Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Jadaliyya

Sabbou7a, Fairuz, Lebanon female top famous singers: Different characters and styles

Saba7 died a few weeks ago. Fairouz is still young of 77 years old.

You may read the biography of late Saba7:

Nasri Atallah posted on FB this December 6 at 8:13pm ·

“While Fairuz represents Lebanon as it likes to imagine itself: transcendent, serious, beautiful, virginal, timeless, and poetic—Sabah represents a much more honest version of Lebanon: glamorous, colorful, tragic, obsessed with youth, funny, a little trashy, and lusty.

(Let’s not try hard to match Saba7 with this totally convoluted Lebanon)

It is the contradictory nature of Sabah that is inspiring to many: that she seemed to do what she wanted whenever she wanted and with whomever she wanted, the world be damned.

In fact, Sabah was so important to the Lebanese imaginary that her funeral mass was given by that country’s Maronite Patriarch.

There the Patriarch was—a sectarian, sexist, and conservative religious leader—solemnly praying for a woman who married and divorced 9 times, admitted to having affairs and “enjoying” many more men, and who didn’t care if those men were Christian or Muslim or purple, as long as she thought they were hot.

Even in death, Sabah forced the most reactionary elements of conservatism and sectarianism to listen and to take note of her.

She gave them no choice.

Her insistence on living her complicated and contradictory life and art openly and proudly inspired many, including myself” – Maya Mikdashi in Jadaliyya.

 Can’t have the cake and eat it too: “US, Stop Funding Israel, or Let Others Broker Peace

Noura ErakatHammonton, NJ, United States, posted this August 5, 2014 ·

Alert: Were talking about ending US aid to Israel in the New York Times!

The NYT asked if the US can still be a leader in the Middle East (seriously).

My response: the US needs to stop funding Israel or let others do the job including multilateral institutions that the US has deliberately impeded. Rashid Khalidi is part of this “debate” as are others insisting the US marginalize Hamas and support Israel at all costs.

Thanks to Josh Ruebner & US Campaign to end the occupation for fabulous research on US military aid to Israel.

“The United States has incapacitated the U.N. Security Council by using its veto power to shield Israel from accountability 40 times between 1972 and 2011.

The only other situation where the U.S. used its veto power so systematically was to protect colonial and apartheid regimes in South Africa, Rhodesia and Namibia.”

U.S. Should Stop Funding Israel, or Let Others Broker Peace

Noura Erakat

Noura Erakat, a human rights lawyer, is an assistant professor at George Mason University and co-founder and co-editor of Jadaliyya.

August 5, 2014

As Israel’s primary patron of economic, military and diplomatic support, the United States has a duty and the capacity to help resolve the Palestinian-Israel conflict. It should either comply with its domestic laws and cease military aid to Israel or simply step aside and allow international mechanisms to function without obstruction.

Ending aid will either restrain Israel and facilitate a political resolution or encourage a backlash that induces the global community to intervene.

Between 1949 and 2008, the U.S. has provided Israel with $103.6 billion, more than all of the foreign aid it has provided to Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America combined.

Since 2000, it has provided Israel with $3.5 billion worth of F-16s and $77 billion in Apaches.

Military aid to foreign states is subject to several U.S. laws including the Arms Export Control Act , the Foreign Assistance Act and the Leahy Law. Each of these laws conditions the receipt of aid on the furtherance of human rights.

The Department of State annually notes Israel’s systematic abuse of human rights against Palestinians.

Congress has nevertheless renewed aid to Israel without scrutiny either by willful ignorance or disregard.

In the eyes of our 535 elected representatives, Israel can do no wrong.

This has not always been the case.

The Reagan administration halted its cluster munitions sales to Israel between 1982 and 1988 in response to Israel’s disproportionate and indiscriminate attack on civilians in Beirut.

In 1991, the George H.W. Bush administration conditioned its loan guarantees to Israel on the cessation of its settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The United States has ample evidence of Israel’s human rights violations that should trigger these laws today. In its most recent offensive, Israel has dropped over 100 one-ton bombs, hardly precise and discriminate weaponry, onto the densely populated and besieged Gaza Strip.

Human Rights Watch documented Israeli ground forces shooting and killing fleeing Palestinian families in Khuza’a between July 23 and 25. Amnesty International documented the killing of 45 civilians in the Occupied West Bank over the past three years.


Cessation of American military aid to Israel will create at least two possibilities in the long run. On the one hand, it can restrain Israel, thereby creating more opportunities for a political resolution to the conflict. On the other hand, it could have the opposite effect and motivate Israel to pursue more maximalist policies, thereby increasing the cost of its transgressions. This will likely induce the international community to effectively intervene à la the South African model.

Short of complying with its own laws, the United States can also step aside and allow international mechanisms to function. The United States has incapacitated the U.N. Security Council by using its veto power to shield Israel from accountability 40 times between 1972 and 2011.

The only other situation where the U.S. used its veto power so systematically was to protect colonial and apartheid regimes in South Africa, Rhodesia and Namibia. The United States has similarly undermined the efficacy of the <href=”#v=onepage&q&f=false”>International Court of Justice, the Human Rights Council and, as we are currently witnessing, the International Criminal Court.

The U.S. is a central part of the problem in the Palestinian-Israel conflict. To be a part of the solution, it needs to do less, not more.


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Operation Brother’s Keeper? Noura Erakat responds

Jadaliyya Co-Editor Noura Erakat Responds to Israeli General Consul Regarding Operation Brother’s Keeper On Al Jazeera America

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[Screenshot from video below.][Screenshot from video below.]

On June 12, 2014, three Israeli settler boys were kidnapped on a hike near the Gush Etzion settlement bloc(First settlement after the preemptive war of 1967)

Although a police recording indicated that one of the boys had been immediately killed, Israel set off a national search for the boys, entitled “Operation Brother’s Keeper,” in which it killed 6 Palestinians, arrested 545 others, and violently invaded 1,300 Palestinian sites.

On 30 June 2014, the bodies of the three boys were found in Halhul, just north of Hebron.

The discovery catalyzed a nation-wide hysteria for revenge among Israeli society as well as a military campaign of collective punishment against Palestinian society including a bombing campaign against the Gaza Strip and demolition of the home of the accused kidnapper.

Israel insists that Hamas  is responsible for the kidnapping notwithstanding repeated denial of responsibility by the Palestinian political party.

In addition to the military campaign, vigilantes have also violently attacked Palestinian children resulting in the death of a twelve-year old girl in Hebron crushed by a car  and the death of a fifteen-year old boy whose body was found in West Jerusalem.

In this interview on Al Jazeera America, Jadaliyya co-editor Noura Erakat responds to the Israeli General-Consul on these recent events. Noura emphasizes the immorality of the collective punishment campaign, the lack of evidence incriminating Hamas, and on the root causes of the conflict.

[Noura’s apperance starts at 7:20.] 


Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures..

Jadaliyya Interview Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani on this new Book “Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures”

Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?

Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani (NE & MR): The book represents a compilation of articles and documents published by Jadaliyya during the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations in 2011-2012.

We felt this moment represents—for better or worse—a critical juncture in Palestinian history and the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, deserving of proper analysis and contextualization.

It will either mark the moment at which Palestinians began to definitively disengage from the Oslo framework that has dominated their world for the past two decades and must, alongside the 1948 Nakba, be seen as the most catastrophic development in contemporary Palestinian history.

Alternatively, it forms another attempt by a leadership lacking in strategic vision, tactical acumen, and political dynamism, to revive Oslo yet again.

As such, it marks the last hurrah of the Palestinian national movement as we have known it since the 1950s. Thus far, the latter interpretation certainly seems the more sensible.

[Cover of

[Cover of “Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures”] Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker

Nevertheless, these things also have the potential to take on a life of their own, driving their sponsors in directions they have not anticipated or may not want, and even marginalizing or consuming them in the process.

Despite the resumption of bilateral negotiations, the potential to shift away from the Oslo framework remains viable precisely because the options created by the statehood bid remain available. But in view of the present Palestinian leadership’s regional and international alliances, vested interests, and economic constraints, this is highly unlikely.

Regardless of outcome, the broader point is that one way or another, this represents a critical moment that deserves analysis and reflection beyond mere reporting of actual events.

J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does it address?

NE & MR: The book is divided into 4 sections that examine what we believe to be the main themes highlighted by the statehood bid.

1. “National Liberation Strategies examines the bid from the point of view of a viable Palestinian national strategy, and the lack thereof.

2. “International Law and Statehood analyzes the proper role of international law, if any, in achieving Palestinian self-determination in light of legal strategies used by other colonized peoples, together with the new realities that exist on the ground.

3.  “US Foreign Policy” concerns the elephant in every room and china shop, and addresses the crucial role of the United States as what objectively can only be characterized as a direct participant in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A final section entitled

4.  Representation focuses on the broader issue of the crisis of representation that Palestinians have been experiencing for at least the past two decades, and how the statehood bid ameliorates and intensifies it in various ways.

The contributions to this volume represent points of view that are both critically for and against the UN initiative.

Still, they are written from a common perspective seeking to promote Palestinian self-determination. The book does not provide equal space to those who support Palestinian rights and those who do not think they should have any.

Since the majority of essays were written around the time of the initial 2011 Palestinian application to the United Nations, a number of additional contributions look at this question one year later. We have also included key documents, among them the speeches of Mahmoud Abbas, Binyamin Netanyahu, and Barack Obama to the UN General Assembly in September 2011.

J: How does this work connect to and/or depart from your previous research and writing?

NE & MR: We have both been involved in research and advocacy for Palestinian self-determination throughout most of our lives, and in this respect this volume fits right in.

Both of us also believe that a more intensive exchange of views and perspectives on the key issues addressed in this collection are essential and indeed a pre-requisite for the reconstruction of the Palestinian national movement and the development of a coherent and effective national strategy.

The contents reflect and contribute to broader conversations on the Palestinian question as well as internal ones amongst Palestinians themselves. On this score as well, this volume contributes to our earlier and existing work.

J: Who do you hope will read this book, and what sort of impact would you like it to have?

NE & MR: The book is intended both for a general audience that would like to enhance its understanding of how supporters of Palestinian self-determination view the UN initiative. Why was there not unanimous support amongst Palestinians?

Why did legal scholars disagree about its implications for the rights of refugees?

What was the Palestinian leadership thinking and did it have a Plan B?

The anthology aims to answer those questions, making it a good fit within both graduate and undergraduate university classes, as well as beyond, among a general readership.

This book is also intended for people who have been part of the debates addressed in this collection of essays and would like to explore these various perspectives in greater depth.

It therefore should also benefit long-time advocates, writers, and scholars who are similarly concerned about the political impasse that has faced Palestinians globally since at least the onset of the Oslo accords.

J: What other projects are you working on now?

NE: I am working on a couple of pieces of legal scholarship, as well as an essay on international law and the Palestinian question. My current legal scholarship explores the impact of the Obama administration’s policy of targeted killings upon the international law and self-defense.

Another piece examines the impact of overlapping refugee legal regimes in the Middle East on Palestinian refugees during secondary forced displacement, as is now the case in Syria. The essay regarding the Palestinian question attempts to unpack whether international law has been part of the problem, or the solution, or neither, in response to Israel’s settler-colonial project.

MR: I am writing a book with Norman Finkelstein that examines how the internationalization of the “Question of Palestine” can contribute to achieving Palestinian self-determination and peace in the Middle East, in accordance with international law and the international consensus on the relevant questions.

Excerpt from Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures

From the Foreword, by Richard Falk

Ever since the collapse of European colonialism, the side in a conflict that controls this moral and legal high ground has generally, although not invariably, prevailed over an opponent with hard power superiority.

Palestinian reliance on non-violence has recently been dramatized by an extraordinary series of lengthy hunger strikes by Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli prisons without charge or trial. These have in duration surpassed those of IRA prisoners in 1982, which eventually led London to change its approach to the IRA. This shift enabled negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. While not perfect, the Agreement has led to a generally peaceful process of conflict resolution in Northern Ireland, replacing what had been previously regarded as a struggle without a foreseeable end.

It is in this regard most unfortunate that the world media has looked the other way during the Palestinian prisoner strikes, and done so despite years of lecturing the Palestinians that if they adopted non-violent tactics their cause would experience an immediate upsurge of sympathetic attention.

Today, most Palestinians are not only disillusioned with the United Nations and international law, but also with their own leadership. The Palestinian leadership works within established inter-governmental channels of traditional diplomacy augmented with awkward periodic shows of deference to American political priorities.

Each episode in the Peace Process constructed on the basis of the Oslo Declaration of Principles has ended in frustration for the Palestinians, and is coupled with mutual recriminations that assign blame for the failure, with the Palestinian side represented in the media as mainly responsible for the disappointment and Israel lauded for its supposed generosity.

What often follows is a perverse reaffirmation of the confidence of both sides that “the process” forms the only viable option for a peaceful settlement, which has led to a cycle of raised and shattered expectations associated with the resumption of direct negotiations.

It is here that bewilderment merges with disillusionment. Why give credibility to a structure of negotiation that is so deeply flawed? Can any sane person expect such a negotiation to lead to a just outcome when the intermediary is both the most powerful political actor on the global stage and an explicitly unconditional partisan of the stronger side?

The unintentionally candid Dennis Ross in his diplomatic memoir tells it all when he indicates that the central question that tormented him throughout the 2000 Camp David negotiations was “Will the Israelis swallow this?” He never asks, or even considers, the relevance of the complementary issue, “will the Palestinians swallow this?” Or rather, “can, should the Palestinians swallow this?”

This double standard is so revealing because it discloses the unconscious depths of the American approach: defer to Israeli sovereign consent while providing the Palestinians with a single alternative:  accept what is on offer.

In his long book, Ross never pauses to reflect on how odd it should seem for an “honest broker” to consider the responses of only on one side to the conflict. This last observation brings us back to the statehood bid.

In one respect, as has been ably argued by John Quigley in his The Statehood of Palestine, Palestine is already a state. It has garnered  over a hundred diplomatic recognitions by governments since the 1988 PLO Declaration of Independence, and subsequently established a governmental presence within relatively fixed boundaries.

Of course, this PLO proposed resolution of the conflict was the most gigantic territorial concession made by either side since the end of World War II, seemingly accepting a Palestinian state limited to the territories occupied in 1967. These territories constitute only 22% of historic Palestine and form less than half the territory allotted to an Arab state pursuant to the partition of Palestine proposed by the United Nations in General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947).

This partition was rejected at the time as unfair by the Palestinians and the Arab states. With hindsight, it should not be surprising that Israel has offered the Palestinians nothing in response to acknowledge the significance of their willingness to normalize relations with Israel on a basis that evinced a clear intention to resolve the conflict.

Despite this background to the statehood bid of 2011 and 2012, it is correct to appreciate that United Nations certification of Palestinian statehood gives the claim considerable additional political weight. The American effort to defer indefinitely the Palestinian Authority’s 2011 bid for United Nations membership bears on whether an acknowledgement of statehood without membership is a step forward for the Palestinian people. It becomes questionable whether General Assembly recognition of Palestine as a state entitled the enhanced observer status is of sufficient practical benefit to offset the earlier, more fundamental UN rebuff by the Security Council.

[Excerpted from Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures, by Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani, by permission of the authors. Copyright © 2013 Tadween Publishing. For more information, or to order a copy of the book, click here.]

Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani, editors, Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures. Washington, DC: Tadween Publishing, 2013.

New Texts Out Now: Nelida Fuccaro, Histories of Oil and Urban Modernity in the Middle East [Cover of Elizabeth F. Thompson, New Texts Out Now: Elizabeth Thompson, Justice Interrupted: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in the Middle East

Public Spaces in all Turkey cities are transformed Taksim Squares

In a speech on June 10, responding to the wave of protests sweeping through Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proclaimed that “the issue is not the five to ten trees that are being removed.”

By calling the demonstrators “ideological,” the artists and authors “Inkishariya” (mercenaries during the Ottoman Empire) and suggesting they were simply opposition cadres or opportunistic rioters using the debate over the redevelopment of Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Parkı to stoke unrest against his government, Erdoğan meant to discredit them.

But on this point, the prime minister and the crowds of people in the streets calling for his resignation would agree: this is now about something much broader than the few hundred trees threatened by the plan to rebuild an Ottoman-era barracks in place of the park, or even about the preservation of a small green space at the center of a sprawling concrete city.

Timur Hammond and Elizabeth Angell posted in Jadaliyya this June 8, 2013: “Is Everywhere Taksim? Public Space and Possible Publics

Demonstrators began to gather in the park on Tuesday 28 May, after a call went out for people to defend the park against the bulldozers that had appeared in the middle of the previous night.

The initial alert came from Taksim Solidarity (Taksim Dayanışması), an umbrella platform formed to oppose the Taksim redevelopment project in 2012. Taksim Solidarity is spearheaded by the Chamber of Architects and Engineers, and loosely affiliated with a broad coalition of movements organizing around the right to the city and against the kentsel dönüşüm (urban transformation) projects that characterize the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) urban policy.

The plan projected the eviction of working-class and minority populations from shanty-towns and neighborhoods slated for gentrification; the approval of environmentally-destructive infrastructure projects like the third Bosphorus bridge and the Istanbul Canal; and the privatization of formerly public infrastructures and spaces, including the famous Haydarpaşa train station and Gezi Park itself.

What began with a small group of people keeping watch over the trees rapidly grew into a round-the-clock occupation of the north end of the park, with tents going up on the second day, and more people joining the rallies with every passing night, their numbers reaching tens of thousands on Thursday evening. When the police raided for the second time at five am on 31 May, tear-gassing the occupants and setting up barricades to keep them out of the park, the occupation flared into the broader wave of protest that has continued ever since.

So far, no single ideology or party has been entirely able to capture this movement and turn it into a continuation of politics-as-usual. The makeup and the content of the protests have varied widely from neighborhood to neighborhood and from city to city, with different slogans and symbols (e.g., secularist, nationalist, leftist, and anarchist) predominating in different settings.

The millions of people who have joined the demonstrations throughout the country are united by perhaps only two broad concerns:

First, a roiling sense of frustration with Erdoğan and his administration’s autocratic approach to governance (initially with respect to the urban transformation process symbolized by the Taksim project, but also on a range of other issues); and

Second, anger at the violent response of the police, and the failure of the mainstream Turkish media to cover it. At this point, the Gezi protests have drawn participants from nearly every ideological stripe in Turkish politics, except for the supporters of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) themselves.

The majority of those taking part are middle-class and secular, but the participation of working-class people, practicing Muslims, and ethnic and religious minorities belies any simplistic attempt to characterize this movement as a simple reiteration of existing divisions between secular and religious, urban and rural, Turkish and non-Turkish, and so forth.

The positions and goals of the people participating in the demonstrations are diverse and sometimes incompatible, but the phrase that they are chanting everywhere is her yer Taksim, her yer direniş” (“everywhere is Taksim, resistance is everywhere”), a slogan hearkening back to Taksim Square, the adjacent Gezi Park, and the contested understanding and use of public space they have come to represent.

Public Space and the Making of Publics

On 2 June, Taksim Solidarity announced 4 fundamental demands from the government. The fourth and final demand calls for an end “to the banning of meetings and protests in all of Turkey’s squares and public spaces, first and foremost Taksim [Taksim başta olmak üzere Türkiye’deki tüm meydanlarında, kamusal alanlarda toplantı, eylem yasaklarına son verilmelidir].”

As the demand suggests, these protests are motivated in part by a desire to “take back” public space—a desire that is not only about resisting a series of controversial urban transformation projects, but about asserting the right to engage in certain kinds of public practices. For some, this means the ability to engage in political protest without fear of police violence (a right, it is important to note, that has been denied to Kurds and other minorities in Turkey for decades).

For others, it is connected to the recent outcry over new laws pertaining to the sale and consumption of alcohol and warnings against “immoral” behavior in the Ankara metro (that is, about what kinds of lifestyles and behaviors are promoted and permitted by the state).

The vibrant self-organized commune that has sprouted up in Gezi Park over the last week, with its library,  garden, kitchens, and tent neighborhoods, has become another object lesson in the re-imagining of a public space. However, we need to be careful about how we frame this question: rather than reading these protests simply as struggles over a single generic “public space,” we might more productively ask about the kinds of spaces that are involved and about the publics that are organized in and through them.

Consider these notes from Timur’s fieldwork in Eyüp, a predominantly religious and conservative neighborhood in Istanbul:

Spoke with Zehra Hanım [her name has been changed] today. We had talked last night about maybe meeting up in Taksim, she tells me today she wasn’t able to make it because she went instead for a tour of the Mavi Marmara. “But,” she added, “I’m really glad I didn’t go to Taksim––when I got home and looked at all the news and the things people were writing about it, the violence, the throwing stones at the police, the breaking of property.” We argued about the square and about the kinds of protest which should and should not be allowed there. “I’ve been there to demonstrate in support of things before,” she said, “but things like this, they shouldn’t be allowed there.”  I returned, “where should they be?” “Küçükçekmece,” she said, referring to a municipality west beyond the airport and some distance from Taksim. It was to Küçükçekmece that the government had suggested moving May Day festivities that year. I replied, “But the whole point is to be seen. That’s why people protest in Taksim!” “But that’s not why I’m in Taksim. There’s no mosque there, there are always people drinking there, I remember my aunt used to live around the corner from Galatasaray [on İstiklal Caddesi, the main pedestrian boulevard that feeds into Taksim], there was a cafe full of leftists who would always go out and stir up trouble.” [31 May 2013]

For Zehra, the rebuilding of the barracks in Taksim ––“without cutting down any trees”––and the restriction on protests in the square was absolutely necessary to creating a healthier, more open, and more pleasant space. The Taksim she envisions is also a public space, but one produced for and by a different kind of public, one in line with a set of more conservative norms.

This is a public closely in line with the social and political program of the AKP, although we might also think more broadly about the changing trajectories of political publics in the decades since the 1980 coup.

Indeed, many of the people we have spoken with over the past few days reference the political violence of the late 1970s, in which struggles over public space were closely tied to political divisions. Public space is always political, insofar as it involves a particular imaginary of the public, people, and their authority. What began in Taksim and has since spread far beyond is, in part, a debate about what kinds of political behavior can emerge from particular spaces.

Even as we marvel at the new kinds of sociability that are emerging in places like Gezi Park right now, it is important to continue asking about the boundaries (material, economic, cultural, and religious) of those publics, about the terms upon which people come to be included within them, and about the capacity for particular spaces to accommodate multiple publics. If “Taksim is ours,” as many have come to say, it is necessary to continue asking who that “we” is, how it comes to be constituted, and how inclusive it is, and can or cannot become.

A Tree or Its Meaning

It is perhaps because the initial mobilization around Gezi Park was largely divorced from the standard categories of political organization and party affiliation in Turkey that it was able to develop into such a broad and unpredictable protest movement.

While Taksim Square has long been important both as a political symbol (especially for the Turkish left and labor movement) and as a site of public political practice, Gezi Park was—until last week—a much less politically and emotionally charged place. The movement to stop its demolition was initially framed in terms of the preservation of green space—of having nefes alınacak bir yer (a place to breathe)—and resistance to the enclosure of a commons, given the announcements that the reconstructed barracks would probably house a shopping mall, hotel, and private residences.

In this context, Gezi’s threatened trees—and the park in which they stand—have become a potent and flexible symbol, one open enough to be harnessed by a range of people and political viewpoints. In the early days of the occupation, the banners and posters around the park gestured at this multiplicity: placards quoting a line from communist poet Nazim Hikmet—”to live like a tree, solitary and free, and like a forest, in brotherhood / this is our longing”—hung adjacent to a banner from an organization of “revolutionary Muslims” featuring a quote from the Qur’an—“the trees bow down before God.”

Nearby were spray-painted slogans about the importance of green space—“parks, not concrete”—and similar environmentalist claims and more emphatic denunciations of rent-seeking capital and neoliberal urbanization, as well as a series of banners screen-printed with the giant marching tree-spirit Ents from the movie version of The Lord of the Rings.

Since the withdrawal of the police and the reoccupation of the park on 1 June, the trees have been festooned with banners and signs—“listen to your conscience, don’t kill me”—and personified with the names (and in some cases, photos) of people killed in the Roboski/Uludere massacre and the Reyhanlı bombing—an effort to link this struggle to the Kurdish rights movement and the ongoing controversy over Turkey’s role in the Syrian conflict.

After the death of Abdullah Cömert, a young protester in Antakya, on 3 June, his name and image were added to the trees, with the caption “Gezi park martyr.” The trees have become a sort of floating signifier, seemingly apolitical enough to be available to a diverse range of movements, parties, and positions, while still tangible and rooted in a specific place.

On 31 May, one activist in Ankara tweeted a line from Orhan Pamuk’s novel My Name Is Red:Ben bir ağacın kendisi değil, manası olmak istiyorum” (“I don’t want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning”). Because the question of what a tree means is up for grabs, it has become an icon around which people alienated from or uninterested in mainstream party politics can rally. While the protests have drawn some of their energy and turnout from the participation of organizations with a long tradition of political mobilization in Turkey, they have also been able to engage a group of people who consider themselves either apolitical or unaffiliated with these movements.

Furthermore, while various political parties and movements––most notably the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and its Kemalist and secularist constituency––have tried to coopt the energy of the protests to their own ends, they have met with considerable resistance from the organizers in the park itself.

But this does not mean that the symbolic openness of Gezi Park is universally available. The movement’s valorization of the park as a public space that belongs to everyone elides another part of its history. The site of the current park overlaps with that of the Surp Agop Armenian Cemetery, which was expropriated and destroyed in the 1930s to make way for the construction of Turkish Radio & Television’s Istanbul Radio building and the hotels that now surround the park on its northern and eastern sides.

The stairs in the park were constructed out of gravestones stolen from the cemetery. Some members of Istanbul’s Armenian community have joined the occupation, and sought to reverse that absent past with signs saying “you took our cemetery—you won’t take our park,” but others are alienated by the initial erasure of this history embedded in the movement’s rhetorical claim that “Gezi belongs to all of us.”

Infrastructure as Performance

As the ongoing occupation of the park, square, and their surroundings has altered these spaces, the visible traces of the transformations wrought by the protests have become another source of debate. “Wreckage Was Left,” ran the lead headline for the pro-government newspaper Star on Monday 3 June. “Environmental awareness,” added the conservative Zaman, “turned into burn and destroy.” The image of a burned-out vehicle in Taksim, its windows broken in and graffiti scrawled over its sides, was prominently displayed in both panels.

The liberal-leaning Radikal ran a photo from the same square, but its cover was strikingly different in both content and message. In the background was the same vehicle shown on the other two covers; but in the foreground, a group of activists working side-by-side to clean up the square. The banner headline ran, “Now is the time to learn the lesson.” These images of destruction and reconstruction draw our attention not only to the contested narratives about the malign or benign motives of the protests, but to the role that property and place play in public discourse in Turkey today.

One of the signal accomplishments of Erdoğan and the AKP over the past decade has been the way the party has used infrastructure projects (both large and small) to both ground their political authority and to naturalize a particular project of generating value. Whether at the municipal or national level, the opening of new buildings, roads, bridges, cultural centers, sewer lines, theme parks, and housing developments serve as opportunities to link the transformation of the built environment with the continued success of the AKP.

Indeed, in identifying their political impact so closely with the transformation of urban environments and the provision of services to the urban population, the AKP has developed a political vocabulary that links local experiences into a much broader, national coalition. The opening ceremony for the third bridge on 29 May was one recent instance of this. The rhetoric of the event was of a rising nation and a more prosperous, developed Istanbul. Its spectators were largely AKP cadres ferried in from all parts of the city. As for the rampant land speculation which will funnel money into private hands as Istanbul’s northern reaches are developed, destroying much of its remaining forests and reservoirs, that is taken to be the natural order of things.

As we have spoken with Istanbul residents sympathetic to the AKP over the past week, many have framed the success of the party in terms of these (infra)structures. A cafe owner in the largely secular neighborhood of Kadıköy (where the opposition CHP has organized rallies in support of the protests) echoed some of these sentiments in a conversation with Elizabeth, contrasting the economic growth of the past decade and the expansion of Istanbul’s public transit system with the gridlock and inflation of the 1990s. While he disagreed with many of the recent policies of the AKP government (such as the restrictions on alcohol sales and smoking in public places), he said, “even a bad decision is better than indecisiveness.”

This is a rhetorical claim that Erdoğan frequently makes in his own defense—that he is a decisive leader, that his administration is effective at providing services, and that he gets things done. Istanbul, he argues, is cleaner, more organized, and runs better than it did when the opposition was in power. The AKP, he says, wants to make a more beautiful, more modern city—claims that were echoed in the speech he made to a crowd of supporters upon his return to Turkey on the night of 6-7 June. As much as we may disagree with such arguments about the impact and benefits of the AKP’s urban policies, it is important to remember that they are rhetorically and aesthetically compelling to those who make up Erdoğan’s political base.

If the AKP’s success has been grounded upon what might be termed a performance of (infra)structures, it will be revealing to see whether these protests will be able to develop alternative ways of thinking about both urban transformation and the production of value, and express those critiques to a broader public that has previously been sympathetic to such projects, even as they have shared unequally in the results. Indeed, we argue that one of the things that helped to lay the foundation for these protests is a decade-long struggle of activists like those who founded Taksim Dayanışması for a more equitable and sustainable approach to urban planning and policy.

Their critical vocabulary has been one of the common vernaculars of the recent protests. Beneath the calls for the resignation of Erdoğan and for solidarity against authoritarian politics also runs a growing dissatisfaction with the ways that the city is being reshaped, with the proliferation of high-rise concrete towers, shopping malls, and luxury hotels, with the aesthetics and spaces of neo-Ottoman neoliberal urbanism. The vision of the city being articulated in Gezi Park today, with its emphasis on grassroots organization and mutual solidarity, presents a challenge to the AKP’s claim that it is the only political force able to build things and provide services. But it is unclear whether the movement will succeed in extending that vision beyond that particular space, to the variety of other people who are taking to the streets around the city and country, and to those who have stayed home so far.

Conclusion: Future Traces?

Recalling his visit to Taksim over the weekend, the same man who had earlier praised Erdoğan’s decisiveness called it “a freedom square.” He marveled at the range of political constituencies coexisting in the space, and at the differences between his generation and the young people who made up many (though by no means all) of the protestors. “This is something new,” he said.

It is impossible to be certain what will come of these protests and of the novel forms of political practice and community that seem to be emerging out of their terrain. One of the most interesting dimensions of this movement is how intensely it has been self-documented, partly in reaction to the initial failure of much of the mainstream Turkish media to cover the demonstrations.

What will happen when the graffiti is painted over, and when—if—the confrontations in the streets diminish in intensity? As we have tried to argue, the AKP’s claim to political authority has stemmed in part from its production of material infrastructures that testify to its effectiveness. The apparent durability of those objects and spaces undergirds the seeming durability of the AKP—and of Erdoğan himself—in power. Over the past week and a half, Taksim Square and Gezi Park have emerged as vibrant spaces of possibility. But it remains to be seen what the durable effects of their transformation will be.

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Even if the future of Gezi Park and Taksim Square––and the kind of possibilities and paradoxes they represent––are still in doubt, we know at least this much: they have become the site of an unusual and striking convergence of people and perspectives, one unprecedented in Turkey’s history.

We do not yet know what kinds of publics will emerge from these spaces and how open they will be, but they stand as a testament to the right to protest, the right to be different, and the right to assert other claims to the streets and the city. Our hope––like that of many of the people gathered in Taksim and Gezi Park right now––is that they are able to extend that sense of possibility and inclusiveness, and generate spaces that are open to different publics, in place of the narrow and polarized claims that have sought to mold a singular kind of place and people in the past. That, we think, could be a Taksim everywhere.

Stop abusing your employees Mr. Wright! Obey the Laws of the Land

Workers rights are finally making progress in Lebanon.

Syndicates in Lebanon were well-organized and engaged on the side of their workers before the civil war in 1975.

This long civil war that lasted 13 years has thrown all syndicates and associations in the laps of the warlords and the political leaders who emerged stronger from the massacres they perpetrated: The warlord leaders are still in power and controlling everything.

The warlord leaders are actually the ones instigating syndicates at their sold to demonstrate for the political leaders expediencies.

Dozens of demonstrations take place every week, but the government is playing the unconcerned and deaf to people’s demands, as long as the warlords demands are satisfied.

Recently, the British chief manager of Spinneys Supermarket chain in Lebanon made a mockery of the entire Lebanese pseudo central government, refused to pay taxes, refused the workers their rights to organize in a syndicate, refused to pay the wage increases that the government decreed… And refused to desist taking a portion of the tips that bag chariot carrier helpers were receiving.

Mind you that these “workers” are not paid anything: as if tips should cover all their hard work and dedication.

Charbel Nahass, the former minister of social affairs has been encouraging the employees at Spinneys to organize in a syndicate in order to reclaim their due rights. Nahas was the main catalyst in this resurgent zeal for employees in other industries to get together and reclaim their due rights..

After many months, and overcoming many problems and institutional barriers, the employees managed to form their syndicate.

Spinneys started to fire all the engaged employees on lame excuses, but the syndicate took hold, with the widest support from the citizens.

Dalia Hashad  of posted:

Workers rights are finally making progress in Lebanon

Spinneys workers have stood outnumbered in the face of corruption, violence, and cronyism to form the first private sector union in Lebanon in decades.

Now that the State has recognised the union, it’s time for real change .

Only mass solidarity with the workers can bring Spinneys management to the negotiating table.

Public outcry has already helped kill terrible management practices, like refusal to implement minimum wage laws, and making laborers pay Spinneys 5,000 LL a day ($3) just to be able to bag groceries.

When the union was first formed, management went after the workers, firing and intimidating them.

Hired thugs even besieged a building the union council was meeting in, and on one occasion beat up a worker.

Although the union has finally been recognised by the Ministry of Labour, the intimidation continues.

Despite the behaviour of Spinneys management, the workers are not looking to sink the corporation. They want to stay onboard with their rights intact.

Spinneys can capitalise on this moment and become a real beacon for the workers’ rights movement in Lebanon.

Instead, union members told Avaaz that Wright had rejected every effort by the union to negotiate workers rights, refusing even to receive hand-delivered invitations.

Currently, the workers’ movement is unstoppable.

The company is already feeling the burn on their public image and this is our chance to ride that wave and pressure Spinneys to comply with basic workers’ rights.

If we reach 15,000 signatures in solidarity with the workers’ union, we will buy billboards in strategic locations around Beirut, shaming CEO Wright for allowing ongoing mistreatment and abuse of his employees.

Only a huge wave of support for the union will make CEO Wright realize that his company can’t jerk around their Lebanese employees anymore and finally come to the negotiating table for better workers’ rights.

If we reach 15,000 signatures in solidarity with the workers’ union, we will buy billboards in strategic locations around Beirut, shaming CEO Wright for allowing ongoing mistreatment and abuse of his employees.

Sign the petition now and share this with everyone:

The International Labour Organisation has already condemned Spinneys’ practices and demanded action from the government but workers are still outnumbered and overpowered.

Avaaz members worldwide have campaigned to stamp out corporate corruption and promote workers rights around the world.
With hope and determination,
Dalia, Bissan, Rewan, Mais, Ricken, Mouhamad, and the entire Avaaz team

Note 1: Read yesterday, Jan. 8, 2013 that Wright was fired. Good riddence.

Note 2: On former minister Charbel Nahass

Related links:

Spinneys Workers’ Fight is Our Fight (Al-Akhbar)
Court to tackle Spinneys dismissal row (Daily Star)
Spinneys Union Leader Assaulted (Al-Akhbar)
Unionizing in Lebanon: The Struggle is Elsewhere (Jadaliyya)
Lebanon: Bitter battle of Spinneys union (Albawaba)
Abi Hanna: Last Days at Spinneys (Al-Akhbar)
After a long battle Spinneys staff elect first union leader (Albawaba)

Left parties, progressive parties…: What’s that to do with Syria?


In the midst of the broad revolutionary protest movement, which is demanding freedom in Syria (Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia…) and which has faced terrifying repression that resulted in more than 1100 deaths and ten thousand of people detained in Syria, most of whom are members of the Syrian toiling class, peasants and workers, came the latest memorandum from the political bureau of the Lebanese Communist Party (issued on April 20, 2011), reminding the Syrian people who it has the right to “mobilize through all peaceful and democratic means for the sake of social, political, and economic reforms and the combating of corruption.”

Khalil Issa published an article “The Lebanese Left Fails in Syria” on the blog Jadaliyya and was translated into English by Hanna Petro. The original Arabic version of this article can be found here.

I will re-publish the article before commenting.  I had undertaken minor editing, abridging of a few paragraphs that seemed redundant. (Sentences in parentheses are mine).

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[Leftist march in Lebanon. Image from unknown archive.] [Leftist march in Lebanon. Image from unknown archive.]

“When the left loses all the material elements of its steadfastness, a result of its mistakes and of surrounding local pressures, it recourses to the political-ethical discourse as a principled stance on the basis of which to fight. Being a leftist is to side with justice against oppression, with the victim against the perpetrator (of crimes against humanity), with the (common people) against the exploiter. This is the moral position that keeps us leftists after the near death of the Lebanese left, as an organized political movement.

The memorandum failed to name any martyrs and murder victims in Syria, and “wishes that [the Syrian government] be quick in implementing all the reforms put forth by President Bashar al-Assad.”

The ambiguous position of the Communist party becomes more (striking) when its long speech describes “Syria confronting internal strife, which imperialist America and Israel strive towards in cooperation with some of the collaborating forces inside and outside of Syria, forces steeped in reactionary politics.”

What fitna [internal strife] is the Lebanese Communist Party referring to?

And why do we want to mention particularly the fitna, when the discourse should be against oppression, murder, and terrorism?  Have the national opposition members in Syria like Michel Kilo, Aref Dalila and Yasin al-Hajj Salih—who are all “comrades” by the way—suddenly become agents of the imperialist “circles?”  Or has the absurd fitna theory, which constitutes an offshoot of the “conspiracy theory”, becomes an alternative to all the positions that must be undertaken by a party supposed to be the “party of the people” par excellence?

The position of the Communist Party on what is happening in Syria is a failure on both the ethical and political levels.  Shouldn’t politics is supposed to be genuinely serving the interests of the oppressed classes?

It sound as if the Communist Party practically rejects the change demanded by the toiling class and the workers in Syria, as well as adopts the regime’s “external conspiracy” narrative.

All that remains for the comrades of the political bureau is to participate in the propaganda against the protesters, calling them “conspirators” or “armed gangs”:  The Secretary General Khalid Hadada confirmed the centrality of “the conspiracy against Syria” in an article of his in al-Safir newspaper (May 28th, 2011). If Hadada rejects the security solution in Syria, he also repudiates “attempted bullying by the outside.”

What dialogue is the Communist Party calling for? For example, Azmi Bishara, (a Palestinia/Israeli deputy revoked by the Israeli Knesset) says in one of his latest media appearances that “it is clear that there is dialogue. Unfortunately, only dialogue pertaining to reform, but there is an instigation to murder and shoot at those who demand reform.”

Many of the Lebanese leftists are convinced that what is happening in Syria is the doing of the “Salafis” or the “Anglo-Americo-Zionist-Saudi-Qatari” conspiracy.  This ever-present phobia of the Conspiracy mixes with a “secular sectarianism”.

Many leftists now repeat the repudiation by poets like Adonis and Safidi Yusuf of “the coming out of revolution from the mosque,” or that what is happening is nothing but a verse of “the West’s making.”

Secular sectarianism is inflating minority sensibilities, horrified by the cries of allahu akbar [Allah is great], and gives life to a sick elitism that does not see a sufficient “revolutionary consciousness” among the Syrian masses. This might reflect a class disdain expressed by a small bourgeois leadership towards workers and peasants who are being killed.

The Revolution is to be in accordance with the standard of a distressed left defined only by the discourse of “secularism.” How about “overthrowing sectarian regimes?”

Today, we have come to the presence of a “secular sectarian” Lebanese left, which has retired from its duties, vacillating between a Lebanese nationalist vision and an Arab nationalist position in the archaic sense of the word.

Most Lebanese left parties are intellectually lazy, politically coward, folkloric, carrying a vulgar Marxist discourse with an opportunistic tendency… They adopt  narratives of injustice starting with the “imperial West” and ending with lamentation over the “injustice” committed by the other Lebanese sectarian parties towards it. When the left does not question ready-made answers, it becomes a “religious” left.

“The Lebanese left is united with all the oppressed people of the world, with the exception of the Arab people. Maybe it is because those Arab people are still … “Muslim”, meaning they are not “secular” enough!”

There is a deeper problem facing leftists and communists on the theoretical level. It is the “freedom” called for by the crushed Arab masses from the Atlantic Ocean (Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria…) to the Arab/Iranian Gulf.  That used to be an expression of lost dignity because of regional regimes governing in a ‘local’ colonial fashion.

Is thinking of “Arab dignity” more important today than the endless pleas for analyses by the martyr Mahdi Amel or the economic determinism that Marxism itself has surpassed?  Many traditional communists consider the subject of “democracy” as a “bourgeois” issue. They ignore the fact that the right to vote, the right to express one’s opinion, and the right to form political parties was never a “liberal” gift, but something that came as a result of struggles fought out by the working class and the peasantry.

The loathing of political freedom by describing it as “bourgeois freedom” is at the root of positions that neglect the demands of the masses who want ‘dignity’ before anything else.

We are confronting three issues:

First, the secular sectarianism which was transformed into a politics of identity;

Second, the disease of elitism, which despises the struggling classes; and

Three, the absence of intellectual renewal because of repeat of deaf leftist prayers, which claim to answer every worry and complaint. We hope that the left will return to the left and the Communist Party to its communism. Circumstances indicate that hard times will befall on Lebanon, and we  need this new left.” End of article

I like the spirit of the article.  For the non-Lebanese readers, the left factions represented behind this article sided in the last two decades with governments representing mainly Saudi Arabia absolute monarchy interests in Lebanon and in the region, explicitly backed by the US.

The governments of the Hariri clan supported Bush Junior strategy in the July 2006 preemptive war by Israel on Lebanon: They demanded that Israel finish off the resistance movement in Lebanon (particularly Hezbollah).

These factions of the left have great animosity with the current government, which displaced the Hariri clan interests of monopolizing the economy in Lebanon…

Is the claim that “external conspiracy” irrelevant?

No State in the Middle-East is in any position of defying the interest of the 5 veto-powers in the UN (US, France, England, Russia, and China):  No State managed to establish any sustainable socio-political-economic structure to defy even powerful regional States.

For example, the western States and the US cajoled Qaddafi for 40 years: As Qaddafi decided to deny France and England substantial arms deals to the benefit of Russia, Qaddafi was to be deposed.

The negotiation with the US to keeping a large military contingent in Iraq has failed: Iran and Syria were blamed for the Iraqi defiance.

Syria regime of the Assad clan was extensively cajoled by France, the US, and Israel in the last three decades: actually, Syria was given mandated power over Lebanon since 1991.  Bashar al Assad was to be deposed…

Only Iran dared occasionally defy the western powers: it focused on self-sufficiency in military power…Even vast and powerful Turkey is relying on the US for its policies in the region…

As to what the left and secular movements could do in Syria, beside allying with the Baath Party and the Assad clan?  With the heavy support of the US, western States and Israel to the Assad regime, it is a winning strategy of the left to have maintained a level of secular spirit in Syria within the troubling conditions…

The balance of power after the Assad regime will lean toward the secular movements, thanks to the decades of sustaining any gain that could be snatched for establishing a secular movement…

What’s happening in Syria now?

The people in Homs have been virulent and demonstrating nightly against the regime. Why?

During late Hafez Assad, the socialist central government invested and funneled money into this major City. In the last five years, and the spread of liberal capitalism that pressured Syria to revise its economic and financial laws, the insiders in the central government and Assad clan opted to invest outside Syria, and in Damascus, and Aleppo.

Hama is virulent for two major reason:

First, Hama has been punished for over three decades from serious government investment related to the 1982 mass uprising. Hafez Assad decreed that: “Every Syrian who is found to be a member of Syria Moslem Brotherhood Party will be executed”.  Hafez was very consistent in his position and many Syrians were persecuted and hanged.

Second, Hama want revenge!

Why Damascus is not currently that excited for reform change?

First, as usual and historically, Sunnis in Damascus give priority to stability and security.

Second, merchant class in Damascus is still reaping the advantages of being resident of the Capital.  When the regime shows definite weaknesses, you can be sure that Damascus will take over and lead the “revolution”: They have to maintain and protect their interest, economically and politically.

The people in Aleppo wish that what is taking place is actually a terrible bad dream: They will wake up from just a nightmarish dream.

Aleppo is in a situation of “No Win”, regardless of which side to take.  If it sides with the government, Aleppo will suffer the most from a civil war because it is in the middle of the Sunni Kurds in the north and Sunni “Arabs” in the south.

There is an after Assad clan regime, and it will be secular, no matter what the scarecrow salafists factor is constantly brought out in media and political circles.




May 2023

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