Blog Archive

Blog Archive – November, 2010

The latest White House deal with Israel

November 30, 2010

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Some refer to it as a bribe. But somehow that doesn’t adequately define the deal what Washington has just offered Israel: more weapons and even more political support in exchange for a further 90-day freeze on (some) Israeli settlement constructions in the West Bank. This we know from the large print. 

Forget about the cost—it’s just 2 weeks’ payout for ongoing US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and it’s a fraction of the cost of security measures that dismantle Americans’ civil rights, and expand surveillance practice across the US. Forget about what happens when the 90-day ‘freeze’ ends. Forget about conditions Israel demands with this gift (exclusion of Jerusalem is but one). And overlook the undeterred construction of tens of thousands of Jewish settlements and their infrastructure that for one reason or another are overlooked or exempt or viewed by the US as ‘not illegal’. You can even leave aside Washington’s promise of continued use of its UN veto on behalf of its ‘special friend’.  

What troubles me is the stance of the US administration—I mean the US president. Because this is a White House decision. The president did not receive a bill from the new Republican-dominated Congress to authorize this. Nor did he have a referendum from the American people for the deal. He and his secretary of state-- former presidential aspirant herself and darling of progressive American women-- laid this offer at the feet of the Zionist leadership. Then, in a response typical of Israel towards its lapdog, Netanyahu agreed to ‘consider’ the offer. 

I don’t know if the deal – we cannot use the term ‘gift’, since it seems to be a complex plan with onerous conditions and implications for US-Israeli relations—has yet been signed. I am unaware, moreover, of any fine print that may reveal that this deal is even more insulting than headlines show.   

However, just on the face it, this appears to be a foolish move by the US. Whatever power the Zionist lobby may wield on our election process, on the US Congress, and on the White House itself, this proposal cannot assure any ‘peace’ –no commentators suggest how it could possibly precipitate a resolution to the Israelis-Palestinian conflict – or somehow further enhance US and Israel relations. (Were they ever in doubt?) This administration had already indicated, and repeated, that there will be no change in the US’s largesse and support of Israel.  

So what will be the result of this ‘deal’? I shudder to speculate. It will have nothing to do with a sovereign or secure Palestine. No. I suspect there is something far more sinister in store for the American public and people across the globe who crave to see peace and justice in the Middle East.   

Meanwhile this troubling news of and the vote by the Israeli parliament to consolidate Israeli annexation of Golan and a part of Lebanon is eclipsed by coverage of the latest Wikileaks expose. Convenient. The American public and anyone hoping for peace in the Middle East will have to dig deep to find out the real costs of this blunder.   

[ The latest White House deal with Israel ]

An Arabic TV station worth your time, if you were not barred from watching.

November 18, 2010

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Traveling in the Arab world I have easy access to an abundance of satellite channels-many but not all Arab. At least one of the Arab channel well worth watching is banned in ‘the free world’. That is, the channel is banned by the free world. Not censored. It’s legally forbidden, in that anyone caught receiving it in the USA for example can be charged with committing a very serious crime. So fierce is the taboo that I doubt if any hacker dares to bypass the US law to access it. The network is not only forbidden to the international public; several international satellite carriers are barred from carrying it.

Thankfully people living in most Arab countries can watch it daily. There is much to enjoy and learn here: regular discussions on health, religion, history and politics. The channel is not run by media amateurs; the quality of their productions is good and the subjects are varied. Along with children’s programs and game shows, we find history and family dramas.

As across the globe, men dominate programs where expert guests are called upon to offer opinions on health and international affairs. Yet women are highly visible here. They are frequent commentators on religious subjects; and they are program hosts, news presenters and guests.

The daily evening news is running as I write; today I hear little international news  except items that directly affecting this country. This is a nationalist but not a government station. So news highlights presidential and cabinet activities along with national events. No advertisements. But anti-smoking and other social consciousness promos are played in breaks. They are often in cartoon format.

Most mornings, I can find a 10 min cooking segment. Today the chef, in a fully equipped kitchen, demonstrates a German breakfast prepared with deep-fried eggs!

Regularly but not overly so we see lectures by the revered leader of the movement that sponsors this channel.

During the Eid Al-Adha I expected their religious programming would eclipse all the regular programs. But no. In contrast to several other channels which give  hours and hours of daily coverage of the Hajj events in Mecca, the Eid prayers and historical references to the meaning of the Hajj, this station has more community focused coverage. A 10 min special with reporter ‘in  the field’ talks to children at playground where families are gathered today: what’s the difference between Eid Al-Kebir (Adha) and Eid Al-Saeir (Al-Fitr). Following is short report at a graveyard where Muslims go the first day of Eid to remember their ancestors; families lay flowers, some pray, other sit quietly together at the gravestones. The reporter, a woman is end the segment with one family here recalling a young woman struck down and executed by a live wire fallen from a tower line near her home. In the interlude we view a promo for the weekly poetry performance on this channel. It’s a popular program in which 4-5 men recite in regional tradition a form of popular poetry which I think is called ‘zudgel’.

There is more of course—some excellent documentaries of the national resistance movement against former occupiers, and inspiring speeches by the resistance leader.  

Why should a satellite station with this range of content be banned in the US? And do you know which I am speaking about?

[ An Arabic TV station worth your time, if you were not barred from watching. ]

What's in store for the American leader?

November 05, 2010

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

He and his party already comprised their earlier principles and goals. Now Barak Obama declares he is ready to comprise with the new US (right-wing) congressional leadership. If he really continues on this course, the US president is comprising his leadership ability.  

How things will work out for the US in the coming years, I do not know. I am not afraid of disaster. Nor do I fear such an overhaul of policies that the country will collapse.  

I so want Barak Obama to succeed—to succeed as a national leader, to succeed in giving us real structural social programs that I believe he initially stood for— equity, better education for all, government protection from predatorily private interests, nationally funded health care for all, less wars, less occupation, lower military expenses, as well as really visionary new programs to overcome Americans overwhelming ignorance, fear and belligerence. 

Yes, we had some reforms during Obama’s first year. To me they were not substantive enough- he came out with principles and went away with sad compromises fashioned to mollify some opponents, to pretend to his supporters that there were real changes. This applied as much to international positions as to domestic policies.

Internationally, yes, the image is (was) better: the words Obama sends out to the world are eloquent, and he displays intelligence. The shame of being American is less.

But these appearances really don’t matter. Because there is no basic change in US foreign policy. If anything, US support for Israel is stronger while the commitment to Palestinian statehood is weaker; threats and sanctions against Iran are heightened; the hunt for those who oppose US policies is as fierce and merciless; the growth of intelligence agencies to thwart perceived enemies is bigger while the support for dictators who follow the US line is as firm as ever. 

Speaking for myself, my life has changed little as a result of government under Obama (except maybe my cynicism has increased). And I also know the lives and prospects of 25-year olds and 40-year olds around me still on the cusp of their careers have not improved. As for Muslims in the US, things have actually worsened for us, as they have for our Hispanic peoples. So what do we have?  

Why does President Obama make such a point of his readiness to reach out to opponents? Is this all he has to say after their victory in the recent election? He was reaching out during his first two years. And with what results? He was unable to enact the programs he promised and we needed. And his compromising weakened him.  

On the one hand Obama has lost his once strong electoral base. On the other, he was never able to mollify his enemies. They seemed to have grown stronger while he and his arty lost their bearings. Today, it’s hard to see what Barak Obama stands for. 

Too bad. Because he does seem like such a decent guy. His weakness in light of his beliefs and intelligence surely reflect the regrettable status of the USA in general. 

[ What's in store for the American leader? ]

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