأ حوارا بين الماضي والحاضر، وتحظي بدعم كامل من رئيس المتحف، نيل ماجريجور، حيث تتمشي مع رؤيته لرسالة المتحف، وهي رؤية نجحت في اجتذاب 6 ملايين زائر سنويا إلي المتحف تحت إدارته، وساعدته في التخلص من عجز في الميزانية ورثه عند توليه المنصب في عام 2002، وصل إلي 5 ملايين إسترليني.

يؤمن ماجريجور بأن المتحف البريطاني أسس ليفاد منه العالم أجمع، وهو يعمل للعودة بالمتحف إلي المبادئ التي أقرها له البرلمان البريطاني عند تأسيسه عام 1735 وهي «أن يتيح للزائر أن يتأمل العلاقات الدولية، والأوضاع السياسية، من خلال ما يراه من معروضات قديمة وحديثة». والواقع أن القاعة الجديدة تعتبر في بؤرة إشكاليات العلاقات الدولية والأوضاع السياسية اليوم. ومن حسن الحظ أن ماجريجور يري أن المتحف، بصفته مؤسسة عامة، عليه أن يساعد رواده علي «فهم العالم من خلال الماضي ومن خلال مايحدث الآن»، فهذه القاعة تمثل فرصة ذهبية للتعلم والفهم، بدءا بالبحث في كيفية حصولها علي المعروضات، مرورا بتمويلها، وحتي تسميتها.

ومن المفارقات العجيبة أن «الرسالة» الأخري التي تصلنا من عام 1350 ق م ـ إلي جانب لوحات نب آمون ـ هي «مراسلات العمارنة»، وهي مجموعة من نحو 300 رسالة، مكتوبة علي ألواح الفخار، كانت محفوظة في الأرشيف الملكي في مدينة إخناتون (تل العمارنة الآن)، وهي في أغلبها مراسلات من ملوك وقادة كنعان إلي فرعون مصر، وترسم صورة لعلاقات مصر بفلسطين عبر نحو 30 عاما، وباهتمام مصر بالذات بمدن الساحل الغنية بالتجارة مثل غزة وعكا. ومن هذه الرسائل مكاتبات تطلب العون من مصر في مواجهة غزاة من خارج البلاد!

أكتب هذا المقال من القاهرة. من نافذتي أري كوبري 15 مايو، والمرور فيه بطيء لوجود لجنة من الأمن تضيق أحد مخارجه كجزء من محاولات الحكومة السيطرة علي المظاهرات التي تعم البلاد. أطفأت التليفزيون لأني أحاول الانتهاء من كتابة هذا المقال. بدأته عند زيارتي للقاعة 61 في أوائل ديسمبر، وأحاول الانتهاء منه الآن، فأحاول أن أركز، وألا ألتفت إلي ما يحدث، إلي الأخبار، وإلي المظاهرات، وإلي سبب المظاهرات: إلي غزة.

حين أطفأت التليفزيون في الساعه الثانية والنصف، كانت إسرائيل قد قتلت، في الأربع والعشرين ساعة السابقة، 77 فلسطينيا، بينهم 9 نساء و12 طفلا. وبعكس صمت الحكومات فالمظاهرات المساندة لأهل غزة تجتاح العالم. وفي أماكن عدة، كانت السفارة المصرية هدفا للمتظاهرين إلي جانب سفارات الولايات المتحدة وإسرائيل. وتحت الضغط الشعبي الهائل وافقت حكومتنا (غير الشعبية) علي فتح المعبر مع غزة عددا محدودا من الساعات لنقل أخطر المصابين. لكنها تستمر في بيع البترول والغاز لإسرائيل بأقل من سعر السوق، وتستمر في اعتقال المعترضين.

القاعة الجديدة، كما أسلفت، تقع عند نقطة التقاء التيارات الشتي المكونة لهذا الإعصار السياسي. فالظروف السياسية التي أدت إلي حصول المتحف البريطاني علي هذه اللوحات، والتي تؤدي اليوم إلي عرضها، هي نفسها التي أدت أيضا إلي ما يحدث اليوم في غزة. وكان «اهتمام» القوي العظمي الأوروبية بمصر والأراضي المقدسة منذ أوائل القرن التاسع عشر، والعنصرية المتأصلة التي بموجبها رأوا أن لهم أن يتصرفوا كما يريدون في أراضي وتاريخ أهل المنطقة، وجهل الحكام المحليين، وعدم اكتراث السلطان في إسطنبول، كلها عوامل شكلت تلك الظروف السياسية.

وكتاب باركنسون، في الواقع، يصف كيف هاجم الرجال الذين استأجرهم هنري سولت، القنصل البريطاني، جداريات نب آمون «بالمناشير والسكاكين، يحددون مستطيلات من الجدار ثم يرفعونها عنه بالأزاميل». وكانوا يدمرون أجزاء كثيرة في محاولاتهم رفع جزء بعينه. في الصفحة 14 نري شابة تجلس إلي جانب صديقتها في حفل نب آمون، ينشر المنشار في رأسها، فيقطع ساق زهرة اللوتس التي تتزين بها، ثم الربطة المطرزة علي جبهتها، وينزل ليقطع وراء أذنها، وعلي رقبتها ينقسم إلي دلتا من الدمار ينزلج أحد فروعها علي صدرها ورقبتها، ويمتد الآخر عبر كتفها إلي صديقتها في وحشية مذهلة.

وفي لحظة تالية في نفس الظرف السياسي التاريخي نري مجموعة أخري من البريطانيين والفرنسيين يقطعون ويقسمون أراضي الإمبراطورية العثمانية المهزومة. لم يكن بوسعهم أن يشحنوا هذه الشظايا إلي بلادهم، لكنهم ظنوا أنهم امتلكوها، إلي حد أنهم تبرعوا بواحده منها: فلسطين. ومازلنا نعيش تداعيات أفعالهم.

ويرتبط تمويل القاعة الجديدة في الغرفة 61 في المتحف البريطاني بهذه اللحظة السياسية أيضا. فالقاعه تتمتع بالدعم المالي السخي من مؤسسة «راء وسين كوهين» التي أسسها السير رونالد كوهين وزوجته شارون هاريل كوهين، وقد أطلق عليها «قاعة مايكل كوهين"، وهو الشكل الإنجليزي لإسم والد السير رونالد: ميشيل مراد كوهين، وكان يهوديا من سوريا، عاش في مصر ثم تركها عام 1957 في أعقاب العدوان الثلاثي، حيث تواطأت بريطانيا وفرنسا وإسرائيل علي مهاجمة مصر. والسير رونالد نفسه (وقد أنعم عليه باللقب بناء علي ترشيح حكومة توني بلير) ولد في مصر، وكان في الحادية عشرة من عمره حين غادر مع العائلة. وهو ملقب بـ «أبو الرأسمالية المغامرة»، ويهتم بأمور الشرق الأوسط. يقول: «إذا نظرت إلي تاريخي: مولود في مصر، ثم لاجئ، ومتزوج من إسرائيلية هي ابنة قائد الإكسودوس (الباخرة التي نقلت عددا من اليهود من أوروبا إلي فلسطين أثناء الحرب العالمية الثانية) هناك رابطة طبيعية بيني وبين المنطقة. أستطيع أن أتعاطف مع العالم العربي إلي درجة أعلي من الشخص العادي، وفي نفس الوقت أستطيع التعاطف مع الإسرائيليين»، وفي عام 1998 كان السير رونالد ضمن مجموعة منتقاة قدمت لها إسرائيل أرفع جوائزها، «جائزة اليوبيل"، معترفة به كـ «أحد أصحاب الرؤية الذين ساهموا في ربط إسرائيل بالاقتصاد العالمي وتحقيق إمكانياتها في مجال الأعمال».

وفي عام 2005 أسس السير رونالد الـ «بورتلاند تراست» لمساعدة الفلسطينيين علي «بناء اقتصاد قوي.. مبني علي درجة عالية من الاعتماد المتبادل بينهم وبين إسرائيل». وبالرغم من أن الأمم المتحده تقول صراحة إن سياسة إسرائيل في الحصار وفرض الحواجز هي السبب الأساسي في تدهور الأحوال الاقتصادية لمدن فلسطين، إلا أن السير رونالد، بتفاؤل رجل الأعمال، يتساءل إذا كان من الممكن أن «ننظر إلي الحواجز بنظرة جديدة، فنري فيها مواقع للتبادل الاقتصادي بدلا من الاقتصار علي الأمن؟».

إن السياق التاريخي السياسي الذي قسّم وأتلف جداريات نب آمون، والذي جعل من رونالد كوهين لاجئا، هو الذي يسمح بقتل أطفال غزة اليوم. أين يذهب بنا بعد هذا؟ لقد نجح المتحف البريطاني في هذه القاعة، التي استغرق التخطيط لها، وتمويلها وتنفيذها عشر سنوات، في استخلاص نتائج إيجابية من نب آمون ومن رونالد كوهين. أما أطفال غزة، فالكلمات تعجز.

هل لنا أن نتعلم؟

إذا كان التعليم رسالة المتحف البريطاني، هل تستطيع هذه القاعة المهداة إلي ميشيل مراد كوهين، اليهودي السوري الذي استوطن مصر، من ابنه البريطاني، هل تستطيع أن تعلمنا شيئا عن أنفسنا؟ وعن التاريخ؟ شيئا يساعد علي وقف هذه المجازر؟

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction


This article appears in the January 26, 2009 edition of The Nation.
January 7, 2009

It's time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.

In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on "people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era." The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions--BDS for short--was born.

Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause, and talk of cease-fires is doing little to slow the momentum. Support is even emerging among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel. It calls for "the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions" and draws a clear parallel with the antiapartheid struggle. "The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves.... This international backing must stop.

"Yet many still can't go there. The reasons are complex, emotional and understandable. And they simply aren't good enough. Economic sanctions are the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal. Surrendering them verges on active complicity. Here are the top four objections to the BDS strategy, followed by counterarguments.

1. Punitive measures will alienate rather than persuade Israelis. The world has tried what used to be called "constructive engagement." It has failed utterly. Since 2006 Israel has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade. Despite this escalation, Israel has not faced punitive measures--quite the opposite. The weapons and $3 billion in annual aid that the US sends to Israel is only the beginning. Throughout this key period, Israel has enjoyed a dramatic improvement in its diplomatic, cultural and trade relations with a variety of other allies. For instance, in 2007 Israel became the first non-Latin American country to sign a free-trade deal with Mercosur. In the first nine months of 2008, Israeli exports to Canada went up 45 percent. A new trade deal with the European Union is set to double Israel's exports of processed food. And on December 8, European ministers "upgraded" the EU-Israel Association Agreement, a reward long sought by Jerusalem.It is in this context that Israeli leaders started their latest war: confident they would face no meaningful costs. It is remarkable that over seven days of wartime trading, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's flagship index actually went up 10.7 percent. When carrots don't work, sticks are needed.

2. Israel is not South Africa. Of course it isn't. The relevance of the South African model is that it proves that BDS tactics can be effective when weaker measures (protests, petitions, back-room lobbying) have failed. And there are indeed deeply distressing echoes: the color-coded IDs and travel permits, the bulldozed homes and forced displacement, the settler-only roads. Ronnie Kasrils, a prominent South African politician, said that the architecture of segregation that he saw in the West Bank and Gaza in 2007 was "infinitely worse than apartheid."

3. Why single out Israel when the United States, Britain and other Western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan? Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the BDS strategy should be tried against Israel is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.

4. Boycotts sever communication; we need more dialogue, not less. This one I'll answer with a personal story. For eight years, my books have been published in Israel by a commercial house called Babel. But when I published The Shock Doctrine, I wanted to respect the boycott. On the advice of BDS activists, I contacted a small publisher called Andalus. Andalus is an activist press, deeply involved in the anti-occupation movement and the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew. We drafted a contract that guarantees that all proceeds go to Andalus's work, and none to me. In other words, I am boycotting the Israeli economy but not Israelis.

Coming up with this plan required dozens of phone calls, e-mails and instant messages, stretching from Tel Aviv to Ramallah to Paris to Toronto to Gaza City. My point is this: as soon as you start implementing a boycott strategy, dialogue increases dramatically. And why wouldn't it? Building a movement requires endless communicating, as many in the antiapartheid struggle well recall. The argument that supporting boycotts will cut us off from one another is particularly specious given the array of cheap information technologies at our fingertips. We are drowning in ways to rant at one another across national boundaries.

No boycott can stop us. Just about now, many a proud Zionist is gearing up for major point-scoring: don't I know that many of those very high-tech toys come from Israeli research parks, world leaders in infotech? True enough, but not all of them. Several days into Israel's Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, the managing director of a British telecom company, sent an e-mail to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax. "As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company.

"When contacted by The Nation, Ramsey said his decision wasn't political. "We can't afford to lose any of our clients, so it was purely commercially defensive.

"It was this kind of cold business calculation that led many companies to pull out of South Africa two decades ago. And it's precisely the kind of calculation that is our most realistic hope of bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.

Further Reading: Disengagement and the Frontiers of ZionismAbout Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (September 2007); an earlier international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002)

Friday, January 9, 2009

The time of the righteous

By Gideon Levy.


This war, perhaps more than its predecessors, is exposing the true deep veins of Israeli society. Racism and hatred are rearing their heads, as is the impulse for revenge and the thirst for blood. The "inclination of the commander" in the Israel Defense Forces is now "to kill as many as possible," as the military correspondents on television describe it. And even if the reference is to Hamas fighters, this inclination is still chilling.

The unbridled aggression and brutality are justified as "exercising caution": the frightening balance of blood - about 100 Palestinian dead for every Israeli killed, isn't raising any questions, as if we've decided that their blood is worth one hundred times less than ours, in acknowledgement of our inherent racism.

Rightists, nationalists, chauvinists and militarists are the only legitimate bon ton in town. Don't bother us about humaneness and compassion. Only at the edges of the camp can a voice of protest be heard - illegitimate, ostracized and ignored by media coverage - from a small but brave group of Jews and Arabs.

Alongside all this, rings another voice, perhaps the worst of all. This is the voice of the righteous and the hypocritical. My colleague, Ari Shavit, seems to be their eloquent spokesman. This week, Shavit wrote here ("Israel must double, triple, quadruple its medical aid to Gaza," Haaretz, January 7): "The Israeli offensive in Gaza is justified ... Only an immediate and generous humanitarian initiative will prove that even during the brutal warfare that has been forced on us, we remember that there are human beings on the other side."

To Shavit, who defended the justness of this war and insisted that it mustn't be lost, the price is immaterial, as is the fact that there are no victories in such unjust wars. And he dares, in the same breath, to preach "humaneness."

Does Shavit wish for us to kill and kill, and afterward to set up field hospitals and send medicine to care for the wounded? He knows that a war against a helpless population, perhaps the most helpless one in the world, that has nowhere to escape to, can only be cruel and despicable. But these people always want to come out of it looking good. We'll drop bombs on residential buildings, and then we'll treat the wounded at Ichilov; we'll shell meager places of refuge in United Nations schools, and then we'll rehabilitate the disabled at Beit Lewinstein. We'll shoot and then we'll cry, we'll kill and then we'll lament, we'll cut down women and children like automatic killing machines, and we'll also preserve our dignity.

The problem is - it just doesn't work that way. This is outrageous hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Those who make inflammatory calls for more and more violence without regard for the consequences are at least being more honest about it.

You can't have it both ways. The only "purity" in this war is the "purification from terrorists," which really means the sowing of horrendous tragedies. What's happening in Gaza is not a natural disaster, an earthquake or flood, for which it would be our duty and right to extend a helping hand to those affected, to send rescue squads, as we so love to do. Of all the rotten luck, all the disasters now occurring in Gaza are manmade - by us. Aid cannot be offered with bloodstained hands. Compassion cannot sprout from brutality.

Yet there are some who still want it both ways. To kill and destroy indiscriminately and also to come out looking good, with a clean conscience. To go ahead with war crimes without any sense of the heavy guilt that should accompany them. It takes some nerve. Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who preaches for this war and believes in the justness of the mass killing it is inflicting has no right whatsoever to speak about morality and humaneness. There is no such thing as simultaneously killing and nurturing. This attitude is a faithful representation of the basic, twofold Israeli sentiment that has been with us forever: To commit any wrong, but to feel pure in our own eyes. To kill, demolish, starve, imprison and humiliate - and be right, not to mention righteous. The righteous warmongers will not be able to allow themselves these luxuries.

Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who sees it as a defensive war must bear the moral responsibility for its consequences. Anyone who now encourages the politicians and the army to continue will also have to bear the mark of Cain that will be branded on his forehead after the war. All those who support the war also support the horror.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jewish Women Occupy Israeli Consulate in Toronto

Toronto: Wednesday January 8, 2009 Time: 10:25 am

(Click here to watch video)

A diverse group of Jewish Canadian women are currently occupying the Israeli consulate at 180 Bloor Street West in Toronto. This action is in protest against the on-going Israeli assault on the people of Gaza.

The group is carrying out this occupation in solidarity with the 1.5 million people of Gaza and to ensure that Jewish voices against the massacre in Gaza are being heard. They are demanding that Israel end its military assault and lift the 18-month siege on the Gaza Strip to allow humanitarian aid into the territory.

Israel has been carrying out a full-scale military assault on the Gaza Strip since December 27, 2008. At least 660 people have been killed and 3000 injured in the air strikes and in the ground invasion that began on January 3, 2009. Israel has ignored international calls for a ceasefire and is refusing to allow food, adequate medical supplies and other necessities of life into the Gaza Strip.

Protesters are outraged at Israel′s latest assault on the Palestinian people and by the Canadian government′s refusal to condemn these massacres. They are deeply concerned that Canadians are hearing the views of pro-Israel groups who are being represented as the only voice of Jewish Canadians. The protesters have occupied the consulate to send a clear statement that many Jewish-Canadians do not support Israel′s violence and apartheid policies. They are joining with people of conscience all across the world who are demanding an end to Israeli aggression and justice for the Palestinian people.

The group includes: Judy Rebick, professor; Judith Deutsch, psychoanalyst and president of Science for Peace; B.H. Yael, filmmaker; Smadar Carmon, an Canadian Israeli peace activist and others.

Spokespersons for the group will be outside the Israeli consulate.

For more information contact:
Dr. Miriam Garfinkle
Phone: 416-731-6605

Cathy Gulkin
Phone: 416-697-0768

Judy Rebick
Phone: 647-388-1053

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why do they hate the West so much?

Robert Fisk: Why do they hate the West so much, we will ask
Wednesday, 7 January 2009
The Independent

So once again, Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians. Forty civilian refugees dead in a United Nations school, three more in another. Not bad for a night's work in Gaza by the army that believes in "purity of arms". But why should we be surprised?

Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead – almost all civilians, most of them children and women – in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700 Palestinian civilian dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians?

What is amazing is that so many Western leaders, so many presidents and prime ministers and, I fear, so many editors and journalists, bought the old lie; that Israelis take such great care to avoid civilian casualties. "Israel makes every possible effort to avoid civilian casualties," yet another Israeli ambassador said only hours before the Gaza massacre. And every president and prime minister who repeated this mendacity as an excuse to avoid a ceasefire has the blood of last night's butchery on their hands. Had George Bush had the courage to demand an immediate ceasefire 48 hours earlier, those 40 civilians, the old and the women and children, would be alive.

What happened was not just shameful. It was a disgrace. Would war crime be too strong a description? For that is what we would call this atrocity if it had been committed by Hamas. So a war crime, I'm afraid, it was. After covering so many mass murders by the armies of the Middle East – by Syrian troops, by Iraqi troops, by Iranian troops, by Israeli troops – I suppose cynicism should be my reaction. But Israel claims it is fighting our war against "international terror". The Israelis claim they are fighting in Gaza for us, for our Western ideals, for our security, for our safety, by our standards. And so we are also complicit in the savagery now being visited upon Gaza.

I've reported the excuses the Israeli army has served up in the past for these outrages. Since they may well be reheated in the coming hours, here are some of them: that the Palestinians killed their own refugees, that the Palestinians dug up bodies from cemeteries and planted them in the ruins, that ultimately the Palestinians are to blame because they supported an armed faction, or because armed Palestinians deliberately used the innocent refugees as cover.

The Sabra and Chatila massacre was committed by Israel's right-wing Lebanese Phalangist allies while Israeli troops, as Israel's own commission of inquiry revealed, watched for 48 hours and did nothing. When Israel was blamed, Menachem Begin's government accused the world of a blood libel. After Israeli artillery had fired shells into the UN base at Qana in 1996, the Israelis claimed that Hizbollah gunmen were also sheltering in the base. It was a lie. The more than 1,000 dead of 2006 – a war started when Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on the border – were simply dismissed as the responsibility of the Hizbollah. Israel claimed the bodies of children killed in a second Qana massacre may have been taken from a graveyard. It was another lie. The Marwahin massacre was never excused. The people of the village were ordered to flee, obeyed Israeli orders and were then attacked by an Israeli gunship. The refugees took their children and stood them around the truck in which they were travelling so that Israeli pilots would see they were innocents. Then the Israeli helicopter mowed them down at close range. Only two survived, by playing dead. Israel didn't even apologise.

Twelve years earlier, another Israeli helicopter attacked an ambulance carrying civilians from a neighbouring village – again after they were ordered to leave by Israel – and killed three children and two women. The Israelis claimed that a Hizbollah fighter was in the ambulance. It was untrue. I covered all these atrocities, I investigated them all, talked to the survivors. So did a number of my colleagues. Our fate, of course, was that most slanderous of libels: we were accused of being anti-Semitic.

And I write the following without the slightest doubt: we'll hear all these scandalous fabrications again. We'll have the Hamas-to-blame lie – heaven knows, there is enough to blame them for without adding this crime – and we may well have the bodies-from-the-cemetery lie and we'll almost certainly have the Hamas-was-in-the-UN-school lie and we will very definitely have the anti-Semitism lie. And our leaders will huff and puff and remind the world that Hamas originally broke the ceasefire. It didn't. Israel broke it, first on 4 November when its bombardment killed six Palestinians in Gaza and again on 17 November when another bombardment killed four more Palestinians.

Yes, Israelis deserve security. Twenty Israelis dead in 10 years around Gaza is a grim figure indeed. But 600 Palestinians dead in just over a week, thousands over the years since 1948 – when the Israeli massacre at Deir Yassin helped to kick-start the flight of Palestinians from that part of Palestine that was to become Israel – is on a quite different scale. This recalls not a normal Middle East bloodletting but an atrocity on the level of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And of course, when an Arab bestirs himself with unrestrained fury and takes out his incendiary, blind anger on the West, we will say it has nothing to do with us. Why do they hate us, we will ask? But let us not say we do not know the answer.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Too confused!!!

I am not trying to ignore what is happening in Gaza, but I am simply too confused to formulate any meaningful opinion. It goes without saying that my heart and thoughts are with the civilians who are suffering each and everyday under occupation, a brutal apartheid regime, and now, an all-out war. I also believe that it is not morally correct to blame the victim even when I don't agree with its reaction to the injustice it is subjected to.

But these are the only clear thoughts in my mind. Otherwise I wonder:
  • Are those civilians only suffering at the hands of Israel and its mighty IOF, or are their own leaders (both Hamas & Fat7) and other Arab leaders also playing a very active and consistent role in this suffering?
  • Have the Arabs reached an unwritten agreement to take their frustration and anger about the situation in Palestine on Egypt instead of Israel?
  • Is the Hassan NasrAllah, who many thought following the summer of 2006 that he might be the only figure capable of unifying all Muslims (Sunnis & Shiaas), the same NasrAllah who is now promoting division & hatred?
  • If Syria, Iran & HezbuAllah believe that Egypt should declare war against Israel, why didn't any of them fire one bullet against Israel yet?
  • Has Al Jazeera, which proudly promotes itself as the leading Arab News Channel, and which is so eager to show the complete unbiased picture (that it sees no harm in repeatedly interviewing Israeli officials to voice their well known opinions, cause we have already heard it on Fox News, CNN, NBC, BBC, ...), and which is continuously attacking the Egyptian Government and accusing it of treason, has this same Al Jazeera failed to notice the strong and cordially relations between Qatar and Israel or is that off limits?
  • Why do so called investigative reporters on almost all TV channels and news papers seem to accept the Israeli myth that one Israeli soul is far more precious that thousands of Palestinian or Arab lives.
  • Why does all this Arab - Arab hatred emerge every time we face a crisis?
  • When will we unite against the true danger that is threatening us all?
  • How can we change this disgraceful situation?
  • ............
  • ......
Very few articles made sense in this crazy time. Here are a couple of them:

Friday, January 2, 2009

Open Letter to Barack Hussein Obama

Open Letter to Barack Hussein Obama, President-elect of the United States of America

By Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Former Prime Minister of Malaysia
Global Research, January 2, 2009
January 1, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I did not vote for you in the Presidential Election because I am Malaysian.

But I consider myself one of your constituents because what you do or say will affect me and my country as well.

I welcome your promise for change. Certainly your country, the United States of America needs a lot of changes.

That is because America and Americans have become the most hated people in the world. Even Europeans dislike your arrogance. Yet you were once admired and liked because you freed a lot of countries from conquest and subjugation.

It is the custom on New Year's day for people to make resolutions. You must have listed your good resolutions already. But may I politely suggest that you also resolve to do the following in pursuit of Change.

1) Stop killing people. The United States is too fond of killing people in order to achieve its objectives. You call it war, but today's wars are not about professional soldiers fighting and killing each other. It is about killing people, ordinary innocent people by the hundreds of thousands. Whole countries will be devastated. War is primitive, the cavemen's way of dealing with a problem. Stop your arms build up and your planning for future wars.

2) Stop indiscriminate support of Israeli killers with your money and your weapons. The planes and the bombs killing the people of Gaza are from you.

3) Stop applying sanctions against countries which cannot do the same against you. In Iraq your sanctions killed 500,000 children through depriving them of medicine and food. Others were born deformed. What have you achieved with this cruelty? Nothing except the hatred of the victims and right-thinking people.

4) Stop your scientists and researchers from inventing new and more diabolical weapons to kill more people more efficiently.

5) Stop your arms manufacturers from producing them. Stop your sales of arms to the world. It is blood money that you earn. It is un-Christian.

6) Stop trying to democratize all the countries of the world. Democracy may work for the United States but it does not always work for other countries. Don't kill people because they are not democratic. Your crusade to democratize countries has killed more people than the authoritarian Governments which you overthrew. And you have not succeeded anyway.

7) Stop the casinos which you call financial institutions. Stop hedge funds, derivatives and currency trading. Stop banks from lending non-existent money by the billions. Regulate and supervise your banks. Jail the miscreants who made profits from abusing the system.

8) Sign the Kyoto Protocol and other international agreements.

9) Show respect for the United Nations.

I have many other resolutions for change which I think you should consider and undertake.

But I think you have enough on your plate for this 2009th year of the Christian Era.

If you can do only a few of what I suggest, you will be remembered by the world as a great leader. Then the United States will again be the most admired nation. Your embassies will be able to take down the high fences and razor-wire coils that surround them.

May I wish you a Happy New Year and a great Presidency.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad

(Former Pr and Americans have become the most hated people in the world. Even Europeans dislike your arrogance. Yet you were once admired and liked because you freed a lot of countries from conquest and subjugation.ime Minister of Malaysia)