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Updated: 2014-10-14T02:42:25.877-07:00


Be back soon


My computer up and died on me the other day, and we're off tomorrow morning on an unexpected trip to Amman.

I'll be back soon.

Two for one!


Ok, I've got to go do something with my time. But you should check out the two-for-the-price-of-one Salon advertisement and check out the two quite good articles on Lebanon and Hizbullah that popped up on the site yesterday.

The "Hiding Among Civilians" Myth

Watching Beirut Die (by Anthony Bourdain, who you might know from Kitchen Confidential)

Put your money where your mouth is . . .


. . . or something like that. For all this talk about Lebanon and Syria, isn't it kind of ironic that Syria's ambassador to the U.S. hasn't once been contacted by the White House in a year and a half?

Welcome to the dementia that is this administration's foreign policy.

Imad Moustapha says, "But I do now occupy the unique position of being the only ambassador of a rogue state in the United States," and then adds: "That's a joke. We are not a rogue state. But no other 'quote, unquote' rogue state has an ambassador here."

A kind of hilarious article.

Dept. of "What dope is this guy smoking?"


One can always count on Bush and Co. to fill us in on what the real picture is in the Middle East. Yesterday I heard him declare--no less than 5 times--on NPR the following:

"Hezbollah attacked Israel. I know Hezbollah is connected to Iran. Now is the time for the world to confront this danger . . . Now is the time to address the root cause of the problem and the root cause of the problem is terrorist groups trying to stop the advance of democracy."

You've got to be kidding me.

It's these ridiculous links that are made and repeated ad infinitum in the media that end up sticking in people's minds. I mean, all this is about democracy, for Pete's sake? Give me a break.

This is one big reason why when I tell my mother I'll likely be heading to Jordan in September on a quick job she asks me, "But don't you think it's unsafe?" Jordan is not its own entity, but rather one small part of an insane, monochromatic area of the world where terrorists run rampant and look to take out as many people as possible. And my mom's been to Jordan more than once herself--she's one of the more enlightened ones! Geez, this stuff gets so tiring.

"Who are the real terrorists in the Middle East?"


Wednesday's Independent has an excellent commentary by Oren Ben-Dor, an Israeli who's definitely not a fan of Israel's military adventures. Reading something like this is probably much better than listening to me rant on and on.

Here's a bit:

. . .While states should defend their citizens, states which fail this duty should be questioned and, if necessary, reconfigured. Israel is a state which, instead of defending its citizens, puts all of them, Jews as well as non-Jews, in danger.

What exactly is being defended by the violence in Gaza and Lebanon? Is it the citizens of Israel or the nature of the Israeli state? I suggest the latter. Israel's statehood is based on an unjust ideology which causes indignity and suffering for those who are classified as non-Jewish by either a religious or ethnic test. To hide this primordial immorality, Israel fosters an image of victimhood. Provoking violence, consciously or unconsciously, against which one must defend oneself is a key feature of the victim-mentality. By perpetuating such a tragic cycle, Israel is a terrorist state like no other. . .

Take a look at the rest--he's got some extremely valid points. Somehow I can't imagine coming across this one here in the U.S.

Sad but true



"Israel Commits War Crimes in Lebanon"


Seen the latest from Robert Fisk?

. . . For the second time in eight days, the Israelis committed a war crime yesterday. They ordered the villagers of Taire, near the border, to leave their homes and then - as their convoy of cars and minibuses obediently trailed northwards - the Israeli air force fired a missile into the rear minibus, killing three refugees and seriously wounding 13 other civilians. The rocket that killed them is believed to have been a Hellfire missile made by Lockheed Martin in Florida.

Brand Israel: A Jordanian perspective


I just loved Ahmad's post a few days ago that takes up the idea of what Israel might possibility be thinking in terms of "branding" itself for the rest of the world. A great read!

Here's a snippet:

. . . Israel’s overwhelming firepower makes sure that the suffering it inflicts on Arab civilians is always greater than anything the other side can inflict upon Israel.I am not attempting a political or military analysis here. I am just wondering about Israel’s ‘branding strategy’ when it comes its neighboring audiences. We keep hearing from Israelis that all they want is to live in peace in this region. How does that fit with Israel’s actions that produce an image of a country that can only be seen as ‘barbaric’?

Your tax dollars hard at work


Just in case you haven't seen this one yet, Saturday's New York Times reports that our government is rushing a delivery of bombs to Israel (source). Too many civilians, not enough bombs . . .

WASHINGTON, July 21 — The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.

A primer on Palestinian discontent


Gosh, it's so nice to engage in discussion with people truly interested to know about what's going on in Palestine and Lebanon. I was a bit early picking Issy up from his summer camp today, and two of his teachers sat with me and wanted me to tell them what Israel's problem is. They are annoyed with all the civilians dying in Lebanon and feel frustrated at how difficult it is to get information that's not pro-Israeli.

I told them a bit about my experience living in Jordan and what I know of how difficult life is for Palestinians. The questions kept coming, which is refreshing after feeling so insulated from everything all the way over here in the U.S.

And yeah, Palestinian suffering continues. It's been brutal--and going on for way too long, as this Salon article confirms. A fascinating read--especially for those of you who don't know a lot about the mass ejection of Palestinians from their homes early in Israel's history.

U.S. media vs. the rest of the world on Lebanon


Jefferson Morley over at The Washington Post site has an interesting comparison of international media outlets' take on Israel's war on Lebanon. Check it out.

There's no grand plan


Again and again I keep hearing about the close connection between Iran, Syria and Hizbollah. This connection is there, to be sure, but the heavy emphasis we keep listening to our oh-so-knowledgeable American pundits go on and on about makes me more and more certain that Bush and Co.'s grand scheme to take on Syria and Iran has been an easy sell over here. My only solace is that I can't imagine how on earth this government would give a green light to start up more wars at the rate of debt we're accumulating in Iraq. Well, perhaps Israel will do the job for us (heh heh).

Anthony Shadid of The Washington Post had it right on NPR yesterday, when he said that Hizbollah's engagement with Israel has nothing whatsoever to do with taking orders from Iran or Syria. It's pretty plain and simple: everyone in the Arab World is fed up with Israel's apartheid state and the horrific treatment of Palestinians on a daily basis. Hizbollah considers itself at war with the Israeli state and so capturing a few "Defense Force" soldiers in no way differs from the acts of war Israel engages in daily against Palestinian civilians.

I just came across a great piece by Tariq Ali in the Guardian that's worth a read. Here are a few bits and pieces:

In his last interview - after the 1967 six-day war - the historian Isaac Deutscher, whose next-of-kin had died in the Nazi camps and whose surviving relations lived in Israel, said: "To justify or condone Israel's wars against the Arabs is to render Israel a very bad service indeed and harm its own long-term interest." Comparing Israel to Prussia, he issued a sombre warning: "The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase 'Man kann sich totseigen!' 'You can triumph yourself to death'."

In Israel's actions today we can detect many of the elements of hubris: an imperial arrogance, a distortion of reality, an awareness of its military superiority, the self-righteousness with which it wrecks the social infrastructure of weaker states, and a belief in its racial superiority. The loss of many civilian lives in Gaza and Lebanon matters less than the capture or death of a single Israeli soldier. In this, Israeli actions are validated by the US. . .

. . . I was in Beirut in May, when the Israeli army entered and killed two "terrorists" from a Palestinian splinter group. The latter responded with rockets. Israeli warplanes punished Hizbullah by dropping over 50 bombs on its villages and headquarters near the border. . . A protracted colonial war lies ahead, since Hizbullah, like Hamas, has mass support. It cannot be written off as a "terrorist" organisation. The Arab world sees its forces as freedom fighters resisting colonial occupation.

There are 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli gulags. That is why Israeli soldiers are captured. Prisoner exchanges have occurred as a result. To blame Syria and Iran for Israel's latest offensive is frivolous. Until the question of Palestine is resolved and Iraq's occupation ended, there will be no peace in the region. A "UN" force to deter Hizbullah, but not Israel, is a nonsensical notion.

Fisk on Israel's latest slaughter of civilians


The news is driving me crazy. I'm sick and tired of the misinformation and ignorance of the reporting on events in Lebanon here in the U.S., and rather than rant on and on, I'm posting the entirety of Robert Fisk's latest article.Paradise LostBy: Robert Fisk, The Independent - United KingdomPublished: Jul 19, 2006 In the year 551, the magnificent, wealthy city of Berytus-headquarters of the imperial East Mediterranean Roman fleet - was struck by a massive earthquake. In its after math, these a with drew several miles and the survivors - ancestors of the present-day Lebanese - walked out on the sands to loot the long-sunken merchant ships revealed in front of them.That was when a tidal wall higher than a tsunami returned to swamp the city and kill them all. So savagely was the old Beirut damaged that the Emperor Justinian sent gold from Constantinople as compensation to every family left alive. Some cities seem forever doomed. When the Crusaders arrived at Beirut on their way to Jerusalem in the 11th century, they slaughtered every man, woman and child in the city. In the First World War, Ottoman Beirut suffered a terrible famine' the Turkish army had commandeered all the grain and the Allied powers blockaded the coast. I still have some ancient postcards I bought here 30 years ago of stick-like children standing in an orphanage, naked and abandoned.An American woman living in Beirut in 1916 described how she "passed women and children lying by the roadside with closed eyes and ghastly, pale faces. It was a common thing to find people searching the garbage heaps for orange peel, old bones or other refuse, and eating them greedily when found. Everywhere women could be seen seeking eatable weeds among the grass along the roads..."How does this happen to Beirut? For 30 years, I've watched this place die and then rise from the grave and then die again, its apartment blocks pitted with so many bullets they looked like Irish lace, its people massacring each other.I lived here through 15 years of civil war that took 150,000 lives, and two Israeli invasions and years of Israeli bombardments that cost the lives of a further 20,000 of its people. I have seen them armless, legless, headless, knifed, bombed and splashed across the walls of houses. Yet they are a fine, educated, moral people whose generosity amazes every foreigner, whose gentleness puts any Westerner to shame, and whose suffering we almost always ignore.They look like us, the people of Beirut. They have light-coloured skin and speak beautiful English and French. They travel the world. Their women are gorgeous and their food exquisite. But what are we saying of their fate today as the Israelis - in some of their cruellest attacks on this city and the surrounding countryside - tear them from their homes, bomb them on river bridges, cut them off from food and water and electricity? We say that they started this latest war, and we compare their appalling casualties - 240 in all of Lebanon by last night - with Israel's 24 dead, as if the figures are the same. And then, most disgraceful of all, we leave the Lebanese to their fate like a diseased people and spend our time evacuating our precious foreigners while tut-tutting about Israel's "disproportionate" response to the capture of its soldiers by Hizbollah.I walked through the deserted city centre of Beirut yesterday and it reminded more than ever of a film lot, a place of dreams too beautiful to last, a phoenix from the ashes of civil war whose plumage was so brightly coloured that it blinded its own people. This part of the city - once a Dresden of ruins - was rebuilt by Rafiq Hariri, the prime minister who was murdered scarcely a mile away on 14 February last year.The wreckage of that bomb blast, [...]

On Vacation


I haven't been around too much of late, but I'm only just now going on an official vacation. We're taking off tonight. Be back in this space in mid-July.

Jordan's role in nabbing Zarqawi


The operation that killed Zarqawi is all over the media here and while I've not been doing a great job of keeping up with it all, I'm very surprised, all the same, that Jordan's extraordinary role in making it happen doesn't seem to be getting much air/press time at all here in Amman. Well, not super surprised, since Jordan's cooperation with the U.S. is very rarely alluded to here.

But this info can be found anywhere and everywhere in the international media--and most Jordanians I know certainly don't just follow their local news. Anyway, it's kind of interesting how Jordan's decision to hunt down Zarqawi in Iraq was old news for those of us living outside Jordan. Yet many Jordanians didn't seem to know about it--which is particularly surprising in this day and age, when access to information is so much easier than ever before.

This Los Angeles Times article just came out and gives an interesting look into how it was done.



For the longest time, I had a difficult time figuring out what the heck's going on in Sudan. And then a few weeks ago, I became completely engrossed in Rebecca Scroggins' Emma's War. It tells the story of a British "development worker" who married a warlord from southern Sudan. I found Emma completely annoying--one of those insufferable types found pretty much everywhere in the developing world (particularly Africa) who are in love with all the attention that comes with being a foreigner there and who herald the pseudo-altruistic notion that because they're around people's lives are changing for the better.

Nevermind that in the many years she was there she never even learned to speak any of the languages spoken where she lived.

But anyway, the book does an excellent job of making Sudan's recent history both accessible and fascinating. I highly recommend it.

Also, this morning I came across an interesting piece on Darfur in the International Herald Tribune. Also worth a read.

Well, well, well . . .


What a shocker! "Muslim Women Don't See Themselves as Oppressed," reads the New York Times headline.

When asked what they resented most about their own societies, a majority of Muslim women polled said that a lack of unity among Muslim nations, violent extremism, and political and economic corruption were their main concerns. The hijab, or head scarf, and burqa, the garment covering face and body, seen by some Westerners as tools of oppression, were never mentioned in the women's answers to the open-ended questions, the poll analysts said.

And don't you know, the hijab has everything to do with it. The article even has to mention that the Gallup poll's strategic analyst wears one. Thanks for telling us, guys--it certainly makes a world of difference.

My news


Yes. I am back. And I'm just going to go ahead and say it: I'm pregnant. Been feeling pretty subhuman for the past month and still have another month of it to go. Can hardly wait.

It's getting hot and miserable here in Amman, my work's pretty much all finished up and I have a feeling I'm going to be hanging out in the A/C as much as possible these days. Which means I have no real excuse (besides my continuous need to barf) to be as offline as I have been.

So for starters, I'm going to pop up the Seattle Times article Samer just sent my way that mentions my film, "In the Land of the Free?" which screened at the Folklife Festival over the weekend. The writer called it "superb," which I think is a bit much--and I'm also questioning his judgment since he didn't say a single thing about Samer's art that was hanging up as part of the festival exhibit. Oh well, I'll take a compliment when I can get one, I suppose.



No posts from here of late, since I'm trying to just get through the days. I'm oh so tired, generally feeling yikky (for reasons I'll decline to disclose) and work has started up again. Plus, Samer's gone and left us for Seattle.

I came across a review of a PeaceCorps-volunteer-in-Africa novel that looks (unlike most of them) like it's worth a read.

Here's an excerpt from the review of Whiteman:

It's not that Adama ever believes he can become one of the villagers -- even if he thought he could, they keep reminding him otherwise -- but he is given a place among them. The witch doctor teaches him how to hunt wild chickens, and he earns a reputation for his prowess in this department. He plows and sows his own little plot of land in the forest with the other men. And, most of all, Adama gets embroiled in the neighborhood soap opera that unfolds raucously around him.

Sure sounds familiar--and like territory I'd like to revisit.



Have you seen the full report by the National Labor Committee on the treatment of workers here in Jordan's free trade zones? Someone sent it to me earlier today and I can barely get through it--I'm seething with anger and nearly in tears at the unbelievable situations these poor people have been in.

It's even more shocking than I imagined--and not that I couldn't have imagined much. After living here for 7 years, I'm very well aware of the horrifying situation of most of the country's foreign workers.

Why is it generally acceptable here that these people don't deserve the same rights as everyone else? Why are they so looked down upon? Why do many of the homes I know of who have maids keep them working from 7 am until 10 pm, with no days off during the week?

When I lived in Cameroon, most of the people in my village were Muslim. Most of them yearned to go to Mecca and to visit the Middle East, where the "true Islam," as they called it, was practiced. I also remember how I began to learn about Islam and how I was so blown away by its message of equality and racial colorblindedness. In those years, I truly had a sense that my Muslim friends in Cameroon were part of a global Islamic community in which they could always feel at home.

If only that were true here in the Middle East. I'm just glad that most of my Cameroonian friends have no clue that their idea of Islam doesn't exist here and that, despite everything, they're more likely to be defined by their color than anything else should they make their way to this part of the world.

Wadi Rum


I just popped up a bunch of pictures from our weekend camping trip at Wadi Rum. Enjoy.

Film screening tonight


Just a reminder that my film "In the Land of the Free?" screens tonight at Makan at 7:30.

Anyone who wants to come is welcome. Hope to see you there!

Jordan's Reaganomics


So listen up, all you elites here in Amman: I'm getting more and more evidence that all this cash flowing into the country hasn't yet even started thinking about trickling down to the have nots. Honestly, I'm getting really tired of people saying that this is the only way for things to move ahead, blah, blah, blah.

I've been taking taxis quite regularly over the past week or so as well as talking to lots of people and I keep hearing the same stuff: prices are astronomical, nobody cares about the poor and that the situation is out of control.

Meanwhile, many of the people I know are living the big life and are happy with the way things are going. The poor? Things will be getting better for everyone eventually, they say.

It kind of reminds me of a huge debate I had with some friends a few years ago about the ability of the uneducated and poor to choose their political leaders here in Jordan. Many of my Jordanian friends shocked me by saying that democracy is too dangerous for Jordan--the majority of the population, in their opinion, is too "stupid" to choose their leaders and/or make beneficial choices for everyone.

Better to be comfortable with the status quo. It certainly doesn't threaten the elites' way of life.

More slavery in Jordan


The New York Times reports on what we all probably had a feeling about already--the abuse of foreign workers in Jordan's Free Trade Zones (source).

Check this one out soon (and weep) before they archive it.

More on "The Israel Lobby"


I'm working all hours these days and am not doing a great job keeping up, but I did manage to ready a lovely article in The Nation that discusses the recent Mearsheimer-Walt paper on the pro-Israel lobby that's been making waves over the past few months.

Check it out--it's a great read.