Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘politics

Where are the natural counter-power intellectuals?

The natural counter-power intellectuals feel helpless when citizens are asked to vote for God or civic laws in the Arab World: The mission has always seemed insurmountable.

The hero is an Intellectual with a jihad mission to go one step further in this 100-year war…It took more than 3 centuries of such kind of “fallen heroes” to gain just a foot-hold…

La pratique intellectuelle a pour mission de s’interroger rationnellement sur le « comment » et le « pourquoi » de toutes choses.
Elle a pour essence le doute ,et le brouillard, et pour objectif le flirt avec la verite’ a travers l’acquisition du savoir pour enfin regarder le monde avec un esprit critique et le penser avec du bon sens.

La pratique intellectuelle a aussi pour mission de questionner et de faire réfléchir, elle est à la fois une gourmandise infinie et un contre-pouvoir.

Elle est même le plus puissant des contre-pouvoirs contre l’obscurantisme et le dogmatisme, l’aveuglement superstitieux et les préjugés.
L’intellectuel, se veut engager.

Or il n’y a d’engagement sans dérangement.

Le confort intellectuel est l’autre nom de la bêtise. Il faut donc frapper là où ça dérange, afin que l’on ait envie de participer activement, ardemment, au débat et finalement à la vie de la cite’.
Le plus scandaleux, c’est quand ceux-la n’alertent plus, n’avertissent plus, ne denoncent plus, gardent leur silence.

Pire c’est quand ils passent d’un cote’ de la barriere a l’autre.
Pendant longtemps, l’intellectuel dit « de gauche » a pris la parole et s’est vu reconnaître le droit de parler en tant que maître de vérité et de justice.

Meme dans notre monde arabe ce fut le cas. On l’écoutait, ou il prétendait se faire écouter comme représentant de l’universel.

Etre intellectuel, c’était être un peu la conscience de tous. (…) Il y a bien des années qu’on ne demande plus à l’intellectuel de jouer ce rôle. (…)

Les intellectuels ont pris l’habitude de travailler non pas dans l’universel, l’exemplaire, le juste-et-le-vrai-pour-tous, mais a ghettoye’ le savoir, de l’instrumentaliser au profit d’une personne, d’un capital, d’un engagement materiel.

Finies les luttes pour l’autre, on lutte pour soi, mais avec quel acharnement.
De generateurs de consciences collectives, de contre-pouvoirs, d’eclaireurs de nouvelles voies, les intellectuels des regimes arabes et ceux du printemps arabe, reduisent leur role a celui de “ la voix de leur maître” et non comme une “Voix” a part.

Ils n’ont garde qu’une cigarette en main et une chemise deboutonnee, et un esprit sclerose.

(Inspire par Bourdieu/ Foucault)

Note: The intellectuals in the Middle-East still are confused about their Nationality. Most of the are sectarians and confine their opinions within their State/regime. Many, and they are majority, implicitly dream of an illusory Islamic/Arabic Nation, just because it is Not founded on any tangible reality and they stay within the realm of daydreaming wishes because they are confused in their political objectives and appease their leaders.

The objective and engaged intellectuals should view the Syrian nation (including the States of Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq) as the most rational and effective strategy of a unified One People to defeat our existential enemies in Israel and expansionist Turkey of Erdogan.

Fernando Lugo, priest, and President of Paraguay? A return to the bloody 80s…

Andrew Nickson posted in Open Democracy on July 10:

Fernando Lugo, the radical priest and a former Catholic bishop, elected Paraguay’s president in 2008 after decades of authoritarian rule, has been deposed less than a year before the end of his term.

Is this dramatic turn of events, rooted in the strains produced by economic transformation, and the limits of the country’s democratisation?

Paraguay’s capital city of Asuncion  witness a rare constitutional and political drama on June 21.

First, the 80-member lower house of Paraguay’s congress initiated a move to impeach President Fernando Lugo, and voted by a 76-1 majority to support it;

Second, the next day, in a lightning session lasting less than two hours, the 45-member upper house (senate) concluded the process by a vote of 39-4.

Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, had been elected Paraguay’s president in April 2008 on a platform of social change. The vote ended 61 years of uninterrupted rule by the Colorado Party, much of it under the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner (1954-89).

It was the first time since 1887 – when Paraguay’s two traditional parties, the Colorados and the Liberals, were created – that a political party had relinquished power to another through the ballot-box rather than through a military coup (see “Paraguay: Fernando Lugo vs the Colorado machine“, 28 February 2008).

Note: Paraguay is controlled by US multinationals. The border country Uruguay has regained its democracy

What are these jargon: Macro and micro policies, leadership, economics, management…?

Like stating: “Macro-leadership is just as bad as micro-management.” 

During a conversation with Dan Rockwell, Henry Mintzberg explained that, “It’s destructive to separate management from leadership. Leaders need to get their hands dirty.”

No buy in: Mintzberg believes that leaders focused on setting strategy and vision but who are removed from the front lines eventually develop a vision for the organization so out of touch that the rest of the organization fails to buy in.

Frustrated buy in: Mintzberg also believes there’s something worse than failure to buy in. There’s the problem of buying into a pie-in-the-sky vision but being incapable of taking any steps toward realization.

More devastating: Disconnected strategy and vision is one problem with macro-leadership but there’s something more devastating.

“Arrogance comes from detachment.” Henry Mintzberg

When I asked Mintzberg to share the one piece of advice he most loves to share he said one word, “Connect.

Humility: Connecting expresses, creates, and nurtures humility. Withdrawal suggests independence; connecting requires interdependence.

Humility is always practice never theory. (curious to discover all the alternatives and potentials for improvement?)

Talking humility without practicing humility results in arrogance. When Jesus said let the leader among you be as one who serves, he turned leadership on its head and explained the cure for arrogance.

“Humility is common sense… None of us is an expert at everything… Humility is holding power for the good of others.” John Dickson.

Sources of arrogance: Facebook contributors suggest sources of arrogance include:

  1. Fear.
  2. Being surrounded by indulgent “yes” people.
  3. Being a talker not a doer.
  4. Prior success. You think you know how to make it work because it worked before.
  5. Not being okay with saying I don’t know.

See more reader contributions on Facebook.

Mintzberg’s latest book: “Managing


How do leaders connect? What prevents leaders from connecting?

Comparing election law alternatives for Lebanon’s Parliamentary election (in 2014)

Note: Mind you that this article was written in 2014.

Since then 17 alternative laws have been presented and none of them were discussed in Parliament, with the tacit intention of renewing their mandate without any election. This parliament renewed their tenure twice and is about to renew it for a few more months.

This year 2017 is witnessing the same process in order Not to change the law. Apparently, a form of proportional is becoming inevitable, though the districts are meant to retain the old feudal and militia leaders.

The new season and collection of political headlines is out in Lebanon, and this year’s theme is the electoral law.

It is all we can read and hear about these days no matter where we turn; national TV, newspapers, facebook, twitter, bakeries, and even coffee shops.

Let’s try to go through our different options together and objectively determine what law to support.


In case you are not familiar with the terms, simple majority means winner takes all.

while proportional representation means you get a seat if your support is just the right size (If small politicians do not support proportional representation then they are not small… they are micro).

The above presents five proposals with coalitions, the government, and independent politicians pushing and shoving for one over the other.

The only thing that is common, and that all our politicians practically agree on, is to keep the sectarian division. This means the Parliament is divided based on religious representation.

Some politicians might claim one proposal is “more sectarian” than the other, but that is just because they will lose a couple of seats in Parliament, not because of their ideals.

The sad truth is that the politicians today are negotiating the results of the elections. They are simply re-dividing the seats among each other and negotiating the distribution of power in Lebanon.

Most voters will continue to vote for the same leader they have been voting for during the past couple of decades.

What we are looking at is a simple game of rotating thrones between lords. The only difference is that we have more than 30 lords seeking the throne, and the Realm is one twelfth the size of New York State.

(Actually, only 5 leaders are deciding of everything in Lebanon. Once they agree, the process follow through)

So to answer the question I posed in the beginning of the article on which electoral law to choose, my answer is none.

I refuse to enter a selection process that is completely separated from the notion of freedom.

I will not wait for the results of the brokered deal to know how free the electoral law will make me. I am free today by making my own choices based on my reason, emotions, and beliefs.

I choose to do what is right for me and for the people in my society. That is the electoral law I will support.

Cedric Choukeir is the regional director of the the World Youth Alliance in the Middle East and North Africa.

Politics and power: Any significant shift?

“In the last 20 years, there has been a fundamental shift in the balance of power in the world.” What new power looks like?

This is Anna Hazare, and she may well be the most cutting-edge digital activist in the world today.

And you wouldn’t know it by looking at Hazare, a 77-year-old Indian anticorruption and social justice activist.

In 2011, he was running a big campaign to address everyday corruption in India, a topic that Indian elites love to ignore. So as part of this campaign, he was using all of the traditional tactics that a good Gandhian organizer would use. So he was on a hunger strike, and Hazare realized through his hunger that actually maybe this time, in the 21st century, a hunger strike wouldn’t be enough.

0:53 He started playing around with mobile activism. So the first thing he did is he said to people, “Okay, why don’t you send me a text message if you support my campaign against corruption?” So he does this, he gives people a short code, and about 80,000 people do it. Okay, that’s pretty respectable.

But then he decides, “Let me tweak my tactics a little bit.” He says, “Why don’t you leave me a missed call?” Now, for those of you who have lived in the global South, you’ll know that missed calls are a really critical part of global mobile culture. I see people nodding. People leave missed calls all the time: If you’re running late for a meeting and you just want to let them know that you’re on the way, you leave them a missed call.

If you’re dating someone and you just want to say “I miss you” you leave them a missed call. So a note for a dating tip here, in some cultures, if you want to please your lover, you call them and hang up. (Laughter) So why do people leave missed calls? Well, the reason of course is that they’re trying to avoid charges associated with making calls and sending texts.

When Hazare asked people to leave him a missed call, let’s have a little guess how many people actually did this? Thirty-five million. So this is one of the largest coordinated actions in human history.

It’s remarkable. And this reflects the extraordinary strength of the emerging Indian middle class and the power that their mobile phones bring. But he used that, Hazare ended up with this massive CSV file of mobile phone numbers, and he used that to deploy real people power on the ground to get hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets in Delhi to make a national point of everyday corruption in India. It’s a really striking story.

This is me when I was 12 years old. I hope you see the resemblance. And I was also an activist, and I have been an activist all my life. I had this really funny childhood where I traipsed around the world meeting world leaders and Noble prize winners, talking about Third World debt, as it was then called, and demilitarization. I was a very, very serious child. (Laughter)

And back then, in the early ’90s, I had a very cutting-edge tech tool of my own: the fax. And the fax was the tool of my activism. And at that time, it was the best way to get a message to a lot of people all at once. I’ll give you one example of a fax campaign that I ran. It was the eve of the Gulf War and I organized a global campaign to flood the hotel, the Intercontinental in Geneva, where James Baker and Tariq Aziz were meeting on the eve of the war, and I thought if I could flood them with faxes, we’ll stop the war.

Unsurprisingly, that campaign was wholly unsuccessful. There are lots of reasons for that, but there’s no doubt that one sputtering fax machine in Geneva was a little bit of a bandwidth constraint in terms of the ability to get a message to lots of people. And so, I went on to discover some better tools. I cofounded Avaaz, which uses the Internet to mobilize people and now has almost 40 million members, and I now run Purpose, which is a home for these kinds of technology-powered movements. So what’s the moral of this story? Is the moral of this story, you know what, the fax is kind of eclipsed by the mobile phone? This is another story of tech-determinism?

Well, I would argue that there’s actually more to it than that. I’d argue that in the last 20 years, something more fundamental has changed than just new tech. I would argue that there has been a fundamental shift in the balance of power in the world.

You ask any activist how to understand the world, and they’ll say, “Look at where the power is, who has it, how it’s shifting.” And I think we all sense that something big is happening.

Henry Timms and I — Henry’s a fellow movement builder — got talking one day and we started to think, how can we make sense of this new world? How can we describe it and give it a framework that makes it more useful? Because we realized that many of the lessons that we were discovering in movements actually applied all over the world in many sectors of our society. So I want to introduce you to this framework: Old power, meet new power.

And I want to talk to you about what new power is today. New power is the deployment of mass participation and peer coordination — these are the two key elements — to create change and shift outcomes. And we see new power all around us.

This is Beppe Grillo he was a populist Italian blogger (and still is?) who, with a minimal political apparatus and only some online tools, won more than 25 percent of the vote in recent Italian elections. This is Airbnb, which in just a few years has radically disrupted the hotel industry without owning a single square foot of real estate.

This is Kickstarter, which we know has raised over a billion dollars from more than five million people. Now, we’re familiar with all of these models. But what’s striking is the commonalities, the structural features of these new models and how they differ from old power.

Let’s look a little bit at this. Old power is held like a currency.

New power works like a current. Old power is held by a few. New power isn’t held by a few, it’s made by many. Old power is all about download, and new power uploads. And you see a whole set of characteristics that you can trace, whether it’s in media or politics or education.

we’ve talked a little bit about what new power is. Let’s, for a second, talk about what new power isn’t. New power is not your Facebook page. I assure you that having a social media strategy can enable you to do just as much download as you used to do when you had the radio.

Just ask Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, I assure you that his Facebook page has not embraced the power of participation. New power is not inherently positive. In fact, this isn’t an normative argument that we’re making, there are many good things about new power, but it can produce bad outcomes.

More participation, more peer coordination, sometimes distorts outcomes and there are some things, like things, for example, in the medical profession that we want new power to get nowhere near. And thirdly, new power is not the inevitable victor. In fact, unsurprisingly, as many of these new power models get to scale, what you see is this massive pushback from the forces of old power.

Just look at this really interesting epic struggle going on right now between Edward Snowden and the NSA. You’ll note that only one of the two people on this slide is currently in exile. And so, it’s not at all clear that new power will be the inevitable victor.

7:43 That said, keep one thing in mind: We’re at the beginning of a very steep curve. So you think about some of these new power models, right? These were just like someone’s garage idea a few years ago, and now they’re disrupting entire industries. And so, what’s interesting about new power, is the way it feeds on itself.

Once you have an experience of new power, you tend to expect and want more of it. So let’s say you’ve used a peer-to-peer lending platform like Lending Tree or Prosper, then you’ve figured out that you don’t need the bank, and who wants the bank, right? And so, that experience tends to embolden you it tends to make you want more participation across more aspects of your life.

And what this gives rise to is a set of values. We talked about the models that new power has engendered — the Airbnbs, the Kickstarters. What about the values? And this is an early sketch at what new power values look like.

New power values prize transparency above all else. It’s almost a religious belief in transparency, a belief that if you shine a light on something, it will be better. And remember that in the 20th century, this was not at all true. People thought that gentlemen should sit behind closed doors and make comfortable agreements. New power values of informal, networked governance.

New power folks would never have invented the U.N. today, for better or worse. New power values participation, and new power is all about do-it-yourself. In fact, what’s interesting about new power is that it eschews some of the professionalization and specialization that was all the rage in the 20th century.

9:17 So what’s interesting about these new power values and these new power models is what they mean for organizations. So we’ve spent a bit of time thinking, how can we plot organizations on a two-by-two where, essentially, we look at new power values and new power models and see where different people sit? We started with a U.S. analysis, and let me show you some interesting findings.

So the first is Apple. In this framework, we actually described Apple as an old power company. That’s because the ideology, the governing ideology of Apple is the ideology of the perfectionist product designer in Cupertino. It’s absolutely about that beautiful, perfect thing descending upon us in perfection. And it does not value, as a company, transparency. In fact, it’s very secretive.

Now, Apple is one of the most succesful companies in the world. So this shows that you can still pursue a successful old power strategy. But one can argue that there’s real vulnerabilites in that model. I think another interesting comparison is that of the Obama campaign versus the Obama presidency. (Applause)

I like President Obama, but he ran with new power at his back, right? And he said to people, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. And he used crowdfunding to power a campaign. But when he got into office, he governed like more or less all the other presidents did. And this is a really interesting trend, is when new power gets powerful, what happens?

So this is a framework you should look at and think about where your own organization sits on it. And think about where it should be in five or 10 years. So what do you do if you’re old power? Well, if you’re there thinking, in old power, this won’t happen to us. Then just look at the Wikipedia entry for Encyclopædia Britannica. Let me tell you, it’s a very sad read.

11:14 But if you are old power, the most important thing you can do is to occupy yourself before others occupy you, before you are occupied. Imagine that a group of your biggest skeptics are camped in the heart of your organization asking the toughest questions and they can see everything inside of your organization.

And ask them, would they like what they see and should our model change? What about if you’re new power? Is new power kind of just riding the wave to glory? I would argue no. I would argue that there are some very real challenges to new power in this nascent phase. Let’s stick with the Occupy Wall Street example for a moment. Occupy was this incredible example of new power, the purest example of new power.

And yet, it failed to consolidate. So the energy that it created was great for the meme phase, but they were so committed to participation, that they never got anything done. And in fact that model means that the challenge for new power is: how do you use institutional power without being institutionalized?

One the other end of the spectra is Uber. Uber is an amazing, highly scalable new power model. That network is getting denser and denser by the day. But what’s really interesting about Uber is it hasn’t really adopted new power values. This is a real quote from the Uber CEO recently: He says, “Once we get rid of the dude in the car” — he means drivers — “Uber will be cheaper.”

New power models live and die by the strength of their networks. By whether the drivers and the consumers who use the service actually believe in it. Because they’re not an exercise of top-down perfectionism, they are about the network. And so, the challenge, and this is why it’s in no way surprising, is that Uber’s drivers are now unionizing. It’s extraordinary.

Uber’s drivers are turning on Uber. And the challenge for Uber — this isn’t an easy situation for them — is that they are locked into a broader superstrcuture that is really old power. They’ve raised more than a billion dollars in the capital markets. Those markets expect a financial return, and they way you get a financial return is by squeezing and squeezing your users and your drivers for more and more value and giving that value to your investors.

 the big question about the future of new power, in my view, is: Will that old power just emerge? So will new power elites just become old power and squeeze? Or will that new power base bite back? Will the next big Uber be co-owned by Uber drivers? And I think this going to be a very interesting structural question.

13:56 Finally, think about new power being more than just an entity that scales things that make us have slightly better consumer experiences. My call to action for new power is to not be an island. We have major structural problems in the world today that could benefit enormously from the kinds of mass participation and peer coordination that these new power players know so well how to generate.

And we badly need them to turn their energies and their power to big, what economists might call public goods problems, that are often beyond markets where investors can easily be found.

I think if we can do that, we might be able to fundamentally change not only human beings’ sense of their own agency and power — because I think that’s the most wonderful thing about new power, is that people feel more powerful — but we might also be able to change the way we relate to each other and the way we relate to authority and institutions. And to me, that’s absolutely worth trying for.

Patsy Z  shared this link

“In the last 20 years, there has been a fundamental shift in the balance of power in the world.” What new power looks like:|By Jeremy Heimans

President Barack Obama Speech at Jerusalem Cultural Center

President Barack Obama delivered a bold message to young Israelis in Jerusalem Thursday, asking them to see the world through the eyes of their adversaries in the Middle East.

In Israel proper, Obama speech sucked up entirely to the Zionist State and never mentioned Palestine or the Palestinians, which prompted many Arab commentators to view Obama and all the US administrations as actual lackeys to the Zionist movement

Grace Wyler posted in the Business Insider on Mar. 21, 2013, at 11:31 AM “Obama Just Finished His Speech In Israel, And People Are Already Saying He Made History”

“Addressing students at the Jerusalem Cultural Center, Obama called on a new generation of Israelis to take up the peace process — including halting settlement construction — and work harder toward achieving an independent Palestine.

This key paragraph from his speech concerning the two States of Israel and Palestine:

But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized.

Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day.

It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. 

It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home.

Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

The speech was remarkably blunt, particularly considering Obama’s fraught relationship with Israelis and their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

At times, Obama even appeared to be trying to circumvent his Israeli counterpart, calling on his young audience to challenge political leaders on the peace issue.

” I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks.”

“You must create the change that you want to see. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.”

"I'll be speaking at GW in DC tonight, 7 pm Marvin center (800 21st St NW Washington, DC 20052) room 402"  -- Miko Peled
“I’ll be speaking at GW in DC tonight, 7 pm Marvin center (800 21st St NW Washington, DC 20052) room 402” — Miko Peled

The message was extraordinarily well-received, both by the audience and veteran Israel correspondents, many of whom are calling Obama’s speech “historic.” Here’s some of the reaction:

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic: 

Read more:

Pope Francis: Cooperated with Argentina Military dictatorship?

Catholic cardinals, (115 of them eligible to vote), selected Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope. The Catholic elected Pope Francis (76 of age) who headed Argentina Jesuits Order during the military dictatorship of 1976-1983.  Francis of Assisi was the founder of this order.

This is the first time a Pope is from Latin America and also the first Pope from the Jesuit Order.  There had been much hope for a non-European pope, and Bergoglio fits that bill.

Bergoglio was consecrated cardinal by Jean Paul II and was a candidate 7 years ago, the second runner, in the last election for a Pope. He was a highly conservative clergy: against abortion, against gay marriage, against women priests, and against many modern issues. He allowed baptizing children from out of wedlock.

Colin Snider posted on March 13, 2013:

Argentina military dictatorship of 1976-1983, murdered upwards of 30,000 people (as well as kidnapping hundreds of children whose parents the regime had tortured and murdered).

Unlike Catholic officials in neighboring Chile and Brazil, where priests, bishops, and even cardinals spoke out against human rights abuses and defended victims of abuses, the Catholic Church in Argentina was openly complicit in the military regime’s repression.

Bergoglio was not exempt from this involvement: military officers have testified that Bergoglio helped the Argentine military regime hide political prisoners when human rights activists visited the country.

And Bergoglio himself had to testify regarding the kidnapping of two priests who he stripped of their religious licenses shortly before they were kidnapped and tortured.

This isn’t just a case of Bergoglio being a member of an institution that supported a brutal regime; it’s a case of Bergoglio himself having ties, direct and indirect, to that very regime.

This is why the selection of Bergoglio over Scherer (Brazil cardinal) is disappointing.

Thirteen years younger than Bergoglio, Scherer’s path was notably different. The Catholic Church supported Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) in its early years. However, as Ken Serbin has demonstrated, already by the late-1960s and early-1970s, high-ranking officials in the church hierarchy were secretly meeting with representatives from the dictatorship in order to try to pressure military rulers to respect human rights, even for alleged “subversives.”

By the latter half of the 1970s, the Brazilian Catholic church had become one of the more vocal opponents of human rights violations under the regime, and the Archdiocese of São Paulo ultimately played a central role in secretly accessing, collecting, and publishing files on torture, murder, and repression under the dictatorship, eventually published in 1985 as Brasil: Nunca Mais (literally Brazil: Never Again; in English, Torture in Brazil).

Where Bergoglio was active in a context where the Argentine Church openly supported military regimes and human rights violations, Scherer was active in a context where members of the Brazilian Church openly took a stand against such abuses and against the regime that committed them.

A few weeks ago, a student asked me if I thought the cardinals would finally pick a Latin America pope. I commented that if they were smart, they’d diversify by picking a Brazilian and democratizing a bit, but I feared they’d pick an Italian and show a refusal to reform and democratize the church. With the selection of Bergoglio, it appears they’ve chosen to split the difference, diversifying beyond Europe while continuing the conservatism that defined recent popes.”

Would Pope Francisco use his past and his new position to try not only to transform the Church but to provide a platform that advocates human rights and the punishment of human rights violators?

Pope Francis has to come clean and admit his previous positions and actions. I would greatly help if he issues an explicitly statement in support of human rights under any authoritarian regimes.

‘Palestinian only’ bus lines in Israel? A demand from Jewish settlers…

Starting on Monday, certain buses running from the West Bank into central Israel will have separate lines for Jews and Arabs.

The Afikim bus company will begin operating Palestinian-only bus lines from the checkpoints to Gush Dan to prevent Palestinians from boarding buses with Jewish passengers. Palestinians are not allowed to enter settlements, and instead board buses from several bus stops on the Trans-Samaria highway.

Palestinian workers commuting from the West Bank to jobs in central Israel are considered a security risk?

Freedom is for everyone, no matter their color or ethnicity.</p><br /><br />
<p> is for everyone, no matter their color or ethnicity.
 published on Mar.03, 2013 in Haaretz: “Israel introduces ‘Palestinian only’ bus lines, following complaints from Jewish settlers”

Last November, Haaretz reported that the Transportation Ministry was looking into such a plan due to pressure from the late mayor of Ariel, Ron Nahman, and the head of the Karnei Shomron Local Council. They said residents had complained that Palestinians on their buses were a security risk.

Palestinian protesters on an Israeli bus line in the West Bank last year.

Palestinian protesters on an Israeli bus line in the West Bank last year.

The buses will begin operating Monday morning at the Eyal crossing to take the Palestinians to work in Israel. Transportation Ministry officials are not officially calling them segregated buses, but rather bus lines intended to relieve the distress of the Palestinian workers.

Ynet has reported that fliers are being distributed to Palestinian workers notifying them of the coming changes.

Any Palestinian who holds an entrance permit to the State of Israel is allowed by law to use public transportation.

Officials at the Samaria and Judea District Police have said there is no change in the operation of the rest of the buses, nor is there any intention to remove Palestinians from other bus lines. But Haaretz has in the past reported incidents when Palestinians were taken off of buses, and witnesses at checkpoints say that such incidents are ongoing.

Ofra Yeshua-Lyth is a member of Machsom Watch, a female advocacy group monitoring West Bank checkpoints. She says that recently, Bus 286 from Tel Aviv to Samaria arrived at a checkpoint filled with Palestinian workers. She filed the following report:

“Police officer Advanced Staff Sergeant Major Shai Zecharia stops the bus at the bus stop. Soldiers order all the Palestinians off the bus. The first thing they do is collect all their identity cards as they get off. One by one, the Palestinians are told to go away from the bus stop and walk to the Azzun Atma checkpoint, which is about 2.5 kilometers away from the Shaar Shomron interchange.

All of them responded with restraint and sadness, at most asking why. Here and there they received answers such as, ‘You’re not allowed on Highway 5’ and ‘You’re not allowed on public transportation.’ Advanced Staff Sergeant Major Zecharia gave some vital information to one of the older Palestinians who had arrived there, telling him: You should ride in special vans, not on Israeli buses.”

In response to the report, the Transportation Ministry said it “has not issued any instruction or prohibition that prevents Palestinian workers from riding the public bus lines in Israel or in Judea and Samaria. Furthermore, the Transportation Ministry is not authorized to prevent any passengers from riding those lines.”

“The two new lines that will be run as of tomorrow (Monday) are intended to improve the services to Palestinian workers that enter Israel via the Eyal Crossing,” the ministry’s statement continued, adding that the new lines will replace the “pirate” driving services who have been transporting Palestinian workers “at exorbitant prices and in an irregular fashion.”

According to the ministry, the new lines will depart from the Tzofim area near Qalqilyah and will transport workers to their places of work in the Sharon region and Tel Aviv, at “especially cheap prices.” For example, the tariff for traveling to Kfar Sava or Raanana will be NIS 5.1, and to Tel Aviv will cost NIS 10.6. This is compared to some NIS 40 that passengers have been charged by the private transportation services for each direction, the ministry said.

“The new lines will lessen the burden that has formed on buses as a result of the increase in numbers of working permits provided to Palestinians, who are permitted to work in Israel and will contribute to the improvements of services, for the betterment of Israelis and Palestinians as one”, the statement said.

The Samaria and Judea District Police have yet to respond to the report.

(I am wondering: Is Israel in need of Palestinian workers so badly in urgent public work (like building more Walls…) that it allocated special buses at low tariff to get Palestinians quickly to work? Why not remove the multitude of barriers and checkpoints?)

Note: I think I read that Palestinians have bombed two “Palestinian-only” buses yesterday

Storytellers need to humanize life: Has Barak Obama stopped reading good fables?

On Obama and literature.  And on why so many with a tad of conscience are bothered by Obama’s presidency:

What makes certain Somali, Pakistani, Yemeni, and American people of so little account? Why that even after killing them, the United States disavows all knowledge of their deaths? How much furious despair is generated from so much collateral damage?”

Teju Cole posted this Feb. 11, 2013 in The New Yorker “On Reader’s War”

“Thanks to literature, to the consciousness it shapes, the desires and longings it inspires…civilization is now less cruel than when storytellers began to humanize life with their fables.” Mario Vargas Llosa

This defense by Vargas Llosa as he received the Nobel Prize in Literature two years ago, could have come from any other writer.

Fact is, cliché originates in some truth.

Vargas Llosa reiterated the point: “Without fictions, we would be less aware of the importance of freedom for life to be livable, the hell it turns into when it is trampled underfoot by a tyrant, an ideology, or a religion.”

Toni Morrison, in her Nobel lecture in 1993, said, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” This sense of literature’s fortifying and essential quality has been evoked by cou

When Marilynne Robinson described fiction as “an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification” she was stating something almost everyone would agree with.

We praise literature in self-evident terms: it is better to read than not to read, for reading civilizes us, makes us less cruel, and brings the imaginations of others into ours and vice versa.

We persist in this belief regardless of what we know to the contrary: that the Nazis’ affection for high culture did not prevent their crimes.

There was a feeling during the years of George W. Bush’s Presidency that his gracelessness as well as his appetite for war were linked to his impatience with complexity. He acted “from the gut,” and was economical with the truth until it disappeared.

Under Bush Jr. command, the United States launched a needless and unjust war in Iraq that resulted in terrible loss of life; at the same time, an unknown number of people were confined in secret prisons and tortured.

That Bush was anti-intellectual, and often guilty of malapropisms and mispronunciations (“nucular”), formed part of the liberal aversion to him: he didn’t know much much about the wider world, and did not much care to learn.

His successor couldn’t have been more different.

Barack Obama is an elegant and literate man with a cosmopolitan sense of the world. He is widely read in philosophy, literature, and history—as befits a former law professor—and he has shown time and again a surprising interest in contemporary fiction.

The books a President buys might be as influenced by political calculation as his “enjoyment” of lunch at a small town diner or a round of skeet shooting. Nevertheless, a man who names among his favorite books Morrison’s “Song of Solomon,” Robinson’s “Gilead,” and Melville’s “Moby Dick” is playing the game pretty seriously.

Obama own feel for language in his two books, his praise for authors as various as Philip Roth and Ward Just, as well as the circumstantial evidence of the books he’s been seen holding (the “Collected Poems” of Derek W Walcott, most strikingly), add up to a picture of a man for whom an imaginative engagement with literature is inseparable from life.

It thrilled me, when Obama was elected, to think of the President’s nightstand looking rather similar to mine. We had, once again, a reader in chief, a man in the line of Jefferson and Lincoln.

Any President’s gravest responsibilities are defending the Constitution and keeping the country safe.

President Obama recognized that the image of the United States had been marred by the policies of the Bush years. By drawing down the troops in Iraq, banning torture, and directly and respectfully addressing the countries of Europe and the Middle East, Obama signaled that those of us on the left had not hoped in vain for change.

When, in 2009, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, we noted the absurdity of such premature plaudits, but also saw the occasion as encouragement for the difficult work to come. From the optimistic perspective of those early days, Obama’s foreign policy has lurched from disappointing to disastrous.

Iraq endures a shaky peace and Afghanistan remains a mire, but these situations might have been the same regardless of who was President. More troubling has been his conduct in the other arenas of the Global War on Terror.

The United States is now at war in all but name in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. In pursuit of Al Qaeda, their allies, and a number of barely related militias, the President and his national-security team now make extraordinarily frequent use of assassinations.

The White House, the C.I.A., and the Joint Special Operations Command have so far killed large numbers of people. Because of the secret nature of the strikes, the precise number is unknown, but estimates range from a several hundred to over three thousand. These killings have happened without any attempt to arrest or detain their targets, and beyond the reach of any legal oversight.

Many of the dead are women and children.

Among the men, it is impossible to say how many are terrorists, how many are militants, and how many are simply, to use the administration’s obscene designation, “young men of military age.” The dependence on unmanned aerial vehicles—also called drones—for these killings, which began in 2002 and have increased under the Obama Administration, is finally coming to wider attention.

We now have firsthand testimony from the pilots who remotely operate the drones, many of whom have suffered post-traumatic stress reactions to the work. There is also the testimony of the survivors of drone attacks: heartbreaking stories of mistaken identity, grisly tales of sudden death from a machine in the sky.

In one such story reported by The New YorkTimes, the relatives of a pair of dead cousins said, “We found eyes, but there were no faces left.” The recently leaked Department of Justice white paper indicating guidelines for the President’s assassination of his fellow Americans has shone a spotlight on these “dirty wars” (as the journalist Jeremy Scahill rightly calls them in his documentary film and book of the same title). The plain fact is that our leaders have been killing at will.

How on earth did this happen to the reader in chief?

What became of literature’s vaunted power to inspire empathy?

Why was the candidate Obama, in word and in deed, so radically different from the President he became?

In Andrei Tarkovsky’s eerie 1979 masterpiece, “Stalker,” the landscape called the Zona has the power to grant people’s deepest wishes, but it can also derange those who traverse it. I wonder if the Presidency is like that: a psychoactive landscape that can madden whomever walks into it, be he inarticulate and incurious, or literary and cosmopolitan.

According to a report in the New York Times, the targets of drone strikes are selected for death at weekly meetings in the White House; no name is added to the list without the President’s approval.

Where land mines are indiscrimate, cheap, and brutal, drones are discriminate, expensi expensive, and brutal. And yet they are insufficiently discriminate: the assassination of the Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in Pakistan in 2009 succeeded only on the seventeenth attempt.

The sixteen near misses of the preceding year killed between 280 and 410  other people. Literature fails us here.

What makes certain Somali, Pakistani, Yemeni, and American people of so little account that even after killing them, the United States disavows all knowledge of their deaths? How much furious despair is generated from so much collateral damage?

Of late, riding the subway in Brooklyn, I have been having a waking dream, or rather a daytime nightmare, in which the subway car ahead of mine explodes. My fellow riders and I look at one another, then look again at the burning car ahead, certain of our deaths. The fire comes closer, and what I feel is bitterness and sorrow that it’s all ending so soon: no more books, no more love, no more jokes, no more Schubert, no more Black Star.

All this spins through my mind on tranquil mornings as the D train trundles between 36th Street and Atlantic Avenue and bored commuters check their phones. They just want to get to work. I sit rigid in my seat, thinking, I don’t want to die, not here, not yet.

I imagine those in northwest Pakistan or just outside Sana’a who go about their day thinking the same. The difference for some of them is that the plane is already hovering in the air, ready to strike.

I know language is unreliable, that it is not a vending machine of the desires, but the law seems to be getting us nowhere.

And so I take helpless refuge in literature again, rewriting the opening lines of 7 well-known books:

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. Pity. A signature strike leveled the florist’s.

Call me Ishmael. I was a young man of military age. I was immolated at my wedding. My parents are inconsolable.

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead bearing a bowl of lather. A bomb whistled in. Blood on the walls. Fire from heaven.

I am an invisible man. My name is unknown. My loves are a mystery. But an unmanned aerial vehicle from a secret location has come for me.

Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was killed by a Predator drone.

Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His torso was found, not his head.

Mother died today. The program saves American lives.

I was in New York City on 9/11. Grief remains from that awful day, but not only grief. There is fear, too, a fear informed by the knowledge that whatever my worst nightmare is, there is someone out there embittered enough to carry it out. I know that something has to be done to secure the airports, waterways, infrastructure, and embassies of our country.

I don’t like war; no one does. But I also know that the world is exceedingly complex, and that our enemies are not all imaginary. I am not naïve about the incessant and unseen (by most of us) military activity that undergirds our ability to read, go to concerts, earn a living, and criticize the government in relative safety. I am grateful to those whose bravery keeps us safe.

This ominous, discomfiting, illegal, and immoral use of weaponized drones against defenseless strangers is done for our sakes. But more and more we are seeing a gap between the intention behind the President’s clandestine brand of justice and the real-world effect of those killings.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words against the Vietnam War in 1967 remain resonant today: “What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them?” We do know what they think: many of them have the normal human reaction to grief and injustice, and some of them take that reaction to a vengeful and murderous extreme.

In the Arabian peninsula, East Africa, and Pakistan, thanks to the policies of Obama and Biden, we are acquiring more of the angriest young enemies money can buy. As a New York Times report put it last year, “Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.”

Assassinations should never have happened in our name. But now we see that they endanger us physically, endanger our democracy, and endanger our Constitution. I believe that when President Obama personally selects the next name to add to his “kill list,” he does it in the belief that he is protecting the country.

I trust that Obama makes the selections with great seriousness, bringing his rich sense of history, literature, and the lives of others to bear on his decisions. And yet we have been drawn into a war without end, and into cruelties that persist in the psychic atmosphere like ritual pollution.

Teju Cole is a photographer and writer. His novel “Open City” was published last year.




March 2023

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