As I was filming a dirty toddler wobble around her mother begging for money from passersby next to a signage pole on one of the corners of Hamra Street in Beirut, something attacked my camera with “Click. Stop. Now!” a baseless command I complied with in fear for my lens. “Everything could be solved with a conversation,” I repeated to myself until I looked up to find out it was an unhappy policeman that thought I was filming him: big trouble. Conversations sometimes don’t solve things with policemen.
When I came to the US back in 1983, Richard Cohen (The Washington Post columnist) was considered one of the most liberal voices on the subject of Israel. He used to be a rare liberal who was willing to express criticisms of Israel. He was never courageous as was Marcy McGrory, but he was quite consistent in his criticisms of Israel. In fact, I remember when critics of Israel used to invite Cohen to college campuses to share his views on the brutality of Israeli occupation.
The concentrated assault on Palestine solidarity activists in the United States is an extension of Israel’s war on Palestinian activism – it is a criminalization of resistance that is carried out by way of FBI raids, the targeting of charity organizations like the Holy Land Fund, and spying operations executed by local law enforcement.
I have left the hustle and bustle of Hamra to live in a quieter patch on the periphery of Beirut around three years ago. Hamra had won. Catastrophically, it had kicked me out. Like many others, I was kicked out because I refused to tolerate what that part of Beirut was transforming into. Not known for her tenderness, Beirut constantly kicks people out. It has either become too violent, too noisy or too expensive. It’s a humiliating defeat for each and every one of us.
One of the most under (or un) reported stories about the Middle East is the story of the rise of jihadi groups in Lebanon over the last decade. All American correspondents in Beirut are too preoccupied, and emotionally invested, with the story of the Free Syrian Army and the “Syrian revolution.” The developments of Lebanon are of little interest to them, and perhaps because the story is way too embarrassing for US foreign policy. The clashes in the last several months between the Lebanese armed forces and various jihadi groups (operating under the banner of al-Nusra Front or under the banner of ISIS or `Abdullah `Azzam Brigades) got little attention in the Western press and the story was covered merely as an extension of the Syrian war. But there are roots to the modern jihadi groups on Lebanese terrain.
The Mediterranean Sea has become a graveyard for asylum seekers who travel by boat towards what they hope will be even a fragment of salvation; they are left with Hobson’s choice – without any legal recourse and oftentimes with little time at their disposal it is either they board a crowded skiff, anticipating the possibility of survival, or they remain enveloped by terrifying and unbearable prospects for themselves and their families.
As a pre-war native of Lebanon, one knows their place at the bottom of the global and local food chains. We dress well, speak eloquently, remain ‘aware’ of a wide panorama of happenings to camouflage who we really are, and it works most of the time. We’re chic. Within our lowlife chicness, we climb over each other to make sure we’re at least above someone else. It makes for a great moral boost, trust me. Stepping on you elevates me a bit, knowing a foot is inevitably looking for my head. It’s a temporary reach we seem to need to accept, an improvised dance of our everyday lives, a social dabké of some sort that makes us feel normal. Don’t be afraid. We’re all in this together.
Iranian foreign policy has become far less shaped by the Islamic ideology of the Islamic Republic’s founder. Its policies are now similar to those of the other regimes of the region that are overwhelmingly concerned with survival, popularity, and influence. In the early years of the Islamic Republic, the regime sought the support of Sunnis and Shia alike in a vision that promised Islamic unity. The vision was not far fetched at first as the construction of the republic according to the vision of the Wilayat Al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist) was in its infancy. Many Arabs, Muslims and leftists alike, were inspired by the example of the revolution and pinned high hopes on the new regime which toppled the mighty dictatorship of the Shah.
The Judaization of Jerusalem is a historic component of the greater occupation of Palestine which, even if examined at modest extents, reveals how deeply politicized the Zionist establishment has made every day life for non-Jewish citizens and inhabitants of occupied Palestine. The mobilized power of Israel’s colonial-settler society has created discriminatory policies which directly target Arabs – the reason behind these discriminatory policies is so that an atmosphere which favors Israel’s Jewish populace is created, making it increasingly difficult for Palestinians to live.