Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 19th, 2015


The Assassination in Israel That Worked

The assassination two decades ago of Yitzhak Rabin, the warrior who became Israel’s peacemaking prime minister, has proved one of the most successful in history

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by his own Hindu fanatic

Rabin was killed by one of his own, a fanatical Jew who could not abide territorial compromise for peace.

Yigal Amir, the assassin, was a religious-nationalist follower of Baruch Goldstein, the American-born killer of 29 Palestinian worshipers in Hebron in 1994.

Kareem Shaheen shared this link

Vikram Seth, the novelist, has observed: “The great advantage of being a chosen people is that one can choose to decide who is unchosen.”|By Roger Cohen

Reason ebbed. Rage flowed. The center eroded.

Messianic Zionism, of the kind that claims all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as God-given real estate, supplanted secular Zionism of the kind that believes in a state of laws.

An opportunistic right-wing politician named Benjamin Netanyahu, who had compared Rabin to Chamberlain, rose to power.

He may supplant David Ben-Gurion as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, but his legacy looks paltry beside the founding father of Israel (who masterminded the slaughter-hood  and chasing out of the Palestinians since 1935).

A warrior-peacemaker was lost to an assassin’s bullet in 1995.

A marketer fearmonger replaced him.

Leadership, in its serious sense, disappeared. Without leadership, every problem is insurmountable. With it, no problem is unsolvable.

It will soon be a half-century since Israel took control of the West Bank and backed the settlement movement that now sees several hundred thousand Jews living east of the Green Line, enjoying Israeli citizenship and various state handouts.

Why then has Israel not asserted its sovereignty over all territory and granted the vote and other democratic rights to all inhabitants?

The answer is simple: too many Palestinians. (The Zionist movement prohibited mandated Britain to have municipal elections in Palestine on the basis that the Jews barely constituted 20% of the population)

Asserting sovereignty would have meant the end of the Jewish state. Israel chose instead the undermining of its own democracy.

As Gershom Gorenberg has put it, Israel has “behaved as if the territories were part of Israel for the purpose of settlement, and under military occupation for the purpose of ruling the Palestinians.”

This policy is corrosive. No democracy is immune to running an undemocratic system on part of the land it controls.

Across the Green Line, millions of inhabitants are noncitizens. This is the combustible “one-state reality” of which Secretary of State John Kerry spoke this month.

The noncitizens are Israel’s colonized Palestinians.

Oppression and humiliation are hewn into the topography of the West Bank.

Israel, through the settlement movement, has undermined its Zionist founders’ commitment to a democratic state of laws. (That’s just western mis-representation propaganda of embellishing Zionism purposes)

Vikram Seth, the novelist, has observed: “The great advantage of being a chosen people is that one can choose to decide who is unchosen.”

The great disadvantage of Messianic Zionism is that it makes it impossible for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state. It makes violence inevitable.

Since October more than 20 Israelis and more than 100 Palestinians have been killed in what some are calling a third intifada. This is the status quo. Three Gaza wars since 2008 are the status quo.

Israel today is a miracle of rapid development perched on the brittle foundation of occupation. Stabbings are the status quo.

The Palestinian leadership has been hopeless. It is divided. It is corrupt. It lacks democratic legitimacy.

It has wallowed in the comforting embrace of injustice rather than making the tough decisions to end it.

It has opted for theater over substance. It incites against Jews.

Time, as the last 67 years demonstrate, is not on the Palestinian side.

None of this annuls Palestinians’ right to a state called Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza, nor the long-term interest of both sides in working to that end.

Rabin hated what Palestinians had done. (And the Palestinians and Arafat didn’t hate what Israel had done?)

Still, for Israel’s security, he chose peace.

The cornerstone of Israel’s United Nations-backed legality was territorial compromise, as envisaged in Resolution 181 of 1947, calling for two states, one Jewish, one Arab, in the Holy Land. This was humankind’s decision, not God’s. (The God-like decision in this partition is giving Israel prime land constituting 57%  when its population was barely 40%)

The covenant Jews bore around the world was a covenant of ethics, not a covenant granting Jews the hills of Judea and Samaria forever.

Its core is the idea that what is hateful to yourself should not be inflicted on your fellow human being. It must apply to the strong Jew of Israel as much as to the cowed Jew of the diaspora.

As the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz has recently chronicled, various U.S. entities and non-profit organizations, for which donations are tax-deductible, provide funding for the settler movement opposed by the United States government. (It cannot be true: the US did everything to facilitate transfer of funds to the settlements)

Daniel Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel, summed up why this is unacceptable: “The government — and we, the public — are subsidizing an activity which undermines government policy.”

The Obama administration has understandably tired of providing the fig leaf of a “peace process” to Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

But it can set down a marker by making public its view of a territorial compromise at or close to the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps. (Swapping is meant to delay any agreement indefinitely)

It can seek leverage in its opposition to settlement growth.

It can close American tax loopholes that benefit Israeli settlers.

It can try to make Rabin’s assassination a little less successful.

This me me me generation? UberPooling With UberMillennials

I have mixed feelings about this.

Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to save some £s (precisely 25% of a full ride) on costly London transport? Particularly for those long-haul rides from Brixton to Farringdon.

‘ISIS Are Literally the Worst’:

UberPooling With UberMillennials in New York City

Part of the reason I appreciate Uber is that you get to avoid interacting with, or being exposed to, strangers. 

Specifically talkative, inebriated strangers who are feeling especially friendly. When you aren’t.

(There are enough of those on the tube on a Friday night to have to deal with them in Ubers, too.)

That said, during my latest trip to NYC I had to schlep it from Park Slope to Manhattan post-11 p.m.

Jess suggested I take an UberPool back to mid-town, and I figured, why not? (Thanks for that ramen, Jess. Delish).

Florence of Arabia shared this link

What do ‪#‎millennials‬ in ‪#‎NYC‬ talk about?

I recently took an ‪#‎UberPool‬ from Park Slope in ‪#‎Brooklyn‬ to mid-town Manhattan, and was astounded by the range and depth of topics discussed by two young American girls in just under 20 minutes. ‪#‎ISIS‬, ‪#‎RKelly‬, Bagels, ‪#‎Emojis‬, ‪#‎Danskos‬, Sugar Burgers (candy shaped like hamburgers), Quitting Work, Yoga in Mexico and other things.

This was my first experience with the car-sharing service. I realise I could probably have taken the subway, but Brooklyn at the time felt like it might as well have been in another state.

Shortly after I jumped into the car, AbdelSalam (who I later learned was from Egypt) picked up two very energetic, bespectacled, pseudo-hipster, blond girls. One in a fedora, another in a checkered cape and Doc Marten’s.

What ensued, was, to my mind, the Perfect Millennial Conversation in which words like YASSS and phrases like OWN IT were used abundantly and excitedly.

While the account could be thought of as a mostly-fictional lame conversation between two girls in their early twenties,  a complete waste of your time…, I’d like to believe it could also be interpreted as the reflection or portrayal of the mind of your typical millennial.

What they think about. What they talk about. Their concerns. Their priorities.

Their MOs. Think SoulCycle. Think Girls. Hillary Clinton. Kale. Namaste. SnapChat. Urban Dictionary.

Or, you could simply consider this an exercise in me being ‪#‎occidentalist‬ about two loud girls whose conversation irritated me for a whole 20 minutes on a Thursday night. Your call.
* Note: ALL DETAILS that could potentially expose the girls’ identities have been completely altered.
GIRL 1: “How weird was R Kelly singing the Star Spangled Banner? That was weird. So weird. I mean, how weird was that?”

GIRL 2: “Ya’ like so, SO weird. Like, does anyone even know who he is anymore? I mean, he’s not like.. Bruno Mars. Or John Legend. Or.. like.. Justin Bieber.”



GIRL 2: “You know what was even more hilarious? When that woman sang the French national anthem. That was so random. I mean, it sounded like she didn’t even know a word of French.”

GIRL 2: “HAHAHA ya ya, like she pulled up some YouTube video in the morning and crash-coursed it and then was like oh I can totes pull off singing at the Nets game”

GIRL 1: “I bet the orgnaizers were like ya let’s go find some random person who knows how to speak French so we can get them to sing the national anthem.”


GIRL 1: “Are we awful for laughing? I mean, what happened in Paris was the worst.”


GIRL 2: “Ya, like, terrorism is the worst.”

GIRL 1: “ISIS. EWW. Literally the worst.”

‪#‎Uber‬ ‪#‎UberPooling‬


As one does, I took notes and dramatized to recreate the account below.

Think of this as Florence of Arabia’s equivalent to the New Yorker‘s Shouts and Murmurs. Or something.

Note: Some of this is made up; some of it is… like…. literally kinda verbatim.


Lebanon Very Big “Kteer Kbeer” Film

Since its release in September, Film Kteer Kbeer (Very Big Shot) has received a considerable amount of local and global admiration, and garnered applause from many for its exceptional concept and execution.

Directed by Jean Bou Chaaya, the gripping film introduces us to three headstrong brothers living in a shady area in Beirut.

Led by the eldest brother Ziad, brilliantly portrayed by actor Alain Saadeh, the threesome organizes a devious scheme to transport a large quantity of drugs across the border.

They devise a plan to make a feature film on an unfortunate couple, in order to transport their illegal products across the border.

Sounds simple enough, right?

The result is an hour and a half of serious drama mixed with hilarious one-liners and surprising blasts.

The cast, which includes the brilliant Wissam Fares – starring opposite Tarek Yacoub and Fouad Yammine, excel at giving realistic portrayals of middle class gangsters who are on their last attempt to escape poverty, and achieve their dreams of opening a decent (and crime-free) restaurant.

The abrupt ending results in questioning the morals of politicians all the while subtly addressing the difference between religions in Lebanon.

This is absolutely not your cliched film of love and war.

The Marrakech award-winning film gives a detailed depiction of suburban struggle through meticulous art direction and story-telling.

We definitely recommend that we all rally and support the growth of local talent and local productions.

Film Kteer Kbeer is currently showing in theaters all around the country including Grand Cinema, CinemaCity, and Abraj.

You can watch the trailer here:

Killer Mike and the return of the politically engaged rapper.

Late one September night in Atlanta, Killer Mike picked me up from my hotel in a black Chevy Silverado. He’s a heavyset man with a dense beard, a little over six feet tall, thick and stocky and built like an offensive lineman.

“For all my proclivities for thuggery, I am a typical middle-class dad,” he said. “I’m a gangsta rap suburban father!”

Killer Mike, whose given name is Michael Render, does lead a decidedly bourgeois life at home.

He has four children—two girls and two boys, ages eight to 21—and he co-owns a string of Atlanta barbershops with his wife, Shana (also known as Shay Bigga). But he also told me that he carries “a blade and a firearm” at all times, and later that night, when we stopped in at a strip club, he pulled what looked like a pound of weed out of a backpack, broke it in two, and stuffed half into his shorts. Thug life.

Killer Mike took me on an unhurried drive around west Atlanta, a formerly rough section of the city now in the throes of gentrification.

He talked as he drove, about the city’s history, and race. “Atlanta is unique to me,” he said. “You got poor black people, but I also saw this: I saw black doctors, lawyers, educators. All you gotta do is want to be it to see it, and once you see something it can be a reality.”

In Atlanta, the local government is black, the business owners are black, the students are black, the rich are black.

It’s jarring, because in my experience there’s no place like it in the United States, this concentration of African American influence.

Blackness permeates the city—which means that race does and doesn’t matter, by which I mean to say I felt a sense of peace there. “There’s an agreement to figure shit out before you go to Defcon 4,” Killer Mike said of the city’s police.

On the night of November 24, 2014, Killer Mike was at the Ready Room, a concert hall in central St. Louis, getting ready to perform with El-P, or Jaime Meline, the white rapper who makes up the other half of the critically acclaimed rap duo Run the Jewels.

Earlier that evening, a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, announced it had declined to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. Killer Mike addressed the decision from the stage:

I got kicked on my ass when I listened to that prosecutor. You motherfuckers got me today, I knew it was coming when Eric Holder decided to resign. …

You motherfuckers got me today. You kicked me on my ass today, because I have a 20-year-old son and a 12-year-old son, and I’m so afraid for them today. …

It is not about race, it is not about class, it is not about color. It is about what they killed him for: It is about poverty, it is about greed, and it is about a war machine. It is us against the motherfucking machine.

The show began, and by night’s end, a fan had posted online a video of Killer Mike’s speech; it went viral.

Pitchfork, Spin, Mother Jones, Deadspin, Slate, and The Huffington Post all covered his remarks, as did a wide array of rap blogs and web sites.

The New York Times framed Killer Mike as an example of African American rappers distancing themselves from Jay Z-esque financial boasts in favor of “laying bare their innermost struggles.

The Times compared Killer Mike to Kanye West, who in 2005 famously reacted to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy by saying George W. Bush didn’t care about black people.

Killer Mike, 40, was not an unknown figure in the rap world. He had been performing, on his own and in different groups, since he was a teenager.

His father was a police officer and his mother a florist until “she got into selling a little coke on the side,” as Killer Mike put it to the Portland Mercury, and he got his start as a member of an Atlanta rap group called the Slumlordz.

After a yearlong stint at Morehouse College, where he studied religion and philosophy before dropping out, Killer Mike focused on the group.

He got his first big break in 1994, when he befriended Big Boi, from the rap group Outkast. After signing with Outkast’s record imprint, Aquemini, in 2000, Killer Mike appeared on Outkast’s Grammy-winning album, Stankonia, and Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below, the group’s 2003 genre-changing hit.

Killer Mike’s work has always, at least in part, taken on political themes.

(It is also fun. And funny. Killer Mike does dick jokes better than almost anyone, and in October, Run the Jewels released Meow the Jewels, a rerecording of their second album, Run the Jewels 2, made entirely with cat noises. Proceeds from the album will go to a foundation to benefit families who have lost members to police violence.)

His first two solo albums, Monster (2003) and I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind (2006), addressed police brutality, particularly the killing of Sean Bell, who was shot by police at his bachelor party in Queens, New York.

Yet few people would have called Killer Mike a “political rapper” or even a particularly socially conscious one, even though his songs, playful and strange, often took on current events—on “That’s Life,” from Grind, he raps about how he “dissed Oprah,” lamenting that he never got to “Cruise like Tom through the slums / Where the education’s poor and the children growing dumb.”

It’s just that he was a relatively peripheral figure in rap, well-known, perhaps, but certainly not an icon worthy of mention in the same hyped breath as Kanye West.

That changed after St. Louis.

People outside of the rap world began to notice that the depth of Killer Mike’s thoughts weren’t limited to rhymes.

He wrote op-eds on police brutality and the legitimacy of protest in Baltimore for Billboard.

He gave interviews to NPR and PBS, lectured to students at NYU, MIT, and the University of Cincinnati, and made an appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher. (On the show, he called Bill O’Reilly “more full of shit than an outhouse.”)

He joined Arianna Huffington as her guest at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

In one BBC interview, he compared the uprising in Ferguson to the Boston Tea Party: “Riots work,” he said. “I’m an American because of that riot.”

Killer Mike had achieved a new level of fame, one reached not because of musical talent so much as a profound willingness to engage with contemporary unrest.

Socially aware rappers have been around as long as there has been rap, but the impact of artists speaking out on politics and current events reached its peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Rap had by then attracted a large enough audience that talented and politically astute performers like Chuck D of Public Enemy, KRS-One (the leader of Boogie Down Productions), Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation, KMD, and others realized they’d been given a new power—to directly address both black and white America—and they began to use it.

In 1991, for example, Public Enemy released “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” an incendiary song about the state’s refusal to designate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a holiday.

The state lost an estimated $500 million in revenue to resulting boycotts, according to Arizona tourism officials. A referendum the following year enacted a holiday honoring King.

Explicitly political rap of this sort was soon eclipsed by the “gangsta” version offered by acts like N.W.A and the Geto Boys, and then the anthemic party raps of Naughty by Nature and the surreal comedy of Biz Markie.

In 2006, Nas released Hip Hop Is Dead, which debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard charts. On the album, he asserted that the commercial success of rap had robbed the music of meaning. “When I say ‘hip-hop is dead,’ basically America is dead,” Nas told MTV. “There is no political voice. Music is dead. … Our way of thinking is dead, our commerce is dead.”

This is a highly abridged and undeniably unfair history, but I think the primary themes are accurate: Politically conscious rap happened; it was meaningful, it was co-opted and commercialized; and then it vanished.

Or not really. Yes, there was a period of time during which mainstream rap contained little of what could be considered “political consciousness,” but it’s not like that sort of rap ever really died.

You could find it easily enough—Dead Prez, X Clan, Mos Def—on underground and college radio, or mixtapes. Eventually, as circumstances around the country shifted, the political themes returned.

Kanye West’s 2013 album Yeezus was a turning point, with a major star directly choosing to address racism, mass incarceration, private prisons, and the drug war.

Then last March, Kendrick Lamar released To Pimp a Butterfly, an unapologetically black album that seemed designed to respond to America’s charged racial climate.

Even D’Angelo, the reclusive R&B legend, returned from a 15-year hiatus with Black Messiah: He told The New York Times he had pushed up its release date a year because of the unrest in Ferguson.

Run the Jewels 2 was released on October 24, 2014, two months after Michael Brown was killed. The songs, which speak to mass incarceration, police brutality, foreign war, corruption, religion, and more, are irresistible listening, pulled straight from the deep reservoir of contemporary American racial anxiety.

The sound and sensibility is brash and muscular, punk rock wearing a rap suit. “As much as El-P and Killer Mike want to distance themselves from being seen as role models, they are,” Ian Cohen wrote in a breathless Pitchfork review. “Their experience just happens to sound a hell of a lot like the truth.”

The lobby of the W Atlanta Midtown, where we stopped late that first night—before the strip club, after a trip to his studio—is an imposing place, furnished in white marble, and filled with important people, or people who want to seem that way.

Killer Mike certainly qualifies: He was here to see and perform with his friend Big Boi at an after-party for Music Midtown, a festival Run the Jewels had played (along with Drake and Elton John).

Everyone at the W seemed to recognize Killer Mike. Someone asked to take a selfie with him; another wanted his autograph. Unfortunately, no one had briefed the people at the party check-in desk.

An icy blonde working the guest list gave Killer Mike the once-over—long black T-shirt, dark shorts, sneakers—and said he’d have to wait in line.

“I’m Killer Mike,” he said, patiently. “I’m performing.”

That didn’t seem to make any difference. She didn’t know who he was. She only saw a large black man trying to get into an event and it was her job to keep people like him out.

She kept asking who he was, and he kept repeating himself, his frustration mounting. Finally, her colleague at the table, an Asian American man, took notice and elbowed the blonde and she let Killer Mike pass.

After a few steps, though, he ran into another gatekeeper, a brown-haired white woman, who stuck her elbow out to block his path.

“Don’t ever touch me like that,” he told her, pulling her arm away.

Then, quietly, he delivered a short lecture about celebrities not always looking like how white folks expect them to look. I was stunned.

Even here, in Killer Mike’s hometown, among his fans, in a gathering held for the successful and the celebrated, race still mattered. We headed inside.

Grand Hustle Records, the label Killer Mike joined in 2008, sits in a low brick building in an industrial neighborhood, concealed behind a remote-controlled gate.

A sign at the entrance reads NO WEAPONS PAST THIS POINT.

Two nights after the incident at the W, I went to the studio to watch Killer Mike and El-P cut “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” a track from Run the Jewels 2, down to a single, family-friendly minute that Mike told me could be used on The Muppets. (It fell through.) This took some doing.

A sample of the original lyrics: “That fuckboy life about to be repealed, that fuckboy shit about to be repelled / Fuckboy jihad, kill infidels, Allahu Akbar BOOM from Mike and El.”

It required a few minutes of brow-furrowing concentration before Killer Mike was ready to record. He rapped to himself under his breath to get accustomed to the contours of the song’s new words.

(They managed somehow to incorporate parts of Miss Piggy’s song “I’m Sorry” into the mix.)

After he finished, we sat down to talk about rap and what Killer Mike thought it could do for the world.

“I just try my best, man, to say something about the shit I see,” he said. “Because I don’t want to go crazy. I don’t want to be walking around angry and feeling rage. You say something, and you organize what you can.”

In Killer Mike’s case that means using his recently increased visibility to change people’s minds. “The way you start to break down systemic racism,” he said, “is to start building individual relationships with people who are not like you.”

He pointed out that most of the people he meets when he gives university talks about race are white. “It’s a totally different spiel when I talk at Morehouse,” he said. “But when I’m talking at MIT? At the University of Cincinnati? I’m telling white people: In order to stop systemic racism, you must first befriend, become a colleague of, get to know intimately, put yourself culturally in the framework of someone who doesn’t look like you,” he said.

“And it sounds so simple. But when you do it, it becomes such a feat. Because it forces you, on an individual level, to challenge every preconceived thing your team has ordained as OK.”

Systemic racism, he told me, will never end in this country until “the supposed progressives, or the passively liberal whites that I speak to at these universities, get angry enough to join forces with the people who are also fighting the same systems.”

Which means that Killer Mike has learned the same lesson as did his predecessors in Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions: His message, like theirs, has the most force when it is directed at white people.

Black folks already get race. As a sentiment, this should seem obvious, but it rarely is. Befriending a person of another heritage is a first step: It is literally the easiest thing you can do.

Killer Mike’s real project, then, isn’t to spout platitudes on racial harmony or to “solve racism.” It is to provoke empathy, so we have a common foundation—a common language—to build on.

These are baby steps toward justice and equality.

“It’s not enough that we’re angry about Michael Brown,” he said. “There’s a layer beneath race that understands that it is being used as a class structure in this country.”

I asked him how he arrived there. “Really, man, it goes back to the commonsense sensibilities of my grandparents,” he added. “They didn’t make me a Buddha, but they just taught me to think. Think.”

And that is Killer Mike’s greatest hope for America: For everyone to wake up and think—about police brutality, about systemic racism, about what it means to be a human being. It doesn’t matter if he’s rapping onstage or rolling blunts in a darkened strip club. He’s been saying this all along. It’s about time we listened.




December 2015

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