Sunday, July 30, 2006

Continuing suspicions on the targeting of Iraqi archeological sites

The last of these suspicions is sent through the Iraq-List crsis, through the Islamic Art listserv:

Cross-posted from the IraqCrisis list:--------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2006 08:53:56 -0500 (CDT)From: Charles E. Jones Uruknet's Iraqi Resistance Report for events of Thursday, 27 July 2006:
reports the following:"Al-Anbar Province.Al-Qa'im.US troops bulldoze 1,000-year old historic district in al-Qa'im,turn it into soccer field.In a dispatch posted at 2:55pm Makkah time Thursday afternoon,Mafkarat al-Islam reported that US occupation forces had demolisheda thousand-year old historic district dating back to the First AbbasidPeriod (762-833 C.E.) in the city of al-Qa'im near the Iraq-Syria border,turning it into a soccer field.The Baghdad correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam reported an announcementissued by the Department of Antiquities and signed by 'Abd al-Karim Falih,the department's director, on Thursday as saying that the Americans haddestroyed a historic district dating from the Abbasi period, completelyleveling it with bulldozers and other equipment.The Antiquities Department announcement said that the Americansbulldozed the area into a soccer field despite the fact that it wasfenced off with signs posted warning against going inside becauseit was a Historic Islamic Heritage District.The statement denounced the behavior of the Americans saying that thedistrict told the story of the Abbasid era, a time of great floweringof Arab-Islamic culture.Mafkarat al-Islam noted that the US forces have destroyed sevenhistorical sites dating back to the Abbasid era and even further back tothe earliest Islamic period. One of those was the Abbasid Caliph's palacein as-Saqlawiyah, another the historic area 30km west of al-Fallujahin which the Battle of Dhat al-'Uyun was fought by the early Muslimwarriors under Khalid ibn al-Walid who liberated the country from thePersian Empire. American forces also destroyed the 'Anah Citadel andthe Hit Citadel, as well as other centuries-old Islamic cites."I would be grateful to anyone who might be able to verify the newspaperreport or the Antiquities Department announcement which are apparentlythe source of this information.
Thanks,-Chuck Jones-Iraqcrisis mailing list -

The following is a message related to the above though not an "answer"

This doesn't exactly answer your question, but embroiders it:In a 2005 ICOMOS Heritage at Risk (Iraq) report, Ihsan Fethi stated that only 7 Abbasid monuments, "most of which have been altered or heavily restored,") remain.Although the article that you mentioned says that "Mafkarat al-Islam noted that the US forces have destroyed sevenhistorical sites dating back to the Abbasid era and even further back tothe earliest Islamic period," it's unsure if their "sites" correspond to the ICOMOS "monuments."The ones cited by the ICOMOS report are:"...the Abbasid Palace, Mustansiryia Madrasa, the minaret of Khafafin Mosque, the minaret of Qumriya Mosque, Zumarrad Khatun's Shrine, Omar al-Sahrawardi's Shrine and Mosque, and the Wastani Gateway."The Directorate of Antiquities (same as the "Department of Antiquities," below ?) is described (2005) as having a "...negative and even destructive history," including allowing "...the rebuilding of Babylon, the reconstruction of several monuments in Abassid Samarra, the demolition of the historic citadel of Rawa to make way for a new Presidential Palace, and the drowning of the old towns of Ana and Rawa by the Qadisiya Dam in 1987."

I must say that urukinfo is not quite independent as a news source. The same should be said about mafkarat al-Islam. This, however, could not be a reason for not trying to check more seriously on what happened. The "Iraqi Department of Antiquities" is the only source that should be able (legally and professionally) to answer these suspicions. There is a problem: the "director" of the "Iraq Department of Antiquities" (hay'at al-athar al-iraqiyyah) is until at least January 2006 Donny Georges (according to this link: last entry) and not "abd al-Karim Falih".

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Islamic gallery and more in the Victoria & Albert Museum

The prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum (London) has opened a new Islamic gallery funded by the Jameel family:

The Jameel Gallery

A three-year-long renovation and re-design of the V&A's Islamic Gallery has created an outstanding new home for the collection.
The new Jameel Gallery houses over 400 objects, including ceramics, textiles, carpets, metalwork, glass and woodwork, which date from the great days of the Islamic caliphate of the 8th and 9th centuries to the years preceding the First World War.
The area covered stretches from Spain in the west to Uzbekistan and Afghanistan in the east, taking in important centres of artistic production in the Arab lands, Turkey and Iran.
The highlight of the Jameel Gallery is the Ardabil Carpet, the world's oldest dated carpet and one of the largest, most beautiful and historically important in the world.

The Jameel Gallery was made possible by generous support from the Jameel family. It is dedicated to the memory of Mr Abdul Latif Jameel, the late founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel Group, and his wife Nafisa, by Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel, their son.
Why the Islamic Middle East?
The rapid rise of Islam in the 7th century AD transformed the history of the Middle East. The religion’s founder, the Prophet Muhammad, was a political leader as well as a religious guide, and after his death in 632, his successors established a vast empire. By 750 it stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the borders of India.
Two hundred years later this single Islamic empire had been replaced by a number of competing states. Despite their rivalries, the Muslim rulers of the time shared many ideas on culture and politics, as well as religion.
This common Islamic heritage was maintained until the 1920s. By then, almost the whole region was divided between European colonial powers and local regimes with a secular outlook.
Throughout this long period Islamic art continued to be produced. It included sophisticated court pieces as well as works of religious art, reflecting Islam’s role both as a religion and a political system

The V&A Museum will be hosting a series of lectures, workshops, and discussions about Islamic art too:

Study Day - Islamic Art in the Middle East, 750-1900Saturday 29 July, 10.30-16.45
The 7th century was a remarkable period in the Middle East: it witnessed the birth of both a new religion, Islam, and of a new and mighty state, the Islamic Empire. Over the following 1,000 years, these forces produced artwork of great quality and beauty. This study day will provide a lively introduction to this astonishing legacy.Tickets:£38/£32/£12.Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

Two-day practical course (mixed ability) - CorsagesMonday 31 July & Tuesday 1 August, 10.30-16.00
A two-day workshop to create amazing corsages inspired by the floral and plant motifs found in Islamic art. Participants will combine a range of fabrics, incorporating beads and feathers, and experiment with a variety of techniques.Tickets: £76 (no concessions)Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

Two-day practical course - Decorative BagsWednesday 2 & 9 August, 10.30-16.00
Design and make a unique textile bag, inspired by geometric patterns and plant forms, Day one will be taking inspiration from the gallery and experimenting with a variety of textile techniques including applique and cut work. Day two will cover the construction of the bag and the application of linings, handles and fastenings.Tickets: £76 (includes materials).Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

Turkish Weekend - Tulips, Tiles and Coffee CultureSaturday 5 & Sunday 6 August, 10.00-17.00
Visit our specially constructed coffee house; enjoy events including traditional and contemporary storytelling, music, art workshops, special talks and tours and an opportunity to dress up in traditional costumes and have your photograph taken. Plus national food in the Café.The John Madejski Garden and throughout the V&A,Free and drop-inInformation: 020 7942 2211

One-day practical course (mixed ability) - Drawing: Geometry in Islamic ArtSaturday 5 August, 10.30-16.00
This workshop introduces Islamic geometric patterns, tracing their origins in nature. Participants will learn how to draw patterns underpinning Islamic art using just a compass and straight edge. Experiment with the presentation of finished drawings using handmade paper and watercolours.Tickets: £38 (includes materials).Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

Gallery talk - Islamic Space: Cooled SpaceSunday 6 August, 13.00
Light, water and sound are used in many Islamic structures to temper hot climates. Investigate the relationship between experience and architectural form. Part of a series of gallery talks exploring the way Islamic art objects inhabit and define domestic, religious and public space.FreeMeet at the Meeting Point in the Grand Entrance, V&AInformation: 020 7942 2211 or

Two-day practical course - Tassels and TrimmingsMonday 7 & Tuesday 8 August, 10.30-16.00
Create beautiful tassels and cords and use them to adorn anything from your handbag to your home. Participants will use beautiful threads, ribbons and beads to embellish their designs, drawing inspiration from the V&A's Islamic art collection.Tickets: £76 (includes materials)Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

Two-day practical course (beginners) - Persian PaintingSaturday 12 & Sunday 13 August, 10.30-16.00
Focusing on the illustrated manuscript tradition, this course will introduce you to miniature painting through the V&A's collections. It will cover the techniques of Islamic manuscript illustration using traditional brushes, paper and colour pigments.Tickets: £76 (includes materials).Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

One-day practical course (beginners) - JewelleryMonday 14 August,10.30-16.00
Design and make a piece of jewellery, using the patterns and motifs found in Islamic art as your starting point. Participants will incorporate pre-cut metal shapes in their own design work and will experiment with a variety of cold-working techniques.Tickets: £38 Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

Two-day practical course (mixed ability) - WeavingTuesday 15 & Wednesday 16 August, 10.30-16.00
Create a personalised woven bag inspired by the geometrical and naturalistic forms found in Islamic art. The course will explore the essential techniques of this versatile medium encouraging the use a wide range of materials such as wire, plastic, paper yarn and natural fibre.Tickets: £76 (includes materials).Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

One-day practical course (beginners) - CalligraphySaturday 19 August, 10.30-16.00
Learn about the history and practice of Arabic calligraphic forms and motifs, finally exploring the Kufic style in depth. Inspired by the beautiful calligraphic texts found in the V&A's Islamic collections, you will practise writing a variety of such forms.Tickets: £38 (includes materials).Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

Two-day practical course (mixed ability) - MosaicsMonday 21 & Tuesday 22 August, 10.30-16.00
The abundant geometric, floral and plant motifs in Islamic art lend themselves particularly well to mosaic work. Design and make a decorative mosaic taking inspiration from the range of artefacts on display, while experimenting with cutting and shaping glazed ceramic tiles.Tickets: £76 (includes materials).Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or
One-day practical course (mixed ability) - Painting CeramicsWednesday 23 August, 10.30-16.00
Learn about traditional Islamic design principles of geometry and natural form, and decorate a handmade hexagonal tile. Participants will be taught traditional brushwork techniques to apply a beautiful range of coloured glazes inspired by ceramics in the Islamic collections.Tickets: £38 (includes materials).Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

Arabian Weekend - Souk, Scripts and SoundbitesSaturday 26 & Sunday 27 August, 10.00-17.00
Experience the sights and sounds of an Arab marketplace: discover Arabian art and design and try your hand at Arabic writing. Listen to traditional storytelling and music, watch a Mansoojat costume presentation, and browse amongst market stalls selling traditional and contemporary Arab art and other goods.The John Madejski Garden and throughout the V&A,Free and drop-inInformation: 020 7942 2211 or

Gallery talk - Islamic Space: Objects and SpaceWednesday 30 August, 18.30
Discover the way key objects make a special space for themselves and their users. Part of a series of gallery talks exploring the way Islamic art objects inhabit and define domestic, religious and public space.FreeMeet at the Meeting Point in the Grand Entrance, V&AInformation: 020 7942 2211 or

Gallery talk - Islamic Space: Words make SpaceThursday 7 September, 13.00
A look at the way in which texts, and the ideas that they convey, define the meaning of architectural space in significant Islamic places. Part of a series of gallery talks exploring the way Islamic art objects inhabit and define domestic, religious and public space.FreeMeet at the Meeting Point in the Grand Entrance, V&AInformation: 020 7942 2211 or

Iranian Weekend - Poetry, Picnics and Persian PastimesSaturday 9 & Sunday 10 September, 10.00-17.00
Be entertained by music, poetry, storytelling and other Persian pastimes while picnicking in our Iranian outdoor setting. Enjoy a perfume workshop, and dress up in traditional Iranian fashions and have your photograph taken. Plus special talks and tours, and Iranian picnic food in the Café.The John Madejski Garden and throughout the V&A,Free and drop-inInformation: 020 7942 2211

Part-time year course - Arts of Asia 1500-1900: Islamic Middle East, South Asia and ChinaMondays from 18 September, 11.00-15.30
This course provides a comprehensive foundation in Asian visual art and forms a survey of all art forms, from painting and calligraphy to ceramics, metal work and textiles. Each term will stand alone, looking at design history, technique, political meaning, functional context and the influence of trade of a different region of Asia. Tickets: per term £480/£135, per year £1,400/£400Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

Architecture talk and object handling - Collecting Islam: Travels in AndaluciaTuesday 19 September, 13.00
Includes discussion of The Alhambra, Cordoba, The Alcazar, and examples of designs for Spanish Islamic ornament. Part of a series of free lunchtime talks exploring different aspects of Islamic architecture by looking close-up at original drawings, prints, photographs and paintings..Free and drop-inV&A + R IBA Study Rooms, V&AInformation: 020 7942 2211 or

Study day and site visit - Interpretations of Islam 28 September, 10.30-17.00
Explore two interpretations of Islamic architecture: the Arab Hall at Leighton House, and the Ismaili Centre on Cromwell Road, and delve into the dreams and aspirations of their clients and architects. Speakers include Professor Nanji, Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, and Professor Caroline Dakers, author of The Holland Park Circle: Artists and Victorian Society. This one-day event includes guided visits to both venues, and examination of architects' drawings and the ideas behind them. Part of the V&A's InsideOuting seriesTickets: £36/£31/£12.Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

Architecture talk and object handling - Collecting Islam: Contemporary Islam Tues 17 October, 13.00
Includes discussion of Zaha Hadid's Strasbourg Mosque, Beirut and Bernard Khoury, The Ismaili Centre, and The London Markaz. Part of a series of free lunchtime talks exploring different aspects of Islamic architecture by looking close-up at original drawings, prints, photographs and paintings.Free and drop-inV&A + RIBA Study Rooms, V&AInformation: 020 7942 2211 or

Critical debate - Architecture And… Contemporary Islam1 November, 19.00-20.30
The V&A's Islamic architecture season culminates in this important debate on how contemporary Islamic culture is expressed through architecture. Join a distinguished panel of architects, academics and cultural commentators to identify current preconceptions about Islamic architecture, and discuss the ways that architecture can articulate Islamic culture today and in the future. Part of the V&A's Architecture And…. seriesTickets: £10/£8/£6.50Information and booking: 020 7942 2211 or

The website provides a bibliography as well: genral readings, Islamic ceramics and glass, Islamic metalwork, and especially Islamic textiles and dress.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Al-Adab of Beirut unpublishable: a letter from Samah Idris

I just received a moving letter from a lebanese friend, Samah Idris, the editor of the famous and highly valuable cultural magazine "AL-Adab" of Beirut.

This is this month's unpublished-editorial:

This is the editorial for the coming issue of Al-Adab which can neither be printed nor distributed now, due to the Israeli seige. Please distribute it as you like.
Thank you, Samah

Lebanon???What I Pity (Ya Haram, Lubnan)
By Samah Idriss, editor-in-chief of Al-Adab magazine
To be published in Arabic in the forthcoming July-August 2006 issue of Al-Adab magazine. See
Translated from the Arabic by Kirsten Scheid
To the indignation remaining in Suheil Idriss??? eyes.I write these words as the Israeli aggression against Lebanon enters its seventh day, following military operation by the Islamic Resistance which resulted in the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of seven more. I flip through the television channels and the newspaper pages. It all makes me say, ???What a pity, Lebanon.??? Yet, I do not say this because I see Lebanon ???stuck in a war created by the machinations of the Syrian-Iranian axis.??? Such is the claim made by those who either neutralize Lebanon from the Israeli-Arab conflict, among them the February 14th bloc, or make its participation in that conflict contingent on the participation of all other Arab countries. Nor do I say it because I am skeptical about HizbAllah???s success in achieving its declared aims, i.e. the release from Israeli prisons of Lebanese prisoners, and perhaps Arab prisoners, too. Nor again do I say it because I bemoan (though truly I do) the destruction of the airport, bridges , and the rest of the infrastructure whose construction cost we Lebanese are paying from our own pockets and will continue to pay from our children???s and grandchildren???s pockets for tens of years to come.Yes, Lebanon, I pity you. And yet???What I pity about you, Lebanon, is that you should be afflicted by a leadership that did not take advantage of the liberation in 2000 to fortify the South and other areas against future Israeli aggressions. (And anyone who took into consideration Israel???s history and ambitions in this region could have seen that more aggression was not long in the waiting.) The successive Lebanese cabinets failed to build shelters, pave roads, or invest in the institutions that contribute to a populace???s steadfastness (such as hospitals, schools, universities, etc), despite the millions of dollars that were received from Arab regimes after each Israeli attack and were passed on to the Council for the South.What I pity about you, Lebanon, is that you should suffer a leadership that does not provide its people with the means for self-defense, though most of its governments, including the current one, have been ???on friendly terms??? with the sponsors of the Cedar Revolution, the United States and France, both of which provide Israel with whatever arms it desires. No wonder, of course, when we consider that Lebanese authorities have consistently held for decades that ???Lebanon???s strength??? is in its weakness.???What I pity about you, Lebanon, is that you should be governed???these days in particular???by a cabinet that does not ???adopt??? the capture of Israeli soldiers for the sake of liberating Lebanese prisoners, thereby officially orphaning the Resistance before the world, and indeed, providing a cover for the Israeli aggression. It is pitiful, Lebanon, that you should be stricken with a Prime Minister who condemns the Israeli aggression for its being ???disproportionate??? to the HizbAllah???s operation. Does that mean that he would have supported the former had it matched the latter, even though it is Israel, as belligerent and occupier, who provoked that operation (and all past, current, and perhaps future ones)?How pitiful, Lebanon, that you should not be so lucky as to have a leadership that incessantly pressures ???the international community??? (whose praises it always sings) to compel Israel to pay reparations for its acts of aggression over the course of more than four decades. Indeed, how odd it is to hear principal members of the successive Lebanese governments praising the ???shrewdness??? of the Zionist lobby in the US, forgetting (or rather ignoring) all the while the fact that that lobby had succeeded, by 1998, in extorting $1.25 billion from Switzerland and $60 billion from Germany as ???reparations??? whose payment was forced on Europe ???due to its rampant anti-semitism??? both before and after World War 2. (See Norman G. Finkelstein, Holocaust Industry, Verso, 2000).What I pity about you, Lebanon, is that you should endure a class of politicians and ???analysts??? who try to overwhelm us these days with two slogans: ???bad timing??? and ???providing a pretext to the enemy.??? The first has been the main concern of the February 14th bloc politicians, and the media that support them???as if they would have whistled and clapped for the operation had it occurred some other day. (Whatever day that might be, they noticeably do not specify.) The second has told us over and over that the operation presented a pretext needed by Israelis to carry out their aggression. This absurd logic completely ignores history: not once has the Israeli enemy sought a pretext to expand its aggression, occupation, and vengeance against Arab opposition. On the contrary, Shabak and the Mossad take any time they choose for aggression, even when operations against it have ceased. Moreover, this logic swiftly leads Arabs to submission and reliance on the same old pretenses: ???realism??? and ???the eye cannot fight the chisel,??? (though it did fight and triumph, in fact, on May 25, 2000).What is pitiful too about you, Lebanon, is that your principal media outlets have been transformed into messenger boys for the American and French embassies as these call upon their citizens to leave a Lebanon that is no longer safe???though it has become so precisely because of US weaponry and American and French political support for Israel. And with their call to flee, these embassies facilitate the deployment of that weaponry against Lebanon, and probably against Beirut in particular. Speaking of the media, how pitiful for Lebanon too that no well-equipped television station such as Future TV has produced a video clip in support of the steadfastness of the Lebanese people while that television station produced more than one hundred songs and video clips (most of them exceedingly silly) in the weeks after the killing of Prime Minister al-Hariri. Or do the victims of Israeli aggression (as I write these lines there are over 210 Lebanese civilians dead) count for less tha n one Prime Minister Hariri?What I pity about you, Lebanon, is your class of phony leftists (specifically the ???Democratic Left???) who have no other concern but to suspect everything redolent of dignity and to seek out anything with which they can denounce the Syrian and the Iranian regimes, HizbAllah, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP-General Command???anything, even that which might result in the ultimate release of heroes who paid the price of their freedom to attain ours. Indeed, some Hariri Leftists went as far as to claim that NasrAllah is the one who destroyed the Lebanese economy with his daring military operation, thus deliberately failing to remember how the policies of Prime Minister Hariri abetted debt, squander, and corruption (in coordination with some of his allies as well as leading figures in the Syrian regime).This is not to say that those the February 14th Bloc likes to criticize are blameless. Least of all the Syrian regime, whose ???strategizing??? intellectuals (such as Dr. `Imad Fawzi Al-Shu`aybi) disgust me with their pouring praise on the Lebanese Resistance without once, for example, wondering aloud about the absence of official Syrian resistance in the Golan. Such praise strikes me as the other face of the position taken by the likes of MP Elias ???Atallah (of the Décor-atic Left) who criticizes both the acquiescence of the Syrian regime in the Golan and also HizbAllah???s non-acquiescence and resistance in Lebanon! Would Mr. ???Atallah like us to follow the Syrian suit in this case or not? Along those lines too, criticism of the Lebanese leadership, its political right and ???left,??? should not keep one quiet about the twisted logic of the Iranian regime which fights imperialism in Lebanon but collaborates with it in Iraq.All the same, it is truly shameful that the February 14th bloc, along with its ???theorists??? and media figures, denounces the Lebanese Resistance???s coordination with Syria and Iran, as if it were possible to stop American-Israeli war (or at least put a limit to it) without regional alliances. Rather, one would expect that if that bloc sincerely cared about the persistence of Lebanon, its dignity, and the security of its lands, it would immediately call upon the Lebanese government (of which it is the majority) to request military support from Syria and Iran, regardless of its alleged antagonism to religious or one-party rule. Or do the advocates of ???sovereignty, liberty, and independence??? believe that it is possible to confront American-Israeli violence with a vanguard led by tabbouleh, kibbe nayyeh, and home-brewed `araq; a rear-guard composed of dabkeh, the ???Libinese??? poems of Sa`id `Aql, and the conservative credo that rejects ???the war of others on our land ??? (referring specifically to Syria, Iran, and the Palestinians); and a banner flapping in the wind above them, decorated with those symbols of co-existence, crosses and crescents?***Whenever anyone says, ???I pity you, Lebanon,??? solely to disparage HizbAllah, the Resistance, and all who raise their voices against America and Israel, they should be asked these questions:Is there any way other than capturing Israeli soldiers to bring home Samir al-Qantar, Yahya Skaf, Nasim Nisr, and Ahmad Farran, not to mention???and as long as we are Arab nationalists and leftists, we must mention???thousands of prisoners of Palestinian, Arab, and other nationalities? Yes, one other way is for the prisoners to declare their repentance, and to swear to be decent, cooperative people. A possible second way is for the leadership of the Islamic Resistance to follow Oslo???s suit, vow to ???renounce and denounce??? armed resistance, and resort to the Security Council to request the return of its prisoners (as well as the liberation of its territories, the cessation of Israeli theft of Lebanese water,???). I have no doubt the Lebanese state may realize these demands after the repatriation of Palestinian refugees (in accordance with Resolution 194, and scores of other UN resolutions)! There may be yet a third way: if Sheikh Hasan NasrAllah changes his identity a t the nearest notary public and takes the name ???Mr. Hasan Karzai??? or ???General Hasan Lahd,??? or ???General Hasan Rajjoub.???Other than arms, is there any way to intimidate Israel, if only a bit, before it thinks of strolling anew in Lebanon???s lands, waters, and skies, or expelling more refugees and committing more massacres in Al-Houleh, Kfar Kila, Al-Mansuriyyah, Qana, Marwahin, and ???Aytaroun?It feels banal to remind hip liberalists that history (Arab at least) has not witnessed genuine victories without bloodshed, arrests, torture, or death. Even non-violent struggle, such as strikes, boycotts, and divestment campaigns (in South Africa during Apartheid, in the Indian movement against the British led by Gandhi, and in Palestine during the first Intifada) does not escape bloodshed. Not that I think that those who oppose Lebanese armed resistance call, for instance, for the boycott of companies that support Israel, such as Nestle, Estée Lauder, Caterpillar, Coca-Cola. It is well-known that ministers in the former Hariri cabinet (such as Basil Fulayhan) ignored complaints submitted by local civil groups regarding the opening in Lebanon of Estée Lauder, a company headed by Ronald Lauder, president of the Jewish National Fund (the primary source of funding for new settlers in Israel). What is more, Mrs. Nazik al-Hariri (the wife of the ex-Prime Minister), in spit e of vigorous public protest demonstrations, presided several years ago over the opening ceremony of the Aishti store in downtown Beirut that markets exclusively that company???s products.Furthermore it will be extremely trite to remind those who spurn HizbAllah???s operation (and armed resistance generally) in favor of reliance upon the ???international community??? and ???UN resolutions,??? that United States (and occasionally Western Europe) have consistently refused to implement international resolutions against Israel. Quite the opposite, they recently decided to starve the entire Palestinian people because it had elected, through completely democratic procedures, the route of resistance to Israel.If there remains no means to bring back Lebanese prisoners beyond that of capturing Israeli soldiers (a tactic whose success was confirmed in the recent past through operations carried out by PFLP-GC and HizbAllah among other groups), why condemn it? And why limit its application to Lebanese territory as long as Israel itself continues to detain hundreds of prisoners taken from outside Occupied Palestine? And what is all the more comical is that some politicians and the commentators in their pay (especially Future TV and LBC) when pressed aver that they are not against HizbAllah???s operation or armed resistance per se, but rather against undertaking resistance activities in the absence of a prior national consensus.What national consensus are they talking about? Resistance needs neither national consensus nor national unity. That is a preposterous fib that is not supported by any historical instances, to the best of my knowledge. For example the French Resistance in World War II???a particularly important example as the February 14th bloc adores France, its civilization, and especially Jacques Chirac???did not by any means represent the majority in France when it was launched. Historian Elizabeth Thompson (Colonial Citizens, Columbia U. Press, 2000, p.196) shows that one-third of the bureaucrats in the Vichy administration in Lebanon refused to serve Charles De Gaulle and returned to France to serve the Vichy proxy government for the Nazis. Likewise the entire French military forces in Lebanon abandoned De Gaulle, except for a mere 3000.Or take an example closer to home: in 1982, most Lebanese were terrified of the Israeli occupiers, and many tossed their weapons in public trash for fear of being caught ???red-handed.??? The nationalist resistance to the Israeli occupation of Beirut began with just a handful of fighters motivated by their self-respect. They stood up to the occupiers in the neighborhoods of Hamra, Concorde, and ???Aisha Bakkar, ...etc. They were hunted down, arrested, and killed by Amin Gemayel???s regime, the Israeli proxy. As days passed, however, that handful became a tide that freed Beirut and major sections of Lebanon from occupation. Still the resistance was far from enjoying any national Lebanese consensus (official or popular), despite its conjoining people from diverse sects by virtue of its secular and leftist character. Later, for a long list of reasons, HizbAllah came to the helm of the resistance and liberated most of what had remained under Israeli control, yet again with out the resistance attaining any national consensus, despite its having become a roaring popular wave. Indeed, it remained basically confined to a single (albeit huge) sect. So why should the Resistance today seek a national consensus about its national, legal, and religious right? And from whom? From the ???Lebanese Forces??? who collaborated with the Israelis for many years on the excuse of protecting the Christians? From parties with ambiguous identities???sectarian and socialist and conservative???and whose leadership coordinated with Israeli occupation (as elaborated by Faris Abi Sa???b in an article published a month or so ago in Al-Diyar newspaper)? From parliamentary ???representatives??? who would not have received one hundred votes in the last parliamentary elections if not for the funding of Sheikh Sa???d al-Hariri and for the exploitation of popular sympathy for his family following the assassination of his father? From other MPs who confessed that they were forced to vote for President Emile Lahhoud???s unconstitutional extension in office, out of fear of the Syrian regime???s retribution lest they vote against it? Can people who betrayed the trust of their constituency represent a national consensus?Indeed, did not Hasan NasrAllah, who already had in his possession Ra`ad, Zilzal, and Shihab missiles, show great patience in conferring hours upon hours with various Lebanese leaders (Michel ???Awn, Sa???d al-Hariri, etc...) to attain their recognition of the Lebanese identity of the Shab???a Farms and Kafar Shuba, and the right to bring back Lebanese prisoners? Was that not enough before HizbAllah could undertake concrete action to obtain the prisoners??? release? After the ???National Dialogue??? and the slew of coordination meetings, was ???national consensus??? still necessary? What if a public referendum (not of the MPs, not of the party leaders, but of the people themselves) was held about the resistance? Would it result in anything less than a declaration by the majority of Lebanese (not all, since that would be impossible for any cause) in support for the armed Lebanese Resistance?***Lastly, what I pity about you, Lebanon is that, after your victory in 2000, you should be reduced once again by those who criticize Resistance to a site for mere business, tourism, and shrewdness (shatara). Business and tourist industry were hit by Israel and the US (which provides it with arms) not by HizbAllah???s exercising its right to free Lebanese prisoners. Beirut airport (which, incidentally, was recently renamed Rafiq al-Hariri International Airport without any national consensus, despite the fact that it is the entire national populace that is paying for its construction) was hit by Israel and the US, not by HizbAllah in 2006, nor by the Palestinian Resistance in 1968. (By the way, does not the destruction of the airport indicate Hariri???s gross mis-estimation of national priorities? Should the priority not be Lebanon???s image, as a ???civilized??? and ???advanced??? nation in the eyes of tourists, Orientalists, Gulf visitors, and the ???international communit y,??? but rather security vis-??-vis Israel???s belligerence?)What I pity is that it should be said, ???Lebanon paid enough for Palestine??? so it no longer has to act in solidarity with the subjugated Palestinian people, not even through an operation whose prime aim is to liberate Lebanese prisoners but whose timing might coincide with the Israeli military machine???s pressuring the elected Hamas government. Is it too much to ask of you, Lebanon, that your quest to free your prisoners also relieves some of the horrific weight of the Israeli military from the shoulders of the Palestinian people simply by virtue of its timing? Have we forgotten already our bitterness, we Lebanese, when ???the Arabs??? were cheering for the Algerian team against the Polish at the 1982 World Cup but were utterly silent about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon? Do intellectuals and analysts who are so tired of Palestine want, today, to be like those ???Arabs??? they condemned?Likewise, how pitiful for Lebanon that some of its residents of Palestinian origin, who came as refugees decades ago, acquired citizenship (contrary to hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians), attained wealth, today stress the importance of separating the fates of Lebanon and Palestine. Now that they have become Lebanese they even reject that the ???timing??? of HizbAllah???s operation should come to Hamas??? aid. This, in fact, is not so much a case of renouncing one???s origin, or neglecting one???s tortured people, as it is a case of forgetting an obvious historical fact: this entire region was one common territory for its residents before it got ripped apart by mandates and empires that separated Lebanese from Palestinians.What would a Lebanon that is not pitiful look like? A dignified Lebanon would be the ally of a venerable Palestine. Indeed, it would not hurt Lebanon, but honor it, to help the Palestinian people and their democratically elected government to prevail, whenever possible, and especially when the principle aim is directly in Lebanon???s favor (as in the case of the Lebanese prisoners in Occupied Palestine). Regardless, the victory of the Islamic Resistance is ???near, very near, truly near,??? as swore the symbol today of Arab dignity (yes, dignity, dear liberals), Sayyid Hasan NasrAllah. That victory will also be a victory for Palestine. All that is necessary at this moment is a tenacious hold on principles, unswerving support for the Resistance, and serene patience.It is the fate of Lebanon to be neighbor to a vicious enemy, Israel. But it is Lebanon???s ennobling choice to stand by the side of its heroic freedom-fighters, and by the side of Palestine.
Beirut, July 18, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sometimes you've to be stupid to be contreversial: manupulating the historical events for ideological goals

Some people, from the Arab world, who live abroad just love to seem "unarab" as much as they can. There are deeper reasons for that: paradoxally one of them could be a past of deep and irrational hatered to the "west".
On the other hand there is an immediate reason for that: they have a secterian public in the "west" who just love to have some arabs who would reproduce the exact racial jargon that they are producing. What best for the "Daniel Pipes" wondering in the States to have little Arab "Pipes" who just repeat "a la lettre" what is already said by the "Daniel Pipes". Being contreversial for such people is the "way out" to the lights... You'd find a public even if you're stupid! What's better?!
Of course the million dollars question is: could you be liberal-independent-secular only if you become a "Pipes"? Obviously not.

There are, however, many categories of Arab "Pipes": professional and amateurs. This time I'd be talking about the amateurs and I'll save my comments about the profesional for another occasion when I'd have really the appropriate time.

For now, when I don't really have enough time, which is just appropriate for an amateur "Pipes", here is an example of an amateur arab "Pipes" who I discovered today. A fellow Tunisian blogger living in the States who decided that what's happening in Lebanon and Palestine is just the conitnuation of an "eternal turth" going back to the Punic period consisting of a pattern of suicidal behaviour.
I'll just re-post my comment:
Please if you'd like to make a political comment about a contemporary event don't try to justify it with something that could have happened thousands of years ago. This is just an ideological comment that is not different than what you're trying to criticize. If you'd like to make your point just be realistic and look at the matter at hand and don't make it as an eternal truth (Arabs, Lebanease... whatever... "are suicidal since ages") and, it follows from such an argument, that there is no need to focus on what's happening; it is just enough to remember that "eternal truth".Your view is not different than the actual intentions of the "classical [Roman] sources" that were the only sources of the alleged Punic child sacrifices, which were trying to justfy the Roman annihilation of a "barbaric" Carthage. I know you're just ignorant in matters of history, and you're not pretending to be someone who knows... But in that case you have to try to learn seriously about such matters rather than talking as if you're an expert. In fact there is a whole discussion, and a serious and unpoliticised one about the matter of "punic child sacrifice", by the leading experts... and from some period now (mainly since the 1960s) more and more historians and archeologists are leaning towards the negation of such allegations. You can at least mention that such allegations are contreversial if you're a bit honest.But clearly you're not, or worse you're even ignorant that they are contreversial: following your posts you're just trying to be contreversial; still you're clearly ignorant, I must say, both in historical and contemporary matters. Finally, Here is a primary link that presents a balanced view about the discussion on the allegations of "punic child sacrifices"; but only for those who really want to know!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

This is about how football/soccer should be an art rather than a criminal act

As anyone in this planete (may be except the Italians because they won... and because they are Italians) no one is really interested if the Italians won the world cup; the truth is that whether you hate the French or not that's another matter, but certainly the Italians do not deserve a bit of their world cup.
Let's get to the point, which has to do with the main topic of this blog, i.e., art: Football is, originally, a show of a beautiful and exciting form of dance, though with a ball. Only for this reason people like to watch it. Winning, yes exciting, but, and the Italians should believe me, it would not be exciting at all if winning is possible only thanks to cheating. The Italians, who won the world cup four times, do they ever wonder why no one in the palnete would ever love them like most humans like the Brazilian team. Do they ever wonder why not?

July 9th, 2006 was a sad day for football. I have never been particularly a fan of Zidane... He always seemed to me stiff compared to players like Ronaldinho and Maradona. But still he is a great player, and by the way, this is true whether he is a Muslim or not... because that's really not the point when one would watch a game of football. In this world cup he even got better: no serious person would not just love him, though with great pain, for what he did to Brazil... He was Brazilian more than the Brazilians themselves... That's called art.

Not a single Italian player would be able to do that: "Defense", which really means violence, is the only thing an Italian player, including their "strikers", should be able to bring to the game. How a sane person, really, could dare to compare Totti or Del Piero to Zidane? the earlier are just good technicians, they get the job done, the latter is a football player that is to say an artist.

I wondered at what Materazzi said as many other millions of people have done. But I've never thought that what he might have said, which still really unknown to this moment, would become an issue of clash of civilizations: one has to read this (especially the comments in Ar) and this (with the stupid Calderoli) to see what I mean.

Materazzi, as he should have been trained like all the other Italian kids being prepared in the various profitable but corrupt Italian teams, was no innocent, and clearly, one has to expect anything from him as this now-popular google-video shows... but he is proving that he is not the right guy for telling lies and changing stories
Would he be able as an Italian to say something racist? Oh, yes... In Italy there is a problem, and certainly it's not only a problem of a bunch of terrorist Muslims. Anyone who'd gone to Italy would quickly realize that they cant really teach us much in the field of tolerance and diversity. I say this because, really, this was not just a highly clever trick by Materazzi to get on the nerve of Zidane: whatever it was said, especially if it's a racist slur, is wholy original and seriously meant by an Italian player.

When most commentators (sadly except the French themselves) focused after the world cup not on the Italian celebrations but rather on the "what Materazzi said to Zidane?" question then it's an indication, for who is not convinced yet, of an Italian colossal failure of creating art: Isn't that just paradoxal?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

About an "Anglophone Tunisian Community"

I think such project is highly interesting. I am republishing here my note that I already published in Cheniti's blog:
I think this is a very interesting initiative. There is a need, however, to have a more broad, and a less pretentious project. I am thinking here of avoiding ideas such as such community is “the only way of driving the country to rapid progess”. I suggest the following:
1-Since most of the potential members would be educated in Anglophone institutions of higher education (we should agree after all if this is a necessary condition) we should lay out a general ground; a small paragraph: clear, sharp, and not too much jargon.
2-Such an outline should reflect, in my view, the following points: a) The Maghreb and Tunisia suffer from a uni-linguistic domination that does not reflect necessarily our country’s interests; b) The French language is, as some say, a “cultural booty”, it served us and still but there is no reason to avoid focusing on other languages according to the high interests of our country; c) Building a Tunisian Anglophone community does not mean an attachment to the interests of the anglo-saxon sphere, it is rather a reflection of an attachment to the interests of our beloved country; d) Emphasizing the English language does not mean any disdain of the official language of Tunisia that is the Arabic language, one of the oldest languages in today’s world; e) An Anglophone community encourages linguistic diversity and that is why it would be fond if Tunisians start building similar communities around other languages such as Spanish and Chinese; f) An Anglophone community should promote the use of the English language by all means, that is why all members should commit to use English as their primary language when interacting among each other; g) Promoting the English language should include the publicity of all activities of Tunisian anglophiles including their news, their websites, and their media.Obviosuly I am suggesting these points for open discussion.
3-Let’s begin by very small steps. The project of the “Tunisian Scientific Society” was probably too ambitious. Let’s not be too much institutional. A mailing list with a modest blog is probably the right start. So let’s start the blog and collect the emails for the mailing list.