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December 2014

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srael has no answer to BDS, Barghouti tells packed hall at Columbia

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Omar Barghouti’s appearance at Columbia University on Tuesday night felt like a landmark in the Palestinian solidarity movement in the U.S. A large hall at the law school was crowded to overflowing and the mood was celebratory. Luminaries of the community were in attendance, among them Lila Abu-Lughod, Rula Jebreal, Rashid Khalidi, Rebecca Vilkomerson, Nadia Abu El-Haj, Dorothy Zellner, Lia Tarachansky. Barghouti’s speech was hugely optimistic. He said that the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement was racking up victories far faster than the organizers had imagined when they began nine years ago, faster than the South African movement had progressed. And the BDS movement has the “closet” support of the Netanyahu administration, which was doing its utmost to demonstrate the fallacy of a Jewish democracy.

The suspense of waiting for the Israel supporters to say something was a bit of a fizzle, not the big drama it used to be at such events. Law professor Katherine Franke had urged the crowd not to be civil in discussing one of the most challenging moral questions of our time, and at the end, a man at the back said he had a short question.

“Do you believe that the Jewish people have a right to self determination?” And if so, “Where should it be?”

Barghouti said it was not up to him as a Palestinian to decide whether Jewish communities make up a nation, and where they should have a state. Though he pointed out that there was not consensus among Jews globally about whether they are a people; this is a recent debate, and in fact up till the 1945 the majority of  Jews did not support Jewish nationhood. Then he said sharply:

One thing I do know– not at my expense. If they are a nation and have a right of self-determination, not at my expense. That does not give them the right to expel us or to take our land–

The audience broke into applause, the first time that any speaker had been interrupted by applause in two hours. Barghouti swiftly moved on to other questions. The questioner walked out of the hall.

That summed up the spirit of the event. Its title was, “Palestine’s South Africa Moment?” Barghouti said that Palestine appeared at last to be approaching that moment. Speaker Mahmood Mamdani said it is not. I will get to Mamdani’s analysis in the next few days. In the meantime, though, here is a summary of Barghouti’s remarks.

Barghouti began by quoting Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s declaration in 1923 that because Palestinians would never accept the Zionist takeover of their lands, the Zionists must build an “iron wall” and convince the Palestinians that it was impossible to resist colonization. Barghouti said it was realistic in the view of geopolitics then for Zionists to conclude that Palestinians would give up the struggle, and if Jabotinsky could see President Mahmoud Abbas today, he would “celebrate in his grave: ‘See, I told you, They’ve given up.’”

But recent history shows that Palestinians have not given up, and in fact are commanding the world’s sympathy and attention.

The latest discussion in Israel about the Jewish nation state law has brought to the fore the very possibility of the unraveling of the entire Zionist project. And these are not my words, these are the words of certain very important leaders in Israel, who say that. What’s happening is that the oxymoron of the Jewish and democratic identity of the state of Israel is unraveling.

I can understand the frustration of the extreme right in Israel. ‘Why is the whole world, even the US, against us with this new law? Why are they so mad? We’ve been doing it all along, we’re just making it a bit more formal.’

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has always consistently discriminated by law against the indigenous Palestinians. Other than ethnically cleansing them of course. So  why is everyone so angry that they’re trying to codify the Jewish identity of the state. Some say it’s at the expense of the democratic identity. What democratic identity? When you have 50 laws that discriminate against a minority of your citizenry, that’s not democracy…

What Netanyahu and his far right government are doing is resolving this oxymoron. It cannot exist any longer. Let’s be very honest, Forget  democracy. This is an ethnocracy… this is a Jewish supremacist state. So– no pretense of democracy. And that’s a very important development because it’s revealing Israel’s true nature.  The last mask of Israel’s so-called democracy has been dropped.

Barghouti moved on to the tactics and success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

We’ve got to see it as our goal, as part of what we do in this country in the BDS movement… to disabuse  Americans of the myth of empire being beneficial to all… Only then will most people in this country realize that Israel does not serve American interests writ large, but the 1 percent’s interests. The great majority of Americans cannot possibly benefit from what Israel is doing to the Palestinian people.

Shabtai Shavit, former Mossad chief, wrote in Haaretz a couple of weeks ago, that for the first time in his life, he’s really concerned about the future of the Zionist project. Shabtai Shavit is no lefty. He’s not your typical Che Guevara but an honest to goodness hard core Zionist. He’s really, really concerned… He’s saying, Europe is closing in our faces, European markets, even the US, our best friend,  the relationship can’t be worse, it’s an unprecedented lowpoint. And the third point he mentions as an indicator of this hopelessness, university campuses in the west, like yours, are hothouses for the future leadership of their countries. He says, We’re losing the fight for support for Israel in the academic world. An increasing  number of Jewish students are turning away from  Israel. The global BDS movement has grown and quite  a few Jews are members.

That’s one of the very rare times that an Israeli leader mentions the Jewish dimension of the BDS movement. It’s ignored completely.

Barghouti said that when he wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times last January, “Why Israel Fears the Boycott,” he had to insist on including the fact that BDS had small but strong Jewish support. That was an “extremely difficult point that I had to negotiate, with the New York Times.”

At appearances in the States, he is invariably asked to compromise on the third plank of the BDS call, honoring the right of return of Palestinian refugees. In fact, this is the most significant right for Palestinian people. The percentage of Palestinians who are refugees, including those internally displaced in Israel, approaches 69 percent. “That is why the right of return is absolutely the most significant right in the BDS call.”

Then Barghouti moved on to describe the great success of the movement, and why he believes Israel is approaching its South Africa moment.

The BDS call was modeled on the South African boycott and divestment call, but you don’t cut and paste. There are important differences. “Israel is a worse system than South African apartheid in some ways.” Israel had committed ethnic cleansing and massacres that were worse than South African episodes, his partners there have told him.

“We’d never seen F16s bomb us in our Bantustans. We never had different license plates on our cars.” And so on and so forth

Israel has a more sophisticated and evolved system of oppression than South Africa’s. And the BDS movement has moved faster than in South Africa.

Since BDS was launched until now, we’ve achieved far more than we had initially thought possible within nine years. Actually, the  movement has gone much, much faster than South Africa. There are many reasons for this. Israel is at the center of universe; Israelis tend to think so– but in some ways  they are, because of United States power, the Holocaust, many factors. The internet.

Communiques from the anti apartheid movement in South Africa to supporters at his alma mater Columbia used to come through some clandestine fax in someone’s basement, Barghouti said. Now social media and email make these communications wide and instantaneous.

In 2013, Israel classified BDS officially as a strategic threat, when it transferred the fight against the movement from the ministry of foreign affairs, a propaganda ministry, to the ministry of strategic affairs.

Why should Israel, a nuclear power that’s still very powerful economically, be afraid of this nonviolent nuisance as they called us in the beginning. Well I would be very afraid if I were them. But I can be a bit smarter in how to fight it. But I won’t tell them that. [Laughter] I think their IQ is dipping, I don’t now what’s happening with Zionism. But when I went to school here, Zionists used to be very smart… Either smarter people have abandoned Zionism or the average IQ of Zionists has gone down, but they’re really not thinking straight. Because they haven’t come up with one smart tactic to fight BDS… since 2005. We’re not being cocky about that. I mean, seriously, we’re not facing serious challenges there. It’s becoming an open door.

For several years the battle was over Israel’s image. Israel has pumped billions into rebranding the country as a liberal democracy and a haven for gays and scientists and artists and entrepreneurs, and abused the Holocaust to foster this image, Barghouti said. And still it competes for unpopularity with North Korea, which spends nothing on propaganda.

The problem is again, talking about IQ– you commit one massacre in Gaza, it [the branding campaign] all disappears. It doesn’t work. Ok you can send over your nice ballerinas and musicians. But then you commit one major war crime and it’s gone. People are not idiots.

Barghouti ran down a list of BDS’s triumphs in the last year or two, including many in the academic community and church community. A year ago he could not have said that the movement was having an economic impact on Israel. Now he can. He cited bank divestments in Europe and Bill Gates‘s sale of shares in an Israeli prison contractor, G4S.

There was a time, he said, when the phrase “Made in South Africa” was “toxic, untouchable.” He said: “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.”

Israel was aiding this trend.

They’re not coming up with rational solutions to BDS. Not that there is an easy solution….There won’t be a solution till the system of oppression which has been revealed to the world…mainly thanks to the BDS movement and the apartheid government[, ends]. We’ve got to give credit to Netanyahu. Without him we could not have reached this far, at this time. It could have taken much, much, much, much longer, but with the help of  the Israeli government, our biggest closet supporters in the world, we’re going much faster.

Increasingly it appears that  Israel’s South Africa moment is arriving at last, he said.

 

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

Other posts by .

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United Nations’ Food Program Halts Aid to Syrian Refugees

World Food Programme Cites Lack of Funding

A Syrian Kurdish woman walks in a refugee camp in the town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province in Turkey, in October.
A Syrian Kurdish woman walks in a refugee camp in the town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province in Turkey, in October. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The United Nations World Food Programme on Monday said it would halt its aid to 1.7 million Syrian refugees on the cusp of winter due to lack of funding.

In a statement on their website, the WFP said the consequences of the decision will be “devastating” for the refugees and their host countries.

“A suspension of WFP food assistance will endanger the health and safety of these refugees and will potentially cause further tensions, instability and insecurity in the neighboring host countries,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said in the statement.

The decision will impact refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, and comes at a time when temperatures have begun to drop in the region, raising concerns around how refugees will be able to endure the potentially harsh winter.

Many Syrian refugees, especially in Lebanon, where the majority of refugees reside, live in makeshift tents and camps and suffer from a lack of fuel, clean water, proper sanitation and warm clothing.

The U.N. agency warned in September it was running out of funds and that cutbacks were inevitable if additional support wasn’t received.

The inability to secure the $64 million needed for the program to continue also ends the WFP’s electronic voucher program. The e-vouchers allowed refugee families access to a prepaid credit card that could be used in participating local stores. The program had contributed $800 million to the economies of the host countries, the statement said.

If sufficient financial support is secured, the program will resume immediately, the statement said.

As the Syrian crisis nears the end of its fourth year, the WFP isn’t the only U.N. agency struggling to meet its funding appeals, said Lama Fakih, Syria and Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Of the $3.7 billion request made in June 2014 by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Syria’s neighboring countries and other humanitarian agencies, only 51% of the funds have been received thus far.

“As the number of Syrian refugees increases, 3.2 million now, the needs increase, and despite international attention diverted to other crises, Syrians are still very much in need,” said Lama Fakih, Syria and Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch.

There are several reasons contributing to the lack of sufficient aid to Syrian refugees, most notably the various humanitarian emergencies happening simultaneously around the world that have diverted the world’s attention and wallets away from Syria.

According to Joelle Eid, the WFP’s communication officer stationed in Amman, Jordan, the need for humanitarian aid has skyrocketed this year. The WFP is currently dealing with five high priority emergencies around the world, including the Ebola crisis, Eid said.

“If we don’t urgently get this assistance, get the $64 million for December alone, people will simply go hungry,” she added.

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Black Holes and Media Missionaries

A boy walking in a street in Bab Amr, Homs. Daniels and 3 other journalists were holed up for days is behind the building at rightA boy walking in a street in Bab Amr, Homs. Daniels and 3 other journalists were holed up for days is behind the building at right. Photo: Freedom House. This image is licensed under Creative Commons License.

The lights are going off in Syria. Peter Kassig is only the most recent witness that succumbed to the darkness. David Haines, Steve Satloff and James Foley went before him. They had all gone there to assist and bear witness. A measure of the Islamic State’s (IS) monstrosity is the nobility of the people it has killed. International media has rightly condemned these horrific murders.

For IS murder is a political act. But is also a performance–a spectacle as a means to amplify its message. The ritual act of murder, especially of a westerner, is certain to receive media coverage. IS uses this to rudely force attention.

The emergence of IS has been a godsend for the regime. IS is the monster that the regime always claimed it was fighting. Ideologues who echoed and amplified this regime line over the years have proclaimed IS the true face of the opposition.  Left unmentioned is the fact that until recently IS fought its biggest battles against the Syrian opposition. Indeed, earlier in the year, rebels had driven it out of Idlib, Deir Ezzor, much of Aleppo and areas around Damascus. It was only after its successes in Iraq and its newly acquired arsenal that it returned to Syria in triumph. But for many western ideologues, IS is part of an undifferentiated radical opposition to the secular regime of Bashar al Assad.

In fact, IS has a lot more in common with the regime. It is a totalitarian force that uses terror as a means of control. The regime kills but is loath to take responsibility; IS revels in murder. The regime kills more, but IS better amplifies its acts. The regime’s audience is domestic; IS has transnational ambitions. Significantly, where IS proudly rejects the international order, the regime presents itself as its indispensable, if ruthless guardian. For the media, IS is a more exciting story.

The media is selective elsewhere too. Foley and Satloff aren’t the only journalists IS has killed: there have been many more—Iraqis and Syrians—whose names remain unknown to the world. And IS isn’t the only force in Syria killing journalists and aid workers: Bashar al Assad’s regime has been doing it far longer.

The Syrian nightmare has unfolded with such pace and intensity that each day’s horror displaces the one preceding it. With IS dominating the news it might be hard for audiences to remember that the killing of western journalists in Syria is as old as the conflict itself. It began long before any jihadi had alighted on Syrian soil.

Years before anyone had heard the name IS, the regime killed Marie Colvin of theSunday Times along with the French photographer Rémi Ochlik when, in the first major escalation of the war, it used artillery on the Baba Amr district of Homs. A month before that it had killed Gilles Jacquier of France 2.

Since the beginning, Damascus has tried to control the narrative by making it too dangerous for journalists to report from Syria—unless they embedded with the regime. Some have embraced this arrangement; unwilling to compromise their objectivity, others have accepted the perils of independent reporting. But most have stayed clear, relying instead on stringers, activists, or citizen journalists.

Leaving aside the courage of the few who have risked much to report from outside regime-controlled Syria, reporting on the conflict has been gernally dismal. While some have used new technologies, including Skype, Youtube, Twitter, to gather material for reportage; others have forgone such exertions to deduce reality from pre-existing notions, ignoring the specificities of the situation in favour of ideological formulas that are impervious to time and place.

With multiplying dangers and fewer reporters willing to enter the killing fields of Syria, it is the ideological types that have come to dominate reporting. This type has also found it easier to embed with the regime. They visit Syria not in search of stories but bring stories to Syria in search of validation.

Beyond the ideological type, however, there is also the hack. If the ideological types are defined by their dogmas, the hacks are defined by procedures. All journalists aspire to be objective; and objectivity for most journalists is encoded in certain practices. To be objective is to be fair, impartial and balanced. But fairness and impartiality are harder to demonstrate; balance is measurable. For this reason, hack reporters use balance as an indicator of their objectivity. Balance is useful in many cases. But where there is a severe imbalance in the underlying situation, imposing balance distorts the picture.

In Syria, the hack reporter’s need for balance has created a misleading picture of the conflict. One often hears the bien pensant liberal lament how “both sides” in the conflict are just as bad as the other. But “both sides” in the conflict are not equal. One side is a state with its hierarchies, chains of command and coercive apparatus intact; the other side is a diffuse, uncoordinated and disorganized opposition. The crimes of the former reflect policy; those of the latter only reflect on the group or individual perpetrating them. The regime’s crimes have been sustained and wholesale; the crimes of the opposition are retail and sporadic.

That is not to excuse any crime. All criminals—rebel or regime—must face justice. But one must be wary of false notions of balance that undermine a sense of proportion.

On September 11, 2013, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, special investigator for the UN Human Rights Council, concluded that before the August 2013 chemical massacre, the Assad regime had perpetrated at least eight major massacres while the rebels had been responsible for one. The rise and extreme brutality of IS hasn’t changed this equation. In a report concluded a year later, Pineheiro noted that the despite IS’s extreme violence, the Assad regime “remains responsible for the majority of the civilian casualties, killing and maiming scores of civilians daily”.

This isn’t all that surprising if one considers that the Assad regime has a monopoly on airpower, armour, heavy artillery, ballistic missiles, and unconventional weapons—and it hasn’t hesitated to use them against civilians.

But monstrous as the regime’s actions are, it has always managed to find people willing to give it the benefit of doubts. Refracted through ideology, each of the regime’s ruthless acts of repression becomes a strike against western imperialism or Islamic fundamentalism (the contradictions between the two notwithstanding). This is achieved by zooming out from actual events to an imagined context: Assad is not at war with his own people, we are made to understand, but against the proxies of an imperial force trying to undermine the “axis of resistance” of which he is a part.

Only such creative reimagining could allow a veteran journalist like Charles Glass to present Assad as the underdog and his most heinous crime—last year’s chemical attack on Ghouta—as something positive. Consider these words:

“The introduction of chemical weapons, which have been alleged to have been used not only by the government but by the rebels as well, was only the most dramatic escalation by combatants who seek nothing short of the annihilation of the other side”

After using the benign “introduction” to describe a major escalation, Glass immediately retreats into the passive voice with “alleged to have been used” which doesn’t require him to identify the alleger. The UN and OPCW have alleged no such thing. The regime perhaps?

But things get worse: Glass next tells us that the attack “unexpectedly led to hope for a way out”, because the Russians compelled Assad to give up his chemical arsenal. Glass then goes on to laud Russian which “delivered President Assad” at Geneva, but condemns the US for being “slow to persuade the militias it funds” along with its allies.

By this reckoning when the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons against its people, it is delivering hope; the real aggressor, it turns out, is the US.

Glass is not even the worst of them. The Independent’s celebrated foreign correspondent Robert Fisk, who has also chosen to embed with the regime,reported shortly after the chemical attack, that “information is now circulating in the city”—furnished by the Russians and corroborated by “a former Special Forces officer” operating with the Syrian Army’s 4th Division, who is “considered a reliable source” (by whom?)—that Assad wasn’t responsible for the attack. Fisk’s reliable source—the regime—tells him that it was indeed the rebels that were responsible for the attack.

Fisk’s credulity is matched by his ethics. In August 2012, after a massacre in Daraya had left between 400-500 people, Fisk rode a Syrian Army armoured personnel carrier into the city to interview survivors and concluded that it was “armed insurgents rather than Syrian troops” that were responsible for the massacre. It somehow did not occur to this veteran journalist that people might not be very forthcoming being interviewed by a journalist “in the company of armed Syrian forces”. Indeed, Human Rights Watch came to very different conclusions after its investigation into the massacre. And when the veteran war correspondentJanine di Giovanni visited the town unaccompanied by regime troops, she received detailed testimony on how the Syrian military had carried out the massacre.

Patrick Cockburn, Fisk’s colleague at The Independent, is another veteran correspondent, a winner of many awards. His book, The Jihadi’s Return, is enjoying great success. For Cockburn, IS  has little to do with the Syrian regime; it is a by-product of the West and its Gulf allies’s decision to support an uprising against Assad. Cockburn finds it absurd that the West should try to strengthen the Iraqi government against IS while simultaneously trying to weaken the Syrian one. For Cockburn the Syrian regime is the only force capable of confronting IS. More controversially, he has portrayed the Free Syria Army as being in cahoots with IS, attributing this incendiary claim to an “intelligence officer from a Middle Eastern country neighbouring Syria”. (Note that this is the only instance in which Cockburn doesn’t reveal the name of the country. His most frequent source is the intelligence service of Iraq—Assad’s closest ally).

Cockburn’s problems go beyond sourcing. Like Fisk, he also takes liberties with facts.

On page 76 of his book, he writes: “I witnessed JAN forces storm a housing complex by advancing through a drainage pipe which came out behind government lines, where they proceeded to kill Alawites and Christians.”

If he witnessed this, then it would be major scoop. Since other than the regime, the only source to make this claim was the Russian state broadcaster RT. However, RT had used fake pictures to support its claim. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have found no evidence of this alleged massacre.

However, when one looks at Cockburn’s original report on the incident in his January 28, 2014 column for The Independent, he attributes the story about rebels arriving through drainage pipes to “a Syrian soldier, who gave his name as Abu Ali”. In that version, Cockburn wasn’t a witness.

By far the most egregious incident of journalistic malpractice comes from one of the most celebrated names in journalism: the Pulitzer Prize-winner . In two frontpage articles for the venerable London Review of Books, he claimed that it was the rebels rather than regime that carried out August 2013’s chemical massacre. Hersh attributed this claim to an unnamed “former intelligence official”. Hersh’s theory was contradicted by extant data collected by the UN and OPCW (as I have shown in an extended investigation for the Los Angeles Review of Books). But the story that Hersh was retailing had already been circulating on the internet. It’s authors were a group of former intelligence officials, some of whom are Hersh’s frequent sources. Their main claims were attributed thus:

There is a growing body of evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East — mostly affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its supporters — providing a strong circumstantial case that the August 21 chemical incident was a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters.

The date was September 6. But on September 1, the Canadian conspiracy site Globalresearch.ca published an article by one Yossef Bodansky implicating the Obama administration in the chemical attack. It began thus:

There is a growing volume of new evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East — mostly affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its sponsors and supporters — which makes a very strong case, based on solid circumstantial evidence, that the August 21, 2013, chemical strike in the Damascus suburbs was indeed a pre-meditated provocation by the Syrian opposition.

The intelligence officials had plagiarized. Their claim was the figment of a conspiracist’s imagination.

Syria has been a deadly conflict for journalists – it has claimed the lives of 70 so far. Few journalists are willing to venture there any longer—except as guests of the regime.  Those who have made this compromise in turn have acquired influence despite the compromised nature of the journalism that they are producing.  In turn they are shaping public opinion and even policy. We have to be wary of those who see Syria as an opportunity to settle old ideological scores.

An abridged version was first published in “die tageszeitung” on November 25, 2014

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Poet Mourid Barghouti on His Wife, Novelist Radwa Ashour (1946-2014)

The relationship between Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti and Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour — as traced through their literary works — is one of the twentieth century’s great love stories:182946_122926790673_2399930_nBarghouti and Ashour met as students at Cairo University in the 1960s, and he writes about the beginnings of their relationship in his second memoir, I Was Born There, I Was Born Heretrans. Humphrey Davies:“I read my first poems to her on the steps of the Cairo University library when we were not yet twenty. We took part together in literary gatherings at the Faculty without it occurring to us that a personal interest had developed, or was developing, between us. We were students and limited our conversation to ‘professional’ matters such as our studies and never went beyond these into any intimate topic. She would tell me, ‘You will become a poet,’ and I would reply, ‘And what if I fail at that?’ I’d tell her, ‘You will become a great novelist’ and she’d give the same answer and we’d laugh. This ‘fraternal’ language and collegial spirit continued between us until the four years of study were over and I went to work in Kuwait. I used to write regular letters about my new life in Kuwait to her and to Amina Sabri and Amira Fahmi, our best friends throughout our studies, with whom we’d made something like a small family. I realized, however, that my letters to Radwa contained nothing of my news or the events of my life and concerned themselves only with my unspoken feelings about that life.

“When I saw her on my first visit to Cairo during the summer holidays, we found ourselves talking like a mother and a father, and sometimes like a grandmother and a grandfather. We talked like a family of two that had been together for ages.

“It was out of the question to talk about ‘steps’ we ought to be taking.”

They married in 1970, and Radwa went to the U.S. for a time to study toward her PhD. Their only son, Tamim, was born in 1977. Barghouti writes about it in I Saw Ramallahtrans. Ahdaf Soueif:

“I do not know how men have stolen the right to name children after themselves. That feeling was not simply a temporary reaction to seeing a mother suffer during delivery. I still believe that every child is the son of his mother. That is justice. I said to Radwa as we took our first steps out of the door of the hospital, she carrying the two-day-old Tamim on her arm, ‘Tamim is all yours. I am ashamed that he will carry my name and not yours on his birth certificate.’”

37819_411548290673_1094883_nThat same year, 1977, Barghouti and many other Palestinians were deported from Egypt on the eve of Anwar Sadat’s controversial visit to Israel. Barghouti was prevented from living in Egypt for the next seventeen years. Also from I Saw Ramallah:

“And then the Egyptian president, Anwar al-Sadat, had a decisive role in defining our size as a family. His decision to deport me resulted in my remaining the father of an only child, Radwa and I not having a daughter, for example, to add to Tamim, or ten sons and daughters. I lived on one continent and Radwa on another: on her own she could not care for more than one child.”

On their continued years of off-on separation, from I Was Born There, I Was Born Here:

“Radwa would pay for the policies of Sadat and his successor Mubarak in the coin of her own private life. She would experience the expulsion of her husband and dedicate her time to caring for her son without the presence of his father for seventeen years, except for short and intermittent periods. When she was obliged to undergo a life-threatening operation, she would be alone with Tamim, who was not yet three years old, while I was in Budapest and forbidden to put my mind at rest about her and be by her side. My mother flew to Cairo the moment she heard of the disease and that lightened the burden for me a little. Once more I had failed to be where I ought to be.”

Barghouti was later able to return to Egypt and later even to Palestine, a journey documented in his I Saw Ramallah. Later yet, he is able to bring their son Tamim. On a poetry reading in the square of Deir Ghassanah, in Palestine, from I Was Born There, I Was Born Here:

“I wanted to speak of Radwa in the square of Deir Ghassanah and to the people of Deir Ghassanah because it wouldn’t be natural if Radwa’s almost total knowledge of everything about the village and its people — their names and life stories, the funny things they’re known for and their sorrows — were to remain one-sided. I wanted them to know her too.”

The two of them were married for forty-four years:radwa_ashour

Also from I Was Born There, I Was Born Here:

“Alone, between sky and earth, I think of Radwa.”

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ISIS is Deadly and Bashar even more

Human Rights Watch has been working on Syria for years. This video features two of Human Rights Watch’s investigations in 2013, including the al-Bayda massacre and the Ghouta attacks.

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