art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

The Shadow of the West by Edward Said.

This month (25th of September) marked twelve years since Edward Said died. Middle East Revised will continue publishing excerpts from Said’s books, interviews and films about Said and his work, as a way of paying tribute to him.

After publishing an excerpt from the book Culture and Resistance, Conversations with Edward Said, (Interviews by David Barsamian)here is a link to The Shadow of the West, written by Said, and directed by Geoff Dunlop.

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Afghanistan, art of resistance

Time Travel Booth: Afghanistan by Paolo Woods.

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All of the following photos were taken by the great photographer Paolo Woods, during his visit to Afganistan in 2002. Unlike many Time Travel Booths, this one is not about how much has changed, but rather how much remains the same.

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The UN has sent back to his village Shamsuddine and his family from the refugee camp in Mazlak where they had sought protection from the war and the drought. They were given one sac of wheat to eat and one to sow. It is not the sowing season so after the first sac was finished, they ate the second. Now they eat wild grasses.

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Qablei Rahmani is a Mirab, a master of water. This is the first year the rain is back after a long drought. His work is to distribute the water of the Murghab river to the 1270 small landowners that live in the area. The Murghab river flows down from the Hindu Kush all the way to Turkmenistan.

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Since the Taliban have been defeated the UN has decided that all the children have to attend school. But in most villages there are no schools left. Here in Arab Arzai 400 kids learn sitting on the grass. But not only the facilities are missing, there are no teachers left. The students that know how to read try to teach the ones that don’t. 

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On TV hill, one of the hills overlooking Kabul, a boy swings from the dangling electric wires of a pylon destroyed by the war.

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Hundreds of Hazara’s have been burried in this vast unmarked cemetery. They are the victims of the civil war (1992-1996).

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In 1979 the Russians built an Olympic swimming pool on one of the hills overlooking Kabul. The swimming pool has been completed just months before the invasion of the country. It has never been filled with water and it has never been used. The kids of Kabul come here, hang out and play with kites.

/all photos © Paolo Woods/

• • •

For more on Woods and his photography, visit his official website.

Previous Time Travel Booths:

Middle East by Inge Morath

70’s and 80’s Sudan by Abbas Habiballa

Palestine, First Intifada

20th Century Syria

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Playlist: Checkpoint 303 – The Iqrit Files.

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/photo via Checkpoint 303/

Let it be known – I am amazed by this little discovery. Also – absolute love for Jawaher Shofani.

Checkpoint 303′s new album tells the story of the brutal clearance of 400 Palestinian villages by Israeli forces 70 years ago, using the example of just one, Iqrit, which lies to the north of Galilee. The album is a thrilling and hard-hitting collage of tough Tackhead/Meat Beat Manifesto-style beats, field recordings of Palestinian singers and speech sourced from newsreels.

Using site recordings predominantly from Palestine and the Arab world, Checkpoint 303 constructs soundscapes that weave cinematic audio with experimental sound processing and complex rhythms. Through its compositions, collected sounds and noise, Checkpoint 303 spreads a message of peace and a call for the respect of human rights.

Listen & enjoy!

Previous Playlist:

Mashrou’ Leila – Straight from Beirut

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Edward Said on Parochialism and Palestine.

edward said/Edward Said, photo via reformancers/

In ten days, on 25th of September, will be twelve years since Edward Said died. This month Middle East Revised will publish excerpts from Said’s books, interviews and films about Said and his work.

The following is an excerpt from Culture and Resistance, Conversations with Edward Said, Interviews by David Barsamian (South End Press, 2008.).

• • •

After you visited Israel, you went to Egypt, where you encountered some parochialism. Did that take you by surprise?

No, because I confronted it before. That is to to say, what you notice amongst Palestinians, whether inside Israel or on the West Bank and Gaza, is a sense of isolation. There’s no question that they live under the shadow of Israeli power. What is missing is easy and natural contact with the rest of the Arab world.

As a Palestinian, you can’t get to any place in the Arab world from Israel or the West Bank and Gaza without going through a fairly complicated procedure, which causes you to think three or four times before you do: crossing the border, you need permits, you go through endless customs. I must say, for Palestinians traveling throughout the Arab world – and this is also true of me, and I have an American passport, but the fact that it says on it that I was born in Jerusalem means that I’m always put to one side – you’re automatically suspected. So traveling and being in contact with the Arabs in the Arab world for Palestinains is very difficult.

More important even that is that very few Arabs who are not Palestinians come into Palestinian territories, and hardly any at all, practically none, go to Israel. One of the themes – and this is kind of complicated thing to explain, amongst the nationalist and radical intellectuals of most Arab countries, which would include the Gulf people, it certainly includes Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan – has been the opposition to what they called “normalization,” tatbee in Arabic, meaning the normalization of life between Israel and, in the case of Jordan and Egypt, Arab states who have made formal peace with Israel.

The peace with Egypt is described, as it is with Jordan, as a cold peace. The peace with Egypt is described, as it is with Jordan, as a cold peace. In other words, ordinary Jordanians or Egyptians, don’t go to Israel, have nothing to do with Israelis. Israeli tourists go to Jordan and Egypt and visit the historic sites in buses for short periods of time. But beyond that, there’s very little in the way of the kind of intercourse, say, exchanges between universities, learned societies, businesses, and so on, that occur between European countries or neighboring countries otherwise at peace in any other part of the world. One of the reasons for this has been the general refused, as an act of solidarity with Palestinians, of these intellectuals to have anything to do with Israel.

The problem this poses for Palestinians, trying to build institutions, is they are being cut off from the kind of help they can get from Arabs. For example, physicians and other medical professionals from Egypt, Syrian, Lebanon or Jordan could come and assist Palestinians in setting up clinics and hospitals. They could be involved in a whole range of activities from administration to the production of pharmaceuticals. But it doesn’t happen because of this stance against normalization. Similarly, university students who read important scholars, journalists, writers, and poets from various Arab countries don’t get the opportunity to meet them.

When I now encounter Arabs and go to those Arab countries, I say to them, especially to to the Egyptians, you can go to Palestine. You can go through Israel, because Israel and Egypt are at peace. You can take advantage of that to go to Palestinians and go to their institutions and help them, appearing, speaking, being there for some time, training them. No, they say, we can’t possibly allow our passports to be stamped. We won’t go to the Israeli embassy and get visas. We won’t submit to the humiliation of being examined by Israeli policemen at the border or their barrier.

I find this argument vaguely plausible on one level but really quite cowardly on the other. It would seem to me that if they took their pride out of it, if they did go through an Israeli checkpoint or barricade or border, they would be doing what other Palestinians do every day and see what it’s like. Second, as I keep telling them, by doing that it’s not recognizing Israel or giving Israel any credit.

On the contrary, it’s going through that in order to demonstrate and be with Palestinians and help them. For example, as Palestinians face the Israeli bulldozers as they expropriate land and destroy houses for settlements, it would be great if there were a large number of Egyptians and Jordanians and others who could be there with Palestinians confronting this daily, minute-by-minute threat. And the same in universities. Well-known writers, intellectuals, historians, philosophers, film starts could go, but they say, We don’t want to have to request visas from the Israeli consulate in Cairo. I said, You don’t even have to do that. You can ask the Palestinian Authority, which has an ambassador in Cairo, to give you an invitation to go to Gaza, and then you can go to the West Bank.

So there are ways of getting around it. It’s not so much only parochialism as also a kind of laziness, a kind of sitting back and expecting somebody else to do it. I think that’s our greatest enemy, the absence of initiative [my emphasis]. We’re always expecting that the Israelis are out there, the Americans, concocting conspiracies, the Ford Foundtion. Many people want to work with these people groups but are afraid to do it publicly. They do it surreptitiously.

And in public they express opposition and say, We are going to remain untouched by this. We are not going to normalize. We refuse to have anything to do with imperialism. We refuse to sit down and plan something that could actually help Palestinians and actually deal with Israel, not as a fictional entity but as a real power that is in many ways negatively affecting Arab life.

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art of resistance

Faces From Belgrade’s Refugee Park.

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In his poem On Fifth Avenue He Greeted Me (dedicated to Rashid Hussein), Mahmoud Darwish wrote: Are we to remain like this/Moving to the outside/In this orange day/Only to touch/The dark and vague inside?

Darwish writes about the state of exile, about being a refugee. Like I wrote recently – refugees are not a new thing. Palestinians have been refugees for so long now that being a refugee is a normal thing, it’s an identity, it’s one’s whole life. People are fleeing Afghanistan and Iraq for decades now. People are leaving Syria and Libya for years now. And that is just to name a few.

Europe is acknowledging refugees now only because they are now coming to Europe, because they are not far away, somewhere out there. And the saddest part is that this new awareness is not obtained in order to help the refugees, but in order to preserve ‘our’ borders.

That is what we need to stand up to – we need to keep on challenging the exclusive discourse of European leaders, within our countries and within Europe in general. That is what brings hope – seeing people helping other people, seeing people being open to other people – no matter what the politicians preach.

One of the lovely examples of such work is Tinka Kalajžić Ines. She’s an activist, artist, photographer, who’s currently in Belgrade volonteering with refugees.

Here are some of her photos from Belgrade’s ‘refugee park’. It’s been raining in Belgrade and the weather is getting colder, so the situation is now even worse for the refugees. All of those who would like to help (in any way) can contact Refugee Aid Serbia, they do a great job in Miksalište (place where lots of refugees come for donations).

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//all photos © Tinka Kalajžić//

• • •

Be sure to follow Tinka on facebook for more stories and photos from Belgrade. I also recommend following Refugee Aid Serbia, No Borders, and Help the refugees in Macedonia for finding out more about the ways you can help and get involved.

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Afghanistan, art of resistance, travel

The Beauty of the Wakhan Corridor.

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First time I was introduced with the beauty of Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor was through the photos of Benjamin Rasmussen. The Wakhan Corridor is a unique territory stretching from the far north-east of Afghanistan all the way to China, Pakistan to the south and Tajikistan to the north.

It made me happy to see a new photo essay about the Wakhan Corridor on Agence VU. Andrew Quilty took some extraordinary photographs capturing the harshness of the area (you can feel the coldness through the photos) but also the mesmerizing beauty of the Corridor and its people.

Quilty writes:

“Like the territory itself, Wakhanis seem insulated from the turmoil that has gripped greater Afghanistan the last four decades. However foreigners are welcomed in the Wakhan,without any sense of suspicion. The iconic blue burqa—ubiquitous elsewhere—is nowhere to be seen. Instead, women and girls wear vibrant, red scarves that flow from round skull-caps as they undertake daily chores which seem less dictated by gender than elsewhere in Afghanistan.”

Here are some of Quilty’s photos, and for more – be sure to visit Agence VU.

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//all photos © Andrew Quilty/Oculi/Agence VU//

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art of resistance

Abd El-Hadi Fights A Superpower.

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/Drawing by a Syrian refugee, via PBS/

I love to think of poetry (and writing in general) as a journey to the deepest of depths, as a way of exposing open wounds, as a way of healing – in the end. While Europe ‘battles’ with refugees, poems and poets, novels and writers, keep on coming to my mind.

I think of Taha Muhammad Ali’s simple man, Abd El-Hadi, who fights a superpower. I think of Nadezhda Mandelstam and the way she survived through the worst of times so that she could talk about the worst of times, the way she lost everybody and lived to keep them alive – to save Osip’s poetry, to make sure nobody forgets the way he and thousands of others died. So here it is – pain, wars, exile – a small refugee blues, in a way…

“And after his death – or even before it, perhaps – he lived on in camp legend as a demented old man of seventy who had once written poetry in the outside world and was therefore nicknamed The Poet. And another old man – or was it the same one? – lived in the transit camp of Vtoraya Rechka, waiting to be shipped to Kolyma, and was thought by many people to be Osip Mandelstam – which, for all I know, he may have been. That is all I have been able to find out about the last days, illness and death of Mandelstam. Others know very much less about the death of their dear ones.”

Hope Against Hope, Nadezhda Mandelstam

“Look at them leaving in droves despite knowing they will be welcomed with restraint in those strange lands because they do not belong, knowing they will have to sit on one buttock because they must not sit comfortable lest they be asked to rise and leave, knowing they will speak in dampened whispers because they must not let their voices drown those of the owners of the land, knowing they will have to walk on their toes because they must not leave footprints on the new earth lest they be mistaken for those who want to claim the land as theirs. Look at them leaving in droves, arm in arm with loss and lost, look at them leaving in droves.”

We need new names, NoViolet Bulawayo

“I said, what is a homeland? I was asking myself that question a moment ago. Naturally. What is a homeland? Is it these two chairs that remained in this room for twenty years? The table? Peacock feathers? The picture of Jerusalem on the wall? The copper lock? The oak tree? The balcony? What is a homeland? Khaldun? Our illusions of him? Fathers? Their sons? What is a homeland? Is it the picture of his brother hanging on the wall? I’m only asking… Once again, Safiyya began to weep. She dried her tears with a small white handkerchief. Looking at her, Said thought: How this woman has aged. She squandered her youth waiting for this moment, not knowing what a terrible moment it would be.”

Returning to Haifa, Ghassan Kanafani

In his life

he neither wrote nor read.

In his life he

didn’t cut down a single tree,

didn’t slit the throat

of a single calf.

In his life he did not speak

of the New York Times

behind its back,

didn’t raise

his voice to a soul

except in his saying:

“Come in, please,

by God, you can’t refuse.”

              

Nevertheless—

his case is hopeless,

his situation

desperate.

His God-given rights are a grain of salt

tossed into the sea.

 

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:

about his enemies

my client knows not a thing.

And I can assure you,

were he to encounter

the entire crew

of the aircraft carrier Enterprise,

he’d serve them eggs

sunny-side up,

and labneh

fresh from the bag.

Abd el-Hadi Fights a Superpower, Taha Muhammad Ali

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no one leaves home unless

home is the mouth of a shark

you only run for the border

when you see the whole city running as well

 

your neighbors running faster than you

breath bloody in their throats

the boy you went to school with

who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory

is holding a gun bigger than his body

you only leave home

when home won’t let you stay.

 

no one leaves home unless home chases you

fire under feet

hot blood in your belly

it’s not something you ever thought of doing

until the blade burnt threats into

your neck

and even then you carried the anthem under

your breath

only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets

sobbing as each mouthful of paper

made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,

that no one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land

no one burns their palms

under trains

beneath carriages

no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled

means something more than journey.

no one crawls under fences

no one wants to be beaten

pitied

no one chooses refugee camps

or strip searches where your

body is left aching

or prison,

because prison is safer

than a city of fire

and one prison guard

in the night

is better than a truckload

of men who look like your father

no one could take it

no one could stomach it

no one skin would be tough enough

the

go home blacks

refugees

dirty immigrants

asylum seekers

sucking our country dry

niggers with their hands out

they smell strange

savage

messed up their country and now they want

to mess ours up

how do the words

the dirty looks

roll off your backs

maybe because the blow is softer

than a limb torn off

 

or the words are more tender

than fourteen men between

your legs

or the insults are easier

to swallow

than rubble

than bone

than your child body

in pieces.

i want to go home,

but home is the mouth of a shark

home is the barrel of the gun

and no one would leave home

unless home chased you to the shore

unless home told you

to quicken your legs

leave your clothes behind

crawl through the desert

wade through the oceans

drown

save

be hunger

beg

forget pride

your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear

saying-

leave,

run away from me now

i dont know what i’ve become

but i know that anywhere

is safer than here

Home, Warsan Shire

To the families and lovers at the bottom of the sea, trying to reach Europe.

I.

How do we overcome war and poverty only to drown in your sea?

II.

Misrata, Libya
Habeebi just take the boat.
In front of you : Bahr.
Behind you : Harb.
And the border, closed.
Your Sea, Mare,Bahr. Our war, our Harb.

III.

Augusta, Italy
Where is the interpreter?
This is my family.
Baba, mama, baby all washed up on the shore. This is 28 shoeless survivors and thousands of bodies.
Bodies Syrian, Bodies Somali, Bodies Afghan, Bodies Ethiopian, Bodies Eritrean.
Bodies Palestinian.
Your Sea, Mare,Bahr. Our war, our Harb.

IV.

Alexandria, Egypt
Habeebi, just take the boat.
Behind you Aleppo and Asmara, barrel bombs and Kalashnikovs.
In front of you a little bit of hope.
Your Sea, Mare, Bahr. Our war, our Harb.

V.

Maps on our backs.
Long way from home.

No search, No rescue, Jehan Bseiso

The Day I die

My killer will find

Tickets in my pocket:

One to peace,

One to the fields and the rain,

And one to humanity’s conscience.

I beg you – please don’t waste them

I beg you, you who killed me: go.

Travel Tickets, Samih Al-Qasim

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