Blog Archive

Blog Archive – 2009

Civil Rights in Prison!

December 14, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

I could never imagine it would turn out this way. For me, Lynne Stewart’s case, although it showed the extent to which the last administration would attack our civil liberties, was nevertheless a cause for optimism. Even as our rights diminished, as long as Lynne remained vocal and out of jail, I never lost hope in the justice system.

While other attorneys may have shied away from the challenge, Lynne Stewart did not. This remarkable activist and lawyer continued to use every day out if jail to speak out. She took every opportunity to warn others what her case, an assault on client-attorney privacy, threatened.

With the arrival of a man committed to change, a man who stood for integrity, Barak Obama, I expected a reversal of the worrying trend we saw during the last decade over our constitutionally protected rights.  (see www.lynnestewart.org)

Now Ms Stewart is ordered to jail. What has happened? Why pursue the conviction against Lynne Stewart now? What precipitated this?

Stewart had been free on bond for several years. Even so she endured much personal anguish, illness and the loss of her livelihood. (She was barred from practicing law.)

Eventually she received a sentence of 28 months. Imprisonment was in abeyance while her lawyers argued for adjournments. We hoped that meanwhile, a new administration might reconsider the her case and indeed overturn a discriminatory policy instituted by its predecessor.

Bad enough that Stewart should was be found guilty in 2005 along with two others. Charges against her of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists was initiated with the personal involvement of former of Homeland Security secretary, John Ashcroft. Stewart’s conviction stems from her defense of Omar Abdel Rahman found guilty on the 1993 NY bombing and subject to anti-terror laws instituted thereafter.

“You can’t lock up the lawyers,” explained Stewart. Many of those following this case believe charges against Stewart effectively served as a warning to all civil rights attorneys: “Stay away from terror defense cases”. That motive may indeed lie behind the government’s move against her. And it probably does discourage some civil rights lawyers.

But Stewart’s work on behalf of Rahman was consistent with her long career as a fearless, committed civil defense attorney. Some call her a radical activist. She does not seem to mind. There are doubtless injustices and ‘unpopular’ cases for which a lawyer has to be radical. Given the threats to our constitution in the government’s zeal to prosecute terror subjects, perhaps one is obliged to adopt radical views.

During the past four years while Stewart’s lawyers submitted their appeals Stewart, her family and supporters remained optimistic, energetic and indomitable. Stewart herself, although debarred and unable to practice law, travelled the country speaking to concerned citizens about injustices and the danger her case poses for lawyer-client confidentiality as protected by the US constitution.

I have no doubt that hearing her, many Americans began to understand the wider issues she was defending and the reality of the threats she spoke about.

We need to see Stewart’s current incarceration in a positive light. First, it warns us that the new administration is not what it promised, not what we voted for. Second, the jailing of such an admired woman, a 70-year-old attorney, a grandmother and a free and fearless thinker, warns us just how tenuous everyone’s rights are. (contact Ms Stewart at www.Lynnestewart.org)

[ Civil Rights in Prison! ]

De Tocqueville in Algeria Revisited

November 15, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

“DeTocqueville in Algeria Revisited”. In the coming days I will be convening a panel of this title. Americans revere this 19th Century French lawyer aristocrat for what is referred to as a “visionary work” on US governance in the 19th century. Journalists, political scientists, theorists, politicians comment on our (USA) form of governance by quoting widely from the 1835 two volume masterpiece Democracy in America

In Algeria, the Frenchman is viewed rather differently. Alarmingly so.

Following on of his visit to the US and publication of his Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville was assigned to the recently invaded, richly endowed landmass on the northern coast of Africa--Algeria. His mission there? Assigned by France as a ‘membre d’une commission extraordinaire charge d’etudier le problem de la colonisation algerienne”, he was given the task of observing conditions in the newly occupied land and making recommendations to his government regarding its long term imperial interests in Algeria.

Based on his observations of the US during a relatively brief stay here, we know that Tocqueville was an extraordinarily astute observer of society and governance, also a prolific recorder. He applied these same faculties in two relatively brief visits to Algeria, in 1841 and 1846.

His remarks, in a series of letters, are available in an important 2003 (publisher GF Flammariaon, Paris) publication Tocquevulle Sur L’Algerie, compiled by Ms Selouna Luste Boulbina.

I received a copy of this book in 2007 during the early stage of my Fulbright professorship year in the North African state. I was startled of course, because the author’s view of Algeria was that of an avid colonist; such a contrast to what I believed was a humanistic “liberal” view of American society, a system praised for its egalitarianism, tolerance, etc.

Rather puzzled, I showed this book to a colleague, Hassane Sobhi, historian and sociologist at the University of Oran. Although I had seen no mention of Tocqueville among the numerous articles and seminars on French colonial experience I came across during my year in Algeria, Tocqueville is well known there. He is also despised.

“Le technicen du colonization”, spat my colleague when I made my first timid inquiry. He went on to elaborate on Tocqueville’s role in helping the French government devise their scorched earth and settlement policy in his country. He blamed Tocqueville for the depth of pain Algeria endured, and the atrocities executed by the French occupiers. Remember this man worked in Algeria barely 13 years after the arrival there of French troops, a presence with would become a 134 year occupation. So the policies that shaped the next 120 years of French rule in Algeria were fundamental. Algerians hold Tocqueville as responsible as the military generals for the crimes committed by their rulers over that period.

The coming conference (Middle East Studies Association, Boston Nov 21-24) panel will bring together Simone Fattal who has closely followed Tocqueville’s work and who sent me the collected letters Tocqueville sur L’Algerie, Professor Hassane Sobhi who elaborated on the French author’s work, and two other scholars who examine his writings more fully.

Such a critical examination in an American academic context is promising. It can lead to are reading of Democracy in America as part myth, since this French visitor was describing a system of government which clearly applied to only white European settlers. It can also lead us to identify how he applied his understanding of a “successful” colonization of America, to the French colonial policy.

[ De Tocqueville in Algeria Revisited ]

Back Home by Mahmoud Ibrahim Al Amreeki

November 11, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Major Nidal Malik Hasan's attack on personnel at Ft. Hood’s army base was the act of a coward. Despite accolades heaped upon him by Imam Al Awlaki and others for carrying out a “heroic and virtuous” act and the only way a Muslim could justify serving in the US Army was to “follow in the footsteps of Nidal Hasan”.I’m reminded of back home. Back home where I come from, when we weref aced the with a racist system of injustice known as Jim Crow, that gave rise to the bombings of the homes of my relatives and other black folk, we put our trust in Almighty God and sought relief in the American Justice system, flawed as it was, for remedies to our situation. Back home where I come from, when we as a people of darker hue were faced with the lynchings in broad daylight and with body-burnings that lit the night skies, we put our trust in Almighty God and sought relief in the American Justice system, flawed as it was, for remedies to our situation. Back home where I come from, when we were eye-level to eye-level with the evils of segregation, treated by unjust laws as no better than cattle or dry-goods, unable to educate our children much less our selves, we put our trust in Almighty God and sought relief in the American Justice system, flawed as it was, for remedies to our situation. Back home where I come from, we organized, we protested, we marched, we boycotted, we used labor strikes, we took over the administrative buildings at some of the most prestigious American universities. We struggled. Back home where I come from, we took principled positions and with those positions we brought about change. We changed the way the world viewed us. Our cause. Our efforts and our humanity. In 1967 Muhammad Ali, the famous American boxer, too had a crisis of faith. Of belief. Of conscience. He too faced the very real prospect of going into the American military to fight with the possibility of dying in an unjust war, Viet Nam. Muhammad Ali was directly threatened with imprisonment, the loss of his considerable wealth, loss of prestige, of social status and the prospects of earning a living for the rest of his life. But he took a principled position, HE REFUSED. He said NO! In the tradition of our collective’ Back Home’ he would battle it out in the courtroom. In a justice system, as flawed as it was, to openly and clearly expose the hypocrisy of engaging in an unjust military venture, that like Iraq, make some people very rich and others widows and orphans. Muhammad Ali would, by taking a principled stand, show the puppets and the puppeteers. And for doing this, he gained the admiration and respect of the entire world. The cowardly act of murder by Major Nidal Hassan Malik at Ft. Hood and the praise heaped upon him by Imam Anwar al Awlaki and others of that ilk may be the way they do business ‘back home’. Something they honor ‘back home’. But for all of those Muslims who have come to my home and feel that way, I say, “Leave my Home”. Because the principles under which we operate are much higher than yours. Our understanding of Allah’s Guidance is much more pure than yours. Keep your garbage out of my home. Author Sh. Mahmoud Ibrahim al Amreeki Director: Dar ul Islam History Project New York, NY

[ Back Home by Mahmoud Ibrahim Al Amreeki ]

Gaza: No Anniversary

October 30, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

I cannot fail to remember Gaza. I do not need the latest report of a human rights organization to evoke the images. I do not need the UN’s Gladstone Report, or the anniversary of the latest massacre, or an appeal for funds to repair a hospital, or the day of solidarity coming up January 1, 2010—a New Year. Gaza is part of our lives. A shameful part. Occasionally we see an image, if we search, and only if we search, of a bandaged body, or a crushed shell of a home, or a grave. I cannot imagine this endless year that a million Gazans have lived without us. They are still waiting. The name Hamas chills the public, and any sympathizers withdraw into a corner in their confusion and shame. Last March I took part in a series of short presentations at Brecht Forum in NYC called “We Are Gaza” organized by my colleague Fawzia Afzal-Khan. A lot of passion filled the room and the audience along with the performers seemed self-gratified. They had dared to be part of this memory—for indeed it takes courage in the US to openly declare in Amreeka: “We are Gaza”. A five-page account of current statistics circulated. Grisly statistics; I remember them. A month ago, a friend circulated a series of poems from Gaza penned by Atef Abu Seif. It’s called “A Dead Life: Stories from the Time of Gaza”. Here are two.

There used to be five of us. He was not the first to be born, or the last

He was not even in the middle

It was not his luck to be firstborn, to be indulged most

He also was not the last to arrive, the final cluster on the wine and sugar crystallized.

He was not the symbol of glad tidings, where middle is best

His birth did not suggest anything in the history of the family.

Yet, in spite of all that, he was the most spoiled and closest to our parents’ hearts, most privileged, most rewarded.

It was Joseph, whom we envied for the space people made for him in their hearts

We did not throw him in the well and we did not sing at his departure. We cried!

Now we must live without our jealousy, give up part of our nature, and we must accept that we have become four.

A Different Morning

This morning is different. No jets in the sky. Even the sun was late in rising from its bed. And the sound of guns can no longer be heard at the outskirts. Ambulances that did not sleep all night settled down to rest. Even the sun woke up late from its bed in the east. Children, contrary to their custom, did not fill the streets with the noise of their games; nor did the hawking of the women carrying their baskets on the way to market. Also, in the alley in our quarter, the kiss will not appear that two small lips will draw on the cheek of the mother standing in the doorway saying her last good-bye to the son on his way to school.

[ Gaza: No Anniversary ]

Nobel Lareate Obama

October 11, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Some people I speak to are calling it the ‘Nobel War Prize’. Not very nice to hear. And these critics are not right-wing Republicans. They are against the US wars; they are men and women who aligned themselves with Obama during his campaign, people who believed he would really move to end our wars and torture prisons, people who saw real hope for more justice and equity at home.

 

I have to admit, this beautiful, eloquent man, seems to be stepping back from what he led us to believe was possible under his leadership. He is only 10months into his presidency, true. But his beautiful rhetoric and reaching out to adversaries has not yielded results for distraught Americans, or for those enduring US occupation and assault. Nor do they really promise rapprochement with Iran, a possible breakthrough towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians?

The much lauded and prestigious Nobel prizes can be for past achievements or for future promise. Will it give Mr. Obama the guts and the drive to go beyond words, and to use his awesome position to really change the way we are governed, the way wealth is distributed, the way peoples and nations co-exist?

[ Nobel Lareate Obama ]

Two African Men

September 28, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

They addressed the UN general assembly in New York last week. A first time for each man. Was it planned so that the contrast between their presentations would be so stark? One spoke for 90 minutes, the other took barely 20.

One is African Arab, the other African American. One has been in power for 40 years while the second, a newcomer—has headed his country for 8 months. One spoke in his native Arabic; the other in English. One expressed a widespread disapproval of the UN and world nations. The other, although critical at times, raised future possibilities and called for harmonization, muting any hint of censure. Need I go on?

Even if the press highlighted the Arab leader’s eccentricities and excesses, a close reading of the speech of Moammar Kaddafi of Libya is hard both to admire or to defend--whatever one thinks about the history of failures of the world body. What the Arab declared was not unreasonable. And much of what Kaddafi said was, in my opinion, true. Many heads of state present there may have wanted to utter what Kaddafi dared, but lacked the courage.

What Kaddafi did was offer the world press, especially western media, an opportunity to contrast this new, handsome, elegant and eloquent western leader with a rough, long-winded and long-serving Arab head of state. The better Obama ‘appeared’--and he is clearly a man of ‘appearance’-- which is not to say he is phony. (More and more  critics are viewing him as ‘a paper tiger’.)  Yet the American’s elegance only heightened the comparison. It made me, as an Arab, want to hide under the nearest table.

US and British media seemed to delight in highlighting the Arab’s style and they took advantage of the Libyan’s problems over his NY city accommodation to emphasize what appeared to be ‘silliness’.  Kaddafi provided the media with photo ops no journalist could pass up.

Even now, when Libya is enjoying normalization with the st1:place>US, and where mainly US businesses will benefit, it is at the cost of Arab dignity and leadership. Who is at fault? How can this change? I wonder: would the presumed successor to the Libyan leadership, Moammar’s son Saif, be a better match?

[ Two African Men ]

A Short Visit to Syria:Part I

September 17, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Although the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is still a place to be discovered. Particularly Americans have much to learn and enjoy to a visit to this country, starting with the capital.

 

A pity the new administration decided to extend the sanctions against Syria. More than a pity. A mistake, as far as I’m concerned. And it disappointed many who had expected new policies from Barak Obama.

Damascus in particular appears to have changed a lot since I was last there, in 2003. Being summer, one sees more foreigners, Europeans but also Arab people. Many who live in the Gulf states come to Syria to escape the summer heat. Although Syria was hot (a dry heat) too. Syrians living in the Gulf States return here for their holidays. I was surprised to meet a great many students studying Arabic, although I had already heard that Syria is now a favored center for Arabic language study.

There are many, many things to do in Syria besides study Arabic: visit roman ruins at Palmyra (Tadmoor) in the East, and Bosra in the South; the hilly very early Christian towns of Sadnaya and Maloula not far northwest of the capital are also popular for visitors, and for weekend trips. Damascus has its ancient city center, the old city, with its market places and large, elegant, old houses, many now converted to restaurants. The city streets and cafes were full every night.

A really popular attraction for locals and visitors is the mountainside, Qaasiuun, that dominates the valley. A line of outdoor cafes, some rather expensive, now lines the ridge from which you overlook the entire city. It’s windy there and a popular place on summer nights; families sit on the grass and stroll along the paths through the evenings.

What most stuck me was how the city has expanded over the past decade. Whole new suburbs have been developed extending the city in all directions, with wide roads linking them to the city center. And the cars! And elegant indoor shopping malls! Even at 10 pm, traffic is heavy through the city.

I felt no tension at all moving around Syria. People are helpful and welcoming. Transport is easy. But Damascus in particular is great city to stroll around.

With the anticipation of Ramadan month, shops remained open late for shoppers. Then, one the holy month began, after slow day traffic, and following ifthar, when the streets completely empty while everyone is enjoying ‘breaking fast’ with their families and friends, the city begins to awaken. Streets and cafes are crowded until well after midnight.

All schedules change during Ramadan. It’s not a school or work holiday, but the pace slows considerably. One never knows when to phone a friend, and it’s never clear what hours offices are open.

Sounds like a page for The Lonely Planet guide? Not my usual entry. But I need to set the context, so little is known about Syria, that I want readers to know just how pleasant a society it is, how comfortable Syria is for a visitor, how at ease Syrians are.

Part II we’ll learn more, especially about the economy and education.

[ A Short Visit to Syria:Part I ]

A Speech to Remember?

June 10, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

The most poignant commentary on Obama’s Cairo excursion is by the brilliant political cartoonist Steve Bell. His June 5 Guardian newspaper portrayal of the Obama visit to Cairo has the US president posing on a desert landscape next to a docile, satisfied-looking camel, tickling its chin!

Some praise the speech as historic. In a limited way it was: in tone, in eloquence.

But these qualities are insufficient to assure real changes in US policy and alter how USA may be evaluated across the world. In themselves Obama’s words do not promise substantive change in policy that the world expects and needs.

Obama could have uttered really revolutionary promise with a decision to recognize the Hizbullah and Hamas political parties or an announcement of serious compassionate review of all Muslims held in US custody, at home and abroad. Such declarations would signal true policy change.

There was nothing remotely approaching this. If Obama defined any policy, it was of Washington’s unwavering solidarity with Israel. He explicitly said so, reinforcing the position with support for Jews and Israelis on a number of fronts. Those references stood in sharp contrast to tepid recognition of Palestinian rights and daily injustices at the hands of Israel. Obama left room but very little in concrete terms for their dream –and their right-- to a viable Palestinian state.

President Obama’s Islamic greeting and quotations from the Quran as well as invocations of Muslim contributions to civilization show what we already know—that the present US leader is smart, courteous and charming.

So why did he decide to make this much touted speech on his stopover in Cairo between visits in Saudi Arabia, then Buchenwald in Germany?

Everyone I spoke to and most commentators in the Middle East have said ‘we applaud your oration and good words; but we await action, signs of substantive changes’. While oratory and good manners are a respected feature of Arab discourse, the people to whom Obama’s words were addressed know that a convincing presidential statement must be implemented with deeds. Nowhere is this more anticipated than in regards to Palestinian rights and the rights of Muslims (in the US and elsewhere) suspected of working against US interests.

So why all the fanfare and the long speech? Few commentators are speculating but I suggest this: he plans to ask Arab governments for something major, in regards to Israel, or further financial support, or military bases; he may do so pointing to his Cairo gesture. Perhaps the public is not fooled but Arab leaders may find any request hard to reject after this display of intelligent warmth.

[ A Speech to Remember? ]

What was really going on at Guantanamo Prison?

April 01, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Guantanamo Bay Prison will close. But what about the files—records of the treatments or ‘experiments’ that went on there?

Don’t expect us to believe that detailed records those thousands of days of interrogations were not carefully amassed. Whether or not the prisoners are guilty of any war crimes, whether they will be released or not, the managers of this torture center have doubtless accumulated hundreds of thousands of pages—not to mention the videos and audio files-- of their ‘sessions’ with the prisoners. I speak not of pages of confessions, but pages of ‘observations’. What is to be done with this material? And do these have some ‘scientific’ value beyond any putative security purpose?

Let us be honest: as abhorrent a thought as it may be to us, torture and interrogation are could be viewed by some as a ‘science’. Careful records of those activities are made. We learn how ‘treatments’ are often systematically applied, reapplied, and applied again. Some reports by former prisoners speak of repeated torture sessions. They are retuned to their cells, then called out and interrogated again, with the same questions, over the over. They tell of promises made, or threats. We learn about the rigorous procedures applied by security staff when prisoners do not ‘behave’. We know about the involvement of ‘doctors’, perhaps psychologists, and of video tapings (for security purposes?). We learn that torture is applied psychologically and physically.

Yes, these ugly, shameful, illegal sessions may be used to secure ‘information’. But what prison needs years to interrogate individuals, using whatever means?

To me, procedures applied through such a sustained program suggest something more sinister than has been spoken of. I suggest the real aim of the torture and captivity was not primarily to extract information. Guantanamo became an “experimental center” on human behavior—specifically the behavior of Muslim men. Information sought was about how these people respond to various torture techniques, what reveals of their faith-- Islam.

Perhaps never in modern history have western authorities had what they might view as an opportunity to understand what they might consider to be ‘an alien religion’. Maybe some of the violence against these men served a masochistic purpose for some guards. Approached more coldly, applications could be conducted with the aim of discovering, for example, how these ‘aliens’ can be humiliated, enraged, converted? For those who resist, the jailers want to discover how their faith help motivates them, protects or defends them?

Experiments on prisoners were conducted in the not distant past. Is America capable of such things today?

 

[ What was really going on at Guantanamo Prison? ]

Calling for The Arrest of An African Head of State

March 01, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

How ironic. An arrest warrant is issued by a European-based court for an African head of state.

We have just witnessed millions of Palestinians subjected to a massive assault with the loss in just 22 days of 1,400 lives, hundreds of them children, the wounding of almost 5000 following years of an unopposed and unpublicized ethnic cleaning campaign. Can anything happening in southern Sudan match this?

Has anything conducted by Khartoum match the US aggression on Iraq, the displacement of up to 6 million and the deaths of millions, the compounded inestimable destruction, following 13 years of a massive US-designed and executed blockade?

Can anything in Sudan match the assault on Afghan society and nation, where numbers of dead and destroyed livelihoods are not even tallied? Yet, it is an African, an Arab-speaking leader, a Muslim who is indicted by the European court.

To make matters more troubling this policy being vigorously endorsed by the new US administration, where the new US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, sounds chillingly like Madeline Albright and Condoleezza Rice.

Some Americans are outraged by the abuses of the past former President Bush for what is now agreed was a war (in Iraq) fostered by lies and other deceptions. There is talk of possible prosecutions of former white house officials in connection with abuses. This is largely talk, although someone may be singled out and made a scapegoat. There is almost no chance of George W. Bush or his V-P being charged with any wrongdoing.

 It is clear that indeed there are unresolved conflicts that result in the plight of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese now huddled in the Darfur camps. Meanwhile no major international body is able to or wants to resolve the conflict peacefully. And who is really trying?

In the West, conflicts around Darfur provide a convenient arena for certain international interests to highlight the Sudanese suffering as a campaign of Arab domination and Muslim excesses. It is presented as religious and racial persecution, thus justifying international moral indignation.

In reality, we have the targeting of yet another wealthy Arab nation whose resources are much coveted, but whose competitors-- China among them—are in line ahead of Europeans and Americans. The Sudanese leader may not be far off when the charges his accusers of seeking to make a grab for Sudan’s resources. The country is the largest in Africa and one of its richest. European colonial attitudes and tactics have not changed much.

[ Calling for The Arrest of An African Head of State ]

Gazan Inaugural

January 19, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

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Co-incidences?

Israel’s assault on the Gazan people began November 4, 2008, the day Americans proudly elected Barak Obama to be their 44th president.

On January 19th, 2009 the eve of Obama’s inauguration, Israel announces its pullout from Gaza territories.

Who are we to thank: the Israeli murderers and their supporting citizenry around the world? American legislators who fund and endorse the long ethnic-cleansing campaign against Palestinian peoples? An indignant but ineffectual United Nations does no more than feed a people forced into penury? Or our glorious celebrity president, Mr. Obama himself?

[ Gazan Inaugural ]

Gaza; end of year, or a beginning?

January 01, 2009

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

It is less heart wrenching if we call the war against Gaza an end of the year review rather than “a beginning of.” Regrettably it is neither. The cowardly punishment of the Palestinians is a long and now well understood agenda.

No one is fooled by statements from Tel Aviv or Washington politicians. Nor are we fooled by the silence of the US president-elect. Remember the guy who made “change” his campaign agenda.

Put aside the numbers of dead and wounded in this campaign, on any side. I have seen enough to remember the blind school for girls, Bashir’s father bedridden and speechless from a stoke, a boy born unable to walk, an aunt in prison, the heart attack of Mona’s mother, the engagement of the boy upstairs, the anticipated university admission of the shopkeeper’s daughter, the pregnant girl, the boy with a limp. All these ailments and hardships, we find in any society, and more.

There are sicknesses, treatments, applications, fights between neighbors or women and daughters-in-law anywhere, including Gaza. think of your own family, and your friends whose children are born with illness, of a father’s sudden death, cancer patients awaiting treatment, a runaway child, or husband, of all that a car crash brings, of a lost gift or a broken sink. A youth wants to write a book, another loves art and dreams to become a sculptor. A young couple fall in love and intend to marry. We all deal with accidents and illness, with marriage and funerals and celebrations, dreams and defeats.

Add to all this, a savage one-sided war. Not just days of bombs, but a siege: no ambulances, broken phones, smashed windows, dwindling food supply, crippled hospitals. Being unable to move from one neighborhood to the next, denied a visit from your son since 1985 because he is barred from returning to his homeland.

This is life in Gaza, in a few sentences. This is everyday in Gaza. The present attacks, in addition to any Israeli and US policy strategies, are aimed at humiliating a people, forcing them to succumb to further disgrace and helplessness. It won’t work.

In his December 28, 2008 address in Lebanon, Hezbullah leader Seyyed Hassan Nassrallah recalls the choice made by Imam Hossein (PBUH): "And how far disgrace is from us! Allah refuses us the life of disgrace, His Messenger and believers do too."

Nassrallah asks: “Why did he declare ‘And how far disgrace is from us’, Why did he say ‘we shall never be disgraced?’ “It was not an emotional outburst! The matter was rather one of humanitarian, ideological spiritual, religious and humane commitment springing from human values, dignity and human rights. As Hossein (PBUH) later tells us ‘...Allah refuses us the life of disgrace, His Messenger and believers do too. Indeed, proud, exalted and lofty spirits will never prefer to obey the vile people, rather than the death of the honorable ones.’"

[ Gaza; end of year, or a beginning? ]


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